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Report: Pearson Foundation Finances Trips Abroad for State Ed. Officials

Those of you following the evolution of the common-standards marketplace will be interested in Michael Winerip's column in yesterday's New York Times. Winerip reports that the Pearson Foundation, cousin of the commercial education giant Pearson, has been financing trips to countries such as Finland, Brazil and Singapore for state commissioners of education. On their visits, the state officials apparently meet with top education officials in those countries, as well as representatives of the for-profit side of Pearson, Winerip says.

Foundation President Mark Nieker rejected the idea that the trips are designed to help Pearson "win contracts," saying they are designed only "in pursuit of educational excellence." (His entire response, provided by the Pearson Foundation, is here.) Jack Jennings of the Center on Education Policy had a different view.

"We shouldn't let these companies—that make tests, textbooks, curriculum materials—buy the loyalty of educators the way the drug companies have bought the loyalty of doctors," he told Winerip.

Pearson has been busy in the past year or so, buying Connections Education, which operates virtual schools; partnering with the Florida Virtual School to offer online courses; buying SchoolNet, whose software tracks student progress; teaming up with the biggest school district in Maryland to develop an elementary school curriculum; and buying America's Choice, a school-improvement organization whose officials helped write the common standards.

The Pearson Foundation also announced a partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop curriculum for the common standards.

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