Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Broad barrage

If only I could have cloned myself, I'd have been out front on the Eli Broad story.

Last summer, in writing an application for a seminar at Columbia University, I outlined the involvement of the Broad Foundation in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and discussed my interest in exploring how private philanthropy is shaping public education. When I got there, it turned out a lot of us were asking similar questions.

Now that I've finally broken off time and gotten some information on grant money from CMS, everyone's buzzing about Broad. Readers have been sending me great links. So, for those who want to delve deeper than the print article can go, here's more.

The nudge that finally got me focused on Broad was a recent article in the Raleigh News & Observer about how Broad might influence their new superintendent, who is being mentored by fellow Broad Superintendents Academy graduate Peter Gorman. There's also a WakeEd blog item that explores that issue.

Newsweek just published an investigation of whether investments by Broad, Gates and other education philanthropists have had the desired results. The conclusion: Not usually. The magazine looks at 10 school districts, none in the Southeast.

If you're trying to sort out the Broad/CMS connection, one of the biggest challenges is figuring out the "performance management" project that's gotten big bucks from Broad, Gates and Dell. CMS officials have been talking about this for years, and I've never quite gotten my head around a way to describe it in a newspaper article. When I asked CMS folks to help me with a clear, concise description, they sent me a four-page report. Here it is. The condensed version, from Chief Accountability Officer Robert Avossa: It's about providing educators with data to make decisions and creating systems to hold people accountable for results. Testing and performance pay are part of performance management, but it's a broader effort that includes CMS's school progress reports and school quality reviews.

The Broad Foundation Web site contains some details about the CMS connection, but it takes some hunting (again, thanks to readers who got me started). Here's a description of the Broad approach to investing, and here's where they list CMS as one of the foundation's investments in "redesigned, high-performing institutions." Here's information about the academy that trained Gorman and Wake's Anthony Tata, and the residency program that has placed other administrators in CMS.

An astute reader noted that Gorman is a member of the Broad Center's board of directors, and questioned whether that makes it a conflict for CMS to be a finalist for the Broad Prize for Urban Education. Foundation spokeswoman Erica Lepping said it would be if Gorman were a foundation board member. But the center is a separate nonprofit group that's funded by the foundation, she said, and is not involved in awarding the prize, which brings national prestige and hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships.

On the anti-Broad side, "How to tell if your district is infected by the Broad virus," orginally posted on a Seattle education blog, is getting a lot of circulation. And here's the Parents Across America "guide to the Broad Foundation." Those who are interested in the perspective of Diane Ravitch, a PFA founder and national education writer/researcher, can find more about the role of philanthropists in her book "The Death and Life of the Great American School System."

I cringed when I saw that the "virus" checklist includes "Local newspaper fails to report on much of this." I'll take the blame for putting Broad below the breaking news about school closings, performance pay and such. If Broad has a strategy for squelching news coverage, the only part I saw in action was that the school board's Broad-sponsored retreats were often too dull to generate stories.

Got more recommended reading? Post links in comments. The spam filter may snag them, but I'll check periodically to retrieve them. Be patient, though; it is Mothers Day.

No comments:

Post a Comment