Corporate Interests in Education: Standards that Should Not Be Set

The question for this week’s debate statement for the week was: Public education has sold its soul to corporate interests in what amounts to a Faustian bargain.

I don’t think it it is a coincidence Common Core Standards, and the increasing amount of textbooks schools buy to ensure students meet these standards, came out while many educators were pushing and working towards an open-source education movement.  Pearson has an overwhelming hold on educational materials that school districts purchase and the company can even profit from student failure.

It’s a terrifying thought to think companies creating educational materials rely on students to fail so they can “bring in the scrilla (it’s also terrifying I am using Glenn Beck as a source to prove something, but I guess my grandma would be proud).” For Pearson, Common Core is private profit, which means they can create standards that students will not be able to reach:

[Common Core Standards] require kindergartens to “read emergent texts with purpose and understanding.” According to the report, there is no scholarly basis for setting this bar for kindergartners. In fact, the evidence suggests, expecting children to read too early can have adverse consequences. Early childhood researchers have shown the benefits of play-based kindergarten for cognitive, social, emotional and physical development. “Children learn through playful, hands-on experiences with materials, the natural world and engaging, caring adults.” The report calls for the Common Core kindergarten standards to be withdrawn.


Photo Credit: .EJW.Photography. via Compfight cc

Many educational institutions are forced to teach students too much content when students are too young to comprehend it.  Research suggests waiting for students to become older can accelerate their test scores simply because the brain is more developed. The “impact of accelerated testing has had a disproportionate impact on boys”:

When a boy who is perfectly intelligent and on target in terms of physical and mental development attempts to enter kindergarten at the usual age of five years old, he will be at a significant disadvantage relative to the older boys and especially relative to the older girls that parents have held out of kindergarten for a year.

Common Core Standards and standardized testing can do some good, in terms of keeping teachers accountable for understanding the curriculum. However, the implication with that is the curriculum is the only important knowledge (and presumably “non-bias” information) students need to understand in school.

I struggled with standardized testing this year. I am teaching English Language Arts 30 for the first time so I cannot write my own final exam.  As much as I would like to say I didn’t think about that exam while teaching, I cannot; the exam caters to a few outcomes in the curriculum and I fell into the trap of “teaching to the test.”  Saskatchewan and most school districts are moving towards outcome-based assessments, yet the standardized test for ELA 30 covers two to three outcomes. Anyone else getting mixed signals?

Photo of man with two shadows on the sidewalk indicating mixed signals

Photo Credit: mag3737 via Compfight cc

With all that being said, corporations are also helping to solve the education crisis. Many companies are not simply throwing money at the problem:

Smart companies are finding that the more they do so [lend otherwise proprietary human, technical, and intellectual capital], the more momentum and demand they create for what they provide, and the smarter they get about innovating around what’s truly needed in the education space. It’s a virtuous cycle of self-improvement.

Google for Education revolutionized my organization and teaching practice as well as how my students learn.  Having one-to-one access to Chromebooks allows me to have a more student-led classroom. I  plan knowing I am able to create innovative assessments that suit individuals’ strengths. My students can collaborate on Google Docs and I can give them descriptive feedback as they are working on assignments.

I never really thought about how Google is tracking what my students are doing in order to target advertisements towards them. I had a light bulb moment this week when Microsoft aquired LinkedIn for $26.2 biliion dollars. Why pay so much for a website that is used for adults to post work-related activity? Well, acquiring personal data is expensive and valuable. LInkedIn is a perfect platform to get relatively reliable and accurate personal data from people. Corporations want data; no wonder there is such a corporate race to see who can become the most widely used devices and sell the most products in schools.

  • Koskie Out!

3 thoughts on “Corporate Interests in Education: Standards that Should Not Be Set

  1. Interesting post Katherine. I had heard about the acquisition of LinkedIn by Microsoft but never really gave it any thought. However, after considering your statement that in purchasing LinkedIn Microsoft would gain beneficial data, it makes perfect sense. It is a bit scary to think that data like this can be bought and shared by larger companies. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I agree, the business dealings in education seem to have reached a new level because of technology. So it almost because a double edged sword: We clearly need technology its part of our society these days but at what cost? This really made me think! Great post!

  3. I enjoyed reading your post Katherine! Excellent point about Pearson having an overwhelming hold on educational materials that divisions purchase. I felt sick when I learned how they were making a profit on student failing standardized tests. I am not a fan of standardized assessments because I do not think they allow students to represent what they truly know. I appreciated how you discussed play-based learning in your post. I have been lucky to take classes from Patrick Lewis and Karen Wallace that focused on students learning through different forms of play and we explored critical perspectives of early learning. I believe in the early learning principles and making sure I think about the four areas of student development. Great work Katherine!

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