A few months ago, I discovered an IP address in the list of referrers to my blog that linked to a private legal investigative firm in Ohio.
It struck me as odd, but I told myself that I was being paranoid and soon forgot about it.
This Sunday, the IP address showed up again. I posted two blog posts about Dr. Marzano over the weekend, and each seemed to have hit a nerve with teachers around the country. Very quickly, they garnered about 20,000 views.
This time, I wondered aloud if I should be worried about the IP address. Some said yes, others said no. One friend speculated that the firm may have been hired to build a libel case against me. Another wondered if perhaps they were “blog-chasers,” looking to gather clients by sending posts to high-profile individuals.
The following day, an email from Dr. Marzano was waiting in my inbox.
Dear Ms. Talmage,
Someone sent your recent blog post to me. I assume you know that while you may state your opinions quite freely, false statements about people that are damaging to their reputation are considered slander. In the blog post I read you have a number of such statements about me. For example, it is false that I have never been a teacher. I was a high school teacher and coach. It is also false that I was paid $6,000,000 by the Detroit public schools. I did make a brief one-day presentation for them a while back but the honorarium fee I was paid had three less zeroes than you report. Please be advised that I will monitor your blog for false statements about me or my organization and take legal action if they continue.
Did Buckeye Legal Investigations send it to him? The timing sure makes me wonder.
Here is how I replied:
Dear Dr. Marzano,
Thank you for your email. It is not my intent to slander you, but rather to give voice to the many concerns that teachers around our country have right now about how and where our district resources are going, and how we are being treated as professionals. I wonder if you would answer two questions for me: When and where did you teach, and for how long? Is this article giving false information? It is where I learned of the 6 million dollar contract. Thank you, Emily
I also wrote to the Detroit news station to ask if they could confirm the contract. A reporter wrote back right away to tell me that she had obtained the contract through a Freedom of Information Act request, and would send me a copy.
Dr. Marzano wrote back very quickly. Here is what he said about his teaching experience:
My personal classroom experience was in New York and in Seattle from the late 60s to the mid-70s, primarily at the high school level (with a brief undergrad stint at the elementary level in Milwaukee).
I was, of course, asking for more specific information. So I kept digging, and eventually found a copy of his CV embedded within an award application, showing that he taught in a New York City public school from 1967-1968 prior to graduating from Iona College in ’68, and then spent three years as Chair of the English Department at an all-boys Catholic school in Seattle.
My apologies, Dr. Marzano. I stand corrected.
As for the Detroit contract, here is what he wrote:
I believe they are using my system for teacher development. I also believe the district has contracted with Learning Sciences International. That is not my company, but they do use much of intellectual property. I can’t imagine that they received a $6,000,000 contract, but if they did, such money does come back to me. My guess is that classroom teachers know the name Marzano is associated with the strategies and made inferences from there. Your link is the first I’ve seen of that story, and I’m going to look into it immediately.
Learning Sciences International, located in West Palm Beach, Florida along with Marzano Research and Learning Sciences Marzano, owns the copyright to Marzano’s iObservation, and is the official provider the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model.
Below are the contracts that were sent to me by Kimberly Russell of WXYZ in Detroit:
Over the course of the 2015-2016 school year, Detroit Public Schools agreed to pay Learning Sciences International a total of $5,626,388. An additional $497,114 was paid in 2014.
Across the country, parents and teachers are growing angrier at the disconnect between the real needs of school districts and how funds are being spent. In the case above, the money would have been enough to pay at least 22 teachers for five full years.
Instead, students in Detroit are now attending classes with 40-50 students, while teachers are wrestling with a development program that many feel is interfering with their ability to teach.
Is this Darnell Earley’s fault for signing the contracts? Is it Marzano’s fault for marketing expensive teacher development programs to districts seeking to comply with current policies? Or is it all just another sign of the harm being caused by the current corporate takeover of our public schools?
Probably all three.
There is, however, no question the time has come to ask teachers and students in Detroit what they could truly use in their classrooms.