The Madison County Record Nov. 25, 2014, 10:53am

To the Editor:

Follow the money. It all ends up in the hands of a very few. Pearson Foundation is getting the contracts because of its partnership with the Bill Gates Foundation. Greed, secrecy, deceptions, and lies …. and to think Democrats accuse Republicans of these very things, while Democrats are the ones using government to get richer. The deceptions run very deep. It’s time for exposure.

The saga begins on one summer day in 2008, when Gene Wilhoit, director of a national group of state school chiefs, and David Coleman (known as the architect of Common Core), knowing they needed tens of millions of dollars and a champion to overcome the politics that had thwarted previous attempts to institute national standards, approached Bill Gates at his headquarters near Seattle, to convince Gates and his wife to sign on to their idea. Gates, upon asking if states were serious about common educational standards, was assured that they were. Gates signed on and the remarkable shift in education policy know as Common Core was born.

The Gates Foundation has spent over $170 million to manipulate the U.S. Department of Education to impose the CSSS, knowing it would realize a return on this investment as school districts and parents rush to buy the technology products they’ve been convinced are vital to improving education. Bill Gates’ Microsoft will make a fortune form the sale of new technology products. According to the Gates Foundation, CCSS is seen as a “step to greater excellence in education.”

On April 27, 2011 the Gates Foundation joined forces with the Pearson Foundation, a British multi-national conglomerate, representing the largest private business maneuvering for U.S. education dollars. Pearson executives saw the potential to secure lucrative contracts in testing, textbooks and software worth tens of millions of dollars.

Its partnership with the Gates Foundation was to support America’s teachers by creating a full series of digital instructional resources. Online courses in Math and Reading/English Language Arts would offer a coherent and systematic approach to teaching the new Common Core State Standard. The aim: To create an online curriculum for those standards in mathematics and English language arts that span nearly every year of a child’s pre-collegiate education. This aim has already been realized and is in practice in Common Core states.

The Pearson and Gates foundations also fund the Education Development Center (EDC) based in Waltham, Massachusetts. It is a global nonprofit organization that designs teacher evaluation policy. Both stand to benefit from EDC recommendations. The center is involved in curriculum and materials development, research and evaluation, publication and distribution, online learning, professional development, and public policy development.

Its alignment with the Gates Foundation and Common Core, Pearson dominates the education testing and is raking in profits as school districts are pushed to replace paper textbooks with digital technology. For example, the Los Angeles school system with 651 students, spent over $1 billion in 2013 to purchase iPads from Pearson. Additionally, The Los Angeles school purchased Pearson’s Common Core Systems of Courses to provide all the primary instructional material for math and English/language arts for K-12, even though the materials were incomplete in 2013.

Pearson’s profits will continue to increase as it has billions of dollars in long-term contracts with the education department in a number of states and municipalities to introduce both testing software and the teacher training software and textbooks it claims are necessary to prepare for the tests. For example, Illinois has paid Pearson $138 million to produce standardized tests; Texas, $50 million; and New York, $32 million.

Pearson is really raking in the dough now that Pearson VUE, the assessment services wing of Pearson, has acquired examination software development company Exam Design. CTS/McGraw-Hill is Pearson’s main competitor in the rise of standardized testing.

Corporations finding they can profit from turning students into unimaginative machines, are newly discovering they can likewise profit from standardizing teachers as well. Starting in May 2014, Pearson Education will take over teacher certification in New York State as a way of fulfilling the state’s promised “reforms” in its application for federal Race to the Top money. The evaluation system known as the Teacher Performance assessment or TPA was developed at Stanford University with support from Pearson, but it will be solely administered and prospective teachers will be entirely evaluated by Pearson and its agents.

A small cloud did fall over the Pearson Foundation (the nonprofit arm of educational publishing giant Pearson Inc) in December of 2013, when a $7.7 million fine was levied for using its charitable work to promote and develop course materials and software to benefit its corporate profit making. After the investigation begun, Pearson Foundation sold the courses to Pearson for $15.1 million.
New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman determined that the foundation had created Common Core products to generate “tens of millions of dollars” for its corporate sister. According to the settlement: “Pearson used its nonprofit foundation to develop Common Core product in order to win an endorsement from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which helped fund the creation of the Common Core standards, having announced in 2011 that it would work with the Pearson foundation to write reading and math courses aligned with the new standard.”

Since Pearson is the world largest education company and book publisher, with profits of more than $9 billion annually, the $7.7 million fine was not a hardship. Pearson, wasn’t always so big. As a British multinational corporation Pearson was just starting out in the early 2000s. Pearson started to grow when it embraced No Child Left Behind as its business plan and began rapidly buying up U.S. companies.
On June 10 of this year, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced its support for a two-year moratorium on tying results from assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards to teacher evaluations or student promotions to the next grade level.

Although the Gates Foundation’s director of college-ready programs stated how Common Core was having a very positive impact on education, teachers do need more time to adjust.

The moratorium was enacted when on June 9, Diane Ravitch, research professor of education at New York University and author of “Reign of Error,” sounded the alarm over the implementation of Common Core and called for a congressional investigation, noting, “The idea that the richest man in [the U.S.] can purchase and — working closely with the U.S. Department of Education — impose new and untested academic standards on the nation’s public schools is a national scandal.”

It would be folly to suggest that either Bill Gates or Pearson, despite the temporary tactical retreat by Gates will not keep pushing for Common Core with its required educational technology. This nation spends over $500 billion annually on K-12 education. When colleges and career-training programs are included, the education sector represents almost 9 percent of the U.S. gross domestic production.

Companies like Pearson and Microsoft stand to greatly profit as they develop and administer the tests and sell the teacher-training material.
It is not unreasonable to suspect that companies like Pearson stand to gain when tests designed to measure Common Core State Standards make most public schools look bad. Counting on widespread failure of the Common Core State Standards, school districts and parents will be pushed to purchase even more training technology, teachers in low-ranked schools will be fired, and school will be turned over to private management.

As a text book manufacturer, Pearson Education buckled to the activists demands in Texas and replaced the scientific understanding of climate change with the politically driven claim that humans are causing climate change. Because Texas is a large state, it does have influence on the national textbook market.

Might Common Core State Standards be the latest in the grand corporate scheme to profit from privatized public education? In the interim, Bill Gates’ Microsoft and Pearson reap big CCSS profits. Certainly neither teachers nor students are benefiting.

Nancy Thorner

Lake Bluff, Ill. 

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