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Common Core Forces MA Schools to Cut History

Gorman Lee

Gorman Lee

 

(Editor: www.thereportcard.org In Massachusetts, one of America’s oldest and most historically important states, history and social studies are being marginalized while “English language arts” is being expanded. The latest Department of Education NAEP survey showed that only 12% of high school seniors were proficient in American history. According to Gorman Lee, President of the Massachusetts Council for Social Studies, that number is destined to grow even smaller as Common Core continues to squeeze history instruction in K-12. We may sadly anticipate a future where children learn of their glorious heritage through family word of mouth or through veterans who may be neighbors or family).

 

By Gorman Lee

 

The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s decision to indefinitely suspend the History and Social Science MCAS in 2009 has placed social studies education in a high risk of marginalization in K-12 public school districts across the Commonwealth. The problem has only exacerbated with increased emphases of English language arts and mathematics in the Common Core State Standards that was adopted in 2010. Therefore it comes to no surprise that once school districts have started to face budgetary constraints, social studies is now among the subject areas first on the chopping block… and it’s already happening.

 

There have been recent concerning reports of K-12 school districts reducing social studies departments in order to secure support to “high stakes” subject areas, despite the promised commitments to uphold civic ideals and to prepare students to become active and productive adult citizens as described in their mission statements. Many school districts have begun to merge social studies and English language arts departments into a Humanities department, where the social studies [including history] curriculum takes a secondary role to support the English language arts curriculum. In some schools, teachers whose primary subject area is other than social studies have been assigned to teach one social studies class; it now appears that “highly qualified” is no longer applicable when it comes to social studies. In some elementary schools, social studies instruction has been reduced to no more than twenty minutes per week so that classes can spend more time for instructions in literature, mathematics, and science.

 

If we continue to allow social studies education become marginalized in our K-12 schools, our students will continue to graduate from high school with limited knowledge and understanding of their nation’s heritage, government, economy, and role in international affairs. The deterioration of a rigorous social studies curriculum will limit our students’ appreciation of community and national identity. The absence of a comprehensive K-12 social studies education will deny our students crucial learning opportunities to learn and apply higher-order critical thinking skills to address and find solutions to real world problems and issues.

 

We would like to hear the current status of the K-12 social studies program in your school district. Please go to our online survey and tell us what’s happening in your school district and building. The results of the survey will be collected on March 31, 2015. http://goo.gl/forms/UpJ0yFXOE6 or you can email me at president@masscouncil.org.

 

Social studies educators must unite and let our elected representatives know that social studies education is facing a serious civic crisis. As President of the Massachusetts Council for the Social Studies, I am recommending that we coordinate a statewide Advocacy Day, where K-12 social studies educators schedule a meeting with their respective elected representatives at their local offices or at the Massachusetts State House in Boston.

 

If you are doing a special project with your students, I strongly encourage you to invite members of your school committee and your elected local representatives to your classroom and showcase what your students are learning in their social studies classes. It is our civic responsibility to express our collective concerns to our legislators and enlighten them on the importance and necessity to support and promote a strong K-12 social studies education in our public, charter, and private schools across the Commonwealth.

 

Please forward this letter to your colleagues and staff.

 

We need your help!

Sincerely,

 

Gorman Lee, Ed.D.

Mass Council for the Social Studies President

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College Board’s AP US History Needs a Few Facts

David Coleman College Board President Common Core Author

David Coleman College Board President Common Core Author

(Editor: www.thereportcard.org The College Board, presided over by David Coleman, author of Common Core released their Advanced Placement US History Framework last year. APUSH as it is known, was roundly criticized by historians and AP history instructors for a decidedly negative view of America. But another criticism from The Concord Review’s Emerson scholar and Summa Cum Laude Harvard graduate Alexandra Petri focuses on the dearth of facts included in the APUSH framework. With nary a single good comment about America and a nearly total absence of facts, one might ask, what’s the point)?

By Alexandra Petri February 20, 2015

Stepping back from State Legislatures And Their Strange Hobbies, if you wanted to object to AP U.S. History—which is run by the College Board, a private company, not, as many legislators seem to suspect, a Vast Conspiracy To Take Over State Control Of Learning — a better case might be not that it was Insufficiently Nice To America but that maybe, just maybe, that it should require the mention of some specific facts, any facts at all.

I understand that it is supposed to be an advanced course, operating at the college level, under the assumption that this is not students’ first exposure to American history. As the authors of its framework note in an open letter, “The AP U.S. History course is an advanced, college-level course—not an introductory U.S. history course—and is not meant to be students’ first exposure to the fundamental narrative of U.S. history. Because countless states, districts, and schools have their own standards for U.S. history teaching, we did not want to usurp local control by prescribing a detailed national curriculum of people, places, and events. As a result, we created a framework, not a full curriculum, so that local decision makers and teachers could populate the course with content that is meaningful to them and that satisfies their state mandates.”

If the students learning AP U.S. History already know U.S. history, they will not have any problems. If, however, there are any gaps—well, there’s the rub.

So far the people in the anti-APUSH movement have complained, “How dare you not mention Martin Luther King or George Washington at any point in your 142-page framework!” and the people behind the framework have replied, “No, no, you don’t understand. We don’t mention ANYONE! It’s just a framework that you can fill in with facts of your own choosing!”

That’s to say, the framework lists everything you should learn about American history to get college credit—except, er, specific facts about American history.

I appreciate that this is how we do things now. This is the way courses work. We emphasize “critical thinking skills” and “approaches” and “concepts,” and we have put rote memorization behind us. Dates, names, places? Please. Google exists.

This is the product of something called Backward Design. Here’s how it’s described in “Getting to the Core of Literacy for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects,” a book put together by Vicky M. Giouroukakis and Maureen Connolly to assist teachers in meeting Common Core standards in these content areas (yes, I know the Common Core and AP are different, but the principle of Backward Design is the same):

“Many teachers initially think about their teaching—what they will teach and how— without considering what student outcomes they want at the end of their instruction. In other words, they are concerned with inputs rather than outputs first. For example, they select a topic (civil rights), then the text (Martin Luther King’s Letter From Birmingham Jail), followed by instructional methods (discussion and cooperative learning) and learning experiences (close reading and analysis of text, identification of rhetorical devices, and argument writing), to help students meet the state standard. In contrast, BD ensures that teachers identify first the standards that they want their students to meet, followed by student results called for by the standards, and then learning activities that will lead to the desired results.” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2001, pp. 7-8).

The College Board has been answering critics of the framework’s suggestions by making the case that any good teacher will know which facts to teach to fill the framework, which is why the framework did not mention them.

“When the new framework was first reviewed by AP U.S. History teachers,” the framework notes, “they indicated that it would be useful to provide examples for teaching some of the concepts. For most concepts, AP U.S. History teachers know exactly what figures, events, and sources they will focus on, but for others, they asked that the framework provide suggestions.” (bold mine)

But, well, how did those teachers know what figures and events to focus on? Because someone at some point taught them specific facts from the American past and said that those facts were worth knowing and other facts were less worth knowing—if only because they were more connected to the mass of facts around them. This incident inspired pamphlets and cartoons and protests; this one didn’t. Citing this one strengthens your argument more than citing that one does. In other words, it matters which facts you use to make your arguments.

The problem is not that we need to be nicer to the Founders, that we must insist they were angels who rode golden clouds to form cities on hills while falling short zero times. That’s not history. That’s hagiography. It’s not that we should not take new cases for beginning and ending historical periods into account, or give short shrift to minority experiences.

But is it worth making sure you know certain names and dates? Not just so you can use Paul Revere and John Adams as examples in your essay on how “The resulting independence movement was fueled by established colonial elites, as well as by grassroots movements that included newly mobilized laborers, artisans and women, and rested on arguments over the rights of British subjects, the rights of the individual, and the ideas of the Enlightenment”—but so you can move freely about arguments for the rest of your life? I think it is.

If you really want to argue with the College Board, don’t argue that AP U.S. History isn’t nice enough to America. Argue that which specific facts you use to teach U.S. history— even at an advanced level—isn’t something you can just handwave like this. As the state legislators are demonstrating when they try to craft their own requirements, which facts and documents you include and which ones you don’t makes a difference. Do you want speeches by Ronald Reagan and sermons by John Edwards, or speeches by Lyndon Johnson and poems by Walt Whitman? This choice is nontrivial. You’d think the AP would have some interest in making certain there’s a balanced diet of facts—not just laudatory, not just condemnatory, but somewhere in between, where history is.

 

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.

 

 

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Pearson’s Common Core Gain, Student Pain

 

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(Editor: www.thereportcard.org Pearson, the $9 Billion global educational publishing giant makes money through non compete bids and testing programs that drive schools and students nuts. Pearson is also notorious for their Islam-biased textbooks such as World History 2013. At the same time, Pearson have few demonstrable examples of academic success).

 

By Stephanie Simon Politico

 

The British publishing giant Pearson had made few inroads in the United States — aside from distributing the TV game show “Family Feud” — when it announced plans in the summer of 2000 to spend $2.5 billion on an American testing company.

It turned out to be an exceptionally savvy move.

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The next year, Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act, which mandated millions of new standardized tests for millions of kids in public schools. Pearson was in a prime position to capitalize.

From that perch, the company expanded rapidly, seizing on many subsequent reform trends, from online learning to the Common Core standards adopted in more than 40 states. The company has reaped the benefits: Half its $8 billion in annual global sales comes from its North American education division.

But Pearson’s dominance does not always serve U.S. students or taxpayers well.

A POLITICO investigation has found that Pearson stands to make tens of millions in taxpayer dollars and cuts in student tuition from deals arranged without competitive bids in states from Florida to Texas. The review also found Pearson’s contracts set forth specific performance targets — but don’t penalize the company when it fails to meet those standards. And in the higher ed realm, the contracts give Pearson extensive access to personal student data, with few constraints on how it is used.

POLITICO examined hundreds of pages of contracts, business plans and email exchanges, as well as tax filings, lobbying reports and marketing materials, in the first comprehensive look at Pearson’s business practices in the United States.

The investigation found that public officials often commit to buying from Pearson because it’s familiar, even when there’s little proof its products and services are effective.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, for instance, declined to seek competitive bids for a new student data system on the grounds that it would be “in the best interest of the public” to simply hire Pearson, which had done similar work for the state in the past. The data system was such a disaster, the department had to pay Pearson millions extra to fix it.

Administrators at the University of Florida also skipped competitive bids on a huge project to build an online college from scratch. They were in a hurry. And they knew Pearson’s team from a previous collaboration. That project hadn’t been terribly successful, but no matter: UF dug up the old contract and rewrote it to give Pearson the new job — a job projected to be worth $186 million over the next decade.

And two public colleges in Texas not only gave Pearson a no-bid contract to build online classes, they agreed to pay the company to support 40,000 enrollments, no matter how many students actually signed up.

Pearson has aggressive lobbyists, top-notch marketing and a highly skilled sales team. Until the New York attorney general cracked down in late 2013, Pearson’s charitable foundation made a practice of treating school officials from across the nation to trips abroad, to conferences where the only education company represented was Pearson.

The story of Pearson’s rise is very much a story about America’s obsession with education reform over the past few decades.

Ever since a federal commission published “A Nation at Risk” in 1983 — warning that public education was being eroded by “a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and a people” — American schools have been enveloped in a sense of crisis. Politicians have raced to tout one fix after the next: new tests, new standards, new classroom technology, new partnerships with the private sector.

K-12 superintendents and college administrators alike struggle to boost enrollment, raise graduation rates, improve academic outcomes — and to do it all while cutting costs.

In this atmosphere of crisis, Pearson promises solutions. It sells the latest and greatest, and it’s no fly-by-night startup; it calls itself the world’s leading learning company. Public officials have seized it as a lifeline.

“Pearson has been the most creative and the most aggressive at [taking over] all those things we used to take as part of the public sector’s responsibility,” said Michael Apple, a professor of education policy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Pearson declined to answer specific questions about many of its contracts and business practices.

But several top executives said they always work toward deals that benefit not just the company but its public-sector partners — and above all, the millions of students who use Pearson products daily.

“The public trust,” Senior Vice President Shilpi Niyogi said, “is vital to everything we do.”

TESTS, TEXTS AND ATTENTION DEFICIT

Pearson wields enormous influence over American education.

It writes the textbooks and tests that drive instruction in public schools across the nation.

Its software grades student essays, tracks student behavior and diagnoses — and treats — attention deficit disorder. The company administers teacher licensing exams and coaches teachers once they’re in the classroom. It advises principals. It operates a network of three dozen online public schools. It co-owns the for-profit company that now administers the GED.

A top executive boasted in 2012 that Pearson is the largest custodian of student data anywhere.

And that’s just its K-12 business.

Pearson’s interactive tutorials on subjects from algebra to philosophy form the foundation of scores of college courses. It builds online degree programs for a long list of higher education clients, including George Washington University, Arizona State and Texas A&M. The universities retain authority over academics, but Pearson will design entire courses, complete with lecture PowerPoints, discussion questions, exams and grading rubrics.

The company is even marketing a product that lets college professors track how long their students spend reading Pearson textbooks each night.

Pearson works with for-profit career colleges, too: Its marketing materials boast that its consultants can help them “stay one step ahead” of federal regulations.

Indeed, Pearson has its hand in so many education services that corporate executive Donald Kilburn confidently predicted on an earnings call last summer that the North American division would flourish even if states and school districts had to cut their budgets.

As long as sales reps can show that Pearson products get results, Kilburn said, “the money will find a way to come to us.”

But the POLITICO review found that public contracts and public subsidies — including at least $98.5 million in tax credits from six states — have flowed to Pearson even when the company can’t show its products and services are producing academic gains.

The state of Virginia recertified Pearson as an approved “school turnaround” consultant in 2013 even though the company had, at best, mixed results with that line of work: Just one of the five Virginia schools that Pearson cited as references improved both its math and reading proficiency rates against the state averages. Two schools lost ground in both math and reading and the other two had mixed results. State officials said Pearson met all the criteria they required of consultants.

Across the country, Pearson sold the Los Angeles Unified School District an online curriculum that it described as revolutionary — but that had not yet been completed, much less tested across a large district, before the LAUSD agreed to spend an estimated $135 million on it. Teachers dislike the Pearson lessons and rarely use them, an independent evaluation found.

And universities continue to hire Pearson to manage online programs even though the company has routinely failed to hit its contractual targets for student enrollment. The higher those targets are, the more lucrative the deal appears to the university — and the more willing administrators may be to promise Pearson a cut of up to 60 percent of student tuition.

If Pearson fails to bring in the promised number of students — and David Daniels, a managing director, acknowledged the targets are often “very ambitious” — it rarely gets sanctioned.

At Rutgers University in New Jersey, for instance, Pearson is in charge of recruiting students to online degree programs and counseling them so they stay engaged and enrolled. Yet if Pearson falls short of its recruitment or retention goals, its share of student tuition isn’t reduced. On the contrary, the contract allows Pearson’s cut of tuition to be increased in the face of disappointing numbers, keeping the revenue flowing. Last year, enrollment was about 200 students short of the minimum stipulated in the contract and nearly 1,000 students below the goal.

Contractual language also ensures Pearson collects its full cut if a student drops out mid-semester or fails to pay the tuition bill.

Faculty members have raised a number of complaints about the contract and moved to block Pearson from expanding its role on campus. Among their objections: About half of student tuition in the online programs goes directly to Pearson. Rutgers set out to “create an online campus as a cash cow,” said David Hughes, an anthropology professor, “but then flubbed that up entirely by giving the revenue away to Pearson.”

But Richard Novak, a Rutgers vice president, said it “would have been very nearly impossible for the university to enter the online degree space without the help of a powerful partner.” Novak said it would be “myopic and lopsided” to punish the company when students drop out, because many factors contribute to such decisions.

“This is a deep partnership,” Novak said, “and we work together on such issues.”

FAMILY FIRM TO GLOBAL GIANT

The company that would play such an outsize role in American classrooms was founded in Yorkshire, England, in 1844 as family-owned construction firm. By the 1890s, it was one of the largest building contractors in the world.

Over the decades, Pearson PLC — now based in London — bought stakes in all manner of industries, including newspapers, amusement parks and even the Madame Tussauds wax museum. It wouldn’t be until 1988 that the company took its first big step into the education world when it bought textbook publisher Addison-Wesley. Other acquisitions soon followed.

Though it still owns the Financial Times and Penguin Random House publishing, Pearson now focuses on education. It employs nearly 40,000 worldwide.

“When the federal government starts doing things like requiring all states to test all kids, there’s going to be gold in those hills. The people we’ve elected have created a landscape that’s allowed Pearson to prosper.”

- Jonathan Zimmerman, education historian at New York University.

Pearson’s stature is reflected in its access to top policymakers. Pearson is the only company with a seat on the board of directors of the Global Partnership for Education, which works with the World Bank and the United Nations to encourage developing countries to invest in education. (Pearson has substantial business interests in Asia, the Middle East and South America.)

And Pearson was one of only three for-profit education companies — the other two were startups — invited to hobnob with the Obamas and Education Secretary Arne Duncan last year at a White House summit on college access.

Pearson’s size has made it a lightning rod for criticism. Activists from both left and right spit out the brand name almost as a curse, using it as shorthand for all the educational trends they dislike, from the focus on high-stakes tests to the shift to Common Core to the push to turn more teaching over to high-tech algorithms.

The comedian Louis C.K. has tweeted his disdain for confusing homework questions “written by pearson or whoever the hell.” Glenn Beck has publicly held up Pearson as a symbol of corporate greed. A speaker at a teachers’ union conference last summer drew cheers with his fervid vow, “We will not be Pearsonized!” And when Ohio students recently produced an anti-Common Core video, they targeted Pearson in particular, flashing the corporate logo as they sang lyrics they’d adapted from a Pink Floyd song: “Hey! Pearson! Leave them kids alone!”

Conspiracy theorists sometimes suggest that Pearson has a sinister hold on federal and state education policy. In peak years, it has spent about $1 million lobbying Congress and perhaps $1 million more on the state level, with a particular focus on Texas, according to state and federal records.

But that’s not an outsize number for such a large company. By comparison, the National Education Association, the biggest teachers union in the U.S., spent $2.5 million lobbying Congress in 2013, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

“The policies that Pearson is benefiting from may be wrongheaded in a million ways, but it strikes me as deeply unfair to blame Pearson for them,” said Jonathan Zimmerman, an education historian at New York University. “When the federal government starts doing things like requiring all states to test all kids, there’s going to be gold in those hills. The people we’ve elected have created a landscape that’s allowed Pearson to prosper.”

 

Still, some policy analysts say they’re uneasy with a profit-driven company exercising so much influence over American education. The company’s global adjusted operating profit for 2013 topped $1 billion — and 55 percent of it came from the North American education division.

“The line between profit and profiteering can seem pretty fuzzy,” said Cathy Davidson, director of the Futures Initiative and a professor at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York. “If you have an exclusive contract with a massive educational system, is that really just earning a profit, or are you profiting at the public’s expense?” Davidson said. “That’s the line many people, including myself, find very troubling.”

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In an interview last spring, Pearson CEO John Fallon defended the company’s profits as appropriate, in part, because they finance investments to improve education around the world.

“We are a profit-making enterprise,” Fallon said. “We don’t exist unless we have the profits to sustain a billion dollars or more in research. But profits do not define us.”

Profit margins for Pearson’s work with public institutions are hard to determine. Where they can be tracked, they’re sizable.

A 2012 contract with California State University projected that Pearson would earn $12 million over five years for marketing, enrollment and student support services — a healthy markup considering the company estimated it would spend $5.5 million to provide those services. The deal fell apart two years later, in part, because of the university’s concern over costs.

And the business plan for Pearson’s 2010 joint marketing venture with an online public school in Florida projected gross profit margins would hit 85 percent within a few years. That deal, too, fell apart as sales didn’t come close to meeting expectations.

One of Pearson’s most successful deals to date puts the company in charge of marketing and supporting online degree programs for Arizona State University in exchange for more than half of student tuition revenue.

The programs have grown rapidly since Pearson launched them in 2010; as of fall 2014, 10,000 students were enrolled, though that’s still short of projections.

Kari Barlow, ASU’s chief operating officer, described the university’s relationship with Pearson as “highly cooperative,” adding: “We succeed or fail together.”

ASU Online will bring in about $69 million in student tuition this year.

The university will keep about $31 million.

Pearson’s share: $38 million.

‘THE GENIUS OF PEARSON’

Pearson is probably best known in the U.S. for its standardized tests.

It dominates that market.

Pearson holds testing contracts with 21 states plus Washington, New York City and Puerto Rico. The most recent analysis available pegs Pearson’s market share at 39 percent, nearly triple the size of its nearest competitor. That 2012 report, from The Brookings Institution, estimates Pearson’s annual revenue from U.S. assessments at $258 million.

Pearson is poised to maintain its position in the new era of exams aligned to the Common Core academic standards. It holds the contract to administer and score the exams that will be used by 10 states in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers consortium. The PARCC contract is worth at least $138 million to Pearson this year and could ultimately be worth many hundreds of millions more.

A rival test developer is fighting the contract in court, alleging the bidding was rigged so only Pearson could plausibly compete. Pearson, which was the only bidder, says the process was fair. The bidding was run through New Mexico; state officials also defend the process.

But New Mexico has refused to produce any correspondence between Pearson and state employees in response to a public records request that POLITICO filed last August.

Whether they’re traditional or Common Core, standardized tests these days carry high stakes. Scores on the exams can determine whether a child advances to the next grade, whether a teacher keeps her job and whether a school remains open.

So its stronghold in the testing business gives Pearson huge leverage over other aspects of K-12 education.

To prepare their students for Pearson exams, districts can buy Pearson textbooks, Pearson workbooks and Pearson test prep, such as a suite of software that includes 60,000 sample exam questions. They can connect kids to Pearson’s online tutoring service or hire Pearson consultants to coach their teachers. Pearson also sells software to evaluate teachers and recommend Pearson professional development classes to those who rate poorly — perhaps because their students aren’t faring well on Pearson tests.

“The genius of Pearson is the interconnection among their markets,” said Apple, the education policy professor. “That gives Pearson its power.”

Niyogi, the Pearson executive, said the company’s breadth benefits consumers, because it can “combine products in a way that helps our customers do more with less.”

The company has numerous competitors for nearly all the products it sells, but the POLITICO review found Pearson often has the inside track for contracts because its products are so ubiquitous and its sales staff builds such tight relationships with state and local officials.

When North Carolina wanted to replace its Pearson-run student database with an updated system, state officials reflected on their “positive experiences” with the company and decided “it would be in the best interest of the public” to hire Pearson again — without seeking bids from competitors, said Vanessa Jeter, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Instruction.

 

So in the fall of 2012, the state awarded Pearson a two-year, $8.5 million no-bid contract to transfer student data to a new system.

Pearson’s new database, PowerSchool, turned out to be riddled with so many glitches that some schools couldn’t tally enrollment or produce accurate transcripts; one local superintendent called it a “train wreck.”

Most problems have now been fixed, Jeter said. But the state had to hire eight Pearson project managers — each of whom billed up to $1,024 per day — to relieve its overloaded IT staff and assist districts with their “unique issues arising from the implementation of PowerSchool,” according to a contract amendment.

The emergency help, plus more training and other additions, pushed the two-year price of the no-bid Pearson contract up 44 percent, to $12.2 million. Last summer, North Carolina extended it for a third year at a cost of $7.1 million.

Michael Chai, Pearson’s senior vice president for school product technology, said PowerSchool has rolled out more smoothly in other districts. “There are always lessons learned,” he said. “For each deployment, we get better and better.”

SHOWING OFF IN ALABAMA

The value of Pearson’s involvement in overlapping markets is on full display in Huntsville, Alabama.

The local school district, which serves 23,000 students, inked a six-year, $22 million, no-bid contract with Pearson in June 2012.

Under Alabama law, districts don’t have to seek competitive bids on instructional material, such as the digital curriculum that Huntsville bought from Pearson. But the contract also calls for Pearson to provide other services that would typically be put out to bid, including software to analyze student achievement, professional development courses for teachers, tech support and test-prep questions.

A district spokesman, Keith Ward, said the district did not seek other bids because officials believed Pearson to be the only vendor that could bundle all the services.

The contract was signed by Superintendent Casey Wardynski. A year after signing the contract, he led a Pearson webinar on district leadership in the digital age. And Pearson listed Wardynski online as a member of the company’s “team of experts,” one of the “minds behind our solutions” — until POLITICO inquired about the apparent conflict, and the website was taken down.

Pearson declined to answer questions about Wardynski’s role with the company. Niyogi also declined to say whether Pearson has ever paid Wardynski.

The district did not make Wardynski available for an interview. Rena Anderson, the director of community engagement, said the superintendent “receives no compensation in any form from Pearson or any affiliates.”

POLITICO submitted a public records request last summer for correspondence between Pearson and a handful of top district officials, including Wardynski. The district’s lawyer, Taylor Brooks, said he believed there were a great many such emails but said they might be personal in nature and thus not a matter of public record. He refused to produce any documents.

Pearson’s relationship with the Huntsville school district extends beyond the $22 million contract.

The district hosts regular tours to showcase its use of online textbooks; more than 700 educators from across the nation have attended. The tours have boosted Wardynski’s reputation as a trailblazer; he and the district have won awards for their embrace of technology.

The tours also give Pearson a golden opportunity to pitch school officials on its products. On the itinerary: a visit to the laptop maintenance center, a trip to an elementary school — and a presentation from a Pearson representative.

Pearson declined to say whether the company underwrites the tours. But the company has not been shy about using every opportunity to get its sales force in front of potential customers.

In a successful 2013 application to renew its Virginia certification as a “turnaround partner” for struggling schools, for instance, Pearson listed 14 employees it said would play vital roles in helping those schools improve. One was the sales director for a Pearson tutoring service.

Pearson also used its charitable foundation to put its sales reps in front of potential customers. The foundation sent state officials to conferences in London; Helsinki, Finland; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Singapore, where they had plenty of time to mingle with the Pearson sales team.

A POLITICO investigation last year found other instances of Pearson’s charitable work intertwining with its business interests. The company announced in November that it was shutting down the foundation.

TEXAS COLLEGES BET BIG

In higher education, Pearson has had striking success at parlaying relatively small jobs into big contracts.

Northern Arizona University, for instance, signed a routine contract in February 2012 to buy online curricular material from Pearson. The contract also called for Pearson to help NAU faculty customize that material. Total cost to the university: about $3 million over three years.

Two months later, the contract was amended without competitive bidding to give Pearson a much bigger job: developing the equivalent of more than 100 online courses in business administration, information technology and liberal studies. The college guaranteed payments of at least $8.7 million.

NAU spokesman Tom Bauer said the process was appropriate because the original contract and the amendment both served the same goal of tapping Pearson’s expertise to build online resources. Pearson declined to comment.

Pearson’s success in landing the Arizona contract soon paved the way for additional deals.

In the summer of 2013, two public colleges in Texas went looking for a partner to develop inexpensive online degree programs that students could move through at their own pace, advancing as they demonstrated competency at each required skill. The colleges turned to Pearson — and awarded the company a no-bid contract worth more than $9 million over five years.

 

Steven Moore, a vice chancellor at Texas A&M University, said the contract was not put out for competitive bid because administrators believed no other company could match the expertise that Pearson had gleaned working for NAU.

Pearson’s NAU program at the time was barely underway; there was no way to gauge its academic impact or its appeal to students. (Just two dozen would enroll that fall.) Nonetheless, officials at Texas A&M-Commerce and South Texas College were so confident their partnership with Pearson would be a success that they agreed to pay the company for at least 40,200 student enrollments by 2018. Pearson collects a fee for each enrollment; all told, the company stands to earn $9.4 million.

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In the first year, the colleges got just 463 enrollments, far short of the 840 projected in the contract. Administrators said they expect it to pick up now that they have launched a major marketing campaign for their first degree program, a bachelor’s in organizational leadership.

And if enrollments fall short despite the marketing? The colleges still owe $9.4 million. The contract does, however, let them make up any shortfall by buying additional Pearson products, which they could use to launch new degree programs — supported by Pearson.

Pearson’s Niyogi said the company “works with all of our partners to structure a contract that makes the best use of their resources.”

A FLORIDA BLOCKBUSTER

Pearson’s contracts in Arizona and Texas pale in comparison to its blockbuster deal with the University of Florida.

That deal traces to 2011, when a Pearson subsidiary won a competitive process to develop online programs for graduate students at Florida’s flagship university. Pearson’s online courses did not do very well; just 48 students enrolled last fall in a Master of Arts in Urban and Regional Planning, which was projected to draw hundreds this year. But administrators got to know Pearson representatives.

So when the legislature ordered the university to build an online college for undergrads on a tight deadline, the UF team didn’t host a new round of competitive bids, though the project was much bigger than the graduate courses, and at least eight companies have expertise in the field. Instead, the team rewrote Pearson’s old contract to assign the company’s new, and far more lucrative, responsibilities.

“Given that we already had Pearson people we were acquainted with, we needed to investigate using their expertise,” said Andrew McCollough, an associate provost. “We knew Pearson by reputation. … In our considered judgment at the time, this was the best route for us to take.”

The contract was signed just before Thanksgiving of 2013. By Christmas, Pearson had collected its first $1.75 million.

All told, the contract is worth a projected $186 million to Pearson through 2024, according to a business plan reviewed by POLITICO.

That sum includes $9.5 million in public funds over the next few years. The rest comes from student tuition.

Pearson will initially collect $135 for each Florida student who enrolls in an online class — and $765 for each out-of-state student. The faculty member teaching the course, by contrast, will earn a flat $60 per student, according to minutes from a June meeting of the university’s board of governors.

Paul LeBlanc, president of Southern New Hampshire University, has studied this type of arrangement — though not this particular contract — and says it makes sense for companies like Pearson to demand substantial payments and multiyear deals. The private sector must “put in enormous amounts of capital and resources to bring these institutions online,” he said.

At the same time, LeBlanc said he hears frustration from his fellow college presidents. They feel a great urgency to get into the online market, but they lack the expertise, he said, so they have few options other than to bring in a for-profit partner.

Many colleges are “looking for life rafts,” said Ken Hartman, principal analyst at the consulting firm Eduventures, which advises universities on developing online programs. Administrators often jump in without fully considering either their needs or the cost of hiring a private partner, Hartman said: “It looks very tempting, and you think it’s going to save the day for you. But it’s not.”

In Florida, UF won’t begin making significant profit off the online college until 2020 — and then only if it grows exponentially, according to the business plan. The university projects more than 25,000 undergrads will be enrolled within a decade. About 1,600 enrolled in the first year.

“I believe we are on track,” McCollough said, “but the future is yet unknown.”

Pearson’s contract with UF gives the company the right to request access to all information from students’ applications for admission, including financial aid data. The university does have discretion, though, and uses it: “We’ve already had instances where Pearson wished they would have more access to student information, and we’ve said no,” McCollough said.

“I heard a lot from my constituents about Pearson’s role. They’re very concerned that it’s taken over of much of the educational assessment arena — that it’s basically become a behemoth.”

- Arizona state Sen. Kelli Ward (R)

Other contracts reviewed by POLITICO give Pearson more leeway with no restrictions on how the company uses the vast quantities of personal data it can collect as it recruits and enrolls students and then tracks their progress through the academic programs. Some of the information is protected by federal privacy law, but much is not.

Pearson says it does not sell the data or use it to target advertising to students. But the contracts do not give the colleges Pearson works with any mechanism to monitor or enforce that policy. Pearson has declined to join more than 100 other education technology firms in signing a Student Privacy Pledge recently hailed by President Barack Obama as an important safeguard against commercial data mining.

ROUGH TIMES IN LOS ANGELES

As public criticism of Pearson has mounted, the company has moved aggressively to manage and protect its public image.

It engaged a market research firm last summer to conduct in-depth interviews with journalists and other “elite stakeholders” about their views of the company, offering to pay participants $150 for their time. (POLITICO education reporters were asked to participate but did not.)

Pearson has also stepped up outreach on social media and through its campus ambassadors — students paid to promote its products at colleges.

And when controversy began swirling around a pricey Pearson partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District, executives leaped into action.

“I’m writing to see how we can support a concerted effort to make the many positive voices more prominent,” Sherry King, a Pearson Foundation vice president, emailed then-Superintendent John Deasy in the fall of 2013. “Please let us know how we can help in a systematic way. Our team is ready to work with you.”

As it turned out, no amount of positive PR could rescue the Pearson deal with LAUSD.

Emails first published by public radio station KPCC showed that Deasy and other top LAUSD officials had been discussing a major curriculum purchase with Pearson executives a year before the contract went out to bid.

The Pearson reps positioned themselves not just as potential business partners but as loyal acolytes of Deasy, who had his hands full dealing with a restive school board and angry teachers union. “I’m proud to know you!” one wrote. Another told Deasy she hoped he was getting enough rest after some difficult days, adding, “thank goodness we have you as our Supt.”

On May 24, 2012, then-Deputy Superintendent Jaime Aquino — who had worked for a Pearson subsidiary before joining the district — circulated an email thread that included an exchange he’d had with Pearson executives about whether the district would have to seek competitive bids before buying the curriculum. “I believe we would have to make sure that your bid is the lowest one,” he wrote.

Pearson executive Judy Codding responded that she didn’t see a need for a competitive bid. “I don’t know why there would have to be an RFP,” she wrote. “I just want things right. I cannot imagine any oneelse able to do this as cheaply…”

Deasy and Pearson have said they were only discussing a pilot project. But the emails suggest conversations about a much bigger deal. Aquino told the Los Angeles Times that his involvement in the project was “by the book.” He said his email was just an attempt to explain how a competitive bidding process would work, with the district seeking the lowest possible price.

The district ended up requesting bids in March of 2013 for an enormous project — distributing tablets loaded with math and reading curriculum to all 650,000 students plus all their teachers.

A subsequent review led by school board member Monica Ratliff found serious flaws in the process, including inconsistent scoring of bids and late rule changes that appeared to favor the ultimate winners: Apple and Pearson.

At least three LAUSD officials who had a role in evaluating the bids had attended a three-day conference in Palm Desert the previous year hosted by Pearson, KPCC has reported. Participants got a look at the new curriculum Pearson was trying to sell to LAUSD — and each took home an iPad loaded with sample lessons.

The iPad contract LAUSD finally signed in the summer of 2013 was eye-popping. Pearson alone stood to make an estimated $135 million over three years even though its curriculum was at that point at least a year away from completion. And that was just the start: The district would also have to pay Pearson an estimated $60 million a year to keep using its curriculum after 2016, according to LAUSD spokeswoman Shannon Haber.

Days after the publication of the Pearson emails last August, Deasy halted the purchases. He resigned in October, saying that he wanted to spend more time with his family and that he was confident he had committed “no missteps” in the iPad deal.

In December, the FBI seized 20 boxes of records about the deal from the district for an investigation that is still ongoing. Niyogi said the FBI has not requested information from the company, but it will cooperate if asked.

Early reviews of the curriculum, meanwhile, have been poor: An independent team visited 245 classrooms in the fall and found just one using the Pearson lessons.

“All the things that supposedly were so attractive about what Pearson was offering have not come to fruition, at least for me,” school board member Steve Zimmer said. He described his vote to buy the iPads loaded with the curriculum as “the worst vote I’ve ever made in my life.”

Chai, Pearson’s senior vice president for school product technology, said it’s “very typical of these kind of rollouts … that the adoption curve for teachers follows a bit of a bumpy path.”

BACKLASH

The company has experienced some setbacks in its higher education division. California State University last summer scrapped a 2012 contract worth more than $25 million after Pearson’s bid to recruit online students flopped spectacularly.

CSU had priced the online degrees substantially higher than traditional in-state tuition — at least, in part, because of the built-in cost of hiring Pearson, said Gerry Hanley, assistant vice chancellor for academic technology services. Enrollment never hit even 10 percent of projections.

Minutes from an advisory board meeting in October 2013 indicate that Pearson sought to raise its fees in the face of disappointing numbers. The university refused. “The quality of the marketing provided by Pearson was not adequate,” the minutes note.

Last year, Howard University also canceled plans to develop online programs with Pearson; neither the university or the company would comment on the reasons. And faculty at Rutgers voted to block Pearson from developing online courses in the graduate school, though the company is still working on other degree programs.

Pearson also faces challenges in the K-12 realm.

A federal review of the LAUSD’s iPad deal found the district could have saved considerably by building its own custom curriculum from a variety of online resources rather than buying a costly off-the-shelf model from a major publisher. More and more districts are coming to similar conclusions.

“The industry is changing,” said Mark Edwards, superintendent of the Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina. Pearson has hailed Edwards as a partner and a visionary, but he recently discontinued the remaining Pearson curricular product in use in his schools. Edwards said he couldn’t imagine ever again investing in a “one-size-fits-all” curriculum when “there’s so much rich new content coming online all the time.”

In the testing world, too, the ground is shifting rapidly. A loud backlash against the Common Core has prompted several states to pull out of the PARCC assessment consortium and reject the tests being developed by Pearson.

Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Arizona have all withdrawn from PARCC and picked rival testing companies to administer their statewide reading and math exams. Mississippi is poised to join them after the state Board of Education voted last month to leave PARCC and seek competitive bids for a new state assessment.

Pearson’s contract with PARCC projected that up to 10 million students would take the exam annually; this spring, just 5 million will be tested.

“I heard a lot from my constituents about Pearson’s role,” said Arizona state Sen. Kelli Ward, a Republican, who worked to extract her state from PARCC. “They’re very concerned that it’s taken over so much of the educational assessment arena — that it’s basically become a behemoth.”

Another big blow came this fall in the Lone Star State when Education Commissioner Michael Williams declined to renew Pearson’s $90 million-a-year contract to run the Texas standardized testing program.

The state auditor had ripped into the contract in a 2013 report that concluded it was far too vague to allow for effective oversight by the Texas Education Agency. The contract had so few details about the costs of each element that when the legislature eliminated 10 of the 15 tests required for high school graduation, state officials had to rely on Pearson to tell them how much they’d save.

Texas launched a competitive bidding process for new exams and is now reviewing the proposals.

Perhaps the biggest threat to Pearson’s continued dominance, however, comes from Capitol Hill.

Republicans and Democrats alike have expressed sharp concern about the prominent role standardized testing now plays in schools across the nation. They’re considering scrapping the federal mandate that all states test all students in reading and math each year in grades three through eight plus at least once in high school.

Pearson is not abandoning the U.S. market because of these challenges — far from it.

Niyogi said Pearson is proud of its work on projects such as the Common Core exams and an online toolkit for parents and won’t be sidetracked by criticism. “We have to make sure we’re not distracted by the noise,” she said.

Yet Pearson is also deliberately shifting resources as it pivots to focus on new markets in the developing world.

Pearson already has a major footprint running English-language schools in China and Brazil. It operates degree-granting colleges serving tens of thousands of students in Mexico, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. It’s growing in India.

And just last month, Pearson announced it would invest $50 million in local education startups, including for-profit private schools, across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The time is right for Pearson to expand internationally, said Brendan O’Grady, a vice president. The company stands ready to export to the world the model that has proved so successful in the United States since Pearson purchased National Computer Systems nearly 15 years ago and first jumped into the American testing market.

“We see it,” O’Grady said, “as an opportunity.”

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Teachers: Assign History Papers to Teach Writing Skills

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(Editor: www.thereportcard.org Fewer and fewer schools assign rigorous history papers, yet writing about history is a great teacher of writing skills as well as history itself. If more schools would assign history papers, perhaps the 88% high school seniors who rated by the NAEP as not proficient in American History would learn something).

 

By Samantha Wesner

 

Samantha Wesner is the managing editor of The Concord Review, which publishes high school students’ research papers.

 

As a junior in high school taking American history, my class had two options for the final project: a PowerPoint presentation or an extended research essay. To many it was a no-brainer; the PowerPoint was definitely going to involve more pictures, fewer hours of work, and less solitude. But some of us went for the research paper, whether because we were naturally drawn to writing, seeking a new challenge, or presentation-averse (as I was).

The daunting task loomed. The essay length: fifteen to twenty pages. The topic I had chosen: The Spanish-American War of 1898. I was a slow writer, and the longest paper I had written before was a five-page English paper on Kurt Vonnegut. The English department had seen to it that I had plenty of practice writing shorter papers. But this new assignment was a leap forward rather than a step. I might have been better off with Will Fitzhugh’s “Page Per Year” plan: With each year, I would have written a paper to correspond with my grade—one page for first grade, nine pages for ninth grade, and so on.

I scoured the textbook for the few paragraphs it offered on the subject. And then what? I would have stopped there if I hadn’t known that other students had done it. Those of us writing a paper were given examples, plus guidance on paragraph structure, quoting, balancing primary and secondary sources, and footnoting. We toured the library and some online resources to get us started. With this essential how-to knowledge in hand, the assignment inched toward the realm of the possible in my mind.

Stacks of library books, reams of notes, and a twenty-page paper later, I had written what I now consider to be the capstone of my high school education. Years later, I remember 1898 better than the great majority of what I learned in high school. To this day, I really do “remember the Maine”; I have a lasting understanding of turn-of-the-century American imperialism, the power and danger of a jingoist press, the histories of complex relationships between the U.S. and the Philippines and Cuba, and Teddy Roosevelt’s unusual path to national prominence. My initial, vague interest blossomed into a fascination that I did not expect when I first set out. I felt a sense of pride as I tucked the stack of paper neatly into a binder to be handed in. Happy to be done, but even happier to have done it, I felt as if I had summited a peak that had seemed ineffably large from below. And I had certainly needed a big push.

Perusing class syllabi my first semester in college, I came upon a description of a final assignment in a history class that looked interesting: a fifteen- to twenty-page research paper. “I can do that,” I thought, “I’ve done it before.”

I didn’t know how lucky I was to be in the small minority of college freshmen who had learned how to write a research paper in high school. Most American high school students graduate without ever being encouraged to explore a topic in such depth, and yet this is exactly the kind of work they will encounter in college, especially in the humanities. In an era in which the president is invested in making college an opportunity all can afford, it’s only fitting that all should be afforded the proper preparation.

We do a disservice to students when we don’t ask them to do challenging work that will hold them in good stead in college and beyond. True, hard-working teachers, some of whom have over 150 students to teach, often simply do not have the time to grade this kind of assignment. In a perfect world, there would be time and resources to spare for extensive feedback to every student. But a research paper that receives even a little feedback is better than no research paper at all. The former still immeasurably deepens a student’s knowledge, skill set, self-discipline, and confidence.

I have my high school history teacher to thank for the confidence with which I approached my first college research paper. I ended up majoring in history and was comfortable writing a senior thesis of more than one hundred pages. Now, with The Concord Review, I have the wonderful task of recognizing student achievement. And yet, I’m painfully aware that The Concord Review’s young authors are the exceptions—those high schoolers who have written extensive history research papers. Those published go on to great things; many attend top colleges and four have been named Rhodes Scholars. Without a doubt, these are bright students. But how many bright students in the public school system have brilliant papers within them? If they aren’t afforded that first push, we may never find out.

Samantha Wesner is a recent honors graduate in History

from Harvard College, where her thesis on Masonic organizations

in 18th Century France won the Hoopes Prize in a college-wide competition

 

 

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New AZ State Course: “Problem of Whiteness”

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(Editor: www.thereportcard.org Yet another university course is being offered in what is wrong with white people, and western thought. The National Association of Scholars conducted a study of California colleges to determine whether hard left bias really dominated campuses within history and political science department . The survey results show that for every moderate professor there are 12 on the far left. On some campuses the ratio is as high as 25-1, and woe betide the student that disagrees with the leftist orthodoxy. Free thought and speech is being trampled. The Arizona State example is but one of many. The Report Card will publish a series of articles on the leftist anti-western bias at our colleges and concomitantly K-12 public schools).

By Lauren Clark “Campus Reform”

In a sign that America’s institutions of higher learning may be lost forever to the radical left, college students in Arizona can now take a class on “Hating Whitey.”

In line with the extreme academic discipline called critical race theory, which is prevalent on campuses across America, Arizona State University is now offering a course on “the problem of whiteness,” according to Campus Reform.

Critical race theory is a belief that relies heavily on the myth of institutional racism, the opinion that racism is inherent in America, brought on by white privilege and white supremacy.

And if that’s not bad enough, the class—ENGLISH 401: “Studies in American Literature/Culture: U.S. Race Theory & the Problem of Whiteness” — is being taught by a white man.

Leave it to a white academic elitist, beset with “white guilt” no doubt, to corrupt the minds of young Americans with a theory driven by identity politics that has little basis in reality.

Campus Reform correspondent Lauren Clark, a student at Arizona State, joined Elisabeth Hasselbeck this week on “Fox and Friends,” and talked about the books associated with the course.

“All of the books have a disturbing trend, and that’s pointing to all white people as the root cause of social injustices for this country,” Clark said.

Twenty people are enrolled in the class, which began Jan. 12.

“I think it shows the significant double standard of higher education institutions,” James Malone, a junior economics major, told Campus Reform. “They would never allow a class talking about the problem of ‘blackness.’ And if they did, there would be an uproar about it. But you can certainly harass people for their apparent whiteness.”

 

 

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“Islamophobe” A Noun or a Threat?

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By Bill Korach www.thereportcard.org

 

In light of the Islamic massacre of the staff of the magazine “Charlie Hebdo in Paris, I am rethinking what it means to be labeled an Islamophobe. The Report Card has published a number of articles about the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) which is the US face of Hamas a terrorist organization. For these fact based articles, I was named an “Islamophobe” in CAIR’s annual Florida Report. In November last year, this news story appeared in The Report Card about the annual report.

 

 

“The Council on Islamic American Relations (CAIR), the American face of HAMAS, a terrorist organization as recognized by the State Department, produced their 2014 Florida Annual Report this month naming Report Card publisher William Korach an “Islamophobe.” The Report was distributed at their banquet and will be posted to their website in due course. CAIR has been active in obstructing the New York Police Department from surveillance of Islamic radicals, fighting the use of the phrase “radical Islam” in official reports and in the media, and indoctrinating American schools about Islam. The Report Card has published a series of articles on key CAIR operative Hassan Shibly’s lectures on Islam in Tampa schools.

 

CAIR’s list of Islamophobes also includes Col. Allen West, former Florida US Congressman, Dr. William Saxton, who holds a Ph.D in physics from Harvard and is President of Citizens for National Security, Florida Senator Alan Hays, Volusia County Republican Party Chairman Tony Ledbetter, Randy McDaniels, President of Jacksonville Act for America and others.”

 

In America, it is commonplace for one side or another to label their opponents. For example, Democrats frequently say that Republicans are “racist.” Republicans say that many Democrats are now “socialists.” Each side causes anger and retort, but at the end of the day, they are just nouns or words, no one is killed in the process. But what does it mean when a Muslim calls out an opponent or uses the name “Islamophobe?” Is that a noun or is it a threat? Does it mean that the labeled individual is a marked man?

 

Many murders have been carried out by Islamic radicals because they claim their victims slandered (kidhb) the Prophet Mohammed. To be labeled an Islamophobe means that that one is hostel to Islam and perhaps has slandered Islam, an act worthy of death. It is not at all hard to earn a death sentence in the world of Islam. We see plainly that it meant death to the staff of Charlie Hebdo. Could that happen in America? It already has. Should I start making use of my concealed carry permit? Maybe it’s time.

 

 

 

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Common Core’s Coleman Praises Chinese Communist Propaganda Mill

David Coleman President of the College Board

David Coleman President of the College Board

(Editor: www.thereportcard.org David Coleman, principal author of The Common Core Standard, and now president of The College Board lavished effusive praise over Ms. Xu Lin, head of the Chinese Confucius Institute that exists on many US, Canadian and European college campuses. The purpose of the Institute is to indoctrinate students about the virtues and values of the Communist Party).

 

Wall Street Journal December 26, 2014.

 

Earlier this year, U.S. College Board President David Coleman feted Ms. Xu at a conference in Los Angeles. Referring to Ms. Xu’s agency by its Chinese acronym, Hanban, Mr. Coleman gushed: “Hanban is like the sun. It lights the path to develop Chinese teaching in the U.S. The College Board is the moon. I am so honored to reflect the light that we’ve gotten from Hanban.”

Not all scholars and politicians are so credulous. The University of Chicago and Penn State recently closed their Confucius Institutes, while Canada’s largest school district, in Toronto, nixed plans to open one.

Ms. Xu’s comments now challenge the legions of American university and K-12 leaders who have never raised concerns, even as most of them signed secret contracts with Beijing. New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith has pledged to investigate such contracts and examine whether institutions should lose government funds for restricting academic freedom. Such efforts can help, but a broader shift in attitude is needed.

Students deserve opportunities to study Chinese language and culture without wearing ideological blinders provided by Beijing. To the extent that Beijing-backed Confucius Institutes shape instruction in the West, Chinese government interests will increasingly trump academic freedom.

 

Why does Coleman lavish praise on a bureaucrat who support the oppressive Chinese Communist government, while at the same time trashes America in The College Board’s Advanced Placement US History framework? Mr. Coleman’s priorities are backward.

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Indiana Law: Students Must Pass Same Civics Test as Immigrants

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(Editor: www.thereportcard.org According to the US Department of Education, 88% of high school seniors are NOT proficient in US History, yet immigrants must pass an oral test about history and American government. Indiana State Senator Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn is introducing a bill to require students to pass the same test as immigrants. What a great idea. Scroll down, and see if you can pass the test).

 

IndyStar

Hoosier students who want to graduate from high school could soon be required to pass the same civics test as immigrants who want to become U.S. citizens.

That’s the idea behind a measure that one of Indiana’s top education lawmakers plans to introduce during the upcoming legislative session, which convenes Jan. 6.

“I believe that if we’re asking someone from a foreign country to know this information, that our own citizens ought to know it,” said Senate Education Committee Chairman Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn.

The bill is still being written, but it would require all public and charter school students to correctly answer at least 60 percent of the 100 civics questions that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services uses to administer its naturalization test, Kruse said.

Immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship are asked 10 of those 100 questions and must answer six correctly to pass.

The test includes basic American government and history questions, such as “Who was the first President?”, “Why does the flag have 13 stripes?” and “When was the Declaration of Independence adopted?”

Kruse said students would be able to take the test any time from 8th grade to 12th grade. Passing it would be a condition for receiving a diploma, he said.

 

His bill will make Indiana one of about 15 states where such legislation is being considered, said Sam Stone, political director for the Civics Education Initiative, an Arizona-based non-profit group that is lobbying for the civics test across the country.

About 92 percent of immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship pass the test on their first try, Stone said, but studies in Arizona and Oklahoma have found that less than 5 percent of high school students passed the test.

“Those are really poor numbers,” he said.

The group’s push for a new civics test is a reaction to the current emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, subjects, which he said has caused a “massive shift away from civics and social studies.”

“No matter how much knowledge you have, if you don’t know how to use that knowledge within our system of government, it’s not much good,” he said. “Our government was designed to be run by informed, engaged citizens. We have an incredibly dangerous form of government for people who don’t know how it works.”

A spokesman for Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz said she hadn’t seen the legislation and that it would be premature to comment.

Can you pass the U.S. citizenship civics test?

Could you pass the test? Try answering these 20 questions.

While these questions are from the actual naturalization civics test, the real test is not multiple choice. Rather, immigrants must orally answer up to 10 questions from a list of 100. A score of at least 60 percent is required to pass. These sample questions and answers are taken from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

 

 

 

  • Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the states. What is one power of the states?

    • make treaties
    • coin or print money
    • provide schooling and education
    • create an army
  • What is freedom of religion?

    • No one can practice a religion.
    • You can’t choose the time you practice your religion.
    • You can practice any religion, or not practice a religion.
    • You must choose a religion.
  • Who vetoes bills?

    • the President Pro Tempore
    • the President
    • the Vice President
    • the Speaker of the House
  • Who is in charge of the executive branch?

    • the Speaker of the House
    • the Chief Justice
    • the Prime Minister
    • the President
  • What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?

    • the Articles of Confederation
    • the Bill of Rights
    • the inalienable rights
    • the Declaration of Independence
  • What is the capital of the United States?

    • Philadelphia, PA
    • Boston, MA
    • Washington, D.C.
    • New York, NY
  • What ocean is on the East Coast of the United States?

    • Atlantic Ocean
    • Indian Ocean
    • Pacific Ocean
    • Arctic Ocean
  • The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the U.S. Constitution. Name one of the writers.

    • Thomas Jefferson
    • James Madison
    • George Washington
    • John Adams
  • What is the name of the national anthem?

    • America the Beautiful
    • My Country Tis of Thee
    • The Star-Spangled Banner
    • God Bless the U.S.A
  • Name one state that borders Mexico.

    • California
    • Arkansas
    • Alabama
    • Florida
  • Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived?

    • no one
    • American Indians
    • Floridians
    • Canadians
  • Name one branch or part of the government.

    • United Nations
    • parliament
    • state government
    • legislative
  • How old do citizens have to be to vote for President?

    • twenty-one (21) and older
    • sixteen (16) and older
    • eighteen (18) and older
    • thirty-five (35) and older
  • Name one American Indian tribe in the United States.

    • Celts
    • Cherokee
    • Slavs
    • Zawi Chemi
  • If the President can no longer serve, who becomes President?

    • the Secretary of State
    • the President Pro Tempore
    • the Speaker of the House
    • the Vice President
  • What are two rights of everyone living in the United States?

    • freedom to petition the government and freedom to disobey traffic laws
    • freedom of worship and freedom to make treaties with other countries
    • freedom of speech and freedom of worship
    • freedom of speech and freedom to run for president
  • Who was President during the Great Depression and World War II?

    • Franklin Roosevelt
    • Harry Truman
    • Herbert Hoover
    • Calvin Coolidge
  • What did Susan B. Anthony do?

    • fought for women’s rights
    • founded the Red Cross
    • made the first flag of the United States
    • the first woman elected to the House of Representatives
  • Name the U.S. war between the North and the South.

    • the War of 1812
    • the Civil War
    • World War I
    • the Revolutionary War
  • Who does a U.S. Senator represent?

    • the state legislatures
    • all people of the state
    • only the people in the state who voted for the Senator
    • all people of the state who belong to the Senator’s political party

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Want Your Child in a Top College? The Concord Review!

Will Fitzhugh Publisher The Concord Review

Will Fitzhugh Publisher The Concord Review

In Other Words

 

Will Fitzhugh

The Concord Review

The classical curriculum always valued having students be able to speak and write well about essential subjects and to know enough to do so convincingly. The secret to doing that, was, they understood, practice.

 

In modern America, we fully understand the value of practice when it comes to Pop Warner football, Little League baseball, and other athletic efforts for our young people. But when it comes to preparing them to read and understand complete nonfiction books and to write serious term papers, we have largely missed the point.

 

Our students are not the problem with our levels of academic illiteracy. Our schools and our teachers need to be afforded the time and the expectation to guide our students toward academic competence. The Concord Review, Inc., has the registered trademark: Varsity Academics®. We need to attempt to give academic work by our students at least as much attention and support in their Academics as we now give their efforts in Athletics. Good classical schools are needed to bring this about.

 

It may seem hard to believe, but the majority of American high school students now graduate, and head off to college—the ones who do—without ever having read one complete nonfiction (e.g. history) book or written one serious history research paper.

 

Our history teachers seem, for the most part, to be content to have the English department in charge of reading and writing assignments, with the result that fiction is what is read, and the personal is often the subject of the writing.

 

There are exceptions. Since 1987, The Concord Review has published 103 issues, with eleven essays in each, by secondary students from forty-six states and forty other countries. These serious papers average 6,000 words in length (the average for the most recent issue was 7,500 words), and they are on a very wide variety of historical topics. (We don’t tell high school scholars what to write about.)

 

Many of these papers were done as independent studies, above and beyond what schools were asking these students to do. The longest we have published was 21,000 words, and that student had gone to her teacher at the Governor’s Academy and told him the paper would probably be about 57 pages, and was that ok? The teacher said yes. So there are teachers out there who do encourage their students to go beyond the 500-word “college essay.”

 

Our authors have been accepted at some very good colleges. Four have won Rhodes Scholarships. Many have sent reprints of their papers with their college application materials, and they have gone on to Brown (27), University of Chicago (23), Columbia (21), Cornell (16), Dartmouth (22), Harvard (125), Oxford (13), Pennsylvania (23), Princeton (64), Stanford (51), Yale (104), and a number of other fine institutions.

 

While foundations and private funders have been focused mostly on students who cannot read and write very well, we have received encouragement from Albert Shanker, David McCullough, Theodore Sizer, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Eugene Genovese, Stephen Thernstrom, and many other scholars, who value the work of serious young students of history, as we do.

 

But too many of our students are confined to reading and writing at levels far below what they are capable of managing, and we are sending most of them off to college quite unprepared for college reading lists and term paper assignments.

 

We need classical schools which will once more take seriously the task of bringing up our students as fine writers of nonfiction research papers and as readers capable of managing long important works of history.

 

 

 

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The Poisoned Fruit of Progressive Education

Dr. Kieran Egan

Dr. Kieran Egan

(Editor: www.thereportcard.org Kieran Egan, in his book “Getting it Wrong from the Beginning: Our Progressive Inheritance from Herbert Spencer, John Dewey, and Jean Piaget,” attacks progressive education as a tool of big, socialist government. Although Spencer, Dewey and Piaget wrote their theories in the early 20th century, their ideas have been enabled and turbocharged through the founding of the US Department of Education and the teacher’s unions in 1978. Egan was born in 1942 in Clonmel Ireland, though he was raised and educated in England. He graduated from the University of London with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1966. He subsequently worked as a research fellow at the Institute for Comparative Studies in Kingston upon Thames. He then moved to the United States and began a Ph.D in the philosophy of education at the Stanford Graduate School of Education. Egan completed his Ph.D at Cornell University in 1972).

 

By Dr. Kieran Egan

 

…So the prevailing curriculum based on Greek, Latin, and history was to be swept away. This took some time, but it has pretty well gone. Spencer despised the classical bent of the education that had shaped most of his middle-class contemporaries. This education provided a mass of irrelevant knowledge: “So terribly in our education does the ornamental over-ride the useful” (1928, p. 14). Advocates of future utility as a determining criterion for the curriculum became increasingly influential in the twentieth century. So social studies generally replaced traditional history, classical learning of any kind largely disappeared in favor of more utilitarian studies, the arts in general gave ground to practical preparations for everyday life, literature received less time than functional literacy activities, science and technology studies became a staple of the curriculum, and so on.

 

Whether we applaud or bewail or have mixed feelings about these changes, it is useful to pause and place them in a wider context that might help us see them more clearly. For the nineteenth and early twentieth-century arguments are new forms of those Plato had with the teachers of rhetoric when he introduced his new idea of education. The rhetoricians of the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. had devised a curriculum that included whatever was considered most useful in preparing the young for their future life in society. Spencer continued the tradition of Isocrates, the rhetorician who is the implicit target of Plato’s Republic. Spencer’s scientific and utilitarian curriculum was the new form of rhetoric in its ancient quarrel with philosophy. What we see in the triumph of Spencer’s ideas in the state schools of the twentieth century is the significant eclipse of Plato’s idea. The new form of rhetoric, the utilitarian curriculum, appealed to politicians and the administrators of the the great institutions of the modern state because it made the schools very largely into agencies of socialization…

 

 

 

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