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“Deans for Impact”: A Potential, “Teacher-prep Charter” Petri Dish?

January 27, 2015

Benjamin Riley has started a new organization called Deans for Impact. The goal is to streamline teacher preparation to produce ever-higher student test scores. Members agree to be “data driven” and to use “common metrics and assessments.” Why, Deans for Impact are even considering incorporating value-added into their measures of “teacher effectiveness.”

And, oh, yes, member deans agree to be “transparent and accountable.” A bumper sticker for corporate reform. How novel.

Wait– there’s more:

These deans are going to “identify a common understanding of what educators should know and be able to do by the time they finish their training.”

Teacher-prep Common Core?

Sounds like Deans for Impact is decidedly on its way to becoming standardized– the clarion call of all that touches K12 education according to corporate reform.

Now, I know you’ll be surprised to learn that Riley was formerly with a “nonprofit” that specializes in privatizing public education, NewSchools Venture Fund (whose former CEO, Ted Mitchell, Obama’s 2013 choice for Undersecretary of Education who was confirmed in May 2014).

On the Deans for Impact website, Riley chooses not to disclose his former association with NewSchools, instead only noting that he “previously worked as the policy director for a national educational nonprofit.” This EdWeek article observes that Riley’s previous association with NewSchools is “one potential liability.”


While at NewSchools, Riley wrote this post in 2011 and this post in 2013 about a piece of legislation Riley helped draft– and that was supported by, among others, Senator Lamar Alexander, who is currently responsible for drafting the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the most recent version of which is No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The piece of legislation Riley references in his blog post is know as the GREAT Teachers and Principals Act.

The GREAT Act has been sitting in committee in the Senate since May 2013 and in the House since July 2013.

The GREAT Act is supposed to establish voluntary teacher and principal training academies. What we have here are charter schools for principal and teacher prep that can be affiliated with institutes of higher education.

You read it right: Charter schools for training teachers and principals.

In the EdWeek article about Deans for Impact’s debut, the possibility of using university-based teacher training programs as affiliates for teacher- and principal-prep charter start-ups is not explored.

Given Riley’s background, such a possibility should not be discounted.

In the GREAT Act that Riley helped draft, in order to pass, these teachers and principals must have “a demonstrated track record of success in getting students on track to being college and career ready.”

Again with that Common Core language.

As part of his evidence for how poorly current teacher prep programs are faring, in 2013, Riley cited this 2006 report by former Teachers College President Arthur Levine, which justifies a shift in teacher prep toward what matters to privatizing reform: an ueber-emphasis on test score outcomes:

The shift in focus from common processes for all schools to common outcomes for all children changes the measure of success for teachers. Process-based school systems, rooted in what students are taught, assesses education success in terms of issues such as teacher knowledge and credentials, curriculum design and organization, and reliable and valid assessment methods. In contrast, outcome-based systems, concerned with what students learn, have a single measure of success– student achievement. [Emphasis added.]

In his report, Levine isn’t questioning the value of the shift from “process-based” to “outcome-based” education; he states that since the shift has happened, then student test scores should be used as a measure of teacher quality. In other words, teacher prep should follow the shift and proceed down the path of the test score as “the single measure of success.” That noted, Levine’s report was published in 2006, years before the obsession with student test scores as the end-all, be-all of educational “success” hijacked the national K12 education scene. Moreover, in this 2014 New York Times article on US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s idea to track the student performance of teacher prep program graduates, Levine does not directly state that he believes student test scores can directly and accurately “grade” teacher prep programs.

Yet the 2006 Levine report is cited by Riley, who has a background with NewSchools Venture Fund, which specializes in funding charters— and corporate-reform charters are test-score-obsessed institutions.

So now, Riley has started a “venture” using (according to EdWeek) a one-million-dollar grant from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. Ironically, in 2013, the Schustermans also donated over one million dollars to Teach for America (TFA), whose temp teachers are “trained” in five weeks and who are assumed prepared because, after all, they are “talent.”

In 2013, the Schustermans also supported Stand for Children (SFC) for $2.3 million; the Gates-Walton-Broad-funded NewSchools Venture Fund (NSVF) for $500,000; the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) for $25,000; KIPP charter schools, for over $100,000; Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) for $50,000, and Gates-Walton-Broad-funded Education Pioneers (EP) for $500,000. All of these organizations are known for devaluing education via privatization and test-score worship.

And now, thanks to Riley and his Schusterman million, we have deans who are willing to follow a guy who helped draft legislation to create teacher-prep charter schools.

Be careful, O Deans of Impact.

If teacher-prep charter “academies” are somehow worked into your traditional teacher training programs, your programs run the risk of being supplanted by a privatized substitute.

Higher ed charter co-location.

Already, you have agreed to play the test-score-driven, common-metric game easily recognized as a privatization gateway. Too, Riley is advertising that he wants to “remain relatively small,” which makes you sound like an unsuspecting petri dish for a man who wishes his GREAT legislation might find a testing ground.

Perhaps not. Perhaps I am wrong.

But watch out.


Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education

previti chronicle pic


  1. There are a lot of small teacher preparation programs that are going to struggle to stay open with new requirements in a lot of states and which will whither and die absolutely if Duncan gets his VAM based system in place.

    Sounds like places are going to be offered a lifeline in foundation cash so long as they promise to do all of the wrong things.


  2. ira shor permalink

    Starving the public sector hollows it out, undermines its capacity and credibility, and sets the stage for privatization. Budget-cutting for the public sector has been corp.-govt. policy since Nixon took office, so we are now far down the road in the Uncreative disruption and destruction of public education. Thanks to Mercedes for this heads up about the latest tool of the billionaire boys club.

  3. Reblogged this on The Art of Teaching Science and commented:
    Dr. Schneider’s analysis of this newly formed coalition of deans highlight our infatuation with terms such as data driven, metrics, monitoring, achievement scores. It’s amazing how these deans are easily hooked into following a hedge fund guy. I was thrilled to note that Georgia State University, where I am Emeritus Professor of Science Education, was not on the list.

    Schneider documents is group’s history, and if you are a professor or student at any of the collaborating universities you might want to give your Dean a call.

    • Laura chapman permalink

      Also notice the creep in the use of Great and Talent…anything less is mediocre or worse. That language is part of the sustained effort to diminishe the credibility of workers in education. It is also an expression of the arrogance of people who pare clueless about what takes to teach and inspire others.

  4. This was painful to read since it shows just one more way I may be unemployed in the future. We are currently hiring a new Dean and new Chancellor. I will ask about this during the interviews . . . (All Mercedes Fans- Please click here to help with a little present for her . . . she won’t ask but I am not shy . . .

  5. Someone permalink

    Mercedes, the Dean’s don’t need to be careful because they know exactly what they are doing – they have gone in with eyes wide open and many have been cultivating right along with Riley for quite some time…

    • I think the deans believe they will win somehow. I wanted to caution them about their blindness.

  6. Snowed In permalink

    riley’s bio from list of 2012 caep comissioners pasted below, before he spent 2014 studying new zealand’s education system…

    Benjamin Riley is the Director of Policy and Advocacy at NewSchools Venture Fund, and is responsible for leading NewSchools’ work in developing and advocating for a policy agenda that creates opportunities for education entrepreneurs.
    Prior to joining the NewSchools team, Ben worked as a Deputy Attorney General for the California Department of Justice. In that role, he closely advised Attorney General Jerry Brown on California’s first Race to the Top application and other education policy issues, and he helped draft Race to the Top-related legislation. Ben also represented and advocated on behalf of the California State Board of Education in a variety of capacities, including serving as the Board’s interim chief counsel. Ben’s previous work experience includes four years in private practice, a brief stint on Wall Street, and a summer clerking for the Land Claims Court of South Africa.
    Riley holds a BA from the University of Washington and a JD from Yale Law School.

    the list of deans, barring a few exceptions, is not suprising… despite their claims to diversity, they have much in common… in terms of their ties to certain entities and funding streams, and in terms of ideology, for sure…

  7. Celia Oyler permalink

    Thanks for this, Mercedes. The VAM for teacher ed programs is fairly a fait accompli, in that CAEP–the new teacher ed programs accrediting body formed by the merger of NCATE and TEAC — requires all programs to measure our effectiveness by the value added scores of our graduates’ students. No matter that state systems for even tracking these data are non-existent, and in the one attempt to do this (the Met study) showed it to be a meaningless stat.

    The Arthur Levine report is continuously trotted out by the deformers, even though it has been roundly discredited as a piece of research. A funny story about that report: Art was the president of Teachers College when he set out to the conduct that study. He came to the Teacher Education Policy Committee one day (had never been before and he wasn’t known for being knowledgeable or very interested in teacher education programs at TC) to tell us about his upcoming sabbatical where he would do his study. He shared the implications of his study with us. I raised my hand and asked, “I’m confused about why you need to collect data if you already have your implications?” I can’t recall his answer….

    • Thank you, Celia. Levine seemed pretty lukewarm about the issue of test scores as an end-all. Also, thanks about the CAEP reminder. I wrote a piece on them and AACTE about a year and a half ago.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. "Deans for Impact": A Potential, "Teacher-prep Charter" Petri Dish? — The Art of Teaching Science
  2. New Reformer Group Created for Ed School Deans | Diane Ravitch's blog
  3. Ed News, Tuesday, February 3, 2015 Edition | tigersteach
  4. Pedagogy of Doubt (Part II): Supporting Evidence | educationalchemy
  5. Pedagogy of “Doubt” and the Attack on Colleges of Education (Part II) | The Academe Blog

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