Teach for America

BOYCOTT PEARSON NOW!

Pearson, ALEC, and the Brave New (Corporate) World:
Stand Up to Pearson Now!

(Publisher’s Note: We have revised our Boycott Pearson boycottinformation for clarity and in order to add additional research – please use this version, posted April 29, 2012, when sharing.)

 

Supporters of Public Education,

The curtain has been pulled aside recently from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), exposing the seedy underbelly of our democracy. Organizations like ALEC circumvent the democratic process in favor of corporations. Financial resources are used to influence public officials and provide model legislation meant to easily pass through state houses of governance. Recent examples include infamous “Stand Your Ground” laws and others that seek to limit the voting rights of marginalized populations. Education reform legislation is also part of ALEC’s agenda, with substantial sponsorship from corporate funds to divert the flow of valuable taxpayer dollars away from public schools.

ALEC-inspired advocacy for public education reform typically follows a path to privatization; that is, viewing educational practices vis-à-vis economic and capitalist principles. Strict school choice models, vouchers, private charter management organizations, and the erosion of collective bargaining rights are all examples of the economic management of public education. As opposed to a valuable public good, certain entities prevalent in the education reform debate are forcing schools to motivate themselves by profit and competition. What it means to be an educated person (e.g., college and career ready), what is important to teach (e.g., common standards), and how success is measured (e.g., standardized tests) are currently under significant transformation without the thorough vetting via democratic processes. And with the frustration and confusion ensuing from rapid developments occurring behind closed doors, outside the public spotlight of democracy, there are large corporations conveniently present to sell us products that will solve all of our problems.

Pearson is one such entity that as of late always seems to be at the right place and precisely at the right time. In other words, just as new legislation is passed, as new educational mandates are set, Pearson is suddenly able to provide the legions of educators and school systems clamoring for some kind of answer with just the right product. How can this be? In recent years, this once relatively small publishing house turned itself into a massive provider of a range of educational products, from traditional print materials for the K-12 sector, higher education resources and technology solutions for public school systems. It is one thing to have various products to sell and to allow the marketplace to judge their success or failure. It is another matter to reorganize the rules so that Pearson products are all one needs to buy to satisfy a range of emerging Federal and State education mandates.

For better or for worse, education reform in the United States is largely controlled by legislation. It appears then that Pearson is successfully implementing a two-pronged approach: grease the democratic process in their favor so that certain rules must be followed and from the other side perfectly match their own products so they have exactly what can be bought to satisfy those requirements. Pearson, through connections to ALEC, has become the dominant provider of education resources and services in the K-12 and post-secondary markets. The following are some of the affiliations that made this perfect alignment possible:

  • Pearson acquired the Connections Academy, whose co-founder and executive VP is Mickey Revenaugh, is also the co-chair of the ALEC Education Task Force. In September of 2004, Connections Academy was sold to an investor group led by Apollo Management, L.P. In the fall of 2011, Pearson acquired Connections Education, establishing a leading position in the fast-growing virtual school segment and the opportunity to apply Connections Education’s skills and technologies in new segments and geographic markets.
  • According to Pearson’s website: “Pearson Education and the University of Phoenix (a subsidiary of Apollo Management Group), the largest private (for-profit) university in the United States announced a partnership which will accelerate the University’s move to convert its course materials to electronic delivery.” [emphasis added]. As such, Pearson will certainly provide the materials and the mode of transmission. It must also be stated here that many for-profit universities have been under investigation for student loan fraud and unethical recruitment practices. The CEO of AMG, Charles (Chaz) Edelstein, was Managing Director of Credit Suisse and Head of the Global Services group within the Investment Banking division, based in Chicago. He is also on the Board of Directors for Teach for America, which is a provider of temporary and inexperienced teachers and also frequently associated with corporate education reform. One prominent name in this regard is TFA alum Michelle Rhee, the failed former Chancellor of DC public schools.
  • America’s Choice was also recently acquired by Pearson. This organization is directly associated with the Lumina, Broad, and Walton Foundations, all active members of ALEC. They each promote so-called “innovations” that appeal to the corporate and for-profit mindset.
  • Bryan Cave, LLP is the lobbying firm for Pearson. Edward Koch is currently one of the partners at Bryan Cave. Edward Koch sits conveniently and comfortably on the board for StudentsFirst NY, a branch of the national initiative StudentsFirst, which is the brainchild of failed former Chancellor of DC public schools Michelle Rhee. It must also be stated that Rhee’s tenure is under a dark cloud of investigation for rampant test cheating and tampering in the district.
  • Pearson is contracted with Stanford University to deliver the Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA) to more than 25 participating states. According to Pearson’s website, “TPA is led by Stanford University, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, and Pearson.” Furthermore, “Pearson’s electronic portfolio management system will support candidates, institutions of higher education, and state educational agencies by providing registration and account management services, submission of the portfolio for scoring and results reporting.” [emphasis added]. Pearson provides the administrative management skills and broad-based technology and delivery systems that will support the Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA) and bring it to a national scale. Stanford University’s Office of Technology Licensing (OTL) selected Pearson to provide these needed services for the TPA. Let it be known that the U.S. Dept. of Ed. is currently considering teacher preparation programs to be evaluated based on accountability measures similar to public schools.
  • Sir Michael Barber is the current Chief Education Advisor for Pearson. It is no secret that Mr. Barber is a powerful advocate for the free-market approach to education, including union busting, merit pay, and turning public schools into privately run charters.
  • Pearson contracts with Achieve to manage the PARCC assessments. Achieve is funded by Lumina, State Farm (both members of ALEC) and The Alliance for Excellence in Education (AEE). AEE chairman Bob Wise is a regular contributor to and participant with the ALEC educational agenda. Moreover, PARCC awarded Pearson a contract in January to develop a new Technology Readiness Tool, which will support state education agencies to evaluate and determine needed technology and infrastructure upgrades for the new online assessments. Pray tell, who will sell those upgrades?
  • The Tucker Capital Corporation acted as exclusive advisor to The American Council on Education (ACE) and Pearson on the creation of a groundbreaking new business that will drive the future direction, design, and delivery of the GED testing program.
  • The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) partners with a whole cast of other organizations that promote a corporate, anti-public education reform agenda. CCSSO Central “partners” include (among others) McGraw-Hill and Pearson. CCSSO Director Tom Luna works closely with Jeb Bush, whose associations with ALEC and corporate-reform are too numerous to mention.
  • GradNation is a special project of America’s Promise Alliance, sponsored by Alma and Gen. Colin Powell. Grad Nation sponsors include State Farm (ALEC), the Walton Foundation (ALEC), AT&T (on the corporate board of ALEC), The Boeing Company (ALEC), the Pearson Foundation and Philip Morris USA (ALEC). The GradNation Summit list of presenters reads like an ALEC yearbook.
  • Gen. Colin Powell sits on the Board of Directors for The Council for Foreign Relations, which issued an “Education Reform and National Security” report (co-chaired by Joel Klein and Condoleeza Rice, directed by Julia Levy). The report states, among other things, that: “The Task Force believes that though revamping expectations for students should be a state-led effort, a broader coalition … including the defense community, businesses leaders, the U.S. Department of Education, and others … also has a meaningful role to play in monitoring and supporting implementation and creating incentives to motivate states to adopt high expectations. The Defense Policy Board, which advises the secretary of defense, and other leaders from the public and private sectors should evaluate the learning standards of education in America and periodically assess whether what and how students are learning is sufficiently rigorous to protect the country’s national security interests.” [emphasis added].
  • According to Susan Ohanian: “In the introduction to the Education Reform and National Security report, Julia Levy, Project Director, thanks ‘the several people who met with and briefed the Task Force group including the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Mary Cullinane formerly of Microsoft [Philadelphia School of the Future] [now Vice President of Corporate and Social Responsibility for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt], Sir Michael Barber of Pearson and David Coleman of Student Achievement Partners …’ They were briefed by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Pearson.”
  • Pearson has partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to create a series of digital instructional resources. In November 2011, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave ALEC $376,635 to educate and engage its membership on more efficient state budget approaches to drive greater student outcomes, as well as educate them on beneficial ways to recruit, retain, evaluate and compensate effective teaching based upon merit and achievement (the Gates Foundation recently withdrew its support for ALEC under the heat of public pressure). However, their billions of dollars still flow to other far-reaching organizations dedicated to dismantling public education.
  • The National Board of Professional Teaching Standards is a private-sector member of ALEC. Bob Wise (Chairman, of NBPTS) and Alliance for Excellent Education presented on “National Board’s Fund Initiative to Grow Great Schools” at the Education Task Force Meeting at the 2011 ALEC annual picnic. According to the NBPTS website, they “announced that it has awarded Pearson a five-year contract for the period 2009-2013 to develop, administer and score its National Board Certification program for accomplished teachers. Pearson will collaborate with NBPTS to manage its advanced teacher certification program in 25 certificate areas that span 16 subject areas.”
  • Pearson has also acquired partnerships with companies to deliver PARCC, SAT testing, GED testing, and was the central player (through Achieve) in the design of the National Common Core Standards. The GED Testing Service, while wholly owned by the American Council for Education, entered into a joint venture with Pearson to transform the GED for some 40 million adult Americans (one in five adults) lacking a high school diploma. This is an entirely new market.

Even with all of Pearson’s efforts, they are not the only game in town. McGraw-Hill is another publisher forging similar connections and making money hand over fist due to NCLB-mandated reading programs like Open Court and SRA Reading Mastery. Of course, after billions spent on Reading First and the McGraw-Hill materials, the federally funded evaluation of the program showed no increase in reading comprehension by third grade. McGraw-Hill is also one of the biggest test publishers in the U.S. and publishes the CTBS, the central competitor to Pearson’s illustrious SAT-10.

The legislation forced upon states to adopt the curriculum (i.e., the Common Core) and its required testing measures (i.e., PARCC) essentially eliminates the possibility of consumer choice (supposedly a key concept in free market ideology) and requires that taxpayer dollars for education be handed over to Pearson and McGraw-Hill as the sole providers of nearly all educational resources available to the schools. It is frightening that Pearson, profiting billions from public education, is simultaneously operated by and sponsors organizations that promote the destruction of public education. It is essentially forcing the public to pay for the demise of its own education system.

It is possible that Pearson and its allies will deny and attempt to refute the information bulleted above. Perhaps the magnitude of their efforts will project the magnitude of their guilt. Whatever the semantics here, if a connection is really an association, if ownership is actually sponsorship, or if partnership actually means membership, it is interesting and coincidental that the above cast of characters constantly find themselves associated with each other. Additionally, the common friend to all seems to be Pearson.

If Pearson is truly interested in profit, as all corporations typically are, then consumer pressure is the best way to be heard. We at United Opt Out National are calling on everyone to take a stand against Pearson by doing any or all of the following:

  • Refuse to buy their materials or adopt them in your courses or for personal use.
  • Bring these concerns to local PTAs, school boards and libraries.
  • If required to use Pearson products due to professional obligations, do so under public protest.
  • Promote the use of ACT rather than SAT, as SAT is a Pearson product.
  • Inform Pearson of your actions.
  • If you are in higher education, discuss your concerns with your local Pearson representative, informing them that for these purposes you are not going to adopt their materials in any of your courses.

Raise public awareness so the brakes can be put on this madness. Please click here to see Education News’ sample letter, which you are encouraged to share so that others may refuse Pearson products.

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This article is written by or from a variety of publications on EducationViews.org on March 11, 2013 and is published in Education News.
Education Newshttp://educationviews.org/boycott-pearson-now/#
Please visit their site to read the Pearson Boycott Letter
and to sign your name and intention to Boycott Pearson
in their Comment Section by clicking here

Excellence Happens in Vegas

Cross posted from EduShyster’s blog.
Keeping an eye on the corporate education agenda.

It’s time once again to climb aboard the rephorm express. Today we’re headed west, to Vegas, baby: home to the legendary Strip, the Hoover Dam, and these days, plenty of excellence, Teach for America style. Alas, what happens in Vegas likely won’t be staying there for long…First, allow me to lay it on you historical style. Once upon a time, back at the peak of the economic boom, Nevada’s most populous county was opening upwards of 10 schools and hiring 2,000 new teachers—every year. Then the economy imploded thanks to the greed of a great many people who were not teachers. Fast forward a few years and the excellent leaders of Las Vegas have at last identified the source of Sin City’s persistent woes: teachers. You see, it turns out that most of the teachers here are of the low quality, low expectations variety, single handedly stifling the hopes and dreams of Vegas’ youngsters, leaving them without the skills necessary to join the city’s low-wage, low-skills workforce.  Fortunately, reader, where there is a simple, glaring problem, a silver bullet solution lies within easy reach. I give you—drum roll please—Teach for America.

Exellence happens
In recent years, Las Vegas has imported excellence to the tune of hundreds of outstanding young TFA recruits. And just like the Chinese laborers who once tunneled through the Rocky Mountains in order to bring the Transcontinental Railroad west, there is no challenge so tough that excellence can’t bore right through it. Take for example the ballooning class sizes—as high as 50 in required classes—resulting from teacher layoffs and a years’ long fiscal crisis. Here’s TFA alum turned Nevada Board of Education member Allison Serafin on how huge class sizes are no match for excellence.

How do you prepare teachers for Clark County’s large classes, which are among the nation’s most crowded?

Serafin: We don’t allow class sizes to be an excuse for lackluster achievement. You control what kind of teacher you are and what your students learn. If a member is struggling with a large class, we’ll find teachers who have succeeded with many students and see what we can learn.

Problem solved, or as Clark County’s 55,000 English Language Learners might say:¡problema resuelto! In fact, that is most likely what our young ELL friends will say, given that many of the district’s ELL teachers have been laid off and that Nevada is one of just a handful states that don’t provide any extra funds to educate students who are still learning English.

Excellence rises to the top
But there I go again, making excuses. In the time it took me to type that last excuse, two more TFA alums were elected to statewide office on a “no excuses” platform. I kid you not, dear reader. It turns out that in Las Vegas, the TFA excellence adventure merely begins in the overcrowded classroom—then it’s onto bigger venues, like the Nevada State Board of Education, which is now home to two TFA alum. Armed with nothing more than then high expectations and a combined $300,000, raised primarily from out-of-state sources, these fearless young leaders are introducing the Board of Education to some serious TFA-style excellence. Fortunately Allison Serafin and Alexis Gonzales-Black have some powerful friends, like philanthropist-turned-education-advocate Elaine Wynn, two-time-former-wife of odious Vegas bazillionaire Steve Wynn and the new president of the State Board of Education.

Excellence meets the apocalypse
There remains but one question for us to answer, dear reader: is there a way for the tax payers of Nevada to increase their stake in the excellence project that is Teach for America? Good news again. In his state-of-the-union address, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval announced that the state is ponying up $2 million to bring still more TFA recruits to the Sagebrush State. Of course not everyone here is rolling out the welcome mat for the excellence express. Take the residents of Towne Terrace, a down-at-the-heels apartment complex in downtown Las Vegas, purchased by Zappos magnate (and Alexis Gonzales-Black employer) Tony Hseih who dreams of repopulating the entire area with more than 1,000 TFA corps members and alum. Except that the residents of the Towne Terrace made it exceedingly clear that they had no interest in being evicted to make way for excellence. Oh well, next time…

Do you wish that you were excellent? Send comments and self-improvement tips to  tips@edushyster.com.

Andre Agassi Charter Schools

Andre Agassi Charter Schools

Andre Agassi was a great tennis star and continues to be a celebrity.  Lately, he is an education investor.

Agassi may have good intentions.  He may be trying to help a distressed and poverty riddled community in Las Vegas.  Philanthropy and schools mixed with a dash of banker on the side.  It’s likely that his charter activities are making himself and his friends rich.

http://www.agassifoundation.org/andre-agassi-blog/

Agassi provides up-front money.  He uses his connections to fund raise.  And he has managed to create a template for charters.  In fact, he is joining other sports heroes in the charter school reform movement (Magic Johnson and Deion Sanders).

http://www.agassiprep.org/

Agassi has been so “successful” — he is attracting big money investors to expand his charter creating operation.

http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jun/02/business/la-fi-agassi-fund-20110602

Former tennis star Andre Agassi has joined with Los Angeles bankers to create an unusual for-profit investment fund for construction of as much as $750 million worth of charter schools in urban communities across the country.

The goal of the fund is to develop 75 schools serving 40,000 students over the next three or four years while earning a financial return for investors, which include Citigroup Inc. and Intel Corp.

So what makes Andre Agassi the tennis star and investor bankers and real-estate brokers experts in education?  Good question.  Just ask them – they will tell you.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/02/andre-agassi-charter-schools_n_870670.html

Charter schools have become a new investment fad. More →

Walmart and the School Reform Movement

Now on Sale at Walmart, Education Rephorm

Diane Ravitch referred to this blog today which wryly makes some excellent points.
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Walmart is leading the effort to give low-income Americans more ¢hoi¢e in education, while insuring that they remain low income.

It is a well known fact that students who attend our union-stifled public schools are ill prepared for their future careers—at Walmart. That is why Walmart is leading the effort to fix our failing schools by introducing some much needed competition into the public education monopoly. Much like shoppers at Walmart have a choice of many different Chinese-made goods, education consumers will soon have a veritable all-you-can-eat buffet of edu-choices. All this is thanks to the efforts of the Walton Family Foundation, which has plunked down a cool $1 billion worth of Walmart profits to transphorm public education.

In this cool new video, the Waltons lay out their ambitious vision for education rephorm:

…So reader, when you rush to your local Walmart to enjoy Black Friday bargains, ignore the protests taking place at 1,000 different stores across the country and be sure to give a friendly shout out to Low Income Stick Figure Mom. Sure her life sucks: she’s not getting a raise, AND she had to work on Thanksgiving. But thanks to the efforts of the Walton family, she and her kids have a bright, rephormy future to look forward to.

Please read this entire blog from EduSchyster.com (keeping an eye on the corporate education agenda) please click here

To read Diane Ravitch’s comments, please click here