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Education Companies Swept Up in Idaho Panel’s Search for ‘Indoctrination’ in Learning Materials

education companies swept up in idaho panels search for indoctrination in learning materials
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A task force assembled by Idaho’s Republican lieutenant governor has objected to the work of two well-known education companies among a long list of materials it says are promoting the “indoctrination” of students on issues of race and gender.

Both AVID, a nonprofit professional development provider, and EL Education, a nonprofit curriculum provider, were included in a list of examples published last week. The task force said the materials were gathered from district websites, parent submissions, and public records requests.

Members took issue with AVID and EL Education’s statements of support for the Black Lives Matter movement and the antiracist resources they offer teachers.

Idaho’s State Board of Education quickly rebuked task force’s claims, saying in a statement that the board found no evidence of indoctrination in the state’s schools.

But the situation shows the difficult position education companies could find themselves in.

Many companies in the K-12 market have seen demand rise for curriculum and other products that address issues of racial equity and inclusion. Teachers are seeking out resources that help them discuss current events, such as the killing of George Floyd and protests over police conduct, as well as broader explorations of the history of racial discrimination in the United States.

At the same time, Republican state lawmakers are pushing back against new approaches to addressing racism, sexism, and issues of equality and justice in the classroom.

An Education Week analysis found that 26 states have introduced bills this year that would limit how teachers can discuss those topics, or restrict teaching critical race theory — a decades-old academic concept that sees racism as a social construct, embedded in legal systems and policies.

In Idaho, state lawmakers approved a measure signed into law by Republican Gov. Brad Little that prohibits funding schools that teach students that any sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color or national origin is “inherently superior or inferior.”

In a statement, EL Education defended its focus on diversity, saying there are broad benefits to students receiving access to an inclusive curriculum.

“The science of learning and development tells us that students who have a sense of belonging in school learn more,” EL Education spokesperson Alexandra Fenwick-Moore said in an email. “Our curriculum strives to ensure that students see themselves reflected in the content.”

New District Demands

AVID and EL Education are far from the only education company prioritizing equity and taking a public stand against systemic racism.

In an EdWeek Market Brief survey conducted in May, nearly half of the 232 participating education company officials (49 percent) said their organizations had taken a public stand on issues of systemic racism, an increase from 31 percent in the fall. And 49 percent said they had reassessed their product offerings to look for areas of explicit or implicit bias.

The change appears to be driven by district demand. Forty-six percent of company officials surveyed said they have fielded questions from their existing and prospective district clients about how their products account for or serve diverse student populations. In October, just 22 percent said the same.

Nine percent of the businesses surveyed they had specifically lost a sale, or a customer relationship, because their products did not foster diversity, equity, and inclusion, up from 4 percent last fall.

Impact of Task Force Unclear

The 16-member Idaho task force, which includes state Rep. Priscilla Giddings, was launched by Lt. Governor Janice McGeachin in April to “protect our young people from the scourge of critical race theory, socialism, communism, and Marxism,” according to a press release.

Along with screenshots of EL Education and AVID materials, the group’s list of concerning materials included everything from specific assignments to a job description for an equity team leader in Boise School District to a copy of the state’s required teaching certification standards with the term “culturally responsive” underlined to highlight its frequency.

It’s unclear how much power the group will have in potentially changing the state’s education policy. The State Department of Education was not invited to participate, a spokesperson said, but they are “watching and listening.”

McGeachin, who is currently running for governor, has found herself at odds with state leadership before. In May, Gov. Little accused her of abusing her power for a “self-serving political stunt” after she put in place a mask-mandate prohibition while Little, who had supported masks as a COVID-era health measure, was out of town.

Any recommendations the task force makes to state officials or the legislature will be made public, said Jordan Watts, chief of staff for McGeachin.

Neither EL Education nor AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) have backed away from their equity work in response.

Lynn Kepp, a spokesperson for AVID, said the company’s work is unrelated to what the Idaho task force is trying to find because they don’t provide classroom curriculum. They offer professional learning that help educators prepare students for college or careers after high school.

“We have 77 optional offerings that school and district leaders can choose from to find the right fit for their educators,” Kepp said in an email. “The materials included in the task force’s list would not appear in a classroom but rather in voluntary professional learning courses.”

When asked for their response, EL Education released a statement detailing the high ratings their curriculum has received from independent reviewers and evaluators, including an “all green” in every category from reviewer EdReports. The company has worked with schools in every state for more than 28 years, the statement said.

“All students need an education that equips them to grow up and thrive in jobs and communities with people who may have different backgrounds,” the statement said. “EL Education is proud of our highly celebrated curriculum.

“Students engage in meaningful learning about key topics, including the history and cultures that have contributed to our current strength and our nation’s ability to thrive in the future.”

Photo of Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin by John Roark /The Idaho Post-Register via AP.

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ETS Acquires English Language Learning Test Assets for Japan

ets acquires english language learning test assets for japan
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ETS announced this week that it acquired the testing assets of its longtime partner in providing English language learning tests in Japan, the Council on International Educational Exchange.

With the purchase, the nonprofit based in Princeton, N.J., will establish a new subsidiary, ETS Japan, to take over the operations and support services provided in the country.

The move supports the organization’s interest in growing internationally by establishing its own footprint in Japan, said Ralph Taylor-Smith, Managing Director of ETS Strategic Capital, the investment arm of the research and assessment entity. For the last 40 years, ETS tests and other products have been administered in Japan through CIEE.

“We already have business in the country,” Taylor-Smith said in an interview. “But this allows us now to start to expand our global reach, and really gives us a footprint to start to build other areas… Having people on the ground really gives us that local presence and local reach.”

Founded in 1947, ETS is one of the best-known providers of testing in the United States and abroad. Their tests include statewide summative exams, graduate-school entry tests, and tests of English-language proficiency.

With the acquisition, the company will work to provide a complete experience for students, according to an ETS press release, including helping students prepare for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exams and GRE graduate school entry exam.

Taylor-Smith declined to reveal the total cost of the TOEFL acquisition deal.

This is the latest in a string of purchases and investments for ETS Strategic Capital, which was announced in September 2020 with a portfolio of five companies. The venture capitalist arm of ETS now has a portfolio with closer to 10 companies, Taylor-Smith said.

EdWeek Market Brief previously reported that the investment arm’s M&A deals were expected to range from $20 million to $200 million in size, and its equity investments could run from $1 million to $20 million.

The ETS program’s growth comes as venture capital investment in education surged. Investors put more than $16 billion into ed tech in 2020, according to a report by HolonIQ. That’s roughly double the amount put forward in 2018.

Photo:  David Davies/PA Wire via AP

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Sales of K-12 Instructional Materials Soaring, New Industry Estimates Show

sales of k 12 instructional materials soaring new industry estimates show
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Pre-K-12 instructional materials are just one slice of a publishing industry that broadly thrived over the past year.

Data released last week by the Association of American Publishers show that sales of educational instructional materials in March more than doubled, year over year.

Overall educational revenues for instructional materials climbed by $111.7 million, while revenues for pre-K-12 resources reached $61.4 million in March —  an 82 percent jump over a year ago.

Sales of higher education course materials rose even more sharply, reaching $50.4 million in March, a 179 percent increase over the previous year.

Education publishers’ gains over the past year have come at a time when public and private investment in education markets has soared. Federal lawmakers have approved three different stimulus measures, the most recent of which will channel $130 million into K-12 education. Venture capitalists poured $16.1 billion total into ed tech in 2020, $7.9 billion more than the previous record set in 2018.

One factor driving the increases in education publishers’ revenues: Two of the three largest state markets for vendors in terms of student population – Texas and Florida – purchased significantly more instructional materials this March than a year ago, according to AAP’s PreK-12 Books & Materials Monthly Report for March 2021.

Florida and Texas K-12 leaders bought $8.5 million and $2.3 million worth of pedagogical materials, respectively, showing increases of 331 percent and 137 percent over March 2020.

On the other hand, sales of instructional materials in California, the state with the largest K-12 population, dropped from $6.1 million to $3.9 million.

In addition to higher monthly sales, Florida also generated a sizable increase in revenues for instructional materials across the full years of 2019 and 2020, growing from $6.9 million to $11.4 million. During the same period, annual sales for California fell from $12.1 million to $10.1 million, and yearly sales for Texas declined from $7.8 million to $7.2 million.

The educational sales data account for materials covering reading and language arts, science, social studies, math, English as a second language, career and technical education, as well as miscellaneous other subject areas.

Other segments of the publishing industry have also seen their revenues increase over the past year. Consumer books grossed $743.9 million in March, a 34.2-percent increase year-over-year, while professional books generated $33.1 million, a 33.2-percent gain.

AAP released the information based on questionnaires they sent to publishers, the group said. The monthly reports draw revenue data from approximately 1,300 publishers.

Publishing sales for this year are more comparable to 2017-2019 levels than to industry revenues last year, which was a “tough” time for the industry, AAP said.

School buildings across the U.S. started closing in March 2020 amid the initial onslaught of COVID-19, forcing districts to quickly pivot away from traditional instructional methods and swiftly reprioritize their spending.

Though the publishing industry posted striking growth rates in March, the industry typically sees stronger performance over the summer, and so the next few months will provide a better indicator of the sector’s resilience, according to the AAP.

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Cambium Learning’s CEO Breaks Down Company’s Recent, Big Acquisitions

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Cambium Learning CEO John Campbell talks about how his company’s recent, major acquisitions of Rosetta Stone and the American Institutes for Research mesh with his organization’s strategic vision.

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Florida District Buying Curricula Across Subjects; Texas System Seeks ELL Software

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Elementary ELA curriculum, curricula across subjects, ELL translation software. Baltimore County public schools is searching the market for an elementary English/language arts curriculum, while one of Florida’s largest districts is accepting bids for curricula spanning several subjects.

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