This story has been emerging in bits and pieces and being reported on as parts of other stories, but it deserves to be mentioned many places, because it has the potential to wreak some serious havoc in this coming school year.
Last year, Pearson won the contract to develop the PARCC test. This may have been because Pearson was the only bidder, and that may have been the case because the contract was written in such a way that only Pearson could possibly bid on it. But although DC-based Americans Institutes for Research did not think they could take on British Pearson in the bidding process, they were ready to take them on in court.
AIR's suit does not just allege that the bidding on PARCC was unfair regarding the test, but that the bidding was rigged to give Pearson an edge for years to come on services that were above and beyond simply providing the PARCC test. Kind of like putting a contract to bid on repaving the driveway in such a way that it also gives the winner a job doing all the building maintenance and cleaning.
A judge agreed to hear the case. More importantly, the judge directed Pearson to put down its pencil and stop working on PARCC until this is sorted out. And that is where things have been sitting since the end of May.
Is it possible that Pearson has some people in a back room somewhere working on a program for training fluffy bunnies that could miraculously turn out to be equally applicable to writing the PARCC, once they're free to do so? That would be the smart move. But do not overlook the possibility that the judge in this case could throw out the entire contract based on a rigged bidding set-up (which, let's be honest, doesn't exactly seem like a huge stretch).
There's a whole other layer of trouble here in that, per Mercedes Schneider's reporting, there's at least one state where some of the Folks In Charge don't seem to grasp what is going on. This means that if you're a PARCC state, not only might you not have a fresh test in place and ready to go, but your leaders may not even have realized that they need a Plan B, let alone started to create one.
Can anybody actually take on Pearson, the behemoth of the education world? That's a good question, but given there is a mountain of money involved stacked high enough to blot out the sun, it's a fair bet that AIR is going to give it the old college try. We've had many attempts to interpret various calls for testing moratoriums; one other possibility is that some folks have looked in their corporate tea leaves and decided it may take us a couple of years just to get a fresh test. In the mean time, the testing system that is the backbone and testicles of the reformster movement is continuing its slow-motion collapse. And that's good news for everyone.
UPDATE As of July 2, it appears that Pearson's Big Bucks Express is back on track. Here's the report of the decision to let them continue.So that's a win. And here's the report of the decision in their favor. And that's the knock-out punch. Pearson's path toward owning all of American education is clear once again.