PART III of a THREE PART SERIES

globeflag

AUTHORS NOTE: Following the completion of this research (22 pages worth) I came across a document from UNESCO in 2002 that sums it up. Given this recent find, the ensuing research is not necessary to “prove” what I suspected: that UNESCO is steering the global ship of privatization. But enjoy the timeline of events and findings nevertheless—each slice of evidence simply further illustrates what is written in this 2002 document called Education Privatization: Causes, Consequences and Planning Implications. Well, the title says it all. This document promotes a slew of market-based reforms that might have well come from ALEC including: voucher programs, promotes charter schools, accountability, and data mining. The article states, “In general, the World Bank (and other supranational agencies) has encouraged reforms which lead toward privatization of public education” (p.32). At the conclusion of this trope, the authors recommend the reader visit a site called National Center for the Study of Privatization of Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Introduction

How did we get from first mention of national standards 1984 published at UNESCO to the privatization of public education (of which standards and testing are a huge part) in 2014? The idea of national standards have been an academic and pedagogical exercise for decades if not centuries. What this paper illustrates are not the debatable premises put forth in academic treatise but how national standards as a practice and policy have emerged in the last half century and the ways in which CCSS merges with other related education reform policies all of which lead to one goal: a privatized, market driven and globalized transformation of education.

How did the likes of Lou Gerstner who created Achieve, created in 1996 (who was awarded the contract for CCSS) in 2008 connect with UNESCO? How did an international agency that claims dedication to promoting world peace, and ending of poverty also advocate for a total disruption of education by technology driven corporations?

Without conjecture as to motive or intent, I parallel the last 30 years of reform which are intertwined with UNESCO and find some documented parallels and relationships. The conjecture is left to my reader. My findings here reflect what appear to be the three premises of the last few decades upon which global accountability driven reform are driven, posited by Heinz-Dieter MeyerDaniel TröhlerDavid F. Labaree & Ethan L. Hutt (Teachers College Record Volume 116 Number 9, 2014):•

  • homogenizing the heterogeneous reality of education through increasingly abstract and context-indifferent standards and outcome metrics;
  • shifting centers of policy making influence from “local” education professionals embedded in institutions and narratives of national history and culture to a global elite of experts, committed with increasing single-mindedness to the narrative of market efficiency; and
  • moving from decentralized governance and soft guidelines to centralized governance and hard mandates.

2000 to 2014: The Neoliberal Flow of Market Ideas are Full Blown

Technology is becoming BIG BUSINESS and the education “industry” is now in its sites given the corporate demand for accountability, innovative disruption, and standardized testing articulated in the reports cited previously in this paper. With the birth of global “data banks” free market investments into education technology enterprises are a booming industry. A standard set of tests and curriculum plugged into standard platforms for measurement enable investors to make data driven investment decisions.

The anticipation of monies provided to technology companies for “educational” purposes has been made manifest. In the fiscal year 2011, the US Department of Education provided the following contracts: www2.ed.gov/fund/data/report/contracts/servicecontractinventoryappendix/fy11servicecontractinventory.x

Research triangle Institute 14 contracts (many post secondary contracts)

Educational Testing Service (ETS) 9 contracts

Westat 38 contracts to “study data”

Perot Systems 39 contracts for operations and maintenance of the virtual data center.

International Business Machine (IBM) 28 contracts for support of daily operations of central operated processing system,

The costs to schools and profits to technology corporations as a result of Common Core driven reforms can be illustrated here:

2000:   According to a report from Techknowlogia, “The United States (U.S.) is a special case in the educational technology research and development arena because of the scope, scale and continued commitment of the federal government to the use of educational technologies. Education in the United States is a large enterprise, accounting for more than a third of the global education and training market (Software Information Industry Association 2001). Public and private entities in the United States invested nearly $800 billion dollars on education and training in FY2000, and technology-related investments were also sizeable. The Federal government alone invested over $3 billion on technology for education in FY2000, including the e-rate program, and the private sector invested approximately $2.5 billion. $33 million designated to the research and development of educational technologies in FY2000.

2001: A report from Knowledge Enterprise Publishers reads as follows:

“Big businesses have discovered how important management is to be well run, efficient and competitive … they utilized the potential of technology to restructure their procedures and overhaul their processes of production, distribution, training, feedback, maintenance and administration. But the education systems have been slow in exploiting the power of technology. Many educational institutions and systems have introduced simple management and statistical information systems. But this should be only the beginning. Two inter-related measures are needed: First, education systems need to undergo a structural re-engineering of their processes and techniques and to modernize their procedures and applications — at different levels of decision-making and administration. Second, communication and information technologies must be an integral part of the restructuring design and application.

Recent reforms within the education enterprise have resulted in observable successes in making educational opportunities more accessible and equitable and the teaching/learning process more effective. Yet these successes are making a hardly manageable system even more complicated:

  • Accent on learning requires setting of reliable and measurable standards, and attending to individual differences.
  • The public sector, which until recently has had a monopoly on the delivery of educational services, is starting to feel the competition from private enterprises which have been entering the market in escalating numbers. In many cases, particularly at the tertiary level, these private entities are using the potential of information and communication technology to lower cost and improve efficiency. Competition will demand from the public sector better-managed and more efficient systems and institutions.

The report from Knowledge Enterprise was published in editorial partnership with UNESCO. In addition, the advisory board for Knowledge Enterprise consists of many members of UNESCO as well as the World Bank.

According to one Mother Jones article, “Bill Gates has built his fortune by taking a standardized platform—Windows—and crafting a platter of services to fit it. He compares Common Core to the electric socket—under the old system, it was as if appliance makers had to make a different plug for each state.”  The parallels between uniformity and standardization in technology/communication and education have merged. Bill Gates contributions to the development of national standards and other efforts to privatize public education as a global market can be explored in greater detail here…and here. In other words CCSS becomes the vehicle through which technology can completely revolutionize global education practices.

As one report suggests, “Standards and interoperability are core tenets of the web. It’s because of shared communications protocols such as HTTP that anyone can create a web page or application that is usable by virtually anyone else. Similarly, proponents of the Common Core argue that having a shared understanding of priorities will allow all schools to improve by sharing best practices.”

This agenda is evident in all the reports cited here and further illustrated in the following UNESCO 2002 report.

2002: UNESCO Technologies for Learning is hosted by UNESCO and the Academy for Educational Development.

Lou Gerstner is a keynote speaker. The 2002 UNESCO report states, “Education is increasingly becoming a market, and a global one at that …And access to the production side of this market is even less equitable than access to its usage side.” The report adds that with increase usages of bandwidth, “Education projects may profit from this market-driven growth.”

2002: President Bush to rejoins UNESCO.

2004: The executive director for the American Legislative Council (ALEC) Duane Parde, is appointed by Secretary of State Colin Powell to UNESCO. Mr. Parde will as a state and local representative.

Mr. Parde served ALEC from 1996 to 2006. In 2007, he also worked for corporate consultancy Phoenix Strategies in Washington DC and National Taxpayers Union (a member of ALEC). Phoenix Strategies was established as a consultancy team which includes seasoned and professional senior level members of the Bush administration. “It specializes in business development, lobbying and consulting. They have represented industry areas in education, manufacturing, technology, pharmaceuticals, energy and associations.

He was president and is now Senior Advisor to National Taxpayers Union which receives funding from the tobacco industry and the Koch brothers. Major funder of the Legislation Education Action Drive (LEAD) include Alliance for School Choice, and it works with Parents in Charge Foundation. In 2001 he stated, “”It takes more than money to educate. Now more than ever our leaders must be open to new and innovative ways to improve the quality of education for all our children,” said Duane Parde, the council’s executive director.”

In his UNESCO role Parde announced: “As we look toward our children’s future, it becomes extremely important to place a high value on communication, information and knowledge,” says Parde. “This is precisely how we will break down the digital divide and create opportunities for all people, regardless of race, creed or economic sustainability.”

Other organizations that are ALEC-affiliated that have connections with UNESCO sponsored or supported policies include: Microsoft, IBM, Lou Gerstner, Pearson, Intel, The National Professional Board of Teaching Standards, The Walton Foundation.

Cisco: UNESCO and Cisco work together at a regional level to promote technology-enabled education transformation.”

Ironically in spite of UNESCO’s commitment to freedom of information and media,Cisco is one of several technology companies complicit in the Chinese government’s censorship of the internet, having produced a ‘firewall box’ allowing the government to block certain websites in the late 1990s. Cisco is also among the numerous corporate and right-wing foundation donors to the non-profit education organization Teach for America.

2004: Teaching At Risk. Established and chaired by Lou Gerstner and supported by The Teaching Commission. The goal of this campaign isto raise student performance by transforming the way in which America’s public school teachers are recruited and retained.” This document recommends new teacher evaluations, alt cert programs like Teach for America, merit pay, charters, vouchers, and union busting. It states: “This welcome partnership would set a common national standard for what new teachers should be expected to know—but states will still need to do their part by adopting the new, higher standard.”  The Teaching Commission is supported by Dell Foundation, IBM, The BOEING Foundation, and Lou Gerstner, among others.

2007: Sir Michael Barber (CEO of Pearson, and former partner at McKinsey and Co. See: http://educationalchemy.com/2013/03/23/vampires-mckinsey-co-and-the-future-of-public-education-its-all-connected/  ) produces an education report, How the World’s Best-Performing School Systems Come Out on Top, which was produced for McKinsey and provided those nations that were serious about education reform “with a blueprint of what they needed to do to catch up.”  

2008: Lou Gerstner recommends the following reforms as published in the Wall Street Journal.

Abolish all local school districts, establish a set of national standards for a core curriculum, standardized and published national testing, and national standards for teaching certification.

2008: Lou Gerstner argues for “Radical Education Reform” stating, “This unbelievably unwieldy structure is incapable of executing a program of fundamental change …While we have islands of excellence as a result of great reform programs, we continually fail to scale up systemic change.”

2008:Partnering with Cisco, Intel, and Microsoft, UNESCO launched ICT Competency Standards for Teachers.” The project states, “Competency Standards for Teachers have been designed to help educational policy-makers and curriculum developers identify the skills teachers need to harness technology in the service of education.” 

2010: Mary Hatwood Futrell is elected President of Americans for UNESCO.

Dr. Futrell is also joined the Boards of Directors of K-12 Inc.in 2007. K12 Inc is the largest online for profit education technology corporation, and member of ALEC. Sourcewatch writes, “The company was co-founded in 1999 by its current CEO, Ron Packard, a former Goldman Sachsmergers and acquisitions expert and consultant with McKinsey & Co.,and by former U.S. Education Secretary under President Ronald Reagan and right-wing talk show host William Bennett, who served as the chairman of K12 Inc.’s board of directors until 2005,”

(So between 2002 and 2010 two individuals powerfully influential within ALEC take leadership positions within UNESCO)

2011: The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation began work on a “nuts-and-bolts, multi-state, grand-vision education technology project called the Shared Learning Infrastructure. (which would later become InBloom)

2012: “UNESCO: A Global Response to the Learning Crisis”—The Creation of the Learning Metric Taskforce.

UNESCO and Brookings’s Center for Universal Education (CUE) join efforts to convene a Learning Metrics Task Force that will investigate the feasibility of learning goals and targets to inform the post-2015 global development policy discourse”. UNESCO will serve as the lead coordination agency …for global monitoring efforts. There were three co-chairs representing the UN, the private sector and civil society including Sir Michael Barber, Chief Education Advisor at Pearson. The report claims that, “Exploring whether there is a discrete set of common learning goals that can be universally reached is an important step in shifting the education discourse toward access plus learning.”

2012: Alan Singer points out the following: “Pearson is trying to salvage the situation in the United States with new ventures in the ‘developing world’ … Pearson has also been working through an organization called the Global Partnership for Education that includes representatives on UNESCO … and has been able to get its head of international affairs appointed to the Board of Directors as the only representative of a private for-profit corporation.”

2013: UNESCO endorses the key tenets of market-based reform: Teach for America, teacher accountability via data collection, and merit pay.

“A teacher management and development strategy (which) proposes a harmonized, standardized approach to make more efficient use of resources and improve accountability on the part of both teachers and partners. Relating teachers’ pay to the performance of their students has intuitive appeal. As a result, some governments advocate performance-related pay as part of a broader agenda of ‘accountability’ reforms to improve the quality of education (Bruns et al., 2011b; OECD, 2009).”

2012: Brookings Institute hosts a Research Symposium on Learning. Discussants include Mona Mourshed, Director of Education Practice at McKinsey & Company. She joined McKinsey in 1999. She was also the lead author of Education for Employment: Realizing Arab Youth Potential, published April 2011, a report commissioned by the IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, and the Islamic Development Bank.

Jan 2014: The Education World Forum Global Summit for Education Minsters is held in London. It is the largest annual gathering of international education ministers. Platinum Partners for this event are Promethean, Microsoft, and Pearson. Education Ministers were joined by Deputy Prime Ministers and by leaders from global and international organizations including the World Bank, the OECD and UNESCO, as well as by senior representatives of international corporations with focus and commitment to education and its support. These corporations included HP, Intel, JPSaCouto, Microsoft, Pearson and Promethean.

February 2014: A report from UNESCO called Revolutionizing Data for Education-Challenges and Opportunities, summarizes ideas put forth during an event called the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons: “Prominent world development leaders including Bill Gates and the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons  have called for a ‘Data Revolution for Development’.  Bill Gates has noted, ‘From the fight against polio to fixing education, what’s missing is often good measurement and a commitment to follow the data. We can do better. We have the tools at hand.”

Creation of EdStats: Part of The World Bank. EdStats website  is a “one-stop shop for education data” and “makes more data available and helps users more easily digest it.”  EdStats works with UNESCO’s “Institute for Statistics (our main source of general education statistics), and the SABER team at the World Bank.  The site states, “We hope the portal represents a substantial advancement in access and use of big data in education- education indicators (enriched with learning data) under one platform.”

May 2014: A UNESCO Report declares the “need for tools to measure non-cognitive and ‘21st Century Skills’ in order to assess young peoples’ readiness to enter the workforce.

Formation of the Learning Curve Data Bank (LCDB): Developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit and published by Pearson, the report, entitled The Learning Curve outlines the main findings from analysis of a large body of internationally comparable education data.

The Economist Intelligence Unit: Clients include World Bank, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. According to their website: “The Economist Intelligence Unit helps business leaders prepare for opportunity, empowering them to act with confidence when making strategic decisions. The Economist Intelligence Unit prepares business leaders for opportunity. We accomplish this by delivering accurate and impartial forecasts and analysis which empower our clients to act with confidence when making strategic decisions.”

The EIU is owned by The Economist a journal owned by Pearson - “…The Economist favours the support, via central banks, of banks and other important corporations. This principle can (in a much more limited form) be traced back to Walter Bagehot, the third editor of The Economist, who argued that the Bank of England should support major banks that got into difficulties. Karl Marx deemed The Economist the “European organ” of “the aristocracy of finance”.

They state, “These topics, and others like them, are critically important to our key clients: governments, NGOs, development banks and foundations, but also companies committed to a programme of corporate social responsibility.”

Final Analysis:

My personal take: UNESCO’s global initiatives were untenable to the free market conservative paradigm which dominated the Reagan era. However, UNESCO and the Bush Administration had a “meeting of the minds” in the 1990’s when neoliberal global market forces were more in line with an agenda and UNESCO leadership. From that point forward, the UNESCO plans as originally stated in 1946 toward greater “mass communications” and “education initiatives” was able to serve the free market “messaging” and policy reforms stemming from U.S. and U.K driven corporate interests. For a comprehensive list of technology-based education corporations cashing in on the flow of local, national, and global funds see The Economic Impact of Ed Tech: Glimpses of a New World (2013) published by ASTRA.

This paper is not an indictment of UNESCO as an organization. Like the proverbial blind man feeling the elephant’s foot I concede there is much more to know and see here. However, it’s also clear that through the decades UNESCO policy and influence have yielded partnerships with well-known education privatizers and profiteers-something that bears deeper examination and consideration.

 

PART II in a THREE PART SERIES

globeflag

=================================================================

AUTHORS NOTE: Following the completion of this research (22 pages worth) I came across a document from UNESCO in 2002 that sums it up. Given this recent find, the ensuing research is not necessary to “prove” what I suspected: that UNESCO is steering the global ship of privatization. But enjoy the timeline of events and findings nevertheless—each slice of evidence simply further illustrates what is written in this 2002 document called Education Privatization: Causes, Consequences and Planning Implications. Well, the title says it all. This document promotes a slew of market-based reforms that might have well come from ALEC including: voucher programs, promotes charter schools, accountability, and data mining. The article states, “In general, the World Bank (and other supranational agencies) has encouraged reforms which lead toward privatization of public education” (p.32). At the conclusion of this trope, the authors recommend the reader visit a site called National Center for the Study of Privatization of Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Introduction

How did we get from first mention of national standards 1984 published at UNESCO to the privatization of public education (of which standards and testing are a huge part) in 2014? The idea of national standards have been an academic and pedagogical exercise for decades if not centuries. What this paper illustrates are not the debatable premises put forth in academic treatise but how national standards as a practice and policy have emerged in the last half century and the ways in which CCSS merges with other related education reform policies all of which lead to one goal: a privatized, market driven and globalized transformation of education.

How did the likes of Lou Gerstner who created Achieve, created in 1996 (who was awarded the contract for CCSS) in 2008 connect with UNESCO? How did an international agency that claims dedication to promoting world peace, and ending of poverty also advocate for a total disruption of education by technology driven corporations?

Without conjecture as to motive or intent, I parallel the last 30 years of reform which are intertwined with UNESCO and find some documented parallels and relationships. The conjecture is left to my reader. My findings here reflect what appear to be the three premises of the last few decades upon which global accountability driven reform are driven, posited by Heinz-Dieter MeyerDaniel TröhlerDavid F. Labaree & Ethan L. Hutt (Teachers College Record Volume 116 Number 9, 2014):•

  • homogenizing the heterogeneous reality of education through increasingly abstract and context-indifferent standards and outcome metrics;
  • shifting centers of policy making influence from “local” education professionals embedded in institutions and narratives of national history and culture to a global elite of experts, committed with increasing single-mindedness to the narrative of market efficiency; and
  • moving from decentralized governance and soft guidelines to centralized governance and hard mandates.

PART II: The 1990’s: Lou Gerstner Gets the Ball Rolling

Climate of the Decade

According to Monthly Review (2001) “convergence and consolidation are the order of the day. Specific media industries are becoming more and more concentrated, and the dominant players in each media industry increasingly are subsidiaries of huge global media conglomerates …the U.S. market for educational publishing is now controlled by four firms, whereas it had two dozen viable players as recently as 1980.  In short order, the global media market has come to be dominated by seven multinational corporations: Disney, AOL-Time Warner, Sony, News Corporation, Viacom, Vivendi, and Bertelsmann. It is possible that the global media system is in the process of converging with the telecommunications and computer industries to form an integrated global communication system, where anywhere from six to a dozen super companies will rule the roost. The notion that the Internet would “set us free,” and permit anyone to communicate effectively, hence undermining the monopoly power of the corporate media giants, has not transpired.”

Via “big data” of technology the coordinating efforts of UNESCO circa 1984 (mass communication) and the goals of corporate moguls like Louis V. Gerstner Jr.to craft a set of national standards was now possible. UNESCO had its own arm of new technologies in order to manifest the possibilities. The US was not a member of UNESCO in the 1980’s it appears that industry leaders like Gerstner were carrying a similar global message and technology campaign. In the 1990’s the U.S. found common ground with UNESCO.  Through these new technologies education could now be managed like corporations and by managing “big data” on a global scale, corporations can now better determine how to manage, invest, and profit from educational ventures. A common set of standards and tests make data manageable.

Lou Gerstner is the chief executive officer of IBM. Gerstner had long been involved in education reform, both as president of American Express in the 1980s and as CEO of RJR Nabisco before taking the helm at IBM in 1993. He co founded Achieve, the lead architect of the Common Core in 1996.

(Note: At IBM Gerstner established Reinventing Education as a strategic partnership with 21 states and school districts that utilize IBM technology and technical assistance to eliminate key barriers to school reform and improve student performance.”

1994: A book co-authored by Gerstner entitled Reinventing Education: Entrepreneurship in America’s Public Schools illustrates that, “The techniques and discipline of business have much to offer in the field of education,” and that part of the problem (as they see it is) Simple organizational ideas like listening to customers, decentralized decision-making, measuring performance, and continuous improvement are notable by their absence in public schools.”

1995: The National Governors Association invited Lou Gerstner to their event.  If the governors showed up, Gerstner told them, he would “team them with a major corporate executive from their state, someone who would back them with strong support in the often withering debates over education reform.” During the event (which was later referenced by a UNESCO report in 2001) Gerstner also stated that, “information technology is the fundamental underpinning of the science of structural re-engineering.” He notes that while IT revolutionizes business and governments, it has not “even made the barest appearance in public education.” Therefore, the same changes that have brought “cataclysmic changes” to business can, “improve the way we teach” as well as improve the “efficiency and effectiveness of how we run our schools.”

1995: UNESCO publishes a book entitled Education Policy Planning Process: An Applied Framework (by Wadi Haddad).  In it the author(s) state “The concern of planners is twofold: to reach understanding of the validity of education in its own empirically observed specific dimensions and to help in defining appropriate strategies for c h a n g e”

1996: Lou Gerstner leads at the Second Annual National Education Summit called for state and local action, 41 governors, 49 corporate leaders and 30 education experts to develop strategies for tough, rigorous standards for the nation’s schools.

Following the 1996 summit, a group of CEOs led by Lou Gerstner and governors founded Achieve Inc., a nonprofit, bipartisan effort to shepherd the process of setting and implementing standards at the state level. In addition, three business interest groups – The Business Roundtable, the National Alliance of Business, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – announced a common agenda to help educators and policymakers “set tough academic standards that apply to every student in every school … and use that information to improve schools and create accountability.”

1998: The creation of Knowledge Enterprise.

Knowledge Enterprise LLC is a private highly specialized consulting firm with a worldwide network of experts, associates and partners and is based in the Washington Metropolitan area. Dr. Wadi Haddad (who authored the 1995 UNESCO book mentioned earlier) established Knowledge Enterprise served as its president and led its analytical, technical and consultation activities. In this capacity, he has served as editor of TechKnowLogia (an online journal of technologies for the advancement of education and learning). He also led collaborative projects with UNESCO, World Bank and Inter American Development Bank. Before founding Knowledge Enterprise in 1998, Dr. Haddad spent 17 years at the World Bank (See WORLD BANK http://educationalchemy.com/2012/09/27/from-metaphor-to-global-nightmare-the-world-banks-influence-on-us-education-reform-policies/. He also drafted World Bank education policies, supervised the formulation and implementation of education development projects in countries worldwide, and led the conceptualization and launching of the “Education for All” (UNESCO) movement. Also served as special adviser to the Director General of UNESCO

1999: Lou Gerstner hosts the third National Education Summit. The focus for the first time was less on the development of standards and more on holding schools accountable for their students’ achievement through measures such as testing and issuing school report cards to the public.

According to one report, “It is no coincidence that among the earliest advocates of testing and raising standards were key corporate moguls like Louis Gerstner of IBM, whose ‘vision’ could have come out of his own company’s mission statement but has since been taken up by politicians of every hue (and cry). It is now routine for education to be seen in economic terms – Tony Blair’s New Labour sees it as essential to making Britain ‘competitive.’

NOTE: The current CEO of Pearson, Sir Michael Barber, also served under Tony Blair.

 

Communism= concentration of power and resources into the hands of a few

Oligarchy= concentration of power and resources into the hands of a few

globeflag

=================================================================

AUTHORS NOTE: Following the completion of this research (22 pages worth) I came across a document from UNESCO in 2002 that sums it up. Given this recent find, the ensuing research is not necessary to “prove” what I suspected: that UNESCO is steering the global ship of privatization. But enjoy the timeline of events and findings nevertheless—each slice of evidence simply further illustrates what is written in this 2002 document called Education Privatization: Causes, Consequences and Planning Implications. Well, the title says it all. This document promotes a slew of market-based reforms that might have well come from ALEC including: voucher programs, promotes charter schools, accountability, and data mining. The article states, “In general, the World Bank (and other supranational agencies) has encouraged reforms which lead toward privatization of public education” (p.32). At the conclusion of this trope, the authors recommend the reader visit a site called National Center for the Study of Privatization of Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

This research is broken up into THREE PARTS in three consecutive blogs.

Introduction

How did we get from first mention of national standards 1984 published at UNESCO to the privatization of public education (of which standards and testing are a huge part) in 2014? The idea of national standards have been an academic and pedagogical exercise for decades if not centuries. What this paper illustrates are not the debatable premises put forth in academic treatise but how national standards as a practice and policy have emerged in the last half century and the ways in which CCSS merges with other related education reform policies all of which lead to one goal: a privatized, market driven and globalized transformation of education.

How did the likes of Lou Gerstner who created Achieve, created in 1996 (who was awarded the contract for CCSS) in 2008 connect with UNESCO? How did an international agency that claims dedication to promoting world peace, and ending of poverty also advocate for a total disruption of education by technology driven corporations?

Without conjecture as to motive or intent, I parallel the last 30 years of reform which are intertwined with UNESCO and find some documented parallels and relationships. The conjecture is left to my reader. My findings here reflect what appear to be the three premises of the last few decades upon which global accountability driven reform are driven, posited by Heinz-Dieter MeyerDaniel TröhlerDavid F. Labaree & Ethan L. Hutt (Teachers College Record Volume 116 Number 9, 2014):•

  • homogenizing the heterogeneous reality of education through increasingly abstract and context-indifferent standards and outcome metrics;
  • shifting centers of policy making influence from “local” education professionals embedded in institutions and narratives of national history and culture to a global elite of experts, committed with increasing single-mindedness to the narrative of market efficiency; and
  • moving from decentralized governance and soft guidelines to centralized governance and hard mandates

PART I: The Beginning

1945: The origins of UNESCO (using a very broad stroke here) emerged in 1945 on the tail end of two catastrophic and horrific world wars. It would be understandable that nations around the globe might seek a collaborative international effort that attempts to ameliorate hostilities promulgated through lack of understandings of one another, and that wars might be prevented through education, awareness and communication. Whether or not that is (or was ever feasible) is a debate for another day. It will also be made evident here that current broad sweeping rhetoric claiming UNESCO an arm of a communist driven new world order (and CCSS as part of parcel of that) is indeed problematic.  The evolution of events here demonstrate the power and influence of neoliberal and conservative agendas at play as well. Indeed one might find concepts of “one world” and “global interconnectedness” clearly stated in UNESCO’s agenda….but communist ideology does not own the market on the desire for global management or control.  So where do these roots lead?

According a primary document entitled UNESCO Faces Two Worlds (April 1947) by Byron Dexter (Foreign Affairs, 25, 3, pp 388-407) the two identified goals of the creation of UNESCO were focused on education and mass communications (p. 389). The authors state that “both, in the last analysis, can be said to be concerned with education.”  The organization would serve as a clearinghouse of information and a beacon for freedom on information across national and cultural borders. It is the goal of promoting mass communication in order to promote greater understanding that has taken some interesting twists and turns over the decades. The authors write, “It is the one world idea, particularly vivid in the imaginations of Americans and heralded by the new technical devices which can be described soberly enough as introducing changes in communication comparable to those effected five centuries ago…” The creators of UNESCO anticipated the importance of what they called a “global network.” the sub-themes of the overarching goals in education included: revising educational textbooks in order to eliminate “offensive passages” or “passages prejudicial to mutual understanding between nations” that might lead to misunderstandings, hatred, bias (and ergo…conflict); a literacy campaign, and education reconstruction. Making education freely available to all peoples of the world (half of whom were illiterate at the time of UNESCO’s creation) is an admirable goal. But so is a promise to leave “no child behind.”

The 1980’s: No Child Left Behind… But UNESCO Is

According to Labaree  No Child Left Behind (NCLB) managed to break the longstanding resistance to federal involvement into states’ rights by combining an economic efficiency rationale (“we are falling behind our competitors”) with an egalitarian rationale (“we leave too many kids behind”), a concern whose sincerity may be doubted, given the “compare, punish and close” mode of operation which NCLB institutionalized.

1983: A Nation at Risk is published under the auspices of the Reagan administration. Among the remedies prescribed by A Nation at Risk was the establishment of a national curriculum. This report ushers in the era of high stakes, standardized test-driven reform and accountability at a national level.

1984: The Unites States withdraws from UNESCO citing irresponsible spending and a bloated bureaucracy.

1984: UNESCO comes out with a report, which articulates the necessity for a common core curriculum. The report identifies two problems with the execution of this effort, 1) “The absence of mutual information…education, culture, and communication are not complimentary and do not conform to a general plan of development, and 2) the absence of mutual information and mutual coordination.” The ability to provide the technology-driven infrastructure for such coordination would arrive in the late 1990’s.

1985: The Committee for Economic Development (CED), an independent organization of 200 business executives and educators, issued a similar report warning that the quality of the nation’s education system put the economic future of the United States in peril. “[E]ducation has a direct impact on employment, productivity, and growth, and on the nation’s ability to compete in the world economy,” the report said. “Therefore, we cannot fail to respond.”

(Now in 2014 CED is supporting the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). CED’s support for implementation of the CCSS is being carried out through a business-led Task Force of spokespersons, made up of CED Trustees and others. CED’s College-and Career-Ready Project is made possible through a generous grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.)  

1989: The first ever National Education Summit is convened in Charlottesville, VA by President George H.W. Bush to include the nation’s governors in Charlottesville, VA. Their aim was to draft national “goals for education.”

Final Analysis:

My personal take: UNESCO’s global initiatives were untenable to the free market conservative paradigm which dominated the Reagan era. However, UNESCO and the Bush Administration had a “meeting of the minds” in the 1990’s when neoliberal global market forces were more in line with an agenda and UNESCO leadership. From that point forward, the UNESCO plans as originally stated in 1946 toward greater “mass communications” and “education initiatives” was able to serve the free market “messaging” and policy reforms stemming from U.S. and U.K driven corporate interests. For a comprehensive list of technology-based education corporations cashing in on the flow of local, national, and global funds see The Economic Impact of Ed Tech: Glimpses of a New World (2013) published by ASTRA: http://www.usinnovation.org/sites/default/files/ASTRA-EdTech-economic-impact.pdf

This paper is not an indictment of UNESCO as an organization. Like the proverbial blind man feeling the elephant’s foot I concede there is much more to know and see here. However, it’s also clear that through the decades UNESCO policy and influence have yielded partnerships with well-known education privatizers and profiteers-something that bears deeper examination and consideration.

 

 

chiimageiflag

What are standards?

The word “standards” in and of itself is not a dirty word. People have standards every day– for how they will negotiate work, personal relationships, and ethical decisions. However, it seems that when we use the words “standards” associated with education too many people assume that implies something rather broad based and benign as in the description I just offered. Additionally, standards suggest that we are staving chaos off at the gate … that without some sort of standards steering our educational system, schools and educators will operate like some Wild West show with no rules or order, resulting in national unmanageability. So when we hear the word “standards” based education, the phrase alone lulls many people into a false sense of stability and security that our children are being taken care of because these standards are the gate keeper at the door between success in learning and abject chaos.

This is indeed a false and dangerous sense of security. What we need is to ask some serious and complicated questions about standards-based education.

What are “standards”?

Standards are a pre determined list of expectations for skills, or standards for content that will be practiced, met, or achieved by students (and/or educators). They are the framework for curricular and instructional decisions, usually both.  In broad terms, standards are what we want every child to be able know and do.

But who decides what knowledge is of most worth?

Who defines them?

In decades past education standards have been set with all sorts of hidden agenda such as “civilizing immigrants into an American (read: white middle class) set of behaviors and beliefs, or preparation for factory work during the booming industrial revolution. For the last few decades they have been determined by the business community, Business Round Table and corporate executives.

Rarely, if ever, have we had a national effort in which students themselves determined the standards for an education that prepares them to create the world they wish to see, but instead are predicated on expectations of the wealthy and powerful elite to mold students into a world crafted in their own image.

As Bill Ayers suggests, “A curriculum of questioning is much more important than a curriculum of knowing the answer.” Adding further, “Students should feel that their experience in the classroom is one of enlightenment. For enlightenment to occur, however, there needs to be liberation. Students have to be free to explore and grow for themselves, and that requires alternatives.”

What purpose do they serve?

The Common Core standards we have now are not like what Ayers was describing (above) as a  student-centered education. Rather they are a way to harness schools to suit the needs of industry. The language du jour is “college and career readiness.” This is a very telling phrase, since corporations (Bill Gates and Co) and colleges (College Board led by David Coleman, chief architect of the Common Core standards) are writing the standards to serve their needs, which is to prepare students for a college degree they can longer afford, or a job that won’t even be there for them given the high rates of joblessness.

This is different than standards that would be set by a different philosophy of education—what is education for? Where are the interests, abilities and desires of students and their communities in the standards? Who sets them? And who is forced to achieve them? And to what end?

If the standards are too high (and scores indicate that students are performing far more poorly on CCSS tests than on previous state tests-see Burris cited by Strauss)… they winnow out a sector of the student population as “below standard” and therefore not ready for career or college. This narrows the funnel of students passing into the workforce which works for an economy with high rates of unemployment-reduce the number who are defined as employable and limits number of students who can attend college

As Anthony Cody points out:

“It may well be that corporate employers need fewer, not more, college graduates. And fewer workers of any sort, as technological advances eliminate jobs. In this context of shrinking opportunity, is it a coincidence that corporate education ‘reform’ results in a shrinking number of students considered ‘ready’ for such opportunities?”

If we use standards as a rhetoric to say we are providing for students, we can be relieved of the responsibility of providing other needed resources or conduct a re examination of social structures and institutions that perpetuate inequality.

With standards it is assumed (wrongly) that students either achieve them or they don’t. And if they don’t, it must be their own fault or that of the teachers-

However, standards are not a concern of wealthy kids and schools—why is this? By claiming one set of standards, we create the illusion of equal opportunity without the community development needed to create affluence which has been documented more than any other factor to determine school success. The truth is that standards are for poor kids. Wealthy kids don’t need them. Accountability measures strangle schooling in poor communities-wealthy schools can take them or leave them because they have the infrastructure of family, income, education and community that enables those students to do well, standards or not.

Further, standardized curriculum and testing now (and historically) reflect the learning styles and knowledges of upper middle class White communities. While kids from lower socio economic neighborhoods and students of color have a wealth of knowledges, experiences, and values worthy of our attention, they are never included in a standards-driven world. Why is that?

A so-called failure of our students to achieve high standards has been called a “threat to national security.” Since success with standards correlate highly with one’s zip code more than innate intelligence, we can see this language as code for “poor people are a threat to national security,” and they must be managed in order to contain the threat.

How are they measured?

By standardized measurements like tests.  Corporations and testing companies create one cut score or set measurement for all children. This practice of measuring success on these terms assumes there is one right answer for any question, that learning is done in one way, or that tests by their “nature” are inherently reliable or valid since they make claim to being “scientifically” created. Both science and statistics have been manufactured to cater toward the bias of humans throughout modern history. We have in the past used “science” to justify any range of absurd and inhuman sexist and racist intuitional practices, and even a statistician will tell you that they can make the numbers say anything they want.  Blind unquestioning faith in anything “scientifically” standardized with numbers attached is a fool’s errand.

Who benefits?

  • Testing companies that can save money on one set of standards for streamlining tests, less costly tests. According to a paper written by the Fordham Institute (2010) called How Will Common Core Initiative Impact the Testing Industry, the demands of NCLB cut testing profit margins for testing companies. The creation of the PARCC and SBAC consortia eliminate the need for every state to “create its own tests and thus cut down on the production costs” that are aligned to the Common Core.
  • Curriculum related companies that sell pre-packaged tool kits for parents students and teachers to help them achieve the standards. As Piette states:

“Only the corporations that financed the development of this new technology and lobbied for its implementation stand to gain. These corporations are also counting on students’ widespread failing of the Common Core tests as an excuse to push districts to purchase even more training technology, fire teachers in low-ranked schools and turn schools over to private management. The CCSS is the latest in the grand corporate scheme to profit from privatized public education.

  • The textbook/publishing companies that deliver the standards via their test books and curricular materials.

Given the push for college and career standards, the problems with both that I outlined earlier, it might seem as if these standards are a way of winnowing the pool of successful candidates. Furthermore, if as evidence and research proves again and again, that socio economic status and cultural capital are the biggest determining factors for success in achieving the standards (as defined by standardized tests and on their own elitist terms) then it is the students from high income communities of privilege that will “rise” to the top, leaving low income students behind. The vicious cycle of blaming teachers and students themselves for the failure to achieve high standards set forward by a mentality of expectations crafted by those with privilege.

According to Woodard:

(W)hen advocates of this system of “profit education” talk about the growing poverty that exists in schools and the need to be able to provide for the well being of the total child, poverty is obfuscated by an insistent claim that it is an excuse, not a cause of poor performance. The facts say otherwise. Overall 20 percent of students in the U.S. live in poverty. Based on the 2009 PISA results, U.S. students in schools with a poverty level of less than 10 percent performed best in the world in math, reading and science. However, as the poverty rate increased, the results showed, student achievement decreased, and students in schools with poverty rates greater that 50 percent ranked in the bottom of all students internationally.

This cycle creates a sick public narrative that distracts us from the responsibilities of colleges and corporations to bear any of the blame for exacerbating inequality or access to opportunity, foisting such outcomes upon the shoulders of those forced to bear the burden of playing a corrupt game rigged against them.

To quote Anthony Cody in a recent article:

“The problem with NCLB was that it was based on a false premise, that somehow tests can be used to pressure schools into delivering equitable outcomes for students. This approach did not work, and as we are seeing with Common Core, will not work, no matter how many ways you tinker with the tests. The idea that our education system holds the key to our economic future is a seductive one for educators. It makes us seem so important, and can be used to argue for investments in our schools. But this idea carries a price, because if we accept that our economic future depends on our schools, real action to address fundamental economic problems can be deferred. We can pretend that somehow we are securing the future of the middle class by sending everyone to preschool – meanwhile the actual middle class is in a shambles, and college students are graduating in debt and insecure. The entire exercise is a monumental distraction, and anyone who engages in this sort of tinkering has bought into a shell game, a manipulation of public attention away from real sources of inequity”.

 

 

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Most folks are versed in (or at least have heard of) terms like “military industrial complex,” “factory farms” or even “education industrial complex” (a phrase used by educator Troy Grant and others). I believe these terms are still useful for a qualitative description of some of the facets of what we are witnessing education reform today. One-size-fits-all testing and curricula harken back to the days of industry and efficiency models. Indeed, as I have cited myself in other papers, how often we treat schools and children as if they were concentrated feed lots on a factory farm. And the military industrial complex reveals the powerful influence of “lawyers, guns, and money” (to quote Warren Zevon) in national and international geo-political and economic policies. If current policies are not grounded in solid pedagogical or developmental research, facts, or even a record of success…then WHY are such education policies being pushed faster, harder, and on larger scales? This framework presented here perhaps answers that question.

Current and future education reforms allude to something different happening in 2014(building on decades of groundwork). We are living in a historical moment in which previous paradigms are shifting beneath our feet, though certain traits may be passed along. We are a POST industrial world. With the influx of technology, uses and abuses of “big data”, and of economic policies of last few decades (circa Reagan through the present) favoring private corporate interests, the “industrial complex” paradigm is taking on a new face. I’d like to refer to this new phenomena and the Corporate Global Privatizing Complex (CGPC).

I have framed out a chart of the key areas in which CGPC is largely apparent, and leading the way. The goal of conducting this brief broad sweeping analysis to is demonstrate how and why education policy is what it is. The landscape of public education is shifting precisely because it is being orchestrated by the same people using the same techniques and are moving toward the same goals.

In other words, education reform (aka privatizing public education) does not exist in isolation. Education is the cornerstone of the larger global architecture reframing the production of, ownership of, and distribution of basic social services (national security, food security, and right to public education… intellectual security?) Note: One might easily add healthcare, environmental concerns, water and other basic human needs or services to this as well. I just focused on these basic four to exemplify how it all fits together.

Corporate Global Privatizing Complex

Click HERE to view the PDF chart: Corporate Global Privatizing Complex

What they all say (“Innovation” equals profits)

 Prison “investors see this as an opportunity. This is a potentially untapped market that will have very strong demand.”

According to NextUp Research, the research arm of Global Silicon Valley Corp., the e-learning market in the United States is expected to grow to $6.8 billion by 2015, up from $2.9 billion in 2010.

For Monsanto, “feeding the world is hugely profitable.”

In 2007, the number of Blackwater’s federal contracts, according to Erik Prince: “More than 50″ with a total value in 2006 of all contracts at 1 billion.

Who (or what) do the key players in a Corporate Global Privatizing Complex all share in common?

1) The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) leading the charge for crafting legislation that decimates public funding for public services and places public services into private (for profit) corporate hands.

2) Bill Gates—a hand in EVERY pie on the chart.

3) They’re actually connected to one another—notice how they conduct business and donate directly with one another:

Blackwater sold their clandestine intelligence services to the multinational Monsanto.

The purchase of 500,000 shares of Monsanto, for more than $23 million was made by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Gates funds fast food franchises that buy and sell from factory farms and GMO products.

Gates donated 2.2 MILL to GEO.

Monsanto funds charter schools: and Teach For America.

GATES spend millions funding McCharter chains and is the largest donor to (progenitor of) Common Core and online testing/curriculum. http://deutsch29.wordpress.com/category/gates/

Pearson contracts with the military.

Pearson has had some questionable (and profitable) contracts dealing with Homeland Security going back to 2003.

The Council on Foreign Relations promotes the need for national standards as a need for national security, and that student testing data should be shared with Department of Defense for “security” purposes.

Erik Prince is the founder of private military corporation Blackwater USA. Prince is a former Navy Seal and a “billionaire right-wing fundamentalist Christian from a powerful Michigan  Republican  family.

His sister is Betsy Devos. The DEVOS family invests large sums of monies into privatizing education through charter schools and vouchers.

Monsanto creates more than genetically modified foods. The company also formerly manufactured controversial products such as the insecticide DDTPCBsAgent Orange, Monsanto’s Central Research Department began to conduct research for the Manhattan Project under contract from the US government. Monsanto assisted in the development of the first nuclear weapons.

4) The corporations identified on this chart are monopolies

Bill Gates controls more than 90 percent of the market share of proprietary computing and Monsanto about 90 percent of the global transgenic seed market and most global commercial seed.

Blackwater, Monsanto and Gates are three sides of the same figure: the war machine on the planet and most people who inhabit it, are peasants, indigenous communities, people who want to share information and knowledge or any other who does not want to be in the aegis of profit and the destructiveness of capitalism.”

Pearson is the world’s largest education company.

The GEO Group, Inc. (GEO) is the world’s leading provider of correctional, detention, and community reentry services.

5) Each of these giant monopolies use lobbying and pressure via ALEC legislation to get government contracts to provide privately managed “public” services or needs, using our tax payer dollars to earn them billions of dollars and promote human suffering.

6) THEIR POLICIES AND PRACTICES DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD TO THE PEOPLE OF OUR COMMUNITIES. Their actions to “innovate” not only fall short of their promises…they have the exact opposite effect.

 

TV

A caveat first: I am not opposed to innovation and uses of technology in higher education. As a professor of education for 15 years (and a K-12 teachers for 10 years before that) I see technology as a great tool or resource that enables me to be a better educator (when used correctly). However, I am frightened by the impending nightmare scenario promoted by venture capitalists and edutech start up companies who have funded and promote common core, high stakes testing, big data, and “accountability” as vehicles to dismantle public education, and pass it off into the privatized hands of corporate profits and interests (at the expense of our rights, privacy, and democracy). “Reform” … which is winding it’s way from K-12 into the sphere of higher education is just another phase in the education “land grab” in which policies (that lead to abusive practices on learners and teachers), under the hegis of “innovation” disruption” or “access and equity” are merely selling points for buyers–none of which has been documented as being meaningful, sustainable, or even proven effective.

And they’re coming….not to merely offer services or products. But to recreate public education, and higher education in its image. PROFITABLE and PRIVATIZED.

Meet one such company: University Ventures.

University Ventures Fund (limited partnership) is a private equity fund federal exemption 506b, founded in 2011.

Homebase is New York City

On their “About” page:

Their “carefully selected investor base “ will reap huge profits on “market-leading returns while playing a positive and sustainable role in the transformation of higher education.”

The funds two biggest investors are the German media conglomerate Bertelsmann AG and the University of Texas Investment Management Company.

The projects will include “helping institutions expand the scale of their academic programs, re-engineer how they deliver instruction, and better measure student outcomes; the first two investments, also announced today, will be creating a curriculum through Brandman University aimed at improving the educational outcomes of Hispanic students, and a company that helps universities in Britain and elsewhere in Europe deliver their courses online.”

In other words, universities are an untapped market for business to corporations who can in turn use their monies to sway poliicies practices and ideologies within the university system. This is a GLOBAL system which includes, “the largest most sophisticated investors in the US and globally, including founders of successful education enterprises, major University endowments, leading education philanthropists, and Bertelsmann, the 177-year-old international media and services company owned and controlled by one of Europe’s largest and most important not-for-profit foundations.”

What is Bertelsmann? It’s a corporate investment center.

Divisions include RTL group (an entertainment company), Random House (publishing), Gruner and Jahr (a publishing house), Arvato (outsourcing services), and Be Printers (which produces produce magazines, catalogs, brochures, books, and calendars).

What could publishing and entertainmnent companies want from investing in higher ed? Million dollar business contract perhaps? Who publishes and prints more than a university? Who offers more in the way of technology needs and sources of data? Where else can you “mold” future workers for your global corporations?

Who WORKS at University Ventures?

Some of them worked previously at Edison Learning. Another was CTO of Apollo Group where he built and launched cloud-based and data-driven adaptive learning platforms. But the three leaders of this venture are indeed well versed in vulture/venture capitalism:

Daniel began his career as an investment banking analyst at Goldman Sachs. He entered the education industry as Director of Strategy and Planning at LearnNow, a high growth charter school company that was acquired by Edison Schools.

David Figuli has represented seller or buyer in over half of all successful non-profit to for-profit conversions of colleges and universities.

THIS IS NOT A SUPPLEMENTAL SERVICE PROVIDER

Figuli said, “To the extent we’re trying to remodel higher education, you have to remodel it at the core of the institution, which is still primarily on-ground.”

Ryan Craig was founding Director of Bridgepoint Education (NYSE: BPI), one of the largest online universities Ryan began his career as a consultant with McKinsey & Co.

According to their website, “University Ventures has the capital to assist colleges and universities to develop innovative new programs that will allow them to do a better job of fulfilling their mission and also generate important new revenue streams.”

They are focused on GLOBAL changes in higher education. International link here.

“Bertelsmann’s role as the anchor investor in the recently launched $100m University Ventures Fund signals the arrival of the German media giant as a player in the global education market – a market dominated over the last 18 months by Pearson and private equity firms. The new fund aims to form partnerships with leading universities to jointly develop and deploy online higher education programmes and build scalable education platforms in Europe and the US. Unlike other players in the market, Bertelsmann’s focus is entirely on digital and the opportunities technology provides in education.”

UV partners with global businesses, bringing business and revenue to those corporations via their educational programs.

CONDE NASTE PARTNERSHIP

“The Condé Nast project was an intriguing first partnership for Qubed, Pianko says, because of the opportunity to bring incredibly strong consumer brands into education and connect them with strong university brands to build consumer experiences commensurate with the quality of those brands.”

See here to see their BOARD of DIRECTORS

Click here to see UV White paper which explicates their broader approach:

General takeaways from the white paper–

UV is interested in creating “competency based education” (over seat time)— Here is where national agenda like common core and edTPA reflect their agenda. To create streamlined revenue sources by creating online education, data…streamlined big data…is necessary. And it relegates educators and classrooms as expendable.

“The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching on Tuesday announced that it would use a $460,000 grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to study the Carnegie Unit, which forms the basis of a time-based measurement of student learning. The credit hour calls for one credit per hour of faculty instruction and two hours of homework, on a weekly basis, over a 15-week semester …Accreditors and the U.S. Department of Education are working through how to regulate institutions that want tomove beyond the credit hour. It’s unclear how much the Carnegie Foundation’s new tack might help them in those efforts, but it probably won’t hurt.”

“Produce more learning for less work” (p.12)

Common Core is a boon for companies like this.

Accordingly, “Race to the Top has required states interested in securing additional funding to reform policies around a defined set of defined progressive priorities and align curricula and assessments to the new Common Core State Standards in both English Language Arts and Math. The Common Core has now been adopted to some extent by 46 states and for the first time America has something approximating a national market in K-12. This will lead to an explosion of innovation from publishers and edtech companies who will invest in systems and products to serve 46 states at a time.”

The business, venture capital and marketing industries are salivating:

As one business journal crows: “Gamified mobile apps, all manner of e-books and classroom analytics tools are just a few of the business models attracting venture capital dollars in the $5.4 billion K-12 education technology industry. In California alone, state estimates peg the implementation costs of Common Core around $3 billion, opening the door for companies pitching cost-effective tech tools”.

PAIR THIS WITH ALEC LEGISLATION OPENING DOORS FOR PRIVATE SECTOR TO SERVE AS NEW EDUCATION LEA’S.

Consider David Coleman at the helm of College Board and it’s new partnership with Kahn Academy as a vision of the shape of thinsg to come.

It’s worth noting too that the Head of Finance for Kahn Academy served as the CFO for New Schools Venture Fund.

Why are Unions the Enemy?

EdSurge claims, “K-12 schools, on the other hand, are notorious for strong teachers unions and administrative bureaucracy that can make sales more challenging for vendors. Common Core offers new market incentives for entrepreneurs who can navigate those thorny realities.”

In other words, University Ventures is just one of many vulture—um…venture –capital projects.

See this Chart for a list of the top 12 edutech companies vying for profits from higher education. UniversityVentures is on the list.

Some of University Venture’s current investments include UniversityNow, which provides access to online college courses at accredited institutions, and Synergis Education, which partners with universities in the area of marketing and recruitment.

Organizing and Action

Posted: July 8, 2014 in Uncategorized

I have created (see link at here chart3 and at end of blog) a chart that may help folks in thinking through how to organize effective resistance to ed reform and crafting meaningful and effective alternatives to current education policies. My motivation to create this came from my own frustrations with a few things:

1) Where to begin? Sometimes parents, teachers and other community members will stop before they even get started because the whole mess just feels so damn overwhelming!

2) To better understand how we are all connected. Its a Catch 22 really. Politicians and legislators are the ones with the power to write bills that end bad policy and initiate good ones. But politicians are motivated by voters. Parents, teachers and community members must put weight on politicians to get them to do anything! Most of them are either woefully uninformed or bought out by corporate interests. So they need educating and serious pressure from us, and;

3) Focusing not only on what we are against but what we are FOR. Effective strategy includes a vision of what we want! And taking steps to manifest it.

The chart itself is rather simple. Here are some suggestions for things to insert into the chart (or to consider):

Who are the People in Your Neighborhood? (sung to a jaunty tune):  Now, what “we” want depends on the “we.” Generally speaking its the real stakeholders: Children in public schools, parents, and members of the local communities most affected by the changes to their public school systems. For example, in your state or district are parents, teachers and communities of color being silenced, sold out, or colonized? (note: this is most likely “yes” where ever you throw a dart at the US map…) Who must have a voice and input for change to be meaningful and effective? Do you have a strong teachers union? Parent organizations? Involvement from social organizations or clubs?

What organizing “looks” like is a local issue. For some communities the greatest concern right now might be school closures. For others it might be intrusion of online edu-tech companies inserting themselves in the public system. We are, all of us, affected in some way by all these things…but each community must focus on the specific battles it wishes to fight. Be specific and take concrete actions, issue by issue. One month you might focus on testing refusal and a few months later work on legislation that demands state tax payer dollars in public ed NOT go to testing but to some other school-based need like hiring more teachers, improving infrastructure, or preserving the school library.

Community organizing does not only include parents and teachers, but other groups/issues within the community. Again, advocacy and organizing directly bubble up from the needs of that community. It will most likely be slightly different in every location. But beyond our school walls, children in many rural and urban communities are affected by the effects of poverty. Therefore, effective education change must include members of social, medical, and business communities that could help create wrap around services and other needs.

Also locate one or more individuals who have necessary areas of expertise, time, or connections. You need somone who can negotiate legislative language and time to attend sessions. You need folks informed about corporate interests and can “dig” for non-transparent associations (i.e any of the 50Can groups disguised as grass roots weeding their way into your school? How can you find out?).  You need folks who can negotiate the ins and out of policies and practices of school boards, unions, and other influential organizations. And these folks need to coordinate THEIR efforts for maximun effect.

Where are You At? Different communities are in different phases of education reform and their resistance to it. Some communities are far more versed in what’s happening than others. Phillie has been levelled by charter schools, but where I live in Baltimore they’re just getting warmed up. Determine what “stage” your district or state is at. Do you need to focus on educating others by holding information sessions (step 1 in the chart)? Having an informed community is necessary before any solid actions can take place. People need to understand why they are fighting against and what they are fighting for. If your community is clear about both, then organizing revolves around steps 2-3 in the chart.

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Finally, organizing and action must be grounded in facts. The mainstream media and reformers can have a field day alluding to resistance as little more than “pissed off White soccer moms” or “tin foil hat” wearing fringe groups. We can easily be discredited by leading with assumptions or misinformation…or hijacked (manipulated) by ideological or political motives of others without realizing it. Predatory ed reform is not recent, nor conjured by a single political ideology. It’s roots goes back decades, and spans across the political aisles.

When engaging in steps 1-3 (on the chart chart3) and when working with legislators, make sure you have groups or individuals who have a solid working knowledge of the research and the facts, and lead with information over emotion or supposition. Ending bad policy must be led by proof. For example, when fighting charter school colonization, use data such as the UCLA study that documented that 37% of charter schools underperform their public school counterparts, and that charter school retention rates are a farce.

There are scores of educational researchers in higher education dedicated to changing this corporate-run landscape of education. Find us! Please! We are here and ready to help if anyone needs assistance with “academic language” or research to support your initiatives. Solutions must be grounded in evidence as well. Want more art in your child’s curriculum and less testing? Bring the studies that show how PE and music improve reading skills, and increase graduation rates. Demonstrate how nutrition, hands-on activities and after-school programs reduce behavioral concerns.

Know Where the Power Lies: Know who has the power to influence what. It does not all come down to legislation of course.  Remember, while it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the power of Emperor Bill Gates and a giant octopus of federal “mandates”…most school funding comes from the state and local level. Most decisions to push back against federal mandates must come from local and state voices. Using research to publicly CALL OUT local politicians and adminsitrators who have sold out to corporate or political interests. Shine a light on corruption.

So we have more power than we realize. And the most powerful changes come from strong and coordinated actions by local communities (see Chicago, New York, and Seattle as a few examples for proof it’s possible). Some changes can happen by appealing to your school board. Some issues might begin more closely with a PTA or school administrator. Identify what changes you wish to see, and then determine who is the group or person who can most likely effect that change, and which individuals or groups can most likely help.

Don’t Get Bogged Down: It’s easy to get lost in the mire: The mire of “across the aisles” collaborations (when can they work and when they can’t), the mire of a sense of powerlessness (what can I do as one person?), the mire of rapid fire changes cloaked in an opacity so thick that we don’t know what coming until we’ve been run over by it, the mire of distrust, infighting, and distractions (human vices we all possess of fear and ego…will…never..go…away), better to just ignore them. Be forgiving in spirit, open in mind, and humble in heart. Remember who the enemy is…and is not. We need to focus, to organize (however that is determined by individual communities), and we need…to…act.

A final excellent suggestion offered by Michelle Gunderson, “We also need to define our wins – not by their standards.” In other words, as Tim Slekar says, “We OWN the narrative now.”

Now. Each day is a day we can ALL do SOMETHING.

Hope this chart is helpful to you all. Use if for strategy, communication, and action.