Marla Kilfoyle and Melissa Tomlinson of the BadAss Teachers Association wrote this analysis of the organization called Democrats for Education Reform, known as DFER. It was organized in 2005 by a small group of hedge fund managers. Its purpose is to promote charter schools by funding candidates for Office who share its goal. It also supports test-based evaluation of teachers and high-stakes testing of students. Its inaugural meeting was held at a luxurious apartment in New York City in 2005, where the speaker was Illinois Senator Barack Obama (as recounted in Stephen Brill’s admiring account “Class Warfare”).
During the Obama campaign of 2008, the candidate’s spokesperson on education was Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University. It was widely assumed that she would be Obama’s Secretary of Education. But DFER recommended Arne Duncan, a charter enthusiast known by DFER, and Duncan it was. Obama and Duncan’s Race to the Top embodied DFER’s principles. It propelled the proliferation of charter schools, school closures, Common Core, VAM for teachers, and high-stakes testing for students. It was a complete failure when judged by its announced goals of closing achievement gaps and lifting test scores to the top rank on international tests.