Pay for Success & the McCleary Crisis: Did the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Help Position Social Impact Bonds as a Last Resort Funding Option for Our Public Schools?

two minutes of hate

The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic. And yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp. -George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-four

No one makes a better villain than Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. She’s the enemy of public education that everyone – on the left and right – can agree to hate.

DeVos is our very own Emmanuel Goldstein, the bipartisan uniter and designated enemy, who continues to bring all of us together in our updated – dare I say innovative – version of Orwellian inspired two minutes of hate.

Sadly, the fix was in long before DeVos was summoned by Donald Trump and convinced to leave behind her public education destroying work in Michigan and take her callous, innovative disruption to scale as the nation’s Secretary of Education.

The ground work for the destruction of public education as we know it was already laid by the ESSA, the victory of bipartisanship and ticking time bomb of education innovation.

Don’t Look Behind the Velvet Curtain

One of the horrible ironies of the ESSA is that so many lobbyist had a hand in writing the bill, these special interest groups just can’t help bragging about their work.

Take social impact bonds, which got a doublespeak makeover and were renamed Pay for Success in the ESSA.

Check this out from America Forward.

All indications are in just a few short days, with the likely passage and enactment of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), we will have our first update to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) since No Child Left Behind was signed into law 14 years ago. The America Forward Coalition worked closely with Congress to shape key elements of the bill, including the development of language and advocacy around the addition of Pay for Success language and authority.

Here’s a closer look at the America Forward driven Pay for Success provisions included in ESSA:

  • Title I, Part D: Prevention and Intervention Programs for Children and Youth who are Neglected, Delinquent, or At-Risk:In this part ESSA, funding is provided to improve the education services for children and youth who have challenges meeting State academic standards, helping children and youth make a successful transition between correctional facilities/institutions back into locally operated education programs, and working to prevent at-risk children and youth from dropping out of school or supporting those who have dropped out with the structure needed to get back on track. In addition to the Pay for Success authority granted in this Title, there is also language that services and interventions delivered, to the extent possible, be evidence-based.
  • Title IV, Part A: Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants: The purpose of this piece of the ESSA is to improve students’ academic achievement by increasing the capacity of states, local education agencies, schools, and local communities to provide a well-rounded education. The authority to use Pay for Success is associated specifically with Section 4108: Activities to Support Safe and Healthy Students, which emphasizes school coordination with other schools and community-based services/programs (i.e. substance use, mental health, violence, etc.) as well as parental involvement and partnership with higher education, business, nonprofit organizations, and other private entities. Like Title I, there is also an emphasis on the use of evidence-based practices strategies and programs when available in this Title.
  • General Provisions: Additionally, Pay for Success is also defined in the General Provisions section of ESSA. This is the first time that Pay for Success is defined in Federal legislation and the comprehensive nature of the definition is important for implementation of the Pay for Success authorities in ESSA but is also helpful for use the overall use of Pay for Success in federal programs.

What does this mean for the future of Pay for Success?

With this allowable use of Pay for Success authority, states and school districts will now have the option of structuring funding decisions using outcomes as the driver of payment allocation. They will be able to use the independently and rigorously evaluated impact of programs and activities as the determinate of the allocation of Federal education dollars to best serve their students.

Something like this would never be implemented in Washington State, right?

Except it has.

Right now, The Washington State Department of Early Learning and Thrive Washington are busy working together to use Pay for Success (PFS) as a funding method for statewide home visits. Here’s the Overview-FINAL-10.5.15.

Pay for Success Home Visits McCleary and Pay for Success

This is where Pay for Success takes an ugly turn.

In a blog post titled Social Impact Bond Divides WA Legislators, Republican Representative Hans Zeiger let this drop.

Social Impact Bonds and McCleary

Go read the whole blog post, it’s an eye opener.


After the democrats pitiful performance pretending to fund McCleary in Olympia this legislative session, everyone who cares about public education should have their guards way up.

We learned the hard way how ready and willing democrats are to cave and support the most  hairbrained education funding schemes put forth by republicans – no matter how punitive this policy may be to their constituents back home.

Expect Pay for Success or social impact bonds to be the 11th hour solutions, put forth in a bipartisan manner, as the way to fund McCleary.

Don’t buy it.

-Carolyn Leith



What Corporations, Bill Gates and the Department of Defense Have Planned for Public Education: A video


The Learning Lab at Rocketship Si Se Puede Academy in California.



Alison McDowell, editor of Wrench in the Gears, gave a presentation titled Future Ready Schools: How Silicon Valley and the Defense Department Plan to Remake Public Education  on Saturday, March 25, 2017 at the Lake City Library in Seattle.

To follow is a video of the talk on Education Reform 2.0.



27 minutes into this video, Alison touches upon the IT Tech for Seattle Public Schools, John Krull.

You can find the slides used in the presentation here.

A big thanks to Alison for coming to Seattle and giving this eye opening presentation.

The event was sponsored by Parents Across America Puget Sound.

Related articles:

McD Happy Meal online schools for all in Seattle with SPS IT Officer John Krull

WA State House Bill 1518: “The Summer Step-Up Act” re: Social Emotional Learning: Why are we experimenting on low income four-year old’s?

How exactly did the Department of Defense end up in my child’s classroom?

The endgame of corporate reform in public school education: Part 1, What do Betsy DeVos and Seattle Public School’s IT Lead John Krull have in common?

Save Maine Schools

Submitted by Dora Taylor



Why We Need Independent Media


Posted with permission from

About the author:
Elizabeth Hanson M. Ed. Is a college instructor from Seattle Washington and co-founder of She is also a co-author of the book, “Weapons of Mass Deception, The War against our public schools.”

Elizabeth can be reached at


In this article I compare the headlines of mainstream news to the headlines of independent news as an example of why we need independent news. I also give suggestions on how to ascertain the truth when reading news articles on the Internet.

In November of 2016, the Washington Post published a blacklist of 200 websites which they deem as promoting Russian propaganda and thus dangerous to U.S. consumers of news. It was published by a group called “Prop or Not”.

Here’s the link to the Prop or Not list –

The Washington Post has many excellent reporters and has published some great stories over the years, so when I first heard about this list, I thought “Oh… it probably lists some sites like Russia Today (RT), sites directly related to Russia.

However, much to my surprise upon reading their list of propaganda websites, I found that the Prop or Not list contains the ten websites I have read almost daily for many years. Here in alphabetical order:

#1: Black Agenda Report

#2: Consortium news

#3: Counterpunch

#4: Global Research

#5: Naked Capitalism

#6: Oped news

#7: Truthdig

#8: Truthout

#9 Washingtonsblog

#10: Zerohedge

The Washington Post’s Prop or Not team also provides us with this graphic to scare the living bejesus out of people, in hopes, I assume, to deter Americans from visiting any of the sites they deem as propaganda and to show us that they mean business:

The team at Prop or Not then goes on to tell us that we should be reading news from these main stream media news sources instead of independent news sources. Here is a quote from their website:

Obtain news from actual reporters, who report to an editor and are professionally accountable for mistakes. We suggest NPR, the BBC, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington PostBuzzfeed NewsVICE, etc, and especially your local papers and local TV news channels. Support them by subscribing, if you can!”

Comparing Headlines of Prop or Not Approved Sites versus Independent News Sites
Here’s a look of some of their recent headlines of Prop or Not’s trusted media sources regarding Russian hacking and the subsequent sanctions Obama is putting on Russia.

NPR: “US. Officials Say Russia Hacked A Vermont Utility”

New York Times: “U.S. Sanctions Russia Over Election Hacking”

Wall Street Journal: “Obama Strikes Back at Russia for Election Hacking”

Washington Post: Obama administration announces measures to punish Russia for 2016 election interference

These mainstream news headlines are being widely read by Americans and will likely have the effect of pushing most Americans into agreeing with sanctions and perhaps further aggressions against Russia.

We saw how believing in weapons of mass deception led to aggressions against Iraq and resulted in well over 100,000 civilian deaths between 2003 and 2010.


And there were no weapons of mass destruction found. Ever since 9 / 11, millions of Americans have become disillusioned with the mainstream news, and its framing of news related to subjects like trade agreements, foreign policy, banker misdeeds, the economy and education have been reading news from independent media.

Let’s compare those “ra-ra sanctions against Russia” headlines to the headlines in some of the independent media Americans read which are on the Prop or Not list:

Black Agenda Report –Freedom Rider: Syria, Russia and American Desperation

Consortium news – “Details Still Lacking on Russian ‘Hack

Counterpunch – “We Do Not Live in “Post Truth” World, We Live in a World of Lies and We Always Have

Global Research-Obama’s Sanctions against Moscow “Intended to Box In Donald Trump”. Evidence that Hacking of DNC Accusations are Fake

Opednews – “DHS FBI Claim of Russian Hacking is Fake News

Truthdig – “Experts Aren’t Convinced by FBI and Homeland Security Report on Alleged Russian Hacking

Washingtonsblog“Creator of NSA’s Global Surveillance System Calls B.S. On Russian Hacking Report”

Zerohedge “Something Stinks” – Like Iraq WMD Fiasco, Russia Story Doesn’t Add Up

While the mainstream media reported the Russian Hacker story as if it were the truth, alternative news sources reported why the Russian Hacker story might not be true.

Six Principles for Evaluation the Truth

I’m a teacher with a background in Linguistics. An always interesting question to answer with my students is how do you know if a media source is telling the truth?

I follow these six principles:

#1: Have they told the truth in the past? (Weapons of mass destruction, Economic recovery)

#2: Who is funding the site? (Gates money, CIA money)

#3: Is there power or money to be gained by the corporate rich by publishing this story? (Overthrow of Ukraine, Syria, Libya, Iraq, private charter schools)

#4: Are they willing to tell the truth even if the truth isn’t popular? (Federal Reserve continuously bailing out failing banks, the labor participation rate, GMO crops and farmers)

#5: Do they provide the underlying links to source documents? Are the links they provide real source documents or are they linked to fake source documents? (The Russian hacking evidence)

#6: Does the information seek to damage our civil liberties or to game the economy against us? (TPP, repealing Glass-Steagal)

Also, I recognize my own bias and don’t automatically discount others’ views. For example, I still read news from the sites that Prop or Not wants me to read even though I dislike Prop or Not. I’m not saying that all Mainstream news is fake. Just some of it.

Why is this subject so important?
Our rights to free speech hanging by a thread. In addition to Prop or Not’s black listing 200 websites, the federal government has just granted $160 million to create, as part of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, a center to combat propaganda aimed against the U.S. (You’d wonder why anyone in the middle east might hold some anger against the U.S.) Here is part of a recent article from Alternet:

Obama Just Signed off on a Shadowy New ‘Anti-Propaganda’ Center That Will Be Handed Over to Trump

Without meaningful debate, the provision was included in the 2017 defense bill.

By Sarah Lazare / AlterNet

December 30, 2016

“….Termed the Global Engagement Center, the body is granted broad and ill-defined powers to surveil the “populations most susceptible to propaganda,” compile reporting and social media messaging critical of the U.S. government and disseminate pro-American propaganda… (Also) The language indicates that federal authorities will have a new mechanism for monitoring social media and reporting that is critical of the U.S. government.


The legislation to create this Global Engagement Center had been in the works since June of this year, well before the election. We can only wonder what else has been and is in the works to be launched against both the American people and people worldwide. I’ll tell you one thing that has been in the works – tensions against Russia.

Another Example of the Need for Independent Media
Today at the gym I was watching the TV while on the treadmill and all of the mainstream channels were talking about the Russians hacking into…. Then when I came home I read an article by Glenn Greenwald, a very trusted journalist who I’ve read for years and who I’ve never seen lie.


In this article, Greenwald reviews the false claims made by the Washington Post and then says,

“The Post’s story also predictably and very rapidly infected other large media outlets. Reuters thus told its readers around the world: “A malware code associated with Russian hackers has reportedly been detected within the system of a Vermont electric utility.”

WHAT’S THE PROBLEM here? It did not happen. There was no “penetration of the U.S. electricity grid.” The truth was undramatic and banal. Burlington Electric, after receiving a Homeland Security notice sent to all U.S. utility companies about the malware code found in the DNC system, searched all its computers and found the code in a single laptop that was not connected to the electric grid.”

This is why we need Independent Media

Just like with Iraq, the fabled Weapons of Mass Destruction against the US Electric grid was all made up by our recklessly dishonest main stream media. Glenn’s article is proof yet again, that we need to embrace independent news. Great danger lies in believing information because it’s shiny. In closing, many of us have been seeing this crackdown on free speech and free thought for years and over the last few weeks it’s been amplified. If we allow a controlled media, and police each other for signs of transgression in thought and word, we ourselves will be building up a society which I don’t think any of us really wants.

-Elizabeth Hanson

The Ugly Facts About Ed-Reform, Partisan Bickering and the Resistance


I find it disturbing how quickly basic facts are flushed down the memory hole.

Yes, Betsy Devos is the extreme example of the type of privatizer destroying public education, but the Democrats – with Obama at the helm – opened the door.

Don’t believe me?

Take a look at Obama’s Digital Promise Initiative, whose purpose was to break open the education market for companies to sell personalized learning products to school districts. Why employ actual teachers, when computers and software can do the job.

How about the ESSA’s inclusion of “innovative assessments” – which edutech predators like iNACOL can’t wait to leverage into more online learning software and continuous testing in the classroom.

The ESSA also gave the charter lobby everything they wanted, and then some.

How can financially stressed public schools, always under the threat of being labeled “failures” based on test scores, compete with flush and unaccountable charter schools? Answer: They can’t.

I believe facts still matter and will fight alongside anyone who wants to protect our public schools, but I refuse to be a cog in anyone’s machine.

I won’t be participating in the partisan blame game, where public education plays the pawn. I’m over the constant maneuvering to score political points – while our schools burn to the ground, but neither of this country’s two cynical political parties seem to smell the smoke.

I’m also convinced it’s impossible to fight and win using the same structure that makes neoliberalism so destructive.

So don’t ask me to become a faceless member of your public education defending non-profit. Paying dues and then walking away isn’t enough for me now.

I’m also sick of powerful, god-like leaders sitting atop hierarchies which rob members of their voice, conscience, and agency.

How can we claim to care about democracy when we refuse to practice it?

If we are truly fighting against the commodification of public education, why would it be acceptable to treat members of our own groups as objects – either as an unintelligent mass that needs to be lead to the truth by an “enlightened” leadership or – at the most cynical – a captive audience to be manipulated for personal gain and advancement by the vanguard of a revolutionary dictatorship.

How can we claim to care about the unique gifts of every child and at the same time be afraid of our own individuality and power?

Barbara Deming – deep thinker, feminist, and champion of nonviolent social change – had this to say about the power of individuals:

If greater gains have not been won by nonviolent action it is because most of those trying it have, quite as Oglesby charges, expected too much from “the powerful”; and so, I would add, they have stopped short of really exercising their peculiar powers – those powers one discovers when one refuses any longer simply to do another’s will. They have stopped far too short not only of widespread nonviolent disruption but of that form of noncooperation which is assertive, constructive – that confronts those who are “running everything” with independent activity, particularly independent economic activity. There is leverage for change here that has scarcely begun to be applied.

If the solution was easy; we’d already have done it.

These are trying times. What used to work has failed us.

We’re scared. The question is what to do with this fear? I see two choices:

We can allow this fear to push us into a panic-stricken frenzy; forever reacting to the latest crisis, allowing those we oppose to set the agenda.

Fear also has a way of justifying tactics which compromise our integrity and over time robs us of our humanity.


We can pause, go deep, and really consider Barbara Deming’s challenge to come up with a new “form of noncooperation which is assertive, constructive – that confronts those who are ‘running everything’ with independent activity…”

In it for the long haul.

Fighting back against ed-reform is going to take a lifetime. Undoing the damage and creating schools which foster face-t0-face democracy, will take even longer.

This is good news. We have the time to get it right.

Since the United States was built on the double fault line of genocide and racism, this is an opportunity to begin to right those wrongs; build on the lesson that ignoring past oppression guarantees more oppression in the future.

Flattening hierarchy, promoting individual agency, and increasing the public good means no one or any group gets tossed aside in the name of expediency.

There’s time to do our homework, to dig down and learn what has worked in the past and the powerful insights mixing in with the failures.

This is an opening to deeply learn our history. Get to know the labor radicals, socialists, populists, anarchists, and all the other colorful rebels of the past.

It’s also an opportunity to face and understand the ugly facts buried in the past: Manifest Destiny and genocide, lynching, eugenics, and the human/environmental carnage brought about by the industrial revolution and perpetuated by modern capitalism.

The architects of ed-reform have given us one clue to their system’s weakness: They love the idea of highly processed children, who will grow up to be widget-like adults.


Because beaten-down children, all taught from the same script, have the potential to create the most compliant worker class the world has even seen; afraid of authority, accepting of the master’s world view, and willing settle for anything.

Bootlicking is the career our business pleasing politicians are really getting our children ready for.

If there’s going to be any hope for a sane and equitable future, we desperately need to encourage and develop the independent, divergent thinkers among us. These are the individuals who will be the first to shake things up.

Want to be a rebel? Start buying books and reading. If you want to be a revolutionary, organize a reading group.

Crisis of courage. 

Unfortunately, teaching, as a profession, is on a different timeline.

I believe due to the recent alignment of technology and federal law, the United States is now on an accelerated track to diminish and ultimately eliminate the role of teacher as a professional career.

Instead, the idea of the teacher will be re-purposed. First, as digital facilitators. Later, the human component will be replaced all together with digital mentors and tutors. 

Teachers, at this point, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by standing up and fighting back against the push to destroy our public schools.

The only thing missing is the courage to do so.

Final thoughts.

The small bit of success I’ve experience as an activist has occurred by refusing to play the game and forcing my opponent to engage using my parameters and rules. Other critical elements have been: fearless friends, humor, and the willingness to let others join in and put their own spin on the action.

I believe all of us already have what’s needed to make change possible: a conscience and the ability to act. All we need is the courage to use these gifts.

-Carolyn Leith





Questions We Should Be Asking About “Future Ready” Schools



How far are we from the day we’ll be forced to rely on online education modules to inspire and excite the minds of young people; where badge collections replace diplomas; and virtual reality games substitute for Friday night dances, track meets, spelling bees, and school plays?

Editor’s note: Original post written for Wrench in the Gears and re-published with permission. Visit Wrench in the Gears for more information on the danger of “learning eco-systems.” -Carolyn Leith 

Questions we should be asking about “Future Ready” schools


How far are we from the day we’ll be forced to rely on online education modules to inspire and excite the minds of young people; where badge collections replace diplomas; and virtual reality games substitute for Friday night dances, track meets, spelling bees, and school plays? How much time do we have before certified human teachers are replaced by “Task Rabbit” pathway designers and AI personal “tutors?” Before we lose all expectations for privacy surrounding how and when we access our educations? Before the entirety of our educational lives becomes consolidated under a unique ID number and its associated digital shadow?

Online learning is claiming ever-larger blocks of instructional time in bricks and mortar schools. Budgets prioritize technology purchases over investments in human staff and facilities. Increasingly responsibility for assessment is being taken away from teachers and placed under the purview of data dashboards and black boxes that monitor in minute detail our children’s academic and social-emotional “progress” towards standards we had no part in setting.

For all of these reasons, we need to take a critical look at school redesign programs that are showing up in communities across the nation. Our government is rolling these initiatives out right now in coordination with think tanks, philanthropies, and the education technology sector. If thousands of superintendents nationwide are signing on to “Future Ready Schools” it is imperative that as citizens we start considering the far reaching consequences a data-driven, technology-mediated system of public education will have for the health and wellbeing of our children and our democracy.

As we move into the era of the quantified self. I find myself worrying. I worry a lot. I worry that we should be asking questions, a lot of questions, and that our window for questioning is shrinking by the day.

Many who spend their days in our nation’s schools have been put into positions where they are almost compelled to welcome the concept of “school redesign.” They have been living for years in the test-and-punish nightmare that No Child Left Behind created. They’ve been coping with austerity budgets, toxic buildings, staff shortages, lack of respect, frozen wages, and the ongoing challenge of meeting the needs of students living in poverty with far too few resources at their disposal.

Current conditions in many of our nation’s schools are appalling, and that is by design. It is through this dissatisfaction with our current situation that they hope to accomplish a shift away from a “standardized” education based on a single high-stakes test given at the end of the year to a “personalized” digital education that employs ongoing online data collection as children progress through the curriculum year round.

So with that in mind, I invite you to consider the questions below. Hopefully they will give you some ideas you can use to start your own conversations with parents, teachers, and school board members in your own community. In my heart I believe the 21st century schools parents and human teachers desire for their children are very different from the version being pushed, behind closed doors, by the educational technology sector.

Questions we should be asking about school redesign and “Future Ready Schools:”

Technology-mediated education is considered to be a disruptive force. Many “innovative” 21st century education approaches seek to undermine traditional concepts like “seat time,” the Carnegie Unit, age-based grade levels, the centrality of teachers in classrooms, report cards, diplomas and to extend credit-based learning beyond the school building itself. Before moving forward with these ideas, shouldn’t there be a wider public discussion about which aspects of traditional schooling we want to retain moving forward? Disruption for the sake of creating new markets for businesses is an insufficient reason to dismantle neighborhood schools.

Why should we allow our children to be human subjects in this grand data science experiment? This is particularly troublesome given the fact that ethics codes for data scientists are not nearly as well developed as codes of conduct for bio-medical research.

What are the implications of expanded 1:1 device use and screen time on children’s health and emotional states?

How does the use of embedded “stealth” assessments contribute to the normalization of a surveillance society in the United States?

What overlap exists between data analysis used to monitor national security interests and data analysis used to assess educational content and activities in our nation’s schools? How does the Office of Educational Technology interface with the Department of Defense and how comfortable are the American people with those relationships? See xAPI or Tin Can or Douglas Noble’s 1991 extensively-researched book “Classroom Arsenal: Military Research, Information Technology, and Public Education” for additional background information.

As nano-technology advances make wearable devices more commonplace, shouldn’t parents have the right to refuse the collection of live data streams on behalf of their children? What types of monitoring (bio-metric and otherwise) have been enabled through the expanded presence of devices in our schools? Cameras, microphones, touch screens, and fit bits for example?

While personalized learning platforms tout their “individualization,” to what extent do these programs recognize our children’s humanity? As systems thinking becomes embedded within public education policy, are our children being valued as unique human beings possessed of free will, or merely as data points to be controlled and managed?

Feedback loops influence human behavior. In what ways could large-scale implementation of adaptive education programs and online educational gaming platforms contribute to the collective brainwashing of our children?

Personalized education means that algorithms decide what educational content your child CAN see, and what content they won’t see. Is it the duty of education to expose children to a wide range of content that will broaden their view of the world? Or is it the role of an adaptive learning program to feed the child information for which they have already expressed a preference? Consider the implications of a “Facebook” model of education.

How much data is too much? Data is never neutral. Who is collecting the data and to what end? Data is always a reflection of the ideology in which it is collected. Why should we trust data more than the professional expertise of human teachers?

We caution children about their online presence, but through the imposition of digital curriculum we are forcing them to create virtual educational identities at very young ages. Should that worry us? What are the implications of our children having digital surrogates/avatars that are linked to comprehensive data sets of academic and social-emotional information? Do we really understand the risks?

Who owns the intellectual property that students create on school-managed cloud-based servers? Do they have the right to extract their work at will?

What roles do teacher education programs and certification policies play in furthering a technology-mediated approach to public education?

Will students enrolled in private schools have their data collected at the same level as public school students? Is privacy something that will become ultimately be available only to the rich and elite? Will we allow that to happen?

Should it be the basic human right of all children to have access, if they choose, to a public education model in which humans teach one another in (non-digital) community in an actual school building?

-Wrench in the Gears

“Learning is Earning” the Rand Corporation way with digital badges and Edublocks


All of the elements are in place:

  • There’s piece work employment without financial security or due process.
  • The opportunity for corporations to pay employees in script instead of actual cash. 
  • Smart Contracts and the possibility of a lifetime of servitude without compensation.
  • Cradle to grave corporate surveillance of every citizen.

If George Orwell wrote a sequel to 1984, the idea of The Institute for the Future’s Edublocks and The Ledger would have a starring role.

The Institute for the Future (IFTF) prides itself on bringing people together to make the future—today.”

IFTF is an outgrowth of The Rand Corporation and counts as partners corporate giants in technology, healthcare, manufacturing, and advocacy.

Groups such as AARP, the American Medical Association, AT&T, GM, Microsoft, Kaiser Permanente and Shell – just to name a few of the heavy hitters who have hitched their wagons to IFTF. 

In case you’re not familiar with The Rand Corporation, it’s one of the U.S. military’s oldest think tanks, getting it’s start in 1948 as an offshoot of the Douglas Aircraft Company.

One area of interest for The Institute of the Future is education. IFTF’s blog reports on the various attempts to hack the future of education. Anya Kamenetz is considered a truth teller.

Kamenetz has made a career of sharing with America the “hard truths” about higher education and the need for all encompassing learning ecosystems to prepare future-ready knowledge workers. Think, College & Career Ready 2.0.

In that spirit, the IFTF released a video titled Learning is Earning 2026 which showcases such a future :

“You’re one of ONE BILLION people who are using a new technology to track their learning and income. This new technology is known as “The Ledger.”

The video goes on to explain how everything you have ever learned will be tracked in Edublocks, which represents 1 hour of learning in any given subject. Anyone can grant Edublocks including workplaces, schools, informal groups, individuals, and apps.

The Ledger’s role is to keep track of everyone’s Edublocks, which will be displayed in  colorful, customized profiles.

Employers can browse these profiles and offer individuals piece work employment – IF they happen to have the desired skill set the employer is looking for.

The ever-helpful Ledger constantly advises users on which skills currently offer the best pay and how to earn Edublocks to build up those skills.

But what happens if you don’t have the money to earn Edublocks? Don’t worry, The Ledger’s dystopian future has you covered.

All you need is a digital investor, who will provide free Edublocks, in exchange for a percentage of your future income. Signing your life away is easy with a Smart Contract which “makes these contracts easy to manage and administer.”

Is it me or does the brave new wold of learning ecosystems sound remarkably similar to piece work sweatshops of the early garment industry. The era of very long work days and rock bottom pay – bluntly, the work until your last breath – pinnacle of capitalism.

Instead of toiling in front of sewing machines, The Ledger upgraded workforce will be using tools similar to Amazon’s Mechanical Turk – performing Individual Human Intelligence Tasks or HITs.

What a dismal future. The Ledger is nothing more than an online digital sweatshop with fancy gadgets and apps used to disguise its throwback nature.

All of the elements are in place:

  • There’s piece work employment without financial security or due process.
  • The opportunity for corporations to pay employees in script instead of actual cash. 
  • Smart Contracts and the possibility of a lifetime of servitude without compensation.
  • Cradle to grave corporate surveillance of every citizen.

The only winners in this dark future will be those who don’t have to play the game. And who would that be? The already wealthy, of course.

Is This for Real?

As fantastical sounding as Edublocks may be, the beta version already exist. They’re just called digital badges. Same idea, different name.

I’ll let Former Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, explain:

We’re excited that, this year, this competition will serve as a catalyst to advance the potential of digital badges. Badges can help engage students in learning, and broaden the avenues for learners of all ages to acquire and demonstrate – as well as document and display – their skills.

Badges can help speed the shift from credentials that simply measure seat time, to ones that more accurately measure competency. We must accelerate that transition. And, badges can help account for formal and informal learning in a variety of settings.

Today’s technology-enabled, information-rich, deeply interconnected world means learning not only can – but should – happen anywhere, anytime. We need to recognize these experiences, whether the environments are physical or online, and whether learning takes place in schools, colleges or adult education centers, or in afterschool, workplace, military or community settings.

In short, we must begin to see schools, colleges and classrooms as central points – though still very important ones – in larger networks of learning.

As we recognize multiple ways for students to learn, we need multiple ways to assess and document their performance. Students, teachers and administrators are hungry to move beyond fill-in-the-bubble tests, toward assessments that are more varied, immediate, and data-rich. Digital badges are an important step in this direction.

And, badges offer an important way to recognize non-traditional ways of learning. They’re a way to give credence – and ultimately, credit – for the skills learners and teachers acquire in a broader set of learning environments, and a wider range of content.

Badges also empower students and teachers to play an even stronger role in their own learning and development – to seek out the right tools among many resources available, and in their fields of interest – and build a record of what they have mastered.

Sound familiar?

The 2015 passage of the ESSA opened the door to digital badges by way of innovative assessments and the creation of “next generation learning environments.”

How do you know if digital badges are creeping into your school district?

Stay alert for phrases like: personalized learning, technology-supported learning environments, personalized learning paths, learning that is student-driven and technology-enabled, and blended learning.

Personalized learning is the feel good phrase that gets Edublocks in the door. We can’t let that happen.

-Carolyn Leith


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The Ledger: Lab Rat America

The Ledger, Millennials, Dear Hillary, and Free College

Post Script:

And don’t forget: