Common Core Giant Pearson to Sell Financial Times to Focus on Education

Common Core publishing giant Pearson PLC will sell its Financial Times newspaper to focus more sharply on its education businesses.

The London-based Pearson will sell FT Group, which includes the Financial Times – one of its primary media assets – to Nikkei Inc. for $1.32 billion as the company invests more capital to advance its education businesses, its biggest revenue-maker.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Pearson generates about 60 percent of its sales in North America and 75 percent of its revenue from education. American Marjorie Scardino, who ended her tenure as Pearson chief executive in 2012, turned the company into an education giant. She was succeeded by current CEO John Fallon, who oversaw Pearson’s two-year restructuring plan.

Though Pearson predicted a hike in its group sales amid the recovery of its education markets, which, in the United States, focuses on curriculum textbooks and software, as well as testing and digital learning technology, Liberum financial expert Ian Whittaker says the publishing company’s education operations remain “deeply challenged.” Sales fell four percent last year, with revenue from North America dropping three percent.

Pearson, which has provided the standardized tests aligned with the controversial Common Core standards for inter-state test consortia PARCC, has watched the “death spiral” of the federally funded test group as state membership has dropped from 26 to possibly fewer than 10. In addition, earlier this month, the state of New York announced that it would drop Pearson as its test vendor, giving a $44 million contract instead to Questar Assessment Inc., a smaller, Minneapolis-based company.

PARCC has been under further scrutiny because its chairman, Mitchell Chester, is also the commissioner of K-12 schools in Massachusetts, a fact that has led to criticism regarding a potential conflict of interest, since Chester will make a recommendation later this year to the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education about whether to replace the state’s MCAS test with the PARCC test.

Amid the unpopularity of the Common Core initiative in the United States, more of Pearson’s services are now online, and the company is boosting its global appeal with English-language schools, private higher-education campuses, and digital classroom programs in China, Brazil, and South Africa, reports the WSJ.


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