Educators Challenge Pearson’s Corporate Take-Over

Above photo: From Nuzzel.com.

Minneapolis, MN – On Saturday afternoon (Nov. 21) as the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) gathered in Minneapolis, Minnesota for their annual convention, the floor of Exhibit Hall erupted in protest. Dozens of teachers and education professors occupied the space for over 30 mins to protest British-based publishing giant Pearson’s influence on public education in America.

The protest came out of the Commission on Social Justice in Teacher Education Programs within NCTE’s Conference on English Education. Assistant Professor Dr. Noah Golden of Chapman University in California is one of the Commission’s three co-chairs.

“Companies like Pearson drive educational policy and implementation throughout the K-12 and teacher education worlds,” he said when asked to comment on the protest. “This is often harmful, inserting a profit motive instead of what is in the best interest of students, families, communities, and teachers. We need a public dialogue and greater equity in education rather than high-stakes tests inserted into public policy by for-profit entities. A focus on these tests, whether in the K-12 realm or teacher education, is a means of masking inequalities and disinvestment in particular communities. Simply put, Pearson and similar companies drive our focus from the conversations we need to be having about meaningful teaching, learning, and assessment. We on the Conference on English Education (CEE– an organization within NCTE) Commission on Social Justice in Teacher Education programs want to be part of an organization that names and works against policy that is not in the interest of our children and their teachers.”

Tweets from the protest captured the essence of what the educators were protesting.

One particular issue that was held up at the protest was Pearson’s contribution to shaping the Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA). The edTPA is a standardized test for teachers administered by Pearson in many states for teacher certification. The test has been marketed as a way to professionalize teaching, but it’s riddled with problems. That it costs candidates at least $300 to take,  is scored by Pearson-trained temporary scorers who aren’t necessarily sensitive to on the ground context in different schools and classrooms, and requires candidates to submit videos of themselves in teaching situations that Pearson will own without this being widely known and accepted by parents are a few of these problems. These assessments are not backed up by educational research and only serve to line Pearson’s pockets at the cost of quality teacher education.

Brian Charest is an English teacher from Seattle, Washington and a member of the Commission on Social Justice in Teacher Education. He attended the protest.

“I can tell you that the protest is a manifestation of the growing frustration of teachers and teacher educators around the country who are no longer willing to sit back and watch the corporate takeover of teacher education programs,” he said. “In particular, teachers and teacher educators find the edTPA, a state-mandated Pearson teacher assessment product that is unsupported by research, to be time consuming, tedious, and damaging to the profession. In fact, when I was living in Illinois I attended at training for edTPA, and I asked the woman conducting the training what evidence there was to show that edTPA helped better prepare teachers, or that teachers who completed the edTPA performed better or stayed in the profession longer, and she told me there wasn’t any. She said the only evidence they had to support edTPA was anecdotal.”

Not everyone was pleased by the protest of course, especially people stationed at Pearson’s booth.

This protest is only one among many in a growing movement of educators, parents, students and activists who are rising up to challenge the corporate take-over of education.

For more information on the Commission on Social Justice in Teacher Education Programs, click here