Pearson’s History Of Testing Problems

Published February 2, 2015

Compiled by Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director, FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing

Editor’s Note: This timeline shows a range of testing problems for Pearson from the late 90s to the present. Pearson is one of the three largest educational resource companies in the U.S. and the company has also been tasked with creating and in some places administering Common Core tests for the PARCC consortium.


1999-2000 Arizona – 12,000 tests mis-graded due to flawed answer key.


2000 Florida – Test score delivery delayed, resulting in $4 million fine.


2000 Minnesota – Mis-graded 45,739 graduation tests, leading to lawsuit with $11 million settlement. Judge found “years of quality control problems” and a “culture emphasizing profitability and cost-cutting.” 


2002 Florida — Dozens of school districts received no state grades for their 2002 scores because of a “programming error” at the Department of Education.


2005-2006 National – On SAT college admissions test, 4,400 tests wrongly scored; $3 million settlement after lawsuit. (Note: FairTest served as expert witness for plaintiffs.)


2007-2011 Mississippi – Subcontractor programs mark correct answer as incorrect, resulting in erroneous results for almost four years, during which time 126 students failed the exam due to that wrongly scored item. Auditors criticized Pearson’s quality control checks, and the firm offered $600,000 in scholarships as compensation.


2010 Florida – Test score delivery delayed by more than a month. Nearly $15 million in fines imposed and paid.


2010 Minnesota — Results from online science tests taken by 180,000 students delayed due to scoring error.


2011 Oklahoma – “data quality issues” cause “unacceptable” delay in score delivery. Pearson ultimately replaced by CTB/McGraw Hill.


2011 Illinois – 144 students in five Chicago schools wrongly receive zeroes due to scoring error. The state sought nearly $1.7 million from Pearson, which could not explain how the errors occurred.


2011 Iowa – State Ethics and Campaign Finance Disclosure Board opens investigation of Iowa Education Department director Jason Glass for participating in all-expenses-paid trip to Brazil sponsored by Pearson Foundation.


2011 New York – Attorney General Eric Schneiderman subpoenas financial records from Pearson Education and Pearson Foundation concerning their sponsorship of global junkets for dozens of state education leaders.


2011 Oklahoma – State identifies 18 significant problems with Pearson’s tests, leading to $8 million penalty settlement.


2012 New York – More than two dozen errors found in New York State tests developed by Pearson.


2012 Florida – After percentage of fourth graders found “proficient” plunges from 81 percent to 27 percent in one year, state Board of Education emergency meeting “fixes” scores on FCAT Writing Test by changing definition of proficiency.


2012 New York – Parents have their children boycott “field test” of new exam questions because of concerns about Pearson’s process.


2012 New York – More than 7,000 New York City elementary and middle school students wrongly blocked from graduation by inaccurate “preliminary scores” on Pearson tests.


2012 Mississippi – Pearson pays $623,000 for scoring error repeated over four years that blocked graduation for five students and wrongly lowered scores for 121 others.


2012 Texas – Pearson computer failure blocks thousands of students from taking state-mandated exam by displaying error message at logon.


2013 New York – Passages from Pearson textbooks appear in Pearson-designed statewide test, giving unfair advantage to students who used those materials.


2013 New York – Three Pearson test-scoring mistakes block nearly 5,000 students from gifted-and-talented program eligibility.


2013 Worldwide – Pearson VUE testing centers around the globe experience major technical problems, leaving thousands unable to take scheduled exams or register for new ones.


2013 Texas – State Auditor finds inadequate monitoring of Pearson’s contract: Vendor determined costs of assessment changes without sufficient oversight and failed to disclose hiring nearly a dozen former state testing agency staff.


2013 New York – Pearson fined $7.7 million by New York State for using its nonprofit foundation arm to steer business to the firm.


2014 National – Pearson notifies students who took the Miller Analogies Test (MAT) in 2011 that their exams had been mis-scored.


2014 New York – Printing errors result in missing questions and blank pages in Pearson-designed statewide math assessment.


2014 Texas – STAAR test answer sheets shipped to Pearson are lost, requiring students to retake the exam in the middle of summer.


2014 Virginia – Error in scoring Pearson’s SOL Civics & Economics test results in 500 changed scores, including 224 students moving from failing to passing.


2014 Colorado – Pearson test-scoring error delays release of Colorado Measures of Academic Success scores.


Image by biologycorner.