Sarah Reckhow, a grad student at UC Berkeley and a Teach For America alum, e-mailed me an idea for the naming contest: How about the Boardroom Progressives? The name comes from Reckhow’s dissertation (getting serious here!), which she excerpted for me:
A new cohort of “Boardroom Progressives”—officers in major national foundations, leaders of education nonprofits, corporate leaders engaged in education, and non-traditional urban superintendents—are leading a charge to reform public education. Much like the Progressives of the early 20th century, the Boardroom Progressive represent elite segments of society. They also share a suspicious view of the role of politics and interest groups, particularly teachers’ unions, in education policy.
Yet the Boardroom Progressives are driven by a new paradigm in public education. A century ago, it was taken for granted that public schools ought to sort students into “appropriate” roles in the industrial economy, from corporate titans to workers on the assembly line. The terrible consequences of this approach, particularly for African American and immigrant children, have been well documented. Today, the public school as sorting machine model has been turned on its head, and the new standard is perfectly spelled out as “No Child Left Behind.” All children can learn, and all children must have an opportunity for an excellent education. To achieve this lofty aim, the Boardroom Progressives have coalesced around an agenda to reform public education focused on accountability and competition. The pursuit of accountability involves close tracking of student achievement on standardized tests by developing new data systems and rewarding those who demonstrate improvement by raising test scores and graduation rates. The pursuit of competition involves opening up public schools to private and nonprofit service providers, increasing public school choice, creating scores of new charter schools, and unleashing a legion of relentless new teachers and principals to remake public schools.