Educators 4 Excellence – Because teachers NEED their own “Education Reform” front group

Some teachers and public school advocates have heard about Educators 4 Excellence, aka E4E.  For those that haven’t, you probably will as the organization continues to expand across the country.

Calling themselves Educators 4 Excellence (E4E), they claim to speak for teachers – although most E4E organizers don’t have more than a year or so of teaching experience – and what little actual teaching experience they have is usually the result of a short stint with Teach for America.

But the New York-based Educators 4 Excellence, originally created in 2010 using funds from the Gates Foundation, managed to pull in over $7.4 million from the corporate education reform industry in their first two years of operation.

Among the “teacher advocacy group’s” major funders is Education Reform Now, another corporate funded advocacy group that spends its money promoting charter schools and an end to tenure and “seniority-based layoff.”

In 2010 Education Reform Now ran a rather infamous television commercial in New York State that included a “parent” saying, “Stop listening to the teachers union.”

E4E’s fundraising has reportedly skyrocketed since 2012 allowing them to expand, including into Connecticut.

The Gates Foundation alone dropped another $3,000,695 into E4E’s coffers in July 2013.

Here in Connecticut…

When Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy took to the microphone on April 17, 2015 to announce that he was dropping the word “interim” from Dianna Wentzell’s title as “interim” Commissioner of Education, Educators 4 Excellence was quick to announce their support for the Common Core and Common Core testing aficionado writing,

“Dr. Roberge-Wentzell…was a critical member of [former Education] Commissioner Pryor’s team, which worked to secure funding for struggling schools where resources are needed most….We look forward to working with her in the years ahead…”

The reference that Wentzell deserved to be appointed Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education because she was a “critical member of Commissioner Pryor’s team,” the co-founder of the Achievement First, Inc. Charter School Management Company, reveals a lot about Educators 4 Excellence’s mission and purpose.  Public funding for charter schools skyrocketed as a result of Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor’s policies over the last three years, with Pryor’s charter school management company receiving the lions’ share of the money.

With co-CEOs each enjoying compensation packages in excess of $150,000, Educators 4 Excellence explains their reason for existence by saying,

“For far too long, education policy has been created without a critical voice at the table – the voice of classroom teachers. Educators 4 Excellence (E4E), a teacher-led organization, is changing this dynamic by placing the voices of teachers at the forefront of the conversations that shape our classrooms and careers.”

Educators for Excellence now has chapters in Connecticut, Chicago, Los Angeles and Minnesota and the have pledged to expand even further.

According to their “official” version of events, Educators 4 Excellence (E4E) began,

“As a group of New York teachers who wanted to change the top-down approach to policy-making, which largely alienated teachers like us from crucial decisions that shaped our classrooms and careers.”

Their propaganda fails to explain that their initial funding came in November 2010 when the Gates Foundation funneled $160,000 through Stand for Children, a multi-million dollar corporate education front group to set up “Educators 4 Excellence.”

According to the grant announcement, the Gates Foundation explained that the group was being funded to, “build an authentic, alternate teacher voice.”

Stand for Children is a leading player in the “education reform” movement, with a special focus on moving corporate funds into political campaigns in order to reward candidates who support their cause and punish those who aren’t on the school privatization  bandwagon.

Jonah Edelman, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Stand for Children, says the organization now has eleven state affiliates (AZ, CO, IL, IN, LA, MA, OK, OR, TN, TX, and WA).

According to Edelman’s biography,

“Jonah’s personal stand for children began during college, when he taught a six year-old bilingual child to read.”

Like a number of his fellow corporate education reform industry elite, Edelman graduated from Yale University (Class of ‘92) and attended Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship.

If that wasn’t enough for the financiers of the education reform frenzy, the Chairperson of Stand for Children’s Board of Directors is Emma Bloomberg, former Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s daughter.

When Bridgeport Connecticut Mayor Bill Finch engaged in his failed attempt to do away with Bridgeport’s democratically elected board of education and replace it with one that he would appoint, a coalition of corporate education reform groups and corporate elite, including Mayor Mike Bloomberg, dropped in enough campaign donations to make it the most expensive charter revision campaign in Connecticut history.

In Connecticut, Educators 4 Excellence use a New York public relations firm, the same PR firm that collected much of the money in the failed Bridgeport campaign and has been used by a number of other education reform groups in Connecticut to engage in advertising in favor of Malloy’s education reform initiative.

A Connecticut E4E press release out last summer by the New York firm opened with, “Teachers, Joined by Bridgeport Superintendent Rabinowitz, Call for Needed, Pro-Student Improvements in Professional Development at E4E Roll-out Event.”

The press release went on to read,

June 11, 2014 (Bridgeport, CT) — Educators 4 Excellence, a national teacher-led organization that seeks to elevate the voices of teachers in education policy discussions, formally launched its new chapter in Connecticut Wednesday with a kick-off event in Bridgeport and a call for sweeping changes to existing professional development. This major policy proposal, written by a team of working Bridgeport public school classroom teachers, proposes a number of changes to this pressing issue. These include increasing the opportunities for teachers to weigh in on and even lead professional development topics and personalizing the experience so that trainings better meet the needs of schools and individuals. The full proposal can be seen HERE.”

The press release adds,

“Over the past several months, a team of nine E4E-CT Bridgeport members has been developing recommendations to improve the quality of their professional development. The recommendations, which they released Wednesday, seek to inject the ideas of actual classroom teachers into the policy changes the Superintendent is currently considering.”

The release conveniently made no mention of E4E’s funders or whether any of the advocacy group’s money was spent developing or lobbying for their “teacher led changes.”

This year Educators 4 Excellence is ramping up their Connecticut presence.

The corporate education reform industry group recently advertised for a Vice President of Regional Operations, which the posting explained may be housed in Connecticut.

According to the advertisement for the job, the Vice President of Regional Operations responsibilities will include, “Designing and leading high level issue based advocacy campaigns.”

To ensure a proper understanding of life as a classroom teacher, the organization lists the preferred qualifications to be a,

“Bachelor’s degree and at least one year of professional experience as a Pre K-12 classroom teacher preferred; some form of teaching, school-based professional experience, student-based professional experience or previous work with educational non-profits.”

The required skills include, “Political savvy and keen interest in/understanding of education policy, the education reform movement broadly, and the power and politics of the education landscape both locally and nationally.

E4E explains the right candidate must also have “Tenacity” and “grit.”

In Connecticut, the organization is also looking for a new Executive Director for Connecticut,  whose job will be to oversee Connecticut’s E4E operation.

According to the job post, lobbying legislators will be one of the Executive Director’s responsibilities, along with working to, “Establish E4E-CT as a go to source for the opinions and perspectives of progressive educators on issues that impact Connecticut’s classrooms.”

Again the entity says that, “At least one year of experience serving as a Pre K-12 classroom teacher” is preferred,” as well as the requirement for “Tenacity” and “grit.”

Apparently E4E is also looking for a Managing Director of Outreach in Connecticut.

The job postings don’t explain where the present Executive Director Ranjana Reddy is heading, although after a sting with TFA she headed to Newark, New Jersey to help create Rise Academy charter school, a position she left to attend Yale Law School.

At Yale she proudly reports that she worked for John White, who took over from Paul Vallas in New Orleans and Commissioner Stephen Pryor in Connecticut.  Her biography explains that when working for Pryor she, “spearheaded the writing of Connecticut’s No Child Left Behind waiver.”

From charter school founder, to Yale, to writing Connecticut’s NCLB waiver… What a testament to the corporate education reform.

And as the saying goes, all this is just the tip of the iceberg –

Just wait till you hear what else E4E is up to in Connecticut.

You can read more about E4E in Connecticut via the following Wait, What? posts Another faux pro-public education group targets Connecticut (12/18/12) and  Teacher-led organization that gives teachers a meaningful voice in policy is expanding in CT! (5/23/13)

  • Jeremy

    E4E does excellent work in NYC giving a voice for teachers who have view points that differ from the unions. There are many instances where the unions express opinions in school meetings of a with us or against us mentality. E4E has helped provide a place to share for those who were labeled against the union.

    • jonpelto

      Jeremy, thanks for adding you voice. Although I disagree I do appreciate you taking the time to add to the discussion – what about the E4E pledge that members are supposed to sign – Teachers who join E4E are expected to support value-added test-score data in evaluations, higher hurdles to achieving tenure, the elimination of seniority- driven layoffs, school choice, and merit pay.

      • Jeremy

        So true. I hate that pledge and didn’t sign it. But, my experience with the organization is that those that welcomed me in were okay with my disagreeing with pieces of their platform. For one, I like value-added scores and higher hurdles for tenure but also like seniority as a means to protect long standing teachers. Thew saw and respected my opinion

        • jonpelto

          Good to hear. I certainly understand that there can be times that some union leaders don’t represent all members. I’m not sure E4E is the solution but I certainly understand that there are times members need to be heard over, under and around leadership – just as with the political parties J

        • annat

          My daughter was “proficient” on the MCAS in both ELA and math in 3rd grade. In 4th, she was suddenly “advanced” in both. Did she get smarter… or become a better test-taker….or was there a difference in the inexperienced $11.80 per hour temps who scored her tests? Her 5th grade teacher has done her own assessments as every good teacher does, and she and I agree that she is “on grade level” and not advanced. The tests are useless. Also – I teach preschool. When I taught for Head Start my kids started out behind and made A LOT of progress by the end of the year (let’s say from A-P), but assessments would show that they were still “behind,” not on grade level. But, they did make progress! When I taught preschool at a private, exclusive elementary school in a wealthy suburb, my kids came in “advanced” and left even more “advanced,” (let’s say from S-Z). In both cases, my kids made progress, but if I were evaluated in both situations based on a high stakes standardized test, I would be “incompetent” in the first situation and “exemplary” in the second. But I AM THE SAME TEACHER in both situations!!! The test and punish system is insane.

        • Holley Boncek

          Jeremy be careful what you wish for. Value added sounds great until you get an unmotivated, uncaring class of students. You can only add value when your student’s value what added!

        • thingfishp

          You like VAM? Have you read any of the mountain of literature debunking that nonsense? How could you possibly support a method that really provides no meaningful measurement of a teacher’s impact on a child? Test scores, as we all know, are a crock of BS. My daughter was in the 99th percentile when she took the CMT in 8th grade, yet she tanked on the PSAT the following year (which didn’t mean a damn thing to us) because she was undergoing a difficult period. Do we punish her 9th grade teachers? The 8th grade teachers? There are too many factors influencing student performance and the tests have been inappropriately used for measuring teacher effectiveness as has been pointed out by testing experts and the people who write those things. VAM is a sham!!

        • 27Reasons


        • Tom Burns

          They have one mission–to end public education and replace it with corporate education

        • Tom Burns

          The fact you liked value added scores shows your naivete–I wish you more clarity in the future–but I can’t respect your position because it’s wrong–but I do welcome your thoughts and desire to engage in the discussion–

      • Tom Burns

        Perfect Jon

    • annat

      I don’t know, Jeremy. Just because you didn’t have to sign something doesn’t mean they respect your opinion or that they are good guys. If they have something that states their mission, then that is their mission. You may not agree with all of it, but their financial backers certainly do. And I’m sure they think you will “come around…”

      • 27Reasons

        I know a young lady who worked hard teaching in Bridgeport public schools for 3 years before taking a post with E4E. She’s a wonderful person, and it’s painful to see how brainwashed she’s become by these propagandists. How can’t these teachers see that they’re helping the enemy dismantle their own profession?!? (and for nothing more than the private profits of elites)

    • Tom Burns

      no they dont

  • R.L.

    AFT Connecticut put out an email where they voiced their approval and excitement about Dianna Wentzell becoming the permanent Education Commissioner. With that and their strong-armed endorsement of Malloy (they are doing great work with “their seat at the table”), it makes me wonder if the so called teacher’s union which is really a health care union has become a front for the corporate reform movement as well.

  • mookalaboona

    When CEA president Sheila Cohen and vice president Jeff Leake get voted out in May, perhaps they can get jobs with this organization. They’re already doing nothing for public schools now. Perfect job opportunities!

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  • Bill Morrison

    I love it when these trained but not educated TFA amateurs diss the Unions until they need us. I vividly remember one TFA Math teacher in my school who had been threatened by a thug in her room cried for my help to get the thug expelled and to get her extra sick days from the district’s sick day bank so that she wouldn’t have to face her students anymore. Yet, this same lady had criticized the Union as not doing anything for her. As the Union Rep, I was able to get her an extra 45 days of sick time because of the mental distress inflicted upon her. We were villains until she need us.

    I agree that we teachers need more of a voice. But, a TFA organization that works for the corporations is NOT the answer.

    Finally, isn’t it a bit presumptuous for any first year teacher to claim to speak for any of us?

    • lhpartridge

      I’ve been teaching 30 years, 22 of them in the inner city. I would call that demonstrating tenacity and grit. Not one of our TFA teachers has remained beyond their 2-year commitment, and several left before their first year was out. Do you think E4E would want me and my perspective? I think they couldn’t handle my perspective, just like your colleague apparently couldn’t handle hers. I would bet that before she took the position, she had maintained that “thugs” were just misunderstood children rather than hardened criminals.

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  • Lynda Costagliola

    They have tried to “enlist” teachers at my school. They lost my interest when it was suggested that “younger” teachers have more “energy and spunk” to teach in this “era”. I’ve been teaching 37 years and yes, I took it personally! They came to my school under the guise of providing a workshop on interpreting data.

  • Teachers can be suspicious of motives here, with probable cause, but something to change. The circling the wagons strategy has not served teachers well. Education is reforming without their input. They are trapped in a box where they are perceived as anti-everything that makes them have to work harder or reduces job security and they are reactive, against, never for.

    Each data-driven or business-minded “reform” takes US schools further away from the joyful places where learning once thrived and where love of learning was something to nurture and treasure.

    Teachers need to join the conversation, have a say in the future of education. If not E4E, then who?

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