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People: Meet Bradley Tusk, Reform Strategist

He's not the head of a reform organization, or an elected figure, or a foundation officer. He's not even really an education guy, and actually sort of looks like one of my favorite MMA fighters. But folks in and around the education world often mention Bradley Tusk (top left) for the work he does helping reform groups get their message out. Somehow, I've never done a post about him.

image from www.washingtoncitypaper.com

A former campaign manager for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Tusk has been mentioned in several past education news pieces, including this one from the NYT in 2010, this one from New York Magazine in 2011, this Washington DC City Paper sidebar [from which this image is taken] and a slew of mentions at GothamSchools. Before founding Tusk Strategies, he also did stints working for Chuck Schumer and Rod Blagojevich.  

According to his website (Education Reform), Tusk has had enormous successes working on "some of the most innovative and successful education reform initiatives across the country," including ERN (aka DFER), NBC News (aka Education Nation), StudentsFirst (aka Michelle Rhee), the Partnership for Education in Newark (aka Zuckerland), and Success Charter Network (aka Eva Moskowitz).

Whether he does a good job or not is up for debate, as with most things.  I get the sense that he's expensive, and not truly an education specialist.  No problem with that -- there are lots of non-education conultants and strategists opererating in EducationLand™ -- including on the left, where folks like Kombiz Lavasany work for AFT.  That can be a good thing, given the quality dropoff or lack of quality alternatives.  There isn't really any political shop that specializes in education exclusively that I can think of -- at least not yet.


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Governing communications for Rod Blagojevich, monetization for Lehman Brothers . . . is this the kind of resume that leads to influence in the education reform movement? Such politics are pushing some of us (for example Diane Ravitch) to become what Jerry Brown has called himself, "a reformed reformer". Alexander's book, "Stray Dogs, Saints, and Saviors", opened my eyes to things I wasn't seeing even though I was working in the home office of Green Dot Public Schools. A crucial passage in that book is on page 173, where we learn that, after the change of leadership to former Wall Street management consultant Marco Petruzzi, "the academic focus under Petruzzi wasn't going to be any touchy-feely kind of thing that teachers and principals might welcome. Petruzzi and his team were focused squarely on improving academic performance, as measured by test scores. It was about data, interventions, and supports -- a consultant's version of academics rather than a teacher's."

What we need in our efforts to improve education in America is leadership from people who are truly qualified to lead educational organizations and who have credibility in leading teachers -- and the credibility of Wall Street power brokers to lead the many reforms our country needs is deservedly in question, especially after the rejection of another Bain consultant in our most recent presidential election.

What country does this magical guy live in? Not the US since none of the mentioned reforms have preformed as advertised.

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