Surprise! Pearson Wins Contract to Administer Common Core Tests

On Friday, May 2, Pearson landed the contract to administer testa aligned to the Common Core State Standards.  One official who helped negotiate the deal described it as a deal “unprecedented” in scale in the U.S. education marketplace. The assessment price per student is predicted to be about $24, down from an earlier estimate of $29.50. In states that plan to use the tests, there are about 10 million students in grades 3-11.
Tracy O via photopin cc

While a number of companies inquired in response to PARCC’s request for proposals for the project, ultimately Pearson was the only bidder, said James Mason, who helped negotiate the contract as part of a team of PARCC state leaders.

Read this story on Education Week →

For more information on test pricing →

Whose Standards are the Common Core?

Shout out to Mercedes Schneider for delving into the backgrounds of the authors of the Common Core.  Her findings raise serious questions about where the standards came from, who they benefit, and why we should use with great caution.  She writes:

NGA and CCSSO (and, by extension, USDOE) undeniably meant for CCSS to be something done “to” teachers. NGA’s and CCSSO’s concentration of individuals versed in standardized assessment on their CCSS work groups speaks to the purpose of CCSS to both financially benefit education testing companies and usher unprecedented, nationwide standardized testing into the classrooms of those very professionals purposely excluded from the CCSS work group table.

Read her whole excellent post here –>

Common Core Creators Use the US Chamber of Commerce to Fight “Misinformation”

Carissa Miller, the Deputy Executive Director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, is worried about the documentary, Building the Machine (which we wrote about here). In a letter obtained before its release date, she notifies the Common Core Chief State School Officers that the video is coming. Her attached “messaging and response tips” as well as a list of Tweets will help them counter the movie’s supposed “misinformation.”

The producers of those “tips”? None other than the US Chamber of Commerce. And the Chamber is also in the midst of creating its own documentary. If these seem like unlikely projects for the Chamber of Commerce, the document below, courtesy of Anne Gassel, should make things a teensy bit clearer. 

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And, here’s the leaked letter, bolding added for emphasis.

From: Carissa Moffat Miller
Subject: Anti Common Core Movie, embargoed materials
Chiefs, Deputies, Federal Liaisons and Communication Directors:

Many of you are likely aware of an anti-common core movie slated to be released in a few days. The Home School Legal Defense Association, a Virginia-based organization opposed to the Common Core, has produced a film called “Building the Machine.” The film’s anticipated online release date (which has changed several times), is currently set for March 31, 2014. The film implies that the Common Core was created through politics, misinformation and corruption. Using stark graphics and ominous music, the film features interviews with Common Core opponents arguing against the standards’ development and implementation—interspersed with misleading snippets of interviews from Common Core supporters.  You can watch a trailer for the film here.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Fordham have put together the attached two documents that can be used to clarify the vast amount of misinformation that will be circulated as a result of the movie. Please note – these are EMBARGOED until Monday, March 31st. Please do not distribute.

In addition to these two documents, the U.S. Chamber is in the final stages of producing their own Common Core mini-documentary. This will provide the pro-Common Core side and will also be ready early next week. In collaboration with organizations from all over the country, the video will feature education reformers, teachers, chamber leaders, and business representatives, showing the unified support for Common Core across generations, political lines, and states.”

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any specific questions or needs. Below we’ve include some tips for messaging and responding to the critical questions this film may generate in your state. We will send out the Chamber video when it is released.


Thanks to  Christel Lane Swasey, Renee Braddy and Alisa Ellis for calling this to our attention. Read more details on their blog, here–>

Thanks also to Anne Gassel for the information about the US Chamber of Commerce. You can read more on her blog, here->

Public Schools for Sale?

On March 28, 2014, Public Television personality Bill Moyers hosted Research Professor of Education, Diane Ravitch on his weekly show, Moyers & CompanyTheir topic, Public Schools for Sale?, spilled into a Web Extra, several blog posts by Ravitch, and a lengthy excerpt from Ravitch’s most recent book,  Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.

What’s the big deal?

Public education is becoming big business as bankers, hedge fund managers and private equity investors are entering what they consider to be an “emerging market.”As Rupert Murdoch put it after purchasing an education technology company, “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the US alone.”

Education historian Diane Ravitch says the privatization of public education has to stop….

On this week’s Moyers & Company, she tells Bill Moyers, ”I think what’s at stake is the future of American public education. I believe it is one of the foundation stones of our democracy: So an attack on public education is an attack on democracy.”

Watch the video of the Moyers-Ravitch conversation, or read the transcript here

Read the excerpt from Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools

Watch the Moyers-Ravitch Web Extra here


Valerie Strauss: “The new school reform model: ‘dumping the losers’”

school bus
Photo Credit: Scallop Holden via Compfight cc

On April 11, Washington Post columnist, Valerie Strauss, picked up the story first reported by Co-Opt-Ed about Philadelphia school “reformer” Mark Gleason’s public comments that portfolio-based school reform is about “dumping the losers.”

Writes Strauss,

Since 2011, the state-run Philadelphia public school district has adopted what is called the “portfolio model” of school reform as its “theory of change.”… Supporters think it gives parents more choice; opponents think that the choice most parents get is phony and that the portfolio model is a step toward the privatization of public education.

Read Stauss’ article here–>

Principals Slam 2014 NY Common Core Tests as Badly Designed

NY students have just finished days of  Pearson-designed standardized testing in the English Language Arts and principals are “devastated.” Letters from principals have begun to circulate to parents. This excerpt  (emphasis added) from highly regarded principal, Liz Phillips is only one example:

Because we are bound by test security, we cannot reveal details but we can tell you that we have never seen an ELA exam that does a worse job of testing reading comprehension. There was inappropriate content, many highly ambiguous questions, and a focus on structure rather than meaning of passages. Our teachers and administrators feel that this test is an insult to the profession of teaching and that students’ scores on it will not correlate with their reading ability.

Read district-wide and other letters here

New York State of I-Can’t-Hear-You

Valarie Strauss of the Washington Post shares a compelling case in point about how an entire state (in this case New York) can systematically ignore the will of its own people.  We would like to see the WP reporter take on not just the injustice of the state’s willful ignorance regarding parents and testing, but also inquire into how the state is damaging teacher preparation.  New York has outsourced the assessment of soon-to-be-teachers (called the edTPA) to Pearson and the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity (SCALE).  Our colleagues in the field say the implementation is embarrassing, insulting to teacher educators, and that Pearson is running the show without ownership from SCALE or leadership from the state.

Read more about the edTPA problems here–>

NYS Budget Feeds Pre-K, Tech, Charters

New York is poised to pass a budget that will fund Pre-K, technology upgrades, and charter school expansion.  While it is heartening to see that the new budget acknowledges that Common Core testing should slow down, it is dispiriting to see that teacher preparation is getting such little attention.  The state is implementing new certification requirements that are creating a crisis culture in schools of education and shaking down our future teachers for every cent the state–meaning Pearson–can take from them.

Read Chalkbeat’s excellent coverage of the budget here –>