Thursday, September 4, 2014

What Is The Broad Academy?

If you're going to truly appreciate the news from the Broad Academy of Made Up Superintendent Qualifications, you need to know a bit about the Academy. For those who need a refresher, here you go.

Whence Came This Academy, Pray Tell

You see one of the things that any ordinary teachers can learn from the Broad (rhymes with "toad") Academy is that you can do anything if you have enough money if you put your mind to it. Actually, that might be the only thing that an ordinary teacher can learn from the Academy, because ordinary teachers won't be attending the Academy any time soon.

Give Eli Broad credit-- his personal story is not about being born into privilege. Working class parents. Public school. Working his way through college. Been married to the same woman for sixty years. Borrowed money from his in-laws for his first venture-- building little boxes made of ticky tacky. Read this story about how he used business success and big brass balls to make himself a major player in LA.He's a scrapper; Broad calls himself a "sore winner."

The Broad Foundation is one the Big Three (Walton and Gates) in what we call Venture Philanthropy, which is far different from the traditional kind. Carnegie Rockfeller bestowed money on people who they believed were doing Good Work. Venture philanthropists decide how they want to change the country, and they hire people to make it happen. The Broad reach is wide; this article gives a taste of the cornucopia of reformster talent that has occupied the board.

And so in 2002, Broad launched the "Superintendent's Academy" through which he hoped to further the foundation's goal of transforming America's urban school systems.

But Broad does not believe that schools have an education problem; he believes they have a management problem. School leadership does not need an infusion of educational leadership-- they need business guys, leadership guys. And so Broad launched the Superintendent's Academy by ignoring completely the usual requirements for Superintendent certification or program accreditation. The Board Superintendent Academy exists by its own force of will. It's kind of awesome-- there is no external governing or certifying board of any sort declaring that the Broad Superintendent's Academy is a legitimate thing, and yet, it exists and thrives.

I myself plan to soon open the Curmudgucation Academy of Brain Surgery, or maybe a School Of  Fine Art Production. I have everything I need to make these highly successful, with the possible exception of enough power and money to get people to listen to me whether I know what the hell I'm talking about or not.

But Does It Work?

Well, the Academy boasts many top tier graduates.The indispensable blog The Broad Report offers a full listing of the superintendents who have emerged from this pipeline. It includes such educational heavyweights as  Randolph Ward (brought in by Broad Buddy Jerry Brown and trashed Oakland Schools), Jean-Claude Brizard (received near-unanimous no confidence vote from teachers in Rochester schools), John Q. Porter (suspended after seven months Oklahoma City schools for financial misbehavior),  Deborah A. Gist (RI ed commissioner who headed mass firings and hiring of more Broad superintendents), Christopher Cerf (in charge of blowing up NJ schools), and the always-newsworthy John Deasy (resigned in disgrace from Prince Georges but landed in LA schools boss spot with his way paved by Broad Buddy Mayor Villaraigosa). And that's just to name a few.

Like TFA products, Broad Academy grads like to bring in fellow alumni. Their success rate is not super, but then that depends on how you score success.

Broad Wrote the Book on Blowing Up Schools

Not even kidding. The Broad Foundation actually created a manual for how to get schools closed in order to trim budgets while also managing public upheaval. Short version is
        1) Starve school by shutting off resources
        2) Declare that schools is failing (Try to look shocked/surprised)
        3) Close school, shunt students to charterland

In Their Defense

The notion that good managers don't need to know jack about the businesses they're managing isn't unique. It's all over the business world, and probably qualifies as one of the Reasons American Business Is Messed Up.

Actually, that's all I've got. The Broad Foundation's activity is kind of amazing in its brazenness, and other than it being a literal embodiment of the idea of running schools like a business, there's nothing much to say about it. The products of the Academy are routinely disruptive and make all the sorts of mistakes one would expect from amateurs trying to run school systems.


  1. For a detailed history of Eli Broad and his foundation see:

    Who is Eli Broad and why is he trying to destroy public education?

  2. Great job airing Broad's dirty laundry, but don't be fooled into thinking that using foundations to mess with society is a new trick. Excellent historical coverage of the use of foundation money in social conflict has been provided by Bill Domhoff. For example, see the role of nonprofits in American social conflict and local coalition theory, including a historical analysis of Rockefeller influence undermining democracy at the local level.

  3. All the controversy surrounding Broad yet school boards continue to hire these people. Are they being paid to do so?