The Journal article (it's behind a paywall but if you squint real hard, you can read it through the "don't you want to subscribe" haze) says that two factors led to losses for the edu-biz giant-- one self-inflicted, and one market-driven.
The self-inflicted injury was Pearson's inability to "develop and deliver new digital courses on time." A big part of Pearson's plan was to produce and sell digital Common Core curriculum, but after investing more than $125 million, they are three years behind schedule and have not yet "produced returns." The project has been run by a "academic" with no tech experience who is trying to design an entire curriculum to be run through tablets. It is not going well. Says the Journal, "Her vision sometimes clashed with technological realities." Because, of course, the educational quality and content has to be made to fit the tech, not the other way around. Pearson says it's confident that soon the product will be ready, on market, and making tons of money. Oh, and they've taken the word "Common" out of the name-- it will now be the "Pearson System of Courses."
The market-driven injury was, of course, the huge backlash against the Common Core and the Big Standardized Tests that were supposed to come along with the standards. Pearson bet big on the testing and watched themselves get chased out of many states as parents, teachers, students, and sentient beings with more than a rudimentary brain stem saw the tests and saw that they were not good.
As one of the biggest and most visible profiteering corporations associated with Common Core reforms, Pearson has taken a lot of the heat for the botched Standards-and-Test movement. Back in January, Ian Whittaker, an analyst with Liberian Capital Ltd. said, "The simple fact is that Pearson's brand is politically toxic in the United States." Pearson, which has busily inserted itself into just about every part of the education sector, disagreed. But meanwhile, Pearson's PARCC test has been booted from over half the original PARCC states, so the $2 billion that Pearson had planned to make from PARCC over eight years isn't going to happen.
But as Pearson is wont to believe, numbers don't lie. And the numbers says that Pearson share prices have declined 32% over three years, with a spectacular revenue drop of 7% in the first half of 2016.
No word from the Journal about how Pearson's long-term plan to digitize everything and eat all the data in the world is coming. But on many other fronts, Pearson is having a rough couple of years. It couldn't happen to a nicer multi-national corporation.