• Senator Gipson Wants New York to Dump Pearson Testing

• Senator Gipson Wants New York to Dump Pearson Testing

LoHudAs growing numbers of critics are questioning the role of standardized testing in schools, Sen. Terry Gipson, D-Rhinebeck, is calling on the state to cut ties with testing giant Pearson Inc.

Gipson has introduced legislation to end New York’s use of Pearson to create Common Core-based tests and prevent teachers in training from having to take Pearson-run certification exams.

“It has been brought to our attention by teachers, administrators, school boards, parents and others that the exams Pearson is providing are flawed with mistakes and inappropriate material,” Gipson said. “This is a for-profit corporation funded with taxpayer money, so we have more than enough reason to ask the state Education Department to cease and desist all relations.”

Pearson, the London-based mega-corporation that bills itself as “the world’s leading learning company,” has a five-year, $32 million deal with New York to develop Common Core-based tests for grades three to eight.

Gipson, whose district includes part of Putnam County, said various groups have different positions on the Common Core standards and other state reforms but he sensed bipartisan support for changing New York’s testing policies.

“We would like to see this corporatization and standardization of the education system come to an end,” he said. “Let’s utilize the educational talent we have in New York. We have amazing teachers and educational professionals who are more than qualified to work with the state Education Department to develop materials that are error free.”

Lisa Jackson, president of the Carmel Teachers Association, one of several teachers unions supporting Gipson’s legislation, said the state should develop its own 3 to 8 tests, as it does with high school Regents exams.

“We have a tried and true system in New York, involving teachers who know our students,” Jackson said. “Teachers know what’s best for our students and should have a primary role in designing and writing test questions. Farming the work out to a for-profit corporation does not make sense.”

Various groups of educators and parents have criticized the state’s education agenda, including the fast-paced rollout of Common Core and new tests aligned to the standards. At least six Lower Hudson Valley school districts have decided not to administer “field tests” this month for the state Education Department. The tests are being given to students in about 4,000 New York schools to provide information for the development of future tests by Pearson.

“We are not the research and development arm of Pearson,” said Peter Mustich, superintendent of the Rye Neck school district, one of the six not giving the tests.

Last month, more than 3,140 students in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam sat outthe state’s math tests developed by Pearson. They represented 3.4 percent of students eligible locally to take the tests in grades three to eight.

Jackson repeated the increasingly common complaint that schools and teachers do not get to see most questions on the 3 to 8 tests, leaving them unable to use the results to meet students’ needs.

“The information we get is so limited that we cannot use the data to improve our instruction for each student,” she said. “So how useful are these tests? We need to take a step back, and this legislation opens that conversation.”

The state Education Departments maintains that it cannot release all tests questions because the tests are expensive to develop and some questions will be re-used on future tests.

A memo accompanying one of Gipson’s bills notes that in December state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman reached a $7.7 million settlement with Pearson Charitable Foundation, a nonprofit arm of for-profit Pearson, for developing course materials intended for commercial sale.

The Education Department had no comment on Gipson’s legislation.