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  • Thursday, November 24, 2005

     

    Orange Unified's Focus on Consultants PART 2

    Below is the second part in a year-long series about Orange Unified's multi-million dollar Focus on Results program. Originally ecast one month ago, the first part is also being archived here in anticipation of Part III being released next week.

    A special news analysis series on Orange Net News /O/N/N/
    Orange Unified’s Focus on Consultants
    PART II: Copyrighted Material Used without Owners Permission

    The Focus on Results educational consultant program in OUSD has cost taxpayers over two million dollars in educational tax funds over the last four years. All the while, the local community has continued to demand hard data to back the expensive controversial program. Orange Net News will ecast this yearlong exclusive news analysis eries that will examine the OUSD commitment, the financial implications, as well as the worth of the program to the greater Orange Communities that paid for the controversial consultant program.

    Focus on Copyrights
    What does over $2 million in educational tax funds buy you from the controversial Focus on Results consultant firm? Apparently pirated copyrighted articles that are illegally photocopied then distributed to Orange Unified School District participants who have attended the monthly Focus on Results workshop style meetings over the last four years. Orange Net News (ONN) contacted authors and a major educational magazine publishing firm that had their articles in recent Focus on Results packets. All of them who responded to the inquire confirmed that they did not give permission to the Focus on Results firm, or to OUSD, to copy, use, or distribute their copyrighted educational articles. No one who responded to the ONN inquires reported that Focus on Results or OUSD had permission to use any of the pirated materials.

    Focus on Results has been distributing educational articles for four years in Orange Unified. Orange Net News began this investigation by contacting writers or publishers that had articles distributed in the last two OUSD Focus on Results meetings. The pirated articles are part of the packets that were distributed to OUSD participants. Meeting participants break into “jigsaw” groups and each group reads a part of the article. After reading their part, they meet with others (who read different parts of the article) to summarize and discuss what each group has read. Neither of the two authors who responded to ONN had given permission for Focus on Results or OUSD to use their work. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), the publishers of Educational Leadership magazine, also confirmed that neither Focus on Results nor OUSD had permission to use the four ASCD copyrighted articles that were photocopied (some with the Focus on Results logo on every page) and distributed in recent OUSD Focus on Results packets.

    Author Suzette Lovely wrote the article Making The Leap To Shared Leadership that was included in a packet distributed at a recent OUSD Focus on Results meeting. Lovely told ONN that she retains the rights to that article (which is an excerpt of a book she just published) and that she did not give Focus on Results permission to use it. Carol W. Tomlinson, author of another recent OUSD Focus on Results packet article, Reach Them to Teach Them, also reported she had not given permission for her work to be used. A spokesperson for the legal permissions department of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) also confirmed that they had not given permission for Focus on Results or OUSD to use any of the four pirated articles from ASCD that were recently distributed in OUSD packets. The spokesperson confirmed that ASCD has a process for granting permission with strict guidelines for how its copyrighted works may be used. The ASCD was going to follow-up on the infringement directly with Focus on Results. It was not immediately clear if in fact it was the OUSD Print Shop that was photocopying the pirated materials used at the OUSD Focus on Results workshops, which could implicate OUSD in the copyright infringements.

    The fact Focus on Results inserted their corporate logo on every page of many of the articles they pirated was particularly shocking to those contacted. While the packets do cite the article and authors, as well as the publication they were taken from, only some of the articles include the fact that the article is copyrighted material, and none state that Focus on Results has reproduced the articles with permission. Regardless of the citations, all of the material is copyrighted, and the citations do not allow the for profit firm to photocopy and distribute them.

    The Ghosts of Articles Past
    Some of the authors that had articles photocopied and distributed by Focus on Results where difficult to track down because they have left positions they held when they wrote the articles. That leads to another disturbing fact about some of the articles being distributed and discussed: some articles are very dated. At the first Focus on Results meeting of this school year, September 21, 2005, the article Closing the Gap, Done in a Decade, by Kati Haycock, Craig Jerald and Sandra Huang was from the Spring 2001 of Thinking K-16, an online information service from the Educational Trust.


    Closing the Gap, Done in a Decade was written a year before the No Child Left Behind Act was signed into law in January 2002 and published in the Spring of 2001. The data cited in the article is mostly from the 1990’s and with some data in the article going back as far as 1975. Even without taking into account the enormous change in education since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act, using an article with data and ideas from over ten years ago is not part of currently acceptable educational research standards.

    One of that article’s authors, Kati Haycock, was one of a handful nationally known educratic elite who pushed to include the controversial “sub-group” testing designations into the No Child Left Behind Act that so many schools, including the Underperforming Schools in Orange, are struggling to improve. Haycock had her educational beginnings with a radical University of Berkley group of educators, and at one time held the position of Director of the Outreach and Student Affirmative Action programs for the University of California system. Her radical theories dismiss the idea that external circumstances hurt student learning. Those external circumstances include: English as a Second language; learning disabilities; parenting (or lack of); culture; poverty; or inferior schools. Instead, her theory is that it is society and educators’ belief in the “myth” that those external circumstances impact student learning that leads to those students not learning. Years later, this “myth theory” of learning has been largely debunked by the first few years of standardized testing that has shown schools with large populations fitting the “myth” scenarios are being designated as Underperforming Schools, while “non-myth” majority schools are achieving. Testing has also proven that the external circumstances dismissed by the myth theory do impact student learning. Yet, just last month, this 10 year old radical theory is still being presented as fact to OUSD participants who represent OUSD “High Priority” schools that are struggling to deal with the exact “subgroup” problems that are dismissed as myth by Haycock.

    Sadly, the Orange Unified Trustees appear to have no clue about the program they endorsed by a rubber stamped approval. At the September 22nd Orange School Board Meeting, OUSD Trustee Wes Poutsma responded to community criticism by declaring that Focus on Results was “working” as a program that “teaches kids to read”. OUSD Board President Kathy Moffat thought his comments were “excellent”.

    While cutting music programs and increasing class sizes, Orange Unified taxpayers have paid over $2 million dollars in educational tax funds for: pirated articles; decades old data; radical “myth” theory; a district principal who concurrently held a Senior Consultant position with the firm; expensive administrators doing classroom bulletin board checks; and potential district copyright infringement issues. But then, as Trustee Wes Poutsma stated on September 22, 2005 about the $2 million dollars in educational tax funds spent on Focus on Results-. “We’re a $220 million dollar business; we’re going to spend the money somewhere”.

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