Archives for category: Corporate Reformers

A reader sent this email to me:

At the 6:43 mark of this latest Fordham podcast, Mike Petrilli says:
“If this [opt-out] thing goes national, the whole education reform
movement is in serious trouble.”


Peter Greene fell for EduShyster, as everyone does. She can interview anyone, and she interviewed Peter Cunningham. Here’s Peter’s take.

He writes, for starters:

“I have now met Jennifer “Edushyster” Berkshire, and I totally get it. I don’t believe there is a human being on the planet who, upon sitting down with her, would not want to answer every question just to prolong the conversation and once you’re talking, well, lying to the woman would be like kicking a puppy.

“So it makes perfect sense that just about anybody would be willing to talk to her, even if she is on the Pro-Public Education side of the fence.

“She’s just put up an interview with Peter Cunningham, the former Arne Duncan wordifier who now runs Education Post, a pro-reformster political war room style rapid response operation (I knew I’d moved up in the blogging world when they took the time to spank me personally).

“I don’t imagine there are people who read this blog who do not also read Edushyster, but I’m going to keep linking/exhorting you to head over and check out this interview while I note a few of my own responses here.

“There are a couple of eyebrow-raisers in the interview that really underline the differences between the reformsters and the pro-public ed side of these debates. In particular, Cunningham notes that many reformsters feel isolated and under attack. When explaining how Broad approached him about starting EP, Cunningham says

“There was a broad feeling that the anti-reform community was very effective at piling on and that no one was organizing that on our side.

“Organized?! Organized!!?? It is possible that Broad et al have simply misdiagnosed their problem. Because I’m pretty sure that the pro-public ed advocate world, at least the part of it that I’ve seen, is not organized at all. But we believe what we are writing, so much so that the vast majority of us do it for free in our spare time (I am eating a bag lunch at my desk as I type this), and we pass on the things we read that we agree with.

“In fact, it occurs to me that contrary to what one might expect, we are the people using the Free Market version of distributing ideas– we create, we put it out there, we let it sink or swim in the marketplace of ideas. Meanwhile, the reformsters try to mount some sort of Central Planning approach, where they pay people to come up with ideas, pay people to promote those ideas, pay people to write about those ideas, and try to buy the marketplace so that their products can be prominently displayed.

“It is the exact same mistake that they have brought to education reform– the inability to distinguish between the appearance of success and actual success. If students look like they are succeeding (i.e. scoring high on tests they’ve been carefully prepped for), then they must be learning. If it looks like everybody is talking about our ideas (i.e. we bought lots of website space and hired cool writers and graphics), then we must be winning hearts and minds.”

Money can’t buy you love.

I posted about the state of education in California, where Governor Jerry Brown pushed through a tax increase to benefit schools, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson suspended the stakes attached to tests while the Common Core is phased in, and where there have been thus far no negative consequences attached to the new regime of Common Core and its assessments. Several teachers wrote to complain that the post was far too positive, so I changed the title to a question rather than a statement. As backdrop remember that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger slashed the education budget by many billions and appointed charter advocates to a majority of seats on the state board. The California Charter Schools Association is politically active, supporting candidates who support their agenda.


This comment was posted, without a name attached.



I am not even at liberty to write what I know or feel comfortable to share what I have experienced for the fear of what “they: will do to me (yes, I know, nothing can happen to me, truth is a defense to defamation claims etc., but the fear and paranoia persists).


I have taught on the East Coast (not comfortable even sharing which city) and extreme necessity led me to CA.


WHATEVER YOU ARE IMAGINING in CA as “BAD”, it is worse than that. The corporate takeover is beyond insidious. This is happening in rural communities—and most CA is THAT– where people outside the state don’t even know about the worst exploitations that are going on, where principals are just figureheads, and consultants from LA and Silicon Valley are hired at unconscionable rates. The parents are often illiterate or don’t know any better in these communities. The politicians are in the hands of the big companies (I can’t even name industries for the fear…) This is the first time I have ever written a comment here. I have no words to express how bad it is. But God is my witness, when the day comes when the fear has subsided, my words will be the brightest light to shed on what is actually going on there. Whatever “negative” articles exist about Success Academies and such, nothing compares to what is actually going on in CA.


Thank you for changing the title.

William Doyle writes that it is an insult to real corporate reform to confuse it with the misguided methods of those who call themselves school reformers.

Doyle writes:

“It is a mistake to refer to failing education reforms as “corporate reform.”

“No leading company would place the entire foundation of its business on inaccurate, unreliable, system-distorting and often “bad” data like multiple-choice standardized tests.

“No leading company would roll out a multi-billion-dollar national venture (like Common Core) nationally without extensive field-and-market testing first.

“And while much education policy is currently focused on rating, shaming, stressing and punishing teachers, schools and even students based on alleged “performance” on standardized test “data,” according to an article in the April 21, 2015, Wall Street Journal (“The Trouble With Grading Employees“), a number of leading companies including Microsoft, Adobe Systems and Gap, Inc., are realizing that “performance ratings” are counterproductive, are abolishing them, and achieving better results.

“The article reports that the companies “abolished such [performance] ratings after leaders decided they deterred collaboration and stoked staffers’ anxieties,” and quoted David Rock, the director of the NeuroLeadership Institute, as saying that ratings conjure a “threat response” in workers, or “a sensation of danger” that can last for months if they didn’t get the rating they expected.

“The article reports that “companies that have gotten rid of ratings say their employees feel better about their jobs, and actually listen to managers’ feedback instead of obsessing over a number.”

Here is my reaction:

My own view is that the people who think it is “urgent” for them to demoralize teachers and turn public dollars over to private entities with minimal (or no) accountability have honed their message with care. Billionaires, hedge-fund managers, even the U. S. Department of Education share the same vocabulary that portrays themselves as saviors of the poor, as civil rights leaders, as the righteous rich, even as they slander hard-working teachers, close beloved community schools, and promote privatization and segregation.

“I confess that I am guilty of calling these people “corporate reformers” because I can’t think of a better term. Maybe “privatizers” works better. Some call them “deformers,” others call them “privateers.” What do you think?

Peter Greene was not happy with Nicholas Kristof’s column saying that–after twelve years of trying–school reform hasn’t worked out and it was time to pay attention to the youngest children, where research was clear and there was bipartisan agreement.

Here is a snippet of Greene’s outrage:

“Look, I believe there are a handful of reformsters who know better, and I’m sure plenty of them mean well. But this is just too much. I’m pretty sure that I read Kristof more often than he reads me. But I have a message for him anyway.

“Dear Mr. Kristof:

“Does a decade seem like a long time to work at education? Does working at education seem hard? While we’re at it, have you noticed that water is wet?

“This– this “well this has been difficult, it’s time to move on”– THIS is why from the first moment reformsters showed up on the scene, teachers across America rolled our eyes, squared our shoulders, and turned away. Because we knew that the day would come when the tourists decided they wanted to pack up and leave. Because you were not in it to get the job done.

“Reformsters were never the white knights or the saviors of education. The vast majority of reformsters were the people who swept into a home, pulled all the furniture out from the wall, burned the drapes (because you don’t want these old things) and started to tear the floor up. Then somewhere around day three, you declare, “Man this is hard, and this couch doesn’t fit against that wall (which we had told you all along)” and so you pack up, drive away, and leave the residents to put things back together.

“You think twelve years was a long time? I’ve been at this for thirty-six, and I have plenty more to go because there’s still work to do, and as long as I can do it, I will. Plenty of my colleagues have done and will do the same. You think educating in the face of poverty and lack of resources and systemic inequity is difficult? Many of my colleagues have been doing it for decades. But reformsters have been so sure that they didn’t need to listen to the locals. They and their giant balls knew better than any stupid teachers.

“Doing the education thing takes a lifetime. In fact, it takes more than a lifetime– that’s why we’ve constructed an institution that provides continuity above and beyond what we could get from any single human being.

“You think that the education thing is hard, “a slog,” after just a decade! You amateur. You dabbler! You tourist! Has the education reform movement “peaked”? Well, guess what! Education has not. We are still working at it, still striving, still doing our damnedest. When reformsters have moved on because it’s hard and challenging and a slog and not just as fun as it was a whole ten years ago, we will still be here, doing the job, educating students and doing it all in the midst of the mess created by a bunch of wealthy well-connected hubristic tourists with gigantic balls.

“You think education is hard? What the hell do you think dedicated teachers across this country are doing with their entire adult lives?!!

“So get out. Go. Move on to the next big opportunity and screw around with that until you’re all distracted by the next shiny object. Education is not the better for your passing through.

“Education needs people who will commit, people who are in it for the marathon, not the sprint, people who are willing to dedicate their whole lives to teaching because that’s the minimum that it takes. Students and communities need schools that are permanent stable fixtures, not temporary structures built to long as a reformster’s attention span.”

Andy Smarick is a reformer with a low opinion of public schools, like other reformers. But in some of his writings, he has shown a willingness to challenge the formulaic party line of corporate reform.

In this post, he disagrees with his fellow reformers who scoff at parents who opt out. As he shows, the reformer party line is that parents who opt out are white suburbanites who fear accountability for their children and their teachers and don’t care about closing the achievement gap.

Smarick says that the opt out movement is a test of reformers’ humility. Will they stop scoffing at parents long enough to hear them?

Smarick writes:

“I don’t want to infer too much about these individuals’ [reformers] intentions. But I’m worried that such statements, when taken together, give the impression that education reform believes that the opinions of white or middle-class families should be viewed with skepticism or antipathy.

“Non-poor, non-minority families love their kids and have every right to participate in the public debate about public education. I’m a strong supporter of assessments and accountability, and I wouldn’t opt out. But I think it’s unfair to discount the views of those who disagree, and it would be untoward to suggest they don’t care about other kids or are insensitive to issues of race and income.

“My reading of the situation is that a significant number of American families have misgivings about what’s happening in their public schools. Most of the issues about which they have concerns—whether it’s standards, assessments, teacher evaluation, or something else—are policies developed at the state or federal level.

“Had these policies been created locally, families could petition their local school boards for redress. But now, unable to change decisions made by faraway state and federal policymakers, these families are employing a kind of civil disobedience. They are using the power they do have—to decline participation in state tests—to demonstrate their frustration with the status quo.”

I salute Smarick for recognizing that opt out parents are not tools of the unions, racists, dolts, or helicopter parents. He deserves credit for acknowledging that parents who opt out have no other way of making kmown their opposition to the status quo of high-stakes testing. When these decisions are made by politicians who would be unable to pass the tests they are imposing, it is doubly galling.

It would be good if reformers showed understanding of what is happening on the ground. Children as young as eight take tests in reading and math that may require 7 or 8 hours. Does that seem right? Why should a test in basic skills require so much time? Many adults would find it hard to sit for so long being tested.

Many teachers have reported that the tests are two grade levels above the students’ actual grade. This guarantees a high failure rate?

Teachers also criticize test questions with more than one plausible answer or passages that are confusing.

Do reformers agree with the testmakers’ demand that test questions never are released, that neither teachers or students are allowed to discuss the tests? Do they think it is reasonable that the tests report a score but release no individual report about what the student got right or wrong?

Why is it valuable to have a score for every student but nothing more? How can these scores, when aggregated, improve curriculum or instruction or help students?

I appreciate Andy Smarick’s willingness to listen. I hope he continues to do so.

Perhaps you have heard of Educators 4 Excellence, or their shorter name E4E.

The group started in New York City, led by young teachers who did not like the union. They seem to be Teach for America teachers, mostly with a year or two of experience. They have received millions from the Gates Foundation and other corporate reformers.

Now they are spreading to other states, to substitute wherever possible for the traditional teacher organizations as the “voice” of young teachers, those who want merit pay, like high-stakes testing, want to be evaluated by test scores, etc.

Jonathan Pelto tells their story here.

This is quite a remarkable admission. Nicholas Kristof writes today in the New York Times that the “reform” efforts have “peaked.” I read that and the rest of the column to mean that they have failed to make a difference. Think of it: Bill Gates, the Walton family, Eli Broad, Wendy Kopp, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, Florida Governor Rick Scott, Ohio Governor John Kasich, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama, Michelle Rhee, Campbell Brown, and a host of other luminaries have been singing the same song for the past 15 years: Our schools are broken, and we can fix them with charters, vouchers, high-stakes testing, merit pay, elimination of unions, elimination of tenure, and rigorous efforts to remove teachers who can’t produce ever-rising test scores.

Despite the billions of dollars that the federal government, the states, and philanthropies have poured into this formula, it hasn’t worked, says Kristof. It is time to admit it and to focus instead on the early years from birth to kindergarten.

He writes:

For the last dozen years, waves of idealistic Americans have campaigned to reform and improve K-12 education.

Armies of college graduates joined Teach for America. Zillionaires invested in charter schools. Liberals and conservatives, holding their noses and agreeing on nothing else, cooperated to proclaim education the civil rights issue of our time.

Yet I wonder if the education reform movement hasn’t peaked.

The zillionaires are bruised. The idealists are dispirited. The number of young people applying for Teach for America, after 15 years of growth, has droppedfor the last two years. The Common Core curriculum is now an orphan, with politicians vigorously denying paternity.

K-12 education is an exhausted, bloodsoaked battlefield. It’s Agincourt, the day after. So a suggestion: Refocus some reformist passions on early childhood.

Wow! That is exactly what I wrote in “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools,” along with recommendations for reduced class sizes, a full curriculum, a de-emphasis on high-stakes testing, a revival of public policies to reduce poverty and segregation, and a recommitment to the importance of public education.

When I look at the Tea Party legislature in North Carolina or the hard-right politicians in the Midwest or the new for-profit education industry, I don’t think of them as idealistic but as ideologues. Aside from that, I think that Kristof gives hope to all those parents and teachers who have been working for years to stop these ideologues from destroying public education. Yes, it should be improved, it must be improved. There should be a good public school in every neighborhood, regardless of zip code. But that won’t happen unless our leaders dedicate themselves to changing the conditions in which families and children live so that all may have equal opportunity in education and in life.

Do you want to learn how to reform the reformers? Julian Vasquez Heilig explains why it is urgent to reform the current wave of failed reforms in this article in Catalyst-Chicago:

The predominance of the data and evidence is clear: School “reformers” have failed spectacularly in Chicago and elsewhere over the past decade. Politicians and corporate interests have pressed for failing policies that have created an unprecedented effort to privately control public education by demonizing teachers, undermining the democratic role of parents, closing schools and reinventing public schools as testing factories.

Education policies promoting private control and profit in education have continued unabated with support from Democrats and Republicans alike. Claiming to be dedicated to making children “college and career ready,” these corporate entities, with the help of elected and appointed officials at the national, state and local level, are destroying the very institutions that should be dedicated to providing all children with the free, comprehensive and supportive public schools they need and deserve to live their lives to the fullest.

Their goals are becoming more clear: to turn public schools into profit centers for corporate investors. In contrast, across the nation there is a growing coalition of community leaders, academics, and other stakeholders leading the conversation to reform education reformers’ reforms.

Hundreds of these education stakeholders from across the nation will gather in Chicago April 25-26 for the second annual conference of the Network for Public Education (NPE). Founded by Diane Ravitch, an education historian, best-selling author and renowned public education advocate, NPE has served as a focal point for those seeking to support public schools and push back against profit and private control of public schools.

Come to Chicago this weekend, and meet parents, teachers, and committed supporters of public education. The Network for Public Education is holding its second annual meeting. Read here about how to register.

Sadly, Governor Andrew Cuomo was unable to give the keynote speech at the fund-raising dinner for Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy charter chain because he was leading a trade delegation to Cuba, but the charter chain still raised $9.3 million from her supporters in the hedge-fund community.


Education activist Leonie Haimson reports a story that appears behind a paywall at Be sure the read the report embedded at the end of the story below, about the hedge-fund managers and conservatives who support Success Academy. The report was compiled by the “HedgeClippers,” a group that calls itself “dark money’s newest nightmare.” The report lists the 50 hedge fund managers, spouses, and allies who contribute to Success Academy.


by Jessica Bakeman, Eliza Shapiro and Conor Skelding


SUCCESS ACADEMY’S $9.3 M. NIGHT—Capital’s Eliza Shapiro and Conor Skelding: “The Success Academy charter school network raised $9.3 million at its third annual spring benefit on Monday night, according to an attendee, up from $7.7 million at last year’s benefit. The figure was announced by Dan Loeb, a hedge fund manager who serves as the chairman of Success’ board of directors. The event was held at Cipriani in midtown Manhattan. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries delivered the keynote address at the benefit, in lieu of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who was slated to give the keynote before his trade visit to Cuba was planned for the same day.


“Jeffries, who represents parts of Brooklyn and Queens, is a longtime supporter of charter schools. ‘I stand here because I unequivocally support quality public education and that’s what Eva Moskowitz and Success Academy provide,’ Jeffries said during his speech, according to a quote posted on Success’ Twitter account. ‘It’s easier to raise strong children than it is to repair broken men,’ he also said.


“Television host Katie Couric, Weekly Standard founder William Kristol, California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Rep. Gregory Meeks of Queens and former Department of Education chancellor Joel Klein also attended the benefit, according to the attendee and Twitter posts. Loeb, philanthropist Eli Broad, and Campbell Brown, the television anchor turned education reformer, spoke. Brown sits on Success’ board of directors. Success’ controversial founder and C.E.O. Eva Moskowitz addressed the crowd, asking audience members to ‘visit our schools and become an ambassador for education reform,’ according to Success’ Twitter feed.” [PRO]


—Meanwhile, “an advocacy group affiliated with the Alliance for Quality Education, a teachers’ union-backed organization, has released a report on the donors and board members of the Success Academy charter school network. The report, released by the group HedgeClippers, details the well-documented support the controversial network has received from hedge fund managers in particular. HedgeClippers describes itself as ‘dark money’s newest nightmare’ and is backed by the Strong Economy for all Coalition, which is, in turn, partially funded by teachers’ unions, including the United Federation of Teachers and New York State United Teachers.


“The report argues that ‘many of Success Academy’s hedge fund board members contribute to political causes that harm the population that Success claims to serve’ by supporting various conservative causes. … Success C.E.O. Eva Moskowitz has responded to criticism about the network’s donors by pointing to the long history of philanthropic giving to education causes, and noting that hedge fund managers also give to organizations that support parks, museums and domestic violence centers.” Capital’s Eliza Shapiro:


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