Sunday, January 17, 2016

More Ed Reformers (Sigh)

But this time next year, we will have a new president and if it's not a Democrat, a Republican would probably flip the table on the Department of Education.  It would be hard to know how far-reaching a Republican president would go in revamping public education but you'd notice the change.  But Republicans love charters and vouchers and, naturally, the wealthy.

So in the Who's Who of billionaires who care and non-educators who think they know it all, let's add two more names. 

First up, Campbell Brown, fomer CNN anchor, who started an education group/site called The Seventy-Four (counting the 74 million U.S. children under 18.)  It is funded by "philanthropists" like Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Walton Foundation, and others of their ilk. From Huffington Post:
"We will fiercely challenge those forces within the education establishment who impede innovation in our schools and who protect and defend inequality and institutional failure,” she wrote. 
Obviously that would be as defined by her group as there is no person or group that would be defending inequality and institutional failure.

She clearly dislikes unions and, a couple of years back created the Parents' Transparency Project to examine how NYC handled teacher sexual misconduct.  Brown is married to Dan Senor who is on the board of StudentsFirstNy, a group that pushes for more charter schools.

Then there's Steve Jobs' widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, who has pledged $50M to XQ: The Super School Project to "rethink high school."  That website says that Ms. Jobs has been involved in education for two decades earning an MBA, working for Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs, opening a natural foods company, then being on the board of a company that creates online tools and "help students study and be more effective at standardized testing" and then founding College Track in East Palo Alto,CA which helps underprivileged students go to college.

Among the "deep collaborators" there are Yo Yo Ma and Geoffrey Canada (Harlem Children's Zone). From the NY Times:
With an advertising campaign that looks as if it came from Apple’s marketing department, the initiative is meant to create high schools with new approaches to education. In essence, Ms. Powell Jobs and her team of high-profile educators and designers hope they can crowd-source a solution to a problem that has flummoxed policy makers for decades.
That Super School website?  Hard to read and follow but apparently "judges" will review 10 ideas and pick five that will share the $50M by fall 2016.  Again, this is great but will it do better than the Gates Foundation?  And, if there is a good idea, is it scalable and/or affordable?  This is what happened with Gates pushed a "transformation" plan for all SPS schools only to see those schools unable to carry on with their plans after the money left.

And, in case you ever wondered about the sphere of the Gates Foundation, here's great chart to help you keep up (or make you dizzy, take your pick.)

At this point, I'm thinking you would need a deck of cards to remember all the big-name ed reformer heavy hitters.


Anonymous said...

I'd not seen Reed Hastings (Netflix) on the list before this article: http://www.salon.com/2016/01/17/netflix_founder_drops_100_milli_on_the_silicon_valley_led_crusade_to_destroy_our_public_schools_partner/



Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, he continues on as well and he dropped cash on Washington State's charter initiative.

n said...

It seems like the fashionable thing to do these days if you're rich. I wish they'd find another dalliance. Like the ivory trade, saving species, or housing for kids living in cars. But I guess those are so nineties.

dan dempsey said...

I wish the innovations pushed by the powerful would be carefully evaluated in extended field testing before being pushed on the rest of us.

1) How much is the actual cost when put into widespread practice?

2) Does it work?

a) Who does it work for and how do you know it?

b) How long a time period was the field testing run and in how many diverse locations?


So far most of the time the "research" shows exactly what the researcher wants it to show.

How about a pilot that examines the effect of lowering central administration salaries and reduces central administration control?

Give school buildings' staff much more autonomy and award bonuses to the entire population of a school's personnel if statistically significant growth occurs over a three year interval. (The bonuses can be funded out of savings from central administration costs.) .... Note this would be easy to pilot over a three year period ... unlike most of the Powerful's Programs .... but this "autonomy and bonus" plan would be simpler to implement and would not funnel money to new "vested interests" and technology manufactures. It would reduce centralized control.

-- Dan Dempsey

Stuart jenner said...

The XQ Superschool project is discussed in this article, as well as some others, in the Palo Alto Online website. http://www.paloaltoonline.com/print/story/2015/12/04/undisclosed-new-school-proposal-sparks-dissent

The story discusses how some parents are upset at the Palo Alto district superintendent helping his district to apply without notifying a lot of people, including the board, what the district was doing.

The point of posting here is: these outside sources of funding may be well intentioned, but they also create friction and concern about whether the funders are driving the strategic plan, or parents and taxpayers.

In this particular case, there are also some very controversial Stanford profs involved. Jo Boaler is not very well liked by people who do like traditional math. So when someone like her gets involved, I think parents also wonder what else is going on behind the scenes.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Stuart, and yes, I think parents do get to be notified that they are part of a grand experiment that may or may not have had input by the very district they entrust their child to.