The World’s Biggest Education Company Is Laying Off Thousands

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Blake Neff Reporter
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Pearson Education, the world’s largest education company and one of the most hated because of its role in implementing Common Core, has announced it is laying off about ten percent of its workforce in response to disappointing earnings.

About 4,000 people will lose their jobs in Pearson’s restructuring. The company blamed the layoffs on a drop in U.S. college enrollment, a decrease in vocational training in the U.K, and a major crash in South Africa’s textbook market. Combined, Pearson said these factors had cut its earnings by nearly $330 million.

The U.K.-based Pearson’s does most of its business in the U.S., where they are virtually omnipresent in American schools. Besides being a major textbook manufacturer, Pearson also has a dominant position in the U.S. standardized test market, controlling as much as 60 percent of it. Pearson administers all sorts of exams, from teacher certification tests to the GED test taken by high school dropouts.

Most notably, and controversially, Pearson is one of the main companies involved in the creation of standardized tests aligned with Common Core. The company received a contract to create tests for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), a Common Core testing consortium that at its peak had over 20 member states.

But the backlash against Common Core has been hard on PARCC, with only 10 states plus the District of Columbia taking its tests in 2015. Now, just six states plus D.C. remain members. Pearson itself warrants some of the blame for PARCC’s decline. The company hoped to administer the tests primarily via computer, which has unsurprisingly led to students and teachers struggling with glitches.

Despite the big decline in PARCC, Pearson doesn’t mention any testing woes as a reason for the layoffs. This may partly be because the company has been able to offset PARCC departures with other testing contracts. For instance, Indiana officially dropped Common Core and left PARCC, but then hired Pearson to design its new ISTEP exams. Much like with the PARCC tests, Pearson has grappled with technical glitches in trying to implement the computer-based exams.

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