Financial Experts Tell Pearson: Watch Out…Maybe Exit

Pearson better watch out
It better not cry
Don’t even pout
I’m telling you why
Santa ain’t coming to your town.
— Alan Singer, “Even Santa Can’t Save Pearson (Mis)Education” Huffington Post

Story here at 3:00 —


Our last feature report on Pearson, the giant education corporation based in England, was in August. At that time, Pearson had just announced large changes to its holdings, selling off the Financial Times newspaper and its share in the Economist magazine, expecting to dedicate the $2 billion in cash from these sales to its education business. So, the time seemed right for an update. And those Santa lyrics were offered by Alan Singer, a social studies educator at Hofstra University, who published a year-end Pearson review at Huffington Post.

Singer goes on to mention Pearson being naughty, and concludes with “it’s all about price.” He summarizes some of Pearson’s international troubles, including an open letter, signed earlier this year by educators around the world. The letter criticized Pearson for its attempt “to make education a commodity to be bought and sold,” calling this “a serious threat to democracy and will ultimately increase segregation and marginalisation.”

UK Advice to Pearson on US Markets

Telegraph: “If things get much worse…”
Meanwhile, in the UK, financial reports vary somewhat but focus on Pearson’s troubles in the U.S. education market.

Christopher Williams at the Telegraph newspaper wrote last week: “If things get much worse in the US for Pearson, the financial pressures could start to tell.” The article goes on to say:

Nobody expects Pearson to be able to control the US economy, obviously. The problem is that the company has repeatedly underestimated the impact on its business, doing heavy damage to a reputation for consistency and predictability won over many years….

It proceeds with a discussion of Pearson’s role in testing associated with the Common Core, which the Telegraph calls “the closest thing the US has to a National Curriculum,” noting political backlash in the current presidential election. The article continues:

The controversy has cost Pearson in financial and reputational terms. Ohio and Texas have cancelled Common Core testing contracts worth £100m, more could follow and there is little prospect of the system gaining popularity soon.

The Telegraph also notes that Pearson’s balance sheet improved with the large sales this year, but concludes that the CEO “badly needs to ensure Pearson passes some of the tests it has for too long been failing.” (see also: Pearson Ebook Woes)

Guardian: Exit
The Guardian newspaper, on the other hand, notes that those large sales left Pearson in a better position as it enters 2016. Their analysis suggests that the company should further re-focus its efforts and perhaps become a private entity. One analyst, Claudio Aspesi, suggests that Pearson should consider —

exiting businesses which – irrespective of performance – are unlikely to benefit for many years from the future adoption of technology.

Possible examples include the operation of physical schools, elementary and middle school courseware (the first seven/eight grades of formal schooling) and – possibly – testing and assessment.

Pearson-based graphic from Save Our Schools.
Pearson-based graphic from Save Our Schools.

Let’s take a moment to digest that piece of financial advice:

Physical schools – Pearson has seven Nexus Academies in the U.S. – as well as elementary and middle grade courseware are “unlikely to benefit for many years from the future adoption of technology.” Testing and assessment might also fall in this category.

So the recommendation for Pearson’s financial success is to “exit.” There is no corresponding recommendation for students or parents or school districts, of course. Pearson is in business, and educational products can be dropped like hot potatoes when they cease to be profitable.

2016 will be an interesting year for Pearson and education politics in the U.S.

Returning to Alan Singer’s seasonal song:

“Pearson better watch out
It better not cry
Don’t even pout
I’m telling you why
Santa ain’t coming to your town.”


More on Education Town Hall 12/19/15

The Education Town Hall broadcasts from Historic Anacostia in Washington, DC, Thursdays
at 11:00 a.m. Eastern on We Act Radio.
Listen live via TuneIn.
Shows are archived for convenient listening shortly after broadcast.

The Education Town Hall BUS is a monthly program
organized by BadAss Teachers, United Opt Out, and SOS March.
The program regularly airs on the 4th Thursday of each month.

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