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Posted at 5:30 AM ET, 03/ 1/2011

College prep credential scam

By Jay Mathews

Jerry Heverly, a high school English teacher in the San Francisco Bay area, posted a comment recently that resonated with me and other readers. He suggested that the money his school and others pour into getting more kids ready for college is a waste.

You may remember Heverly's imaginative two-day stint as a guest columnist here at the Struggle several months back. I told him I would post his comment and let readers debate his jaundiced view of what has become a big industry in educational services---closing the college prep gap. Some of his numbers refer to the column he was reacting to---my rant about the holes I saw in a big Harvard Graduate School of Education report, "Pathways To Prosperity."

Is Heverly right to doubt the worthiness of the programs his school is asked to fund? What should he say to persuade his school committee colleagues to stop falling for what Heverly sees as something of a con?

By Jerry Heverly

I'm on my school's governance committee (called the Site Council: it includes parents, students, admin, teachers) and we are making financial decisions right now based on what I think are false assumptions, assumptions that originate from some of the numbers you cited.

First I'm told in these meetings that because a majority of our students drop out before getting a degree that we must spend money to hike up our college prep credentials. I believe the 40% completion rate reflects quite sensible cost-benefit calculations that young people make every day. {Insert stipulation here that some kids are ill prepared} Read David Labaree on 'credential inflation'. Read Marty Nemko on the inflated cost of a college degree.


Second, I'm told that only 13% of our juniors are 'college ready' as determined by a test originating with the California state universities. I believe there are very real budgetary motives for the CSU system to claim the vast majority of our students are deficient.

I teach ninth grade English and I'm convinced that 13% of my frosh are already fit to survive in the CSU's (which are equivalent to the state teacher's colleges back East). Again, my school wants to spend big bucks on teacher training gurus who promise to teach us how to prep kids for the CSU test. I don't buy the assumption and don't want to waste the money. But I regularly get out-voted.

The more I experience the world of public education, the more I realize that numbers have consequences that IMHO squander real dollars based on facile readings of these statistics.

Read Jay's blog every day, and follow all of The Post's Education coverage on Twitter, Facebook and our Education Web page.

By Jay Mathews  | March 1, 2011; 5:30 AM ET
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags:  40 percent college drop-out rate, Jerry Heverly, college prep classes, students right to leave college  
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Comments

Thank you, Jerry Heverly.

Everybody, please focus your responses on on this point that Jerry makes,
" Again, my school wants to spend big bucks on teacher training gurus who promise to teach us how to prep kids for the CSU test."

Yeah, my school, too. At our faculty meeting yesterday, they anounced that a vendor had been selected for the next round of professional development.

All the Turnaround Partners have a stable of consultants, who have all manner of strategies to raise scores on all manner of tests. The whole "reform" movement is a con game that doesn't EVEN raise the scores, though. Everybody has a share but the kids, parents, communities, and actual classroom teachers. People we used to trust, like Harvard and the Post, are looking at us as just another feeding opportunity. Let's open the whole can of worms Harvard they are selling us.


These examples are from an EdWeek compendium last July, "E-Education Inc. Seeks the Mainstream":
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2010/07/14/36ebiz.h29.html?qs=kaplan+k12

Harvard has one of the biggest shares, because it is at the top of Bill Gates' leveraged charity list for a reason. "Take Apex Learning. Currently funded by various venture capitalists, Apex was started in 1997 by Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen..."

The Washington Post Corporation rakes in billions:
"Kaplan Virtual Education, based in Hollywood, Fla., was launched in 2007 by its 78-year-old parent company Kaplan Inc., which is owned by The Washington Post Co. Now the e-learning company has full-time virtual schools in seven states and provides hybrid courses in six states. The course catalog numbers over 200."

If you wonder how Jay could support Michelle Rhee's cockeyed statistical ratings, consider this:
"One of Kaplan Virtual Education’s top services, he said, is data tracking."

Rupert Murdoch just bought his first share in data tracking for $670 million, and now wields Wireless Generation, a bogus instrument to "rate" public schools and force them to buy the crap other shareholders sell. So, we circle back to the mission of raising test scores.

Mathews lied when he told me he'd either print my guest post about Kaplan K12 or discuss it himself. Eventually he claimed he needed his editors' approval, then dropped it. He's got a share, too.

Posted by: mport84 | March 1, 2011 6:38 AM | Report abuse

It's the "Purdueing" of education.

Posted by: ericpollock | March 1, 2011 6:49 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, It's the "Perdueing" of education.

Posted by: ericpollock | March 1, 2011 6:50 AM | Report abuse

Cal Poly compares to a state teachers' college? I know that wasn't the point of the article, I just stopped reading there.

Posted by: jenniej | March 1, 2011 9:15 AM | Report abuse

It's not entirely clearn whether Jerry Heverly objects to spending money on test prep more because it's ineffective, or more because college attendance is not the automatic entree into the upper middle class that it is sold as, or both (I happen to agree with "both.")

Posted by: jane100000 | March 1, 2011 11:13 AM | Report abuse

It's really hard to tell whether Mr.Heverly has a valid point for his school based on anything here. However, here's an excerpt from the minutes of a San Leandro school district(I assume that's where he teaches) school board meeting.
" ...highlighting state and federal testing results. The information included California Standards Test (CST) results in English Language Arts, Math and Science; state Academic Performance Index (API) results; and federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) results; and Program Improvement status for several schools. The information presented showed that San Leandro school and the district as a whole have shown improvement in test scores over the past three to four years, but that improvement has been at a slower rate than other school systems in Alameda County...Cassidy observed that San Leandro had the lowest aggregate API growth in Alameda County compared to similar districts and that we were 'struggling at the middle school and high school levels' while doing better at the elementary level."
It sounds to me like Mr. Heverly is taking a page out of the teachers unions latest play-book, namely that people don't really understand the statistics and there isn't really a problem, and if there is a problem it's the fault of poorly performing students and their families and corporations who think they can make money out of a manufactured problem. Many teachers, their union leadership, and political allies are really playing a fools game. All the data and anecdotal evidence says there's a problem. Even teachers and school administrators who aren't drinking the teachers' union cool-aid come to people like me and say there is a big problem, particularly in school districts with large poor and minority populations. People are mad and aren't going to take it any more and if the teachers unions don't get on board they're going to get moved out of the way. I'm a liberal life long democrat and I'd hate to see that happen, but our children come first.

Posted by: david_r_fry | March 1, 2011 11:29 AM | Report abuse

for mport84---I apologize for not clearing up with happened with your piece. I didn't lie. I honestly thought at the time I could post what you sent me, but my editors vetoed it. We were preparing a news story about the Kaplan situation at the time and they preferred to go with that. I seem to recall that you posted it on another blog. If so, feel free to comment here and include that blog post's address.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | March 1, 2011 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Jay Mathews: Is it true that Guy Brandenburg was a former WTU negotiator?

Posted by: frankb1 | March 1, 2011 6:25 PM | Report abuse

From Education Week:

COMMENTARY: What Is Behind the Discrediting of Michelle Rhee? By Richard Whitmire

"What struck me about the backlash Rhee experienced in Washington was the cloak of protection everyone afforded the city’s teachers.

Politicians, parents, Washington Post columnists—they were all quick to rush to the defense of beloved teachers, citing their dedication and years of loyal service.

The fact that the District of Columbia ranked as the worst school district in the nation and that similarly poor, African-American children fared far better in other urban districts (as much as two years ahead in learning) seemed not to warrant a mention.

What mattered was that Rhee was questioning their life’s work."

Full commentary at:
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/03/02/22whitmire.h30.html?tkn=LXOFroJ1jb4CCbCbzG7zOxUTDdVZShKaSIC5&cmp=clp-edweek

Posted by: frankb1 | March 1, 2011 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Jay, you just said that you allowed the Post editors to censor your column to protect their business interests. You claim you didn't lie. The truth just slid out from under you slowly, when you let your editors' lie stand there and take the place of your own words.

There was never any Kaplan story printed in the Post, unless you mean their attack on the GAO investigation that uncovered the stomach churning Kaplan higher Education unit's frauds against veterans, low-income students, and taxpayers.

This link is the first story that comes up on a search of Edweek for Kaplan K12:
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2010/07/14/36ebiz.h29.html?qs=kaplan+k12

I'm still calling on YOU to discuss it, up there below your own byline where the world can see. You may remember that was my original request to you.

Write your own piece disclosing the Post's financial involvement in for-profit "virtual" public schools, secretly opened under district charters without the knowledge of local taxpayers, especially in the state of Florida where the Kaplan K12 business has flourished under the Republican governor you promote in your video interviews.

Every column you write on these questions is a lie, until you disclose this conflict. Defend the for-profit virtual charters if you want, but disclose them UNDER YOUR OWN WAPO BYLINE. The very fact that you're afraid to do that shows its importance.

You are a free man, and no editor can choose for you.

Posted by: mport84 | March 1, 2011 10:54 PM | Report abuse

" I believe there are very real budgetary motives for the CSU system to claim the vast majority of our students are deficient."

I'm skeptical. They're way past the point of remediation being beneficial. But in case they are...

"Second, I'm told that only 13% of our juniors are 'college ready' as determined by a test originating with the California state universities."

Your school's mean SAT scores for verbal and math are 470 and 450, which is about 80-100 points below the Cal State SAT cut off to get out of remediation. And they make the SAT cut off higher than their own EAP cutoff.

That means two things: First, you can benchmark their claims if you can get your school's standard deviation for the SAT averages.

Second, and more importantly, it is FAR easier to coach kids to get the needed SAT/ACT scores than it is the EAP. The EAP is a one time shot, but students can take the SAT/ACT as many times as necessary. There's far more competition for SAT/ACT tutoring, which means the prices are lower.

Besides, higher SAT/ACT scores are currency at all colleges, not just the CSU, so by investing in SAT/ACT coaching, you are helping kids get into any college (and out of remediation) not just CSU.

I'm not sure if you're right about the CSU's financial motive, but if you want to do something about it instead of just go with conspiracy theories, then strongly advise your school to invest in sponsoring SAT/ACT prep. I recommend the ACT; I'm currently teaching an ACT course for first generation college students and have had a lot of success helping kids avoid remediation at CSU. (Note: I am a full time school teacher, this is NOT an advertisement for my services. I'm just demonstrating I have experience to back up my recommendation.)

It's ironic that Jay is helping you express your fuss about this possible conflict of interest, given that he pushes the APs on everyone and encourages taxpayer funding for the manifestly unprepared to take expensive tests.

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | March 2, 2011 12:07 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Mathews-

In the Washington Post Guy Brandenburg is referred to as "a former DC math teacher." The link below though (from his blog) suggests he was also a WTU negotiator.

http://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2010/04/09/tentative-agreement-your-thoughts/

Isn't the fact he was a WTU negotiator hugely relevant to the news reader in assessing his credibility as a source? Why would the Post keep that information from readers?

Here's the relevant excerpt from the Post news story:

"A former D.C. math teacher, Guy Brandenburg, posted on his blog a study that includes test scores from the Baltimore school where Rhee taught from 1992 to 1995. The post, dated Jan. 31, generated intense discussion in education circles this week. In it, Brandenburg contended that the data show Rhee "lied repeatedly" in an effort to make gains in her class look more impressive than they were."

Posted by: frankb1 | March 2, 2011 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Mike DeBonis, before he joined the Post, identified him as a WTU negotiator in his Washington City Paper column:

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/citydesk/2010/04/12/fenty-makes-his-case-loose-lips-daily/

Are journalistic standards for such things lower at the the Post than at the Washington City Paper?

Posted by: frankb1 | March 2, 2011 9:00 AM | Report abuse

I'm confused about Heverly's claim about the 13% of his freshman students whom he feels are "college ready" vs. the 13% of juniors deemed ready by the CSU readiness test. Is he saying that it's the same 13% and the rest of the kids are hopeless so why bother putting them in college prep classes? That seems like an awfully pessimistic view IMHO.

Posted by: CrimsonWife | March 2, 2011 10:12 AM | Report abuse

for mport84---If it is yr view that everything I write about Kaplan is a lie because i work for the Post, then it seems like there is not much use in my making the effort, at least from your perspective, particularly since we have reporters who have been following this closely and know more than I do. The piece I am referring to was written by Nick Anderson, and I am much more comfortable with his handling it. I haven't spent much time covering higher ed and prefer to stick with stuff I know. I do however appreciate yr comments on the subject here, which I am sure interest many other readers of this blog besides me. I thought your views deserved a separate item but my editors disagreed. That happens sometimes in the news biz.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | March 2, 2011 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Jay, this is about public elementary and high schools, not Kaplan Higher Education. It's about the Kaplan K12 Virtual Charter Schools, that are secretly tapped into the public school budgets in 6 states, according to Education Week. That's what the guest post was about.

Remember, you claimed you hadn't known about all this, back in November? And you were sure you were willing to disclose it?

It doesn't seem possible you are truly confused about the difference between private colleges and public K-12 schools. I have to believe you are still trying to hide the fact that the Post directly profits from the public education policies it recommends.

Nick Anderson only wrote about the college fraud charges. He never disclosed the Post's secret, public elementary, middle school, and high school virtual charters, that scavenge displaced CHILDREN in public school districts, to collect their per diem funding. Even with the Edweek link right in front of you, you are still denying they exist.

This (again) is what you're all hiding:
http://www.kaplanonlineschools.com/district/solutions

Posted by: mport84 | March 2, 2011 4:34 PM | Report abuse

@mport84,
could you give a clear summary of what your complaint is in regards to the kaplan k-12 virtual online education services, particularly as it relates to Jay's Columns? I can't really figure it out from what's written here, and I don't understand what the connection is with Rupert Murdoch. I might be missing something that was covered under a prior column. The school district I'm the most familiar with has a real need for these kinds of services, but unfortunately the teachers unions and their allies have been fighting them, seeing them as a threat. It's a shame because the school district doesn't have the resources available to adequately serve students who can't come to school for one reason or another. These include students who are sick, have been suspended, or have become homeless and are residing in temporary housing until they can get permanent housing. Unfortunately there are a lot of these kids and most of them in the district I'm familiar with currently get housed in whatever temporary housing facilities are available, frequently miles from the district. There are also students who just can't adjust to a normal classroom(adhd, etc) who do great using these kinds of services. These aren't charter schools. Where are you getting that idea? It probably would be a good idea for Jay and other Washington Post writers to mention prominently that Washington Post owns Kaplan when they are discussing related issues, that that isn't the case here. Also,what does Michele Rhee have to do with Kaplan or this column? Maybe I'm dense but I'm just not following it.

Posted by: david_r_fry | March 2, 2011 7:55 PM | Report abuse

I'll try, david_r_fry. Succinct.

First, the expansion of online education for children with no other option is being accompanied by an explosive increase in the number of children with no other options. The policies and people supported by the Jay in his column drive educationally disasterous processes that trap children and communities, and leave them at the mercy of inferior for-profit programs. The programs are hidden from oversight and accountability by supposed proponents of oversight and accountability.

Jay writes columns promoting the education management careers of Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee, and Jeb Bush claiming these (former) public officials are serving children, without mentioning WaPo's financial interests at all. People need the information about Kaplan K12 so they can judge policy in a clear light.

Joel Klein closed schools in New York City; communities lost their right to demand education for their specific kids; children who aren't desired by showpiece charters Jay promotes are shunted into inferior for-profit programs like Kaplan; students are transferred from comprehensive academic services against their will, to for-profit online "credit recovery" mills. Klein degraded test scores and instituted a school evaluation instrument under no-bid contract to the for-profit Wireless Generation Inc, and used it to justify shutting New York schools; Rupert Murdoch bought Wireless Generation for $670 million and hired Klein, straight out of his NY Public Schools chancellor's job, to run his new for-profit public education services; Murdoch is quoted in business publications as saying there is a $500 billion revenue stream in public education waiting to be tapped. Fox News reporters attack teachers and denounce public education. Like the WaPo writers, they work for hidden interests.

Michelle Rhee did similar things in DC, and also contracted a slew of other Kaplan programs while she was chancellor. I have posted links for all these, instead of sleeping sometimes, but don't know how to be more succinct.

Jeb Bush promoted Kaplan K12's market expansion while he was governor of Florida, and the current governor continues to do so. You look at the Kaplan website I linked and find a potentially useful service. Okay, I just ask Jay to disclose it and defend it, as you did, under his own byline.

My specific concerns with that particular page are that it promises a dedicated accountant to capture public revenue, and offers to start "partnerships" with the "look and feel" of district charters, hidden from the taxpayers. Since you accuse teachers in your district of opposing policies for venal reasons, I'm surprised you are so generous in your trust of a corporation like Kaplan.

Posted by: mport84 | March 2, 2011 11:23 PM | Report abuse

@mport84,
You lost me after the first sentence. The school district I'm the most familiar with, on the average, has a lot of kids who need either online learning services or tutors to visit the home. You're absolutely correct that the numbers of these kids has grown because of the economic downturn. The total number of kids, however, is very variable and the district goes through periods where most of these kids get no educational services until they return to school. I'm pretty sure that there are a lot of districts like this around the country. What happens after these kids return to school is that they are expected to make up the work they fell behind on on their own time with little extra help. What actually happens, since a lot of these kids have part time after school jobs for real economic reasons, is that they keep falling farther and farther behind, get worse and worse grades, then they just give up and drop out. A service like the one Kaplan is providing is a godsend. What I'm told is that the teachers union fought this type of service for years since they claimed it violated their contract. Now that the district has 2 schools that are being required to "transform" or possibly close, or have the entire faculty and staff replaced, due to bad test scores and a high dropout rate, the teachers union has backed off. The institution that will provide the services hasn't been selected yet, but I believe Kaplan is one of possible options. There's a real need for these kinds of services and to be honest I doubt if most school districts are in a position to offer them. We don't expect school districts to make their own school buses, and this is the same sort of thing. We certainly don't expect hospitals to make their own x-ray machines or design their own patient tracking computer systems similar to those that are desperately needed in k-12 education today. Of course we're going to have to be forever vigilant to make sure crooked politicians, corporate executives, and occasionally journalists(I'd be amazed if Jay is one)don't game the system to their own benefit. I'd like to point out that there is a similar problem involving teachers, teachers unions, school administrators, crooked politicians, etc, etc, and its a real problem that has been going on for years that involves a lot more than $500 billion.

Posted by: david_r_fry | March 3, 2011 1:39 AM | Report abuse

Heverly complains in this post, "I believe there are very real budgetary motives for the CSU system to claim the vast majority of our students are deficient."

In my own state, community college students are required to take math placement tests from a for-profit vendor bafore they are allowed access to the public institution's math courses. A math teacher at one of the colleges tells me the tests are bogus; they contain oddball material with specialized notations that baffle talented and capable math students who would be welcome in her classes. The students are forced to purchase test training services from the for-profit contractor to raise their scores on this specific test. I can't even name her school, because the vendors have powerful connections, and she isn't tenured.

In July, Kaplan Ventures LLC was relaunched, looking to buy up promising for-profit start-ups in expanding public education markets. Qualifying tests, training for those same tests, teacher evaluation instruments, and online vocational preparation are among the many for-profit Kaplan markets which are expanding, at public tax expense.

In Jay's original critique of the Harvard Vocational proposal, he claimed neither public schools or businesses could offer suitable vocational training. He gratuitously denigrated working vocational teachers, without basis or evidence.

That leaves for-profit providers like Kaplan with an open field, I think, in contracted public vocational education services. WaPo had an agressive business expansion plan in place already, and now it has to make up the revenue lost due to the exposure of its outright fraud in higher education. Enrollmants are down.

The Washington Post Corporation took a write-down for the damage to its Kaplan Higher Ed subsidiary's reputation and good name (about $26 million, as I remember). It took another, equally large write-down for the Kaplan K-12 brand, and seems to be rebranding and selling off product lines, and buying others.

It's hard to recognise specific vendors for public school curriculum packages like the ones Rhee bought for DC. I could only track partway back through the Kaplan website to the names of 26 different products and services vended to DC, and none includes the word 'Kaplan'.

Posted by: mport84 | March 3, 2011 2:08 AM | Report abuse

So, David, who do you actually work for?

You say, "What I'm told is that the teachers union fought this type of service for years since they claimed it violated their contract." Who tells you these things? There is no such history by any mean old bogey-man teacher unions I know of.

You say, "Now that the district has 2 schools that are being required to "transform" or possibly close, or have the entire faculty and staff replaced, due to bad test scores and a high dropout rate, the teachers union has backed off."

That shows how Kaplan needs somebody like Rhee to discredit and destroy schools, so it can scavenge the per-diem payments for the stranded children.

Then you say, "The institution that will provide the services hasn't been selected yet, but I believe Kaplan is one of possible options." I somehow don't think this is being discussed at public meetings. Don't you think the taxpayers should be party to this information?

Who are you really? You aren't one of Jay's minders from the Company, are you?And weren't you being dishonest when you claimed you couldn't even follow my argument?

Posted by: mport84 | March 3, 2011 2:30 AM | Report abuse

@mport84,
The school district I'm referring to above is Albany City School District, NY. Almost everything I'm referring to above can be found by going to albanyschools.org, then going to the board of education sub-site and looking at the meeting minutes, or if you are really a glutton for punishment link to their web casts and watch entire meetings. If there is anybody reading this column who is interested in how k-12 education is done in this country, which I assume is almost everybody or you wouldn't be reading Jay's column, and who has never been to a BOE meeting I suggest you watch one of these webcasts. I think that anybody reading this who is universally negative on the educational establishment in this country won't be after watching one the videos. Remember that almost everybody in that room has already worked a full day and isn't being paid anything extra for being there. The teachers and other school district employees at that meeting all are probably underpaid. The teachers that call in sick the maximum number of days a year, then read the newspaper when they're actually at school and are suppose to be teaching should all be fired. Take my word for it that if you replaced all of the latter a big chunk of the educational problems in this country would disappear overnight. Until the former rise up and make the unions cut bait on the latter the unions and the teachers they represent are going to be in jeopardy. I'm pretty certain that somewhere in all those minutes and webcasts is a discussion of the online learning services being proposed and a list of the options they are looking at, etc. I'm sorry but you lost me again with your last post, although I'm getting a better idea of where you're coming from. What does Michelle Rhee have to do with Albany? Also, you have your causal relationship backwards. The two schools are in danger of being closed in part because they aren't adequately providing the types of services that could be provided by somebody like Kaplan. Even if these schools are "destroyed" that won't create any more students requiring those services than there are now. Even the teachers unions now recognize the need for these services. If you have somebody you trust to review your posts before you actually post them I'd suggest you have them do that. To me they come across as paranoid and incoherent.

Posted by: david_r_fry | March 3, 2011 10:00 AM | Report abuse

No, no, David: be fair. My 11:23 answer to your request for succinctness is all paragraphed and organized. It's complicated, because there are nation-wide political, social, and financial interests in play.

Whereas your 1:39 AM reply is (perhaps understandably) a disorganized heap. Then, my 2:30 AM rebuttal at least manages to tease out three of your specific assertions with which to take issue.

Now you had all the way to 10:00 AM to actually read my argument, and you still didn't. I was at work all that time, and I assume you were, too. I, for one, had no time for the genteel pleasures of checking out the WaPo online.

I can't fathom the relevance of any teacher somewhere who you think has used up his sick days. I have over 200. So what?

I'll stray from succinctness. I feel I've gotten to know you, and am just chatting. I only knew one experienced teacher once who used all his sick days; he was in a car wreck with his whole family. We had no sick day bank at the time, and we fellow teachers chipped in for the rest of the year to keep the family in their home while his wife was going back and forth between him and their sons in the hospital (I had taught both sons chemistry. It was a harrowing time but it ended with a small miracle). We now have a sick bank, which has been called on by younger teachers for pregnancy complications or extended illness. My dearest friend at work passed away suddenly last spring; pancreatic cancer is so fast, she didn't even have time to make a dent in her sick days.

Does our cushy teacher sick leave bother you? In any case, it is all transparent, and that's all I'm asking of the for-profit businessmen (yourself, perhaps?). Everybody in the community knows my salary to the penny (it's in the local paper every year), and I also mention it from time to time to my students, to explain why we can't just "chill" until the bell rings.

I answered your because you asked for clarification (which I appreciate), but it looks more than ever, to me, like your mind-set is driven by narrow self interest.

You say you're "pretty sure" the issue of hiring for-profit online providers appears somewhere in the reams of minutes of Board meetings. That statement shows that you did, indeed, become aware of it by some other means. How about letting us in on it?

Posted by: mport84 | March 3, 2011 6:06 PM | Report abuse

mport84 - "for-profit" is not equivalent to "bad". Many high quality services are delivered at competitive prices by for profit companies. Most of the textbooks and educational materials are provided by for profit providers, such as Pearson. You appear to be focused on particular for-profit services that displace traditional teaching services. I assume this is because they threaten to disrupt your livelihood, but I really don't think that they do.

There are always going to be scammers out there trying to take advantage of the programs on offer. My father, a former teacher, principal, and superintendent, works inspecting charter schools in several large urban districts, and schools that don't work can get shut down pretty quickly- and schools that parents don't choose simply won't survive financially.

In fact, the ridiculous aspect of all of this is that the prices of the online services are going to continue to drop. When players like the Khan Academy are out there, free websites to learn basic skills like reading and math are out there, and when districts and states get it together to "open source" their curriculum online, a new level of differentiated instruction is going to evolve. If you are currently stuck with a classroom of students that have a 1-4 grade level range in ability, it can be difficult to structure lessons that all students find challenging and that don't "leave children behind". By providing more differentiated instruction via automation, these kinds of materials are going to allow students to move forward as fast as they can.

The changing role of the classroom teacher is going to be figuring out how to use all of these amazing resources that are available with the group of students they are given. Forget whether your textbook or test is from a "for-profit" publisher, a non-profit, a state agency, a co-op, or an open source collaboration, what matters is how good it is and how you use it.

Good luck, and thanks for caring enough to fight to make things better. Just be sure you aren't fighting against things that, when used appropriately, could make things better.

Posted by: staticvars | March 3, 2011 11:52 PM | Report abuse

staticvars, I mentioned that I've accumulated over 200 unused sick days in my present district. Although I graduated from UCSC with Department honors in the comprehensive, I've taught at Dimock Health Center in Roxbury and at a California tribal college, for about $20K a rear.

I taught at Brighton High in Boston in Juliet Johnson's first year as principal, as a district sub, way below union scale because I supported what she was trying to do. I'm certified in chemistry, biology, physics and math in two states. I still believe the best use of the magnificent education California gave me is to put it directly into the service of any roomful of low-income young people, a day at a time. Yes, I'm an original education reformer and "agent of change".

If I speak out about the real damage being done to education by the hostile takover strategies of hidden financial interests, why would you answer, "I assume this is because they threaten to disrupt your livelihood"?

Did you read the Edweek piece I cited? Did you follow what Kaplan did to it's low-income ADULT students to harvest your tax dollars? The for-profit drive to capture public education is a corporate wrecker strategy.

Am I talking about YOUR livelihood here? If so, you are wrecking something precious, to suck out the marrow, and you know and care NOTHING about teaching. And by the way, Google Pearson Turnaround partners.

If, instead, you are an educator, don't count on being able to get at the free content on the internet. Venture capitalists are finding ways to suck a profit out of it, because they have nothing educational to offer of their own.
“Content is very expensive,” observed Michael Moe, a co-founder at the Chicago-based venture-capital firm NeXtAdvisors LLC. But Mr. Moe and other venture capitalists think there’s a better road for e-learning companies to take in the years ahead: using open content available on the Internet.

Posted by: mport84 | March 4, 2011 6:12 AM | Report abuse

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