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NCTQ Letter Grades and the Reformer Agenda– Part III

January 28, 2013

UPDATE 06-20-13:  Steven Adamowski and Roy Barnes (featured below) are no longer members of the NCTQ advisory board. The other two individuals discussed in this post, Michael barber and McKinley Broome, remain.


In the next several posts, I will examine the 33 NCTQ Advisory Board members “under the microscope,” so to speak, in what I would like to term the MKS (that’s me) Review of NCTQ Advisory Board Quality.  Some of these folks have more, shall we say, colorful involvements than do others, so I am uncertain about the number of posts.  My goal is expose in short-order fasion without missing the truth.

For each individual, I first offer his/her bio as it appears on the NCTQ website.  (The boardwalk-ish introductory narration is the work of NCTQ, not MKS.)

In this post, I offer readers four advisory board members: Steven Adamowski, Michael Barber, Roy Barnes, and McKinley Broome.

 Steven J. Adamowski

Steven J. Adamowski, Special Master, Connecticut State Board of Education, formerly served as Superintendent of Schools in Hartford, professor of Education Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and as a Senior Fellow for the American Institutes for Research (AIR) in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was the Superintendent of Schools in Cincinnati and the Associate Secretary of Education in Delaware where he was successful in raising student achievement through system reform. Dr. Adamowski’s experience in teacher quality includes reform of teacher compensation and human resources systems and development of alternate routes to certification in urban districts. 

Adamowski is a “reformer,” and he is willing to perform reformer sleights-of-truth in order to make his reforms work.  Take his plan for the New London Schools in Connecticut: Make all New London Schools into magnet schools. Do it fast. Send some New London students to other schools outside of the district, and bus others in. Test scores will go up. Put a cap on the percentage of minority students allowed, but set a minimum percentage for students who must enroll from outside of the district.

As Connecticut blogger Jonathan Pelto notes,

[Adamowski’s] “plan” is specific to New London, but it reminds us that “education reformers” are fond of building things, renaming things, moving things around, and then declaring victory.

It is interesting that Adamowski’s NCTQ bio does not mention his position as “Special Master” of two districts outside of his position as superintendent of Hartford.  Apparently, it is better to omit such info since it connects to an organization known as the State Education Resource Center (SERC). SERC arranged for Adamowski to pad his retirement by adding extra years to his retirement fund pension. (This padding is in addition to the governor’s original intent to pay into Adamowski’s retirement for a position he was not qualified to hold.) SERC also enabled Connecticut Governor Malloy to bypass bidding laws in hiring Leeds Global Partners, a New York-based consulting firm, to compose Connecticut’s educational reform bill.  How did SERC get by with its bidding actions?  By calling itself a nonprofit.

The question becomes, how many salaried positions can one man hold simultaneously?  At least three: Superintendent, Special Master, and Deputy Superintendent. In addition, Adamowski has continued to hold on to SERC (more on this below).

Oh, and to fulfill the NCTQ bio statement of “system reform” and “developing alternative routes to certification,” well, Adamowski simply followed the advice of the “study” cited in my previous blog:  Bring in Teach for America. Never mind that the Windham School District (one of Adamowski’s multiple “superintendencies”) needs bilingual teachers and special education teachers.  Never mind that TFA cannot guarantee that their recruits can fulfill the bilingual requirement, and never mind that none would be special education certified. Gotta bring ‘em in to eventually fill those extra administrative positions Adamowski created as a part of the promise of TFA upward mobility.

As of this writing, the Windham School District is facing a financial crisis brought on by Adamowski’s spending 2 million dollars of taxpayer money on high paid staff and consultants, including $750,000 for Adamowski and his staff, and $145,000 to SERC, not including SERC “administrative costs,” and $220,000 for “consultants.”  As Jonathan Pelto writes:

But the waste of $2,000,000 in taxpayer funds on high paid staff and consultants is only the tip of the iceberg. The Windham budget itself has seen a shift to more administrators and fewer educators as Adamowski and his entourage have swept into control.

And just when it seemed it couldn’t get any worse, the senseless effort to reduce the role of local elected officials and parents, while increasing the role of consultants and education reform companies, has suddenly taken a giant step forward.

In fact, over the past few days, the “end game” for the Windham education reformers has become increasingly and painfully clear. This isn’t about the children of Windham. This is about the growing privatization of public education in Connecticut. The new name of the game is – how much public taxpayer funds can we grab before anyone stops us.

This, my friends, is Steven Adamowski, NCTQ Advisory Board Member to the Rating of Traditional Teacher Training Programs.  Rest assured, however: Adamowski is fulfilling his NCTQ role as outlined by the NCTQ mission statement:

The National Council on Teacher Quality is a non-profit, nonpartisan research and policy group committed to restructuring the teaching profession, led by our vision that every child deserves effective teachers.

Well, at least Adamowski is “restructuring the teaching profession.” The “effective teachers” piece must be negotiable. 

Michael Barber

Michael Barber, Chief Education Advisor, Pearson International, is a Partner at McKinsey and Company leading its global education practice. He has been working on major challenges of performance, organization and reform in government and the public services, especially education, in the USA, UK and other countries. From 2001-2005 he was the Founder and first Head of the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit where he was responsible for the oversight of implementation of the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair’s priority programs including education among others. From 1997-2001, Michael was Chief Adviser to the UK Secretary of State for Education on School Standards, responsible for the implementation of the government’s school reform program. Prior to joining government Michael Barber was a Professor at the Institute of Education, University of London. He is the author of Instruction to Deliver (2007), co-author of How the World’s Most Improved School Systems Keep Getting Better (2010) and Deliverology 101: A Field Guide for Educational Leaders (2011) as well as numerous other articles.

In order to clearly know what Michael Barber endorses as the proper direction for US education, one must read his 2008 paper, delivered at the University of Delaware, “Transforming American Schools: Can Delaware Lead the Way?”  First, one discovers Barber’s opinion of NCLB as “the most important piece of education legislation for many years and the most equitable legislation of the new century so far…. Though no-one believes it would be enough on its own, achieving the ambitions for 2014 set by NCLB would be a great start for this country.” Barber advises that the way to move forward is to “…recognise the power and organisation of those who defend the status quo, face up to the legacy of failed attempts to bring about bold reform…”

“Recognise” the language?  “Status quo”?  “Bold new reform”?

Barber cuts to the chase:

In addition – again assisted by the data – we are increasingly well-informed about…what works. We have chains of schools such as KIPP, Aspire and Green Dot that demonstrably succeed where many in the past have failed. We have whole systems such as Boston, Chicago and New York City which are driving bold reform and delivering results. We have organisations such as Teach for America, the New Teacher Project and New Leaders for New Schools showing how apparently insurmountable human capital challenges can in fact be surmounted. We have not-for-profit organisations such as Education Trust and Achieve with deep expertise in crucial areas. We have foundations – Gates, Broad and Dell, for example – willing to take risks and invest substantially in bold alternatives to the inadequacies of the present. … Never before has there been so much insight into how to bring about successful change, nor such substantial capacity to deliver it. The question now here and across the country is whether political and educational leaders can seize that insight and capacity and bring irreversible progress. (Emphasis added.)

And, let us not forget:  Mr. Barber works for the testing behemoth, Pearson.  This puts me in mind of Diane Ravitch’s post, the United States of Pearson:

“…It is widely recognized by everyone other than the publishing giant Pearson that its tentacles have grown too long and too aggressive. It is difficult to remember what part of American education has not been invaded by Pearson’s corporate grasp. It receives billions of dollars to test millions of students. Its scores will be used to calculate the value of teachers. It has a deal with the Gates Foundation to store all the student-level data collected at the behest of Race to the Top. It recently purchased Connections Academy, thus giving it a foothold in the online charter industry. And it recently added the GED to its portfolio.” (Excerpt. Full post here.)

Now, Pearson sits on the advisory board of NCTQ and promotes the ideals of NCLB (now RTTT), Broad, Gates, TFA, as well as the need for politicians and educators to “seize” the opportunity to cram these “bold new reforms” down the throat of the American classroom.

 Roy E. Barnes

Roy E. Barnes, Partner, The Barnes Law Group, has spent a lifetime in public service working towards building a new Georgia. On January 11, 1999, he was sworn in as Georgia’s 80th Governor, after a career that began in the District Attorney’s office in Cobb County, and continued in both the state Senate and state House of Representatives. Governor Barnes focused his attention on education, demanding lower class sizes, higher standards through accountability, and more discipline in the classroom. Roy Barnes is currently a partner with The Barnes Law Group in Marietta, Georgia.

 Former Georgia Governor Roy Barnes’ notable “reformer” achievement involved the repeal of teacher tenure:

Gov. Roy Barnes devoted almost his entire State of the State address Thursday to the topic of teacher tenure, stunning education groups with the importance he is placing on a single part of his sweeping school-reform proposal.  “There is nothing more important than education in the state of Georgia,” Barnes told reporters after the 25-minute speech. During his address, he said it typically costs $60,000 and two to three years to fire a teacher under the state’s existing Fair Dismissal Act procedures…. House Bill 1187 is making its way through the legislature. This large, controversial bill could become law in a short period of time.  Last month, Barnes proposed a 125-page bill to reform many aspects of public education. Most ideas for the changes came from a series of meetings and reports by a 64-member commission he appointed and chaired.

In repealing “tenure,” what Barnes actually repealed was fair dismissal process:

Under Georgia’s tenure law, teachers who have been under contract for four years must be given a reason and offered a hearing before they can be dismissed. Teacher organizations contend it is not true “tenure” but rather a fair-dismissal process.

We wouldn’t want teachers to be given a hearing before dismissal.  That would only promote decency, I mean, the “status quo.”

In the end, Barnes concludes, “The education bureaucrats and the special interests are never going to be happy with education reform,” he said. “So if I have this many special interests upset, I must be doing something right in the entire process.”

“Doing something right” for whom?

Governor Barnes also participated in Teach for America week as a “guest teacher” (??)  I wonder if that was before or after his successful repeal of tenure.

Well, we know where the fine former governor stands on education.  Interestingly, Barnes ran for a second term and tried to apologize to the teachers unions for repealing tenure.  He was not reelected.

McKinley Broome

McKinley Broome, Teacher, Woodholme Elementary, Maryland, McKinley Broome has served Baltimore County Public Schools since 2005 as a fourth grade general educator and a Gifted and Talented teacher. In 2006, he was awarded TABCO’s Rookie Teacher of the Year award for his dedication and success in helping Woodholme Elementary start its first year. In his six years of teaching, Mr. Broome has consistently demonstrated excellence through his focus on increased student performance by offering professional development to his peers and the parents in his classroom. Within his building, he has taken on many roles including, Grade Level Chair, Curriculum and Staff Development Co-Chair, and School Improvement Team Chair. He also serves as program liaison for assessTrax Testing and mentoring student teacher interns. Each summer Mr. Broome contributes to the preparation of new teachers through his involvement in Baltimore County Public Schools New Teacher Academy. After school, Mr. Broome is the Site Coordinator for The Office of Alternative Education’s GED Program in Randallstown, Maryland.  Mr. Broome was honored in January 2011 by the largest national teacher recognition program in the United States, as one of only 54 winners of the prestigious Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award. Mr. Broome has a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Salisbury University and currently working towards a Masters in Administration at Goucher College.

McKinley Broome won an award from the Milkin Foundation, headed by Lowell Milkin: “As a proactive voice in education reform, Lowell Milken has dedicated his entire career to affecting positive change in education policy and practices. He has developed successful education reform programs that have served as calls to action, signaling policymakers and community leaders to champion innovative strategies to improve the American school system.”

The reformer language is there.

Broome also serves as “program liason” for assess Trax Testing, a product of eduTraxx:

A leader in K-12 assessment and testing, eduTrax offers a variety of services and applications designed for school districts to gauge overall student performance and help assess data in order to raise student achievement at both the state and federal level. eduTrax works with school systems to customize the best solutions to meet their unique needs and goals. (Emphasis added.)

Not sure how a company “helps assess data in order to raise student achievement.”

Other than the fact that he has agreed to serve on a board bent on their own brand of (often self-serving) “reform,” it seems that McKinleyBroome has not (yet?  completely?) sold out to the “reformer” agenda.

Mr. Broome needs to be careful about those with whom he associates.  A slight turning of the screw, and the self-serving corruption could germinate.


Previous posts in this series:

Part I: NCTQ 2012 Letter Grades and Louisiana; reformer use of the op/ed

Part II:  NCTQ Alternative Certification publication

From → NCTQ, Tenure

  1. Mike Milkin is deep into school reform, including K12 Inc, the largest online charter provider in the country, which he co-founded. Because of his status as a convicted felon, he steps back and lets others, like his brother, Lowell, appear to take take the lead.

  2. teacherken permalink

    Whlle I am not a fan of NCTQ, I want to offer a caution on classifying someone on the basis of their having received a Milken Award. I have worked for two principals who received Milken Awards, and neither of them would qualify as a reformer in the eyes of those participating in what Pasi Sahlberg has appropriately labeled with the acronym GERM for the Global Education Reform Movement that is infecting education in nations around the world.

  3. susannunes permalink

    Michael Milken has no business being anywhere near education. Felons aren’t allowed to be teachers, and they should NOT be allowed to take taxpayer money to form sham “schools.”

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  1. Mercedes Schneider Reviews NCTQ Board: Part 3 | Diane Ravitch's blog

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