The Global Powerhouse Designing our Ed Reform Landscape: McKinsey and Co.


(click image to enlarge for detail)

Looking closely at the chart (click to enlarge) you can see three central players in the education reform movement have all come from the same lineage: Sir Michael Barber (Pearson), David Coleman (College Board and CCSS), and Lou Gerstner (Achieve). Indeed, the stars have aligned for McKinsey and Co’s role as the cornerstone of education reform.

Describing McKinsey and Co., author Duff Macdonald writes, “…this influential and enigmatic company, helped invent what we think of as American—now global—capitalism.”

They have been the leaders in crafting the dominant narrative of an education crisis for decades, and now deeply entrenched in education reform policies, they are reaping the financial and political benefits of marketing solutions to the problems they manufactured in the first place.

As the chart indicates, McKinsey is in process of contracting with several states including New Mexico, Louisiana, and Florida to manage the PARCC when federal funding to manage it has dried up. (Note-since FL has stepped down as PARCC fiscal agent, I am unsure how this will affect their partnership with McKinsey). They are the Jedi knights of “big data” and have been trained by the best. And now they hold powerful positions where they can ensure that the distribution of data can be ensured. Their mantra is “big data.” The National Common Core Standards (NCCS) orchestrated by Coleman and new national testing (SBAC or PARCC) both managed in one way or another largely by Pearson (orchestrated by Barber) are the central vehicles needed for gathering this big data. In one McKinsey report it states: “One proven approach is to combine customization and scale by offering a standard core curriculum complemented by employer-specific top-ups.”

With key players in place in all areas of education reform, McKinsey has situated itself to be the delivery boy, and financial recipient of billions of education dollars.

Why is Louisiana partnering with McKinsey to manage PARCC? Ask Bobby Jindal, Governor of LA was formerly a partner at McKinsey for five years. Governments and large public organizations including Louisiana school system have systematically adopted Sir Michael Barber’s ‘deliverology’ approach and realized quick impact and significantly improve outcomes to their reform programs.

Rhode Island might be next:

Why Rhode Island? Ask husband of Gina Raimondo, (democratic candidate for R.I. governor in 2014, architect of R.I.’s reduced pensions for teachers, former hedge-funder and darling of neo-liberals) Andy Moffit who specializes in school projects for McKinsey.  He co-authored the ed reform Bible Deliverology with Sir Michael Barber now at Pearson. He joined McKinsey in 2000.


(special thanks to Wendy Holmes for providing the pic and for other RI related information)

But it’s not just PARCC. SBAC has employed McKinsey to conduct research into developing a detailed sustainability plan as well.

Lumina (a member of ALEC) gave a $200,000 grant to CCSSO to support an inquiry by McKinsey & Co concerning the sustainability and operations of the two Common Core State Standards/Assessment (CCSS/A) consortia post 2014.

Even in years prior to the CCSS debacle, McKinsey held tremendous political sway in locations of “ground zero” ed reform like New York City.  McKinsey is the favored consulting firm of former Mayor of NYC, Michael Bloomberg and Paul Pastorek. McKinsey partnered with Joel Klein:

“Their consultants played critical roles in planning the restructuring of the New York City schools under Chancellor Klein.  In 2007, McKinsey published a report on the commonalities of what the firm considered excellent school system.  NYC reform was lauded in that report.  Now, following an intensive study of NAEP scores and state testing, McKinsey concludes that “the city school system had not demonstrated the scale of improvement necessary.” (EDVOX-Carol Boyd). 

Bear in mind it’s not just in the areas of Common Core and national testing that they have their tentacles.

Jerry Hauser, COO, Teach for America was formerly with McKinsey and Co as well.  Who else can we add to the Who’s Who of McKinsey/Ed Reform? Rajat Gupta (financial backer of the Harlem Children’s Zone), Marshall Lux (on the Board of the Harlem Children’s Zone), Andrés Satizábal (Harlem Charter School), Michael Stone (Chief External Relations Officer at New Schools for New Orleans),  Terrence McDonough (English Teacher and Department Chair at Edward W. Brooke Charter School  and 5th Grade Teacher at Teach for America), Luis de la Fuente (with the Broad Foundation, who develops and manages a portfolio of grants to school districts, charter management organizations, and innovative non-profits), Shantanu Sinha (COO of Kahn Academies)

McKinsey’s key areas of educational interest are data collection (Big Data mantra) and information technology.

Using the growing power and reach of IT to boost productivity in government, health care, and education—sectors that have not benefited fully from previous waves of IT—to improve service delivery and increase transparency.” In education they suggest: “adopting new pedagogies that make learning more accessible, anytime and anyplace, and modular and engaging, often driven by the growth of new platforms for delivery and applied to areas like employee training.

Never mind that lack of sustainable research to support the success of these efforts for students, or the documented failure of MOOCS, which McKinsey touts as one of their solutions. No teachers will even be needed. In this brave new world, children will interact with “algorithms to evaluate responses”, and therefore, “the system can adapt to each student’s learning experience and offer additional instruction as needed.”

This statement says it all (I am highlighting what I find to be loaded terms):

“Unleashing the power of the connected enterprise in government, health care, and education will force significant change and present many challenges. Governments, which are responsible for delivering health care and education in addition to other services, will need to take a comprehensive view of where and how to invest. They will need to effectively manage system implementations, assemble lean IT operations, develop innovative IT-enabled services, and cultivate deep technology expertise.”

McKinsey corporate alliances also include Wireless Generation and Bill Gates, among scores of others too many to mention.

McKinsey contracts with the most powerful governmental agencies in the world. Is it any coincidence thatThe Department of Defense contracts with McKinsey & Co, and that the Department of Defense has expressed direct involvement with the collecting and tracking of all student data as is indicated by their participation in GradNation, and calling for a “national security audit.”

And of course McKinsey partners and consultants will be ready to deliver the goods and smiling all the way to the bank, while schools, children, and communities languish in their shadow.

Published by educationalchemy

Morna McDermott has been an educator for over twenty years in both k-12 and post secondary classrooms. She received her doctorate in education, with a dissertation focus on arts-based educational research, from The University of Virginia in 2001. Morna's teaching, scholarship, and activism center around the ways in which creativity, art, social justice, and democracy can transform education and empower communities. She is currently a Professor of Education at Towson University.

21 thoughts on “The Global Powerhouse Designing our Ed Reform Landscape: McKinsey and Co.

  1. I love this and would like to suggest maybe the Learn Zillion addition to this one plus some material for another McKinsey graph.

    With considerable fanfare, LearnZillion announced the posting of more than 2,000 Common Core lessons developed by a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded “Dream Team” of 123 teachers. And so I decided to take a look.

    LearnZillion was co-founded by Eric Westendorf, most recently a principal and Chief Academic Officer of E.L. Haynes Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., and Alix Guerrier, most recently a consultant in McKinsey & Company’s Education Practice, “where he advised school systems and foundations on strategic matters.” They both have MBA degrees from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. So far, the lessons available on LearnZillion reflect this lack of classroom savvy.

    Center for Educational Policy Research at Harvard. Check out exec director Jon Fullerton. He’s also senior practice expert in the McKinsey & Company social-sector office.

    They acknowledge Michael Fullan’s help.

    Click to access how-the-worlds-best-performing-school-systems-come-out-on-top-sept-072.pdf

    I doubt there is any ed policy-making entity McKinsey hasn’t infiltrated.
    Certainly they were in Bloomberg’s reform effort. In July 2013, Chicago hired “a former employee of the business consultant McKinsey & Co. to lead the district’s key reform efforts.”

    Chicago’s Master Plan
    In October 2011, CPS got input from pro bono advisors at McKinsey & Co to devise a
    master plan “template”– & CPS embraced McKinsey advice that CPS wouldn’t invest in any school district thought it wouldn’t need in future.

    Click to access ceftf-faq-10yr-plan0513.pdf

    I’d bet McKinsey is involved with all the big urban districts. Might be worth another graph with Common Core just one part of McKinsey’s public school destruction.

  2. Pingback: About Andy Moffit

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Data Disruptors

Fight The Ed Reform 2.0 Agenda

Peg with Pen

Authored by Morna McDermott-A blog dedicated to democracy, public education, and the power of the imagination

Dissident Voice

Authored by Morna McDermott-A blog dedicated to democracy, public education, and the power of the imagination

The in·ter·reg·num

A site for radical edu-science fiction


Commenting on the State of the World From Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Cloaking Inequity

A blog focused on education and social justice research

dr. p.l. (paul) thomas

educator, public scholar, poet&writer - academic freedom isn't free

Chris Mercogliano

Authored by Morna McDermott-A blog dedicated to democracy, public education, and the power of the imagination

Reclaim Reform

by Ken Previti

Re:education in Baltimore

A city mom thinks outside the sandbox.

Fred Klonsky

The thoughts of a retired public school teacher.

%d bloggers like this: