by David Safier
I love the commenters on this blog. I put out a serious question, and readers chime in with more ideas and information than I could possibly come up with myself.
I asked the question, What "educational technology provider" is Al Melvin specifying in his bill, SB1239, to provide online reading instruction to Arizona K-3 ELL students and others who are significantly below grade level in reading? The bill's criteria are so specific, Melvin has to have someone in mind to get up to $30 million in state funds for the contract.
I made a guess, Scientific Learning, and I guessed wrong. Commenter Thucydides wrote, "No, it is Imagine Learning," sounding like he (I'm guessing male) knew what he was talking about. I looked at the company website and thought, Thucydides may have something there. Then Jo Holt, who ran against Al Melvin for the LD-11 Senate seat, wrote, "Sen Melvin repeatedly mentioned Imagine Learning in last Fall's campaign. It seemed to be one of his go-to examples, like Basis School."
Bingo! We have a winner! Imagine Learning. So I looked further into the company's website and found all kinds of nearly identical language to what Melvin used in his recent bill and in the bill he and Huppenthal wrote in 2010 (SB1319). You can see some comparisons I pulled together below the fold.
So what is Imagine Learning? It's a Utah-based company that has an Arizona presence. It's a corporate member of ALEC. It won an Advocate for Innovation in Education award from Parents for Choice in Education in 2012, a group advocating education privatization. It made $12,000 in campaign contributions to Utah conservatives, after which it was awarded a statewide license to distribute its program in Utah — pretty much what Al Melvin wants to do in Arizona. Its request for a contract award in Arizona was turned down by the Dept. of Education in 2010.
The more we can learn about Imagine Learning, the better we'll be able to understand why Melvin sings its praises and, along with Ed Supe Huppenthal, writes bills to give it a multi-million dollar contract with the state. Your thoughts and ideas are welcome.
I put together a few examples of language in Melvin and Huppenthal's bill that is very similar to what you find on the Imagine Learning website. I could have gone further, but really, there was no need.
SB1239: "PROVIDES PRINTOUTS AND PROGRESS REPORTS FOR PARENTS IN THE PRIMARY LANGUAGE SPOKEN IN THE PUPIL'S HOME."
SB1319: "PROVIDES PRINTOUTS AND PROGRESS REPORTS FOR PARENTS IN AT LEAST TEN LANGUAGES IN THE LANGUAGE SPOKEN IN THE PUPIL'S HOME."
Imagine Learning website: "Imagine Learning English also provides reports, certificates of achievement, and letters for parents in their primary language, so families can stay involved in their child’s progress. First-language support is currently available in thirteen languages, with more languages added regularly."
SB1239: "PROVIDES PRINTABLE REAL-TIME INDIVIDUAL REPORTS AND CLASSROOM REPORTS."
SB1319: "PROVIDES PRINTABLE REAL‑TIME INDIVIDUAL REPORTS AND CLASSROOM REPORTS."
Imagine Learning website: "Easy-to-read TrueData™ progress reports and graphs provide real-time data for teachers and administrators."
SB1239: "EXPLICITLY TEACH PUPILS ACADEMIC VOCABULARY THAT IS RELATED TO CORE CONTENT AREAS."
SB1319: "DEVELOPING ORAL ACADEMIC VOCABULARY THROUGH WORD VIDEOS AND CLOZE SENTENCES."
Imagine Learning website: "In addition, students will learn more than 1,000 academic words that they will encounter in language arts, science, math and social studies."
SB1239: "THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION SHALL SUBMIT A REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS TO EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY PROVIDERS FOR THE DELIVERY OF RESEARCH-BASED TECHNOLOGY-BASED READING INTERVENTION."
SB1319: "PROVIDES CURRICULUM THAT IS BASED ON CURRENT SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH, STATE STANDARDS AND NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND GUIDELINES."
Imagine Learning website: "Curriculum designers carefully crafted each activity based on the latest scientific research."
SB1239: "EACH PUPIL SHALL BE ABLE TO PRACTICE READING ON THE COMPUTER BY RECORDING THE PUPIL'S READINGS AND COMPARING THE PUPIL'S READINGS TO THE READING MODEL."
SB1319: "DIRECTLY TEACHING PHONICS AND READING, INCLUDING ECHO READING AND RECORDING OF DECODABLE BOOKS."
Imagine Learning website: "Practicing fluency by echo reading."
SB1239: "PROVIDES IMMEDIATE FEEDBACK THAT IS INFORMATIVE AND THAT INCLUDES EXPLANATIONS IN THE PRIMARY LANGUAGE SPOKEN IN THE PUPIL'S HOME."
SB1319: "PROVIDES STRATEGIC FIRST LANGUAGE SUPPORT IN AT LEAST TEN LANGUAGES TO PUPILS, USING THE PUPIL'S FIRST LANGUAGE AS A BRIDGE TO ENGLISH LANGUAGE ACQUISITION."
Imagine Learning website: "We offer first-language support for speakers of the following 14 languages."