Skip to content

The Privatizing Agenda of Survey-producing Education Next

August 23, 2014

In August 2014, Education Next released the results of its annual education poll.

In a post on August 20, 2014, I wrote briefly on the EdNext survey findings specific to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  I plan to examine the entire survey more closely in a future post. However, in this post, I will examine the folks behind the survey:

I call them the EdNextians.

They are the privatization slant behind the EdNext post.

Education Next is a journal that promotes “choice,” and what that means is the privatization of public education, including the defunding of traditional public schools in the form of vouchers and charters. This defunding is accomplished via the grading of schools, and the grading of schools depends upon placing standardized testing as front and center in determining educational “value.” Many of the EdNextians also promotes CCSS, which have also been fused with high-stakes testing as far back as the planning stages. And let us not forget supplanting the teaching profession with teacher temps who are later fast-tracked into education leadership positions.

Published by the pro-privatizing Hoover Institute, EdNext presents its privatization priorities euphemistically in its mission statement:

In the stormy seas of school reform, this journal will steer a steady course, presenting the facts as best they can be determined, giving voice (without fear or favor) to worthy research, sound ideas, and responsible arguments. Bold change is needed in American K–12 education, but Education Next partakes of no program, campaign, or ideology. It goes where the evidence points. [Emphasis added.]

EdNext goes where the evidence points”??


Consider some of the EdNext advisory board members and other leadership.

First is EdNextian Chester Finn. I wrote about Finn in chapter 12 of my education “reformer” whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

Finn and his trusty sidekick, EdNext executive editor Michael Petrilli, have been outspoken proponents of CCSS. In July 2010, their Fordham Institute produced a report in which they “graded” state standards and found CCSS not superior to all– but still attempt to sell CCSS even in states with standards that they “graded” as equal to or better than CCSS. Never mind that their grading of state standards defies a logical connection to national test scores; Fordham Institute’s Petrilli even has tried to manufacture emotion to sell CCSS.

Finn also has an established history in promoting “choice”; however, in 2012, he experienced disillusion regarding the *not-so-surprising* inability of some of the Ohio charters he and EdNext editor-in-chief Paul Peterson protégé, John Chubb (formerly of EdNext) created, Edison, to properly regulate themselves.

This hometown charter embarrassment has not deterred Finn from continuing to promote “choice.” He also continues to promote placing non-educators in positions of leadership in public education; grading teachers and schools using test scores; mayoral control over schools; state-run “recovery school districts” (quite the joke in New Orleans for sleight-of-test-scores); and charter management corporations placed in charge of schools– and prone to scandals. He views these “options” as “the reinventing of local control.”

Keep in mind that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was also a “reinvention.”

Finn is also associated with the National Council of Teacher Quality (NCTQ), a creation of Finn’s Fordham Institute known for its flaky, superficial “grading” of the very teacher education programs it would like to see replaced by the likes of Teach for America (TFA) temporary teachers. (I have written an 18-part series on NCTQ and then some. It’s a corporate-reform-promoting eye-opener– TFA, charter school “founders,” testing company execs, and other edupreneurs abound. I also wrote about NCTQ in chapter 18 of  Echoes.)

NCTQ and EdNext membership also crosses with members Eric Hanushek and Rick Hess. I wrote about Hanushek in chapter 5 of Echoes and Hess in chapter 12.

EdNextian Hanushek is best known for his position that “class size doesn’t matter.” He also promotes the use of value added modeling (VAM) for grading teachers. His position is, sure, it has flaws, but he still “strongly supports” its usage. He even testified in support of VAM usage at the Vergara trial.

In connection with the Vergara trial, EdNext editor-in–chief Paul Peterson advances the view that the public has “turned against” teacher tenure.

Peterson refers to some results from his EdNext survey. However, his questions regarding teacher tenure are negatively slanted and lead with, “Teachers with tenure cannot be dismissed unless a school district follows detailed procedures.” He doesn’t ask respondents how many of them would like to have the right to a hearing if they were fired from a job. I’ll bet they wouldn’t “turn against” that rephrasing of the reality of teacher “tenure.”

Moving on.

As for EdNextian Rick Hess, he is another one who advocates bringing in non-educator “talent” into teaching to lead the profession. He even goes so far as to say that teachers who become administrators are *rising above their training*. (See Hess promote such a pompous view in a video clip in this post.)

In this December 2013 post, I wrote about Hess’ playing “good cop” regarding CCSS.  He’s a CCSS fence-walker. In November 2013, Hess co-authored a CCSS book with a publicized description that tips to the side of pro-CCSS:

How can the Common Core complement and not conflict with school improvement efforts already at work across the United States? How can it be seamlessly integrated into accountability systems, teacher preparation and development, charter schools, and educational technology? This timely volume brings together prominent scholars and policy analysts to examine the pressing issues that will mark Common Core implementation. Whether or not you agree with the standards, the Common Core is coming, and this book will help policymakers, practitioners, and other stakeholders anticipate the challenges and take steps to address them.

In a July 2014 EdWeek post, Hess again stays mostly on the CCSS fence. However, in this writing, Hess sticks a toe in the anti-CCSS pool when he includes himself in the ever-so-brief phrase, “us nonadvocates.” However, its just a toe, mind you. The rest of his piece is CCSS Switzerland.

Regarding the replacing of administration in the teaching profession with outsiders, Eli Broad’s foundation and Chester Finn’s Fordham Institute published this manifesto in 2003. Signers included the following EdNext-associated individuals: John Chubb, Chester Finn, Jay Greene, Eric Hanushek, Rick Hess, Terry Moe (another Peterson protégé), and Michael Podgursky. 

The reminder of the original list of 24 signers is quite the study in education privatization organizational incest.

Two others of the 24 Broad manifesto signers are from the Walton Foundation. One is a Walton: John Walton. The Walton Foundation is especially known for its funding of vouchers and charters (Walton funds the dysfunctional OneApp process for school “choice” in New Orleans) and for its contempt of unions. (Read about the Broad and Walton Foundations in chapter 23 of Echoes.)

The Walton Foundation also funds the so-called University of Arkansas Department of Educational Reform– a sham of a “department” with a web page that is disconnected from the U of Ark website. (Here is an experiment: Click the U of Ark insignia in the top left corner of the College of Education webpage. Then, click the same U of Ark insignia on the Department of Ed Reform webpage, and compare the results.)

Walton grafted its own privatizing reform “department” into U of Ark. That’s what happens when “philanthropists” pay so much money to an education institution–they can literally buy the institution name and affix it to their own agendas in order to produce the veneer of academic credibility in the public eye.

The Department of Education Reform “endowed chair” is EdNext advisory board member and contributing editor Jay Greene.

It should come as no surprise that this department is pro-voucher and pro-charter.

I have written a couple of posts deconstructing their supposed evidence of Milwaukee voucher “success.”

Whereas Greene is pro-voucher and pro-charter, he is anti-CCSS. Here is an excerpt from his 2011 testimony before the US House of Representatives:

…There is no evidence that the Common Core standards are rigorous or will help produce better results.  The only evidence in support of Common Core consists of projects funded directly or indirectly by the Gates Foundation in which panels of selected experts are asked to offer their opinion on the quality of Common Core standards.  Not surprisingly, panels organized by the backers of Common Core believe that Common Core is good.  This is not research; this is just advocates of Common Core re-stating their support.  The few independent evaluations of Common Core that exist suggest that its standards are mediocre and represent little change from what most states already have.

It is interesting that a Walton-funded “endowed chair” declares CCSS problematic because it is Gates-funded. (Along with Broad and Walton, I wrote about the Gates Foundation in chapter 23 of Echoes.) Greene is against the Gates pick of “selected experts,” yet he himself is a Walton-funded “selected expert.”

I shake my head and sigh.

Not to worry about Greene’s straying from the CCSS fold, fellow EdNextians. Editor-in-chief Paul Peterson approves of the entire gamut of corporate-coffer-filling reforms… all in the name of “partaking of no program, campaign, of ideology”…

..just so long as “neutral” points clearly to test-driven, pro-privatizing “reform.”






  1. Wow, they really slice it thick …

  2. Elin Hansen permalink

    How does Sandra Stotsky, Ed.D. who works in the reform department at the U of A figure into this?

    • Stotsky is experienced and talented when it comes to standards and is wholly against CC, but she is fine with charters and vouchers.

  3. Ira shor permalink

    Thanks, Chester Finn deserves the careful watch your book’s chapter gives him. He’s a spin doctor and advocate for transferring public tax levies to private charters.

  4. Martin West (EdNext) prepared a “blue sky” paper for the NAEP Governing Board where he used Boston school students to measure their “personality ” factor and “grit”…. This information goes directly to NAEP (see connection with David Driscoll)

  5. Mercedes –

    There’s probably another book in the role “thoughtleaders” from Massachusetts have played in this deform of public education. Stotsky, Finn and James Peyser all were connected through the Pioneer Institute and through John Silber, Chairman of the Mass BOE (1996-1999) and President of Boston University. Silber was widely seen as abrasive, arrogant and anti-teacher. He lost a bid for governor after an interview with a well-known news anchor woman in which he was demeaning and abusive towards her.

    Silber oversaw BU’s takeover of the Chelsea Public Schools after that town was forced into receivership in 1991. BU was given great leeway in the running of the “reform” of the schools, yet its intervention – rigor, a longer school day, curtailment of teachers’ rights – was widely perceived as a failure for the low SES, ELL students in the district.

    As Chairman, Silber instituted a new exam for teachers seeking a state certificate. Prominent, and the target of wide-spread ridicule, was the requirement that would-be educators prove they were literate by transcribing a dictation from the Federalist Papers, No. 10. Points were deducted for failing to reproduce spelling and punctuation from the 1787 document, written by James Madison, which was replete with archaic sentence structures and 18th-century flourishes. One-third of the candidates “failed” this portion of the test. Many observers claimed a conflict of interest, as BU held an archive of the Federalist Papers and BU had a school of Ed, whose students presumably were trained in this requirement (like the NY schools which bought Pearson’s aligned curriculum).

    In his heyday, Silber and his cronies at the Pioneer Institute were considered right-wing kooks but these folks were playing the long game before we ever knew there was a game. And they had $$. Jim Peyser, Silber’s successor as Ed Chairman, left office to become a partner in New Schools Venture Fund. He’s since been on the board of directors for Achievement First, New Schools for New Orleans, Success Charter Network, and Uncommon Schools. He is also chairman of the board of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA). He was succeeded by David Driscoll, now a board member for Teach Plus and chair of the Fordham Institute. Driscoll signed the MA “ed reform” act in 1993, which instituted the MCAS (modeled on Texas’ TAAS), ended principals’ rights to be members of a union and took from career licensed teachers their lifetime certification. Now teachers must be re-certified every 5 years, paying for PD or graduate courses to hold on to their licenses. Given these bloodlines, you could say we were just unknowingly avante-garde here in MA!

    Apologies to all.

  6. pauleck47 permalink

    What in the heck do you do in your spare time? This expose is a treasure of information that I can use in my work to derail CCSS and high-stakes testing in Oregon. Thank you many times over for your dedication and hard work.

  7. Allison McSurely permalink

    Thanks for looking into and exposing Ed Next, Mercedes. One thing to note about their surveys is that they seem to have been created specifically to counter the PDK/Gallup polls. Because the PDK/Gallup ones historically found that no matter how much public education was getting scapegoated by the right people like their public schools, and whenever the survey instrument provided such basic background info about vouchers as that they ways for public tax dollars to profit private schools, the less respondents liked them.

    • Linda permalink

      This week, a national columnist, John Rosemond, cited Fordham on the percentage of public school teachers who send their children to private schools. I know a lot of teachers and all of them send their children to public schools. When I tried to confirm Rosemund’s statistic, through a source other than Fordham, I was unable to find the data. Is there a reference for a valid number? Thanks.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Florida: Lee and Palm Beach County looking to opt-out of high stakes testing (+Video) - Dr. Rich Swier
  2. Netflix Founder Drops $100 Million to Join Billionaire Crusade to Privatize Our Public Schools
  3. Netflix and kill public ed: Silicon Valley leads the charter school crusade | Newslair
  4. In Schools, Teacher Quality Matters Most | VAMboozled!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s