Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Michelle Rhee Connection map

1/31/2012: Revised to provide improved viewing and access to the document via Scribd (h/t L.H.)

Stay tuned for map #2, “Oligarchs, the Tea Party, & Corporate Education Reform: Michelle Rhee & the StudentsFirst Connection”

    Michelle Rhee Connection Map


    The interlocking is extensive and not all ties are represented on this map.

    1.) Bloomberg is the 12th richest American with a net worth of $19.5 billion (2011). He has been the mayor of New York City since 2002. Bloomberg successfully campaigned to lift restrictions on term-limits so he could run for a third term. He narrowly won the election in November 2009. Earlier that year, he successfully campaigned for the renewal of the 2002 law which established mayoral control of public schools in NYC.

    NOTE: Corporate education reformers prefer mayoral control to independent school boards. A corporate ed reform-minded mayor with full power over a school system can more quickly push through a privatization reform agenda with relatively little opposition.

    2.) Shortly after becoming mayor, Bloomberg obtained authority over the NYC school system, acquiring sweeping power to reorganize the district. He replaced the elected Board of Education with the Panel for Educational Policy, a 13-member body of appointees, eight of whom are appointed by the mayor. In June 2002, Bloomberg appointed Joel Klein as Chancellor of the NYC Department of Education, the largest public school system in the country. Klein had no background in the field of education; he had been a U.S. Assistant Attorney General.

    3.) In November 2010, Klein resigned and became executive vice president at Murdoch’s news media giant, News Corporation. In his eight years at NYCDE, Klein had presided over a radical reorganization of the NYC public school system. He implemented business-model approaches from the corporate world, such as increasing “choice” in the form of charter schools, weakening union protections, and using a numbers-based accountability system for ranking schools. Klein’s approach resulted in tense and divided communities because of school closures, overcrowding, charter school co-locations, and more.

    Klein had used gains on state tests to justify school closures and to determine principal and teacher bonuses. These gains proved to be a myth. After the discovery that “cut scores” for passing state exams had been raised (making it easier for students to pass), and with an adjustment to those cut scores in 2010, scores for NYC public schools dropped dramatically. (5)

    4.) Rupert Murdoch is the 37th richest American with a net worth of $7.4 billion (2011). Murdoch donated large amounts to the Fund for Public Schools (“works to attract private investment in school reform”), a private fundraising arm established by Bloomberg and Klein in 2002. Murdoch’s wife, Wendy, served on the board of FPS.

    5.) Joel Klein became Murdoch’s legal adviser when the News Corp. phone hacking scandal broke in 2011. Afterwards, Klein was assigned to lead the company’s internal inquiry, despite obvious conflict of interest.

    6.) In 2006, Fenty obtained mayoral control of DC Public Schools. He consulted with Klein and [unnamed] “national education experts” (and “few, if any, local leaders and parents”), then appointed Rhee as Chancellor. “It is not clear how many other candidates Fenty interviewed for the job, if any.” Rhee and Klein worked together when she led The New Teacher Project. (6)

    7.) Eli Broad is the 48th richest American with a net worth of $6.3 billion (2011). A strong proponent of the corporate ed reform agenda and a major backer of national charter school expansion, Broad gave millions to Learn-NY. (1)

    8.) “Broad played a key role in former U.S. Assistant Attorney General Joel Klein's appointment as New York schools chancellor.” (2)

    9.) Rhee was in extremely close contact with the Broad Foundation when Chancellor of DCPS, and even visited Eli Broad at his Fifth Ave. apartment in 2008. (3)

    10.) WfS’s [Waiting for Superman's] release was accompanied by the launch of Done Waiting, a “social action” campaign designed to take advantage of the emotions aroused in audience members who experienced WfS’s intense propaganda. It guided them on how to assist with the advancement of the corporate ed reform agenda. Broad contributed $500,000 to this campaign, as well as $50,000 for the marketing of The Lottery, another pro-charter school film released in 2010. (4)

    11.) In 2007, Rhee served on the board of St. HOPE Public Schools, Kevin Johnson’s charter school network. They married in 2011.

    12.) Bill Gates is the 2nd richest man on planet Earth with a net worth of $59 billion (2011). In 2009, Gates gave $4 million of his own money to help preserve Bloomberg’s mayoral control of NYC schools; he secretly bankrolled Learn-NY, a group which conducted an extensive public-relations, media and lobbying (= p­ropaganda) campaign, including massive parent organizing complete with free bus trips to the state capitol. (= fake grassroots). (1)

    13.) Gates has been using his celebrity status, his influence, and his immense wealth to become the most powerful oligarch advancing corporate education reform today. Gates is sometimes referred to as the “czar of U.S. public education.” Gates appeared in Waiting for Superman (WfS), as well as on Oprah to promote the film.

    14.) Oprah Winfrey is the 139th richest American with a net worth of $2.7 billion (2011). She used her popular TV show to deliver heavy doses of corporate ed reform propaganda to the American public. Among her many efforts were two episodes dedicated to the promotion of WfS and one show that provided Rhee with a national platform to launch her new lobbying organization StudentsFirst in December 2010.

    15.) In March 2010, frayed by controversy, Rhee hired Anita Dunn, former White House communications director, then working for a prominent public relations firm, to improve her public image. Katherine Bradley, a local philanthropist, donated $100,000 to pay for this project.

    Rhee served as DC Chancellor for almost 3 ½ years, resigning in October 2011 after Fenty’s re-election defeat. His loss was partially attributed to public dislike for both Rhee and the corporate ed reform measures she had aggressively applied to DCPS (closing schools, firing teachers, ruthless disruption, etc.). Less than one year prior, Rhee had been selected to play a staring role in Waiting for Superman (WfS).

    In March 2011, a major DC test score cheating scandal broke. An analysis by USA Today found that 103 of 168 DC public schools had erasure rates that surpassed DC averages at least once since 2008. Principals and teachers at those schools had already received generous bonuses. Rhee was asked to speak with the paper before the article ran, but she declined. Afterwards she called the reporters and her critics “enemies of school reform.” (8)

    16.) After being hyped for months, WfS was finally released in September 2010. It was expected that the film would give director Davis Guggenheim a second Oscar, but, despite extremely heavy promotion, this “documentary” film was NOT nominated for an Academy Award. Among the problems which emerged was the revelation that a charter school lottery scene had been   staged. (7)

    17.) Philip Anschutz is the 39th richest American with a net worth of $7 billion (2011). He owns Walden Media, co-producer of Waiting for Superman.

    18.) Anschutz is a Colorado-based Christian conservative billionaire who funds anti-gay efforts as well as the Discovery Institute, a think tank which promotes Intelligent Design. (9)



    (2) “Executives trained by turnaround nonprofit.” The Oakland Tribune, 8/11/2003
    (4) “Documentary films ratchet up pressure on teachers unions.” Sacramento Bee, 9/24/2010 (no longer available online, but see HERE)
    (6) “Fenty To Oust Janey Today.” Washington Post, 6/12/2007

    Read Diane Ravitch’s “The Death and Life of the Great American School System” to learn more.



    Friday, January 6, 2012

    Meritocracy, testocracy, jobs, and IQ

    An old news piece, “Court OKs Barring High IQs for Cops” (9/8/2000) was circulated a bit last week via internet exchanges relating to ed policy and teacher bashing.
    A man whose bid to become a police officer was rejected after he scored too high on an intelligence test has lost an appeal in his federal lawsuit against the city.

    The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York upheld a lower court’s decision that the city did not discriminate against Robert Jordan because the same standards were applied to everyone who took the test...

    Jordan, a 49-year-old college graduate, took the exam in 1996 and scored 33 points, the equivalent of an IQ of 125. But New London police interviewed only candidates who scored 20 to 27, on the theory that those who scored too high could get bored with police work and leave soon after undergoing costly training.

    ...The average score nationally for police officers is 21 to 22, the equivalent of an IQ of 104, or just a little above average...

    Curious about the IQ figures, I hunted down a 2002 report which contains charts of IQ scores associated with specific professions: “Meritocracy, Cognitive Ability, and the Sources of Occupational Success,” by Robert M. Hauser (92 pp., 1.23 MB). This was a working paper issued by the Center for Demography and Ecology. The author is currently the Director of Center for Demography of Health and Aging at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

    I haven’t yet read the entire paper, but expect that readers who are interested enough will do so. In the meantime, here are two charts from the report which show the IQ distribution for occupation groups, along with some excerpts from the text. The figures given for police officers are the same ones mentioned in the news piece above. The paper was released what seems like eons ago, in the first months of NCLB, so it’s especially interesting to read the author’s projections.

     Click to enlarge the images, or go to original document for a better view.

    Men's IQ Distributions for Occupation Groups (p. 90 of pdf)
    Women's IQ Distributions for Occupation Groups (p. 89 of pdf)

    [Introduction] Meritocracy, Ability, and the Sources of Occupational Success

    Despite occasional references to Michael Young's (1958) satyrical essay, The Rise of the Meritocracy [see HERE],and periodic public interest in the place of intelligence in society, students of social stratification mainly ignore cognitive abilities and their consequences. Neither is there any sign that sociologists are actively considering the larger issues raised by Young’s essay, namely, what would be the political and social consequences of equalization of opportunity and by universal use of ability or achievement tests as tools of social selection? Perhaps this lack of attention follows appropriately from the facts that children’s opportunities are anything but equal and that cognitive mediocrity dominates our public life...

    By ignoring cognitive abilities, sociologists are open to the accusation that they have failed to consider the full range of factors affecting social and economic success, and they leave the field open to advocates who claim, with remarkably thin evidence and questionable motives, that cognitive ability is or will become the key variable in social stratification. Such claims are revived periodically, for example, in the wake of Arthur Jensen’s (1969) paper, "How Much Can We Boost IQ and Scholastic Achievement?” and, more recently, in the controversy surrounding The Bell Curve (Herrnstein and Murray 1994). It will happen again, possibly encouraged by consequences of test-driven educational reform. In my opinion, the best way to prepare for the next round will be to have the facts well in hand, well in advance...

    In this paper, I review some features of the psychometric argument and evidence commonly offered to support it, with particular emphasis on the relationship between cognitive ability and occupational standing... There is no evidence that cognitive ability is the central variable in the process of stratification, but there is ample reason for concern that recent and prospective changes in the structure of American education will raise its importance. All of my evidence is drawn from the U.S., and I offer it partly as encouragement for other scholars to address similar questions in their own societies and cross-nationally. (pp.3-4)

    In reading this review, I hope that no one will draw the mistaken conclusion that I think stratification research should focus on mental ability or abilities to the neglect of other variables. It is not clear, except through the unfortunate history of social Darwinism (Gould 1981; Gould 1928), why the idea of merit should be identified so closely with mental ability, as distinct from many other conditions and traits other than social origins and schooling that improve the chances of social and economic success. Among these, for example, one might list ambition or drive, perseverance, responsibility, personal attractiveness, and physical or artistic skills or talents, along with access to social support and to favorable social and economic networks and resources. To be sure, cognitive functioning plays an important role in the occupational structure of complex societies, but it is only one among the several identifiable factors in achievement beyond the initial conditions of race, gender, geographic location, and socioeconomic origin. [pp. 12-13]
    On the basis of the evidence reviewed here, I think it is fair to conclude that the traditional psychometric literature on cognitive ability—popularly resurrected in The Bell Curve—vastly overstates the case for the role of IQ in the stratification process. On the other hand, to say that the case has been overstated—even that it has been overstated with great lapses of scholarship and with racist overtones—does not say that there is no place for cognitive ability in our understanding of the stratification process. Both as defense against excessive claims on both sides of the “IQ debate” and in pursuing the scientific enterprise, we ought to seek and produce new evidence of the role of cognitive abilities in social stratification.

    Perhaps a more compelling reason to invest in studies of the effects of test performance on social stratification is the growing role of tests in the schooling process from elementary school onward. The issue is not “meritocracy,” but “testocracy.” That term, in my opinion, is more descriptive of the dystopias that Michael Young described and towards which we may now be headed...

    There is a powerful movement for more extensive use of high school exit exams with passing levels set well above minimum competence... A reasonable speculation is that these exams will encourage early school dropout, especially among African-American and Hispanic youth, and that they will create new barriers to post-secondary education and training and to labor-market entry. High stakes exit exams will also deny high school diplomas to large numbers of non-minority students, and we have yet to learn the social and political consequences of that reversal of the widespread expectation that the children of the middle class will at least graduate from high school.

    The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)–deemed “N-CLUB” by its critics–introduces a federal mandate for testing of all schoolchildren in grades 3 through 8... There is every likelihood that new and old tests will be used to raise rates of grade retention, which are already too high in many places. These tests will often be used in violation of professional standards of appropriate test use...and with negative longterm consequences for academic achievement and high school completion...

    There is much more to be said about the reasons for the current public fixation on tests as a tool of educational reform (Linn 2000) and about its immediate consequences for the educational system. As sociologists, we ought also to take a longer view and start thinking now about how to measure, analyze, and assess the long term consequences of test use for life chances... [pp.57-59]