I first met a Broadie about 15-18 years ago, when I was attending the wedding of a friend’s daughter. I conversed with a bright, young woman for about 10 minutes, then asked her where she was working. I’d guess she was 30 years old. She replied that she was in training to be an urban superintendent. Oh, I said. Are you a principal? No, she said. How many years have you been a teacher, I asked. None, she said. So how can you be an urban superintendent, I innocently asked. “I’m learning the skills I need at the Eli Broad Urban Superintendents Academy.”

Since then, I’ve seen many Broadies come and go, some leaving a trail of destruction, deficits, and demoralization behind them.

Peter Greene reviews a recent study of the Broad Academy and its graduates. It sets out to determine what the graduated accomplished. The short answer is “not much” or “nothing” in terms of school reform. But where Broadies went, charters expanded.

The Broad Academy has been around since 2002. Founded by Eli Broad, it’s a demonstration of how the sheer force of will, when backed by a mountain of money, can cause qualifications to materialize out of nothing. The Broad Foundation (“entrepreneurship for the public good”) set the Academy up with none of the features of a legitimate education leadership graduate program, and yet Broad grads kept getting hired to plum positions around the country. And now a new study shows what, exactly, all these faux graduates accomplished.

Give Eli Broad credit– his personal story is not about being born into privilege. Working class parents. Public school. Working his way through college. Been married to the same woman for sixty years. Borrowed money from his in-laws for his first venture– building little boxes made of ticky tacky. Read this story about how he used business success and big brass balls to make himself a major player in LA. He was a scrapper; Broad called himself a “sore winner.”

Broad believed that education was in trouble, but he did not believe schools had an education problem. He believed they had a management problem–specifically, a management problem caused by not having enough managers who treated schools like businesses. The goal has been to create a pipeline for Broad-minded school leaders to move into and transform school systems from the inside, to more closely fit Broad’s vision of how a school system should work.

Through a residency program, Broad often sweetens the pot by paying the salary of these managers, making them a free gift to the district. A 2012 memo indicated a desire to create a group of influential leaders who could “accelerate the pace of reform.” And Broad maintained some control over his stable of faux supers. In one notable example, John Covington quit his superintendent position in Kansas abruptly, leaving stunned school leaders. Not until five years later did they learn the truth; Eli Broad had called from Spain and told Covington to take a new job in Detroit.

Broad did not particularly believe that public schools could be reformed, with his vision of privatization becoming ever more explicit (leading to the 2015 plan to simply take over LAUSD schools). The Broad Academy offered an actual manual for how to close schools in order to trim budgets. The process was simple enough, and many folks will recognize it:

1) Starve school by shutting off resources
2) Declare that schools is failing (Try to look shocked/surprised)
3) Close school, shunt students to charterland

Anecdotally, the record for Broad Faux Supers is not great. Robert Bobb had a lackluster showing in Detroit. Jean-Claude Brizard received a 95% no-confidence vote from Rochester teachers, then went on to a disastrous term of office in Chicago. Oakland, CA, has seen a string of Broad superintendents, all with a short and unhappy tenure. Christopher Cerf created a steady drumbeat of controversy in New Jersey. Chris Barbic was put in charge of Tennessee’s Achievement School District, and resigned with all of his goals unfulfilled(and recommended another Broad grad as his replacement). John Deasy’s time at LA schools ended with a hugely expensive technology failure, and he’s been bouncing from failure to failure ever since..

But now a trio of researchers takes us beyond the anecdotal record. Thomas Dee (Stanford), Susanna Loeb (Brown) and Ying Shi (Syracuse) have produced “Public Sector Leadership and Philanthropy: The Case of Broad Superintendents.”

The paper starts with some history of Broad Academy, and places it in the framework of venture philanthropy, the sort of philanthropy that doesn’t just write a check, but stays engaged and demands to see data-defined results. The we start breaking down information about the Broad supers.

The Academy members themselves. They are way more diverse than the general pool of superintendents, so that’s a good thing. Slightly more than half of academy participants and about two-thirds of the Broad-trained superintendents have some teaching experience. This is way lower than actual school superintendents, and probably even lower because I will bet you dollars to donuts that the bulk of that “teaching experience” is a couple of years as a Teach for America tourist passing through a classroom so that they can stamp “teacher” on their CV like an exotic country stamped on a passport. On the other hand, one in five Broadies has experience in the military.

Open the link and read on. I can think of a few Broadies who created chaos and left deficits and demoralization behind as they left.