The Financialization of education: New teacher standards and evaluations means vendors are cashing in on the ‘teacher training’ like pigs in a trough

by Danny Weil for The Daily Censored

I remember when, 25 years ago I was a second grade teacher in then changing South Central Los Angeles.  One of the first things that I had my face shoved in was the corporate text book ‘advisors’ or “consultants’ that would come to our school and tell us how to use their corporate texts and accompanied packets.  As a new bilingual educator the whole thing felt like a sordid condominium time share sale, with soporific matchstick men droning on and on about how to use a textbook.

Later, as I began to teach first grade, I found the proliferation of text book companies and their products in my class room became so large I had to store the costly junk curriculum and phony student packets in storage lockers in my classroom.

Now the situation has become even worse.  For with new regulations for more rigorous teacher evaluations, ‘helping them’ meet the new world order of ‘21st century standards is now big business — the spin-off privatized service sector which one can imagine is a multi-millionaire dollar venture.

The federal government gives local districts more than $1 billion annually for ‘training programs’ and then the majority of these ‘training programs’ are contracted out to for-profit providers who provide boring consultants and dummied down curriculum wedded to the insidious and stupefying standards.  The relationship is much that that of big oil to the auto industry with the government enacting contracts in the form of laws.  They all plan together for they need each other.  New York City schools spent close to $100 million just last year just on private consultants (http://www.nytimes.com/schoolbook/2012/06/01/teach).

According to the New York Times, the ‘training programs’ for the ‘struggling teachers’, can be anything from:

“On-the-job training for teachers, known as professional development, encompasses everything from day-long seminars, coaching provided by in-school specialists, courses in subjects like math and reading, and teachers working with one another to improve their skills. New York City even offers Yoga and dance classes to its teachers” (ibid).

The whole thing of course is a sham and perfectly exemplifies the way that neoliberal economics transfers public money to private coffers under the guise of ‘helping struggling teachers’ who were forced to ‘struggle’ due to the imposition of standards and testing by the coordinating class that serves the corporations that profit off the whole disaster.  Welcome to the financialized world of American education where profits come from securitizing humans, in this case kids and teachers.

New York’s adoption of Common Core State Standards creates the material conditions for further privatization and financialization of the educational means of production

New York’s recent adoption of new intensive academic standards, known as the Common Core State Standardsmeans the market for privatized educational service providers will multiply like lemmings.  That’s one of the reasons for the ‘standards’; for it must be stressed that standards are about big money, not student learning.  They are part of the financialization of education and without them there would be no need for panoptic tests and ‘privatized teacher training programs’ which means there would be no room for privatized providers.

It’s much like health care.  Say we had a public option or better said universal health care.  If the market for health care was competently run by universal access with 3% overhead for management then why would anyone want to go to a private provider like Anthem or Health Net, etc.?  the answer is they wouldn’t.  Medicare is a threat to privatized medicine precisely because it works and it works better than any private provider could.  It’s the same thing when it comes to the new privatized educational service providers in education today.

People are wise to all of this the problem is that the unions that represent teachers are not fighting for their rank and file nor for the students.  They should be up in arms over the privatization scam and informing parents and teachers and well as organizing them.

Sandi Jacobs, vice president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, an advocacy group in Washington, D.C. said it most laconically:

“Every time there’s this kind of policy push, providers come out of the woodwork” (ibid).

Yes, indeed. The same private free market apostles that lambast government for everything from food stamps to Social Security race out like coackroaches and are the first in line to get their greedy hands on the government money which subsidizes investor profits and pays their salaries and bonuses.  These prevaricating private providers are systematically robbing taxpayers out of their money, forcing teachers into gulags of so-called development while simultaneously stealing student learning under the guise of phony standards and accompanying curriculum.  The children are little more than commodities in the game, to be bought and sold to the privatizers, the teachers are dispensaries for the privatized curriculum and classroom crowd controllers using militarized zero-tolerance procedures.  This is K-12 education in America today.

Privatized teacher training programs

As I wrote in 2002 in my book, Vouchers and the Privatization of Education, the for-profit ‘training programs’ are usually run by limited liability corporations (LLC’s) that have been started by avaricious business people looking to make a buck off the new educational service industry of which teacher training is now a large part.  They go by the name of “vendors” in the business and they contract out to NY schools and many others wher the markets are buregoning, receiving their sole support from taxpayer dollars.  There is very little transparency of this growing financialized educational sector but it must be said that the NY Times did have the courage to print that there is little if any oversight built into the contracting out process.  They noted that:

“Instead, in New York, much of the onus of figuring out which kinds of training makes a difference falls on the shoulders of principals. Officials from the Department of Education say the sheer number of vendors — about 900 — makes it difficult for the central office to vet them all” (ibid).

The principals generally have not been in the classroom on the frontlines for quite a while, choosing to escape into the air conditioned sanctuaries of the administrative buildings.  Kids are great but teaching them is simply too much work.  As to what teachers need in way of development, well this can be an autocratic decision made by the principal or one born out of the omnipresent “survey” of the teachers or better yet, by the vendors themselves; after all it is their training, their kits the teachers will be using and who would know best what students and teachers need than young entrepreneurial thirty ‘some things’ in penny-loafers and power suits or retired teachers hired by the ‘companies’, because their pensions after thirty years of teaching cannot cover the cost of living.

The vendors are an insidious lot working as lobbyists as much as salespeople for their privatized training programs.  Josh Thomases, deputy chief academic officer for the New York Department of Education said about the rapacious vendors:

“We’ve said we’re endorsing none of them.  Sometimes, particularly the for-profits pay for lunch, and so they’re sitting in the room with me, and people are watching me while I’m saying, ‘We’re telling you to be very cautious with your dollars,’ in front of the vendors” (ibid).

Yes, the for-profit scourges have a budget, much like lobbyists, which they really are, to wine and dine officials and basically use their influence to bribe their way into contractual relationships with the government that they say they hate so much for its interference in the ‘free’ market for which they pick up the tab.

In New York City alone, schools spent about $97 million between May 2011 and April 2012 on what they call ‘outside consultants’, according to an analysis of the Department of Education data collected by the city comptroller’s office. The year before, they spent $90 million (ibid). These ‘private consultants’ are supposed to ‘provide’ the ‘teacher training’ that leads to the ‘teacher development’ for the ‘best practices’ that then translates into better ‘academic performance’, or test scores on the privatized tests known as the Common Core Curriculum.

This is teaching now.  A tertiary power circles above, overhead, in this case a privatized format for teacher dispensation that provides ‘professional development ’to‘struggling teachers’, themselves who are told by the privatizers and the coordinating class who serve them they are victims of their own unions.

If this sounds nuts it’s not; it is perfectly rational and keeping within the logic of capitalism, the canopy under which all of this takes place.

It doesn’t stop there, everything must be commodified

The District officials say the amount spent on consultants doesn’t include what they call internal training — such as coaching and day long workshops that drone on and on.  Somehow they seem not to be able to quantify this amount of money.  They can quantify students and teachers when it comes to evaluations on their phony tests, or so they tell us, but they cannot quantify a budget, expenditures revenues and the like?  Did they graduate from charter schools or for-profit universitites?

How can we explain this lack of ability to account for public subsidies to private consultants while at the same time we are told teachers and students should be held acountable to Common Core Standards?  Where is the level of disclosure and transparency, after all this is all being paid for with public funds?  The fiduciary responsibility is to the public isn’t it, or is it to the private ‘consultants’ and training programs?  The facts clearly indicate it is to the latter.

Then there is the need for the teacher to now be ‘certified’.  Yes, the small things that teachers have done and continue to do for years now also have to be quantified in terms of credentials for hours ‘trained’ in order to use the private curriculum.  This is another gimmick designed to create a ‘free’ market for educational financial products and the vultures who peddle them.

These companies not only have no place in education (their services are useless for they provide no benefit) but in fact they are designed and work to divorce teachers from the conception of educational curriculum and from its implementation, leaving teachers little more than automatons performing for their privatized puppet masters.  The students are just customers.

The New York Times tells the squalid story of one such garish gimmick with teachers being forced to take a class on how to use interactive smart boards at P.S. 176 in New York.

According to the Times:

“Matthew Thaxter, a trainer from the Long Island-based company TEQ (http://www.teq.com/), showed the teachers how to make words appear on blank screens, something he said would excite and engage their young students. The teachers have had smart boards for years, but taking the class made them “certified” in the technology” (ibid).  Take a look at TEQ’s ‘sponsors’: (http://thirteencelebration.org/blog/sponsors/sponsors/265/).

The whole gaggle of privatizers is listed as is the National Education Association, United Federation of Teachers, Bill and Melinda Gates and a cohort of other corproations.  Arm and arm the union leadership and the privatizers on Wall Street team up with their hands out for philanthropy and start-up money in  an age of a deliquescing public commons.

TEQ is run by the Pearson Foundation (http://www.pearsonfoundation.org/).  It masquerades as a 501 (c) (3) but it is really a private storefront that is funded by text book giant Pearson, PlC out of England.  According to their website:

“Each year an initial grant from Pearson, the world’s leading learning company, provides us with operating funds we use to develop programs and partnerships around the world. We also work with Pearson, with other funders, and with a roster of exemplary nonprofit organizations, corporations, and partners to deliver scalable and replicable educational solutions to students, teachers, and educational institutions” (http://www.pearsonfoundation.org/about-us/index.html).

Take a look at their Board:

Robin Baliszewski, Director for People, Pearson plc.

  • Bill Barke, Chairman, Pearson US Higher Education and Pearson Canada
  • Michael Benjamin, Senior Vice President Financial Systems Strategy, Data and Information
  • Peter Hughes, Head of Corporate Responsibility, Pearson plc
  • Philip Hoffman, Executive Vice President, Corporate Finance and Strategy, Pearson plc
  • Mark Nieker, Director, Social Innovation and Investment, Pearson plc; President and CEO Pearson Foundation
  • Fernando Reimers, Ford Foundation Professor of International Education and Director of Global Education and of International Education Policy at Harvard
  • Darlene Robles, Professor of clinical education at the USC Rossier School of Education
  • David Shanks, Chief Executive Officer, Penguin Group Inc
  • Gary Syman, Retired Partner, Goldman Sachs & Co.

This whole concept of teacher training and development is little more than infantilization and is also part and parcel of the game plan for privatized education.  Teachers are not to be considered as professionals but as imbeciles that need to be taught how to work with kids by private consultants backed by Wall Street where decisions are made by former and present corporate wheelers and dealers like the Board above.

So something which teachers already have done and continue to do with competency is now made into a mandatory training program for credentialing purposes and then this gives rise to the need to service the training programs.  Why?  Money, of course, your money, your taxes that go into the private coffers of investors on Wall Street and the corporate vendors.

Teachers have, can and should be working collaboratively amongst themselves to develop their skills, just like their students should be working collaboratively to solve curriculum problems.  No doubt they have in the past and would in the future if they were not imposed upon by Matthew Thaxter and the culture of corporate TEQ.

P.S. 176 has spent $15,000 on Thaxter’s training this year, and budgeted more than $100,000 in total on professional development. This is more than double its district’s average (ibid).  and according to Thaxter there’s even more to the privatization and financialization rage offered by TEQ:

“We have about 30 trainers around New York State and New Jersey.  We also offer our own conferences for technology; it’s not just about smart boards” (ibid).

Great!  No, it is not just about smart boards, or smart teachers, or smart kids it is about smart ways to make a profit and if it was not smart boards it could very well be diagnostic machines for hospitals or tents for outdoor events or hot dogs for little league baseball teams.  The point is these companies care little about what they sell and more about how they sell and the amount they make.  They are hucksters and it is time the public woke up to their incessant hustling for public handouts and begin to punish the politicians that create the markets for these senseless serpents.

The whole thing is pick-pocketing the public, a form of kleptocracy much like a ‘disabled marathon’ for kids

Even the so-called experts say they cannot agree if teacher training is effective — or at least the kind I’ve described.  First of all, they really cannot even define what ‘teacher training’ is and as the great educational philosopher John Dewey stated: “We train animals, we educate human beings.”

I thought education was supposed to be about ‘education’ not training.  Never mind, even without a clear definition of what they mean by what they say the public servants who work for the privatizers shovel out cash to their cronies to keep the money flowing like a raging river.

Pamela Grossman, an education researcher at Stanford University who supposedly specializes in teacher training, told the New York Times:

“We know less than we should about professional development, particularly given the money that is invested in it” (ibid).

Then why invest in it?  Principal Elizabeth Culkin who is in charge of P.S. 176 where teachers are infantilized with ‘training’ from ‘private consultants’ conceded it can be difficult to pick providers.  She said she relies on years’ of experience and word of mouth.  What a great way to run a multi-million dollar educational system.  Gut feelings and word of mouth.  This sounds more like multi-marketing products, like Amway, than it does about education.

Yet these are some of the same people who claim that teachers are unaccountable and that students must be held to standards.  The hypocrisy is crippling.

Private providers, of course, insist they should not be judged based on the performance of schools.  They want students and teachers to be judged based on performance on standardized tests, but say “no” to any accountability for them as they race to the bank or better yet, simply key stroke the federal or state monies they get right into their LLC accounts or Wall Street bank accounts.  No one watches over them as they drive up to a school site with their rolling carts and power point presentations.  They have no regulations, no standards they have to meet.  Where are their Common Core standards?

The whole thing is a tragic farce that is literally depriving millions of children every year of an education and sending them to the graveyard of post-modern childhood where adult bewilderment has replaced any semblance of rationality and where financialization and profit rule the day.

For Wall Street the financialization is a bursting bonanza and just wait until the push for vouchers and there use for cyber learning heats up: then, if education becomes a privatized virtual ‘second life’ there may not even be a need for ‘teachers’ as we know them.  They will be turned into 24/7 ‘call centers’.

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This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Ryan Copeland. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ryan Copeland

Ryan grew up in Maine and studied at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst before moving to Seattle in 2009. He has worked with school-age students in various settings for the past eight years, including two great years as a literacy specialist at Greenwood Elementary. He currently studies Elementary Education at Penn GSE.

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