Tag Archives: Education Development Center

Education Development Center and Urban Collaborative

22 Feb

 By Thomas Ultican 2/22/2021

A North Carolina resident asked “what do you know about the Urban Collaborative?” She was concerned about a company providing free airfare to school leaders in her child’s district; airfare to meetings in far-off cities. She wondered, “What is their motive? Is it more about money and power than special education?”

The Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative was founded by Dr. David Riley, Educational Co-Chair of the Summer Institute on Critical Issues in Urban Special Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Riley was the Executive Director of the Collaborative until he succumbed to cancer May 2, 2016. The Collaborative is a national network of education administrators responsible for youth with disabilities in urban school districts. It is a national version of the Massachusetts Urban Project, a state-wide network that Dr. Riley founded in 1979. In 1994, The Education Development Center (EDC) expanded the Urban Collaborative into a national organization.

An October 1, 2019 announcement from Arizona State University stated:

“The Urban Collaborative has a rich history of collaboration with school districts — more than 100 in 25 states — committed to leading inclusive and equitable education. It has resources, sponsors and partners, consultants and data-driven review processes, and annual meetings of education leaders from the nation’s largest urban school districts.”

“This fall, the Urban Collaborative joins Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College [MLFTC]. It was formerly an initiative of the nonprofit Education Development Center.

Lauren Katzman, Urban Collaborative executive director, joins MLFTC as associate research professor.”

The Education Development Center

In 1956, Dr. Jerrold R. Zacharias an atomic physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) formed the physical science study committee (PSSC). Their goal was to make the existing uninspiring physics curriculum come alive. PSSC Physics became a national success whose methods were widely adopted.

Dr. Zacharias’s timing could not have been better. On October 4, 1957 the Soviet Union launched the first man-made satellite (Sputnik). This led to several rapid developments. In August of the following year, Education Services Incorporated (ESI) was created to market the study committee’s PSSC Physics. ESI went on to sell several books into the education markets. After a decade, ESI merged with the newly formed Institute for Education Innovation to become The Education Development Center (EDC).

Dr. Zacharias’s 1986 New York Times obituary noted,

“In World War II he helped make radar a reality for the Navy and then headed the engineering division of the Los Alamos atomic bomb project. Afterward, as director of the Laboratory of Nuclear Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he designed the first atomic clock, still the most precise tool for measuring time.

“But it was in remaking physics education that he left his firmest mark on American science. As President Kennedy said in 1961, Dr. Zacharias ‘started a revolution in science teaching in the United States.”’

Dr. Zacharias’s contribution to science teaching was probably over-hyped but at least it created a much needed positive story about public education. Since its beginning, public education in America, has experienced a continuous cacophony of misplaced derision.

  • In 1889, the top 3% of US high school students went to college, and 84% of all American colleges reported remedial courses in core subjects were required for incoming freshmen.
  • In 1940, the US Navy tested new pilots on their mastery of 4th grade math and found that 60% of the HS graduates failed.
  • In 1942, the NY Times noted only 6% of college freshmen could name the 13 original colonies and 75% did not know who was President during the Civil War.
  • In 1955, Why Can’t Johnny Read became a best seller.
  • In 1959, LIFE magazine published “Crisis in Education” that noted the Russians beat us into space with Sputnik because “the standards of education are shockingly low.”
  • In 1963, Admiral Rickover published American Education, a National Failure.
  • In 1983, A Nation at Risk stated, “the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.”

After every one of these dire but unfounded warnings, American society went on to lead the world in social, scholarly and cultural achievement. None of these claims held water. The great failure erroneously assigned to public education during Sputnik was no different.

Failing American education was blamed for the Soviets beating us into space. However, when Sputnik launched, President Dwight D. Eisenhower was pleased! He later stated, “We were certain that we could get a great deal more information of all kinds out of the free use of space than they could.” Sputnik established that the use of the heavens was open and free. To President Eisenhower it was an advantage. It meant that the US could use its superior scientific and manufacturing abilities to monitor and gather intelligence more successfully than the Soviets could.

The late Gerald Bracey wrote about the reality of the Sputnik fallout for Education Week:

“In late 1956, U.S. News & World Report had run an interview with historian Arthur Bestor, the author of ‘Educational Wastelands: The Retreat From Learning in Our Public Schools’, under the headline, ‘We Are Less Educated Now Than 50 Years Ago.’ Shortly after Sputnik, the magazine brought him back to explain ‘What Went Wrong With U.S. Schools.”’

Bestor declared that faulty education policy was “why the first satellite bears the label, ‘Made in Russia.”’ Countering Bestor’s statements,Bracey shared evidence that it was a command decision not education that led to the result. He wrote,

“Nazi Germany’s rocket genius Wernher von Braun, now the lead scientist of America’s Army Ballistic Missile Agency, was furious. At the time of Sputnik’s launch, the U.S. secretary of defense-designate, Neil McElroy, was touring von Braun’s operation in Huntsville, Ala. Von Braun, usually cool and politically savvy, lost it: ‘We knew they were going to do it!’ he yelled at McElroy. ‘Vanguard will never make it. We have the hardware on the shelf. For God’s sake, turn us loose and let us do something!’

“Von Braun did have the hardware on the shelf. On Sept. 20, 1956, more than a year before Sputnik, his group had launched a four-stage Jupiter-C rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla. The first three stages attained a speed of 13,000 miles an hour, a height of 862 miles, and a distance down range of 3,550 miles. The fourth stage could have easily slipped a satellite into orbit. But the fourth stage was filled with sand.”

There is substantial evidence that public school science education in the 1950s was not nearly so jejune as claimed. The 1999 docudrama October Sky tells the story of four high school boys from Coalwood, West Virginia. Coal miner’s son, Homer Hickman, was inspired by Sputnik and recruited three friends to take up rocketry with him.

A preponderance of science teachers has shown this film to their classes. It tells the story of four high school students engaged in scientific investigation and winning a national competition in rocketry. The movie highlights the wonderful encouragement and inspiration coming from their teacher, Frieda Joy Riley. In fact, Riley was so inspiring that The Freida J. Riley Award was established in her honor and is awarded annually to an American educator who overcomes adversity or makes an enormous sacrifice to positively impact students.

The PSSC physics curriculum has doubtlessly contributed to teaching high school physics, and like other successful curricular proposals the syllabus did address “an unmet need.” The EDC claims, “The Cold War and the emergence of the Russian space program in the late 1950s stoked U.S. concerns about a glaring national weakness in math and science.” The “concerns” certainly existed but achievement by the 1950s K-12 students testifies to how unfounded those concerns were.

Like so much of the slander endured by public education, the “glaring national weakness” claim was an illusion rather than “an unmet need.”

Tools of Corporate Education Reform

In the early years, the EDC was an organization making liberal ideology a reality. They developed a science curriculum specifically for the realities of Africa. They led a consortium of U.S. universities in founding the Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur. The EDC produced educational TV shows noteworthy for their African American and Latino casts. They engaged in educating village health workers in Mali.

Unfortunately, in the 1980s, EDC seems to have become distracted by power and money while it dove into education technology. The timeline cited above notes; in 1984 their Semantic Calculator won software of the year, in 1986 they won the same award with the Geometric Supposer, and in 1985 EDC acquired the Center for Children and Technology. In 2002 they founded the New Bedford Global Learning Charter School.

In 2018, EDC presented the inaugural EDC Impact Award to Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX. That same year they were publishing statements like, “As new technologies transform the workplace, programs such as the Amgen Biotech Experience and the STEM Learning and Research Center are preparing the next generation of innovators and inventors.”

The latest available non-profit tax statement for the EDC covers tax-year 2017. The statement reveals the large amounts of money going through EDC and a number of hefty “non-profit” salaries. In 2017, EDC raked in $155,645,130 and over $153 million of that came from their funders. It also lists the salaries for 12 employees all taking in well more than $200,000 for the year.

In 2004, EDC was presented a decade long General Services Administration (GSA) contract. The GSA contract certifies that EDC can meet competition, pricing, small business and other federal contract requirements for the services specified in each schedule. In schedule 874-4, 874-4RC Training Services EDC states, “Our EdTech Leaders Online (ETLO) program, established in January 2000, provides effective online professional development for educators to improve online teaching skills and to streamline the process of incorporating online resources into their daily business practices.” By “daily business practices” they must mean classroom teaching.

Less is known about finances at the Urban Collaborative because they were part of EDC until 2019 and now they are receiving their grant money through an umbrella non-profit arm at Arizona State University. Like Stanford’s CREDO and the University of Washington’s CRPE, money is donated to a second party who then passes it on to these organizations. They are not recognized non-profits so there are no tax records specific to them.

The costs for school district memberships to the Collaborative are unknown, but in 2006 the costs were openly posted on the Urban Collaborative web site:

“Membership fees are based on the total student enrollment of the district. A graduated fee scale is applied to determine the number of senior-level administrators who receive Collaborative publications and reports, paid airfare to Collaborative meetings, and other Collaborative benefits at no extra charge.

 

“The annual fee for a school district with a total enrollment of less than 15,000 students is $2,400 (covers one district leader).

“The annual fee for a school district with a total enrollment of between 15,000 and 50,000 students is $3,800 (covers two district leaders).

 

“The annual fee for a school district with a total enrollment of more than 50,000 students is $5,000 (covers three district leaders).

“Districts may enroll additional senior-level administrators in the Collaborative for $1,500 per enrollee per year.”

The Urban Collaborative semi-annual meetings are underwritten by corporate sponsors hawking their wares. In the Collaborative sponsor’s brochure, it says, “Our national meetings provide unique opportunities for your organization to deliver its message to many of the nation’s most influential urban education decision makers, network with education leaders from across the country, as well as participate in meeting sessions.”  The companies listed in the sponsor’s brochure are mostly edtech companies like Scientific Learning, TeachTown and TeleTeachers.

 A Closing Comment

The relationships that Urban Collaborative fosters and the curricular development activities at EDC may have value. But sadly, these organizations have been corrupted by billionaire dollars and the lust for national prominence. They have lost their focus on improving public education and have become power players in the world of corporate education reform.