Last month a publication concerning the influence of Pearson Education was released entitled “Pearson 2025: Transforming teaching and privatising educational data.”
It’s startling to read and yet it’s not so hard to conceive of the conclusions that both researchers come to. And yes, “privatising” is correctly spelled as Pearson is based in London and their reach is incredibly far reaching across the globe.
For many people that reach is too far. And the hold is too tight.
Pearson’s hold on educational data seems to be evolving more and more. And in the world of standardized testing, concepts like “data-driven” and “personalized learning” mixed in with virtual classrooms and technology create the best conditions for a company like Pearson to have a stronger hold here in North Carolina.
And it’s not just Pearson. We as a state are throwing a LOT of money to software companies and testing corporations.
Consider the following quotes from our state superintendent:
“We will continue to use data-driven analyses, including feedback from classroom teachers, to drive changes ….” – Mark Johnson in October of 2018 concerning the report on the ineffectiveness of Read to Achieve.
“At DPI, we want to transform our education system to one that uses 21st century best practices so students and educators have access to unique learning experiences personalized for their individual needs and aspirations.” – Mark Johnson from “North Carolina Public Schools Accelerating into 2018” in December of 2017 on EdNC.org.
“New, personalized learning technology allows teachers to get the information they need about students’ progress without high-stakes testing. Especially in the early grades, progress checks can feel like a normal, engaging lesson instead of an examination. In many cases, students won’t even know we are checking in on their progress.” – Mark Johnson from “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna test it anymore!” in January of 2019 on EdNC.org.
Then consider DPI’s relationship with SAS, a private company that generates the School Report Cards, EVAAS Data, and the NC School Finances website.
And do not think that SAS and Pearson do not know each other.
Consider the magical appearance of funds by Mark Johnson last summer to purchase six million dollars of iPads for elementary teachers. Billy Ball from NC Policy Watch discovered an interesting relationship that may have prompted that “purchase” when he reported about it right after Johnson made his PR move.
· Months before a $6 million purchase of Apple iPads, the company spent more than $5,300 on meals, transportation and lodging for the benefit of Superintendent Mark Johnson, three state lawmakers and two local superintendents at their Silicon Valley headquarters.
· It’s not the first time tech companies courted state officials. Google has spent thousands on luxury hotels and upscale dinners for state lawmakers with budget powers.
· Superintendent says trip had “informal” approval of state’s ethics officials.
· In bypassing approval by Department of Information Technology, iPad purchase may not have followed terms of state’s contract with Apple.
· Public officials face different standards under the ethics law, so it’s unclear whether North Carolina ethics laws were broken.
· Ethics advocates say state’s laws were intended to stop “wining and dining” of public officials.
Think also of this Virtual Pre-K initiative being driven by Rep. Craig Horn that would link low-income pre-k students by a screen to prepared “lessons” through a company called the Waterford Institute. The following graphic is made compliments of John deVille, veteran teacher and public school advocate.
And just this past week, Mark Johnson announced yet another “software” purchase called iStation to help with Read to Achieve, an initiative that has been shown to be rather ineffective.
He stated, “I just signed the contract with Istation a minute ago, so we are informing you as soon as we legally could.”
Ironically, soon after he sent that memo, Dr. Amy Jablonski, a candidate for NC State Super in 2020 and someone who works at DPI, sent out this note:
Why is so much money being given to so many private companies to gather and disseminate student data when it could be invested in our own state and people?
The answer is easy – profit.
Think of the great university system we have in this state and the schools of education and educational research who could help fashion the very things that DPI and the NCGA are outsourcing.
This is not “personalizing” instruction. It’s “PEARSONALizing” it.
At a high cost.