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PARCC Consortium Protects Pearson Using “Best Practices” Co-authored by Testing “Nonprofit”

March 21, 2015

On March 20, 2015, I published a post about the lately-produced Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) “Test Fairness and Security” statement.

Included in that statement is the following justification for monitoring social media “before, during and after” testing in the name of “test security”:

The PARCC states’ policy follows the best practices outlined by the Council of Chief State School Officers [CCSSO], which recommends that there should be “procedures to monitor the internet and social websites before, during and after test administration for any evidence the items and/or answers have been shared” online.  In order to maintain test security, each PARCC state contracted with its test vendor, Pearson, to search for any live PARCC test questions that are shared through public social media sites. This is standard practice for large-scale tests including ACT and SAT. 

I previously noted that those CCSSO “best practices” are not available to the public to read. One must pay $30 in order to read them.

What I did not note (but will now) is that in its statement of “testing fairness,” the PARCC consortium does not disclose the co-author of those “CCSSO best practices”: The Association of Test Publishers (ATP):

Established in 1992, The Association of Test Publishers is a non-profit organization representing providers of tests and assessment tools and/or services related to assessment, selection, screening, certification, licensing, educational or clinical uses.

ATP members are pledged to promote and advance the integrity of assessment services and products and their value to society; and dedicated to the highest level of professionalism and business ethics within the test publishing community. …

ATP’s membership is composed of the leading publishers and assessment services providers in today’s testing industry.

According to its 2013 990 tax form, ATP is registered as a 501(c)6. Here is a general definition from the IRS:

IRC 501(c)(6) provides for exemption of business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards, boards of trade, and professional football leagues (whether or not administering a pension fund for football players), which are not organized for profit and no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual. ….

Reg. 1.501(c)(6)-l defines a business league as an association of persons having a common business interest, whose purpose is to promote the common business interest and not to engage in a regular business of a kind ordinarily carried on for profit. Its activities are directed to the improvement of business conditions of one or more lines of business rather than the performance of particular services for individual persons. [Emphasis added.]

In short, ATP’s “business” is to advance the “business” of standardized testing.

ATP’s mission statement on its 2013 990 is as follows:

Promote and develop testing and assessment best practices to facilitate an environment that would benefit test takers, businesses, educational organizations, and society in general.

I’m thinking the ever-increasing amount of testing in the public school classroom best benefits only one of those four listed ATP “beneficiaries.” It is also not lost on me that this group put “promotion” ahead of “development” in its mission statement.

Yet of the $1.7 million in total revenue listed on its 2013 990, ATP reports that only $16,090 was spent directly on lobbying. In 2012, ATP spent $16,680 on lobbying; in 2011, it spent $30,024.

Though as a 501(c)6 ATP is able to engage in unlimited lobbying of elected officials and the influencing of public opinion related to elections, ATP has not spent much directly on such activities in the last few years. And frankly, given the current, entrenched, test-score-driven reform atmosphere particularly enabled by George W. Bush and his 2002 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and continued by the likes of Obama/Duncan Race to the Top (RTTT) and NCLB “waivers,” the testing companies have been basking in a prime-profit environment for well over a decade.

Until the public puts the brakes on the American standardized testing fetish, the testing companies will continue to thrive.

Back to ATP’s 2013 990:

As per the IRS rules for 501(c)6 nonprofits, ATP does not have to disclose specific dollar amounts for its “largest program services.” But I was able to loosely determine its largest expenditure and relate such to its “largest program service”: “Conferences, conventions, and meetings,” including its annual conference; these cost ATP $898,640 in 2013. This expense it includes in this explanation of its “largest program service”:

Education– Provides education and training programs for its members including newsletters and journals , conferences and annual meetings. Through its programs ATP fosters an environment that promotes the exchange of ideas on testing issues and trends.

ATP’s second “largest service” it describes as follows:

Advocacy– Monitors legislative, legal and regulatory bodies that commonly deal with testing issues. This effort reflects its mission to inform the public and governmental bodies about the contributions and critical role that professionally developed and administering tests play in our society.

And, finally, ATP’s self-described third “largest service”:

State-Net– Computer database service which keeps members informed of legislative initiatives at Federal and State levels. All members are informed of changes as they occur and the information is distributed.

Thus, even though ATP is not spending much on directly lobbying for its business, it is indeed at work promoting its “common business interest.”

ATP

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Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

 

 

3 Comments
  1. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    Good to see your great unravelling of the “non-profit” status of the test publishers lobby. The IRS is clearly looking away.

  2. Andrea Lancer permalink

    So if I am on the telephone discussing the test questions with a friend, it’s illegal to listen in unless you are a law enforcement official with a court order, but it’s OK to do so on my Facebook page?

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