Within a blistering critique of Gerard Robinson’s tenure as Florida’s education commissioner, Osceola school board member Jay Wheeler make an astonishing observation about the role that testing giant Pearson plays in Florida’s education system. Writes Wheeler in Around Osceola:
Additionally the Florida Department of education has abdicated its role for accountability to a sole source for profit testing company for all public school FCAT testing to Pearson Education. As a result of the Obama Race to the Top initiative we are now heading into “common core” which is supposed to be the next step towards standardized testing. The only catch is that no one can give a definitive answer who and how the tests will be developed. Many, including myself are highly suspicious that Pearson will get this contract too.
Understand that in the 2010-11, 2009-10, and 2008-09 school years the Florida Department of Education paid Pearson a total $132 million for administering standardized testing. They will not go away from that kind of revenue stream without a fight. Meanwhile as they are making money, the FCAT has turned into something it was never intended to be and kids are being hurt by it. Do not take this to say that anyone is against accountability. Accountability is vitally important in public education. We just need to adopt a different metric than the FCAT, or more to the point Pearson. Accountability should be more than a revenue model for a company.
I’m in no position to question a school board members numbers as I understand Pearson’s haul to be much higher. Pearson haul from just two states – Texas and Florida – is estimated to be close to $1 billion. But Wheeler’s point is well taken. He suggests ‘funneling money for standards and testing to universities with a college of education that has no profit motive.” And to “never give one entity a monopoly on testing.” Until a very short time ago Pearson was listed as a corporate sponsor of Jeb Bush’s foundation. All education policy is generated by Bush’s foundation and dutifully implemented by the republican legislature. Any change to the state’s relationship with Pearson will have to be run by the former Florida governor first.