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More on ERDI’s Paying School Admin to Connect with Ed Businesses: Dallas Dance of Baltimore

January 16, 2018

The so-called Educational Research and Development Institute (ERDI) is a business that does little more than connect ed businesses with school administrators who might promote (and purchase) their products. It’s a pay-to-play in which the ed businesses dish out thousands of dollars in order to pitch their products to school admin that the ed businesses get to choose from among a pool of ERDI-paid school admin “product reviewers” who are paid stipends by ERDI to attend ERDI events, with travel expenses also paid by ERDI.

I previously wrote about ERDI in this January 14, 2018, post.

Former Chicago superintendent, Barbara Byrd Bennett, who is serving time for receiving kickbacks from another organization with which she was associated, SUPES Academy, was also an ERDI senior advisor.

The November 2017 Baltimore Post article featured in this post, which is written by Ann Costantino and which features the ERDI connection of former Baltimore superintendent, Dallas Dance (full name Shaun Dallas Dance), is an excellent resource for understanding ERDI operations.

dallas dance

S. Dallas Dance

Dance, who, like Bennett, was also connected with SUPES Academy, continues to be under investigation.

(An aside: Interestingly, on his Twitter page (@SDallasDance), which has not been used since 2014, Dance identifies himself as “SUPES Academy consultant and on the side I oversee Baltimore County Schools.” UPDATE 01-17-18: This is a parody page for Dance. His verified Twitter is @S_Dallas_Dance, where he does not mention SUPES, ERDI, or any specific work history in his tag: “Twitter Account for S. Dallas Dance – Father, Leader, Educator, Author, & Innovator – Reasonably impatient about improving educational outcomes for ALL children.”

A second aside: Dance is Dr. S. Dallas Dance; a Google search of “s dallas dance dissertation” yields numerous sites offering academic papers for sale. I Googled other names preceding the term, “dissertation,” and did not duplicate the resulting hits on sites selling academic paper-writing services.)

I offer an excerpt from the Costantino’s Baltimore Post piece on ERDI. However, the entire article, which includes actual ERDI documents, is quite an education in ERDI and well worth the read:

When Dallas Dance, the former head of Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS), was paid thousands of dollars to sit down at conferences with companies like DreamBox and Curriculum Associates, it was supposedly to give them feedback about their educational products.

But a cache of emails and documents inadvertently made public on a website used by an education vendor, paints a far different picture of why Dance and other schools superintendents were paid to attend.

These documents, discussing a 2016 conference in Arizona, suggest the real reason was to pitch the vendor products to large school districts with the cash to buy a lot of product. And Dance was listed by at least one company as their top prospect.

The documents also raise questions about the conference organizer, the Educational Research & Development Institute (ERDI). Although not widely known, ERDI has played a key role in linking school district leaders with education and software vendors.  But the documents appear to show ERDI blurring the ethical line between school superintendents like Dance and the vendors who are trying to sell them educational products. …

ERDI offered several levels of “involvement” to mostly educational software and hardware vendors that wanted to participate. The “levels” determined how much time they would get to spend with school officials. With the money from the vendors, ERDI paid not only for the conference expenses, but paid each school official who participated.

In effect, ERDI was passing money from vendors to the superintendents who were supposedly engaged in an arms-length transaction about what to buy for their school districts.

One of those vendors was Istation, a Texas company that sells education software.  The contract, which Istation had with ERDI, shows that the vendor paid $23,000 for a “silver” plan that allowed the company to meet with 10 superintendents of its choosing.

How did Istation choose which superintendents it wanted to meet?

A spokeswoman for Istation told The Baltimore Post the company wanted “a group of districts that represent diverse student populations: a combination of large, medium, and small districts; rural, urban, and suburban; diverse socioeconomic factors, etc. ”

However, of the 10 school system leaders chosen by Istation, six represent some of the largest school systems in the country. Baltimore County Public Schools, for instance, the 25th largest school district in the country, had 112,000 students in 2016.  Istation’s “National Price Sheet” shows it charges districts a per student rate for its software, meaning that the higher the enrollment, the more software the company can sell. …

When Istation signed up for its ERDI silver level membership in September 2015, it invested $23,000 to pitch to 10 superintendents – over two sessions  – of the company’s choosing. The membership allowed the company to pitch its products and services to district leaders, at $2,300 each.

The website records show that Dance was the first pick among 10 superintendents Istation selected in rank-order.

Istation did not say why Dance was their first pick. But it was clear that Dance was an eager buyer.

The scale of his spending has been detailed by Joanne Simpson, a freelance journalist, who found that Dance committed Baltimore County schools to at least $260 million, by the 2018-2019 school year….

This money was spent despite the fact that some schools in the system lacked basic services such as drinkable water, special education teachers and functioning air conditioning. …

Reporters, who have tried to reach out to Dance over several months, have not been successful.  Neither he nor principals from ERDI responded with a request for comment.

The following ERDI price listing for ed business access to school administrators comes from this November 2017 New York Times article by Natasha Singer and Danielle Ivory on ERDI in Baltimore (click image to enlarge):


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

From → Ethics

  1. parent permalink

    you don’t have to post this comment. That is a fake twitter account though. here’s the real one.

  2. writer permalink

    Hi, Thank you for your post. The Twitter page you mention in your article is a parody page for Dallas Dance, likely made by a student years ago. It is not Dallas Dance’s real Twitter Page which he updates quite regularly. The real Twitter page link is in the comment by “parent” above. And in that, he does not refer to himself as a SUPES consultant.

  3. Lisa M permalink

    Seems Dallas dance is being indicted…as he should be. Maybe he’ll see some jail time and have a cell with no air conditioning, heat or working plumbing?

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