Who knew that parties involved in the business of school assessment could end up in federal court? Consider a U.S. magistrate who ruled against an education entrepreneur and plaintiff in a breach-of-contract case with a global education and information firm over the amount of bonus payments tied to an employment agreement.

Dr. Judy Codding is the plaintiff. She alleged that Pearson PLC and Pearson Education, Inc. did not promote her "Pearson System of Courses" under the terms of the employment agreement and a modified release agreement that provided financial bonuses for school assessment course offerings in California and New Mexico that she had co-created.

Codding’s employment agreement with Pearson Education, Inc. in part assigned her the task of signing up "several customers, such as LA Unified School District," according to the ruling.

One thing is clear. There is money to make in the business of assessing the English language arts and math education of K-12 schoolchildren.

In court documents, Codding alleges that the defendants "modified the bonus provisions under the employment agreement" that should have continued when that pact ended.

There is a history here. She took part in the writing of the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and math that California, the U.S.' most populous state with over 6 million K-12 public school pupils, has adopted along with 41 other states.

According to U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler’s July 27 ruling, Codding's claims should have but did not target Pearson PLC only. Pearson Education, Inc. is a subsidiary, or entity, of Pearson PLC. "That is a basic mistake and easily correctable," David Levine, a professor of law at University of California, Hastings in San Francisco, told MultiBriefs.

Further and more problematically, the plaintiff failed to meet the pleading standards of evidence, e.g., adequate detail, according to Levine.

To wit, Judge Beeler wrote that Codding’s "allegations against Pearson Education are conclusory." In other words, her case jumped to a conclusion rather than showing on the allegations of facts why the plaintiff thought that the defendant breached a contract.

Beeler wrote: "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations, which when accepted as true, ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’" She cited a U.S. Supreme Court case of Ashcroft v. Iqbal 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570), which has to do with the pleading standards, and not substance, of such cases, according to Levine.

For example, Judge Beeler ruled that Codding failed to make an adequate case for the monetary damages she alleges due in part to insufficient sales efforts on behalf of Pearson Education, Inc. The relevant details

The judge gave Codding 21 days from the July 27 ruling to amend her claims, i.e., correct the errors, in the case. Codding filed an amended complaint against Pearson Education, Inc. with exhibits, and blackline on Aug. 8.

A Pearson spokesperson did not respond to a MultiBriefs request for comment.