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News Corp. Making Moves in the Education Business

Company makes two key appointments
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Rupert Murdoch’s foray into the business of molding minds continues. On Wednesday, News Corp. announced two key appointments to its Education Division, which was launched at the start of 2011 with Joel Klein, former chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, at the helm.

Kristen Kane, who served under Klein as the COO at the New York City Department of Education, has been named COO of the division, where she will be charged with “driving operations and strategy,” the company said in a statement. News Corp. also appointed Peter Gorman, the Superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina, as senior vice president of the division. He will be working with school districts to put News Corp.’s educational programs in place. Gorman who assumed his position in Charlotte five years ago, has been known to approach education reform from a business standpoint.

In her early career, Kane was an education research analysis at JP Morgan. She first joined the Department of Education in 2002, when Klein was appointed chancellor. By 2003, she was CEO for the Department’s Office of New Schools. In 2005, Kane became Klein’s Chief of Staff. For her final role at the Department, Kane was promoted to COO. Her tenure in that job lasted only a year and a half, however. In August 2009, Kane was installed as director of the FCC’s National Broadband Team. Between her stints at the Department of Education and the FCC, Kane was CEO of a new media company that she restructured and sold.     

Gorman’s vision for the revitalization of schools, which is heavily driven by an emphasis on testing and data, has had its share of critics. Many in the Charlotte community were angered by Gorman’s decision to shut down schools in predominantly black neighborhoods, his efforts to create tests to assess teacher performance, and the layoff of hundreds of teachers in the school system. Gorman has gotten positive attention as well, however: For two years in a row, his school district has been a finalist for the Broad Prize for Urban Education, honoring school districts making advancements with minority and low-income students.

Gorman’s data driven approach to education appears to be in step with the concept behind News Corp.’s Education Division, which will be “focused on individualized, technology-based content…as well as digital assessment tools for K-12 students,” the company said. And Gorman is sure to find some kindred spirits at Wireless Generation, a recent News Corp. acquisition that provides technological resources to assist teachers in tracking student progress.