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What's Going On In The Education Industry?

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The February issue of Baird & Co's Class Notes is out (PDF here), and as usual it's full of fascinating news from the business side of education that I would otherwise not likely know.

Apparently K12 education stocks are beginning to rally, especially Leapfrog Enterprises (+13%), Scientific Learning (+11%), and Educate (+10%). However, the publishing index increased a modest 1% due to small declines of shares of John Wiley, McGraw-Hill, and Scholastic.

What else? Apollo Group (owners of Phoenix, right?) bought the online high school company Insight Schools, and Educate announced it has "entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by a group of investors."

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If you want to know how to reform education, ask a teacher not a politician or wealthy CEO or a retired general. We know exactly why the kids sitting in front of us misbehave and fail. We can see the anger and disappointment in their eyes and, we have met their failing parents. Today's parents are not parenting. The wealthy ones are too busy amassing and playing with their "toys;" the poor ones are working multiple jobs with no benefits in our "right-to-work (read it: "right-to exploit") state and are too tired. Parents are not reading to their kids, are not spending special time with them on a continuing lifelong basis, activities that pass on parents' values and make the child feel special and loved - otherwise known as BONDING and ROLE-MODELING.

Parents are not BONDING with their children. If they were, our job in the classroom would revert back to very difficult instead of what it is today, absolutely impossible.

Here's what we face in class: Angry, hyperactive, angry, poorly nourished, angry (often drunk and 'high') children (did I mention, angry?) who feel unloved and know nothing about showing respect and compassion for others as well as no clue about how to eat properly. The last thing to which they are open is getting down to the hard work of education. The powerful role-modeling they get at home is all about immediate self-gratification, period.

Here's what we face out in the hall talking to the parent of an impossibly disruptive child: The parent invariably tells us they "given up" "don't know what to do." So you ask them how often do they read to their child. They actually don't know what you are talking about.

Here's what we face from our leaders: Place the blame on the teachers, force teachers to take more courses, create mayoral control of the schools, force everyone into algebra, give more standardized tests, force everyone to go to college, eliminate arts education, force teachers to pass everyone, eliminate teaching assistants, put more 'technology' in the classroom, invent longer school days giving kids more in-class time to misbehave and the newest, most troubling one: dumb down the textbooks-replace substance with lots of color pictures and blank pages.

Give me 20 minutes, once a week, for four weeks and I can give a parent the tools to bond with their child. What a difference that would make in the classroom.

WE NEED BETTER PARENTS, NOT BETTER TEACHERS. Instead of increasing the wealth of the Educational Testing Service, the textbook companies and the computer corporations, those billions of dollars should be going into the classroom and into the salaries of our teachers. Our education dollars are presently financing every corporate CEO's vacation homes, yachts and private planes. How does this improve our schools?

Sincerely, Karolyn Berkman, PO Box 92048 Pasadena CA 91109

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