Birds of a feather may flock together, but the problem faced by providers in the school improvement industry is determining what kind of birds they are. Those who view themselves as publishers can join the Association of Educational Publishers or the Association of American Publishers School Division. The Software and Information Industry Association’s Education Division is available to firms that consider their business education technology. The Knowledge Alliance has been making a bid to move beyond its traditional membership of education research nonprofits, to organization that see themselves in the business of applying knowledge to k-12 education problems. Comprehensive School Reform providers have the Coalition for Comprehensive School Improvement. Education Management Organizations have the National Council of Education Providers.
The net effect of this conception has been to turn the school improvement industry into something like the Kurdistan of Washington trade groups. The politics of empire left the Kurds spread across Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran and parts of the former Soviet Union. The history and politics of federal education trade groups has spread the school improvement industry across organizations with different objectives and generally lacking a coherent voice or influence.
The Education Industry Association might have become the school improvement industry’s trade group. It might still. But it has pursued higher education business, and its history in tutoring has made it the de facto trade group of Supplemental Educational Service (SES) providers.
I have been going to the association’s annual and Washington meetings on and off from the time when the organization was called the Association of Educators in Private Practice. I am attending parts of the Washington meeting on federal policy today and tomorrow, and will be posting my observations.
Anyone who has read edbizbuzz, or listened to my podcasts on School Improvement Industry Week Online, knows that I’ve been disappointed that EIA has not decided what it is not in education, and especially that it has not decided to represent the school improvement industry. After some years of sensing that Washington attendance was falling, I think the meeting has now come down to a hard core of some 100 people, and perhaps 30 larger firms. What’s good about this is that EIA may be ready to make some decisions about what it wants to become: a diffuse collection of firms in the education space, the SES providers’ de jure trade group, or the school improvement industry’s true voice.
The connection of a few higher education providers to EIA is almost entirely personal, due to the tireless efforts of Chairman Michael Sandler. The connection of SES providers follows from the organization’s history, but is also due in no small part to Executive Director Steve Pines entirely defensible decision to focus on serving that group’s needs - and that group’s willingness to put up additional financial support for EIA to do so. The decision not to become the school improvement industry’s spokesperson was a function of the competition from these other trade groups, and the unwillingness to make a formal decision about what EIA is not.
Something happened today in the session titled “Congressional Action on Education” that gave me hope for EIA’s future. D’Arcy Philps, an experienced education lobbyist; Doug Mesecar, Assistant Deputy Secreatary of Education for Innovation and Improvement, and House Republican Education and Labor Committee staff member James Bergeron had a common message: There are any number of issues around the SES provisions of a reauthorized NCLB, but if SES providers do not also weigh in on the law’s accountability provisions – and particularly those related to the calculation of Adequate Yearly Progress – there may not be much of an SES market to pursue. Bergeron underlined the point by suggesting that if every trade group focuses narrowly on its own provisions, the bigger battle might be lost, and noting that those opposed to the kind of NCLB the industry favored are arguing every provision. Steve Pines hit a similar theme when he asked about the fact that the House draft of the law prohibits for profit participation in some programs but not others, and the panelists responded that this was another example of why providers needed to be engaged with the big picture. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I thought I saw a lot of lights go on above the heads of attendees.
This is a case I’ve made for years (see below for links), but this time the audience was very prepared to listen to the argument. Right now it looks like NCLB won’t be reauthorized until next year; there is time to be thoughtful andt o dvelop a strategy for reauthorization. This time last year, many of these same attendees were told at the same conference that NCLB was going to be reauthorized more or less as is, only to find a few months later widespread panic about whether the law would gutted and whether SES providers could survive a new version. The prospect of a hanging concentrates the mind and, having slipped the noose, the audience has been incentivized to avoid a repeat performance.
A recognition of AYP as one of two cornerstones that SES providers share with other school improvement providers (the other being NCLB’S Scientifically Based Research/Research Based provisions – and that was touched on as well) in creating the basic structure of their market segments, is the basis for deciding that EIA should be the school improvement industry’s trade association. It will take the combined resources of all the firms now “settling” for a less than optimal fit in other trade groups to build the staff capacity and political presence necessary to give each the federal policy environment they need to survive and prosper. I hope EIA will seize the opportunity.
More on AYP and the School Improvement Industry:
• Our Industry’s Interests in NCLB II: (VI) Protecting a Demanding Approach to AYP
• For This Industry, NCLB II Is About AYP - And Our Interests Were Set Back November 7
• AYP and SBR Bound School Improvement Providers’ Market Potential
• AYP Regulation and Adaptive Management
More on Industry Interests in NCLB
• What to Do With a Two Year Reprieve on NCLB II
• Why Bar For-Profits From Title I School Improvement?
• The Beginning of a Long End to NCLB Reauthorization Shows No Evidence That the School Improvement Industry Counts
• The School Improvement Industry’s Interests in the Next NCLB (I): Straight Talk on Our Market Under NCLB
More on Industry Trade Groups
• Our Industry’s Interest in NCLB II: (VIII) Six Options for the SES Provisions
• Our Industry’s Interest in NCLB II: (VII) What Was Expected of Supplemental Educational Services in NCLB I?
• The School Improvement Industry’s “Evaluation Shoals”
The opinions expressed in edbizbuzz are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.