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Foundations Join to Offer Online Courses for Schools

Ohanian Comment: With its support of the Curriculum Mapping Project, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was already in the curriculum business. See here and here and here. If you can stand it, there's more. Just enter "curriculum mapping" in a search on this website.

But this hook-up with Pearson should tell our professional organizations a thing or two.

In the curriculum race, the Gates Foundation has made the professional organizations irrelevant. NCTE and IRA should have done the right thing and opposed the Common Core Standards from the get-go. Instead, assuming a Johnny-come-lately role, NCTE now holds a virtual conference telling teachers how to get in line with the Common Core. You can sign right up and join the lemmings for just $175 for four interactive, 60-minute online sessions.

And NCTE urges members to "contact your Congressional representative"--in support of team teaching and the LEARN act (!!).

NCTE does not reveal for whose table in Washington D. C. they are serving as busboys, but as Stephen Krashen's research reveals, the food is poisoned. Krashen states unequivocally that the LEARN act is "Reading First on steroids." And he backs this with solid research.

Even if one decided to grant NCTE's major premise here, Pearson is so far ahead of NCTE in curriculum supporting the Common Core that it should boggle some minds at NCTE headquarters. Take a look.

And besides that, Pearson cements the importance of its curriculum and teacher training offerings by also publishing the all-important Assessment Solutions. Last year, Pearson delivered over 40 million of these solutions.

Why is Sam Dillon so coy about Judy Codding's past life? Her recent identities include: President and Chief Executive Officer of American's Choice, Inc. and Vice President for the National Center on Education and the Economy. Pearson announced it's acquisition of America's Choice in Aug. 3, 2010. America's Choice began as a program of the National Center on Education and Economy (NCEE) in 1998 and became a private organization in 2004. Codding is co-author with Marc Tucker of Standards for Our Schools: How to Set Them, Measure Them, and Reach Them, 1998,with David Marsh of The New American High School, 1999, and with Marc Tucker of The Principal Challenge, 2002.

Do you remember Marc Tucker's "Dear Hillary" letter?

I guess it just shows that if you stick with the idea of national standards long enough, you win. You win because, in the face of Bill Gates' money machine, the professional organizations and unions roll over and play dead. . . and then try to catch up to the gravy train by offering courses and publishing books directed at helping teachers teach standards they had no part in developing.

And teachers? We are very late and very timid in coming to the idea of resistance. Saying "No!" to authority is just so far removed from the teacher ethos. After all, we are people pleasers. And standing up to politicos is totally foreign to the profession. I am a longtime teacher and I understand this insistence on thinking our profession is "nonpolitical." Teachers are fully involved in and exhausted by seeing to the individual needs of their students, students who are decidedly not standard. But what teachers must come to realize is that exhaustion isn't an excuse for ignorance. Everything about what we do in classrooms is political, and one must break with the dominant imperative and choose to work for the needs of the children or or continue to obey the demands of the corporate thugs, which reduces teaching to the role of obedient script reader.

Just remember: DIBELS is the most political instrument of our time. It is the educational equivalent of drone bombing.

Acquiescing to the Common Core Standards and Assessments is a profoundly political act. The choice you make as a teacher should be yours, not that of Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, Judy Coddings, Eli Broad. Not , or the Kansas City board of education, NOT NCTE's decision, either.

YOU decide.

See you at SOS march in Washington D. C., July 30.

We MUST take back our schools--and the "we" is individual teachers, parents, and students. Professional organizations have abdicated any semblance of ethics, responsibility, and professionalism.

by Sam Dillon

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world's largest philanthropy, and the foundation associated with Pearson, the giant textbook and school technology company, announced a partnership on Wednesday to create online reading and math courses aligned with the new academic standards that some 40 states have adopted in recent months.

The 24 new courses will use video, interactive software, games, social media and other digital materials to present math lessons for kindergarten through 10th grade and English lessons for kindergarten through 12th grade, Pearson and Gates officials said.

Widespread adoption of the new standards, known as the common core, has provoked a race among textbook publishers to revise their current classroom offerings so they align with the standards, and to produce new materials. The Gates-Pearson initiative appears to be the most ambitious such effort so far.

The Pearson Foundation is heading the course-writing effort. But Pearson Education, which owns textbook hike Prentice Hall and sells an array of multimedia classroom tools, will market 20 of the new courses to schools and districts.

The Gates Foundation, which has promoted the common core standards movement in its philanthropy, is providing $3 million so that four of the 24 courses can be offered free to schools, partly to give educators a taste of how the digital courses can be used in classrooms.

"We're hoping that by placing those four courses in a way that's accessible, people will take a look at them and make connections," said Mark Nieker, president of the Pearson Foundation.

In his educational work, Bill Gates has explored ways that new technologies can transform teaching. Vicki Phillips, a director at the Gates Foundation, said the partnership with Pearson was part of a "suite of investments" totaling more than $20 million that the foundation was undertaking, all of which involve new technology-based instructional approaches.

The new digital materials, Ms. Phillips said, "have the potential to fundamentally change the way students and teachers interact in the classroom."

The partnership with the Gates Foundation could give Pearson a considerable advantage as textbook and learning technology companies position themselves in an education marketplace upended by the creation of the common standards.

"It's a good deal for Pearson, and it's good for Gates too, because it brings more attention to the standards," said Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, which has studied the evolution of state policies on the common core.

Susan Neuman, a former Education Department official in the George W. Bush administration who is now a professor at the University of Michigan, said the new course materials could provide an important link between the common core standards and the standardized tests that two consortia of states are writing, with $330 million in Department of Education financing.

"This is something that's been missing in all the policy statements on the common core: a sequential curriculum," Dr. Neuman said. But she worried that after a period of consolidation in the textbook publishing business, Pearson has few strong rivals.

"Pearson already dominates, and this could take it to the extreme," she said. "This could be problematic for many of our kids. We could get a one size fits all."

Judy Codding, a former president of a teacher training company, is leading the course development effort. Many of the courses should be completed by January 2013 and the rest by December 2013, she said. A challenge will be to find ways to excite students about learning, she added.

"We have a lot of kids in our country who haven't met the lesser standards," she said, "and now we've raised the bar. So we have a tall task to bring all kids along."

— Sam Dillon
New York Times





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