Archive for the ‘Hofstra University’ Tag

Alan Singer on Pearson Ed: Why Pearson Tests Our Kids   2 comments

Note to Utahns: Utah children are being tested by AIR, not by Pearson.  So why post this article?

  It’s no secret that Utah, as well as the federal government, has heavily invested in Pearson/Microsoft‘s philosophy and product.  Pearson leads out in all Common Core implementation and student-data gathering products nationwide, including here in Utah (except for the SAGE/AIR test itself).  

Alan Singer’s article adds to the growing argument against Pearson, period.  My hope is that both Pearson’s products and its “one-global-governance-system” philosophy will be vigorously rejected and that Pearson will not  receive one more penny of the countless Utah tax dollars it has already claimed, both via curriculum sales and via its creepy database building for our state’s school system.  

Why Pearson Tests Our Kids

by Alan Singer,  Hofstra University

 (Posted with permission from the author and also published here)

 

Pearson invited me to breakfast. Well not just me. I received an email inviting Long Island educators to a free “Breakfast Briefing” promoting “Pearson Personalized Learning” that would empower me to “Turn your traditional student learning into Student-Centered learning by delivering the right curriculum to the right student, at the right time.” I checked out Pearson’s personal learning products online and then decided that the free breakfast and the opportunity to annoy them was not worth the trip.

 

Pearson is promoting GradPoint, “an easy to use web based solution for grades 6-12” that “includes over 180 rigorous courses (Core, Electives, AP and Foreign Language & CTE).;” iLit, “a tablet-based reading intervention for students in grades 4-10” which promises “it has everything your class needs to gain two years of reading growth in a single year;” and aimsweb, “the leading assessment and RTI solution in school today-a complete web-based solution for universal screening, progress monitoring, and data management for Grades K-12.”

 

I thought calling their literacy program iLit was pretty funny, but otherwise I find their promotion scary. “Pearson Personalized Learning” is not about supporting schools; it is about replacing them. And it is about replacing them without any evidence that their products work or any concern for the impact of their products on schools and student learning.

 

Pearson executives Sir Michael Barber, Saad Rizvi and John Fallon call their global market strategy “The Incomplete Guide To Delivering Learning Outcomes.” Fallon, Pearson CEO, has been with the company for most of his professional career. He is behind the push for “efficacy,” the corporate buzzword, which in practical terms translates into the constant assessing of student performance who are using Pearson products. The testing strategy tied into common core in the United States is neither an accident nor an accessory. Testing is the core of common core.

 

I find Barber and Rizvi even more interesting than Fallon for understanding Pearson’s marketing strategies. Barber is Pearson’s chief education strategist and leads its three-pronged assault on education around the world through what Pearson calls efficacy, affordable learning, and the Pearson Knowledge and Research Centre. Efficacy is supposed to be about what works in education based on research done at the research centre, but everything is actually organized around the Pearson goal of “finding business models for affordable schools” that they will be selling, especially in “developing areas of the world.”

 

If you want to know how Pearson plans to operate, you have to look at McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm and advisor to some of the world’s leading businesses, governments, and institutions. Before joining Pearson, Michael Barber had a similar role at McKinsey where he was a partner. Saad Rizvi, who is Pearson’s Senior Vice President for Efficacy and head of its Catalyst for Education team, was a consultant at McKinsey. McKinsey & Company’s clients include 100 of the top 150 companies in the world. It has advised the Bank of England, the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, and the German government.

 

The main job of McKinsey is to help companies maintain profitability by closing subsidies, selling assets, shifting production, and laying off workers. McKinsey has had its share of mishaps. Former employees include Jeff Skilling, the disgraced chief executive of Enron and Rajat K. Gupta, who was convicted of insider trading. Other disasters include advising Time Warner on its ill-fated merger with AOL, advising General Motors on how to compete with Japanese automakers, and advising AT&T not to be concerned about cellphones. A top McKinsey partner dismissed these failures saying “We are advisers, and it is management’s job to take all the advice they receive and make their own decisions. Not to say that McKinsey told me to do this.”

I think a fair question to ask is, do we want the business model that led to the Eron scam and these other corporate disasters employed in operating American schools and McKinsey’s no-fault attitude toward advising local, state, and federal governments on educational policy?

 

Pearson’s Affordable Learning division currently focuses on emerging markets in Africa and India, but it is the model for Pearson business worldwide. It includes eAdvance (South Africa), which sponsors a blended learning chain called Spark Schools; Omega, a chain of thirty-eight private schools in Ghana; Bridge International Academies in Kenya; and Zaya, an educational technology and service company contracted to operate twenty-seven schools; Suiksha, a chain of pre-schools; Experifun, which markets science learning products; Avanti, after-school test prep; and Village Capital (Edupreneurs) promoting private education start-up companies, all based in India. The blurb for eAdvance’s Spark Schools give some sense of what Pearson is trying to do in Africa, India and worldwide – under price the market to disrupt existing educational institutions so Pearson companies can move in, take over, and gobble up profits.

 

“SPARK Schools has bold aspirations to disrupt the South African education system through introducing an innovative learning methodology to the African continent. In the SPARK Schools model, students split their time between digital content that adapts in difficulty to their learning and classroom interaction based on best practice pedagogy. Importantly, the blended model also allows eAdvance to deliver high quality education at an affordable price.” It will “build eight low-cost blended learning schools over the next three years, and more than 60 in the next ten.”

Pearson is also using mergers to expand its markets and influence. In December 2013, Pearson agreed to purchase Grupo Multi, an English-language training company in Brazil, to accelerate growth in Latin America.

 

Pearson uses the desperation of Third World countries to modernize to get its foot in the door and to act without regulation or oversight. Up until now, about sixty percentof Pearson’s sales were in the United States, however expansion stalled in this country because of lower freshman enrollments in U.S. colleges and a slowdown in textbook markets. Sales also suffered in Great Britain because of curriculum changes and the company spent about $200 million organizing its push into foreign digital markets.

 

As a result of these issues, Moody’s Investors Service, a ratings agency, lowered its evaluation of Pearson from stable to negative. “We are changing the outlook to negative as Pearson’s debt protection metrics for fiscal year 2013 are likely to weaken considerably,” says According to Gunjan Dixit, a Moody’s Assistant Vice President-Analyst, “This view reflects Pearson’s tough trading conditions, particularly in North America and the UK; the greater-than-originally-anticipated spending on restructuring; and certain start-up costs for new contracts in higher education and increased provisions for returns.” According to Moody’s, key challenges for Pearson in the future include (1) the fiscal health of U.S. states and international government funding bodies, in its schools and higher education businesses; (2) difficult market conditions in the U.S. education market; (3) the vulnerability of its Financial Times group; and (4) the accelerating transition of trade book publishing to electronic formats. Pearson stockholders were so disappointed in the company’s financial performance that in April 2014, shareholders protested against excessive executive bonuses.

 

In the United States, Pearson faces other problems that may be related to over expansion, the inability to deliver what was promised, and possible under the table agreements on contracts. In Florida, state officials blamed Pearson Education when at least a dozen Florida school districts were forced to suspend online testing this April because students had trouble signing in for the test. for the situation. Other problems included slowness when students tried to download test questions or submit answers and an inexplicable warning message that students should notify their teacher or proctor about a problem that did not exist. “State Education Commissioner Pam Stewart complained to Pearson that the “failure is inexcusable. Florida’s students and teachers work too hard on learning to be distracted by these needless and avoidable technological issues.”

 

Pearson blamed the test problems on a third-party hosting service provider. However, in recent years Pearson has had similar problems with computerized tests in Florida before as well as in other states. In 2011, Wyoming fined Pearson $5.1 million because of software problems and then switched back to paper tests. In April, Pearson was also forced to acknowledge and apologize for “intermittent disruptions to some of our online testing services.” This time they blamed a different sub-contractor.

 

In the meantime, the American Institutes for Research is challenging the awarding of a lucrative common core test development contract to Pearson. While the complaint is being brought in New Mexico, it has national ramification. The contract is for developing test-items, test delivery, reporting results, and analysis of student performance for states that are part of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, one of two main consortia designing tests linked to the common-core standards. The plaintiff claims the process for awarding the contract was designed to specifically benefit Pearson, which ended up being the only bidder, and was therefore illegal.

 

In New York State, parents and teachers are outraged because teachers and building administrators are forced to sign statements promising not to discuss or release questions about new Pearson “Common Core” aligned high-stakes tests. In the past, questions from past state high school “Regents” exams were posted on the State Education website. Now Pearson, which is paid $32 million by New York State to create the tests is demanding a payment of an additional $8 million to permit the state to post the questions.

 

 

In New Zealand, a group called Save Our Schools NZ is protesting the misuse of PISA (Programme of International Student Assessment) tests and rankings by national education departments. They charge “Pisa, with its three-year assessment cycle, has caused a shift of attention to short-term fixes designed to help a country quickly climb the rankings, despite research showing that enduring changes in education practice take decades, not a few years, to come to fruition.” Pearson holds the contract to prepare PISA assessments starting in 2015.

 

For all its claims about efficacy, Pearson is not a very efficient company. For all its claims about valuing education, the only thing Pearson appears to value is profit.

 

Alan Singer, Director, Secondary Education Social Studies
Department of Teaching, Literacy and Leadership
128 Hagedorn Hall / 119 Hofstra University / Hempstead, NY 11549

New York Professor’s Run-in With Common Core Promotion Machine   4 comments

alan singer

New York Professor’s Run-in With NY Common Core Promotion Machine

Guest Post by Professor Alan Singer

This story is posted with permission from Professor Singer, and the article is also posted at the Huffington Post under the title: “Questions about Common Core – NYS Education Officials Do Not Want to Hear About It.”

In December 2013, the New York Regents, the policy making body for education in the state, formed a sub-committee to evaluate implementation of the national Common Core Standards. Merryl Tisch the chair of the Board of Regents and John King, the state’s educational commissioner, are both strong advocates for the rapid introduction of the Common Core accompanied by high-stakes testing of students and the evaluation of teachers based on student test scores. However, in a series of public forums across the state, Commissioner King was sharply criticized by both parents and teachers. Some Regents, including Roger Tilles who represents Long Island and Geraldine Chapey of Belle Harbor in Queens, have also been very critical of implementation of Common Core.

New York State United Teachers, the umbrella organization representing unionized teachers in New York State responded to the campaign to rapidly introduce Common Core and new high-stakes tests by calling for the immediate removal of the Commissioner of Education John King by the Board of Regents and postponement of Common Core graduation requirements. This move is supported by Randi Weingarten, president of the national union, the American Federation of Teachers. In addition, a coalition of 45 educational organizations called the NYS Allies for Public Education has launched a campaign to have four new members elected to the state educational governing body, all of whom have expressed reservations about the rapid implementation of Common Core in the state. Members of the Board of Regents are elected by the New York State Legislature.

In May 2011, in an essay published in New York Newsday and on the Washington Post website, Regent Tilles raised concerns about Common Core that have been largely ignored by its proponents for the last three years. Tilles argued “Student learning is complex” and “impacted by many factors which include, but are not limited to, prior learning, family background, level of poverty, classroom and school culture, access to private tutors, learning disabilities, access to adequate resources, and even school district governance,” none of which are taken into account by the Common Core standards, the testing program, or teacher evaluations. He objected to “using the student results of New York’s standardized tests to evaluate teachers” because it contributed to “the corrupting influence of high stakes on the education programs.” He was especially concerned that the focus of Common Core and the high-stakes assessments on reading and math skills was “snuffing out the creative thinking” and worried “that all of the above is an attempt to promote charter schools and dismantle the public school system.”

There are legitimate questions about how serious Tisch and King are about rethinking Common Core. At the same time as Tisch announced formation of the Regents sub-committee, Tisch and King, in an opinion article published in the Albany Times-Union declared “We want to hear from teachers, parents, and students about what’s working and what could work better. But we also know that moving forward with Common Core is essential.”

As far as I can see, there is little real discussion going on about the Common Core standards. Politicians and corporations who are selling the standards to the public and forcing it on teachers and schools ignore both supportive suggestions and opposition. The story I report here says that the champions of Common Core, no matter what they say, do not want to hear any other ideas.

In New York State, Common Core is promoted by EngageNY, a website “created and maintained by the New York State Education Department,” and a secretive non-governmental group called the Regents Research Fund. As the EngageNY website makes clear, its primary purpose is promoting Common Core.

“The New York State Education Department (NYSED) is engaging teachers, administrators, and education experts across the State and nation in the creation of curriculum resources, instructional materials, professional development materials, samples of test questions, test specifications, and other test-related materials that will help with the transition to the New York State P-12 Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS).”

The actions of the Regents Research Fund are a little harder to pin down. The Albany Times Union calls it a “shadow government” within the New York State Education Department. It is supported by $19 million in donations from wealthy individuals and foundations.

On the EngageNY website and for the Regents Research Fund the chief salesperson for Common Core is Kate Gerson, a very attractive woman who appears to have minimal teaching experience. Although she is not an actual employ of the State Education Department, Gerson represents them at Common Core meetings across the state and is the featured Common Core cheerleader on EngageNY online videos. The Times Herald-Record, based in Middletown, New York, described Gerson’s performance at a staff development workshop for teachers in the Monticello school district this way.

“With a microphone dangling under her chin, Kate Gerson paced the front of the high school auditorium in sweater dress and heeled boots, prodding teachers to rethink the Gettysburg Address. She used the word “text” over and over again.”

kate ny

Gerson’s advice to teachers was “Try it out; get smarter at it. This is hard work. Pick a text and dive in, and build a unit around a text that you are devoted to, that you have to teach anyway, and teach it differently.”

You can view Gerson’s traveling show at the EngageNY website. In a fifteen minute video titled “Quick Explanation of the Shifts by Kate Gerson,” she basically tells the audience that they are already doing Common Core in small bursts, but they now have to do it more systematically and have students think more deeply about what they read.

I did not have many disagreements with the goals Gerson presented in her show, but I was very surprised by two things. It was very unclear how deeper literacy was going to be achieved in classrooms where students have serious academic difficulty. Mostly she just repeated educational clichés – we were going to have a shift in focus, text-based instruction, rigorous standards, and students would think deeply and marshal evidence. Teaching these academic skills to real students in actual classrooms was almost a hopeful wish on her part.

I was also struck by Gerson’s lack of knowledge about the English Language Arts curriculum in New York State. According to Gerson, as part of the new rigor and higher standards, students would read To Kill a Mocking Bird in eighth grade rather than in ninth grade. But students always read To Kill a Mocking Bird in eight grade because that is when they learned about the Civil Rights movement in social studies. Students were also going to read Achebe’s book Things for Apart in 10th grade rather than in12th grade, but students always read Things Fall Apart in 10th grade because that is when they study the impact of European imperialism on traditional societies in Global History.

Gerson is promoted as a former New York City teacher and school principal who brings legitimate educational credentials and experience to the discussion of Common Core. According to her LinkedIn site, Gerson has a B.A. in Women’s Studies from the University of Arizona and a M.A in Language Education from Indiana University. She began her career as a teacher in Indiana, but only worked in New York City for two years at a transfer school for over-aged-under-credited students before leaving for an organization called New Leaders for Schools where she worked from 2007 to 2010. Gerson is also associated with Frederick Hess, Resident Scholar and Director of Education Policy Studies at theAmerican Enterprise Institute, which pushes free market pro-business solutions to educational and social issues.

Gerson will be the keynote speaker at an Uncommon Core at a conference in Binghamton, New York on March 14, 2014.

alan singer small pic

I was also invited by conference organizers to speak there because of my Huffington Posts on Common Core where I am critical of Common Core, but also offer practical suggestions and lesson ideas on how it can be useful in the classroom. For example, I recently posted a blog on Huffington Post with quotations from two speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr. where he offers a more radical critique of American society.

My position on Common Core is that it is useful to teachers and schools as a guideline but not as a mandated set of skills that must be achieved in a specific time frame by every student. I am also disturbed that the almost universal focus on skills acquisition will interfere with the teaching of subject content. AsRegent Tilles argued, to be most effective, Common Core Standards must be separated from high-stakes testing for students and the evaluation of teachers. State Education needs to provide teachers with sample material that defines what they mean by “college and career ready,” but scripted lessons that inhibit teacher creativity and eliminate flexibility are not useful. Among the things I like about Common Core is that it encourages the Horizontal (across subject) and Vertical (across grade level) Integration of instruction and it supports systematic planning and conscious decision-making by teachers. However, to the extent that it is tied into the privatization of curriculum, staff development, student assessment, and teacher preparation it is undermining public education.

The problem with the invitation to speak at the Binghamton conference with Gerson is that the conference organizers were not be able to pay an honorarium despite the fact that I would have a ten-hour round trip drive from New York City and have to spend the night. This basically meant I am unable to participate.

meryl ny

Merryl Tisch (non-responder)

I emailed Merryl Tisch, Chair of the New York State Board of Regents, Education Commissioner Jon King, Ken Wagner, Deputy Commissioner for Curriculum, Assessment, and Educational Technology at the New York State Education Department, and Kate Gerson and Joshua Skolnick of the Regents Research Fund in an effort to secure financial support to participate in the conference. I did not get a response from Tisch, King, or Skolnick. Gerson emailed back that she had forwarded my request to Skolnick and Wagner.

ken w

Ken Wagner, Deputy Commissioner for Curriculum, Assessment, and Educational Technology and a person in charge of implementing Common Core standards in New York State

I received a curt response from Wagner, Deputy Commissioner for Curriculum, Assessment, and Educational Technology at the New York State Education Department. According to his LinkedIn page, Mr. Wagner has a very interesting resume. He has worked at the State Education Department in different capacities since 2009. Before that he was a district administrator in Suffolk County for three years, an assistant principal and a principal for five years, and a school psychologist for four years. However, Mr. Wagner rose to become Deputy Commissioner for Curriculum, Assessment, and Educational Technology and a person in charge of implementing Common Core standards in New York State without ever having been a classroom teacher.

Mr. Wagner emailed me: “There is no funding available. Perhaps you should cancel.”

I later emailed Mr. Wagner the Common Core based lesson on the speeches of Martin Luther Kin, Jr. that I had developed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemorations in local secondary schools.

This time he responded:

Hi Alan,

Please remove me from your list.

Thanks a bunch,

Ken

I emailed him back:

“I thought you were a state official and this was a public email address?

Any update on the honorarium so that I can present on Common Core at the Binghamton Uncommon Core Conference?”

Mr. Wagner responded, denying funding for the conference again, and this time accusing me of sending spam in violation of federal law:

From: Ken Wagner

Sent: Saturday, January 11, 2014 8:28 PM

To: Alan J. Singer

Subject: Re: The Other Martin Luther King – Alan’s Latest Huffington Post

No worries, thanks.

It is generally best practice for authors to provide their readers with options and choice. Self-publishing has changed all that, I suppose.

You should be aware, however, that sending unsolicited email without the ability to decline meets the federal definition of Spam.

As I said, funding is not an option.

Ken

At least in my experience, education officials in New York State are not interested in what anyone else has to say about Common Core.

Post-It Note: I checked the federal definition of spam. According to the CAN-SPAM act of 2003 spam is “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service.”

I fail to see how a lesson on Martin Luther King, Jr. aligned with Common Core that I am making freely available to teachers and available to state curriculum officials constitutes spam under this law, but I guess Mr. Wagner, as an expert on Common Core, is able to understand the statute’s deeper meaning.

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Alan Singer, Director, Secondary Education Social Studies Department of Teaching, Literacy and Leadership 128 Hagedorn Hall / 119 Hofstra University / Hempstead, NY 11549
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