Could product placement be a part of standardized testing? Some New York parents are wondering if there is a partnership between corporations and the company who published the new common core standardized English tests after their children told them the tests included brand names, products, and slogans.
These tests are kept private, so posting questions or any discussion of them from teachers is not allowed. School instructors have commented anonymously on education blogs saying that students were confused by the brand names and trademarks in the tests. Products and brand names appeared on the common core standardized English tests in New York for children in grades three to eight. Parents were left with concerns that this might have been paid product placement.
Though teachers may have been placed on a gag order, which also prevents them from preparing their students for these tests, some pupils are speaking out about the questions. Deborah Pope, of West Hempstead, NY, has a son in eighth grade who stated that some of the questions felt like ads. For example, one question specifically mentions Mug Root Beer, which is a registered trademark of PepsiCo, when discussing a busboy who did not clean up the spilled soda beverage.
Other brands mentioned include Nike, iPod, Barbie and LifeSavers. Pope’s son questioned why it seemed he was trying to be being sold something on a school test. It appeared that brand inclusion in these new tests is specific only to New York at the present time. Education officials in that state and Pearson, the test publisher, both are denying that they have received any compensation from the above mentioned companies for placing their brands and product names in the tests.
Nike claims it was completely unaware that its brand name and slogan, “Just Do It” were included in the common core tests. According to some of the students, the question that regarded Nike was about being a risk taker, and it did include the slogan.
Sam Pirozzolo, from Staten Island, has a fifth grader who came across the Nike question during the common core test taking. Pirozzolo wondered why Nike was included, and said that he was sure they could have used a historical figure who took risks and invented things.
Kelly O’Keefe, who works as a marketing professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, stated that it would have been best for Pearson to not have included brand names in their tests, even if they were not not getting paid to do so. He stated that education, religion and civic life all were places where brand names were not welcome.
The New York State Education explained that area teachers developed, edited, and reviewed the new common core tests. This has not been the first debate common core has raised, and it has previously been stated by the Foundation for Excellence in Education that the common core state standards define what students need to know. They do not define what teachers should teach or how students should learn. The Foundation also explained that local teachers, principals, superintendents and school boards would continue to make the decisions about curriculum and how their own certain school systems operated.
Diane Ravitch, who works as a historian and a professor of Education at New York University, wrote that there was not one classroom teacher involved in the writing of the standards for these common core tests. She claims instead that the writing of the standards was done by a small group made up of organizations that are heavily funded by the Gates Foundation. It is a well known proven fact that Bill Gates is a major supporter of common core.
Several eprincipals and teachers from New York have participated in demonstrations and protests in an effort to make their complaints about the tests heard. However for the time being, the inclusion of brands in these tests is limited only to New York state. Yet as more states adopt common core standards, only time will tell if brand names, products and slogans will continue to be included in standardized testing in any other states.
By Ashley Campbell