They’ve Got Trouble, Up There in North Dakota (Dintersmith Strikes Again)

Reposted with permission from Wrench in the Gears.

library as makerspace

Dintersmith rode into North Dakota via an August 2015 TEDx talk promoting his film Most Likely to SucceedGreg Tehven, founder of the Fargo-based tech incubator Emerging Prairie who has ties to social impact investing and Teach for America in Minneapolis, extended the invitation. Dintersmith’s film premiered just in time to set up the next wave of ed-reform aligned to the Every Student Succeeds Act. The documentary was based on a book by the same name that he co-authored with former Gates Foundation senior advisor and Harvard University education professor Tony Wagner.

He breezes into a Northern Plains town channeling Harold Hill, the slick huckster from the 1962 musical The Music Man. They’ve got trouble up there in North Dakota; but the trouble is with so-called“ factory” model education, not pool tables. The solution to this “terrible trouble” is of course laptops and tablets, not trombones. That’s no surprise, given that Governor Doug Burgum made his fortune selling Great Plains Software for a billion dollars to Microsoft, joined the company as a senior VP, and later served on the boards of numerous other software, predictive analytics, and cloud-based computing enterprises. Interactive map here.

Doug Burgum

The Governor’s Summit on Innovative Education

self-styled outsider candidate, Burgum won the governorship in 2016, with financial backing from Bill Gates, his largest campaign contributor. Between the primary and general elections Gates pitched in at least $100,000, with several other Microsoft executives contributing smaller amounts. It seems that while looking for an “outsider,” the voters of North Dakota may have actually thrown in their lot with the Silicon Valley technocracy. In Burgum’s “future ready” North Dakota, “personalized” learning will prepare the state’s children to out-Finland even Finland! At least if you buy the pitch venture capitalist Ted Dintersmith’s made at the Governor’s Summit on Innovative Learning held at Legacy High School in Bismarck last June. Details about this year’s summit, scheduled for June 7, 2018 here.

After my previous post on Dintermith, a resident of North Dakota reached out to me with concerns. Like the musical’s Marian the librarian, she smelled a rat. Having attended the day-long event, she had serious reservations about some of the ideas put forward by Dintersmith and his sidekicks, which included Ken Kay, tech sector lobbyist and founder of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21); Susie Wise of Stanford University’s School ReTool program; and Marcus Lingenfelter of the Exxon-bankrolled National Math and Science Initiative. See this interactive map of their associations here.

Innovative Education Summit ND 2017

Dintersmith the Promoter

Dintersmith rode into North Dakota via an August 2015 TEDx talk promoting his film Most Likely to SucceedGreg Tehven, founder of the Fargo-based tech incubator Emerging Prairie who has ties to social impact investing and Teach for America in Minneapolis, extended the invitation. Dintersmith’s film premiered just in time to set up the next wave of ed-reform aligned to the Every Student Succeeds Act. The documentary was based on a book by the same name that he co-authored with former Gates Foundation senior advisor and Harvard University education professor Tony Wagner.

The film is a soft sell for the type of “individualized,” “whole child” instruction the tech sector eagerly anticipates digitizing and monetizing using 1:1 screen-based devices, biometric monitoring, and augmented and virtual reality platforms. The academic and social emotional data grab will ultimately feed ed-tech social impact investment markets. As Eric Schmidt of Alphabet notes, data is the new oil. Folks in North Dakota know the value of oil, as well as the devastation that results from its extraction. Hooking the state’s students up to screens and other monitoring systems to extract their data (oil) while selling community members and elected officials on “innovation” is recipe for profit for tech and disaster for children.

Student Data Extraction

Take some time to review this unsettling foresight document from Knowledgeworks, one of the North Dakota Department of Instruction’s innovative education partners. It offers a view into a world of augmented and virtual reality and wearables. I’ve often wondered what project-based learning via badges will look like in remote, rural areas. Under the LRNG program Collective Shift / MacArthur are pitching “the city as your classroom.” But how would that work in a place like Orrin, ND where the population is under fifty people? This whitepaper anticipates it will happen via augmented virtual reality simulations and games once rural communities upgrade to edge computing. Given the numerous references to careers in the state’s drone and energy industries I’ve come across in the course of my research, it seems learning ecosystem proponents may view North Dakota, with a tech-minded governor and willing populace, as a great test-bed for gamified work-based online education training systems.

Mentor Connect

Mastery-Based Learning Eliminates Grades

The forty-five second clip below is rather jaw-dropping. In it Dr. Cory Steiner of the Northern Cass School District outlines planned implementation of Mass Customized Learning (competency-based education), an experiment he says made him feel unwell. He describes it as “seed project” that will evaluate students solely on mastery of competencies and eliminate age-based grade groups altogether. Say goodbye to first grade, second grade, third grade; from now on education will be check the online box and move along as you build your “lifelong learner” data profile.

Dr. Steiner was the program manager of the North Dakota Statewide Longitudinal Database system from 2012 to 2014 when he joined Northern Cass, a “Future Ready” district. Later in the panel (timestamp 38:30) he states that he wants juniors and seniors to be done with all of their core coursework and spend their last two years of high school pursuing electives and work-based placements. It is unclear how this strategy will mesh with Marcus Lingenfelter’s position that the state will be advancing high-level STEM education, unless you believe students will be getting comprehensive instruction in courses like physics or calculus during their internships.

Work-Based Learning?

Steiner says that during their senior year, he doesn’t want to see students in school; that they should be figuring out at least what they don’t want to do. How has it come to this? Is it austerity that is pushing us to rush children into occupations when they are just 16 years old? For jobs that likely won’t exist a decade from now? Is any thought being given to the child labor implications? What if they don’t want to work for Exxon or drone manufacturers or Battelle? What if they want to have a senior prom and participate in clubs and sports and social gatherings like their parents did?

Certainly CTE training has a place, but let us support students in finding affordable training in those fields AFTER they have full access K-12 to a publicly-funded education with a well-rounded curriculum. It should not be the expectation that public education will deliver our children as a just-in-time workforce to corporations that generate profits for their shareholders by adopting gig-economy hiring practices. The image below is from the recent 9th annual ASU+GSV (Arizona State University / Global Silicon Valley) Summit in San Diego. Dintersmith was there this week making the rounds pitching his new book “What School Could Be.”

more agile workforce

Dintersmith strikes again

What about the teachers?

And where are the teachers in all of this you might ask? Are they resisting being supplanted by devices? Why no, no they aren’t. Remember, the leaders of both national teachers unions have signed on to Education Reimagined. Instead, classroom teachers are kept distracted, attending Gates-funded EdCamp “un-conferences” where they talk about flexible seating and apps. Meanwhile, Tom Vander Ark and the staff of iNACOL / Competencyworks plot CBE’s nationwide expansion, see map here. You might think North Dakota United would be sounding the alarm, but that couldn’t be further from the case. They’ve actually partnered with Ted Dintersmith to produce a podcast documenting all aspects of the “personalized” learning takeover of North Dakota. The name of the podcast is, I kid you not, The Cutting Ed. Click here to check out the twenty-two episodes they’ve produced since last November. Dintersmith has also created a statewide playlist of resources to go along with School ReTool’s program of educational hacks. It’s called North Dakota Innovation Playlists, a modular program teachers can use to hack themselves right out of a career.

It turns out both the primary sponsor and co-sponsor of SB2186, North Dakota’s Innovative Education Bill, were teachers. Poolman is a high school English teacher in Bismarck and Oban was a middle school teacher.  The bill passed the Senate with only one nay vote on March 21, 2017. It passed the House with 75 yeas and 17 nays on March 28, 2017. Burgum signed it into law on April 4, 2017. The bill had overwhelming support from all the major education policy groups in the state, including North Dakota United. Interactive version of the map below here.

ND SB2186

It seems most people involved with this bill believed it would return local control of education policy decisions in the state. Clearly, they were either unaware or in denial about the fact that the bill was inspired by the ALEC, American Legislative Exchange Commission, “Innovation Schools and School Districts” model legislation that was created in 2012, the same year social impact bonds first appeared in the United States and the year Kirsten Baesler became state superintendent.

Knowledgeworks played a pivotal role in crafting the legislation and promoting CBE.  Knowledgworks is the primary promoter of the decentralized learning ecosystem model. It was originally funded by Gates as part of his small schools initiative, but later became an engine for policy reform in Ohio and was tasked with implementing Common Core State Standards there.

Knowledge Works CC

They have also spun off a social-impact program for “cradle to career” wrap around services known as Strive Together. All told, the organization has received over $24 million from Gates since 2001. Their specialty is producing terrifying white papers. I tweeted a number of these to supporters of SB2186 but never received a response: Glimpses of the Future of EducationExploring the Future Education WorkforceRecombinant Education: Regenerating the Learning Ecosystem; and the Future of Learning in the Pittsburgh Region (plus their new AR/VR Wearables paper). In this report Baesler is quoted as saying “Knowledgeworks staff provided the support, experience and essentially the framework for North Dakota’s innovation bill.

The Marzano work group Baesler describes here around timestamp 2:30 was part of the process as well. Virgil Hammonds, Chief Learning Officer of Knowledgeworks, came to the organization from Maine’s RSU2 district, one of the early pilot programs for CBE. RSU2’s “Standards-Based, Learner Centered Frameworks,” part of the Mass Customized Learning program, was brought to that district by Bea McGarvey, a Maine resident and employee of Marzano Associates. MCL is being implemented in Northern Cass schools. Things were falling apart with MCL in Maine as early as 2013, but money has continued to pour into the program from the Nellie Mae Foundation and other supporters of the Great Schools Partnership. They have managed to hang on, but opposition has become more vocal in recent months as compliance with new Proficiency Based diploma requirements looms on the horizon.

The Truth About Local Control

Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler states the Every Student Succeeds Act returned education decisions to local control in many of her speeches and also here. But did it? Who exactly is calling the shots with respect to North Dakota education policy? If you take a look at the innovative education partners, only North Dakota Council on the Arts and North Dakota United are based in the state. Interactive map here.

ND Innovative Education Partners

Knowledgeworks is clearly a Gates-funded vehicle with ties to national education reform interests. I don’t see how you can see the amount of grant funding coming in and think it is any way a grassroots organization or that they would place the interests of North Dakota’s children above that of their many powerful funders. Interactive map here.

Knowledgeworks Staff

Grants to Knowledgeworks

Another key player in this transformation is School ReTool, a program out of Stanford University, whose business school is a force behind scaling social impact investing. Stanford’s education school, through SCALE ,is also working to develop digital means by which to upload project based learning evidence into cloud-based systems. Far from a local program, School ReTool is rolling out its “hacks” in districts from New Hampshire to Pittsburgh to Dallas to Oakland. They were part of the Obama White House’s massive plan to redesign high school per this 2016 update.

This personalized learning program is nothing unique to North Dakota. It was not brought to North Dakota because the people wanted it. It was brought to you as part of a national campaign masterminded by ed-tech and impact investment interests. Partners in School ReTool can be seen here.

School ReTool

Get in touch with the parents in Maine!

Burgum, Dintersmith, Baesler, and the rest are really hoping everyone just takes the laptops; turns libraries into maker spaces; acquiesces to mindset and skills-based instruction aligned to gig-economy jobs (fracking, drones, and the military); and accepts ubiquitous AI instruction. Don’t stop to consider how exactly deeper-learning and intense STEM instruction will result from dumbed-down online playlist instruction and work-based learning placements. Don’t look under the hood; don’t pine for old-fashioned age-based grades, report cards, diplomas, and neighborhood schools. Embrace the shiny. Just accept the learning ecosystem model and all the data-mining and labor market predictive analytics that goes along with it. Don’t ask questions; don’t slow down the transformation of education into a privatized marketplace; and by all means don’t tell Hawaii, because they’re the next up on his anytime, anywhere education tour.

But you don’t have to do that. Connect with the parents and teachers in Maine. They are actively rebelling against the competency / proficiency / mastery based education policies being shoved down their throats by the Nellie Mae Foundation, Great Schools Partnership and Knowledgeworks: herehere, and here. They have suffered for years without fully understanding what was happening. Emily Talmage has done a great service with her blog, Save Maine Schools, putting together detailed research and laying everything out. North Dakota, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, unite and resist. Your schools should belong to your communities. They need not become gig-economy data-factories if you take a stand, but do it now.

PS: If you know any of the people assigned to Burgum’s Innovative Education Task Force, consider sending this on to them with my Dintersmith post, so they know what they’ve been signed up for. The task force map is here and a really big map of the whole system is here. If you’ve stayed with me this long, thank you!

ND Innovative Education Task Force

Innovative Education in North Dakota

-Alison McDowell

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Social Impact Investing, Poverty, & Bill Gates’ New Plan

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Controlling the data isn’t about solving poverty, rather it’s all about creating systems to make the problems associated with poverty attractive to investors.

Data is the key — from showing interventions/investments are working to controlling the poor with data informed nudges to their behavior.

Bill Gates has now decided to tackle poverty and once again the discussion around this move has devolved into a debate over intentions rather than outcomes.

Some people think Gates is a well meaning guy who just can’t get it quite right. The harsher critics of his education policies just wish he would learn from his mistakes and move on. Fat chance.

If you look at the outcomes of his education initiatives, they’ve been disastrous. I predict his foray into poverty will be much the same.

Why?

Because Gates isn’t interested in using his foundation’s vast wealthy to directly impact poverty through say, spending money on food security, shelter, or creating living wage jobs — with no strings attached. Oh no, his idea is to manage poverty by controlling the data.

From the Seattle Times:

Desmond-Hellmann said the foundation will focus on areas where its funding can be most effective, like collecting and sharing data on factors that contribute to poverty and upward mobility.

This is a crucial pivot that demands critical examination.

Controlling the data isn’t about solving poverty, rather it’s all about creating systems to make the problems associated with poverty attractive to investors.

Data is the key — from showing interventions/investments are working to controlling the poor with data informed nudges to their behavior.

Whoever controls the data, controls the next wave of surveillance capitalism. Gates just nominated himself to be that person. This is a monopolist rather than a philanthropic move.

All of which goes to show, even poverty can be profitable. All you need is the power and influence to build a system which encourages social impact investing and then position yourself as the one who controls all the data which runs the system.

Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google parent company Alphabet, proclaimed data to be the new oil. Gates is maneuvering himself to sit on top of the next gusher.

-Carolyn Leith

 

Data Unicorns? Tech Giants and US Dept of Ed Form Alliance to Leverage Student Data — Without Parent Consent.

Reposted with permission from Missouri Education Watchdog

Leveraging Student Data

Project Unicorn: Billionaire partners promoting data interoperability and online “Personalized Learning”

When the Unicorns “protecting” student data are interoperable with the Unicorns taking it, parents and lawmakers might want to pay attention.

According to Technopedia, in the Information Technology world, “a unicorn is most commonly used to describe a company, for example, a Silicon Valley startup, that started out small but has since increased its market capitalization to, say, $1 billion or more. …For example, the social media giant Facebook, which has a market capitalization of more than $100 billion, is considered as a “super-unicorn among unicorns”.  Interesting coincidence because the name of a MEGA financed K-12 student data alliance is a unicorn.

Meet Project Unicorn.

Project Unicorn’s Mission is to Leverage Student Data and Make Data Interoperable

Project Unicorn

Project Unicorn’s steering committee is a who’s-who of edtech bundlers, billionaires, and student data power-players. They have formed an “uncommon alliance” committed to leveraging student data by making the data interoperable, flowing seamlessly, between all K-12 applications and platforms. While addressing student data security and privacy is a much needed conversation, it would seem that Project Unicorn has the cart before the horse. There is no talk of student data ownership or consent prior to collecting and using student data but rather, per this press release, Project Unicorn will continue to take the data, make data interoperable and talk about it afterwards, “Once interoperability is in place, we can start working with teachers and students to ask questions about the data.”  You can see by tweets below that Project Unicorn initially claimed it wanted to “shift data ownership to the student”; they have since withdrawn that statement.  Several schools and districts have been encouraged to join the Project Unicorn Coalition; we wonder if parents in these schools were given an option or are even aware of what this means. We’re going to talk about a few of the Project Unicorn partners and then circle back to their interoperability goals and how that fits with student data ownership, ethics, and the newly formed and related Truth About Tech and Humanetech.

A few points before we start:

  • When it comes to “free” edtech products, you know if it is free, you are the product; you pay with your data and your privacy. With edtech and 1:1 devices, personalized learning, online assessments online homework, LMS systems, students usually do not have a choice. Students do not have the ability to consent or opt out. Why?
  • Not all philanthropy is charity. As this article points out, for some, philanthropy is an investment, these nonprofits may “look” charitable but they are truly meant to make money and to buy power and influence policy, and sometimes do harm.
  • McKinsey Global estimated that increasing the use of student data in education could unlock between $900 billion and $1.2 trillion in global economic value. 
  • Children are not data points to predict, standardize and analyze. Currently online platforms can collect every key stroke, analyze and predict children’s behaviors. Children are not meant to be experimented on and#KidsAreNotInteroperable.
  • Currently, students’ data can be shared, researched, analyzed, marketed without parental consent. Often, parents cannot refuse the data sharing, cannot see the data points shared and how they are analyzed.
  • Edtech and Silicon Valley companies can gain access to personal student information without parent consent, under the School Official exception in FERPA. The US Department of Education not only promotes edtech companies, it tells tech companies HOW to gain access to student data, and is partnered in this project to make data sharing interoperable.
  • Interoperable data systems will allow even larger, very predictive data profiles of children–everything they do, are. The best way to protect privacy is to not collect data in the first place. Interoperability, with bigger and more detailed, sensitive data sets, sharing and mixing data with third parties is risky for both privacy and security. The US Department of Education has already warned of cyber hackers ransoming sensitive data from schools; who will be responsible and liable for more data breaches?

Back to unicorns.

How is the US Department of Education involved with Project Unicorn? 

The USDoE (your tax dollars) has been a major driving force of funding and support in online education, and data interoperability. Part of the data interoperability requires common data standards. CEDS (Common Education Data Standards) are codes used to tag student data, you can see these over 1,700 different data codes or elements, in the federal student data dictionary.  These common data tags were created with the help of  Bill Gates, funder of the Data Quality Campaign; read about the mission of DQC at the US Department of Education Summit here. Data Quality Campaign also provides policy guidance to legislators and education agencies, such as this 2018 DQC Roadmap promoting Cross-Agency data sharing. With the shift in education focusing more on workforce talent pipelines (see both ESSA and WIOA), the Workforce Data Quality Campaign (Gates, Lumina, Arnold, Joyce Foundation funded) has also influenced the US Department of Labor. The US Department of Labor-Workforce Data Quality Initiative plans to use personal information from each student, starting in pre-school, via the states’ SLDS data system. You can read more about  the SLDS, the roles that the US Department of Education and Bill Gates play in student data collection, the weakening of federal privacy law FERPA  here. In recent years Microsoft’s commitment to data privacy has been called into question, as per this EdWeek article. Even Microsoft itself admits they can take a peek and trend through student data and can put it on the market.

“If students are using certain cloud infrastructures, and it’s held by a third party, it is possible for [the vendors] to trend through the data,” said Allyson Knox, director of education policy and programs for Microsoft. “When [information] is flowing through a data center, it’s possible to take a peek at it and find trends and put it on the market to other businesses who want to advertise to those students.”

Knox said Microsoft has a “remote data center” where student information is housed but that “students’ data belongs to them.” -Microsoft https://www.fedscoop.com/lawmakers-hear-testimony-on-student-data-and-privacy/                     

Does Microsoft still believe that student data belongs to the student?

Gates: In 5 Years

Microsoft, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a nonprofit whose IRS 990 forms can be seen here and (2016) here and TRUST here; their awarded grants can be seen in this searchable database. Gates spends billions on K-12 and higher ed reform. Gates (and Data Quality Campaign) both support a national student database, and now Gates is shifting his Multi-Billion focus from Common Core to K12 networks and curriculum.

(See With new focus on curriculum, Gates Foundation wades into tricky territory .)

Microsoft is desperately hoping to regain ground in the K-12 classroom 1:1 device market, with management systems, cloud, gamification of education (yes, Microsoft owns Minecraft and is promoting Minecraft in classrooms), K-12 LinkedIn Data Badges (yes, Microsoft owns LinkedIn-and yes there are LinkedIn K-12 badge pilots in AZ and CO), introducing chatbots and Artificial Intelligence into education and several online tools like Microsoft OneNote, favorably reviewed here by their unicorn partner Digital Promise. Microsoft is also part of the US Department of Education’s push for online curriculum, via Open Ed Resources OERs. Microsoft will be handling and indexing the content for the Federal Learning Registry. (You can read more about how the Federal Department of Defense and Department of Education are involved in OERs here.)

According to this December 2017 New York Times piece, Microsoft is fiercely trying to regain ground in the K-12 classroom market.

Tech companies are fiercely competing for business in primary and secondary schools in the United States, a technology market expected to reach $21 billion by 2020, according to estimates from Ibis Capital, a technology investment firm, and EdtechXGlobal, a conference company.

It is a matter of some urgency for Microsoft. 

Chromebooks accounted for 58 percent of the 12.6 million mobile devices shipped to primary and secondary schools in the United States last year, compared with less than 1 percent in 2012, according to Futuresource Consulting, a research company. By contrast, Windows laptops and tablets made up 21.6 percent of the mobile-device shipments to schools in the United States last year, down from about 43 percent in 2012. – https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/02/technology/microsoft-google-educational-sales.html [Emphasis added]

Digital Promise

If you aren’t familiar with Digital Promise, it is a non-profit created by the US Department of Education, to PROMOTE edtech in the classroom. Read about Digital Promise and Global Digital Promise here. Digital Promise is demanding data interoperability for school districts. Digital Promise presented their report The Goals and Roles of Federal Funding for EdTech Research at this 2017 symposium  which was funded by tech foundations and corporations, such as Bill and Melinda Gates, Chan-Zuck, Strada, Pearson, Carnegie… you get the idea.   In their report, Digital Promise acknowledges that the federal government has spent significant money on developing and disseminating technology-based products in the classroom with little to no information on how these products are working.  So, is the answer to rely on tech financed entities and unicorns to review and research the efficacy of future edtech products?  No conflict of interest there. Digital Promise also utilizes the heavily Gates funded and controversial Relay Graduate School, which you can read about here.

The Personalized Learning algorithm driven model does not work.

Digital Promise and others in edtech continue to push for online Personalized Learning despite many warnings from edtech insiders including this from Paul Merich, entitled Why I Left Silicon Valley, EdTech, and “Personalized” Learning. Merich’s concerns with the algorithmic driven Personalized Learning, are summed up with this quote,

“It was isolating with every child working on something different; it was impersonal with kids learning basic math skills from Khan Academy; it was disembodied and disconnected, with a computer constantly being a mediator between my students and me.”

And in this piece by Rick Hess, A Confession and a Question on Personalized Learning, the CEO of Amplify admits Personalized Learning is a failure. We wish every policy wonk and educrat would read this:

…“Until a few years ago, I was a great believer in what might be called the “engineering” model of personalized learning, which is still what most people mean by personalized learning. The model works as follows:

You start with a map of all the things that kids need to learn.

Then you measure the kids so that you can place each kid on the map in just the spot where they know everything behind them, and in front of them is what they should learn next.

Then you assemble a vast library of learning objects and ask an algorithm to sort through it to find the optimal learning object for each kid at that particular moment.

Then you make each kid use the learning object.

Then you measure the kids again. If they have learned what you wanted them to learn, you move them to the next place on the map. If they didn’t learn it, you try something simpler.

If the map, the assessments, and the library were used by millions of kids, then the algorithms would get smarter and smarter, and make better, more personalized choices about which things to put in front of which kids.

I spent a decade believing in this model—the map, the measure, and the library, all powered by big data algorithms.

Here’s the problem: The map doesn’t exist, the measurement is impossible, and we have, collectively, built only 5% of the library.

To be more precise: The map exists for early reading and the quantitative parts of K-8 mathematics, and much promising work on personalized learning has been done in these areas; but the map doesn’t exist for reading comprehension, or writing, or for the more complex areas of mathematical reasoning, or for any area of science or social studies. We aren’t sure whether you should learn about proteins then genes then traits—or traits, then genes, then proteins.

We also don’t have the assessments to place kids with any precision on the map. The existing measures are not high enough resolution to detect the thing that a kid should learn tomorrow. Our current precision would be like Google Maps trying to steer you home tonight using a GPS system that knows only that your location correlates highly with either Maryland or Virginia.

We also don’t have the library of learning objects for the kinds of difficulties that kids often encounter. Most of the available learning objects are in books that only work if you have read the previous page. And they aren’t indexed in ways that algorithms understand.

Finally, as if it were not enough of a problem that this is a system whose parts don’t exist, there’s a more fundamental breakdown: Just because the algorithms want a kid to learn the next thing doesn’t mean that a real kid actually wants to learn that thing.

So we need to move beyond this engineering model…” — Larry Berger, CEO of Amplify, excerpt Rick Hess Straight Up Blog [Emphasis added]

 

And…Digital Promise just published a 2018 report promoting “Personalized Learning”, co-authored by Tom Vander Ark, here.  In this report you can find such gems as this global mantra (including in the US) that learning and teaching knowledge is no longer the main goal of education, it is more important to gather data about how students think and feel.

According to the World Economic Forumthe top five most valued skills for workers in 2020 are: 1) complex problem solving; 2) critical thinking; 3) creativity; 4) people management; and 5) coordinating with others. This is a far cry from simply needing a grasp of reading, writing, and arithmetic to be marketable to employers. While mastery of the three Rs remains critical, it is merely the launching point and no longer the end goal. We need to re-think the education system”  –US Department of Education’s Digital Promise http://digitalpromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/lps-policies_practices-r3.pdf

Getting Smart, Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is Getting Smart author, creator and is the “director of 4.0 Schools, Charter Board Partners, Digital Learning Institute, eduInnovation, and Imagination Foundation, and advises numerous nonprofits.” Vander Ark was also the former Executive Director of Education for Microsoft.  Vander Ark, in this 2011 video said that Common Core’s mandate of online assessments could be used as a lever to get computers into the classroom, computers for personalized learning to help replace teachers. Tom Vander Ark also said gone are the “days of data poverty” once we use online formative tests rather than end of year high stakes tests. Vander Ark is also featured in this Global Education Futures conference; notice that Vander Ark is speaking on how to Unbundle Billions in Education.

Dell Foundation.

What could Dell computers possibly have to do with tech in schools and student data you ask? For starters, Dell funds some heavy hitters in data analytics, such as McKinsey and Boston Consulting Group. Dell also has a “free” app for high school students called Scholar Snap, which handles students’ personal scholarship data. Interestingly, Scholar Snap is also partnered with the Common App, both of which are third party vendors within Naviance, a K-12 Workforce data platform. (You can read about Naviance and their data mining, including how Common App asks students to waive their FERPA rights by clicking here.) Additionally, Dell (along with Gates) helps fund CoSN, the makers of the (industry self-policing, self-awarding) Trusted Learning Environment Seal for Student Data. CoSN  also promotes data collection and personalized learning.  Their “data driven decision making mission” is to “help schools and districts move beyond data collection to use data to inform instructional practice and personalize learning“. Not surprisingly, CoSN is also co-author of this Horizon Report, touting the virtues of Virtual Reality (VR) and robotics and wearable tech, expected to be adopted in K-12 education within the next 3 to 5 years.

The wearable format enables the convenient integration of tools into users’ everyday lives, allowing seamless tracking of personal data such as sleep, movement, location, and social media interactions. Head-mounted wearable displays such as Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard facilitate immersive virtual reality experiences. Well-positioned to advance the quantified self movement, today’s wearables not only track where people go, what they do, and how much time they spend doing it, but now what their aspirations are and when those can be accomplished.”  –CoSN Horizon Report 2018

Side note: It’s not just students who will be required to track and share their biometric and personal data. As this New York Times piece reports, teachers in West Virginia were required to submit their personal information to a health tracking app or risk a $500 penalty.

They implemented Go365, which is an app that I’m supposed to download on my phone, to track my steps, to earn points through this app. If I don’t earn enough points, and if I choose not to use the app, then I’m penalized $500 at the end of the year. People felt that was very invasive, to have to download that app and to be forced into turning over sensitive information.

The Future of Privacy Forum

The Future of Privacy Forum, is a Project Unicorn partner and DC think tank funded by many tech foundations and corporations including but not limited to: Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Comcast, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Verizon, Samsung, Sidewalk Labs (Google’s Alphabet, Smart Cities), Walt Disney, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, National Science Foundation. Hobsons (Naviance), Intel, Palintir, Pearson, Netflix, Mozilla name only a few of their big name supporters. Their K12  arm focuses on balancing student data privacy while supporting innovation and technology in the classroom.

New technologies are allowing information to flow within schools and beyond, enabling new learning environments and providing new tools to improve the way teachers teach and the way students learn. Data-driven innovations are bringing advances in teaching and learning but are accompanied by concerns about how education data, particularly student-generated data, are being collected and used.

The Future of Privacy Forum believes that there are critical improvements to learning that are enabled by data and technology, and that the use of data and technology is not antithetical to protecting student privacy. In order to facilitate this balance, FPF equips and connects advocates, industry, policymakers, and practitioners with substantive practices, policies, and other solutions to address education privacy challenges.

While it is fantastic to have such a well-funded group concerned about student privacy, we wish they would go further. The Future of Privacy Forum  doesn’t advocate for student and parent consent before taking or using student data, nor do they say students should own their own data. We wish they advocated for the right of parents to be ensured paper pencil / book / human face to face teacher alternatives to online curriculum.  We also wish that Future of Privacy Forum would better highlight that predictive algorithms are not regulated or transparent; meta data and personalized, adaptive learning are exempted from state privacy laws, often with this or very similar language:

Nothing in this section

And though the Future of Privacy Forum does promote technology in the classroom, screen addiction is a concern for parents. (Although tech addiction has seen increased media coverage as of late, it’s not new; see this 2015  New York Times article on the toll that screen addiction has on children. However, surprisingly, some would still argue that tech is not addictive. ) When promoting technology in the classroom, the Future of Privacy Forum could do a better job addressing the many well-documented health risks of screen use including behavioral changes, link to teen depression and suicide, sleep disturbance, damage to retinas and vision loss, and better highlight guidance from the American Academy of Pediatricians, warning that wireless devices and cell phones can cause cancer.

Common Sense Media

Common Sense Media is a nonprofit who is supported by several foundations, including but not limited to: The Bezos (Amazon) Family Foundation, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett FoundationCarnegie Corporation of NY,  Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation,Overdeck Family Foundation, R.K. Mellon Foundation Symantec ,The Anschutz Foundation,  Annie E. Casey Foundation.  Another of their investors states that, “Common Sense Media provides unbiased and trustworthy information about media and entertainment that helps parents and children make informed choices about the content they consume.”

Can Project Unicorn or any of its Partners truly claim to be unbiased, since they are funded by the data driven tech industry? Since they are in a position to inform and advise on education policy, this is an important question.

Common Sense Media, even after hosting an event about tech addiction, see Truth About Tech below, is still advocating that only certain screen time exposure is addictive or concerning. Common Sense says when it comes to screen time, “there really is no magic number that’s “just right.”   Parents would argue that while content is certainly important, addiction, retinal damage, cancer risk, permissionless data collection, online safety risks apply to both educational and non-educational screen time, and affect children regardless of digital content.

Common Sense Tweet

To their credit, Common Sense Kids Action recently hosted a full day conference (video) on “Truth About Tech– How tech has our kids hooked.” It is great to get this conversation into the spotlight , you can see the agenda here, but there was no mention of giving students and parents ownership and control of how student data is collected, analyzed and shared. With online personalized learning and 1:1 devices being pushed at students as early as kindergarten and preschool, and no laws regulating meta data, data analytics, hidden algorithms, limiting screen time in schools and consent for data collection should have been discussed. Instead, Common Sense along with Project Unicorn is focused on data interoperability to keep the K-12 data flowing and will continue to ask parents to better control children’s screen time use at home.

Common Sense YouTube

The last segment of Common Sense’s Truth About Tech event, entitled “Solutions for Families, Schools, and Democracy” was moderated by Rebecca Randall, Vice President of Education Programs, Common Sense with guest speakers and Common Sense partners Dr. Carrie James, research associate, Project Zero, Harvard School of Education,, and Randima Fernando, Center for Humane Technology. This entire piece is worth your time, Mr. Fernando had some excellent points on gaming and technology.  However, we are going to focus on Dr. James’ comments since, as Ms. Randall mentions, it is on Dr. James’ work regarding digital ethics that Common Sense bases their K-12 digital literacy and citizenship curriculum.  Common Sense Media is about to begin working again with Dr. James and Harvard’s Project Zero to develop updated K-12 digital guidance.

At 49 minute mark,  Dr. James remarks:

“In answering a question around parents as role models, responded that, “We have a growing pile of evidence to suggest that parents are not doing a great job in this regard in recent research that we’re doing with Common Sense we’ve reached out to schools and teachers across the country and in a couple of countries around the world and asked you know what are some of the most memorable digital challenges your schools have faced and a surprising number of them have to do with parents.”

With screens being so addictive, we agree that many parents and most of society undoubtedly could be better screen time role models, we disagree with Common Sense’s continued emphasis only on non-educational screen use. We hope that Common Sense, their partners at Harvard Project Zero who will be working on new digital literacy citizenship curriculum, will consider age appropriate screen use, health and safety guidelines, parental consent and data ownership for children using devices and screens for educational purposes, including online homework. Parents send their children to school expecting them to be safe. Many parents do not want their children required to use screens and technology for regular coursework and when learning core subjects.  Many parents are uncomfortable with online personalized learning and would prefer face to face human teachers and text books as an option. The cost of attending public schools should not be mandatory screen exposure and loss of privacy. We hope that Common Sense will address these concerns in their work.

Project Unicorn is Promoting Interoperability. What is it?

An April 2017 Clayton Christensen Institute blog posted on the Project Unicorn news website explains the path of data interoperability as this,

“The first path toward interoperability evolves when industry leaders meet to agree on standards for new technologies. With standards, software providers electively conform to a set of rules for cataloging and sharing data. The problem with this approach in the current education landscape is that software vendors don’t have incentives to conform to standards. Their goal is to optimize the content and usability of their own software and serve as a one-stop shop for student data, not to constrain their software architecture so that their data is more useful to third parties.

Until schools and teachers prioritize interoperability over other features in their software purchasing decisions, standards will continue to fall by the wayside with technology developers. Efforts led by the Ed-Fi Alliance, the Access for Learning Community, and the federal government’s Common Education Data Standards program, all aim to promote common sets of data standards. In parallel with their (sic) these efforts, promising initiatives like the Project Unicorn pledge encourage school systems to increase demand for interoperability.”  [Emphasis added] https://www.christenseninstitute.org/blog/making-student-data-usable-innovation-theory-tells-us-interoperability/

A one-stop shop for student data, flowing seamlessly for third parties: Interoperability. 

How will  Project Unicorn help give students ownership of their data? Will students have consent and control over their data? We asked. 

Interestingly, up until a few days ago, Project Unicorn’s twitter profile stated that their focus is “shifting the ownership of data to schools and students.” See this screenshot from February 18, 2018 and a twitter conversation below.

Project Unicorn Tweet 2Project Unicorn replied the following day but they did not immediately answer my question about student data consent and ownership. Instead, they listed a few of their partners: Data Quality Campaign, Future of Privacy, Common Sense Media, National PTA. Again, I asked them about their statement about shifting ownership of data to the student.

Project Unicorn Tweet 3

Project Unicorn Tweet 4

Gretchen Logue also replied to Project Unicorn and their partners, asking if students can NOT have their data shared. Two days later, she still had not received a reply.

Logue

I directly asked Project Unicorn’s partner, Digital Promise to help answer whether students can consent to data collection. (Remember, DP is the edtech /personalized learning promoting non-profit created by the US Department of Ed.)  Digital Promise never responded to this parent’s questions. Maybe they just need a little more time or maybe parents aren’t important enough to bother with?

Tweet 5

tweet 6

tweet 7

Project Unicorn replied: they changed their twitter profile to better reflect the scope of their projectThey no longer claim to shift data ownership to students. They are promoting data interoperability. To be clear: they are NOT giving students ownership of their data. See their new twitter profile in this February 23, 2018 screen shot below.

Project Unicon interoperability

Why do edtech companies and our government have such a problem giving students consent and true ownership of their data? Data is money. Data is identity.  Student data is NOT theirs to take. 

Without the student, the data does not exist. If a student writes an essay for a class assignment, that written work belongs to the student. If a student draws a picture in art class, that artwork is theirs. Parents (and the Fourth Amendment) would argue that personal information about a student, created by a student, should belong to the student.

#TruthinTech: Unicorns are taking student data and sharing it without consent. What say you @HumaneTech?

Humane tech

Tech is hacking kids brains, but it is also stealing their data, students’ every keystroke can be collected and analyzed and student education records can be shared.  (FERPA is a 40 year old law that doesn’t cover data or meta data, or algorithms and was substantially weakened  in 2011 to allow personally identifiable information to be shared outside of the school with nonprofits, researchers, anyone approved as a school official or  educational purpose–without parent consent or knowledge). HumaneTech folks, are you good with this predictive profiling, leveraging and capitalizing of children who are held hostage in this mandatory surveilled school system? Schools are the new smart cities –except children are a captive audience and they are being exploited. They have no choice.

Why not do real, independent research, set guidelines and protect kids from screens in schools? Why not give parents and students a choice of tech vs paper, allow the option of learning knowledge vs in-school personality surveys and emotional assessments and biometric health trackers? Why not be transparent about algorithms and analytics and get consent BEFORE collecting and using student or teacher data?

GDPR.

Europe requires consent before collecting and sharing personal data, including automated decision making. GDPR gives Europeans (including students) more control on how their data is handled, including breach notification and penalty, data redaction, and consent. Why would American students be any less deserving than students in Europe? GDPR will have global implications.  Modernizing FERPA and COPPA to align with GDPR would be both practical and ethical. Why isn’t Project Unicorn also advocating for the GDPR standard of basic human privacy and data identity rights for American citizens and children? 

A final question note. Project Unicorn is not an elected, governing body, are they directing US education policy? Decisions should be made democratically, by those closest to the children, instead of by a few billionaires. What gives philonthro-funders the right to leverage children’s data and encourage schools with their procurement $trategies? The Edtech Billionaires directing education-experimenting on children have created (and are profiting from) this data driven problem: teachers are so busy collecting endless data points they don’t have the time or the freedom to teach. Now the regretful tech industry, wants to swoop in and make the data collection process easier, free up teachers (or replace them?), with a Single-Sign-On Standardized data collection tool. Children are not a product to be leveraged.  Please stop using schools and children as a permissionless innovation data supply.

IMS Global

And why oh why, Project Unicorn, are you working with IMS Global?  Uncommon Alliance indeed.

“…interoperability specification for educational click stream analytics created by the education community for the education community. Major educational suppliers are using Caliper to collect millions of events every week and the data is helping to shape teaching and learning on multiple levels. Several leading institutions are also working on putting Caliper in place. Now is a great time for both institutions and suppliers to begin putting learning analytics in place using Caliper.”

IMS Global Learning Consortium

-Cheri Kiesecker

Dear Congress, you are being duped. HR4174-S2046 is a Privacy Fail. Here’s why. ( And please no more suspended rules and voice votes on these bills. )

Reposted with permission from  Missouri Education Watchdog.

not_for_sale

I will say it again… When it comes to their own children, parents have little to no say in education matters. Parents are not invited to fancy conferences, we often aren’t even allowed to attend them. Parents don’t have a travel budget, a lobby budget, or a paid assistant to help write rebuttals and policy briefs. Nope, we are moms and dads and grandparents doing the best we can to protect our children. And that is why I am responding to the federal government’s response to my blogpost opposing their bill(s) HR4174 and S2046, Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2017.

Dear  Congress,

The GOP Majority Staff of the Congressional House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform wrote and distributed a response to my November 12  blogpost  that opposed HR4174.  This response, which folks can see here begins with,

The Eagle Forum and other groups representing interests such as home schooling have raised concerns about H.R. 4174, the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2017The concerns relate to how the bill would affect the privacy of citizens (especially school-aged children) whose data  is being stored by the federal government. Those concerns arise from a misunderstanding of what the bill does to the personal data that the government already has.”

Let me clear something up.  I am not a member of Eagle Forum nor am I a member of a home school group, not that I have anything against them; I just don’t want them to be responsible for what I say.  Missouri Education Watchdog lets me write on their blog but my views are my own. I am a mom. My special interests are my children. I write as a parent, because like many parent advocates, blogging is the only (small) way to be heard.

And No.

My concern DOES NOT “arise from a misunderstanding of what the bill does to the personal data that the government already has.”  You have it sort of right;  let me restate it:

MY CONCERN IS THAT THE GOVERNMENT HAS CITIZENS’ AND ESPECIALLY SCHOOL-AGED CHILDREN’S PERSONAL DATA, WITHOUT PERMISSION…AND IS EXPANDING ACCESS, ANALYSIS OF THIS DATA, AGAIN WITHOUT PERMISSION.

It’s not your data. Data belongs to the individual. Data is identity and data is currencyCollecting someone’s personal data without consent is theft. (When hackers took Equifax data, that was illegal. When the government takes data… no different.)

If you support parental rights, you should not support HR4174 or its sister bill S2046.  Parents are often left out of the conversation about laws affecting their children.

I will say it again… When it comes to their own children, parents have little to no say in education matters. Parents are not invited to fancy conferences, we often aren’t even allowed to attend them. Parents don’t have a travel budget, a lobby budget, or a paid assistant to help write rebuttals and policy briefs. Nope, we are moms and dads and grandparents doing the best we can to protect our children. And that is why I am responding to the federal government’s response to my blogpost opposing their bill(s) HR4174 and S2046, Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2017.

I invite members of Congress and policy makers, rather than refute, or ignore, please have a discussion with those closest to the children: parents.

You impose legislation that directly impacts our children and our families, without our input. We elected you to represent us, “we the people”.    Please hear us, the parents. These are our children, not your human capital, not your data, not your property.

What follows are sections on:

  1. Brief status of student data collection
  2. History and mission of CEP Commission, current linking of IRS data, Census Data, Education data.
  3. China, the US, tech companies and collection, analysis of citizens’ data, dangers of algorithms, metadata profiling.
  4. Status of HR4174, voice votes and suspended rules (why this controversial bill should have had neither)
  5. FACTS. Links to bill text, refuting the House Oversight rebuttal.
  6. Here is a two pager citing only facts, bill text.   http://tinyurl.com/HR4174twopage

The current state of student data collection– You need to know this.

Bill Gates, who has spent billions on reforming education, creating and sharing standardized data, state databases, also wants a national student database, linking k-12 and higher ed data. According to The Gates Foundation 2016 Priorities, this is the national database infrastructure he has in mind. Coincidence?

Gates data infrastructure

State agencies currently maintain personally identifiable data about citizens, including  k-12 school children. My focus is on student data because student data are collected and shared  and analyzed without parent consent. Parents have a right to direct our children’s education and citizens have a right to be secure in their property.  …or do we?  Taking personal information about a child, and sharing it, without the parents’ knowledge or consent is (SHOCKINGLY)  legal, thanks to a 2011 executive rule change that weakened FERPA.

Any Congressperson who would like to spend his or her Thanksgiving dinner explaining to friends and relatives why you think taking personal information about a child and sharing it without parent consent is ethical or principled, please go ahead. Also, let them know that you passed a bill giving more access to this ill-gotten, personal information of students. Be my guest.

As for me, I find HR4174 collection, sharing of a school child’s personal data without parent consent, unconstitutional and unethical and a violation of children’s privacy and parental rights.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation also challenged nonconsensual sharing of students’ personal information and the weakening of FERPA. See the EPIC lawsuit against the US Department of Education here.

Very personal information about k-12 students (ie: personal background info on kindergarten-12  registration forms, demographics, race,  health records, disability status, income status, a multitude of invasive surveys, even personality tests, etc.)  is currently collected at all public k-12 schools and can be shared outside of the school, without the parents’ knowledge.  Many have said for years,student data collection is out of control and we are not protecting children:  Asleep at the Switch: Schoolhouse Commercialism, Student Privacy, and the Failure of Policymaking.

Meta data and mouse-clicks to predict a child, measure their behavior. Amazon and Facebook and Google and Microsoft and many other edtech companies are invading the classroom. Edtech companies like  DreamBox, Khan Academy, and Knewton use adaptive or “personalized” online programs that collect large amounts of data on each child.  Knewton claims 5- 10 million data points per child, per day.  DreamBox claims 50,000 data points per hour on each student. These  “Personalized” software programs embedded in education technology are collecting data about a student, secretly determining which questions students will see, measuring how fast a child reads, what he or she clicks on, how long he or she takes to answer a question. This meta data is sometimes being used to measure a child’s  “social emotional learning” and engagement. One assessment company, NWEA, measuring test item response times, says if a child responds to a test question too quickly, this will give him/her a low engagement score.  NWEA thinks a child’s rapid response means the child is guessing and this disengagement can be applied to other “deep rooted problems” in a student’s life such as,

“a student’s likelihood of disengaging on a test was associated with his or her self-management and self-regulation skills, the ability, for example, to show up for class prepared and on time. “As they disengage from tests and the course material, a whole host of other things come up … attendance, suspensions, course failure … that have been connected to risk of dropping out of school,”

In a digital environment, everything a child does online can be captured, connected and catalogued. The LearnSphere project funded by the National Science Foundation and handled by Carnegie Mellon, explains this project which began in 2014:

“There are several important initiatives designed to address these data access challenges, for individual researchers as well as institutions and states. LearnSphere, a cross-institutional community infrastructure project, aims to develop a large-scale open repository of rich education data by integrating data from its four components.[17] For instance, DataShop stores data from student interactions with online course materials, intelligent tutoring systems, virtual labs, and simulations, and DataStage stores data derived from online courses offered by Stanford UniversityClick-stream data stored in these repositories include thousands and even millions of data points per student, much of which is made publicly available to registered users who meet data privacy assurance criteria. On the other hand, MOOCdb and DiscourseDB, also components of LearnSphere, offer platforms for the extraction and representation of student MOOC data and textual data, respectively, surrounding student online learning interactions that are otherwise difficult to access or are highly fragmented. By integrating data held or processed through these different components, LearnSphere will create a large set of interconnected data that reflects most of a student’s experience in online learning.” http://www.sr.ithaka.org/publications/student-data-in-the-digital-era/

Shouldn’t parents be able to see and consent to this information being collected and analyzed about their children? Will researchers and edtech companies be granted MORE access to the personal student data held by theDataShop, that HR4174 creates? (Yes, according to the bill excerpts below.)

Personal information about a student is already shared to a state longitudinal database, SLDS. See here for what data elements are stored in the state data dictionary. The states share this personal student data (personally identifiable information, pii) with other agencies, corporations, researchers–again without parent notification or consent, and parents cannot opt out. See here for example of state agreements to share student pii with companies, researchers, agencies, etc.

The Department of Defense also has access to student data through the Federal Learning Registry is a joint student data gathering project between the Department of Defense and the Department of Education. The Learning Registry and US Department of Education are also “encouraging districts and states to move away from traditional textbooks” and instead use the Learning Registry’s openly-licensed online materials, (Online Educational Resources, OERs), facilitated by Amazon, Microsoft, Edmodo, ASCD, Creative Commons. Can parents see this data or opt out? Nope.

The safest way to protect data, is minimize its collection. HR4174 does not minimize data collection, nor does it decrease disclosures. Schools and student databases across the country are currently being hacked and held for ransom, students threatened by cyber terrorists. With the federal government’s track record of failing FITARA security scores,  and recent data breaches, the thought of the federal government coordinating and maintaining expanded access to state level student data is concerning.

History and mission of CEP Commission

HR4174 is a result of the CEP (Commission for Evidence-based Policy); as stated in the bill and in the CEP final report, its purpose is identifying and reducing or removing barriers to accessing state-level data. The CEP commission held several meetings and three public hearings.  I suggest you review the minutes, video and audio of these meetings and hearings. You can read about the history of the CEP commission, watch the first public hearing, see written testimony submitted here.

The testimony from Oct 21, 2016 CEP hearing panelists is enlightening:

 For example: RK Paleru of Booz Allen Hamilton’s testimony, said that BAH supports, among other things, linking student data from surveys and multiple agencies, public-private partnerships, and data analytics, and “bringing the private sector perspective to the conversation.” He also stated the need for a data clearinghouse to be self-service and like a “Pinterest for data“, or data as paid service, and wanted to promote inter-agency data sharing.

Another Oct 21 CEP hearing panelist, Rachel Zinn, Workforce Data Quality Campaign, WDQC, said because of the current ban on a federal student database, “stakeholders” don’t have access to student information, she goes on to say in order to link and share data, stakeholders often have to use “non-standard processes, often goes through personal relationships or particular capacities within agencies at particular times” .   

Panelists at Feb 9, 2017 CEP hearing (listen to Audio at 57 min to 1hr14min mark):

Panelists discuss making it easier to link personally identifiable information from IRS records and personal information from Census population survey, personal information from education records and SLDS. With the CEP Commission making this personal data more accessible, more available, the researcher feels “like a kid in candy store“.  There are great barriers that prevent researchers from getting this data, currently researchers have to get it by “hook or crook” or  “by leveraging personal relationships”… CEP questions the coercive nature of obtaining this data.  At 1hour 11 minutes, they discuss how currently they can link Census population survey data and personal IRS data, with persistence any academic researcher can access these data, you just have to know the steps to get there and I think that’s the Commission’s charge“…

The Feb 24, 2017 CEP meeting:

Again, panelists discuss how they are already linking personally identifiable state-level education records with IRS records, but cite it is difficult and barriers need to be removed to make it easier to link this pii data between agencies.

IRS and student data.jpg

CHINA and US: Meta data, predictive algorithms, analyzing and generating data, social engineering

Linking all this personal data on citizens reminds me of why I mentioned that China collects and links data about its citizens.  Is there anything in HR4174 that says personal data cannot be used to rank a person, create a reputation score, or profile a person? HR4174 allows meta data analysis, generation of new data that can be  used to predict and profile. Algorithms can be biased and wrong. HOW can you possibly police this? A good start would be Europe’s General Data Protection Rule.

Tech companies in the US are ramping up their use of predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, despite dire warnings of existential risk  . This article on Twitter, Facebook and Google analytics is a warning on why we should be concerned. Do Facebook and Google have control of their algorithms anymore? A sobering assessment and a warning,

““Google, Twitter, and Facebook have all regularly shifted the blame to algorithms when this happens, but the issue is that said companies write the algorithms, making them responsible for what they churn out.”

Algorithms can be gamed, algorithms can be trained on biased information, and algorithms can shield platforms [tech companies] from blame.”

YET, have you ever heard of Yet Analytics? To quote this article,  Yet, HP and the Future of Human Capital Analytics: AI and your reputation score,

“querying of big data comprising information on learning, economic and social factors and outcomes gathered by the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, the United Nations and elsewhere. The outcome is the ability to predict multi-year return on investment on a great variety of learning, economic and social measures. We knew that variables including adolescent fertility rates, infant mortality rates and the balance of trade goods all had significant relationships with GDP per capita.”

Microsoft of course uses artificial intelligence and analytics with Cortana technology, but also has MALMO built in the MINECRAFT platform, “How can we develop artificial intelligence that learns to make sense of complex environments? That learns from others, including humans, how to interact with the world? Project Malmo sets out to address these core research challenges, addressing them by integrating (deep) reinforcement learning, cognitive science, and many ideas from artificial intelligence.”  Microsoft also has PROJECT BRAINWAVE capturing real time artificial intelligence data.

Facebook and your credit score? Facebook reportedly has a patent for technology that could potentially be used for evaluating your credit risk, which they say could be used to view your social network connections and determine your credit worthiness.

Status of HR4174

HR4174 was introduced on 10/31/2017 and was passed on voice vote in the House Oversight and Government Reform.  Yesterday, the US House of Representatives suspended their rules, something that, according to this document, is only done on non-controversial bills. Judging by the public outcry and the rebuttal response from House Oversight, I would argue this bill is controversial and should not have been voted on suspended rule. With rules suspended and another voice votethe House unanimously passed HR4174 on 11/15/2017. Watch the vote, starting at 4hr 52min mark here.

Myth or Fact?  You decide.

myth or fact

The rebuttal

FACT:  Parents cannot opt students out of this state data collection that is obtained without consent.

HR4174 will increase access to this state-level student data, allowing data to be linked or disclosed with government agencies, researchers, again without consent.

  • If HR4174 does allow parental consent, does allow parents to opt out of student data collection and sharing, please correct me. It would be imperative to specifically state parental consent and opt out rights in the bill, so schools and parents are aware of this provision. There’s still time to add this opt out provision in the Senate.

FACT: HR4174 removes barriers to state-level data access and creates a National Secure Data Service (NSDS) with a Chief Evaluation Officer in each federal department; the NSDS will be coordinated through the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Data officers in each agency oversee the dissemination and generation of data between state agencies and private users, contractors, researchers while finding new and innovative ways to use technology to improve data collection and use.

Does that sound like a national  system to manage and disclose data?  …Keep reading.

  • § 3520A. Chief Data Officer Council

“(a) Establishment.—There is established in the Office of Management and Budget a Chief Data Officer Council (in this section referred to as the ‘Council’).

“(b) Purpose and functions.—The Council shall—

“(1) establish Governmentwide best practices for the use, protection, dissemination, and generation of data;

“(2) promote and encourage data sharing agreements between agencies;

“(3) identify ways in which agencies can improve upon the production of evidence for use in policymaking;

“(4) consult with the public and engage with private users of Government data and other stakeholders on how to improve access to data assets of the Federal Government; and

“(5) identify and evaluate new technology solutions for improving the collection and use of data.

FACT: HR4174 requires each agency (see list of 17 different agencies, A-Q below, who will maintain and disclose data) and will make any data asset maintained by the agency available to any statistical agency. The head of each agency shall …make a list of data the agency intends to collect, use, or acquire. This data may be in an identifiable form and may include operating and financial data and information about businesses, tax-exempt organizations, and government entities. 

  • HR4174 PART D—ACCESS TO DATA FOR EVIDENCE

    § 3581. Presumption of accessibility for statistical agencies and units

    “(a) Accessibility of data assets.—The head of an agency shall, to the extent practicable, make any data asset maintained by the agency available, upon request, to any statistical agency or unit for purposes of developing evidence.

  • § 312. Agency evidence-building plan

    “(a) Requirement.—Not later than the first Monday in February of each year, the head of each agency shall submit to the Director and Congress a systematic plan for identifying and addressing policy questions relevant to the programs, policies, and regulations of the agency. Such plan shall be made available on the public website of the agency and shall cover at least a 4-year period beginning with the first fiscal year following the fiscal year in which the plan is submitted and published and contain the following:

    “(1) A list of policy-relevant questions for which the agency intends to develop evidence to support policymaking.

    “(2) A list of data the agency intends to collect, use, or acquire to facilitate the use of evidence in policymaking.

    “(3) A list of methods and analytical approaches that may be used to develop evidence to support policymaking.

    “(4) A list of any challenges to developing evidence to support policymaking, including any statutory or other restrictions to accessing relevant data.

Agencies involved in the HR4174 Federal evidence-building activities.

HR4174 “SUBCHAPTER II—FEDERAL EVIDENCE-BUILDING ACTIVITIES

§ 311. Definitions

“(1) AGENCY.—The term ‘agency’ means an agency referred to under section 901(b) of title 31.

901(b) of title 31 :
(b)
(1) The agencies referred to in subsection (a)(1) are the following:
(A) The Department of Agriculture.
(B) The Department of Commerce.
(C) The Department of Defense.
(D) The Department of Education.
(E) The Department of Energy.
(F) The Department of Health and Human Services.
(G) The Department of Homeland Security.
(H) The Department of Housing and Urban Development.
(I) The Department of the Interior.
(J) The Department of Justice.
(K) The Department of Labor.
(L) The Department of State.
(M) The Department of Transportation.
(N) The Department of the Treasury.
(O) The Department of Veterans Affairs.
(P) The Environmental Protection Agency.
(Q) The National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/31/901

FACT: Data is shared between designated statistical agencies and can be personally identifiable data. Agencies and the Director can promulgate their own rules about data disclosure and sharing. The overseers of disseminating and generating can make their own rules.

  • “(c) Sharing of business data among Designated Statistical Agencies.—

    “(1) IN GENERAL.—A Designated Statistical Agency may provide business data in an identifiable form to another Designated Statistical Agency under the terms of a written agreement among the agencies sharing the business data that specifies—

    “(A) the business data to be shared;

    “(B) the statistical purposes for which the business data are to be used;

    “(C) the officers, employees, and agents authorized to examine the business data to be shared; and

    “(D) appropriate security procedures to safeguard the confidentiality of the business data.

 

  • “(e) Designated Statistical Agency defined.—In this section, the term ‘Designated Statistical Agency’ means each of the following:

    (1) The Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce.

    (2) The Bureau of Economic Analysis of the Department of Commerce.

    (3) The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the Department of Labor.”.

  • “(3) BUSINESS DATA.—The term ‘business data’ means operating and financial data and information about businesses, tax-exempt organizations, and government entities.  [Note: Schools are tax-exempt and government entities.]

 

  • “§ 3562. Coordination and oversight of policies“(a) In general.—The Director shall coordinate and oversee the confidentiality and disclosure policies established by this subchapter. The Director may promulgate rules or provide other guidance to ensure consistent interpretation of this subchapter by the affected agencies. The Director shall develop a process by which the Director designates agencies or organizational units as statistical agencies and units. The Director shall promulgate guidance to implement such process, which shall include specific criteria for such designation and methods by which the Director will ensure transparency in the process.
  • “(b) Agency rules.—Subject to subsection
  • (c), agencies may promulgate rules to implement this subchapter. Rules governing disclosures of information that are authorized by this subchapter shall be promulgated by the agency that originally collected the information.

FACT: Data is linked between agencies.

  • § 316. Advisory Committee on Data for Evidence Building  During the first year of the Advisory Committee, the Advisory Committee shall—

    “(B) evaluate and provide recommendations to the Director on the establishment of a shared service to facilitate data sharing, enable data linkage, and develop privacy enhancing techniques,

FACT: Data may be shared with private organizations, researchers, consultants, contractors, employees of contractors, government entities, individuals who agree in writing to comply with provisions.

  • “(e) Designation of agents.—A statistical agency or unit may designate agents, by contract or by entering into a special agreement containing the provisions required under section 3561(2) for treatment as an agent under that section, who may perform exclusively statistical activities, subject to the limitations and penalties described in this subchapter.

 

  • “(2) AGENT.—The term ‘agent’ means an individual

    “(A)(i) who is an employee of a private organization or a researcher affiliated with an institution of higher learning (including a person granted special sworn status by the Bureau of the Census under section 23(c) of title 13), and with whom a contract or other agreement is executed, on a temporary basis, by an executive agency to perform exclusively statistical activities under the control and supervision of an officer or employee of that agency;

    “(ii) who is working under the authority of a government entity with which a contract or other agreement is executed by an executive agency to perform exclusively statistical activities under the control of an officer or employee of that agency;

    “(iii) who is a self-employed researcher, a consultant, a contractor, or an employee of a contractor, and with whom a contract or other agreement is executed by an executive agency to perform a statistical activity under the control of an officer or employee of that agency; or

    “(iv) who is a contractor or an employee of a contractor, and who is engaged by the agency to design or maintain the systems for handling or storage of data received under this subchapter; and

    “(B) who agrees in writing to comply with all provisions of law that affect information acquired by that agency.

  • SEC. 202. OPEN Government Data.(a) Definitions.—
  • Section 3502 of title 44, United States Code, is amended—
  • “(15) the term ‘data’ means recorded information, regardless of form or the media on which the data is recorded;
  • “(16) the term ‘data asset’ means a collection of data elements or data sets that may be grouped together;
  • “(17) the term ‘machine-readable’, when used with respect to data, means data in a format that can be easily processed by a computer without human intervention while ensuring no semantic meaning is lost;
  • “(18) the term ‘metadata’ means structural or descriptive information about data such as content, format, source, rights, accuracy, provenance, frequency, periodicity, granularity, publisher or responsible party, contact information, method of collection, and other descriptions;

FACT: You are correct that HR4174 does repeal E–Government Act of 2002 (Public Law 107–34744 U.S.C. 3501 and re-insert it in title 44. However, the CIPSEA penalty of $250,000 fine or 5 years prison is not new; it has been in place since 2002. Student data has been collected and shared without consent since 2012-CIPSEA was not applicable or not enforced. Ironically, HR4174 weakens CIPSEA.

CIPSEA is amended to expand access to data. Additionally, once again, the Director can promulgate regulation on what data to share.

  • 3582. Expanding secure access to CIPSEA data assets

“(a) Statistical agency responsibilities.—To the extent practicable, each statistical agency or unit shall expand access to data assets of such agency or unit acquired or accessed under this subchapter to develop evidence while protecting such assets from inappropriate access and use, in accordance with the regulations promulgated under subsection (b).

“(b) Regulations for accessibility of nonpublic data assets.—The Director shall promulgate regulations, in accordance with applicable law, for statistical agencies and units to carry out the requirement under subsection (a). Such regulations shall include the following:

“(1) Standards for each statistical agency or unit to assess each data asset owned or accessed by the statistical agency or unit for purposes of categorizing the sensitivity level of each such asset and identifying the corresponding level of accessibility to each such asset. Such standards shall include—

“(A) common sensitivity levels and corresponding levels of accessibility that may be assigned to a data asset, including a requisite minimum and maximum number of sensitivity levels for each statistical agency or unit to use;

“(B) criteria for determining the sensitivity level and corresponding level of accessibility of each data asset; and

“(C) criteria for determining whether a less sensitive and more accessible version of a data asset can be produced.

“(2) Standards for each statistical agency or unit to improve access to a data asset pursuant to paragraph (1) or (3) by removing or obscuring information in such a manner that the identity of the data subject is less likely to be reasonably inferred by either direct or indirect means.

“(3) A requirement for each statistical agency or unit to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment of any data asset acquired or accessed under this subchapter prior to any public release of such asset, including standards for such comprehensive risk assessment and criteria for making a determination of whether to release the data.

Continually saying that you aren’t collecting new data is meaningless – because the data was illegally obtained in the first place. HR4174 allows personal data to be shared without consent and importantly, allows generated data, meta data analysis of citizens without consent.  Personal data belongs to the individual. Data collection without consent is theft. It’s time the US updated our privacy laws  – not to further weaken them. Instead, it’s time for Congress to be a leader: minimize the data collected, protect privacy and security,  and look to Europe’s General Data Protection Rule, the strictest privacy law in the world.

-Cheri Kiesecker

USDoE’s Digital Promise and Facebook Team Up for Student Data Badges while the Gates Funded Data Quality Campaign is Lobbying Congress to Weaken FERPA, Again.

Original Title: USDoE’s Digital Promise and Facebook team up for student databadges. And Gates funded DQC group is lobbying Congress to weaken FERPA, again. Reposted with permission from  Missouri Education Watchdog.

Facebook Getting Smart

Now, onto the mega announcement made today on Tom Vander Arks’  Getting Smart blog, that Digital Promise is working with Facebook to develop student data badges.  We have written about student micro credentials (also called data badges) here and here and NEPC wrote about them here.  As for Digital Promise, we wrote about how Digital Promise is a nonprofit created by the US Department of Ed, they have a global arm and they promote Schools of Innovation, competency based ed, data badges, Relay Grad School to name a few.   So, this new announcement shouldn’t be a surprise; it will no doubt be a wonderful data collection and marketing tool for Facebook and the US Department of Ed, but it is incredibly alarming for students’ privacy and security.

Trick or treat Two-fer today.

The Data Quality Campaign, funded by Bill Gates is lobbying Congress to further weaken FERPA.  You can and SHOULD read all about that here.  We urge you to call or email your Congressman and Reps Todd Rokita (IN), Paul Mitchell (MI) to tell them NO.  Stop sharing students’ personal data with researchers and marketers, corporations and “nonprofits”  without parental consent. We need to fix FERPA, strengthen student data protection and privacy, not further weaken it.  Please do take the time to read this and send an email.   Thanks.

Now, onto the mega announcement made today on Tom Vander Arks’  Getting Smart blog, that Digital Promise is working with Facebook to develop student data badges.  We have written about student micro credentials (also called data badges) here and here and NEPC wrote about them here.  As for Digital Promise, we wrote about how Digital Promise is a nonprofit created by the US Department of Ed, they have a global arm and they promote Schools of Innovation, competency based ed, data badges, Relay Grad School to name a few.  So, this new announcement shouldn’t be a surprise; it will no doubt be a wonderful data collection and marketing tool for Facebook and the US Department of Ed, but it is incredibly alarming for students’ privacy and security.

We have reposted the getting smart announcement below.

October 30, 2017  By  getting smart staff

Digital skills are skyrocketing in demand, and that is a trend that will only continue to increase in impact. More than 8 in 10 middle-skill jobs (82%) require digital skills, and tech companies everywhere often have trouble finding candidates with the right know-how.

One recently announced effort to address this challenge that has us excited is Digital Promise’s partnership with Facebook, in which the two groups have collaborated to create a set of micro-credentials (a form of digital badges) focused on helping adults in the workforce learn these “middle” skills in the area of digital marketing.

We think that this new set of micro-credentials, the pursuit of which will include successive series of in-person workshops organized and implemented by local partners (Digital Promise will train organizations across the state of Michigan to deliver the workshops to their local communities starting in November), is a great way to address the challenge of reaching those who need this type of adult education the most.

Facebook has pledged to train 3,000 Michiganders in digital skills focused on social media over the next two years through these workshops. In the workshop, students will learn some of the basics of social media marketing, and have the opportunity to earn four micro-credentials that demonstrate the skills they have learned:

  • Social Media Marketing Basics
  • Marketing with Facebook Pages
  • Marketing with Facebook Ads
  • Marketing with Instagram

Over four weeks, students will develop a Facebook page and Instagram account for a local community organization or business of their choice; use that page to create awareness, drive traffic, and/or attract customers; and create advertising campaigns in support of that page. We think this approach is exactly the kind of authentic, real-world PBL that will encourage adults to seek these new skills.

In our recent analysis of adult entrepreneurship education (a big upcoming trend), we found that a lack of respected micro-credentials was one of the biggest missing components of entrepreneurship education. The program being developed by Digital Promise and Facebook appears set to provide a model for those looking to address this challenge. Our team is looking forward from hearing more from Digital Promise when we attend EdSurge Fusion later this week.

For more, see:

-Cheri Kiesecker

Bill Gates’ Data Quality Campaign is Coming for Your Child’s Privacy – Again.

Original Title: Big Money Coming for Your Child’s Privacy – Again. Reposted with permission from Save Maine Schools – Helping You Navigate Next-Gen Ed Reform.

data oil

In my fourth grade classroom, when there is something very important that I want all of my students hear and to understand the first time (a task that is more difficult than you can imagine), I tell my kids to “wake their brains up.”

And then I do this (sort of) to demonstrate:

tenor.gif

Today, I am asking parents to do the same.

And this is because your child’s privacy is under attack, and you, moms and dads, are literally the only thing standing in the way of the complete and utter hijacking of all personal information related to your loved ones.

Before you glaze over, realize that the implications of this data-grab may be greater than you think.

This week, a group of corporate-funded researchers joined Bill Gates’s “Data Quality Campaign” to lobby legislators to weaken the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) yet again.

In an era when entire school districts are being shut down due to data breaches and ransom notes from anonymous hackers, profiteers are seeking to put your child’s personal information into the hands of still more people.

Screen Shot 2017-10-30 at 2.30.41 PM

But here’s the thing: it’s not only creepy anonymous hackers that we need to protect ourselves from.

Data was recently called the “new oil” by the CEO of Mastercard, but few people seem to understand how – beyond vague notions of algorithms and advertising revenue – they intend to turn our personal information into a multi-trillion dollar market.

The intent is to put social services – schools, public health, prisons, foster care, you name it – into the hands of private investors via “social capital markets.”

Using social impact bonds, pay-for-success contracts, and other so-called “innovative” financial tools, investors – in collaboration with a wide network of corporate-sponsored “nonprofits” – intend to hand out loans for public services in exchange for repayment (with interest) when we meet theirpredetermined outcomes.

It’s the technocratic nightmare behind ever-increasing calls for “evidence-based” (read: data-based) policy:

Screen Shot 2017-10-30 at 2.33.05 PM

that leads not only to endless demands for data-collection, but to service-shortcuts like ipads in place of teachers and for-profit foster care programs that claim excellent “outcomes” while children are dying in their care.

(Please read here for more.)

And so when they – the data-miners themselves – suggest that perhaps we put our children’s data into something more “secure” like blockchain, realize that they are simply trying to secure the very data they themselves need to build their fortunes.

Unfortunately, this means that demands for greater “privacy” protections are not going to be enough.

What we need to do is stop the oil rigs from being built on our children’s backs in the first place.

data oil

 

#TOTALREFUSAL2017   #DATAREFUSAL2017

Save Maine Schools

Is Summit Basecamp Bill Gates’ Latest Plan for Public Education?

22540180_1782059158537442_5952599883310209553_n

So far, The Gates Foundation has given $300 million of support to promote and develop personalized learning – with more likely to come.

Now the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is adding “99 percent of their Facebook shares—worth an estimated $45 billion” to the mix.

This is enough money to overpower and colonize any system, democratic or private.

You know what I think would be great?

If people stopped giving Bill Gates a pass on his march toward total domination of public education.

What am I talking about? This comes to mind:

Screen Shot 2017-10-21 at 6.11.02 PM

Oh yes, Gates just released his latest vision of remaking education. He admits, without the least bit of irony, that “our education efforts are still evolving”.

Shockingly, as the image above shows, there’s still plenty of Gates’ apologists willing to ignore the evidence and volunteer to put some positive spin on latest plan for public education annihilation.

But think about this: it’s been 17 years since Gates decided his wealth made him an expert in education. Even more telling, this is the 17th year where his efforts have fallen short.

Who gets to fail for 17 years and still manage to set the national agenda?

Oh, it’s a billionaire who happens to be the wealthiest human on the planet.

I know who doesn’t get a pass on “failure” – students, teachers, and schools which get labeled, shut down or turned around based on test scores.

This is dangerous territory for our democracy and civil society.

And what’s more threatening to public education and democracy than one billionaire who wants to transform education?

Two.

Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have now joined forces to bring Summit Basecamp, a personalized learning platform, into the mainstream.

The Failed State of American Democracy

Sheldon Wolin wrote in Democracy Incorporated about inverted totalitarianism, the state of affairs where democratic institution are hallowed out and replaced with top down authoritarian systems ruled by money and a powerful elite. The institution remains, in name only, while the shadow parallel system holds the real power.

Wolin explains the process in detail in this article for The Nation:

Representative institutions no longer represent voters. Instead, they have been short-circuited, steadily corrupted by an institutionalized system of bribery that renders them responsive to powerful interest groups whose constituencies are the major corporations and wealthiest Americans. The courts, in turn, when they are not increasingly handmaidens of corporate power, are consistently deferential to the claims of national security. Elections have become heavily subsidized non-events that typically attract at best merely half of an electorate whose information about foreign and domestic politics is filtered through corporate-dominated media. Citizens are manipulated into a nervous state by the media’s reports of rampant crime and terrorist networks, by thinly veiled threats of the Attorney General and by their own fears about unemployment. What is crucially important here is not only the expansion of governmental power but the inevitable discrediting of constitutional limitations and institutional processes that discourages the citizenry and leaves them politically apathetic.

Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg’s team up to promote personalized learning is a perfect example of the hallowing out and replacement of the democratic structures tasked with overseeing our public schools.

From EdWeek:

In a statement, an initiative spokeswoman expressed similar sentiments.

“The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is excited to partner with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support New Profit’s work,” the statement says. “We share an interest in seeing significant improvement in education and are committed to learning from each other.”Since 2009, the Gates Foundation has given more than $300 million to support research and development on personalized learning, including past grants to New Profit totaling about $23 million. (Education Week has received support from the foundation in the past for the newspaper’s coverage of personalized learning.)

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, meanwhile, was launched in 2015. Zuckerberg and Chan said then they intended to give 99 percent of their Facebook shares—worth an estimated $45 billion—to a variety of causes, headlined by the development of software “that understands how you learn best and where you need to focus.”

Since the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is an LCC, they don’t have to respond to public records requests or other transparent practices expected of democratic institutions. In fact, The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative can operate with zero transparency, thanks to the shielding effect of the LLC designation.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is not a traditional nonprofit foundation. Instead, it’s an LLC. That organizational structure allows for direct investment in for-profit companies and political lobbying and donations, as well as philanthropic giving. It also limits the extent to which the group is legally required to publicly report on its activities.

So far, The Gates Foundation has given $300 million of support to promote and develop personalized learning – with more likely to come.

Now the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is adding “99 percent of their Facebook shares—worth an estimated $45 billion” to the mix.

This is enough money to overpower and colonize any system, democratic or private.

Add to that the shielding power of an LLC designation – which will keep the public’s prying eyes far away from the inner working this partnership – and we’re suddenly facing a serious democratic crisis in the fight to save public education.

The Plan

In case you were wondering, one of the focus areas of Gates’ new-new plan is “…the development of new curricula and networks of schools that work together to identify local problems and solutions . . . and use data to drive continuous improvement” and yes, Summit is called out as an example of success.

Democracy In Crisis

We need to get pass the corporate media framing that Gates is a bumbling do-gooder and call out his actions for what they are: colonization and subversion of one of the corners of our democracy – public education.

His money has taken over public education from the inside out, from funding astroturf groups to infiltrating and corrupting traditional institutions tasked with protecting our public schools.

All of this is happening behind the scenes, without transparency or accountability.

“Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Remember that one?

Money is power.

How far are we’re willing to let billionaire money go in its march to destroy public education?

It’s time to decide.

-Carolyn Leith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Debunking the “Truthiness” of Bill Gates’ Glowing Review of Summit’s Personalized Learning Platform

Gates Dollars two

Truthiness

The quality of stating concepts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than the facts.

Origin: Stephen Colbert, “The Colbert Report,” 2005

In spite of being handicapped by attending two outmoded, “factory style”  public schools, both my kids have managed to learn that if you make a claim in an essay you must back it up with credible evidence.

Somehow, this fundamental concept seems to have escaped Bill Gates. Case in point: Gates glowing review of Summit’s personalized learning platform in his August 22, 2016 Gates Notes post titled: I Love This Cutting Edge School Design.

This is what Bill Gates had to say about the marvels of Facebook’s Basecamp a personalized learning platform used by Summit Sierra Charter School in Seattle:

At its best, personalized learning doesn’t just let students work at their own pace. It puts them in charge of their own academic growth. Summit, the network of charter schools that Summit Sierra belongs to, worked with Facebook to develop software that guides the students’ learning. For example, you might set a goal like “I want to get into the University of Washington.” Working with their teachers, the students develop a personalized learning plan in the software. They can see all the courses they need to meet their goal, how they’re doing in each class, and what it will take to get a given grade. They set weekly objectives and note their progress in the software.

Free Meaning The Gates Foundation Gave One Million To Make it Possible.

Here’s the first bit of truthiness:

A personalized learning plan like the one I saw at Sierra would’ve taken the mystery out of things. After my visit, I emailed Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook to tell him how great it is that their engineers are working on this project. (Summit is making the platform available to other schools for free.)

Actually, The Gates Foundation awarded Summit “Public” Schools over a million dollars so Summit could provide Facebook’s Basecamp to their partner schools for free. It’s interesting that Gates doesn’t mention how his Foundation made it all possible.

Gates-Summit-FB Basecamp

Has Bill Gates Been in a Real Classroom with Actual, Human Teachers?

I’m not sure if the next two paragraphs are an example of truthiness or just how out of touch Bill Gates is with what actually goes on in real classrooms.

Any parent who has had the opportunity to volunteer knows “connecting one-on-one” is what human teachers do day-in and day-out.

I would bet most teachers would argue that making these connections is really what teaching is all about. It’s shocking to me that Bill Gates doesn’t understand this.

Personalized learning represents a big shift for teachers too. As most will tell you, it’s rare to find a school that gives them the opportunity to connect one-on-one with their students. But in personalized learning, that’s not the exception, it’s the rule.

For example, Summit teachers are matched with students whom they will mentor for all four years in school. During my visit, teacher Aubree Gomez showed me how it works. First she took out her laptop, pulled up a list of the 17 students she’s mentoring, and explained how the software showed her what each student was doing, down to the level of which lessons they had looked at and which tests they had taken.

The idea that a professional teacher needs some type of intermediary software to manage a portfolio of students is equally bizarre.

It only makes sense to me if children are viewed as tiny slivers of skill-based competencies to be managed by impersonal algorithms – kids as commodities – rather than valued as the complicated human beings all children are.

Evidence? Who Needs it.

Gates may have displayed borderline truthiness when it comes to teachers and what teaching is all about, but it’s truthiness to the max when it comes to citing evidence that personalized learning is an effective tool for instruction.

First, Gates cites a study from the Rand Corporation as evidence that personalized learning works, but later admits, there really isn’t a lot of solid evidence to prove it.

We still need more data about the strengths and weaknesses of personalized learning, but the results so far are promising. One study found that among 62 schools using personalized learning, students made more progress in two years than their peers at other schools. They started below the national average in reading and math; two years later, they were above it.

To be fair, we don’t know yet how much of this improvement is due to personalized learning, versus other good things these schools are doing. And in any case, personalized learning won’t be a cure-all. It won’t work for all kids at all ages, and it’s just one model among many promising ones. But I’m hopeful that this approach could help many more young people make the most of their talents.

Turns out, Rand isn’t a very credible source when it comes to personalized learning. In fact, The The Institute for the Future (IFTF), which is an outgrowth of The Rand Corporation, is an active promoter of personalized learning, blockchain, and the gig economy. Check out the video.

Gates may have reached peak truthiness with his flippant “to be fair” dismissal of his lack of evidence to support the effectiveness of personalized learning; but here’s something to think about: there’s almost no evidence showing online or the classroom equivalent, competency-based learning, to be effective.

First, let’s look at some indirect evidence.

The Online Charter Study produced by CREDO and The Center for the Reinvention of Public Education found negative academic growth for students enrolled in online charter schools as compared to their peers in traditional public schools.

How bad was the negative impact?

For math, online charter students lost the equivalent of 180 days of learning. Reading faired somewhat better, with a lost equivalent of 72 days.

screen-shot-2016-12-24-at-7-05-51-pm

The NEPC Virtual Schools Report 2016 has more specific information on the performance of the blended instruction model.

Here’s a few of the highlights:

Traditional schools have the best overall performance. Blended schools the worst.

Multiple or expanded measures of school performance reveal that virtual school outcomes continued to lag significantly behind that of traditional brick-and-mortar schools. Blended schools tended to score even lower on performance measures than virtual schools, although this may be influenced by the fact that blended schools serve substantially more low-income students.

Blended schools’ on time graduation rates were half ( 37.4% ) the national average.

The evidence on graduation rates aligns with findings from school performance measures, contributing to the overall picture of school performance. Only 131 virtual schools and 26 blended schools had data specific to on-time graduation in 2013-14. The on-time graduation rate (or four-year graduation rate) for full-time virtual schools and blended schools was half the national average: 40.6% for virtual schools, 37.4% for blended schools, and 81.0% for the nation as a whole. The graduation rates for virtual schools have worsened by 3 percentage points over the past few years, even as graduation rates in the country have been improving about 1 percentage point each year.

This interesting bit was buried in the study’s conclusion.

The rapid expansion of virtual schools and blended schools is remarkable given the consistently negative findings regarding student and school performance. The advocates of full-time virtual schools and blended schools remain several years ahead of policymakers and researchers, and new opportunities are being defined and developed largely by for-profit entities accountable to stockholders rather than to any public constituency.

Here’s two more damning studies.

Both came to the same conclusion: the tech behind competency-based learning has advanced, but the concept itself has not benefitted from these technical improvements and the educational outcome for students remain unimpressive.

From the study, Competence-Based Education and Educational Effectiveness:  A critical Review of the Research Literature on Outcome-Oriented Policy Making in Education.

The paper assesses the empirical evidence for outcomes of competence-based education which are envisaged by policy-makers, and gives some interpretations of how the topic is handled in the political processes. This is achieved by a review of the research literature as documented in bibliographical databases which cover academic publications and in more practical material. The searches were generic, and included not only specific competence- expressions, but also terms as ‘outcomes’ and ‘learning’. The staggering conclusion of this exercise is that there is hardly any evidence for the effectiveness of competence-based education despite the long period since the 1970s when the approach came up in the US. Whether this is an artefact of the operationalization of the outcomes of competence-based education or not, it seems that there is only very little attention to testing the policy- assumptions that competence-based education is a worthy educational innovation. As this is quite disturbing, it is recommended that more efforts are being made to prove (or falsify) the putative added value of competence-based education initiatives.

From the study, New Interest, Old Rhetoric, Limited Results, and the Need for a New Direction for Computer-Mediated Learning.

The pace of technological advancement, combined with improvements technology has brought to other sectors, is leading policymakers and educators alike to take another look at computers in the classroom, and even at computers instead of classrooms. In particular, advances in computational power, memory storage, and artificial intelligence are breathing new life into the promise that instruction can be tailored to the needs of each individual student, much like a one-on-one tutor. The term most often used by advocates for this approach is “Personalized Instruction.” Despite the advances in both hardware and software, recent studies show little evidence for the effectiveness of this model of integrating technology into the learning process.

The Failed State of American Democracy

Sheldon Wolin wrote in Democracy Incorporated about inverted totalitarianism, the state of affairs where democratic institution are hallowed out and replaced with top down authoritarian systems ruled by money and a powerful elite. The institution remains, in name only, while the shadow parallel system holds the real power.

Wolin explains the process in detail in this article for The Nation:

Representative institutions no longer represent voters. Instead, they have been short-circuited, steadily corrupted by an institutionalized system of bribery that renders them responsive to powerful interest groups whose constituencies are the major corporations and wealthiest Americans. The courts, in turn, when they are not increasingly handmaidens of corporate power, are consistently deferential to the claims of national security. Elections have become heavily subsidized non-events that typically attract at best merely half of an electorate whose information about foreign and domestic politics is filtered through corporate-dominated media. Citizens are manipulated into a nervous state by the media’s reports of rampant crime and terrorist networks, by thinly veiled threats of the Attorney General and by their own fears about unemployment. What is crucially important here is not only the expansion of governmental power but the inevitable discrediting of constitutional limitations and institutional processes that discourages the citizenry and leaves them politically apathetic.

Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg’s team up to promote personalized learning is a perfect example of the hallowing out and replacement of the democratic structures tasked with overseeing our public schools.

From EdWeek:

In a statement, an initiative spokeswoman expressed similar sentiments.

“The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is excited to partner with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support New Profit’s work,” the statement says. “We share an interest in seeing significant improvement in education and are committed to learning from each other.”Since 2009, the Gates Foundation has given more than $300 million to support research and development on personalized learning, including past grants to New Profit totaling about $23 million. (Education Week has received support from the foundation in the past for the newspaper’s coverage of personalized learning.)

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, meanwhile, was launched in 2015. Zuckerberg and Chan said then they intended to give 99 percent of their Facebook shares—worth an estimated $45 billion—to a variety of causes, headlined by the development of software “that understands how you learn best and where you need to focus.”

Since the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is an LCC, they don’t have to respond to public records requests or other transparent practices expected of democratic institutions. In fact, The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative can operate with zero transparency, thanks to the shielding effect of the LLC designation.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is not a traditional nonprofit foundation. Instead, it’s an LLC. That organizational structure allows for direct investment in for-profit companies and political lobbying and donations, as well as philanthropic giving. It also limits the extent to which the group is legally required to publicly report on its activities.

So far, The Gates Foundation has given $300 million of support to promote and develop personalized learning – with more likely to come.

Now the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is adding “99 percent of their Facebook shares—worth an estimated $45 billion” to the mix.

This is enough money to overpower and colonize any system, democratic or private.

Add to that the shielding power of an LLC designation – which will keep the public’s prying eyes far away from the inner working this partnership – and we’re suddenly facing a serious democratic crisis in the fight to save public education.

No wonder Bill Gates prefers half-truths and lies of omission rather than full disclosure when it comes to Summit, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and personalized learning.

-Carolyn Leith

 

Parents Rebel Against Summit/Facebook/Chan-Zuckerberg Online Learning Platform

Reprinted with permission from Leonie Haimson, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy.

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Anyone that has not dealt with this program first hand as a teacher, parent, student or observer really needs to make an unannounced visit to one of their schools.  Words do no justice to explain the disgust one feels when they realize that the kids being exposed to this will be the ones that ultimately pay the price. “

Last October, the Washington Post published an article on its front page about the “personalized” online learning platform that Summit charter schools and Facebook developed in collaboration.  This platform, called Summit Basecamp, is a learning management system complete with a curriculum, including projects, online resources and tests.

Currently, Summit claims that the program has been adopted in about 130 schools across the country, both public and charter schools.  About 38 percent of schools using the platform are middle schools, 24 percent high schools, 13 percent elementary schools, and the rest are K–12 or K–8 schools. Summit also recently was awarded a $10 million grant from the Emerson Collective, run by Laurine Powell Jobs, to “reinvent” the high school by starting a new school in Oakland that will run an expanded version of its online learning platform.

In March, it was announced that the operation and further development of the Summit online platform would be transferred from Facebook to the Chan/Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), the for-profit LLC owned by Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, with billions of dollars at its disposal. At about the same time, Summit decided it would no longer ask for parent consent before collecting and re-disclosing their children’s personal data.

The Washington Post article last year reported primarily on parent concerns with their children’s lack of data privacy at these schools, as the Summit parental consent formPrivacy Policy and Terms of Service were astonishingly open-ended – essentially providing Summit with the ability to share student data with nearly anyone they choose.

Over the course of the 2016-2017 school year, parents throughout the country rebelled against the platform, both because of its lack of privacy but also because they experienced its negative impact on their children’s learning and attitudes to school. In addition, Summit and the schools using the platform are no longer asking for parental consent, probably because so many parents refused or resisted signing the consent forms.

After the Washington Post article appeared, I expanded on the privacy concerns cited in that piece, and pointed out additional issues in my blog.   I included a list of questions parents should ask Summit to clarify their data-sharing plans.  Parents who sent them to Summit informed me that Summit failed to answer these questions.  (I later expanded on these questions, and Rachael Stickland, the co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, submitted them to Summit representatives after personally meeting them at SXSW EDU conference in March.  She also received no response.)

Meanwhile, the list of Summit schools, both public and charter, that had allegedly adopted the platform last year was taken down from the Summit website sometime between February 15 and February 18, according to the Wayback Machine  – making it even more difficult to ascertain which schools and students are were actually using it.

On March 3, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported on the experience of parents in Boone County, Kentucky whose schools had adopted the platform– many of whom did not want to consent to their children’s data being shared with so little specificity and so few restrictions:

At the beginning of the school year, parents had to sign a permission slip allowing Summit to access their child’s profile information. Summit uses the info to “conduct surveys and studies, develop new  features, products and services and otherwise as requested,” the form states.  The agreement also allows Summit to disclose information to third-party service providers and partners “as directed” by schools.  That, perhaps, is the biggest source of contention surrounding Summit. … “It’s optional. Nobody has to do Summit, [Deputy Superintendent Karen] Cheser said… Summit spokeswoman declined to speak on the record with The Enquirer.”

Yet within weeks of the publication of this article, at about the same time that the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative took over, someone involved in the Summit initiative decided that parents would no longer be granted the right of consent – either for their children to be subjected to the Summit instructional program or for their data to be shared according to Summit’s open-ended policies.  In fact, Summit claimed the right to access, data-mine and redisclose their children’s data in the same way as before – yet now, without asking if parents agreed to these terms.

They explained their decision this way – in a post now only accessible through the Wayback Machine:

Do parents need to provide consent for their children to use the Summit Learning Platform?

You used to require parental consent, why has your approach changed?

We heard directly from our partner schools and districts that they have established processes for making instructional decisions—such as adopting a textbook series or curriculum—to meet the needs of their students.  The Summit Learning Platform is a teaching and learning tool that includes a comprehensive 6th-12th grade curricula in English, math, science, Spanish, and social studies—as well as all the tools and learning resources students and teachers need for the school year. We want to respect each school’s process. Therefore each school’s leadership and teaching team will determine whether to use Summit Learning on behalf of their community.

In other words, the crucial decision of whether students would be subjected to this experimental platform and how widely their personal data would be shared would no longer be made by their parents, but by Summit and their schools.

On August 1, Summit updated their Privacy Policy and Terms of Service,  although confusingly the original versions remain online as well (here and here).  The new Privacy Policy contains a long list of personal student data that they will collect and share with unspecified “Service Providers and Partners” who must comply with the terms of the Privacy Policy.  The data can be used for used for various purposes, including to “operate, develop, analyze, evaluate, and improve the educational tools, features, products, and services”.

The personal student data they say they will collect and can share with their partners is expansive, and includes, among other things;

  • Contact information such as full name and email address, username and password;
  • Course information including student work in applicable media (e.g., video, audio, text and images) and course progress;
  • Test scores, grades and standardized test results;
  • Narratives written by students, including their goals and learning plans, their communication with teachers and other students;
  • Teacher curricula and notes and feedback to or about students;
  • Student record information such as attendance, suspension, and expulsions;
  • Student demographic data; presumably including race, ethnicity, and economic status;
  • Outcome information such as grade level promotion and graduation, college admission test scores, college acceptance and attendance, and employment.

While the Privacy Policy promises that Summit “does not, and will not, sell student data,” they also claim the right to provide the data to other companies or organizations through an “asset sale,”  which appears to contradict this statement as well as the Student Privacy pledge that bars the selling of student data.  On Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg himself made a point of emphasizing that Summit had signed this pledge: “Summit subscribes to the White House-endorsed Student Privacy Pledge, so everyone working on this has strict privacy controls to protect student data in accordance with the Pledge.”

Yet neither Facebook nor CZI has signed the Student Privacy Pledge.

The fact that Summit claims the right to transfer student data in an “asset sale” also appears to violate SOPIPA, the California student privacy law that bans selling student data even more emphatically – though 36 California public and charter schools were using the Summit platform this past school year, the most of any state.

In its Terms of Service, Summit demands that schools and teachers are prohibited from changing any of the materials or curricula in the platform without prior permission, and that if they suggest improvements through feedback, Summit will claim “an  irrevocable, non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, worldwide license to use, modify, prepare derivative works from, publish, distribute and sublicense the Feedback without any compensation.”

To make things worse, anyone using the platform gives up the right to sue in court, but must instead resolve disputes through confidential binding arbitration by an arbitrator located in San Mateo — home of Silicon Valley, Facebook and CZI. The Terms of Service also bars individuals or schools from entering into class action lawsuits or complaints. (Last month, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau prohibited banks and financial service companies from denying consumers the right to file class action lawsuits.)

Finally, Summit also claims the right that it can change the Terms of Service at any time without prior notification, simply by posting the changes online, to be effective ten days after posting.

The head of Summit Charter Schools, Diane Taverner, is also the President of the California Charter School Association, posing a risk that student and parent data could be sold for political ends, and that the work of public school teachers could be used in her charter schools without recompense.

Growing parent and student resistance to Summit platform in Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Illinois

To some extent, Summit’s announcement that they would no longer ask for parent consent makes sense. Throughout the fall, winter and spring, parents with children at schools using the Summit platform reached out to me personally and the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy for help and advice.

One grievance early on was that contrary to the Summit’s public posture, their schools told them that if they did not grant their permission to have their children’s data shared in this way, they would not receive any other form of instruction. By the end of the school year, because of their children’s disastrous experience with the Summit platform, some desperate parents in Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois and Virginia decided to either move out of their school district, homeschool their children or apply for a transfer.

One Virginia parent confided that she felt pressured to consent to the Summit Schools privacy policy because her son’s sixth grade teachers told him he’d fall behind if he didn’t return the document signed. She has friends who decided to homeschool their children as a result; and she is now requesting an out of-zone transfer.

She explained to me why she is pulling her son out of the school: “There are numerous issues I have with this pilot program. My son complained of headaches and other aches and pains all year… He was on the computer a lot, every day! He managed to get Honor Roll but hated the program.

“In my opinion, this program doesn’t truly get the children prepared for college as they claim because they are allowed to retake assessments over and over again until they have mastered the material. I do not remember any of my college professors allowing me to retake exams. I feel that it this practice inflates grades and unfairly suggests that this program is ‘working’. Some of the content that I was able to view wasn’t age appropriate for a 6th grader. For example, for American history they assigned a Dora the Explorer rap video about the 13 colonies that was of poor quality and had numerous grammatical errors in the text shown.”

She also had problems with the “parent dashboard” that Summit claims provides parents with full access to the curriculum – but that she could only see while her son was logged in and engaged in doing his homework: “I expressed numerous times that the dashboard was useless! I was unable to view a majority of the material my son was learning, whether it be a worksheet or video. …. Lastly, one of my greatest concerns is the fact that all the privacy policies are very vague and I have NO idea EXACTLY what data is being collected and how it is being used. The school does not know either. Very disheartening. “

Stacie Storms, a parent who lives in Boone County Kentucky, told me that when she withheld her consent, the response from her child’s school was that she would have to pull him out of the school. She chose to homeschool her child, though she has gone to her elected local and state representatives to protest.

Many Boone County parents were concerned how the privacy agreement puts at risk not only their children’s privacy, but their own, as recounted in the Northern Kentucky Tribune:

The agreement gives Summit Learning permission to collect data from any devices used to access the program, which means parents accessing the program from home or work devices may be susceptible to data collection too. Some parents are upset with their students’ data, and potential their own data, being shared outside of the district.

Parents told the reporter that “their children were just skipping to the assessments without reading the material. They only had to get eight out of the ten multiple choice questions correct to pass.”

Students were provided insufficient time with their teachers, and as one parent wrote me: “The schedule does not allow for a program like this to work with 25+ students… The teachers have admitted that they cannot get to every student, every week with the schedule.

According to the Summit system, each student is supposed to have dedicated one-on one time with a teacher, to ensure they stay on track and are actually learning. Though the program only requires 10 minutes per week with their “mentor”, some students are not even provided with this amount of minimal time.

Parents confessed that their children had become bored, disengaged and falling behind; and many of them no longer wanted to go to school.  Students are also subjected to numerous ads via YouTube and the other websites assigned by the platform, which can be very distracting, especially for children with special needs.

Parent Jennifer R., who asked that her last name and school district be withheld, said: “I think Summit learning is the worst thing that has ever happened to the education system. My child is having a HORRIBLE experience with it and the teachers are like “well, we are kind of stuck on what to do to help him.” Really?! How’s about ditch the stupid tablets and program and go back to what works, books and ACTUALLY handwritten homework.”

Another parent confided: “My objection to this program is lack of teacher instruction, lack of class discussion where students can process as a whole — learning from the questions their peers may have and of course their amount of screen time. I knew the content of the curriculum wouldn’t be perfect, but had no idea how disengaged this program would have my daughter from school…. She has always been an easy kid that enjoys school. This year? Mornings are tough…she doesn’t want to go. It’s booorrriiinnnggg. She needs that teacher engagement to hold her attention. Computer screen doesn’t cut it.”

Another: “To be realistic the curriculum our kids are using on the program right now SUCKS.”

Here are the observations of a student, assigned to the Summit platform, whose comments are posted to the Northern Kentucky Tribune article linked to above:

Honestly I hear tons of kids talking about dropping out, I look around on other students’ computers and a lot of them are falling behind …. it is so stressful once you start to fall behind you dig yourself in a hole and it’s hard to get out of it… It has been really hard for me to stay focused and staring at these computer screens all day really takes a tole [sic] on your eyes. Everyone is on a different pace, classrooms are quiet and not engaged like they used to be. …

I have been complaining about summit since the first week of school yet no one listens to me and my counselor basically tells me that is my fault for failing and I should get used to summit because it will always be there. …. I have stress, anxiety and depression and this year i have had 5 anxiety attacks over summit, i do not want to come to school anymore i hate it and i am failing which has ever happened to me before i have always been a student to get good grades. Lastly teachers are not realizing that most student open up another tab while they’re taking assessments and cheat. I see it being done by a lot of people. If i cheated on my tests then I’d be passing right now. …. I am dropping out next year. I can’t deal with another year of summit.”

Mirna Daniel-Eads, a Boone County parent, took her child out of the school and moved to another district because of the Summit platform.  She explains her family’s decision this way: “Summit is all computer, most days the internet was down so my son was learning nothing. The teachers were not teaching… a complete waste of time.”

Despite the widespread discontent, Boone County administrators applied to the state be named as a “District of Innovation.”  Part of the application involves waiver requests to allow teachers to teach outside of their certification areas – and to “allow teachers’ assistants (para-professionals) the ability to oversee digital curriculum and to allow them levels of instruction and supervision.”  As the district explains, “There are many teacher assistants that are capable of assisting students with virtual and digital content.”

Yet in response to numerous parent complaints, the Kentucky Office of Education Accountability (OEA) released three reports on August 18, 2017, which found fault with the way in which the Summit platform and curriculum were adopted in Boone County schools.  The reports describe how the district was lured into the program, after principals attended a seminar at the University of Kentucky Next Generation Leadership Academy.  Subsequently, the district sent 82 teachers and administrators to California to be trained at Summit’s expense, and three Boone County middle schools and one alternative school implemented the Summit platform.

Among the many problems outlined by David Wickersham, Director of the Kentucky OEA, included the following:

  • No Boone district or school official attempted to determine if the Summit program was aligned with Kentucky state learning standards before adopting it, and several teachers reported that it was not aligned with the standards in social students, math or science.
  • At least two of the schools implemented the Summit curriculum without the agreement of the School-Based Decision-making Council, made up of parents, teachers and the principal, in violation of Kentucky law 160.345. Nor was the curriculum approved or given a waiver by the State Textbook Commission or the state Digital Learning team.
  • Principals entered into contracts with Summit without the approval of the Boone district superintendent or school board, contrary to Kentucky law.
  • The decision to disclose personal student data to Summit was illegal once parental consent was no longer required, as Summit employees could not be defined as “school officials” under Kentucky law: “It appears that, to satisfy Kentucky law, the release or disclosure of records, reports, or identifiable information on students to Summit requires parental or eligible student consent.”
  • Finally, Summit’s open-ended permission to share data with additional third parties and for unspecified uses appears to conflict with Kentucky law 365.734 , which restricts the use of personal student data by a “cloud computing service provider” such as that employed by the Summit program.

Here are the observations of Chicago public school parents whose children were assigned the Summit platform last year:

It feels like badly designed computer programs are now teaching my children.” (6th/8th grade parent.)

We are not having a good experience either, my kid hates it. Seriously considering a move.” (7th grade)

“[My kid] broke down last night in a very sad way. I’ve never seen him like I did. He finally said he was very stressed because of PLP [Summit’s Personalized Learning Platform].” (6th grade)

Kids are playing games and listening to music instead of interacting … during small group discussion time. … looking at screens instead of making eye contact – you know, one of the critical elements to learning. Teacher pulls only 5-7 students for individual one-on-one mentoring during ELA block – most of which takes place with both teacher and kid looking at Chromebook screen.”

Probably the biggest issue I have with implementation is that there isn’t enough $$. Our school got a grant for $280K, a condition of which is that we use this program. [The grant was provided by the Gates Foundation through an organization called LEAP Innovations.]  As of January, we still didn’t have the money, yet they pulled at least two teachers out the classroom to become instructional coaches. Class sizes went up, quality of instruction went down, and my older kid is drowning. My 6th grader has NO choice, and she has moved from a kid who liked learning new things to a kid who views school as a 7-hour daily chore. “

An Ohio student wrote: “I don’t like basecamp.  I want to be taught by a teacher like I used to be.  Staring at the computer all day gives me a headache and then I lose interest in doing my work.  I don’t like having to watch videos and take notes all day.  …. I like a teacher to teach me.  I am a hands-on learner and I don’t feel like I learned anything with Basecamp.”

Laura Gladish, a parent in Ohio, told her son’s story:

My son was in 6th grade at Mayer Middle School for the 2016-2017 school year.  He came out of 5th grade an honor student, also receiving the Presidential Award. He loved school and always did very well until 6th grade.  In the beginning of the year he came home and said that I needed to sign this paper so that he could do his schoolwork. … I called the school and was told that if I didn’t he wouldn’t be able to stay in school since this was the new program that the district was using.  I was shocked that I was being told this from a public school.  So I reluctantly signed the form.

Within weeks my son started coming home from school upset and didn’t want to go to school.  He said that he didn’t like being taught by a computer and sitting in front of a computer watching videos and taking notes all day. He was basically in charge of his own education at the age of 12.  

I called the counselor and was assured that the kids were being taught by the teachers; they were only reinforcing what the teacher already taught in class and taking tests on the computer.  My son kept telling me that wasn’t true; they sat in front of the computer all day and if they didn’t finish they were expected to go home and work on the computer longer …

So I called for a meeting with all of his teachers.  They told me that the kids needed to learn how to manage their time and stay on task. They were expected to watch a video and take detailed notes.  Then they ask the teacher to check their notes and if the teacher felt they were ready they would open the test for them, only on Fridays, and they could use their notes to take the test.  I said to them, then what exactly are they actually learning if they are taking tests with notes?  How to take notes?  I was told no they are learning from repetition.  If they fail the test they can re-watch the video and take more notes and retake the test.  They can keep doing this until they pass.  But by doing this they also fall behind because you can’t move on until you pass the test.

By October my son was falling behind and hated school.  I was so frustrated I called the superintendent for a meeting…  I asked him that if there are kids who are not doing well with platform learning, and since this was a public school, there should be a choice to use basecamp or not.  And there should be regular classes available to my son.  I was told there was no option, this is it.  He also told me that they chose the Summit learning platform because no one can fail and this program will raise the district test scores.

So I called the state board of education to ask my question.  If my son attends a public school how come I can’t opt him out of a program he wasn’t doing well with.  I was told that there is nothing I can do and that the districts can teach however they want and the State only steps in when the state test scores fall below average. 

After Christmas break I had had enough and I pulled my son out and he’s enrolled in an online school.   He had more one-on-one teacher time with the online school then he did at Mayer Middle School.  He ended the year with all A’s and one B.  I want to see Summit basecamp out of all public schools.

Finally, below is a letter I received last June from Colleen Faile, a parent in Fairview Park City, Ohio, reprinted in full, with her permission:

My school district (Fairview Park High and Lewis Mayer Middle) DOES NOT listen, care, acknowledge complaints or even consider parent input. If they do not need parental consent it will most likely make their lives easier having to deal less with us the parents.  

The district has lied from the initial presentation of Summit….one week prior to the start of school and has continued to lie, manipulate, cover up and blatantly ignore any parent with concerns. 

They have embarrassed my daughter for stating truthful facts and attempting to find a resolution for the lack of care or attention they provide her as an A student. She completed half of the year’s assessments for world history last Thursday. 8 assessments in 1 day! One day to complete a semester of work! Her mentor met with her one time ALL YEAR! School ends June 8th! Every week she sends he weekly update…We have experimented since December and each week she has no goals and nothing to work on. Nobody cares, nobody reads it, nobody holds her accountable. 

I am in the process of collecting signatures to take to the board demanding Summit be removed instead of expanded.  They made a deal with Apple to change from Chromebooks to MacBook Airs in 6-12….a three-year $1.5 million dollar contract. Yet we have math classes at 30+ kids and one teacher using the PLP all working at their own pace…and the teacher is able to help everyone?! Sitting in on these classes makes me sick; who can learn…especially math in this environment?

Summit will be in 6-8 grades and 9 and 10th next year. They also wanted to expand to 5th grade next year… the teachers won that battle…but we all know it is temporary. Our teachers cannot speak up or the district will bully them. 

This program is a disaster in so many ways. Our children are NOT RECEIVING AN EDUCATION! …

Anyone that has not dealt with this program first hand as a teacher, parent, student or observer really needs to make an unannounced visit to one of their schools.  Words do no justice to explain the disgust one feels when they realize that the kids being exposed to this will be the ones that ultimately pay the price. “

Meanwhile, an even more intense PR campaign has begun by the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative to expand the use of the Summit program.

In a Facebook post on March 13, 2017, Jim Shelton signaled that CZI would continue to push for even more schools and, especially, individual teachers to adopt the platform: “Over the course of this year, we’ll begin work on a free online tool called the Summit LearningPlatform, which empowers teachers to customize instruction to meet their students’ individual needs and interests….We could not be more excited by the platform’s potential.”

In a TED talk the following month, Shelton claimed that when students are logged into the platform, “their level of engagement and motivation goes up…The fact that the first word that comes to mind when students think of high school is ‘boring’ is our fault, not theirs.”

 And in an article in the fall issue of Education Next, Joanne Jacobs further promoted the use of the Summit platform, in glowing terms.

Parents, beware of Summit Learning Platform.  Fight back as if your child’s privacy and education depend on it; because they do.  You can also reach out to the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy at info@studentprivacymatters.org with your questions and concerns.

An Interview with Alison McDowell: KEXP’s Mind Over Matters Community Forum

headphones

On August 5th Alison McDowell was a guest on KEXP’s news program Mind Over Matters. You can listen to the interview by clicking on the link below ( be patient – it takes a little bit of time for the file to load). A transcript of the interview follows.

Alison McDowell Interview

My concern as a parent is within these adaptive learning systems, I don’t want an online system that has to learn my child to work. I don’t want a system that has to know everything my child did for the last six months, to operate properly. Because I think that becomes problematic. How do you ever have a do over? Like, is it just always building and reinforcing certain patterns of behavior and how you react…it’s, they, I think they present it as flexible and personalized, but in many ways I think it’s limiting.

Mind Over Matters – KEXP

Community Forum

Interview with Alison McDowell

Mike McCormick:  It’s time once again for Community Forum, and we’re very lucky to have with us live in the studios this morning, Alison McDowell. Alison McDowell is a parent and researcher, into the dangers of corporate education reform. She was presenter this last March this year here in Seattle. The talk entitled Future Ready schools: How Silicon Valley and the Defense Department Plan to Remake Public Education. Alison, thank you very much for coming in and spending time with us this morning.

Alison: Oh, I’m very glad to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

Mike:  So, tell us, how did you get interested and involved with the issue of corporate education reform?

Alison: Well, I’m a I’m a parent. I have a daughter who is sixteen in the public schools of Philadelphia. And we’re sort of a crucible for many different aspects of education reform. We’ve had multiple superintendents from the Broad Academy. We’ve been defunded. Our schools have been, numerous of our schools have been closed, teachers laid off and about three years ago I became involved in the Opt Out movement for high stakes testing. Because at that point I felt that if we were able to withhold the data from that system we would try to be able to slow things down. Because they were using that testing data to close our schools. So I worked on that for a number of years until I saw that the landscape was starting to change. And a lot of it was leading up to the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act. That that passage. And it seemed at that time that our school district, which is challenging in many respects, was all of a sudden actually interested in Opt Out, and making that, sharing information and materials… Pennsylvania has a legal Opt Out right on religious grounds…and making materials available in various languages. And something just didn’t compute in my head. I’m like, well, even if, if we’re entitled, the fact that they were interested in engaging with us on that, made me sort of question why that was. And then so post ESSA, it became clear that the shift that was going to be taking place was away from a high stakes end of year test and more towards embedded formative assessments. So in our district we’ve seen an influx, even though there isn’t funding for many other things, lots of technology coming in, lots of Chromebooks. Every, all of the students have Google accounts. Google runs our school district. Even though they say philsd.org, their Google accounts, and each student, their email address is actually their student id number. So to access a Chromebook as soon as you login, you know all of that information is tied back into their id number. So the technology was coming in. Many schools were doing multiple benchmark assessments. So there was less and less time for actual meaningful instruction throughout the school year and there were more and more tests taking place, many computerized. So, at that point, we were looking into like, what did this mean, what is the role of technology and the interim testing, in this movement And so, I had come across my…I have a blog. It’s called Wrench in the Gears. It’s a wordpress blog. So you, I have a lot of information there, and it’s all very well documented and linked. My colleague Emily Talmage, who’s a teacher in Maine, who has seen this first-hand. She has a blog: Save Maine Schools. And so I had found her blog and at one point she said, you know…you know, only click on this link, you know, if you’re willing to go down the rabbit hole. And at that point it was, it was a website called Global Education Futures Forum, and they have this agenda for education up to 2035. And it is their projection. And it’s a global…global membership led by Pavel Luksha, who’s connected with the Skolkovo Institute, in Russia. But the local person here, actually he’s very local, is Tom Vander Ark, is one of the US representatives. And so he was former Gates Foundation. And has his own consulting firm now. And it’s based out of Seattle. And, but anyway, so they have sort of what they call a foresight document, a sort of projecting based on trends and patterns, where they see things going for education, like over the next 20 years. And so really, they have a very sophisticated map. And all you have to do is sort of look at their map. And then match it up to current events. And you can see, like, where they’re pretty much on target where things are headed. And there, they have some really interesting infographics and, one of them, it’s a very decentralized system. So education is just like the individual at the center. So everything you’re hearing, personalized learning, and and individual education plans, like it’s one big person and you’re the center of your own universe. And sort of around you, there aren’t teachers or schools. It’s it’s many sort of digital interfaces, and devices, and data-gathering platforms. And this idea that education is a life-long process. Which I think all of us generally agree with, but the idea that you’re sort of chasing skills in this new global economy, and like constantly remaking yourself. Or like the gig economy and what that means. And managing your online reputation. Not just your skillsets. But your mindset. And your social outlook. And your behaviors. And the role of gamification. So there are many many elements to this, that if you look into it, I think raise a lot of questions. And increasingly, really over the past five years there’s been a lot of discussion about remaking education. Re-imagining education. You know, education for the 21st century. Future Ready Schools. And I think for the most part, parents and community members have been left out of this conversation, of what really does Future Ready Schools mean? And the folks who are running the conversation, are running the agenda, are largely coming from a tech background. And this is something that’s built up since the mid-nineties, when the Advanced Distributed Learning Program was set up within the Defense Department, and the Department of Education.  To have like you know, Tech Learning for all Americans. Which, you know, again  I think we all need to be tech knowledgable, I, the question is, how is the tech used and how in control of of your education are you, and your educational data. So anyway, a lot of this is being driven by interests of digitizing education. And really, through austerity mechanisms, pulling out more human interaction, out of the equation. So we’re, we’re seeing things that a number of years ago, Detroit, had a kindergarten, where they would have a hundred kindergarteners, with like one teacher and a couple of aides, and a lot of technology. So there’re lots of questions increasingly about the use of technology especially in early grades, and I know in, in Washington State there’ve been a big push for tablets down to the kindergarten level. Our children are being part of this sort of larger experiment that has health considerations that have not been closely examined. In terms of eyestrain, audio components, even hygiene with earphones. The wifi aspects. And then also the data collection. So, there’s this grand experiment going on for Future Ready Schools, and parents and community members aren’t really aware of the fact that it is an unproven experiment, and what the implications are long-term.

Mike: And it’s being driven heavily by corporations that are producing these platforms, this software, the electronics, kind of behind the scenes, because no one knows this is going on except a select group of administrators and teachers?

Alison: Yeah, well so they have, there are a number of like pilot districts. So the idea is sort of, you get a beachhead, and then you, you roll it out. You convince, I mean they have very sophisticated marketing manuals. Like Education Elements, they say, this is how you do it. You know first you, you have a social media campaign, you get the young teachers who are really into tech and you train them up in the way that you wanna do things, and then they mentor all the veteran teachers and you get the principal on board and then you have the parent meetings and it’s…again…with…if you understood it as, like selling a corporate product as opposed to public education, it might not be so disturbing. Like for me, I find having this sort of corporate approach to marketing, a new approach to public education. That’s, that’s what, what I find disturbing. I’ve called this Education 2.0, because I think we’re, we’re about to see a shift from the earlier version of privatization, which was the high stakes, end of year high stakes testing, vouchers, charter schools. Those things will all still continue, but they’ve, they were never the end game.  So they have been used as a way to de-stabilize the, the landscape of neighborhood schools. And in many cases they’ve been used to, you know, acquire real estate, further sort of gentrification, insider contracts, like there are many aspects that allow that to become a profit center. But there’s going to be a point of diminishing return. Where sort of like all the easy pickings have been taken. And if you’re pursuing sort of a tailoristic model , like the ultimate efficiency, lean production, Cyber-Education is the end game. So creating a system of education that really has very little in human resources.  There’s lots of folks within Pearson and IBM and Microsoft who are looking at AI, like everyone will have your own artificial intelligent, like learning sherpa for your life. You know, and this isn’t just K12, this is forever.  You know, someone on your shoulder telling you what you should be doing next. But removing the humans out of the equation and putting more technology in place. So I think that’s what this shift to Education 2.0 is going to be about, is largely cyber but I think most parents at this point are not comfortable with that model. They wouldn’t say, you know, and I will admit, like there, there’s a small group of kids who are highly motivated for whom a cyber, exclusively cyber model may work. I mean a lot of the research shows that for most kids the outcomes are not great. So what they will be selling is project based learning. And that’s what you’ll hear a lot about, coming up, like in the next couple of years. But those projects won’t necessarily be linked to schools. So you’ll hear more and more about, anytime, anyplace, anywhere, any pace learning. So they’re looking to de- disconnect education from physical school buildings, and actual teachers in classrooms, to sort of what’s called a learning eco-system model. So something that’s more free-flowing, you’re just out in the world collecting skills. And that’s what was so interesting about, like the Common Core State Standards set-up. And I know a lot of states have sort of rolled back or renamed them. But the idea of having education tied to very specific standards, was a way of atomizing education and making it available for digitization. So if, if education is a human process of growth and development, that’s very murky to try to put in a metric, right? You need bits and bytes. And so if you create an education that’s strictly around standards and like sub standards and little sets, you can just aggregate those, and collect them or not collect them, and run that as data in a digital platform. So that push toward standards, yes it allowed for school report cards and value added modeling and things that hurt schools and teachers, but it also normalized the idea that education was less a human process and more people collecting things. Like collecting skills and standards, which is what you need for like a competency based education approach.

Mike: So, talk about some of the specific examples…one of the advantages to going into your site is you have links to so many different documents from the very corporations and people that are producing these systems. And one of the examples you’ve talked about in your talk back here in March was something called Tutormate? That was involved, kids getting pulled out of class, to go see, basically AI icons talking to them and they become attached to them…

Alison: Yeah…

Mike: …it’s disturbing.

Alison: Well there were a couple of, there’s a couple of interesting things. I had sort of a slide saying who’s teaching your children? Because increasingly it’s not necessarily their classroom teacher. The chatbot was actually Reasoning Mind, which is a math program. It was developed in Texas. And so it’s been like long-running and gotten a lot of funding, both from public and private sources. About refining sort of a personalized learning towards math. But kids were interacting with these online chat bots and developing connections and relationships to these online presences in their math program. I’m in Pennsylvania. So a lot of, a lot of things are developing in Pittsburgh. They have a whole initiative called Remake Learning in Pittsburgh which I believe is sort of early-stage learning ecosystem model and a lot of that is coming out of Carnegie Mellon because Carnegie Mellon is doing a lot of work on AI and education. And they have something called Alex. So they like the idea of peer-based learning. That sounds attractive like, yeah, kids like to learn from their peers. This, their version of peer-based learning is that you have a giant avatar cartoon peer on a screen and the children interact with this peer on a screen. So that’s something that’s being piloted in southwestern Pennsylvania right now. And then Tutormate is actually a different variation but they were pulling kids out of class, away…these were young children, from their classroom setting to put them in a computer lab to do tutoring with a corporate volunteer via skype, and an online platform. So in this case it actually was a human being, but this was during school hours. This was not a supplement to classroom instruction, this was in lieu of having direct instruction with a certified teacher. They were being put into an online platform with a corporate volunteer and you know, it turns out a number of the sponsors of that program had ties to defense contracting industries. You know, Halliburton, and Booz Allen Hamilton. You know, things that you might wanna question, is that who you want your second grader spending their time chatting with? You know, in lieu of having their second grade teacher teach them reading. So again, there is this shift away from, from teachers. There’s, there’s a model that’s going on right now, within many one-to-one device districts, so districts where every child has their own device. Young kids often have tablets, older kids have Chromebooks, in high-end districts you might have an actual laptop, with some hard-drive on it. The Clayton Christensen Institute, or Innosight Institute, they’ve been pushing blended learning. So blended learning is this new model. Where, there are a number of different ways you can…flipped classrooms, which many people have heard of…but there’s one called a rotational model. So children only have direct access to a teacher a third of the time. Like the class would be split into three groups. And you would be with a teacher for a third of the time, doing peer work a third of the time, and doing online work a third of the time. So again, it’s a way of increasing class size supposedly, like supposedly the quality time you have when you’re with the teacher with the ten kids instead of thirty is supposed to be so great even though maybe you only get fifteen minutes. What’s happening in other districts is they’re saying the time where kids are not with their teachers, and they’re just doing online work, they don’t really need a teacher present, they could just have an aide. So that’s again, in terms of pushing out professional teachers, is that, well if kids are doing online learning, maybe you just need an Americorp volunteer, in the room, to make sure that no one’s  hurting them…each other. You know, and that they’re on, supposedly on task. You know I think that’s a worrisome trend. And even though they’ll sell blended learning as very tech forward and future ready, the kids don’t love spending time on these devices, like hour after hour after hour. And my concern as a parent is…we’re all starting to realize what the implications are for big data. And how we interact with online platforms, either in social media, or other adaptive situations. And how, that these devices are actually gathering data, on ourselves.. .so, they they gather information through keystroke patterns, they all have cameras, they all, you know, the tablets have TouchSense, so theoretically there’s body temperature and pulse sensors. Like there’s many many elements, are they all being used now? No, but there is that capacity for using them to develop that level of engagement. To understand how you’re interacting with these programs. And that’s being developed through, with the Army Research Lab and USC, their Institute for Creative Technologies. And they are developing, a lot of this is being developed in conjunction with the Defense Department, for their interactive intelligent tutoring systems and with the Navy actually, which is relevant to Seattle. A lot of these early prototyped intelligent tutoring systems have been developed specifically with the Navy in mind. Training very specifically on computer programs, and optimizing that. But once they develop the infrastructure, then they’re able to apply that in non-military settings. And so it’s, it’s making its way out. So there’s a lot of data that can be collected and the other, the other push that you’ll start to see is gamification. So games, like gaming in schools. And kids love games, like parents love games. It sounds so fun. But I think what we have to realize is there’s a lot of behavioral data that’s coming out of the gaming too. That we’re not necessarily aware of.  And so this push for gamification, or sometime…like gamified classroom management systems. So Google has something called Classcraft. And all the kids have avatars. And like if they’re behaving in class, they can, you know they earn points, or have points deducted, and you’re on teams, and you can save your team member or not. And with ESSA, having passed, you know, they’ll tell the story that like we care about more than just test scores, we really wanna care about the whole child, we wanna, you know we we care about children as individuals. Really they wanna collect all of this data, not just on your academic skills, but on your behaviors, and your mindset. And are you gritty, and are you a leader, or are you, you know, flexible, are you resilient. And these, these gamified platforms, whether they’re run by the teacher, or gaming that’s done with the students in these simulations, and also AR/VR, augmented reality/virtual reality games that you’re starting to see. There’s just a lot of information going through, and you have to wonder, how is it being used, what are the privacy implications, and also what are the feedback loops being created? In terms of how you interact with a platform. Is it reinforcing aspects of your personality that you may or may not want reinforced. My concern as a parent is within these adaptive learning systems, I don’t want an online system that has to learn my child to work. I don’t want a system that has to know everything my child did for the last six months, to operate properly. Because I think that becomes problematic. How do you ever have a do over? Like, is it just always building and reinforcing certain patterns of behavior and how you react…it’s, they, I think they present it as flexible and personalized, but in many ways I think it’s limiting.

Mike: In some of the documentation you present, they have systems that wanna pay attention to whether a person that is working with the program is getting bored, or falling asleep, or whatever, so they were like watching like you know, the eye, literally to see if it’s like where it’s wandering off to…you said they potentially could be checking your, your temperature, your heart rate…

Alison: I mean, you know, are they doing it right now? I don’t know that they, but the capacity is there. And…

Mike: And all that data is being saved somewhere. And shared. In some capacity. We don’t know.

Alison: W…and I think it’s very unclear. And I think they’re, they’re many parents who are very concerned about privacy and working that angle of controlling what data goes in…I mean I think all of us are aware that once something is up in the cloud, even if there are promises made about privacy and protections, that nothing is really safe up there. In terms of from hacking, or even just legal. Like FERPA is very, the education records, sort of, privacy has a lot of loopholes. You know anyone who, many of these organizations, companies are third parties are designated agents of school districts. So they have access to this information. And I will also mention Naviance, because the other shift that we’re seeing happening is the shift towards creating an education system that is geared towards workforce development. That, that, that children at younger and younger ages should, should be identifying their passions, and finding their personal pathways to the workforce and the economy. And so Naviance is one of a number of companies that does strengths assessments and surveys. And many states you can’t get your diploma unless your child does a complete battery of assessments, personality assessment through Naviance, which is this third-party program. Also linking towards like their future college plans, and other things linked in, and very detailed information about people’s family situations. So again, the, the amount of data that’s being collected on many many different levels to supposedly like guide students moving forward into the economy, I think it merits a larger conversation. And I’m not saying that everyone needs to agree with my position, but I think that the, the agenda that’s being moved forward is being done in a way that for the most part, parents and community members, there’s not been a consensus reached, with us. That this is okay. That this new version of school is, is what we desire.

Mike: And being a parent in the Philadelphia School District, when these new systems are, have been implemented, you know, and the potential use of all, gathering of all your child’s data, I mean, have you been consulted on that prior? Did, every time they bring in a new system did they let you know, oh, we have another piece of software here that potentially could be, you know, data-mining your kid, are you okay with that?

Alison: So I think on the, on the plus side, because we have been so severely defunded, we haven’t seen quite as much of an influx of tech yet. Although I, I anticipate it’s coming. We’ve just had a big roll-out of Minecraft I think in schools. That’s their new thing that they’re, they’re all…there are a number of schools, like within turnaround sort of, that, that are being piloted for these one-to-one devices. I will say that there was an opt-out form for Google Apps for Education. Which is, and I so I opted, I opted my child out of Google Apps for Education. I may have been the only parent in the Philadelphia School District who did that, and it, it makes it complicated because again, there, it’s convenient, you know, it’s a nice, you know, way for teachers not to have to carry around lots of papers, and they have kids put it all on their Google drive. But I, I think we’re all starting to be a little wary about the amount of information and power that Google has, you know, in the world and what the implications are for that. So I think if, if people have concerns around some of these privacy aspects, you know, that’s, that’s a potential starting, starting place, is to opt out of Google Apps for Education, and see where that goes. Or even have targeted like device and data strikes, during the school year. So we don’t get a notice every time there’s a new program. I guess long story short.

Mike: Just a few minutes left. And again, some of the companies, in addition to Defense Department having early hooks into education reform, and online learning, some of the companies involved, and heavily investing in this, as an example, like Halliburton and Booz Allen, which to me, let’s say Booz Allen which is also heavily tied into doing, they have access to data bases that the NSA does and, Edward Snowden worked for Booz Allen.

Alison: I would say like right now, like the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, LLC, is huge and they’re pushing Summit Basecamp. I know we just have a few min…minutes in closing so I also wanna mention, in addition to tech, we also have global finance interests involved, because in ESSA there are provisions for Pay for Success. Which is where they’re looking to use private venture capital to affect educational outcomes. Either right now it’s in universal pre-k, also early literacy. So we need to be aware of the role that Pay for Success is going to play in this, and that’s essentially like “moneyball” for government. Where they’re looking to save money. I mean there’s a conference that they, they’ve put this together. Evidence based policy. That’s what they call it. That’s sort of the code word. Is that if you can come up with a computerized program that will give you specific success metrics, venture capital can make money on that. So a lot of global finance interests, and impact investing interests are looking, I believe at education as a market, a futures market in student education data. So I have more information on that on my blog. But social impact bonds and Pay for Success are a critical piece to understanding why education is being digitized. Also Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, IBM, the tech interests, Summit Basecamp, AltSchool, Micro Schools are another big component of this. These value-model private schools, if vouchers go through, that, we’re gonna be seeing a lot more of that. The tech is also focusing on Montessori school models, and, and very high-end. So you have Rocketship Academy, which are sort of stripped down versions for low-income districts and, but they’re also marketing tech to affluent families and aspirational families as being sort of future-ready. So it’s really a, there’s many different branded versions of education technology.

Mike: So long story short, you have a kid in, going through school, or, you know, anyone you care about then, this would be something to look into.

Alison: Yes. Understand how much time they’re spending on devices. Advocate that school budgets prioritize human teachers, and reasonable class sizes, and not data-mining, not adaptive management systems. And and have this conversation in your community. Is education about creating opportunities for students to learn and grow together as a community, or is it these isolating personalized pathways, where people are competing against one another. And and I think that’s a larger conversation we all need to have in our school districts.

Mike: Alright. We’re speaking with Alison McDowell. She is a parent and researcher in the Philadelphia school system. Produced a series,  Future Ready Schools: How Silicon Valley and the Defense Department Plan to Remake Public Education. And again, your website is…

Alison: Wrenchinthegears.com

Mike: Wrenchinthegears.com. And with that we’re unfortunately out of time. I want to thank you for coming and spending time with us this morning.

Alison: Thank you.

Is the Teaching Profession Being Downsized?

Kick Out Teachers

Original Title: The Strange Future of the Teaching Profession. Reposted with permission from Save Maine Schools – Helping You Navigate Next-Gen Ed Reform.

KnowledgeWorks, which has received upwards of 50 million dollars from the Gates Foundation and successfully lobbied Congress to include “innovative assessment zones” in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, has even prepared a menu of possible roles educators might play in this new system of public education.

In 1991, just after stepping into his new role as secretary of education, Lamar Alexander envisioned a system of public education where school districts would not have an “exclusive monopoly” to operate public schools.   Instead, a public school “could be redefined as a school that receives public funds and is “accountable to public authority,” and “could be operated by public entities such as the Smithsonian Institution, by private nonprofit organizations, or by businesses.”

Twenty-five years later, it appears that Alexander’s dream is closer than ever to becoming reality.

As billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Reed Hastings of Netflix and Bill Gates of Microsoft invest millions of dollars into “personalized learning” experiments, corporate-sponsored bills are rapidly popping up across the country to move states toward competency-based education models that investors hope will allow learning to happen “anytime, anywhere.”

Organizations like the Center for the Future of Museums are now predicting the end of neighborhood schools:

Screen shot 2016-03-06 at 4.06.12 PM

The U.S. Department of Education in collaboration with The After-School Corporation describe a system in which students are “no longer tethered to school buildings or schedules,” but are instead free to tote data backpacks from one locale to the next in pursuit of digital badges.

In Pittsburgh, the Remake Learning Network, in partnership with the MacArthur Foundation, Common Sense Media, and Digital Promise, is currently trying to turn the city into “a campus for learning.” In Salt Lake City, where StriveTogether, United Way, and Target have teamed up to build “Community Schools,” parents are being encouraged to waive their FERPA rights so that data can be shared across the city’s organizations (including the Chamber of Commerce).

Meanwhile, groups like the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future and KnowledgeWorks are deciding how best to manage the teaching workforce in a world in which teaching is no longer an actual profession.

KnowledgeWorks, which has received upwards of 50 million dollars from the Gates Foundation and successfully lobbied Congress to include “innovative assessment zones” in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, has even prepared a menu of possible roles educators might play in this new system of public education.

Here is how KnowledgeWorks explains the impending shift:

Screen shot 2016-03-06 at 3.46.29 PM

And here are some of the job opportunities KnowledgeWorks envisions for us:

Screen shot 2016-03-06 at 3.45.26 PM.png

KnowledgeWorks has even set up a make-believe job platform site called VibrantEd to help us explore some of these future possibilities.

As strange as some of this sounds, it helps explain what Tom Carroll, president of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, meant when he encouraged leaders of schools of education to get “out of the teacher preparation business,” and “into the workforce development business in partnership with school districts.”

Yes, teachers, they really do want to get rid of us.

Save Maine Schools

The Endgame of Corporate Reform, Part 3: Online Learning, Social, Emotional Learning and the Department of Defense

This is the third and final post in the series.

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

Part 2: The endgame of corporate reform in public school education : Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and the Federal Government

Part 3: Online Learning, Social, Emotional Learning and the Department of Defense

data-mining2

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was a major contributor to the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development and in 2014, Bill Gates was also busy contributing to IMS Global.

Per the in-depth article How exactly did the Department of Defense end up in my child’s classroom? at Wrench in the Gears, the work in the Department of Defense has begun to be intertwined with companies developing software to teach, track and assess K-12 students.

In 1999, just as cloud-based computing was coming onto the scene, President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 13111 and created the Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative or ADL with the purpose of oversight, research, and development of online learning.

ADL is located within the U.S. Department of Defense and was initially used by the National Guard for electronic learning and training.

In 2011 ADL developed software that could track a student’s activities while using a computer. The program was called xAPI or Tin Can API. The original version of Tin Can API was part of a research project commissioned by ADL.

According to ADL’s website:

The Tin Can API (sometimes known as the Experience API or xAPI) is a brand new specification for learning technology that makes it possible to collect data about the wide range of experiences a person has (online and offline). This API captures data in a consistent format about a person or group’s activities from many technologies. Very different systems are able to securely communicate by capturing and sharing this stream of activities using Tin Can’s simple vocabulary.

Now we are back to the notion of “anytime, anywhere” education making it easy to plug into a gig economy of piece work employment without benefits as explained by Carolyn Leith in her article “Learning is Earning” the Rand Corporation way with digital badges and Edublocks.

IMSglobalregistered.jpg

This is where IMS comes into the picture.

According to their website:

IMS Global is a non-profit member collaborative inventing the future of educational and learning technology.  IMS enables a plug & play architecture and ecosystem that provides a foundation on which innovative products are rapidly deployed and work together. IMS suppliers are the market leaders in innovation. IMS institutions are getting to the future of digital learning faster.  

IMS established the IMS Digital Credentialing Initiative providing “digital badges” to signify work accomplished by students as they are taught and assessed by a computer.

These badges can be used by companies to access a job applicant before an interview to see not only what they have purportedly learned but also their emotional and psychological makeup.

Per the article How exactly did the Department of Defense end up in my child’s classroom? , in the 1990’s:

IMS Global began to advance implementation of e-learning systems. This non-profit began as a higher education trade group and now has over 150 contributing members, including IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and Pearson, and hundreds upon hundreds of affiliated companies and institutions that use its open source specifications. The Gates Foundation is a platinum level sponsor of four major IMS Global initiatives.

IMS partnered with the Department of Defense on various projects including with Learning Management Systems “to track information about the learner’s experience with learning content”.

In 2002, IMS partnered with the Department of Defense division ADL. The goal of the partnership was basically, and in layman’s terms, to keep a student on a fixed set of learning paths of classwork and assessments and also allow a student to bookmark their progress when taking breaks. This software is called Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM). SCORM is a set of specifications based on an Initiative from the Office of the US Secretary of Defense.

SCORM can be used in conjunction with Dreambox, another start-up funded by Bill Gates that provides software lessons in math for grades kindergarten through 8th grade. With Dreambox, a student receives tokens as prizes for answering questions correctly.

The Office of Naval Research rewarded a contract in 2014 for:

The Alternate Reality Teaching:

OurSpace project will be designed to capture the imagination of children while embracing modern educational research on learning progressions, gender and gaming, and social emotinal learning.  The project is designed to engage students, teachers, and families.  It is a multi-student online learning environment, populated with an ever-expanding variety of games using and educational game authoring toolkit that lets students and teachers create their own future and have learning tailored to their chosen field.

Now that lessons are online using videos and video games to keep a child’s attention, people owning businesses like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon, are jumping on the gravy train. Zuckerberg and his wife set up the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative which Zuckerberg describes in a Facebook post, the “education initiative would focus on “personalized learning” — the idea of using various technologies to help students customize their educational pathways”. Jeff Bezos’ Amazon developed “Inspire”, a platform that “works like a search engine for educational videos, lesson plans and games”.

Conclusion

The same people who are selling software to school districts so students can learn “anywhere, anytime” and be assessed using markers for academic performance and their emotional state, also espouse the importance of “21st century skills” which they describe as:

  • Collaboration and teamwork
  • Creativity and imagination
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Flexibility and adaptability
  • Global and cultural awareness
  • Information literacy
  • Leadership
  • Civic literacy and citizenship
  • Oral and written communication skills
  • Social responsibility and ethics
  • Initiative

I’m not sure where these ideals fit for children who work in isolation in front of a computer six to eight hours a day working on prescribed lesson plans with online tutors but I suppose that is not for public school students to concern themselves with.

This is a cautionary tale.

We are being sold on the idea of a golden key that, even though it will cost school districts millions of dollars, will open the door to learning for all students using packaged programs and assessments, but don’t be fooled, there is not only a monetary price to be paid.

Your child’s privacy will be lost and their information sold to the highest bidder. Your student will not receive a well-rounded education and the promise of a “career ready” curriculum will more than likely land your child a contract job with no benefits and no future.

This vision benefits the few with little interest in helping the many.

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Alison McDowell breaks it down further in her video about the DOD and public education.