Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin' to sell
-- Bob Dylan

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


"Pearson is the McDonald’s of education." -- Sir Michael Barber, Pearson Chief Education Adviser
It's too early to tell what kind of impact the latest $1.1 trillion spending bill will have on education funding in general. One thing we know is that Arne Duncan's Race To The Top funding to cut down to zero. There is also no funding in the bill for Common Core standards. That's not good news for all those politically-connected companies that have bellied up to the DOE trough for the past six years to cash in on Duncan's and RTTT's testing and charter school mandates.

The biggest is Pearson, the British conglomerate that dominates Common Core testing and text book publishing fields. But Pearson is having troubles of its own. Alan Singer, writing at Huffington (Pearson Education Can Run, But It Cannot Hide), reports that Pearson Education is closing its foundation, is under investigation by the FBI for possible insider dealings in the Los Angeles John Deasy/iPad scandal, that the company is being sued by former employees for wrongful termination and that its PARCC exams are losing customers.

But don't pass the hat for poor Pearson just quite yet. A report out of Dubai has Pearson, despite the dark cloud over its head, winning a competitive bid by the OECD to develop the frameworks for Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2018. PISA is widely recognized as the benchmark for evaluating education systems worldwide by assessing the skills and knowledge 15-year-old students will need in their further academic education or for joining the workforce, said a statement. The PISA exam has become the scoring mechanism to determine which of dozens of competing nations supposedly have the best education systems. The exam is administered every three years in around 70 participating economies world-wide. So far neither Pearson nor OECD is saying how much money is involved in the deal.

A blockbuster contract Pearson signed earlier this year to deliver the new PARCC Common Core exams based its pricing on a minimum of 5.5 million students nationwide taking the tests next spring. But several states dropped out, leaving just under 5 million students to take the exams. (Another 325,000 children in Louisiana will take a modified test that uses PARCC questions but is delivered by another vendor.)

At that volume, Pearson will earn a minimum of $138 million in the first year of the contract. But because the contract was crafted in anticipation of a higher revenue flow to Pearson, PARCC member states have agreed to scale back the amount of work the company must do on the exams.

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