Links between NJ education and Pearson are cozy indeed

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Andrew Erlichson/LINKED-IN
Andrew Erlichson/LINKED-IN

Bari Anhalt Erlichson, an assistant New Jersey education commissioner and chief testing officer who supervises PARCC testing throughout the state, has a personal connection of sorts to PARCC’s developer, the British publishing giant Pearson. Anhalt Erlichson is married to Andrew Erlichson, a vice president of a company named MongoDB. MongoDB (the name comes from humongous database) is a subcontractor to Pearson, that helped to develop its national student database that provided the larger company with access to student records. Pearson later sold the center to Hobsons which no longer deals with MongoDB.

Anhalt Erlichson wrote a memorandum to New Jersey educators March 17 defending the actions of her department and  Pearson in monitoring the social media of New Jersey students while they took the PARCC tests. She blamed the uproar caused by the revelation of the cyber-spying on the failure of parents and educators to understand social media.

She did not mention her personal ties to a company that profits from a business relationship to Pearson which, in turn, has a contract with the state education department. Bari Anhalt Erlichson and Andrew Erlichson own a home in Princeton valued at $2.9 million, according to property records.

A state education department spokesman said Bari Erlichson had no connection with any of the work done by MongoDB. Michael Yaple, the spokesman, said her husband’s company was not listed among any of the Pearson subcontractors working in New Jersey. However, he did not answer how MongoDB and Pearson could develop a National Transcript Center without New Jersey. He said New Jersey was not part of the project.

Erlichson, third from left,  with friends from the NJ School Boards Association, which supports PARCC
Erlichson, third from left, with friends from the NJ School Boards Association, which supports PARCC

 

Erlichson is expected to appear Thursday before the Legislature’s Assembly Education Committee to answer questions about the revelations of spying–or monitoring, to use Pearson’s term– by Pearson of students sitting this month for the PARCC exam, a statewide standardized test given to children from grades three through high school. Anhalt Elrichson and Pearson have defended the monitoring as a means of safeguarding the test’s security.

According to MongoDB’s website, this is what the company did for Pearson before it no longer had any involvement after the sale to Hobsons:

“High school students only have to worry about one transcript: their own. But for Pearson, a multi-billion dollar learning company that operates in over 70 countries and employs some 36,000 people, its transcript management problem is much bigger. Pearson Education manages the transcripts for over 14 million students from more than 25,000 institutions, and makes and allows NTC member institutions to securely send records and transcripts to any of over 137,000 academic institutions, not to mention employers, licensure agencies, and scholarship organizations.

“To manage this big data problem, Pearson turned to MongoDB as the underlying database for its National Transcript Center.

“Pearson’s National Transcript Center isn’t merely a data store for student transcripts. Pearson stores student data and also transforms it from one standard format to another, including PESC High School Transcript XML, PESC College Transcript XML, SPEEDE EDI, SIF Student Record Exchange, and others. Pearson also generates PDF copies of a student’s records, and provides print copies when electronic delivery is not available.

“The impetus to use MongoDB was a request to archive student data at the end of each year, rather than deleting it. If the student had graduated, why keep her records around? As it turned out, there was plenty of reasons, including the potential need to transfer records between higher educational institutions or on to employers.

“But how best to store and manage this student data?”

MongoDB did it for Pearson–but that was not the only contract it has with the testing company. It also operates Pearson’s database for OpenClass, the publishing company’s new venture into virtual learning or, as it calls it, “open learning.” Pearson’s OpenClass is partnered with Google’s Chromebooks–and Chromebooks are the computers school districts needed to buy to be used by students taking PARCC tests.

Pearson and Erlichson’s MongoDB plan to grow profitably together. This also is from MongoDB’s website, an answer to a question and answer with Pearson. A Pearson representative was asked what the future looked like for the Pearson-MongoDB connection. The answer:

“Our MongoDB footprint is only going to continue to grow. More and more development teams are playing with MongoDB as the foundation of their new application or OpenClass feature.”

The future does, indeed, look good for the Pearson and MongoDB as well for Mr. and Mrs. Erlichson.

After the Pearson monitoring program was revealed, many parents and others expressed concern about the possibility that the company was invading the privacy of students and their families. Others dismissed the fears, noting that Twitter–the only social media so far known to be monitored by Pearson through another subcontractor, Caveon Test Security. The question left hanging–and the question neither Pearson nor the state education department will answer–is how Pearson could identify students from often pseudonymous Twitter handles.

Pearson owns PowerSchool and PowerSchool was part of Pearson’s National Student Transcript Center. And PowerSchool is linked to NJSMART, the statewide student and teacher database that assigns to every child and school employee a number it can trace to find out more and more about those who work in, or attend, the state’s public schools.

So, there you have it–connections all around between the data collection, the spying and the state education department official who runs the show and chides parents for not understanding social media.

There is more to the story, but its direct relevance to New Jersey is unclear. The history of MongoDB is an interesting one. It was once called 10gen. That company got funding from another tech firm known as In-Q-Tel, or IQT. This is how MongoDB announced it:

“10gen (the MongoDB company) today announced a strategic investment and technology development agreement with In-Q-Tel (IQT), the independent strategic investment firm that identifies innovative technology solutions to support the missions of the U.S. Intelligence Community.”

IQT is a CIA company. So says The Washington Post. So says MongoDB.

BLOGCIAThe CIA funds In-Q-Tel. In-Q-Tel funds MongoDB. MongoDB services Pearson.

And Pearson spies on our children.

 

 

 

 

17 comments

  1. Pingback: Bob Braun: The Surprising Ties Between Pearson and Néw Jersey DOE | Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. Hugh Wilson

    Apologies for the double post.

    Just to clarify. We have plenty to be concerned with when it comes to Pearson. And more than enough to be concerned and angry with when it comes to standardized testing, our state education administrators and state and federal politicians. That Pearson pays attention to the company’s social media mentions doesn’t belong in the list.

  3. Paul

    Wow, could the CC, Pesrson, PARCC, and our governments involvement in all of this be any more incestuous?

    I suspect similar situations are happening in many states, or at least the states that are still hanging in to what’s left of the CC. Here’s one from Rhode Island:

    The governor of RI (Gina Raimondo) is married to Andrew Moffit.

    Andrew Moffit is a smart guy. He studied education law and policy at Oxford and Yale.

    Andrew taught for Teach for America
    for two years. (TFA is highly funded by Bill Gates.)

    Andrew works as a Senior Practice Expert and co-founder of the Global Education Practice at McKinsey & Company. ( Bill Gates pumps millions into McKinsey as “consulting fees.”) The other co-founder is a guy called Sir Michael Barber. Sir Michael no longer works for McKinsey but when he did he had the job that Andrew Moffit has right now.

    McKinsey, where Andrew Moffit works right now, consultants to CEOs governments, companies, national foundations, and non-profits. And…

    They also handle the PARCC’s testing data!!!

    PARCC testing contracts with a publishing company called PEARSON to deliver the test. (Pearson received millions from BILL GATES to create a national K-12 curriculum in line with CCSS. )

    Do you remember the guy I mentioned earlier, named Sir Michael Barber? Guess what? SIR MICHAEL BARBER, now works for PEARSON, who handles the tests for PARCC, who sends all the data collected for “handling” to MCKINSEY AND COMPANY, who employs ANDREW MOFFIT, husband of RI governor, GINA RIAMONDO, as an expert in global education practice which handles the data for PARCC ( also funded by Gates through Pearson) testing!

    Whew! I’m exhausted.

  4. ElChe

    The more abuses of power and dis-empowerment of the American people that occur everyday I am reminded of the Rolling Stones “Everywhere I look I see that the time is right for revolution”. I pray Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren become POTUS to avert the 2nd civil war of the disenfranchised vs the 1%

  5. Kimi Wei

    I’m not sure how relevant it is to point out that Mongo DB is being used by Pearson. This is like saying there’s a relationship between Pearson and Microsoft because Pearson uses computers with Windows installed on them.

  6. Tom2

    andrew erlichson’s picture is from LinkedIn. Isn’t this one of the sites mined by Pearson? Am I the only one who sees the irony here? Is this not poetic justice?

  7. Educator

    Where is the NJEA (or AFT) in all this? Their members’ staff ID numbers are uploaded into NJSMART. Their summative evaluation scores are uploaded into NJSMART and it is my understanding that this data is shared with Pearson (at least for districts that use PowerSchool).
    Are they at all concerned? Or do they at least have some questions?

  8. Michael Feldstein

    Congratulations on the social media monitoring scoop; it’s an important story. That said, this follow-up piece on the Mongo connection may be a red herring. Mongo is a very widely used technology, and Pearson, like many, many other companies, probably uses it in a wide range of systems. Furthermore, Mongo is open source. Pearson doesn’t pay a licensing fee for it. They may or may not pay for hosting (doubtful) or support (more likely). It is more likely than not that Pearson’s use or nonuse of Mongo specifically in PARCC is immaterial to the health of the company. I can’t know that for sure without knowing the details of exactly what Pearson contracts for from Mongo, and I’m sure that Mongo would prefer to hold onto such a large implementation regardless of the financial value of the contract, but I am skeptical that this would be a big enough deal for Anhalt Erlichson to be concerned that some bad press about social media related to the use of one product from one of her husband’s company’s many clients is something that would affect her financially. As far as potential conflicts of interests go, this one is a stretch.

  9. jcgrim

    Pearson’s misuse of our kids social networks is one problem within the broader issue of mass data mining. NJ DoEd and the federal DOEd have failed to protect children’s personal information. FERPA was weakened through an obscure tweek in the regs by Duncan’s DoED in 2011. The Dept of Ed outsources kids data to for-profts for “research” & development and permits unfettered access to all of it.
    Once Pearson has a child’s info what do they do with it? Kids social data can be sorted and stratified and sent to hundreds of other companies with zero oversight by the agencies tasked to protect all children.
    Educational data mining is a new discipline that has its own professional organization. Anyone can learn to data mine as these sites are open access. http://www.educationaldatamining.org/
    I found the data mining link through the federal DoEd’s partnership with ‘Project Listen’ at Carnegie-Mellon. http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~listen/research.html
    Once a child’s information is “out there” it’s impossible for a parent to know to whom it was sent. For example, (this is a hypothetical) DoEd sends data (e.g. social, demographic, test scores, discipline, disability status, etc) to Pearson that sends data to The Gates Foundation for research who then sends it to the Dept of Ed who outsources to Mathematica for more research, who then publishes it in IES, who then sends it to Microsoft for development, who then markets it as “research based” etc. All complicated by the fact that the federal Dept of Education fails in it’s partnerships with worldwide for-profit corporations, foundations, educational institutions, etc.to adequately track and regulate children’s private information.
    Marketing products to & for children means huge profits for Pearson and the new multinational Education Management Corporations (EMOs). Which makes me question whether this outsized emphasis on “accountability” isn’t just a smokescreen for the govt. to rig the educational marketplace in favor of profitable privatization schemes and computerized instruction. Accountability begins with the billionaires who profit from our kids data the dept of education that fails to regulate them.

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  12. booklady

    March 11, Pearson announced partnership w. Save the Children to help children in Syrian refugee crisis. £1 million over 3-year partnership. “Every Child Learning” is the theme. Admirable.
    By Friday, March 13, what were NJ children and adults learning?

  13. Joe Frame

    Thank you Mr. Braun for posting this important story (I miss your Star Ledge articles)! I think it is nothing short of CRIMINAL that this amount of time, effort, and money has been wasted which could have greatly benefitted our students. The relationships among the various entities and people outlined in you article is sickeningly indicative of our morally bankrupt “society”.

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