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Is Your School System Infected by the Broad Academy Virus?

By Sally Absher

If you’ve been following the recent antics of the Knox County School administration and Board of Education, you may have heard the term “Broad Academy.” That’s Broad, as in “road” with a “B” in front of it, NOT broad as in the broad side of a barn.

What, exactly, is the Broad Academy, and why should you care? When public education advocate Diane Ravitch was asked for information on the Broad Superintendent Academy, she wrote in her blog, “In a sense, information is scarce, since it has no printed curriculum, nor any published description of its course of study”

She adds, “It is important to recognize that this “academy” has no accreditation nor standing with any state or federal or private agency. It was invented by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation to train future superintendents about Eli Broad’s theories of management. The Broad Foundation, for example, has encouraged school closings, both to save money and to make way for charter schools.”

You may not know that the Knox County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. James P. McIntyre, is a Broad Academy graduate (Class of 2006).

The KCS Administration also includes two Broad Academy “Residents.”  T.  Nokia Towns serves as the Chief Accountability Officer (formerly Director of Human Capital Strategy), and Ginnae Harley is the Federal Programs Director for KCS. Both were in the 2010-2012 Broad Residency class.

According to broadcenter.org, Broad Academy Residents have a starting annual salary of $90,000-$100,000.

But aside from the dubious credentials of three members of the KCS Administration, how can we determine if our district is infected with the “Broad Virus”?

Thanks to Parents Across America’s April 20, 2011article, (found here: http://parentsacrossamerica.org/how-to-tell-if-your-school-district-is-infected-by-the-broad-virus), you may find some of the following indicators eerily familiar:

Repetition of the phrases “achievement gap” and “closing the achievement gap” in district documents and public statements.

Repeated use of the terms “excellence,” “best practices,” and “data-driven decisions.”

The production of “data” that is false or cherry-picked, and then used to justify reforms.

Power is centralized

Decision-making is top down.

Local autonomy of schools is taken away.

Principals are treated like pawns by the superintendent, relocated, rewarded and punished at will.

Culture of fear of reprisal develops in which teachers, principals, staff, even parents feel afraid to speak up against the policies of the district or the superintendent.

Ballooning of the central office at the same time superintendent makes painful cuts to schools and classrooms.

Sudden increase in number of paid outside consultants.

Increase in the number of public schools turned into privately-run charters.

Teachers are no longer referred to as people, educators, colleagues, staff, or even “human resources,” but as “human capital.”

Teachers are no longer expected to be creative, passionate, inspired, but merely “effective.”

Superintendent lays off teachers for questionable reasons (e.g., Mr. Suttles).

Excessive amounts of testing introduced and imposed on your kids.

The district hires a number of “Broad Residents” at about $90,000 apiece, who are placed in strategically important positions like overseeing the test that is used to evaluate teachers or school report cards.

The Broad Residents in turn provide – or fabricate – data that support the superintendent’s education reform agenda (factual accuracy not required).

Strange data appears that seems to contradict what you know (gut level) to be true about your own district.

There is a strange sense of sabotage going on.

Superintendent behaves as if s/he is beyond reproach.

A rash of Astroturf groups appear claiming to represent “the community” or “parents” and all advocate for the exact same corporate education reforms that your superintendent supports.  Of course, none of these are genuine grassroots community organizations.

The superintendent receives the highest salary ever paid to a superintendent in your town’s history (plus benefits and car allowance) – possibly more than your mayor or governor — and the community is told “that is the national, competitive rate for a city of this size.”

Your school board starts to show signs of Stockholm Syndrome. They vote in lockstep with the superintendent. Apparently lobotomized by periodic “school board retreat” sessions, your school board stops listening to parents and starts to treat them as the enemy.

Grants appear from the Broad and Gates foundations in support of the superintendent, and her/his “Strategic Plan.”

The Gates Foundation gives your district grants for technical things related to STEM and/or teacher “effectiveness” or studies on charter schools.

Local newspaper fails to report on much of this.

Local newspaper never mentions the words “Broad Foundation.”

But don’t despair. Parents Across America points out that there is a cure for the Broad virus. It is a multifaceted process consisting of:

Parents and teachers, share information;

Vote the rubber stamps on your school board out of office;

Boycott or opt out of tests;

Follow the money;

Question the data – especially if it produced by someone affiliated with the Broad or Gates Foundations or their favored consultants (such as the Parthenon Group);

Alert the media again and again (they will ignore you at first); and

Connect and daylight the dots.

Finally, read about what is going on in other cities.There is a striking similarity in the “reigns of terror and error” of Broad graduates. Many Broad superintendents have earned “No Confidence” votes from their district’s teachers, and from parents too. All meted out a top-down dictatorial approach. Most alienated parents. Many closed schools.

A number had questionable audits on their watch. More than one had false or questionable data to support their reforms.

All commanded large salaries with perqs, while at the same time slashing services for kids and closing schools in the name of financial scarcity.

A number of them avoided informing the elected school board of their plans or actively withheld information from them, effectively bypassing democracy.

The good news? Scandal, controversy, animosity followed them all, inevitably out the door.

 

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