When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S.” – Rupert Murdoch

14 Comments

In a post yesterday, Tom Aswell, whose blog is called Louisiana Voice, reminded his readers about what is truly driving the corporate education reform industry – tapping into what they perceive to be a $500 billion market.

What Tom may not have realized is Connecticut’s ongoing connection to that statement.

Murdoch’s quote comes from November 2010 when, after hiring education reformer and former New York City Chancellor of Education Joel Klein, Murdoch’s News Corporation bought Wireless Generation, a privately-held education technology company for about $360 million in cash.

In the corporate press release, News Corporation Chairman and CEO, Rupert Murdoch told reporters, “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching…Wireless Generation is at the forefront of individualized, technology-based learning that is poised to revolutionize public education for a new generation of students.”

At the time, Wireless Generation’s marketing propaganda noted, “At Wireless Generation in Brooklyn, software engineers are working with Achievement First to build a commercial version of the software that the charter operator uses to monitor student and teacher performance.  Operating out of stylish offices in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn, the 350-employee firm will take in $65 million in revenue this year and is growing at a 20% annual rate.”

News Corporation told its investors that the purchase of Wireless Generation was part of a broader effort to “make seed investments in entrepreneurial education companies.”

For example, last May, Wireless Generation, in turn, bought a California company called Intel-Assess.

Wireless Generation explained, “With the acquisition of Intel-Assess, a premier developer of custom and finished education content, Wireless Generation will significantly increase the number of assessment items and related tools available to complement its formative assessment platform. In addition, the acquisition will help Wireless Generation make available high quality assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards to customers in thousands of districts across the U.S.”

About the same time, News Corporation further developed their strategy by creating a company called Amplify, whose CEO is Joel Klein.  Wireless Generation is part of Amplify and Amplify describes itself as, “a new business dedicated to reimagining K-12 education by creating digital products and services that empower teachers, students and parents in new ways. Amplify is focused on transforming teaching and learning by creating and scaling digital innovations in three areas: analytics and assessment, content and curriculum and distribution and delivery.”

Soon after, Amplify partnered with AT&T.  In their joint press release, the consortium explained that they will be introducing “new curriculum and platform products” throughout the United States.

And as luck would have it, one of the five school districts chosen for the Amplify, Wireless Generation, AT&T pilot program was none other than East Haven, Connecticut.

Last August, the East Haven Patch on-line newspaper headline read, “East Haven Schools Selected for Education Technology Pilot Program.”

The article explained, “The district’s 7th grade students will take part in a Wireless Generation pilot program that features the use of Android tablets and an online platform for academic curriculum.  The school system is partnering with a national educational technology company for a pilot program that features the use of mobile tablet computers to access an online curriculum.

For the new pilot, Wireless Generation will be providing all of the equipment, as well as ongoing on-site support for the program, during its duration.  The company is expected to create a satellite office here in Connecticut to serve the East Haven leg of the project, which will be staffed by two technical experts and two content experts.  The cost is entirely picked up by Wireless Generation.”

Hooray!  Free stuff…

So it turns out, when Rupert Murdoch talked about the $500 billion money making opportunity out there called America’s public education system, little did he know what a special role we’d be playing in helping him tap into that market.

  • JMC

    Great post, Jon.

    It’s pretty simple, now that you’ve made the script clear:

    1) Politicians and their cronies mandate student testing 2) Politicians and their cronies buy/sell billions in student testing materials with constituents’ money 3) Politicians and their cronies get rich.

    And East Haven gets the 30Day Free Trial! After which the Free Stuff gets charged to your card whether you want it or not.

    • jonpelto

      Could not have said it better myself.

      Look ma – I got a free tablet…

  • Apartheid First

    Not only are these students being made guinea-pigs for this “pilot”, they are losing instructional time and, more disturbingly, they are being exposed to unknown and unregulated scrutiny. Whereas schools are supposed to guard the confidential information of students and parents, and to protect children from outsiders, these “wireless services” will thrust students, often unsupervised, into the larger world of corporate mercenaries. Do we trust these entities with the most private aspects of a child’s health, mental health, intellectual development, etc? Are parents fully aware of what they are supposedly signing on to? I highly doubt it.

    It used to be that experiments and pilot programs were very rare in schools, because, by definition as minors, children cannot give consent to these intrusions. Advocates for families and children have long recognized the threats to human rights and privacy that outside corporate interests bring to a realm–the schoolhouse–that should be safe and free of the profit motive. But organizations like Achievement First are not about education and the well-being of children–they are precisely about profits for corporations.
    I call upon East Haven to give this money and this equipment back. What’s next? Corporate logos on school uniforms and mascots? Forced labor for corporations? Selling body parts?

    • JMC

      Beautifully spoken, AF.

    • Linda174

      Previously posted on Ravitch:

      The new price of public education means that parents will give up the ability to protect their children’s privacy and data which may lead to possible abuse and misuse of information through potential security breaches or inappropriate use. Teachers lose a degree of privacy as well because their data will be included in this database.
      As a result of new FERPA rules, circumstances can exist in which personal data on our children can be shared WITHOUT parental consent.

      In the name of Education Reform and accountability, every state is creating a longitudinal database.

      “To receive government funds, a state must provide an assurance that it will establish a longitudinal data system that includes the 12 elements described in the America COMPETES Act, and any data system developed with Statewide longitudinal data system funds must include at least these 12 elements.”

      The elements are:

      1)An unique identifier for every student that does not permit a student to be individually identified (except as permitted by federal and state law);

      2)The school enrollment history, demographic characteristics, and program participation record of every student;

      3)Information on when a student enrolls, transfers, drops out, or graduates from a school;

      4) Students scores on tests required by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act;

      5)Information on students who are not tested, by grade and subject;

      6)Students scores on tests measuring whether they’re ready for college;

      7)A way to identify teachers and to match teachers to their students;

      8)Information from students’ transcripts, specifically courses taken and grades earned;

      9)Data on students’ success in college, including whether they enrolled in remedial courses;

      10) Data on whether K-12 students are prepared to succeed in college;

      11)A system of auditing data for quality, validity, and reliability; and

      12)The ability to share data from preschool through postsecondary education data systems.

      KEY THINGS TO NOTE:

      In #1 students will not be individually identified EXCEPT as permitted by federal and state law. Well, guess what? The federal law that protects privacy of student information (FERPA) was quietly changed effective Jan. 2012 and this data can be released to 3rd party “educational” organizations WITHOUT parental consent.

      #2 demographic characteristics will include personal and family information.

      #7 brings in teacher matching data.

      #10 In my district, web-based surveys, learning and personality tests with extensive questions are being given starting in 6th grade to prepare students to be “college and career ready.” Might this data be included? Who wants to be held to something they wrote at 11 years old? Where does this data live?

      The major problem here is that this data is PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE. Besides the obvious fraud and identity theft this can lead to if data is not secured properly, what impact might this have on our children once a historical database by name is compiled on them from pre-kindergarten? This data (through the new FERPA rules) can be shared with 3rd party organizations (i.e. similar to the Shared Learning Collaborative case in NY State in which the State contracted with an organization to create “personalized learning” for children.)

      Parents really need to talk to their PTA’s and with their teachers. Ask that the school provide information on what the new FERPA rules mean – in plain language – about our childrens’ personal information, what is contained in their “educational record,” exactly what leaves the district in the form of data, who receives it, and how do we know it is secure and anonymous. Do we have assurances that our data is safe and secure? How do we opt-out of sharing our children’s personal data?

  • Sleepless in Bridgeport

    And more good news on the throwing money away front from Bridgeport’s own Bloforius Windbag:
    http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Vallas-argues-for-staying-on-as-superintendent-4237681.php#photo-4112089
    It is hard to believe that grown people can sit at a meeting and listen to his lie after lie after lie. Bridgeport schools are like the Titanic and all Vallas has done is turned the rudder toward the north pole and full speed ahead. A scary thought is this politically correct buffoon could possibly be Obama’s next Secretary of Education………..seriously……it could happen.

  • Linda174

    10 Questions to Ask Your Child’s School District on Data Privacy Day 2013

    For Data Privacy Day 2013 on January 28, I’ve tried to compile a list of questions parents should ask their child’s school district about how their child’s personal information is protected. Send your letter to your district’s Superintendent with a cc: to your district’s Board of Education:

    Dear ________:
    As a parent of a student in this district, I have a number of questions about the protection and security of students’ personal, private, and sensitive information. For purposes of this letter, by “personally identifiable information,” I mean name, contact details, parents’ contact information, Social Security numbers, Medicaid numbers, and/or any other personally identifiable information (PII), regardless of whether the District considers any of the above “directory information” under FERPA. By “private, personal and sensitive information” (PPSI), I mean any health-related information, behavior or discipline records, religion, any financial information such as credit card or debit card numbers or parents’ financial information, and any information or records pertaining to sexual orientation, political views, etc.: Read more:

    http://www.pogowasright.org/?p=32852

  • Linda174

    Learn more about Shared Learning Collaborate of Wireless Generatioin(Klein and Murdoch). Watch the video and read the comments:

    http://slcedu.org/blog/what-we-are-building-teachers

  • MarMar

    As always Jon great post. Have you hear anything the transfer policy at Windham STEM magnet. I heard that no 4th grade students will be allowed to transfer to the school if they are not reading at grade level? This is illegal? I am sure Adamoski and Pryor had something to do with this. Given Pryor unwillingness to speak to people I am sure he will dodge any question about this matter.He does want his dirty laudry exposed. He will probably pass it off to his novice Communication Director

    • jonpelto

      Windham STEM – next post up! J

  • Pingback: Reclaiming the rhetoric: No, it's not "education reform"()

  • Pingback: Reclaiming the rhetoric: No, it’s not | Education News()