Making Huge Profits from Public Education

Posted By Levi

April 28th, 2012 5:29pm

Category: Education

New York Times columnist, Gail Collins, writes this today:

We have turned school testing into a huge corporate profit center, led by Pearson, for whom $32 million is actually pretty small potatoes. Pearson has a five-year testing contract with Texas that’s costing the state taxpayers nearly half-a-billion dollars.

This is the part of education reform nobody told you about. You heard about accountability, and choice, and innovation. But when No Child Left Behind was passed 11 years ago, do you recall anybody mentioning that it would provide monster profits for the private business sector?

Me neither.

It’s not just the tests. No Child Left Behind has created a system of public-funded charter schools, a growing number of which are run by for-profit companies. Some of them are completely online, with kids getting their lessons at home via computer. The academic results can be abysmal, but on the plus side — definitely no classroom crowding issues.

Pearson is just one part of the picture, albeit a part about the size of Mount Rushmore. Its lobbyists include the guy who served as the top White House liaison with Congress on drafting the No Child law. It has its own nonprofit foundation that sends state education commissioners on free trips overseas to contemplate school reform.

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. The only public participant in the show would be the taxpayer.

If all else fails, the kid could always drop out and try to get a diploma via the good old G.E.D. The General Educational Development test program used to be operated by the nonprofit American Council on Education, but last year the Council and Pearson announced that they were going into a partnership to redevelop the G.E.D. — a nationally used near-monopoly — as a profit-making enterprise.

Collins quoted NYS Education Commissioner King as saying that he finds this development “worrisome.” Why should he? Doesn’t he realize that this is the logical outcome of the reform movement in education he supports? Besides, it is true, as Collins noted, that No Child Left Behind takes much of the blame for this state of affairs. But you cannot give the current Obama administration a pass on this. Obama’s Race to the Top education policies simply builds on top of NCLB. NCLB uses tests to evaluate schools; Race to the Top expands these tests to evaluate teachers and has led to an explosion of charter schools.

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