Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Urban Education


Nicholas M. Michelli

Committee Members

Michelle Fine

David Bloomfield

Subject Categories

Education | Other Education


Venture Philanthropy, Marketization, Privatization, NewSchools Venture Fund, Urban School Reform


Since the 1980s and the Reagan administration’s report “A Nation at Risk” and with the passage of No Child Left Behind during the George W. Bush Administration, the ground of public education has shifted. Reform efforts previously geared toward improving the system of public education have been superseded by the efforts of venture philanthropies and foundations like Gates, Walton and Broad to remake education into a private market. The power of these institutions politically, socially and economically to reshape the educational landscape inAmericaraises fundamental questions about the role of wealthy elites and their influence on democracy and education.

How is this educational map being redrawn? What field are being created and what processes are being repurposed? What are the purposes, values and ultimately its impact on the young people of theUnited States? To engage these questions within a qualitative case study approach and be able to trace the effects and reach of the movement of neoliberal social policy in education, this dissertation research will focus on the role of intermediaries, and the NewSchools Venture Fund in particular. My case study focuses on the NewSchools Venture Fund as one of the oldest and most influential intermediaries, interconnected with other powerful forces of venture philanthropy, venture capital, technology and leaders of government and policy. It offers a rich location from which to assess what Datnow and Park call “Large-Scale Reform in an Era of Complexity.”

Employing a critical policy framework to keep the larger context in view as well as foregrounding concerns of social justice, my case study will explore the development, reach and policy practices of NSVF. The data sources for my research, I will interview some of key NSVF stakeholders, document and analyze its “artifacts,” and do a Social Network Analysis (Scott) of the key players to map their connection to shapers of policy and practice. Further, this analysis will afford the opportunity to assess the potential development of a new social form of power relations called Shadow Elites, theorized by Wedel and elaborated by Picciano and Spring.

The theoretical framework for the dissertation will include, but not be limited to, critical work on neoliberalism (Harvey, Brown, Duggan, Ball, Apple) and given the emergence of intermediaries as a force in educational policy an critical theory approach to the study of organizations (Burch, Ozga, Bourdieu).

The findings of the study will help to map the shifting terrain of public education, see the effects of privatization in key aspects of charter schools, charter management organizations, data, leadership and policy and advocacy – all central investments in the NewSchools Venture Fund “portfolio.” This mapping and analysis will in turn raise questions about the direction of public education for policy makers, community members and educational activists.