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Tom Vander Ark and the Business of Education

March 15, 2013

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush believes in education. He believes that education should follow a business model, that education is a lucrative market and should be privatized.  And corporations ready to profit from the corporate reformer declaration that “public education is failing” are in no short supply. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) provides an excellent conduit for “education for sale.” As Donald Cohen of the watchdog group, In the Public Interest, notes, corporations use FEE “to help state officials pass laws and regulations that make it easier to expand charter schools, require students to take online education courses, and do other things that could result in business and profits for them.”

It’s all about the money.

But who, exactly, is pocketing FEE-endorsed profits?

In 2011, FEE’s two highest paid independent contractors were both firms affiliated with the former director of the Gates Foundation’s education programming, Thomas Vander Ark: Vander Ark Associates (which was paid $105,000) and Vander Ark/Ratcliff (which was paid $150,000 for digital learning consulting). Vander Ark/Ratcliff pulled in $216,774 in 2010 in FEE consulting fees as well. [Emphasis added.]

Who is Thomas Vander Ark?

Businessman Superintendent Vander Ark

Thomas Vander Ark is not an educator, though he has been positioned in education since Fall 1994. At that time Vander Ark was selected to be the superintendent of Federal Way Public Schools in Washington State.  In the initial listing of candidates, Vander Ark is conspicuously out of place; the other six contenders included three superintendents, two assistant superintendents, and one school system chief financial officer.

In support of Vander Ark’s appointment was a citizens group seeking to cut the education budget by $10 million. It seems that the idea of money management drove Vander Ark’s selection; specifically, the view that education can and should be run like a business, coupled with an idea later popularized by Eli Broad and the Broad Foundation; namely, that educators cannot competently run education:

Vander Ark’s appointment was hailed by Lloyd Gardner, organizer of a citizens group seeking a $10 million cut in the district budget. “I wanted to get somebody who was really an expert on finances in a big business,” he said. “The school district is a big business.”  [Emphasis added.]


Pressure for change has come from fiscal conservatives who argue that tax dollars are wasted by teachers-turned-administrators who don’t know how to control school budgets as large as $313 million in Seattle. … “Professional educators really don’t have the skills to run large corporations.”  [Emphasis added.]

Notice the lack of differentiating between school system and corporation. At one time, it was easy enough to see that the difference was in profit motive. With the corporate reform movement, that distinction is no longer a given.

Also present is the assumption is that a businessman with no clue about how education works will be able to competently make education budgeting decisions.

An education Twilight Zone.

Yet the Federal Way School Board president is certain that Vander Ark will do just fine:

“I’m sure there are a lot of other boards looking at us to see how this works out,” said Board President Orlando Trier. “I’m confident it will work out great, or I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing.”  [Emphasis added.]

As to Vander Ark’s obvious lack of credentials and experience in education, the article offers this incredibly weak link between Vander Ark and “education experience”:

Although he has no formal training in education and has never worked for a public-school system, Vander Ark has taught as an adjunct professor at two Colorado universities. [Emphasis added.]

What the Federal Way school board president apparently did not consider was how businessman-noneducator Vander Ark might be received by Federal Way’s teachers, who were on the verge of striking.  One major issue contributing to the strike involved cuts in the number of elementary level physical education teachers. As a result, elementary teachers were having to add to their duties the responsibility of having their students experience some physical education. Within days of Vander Ark’s hire, the Federal Way teachers did strike, on what was to be the first day of school:

Leaders of the Federal Way Education Association and its parent, the Washington Education Association, were skeptical about the School Board’s decision last month to hire management consultant Vander Ark to run the state’s seventh-largest school district.

So when 1,050 teachers went on strike just five days after he started his job, it wasn’t surprising he wondered whether the strike had something to do with the decision to hire him.

“It’s hard to say,” he said yesterday. “I’m scratching my head, though.”

As the first executive to move directly from the corporate boardroom to the boardroom of a major school district in Washington, Vander Ark is an educational guinea pig whose fate will be studied closely by school boards and teachers-union locals in other districts.  … [Emphasis added.]

Corporate reform Big Money was also watching Vander Ark.  But more on that to come. Back to the strike.

Notice Vander Ark’s priority in the statement below. It is not for the children and their now-stifled need for physical activity as part of a well-rounded education.  It is not for the excessive stress teachers must be experiencing by having to ensure in addition to their other duties that young children get some bit of exercise and playtime so that they might be attentive to academics. Nope. His focus as a businessman is on “the corporate reform bottom line” of test scores and money:

Vander Ark has used some tough talk this week, blasting the union for calling a strike just 10 hours before classes were to start. He said teachers’ $1.3 million proposal to hire 30 physical-education teachers is “completely irresponsible” at a time when academic test scores are falling and state financing is in question.  … [Emphasis added.]

Here, this new “noneducator superintendent” chooses to tear into a suffering teaching culture with which he has bothered to establish no collegial relationship. Business authority is “top down,” and this is the way Vander Ark chooses to respond to the education crisis at hand.

Notice how the exchange below turns from, “No, we aren’t striking due to Vander Ark’s hire,” to “The strike is a message to other districts thinking of hiring ‘noneducators'”:

[Union President Danielle] Leaverton said yesterday that the teachers strike was simply the result of contract issues, not an attempt by the union to discredit the School Board’s choice of Vander Ark as superintendent.

“We’re talking about 20 years of problems here that he just walked in on,” she said. “This is not him. He’s not the issue.”

She called him “an earnest young man” with lots to learn about the education business.

But whatever the union’s intention, board member Murphy said, the strike is “definitely a message” to other school boards that may consider hiring non-educators.

Vander Ark could certainly be an “earnest young man.” However, based upon his response to the strike in both what is spoken and what is not, it is clear that Vander Ark’s chief concern is for test scores and money and not for the well being of Federal Way faculty and students.

The 1994 Federal Way teachers strike lasted for six days. In the end, 23 of the 30 full-time elementary physical education positions were restored and other issues negotiated.

In the week preceding the strike, Vander Ark stated the following as his goal as superintendent:

“I’m not here to make sweeping, broad changes. I’m here to try to find out what’s working and to add value where I can,” he said.  [Emphasis added.]

I want to point out two issues with Vander Ark’s statement.  The first involves his use of the term “add value.” In business, “adding value” means generating a profit. It involves the degree to which a product sells for more than it costs to make.  That is “added value”– related to “value added”— related to “value added modeling” (VAM).  All are connected, and all generate from the business world.

Second, Vander Ark’s statement about “not making sweeping, broad changes” is not true, where truth involves believing Vander Ark’s actions over his words.  For example, as for the “value adding” mentioned above: A year later, Vander Ark introduced the idea of “grading” Federal Way technical employees and connecting their performance to “merit pay.”

Then there was the internet high school:

School-board members followed Superintendent Tom Vander Ark’s recommendation and unanimously approved a plan to investigate a variety of high-tech teaching methods that could one day create an entire high school on the Internet, replacing the brick-and-mortar schoolhouse. [Emphasis added.]

Replacing human interaction with machines at a time in life when the development of social skills and sense of self via social interaction is a critical mistake.  Yet this is what the “business mind” believes education should look like.

Vander Ark did bring Internet Academy and Marketing Academy (operating out of a mall) into Federal Way; then, he decided to bring in charter schools, using what is by now the common corporate argument for spending public school funds on such “education alternatives”:

When it comes to something as important as their children, people want choices, says Vander Ark, who is positioning his district to be a leader by offering new types of schools. “We want to be the centerpiece of a system of choice in a competitive marketplace.”

Federal Way schools Superintendent Tom Vander Ark said the district already has been contacted by proponents of ideas for new types of schools. Among them are a proposed junior-high school focusing on college preparation, and a “core” knowledge school centered on classically rooted education.

Vander Ark, a supporter of charter schools, said the district would be limited in how many state or district rules could be circumvented, but he would be willing to ask for waivers from a limited number of regulations. [Emphasis added.]

Keep in mind that “circumventing” and “restructuring” serves not only to “innovate,” but also to create “separate and not so equal” school systems.

Vander Ark’s changes also swept though the organizational structure of the district’s education department. In fact, the very man who said he would not make “sweeping changes” started within his own offices only three months after his arrival. His decision resulted in a rash of administrators leaving the Federal Way district within nine months of Vander Ark’s hire.  It should come as no surprise that businessman Vander Ark institutued a top-down restructuring of the chain of command:

Superintendent Tom Vander Ark told district principals and administrators Tuesday that he’s restructuring assignments for top administrators so that more-traditional divisions, such as between elementary and secondary education, are superseded by a coordinated approach at all grade levels. He’s also cutting the chain of command so that more managers will report directly to him.

In a main feature of the plan, to go into effect Feb. 1, the 20,000-student district will be divided into three service areas: east, west and central, with three assistant superintendents in charge of all schools in their area. [Emphasis added.]

This top-down, individual-powered approach is nothing new to districts around the country in the throes of corporate reform. Corporate reformers want direct control, and the best way to achieve it is certainly not via school boards but instead via individuals. Ultimately, however, only a single individual has “the power”: a mayor, a governor, or a superintendent. Those who appear to be “in charge” but are not at the “top” are nothing more than glorified servants to the “top dog.”

After two years in, Vander Ark received good marks from the Federal Way School Board for that which includes “reduction of administrative costs.”  Never mind that the new administration is more dictatorial than democratic, or that cuts resulted from administrators fleeing their jobs.  Less money spent is the bottom line.

The contract renewal would guarantee Vander Ark five years as Federal Way superintendent, a credential he could use from then forward to bolster public confidence in the perception that somehow, Vander Ark really was an “educator.” Not true. Vander Ark remained a businessman.  In his role as superintendent, Vander Ark behaved like a businessman, not an educator.  And business was about to take a profitable turn for Vander Ark, in the form of a job offer from the Gates Foundation:

Vander Ark will join the Gates foundation in July as executive director of the Gates Education Initiative, a new K-12 enterprise.

Some in Federal Way believed that Vander Ark’s departure was a way to dodge his lack of popularity over some of the “sweeping changes” that he initially wasn’t going to make in Federal Way but, well, business is business:

Those critical of Vander Ark note he is leaving just as he faces considerable anger over two controversial plans.

Last fall teachers and residents blocked his proposal to create a small, career-focused high school as part of a $52 million construction bond. Instead, opponents pushed to build a traditional high school, which will be put to voters May 18 as part of a $83 million bond measure.

Note the appearance of the “small school” concept.

And in recent weeks, the district has been under fire for changing elementary report cards from letter to number grades. A parent-teacher committee is working to reverse the grading system for next year. [Emphasis added.]

Compare the above tense scenario with the Gates press release about Vander Ark:

“Tom will bring an exciting blend of educational leadership and innovation to the Foundation,” said Patty Stonesifer, Gates Learning Foundation president. “Tom will design, staff, and execute the Gates Education Initiative, and his expertise will continue to benefit students in this new role. The Federal Way Public Schools are a great example of what can be done when a community comes together in support of its schools, and we are proud to have someone who was a part of that success story joining our team.” [Emphasis added.]

It certainly sounds as though the Federal Way “success story” had a few cracks, primarily from the top-down way in which businessman Vander Ark operated.  It also sounds like the stakeholders see his departure as an opportunity to take back their schools.

In this Gates press release,, notice what Vander Ark “accomplishment” is listed first:

Since Vander Ark came to Federal Way in 1995, a community-developed plan has resulted in increased test scores for each of the past four years. [Emphasis added.]

Higher test scores = the end-all, be-all of corporate reform.

Off to Gates, then.

Tom’s New Gig:  The Gates-promoted Small Schools

Note the awkwardness of the quote below to describe Vander Ark’s new position with Gates:

At the Gates Learning Foundation, he’ll be merging business, technology and schoolchildren.  [Emphasis added.]

Are schoolchildren a thing to be “merged”?

Perhaps Vander Ark is best remembered for his role in the “small schools” initiative promoted by the Gates Foundation in the early 2000s. Gates via Vander Ark had declared that what larger high schools needed was to be divided into smaller high schools:

For the Gates Foundation, small schools emerged as a critical element of school reform during the past eight months as Tom Vander Ark, who heads the foundation’s education projects, crisscrossed the country, talking to more than 600 experts.

“Of all the things we looked at, there was the most conclusive, longitudinal evidence for small schools,” Vander Ark says.

Achieving small schools doesn’t necessarily mean a small building. It could mean schools within a school, career academies, a “house” approach sometimes used in middle schools, or reinstatement of a homeroom or advisory period.  [Emphasis added.]

I wonder whether Vander Ark or the 600 experts considered the possibility that small schools succeeded as a natural part of a larger community and that fabricated small schools were not inherently the same as small schools as an unmanipulated byproduct of the communities in which they thrived. In short, I wonder if they bothered to consider that school success cannot be marketed and mass-produced.

Apparently not.

I also find this connection interesting:

Small schools = students automatically connecting with adults:

However it is accomplished, there is substantial research showing a boost in academic achievement when students form a close connection with at least one adult.

I teach at a high school of 1800 students, and I see all around me evidence of students connecting with teachers.  However, this is not a forced condition. Moreover, one might just as easily argue in favor of the larger high school, for the larger school offers a wider variety of adults with whom students might attach.

In 2000, Vander Ark’s small schools were viewed as “spelling success.”  By 2006, the honeymoon was over:

The experiment — an attempt to downsize the American high school — has proven less successful than hoped.

The changes were often so divisiveand the academic results so mixed — that the Gates Foundation has stopped always pushing small as a first step in improving big high schools.  [Emphasis added.]

Gates was “pushing small,” like a salesman might “push” a product he wishes to promote. Never mind the disruption and discord school segmentation caused.  It’s time now to “push” something else.

Note this excuse presented by Vander Ark:

“We looked at good schools, and they were autonomous, and made the hypothesis that autonomous was an important ingredient,” said Tom Vander Ark, the foundation’s outgoing executive director of education giving. “But there were problems with that hypothesis … and I think we know today that what struggling schools need more than autonomy is guidance.” [Emphasis added.]

Translation:  “In our ignorance of how education works, we plowed ahead with a shallow solution to a complex problem because in business, we are used to exercising control over our product. We are just so surprised that human beings are not a convenient product with easy-to-manipulate outcomes.”

And what of that “guidance” from Vander Ark?

Forgetaboutit!  Vander Ark is no leader, certainly no education leader, only a promoter of a product. As John Roddy tells it, Milwaukee was turned upside down with the small schools experiment and then abandoned mid-project. I will offer only part of his story here, though the entire article is an insightful read:

It should have been a happy occasion.

Tom Vander Ark, the executive director of education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, had come to town in the summer of 2003 to finalize the details of a prestigious $17 million grant to create 50 new small high schools in Milwaukee. The foundation had been impressed with the wide variety of schools in the city, and the seemingly unanimous commitment of public and private school leaders to the new project. Optimism was high, both in Milwaukee and across the nation, that the fabled wealth of Bill Gates could help accomplish change in the thorny field of education.

But as Dan Grego drove Vander Ark back to General Mitchell International Airport, he was struck by his passenger’s reserve. Grego, a 30-year veteran of alternative education, had been chosen to lead the initiative in Milwaukee. He had fond hopes of ending the longtime war between public education and voucher advocates, and radically altering the traditional organizational model for high schools. He found himself waiting for something momentous, some words of wisdom from Vander Ark, a former business executive and former school superintendent who was now running this new national education project. But between the monotonous whining and whooshing of the I-94 traffic, Vander Ark wasn’t saying much.

Finally, just as he was leaving the car, he offered a rather ambiguous benediction. “I guess,” Vander Ark said with a chuckle, “you just got yourself in for a helluva five years.”

Grego was taken aback. “It felt a little chilling,” he recalls.

Today, some seven years later, the extraordinary $2 billion initiative — which created 2,600 new small schools in 45 states and the District of Columbia — has been ditched by Gates and his foundation. School districts across the nation were left disrupted, with some charging that Gates had abandoned the successful good schools he created and Gates citing statistics showing the project failed. Gates has now moved on to funding a completely different approach involving teacher education, and Vander Ark no longer works with the foundation. [Emphasis added.]

Tom Vander Ark is a businessman. Gates is a businessman.  If one business venture is failing, move on to the next. So what if it hurts people?

Forget the Small Schools; There’s Charter Money to be Made

Notice Vander Ark’s profit focus (bolded):

A former businessman and superintendent of a Washington State school district, Mr. Vander Ark doled out more than $1.6 billion in Gates Foundation money from 1999 to 2006, much of it to create and support small high schools. In 2008, he founded City Prep Academies, a for-profit organization intended to create and operate charter schools that combined traditional classroom teaching and online learning. He said the group was financed by $1.5 million from Revolution Learning, a venture fund where he is a managing partner. [Emphasis added.]

Vander Ark had the aspiration to make money from education; however, his plan lacked the detauls necessary to earn approval:

But City Prep Academies immediately ran into problems. Its first application for a New York charter, made in summer 2009 as a close copy of the NYC iSchool that opened in SoHo the year before, received a tepid response from the city’s Education Department. Like the iSchool, Brooklyn City Prep promised to blend traditional classroom teaching with online learning, but many who read the application found it lacking in details. [Emphasis added.]

The charter was approved the next year (I am not sure why, since Vander Ark was told to take an extra year to prepare):

The city and state approved the charter the next year, on the condition that Brooklyn Prep take an extra year to ready itself, with the opening scheduled for September 2011. [Emphasis added.]

Unfortunately for those who trusted him, Vander Ark would bail, abandoning his failed charter school venture:

After years spent directing the distribution of more than $1 billion from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation into hundreds of schools across the nation, Tom Vander Ark set his sights on the New York area, with a plan to create a network of charter schools of his own.

Mr. Vander Ark, the foundation’s former executive director of education and a national leader in the online learning movement, was granted charters in 2010 to open a high school in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and two others in Newark. The New York school, Brooklyn City Prep, also got space in a public school building — a precious and controversial commodity — hired a principal, and welcomed applications from 150 eighth graders this spring.

But after spending more than $1.5 million of investors’ money on consultants and lawyers, Mr. Vander Ark, 52, has walked away from the project, and the schools will not open as planned this fall, leaving others involved stunned and frustrated. …

While many new charter schools are asked to take a year for planning, it is relatively rare to require two, and unusual for a founder — in this case, a well-known figure in education reform — to walk away. [Emphasis added.]

It gets better: The charter management organization Vander Ark started, City Prep Academies Northeast, is a company that exsited on paper only. Meanwhile, Vander Ark changed the name of his for-profit to Open Education Solutions and used it to “assist” City Prep.

Don’t miss it: Vander Ark used his for-profit to make money off of his attempt to make more money establishing his own charters.

Vander Ark’s for-profit, Open Education Solutions, is described as follows:

Open Education Solutions, Inc. provides blended learning advisory services  to states, districts, and school networks. It offers OpenPlan, a strategic planning process for clients desiring to make the transition to blended learning; and OpenLearn that provides the learning capacity, as well as the experts and consultants to implement multi-year plans. The company also provides open resource planning, school improvement, blended learning support, and professional development.

Vander Ark’s for-profit, Open Ed, was supposed to be assisting his charter management organization, City Prep, in establishing charter schools in New York (incredible conflict of interest here). Those relying upon City Prep believed it was an actual, funded, operating company.  The rude awakening came when school board chairman Wiley realized that City Prep had no money with which to finance the charters it had been “negotiating”:

But in April (2011), Mr. Wiley came to an unsettling realization: City Prep Academies Northeast existed in name only.

In a phone call on April 21 that Mr. Wiley characterized as “explosive,” Mr. Vander Ark and Ms. Littmann (of Oped Ed) acknowledged that City Prep Academies Northeast had no money to pay for Brooklyn City Prep’s opening costs and would not sign a management agreement.

Mr. Vander Ark had been unable to get any money from the Charter School Growth Fund or other similar national organizations. He had basically abandoned the idea of beginning a charter management organization and left the three schools-in-progress to find outside help on their own. [Emphasis added.]

This blogger compares Tom Vander Ark’s actions,and the “abandon ship” actions of reformers like him, to that of a “bad boyfriend”:

The relationship between school reform and business ventures can be like the worst boyfriend some of us girls had in high school. Business shows up looking all great with his profits and big ideas about running your school efficiently.  He promises you high-flying achievement if you just ignore conventions, like contracts and regulations, and give him a chance. Oh yeah … you’re dazzled.

But then, reality sets in. You wonder why business doesn’t  understand you. After all, you never lied to him about your special needs students and your lack of broadband access. Business begins to realize that the relationship is harder work than he thought it would be.  He wonders when he will get the profits he wants.  He blames you. Soon enough, business splits. …

Most of all, public schools — and school reform — need partners that will be there through the hard work of educating all children. School managament businesses talk a big talk, but when the profit’s not there, they can turn out to be a bad boyfriend.  [Emphasis added.]

Notice how Vander Ark absolves himself from any responsibility for Brooklyn Prep’s failure to open:

Brooklyn City Prep received more than a year of support resulting in an approved charter [approved with reservations].  Despite extensive fund raising efforts, the school did not receive customary preopening grants.  [Vander Ark was not awarded the charter startup money he was seeking.]  In addition to providing lots of technical assistance, we were able to step in and cover some of the shortfall but not indefinitely. And certainly, we made this clear to folks on many occasions. [Compare to Wiley’s surprise at discovering that Vander Ark’s City Prep existed on paper only.]  Better than that, we located an outstanding management company  [Vander Ark’s on-paper company City Prep]  to fund the opening of this innovative charter. The nonprofit board passed and took a planning year.

We remain committed to supporting states, districts, and networks in the development of great urban secondary schools, leveraging our expertise to help them achieve extraordinary things with digital learning. [Vander Ark abandoned the project.]

None of the referenced organizations had any relationship with the Gates Foundation.  [Gotta protect the Big Money. Recall that Gates abandoned the small schools project.] 

Tom Vander Ark    [Emphasis and commentary added.]

Innocent Tom.  His comment is a response to an article with a title that begins with the words, “Left for Dead.”  Here is an excerpt:

James Wiley and the rest of the board for the Brooklyn City Prep charter school assumed everything was going to work out.  They had the funding and strong support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation led by executive director Tom Vander Ark, and they had a vision for the Bed-Stuy community– merging top-notch teachers with the latest technology in online learning.  Parents were ringing the phones off the hook, clamoring with excitement. And then, mere months before the launch in the fall, everything fell apart.  As reported by the New York Times on July 14, Vander Ark had allegedly squandered $1.5 million on lawyers and consultants and subsequently walked away from the project, leaving Wiley and company stunned and furious.  [Emphasis added.]

So What if there Were “Mishaps”? 

Businessman Vander Ark Lands on His Financial Feet

And what of the aftermath?

Now (2011), Brooklyn City Prep has lost its claim on the Marcy Avenue space, and is applying for a second planning year, with the hope of opening in 2012. Mr. Lawrence is still the principal, though he is not being paid. The two Newark high schools are also looking to 2012. All three boards are seeking new management organizations, and their members are no longer in contact with Mr. Vander Ark, who as chief executive of OpenEd Solutions travels the country evangelizing about online education and writes for the EdReformer blog[Emphasis added.]

I was unable to locate any information more recent than 2011 regarding the fate of Brooklyn Prep.

As for Tom Vander Ark, he views himself as an education visionary who is competent to advise others on his blog.  His advice leads to the opportunity for him and other corporate reform venture capitalists to fatten their wallets. He even has the chutzpah to advise others regarding charter authorizing.

It really should come as no surprise that the 1994 businessman-gone-superintendent ends up in a phenomenal position to profit from education despite his trademark “self-preservation exits” from previous “ventures.” Vander Ark is now a managing partner in a company called Learn Capital.  In its portfolio, Learn Capital features Udemy, described as “a platform that empowers anyone to teach and learn online….”  This Forbes headline regarding Udemy says it all:

“Excel vs. AI: Udemy Vies for a Chunk of the 3.9 Trillion Education Market

Corporate reform IS about the money.  It IS NOT about the kids, or the teachers, or the schools, or the school systems, or the communities. Notice the order in which Learning Capital managing partner expertise is listed on their website.  Not only does it tell about their experience; it reflects the order of their priorities:

Learn Capital partners have deep expertise in building successful businesses, deploying leading-edge learning technologies, and scaling innovative school operations.

It is no accident that the schools come in last.  Just look at Vander Ark’s legacy.

However, Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) loves Vander Ark.  Note this glowing reformer profile on the FEE website (I couldn’t resist “interpreting”):

Tom Vander Ark is a partner in Learn Capital, a private equity investor   [Tom makes money off of education]  focusing on companies that improve educational engagement, access, and efficiency. He is also a partner in Vander Ark/Ratcliff, a public affairs firm advocating for innovation and entrepreneurship in learning  [Tom pushes for changes in rules in order to open the door for corporate interests to profit from education]Previously he served as President of the X PRIZE Foundation, which creates prizes that drive innovation. [Let’s use money to force others to buy our venture products and corporate reform “vision.”]  Vander Ark also served as Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where he implemented $3.5 billion in scholarship and grant programs. [Vander Ark carried out the bidding for corporate reform Big Money and contributed handily to the small schools mess.]  Vander Ark was the first business executive to serve as public school superintendent in Washington State. [Pause and recall reading the turbulent section above on Federal Way “reforms’ and Superintendent Vander Ark].

Tom is chairman of the International Association of K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) and is a board director at several nonprofits  [reformer presence red flag]  including MLA Partner Schools and Strive for College. Tom advises [you must be kidding]  Communities in Schools, ConnCan, Democrats for Education Reform, and National Association of Charter School Authorizers. He also blogs at  [Emphasis and commentary added.]

Time to Close This Post

Who is Tom Vander Ark?  An opportunist who offers nothing good to public education.  He is not an educator.  He exhibits no true interest in the success of education.  He is willing to do whatever he must to make money off of education.

If it comes down to people or money, Tom will choose the money.

Tom Vander Ark’s chief interest is Tom Vander Ark, and opportunists like him are the crisis that is contemporary education.

  1. Mr. Vanderark’s story is a fine example of what the MBA-types call “synergy,” isn’t it? Synergy is supposed to be good, isn’t it? Isn’t that what it says in all those books in the Business section at Borders…wait, sorry, Borders went belly-up (obviously not enough synergy THERE), so let’s try Barnes & Noble…

    • Marge Borchert permalink

      And as far as Barnes & Nobles goes ; we do know which company is behind the Nook don’t we ??? Could it be Pearson ???


  2. John Young permalink

    Reblogged this on Transparent Christina.

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