DFER's website says the group was "founded in June of 2007 by a group of Democratic contributors and education reformers who were frustrated that the Democratic Party appeared to be unfairly resistant to positive change in schools. http://www.dfer.org/"
Here is the "positive change" that Gates, Broad, and the impatient "disruptor" profiteers would like to see:
DFER supports Democratic candidates committed to progressive ideas like greater mayoral accountability [mayoral takeover] for schools; adjustments in teacher licensing requirements [make teacher preparation even weaker]; changes to teacher compensation to reward our best educators [bonus pay for test scores]; and a renewed focus on early childhood education (in particular, linking early childhood education with charter schools, which usually do not include Pre-K) [pre-K charter schools based on the scripted chain gang model].Now if the new education reform sounds just like the old educatioin reform, you would be right, of course. More testing, more scripted teaching, more corporate control, erasure of teacher rights--just the kind of change you can believe in. Why else would Spellings be showing Arne around the Office and offering glowing endorsements?
The big announcement will be at the Dodge Renaiisance Academy today around noon. Dodge is one of those turnaround projects that has received at least $2.5 million in tax-credited dollars from the Gates inspired investor funds, so it is exactly the kind of example that makes good political theatre but can hardly be replicated on a national scale--or even a city-wide scale. Without, of course, the kind of federal funding that the Business Roundtable will not support. And the huge gains in test scores at Dodge that Obama will probably get poetic about? Due largely to a change in the test.
Here is part of a piece from Catalyst on the "triumphs" in Chicago Schools by the next Secretary. Scan it and you will see why the charter industry and the Business Roundtable are popping the champagne corks early this year:
School choice and competition
The district’s new schools initiative—Renaissance 2010—has garnered much national attention for Duncan. The idea is to close low-performing schools and replace them with smaller, entrepreneurial schools, many of them free from union contracts and some state regulations.
So far, Duncan has presided over the opening of 75 such schools, 42 of them in areas that have been identified as most in need of better schools. Early on, though, a Catalyst analysis found that of the students who were displaced by school closings, only 2 percent were enrolled the next fall in new Renaissance schools. Nearly half of the displaced students landed at schools that were on academic probation. . . .
Catalyst also found that not all students are making the best choices. Nearly 23 percent of African Americans who opt out of their neighborhood high school go to schools that are not much better. . . .
The effort has caused tension on the labor front, as the bulk of new schools are run by charter or other education management outfits that do not hire union members. Add to that, displaced teachers have no seniority rights on the job hunt, due to state legislation dealing with Chicago schools only.
New on the scene is the district’s turnaround strategy, a response to community uproar over students who were displaced by school closings. Turnarounds, as they are called, allow the children to stay put while the district cleans house among staff, firing teachers and principals wholesale. To date, there are eight such schools, two of them high schools.
Despite the early claims of success, this model is largely untested. Sherman, the first turnaround school is in its 3rd year. Experts predict it will take three to five years to know whether this strategy produces solid academic gains.
Accountability and performance culture
Another hallmark of Duncan’s tenure is bringing business-oriented reformers into the fold, taking cues from Harvard University’s business and education schools. Their input has shaped a data-driven, performance-based culture that rewards well-run schools and their teachers and leaders, and penalizes schools that make no progress.
Star schools and principals have been granted more flexibility and autonomy, and often financial freedom and bonus pay. Teachers in 40 pilot schools can earn bonuses based on how well they teach and their student do. (As important, this modest program offers extra support and training for teachers.)
On the other hand, struggling schools have seen their decision-making powers greatly reduced. Probationary schools, for example, have little say over how they can spend poverty funding, an area otherwise controlled by elected local school councils. LSCs at struggling schools have also lost the right to hire or fire principals—restrictions that have outraged some parent activists. . . .