Look Out – Here Comes “Deans for Impact.”

Mercedes Schneider is known far and wide for being one of the nation’s leading education bloggers.  Her blog – https://deutsch29.wordpress.com – just celebrated its 2nd birthday.  Schneiber is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.  Here is her latest piece.

“Deans for Impact”: A Potential, “Teacher-prep Charter” Petri Dish?

Benjamin Riley has started a new organization called Deans for Impact. The goal is to streamline teacher preparation to produce ever-higher student test scores. Members agree to be “data driven” and to use “common metrics and assessments.” Why, Deans for Impact are even considering incorporating value-added into their measures of “teacher effectiveness.”

And, oh, yes, member deans agree to be “transparent and accountable.” A bumper sticker for corporate reform. How novel.

Wait– there’s more:

These deans are going to “identify a common understanding of what educators should know and be able to do by the time they finish their training.”

Teacher-prep Common Core?

Sounds like Deans for Impact is decidedly on its way to becoming standardized– the clarion call of all that touches K12 education according to corporate reform.

Now, I know you’ll be surprised to learn that Riley was formerly with a “nonprofit” that specializes in privatizing public education, NewSchools Venture Fund (whose former CEO, Ted Mitchell, Obama’s 2013 choice for Undersecretary of Education who was confirmed in May 2014).

On the Deans for Impact website, Riley chooses not to disclose his former association with NewSchools, instead only noting that he “previously worked as the policy director for a national educational nonprofit.” This EdWeek article observes that Riley’s previous association with NewSchools is “one potential liability.”

Indeed.

While at NewSchools, Riley wrote this post in 2011 and this post in 2013 about a piece of legislation Riley helped draft– and that was supported by, among others, Senator Lamar Alexander, who is currently responsible for drafting the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the most recent version of which is No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The piece of legislation Riley references in his blog post is know as the GREAT Teachers and Principals Act.

The GREAT Act has been sitting in committee in the Senate since May 2013 and in the House since July 2013.

The GREAT Act is supposed to establish voluntary teacher and principal training academies. What we have here are charter schools for principal and teacher prep that can be affiliated with institutes of higher education.

You read it right: Charter schools for training teachers and principals.

In the EdWeek article about Deans for Impact’s debut, the possibility of using university-based teacher training programs as affiliates for teacher- and principal-prep charter start-ups is not explored.

Given Riley’s background, such a possibility should not be discounted.

In the GREAT Act that Riley helped draft, in order to pass, these teachers and principals must have “a demonstrated track record of success in getting students on track to being college and career ready.”

Again with that Common Core language.

As part of his evidence for how poorly current teacher prep programs are faring, in 2013, Riley cited this 2006 report by former Teachers College President Arthur Levine, which justifies a shift in teacher prep toward what matters to privatizing reform: an ueber-emphasis on test score outcomes:

The shift in focus from common processes for all schools to common outcomes for all children changes the measure of success for teachers.Process-based school systems, rooted in what students are taught, assesses education success in terms of issues such as teacher knowledge and credentials, curriculum design and organization, and reliable and valid assessment methods. In contrast, outcome-based systems, concerned with what students learn, have a single measure of success– student achievement. [Emphasis added.]

In his report, Levine isn’t questioning the value of the shift from “process-based” to “outcome-based” education; he states that since the shift has happened, then student test scores should be used as a measure of teacher quality. In other words, teacher prep should follow the shift and proceed down the path of the test score as “the single measure of success.” That noted, Levine’s report was published in 2006, years before the obsession with student test scores as the end-all, be-all of educational “success” hijacked the national K12 education scene. Moreover, in this 2014 New York Timesarticle on US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s idea to track the student performance of teacher prep program graduates, Levine does not directly state that he believes student test scores can directly and accurately “grade” teacher prep programs.

Yet the 2006 Levine report is cited by Riley, who has a background with NewSchools Venture Fund, which specializes in funding charters– and corporate-reform charters are test-score-obsessed institutions.

So now, Riley has started a “venture” using (according to EdWeek) a one-million-dollar grant from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. Ironically, in 2013, the Schustermans also donated over one million dollars to Teach for America (TFA), whose temp teachers are “trained” in five weeks and who are assumed prepared because, after all, they are “talent.”

In 2013, the Schustermans also supported Stand for Children (SFC) for $2.3 million; the Gates-Walton-Broad-funded NewSchools Venture Fund (NSVF) for $500,000; the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) for $25,000; KIPP charter schools, for over $100,000; Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) for $50,000, and Gates-Walton-Broad-funded Education Pioneers (EP) for $500,000. All of these organizations are known for devaluing education via privatization and test-score worship.

And now, thanks to Riley and his Schusterman million, we have deans who are willing to follow a guy who helped draft legislation to create teacher-prep charter schools.

Be careful, O Deans of Impact.

If teacher-prep charter “academies” are somehow worked into your traditional teacher training programs, your programs run the risk of being supplanted by a privatized substitute.

Higher ed charter co-location.

Already, you have agreed to play the test-score-driven, common-metric game easily recognized as a privatization gateway. Too, Riley is advertising that he wants to “remain relatively small,” which makes you sound like an unsuspecting petri dish for a man who wishes his GREAT legislation might find a testing ground.

Perhaps not. Perhaps I am wrong.

But watch out.

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