Sunday, October 22, 2006

Bush's family profits from 'No Child' act

supposedly, NCLB money is available to districts with low TAKS scores. so why is this money not helping Texas children learn? one answer may be giant interactive cows of Neil and Barbara Bush, which Texas districts have spent millions on...

http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/front/la-na-ignite22oct22,1,4817769.story?page=1&coll=la-headlines-frontpage

"With investments from his parents, George H.W. and Barbara Bush, and other backers, Neil Bush's company, Ignite! Learning, has placed its products in 40 U.S. school districts and now plans to market internationally..."

"The law provides federal funds to help school districts better serve disadvantaged students and improve their performance, especially in reading and math. But Ignite does not offer reading instruction, and its math program will not be available until next year. The federal Department of Education does not monitor individual school district expenditures under the No Child program, but sets guidelines that the states are expected to enforce, spokesman Chad Colby said..."

"Most of Ignite's business has been obtained through sole-source contracts without competitive bidding. Neil Bush has been directly involved in marketing the product. In addition to federal or state funds, foundations and corporations have helped buy Ignite products. The Washington Times Foundation, backed by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, head of the South Korea-based Unification Church, has peppered classrooms throughout Virginia with Ignite's COWs under a $1-million grant. Oil companies and Middle East interests with long political ties to the Bush family have made similar bequests. Aramco Services Co., an arm of the Saudi-owned oil company, has donated COWs to schools, as have Apache Corp., BP and Shell Oil Co..."

"Western Heights school Supt. Joe Kitchens said the district eventually dropped its use of Ignite because it disagreed with changes Ignite had made in its products. "Our interest waned in it," he said. The former first lady spurred controversy recently when she contributed to a Hurricane Katrina relief foundation for storm victims who had relocated to Texas. Her donation carried one stipulation: It had to be used by local schools for purchases of COWs..."

"The COWs enticed students with catchy jingles and videos featuring cartoon characters like Mr. Bighead and Norman Einstein. On Ignite's website, a collection of teachers endorsed the COW, saying that it eliminated the need for lesson planning. The COW does it for them. The developers of Adaptive Learning's software complain that Ignite replaced individualized instruction with a gimmick. 'It breaks my heart what they have done. The concept was totally perverted,' Schenck-Ross said..."

"The Tornillo, Texas, Independent School District no longer uses the Ignite programs it purchased several years ago for $43,000. 'I wouldn't advise anyone else to use it," said Supt. Paul Vranish. "Nobody wanted to use it, and the principal who bought it is no longer here.' Ignite's website features glowing videotaped testimonials from teachers, administrators, students and parents."

"Many of the videos were shot at Del Valle Junior High School near Austin, where school district officials allowed Ignite to film facilities and students. In the video, a student named India says: 'I was feeling bad about my grades. I didn't know what my teacher was talking about.' The COW changed everything, the girl's father says on the video. Lori, a woman identified as India's teacher, says the child was not paying attention until the COW was brought in. The woman, however, is not India's teacher, but Lori Anderson, a former teacher and now Ignite's marketing director. Ignite says Anderson was simply role-playing. In return for use of its students and facilities, a district spokeswoman said Ignite donated a free COW. Five others were purchased with district funds."

http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/front/la-na-ignite22oct22,1,4817769.story?page=1&coll=la-headlines-frontpage

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