Playing the Parlor Game of Education Reform

First posted February 17, 2014
Today is a school snow day so we need a game. Can we analogize the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” to Education Reform? Sure.

5. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awards a lot of grants to ensure K-12 children are “college-ready.”
These grants include $87,333,334 to the Shared Learning Collaborative, LLC (now known as inBloom Inc.) in 2011 and a lot of grants to the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and Data Quality Campaign, Inc. The Education Trust has also received three grants, including one in the amount of “$2,101,177” “to inform state and local policies on teacher evaluation as a significant and valuable tool.” See http://www.gatesfoundation.org/How-We-Work/Quick-Links/Grants-Database .

inBloom Inc., by the way, intends to put a lot of student data in the Cloud, which only begs the question about whether we want our children’s academic and behavior data in the Cloud? See http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/01/03/student-privacy-concerns-grow-over-data-in-a-cloud/.

inBloom’s Board of Directors includes Gene Wilhoit, who used to be the Executive Director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, and Stacy Childress who works “as Deputy Director of Innovation on the K-12 education team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.” See https://www.inbloom.org/board-of-directors and http://www.gatesfoundation.org/What-We-Do/US-Program/College-Ready-Education/Strategy-Leadership. Mr. Wilhoit was also listed as a director on Data Quality Campaign’s 2011 Form 990. http://www.guidestar.org/. Ms. Childress is also on The Education Trust’s board. http://www.edtrust.org/dc/about/board-of-directors (date viewed 2-17-14). The Education Trust is a related tax exempt organization to Data Quality Campaign. http://www.guidestar.org/.

The Chief Product Officer for inBloom, Sharren Bates, used to work for the Gates Foundation. https://www.inbloom.org/management.

4. The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is comprised of the heads of the states’ Departments of Education and the District of Columbia plus the Department of Defense Education Activity. See http://ccsso.org/Who_We_Are.html.

The current executive director of CCSSO is Chris Minnich. He previously worked for Harcourt. “Chris has worked at CCSSO since 2008, when he was hired to direct the Council’s standards program—the work that would later become the Common Core State Standards (Common Core). In 2009 he assumed the role of strategic initiative director of standards, assessment, and accountability, leading the development and adoption of the Common Core in 45 states.” See http://www.dataqualitycampaign.org/node/386/. Mr. Minnich is also on the board of the Data Quality Campaign. In addition to receiving funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Data Quality Campaign also receives funding from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation (among others). http://www.dataqualitycampaign.org/who-we-are/funders/.

According to CCSSO’s 2011 990 form, membership dues comprised only $2,105,068 of CCSSO’s program services revenue. The rest included $831,173 from “registration fees,” $22,893,328 from “Contracts, Grants and SP.” and $278,874, from “all other program service revenue” (www.guidestar.org/) so about 87% of its program service revenue that year came from “Contracts, Grants and SP.”

Interestingly, CCSSO has corporate partners. See http://ccsso.org/Who_We_Are/Business_and_Industry_Partnerships/Corporate_Partners.html.

I’m probably naïve; however, when I had envisioned an organization of the heads of the state departments of education, I envisioned each state paying some reasonable amount to belong and the heads meeting once a year to network and share ideas about what is working in their state. That is not the paradigm here. You could probably play another game of six degrees with at least some of the corporate partners.

3. The head of the Department of Education in my state who is a part of CCSSO is ________________. He heads a department that exercises general supervision over the public K-12 schools and non-public schools in my state.

2. My own children’s schools are among the schools that the head of my state’s Department of Education is responsible for.

1. My children attend _______________.

See how far you can take education reform. I didn’t even need six degrees to reach my children.

For IRS Form 990 information, see http://www.guidestar.org/. You can create an account (for free as of 2/17/14) to see Form 990 information about an organization.

UPDATE on April 26, 2014: inBloom’s CEO, Iwan Streichenberger, announced recently that the affairs of inBloom will wind down over the next few months. See http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/21/inbloom-student-data-repository-to-close/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=1&. May inBloom quickly wind down and not resurface another name.

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