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Topic: Pearson's plan to control education
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Pearson's plan to control education
Posted: Aug 21, 2012 8:05 PM
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From the EDDRA2 listserve, Tuesday, August 21, 2012. See also, , the website of
Susan Ohanian.
Pearson's plan to control education

Executive summary

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.

High standards

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

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