Just in time for tomorrow's rally tomorrow, protesting the NJ state tax giveaways of $80 million to Pearson, today it was announced that the company agreed to pay $75 million in damages plus costs to settle a lawsuit over price-fixing e-books.
This comes after multiple Pearson mis-steps and grievous errors, including mistakes in scoring the NYC Gifted and talented tests not once but twice, creating state exams that were too long, too difficult, full of ambiguous questions that made children cry, and last year, the infamous Pineapple readind passage and at least 30 other errors, with faulty questions and problems with translation and scoring.
This year the New York State Pearson exams also featured crass, commercial product placements as well as reading passages lifted off of Pearson textbooks that had been purchased and assigned elsewhere in the state but not NYC. According to Kathleen Porter Magee of the conservative Fordham Institute, Pearson is abusing its monopoly power in way that "threatens the validity of the English Language Arts (ELA) scores for thousands of New York students and raises serious questions about the overlap between Pearson's curriculum and assessment divisions."
Katz' claim, that this unfair practice resulted from the "authentic" nature of the texts, echoes the excuse made by Pearson earlier in the year, when questions were raised about the inclusion of brand name products and logos in the ELA exams. Their PR department then wrote, in the company's defense that "...several assessment programs use only authentic passages and the inclusion of brand names is inevitable." The arguments of both the SED and Pearson seems markedly unconvincing, and yes, inauthentic to me.
Even more Pearson errors are described by Alan Singer at Huffington Post, along with the response of the head PR honcho at Pearson, Susan Aspey, former press secretary at the US Department of Education,which according to Singer, "epitomizes the disturbing relationship between private companies that are selling products and government agencies."
Indeed, the fact that the excuses offered by New York State Ed officials for Pearson incompetence and/or venality are indistinguishable from those made by Pearson PR flacks reveals how both are inextricably linked in an overarching testing-educational complex, like the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about decades before. Their email exchange follows:
I have two sons in public school in Manhattan, grades 6 and 8. Recently, they both took the ELA exams for their respective grades. Subsequently, I discovered that both of their tests seem to have included passages that students in other school districts, which had purchased Pearson prep materials, had already seen. The following are from online sources:
"I am an 8th grade teacher in Xxxx, NY. On Day 1 of the NYS ELA 8 Exam, I discovered what I believe to be a huge ethical flaw in the State test. The state test included a passage on why leaves change color that is included in the Pearson-generated NYS ELA 8 text. I taught it in my class just last week." http://dianeravitch.net/2013/04/18/how-pearson-cheats-on-state-tests/
"Pearson advantage? A story is building that the 6th grade exam had a passage that was very similar to a Pearson product’s story in Scott Foresman Reading Street 6.1 (pages 208-224)".
As reported in the New York Post: Officials at Pearson "said the inclusion of essays from their curriculum material was an 'unintentional' consequence of the state’s emphasis on using nonfiction texts in the exams."
This is an appalling error, and it will be a huge ethical lapse, if it is not promptly addressed. Of course, it is hard to assess the extent of this problem precisely because Pearson refuses to make the tests public. What is obvious, though, is that Pearson has failed again.
As the eight grade teacher further writes, "[I]t was a huge advantage to students fortunate enough to use a Pearson text and not that of a rival publisher." Clearly, all questions based upon these passages must now be disqualified.
Sent: Monday, May 20, 2013 1:59 PM
To: Cynthia Wachtell
Cc: NYSED EMSCURRIC; NYSED REGENTSOFFICE
Subject: Re: Fwd: Other Kids Saw the ELA Passages in Advance
Dear Mr. Katz,