Know Your History and You Can See What Education Reform Really Means. It’s Not ‘For the Kids’.
The article below (written by Vicky Davis from Channeling Reality) was posted on MEW’s original blogsite almost three years ago about a report on the desired state of education according to National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE). Read the three year old article and compare the blueprint of what NCEE put forward for education reform in 2007 and what has actually occurred through the Common Core State Standards Initiative or would be possible via the ESEA reauthorization. Do you agree with Davis’ synthesis from April 2012 on her educational predictions and what is actually occurring in 2015?
From (April 2012) Tough Choices or Wrong Choices:
In 2007 the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) produced a report entitled Tough Choices or Tough Times. In it, they outlined a view for the American education system as the supplier of workers for the 21st century in a global economy. From her blog Channeling Reality, Davis summarizes the the findings of the report below:
- Teachers are recruited from the lower strata of the intellectual talent pool
- Waste in the system, allowing students to fail in lower grades and paying for remediation in later years when costs are higher
- System is inherently inefficient. “Standards have helped but only moderately relative to cost” over 30 years
- Growing inequality in family income as a contributing factor in growing disparities in student achievement
- Failure to motivate students to achieve
- Teacher compensation rewards longevity rather than performance
- Testing system measures rote learning and does not measure creativity, innovative thinking, and analytical abilities
- People who have the responsibility for education do not have the power. Power is in the hands of those who do not have the responsibility.
- Students must be prepared to continue learning for their lifetimes because of the tumultuous nature of the global economy.
- Education system must be changed to allow adults to continue education and training throughout their lifetimes for the same reason stated above.
- Reduce secondary education to age 16 (10th grade) at which time, a board examination is given and a decision is made regarding the path of the student – college prep, or vocation. Board examination is on a syllabus provided by the Board. Implicit in the description is that students could choose to end their educational stint at this point theoretically without penalty later in life. Guarantees for higher education for good performance in lower grades.
- The reduction of school years will save $60 billion annually to be divided as follows:
- Recruiting teachers from the top strata of the intellectual talent pool and paying them according to private sector standards
- Establishing “full-service” preschools for 3 and 4 year olds for early childhood education and social-health services.
- Increasing resources for “disadvantaged students” to allow them to succeed to international standards
- Change teacher compensation from a backloaded system of pension and health benefits to cash up front with a benefit structure the same as the private sector (i.e. 401k’s). Proposed teacher pay would increase to a median $95,000 for a beginning teacher in a system the same as the current system – moving up to $110,000 for a teacher willing to work the same schedule and hours as a private sector professional.
- Privatization of the schools (Management Contract Schools) while continuing public funding. State maintenance of a licensed teacher registry from which the Contract schools could hire teachers. The teachers would be state employees and would be paid by the state – but would be managed by the school management contractors.
- Current requirements for teachers would be scrapped. States would create a new agency (Teacher Development Agency) to develop teachers – charged with recruiting, training and certifying teachers. They would also be responsible for maintaining a registry of certified, licensed teachers.
- Develop standards, assessments and curriculum that reflect today’s needs and tomorrow’s requirements. Set standards with corresponding assessments and then develop curriculum to meet those standards.
- Eliminate local school board ownership of schools. Unstated – but de facto sell the schools to the Contract Management groups. Local school boards would become data collectors for the state (essentially IT operations) and the case managers for social services (i.e. medical, mental, etc) to students and parents of students – BUT… schools would be free to contract for services elsewhere if they so choose.
- Create “high performance” schools. “High Performance” is a code phrase that has a very specific meaning that is too long to describe here. Essentially, it is schools that are oriented towards a system of supply chain management to produce workers as opposed to an education system for citizens with work being a secondary or peripheral goal.
- Schools would be funded according to a per-pupil, weighted formula with the discretion for how the funds are expended being given to the Contract managers as long as the Contractors meet the standards for performance.
- Schools would be required to be affiliated with a “helping organization” – profit or non-profit. Presumably this means Foundations like the Bill Gates Foundation or the Carnegie Foundation – which have become front organizations to promote and integrate the UNESCO social agenda into the school curriculum.
- Universal preschool with social services for 3 and 4 year-olds.
- State level-funding on a per pupil basis to eliminate the quality differences between wealthy districts and poor districts. And of course…. Mo Money… $19 billion additional as an estimate.
- All-inclusive social services including funds to screen and diagnose students for their medical, dental, optical, audiological, mental health services. Tutors, counselors and mentors will be provided. Schools will be open from early morning till late at night to serve the needs of students outside of classroom requirements. They state that this proposal applies to “disadvantaged” students but it would have to be available in all schools because by definition, the schools are public and they take all comers.
- Create personal education accounts for each child when born with a $500 government credit with additional amounts added over time. Additional amounts could be added over time by basically anybody – government, individuals through salary deductions, parents, the state, etc.
- Create regional competitiveness authorities. The regional authority would be responsible to coordinate and plan the educational programs for children to correspond with the economic development of the communities within the region. Noteworthy clarification on these authorities:
“We settled on the word “authorities” to describe these new bodies because we wanted to convey the idea that they need to be more than debating societies. They need to be able to raise and spend money needed to develop their regions over time. If these new bodies are as successful as we think they will be, the federal government should consider lifting many of the restrictions on the separate programs they will administer and permitting them to combine the funds from these programs in ways that are more likely to lead to both strong economic growth and strong job growth, especially for the most vulnerable people in the country.”
The underlying message in this report is a threat – either change the education system or your economy will be destroyed by global competition. The logical fallacy is that there is nothing in the plan that changes the fact that an engineer in India makes $7,500 per year and an American engineer makes $45,000 per year. Equilibrium in wages will never be reached because of the population differences. What they are attempting to do is to manage our decline in wage and living standards by holding out the hope that somehow the education system will fix a structurally flawed economic system.
The idea behind the “regional competitiveness authority” is to establish planners for the economy of the region coupled with the planning of the workforce training to correspond to the planned economic activity. Central planning of the economy and workforce is the hallmark of the communist system. There is no way to weasel around the fact that this proposal for ‘education reform’ is a major step towards the ‘transformation’ of the United States to a communist system. Our capitalist economic system has morphed into a communist political system and the education reforms are designed to support that political system.
The amount of money they are promising for teacher salaries is absurd. It’s bribery to get the buy-in from teachers for the plan. It’s simply not going to happen. The funding for the schools will be on a per-pupil formula with the Contract Managers being able to spend the money in whatever way they choose. It’s a sure bet that they will choose not to spend the money on teachers but rather, the money will be spent on software and technology to replace teachers. Furthermore, in a system of global competition and ‘free trade’, teachers can be imported who will work for much less money than is currently being paid today – let alone the outrageous salaries stated in the report. It is fundamentally dishonest to imply that somehow teachers will be exempt from low wage, imported competition for jobs. The teachers who are selected to be the Contract Managers of the schools will be highly paid for sure, but they will simply be ‘fronts’ for the real management of the schools which will be the “helping organizations”.
The report mentions “high performance schools” but does not elaborate on what that means. Obviously the hope is that decision makers will assume the plain meaning of the phrase but that would be a wrong assumption. The term “high performance schools” comes from a Labor Department document titled, “Learning a Living”. When that term is used, they are talking about vocational training in schools beginning with pre-K through the end – whether that’s grade 10 or 12. The entire curriculum is skills based, work-focused. Assignments emphasize work-oriented lessons. In other words, it is a skills training system for workers as opposed to an academically oriented educational system to develop well-rounded citizens with a 21st century knowledge base.
The emphasis in the report aims high – college for all, extra resources for the “disadvantaged”, more math, science, literature, the arts and technology, but that picture is completely at odds with the realities of a global economy dominated by multinational corporations. The reality is that there will be few opportunities for good jobs in the global economic system and it will be a buyer’s market with corporations shopping for the highest quality, least cost employees from the global pool of available and desperate workers.
This report says that the goal is to produce workers who are creative and innovative but those qualities can’t be taught in a school. That’s a fundamental mistake that all communist countries have made. Those qualities emerge in individuals when the economic system provides the opportunities for individuals to make his or her ideas and dreams a reality. In a global economy dominated by multinationals with central planners for the regional economies and “high performance” (vocational schools), the weight of the infrastructure is too great and the risks to future earnings will inhibit innovation and creativity. In a planned economic system, kowtowing to the regional authorities is the way to get ahead – not initiative.
Although unstated, this plan attempts to nationalize the curriculum through the imposition of standards and assessments. By definition the goal of standards is to produce cookie cutter results. When a corporation produces a product like cookies, standards are very important to produce uniform results. Since it is not possible to produce uniform results with people, the system of “assessments” is being implemented to compensate for over and under achievement and abilities to give the appearance of a uniform product (person). Assessments are not objective measurements of accomplishment. They are subjective measurements that include the degree of acceptance of social conditioning, personal characteristics and work habits, and attitude. A smart kid who sees through this system for what it is and rebels could potentially have his life ruined forever by the power of the “assessment” to override academic achievement and inherent abilities. In the world of uniformity that this system is designed to create, a rebel is an unwelcome intrusion – not a gem in the rough.
Clearly, the education system must change. Our economy will no longer support the expensive, labor-intensive, bureaucratic system we have today that doesn’t produce the desired result of educated people. But the tough choice that America must make is not the education system but the political system we want to leave as our legacy for future generations. The decisions made on the education system will simply solidify the decision on the political system.
We have come a long way towards this vision with almost no input from the public who is supplying the “capital” for this economic system. Isn’t it time we had the discussion about which political system we want our education system to support?
What was not addressed in this post was a choice architect involved in this report: Marc Tucker of NCEE. Here’s another history lesson on this individual and the non-governmental organization NCEE. Read how the NGO ( and Tucker) takes money from the Federal Government to write policies enabling the Federal Government mandates in your local school district. Excerpted from Denny Taylor writing in The Living in Dialogue blog and A Response to Marc Tucker: Can We Win the Struggle For Democracy When Big Money Writes Public Education Policy?:
It is the PR discourse of big money that shapes the lives of teachers and children in public schools, and confounds the lives of families with young children struggling with the grimness of developmentally inappropriate instruction in public schools – instruction that rejects all that we have learned as a society about child development, how children learn language, become literate, and engage in math and science projects to both discover and solve problems. Knowledge gained from the sciences and the lived knowledge of human experience, the very essence of our human story, no longer counts.
Tucker’s view of education is economic. Children in, workers out, could be the mantra of National Center on Education and the Economy. The NCEE website toots the familiar horn of the rich non-profit educational organization stating that: “Since 1988, NCEE has been researching the world’s best performing education systems to unlock their secrets.” Nonsense, of course. What NCEE has actually been doing is making money.
In 2012 the total assets of NCEE were $93,708,833, with total liabilities of $1,572,013, and net assets of $92,136,820. This highly lucrative “non-profit” fiefdom receives substantial funding from a long list of “donors” including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Broad, Walton, and Walmart Foundations. NCEE has also received substantial funding from the US Federal Government.
The 2010 Federal tax return for the tax year ending June 30th 2011 shows that NCEE began the year with $20,533,440 in publicly traded securities and ended the year with $80,682,268 in publicly traded securities. These are critical numbers, given the “non-profit” status of NCEE, that are of direct significance to any interpretation of Tucker’s posturing on the issues raised by Cody and Ravitch. “Following the money” also provides essential information for teachers and for parents whose children are directly impacted by the NCEE lobby. Here’s a quote from the “non-profit’s” 2010 federal tax return:
NCEE was the majority shareholder of America’s Choice, Inc. (ACI), which was established in November 2004 as a taxable for-profit subsidiary of NCEE. NCEE reorganized its internal America’s Choice program as a separate subsidiary to attract the capital investment and management talent to expand the implementation of the America’s Choice comprehensive school design program and related offerings for struggling schools. 
In addition to his lucrative salary Tucker was awarded stock options in ACI. In the 2010 Federal tax return for NCEE it further states:
While any growth in the value of ACI would benefit these optionees, it was anticipated that such growth would also benefit NCEE’s charitable mission.
NCEE then sold off ACI to Pearson. Here’s what is written on the next page of the 2010 federal tax return:
The work of NCEE going forward will be funded in large part by the $65.9 million in proceeds that NCEE received as a result of the sale of ACI to Pearson.
The same 2010 Federal tax return for the tax year ending June 30th 2011 shows that Tucker received a total of $2,549,077 in compensation from NCEE and ACI – $2,055,465 from the sale of ACI to Pearson and $493,612 in compensation and benefits from NCEE. These figures, which are part of the public record, do not include any compensation Tucker might have received from for-profit companies with which he is affiliated.
To kick the hornet’s nest would take an investigation into the relationships between NCEE and the National Institute of School Leadership (NISL). Tucker is the Chairman of the Board of NISL, which is described as a “program” of NCEE. The IRS’s online checklist of tax exempt organizations, it states that NISL’s non-profit status was revoked by the IRS in 2010, the year NCEE sold ACI to Pearson, for failure to file the required tax returns for three consecutive years.
In his 2012 doctoral dissertation on NISL, John Perella writes:
NISL, like America’s Choice –another subsidiary of NCEE designed to engage educators in school reform – is a for-profit company. Both NCEE and NISL list 2000 Pennsylvania Ave NW suits 5300 as their mailing address. In an initial phone call to NCEE to better understand their relationship, I was informed that although NISL is for-profit, its holding company (NCEE) is non-profit. I also inquired to the Washington D.C. Attorney General’s Office and Better Business Bureau about NISL’s for-profit incorporated status. A representative from the D.C. Attorney General’s Office told me that there was no record of NISL and that I would need to find out what their “true corporate name” was in order to get business information on them.
The gross lack of transparency about the relationships between NCEE and NISL is included here to indicate the complexity of the interconnections between these money making ventures that are not easily available for scrutiny by the public, especially teachers and parents. In a similar way to banking, big money executives who profit from public education have an ethical responsibility to be transparent.
The real attention grabber here is that officers of NCEE and America’s Choice received lucrative remuneration to ameliorate the conditions in struggling schools at the expense of poor kids whose schools are still underfunded and often lack even the most basic materials and supplies that schools in affluent communities have in abundance.
In 2012 Tucker received $819,109 in total compensation from NCEE, but there is no credible scientific evidence that NCEE made any measurable difference in the education of children in public schools – a point we will come back to with a quote from Tucker to that effect.
For Tucker it’s all about the money, which is not so for most teachers. Like Cody, they do not teach kids to get lucrative jobs, but to be curious and imaginative, to pose problems as well as find ways to solve them. Tucker demonstrates that he knows little about the social genius of human learning in his train-children-for-the-workforce view of education, which he expounds in his 1992 “Dear Hillary Letter”, which was entered into the Congressional Record on September 25th 1998. In the letter Tucker presents his plan:“… to remold the entire American system” into “a seamless web that literally extends from cradle to grave and is the same system for everyone,” coordinated by “a system of labor market boards at the local, state and federal levels” where curriculum and “job matching” will be handled by counselors “accessing the integrated computer-based program”.
To meet today’s needs of US global corporations and the government’s national security (military)requirements, centralization of control of public education is considered essential. Tucker now includes central control in NCEE power point presentations. He advocates “aggressive international benchmarking” to satisfy policy makers; uses gendered language, “sexy programs to attract a handful of elite teachers”, that negatively positions teachers; supports the use of “social entrepreneurs to produce disruptive change”; and recommends that policy makers “create new Race to the Top for states that want to implement the agenda” “of high quality, low waste, skill in the worker”.
Since Tucker’s “Dear Hillary Letter”, there have been many big money groups, including ALEC and the Gates Foundation, working to ensure the centralization of the US public education system and similar goals, which has been achieved through the well-orchestrated, big money efforts to influence federal and state legislatures.
Local control has been eviscerated through the enactment of laws and policies that have ensconced the Common Core in the new business driven public education system, which is centrally controlled through mandatory, highly lucrative, commercial accountability systems, that drain the coffers of local communities and diverts funds from essential programs and services that are no longer available for children in public schools.
The new report on the American accountability system is just another example of big money writing private policy and sugar coating it to make it palatable. Zhao took the plan apart piece by piece, and Tucker might indeed counter Zhao’s arguments, but there is another problem, a little known fact, that cannot be explained away, not by the educational non-profits serving the needs of the big money backers who make public policy, or by the federal government that benefits.
The basic research on which the economic system of public education was founded has no scientific legitimacy. This is not unsupported opinion; it is fact.
At the beginning of the 1990’s, a well-orchestrated effort in state-corporate cooperation was initiated to disenfranchise the growing influence of teachers at the local level across the US, who were creating and using developmentally appropriate teaching-learning materials and activities in public schools that limited the influence of corporate curriculum producers. 
School districts were spending money on real books instead of artificial, commercially produced programs, and there was concern about the growing rejection of commercial text-book producers, including McGraw-Hill, in the five big adoption states – Texas, California, Michigan, Florida, and New York.
Billions in revenues and profits were at stake. Profits dropped. Not a whole lot, but even a slight dip could be counted in the hundreds of millions. Worse, the growing teacher-led democratic movement was taking hold, causing concern about displacement of the powerful elites in government and big business. From studying the teacher movements of that time, I can write that teachers really believed that through the ways in which they were teaching children in school, society could become more equitable.
The business community of the corporate world needed a strategy that did not seem political. Big money and political power had to be protected. It was in this context that the “Reading Wars” were invented through a massive PR propaganda campaign and the well-orchestrated efforts of the media. What is long forgotten or perhaps never known is that, with the support of the Texas Business Round Table, the “Houston Reading Studies” became a key component of the strategy.
George W. Bush was Governor of Texas at the time of the Houston Reading Studies and public education was central to his political campaign, so the outcome of the studies could not be left to chance. This is not uniformed political speculation. I spent more than a year documenting the Houston Reading Studies at the time that they were taking place. This research was ethnographic with: (1) information directly received about the study from teachers who were required to participate; and (2) copies of original documentation from the study during the analysis stage of the research. The data that I analyzed was the focus of the book: Beginning to Read and the Spin Doctors of Science.
The sources were not revealed. But I can write that they were teachers of great intellectual stature and courage who have passed the baton to today’s teachers, who can be more open in their dissent because of the sheer number of teachers who are resisting the centralization of public education that is deleterious to children and US society.
Many current parents and teachers would have been children when McGraw Hill funded the Houston Reading Studies that were conducted under the auspices of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). It is highly likely that some of today’s parents were taught to read based on the fudged outcomes of those studies, just as their children are now. The Common Core and the testing regimes in place today are the lasting legacy of these discredited studies.
The Houston Reading Studies were designed from the outset to ”prove” that children taught to read by McGraw Hill’s Open Court/Direct Instruction were significantly more successful than children who learned to read through a Whole Language approach. The evidence is compelling that the studies were not only invalid, but that the outcomes deliberately “orchestrated”.
The studies violated the conditions for scientific research commonly held in both the social and physical sciences, and across both quantitative and qualitative research paradigms. Ultimately, what many reading researchers knew then, and what has been borne out by subsequent events, is that the Houston Reading Studies were nothing more than an attention getting sideshow to distract the public from the real agenda of the Federal Government and Corporate America, which was to take away local control of US public school from cities and towns, from neighborhoods and communities, and most importantly, from teachers and parents.
The studies served their purpose. Then Texas Governor George W. Bush was elected the “education president”, and Harold McGraw, a longtime friend of the Bush family, saw a significant increase in revenues and profits for McGraw Hill’s Open Court. It was, however, a sad day for the nation’s children. The lasting impact on their lives has been and continues to be devastating.
The effects were systemic. In the late 1970’s and 1980’s the gap between rich and poor was closing; similarly the gap between different ethnic groups in school achievement was perceptibly a little less. Much of the educational research at that time focused on developing greater understanding of the social contexts in which young children learn to read and write and in narrowing the disparities in educational opportunities for rich and poor, back and white, and being sensitive to the needs of other “minority” groups.,
Teachers were focused on closing the gap, but the response was that you could have too much democracy. In 1998 the Republican controlled US Congress used the Houston Reading Studies as a basis for the Reading Excellence Act, which was the precursor to the 2002 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. It was a critical blow to teachers whose pedagogical practices were developmentally appropriate, and who were part of the late 20th century civil rights movement for children. The NCLB Act that put an end to the movement and left the survivors staggering.
“In January 2002, President George W. Bush signed the No Child Let Behind Act (NCLB; PL 107-110) instituting a major federal encroachment on public education in the United States,” Robert Calfee writes, in an article with the subtitle, “How the Federal Government Used Science to Take Over Public Schools”.
“The focus is on literacy,” Calfee, a Reading Hall of Fame scholar, writes, “but the implications are far reaching, and go to the core of the intersections of science and politics, of knowledge and power, and of the balance between federal and local control, as these affect the education of young children.”
In recent years the discourse of power in public education has built many arguments that are harmful to the health and well-being of children, as well as damaging to their academic development, that can be traced back to the falsified “scientific evidence” of the Houston Reading Studies.
A media blitz of distortions and lies lauding the use of direct instruction and commercial reading programs followed that denigrated teachers and the socially sensitive, developmentally appropriate pedagogical practices that they struggled to maintain in in their classroom even when they were under attack.
For the most part the verbiage was political PR pulp, which was spoon-fed by the corporate media to the public at the breakfast and dinner table. The original research that was fudged is now long forgotten, and the “findings” became the unquestionable truth of the George W. Bush presidential campaign and his later presidency, with other views by teachers denigrated as some sort of mass social dementia. Their knowledge of child development and how children learn language, about language, and through language was denied and the teacher-initiated movement to make schools more equitable was crushed.
Today, few people know this dystopian story of how the research or the findings, which supported the use of high-end, big budget, commercial reading programs in public schools. However, the research is systematically documented and analyzed in data driven research that is available in some of the resources referenced below.
All of this I brought to my reading of Tucker’s response to Cody and Ravitch, and it is with old eyes that I see the cleverness of the discourse, the authoritative name dropping, the now politically correct criticism of NCLB, while at the same time maintaining the school-work labor system that NCLB was used to inculcate into US society, all with the express purpose of protecting the highly lucrative education policies of social control that privilege the rich and perpetuate inequality.
To make his arguments stick, Tucker would have to respond not only to Chomsky’s “masters of mankind” arguments, but also to Dwight D. Eisenhower’s analysis of the misuse of political power.
Both in his writings and much-videoed presentations, Chomsky provides a systematic analysis of the political structures that result in the distorted educational policies that currently frame the US public education system. While Eisenhower, on the day he left office as the President of the United States, warned of the military–industrial–congressional complex. Here is Eisenhower’s essential message for all big-money “non-profit” educational groups, including the one Tucker heads:
Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties. …
But each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs — balance between the private and the public economy, balance between cost and hoped for advantage — balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable; balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual; balance between actions of the moment and the national welfare of the future. Good judgment seeks balance and progress; lack of it eventually finds imbalance and frustration. …
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.
Eisenhower’s speech makes it patently evident that the inclusion here of the financial status of Tucker and NCEE is not gratuitous. When big money shapes national policy, especially the policies that govern the education of America’s children, the nation is out of balance. With the ignominious consent of the US Congress, local school systems have been overwhelmed by the use of big money and the political clout of oligarchs, corporations and the media – Gates, Pearson, and Murdoch – to counter local initiatives to regain lost ground by producing so many state-corporate policies and mandates on so many platforms that local school systems – administrators and teachers – spend all their time responding to the insanity of the requirements that are expected of them.
Read the entire article here.
It is important to know the history of the architects supplying the blueprint for the Federal Government to control education. We can see it by adopting/implementing the Common Core States Initiative and the creation of unvalidated tests designed for students to fail so schools must close as being ineffective. Then private companies can step in, sans school boards, and create the educational blueprint that the private companies deem appropriate, and all the while, your tax money is funding such a plan. As Taylor writes When big money shapes national policy, especially the policies that govern the education of America’s children, the nation is out of balance.