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A history of Pearson’s testing problems worldwide

Now that Pearson, the worldwide education company, has won a huge contract with PARCC,  one of the two multi-state consortia designing new Common Core-aligned tests with federal funds, it seems like a good time to review problems Pearson has had with previous projects.

I’ve run one of these before but this is an updated list compiled by Bob Schaeffer, public education director of FairTest, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, which is dedicated to ending the misuse of standardized tests. Take a look at not just the number of problems but the variety in 14 states — Virginia, Florida, Texas, California, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Arizona, Mississippi, Wyoming, New York, Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, — as well as in Guam and elsewhere around the world.


California – Test score delivery is delayed.


Arizona – 12,000 tests misgraded due to flawed answer key.


Florida – Test score delivery is delayed, resulting in $4 million fine.

Minnesota – 45,739  graduation tests misgraded, leading to lawsuit with $11 million settlement; judge finds “years of quality control problems” and a “culture emphasizing profitability and cost-cutting.”  (FairTest consulted with plaintiffs’ attorneys)

Washington – 204,000 writing Washington Assessment of Student Learning exams have to be rescored.


Florida — Dozens of school districts received no state grades for their 2002 scores because of a “programming error” at the state Department of Education. One Montessori school never received scores because NCS Pearson claimed not to have received the tests.


Michigan — Scores are delayed and fines levied per contract.

Five students get $5,000 scholarships based on misgraded computerized test.


SAT college admissions test – 4400 tests wrongly scored; $3 million settlement after lawsuit (note FairTest was an expert witness for plaintiffs)


Mississippi – Subcontractor programs correct answer as incorrect, resulting in erroneous results for almost four years during which time 126 students flunked the exam due to that wrongly scored item. Auditors criticize Pearson’s quality control checks; the firm offers $600,000 in scholarships as compensation


South Carolina — Scoring error delays school report cards.


Arkansas — First graders are forced to retake exam because real test used for practice.


Wyoming – Pearson’s new computer adaptive PAWS flops; state declares company in “complete default of the contract;” $5.1 million fine accepted after negotiations but not pursued by state governor.


Florida – Test score delivery delayed by more than a month – nearly $15 million in fines imposed and paid.   

Minnesota–   Results from online science tests taken by 180,000 students are delayed due to scoring error.


Florida – Some writing exams are delivered to districts without cover sheets, revealing subject students would be asked to write about.

Florida – New computerized algebra end-of-course exam delivery system crashes on first day of administration.

Oklahoma – “Data quality issues” cause “unacceptable” delay in score delivery; state identifies 18 significant problems with Pearson’s tests leading to $8 million penalty settlement.

Guam – Score release delayed because results based on flawed comparison data; government seeks reimbursement.

Illinois – In five Chicago schools, 144 students wrongly received zeroes due to scoring error. The state sought nearly $1.7 million from Pearson, which could not explain how the errors occurred.

Iowa – State Ethics and Campaign Finance Disclosure Board opens investigation of Iowa Education Department director Jason Glass for participating in all-expenses-paid trip to Brazil sponsored by Pearson Foundation.

New York – Attorney General Eric Schneiderman subpoenas financial records from Pearson Education and Pearson Foundation concerning their sponsorship of global junkets for dozens of state education leaders

Wyoming – Board of Education replaces Pearson as state’s test vendor after widespread technical problems with online exam.


New York – “Pineapple and the Hare” nonsense test question removed from exams after bloggers demonstrate that it was previously administered in at least half a dozen other states; more than two dozen additional errors found in New York State tests developed by Pearson 

Florida – After percentage of fourth grades found “proficient” plunges from 81 percent  to 27 percent in one year, state Board of Education emergency meeting “fixes” scores on FCAT Writing Test by changing definition of proficiency.

Virginia – Error on computerized 3rd and 6th grade SOL tests causes state to offer free retakes.

New York – Parents have their children boycott “field test” of new exam questions because of concerns about Pearson’s process. More than 7,000 New York City elementary and middle school students wrongly blocked from graduation by inaccurate “preliminary scores” on Pearson tests. State officials warn Pearson about potential fines if tests have more errors

Oklahoma – After major test delivery delays, state replaces Pearson as its testing contractor.

Mississippi – Pearson pays $623,000 for scoring error repeated over four years that blocked graduation for five students and wrongly lowered scores for 121 others.

Texas – Pearson computer failure blocks thousands of students from taking state-mandated exam by displaying error message at log-on.


New YorkPassages from Pearson textbooks appear in Pearson-designed statewide test, giving unfair advantage to students who used those materials.

New York – Three Pearson test scoring mistakes block nearly 5,000 students from gifted-and-talented program eligibility. Then second error found in New York City gifted-and-talented test scoring makes 300 more students eligible for special programs.

Worldwide – Testing centers of Pearson VUE (one of Pearson’s businesses) around the globe experience major technical problems,  leaving thousands unable to take scheduled exams or register for new ones.

England, Wales and Northern Ireland – General Certificate of Secondary Education exam in math leaves out questions and duplicates some others.

Texas – State auditor finds inadequate monitoring of Pearson’s contract: vendor determined costs of assessment changes without sufficient oversight and failed to disclose hiring nearly a dozen former state testing agency staff.

VirginiaFour thousand parents receive inaccurate test scorecards due to Pearson error in converting scores to proficiency levels.

New York – New Pearson Common Core textbooks are “full of errors,” including in sample test items.

New York – Pearson fined $7.7 million by New York State for using its non-profit foundation arm to steer business to the firm.


National – Pearson notifies students who took the Miller Analogies Test (MAT) in 2011 that their exams had been wrongly scored.

Florida – State education commissioner seeks penalties after schools in 26 counties suspend Pearson’s new computerized tests because server problems prevent students from logging on and freeze screens.

New York – Printing errors result in missing questions and blank pages in Pearson-designed statewide math assessment.