The Fate of the Bearer of Bad News…

The influence of outside money on education has always been strong–and fighting it is one of the reasons the AAUP came into existence. Rarely, though, do we educators have real power over the source of that money. In the case of Pearson, however, we can have just that. The company makes a good deal of money off of our choices–and we can choose not to use what it offers.

The next time you speak with a Pearson rep, you might remind them of this, pointing with particular concern to the pressure that Pearson has brought onto the career of Walter Stroup at the University of Texas College of Education.

Jason Stanford, writing in The Texas Observer, explains how Stroup, the results of whose research on testing runs counter to Pearson assumptions, has seen his career progress challenged:

In retrospect, Stroup might have anticipated that the UT College of Education wouldn’t celebrate his scholarship on standardized tests. In 2009, the Pearson Foundation, the test publisher’s philanthropic arm, created a $1 million endowment at the College of Education…. 

In January 2013… he received the results of his post-tenure review…. The committee gave Stroup an unsatisfactory rating…. A Post-Tenure Review Report dated Jan. 10, 2013, dinged Stroup for “scholarly activity and productivity.” In sum, the committee found he was publishing too little and presenting at conferences too seldom….

That was a curious conclusion, because Stroup had been presenting. When a professor undergoes post-tenure review, he or she completes annual reports using a form published by the Office of the Executive Vice President. Stroup’s annual report lists four conference presentations, including two plenary addresses. 

Regarding the overall charge of lack of productivity, the review committee failed to note Stroup’s work with cloud computing, which led him to a group approach to education technology called “cloud-in-a-bottle” that is being implemented now at Lamar Middle School in Austin. In addition, his work with Texas Instruments on the math intervention program had led the company to create its Navigator system. All of this was in his annual report.

Stroup protested, citing these omissions, misstatements and errors. On Jan. 16, Committee Chair Dr. Randy Bomer submitted the post-tenure review report to the dean of the College of Education after changing Stroup’s rating from “unsatisfactory” to “does not meet expectations.” Bomer did not, however, correct any of the errors in the committee’s report. 

This does not mean Stroup’s job is safe, however. The department has put Stroup on an aggressive publishing schedule, and forced him to move offices three times.

There is no explicit connection between Stroup’s evaluation and Pearson, but we all know what happens when any funder is unhappy. And Pearson is extremely unhappy with Stroup for providing scientific evidence for the conclusions that Texans have been forming about the standardized tests the corporation has been supplying the state.

It is up to us to make Pearson understand that even the slightest hint of interference in professional responsibilities of hiring, retention, tenure, and promotion is unacceptable. The corporation–like all corporations and all outside entities–needs to make sure that its impact on the educational institutions it supports financially never encroaches in this area. We have little power over the Koch brothers when they try to do this, unfortunately, but we do have power over Pearson. If enough of us mention that we are considering switching from Pearson products, and will do so if there is even the slightest hint of interference in our professional decision-making, Pearson will listen. Individually, none of us counts for much but, added together, we can have an impact on Pearson. We don’t even have to threaten boycott; all we have to do, at this point, is mention that there are alternatives we can turn to for meeting our educational needs.

3 thoughts on “The Fate of the Bearer of Bad News…

  1. “The term ‘subsidized press’ has been worn thin from over-use. It was coined to the idea that the newspapers belonged to the business world and therefore worked in their interests. A new term must be coined to suggest the idea of an educational system owned and largely supported by the people but dominated by the business world. Perhaps ‘plutocratized education’ will prove as acceptable as any other phrase.”

    Scott Nearing, 1917

  2. Pingback: 2014 Through the Academe Blog: September | The Academe Blog

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