New York Teachers Protest Pearson’s Perceived Power

The New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) stood on the steps of the State Education Building, shredding copies of Pearson standardized testing contracts in protest of the testing company’s attempt to “privatize – and profit from – public education.”

“The ‘Public Education, Not Private Profits’ protest is designed to call attention to the wealthy elite who are trying to privatize public education and profit from New York students, while taking away the rights of teachers and working people,” NYSUT president Karen Magee said in a statement.

More than 500 teachers took part in the protest, chanting “public education, not private profits” in the hopes of removing corporate input in NYS public schools and colleges.  The UK-based Pearson currently holds a $33 million contract with New York to supply standardized testing materials and teacher certification exams for the state, reports Dan Levy for WNYT.

Protesters claim that Pearson holds influence over schools and even establishes the “cut scores” that determine which students are rated as successful.  Teachers are not allowed to publicly discuss the tests.

“It’s basically a gag order being written into the contract which is a really significant problem,” said Magee.

The tests, which are supposed to coordinate with the Common Core Standards, were poorly implemented, say teachers.  And yet schools must pay to gain access to the tests as they are the ones all public school children are required to take, reports Katie Eastman for TWC News.  This has been an ongoing problem for several years.

The poor implementation caused concessions.  New York Governor Andrew Cuomo agreed to a two-year freeze on the test scores, where they would not be used to hold teachers accountable for student success.  Test scores are supposed to be used for teacher evaluations.

Another hold was placed on using test scores as a requirement for student graduation, writes Rick Karlin for The Times Union.

“Their primary goal is to silence the voice of teachers,” said Magee. “After all, what could teachers possibly know about education?  Private will always put the interests of their shareholders ahead of the interests of our students,” Magee said, “That is not acceptable.”

Magee said the contract is meant to symbolize the growing tendency to privatize public education.  Putting more emphasis toward making a profit while the needs of the students take a backseat.

At the same time, former network news anchor Campbell Brown is touring the country looking for support in her own efforts to privatize the public education system.

“We’re opposed to Campbell Brown and other deep-pocketed idealogues who want to take away fairness and due process from our teachers,” Magee said.

The protest comes as part of the NYSUT three-day conference, where local union presidents will decide which state and federal candidates to support.

When Magee became NYSUT president in April, she said it was highly unlikely the group, which boasts 600,000 members, would continue to support Cuomo.