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The "Big Three" of Education Reform

Joanne Barkan, writing in Dissent, argues that three big nonprofit foundations (the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation), working together, exert a “decisive influence” on public-school education. “Whatever nuances differentiate the motivations of the Big Three, their market-based goals for overhauling public education coincide: choice, competition, deregulation, accountability, and data-based decision-making,” she writes. But, Barkan warns, these market-based reforms are hardly a panacea: “[E]vidence is mounting that the reforms are not working. Stanford University’s 2009 study of charter schools-the most comprehensive ever done-concluded that 83 percent of them perform either worse or no better than traditional public schools; a 2010 Vanderbilt University study showed definitively that merit pay for teachers does not produce higher test scores for students; a National Research Council report confirmed multiple studies that show standardized test scores do not measure student learning adequately. Gates and Broad helped to shape and fund two of the nation’s most extensive and aggressive school reform programs-in Chicago and New York City-but neither has produced credible improvement in student performance after years of experimentation.” (HT: Jason Ward) [%comments]