Malcolm Baldrige Award Promotes School Privatization

25 Nov

The November 18 San Diego Union reported: “The Charter School of San Diego is among four recipients awarded the 2015 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, a top presidential honor for performance in the public and private sectors.”

Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award: “An award established by the U.S. Congress in 1987 to raise awareness of quality management and recognize U.S. companies that have implemented successful quality management systems. Awards can be given annually in six categories: manufacturing, service, small business, education, healthcare and nonprofit. The award is named after the late Secretary of Commerce Malcolm Baldrige, a proponent of quality management. The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology manages the award, and ASQ administers it.”

I had never heard of San Diego’s first charter school which was founded in 1994. In the past many hoaxes have been perpetrated concerning education, so I decided to do a little digging. I asked, “What made this charter school worthy of a literally one-in-a-million presidential honor?” I found the award was not based on merit! For example, the school is into year four of needs program improvement (meaning failing) under the No Child Left Behind act.

The award announcement came from Commerce Secretary, Penny Priztker. She is quoted as saying:

“The winners were chosen for their ‘outstanding commitment to sustainable excellence through innovation, improvement and visionary leadership.’ The Charter School of San Diego won in the education category for its ability to help students who despite enrolling ‘academically behind and at risk of never receiving a high school diploma, 94-98 percent of those enrolled have graduated from the Charter School of San Diego or successfully transitioned back to a traditional public school.’”

This implies the charter school saves children who can’t make it in public school and even heals their issues to the extent they can go back to public school! That is just fabrication.

It is true that over 70% of Charter School of San Diego students are labeled socioeconomically disadvantaged but that is not unusual. The public school where I work, Mar Vista Senior High School, matches that and has more than twice as many English learners as the charter school. My school and the charter school make a good comparison.

In the March, 2015, all California charter and public schools administered the California High School Exit exam. The March administration was given to sophomores and is the main component of the federally mandated Adequate Yearly Progress evaluation. My school and the charter school had the following results:

Mar Vista Senior High School (420 tested) Passing Rates

Math: All Students : 84% Socioeconomic: 81% English Learners: 65%
English All Students: 85% Socioeconomic: 82% English Learners: 60%

Charter School of San Diego (320 tested) Passing Rates

Math: All Students : 79% Socioeconomic: 76% English Learners: 62%
English All Students: 84% Socioeconomic: 82% English Learners: 63%

When I looked at this data, it seemed to me that my high school, which has also been labeled a failing school for the past five years just like the charter school, looked pretty good. We had more than double the English Language Learners, the same percentage of socioeconomically disadvantaged students and our sophomores outperformed theirs. In addition, our dropout rates are lower.

To understand what is happening here, I looked at the principals involved starting with Penny Pritzker. According to Forbes, “The Hyatt heiress has carefully positioned herself at the intersection of wealth and politics, becoming Commerce Secretary in 2013 after working as a key Obama fundraiser. (She also donated $250,000–just to his second inauguration celebration.)” She is worth about $2.4 billion.

It seems that Billionaires are more interested in profits and advancing private business than world class education for the children of ordinary people. That $700 billion a year spent on education in the United States is too enticing. It turns a billionaire green with desire.

Tom Vander Ark, the well known shill for “corporate education reform” really likes Charter School of San Diego. He wrote in 2014:

“I met Mary Searcy Bixby in the fall of 1999 in a converted retail space in an outdoor shopping mall in San Diego (the same day I visited Larry Rosenstock in a vacant warehouse that become [sic] High Tech High). When I was a public school superintendent, my team had created an alternative school in a mall so I immediately liked the idea. As founder of The Charter School of San Diego, Mary had created (what I’m pretty sure was) the first flex school network as an “independent study” charter school launching in 1994. Five years later, Mary had 19 locations including converted retail and commercial real estate locations serving over 2,000 students. Students attended in two shifts, studied online and print instructional materials, and progressed at their own pace.”

“Altus Institute is the parent corporation to a network of charter schools that includes The Charter School of San Diego (est. 1994), Audeo Charter School (est. 2001), Mirus Secondary School (est. 2007), and Laurel Preparatory Academy (est. 2013). Altus Schools strive to help students achieve by creating alternative educational options that put students’ needs first and to deeply reduce dropout rates.”

Vander Ark is a former officer of the Democrats for Education Reform and an enthusiastic proponent of education technology including cyber-schools. The Democrats for Education Reform are the group that brought us Arne Duncan. Financed by several hedge fund operators, they are huge proponents of privatizing public education with charter schools.

Mary Searcy Bixby, the founder and CEO of Charter School of San Diego, is from San Diego where she attended Marian Catholic High School and obtained both a BA in English and an MA in curriculum and instruction from the local Catholic university, University of San Diego.

Recently, Tom Davis a long time educator and school leader joined Bixby as Educational Reform Project Director. Davis is retired from more than 40 years in public schools and does have deep experience and training.

A few items of interest were revealed by the Altus Institutes form 990 filings. The most current available form 990 covered 2012 and predates Davis’s arrival. Bixby’s total compensation that year was $297,000. She is getting into Eva Moscowitz type earnings and her per-student rate is much higher than Eva’s. In 2010, someone or some entity gave Bixby’s schools $4,500,000 in new buildings and property; which established a strong base for expansion.

This joint statement from Bixby and Davis is on their website:

“We appreciate Ted Kolderie (Senior Associate, Education Evolving), Eric Premack (Executive Director, Charter Schools Development Center), Jed Wallace (President and CEO, California Charter Schools Association), and Pat Hyndman (Chairperson, Vistage) for sharing their expertise and thoughtful insight. Thank you for your courtesy, professionalism, and genuine interest and warmth.

“Thanks to Gail Audrict (Orleans Parish School Board), Alexina Medley (Warren Easton Charter School), and Maggie Runyan-Shefa (New Schools for New Orleans) for sharing the New Orleans experience with Davis and Bixby. Educational Reform in New Orleans is inspring [sic] the education leaders across the United States. The extraordinary model New Orleans provides us leads others to a new way of thinking.”

The Malcolm Baldrige award that Charter School of San Diego displays on its web site is part of a coordinated attack on public schools. There is nothing special about that charter school and public schools in San Diego provide better education.

Charter schools harm public education by diverting tax dollars to private pockets and opening the path of corruption, instability and segregation.

Disturbingly this attack is being led by the Democratic Party. For decades the Democrats prided themselves on supporting and protecting public education. Now, they attack teachers and work to privatize public schools. Who will join the righteous fight to save America’s great public education system from a corrupted political system and corporate greed?

6 Responses to “Malcolm Baldrige Award Promotes School Privatization”

  1. Dawn Bailey November 28, 2015 at 1:22 pm #

    Within the educator sector, the merit-based Baldrige Award can be given to school systems, public or private, large or small, that excel in performance excellence based on 1,000s of hours of objective examiner review. There are no politics involved. We’d be happy to put you in touch with public school superintendents, educators who have received the Baldrige Award. No judgment has been made on private or public. Please feel free to contact the Baldrige Program at The results for the Charter School of San Diego can be found at

    The Baldrige mission is to improve competitiveness of all U.S. organizations and facilitate sharing of best practices. All education organizations are invited to apply for the Baldrige Award. Kind regards and happy Thanksgiving.


    • tultican November 28, 2015 at 11:20 pm #

      It is difficult to believe Charter School of San Diego received this award based on merit. The corporate yard-stick, testing results, say different. In 2010, someone gave $4.5 million dollars in facilities to this charter school, setting it up for expansion – Last year, Tom Vander Ark a known proponent of charter schools and a former officer of Democrats for Education Reform writes a puff piece about this charter school – now this year the school that has made its founder rich at the expense of tax payers is given a Baldrige award. Somebody pulled some strings!

      Every claim made in the material you cited could easily be made about the public school I work in and about any other public school of which I have personal knowledge.


  2. Dawn Bailey September 14, 2016 at 5:29 pm #

    Again, the Baldrige Award and Department of Commerce have no stake in public vs. private education. In fact, a recent blog notes that the Charter School of San Diego is part of the public school system. Please see

    Any school. business, hospital, etc., is invited to apply for the Baldrige Award. Baldrige examiners review processes and results and make a recommendation to the Secretary of Commerce on the merits of the organization. The award is for organizational performance excellence. Please see for more information.


    • tultican September 14, 2016 at 6:03 pm #

      Charter School of San Diego is a school in the mall scam and its administrator is becoming wealthy misappropriating tax dollars meant for real public schools. It cannot be a coincidence that the charter-loving public-school loathing Obama administration selected this winner.



  1. Roll Up the Failed Charter School Experiment | tultican - November 24, 2017

    […] not being checked. For example, in 2015, billionaire Penny Pritzker, then Secretary of Commerce, presented Mary Bixby the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award which recognizes U.S. organizations in the […]


  2. Reforming California’s Dysfunctional Charter School Law | tultican - July 18, 2019

    […] and his Commerce Secretary. As Secretary of Commerce she used the Malcolm Baldrige award to promote charter schools in the mall. In Chicago, the family financed a charter school called Pritzker College Prep which is part of the […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: