Bush Profiteers collect billions from NCLB, Part 1 and 2
Emery quotes Gene Hickock, the under-secretary of education assigned to implement NCLB, speaking to CEOs at the Milken InstituteÃ¢€™s Global Conference in 2003: "One of the virtues of NCLB is leverage, leverage at the state. . . at the local level . . . We donÃ¢€™t mind being the bad guys... I am very concerned that we will . . . underestimate the potential that we have to redefine everything."
And Emery pays special attention to HickockÃ¢€™s desire to "redefine everything." She sketches briefly the intent of the "corporate business class" to control public education systems beginning the 1890s and continuing through "modern comprehensive schools, an important part of which was the introduction of standardized, norm-reference tests."
Why the interest of the "corporate business class" in standardized tests? Emery tells us: "Since the 1890s, these tests, along with the factory like conditions of public high schools, have been central to fulfilling one of the major purposes of our public schools. In an industrial economy, working class students need to be tracked into vocational education and middle class students into college prep courses. This is one reason why we find standardized tests to be more strongly correlated to socio-economic status than to any other variable."
Emery suggests that the corporate climate in the 1980s Ã¢€“ pressure from the emergence of Japan, for example Ã¢€“ lit a fire beneath AmericaÃ¢€™s corporate interests to accelerate the education process, she surmises; hence, the Business RoundtableÃ¢€™s meeting in 1989 and its development of a "high-stakes testing" model for schools.
ItÃ¢€™s clear to me that the fact that its system fails millions of American kids doesnÃ¢€™t deter the leaders of the Business Roundtable: Its goal of marrying the world of big business with the world of educating children has yielded its primary objective, the profit margin. How so?
Education itself isnÃ¢€™t a profit-making venture; no teacher, lunch lady, janitor, principal or bus driver is getting "rich" from "the system."
Any dividends on public investment arenÃ¢€™t realized until a child graduates, matures, and becomes a contributing member of society. But a small cottage industry of education support programs has always existed in the private sector, and it included everything from single-subject tutors to after-school or summertime programs for remedial readers. NCLB, the shotgun marriage of Lyndon JohnsonÃ¢€™s ESEA with the Business RoundtableÃ¢€™s "high stakes testing" agenda, created a brand-new spigot through which that cottage industry in the private sector could siphon federal education funds. The result: Instant profit Ã¢€“ and instant profiteers. What once was just a cottage industry has become a corporate giant.
PRESIDING OVER THE SHOTGUN wedding that Emery describes Ã¢€“ the forced marriage of ESEA to the Business RoundtableÃ¢€™s agenda Ã¢€“ was none other than Sandy Kress. "Pressure" from not-yet-Secretary Margaret Spellings Ã¢€“ then still known as Margaret La Montagne Ã¢€“ and Kress, "former head of the Dallas school board, seems to be paying off. Already, the Business Roundtable has pledged to air TV ads promoting testing," wrote Richard Dunham in the March 19, 2001, edition of Business Week magazine.
DunhamÃ¢€™s puff-piece on La Montagne/Spellings said the duo was "counting on business leaders such as Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, AT&T CEO C. Michael Armstrong, and Texas Instruments CEO Thomas J. Engibous to lobby Congress on behalf of Bush's cherished annual performance tests..."
Mere weeks later, columnist Robert Novak credited Kress as half of BushÃ¢€™s Texan education brain trust, and BushÃ¢€™s emissary to Congress at a time when the legislative branch was still evaluating its untested executive. "...Who convinced the president to build this bridge for the enemy? Republican House members finger two White House aides brought from Texas: Margaret LaMontagne and Sandy Kress."
"Kress, who was a Democratic activist in Dallas backing Michael Dukakis for president when I first met him, told me Tuesday the White House did not support even Kennedy's version of Straight A's because Ã¢€˜to have a bloodbath on the House floor is not worth itÃ¢€™," wrote Novak on May 23, 2001, here .
But by July, Kress had left La Montagne/Spellings behind and earned a high-profile spread of his own in New Yorker magazine, thanks to writer Nicholas Lemann. In addition to sketching KressÃ¢€™s history, Lemann cast Kress as BushÃ¢€™s brain on education. Inscribed in "a flimsy little drugstore notebook, green, maybe four by six inches" was a text by Kress dated 1999 and called Ã¢€˜A Draft Position for George W. Bush on K-12 EducationÃ¢€™." It was this draft, apparently, that led to KressÃ¢€™s "temporary assignment as the White House's chief lobbyist on education."
HereÃ¢€™s a sample of the guruÃ¢€™s amazing composition: "Unhappily, after spending billions and billions of dollars on education, the federal government has made virtually no meaningful difference in helping educate our children. As a result of this cynical, shameful, and wasteful behavior, other politicians have decided that there should be no federal role in education at all. Our citizenry, which regularly says that education is the nation's most important cause, needs to understand the sharp contrast between Governor Bush's vigor and the utter sloppiness of the keepers of the status quo."
If anyone could lead BushÃ¢€™s crusade into education, it would be Kress, who, in addition to being "former president of the Dallas School Board and one of the architects of the Texas education reforms, is a Democrat, but he and Bush had been working together successfully for years."
"Sandy Kress's notebook lays out the essentials of the Texas education reform," Lemann writes. ItÃ¢€™s not rocket science: State-adopted standards feed into state-adopted tests, with scores "used to rate the performance of schools." The magic, Lemann understates, was in the marketing: "the promise to Ã¢€˜leave no child behindÃ¢€™ and to eschew Ã¢€˜the soft bigotry of low expectationsÃ¢€™." And Kress was the perfect marketer for the purpose, as Lemann describes here:
Kress won his victory, sure enough. Without ever convening a hearing on the bill, the House passed it 384 to 45. "The last thing the White House wanted was a long, slow period of national debate in which the many interest groups involved in education could marshal lobbying campaigns," Lemann explains. In the Senate, progress was slower, getting snagged on the consequences to schools whose scores didnÃ¢€™t measure up. KressÃ¢€™s solution reflected KressÃ¢€™s power in BushÃ¢€™s world: "One Saturday afternoon, word spread instantaneously within this group (while the world slumbered on): Sandy Kress had just rewritten the A.Y.P. formula," Lemann says.
Just like that.
WHEN JOHN DiIULIO DITCHED the White HouseÃ¢€™s Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, Time magazineÃ¢€™s James Carney wrote that Washington watchers wondered why Kress hadnÃ¢€™t done the same already. But Kress was a different animal altogether, Carney observed, "Not only is Sandy Kress a Democrat, but he's also the lead negotiator and chief policymaker for Bush's education-reform plan. Together with his faith-based initiative, education reform undergirded Bush's claim to be a compassionate conservative. Like DiIulio, Kress was chosen because Bush hoped his Democratic credentials would attract bipartisan support. In Kress's case, it worked. But after the education-reform bill clears Congress, expected next month, Kress will pack his bags. Kress will at least be able to claim victory when he leaves."
And it came to pass, as reporter Diana Jean Schemo wrote on December 18: "The Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill today that would dramatically extend the federal role in public education, mandating annual testing of children in Grades 3 to 8, providing tutoring for children in persistently failing schools and setting a 12-year timetable for closing chronic gaps in student achievement. The 87-to-10 vote capped a tumultuous year for the bill that began with President Bush's postinaugural unveiling of his education plan, [and] continued through a springtime of wrangling over issues like how student progress would be measured..."
Kress himself, Schemo writes, "watched the vote from the Senate gallery, as did Education Secretary Rod Paige."
In Part 1, White House senior education advisor (circa 2001) Sandy Kress presided over the shotgun wedding of the old Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Business RoundtableÃ¢€™s high-stakes testing agenda, creating George W. BushÃ¢€™s No Child Left Behind. He ushered it through the U.S. House of Representatives in the summer of 2001 without a single public hearing on the bill, and even re-wrote its infamous and complex "adequate yearly progress" formula himself to ease its passage through the Senate that December.
As its architect, Kress invented new spigots through which Bush Profiteers Ã¢€“ only a slight variation of the old Bush Pioneers label Ã¢€“ can suck federal funds. In fact, since its passage in 2001, several large corporations and their lobbyists have profited from BushÃ¢€™s NCLB by tapping billions of dollars in standardized testing and in "supplemental education services" funds. And at this very moment, theyÃ¢€™re lining up to expand their profit margins for the next six years, as NCLB is being re-authorized. It turns out that advisor-turned-lobbyist Kress himself stands to collect significant coin from his "contribution" to the nation.
LESS THAN EIGHTEEN months after NCLBÃ¢€™s enactment in January 2002, Kress was found describing his "integral involvement in the development of NCLB" to more than 150 employees of Educational Testing Service at that companyÃ¢€™s annual "issues forum." Not coincidentally, Kress told these employees that their company had "the knowledge and expertise needed to help the states fully implement NCLB."
I donÃ¢€™t know much about ETS, but I looked here... and found these notes:
Had Kress become a lobbyist for ETS by March 13, 2003? Maybe, maybe not. He might have been caught in that anti-revolving-door waiting period established by the Clinton administration for public servants inclined to lobby for corporate interests. The public record about his "end date" as White House senior education advisor isnÃ¢€™t crystal clear. But itÃ¢€™s certain that Kress was selling something to the ETS crowd, as explained here... "Calling ETS a Ã¢€˜leaderÃ¢€™ in the field of assessment, Kress emphasized that states need help in developing and utilizing assessments that are sophisticated and allow for the comprehensive testing of standards based on the curriculum," according to the press release tucked away in the ETS issue forum archive.
"There will be a huge hunger to improve schools by utilizing data, and this is a key area where ETS can step in," he advised his audience.
But a year later, the public record is much clearer: Kress was recruited by K12, Inc., a brand-new company plying "a Ã¢€˜cyber-enrichingÃ¢€™ elementary and secondary curriculum" to the public schools of Texas, according to George Mason University education researcher Gerald Bracey, K12Ã¢€™s founders were none other than Ronald ReaganÃ¢€™s Education Secretary Bill Bennett, Yale computer scientist and Unabomber victim David Gelernter, and former U. S. Congressman Ronald Packard. But Bennett and company werenÃ¢€™t the fledgling corporationÃ¢€™s only heavy hitters, Bracey explains:
Bracey writes that K12Ã¢€™s vision was so foreign to the public education in Texas that a new law was necessary to allow its implementation. Enter Sandy Kress: "K12 hired 11 lobbyists, variously described as high powered and highly paid, to make its case. Sandy Kress, former Bush adviser and principal creator of the No Child Left Behind legislation, signed on for up to $10,000 (when Texas lobbyists register, they must state the maximum they can be paid by their patron). Other salaries ranged up to $99,000 for Andrea McWilliams, a Bush Ã¢€˜PioneerÃ¢€™Ã¢€”the title given to any person who had raised more than $200,000 for BushÃ¢€™s 2000 presidential campaign. Earlier, McWilliams had served as a lobbyist for Kenneth Lay and Enron."
The new legislation was introduced three times in 2003, Bracey reports, and it was defeated each time. At the time of his report in April 2004, the issue was "dead."
DESPITE THAT POOR PERFORMANCE as a lobbyist in Texas, however, KressÃ¢€™s own fortunes were very much alive, and looking up; he delivered the keynote address on June 11, 2004, to the "EduStat Summit" sponsored by "SchoolNet." I learned here http://www.edustat.com/... that this yearÃ¢€™s "EduStat Summit" is the fourth annual such event sponsored by "SchoolNet," and since it specifically brings together the education-business community and "administrators" of the education community, the "EduStat Summit" appears to be one of the many children borne directly from NCLB. I learned a little about the company here http://www.schoolnet.com/... but was most interested to learn that its "vice chairman and chief academic officer," Denis Doyle, is a product of, among other think tanks, the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation Ã¢€“ a strange provenance for this context.
Opening his keynote address, Kress seemed to chafe at being called the "architect" of a program whose implementation was admittedly "rocky." He spread the wealth, as you can read here http://www.edustat.com/... saying, "I appreciate and am humbled by the introduction that somehow I am an architect in this thing, but to the extent that I was an architect there were other builders. And there were the purchasers, of whatever we were architecting."
Although NCLB had been "architected" to funnel federal funds to private enterprises who offered testing and "supplemental education services" in grades three through eight, Kress and various corporate interests were already imagining an extension of the market into high schools. He invited his audience, then to "become part of the change."
"I think part of the discussion is going to be about more rigorous high school tests. Tests that are closer to measures, work readiness and college readiness. It seems to me that this is coming upon us and rather soon. You can see it in states like Massachusetts and Texas. IÃ¢€™ve been a part of the reforms in Texas and I have to tell you, itÃ¢€™s anxiety-producing to say the least, but necessary to begin to look to secondary schools," he said.
"It seems to me somehow we ought to be thinking about policy in the secondary area, policy in the relationship between college and high school and reforms in college. Significant amounts of money spent on remediation."
And, driving home the point again before leaving, he closed with this: "It is absolutely imperative if weÃ¢€™re going to provide opportunities to those young people for whom there are no opportunities today, we have to radically change the business we do."
"Change the business we do," Kress said, rather than changing American education priorities Ã¢€“ or committing to the ones already adopted.
CHAFING OR NOT, KRESS was so identified with NCLB that when BushÃ¢€™s first education secretary, Rod Paige, fell out of love with his job and announced his resignation, KressÃ¢€™s name surfaced as a successor alongside the name of his former White House partner in NCLB affairs, Margaret Spellings. On November 12, 2004, a writer at this weblog http://educhange.blogspot.com/... quoted Karl Rove saying that anything Spellings wanted, she could have, though the Fort Wayne News Sentinel pinned its hopes on Kress. Its editors wrote, as Education at the Brink quoted, "Sandy Kress should become education secretary. The former Dallas school board president has worked alongside Bush on early reading programs and higher school standards since the Bush governorship. He also shepherded the president's big education bill through Congress. The Democrat knows how to build coalitions, which the president needs if Washington's going to improve special education classes. They're the next education cause."
Whether or not Kress was offered the job and rejected it is unknown; Spellings was nominated on November 17, 2004 and confirmed by the Senate the following January. Given what is known of KressÃ¢€™s career path since then, he may already have had his eye on something slightly more lucrative than a Cabinet secretaryÃ¢€™s pay package. Something having to do with the new market that reporter Karla Scoon Reid described in Education Week magazine that December, maybe?
"For-profit education companies are ramping up their businesses to tap into millions of federal dollars set aside to provide tutoring for students attending struggling schools," Reid wrote here http://www.platformlearning.com/... "With an estimated $2 billion potentially earmarked for tutoring nationwide, what traditionally has been considered a cottage industry is being reinvented."
Reid quoted Jack Jennings, director of the Center on Education Policy, "Millions of dollars are being spent and nobody knows whatÃ¢€™s happening."
Among the highlights of ReidÃ¢€™s reporting are these notes:
Not everyone was happy at the sudden explosion of this new market, of course. Reid learned from Liz Wolff, national research director for ACORN, that "private companies arenÃ¢€™t being required to show progress on the state tests that Ã¢€˜everybody else is indicted byÃ¢€™." And "Steve Fleischman, the director of the Supplemental Educational Services Quality Center and a principal research scientist at the AIR, said he believes that because districts are actually tutoring more students than outside providers are, they should both be held to a common performance standard."
Even Seppy Basili, vice president of Kaplan Educational Services, "acknowledged that it would be difficult to isolate the academic effects of tutoring programs."
But that wouldnÃ¢€™t stop the federal dollars from flowing, thanks to KressÃ¢€™s work on NCLB.
(Stay tuned for Part 3.)
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