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NCTQ Letter Grades and the Reformer Agenda– Part XIII

February 12, 2013

UPDATE 06-20-13:  Frank Keating and Martin Koldyke are no longer members of the NCTQ advisory board. The other two individuals discussed in this post, Barry Kaufman and Jim Larson, remain.


Well, folks, we’re coming close to the end of the MKS (that’s me, remember?) NCTQ advisory board review.  By the end of this post, those following this series will have the scoop on 29 of the 33 board members, very few of whom should be on such a board… but I’ll save further summative commentary for my caboose post.  We still have at least one more train car left.

This group of four advisory board members is the antithesis of my last post.  In that one, I had three members who were clearly not reformers and one who definitely was. Here, I offer you information that shows that one member clearly is not a corporate reformer but that the other three, well, they’re in it deep, so to speak.

So, put on your hip boots. But you’ve got a minute yet because the first guy, he won’t require anything of you that regular shoes can’t handle.

I offer you, complete with NCTQ bios, Barry Kaufman, Frank Keating, Martin Koldyke, and Jim Larson.

Barry Kaufman

Barry Kaufman [of BK Education Consulting Services] has been working in education for more than 40 years, most recently as Director of School Assistance and Intervention at the Alameda County Office of Education in California where he led school-improvement efforts. He began his career as a science and math teacher in New York City Public Schools, and has been a professor and/or dean at various institutions of higher learning, including Dominican University of California, Washington University, the University of Hartford and the University of Massachusetts. Dr. Kaufman also served as deputy director of the San Francisco Education Fund for three years. He has served on the California Council for the Education of Teachers and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. He is also an accomplished author recognized by his peers for a number of articles and reviews. Dr. Kaufman earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Hunter College, City University of New York. He completed his post-graduate work and earned his doctorate degree at the University of Massachusetts.

Barry Kaufman is not a corporate reformer.  Here is the evidence upon which I base my judgment:

In the fall of 1988, Kaufman published a paper on the ecology of teacher development.  It is a refreshing departure from the corporate reform ideal of nonprofessionalizing the teaching profession.

Also, Kaufman has participated in traditional school board meetings, as becomes his position as Alemeda County (CA) staff.  Nothing “reformery” about these minutes, either.

Next, Kaufman served as part of a charter school review team for his district in Alameda, California. In this executive summary of a chater school application, one can see that Kaufman and the rest of the review board meticulously considered and answered the lack of a solid, detailed charter school proposal.  There was no sign, for example, of corporate reform, “rubber stamp approval” of charters.

In addition, whereas Kaufman was once associated with the San Francisco Education Fund, a group that now evidences corporate reform/ALEC backing, Kaufman left this group over a decade ago.

Finally, Kaufman’s district is facing the same tedious, under-the-microscope reporting as a re other districts around the country as regards defending annual yearly progress (AYP) goals.

Barry Kaufman has an established, decades-long career in education, including time as a classroom teacher.  His professional career predates any corporate reform movement, and his current involvements evidence no alteration of his original course as an invested educator.

As such, Kaufman has earned his right to be on a board advising regarding teacher traning prograam quality.

Frank Keating

Frank Keating, President and CEO of the American Council of Life Ensurers, served two terms as Governor of Oklahoma following a career in federal law enforcement and law enforcement related fields. As governor, he achieved charter, choice and curriculum rigor reforms in Oklahoma. He serves on The Teaching Commission and co-chairs with former Secretary Richard Riley, the National Commission on Higher Education Accountability.

Can I just ask the question up front:

Why is this guy on an education board?

Answer: “…He achieved charter, choice, and curriculum rigor reforms….”

Talk about an agenda.  No educational background whatsoever, but able to push those laws through ensuring  “a reform in every pot.”

Keating isn’t just a reformer. Keating is an entrenched reformer.  And, he has been involved in, shall we say, some “shady situations.”

Keating has strong ALEC ties and has even served in 2000 as an ALEC guest speaker.  Unfortunately, his ties to ALEC also extend to the Chesapeake Energy scandal in April 2012, as Keating was a member of the Chesapeake Board of Directors.  It turns out that Chesapeake Energy played a “shell game,” creating paper companies with no actual operations:

Northern has voided hundreds of land deals, and was indeed a facade – a shell company created so that one of America’s largest energy companies could conceal its role in the leasing spree, a Reuters investigation has found. Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy Corp., the nation’s second-largest gas driller, was behind the entire operation. … Northern Michigan Exploration LLC is on the list, as well as companies with exotic names such as Winter Moon Energy Company, L.L.C., Gothic Production, L.L.C. and Empress, L.L.C. 

Those supposedly auditing company operations were the same ones who “supposedly audited” Enron.  And Keating was on what is described as an “insular” board:

For a number of years, the Shareholders have unsuccessfully attempted to change Chesapeake’s Board of Directors. As noted in more than one article, [Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey] McClendon is well insulated by his handpicked board.

You better believe that this “insulation” is ALEC-endorsed:

While Governor, Keating was a member of ALEC, and is now ALEC “Governors Alumni”.  Chesapeake was a “Director” level sponsor of 2011 American Legislative Exchange Council Annual Conference, which in 2010, equated to $10,000.

Keating’s fellow board member Don Nickles was also deep into ALEC:

During his term as Senator, Nickles was a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). While he was Assistant Minority Leader in the U.S. Senate, ALEC began a new alumni forum for former members who serve in public office, called the “ALEC Alumni Forum.” It was launched in 2001 and is “charged with developing a national forum to encourage improved communications among current and former ALEC members. Nickles is now an ALEC Alumni.

Keating’s ALEC influence certainly does not stop at the schoolhouse door:

His 1999 education reform agenda will sound familiar to those well-versed in corporate reform: school choice (passed); charter schools (passed); tougher curriculum (passed); tougher graduation requirements (passed); education administration cuts and redistribution of funds “in the classroom” (attempted); salary increases for teachers in specific areas (math and science); open transfer of students among school districts (passed); a college scholarship program for students who complete and ACT curriculum (passed).

So much change, so fast.  Can’t wait.  No time for planning, especially fiscal planning.  (The governor, while promoting education ideals, decided to cut education funding by almost $600 million in 2001. This contributed to a massive tax cut that is hailed as “Keating’s greatest [first term] success.”)

Gotta implement all changes “urgently”:

Keating said he will veto a related bill that would delay implementation of the school reform act for a year.

This raised the question by a member of the Oklahoma Education Coalition: “Shouldn’t the governor and Legislature first pay for the obligations they’ve already created?”

It is an ALEC ploy to rush legislation through without thought as to its cost or proper implementation.

Shovel it down their throats.  Worry about chewing later.

How about Keating’s boast at raising teachers’ salaries?  He did, but it was the first raise in seven years (!) in a state with already-low teacher salaries, which contributes to Oklahoma’s losing “veteran and green teachers every year to states that provide more money and benefits.” Furthermore, insurance increases consumed $1000 of the $3000 payraise to teachers, with insurance costs expected to continue to rise.

Not such an impressive feat, after all.

And for more “reformer-web,” there’s Keating’s Gates connection:

Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating announced today that Oklahoma public libraries are receiving approximately $2.5 million in grants and services in the form of computers, Internet access and technical training for libraries in low-income communities from Bill and Melinda Gates.

And even more “web”: Keating is also very much connected with Michelle Rhee:

In 2009, a public records request of then-DC Chanellor Michelle Rhee’s calendar shows that Rhee met with a group known as the Federal City Council (pause and consider that name) more than a dozen times since 2007. And Frank Keating was (is?) a member of this “council”:

The organization that’s implicated in just about every conspiracy theory in local politics has been deeply interested in the Rhee regime from its earliest weeks. [Emphasis added.] On July 11, 2007, Rhee scheduled a meeting with the organization’s education committee, and that night dined at the home of financier and FCC member Jonathan Silver. In the following weeks and months, Rhee kept in touch with CEO John Hill and met with top leaders Frank Keating and Terence Golden (pictured). She’s maintained regular contact with Hill and other members. The FCC’s interest in education reform is no secret, [Emphasis added.] though before Rhee appeared it had expended most of its energy on charter schools.

Wait. There’s more:

Remember, Frank Keating is an entrenched reformer.  This revealing article includes a video clip of a 2012 Tea Party (as in Koch brothers, as in ALEC) event at which friend of Governor Rick Snyder, Ron Weiser, explains the planning that went into getting Ron Snyder and the legislature “in place” in order to pass right-to-work legislation.  Frank Keating participated in that 2007-or-2008 meeting. Rick Snyder became Michigan’s governor in 2011. Snyder signed -right-to-work into law December 12, 2012.

Reflect upon what you just read.

Now, consider what actual role a man like Frank Keating could serve on an education advisory board.

Ethics advisor, perhaps?

Martin J. Koldyke

Martin J. (Mike) Koldyke is the retired Chairman of Frontenac Company, Chicago, a venture capital firm that he founded in 1971. He is the Founder and current Chairman of the Academy for Urban School Leadership in Chicago, which organization recruits, trains and places new teachers in Chicago’s schools of need, and the Founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Golden Apple Foundation in Chicago. Mike currently serves on the Board of American Healthways, Inc. His civic and professional activities include the following: Chairman of the Chicago School Finance Authority; Trustee of The Chicago Community Trust and The Chicago Public Education Fund; Life Trustee of Northwestern University and Ravinia Festival Association,; past Chairman and current member of the Board of Window to the World Communications, Inc. (WTTW-Channel 11, WFMT Radio); and a member of The Commercial Club of Chicago.

Upon reading Martin Koldyke’s NCTQ bio, the first term that caught my attention was “venture capital firm.”

Again with the investors on an advisory board for education.

Koldyke is not a teacher.  His “educational involvements” concern the creation and management of educational ventures.  Koldyke himself has never been trained to teach. As such, he is not qualified to advise regarding teacher training programs.

There. I wrote it up front.

But is Koldyke in with the corporate reformer set?

The first of his ventures that I examined was his Golden Apple teacher training “nonprofit” (a word about which I’ve become suspicious of late).  I expected the program to resemble TFA; however, Golden Apple appears to be reputable.  First, Golden Apple does not train teachers over the course of weeks in an effort to replace traditional teacher training; it supplements traditional teacher training programs and mentors new teachers.  Second, Golden Apple expects a commitment of two-to five-years from its teachers in a critical teaching situation in Illinois.  Third, neither its board of directors nor its donors hail from the corporate reform group. Fourth, there is no mention of propelling former teachers into unearned educational leadership positions.

Golden Apple appears to be the real deal.

Still, that term “venture capital firm” had my attention.  It put me in mind of Deborah McGriff’s NewSchools Venture Fund.


Koldyke is also founder and chair of the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL). It is here that I read Koldyke’s name in association with Arne Duncan. I read that this group “manages” 25 Chicago public schools and that AUSL’s partners include the Dell and Gates Foundations; the Walmart Foundation; the ALEC-connected Boeing Corporation, and– yep– McGriff’s NewSchools Venture Fund.

Koldyke is a corporate reformer.

If only Koldyke’s AUSL could deliver. Alas, they cannot:

Since the latest Chicago Public Schools “reform” efforts began in 1996, Orr Academy High School in the West Side’s Garfield Park neighborhood has been subjected to nearly every faddish attempt the corporate reformists have to offer. It has been reconstituted, reengineered, intervened, broken up into “small schools,” and combined into one large school all over again. The Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL) has managed this newest iteration since the 2008-09 school year. [Written in Feb 2012]

When it took control of the school, AUSL promised an increase in student achievement, strong involvement with the community, and a new school culture—but the changes it has delivered are criminally short of these ideals. Some Orr teachers, worried for the safety and future of their students, shared their experiences with the Occupied Chicago Tribune. The picture they paint of the school is gruesome—complete chaos in the hallways, blatant sexual assault against female students and staff, open drug use by students in the lunchroom, bigotry so severe that LGBT students have stopped attending school, and the falling test scores and attendance rates that one would expect amid such havoc. [Emphasis added.]

Not the picture of reformer success, is it?  There’s more. As one Orr teacher notes:

We’ve been through 15 administrators in three-and-a-half years, including principals, assistant principals, and directors of operation. In the middle of the last school year, our principal left. Our new principal [Tyese Sims—Ed.] was put in place. She brought with her two new assistant principals and removed our old assistant principals and directors. Since then, she has replaced one of the assistant principals she brought in last year and replaced her with a new one at the beginning of this year. So it’s constant turnover. And, there’s no real continuity in terms of initiatives, mission, vision, philosophy within the school…  When AUSL has complete control over schools, and there’s no mechanism in place for oversight and raising objections or concerns about what is happening, it’s going to keep being the same thing—they’ll move into a school, establish a large presence for maybe a year or two, and then move out and on to the next batch of sick schools. [Emphasis added.]

The entire article is worth an eye-opening read.

Jim Larson

Jim Larson is a 7th grade Humanities teacher at the Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School in Indianapolis, Indiana. In 2010 he was the recipient of the school’s Teacher of the Year award. Jim is a member of the Indiana Department of Education’s Evaluation Leadership Cabinet, Education Reform Cabinet, and Technical Assistance Team. He was selected to participate in NBC’s 2010 Education Nation Summit as a member of the inaugural cohort of Education Champions.

Jim Larson was a teacher at the turnaround charter school, Tindley Accelerated, which is one of three turnaround charters operated by EdPower (formerly the Charter for Accelerated Learning). EdPower partners with TFA.

Larson boasts that Tindley has “a 100% college acceptance rate,” a statistic that makes me wary and puts me in mind of Michael Johnston’s KIPP boasting, which really amounts to a failure to disclose dropout (or “transfer out”) rates.  The Tindley website tempers such a “bold” (reformerspeak) claim in its phrasing of the issue:

The Tindley School expects 100% of its students to be accepted at a fully-accredited four-year college or university. With this in mind, Tindley students are expected to achieve exceptionally high levels of scholarship and citizenship.  [Emphasis added.]

What does Tindley do with the kids who don’t meet this “expectation”?

In its site registration with the Indiana Department of Education,, Tindley does make the claim that

100% of Tindley graduates receive a Core 40 or Honors diploma, making it the top ranking public junior-senior high school in this category.


Again, the question: What happens to the students who wish to pursue the non-college educational track?  Are they removed?  “Encouraged” to transfer elsewhere?

And what of young Jim Larson’s credentials?  He writes of his desire to be a teacher, of his parents being teachers, then he simply states, “Today I am a teacher.”

In this 2010 article, Larson notes that he is in his third year as a seventh grade teacher at Tindley.

Then, in this 2011 article, Larson has just been appointed the state’s new director of tunraround and improvement.  And he has a fresh masters in education from Harvard.  As in Broad-funded, quickly available in order to fast-track “talented” leadership Harvard Graduate School of Education.

But what of Larson’s conspicuously-absent formal teacher training?

Here it comes.

There ain’t none.

Jim Larson graduated from Indiana’s DePauw University in 2005 in “education.”  However, this program of study is a non-licensed program where one can only study “about” education.  It is not a teacher certification program.

Jim Larson does not draw attention to his “education” credentials because they are pseudo-credentials. He writes of “wanting to be a teacher,” yet he chooses not to enter a course of study that results in a teaching degree.

And what of Harvard?  Well, as it turns out, immediately after finishing at DePauw, Larson went to Boston to work on research “about education” at Harvard Medical School.  At some point, Larson picked up that Harvard education masters.

It does not surprise me that in his NCTQ bio, Larson mentions nothing of his education. DePauw would have been a flag waving wildly in the wind that this man had not attended a traditional teacher training program. Yet here he sits, advising on teacher training programs.

Larson’s three years of teaching at the charter school Tindley appear to be his only years in the classroom.

And now, Indiana’s Very-Much-A-Reformer-Superintendent Tony Bennett has appointed Larson to be a” “turnaround director:

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, who appointed Larson, says, “He understands urban education. He understands the challenges that this department has faced. He has engaged himself as a strong student of policy, a strong advocate for accountability and mostly, a strong voice that all children regardless of their financial means or their race or any other external descriptor can learn if provided an environment with great educators and high expectations.”  [Emphasis added.]

A “100% college acceptance rate” certainly is a “high expectation.”

But there’s more!  Larson, with his three years of teaching as one not trained in teaching, gets to develop Indiana’s teacher evaluation model:

He is a member of the Indiana Education Reform Cabinet, a group of 15 teachers Bennett selected to provide from-the-classroom feedback on the state’s education initiatives.  He was also one of nine members of a group Bennett appointed to develop a state model of teacher evaluations a move that preceded the General Assembly’s passage of a measure requiring each school district to evaluate teachers on an annual basis. [Emphasis added.]

Why, Jim Larson is Indiana’s Molly Horstman!

And is either Molly Horstman or Jim Larson qualified to advise regarding the quality of traditional teacher training programs?


We’ll just end it there.


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

Part III: NCTQ Adivisory Board members Steven Adamowski, Michael Barber, Roy Barnes, and McKinley Broome

Part IV: NCTQ Advisory Board members Cynthia Brown, David Chard, Andrew Chen, and Celine Coggins

Part V: NCTQ Advisory Board members Pattie Davis, Michael Feinberg, Michael Goldstein, and Erik Hanushek

Part VI: NCTQ Advisory Board members Joseph Hawkins, Frederick Hess, Paul Hill, and E. D. Hirsch

Part VII: NCTQ Advisory Board member Wendy Kopp

Part VIII: NCTQ Advisory Board member Michelle Rhee

Part IX: NCTQ Advisory Board member Joel Klein

Part X: NCTQ Advisory Board member Michael Johnston

Part XI: NCTQ Advisory Board member Deborah McGriff

Part XII: NCTQ Advisory Board members  Daniel Willingham, Suzanne Wilson, Amy Jo Leonard, and Michael Podgursky.

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