Common Core Testing Contract Corruption & Incompetence Appear Widespread

June, 2014

Karen R. Effrem, MD - Executive Director

Evidence of collusion, corruption, skirting of state financial transparency and procurement laws and general incompetence is starting to roll in from around the nation.  Here are some prominent examples:
  • Arizona Thanks to excellent research by The Cult of Common Core author Brad McQueen, it is clear that a private company, Pearson, was hired by the PARCC testing consortium to develop the federally funded, federally supervised Common Core national tests.  Arizona was forced to drop out of the PARCC consortium, because their superintendent, John Huppenthal, was working with Pearson while working for the state of Arizona; in signing the memorandum of understanding with PARCC, he promised that Arizona would use the PARCC test in defiance of the state's competitive bidding laws; and both PARCC and Pearson submitted bids for the testing contract, essentially giving the federal PARCC test two bids over the single bids submitted by the other four companies involved. Another McQueen article shows emails between Huppenthal and those at PARCC/Pearson that seem to indicate collusion.
  • Louisiana - As covered in our report about Louisiana's withdrawal from Common Core and PARCC, based on the research of Mercedes Schneider, State Superintendent John White testified to the Louisiana House that the state had agreed to participate in PARCC development, but not actually use the test. Mercedes Schneider continues to chronicle how White has attempted to skirt the competitive bidding process by tying the PARCC contract to an older sole source or no-bid contract from the Data Recognition Corporation (DRC).  Like the American Institutes for Research (AIR), DRC has also been heavily involved in developing the Common Core tests for the Smarter Balanced Testing Consortium (SBAC); is involved in New York and Ohio, which are PARCC states; has developed the Common Core test for Pennsylvania that pulled out of both PARCC and SBAC; and has combined with other testing and data mining organizations (see below).  Jindal administration officials have notified White that not only are his dealings with PARCC being investigated, but also that his power to spend state funds is suspended pending the audit.
  • Florida Despite announcing and allegedly signing the contract with AIR for Florida's Common Core test in March, the contract is nowhere to be seen for review on the state website listing contracts. This is after multiple requests from legislators, FSCCC, other groups and activists during and since the legislative session.  On June 23, I received assurances that a paper version of the contract would be sent, but the DOE official still had no idea when the electronic version would be available. Besides the many problems with AIR that we have chronicled, AIR has joined with DRC to develop the Florida test, as well as the SBAC, Ohio and New York tests.  In addition, there are personnel connections between AIR, The Florida Department of Education, the Minnesota Department of Education and Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE).
  • Dr. Christy Hovanetz, was with AIR and directed the value added measures project when AIR received a nearly $4 million 2011 grant from the Florida DOE. (See contract on page 96 of PDF).  She previously had worked for the Florida and Minnesota Departments of Education and is now a full-time senior fellow at FEE.
  • Dr. Jon Cohen, executive vice-president and director of AIR's Assessment program, is listed in the Reformer Profiles section of the FEE website.
Pearson, a major FEE contributor, based in Britain and owned in significant portion by the government of Libya and a Sharia-compliant bank, is another testing company that has major Florida connections:
  • Pearson was fined $7.7 million for violating New York law for using its charitable foundation in ventures that assisted the for-profit division and was fined numerous times for at least $19 million due to delayed results for the FCAT.  All told, Pearson had major problems in Florida in 2000, 2002, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014. 
  • In addition, emails obtained by the group In the Public Interest show lobbying efforts by FEE for legislation that would benefit large donors like Pearson.  This has been reported by numerous outlets, including the Huffington Post and the Tampa Bay Times.
Examples of mistakes in testing all over the country are rampant.  The Washington Post article shows the problems Pearson has had, not only in the US, but worldwide.   AIR and DRC have also had many problems for years in numerous states, including Nebraska and Minnesota, the home state of DRC.  Ironically, Minnesota is cutting ties to AIR and DRC and returning to Pearson, even though they had major problems with them in 2000 and 2010.

With the stakes for testing being so very high, controlling teacher pay and tenure, district funding, student grade advancement and graduation, it is appalling that companies with such poor records and controversial actions are receiving millions of taxpayer dollars and so much control over the lives of our students and teachers.  Please strongly urge Governor Scott to cancel the AIR contract and stay tuned as we examine the legalities of opting out of the state tests.

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