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Update: What Gail Collins Gets Wrong About NCLB

School-clock(1)A couple of folks didn't like it much when, using that Twitter thing, I attempted to rain on their parade of passing around Gail Collins' recent column (A Very Pricey Pineapple).  The column makes the case that education is being privatized, and that Pearson in particular and in general is taking over, and that NCLB is the cause of it all.  Collins writes:  

"No Child Left Behind has created a system of public-funded charter schools, a growing number of which are run by for-profit companies... An American child could go to a public school run by Pearson, studying from books produced by Pearson, while his or her progress is evaluated by Pearson standardized tests."

Where to start?  Well, most charters aren't run by for-profit companies, so that's pretty much a red herring.  NCLB didn't invent or have any real direct impact on creating more charters (charter funding preceded NCLB and there were very few charter conversions).  The transfer provision was used very little.  Far as I know, Pearson does not yet run any charter schools.  

Sure, NCLB was good for testing companies because it required annual tests for reading and math instead of the periodic  ones of the past.  But this isn't news, really.  It isn't even new anymore.  Collins is trying to gin up outrage like so many others are.  But my feeling is that outrage should be reserved for truly outrageous situations.  Of which there are many.  But not this one.  

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Not run by for-profits. Of course not Alex. The non-profit corporations are set up by them, the buildings are built by them, and the profits are passed through to that Diane Ravitch calls the "club". Sale leasebacks, holding companies, family foundations like Millikin for instance. The charter "family" is an incestuous one.

You say, "Far as I know, Pearson does not yet run any charter schools."

Did you not know this?
Pearson Acquires Connections Education
Gains leading position in fast-growing market for virtual schools
September 15, 2011. Pearson, the world’s leading learning company, is announcing today the acquisition of Connections Education from an investor group led by Apollo Management, L.P.

Is there some clever evasion, whereby you could claim Pearson isn't "running" the charter chain? Or that the "public" charter and cyber schools under the control of this for-profit aren't themselves for-profit?

And, hey, you know what else Pearson bought itself? A first class corporate seat at ALEC:
"Connections Academy is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Mickey Revenaugh, Conections Academy co-founder and Senior Vice President of State Relations, is the co-chair of ALEC's Education Task Force as of 2011."

Some education reporter should take this up.

What Alex Russo Gets Wrong About NCLB: NCLB created the means to judge public schools by their test scores which opened the door to the charter movement and for-profit schemers to condemn schools and plot their take over. You have to look at the impact of NCLB at a systemic level, not simple cause and effect. Hard, I know: http://www.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/2011125014/what-happens-when-edu-bubble-bursts

I was gonna say, reading her comment, it seems a little far-fetched that she’d try to stir up passion for an issue that kind of has already proven itself not to exist. Pearson wouldn’t really gain much from buying out charter schools at this point, they seem to be comfortable playing the supplier. And given the profit they can make from simply those textbooks, their role as a distributor is a nice one from where they currently sit.

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