June 18, 2015

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UUP reacts to SED redactions in Pearson contract

uupdate 6-18-15

View a copy of Pearson's contract with SED here

The state has paid corporate education giant Pearson, Inc. millions in state dollars to create and administer teacher certification tests for the state Education Department.

But Pearson—and presumably SED—doesn’t want the public to know the specifics of how Pearson developed the tests, as well as the company’s field testing and validation process for the exams.

UUP, which obtained a copy of Pearson’s contract with the state via a Freedom of Information Act request, received a document with entire sections blacked out. In an April 29 email from SED, the union was told that the redacted information was “considered trade secret" and that "the release of such information could cause injury to the competitive nature of the entity.”

What’s hidden behind the many blacked-out parts of the 130-page contract is the meat of the pact: details of how Pearson would develop, field test, administer and score SED’s new teacher certification exams—tests that UUP believes are deeply flawed.

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Pages of information, above, regarding job and bias analysis for the tests as well as frameworks, scoring methods, computer-based formatting, and how Pearson would hire and train test administrators were censored, covered by blocks of black. More than 70 percent of the contract’s pages are obscured; 25 pages are completely blacked out.

“The only winner here is Pearson,” said UUP President Fred Kowal. “It is time for the state and for Pearson, which has received millions to develop and administer standardized tests, to tell us what the money was spent for and why. They should not be allowed to hide behind the lame excuse of so-called `trade secrets’ when educators across the state are raising concerns about flaws in the content and design of these exams.”

In 2010, the state signed the contract which hired Pearson to develop and administer SED’s teacher certification exams. The contract took effect on Oct. 1, 2010. It is set to expire Sept. 30.

In April, UUP, with the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY and New York State United Teachers, called for SED and the state Board of Regents to conduct a full investigation of Pearson’s new teacher certification exams; the inquiry would determine if the tests were adequately field tested and whether they lacked proof of validity and reliability.

UUP reiterated this call for an investigation last month, providing illustrations of content and computer format flaws in the new exams. UUP also wants experienced educators from New York State teacher preparation programs to be involved with efforts to fix the exams to make them comply with professional standards.

You can get details about UUP's call for an investigation into the tests in a union flier, available here.

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