Pearson for Profit

For my summer classes I had to buy several books that left a sting on the old pocketbook. One book, though, really rubbed me the wrong way. The book, Curriculum Development: A Guide to Practice, cost me $134.11! That’s pretty salty for a book that doesn’t even have nice pictures. For that price I would expect the book to read itself. Anyway, what really burned me was when I received the book and found out it was published by Pearson.

If you know anything about Pearson, you know that they have their fingers tightly entwined in the education market. Pearson’s influence in education is widespread from K-12 education through college. Pearson owns Connections Academy, a virtual charter school conglomerate with schools in 24 states. They have a cooperative agreement with the University of Phoenix, the largest for profit post secondary school in the country. They are also “partners” with the CCSSO, one of the so-called creators of the CCSS. The CCSSO works closely with none other than Jeb Bush. The list goes on and on but I need to include that they are also involved in providing assessments for PARCC, GED and SAT. Wow, that’s a lot of influence for one publishing company. How did that come to be?

Well, that is rather simple. Pearson has influenced federal and state government over the last three years to the tune of about $5.5 million. Interesting that greasing the palms of politicians will get you a seat at the front table when contracts are handed out. Interesting that as a new need develops in the realm of education Pearson is there quickly with a solution. Not ready to devise a solution but with a ready made solution.

So, what’s the problem? The problem is this. Education is being construed as a means to make a profit. So called reformers develop reforms and then someone makes a fortune filling the gap created by the reform. The reformers and the hole fillers aren’t even educators. For the most part, they are anti public education. Jeb Bush? Bill Gates? Michelle Rhee? The Walton Foundation? All known associates of Pearson have suggested that public education is failing. But, public education needs Pearson because they conveniently have all the tools required by state and federal guidelines.

Am I going to go broke because I had to buy a $134.11 book? But for a company who sides with the people who believe in free market education, it seems strange that they have cornered the market in so many areas of public education.

Trust Me ;)

“Integrity has no need for rules.” -Albert Camus

This week the graduate program led us to the topic of trust in the workplace. In my estimation there probably couldn’t be a timelier subject for educators. Not sure that it is the same everywhere but trust is no where to be found in the Pennsylvania Department of Education. I had an unfortunate conversation last week with a teacher in our building. Noticing that the implementation of the PA Common Core Standards had been pushed back a year, he wondered if it was due to the new teacher evaluation and PDE thinking it may not be fair to evaluate teachers on an assessment that contained new content. I laughed out loud. I wish I would have held on to some of that naivete that allowed me to think that PDE had the best interest of teachers and schools at heart. I say it was unfortunate because I probably should have held back but I didn’t. I assured him that if PCC was pushed back it had nothing to do with teachers, it probably had to do with money. I had lost my trust in my “employer.” Not that I work directly for the PDE but don’t all of us answer to their mandates?

I don’t believe my distrust is misplaced. Recently the Bureau of Assessment  the long arm of the PSSA, determined that beginning this year, all teachers who administer or proctor the standardized assessment will be trained by a computer module that will be completed online. This job was previously completed by the building principal or school assessment coordinator. Apparently there is no trust in the way that was being completed. (Read: we are all cheaters or at best half-assed at our jobs). In addition we received a communique from PDE telling us exactly how we must discipline our students if they are caught with cell phones during the PSSA or the Keystone Exams. You know, because if they don’t tell us, we don’t have the capacity to use our common sense. They don’t trust the administrators who are responsible for the results.

One more, just for good measure. Currently in New York and California administrators must undergo “calibration” training sessions in order to assure that there is interrater reliability when using the Framework for Teachers. Oh, how I wish I was kidding. It’s coming to Pennsylvania too if it is not already here. You should read the article in the link. I don’t think I can explain it any better.

I know what you’re thinking: “What’s so bad about making sure that everyone is seeing the same thing?” Well, the problem is that we do this everyday. We have a vision for our school and believe it or not we work hard to make sure that we have the best schools that we can have. We definitely don’t need a non educator telling us how it should be. Bill Gates is an extremely intelligent guy but he never spent a day with 30 teacher and 500 kids. He is the hero of calibration. And we feel like the trust is gone. 

I could go on. Tom Corbett’s assault on PSERS not to mention education funding in general. Michelle Rhee’s, another non educator, report card for public schools. Jeb Bush’s Cheifs for Change, Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top and his RESPECT Project. Corbett is the only teacher in the group and the knew pretty early that he couldn’t do the job. There’s not even any indication on the PDE website indicating that Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis ever taught. But why does that matter, Arne Duncan never taught.

Trust? Trust who? It does make sense to rebuild education from the outside. I would want a lawyer telling my doctor how to improve my health and the doctor would be a great help in expanding the mechanical capacity of my mechanic. I think the dentist should critique the local cop during a ride along or may he can go with the fire company. 

Like my grandfather used to say, “You can trust a dog to watch your house but you can’t trust him to watch your sandwich.”