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

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Pearson Turns Montgomery County Into Corporate Curriculum Showroom

There was good reason for educational publishing and testing corporations to celebrate Bush's arrival in Washington. After looking over the NCLB plan, Chief executive of Pearson Education, Peter Jovanovich, quipped to Education Week in February, 2001: "This almost reads like our business plan."  

Now some might think that Pearson would be nervous with a new Administration (D), but we know that money is entirely bipartisan, so there is nothing to worry about for Pearson stockholders.  In fact, one of the authors of NCLB, Sandy Kress, is an avowed "Democrat," and he now lobbies for Pearson.  The other connections between Pearson and the Obamaites await the investigative reporting that the education media is entirely immune to.

The connections to today's ED are already producing results.  Last year, for instance, Pearson's profits were up by 46 percent, and this year things will only get better for Pearson.  I have not seen the details, but I suspect the new deal that they have signed with the whores prostisuits who run Montgomery County Schools will include something like the "Bright Beginnings" curriculum and testing for PreK and K, which was developed by former Bush ED appointee, Dr. Susan Neuman.

And with the new curriculum aligned, somehow simultaneously, with the new national standards that have just been announced, too, this will make Pearson the frontrunner for developing the national test to go with the national curriculum, both of which will surely make all American children in the corporate welfare schools equally stupid prepared to compete in the global economy.

Some details here from Valerie Strauss on the new sweet deal between Pearson and MCPS:
Some may call Project North Star a pretty smart deal. I would use less flattering words to describe the deal into which Montgomery County Public Schools just entered with the world’s largest for-profit educational publishing company to nationally “brand” a newly created K-5 curriculum.

Under the arrangement
, the school district will effectively turn its classrooms into Pearson Education Inc. showrooms, and sell to a private company the right to trade on the system’s high-achieving reputation, built over years with public funds, to enrich itself.

Other than that, there’s nothing wrong with the contract.

Oh, wait. Yes, there is.

Under the contract, Pearson will provide the county with up to $4.5 million in development funds -- one half of which will be “considered an advance against future royalties.” So the total is really something like $2.25 million to hire people to collaborate on a new curriculum to be aligned with the newly released Common Core standards for math and English language arts.

The school system, which has applied for a federal grant to obtain public money for this enterprise, would get a maximum 3 percent of royalties on domestic sales beyond that amount, my colleague Michael Birnbaum wrote in a Post news article.

The contract hails the arrangement as an easy way for the cash-strapped school system to make money, especially since it was already planning to revamp its curriculum and now will get outside funding.

With the enormous budget cuts school districts are facing, a desperate desire to find a funding source somewhere, anywhere, is understandable. Almost.

Selling its name and reputation to a for-profit company has serious, unfortunate consequences. It allows business concerns to dictate the two-year curriculum development schedule; being the first, or one of the first, to market a curriculum aligned with new standards adopted by many states could be quite a lucrative business move.

And it gives Pearson customers the right to come into MCPS classrooms to look at the product in action - effectively making staff and students salespeople. Lovely.

Meanwhile, the contract gives Pearson the right to change some of the materials for its national edition of the curriculum (the county is allowed to object, but only so long as its objections are not unreasonable, according to the contract). But it would still be marketed as a MCPS curriculum.

Nobody but Pearson and Montgomery County would know the difference, which is a problem only when you consider that buyers presumably want a curriculum used in one of the highest-achieving districts in the country, not a Pearson-altered strain. . . .

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