Pearson Foundation is the tax-exempt arm of the giant, British-owned textbook and test publisher. The New York Times reports today that the foundation is currently under investigation by the state's attorney general for trying to influence state education officials by paying for overseas trips and other perks and not even being cool about it.
NCLB and current corporate-style "reforms" have states paying millions of dollars annually to companies like Pearson to develop and administer the standardized tests required under the law, tests which are now being used widely to evaluate teacher performance. Pearson has also cashed in on a provision mandating tutoring for students as well as from the expansion of virtual learning programs. Pearson recently formed a partnership with the Gates Foundation to create online reading and math courses aligned with common core standards that some 40 states have adopted in recent months.
In New York, Pearson Education most recently won a five-year, $32 million contract to administer state tests, and it maintains a $1 million contract for testing services with the State Education Department, according to state records. The last contract was awarded after David M. Steiner, then the state education commissioner, attended a conference in London in June 2010 that was organized by the Council of Chief State School Officers and underwritten by the Pearson Foundation.
“Despite a history of scoring errors, contract manipulation and corporate misbehavior, there’s been almost no public oversight of companies such as Pearson,” said Bob Schaeffer, a spokesman for FairTest, an advocacy group opposed to standardized testing. “It’s great that New York’s attorney general has now decided to examine the examiners and begin holding them accountable.”The real problem for Pearson is that the N.Y. state investigation could uncover revelations about the foundation's lobbying on the federal level as we head towards the 2012 elections. Pearson was one of the great beneficiaries from the federal stimulus package which saw some $6 billion go into book and materials.