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Posted at 01:00 PM ET, 05/07/2012

Ravitch: Pearson’s expanding role in education

This was written by education historian Diane Ravitch, a research professor at New York University and author of the bestselling “The Death and Life of the Great American School System.” This first appeared on her blog.


By Diane Ravitch

Ever since the debacle of Pineapplegate, it is widely recognized by everyone other than the publishing giant Pearson that its tentacles have grown too long and too aggressive. It is difficult to remember what part of American education has not been invaded by Pearson’s corporate grasp. It receives billions of dollars to test millions of students. Its scores will be used to calculate the value of teachers. It has a deal with the Gates Foundation to store all the student-level data collected at the behest of Race to the Top. It recently purchased Connections Academy, thus giving it a foothold in the online charter industry. And it recently added the GED to its portfolio.

With the U.S. Department of Education now pressing schools to test children in second grade, first grade, kindergarten — and possibly earlier — and with the same agency demanding that schools of education be evaluated by the test scores of the students of their graduates (whew!), the picture grows clear. Pearson will control every aspect of our education system.

Now we learn from Michael Winerip in the New York Times that Pearson has made a deal with Stanford University to license teachers, no matter what state they are in.

The deal is this: the school of education is supposed to send Pearson two 10-minute videos of the prospective teacher, plus the response to a written examination. Someone in the Pearson shop–possibly a retired teacher–will evaluate the prospect and decide after a brief review, whether they should get a license to teach. 

It seems the teaching candidates at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst say they won’t do it. They prefer to be evaluated by the people who see them teach every day. Their professors prefer to use their judgment about their students, rather than to outsource it to people who will never see their students face-to-face.

This is a hopeful sign. We should never forget that we always have the power to say no. It takes courage. But it can be done. Say no.

We can say no to testing. We can say no to anything that offends our basic values. We can stop the corporatization of public education. We can stop the outsourcing of responsibility from public institutions to Pearson and other providers.

Many years ago, I interviewed a famous at MIT about the role of standardized tests in education. He said something I never forgot. He said, “Let me write a nation’s tests, and I care not who writes its songs or laws.”

Are we prepared to hand over our children, our teachers, and our definition of knowledge to Pearson?

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