Though many are unaware of it, we are in the midst of a radical educational transformation in the United States. What was formerly the province of states, districts and professional educators, has been altered, without public knowledge, into a system controlled by corporate interests and their political allies in Albany and Washington.
A handful of multi-billion dollar companies and their philanthropies are deciding what your child learns, who gets to teach your child, how your child’s teacher teaches and what your education tax dollars are spent on. The question is, who benefits?
In New York, as in twenty-five other states, Pearson, a multi-billion dollar British publishing conglomerate, has a virtual monopoly on the many assessments our children take. New York State school districts are coerced into purchasing Pearson teaching and test preparation materials as well.
Why? Pearson materials prepare students to pass the tests that qualify local districts to receive millions of dollars under the federal legislation known as Race to the Top.
In addition to a number of large publishing houses such as Penguin and Harcourt, Pearson owns the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the S.A.T., and the G.E.D. Starting in September, college students seeking a NYS teaching certification will undergo a new high stakes test, called the edTPA, also owned by Pearson.
What impact have these changes had? If you are the parent of a school age child, chances are you felt concerned about the anxiety your child experienced related to recent ELA and Math tests. You may have been exasperated by the hours dedicated to test preparation and administration, including days of school canceled for professional development.
You may have been frustrated because in many schools, instruction grinds to a virtual halt as teachers ‘drill and kill’ for a month or more before the tests. And you may wonder when it will end, because starting next year, NYS has mandated adding testing elementary students in social studies and science. Believe it or not, tests are in development for art, library, PE and music too.