Education Reform

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"Education Reform" is a term that refers to efforts to improve education. It has, however, recently been co-opted by corporate interests that use it to promote industry-friendly policies that aim to fundamentally restructure the K-12 education system. These policies are backed by free-market and conservative think tanks, industry-friendly experts and researchers, propaganda outlets, and large corporate and billionaire foundations. This article explores some of the corporately-driven policies, the terms used to whitewash them, the backers and funders, the propaganda outlets, the policies in practice, and the organizations that oppose them.

Goals of corporate education reform

There are corporately-driven "education reform" goals in the following areas:

Education entrepreneurs

Education entrepreneurs create for-profit and nonprofit organizations such as charter schools and teacher preparation programs that, according to the NewSchools Venture Fund, aim for large-scale changes or even the transformation of the public education system. To achieve these changes, educational entrepreneurs take advantage of financial capital, "human capital," and intellectual capital.[1]

Human capital policies for teachers

Corporate education reformers aim to alter the conditions under which teachers work, are hired, and are fired. They refer to these policies as "human capital policies" and refer to teachers as "human capital." New human capital policies are needed because, according to the Fordham Institute, "Entrepreneurs need access to a ready flow of talented individuals, whether to staff their own operations or fill the district’s classrooms." They include changing "alternative certification routes for aspiring teachers, district human resource policies for teachers and central office staff, and the restrictiveness of the local collective bargaining agreement."[2]

Examples of human capital policies include:

  • Limiting requirements that teachers be certified through the National Board for Professional Learning Standards[3]
  • Staffing schools with "alternatively certified" teachers instead of National Board-certified teachers[4]
  • Using the results of student standardized tests to make teacher personnel decisions in hiring, firing, and pay.[5], [6]
  • Increasing the number of hours that teachers work and reducing sick leave[7]
  • Eliminating or limiting the impact of seniority on teacher layoffs[8]
  • Eliminating or limiting the power of teachers unions[9][10] To achieve this goal, the National Council on Teaching Quality maintains a database of collective bargaining agreements and uses that database to advise school districts and legislators. [11]

The whitewashing terms for these policies include "teacher quality," "teacher effectiveness," "merit pay," and "better ways to recruit, retain, and reward effective teachers."

Charter schools

Another goal of corporate education reform is the expansion of charter schools, which are public schools run by for-profit or nonprofit charter school organizations. Charter schools benefit educational entrepreneurs of all kinds because, according to the Fordham Institute, "charter schools are one of the primary entrees through which entrepreneurs can penetrate new markets, both as direct education providers and as consumers of other nontraditional goods and services."[12]

Some corporate education reformers openly advocate for the closure of public schools to make room for other options. For example, the Broad Foundation supports the Public Agenda's initiative "Bold Action on Failing Schools," to close or restructure the five percent of schools in the nation that have been deemed lowest-performing. [13] According to the libertarian think-tank Reason Foundation, closing schools is beneficial because "closures make room for replacements."[14]

Increase in standardized testing

Another aspect of corporate education reform is an increase in high-stakes standardized testing and the expansion of uses put to it. Under No Child Left Behind, standardized testing is used to identify schools for restructuring, which often means conversion to a charter school.[15]

Other uses for standardized testing include:

  • making teacher personnel decisions in hiring, firing, and pay.[16],
  • for district-wide top-down management of schools[17]
  • as "quality control metrics" for entrepreneurial ventures[18]
  • to enforce the new Common Core standards and "to alter what American schools teach and what children learn"[19]

Whitewashing terms for the increase of standardized testing include "accountability" and "data-driven."

Strategies for advancing corporate reform

Strategies that are being used to advance corporate reform include:

  • Influencing grassroots organizations and local media.[20]
  • Influencing federal, local, and state public policy [21], including policies for alternative teacher and principal certification, elementary school governance and design, the No Child Left Behind reauthorization act.
  • Using state and local leaders “knock down barriers” to change such as “formal legal and regulatory obstacles, such as licensure provisions that make it difficult or costly to operate nontraditional teacher training programs, contract provisions that prize tenure over talent, and procurement arrangements that effectively prevent entrepreneurs from doing business with the district.” [22]
  • Targeting state law and school superintendents for change.[23]
  • Influencing school districts. [24][25]
  • Training principals, superintendents, and other school district leaders that support corporate reform policies[26]

Propaganda outlets

A major propaganda outlet is the online magazine "Education Next" and its associated blog, "The EdNext Blog." The editorial board of "Education Next" is composed of the Koret Task Force members. Its sponsors include the Hoover Institution and the Program on Education Policy and Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School.

The "EdNext Blog" also links to a number of other corporate-friendly blogs, as well as a wide number of for-profit and nonprofit corporate reform organizations.

Another propaganda outlet is the Fordham Institute's Education Gadfly Weekly.

Free-market and conservative think tanks

Free-market and conservative think tanks that advocate and actively work for the restructuring of public education include:

  • The American Enterprise Institute, a pro-business, conservative think tank that ran a propaganda campaign for tobacco industries in the 1980s and which has come under criticism for offering experts $10,000 each to discredit climate change.[27] In education, the American Enterprise Institute advocates for "accountability and entrepreneurship," with a focus on obtaining accurate education data and research, the management of school budgets and finance, the Race to the Top program and the No Child Left Behind Act, student loans and graduation rates, the teaching profession, and urban school reform."[28]
  • The Hoover Institution, a conservative and libertarian think tank that has supported high-profile conservatives such as Condoleezza Rice and Milton Friedman. The education efforts of the Hoover Institution are coordinated through the Koret Task Force.[29]
  • The Fordham Institute, which also runs charter schools in Ohio. The Fordham Institute focuses on charter authorization, school choice, curriculum, digital learning, federal policy, governance, school spending, special education, standards, testing, and accountability, and human capital.
  • The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank whose mission is "formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense." [30] In education, the Heritage Foundation supports school choice for public, private, charter, and homeschooling.

Industry-friendly experts and researchers

Some of the major industry-friendly experts and researchers are:

Major corporate funders

Major corporate funders of education reform include the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, and the Ewing Marian Kauffman Foundation.

Corporate giving increased markedly in May of 2009 when Bill Gates and Warren Buffett met to plan a boost in charitable giving, asking members of the Fortune 400 to give half their money ($1.2 trillion dollars in 2009) to philanthropy. [31] A result of that meeting was "The Giving Pledge," in which billionaires pledged to give the majority of their wealth to philanthropy. [32] This vastly increases the amount of funding available to causes supported by billionaires, which in turn expands their power and influence.

More information about how funding impacts education reform is available at the blog Seattle Education 2010 blog post "The Lines of Influence in Education Reform."[33]

The Gates Foundation

The Gates Foundation funds programs that:

  • change "human capital" policies
  • use the results of student standardized tests to make teacher personnel decisions[34]
  • develop new teacher preparation programs[35]
  • support charter schools
  • implement new standardized tests [36]
  • support online teaching[37]

The Broad Foundation

The Broad Foundation supports corporate education reform in the following areas:

  • federal and state policy changes in "human capital," "school choice," and education governance[38]
  • alternative routes to teacher certification, such as Teach for America[39]
  • changes to teachers' collective bargaining agreements[40]
  • charter schools[41]
  • closure or restructuring of the lowest-performing schools[42]
  • training principals, superintendents, and other school district leaders that support Broad Foundation policies[43]
  • propaganda documentaries "Waiting for 'Superman'" and "The Lottery"[44]
  • computerized education to "reduce operating costs"[45]

The Walton Family Foundation

The Walton Family Foundation funds projects[46] that support:

  • tying teacher pay to student performance ("merit pay")
  • new and existing charter schools
  • teachers and leaders for charter schools
  • "school choice"
  • advertising the existence of charter schools and private schools
  • school district governance changes
  • increasing accountability for schools

The Joyce Foundation

The Joyce Foundation funds programs that:

  • support charter schools[48] in Chicago, Cleveland and Milwaukee.

The Carnegie Corporation

The Carnegie Corporation funds:

  • projects for nonprofit educational entrepreneurial organizations[49]
  • "human capital"changes [50] projects such as programs for alternative certification of teachers, collecting data that ties the results of student achievement to teacher performance, and making policy recommendations for the use of that data in decisions about teacher pay and personnel decisions.
  • projects that influence public policy [51], including policies for alternative teacher and principal certification, elementary school governance and design, the No Child Left Behind reauthorization act.

The Kauffman Foundation

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation promotes itself as the "world's largest foundation devoted to entrepreneurship."[52] In 2010, the foundation gave grants[53] to:

  • change "human capital" policies
  • support charter schools
  • support the Teach for America alternative certification program
  • impact education research and policy

Cities and states targeted for education reform

The Gates Foundation, Broad Foundation, Walton Foundation, Joyce Foundation, and Fordham Foundation have all worked actively in multiple cities and states to advance their agendas.

The Gates Foundation is working to implement changes to school districts in Tampa, Memphis City, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles. [54]

The Broad Foundation is working to implement changes in New York City, California, Charlotte-Mecklenberg, Chicago, Denver, Newark, Houston, New Orleans, Prince George County (Maryland), Seattle, Sacramento, and Washington, D.C. [55]

The Walton Foundation operates primarily in Arkansas, offers grants to 30 school districts for charter schools, and is working toward school district governance changes in Albany, NY, Columbus, OH, Milwaukee, WI, and Washington, D.C. [56]

The Joyce Foundation supports charter schools in Chicago, Cleveland and Milwaukee.[57]

Below is a partial list of cities and states targeted for education reform.


Cities and States Targeted for Corporate Education Reform
State Cities Types of reform Foundation
Arizona Phoenix charter schools Walton
Arkansas multiple charter schools Walton
California Los Angeles, Sacramento charter schools, school district changes Gates, Broad, Walton
Colorado Denver charter schools Broad, Walton
Florida Tampa, Hillsborough County charter schools, school district changes Gates, Walton
Georgia Atlanta charter schools Walton
Illinois Chicago charter schools Broad, Joyce, Walton
Indiana Indianapolis charter schools Walton
Louisiana New Orleans, Orleans Parish charter schools Broad, Walton
Maryland Prince George County Broad
Michigan Detroit charter schools Walton
Minnesota Minneapolis charter schools Walton
Missouri Kansas City, St. Louis human capital Kauffman, Walton
New York Albany, Harlem human capital, standardized testing Broad, Walton
North Carolina Charlotte-Mecklenberg Broad
Ohio multiple human capital, standardized testing Fordham, Broad
Pennsylvania Pittsburgh school district changes Gates
Tennessee Memphis school district changes Gates
Texas Houston Broad
Washington Seattle Broad
Wisconsin Milwaukee human capital, standardized testing Walton, Joyce
District of Columbia Washington, D.C. human capital, standardized testing Broad, Walton

Opposition to corporate reform

Many grassroots organizations oppose corporate education reform and present an alternative view of education. A few include:

  • Rethinking Schools is a small nonprofit publisher of education materials, including the Rethinking Schools magazine. It was founded in 1986 by a group of Milwaukee-area teachers and "remains firmly committed to equity and to the vision that public education is central to the creation of a humane, caring, multiracial democracy."
  • Grassroots Education Movement (NYC) is "a coalition of NYC groups that educates and mobilizes educators, parents, students and our communities against the corporate and government policies that underfund, undermine and privatize our public school system."
  • Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators (Chicago) is "a group of dedicated teachers, retirees, Paraprofessional School Related Personnel (PSRPs), parents, community members and other champions of public education. We fight for equitable public education."
  • Defend Public Education is a group "fighting to defend their labor rights, the rights of their students to the high quality public education they ALL deserve, and the future of public education."
  • Parents Across America is a national group that advocates for "proven, progressive measures such as reducing class size and increasing parent involvement" and opposes "corporate-style efforts to privatize our schools."

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles

Portal: Education Policy (U.S.)

Think tanks

American Enterprise Institute

Hoover Institute

Fordham Institute

Heritage Foundation

Foundations

Gates Foundation

Broad Foundation

Walton Family Foundation

Joyce Foundation

References

  1. "What is Educational Entrepreneurship," Kim Smith and Julie Landry Petersen, NewSchools Venture Fund, written for Educational Entrepreneurship: Realities, Challenges, Possibilities, edited by Frederick M. Hess, Harvard Education Press 2006.
  2. America's Best (And Worst) Cities for School Reform, Frederick M. Hess, Stafford Palmieri, Janie Scull, Fordham Institute, August 24, 2010.
  3. America's Best (And Worst) Cities for School Reform, Frederick M. Hess, Stafford Palmieri, Janie Scull, Fordham Institute, August 24, 2010, page 10.
  4. "Our Company," Texas Teachers, accessed March 29, 2011.
  5. "Teacher Quality Checklist for School Districts," NCTQ, accessed March 29, 2011.
  6. Human Capital in Boston Public Schools, National Council on Teacher Quality, February 2010
  7. Human Capital in Boston Public Schools, National Council on Teacher Quality, February 2010
  8. Human Capital in Boston Public Schools, National Council on Teacher Quality, February 2010
  9. "Invisible Ink in Teacher Contracts," Education Next, Emily Cohen and Kate Walsh.
  10. Solutions, Flunked Solutions, accessed March 29, 2011.
  11. http://www.nctq.org/tr3/home.jsp "TR3: Teachers Rules, Roles, and Rights,"] accessed March 29, 2011.
  12. America's Best (And Worst) Cities for School Reform, Frederick M. Hess, Stafford Palmieri, Janie Scull, Fordham Institute, August 24, 2010, page 13.
  13. "Strong Leadership," Broad Foundation, accessed March 25, 2011.
  14. Lisa Snell, "Fix the City Schools: Moving All Schools to Charter-Like Autonomy," Reason Foundation, Policy Brief 87, March 2010.
  15. [ http://www2.ed.gov/parents/academic/involve/nclbguide/parentsguide.pdf "No Child Left Behind: A Parents' Guide,"] U.S. Department of Education, 2003.
  16. "Teacher Quality Checklist for School Districts," NCTQ, accessed March 29, 2011.
  17. "The Numbers We Need: How the Right Metrics Could Improve K-12 Education," Frederick M. Hess and Jon Fullerton, American Enterprise Institute, February 2010.
  18. America's Best (And Worst) Cities for School Reform, Frederick M. Hess, Stafford Palmieri, Janie Scull, Fordham Institute, August 24, 2010, p. 14.
  19. Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Michael J. Petrilli, "Now What? Imperatives & Options for Common Core Implementation & Governance," Fordham Institute, October 19, 2010, pp 3-7.
  20. "District Analyses: Rethinking how to attract, retain and develop effective teachers," National Council on Teacher Quality, accessed March 30, 2011.
  21. "Building Knowledge and Affecting Policy," Carnegie Corporation of New York, accessed March 24, 2011.
  22. America's Best (And Worst) Cities for School Reform, Frederick M. Hess, Stafford Palmieri, Janie Scull, Fordham Institute, August 24, 2010.
  23. "Scope of Bargaining", National Council on Teacher Quality, accessed March 30, 2011.
  24. "District Analyses: Rethinking how to attract, retain and develop effective teachers," National Council on Teacher Quality, accessed March 30, 2011.
  25. "The Numbers We Need: How the Right Metrics Could Improve K-12 Education," Frederick M. Hess and Jon Fullerton, American Enterprise Institute, February 2010.
  26. "Strong Leadership," Broad Foundation, accessed March 25, 2011.
  27. SourceWatch:American Enterprise Institute
  28. Research Areas: Education, American Enterprise Institute, retrieved March 27, 2011.
  29. Wikipedia: Hoover Institution
  30. "About," The Heritage Foundation, accessed March 27, 2011.
  31. Carol J. Loomis, "The $600 billion challenge," Fortune, June 16, 2010
  32. http://givingpledge.org/#enter
  33. Dora, [http://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/the-lines-of-influence-in-education-reform/ "The Lines of Influence in Education Reform," Seattle Education 2010, August 23, 2010.
  34. [ http://www.gatesfoundation.org/college-ready-education/Pages/intensive-partnerships-for-effective-teaching.aspx Intensive Partnerships for Effective Teaching,] Gates Foundation, accessed March 25, 2011.
  35. Grant to Uncommon Knowledge and Achievement, Inc., Gates Foundation, granted November 2010.
  36. "Supporting Instruction: Investing in Teaching," Gates Foundation, accessed March 25, 2011.
  37. [ http://www.gatesfoundation.org/Grants-2010/Pages/New-Technology-Network-LLC-OPP1022111.aspx "Grant to New Technology Network, LLC,"] Gates Foundation, granted December 2010.
  38. "Overview of Current Investments," Broad Foundation, retrieved March 25, 2011.
  39. [http:// http://broadeducation.org/investments/current_investments/redesigned.html "Redesigned, High-Performing Institutions,"] Broad Foundation, retrieved March 25, 2011.
  40. [http:// http://broadeducation.org/investments/current_investments/redesigned.html "Redesigned, High-Performing Institutions,"] Broad Foundation, retrieved March 25, 2011.
  41. [http:// http://broadeducation.org/investments/current_investments/redesigned.html "Redesigned, High-Performing Institutions,"] Broad Foundation, retrieved March 25, 2011.
  42. "Strong Leadership," Broad Foundation, accessed March 25, 2011.
  43. "Strong Leadership," Broad Foundation, accessed March 25, 2011.
  44. "Transformative Federal and State Policy," Broad Foundation, retrieved March 25, 2011.
  45. "Groundbreaking Innovation in Teaching and Learning," Broad Foundation, retrieved March 25, 2011.
  46. "Walton Family Foundation," Walton Family Foundation, accessed March 24, 2011.
  47. "Teacher Quality," Joyce Foundation, retrieved March 24, 2011.
  48. "Innovation Grants," Joyce Foundation, retrieved March 24, 2011.
  49. "Innovation: New Designs for Schools, Colleges, and Education Systems," Carnegie Corporation of New York, accessed March 24, 2011.
  50. "Strengthening Human Capital," Carnegie Corporation of New York, accessed March 24, 2011.
  51. "Building Knowledge and Affecting Policy," Carnegie Corporation of New York, accessed March 24, 2011.
  52. "About the Foundation," Kauffman Foundation, retrieved March 25, 2011.
  53. "2010 Grants," Kauffman Foundation, retrieved March 25, 2011.
  54. Intensive Partnerships for Effective Teaching, Gates Foundation, accessed March 25, 2011.
  55. "Redesigned, High-Performing Institutions," Broad Foundation, accessed March 25, 2011.
  56. "Walton Family Foundation: K-12 Education Reform," Walton Family Foundation, accessed March 24, 2011.
  57. "Innovation Grants," Joyce Foundation, retrieved March 24, 2011.

External Web sites

Think Tanks

American Enterprise Institute: Education

Hoover Institution: Koret Task Force on K-12 Education

Fordham Institute

Heritage Foundation: Education

Propaganda Outlets

Education Next

EdNext blog

Education Gadfly Weekly

Foundations


Grassroots organizations opposing corporate reform

External articles