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Who Is Behind the Assault on Public Schools?

Howard Ryan is an education activist and a former college English instructor. His book Educational Justice: Teaching and Organizing against the Corporate Juggernaut was published by Monthly Review Press in 2016.

Over the past three decades, public schools have been the target of a systematic assault and takeover by corporations and private foundations. The endeavor is called “school reform” by its advocates, while critics call it corporate school reform. Finnish educator Pasi Sahlberg has given it the vivid acronym GERM—the global education reform movement. Its basic features are familiar: high-stakes testing; standardized curricula; privatization; and deskilled, high-turnover faculty. In the United States, public schools have become increasingly segregated, destabilized, and defunded, with the hardest hit in low-income communities of color.

Nevertheless, while the political conflicts and social ramifications of the school reform phenomenon are well known, basic questions about the movement remain underexamined. Who really leads it? What are their aims and motives? After briefly taking up the statements of the reformers themselves, I will turn to the views of their progressive opponents, and offer a critique of three influential interpretations of the school reform movement. Finally, I will present my own theory about this movement, its drivers, and its underlying aims.

What the Corporate Reformers Say

The school reform movement presents itself as a collaboration among grassroots groups, business leaders, and private donors, united in an effort to improve education, foster a better economy, and help poor children escape poverty. Their goal is to “prepare America’s children for success in college and careers” (Barack Obama), “give low-income and minority students a world-class education” (Bill Gates), and help Americans “maintain our standard of living” (Eli Broad).1

For these reformers, high-stakes testing and teacher “accountability” are the defining metrics of success. George Shultz and Eric Hanushek of the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford claim that if U.S. students raised their scores on the major international mathematics test by forty points over the next twenty years, the country could expect $70 trillion rise in GDP over the next eighty years. “That’s equivalent to an average 20% boost in income for every U.S. worker each year over his or her entire career.”2

A large body of research, however, challenges the merits of high-stakes testing and other elements of the corporate school reform package.3 It is also at least questionable whether the reformers really believe their own statements.

The reformers’ interest in school improvement appears, in a number of ways, to be less than genuine, to mask a different agenda. They prescribe models for mass education that they do not consider suitable for their own children.4 They sponsor think tanks to produce “junk research” praising their models, while ignoring studies that contradict their models.5 They insist that full resourcing of schools is unimportant or unrealistic, and that “great teachers” will succeed regardless of school conditions, class size, or professional training.

Progressive Interpretations

Critics on the left have done much to expose the hoax character of the school reform movement: documenting the destructive impact of school closures and privatization; showing how publishers, testing and technology companies, and real estate investors use the reforms to expand the “education market” and extract profits.6 Yet for all their rigor, these progressive explanations leave many gaps. I will examine three progressive positions here—one focused on edu-profits, another on neoliberal ideology, and a third on racism and white supremacy.

The most familiar of these narratives depicts corporate reform as a scheme or plot to turn schooling into one more source of private profit. One commentator describes the charter school phenomenon as the work of “cutthroat businesspeople making shrewd financial investments” and wealthy CEOs “getting rich off of schoolchildren.”7 In a similar vein, others argue that with the U.S. empire losing ground to global competitors, ruling elites have “opened a fire sale” on the public sector, including schools: “We may be witnessing the cannibalization of our children’s future as their public assets are being sold to private sector bidders.”8

This “edu-profits” thesis certainly explains why education and technology companies would rally behind reform. But it cannot account for the pro-reform enthusiasm of non-education companies, such as Boeing or Exxon Mobil, who, along with many other major corporations, support the Common Core, the national English and math standards devised by reformers.9 Also important has been the role of philanthropies such as the Doris and Donald Fisher Fund, which has given more than $60 million to the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) charter chain, $37 million to the Charter School Growth Fund, and over $12 million to the pro-reform teacher recruitment agency Teach for America.10 While such mega-donors enjoy outsize political access and influence, it does not appear that the Fishers—founders of the Gap clothing stores—had any profit-driven plan to “cash in” from their charity.

Another interpretation sees reform as primarily an expression of neoliberal ideology. Rich corporate donors “are motivated by neoliberal political and economic ideology that favors marketing virtually all aspects of public life,” theorizes a coeditor of a recent book on corporate reform. “These people believe that public education is bad, and in fact the whole public sector is bad, and it needs to be privatized and marketized in order to save it.”11

This analysis seems to address school reform philanthropists such as Bill Gates, who has declared that “we can make market forces work better for the poor if we can develop a more creative capitalism,” or Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s education secretary, whose family has deep ties to the Christian right. But a focus on ideology overlooks the many reformers whose motivation is primarily financial. Also, the nature of the reform movement—its urgent and deliberate character; the powerful consensus it has built in elite circles and major political parties in country after country—suggests a driving agenda stronger than ideology alone.

In still another reading, school reform is understood as first and foremost a project to protect and advance white supremacy. Such a thesis, forwarded in a recent anthology, What’s Race Got to Do with It?, is a compelling one in the United States, where communities of color have been particular targets of the corporate assault on schools. The book’s contributors persuasively document the many ways that the school reform movement has deepened racial segregation and inequality, and helped to roll back the gains of the civil rights movement.

Yet the book’s “integrated racial and economic framework,” as presented in the editors’ introduction, never clearly identifies who is behind the school reform movement. When the authors describe “market-based” school reform as a system “set up” by whites, without mentioning corporations, philanthropists, or politicians, they risk reifying “whiteness” itself as a structuring social force that lacks identifiable agents or interests.12 Similarly, while the authors’ definition of white supremacy as “the way in which our society was founded and remains organized so that white people are at the top of the hierarchy of power” expresses a basic truth, it misses the class dimensions of power.13 Whites, as a group, do reap educational and other privileges relative to people of color.14 At the same time, most whites are far from “the top of the hierarchy of power” in a deeply stratified class society ruled by corporate elites.

Gary Howard makes a similar omission in his book We Can’t Teach What We Don’t Know: White Teachers, Multiracial Schools. Howard writes that school reform has been “essentially a white phenomenon” and that “centuries of white dominance have shaped social reality in ways that favor the privileged position and continuing power of white people.”15 Both Howard and the editors of What’s Race Got to Do with It? acknowledge the influence of corporate interests in school reform. Perhaps the authors believe that the CEOs and billionaire school reformers are out to advance white interests as much as—or more than—their corporate and class interests. But such a connection is never made. Demonstrating school reform’s wide racist impact, as these authors do well, does not tell us who is running the show, or toward what ends.

Drivers and Sectors

While corporate reform’s progressive critics have broadly documented the harmful effects of reform and its impact on students and teachers, they have yet to develop a satisfactory analysis of the forces behind the reform movement. My approach begins with some classifications, to help define the movement’s complex terrain. The movement’s drivers are its major funders, along with key institutions they control. Its implementers are the politicians, think tank directors, school superintendents, and others who carry out the drivers’ wishes and may also provide them with strategic advice. The implementers are the less consequential of the two, since their role in reform typically depends on the decisions and preferences of the drivers.

Next, these drivers can be sorted into three sectors. First, the organized business sector consists of business federations such as the Business Roundtable, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Confederation of British Industry, and BusinessEurope. It also includes quasi-governmental agencies that operate, in effect, as arms of business and lead corporate school reform on a global scale; key among these are the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the World Bank. A second sector, edubusiness, encompasses large companies and investors with a direct financial stake in corporate reform; among these are publishing and testing companies, technology firms, and real estate and banking interests that feed off charter school expansion. A third group, the philanthropic sector, consists primarily of foundations, led in the United States by the “big three” organizations of Bill Gates, the real estate and insurance magnate Eli Broad, and the Walton family, owners of Walmart.

School reform serves distinct aims for each of these sectors. For edubusiness, the goal is school-related profits. For organized business, the primary aim is to bolster corporate hegemony through education. For philanthropists, the chief aim is to help realize a neoliberal, market-based world vision. Philanthropic goals will vary individually, however: the Dell and Hewlett foundations may be motivated more by an edubusiness agenda—such as boosting computer sales in schools—than an ideological one.

Is one of these sectors more powerful than the others? The answer depends, in part, on the scope of inquiry. Looking only at the United States over the past decade might suggest that the philanthropic sector prevails. Bill Gates, who entered the reform scene in 2003 with his small-schools initiative in New York City, and who today is lead funder and promoter of the Common Core, would seem to be the leading figure. If, however, we take a more global and historical view, as I will attempt below, then much evidence points to organized business as the central player in the reform movement.

Organized Business: The Pivotal Sector

In tracing the origins of school reform, historians often cite the 1983 report A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform, commissioned by the Reagan administration. The report attributed the United States’ faltering global economic competitiveness to mediocre teachers and schools, and recommended that schools and colleges “adopt more rigorous and measurable standards.” I suggest instead that the school reform movement grew out of events a decade earlier, as part of a broader reassertion of corporate power initiated by major corporations in the United States and that would later spread globally. What one writer calls the “revolt of the bosses” came in response to two developments: first, falling rates of profit, as Japan and West Germany came to challenge U.S. dominance in global markets from the mid-1960s on, and second, the threat of democratic and anti-capitalist movements springing up around the world in the sixties and into the early seventies.16

The bosses’ revolt was outlined in an August 1971 memo sent by corporate lawyer Lewis Powell to a friend at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Powell, who would soon be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, warned that the attack on the “American free enterprise system” is “gaining momentum and converts.” He singled out leftist college professors and especially consumer advocate Ralph Nader, who had become “a legend in his own time and an idol of millions” and, in the words of Fortune magazine, “aimed at smashing utterly the target of his hatred, which is corporate power.” Powell’s remedy was clear and urgent: “Independent and uncoordinated activity by individual corporations, as important as this is, will not be sufficient. Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort.”17

Business leaders answered Powell’s call. In 1972, the heads of General Electric and the aluminum manufacturer Alcoa spearheaded the formation of the Business Roundtable (BRT), an organization of two hundred big-company CEOs that collaborates with the Chamber of Commerce, but with a more aggressive posture. The following years saw the formation of new right-wing think tanks such as the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Heritage Foundation, along with battalions of corporate political action committees and lobby groups. By the end of Reagan’s first term, the corporate-conservative movement was setting the terms of national politics, promoting deregulation, regressive tax reforms, and steep cuts to social provision. This, combined with new savings on labor costs, whether through union-busting, technological advances, or offshoring of jobs, all helped the richest Americans amass wealth with a speed and rapacity not seen since the Gilded Age.

The bosses’ revolt was accompanied by a global shift in economic philosophy. The long-dominant Keynesian model, which in its progressive versions emphasized full employment and a strong welfare state, fell to the free-market utopias of Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek. But as Marxist geographer David Harvey noted in a recent interview, neoliberalism was less a philosophical project than “a political project carried out by the corporate capitalist class.” He elaborates: “I don’t think they started out by reading Hayek or anything. I think they just intuitively said, ‘We gotta crush labor, how do we do it?’ And they found that there was a legitimizing theory out there which would support that.”18

School reform was perfectly suited to this political effort. Some firms would feed off newly energized education markets. Less visibly but more importantly, corporate interests could secure a firm grip on classroom instruction: with young people trained in habits of subordination and compliance—following instructions, answering dull questions on their worksheets—there would be less resistance to corporate initiatives and prerogatives in all fields. In the wake of A Nation at Risk, states began adopting high school exit exams and other standardized tests, whose political significance was recognized early on by New York educator Ira Shor: “In the 1960s, masses of people confronted the system together. Now, the system was confronting you, alone.”19 In language arts, a promising movement of “whole language” teachers, who shifted power to their students in reading and writing workshops, came to fore in the eighties, only to be beaten back in the following decade by a coalition of conservatives and textbook publishers touting “systematic phonics” and scripted reading programs.20 Teachers committed to incorporating multicultural and social-justice perspectives into their curricula found less space or support for such innovations, as school districts increasingly demanded test-prep instruction.21 Today, the corporate curriculum is epitomized by the KIPP charter schools’ widely emulated “no excuses” model, which imposes a militaristic discipline—”sit up,” “nod,” “track the speaker with your eyes.” Obedient students are rewarded with privileges and “scholar dollars,” while students who break the rules face demerits, humiliations such as facing the wall, and, in many cases, suspension or expulsion.22

The Business Roundtable

Organized business first took visible control of the school reform movement in 1989, when the CEOs of the BRT launched a ten-year national campaign to lobby every state to commit to standards, and to administer tests aligned with the standards. Each CEO took responsibility for one or more states to promote the cause. In a 2002 dissertation, Kathy Emery describes the group’s work in Maryland:

The Maryland BRT surveyed candidates during election years and testified in state legislatures. They also reviewed the state test in order to correlate student ability on it to the ability to perform well in the workplace. When MBRT sponsored focus groups of parents, teachers, and principals and discovered widespread concern about the tests, MBRT had the state delay the introduction of the new exams and then used funds from the Anne Casey Foundation to create a 45-member speakers bureau to begin to change the public opposition to the test.23

In Washington State, Emery continues, the BRT pushed education reform through Partners for Leadership in Education, funded by Boeing, Microsoft, Washington Mutual Bank, and the timber company Weyerhaeuser. One BRT initiative in Washington, a push to revise the state’s reading standards, suggests how the organization geared curriculum toward the subordination of working-class students. The state’s original policy held that “the student reads to construct meaning from a variety of texts for a variety of purposes.” After the BRT’s intervention, this was changed to read: “The student understands the meaning of what is read.” By omitting the phrase “construct meaning,” the revised standard uses “clearer language” and avoids “education jargon,” explained the BRT’s Business Leader’s Guide to Setting Academic Standards.24 Yet the children of BRT members have wide access to pedagogies that invite them to “construct meaning.” As a statement by the elite University of Chicago Laboratory Schools explains to kindergarten parents: “Our program builds on young children’s curiosity and enthusiasm and is based on the understanding that young children learn best when they can construct meaning in a context-rich environment.”25 Under corporate schooling, public school students do not enjoy the same privilege, are not asked to make their own interpretations and discoveries, but instead are told that there is only one “correct” interpretation of a text, to be found and marked on their worksheet. Such a narrow curriculum conveys the lesson to working-class students that they are not empowered, do not have a say about the meaning of things, and that the written word represents an authority to which they are subordinate. Today, the BRT-backed Common Core carries the same message: its concept of “close reading” requires students to focus on “what lies within the four corners of the text,” and to avoid connecting the text to oneself, or to the world at large.26

In 1999, then-State Farm Insurance CEO Edward Rust assessed the progress of the BRT’s education campaign in an internal report. In the state of Washington, he noted, then-Boeing CEO Frank Shrontz “worked with Governor Booth Gardner to draft comprehensive reform legislation that passed in 1993.” In Kentucky, the CEOs of United Parcel Service, oil refiner Ashland, and health insurance giant Humana each “personally intervened to save school-improvement legislation.”27 The BRT worked closely with the National Governors Association, a collaboration that included several national education summits and the founding of a think tank, Achieve, that would later lead development of the Common Core.28 By 2002, when the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) enshrined a testing regime into federal law—along with sanctions and closures of “failing” public schools, and handovers to charters and private contractors—the BRT had effectively prepared the political ground. Moreover, the BRT, together with the Chamber of Commerce, spearheaded a network of fifty business groups and individual companies that helped shape and pass NCLB. “The coalition worked hard to ensure that the law’s testing requirements focused on reading and mathematics and required annual snapshots of students’ performance,” according to Education Week.29

Today, the BRT still maintains an Education and Workforce Committee, headed by Northrup Grumman CEO Wes Bush, now focused on promoting the Common Core. But over the past decade, the reform movement’s center of gravity has shifted from the BRT to edu-philanthropists and edubusiness. The reasons for the BRT’s diminished profile are clear enough: with the passage of NCLB, its goal of aligning national education policy behind standards and tests was largely achieved. With the shift toward private management of public schools productively underway, the organization turned to other priorities. Moreover, when businesses are too visibly at the head of reform initiatives, such campaigns risk being seen—quite rightly—as business takeovers of education. By contrast, the philanthropists and their foundations can pose more effectively as selfless benefactors and guardians of the public interest.


On a global scale, no organization has been more influential in promoting corporate school reform than the Paris-based OECD.30 However, while the OECD’s policies are generally geared toward its thirty-four member countries, comprising the advanced capitalist economies of the global North, the agency’s influence has also begun to spread southward: the OECD consulted closely with Mexico on its recent education reforms, provoking fierce resistance from teachers.31

The member-funded OECD is one of the world’s largest think tanks, with 2,500 employees.32 Its top contributor is the United States, which supplied 21 percent of the agency’s 2014 central budget. Established in 1961 with a broad mission to promote economic and social well-being, the OECD has developed a high profile on education issues over the past two decades. Its most influential initiative is the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), a triennial math, science, and reading test for fifteen-year-olds, in which over seventy countries now participate. First administered in 2000, PISA promptly became the world’s gold standard for measuring and ranking national school systems. But the OECD does more than test students and rank countries: it also produces education policy papers and recommends reforms to help individual countries improve their PISA scores. The OECD’s educational prescriptions accord with the U.S. corporate reform model: promoting standards, testing, and privatization, with a notable emphasis on “competencies” designed to meet the demands of the “21st century job market.”

PISA serves, in effect, as a global marketing tool for corporate education policy. A 2006–07 Education International survey of teachers’ unions showed that many countries have reoriented their education systems toward reform after receiving unhappy PISA results. In Germany, which was gripped by “PISA shock” after a disappointing ranking in 2000, instituted a new regime of national standards and “testing testing testing.” Irish respondents to the survey affirmed that PISA “has been and still is a catalyst for change in favor of more testing and evaluation.” In Australia, a government report on The Future of Schooling made “considerable use of the PISA data” to show a “long tail of underachievement.” The document became the basis for setting national goals shaped by “testing accountability regimes.”33

Beyond education, the OECD’s economic perspective is squarely neoliberal and consistent with the aims of the organized business sector, as the agency’s 2006 “jobs strategy” document illustrates. The document favors unrestricted global flows of capital and investment; privatization and deregulation; dismantling worker protections against layoffs; keeping a lid on minimum wage protections; and curbing unemployment, welfare, and retirement benefits.34 While the OECD assumes a public posture of class neutrality, political economist Richard Woodward describes the OECD’s annual forum as a business-sponsored affair where “speakers representing pro-capitalist, corporate interests” outnumber those from “more socially or charitably orientated organizations,” and where “choirs of neo-liberal prophets congregate to eulogize about the benefits of capitalist globalization.”35

One way that corporations exercise a voice in OECD is through its Business and Industry Advisory Council, made up of business federations from each of the OECD member countries. The agency’s governance, however, is overseen by a council to which each country appoints a representative. In that sense, the processes by which corporate interests direct or influence the agency are complex, and must be traced through member governments.

The school reform leadership of the organized business sector is linked here to an overarching project of corporate hegemony. While admittedly speculative, this reading is based on observable patterns of discourse and policy, institutional alliances, and channels of influence. Only rarely do we encounter bald statements like Lewis Powell’s, with direct calls to organize corporate power against its opponents. Most of the evidence instead appears in a certain juxtaposition and correlation of policies: corporate school reform initiatives have so often coincided with a larger neoliberal program that the two can only be understood together. In addition to the OECD efforts outlined above, groups like the BRT also work to support free trade, corporate tax reduction, and the rolling back of environmental and labor protections, as detailed in its “Growth Agenda.”36 A similar pattern is visible at the state level in the corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council, which fuses corporate school reform with a broad conservative political agenda.

While the BRT and OECD appear to pursue school reform with a view toward securing neoliberal objectives on a national and global scale, another segment of the organized business sector is constituted locally, with somewhat different priorities. A major example is the Commercial Club of Chicago, where the city’s business elite has led an aggressive school privatization campaign, beginning in 2004 with its Renaissance 2010 initiative. As University of Illinois-Chicago professor Pauline Lipman argues, the club’s primary aim derives from the enormous real estate profits promised by gentrification. The Chicago model dismantles public schools and public housing in mostly low-income black and Latino neighborhoods, then promotes new housing and charter schools to attract whiter and more affluent populations—all surrounding a downtown envisioned as a world-class corporate and tourist center.37 Variations of this model can be found in New Orleans, Philadelphia, and elsewhere.38 The example of the Commercial Club, whose aims are more consistent with those of edubusiness, does not detract from the curricular priorities that appear to be primary for business interests, but it does add another texture.

Implications for Organizers

In my analysis, school reform is led by organized coalitions of major corporations, who seek a curriculum suited to their own economic and political hegemony. These hegemonists work in close alliance with edubusiness, along with a cohort of philanthropic market missionaries. What is the value of such an interpretation for the educational justice movement?

I believe that this analysis improves on previous interpretations by accounting for the leading forces of reform who are not out merely to “get rich” off schools, but have other objectives. Second, this reading may encourage us to think more strategically about the classroom as a site for challenging corporate hegemony. The demands for an education that is democratic, critical, multicultural, and multilingual belong at the center of a broad public education movement. Such curricular priorities become even more trenchant today as Trump and DeVos take steps to suppress civil rights and to promote conservative-Christian teaching in our schools. Finally, if the takeover of education is a class-based corporate project, integrally linked to the imperatives of neoliberal capitalism, then such an approach underscores the sheer scope of the task facing an educational justice movement. If it is to succeed at all, education organizing can and must connect the fight to defend public schools with broader agendas for social justice.


  1. White House Office of the Press Secretary, “President Obama Calls for New Steps to Prepare America’s Children for Success in College and Careers,” news release, February 22, 2010,; Bill Gates, prepared remarks at the National Conference of State Legislatures, July 21, 2009,; Eli Broad, statement at Senator Barack Obama American Competitiveness Summit, Pittsburgh, June 26, 2008.
  2. George P. Shultz and Eric A. Hanushek, “Education Is the Key to a Healthy Economy,” Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2012.
  3. See Paul C. Gorski and Kristien Zenkov, eds., The Big Lies of School Reform (New York: Routledge, 2014); William J. Mathis and Tina M. Trujillo, Learning from the Federal Market-Based Reforms (Charlotte, NC: Information Age, 2016); as well as the website of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC),
  4. President Obama’s own two daughters attended the elite Laboratory Schools at the University of Chicago, and later the Quaker-run Sidwell Friends school in Maryland. Both emphasize a “constructivist” curriculum, wherein students learn academic skills and make sense of the world by pursuing their own curiosities and interests, free of scripted instruction or high-stakes testing (Valerie Strauss, “The Irony behind Obama’s Sidwell/D.C. Schools Remarks,” Washington Post Answer Sheet blog, September 28, 2010).
  5. For critiques of the education research issued by the reformer-backed think tanks, see the NEPC’s “Think Twice Think Tank Reviews” at See also Kevin G. Welner, Patricia H. Hinchey, and Alex Molnar, eds., Think Tank Research Quality (Charlotte, NC: Information Age, 2010).
  6. Diane Ravitch, Reign of Error (New York: Knopf, 2013); Pauline Lipman, The New Political Economy of Urban Education (New York: Routledge, 2011); Bree Picower and Edwin Mayorga, eds., What’s Race Got to Do with It? (New York: Peter Lang, 2015).
  7. David Sirota, “Getting Rich Off of Schoolchildren,” Salon, March 11, 2013,
  8. Michelle Fine and Michael Fabricant, The Changing Politics of Education (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2013), 27.
  9. See the contributors’ list for Achieve, the main Common Core think tank, at
  10. For KIPP, see Lily Bethlehem, “Doris and Donald Fisher Fund Gives $60 Million to Charter Schools,” Jewish Business News, January 20, 2015, For the Charter School Growth Fund, I consulted the Growth Fund’s IRS Forms 990-PF for 2004–13. For Teach for America: Ken Libby, “Doris and Donald Fisher Education Giving, 2003–2011,” NEPC blog, July 5, 2012,, plus the Fisher Fund’s IRS Form 990-PF for 2012.
  11. Elizabeth Bloom, “Introduction: Forewarned Is Forearmed,” in Kjersti VanSlyke-Briggs, Elizabeth Bloom, and Danielle Boudet, eds., Resisting Reform (Charlotte, NC: Information Age, 2015), 7.
  12. Picower and Mayorga, What’s Race Got to Do With It?, 8.
  13. Picower and Mayorga, What’s Race Got to Do With It?, 6.
  14. For extensive evidence, see Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Racism without Racists, 4th ed. (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2014).
  15. Gary R. Howard, We Can’t Teach What We Don’t Know, 3rd ed. (New York: Teachers College, 2016), 123, 122.
  16. Ted Nace, Gangs of America (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2003), 137–52; Robert Brenner, The Economics of Global Turbulence (New York: Verso, 2006).
  17. Lewis F. Powell, “Attack on American Free Enterprise System,” August 23, 1971,
  18. David Harvey, “Neoliberalism Is a Political Project,” Jacobin, July 23, 2016.
  19. Ira Shor, Culture Wars (New York: Routledge, 1986), 89.
  20. See Debra Goodman, “Critical Literacy, Democratic Schools, and the Whole Language Movement,” in Howard Ryan, Educational Justice (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2016), 156–85.
  21. See Jane Agee, “Negotiating a Teaching Identity: An African American Teacher’s Struggle to Teach in Test-Driven Contexts,” Teachers College Record 106, no. 4 (2004): 747–74.
  22. See Jim Horn, Work Hard, Be Hard (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2016).
  23. Kathy Emery, “The Business Roundtable and Systemic Reform: How Corporate-Engineered High-Stakes Testing Has Eliminated Community Participation in Developing Educational Goals and Policies,” PhD diss. University of California at Davis, 2002, 50, available at
  24. Business Roundtable, Business Leader’s Guide to Setting Academic Standards (Washington, D.C.: BRT, 1996), 22; available at
  25. University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, Kindergarten Program of Study 2013–2014 (Chicago: Laboratory Schools, 2013), 10; retrieved from
  26. See Daniel E. Ferguson, “Martin Luther King Jr. and the Common Core: A Critical Reading of ‘Close Reading,'” Rethinking Schools 28, no. 2 (2013–14): 18–21.
  27. Edward Rust, No Turning Back (Washington, D.C.: Business Roundtable, 1999), quoted in Emery, “The Business Roundtable and Systemic Reform,” 48.
  28. Several of these national summits are documented in “Summits,” Achieve,
  29. David J. Hoff, “Big Business Going to Bat for NCLB,” Education Week, October 18, 2006,
  30. See Steven J. Klees, Joel Samoff, and Nelly P. Stromquist, eds., The World Bank and Education (Rotterdam, Netherlands: Sense, 2012). For a broader outlook on the World Bank and similar agencies, see Richard Peet, Unholy Trinity, 2nd ed. (New York: Zed, 2009).
  31. See OECD, Improving Schools (Paris: OECD, 2010); Jane Slaughter, “Mexican Teachers Resist Their Own Brand of ‘Education Reform,’Labor Notes, February 17, 2015,
  32. Richard Woodward, “The OECD: More than Just a Think Tank,” Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute, May 27, 2014,
  33. Laura Figazzolo, Testing, Ranking, Reforming (Brussels: Education International, 2009), 14–16.
  34. OECD, Boosting Jobs and Incomes (Paris: OECD, 2006), 21–22,
  35. Richard Woodward, “Towards Complex Multilateralism? Civil Society and the OECD,” in Rianne Mahon and Stephen McBride, eds., The OECD and Transnational Governance (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2009), 91, 94.
  36. Business Roundtable’s Growth Agenda,” Business Roundtable,
  37. Lipman, New Political Economy of Urban Education; Pauline Lipman, “Making Sense of Renaissance 2010 School Policy in Chicago,” Great Cities Institute working paper, January 2009,
  38. For New Orleans, see Kristen L. Buras, Charter Schools, Race, and Urban Space (New York: Routledge, 2015); for Philadelphia, see Maia Bloomfield Cucchiara, Marketing Schools, Marketing Cities (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013). For further examples, see Doug Martin, “Warren Buffett and Corporate School Reformers to Gentrify/Charterize Indianapolis and Other Cities,” Shadowproof, September 19, 2011,
2017, Volume 68, Issue 11 (April 2017)
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