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Opt-out Information from a Pearson-funded Organization?

May 9, 2015

I just read a document summarizing state position on opting out of testing from an unlikely place: the Education Commission of the States (ECS) website.

ECS is an organization created in 1967 and chaired by governors. On its website, ECS portrays itself as neutral on issues (“we don’t take sides”) and advertises itself as “the only state-focused national organization to bring together governors, state legislators, K-12 and higher education department chiefs and other education leaders.”

On its website, ECS also takes credit for having “played a pivotal role in the transition to a standards-based education system.”

(If that phrase, “standards-based,” put you in mind of the Common Core State Standards, CCSS, stay tuned.)

Sure enough, the opt-out document above does read as a “we don’t take sides” document. However, for all of the corporate-reform-friendly cash flying around, ECS is undeniably a conduit for the privatization of public education.

Even though ECS advertises that “a majority” of its funding comes from states, DC, and US territories, ECS also clearly caters to its “sponsors” by offering special incentives for businesses and nonprofits to drop loads of cash in its coffers.

Aside from repeated advertising, ECS offers the highest-paying sponsors ($30,000 and above) access to governors and state education superintendents in a special meeting at its annual conference, the National Forum on Education Policy. It also offers higher-paying sponsors ($75,000 and above) “invitation to attend and play a role in all ECS-sponsored meetings.” (Those paying over $30k and but less than $75k just receive invitation to attend. It costs more to “play a role.”)

At the top of the list of ECS sponsors is the GE Foundation, an organization I first wrote about as part of a post in December 2013 for its “sponsoring” CCSS “architect” David Coleman’s Student Achievement Partners (SAP) to the tune of $4 million in 2011.

In 2013, the GE Foundation funded ECS for $200,000. Other notable 2013 GE Foundation grants included $1.3 million to CCSS lead organization, Achieve, Inc.; $1.2 million to one CCSS license holder, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO); $500,000 to the nonprofit arm of the other CCSS license holder, the National Governors Association (NGA); and $2.3 million to now-CCSS-centered SAP.

In 2013, the GE Foundation also funded very-pro-CCSS Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) for $1.2 million, and it gave $500,000 to the Hunt Institute– co-sponsor of the NGA symposiums that served as conduit for bringing US secretary of education Arne Duncan together with governors for the public promoting of CCSS and its federally-funded consortium assessments.

Though ECS offers the GE Foundation “a seat at the table” to interact with governors and state superintendents, it appears to be unnecessary. GE Foundation has purchased its own table via its direct contributions not only to NGA and CCSSO, but also to CCSS (and pro-CCSS-assessment) insider organizations.

A second ECS sponsor is the Lumina Foundation, which in 2013 also supported Achieve, Inc., for $250,000, and NGA, for $500,000. Other notable Lumina contributions in 2013 included Kati Haycock’s Education Trust ($500,000, which is the balance of $1.5 million promised in 2012) and the Education Writers Association (EWA) (also for $500,000). In 2012, NGA, just shy of a million ($900,000);  Achieve, $199,400; CCSSO, $50,000 (the balance remaining of a total of $300,000 promised in 2011), the very-pro Center for American Progress, $90,000, and the National Conference of State Legislatures, $100,200 (the balance of a total of $442,200 promised in 2011).

I had to go back to 2009 to locate a grant to ECS, it was for a total of $1,005,400. Lumina paid $505,400 in 2009 and the remaining $500,000 in 2010. It is possible that Lumina has paid ECS more money in 2014, but that Lumina tax form is not yet available.

If it wanted to drive a specific education agenda, Lumina could afford its own table.

But GE and Lumina are only the first two organizations on the ECS list. Other sponsors include American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) corporate board members AT&T and State Farm and ALEC member, Farmer’s Insurance; an online company founded by two former New Schools Venture Fund (NSVF) employees, BloomBoard; Rupert Murdoch’s Amplify (run by former NYC chancellor Joel Klein– and floundering).

And there’s the testing companies that are “sponsoring” ECS: CCSS “architect” David Coleman’s post-CCSS gig, College Board; Educational Testing Service (ETS), and ever-newsworthy, PARCC testing vendor, Pearson.

(That’s right: ECS affords yet another opportunity for the likes of Pearson to schmooze state superintendents. In 2011, New York Times writer Michael Winerip published two stories about Pearson-funded trips for state superintendents in order to, uh, foster collaboration.)

Indeed, all three of these testing companies also directly sponsor CCSS- license-holder CCSSO, as do other noted ECS sponsors– Scholastic, Measured Progress, SAS, Renaissance Learning, and MetaMetrics– and floundering Amplify.

Finally, the National Association for Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) and Hewlett Packard (HP) are also listed as sponsoring ECS. Tax forms noting any contributions made in 2014 are not yet available.

So, these are the corporate and nonprofit sponsors that could– for the right price– purchase a meeting with governors and state superintendents– and all arranged by a nonprofit that simply wants to “create opportunities for state leaders to learn from one another.”

That seemingly-neutral opt-out summary serves as quite the public-appeasing front for a back room where much higher-priced “opting” might transpire.

members only

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Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has her second book available on pre-order, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, due for publication June 12, 2015.

CC book cover

 

 

 

 

2 Comments
  1. Laura chapman permalink

    Sad to see. ECS was oncea reliable source of information on state policies and activities.

  2. There is only one way to protect our kids from these goons. STARVE THE BEAST. The beast needs our kids to survive. No kids all the beasts die.

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