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8 Things You Should Know About Corporations Like Pearson that Make Huge Profits from Standardized Tests

Bush's No Child Left Behind Act and Obama's Race to the Top grant program means testing giants are raking in the dough.

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Shael Polakow-Suransky, the chief academic officer of New York City schools, has  warned: "There's lots and lots of books that have got fancy, pretty stickers on them saying 'Common Core,' but they actually haven't changed anything in the inside."

3. They profit from testing teachers, too.

As corporations have found they can profit from turning students into unimaginative machines, they are newly discovering they can profit from standardizing teachers as well. Pearson’s new edTPA standardized assessments will determine teacher certification. Seven states have already adopted edTPA, with New York set to implement the program in May 2014.

The standard requires those pursuing a teaching career to complete the assessment during student teaching. Pearson requires these student teachers to complete a written examination and submit at least 20-minute videos of themselves teaching, which the corporation will then own. The test costs prospective teachers $300. And instead of a teacher or supervisor assessing the instruction, Pearson will pay anonymous, current or retired teachers or administrators $75 to evaluate them.

This type of teaching assessment completely tears down the imaginative art and craft of teaching by standardizing it, which can only leave students to be less excited about school, with less personal connection to teachers.

One prospective student relayed his fears of edTPA to his teacher:

Joel … was excited because the teacher he had been assigned to for Fieldwork I, where students spend 35 hours observing and participating in secondary settings, had invited him to student teach with her. Because he had tremendous respect and admiration for this teacher, Joel was thrilled by the opportunity. But he was also worried, so worried that he hesitated to accept the offer.

Joel was apprehensive about completing the edTPA in this school. It is an urban environment in a community noted for poverty and gang activity. He had forged relationships with the young people in the school, as well as several faculty members, but the judgment of an objective scorer who might not understand if the classroom was not filled with compliant, well-behaved learners had made my student hesitate.

4. They have lobbying power.

Not only are these corporations cheering on additional testing from the sidelines, they are also flexing their money muscle via lobbying. One 2011  report found Pearson spent close to $700,000 lobbying in four key states.

But most of its lobbying is much more implicit. The  New York Times reported that in 2011, Pearson Foundation underwent investigation for paying for state officials trips to education conferences overseas. The foundation, which is a non-profit and tax-exempt, was charged with using its resources to benefit the Pearson for-profit company.

Possibly the most egregious activity was uncovered in a recent  report published by In the Public Interest, which found that Pearson helps fund Foundation for Excellence in Education and its partner Chiefs for Change — both Jeb Bush-founded, conservative education policy advocacy organizations. In turn, the foundation crafts policy that profits Pearson. The report  disclosed emails between the two organizations that show they are working on writing state laws benefiting their corporate funders. The organizations have already written education policies that benefit its funders in Florida, Louisiana, Maine, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island.

5. Their test content is absurd.

If you haven’t heard of “Pineapplegate,” be sure to check out Pearson’s  absurd passage about a race between a hare and a pineapple, given to New York eighth-graders last year, and see if you can answer the bizarre questions. Perhaps the worst part about Pineapplegate was Pearson’s defense of the passage and its questions by offering  nonsensical explanations to the “correct” answers.

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