Monday, May 6, 2013

Who is the Broad Foundation and Why Do We in Ann Arbor Care?

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation (rhymes with road) is a foundation that makes grants and is devoted to education, contemporary art, medical research and civic projects in Los Angeles.
By Dj1997 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0
(], via Wikimedia Commons
If the name sounds familiar, it might be because the new Michigan State University Art Museum is named after the Broads, who were major donors.  Eli Broad is an MSU alum and the Broads made a $28 million dollar gift to the museum (which I am hoping to visit this year). The museum was designed by architect Zaha Hadid, and it looks spectacular. That's the nicest thing that I will say about the Broad Foundation in this post.

Until recently, I had no idea who or what the Broad Foundation was. I had seen on Pat Green's resume that she had been through Broad superintendent training. It's not something she hides; in fact she is quite proud of the fact that she was part of the first class of Broad Fellows and features that on her web site--but I didn't think at the time that the training meant anything in particular.

Now I know better.

The Broad Foundation is part of a group of foundations (include the Walton Foundation and the Gates Foundation) that are part of the so-called "education reform" movement--a thinly veiled movement to destroy public education. The Broad Foundation describes its mission as "“transforming urban K-12 public education through better governance, management, labor relations and competition,” and that sounds good, but in practice it is not.

In education, the Broad Foundation is most notably known for the Broad Superintendents Academy--an alternative certification route to becoming a school superintendent. You don't need to start with a background in education to enter it.

To understand their reach, you have to read these statistics, courtesy of the Broad Center:
  • Forty-one academy graduates serve as school district superintendents, four as state superintendents, four as chief executive officers of charter management organizations and 12 as school district cabinet executives.
  • Ten urban school districts have hired more than one superintendent that has graduated from The Broad Superintendents Academy.
  • Ten percent of states have selected Broad Academy graduates to lead their state departments of education.
  • Across more than 50 urban school systems, 107 superintendent-level positions and 104 cabinet level positions have been filled by graduates of The Broad Academy since the program began in 2002.
  • More than 300 current and former Broad Residents are working in more than 50 urban school districts, charter management organizations and departments of education nationwide.
In our own state, John Covington, the head of the Education Achievement Authority--that unproven program which the state legislature is trying to ram through an expansion--is a Broad Center graduate. So too are the about-to-retire emergency financial manager of the Detroit Public Schools. Oh, and so is Michelle Rhee. And so is Shael Polakow-Suransky, who was raised in Ann Arbor and has been a lightning rod for criticism in the New York City schools.

[From the Perimeter Primate in the comments: "One correction. Michelle Rhee was never a Broad Superintendents Academy "fellow." But she did have regular contact with the Broad Foundation and even visited Eli Broad at his Fifth Ave. apartment in NYC in 2008. He clearly adores her."]

So I wasn't too surprised to find that the Broad Foundation has recently bailed out Michigan's Education Achievement Authority to the tune of $10 million dollars. So we should not be surprised that they wrote an op-ed piece on April 28th in the Detroit Free Press about how great the EAA is. The truth is--and this is a pattern with the Broad Foundation--that they say they want data, but they only want convenient data. We actually won't have good data to evaluate the EAA until many years have passed. [I digress, but the initial data implies that the program can't run without additional money; that teacher turnover is extremely high; and that so is student turnover.]

In an article from Parents Across America, "How to tell if your school is infected by the Broad virus," they suggest several signs--many of which have come true in Ann Arbor in the short time that Pat Green has been here. 

However, Pat Green is leaving, and I just want to note a few of these (although I recommend you read the whole article!): 
  • Repeated use of the terms “excellence” and “best practices” and “data-driven decisions.” (Coupled with a noted absence of any of the above.)
  • Power is centralized.
  • Decision-making is top down.
  • Excessive amounts of testing introduced and imposed on your kids.
  • The superintendent receives the highest salary ever paid to a superintendent in your town’s history (plus benefits and car allowance) – possibly more than your mayor or governor — and the community is told “that is the national, competitive rate for a city of this size.”
Now, the good news is that Pat Green is leaving, and we in Ann Arbor have an opportunity to find a different kind of leader. And actually, you might think--well then we don't need to know about the Broad Foundation anymore. 

Unfortunately, no. We do need to know about the Broad Foundation. There are a lot of links in this piece from the Charlotte Observer (h/t to CC for finding this), but this comment by the Perimeter Primate is particularly concerning: 

PS: Ray & Associates is the superintendent search firm which recruited Gorman to CMS [Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools] in 2006.Carl Davis of Ray & Associates is also listed as one of the speakers for the Broad Superintendents Academy...
Two other firms, Jim Huge & Associates and Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, appear on the Broad Foundation's list of BSA training session guest speakers. I presume they are paid to appear.What needs to be investigated is if these particular superintendent search firms give preferential treatment to the Broad-trained candidates, in terms of presenting them to school boards.For instance, in the case of the Springfield (MA) search in 2008 conducted by Jim Huge, three of the four finalists were Broad fellows. . . 
And then: This is an excerpt from an article about Durham’s superintendent search (started late 2009): “The board has search proposals from the North Carolina School Boards Association; Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates (Glenview, Ill.), Ray and Associates (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) and Jim Huge and Associates (San Francisco). ALL BUT THE FIRST WERE RECOMMENDED BY THE BROAD FOUNDATION OF LOS ANGELES. . . 
How many school boards and members of the public realize that superintendent search firms may have their own agendas? (Emphasis added.)

In fact, as far back as 2006, the Broad Center was featuring Gary Ray, "whose Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based search firm, Ray and Associates Inc., has placed several Broad graduates as superintendents."

So here is the situation. We hired a Broad Center superintendent, using a firm that has worked extensively with the Broad Center, two years ago. The same firm is essentially offering their services for free this time. That is the same firm that I believe helped the school board arrive at the high salary they offered Pat Green. That is the same firm that posted the last position on the Broad Center job posting list. 

Looking back at the mistakes we've made, and keeping us from making the same mistakes a second time, is critical. The board has just taken two excellent steps. First, they are offering the position at what I consider to be a more reasonable salary range (and just as importantly, it's a range, not a single number). Second, they discussed and decided not to post the position on the Broad Center job posting list. 

Now, there are two more things that didn't happen last time, that should happen this time.

For one thing, during the last superintendent search, inclement weather forced the cancellation of site visits to the applicants' home districts, and they were not rescheduled. I believe that for any non-internal candidates, district site visits are essential. I think they would have told us a lot about the candidates. [For instance, what if someone had come to Ann Arbor this year and found out about the glass wall Pat Green had put up; about the requirement that everything be FOIA'd; about the rumors that she didn't work on Fridays?]

Second, now that we know about the Broad Academy, I'd rather we didn't hire anybody with those credentials. At a minimum, anyone with those credentials needs to be extensively questioned about their experience and agenda. It's not just that I don't agree with the Broad Center's agenda; it's that I don't think that most Ann Arborites do either. Further, and even worse, I don't think that the Broad Foundation is honest about their agenda. I believe that their agenda is to privatize, and profit-ize, public schools.

And since we're using a search firm that has been associated with the Broad Center in the past, it behooves us to be rather careful.


  1. See, investigative reporting is still alive in Ann Arbor. It's just that no one at will or can do it. Thank you for bringing this into the light.

  2. Ruth, what am amazing and horrifying story. Thank you for doing all this research. I can only hope the BOE and A2 parents see this and make sure not to repeat the mistake of Pat Green. I have seen the School Board use the term "data-driven" as an excuse for the NWEA. Sadly, they don't know what that really means or that they have lots of data already a available to make decisions.

  3. Bravo, Ruth! Think the AA Chronicle would republish this as an opinion piece?

  4. This should be shared far and wide; this slow dismantling of the public school system is speeding up and will soon be out of our hands.

  5. Saw a link to your article on . . . Thanks for the information. Will pass on to other parents.

  6. Really nice work. It's so good to know people are alert to the Broadies now.

    One correction. Michelle Rhee was never a Broad Superintendents Academy "fellow." But she did have regular contact with the Broad Foundation and even visited Eli Broad at his Fifth Ave. apartment in NYC in 2008. He clearly adores her.

    FYI, here are the known graduates of Broad's unaccredited training camp for superintendents.

    You'll notice that the list only goes up to the Class of 2011; the Class of 2012 participants were never revealed. If anyone finds a list, please let me know @

    The Broad Center used to issue regular press releases listing incoming participants and outgoing graduates, but not anymore. No announcement was ever been made that the program has been d/ced, so I have a hunch that they are hiding them from public view because of the increased scrutiny and criticism. I know of one superintendent candidate who omitted the fact that he had graduated from Broad's once "prestigious" program in his resume.

    The Broad residents (Broad Residency in Urban Education) are part of the pipeline and need monitoring, too. I never had time to compile that list for The Broad Report. There are a lot more of them and they're not as visible as the Broad superintendents. They work in central office positions.

    Barkan describes how the pipeline works here:

  7. Maybe a site visit would have revealed the weird dolls.

  8. Fabulous article, Ruth. Reminds me of when there was a push to hire "business people" to run social work agencies. They failed miserably having no background in the values of the profession. I hope you can get the article reprinted in the local papers.

  9. Really interesting article, Ruth. I'm glad to see you followed up and dug deeper. It would have been nice to hear from someone at the company conducting the search for "free," and of course from the ever elusive Pat Green. It would be interesting to hear what she had to say about the similarities between her Broad-centered leadership and the Broad Center. It would also be nice to hear from BOE members to find out whether they knew about the Broad Center connections, prior to hiring the search firm or Green.

  10. Just to add an interesting fact--it turns out that former Superintendent John Simpson (AAPS Superintendent 1994-1998) has been a "key advisor" to the Broad Superintendents Academy and on the review board for the Broad Prize. However, the Broad Superintendents Academy did not exist at the time that Simpson was AAPS Superintendent.

  11. I'm curious.... Have any of the BOE trustees commented to you about this?

  12. (Most recent) anon--I have not had any direct conversations with any school board members about the Broad Foundation. I do know some people who have had conversations with select school board members, who seemed to know very little about the Broad Foundation, and in some cases had not even heard of it.

    During the last search there was--to my knowledge--no discussion of or awareness of what the Broad Foundation is/was. [And I had no awareness of it either.]

    However, most recently, the Ann Arbor Chronicle recorded this discussion as part of its May 3, 2013 report on the Board's April 24th, 2013 meeting:

    The board also adjusted the advertising of the job opening to include some outlets that weren’t already listed by Ray and Associates – the search firm the board is using – and also to eliminate some places that didn’t have wide enough reach. Mexicotte noted that Ray and Associates had added LinkedIn as a new venue this time round.

    The trustees decided not to advertise the position with the Broad Center. Lightfoot raised concern about the implication of a Broad Center trained superintendent, saying that the leadership of the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) was heavily Broad trained. It was “antithetical to the basic tenets of public education,” Lightfoot contended. Stead agreed, saying that some of the political agenda behind the Broad Center was to work to privatize public education.

    I take that to mean that in the past the board didn't know, and now that they do, they will keep that information in mind.

  13. Nice article, but I totally disagree with this thought process. Even President Obama is a supporter of charter schools, data driven results, and decisions at the top. Once you tow the hard line, good teachers can modify instruction.

    For example, READ180 is an excellent reading program with a strong track record in Ann Arbor. My child went up 6 grades levels in reading in 3 years (in and out of the program).

    This program has data, outcomes, and shows improvement and modifies instruction based on the child's weaknesses. The kids get instant feedback, work in groups and independently. The teachers are basically told what to teach and do. My child had a a special education teacher at one of the best elem. schools who watch him fail and knew what was best for him (which was repeating the same curriculum year after year. He was with her 2 hours per day ( reading,writing,for reading group) and staying at a 2nd grade level for three years. After looking into a solution for him, we learned that all 19 out of 20 elementary schools had this program and she choose not to take advantage of it because she did not "feel like it" . She said "she knew best how to teach kids to read" and decided to break the law and lie about LEXILE Scores.

    Well, clearly she did not know what was best for him and thank goodness that programs are implemented at the top. A friend teachers READ180 and modifies it as needed. She knows when kids are not going to be successful in the program right away. She is a great teacher. A teacher at another middle school eats her breakfast, is late and the kids have made no progress in System 44 this year. Data will show that she is not effective since kids at my child's school have made progress in System 44. You cannot blame the kids any more because kids are successful at other schools.

    So, I am all about fixing education and these foundations clearly feel that this is needed too. Why would they be spending money to change America if our education system was so great!

  14. Anon 5/29/2013 at 10:07 am, I don't agree with you. In general I think our education system is pretty good. Not to say that it can't be improved, of course it can. I'm sorry you had an experience with a poor teacher.

    I don't believe that for-profit models work best for schools.

    I agree with Pres. Obama about many things, but I am sad to say that education is not one of them. I think he and Arne Duncan are on the wrong track. I want the education for my children that he has for his children--small classrooms, project-based work, very limited testing. Why can't the rest of us get that?