To achieve their goal of promoting standardised testing in schools business coalitions have established, sponsored and funded a network of advocacy groups, many of which are corporate front groups portraying themselves as independent, public interest groups.
Apart from direct campaigning, these groups also support particular political candidates who promise to champion their reforms. "Though the record of their electoral success is mixed, such groups' overall influence appears to be growing, and it has already helped alter the landscape of education policy, particularly at the state level."
Some advocacy groups are described below and their connections to business coalitions and individual corporations are shown here.
The New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce features a panel of business executives, former US education and labour secretaries, retired governors and mayors and education superintendents. It’s 2006 report Tough Choices or Tough Times proposed that better quality teachers could be attracted to the profession if pension entitlements were reduced to pay high starting teacher salaries and a system of merit pay. Sponsors include the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Conference Board bills itself as “the world’s leading business membership organization, with a global network of nearly 2000 enterprises in 61 countries”. It is co-author of the report Are they Really Ready to Work? (see also Business-Managed Government for more on the Conference Board)
The Committee for Economic Development (CED) is mainly made up of corporate managers with a few university presidents added in to give it credibility. It receives its funding from large foundations. It has produced a number of reports on education that promote standardised testing such as Measuring What Matters: Using Assessment and Accountability to Improve Student Learning (2001). (see also Business-Managed Government for more on the CED)
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) has called for “a national system of skills standards designed by industry” complemented by more testing. The Conference Board, the CED and NAM are all sponsors of the Business Coalition for Education Reform as is the US Chamber of Commerce. (see also Business-Managed Government for more on NAM )
The Business Task Force on Student Standards called for business leaders to participate in setting standards and for those standards to integrate the “workplace performance requirements of industry and commerce”.
Achieve was formed at the 1996 National Summit of state governors and corporate leaders and chaired for many years by Louis Gertner, CEO of IBM. Its sponsors include the Annenberg Foundation, AT&T, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Boeing, Citicorp, Eastman Kodak, DuPont, GE, IBM, Intel, Pew Charitable Trusts, P&G, State Farm Insurance, UPS, and Xerox Foundation.
The American Diploma Project Network is in turn sponsored by Achieve, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, the National Alliance of Business (NAB) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It was set up “to spearhead a national movement to align standards, assessments, curriculum and accountability with the demands of postsecondary education and work” and has developed benchmark standards in maths and English.
The Education Trust also sponsors the American Diploma Foundation. It is itself sponsored by Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of NY, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and State Farm Companies Foundation.
The Policy Innovators in Education (PIE) network was established in 2007 and its main members are The Center for American Progress, The Center for Reinventing Public Education, Education Sector, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the National Council on Teacher Quality. It is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. It "connects and supports 39 member groups in 26 states and the District of Columbia" and has published a guide for those wanting to establish state-based education advocacy groups called Rabble Rousers, Revisited. In this guide organisers are advised not to include policy makers or too many educators on their governing committees but rather senior business leaders.