Back when I was writing The Death and Life of the Great American School System, I was looking for a way to characterize Race to the Top. It sounded so familiar to me because its main ideas came direct from the conservative think-tanks from which I had recently resigned. How could I find a way to explain the contradiction: a new Democratic administration embracing GOP themes of testing, accountability, choice, competition?
And then I found a blog written by Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute (where I had been a founding board member). Mike said of Race to the Top, “It’s as if a bunch of do-gooders sat together at the NewSchools Venture Fund summit and brainstormed a list of popular reform ideas, and are now going to force them upon the states. (Wait, I think that is how this list got developed.)”
NewSchools Venture Fund is an organization that funds charter schools and entrepreneurs. To cement his link to NSVF, Secretary Duncan named its CEO, Joanne Weiss, to design and manage the Race to the Top. She is now his chief of staff.
Well, that very powerful organization is holding the next summit on May 1-2 in conjunction with NBC’s Education Nation. (http://www.newschools.org/event/summit-2012)
If you want to see the face of education reform in the U.S. Today, this is it. It’s a merger of the charter sector with for-profit sponsors and big foundations. You will find the company that produced “Waiting for Superman,” as well as the new movie “Won’t Back Down,” a celebration of the thus far failed Parent Trigger scheme to persuade public school parents to turn their neighborhood school over to a charter operator.
Be sure to scan the list of donors and sponsors. You will see the elites who have a low opinion of public schools.
Pick your own favorite panel. I think my favorite line is the overall title of the event: “Fifteen million children in poverty: Education Entrepreneurship and America’s Most Urgent Challenge.” I would guess that charter schools and for-profit online programs are the very tools needed to get those fifteen million children out of poverty. But that’s just a guess.
If anyone should go to the summit, please let me know which entrepreneur comes up with the best AP to close the achievement gap.