Neoliberalism: To Know It Is To Recognize It

noam-chomsky-quote-2The term “neoliberalism” is not in my old college dictionary. And most people I’ve asked don’t know what it is. For that reason, the public is not been able to recognize the ideology behind many of our public policies…

We have become victims of sabotage —of our own doing.

An economic approach is one component of neoliberalism.

An economic approach is only one component of neoliberalism.

We are political pawns in the neoliberal game.

The situation looks daunting. But don’t despair. Shedding light on the neoliberal agenda will enable you to better understand the concept and determine for yourself if you have unknowingly adopted this ideology as your own.

As explained in “Our Neoliberal Nightmare,”

“Everything that promotes the market, i.e., privatization, deregulation, mobility of finance and capital, abandonment of government-provided social welfare, and the reconception of human beings as human capital, [is] encouraged.

It should be said that neoliberalism thrives on prompting crisis after crisis…so that each succeeding crisis only erodes the power of the working class and makes the wealthy wealthier.

[Our] politics succumbs to neoliberal economic theory…[so]… In this revolution of the law, persons have no status compared to corporations…

[And the author writes] I am merely outlining the strength of an opponent that has refused to be named for forty-five years, although it has been the ruling ideology that long!”

Neoliberal beliefs have permeated our social and political structures with bipartisan appeal.

And indoctrination into the neoliberal philosophy runs the gambit — from political propaganda to training within the public education system. That’s right! We’ve been infiltrated.

John Perella’s dissertation on the National Institute for School Leadership (NISL) enlightened me. I hope it does the same for you.

  • Neoliberalism is pro-business and does not view powerful corporate influence as problematic (p15)…
  • Neoliberalism is acutely conservative in its economic approach. In fact, neoliberals share many of the same educational goals of neo-conservatives. (See The Politics of Reform for definitions.)
  • Neoliberalism is about restructuring society to allow for, and facilitate the growth of, free-markets (p16). [See “free-market” discussion in the comments below.]
  • Simply put, neoliberalism is a belief system and an economic approach. Privatization is just one strategy of this larger movement and globalization is the background for this entire story (p17).
  • Some have argued that privatization (and consequently the end of public education), driven by neoliberal education policies is the objective of [the] landmark legislation [No Child Left Behind] (p17).

Don’t be led to believe NCLB is gone.

The newest version of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), continues to harbor the neoliberal education reform agenda.

What’s wrong with the neoliberal philosophy guiding our public education system?

Children. It’s creating problems for children, which in turn creates problems for families. And in dysfunctional families, the problems are magnified.

We know children need a supportive social structure.

Proponents and critics alike of privatization have identified social cohesion as a possible victim of market driven education.

One cannot expect a competitive approach to promote social cohesion (p51).

That concept is what people like New York Times writer David Brooks haven’t figured out. As explained in The Common Good & Education, he understands that children need a strong social fabric. But he doesn’t see how neoliberal / neoconservative education reform laws damage the social fabric he claims is essential.

Here’s how. Different —more or less— and “higher” standards led to the perceived need for more standardized assessments. More standardized assessments fed the theory of competition. Test scores stirred the public to call for accountability.

When no accountability was forthcoming, “choice” was offered. Choice nourished the market. And the technology to run this whole ruse brought the neoliberal agenda full circle.

Money is being made at every step of the way. Reform? Not so much.

The neoliberal philosophy has us believing that there is nothing wrong with private industry taking over work traditionally done by public institutions…You know the sell… cutting through the bureaucracy, ending the government monopoly on education, and all that jazz… But, answer this…

What is the problem with NISL — Marc Tucker’s for-profit, non-collegiate, privately controlled organization — training/educating/indoctrinating (your choice) OUR public education leadership?

  • NISL is not understood by its participants and has not been sufficiently examined by the public (p136).
  • Schools are not neutral conveyors of knowledge but are instruments of ideology (p28).
  • Since public education is an instrument of ideology, then leaders trained by NISL will predictably influence their respective schools or districts (p29).
  • NISL will inevitably apply increased sway on public education as more school leaders are trained (p22).
  • Pragmatically, NISL seems to always have one eye on state and federal policies. When it was created, there was a clear alignment in NISL with the spirit of NCLB (pg94).
  • The NISL leadership in Washington envisioned the future of the program to include many new initiatives that would “drive NISL deep” (RH). These included cohort coaching and mentoring, new leadership curriculum in early child learning, special education, ELL and disability, as well as pipelining (p99).

And please keep in mind, neoliberal thinking takes the social justice ideal and uses the platform to justify the market-based theory. It draws in liberal thinkers and civil rights groups trying to do what is right for society — unknowingly putting children at the mercy of the almighty dollar.

And never mind how you and I define social justice. Neoliberal leadership proceeds to act by whatever means they desire —pocketing public dollars in the process—and always producing more human capital to do their work.

As Dr. Perella explained NISL’s program, the leadership “education” combines military and business training practices. Pipelining is how the military routinely picks and develops their leadership. And Marc Tucker’s NISL (with his parent organization National Center on Education and the Economy – NCEE) isn’t  the only show in town.

“The Broad Academy is a subsidiary of the same Broad Foundation that has [financially] supported NISL. Broad has two distinct flagship initiatives, a residency program for placing “participants into full-time high-level managerial positions in school districts, CMOs (Charter Management Organizations), and federal/state departments of education” (http://broadresidency.org/about/overview.html)

… at the risk of interrupting your reading, let me stop you right here…. Did that last point wake you up? Placement in federal and state “departments of education.” Targeted, strategic placement in our governing structure…just checking that this bombshell hit you…. Okay, so, there is the Broad residency program…

and their Superintendent Academy. The primary goal of the Academy is to train and place non-educator executives into superintendent positions.

In 2009, 43 percent of all large urban superintendent openings were filled by Broad Academy graduates (p58).

So between just these two neoliberal buddies, they have covered the training of urban district superintendents, U.S. Department of Education employees, many State Department of Education hires, and principal training in at least 15 states — all indoctrinated (my choice of words) into the neoliberal doctrine.

I’ll ask again, what is the problem?

Well, I agree with Dr. Perella…

Tucker truly is the man behind the curtain. [And] NISL is but one component of Tucker’s influence on public education reform (p138).

…there is very little ‘public’ in NISL’s design for the training of public school leaders (p137).

And we must always remember,

Central to the neoliberal doctrine is a simple, yet powerful objective: profit (p40).

So with much appreciation for Dr. Perella’s diligent work in answering some very important questions, let me end with some words from the man behind the curtain…from page 50 of Tucker’s publication Governing American Education: Why This Dry Subject Might Hold the Key to Advances in American Education”screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-8-53-41-am

Stoppable? Well, we do have a choice. But the question is, do people want to hear it?

And will people consider answering a few questions, like these:

Who should be holding the key to our future?

Are we going to let our public education system go the way of neoliberalism?

If we do nothing, we know how this story goes. History tells us.

Our move.polyp_cartoon_rich_poor_neoliberal

 

 

 

 

 

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Note: The pdf provided here for Dr. Perrella’s dissertation concerning NISL is my personal copy. I provided my highlighted and underlined copy not to influence readers with what I found important or interesting but as a courtesy to those who might need to skim, rather than read, the 172 pages.

A clean copy can be found here.

Leadership & ESEA Reauthorization

For the quickest path to educational improvement — or to dismantling of the public education system — look no further than leadership.

If we want to improve schools, we need skilled leadership educated and experienced in school improvement processes. The question is, do the American people want those leaders trained by outside sources or developed within our own public education system? If we choose to go private, do we know what the leaders will be trained to do and how?

Joanne Barkin covered the private philanthropic efforts in leadership training quite well in “Got Dough: How Billionaires Rule Our Schools.”

Barkin explains “their vision” is “market-based.” Market-based education reform means seeing education as a commodity so reforms are based on demand, supply, and pricing. The vision was sold to us based on the assumption that higher test scores mean better education. The theory relies on parental and public demand for better “outcomes” as driven by high-stakes standardized testing.

The demand for higher scores has pushed the perceived need for charters, vouchers, higher standards, better tests, and longitudinal data systems to track every student and teacher. And when these pseudo-reforms fail to improve our lowest-performing schools, closure of schools and redistribution of students into the marketplace is now a reform. And leaders have been privately trained in these pseudo-reform methods. There is a school closure manual to follow!

The biggest private providers of leadership training?

“They” include Marc Tucker and his National Institute for School Leadership (NISL) and Eli Broad (pronunciation rhymes with road) with his Broad Center programs. But as Barkin put it, “both the Broad Academy and Residency are not mere programs: they are ‘pipelines’.”

Ken Libby and Stan Karp explain, “The [Broad] Academy’s revised program of study will aim to prepare leaders for positions beyond the superintendency of districts to include leaders of charter management organizations and state education departments.”

Libby and Karp quote from a memo they obtained boasting,

“We have filled more superintendent positions than any other national training program, and remain the only organization recruiting management talent from outside of education.”

Working from “inside” of education is Marc Tucker’s for-profit NISL. Tucker is a former Carnegie Corporation employee and current president of the D.C. think-tank the “National” Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE).

As scholar John M. Perella documented in “A Critical Study of the National Institute for School Leadership in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,

NISL launched with “$11 million in research and development grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Broad Foundation, the New Schools Venture Fund, the Stupski Foundation and NCEE”  (p 4).

“From 2001-2004, The Broad Foundation “kicked in 3.5 million’”and NISL began to put together teams of ‘the best and brightest’ for the purposes of creating a curriculum for NISL (p107).

Dr. Perella described his NISL training as an impressive combination of applying “militaryJohn-W.-Gardner-Quotes-2 and business strategies to educational issues.” But he questioned the foundational philosophy of the institution and looked for answers. His findings revealed “strong elements of both privatization efforts and neoliberalism within the NISL program.”

“From a critical perspective, the most alarming issue with NISL is in regards to the voice of the program. With voice comes power. Whose voice does NISL accentuate? Whose view of how public education should operate is expressed through NISL? Specifically, it is important to ask whose voice is not being heard.” (p137)

This particular “pipeline” has been working towards producing “leaders” for the market-based systemic privatization of public education since 1999. This for-profit has been granted your federal dollars.

The newest twist is having the House adopt “Pay for Success” as part of their grand scheme for ESEA reauthorization (Elementary and Secondary Education Act/ No Child Left Behind). This section of H.R. 5 is written to put taxpayer dollars into private teacher and leadership development programs. With the creator of the outcome-based theory leading the pack in leadership development, Tucker’s NISL has their documented success already on their website. But is this how WE want to judge “success” in education  – based on arbitrarily set “cut scores”?

Shouldn’t our leaders vision for schools represent OUR vision?

People NEED TO KNOW that much of what they see happening in public education – now – is a result of leaders that have been churned out through the Broad Superintendents Academy, the Broad Residency, and NISL. We have no way of knowing how many graduates of this neoliberal, privatization philosophy we have working within our public institutions up to and including our own U.S. Department of Education.

The alternative?

Here is its foundational philosophy:

A “principal’s leadership and attention to the quality of instruction” along with “teacher behaviors that convey the expectation that all students are expected to obtain at least minimal mastery” are two correlates of Effective Schools. “Effective Schools” are high achieving schools with a high percentage of their students from low-income families and a high percentage being children of a color other than white. Leadership matters in matters of instruction.

Another correlate is “a pervasive and broadly understood instructional focus”; this requires a leader that can communicate.

And effective schools do use “measures of pupil achievement as the basis for program evaluation,” which was the annual requirement in the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965.

We don’t have to reinvent any wheels.

The “National Education Leadership Academy Act” is written for us.

Written by Gary Ratner, Director of Citizens for Effective Schools

Written by Gary Ratner, Director of Citizens for Effective Schools

Many citizens and education policy leaders, particularly civil rights leaders, continue to hold on to the failed test-based practices of No Child Left Behind. But what they don’t seem to realize is that if we are to improve the learning opportunities for those students being left behind, we have to have capable, responsive, responsible school leadership in all our schools.

This draft is a detailed plan to develop school leadership aimed at strengthening and improving the public education system while addressing one root of the existing problem of unequal access to quality education – state and local leadership “capacity.” Developing leadership capacity is a responsibility that must be met.

We identified the states that have demonstrated over the last 13 years that they can’t adequately and consistently improve the schools most in need of help. I know; I live in one.

We have identified the same districts and schools over and over since my kids started school here in Idaho in 1992. It never mattered which standards, which tests, which label, or which accountability system we used, the same schools keep coming back on the list – if they ever leave it (which was usually when we changed accounting or moved kids around). Some states lack the capacity to improve themselves.

The larger institution of public education is capable of training quality leadership. But it lacks the capacity to meet our current needs because our lawmakers have been an instrument of privatization – our public dollars creating a steady stream of capital into private pockets. What now?

The country is in a position to build leadership capacity. With ESEA reauthorization moving forward in Congress, we have the opportunity to choose an alternative to the direction we have been going for the last 30 years.

Do we have legislative and executive leadership that will do the right thing? If our leaders will be guided by the People – which way will the People direct them?

Privatize the system or remain public; America’s Choice.

Accountability for School Quality

Judge schools by the extent to which they satisfactorily meet the needs of all pupils…” Cooperative Study of Secondary School Standards (1939)

Looking at an array of “indicators” helps avoid the pitfall, as seen by the School Standards study, of using testing as “a sole method of accreditation or for similar widespread comparison” because testing tends to make “instruction point definitely to success in examinations,” cultivates “a uniformity that is deadening to instruction,” can “thwart the initiative of instructors,” and can “destroy the flexibility and individuality of an institution.”

Excessive testing takes time away from learning.

Excessive testing takes time away from learning.

Assessing our schools has a long history of research behind it. The Cooperative Study of Secondary School Standards laid out in great detail their methodology and the tools they used to evaluate the quality of schools. They concluded there are six elements within the school that should be used to judge quality of the learning experience: 1) Curriculum, 2) Pupil activities, 3) Library, 4) Guidance, 5) Instruction, and 6) Outcomes.

Accreditation in the United States http://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/1731/Accreditation-in-United-States.html

Accreditation in the United States http://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/1731/Accreditation-in-United-States.html

The school improvement process that was the focus of the original study was based on:

  • Ÿwhat the characteristics of a good school are,
  • Ÿhow you evaluate schools effectiveness in relation to its objectives,
  • Ÿhow a good school becomes better, and
  • Ÿhow to stimulate schools to continue to strive to become better.

The process is nothing new and it is being taught in some public institutions. An accreditation certification program at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) Extension System is one example. If you take a moment to glance through the list of topics covered, you’ll find it includes a multitude of ways to assess quality on everything from disaggregation of student data to analyzing community profiles.

To sustain an improvement process takes knowledgeable leadership. If we were serious about improving our public schools, we would quit handing over leadership training to private non-profits like the Broad Foundation’s Leadership Academy or Marc Tucker‘s “National” Institute for School Leadership. We would set standards for leadership training that included the best practices of school improvement processes. We would put quality control back in the public realm. We have no idea what these private philanthropic endeavors are teaching, but the country’s education system certainly is suffering under their leadership especially in the large urban school districts that they have taken over (last full paragraph is telling).

So to meet students’ needs a school improvement process must begin with a “needs assessment.” Various survey tools exist. We don’t need to reinvent any wheels to move forward.

From the Federation for Community Schools

From the Federation for Community Schools

Approximately 30 years after the Cooperative Study of Secondary School Standards, Effective Schools Research began to emerge. It gives us another framework by which we can approach school improvement. The Effective Schools Correlates are:

1) The principal’s leadership and attention to the quality of instruction;

2) A pervasive and broadly understood instructional focus;

3) An orderly, safe climate conducive to teaching and learning;

4) Teacher behaviors that convey the expectation that all students are expected to obtain at least minimal mastery; and

5) The use of measures of pupil achievement as the basis for program evaluation.

Approximately 30 more years passed and we now have Robert Marzano’s indicator framework developed around the Effective Schools Correlates with a bit more of a standards-aligned (standards-referenced) twist to the indicator system. The system is arranged in “levels” but should be worked on simultaneously.

 Level 1: A Safe and Orderly Environment That Supports Cooperation and Collaboration

Level 2: An Instructional Framework That Develops and Maintains Effective Instruction in Every Classroom

Level 3: A Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum Focused on Enhancing Student Learning

Level 4: A Standards-Referenced System of Reporting Student Progress

Level 5: A Competency-Based System That Ensures Student Mastery of Content

If you glance through the system of indicators, you’ll find that many of the “assessments” are simple low-cost surveys. But keep in mind; school evaluations need to be tailored to the schools needs. No one-size –fits-all mandate will suffice. “Stakeholder” participation in planning makes success more likely.

And as we know, schools don’t improve and then just stay that way. Students, parents, teachers, and leaders come and go; things change. Schools must see improvement as a continuous process, always striving to be better.

But, we do need oversight. So another “accountability” piece, that goes by various names (Quality Review, Inspection, Success, or Support Teams), is teams of “outside” evaluators. The long-standing recommendation is that a visit every five years is sufficient. If schools are having difficulties, more frequent visits are recommended.

These review teams could be established within state’s departments of education (once leaders are trained in sufficient numbers). State inspections could encompass such things as assessment of the curriculum assuring that it is broad and engaging, appraisal of teachers’ continuing education ensuring quality and sufficient learning opportunities are being offered, evaluation of the level of parental and family engagement opportunities and communications, and that there is satisfactory evidence that the school is conscientiously working towards improving rather than just complying with paperwork.

 Summary of Accountability Measures for Ensuring School Quality include,

  • An assessment of school needs (students, teachers, partners),
  • Establishment of indicators for improvement based on the needs assessment,
  • Continuous self-assessments of schools and classrooms,
  • Monitoring of student progress,
  • Monitoring of school progress based on the school’s indicators of quality, and
  • Evaluations by a Quality Review Team every 5 years or 1-2 years if needed.

“Common sense dictates that in order for students to achieve they must have appropriate opportunities to learn.” Wendy Schwartz – Opportunity To Learn Standards 

Opportunity to Learn (OTL) Assessments are “a range of measurable indicators that covered both classroom experience and the overall school environment.”… “The National Council on Education Standards and Testing (NCEST, 1992) asserted that OTL standards are necessary to help close the achievement gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students.”

We have ignored establishing opportunity-to-learn standards but I believe they are incorporated into a school accountability system such as what is described here.

Currently, there are multiple versions of these ideas. I have read at least eight “new” plans from eight different organizations. Terminology varies but the major ideas remain the same. What we do know with certainty is….

“…accountability should be geared towards continuous improvement.”

—Joseph Bishop, Opportunity to Learn Campaign

The Common Core System

Connecting “Autonomy,” “Accountability,” & the Common Core National Standards

Here’s how things are going in Idaho. Quick history: In 2011, three laws similar to others in the nationbust collective bargaining, put in pay-for-performance, and roll out the lap-tops and online “learning” — were passed by lawmakers despite visible and audible protests from Idahoans. But the People in Idaho didn’t roll over. They came back to put them (the Luna Laws) on the ballot in 2012 and defeated all three proposals – SOUNDLY!!! But quietly the foxes have entered the hen house and are going in for the kill. They are doing it through a governor-selected “task force.”

Moving Beyond the Killer B’s: The Role of School Boards in School Accountability and Transformation bases its recommendations on the idea that it is important “to ensure that their [school board] policies and practices align with the pressing need to ensure that all students are provided a high-quality education, enabling them to succeed in college and post-graduation careers.” They express that “the Common Core State Standards [are] aimed at ensuring that all states strive to teach a high level curriculum and administer rigorous assessments.”(page 4) It was expressed that originally Race to the Top had included formal school board evaluations (page 5).

And so it appears that “they” thought of every aspect of The Common Core System.

 The Killer B’s document describes a scheme that in essence promotes the idea of using federal funds to accomplish a wide array of tasks including the establishment of  “technical assistance centers” called “Regional Comprehensive Centers” (RCCs) (page ii, 24).

Moving Beyond the Killer B’s (copyrighted by the Academic Development Institute (ADI)) can be found on The Center for School Turnarounds primarily sponsored by WestEd along with ADI.

WestEd (nonpartisan, nonprofit) regional centers are established in California, Mid-Atlantic, West, Southwest, Central, Northeast, South Central, Great Lakes, Midwest, Pacific, Appalachia, and Texas. And there could be more WestEd Regional Comprehensive Centers that I missed.

WestEd is the Project Management Partner for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (our Common Core Tests).

Following the lead of Idaho’s State Chief Deputy Superintendent, Rodger Quarles, who was a contributor to the Killer B’s document and a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Improving Education, the Training & Development of School Boards is now on the legislative table (Effective Teachers & Leaders Recommendation #2.5, Task Force doc., Page 37).

And here is where “autonomy” comes into question: Idaho Structural Change Subcommittee’s Strategy 2: Autonomy and Accountability
“…the State should set goals for the public education system, allocate monies, and then hold local leadership accountable for progress against those goals.” (Page 19 Task Force)

When the Common Core National Standards sets the standards, aligns the tests, aligns the curriculum, and, on the advice of the Chief Council of State school Officers (CCSSO) and National Governor’s Association (NGA), aligns the training of teachers, superintendents, and principals, plus the National Parent Teachers Association did their best to train parents to accept Common Core — the only thing left is to train and align the school board members with the help of the School Board Associations and the same non-governmental, non-accountable group that will be “partnering” in the tests —WestEd. Plus, organizations like the Broad Foundation have years of experience training leaders.

With test-driven reforms (they call “outcome-based”), He who controls the tests controls what is learned — especially if all the pieces of the machine are in alignment. Is this the systemic change we want?

Is the American education system to become just one cog in the machine?

Is the American education system to become just one cog in the machine?

“Autonomy”? The Task Force defines it as “people’s need to be empowered to take ownership for results and to have the flexibility to address challenges and local dynamics they face in pursuit of results for our students.” It is not defined here as self-governing and definitely NOT the same as “local control.”

There is nothing of educational significance left to control – goals, standards, tests, training for instruction, curriculum, and governance are all decided and out of our control. All that is left is the hard work of ensuring learning, in some form, occurs – In it, we will have no voice that will be heard by the large conglomerates that will control our schools. Proof ? Do they hear us asking them right now to STOP the CORE? Put the testing on pause. They do in some states but what of the nation?

And those that attended the No Child Left Behind workshop by Gary Ratner and myself at the Save Our Schools conference in D.C. in 2012 heard me ask this question, do we want organizations like the Broad Foundation training our school leaders or do we want it done through public institutions?

The education “reform” laws that Idahoans defeated looked to me to be “models” for the nation. So what is happening now with leadership training in the rest of the nation?