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NCTQ Letter Grades and the Reformer Agenda– Part XIV

February 14, 2013

UPDATE 06-20-13: Stefanie Sanford is not listed a member of the NCTQ advisory board on the NCTQ website. Sanford is, however, listed as a board member on the NCTQ sham of a report released 06-18-13.  Keep in mind that Sanford does represent The Man Bill Gates Himself.  Whether Sanford’s name inclusion on the NCTQ report is a typo, don’t believe that the Gates influence is gone from NCTQ, for NCTQ still lists Gates as a funder.

The other member discussed in this post, Tom Lasley, is still clearly listed on the NCTQ advisory board.


When I write a post about multiple NCTQ advisory board members, I try to include four.  However, I realized today after writing about two members that I was really tired.  It took me almost ten hours to research and write about these two individuals. And it is a long post. Thus, I consider it complete in its own right.

A word about where I am headed:  I have a plan for my finale to this series. It will not merely end with my writing the next post about the remaining two members.  Please stay tuned.

A board like this one deserves the finale I will give it.

For now, however, let me give you two NCTQ advisory board members who are also connected via Gates:

Allow me to present, complete with NCTQ bios, Tom Lasley and Stefanie Sanford.

Tom Lasley

Thomas Lasley is executive director of EDVention and Learn to Earn Dayton, a cradle to career collaborative dedicated to increasing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) talent in the greater Dayton, Ohio, region and to fostering student college and career readiness and post-secondary success. He served as dean of the School of Education and Allied Professions at the University of Dayton from 1998-2010. From 1984-1990 he served as the editor of the Journal of Teacher Education. He has published more than 70 articles in professional journals and has authored, edited or co-authored 13 books, including Instructional Models: Strategies for Teaching in a Diverse Society and, most recently, Encyclopedia of Educational Reform and Dissent. Dr. Lasley has served on a variety of regional and state education commissions and boards, including the Governor’s Commission on Teaching Success and the Ohio Board of Regents’ Planning and Accountability Committee. He co-founded the Dayton Early College Academy, a unique educational partnership/charter school operated by the University of Dayton and sponsored by the Dayton Public Schools, and served as co-chair of the Ohio Teacher Quality Partnership. Dr. Lasley received his Ph.D. in education from Ohio State University.

Tom Lasley is one of few on the NCTQ advisory board who has his initial degree in education from a traditional teacher training program (elementary education, Ohio State; Lasley also has his masters and Ph.D. in education from Ohio State) and a lifelong career centered around teaching and teacher training.

Is Tom Lasley a corporate reformer?

Based upon his recently published book, Standards and Accountability in Schools, I would say no, that Lasley’s goal is to examine the corporate reform push from both “pro” and “con” perspectives.  However, Lasley is not himself neutral on the subject. For example,

The focus on student achievement limits the ability of policymakers to appreciate and value the specially and pedagogically complex nature of the teaching act. Teaching is an inherently social and moral activity. … High-stakes accountability negatively impacts a teacher’s ability to create the type of social relationships that are necessary for both moral development and democratic understandings. … Unfortunately, the focus on accountabity had also often created an emphasis on teacher evaluation approaches that are not healthy from either a policy or a practice perspective.

This is definitely not reformerspeak.

Consider also Lasley’s comment as a member of the 2010 Bush summit panel (more on this summit in the next post):

If your graduate can teach reading effectively, there’s no way a TFA grad – in whatever number of weeks – can do the same thing. I mean, to me that’s the strength that we have in teacher preparation programs. If you’ve got a good reading program, your graduates can teach in a way that no TFA grad can, and I think it’s absolutely unjust, what we’re doing with TFA grads; we put them in the most difficult classroom situations with the kids with the highest needs, and we say, “Teach them how to read!” We’ve got graduates who are walking out of our programs who should know how to teach kids to read, and those are the ones we want in those classrooms.

Also not very “reformery.”

Having written thus, I find in Lasley a perplexing mix.  He has a solid, 30-year career in education; he doesn’t deliver a forceful corporate reform message; he even defends the quality of traditional teacher prep graduates and the “unmeasured” facets of the education dynamic, but he is involved in corporate reform.  For example, as to Lasley’s EDVention, I did notice that the program accepted funding from the Gates foundation.  The goal of EDVention is to promote science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in Dayton’s schools. In addition, Lasley created the Dayton Early College Academy (DECA), a charter school that, like Johnston’s KIPP and Larson’s Tindley Accelerated, boasts “100% of graduates pursuing higher education.”  According to this article, Harvard researchers studied DECA. As in the Harvard Graduate School of Education. As in Broad Foundation-funded Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Charters that boast perfection are manipulating numbers by ditching children.  What message does this send to the child who doesn’t fit DECA’s prescription?  The same message that many other “perfectly successful” charters send: “You don’t belong here.  Transfer.  Go elsewhere.  You are not one of us.”

All in the name of doing it “for the children.”

Then out comes the skewed-yet-polished, Wunderkinder press from places like Broad-funded Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Charter schools specialize in the business of exclusion.  They purport to remedy the perceived ills of the traditional public schools, when in reality, charters seem to pick and choose (often subtly excluding) so that they can continue a “perfect prosperity.” Charter school is a business, and business is good. Why else would charters hold a promising place on the stock market?

In 1998 Lasley co-authored  a public survey sponsored by Chester Finn’s Fordham Institute on attitudes toward then-prospective reforms in Dayton Schools, Miami Valley Schools (also in Dayton, Ohio), and US Schools. The survey asked participants a number of questions, including asking them to apply a letter grade system to their schools and soliciting opinions of teacher performance connected to test scores, satisfaction with schools and school board, perceived school problems, school choice, state takeover of schools, and non-certified teachers.  Firing of teachers and staff/bad teachers was offered as a selection several times.  This survey is worth the read in its own right.  (A historical connection: 1998 was also the year that the San Diego schools were handed over to non-educator Alan Bersin.  This delivering of a school district over to a noneducator was up to this date unheard of.  The short of it is that the schools dessicated into a sort of educational police state.)

However, let me focus on the part of the 1998 survey specific to charter schools. Here is what parents were told regarding charter schools in the survey:

Community schools, usually called charter schools, are public schools that are started by teachers, parents, and/or community groups. They are free from most rules and regulations except health, safety, and civil rights, and are open to all children whose parents choose them. They do not charge tuition. Would you support or oppose the creation of these new public schools in your community?

Sounds so “grassroots” huh?  So appealing to be “free from rules and regulations”?  “Open to all”?

Now, to the reality of the charter school, DECA.  It was not started by “teachers, parents, and/or community groups.”  DECA was started by hefty cash from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  See the national brochure:

…The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched a program in 2000 to build small, innovative high schools across the nation and transform larger high schools into clusters of smaller, semiautonomous schools. Foundation officials searched the country for schools that were succeeding, especially with poor and minority students, and then partnered with their founders to replicate the “model schools.” They also encouraged and funded the development of new kinds of schools—among which is early college high school. So far, the foundation has invested nearly $1.2 billion in efforts to improve secondary education, including support to create more than 2,000 high-quality schools in 41 states and the District of Columbia. The Early College High School Initiative, a major part of that effort, is being funded with $114 million in grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates, Ford, and W. K. Kellogg foundations, Carnegie Corporation of New York, and a number of local foundations. Twelve organizations are partnering with them to create 170 schools by 2008. [Emphasis added.]

Hardly the charter “started by teachers (I like how teachers are listed first. As if.), parents, and/or community groups.”  Looks like Won’t Back Down was seeking a venue even in 1998. But even in 1998, it didn’t work.  So, the mega-foundations created an appearance of “local control.”

But back to Lasley’s charter school survey question versus Lasley’s DECA reality:  As for being “free of rules and regulations,” DECA places a huge expectation on its students:  100% enrollment in college, or as the ad reads, the “‘we will go to college’ mindset.'”  There is no freedom in being the student who struggles academically at a school that places such pressure on its students to “go to college.”  At any school that boasts 100% college acceptance, college attendance is mandatory.  It is the rule. Either that, or the “100%” is a lie.

Given the pressure for 100% college enrollment either during and/or beyond DECA graduation (It’s a little fuzzy here.  Could I boast, for example, that all graduates “attended college” if some did so while attending DECA but quit beyond graduating from DECA?), is DECA really “open to all parents who choose it”?  Do all students “get accepted” and the ones who “aren’t really DECA material” “enouraged” to seek another high school venue?

My point is that the 66% of Dayton public school parents who said yes to the charter in the survey question might be of a different mind in retrospect given that the charter described in the question is a Dayton nonreality.  Perhaps Lasley et al. should conduct a follow-up survey in Dayton to see if parental opinion has changed in the face of realities such as this EDVentures charter administrator husband-and-wife team pocketing $400,000 a year for running charters. (The two get paid separate money for each charter since each independent charter qualifies as its own “district.”) Did the parents in Dayton foresee that by 2013, Dayton would have the highest percentage of its students in charter schools in the country?  Did the Miami Valley parents realize that their charters would turn out mediocre or worse?

Now, what about Lasley and his position as an NCTQ advisory board member? Is he suited to fairly and competently evaluate teacher training programs?

With Lasley, I lean more toward a yes than a no.  Here’s why:

Lasley has an established, multi-decades-long career in education.  He was trained traditionally to teach and has taught, both in the elementary and college settings.

Moreover, I believe that Lasley realizes the complexities inherent in teacher-student relationships. I also think he sees that placing teacher jobs on a single test score is terribly counterproductive.  In short, I believe that Lasley is able to set aside the polished image and appeal of corporate reform and actually see the teacher as a human being, not a score, or a grade, or an object.

As to his Gates/DECA involvement, yes, I believe that Lasley needs to revisit the impact his DECA school has on the children in the greater Dayton community. He also needs to clarify how he is able to advertise “100%” of DECA graduates “pursue higher education.”  Like many such “bold” claims of “perfect” success, there is too much filter on this lens.

Even though DECA has benefitted substantially from Gates funding, I don’t see Lasley as corporately bought, just blinded perhaps when it comes to DECA success.

I don’t add this last sentence lightly:

Based upon my research of Lasley, I would be comfortable having him as a guest and observer in my own classroom… provided he agree to neither mention  Gates nor place my children against a DECA ruler.

Stefanie Sanford

Dr. Stefanie Sanford currently serves as the Director of Policy & Advocacy for the United States Program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Prior to joining the foundation, Sanford served in a number of state and national policy capacities over the past 15 years, most recently as Deputy Director of Policy for Texas Governor Rick Perry. She holds an MPA from the Kennedy School of Government and a Ph.D from the University of Texas.

Like most sitting on the NCTQ advisory board, Stefanie Sanford has no teaching experience and no teaching credentials:

She holds a B.S. in Communication from Texas Christian University, an M.P.A. from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. in Political Communication from the University of Texas.

Sanford has been with Gates for eleven years.  She has been a presence in calling the shots for the corporate reform movement– backed by Gates money, of course.  Remember that 2009 Broad-composed report advising states on how to spend their $100 billion federal grant money, the same report that forecasted the national corporate reform movement in 2012?  Sanford was there to participate in the forecast.

Sanford represents Gates, so it is only fitting to examine the latest in what Gates wants.

According to Bill Gates in his 2013 Annual Letter:

I have been struck again and again by how important measurement is to improving the human condition. …Innovations in measurement are critical to finding new, effective ways to deliver these tools and services to the clinics, family farms, and classrooms that need them. …Given how tight budgets are around the world, governments are rightfully demanding effectiveness in the programs they pay for. To address these demands, we need better measurement tools to determine which approaches work and which do not. …In Colorado, Melinda and I learned how a school district is pioneering a new system to measure and promote teacher effectiveness. [Emphasis added.]

Translation: measurement –> effectiveness –> measurement.

It’s the song that never ends.

Gates continues by discussing the Eagle County district in Vail, Georgia, and how Master Teachers spend 70% of their time observing and instructing colleagues; how Mentor Teachers spend 30% of their time observing and instructing teachers; how Master and Mentor Teachers hold weekly meetings for colleagues, and how each of the 470 teachers is observed at least nine times, three of which are formal observations. Gates also notes that by 2013-14, student test scores [measurement] will count for half of a teacher’s evaluation score [effectiveness]. Teachers are paid based upon both observed performance and student test scores [measurement]. Gates believes Eagle County is a model district.

This “model district” is consumed with a teacher-centered school life.

If I spent 70% of my time observing and instructing colleagues, it would mean that I would spend five out of seven class periods doing so.  Given that I always have one planning period, that would leave me at most one class to teach. Based on this logic, I surmise that those designated as Master Teachers actually have little to no time to teach.

Gates comments on having the opportunity to watch Master Teacher Mary Ann Stavney teach. What he does not address is whether this opportunity was Stavney’s only opportunity to teach that day given how much time she must spend observing and instructing other teachers.

470 teachers who have at least 9 observations per year makes for 4230 hours of teacher observation at Eagle County.  At least.  And this does not include pre-conferences and post-conferences and those weekly professional development opportunities.

How much is “too much”?  At waht point does (has ?) all of this “colleaguial observation”” crossed over into stifling micromanagement?

And what of the students?

Gates makes no mention of the effect of so much “observation” upon the classroom dynamic.  How many people who constantly have guests in their home really behave as though they feel “at home”? Has anyone bothered to investigate the impact of so much observation upon student adjustment in the classroom? If each teacher is being observed at least nine times a year, this means that each teacher is observed approximately once per month.  In the case of a seven-period day, this means that each student has on average one teacher being observed every four days.

This is what Gates money (61 billion in 2012) is purchasing. Mega-measurement and assessment.

Has public education been sold to the highest bidder?

Gates also supports the Common Core standards. Never mind that they have not been tested. Never mind that the standards are developmentally questionable; that they are more Frankenstein that a concerted, coordinated whole.

Gates wants Common Core; he wants it in all states, and Gates is worth $61 billion.

Let me be clear here: It is not that efforts to improve education, including curricular changes, teacher assessment, and college readiness, are not worthwhile. My concern is that big money, like Gates money and other foundations “partnering with” education, are able to purchase what they want at will, simply because they have the money to do so.  This top-down, mega-purchasing of American institutions, including education,  is very dangerous to our democracy.

And the purchases are not only happening, they are being predicted years in advance.

But back to Stefanie Sanford.

Come March 2013, Sanford will no longer be involved in purchasing education for Gates.  Instead, she will be working for College Board as its chief of policy, advocacy, and government relations. Part of her new job description is as follows:

It  is interesting to note that in Louisiana, the 2013 high school performance scores will be less influenced by students’ choosing a college-prep track (called TOPS in Louisiana) and more influenced by whether a student receives a qualifying score on either an AP (Advanced Placement) or IB (International Baccalaureate) test.

Don’t miss this: The shift in Louisiana from college readiness to AP qualifying represents a shift in spending.  The US beneficiary of this shift? College Board.

College Board also administers the SAT and PSAT, among other tests.

It seems that College Board makes a bit too much money for a “nonprofit”:

Along with enormous growth have come enormous profits. The most recent records available from 2007 show a profit of $55 million, from which [College Board President] Caperton drew a near million-dollar salary. Americans for Educational Testing Reform, an organization that explores issues of fairness in standardized testing, writes that the College Board’s 9.5% profit “would be respectable for a for-profit company,” but that “when a non-profit company is earning those profits, something is wrong.” AETR is hardly alone in its criticism of College Board—with these exorbitant profits, it has abused its tax-exempt status as a non-profit organization, and it has formed a monopoly out of the educational establishment such that consumers have no choice but to buy its product. [Emphasis added.]

College Board also runs its own schools.  Guess who doles out the bucks for College Board Schools?

“College Board Schools are committed to helping all students reach their full academic potential and prepare for success in college in an increasingly complex world. Our schools are the result of a unique partnership with urban school districts and are supported with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. College Board Schools reflect our strong belief in the power of ongoing professional learning for school administrators, teachers and school counselors.”  Gaston Caperton, President (resigned, but still listed on website) [Emphasis added.]

I guess Sanford isn’t “leaving” Gates in March, after all.

College Board has “philanthropic fundin,g” and it’s making a lot of money. After all, look at all of the services it offers, services that are becoming increasingly necessary, as alluded to previously, as corporate reform places public schools in the chokehold of numeric accountability via test scores and college admission counts:

Each year, the College Board serves seven million students and their parents, 23,000 high schools, and 3,800 colleges through major programs and services in college readiness, college admissions, guidance, assessment, financial aid, enrollment, and teaching and learning. Among its best-known programs are the SAT®, the PSAT/NMSQT® and the Advanced Placement Program® (AP®).

Let us not forget that part of Sanford’s new College Board title includes “government relations.” College Board includes a flow chart whereby they show a plan to engage in “results based advocacy” in order to “increase government support for education.” Another route on the chart “challenges all schools to prepare every student to do college level work” (sounds like those 100%-go-to-college charters) in order to “increase expectations for schools and students,” which is a parallel-yet-connected goal to “increase government support for education.”  There is more to this chart, but behind it all is “College Board’s assets, resources, and partnerships.”

It all begins with private money and ends with public money.

We start with private money.  We show the test scores and college counts.  We get the public money.

Education in America is a money sandwich.

Sanford is in the education business.  She is not a teacher.  She should not be on a board advising regarding teacher preparation programs.

I sure have been typing that last sentence often these last few weeks.


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.

Part XIII: NCTQ advisory board members Barry Kaufman, Frank Keating, Martin Koldyke, and Jim Larson.

  1. I recently started following your blog and have been wowed by the depth and detail you have put into this project.
    Looking forward to hearing the context in which you are thinking this all can be used.
    Thanks for all that you do.

    Susan Swartz, President
    First Teachers @ Home, an Initiative of RUSH
    505 20th Street North, Ste 1015
    Birmingham, AL 35203
    o: 205-521-6313
    c: 205-907-1215
    follow us on FaceBook for the latest in child research

    • Hi, Susan. Thank you for following my blog.

      There is a relatively small yet powerful/well financed group driving all of this “reform.” I want to expose this group. On the way, I want to expose the lesser members, their shady methods and behind-the-scenes deals.

      It’s like turning on the lights in a room filled with cockroaches. Everyone sees the roaches for what they are, and the roaches scatter.

      I’m just hitting it one lightswitch as a time. 🙂


  2. susannunes permalink

    NCTQ isn’t about raising the standards for teachers–it’s all about LOWERING the standards so that any idiot off the street can do it. It’s all about deprofessionalizing the occupation because the neoliberals who push these agendas don’t believe in education as an investment in the future. They see it as a complete waste of money.

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