Education Opinion

It’s a Small World After All

By Eduwonkette — February 14, 2008 3 min read
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What should we make of the growing number of education policy think tanks and education reform/advocacy organizations? Weeks ago, A-Rus asked, and Dean Millot answered.

All of this chatter made me wonder how these organizations are connected. After all, there are a lot of them, and many of them are advancing similar reform proposals. Are these a million different points of light, or multiple organizational outposts for a small group of people?

To answer this question, I looked up the Boards of Directors, Advisory Boards, and senior staff of 16 big ticket education policy think tanks and advocacy organizations. The list is not comprehensive – for example, I did not include the large multipurpose tanks such as Brookings, Center on American Progress, Cato, etc. On the ed policy side, this is a work in progress, so please send me a list of other organizations you’d like to see included. (Also, if you notice an error of omission/commission in the graph, please let me know.)

I looked for “interlocking directorates” – in simple terms, I drew a line between the two organizations if:

a) two organizations share a board member, or

b) two organizations both include a board member representing the same organization (i.e. two different people representing the same foundation), or

c) a senior staff member from Organization A serves on the board of Organization B

The thumbnail image, which you should click on to enlarge, displays the relationships between the following organizations:

* Achieve
* Alliance for Excellent Education (Alliance)
* Broad Prize
* Center on Education Policy (CEP)
* Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights (CCCR)
* Ed Next
* Ed Sector
* Ed Trust
* Fordham
* National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS)
* National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ)
* New Leaders for New Schools (NLNS)
* New Schools Venture Fund (NSVF)
* New Teacher Project (NTP)
* Teach for America (TFA)

The education policy/advocacy world represented here looks a lot like a tangled spiderweb. Let me give a few examples. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) shares members with 10 of these organizations. Their board includes
Jonathan Williams (Accelerated Charter School of Los Angeles), who also sits on the Education Sector board; Bruno Manno (Vice Chair, Annie E. Casey Foundation), who also sits on the Ed Sector board as well as the Fordham board; Mashea Ashton (of New Leaders for New Schools); Mike Feinberg (KIPP); Checker Finn, who also sits on the boards of Fordham and the National Council for Teacher Quality, and serves as the Senior Editor of Education Next; Ted Mitchell of the New Schools Venture Fund (NSVF is also represented on the Ed Sector board); Chris Nelson of the Don and Doris Fisher Fund, which is also represented on the Teach for America and KIPP boards; Andy Rotherham, who sits on the boards of Education Sector, the National Council for Teacher Quality, and served on the Broad Prize Selection Committee.

Education Trust trades with the Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights (CCCR) (George Mason’s Roger Wilkins), the Center on Education Policy (UT-Austin’s Arturo Pacheco), the New Teacher Project (Ed Trust’s Kati Haycock), the Alliance for Excellent Education (Ed Trust’s Heather Peske sits on one of their advisory boards), and the Broad Prize Selection Committee (Ed Trust’s Russlyn Ali).

What does it mean? Some would contend that a small group of people are running the education policy show. Others would argue this type of coordination is no different than in Fortune 500 companies, where board interlocks are common. Moreover, they might argue that interlocks, particularly in the case of service providing organizations, serve a useful purpose. Still others might note that this is simply a picture that observers should have in the back of their head when they listen to education policy debates and evaluate the claims made by these groups, i.e. can a think tank claim to be an independent evaluator given these interlocks?

What do you think?

The opinions expressed in eduwonkette are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.