8 Things You Should Know About Corporations Like Pearson that Make Huge Profits from Standardized Tests
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But while the corporations enjoy large profits, their products continue to damage our education system. Here are eight things you need to understand about these corporations and their tests.
1. The tests are full of errors.
At least the corporations that make these tests are able to score them properly. Right?
Wrong — and by a long shot.
Most recently, hundreds of New York City high school seniors had to anxiously await their diplomas because McGraw-Hill Education made quite a blunder of scoring their Regents exams. The computer system used to score the exams that determine if a student can graduate broke down. The scoring computer system was part of a $9.6 million contract with the city.
CTB/McGraw-Hill is also under fire for not having enough computer memory while students in Indiana took their tests, causing 80,000 students to experience interruptions during test-taking. While the state owes the corporation $24 million for this year’s tests, the state’s education department is hoping to seek more than $600,000 in damages.
In Oklahoma, students experienced similar glitches this year, prompting the Oklahoma Education Association to demand the tests be disregarded. According to their report, students “were left waiting for hours to finish tests, arrived at school day after day expecting to be tested only to experience additional delays, and had to take the same tests multiple times. … Consequently, thousands of students were left exhausted, frustrated, demoralized and incapable of giving their best effort."
A few months ago, Pearson erroneously scored New York City students’ tests used for entry into its gifted and talented programs. Thirteen percent of students K-3 (yes, kindergarteners take these tests), who were qualified for the programs, were wrongly rejected.
2. The corporations encourage new standards, to make new tests, to make new money.
One of the best ways a standardized testing corporation can make more money is by coming up with new standards, which is why it’s not surprising that Pearson has played a role in crafting the new Common Core State Standards, a new set of standards set to be implemented in most states this coming school year. Advocates argue these new standards will increase but not improve testing —which will now be done on computers many schools don’t even have.
Its website states: “Pearson’s close association with key authors and architects of the Common Core State Standards ensures that the spirit and pedagogical approach of the initiative is embodied in our professional development.”
Assessment experts and academics were the main writers of the Common Core standards, while few of its consultants were classroom teachers, and parents played no role. The tests are expected to be much harder than current tests. They are supposed to be able to determine “college readiness,” although many realize — including Pearson researchers — that testing this is a complex matter.
But whether or not these new standards are well designed, effective or useful doesn’t matter much when schools get more points from the federal Race to the Top program for implementing them. Pearson, then, acts as a national aid, ready to assist in the new profitable standards by developing the curriculum and assessments.
Peter Cohen, CEO of Pearson's K-12 division, said: “It's a really big deal. The Common Core standards are affecting literally every part of the business we're involved in."
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative think tank, estimates implementing the new standards will cost the nation between $1 billion and $8 billion. Nearly all the profits will go to book publishers and test creators like Pearson and CTB/McGraw-Hill.