Diane Ravitch wrote an article yesterday about an individual in the corporate education reform movement who is probably one of the biggest faces behind the agendas unleashed on an unwitting public. What are his strange ties to Delaware’s Governor Jack Markell? For one thing, they both have the same company on their résumé: McKinsey & Company. Long before Jack Markell made his mark in Delaware government, he served as a consultant for McKinsey & Associates, based out of Chicago. Another familiar face worked there as well starting in 2001: Sir Michael Barber.
Barber served as an education policy analyst for British Prime Minister Tony Blair. He then went on to McKinsey in the same capacity. Now he is the Chief Education Advisor for Pearson, the corporate giant in the education reform movement. In 2011, Barber wrote the go-to book for the education reformers, along with McKinsey employees Andy Moffit (husband of Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo) and Paul Kihn (Deputy Superintended School District of Philadelphia). “Deliverology 101: A Field Guide For Educational Leaders” talks about the ways these reformers can manipulate the public consciousness.
Many of the quotes from Barber in this book are very similar to public comments made by Governor Markell with regards to education:
Barber: parents and activists who challenge the corporate education reform movement are “defenders of the status quo”
Markell: from a press release on the creation of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee, 9/25/14: “We must not accept a status quo in which students in our most disadvantaged communities fall further and further behind each year.”
Markell: from his keynote speech at the Imagine Delaware Education forum, “I, and I know that many of you, refuse to throw up our hands and say that we can’t truly improve education in our schools as long as poverty exists. That’s a recipe for the status quo.”
Barber: “The risks of inaction are greater.”
Markell: also from the Imagine Delaware Education forum, “Inaction is not an option.”
While the parallels in speech bear an uncanny similarity, the thought processes in “Deliverology 101” are downright scary.
Nicholas Tampio, a political science professor at Fordham University, wrote an article here about Barber and the corporate education reform strategies discussed in “Deliverology 101.”
“The authors define “deliverology” as “the emerging science of getting things done” and “a systematic process for driving progress and delivering results in government and the public sector.” The book targets systems leaders, politicians who support education reform and delivery leaders, employees responsible for the day-to-day implementation of structural change.”
This is Delaware education in a nutshell. With Common Core and standardized testing, these are designed to move Markell’s agendas forward. He uses certain legislators, business leaders, and an entire Department of Education in Delaware to issue his reforms. Those who stand against him are put down or humiliated, such as traditional school district teachers, parents, and some legislators.
“This spring, a prominent anti–Common Core activist tweeted, “I don’t think the Ed reformers understand the sheer fury of marginalized parents.” Barber understands this fury but thinks the “laggards” will come around once enough people see the positive results.”
Markell is constantly pumping up schools with great standardized test scores and beats down ones that don’t. Whenever a “threat” arises to Markell’s goals, we can count on a rousing speech to deliver more of his education reform talk, to get around around the true issues.
“Deliverology alternates between painting a big picture of what needs to be done and offering maxims such as “To aspire means to lead from the front” and “Endless public debate will create problems that could potentially derail your delivery effort.”
And Diane Ravitch writes here:
“In a democracy, we do engage in “endless public debate,” but such debates slow down the reform train. That is why corporate reformers like mayoral control and state takeovers. They like one decider who can tell everyone what to do. Local school boards are not easy to capture, there are too many of them. Like ALEC, the corporate reformers want to bypass local school boards and give the governor–or a commission he appoints–total control.”
Governor Markell has absolute and total control of education in Delaware. Take the University of Delaware Town Hall Common Core panel in January. The Delaware DOE was set to attend the debate on Common Core, but Markell told them not to go at the last-minute. His obsession with controlling the conversation, and if he doesn’t like the talk he is hearing, he will do everything in his power to change it. This is what is currently happening with the parent opt-out movement in Delaware. His response to parents speaking up is to take a hard look at other assessments instead of the one test parents hate.
The vast connections between Markell and Barber don’t stop at a book or McKinsey either. In 2008, the Rodel Foundation of Delaware knew they needed a Governor to back their agenda. With Markell lagging in the pools, Rodel purposely turned education into a topic. To that end, they invited Barber to speak at a huge event called Delaware for a Global Economy: Making Vision 2015 Work. Shortly after Markell’s inauguration, President Obama announced Race To The Top. Markell quickly used McKinsey & Company’s Education Group led by Barber to develop Delaware’s Race To The Top application.
Barber’s ideas for education reform have spread throughout the world. This quote from Barber’s Wikipedia page:
“In the summer of 2010, Barber teamed with leaders from the Education Trust and Achieve to found the U.S. Education Delivery Institute. This Institute works with leaders of K-12 and higher education systems around the United States to adapt the delivery concept pioneered by Barber in the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit to drive American education reform efforts.“
Based on this essay found in this article from The Guardian in 2012:
They see that mastery of the basics, while essential, is not enough. When I talk about the future of the curriculum, including not just knowledge but also ability to lead by influencing those around you, I find a ready audience among leaders of Pacific Asian systems. People understand too that while exams are important, the obsession with them among parents can be dangerous.
I find this to be very ironic on Barber’s mindset since he is the one behind the drive for corporate education reform at Pearson. His viewpoint of parents is one he helped to create through his practices at McKinsey and Pearson. And Governor Markell in Delaware is an all-too-willing partner in these endeavors.
Markell is deeply rooted in the corporate education reform movement, and has been for a long time. This is his legacy and he will not tolerate any action or voice that attempts to block it. But I think he underestimates the will and resolve of parents, teachers and organizations united in their attempts to stop him. As the voices become louder, Markell is backing into a corner and his defensive postures becoming more diluted in the noise.