Blood Money*

By Joseph K.

We are being asked (key word “asked”) to be trained (key word “trained”, like dogs,) by Pearson “Learning” August 29th and 30th. Pearson is going to pay us. Make no mistake, ladies and gentlemen, the money they are going to pay us is blood money. And the blood money they are going to pay us with is our own blood. It is the blood we bled when LAUSD cut our pay. It is the blood we will bleed every day when we struggle with larger and larger class sizes. It is the blood Jenny, Isabel, Jared, River, Susan, Summer and all the rest are bleeding right now as they sit home BLEEDING because they no longer have jobs.

It is blood money.

Pearson “Learning” was once a nice publishing house. They printed books under names like Penguin and a number of textbooks primarily in England. They made a tidy profit in the millions of dollars each year. In 2000, as NCLB was being written and discussed, they bought their first testing company. That may or may not have been a coincidence. After passage of NCLB, they bought another testing company. Then they bought another and another and another and another. That was no coincidence. Today they are a conglomerate of testing companies, seven by my count. They have created a vast, powerful TESTING INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX. Their profits are not a few million each year, but a few billion each year and they are growing exponentially.

They employ legions of well-paid lobbyists who infest Washington, D.C., every state capitol, and many local school boards. I would love to know how much they contribute to reelection campaigns. They have infested LAUSD which I will explain in a minute. They have one agenda: Profits. Until recently, they had one means to their agenda: Testing. More standardized testing means more profits for Pearson. NCLB is their business model. Teachers are laid off, their salaries cut, class size increased, and curriculum narrowed as Pearson lines its pockets with gold.

Consider this regarding standardized testing:

  • high scores often signify relatively superficial thinking
  • many of the leading tests were never intended to measure teaching or learning
  • a school that improves its test results may well have lowered its standards to do so
  • far from helping to “close the gap,” the use of standardized testing is most damaging for low-income and minority students
  • as much as 90 percent of the variations in test scores among schools or states have nothing to do with the quality of instruction
  • far more meaningful measures of student learning – or school quality – are available.

-Alfie Kohn’s  The Case Against Standardized Testing

Standardized tests are DEMONIZING all of us in the inner city, demonizing our union, and being used by almost infinitely powerful economic and political forces in this country to dismantle public education.

And the situation is only going to get worse. [LAUSD Superintendent John] Deasy and [Secretary of Education Arne] Duncan both are pushing value-added standardized testing measures to evaluate teachers. The LA Times slanders all of us on a daily basis with its value-added measure on its website. Deasy calls his AGT.

Slander is slander. This year he is bribing teachers with $1,250 (after cutting their pay) to “volunteer” in a pilot project for AGT. “If you volunteer, we will pay you (after cutting your pay.)” To measure “improvement” you need baseline scores (pretests), probably at least one or two interim assessments, and a post test. (Not a single question outside of science will include ecosystems, by the way.) These tests will be maximally time consuming and VERY expensive. All teachers need to be evaluated, so multiple tests will be given in every subject of every grade multiple times every year. You can bet that Pearson is using its vast influence to get to the front of the line to write (and sell) those tests. As far as I know, they may well have already elbowed out the competition. Their profits will be enormous. And guess where those profits will come from. They will come from you and our students. Your job, if you have one left, will rely on these tests, so you can be damn sure you are going to teach to them and probably teach little, if anything else.

Read this: The Test Generation.

Pearson “Learning” has now figured out a way to “double down” its billions in annual profits, its rape of public education. They are using their publishing arm to sell “Teaching Guides”, “Lesson Books”, etc. so teachers can “better” teach its own tests. Genius. They have created a mobius strip of profit production. We are pawns in their game and they are going to move you two spaces ahead August 29th and 30th.  Don’t think you are getting paid very much for being a pawn. Pawns, if you don’t play chess, are the first things sacrificed.

I reject Pearson and their blood money. I reject everything that they stand for. I reject their endless bubbling. I reject their process of elimination universe. I refuse to be trained like a dog to teach my students how to bark like seals. So should you.

I am drawing my own line in the sand. Public education is going up in flames in this country because of profiteers like Pearson and teachers are going down. I intend at least to have a say in my own demise.

I may show up on August 29th. I will not sign in. I will not touch their food. I will go nowhere near their blood money. If I do show up, it will only be to stand up before everyone and publicly denounce Pearson in much the same way I am doing now. My fantasy is to walk out and have everyone follow, but alas that will never happen. It would be nice if some of you would follow, though.

If I do not show up, it will be because I chickened out. Fear is something I understand. In an age of perpetual layoffs and teacher transfers, fear is not without merit. We are surrounded by fear. We are immersed in it. You all will make your own decision regarding the Pearson “training”. You all have your own lives, your own families, your own personal situations. You have to decide what is right for you. I will respect whatever decision you make. Count on that. But consider what is being done to you and our profession by Pearson, companies like it, and politicians who exploit their malevolence. Consider. Consider Jared, Jenny, Isabel, River, Susan, Summer and all the rest. Consider that you are next. We are next.

 

Joseph K. is a 24-year veteran of LAUSD, a former mentor teacher twice named a Johns Hopkins University Teaching Fellow, who now teaches poor, inner-city children who wake up every morning in their gang-ridden, drug-infested neighborhoods at five a.m. to catch the bus by six. He teaches the old-fashioned way – by ignoring standardized test scores. Instead of teaching bubbling, he tries to instill a love of knowledge and learning in his students and for this reason will probably be allowed to continue teaching for fifteen more minutes.

*Note, this post originally appeared with a subheading (Or How Pearson is a Vampire on the Neck of Education) that was written by me, Cynthia, the editor of this site. It was not original to the author’s post. I’ve designated it more clearly as my editorialization on the subject as opposed to Joseph K.’s sentiments for clarity.

I'm Cynthia Liu, Owner/Founder of K12 News Network. I'm the proud product of public schools through post-grad, the mom of a child in public schools, and the daughter of two teachers. Connect with me professionally on LinkedIn.

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13 Comments

  1. Michelle - August 26, 2011, 6:17 pm

    Good for you Joseph! Although I am not in LA, I would gladly get up and walk out with you! This is how it starts, small numbers of people standing up and speaking you. You are my newest hero!

  2. Jesse - August 27, 2011, 1:29 am

    Salutations Joseph, this is Jesse Turner the creator of Children Are More Than Test Scores on Facebook. We salute you for your stand. Nearly two years ago I started telling people I was walking to Washington DC from Connecticut to protest NCLB/RTTT, because someone has to them children are more than test scores. When my walk was over I was some 50 pounds lighter, and along the way I met Bess Atlwerger in Balitmore and Vivian Vasques from DC the next thing I knew we were planning a conference, a rally, and a march. That's how the Save Our Schools March and Week of Action came about. Amazing things happen when people take a stand.
    Silence and apathy are not acceptable,
    Jesse

  3. Isabel - August 27, 2011, 2:19 am

    Thank you for spelling things out!!! When are people going to wake up to the truth about Public Education in the US? Teachers! Parents! Students! Make no mistakes, things can be done in a different way… in a better way!! BUT YOU MUST SPEAK OUT!!!

  4. Arlene Inouye - August 27, 2011, 5:00 am

    Thanks for writing this Joseph. We are all faced with this decision- what is our line in the sand. The corporate greed will not stop- how can we effectively use our people power to stop the dismantling of public education.

  5. Annette S - August 27, 2011, 2:31 pm

    So, what are “we” going to do about it??????? That is the main question. With everyone so dependent on LAUSD and afraid to lose their job in these times, few are willing to speak out. Be careful what you say. There are eyes and ears everywhere. Remember Nora Murphy who was a former teacher librarian? She was shocked at her hearing when they brought out 90 pages of her blogs to prove that she didn’t “teach” 90 % of the time. She left the district because of this invasion of her privacy along with other abuses by lausd. BE VERY CAREFUL. That being said, I’m on board for whatever radical action that anyone out there wants to take against LAUSD.

  6. Brian Arneecher - August 27, 2011, 3:34 pm

    Connect the dots.. .http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-12607026

  7. Martha - August 28, 2011, 1:53 am

    Hear, hear! I teach in a small Arizona town and am at odds with the entire district. I have become more outspoken on this topic, to my own detriment. Teachers here are threatened with their jobs for disagreeing with the massive testing movement that has permeated all aspects of our jobs. I’ve had enough. No longer can I silently watch while students are stripped of their natural curiosity, love of reading, creative thinking and so much more. The blank stares of the students as they struggle to meet the testing demands placed on them haunt me. I can no longer contribute to the demise of these precious children. My days as a teacher are limited, and not by my own choice. My heart is breaking.

  8. Mr. Sunshine - August 31, 2011, 4:31 pm

    Demonizing testing is one thing, but bad mouthing a company for doing business in a capitalist society sounds like good old fashioned hate. If it's not one thing, it's another. Learn to appreciate and count your blessings. Continue to do the best you can in teaching children.

    • Lindar - September 9, 2011, 4:46 am

      Pearson apparently didn't mind taking blood money from a dictator. Oh, until he was run out of Tripoli and skeletons were unearthed for the world to see. Gaddafi owns 3% of Pearson, and they were fine with it until company connections with him hit the news. How many other despots have a piece of Pearson Pie? Corporations have the same rights as humans in the USA, so just like other humans, I judge Pearson by the company it keeps. Conscripting kids into testing drudgery shares a similar vein of oppression as their infamous investor.

  9. Phyllis Bush - September 2, 2011, 9:55 am

    Good blog post, Joseph. Even though I would love to see teachers opt out of this testing juggernaut, I worry about the punitive consequences for those who do. Good luck and keep on blogging.

  10. Thinkingteach - September 2, 2011, 10:58 pm

    Mr.Sunshine,

    Please research this company and how much of your tax payer money is given to them
    to them to implement the testing machine. Hate? They hate our children and our teachers. The state of Texas alone gives this company about 72 million dollars of tax payer money a year (TEA website). Also, creating monopolies does not embody capitalist ideals. Capitalist ideals thrive on conpetition– not in strangleling all competitors. Plus, so much of their money comes from public education that they are acting more like a socialist machine.
    They control testing here in my state, which means that they control curriculum. Before we begin to expound on the theory of morality and economics, think. Is it democratic for all this money to be invested into this machine at the expense of the people? Is that democracy or capitalism? Do you trust this company so much that you place this amount of control
    into their hands? I am a teacher and a tax payer. I am a teacher that "does the best she can"
    inspite of all the "demonizing" of our profession by individuals who profit from just that: making us the bad guys so they can keep testing us through our students.

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