AFT and UK unions join to hold Pearson accountable

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AFT President Randi Weingarten, joined by other union leaders, parents and education advocates from the United States and the United Kingdom, demanded April 24 that Pearson measure the social, emotional and academic impact of its education practices in the United States, the United Kingdom and developing nations.

Attending Pearson's annual shareholder meeting, Weingarten challenged Pearson to match its actions to its leadership's rhetoric about being a socially responsible company:

"While I recognize Pearson has a duty to its shareholders to be profitable, my question centers on another obligation: to conduct business in a way that befits the world's largest education company—that is, in the words of its president, John Fallon, where every product must be measured by its 'social impact.'

"First, a recent case in New Jersey showed that Pearson played a role in a chain of events that included monitoring student social media accounts. More than 30,000 people have signed a petition demanding that Pearson end this practice. We ask that Pearson listen to these parents and community members: Stop spying on our kids, and immediately release any contract language and processes related to 'test security' for full public review.

"Second, the obsession with testing today isn't informing teaching and learning—it's undermining them. We ask that Pearson cease all lobbying and campaign contributions to politicians that are driving this obsession.

"Third, children across the world should have access to free high-quality education. We ask that Pearson stop charging the poorest people in the world up to 30 percent of their income to send just one of their children to school.

"Pearson, which holds itself out as a pro-education company, is at the same time associated in the United States with gag orders, spying and high-stakes testing, and outside the United States with so-called low-fee schools. How do you square that?"

Because of those stakes, parents are taking matters into their own hands—not letting a company get between them and their kids. Christine McGoey, a parent who has children in New Jersey's public schools, spoke at a press conference following the shareholder meeting, saying, "Testing is becoming the centerpiece of American education, and parents are not happy about it."

The AFT, the United Kingdom's National Union of Teachers and other organizations also sent a letter to Pearson laying out their concerns. In addition, teachers, parents and activists from Australia to South Africa to the United States supported the petition and other actions in London through a social media campaign using the hashtag #TellPearson.

[AFT press release]