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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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Aside from illogical content, tests often include questions that require skills not yet taught to the students. For example, New York had to  toss a math question because it required students to understand mathematical concepts not taught until middle or high school.

Meanwhile, bilingual students have to take tests in English before they have mastered the language. It takes five to seven years to master a language. Students with special needs are also required to take these tests and receive few accommodations.

6. They give students with the ‘proper’ textbooks an advantage.

Besides making sure students are graded properly, how else can you ensure they do well on Pearson’s tests? By making sure your school buys Pearson’s books. In a  blog post titled “How Pearson Cheats on State Tests,” Diane Ravitch writes that an upstate New York teacher alerted her to the fact that her student’s standardized tests contained a story her students read a week earlier from their textbooks.

The teacher wrote:

On Day 1 of the NYS ELA 8 Exam, I discovered what I believe to be a huge ethical flaw in the State test. The state test included a passage on why leaves change color that is included in the Pearson-generated NYS ELA 8 text. I taught it in my class just last week. In a test with 6 passages and questions to complete in 90 minutes, it was a huge advantage to students fortunate enough to use a Pearson text and not that of a rival publisher. It may very well have an impact on student test scores.

7. They make students take additional tests for their company research.

How does Pearson attempt to fine-tune its tests? Not by using paid research or paying students to take tests. Instead, it administers “field tests” to certain schools and subjects students to even further testing during the school year.

Last year, parents in NYC were fed up, and  protested against administering what some called “free pilot studies” for Pearson. Meanwhile, teachers were sent a memo from the NY State Education’s Office telling them to lie to students and pretend that these  field tests were real.

A few months later, Pearson decided to try bribery as an approach to continuing its field-testing. If principals  decided to use their students as guinea pigs, they would get a free Kindle, Nook, iPad, or iPod Touch.

8. They use product placement.

Mug™ Root Beer, IBM™, Lego®, FIFA® and Mindstorms™ — what do all these corporate brands have in common? They were all found in this year’s New York State English exam. Pearson denies receiving money from these corporations, though some  say there should be further investigation.

Eighth-grader Isaiah Schrader wrote a  piece about how he “found the trademark references and their associated footnotes very distracting and troubling.” Schrader argued that even if they weren’t paid, Pearson should not advertise to children, who are especially susceptible to advertising. He wrote:

No students should be required, however, to take tests that subject them to hidden advertising. Clearly the trademarked products mentioned throughout the exam had no relevance to the stated goals of testing students’ reading comprehension and analytical skills. Surely Pearson can afford to edit standardized tests and remove all mention of trademarked products.


The goal of NCLB was to improve overall achievement in education, to surpass some of the U.S.’s international competitors, and to close the race gap. Yet, after 11 years, research has found no significant improvement in test scores. One report by FairTest, revealed that scores actually increased more rapidly prior to NCLB. There was also no evidence of the race gap narrowing. A National Research Council report showed similar results. And no significant improvement has been made concerning the country’s ranking in reading and math scores compared with other countries.

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