Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Does The Obama Administration Have A "Starr Group" Out To Destroy Joshua Starr?

Valeria Strauss reported in the Washington Post that two members of the USDOE, including Arne Duncan himself, lobbied against Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr for the NYC schools chancellor position.

Duncan and Company don't like Starr because he has called for a three year moratorium on high stakes standardized testing and has expressed skepticism around the validity of the test score-based Obama/Duncan education reform agenda.

A few years ago, Mike Klonsky wrote a post about the USDOE's "Ravitch Group," a secret propaganda coterie within the USDOE that followed education reform critic Diane Ravitch and worked behind the scenes to damage her credibility and reputation.

At the time, a Duncan spokesman laughed at the claim, saying that that rumors of a "Ravitch Group" created by Duncan to dish dirt on Diane ought to be put on the shelf next to rumors of "Black Helicopters."

This year, we learned that the Duncan USDOE indeed had a secret Ravitch Group out to dish dirt on Diane because a former assistant secretary of education in the Duncan DOE admitted it in a blog post at Huffington Post:

With the acknowledgement today from former Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach in the U.S. Department of Education, Peter Cunningham, that he had the job to "monitor criticism of our policies and develop our responses" and "one of the people I monitored pretty closely was Diane Ravitch," Klonsky's post about Duncan's "Ravitch Group" rumors turns out to be very, very prescient.

Turns out Duncan did indeed have a "Ravitch Group" that was "monitoring" her "pretty closely" and developing responses to her criticism (i.e., dishing dirt to Duncan- and Obama-friendly journalists like Jonathan Alter and David Brooks to use in their columns on education reform.)

At the time of the Cunningham revelation, I wrote

They may not have called this an "enemies list" or anything like that, but this pushback strategy within Duncan's DOE is indeed Nixonian in breadth and scope.

Somebody ought to ask Arne Duncan about the "Ravitch Group" again.

Why is Ravitch so threatening to Arne and his Merry Men and Women in Reform at the USDOE that they have convened a group to target her, a group that still seems to be functioning, given the anti-Ravitch piece Cunningham posted at Huffington Post as a preemptive strike before her new book on education reform is published? 

Well, we know why Ravitch is so threatening to Duncan and Company - she articulates credible opposition and criticism of their reform agenda and represents a huge threat to their hegemony in the education messaging wars.

Starr is a huge threat to the Obama/Duncan/Gates/Broad agenda as well, having worked as a fairly high profile schools superintendent in a district that had a teacher evaluation system in place that was both well-regarded and not test-score based.

In addition, Starr has called for a three year moratorium on high stakes standardized testing, a direct threat to the Obama/Duncan/Gates/Broad agenda, which cannot allow the high stakes tests to ever disappear, since these so-called accountability measures are the way they try and ratchet up the "Public Education Is In Crisis!" meme that allows them to drive their radical reform agenda.

So it's not a surprise that Duncan and other members of his USDOE lobbied against Starr getting the top schools job in NYC - Starr represents a serious threat to their agenda and they don't want him pushing his own agenda in a high profile place like NYC.

But in addition to the pushback from Duncan and Company as reported by both Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post and Rachel Monahan at the NY Daily News, there have been other hits against Starr.

The NY Post, for example, launched an attack against Starr last month when they published a story alleging Starr oversaw a school district rife with widespread sexual abuse of students by teachers that he failed to crack down.

I wrote at the time that it was odd the Post was hitting Starr for failing to "aggressively" crack down on so-called pedophile teachers abusing students when the article only reported one incident of abuse.

But of course there was a reason the reform-friendly Post went after Starr:

And then we get to the meat of why Starr was attacked by the Post:

Formerly the director of school performance and accountability for New York City public schools, Starr is considered a favored candidate of the teachers union for the chancellorship.

This slimy attack from the Post comes on the heels of the Daily News report that the Obama administration is lobbying against Starr because he is anti-testing.

The attacks from the Obama people and now Murdoch shows how threatened the reformer camp feels over the possibility of Starr as NYCDOE chancellor.

In today's Washington Post article reporting that Duncan and other USDOE employees lobbied against Joshua Starr behind the scenes, there is the following comment from someone named Lilly41:

My guess is that the future mayor of NYC based his decision on information other than that from the USDOE. Dr. Starr is probably embarrassed and now trying to spin the negative outcome of his application.

From what I've heard, Josh should focus on being effective in Montgomery County. Some have said that he is in over his head.

Love the vague accusation that Starr is in over his head, hasn't been doing a good job in Montgomery County schools, etc.

It's a classic hit comment - anonymous, with vague accusations, and nothing documented.

Has all the earmarks of somebody looking to undercut Starr and destroy his credibility - like a USDOE or Gates Foundation employee working behind the scenes as a Starr Group troll.

I'm sure the Duncan DOE will laugh off the accusation that they may have a Starr Group out to destroy the credibility and reputation of Joshua Starr, just as they laughed off the Ravitch Group accusation from Mike Klonsky.

But we know they lied about the existence of the Ravitch Group, that they indeed did have a high level USDOE employee working to undercut Ravitch and destroy her credibility and reputation because Peter Cunningham admitted as much, that still do giving the pushback they do whenever she publishes a book or gives a speech.

It is totally plausible and completely believable that they have a Starr Group as well, especially since we know they felt very threatened by the possibility of Starr being appointed NYCDOE chancellor and worked very hard behind the scenes to ensure that wouldn't happen.

Clearly they feel threatened by Ravitch, Starr and others who oppose their reform agenda and will use any means necessary to destroy the credibility and reputation of the opposition.

There seems to have been a coordinated effort to undercut Starr and destroy his reputation so that if Duncan and Company couldn't convince de Blasio Starr shouldn't be named as chancellor, they could destroy his reputation enough to ensure that de Blasio couldn't name him to the post anyway.


  1. Nixon style enemies lists. Once we find out who the NSA has been spying on, we will get the answer to this reprehensible administrations legacy - spying on and harassing Dianne Ravitch, Joshua Starr,,,, what a perverted government?

  2. Now how about some facts?

    There’s a lot missing from The Washington Post article and the comments reflect the misinformation.

    Joshua Starr has a contract with Pearson Education, Inc. to write the MCPS curriculum and to TEST MCPS students THREE times a year. It’s all in the contract. Starr doesn’t talk about it because it doesn’t “go” with his public persona. Valerie Strauss won’t write about it.
    But, here it is, in print:

    Here’s what the Maryland State Board of Education thought about the Pearson contract. Why hasn’t Starr responded to the State BOE’s concerns?

    Here’s the actual contract:

    And, here are the details in the MCPS- Pearson Program Management Plan that you won’t find on the MCPS website and The Washington Post won’t write about:

  3. Interesting that the anti-Montgomery County/Joshua Starr story would emerge now. Just a couple months ago NYSED brought in the previous Supt. from Montgomery County to present to Cuomo's NEW New York Education Reform Commission. That gentleman had also been a beneficiary of Pearson's free trips around the world that David Steiner had been corruptly accepting. No one on the Commission, and no member of the media bothered to look into that corrupt relationship--just like no one wants to dig into the David Steiner free travel story--it occurred right before Steiner and NYSED signed a $32M contract for testing that included reading passages about rabbits racing pineapples and also included multiple math questions for which there was either no correct answer--or multiple correct answers. If you want to know more about the Montgomery County Superintendent corruption just Google Dr jerry Weast Pearson scandal.