Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Fox-ization of Ed Reform


Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation took its second step into the education world this evening when it made a deal to buy Wireless Generation, a Brooklyn-based education technology company.

Murdoch took his first step nearly two weeks ago, when he acquired the chancellor of New York City’s public schools, Joel Klein. In an announcement that took most of his staff and top advisors by surprise, Klein told reporters that he was leaving the Department of Education for a job at News Corp., where he will be an executive vice president overseeing investments in digital learning companies.

After Klein resigned, News Corp. officials told The New York Times that they planned to make “seed investments” in entrepreneurial education companies. The acquisition of Wireless Generation may be the first of these investments.

A spokeswoman for Wireless Generation would not comment on when talks began, but said the deal was finalized this evening. For $360 million in cash, News Corp. now owns 90 percent of Wireless Generation, a company with 400 employees.

We're now officially in the post-charter era of school reform. Not that charters have failed, are going away, or even shrinking, but the real action going forward is in, what do we even call the confluence of online learning tightly coupled with assessment and data analysis? This is the real privatization push.

There's not big money in running schools, especially since I don't think we're at the point yet where windfall profits from school administration is not by definition scandalous. You can get away with a sort of philanthropic patronage -- if Wendy Kopp's and Eva Moscowitz's patrons want them to make $250,000 a year, that's their problem. But from a profit standpoint, you want the public maintaining buildings, paying the staff, etc., and just taking clean profit off selling content and services.

Klein and Murdoch are homing in on where the big money may be, if they can shape the political and regulatory context to their needs. A lot hinges on the Common Core standards -- which in English at least are perfectly tailored to the School of One approach -- which WG has a big hand in, so it will be interesting to see if the party politics around this shifts with Murdoch in the business.

I am kind of glad there will be someone to go up against Pearson and the other big publishers, but it would be really nice if it wasn't Darth Murdoch and Grand Moff Klein.

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