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NCLB Outrages

Pearson, McGraw-Hill Linked to Grant Conflict, U.S. Audit Finds

So the news that McGraw-Hill is to education pretty much what Halliburton is to Iraq is old news but still worth repeating when reported by a business news outfit.

What is outrageous here is the claim that the pool of 'qualified reviewers' is so small. Indeed. The reporter dignifies the Fordham bunch with the label "Thomas Fordham Foundation, a Washington-based research group." Indeed.

Note that no other 'research group' offering a dissenting opinion is quoted. The reporter decided one sound bite was enough.

By Paul Basken

A $1 billion U.S. government program to improve reading among grade-school children was led by officials with ties to publishers including McGraw-Hill Cos. and Pearson Plc, a federal audit concluded.

Consultants and product developers hired by Pearson, McGraw- Hill and other textbook publishers served on the panels established by the federal ``Reading First'' program to decide which textbooks should be funded under the program, the U.S. Education Department's inspector-general said in the audit.

``These appearances of bias and impaired objectivity contributed to the allegations surrounding the administration of the Reading First program, namely that some individuals may have been promoting or pushing the reading products they were affiliated with,'' the department's inspector-general office said in the report, which was released today.

The audit was the final in a series that already has led to the removal of top officials in the Reading First program and to calls in Congress for the Bush administration to overhaul the program, established as part of the No Child Left Behind law.

``The latest report from the inspector-general reaffirms that the Bush administration's implementation of the Reading First program has been marred by mismanagement and conflicts of interest,'' Representative George Miller of California, chairman of the House Education Committee, said in a statement.

$1 Billion a Year

Reading First was designed to distribute about $1 billion a year to states to spend on reading programs that the government agrees have scientifically proven effectiveness.

The head of the program, Chris Doherty, resigned in advance of the release of the first audit last September, and others involved also have left, Education Department spokeswoman Katherine McLane said.

Michael Petrilli, who helped the administration implement the No Child Left Behind law and now serves as vice president at the Thomas Fordham Foundation, a Washington-based research group, said he believes Doherty was faulted for taking a rigorous approach to finding the best-performing reading programs.

The presence of experts with connections to publishers was natural because the pool of qualified reviewers is too small to exclude them, Petrilli said.

McGraw-Hill's products are used by schools because they have a proven track record, company spokeswoman Mary Skafidas said.

Wendy Spiegel, spokeswoman for Pearson Education, a Pearson division based in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, wasn't immediately available to comment.

— Paul Basken
Bloomberg News


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