Broad Wants to Know (And Maybe We Should Tell Them)

Apparently the Broad Foundation has a concern. They are hiring Public Agenda to do research to figure out the following:

"Understanding Community Opposition to Taking Bold Action on Failing Schools"

In communities across the country, leadership reform efforts face serious opposition when they aim to implement bold actions to turn around failing schools. Public Agenda, with the support of the Broad Foundation, is embarking on a research project to explore why so many of these well-intentioned efforts misfire. We hope to learn more about what could be done to improve communication and build more trust and confidence between school leaders committed to reform and communities afflicted with persistently low-performing schools.

Public Agenda is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that is widely respected for its public policy research. Part of the Broad Foundation’s mission is to transform K–12 urban public education through better governance, management, labor relations and competition.

As part of our research, Public Agenda is gathering insights from key thought leaders and those who have first-hand experience with reform efforts. We would like to include your unique perspective on the issue and use it to shed light on how school leaders nationwide – and the state and municipal leaders who support them – can better manage the community engagement aspects of school turnarounds initiatives

Your participation in the project would involve a phone interview of approximately 30 minutes during which a senior member of our research team so that we can gain a fuller picture of what happened that may have caused reform efforts to succeed or fail. The interview will not follow a structured questionnaire but will rather take the form of a conversation about this topic. It will not be used for any purpose other than the research described above, and we will not quote you by name or reveal your organization, institution, program or any other identifiable information in our report.

Your insights, along with those of others, will be collected in a major report aimed at stimulating dialogue among policymakers, media, thought leaders and the broader public. We believe that gathering the observations of experts and leaders such as you will enhance the country’s ability to develop a realistic and workable framework for accountability in all types of institutions.

If you have questions or would like more details about Public Agenda or the research plan, please contact me at 212.686.6610, extension 15 or

Thank you for taking the time to consider this opportunity. One of our researchers will be in touch with you shortly to set up an appointment.


Amber Ott

If you are interested in seeing some of our recent research, please visit our web site at:

So I would suggest everyone here e-mail Ms. Ott and ask her if you can be part of the research. It might be possible and it might get a more nuanced viewpoint out to the Broad Foundation.


seattle citizen said…
Melissa, an interesting suggestion: email Ms Ott at Public Agenda and ask to participate.

But...This isn't the sort of round table I had in mind recently when I exuberantly called for a discussion with all parties present. I suspect that any research I participated in with this group would end up as a bit of "data" in a Broad-sponsored FAQ sheet, you know, "17% of repondent 326 indicated he was against Broad, leaving a whopping 83% of him in support."

So I'm afraid I can't participate in this research: I have no confidence that it will result in fair and balanced data. It will result in a Broad "research" doc attached to the Our Schools Coalition "Research" page on THEIR website, along with their survey and their manipulated methodology.

Until Broad does something to earn my trust, I will not participate in their "research."
Sahila said…
Broad is concerned about mounting opposition, so its doing "research" to find out what messaging/verbiage will work better...

I dont believe its agenda has changed - its just facing more opposition than it bargained for and is trying to correct that...

This shows that the work being done by groups all over the country to stop deform is having an effect - which is really, really good...

We need to keep it up, increase it really....
seattle citizen said…
Yes, Sahila, you nailed it: Broad will ask respondents what they want in communication, etc, that will lead to them being more open to reform, then they will start messaging based on the responses...

Why would I want to help Broad reach more people?
push poll anyone? said…
It is creepy. Doing research on how to win over people to your message rather than doing research to see why people are against it and if their reasons have merit. Narcissistic?
Sahila said…
This is what Broad needs to know... and this is what I have been trying to say for 2 years now...

What Is Intelligence

Please take the time to watch this to the end... it is completely relevant...
Charlie Mas said…
For me, this is the telling part:

"Part of the Broad Foundation’s mission is to transform K–12 urban public education through better governance, management, labor relations and competition."

If I were to try to transform K-12 urban public education, I think I would try to change something that actually touches the students. I simply cannot imagine trying to do it through changes in the management. That's insane.
wseadawg said…
We know we're right! We're just having trouble communicating with these (stupid) people opposing us.

Gee. Sound familiar?

Might as well call it the "How to Avoid another 17%-Gate" project.
wseadawg said…
Sooner or later Broad will hire Frank Lutz (& his Emotional Response meters) to figure out the right buzzwords for him.
Sarah said…
I will not be a part of this research study. I agree, Broad's intent is to change messaging.

If I were to participate, here is what I'd say:

1. I've seen your broad trained superintendent in action. She is incompetent, misleading and untruthful.

2. I've seen your Broad Board of Director in action. I am unimpressed. Maria Goodloe Johnson is damaging and incompetent.
owlhouse said…
Melissa-- how did this message come to you? Did Ms. Ott send it to blog admin folks?

And- what the heck is a "thought leader"? Is that a commonly used phrase, and I'm just unaware of it?
Anonymous said…
Show me a Public Agenda flow chart thingy like Dora did, only I want a different level of detail:

- the total money paid in salary & benefits & anything and everything for EACH human getting money from Public Agenda.

- I also want to see how much money & benefits & perks EACH human gets from all other organizations, public and private.

THE PROBLEM for the Broad / Gates / Walton crowd is the 990 to the IRS - and I am sure they are working out ways to hide their high level dining at the trough.

Imagine if the NEA, AFT & State chapters weren't so pathetic on organizing, tactics, strategy and messaging - we would ALL know how many people are living large outta the KIPP / TFA "not for profit" honey pots -

WOW! Imagine that - we probably wouldn't have a Democratic Party rewarding the powerful criminals and thieves who wrecked the economy with Raygun-Cheney-Bush Tax Cuts & "Get Out Of Jail Free" cards!

Anyone want to bet that "Public Agenda" will NOT figure out how to repackage the privatization of public money for the affluent who've been duped and for the next generation of Blackwell crooks ????????

Dorothy Neville said…
Actually, I got a copy of Ms Ott's request and forwarded it to Melissa. I tried to ensure it was legit, but am not 100% that it is. But it seems like it it likely to be. It does read somewhat similarly to items on the Public Agenda website. But who knows, perhaps I stumbled upon an internet urban legend.

I found the Public Agenda website interesting. Look at the studies they have done about education. Glancing through the executive summaries, they seem legit and critical of some of the ed-deform work. Points out that all the new ed reform policy is being done without any teacher input or alignment. Compares new teacher attitudes based on path to certification.
I was kidding about everyone calling them. I might e-mail just to see what she says. I just wanted to put this out there as a "can you believe this?" item.
Zebra (or Zulu) said…
I signed up to be interviewed. This is an excellent opportunity to learn about Broad methodology first-hand. Nothing we say will change their agenda - on the other hand recall that great line by George C Scott in the film Patton when he first meets Rommel in a tank battle - "Rommel, I read your book!" Patton was aware of his enemy's every move.
seattle citizen said…
@drooler - Yes, a flow chart on salaries paid to "reform" organizers and participants - and their coalitions, funders, affiliated companies (NWEA, Microsoft, Scholastic...) would be handy indeed. And their various tax reporting forms....And other investments (building ownership, building leasing, hedge funds...)

And write-offs the foundations and other wealthy entities get for donating money to The Reform Cause.

And write-offs everyone gets for parties, travel, in-room jacuzzi, room service, limo, bowls of M+Ms with all the red ones removed, and all the other sorts of schmoozing personalities and those that want to be personalities simply must endulge themselves in.

(hmmm...the cynic in me asks what some...even me...get in assuaging a guilty conscious: By what amount have we reduced our debt, what payment is made that takes some little off what we owe the poor - for their resources, for their labor, for their putting up with our consumerist toxins in their water and on their land. Might those with more give more in hopes of paying off this enormous debt? What is that worth to ease the mind of a corporate benefactor. Or ease MY mind? Aside from tax write-offs, what "footprint" debt-reduction benefits accrue to the Reformers (and to those that merely reform)?
owlhouse said…
I am genuinely curious- don't know anything about Public Agenda. I was wondering what their outreach looked like, if they were actively inviting legit grass roots folks to the table. How are they finding the "public" and what will their sample size/demographic be?

I've been waiting for Broad et al to revamp their message. I think we're seeing a version of that w/ Rhee now. Charlie hit on the common theme, the lack of understanding and investing in actual practices and structures that support students here and now. Broad is looking at management, Rhee has realized the classroom is too cumbersome- what with all the students, staff and families- and has moved to influencing policy.

Glad to know there are many of us here- watching, investigating and sharing news of ed reform 2.0

WV says it's all been hyped.
Jon Rochkind said…
Hi, my name is Jon Rochkind, I am the research director at Public Agenda. We sent these letters out to different people because of a research study we are conducting about what has happened-- and what people think should happen-- to schools that are considered to be "failing."

Public Agenda is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and engagement organization. While we receive grants from funders (such as the Broad Foundation in this instance) we do independent work and no foundation has any say over what we report in our findings.

We do want to hear views from everyone who is interested in discussing this issue. Please feel free to e-mail me at and we can set up a time to talk. I am also happy to answer any questions you have.

Jon Rochkind
seattle citizen said…
I've heard of Public Agenda, and upon hearing about this Broad-initiated study by your research organization, I did a quick review of some of the other projects reported on your website, and my jury is out: I'll have to do some more research myself, see what it is your studying and how, before I come to any conclusions.

The subject, of course, public education, is fraught with conflict. All parties engage in hyperbole and distortion, to one degree or another. I've learned (or am learning) to watch for biases, those of others and my own.

As a relatively powerless stakeholder, the most I can, in the gradn scheme of things, is stay educated about this important public institution, education, and try to lend a voice to the conversation.

The conversation Broad has wanted so far seem not to involve me. I have seen enormous ad campaigns (Superman-NBC-et al) funded by millions of dollars of their money (or other foundations money) aimed at skewering public educators. Here in Seattle, a Broad district, we recently saw citizenry subjected to a shoddy research piece (push-poll questions, manipulated methodology report...) the soul aim of which became apparent upon publication right before contract negotiations: Teachers Are Not Quality, we were told.

The Reform movement, as typified by Broad, has been active in painting public educators as a) archaic; b)overpaid (or not merit paid, the business model); c)not "quality" (a term defined, exclusively, by very limited high-stakes tests)

The Broad "communication," so far, has NOT been with educators at all, or at least not with the experienced ones. Broad has talked to many other like-minded (education=business0 Reformers. It has supported and talked to a new cohort of young (and malleable) educators via Teach For America and other edu-factory "teacher-training" models.

But it has not talked with eductors who have been in classrooms 25 years, have adapted and changed, and...reformed their practices, and have much to tell.

It has not talked to the wide range of other stakeholders, except for those that can be won over the business model: The poor. For these are desperate for any chance to climb out of poverty, and in a capital economy, cash talks and bullshit walks. Power politics, coalition manipulation, everyone angling for a piece of the pie - THAT is who Broad has talked to, lately: Those with little cash, those with little time on their hands, or energy, to see their kids through or stay educated about all the district goings-on...and those who vote in block, those who speak with united voices in the media as power coalitions.

I'll be ready for conversation with Broad when they're ready to meet at Seattle's Town Hall performance center and have a good ol' debate, all comers. These little one-sided "panels" we've seen around here (more Broad-Reform-Whole-Schools-Are-Failing prattle) wear thin and we're done with that.
chunga said…

I'm not sure the integrity of Public Agenda matters regarding the concerned expressed here. This research is being done on behalf of Broad. It is their motives with this research that are suspect.

Even the framing of the question seems geared for Broad to figure out how better to sell their crap - that is, it sounds more like market research, than educational research. To me, this further erodes trust in Broad.
Joan NE said…

If the purpose of the research were find out what supports the public would like struggling schools to get from their districts, so that the schools would avoid "failure" and restructuring altogether, then I for one would be very interested to participate in this research.

If Ed Reformers genuinely cared about the plight of low income and minority students, and making public education better serve these children, they would be looking for genuine best practices in education.

It is very clear to me that Ed Reformers are NOT interested in genuine best practices in education.

It is clear to me that the Ed Reform movement is corrupt. At its root, this agenda serves the best interests of greedy, capitalist business, rather than children.

The purpose of your research is to find out how the Ed Reformers can frame their message so that their corrupt priorities are more palatable to common folk.

"Improved" propoganda won't change my mind.
I had gone back to look at the LEV statement on Michelle Rhee's visit and yes, Seattle Citizen was right. There were a couple of SPS staff there. Do I think it was a good use of their time in the middle of school day to go spend 15 minutes with Rhee? Nope but that's just me.

No, the head of LEV mentioned an interesting statement by Rhee:

"Part of her theory of change is something I bought into a long time ago; if you can’t change their minds, you’re going to have to change their faces."

And then a statement by the head of LEV:
"Policy by definition requires politics, buckaroos. The sooner we accept that long-known fact, the faster we get on to the business of real change."

Change their faces. Who would that be? The parents, the teachers, the principals? And if ed reform COULD change the principals and teachers they perceive as bad, would there be enough people qualified who would be good? Or would it be legions of well-meaning people who put one toe in the education pool to test the waters and we have an never ending cycle of "teachers" who come and go?

And how do you change the faces of parents? Or are they not to be included in discussions of ed reform?

Policy is politics. Well at least she's honest because that is now becoming the bottom line, isn't it?

Control the message at the elected level. TFA wants to send out an army of ex-TFA clones to work in all levels of government who hone to their message of how things should be. TFA wants to change the NCLB definition of "highly qualified". Why would they even mess with that when they KNOW they can't say their teachers are highly qualified?
seattle citizen said…
Melissa wrote "...the head of LEV mentioned an interesting statement by Rhee:
'Part of her theory of change is something I bought into a long time ago; if you can’t change their minds, you’re going to have to change their faces.'
And then a statement by the head of LEV:
'Policy by definition requires politics, buckaroos. The sooner we accept that long-known fact, the faster we get on to the business of real change.'

Change their faces. Who would that be? The parents, the teachers, the principals?"

Maybe change the faces of the students, Melissa? If you can't change their minds (manipulate them to and with high-stakes tests) then perhaps the students' faces should be changed - Get rid of the students whose mind's haven't been "changed" enough to score high on this week's test, get rid of whole classes, get rid of special ed students, get rid of individuals and outliers until the only faces a teacher sees before them are eager drones, eager to learn to the test. Change the faces of students who don't fit the model, or who are too much bother to address individually.
wseadawg said…
Pretty clear to me what it means: If they don't agree with your agenda (right or wrong), fire them.

Michelle Rhee simply lacks the intellectual capacity to understand that teachers, as a lot, are not as simple as she. This is why she fails, repeatedly, wherever she goes and at whatever she does.

Who needs this money-grubbing flunky in Seattle? Honestly.

The best way for her to "stand up for kids" is to stay as far away from their schools as possible. She is toxic.
gavroche said…
fwiw, the first funder listed on Public Agenda's site is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Anonymous said…
Some thoughts for those of you thinking about partaking in this study:

I suggest not having individual conversations. This is the easiest way to provide "data" that can be misinterpreted, poorly correlated, improperly analyzed and reported out, etc.

So what to do? One thought: conference your calls together with 2 or 3 known parties (i.e., like members of this forum) when you talk. And record your calls. There's nothing illegal about recording calls as long as all parties are informed. And it would be easier to determine if/how the conversation was heavily manipulated. It would also be very telling if they refused to allow the conversations to be recorded.

But better yet, why not have a public conversation here on the blog with Jon or another member of Public Agenda. Public conversations about public policy are MUCH better than private ones, which can easily be twisted to an agenda.

Let Jon (or whoever) set the agenda, name the main post, and along with Melissa and Charlie, have some leeway in directing the conversation. If they are truly interested in gathering this data, this is a great way to do it in "broad daylight". Uh, that's broad, not Broad. ;-)

The problem, of course, is keeping people civil and on-topic. The fact that these people have lots of money, and are willing to spend it toward what they see as helpful projects to help education does NOT make them evil. If these same people spent their money on specific things in the district that you personally identify with, then would you consider them "saviors"?

If people come in and start bashing away, the entire effort will be wasted, on all sides. Everyone here knows who I'm talking about, and it's more than just 2 or 3 contributors. I think this might be one time where editorial action (i.e. deletion) of derogatory or unhelpful comments might actually be warranted.

Let's try to think of how this effort by Public Agenda to reach out can be used to benefit everyone, rather than just the insiders.
Anonymous said…
(Hope I'm not too late on this, was offline for a couple days. It's a busy season!)
Sahila said…

love the fact you're trying to be a gatekeeper... "lets keep all those nasty little dissidents away, with their lack of respect and their hardline views"....

Who made you God?
Maureen said…
Maybe the thing to do is to try to set up multiple threads (or have other discussions at the Seattle Ed 2010 blog or Sahila's own blog), with the idea that people with particular baseline views of Ed Reform could participate together. That way the separate discussions could target the particular issues those subgroups share at a higher level and Seattle stakeholders wouldn't spend so much time addressing each other. I'm afraid that if we try to have one big online discussion, the internal contradictions will cancel each other out, the level of the conversation will fall and the conclusion will be that there is nothing we can agree on. (Which may be true in the end-but I expect there are many diverse opinions out there if we take the time to listen.)

I wonder if Public Agenda is making any attempt to evaluate how well informed their participants are? This sort of topic can easily devolve into dogma if people aren't up to date.
seattle citizen said…
"If people come in and start bashing away, the entire effort will be wasted, on all sides. Everyone here knows who I'm talking about, and it's more than just 2 or 3 contributors."

Ooh, ooh, did I make the list? Did I make the list? I love making lists.

seriously, tho', I can moderate with the best of 'em. Sometimes. Usually., at least six times I've moderated myself. Who knows, this might be lucky seven!
seattle citizen said…
That said, I'd welcome a thread that starts by inviting someone from Public Agenda to come chat. I WILL try to muzzle myself.
none1111 said…
love the fact you're trying to be a gatekeeper... Who made you God?

What a bizarre conclusion. How could one possibly infer I want anything to do with that role?! That's the role of the moderators. I'm merely a peon here like most of us.

But wow, try to suggest an idea to keep the reformists from astro-turfing again, and oddly enough, insults fly in from your own sideline. I guess the adage "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" does not always hold true. :-(

Maureen said: I'm afraid that if we try to have one big online discussion, the internal contradictions will cancel each other out, the level of the conversation will fall and the conclusion will be that there is nothing we can agree on.

Yes, the more I think about it, the more I think you're right.

I was thinking that keeping the discussions in the daylight would be beneficial to the public. But I can see the potential for serious problems, not to mention inefficiencies.

If Public Agenda has a good, meaningful conversation with Melissa I guess that's good enough for me. Kudos if they reach out to Dora, Sue, Dorothy as well, but as a national organization I have no idea how deeply they're going to be digging into individual cities.
Sahila said…
@ none111... I apologise for jumping to conclusions... I read your post as wanting to keep some of us who have been quite vocal about our anti-Broad/Gates opinions out of the discussion, seeing we have been painted by some to be rude, aggressive, paranoid, overbearing, dominating etc, etc, etc....

Your post did not make it clear you were referring to deformers...

Again, apologies for making the assumption and for the response...
seattle citizen said…
Sahila, I don't think none1111 was referring specifically to Reform-a-thoners when none asked that moderation be done. I don't know what I think about the request for more moderation on such a PublicAgenda thread, I think I'm ag-in it, but I should probably be put on the list, along with some Refomulators, of commenters who are occassionally knee-jerk spouters and who should be reminded occasionally to try to be a little less spouty. Spoutiness, for whatever its merits, might just drive people away from the conversation. I would hope that everyone could hang in with spouting, because a blog is notoriously off-the-cuff, spontaneous, and actually supports vehemence, inanity, and gibberish along with the pearls of wisdom that might fall out of one's mouth.

So I guess I'm against strict moderation on any blog, but also for modereation of my own voice. Garry Trudeau, decades ago, did a series of Doonsebury about "Reagan's Brain." In it, a reporter wandered around RR's head, pointing out various quirks and anonomlies of the Pres's thinking. In one strip, he notes that while most of us have a check box through which we process ideas before speaking them, Reagan was lacking this internal censor, resulting in such gems as "trees pollute."

I aspire to be less like Reagan in this regard, and more like Alistair Cooke: "While the prediliction towards destiny that Reformers feel is admirable and contributes to the American character, their well-meaning efforts are naught when compared to the graceful fluidity of the alternative praxis."

Word Verifier has typsis. Call the doctor.
seattle citizen said…
Ooh, ooh, I have an idea: Can we have a thread with Public Agenda in which everyone has to use a literary voice? Each of us selects a writer or performer, such as Tom Wolfe, Shawn Wong, or Tina Fey, and every comment has to be made in the voice of that writer (or their predominant, publicly-associated voice).

This would force us all to use that little checkbox when voicing our ideas? Maybe it would take the sting out?
Sahila said…
@SC,,, I love Alistair Cooke... so sad he is no longer around to pass on his observations...

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