Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Todd Farley: Traitor to the Ed Reform Rentier Class... and God Bless Him for It

Todd Farley:

I had the goat.

That's what I remember about my travels to Detroit last year, while working as a test developer for an educational publishing company. I made two separate trips to Motown, spending seven total days in the Detroit Public Schools to get teacher approval on the K-12 assessments my company "developed" for them. While I have only vague recollections of the work those teachers and I did -- lots of indiscriminate arguing about whether some reading passage was too hard or too easy for their test and whether the correct answer to some question was B or C (or maybe D?) -- I do have a very clear memory of dinner one night.

It was at Roast, Iron Chef Michael Symon's signature restaurant, a swank and pricey eatery famous for its menu of meats. The night my colleagues and I visited, the daily special was goat, the whole animal skewered on a spit and roasting over an open flame. I happily gorged myself on a plateful of meat hacked off the roasting carcass, crispy skin included. It was all delectable, and while most of my colleagues opted not to dine on goat that evening, they nonetheless reveled in wine or cocktails and big, delicious steaks. For sure, it was a great night to work in standardized testing. ...

The company I worked for, you see, is owned by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt just completed a 15-month contract with the Detroit Public Schools worth $39,859,925.00. That's right, almost forty million dollars, or more than 12 percent of DPS's entire budget shortfall, for HMH's "managed instruction" in reading and math. While I don't know exactly what forty million dollars of "managed instruction" looks like (who does?), I know some of those millions were used to pay for the tests I helped slap together (mostly recycling passages and questions from our item bank that had been used many times before) and to sponsor my travels to Detroit.

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