By Guest Writer, George Thompson


The recent conflict of interest case of Lorna Earl in Ontario is merely the symptom of a growing trend in Canada and the rest of the world: the privatization of educational policy itself.  Earl’s complete bafflement as to why her case was sent to the conflict of interest commissioner in Ontario is itself a strong indication of the extent to which working as both a key influencer of policies and running a consultancy which stands to benefit from such policies has come to be seen as normal.  Taking a closer look at a few of only the most visible conflicts of interest in Ontario will provide an opportunity to learn how the privatization of policy is taking place there and elsewhere.

The group includes Lorna Earl, a Director at the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) and the Ministry of Education’s Researcher in Residence; Michael Fullan, Special Advisor for the Premier on education; and Avis Glaze, formerly CEO of the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat, Chief Achievement Officer, Education Commissioner and Senior Special Advisor to the Minister of Education. These and other policymakers run for-profit businesses which are tailored to provide solutions for the accountability demands they have put in place since the Liberal government took office in 2003. In essence, this makes the ministry, boards and schools accountable for buying services from the policymakers’ external consultancies or from similar providers. The most unfortunate by-product of their expansion of accountability for their brand of “school improvement” has been the establishment of policies favourable to privatization. While these people no doubt sincerely believe that the changes they have worked to bring about are beneficial to the education system, and that their outside business interests are complementary to education’s goals, there is a circularity in which policy influence translates into the need for their own or similar services. Ball and Youdell’s recent study, Hidden Privatisation in Public Education, explains how this is very much a symptom of privatization of education policy itself:

Through private sector involvements networks of social relations are established

between politicians, civil servants and business (and charities and voluntary

organisations) which inform and influence policy thinking about education and

in addition there is considerable movement of personnel between state and

public services and the private sector and some in the other direction. As with

the forms of privatisation discussed already, these influences are often unannounced and go un-noticed or un-commented by media and the public.

Lorna Earl


Lorna Earl was referred to the Conflict of Interest Commissioner in September for allegations which were raised surrounding her role as a member of the board of directors for EQAO (which oversees province-wide testing on literacy and numeracy) and her role as co-owner of Aporia Consulting, which has been engaged by boards to help them improve their “achievement”. Earl has maintained that she has no special knowledge about the tests in her role as an EQAO director, despite the fact that she has been a central figure in setting up and overseeing EQAO from its beginnings in the 1990s.


Strangely, a number of other blatant conflicts seem to have been entirely ignored by the media. Earl worked for the Ministry of Education as “Researcher in Residence” while at the same time being on the EQAO board of directors. Given that EQAO is charged with being an “independent” organization geared towards providing objective evaluation of academic progress of the province’s students, she occupies a position of considerable influence in determining how the tests are administered and how the data are interpreted, and, ultimately, she has been in a position to assist her chief employer, the Ministry, in demonstrating its own success in improving student achievement. This conflict is especially clear when one considers her role within the ministry of moving “assessment” and “data” to the centre of the Ministry’s agenda, two functions hitherto left up to EQAO. The net result of her endeavours may be something more like a merger in which the Ministry became an extension of EQAO, using the tail of accountability to “align” the dog, thereby turning the ministry into an accountability system. One of the main services Aporia sells  is “organizational change” and, as is evident from a sampling of the types of projects they list on their website, such changes were accountability reforms, and Earl thus made money from both the ministry and the boards for the same project:

Support for a district-wide program of strategic planning and data-driven decision-making (Lambton Kent District School Board)

Input for a plan to support the national literacy and numeracy strategies (Tribal Group - UK)

Support for developing and using indicators for monitoring system-wide performance (Government of the Northwest Territories)

Development and facilitation of a process for reviewing district initiatives in literacy, mathematical literacy, and program pathways (Simcoe County District School Board)


According to a paper on “Developing a Province-Wide Strategy to Increase the Role of Research and Evidence in Ontario,” written curiously enough for the American Education Research Association, and yet available on the Ontario Ministry’s own website, “A Researcher in Residence position was created in 2005 to raise the profile of research within and outside the Ministry. Dr. Lorna Earl was selected to serve in this role with a focus on fostering greater coherence in the research agenda, initiating capacity building and increasing networking.” (  Thus, Earl was put in charge of promoting the role of research at the centre of the government’s policymaking agenda with a focus on “capacity building”.  According to Aporia’s own website, this service is one of Aporia’s specialties: “Capacity building is concerned with creating and maintaining the necessary conditions, culture and structures to facilitate learning. The principals of Aporia are very active in creating these conditions and structures by establishing and maintaining expertise in a range of change-oriented areas, and structuring processes to share this knowledge with others in ways that are designed to deepen and extend participants learning.”

According to the Ministry of Education’s website, “The Researcher-in-Residence builds collaborative networks and partnerships between the ministry and researchers/practitioners in the education community.” This aspect would seem to hint that the role involves building partnerships between the Ministry and “independent researchers,” such as Aporia. Indeed, part of the role involved Earl working closely with the Ontario Education Research Symposium, which is designed to “Facilitate discussion about and collaboration among school boards, faculties of education, other university-based researchers, independent researchers, researchers from professional organizations, community agencies, school boards, the Ministry of Education, and other Ministries on research priorities for Ontario education, the state of knowledge in specific areas, opportunities for and impediments to the advancement of research, and the potential for future partnerships among the various parties.”

In essence, Earl, who sells accountability data and professional development for the interpretation of such data to school boards, was put in charge of making accountability data and the training for interpreting such data central to the Ministry’s policy. This again would mean that she was placed in charge of promoting the role of many of the research services Aporia Consulting provides, a clear conflict of interest.

Consider how this works: it is clear from the Board Minutes of Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board in 2005 that Earl’s primary use to the board was in terms of offering strategic advice on how to best prepare for EQAO testing, but also that there are a number of conflicting purposes involved in the transaction:

Lorna Earl Workshop . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Bruce

• On February 14th Terry MacDonald and Lorna Earl presented a workshop at the CEC to principals and resource teachers relating to EQAO testing.

• testing time will be reduced by approx. 50% – grade 3 and grade 6 students will

participate in 6 hours of testing rather than 12, grade 9’s will have 2 hours and the Grade 12 OSSLT will be 2.5 hours

• EQAO will continue to report levels of proficiency

• Patricia stated that Lorna made us aware of the fact that we have a tremendous amount of data available to us – we need to get it, work with it and come up with an action plan for each of our schools that will improve our program

• the information will be used to create our School Improvement Plans


Firstly, we can see that the tests were under significant revision and that despite Earl’s claims she had no oversight of what was on the tests, she was clearly transmitting valuable information about testing format that would indicate that she knew considerably more than the boards. That this information was passed along through her at a meeting at what appears to be the board level, while possibly being paid for the workshop, suggests that she was seen as something of a transmitter of special knowledge. To the board, as we can see, her insider information will translate directly into changes to its “School Improvement Plans”. Secondly, the revision itself indicates a huge shift in the amount of testing and possibly in its very nature, thus making it more likely that the consistently improving results, which the Ministry has been boasting about since it took office, may have been affected by more significant changes in the tests than in the students. Thirdly, Earl is promoting the role of data as central to improvement and to action plans. While Earl does not appear to have directly advertised her services in gathering and decoding (disaggregating) EQAO and other data for the purpose of raising EQAO scores, it is clear that the new need for such data is being created, articulated and “bought into” in relation to the duel pressures for schools to generate yearly improvement and higher EQAO scores.

To give one example of how Earl’s multiple roles overlapped in such a way as to expand her markets, consider the appearance of Steven Katz, her partner at Aporia, as a keynote speaker at an influential EQAO conference. The title was “Improving Schools in a Data-Rich World”  ( and Aporia just happens to offer workshops in “Leading schools is a data-rich world: Harnessing data for school improvement”. (

Katz also promoted the need for “critical friends”—researchers to observe and analyse performance—which, of course is another service which Aporia sells under precisely the same name: “The Aporia principals are very adept at working as “critical friends” to support clients in their thinking about and implementation of innovation. They work as participant observers, without a vested interest, who can bring an objective eye to the process.” ( It is impossible not to see this as a conflict of interest in which policy is being directly influenced in such a way as to create a captive market for an EQAO board member’s products by directing schools to an area of where they can improve performance. School leaders know improvement, as these highly influential experts define it, is going to be the most effective road to better EQAO scores.

Such overlap of conflicting interests is also visible in a number of contracts which Earl’s company has had directly with both EQAO and the Ministry of Education. ( Most notably Aporia worked for the Ministry to evaluate the effectiveness of EQAO policies, including “An examination of the response of the educational community to the accountability recommendations of the Education Quality and Accountability office.” In other words Earl has been in charge of evaluating EQAO on behalf of the Ministry, evaluating the Ministry through EQAO, and developing policy at the Ministry. Add this to the fact that she’s been working at boards to improve achievement, and it is difficult to conceive of how anyone’s interests could be more conveniently provided for.

A visit to Aporia’s “clients” page reveals that Earl’s company has been busy importer../css/so_the_president-elect_of_the_International_Congress_for_School_Effectiveness_and_Improvement__ICSEI_iwqq3abfaswipmo8cqimr3.css) which is geared to expanding global markets for research organizations such as Aporia by attempting to influence policymakers. The main strategy of such globalization NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) is to place research organizations at the center of the “decentralization” which is now taking place in many countries who can’t afford funding central public services and are enticed by private sector solutions.  Noting that “Local authority arrangements are taking over responsibilities from national government” the ICSEI sees a growing market for the types of government-replacement services research companies offer: “Providing direction; Leading and managing change; Managing information; Communicating and engaging effectively with children, young people, parents and carers, Managing networks; Working with partners and stakeholders.”

While the ICSEI presents itself as a non-profit non-governmental organization, it is clear that there are others like Lorna Earl on their board of directors who use the seemingly impartial organization to influence government policies to create markets for their own businesses. Mary Sinclair, for example,  is “the Ministry of Education’s Senior Manager of School Monitoring and Support” in New Zealand, but she’s also a “strategist” with Cognition Research and Policy Institute, and no less ambitious about reform: “Cognition aspires to be the foremost education consultancy of its kind, and New Zealand’s leading education exporter. Our mission is to ‘reframe education’ in New Zealand and around the world.”

Of course it is precisely this “re-framing” of education as something which can be commodified, measured by “data” and exported that is allowing the “data-driven” accountability movement to profit from the privatization of education as its gate-keepers and its custodians of “effectiveness” and “improvement.”


Michael Fullan has significant business connections which stand to gain directly from his reforms. All of the reforms place greater emphasis on raising literacy and numeracy “outcomes” through targeted funding, perpetual teacher and principal retraining, escalating interventions and greater accountability for standardized test performance.

He runs Michael Fullan Enterprises Inc. and Leadership4Change, and he occupies a place on the board of international advisors of Microsoft’s “Partners in Learning.” He sells twenty different reform handbooks, including the International Handbook of Educational Change as well as professional development kits for principals and he is a keynote speaker at conferences for organizations such as the Solution Tree.

Fullan has been “Special Advisor” to the Premier and the Minister of Education from April 2004 to the present. He is the chief architect of reforms in Ontario, which he was hired to bring in after helping reform Britain’s education system under Tony Blair. A May 2004 article written just after Fullan was appointed by Ontario’s Premier McGuinty, entitled “School Britannia,” gave “a preview” of the reform that was about to happen, and indeed, it turned out to be very accurate. (


Despite his prestigious and most influential role in public office where he has for five years been seemingly employed as a private individual in the public interest, one of his businesses, Michael Fullan Enterprises Inc. has received three payments: In 2006, the company received $58,915 (, in 2007-8 the company received $75,900 (, and in 2009, Michael Fullan Enterprises Inc. received $88,750


Despite Fullan’s promotion of his numerous other business interests at, “Michael Fullan Enterprises Inc.” is never mentioned on his website. According to USA Today, Michael Fullan Enterprises Inc. received $250,000 for a five month contract in 2009 to provide professional development and long range planning to improve literacy and numeracy in Louisiana. (

How much has Fullan been paid for his government position, where he has been special advisor from 2004 to the present? Surely he’s made more than 223,565, when his company commands $250,000 for five months’ work in Louisiana. Has Fullan been using his position of influence in the government to direct business to his own company? Or has the Premier deliberately misrepresented Michael Fullan Enterprises Inc. as a “Special Advisor” rather than a hired consultancy?

Michael Fullan Enterprises Inc. would appear to sell strategy for accountability reforms and solutions to teachers, principals and superintendents who must adapt to such reforms. As Fullan explains, a “big feature of our work is to play down accountability in favor of capacity building, and then re-enter accountability later. If you lead with accountability, which most states do, then people are immediately on the defensive and it doesn’t work so well. (

Ontario has now reached the “re-enter accountability” phase:

OFIP (Ontario Focused Intervention Partnership) has already targeted over 1000 schools in Ontario for “intervention,” some of which can even be performing above the average, but considered “stagnating” if they are not manufacturing year over year improvement.  (  The upcoming Bill 177 will make school boards accountable for student EQAO results and pass rates, with a “no excuses” policy for lower performance in poorer areas and provisions for ministry take-over of boards who fail.

The new accountability obviously places increased pressure on principals to produce results for their boards. With the Ministry’s new “information finder website” being used to promote parental shopping, there is also considerable pressure to keep enrolment up at their school.


Fullan’s primary means of “capacity building” is leadership training. Four million dollars were invested in the “Ontario’s Institute for Education Leadership,” a branch of the ministry put in place specifically to move principals into the driver’s seat of reform. (

Complementary to this aim is the full line of Fullan products:

First, the leader who wants to be truly aligned with the ministry’s objectives would do well to read all twenty of Fullan’s books on change, reform and leadership.  In particular the fifty percent of principals who find themselves “below average” on any given EQAO test should invest in Fullan’s Turnaround Leadership, wherein the man behind the reform that now threatens their careers “identifies the positive things turnaround schools do to get off the critical list.” But Fullan’s Six Secrets of Change is the ultimate self-help resource for principals, offering “what the best leaders do to help their organizations survive and thrive.”

Next, principals who want to truly understand the new rules of the game would be well advised to buy access to Fullan’s leadership tools made available at Leadership4Change (L4C). This is a special web portal which allows you to “email Michael Fullan directly”. Also, “the L4C Learning Zone gives you access to Michael Fullan’s latest books, articles and a set of videos developed specifically for L4C membership. A vast collection of additional resources is also available here.”

In addition, the leaders of tomorrow will want to buy the professional development packages. A number of Fullan’s products are available on the Ontario Principals Council website, where a principal who wants to stay off that “critical list” should be sure to get the following for just $339:

“Leadership and Sustainability Multimedia Kit for Professional Development

This all-in-one training package provides staff developers with the necessary tools for training leaders at all levels of the educational system to create large scale, sustainable reform without jeopardizing short-term results.”

There is also going to be a dramatic new need for achievement, which in today’s Ontario, translates into EQAO numbers. Three hundred dollars is a small price to pay for Fullan’s “Breakthrough: A Multimedia Kit for Professional Development.” This resource promises to “Give educators the keys to a transformative instructional approach that raises and sustains schoolwide achievement!” Furthermore “Facilitators will be able to demonstrate the authors’ powerful Triple P Breakthrough Model.”

Finally, for $375 the new generals of Fullan’s army could have seen Fullan and Hargreaves “Building a Community of Leaders: Change Wars - A Hopeful Struggle”


Fullan is a member of the board of international advisors on Microsoft’s Partners in Learning, whom he has been with since 2003 and which had by 2007 established partnerships with governments in over 100 countries. Partners in Learning is Microsoft’s international branch aimed at partnering Microsoft as a private corporation with governments. Microsoft is the world’s most aggressive proponent of both public-private partnerships in education and charter schools, as one may easily deduce from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Report: “We have invested $2 billion, directly reaching at least 781,000 students and opening or improving 2,602 schools in 45 states and the District of Columbia.”

Thus, Partners in Learning (PiL) isn’t just about promoting the use of Microsoft products and services such as hardware and software: it’s about reforming every aspect of education from teaching to administration, along the lines of PiL’s “School of the Future”, Microsoft’s flagship charter school in Philadelphia. More importantly, it is focused on influencing government policies themselves, and actively promoting “decentralization.” According to Microsoft’s own definition, this means “putting control of budgets, personnel, and academic affairs back into the hands of local communities,” but giving full control of budgets to individual schools is also a way to allow for private providers like Microsoft to gain access to markets that were previously controlled by central governments. This explains Fullan’s role as a reformer in Thailand and other countries:  “Through Learning to Lead Change, a workshop developed for Partners in Learning by international education reform expert Professor Michael Fullan, more than 13,000 educators throughout Thailand are learning strategies and tactics to prepare for decentralization and to help create a sustainable culture of leadership, collaboration, and innovation in their schools.” (

The fact that Fullan’s reforms, with their emphasis on local leadership, do not differ much from those in Ontario should be a cause of great concern.

It is worth pointing out that on the Ministry’s website, one of it’s four overall initiatives has been to “enhance the way education is delivered to students by expanding e-learning opportunities, creating more online resources, increasing opportunities for experiential learning and supporting specialized schools.”

Could such “specialized schools” be charters? Could the e-learning be moving us in the direction of the virtual charter schools which have emerged as a force in the US due to the low cost and high margin of profit compared to having buildings and live teachers? With the impending closure of over 140 schools in Ontario due to under-enrolment, it is interesting to note that the declining enrolment working group made reference to “e-learning” 25 times in their 78 page report entitled “Planning and Possibilities”. (

One of the key groups consulted by the Declining Enrolment Working Group was the OASBO (Ontario Association of School Business Officers), who, in their newsletter, did not fail to see “possibilities”. Bill Blackie, the Executive Director of OASBO, explains in an article called “A Perfect Storm” in OASBO newsletter the enrolment crisis plus the economic recession equals opportunity:  “Boards and their senior staff may need to consider making overtures to potential business partners and service providers that could share sites, or processes that would produce a benefit t to both partners. The declining enrolment working group also made reference to the need to examine the expanded role of technology in delivering programs. This too might be an area to consider for partnerships….If we can capture some of these opportunities, the business functions in education will emerge as a vital and integral part of a new education environment.”


In his article, “Large-Scale Reform Comes of Age,” Fullan’s own research betrays a strong bias, for he sees Microsoft, along with Intel and Cisco, as the new leaders to take command of the high-stakes standardized testing which currently regulates the entire U.S. education system: “Cisco, Intel, and Microsoft have just launched a much needed global project with leading academics to develop assessments and corresponding instructional practices for twenty-first Century skills thereby addressing the narrowness, and low level of current testing in the U.S. and elsewhere.” Clearly Fullan sees no conflict of interest in handing the computer giants both assessment and “corresponding instructional practices” —in essence giving them control of the tail of assessment that now wags the dog (instruction) and controls the whole system.


Fullan lauds Bush’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) reform, which has accelerated privatization of schools in many ways, for “put[ting] the spotlight on those falling behind, and [because it] has sparked greater attention to data and its use.” But he criticizes NCLB for  “too narrow tests, short time lines, little capacity building, and a punitive strategy. No state or the federal level has an explicit system reform strategy that comes even close to what we know is needed. The only good news is that there is a rapidly growing realization that existing strategies are not working as the U.S. continues to lose ground internationally; and the best news: key leaders are beginning to show interest in particular strategies that get results….”

The four references to “strategy” in the above quote make it abundantly clear that Fullan is critical of the strategies, not the goal.


Avis Glaze was Ontario’s first CEO of the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat, and the  Senior Advisor to the Minister who set up the “Character Development” initiative-all programs for which Ontario school boards are now eligible for funding and held to account for producing measurable outcomes. Around the time of her retirement from the Ministry in December, 2008, Glaze established Edu-Quest International Inc. which delivers many of the services she worked to make mandatory for boards to deliver. Glaze is also on the “Education Advisory Council” for the American based “Character Education Partnership (CEP), which, like many non-profit NGOs, operates as an umbrella group for a variety of both non-profit members, such as charities, and for-profit services, such as professional development providers. CEP produces research aimed at standardizing and measuring character development through assessment and scoring tools. (

On behalf of her company, Edu-Quest International Inc., Glaze advised and assisted Upper Canada District School Board in its “Character Education” program by performing a review for its trustees between April and June 2008.  In the report Glaze explains that she “initiated Character Development in Ontario school boards and was responsible for the provincial implementation of this government priority.” ( It is possible that the promotion of her identity as initiator of character development is being seen as a doorway to the special information at the ministry and as a method of ensuring advantageous alignment with school boards which seek to avoid intervention under upcoming Bill 177.

Glaze was appointed “as Ontario’s Education Commissioner and as a Senior Advisor to the Minister on equity and character development” by Deputy Minister Steenkamp, on January 30, 2008. (

Glaze worked to initiate and implement mandatory character development in all schools in Ontario until December 2008. “Before she retired in December, at the request of Premier McGuinty and Minister Wynne, she led the initiative to implement character development in all Ontario schools, based on the York Region model of community engagement.” (

The government’s new policy directive appeared in 2008: “Finding Common Ground:

Character Development in Ontario Schools, K–12.” It is signed by “Avis E. Glaze

Ontario’s Education, Commissioner and Senior Advisor to the Minister of Education”.  It states exactly what the ministry, boards, principals and teachers must now do. The boards, for instance, must “ensure that their character development initiative

is aligned with and becomes an integral part of Board and School Improvement Plans.” School Improvement Plans are something for which boards are held very accountable. Another mandatory requirement is to “monitor and collect data on the effectiveness of their board’s character development initiative.” ( This is exactly what the Upper Canada District School Board was doing when it hired Edu-Quest, which, on its website explains: 

“Many school districts see the need for on-going quality assurance. They wish to evaluate programs in order to determine their effectiveness in meeting desired goals. Edu-quest International will work collaboratively with school districts to evaluate their character development and other programs and to make recommendations for improvement in their review, development and implementation processes.” (

While Glaze was the CEO of the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat during its start-up, Ruth Mattingly, was second in command as the Senior Executive Officer. Now Glaze is the president of Edu-Quest and Mattingley is Associate with the company. The policies which were set up by the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat are now mandatory aspects of a school’s improvement plan, and they are also exactly what is offered by Edu-quest. Most of the services listed by them are a result of the new accountability requirements they were instrumental in setting up. Like both Fullan and Earl, Glaze & Mattingley form a kind of shadow ministry ready to assist with reform’s every new requirement:

“Student Engagement; Leadership Development; Improving Schools in Challenging Circumstances; Professional Accountability; Public Relations and Community Engagement; Equity and Diversity: Teaching Effectiveness; High-Yield Strategies to Improve Achievement; Closing Gaps in Student Achievement; Instructional Effectiveness; Boys Literacy; School and District Improvement; District Improvement Planning; School Improvement Planning; Assessing School Effectiveness; Self-Assessment and Accountability; Strategies for Monitoring Improvement; Mentorship and Coaching; School and System Effectiveness; Leadership Development and Succession Planning; Performance Reviews; Program Reviews; Administrative Structure and Governance Reviews; Character & Citizenship Development; Developing Effective Character Development Programs; Building Communities of Character;

Character in the Workplace; Character Development Strategies for Principals, Teachers, Parents & Students…”

The closeness of Edu-Quest to the key decisions at the ministry’s policy makes the services so well aligned that the very wording mirrors what is prescribed by the Ministry.  For example, “high yield strategies to improve achievement” which was mandated by Glaze and Mattingley while on the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat ( is exactly what they offer at Edu-Quest. Most obviously they, like Aporia, offer what any pressured school board would see translates into EQAO score enhancement (a.k.a.) “achievement” or “improvement” strategies, and they offer lots of accountability compliance services to match accountability orders they sent out while in the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat.

Another former member of the Secretariat, Beverley Freedman, offers similar services, such as “System-wide Improvement Planning,” “Assessment Literacy,” and “School Improvement Planning,” and it is clear that she has been delivering these services in Ontario both before and shortly after her term with the Secretariat. (  Her work with the consultancy PMC Inc. is even more specifically catered to Ontario’s accountability reforms, where Freedman’s portfolio includes strategic planning, system improvement and restructuring, gender and equity issues, instructional leadership, curriculum audits, and principal walkthroughs. (

While there is nothing wrong per se with retiring from government and pursuing a second career in the private sector in an area of expertise, there is at present little accountability to the public for the authorship of government policies which favour contracting between the government and individual or individual’s business interest upon retirement either into or out of government positions. While ever increasing accountability is demanded of the schools by “evidence based” or “data driven” policymakers-turned-achievement-consultants, there is little oversight of the interaction between their government and private-sector roles. This is especially clear in the case of Freedman, who straddling both the public and private worlds of policy as the “Program Manager” at “The Learning Partnership” belongs to a governmental agency which is specifically dedicated to welding the public good to private interests: “Through partnerships we champion a strong public education system to deliver innovative programs, credible research, policy initiatives, executive leadership and public engagement across Canada.” (


Fullan, Earl, Glaze, Mattingley and Freedman were in  positions to use their influence, while at the same they held external and/or future business interests which stood to gain directly from the policies they implemented. All used their positions to establish policies favourable to the creation of new private-sector markets ideal for their own businesses.  All occupy key places in the government’s new hierarchy: EQAO, Literacy, Numeracy, Leadership and Character Development. All have worked extensively on research together, and they have all worked to promote the same policy of “strategic funding” and “accountability.” While supports come in the form of extra public money made available to buy improvement services, pressures come in “interventions” and possible ministry “supervision” (ie. under the upcoming Bill 177): the results are there to see: the Government of Ontario is buying from Michael Fullan Enterprises Inc.; the boards of education are buying from Lorna Earl’s Aporia Consulting, from Freedman’s “Education Services Consulting” and from Glaze’s Edu-Quest International Inc.

Indeed there is little difference in this scenario from the conditions which have given rise to the “School Improvement Industry” which dominates the post-No Child Left Behind landscape in America. As explained in School Improvement Industry Week Online,

The difficulty schools and districts have had meeting AYP [adequate yearly progress]  towards universal proficiency in math and literacy by 2012 creates demands for products, services and programs that change teaching and learning from the classroom to the central office. To support the accountability…additional resources are made available  for schools identified for improvement; students in those schools are eligible for federally funded tutoring; and, above all, schools seeking to avoid or escape improvement status have a strong incentive to adopt new educational strategies and to purchase new private sector products and services in the process….” (podcast August  6, 2008,

Thus, all of the new private sector services are tailored to provide “solutions” to the problems posed by reform. Consider how governmental policy and accountability are re-framed as a problem which the private solution provider can help to solve. Beverley Freedman, for example, sells the standard school improvement product of principal walkthrough training which enables principals and other administrators to make more effective observations about teacher effectiveness without formally inspecting:

The headlines demand that schools get better and that students become smarter. Government tells us that change is required. Despite pressures from fiscal restraint, parental choice, local empowerment and government centralization, schools struggle to improve. The literature from the school improvement and school effectiveness research both agree that school administrators are critical to educational change….Today, in a climate of heightened accountability, results count. To address current challenges, [administrators] must acquire new skills to serve as change agents: visibility, collaboration, articulation of system and school vision and a comfort level with creative tensions and ambiguities. (

Thus, whether they realize it or not, the accountability proponents have very much turned schools into factories for literacy and numeracy scores so that they can come to the rescue with a science of effectiveness.  Even “character education” is frequently  rationalized on the basis that it will raise student achievement. As Ball and Youdell’s study shows, companies on the international privatization scene now routinely “‘sell’ policy, ‘sell’ reform and ‘sell’ school improvement, as ready-made , off-the-shelf, generic packages of ‘ideas’ .”

This is simply business as usual for accountability reformers who seek to marry public policy to business. For example, as Partricia Burch points out in Hidden Markets: The New Education Privatization, the No Child Left Behind Act –the most radically pro-privatization legislation ever devised-was itself the child of just such a union between accountability reformers and business:

From 2001 to 2007, 27 high U.S. Department of Education officials resigned, all of whom were involved in integral ways in the design, administration, and oversight of NCLB. Sixteen of the 27 assumed positions at for-profit firms selling consultative or other services and products to schools districts, and states linked to the mandates of NCLB. (42).

Indeed, the partnership between Ontario’s accountability importers and their businesses is a pattern that has been well established world-wide. What is most disturbing about the whole scenario is the extent to which it represents the opening of a floodgate for privatization by allowing the highest levels of government policymaking to be “partnered” unequally with the private sector. Ball and Youdell point to this alarming new global tendency in their frightening study of Hidden Privatisation in Public Education:

It is not simply education and education services that are subject to forms

of privatisation: education policy itself – through advice, consultation,

research, evaluations and forms of influence – is being privatised. Private sector

organisations and NGOs are increasingly involved in both policy development

and policy implementation.

The Literacy and Numeracy Secretariate itself, Fullan’s first import from his laboratory of reform in the U.K., is a prime example of how an accountability mechanism can be designed to turn policy into a commercial entity. In Ruth Mattingley’s summary of the nine key strategies of the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat, we can see that all but one of the strategies—the reduction of class size—is an area for simultaneously creating both pressure for results and new markets for people like Glaze, Mattingley, Freedman, Fullan and Earl:

• Set targets with district school boards

• Identify teams at all levels to drive continuous improvement in literacy and numeracy

• Reduce class size in primary grades to a maximum of 20 students per class by 2008

• Build capacity to support student learning and achievement

• Allocate resources to support target setting and improvement plans

• Mobilize the system to provide equity in student outcome

• Community outreach and engagement

• Demonstrate a commitment to research and evidence-based inquiry and decision making

• Establish a growing presence on the national and international scene


Most notably the last strategy above creates an altogether new need which has nothing to do with serving the children of Ontario in any conceivable way.  To “establish a growing presence on the national and international scene” represents the complete merger between Ontario education policymaking and commercial consultancies into an entity with brand recognition on the “international scene.” Why? Because the long range goal is to give Ontario’s commercial school reformers not only a wider market for their businesses within Ontario, but a wider national and global marketplace for export.

Based on only the most superficial of web based research it is obvious that at least five of Ontario’s leading educational reformers have business ties which stand to benefit from the very structures they helped to put in place. Their ties are numerous and difficult to trace, but it’s clear that all of these people are connected to international business networks which are profiting from global accountability reform. With more time, research and inside information about positions and payments behind the secretive, authorless jargon of education policy, it is clear that we are only looking at the tip of a vast, global iceberg of privatization.