Monday, April 18, 2011

Washington TU protest at WAPO - LInks to Kaplan Test Prep and Virtual Schools Push as Critical Blog Post is Rejected by WAPO

Updated, Monday, April 18, 10AM- This blog keeps changing every 10 minutes, so check it out again even if you read it.

mport84 Comment
The Post editorial board is not entirely separate and independent of Kaplan. Furthermore, Kaplan Educational Services in involved in something far more troubling than even their higher-education frauds. I will explain.  
In October, at Jay Mathews invitation, I wrote a guest blog for his Washington Post education column, Class Matters. I discussed Kaplan's stealthy expansion of its tax-funded, public K-12 for-profit virtual charter schools. I was concerned that the Kaplan website appeared to be hiding these ventures from the local communities whose education budgets are paying for them. Judge for yourself:  
Mathews says his editors refused permission for him to print the blog, saying they would handle the Kaplan matter themselves. Ask him. Is that editorial independence?
I was contacted by teacher/blogger mport84 about the link between the protest at WAPO and their parent company, Kaplan Industries. I'm updating this post with information sent to me by mport84.

(There have been some calls from teachers to protest Murdoch's NY Post but other than Gotham Schools most people don't take the Post too seriously. WAPO is different with more of a NY Times-like rep.)

To be fair: It's not all one-sided at WAPO. They have ed deformer Jay Matthews balanced by the fabulous Valerie Strauss and good reporting from Bill Turque.

The WTU did mention the Washington Post's distorted and pro-ed deform policy to their ownership by testing and test prep giant Kaplan which makes so much profit from ed deform. Kaplan's new push is for virtual schools where the kids will never leave their house - think of it - no messy school building, or teacher salaries - all costs go directly into the hands of corps - see why Joel Klein pushed the idea and then left to join Rupert to get some of that business - reason enough for him to have fulfilled my failed prediction (so far) that one day he would be taken out of Tweed in cuffs. Mport84 also touched base with WTU President Nathan Saunders:
I spoke to Saunders, who said that while there was no direct connection between Kaplan and the DC public schools, Kaplan was part of a “testing culture” that had permeated the public school system, ruining the educational experience for both students and teachers."
Here are a bunch of reports on the protest. The first one is WAPO's own coverage:
Teachers’ union protests Post editorial board
"The D.C. teachers union staged a rally outside The Washington Post on Friday alleging that the paper’s editorial positions are influenced by Kaplan, the for-profit educational services division owned by The Post Co.
Dozens of teachers clad in red chanted “Down with The Post lies” during the midday protest. Union activists parked a giant inflatable rat near the entrance to The Post’s headquarters at 15th and L streets in Northwest Washington.
“Absent Kaplan, The Post would be out of business,” Washington Teachers’ Union President Nathan Saunders said. Saunders said The Post’s editorial board stakes out positions that are in keeping with the general business aims of Kaplan, which offers a range of services, including degree programs and standardized test preparation. Saunders pointed to a Post editorial supporting IMPACT, the D.C. teacher evaluation system, which is partly based on students’ performance on standardized tests. Kris Coratti, The Post’s communications director, said Kaplan is not involved in The Post’s editorial decision-making."
 Now one from Politico:  On Media: Teachers union protests Washington
"But the greater oddity is connecting Kaplan to the kinds of editorials that the teachers union was upset about – in this case, supporting the controversial teacher evaluation system that was former DC Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s signature initiative. The former is primarily about higher education, the latter about K-12. Kaplan does also run a test-prep business that might mingle with the interest of DC public schools, but not in any fundamental way that is worth waging a policy battle about.

Blogger mport84 left the comment that leads this piece. Here are reports from themail which includes WTU VP Candi Peterson's report of the rally.
The Washington Teachers Union held a protest against the editorial board of The Washington Post on Friday, and the protest was much larger than either of the DC statehood protests that got much more publicity. So, if you haven't heard about it, read Candi Peterson's article below.
Gary Imhoff
WTU Protests the Washington Post
Candi Peterson,
Approximately three hundred teachers, school personnel, city workers, union and community members protested outside The Washington Post building on Friday, April 15. This day was selected because it coincided with a day-off furlough for DC Public Schools employees and DC government workers. The protest was organized by the Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) against the Post due to their biased reporting that consistently vilifies DC public school teachers and fails to include more balanced reporting of the obstacles teachers face in a mostly urban school district. According to WTU President, Nathan Saunders: "You've got to understand that the Washington Post has been vicious against, not just teachers unions, but the Washington Teachers' Union in particular, for the last three or four years," he said. "And everything that the former chancellor, Michelle Rhee, has done in the district, they have embraced wholeheartedly at the expense of working teachers.
In the words of Reflective Educator blogger, a former DC teacher: "Why is the Washington Post such an awful place for citizens to get information about what's really going on with education in the District?" We have to ponder why did it take USA Today newspaper's investigative journalists, Jack Gillum and Marisol Bello to cover the story, "When Standardized Test Scores Soared in DC, Were The Gains Real?" Another reason for Friday's protest was to call attention to the Washington Post's relationship with Kaplan Testing Company, which accounts for the majority of their revenue. It is the Washington Teachers' Union position that the Post fails to adequately cover education reform from all vantage points, fails to print letters to the editor from education stakeholders, colors their editorial viewpoint, and heaped undeserved praise on former Chancellor Michelle Rhee during her term in DCPS, despite her many transgressions.
At the protest, teachers carried signs that read: "Cancel your Washington Post subscription today" and "We'll stop buying until you stop lying" while singing chants, as a big inflatable union rat loomed large in front of the Post. Speakers included other union leaders, including Jos Williams, President of Washington, DC Metro Labor Council; Bill Simon, Former WTU President; AFSCME representative, Caneisha Mills; AFGE representative, Johnny Walker; Vincent Orange, At-Large City Council candidate; Robert Brannum, President of the DC Federation of Civic Associations; Jerome Brocks, a now-retired activist teacher; and Sheila Gill, a wrongfully terminated school counselor; and a host of others, with closing remarks given by Reverend Grayland Hagler, who encouraged protesters to march in solidarity around the K street corridor. All in all, it was a beautiful day and just the start of actions planned by the Washington Teachers Union which will seek to build momentum and convince our government and the mayor of the need to provide adequate funding for public education.
MPort84 also sent this info along:
Here are some quotes from Kaplan website extolling virtual schools:
Kaplan created public school programs to address the needs of districts seeking a partner....Districts can also open an intact virtual school that has the look and feel of the district and not that of Kaplan.
Districts can accommodate students who cannot be served by a traditional brick and mortar school, thus keeping them in-district and capturing per-pupil funding. Plus, a dedicated Account Manager will work as a district partner to deliver results.”

There is a great need to discuss the actual educational consequences of the profit-driven drive to curtail brick-and-mortar and flesh-and-blood education in favor of virtual products.  
Others have voiced genuine reservations, especially considering the horrific record of the for-profit online college mills.  Here is a respected columnist from Forbes, E.D. Kain“The Next Step in Scott Walker’s Corporate Education Reform Agenda: Diploma Mills”
“But a virtual school does not fully replicate an actual classroom, and even if it did, we should be deeply troubled by the funneling of public education dollars into the coffers of for-profit businesses with very dubious transparency and even more dubious results.”

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