The resignation of Lillian Lowery as the State Superintendent of Maryland schools  has raised speculation as to what may change in current education policies. Given her close ties to PARCC (serving on the governing board), allowing Maryland to be the fiscal agent for PARCC, Pearson and David Coleman (to name a few) it’s no wonder MD has become deeply and uncritically embedded with corporate-run reforms. See:

Jack Smith is Lowery’s temporary replacement, but after that, who will fill the role of MD Superintendent? While Governor Hogan has a role to play in this appointment, The state board of education is the entity that will be responsible for selecting the next person to serve a four-year term and so it’s a wise idea to know the board if we are to anticipate who they deem a viable candidate.  The state board holds considerable power and influence over state policy. Their website states: “The Board sets the state’s education policies and standards for pre-kindergarten through high school and for Maryland’s public libraries, juvenile services education and vocational rehabilitation services. It passes regulations that have the force of law and is empowered to interpret the true meaning and intent of the law. It also reviews and approves three annual budgets (the Department of Education headquarters budget, the state aid to local education budget, and state-aided institutions budget) before they’re passed on to the governor’s office for approval or revision and then to the General Assembly for final action. The Board is also required to decide all controversies brought before it that arise under the law.”

Hogan has been responsible for appointing some of the board members, perhaps putting in to place those individuals whose agenda for education reflects his own. For a better sense of what Hogan is “for” in education policy see here.

In this post I do not intend to skewer an entire twelve person board. I am sure that many of them are simply nice people doing their best to serve the state of Maryland. However, there are some influential members who warrant our deeper examination (and concern). If we want to prepare ourselves for how the board will set policies regarding Common Core state standards, and state (or federal) level standardized testing (depending on what happens with the ESEA re authorization), charter schools, vouchers, and school curriculum, we should understand what other motives they may have.

1) Chester Finn (appointed by Hogan in May 2015).

Finn is former assistant secretary of education to former presidents Reagan and George H. W. Bush.

He served as founding partner and senior scholar with the Edison Project. Why this matters: Edison Project is a for-profit education management organization.

Finn serves on the boards of National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), and the Core Knowledge Foundation. Why this matters: Finn strongly supports the common core and charter schools. In fact, Finn was is an honoree in the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (see Anthony Smarick below) “charter school Hall of Fame”

According to Wayne Au:

“Conservatives have been developing an infrastructure to attack teacher education at least since 2000, when the Thomas B. Fordham Institute created the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) … [The Fordham Institute] established NCTQ as a new entity to promote alternative certification … corporate education reformers have placed NCTQ in a position of national prominence. Diane Ravitch explains: ‘Today, NCTQ is the partner of U.S. News & World Report and will rank the nation’s schools of education. It received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to review teacher quality in Los Angeles. It is now often cited as the nation’s leading authority on teacher quality issues.’ NCTQ supports the use of high-stakes test scores in teacher evaluation (known as value-added measurement, or VAM), including using test scores of students to rate the teacher education programs from which their teachers graduated. Taking a page directly out of the rabidly pro-corporate American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) playbook on education reform, NCTQ has already issued report cards for teacher education by state and is on the verge of “grading” most individual teacher education programs in the country. Kate Walsh and the NCTQ are part of the cabal of corporate reformers dismantling public education today, and they have teacher education squarely in their sights.”

See more here:

2) Andrew Smarick (appointed by Hogan in May 2015)

He is Partner​ ​at​ ​Bellwether​ ​Education Partners. Why this matters:

Bellwether works with Stand for Children, and one of the board of the Partner -members is on the board of Democrats for Education Reform.

Andy Smarick was keynote speaker at lunch for the November 19 Summit on Faith-based schools, sponsored by The American Bible Society in NYC.

Bellwether Board of Directors includes prominent people from: Teach for America, Goldman, Sachs & Co., NewSchools Venture Fund, Rocketship Education, McKinsey, and ROADS Charter Schools, and numerous people from Bain & Company.

Smarick also ​helped found a college-preparatory charter school and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools​ ​(NAPCS) and was a founding board member of 50CAN. Why this matters:

According to Sourcewatch, “NAPCS is the national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the charter school movement”

50CAN is one of the most influential corporate run reform efforts in the country. 50CAN currently has more than 40 full-time staff across the country, with a leadership team composed of Marc Porter Magee, Ph.D (CEO and founder), Vallay Varro (president) and Ingrid Reynoso (COO).[7] The organization’s board of directors is led by Sandy Vargas (president & CEO, The Minneapolis Foundation) and includes Dacia Toll (co-CEO, Achievement First), Ann Borowiec (former CEO, JP Morgan Asset Management), David Wick (chief external impact officer, KIPP Foundation) Jonathan Sackler (director, Purdue Pharma & founder of ConnCAN) and Marc Porter Magee.

(Note: Jason Botel is a founding member of MarylandCAN and founded KIPP Baltimore)

3) Larry Giammo

He is Managing Director with the Matrix Knowledge Group. Why this matters: Matrix Knowledge has been described as a major player (within the UK and the US) in the move toward privatization of public education and commodification of “policy knowledge” (Ball, 2010)

According to Ball, “the commercialisation and commodification of this leadership knowledge, as well as that involving ‘numbers’ and other forms of ‘policy knowledge’, and the emergence of what Gunter (forthcoming 2010) calls ‘the leadership industry’; which brings new voices and new knowledge brokers into the market of research ideas, and also, in a variety of ways, into the conversations of education policy. This involves a new generation of knowledge companies and consultants for whom policy is a business opportunity and from whom governments are increasingly purchasing ‘policy knowledge’. In the United Kingdom, Matrix Knowledge Group and A4e are examples of such knowledge businesses.”

Matrix Knowledge Group is also supported by ALEC. In an ALEC document called Questions State Legislators Should Ask About Higher Education “ is a new joint venture between the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and Matrix Knowledge Group. This interactive website enables users to evaluate the performance of four-year public and private colleges and universities focusing on key outcome measures: graduation rates, first-year retention rates, education-related cost per student, cost per degree, student loan default rates, and the ratio of student loan payments to earnings for recent graduates.”

It appears from the associations examined here that Hogan is aligning the stars for a pro privatization agenda of Maryland public education. If the 3 board members discussed here are any indicators of the full board’s agenda for education policy, those of us fighting for public education are in for a rough ride ahead.

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.


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