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Testing Corporations Rake in Cash While Teachers Sell Plasma to Survive

Keep in mind, both teachers and test makers are being paid with public tax dollars. 

"We take teachers for granted. We value the work they do but not the people who do that work." (Photo: John Raby/AP)

"We take teachers for granted. We value the work they do but not the people who do that work." (Photo: John Raby/AP)

If you want to get rich in education, don’t become a teacher.

Open a charter school or take a job at a testing corporation.

Sure, charter schools are elaborate scams to make money off children while providing fewer services.

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Sure, standardized tests are just corporate welfare that labels poor and minority kids failures and pretends that’s their fault.

And teachers? They’re just the people who do all the actual work of educating children. Yet there’s never enough money, never enough resources for the job they do.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of public school teachers in Pennsylvania is between $53,000 and $59,000 per year.

Compare that with the salaries of the people who make and distribute the state’s federally mandated standardized tests – employees at Data Recognition Corporation (DRC).

DRC publishes numerous assessments in various states. However, in the Keystone state, the corporation makes everything from the Pennsylvania System of School Assessments (PSSA) to the Keystone Exams in Algebra, Literature and Biology.

At its 14 locations across the country, the company has more than 750 full time employees and 5,000 seasonal ones used mainly to help grade the tests.

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According to glassdoor.com, a site that showcases job listings, here are some openings at DRC and their associated salaries:

Test Development Specialist – $68K-$86K  
Quality Assurance Analyst – $77K-$83K  
Technology Manager – $77K-$84K  
Business Analyst – $81,856  
Software Developer – $83,199  
Psychometrician – $95,870  
Senior Software Developer – $96,363

So teachers spend 180 days in overcrowded classrooms with fewer resources than they need – often forced to buy school supplies for their students out of pocket – to get their students ready to take the high stakes tests.

Meanwhile, the test makers sit in luxury office buildings taking home tens of thousands of dollars more just to make the tests that students take over the course of a few weeks.

And these corporate test employees DO work in luxury.

Here are some of the benefits they receive listed on DRC’s own Website:

“DRC offers a comprehensive benefits program that allows employees to make choices that best meet their current and future needs.

Key Benefits:

  • Choice of medical plans
  • Choice of dental plans
  • Flexible spending accounts
  • HSA account
  • 401K savings plan
  • Profit sharing
  • Short- and long-term disability plans

Wellbeing Benefits

  • Paid vacation
  • Paid holidays
  • Personal time off
  • Workout facilities/locker rooms at select locations
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Community service hours
  • Discount programs
  • Adoption assistance
  • Fitness classes
  • On-site massage
  • Walking paths

Convenience Benefits

  • Business casual attire
  • On-site subsidized cafeterias
  • Dry cleaning pick-up and delivery
  • Company store

It’s funny. Some folks get all in a lather about the much less extravagant benefits given to teachers, but I’ve never heard anyone in a rage about these benefits being paid to corporate test makers.

And keep in mind, both teachers and test makers are being paid with public tax dollars. YOU are funding the test makers on-the-job massage break just as you’re funding the public school teachers trip to the doctor for anti-anxiety meds.

The Pennsylvania legislature has entered into three contracts with DRC through 6/30/21 for services related to standardized testing for a total of $741,158,039.60, according to State Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D-West Chester).

That is your money funding the test makers workout facilities and flexible spending accounts. You pay for their walking trails, fitness classes, dry cleaning services and subsidized cafeterias.

Meanwhile, public school teachers – who do the bulk of the work educating children – are left struggling to make ends meet.

According to estimates by the National Education Association (NEA), teaching salaries from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia have stagnated by 2.3% in the past 15 years.

But that’s way better than in most parts of the country.

In West Virginia, teachers across the state went on a 9-day strike to get a 5% pay raise.

Teachers in Arizona and Oklahoma are planning their own strike due to even worse neglect.

In Oklahoma, some educators have actually had to resort to selling plasma in order to survive.

KOCO News 5, in the Sooner State, reported on a fifth grade teacher at Newcastle Elementary school, Jay Thomas, who sells blood to supplement his income.

“I’ve got a permanent scar doing that. Just did it yesterday,” Thomas said.

“I’ve been doing it for a couple of years. I’ve given over 100 times. It’s twice a week.”

 Though Thomas has been an Oklahoma teacher for 16 years, he makes less than $40,000 a year after taxes.

Selling plasma nets him about $65 a week.

And if you think Thomas is the anomaly, when this story was spread on Twitter, other teachers responded that they do the same, some even including pictures of themselves at the blood bank.

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This is why there is a teacher shortage in many states. This is why fewer college students are entering the field. And it is why many of those educators who have stayed in the classroom are considering strikes.

We take teachers for granted. We value the work they do but not the people who do that work.

Meanwhile, we give extravagant rewards to the corporate vultures who provide very little for children but divert funding that should be going to educate students – the standardized testing corporations and the privatized school operators.

If we really want to improve our education system in this country, the first step is to value those who work in it.

We need to turn the money hose off for unnecessary expenses like standardized testing and allowing charter and voucher operators to pocket tax money as profit.

And we need to spend more on the people in the trenches day-in-day-out making sure our children get the quality education they deserve.

We need to give teachers the resources and respect they need to succeed and end the scams of high stakes testing and school privatization.

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Steven Singer

Steven Singer

Steven Singer is a husband, father, teacher, blogger and education advocate. He often writes at his own blog here.

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