Money Talks, Bulls**t Walks. But Money + Bulls**t = Bulldozer

9:36 am

Much has been written, at least of late, about the Gates Foundation’s influence on public education. From donating money to Race to the Top applicants to the multiple Gates officials serving in the DOE (and all the billions of dollars flowing in between), there’s no doubt the foundation has a great impact on public education. One of my big concerns is this: Bill picked former PPS superintendent Vicki Phillips to head his domestic education program. Why’d he pick her? She’s a hammer (or, as she was known here, a “hurricane“). She’ll say all the right things, deliver her bit about just bein’ a humble Kentucky girl, and repeat a litany of education catch-phrases – just like Duncan (he’s not a Kentucky girl, but he has his own scripted story about his path to education stardom). It’s scary to think of what those two could accomplish (or demolish). Oh – and Vicki’s assistant, Margot Rogers is now Duncan’s chief of staff. Neat. For a nice taste of Vicki’s dog and pony show, check out Willamette Week writer Beth Slovic’s summary of Vicki’s recent speech to the Council on Great City Schools. Here are a few highlights:

Phillips’ audience was a mix of about 200 to 300 superintendents from large, urban school districts and school board members from around the country. Perhaps that might explain why Phillips opened with a statement that might have angered teachers (had there been any in the room.)

“What’s the toughest job in education?” Phillips asked. “Urban superintendents and school boards.”

It’s what’s happening inside the classroom, Phillips said, that really mattered. “Structure is not enough,” Phillips added, before dropping a line that sounds kinda funny when repeated outside the room. “High school is not high enough,” she said.

She then jumped to the controversial topic of merit pay, though when I spoke with her after the talk she said “merit pay” wasn’t the right phrase for what she was promoting. “This has been the third rail,” she said, but “we can do this the right way.” She then introduced the Gates Foundation’s “Measures of Effective Teaching” project, which involves videotaping teachers to find out what makes the great ones tick.

PPS attendees at the lunch included Superintendent Carole Smith; Zeke Smith, chief of staff; Robb Cowie, communications; Jollee Patterson, general counsel; Sara Allan, system planning; Mark Davalos, deputy superintendent; Sarah Singer, high school redesign; Cameron Vaughn Tyler, partnership manager; Dave Fajer, procurement; Judy Brennan, student enrollment; Cynthia Harris, Jefferson High School principal; plus School Board Members Dilafruz Williams, Ruth Adkins, Pam Knowles, Bobbie Regan, Trudy Sargent, Martín González and — for old time’s sake — Cathy Mincberg, formerly chief operating officer for Portland Public Schools.

Note: PPS Superintendent Carole Smith was Vicki’s chief of staff; Zeke Smith worked for the Portland Schools Foundation, a big Gates recipient and believer in all things Gates; Sara Allan is a former Broad Resident and is now in and executive director in charge of systems planning and performance management; Sarah Singer is not only a Broad Resident, but also in charge of Portland’s high school redesign process; Cathy Mincberg – a former HISD board president, well-known Broad lover, and partner of both Don McAdams and Rod Paige – is now working for a company owned by Michael Milken’s Knowledge Universe, KC Distance Learning. Fitting.

The reform proposals of Vicki, Bill, Arne, Eli, and their pals is “the light at the end of the education tunnel” the late Gerald Bracey referenced in a July 5th twitter posting. Bracey said it was a “standards freight train,” but it’s driven by a hurricane, a former Chicago education chief, and their philanthocapitalists backers.

SourcedFrom Sourced from: Our Global Education

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Kenneth Libby is an independent education researcher and a recent graduate of Lewis and Clark's Graduate School of Education and Counseling. He writes about national education issues, testing and philanthropy on Schools Matter and Global Ideologies in Education.

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One Response

  1. Comment from ppsvet:

    Is it any wonder that PPS is falling apart? It’s the plan. If there is one.

    Has any of these people been a teacher? Or at least a teacher more than the minimum required to become an administrator.