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Pearson’s Bet on Common Core Fails to Pay Off

Pearson PLC, the world’s largest education company, made a major miscalculation on the Common Core academic standards, expecting a windfall that failed to materialize as it headed into a downward spiral in sales, stock price and staff.

The company’s Common Core strategy ran into trouble on two fronts: It struggled to develop and deliver new digital courses on time, as the academic standards themselves faced a political backlash in which several states pulled out.

Pearson’s strategy included a digital curriculum for the common academic standards approved by most U.S. states starting in 2010, and a vigorous pursuit of standardized testing contracts that backfired. Those were among several factors that hurt the U.K.-based Pearson, exacerbating a decline in U.S. college textbook sales that company executives say is the primary culprit for its problems.