Heather Wolpert-Gawron

Marzano con’t & Corporate Sponsorship in Education

By on March 31, 2009

There’s a really interesting discussion thread going on at the Interactive Whiteboard Revolution ning.  It all began with my post recapping Robert Marzano’s position on the influence of IWB technology when he presented at the CUE conference this year.  You can read the thread here.    

One of the most interesting arguments going on is in the importance of whether or not Marzano is sponsored by Promethean (he is) and whether or not this somehow corrupts his findings (it shouldn’t).  As Peter Kent points out, “Corporate sponsorship is common practice. The MIT Media Lab (created by Papet and highly reputable) and currently including Mitch Resnik of Scratch fame has over 60 corporate sponsors including the possibility to having an employee of a sponsor work in the Media Lab. There is also the opportunity for a sponsor to work closely with a principal investigator and a graduate student in a specific area.  My point is that corporate sponsorship of educational research is both common and necessary.”

I’ve written on this topic before when I’ve said that I think there is a future in education as a privately sponsored entity.  In my earlier post, “Walmart Presents: (insert some president’s name) Middle School,” I previously wrote,

Schools already receive funding for following NCLB, an agreement that has demanded our first-borns and our unborn children.  But if there is a fine line between private donations and big company sponsorship, perhaps schools should entertain crossing it.  For years our achievement has been crippled by the unreasonable demands and fractional budgets our schools have received from the federal government. Schools are like victims of abuse: you give them a little of what they need to survive, slap them down, them give them another small amount and they are grateful.  So, compared to the limited resources we have now, maybe getting in bed with Pepsi might not be so bad.  

However, when you look at a program such as TED [Technology Entertainment and Designers], you get the impression that it’s more about the community stepping up and taking control of bettering themselves.  Perhaps we can’t be limited to taking money solely from the organizations that are approved by the by-laws of the Dept. of Ed.  Yes, it’s scary to be beholden to a private firm; yes we can predict its abuses.  After all, is not the issue of politicians being indebted to lobbyists the same thing?  But promises have been made to education and broken.  We are bizarrely beholden to follow NCLB when not enough funds have been given by the hand we keep urgently licking.? ?

The issue here, of course, is survival.

I understand that corporate sponsorship has cause for legitimate fears, but as the IWBRevolution thread mentioned, it is alive and well in institutes of higher learning.  And what’s good enough for them, may end of having to be good enough for us.  

I hope not, but I’m struggling to find answers to our funding problems. 

This ning has become a great resource for Interactive Whiteboard users.  Looking for some support and ideas that are not affiliated with a particular brand?  Check it out.

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  1. Anthony Cody
    April 4, 2009

    I think there is another way that line is being crossed, and that is by ‘educational philanthropists,’ such as the Broad Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and others. We have an elected school board in Oakland, but I would say that over the past decade, these foundations have had a much stronger voice than our elected representatives. As a result, the district bought heavily into the “small schools” movement, once a favorite of Bill Gates. Now we have forty schools we didn’t have a decade ago. Many of these small schools are good, but they cost a whole lot more to run. And guess what? The Gates Foundation has decided that small schools are not producing the results they thought they would, so their funding has moved elsewhere. But us in Oakland? We still have all these small schools, and we have to pay for them And our teachers are the lowest paid in the entire Bay Area, and the District is still in debt.

    So I am not a big fan of corporate control of our schools. They want to call the shots when they pay the bucks, and that seems fundamentally undemocratic.

  2. heather
    April 4, 2009

    I guess my response to that would be, rather than say no to funding, How do we get the bucks and not let them be in control? What measures can we put in place to ensure that educators have the control over education? I would argue that educators aren’t necessarily in control AND we don’t have the money. How do we get the money without selling out? I guess my point is, we can’t say no to well-intentioned funding. Especially since those in control now have questionable intentions.

    What I would like to spend money on is an audit in education, from the federal level to each site level. Every region I’ve taught in has lost money to embezzlement or simply un-savvy financing. A little business sense would go a long way. How do we combine our strengths to ensure education has the content and the funding?

    There’s the legend of the superintendent who got the kick back from the antiquated computer lab, despite advice otherwise, had it built, and then took the money and ran. There’s the district that wouldn’t fund the school psych, the ELL or RSP programs, or buy textbooks for their alternative school. When a board member was asked off the record about the lack of funding, they said that the school needed to make it all work with their Title I funding because their scores didn’t warrant their money. There’s the union rep at my current school who was just jailed for putting a down payment on her house with our union dues.

    I don’t believe we can close our doors to financial opportunities for schools, but the sources must be policed. But our system right now is set up to loose money, and I am not closed to the idea of outsourcing when we can’t do for ourselves.

    It isn’t my preference, but I can’t rule it out.

    Thanks for commenting, Anthony. Hope to talk to you soon!
    aka Tweenteacher

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