other publishers, offers a full range of products for every step of the process. Schools with high numbers of low-scoring students have three years to raise their scores before penalties kick in, and those are also expensive. The so-called “choice” provision, with its passing resemblance to vouchers, has attracted media attention, but has proved unpopular so far. The provision allows students at low-performing campuses to transfer to one of their district’s better performing schools, but only about 1 percent of eligible students made the transfer last year, according to data kept by the U.S. Department of Education. Instead, parents are taking advantage of another provision that requires low-performing schools to provide free afterschool tutoring services, using a state-approved, “researchbased” tutoring program. The law also demands a highly qualified teacher in every classroom by the end of the 2006 school year. Though the definition of “highly qualified” is vague, with states setting their own standards of quality, the requirement has opened up a new market in materials geared toward teachers. Most major publishers now offer professional development products and services, some of which provide general training in pedagogy, but many of which merely train teachers to use another of the publisher’s classroom products. In a time of growing budget crises, few stateslet alone districts and schoolshave the time or the money to develop the programs that No Child Left Behind makes mandatory, or all but mandatory. That’s where business, and Sandy Kress, come in. Bush signed No Child Left Behind into law in January 2002. Five months later, Kress registered with the U.S. Secretary of the Senate as a lobbyist for NCS Pearson. Kress specializes in helping his clients tailor themselves to the requirements of No Child Left Behind, something Pearson has done with startling success. A publishing conglomerate that owns The Financial Times and Penguin Books, Pearson had been a bit player in the education market, concentrating on the scoring of standardized tests. In 2000, however, Pearson acquired National Computer Systems, the company that held the contract for designing and scoring the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills. Since then, Pearson has built an accountability empire of sorts, becoming the third-largest testing company in the country, behind CTB McGraw-Hill and Harcourt Educational Measurement. NCS Pearson publishes software systems that allow teachers to create, administer, and score “diagnostic” tests that purport to show how well students are learning by demonstrating in part how prepared they are for state tests. Subsidiary Pearson Educational Measurement holds test design contracts in states with large testing programs, like Florida and Texas. Pearson Education, another subsidiary, publishes reading, math, science, art, and music curricula for grades K-12. Other subsidiaries offer online testing, data management services, and professional training for teachers, including an online mas ter’s degree program. The company claims to have at least one product placed in 50,000 schools nationwide. Another of Kress’s clients, Educational Testing Services, Inc., also made a sudden market surge in the wake of No Child Left Behind. A non-profit best known as the publisher of the Schotesting business for nearly 50 years. Beginning with the spinoff of for-profit subsidiary K-12 Works in 2000, however, ETS has aggressively pursued state testing contracts. The company now holds contracts with New Jersey, Indiana, and the plum of the state testing market, California. ETS also offers a professional development program for teachers and one of the few tests so far available to certify teaching aides. Another Kress client, Kaplan, Inc., which formerly specialized in prepping students for college entrance exams, now offers a variety of test-related services. These include prep courses tailored to the standardized tests in 13 states and the District of Columbia, “Intervention” programs targeting lowscoring students with skill-drilling software, and professional development courses in which, for roughly $1,000 an hour, Kaplan specialists give teachers tips on how to coach their students to pass the test. Kress also lobbies for HOSTS Learning, which publishes online testing tools and an associated line of curricular materials and for Kumon North America, a rising star in the brandnew after-school tutoring market. Other clients include Community Education Partners, a for-profit school management company that runs alternative campuses for students with disciplinary problems, as well as companies that help schools and districts collect, manage, and report the volume of data required by No Child Left Behind. There’s a lot of money in what’s coming to be known as the assessment market, but most of it is going to the handful of companies, like Pearson, who have successfully built up assessment empires. “The top four or five players in the textbook market are also top players in the testing market?’ says Mark Jackson, a senior analyst with Eduventures, a firm which tracks trends in the commercial education market. As the focus on testing intensifies, the test prep materials these companies offer are becoming the standard curriculum, especially in poor schools, where the scores are often lowest, and the pressure to raise them most extreme. “It’s a zero-sum game of financing?’ Jackson says. “What fits into the testing model gets bought, and what doesn’t, doesn’t?’ But what’s been a boon for a handful of publishers has been a disaster for education, critics say. As pressure to raise scores intensifies, teachers and principals at low-performing schools have found creative ways to raise scoresfrom encouraging low-scoring students to drop out of school before Test Day to simply erasing and rewriting students’ testing sheets. The most common resort, however, is to drill the reading and math skills covered by the test, to the detriment of other, untested subjects. As continued on page 26 MAY 13, 2005 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13
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