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Seth Sandronsky: Common Core Course Director Sues Pearson Over Bonus Pay

September 3, 2018

School Reform Lands in Federal Court

gavel-and-money

By Seth Sandronsky

Edupreneurs are the new normal of public education. One involved in the writing of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is suing a global corporation in a breach-of-contract case tied to the profits of school assessment, i.e., high-stakes testing of K-12 pupils.

Judy Codding, Ph.D., a practiced school reformer [and “managing director of the Common Core System of Courses for Pearson”; Schneider’s note] is the plaintiff who claims that Pearson PLC and Pearson Education, Inc., did not promote her “Pearson System of Courses” (“PSoC”) under the terms of the employment agreement and a modified release agreement with financial bonuses for school assessment course offerings in California and New Mexico that she had co-created. It is worth noting that Pearson began to engage with the CCSS through its nonprofit arm in 2009, according to author Mercedes K. Schneider in Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools? (Teachers College Press, 2015).

In 2010, Pearson PLC acquired America’s Choice, a business to boost students’ academic achievement via test-driven assessments and standards for K-12 public schools that Codding co-founded, for $80 million. America’s Choice launched as a program of the National Center on Education and Economy in 1998 and changed to a private firm in 2004.

Her employment agreement with Pearson Education, Inc., a subsidiary of Pearson PLC, in part assigned her the task of signing up “several customers, such as LA Unified School District,” according to Federal Judge Laurel Beeler. In court documents, Codding alleges that the defendants “modified the bonus provisions under the employment agreement” that should have continued when that pact ended.

However, Judge Beeler ruled that Codding failed to make an adequate case for the monetary damages she alleges due in part to insufficient sales efforts on behalf of Pearson Education, Inc. There is more, with a degree of irony.

According to US Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler’s July 27 ruling, Codding’s claims should have but did not target Pearson PLC only. That entity had hired her as its managing director for the PSoC after acquiring America’s Choice in 1998. Pearson Education, Inc. is a subsidiary of Pearson PLC.

Further and more problematically, the plaintiff failed to meet the pleading standards of evidence, e.g., adequate detail, according to Prof. David Levine of University of California Hastings College of Law. To wit, Judge Beeler wrote that Codding’s “allegations against Pearson Education are conclusory.” In other words, her case jumped to a conclusion rather than showing on the allegations of facts why the plaintiff thought that the defendant breached a contract.

Beeler wrote: “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations, which when accepted as true, ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” She cited a US Supreme Court case of Ashcroft v. Iqbal 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 US at 570), which has to do with the pleading standards, and not substance, of such cases, according to Prof. Levine.

The judge gave Codding 21 days from the July 27 ruling to amend her claims, i.e., correct the errors, in the case. On Aug. 8, Codding filed an amended complaint against Pearson Education, Inc.

Seth Sandronsky lives and works in Sacramento. He is a journalist and member of the Pacific Media Workers Guild. Email sethsandronsky@gmail.com.

Codding’s case is scheduled on Beeler’s docket for September 27, 2018. See more case docs here and more backstory from Sandronsky here.

For more on Judy Codding, see Laura H. Chapman’s comment to this November 2013 post.

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Judy Codding, CSPAN, 2009

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Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

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?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

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