education reformers
The closed fraternity of education reformers


Andrew Ferguson writes in The Weekly Standard about the history and players in the education reform movement and how the movers and shakers are in a special fraternity.  Members can kvetch and make plans to spend government money for those privately controlled blueprints and those outside the fraternity are blackballed from any decision making and marginalized as they are not part of the group.  Don’t waste your time pining away for a bid from the reformers.  From The Common Core Commotion:

At least since the heady days of “A Nation at Risk,” the world of education reform has been a cozy fraternity. Foundation directors sit on one another’s boards, think tankers beehive with other think tankers in the lounges of convention hotels, academics peer-review the work of academics who will soon peer-review their reviewers’ work. One foundation will give a grant to another foundation to study the work of the first foundation. In the last decade the fraternity has increasingly become a creature of the fabulously wealthy Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates has spent more than a billion dollars studying primary and secondary education. Few institutions dedicated to education reform have escaped Gates funding. Recipients range from trade groups like the American Federation of Teachers (more than $10 million since 2010) and Council of Chief State School Officers (nearly $5 million last year alone) to think tanks of the left (Center for American Progress) and the right (Thomas B. Fordham Institute).

The Gates Foundation has tunneled into the federal bureaucracy, too, at levels low and high. Several Gates officials and recipients worked in the Education Department under the second Bush, back when NCLB was the thing. Now, under President Obama, they are clustered at the top. Lyndsey Layton of the Washington Post, one of the few beat reporters who brings a gimlet eye to the work of educationists, points out that Obama’s secretary of education, Arne Duncan, oversaw a $20 million Gates grant when he was CEO of Chicago Public Schools. Duncan’s chief of staff is a Gates protégé, as are the officials who designed the administration’s “Race to the Top” funding initiative in 2009. As we’ll see, the initiative was indispensable to enlisting states into Common Core.

The pledges to this ed reform fraternity are the teachers and CCSS suppliers who want to be part of this transformation that will allow them to keep their jobs and make money from the mandated infrastructure (computers, broadband, assessments, etc).  They are doing their best to marginalize those (the parents) who have no chance to enter into the inner sanctum of educational reform decision making.  Follow discussions on Twitter or read the latest from the proponents, and the argument against those opposing CCSS is that ‘you are only a parent and we know what’s best’.  From Common Core Dissent: You Have No Right to Disagree if You Aren’t an ‘Expert’:

elitist argument

In his article, Ferguson writes about

  • The vision of Bill Gates and accountability measures for teachers
  • The birth of Common Core via the marriage of Gates funded Chief Council of State School Officers which gave rise to a ‘New Educational Order’
  • The funding from the Department of Education makes it difficult to deny federal involvement
  • The gobbledegook of the standards as to the content, appropriateness and implementation:

what's wrong with the standards

  • Inferior teaching in the teaching colleges and the ramifications of poorly trained teachers
  • Verbal inflation of the standards to make them sound more lofty than they are
  • The rise of the right against the standards and the attempts by the right to classify poor curriculum to the standards
  • The misleading statements of the standards by the Administration
  • The acceptance of CCSS by many on the left and the eroding support
  • And finally, when CCSSI crashes and burns, the new cycle of education reform will begin once again with the same players:

andrew ferguson ccss

And guess who is not mentioned again in the future educational plans?  The taxpayers.  You know, the ones who provide their children and are obligated to pay for whatever education reform du jour is being served.  Maybe what should happen in the future is to restore local control of education to the communities and dismantle the educational reform fraternity once and for all.  The Fordham’s Institute video of What Does Gadfly Say illustrates this closed fraternity system quite well.  If you don’t know the educational players/reformers by only their first names, you might be a bit lost.  Remember, you are not part of the fraternity. From Common Common Common Core: I’m More Interested in Knowing “What Do Parents Say”:



(Peter Greene writes about this video)

Final effect? People making wacky shenanigans out of policy ideas that are being used to destroy public education? It’s a hard thing to parse– how would “Springtime for Hitler” have come across if it had been staged by the Nazis themselves? I am not meaning to suggest that Fordham = Nazis, but I do wonder what we’re to make of people making themselves look more ridiculous that we could make them look on purpose.

It is part of the tone deafness problem. I want to shake them and say, “Did you not see this? Do you not know how you look, both awkward and opposite-of-cool, while making jokes about policies being used to destroy peoples’ careers?” Somehow while shooting for cool and relaxed and with it, they’ve hit uncool and callous, thereby suggesting that they are imbued with so much hubris and arrogance that they either can’t see or don’t care (because only unimportant people will be bothered, and they don’t matter). Perhaps Petrilli and his well-smooched tuchus have been insulated from honest opinions from so long that he just doesn’t know. This is the education industry equivalent of those bankers’ videos of obscenely wealthy parties, the Christmas cards from wealthy apartments, the total lack of understanding of what things are like out there on the street, because the street is just for the commoners who don’t matter.

It’s an oddly fascinating train wreck. Is it awesomely funny because it’s so awful, or is it too awful to be funny? Whatever the case, it gives a strong 2:20 feel for what sort of attitude permeates Fordham, and it is just as bad as we ever imagined. Maybe worse.


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