A parent's group in Maryland joined those who have complained about the Pearson Company's sponsorship of trips for school administrators to exotic lands.
This from the Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, Maryland:
In July of 2010, Superintendent Jerry Weast, Fairfax Superintendent Jack Dale, Loudon Superintendent Edgar Hatrick, and Alleghany Superintendent David Cox took a trip to Australia...
A video on The Pearson Foundation's YouTube site shows the attendees on the Australia trip, along with the fabulous locations and sites that they were treated to during this 12 day junket...
But the star of the show was from Kentucky.
When the New York Times first raised the issue of whether Pearson-funded "junkets" to international locations constituted a conflict of interest for Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday, the Commissioner was quick to point out that he had no role in the subsequent selection of Pearson as Kentucky's vendor for the new testing system. Well-established testing company CTB/McGraw Hill had submitted the lowest bid to run Kentucky’s testing program, but educational publisher Pearson, whose bid was $2 million higher, was selected anyway.
According to a report by PBS's Frontline there are four major players in the American testing industry - which has grown by more than 3,000 percent in recent decades with a big boost from the Obama administration's infusion of $400 million to help states develop and administer tests. The big four include three test makers and one test scorer.
- Harcourt Educational Measurement [40% market share in test design includes the SAT-9]: Parent company also owns Lexis-Nexis, Variety, and Holt, Rinehart Winston.
- CTB McGraw-Hill [40% market share in test design includes Terra Nova (CTBS)] Parent company also owns Standard & Poor's, Business Week magazine, and four TV stations.
- Riverside Publishing [20% market share in test design includes the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS)]: Parent company also owns Houghton Mifflin, Motown Records and Universal Pictures.
- NCS Pearson [Leading scorer of standardized tests] Parent company also owns Madame Tussaud's wax museum, The Economist, The Financial Times, the Penguin Book Company, and the Family Education Network. Minnesota-based NCS was founded in 1962 and was acquired by Pearson in September 2000 for $2.5 billion. Pearson reported $629.5 million in sales in 2000, and assessments and testing services accounted for $202.4 million of that, or 32 percent.
To whatever extent Pearson saw the trips as a business strategy - it apparently worked like a charm in Kentucky.
So what does it mean that Young was on the committee that recommended the higher bidder?
She was just one of a group of 13 people who reviewed the proposals, and her rankings/scores of each vendor had no greater or lesser weight than anyone else’s. But if it would have been a problem for the Commissioner to accept a trip, had he been making the recommendation to the state board of education, is it a problem that Young participated and recommended?
Gross told KSN&C, "...we don't believe there’s a conflict."
Members of the review team were:
- Artavia Acklin – Shelby County (Instructional Coach)
- Brad Darnall – Calloway County (Teacher)
- Barry Goley – Logan County (English as a Second Language/Limited English Proficiency)
- Tonya Hayre – Laurel County (Teacher)
- Kevin Hill – Kentucky Department of Education
- Tim Huddleston – Paducah Independent (Principal)
- Carla Manning – Mason County (Assistant Principal)
- LaMesa Marks Johns – Jefferson County (Principal)
- Shauna Patton – Johnson County (District Assessment Coordinator)
- Michele Reynolds – Fayette County (District Assessment Coordinator)
- Joe Tinius – Bowling Green Independent (Superintendent)
- Bill Twyman – Kentucky Board of Education
- Lu Young – Jessamine County (Superintendent)
Lu Young's Aussie Tweets
Had a great afternoon by the pool with Andi and Donna - what a beautiful day! I leave for Australia one week from today - can't wait!
30 Jun 10
6 days before leaving for Australia and counting!
1 Jul 10
5 more days 'til Australia. Am redundant yet?
2 Jul 10
Packing for Australia. I'm out of here tomorrow!
6 Jul 10
Have arrived safely in Melbourne - kudos to Qantas for a great flight experience. A real class act!
8 Jul 10
Spent a wonderful evening on a restaurant tram seeing the sights of Melbourne - the Aussies are delightful. No worries, mates!
9 Jul 10
We have 1 more free day in Melbourne before real works starts tomorrow - a beautiful winter day down under. Saw a kookaburra yesterday.
10 Jul 10
Today's our last day in Melbourne, off to Canberra tomorrow and Sydney on Wednesday for the remainder of the trip. Learning LOTS - gidday!
11 Jul 10
Fascinating meetings today with Australian education leaders about natl standards and assessment.
11 Jul 10
Had lunch at Australian Parliament in Canberra and saw at least a dozen kangaroos. Also ended up as "Lu with 'roo poo on shoe!"
13 Jul 10
It is REALLY winter in Canberra today. Fortunately, we're off to Sydney this pm. Met with federal ed officials today.
13 Jul 10
Had an awe-inspiring tour of Sydney this a.m. The Opera House is spectacular - a must-see!
14 Jul 10
Leaving Australia today - what an amazing country! Thanks to all the hospitable Aussies we've met along the way!
17 Jul 10