Archives for category: Corporate Reform

Carl Cohn is a veteran educator who served as superintendent in Long Beach and in San Diego. He has received many awards for his service.

The selection of a new superintendent in Long Beach prompted him to write his thoughts about previous crises faced by the district and about the importance of teachers today. No superintendent can succeed without building relationships of mutual respect and collaboration with trusted teachers.

I first met Carl Cohn when he was selected to clean up the damage done by the first effort to disrupt a school district. That was San Diego. At the turn of the century, San Diego was one of the most successful urban districts in the nation—perhaps the most successful—but the school board decided it needed a massive overhaul. They hired lawyer Alan Bersin to disrupt the district. I described what happened there—including demoralization of teachers, and a philosophy of changing everything all at once because (as the saying then went) “you can’t jump over a canyon in two leaps.” The philosophy of the leadership was that change had to be abrupt, immediate, and “pedal to the metal.” Billionaires sent money. Books were written about the “bold” reforms. The infighting and controversy became so inflamed that the public eventually threw out the “reform” school board. San Diego, however, was the model for Joel Klein’s disruptions in New York City, which were the model for the same in D.C., and on and on.

I spent a week in the district interviewing teachers and principals and school board members. My last interview was with Carl Cohn. I saw him as a calming figure whose job was to restore morale, order, and professionalism. He succeeded.

After the collapse of the disruption era, the San Diego school board hired an experienced educator, Cindy Marten, who had been a teacher and principal in the district. Although she has had to impose devastating budget cuts, she has been a steady hand at the tiller. I met her in 2006, when she was a principal, running a progressive child-centered school. When I visited San Diego a few years ago, she took me for a drive, and I surprised myself for taking a paragliding ride at Torrey Pines. Needless to say, I am delighted that San Diego has such trustworthy, experienced leadership again.

I began my book The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education with the San Diego story. It is a cautionary tale. If you read one chapter in that book, read that one. It ends with my interview of Carl Cohn.

The National Center for Education Statistics released NAEP scores in history and geography, which declined, and in civics, which were flat.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos went into her customary rant against public schools, but the real culprit is a failed federal policy of high-stakes testing narrowly focused on reading and math. If DeVos were able to produce data to demonstrate that scores on the same tests were rising for the same demographic groups in charter schools and voucher schools, she might be able to make an intelligent point, but all she has is her ideological hatred of public schools.

After nearly 20 years of federal policies of high-stakes testing, punitive accountability, and federal funding of school choice, the results are in. The “reforms” mandated by No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, the Every Student Succeeds Act, as well as the federally-endorsed (Gates-funded) Common Core, have had no benefit for American students.


When the ESSA comes up for reauthorization, it should be revised. The standardized testing mandate should be eliminated. The original name—the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—should replace the fanciful and delusional title (NCLB, ESSA), since we now know that the promise of “no child left behind” was fake, as was the claim that “every student succeeds” by complying with federally mandated testing.

Restore also the original purpose of the act in 1965: EQUITY. That is, financial help for the schools that enroll the poorest children, so they can have small classes, experienced teachers, a full curriculum including the arts and recess, a school nurse, a library and librarian, a psychologist and social worker.

Here is the report from Politico Morning Education:

MANY STUDENTS ARE STRUGGLING’: Average scores for eighth-graders on the Nation’s Report Card declined in U.S. history and geography between 2014 and 2018 while scores in civics remained flat, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The results follow disappointing scores for math and reading released in October.

— “The results provided here indicate that many students are struggling to understand and explain the importance of civic participation, how American government functions, the historical significance of events, and the need to grasp and apply core geographic concepts,” stated Peggy G. Carr, the associate commissioner of assessment at NCES, which runs the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, known as The Nation’s Report Card.

— The digitally based assessments were administered from January to March 2018 to a nationally representative sample of eighth-graders from about 780 schools. The results are available at They will be discussed at a livestreamed event, beginning at 1:30 p.m.

— Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, in a statement, said “America’s antiquated approach to education is creating a generation of future leaders who will not have a foundational understanding of what makes this country exceptional. We cannot continue to excuse this problem away. Instead, we need to fundamentally rethink education in America

Open the link to find links to the NAEP reports.

Peter Greene once again nails a basic fact: education is not a business, and it can’t be run like a business.

Business ideas work well in the world of commerce, where businesses compete to provide a better product or better service. Probably there will be readers who question how well business is functioning right now, as megastores like Walmart gobble up neighborhood stores, destroying Main Street, and as online giants like Amazon threaten to gobble up all brick-and-mortar stores, even Walmart.

Greene writes, and I quote him in part:

We are living through yet another demonstration of the ways in which market-based approaches fail, and in some cases, fail really hard.

Long Term Preparation Is Inefficient But Essential

Back when I was a stage crew advisor, there was a pep talk I had to give periodically to crew members, particularly those working in the wings as grips or fly. “I know that you sit and do nothing for a lot of this show,” I’d say, “but when we need you, we really need you. In those few minutes, you are critical to our success.” In those moments we were talking about, every crew member was occupied; there was no way to double up or cut corners.

Emergency preparation is much the same. It’s economically efficient to, for instance, keep a whole stockpile of facemasks or ventilators. Big-time businessman Trump justified his cuts to various health agencies by citing business wisdom:

And rather than spending the money—I’m a business person. I don’t like having thousands of people around when you don’t need them. When we need them, we can get them back very quickly.

This turns out to be just as smart as disbanding the fire department and figuring you’ll just round up personnel and equipment when something is actually on fire. It doesn’t work. And as we have witnessed, it leaves you unprepared to deal with the critical moment when it arrives.

But the market hates tying up money in excess capacity or emergency readiness, because you’re spending all that money on capacity that isn’t being used this second. Are those guidance counselors and school nurses seeing students every single minute of the day? Well then, we should be able to cut them back. Are we sure that every teacher is teaching the maximum number of students possible? Couldn’t we just put some of those students on software? This is why so many business heads are convinced that public education is simply filled with waste–because there seems to be so much excess capacity in schools.

But in many schools, there’s not enough excess capacity. When a student is in the middle of a crisis, we should be able to respond immediately, whether it’s a personal crisis, a medical crisis, or an educational issue. The response should not be “tough it out till the counselor is on duty tomorrow” or “we’ll just wrap that in some gauze until the nurse comes in three hours from now” or “I know you need help with the assignment, but I can’t take my attention away from the other thirty-five students in this classroom.” And that’s on top of the issue of preparedness, or having staff and teachers who have the capacity–the time and resources and help– to be prepared for the daily onslaught of Young Human Crises. When wealthy people pay private school tuition or raise their own public school taxes, this is what they’re paying for– the knowledge that whenever their child needs the school to respond, the response will come immediately.

Sure, you can cut a school to the bones in the name of efficiency, but what you’ll have is the educational equivalent of a nation caught flatfooted by a global pandemic because it didn’t have the people in place to be prepared.

Competition Guarantees Losers

Ed Reformsters just love the bromide about how competition raises all boats and makes everyone better. And yet, the pandemic’s free market approach to critical medical supplies doesn’t seem to bear that out. States are being forced to compete with each other and the federal government, and all it’s doing is making vendors rich. This is free market competition at its baldest– if you have more money, you win. If you have less money, you lose. At some point, if it has not already happened, some people in this country are going to die because their state, municipality or medical facility will not have enough money to outbid someone else.

The free market picks losers, and it generally picks them on the basis of their lack of wealth. The notion that losers can just compete harder, by wrapping their bootstraps in grit, is baloney. It’s comforting for winners to believe that they won because of hard work and grit and not winning some fate-based lottery, and it also releases them from any obligation to give a rat’s rear about anyone else (“I made myself, so everyone else should do the same”).

A system built on picking losers and punishing them for losing is the exact opposite of what we need for public education. You can argue that well, we just want free market competition for schools and teachers, but if that kind of competition is in the dna of the system, it will stomp all over students as well, just as all free market businesses pick customers to be losers who don’t get served because they aren’t sufficiently profitable. Kind of like a low-revenue state or old folks home that can’t get its people necessary supplies because they don’t have enough wealth to bid with.

“Compete harder” just means “be richer.” It is not helpful advice.

Please open the link and enjoy the rest of his good essay on why business thinking and cost cutting doesn’t work in education.

A relatively new corporate reform group—the City Fund—acts as a pass-through for billionaires Reed Hastings (Netflix) and John Arnold (ex-Enron). The staff consists of six or seven (or more) veterans of the privatization movement. It opened its operations with $200 million in pledges from its billionaire funders. It has staff but no members. Its mission is to push the “portfolio district” (i.e., more charter schools) in designated cities. In short, the City Fund was designed to advance the goals of its billionaire funders, who have no relationship to the cities whose schools they want to disrupt. Grassroots groups in every city and state can only dream about what they could do if they had even $1 million in the bank.

One of the staff, Chris Barbic, started a charter chain in Houston (YES Prep), then became leader of the disastrous Achievement School District in Tennessee; he promised to lift the state’s lowest performing schools into the ranks of its highest performing in only five years by handing them over to charter operators. The ASD burned through $100 million in Race to the Top and failed to turn any of its takeover schools into a high-performing school. If anything, it proved that turning low-performing schools over to charter operators doesn’t produce change.

Another staffer, Neerav Kingsland, is a law school graduate and a Broadie who was CEO of New Schools for New Orleans. After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans eliminated the teachers’ union and eventually eliminated every public school. The 2019 state report card rated 49% of the schools as D or F schools. The students in the lowest performing schools are almost all black. Hardly a success story.

Matt Barnum writes in Chalkbeat that the City Fund has dispensed over $100 million to help achieve its funders’ goal of detaching schools from elected school boards.

The newest major player in school reform has already issued more than $110 million in grants to support the growth of charter and charter-like schools across the U.S.

The City Fund’s spending, detailed on a new website, means the organization has quickly become one of the country’s largest K-12 education grantmakers. The money has gone to organizations in more than a dozen cities, including Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Denver, Memphis, and Oakland.

The spending is evidence that The City Fund’s brand of school reform continues to attract major financial support — and may foretell more battles over education politics in those cities…

The City Fund’s strategy is to grow the number of schools, including charters, run by nonprofits rather than traditional school boards. Advocates say that shift will help low-income students of color, pointing to academic improvements in virtually all-charter New Orleans as one example. Critics argue that strategy undermines teachers unions, democratically elected school boards, and existing public schools.

Overall, The City Fund says it has raised $225 million, largely from Netflix founder Reed Hastings and Texas philanthropist John Arnold. (Chalkbeat is funded by Arnold Ventures.) The organization has also created a political arm, Public School Allies, which has raised $15 million from Hastings and Arnold to support officials vying for state and local office.

The funders of the City Fund think that democratically elected school boards are the biggest obstacle to school reform. They like charter schools and stake takeovers. The fact that they have zero evidence that their strategies improve education doesn’t stop them, as long as the money keeps flowing. Unless you are impressed by a district, New Orleans, where half the schools are rated D or F.

John Thompson, historian and retired teacher in Oklahoma, reviews SLAYING GOLIATH. This is the second part of his review.

This is an excerpt of a long and thoughtful review.

This second post will focus on Ravitch’s analysis of the research which predicted the defeat of accountability-driven, charter-driven policies. Perhaps the most striking pattern documented in Slaying Goliath is how they failed in the way that scholars and practitioners anticipated.

Decades of Disruption-driven reform began with the false claim “that American education was failing and the only way to fix it was with standards, tests, competition, and accountability.” As Arne Duncan’s public relations officer and Walton-funded reformer Peter Cunningham said, “We measure what we treasure.”

Ravitch’s response was, “I was taken aback because I could not imagine how to measure what I treasure: my family, my friends, my pets, my colleagues, my work, the art and books I have collected.” And that foreshadows the victory of the Resistance over Goliath. Most educators, patrons, and students agree that children are more than a test score.

No Child Left Behind and the Race to the Top set impossible test score targets. They were based in large part on the weird idea that “no-excuses” behaviorist pedagogies could be quickly “scaled up,” providing poor children of color a ladder to economic equality. Drawing on the tradition of Edward Thorndike and B.F. Skinner, reformers “rigidly prescribed conditioning via punishments and rewards.” Previewing their fatal flaw, Ravitch observes, “Behaviorists, and the Disrupters who mimic them today, lack appreciation for the value of divergent thinking, and the creative potential of variety. And they emphatically discount mere ‘feelings.’”

When educators resisted, corporate reformers became livid and doubled down on the punitive. Perhaps their worst debacle was using value-added teacher evaluations to hold each individual educator accountable for test score growth. It combined inappropriate test outputs with an unreliable and invalid algorithm, the VAM, as a club to enforce compliance. In the short run, it forced educators, who had previously tried to keep their heads down and “monkey wrench” testing mandates to join patrons and students in the Resistance. By 2018, however, pent up anger exploded as teacher strikes spread across the nation.

Today, many or most of Goliath’s coalition have become disenchanted with standardized testing, but their Disruption model can’t function without it. Few have gone as far as Paymon Rouhanifard, the former Camden superintendent who abolished report cards after listening to complaints, and denounced standardized testing as he left the job.

The more common path is to spin their punitive tests as “personalized” learning, and their incentives and disincentives as the “portfolio model.” As Ravitch explains, “A portfolio district is one where the local board (or some entity operating in its stead) acts like a stockbrokerage, holding onto winners (schools with high test scores) and getting rid of losers (schools with low test scores).”

As was also predicted by Campbell’s Law, test-driven accountability (made more intimidating by the dual threat of test-driven competition with charters) led to corruption. The cheating was far greater than just the scandals where adults erased and changed bubble-in answers. Graduation rates were easy to manipulate. For instance, NPR reported a “heartwarming story” in 2017 about a school with 100% graduation rate. A subsequent FBI investigation and a district audit found 1/3rd of the school’s graduates lacked credits and only 42% were on track to graduation.

And that leads to the corruption associated with school choice. Today’s Disrupters seem to be doubling down on charters to drive transformative change. As explained in a previous post, in 1988 Al Shanker saw charters as a path towards innovation. Within two years, however, the promise of win-win experimentation started to be undermined when conservative reformers Terry Moe and John Chubb claimed “choice is a panacea.”

In this case, it was choice-advocate Paul Peterson who predicted the political future. Charters didn’t take off because of the balanced approach of Shanker, but because reformers “radicalized” the concept. And, of course, there was plenty of big bucks available for pushing their radical but false narrative.

Within a decade, a shocking number of non-educators had been convinced by Goliath’s spinsters that the KIPP’s behaviorist model could be scaled up. As Slaying Goliath explains, “The biggest innovation in the charter sector was the invention of ‘no-excuses’ schools.” It took nearly another decade for policy makers to accept the fact that charters get average results except for those with high attrition.” And it took nearly as long to reveal the much greater down sides of charters…

Regardless of whether we’re discussing high-stakes testing, charter expansion, or the other pet theories, we should all heed Ravitch’s most important lesson of the past few decades is that “Reform doesn’t mean reform. It means mass demoralization, chaos, and turmoil. Disruption does not produce better education.”

Slaying Goliath celebrates a great victory for public education and democracy. However, Ravitch reminds us that the Disrupters are still threatening. She compares today’s danger to that which faced a man who decapitated a rattlesnake but who nearly died after being bitten by the detached head.

So, we can’t lower our guard until the principles that inspired the Resistance are safe in our schools.


Jeff Bryant has written a powerful story that reveals the growing dominance of corporations in schools.

In the expanding effort to privatize the nation’s public education system, an ominous, less-understood strain of the movement is the corporate influence in Career and Technical Education (CTE) that is shaping the K-12 curriculum in local communities.

An apt case study of the growing corporate influence behind CTE is in Virginia, where many parents, teachers and local officials are worried that major corporations including AmazonFord and Cisco—rather than educators and local, democratic governance—are deciding what students learn in local schools.

CTE is a rebranding of what has been traditionally called vocational education or voc-ed, the practice of teaching career and workplace skills in an academic setting. While years ago, that may have included courses in woodworking, auto mechanics, or cosmetology, the new, improved version of CTE has greatly expanded course offerings to many more “high-demand” careers, especially in fields that require knowledge of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Education policy advocates across the political spectrum, from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to former First Lady Michelle Obama, have praised expansions of CTE programs in schools. Fast-tracking federal funds for CTE programs in schools has become the new bipartisan darling of education policy. CTE lobbyists and advocates have successfully pressed for expanded funding of their programs at federal and state levels. And a 2019 study by the American Enterprise Institute, a right-wing advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., found that since 2004, mentions of CTE in U.S. media outlets “have grown over tenfold, and they have doubled since 2012.”

According to a September 2019 analysis from Brookings, “more than 7 million secondary school students and nearly 4 million postsecondary students were enrolled in CTE programming.” And a 2018 review of CTE programs by the federal government’s National Center for Education Statistics found 73 percent of school districts offered CTE courses that give students both high school and postsecondary credit, a potential benefit for students and parents who want to reduce the cost of college.

What has folks in Chesterfield County, Virginia, concerned is the particular brand of CTE that has come to their district. At a September 2019 community event, middle school teacher Emma Clark and others mentioned the district’s collaboration with Ford Next Generation Learning (NGL), an offshoot of the Ford Motor Company that claims, according to its website, that it “mobilizes educators, employers, and community leaders to create a new generation of young people who will graduate from high school both college- and career-ready.”

Chesterfield parents I spoke with also pointed to the district’s collaboration with the Cisco Networking Academy, an offshoot of the computer networking giant that has its own branded course offering in the Chesterfield CTE curriculum.

In a phone conversation, Clark described the district’s collaborations with these companies as “new layers” of school privatization. First, corporations like these can use the rush to CTE to flood schools with new course offerings that require technology the schools have to buy. And another layer is the CTE programs businesses help to create provide them with free job training.

The concern Chesterfield teachers and parents have about corporate influence in K-12 public school curricula is magnified enormously due to the entrance of Amazon into the equation.

The “centerpiece” of Virginia’s successful effort to lure Amazon to build a new headquarters in the state, according to state-based news outlets and state-issued reports, was a commitment to more than double Virginia’s tech-talent pipeline, beginning in K-12 schools.

“Virginia’s ultimate proposal was centered around an effort to provide Amazon—or any other tech firm that wanted to come—with all the educated workers it needed,” according to a report in the Washingtonian, and the state sealed the deal with a pledge “to plow $1.1 billion into tech schooling.” The state’s commitment to developing a tech-talent pipeline providing workers for Amazon and other companies was key to inking the deal, says an Amazon spokesperson in the Cincinnati Business Courier.

“We’re being hijacked in Virginia,” Kathryn Flinn explained to me. Flinn is a 20-year resident of Chesterfield and mother of two children, one a special-needs child, who both have attended Chesterfield County Public Schools.

Professor Jim Scheurich read a recent article in the rightwing, anti-public school journal “Education Next” about Indianapolis, which he thought was fundamentally flawed.

He sent the following analysis of what’s really happening in Indianapolis:





Dr. Jim Scheurich

Urban Education Studies Doctoral Program

Indiana University – Indianapolis (IUPUI) Professor

President, IPS Community Coalition


Unfortunately, a recent article in the pro-charter, pro-neoliberal “magazine,” called Education Next, is a thorough misrepresentation of the recent history of Indianapolis K12 education (see  I know because, as a university professor and a community activist, I have spent the last seven years working against the pro-charter, pro-neoliberal efforts in Indianapolis, mainly through the IPS Community Coalition, a citywide grassroots organization, and through anactivist research group of doctoral students, community members, and university faculty.  Below, I am going to point out eight ways this Education Next “story” is distorted and deceptive.  

1. The real cause of the “schooling crisis” in Indianapolis was racism and desegregation as many whites who could afford to do so moved out of the city, as did much business and capital, along with the ongoing effects of local, long-term racist policies and practices.  

In the Education Next (EN) article, there is not a single reference to race, desegregation, and racism.  Indeed, these words are never used (except as labels in one chart) even though the history of Indianapolis schooling cannot be accurately and fairly storied without these. In addition, there is no mention of the ongoing racism in law enforcement and imprisonment, housing, education, medicine, employment, banking, and the media, which exists in all cities and is well documented in social science research. These exclusions are a loud absence that is unquestionably remarkable and certainly a mark of weak and/or distorted scholarship.  Why would anyone who wanted to tell an honest “Hoosier” education story leave these out?  At a minimum, it certainly makes one wonder about the real nature and agenda of this EN story.

2. No mention of the pro-charter neoliberal movement that has “Mind Trust” and “Stand for Children” like organizations in every major city and several smaller ones in the U.S.

The Mind Trust and Stand for Children in Indianapolis like to keep their “story” local so those who work for them and the Indianapolis public remain ignorant about their true nature. The Mind Trust and Stand for Children never discuss that they are part of a national neoliberal movement largely funded by conservative and rightwing individuals, organizations, and corporations.  They never discuss the wider agenda of this movement, which includes low taxes for the wealthy, decreased funding for social supports, the privatization of and profiteering off of public services (like public education), efforts to decrease the voting power of people of color, the end of unions (esp. teachers unions) and the benefits unions have developed, among other ways that decrease the quality of life for everyone but the 1% and those who serve them.  Also, Mind Trust and Stand for Children never discuss the strongly anti-democratic nature of the neoliberal movement.  To begin to educate yourself on this national movement, read these highly respected books, in this order, MacLean’s ”Democracy in Chains,” Mayer’s “Dark Money,“ and Lipman’s “The New Political Economy of Urban Education.”  

3. No mention of the key role of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) in the Mind Trust/Stand for Children story.

ALEC is a conservative-rightwing organization that creates model state-level neoliberal legislation to assist in institutionalizing the state-level neoliberal agenda discussed above in #2.  ALEC considers Indiana to be one of its favorite states, as Indiana Republicans and some Democrats have implemented so much ALEC developed legislation.  The result has been that Indiana consistently ranks high in business-friendly policies and effects and among the lowest in quality of life policies and effects.  Lengthy discussions and critiques of ALEC and its agenda are widely available, but there is no doubt ALEC is pushing a radical agenda that would not be supported if voted on by the general public.  

4. No mention of the “dark money” funding of Mind Trust/Stand for Children supported school board members.  

Since the 2012 board election in Indianapolis, the Mind Trust and Stand for Children have covertly used a Stand for Children 501c4 headquartered in Oregon to funnel national money into the Indianapolis school board race.  Before this, any everyday citizen who could put together funding of $3-5,000 had a chance to win election to the school board.  Starting in 2012, we know that the Mind Trust and Stand for Children started providing around $65,000 to each of their chosen candidates with all of them winning as no one was expecting or prepared for this infusion of such large amounts.  In the next election, 2014, they did the same and took majority control of the board, even though one of their chosen candidates, Gayle Cosby, turned against them once she realized what their real agenda was.  We call this “dark money” because a 501c4 does not have to report where the funds came from or how they were spent and not one of their candidates have publicly admitted this support.  In fact, it took the IPS Community Coalition shouting loudly about this for some time before the local news media paid any attention and still do not sufficiently attend to this, especially since in the last election, our best guess is that they spent over $500,000 on a district wide seat (more on this below).  Recently, the head of Stand for Children, who is widely praised in the EN article, said on social media that the Indianapolis Stand for Children has no relationship to the 501c4 in Oregon, leaving us puzzled as to how the Oregon folks know whom to support.  

5. Even though the “Innovation” schools (stealth charters inside the district) are widely praised, there is no discussion of constant reports to the IPS Community Coalition that the district leadership uses deception, misrepresentations (to put it politely), and threats to stop resistance and garner parent and teacher support for converting a traditional school to an innovation school.  

Either lots of teachers and parents are lying to the IPS Community Coalition, or the districts is using strong arm tactics to institute “innovation” schools.  Indeed, many teachers report to us that they feel afraid of the district leadership, given the district’s rough shod ways of getting what the district wants.  Also, there is no mention of the fact that for their first three years, the “innovation” schools are under easier state accountability rules.  Thus, the Mind Trust and Stand for Children often brag that the “innovation” schools are doing “better” even though traditional schools, which are under the full accountability rules, are actually doing better.  Might we call this dissembling?

6. No mention of the utter failure to successfully  educate Black children, who are the majority of IPS students, and no mention of the use of home schooling and high discipline rates to push out Black children.

Despite that we know that testing experts say we cannot use state accountability exams in the way we do, it is a harsh fact that less than 6% of Black 10th graders recently passed both the state’s language arts exam and the math exam.  If any business (the favorite neoliberal model) had this terrible outcome, that business would be shut down or all the leadership fired.  This is totally appalling—and never mentioned.  In addition, an intrepid local Chalkbeat reporter found compelling evidence that some schools have been counseling the parents of primarily Black students to choose to home school instead of facing a discipline incident result, a move that takes this student off the school’s roles and improves the school’s standing.  That this has the high potential to negatively impact the entire life of these Black students does not seem important to the decision makers, even though local Black activists, like Diane Daniels, have been pointing this out for years.  Furthermore, other schools, sometime called “no excuses” schools, use really high levels of discipline to push out primarily Black students that they see as potentially hurting their schools’ state grade, even though local education activists, like John Harris Loflin, have been making this point for years.  That all of this is totally disastrous for Black students, their families, their communities, and all of Indianapolis does not seem important enough to mention in the EN story.

7. Substantial problems with the CREDO and Indiana University (IU) research cited in the EN article are not addressed.

There is no mention of the deep critique of the CREDO report and its methodology, even though the University of Colorado’s National Education Policy Center ( has published more than one critique of the CREDO methodology and their reports.  Also, no mention that the CREDO reports are done by a center that receives large pro-charter funding.  Furthermore, the IU research has been cited locally and nationally but never publicly released, as far as I have been able to determine.  I was able to get a copy of it, but since others have ownership, I cannot release it.  I did a thorough, indepth critique of it, showing it to be flawed in multiple ways but cannot publish since the research continues not to be public.  I mentioned that publicizing but not publishing results was against social science practice and ethics. I even asked that it be released, but they have stopped communicating with me even though I am part of the same university system.  

8. Nothing on the persistent incompetency of the Ferebee administration.  (Ferebee left last year to go to Washington, DC.  Fight hard, everyday DC folks!)

The examples of incompetency are many and large.  First, closing of high schools is almost always a fraught endeavor.  Nonetheless, there are good superintendents around the country who have figured out how to have authentic, transparent conversations with their communities and arrive at collaborative decisions.  I have met and talked to some of these folks.  It is never easy, and some community people are not happy in the end, but overall the community can feel it was done fairly and transparently.  That was not the case in Indianapolis.  Second, without consulting even with their friends and natural allies, like the Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Realtors, Ferebee went public with little time left before the vote with a nearly one billiondollar bond proposal.  Even their friends and allies said, “NO!”  After an inappropriate Chamber study of cost cutting for the district, the district cut to around a quarter of the original amount to get Chamber and other elite support.  In addition, good superintendents know that it takes one to one and a half years of hard work to prepare for a successful bond election, and even that is no guarantee.  Ferebee seemed not to know this.  He did though get his quarter million because he committed most of it to raising teacher salaries, which even his critics supported.  Third, the district’s public budget document was opaque and confusing, even after having been critiqued by a non-political national organization that examines such documents nationwide.  After two years of pushing, we got some improvements.  Fourth, busing has consistently been a mess, which they now think they are solving by privatizing it. Fifth, teachers districtwide have become very afraid of raising any issues because they believe they will be fired.  Sixth, even though there is a large amount of research nationally as to what it takes to create successful urban schools for all children, regardless of race and ethnicity, family income, sexuality, disability status, and immigration status (some of which I have published), the Ferebee administration did not seem to know any of this.  Instead, initiating “innovation” schools and supporting charter schools that replaced district schools seemed to be his only choices.  

The neoliberal so-called education “reform” movement is weaker than they seem despite their millions of dollars and their PR machine.  

The IPS Community Coalition is a multi-race, multi-class citywide coalition of everyday Indianapolis folks and local organizations (see us on Facebook) who started a little over three years ago.  We began with less than eight people sitting in a room together, and now we have over 250 members.  We are very active on Facebook and sometimes have over 6,000 eyes on our posts.  We have no money, and many of our members have little. We do support teachers’ unions and work with the local teachers’ union.  In the 2018 school board election, we defeated two of the Mind Trust and Stand for Children incumbents.  The only race they won was due to the candidate being a non-incumbent.  In our best understanding, they spent over a half million dollars on their districtwide candidate, while the person we supported defeated their candidate on less than $10,000.  Because of their losses in the last election, now they are bringing back some of the most well-known local founders of their movement and trying to fake the community engagement that we authentically do.  They do have millions of dollars, many fulltime and part-time employees, and a large PR machine that falsely uses civil rights language, but they can be defeated.  

Study what neoliberalism is in education and other areas of your community.  

An activated people can defeat money and power.


This is a very engaging video interview of Tom Ultican, an expert on corporate education reform, explaining the federal takeover of public schools via No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Ultican goes into detail about the corporate assault on public schools in the Dallas Independent School District. He names names, starting with the misguided superintendency of Mike Miles, a Broadie who managed to drive out large numbers of experienced teachers. He identifies the funders of corporate funders, both billionaires and the Dallas Chamber of Commerce.

He gives a concise analysis of the money behind the “portfolio model,” charters, and privatization in Texas and Dallas.

Today is “pub day,” as they say in the trade.

I started writing SLAYING GOLIATH in February 2018 as I watched and read news reports about the teachers’ strike in West Virginia.

I watched in awe as every school in the state was closed by every superintendent so that teachers were technically not breaking the law that prevents them from striking.

I watched in amazement as teachers and support staff assembled in the state capitol, decked in red T-shirts, carrying homemade signs, and declaring their allegiance to #55Strong, a reference to the 55 school districts in the state.

I saw them stand together proudly and defiantly, insisting on fair wages and decent working conditions.

I realized as #Red4Ed spread from state to state that something fundamental had changed in the national narrative about education.

The media were no longer talking about “bad teachers” and “failing schools,” but were actually listening to the voices of those who worked in the schools.

In January 2019, I marched in the rain with teachers of the UTLA in Los Angeles.

And I saw the national narrative change.

I read stories about how poorly teachers were paid instead of blaming them for low test scores.

Suddenly the press woke up to the massive neglect and underinvestment in education that was creating a teacher shortage.

Demoralization was replaced by jubilation as teachers realized that they were not merely passive bystanders but could take charge of their destiny.

Many teachers ran for office. Some won and joined their state legislature.

I began to see the world in a different light.

I looked at the latest NAEP scores and read the lamentations about flat scores for a decade (that was before the release of the 2019 scores, which confirmed that the needle had not moved on test scores despite billions spent on testing).

So many changes were happening, and suddenly I realized that the so-called reformers were on the defensive. They knew that none of their promises had come through. They were on a power trip with no expectation anymore of “closing the achievement gap” (which is a built-in feature of standardized tests, which are normed on a bell curve that never closes). No more expectation that charter schools were miraculous. I began checking and realized that the number of new charter schools was almost equaled by the number of charter schools that were closing.

Something new and different was in the air: Hope!

Arne Duncan wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post saying that “some people claim that reform is failing, don’t believe them.” Then I knew it was all over.

I knew that the “reform” project was nothing more than a Disruption movement. It had succeeded at nothing.

Yet it was the Status Quo.

And this behemoth had the nerve to claim it was opposed to the “status quo.”

The behemoth–Goliath– controls all the levers of power. It controls federal policy, it is steered by billionaires, it has the allegiance of hedge fund managers, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and a long list of foundations. One of my sons, a writer, read an early version of the manuscript, and he said there were too many names in the chapter about the Disruption Movement. I explained the importance and necessity of naming names. Every one of them was documented.

Arrayed against this daunting assemblage of the rich and powerful were parents, educators, students, people who wanted to protect what belongs to the public and keep it out of the hands of corporations and entrepreneurs.

I decided to tell the story of the Resistance and to zoom in on some of the heroes. There was Jitu Brown in Chicago, who led a hunger strike of a dozen people on lawn chairs and forced Rahm Emanuel to capitulate. There were Leonie Haimson Rachael Stickland, who organized other parents and defeated Bill Gates and his $100 million project called inBloom, which was all set to gather personally identifiable student data and store it in a cloud managed by Amazon. There were the valiant and creative members of the Providence Student Union, who employed political theater to stop the state from using a standardized test as a graduation requirement. There was Jesse Hagopian and the brave teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle, who refused to administer a useless test, risking their jobs. There were the parents, students, and activists in Douglass County, Colorado, who fought year after year until they ousted a far-right board that wanted to be first in the nation to offer vouchers for religious schools. There are individuals, like Ed Johnson in Atlanta, who keeps telling the school board how to approach reform as a system rather than as an opportunity to punish people. There were many more, and many that I did not have space to include.

Goliath is not dead yet. But he is propped up solely by the power of money. Goliath has no ideas, no strategies, no plans that have not already been tried and failed.

I loved writing the book. I wrote it to give hope and encouragement to all the Davids still fighting to preserve and improve public schools and the teaching profession.

Goliath will always have more money. But take heart: Goliath may be standing but he will not be there forever. Every act of resistance adds up. Goliath stumbled. He will fall.

Even billionaires and oligarch tire of pouring millions and millions into failure after failure after failure.

Please give a copy of SLAYING GOLIATH to school board members and legislators. Give a copy to your local editorial writer.

On my book tour, I will be in Charleston, West Virginia, on February 22 to celebrate the second anniversary of the historic West Virginia teachers’ strike.

And I will personally thank them for changing the national narrative!



John Thompson is a historian and a retired teacher, who blogs often, here and on other blogs. He has keen insight into what’s happening in Oklahoma.

He writes:

Since 2015, the Tulsa Public Schools have cut $22 million from its budget, even dipping into its reserve fund to balance the books. Now it must cut another $20 million.

Given the huge support for the TPS by local and national edu-philanthropists, patrons should ask why it faces such a crisis, even after the state has started to restore funding. Despite the assistance of the outcome-driven Billionaires Boys Club, the TPS has lost 5,000 students, especially to the suburbs and online charters. But that raises the question of why Chief for Change Superintendent Deborah Gist and her staff of Broad Academy administrators have produced such awful outcomes.

After a series of community meeting, Gist recommended school closures designed to save $2 to 3 million. Gist also seeks $3 million in saving by increasing class sizes. Then, Gist proposed $13 to 14 million in cuts to district office administrators.

It’s great that most of the burden will be carried by the central office. But that raises the question why the district has such a well-funded administration.

Even though the Oklahoma press wouldn’t dare ask what the corporate reform-subsidized administration has accomplished, Tulsans should ask why the district in near the nation’s bottom in student performance from 3rd to 8th grades. Why does it have more emergency certified and inexperienced teachers than other districts after being awarded Gates Foundation “teacher quality” grants?

Participants in the recent community engagement process “were most willing to make budget reductions related to student transportation and bell times, teacher leadership opportunities, building utilization and district office services.” Perhaps as a repudiation of the Gates Foundation’s experiment, cutting teacher coaches was the recommendation that received the most votes. Tulsans were most protective of teacher pay, class sizes, and social-emotional learning and behavioral supports.

The fear is that closures and increased class sizes will result in more patrons leaving the district. Community participants also expressed concerns that closures will lead to more charter schools. The Tulsa World’s report on community meetings noted the worries of a parent, Wanda Coggburn:

Many shared Coggburn’s suspicion of a charter school taking over Jones or the other targeted elementary school buildings. But Gist said the needs of the six TPS-sponsored charter schools did not factor into the recommendation to close the schools.

The World also reported the fears of parents with disabilities. The parents of a child who has cerebral palsy and a developmental delay that causes behavioral issues say he was moved from a special education to a general education class against their wishes, and “they worry that adding more students would hinder his progress even further.”

Betty Casey of TulsaKids also describes the protests of parents whose deaf children attend Wright Elementary, which the superintendent wants to close. She talked with a mom who said of Wright:

She fears that it will be given to Collegiate Hall Academy, a charter school which currently shares space with Marshall Elementary. She wants her child to continue at Wright, not a charter school. She pointed out that Marshall has two gyms and a swimming pool currently not being used that could be put to use by public school students. Why not close College Bound Academy and put those students in Wright and Marshall? Closing a small charter school without a building would be much less disruptive.

Why would patrons have such fears? Maybe it’s because Gist responded to a question about a closed building saying “she’s confident the growing TPS-sponsored charter schools are interested in the potential space and are closely watching this process.”

I previously said that the traditional press hasn’t dared to investigate the results of corporate reform in Tulsa. However, Ms. Casey’s TulsaKids is a parents’ magazine that asks the questions that journalists have ducked. She recently wrote:

Why is it that when public schools are starved, and resources are stretched to the breaking point, that TPS is supporting a parallel school system of charters that drain more resources from the public schools? … The savings in closing schools is a drop in the bucket, but once the school is closed, it’s very difficult to go backward. Didn’t the superintendent say she was going to try to draw families back to TPS? Where will those returning families put their children? If Wright becomes a College Bound Charter, the families who wish to remain at a neighborhood school will have only one “choice” of a charter school.

Casey further explains:

I’m glad that Superintendent Gist has vowed to interview all the families leaving TPS. But, it seems a little late to wonder why people are leaving as they walk out the door. Why not work to create public schools that families love right now? …

Maybe it’s time to look at the “reforms” being implemented by the superintendent, and prior to that, Dr. Ballard’s acceptance of Gate’s Foundation money (MAP testing), and admit that those changes aren’t working for our kids, and families are leaving as a result.