I've often seen my colleagues as "The Borg" in the way they embrace, engulf, and screw up. This is not to say that educators are any different from other professionals who upon being given a stick, often grab it by the wrong end.
Examine the debate over the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and then look at this history of one of the central figures. William Bennett. The State of Florida is not different from any other in that there is a rich history of fudging the math. Sherman Dorn at USF says that Florida graduation rates are inflated. I expect you can take that statement to the bank.
The following is a collection of quotes and links. There is no original content here! This posting exists for the purpose of gathering resources.
For me, the story begins here. A true story about Bill Bennett
By Reed Hundt:
When I was chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (1993-97), I asked Bill Bennett to visit my office so that I could ask him for help in seeking legislation that would pay for internet access in all classrooms and libraries in the country.
Eventually Senators Olympia Snowe and Jay Rockefeller, with the White House leadership of President Clinton and Vice President Gore, put that provision in the Telecommunications Law of 1996, and today nearly 90% of all classrooms and libraries do have such access. The schools covered were public and private. So far the federal funding (actually collected from everyone as part of the phone bill) has been matched more or less equally with school district funding to total about $20 billion over the last seven years. More than 90% of all teachers praise the impact of such technology on their work.
At any rate, since Mr. Bennett had been Secretary of Education I asked him to support the bill in the crucial stage when we needed Republican allies. He told me he would not help, because he did not want public schools to obtain new funding, new capability, new tools for success. He wanted them, he said, to fail so that they could be replaced with vouchers,charter schools, religious schools, and other forms of private education. Well, I thought, at least he's candid about his true views. The key Senate committee voted almost on party lines on the bill, all D's for and all R's against, except one -- Olympia Snowe. Her support provided the margin of victory.
On the House side, Speaker Gingrich made sure the provision was not in the companion bill, but in conference again Senators Snowe and Rockefeller, with White House support, made the difference. The Internet has been the first technology made available to students in poorly funded schools at about the same time and in about the same way as to students in well funded schools.
In case you're wondering about Reed Hundt, he is a normal guy.
Before becoming Chairman of the FCC, Mr. Hundt was a partner in the Washington office of Latham & Watkins, a national and international law firm. His work included legal and regulatory issues in emerging technologies, such as cellular telephones, direct broadcast satellite, and interactive television.
In his private legal career he also handled pro bono matters for the U.S. Court of Appeals, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, Conservation International, and the D.C. Preservation League.
Chairman Hundt was the first Chairman to bring FCC operations into the communications age. He was the first Chairman to make himself accessible to a wide audience by participating in open, online conversations with the public and was the first FCC Chairman to have a personal computer on his desk and to be connected to an electronic network
Chairman Hundt is a graduate of Yale College (1969) and Yale Law School (1974), where he was a member of the board of the Yale Law Journal. He clerked for the late Chief Judge Harrison L. Winter of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and is a member of the District of Columbia, Maryland, and California bars.
Media Transparency dot org has an informal history of Mr. Bennett.
Bennett was Secretary of Education in the Reagan Administration, and later he served as national drug czar, and has written numerous pessimistic books about American culture, appearing frequently on television (he's a favorite of Tim Russert and NBC's Meet The Press), and speaking regularly at any number of right wing organizations, as well as serving on many of their boards of directors. He is a "Distinguished Fellow" at the Heritage Foundation.
The Bradley Foundation is the Milwaukee-based group that funded the notoriously racist book "The Bell Curve," so Joyce's participation on the Commission caught our attention. The articule turned out to be an interesting introduction to the world of conservative foundations....
Commission founder William J. Bennett himself is one good reason why some people in this country are so "ticked off." As chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and then U.S. Secretary of Eduation under President Ronald Reagan, Bennett was known for his crude defense of European-based college curricula nand his attacks on bilingual eduation, not to mention his call to dismantle the whole Department of Education itself. He has been an outspoken leader in national attacks on affirmative action. He has public attacked fellow Republican conservative Newt Gingrich for the House Speaker's overtures to the Rev. Jesse Jackson as well as to other Black Democrats. "Jesse Jackson has a history of being one of the worst racial polarizers in this country," Bennet said in an interview on CNN. (MJS 2/21/1997).
Today Bennett is a founder and director of an organization called Empower America, which describes itself as "...a unique combination of public policy institute and political advocacy organization." Empower America claims a membership of thousands of grassroots activists, but one of its main functions is to give its co-directors access to the news media, talk shows and the highest levels of government.
For example, for the past 20 years, orientation sessions for incoming members of Congress were run by the Kennedy School of Government in Boston. In 1994, the incoming members instead attended an orientation run by Empower America and the Heritage Foundation.
In order to get an idea about what his character is like, her is a neat factoid: Bennett thinks that gay people live shorter lives: seriously!
Nov. 24 Weekly Standard, he repeated the assertion phrased for maximum emphasis:
"The best available research suggests that the average life span of male homosexuals is around 43 years of age. Forty-three."
Bennett got the number from Paul Cameron, a researcher well known to followers of gay controversies. Cameron, a former assistant professor at the University of Nebraska who has consulted for such gay-rights opponents as former Rep. William Dannemeyer, R-Calif., heads a group called the Family Research Institute. Cameron resigned under fire from the American Psychological Association and was later formally terminated from membership following complaints about his research methods.
Mr Bennett and Michael Milliken want you... forever.
This is a quote from a Forbes magazine article on Milliken's company Knowledge Universe which owns Mr. Bennett's K12.com :
While Knowledge Universe is private and holds most details close to the vest, CEO Tom Kalinske says the firm's business plan looks 20 years down the road, from the time a child first enters a Knowledge Universe portal. "A child plays with LeapFrog, then moves on to KU software in school, then takes an SAT prep course from KU," he says. The ultimate goal, he explains, is to engage children in lifetime learning provided by Knowledge Universe--even through their careers and into retirement.
What's going on at K12.COM ?????
K12 is based on a curriculum that was at the centerpiece of many education reform initiatives around the country this past decade, a curriculum aligned with the new national and state reform standards. K12 is based on University of Virginia Professor E.D. Hirsch’s “Core Knowledge” curriculum. Bennett had previously used Hirsch’s Cultural Literacy as part of the “core curriculum” for his Modern Red Schoolhouse Design Team. As background, in 1992 the New American Schools Development Corporation (NASDC) funded school reform experiments, which they called “design teams.” These experiments were to demonstrate by example how schools would meet the goals outlined in President Bush’s America 2000 education reform strategy. An emphasis was placed on creating “fundamental institutional change,” meeting “new national standards in five core subjects,” preparing “students for responsible citizenship, further learning, and productive employment.” Bennett’s Modern Red Schoolhouse project was composed of individuals associated with the Hudson Institute, a policy institute committed to investing its resources into the transformation of education. Claims were made that this was “classic education.” The project was selected, however, because it so excellently fulfilled all of the requirements of radical education reform.
Bennett placed E.D. Hirsch’s curriculum as one of three curricular pillars in the Modern Red School House Design Team. In the mid 1990s debates over outcome-based education (OBE), Hirsch carefully positioned his curriculum as a “conservative” alternative, emphasizing academics and minimizing “outrageous” outcomes. Hirsch’s ideas about cultural literacy, however, bear much evidence of OBE philosophy.
In 1992 the Bush Administration’s U.S. Department of Labor issued Learning A Living: A Blueprint for High Performance: A SCANS Report for America 2000. This controversial bi-partisan report became the third pillar of curriculum used in The Modern Red Schoolhouse. Skills for the workplace would become the major focus of education -- preparing children for lifelong labor and culminating in a “certificate of mastery.” A Hudson Institute brochure promoting The Modern Red Schoolhouse stated: “A distinguishing feature of the [SCANS] curriculum is its reliance on performance as the measure of student progress….” The other distinguishing characteristic of SCANS was a switch from traditional academic content to a workplace skills-oriented education. Current state and federal standards and assessments track back to this important SCANS report.
K12 and Michael Milken
William Bennett is chairman of K12, a company which markets curriculum packages to private purchasers as well as his growing virtual academy empire. K12 began with $10 million in start-up money from Knowledge Universe. K12 is a majority shareholder in Knowledge Universe. Remember Michael Milken, the former “junk bond” whiz who spent time in prison? A Forbes Magazine account revealed Milken is now “sitting on the throne of a $1.75 billion private education empire” known as Knowledge Universe which “oversees nearly 50 companies, many of them interlocking. Employing over 14,000 persons worldwide, Knowledge Universe is already on the brink of dominating several sectors of what is being called the Internet’s next killer app: e-learning.” According to Forbes (“Master of the Knowledge Universe” by Stephen P. Pizzo, 9/10/01) “Knowledge Universe was born in 1996 with a $250 million investment from Milken and his brother Lowell and another $250 million from Oracle Chairman and CEO Larry Ellison.” Business Week tells the next part of the story:
When Lowell Milken and Ron Packard, executives at education investment company Knowledge Universe, approached Bennett in November, 1999, about heading up K12, Bennett insisted that he would chair the company only if Yale computer-science professor David Gelernter, a fellow computer-in-the-classroom skeptic, signed on as the company’s technical advisor.
…K12 was formed in February of last year, when Bennett signed up as chairman and Packard became CEO. (“Bill Bennett: The Education of an E-School Skeptic” by Alexandra Starr, 2/14/01)
The previously cited San Diego Union Tribune article credits Bennett’s “star power” and Packard’s determination to put Bennett’s name and philosophy behind the endeavor. Packard read Bennett’s book, The Educated Child and became enamored of its concepts. Business Week’s account of the arrangement notes:
Some industry analysts… caution that Bennett’s high profile will not be an unalloyed asset. “Having a prominent personality at the helm can have a downside,” says EduVentures.com’s Stokes. “When the conversation ends up focusing on Bennett, it can eclipse the business.”
Milken’s philosophy of “cradle to grave” education is the driving force behind his current business ventures. Forbes relates
It is in early childhood development and K-12 that Milken has made some of his most daring and visionary acquisitions. Knowledge Universe has either started, acquired, or invested in an array of preschool through middle school companies that provide online curricula, testing, test preparation, tutoring, and even management of schools. The companies also share databases and resources and contract among themselves for value-added services. While providing education services for its companies, Knowledge Universe is also amassing what could become one of its most valuable assets: a data bank on childhood learning, skill levels, and online learning behavior.
Milken’s silence about Knowledge Universe extends to the firm’s website, where there is much less information there now than there was five years ago. KU’s homepage offers neither a “search” option, nor a “contact us” button. The “press room” is open “exclusively for accredited media representatives.” This author’s inquiry to the firm was met with extensive (and skeptical) questioning. Shortly thereafter an email arrived from a Robin Sherman:
I’ve been asked to advise you to contact the individual companies directly as our Website shows only samples of investments. As a private company, we do not publish a full list of companies and the companies change from time to time as investments change. K12.com has contact information for K12. Please contact them directly.
How's this for a quote:
Then Secretary of Education William Bennett called for a return to a moral curriculum that would reclaim this underclass. Later, Harvard psychologist Richard Herrnstein and Heritage Foundation researcher Charles Murray reported that the poor and minorities lacked sufficient intelligence to take advantage of the opportunities available to them in order to work their ways toward economic success. They wrote, “For many people, there is nothing they can learn that will repay the cost of the teaching.”
The basic tenets of NCLB are a collection of proposals from previous ESEA reauthorizations, and they have little to do with the Texas Miracle. First, the change in priorities from poor students to all students began in response to the A Nation at Risk report during the Reagan Administration. In the best Cold War language, that report charged that America’s public schools were so inadequate that the country was in danger economically. It claimed that American workers were less productive than international counterparts because students could not compete academically with their international peers. Reagan officials, and later President Clinton’s authorities, called for high academic standards, high stakes testing, and parental choice.
Within Clinton’s proposals for the expected 1999 reauthorization of ESEA, state standards were set, state tests were written, a ten-year deadline for proficiency was proposed, reporting by categories would be required, annual yearly progress and the penalties were to follow in case of failure. Clinton included a block grant system, which allowed state officials more control of federal education funding.
Bush invented none of the components of No Child Left Behind. He did, however, pattern its implementation after his Texas Miracle. The story of the miracle is based on Texas Department of Education figures which suggested that a tight centralized system of curricular and instructional standardization enforced by strict school, teacher, and student accountability procedures drastically lowered school dropout rates, improved student scores on state tests of reading and math, and narrowed the achievement gap between poor and middle and upper class students and minority and white students. The tight system required teachers to follow scripted lessons in commercially prepared guidebooks during reading and math instruction, to devote twice the instructional time to these subjects (limiting science, social studies, and the arts in the elementary school curriculum), and to prepare students to take yearly state examinations. Teachers’ and administrators’ competences were tested by paper and pencil examination.
The problem with this design is that the Texas Miracle was/is a fantasy. Professor Walter Haney of Boston College who conducted a detailed study of public education in Texas stated, “What is happening in Texas seems to me to be not just an illusion, but from an educational point of view an outright fraud.” Rather than the reported low dropout rate, 30 percent of Texas ninth grade students leave high school before graduation. For minority students, less than 50 percent of the ninth graders receive a diploma. In order to achieve the Texas Miracle, high school administrators reclassified the adolescents who stopped attending high school as transient students because they could re-enroll in the future. Few make this choice, however. The Texas Miracle for high school completion is simply a rhetorical trick. Texas high school completion rates rank toward the bottom of the fifty states.
The Texas Miracle for test scores appears to be an illusion also. Students’ increased scores on the Texas examinations have not translated into improved scores on national tests. Texas students still rank in the lower third among states for measures of achievement. Texas student scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress remain stable for reading, and have actually declined for math. Poor and minority student achievement scores are no closer to those of their white, more well-to-do peers on these tests. Student scores on the Standard Achievement Tests (SAT), which most college bound students take, were unchanged during the 1990s, and a full thirty percent of Texas students continued to begin their college studies needing remedial programs. What Haney calls the Texas “chains and whips” accountability system has not accomplished a miracle at all – nor has it approached its public goals. Without empirical or historical evidence that it works, why, then, does it serve as the model for NCLB?
Although some neoliberals may bristle that Bush’s implementation system restricts local innovation, most recognize that NCLB opens public schools to market and business forces. Market principles require that any enterprise justify its funding by becoming more productive for less cost, continually remaking itself in order to maximize profits. Although schools have been encouraged to change for two decades, NCLB focuses public schools mission – to produce students who meet world-class standards – by tying its continued funding to its tightly defined productivity.
As June Kronholz reported in the Wall Street Journal, businesses already recognize the new markets created by NCLB.
Companies that sell to the schools – from test publishers to tutoring services to teacher-training outfits –say business is booming as troubled districts turn to them for help. There’s a burgeoning sense of consumerism in public education as parents learn about the law and begin demanding services, says Jeffery Cohen, president of Sylvan Education Solutions, a unit of closely held Educate, Inc. His company says it expects to tutor 20,000 youngsters in struggling schools this year, with No Child Left Behind requiring schools to pick up the $40 to $80 dollar an hour tab.
The irony of the Mr. Cohen’s statement, however, should not be lost in the glare of the identification of a real intent of NCLB. If schools were funded at even $40 per hour per student – the low end of tutoring - then a public school teacher with 25 students in her class (a lucky teacher in most school districts) would make over $1000 per hour.
University of Colorado Professor Robert Linn demonstrates that NCLB requirements and implementation system doom most schools to be failures. NCLB seeks to solve two problems:
1.) To reduce the costs of public schooling, and
2.) To demoralize and deskill teachers in order to discredit the public schools in which they teach.
Both are to be accomplished by enforcing a rigid system that combines unattainable goals with punitive measures for failure. This system reduces public schools to the equivalent of middlemen delivering tax dollars to private companies established to profit from children’s schooling and opens the door to private schools to replace public schools. According to journalist Stephen Metcalf, this was the pattern in Texas when Bush was Governor, and it is repeating itself nationally now that he is President. Educational publishers, particularly the big three – McGraw Hill, Houghton Mifflin, and Harcourt Brace – are identified as Bush stocks on Wall Street, paying record dividends since 2000.
The President's brother Neil has joined William Bennett in selling educational materials to the American public.- BusinessWeek October 16,2006.