Arne Duncan’s “Principal Ambassadors”: Federally Monitored “Local Control”??
A notable corporate reform ploy is to starve school districts of funding and then turn around and offer some “assistance”– which amounts to little more than a district’s selling its autonomy to the corporate reform machine.
Corporate reform is flush with cash, and it wants to leverage its cash in order to trap school systems (both local and state) into the corner of inevitable privatization.
Arne Duncan: Federal Control on Behalf of Privatization
Note that Duncan’s coercive efforts benefit mega-companies like Pearson. This happens to be the same goal billionaire Bill Gates holds in his obscenely-financed efforts to cement a future for the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
Duncan wants to back states and districts further into the federal-control-ending-in-privatization corner by threatening to discontinue federal funding by way of his “withdrawing” No Child Left Behind (NCLB) “waivers,” often tied to states’ agreeing to tenets that are also part of RTTT, such as tying teacher effectiveness ratings to student test scores. (Note that the entire “waiver” concept is suspect; NCLB was not reauthorized by its 2007 deadline, and the original NCLB includes no language in regard to the “waivers” initiated by President Obama in 2012.)
However, rather than withdraw his democratic-process-dodging NCLB “waiver,” Duncan would much rather insert individuals trained to enforce state and district compliance to his RTTT– as concerns those teacher evaluations based upon student test scores (his reason for nixing Washington state’s NCLB waiver) and the hardly-“state led” CCSS (his reason for threatening Indiana’s NCLB waiver).
Employees Who Bring Their Own Funding?
In order to insert federal enforcement into state and local education operations, Duncan has apparently taken a lesson from corporate reform-purchasing “philanthropist” Eli Broad. Broad is a major supporter of teaching temp agency Teach for America (TFA). Moreover, his support enables TFA to fulfill its goal of supplanting career school administration with its TFA alums. To this end, Eli Broad offers former TFAers (and others willing to privatize public education) “training” in corporate-reform-friendly “leadership” via his unaccredited Superintendents Academy.
Here is the lure to districts: Broad agrees to subsidize its superintendents’ salaries during a two-year “residency and enlists long-term career support for its grads. Below is an excerpt from the Broad website. It is an appeal to potential “partners,” including state departments of education:
Partner Organizations receive a multitude of benefits from The Broad Residency. These include added capacity from a highly capable individual with a strong interest in public urban education, funding (The Broad Residency subsidizes salaries and pays for 100% of the costs of recruitment, selection, and travel for professional development), retention of talent and much more. As Residents cultivate their leadership and management capacity through the program curriculum, we expect Partner Organizations to be active participants in the Resident’s development and long-term transition into the education sector. …
State Departments of Education must:
- Have the authority and funding to support a significant reform agenda intended to increase student achievement in urban school systems in their state.
- Have the ability to hire a Resident into a politically appointed, career staff or equivalent position during the two-year program. [Emphasis added.]
Thus, Eli Broad makes his superintendents more attractive to fiscally-strapped districts and states by offering cash to accompany the superintendent, all the while securing an agreement for future employment of this corporate-reform-bent “graduate.”
Duncan’s “Principal Ambassadors”
Want to make a privatizer look attractive as a leader in a system that would be destroyed by privatization?
Offer to supplement that privatizer’s salary.
It seems that Duncan has taken the salary-supplementing hint.
Introducing the US Department of Education’s (USDOE) Principal Ambassador Leadership Program (PAF).
In the following two-minute video announcement of the program, Arne Duncan advertises the potential applicant “leaders” as having “a track record of success”– which, to Duncan, means high student standardized test scores– the corporate reform end-all.
Here are some excerpts of USDOE-declared PAF purpose. Let us have a moment of USDOE-text dissection:
The PAF program is meant to recognize the important impact that a principal has on instructional leadership, the school environment, and talent management.
In other words, the school principal is the site-based individual who needs to buy into federally-promoted reforms.
In order to implement needed reforms, all stakeholders, and most importantly teachers and principals, must understand the intent of policy and be engaged in the outcomes. …
This is the true goal of PAF: to convince site-based stakeholders to comply with a set of “reforms” that did not originate with them and that are designed to undermine the sense of community inherent in the non-profit-centered ethics of the career education practitioner.
Over time, it is possible that like Teaching Ambassador Fellows, all PAFs will spend time gaining greater knowledge of the content of key federal programs and policies, in addition to the context and process by which they are designed and implemented. They will be asked to share their expertise with federal staff members; provide outreach and communication about federal initiatives to other educators on behalf of the Department; and facilitate the involvement and understanding of educators in developing and implementing these efforts at the federal, state and local levels, to improve the likelihood of their success. [Emphasis added.]
The “context and process” of “design” of “federal programs and policies” reads like a re-education effort to convince practitioners that “federal programs” like CCSS (let’s just admit it openly) really did originate with education practitioners such as classroom teachers even though the CCSS creation process outlined in the CCSS MOU (memorandum of understanding) does not mention current classroom teachers as being members of the CCSS work groups.
Thus, it appears that Duncan’s “ambassadors” might be equipped to reshape the CCSS development narrative into a clearly-false-yet-feel-good fluff designed to convince teachers that they must buy into CCSS because they really did write it.
Drill a lie–> create a “new truth.”
And be sure to offer that signature-Broad, district-benefiting financial incentive:
The “outreach to other educators” is the component in which the USDOE is able to model Eli Broad’s technique of supplying privatization-minded converts (in this case, “ambassadors”) to school districts in order to “assist” a district without that district’s having to pay a full salary:
…The Campus Principal Ambassador Fellowship is a paid part-time position that enables principals to work with the Department on a more limited basis in addition to their regular school responsibilities. In the first year, this is anticipated to be approximately 20 hours a month, though may vary from month to month. [Emphasis added.]
Having a principal bring “part” of his/her salary to a job interview can prove quite the lure to districts experiencing financial peril. Quite the lure.
Once these “ambassadors” are inserted into districts, Duncan has established an on-site connection for monitoring district (and state) compliance with NCLB waiver- and RTTT requirements.
The beauty for Duncan is that a district’s hiring his on-site, USDOE-enforcer liaisons will have done so “voluntarily.”
Advice to Tempted Districts
To those districts enticed to employ one of those USDOE-salary-supplemented “ambassador” principals, hear Nancy Reagan:
Just say no.
For those who believe I am making too great an issue out of PAF as a potential federal overreach into local education affairs, allow me to note that in 2004-07 when I taught my tests and measurements course at Ball State, I first read that some states were using student standardized test scores to measure teachers. At that time, I thought that such a twisted application of test results could not become common practice for its obviousness as testing misuse.
Yet look where we are now. Both the NCLB waivers and RTTT place undeniable, heavy emphasis on using student standardized test scores to “grade” teacher and administrator “effectiveness.”
Given Duncan’s intent to enforce his “reforms” by requiring state departments of education to answer to USDOE under threat of NCLB waiver withdrawal, and given his publicly bashing even “suburban moms” for expressing objections to CCSS, it would be naive to think that Duncan would not try to use this federal-to-local “connection,” PAF, as a means of inserting federal monitoring and control into local education affairs.
Especially beware if a PAF notes that his/her salary would be supplemented via federal money.
It might seem like a break to not have to pay a full salary to that Duncan ambassador principal. However, in hiring such an individual, you open the door to allow Duncan to closely monitor your school (or district, or state) and advance his now-unmistakable intent to devour local control and enable education corporation gluttony.
For additional info, read this sequel: