In an op-ed in Sunday's Wall Street Journal, News Corp. executive vice president Joel Klein attacked the ongoing teachers' strike in Chicago without disclosing his role in administering $4.7 million in educational testing contracts at the heart of the dispute.
In 2010, News Corp. purchased 90 percent of the education technology company Wireless Generation for $360 million, incorporating that company into the education subsidiary of News Corp. now known as Amplify.
Klein, the former schools chancellor for New York City, was hired by Rupert Murdoch to run News Corp.'s education division in July of 2010 and is now the CEO of Amplify. While the Journal -- which is also owned by News Corp. -- identified Klein as Amplify's CEO, neither the paper nor Klein himself disclosed that the company has millions of dollars in contracts for the very testing that is a central issue in the strike.
In May, Chicago Public Schools entered into an agreement with Wireless Generation to provide “math assessment services” and “literacy assessment services” to the school district. The math agreement is for “a total cost not to exceed $1,700,000” while the literacy assessment cites a cost “not to exceed $3,000,000.” The Progressive Change Campaign Committee first reported on these contracts in a September 12 blog post.
In his op-ed, Klein downplays the teachers' rationale for taking action, writing that the strike “feels more about attitude -- 'the mayor doesn't respect us' -- than substance.” In fact, the Chicago Teachers Union objects to a reformulation of the existing teacher evaluation system which would make standardized tests -- like those administered by Wireless Generation -- count for 40 percent of the score, which will be used to determine teacher pay and whether certain teachers will be laid off.
Union president Karen Lewis said the tests are “no way to measure the effectiveness of an educator” and that “there are too many factors beyond our control which impact how well some students perform on standardized tests such as poverty, exposure to violence, homelessness, hunger and other social issues beyond our control.” The union is seeking such scores to weigh less heavily on the teachers' evaluations.
Indeed, reporting in the Journal has highlighted the centrality of teacher evaluations based on standardized testing to the ongoing dispute between teachers and the city. In a September 10 article the Journal noted that the strike has highlighted “a growing national debate over how best to evaluate teachers, set their pay and fire them.”
In previous news stories discussing education reform, the Journal has disclosed its financial connection to News Corp. and Wireless Generation. In a May story on education standards, the Journal wrote about “Wireless Generation, an education-technology company owned by News Corp., which also owns The Wall Street Journal.” In a January story on the “Race to the Top” education program, they made a similar disclosure. But the paper has not disclosed the contracts with Chicago Public Schools in their coverage of the strike.
Wireless Generation has previously been the target of controversy linked to its News Corp. ownership. In 2011, New York City rejected a $27 million contract with Wireless Generation, specifically citing the ongoing criminal investigation into phone hacking by their parent company. State Controller Thomas DiNapoli wrote, “in light of the significant ongoing investigations and continuing revelations with respect to News Corp., we are returning the contract with Wireless Generation unapproved.”