Incompetent Pearson “Wins” PARCC Contract. Big Surprise.
In his six-minute videoed speech on the necessity of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), billionaire Bill Gates patiently explains that it is not enough for individual states to implement their own standards because “scale is good for free market competition.”
Here is the reality of “free market competition” in this time of unprecedented education profiteering: A few education/assessment giants will run American public education (and beyond, as some private and parochial schools sell their freedom for access to state or federal tax dollars).
One of those few is the ubiquitous Pearson.
CCSS was tailor-made for Pearson. It is quite the love story.
Pearson is one-stop CCSS shopping, from curriculum, to assessments, to evaluation of teacher training… and Bill Gates has even paid Pearson’s nonprofit to assist with the endeavor.
Gates’ assistance is apparently paying off; on May 2, 2014, Pearson “landed a major contract… of unprecedented scale” with another nonprofit (a popular way to set up reformer shop), the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). As EdWeek’s Sean Cavanaugh notes:
The global education company Pearson has landed a major contract to administer tests aligned to the common-core standards, a project described as being of “unprecedented scale” in the U.S. testing arena by one official who helped negotiate it.
The decision to award the contract, announced Friday, was made by a group of states developing tests linked to the common core for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, one of two main consortia of states creating exams to match the standards.
Pearson is expected to perform a broad range of duties under the contract, including development of test items, delivery of paper-and-pencil and computerized test forms, reporting of results, analysis of scores, and working with states to develop “cut scores,” or performance standards for the exams. [Emphasis added.]
He who controls the cut scores controls American public education. Period.
While a number of companies inquired in response to PARCC’s request for proposals for the project, ultimately Pearson was the only bidder, said James Mason, who helped negotiate the contract as part of a team of PARCC state leaders. [Emphasis added.]
Pearson “the only bidder”??
So much for that “free market competition.”
Here is an important question:
Who will “assess” Pearson?
Allow me. Based upon its established history of testing errors, and scoring and reporting mishaps, Pearson deserves an F. However, I suppose if it is “the only bidder,” American education just has to “settle,” right? I mean, there’s no time to think this through, what with our oligarchic-pushed, urgent race for education world domination and baffling standardized test worship, right?
And yet, the cracks in the Pearson pedestal have been pronounced for years.
In September 2013, FairTest Public Education Director Bob Shaeffer compiled a list of Pearson’s testing errors, questionable practices, and subsequent fines/lawsuits dating back to 1998.
Shaeffer documented 38 incidents– 24 of which have happened since 2011.
High-stakes testing failures have high-stakes consequences. Here are several highlights from Schaeffer’s list:
2000 Minnesota – misgraded 45,739 graduation tests leads to lawsuit with $11 million settlement – judge found “years of quality control problems” and a “culture emphasizing profitability and cost-cutting.”
2005 Virginia — computerized test misgraded – five students awarded $5,000 scholarships
2009-2010 Wyoming – Pearson’s new computer adaptive PAWS flops; state declares company in “complete default of the contract;” $5.1 million fine accepted after negotiations but not pursued by state governor
2012 New York –More than two dozen additional errors found in New York State tests developed by Pearson
2012 New York –More than 7,000 New York City elementary and middle school students wrongly blocked from graduation by inaccurate “preliminary scores” on Pearson tests
2012 Mississippi – Pearson pays $623,000 for scoring error repeated over four years that blocked graduation for five students and wrongly lowered scores for 121 others
2013 New York –Pearson makes three test scoring mistakes blocking nearly 5,000 students from gifted-and-talented program eligibility
2013 Virginia –4,000 parents receive inaccurate test scorecards due to Pearson error in converting scores to proficiency levels
There you have it, folks: The “unleashing of powerful market forces” that Bill Gates told legislators in 2009 they had the means to make happen to American public education. Indeed, Gates “urged” them:
Without measurement, there is no pressure for improvement. …
I would urge the legislators here (with colleges) to start the push to greater measurement …
This is encouraging—but identifying common standards is not enough. We’ll know we’ve succeeded when the curriculum and the tests are aligned to these standards.
Secretary Arne Duncan recently announced that $350 million of the stimulus package will be used to create just these kinds of tests—next-generation assessments aligned to the common core.
When the tests are aligned to the common standards, the curriculum will line up as well—and that will unleash powerful market forces in the service of better teaching. For the first time, there will be a large base of customers eager to buy products that can help every kid learn and every teacher get better. … [Emphasis added.]
In his utter ignorance, Gates, believes that “market forces” will “serve better teaching.”
In February 2011, Gates paid Pearson $3 million to develop courses for middle school math and high school English.
Had Bill done his homework, he might not have dropped $3 million on a “global corporation” that cannot seem to master proofreading, scoring, and reporting results for its own tests.
Think of the science-fiction-styled chaos that Pearson might wield in its marriage to PARCC tests.
This latest Pearson contract underscores the need for CCSS to die.
CCSS was created to standardize American education– not to improve it.
Standardized education begs for the wreckage that largely-unaccountable Pearson has proven it will surely bring via its expensive and bumbling assessment efforts.
Time for high-profile heads to come out of the sand.