A Month of Opting Out of Standardized Tests: Day 14

This is the 14th of 20 posts I will be writing during the PARCC testing window of March 9 – April 10.  If you’re interested in the growing master list of reasons we opted out of standardized tests in 2015, you can find it here.

Yesterday I ranked the ulterior motives of those who seek to benefit from the education “crisis” created in the U.S. from the manipulation of standardized scores.  Today I want to begin discussing the worst offenders (in my mind) – those who stand to make ridiculous profits from the standardized testing craze.

Reason #14:  Profiting off Children and Taxpayers

The Education sector is now 9% of G.D.P in the United States and the market for educational products totals in the hundreds of billions of dollars.  That’s billion with a “B”.  A recent report from the Center for Media and Democracy revealed how a few corporations have profited recently in this market, especially from the lucrative contracts they receive for administering standardized tests.  Here’s some pertinent examples:pearson

Pearson

  • Revenues of $9.43 billion in 2013
  • Pearson’s CEO John Fallon was compensated $2.64 million in 2013
  • Pearson administered nine million high-stakes K12 tests in 2014.  38% more than in 2013
  • Pearson received a $1 billion deal to administer the PARCC and another $500 million for tests in Texas

Educational Testing Service (ETS)

  • ETS has increased its annual revenue from $906 million in 2009 to $1.07 billion in 2012.
  • ETS is a non profit under the IRS tax code, but pays its directors and trustees for-profit style salaries. President/CEO Kurt Landgraf was paid $1.3 million in 2012.  Trustee Valdes Guadelupe was paid $80,500 for an estimated two-hour work-week

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH)

  • HMH posted revenues of $1.37 billion in fiscal year 2014

Cha-ching!  Of course, making this much money isn’t easy.  Sometimes you have to spend money in order to make money.

“Pearson Education, ETS (Educational Testing Service), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and McGraw-Hill—have collectively spent more than $20 million lobbying in states and on Capitol Hill from 2009 to 2014.  They have called for an expansion of the K-12 testing regime, while fighting tooth-and-nail against legislation designed to safeguard student privacy or protect kids from commercial data mining. Aside from the disclosed amount spent on lobbying legislators, Pearson, for example, underwrote untold sums on luxury trips for school officials.”

Here’s a few specifics on just exactly how much money is being spent by testing companies in order to win contracts and make sure that the standardized testing regime continues unabated:

  • Between 2009 and 2014, Pearson spent more than $4.5 million lobbying on Capitol Hill, and a further $3.5 million lobbying state legislatures
  • ETS has spent at least $1.3 million trying to influence state legislature between 2009 and 2013, primarily in Texas and California
  • ETS lobbied heavily for the introduction of a statewide testing system in California and against a bill requiring test agencies to “immediately initiate an investigation” after complaints on“inadequate” testing conditions.
  • ETS also lobbied against a bill designed to safeguard pupil data when Local Education Agencies (such as school districts) sign contracts with 3rd party entities.
  • HMH also spent $1.4 million lobbying on Capitol Hill influencing the legislative agenda on “early childhood education” and “[the] federal funding of education.”
  • HMH spent more than $2.1 million between 2009 and 2014 lobbying state legislatures

As you can see, standardized testing is BIG business with huge profits.  Guess who pays for a huge portion of those profits?  You do, dear taxpayer.  Your hard earned money lines the pockets of testing corporations and “non-profit” testing services to the tune of billions of dollars per year.  The government can’t spend your money fast enough on standardized tests. That alone is a good reason to opt out of this disgraceful racket.

For tomorrow:  More profit = More corruption