Monday, April 14, 2014

Edupreneuring Hard Rock Instructional Boondogglery

Are you too non-rich to attend Camp Philos, the philosophical retreat  for educational thought leaders at Lake Placid this summer? Then 2014 Rock the Core! may be for you! If nothing else-- it provides an object lesson in edtrepreneurship in action.

Rock the Core will take place June 9-11 at the Hard Rock Casino in Biloxi MS. 2014 Rock the Core is the fancy name for the 2014 New Teacher Institute, which is put on by the New Teacher People. Despite the remarkable initiallary coincidence, this is TNTP (which used to stand for The New Teacher Project but now, well, doesn't (kind of like KFC). None of that is easily discernible by looking at the website for the event.

A search for "The New Teacher People" turns up nothing but the website promoting this, well, let's call it a Training Convention Boondoggle (TCB). A search for "The New Teacher Insitute" turns up the same plus a press release or two, but from that we learn that the founder of the group is Candance McClendon, and that this is the third annual such gathering.

We're clearly working a different market here than the Lake Placid philosophers' gathering. Instead of skiing, it's beach vollyball. Instead of a private massage, there's a hotel pool. But Hard Rock has excelled at turning an okay idea into a mass-produced franchise of numbing sameness, loved by tourists and hated by locals, so it seems like a better location for CCSS conventioneering than a former Olympic site. I think Ms. McClendon nailed it with that choice. So who is Candace McClendon, and how did she end up with her own special teacher consulting business? 

Ms. McClendon has a project (The Future of Education) on fundrazr on which she tells her story.

I never wanted to be a teacher. I completed my entire high school and college career with a fierce passion for writing and creating narratives. I wanted to be a journalist. I had the goods, and I had spent the majority of my teens idolizing the editors in those glossy magazines. Needless to say, my senior year in college, I decided I was unprepared to live the fast life in New York City, so I opted for a year of teaching to save money. My life has never been the same.

She spent six years in the classroom and five as an educational consultant. Her Linkedin profile lists her as the owner of McClendon Education Group, LLC, (founded August 2009) which is based in MS but does not have a website of its own. The New Teacher People is another one of her companies, which puts on the New Teacher Institute in the summer, and also, apparently has a newsletter and Saturday Academies. This is all way more than you can glean from the site itself.

About Us takes you to some vaguely worded puff about change, students, world shaping and the need to "move expeditiously to prepare our youth for what's to come." We (who remain nameless throughout) have selected all sorts of current and former educators to create a "personalized product."

The registration page asks "Are you an advocate of Common Core?" The site promises engaging professional development (not the same old "sit and git") that will show you "what CCSS will 'look' like in a classroom/school like yours (i.e struggling learners, below grade level readers, state test driven, low student morale, time management issues)." I can't explain the inappropriately quotationed "look," but I am curious if the Institute will address Common Core's role in creating some of those problems. There's also a crack about fifty slides of PowerPoint which became ironic when I found this promotional video for the event which looks a lot like, well, bad PowerPoint (though it does use Pharrell's "Happy" as a sound track, and I love that song and appreciate that Pharrell got some of these peoples' money when they paid for the rights. You guys totally paid for the rights to use that, right?

Keynote speaker is Sandra Alberti from the Student Achievement Partners, the group founded by David Coleman, Susan Pimetal and Jason Zimba to cash in on CCSS    help assimilate more tools    help all students and teachers achieve good stuff. Notes the site, "One of our powerful keynotes, Achieve the Core, is founded by a writer of the Common Core State Standards. How close to an authentic look at CCSS can you get than that." It's possible Ms. McClendon hasn't finished proofreading.

Also speaking will be Adam Dovico from the Ron Clark Academy, and now I'm wondering how is Ron Clark doing these days, because he has to be looking at many of these uplifty no excuse charter-loving reformy stuffs and thinking, "Damn! I was a man ahead of my time." Anyway, he'll be here to collect a fee as well. And apparently State Rep Jeremy Anderson is coming as well.

The site has a resources page that plugs work from Chester Finn, Mark Oshea, Lucy Calkins, and Robyn Jackson as well as links to the CCSS themselves. Accommodations are a conventioneer-friendly $169/night, and the conference itself is a mere $299 (early) or $349 (after April 30). There are only 350 seats, so act now.

And there is a pdf for presentation proposals, but those were due by March 4th. I'm bummed to have found this too late. I was thinking that if I can't raise the money for Camp Philos, I could have put in a proposal to present "How to Deal with CCSS Foolishness and Boondogglery" or "How to Cash in on New Educational Baloney."

Ms. McClendon is to be commended for her edrepreneurial spirit; she's clearly not one of the big fish (SAP is only sending a "staff" person?!) but she has marked out her own corner of the market and with a little pluck and a webdesigner, she's propped herself up as reformer-for-hire. With a shiny website and everything! I'm not sure that we can blame this sort of thing on Common Core; as long as folks are interested in a nominally work-related vacation on the Gulf Coast, this sort of educational profiteering will always be with us. Still, as another protional video reminds us, Mississippi is looking at full-on Core onslaught in August of 2014, so that sense of manufactured urgency can't hurt. 350 seats times $300 makes $105K which is a not too shabby take for a weekend convention. And if Ms. McClendon gets lucky at the slots, she may really cash in.


  1. Lol! So, my question is, are these folks the pimps for the Purveyors of Reformy Nonsense (PoRN)?

  2. I don't know where these folks fit in. They aren't PoRN stars-- maybe projectionists, or the pop-up ads on PoRN sites...