Media Monday: Pearson pares down

For our January 2016 Media Monday, we want to take note of big news in the world of education publishing and courseware. Pearson, often cited as the world’s biggest education company, announced major layoffs amounting to 10 percent of its workforce of 40,000 last week. The company is based in the UK, but most of its business is in the United States, and it has approximately 20,000 U.S. employees, many of whom are Texas-based. In fact, after losing a lucrative Texas testing contract last year, the company laid off more than 200 workers in Austin.

Today, the Austin American-Statesman reported that the State Board of Education is meeting this week to discuss dropping Pearson as the supplier of state GED tests. The cost of the tests is $135, which many advocates argue is too high. In addition, failure rates for the Pearson GED are climbing, with only half of 20,000 people who took the 2014 exam receiving a passing grade. Texas ranked 50th in the nation in the percentage of adults who hold a high school diploma, according to a 2012 Census Department survey, and thousands take the high school equivalency exams each year.

Pearson controls an estimated half of the U.S. standardized test market. Education blogger and teacher Mercedes Schneider argues that committing heavily to Common Core testing, which has been under attack from parents, legislators, and educators lately, was one of the company’s big problems. “There are those who insist that Common Core is a success. Looks like Pearson reality prevents it from joining that brigade.”

The company says that it will now be putting more money into “adaptive, personalized, next-generation courseware,” focusing more on blended and virtual learning, and improving its English-language-learning programs.

Shelley Sperry

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