John Krull agreed to answer our questions about what is happening in terms of technology and software programs planned for Seattle Public Schools.
As Krull states in his letter of application for the position within Seattle Public Schools, “I implemented a blended and personal learning infrastructure for 87 urban schools improving overall student engagement”.
To put that in plain English, “blended and personalized learning” means that a student works in front of a computer the greater part of the day and the teacher is then able to manage over 40 to 50 students in a classroom, theoretically, which is a way to cut cost.
This is a popular approach for online charter schools like Summit charter school.
Computers or laptops are programmed with packaged lessons that many times have not been vetted by parents or teachers or as in Seattle, by the school board. There is also experimental software using a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) program that is integrated into the computers to determine a student’s mindset and attitude.
Then there is the concern of student privacy and the culling of personal information that can be provided to third parties with no protections by FERPA.
We raised a red flag when we discovered that John Krull had been hired by Seattle Public Schools after working in Oakland with their public school system which I wrote about in The Progressive.
The following are the ten questions we submitted to John Krull, Chief Information Officer for Seattle Public Schools, with Krull’s answers after each question.
- Why did you decide to move to Seattle after two years in Oakland?
I thoroughly enjoyed my almost four years as Chief Technology Officer in Oakland. While there, I led a team that made numerous advancements in use of technology in students’ education.
Seattle Public Schools presents another exciting opportunity to leverage technology to provide the best educational experience for students in an area I call home. I have spent 20 years in the Seattle area where I attended the University of Washington, taught in Shoreline Schools and worked at Microsoft and I look forward to the next 20 years too.
- Are you familiar with the Homeroom software? Apparently, it has been installed in some Seattle schools as a pilot program. If you are familiar with the program, what do you see as its value? Do you know what the cost is to buy, install and implement the program along with technology upgrades to sustain this program if it is used within the entire SPS school system?
Seattle Public Schools is testing Educational Data Solutions’ Homeroom software solution as part of improving our data systems. It is part of the district’s strategy to implement Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) to help students according to their individual needs and eliminate opportunity gaps. Both district and school staff will be able to use data collected to enhance and shape supports for their students. Right now we are field testing in 15 schools at a cost of $105,000. Full deployment at all schools will cost approximately $376,750.
- Homeroom allows the collection of sensitive behavioral information and there is concern by parents that too much student information is being requested by the software. Do you know who is privy to this information and would it include the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and Seattle’s Department of Early Learning? Do you know if the information will it be tracked as a student continues through high school?
The safety and security of our students is a top priority, including when it comes to collecting personal student data. Currently, discipline data is recorded in PowerSchool and will flow to Homeroom for reporting. This flow, along with training, will improve how data is collected and stored which will allow us to better support the district’s MTSS strategies. All student information is stored according to retention rules set by the state and will be stored through high school.
- What is the Technology Plan for Seattle Public Schools? Will you be writing a new or revised Technology Plan as you did for Oakland Public Schools?
The Technology Plan for this year and the next 3 years is outlined in the Buildings, Technology and Academics IV (BTA IV) Levy information. You can see the plan under the Technology section of the Seattle Public Schools Levies Information published in Winter 2016 https://bta.seattleschools.org/assets/Uploads/documents/Levies%20Information-Winter%202016%20brochure-Final.pdf .
Implementing our plan is the result of close collaboration with the district’s Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction, Student Services, Strategy & Partnerships, Business & Finance, HR, and Operations Departments to make sure our technology investments are implemented to align to the district’s strategic plan. Here is a link to the district’s strategic plan. https://www.seattleschools.org/district/strategic_plan
- Are you familiar with CASEL? If so, what is your role to be with this program?
I am familiar with CASEL. Currently, the district follows a different Social Emotional Learning (SEL) model. While I don’t have an active role in the direction of SEL, I do believe SEL can be applied to the digital world. For example, Responsible Decision Making applies as much to the physical as the online world.
- Do you have a plan for notifying parents of the information that is gathered by software distributed to schools within the Seattle school district including Homeroom?
Again, the safety and security of students is a top priority, including all personal data collected by the district. Here is a link to the district’s policy procedure for collection of data as part of Superintendent Procedure 3231SP: (http://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/School%20Board/Procedures/Series%203000/3231SP_sig.pdf).
- On the Seattle Public Schools’ website it notes that you wrote a paper titled “How Do You Measure Return on Investment of EDtech” and another paper “Creating a Platform for Staff and Student Growth”. There were no links provided to these papers. Please include a link in your response or a pdf that we can post.
Here is a link to an article written for Edsurge by a colleague who worked on our presentation “How Do You Measure Return on Investment of Edtech”… https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-08-18-how-can-we-measure-edtech-s-return-on-investment Unfortunately, I don’t have any documents supporting my presentation, “Creating a Platform for Staff and Student Growth”, on the internet. I do detail many other presentations on my website, http://www.johnkrull.org/
- What are your views on the use of devices such as laptops by young children, particularly between kindergarten and second grade? In Oakland, Clever badges are used by the youngest students to start up their laptops.
My department and staff is dedicated to supporting the use of all devices used by all students across the district. While the district’s education staff make grade-level device decisions, we are looking at Clever badges as a possibility to make logging into devices easier.
- You state on the Seattle Public Schools website that you have a vision and commitment for an “equitable, supportable, standardized and secure environment to improve teaching and learning.” What are your definitions of “standardized” and “secure”?
As the largest school district in the Pacific Northwest, we serve more than 53,000 students. This includes providing district technology staff “standard” equipment like computers, projectors, and document cameras to name a few, so they, in turn, can provide students with the best educational experience. The Seattle school district is dedicated to eliminating opportunity gaps for all students and supporting their individual needs. That includes supporting students through access to technology. “Secure” means we use applications and systems that comply with all FERPA and district rules, policies, and procedures to make sure we protect and maintain privacy. The safety and security of our students is a top priority.
I serve on an advisory panel for IMS Global that is working to develop standards to have education applications work together.
There you have it. Our questions and concerns were not truly addressed but maybe Krull is thinking more about the technology itself and not what role technology should have in the classroom. That’s a discussion parents and educators should be having now, before IT departments are allowed to pursue their vision.