Digital Curriculum: Questions Parents Should be Asking

Reposted with permission from Wrench in the Gears

monitors

I have laid out a set of ten questions that parents should be asking their child’s teachers and school administrators. Feel free to share and/or print it out and bring it with you to back-to-school night.

As we enter this new era of blended/hybrid classrooms, the clamor of ed-tech entrepreneurs pitching their digital curricula is getting to be truly overwhelming for parents. Rather than critiquing individual programs, I have laid out a set of ten questions that parents should be asking their child’s teachers and school administrators. Feel free to share and/or print it out and bring it with you to back-to-school night. I’d love to know what the response is.

1. Does the program require aggregating PII (personally identifiable information) from students to function properly? And even if it doesn’t REQUIRE it, does the program collect PII?

2. Does the program supplement face-to-face human instruction, or function as a substitute for it? How many minutes per day of face-to-face human instruction is being sacrificed or substituted? Will it lead to increased class sizes?

3. Does the program encourage active student-to-student engagement and face-to-face discussion? How does it accomplish this? Or does it create an environment where kids are often working in isolation with their devices? How much of the time are students working alone with their devices?

4. What are the associated costs with respect to your district’s budget (not just the program fees, but the devices required to operate it) and how will participation in the program affect other areas of the student experience? For example given the austerity budgets many districts are experiencing, implementing a 1:1 device program to support digital curriculum could impact a school’s ability to offer art instruction, employ a school librarian, or provide a full range of extracurricular activities.

5. How much screen time is involved, per day? per week? Consider the health impacts of machine-mediated teaching, especially on elementary school-age children.

6. Does the program offer “training” or “education?” There is a difference.

7. Will participating in the program expand student awareness of the larger world and allow them to engage with it on their own terms, or is it a way to channel students into a particular workforce sector?

8. Does the program monitor, tutor, or assess behavior and social-emotional aspects of learning?

9. Assuming the program is used during the school day, what is this program replacing? What aspect(s) of instruction formerly offered will be eliminated if this program is implemented?

10. How does adopting a blended/hybrid learning program, which has been developed by outside interests, impact local control and autonomy within your school and district?

What percentage of instructional time being turned over to outsourced online education results in your neighborhood school no longer fully being YOUR school? 10 percent? 25 percent? 40 percent?

Many ed-tech proponents like Reed Hastings are looking to remove local control of schools due to their “inefficiency.” Would adopting this program in your school further that agenda?

-Alison McDowell

Advertisements

2011 Video: Personalized Learning’s Plan to Replace Teachers? “It means a different staffing model which costs less and works better”

Reposted with permission from  Missouri Education Watchdog.

100_dollar_bill_green

…in short, it’s not Blended Learning in my definition if you’re not changing your staffing model and that’s where this gets tough because you’re talking about differentiated staffing.

That means different levels, and distributed teachingThat means some teachers teaching remotely. So if you’re going to staff your school in a different way, that means a different staffing model that costs less and works better.” 

The last few years have seen an astronomical increase in screen time and “blended learning” being required in schools, starting even in preschool and kindergarten.  Many schools require students to pay a fee for a personal Chromebook or similar device (also called a 1:1 program) and students can often take this computer home, which brings with it a new level of privacy,  tracking and security concerns. Many programs are adaptive, with hidden algorithms collecting every key click, and monitoring how a child learns, behaves. This is “personalized learning” and it has many parentseducation advocates and teachers concerned. Even RAND researchers see little evidence to support online personalized learning,  “The evidence base is very weak at this point,” said John F. Pane, a senior scientist and the group’s distinguished chair in education innovation.

Will Digital Personalized Learning Replace Teachers?

Perhaps you have seen headlines like My Teacher is an Algorithm: Silicon Valley Billionaires Want to Replace Teachers with Technology, or How Silicon Valley Plans to Conquer the Classroom, or Technology in the classroom: Robots could replace teachers in 10 years.  People like this teacher have been warning of The Deconstruction of the K-12 Teacher, saying that teachers will become a guide on the side, replaced by personalized algorithms and computer screens. Yet those pushing tech into schools have responded by saying concerns are unfounded, and personalized computer programs were never meant to replace teachers. Case in point, see this 2017 ultimatum from the Clayton Christensen Institute, arguing that “it’s time for a narrative that teachers will be replaced by artificial intelligence to end“.

Apparently, these folks have not seen the recording of Tom Vander Ark’s 2011 presentation to a room full of education leaders. To see Vander Ark’s “Designing Digital Districts” video (his is the third video on the page) click here. Power point here.

In this 2011 ERDI video, Vander Ark essentially says personalized digital learning is more productive and cheaper than teachers and urges leaders to ‘make the shift’.

The video was mentioned in this recent Baltimore news story which caught my eye because of a 2011 Education Research & Development Institute (ERDI) video with presenter Tom Vander Ark. Vander Ark, a fan of personalized learning, has also expressed interested in unbundling billions in the education market.  (Side note: If you aren’t familiar with ERDI and investigations associated with the awarding of lucrative edtech contracts and 1:1 devices, paid edtech consulting fees and paid travel to exclusive conferences, I suggest you read this and start asking who in your district is affiliated with ERDI.)  I have posted an excerpt of the article below but do yourself a favor and read the whole thing. From The Baltimore Post,  Technology as Teacher: Consulting Firm with Ties to Baltimore County Had Big Plans:

“If there ever were any doubt about the Education Research & Development Institute (ERDI) and its promotion of educational technology to school systems, a July 2011 ERDI Innovation Conference makes it abundantly clear.

One conference presenter in particular had a very specific message at the Atlanta event for education leaders and their school systems: that computer-centered learning for kindergarten through 12th grade was coming, and those in the audience would be making the changes – very soon.

“I want to give you a quick and conceptual look at why I think the pivot to ‘personalized digital learning’ is a really big deal, like one of the three or four of the most important things happening in the world,” said Tom Vander Ark, an author, speaker and investor in more than 70 technology companies.  “Secondly, I’m going to talk about how that’s going to happen in most of your schools,” he said.

“[Vander Ark] told the education leaders that they should “be launching in September (2011), a Blended 6-10 math program” and “have a team of teachers work with two to three to 400 students” virtually and online.

“You ought to be piloting special services online. Speech therapies have had big developments in the last year and can deliver better and cheaper and faster speech therapy online,” he said.

Vander Ark, who mentioned the cost savings of using technology in place of teachers several times during his presentation, also said he started the first kindergarten to 12th grade online school in the country, but that “this stuff has not made enough of a difference as it should.”

Nonetheless, the Ed-Tech mogul told the audience of education leaders that the reason the 2011 push was different was because, in addition to providing students with a computer-based environment in order to “improve learning,” changing staffing was also now seen as imperative.

Vander Ark told the audience of education leaders that the reduction in teachers would “improve productivity.” “It means a different staffing model which costs less and works better,” he said. “It means a tough set of conversations…” -Baltimore Post  [Emphasis added] http://thebaltimorepost.com/technology-teacher-consulting-firm-ties-baltimore-county-big-plans

Vander Ark’s presentation goes on to define the difference between edtech and Blended Learning. Watch at about 9 minute mark:

“Blended Learning is different. It is an intentional shift in the learning environment, to an online environment for at least a portion of the day to improve student learning.

So there’s an intentional shift in the modality of learning to boost student learning. And secondly, that shift is made to increase school productivity, staffing and facilities productivity. That means more learning and less money.

…in short, it’s not Blended Learning in my definition if you’re not changing your staffing model and that’s where this gets tough because you’re talking about differentiated staffing.

That means different levels, and distributed teachingThat means some teachers teaching remotely. So if you’re going to staff your school in a different way, that means a different staffing model that costs less and works better.” He also goes on to discuss working with policy makers and unbundling education.  Listen here.  Watch here.

67 minute mark:

“In closing comments, it’s time to plan the shift. You’ll be moving to an online assessment environment… it’s a great timeline to use as a lever to make this shift. Part of that 3 yr plan out to include provisions for “bring your own technology” to help create high access environments, part of that shift ought to include a set of blended pilots, Blended upper division STEM, Blended Math 610, Blended special services… Pick a great partner, FL Virtual, APEX, NC Virtual, Connections Academy,  K12.  … Make your state a partner, work with your county and Superintendents. You’re not in this alone.” -Tom Vander Ark, 2011 ERDI Forum

This Vander Ark video (along with videos of other presenters) is posted by Discovery Education and will likely disappear. WATCH the entire video; it is informative. Vander Ark talks about Jeb Bush’s Digital Learning Now, Data Quality Campaign, Virtual Schools, Common Core necessitating online assessments and how that can be leveraged to advance blended online learning in the classroom. He talks about education disrupter Clayton ChristensenInnosight and his book,  The Rise of Blended Learning.

Where is the independent evidence to support digital “personalized learning”?

As this recent Chalkbeat article suggests, there doesn’t seem to be real evidence.  From Chalkbeat’s Why ‘personalized learning’ advocates like Mark Zuckerberg keep citing a 1984 study — and why it might not say much about schools today:

“The results of a 1984 study have become a popular talking point among those promoting the “personalized learning” approach advanced by Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg’s philanthropy. The results from the 1984 study underlying it have essentially never been seen in modern research on public schools. Still, the results have become a popular talking point among those promoting the “personalized learning” approach that Zuckerberg’s philanthropy is advancing. One video created by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative features an illustration of a 50 on a graph zooming upward to hit 98. The New Schools Venture Fund, another influential education group that backs personalized learning, cites the same work by Benjamin Bloom. But a close look at the study raises questions about its relevance to modern education debates and the ability of new buzzed-about programs to achieve remotely similar results.” -Chalkbeat [Emphasis added]

What now?

We know screens are addictive. We know that Wi-Fi connected devices emit cancer causing radiation and the American Academy of Pediatrics warns that children should avoid exposure to wireless devices.  READ THAT.

(Note, the AAP doesn’t say wireless devices cause cancer only at home, or only when not using devices for educational activities. We’re pretty sure the radiation effects are the same regardless of the content. However, there is likely more radiation in a classroom with children surrounded by 1:1 wireless devices.) We also know that screens are linked to depression, obesity, suicide, ADHD, sleep disturbance, retinal damage.  We know that data collected by hidden “personalized learning” algorithms can be used to predict and profile a child and those algorithms can be wrong.  We also know that student data is a trillion dollar market.

Why did policy makersschool board membersteachers unions, jump on the artificial personalized learning bandwagon to sell out teachers and students? Did they buy into the Vander Ark gotta make the shift sales pitch without evidence to support personalized learning’s effectiveness or researching its health risks? Are these same policy makers and Silicon Valley folks going to repackage and rebrand personalized learning, give us a new name for the online learning system that collects and remembers and analyzes every click? Will they repackage personalized learning as something “new” like  competency based (blockchain) education and tell it is somehow different and better and safer?

We need to hold tech companies and educrats accountable. Parents need to be given the choice of textbook and face to face human teacher, rather than screen learning. Sensitive data (biometric, medical and mental health, behavioral evaluations) should never be collected or leave the school without parent consent. In recent days, former Silicon Valley folks have acknowledged problems with the tech industry: Why I Left Silicon Valley, EdTech, and “Personalized” Learning  and Early Facebook and Google Employees Form Coalition to Fight What They Built (Humane Tech).

Let’s hope these ex-Silicon Valley folks and policy makers will truly help us protect children. Let’s hope they will give parents a voice.

What do you think?

A few interesting links.

ERDI  July 2011 Vision, Design, Implementation, and Results

“View the archive of a group of the nation’s preeminent school district and education technology leaders discuss best practices during a unique forum – Technology in Our Schools.  ERDI Innovation 2011 was an unparalleled opportunity to hear from outstanding educators and committed corporate partners as they discover creative ways to addresses unmet needs in schools.” See the videos posted here.

Global Silicon Valley, circa 2012, American Revolution 2.0 How Education Innovation is Going to Revitalize America 

“Anytime, anywhere learning” is a reality, and mass distribution is just an App Store away. It also helps that the iPad has had faster adoption in the education market than any  technology in history. Other tablets including Microsoft’s Surface are on the way, allowing invisible and ubiquitous computing.”  Additionally, the power of “app stores” will be an important and overarching force for the foreseeable future. With the tracks of IT laid over the past several decades, companies such as Microsoft, Apple and Google, the primary providers of app stores, give content providers the ability to reach tens of million of people swiftly without needing to create a traditional distribution network. The implications are enormous as new education content – etextbooks, games, activities,videos – can be instantly sent to a large user base and updates can be pushed frictionlessly”…   “Every click is captured”  …”Individualized learning that becomes more personalized with every click. Adaptive technology, like we’ve seen from consumer leaders such as Amazon, Pandora and Netflix, will become transformative in the education industry. Integrating data will allow teachers, parents and students to have a proactive learning experience—diagnosing, prescribing and dynamically reassessing based on the individual student. Ultimately, we believe courses will be disaggregated from the institution and be selected a la carte for a personalized education program.“

2015 Global Silicon Valley Vision 2020
McKinsey Global predicts education data will unlock $1.2 trillion

Data Quality Campaign, funded by Bill Gates, launched to improve the quality, accessibility and use of data in education was launched today at the Council of Chief State School Officers and US Department of Education’s Data Summit.

Bill and Melinda Gates Postsecondary Success Advocacy Priorities 2016: Table on page 7 that shows centralized interoperable national student data system.

World Bank: From Compliance to Learning

UN SDG 4 Data Digest, Strengthening National Data to Monitor Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4 – Education Data) http://sdg.iisd.org/news/un-agencies-partners-call-for-open-interoperable-data/  page 26: Producing education data at the national level; page 52: Data quality analysis of household surveys; page 54: The Data Alignment process will enable education systems to examine and report on the current level of alignment of national assessment programmes with the UIS Reporting Scales (see Box 9) and will be implemented in six steps (UIS and ACER, forthcoming).  See their web page with infographics, short video and executive summary. Go to the source of SDG 4 data, with a set of data tables, country profiles and related resources.

Future Agendas for Global Education 2035 pdf and enlargeable year-by-year Global Ed Futures MAP

The National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development (SEL): 2016 commission formed to create and standardize scores for student emotions and tie to ESSA. Will issue recommendations and report 2018.

STUDY: Increases in Depressive Symptoms, Suicide-Related Outcomes, and Suicide Rates Among U.S. Adolescents After 2010 and Links to Increased New Media Screen Time Screen use in teens may account for depression and increased suicide rates.  Abstract:  “In two nationally representative surveys of U.S. adolescents in grades 8 through 12 (N = 506,820) and national statistics on suicide deaths for those ages 13 to 18, adolescents’ depressive symptoms, suicide ­related outcomes, and suicide rates increased between 2010 and 2015, especially among females. Adolescents who spent more time on new media (including social media and electronic devices such as smartphones) were more likely to report mental health issues, and adolescents who spent more time on nonscreen activities (in ­person social interaction, sports/exercise, homework, print media, and attending religious services) were less likely. Since 2010, iGen adolescents have spent more time on new media screen activities and less time on nonscreen activities, which may account for the increases in depression and suicide. In contrast, cyclical economic factors such as unemployment and the Dow Jones Index were not linked to depressive symptoms or suicide rates when matched by year.”

Cellphones and wireless devices emit cancer causing radiation and the American Academy of Pediatrics warns that children should avoid exposure to wireless devices.

Apple Investors Warn iPhones and Other Technology May Be Hurting Children

-Cheri Kiesecker

24 Graduation Credits, OSPI Superintendent Chris Reykdal, and the Push for Competency-Based Learning

achieve

After an exhausting presidential election, those in power expect us to checkout and stop paying attention.

Here’s a few good reason to stay vigilant.

In Washington State, the race for Superintendent of Public Instruction was very close. Chris Reykdal ended up winning with a little less than 28,000 votes.

Why is this important?  

First, winning with 1% of the vote isn’t a mandate.

Second, there’s some evidence to suggest Reykdal may be interested in promoting or even strengthening competency-based learning in Washington State.

What’s competency-based learning?

Competency-based learning is a form of instruction where the curriculum is delivered by computer, rather than by a human teacher.

There’s different models for this type of instruction, depending on the amount of time students spend using a device to access their class work.

Blended learning mixes face-to-face instruction with student, self-paced learning on a computer or other electronic device.

Virtual schools deliver instruction exclusively online.

The Value of Competency-Based Learning Hasn’t Been Proven.

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.

Jim Horn at Schools Matter found these 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.

https://www.ihs.ac.at/fileadmin/public/soziologie/rs111.pdf

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.

http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/personalized-instruction

24-Credit Graduation Requirement: A Backdoor for Online Learning?

Chris Reykdal is very proud of Washington State’s 24-Credit Graduation Requirement.

As a legislator who voted for our state’s robust home-grown teacher-principal evaluation system and one of the authors of our state’s new rigorous 24-credit graduation framework, I am disappointed in the federal government’s decision to repeal our waiver.

Here’s my biggest concern: Achieve is also excited about the possibilities created by Washington’s 24 credit requirement.

Who’s Achieve?

Achieve is most famous for it’s work helping the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers create the common core standards. Achieve also acted as the project manager during the development of the PARCC Assessment. Fair warning, Achieve also oversaw the writing of the Next Generation of Science Standards.

Achieve is funded by Corporate America and chaired by Mark B. Grier, who also happens to be Vice Chairman of Prudential Financial, Inc.

Both Microsoft and Boeing are corporate funders of Achieve. If you live in Washington State, please note both companies have put tremendous effort into avoiding their fair share of state taxes. Taxes, which fund our public schools.

Since its formation, one of Achieve’s main purposes is to give corporations a direct route to state officials. This allows a push for business friendly education policies without the prying eyes of the public or local school boards.

It’s also important to remember that the common core standards were basically the specs for the education software that is now being rolled out with the competency-based education model.

Profit or Public Good?

Remember the part in the NEPC Virtual Schools Report about the expansion of virtual and blended schools being driven by profit seeking edutech companies rather than student need or the public good?

In a 2014 Report [ achievecbptheimperativeforstateleadership ], Achieve outlined how state leaders could leverage college and career readiness to shift away from traditional schools to competency-based learning.

In some states, leaders and educators have determined that to realize the promise of high expectations for all students that reflect a clear learning progression toward and beyond college and career readiness, students will need access to a far more personalized approach to learning. The traditional time-based system, they have concluded, has not served all students well – even when policy and practice were centered on a floor of minimal proficiency. The system holds little hope for helping all students reach, and have the opportunity to exceed, the level of preparation needed for college and career readiness. In these states, there is an increasing urgency to move away from the traditional system that has produced such inequitable results and toward a competency-based system in which students and their mastery of knowledge and skills – not time and the calendar – form the center.

One of the strategies suggested by Achieve to advance competency-based learning was the use of competency based credit accumulation or advancement.

For CBP to advance, states may need to do more than just allow districts and schools to use competency-based approaches for graduation and credit accumulation/advancement. Many states have learned that simply offering flexibility does not necessarily catalyze action and that they need to take actions that range from encouraging or supporting districts to strongly incentivizing use. States may need to take action to define competency-based graduation requirements or competency-based methods of awarding course credit – and to do so with an eye toward ensuring that determinations that students have completed required standards or otherwise reached competency reflect rigor and comparability across districts. States also can take more intermediate steps through policy or practice.

In March of 2016 [ 04cbl-1 ], The Washington State Board of Education met to discuss competency based learning. The key policy considerations were:

  • How could competency-based learning fit into a career and college-ready framework?
  • Are there gaps in state policy that need to be addressed to best support rigorous and aligned competency-based crediting?
  • What guidance would be useful for districts to implement competency-based crediting?

Guess who attended the meeting?

Alissa Peltzman, Vice President for State Policy and Implementation Support for Achieve.

Even more interesting, the guidelines [exhibitf_competency-basedcreditinghandbook ] created for districts to implement competency-based learning includes information pulled directly from Achieve’s white paper:  Advancing Competency-Based Pathways To College and Career Readiness Series. The Imperative of State Leadership.

It’s worth reading the whole document. Of particular interest is Table 1, which explains how credit can be earned in Washington State.  Here’s some highlights:

cbe_better

 

online_better

Remember how Randy Dorn used ALE’s to skirt the Supreme Court’s ruling against charter schools? They’re mentioned too.

ale_better

Where Does Reykdal Stand on Competency-Based Learning?

Here’s Reykdal’s response to a question about edutech from a state superintendent questionnaire on  Seattle Schools Community Forum:

How does “EduTech” – the increasing use of technology and learning-based instruction – fit into your view about the future of education?

As a former classroom teacher and an almost fourteen year executive in the community and technical college system, I’ve watched edutech evolve. Like so many industry-driven things it was not good as a stand-alone approach in the early years of online learning, competency-based assessments, and open-course materials. While still problematic in places and with some tools, we have learned that blended instruction is the strongest model – teacher led instruction infused with technology. To do this well at scale, it requires professional development. Our educators are growing their skills in the use of edutech but it requires constant investment in their knowledge, skills, and abilities. What we must never do is replace high touch with high tech, especially when the issue for many students is not academic struggle but rather social-emotional needs. There is no software for love, caring, and diagnosing emotional distress. Technology is a supplement to instruction; it should never be used as a parallel system of instruction. When we believe we can ignore income inequality, generational poverty, and racial inequities in our schools with canned software and dynamic standardized tests we are in trouble.

To sum up: Chris Reykdal appears to be OK with blended or competency-based learning which he defines as “teacher led instruction infused with technology” as long as it’s not used to create a “parallel system of instruction” -even though and here’s the kicker – his push for 24 credits, set the stage for the State Board of Education to go ahead and create that edutech reliant parallel system of instruction.

Here’s my concerns about competency-based learning. 

First, even though the value of competency-based learning is unproven, the cost in dollars for school districts to implement this experiment is far from neutral.

Second, if this technology is unproven, at best we are experimenting on children – at worst we are robbing a generation of kids a quality education.

Third, the architects of ed-reform see competency-based instruction as a way to finally be rid of those pesky teachers.

The edutech “thought leaders” want a classroom of peers taught by a human teacher to be a premium service for the rich. Our children will get ed-tech and even more data collection.

So much for public education as a social good or incubator for democracy.

Conclusion

So where does Chris Reykdal stand on competency-based education?

It’s anyone’s guess.

I would like to point out that WEA-PAC contributed $85,000 to the Forward With Education PAC which produced and ran TV ads in support of Reykdal’s campaign.

Many dues paying, rank and file teachers may not be pleased to learn their union helped elect a candidate who would, at best, like to see even more ed-tech in their classrooms and, at the very worst, may be opening the door for the demise of their profession.

-Carolyn Leith

Tech Tip o’ the Day for Seattle Public Schools: How to get kids and teachers in front of computers all day

 

11486813.jpg

The following email was brought to my attention today. It was sent to all Seattle Public School staff.

From: Cranston, Gary

Sent: Tuesday, May 16, 2017 12:35 PM

Subject: Tuesdy Tech Tip 5/16/17: Apply TODAY for Summer Blended Learning Institute, Immersive Reader, and Public Folders in OneDrive

Teachers,

This week’s tech tip includes information about how to apply for the 2017 – 2018 Blended Learning Summer Institute, use the Immersive Reader Learning Tool with Office 365 or the Office Lens app, and create a public folder in OneDrive.

Gary

Blended Learning Summer Institute 2017: Cohort 2 August 18, 21 and 22

Click here to apply for the Blended Learning Summer Institute and view additional information about the program.

Blended learning combines online digital media with traditional classroom methods. It provides some element of student control over time, place, path, or pace.

In this series of paid professional learning activities, you will:

  • Explore different blended learning strategies to find the one that works best for you and your students.
  • Design online resources to support personalized learning.
  • Collaborate with other teachers to share resources and strategies.
  • Provide feedback to DoTS and the IT team regarding use of 15 laptops in a blended learning classroom model.

**********

The terms “blended learning” and “personalized learning” refer to having a student in front of a computer the greater part of a school day, just like the term “school choice” actually refers to charter schools, the privatization of public schools. The terms are palatable and sound ideal to many as a positive leaning experience but those are just marketing terms. When you dig down into what software marketeers are actually referring to, it’s completely different. There is nothing personal about using a software program on a computer compared to interacting with a teacher and students.

In an article I wrote describing blended learning, I stated:

Online charter schools, which the capital venturists like to refer to as “blended learning”, is basically putting a student in front of a computer where they are to read, do their lessons and take tests.

Sports, history and the arts are not part of this program, just the basics.

The reason for the proliferation of these enterprises is that they are cheap to run and generate lots of revenue. At this time, Rocketship, one of the largest online charter chains, has recently increased its student to teacher ratio from 40:1 to 50:1. There is very little overhead, no gym, cafeteria, janitors, staff, just a CEO/Principal/Superintendent and administrative staff. The students do their work at home on a computer and communicate with their teachers via e-mail. The parents communicate with the teacher via phone on a schedule set up by the charter school. That’s the “blended” part, communicating with the teacher via e-mail, phone or “special software” that is promoted by these enterprises.

I believe there is a place for this kind of arrangement, when a student is not able to physically attend school, this would be a good option for those situations but that’s not how the online charter chains see it. They won’t be happy until they can get as many students as possible on a computer 6 to 8 hours a day. It’s all about the money.

The desire by private businesses, like DELL computers, is to sell computers and software. They see school districts as another cash cow as they did with charter schools.

So teachers, unless you want to be replaced with software, I suggest you pay attention to what’s going on in your district. Parents, unless you want your student in front of a computer all day in school, start asking questions.

Related articles:

How Online Learning Companies Bought America’s Schools

Profits and Questions at Online Charter Schools

Washington State’s Digital Promise School Districts: Creating new markets for personalized learning snake oil

Washington State’s Digital Promise School Districts: Creating new markets for personalized learning snake oil

Students of Online Schools Are Lagging

Online (Blended) Learning

Ten questions for Seattle Public Schools’ IT Lead John Krull re: EdTech in schools and student privacy

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

The Ballad of Joseph Olchefske: Middle College, Ed-Reform Market Failure, and the March of Online Learning

An Explosion in Lobbying Around For-Profit K-12 Programs

The inherent racism of Summit “public” (charter) school

Dora Taylor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Serious student privacy concerns with new Summit/Facebook platform

Summit%20Basecamp%20Logo.jpg

Summit charter schools  opened a location in Seattle last year. The school calls what they do “blended” or “personalized” learning which means placing a student in front of a computer during most, if not all, of their learning time.

As of now, Summit has opted in Washington State to offer its services to homeschool students rather than be under the charter school umbrella. Charter schools have been legally challenged once again and a lawsuit is pending review by the court.

Summit charter schools has developed a platform with Facebook. The program is titled Summit Basecamp. Leonie Haimson and other parents have formed the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy and recently published an article on the issue of student privacy and the use of this platform.

From the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy:

Serious privacy concerns with new Summit/Facebook platform, used in 100 schools across the nation

Our concerns about the open-ended data sharing of the  washington-post-front-page-10-12-16 Summit/Facebook software platform was featured on the front page of today’s Washington Post. This software is in 100 schools nationwide, about two thirds of them public schools. The list is here. Two of the schools are in NYC: the Bronx Writing Academy in District 9; and J.H.S. 088 Peter Rouget in District 15 in Brooklyn.

Summit is sharing the student personal data with Facebook, Google, Clever and whomever else they please – through an open-ended consent form that they have demanded parents sign.  A copy of the consent form is here.

I have never seen such a wholesale demand from any company for personal student data, and can imagine many ways it could be abused.  Among other things, Summit/Facebook claims they will have the right to use the personal data “to improve their products and services,” to “conduct surveys, studies” and “perform any other activities requested by the school. ”

Here is an excerpt:

Summit may collect information that you provide or your child provides directly to Summit, such as contact information, coursework, testing, and grades. Summit also may collect information automatically from browsers, computers, and devices (such as information from cookies and browser and device identifiers in order to remember your preferences)….. Summit may use your child’s information to conduct surveys and studies; develop new features, products, and services; and otherwise as requested by your school or consistent with your consent. … Summit also may disclose information to third-party service providers and partners as directed or authorized by the school. For example, Summit uses Clever, Facebook, and Google to help develop and improve the personalized learning plan software or to provide related educational services on Summit’s behalf.

big-eye-data.jpgThey claim they won’t use the child’s personal data for targeted ads (as would be banned anyway in the CA law called SOPIPA) but this is among the only restriction. They say they can sell the data “in connection with a corporate transaction, such as the sale of our Services, a merger, consolidation, asset sale.” The one-sided Terms of Service is here; the Privacy Policy is here.

The Summit platform has never been independently vetted for security protections – or shown to yield any educational benefits, and I believe is a very radical way to outsource instruction and student data to private companies.

Other reasons that teachers as well as parents should be concerned:

The Terms of Service claims the right to use the intellectual property of teachers in these schools, intellectual-property-brain.jpgincluding course assignments, etc. and even student work without any recompense: “You Grant Us a non–‐exclusive, perpetual, transferable, sub–‐licensable, royalty–‐free, worldwide License to use content that you post on or in connection with the Services in any manner, media, form, and modes of uses, now known or later developed.”

–Though I’m not an attorney, the Terms of Service seems to explicitly and repeatedly waive any liability  that Summit or FB or any of its partners may have for protecting the data against breaches, complying with state or federal law,  or abiding by their own Terms of Service;

— As the Washington Post article points out, the TOS would force any school or party to the agreement (including teachers) to give up their right to sue in court if they believe their rights or the law has been violated, and limits the dispute to binding arbitration in San Mateo CA – in the midst of Silicon Valley, where Facebook and Google presumably call the shots.  This is the same sort of abuse of consumer rights that that banks and credit card companies have included in their TOS and that the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is now trying to ban.

–The CEO of Summit charters, Diane Tavenner, is also the head of the board of the California Charter School Association, which has aggressively tried to get pro-privatization allies elected to California school boards and state office, and has lobbied against any real regulations or oversight to curb charter school abuses in that state.

– –  Summit says they won’t sign individual contracts with school districts or schools, for the    following ostensible reasons, and suggests a legal loophole for states and districts that require such contracts:

Summit Public Schools is unable to sign contracts, MOUs, or other legal documents from other districts, CMOs, or individual schools. Straying from our Summit Partnership contracts would add immeasurable risk to our organization as we are unable to acquire third party validation on different contracts in the way that we did for our own participation agreement. It would not be legally sound for us to enter into two legal contracts with two sets of potentially conflicting commitments for one program.

Some districts that have policies where all third party vendors need to sign one designated contract were able to bypass that requirement given the status of Summit Public Schools as an educational organization rather than a vendor and the nature of the partnership as a free exchange of ideas and services rather than a paid service relationship.

And then they add – presumably to assuage the fears of parents or school administrators:

In order to ensure that our legal agreement meets the high quality demanded by school organizations across the U.S., Summit Public Schools has gone the extra mile to work with one of the best legal teams in the country to draft this agreement. We worked with Jules Polonetsky – CEO of the Future of Privacy Forum, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that seeks to advance responsible data practices – and his team to review our privacy policies and provide his 3rd party stamp of approval. Straying from the language in our participation agreement would add risk as we are unable to also acquire third party validation on different contracts.

What they don’t reveal is that the Future of Privacy Forum is largely funded by the technology industry and the Gates Foundation, and Polonetsky was a big supporter of inBloom.  (Nevertheless, the sample contract they apparently offered to Kentucky schools did not include the binding arbitration clause, though it limits Summit’s liability to $10,000.)

For these and other reasons, I think parents and students should be VERY concerned.  

In my view and that of many other parents, the explosion of ed tech and the outsourcing of student personal data to private corporations without restriction, like this current Summit/Facebook venture, is as risky for students and teachers as the privatization of public education through charter school expansion.  In this case, the risk is multiplied, since the data is going straight into the hands of a powerful charter school CEO – closely linked to Gates, Zuckerberg and Laurene Powell Jobs, among the three wealthiest plutocrats on the planet.

Gates has praised Summit to the skies, has given the chain $11 million, and has made special efforts to get it ensconced in his state of Washington; Zuckerberg is obviously closely entrenched in this initiative, and Laurene Powell Jobs has just granted the chain $10 million to launch a new charter school in Oakland.

I sent the following list of questions to Summit at info@summitbasecamp.org nine days ago, but have received no response.  Others — especially parents at these schools and/or privacy advocates — might like to send their own questions or resend mine as well.  And if you are a parent or a teacher at one of these schools, please contact me ASAP at leonie@classsizematters.org  Thanks! Leonie

Questions for Summit:

1. What is Summit’s definition of “reasonable and comprehensive data protection and security protocols to protect student data”?  What does that specifically include in terms of encryption, independent audits, security training, etc?  And where is that in writing?

2. If my child’s data does breach, what rights would I have as a parent to secure damages?

3. Does Summit claim unlimited rights to share or utilize my child’s homework and intellectual property without notice or compensation that they are claiming with teacher work in the TOS?

4. Can Summit specifically itemize the companies/organizations that they will share my child’s data with, aside from those mentioned below?

5. Are each of these third parties barred from making further redisclosures of my child’s data?

6. Are each of these third parties, and any other organizations or companies or individuals they redisclose to, legally required to abide by the same restrictions as listed under your TOS and PP, including being prevented from using targeted or non-targeted advertising, and/or selling of data, and using the same security protections?

7. Does Summit promise to inform parents over the course of the year all the additional third parties the company plans to disclose my child’s data to?

8. What is the comprehensive list of personal data Summit is collecting and potentially sharing from my child?  You mention a limited list below, but does it also include my child’s homework, grades, test scores, economic status, disability, English proficiency status and/or race as well?

9. The TOS mentions survey data.  Is there any personal data from my child that Summit promises NOT to collect via a survey or otherwise?  Will parents have the right to see these surveys before they are given and opt out of them, or does signing this consent form basically mean a parent is giving up all their rights under the PPRA?

10. Why can’t Summit simply give the software platform to schools to use if it is beneficial, along with links to instructional materials, rather than demand as “payment” in the form of all the student information as well?

11. Do you promise not to use the information gained to market products directly to students and/or their parents, and are all your partners and/or those they disclose the information to barred from doing so as well?

12. The PP says you will use my child’s personal data to develop new educational “products” – what does that mean?  Why can’t you use de-identified data for this purpose

13. It also says you will use this data to “communicate with students, parents, and other users.”  What does that mean? What kind of communications will you engage in with my child or with me

14. The PP states a parent can “review, correct or have deleted certain personal information”.  Which kind of personal information can I delete, how will I be able to do that and will that stop my child from using the platform?

15. The PP also says you will share the data with anyone “otherwise directed or authorized by the school.”  What does that mean? Does my signing a consent form mean that the school can authorize to share this information with ANYONE else, without specifying the sort of third party, for what reason, or without limitation, without informing me or asking for my further consent?

16. It says it will send notice of proposed changes to the PP ahead of time to the participating schools; why not parents if you have their contact info?  Shouldn’t they hear this directly from you and immediately if you are considering changes?

17. Does Summit consider this parent consent form to mean that parents are waiving the privacy rights of their children under all three federal student privacy laws, including FERPA, COPPA and PPRA?

18. The PP says that “FERPA permits schools to share students’ information in certain circumstances, including where the school has gotten a parent’s’ consent or where the organization receiving the student data operates as a “school official.” Summit Public Schools operates as a “school official” consistent with the Department of Education’s guidance under FERPA.”  If this is true, why does Summit need to ask for parental consent?  What additional rights does my consent afford Summit that you would not have without consent in terms of the collection, use and disclosure of a student’s personal information

19. Summit says that “Participating schools and individual teachers own, and are responsible for, student data provided through the Summit Personalized Learning Platform.” Why don’t students own their own data?

20. This raises another related question: the Summit Privacy Policy and Terms of Service grants schools and teachers some rights (however limited.) What rights do parents and students have under these conditions?

21. The TOS says that if schools believe Summit has violated its promises or complied with the law, instead of suing they must submit to binding arbitration in San Mateo CA and are barred from filing class action complaints.  This type of provision has been heavily criticized when banks and credit card companies have included in their consumer agreements, and the Consumer Financial Protection Board is considering restricting their use. Why is this clause any more acceptable in your TOS?

22. What legal recourse do schools, teachers or parents have if Summit violates the law or its TOS, for example if Summit decides to sell or give away or carelessly store the data given that the TOS  says “UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES, INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION, NEGLIGENCE, WILL SUMMIT, ITS AFFILIATES, OR ANY PARTY INVOLVED IN CREATING, PRODUCING, OR DELIVERING THE SERVICES BE LIABLE FOR DAMAGES OR LOSSES” in any case?

23. In yet another clause of the TOS, Summit requires schools to “agree to indemnify, hold harmless, and defend Summit, and its affiliates, licensors, and service providers, and each of their respective officers, directors, contractors, agents…etc.et. against any and all demands, claims, liabilities, judgements, fines, interest, penalties… etc. including attorneys’ fees etc.” Why the need for so many layers of self-protection and disclaimers of liability?

24. What rights does a parent have in general if Summit violates the TOS or the PP?  Are they bound to the binding arbitration clause in the TOS that the school must agree to?

25. In another FAQ here, Summit says that it will not sign contracts or written agreements with individual school districts, and if the state requires this under law, districts or schools should try to “bypass that requirement” by claiming that a) Summit is not subject to the law because it is not a “vendor” but an “educational organization” and b) that they should not have to sign a contract because of the “nature of the partnership as a free exchange of ideas and services rather than a paid service relationship.”  But if you are gaining potential economic and programmatic benefits from your access to student data, including using it to build new and better “products” as the TOS states, why isn’t this a commercial relationship bound by state law?  And if this relationship is truly a “partnership” with a free exchange of ideas, why is the TOS so one-sided and seems to protect Summit from any possible liability, and not the school?

Ten questions for Seattle Public Schools’ IT Lead John Krull re: EdTech in schools and student privacy

questions-main.jpg

John Krull has agreed to answer some questions about what is happening in terms of technology and software programs planned for Seattle Public Schools.

As Krull states in his letter of application for the position within Seattle Public Schools, “I implemented a blended and personal learning infrastructure for 87 urban schools improving overall student engagement”.

To put that in plain English, “blended and personalized learning” means that a student works in front of a computer the greater part of the day and the teacher is then able to manage over 30 students in a class, theoretically, which is a way to cut cost.

Computers or laptops are programmed with Common Core Standard packaged lessons and its associated testing which becomes an integral part of the software. There is also experimentation with using a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) program that is integrated into the computers to determine a student’s mindset and attitude.

Then there is the concern of student privacy and the culling of personal information that can be provided to third parties with no protections by FERPA.

We raised a red flag on this website when we discovered that John Krull had been hired by Seattle Public Schools after working in Oakland with their public school system and I wrote about it for The Progressive.

Mr. Krull has agreed to answer some questions for us and he will have an opportunity, in a second article, to air his disagreement with what has been written so far on this website.

The following are the ten questions we submitted to John Krull, Chief Information Officer for Seattle Public Schools on April 14th.

1. Why did you decide to move to Seattle after working for two years as Chief Information Officer in the Oakland public school system?

2. Are you familiar with the Homeroom software? Apparently, it has been installed in some Seattle schools as a pilot program. If you are familiar with the program, what do you see as its value? Do you know what the cost is to buy, install and implement the program along with technology upgrades to sustain this program if it is used within the entire SPS school system?

3. Homeroom allows the collection of sensitive behavioral information and there is concern by parents that too much student information is being requested by the software. Do you know who is privy to this information and would it include the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and Seattle’s Department of Early Learning?  Do you know if the information will it be tracked as a student continues through high school?

4. What is the Technology Plan for Seattle Public Schools? Will you be writing a new or revised Technology Plan as you did for Oakland Public Schools? 

5. Are you familiar with CASEL? If so, what is your role to be with this program?

6. Do you have a plan for notifying parents of the information that is gathered by software distributed to schools within the Seattle school district including Homeroom?

7. On the Seattle Public Schools’ website it notes that you wrote a paper titled “How Do You Measure Return on Investment of EDtech” and another paper “Creating a Platform for Staff and Student Growth”. There were no links provided to these papers. Please include a link in your response or a pdf that we can post.

8. What are your views on the use of devices such as laptops by young children, particularly between kindergarten and second grade? In Oakland, Clever badges are used by the youngest students to start up their laptops.

9. You state on the Seattle Public Schools website that you have a vision and commitment for an “equitable, supportable, standardized and secure environment to improve teaching and learning.” What are your definitions of “standardized” and “secure”?

10. You tweeted about IMS Global in January of this year. What is your relationship with IMS Global?

Related posts:

EFF Survey Reveals Gaps in Protecting the Privacy of K-12 Students Using School-Issued Devices and Cloud Apps

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

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

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

The US Department of Education’s Digital Promise to advance the ed-tech field and online learning in public schools

Washington State’s Digital Promise School Districts: Creating new markets for personalized learning snake oil

Oops! Study Shows Computer Use in School Doesn’t Help Test Scores

ACT study: Common Core, not ready for prime time

Video: Clinical Child Psychologist: The Common Core Standards are developmentally inappropriate

Common Sense Questions About the Common Core Test

How we got the Common Core Standards: Federal Manipulation Through Race to the Top

Who wrote the Common Core Standards? The Common Core 24

The facts about the Common Core Standards

Submitted by Dora Taylor

Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association video: What corporations have in store for public schools

FARRELL_corporate_desk.jpg

The third episode of PJSTA Live, in affiliation with Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association, deals with what corporate reformers see as the future of public education.

The two guests in this episode are Alison McDowell and Jia Lee.  Alison McDowell is a parent and a public education activist who blogs at Wrench in the Gears.  Jia Lee is a member of the Movement of Rank and File Educators and organizes teachers in the fight against public school privatization.

Alison’s PowerPoint can be found here.

A corresponding article written by Alison, “Digital Curriculum: Questions Parents Should Be Asking”, is here.

Submitted by Dora Taylor

 

 

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

 

You cannot fully understand what is happening with Future Ready school redesign, 1:1 device programs, embedded assessments, gamification, classroom management apps, and the push for students in neighborhood schools to supplement instruction with online courses until you grasp the role the federal government and the Department of Defense more specifically have played in bringing us to where we are today.

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.

Section 5 of that order set up “The Advisory Committee on Expanding Training Opportunities” to advise the president on what should be done to make technology-based education a reality for the ENTIRE country. The intent was not only to prioritize technology for “lifelong learning,” but also shift the focus to developing human capital and in doing so bind education to the needs of industry and the economy.

Representatives of Cisco Systems and Jobs for the Future co-chaired the committee. Others around the table included the e-learning industry, student loan financiers, educational testing companies, human resource managers, labor market analysts, universities, community colleges, chambers of commerce, city government, and a futurist. George Bush incorporated Clinton’s work into Executive Order 13218, the 21st Century Work Force Initiative, the following year giving the effort a bipartisan stamp of approval. The Obama administration continued this push for online learning in the National Broadband Plan, which contained an entire chapter on digital education, as well as through a variety of 21st century school redesign efforts like ConnectEd, Future Ready Schools, and Digital Promise.

ADL began as an electronic classroom for the National Guard and later expanded to serve the entire Defense Department. In 1998 the government decided to use it for ALL federal employee training. And by leveraging its influence over federal contracting the government successfully pushed for standards that enabled wide adoption of cloud-based instructional technology.

As the Department of Defense worked on e learning for the military in the mid 1990s, the Department of Education put together the nation’s first educational technology plan, which was completed in 1996. A tremendous infusion of federal funds was released into schools to support technology purchases and expand Internet access. The FCC’s E-Rate program was established that year.

At the same time 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.

Over twenty years IMS Global members shared research and resources, and built up an industry now valued at $255 billion annually. So if you still wonder why they won’t give education back to human teachers, you simply need to take a close look at the many politically connected interests that are counting on digital education becoming the new paradigm.

IMS Global and ADL teamed up to establish common standards for meta data and content packaging of so-called learning objects. In the world of 21st century education reformers anticipate school will become largely about children interacting with these online learning objects-a playlist education if you will where based on your past performance algorithms will serve up what they think you need to know next. For folks like Reed Hastings, Jeff Bezos, or Mark Zuckerberg, such an education where students consume pre-determined content seems the ultimate in efficiency. Gamified experiences and online simulations being developed through ADL and DARPA in partnership with many universities and non-profits, will also provides a structure for to capture students’ soft skills and shape their behavior.

The first product ADL and IMS Global came up with was called SCORMor Shared Content Object Reference Model. SCORM provided pathways for the bits and pieces of e-learning content to get to a particular learning management system, like Dreambox, accessed by a particular student. It tracked elements like course completion, pages viewed, and test scores.

By 2008, there was a desire to track a student’s interaction with devices OUTSIDE of fixed learning management systems. New devices and games often did not work within the SCORM framework. Ed-tech proponents wanted students to be able to interact with online content in new ways, so they could record interactions taking place on mobile platforms, directly through browser searches, or via Internet of Things sensors.

ADL commissioned a new specification that could track activity streams as students interacted with online media. The result was xAPI or Tin Can API, which debuted in 2011. Now all sorts of data can be monitored, tracked, and put into data lockers or learning record stores. LRS’s can store information about what videos you watched, what online quizzes you took and the results, what websites you visited, what books you purchased, what games you played, what articles you read or annotated. It can also capture data gathered via sensors, RFID chips, and biometric monitors. LRSs collect data about all sorts of so-called “informal” learning experiences. The MacArthur Foundation has been funding considerable research in digital media learning (or DML) in informal settings for youth.

With the development of xAPI, the Ed Reform 2.0 vision of “anytime, any place” learning, learning where human teachers and school buildings are no longer required, could proceed more quickly. IMS Global is now supporting Mozilla’s open badge initiative. xAPI meta data could eventually be combined with badge programs and Blockchain/Bitcoin technology to create e-portfolios (online credential systems). And if automatic credential verification and micro-payment systems come to fruition, a virtual wallet voucher system could devastate already precarious public education funding.

The Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative is a major player in the development of mobile, game-based, and virtual learning environments. They also conduct extensive research and development on online “personal learning assistants” and with the aim of creating digital personal tutors for all of us. Their research is carried out at four Cooperative Laboratories or co-labs, which are located in Madison, WisconsinAlexandria, Virginia; Memphis Tennessee; and Orlando, Florida. Each lab supports partnerships with private sector interests and institutions of higher education.

The Wisconsin co-lab works specifically on academic projects, many involving the Florida Virtual School with whom they have a long-standing relationship. The co-lab’s focus is on competency-based education. They’ve partnered with the Educational Psychology department at the University of Wisconsin Madison to create educational gaming platforms and maintain over 60 other partnerships to research and refine game-based online instruction. Another focus has been on developing MASLO or “Mobile Access to Supplemental Learning Objects,” which is enabled by xAPI technology. The Tennessee co lab has been doing research on an intelligent tutoring system that even recognizes human emotion in the person using a given device and tries to counteract negative emotion.

DARPA-the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is also in the business of developing gaming simulations and intelligent tutoring systems. They work closely with the office of the Navy. Their “Engage” program was set up in 2012 and through partnerships with Carnegie Mellon, Texas A&M, UCLA, and the University of Denver, created numerous games for K12 students based on Alternate Reality Teaching “Our Space” in virtual environments. Instruction in Social Emotional learning was built into the games. Their Full Spectrum Learning project aims to create an online platform that can monitor students and identify their strengths and weaknesses and revise the experience adaptively based on the data generated.

The arrival of ADL, changed public education in a very fundamental way. It is no coincidence that the destructive No Child Left Behind Act was signed into law in the year after it was created. Over the next fifteen years, with bipartisan support, education incrementally gave way to training, creativity to compliance, serendipity to standards, and human connection to digital isolation. As the curriculum became narrower and narrower, emphasizing standardized test scores and demonstrations of skill, education became a hollowed out exercise, something could be digitized and outsourced to corporations.

Data-driven, standards-based tactics have been intentionally employed to regiment the very human process of teaching and learning. During ADL’s first decade, the imperative was to get technology and Internet into schools. Once that infrastructure was in place, they could concentrate on restructuring the curriculum making screen-based education central and pushing the teacher into a secondary role on the sidelines.

Common Core State Standards were a big part of that process. The National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers created the standards in 2009. Not as many people know about the Common Education Data Standards that were established at the same time. CEDS enabled the collection and sharing of vast amounts of data across sectors from Pre-K through Community College.

The Learning Registry is another important piece of the puzzle. It was created in 2011 as a partnership between the US Department of Education and once again the Department of Defense. It is an open source distribution network of learning resources that holds meta data and para data. It is important to understand that learning objects can be tagged in many ways, including adding tags for a variety of standards. For that reason even if we get rid of Common Core State Standards, it wouldn’t necessarily make a dent in slowing down the rollout of adaptive, digital curriculum.

In addition to meta data, which is data that describes individual education resources, the Learning Registry also collects para datathrough the use of emitters that can be mounted on smart boards in classrooms.

Para data describes how online learning resources are used:

  • Who’s doing the searches?
  • What students are in the room with the person doing the searches?
  • A history of searches conducted
  • What is being viewed, downloaded and shared?
  • What is favorited or embedded?
  • To which standards is the selected content aligned?
  • What tags have been added to content?
  • How is it being incorporated into the curriculum?
  • What grade is it being used in?
  • Where is it being used?
  • What is the audience is for the item?
  • What the instructional setting is.
  • What is the experience level of the class and the teacher?

The devices in our children’s classrooms are largely there because a specific set of government policies have prioritized technology over human educators for the past fifteen years. These devices are watching us as much as we are watching them. And we should be aware that many of the programs in use are direct outgrowths of work done by the Department of Defense in partnership with private sector interests and institutions of higher education. Technology can be used for good, but not if it is given an unconditional pass in our classrooms. Shine a light on educational surveillance. Ask questions. Talk to others and organize!

-Alison McDowell

Save the Date.

Alison McDowell will be speaking in Seattle on March 25th, from 10AM-1PM at the Lake City Branch of the Seattle Public Library (12501 28th Ave. N.E. Seattle, WA 98125 ).

Her talk Personalization or Profiling: Childhood in the Ed-Tech Era Ed Reform 2.0 is free and open to the public. 

 

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

endgame

 

“It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself – anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide…There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime, it was called. The Party’s surveillance tactics and technology are so advanced that even the smallest twitch can betray a rebellious spirit.”

George Orwell, 1984

 

The endgame of corporate reform of public school classrooms creates a clearly defined two-tier system:

  • Students in public schools will be taught the basics by way of the Common Core Standards on a computer and assessed the same way with student performance and psychological attributes stored and tracked.
  • Students in private schools will have well qualified and highly educated teachers offering various subjects in depth along with classroom discussion and learning experiences outside the classroom. Privacy is insured.

One tier is for future workers producing when and where the market demands. The second tier will be the professionals and leaders such as diagnosticians, diplomats, attorneys, scientists, writers, architects and doctors.

Wealthy individuals like Betsy DeVos and Bill Gates are creating a future for students in public schools that has little in common with how their own children were educated.

Their motives aren’t entirely clear but there are individuals and corporations surrounding them who are profiting mightily from their vision for the rest of us.

Dick and Betsy DeVos

doe

Let’s start with Dick and Betsy DeVos which is where I began this journey planning to write a simple piece on the selection of Betsy DeVos for the position of Secretary of Education in the Trump administration.

As I began to look into Betsy Devos’ activities related to public schools in Michigan and her relationship with Rick Snyder, I found myself diving into a rabbit hole that lead me from Betsy DeVos and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to Bill Gates and ended ultimately with school districts such as the Oakland Public School district and the Seattle Public School district with a connection to the Department of Defense.

Betsy DeVos, although not an educator and her children only attending private schools, has taken upon herself to ensure that children attending public school have an opportunity to go to a private school or more preferably, a religious (read: Christian) school, by use of vouchers.

All school districts have an allocation of funds for every student in the district. It can be on average $5,000 to $7,500. The idea of a voucher is to give the allocated public funds to a student so they can attend the private school of their choice. This is also how charter schools are funded, the public money goes with the student.

The first charter schools in Michigan were operated by the DeVos’ close friend, J.C. Huizenga, who founded the National Heritage Academies, Inc., a for-profit charter school management company and one of the largest school charter school operators in the country. Huizenga is also a major contributor to the DeVos’ 501c4 organization, the American Federation of Children.

The first charter school in Michigan, Excel Charter Academy in Grand Rapids, Michigan, founded by Huizenga’s company, Educational Development Corporation (EDC), was essentially a Christian school, with mandatory prayer meetings.

The first enrollees were students who transferred from private Christian schools preferring a free Christian education. The school was closed after threats of lawsuits from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The DeVos and their friends now use code words such as “moral focus” and “classical education” when referring to the idea of public religious schools.

Huizenga’s National Heritage Academy is also affiliated with the rightwing lobby group the American Legislative Exchange Council  (ALEC ) and is a member of its Education Task Force. For a recommended report on ALEC and education, see ALEC versus Kids: ALEC’s assault on public education.

ALEC is known for providing templates for state bill proposals for legislators. These proposed bills provide profitable returns to various industries. One of those industries now is in the realm of public education. For example, there is the “Statewide Online Education Act” which according to the website “creates a statewide program that provides high school students with access to online learning options regardless of where the student lives.” There is the “Next Generation Charter School Act” which “eliminates special distinctions between virtual and non-virtual charter schools” and the “Resolution of Student Centered Accountability Systems” which includes a “timely provision of student-level data, measure student-specific progress and restore the focus of high-stakes testing to be on advancing individual student instruction and growth.”

These bills ensure that online, computer centered learning is integrated into statewide public school systems and mostly in the form of virtual charter schools. These virtual schools have a large profit margin because they do not require brick and mortar buildings and little in the way of staff and yet they receive the same amount of tax dollars per student as a public school made up of buildings, teachers, administrators and support staff.

One of the members of ALEC is K12, an online learning enterprise which has virtual schools in Washington State. K12 is under investigation now in California and previously made a settlement with the state of $168M regarding its financial practices.

Betsy DeVos also likes online learning, sometimes referred to as “blended” or “personalized” learning, where the student is in front of a computer most of the school day, doing lessons and being assessed virtually. Teachers are seen as “guides”, no longer educators, and the student is isolated with their head phones on sitting in cubicles or at home. This is, as DeVos says, learning “anytime, anywhere”  and a term you will hear repeated by others in this article.

Then there is Dick DeVos who is a proponent of Intelligent Design, the belief that life is so complex that it must have been designed by an “intelligent being”, referring, of course, to a Christian god. Dick DeVos pushed to get his idea introduced into science classes in Michigan. .

Per the New Yorker:

Along with her husband, [Dick]DeVos is an active member of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, a small Protestant denomination with the stated belief that “all scientific theories be subject to Scripture.” According to the church’s official statement on science, “Humanity is created in the image of God; all theorizing that minimizes this fact and all theories of evolution that deny the creative activity of God are rejected.” DeVos attended Calvin College, which is owned and operated by the Christian Reformed Church.

Betsy DeVos also attended Calvin College.

Dick DeVos strategy for the religious takeover of schools was spelled out in a speech he gave for the Heritage Foundation in 2002.

In an excerpt of that speech, he suggests that this campaign be stealth-like rather than open for public and civic debate.

Members of the DeVos family are big contributors to the state Republican party and candidate campaigns in Michigan including the financial support of Governor Rick Snyder which leads us to the Governor of Michigan.

skunk.jpg

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and “Skunk works”

In 2011, Governor Rick Snyder presented his “Anytime, Anyplace” school choice plan for Michigan.

In an EdWeek article titled ‘Any Time, Any Place’ School Choice Plan in Michigan,

Sean Cavanagh wrote:

Michigan Gov. Rick Synder proposed sweeping changes to education this week, but perhaps his most striking idea is to create an open-market for students to choose public schools—without regard to traditional district boundaries.

The Republican governor labels his choice plan “Any Time, Any Place, Any Way, Any Pace.” Students and families who live in a school district would be given the first option to enroll, but school systems would also be required to accept out-of-district students, space permitting. This plan relates to ALEC’s “Statewide Online Education Act”

In 2013, Governor Rick Snyder’s Chief Information Officer, David Behen, put together a team in secret to develop a system of virtual schools using a state voucher program. The group titled their project “Skunk works”.

“Skunk works” is a term referring to a clandestine World War II era collaboration between the U.S. military and the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. It is sometimes used by organizations as a name for projects with little official and no public oversight.

David Behen, who holds a seat on Governor Snyder’s Cabinet and is director of the Department of Technology for Michigan State, led the effort. The group included charter school owners and investors, personnel from information technology companies, several members of Snyder’s staff and Tim Cook of the Huizenga Group founded by Dick and Betsy Devos’ friend, JC Huizenga.

According to documents received in a FOIA, a plan was developed to convert public schools into cyber schools, allowing for seat time waivers and describing a funding model showing how virtual schools would be cheaper, no brick and mortar buildings and tutors rather than certified teachers, thereby saving money on educating children in public schools. These schools are referred to as “value schools” in the document. Vouchers would be used for students to attend a cyber school. Vouchers are not legal in Michigan at this time.

On page 97 of the FOIA is a document titled “Michigan Education Transformation” and describes a plan for a pilot “value school” where all students do their lessons on a computer and are tested using software to evaluate not only their academic growth but also their emotional state. The document refers to accumulating information on a student’s mental and emotional state as “brain science”. The term P-20 also begins to appear at this time.

P-20 describes tracking public school students from pre-school to the age of 20. This means not only keeping personal files on each student and their academic performance but also their social and emotional development. The term Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) describes how software is used to determine a child’s psychological development and abilities during the time they are on a computer doing the lessons and being assessed.

According to the Skunk works’ “Transformation” plan, these virtual schools will “require no seat time because advancement will be achieved by demonstrating competency”, using a computer. In doing this, they declare they will “produce ‘work ready’ graduates that match talent and skills with real business needs”, basically plugging students into jobs like cogs in the corporate wheel.

When word got out about this project, Governor Snyder initially denied knowing about the group or the plan that was developed in secret.

The plan was officially dropped after receiving much public backlash and threats of a lawsuit by the Michigan ACLU.

The Oakland Public School District

krull
John Krull

This takes us to Oakland, California where the idea of “anytime, anywhere” online learning has been developed to its fullest extent with the help of John Krull former Chief Information Officer for Oakland Public Schools from 2014 to 2016 and now the Chief Information Officer in Seattle. And yes, discovering Krull’s presence in Seattle is disconcerting. This is particularly concerning because in the Strategic Plan for Seattle Public Schools on page 18 under the heading “Strategy 3: Integrate and align operational, business, technology and academic systems to support the needs of students, teachers and schools” is the objective “Improve technology infrastructure at schools to support web-based blended learning and computer based assessment.”

The Oakland Public School superintendent at the time, Antwan Wilson, who was a graduate of the unaccredited Broad Academy for Superintendents in 2014, also spent two years in Oakland from 2014 to 2016 before moving to Washington DC to be the chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools.

Krull spent two years with Oakland Pubic Schools during that same period developing a Technology Plan, which reads like a strategic/curriculum plan rather than an IT plan, with a focus on the Common Core Standards. In addition, it describes the architecture of the necessary infrastructure to provide online learning and assessments for every student. The tech plan includes providing each student a Chromebook loaded with Common Core lessons and testing software for the related  Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test. The software is provided by Pearson. “And with Google Apps, students can easily access their work and files from anywhere, on any device, at any time.”  The startup cost to the district for the Chromebooks was $40M.

When you spend this kind of money for laptops and IT upgrades, there is nothing left for additional teachers, much needed school staff or additional classroom space, but that might be the point.

The distribution of laptops has not ended well in other districts and I project it will not have a happy ending in Oakland but instead become an expensive boondoggle.

There is also the issue of all the student information on a laptop being tracked and recorded.

That brings us to the next issue, Part 2 : Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and the Federal Government.

Dora Taylor

 

The Ballad of Joseph Olchefske: Middle College, Ed-Reform Market Failure, and the March of Online Learning

hello_my_name_failure

What do you think should happen in this scenario?

The superintendent of the largest school district in the state, through mismanagement and carelessness, runs up a crippling 35 million dollar deficit?

If you believe in the efficiency of the market, the answer should be easy.

The superintendent would be immediately fired. Since his actions lost the school district money or in business terms – became extremely unprofitable,  he would never again have a job related to education.

Meet Joseph Olchefske, an expert in finance, and a rising star in Seattle Public Schools in the late ’90s. After the untimely death of his mentor, John Stanford, Olchefske officially became Superintendent of SPS in February of 1999.

Within four years of his tenure, the district would be facing a 35 million dollar deficit and Olchefske would be on the receiving end of two separate votes of no confidence.

Here’s a timeline from the Post-Intelligence which documents the unravelling.

Timeline

Sept. 14, 1995: Seattle Schools Superintendent John Stanford appoints Olchefske to be chief financial officer for district. He had been a public-finance manager for brokerage firm Piper Jaffray in Seattle since 1986.

Nov. 28, 1998: Stanford dies of acute myelogenous leukemia.

Feb. 09, 1999: Olchefske, who had been interim superintendent after Stanford’s death, is named permanent superintendent.

Aug. 16, 2002: Olchefske’s chief financial officer, Geri Lim, resigns in exchange for $51,000, a letter of reference and $1,000 for job-hunting costs.

Oct. 4, 2002: Olchefske announces that accounting glitches and computer problems led to a $35 million budget shortfall.

Oct. 28, 2002: Principals Association of Seattle Schools votes against holding a no-confidence vote.

Nov. 1, 2002: Seattle School Board votes in support of Olchefske.

Nov. 05, 2002: Seattle Education Association, the teachers union, publicly calls for Olchefske to resign.

March 28, 2003: Principals Association executive board votes no confidence in Olchefske.

April 4, 2003: Teachers union votes no confidence in Olchefske. “I’m committed to being superintendent,” he responds.

April 14, 2003: Olchefske resigns.

You would think a 35 million dollar financial meltdown would be a big red flag on someone’s resume. Not so for Olchefske. He immediately landed a job with the American Institute for Research, also know as AIR.

AIR’s founder got his start pioneering psychological testing to screen for prospective combat pilots during World War II. Afterwards, AIR expanded into the area of education and workforce readiness.  As you can imagine, AIR is all in when it comes to the recently updated ESSA and the associated competency-based and social emotional learning.

Middle College

How did Olchefske make the leap from a widely disliked superintendent to Managing Director at the American Institute for Research?

I’m guessing one of his pet projects in Seattle had a lot to do with it.

In January of 2001, Seattle Public Schools partnered with the Simon Youth Foundation to launch The Northgate Mall Education Resource Center, also know as the Mall Academy. This school was added to the Middle College concept within Seattle Public Schools (SPS).

High school students enrolled in the Education Resource Center would attend classes at the mall focusing on skills training such as applied health occupations and vocationally certified school-to-work programs. Students could even work at the mall for credit.

The idea of a vocational school at the mall was so innovative, in fact, the John Hopkins School of Education has an article about it on its website. Oh, did I mention Olchefske is an Adjunct Professor at John Hopkins?

Most of all, the Education Resource Center will serve as a catalyst for partnerships between educators and employers and will benefit the mall, its stores, and the students it serves. Junior Achievement of Seattle and Community in Schools are just two of the additional partners who have already committed to provide services and resources to support the students. Young people will receive instruction and on-the-job training for careers in retailing, and there will be management track employment opportunities at the mall for graduates of the retail-training program.

“This is a tremendous program, not only for our students, but for the City of Seattle,” said schools Superintendent Joseph Olchefske. “It represents the kind of innovative, out-of-the-box thinking that is so essential if we are to deliver on the dream of academic achievement for every student in every school.”

It’s worth noting the history surrounding Middle College. When first conceived, the Middle College concept was based on reaching high-risk kids through an association of a small school with a strong social justice focus. Adding a solely jobs training, commercially orientated school to the mix was bound to create friction – and it did.

In May of 2015, Superintended Nyland abruptly announced the closure of Middle College at High Point. This was one of the schools under the Middle College umbrella with a social justice core curriculum designed to connect with at-risk kids. There was a huge pubic uproar over the closure.

As the controversy grew, the ed-reform supporting The 74 published a “hero in education” puff piece in December praising the work of Middle College High School at Northgate, Simon Youth Foundation, and its work with at-risk youth.

Today, Middle College at Northgate has a blended instructional model meaning much of the class time is spent on a computer.

Middle College High School @ Northgate is a distinctive educational environment that offers direct and digital academic instruction. It is a student-centered, alternative option that encourages the development of community, personal responsibility, and active learning in the core disciplines of math, science, social studies, and language arts. It is a place to prepare for higher education or career readiness in a small, compassionate academic setting.

Ed-Reform Market Failure

After AIR, Olchefske has continued on his gold-plated career trajectory.

He’s worked for: Educate Online, Mosaica Education, Inc.Calvert EducationEducation Industry Association (EIA)Flex Academies, and Springboard Education in America, LLC.

What do all of these companies have in common?

The privatization of public education and the push to move school online, outside of school buildings, and toward the “anytime, anywhere, learning model”. Viewed through that lens, The Northgate Mall Education Resource Center was ahead of its time.

Way back in 2003, former SPS school board member Don Nielson seemed more worried about Olchefske than the district’s financial trouble.

Don Nielsen, a former school board member and a supporter of the superintendent, was disappointed to learn of Olchefske’s resignation. “I think it’s not in the best interests of the district, but it probably is in the best interests of Joseph and (wife) Judy and their family,” he said. “Anybody that has a complaint with the district is now focusing on him. He didn’t see that going away anytime soon, if at all. As long as he’s a lightning rod, it’s going to be tough for him to lead.”

Nielsen shouldn’t have worried. It seems Olchefske is doing just fine. With the passage of the dumpster fire that is the updated Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), I would expect him to do even better in the future.

-Carolyn Leith

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

15492369_361057180915558_5003767087127374329_n

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

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

Don’t believe me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or

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

In it for the long haul.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

Crisis of courage. 

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

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

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

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

The only thing missing is the courage to do so.

Final thoughts.

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

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

-Carolyn Leith

 

 

 

 

Passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – $8 Million from the Gates Foundation and the Myth of Local Control

pants-on-fire

Remember when a return to local control was the biggest selling point for the passage of The Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA)?

States would be allowed to set their own education policies. Principals, teachers, and parents could escape the long shadow of the “broken” No Child Left Behind.

I’ll let Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers take us back.

For years, educators, parents and members of our broader communities were the canaries in the coal mine, crying out that hypertesting was hurting students, demoralizing teachers and frustrating parents. We will continue to be vigilant as work shifts to the states to fix accountability systems and develop teacher evaluation systems that are fair and aimed at improving and supporting good instruction. This new bill promises the creation of better accountability and support systems, and our students, their parents and their educators deserve nothing less.

To be fair, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, President of the National Education Association, was sure passage meant teacher and parent input would matter.

But “shrinking” doesn’t describe Garcia. She firmly declares that the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act earlier this year, the major federal education overhaul, opens the way for her members, in partnership with parents and other groups, to reinvent education for the better — this time, with an eye toward equity and educating the whole child. “I think the next big thing is doing the opposite of all the bad things,” she says.

Sounds so wonderful, right?

But how does this play out in the brutal and dysfunctional world of state politics? Where lobbyists rule, money is king, and the lack of the proper connections gets you nowhere.

For the Gates Foundation, this deplorable state of democracy is a distinct advantage. All that foundation money and non-profit proxies willing to do your bidding – for a price. It’s the perfect playing field for keeping the locals from having any real control.

Case in point:

In August of this year, the Gates Foundation awarded over $8 million ($8,725,010) in grants to:

  • support states as they development and implement ESSA plans
  • support Personalized Learning adoption in states leveraging the new ESSA guidelines

Wow, $8 million in Gates money to “help guide” the implementation of the ESSA.

Just in case you missed it: the local control provision in the ESSA means squat if Gates can use his money to co-opt the process. And that’s exactly what he’s doing.

But wait, there’s more.

Politicians, like Patty Murray and Lamar Alexander, get political cover from the soon to be horrible implementation of the ESSA by arguing that they fought hard for local control – knowing full well Gates had the interest, money and influence to exploit this “in” to dominate and shape how the ESSA would be implemented. What an ingenious scam.

Back to grants. Let’s take a look:

$7,900,010 to the New Venture Fund

screen-shot-2016-11-04-at-5-26-18-pm

$75,000 to Rodel Charitable Foundation DE

screen-shot-2016-11-04-at-5-29-50-pm

$750,000 to Education Commission of the States

screen-shot-2016-11-04-at-5-31-06-pm

Parent Involvement?

This got me thinking: What was the quality of the parent involvement that went into the development of Washington’s ESSA state plan?

According to a white paper by the National PTA, parents are supposed to play a big role:

ESSA specifically calls for parents to be meaningfully involved and consulted in the development of state and school district education plans. These education plans provide the framework for how a state and school district will deliver education services to public elementary and secondary school students. Additionally, the law requires that parents must be involved in the creation of “state report cards” that provide information on how all schools in the state are performing—such as graduation rates, attendance and student achievement levels. The report cards must be written in a parent-friendly manner so that families can understand the information provided and take action to support their child’s education.

Were parents “meaningfully involved and consulted in the development of” Washington’s state plan? So far, the evidence I’ve found points to “No”.

When I look over the list of the voting members of the ESSA Consolidated Plan Team, I see no parents listed.

What’s even more egregious: Of the 70 member of the ESSA workgroup, only one is designated as a parent representative – and THEY’RE also associated with the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.

screen-shot-2016-11-22-at-11-08-29-am

Even the Parent and Community Engagement Workgroup had minimal parent input. Of the 22 voting members, three were parents: Ellie Hutton, Laura Regala, and Stacey Klim.  But get this, of the three parent representatives, only one – Ellie Hutton, attended the three meetings of the workgroup. (Meeting minutes: May 20th 2016June 17th 2016, July 15th 2016.)

Even at the state level, it looks like the deck is stacked against parent input.

Which bring up the uncomfortable question: How do parents stand a chance against the Gates Foundation money and the insider approach to the development of the ESSA plan?

Answer: They don’t.

Final Thoughts

Randi Weingarten, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, and the rest of the ESSA promoters have a lot to answer for – and we should make them do it.

Randi and Lily both seem to love accountability for other people, especially children.

Now is the time for both union leaders to step up and own their mistaken faith in and active promotion of the ESSA as the answer to the wrongs created by No Child Left Behind. Otherwise, they’re just more empty suits spouting empty talk. (I’m not holding my breath.)

The rest of us need to get over the idea that our leaders hold our best interests above their own. Here’s the hard truth – they never have and never will.

You can’t outsource your activism. Protecting public education is too important to trust to politicians or any other leader. It’s something we have to do for ourselves.

-Carolyn Leith