Thursday, September 24, 2020

Arne Duncan's New Corporate Edu-biz Job

If there's one thing we know about folks in the education disruption biz, it's that they are remarkably adept at finding work no matter how much failure they pack into their CV.

Yes, it's freakin' hilarious.
And so it is with little surprise that we note that Arne Duncan has picked up a new job as the chairman of the board for FullBloom. This comes on top of his job as a partner of the Emerson Collective, Laurene Powell Jobs's--well, we need a new name for something that "uses philanthropy, impact investing, and promoting policy solutions to reimagine some of society's most calcified systems and create new possibilities for individuals, families, and communities."

Here's what CEO Jeffrey Cohen has to say about the momentous acquisition:

“Having a thought leader like Arne help guide our decisions through this time of unprecedented educational disruption is vital as we work to ensure both the safety and engagement of our students,” said CEO Jeffrey Cohen. “We are delighted to welcome Arne to the board. This appointment makes us better as an organization because we know he will hold us to the highest standards when it comes to producing results for the children and clients we serve.”

Yes, Duncan is apparently a thought leader now. Who'd have guessed.

So what is FullBloom? It's a sort of edu-biz conglomerate, a company that has grown through acquisition and merger and well. Okay. Back in 1976, Stephen Freeman founded READS as an "educational service business" for private and religious schools. Then READS was acquired by Sylvan Learning Systems, which then became Sylvan Education Solutions, the parent company of both the learning centers and some other edu-businesses as well, Then Sylvan sold off their K-12 businesses to Apollo Management, which then set up Educate Inc. Then in 2004, Educate Inc renamed the Sylvan Educations Solutions part of the business as Catapult Learning. Catapult was sold to private investors in 2008, and a couple years later started buying up other companies in the ed biz (Literacy First, Nonpublic Education Services, Inc, Newton Alliance, etc) and then in 2015 merged with Specialized Education Services, Inc. 

That merger made the resulting company "the nation's largest provider of contracted instructional services." They brought Jeffrey Cohen in to run it. At some point, that conglomerate acquired Little Leaves Behavioral Services. That business, plus SESI and Catapult, appear to now be the businesses operating under the relatively new FullBloom name, which appears to have been launched in March of 2020.

FullBloom is corporate edu-business at its corporatiest. Here's their vision statement:

Our vision: To innovate, scale, and bring together a continuum of evidence-based, early-intervention academic, behavioral, social and emotional services that positively impact outcomes for children while driving down lifecycle education and healthcare costs.

And they have partnerships, too, like the Institute for Scaling Evidence-Based Education, a "public-private partnership" between Catapult and University of Oregon's Center on Teaching and Learning, which appears to be aimed at marketing a product (Enhanced Core Reading Instruction) that the university created. And they've got a big fat contract with the US Department of Defense Education Activity folks. 

Jeffrey Cohen is still the CEO. He previously ran Sylvan for a while, and before that he worked at Sterling Partners, a private equity firm. He was SVP of Operations at Prometric, a testing company. And before that he served in the Clinton administration, including work at the labor department and as a staff attorney at the Office of the Counsel to the President. He got his BA in Economics at Tufts and his lawyering shingle at the University of Maryland. 

Other leadership is cut from similar cloth. The Human Resources Officer has been working HR in the behavioral health industry. The CFO is probably the coolest guy here-- he was the CEO of the School of Rock. Otherwise, working the private equity circuit. The current head of Catapult was COO of Ashford University, an on-line for-profit college, and prior to that, worked in the test prep biz. The head of SESI used to be their CFO, and has a background in corporate accounting. The head of Little Leaves used to run British Schools of America. 

Long story short--nobody in the leadership team is an educator.

Their business is still based on what Stephen Freeman envisioned in 1976-- all those private and religious schools that need to outsource their actual education, instructional and, now, behavioral work can hire this company. They also work with public school systems that want to "increase the reach of their intervention and remediation services."They're based in Camden, NJ, but they are all over the country.

It seems like a fine job for a former secretary of education who didn't have a lot of faith in public school, though I do wonder if he'll suggest that their intervention and special needs programs be expanded to include his belief that all special needs can be addressed by just expecting harder.

It's one more cushy job for a guy who never really understood public education and never really grasped what he was getting wrong when he held the post. But apparently one of the side benefits of his disastrous tenure in office is that he gets cushy job offers for the rest of his life.

1 comment:

  1. And his ego gets bigger and bigger. It must be nice to be able to "fail up" so much.