We should listen to billionaires when they opine about education because:
1) Well, they're billionaires, so they must know what they're talking about.
2) They don't have a direct stake in the outcome, so you can trust them.I often harp on the absurdity of Point #2: even though a plutocrat may not have a direct stake in making public education more like corporate American, their reformy crusades certainly match their ideological predilections. And ancillary benefits like New Markets Tax Credits and union busting are happy little bonuses.
But I don't often talk about Point #1. Watching the implosion of the Common Core is a great example: Bill Gates poured millions into its development and marketing, but it's clear he really didn't understand what he was getting himself into. I don't think anyone, if they are being honest with themselves (and that includes Bill), would think that Gates is any sort of an expert in any field of education.
Why, then, would anyone think it was a good idea to let Gates drive the development of a de facto national curriculum (yes, my reformy friends, that's exactly what the Common Core is -- more this summer)? And why allow his intuitions to set the agenda for teacher evaluation throughout the country? Why is Gates allowed to spend all this dough to support his agenda when he really has no expertise in the field?
I bring all this up because the following story strikes me as yet another example of billionaires who dabble in education, appearing to waste millions on a project that, quite honestly, makes no sense:
OK, stop right there.
It's a little fuzzy the way it's written, but let's suppose we're talking about a total of twenty potential administrators: five who will "shadow" for a year, and another 15 taking courses to become administrators.
Let's suppose these aspiring principals and administrators decide to enroll at Rutgers-New Brunswick's Graduate School of Education (I choose this example because it's where I'm currently working on my PhD). Let's say they all matriculate into the Ed.M. program in Educational Administration, which includes two full semesters of internship within the student's home district -- an entire school year.
The program is 39 credits. With fees, it costs around $2,000 to take a three-credit course at Rutgers GSE. That's about $26,000 for a masters degree in educational administration -- again, with a full year of internship.
For $3 million, Tepper and his partner, Fournier, could send 115 of Jersey City's educators on a full ride to Rutgers. When they completed their study, they would be fully versed in NJ education law, finance, curriculum, instruction, data analysis, and personnel supervision.
But maybe Jersey City aspires to something greater. For about $48K, these teachers could get their doctorates: 62 of them. Every school in JC could be led by a principal with a doctorate, and there would still be 23 guys and gals with those big long robes left to work as assistants and in the central office. And that's just with the $3 million from Tepper and Fournier, not the full $8.9 million cost.
So why start this program? What extra benefit could possibly be derived from all this additional cost? Could it be this SUPES Academy is bringing all kinds of extra reformy value? What's that all about?
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, why waste countless months of study at an accredited university, where you will be taught by the leading scholars in the field and receive state-sanctioned certification and a degree, when you can breeze through a 2-week
Features of the AcademyThe SUPES Academy program will be 12-15 days in duration—with 8 days on-site and up to seven days of monitored independent study and online learning. Every participant will complete a skill assessment as part of the orientation process and will have an individual learning plan to guide their learning. [emphasis mine]
Of course, the folks at SUPES are so super-special-awesome that they don't have to play by the rules. Like, say, basic rules of transparency and professional ethics:
Well, how lovely. And, naturally, completely hidden from the view of the taxpayers or citizens: it's how they roll. But I'm sure SUPES's "faculty" leads by example, holding themselves to the highest possible ethical standards:
"While I stand unequivocally behind the fact that nothing is being done wrong, after re-evaluation, I do believe it is in the Baltimore County Public Schools' best interest for me to not continue in any capacity with the SUPES Academy," he wrote in the email.
I wonder if Dallas Dance will be coaching Jersey City's "next generation of school leaders"?
It's long past time to start speaking bluntly about these things. SUPES -- like Relay GSE and the Broad
All of these so-called "academies" are, frankly, an insult to those of us who enrolled in fully-accedited educator training programs taught and administered by serious scholars, researchers, and practitioners. It is an affront to our work ethic that the people who run these things think the hours we spent in the teaching lab and in practicums and in the library and in lectures are somehow equivalent to a few weekends listening to the reformy preaching of "leaders" and a couple of minutes on the phone with people who have no business training anyone.
But somehow, the SUPES folks managed to pull down a cool $3 mil from a couple of New Jersey hedgehogs -- and another six-large is on the horizon. Tepper and Fournier could have funded scholarships to Rutgers GSE or Montclair State or Jersey City University or Caldwell College or TCNJ or Seton Hall or lord knows how many actual college-based, accredited principal certification programs... but no, they chose SUPES instead.
I could probably construct all sort of complicated theories. Some of them might be actually ring true. But in the end, I think the explanation is rather simple:
These guys have way too much money, and they don't know what to do with it. $3 million for a "leadership" program run by a private company that will "train" a handful of administrators, when far superior and far more extensive training is available at many institutions in New Jersey for far less? Hey, why not? No skin off their noses...
When you have a lot of bucks, it's hard to remember the value of just one.
It ain't easy being rich and reformy...