By Thomas Ultican / Tultican
The Mind Trust’s CEO Doug Harris and Vice President Ethan Gray were ready to take their Indianapolis school privatization methods on the road. In 2010, Harris and Gray founded CEE-Trust which became Education Cities in 2014. They were selling The Mind Trust’s secret sauce to DPE organizations nationwide.
Today the Education Cities website defines the organization:
“An Education City is an aspiration – a vision for the future where all children can access great public schools. The Education Cities network includes 33 city-based organizations in 25 cities across the country working to improve public education.”
The following graphic was snipped from the Education Cities Site. The blood-red lettering was added. If your city is on this map, there is an active DPE effort using a form of The Mind Trust playbook and it is well financed. A hypertext list of these cities and the organizations is provided at the end of this post.
Doug Harris is on the board at Education Cites and according to tax records, The Mind Trust has provided Education Cities with $1,582,769 in grants over the last three years. However, Ethan Gray is named as the CEO and Founder on the Education Cities official web site.
Gray is a seasoned DPE leader. “Before his role at Education Cities, Ethan served as Vice President of The Mind Trust where he helped develop the ‘Opportunity Schools’ plan for transforming the Indianapolis Public Schools. …
“He is a past member of the Board of Directors for the STRIVE Prep network of charter schools in Colorado, as well as the National Advisory Boards of Families for Excellent Schools, EdFuel, and Innovative Schools in Wilmington, Delaware.”
The Mind Trust Spread Their Wings in 2010
The oldest available Education Cities cyber presence is from February 2011. Its original name was The Cities of Education Entrepreneurship Trust (CEE-Trust). The page stated:
“CEE-Trust is a network of city-based education reform organizations, initiatives, and foundations dedicated to accelerating the growth of entrepreneurial education ventures.
- To help members attract, support, and expand the impact of entrepreneurial education ventures in their cities.
- To facilitate the growth of both established and emerging entrepreneurial education initiatives.
- To increase the number of city-based organizations that support and advocate on behalf of education entrepreneurs.”
“CEE-Trust is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Joyce Foundation. CEE-Trust is also grateful for the past support of the Carnegie Corporation of New York.”
Key Step for Destroying Public Education (DPE)
In 2012, CEE-Trust produced a paper called Kick-Starting Reform. In the forward, Ethan Gray writes:
“The Mind Trust has engaged in this kind of work in Indianapolis since 2006. We launched the CEE-Trust network in 2010 to connect with other, similarly focused city-based education reform organizations.”
“During these conversations, we often hear a similar set of concerns and questions:”
- How can we attract more talent to the education sector in our city?
- How can we get more great charter schools in our city?
- How can we leverage our resources to drive systemic change?
- What would it take to start a CEE-Trust member organization in our city?
“The purpose of this paper is to answer these questions and help leaders in different cities identify the key elements to starting a new city-based education reform organization. We draw from the examples of three nationally noted CEE-Trust member organizations: The Mind Trust in Indianapolis, New Schools for New Orleans, and The Skillman Foundation in Detroit.”
A fair description of the New Orleans experience would be dismal. They fired 7,000 experience black educators and replaced them mostly with untrained TFA candidates. In the process of privatizing New Orleans’ schools, they lost over 10,000 students. Children are busing for hours every day even though there are schools within blocks of their home. Even the vaunted test scores that are manipulated to make public schools look like failures have not improved – no substantive improvement from pre-Katrina days.
Detroit is such a disaster, that they are hoping the formerly disparaged Detroit Public Schools can save the day.
However, “Kick-Starting Reform”, praises these as effective reform efforts and lists the secret formula that makes them wonderful.
All three local DPE organizations agree on three principals. (1) New school leaders are needed and the ready solution is TFA and TNTP or other equivalent groups. (2) Seeding the development of a portfolio of schools is seen as crucial to “success.” (3) The local school board had to be either disbanded, populated with right-minded individuals or put under mayoral control.
Faux Scholarship and Data Deception
Early 2016, Education Cities released a paper called the “Education Equality Index.” On a separate Education equality Index web site, two cohort organizations are identified, Education Cities and Great Schools. The latter is a group that rates schools in America based on testing data. Evidently, Education Cities is providing Great Schools with the data analysis.
When the “Education Quality Index” was originally released, its results were immediately published in DPE friendly media.
JerseyCan, a group working to privatize Camden’s schools posted on their blog, “New Jersey has a massive achievement gap, new index confirms.”
Edsurge published an article called “Low Income and Looking For a Successful School. Study Shows Choices Are Slim.” They claimed,
“The results show that in major cities such as Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles students from low-income communities are performing higher than their more affluent peers. And Texas stands out as a state with several cities that have high-performing students from low-income backgrounds.”
Chalkbeat Colorado headlined their article, “Denver and Aurora achievement gaps among nation’s widest, index finds.” They also stated, “The Education Equality Index, released Tuesday, is billed as a first-of-its-kind comparative measure of achievement gaps on annual assessments in the 100 largest U.S. cities at the school, city and state level.”
Soon even the reliably DPE focused 74 was noting that there seemed to be issues with this non- peer-reviewed paper. The 74 reported,
“Scores were given for each state, based on comparing test scores of low-income students to all students, and states were ranked, but soon a puzzling anomaly was pointed out on social media: States with higher poverty rates scored surprisingly well. In fact, the higher the poverty, the better the equality score.”
“Three researchers consulted by The 74 were generally skeptical that the methodology could be used to contrast schools and cities across different states, but said it could still hold value when looking within a given state.”
The 74 article ended with a classic disclosure statement: “Education Cities, GreatSchools, and The 74 all receive funding from the Walton Family Foundation.”
The six authors of the Equity Quality Index seem compromised by big money. A brief overview of the authors follows.
Betheny Gross: Dr. Gross oversees CRPE’s research initiatives, including analysis of personalized learning initiatives, portfolio management strategies, and charter schools. CRPE is funded by the Gates Foundation.
George Prevelige is from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. His resume does not compare favorably to the other authors. Possibly a line from the paper’s acknowledgments explains his presence: “We would like to thank the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation for their generous support of this project…”
Matt Chingos from the Urban Institute is an executive editor for Education Next (a pro-school privatization publication). He earned a Ph.D. in Government from Harvard University in 2010.
Jake Vigdor, University of Washington; His research has been supported by several foundations including the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. His curriculum vitae shows he earned a Ph.D. in Economics at Harvard University in 1999. He was also a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in 2012.
Doug Lauen, University of North Carolina; “To date, much of my academic research falls into three areas: 1) school and classroom poverty composition, 2) educational accountability, and 3) school choice and charter schools.” His curriculum vitae notes a Ph.D. in Sociology, University of Chicago, 2006.
Bruce Fuller, University of California, Berkeley; Professor of education and public policy. He is director of the Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), an independent policy research center based at UC Berkeley and Stanford University. Following graduate school at Stanford University, Prof. Fuller worked as a research sociologist at the World Bank. He taught comparative policy at Harvard University, before returning to California. Fuller’s work at PACE is funded by:
- The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
- The Dirk and Charlene Kabcenell Foundation
- The James Irvine Foundation
- Silver Giving Foundation
- Stuart Foundation
- The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
- The David and Lucille Packard Foundation
- The Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund
- D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation
- Walter and Elise Haas Fund
- The Walter S. Johnson Foundation
Clearly, all the researchers credited on this paper have a financial stake in advancing concepts like portfolio districts, vouchers and charter schools.
The report’s methodology can be fairly paraphrased as being 100 percent based on standardized testing data. They took state test data and tried to statistically align data between states by using National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data. They also used federal free and reduced lunch data as a proxy for poverty.
The claim is then made that a meaningful comparison of education quality for students living in poverty can be made between all schools across the United States. This comparison is used to create a scale they name the “education equality index.”
This is a fantasy.
The work of the highly praised education scholar, W. James Popham, shows that the starting point is meaningless. As does the work of testing experts like David Berliner and Noel Wilson. Popham wrote a peer-reviewed paper in 1999 he called, “Why Standardized Tests Don’t Measure Educational Quality.” This points to the fundamental weakness of the Bush-Obama education reform policies. The measuring stick was useless.
Or as one of my favorite education bloggers, Peter Green put so eloquently this week,
“The entire reform system, the entire house of policy built by both administrations, is built on the foundation of one single narrowly-focused standardized test, the results of which are supposed to measure student achievement, teacher effectiveness, and school quality. The entire policy structure is held together and activated by data, and that data is being generated by means no more reliable than a gerbil tossing dice onto shag carpet in the dark.”
An Existential Crisis
The lead in a December 2017 Chalkbeat article read, “In 2013, a plan to reshape Kansas City’s schools was essentially run out of town.” Unfortunately, the report continued, “Four years later, a group with a similar policy agenda, some of the same key funders, and whose leaders get advice from the engineers of the first plan, is making inroads.”
Ethan Gray and CEE-Trust with the backing of the Kauffman and Hall foundations, influential Missouri philanthropies, was hired to analyze how state control could turn around the Kansas City, Missouri public schools. This contract seemed out of compliance with contract procedures for state agencies in Missouri. It created a public backlash led by a group called More2 who filed a public records request. The Chalkbeat report continued:
“Emails detail a hidden plan for Kansas City Public Schools,” blared a headline in the Kansas City Star in December 2013, based on information from More2. The paper described “a rushed bidding process, now criticized, that ultimately landed Indianapolis-based CEE-Trust a $385,000 contract to develop a long-range overhaul for the district’s failing schools.”
Gray’s report was released in January 2014. It claimed that the schools were failing and called for the introduction of a portfolio model as a reform. Chalkbeat says, “It also drew substantially from a 2011 blueprint released by the Indianapolis-based Mind Trust, ….”
Local groups including the NAACP and school teachers defeated the plan. Now an indigenous group supported by the Hall and Kaufman foundations named SchoolsmartKC is leading the DPE effort in Kansas City. Gray and Education Cities support in the background.
Chalkbeat says Gray and Education Cities “is not going to be a leading voice like that again.” They quote Gray as saying,
‘“It’s not a role we anticipate playing frequently in the future,’ he said. ‘We don’t want to be out in front of this conversation — we want to be supporting local leaders who are pursuing this kind of work.’
The article continues,
“Gray is now focused on a growing national network of over 30 loosely connected independent nonprofits — some in places like Denver, where the model is already established, and others in cities like Kansas City, where their task is to push for change.”
After Kansas City, CEE-Trust became Education Cities.
Now SchoolsmartKC is The Mind Trust of Missouri and CEE-Trust has reinvented itself. Not everyone in the ‘show me’ state is sold on the new DPE leader. Chalkbeat reported,
“Meanwhile, some remain wary of who is funding SchoolSmart. In addition to local philanthropies, SchoolSmart identifies the Walton Foundation as one of its core investors. Sufi said Hall, Kaufman, and Walton had together made a 10-year funding commitment of over $50 million.”
As I continue researching the various DPE schemes and scams to steal education tax dollars, I am reminded of the words Arnold Toynbee wrote in his A Study of History: “The bread of universal education is no sooner cast upon the waters than a shoal of sharks arises from the depths and devours the children’s bread under the educator’s very eyes.”
If we do not stop the DPE movement, the right to a free public education will perish. We must turn away that “shoal of sharks.”
Current DPE Members of Education Cities
Albuquerque, NM Excellent Schools New Mexico
Atlanta, GA redefinED atlanta
Baton Rouge, LA New Schools for Baton Rouge
Boise, ID Bluum
Chicago, IL New Schools for Chicago
Cincinnati, OH Accelerate Great Schools
Indianapolis, IN The Mind Trust
Kansas City, MO SchoolSmart Kansas City
Las Vegas, NV Opportunity 180
Los Angeles, CA Great Public Schools Now
Memphis, TN Memphis Education Fund
Nashville, TN Project Renaissance
New Orleans, LA New Schools for New Orleans
Philadelphia, PA Philadelphia School Partnership
Phoenix, AZ New Schools for Phoenix
Richmond, CA Chamberlin Family Foundation
Rochester, NY E3 Rochester
San Antonio, TX City Education Partners
San Jose, CA Innovate Public Schools