******************************* From the EDDRA2 listserve, Tuesday, August 21, 2012. See also, http://susanohanian.org/show_research.php?id=494 , the website of Susan Ohanian. ******************************* Pearson's plan to control education
Report to the BC Teachers Federation 30 June 2012
By Donald Gutstein
Pearson plc is the world's largest education company, with operations on nearly every continent. The company earns the bulk of its revenue from digital texts, online learning tools, virtual schools, student and teacher testing programs and services, student information systems, instructional management systems, and much more. It became large by buying up its competitors. It dominates the huge American education market and probably now has its eye on British Columbia, as the province charts a course from print to digital, to what B.C. Education Minister George Abbott calls twenty-first century learning using technology. (That's what Pearson calls it too.) This report traces Pearson's corporate strategies and how they might impact B.C.'s public education system, particularly through the B.C. Education Plan.
According to investment research firm Sanford Bernstein & Co., Pearson is pursuing a variety of growth strategies, including one that will "revolutionize how education is delivered to students around the world, starting with the United States." It is an ambitious attempt to further commercialize education by claiming its products and services will raise student and teacher performance while at the same time cutting spending. If successful, Bernstein argues, "it would make every teacher and school student in the United States a potential customer" by "personalizing education in U.S. schools through technology and best practices." And since British Columbia is part of the North American Education division, it too will become a target for the new strategy.
In October 2011, Education Minister Abbott announced his government's plan "to transform education so that every student can excel and thrive in a rapidly evolving world." An analysis of the plan's elements indicates the plan may be designed, not for students or teachers, but for the corporate sector, in which Pearson is a leading player. The plan consists of five elements, each of which could become a profit centre for Pearson (as well as other technology and education corporations).
Personalized learning for every student
Pearson's partnership with adaptive learning company Knewton is at the heart of efforts to personalize learning. Knewton builds its software into online classes that watch students' every move: scores, speed, accuracy, delays, keystrokes, click-streams and drop-offs.
Pearson was selected by the OECD to develop the framework for the 2015 PISA assessment, whose main focus will be testing the scientific literacy of students around the world, making greater use of computer-based testing-a Pearson specialty.
Quality teaching and learning
Pearson is the provider of the set of rubrics used to assess teacher performance in New York and the provider of the model for teacher evaluation used in Tennessee.
In 2006, Pearson bought National Evaluation Systems, the leading provider of customized state assessments for teacher certification in the U.S.
The company scaled up its exposure in this market through an agreement with Stanford University to develop a national licensure procedure which assesses pre-service teacher candidates. More than 25 states and 90 teacher preparation programs have signed on to outsource teacher assessment to Pearson-Stanford.
Flexibility and choice
Pearson is the second-largest operator of virtual schools, achieving this position by purchasing leading player, Connections Education, in September 2011, crossing the line from supporting schools to operating them. The Connections Academy division operates online charter schools in 21 states with 40,000 student-customers.
Pearson dominates the U.S. school testing market. If B.C. moves in the direction of online testing on a large scale, Pearson will likely be first in line to win contracts.
Pearson has another product that fits into the Education Plan's call for high standards, the Schoolnet Instructional Management System. (See discussion earlier.)
Learning empowered by technology
Pearson leads the student information systems (SIS) industry because of its purchase of Apple Computer's PowerSchool and Burnaby, B.C.-based Chancery Software, in 2007
In 2010, Pearson purchased The Administrative Assistants, the Ontario-based company that designed the province's student information system, BCeSIS, giving it a dominant position for student information systems in the Canadian market.
The company probably tops the list of candidates to win the contract to build and operate B.C.'s SIS.
The discussion of the Education Plan in this report is speculative because the B.C. government has not yet implemented the plan's elements. It should be known within a year, though, if Pearson wins the student information system contract. And if the company's record is any indication, once it has its foot in the door, look for other Pearson products to follow.
See full Executive Summary in the attachment.
************************************************** -- Jerry P. Becker Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction Southern Illinois University 625 Wham Drive Mail Code 4610 Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O] (618) 457-8903 [H] Fax: (618) 453-4244 E-mail: email@example.com