Archives for category: Boston Consulting Group

Peter Greene has done an amazing investigative review of the Boston Consulting Group. What is BCG? Why do reformers in so many cities hire this management consulting firm? What is its connection to the Gates Foundation and Arne Duncan?

Greene writes:

“Word went out today that immediately after Arkansas decided to make Little Rock Schools non-public, the Walton family called a “focus group” meeting “in conjunction with the Boston Consulting Group. This is worse than finding the slender man in the back of your family portrait. For a public school system, this is finding the grim reaper at your front door. And he’s not selling cookies.”

Greene reveals BCG’s business strategies, which are totally inappropriate for education but beloved by reformers.

“Bottom line? Say a little prayer for the formerly public schools of Little Rock, because BCG is in town and they’re sharpening their axe.”

Connecticut wants to transform its state university and community colleges for the 21st century. Who gets the nearly $2 million contract to redesign the system? Why, the Boston Consulting Group, of course. They are management consultants who specialize in outsourcing, privatizing, and downsizing. Jonathan Pelto reduces that the high-priced prescription will destroy the community colleges.


As Jonathan Pelto reports, BCG helps public authorities devolve their responsibilities to private entities. The lead consultant from BCG points to Néw Orleans and Dallas [?] as examples of successful transformation.


Any one of us could have written an equally compelling report for $500 or $1,000, not $1.8 million. But then Connecticut wouldn’t have the BCG logo on the cover of the report.

A friend passed along this email.

What an awesome threesome!

The Boston Consulting Group (whose reports always recommend privatization, as in Philadelphia); the Harvard Business School; and the Gates Foundation.

Lots of bright young men and women, probably graduates of our finest private schools. They will redesign public education for other people’s children. They need some good ideas.

I propose they take a field trip to Finland. There they will see happy, healthy children; no standardized testing; strong academic and vocational-technical programs; and a well-prepared, highly respected teaching profession.

What are the metrics? That will be their challenge!

Time for fresh thinking! Time to break the mold! Abandon the status quo of high-stakes testing and privatization!

Here goes:

“As part of an effort to improve the competitiveness of the United States, BCG has partnered with Harvard Business School and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to bring business and education leaders together to better understand how they can collaborate and transform America’s PK-12 education system.

“The BCG-Gates-HBS PK-12 research focuses on best practices for partnerships between business leaders and educators to accelerate improvement in America’s schools. The research has identified three high-leverage ways in which business leaders can engage with educators to bring about significant change for the better:

* Laying the policy foundations for education innovation
* Scaling up proven innovations that boost student outcomes
* Reinventing the local education ecosystem in cities and regions

“It is our pleasure to share with you two joint research reports on these important topics. We hope the first report, Lasting Impact: A Business Leader’s Playbook for Supporting America’s Schools, will inspire business and education leaders to work together on the urgent task of transforming the nation’s education system. The second report, Partial Credit: How America’s School Superintendents See Business as a Partner, summarizes the findings of a nationwide survey of school superintendents on business’s role in education.

“In 2014, we aim to spur action on many of the ideas that have been captured in the research so far. We welcome your thoughts and input on the material.

Best regards,

J. Puckett
Leader, Global Education Practice Tyce Henry
Nithya Vaduganathan

The Boston Consulting Group”

Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, harshly criticized one of Mayor Bloomberg’s signature initiatives, the school support networks.

“Me, if I were going to take over the school system, I would look heavily to change the networks,” Tisch said during a panel discussion hosted by the nonprofit group, PENCIL.

“I think the networks have basically failed children who are [English-language learners],” added Tisch, who is due to defend the state’s education policies at a state senate hearing Tuesday. “They have failed children who have special needs.”

Under the $90 million network system, principals choose from about 55 Department of Education or nonprofit-run support providers, which assist schools with teacher training, budgeting and more.

This is important, as the Boston Consulting Group (a management consulting firm) advised the Philadelphia School Reform Commission to replicate the Bloomberg networks,

Why BCG was impressed by the geographically dispersed networks is anyone’s guess.

This reader has a question.

I am aware that BCG recommended mass school closings in Philadelphia and handover of students to private organizations.

Can you help?

“Which cities has the BCG done this work in so far: Memphis, New Orleans, Cleveland, Philadelphia… what about chicago/DC/Detroit??? Was that BCG work too? The BCG never released their criteria for evaluating which schools to close- nor did they do site visits…. I want to piece together their decision-making process in order to reveal it for what it is… but I do not have a complete list of cities where they have made recommendations- can you provide that, Diane?”

The School Reform Commission of Philadelphia plans to close 37 schools to save money while opening charter schools.

Parents, students, teachers, and others are fighting back.

The city’s schools have been under state control for the past decade.

The School Reform Commission was urged by management consultants–the Boston Consulting Gtoup–to privatize more schools, even though Philadelphia tried it a decade ago and it didn’t work.

People often ask what can be done to slow down the galloping pace of privatization, which has the enthusiastic support of so many Republican governors and legislatures (see Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, Indiana, Tennessee, Louisiana), the Obama administration (see Race to the Top), and wealthy foundations (see Gates, Walton, Broad).

Philadelphia parents are not sitting back and wailing against the proposed privatization. They have lodged ethics complaints against the city’s largest foundation and the Boston Consulting Group for being unregistered lobbyists.

This is a letter from parent leader Helen Gym explaining why parents acted:

Dear Colleagues:

This week, Parents United for Public Education, the Philadelphia Home and School Council and the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP filed a complaint with the City ethics board that the activities of the Boston Consulting Group and the William Penn Foundation should constitute lobbying under the city’s new lobbying ordinance. We believe it is the first real test of the lobbying law which went into effect in January and was designed to prevent secretive attempts to influence policy, including the School District of Philadelphia.

We did not make this decision easily or hastily. We requested a thorough legal analysis from the venerable Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia. We arrived at this decision after months of observation and study around the murky activities of the Boston Consulting Group and the wealthy donors who funded them. Just a week before the Philadelphia School District is expected to announce dozens of school closings which will throw our city into turmoil, we believe the public deserves to know the full influence of private money and access on decisions that impact us all.

Please read and share our post: “The public deserves to know what’s happening here” at Parents United’s new website:

As always, I would love your feedback, critiques, suggestions and shares.



Helen Gym
Parents United for Public Education

Contact us:
Visit us:
Yes, we tweet! Follow us @parentsunitedpa

Wherever the Boston Consulting Group goes, certain outcomes are predictable:

1. It will recommend closing public schools.

2. It will recommend opening privately managed charter schools.

3. Most of the schools closed will be in African-American neighborhoods.

4. Most of the teachers laid off will be African American.

5. The Boston Consulting Group will get a fee that is outrageous in comparison to the work they do in writing a report (the report is everywhere the same, just change the name of the city).

In this case, they make the usual recommendations for Memphis.

Before, their handiwork was seen in Philadelphia.

Who advises them? Margaret Spellings.

Earlier this year, the William Penn Foundation commissioned a report from the Boston Consulting Group on the future of the Philadelphia public schools. BCG, as is customary, recommended closing dozens of public schools and opening dozens of privately managed charters.

Parents and community leaders were outraged.

One group, Parents United for Public Education, complained that the William Penn Foundation was engaged in lobbying, and it sought a legal opinion from the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia to support its claim.

Please read the linked article. It reveals an intent to privatize public schools, not to study their needs dispassionately.

The hard-charging president of the William Penn Foundation has suddenly resigned, in what appears to be an ouster by the board. Is this a mini-replay of the Ford Foundation’s ill-fated intervention into school politics in New York City in 1968-70? No one knows, for now. Perhaps the foundation did not enjoy being cast in the role of villain in the city’s struggles.

The interesting story here is that Philadelphia parents (and give credit here to the tireless Helen Gym) pressed the theory that the new muscular venture philanthropy crossed a clear line from philanthropy to political activism.

In the past decade, a handful of very wealthy foundations have used their funding to steer public schools, without regard to the wishes of parents or to the democratic process. Philadelphia parents just threw a wrench into the gears of the privatization machine.

This parent offered testimony to the Néw York City Council, explaining the incoherence of reform in Néw York City. She described how the Mayor dissolved geographic districts and replaced them with a structure that no one understands, a structure that leaves parents out in the cold. Her comments about the “Children’s First Networks” created by the Bloomberg administration are especially valuable, because the Boston Consulting Group has urged similar networks as a “reform” for the Philadelphia school district. This post explains what Néw York City parents think about these networks.

Please read:

Honorable Robert Jackson
Chair, Education Committee
New York City Council
250 Broadway
New York, NY 10007

November 6, 2012

Dear Chairman Jackson,

Thank you for the opportunity to submit my testimony on the NYC Dept of Education’s networks for school support.

I am a parent of two children in public schools in Manhattan. I have been an active member at my daughters’ schools having served as a PTA officer, an SLT member, and a volunteer environmental educator. I am also the current President of the Community Education Council District 2, although this testimony does not reflect the opinion of the Council.

Since the Mayor took control of the system, organizational structure has changed at least three times. In the process, the old structure based on the 32 community school districts, whose existence is mandated by the State Education Law, has been nearly dismantled, leaving only two people: District Superintendent and the District Family Advocate. The series of reorganizations has made it very difficult for parents to know where they can get assistance beyond their own schools, and created transition periods during which school administrators were unable to figure out where to go for help on anything from enrollment to budgeting. The constant reorganization has also made it nearly impossible to assess the effectiveness of any one organizational structure because none has been in existence long enough for thorough evaluation.

The current organization of Children First Networks is perhaps the worst of all the structures. Schools in a given network or cluster seem to be selected rather randomly. Within a network there may be elementary, middle and high schools from all five boroughs. While my understanding is that principals choose a network to join, the resultant networks still seem to lack cohesion of any kind. Such lack of cohesion makes me wonder how effectively the network leaders can communicate information among the member schools and more importantly how well they can deliver pedagogical support.

Most parents are not aware of the existence or the role of the networks. For those parents who are concerned about issues beyond their schools, such as mandated curriculum, the opaque and unnecessarily complicated organization of networks and clusters makes it extremely difficult for parental involvement. If parents are familiar with the networks, it is unclear how exactly network leaders support their school or to whom they report and how they are supported. In the pre-Mayoral control era, there was a clear line of command: teachers to principals to district superintendents to the Chancellor. Under the current CFN system, principals do not report to the network leaders, who themselves do not seem to report to anyone.

The performance of network leaders also seems highly variable. For instance, during the introduction of the Special Education initiative in spring of 2012, some network leaders were effectively communicating accurate information to principals while others were not disseminating the right information. Ultimately, it was the students with IEPs who suffered from the confusion and the miscommunication. Unfortunately parents were left clueless as to how to improve communication, because they do not know their school’s network leader, who was responsible for miscommunication.

Furthermore, for a network leader to be effective, s/he must be an educator, professional developer, financial manager, and a business manager. In other words, the network system expects network leaders to do everything a district office used to do with a full staff. It is unreasonable to assume we can find a person who can excel in all these areas, not to mention more than a hundred such persons for all the networks. Speaking with principals, I am under the impression that many network leaders are not equipped to manage all the aspects of their jobs well enough for principals to receive the support they need.

Finally Hurricane Sandy illustrated all too well the limitation of the CFN in a disaster. I believe that assessing the damages to the buildings and needs of affected schools, developing plans for relocation, determining closure and reopening of schools, and communicating with principals, teachers and families would have been done much more efficiently if the schools were organized by geography of the community school districts. Our Superintendent in District 2 knows his principals and his schools in the District. In fact, he was in communication with many of the principals and assisted those whose schools lost power or flooded. Our District Family Advocate has the capacity to efficiently communicate with schools in District 2. If the Superintendent were empowered to make decisions regarding schools in his District with consultation directly with the Chancellor, I believe we would have avoided a great deal of confusion and anxiety among families, teachers and principals.

I strongly believe we should return to organizing schools by the community school districts. Grouping schools by geography builds stronger communities among parents and educators alike. I also believe community school district offices should be staffed appropriately beyond the Superintendent and the District Family Advocate to provide support to schools and assistance to families. We need an organization that makes sense, easy to grasp, and most of all builds a stronger community.

Thank you.
Shino Tanikawa




Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 163,058 other followers