Last summer when Save Our Schools exhibited the best in grassroots traditions and brought together a movement from within to challenge the many decades of failed accountability measures that now represent a multi-billion dollar status quo complex of testing and privatization efforts, the corporate foundation plutocrats, the ed industry bottom feeders, and the multinational testing corporations like Pearson and McGraw-Hill sat up and took notice.
Now after a long winter of online meetings and discussion among old and new steering committee members of SOS, it would seem that the status quo may have pushed itself into the driver's seat of SOS, even before the second year celebration can happen.
Now carrying the checkbook and controlling the website and managing the SOS database (via his significant friend, Betsy Angert) is Bob George. And who is Bob George? This is from his lengthy auto-bio posted last November, when he was vying for a position on the Steering Committee of SOS:
. . . .CURRENTLY, I SERVE AS THE SENIOR VICE-PRESIDENT OF OPERATIONS FOR CATAPULT LEARNING, LLC. IN THIS ROLE, AS IN OTHER AREAS OF MY LIFE, I WORK TO ENSURE THAT HIGH QUALITY INSTRUCTIONAL SERVICES ARE PROVIDED. “PROFESSIONALLY” MY FOCUS IS TO SERVE 4500 STUDENTS ACROSS SIX STATES.
And what is Catapult Learning, LLC, pray tell? And why is that when I see the word "serve" and Catapult Learning together, that I think of old Twilight Zone episode, "To Serve Man?" Run--it's a cookbook!!
Could it be that Kanimits of Catapult have been feasting on Title I schools since before NCLB came to town, back in the day it was called Sylvan Education Solutions. With the 2002 introduction of NCLB's Supplemental Services and the unmonitored, unregulated billions in free money to ed industry insiders, tutoring mills and phonics farms like Catapult have cashed in like no other time in their history. From Education Next:
. . . .Jeffrey Cohen, president of Catapult Learning (the tutoring firm formerly known as Sylvan Education Solutions), says that he has seen letters sent out by the district that automatically sign children up for the district’s program unless the parent affirmatively decides to go with a different provider. “There’s not a level playing field,” he says.
To overcome these obstacles, most large providers are going around the districts by beefing up their own marketing efforts. Some providers, like Catapult Learning, are running ads and touting their programs with leaflets or promoters who go door-to-door, to shopping malls, and, when allowed, to the school.
Before No Child Left Behind, about $2 billion was spent each year in the retail tutoring market, according to Educate Inc., a national tutoring company formerly known as Sylvan Learning Systems and Catapult Learning’s parent company. Half of the tutoring providers were small local companies and individuals, while the other half were regional or national firms. In addition to the retail tutoring market, a few companies, such as Catapult Learning, made an effort to promote public-private partnerships in tutoring, but the marketplace was not well defined. . . .
Here is news of just one of the federal contracts worth millions that Catapult has enjoyed over the past decade. Test and punish has been very, very good for Catapult and Bob George, and it beats me why he would want to mess with a good thing. Why would he be leading an effort to bring down corporate education reform, when he makes his living from the continuation of the corporate education reform agenda?
After all, Catapult is moving up in the world, having in recent years become a partial property of the Carlyle Group, no less. Now that is some rarefied corporate air to be breathing! But, then, Carlyle knows that Catapult is an expanding company, now moving into Professional Development Services, such as providing PD to get your school up to speed on Common Core Adoption or Literacy First. Or how about those turnarounds! Recently Catapult was a major player for Georgia's big Turnaround Vendor Fair this past February. Catapult your way to privatization!!
And then there is the lucrative Specialized Services market. For instance, if you run a charter school and need to hire a school counselor for that Back to School Parents Night or that fifth year visit from the State, Catapult can handle it. After all,
It’s a balancing act!Striving to focus on core academic issues—and at the same time, provide for the social, emotional, behavioral and other support services struggling students need. It’s enough to stretch the resources of most schools.
Catapult Learning can help. We provide expert support to schools struggling to meet growing demands for services. There’s no need for you to hire and manage full-time specialists. We handle all the details, communication, and coordination. You get seamless support that extends the resources available to your students and families.
School CounselingRead more »Speech/Language ServicesRead more »School NursingRead more »Physical and Occupational TherapyRead more »EarlyLearners ProgramRead more »Child Find AssistanceRead more »
And then there is Catapult's reputation for delivering the kind of sub-standard services and products that we have come to expect when corporations prey on the poor and on the taxpayer. What does the research say about this most lucrative waste of taxpayer money. From a 2007 study:
The MPS studies found that students receiving SES did not perform as well as the matched samples. Further, no significant difference appeared among SES providers as determined by NALT annual reading gains. No provider serving 10 or more students produced achievement gains averaging close to 100 percent of expected academic growth indicated by national norms. For example, 561 students receiving Education Station services averaged 71 percent of a year’s growth, while 92 students receiving Newton Learning services averaged only 67 percent of a year’s growth. Overall, the average growth for SES students was only 66 percent of the national norm.
Efforts to distinguish among providers yielded little additional information. For all SES providers combined, the number of service hours did not significantly correlate with reading score gains. For students enrolled in Newton Learning and Kids Reading for Success programs, however, total service hours did correlate significantly with NALT gains. Interestingly, students in grades 3 and 7 who received services from Catapult Learning did less well than their matched sample, which outscored them by 19 points and 6 points respectively; conversely, grade 5 students enrolled in Catapult outscored the matched sample by 4 scale points. These differences, however, were not statistically significant.