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State Is Investigating Pearson Foundation Trips

Thursday, December 22, 2011 - 08:16 AM

Back in October, Michael Winerip in The New York Times reported in his On Education column about trips for education officials provided by the Pearson Foundation, the nonprofit arm of Pearson Education, the large testing company.

On Thursday, Winnie Hu reports in The Times that the state attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, is now investigating whether the foundation acted improperly to influence New York State officials by paying for the trips and other perks.

Specifically, the attorney general’s investigation is looking at whether foundation employees improperly sought to influence state officials or procurement processes to obtain lucrative state contracts, and whether the employees failed to disclose lobbying activities in annual filings with the attorney general’s office.

The contracts referred to: a recent five-year, $32 million contract for Pearson Education to administer state tests, and another $1 million contract for testing services with the State Education Department.

The last contract was awarded after David M. Steiner, then the state education commissioner, attended a conference in London in June 2010 that was organized by the Council of Chief State School Officers and underwritten by the Pearson Foundation.

Dr. Steiner, now at Hunter College, said on Wednesday that "there is zero link" between his trip and the contract. The state Education Department also denies any impropriety. Nevertheless, subpoenas have been issued. Stay tuned.

Also in the news, the Downtown Express reports that a new principal has been selected for the new Peck Slip School in Downtown Manhattan. The school, which many parents say is not coming soon enough, will be built in the old Peck Slip post office near the South Street Seaport to take some of the pressure off schools that are bursting at the seams in lower Manhattan.

Heading it will be Maggie Siena, who is now principal at Public School 150 in Greenwich Village. Her appointment was announced at Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s School Overcrowding Task Force meeting on Monday, the Downtown Express reports. She will finish out the year at her current school, it says.

Gotham Schools had an interesting report on Wednesday about the technological innovations going on at Academy for Careers in Television and Film using Google Apps for Education. The techie and dynamic principal of the Queens school, Mark Dunetz, is using Google Apps for Education and an array of digital tools for his students.

On SchoolBook, parents at P.S. 116 Mary Lindley Murray have been reacting to the news that their proposals to alleviate overcrowding at the elementary school in Murray Hill, Manhattan, have all been rejected by the city's Education Department. They have been posting on their school's page on SchoolBook. Join the conversation there.

And if you think the public school -- or private school -- choice process is full of both despair and joy, check out The Choice blog on nytimes.com. High school seniors from around the country who are in the midst of the application process are blogging about their experiences in a series called, "The Envelope, Please."

Kyu Nakama, a student at Brooklyn Technical High School, writes about his worries: "With college right in front of me as the next step to conquer, it has morphed into something a lot more daunting. It has become my future, my career, my dreams, my everything. College had become the key to the rest of my life. Yet, I still have to grab it."

Kyu (pronounced Q, he writes), trust us, somehow it turns out O.K.

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