Long ago, it was common practice for shepherds to hang a bell around the neck of one sheep in their flock, thereby designating it the lead sheep. This animal was called the bellwether.
~Mirriam Webster Dictionary
Bellwether Education Partners is one of several nonprofits working with school districts around the country to determine how to address the ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act). They recently gave their stamp of approval for Texas to move forward with their plans. They’ve done this for many states. Their reports are often noted in the news. Politico referred to them as “experts.”
In looking at Bellwether’s team, I see individuals who are missing educational degrees and longtime teaching experience in real public schools. Their bios include words like “KIPP, data managers, private school choice, technology-driven innovation, data knowledge sharing, Teach for America, Broad Residency,” and more.
They also call some of the Team members “Principals.” They are principals in that they are leaders at Bellwether, but they are not “school principals.” I think that needs to be clear.
Bellwether is similar to a variety of groups and individuals who proclaim their expertise about children when their real commitment is to corporations and foundations, those who want to remake our public schools into their for-profit vision.
Check out this link which includes a long list of who they work with. The following is just a sample of their real partners:
- Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
- Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice
- K12, Inc.
- Knowledgeworks Foundation
- Summit Public Schools
- Stand for Children
- Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Bellwether reports on everything anti-public education and professional teacher. From evaluating teachers, destroying teacher pensions, to promoting online learning, Bellwether is all about privatization and choice.
Far removed from the classroom, their reports are inadequate and biased. In their review of Texas, they ignore years of scandalous action of denying services to students with disabilities. This omission should have been front and center in their report. Many of us want to hear what Texas is doing to rectify the situation. Bellwether gives little in the way of solutions, but they do support school choice.
Here’s a video from their website where they brag about their team being smart and working well together. Yet, how does Bellwether help the struggling teacher, committed to helping children learn, who faces overcrowded classrooms, in poor schools?
Many smart, successful people do not understand children, and have done crummy things to public schools and teachers. They do this in the name of innovation and reform.
Why should Bellwether and groups like them be permitted to dictate how education policy should be developed?
Our Strategic Advising team members also have experience in top consulting firms including Bain & Company, McKinsey & Company, Deloitte Consulting, and the Boston Consulting Group. Our Policy and Thought Leadership team members have experience in The White House, the U.S. Department of Education, and in state departments of education.
Financials seem to be missing for this group. Who pays them and how much do they receive from corporations and taxpayers?
Also, with groups like Bellwether, what becomes of the role of state workers in education? Bellwether becomes embedded into what should be a democratic process involving educators, parents, and local communities, with guidance and oversight by the state!
Teachers appreciate learning from other teachers, or individuals who study and work with children and their development. They hope for administrators who have been where they have been, in the classroom facing real difficulties and finding good solutions. They appreciate those in other areas who support what they do.
They also rely on parents who know their children best.
Andrew Rotherham is behind Bellwether. Rotherham has his stamp of approval on a lot of groups and programs, but it’s hard to find any real teaching experience for him either. What makes him such an authority on the needs of children? Why is he so anti-public education?
States should rethink who they are listening to when it comes to America’s public schools. They belong to us, the teachers, parents and the local communities who do the heavy lifting when it comes to children and their educational needs.
The Bellwether Team says they try not to take themselves “too seriously.” Well, we shouldn’t either.