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Pearson Responds to John Oliver Segment

Pearson Responds to John Oliver Segment

After TV show personality John Oliver discussed the negatives of the U.S's increasing reliance on standardized testing in his HBO show, "Last Week Tonight," Pearson, one of the subjects of his criticism, responded.

During the segment, Oliver criticized the country's heavy reliance on standardized testing as an unfair grading system that results in anxiety for both students and educators.

Though Oliver agreed that the country is riddled with low-performing schools and there is a dire need to close the achievement gap that affects many low-income areas, he argued that ranking teachers and basing teacher pay on the results is not the answer.

He focused on education company Pearson, which he said has a "shocking amount of influence on schools" as it develops textbooks and the standardized tests and controls 40% of the testing market, which is triple its nearest competitor.

He cited that it experiences "spectacular growth and profit" despite complaints such as technical glitches, slow grading, and "outright errors."

Yesterday, managing director of assessment and direct delivery at Pearson, Alfred G. Binford, sent a response to the criticism to The Washington Post to offer the company's perspective.

In response to the allegations of technical glitches marring the high-stakes tests, Binford said:

When technical glitches briefly interrupted online testing for some students in Colorado and Minnesota, we acted quickly to identify the causes and implement a fix to allow testing sessions to continue. While glitches are rightly high profile, they are the exception.

He said that Pearson listens and improves on its services based on parent, teacher, and student responses.

"[We] hear loudly that some parents think the tests are too long and may cause anxiety for some students. We hear that some teachers wish they had students’ test results in real time, so they could adjust their classroom instruction that same week. We’re looking at the research, design and delivery of cutting-edge assessment systems that provide better, quicker feedback."

But he defended the need for the tests that Pearson administered, saying that the more demanding academic standards states have adopted (Common Core Standards) have therefore required the need for using student tests as indicators of student skill-set.

"Tests are a means to an end – showing what individual young people have learned and how schools are preparing them for their next step in college or their careers. New annual state tests, supported by Pearson and other testing companies, will help students and teachers in those crucial life choices," he said.

Read the full article here and comment below, and watch the John Oliver segment here.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

05/08/2015

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