There Are No American Tanks In Baghdad! How To Stop For-Profits…By Launching One!

Leo Casey is exactly right when he writes that supporting teachers in the transition to Common Core is going to be a linchpin of its success. He’s also right that “Common Core aligned” is being slapped on a lot of stuff pretty casually right now. Says Casey:

…Much of the country is on a fast-track toward implementation, but with little thought about how to provide teachers with the “stuff” – aligned professional development, curriculum frameworks, model lesson plans, quality student materials, formative assessments, and so on – that they will need to implement the standards well.

But I’m left baffled when he then writes:

There is an alternative to turning over to for profit enterprises the production of the resources and supports teachers need to improve classroom instruction and to implement the Common Core. A new effort, launched by the AFT and the UK’s TES Connect, has the capacity to provide far more of the quality assistance teachers need than could ever be delivered by any state, district, or commercial publisher. It’s called “Share My Lesson” and is a free digital platform for U.S. educators to collaborate with each other and share teaching resources, with a significant emphasis on materials to guide teachers in implementing the new Common Core State Standards.

You wouldn’t know it from the blog post but the venture he describes is an, oh my, for profit!  It’s set up as a LLC and the British corporation (yes, corporation, it in fact used to be connected to Rupert Murdoch and is now owned by the dread private equity) that partnered to create it has made clear that they plan to make money from it.  Here’s the CEO in The New York Times:

Louise Rogers, TSL’s chief executive, said that although the company would eventually want to make money from sharemylesson.com, teachers would always have free access to the material created by other teachers, as well as content from other partners including Sesame Workshop; WETA, the public television and radio station in Washington; and Student Achievement Partners, one of the architects of the common core standards that 45 states have agreed to adopt.

As I noted when the venture was launched, I like this idea, and I also like the other (also for-profit) peer-to-peer platforms it’s competing with, each with its own theory of the best way to accomplish the shared goal of supporting teachers better.  Someone could also launch a non-profit one, too, and forgo the benefits of ownership in favor of mission. It’s too soon to know what the best approach is. But while the AFT has committed to keeping teacher generated resources free, never selling them or allowing them to be sold, and not using data gathered from the site for any profit-making purposes it’s unclear why they feel they have to keep pretending the business is something it’s not? If it wasn’t intended to be a for-profit it would have be set up differently and likely with different partners – this British corporation is not a charity. It also needlessly raises suspicion given that from an economic standpoint Share My Lesson’s terms of use are the least favorable to individual teachers of the major platforms out there.

Fort now, arguing that you’re keeping for-profits at bay by partnering with an overseas corporation in a for-profit venture is a confusing argument that raises more questions than it answers.

Posted on Jul 5, 2012 @ 1:07pm

One thought on “There Are No American Tanks In Baghdad! How To Stop For-Profits…By Launching One!

  1. Nelson Smith

    Fascinating. So who pays for that “eventual” profit? Is it fully supported by AFT in perpetuity? Or by billionaire philanthropists? Or will teachers start seeing pop-up ads for other TES products….?

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