Pearson Is Everywhere: Getting Fat In North Carolina


PEARSON: Always Earning!

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.”

That student data system is known as Powerschool. I’ve written fairly extensively on Pearson and Powerschool problems.

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.

View the Pearson 2013 Powerschool Contract Summary.
View the Pearson 2014 Contract Summaries.

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.

I looked up Pearson. Records at OpenBook for Pearson went back to 2009-2010 with a cumulative total of $20,199,831.58.  (A copy of this list can be viewed here.)

More information on NC contracts with Pearson located hereRelated: NC DPI & Pearson’s Power (School) Trip


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:

  1. Requirement 8: Kindergarten Developmental Screening of Early Language, Literacy, and Math Skills  (Pearson’s DIAL-3 Product)
  2. 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.


About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a reporter currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_ Tips:
This entry was posted in A.P. Dillon (LL1885), Common Core, NC DPI and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Pearson Is Everywhere: Getting Fat In North Carolina

  1. Pingback: An Unsolicited “Common Core” Email From DPI | Lady Liberty 1885

  2. I see what you’re saying.
    The $1.3 you mention appear to be amendments adding funds to the original NCS contract, which covers Equella & is one of three pearson contracts.

    Contract with NCS Pearson
    Purpose: As part of a partnership with NC Community College System (NCCCS), contractor will provide a non-exclusive, non-transferable royalty-free perpetual license to install and operate on a service one production instance of Pearson Equella Software, accessible by multiple customer networked computers for a Learning Object Repository

    Amendment #1: To amend to add funding and extend contract dates for software maintenance
    and support. Amended sum: $1,150,000.00 ($1,000,000.00 plus $150,000.00); Amended dates:
    October 1, 2012 – June 30, 2014 (October 1, 2012 – June 30, 2013)

    Amendment #2: To amend to add funds and extend contract dates for additional professional
    services, to include training to support LEAs in the usage of the Pearson Equella learning object
    repository business solution. Support is inclusive of understanding the platform; its capabilities,
    limitations and relationship among the Home Base applications; as well as importing LEA content
    and integrating local LEA systems. Amended sum: $1,602,240.00 ($1,150,000.00 plus
    $452,240.00); Amended dates: October 1, 2012 – August 31, 2014 (October 1, 2012 – June 30,

    Amendment #3: To amend to add funds and extend contract dates for annual software
    maintenance and Component Two Evaluation. Amended sum: $2,451,808.00 ($1,602,240.00 plus
    $849,568.00); Amended dates: October 1, 2012 – August 31, 2015 (October 1, 2012 – June 30,
    Primary Contact: Matt Leavy
    Amount: $2,451,808.00 Federal
    Time Frame: 10/1/2012 to 8/31/2015
    DPI Coordinator: Jerry Bunn, Financial & Business Services (FBS)
    Contract No: 10037399 (Service)
    Total Approved Contracts This Fiscal Year: 3
    Total Cost: $18,832,611.39 State
    $16,451,808.00 Federal


  3. Pingback: Pearson Is Everywhere: Digging ‘Free’ Community College | Lady Liberty 1885

  4. Phil says:

    Hey there LL. It’s me again. I was reading through this and caught the article Equella. FWIW, Equella is just another company that was bought by Pearson. It is difficult to explain the benefit of this tool – but most of the benefit is related to being able to share content across many (non-Pearson) learning management systems without having to glue the content to each LMS individually. It also supports workflow management associated with vetting and labeling content with metadata. The major point that I noted in your article was that you seem to be suggesting that the Equella contract is a $35M contract. It’s not. The contract was essentially for a Statewide license and for doing a bit of integration – somewhere in the $1.3M range. I don’t know what the $35M number actually refers to but you will notice that the previous item in the list you point to is also a Pearson contract and uses exactly the same numbers that sum to around $35M. Maybe that is a total Pearson number of some sort. Either way, the Equella deal is much much smaller.


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