Archives for category: Chiefs for Change

Stephen Bowen, state commissioner of education in Maine,
that he was resigning his
post to take a job as “director
of innovation” for the DC Council on Chief State School Officers.
He is the second member of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change to resign
in the past few weeks. Tony Bennett of Florida w the other; he
resigned when news broke about rigging the A-F grading system to
raise the grade of a school run by a political donor. Last year,
Bowen was at the center of a scandal
revealed by journalist Colin Woodard
. Bowen was taking
instruction and even model legislation to promote digital learning
from Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education. FEE gets
subsidies from the tech corporations that stand to profit as
digital learning expands. Bowen previously worked for a
conservative think tank in Maine. The interesting aspect of this is
the apparent transformation of the CCSSO, which was for many years
a staunch defender of public education. Bowen clearly was a charter member of the privatization movement, of which his mentor Jeb Bush is a prominent leader.

John White of Louisiana and Tony Bennett of Indiana and (briefly) of Florida have much in common, writes Mercedes Schneider. Both are (or were) part of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change. Both use data to create narratives. Bennett is gone. White is not.

A new website called Cheats for Change has been created in the wake of the Tony Bennett scandal.

Please take a look. It is very funny.

For those of you who do not follow education politics closely, Cheats for Change is a parody of Jeb Bush’s group called Chiefs for Change.

Bush and his Foundation for Educational Excellence (FEE) created Chiefs for Change to advance the Jeb Bush agenda of charter schools, vouchers, testing, competition, accountability, removing teacher tenure, and replacing teachers with technology.

There are eight “chiefs for change” a la Jeb Bush and the Florida miracle.

Tony Bennett, who previously served as chair of Chiefs for Change.

The current chair is Hanna Skandera of New Mexico.

The other members of Chiefs for Change are:

John White of Louisiana

Stephen Bowen of Maine (he had a little problem about pushing online learning in Maine)

Deborah Gist of Rhode Island

Chris Cerf of New Jersey

Kevin Huffman of Tennessee

Janet Barresi of Oklahoma

These are the leading lights of the testing, choice, and privatization crowd. Two (White and Huffman) are TFA alumni. Three (Cerf , White, and Gist) are Broad Academy alumni.

Michelle Malkin is known for her strong conservative opinions, strongly expressed.

In this article in the National Review, titled “Jeb’s Education Racket,” Malkin eviscerates Tony Bennett and Jeb Bush. She writes:

[Bennett’s] disgraceful grade-fixing scandal is the perfect symbol of all that’s wrong with the federal education schemes peddled by Bennett and his mentor, former GOP governor Jeb Bush: phony academic standards, crony contracts, and big-government and big-business collusion masquerading as “reform.”

She adds:

“Cronyism and corruption come in all political stripes and colors. As a conservative parent of children educated at public charter schools, I am especially appalled by these pocket-lining GOP elites who are giving grassroots education reformers a bad name and cashing in on their betrayal of limited-government principles.”

Whether you are liberal or conservative or libertarian or anything else, you should be offended by the grade-fixing, by the cronyism, and by the cozy financial arrangements that now dominate what is called “reform.”

At some point, a light goes on and you realize that this so-called  “reform” has nothing to do with children, nothing to do with education as such, and everything to do with politics, power, and money.

Janet Barresi, the dentist who is Oklahoma’s superintendent of schools, has decided to withdraw from the PARCC testing consortium because of the state’s disastrous experience with online assessment this past spring. Oklahoma’s not ready, she says, doesn’t have the technology, and can’t afford it.

The corporate reform group Stand on Children is disappointed. How will people compare children in Oklahoma to children in Maine if everyone writes their own tests?

Educators in the state are perplexed.

Is Common Core about common standards or common tests?

This post was sent to me by a teacher in Rhode Island who uses the nom de plume Horace Manic.

Mr. Manic writes:

The recent renewal of the contract of Deborah Gist, the Commissioner of Education in Rhode Island, brings to light some interesting political dynamics. Considering the recent, well-publicized conversion of Rhode Island Governor, Lincoln Chafee, to the Democratic party of President Obama, it is not a surprise that Gist was rehired – despite the pleas of teachers and student groups throughout the State. After all, Deborah Gist is the poster girl for the Broad Academy, one of the most well-financed and influential corporate reform organizations in the United States. Secretary of Education and Obama’s Chicago basketball-buddy Arne Duncan also came through the Broad Academy. Had the contract of Deborah Gist not been renewed, it would have been a symbolic rejection of Broad and the ideology of the reform organization – an ideology that has pervaded school districts throughout the United States through the placement of administrators in key posts.

One has to wonder what will be the political implications for Governor Chafee, who already lost his seat in the United States Senate when he was a Republican. Even though he was well-known in Washington as a moderate, if not liberal Republican (one of only a few Republican who voted against the invasion of Iraq), he lost handily to Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse in 2006 in a wave of rejection of the Grand Old Party. Four years later, having declared himself an Independent, he won a hotly contested three-way race for the Rhode Island Governorship. He was pushed over the hump after President Obama endorsed Chafee, thereby putting nails in the coffin of the Democratic candidate, Frank Caprio. Chafee also was aided in his win by the strong endorsement of Rhode Island’s most powerful teacher’s union, the NEARI. By supporting Gist, Chafee seemingly has alienated the teachers of Rhode Island. Resentment toward the Democratic Party has been expressed by union members across the state due to the punitive actions put in place as a condition of Race to the Top funding. Obama’s ardent support of Duncan, both of whom who supported the firing of an entire school faculty in Central Falls, has left Rhode Island teachers feeling like jilted lovers.

If his actions as of late are an indication, Lincoln Chafee does not plan to run for reelection. He has estranged himself from an estimated forty percent of his supporters in rehiring Gist. With Sheldon Whitehouse serving in the Senate for another five years, Chafee, perhaps, has his sights set on a post that will return him to Washington as part of President Obama’s team. He is not wanting for money as his wife is an heiress of the Danforth family, one of the wealthiest in Rhode Island. A return to Washington seems a likely route for the son of a popular Senator. Whatever the political future of Lincoln Chafee, he was not much concerned with the vote of the teachers of Rhode Island when he made the decision to reappoint Gist. It has been suggested that Chafee’s decision was a courtesy and will set up the departure of Gist by her own volition. Time will tell.

While Chafee’s moves have been evocative, another dynamic is playing out behind the scenes that few political junkies have claimed to comprehend. Deborah Gist’s other supporter is Jeb Bush, brother and son of Presidents of the United States. As a lynchpin member of Chiefs for Change, a collection of state leaders most closely associated with Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Educational Excellence and proponents of Bush’s views favoring high-stakes testing and privatization, Gist has supporters in Democratic and Republican camps. This brings into question the relationship between the Obama Administration and Jeb Bush. This collusion of leaders and parties seems to go beyond reaching across the aisle and political cooperation. After all, one day not far off, Jeb Bush will announce his candidacy for the Presidency.

How do Obama and Duncan view Chiefs for Change? Does Jeb Bush back the efforts of corporate form organizations like Democrats for Education Reform and individuals like Michael Bloomberg? How will the competition for votes, corporation funding, and union support affect the entangled relationships that corporate reformers like Deborah Gist have formed.

Recommendation: Don’t be near the fan in 2014.

Over protests by teachers and students, the Rhode Island state board of education gave state Commissioner of Education Deborah Gist a two-year contract extension.

Teachers objected to Gist’s top-down management style. Students opposed Gist’s insistence on using a standardized test as a requirement for graduation. Gist had the support of Governor Lincoln Chafee, Secretary of Education Duncan, and the business community.

Gist is a member of Jeb Bush’s ultra-conservative Chiefs for Change, which supports test-based accountability, charters, vouchers, and other market-based strategies.

The Rhode Island state board of education will vote today on whether to renew Deborah Gist’s contract as State Commissioner of Education.

It seems likely she will be reappointed since Governor Lincoln Chafee favors her, as does the new chair of the state board.

Rhode Island teachers don’t like her.

In a poll, 85% said they opposed her reappointment.

Rhode Island students have opposed Gist’s insistence on high-stakes testing, especially her use of a standardized test (NECAP) as a requirement for high school graduation.

A few days ago, Arne Duncan placed a conference call to several journalists to let them know that he supports her.

For the Secretary of Education to inject himself into state or local politics is unusual, though not for Arne Duncan.

When mayoral control in New York City was up for renewal before the state legislature in New York in 2009, Duncan called a major civic group and urged it not to propose that members of the central board serve for a set term, with a measure of independence; he agreed with Mayor Bloomberg that board members appointed by the mayor should serve at the pleasure of the mayor.

Duncan succeeded in stopping that small-gauge effort to create a semblance of checks and balances in New York City.

Curious alliances these days: Gist is a member of Jeb Bush’s ultra-conservative Chiefs for Change, and she has the support of Duncan and charter advocates, but not the teachers she leads or the activist students in the public schools.


Media accounts sometimes refer to the Chiefs for Change, a group of state superintendents. They are the state leaders most closely associated with Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Educational Excellence and with Jeb Bush’s views favoring high-stakes testing and privatization.

Here is Mercedes Schneider’s analysis of the organization and its members.
Common Core clash: AFT president fires back at state ed officials

By Lyndsey Layton,
The Washington Post
Tuesday, May 21, 3:45 PM
The head of a major teachers union fired back Tuesday at state education officials who had dismissed her call for a moratorium on stakes associated with new standardized state tests in public schools.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the Chiefs for Change, a small group of state education officials, was distorting her call for a moratorium on the use of new standardized tests based on Common Core standards to evaluate teachers and students.
The Common Core standards in math and reading are rolling out across the country and will be in place in 45 states and the District by next school year. Next spring, students in grades 3 through 12 will be tested on the new standards, which will significantly change the way reading and math are taught.
While a majority of teachers polled by the AFT support the new standards, most said they were not being adequately prepared by their school districts.
Weingarten said states should not use test scores based on the new standards to judge the performance of students, schools or teachers until the Common Core standards have been fully implemented. She was backed by Dennis Van Roekel, the president of the National Education Association. Together, the two unions represent most public school teachers.
Weingarten, a Common Core supporter, warned that the new approach is being poorly implemented and requires a “mid-course correction” or the effort will fall apart.
Last month, when New York administered new tests based on the Common Core standards, teachers, parents and students complained that the tests were poorly designed, covered material that had not been taught and frustrated children to the point of tears. Like many other states, New York plans to use the test results in decisions about student promotion, teacher job evaluations and school closings.
States should implement a moratorium on consequences for at least one year until teachers and students across the country are sufficiently steeped in the new standards, Weingarten said.
New York and Kentucky are the only states to have begun testing based on the new standards; the others are scheduled to follow in 2014.
The AFT said about 37,000 teachers, parents and others have written to Education Secretary Arne Duncan to support its call for a moratorium.
But Chiefs for Change, a group of state education officials organized with help from former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R), released a letter Tuesday to Duncan in which it said states should move ahead with plans to use the new tests to assess students and judge teacher performance.
“Recently, some members of the national education community have advocated for pulling back on accountability in our schools,” the group wrote to Duncan. “. . . [We] reject any calls for a moratorium on accountability. . . . We will not relax or delay our urgency for creating better teacher, principal, school and district accountability systems as we implement more rigorous standards.”
The group includes Janet Barresi, Oklahoma state superintendent of public instruction; Tony Bennett, Florida commissioner of education; Stephen Bowen, Maine commissioner of education; Chris Cerf, New Jersey commissioner of education; Deborah A. Gist, Rhode Island commissioner of elementary and secondary education; Kevin Huffman, Tennessee commissioner of education; Paul Pastorek, former Louisiana state superintendent of education; Hanna Skandera, New Mexico public education department secretary; and John White, Louisiana state superintendent of education.
Weingarten hit back at Chiefs for Change in her own letter on Tuesday, saying “contrary to your claim, we are not ‘pulling back on accountability in our schools.’ We are trying to make accountability real. By allowing teachers and districts to create and agree on implementation plans, field-test the new assessments and make necessary adjustments, we will actually be building a stronger accountability system.”
“Can you imagine doctors being expected to perform a new medical procedure without being trained in it or provided the necessary instruments—simply being told that there may be some material on a website?” Weingarten wrote. “Can you imagine a successful business rolling out a new product without the proper research and development, and without testing it? Of course not, but that’s what’s happening right now with the Common Core.”


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