So-called Education Reform & the Art of Deception

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The following are excerpts from a promotional pdf co-written in 2012 by Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) director Joe Williams & Charles Barone. The DFER group has links to Eli Broad, TFA, the Gates Foundation, charter schools and Wall Street hedge funds. They also helped place Arne Duncan in the position of Secretary of Education. From their paper:


“For years, education reform was strong on message and somewhat weak on messengers. Too many of those who stepped forward to assume that role had their motives questioned… This President, chided by the right for his background as a community organizer, shattered that reality and reminded us that education reform is a deal which can, and must, be closed by Democrats.

The core of DFER’s mission rests on the understanding that it is our Party, the Democrats, which needs to take responsibility for preserving this crucial public institution, the cornerstone of our democracy. As Republican politicians like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie have noted, political reality necessitates that education reforms be led by Democrats if they are to succeed.

Indeed, governors of both parties nationwide have been empowered by the “cover” that has come from a Democratic President who has been willing to embrace reforms that are not always in line with the priorities of the nation’s powerful teachers unions.

The evidence of what this shift in a political messenger can bring is clear-cut. As a result of the RTTT competition, fifteen states lifted caps on the creation of new charter schools, and one state enacted a charter school law. Charter schools flourished more under three years of Obama than under eight years of George W. Bush. Funding for state charter school grants, for example, stayed between about $68 million and $81 million during Bush’s two terms, but jumped to $138 million during Obama’s first full budget year.

This increase wasn’t accidental – it was keeping a promise that then-candidate Obama made on the campaign trail. Obama also initiated, for the first time ever, a competitive grant program to expand and replicate high-quality charter school programs such as KIPP, Success Charter Network, and Uncommon Schools. In its first year alone, this program enabled 76,000 more students to attend 127 new and 31 expanded public charter schools in a dozen charter school networks nationwide.

The results of President Obama’s leadership on education have been profound in other areas as well. States from coast to coast have changed (or are in the process of changing) the way teachers are evaluated and the way tenure is granted..

The politics of teacher evaluations changed instantly and forever when President Obama made improved teacher evaluations a cornerstone of his federal “Race To The Top” initiative. “If we are honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that in too many places we have no way – at least no good way – of distinguishing good teachers from bad ones,” Obama said, in unveiling the RTTT competition. “Let me be clear: success should be judged by results and data is a powerful tool to determine results. We can’t ignore facts. We can’t ignore data.”

The bully pulpit has been an extremely effective tool for this administration. For his part, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has called the idea of evaluating teachers based on factors which don’t include student learning “illogical and indefensible.”

This type of leadership from the highest levels of the Democratic Party eventually unleashed waves of reform in states from coast to coast. The goal for many of us was clear: if we want to change policies, we need to change the politics surrounding education. The President and his team proved this was possible.

You don’t have to take our word for it. The President’s power to persuade key constituencies has even been quantified in what education researchers have dubbed “The Obama Effect.”

A 2008 survey conducted by the Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG) at Harvard University and the journal Education Next found that linking President Obama’s support to poll questions about reforms like charter schools and merit pay increased public support for those reforms by 11 and 13 percentage points, respectively. This powerful research showed that large chunks of the population were more willing to support reforms if they were told that President Obama supported them too.

President Obama has not just been a great messenger – he’s been a great uniter for the cause. We contend that prior to President Obama’s election a cohesive national education reform movement did not exist….” (By Joe Williams & Charles Barone)

Also related, in this essay a reviewer of Steve Brill’s book Class Warfare, describes how DFER members helped to coordinate the “charade” of having Linda Darling-Hammond advise the president on education in 2008, followed immediately by the appointment of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education:

“The reformers’ arrogance is best on display when Brill gloats about the charade of appointing anti-reformer Linda Darling-Hammond to lead Obama’s official post-election education planning, while DFER, with funds from Eli Broad, wrote a secret memo for the “informal yet real education transition team.”

Jon Schnur organized the effort and strove to calm his nervous fellow-reformers, assuring them that the Darling-Hammond appointment was only a sop to a faction that would have no real influence, while DFER’s secret memo set forth the Administration’s actual policy – including the naming of key Gates Foundation and Teach for America operatives for crucial administration policy posts, and calling for use of student test scores to evaluate teachers.

It is disclosures like this that make Brill’s book something less than the unambiguous morality tale he aimed to present. Had the reformers been a little less sure of themselves, they might have less to answer for when their program, as it certainly must, eventually implodes.” (By  Richard Rothstein)

More info on DFER here.

Related:  * Standardizing Education – Common Core’s Hidden Agenda * Educational Malpractice – The Child Manufacturing Process * The View from Japan: Common Core is a Disaster in the Making *


About Christopher Chase

Co-creator and Admin of the Facebook pages "Tao & Zen" "Art of Learning" & "Creative Systems Thinking." Majored in Studio Art at SUNY, Oneonta. Graduated in 1993 from the Child & Adolescent Development program at Stanford University's School of Education. Since 1994, have been teaching at Seinan Gakuin University, in Fukuoka, Japan.
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5 Responses to So-called Education Reform & the Art of Deception

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