The Global Powerhouse Designing our Ed Reform Landscape: McKinsey and Co.

Looking closely at the chart you can see three central players in the education reform movement have all come from the same lineage: Sir Michael Barber (Pearson), David Coleman (College Board and CCSS), and Lou Gerstner (Achieve). Indeed, the stars have aligned for McKinsey and Co’s role as the cornerstone of education reform.

Describing McKinsey and Co., author Duff Macdonald writes, “…this influential and enigmatic company, helped invent what we think of as American—now global—capitalism.” 

They have been the leaders in crafting the dominant narrative of an education crisis for decades, and now deeply entrenched in education reform policies, they are reaping the financial and political benefits of marketing solutions to the problems they manufactured in the first place.

As the chart indicates, McKinsey is in process of contracting with several states including New Mexico, Louisiana, and Florida to manage the PARCC when federal funding to manage it has dried up. (Note-since FL has stepped down as PARCC fiscal agent, I am unsure how this will affect their partnership with McKinsey). They are the Jedi knights of “big data” and have been trained by the best. And now they hold powerful positions where they can ensure that the distribution of data can be ensured. Their mantra is “big data.” The National Common Core Standards (NCCS) orchestrated by Coleman and new national testing (SBAC or PARCC) both managed in one way or another largely by Pearson (orchestrated by Barber) are the central vehicles needed for gathering this big data. In one McKinsey report it states: “One proven approach is to combine customization and scale by offering a standard core curriculum complemented by employer-specific top-ups.”

With key players in place in all areas of education reform, McKinsey has situated itself to be the delivery boy, and financial recipient of billions of education dollars.

Why is Louisiana partnering with McKinsey to manage PARCC? Ask Bobby Jindal, Governor of LA was formerly a partner at McKinsey for five years. Governments and large public organizations including Louisiana school system have systematically adopted Sir Michael Barber’s ‘deliverology’ approach and realized quick impact and significantly improve outcomes to their reform programs.

Rhode Island might be next:

Why Rhode Island? Ask husband of Gina Raimondo, (democratic candidate for R.I. governor in 2014, architect of R.I.’s reduced pensions for teachers, former hedge-funder and darling of neo-liberals) Andy Moffit who specializes in school projects for McKinsey.  He co-authored the ed reform Bible Deliverology with Sir Michael Barber now at Pearson. He joined McKinsey in 2000.


(special thanks to Wendy Holmes for providing the pic and for other RI related information)

But it’s not just PARCC. SBAC has employed McKinsey to conduct research into developing a detailed sustainability plan as well.

Lumina (a member of ALEC) gave a $200,000 grant to CCSSO to support an inquiry by McKinsey & Co concerning the sustainability and operations of the two Common Core State Standards/Assessment (CCSS/A) consortia post 2014.

Even in years prior to the CCSS debacle, McKinsey held tremendous political sway in locations of “ground zero” ed reform like New York City.  McKinsey is the favored consulting firm of former Mayor of NYC, Michael Bloomberg and Paul Pastorek. McKinsey partnered with Joel Klein:

“Their consultants played critical roles in planning the restructuring of the New York City schools under Chancellor Klein.  In 2007, McKinsey published a report on the commonalities of what the firm considered excellent school system.  NYC reform was lauded in that report.  Now, following an intensive study of NAEP scores and state testing, McKinsey concludes that “the city school system had not demonstrated the scale of improvement necessary.” (EDVOX-Carol Boyd).  

Bear in mind it’s not just in the areas of Common Core and national testing that they have their tentacles.

Jerry Hauser, COO, Teach for America was formerly with McKinsey and Co as well.  Who else can we add to the Who’s Who of McKinsey/Ed Reform? Rajat Gupta (financial backer of the Harlem Children’s Zone), Marshall Lux (on the Board of the Harlem Children’s Zone), Andrés Satizábal (Harlem Charter School)Michael Stone (Chief External Relations Officer at New Schools for New Orleans),  Terrence McDonough (English Teacher and Department Chair at Edward W. Brooke Charter School  and 5th Grade Teacher at Teach for America), Luis de la Fuente (with the Broad Foundation, who develops and manages a portfolio of grants to school districts, charter management organizations, and innovative non-profits), Shantanu Sinha (COO of Kahn Academies)

McKinsey’s key areas of educational interest are data collection (Big Data mantra) and information technology.

Using the growing power and reach of IT to boost productivity in government, health care, and education—sectors that have not benefited fully from previous waves of IT—to improve service delivery and increase transparency.” In education they suggest: “adopting new pedagogies that make learning more accessible, anytime and anyplace, and modular and engaging, often driven by the growth of new platforms for delivery and applied to areas like employee training.

Never mind that lack of sustainable research to support the success of these efforts for students, or the documented failure of MOOCS, which McKinsey touts as one of their solutions. No teachers will even be needed. In this brave new world, children will interact with “algorithms to evaluate responses”, and therefore, “the system can adapt to each student’s learning experience and offer additional instruction as needed.”

This statement says it all (I am highlighting what I find to be loaded terms):

“Unleashing the power of the connected enterprise in government, health care, and education will force significant change and present many challenges. Governments, which are responsible for delivering health care and education in addition to other services, willneed to take a comprehensive view of where and how to invest. They will need to effectively manage system implementations, assemble lean IT operations, develop innovative IT-enabled services, and cultivate deep technology expertise.” 

McKinsey corporate alliances also include Wireless Generation and Bill Gates, among scores of others too many to mention.

McKinsey contracts with the most powerful governmental agencies in the world. Is it any coincidence thatThe Department of Defense contracts with McKinsey & Co, and that the Department of Defense has expressed direct involvement with the collecting and tracking of all student data as is indicated by their participation in GradNation, and calling for a “national security audit.”

And of course McKinsey partners and consultants will be ready to deliver the goods and smiling all the way to the bank, while schools, children, and communities languish in their shadow.

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Maryland, PARCC, and Common Core: Dr. Lowery and the tangled web of corporate interest

Posted: December 31, 2013 in Uncategorized

Set out runnin’ but I take my time, a friend of the devil is a friend of mine

-Grateful Dead-

Is this any way to start off a new year?

Are you scratching you head wondering…wondering why it is that Maryland has decided to become the PARCC fiscal agent? First of all, what does this mean? 

In its new position, Maryland will manage the finances of the state-led consortium starting on January 1, 2014. Florida previously held that role within PARCC, which is made up of 18 states plus the District of Columbia. Florida and Maryland have been working closely together to ensure a smooth transition of responsibilities.


It is worthy of a head scratch because you know something’s gotta be wrong with this “deal” when even Florida, ground zero for corporate-styled reform policies rejected the offer. Maybe our new state superintendent Dr. Lillian Lowery can answer the question. Her affiliations with corporate-driven individuals and groups might lead us to the answers some of us seek.

First and foremost, Dr. Lowery is a graduate of the Eli Broad Superintendents Academy (class of 2004). What does this mean?

The Broad Superintendents Academy runs a training program held during six weekends over ten months, after which graduates are placed in large districts as superintendents.

The Broad Foundation also supports a broad range of pro-charter school advocacy groups, as well as alternative training programs for non-educators who want to work as teachers and principals (Teach for America, New Leaders for New Schools).

A hallmark of the Broad-style leadership is closing existing schools rather than attempting to improve them, increasing class size, opening charter schools, imposing high-stakes test-based accountability systems on teachers and students, and implementing of pay for performance schemes. The brusque and often punitive management style of Broad-trained leaders has frequently alienated parents and teachers and sparked protests.

Eli Broad and the Broad Foundation are preceeding by maybe only Bill Gates in the charge to dismantle public education via venture philanthropy, erode teacher union rights, democratic states rights, and children’s privacy rights.

What else about Dr. Lowery should we know?

During her reign as state superintendent of Delaware she worked closely with McKinsey and Co (a global consulting firm) whose obsession with big data is unparalleled. They have also birthed some of the biggest names in education reform: Lou Gerstner (co-founder of Achieve),David Coleman, and Sir Michael Barber. It is the latter player, who is now the Chief Education Strategist at Pearson, with whom Lowery worked while he was the CEO of the US Education Delivery Institute to offer evaluative “insight” and recommendations on the state of educational affairs in DE. Governor Markell selected Michael Barber’s education group at McKinsey & Company to facilitate the RtTT application development. He assisted the Performance Management Team tracking performance data and other management needs related to their Race to the Top application. 

So now, Barber worked directly with Dr. Lowery and is now a CEO at Pearson, and Pearson contracts with PARCC. And what about the other folks from McKinsey from whom Lowery sought education advice? Lou Gerstner is the gentleman who said during a National Governors Convention that, “education is big business, why are we not in it?” and advocated to abolish the 50-state departments of education so “it would be easier to get their education reforms through.”

O’Malley, who signed on to the MD partnership calls it a “favor to President Obama.” I’d call it a favor to PARCC. It’s not favor to Maryland students. It certainly is not a favor to local minority businesses. Because the PARCC Inc. organization is already doing the work, the contract was awarded to it as “a sole source,” with no competitive bidding. Jolivet told the Board of Public Works the contract has, “not one dime for the minority business community.” Further, he urged the board to reject the contract because “it is tinged with racial discrimination and exclusionary practices.” 

But the most central reason why Maryland has agreed to this train wreck of a PARCC partnership might involve Lowery’s service on the Governing Board for PARCC itself. 

According to PARCC’s Senior Vice President Laura Slover the bulk of the federal money “passes through” the state to the contractors. They include ETS and Pearson, which already produce Maryland’s current assessment tests. Ohhhhh……money laundering. OK.

And while Dr. Lowery attempts to explain that the testing is a completely separate issue from the implementation of Common Core by K-12 schools, one cannot help but notice that Laura Slover, PARCC’s Senior VPs prior employment included working at Achieve since 1998, and most recently serving as the Vice President for Content & Policy Research, where she led Achieve’s efforts on the development of Common Core State Standards. Sure, Dr Lowery….no connection between PARCC and Common Core. Except that the sole purpose of the latter is to serve the former. 

While this proposition clearly bodes well for Lowery herself, it obviously also bodes well for Achieve, PARCC, and Pearson. I continue to wonder how it will bode for children, teachers, and schools in Maryland. The questions posed by Holcombe bear our examination:

Ohio, Indiana, Oklahoma and Georgia have pulled out of PARCC and now the PARCC “Fiscal Agent” Florida has too. Florida is a HUGE loss for the scheme. What will PARCC governing board member Kevin Huffman and PARCC’s “project manager” Achieve Inc. (Bill Haslam, board member) do now? What can we expect from Achieve Inc.’s affiliate relationship with Pearson, who was touting to investors that they would be cashing in on making the tests for PARCC? Who will PARCC now use for a third string “fiscal agent”?

So why does Maryland charge forward into this fool’s errand? Go ask Dr. Lowery. I bet she knows….

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