Archives for category: Corporate Reformers

Historians and teacher John Thompson wonders whether Arne Duncan and other reformers will ever be held for the failed reforms of the past 14 years?

“To try to protect every patient, doctors order screening tests. Accountability systems exist to ensure the quality of those systems and their proper usage. It would make no sense to punish doctors and technicians for the results that their tests produce (although some healthcare reformers sound like they want to do so). Accountability systems also monitor the professionalism and practice of the healthcare providers who use them. Doctors, however, would not submit to the type of output-driven accountability regimes that are being imposed on teachers.”

When will reformers admit that test-and-punish policies have failed?

When will they be accountable?

More than any other person, with the possible exception of President Obama and Secretary Duncan, Bill Gates controls American education. He has promoted charter schools (a passion he shares with ALEC, Obama, and every rightwing governor); VAM; high-stakes testing; Common Core; and whatever promotes free-market fundamentalism. His billions are the tiller that guides the ship.

Anthony Cody reproduces an interview in which Gates shows zero knowledge of how his pet reforms have failed. He shows no recognition of charter scandals or the effect of charters on the public schools who lose their top students and funding. He seems unaware that VAM has failed everywhere.

Cody points out that Gates uses the same talking points he used years ago. He lauds mayoral control and cites NYC and Chicago as successful school systems (he dropped DC from his standard line about the glories of top-down decision making).

What comes clear is that he doesn’t care about evidence or lives in a bubble where sycophants protect him from bad news.

It is time for him to stop meddling in school reform. His efforts, though well intentioned, have failed. The backlash will grow as parents react against Gates’ obsession with testing and free market economics.

You can meet Anthony Cody at the following events:

“Note: I will be doing three Educator and Oligarch book talks this week, starting Weds. May 13, at Copperfield’s Books in San Rafael, California, then on to Spokane, Washington on Thursday, May 14, and wrapping up the series in Seattle, Washington on Friday, May 15. All events are free and open to the public.”

A teacher left this comment on the blog:

G. K. Chesterton said, ““The Madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.” Those that champion ed-reform are basically those that have lost everything but their reason, they reduce education, as they reduce most everything else, to what can be benchmarked and quantified, in a data driven environment everything is “rational” and “reasonable” but little else. There is no room for whimsy, there is no room for beauty, there is no room for sanity.

But as long as the classroom teacher is sane, does see the importance of whimsy, beauty, the individual and the discovery of the individual that lives beneath the surface of every student, real education will ultimately triumph. The real subversive work of the teacher is what happens in the classroom. That is why I think it is important that we, as classroom teachers do not lose sight of what we are really called to do. I think sometimes we become so strident in our opposition to what is happening in the larger world that we lose sight of what we can accomplish in the world of the classroom. In our stridency we are in danger of losing everything but or reason and in the process become like those we oppose.

Our students have one crack at an education. Each student I teach in 9th, 11th, or 12th grade (the grades I teach) will only have one chance at 9th, 11th, and 12th grade and they deserve a meaningful and “sane” 9th, 11th, and 12th grade. It is important to fight as best we can the battles going on outside our classroom, but w also need to do the best we can to see to it that our students in our classrooms today get the best and most meaningful education we can give them.

Sometimes I believe I am being asked to teach with both hands tied behind my back, but as long as I have a voice to speak with I can leave the gesticulating to others. If we reach the students we teach they will become the future and the best way to change the insanity of the present is to prepare those that will inherit the future. If our students are able to keep their sanity as they go into the world there is a real possibility that they will make the world they help to shape a more sane one.

Two more words for the “The Educational Devil’s Dictionary:

Leader – First follower.

Leadership – The ability to get others to do what they are told by do doing what they, the leaders, are told better than anybody else.

J. D. Wilson, Jr.

Thanks to a reader for introducing me to the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Here is one definition:

“One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.”

—Bertrand Russell, The Triumph of Stupidity

We see all about us people who are certain they know how to “reform” education, even though they never taught, never engaged in deep study, and know very little about teaching and learning. The less they know, the more certain they are.

On the other hand, those who have experience are likely to say, “It depends.” Or “do no harm.” Or, try it out on a small scale first.” Or, “how do you know? What’s the evidence?”

Unfortunately, many governors and legislators are certain they know how to “fix” education, and they impose their wrong-headed solutions in people who work with children every day. The more chaos they create, the happier they are. Or they stupid or malicious? Or are they exemplars of the Dunning-Kruger Effect?

As I was writing the post above about the Dallas election, I became so incensed that I sent contributions to the candidates who support public education. A few hours later, I found this email in my inbox:

“Hi Diane,

I will send you a written note as well, but I wanted to reply quickly in response to your donation.

I am humbled and overwhelmed to receive such a kind and generous donation from you. You have no idea how much this has encouraged me in this last week before the election!

Your writings have inspired me in so many ways in our fight to preserve and improve public education in Dallas. I used some of your ideas from Reign of Error in my platform, specifically calling for a rich and balanced curriculum, a decrease in the overtesting of our children, and support and training for our teachers.

Events are at a frightening stage in Dallas, and “reformers” across the country are no doubt following what is happening as a possible model for other cities. There can be no doubt that the end game is to turn the public education system over to charter operators, just as was done in New Orleans. There can be no other explanation for the wanton destruction of our good schools while the struggling schools are ignored and left to flounder. The difference is that in Dallas this is being accomplished through human maneuvering and not through a natural disaster such as provided by Hurricane Katrina.

My campaign is doing all that we can, despite being outspent and lacking any support from the mainstream media. We have lots of support from the grassroots; now it will be a matter of whether people will get out and vote. I will have no regrets when this is over, no matter the outcome. We have fought the good fight and have held nothing back to try to save our public education system. We have used every avenue available to us to try to get the word out. We will continue these efforts all the way through Election Day on Saturday, May 9, and we will pray for God’s intervention for good in our city.

Thank you SO much again- you have given us the shot of encouragement that we need for the final stretch!

All the best,


Kyle Renard, MD for School Board DISD 1
Find Me On Facebook
PO Box 670041
Dallas TX 75367
Pat Cotton, Treasurer

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.”


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