Welcome back to Pearson Is Everywhere!
Last time we looked at how Pearson has a history of massive profits off the federal government.
Today, we’ll look closer at how fat Pearson has gotten off of the state of North Carolina.
In case you’re not aware, Pearson has sweetheart no-bid style deals all over the country and Politico has taken a look at some of them.
But the POLITICO review found that public contracts and public subsidies — including at least $98.5 million in tax credits from six states — have flowed to Pearson even when the company can’t show its products and services are producing academic gains. – Politico, No Profit Left Behind
Stephanie Simon at Politico investigated education publishing and testing giant Pearson in the article, No Profit Left Behind. North Carolina was the first example.
“The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, for instance, declined to seek competitive bids for a new student data system on the grounds that it would be “in the best interest of the public” to simply hire Pearson, which had done similar work for the state in the past. The data system was such a disaster, the department had to pay Pearson millions extra to fix it.”
Simon is correct in her passage. Pearson got in without a bid process because of a ‘prior relationship’ and because the tool being used at the time was also Pearson’s.
Flashback to September 2013, a comment left on Stop Common Core NC confirms there was no RFP process done in shifting to Powerschool:
Lady Liberty – let me save you some time. There was no RFP for Powerschool. NCWISE is just a label. The NCWISE uses a product called ESIS – and ESIS is a product developed an maintained by a company called aal. Well back in 2010 aal was purchased by….wait for it…Pearson. Pearson announced the end of support for the ESIS product shortly after the acquisition and essentially “upgraded” the State to Powerschool from ESIS for the same annual cost to the State. Both products sit atop Oracle DB technology.
To be clear, NCWISE was already a “giant funnel into CEDARS.”
The commenter was later identified as Phil Emer, Director Technology Planning and Policy at the Friday Institute at NCSU.
Politico Report Mentions North Carolina A Second Time
The mention of the no-bid contract with Pearson for Powerschool wasn’t the only North Carolina mention in the article. Under the section ‘Backlash’, there was this paragraph:
“The industry is changing,” said Mark Edwards, superintendent of the Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina. Pearson has hailed Edwards as a partner and a visionary, but he recently discontinued the remaining Pearson curricular product in use in his schools. Edwards said he couldn’t imagine ever again investing in a “one-size-fits-all” curriculum when “there’s so much rich new content coming online all the time.”
Edwards teamed up with former Charlotte-Mecklenburg Superintendent Heath Morrison to pen an op-ed praising Common Core. Interesting to see the flip-flop from ‘essential’ to ‘one-size-fits-all’.
Morrison originally said he was resigning to take care of his sick mother. That reason raised eyebrows as it came out Morrison was being looked at for misconduct and creating a hostile work environment and a ‘culture of fear‘. Since his resignation, Morrison has landed a cushy job at McGraw Hill Education as VP of Government Relations.
McGraw Hill is one of Pearson’s top competitors.
Follow the Money
There is this wonderful tool for looking up contracts and spending in North Carolina. It’s called OpenBook.
NC Virtual Charter Schools
Guess who again? Pearson. Via News and Observer:
“N.C. Virtual Academy, which is affiliated with K12, Inc., and N.C. Connections Academy, which is working with education conglomerate Pearson, were the only two that applied. They will each be able to enroll up to 1,500 students in their first year.”
Hat Tip To CommonCoreDiva for the News and Observer link. Check out their very detailed article on Pearson and the Virtual Charters in NC, who notes Pearson also has a contract regarding textbooks; paid for using Race To The Top funds.
In that same textbook contract notice is a curious line: “A pre existing relationship was established in January 2014 for testing materials.”
Wait…What testing materials? These materials?
Read To Achieve and Pearson
Looking at the Fiscal Notes on Read To Achieve from the State Board of Education website, Pearson pops up in two spots:
- Requirement 8: Kindergarten Developmental Screening of Early Language, Literacy, and Math Skills (Pearson’s DIAL-3 Product)
- Requirement 10: LEAs Provide Alternative Reading Assessment for Third Graders Who Have a Reading Deficiency (Pearson’s TORC-4 Product)
The cost of these products can be found in their sections as listed above. It is unclear if these tools were purchased or not.
A Note on Transparency
The Freedom of Information Act request I did for Powerschool over a year ago took me over 6 months to weed through, since NC DPI sent me four copy-paper sized boxes of documents. It was a blizzard of paper.
One of the end result of all my digging was a huge stack of complaints from local districts, superintendents, parents and teachers. I also had stacks of contracts, revised contracts and amended contracts.
Currently, I am waiting on 3 separate information requests I have sent to DPI. These requests are anywhere from 2 weeks old to 6 months old.
Some of them are overlapping requests made by the Common Core Academic Standards Review Commission (ASRC), such as the raw data and comments from the “teacher survey“. Neither the ASRC nor I have received this information yet and the ‘Parent survey‘ is now in the field.
- Pearson Equella Contract for NC Community Colleges: $35,284,419
- Two Wrongs, No Right (Pearson & NC Virtual Charter Schools)