Iowa Ed Chief Faces Ethics Review for Pearson Trip

By Catherine Gewertz — September 29, 2011 1 min read
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Earlier this month, New York Times columnist Michael Winerip reported that the Pearson Foundation had paid for some state education commissioners to travel abroad, where they learned about other countries’ education systems, and also met with Pearson executives. Winerip raised the question of a conflict of interest, since most of the states that went on those trips do business with Pearson. The Pearson Foundation defended the trips as part of its work to pursue educational excellence.

It seems that Jason Glass, the director of the Iowa Department of Education, now faces an ethics review for a Pearson-related trip to Brazil in September.

The Des Moines Register reports that the foundation paid “indirectly” for the trip. Apparently, that means that the Council of Chief State School Officers sponsored the trip, and paid for it with a grant from the Pearson Foundation.

Glass himself defended the trip, saying it was a valuable chance to see how other countries’ school systems could inform improvements at home. He also pointed out that he met with Pearson Foundation officials, but not those from its corporate cousin, Pearson, which has $4.8 million in contracts with Iowa. Pearson is a corporate partner of CCSSO, as are other education-publishing giants.

Pearson, like others in the education business, is working to create and adapt curriculum and related products for the common standards, which have been adopted by Iowa and 44 other states. It can also be expected, like its competitors, to vie for the chance to build assessment systems that are currently being designed by two consortia of states for the common standards.

The Pearson/CCSSO trips have gotten some attention across the pond. British blogger Richard Taylor speculates about how the trips are part of Pearson’s work to shape its image and the marketplace in which it operates.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.