What is laughingly called “Reform” is actually an interrelated group of education policies that have failed repeatedly. Reformers are never discouraged by failure. They ignore evidence. They like to fund any effort that will demoralize teachers and lead to privatization of public schools.

Laura Chapman reviews some of the current crop of reform efforts built on guess, conjecture, and ideology.

She writes:

“The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is trying to dominate policy in Kansas City. It has a parallel in Indianapolis called the Mind Trust.

“The Kauffman Foundation is part of the Education Cities network promoting “new” and “great” schools, but it is not just a member. It is a major contributor to that network, along with the Broad, Walton Family, Bill and Melinda Gates, Michael and Susan Dell foundations. Education Cities is part of a large network of “reform” organizations.

“Empower Schools.org, for example, is an adjunct to Education Cities. Empower Schools says: “We work with policymakers and education system leaders to adopt “Third Way” policies, structures, and strategies that allow for schools of all types, including both traditional district schools and schools led by proven and promising independent leaders. We capture and share the most promising Third Way practices to inform and shape the national conversation on education reform.”

“In other words, Empower Schools is far more than a starter of a “conversations.” The network connects 18 programs/organizations, among these the New Teacher Project, Relay Graduate School of Education, Teach for America, and others intent on de-professionalizing education.

Click to access An-introduction-to-the-Third-Way.pdf

“The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation also funds the “Education Innovation Cluster” initiative, part of a USDE funded Digital Promise program (Obama era) and intended to bring together in one mega network people and groups identified as entrepreneurs, funders, researchers, educators, and other community stakeholders (families, local government, non-profits) to “design, launch, iterate on, and disseminate breakthrough learning practices and tools.”

“Breakthrough learning practices and tools” really refers the expanded use of on-line learning, competency-based awards such as badges and certificates for students and teacher education, learning enabled with mobile devices and so on. USDE appears to have outsourced this program http://nextgenlearning.org/blog/education-innovation-clusters-help-way

“The Kauffman Foundation has also been praised as a reason for Kansas City to be included in The U.S. Education Innovation Index: Prototype and Report, a rating system for cities released in September 2016 by Bellwether Education and the Digital Promise Innovation Clusters.

“This index measures “innovation activities “and conditions of urban schools along 42 indicators in nine categories: Innovation Culture (e.g., mayor control, Gates compact); Need for Academic Improvement ( e.g., scores of schools on state tests), Collaboration and Coordination Mechanisms (e.g., OneApp), Talent Supply and Quality (TFA a plus), Innovation-Supporting Institutions (e.g., the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, the Mind Trust in Indianapolis).
Innovation-Friendly Policies ( e.g., tax incentives) , Innovation Investment (venture capital flowing to education startups), District Deviation (a measure of how public schools budget money across eight categories compared to other similar school districts in the state), and Dynamism (a fancy word referring to the opening and closing of schools, market churn for schools). More detail on the rating system is outlined in Table A2: “Indicator Scoring Method.”

“This “innovation index” project from Bellwether was inspired by a similar effort on an international scale and funded by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) http://www.oecd.org/unitedstates/Measuring-Innovation-in-Education-USA.pdf.

“Bellwether’s index was also influenced by another index, published in 2013: Alive in the SwAmp 3. Assessing DigitAl innovAtions in eDucAtion.” That quirky typeface is in the title. The title is also prescient.

“Alive in the Swamp was published with support from Pearson, NewSchools (venture philanthropy), and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It features colorful charts to show the potential influence of technology on learning and color-coded rating scheme for digital innovation in education.

“One of the authors of the digital index is Michael Fullan, a distinguished Canadian scholar in education whose ideas have been used to develop a “School Quality Improvement Index for California’s “CORE” distracts. The second author, Katelyn Donnelly, is an economist and director of Pearson’s venture fund for low-cost schools in the developing world. The examples of innovation cited in the report include Rocketship Education, School of One, Kahn Academy, and Learn Zillion, each of these rated for likelihood of producing “transformative outcomes.” These examples certainly tell us about inhabitants and supporters of the swamp-lands in education. See especially, page 13 and Appendix A.”

Click to access alive_in_the_swamp.pdf