Pearson, a London-based education giant, dominates testing and evaluations for students and teachers in New York, and the company’s influence is raising alarms with some of the state’s education leaders, Gannett’s Albany Bureau reported over the weekend.
The report found that Pearson has received lucrative contracts to design state assessments for public school students. Those test scores are then used to evaluate teachers.
Pearson is also formulating the exams college students must take in order to become certified teachers in New York.
Concerned about Pearson’s grip in New York, state leaders this year chose another company to design a general education diploma exam, even though Pearson does the work in other states.
“I have nothing to suggest that (Pearson’s) work is terribly poor or outlandish, or, on the other hand, that there’s anything spectacular about it,” said Richard Iannuzzi, president of New York State United Teachers, the state’s largest teachers’ union. “I think that we’ve allowed their bottom line to drive the quality of tests, and we’ve allowed a rushed timeline in New York to negatively influence their ability to do the best possible job.”
Pearson has been a dominant force in Albany as the state has rapidly expanded testing to meet federal mandates and new standards pushed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The state began a $32.1 million five-year contract with Pearson in 2011 for math and language arts assessments for some grades, tests that this year were aligned to a new, more difficult curriculum, called the Common Core.
Students are expected to see a 30 percent drop in scores on the late-April exams, a prediction that frustrated teachers and parents who said schools did not have enough time to prepare. Test scores are expected to be released later this summer.
Parents, protesting the exams, argued that testing had become more important in schools than learning and blamed the private company’s influence for the apparent shift.
State Education Commissioner John King said on a public radio program in April that concerns over the privatization of public education are valid ones, and the state works to limit any one company’s weight. But Pearson said it operates under a strict contract that ensures quality and that New York continues to choose the company because it stands out from competitors.