Not Wired!

The Wireless Generation* sale to News Corp is interesting on a few levels, including what’s next for suddenly growing education player News Corp.  Intrepid Washington Post education reporter Valerie Strauss manages to find the one angle that isn’t interesting, basically complaining that this must be shady because it’s for-profit (I think Steven Pearlstein’s job is safe for now…).  In fact, the problem is not the existence of Wireless Gen, it’s that we don’t have a dozen companies like it.

If we’re serious about supporting teachers in their work then performance tools like the kind Wireless develops are critical.  Giving teachers the ability to access and use data in meaningful ways has broad implications for instruction as well as productivity and cost-control.  Wireless is also on the leading edge of work around quasi-open source textbooks, data systems, and reading tools and School of One is an interesting model with a bunch of implications, too.   Many of these kind of innovations are unlikely to come from the public sector because of how little money is spent on R & D in education but also how it’s spent – and is likely to be for the foreseeable future.  And the bad incentives and politically-driven marketplace in education hardly helps.

But, while it’s great that Wireless succeeded and will continue to, the sale also signals a structural issue in the field.  Midsized companies in K-12 education are pretty consistently acquired by large companies.   Is that really a good thing?  Today the K-12 education market (a $650 billion one) is dominated by a handful of big players and then thousands of really small ones (with mixed results and little accountability or meaningful cues about quality).  There is a mostly missing middle.  That matters for innovation, or the lack thereof, as well as  the flow of investment.  And it’s a reason why we don’t have a dozen Wireless Gens and dozens of other ventures pushing the envelope, too.

*I’ve consulted for Wireless Generation but had no stake or involvement in the sale.

8 Responses to “Not Wired!”

  1. phillipmarlowe Says:

    Valerie really gets under Andy’s skin.
    That’s good.
    But Andy will slog on in his Alinsky-style campaign to denigrate Ms. Strauss in order to marginalize her.
    Funny coming from a guy who sat on the Virginia Board of Education while it put out phony data on schools.

    For more on the start of Wireless Generation, read this:
    http://www.printfriendly.com/print/n?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.allbusiness.com%2Fgovernment%2Fgovernment-bodies-offices%2F5958534-1.html

  2. Chris Smyr Says:

    Strauss does a fine job marginalizing herself, actually, except in the eyes of “truthiness-seekers” such as yourself. Eduwonk’s just here to document it.

  3. The Anti-Chris Says:

    I would bet that far more people read Strauss than eduwonk. She is a voice for those in the trenches while eduwonk is really just a way for Andy to pull in more consulting gigs.

    What have YOU ever done in the world of education other than teach for two years? I would venture to guess that your students hated you for being a jerk and didn’t learn much. Now your only contribution and throwing rocks at people on eduwonk. Nice oppositive influence there, Chris.

  4. Chris Smyr Says:

    I don’t care if more people read her than eduwonk.
    More people read People Magazine than read Ms. Strauss.

    Now she is trying to further marginalize herself by following up on what’s going on in Central Falls High School in Rhode Island.
    She’s now joining the police chief there in blowing out of proportion the discipline problems the school is having, trying to pin it on the administrators at the school who have made the perfectly reasonable request that the teachers handle discipline and not send students to the office.
    The admins have even provided one day this summer to train the teachers in new ways of getting the children to take responsibility for their actions. But the teachers (and the police chief) balk at this.
    I am quite sure than if they use VAM at Central Falls, we will see that a large number of the teachers claiming “problems” have failed to teach and refused to set high standards in character development.

    Compare and contrast.

    Ms. Strauss on Central Falls.

    And from the grounds in Central Falls.

    PS. It doesn’t matter that I did Teach For America for only two years. If they had done VAM on me, I’d be a shimmering, glowing star in the education firmament.

  5. Bob Calder Says:

    Haven’t you realized that Rupert Murdoch is the Donald Trump of publishing? Late to the table.

    Murdoch’s genius if you can call it that, is persuading regulators to let him do things they wouldn’t let other people do because they’re anti-competitive.

  6. Chris Smyr Says:

    Anti:

    “I would bet that far more people read Strauss than eduwonk.”

    “Far more people” doesn’t imply it is a more reliable source. Lots of folks get their news from Fox News pundits, too.

    “She is a voice for those in the trenches while eduwonk is really just a way for Andy to pull in more consulting gigs.”

    Those in the trenches need objective analysis to help them help kids, not polarized partisan drivel. Strauss is apparently better at the latter.

    “What have YOU ever done in the world of education other than teach for two years? I would venture to guess that your students hated you for being a jerk and didn’t learn much.”

    Bad guesses about my background, as usual. My purpose here is only to engage folks in debate, since many (like yourself) offer perspectives that seemingly have never been challenged before.

    “Now your only contribution and throwing rocks at people on eduwonk.”

    If by rocks you mean counterarguments. Again: I have every right to be sarcastic and critical of bad faith arguments.

    It is also ironic to hear you say this, though, since on average every other sentence you write is whiny ad hominem and insults, and the other half is not much better. At least I can stay on topic for longer than a paragraph, before linking to something irrel–

    http://www.ohiodairyfarmers.com/kids.aspx

  7. GGW Says:

    Strauss writes that Murdoch is…

    “investing in Teach for America and some charter schools.”

    Isn’t that something a WaPo editor would flag/correct? The word is “donating.”

    You’d think that would be a critical distinction that readers would have wanted.

  8. Richard Cathcart Says:

    How about these observations as a basis for discussion?

    1. Two years’ experience is not a disqualification for discussing education.

    2. Teachers should handle all routine disciplinary matters, but they shouldn’t be expected to endure extreme behavior.

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