While we were all distracted with last year's midterm elections, Rupert Murdoch signaled an aggressive move into 'bold educational reform'. First, he hired Joel Klein. Then he bought Wireless Generation.
November 23, 2010
News Corp., Rupert Murdoch's media conglomerate, has purchased 90 percent of New York-based ed-tech company Wireless Generation for $360 million, according to multiple media reports. The move comes less than two weeks after another Murdoch foray into the education world: the announcement that outgoing New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein will go to work for News Corp. as an executive vice president.
...(Wireless Generation), which offers ed-tech software, systems, and services to 200,000 educators and more than 3 million students, according to its website.
"When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching," said Murdoch, the chairman and CEO of News Corp., which includes The Wall Street Journal and Fox Broadcasting Co. among its holdings.
The Wireless Generation move, along with the hiring of Klein, appears to signal the emergence of a new player in the education market, particularly in educational technology. Shortly after being hired by News Corp., Klein told reporters his job would be to help to help his new company drive private investment in technologies he believed would "change the way K-12 education is delivered."
First, some very pertinent history.
This aggressive move by Murdoch into education is, in large part, a move to destroy a rival, UK-based Pearson, a media conglomerate that owns the Financial Times, Thames Television, Penguin Books and other business newspapers.
21 October 1996:
BSkyB, Rupert Murdoch's satellite broadcasting giant, is in talks with a US partner that could lead to a joint bid for Pearson, the media conglomerate which owns the Financial Times, Thames Television and Penguin Books.
The plans are aimed at taking advantage of Pearson's volatile share price, and are based on Sky's determination to expand its control of British television programming in advance of the launch of 200 channels on digital satellite late next year.
BSkyB's advisers, Goldman Sachs, are believed to have already started to purchase Pearson shares as a first step towards launching the bid.
Mr Murdoch took a 20 per cent stake in Pearson in the mid-1980s, but was seen off by the Cowdray family and a new management under Frank Barlow.
Looks as if Rupert never got over that.
Then, in 2007, Rupert went after the Wall Street Journal, with the speculation that if he were rebuffed, then he would try to capture Pearson.
May 21st 2007:
The powerful head of News Corp (NYSE: NWS.A), Rupert Murdoch, has been doggedly pursuing The Wall Street Journal these past few weeks, but the Journal's controlling family, the Bancrofts, keep rebuffing his advances (that come in the form of a $5 billion takeover bid). In a letter Murdoch sent them last weekend, apparently one of the many assurances he made to the family was the vow to bolster The Wall Street Journal's presence in Europe. This would require bringing down the market share leader, the Financial Times, owned by Pearson PLC (ADR) (NYSE: PSO).
We know how that turned out. Now, Murdoch controls the Wall Street Journal.
What was the dynamic at that time between Murdoch and his despised rival, the Financial Times?
Nov 14, 2007
Nov 14 (Reuters) - Pearson Plc, the London-based publisher of the Financial Times, said a Rupert Murdoch-controlled Dow Jones & Co Inc DJ.N could be a threat in Europe but might provide a boost to the FT in the United States.
"News Corp make a number of comments about where they are taking their business and some of them are clearly things that we will watch very carefully and could be threatening to us; some of them I think may be opportunities for us," Pearson (PSON.L) Finance Director Robin Freestone said.
Pearson, the world's largest education publisher, recently adopted a new online business model, partly opening up free access to its Financial Times newspaper site.
News Corp NWSa.N President Peter Chernin was quoted in a Scottish newspaper interview in late September as saying the company would "crush" the Financial Times after the Dow deal.
Threats like that are part of the culture of Rupert Murdoch.
"If there were individuals concerned about doing the right thing – bed-wetting liberals in particular – then he could arrange for them to be out-placed from the company." ---as recounted by a former NewsAmerica manager, of the CEO Paul Carlucci's directive to the staff, during the computer hacking suit brought by Floorgraphics, against defendant NewsCorp in 2009
23 July 2011
Rupert Murdoch's News International launched a campaign of bullying against senior Liberal Democrats in an attempt to force through the company's bid for BSkyB, high-level sources have told the Observer.
Lib Dem insiders say NI officials took their lobbying campaign well beyond acceptable limits and even threatened, last autumn, to persecute the party if Vince Cable, the business secretary, did not advance its case.
According to one account from a senior party figure, a cabinet minister was told that, if the government did not do as NI wanted, the Lib Dems would be "done over" by the Murdoch papers, which included the now defunct News of the World as well as the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times.
With that bit of historical groundwork, where does the battle between Murdoch and rival Pearson publishers stand now?
Pearson is a dominant player in US education.
On the news of Rupert Murdoch's purchase of Wireless Generation last November, the chief executive of Pearson responded:
26 Apr 2011
Dame Marjorie Scardino, the chief executive of Pearson, was not fazed. On discovering that Mr Murdoch could become a rival to another of her businesses (News Corp’s Harper Collins is already a rival to Pearson’s Penguin), she declared, "I'm ready for him
The greatest risk of having such a significant slice of the revenue pie coming from US education is the dependence on state budgets. However, Barack Obama's government has highlighted education as an area of the US that requires reform, especially K-12 (primary and secondary).
Despite Pearson’s years of building its US education business – and judging by Mr Murdoch’s move – there is clearly a lot more room for growth in American education.
Through schemes such as Race to the Top, around $17bn has been allocated to states and districts to support school improvement in recent years.
So, Rupert is determined to crush his rival by using the US educational system as a hostage that he intends to harm.
November 23, 2010
Murdoch claims the US education market is worth $500bn, which sounds a bit toppy even if it includes the buildings and school uniforms. But print rival Pearson, owner of the Financial Times in opposition to Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, has prospered mightily in education in recent years and Murdoch is obviously determined to open another front in his battle with the FT publisher.
Murdoch claims that US schools are “waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching.”
What would that be Rupert? Bill O’Reilly and Fox News in the classroom?
Fast forward now to this past May.
At the eG8 forum in Paris, there was one Rupert Murdoch espousing his newly-found "passion" for education, claiming that reforming education is 'both a duty and a business opportunity'.
From his keynote speech:
“Our schools remain the last holdout from the digital revolution,” Murdoch said. “The person who woke up from their 50-year nap would find today’s classroom would like almost exactly the same as it did in the Victorian age - a teacher standing before a room full of kids with a textbook, blackboard and a piece of chalk. It is an abdication of our responsibility to our children and grandchildren.
“Our challenge is to learn from what works best—wherever in the world we find it—and put it all together. My company is determined to try, in a big way.”
This could encompass both e-books and learning materials and group learning platforms, and could be a gauntlet thrown down to one of the digital learning sector’s big beasts - Pearson.
“Everywhere we turn, digital advances are making workers more productive, creating jobs that did not exist only a few years ago and liberating us from the old tyrannies of time and distance,” Murdoch said. “This is true in every area except one: education.”
More from Rupert's speech at the eG8 forum in Paris in May:
MAY 24, 2011
On Tuesday, Mr. Murdoch made only a passing reference to his company's education efforts, though he outlined several key needs that News Corp.'s strategy seems designed to address. He said the key is "not a computer or tablet or some other device," but rather the "software that will engage students and help teach them concepts and learn to think for themselves." (emphasis added)
He also said schools need to incorporate more personalized learning, saying schools need the same tools to "micro-target audiences" that media and technology companies have mastered. He cited a program for the iPod used by American children on a military base in Okinawa, Japan, that can "instantly diagnose where a child is in his or her reading – and then produce a customized textbook for the next ten days."
"Everywhere else in our economy, digital is forcing businesses to let their customers customize their clothing, their cuisine, their news, and most anything else they want to buy," Mr. Murdoch said. "My challenge for everyone in this room today is to help us do the same for a child's education."
The software reference.... is worrying. Sorry, having flashbacks here, spanning the last 11 years.
(But, I'll get better.)
Rupert is particularly interested in the iPad.
His Wall Street Journal reported early last year on the deals made by major textbook publishers with ScrollMotion Inc to transfer their textbooks onto digital devices.
Feb. 3, 2010:
Only in recent years have tablet devices begun to offer a glimpse at a practical digital realization of many educators long-harbored dreams. It helps enormously that they’re book-shaped (almost removing the physical and psychological barriers laptops and desktop computers put between people), and, sometimes, they’re almost affordable.
Publishers were already dipping their toes into the digital book market, but only tentatively. Now the iPad is just around the corner, it looks like they’re losing those prior inhibitions and preparing to dive right in, though they’re trying not to sound too enamoured.
Meanwhile, one man who never seems to give two hoots about what’s fair, right or even logical – Rupert “Mad Dog” Murdoch – took a break from hating on Google to declare that he supported (and preferred) Apple’s pricing model for titles in the iBookstore. In a News Corp. earnings call yesterday, Murdoch said,
"We don’t like the Amazon model of selling everything at $9.99… We think it really devalues books and it hurts all the retailers of the hard cover books. We are not against
Vintage Murdoch, the money is always the story and not his newly-found 'duty' and 'passion' for education.
All of this brings us to recall certain people who have been recently barnstorming around the country, aggressively pushing charter schools, standardized testing, merit pay for teachers, opposition to smaller class-size, lust for Race To The Top funds, performance-based firing of teachers and principals, halting of teacher tenure and rigid teacher evaluations.
People such as Arne Duncan.
July 25, 2011
DES MOINES – U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan painted a sobering picture Monday of a once-vaunted Iowa school system now in stagnation and needing “transformational reform” if it wants to move from mediocrity back to a world-leading status.
In a keynote address to a two-day educational summit called by Gov. Terry Branstad, Duncan said Iowa has to bolster its academic standards and expectations to better prepare students for college and careers, pursue and implement innovations, overhaul the way it prepares, supports, evaluates and rewards classroom teachers, and provide high-quality preschool opportunities to meet the challenges of the “knowledge economy.”
People such as Governor Chris Christie, traipsing over to Iowa for a speech at the Education Reform summit, defending his deep cuts to educational spending in his own state of New Jersey.
People such as Michelle Rhee.
Most people who have heard of Michelle Rhee know her as the unforgiving face of contemporary school reform, the hard-edged chancellor of the long-failing Washington, D.C., public schools who graced the cover of Time standing in a classroom with a broom in her hands—only to be swept from the nation’s capital herself when her patron, Mayor Adrian Fenty, lost a reelection bid last September that was in large part a referendum on Rhee’s reforms.
Less well known is that Rhee is part of a generational shift in school reform. She’s one of a new breed of “social entrepreneurs” who have sought to create a performance-driven brand of public schooling on behalf of the nation’s disadvantaged students. Some of these new education entrepreneurs are shaping federal education priorities as senior officials in the Obama administration’s Department of Education, where they have pushed for school reform through the federal Race to the Top competition and other signature Obama plans.
What drives Michelle Rhee, and the entrepreneurial wing of school reform as a whole, is disdain for the commonly held belief in traditional public education theory that if students are unlucky enough to live in poverty, they shouldn’t be expected to achieve at high levels—and, more to the point, that schools shouldn’t be expected to get them there. (The frequent refrain is: “We’re doing the best we can with the kids we have.”)
Rhee’s crusade in Washington was about transforming a system driven by bureaucracy to one shaped by performance incentives. This shift remains the core challenge facing reformers in urban school systems and public education generally. That Rhee got as far as she did is a testament not only to her take-no-prisoners personality but also to the importance of mayoral control of urban school systems. If Rhee had had to deal with a traditional elected school board, and if Fenty hadn’t cleared a political path for her, she might not have been able to push through the most important reforms.
Rhee was forced out of her position when her enabler, Mayor Adrian Fenty, was defeated in his election campaign, the result of a backlash of anger in the DC African American community.
She has since created "Students First", a national "advocacy" outfit, in opposition to the influence of teachers' unions.
And people such as Joel Klein.
When Rupert Murdoch gave his testimony earlier this week in London, former New York City School Chancellor Joel Klein was sitting directly behind him. After a stormy tenure in New York City where he fought teachers unions and closed schools according to the Michelle Rhee School Destruction Model, he left and took what looked to be a cushy job at News Corp helping Murdoch launch his for-profit education products. (added emphasis)
Klein looked as uncomfortable as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Scrutiny is the last thing he wants.
He's sitting behind James Murdoch (seen here) and his father Rupert Murdoch.
Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit Ltd
Klein and Rhee are tight, according to Gotham Schools. Apparently, she and Klein have frequent contact.
Michelle Rhee touted her red-track/green-track teacher pay proposal last night at Pace University, saying it’s made such a splash that Mayor Bloomberg asked Chancellor Joel Klein if they could bring a similar model to New York. The proposal, which is being negotiated with the D.C. teachers union right now, would award some first-year teachers nearly $40,000 raises in exchange for giving up their tenure rights — while others could choose a “red” path where they retain tenure but are paid less.(HT to Crooks and Liars)
Rhee said the model came up in a recent chat with Klein, who she said she speaks to regularly to share “best practices” and to commiserate. Klein told her that Mayor Bloomberg had asked if they could bring the red/green plan to New York. “Apparently Klein said to him, ‘Not even you have enough money to do all of that in New York City,’” she said. Rhee’s plan, if passed, will be financed by private philanthropy for the first five years, she said.
From Crooks and Liars again:
See that private philanthropy claim there at the bottom? This is a Rhee hallmark. She rides into school districts on promises of private benefactors if only those schools will just clean up their acts and get it together the way she envisions. She doesn't name the private benefactors, so let me name a few who spend millions of dollars on Rhee's enterprises: Devos, Walton, and the Friedman foundations, whose sole goal is to turn public school districts private.
Back to those non-profits for a minute. It's no secret that Rhee has set a goal of securing $1 billion in donations for her Students First organization in order to evangelize her message to reform privatize our public school system and destroy unions. Those goals are perfectly in line with Murdoch's business model with regard to his education products too. So do they have a connection, given the common links with Klein? Possibly, as The Nation reports.
July 21, 2011
But what’s been less well understood is the impact the scandal might have on Murdoch’s attempt to make a profit off the American public sector, most notably through seeking to provide technology services, such as data-tracking systems and video lessons, to public school districts.
Last November, shortly after hiring Klein, News Corp. acquired Wireless Generation, an education technology firm that had worked closely with Klein during his tenure as chancellor on two projects: ARIS, a controversial (and buggy) data system that warehouses students’ standardized test scores and demographic profiles; and School of One, a more radical attempt to use technology to personalize instruction, reorganize classrooms, and reduce the size of the teaching force.
But scrutiny on Murdoch’s school agenda is growing. Aware of the media titan’s relationship with former DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, education reporter Alexander Russo tried to find out if Murdoch had donated to StudentsFirst, Rhee’s PAC. The group’s goal is to act as a political counterweight to teachers’ unions.
“After two days of emails and phone calls—they must have been freaking out behind the scenes trying to figure out what to do—a Rhee spokesperson would neither confirm nor deny the Murdoch money,” Russo wrote.
A revelation in the Nation piece also describes the ethical hot water involving Klein in relation to Murdoch's acquisition of Wireless Generation... Klein dealt with matters pertaining to Wireless Generation as he was NYC schools chancellor. Now, he will be supervising them as a part of Murdoch's holdings. Seems that won't fly with NYC ethics regulations. Hope that is investigated.
Anyway, the search is still going on for proof of Murdoch payments to Rhee's Students First PAC. I don't think there is much doubt.
But I did find this:
Klein financed some of his New York schools initiatives by tapping private sources, including, according to a former top aide, at least $1 million from Murdoch’s wife, Wendi.
And now, tasked to help Murdoch rake in bundles of cash, selling ed-technology products to school districts around the world, the Murdoch-Klein plan is in view.
Undaunted, Klein says of potential rivals, “We are going to do our thing.” And taking a swipe at Pearson, he added, “Obviously, we’re looking to develop what we think is a disruptive strategy -- one that isn’t build around the textbook model.”
And speaking of one of Rupert's arch rivals, Pearson:
November 18, 2010
The Florida Virtual School and educational publishers Pearson have announced a partnership that will offer FLVS-designed courses through a program called Pearson Virtual Learning.
Schools worldwide will be able to choose from one of four options to offer middle and high school content to students. The programs vary based on whether a subscribing school is using its own teachers and learning management system, and whether it is paying for courses on a per-student or a subscription basis. Information provided by Pearson does not include more specific pricing models for the program.
The program will offer credit recovery courses in the four core subject areas for high schoolers, math credit recovery courses for middle schoolers, as well as an assortment of Advanced Placement courses and exam reviews. Schools choosing to use their own teachers for instruction will can also gain access to professional development courses.
Florida Virtual School, considered a leader in the online school industry, has been pushing ways to expand its operations as other virtual schools have followed their lead. FLVS, which as its own public school district is still free for all Florida students, has worked with brick-and-mortar schools to provide blended learning opportunities, sold some of its courses to other schools, and established a franchise option for counties in the state who wish to manage their own virtual schools.
I'll bet that really chafes Rupert's hide, that Pearson has what he now wants.
And what happened to Michelle Rhee on the heels of this announcement of the Pearson deal with Florida Virtual School last November 18?
Why.... she came to Florida to serve on Rick Scott's transition team on education. In Scott's words,
she joined forces with him to "find innovative ways to create a new education system for a new economy."
December 4, 2010:
The "what will she do next" guessing game came to an end this week when Florida's Republican Governor-elect Rick Scott named Michelle Rhee," the former chancellor of the District of Columbia school system, to an 18-member transition team on education.
And Florida is positioning itself as a national leader as some of the state's education reforms are available outside the panhandle. Founded in 1997, Florida Virtual School was the country's first, statewide Internet-based public high school. Last month, an alliance between Florida Virtual School and Pearson Education Inc., an education, technology and distribution services company, announced a partnership. Pearson will offer more than 100 Florida Virtual School courses worldwide.
"In choosing her
"You've got Michelle Rhee, Patricia Levesque, Executive Director, Foundation For Florida's Future and a Florida Virtual School World History Instructor
Yes, we also have Patricia Levesque, Executive Director, of Jeb Bush's Foundation For Florida's Future.
Ah, yes, Bigfoot himself. He still calls himself "the education governor".
Gone from the governor's office since January, 2007, yet since, operating from the shadows.
And embracing 'entrepreneurial capitalism'.
He was busy around this time late last year as well:
Jeb Bush on "Morning Joe": Digital Learning Takes Center Stage
December 1, 2010
"We hope we can get to a point, Governor Wise and myself,
where digital learning becomes . . . as nonpolitical issue. . .
becomes kind of the core way that we educate children."
- Former Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush
National Education Policy Institute analysis challenges Jeb Bush’s ‘Florida Formula’ for ed reform, July 1, 2011
Jeb Bush flimflams Minnesota lawmakers on "bold educational reform", May 12, 2011
Jeb Bush pushing "Digital Learning Now" offensive to remove textbooks and teachers from classrooms, March 3, 2011
Beware, Arizona: Jeb Bush to pitch education reform to your legislators on October 1., September 29, 2009
Look out, Indiana. Here comes trouble., September 2, 2009
Utah, February 2, 2011
Jeb Bush touts Luna's Idaho K-12 reforms to Luna's Technology Task Force, June 13, 2011
Tom Luna's education reform plan was a long time in the making, February 20, 2011
"We hope we can get to a point, Governor Wise and myself, where digital learning becomes . . . as nonpolitical issue. . . becomes kind of the core way that we educate children." ---- Former Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush, December 1, 2010
"In every other part of life, someone who woke up after a 50-year nap would not recognize the world around him," Mr. Murdoch said in a speech at the e-G8 forum in Paris, a two-day digital conference leading up to the G8 Summit. "But not in education. Our schools remain the last holdout from the digital revolution." ----Rupert Murdoch, May 24, 2011
“It reminds me very much of President Eisenhower’s warning to beware of the military-industrial complex,” said Noh, who clashed with K12 Inc. while in the Senate. “It seems to me that what we’re seeing here is the educational-industrial complex that’s operating behind the scenes, with people like Rupert Murdoch. They are interested in the millions of dollars, frequently taxpayer dollars, which they can glean through the political process.”
----Former Sen. Laird Noh, a Kimberly, Idaho Republican who retired in 2004 after 24 years in the Legislature, saying he fears privatization will twist policy to the detriment of students.
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