Blood Money: Pearson’s Profit

The Obama administration’s recent, modest change in policy toward No Child Left Behind (NCLB), indicates some response to years of activism and a statistically-based critique of the inadequacies and injustices of NCLB.  One recent critique is Diane Ravitch’s “School ‘Reform’: A Failing Grade.”

It appears that the momentum of the public relations campaign that has been waged against the “positive image” of the public school teacher may be changing.  National Public Radio has started a StoryCorps project “National Teacher,” which will foreground the transformational impact of  educators  on their students.  A new documentary “American Teacher” portrays the real lives of four teachers in the classroom.  Forty-six percent of all teachers quit before the fifth year of teaching; many need to find a second or third job to survive.  Meanwhile, nearly 15 million children in the United States live below the federal poverty level; one-third of all Hispanic children now live in poverty here.  Shouldn’t the cultural focus of the Gates Foundation and friends be a war against poverty instead of a war against teachers and public education?  In the meantime, it is the educator’s selfless act of conscience and  integrity  that makes a difference as we see in “Blood Money” below.

The damage done to the public education system through NCLB and the standardized test movement will take many years to repair.  We now find the same failed standards-based management ideology, which fueled NCLB, making an impact on the rush to  restructure public higher education.  Perhaps, if we are able to articulate the lessons learned from K-12, we may better fight the transformation now underway to cheapen the quality of public higher education through assessment regimes and quick fixes such as charter universities and  for-profit online education schemes.  Texas is well on its way down this path of devolution with Florida racing to catch up.   Texas’ Gov. Perry has cut $4 bil from the state’s health and education budget this year, leading to the potential  firing of 49,000 teachers. Thom Hartmann reports that “43,00 students will lose at least part or all of their financial aid — including 28,000 low-income college hopefuls who will  their entire scholarships” in a state that ranks dead last in the number of residents with college degrees.  Moreover, Eugenie Reich reports in “Texas Holds Firm on Physics Closures” that Texas plans to phase out nearly half of its physics programs at state funded universities this year if they have failed to graduate at least 25 students every five years.  This may seem reasonable but many low performing programs “are in areas with predominantly black, Hispanic or disadvantaged populations. Statistics provided to ‘Nature’ by the American Institute of Physics suggest that some 35% of the undergraduate physics degrees awarded in the United States go to students in programmes that would not meet the Texas board’s requirements for staying open.”  I guess science and engineering degrees will  be just for the children of wealthy Texans.

And as much as we want to support our president, his quote from the Department of Education’s  latest report “Our Future, Our Teachers”  gets it just plain wrong.  He states,  “From the moment students enter a school, the most important factor in their success is not the color of their skin or the income of their parents, it’s the person standing at the front of the classroom… America’s future depends on its teachers”.  According to physics professor Michael Marder, based on his extensive data analysis of students’ standardized text  results in Texas, what matters most is not just the teacher, or whether the school is public or charter.  What matters in improving higher student test scores  is also the socioeconomic and ethnic status of the student.  He invites EVERYONE to check his data.


“Joseph K. is a 24-year veteran of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), a former mentor teacher twice named a Johns Hopkins University Teaching Fellow, who now teaches poor, inner-city children who wake up every morning in their gang-ridden, drug-infested neighborhoods at five a.m. to catch the bus by six.  He teachers the old-fashioned way —by ignoring standardized test scores. Instead of teaching bubbling, he tries to instill a love of knowledge and learning in his students and for this reason will probably be allowed to continue teaching for fifteen more minutes.”  He blogs at The Trials of Joseph K. (http://thetrialsofjosephk.blogspot.com/)/

BLOOD MONEY

Dear Teachers,

We are being asked (key word “asked”) to be trained (key word “trained”, like dogs) by Pearson “Learning” August 29th and 30th. Pearson is going to pay us. Make no mistake, ladies and gentlemen, the money they are going to pay us is blood money. And the blood money they are going to pay us with is our own blood. It is the blood we bled when the Los Angles Unified School District (LAUSD) cuts our pay. It is the blood we will bleed every day when we struggle with larger and larger class sizes. It is the blood Jenny, Isabel, Jared, River, Susan, Summer and all the rest are bleeding right now as they sit home BLEEDING because they no longer have jobs.

It is blood money.

Pearson “Learning” was once a nice publishing house. They printed books under names like Penguin and a number of textbooks primarily in England. They made a tidy profit in the millions of dollars each year. In 2000, as NCLB was being written and discussed, they bought their first testing company. That may or may not have been a coincidence. After passage of NCLB, they bought another testing company. Then they bought another and another and another and another. That was no coincidence. Today they are a conglomerate of testing companies, seven by my count. They have created a vast, powerful TESTING INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX. Their profits are not a few million each year, but a few billion each year and they are growing exponentially.

They employ legions of well-paid lobbyists who infest Washington, D.C., every state capital, and many local school boards. I would love to know how much they contribute to reelection campaigns. They have infested LAUSD which I will explain in a minute. They have one agenda: Profits. Until recently, they had one means to their agenda: Testing. More standardized testing means more profits for Pearson. NCLB is Pearson’s business model. Teachers are laid off, their salaries cut, class size increased, and curriculum narrowed as Pearson lines its pockets with gold.

Consider this regarding standardized testing:

  • high scores often signify relatively superficial thinking
  • many of the leading tests were never intended to measure teaching or learning
  • a school that improves its test results may well have lowered its standards to do so
  • far from helping to “close the gap,” the use of standardized testing is most damaging for low-income and minority students
  • as much as 90 percent of the variations in test scores among schools or states have nothing to do with the quality of instruction
  • far more meaningful measures of student learning – or school quality – are available.

-Alfie Kohn’s  The Case Against Standardized Testing

Standardized tests are DEMONIZING all of us in the inner city, demonizing our union, and being used by almost infinitely powerful economic and political forces in this country to dismantle public education.

And the situation is only going to get worse. [LAUSD Superintendent John] Deasy and [Secretary of Education Arne] Duncan both are pushing value-added standardized testing measures to evaluate teachers. The “LA Times” slanders all of us on a daily basis with its value-added measure on its website. Deasy calls it AGT.

Slander is slander. This year he is bribing teachers with $1,250 (after cutting their pay) to “volunteer” in a pilot project for AGT. “If you volunteer, we will pay you (after cutting your pay.)” To measure “improvement” you need baseline scores (pretests), probably at least one or two interim assessments, and a post test. These tests will be maximally time consuming and VERY expensive. All teachers need to be evaluated, so multiple tests will be given in every subject of every grade multiple times every year. You can bet that Pearson is using its vast influence to get to the front of the line to write (and sell) those tests. As far as I know, they may well have already elbowed out the competition. Their profits will be enormous. And guess where those profits will come from. They will come from you and our students. Your job, if you have one left, will rely on these tests, so you can be damn sure you are going to teach to them and probably teach little, if anything else.

Read this: The Test Generation.

Pearson “Learning” has now figured out a way to “double down” its billions in annual profits, its rape of public education. They are using their publishing arm to sell “Teaching Guides”, “Lesson Books”, etc. so teachers can “better” teach its own tests. Genius. They have created a mobius strip of profit production. We are pawns in their game and they are going to move you two spaces ahead August 29th and 30th.  Don’t think you are getting paid very much for being a pawn. Pawns, if you don’t play chess, are the first things sacrificed.

I reject Pearson and their blood money. I reject everything that they stand for. I reject their endless bubbling. I reject their process of elimination universe. I refuse to be trained like a dog to teach my students how to bark like seals. So should you.

I am drawing my own line in the sand. Public education is going up in flames in this country because of profiteers like Pearson and teachers are going down. I intend at least to have a say in my own demise.

I may show up on August 29th. I will not sign in. I will not touch their food. I will go nowhere near their blood money. If I do show up, it will only be to stand up before everyone and publicly denounce Pearson in much the same way I am doing now. My fantasy is to walk out and have everyone follow; but, alas, that will never happen. It would be nice if some of you would follow, though.

If I do not show up, it will be because I chickened out. Fear is something I understand. In an age of perpetual layoffs and teacher transfers, fear is not without merit. We are surrounded by fear. We are immersed in it. You all will make your own decision regarding the Pearson “training”. You all have your own lives, your own families, your own personal situations. You have to decide what is right for you. I will respect whatever decision you make. Count on that. But consider what is being done to you and our profession by Pearson, companies like it, and politicians who exploit their malevolence. Consider. Consider Jared, Jenny, Isabel, River, Susan, Summer and all the rest. Consider that you are next. We are next.

original post, Friday, August 26, 2011; reposted with permission of the author on October 1, 2011.


Administrative Oppositional Behavior Disorder: An Epidemic

Confession: I rarely watch T.V.  But on a recent Friday night while channel surfing, I stumbled across Jaime Oliver’s “Food Revolution” and was stunned.  The Superintendent and Board of Supervisors for the Los Angeles Unified School District ( LAUSD) have declared war on this crusader chef, who just wants to analyze the quality of the school district’s cafeteria food.  They banned Jaime from visiting any school kitchen or cafeteria in any Los Angeles public school upon penalty of arrest for trespassing, with the excuse that cafeteria food in the LAUSD is just fine.  Jaime, an impressive organizer, had secured some media coverage over his school lockout experience.  Using a radio interview, he asked parents to bring their children with samples of  cafeteria food to his kitchen studio so he could analyze its nutritional value. You can guess the results: overly processed and carbo heavy.  Undefeated, Jaime politely presented himself to the LAUSD Board of Supervisors during their public testimony period. Looking disinterested and chewing gum, some of the board members made a distinctly bad impression as he eloquently requested access to just one Los Angeles public school cafeteria.   Denied. Will they ever let him in?

In the face of an obesity epidemic (14.9%) among children in L.A. combined with more than 30% of L.A.’s children coming to school hungry, you would think that the Superintendent and his Board would leap at the opportunity for “free” consultation with an expert who knows how to improve the quality of food in a cost effective way. Their pride is apparently more important than our children’s health.

I have testified in front of the CSU Board of Trustees and Chancellor about their poorly planned policies implemented without faculty consultation. The most recent one is Mandatory Early Start.   Rarely do they look up from text messaging or email during anyone’s public testimony.  I know exactly how Jaime Oliver feels: the disbelief and despair at non-experts shunning your own knowledge as irrelevant.

We have so many administrators and “managers” now in the public education business who refuse to listen to faculty expert advice.  They dismiss the input of talented teachers with experience in the classroom; consequently, they  make bad policy decisions that impact the lives of millions of children across the country.  We have so many politicians like this with power to dismantle and privatize public education.  They simply refuse to listen.

This type of destructive policy implementation appears to have gone viral.  It is a specific managerial behavior pattern: the inability to admit that you might be wrong, to openly consider a wide range of opinions in order to solve a complex problem, to adhere to ethics, to consider evidence that may contradict one’s ideology or beliefs.  This behavior reflects a lack of empathy.  It leads to superficial, data driven, education experimentation on other people’s children. Let’s label it  “administrative oppositional behavior disorder” (AOBD).

This personality disorder, now found among politicians and education managers, fosters the implementation  of  bad policy.  It is Governor Scott Walker‘s behavior in Wisconsin, sneaking a bill to dismantle collective bargaining rights for teachers through his legislature by overriding the state constitutional process for open discussion. It appears in the form of the New York State Board of Regents and Governor Cuomo’s decision to increase the percentage of student test scores required for teacher evaluations to 40% in the face of significant, quality evidence proving that type of data misjudges teacher effectiveness.  Did they do it for Race to the Top money?  Does that make it okay?

AOBD appears in Washington DC in the form of Arnie Duncan who commissions a NCEE and OECD study — “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: An American Agenda for Education Reform”– and then dismisses its criticism of No Child Left Behind. To dismiss constructive criticism, especially when one has asked for it,  is a weakness of character.  Yet we see this disorder everywhere, with the aim of slash-and-burn dismantling and privatization of the  country’s public education infrastructure. Some people are making off like bandits through the redistribution of public funds provided by this opportunity of privatization.  It will take our entire global village of empathetic teachers, parents, and allies working together to turn this juggernaut around.

COLLEAGUES:  PLEASE SUBMIT YOUR GUEST BLOG  FOR POSTING TO TERI.YAMADA@GMAIL.COM


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