"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, August 04, 2006

McGraw-Hill & Bush: The Graft and the Twig

Monty Neill posted this commentary at ARN:

August 3, 2006

Bush ties prove to be lucrative

William L. Bainbridge

Country western singers Tim McGraw and Faith Hill have been getting far more attention than the publishing giant with a similar name that has been quietly gathering in our tax dollars like a hungry squirrel getting ready for winter.

With sales of $6 billion in 2005, publishing giant McGraw-Hill, no relation to the talented musical performers, produced an annualized return of 19% last year. Critics of President George W. Bush's administration have been vocal about the Bush and Cheney family ties to defense contractors at a time of war and, more recently, to their ties to the price gouging gasoline producers. Few, however, have noted the close and profitable relationship between the Bushes and the leadership of McGraw-Hill.

President Bush has managed to keep his family's nearly eighty-year relationship- with the McGraws alive and well - - a relationship that, according to THE NATION , began between the President's grandfather, Prescott Bush, and James McGraw Jr., great uncle of current McGraw-Hill Chairman Harold McGraw, III in the 1930's.

While it is generally understood and accepted that exchanging favors among business friends in the private sector is common practice, the ethics of such practices between government officials and private business interests is another matter. Examples in the defense arena and among Washington-based lobbyists such as Jack Abrahoff have been broadly documented. Such patterns have contributed to the downward spiral that has resulted in record low public approval ratings for the current President..

Less visible are relationships in other sectors that have proven to be no less lucrative. Consider the following:

· Our state governments will have spent as much as $5 billion with private firms in the next two years in direct costs to develop, score and report the Bush administration'

s "No Child Left Behind" law tests designed to record student performance. This is the estimate from the federal Government Accounting Office. Only four companies tend to control test development: (1) CTB, a testing division of McGraw-Hill, (2) Texas-based Harcourt, (3) Illinois-based-Riverside and (4) London-based Pearson. McGraw-Hill's CTB division appears to be dominating this lucrative new industry with contracts in nearly half the states. Is it because they have a superior product and entered into the criterion test market arena first? The test publishers have spent millions with officials in government and at some foundations on reforms that produce more corporate profits rather than substantive benefits for students.

· The National Reading Panel adopted standards for a heavily scripted phonics program, favoring the nation's largest phonics publisher, McGraw-Hill's "Open Court." McGraw-Hill's representatives dominated the panel and the same pubic relations firm worked on the federal plan that promoted "Open Court" in Texas, under then Governor George W.. Bush. The findings were billed as "scientifically based" built on its "success" in the Houston Independent School District. This alleged success has since been found to be predicated on an educational statistics numbers scandal.

· U.S. government speakers at conferences have been accused by education leaders of crossing an ethical line by endorsing McGraw-Hill products including "Open Court" and SRA/McGraw Hill's "Direct Instruction."

· The Association of American Publishers (AAP) sent a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Education indicating concern that some programs were receiving explicit preference. "We request that you again clarify that there is no federally approved list, in this case for assessments, for which Reading First funds can be used," AAP said.

· Harold McGraw III, whose companies are major beneficiaries of federal education funds to school systems, was appointed a member of the current President's transition advisory team.

· Harold McGraw III also was appointed to (1) the Board of Directors of oil company ConocoPhillips, (2) the Chairmanship of the National Council on Economic Education and (3) the Education Task Force of the Business Roundtable.

· Two former U.S. Secretaries of Education received the Harold W. McGraw Prize in Education. When one considers the influence the U.S. Department of Education has over school system spending with educational publishers, should accepting such and award from a publisher raise questions?

Some would consider these matters as additional examples of the culture that has been widely reported as permeating the present White House. It is difficult to see how such attitudes and practices benefit children, and contribute to taxpayers' efforts to support improved student performance.


William L. Bainbridge is President & Chief Executive Officer of SchoolMatch, a national educational auditing, research, and data organization. bainbridge@schoolmatch.com

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