Cashing in on Kids

Pearson has a shocking amount of influence over America’s schools

On May 3rd, John Oliver asked the question, “If standardized tests are bad for teachers and for students, who exactly are they good for?

In the segment, Oliver focused on the testing giant, Pearson, who, “as of 2012, had nearly 40% of the testing market, almost triple their nearest competitor.” [11:19]

He spent the remainder outlining Person’s control over America’s schools and how they are cashing in on the obsession with standardized testing. The whole clip is worth a watch, but here are some highlights:

• [11:39] “At this point a hypothetical girl could take Pearson tests from kindergarten through at least 8th grade, tests by the way that she studied for using Pearson curriculum and text books, taught to her by teachers who are certified by their own Pearson tests. If at some point she was tested for a learning disability like ADHD, that’s also a Pearson test. And, if she eventually got sick of Pearson and dropped out, well, she’d have to take the GED, which is now – guess what – also a Pearson test.”

• “This is a system which has enriched multiple companies and that pays and fired teachers with a cattle birthing formula [8:00], confuses children with talking pineapples [12:30] and has the same kinds of rules regarding transparency that Brad Pitt had for Fight Club [15:11]

• “So, for Pearson, the other companies and all the lawmakers who have supported this system, the true test is going to be either convincing everyone that it works or accepting it doesn't work and fixing it. Because at the risk of sounding like a standardized test scorer, you’re numbers are not good. And if it seems unfair to have your fate riding on a complicated metric that fails to take institutional factors into account and might not even tell the whole story, well, you’re not wrong about that, but you do not get to complain about it.”