Eli Broad is trying to push through another superintendent candidate for Seattle Public Schools, Andre Spencer



Many of us painfully recall our last Broad Superintendent, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson and the chaos she wrought through school closings, successful programs being decimated, an increase in bureaucracy, nonsensical rifing of teachers and a regime of fear.

This kind of disruption has been felt by other districts who hired superintendents trained by the billionaire Eli Broad who thinks all schools should be privatized.

At least once or twice a month, people contact me after finding the article Sue Peters wrote on the Broad Foundation, How to tell if your school district is infected with the Broad virus. These parents feel as we did, lost, not understanding what was going on or why and not knowing what to do.

The reason this blog was created is because several of us, as parents and teachers, didn’t understand why our superintendent was closing schools when we knew Seattle was growing and couldn’t understand why she was moving school programs around and rifing teachers on a whim. Someone floated the name “Broad” which we then connected to charter schools and all became clear. We began to see the connections between Broad and Bill Gates along his faux roots groups and the push for privatization. Once we began to accumulate information, it became too unwieldy to file online so I decided to post the information in the form of a blog and the rest, as they say, is history. The one good thing that came out of Goodloe-Johnson’s reign was that we formed a tight knit community of parents, teachers and concerned citizens who became the watchers on the wall and we are blowing the horn once again.

Broad claims it engages in “venture philanthropy”:

“Our Approach to Investing: Venture Philanthropy. We take an untraditional approach to giving. We don’t simply write checks to charities. Instead we practice ‘venture philanthropy.’ And we expect a return on our investment.”

-Eli Broad

The Broad agenda is to close schools and successful programs and bring in charter schools to replace them as happened in New Orleans after Katrina, in Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago and Los Angeles where Eli Broad lives. Broad has proclaimed that all schools in Los Angeles should be charter schools

Sand Point: $7M

Viewlands: $11M

Old Hay: $7.5M

Mc Donald: $14.9M

Rainier View: $7.4M

Total so far: $47.8M

Goodloe-Johnson closed 9 schools and programs with a reshuffling of teachers and students to save $5M just for them to be reopened the next year due to overcrowding of classes at the cost of $47.8M. She also closed the African American Academy and Summit, both alternative schools that served the community well.

In the end, Goodloe-Johnson was let go along with her CFO under a cloud of allegations of fraud. 

Let’s make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Contact your school board members and let them know what you think. The vote is this Wednesday.

Seattle School Board Directors


For additional information on the Broad Foundation and Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, see:

A Parent Guide to the Broad Foundation’s training programs and education policies

The Battle for Seattle, Part 1

The Battle for Seattle, Part 2: Hijacked!

The Broad Foundation in Seattle






Seattle School District Used False Data To Show College Readiness











Who Is Victimizing Chicago’s Kids?

What’s wrong with CPS’s Renaissance 2010??

From Accountability to Privatization and African American Exclusion: Chicago’s “Renaissance 2010”

Got Dough? Public School Reform in the Age of Venture Philanthropy

-Dora Taylor







Learning from Past Mistakes: Seattle Public School’s Greatest Superintendent Misses, Part 2: Maria Goodloe-Johnson

Editor’s note: As Seattle Public Schools starts to narrow the field of potential superintendents it’s important to learn from past mistakes. Example two: Broad Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson. -Carolyn Leith


Repost from 


For the Record…

It looks like the Broad Foundation is actively trying to whitewash the history of their Superintendent Academy graduate, Maria Goodloe-Johnson, who was fired by the Seattle School Board earlier this month along with her handpicked CFO, Don Kennedy, for her failure to address a rampant case of fraud happening within the district’s central office.

The District Administration magazine web site has just published a defense of Goodloe-Johnson written by Tom Payzant (dutifully echoed by the Seattle Times’ Lynn Varner).  Though he fails to mention it, Payzant is directly connected to the Broad Foundation which trained Goodloe Johnson – in fact, Payzant is the “Superintendent in Residence at the Broad Superintendents Academy.” He also made a trip to Seattle in 2009 to oversee Goodloe-Johnson’s job performance review. (Why the Seattle school district itself couldn’t review its own employee, but instead  allowed this obvious biased assessment is baffling.)

Maybe the Broad Foundation is trying to salvage its investment. After all, it got one of  its trainees placed as school superintendent in Seattle, which does not have a faltering school system (Broad’s usual target), but is the backyard of fellow corporate ed reformer Bill Gates. Perhaps Broad thought Goodloe-Johnson would be part of  a one-two punch in a Broad-Gates conquest of Seattle’s public schools. Broad is apparently reluctant to erase Seattle from its national map of “Fellows.”

As parents over at the Seattle Schools Community Blog (“Revisionist History at Work”) are noting, Payzant’s command of the facts is deeply lacking. In fact, his little account of Goodloe-Johnson’s abbreviated Seattle tenure is full of lies.

One parent apparently asked him to provide the data to back up the outrageous claims he is making about Goodloe-Johnson’s alleged success rate in SPS. Because, those of us who are actually in Seattle have seen nothing but churn, cuts, hypocrisy and scandal from Payzant’s trainee, Goodloe-Johnson. Payzant claims his info came from the Broad Foundation itself (that closed-circuit again) which keeps track of how its superintendents perform. Isn’t it funny how none of us in Seattle with kids in the schools know about these great results Broad claims their superintendent had here?  What we do know, however, is how unreliable Broad Foundation staff data is.

Goodloe-Johnson herself has also been doing her part, from afar (she went to South Carolina before the scandal broke a month ago and has never returned), belatedly phoning in interviews, a late, tepid apologyand her own spin on what went on in the Pottergate scandal.

She claims no guilt in the matter and unblinkingly claimed all $264,000 plus benefits of her severance package, knowing full well that meanwhile the district is cutting counselors and overcrowding schools because of a financial crisis here. “I have a contract,” she blandly told King-5 TV in an interview. This may be true, but she also had a responsibility to our district to deliver ethical and constructive leadership in exchange for that salary. And to stick around during one of the biggest crises the district has faced in years.

Like Payzant, Goodloe-Johnson also has an uncanny flair for fiction. One need only look to the “Seattle Speaks”education  forum from last month (which Goodloe-Johnson ducked out of at the last minute) to see that her expensive and disruptive “Strategic Plan” has been widely deemed a failure. Even former School Board President Michael DeBell admitted that the results were not there.

Though here at Seattle Ed 2010 we’ve compiled various laundry lists of Goodloe-Johnson’s dubious achievements in Seattle before, in light of Mr. Payzant’s misleading rewrite of our local history, and Dr. Goodloe-Johnson’s own hazy recollection of the facts, here’s one more list, for the record.

Highlights from Goodloe-Johnson’s Failed and Abbreviated tenure as Seattle’s School Superintendent

Damning state audit. On Goodloe-Johnson’s watch, the Seattle School District was cited with multiple violations by state auditors for gross mismanagement of district resources. The board was also cited for failure to manage the superintendent.

Goodloe-Johnson was also singled out by the state auditor for misusing the district credit card to throw a party for 100 people at a cost of $7,000. (At the same time she was laying off teachers and telling the parents and community the district had no money.)

She was also cited for an ethics violation, which leads to…

The MAP® test Boondoggle & Ethics Violation/Conflict of Interest. The cash-strapped district has spent as much $10 million on a questionable thrice-yearly test bought in a no-bid contract from a vendor on whose board (Northwest Evaluation Association) Goodloe-Johnson sat at the time of purchase, which she failed to publicly disclose. She was later cited for this infraction by the state auditor which called this a conflict of interest/ethics breach.  (See: Seattle School Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson’s ongoing conflicts of interest)

Teachers Overwhelmingly Vote “No Confidence” in Goodloe-Johnson. Perhaps buoyed by the anti-teacher fervor of her benefactors, Eli Broad and Bill Gates, Goodloe-Johnson developed a poisonous relationship with teachers, in no small part because of her repeated attempts to bypass state labor laws and her bad faith contract negotiation efforts. (She nearly scuttled the teacher contract negotiations last summer by suddenly springing an unacceptable “SERVE” proposal on the table.) As well as RIFing teachers on “Teacher Appreciation Week,” she pushed to allow novice college grads of the Teach for America, Inc. program to teach in the district’s Title 1 schools, further demoralizing the districts’ fully credentialed teachers. Then she imposed a policy in which the MAP test is now being misused to evaluate teachers.  All of this created a toxic environment in the district in which teachers felt disrespected. This resulted in a near-unanimous No Confidence vote in the superintendent from the teacher’s union and 12 schools (plus a community-wide petition) in the fall of 2010. Clearly this was an untenable situation. Goodloe-Johnson’s imperious treatment of the district’s teachers was part of her own undoing, and belies any comments she has ever made about how much she respects teachers or ever considered them her “colleagues.”

Capacity (Mis)management Plan & School Closures. In 2009 Goodloe-Johnson closed five schools to allegedly save $3.5 million a year only to announce seven months later the reopening of five schools at a cost of $48 million.

She seriously miscalculated enrollment needs and demographic trends in the district. Enrollment has increased in Seattle. The school closures and teacher layoffs have made no sense in light of these trends. The district is now riddled with overcrowding, while some schools remain stubbornly underenrolled. Clearly Goodloe-Johnson’s “Capacity Management Plan” was a failure.

Botched New Student Assignment Plan (NSAP). Thanks to the NSAP (for which the board gave her praise and another extension) and gerrymandered boundaries, the district’s arguably top, award-winning high school,Garfield High School is seriously overcrowded this school year, basically debilitating the school for the first weeks of the year as the district rushed to hire new teachers, with students waiting in hallways for class assignments.

Goodloe-Johnson proposed lowering the graduation requirement to a D average from a C. Much community protest put the kibosh on that plan.

On her watch, the district failed to apply for grants for the Native American student program, losing money.

A Tenure of Scandals

The brand new New School at South Shore that was built in record time for $69 million, had to be closed for half the school year owing to mysterious noxious fumes that made teachers and students ill. Some wondered if the building had been constructed too quickly and evacuated too slowly.

Pottergate. Employee Silas Potter ran a fraudulent operation from inside district headquarters that wasted at least $1.8 million of district funds. Goodloe-Johnson was apprised of problems with the operation as early as December 2008. Instead of addressing the issue outright, she allegedly advised her staffer Fred Stephens not to share the information with the school board. This apparent cover-up is what ultimately led to her firing earlier this month. A criminal investigation is underway.

Superintendent’s “Merit pay” bonus debacle. Under her leadership, the district met only 4 out of 17 performance goals, yet she was rewarded by the school board with a $5,280 “incentive pay” bonus, again over much public outcry. Even the superintendent’s supporter, the Seattle Times, opposed it (Seattle Schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson: Tis not the season for a bonus.”) The superintendent was then shamed into saying she would donate her bonus to charity.

Arbitrary & Capricious. Goodloe-Johnson supported the adoption of the controversial and flawed high school math text book, Discovering Math series. A group of parents, teachers and UW Professor Cliff Mass appealed the decision and the judge ruled in their favor, calling the district’s decision “arbitrary and capricious.” The judge also found that the district failed to submit evidence — as much as  200 pages of public testimony and e-mails — opposing the textbook.

17 Percentgate. (Beware of Broad Residents bearing false data.) On Goodloe-Johnson’s watch, the Seattle School District also suffered another embarrassment and outrage, dubbed “17 Percentgate” in the blogosphere. School district employee Brad Bernatek (another embed from the Broad Foundation) concocted an inaccurately low number of 17 percent to represent how many Seattle high school grads are college ready. For about two years, this false number was used to shock and awe the community and organizations to believe our district was in crisis, and to support Goodloe-Johnson’s Strategic Plan for action. The true number, it was revealed by theSeattle Time’s Linda Shaw in a “Truth Needle” report, was actually 46 percent. Goodloe-Johnson and others knew the truth sooner but failed to reveal that in a timely manner. Another report was released last week that revised the number even further up to 63 percent.


“I don’t lose sleep.” – School Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson, Seattle Times, June 2009.


Goodloe-Johnson disenfranchised parents. She was repeatedly cited for her poor communication skills – even the district acknowledged this in her annual reviews – and her seeming icy indifference to the human consequences of her allegedly “data-based” policies and “reforms.” This sentiment was famously captured in her quote to a Seattle Times reporter when asked about whether closing schools and uprooting thousands of schoolkids was a difficult decision for her to make: “What you need to know about me is that I don’t lose sleep.”

This “let them eat cake” attitude eventually soured many parents against this superintendent. (Interestingly, the Broad Foundation still has this article posted on its site, so apparently this kind of autocratic tone-deaf management style is okay with them. If so, I predict more dots will disappear from their superintendent conquest map because this kind of leadership does not sit well with parents or teachers.)

Finally, as a Seattle Public Schools parent whose children and community have been deeply – and negatively — affected by Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson’s policies and failed leadership, I find it offensive to read someone like Tom Payzant over at Harvard and Broad say what he thinks my children need.

Apparently he thinks Goodloe-Johnson’s endless churn, ed reform agenda and bad decisions were “right” for our children to “improve.” Well, I can cite hundreds of children who were doing better before Goodloe-Johnson came here and imposed her failed “Strategic Plan.” Kids who were not evicted from their schools, who did not have their schools split in half, who did not lose their teachers to unnecessary layoffs, who did not lose their counselors or librarians, who did not get barred from their school library three months of the year because of the costly and questionable MAP test, who were not subjected to standardized, high stakes tests four times a year, who had transportation to the school of their choice which allowed for greater diversity  in our schools, whose teachers did not live in fear of losing their jobs over a student test result.

Tom Payzant has no right to speak for the children of Seattle.

“Dr. Goodloe-Johnson was willing to make the tough decisions I think were right for Seattle’s children to improve,”wrote Payzant.

No, the community and finally the school board of Seattle was willing to make the right decision for Seattle’s children to can Goodloe-Johnson.

–Sue p.

An Interview with Alison McDowell: KEXP’s Mind Over Matters Community Forum


On August 5th Alison McDowell was a guest on KEXP’s news program Mind Over Matters. You can listen to the interview by clicking on the link below ( be patient – it takes a little bit of time for the file to load). A transcript of the interview follows.

Alison McDowell Interview

My concern as a parent is within these adaptive learning systems, I don’t want an online system that has to learn my child to work. I don’t want a system that has to know everything my child did for the last six months, to operate properly. Because I think that becomes problematic. How do you ever have a do over? Like, is it just always building and reinforcing certain patterns of behavior and how you react…it’s, they, I think they present it as flexible and personalized, but in many ways I think it’s limiting.

Mind Over Matters – KEXP

Community Forum

Interview with Alison McDowell

Mike McCormick:  It’s time once again for Community Forum, and we’re very lucky to have with us live in the studios this morning, Alison McDowell. Alison McDowell is a parent and researcher, into the dangers of corporate education reform. She was presenter this last March this year here in Seattle. The talk entitled Future Ready schools: How Silicon Valley and the Defense Department Plan to Remake Public Education. Alison, thank you very much for coming in and spending time with us this morning.

Alison: Oh, I’m very glad to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

Mike:  So, tell us, how did you get interested and involved with the issue of corporate education reform?

Alison: Well, I’m a I’m a parent. I have a daughter who is sixteen in the public schools of Philadelphia. And we’re sort of a crucible for many different aspects of education reform. We’ve had multiple superintendents from the Broad Academy. We’ve been defunded. Our schools have been, numerous of our schools have been closed, teachers laid off and about three years ago I became involved in the Opt Out movement for high stakes testing. Because at that point I felt that if we were able to withhold the data from that system we would try to be able to slow things down. Because they were using that testing data to close our schools. So I worked on that for a number of years until I saw that the landscape was starting to change. And a lot of it was leading up to the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act. That that passage. And it seemed at that time that our school district, which is challenging in many respects, was all of a sudden actually interested in Opt Out, and making that, sharing information and materials… Pennsylvania has a legal Opt Out right on religious grounds…and making materials available in various languages. And something just didn’t compute in my head. I’m like, well, even if, if we’re entitled, the fact that they were interested in engaging with us on that, made me sort of question why that was. And then so post ESSA, it became clear that the shift that was going to be taking place was away from a high stakes end of year test and more towards embedded formative assessments. So in our district we’ve seen an influx, even though there isn’t funding for many other things, lots of technology coming in, lots of Chromebooks. Every, all of the students have Google accounts. Google runs our school district. Even though they say philsd.org, their Google accounts, and each student, their email address is actually their student id number. So to access a Chromebook as soon as you login, you know all of that information is tied back into their id number. So the technology was coming in. Many schools were doing multiple benchmark assessments. So there was less and less time for actual meaningful instruction throughout the school year and there were more and more tests taking place, many computerized. So, at that point, we were looking into like, what did this mean, what is the role of technology and the interim testing, in this movement And so, I had come across my…I have a blog. It’s called Wrench in the Gears. It’s a wordpress blog. So you, I have a lot of information there, and it’s all very well documented and linked. My colleague Emily Talmage, who’s a teacher in Maine, who has seen this first-hand. She has a blog: Save Maine Schools. And so I had found her blog and at one point she said, you know…you know, only click on this link, you know, if you’re willing to go down the rabbit hole. And at that point it was, it was a website called Global Education Futures Forum, and they have this agenda for education up to 2035. And it is their projection. And it’s a global…global membership led by Pavel Luksha, who’s connected with the Skolkovo Institute, in Russia. But the local person here, actually he’s very local, is Tom Vander Ark, is one of the US representatives. And so he was former Gates Foundation. And has his own consulting firm now. And it’s based out of Seattle. And, but anyway, so they have sort of what they call a foresight document, a sort of projecting based on trends and patterns, where they see things going for education, like over the next 20 years. And so really, they have a very sophisticated map. And all you have to do is sort of look at their map. And then match it up to current events. And you can see, like, where they’re pretty much on target where things are headed. And there, they have some really interesting infographics and, one of them, it’s a very decentralized system. So education is just like the individual at the center. So everything you’re hearing, personalized learning, and and individual education plans, like it’s one big person and you’re the center of your own universe. And sort of around you, there aren’t teachers or schools. It’s it’s many sort of digital interfaces, and devices, and data-gathering platforms. And this idea that education is a life-long process. Which I think all of us generally agree with, but the idea that you’re sort of chasing skills in this new global economy, and like constantly remaking yourself. Or like the gig economy and what that means. And managing your online reputation. Not just your skillsets. But your mindset. And your social outlook. And your behaviors. And the role of gamification. So there are many many elements to this, that if you look into it, I think raise a lot of questions. And increasingly, really over the past five years there’s been a lot of discussion about remaking education. Re-imagining education. You know, education for the 21st century. Future Ready Schools. And I think for the most part, parents and community members have been left out of this conversation, of what really does Future Ready Schools mean? And the folks who are running the conversation, are running the agenda, are largely coming from a tech background. And this is something that’s built up since the mid-nineties, when the Advanced Distributed Learning Program was set up within the Defense Department, and the Department of Education.  To have like you know, Tech Learning for all Americans. Which, you know, again  I think we all need to be tech knowledgable, I, the question is, how is the tech used and how in control of of your education are you, and your educational data. So anyway, a lot of this is being driven by interests of digitizing education. And really, through austerity mechanisms, pulling out more human interaction, out of the equation. So we’re, we’re seeing things that a number of years ago, Detroit, had a kindergarten, where they would have a hundred kindergarteners, with like one teacher and a couple of aides, and a lot of technology. So there’re lots of questions increasingly about the use of technology especially in early grades, and I know in, in Washington State there’ve been a big push for tablets down to the kindergarten level. Our children are being part of this sort of larger experiment that has health considerations that have not been closely examined. In terms of eyestrain, audio components, even hygiene with earphones. The wifi aspects. And then also the data collection. So, there’s this grand experiment going on for Future Ready Schools, and parents and community members aren’t really aware of the fact that it is an unproven experiment, and what the implications are long-term.

Mike: And it’s being driven heavily by corporations that are producing these platforms, this software, the electronics, kind of behind the scenes, because no one knows this is going on except a select group of administrators and teachers?

Alison: Yeah, well so they have, there are a number of like pilot districts. So the idea is sort of, you get a beachhead, and then you, you roll it out. You convince, I mean they have very sophisticated marketing manuals. Like Education Elements, they say, this is how you do it. You know first you, you have a social media campaign, you get the young teachers who are really into tech and you train them up in the way that you wanna do things, and then they mentor all the veteran teachers and you get the principal on board and then you have the parent meetings and it’s…again…with…if you understood it as, like selling a corporate product as opposed to public education, it might not be so disturbing. Like for me, I find having this sort of corporate approach to marketing, a new approach to public education. That’s, that’s what, what I find disturbing. I’ve called this Education 2.0, because I think we’re, we’re about to see a shift from the earlier version of privatization, which was the high stakes, end of year high stakes testing, vouchers, charter schools. Those things will all still continue, but they’ve, they were never the end game.  So they have been used as a way to de-stabilize the, the landscape of neighborhood schools. And in many cases they’ve been used to, you know, acquire real estate, further sort of gentrification, insider contracts, like there are many aspects that allow that to become a profit center. But there’s going to be a point of diminishing return. Where sort of like all the easy pickings have been taken. And if you’re pursuing sort of a tailoristic model , like the ultimate efficiency, lean production, Cyber-Education is the end game. So creating a system of education that really has very little in human resources.  There’s lots of folks within Pearson and IBM and Microsoft who are looking at AI, like everyone will have your own artificial intelligent, like learning sherpa for your life. You know, and this isn’t just K12, this is forever.  You know, someone on your shoulder telling you what you should be doing next. But removing the humans out of the equation and putting more technology in place. So I think that’s what this shift to Education 2.0 is going to be about, is largely cyber but I think most parents at this point are not comfortable with that model. They wouldn’t say, you know, and I will admit, like there, there’s a small group of kids who are highly motivated for whom a cyber, exclusively cyber model may work. I mean a lot of the research shows that for most kids the outcomes are not great. So what they will be selling is project based learning. And that’s what you’ll hear a lot about, coming up, like in the next couple of years. But those projects won’t necessarily be linked to schools. So you’ll hear more and more about, anytime, anyplace, anywhere, any pace learning. So they’re looking to de- disconnect education from physical school buildings, and actual teachers in classrooms, to sort of what’s called a learning eco-system model. So something that’s more free-flowing, you’re just out in the world collecting skills. And that’s what was so interesting about, like the Common Core State Standards set-up. And I know a lot of states have sort of rolled back or renamed them. But the idea of having education tied to very specific standards, was a way of atomizing education and making it available for digitization. So if, if education is a human process of growth and development, that’s very murky to try to put in a metric, right? You need bits and bytes. And so if you create an education that’s strictly around standards and like sub standards and little sets, you can just aggregate those, and collect them or not collect them, and run that as data in a digital platform. So that push toward standards, yes it allowed for school report cards and value added modeling and things that hurt schools and teachers, but it also normalized the idea that education was less a human process and more people collecting things. Like collecting skills and standards, which is what you need for like a competency based education approach.

Mike: So, talk about some of the specific examples…one of the advantages to going into your site is you have links to so many different documents from the very corporations and people that are producing these systems. And one of the examples you’ve talked about in your talk back here in March was something called Tutormate? That was involved, kids getting pulled out of class, to go see, basically AI icons talking to them and they become attached to them…

Alison: Yeah…

Mike: …it’s disturbing.

Alison: Well there were a couple of, there’s a couple of interesting things. I had sort of a slide saying who’s teaching your children? Because increasingly it’s not necessarily their classroom teacher. The chatbot was actually Reasoning Mind, which is a math program. It was developed in Texas. And so it’s been like long-running and gotten a lot of funding, both from public and private sources. About refining sort of a personalized learning towards math. But kids were interacting with these online chat bots and developing connections and relationships to these online presences in their math program. I’m in Pennsylvania. So a lot of, a lot of things are developing in Pittsburgh. They have a whole initiative called Remake Learning in Pittsburgh which I believe is sort of early-stage learning ecosystem model and a lot of that is coming out of Carnegie Mellon because Carnegie Mellon is doing a lot of work on AI and education. And they have something called Alex. So they like the idea of peer-based learning. That sounds attractive like, yeah, kids like to learn from their peers. This, their version of peer-based learning is that you have a giant avatar cartoon peer on a screen and the children interact with this peer on a screen. So that’s something that’s being piloted in southwestern Pennsylvania right now. And then Tutormate is actually a different variation but they were pulling kids out of class, away…these were young children, from their classroom setting to put them in a computer lab to do tutoring with a corporate volunteer via skype, and an online platform. So in this case it actually was a human being, but this was during school hours. This was not a supplement to classroom instruction, this was in lieu of having direct instruction with a certified teacher. They were being put into an online platform with a corporate volunteer and you know, it turns out a number of the sponsors of that program had ties to defense contracting industries. You know, Halliburton, and Booz Allen Hamilton. You know, things that you might wanna question, is that who you want your second grader spending their time chatting with? You know, in lieu of having their second grade teacher teach them reading. So again, there is this shift away from, from teachers. There’s, there’s a model that’s going on right now, within many one-to-one device districts, so districts where every child has their own device. Young kids often have tablets, older kids have Chromebooks, in high-end districts you might have an actual laptop, with some hard-drive on it. The Clayton Christensen Institute, or Innosight Institute, they’ve been pushing blended learning. So blended learning is this new model. Where, there are a number of different ways you can…flipped classrooms, which many people have heard of…but there’s one called a rotational model. So children only have direct access to a teacher a third of the time. Like the class would be split into three groups. And you would be with a teacher for a third of the time, doing peer work a third of the time, and doing online work a third of the time. So again, it’s a way of increasing class size supposedly, like supposedly the quality time you have when you’re with the teacher with the ten kids instead of thirty is supposed to be so great even though maybe you only get fifteen minutes. What’s happening in other districts is they’re saying the time where kids are not with their teachers, and they’re just doing online work, they don’t really need a teacher present, they could just have an aide. So that’s again, in terms of pushing out professional teachers, is that, well if kids are doing online learning, maybe you just need an Americorp volunteer, in the room, to make sure that no one’s  hurting them…each other. You know, and that they’re on, supposedly on task. You know I think that’s a worrisome trend. And even though they’ll sell blended learning as very tech forward and future ready, the kids don’t love spending time on these devices, like hour after hour after hour. And my concern as a parent is…we’re all starting to realize what the implications are for big data. And how we interact with online platforms, either in social media, or other adaptive situations. And how, that these devices are actually gathering data, on ourselves.. .so, they they gather information through keystroke patterns, they all have cameras, they all, you know, the tablets have TouchSense, so theoretically there’s body temperature and pulse sensors. Like there’s many many elements, are they all being used now? No, but there is that capacity for using them to develop that level of engagement. To understand how you’re interacting with these programs. And that’s being developed through, with the Army Research Lab and USC, their Institute for Creative Technologies. And they are developing, a lot of this is being developed in conjunction with the Defense Department, for their interactive intelligent tutoring systems and with the Navy actually, which is relevant to Seattle. A lot of these early prototyped intelligent tutoring systems have been developed specifically with the Navy in mind. Training very specifically on computer programs, and optimizing that. But once they develop the infrastructure, then they’re able to apply that in non-military settings. And so it’s, it’s making its way out. So there’s a lot of data that can be collected and the other, the other push that you’ll start to see is gamification. So games, like gaming in schools. And kids love games, like parents love games. It sounds so fun. But I think what we have to realize is there’s a lot of behavioral data that’s coming out of the gaming too. That we’re not necessarily aware of.  And so this push for gamification, or sometime…like gamified classroom management systems. So Google has something called Classcraft. And all the kids have avatars. And like if they’re behaving in class, they can, you know they earn points, or have points deducted, and you’re on teams, and you can save your team member or not. And with ESSA, having passed, you know, they’ll tell the story that like we care about more than just test scores, we really wanna care about the whole child, we wanna, you know we we care about children as individuals. Really they wanna collect all of this data, not just on your academic skills, but on your behaviors, and your mindset. And are you gritty, and are you a leader, or are you, you know, flexible, are you resilient. And these, these gamified platforms, whether they’re run by the teacher, or gaming that’s done with the students in these simulations, and also AR/VR, augmented reality/virtual reality games that you’re starting to see. There’s just a lot of information going through, and you have to wonder, how is it being used, what are the privacy implications, and also what are the feedback loops being created? In terms of how you interact with a platform. Is it reinforcing aspects of your personality that you may or may not want reinforced. My concern as a parent is within these adaptive learning systems, I don’t want an online system that has to learn my child to work. I don’t want a system that has to know everything my child did for the last six months, to operate properly. Because I think that becomes problematic. How do you ever have a do over? Like, is it just always building and reinforcing certain patterns of behavior and how you react…it’s, they, I think they present it as flexible and personalized, but in many ways I think it’s limiting.

Mike: In some of the documentation you present, they have systems that wanna pay attention to whether a person that is working with the program is getting bored, or falling asleep, or whatever, so they were like watching like you know, the eye, literally to see if it’s like where it’s wandering off to…you said they potentially could be checking your, your temperature, your heart rate…

Alison: I mean, you know, are they doing it right now? I don’t know that they, but the capacity is there. And…

Mike: And all that data is being saved somewhere. And shared. In some capacity. We don’t know.

Alison: W…and I think it’s very unclear. And I think they’re, they’re many parents who are very concerned about privacy and working that angle of controlling what data goes in…I mean I think all of us are aware that once something is up in the cloud, even if there are promises made about privacy and protections, that nothing is really safe up there. In terms of from hacking, or even just legal. Like FERPA is very, the education records, sort of, privacy has a lot of loopholes. You know anyone who, many of these organizations, companies are third parties are designated agents of school districts. So they have access to this information. And I will also mention Naviance, because the other shift that we’re seeing happening is the shift towards creating an education system that is geared towards workforce development. That, that, that children at younger and younger ages should, should be identifying their passions, and finding their personal pathways to the workforce and the economy. And so Naviance is one of a number of companies that does strengths assessments and surveys. And many states you can’t get your diploma unless your child does a complete battery of assessments, personality assessment through Naviance, which is this third-party program. Also linking towards like their future college plans, and other things linked in, and very detailed information about people’s family situations. So again, the, the amount of data that’s being collected on many many different levels to supposedly like guide students moving forward into the economy, I think it merits a larger conversation. And I’m not saying that everyone needs to agree with my position, but I think that the, the agenda that’s being moved forward is being done in a way that for the most part, parents and community members, there’s not been a consensus reached, with us. That this is okay. That this new version of school is, is what we desire.

Mike: And being a parent in the Philadelphia School District, when these new systems are, have been implemented, you know, and the potential use of all, gathering of all your child’s data, I mean, have you been consulted on that prior? Did, every time they bring in a new system did they let you know, oh, we have another piece of software here that potentially could be, you know, data-mining your kid, are you okay with that?

Alison: So I think on the, on the plus side, because we have been so severely defunded, we haven’t seen quite as much of an influx of tech yet. Although I, I anticipate it’s coming. We’ve just had a big roll-out of Minecraft I think in schools. That’s their new thing that they’re, they’re all…there are a number of schools, like within turnaround sort of, that, that are being piloted for these one-to-one devices. I will say that there was an opt-out form for Google Apps for Education. Which is, and I so I opted, I opted my child out of Google Apps for Education. I may have been the only parent in the Philadelphia School District who did that, and it, it makes it complicated because again, there, it’s convenient, you know, it’s a nice, you know, way for teachers not to have to carry around lots of papers, and they have kids put it all on their Google drive. But I, I think we’re all starting to be a little wary about the amount of information and power that Google has, you know, in the world and what the implications are for that. So I think if, if people have concerns around some of these privacy aspects, you know, that’s, that’s a potential starting, starting place, is to opt out of Google Apps for Education, and see where that goes. Or even have targeted like device and data strikes, during the school year. So we don’t get a notice every time there’s a new program. I guess long story short.

Mike: Just a few minutes left. And again, some of the companies, in addition to Defense Department having early hooks into education reform, and online learning, some of the companies involved, and heavily investing in this, as an example, like Halliburton and Booz Allen, which to me, let’s say Booz Allen which is also heavily tied into doing, they have access to data bases that the NSA does and, Edward Snowden worked for Booz Allen.

Alison: I would say like right now, like the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, LLC, is huge and they’re pushing Summit Basecamp. I know we just have a few min…minutes in closing so I also wanna mention, in addition to tech, we also have global finance interests involved, because in ESSA there are provisions for Pay for Success. Which is where they’re looking to use private venture capital to affect educational outcomes. Either right now it’s in universal pre-k, also early literacy. So we need to be aware of the role that Pay for Success is going to play in this, and that’s essentially like “moneyball” for government. Where they’re looking to save money. I mean there’s a conference that they, they’ve put this together. Evidence based policy. That’s what they call it. That’s sort of the code word. Is that if you can come up with a computerized program that will give you specific success metrics, venture capital can make money on that. So a lot of global finance interests, and impact investing interests are looking, I believe at education as a market, a futures market in student education data. So I have more information on that on my blog. But social impact bonds and Pay for Success are a critical piece to understanding why education is being digitized. Also Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, IBM, the tech interests, Summit Basecamp, AltSchool, Micro Schools are another big component of this. These value-model private schools, if vouchers go through, that, we’re gonna be seeing a lot more of that. The tech is also focusing on Montessori school models, and, and very high-end. So you have Rocketship Academy, which are sort of stripped down versions for low-income districts and, but they’re also marketing tech to affluent families and aspirational families as being sort of future-ready. So it’s really a, there’s many different branded versions of education technology.

Mike: So long story short, you have a kid in, going through school, or, you know, anyone you care about then, this would be something to look into.

Alison: Yes. Understand how much time they’re spending on devices. Advocate that school budgets prioritize human teachers, and reasonable class sizes, and not data-mining, not adaptive management systems. And and have this conversation in your community. Is education about creating opportunities for students to learn and grow together as a community, or is it these isolating personalized pathways, where people are competing against one another. And and I think that’s a larger conversation we all need to have in our school districts.

Mike: Alright. We’re speaking with Alison McDowell. She is a parent and researcher in the Philadelphia school system. Produced a series,  Future Ready Schools: How Silicon Valley and the Defense Department Plan to Remake Public Education. And again, your website is…

Alison: Wrenchinthegears.com

Mike: Wrenchinthegears.com. And with that we’re unfortunately out of time. I want to thank you for coming and spending time with us this morning.

Alison: Thank you.

The endgame of corporate reform in public school education: Part 1, What do Betsy DeVos and Seattle Public School’s IT Lead John Krull have in common?



“It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself – anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide…There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime, it was called. The Party’s surveillance tactics and technology are so advanced that even the smallest twitch can betray a rebellious spirit.”

George Orwell, 1984


The endgame of corporate reform of public school classrooms creates a clearly defined two-tier system:

  • Students in public schools will be taught the basics by way of the Common Core Standards on a computer and assessed the same way with student performance and psychological attributes stored and tracked.
  • Students in private schools will have well qualified and highly educated teachers offering various subjects in depth along with classroom discussion and learning experiences outside the classroom. Privacy is insured.

One tier is for future workers producing when and where the market demands. The second tier will be the professionals and leaders such as diagnosticians, diplomats, attorneys, scientists, writers, architects and doctors.

Wealthy individuals like Betsy DeVos and Bill Gates are creating a future for students in public schools that has little in common with how their own children were educated.

Their motives aren’t entirely clear but there are individuals and corporations surrounding them who are profiting mightily from their vision for the rest of us.

Dick and Betsy DeVos


Let’s start with Dick and Betsy DeVos which is where I began this journey planning to write a simple piece on the selection of Betsy DeVos for the position of Secretary of Education in the Trump administration.

As I began to look into Betsy Devos’ activities related to public schools in Michigan and her relationship with Rick Snyder, I found myself diving into a rabbit hole that lead me from Betsy DeVos and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to Bill Gates and ended ultimately with school districts such as the Oakland Public School district and the Seattle Public School district with a connection to the Department of Defense.

Betsy DeVos, although not an educator and her children only attending private schools, has taken upon herself to ensure that children attending public school have an opportunity to go to a private school or more preferably, a religious (read: Christian) school, by use of vouchers.

All school districts have an allocation of funds for every student in the district. It can be on average $5,000 to $7,500. The idea of a voucher is to give the allocated public funds to a student so they can attend the private school of their choice. This is also how charter schools are funded, the public money goes with the student.

The first charter schools in Michigan were operated by the DeVos’ close friend, J.C. Huizenga, who founded the National Heritage Academies, Inc., a for-profit charter school management company and one of the largest school charter school operators in the country. Huizenga is also a major contributor to the DeVos’ 501c4 organization, the American Federation of Children.

The first charter school in Michigan, Excel Charter Academy in Grand Rapids, Michigan, founded by Huizenga’s company, Educational Development Corporation (EDC), was essentially a Christian school, with mandatory prayer meetings.

The first enrollees were students who transferred from private Christian schools preferring a free Christian education. The school was closed after threats of lawsuits from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The DeVos and their friends now use code words such as “moral focus” and “classical education” when referring to the idea of public religious schools.

Huizenga’s National Heritage Academy is also affiliated with the rightwing lobby group the American Legislative Exchange Council  (ALEC ) and is a member of its Education Task Force. For a recommended report on ALEC and education, see ALEC versus Kids: ALEC’s assault on public education.

ALEC is known for providing templates for state bill proposals for legislators. These proposed bills provide profitable returns to various industries. One of those industries now is in the realm of public education. For example, there is the “Statewide Online Education Act” which according to the website “creates a statewide program that provides high school students with access to online learning options regardless of where the student lives.” There is the “Next Generation Charter School Act” which “eliminates special distinctions between virtual and non-virtual charter schools” and the “Resolution of Student Centered Accountability Systems” which includes a “timely provision of student-level data, measure student-specific progress and restore the focus of high-stakes testing to be on advancing individual student instruction and growth.”

These bills ensure that online, computer centered learning is integrated into statewide public school systems and mostly in the form of virtual charter schools. These virtual schools have a large profit margin because they do not require brick and mortar buildings and little in the way of staff and yet they receive the same amount of tax dollars per student as a public school made up of buildings, teachers, administrators and support staff.

One of the members of ALEC is K12, an online learning enterprise which has virtual schools in Washington State. K12 is under investigation now in California and previously made a settlement with the state of $168M regarding its financial practices.

Betsy DeVos also likes online learning, sometimes referred to as “blended” or “personalized” learning, where the student is in front of a computer most of the school day, doing lessons and being assessed virtually. Teachers are seen as “guides”, no longer educators, and the student is isolated with their head phones on sitting in cubicles or at home. This is, as DeVos says, learning “anytime, anywhere”  and a term you will hear repeated by others in this article.

Then there is Dick DeVos who is a proponent of Intelligent Design, the belief that life is so complex that it must have been designed by an “intelligent being”, referring, of course, to a Christian god. Dick DeVos pushed to get his idea introduced into science classes in Michigan. .

Per the New Yorker:

Along with her husband, [Dick]DeVos is an active member of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, a small Protestant denomination with the stated belief that “all scientific theories be subject to Scripture.” According to the church’s official statement on science, “Humanity is created in the image of God; all theorizing that minimizes this fact and all theories of evolution that deny the creative activity of God are rejected.” DeVos attended Calvin College, which is owned and operated by the Christian Reformed Church.

Betsy DeVos also attended Calvin College.

Dick DeVos strategy for the religious takeover of schools was spelled out in a speech he gave for the Heritage Foundation in 2002.

In an excerpt of that speech, he suggests that this campaign be stealth-like rather than open for public and civic debate.

Members of the DeVos family are big contributors to the state Republican party and candidate campaigns in Michigan including the financial support of Governor Rick Snyder which leads us to the Governor of Michigan.


Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and “Skunk works”

In 2011, Governor Rick Snyder presented his “Anytime, Anyplace” school choice plan for Michigan.

In an EdWeek article titled ‘Any Time, Any Place’ School Choice Plan in Michigan,

Sean Cavanagh wrote:

Michigan Gov. Rick Synder proposed sweeping changes to education this week, but perhaps his most striking idea is to create an open-market for students to choose public schools—without regard to traditional district boundaries.

The Republican governor labels his choice plan “Any Time, Any Place, Any Way, Any Pace.” Students and families who live in a school district would be given the first option to enroll, but school systems would also be required to accept out-of-district students, space permitting. This plan relates to ALEC’s “Statewide Online Education Act”

In 2013, Governor Rick Snyder’s Chief Information Officer, David Behen, put together a team in secret to develop a system of virtual schools using a state voucher program. The group titled their project “Skunk works”.

“Skunk works” is a term referring to a clandestine World War II era collaboration between the U.S. military and the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. It is sometimes used by organizations as a name for projects with little official and no public oversight.

David Behen, who holds a seat on Governor Snyder’s Cabinet and is director of the Department of Technology for Michigan State, led the effort. The group included charter school owners and investors, personnel from information technology companies, several members of Snyder’s staff and Tim Cook of the Huizenga Group founded by Dick and Betsy Devos’ friend, JC Huizenga.

According to documents received in a FOIA, a plan was developed to convert public schools into cyber schools, allowing for seat time waivers and describing a funding model showing how virtual schools would be cheaper, no brick and mortar buildings and tutors rather than certified teachers, thereby saving money on educating children in public schools. These schools are referred to as “value schools” in the document. Vouchers would be used for students to attend a cyber school. Vouchers are not legal in Michigan at this time.

On page 97 of the FOIA is a document titled “Michigan Education Transformation” and describes a plan for a pilot “value school” where all students do their lessons on a computer and are tested using software to evaluate not only their academic growth but also their emotional state. The document refers to accumulating information on a student’s mental and emotional state as “brain science”. The term P-20 also begins to appear at this time.

P-20 describes tracking public school students from pre-school to the age of 20. This means not only keeping personal files on each student and their academic performance but also their social and emotional development. The term Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) describes how software is used to determine a child’s psychological development and abilities during the time they are on a computer doing the lessons and being assessed.

According to the Skunk works’ “Transformation” plan, these virtual schools will “require no seat time because advancement will be achieved by demonstrating competency”, using a computer. In doing this, they declare they will “produce ‘work ready’ graduates that match talent and skills with real business needs”, basically plugging students into jobs like cogs in the corporate wheel.

When word got out about this project, Governor Snyder initially denied knowing about the group or the plan that was developed in secret.

The plan was officially dropped after receiving much public backlash and threats of a lawsuit by the Michigan ACLU.

The Oakland Public School District

John Krull

This takes us to Oakland, California where the idea of “anytime, anywhere” online learning has been developed to its fullest extent with the help of John Krull former Chief Information Officer for Oakland Public Schools from 2014 to 2016 and now the Chief Information Officer in Seattle. And yes, discovering Krull’s presence in Seattle is disconcerting. This is particularly concerning because in the Strategic Plan for Seattle Public Schools on page 18 under the heading “Strategy 3: Integrate and align operational, business, technology and academic systems to support the needs of students, teachers and schools” is the objective “Improve technology infrastructure at schools to support web-based blended learning and computer based assessment.”

The Oakland Public School superintendent at the time, Antwan Wilson, who was a graduate of the unaccredited Broad Academy for Superintendents in 2014, also spent two years in Oakland from 2014 to 2016 before moving to Washington DC to be the chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools.

Krull spent two years with Oakland Pubic Schools during that same period developing a Technology Plan, which reads like a strategic/curriculum plan rather than an IT plan, with a focus on the Common Core Standards. In addition, it describes the architecture of the necessary infrastructure to provide online learning and assessments for every student. The tech plan includes providing each student a Chromebook loaded with Common Core lessons and testing software for the related  Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test. The software is provided by Pearson. “And with Google Apps, students can easily access their work and files from anywhere, on any device, at any time.”  The startup cost to the district for the Chromebooks was $40M.

When you spend this kind of money for laptops and IT upgrades, there is nothing left for additional teachers, much needed school staff or additional classroom space, but that might be the point.

The distribution of laptops has not ended well in other districts and I project it will not have a happy ending in Oakland but instead become an expensive boondoggle.

There is also the issue of all the student information on a laptop being tracked and recorded.

That brings us to the next issue, Part 2 : Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and the Federal Government.

Dora Taylor


The Doublespeak of Ed Reform Regarding Charter Schools


Originally published in The Huffington Post, by co-editor Sue Peters

I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t an intentional Catch 22 that some people are trying to trap our public schools in– setting them up to fail, making it impossible for them to be creative or independent, and then saying: “See! They’re losers! They don’t ‘innovate’! Sell them off to private enterprises!” 

While watching part of NBC’s “Education Nation” (aka the week-long made-for-TV ad for Waiting for ‘Superman) last month, I tuned into the Teacher Town Hall where a teacher from a charter school was asked what made her school successful. “Teachers at our school are given the freedom to innovate!” she replied brightly.

Hmm, I thought. Sounds great. So why aren’t the teachers in my children’s public schools given that same freedom?

Instead, they are increasingly being slipped into the full nelson of a standardized curriculum measured by an ever-increasing barrage of computerized tests, all imposed by a top-down district management. (It feels stifling just to write about it.) Then the education reformers point an accusatory finger at our schools, call them “failing,” and hold up charter schools as exemplars of “innovation.”

And that’s one of the first ironies — or hypocrisies — of the current national dialogue on education reform.

The biggest players in ed reform — President Obama, Ed Secretary Arne Duncan, billionaires Bill Gates and Eli Broad: the “Superman” crowd, let’s call them — keep pushing privately run charter schools as the answer to all that ails our public schools (the central theme of ‘Superman’). One of the main winning traits of charters, they say, is their freedom to “innovate.” Indeed, free of public and school district oversight and mandates, privately run charter schools are granted the right to create their own curricula and empower their teachers to, allegedly, “innovate.” (They’ve also been allowed to exclude and expel students who don’t perform to their liking, a serious flaw of charters that even Secretary Duncan has acknowledged.)

Understandably, charter operations like to tout this precious autonomy they are given. Green Dot School’s site states:

3. Local Control with Extensive Professional Development and Accountability Principals and teachers own critical decisions at their schools related to budgeting, hiring and curriculum customization.

Now, why aren’t our non-charter public schools being given the creative and managerial autonomy that these reformers value in charters? Instead, when it comes to influencing or running our school districts with their corporate management trained superintendents, or their agenda-laden grants, these same reformers impose strictures on our schools and kids that quash innovation.

For example, here in Seattle, why is our district, led by a reformist Broad Academy-trained superintendent, taking autonomy steadily away from individual schools and principals and centralizing it? Why is it telling our teachers they need to follow the central office mandated curriculum exactly? Why is it sending “visitors” from the central office to escort the school principal on pop-ins into classrooms to monitor teachers? (I’ve heard these are called “Learning Walks” — apparently a trademarked term.) I can understand a principal checking on her/his staff, but why the accompanying Thought Police?)

Some researchers are even determining where exactly in the classroom a teacher should stand in order to deliver the “perfect lesson.”

I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t an intentional Catch 22 that some people are trying to trap our public schools in: setting them up to fail, making it impossible for them to be creative or independent, and then saying: “See! They’re losers! They don’t innovate! Let’s sell these schools to the private enterprises of KIPP charters, Green Dot charters, Billy Bob’s Acme Charters & Co.!”

Unfortunately this is just one of many conflicting messages coming from this latest breed of ed reformers. Those who are driving the national dialogue about the direction of our kids’ public education — from President Obama, Secretary Duncan, and lurking in the shadows with their open checkbooks, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Waltons, the Fishers and the Dells — are saying one thing out of one side of their mouths and another thing out of the other.

Here are some other examples of ed reform doublespeak:

“CLASS SIZE DOESN’T MATTER (except in charters)”

How many times have we heard the reformers declare that “class size doesn’t matter”? They claim that an “excellent” teacher can somehow transcend overstuffed classrooms and reach all kids. If this were true, then why do private schools and charters tout smaller class sizes and individualized attention as a key advantage over public schools?

Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone reportedly has a school with class sizes that average 15 kids, with two licensed teachers to every classroom! That’s a private school — and every parent’s — dream. From the Oct. 13, 2010, New York Times:

In the tiny high school of the zone’s Promise Academy I, which teaches 66 sophomores and 65 juniors (it grows by one grade per year), the average class size is under 15, generally with two licensed teachers in every room. There are three student advocates to provide guidance and advice, as well as a social worker, a guidance counselor and a college counselor, and one-on-one tutoring after school.

And from the Green Dot charter company web site:

1. Small, Safe, Personalized Schools All Green Dot schools are small (no more than 560 students when fully developed), ensuring that each student will not go unnoticed. In addition, small schools are safe and allow students to receive the personalized attention they need to learn effectively. Classes at each school will be kept as small as financially possible with a target student to teacher ratio of 27:1.

So apparently class size does matter to ed reformers when it comes to charters, but somehow not when it comes to the rest of the kids in regular schools.


How often have we heard the line: “The single most important factor in a child’s academic success is the teacher”? Here it is in the recent “manifesto” of (soon to be former) District of Columbia Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and NY schools chief Joel Klein et al:

As President Obama has emphasized, the single most important factor determining whether students succeed in school is not the color of their skin or their ZIP code or even their parents’ income — it is the quality of their teacher.

And here’s NBC (in an Education Nation press release) parroting this line:

Research and school-based evidence around the country now confirms that the most important variable affecting the success of the student is the effectiveness of the teacher, and the second most important variable is the effectiveness of the principal. Those two factors far outweigh the socioeconomic status, the impact of parental involvement or class size.

Problem is, these statements are false.

The most significant indicators and influences on a child’s success in school are what’s going on in these kids’ lives at home. In other words, their socioeconomic background and home life. Of course academic ability is not determined by race, gender or economic status. But success — the possibility of a child being allowed to fulfill her or his potential — is necessarily influenced by how much support they get at home, the stability of this home life and whether or not this child comes to school hungry each morning.

For the ed reformers to say that none of this matters — all you need is an “excellent” teacher — is false and another rigged scheme: rigged for failure. They may as well be dunking teachers in water to see if they are witches.

It defies common sense to say that a teacher, however brilliant, can transcend all challenges a child brings to school, can navigate a classroom of any size and any needs, and if the child does not succeed in school (in ed reformspeak that only means doing well on standardized tests), it is clearly unfair and inaccurate to lay the blame entirely on the teachers.

A great teacher does make a difference, for sure. But a teacher alone cannot determine a child’s academic success.

Despite this repeated canard, it’s clear that Geoffrey Canada, one of ed reforms’ heroes, recognizes these facts. Why else would his HCZ offer all the wraparound services that it does — Baby College, medical and dental care for students and their families? This is a clear acknowledgment of the fact that a child in poverty needs a great deal more than a stellar teacher to have a fair shot at educational success.

“AN ‘EFFECTIVE’ TEACHER IN EVERY CLASSROOM (but 5 five weeks of training will do!)”

I also find it rather hypocritical for the ed reformers to say they care about pushing academic achievement for all kids, and measure the success of their reforms by how many kids go to college — one of Canada’s benchmarks for HCZ — and then turn around and utterly dismiss the higher education of professional teachers.

Returning to the increasingly silly “manifesto”:

A 7-year-old girl won’t make it to college someday because her teacher has two decades of experience or a master’s degree — she will make it to college if her teacher is effective and engaging and compels her to reach for success.

If master’s degrees are so useless, then why don’t we just eliminate all academic degrees in all fields and just hire “effective, engaging” young credentialed dentists and doctors too? Does anyone really need an MBA? Or a law degree, for that matter?

On the one hand the reformers say they want an “effective” or “excellent” teacher in every classroom. On the other hand they promote sending Wendy Kopp’s Teach for America, Inc. trainees — who have only five weeks of training and are only required to commit to two years on the job — into the most struggling and challenging urban schools in the nation. Only 34 percent of TFA recruits stay in the field for a third year. Teachers don’t hit their stride until about the fifth. So most TFA-ers quit before they have even become “effective” teachers. (Michelle Rhee herself is a TFA graduate who only stayed for a few years in the field, and tells some pretty damning stories about her own mistakes as an inexperienced teacher.)

If the ed reformers were serious about promoting and supporting excellent teachers in every classroom, they would support well-trained professionals who are committed to the kids and the profession for the long term. Instead they disparage dedicated lifetime teachers as dead wood and promote young short-termers as the salvation. And their incessant teacher-bashing utterly undermines any claims they may have of “supporting” teachers.

“MONEY DOESN’T MATTER (except in the Harlem Children’s Zone)”

“Money doesn’t matter” the reformers like to say. I think I even heard President Obama say that recently, alas. And yet, the most comprehensive example of a charter model, Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone, has an operating budget and net assets in the multi-millions.

Reports the New York Times:

In 2009, the Harlem Children’s Zone had assets of nearly $200 million, and the project’s operating budget this year is $84 million, two-thirds of it from private donations. Last month, the Goldman Sachs Foundation pledged $20 million toward constructing an additional school building. With two billionaires, Stanley Druckenmiller and Kenneth Langone, on the board, its access to capital is unusually strong.

Canada’s Zone, at least acknowledges that underprivileged kids need a great deal of support inside and out of the classroom and school in order to succeed. His program offers social support services and medical services to these kids and their families for years, which is great. But he is given millions and millions of dollars to do it. That gives the lie to all those who say that money is not part of the solution to creating better schools. It also gives the lie to the reformers’ teacher-bashing mantra that somehow an “effective” or even “excellent” teacher can transcend all society’s ills.

It does take money to hire enough teachers to reduce class sizes, to maintain safe and clean facilities, invest in solid and inspiring curricula and enrichment. That’s an indisputable fact. We as a nation have not made education a funding priority. All my life, schools have been holding bake sales, as the famous bumper sticker laments, scrambling to pay for basics. It is a national shame. And the Obama/Duncan lottery of Race to the Top is unconscionable in that it does not fund all 50 states equally or at all.

So here’s where I’m at with this: Everything good the reformers tout about private control of our public schools via charters could be given to our existing public schools without handing over the control and finances of our schools to private charter franchise operators.

Smaller class sizes, more creative autonomy for teachers, local autonomy for schools, non-standardizing curricula that allow for more innovation, better resources for the kids from greater allocations of money — all of this is possible in our existing schools, if our superintendent, school board and central administration office would allocate our school district’s resources properly. But they don’t — as the recent damning state audit of Seattle’s School District revealed. (That’s why a growing number of parents and The Seattle Times support a “No” vote on the school levy Nov. 2 — unprecedented in a town that always backs school levies).

ALL public schools should offer ALL these things to ALL kids, no private-charter franchise middlemen required, and no lottery required either.

— Sue Peters

Originally published in The Huffington Post, 10/25/10 by co-editor Sue Peters








The Battle for Seattle, Part 2: Hijacked!

For the first post in this series see: The Battle for Seattle, Part 1.

The Battle for Seattle, Part 2: Hijacked!

“We take an untraditional approach to giving. We don’t simply write checks to charities. Instead we practice “venture philanthropy.” And we expect a return on our investment.” -Eli Broad


The Broad Foundation was established in 1999 and Eli Broad wasted no time in providing funds to school systems around the country including Seattle.

In 2000, the Broad Foundation provided the Seattle Public School system with $800,000 for “teacher training” by way of the Alliance for Education.

wendy_kopp (1)
Teach for America Founder Wendy Kopp

That same year, according to the Broad Foundation’s Annual Report for 2009-2010, “Wendy Kopp, whose decade-old venture called Teach for America grew out of her senior thesis at Princeton University, visits Eli Broad seeking guidance and support. The Broad Foundation makes its first investment of $800,000 in the organization, which recruits and trains recent college graduates to work in urban and rural school districts for a minimum of two years. By 2009, the foundation’s investment in Teach for America exceeds $41 million.” As an aside, Wendy Kopp has no experience teaching and has no degree in the field of education.

In 2001 the Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools, Joseph Olfchefske, participated in the New Schools Venture Fund Summit and spoke on the subject of Convergence of the Sectors: Public, Private, and NonProfit. The moderators included Tom Vander Ark, Executive Director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dan Katzir, Director of Program Development at the Broad Foundation along with Wendy Kopp, Founder and President of Teach for America and an assortment of representatives from KIPP and Aspire charter schools.

According to the same annual report, the Broad Foundation awarded a $2.5 million grant to New Schools Venture Fund in 2002. The annual report states that NSVF “invests in public charter school management organizations and other entrepreneurial ventures working to increase the number and quality of charter schools nationwide. By 2008, the foundation’s total investment in New Schools Venture Fund exceeds $13.6 million.”

New Schools Venture Fund has funded and promotes the KIPP charter school franchise, the Green Dot charter school franchise as well as Aspire charter schools and Teach for America.

American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten.

In 2002, Don Nielson participated in the Broad Center for Superintendents Inaugural class training as a faculty member along with Randi Weingarten who was then President of the United Federation of Teachers and Don McAdams.

Also in 2002, Mr. Olchefske participated in the Broad Foundation’s Strategic Planning retreat along with McAdams, Weingarten, Joel Klein, Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education and Wendy Kopp, President of Teach for America.

The ties ran deep between Eli Broad, Superintendent Olchefske and Don Nielson during this time.

In 2003, Olchefske was a lecturer at the Broad Foundation’s Superintendent’s Academy and guess who one of his “students” was! Our very own present day Seattle Public Schools’ superintendent, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson.

That same year Olchefske received a vote of “no confidence” by the Seattle teachers’ union and resigned from his position as superintendent of Seattle Public Schools amid accusations of fiscal irresponsibility. $34M had been lost and no one could account for it.

The irony of that is that our superintendent recently received a vote of “no confidence” by the teachers’ union and the recent state audit brought charges of fiscal irresponsibility, an apparent lack of knowledge of legal procedures and a lack of oversight by the school board.

Raj Manhas, former Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools.

Raj Manhas was appointed superintendent of the Seattle Public School system that year and was immediately sent to the Broad Foundation for “training” by Don Nielson.

Don Nielson chose not to run for a school board position after his term ended in 2003.

The following year, Mary Bass became school board president. Ms. Bass and Sally Soriano, who was also a member of the school board and the Chair of the Legislative committee, organized with several other school districts against charter school legislation. Gov. Gary Locke was for charter schools and told the legislature they couldn’t go home until they passed a vote in favor of charter schools. The vote was close but voters turned charter schools down by 59 percent.

In 2005, according to a Seattle school district publication titled “An Overview of Accomplishments,” Seattle Public Schools received an $800,000 Gates Foundation Grant to fund the strategic implementation team, work on the first round of school closures, something that Manhas had not been “successful” at doing, and “implement additional recommendations from the Community Advisory Committee on Investing in Educational Excellence”.

It was also stated in the handout that “A grant-funded Broad Foundation resident is working on strengthening strategic planning capacity in the district”.

Peter Maier, former Seattle School Board Director and WA State Charter School Commission member.

Gates was also busy in 2005 on another front, electing Michael DeBell, the now president of the Seattle School Board, to his first term as school board director. Gates, along with nine board directors for the Alliance for Education, including Hanauer, Don Nielsen, Anne Farrell, Peter Maier, who himself is now a school board member, and John Warner, a retired Boeing executive, funded the campaign to elect DeBell and two other candidates through a PAC named Strong Seattle Schools. According to an article in the Seattle Times, a PAC had not been formed “in recent memory” to support the election of a school board director.

As you will see in the next installment, The Alliance for Education will figure prominently in this race to “education reform” as dictated by Eli Broad and Bill Gates.

The one person who has been a common thread throughout this march towards ed reform in Seattle has been Don Nielson who, in 2006 was quoted as describing the school board members as “social activists and union sympathizers.” Nielsen and others were “actively pushing the idea of an appointed board and talked about it with the mayor in a closed-door meeting with education leaders two weeks ago” according to an article in the Seattle Weekly.

Mayoral control is also another mandate of the ed reformists. Have one person, a politician, in control of a school district that the people with the most money can manipulate. This can be clearly seen with the mayor of Los Angeles and his close associate, Eli Broad. The school board is then selected by the mayor. The school board members then only answer to the mayor. There would no longer be a democratic process in who represents the best interest of our children. It then becomes purely political and is directly controlled by others outside of the school system. It’s an end-run around the democratic process.

Don Nielson

In a speech to the Rotary Club on November 15, 2006, Don Nielson again described the school board, with the exception of DeBell who was in the audience at the time, as “activists.” My guess is that he was referring to people on the board who had fought against charter schools, specifically Mary Bass and Sally Soriano as well as other board members who had, with the exception of Dick Lilly and Jan Kumasaka, opposed the privatization of our public schools in the state of Washington. Mary Bass and Sally Soriano were also against the proposed school closures on the basis that the choice of schools being closed was discriminatory.

What I find interesting is that I had never heard of Don Nielson until I began to research the presence of the Broad Foundation in Seattle. Even though he has had a strong influence on what is happening within our school system now, he has remained behind the scenes and has only made himself known in the business and political sectors of Seattle. This is reminiscent to how Eli Broad operates. No input from parents, teachers, students, the real stakeholders in public education or even well-known and respected educators, just others in business and the military who may or may not have experience in teaching or have children in the public education system.

Most of us as parents in Seattle would not have known about Eli Broad and the Broad Foundation if some of us had not done some digging.

I have decided to change the title of this series of posts to “Hijacked!” because that is the sense that I have now about what has happened to our public educational system not only in Seattle but around the country.

My hope is that with this research and sharing of information, people in other parts of the country will take a look at what’s going on in their districts. This kind of takeover by business interests of public schools is happening in most urban centers. If it isn’t happening in your community, please make sure that it doesn’t. We as parents, educators and students need to have our voices heard. All of us need to be part of the conversation. When a district is run by Broad and Gates, no one outside their realm of associates has a voice in the decision-making process. You will not have a voice in the vision and goals of the schools in your communities. You will not have any say in the nature of individual schools, the curriculum or the caliber of teachers, principals or superintendents who are a part of those schools. You will have no control over how your children are taught and who teaches them.

Stay tuned for what might be the last installment in this series. Looking at my notes though, I see at least two more posts on the horizon. A lot has gone on in Seattle in the last few years that needs to be described.

 The Battle for Seattle, Part 1.

The Battle for Seattle Part 3

The Battle for Seattle Part 4

Dora Taylor

Don Neilson, the Discovery Institute and Intelligent Design

Don Nielson

Don Nielson recently had yet another op ed published by the Seattle Times, a newspaper which has provided many wealthy (white) men with a platform and microphone to share their opinions with the rest of us on public education. This time Mr. Nielson wanted to state that a lack of adequate funding for public schools is not the problem, it’s having an elected school board among other things.

What came to my attention, thanks to my co-editor’s sleuthing, was the fact that the same Don Nielson is also a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute and “chair of the Institute’s program on public education reform.”

discovery instituteThat wouldn’t be too shocking except for two items. First, Don Nielson has had a great influence over Seattle Public Schools in the past and continues to try and influence the public conversation now, and also because the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture is “dedicated to the reinvigoration of traditional Western principles and institutions and the worldview from which they issued” and is “the institutional hub for scientists, educators, and inquiring minds who think that nature supplies compelling evidence of intelligent design. We support research, sponsor educational programs, defend free speech, and produce articles, books, and multimedia content.” And here’s another good one:Discovery Institute has a special concern for the role that science and technology play in our culture and how they can advance free markets, illuminate public policy and support the theistic foundations of the West.”

With all this in mind, let me take you back a bit.

In 2010 I wrote the first in a series of posts titled “The Battle for Seattle” which provides a history of the Broad Foundation in Seattle and the attempt at a corporate takeover of the district.

To follow is an excerpt from Part One: Don Nielson and the Broad Foundation to provide some context:

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan with Eli Broad at President Obama's first Inaugural Ball
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan with Eli Broad at President Obama’s first Inaugural Ball

Someone asked me recently to describe the presence of the Broad Foundation in Seattle. At first I thought that would be an easy task because it all started with our superintendent, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, right?

Well, not really. It started several years before she arrived on the scene here in Seattle and it started with two people, Don Nielson and Joseph Olchefske.

The Broad Foundation’s goal is to privatize our public school system by way of charter schools. Eli Broad has become influential over the years, beginning in 1999, in transforming school districts around the country to his vision of what education should be. As Mr. Broad makes clear in a recent post on the Huffington Post, he does not see the need for educators to necessarily be a part of our public school system; rather people with a background in business, law or the military would make far better choices to run our schools. That viewpoint is fine to have as long as it is not forced on an unsuspecting public but unfortunately it has been with at best mixed results.

The people of the state of Washington have voted against charter schools being in our state twice so far but there is an effort for that to change with the next legislative session which begins in January, 2011. That campaign began a long time ago and in a rather surreptitious manner

I will begin with Don Nielson, a person who has been on the scene as well as behind the scenes in Seattle since 1992.

Mr. Nielson began his foray into education after retiring as CEO of Hazelton Labs, a business that he had successfully developed over the years. Don Nielson received his MBA from Harvard Business School and has since been active as an alumnus with the Seattle Harvard Business School Alumni Association. He is also a member of the Board of Advisers with the University of Washington’s School of Education where he had received his BA.

Upon his retirement, he traveled around the country, looking at different schools and school districts and decided upon his return to Seattle that he would become actively involved in education by running for school board director. His bid was successful and he began his first term as a director on the Seattle school board in 1992.

Don Nielson became President of the Seattle school board in 2001. He handled running the school board like running a business. As a previous board member said to me, “If you were chosen to be on the board by Don Nielsen, you would be sent back east for this corporate training.” That training was done by the Broad Foundation.

According to one board member who had gone through the “corporate training” when asked why the board was not more receptive to parent input, she said that at the Broad training they were told that as board members they would get thousands and thousands of ideas from the public but the only ideas they should pursue were those from “professionals” at national conferences and at Broad meetings.

Mr. Nielson was also part of the faculty of The Broad Center for Superintendents.

See The Lines of Influence in Education Reform.

Mr. Nielson’s business, Teach First, recently merged with editure which focuses on online virtual schools and colleges with testing and assessment services and tutoring centers. They also provide educational software and e-learning tools and stand to make a lot of money with the standardization of curriculum and the testing that is based on that curriculum.

Since this post was published in 2010, Don Nielson has had a few op-ed’s published in the Seattle Times. He has stated that class size doesn’t matter, the Supreme Court decision that charter schools are not “common schools” was a mistake and that teachers should not go on strike.

So next time you read yet another op ed by Mr. Nielson, consider the source.

Dora Taylor

Edu$hysters of the Week: Tim Quinn of Michigan (and the Broad Foundation, of course)

This is part 2 in a series on what’s going on in the great state of Michigan. What’s happening in Utica, MI happened in Seattle and just might happen in your neck of the woods if it hasn’t already.

To read Part 1, go to Introducing the Edu$hysters of the week and they all hail from the great state of Michigan.


Part 2: Edu$hyster of the Week: Tim Quinn of Michigan

Tim Quinn, center, at Broad soiree.
Tim Quinn, center, at Broad soiree.

Although his name isn’t wildly popular or even moderately recognized, Tim Quinn has made a significant mark on Utica Community Schools. In 1997, Tim Quinn founded the Michigan Learning Institute, a private consulting firm that specializes in finding and hiring Superintendents. In 1999, Tim Quinn partnered on the creation of The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems and the Broad Superintendents Academy. The Superintendents Academy specializes in Superintendent training.

In 2002, Tim Quinn recruited Christine Johns to attend the Broad Superintendents Academy.  She graduated from the unaccredited academy in 2004.  In 2006, Quinn’s private business, the Michigan Leadership Institute was commissioned by Utica Schools to find a Superintendent. The Institute placed Christine Johns as Superintendent, preserving her legacy as one of the highest compensated government officials in the state of Michigan.

Carol Klenow
Carol Klenow

As the managing Director of Alumni Services at the Broad School Academy, Quinn is in charge of finding placements for ALL Broad Superintendent Academy graduates.  In 2006, Carol Klenow and Utica Community Schools commissioned Tim Quinn’s private firm, The Michigan Leadership Institute, to conduct a “fair and open” search for a new Superintendent.  After reviewing the relationship parallels of Quinn and his associates, it would appear that a fair and open search was not conducted for the placement of a Superintendent. Tim Quinn had a special interest in seeing that Christine Johns was placed in the second largest district in the state of Michigan. His business, the Michigan Leadership Institute, would receive compensation for the placement of his hand-picked Broad Academy graduate. At the same time, he would fulfill his duties as the Managing Director of Alumni/Network Services at the Broad Superintendent Academy and ensure the placement for one of his carefully selected Broad School alumni.

Why did Carol Klenow select Quinn to conduct the Superintendent “search”?  Quinn’s endeavors in educational business did not begin with Johns and Broad. In 1999, Tim Quinn helped create Michigan’s first virtual learning academy. This fledgling operation is now The Michigan Virtual University and has expanded to include Michigan Virtual Learning School, which services high school and junior high home-schooled children. Coincidentally, Carol Klenow is the current Program Administrator for the tax- payer funded Oakland County Virtual Learning Academy, which services home-schooled children. Did Carol Klenow consult Tim Quinn regarding who to hire as Utica Superintendent so that she would be able find the candidate who would best help her and Quinn build their Michigan virtual learning empire?

Christine Johns
Christine Johns

Tim Quinn also founded the Michigan Supes Academy, which is a branch of the Michigan Leadership Institute. The Supes Academy specializes in training prospective administrators. Quinn hires many “Broad School Superintendents” to be instructors and to sit on the Board of Directors/Advisors for the Supes Academy.  Christine Johns is a current instructor and is on the Board of Advisors for the Michigan Leadership Institute’s Supes Academy. The private company, Michigan Leadership Institute, also specializes in human resource services such as training and bargaining.  Christine Johns is currently contracting the Michigan Leadership Institute to carry out human resource services at a significant cost to the taxpayers and students. Why would the Utica Community Schools Board of Education allow Christine Johns to work for the same institute that placed her in Utica Schools?  Why would the UCS school board allow for her to use district time to work for the same private institute that was commissioned to place her in Utica Schools? Why would the school board allow for Christine Johns to contract that same institute, at the expense of the tax-payers, to conduct human resource services for the district?


The answers are simple. All parties get paid at the expense of the tax-payers and students.  Quinn is the proprietor or partner of many businesses that thrive through taxpayer and student dollars.  Klenow commissions Quinn’s private company, the Michigan Leadership Institute, to find a Superintendent candidate who will support the creation of virtual learning for homeschooled children.  Superintendent Johns is chosen by the Michigan Leadership Institute and receives one the highest compensation packages received by any government executive in the state of Michigan.  Carol Klenow becomes the leader of the Oakland County Virtual Learning Academy for homeschooled children.  Following in the footsteps of her mentor, Klenow opens her own Human Resource Consulting firm, Oakridge Consulting Services LLC, which specializes in hiring school administrators.  In 2010, Klenow is also hired by School Exec Connect, which specializes in the hiring of School Administrators.  Like Quinn, Klenow has the power to place administrators that support virtual learning into all districts across the state. Utica Superintendent, Christine Johns, is chosen to work for Quinn’s Michigan Leadership Institute.  Superintendent John’s currently works for and serves on the Advisors Board for the Supes Academy, a branch of the Michigan Leadership Institute.  She is sent all over the country to train administrators on the “Broad School” approach.  Christine Johns, in turn, rewards the Michigan Leadership Institute to conduct Human Resource activities. Christine Johns rewarded the same company that placed her into Utica Community Schools and obtained her services within the company. She has forged a codependent relationship with the organization that affords her financial opportunities as she feeds their cash cow.

Edu$hysters: So much money, so little time.

To watch a Fox News program that lays it on thick for Tim Quinn, see Fox Business.

The authors are anonymous from Parents Across Utica Community Schools.

This post was edited by Dora Taylor.

A Parent Guide to the Broad Foundation’s training programs and education policies

This was originally posted on the Parents Across America website by Leonie Haimson. It’s an excellent overview of the influence of Eli Broad on our educational system.

I added the photo’s.


The question I ask is why should Eli Broad and Bill Gates have more of a say as to what goes on in my child’s classroom than I do? 

Sue Peters, co-editor Seattle Education and founding member for Parents Across America.

Marie Goodloe-Johnson

In recent months, three prominent school district superintendents resigned or were fired, after allegations of mismanagement, autocratic leadership styles, and/or the pursuit of unpopular policies. All three were trained by the Broad Superintendents Academy: Maria Goodloe-Johnson (class of 2003) of the Seattle school district, LaVonne Sheffield (class of 2002) of the Rockford, Illinois school district, and Jean-Claude Brizard (class of 2008) of the Rochester New York school district. Brizard resigned to take the job as CEO of Chicago schools, but his superintendency in Rochester had been mired in controversy. Another Broad-trained Superintendent recently announced his resignation: Tom Brady (class of 2004) of Providence, Rhode Island.

Chris Cerf, New Jersey

Three more Broad-trainees have been recently placed in new positions of authority: John Deasy (class of 2006), as Superintendent of the Los Angeles United School District, John White (class of 2010), Superintendent of the Recovery School District in New Orleans,  and Chris Cerf (class of 2004), New Jersey’s Acting Education Commissioner. Tom Boasberg was appointed Denver’s Superintendent in January 2009, shortly after taking an “Intensive” training at the Broad Academy.   (See map below from the Broad website, showing where until recently their trainees served.)

This summary is designed to help parents and other concerned citizens better understand the Broad Foundation’s role in training new superintendents and other “reform” activities, and how the foundation leverages its wealth to impose a top-down, corporate-style business model on our public schools. It is time for communities to become aware of how this major force works.

What is the Broad Foundation?

The Edythe and Eli Broad Foundation engages in venture philanthropy in four areas: education, medical research, contemporary art, and civic projects in Los Angeles. The foundation was established in 1999 by billionaire Eli Broad (b. 1933) who made his fortune in real estate and the insurance business.

A closer look at the Broad Foundation’s “investment” in education

Eli Broad and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at Obama’s Inaugural Ball.

The Gates Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and the Broad Foundation form a powerful triumvirate. The combined net worth of the three families who operate these foundations is $152 billion. By strategically deploying their immense wealth through training school leaders, financing think-tank reports, and supporting “Astro Turf” advocacy groups, these three foundations have been able to steer the direction of education reform over the past decade.

The Broad Foundation is the least wealthy of the three, but has still spent nearly $400 million on its mission of “transforming urban K-12 public education through better governance, management, labor relations and competition.” But what does that actually mean?

The signature effort of the Broad Foundation is its investment in its training programs, operated through the Broad Center for the Management of School Systems and the Broad Institute for School Boards. The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems is the larger of the two and consists of two programs: the Broad Superintendents Academy and the Broad Residency in Urban Education.

Eli and Edythe Broad with Michelle Rhee and husband Chris Johnson.

The Broad Superintendents Academy runs a training program held during six weekends over ten months, after which graduates are placed in large districts as superintendents. Those accepted into the program (“Broad Fellows”) are not required to have a background in-education; many come instead from careers in the military, business, or government. Tuition and travel expenses for participants are paid for by the Broad Center, which also sometimes covers a share of the graduates’ salaries when they are appointed into district leadership positions. The foundation’s website boasts that 43 percent of all large urban superintendent openings were filled by Broad Academy graduates in 2009.

The Broad Superintendents Academy’s weekend training course provides an “alternative” certification process which has come to supplant or override the typical regulations in many states that require that individuals have years of experience as a teacher and principal before being installed as a school district superintendents.

The Broad Residency in Urban Education is a two-year program, during which individuals with MBAs, JDs, etc. in the early stages of their careers are placed in high-level managerial positions in school districts, charter management organizations, or state and federal departments of education. The Broad Center subsidizes approximately 33 percent of each Resident’s salary.

For financially struggling school districts, the Broad Foundation’s offer of trained personnel or services for a free or reduced cost is extremely appealing, and creates a “pipeline” of individuals with the same ideology who can be installed in central office positions.

The Broad Institute for School Boards provides three training programs for elected school board members and non-Broad-trained superintendents conducted in partnership with the Center for Reform of School Systems (CRSS). The Institute trains new board members at a one-week summer residential setting. Its Alumni Institute is an advanced course for experienced school board members. The third program, Reform Governance in Action, is by invitation only and provides “a long-term, training/consulting partnership program to selected large, urban districts.” The Broad Foundation underwrites 80 percent of all program costs through a grant to CRSS.

The Broad Prize sits in the offices of the Department of Education in D.C.

The “Broad Prize for Education” is an annual monetary award which is designated for college scholarships; it is given to the urban school district which the foundation deems as the most “improved” in the country. The selection process is sometimes seen as more political than based on actual results.

The Broad Foundation also supports a broad range of pro-charter school advocacy groups, as well as alternative training programs for non-educators who want to work as teachers and principals (Teach for America, New Leaders for New Schools).

In addition, the foundation offers free diagnostic “audits” to school districts, along with recommendations aligned with its policy preferences.  It produces a number of guides and toolkits for school districts, including a “School Closure Guide,” based on the experiences of Broad-trained administrators involved in closing schools in Boston, Charleston, Chicago, Dallas, Washington, D.C., Miami-Dade County, Oakland, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Seattle.

The foundation finances the Education Innovation Laboratory, run by Harvard economist Roland Fryer, which carries out large-scale experiments in schools districts, focused on teacher pay for performance and rewarding students for good test scores and grades. So far, these trials have failed to demonstrate positive results.

Ben Austin, the Parent Revolution

The foundation provided start-up funding for Parent Revolution (formerly the Los Angeles Parent Union), the group which developed the “Parent Trigger” legislation, designed to encourage the conversion of public schools to charter schools. Broad has also has given large amounts of money to Education Reform Now, a pro-charter school advocacy organization.

Eli Broad has said he “expects to be a major contributor” to Students First, former D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s organization that advocates for the expansion of charters, vouchers, and an end to seniority protections for teachers. And journalist Richard Whitmire, author of “The Bee Eater,” an admiring biography of Rhee, expressed his gratitude in the book to Democrats for Education Reform, a pro-charter lobbying organization, for serving as the “pass through” for funds from the Broad Foundation which allowed him to “invest everything in book research.”

The foundation provided start-up funds to New York City’s Leadership Academy, which trains individuals to serve as principals in the city public schools, several of whose graduates have been accused of financial misconduct, as well as  arbitrary and dictatorial treatment of teachers, students and parents.

The foundation also helps sponsors media events (a PBS series on the “education crisis” hosted by Charlie Rose, the series Education Nation on NBC, etc.). These programs help promote for Eli Broad’s vision of free-market education reform.

In addition to using his foundation to effect change to American public education, Eli Broad has made personal campaign contributions to candidates who are favorably disposed to his preferred policies, even down to the local school board level. In this way, he has helped influence the selection of superintendents who are aligned with him ideologically, even though they may not be Broad Academy graduates.

For instance, Broad contributed to the campaigns of school board candidates who supported former U.S. Assistant Attorney General Alan Bersin’s appointment as superintendent of San Diego’s school district. A 2006 Vanity Fair article by Bob Colacello reported that “Broad believes reform must come “the top down” and that his foundation “plans to virtually take over the Delaware school system in 2007, pending approval from that state’s legislature.”

In 2003, Joseph Wise (class of 2003) was installed as superintendent of Christina School District, Delaware’s largest. In 2006, Wise was succeeded by Lillian Lowery (class of 2004), who served until 2009 when she was appointed as the state’s Secretary of Education. Two Broad Residents work under Lowery at the state level. Another Broad superintendent, Marcia Lyles (class of 2006), replaced Lowery as superintendent of Christina School District.

Joel Klein, now on Rupert Murdoch’s team.

Along with Bill Gates, Broad contributed millions of dollars to the campaign to extend mayoral control of the public schools in New York City under Michael Bloomberg. Among the leaders he is close to and has personally advised behind the scenes are former NYC Chancellor Joel Klein, former D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee, AFT President Randi Weingarten, and US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

How the Broad Foundation affects public school families

Broad and his foundation believe that public schools should be run like a business. One of the tenets of his philosophy is to produce system change by “investing in a disruptive force.” Continual reorganizations, firings of staff, and experimentation to create chaos or “churn” is believed to be productive and beneficial, as it weakens the ability of communities to resist change.

As Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, a proponent of this philosophy has said, “…we can afford to make lots more mistakes and in fact we have to throw more things at the wall. The big companies that get into trouble are those that try to manage their size instead of experimenting with it.”

A hallmark of the Broad-style leadership is closing existing schools rather than attempting to improve them, increasing class size, opening charter schools, imposing high-stakes test-based accountability systems on teachers and students, and implementing of pay for performance schemes. The brusque and often punitive management style of Broad-trained leaders has frequently alienated parents and teachers and sparked protests.

“I like expensive clothes, expensive cars. I collect Rolex watches but my favorite place is 7 Eleven.” John Q. Porter

Several communities have forced their Broad-trained superintendents to resign, including Arnold “Woody” Carter (class or 2002), formerly of the Capistrano Unified School District; Thandiwee Peebles,( class of 2002), formerly of the Minneapolis Public School District; and John Q. Porter (class of 2006), formerly of the Oklahoma City Public School District.

A number of other Broad-trained superintendents have received votes of “no confidence” from the teachers in their districts, including Rochester’s Jean-Claude Brizard (class of 2008), Seattle’s Maria Goodloe-Johnson (class of 2003); Deborah Sims (class of 2005) while Superintendent of the Antioch Unified School District (CA); Matthew Malone (class of 2003) while Superintendent of the Swampscott School District (MA); and most recently, Melinda J. Boone (class of 2004) Superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools (MA).

Kimberly Statham

The Oakland Unified School District (CA) experienced a series of three consecutive Broad-trained, state-appointed administrators over a period of six years. The first, Randolph Ward (class of 2003), aroused huge protests with his plans to close schools and even hired a personal bodyguard for the duration of his tenure. Ward was followed by Kimberly Statham (class of 2003), and Vincent Mathews (class of 2006), all of whom left the district in financial shambles. A civil grand jury found that

“….the district was hampered by continuous staff turnover, particularly in the area of finance, numerous reorganizations and a succession of state administrators…After nearly five years of state management, OUSD’s budget remains unbalanced and the district’s future is unclear.”

Joseph Wise (class of 2003), formerly Superintendent of the Duval County Florida Public Schools, was found to have spent thousands of dollars on personal purchases while a superintendent in Delaware, before being fired by his Duval post in disgrace. While a finalist for the post of Superintendent in Washoe County in Nevada, Kimberly Olson (class of 2005) pled guilty of having engaged in war profiteering when she was a colonel in Iraq.

Deborah Gist

Chris Cerf (class of 2004), the acting New Jersey Education Commissioner, has been criticized for not identifying his involvement in a consulting firm which developed an secret plan to turn many Newark public schools over to charter operators. The Broad Foundation acknowledged that it put up $500,000 to pay for the plan.  Deborah Gist (class of 2008), Rhode Island Commissioner of Education, has supported the firing of all teachers in Central Falls and more recently in Providence, and is aggressively fighting seniority protections for teachers.

General Tata with his heroine.

General Anthony Tata (class of 2009), has been embroiled in controversy for dismantling Wake County’s desegregation plan. John Covington (class of 2008), Superintendent of Kansas City Schools, has announced his intention to close half the schools districts in the city. Robert Bobb (class of 2005),  the Emergency Financial Manager of the Detroit Public Schools, recently sent layoff notices to every one of the district’s 5,466 salaried employees, including all its teachers, and said that nearly a third of the district’s schools would be closed or turned over to private charter operators. At a recent town hall which Bobb had called so he could go over his plan, angry students, parents, and teachers drove him from the meeting. He was escorted out by his six bodyguards.


Eli Broad is a wealthy individual, accountable to no one but himself, who wields vast power over our public schools. Parents and community members should be aware of the extent to which the he and his foundation influence educational policies in districts throughout the country, through Broad-funded advocacy groups, Broad-sponsored experiments and reports, and the placement of Broad-trained school leaders, administrators and superintendents.

Parents Across America considers Broad’s influence to be inherently undemocratic, as it disenfranchises parents and other stakeholders in an effort to privatize our public schools and imposes corporate-style policies without our consent. We strongly oppose allowing our nation’s education policy to be driven by billionaires who have no education expertise, who do not send their own children to public schools, and whose particular biases and policy preferences are damaging our children’s ability to receive a quality education.

For more information on the Broad Superintendents and Residents

Maps showing where some of the Broad superintendents and residents are currently employed can be found on the Broad Foundation’s website: Broad Superintendents Academy Fellows and Broad Residents, as well as links to more information about them.

The only complete list of Broad Superintendent trainees is here, on The Broad Report website, which was created by Sharon Higgins, a founding member of Parents Across America.

See also our video: “Parents Across America speak out about corporate interests in education.”

Additional Reading

Barkan, Joanne. “Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule our Schools,” Dissent Winter 2011. http://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/?article=3781

Colacello, Bob. “Eli Broad’s Big Picture,” Vanity Fair 01 December 2006. http://broadartfoundation.org/press/0612_VanityFair_EB039.pdf

Forbes Staff. “The World’s Billionaires.” Forbes Magazine 09 March 2011.http://www.forbes.com/wealth/billionaires

Foundation Center. “Top 100 U.S. Foundation by Asset Size.” http://foundationcenter.org/findfunders/topfunders/top100assets.html

Gammon, Robert. “Eli’s Experiment.” East Bay Express 10 October 2007. http://www.eastbayexpress.com/gyrobase/elis-experiment/Content?oid=1084299&storyPage=1

Goldsmith, Thomas and T. Keung Hui, “Billionaire’s money, ideas may leave mark in Wake,” North Raleigh News, April 6, 2011; http://www.northraleighnews.com/2011/04/06/7373/billionaires-money-ideas-may-leave.html

Higgins, Sharon. “The Broad Report” http://thebroadreport.blogspot.com/

Peters, Sue and Dora Taylor. “Seattle Education 2010” blog. https://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/

Saltman, Kenneth. “The Rise of Venture Philanthropy and the Ongoing Neoliberal Assault on Public Education: The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.” Workplace, 16, 2009 http://m1.cust.educ.ubc.ca/journal/index.php/workplace/article/viewFile/65/saltman

Scott, Janelle. “The Politics of Venture Philanthropy in Charter School Policy and Advocacy.” Educational Policy January 2009. http://epx.sagepub.com/content/23/1/106.abstract

Shafer, Jack. “Bully in Search of a Pulpit.” Slate 09 November, 2006; http://www.slate.com/id/2153362/

Tough, Paul (editor). “How Many Billionaires Does It Take to Fix a School System.” New York Times 09 March 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/09/magazine/09roundtable-t.html?_r=2

View the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation grants on the IRS Form 990s at the National Center for Charitable Statistics or GuideStar. The foundation’s Federal Employer ID Number (EIN) is 954686318.

Chris Hedges: Why the United States Is Destroying Its Education System

Posted originally on April 11, 2012 on truthdig.

Chris Hedges

A nation that destroys its systems of education, degrades its public information, guts its public libraries and turns its airwaves into vehicles for cheap, mindless amusement becomes deaf, dumb and blind. It prizes test scores above critical thinking and literacy. It celebrates rote vocational training and the singular, amoral skill of making money. It churns out stunted human products, lacking the capacity and vocabulary to challenge the assumptions and structures of the corporate state. It funnels them into a caste system of drones and systems managers. It transforms a democratic state into a feudal system of corporate masters and serfs.

Teachers, their unions under attack, are becoming as replaceable as minimum-wage employees at Burger King. We spurn real teachers—those with the capacity to inspire children to think, those who help the young discover their gifts and potential—and replace them with instructors who teach to narrow, standardized tests. These instructors obey. They teach children to obey. And that is the point. The No Child Left Behind program, modeled on the “Texas Miracle,” is a fraud. It worked no better than our deregulated financial system. But when you shut out debate these dead ideas are self-perpetuating.

Passing bubble tests celebrates and rewards a peculiar form of analytical intelligence. This kind of intelligence is prized by money managers and corporations. They don’t want employees to ask uncomfortable questions or examine existing structures and assumptions. They want them to serve the system. These tests produce men and women who are just literate and numerate enough to perform basic functions and service jobs. The tests elevate those with the financial means to prepare for them. They reward those who obey the rules, memorize the formulas and pay deference to authority. Rebels, artists, independent thinkers, eccentrics and iconoclasts—those who march to the beat of their own drum—are weeded out.

“Imagine,” said a public school teacher in New York City, who asked that I not use his name, “going to work each day knowing a great deal of what you are doing is fraudulent, knowing in no way are you preparing your students for life in an ever more brutal world, knowing that if you don’t continue along your scripted test prep course and indeed get better at it you will be out of a job. Up until very recently, the principal of a school was something like the conductor of an orchestra: a person who had deep experience and knowledge of the part and place of every member and every instrument. In the past 10 years we’ve had the emergence of both [Mayor] Mike Bloomberg’s Leadership Academy and Eli Broad’s Superintendents Academy, both created exclusively to produce instant principals and superintendents who model themselves after CEOs. How is this kind of thing even legal? How are such ‘academies’ accredited? What quality of leader needs a ‘leadership academy’? What kind of society would allow such people to run their children’s schools? The high-stakes tests may be worthless as pedagogy but they are a brilliant mechanism for undermining the school systems, instilling fear and creating a rationale for corporate takeover. There is something grotesque about the fact the education reform is being led not by educators but by financers and speculators and billionaires.”

Teachers, under assault from every direction, are fleeing the profession. Even before the “reform” blitzkrieg we were losing half of all teachers within five years after they started work—and these were people who spent years in school and many thousands of dollars to become teachers. How does the country expect to retain dignified, trained professionals under the hostility of current conditions? I suspect that the hedge fund managers behind our charter schools system—whose primary concern is certainly not with education—are delighted to replace real teachers with nonunionized, poorly trained instructors. To truly teach is to instill the values and knowledge which promote the common good and protect a society from the folly of historical amnesia. The utilitarian, corporate ideology embraced by the system of standardized tests and leadership academies has no time for the nuances and moral ambiguities inherent in a liberal arts education. Corporatism is about the cult of the self. It is about personal enrichment and profit as the sole aim of human existence. And those who do not conform are pushed aside.

“It is extremely dispiriting to realize that you are in effect lying to these kids by insinuating that this diet of corporate reading programs and standardized tests are preparing them for anything,” said this teacher, who feared he would suffer reprisals from school administrators if they knew he was speaking out. “It is even more dispiriting to know that your livelihood depends increasingly on maintaining this lie. You have to ask yourself why are hedge fund managers suddenly so interested in the education of the urban poor? The main purpose of the testing craze is not to grade the students but to grade the teacher.”

“I cannot say for certain—not with the certainty of a Bill Gates or a Mike Bloomberg who pontificate with utter certainty over a field in which they know absolutely nothing—but more and more I suspect that a major goal of the reform campaign is to make the work of a teacher so degrading and insulting that the dignified and the truly educated teachers will simply leave while they still retain a modicum of self-respect,” he added. “In less than a decade we been stripped of autonomy and are increasingly micromanaged. Students have been given the power to fire us by failing their tests. Teachers have been likened to pigs at a trough and blamed for the economic collapse of the United States. In New York, principals have been given every incentive, both financial and in terms of control, to replace experienced teachers with 22-year-old untenured rookies. They cost less. They know nothing. They are malleable and they are vulnerable to termination.”

To read this post in full, go to Why the United States Is Destroying Its Education System.

Dora Taylor

Broad-Trained Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson Reappears in Broward County, Florida

Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson

For all of the folks in Broward County, we have something to share with you regarding a candidate for superintendent who is listed on the Broward School District’s website, Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson.

The following article should be a red flag to you about hiring anyone who has anything to do with Bill Gates or the Broad Foundation.

I would highly recommend that you personally vet each candidate even if it’s a quick Google search, for instance with the candidate’s name and the words “broad foundation”. If there is no connection, great, then continue to check out their credentials, if there is a connection, do not let this candidate pass “Go”.

After you read this article, Ten+ Reasons Why the Seattle Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson, Should Be Fired With Cause which was initially posted in February of this year, you’ll get the gist of what would otherwise await you.

Ten+ Reasons Why the Seattle Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson, Should Be Fired With Cause.

Fred Stephens, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, Silas Potter

The Seattle School Board will be meeting in an Executive Session on Tuesday, March 1st, to deliberate on how to move forward after news broke about the scandal involving Silas Potter and the superintendent’s decision to keep the information from the school board.

The information that was brought forward about Mr. Potter having an office inside the Stanford Center and doling out favors and money to minority businesses as well as providing assistance to minority businesses to obtain contracts for government projects that were not related to the Seattle Public School system is egregious enough. That Dr. Goodloe-Johnson chose to keep this information secret and not provide the evidence of this illegal activity to the school board is an ethics violation and could go beyond that with further investigation.

But, knowing the school board members and how most of them have done nothing but nod in agreement with the superintendent during her entire tenure, Sue and I decided that our school board needs to be reminded of many other reasons why the superintendent can and should be fired with cause.

This is the short list:

Brad Bernatek

1. The false 17 percent college readiness “data” scandal produced by “Broad Resident” Brad Bernatek. This 17% number was used by the superintendent to further her agenda of corporate reform. It was a false percentage in terms of students prepared for college but was used widely. With that number she was able to bring people and organizations, including the school board, on board with the evaluation of teachers based on test scores, using the MAP® test to evaluate students excessively and using that test as an evaluation tool for a teacher’s performance. Which leads us to #2.

2. The superintendent was on the board of directors of the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), the company that designed and sells the Measures of Academic Progress® (MAP®) test which the Seattle Public School District now administers to nearly all its students three times a year. She was on this board before the MAP® test was used in Seattle and it was due to her efforts that our school system now pays for that test to the tune of over $10 million to date. The conflict of interest/ethics violation, cited in the state audit of the school district released last year, was that Goodloe-Johnson was on the NWEA board of directors when the school board was deliberating on whether to buy the MAP® test or not and that she did not disclose to the school board her affiliation with NWEA during these deliberations. Which brings us to #3.

3. According to e-mail exchanges between NWEA members, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson and Michael Casserly of the Council of the Great City Schools (CGCS), there was a sizable grant of $3.7 million from the Gates Foundation that NWEA wanted to get their hands on. It apparently was awarded to the CGCS to “study student achievement gaps.” The Great City Schools  board would determine whose data would be used in the study. Judging by the e-mail exchanges, NWEA likely knew that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson was also on the board of the Great Cities’ Schools’ Council, and  asked her to use her influence to have NWEA’s MAP® product considered rather than the NAEP for providing the assessments. This is another ethical if not illegal violation. Seattle’s school superintendent was effectively shilling for NWEA for millions of dollars in potential grant money, during SPS work hours, using her SPS e-mail, when she was supposed to be taking care of our students, and not some executives at a profit-making organization.

4. Regarding the contract that was developed and signed by Teach for America, Inc. and Seattle Public Schools, it is one of the worst and most one-sided contacts that we have ever seen. It favors TFA, to put it lightly. There are no guarantees or warranties. TFA is held blameless for the performance of their teachers and if things don’t work out, too bad, we don’t get our money back. The original version of the contract also violates the FERPA privacy protection rights of the district’s school children. It would have allowed TFA, Inc. not only access to the private information of Seattle’s school children, but the right to share that information with undisclosed third parties. Sue goes into the details of this contract in her post “Controversial Teach For America Back on the Agenda for Seattle Schools”.

It was due to the efforts of the supe and her appointed CAO, Susan Enfield, that we now have to hire these recruits with five weeks of training to teach our children with no guarantees.

Need I go on? Well, for the school board’s sake I believe that I do.

5. The 2010 Accountability Audit as determined by the State Board of Auditors. The entire document is damning of the school district, citing mismanagement of district resources and calls out the school board for failing to oversee the superintendent. One of the less egregious but interesting exceptions discovered was the $7,000* retirement party for a staffer featuring a carving station, which the superintendent inappropriately charged to her district credit card. (Oops!) This was at the same time that she and district leadership were cutting back on counselors, librarians and transportation for Seattle school children while citing a “budget crisis.” (*The audit cites a $3,800 price tag, but further digging by parent activist and blogger Melissa Westbrook uncovered further expenditures for the party which brought the total up to $7,000.)

6. The Seattle Education Association gave the superintendent a near-unanimous vote of “No Confidence” after teaching staff at several Seattle schools gave her a vote of “No Confidence”.

7. The superintendent closed schools over community protest at a time when enrollment was increasing. Her action also raised the threshold for Title I funding eligibility, causing some schools (such as Thurgood Marshall Elementary) to lose vital funding for underprivileged students.

8. The superintendent rif’ed teachers when her own people were telling her that enrollment would be increasing that fall. The majority of teachers were hired back for the fall semester.

9. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson imposed a new student assignment plan that has resulted in overcrowding in some parts of the district (West Seattle), severe under-enrollment in other parts (McDonald, Sand Point, Queen Anne Elementary), and without ensuring that all schools are equally “quality” schools, as promised, and has re-segregated our schools. Compounded with that is the transportation plan that does not provide bus service from the south end to several of the option schools on the north end and therefore eliminates options for the majority of low-income/minority students.

10. Our superintendent met only 4 out of 17 performance goals that were set by her and the school board at the beginning of her tenure. That’s an “F” grade in my book. [This paragraph has been updated to correct the number of goals, from 20 to 17. — s.p.]

OK, so those are the top ten reasons why the superintendent should be fired with cause. For the rest of the list, and I am sure that others can add to this, we have, in no particular order:

11. The Native American grant program scandal including the time that a grant proposal did not get submitted on time by SPS and the program was not awarded necessary dollars. It would have been a slam dunk to receive the funds but the supe’s own appointee who was to be in charge of grants, missed the deadline. I guess she was too busy trying to keep up with all the money that Gates and Broad were funneling into SPS by way of the Alliance for Education.

12. The unwillingness of the superintendent to cut the bloated central administrative staff at at time of severe budget crisis. See: Budget Workshop Recap, Shorter and Possibly More Coherent” by Meg Diaz.

13. The superintendent sent an illegal letter to the district’s 3,000 teachers unilaterally canceling their contract, bypassing regular negotiation rules and practices. This was sent via Certified Mail at an estimated cost of $15,000 to the district.

14. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson proposed lowering the high school graduation grade average from a C average to a D average, over wide community opposition. Was this proposal made so that the superintendent could say that the graduation rate had increased during her watch?

15. The superintendent punished two SPS Special Education teachers for following the wishes of parents for their children not be evaluated by the standardized state WAAS test. Once publicized, she and the district rescinded the punishment.

16. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson recommended a flawed and controversial math textbook (Discovering series), ignoring hundreds of community letters and testimony opposing it.

This decision was appealed by a group of parents, teachers and UW Professor Cliff Mass. The school district lost in Supreme Court and was directed by the judge to reconsider the decision after finding the district had excluded evidence submitted by the public and deemed its selection of the math textbook “arbitrary and capricious.”

The superintendent refused to comply with the judge and instead appealed the judge’s order, which will incur more costs for the district.

17. According to a parent of a special education student, “She oversaw the botched rollout of special education overhaul (Integrated Comprehensive Services delivery model) that: 1) ignores the recommendations in the external peer review audit; 2) fails to provide training and resources to buildings to support special needs children in the general education setting; 3) has demoralized highly qualified special educators who work with children in inclusive settings and 4) fails to provide a true continuum of placements as required by federal law. The district’s actions have created an environment where children that need extra support are now destined to fail, experience misdirected discipline, and potentially regress or suffer emotional damage.”

18. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson presides over a central office that is significantly larger than any similar district in the state. A state audit found the central office to be significantly bloated. Yet, our superintendent has requested even more central staff, including more “Broad Residents” from the Broad Foundation, who cost $90,000 per year to employ.

19. She moved or replaced nearly a third of the district’s principals in less than year, in an unprecedented amount of upheaval, most often without allowing any community input. This has further disenfranchised parents and school communities.

Here’s the list:

Principal shuffles on Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson’s watch 2009-10:

May 2009: Roy Merca from Summit (closed) to AS1, Ernie Severs from AS1 to Sanislo, Debbie Nelson from Sanislo to Jane Addams, Chris Carter from African American Academy (closed) to Jane Addams to Hamilton Middle School, Dewanda Cook-Weaver from Lowell to McGilvra Elementary, Jo Shapiro from McGilvra Elem. to assistant principal at Hamilton Middle School, Wayne Floyd from John Stanford Center central office to Loyal Heights, Cashel Toner from Loyal Heights to Leschi Elem., Jo Lute-Ervin from Leschi to TOPS, Linda Robinson from Bryant to Whittier, Cothron McMillian from Whittier to Brighton, Ed Noh from Lawton to Hawaii?; Beverly Raines from Brighton Elem. to Lawton Elem. to retirement?, Gregory King from TT Minor (closed) to Lowell, Julie Briedenbach from Lowell Elem. to Thurgood Marshall Elem., Winifred Todd from Thurgood Marshall to Dunlap, Greg Imel from Dunlap to Bailey Gatzert, Norma Zavala from Bailey Gatzert to Concord, Sandra Scott from Concord to Hawthorne, Stacey McCrath-Smith was moved from Meany.

July 2009: Jill Hudson to Nathan Hale High School , Henterson Carlisle assigned interim principal of Madison Middle School .

Jan 2010: Kaaren Andrews from Madrona K-8 to the Interagency School, Cheryl Grinager from Green Lake Elementary to McDonald Elem. (to be reopened), David Elliott from Coe Elem to Old Hay (to be reopened)
Dan Warren from John Hay to Sand Point (to be reopened).
Feb/March 2010: DeWanda Cook-Weaver from McGilvra, Beverly Raines from Lawton . May 2010: Oksana Britsova to the Center School, Karen Hanson to John Hay Elem., Farah Thaxton to Madrona K-8, Mary Lane to McGilvra Elem. Joanne Bowers from North Beach Elementary to Green Lake Elementary and Lisa Escobar from Center High School to Rainier Beach High School. As noted in a comment below, the Center School had at least three interim principals from January to June in 2010.

There’s more but we will leave #20 to someone who would like to add to this list.

Dora Taylor and Sue Peters

Post Script:

Overall, these past three years have been the most chaotic and disruptive in recent SPS memory. Many feel this chaos was unnecessary and destructive. There have also been a number of appeals and lawsuits filed in response to district actions, irrational layoffs and then rehires of teachers, a constant churn of principal assignments, and a new student assignment plan that is overfilling some schools and leaving others half-empty, and sending some public school families to seek a more predictable and positive environment for their schoolchildren in private schools.



Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson came to us from the school district of Charleston , South Carolina, in 2007, where she had been superintendent. Before that, she spent time in various education administration positions in Colorado and Texas, and her home state of Nebraska, where she also once taught.

After just one year in Seattle (2007-08), the Seattle School Board awarded the superintendent a 10 percent pay raise. This brought her $240,000 salary up to $264,000. The superintendent makes more than the mayor of Seattle ($150,000), the state superintendent of public instruction, or even the governor of Washington ($163,618). (See: “School chief gets big 10% raise – Her $264,000 salary is more than even the governor’s” and “Seattle schools chief awarded 10% pay raise”)

The district also gives her a $20,000 annual retirement contribution and a $700/month car allowance. Some of us wondered if it was prudent to increase an already generous salary before any measurable work had actually been done. She had presented her “Strategic Plan for Excellence,” but nothing had been implemented yet. Apparently the board also failed to follow its own rules that allow public input into such decisions, as longtime public school activists and watchdogs Chris Jackins and Charlie Mas have pointed out. So there were no voices of the public or dissent permitted at this meeting where the school board voted 7-0 to raise the superintendent’s salary and extend her contract a year (to 2011). This seemed a premature and expensive vote of blind confidence to many of us.


The superintendent’s second year in Seattle was marked by the contentious turmoil of her “Capacity Management Plan,” which resulted in controversial school closures, co-housing of potentially incompatible schools, the splitting apart of the district’s highly gifted program, questionable cost savings, the laying off of 172 teachers and educators, a protest rally of parents, teachers and students, a petition opposing the closures that garnered over 1,700 signatures across the district, and growing dissent against the superintendent’s plans and methods. As many as 3,500 children were disrupted by the Capacity Management Plan.

Her evaluation was overseen by Tom Payzant, who is affiliated with the Broad Foundation, the venture philanthropy enterprise of L.A. billionaire Eli Broad which strongly supports the privatization of public schools via charters and has been quietly involving itself in the operation of Seattle Public School District, unbeknownst to most parents. As has been mentioned many times here and elsewhere, Supt. Goodloe- Johnson is a graduate of the Broad Foundation’s “Superintendent’s Academy” and remained on Broad’s board of directors until fall of 2010, an affiliation which many of us still consider a conflict of interest. [UPDATED from original to reflect Goodloe-Johnson’s current status with the Broad Foundation board. 3/1/11)

For the Seattle School District to allow someone not from our district and who is also affiliated with the Broad Foundation to be involved in this Broad-graduate superintendent’s evaluation struck many of us as highly questionable and not likely to be objective. Many also felt it would be inappropriate for the board to award the superintendent yet another pay raise in less than two years when the district claimed to be in severe budget crisis and had laid off teachers, closed schools and asked our children to make do with less. The superintendent was not awarded a raise, and her review criticized her lack of communication and interpersonal skills and failure to engage with the parents and community of SPS. (See: “School Board to Give Mixed Review to Supe”) However, later in the year, she was awarded a controversial “merit” based bonus of $5,280 for meeting only 4 out of 20 performance goals (see below).


A major focus of this year were the results of the closures and splits, and the development of the new student assignment plan (NSAP). There was also a focus on the teachers’ contract which was renegotiated. Some time in the last year, the board extended Goodloe-Johnson’s contract again, to 2012. It is not clear that any community input was sought in this decision.

The district slogan under this superintendent has been “Excellence for All. Every student achieving, everyone accountable.”

Has this superintendent lived up to her own motto?


Can Seattle’s Schools Afford Many More Years of Supt. Goodloe-Johnson?


Seattle Times, Seattle Public Schools, and Seattle Public Schools Community Blog.




Eli Broad’s Last Hurrah in Detroit?

Billionaires like Eli Broad seem to be willing to go to any length at this point to usurp their power over others when it comes to transforming public school systems into what they think is best for the rest of us.

Robert Bobb

I have been following Robert Bobb for the last year or so basically due to my amazement at the bravura that he has shown in carrying out the policies of the Broad Foundation. See Bob Bobb, The Sad Saga Continues and Bob Bobb, The Sad Saga Continues, Part 2. It seems that Bob Bobb is willing to go to any length to continue with his benefactor’s agenda to have a charter school in every district and municipality around this country.

Unfortunately, Eli Broad’s desire to reach his goal seems to be verging on the point of fanaticism with the push to get legislation through by way of Governor Snyder that now provides Emergency Financial Managers such as Bob Bobb with the power to ignore union contracts, undo local ordinances and dissolve city councils and school boards.

And as Bob Bobb’s disastrous tenure as Emergency Financial Manager comes to an end, he has decided to close 41 schools and open them all as charter schools or at least as many as possible. This does seem to be Eli Broad’s “Hail Mary pass” before Bobb’s time is up and he is sent to another school district by Broad to basically try to do the same, see Brizard and Chicago, Goodloe-Johnson and Newark, and even Bobb and DC, to get as many charter schools as possible into the Detroit school system. It is to the point now that Bob Bobb is doing all that he can to lure charter franchises, as many as possible, to set up shop in Detroit. The lengths some people will go to for money. If it wasn’t so pathetic, I could almost see some humor in envisioning Bob Bobb putting ads in the Privatization Times begging for corporate privateers to come to Detroit, stating that no start-up money is required and promising all the money one can grab from one of the nation’s most desperate urban centers. I can even imagine Eli Broad offering Bobb a sign-up bonus for every charter school operator that signs on, really.

Eli Broad has stepped over the line this time and for him there is no going back, that’s not his style. It is becoming obvious to many that his idea of reform at any cost is way beyond what even his backers envisioned. Mr. Broad’s ego has gotten the best of him and what might have been a vision for him has turned into a nightmare for others.

With his Broad graduates failing, one after the other, it’s just a matter of time before it all crumbles. Unfortunately by then, between Arne Duncan, Eli Broad and Bill Gates, billions of dollars and much goodwill will have been wasted and we will be back to where we were three years ago just a little bit wiser, far more organized and with a clear shared vision of what our schools should look like.