"I’m glad people have stopped asking whether the schools are better"
April 12, 2016 12:56 PM   Subscribe

 
So like the peace corp, but for profit, and with even less oversight and effectiveness in actually achieving anything lasting for the kids? I need a drink.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:07 PM on April 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


Pearson: creator of the crappiest and yet most expensive educational materials I've been asked to use, in charge of large swathes of global education? I am sure it will go amazingly. Well, for them.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 1:35 PM on April 12, 2016 [14 favorites]


The only check on its progress will be the tests that Pearson itself creates.

Sounds kind of like the Bible. You must obey the commands in the Bible, because the Bible says you must.
posted by Melismata at 1:47 PM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Fortune Magazine: Everybody hates Pearson
posted by Kabanos at 1:47 PM on April 12, 2016 [9 favorites]


They've cornered the market on standardized tests (Last Week Tonight with John Oliver), and what's better than selling 100+ tests per student for their school career? Owning the schools, of course.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:54 PM on April 12, 2016


I could have done without the unqualified dig at Common Core. Given that this article is otherwise well-researched and written, I cringed when they casually fanned the flames of the Common Core backlash without providing a reasonable amount of context.

It's entirely possible to have Common Core without touching a Pearson product. They didn't create it, and they are not the sole supplier of materials that teach to the CCSS curriculum.

Some students and educators may have experienced frustrations with some of Pearson's products that implement CCSS, but IMO, it's extremely misguided to direct the blame for that at Common Core rather than Pearson. (On the other hand, Pearson may have used their market position to effectively make themselves the sole supplier of CCSS materials for many districts, but again, that's not actually a problem with Common Core, but rather, part of a broader problem with government procurement and unregulated corporate growth)

I get really annoyed when I see people who should really know better do this -- it's so much easier to treat Common Core as a bogeyman without bothering to learn what it is.

Disclaimer: I work for one of Pearson's competitors. I do not work on any K-12 products. Opinions are my own. Hail Hydra.
posted by schmod at 1:57 PM on April 12, 2016 [34 favorites]


The only thing I like about Pearson is writing blistering screeds against their rapacious amorality and willingness to commit economic cannibalism against children whenever their reps send me e-mails about using their books in my courses.
posted by clockzero at 2:13 PM on April 12, 2016 [19 favorites]


Students taught at Pearson schools do better on Pearson tests. I'm not saying that they alter the results, but when you can write the test to the teaching material and vice versa, well, there should be an improvement in test scores, or you're doing something wrong.

For me this is the biggest issue: If Pearson achieves its vision, only the most destitute would remain in public schools in the world’s largest and fastest-growing cities.
posted by Hactar at 2:15 PM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


All You need to know from the article:

They locate in cheaply rented spaces, hire younger, less-experienced teachers, and train and pay them less than instructors at government-run schools. The company argues that by using a curriculum reflecting its expertise, plus digital technology—computers, tablets, software—it can deliver a more standardized, higher-quality education at a lower cost per student.

Interestingly they are robbing the local economy of the decent middle class jobs that the teachers at the government run schools hold, and making a nice return for the investors back home.
posted by mygoditsbob at 2:20 PM on April 12, 2016 [20 favorites]


No, it's specifically a problem with Common Core:

"Essentially, they’re a monopoly,” White said. “They [Pearson] make the tests, the test prep materials, the remedial materials you need if you fail the test. If more kids fail the test, you can convince the school to buy more remedial materials."

As long as Common Core relies on tests from a specific company which also sells prep/educational materials (effectively giving an advantage to schools which use those prep materials), Common Core will have this problem. Is it reflective of a broader problem of "government procurement and unregulated corporate growth?" Well, I mean, probably, but so what? It's a specific problem resulting from the intersection of that context and the Common Core structure.

I'm actually not ideologically opposed to the very concept of Common Core, but Pearson sure has helpfully illustrated all the ways it can be abused in implementation.
posted by praemunire at 2:46 PM on April 12, 2016 [10 favorites]


By the way, teachers, parents and students aren't the only Pearson-haters. So are doctors, who take Pearson tests for re-certification.
posted by kozad at 2:57 PM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


So, will books used by school systems around the world now be determined by what Texas decrees?
posted by Thorzdad at 3:01 PM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Finally, one of the few missing elements of the cyberpunk dystopia I was promised as a child is being seriously addressed!
posted by Infracanophile at 3:26 PM on April 12, 2016 [15 favorites]


I'm so glad I don't work for them anymore.
posted by chatongriffes at 3:32 PM on April 12, 2016


O hai Ma Bell. Long time no see.
posted by yeolcoatl at 3:35 PM on April 12, 2016


Finally, one of the few missing elements of the cyberpunk dystopia I was promised as a child is being seriously addressed!

If you have three Pepsis and drink one, how much more refreshed are you?
posted by Talez at 3:36 PM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


By the way, teachers, parents and students aren't the only Pearson-haters. So are doctors, who take Pearson tests for re-certification.

So are FINRA licensed folk, who take their exams at Pearson VUE test centers, but they don't usually get a lot of sympathy.
posted by leotrotsky at 3:39 PM on April 12, 2016


praemunire: "No, it's specifically a problem with Common Core:"

Repeating the same line doesn't make it any more true.

You can have a Common Core implementation that does not use Pearson's learning content, tests, or remediation materials. The fact that many states don't do this is an entirely separate problem, and any other curriculum that your states adopts is going to have the same exact issues if they don't change their purchasing practices.

Standardized curriculua are generally good for big companies like Pearson in the first few years, because they can throw tons of resources toward being first-to-market.

On the other hand, it remains to be seen whether this is a good long-term business model, given that they're eventually going to have some competition from other publishers, as well as competition from freely-available content.

Cynically speaking, one could argue that the rapid adoption AND gradual demise of Common Core will both be profitable for Pearson.
posted by schmod at 4:18 PM on April 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


They locate in cheaply rented spaces, hire younger, less-experienced teachers, and train and pay them less than instructors at government-run schools. The company argues that by using a curriculum reflecting its expertise, plus digital technology—computers, tablets, software—it can deliver a more standardized, higher-quality education at a lower cost per student.

That sounds like the Los Angeles area Private School my parents put me into in the 6th grade to get out of "those awful L.A. Public Schools". Except with a tuition that my upper-middle-class parents could barely afford. But hey, it got me away from those Public School bullies... and in with a much higher socioeconomic class of bully.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:48 PM on April 12, 2016


I have taken money (via one of their contractors) from Pearson to work on an education product. Without saying too much, every single one of us consultants/contractors could see how fucked the project was going to be, everyone inside Pearson could not, and it yea, verily, it eventually went down in flames. I recommend funding those public schools...

Nice steady work, too, alas.
posted by maxwelton at 4:55 PM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Horace Mann was wrong. And when he realized that his tests were resulting in more, not less, teaching to the tests, he was sorry for it.

Standardized testing is a stupid, simplistic response to a complicated problem. This is not news. Also not news: schools are underfunded and are overloaded with 'important' missions. Also not news: each human mind is complicated, and belongs to an individual. Lockstep, one-size-fits-all approaches, which may work well enough for small groups of motivated adults, are anathema to the education of children.

These facts are familiar to those who've studied the history of education. Which includes almost noone in a position to make important decisions. And therein lies the rub.
posted by Twang at 6:38 PM on April 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


Pearson is very well connected politically in Florida. If they try this idea out anywhere in the U.S., mark my word- it will be somewhere in Florida.
posted by wittgenstein at 7:47 PM on April 12, 2016


"Cynically speaking, one could argue that the rapid adoption AND gradual demise of Common Core will both be profitable for Pearson."

I wouldn't say that's cynical at all, schmod. It's in their DNA. Always Learning! I expect to see "Shared Fundamentals"TM start replacing Common Core by the middle of the next decade.
posted by Gotanda at 9:01 PM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm currently forced to use Pearson products. I hate them with a passion approaching the hatred I feel for Adobe. It's a very large and real hatred that if left unchecked may, in fact, lead to my death by brain aneurysm.
posted by damnitkage at 5:06 AM on April 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Come join us in Meta.
posted by leotrotsky at 1:23 PM on April 13, 2016


As a freelancer, I refuse all jobs from companies like Pearson. Not only is it trash what they are producing, but the type of people who work for those companies are insufferable. Last week, I took on a job (against my better judgement) for some re-branding of material for a company like Pearson. It took less than a day before everything went south. I dumped them and blocked the domain from all email. It was a miserable 24 hrs. [shudder]

Some client environments just seem to breed stupidity, greed and near sociopathic behavior towards employees. The educational testing and study guide industry is certainly one of them. And if this is the way they treat the workers, I hate to think about their attitudes towards students.
posted by lampshade at 8:15 PM on April 13, 2016


For people with adblockers, using the Wayback Machine lets you see the archived page.
posted by homunculus at 8:40 PM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


A poster who wishes to remain anonymous says:
I work at a Pearson testing center. That's some of the lowest-ranked Pearson employment there is, for context.

I can tell you that everyone at my center knows that Pearson is evil, and everyone is sorry for the people who are forced to interact with Pearson testing as a condition of their employment. Yes, that includes doctors and FINRA people - but also nurses, physician's assistants, medical techs, pharmacists, pharmacy techs, histology techs, teachers, social workers, EMTs, people who do building maintenance, funeral directors, lactation consultants, AT&T employees, VMware people, prospective Foreign Service officers, massage therapists, etc. Almost all of these people are subject to a major invasion of their privacy via biometrics, and spend a lot of money - all for the great privilege of taking a test with Pearson.

There are a ton of cultish insanity inside Pearson. I've never worked anywhere that was so in love with its own bullshit. Pearson gave out a meaningless, garbage "award" to employees in India, who risked their lives during that 2015 Chennai flooding to get out some product on time. Then these employees all wrote up a little blurb about how their dedication to the product paid off, even as they had left their families alone to worry about their safety.

But there is also an enormous amount of discontentment and anger brewing among employees at Pearson. To dramatically understate the situation, lampshade is right about how Pearson treats its employees. People are losing their jobs left and right, and they have to endure Pearson's altar calls all the way down. Pearson actually instructed employees to get on social media and debate people who talk shit about Pearson, ESPECIALLY in the wake of the John Oliver piece. There are so, so many reasons to hate them.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:17 AM on April 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


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