The world is justly reacting with disgust at the illegal, invasive tactics used by Rupert Murdoch-owned media in Great Britain to gain information about private citizens. Well, guess who's trying to help Murdoch get his mitts on schoolkids' information, whether the parents want them to or not? That would be former CMS Superintendent Peter Gorman.
Just seven weeks ago, Gorman left his job as superintendent to become a senior vice president of Murdoch-owned News Corp.'s Education Division. That division was launched so Murdoch could turn a profit from the increasingly lucrative "school reform" business, which largely amounts to peddling for-profit education technology.
Gorman has long been an enthusiastic supporter of a "corporate" approach to school reform, based on business models and using what many observers see as an extremely top-down approach that mandates an excessive number of tests. Gorman won awards for his approach at CMS from the Broad (rhymes with road) Foundation, which runs an "academy" where Gorman was trained, and which pushes the corporate model for reforming schools. In fact, one of the Broad Foundation's academy speakers, Carl Davis, is part of Ray & Associates, which recruited Gorman to CMS in 2006. Don't know about you, but that kind of coziness warms my heart.
As a senior vice-president of News Corp's Education Division, Gorman is responsible for "building the division's business inside public-school districts," according to News Corp's job description. One of the ways the Education Division's business is being built is through a $27 million no-bid contract given by the New York State Education Department to Wireless Generation, an education technology company that is part of the division. Wireless Generation develops software and tools that track student test scores and collect assessment data for school administrators and teachers. The company developed the Achievement Reporting and Innovation System (ARIS) for New York City schools. As Erica Hellerstein, writing for AlterNet, reports, the $27 million contract will now let Wireless Generation set up a similar statewide data system that will gather both the academic and personal information of every public school student in New York state.
Two problems. First, according to nearly every bit of information we could gather, ARIS is widely seen as a big flop. Hellerstein quotes Leonie Haimson, director of a group called Class Size Matters, who says principals and teachers in NYC openly discuss ARIS as "a very inferior product" that cost the city a whopping $80 million.
Second problem: Critics in New York are now clamoring for the no-bid contract to be overhauled, saying that Murdoch's company should not have such unrestricted access to millions of students' personal information. Using that information for other purposes, i.e., increasing the company's bottom line, is strictly illegal. But in light of the revelations coming from London lately about how Murdoch's papers there blatantly broke the law and paid off law enforcement — and Klein's friendly relationship with state lawmakers — it's easily understandable why parents and teachers are concerned about potential privacy violations.
So where does Gorman fit into all this? Again, his job is to build the company's business in public school districts. At this point, building the business is dependent on the company being able to gather as much personal and academic information about students as possible. As a senior VP, Gorman's job, whether he's involved with Wireless Generation or not, is to essentially be one of Murdoch's head snoops within the U.S. educational system.
You can't say we weren't warned. Ann Doss Helms of the Observer did a great job of detailing Gorman's links to the Broad Foundation, and its role as part of the top-down, corporate model "school reform" movement. Gorman didn't help his local image either, when it was revealed that he had sneakily contacted state legislators in Raleigh, urging them to change a provision of his teacher performance pay scheme, which requires teacher approval before the plan could be implemented.
The good news for Charlotte is that he's gone. The bad news is that his interim replacement is yet another top-down Gorman acolyte. Of course, the fact that Gorman has Murdoch's money behind his efforts now isn't exactly happy news, either.