Natasha Singer’s article puts a face on the depth and breadth of commercialization in schools. Corporations such as Amazon and Google are only among the latest in a long line of corporations that have tried to influence students via their teachers. They benefit from decades of policies that have systematically underfunded and inequitably funded schools and that have placed an almost religious faith in the role of technology in education.
We have no doubt about the dedication of Kayla Delzer, a third-grade teacher profiled in your article, to her students. The fact that she spends time hustling for funds and products is a direct result of policy decisions made in Washington and in statehouses across the country that have driven countless schools to desperation.
It seems clear to us that she and other corporate-sponsored “teacher ambassadors” have a conflict of interest. Sadly, it appears that it is their dedication to their students that leads them to do the corporations’ bidding. Ms. Delzer’s efforts may benefit her students, though that is by no means assured. What is clear is that Ms. Delzer is helping to reinforce a status quo that places corporate interests instead of students at the center of education reform.
The writers are, respectively, a research associate and a research professor at the National Education Policy Center, University of Colorado Boulder.
To the Editor:
I don’t question the motives of Kayla Delzer. I believe that she honestly believes in all the products she is using in her classroom. The majority of teachers I have worked with in my 14 years in education are sincerely interested in finding any resources that work for their students. But determining what works for your students can be a very subjective evaluation.
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For all the money being spent by school districts on technology for students, there is a shocking lack of data to prove that this spending is yielding any benefit over traditional methods, as your article points out. In spite of this lack of data, technology spending by school districts seems to grow every year. And teachers like Ms. Delzer are celebrated not just for the particular product they are using, and endorse, but just for using technology in general.
President Eisenhower warned us of the emergence of the military-industrial complex. I fear that the information-technology-industrial complex has taken hold in public education.
NOEL CHANG, HOUSTON
The writer is a high school teacher.
To the Editor:
Companies give freebies to teacher influencers with the expectation that their school districts will buy something. What happens, though, when other teachers want freebies or when schools need to upgrade these freebie technologies, and money is not available? Funding teaching materials in such a haphazard manner is not efficient, nor can it be easily replicated in other contexts.
There’s a better way. Classroom grant programs from foundations, public entities and even some corporations can provide teachers funding that is free of the kind of influence peddling described in the article. Teachers who write successful grants through such programs have the power to spend the money on items and activities they want, not what corporate sponsors would like them to buy. In addition, a key part of most grant applications is the plan for sustainability and replicability. That’s missing in the corporate sponsorships described in the article.