David Kearns, CEO and chair of Xerox, in the words of Business Week, conducted a “crusade” in which his “mantra” was “quality, standards, choice, competition”. He co-wrote a book with Dennis Doyle subtitled “A Bold Plan to Make Our Schools Competitive”. Kearns is credited with bringing Xerox back from the brink with massive workforce downsizing and he believed that similar restructuring was necessary for schools.
Kearns argued “Business is having to do the school’s product-recall work for them. Frankly, I resent it.”
After retiring from his CEO position Kearns became deputy to Secretary of Education, Lamar Alexander, during the first Bush administration. Kearns was also a member of various think tanks and business coalitions including the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission.
Kearns founded New American Schools (NAS) in 1991 to promote the improvement and innovation of American schools by demonstrating model curricula and funding educational entrepreneurs who design them. With his high level corporate and political contacts, Kearns was able to raise $140 million for NAS.
In Memphis in 1995 schools were required to adopt one of eight new curricula designs, most of which were designed by NAS. By 1999 around a thousand schools had adopted NAS curricula designs.
In 2005 the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation granted NAS in conjunction with San Diego City Schools $11 million to transform three large high schools by reorganising them into “18 small, rigorous schools designed to increase student achievement”.
In 2006 NAS merged with American Institutes for Research to promote accountability, standards-based reform and implementation of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.