|McDonalds is just one of many|
corporations interested in the program
As described by Commissioner King, the program works much as it does in Hollywood, with corporations paying for the right to have their name (or a product's name) featured prominently during a movie or in this case, an exam. The program has already been tested at several schools around the state, including on this year's Common Core English Language Arts exam. "Oh sure, somebody always complains about something," responded King to a question about selling the state's young to the highest bidder. "But we need the money and the kids are so used to advertising anyhow. They probably won't even notice."
Students at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Queens, which was part of the pilot program, may or may not have noticed that their eighth grade science exam featured several questions "bought" by corporations. For instance, one of the questions prodded students to, "Name a carnivore you see in this drawing." The drawing showed an idyllic pond surrounded by trees and animals such as hawks, deer, fish and a bear. In the background was a factory bearing the name, "Union Carbide."
Another question was sponsored by energy company Con Edison which paid to have its name placed on the roof of a building in a diagram of an electric power plant built next to a river. The accompanying question read, "Describe one positive impact on this type of power plant on the environment." Later Con Ed CEO Kevin Burke admitted that the company doesn't actually operate a single dam.
Other companies wove their product placements in more subtly. For example, one question related to the sexual reproduction of rabbits, featured a footnote that read, "Offspring can be prevented with the use of protection." Although the company's name was not present, Dr. King revealed that Church and Dwight Company, which produces Trojan condoms, had paid for that footnote.
"Sometimes a company wants to put out a message but not have their name directly affiliated with that message and we're o.k. with that," explained King. Though the Commissioner was all smiles at the press conference, there have been some hitches.
|Commissioner King enthusiastically |
described the program.
Still King is enthusiastic about the program's potential. "It could raise an enormous amount of money for some really strapped schools." He gleefully pointed out that Citicorp, Goldman Sachs and AIG are currently in a "very competitive bidding war" to gain the rights to sponsor every exam given at Stuyvesant High School, located in the financial district. "I think they see a natural affiliation with the student body," commented King. "I have instructed my staff that their top priority is to speed and facilitate negotiations between interested parties so that we can see the results on this year's tests and of course in our budgets."
When asked if he saw anything ironic in Dunkin' Donuts sponsoring the final exam for a Mt. Vernon High School class entitled, "Nutrition for the 21st Century," Commissioner King said he would not make such judgments. "Our attitude is that everything is open for discussion."
Several corporation heads were also on hand to answer questions from reporters including, Pepsico's CEO Indra Nooyi. She described the opportunity as, "a marketing dream." "Getting our message out to young people when they are in an excited state, as they most certainly are during an exam, is giving us the chance to create a mental tattoo for our brand." Pepsico paid an undisclosed amount to place their Frito Lay brand throughout the health class midterms at Niagra Falls High School.
Although not yet sponsors, the Education Department admitted that they are currently in negotiation with several high profile companies including: Anheuser-Busch, ExxonMobil, Dow Chemical, BP Global and Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.
Interested in how we came to write this? Go to New Standardized Tests Feature Plugs for Commercial Products and Learn ABC's - & IBM's.