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Pearson Botches Mississippi Testing [Again]; Mississippi Immediately Severs Contract

June 17, 2017

Education and testing mammoth Pearson has an established history in botching high-stakes testing.

Pearson did it again, in Mississippi.

According to the Associated Press (AP), Mississippi canceled its contract with the testing giant after Pearson fessed up to mixing up scoring tables for an exam that now has approximately 1,000 Mississippi students either graduating when exit scores were not actually high enough or not graduating because of test scores that were not too low after all.

From AP on Friday, June 16, 2017:

The Mississippi Department of Education is firing a testing company, saying scoring errors raise questions about the graduation status of nearly 1,000 students statewide.

The state Board of Education revoked a contract with NCS Pearson in closed session Friday, after the Pearson PLC unit told officials it used the wrong table to score U.S. history exams for students on track to graduate this spring. Students who did poorly got overly high scores, while those who did better didn’t get enough credit.

Associate Superintendent Paula Vanderford says it’s too soon to know how many students may have graduated or been denied diplomas in error, or what the state will do about either circumstance.

The AP release continues with an inept-yet-contrite Pearson will “assist the state in any way possible.”

Of course, the way to assist the state is to not put the state in this awful position to begin with.

And it’s not the first time Pearson incompetence has caused Mississippi problems. As the AP continues:

In 2012, a scoring error on the high school biology exam wrongly denied diplomas to five students. Pearson compensated them with $50,000 scholarships to any Mississippi university. Another 116 student who were affected less severely got $10,000 or $1,000 scholarships. In 2015, Pearson paid the state $250,000 after its online testing platform crashed for a day.

What is astounding is that even as Pearson profits are suffering to a record extent, its CEO, John Fallon, received a 20-percent pay raise in May 2017. From the May 05, 2017, Telegraph:

Two thirds of shareholders rejected the company’s remuneration report at its AGM after Mr Fallon received a £343,000 [$439,383] bonus, equivalent to a 20pc [percent] pay rise, despite having presided over its worst 12 months in nearly half a century on the stock exchange.

Mr Fallon’s position was undermined as 66pc of shareholders voted against his pay in a meeting marked by protests from teaching unions over Pearson’s activities in the developing world. …

Earlier in the day, Mr Fallon had sought to calm criticism of his bonus by spending all of it, net of tax, on Pearson shares to align his own interests with those of shareholders.

He declined to comment on whether he considered rejecting the bonus, which came after a £2.6bn [$3.34 billion] annual loss and the biggest ever one-day fall in Pearson’s shares following a massive profit warning. …

Despite the controversy, the shares were up nearly 12pc in the afternoon after Pearson unveiled a new £300m [$384 million] tranche of job cuts and office closures, in the latest phase of Mr Fallon’s battle to reverse its fortunes. His third round of restructuring comes after 4,000 staff were cut last year, when it sought similar savings.

Indeed, Fallon is being rewarded for throwing the crew overboard on a poison ship that is taking more water than ever.

It seems, however, that the Mississippi Board of Education has finally had enough of Pearson.


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Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

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  1. This is typical. Pearson lost the contract and is being “fired” while AIR (American Institutes for Research) waits in the wings to swoop in and “save the day”. Just like in Ohio and all the states that fired Pearson. AIR sued Pearson over the New Mexico and Nevada state testing contracts…..they want it all. AIR wants to dominate and control all the testing and they are making that a reality. AIR (who is SBAC) wrote the psychological test used in almost every state. AIR = SBAC, DRC, Questar, MI, ETS, etc. They tried to give the illusion that they are all separate and different testing company….they are not. It’s absolutely despicable what they have done – charging the states triple digit million dollar contracts for the same damn test. It’s the biggest scam of the century.

    • Wait! What? I didn’t realize those other companies were subsidiaries or whatever of AIR. Please provide some info in form of links if you can. Thanks!

  2. Jill Reifschneider permalink

    And that is just one reason a high school diploma should not be denied due to a performance on a test.

    • bethree5 permalink

      There are ways to make a high-school exit exam work for students– I saw it briefly in my NJ district– but the key may be that our first hisch exit exam was devised by the state, based on pre-CCSS NJ Core Curriculum Stds. During the few yrs we had the NJ-HSPA (math & eng), it was preceded jr yr by the Practice-HSPA. If the practice test predicted failure, sr-yr schedule was adjusted to include extra work in that area. This happened w/my youngest, who struggled w/math. Sr yr he had to forgo one elective in order to take back-to-back math classes. He succeeded in the math HSPA– & did rather well in his college math sequence.

      Unfortunately under Christie the HSPA was replaced by a complex stepped series of testing hoops focusing on PARCC, SAT, & ACT assessments. Which almost-immediately followed replacing the fine NJ Core Curriculum Stds– developed & implemented over a 15-yr period by teacher panels w/field-tests & feedback loops– w/CCSS, imposed quickly w/minimal teacher-training, followed the next yr w/ w/hi-stakes teacher-evaluation [Marzano, in my district] another voluminous set of regs imposed suddenly w/little teacher-training.

      All of those state-mandated NJ ed changes (standards, assessments, & teacher-evaluation program) are federally-based, w/o reference to or solicitation of state/ district input– all were imposed w/n a 3-yr period w/o advance prep or training– & none were needed, judging from NJ’s prior decades-long standing as one of the top 5 ed-achieving states.

      To summarize: a state high-school exit-exam can be a good thing, if devised by state teacher panels w/field-testing & district input/ feedback-loop, & founded upon stds developed in the same manner, & unencumbered by hi-stakes accountability schemes. Hisch exit exams devised by natl or global outfits who dance to the tune of their own drummer have no relevance to any district.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Mississippi: Pearson Botches Scores on State Tests | Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. Ed News, Tuesday, June 20, 2017 | tigersteach
  3. Links 6/25/17 | Mike the Mad Biologist

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