No Thank You to Naviance

Reposted with permission from Feral Families.

feral families

The district has designed a scope and sequence of how to use Naviance with a focus on 11th and 12th grade but actual implementation will be left school to school. Once parents have forfeited their chance to opt out there will not be any other chances to give consent for certain portions. They told me it is an all in system with individual schools being left to make decisions about how they will accommodate students who opt out….

Through my daughter’s eighth grade year, I started to familiarize myself with how high school is organized nowadays in SPS. It’s been a long time since my Ingraham days of “tennis shoe registration” where we ran station to station with little index cards and golf pencils signing up for our courses manually. So with a few weeks until school let out when I received this email from Seattle Public Schools, my interest was peaked,

Dear families,

We are pleased to announce the district’s college and career planning tool, Naviance, will be available in the 2018-19 school year to support your student’s personalized journey through high school. This is a web-based, mobile-friendly tool that you and your student can use to explore interests and options, consider post-high school plans, and ensures all students can have access to post-high school planning supports.

The Naviance college and career planning tool will allow students to:

• Research careers and colleges: Learn about career fields linked to personal interests, compare data from college admissions offices, take personalized surveys to understand strengths and goals.

• Get involved in the planning process:Build a resume, manage timelines and deadlines for making decisions about colleges and careers; organize and track documents related to the college application process, such as requesting and submitting letters of recommendation and transcripts.

• High School and Beyond Plan: Schools will be using Naviance to deliver high school and beyond plan lessons in grades 8-12.  The high school and beyond plan is a graduation requirement, which helps students and counselors make sure graduation requirements are met and are aligned to identified goals.

• Scholarship search: Students can search a database of scholarships based on their interest and goals, and organize materials for scholarship applications in one place.

Student Data and Opt-out Information

The district thoroughly vetted Naviance’s policies and practices with respect to preserving data security and student privacy. Families can choose to opt their students out of using this tool.

For students to utilize the college application support tools in Naviance, some student demographic and academic records need to be shared.  This may include gender, ethnicity, and transcripts. Students will also have the opportunity to add information about themselves when developing their high school and beyond plan and using other college and career exploratory resources within the Naviance tool.

We will be importing student information beginning on July 1 so counselors can use their training days during the summer to prepare for supporting your student in the fall. The window to opt out will be June 4-22, and will open again at the start of school.

Read more about Naviance’s commitment to data security and student privacy and opt out instructions

Each of our students is on a unique educational journey. We are committed to ensuring every one of them receives the support needed to prepare them for college, career and life. High school and beyond planning is one way we are supporting this commitment.

Thank you,

The College and Career Readiness Team

Seattle Public Schools

To which I responded,

Dear Superintendent and Directors,

I received a letter about Naviance informing me that I could opt out but not how to opt out. I found the information on the district website and it says I have to change the preferences on my Source account but I do not participate in the Source. I consulted our upcoming high school principal and guidance counselor and neither of them know how to opt out without a Source account. I also tried replying to the College & Career team but the email was sent with “no reply” options or contact info.

Please advise. The opt out window ends on 6/22.

Thank you,

Shawna Murphy

I was surprised by a quick reply from the College & Career Readiness team offering to teach me how to set up a Source account. I said no thank you and let them know that for a variety of choice and access issues they need to offer families another way to opt out. Their department sent me a computerized form a day or two later which I remember finding funny because if you don’t have computer access to use The Source, how would you fill out a computer form? By this time I had talked to several friends who wanted to opt their children out of Naviance too, but the form stopped working. I contacted the College & Career Readiness team again and it turned out THEY HAD MADE THE FORM ONLY FOR MY USE! Now I do appreciate that I am a privileged outlier but I reminded them they need a simple way for ALL families to opt out; not just the well known agitators. They thanked me for the feedback and said that they would work on that for the next opt out window of 9/5-9/19. They asked me to check back at the beginning of the school year.

On the first day of my daughter’s high school experience I emailed the SPS Director of College & Career Readiness, Caleb Perkins to loop back about what kind of outreach they were doing for families about Naviance and how one might elect to have their child opt out of this new system. Many parents of middle school and high school students I had spoken with were wary of this new system over data sharing, privacy and tracking concerns. Mr. Perkins responded to my email requesting a phone meeting we scheduled one for the following day.

I knew what questions I wanted to ask and they mostly centered on how parents will learn about this system so they can make an informed choice whether they would like to participate. My friend and educational blogger, Carolyn Leith is much more knowledgeable about some of intricate details of the system and she sent me a list of questions to use for my meeting, they are as follows,

1. How is Naviance going to be used? What classes will be using the software and what surveys will students be expected to participate in. Will the district inform parents of what surveys their students will be expected to complete.

2. Some surveys used by Naviance were intended to be filled out by students under the supervision of a parent. Will parents have access to student accounts?

3. How will students who opt out of Naviance be accommodated? How will this work if Naviance is part of a planned curriculum? For families who object to their student’s participation with Naviance, will a counselor be made available to help students navigate the last two years of high school.

4. How will opting out be handled with courses such as career essentials?

5. Does answering/ using different surveys change the data sharing agreement signed between the district and Naviance? What data is being shared (or made available for access via API’s ) and with whom?

6. What platforms ( such as Google Suite, Clever ) have access to Naviance? Does Naviance also have access to the data collected in Google Suite, Clever, and other platforms?

7. Is Naviance interoperable with other platforms and software used by Seattle Public Schools? Will parents be informed of what data is being shared and with what programs?

8. Is Seattle Public Schools willing to put in writing that it holds student personality tests and other sensitive data collected by Naviance and does not share it and will be liable for any breaches or misuse?

9. Is Seattle Public Schools willing to make transparent what algorithms and weighted factors are used to put students on specific career tracts? Is Naviance willing to share this information?

I started the conversation casually, moved on to the questions, without recording their answers and then moved into a friendly discussion of the larger issues at stake. Mr. Perkins has committed to sending me written answers to these questions, but since the opt out window only runs until 9/19, I decided to write a blog post about our conversation now while it’s still fresh. Incidentally the College & Career Readiness team has set up five regional Naviance Information Sessions but to date they have been poorly publicized and offered only from 5:30-6:30, which is a tricky for many families.

A few things I learned at the beginning of my meeting on speaker phone with Caleb Perkins and Krista Rillo were that SPS paid a little over $600,000 total to Hobson for the use of Naviance for three years. The district paid for Naviance using a voter approved technology levy. The district believes their legal team has thoroughly vetted the contract and has stiff penalties in place for any future theoretical data breach.

The district has designed a scope and sequence of how to use Naviance with a focus on 11th and 12th grade but actual implementation will be left school to school. Once parents have forfeited their chance to opt out there will not be any other chances to give consent for certain portions. They told me it is an all in system with individual schools being left to make decisions about how they will accommodate students who opt out. In addition to The Source, families can also opt out by informing their school office. I gave strong feedback that these were not enough options. Not all families feel comfortable working with their school office and not all school office staff are going to welcome opt outs. I gave the example of how differently SBAC opt outs are handled school to school. At my daughters’ school, it was seen as no big deal with as many as 10% of our students opting out of standardized testing. But other schools are much more hostile to test refusers. At nearby Denny Middle School there was a school carnival that only students who had taken the SBAC could attend and other friends around the district reported having principals want to schedule parent conferences in response to their opt out emails. These parents were then strongly encouraged to have their students take the SBAC. I suggested publicizing a phone number that parents could call directly to opt out of Naviance.

Both Caleb and Krista talked about aspects of Naviance they are excited about. Students can apply directly to colleges, send transcripts and apply for scholarships. Mr. Perkins is especially excited about a set of videos featuring underrepresented groups in non traditional careers. I asked if parents would have access to this information. The answer was a little shocking. They said they were not building in parent access this year and that parents would potentially have “read only” account access next year. They also said that based on what types of searches and inquiries the student was making, they would receive more info in those areas. So if your student was surveyed to show interest in engineering, they would start receiving notices about STEM opportunities in the area. For me, this is a red flag for tracking, and between that, lack of parent access and the idea that my child may be sending my financial information to multiple parties through this system, I am alarmed.

The conversation then took a turn into the big picture and that’s when I really began to question what Seattle Public Schools has gotten themselves into trying to fulfill the legislature’s high school and beyond requirements. Mr. Perkins told me that there had been discussion by the School Board Directors, with some directors in opposition, to naming this new project “Seattle Ready” after the idea that in order to live in Seattle now one will need to have a high paying job. They argued that this idea is “economy driven” and I argued that the opposite is actually true. Not only is child care highly sought after in Seattle, as working class person, a child care provider making about $20, I took strong offense to this notion that students might be dissuaded from pursuing a meaningful career like mine, that gives me so much joy, and supports so many people, because it does not pay “Seattle Ready” wages. I pointed out to them that they were actually doing a disservice to their own workforce by promoting these classist and elitist ideas and I suggested they look to the example of our First Student bus drivers. A “Seattle Ready” system is never going to suggest that a student might enjoy a career as a bus driver and yet what vacancies have not been able to be filled this year and last? School bus drivers. The school bus driver shortage is wreaking havoc on our Seattle working families who’s school buses are frequently late and sometimes don’t show up at all.

Another example I gave, is the district’s own IA’s who often do not earn enough to afford housing in Seattle and have long commutes into the city. These are the same people that the district relies on to care for our most vulnerable students, a position I hold in high esteem and yet the district would deem this career not “Seattle Ready” viable.

I would rather that my student were taught the value of a day’s work and learn about social justice and organizing for better pay for all workers than be taught that some jobs are better than others. I don’t buy it. And what about my friends who ARE artists and musicians and writers but that is not the job they do for money. This early emphasis on what job we have and how it defines us is misguided at best and troubling for me as a parent of kids who dance to their own drum. My youngest has always said she will be an animal communicator and a fortune teller when she grows up and my oldest would like to write for sitcoms but is interested in retail while she starts working on her scripts. It seems highly unlikely these tracks are available in Naviance or any “economy driven” system but I want my children to be who they are, loving, kind and interesting people, who also will some day have jobs, and maybe many many different kinds of jobs; this is why I have chosen to opt out of Naviance.

-Shawna Murphy


The Comforting Lie of Basic Income and the Unpleasant Truths about the Platform Economy

Knightscope security robot

The powers that be have big plans for remaking the economy. Unfortunately, it doesn’t include living wage jobs or security of any sort for a vast number of citizens.

Amazon’s Mechanical Turk is a sobering example of what’s in store for workers in the coming platform economy.  A recent study found 3.8 million jobs had been completed by 2,676 workers using the MTurk platform as an intermediary between employer and employee. Of this sample, the median hourly wage for most workers was $2/hour, with only 4% of the total workers able to earn more than $7.25/hour.

No wonder the technology monopolists love the idea of a basic income, albeit for self-serving reasons.

First, there is the traditional libertarian argument against the intrusiveness and inefficiency of the welfare state – a problem that basic income, once combined with the full-blown dismantling of public institutions, might solve. Second, the coming age of automation might result in even more people losing their jobs – and the prospect of a guaranteed and unconditional basic income might reduce the odds of another Luddite uprising. Better to have everyone learning how to code, receiving basic income and hoping to meet an honest venture capitalist.

Third, the precarious nature of employment in the gig economy no longer looks as terrifying if you receive basic income of some kind. Driving for Uber, after all, could be just a hobby that occasionally yields some material benefits. Think fishing, but a bit more social. And who doesn’t like fishing?

Does earning $2/hour seem less terrifying on top of a basic income?

I’m not convinced, but there’s plenty of progressive thought leaders who are willing to jump on the bandwagon.

For example, The Economic Security Project recently held their first ever CASH Conference to re-imagine the economy and redefine work. Of course, a basic income scheme was the glue that was going to hold the whole thing together.

The Economic Security Project invites you to our first ever CASH Conference this fall in San Francisco. We will meet at the historic Old Mint, a building that once housed a third of our nation’s wealth, to reimagine what an economy built on the well-being of everyone could look like. We want to redefine what ‘work’ means and explore how a basic income could provide economic stability to Americans and fundamentally change society. Come hear former SEIU president Andy Stern on the future of work, State Representative Chris Lee on how to move politics forward, and Elizabeth Rhodes from Y-Combinator with an update on their basic income pilot in Oakland. We’ll talk to experts about the evidence for unconditional cash, examine why a basic income may be our best shot at alleviating poverty, surface the history of a guaranteed income in the fight for civil rights, and look at the kind of societal shifts automation could bring. We are bringing together artists, academics, activists and curious newcomers for a day of challenging conversations as we forge ahead towards a more secure future, and we want you there.

Alleviating poverty and fighting for civil rights, sounds so progressive, right?

But if you take the time to dig down, some inconvenient facts begin to surface. One of the most uncomfortable being that one of the progressive champions headlining this conference is more than willing to sell out workers for a seat at the table.

Meet Andy Stern, who uses his past relationship with SEIU as his progressive badge of honor. Never mind that during his time as union head he repeatedly undermine workers and – take special note education activists – later joined the board of the Broad Center, an organization hostile to public education and the teachers unions.

When it comes to the future of work, I don’t want Andy Stern speaking on my behalf.

But organizations also assume the same role as activist leaders  – masquerading as progressive champions while settling for market based solutions that don’t disrupt the interests of their monied benefactors.

The Y Combinator pitch for it’s basic income pilot is a perfect example of settling for the status quo and treating the symptoms rather than tackling the root cause of inequality.

What’s even more disturbing is the Y Combinator’s unquestioning acceptance of the radical remaking of the economy to further serve the interests of the rich and powerful. Think about it: if restructuring the economy is this easy, why isn’t the Y Combinator advocating for a humane system that ensures everyone gets what they need from the get go?

This fake progressivism starts to make sense once you take a look at two intertwined forces bent on destroying traditional institutions and replacing them with technological solutions which will consolidate power for those that control them: the platform economy and big data.

The platform economy creates a digital middle man between workers and employees. The platform handles the money and logistics while the worker covers most of the costs of doing business (insurance, health care, upkeep). Jobs become a string of temporary projects or gigs. Amazon’s Mechanical Turk is an example of the platform economy. 

Big data is the lubricant that keeps the whole system running – from the practical to the Orwellian. It picks up the garbage and enables new ways to create and extract wealth by data mining citizens in a total surveillance society. It allows capitalism to decouple wealth creation from the physical world and jump to the virtual. Total data collection opens up the opportunity for financial speculation, granular commercial targeting, and invasive state interventions into the lives of “troubled” citizens.

The Y Combinator basic income plan wraps the platform economy and big data into a human friendly package. First, it gives cover to and accepts as inevitable, the coming dominance of the platform economy. Second, it has the appearance of socialism – free money for everyone – while downplaying the true cost of this program.

What’s the true cost? Total surveillance of your personal habits, health, political activity, financial activity and education choices – with the understanding that the state may need to step in and nudge targeted citizens if they become a drag on the system.

If data is the new oil, then the Y Combinator basic income plan is a gusher.

Of course, the Y Combinator isn’t putting all of its nest eggs in one basket. This start-up incubator already has a whole division devoted to education with an emphasis on “the application of technology to enrich and transform education for all learners”. Ed-tech graduates of the program include: ClassDojo, Clever, MakeSchool, Padlet, Panorama Education, Platzi, and Remind.

But the problem goes much deeper than fake progressive leaders and organizations putting their stamp on anti-worker and market based initiatives.

How deep?

Guess who first pitched the idea of a basic income?

Milton Friedman, father of neoliberalism, who gushed after Katrina:

Most New Orleans schools are in ruins, as are the homes of the children who have attended them. The children are now scattered all over the country. This is a tragedy. It is also an opportunity to radically reform the educational system.

One thing about Milton Friedman, he was a true free-market champion and didn’t hide his intentions behind feel good double-speak like today’s education reformers and fake progressives.

He also called his basic income idea what it truly was: a negative income tax.

What’s a negative income tax?

The idea being poor people would get a portion of their designated negative tax payment back from the state as a cash reimbursement. The catch? These payments would be covered by cuts to existing government services like food stamps, social security, remnants of existing welfare programs and any other government initiatives designed to assist the poor.

Not only is this much less progressive than advertised, it provides the technology monopolists another market to exploit by leveraging and building upon the data collected by a basic income program.

Who needs any form of government when various online platforms can offer every kind of social service imaginable while Wall Street provides the funding through social impact bonds?

-Carolyn Leith

One Parent’s Experience with Basecamp, Summit’s Personalized Learning Platform

Original Title: Tech for Good and Not-So-Good. Reposted with permission from Real Chicago Mama.


Recently, I was asked about my experience as a parent with Summit PLP . This post is an attempt to capture the extent that I engaged my children’s school administrators about the program over the year that we were all part of the same public school community.

My family is no longer part of that school community. Whether it was my opposition to edtech or my fervent belief in the democratic process as a way to bring issues to light that precipitated the break, I cannot say. Was it my activism that drew the line that could not be smudged away? Are the administrators who implemented this grant-fueled, short-sighted, and privacy-robbing program equally to blame in breaking school-home trust?

At this point, it probably doesn’t matter. What does matter is my story, and how it might help you. These are the steps I took to examine–and ask others to examine–the Summit PLP program as it was implemented in my children’s school during the 2016-2017 academic year. (Fair warning: this post is extra long.)

I first heard of the program in early September when one of my children came home concerned about the change in grading policy. I asked questions over email, mostly regarding privacy, but some about how the program was meant to work:

Who is the end user in the privacy policy for Basecamp? Is it CPS? [School Name]? You? My student? In response, I received a canned answer:

The privacy policy provides transparency into what Summit does to help keep student information secure throughout their personalized learning experience. While the student is the primary user of the PLP, teachers, parents, and administrators also use the PLP, so all of these groups would count as the ‘user’ in the privacy policy. There are also some privacy FAQs on the Summit PLP website that you might find helpful.

And: Will you please send me a copy of Summit’s Privacy Policy, as referenced in the consent form, as well as an explanation of what this means: “as otherwise authorized by the school” within the consent form? Additionally, I’d like to see a copy of any written contract between [School Name] or CPS and Summit Basecamp that details the conditions under which both parties will use, disclose, protect, or secure student data that you are collecting.

Then I asked the same questions in person: Who else will have access to the system? Does the system use 3rd-party apps? The AP responded that they don’t use 3rd-party apps. They use Clever. Which is a 3rd-party app.

At a separate parent-teacher program roll-out meeting with a different set of parents, a parent asked about logging-in; the teacher didn’t mention privacy in her reply. Another parent asked when the program will be implemented; the teacher mentioned the consent form, but again didn’t mention the privacy policy referenced in the consent form. The teacher encouraged parents to get on the PLP every day – still no privacy. Another parent asked about the “no going back” aspect of this, whether the implementation of Summit PLP this year, in this way is funded/fueled by a grant; the AP explained the relationships between all the players, whose names are all used interchangeably — parents need a diagram just to follow it all. The AP told parents that the systems-based grading that is a required part of Summit PLP is actually coming from the Illinois State Board of Education. Another parent asked about consent and where the project is within the process. A parent asked about opting out, but teacher was flummoxed about how the opt-out process works. A parent asked about how the school will evaluate the success of the program.

A month later, I was again asking the same questions over email because administrators wouldn’t (or, I suspect, couldn’t) answer them: 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? 

The Privacy Policy says “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 parental consent? What additional rights does my consent afford Summit that Summit would not have without consent in terms of the collection, use and disclosure of a student’s personal information?

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? Is this in writing anywhere? 

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 Terms of Service (TOS)? What is the comprehensive list of personal data Summit is collecting and potentially sharing from my child? Does it also include my child’s homework, grades, test scores, economic status, disability, English proficiency status and/or race? 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? The PP 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?

Can Summit specifically itemize the companies/organizations that they will share my child’s data with, aside from those mentioned in the TOS? Are each of these third parties barred from making further re-disclosures of my child’s data? Are each of these third parties, and any other organizations or companies or individuals they re-disclose to, legally required to abide by the same restrictions as listed under Summit’s TOS and PP, including being prevented from using targeted or non-targeted advertising, and/or selling of data, and using the same security protections? Summit says that it does not market to students; are all Summit’s partners and/or those they disclose the information to barred from doing so as well?

The TOS mentions survey data. 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?

What does this mean in the Summit Privacy Policy: Summit will use my child’s personal data to develop new educational “products.” 

What does this mean in the Summit PP: Summit will share the data with anyone “otherwise directed or authorized by the school.” 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? What is “the school” in this case – CPS, [School Name], or Summit Learning?

And:  How much content will be taught by self-paced lessons? What happens if I don’t consent to the TOS? Will alternate methods of teaching be available to my student?

At a school board meeting, I reiterated the last set of questions. The answer was: Yes, but your child won’t have access to all the great stuff on the platform!

I didn’t sign the consent form. Of the 56 kids in one grade, 54 of their parents signed the form. When I talked to other parents, they said: “This thing is just too big to fight.” Others told me I was a fool for not recognizing this amazing innovation as such.

As the semester wore on, it became increasingly clear that the school had made no contingency plans to teach students whose parents did not consent. After all, there were only two of us. In November, a student (not mine) surveyed his classmates to determine whether they liked Summit PLP, and took the results to the administration.

Who ignored them.

By December, other parents openly expressed concerns about the platform on social media, and in conversation.

In January, a classroom newsletter to parents began with the following text, highlighted in a yellow box:

Did you know…
When you child’s teacher:
● has a reading, writing or math conference,
● uses information collected via surveys related to learning
preferences and styles,
● provides a choice board,
● allows students time to design inquiry projects,
● helps students choose their own research topics,
● empowers groups to select a novel for book club,
● designs questions in their plans around student needs and
goals or tailors discussions around student background
they are personalizing student learning?
Personalization has been happening at [School Name] since the school was created. It is part of what makes learning here different and successful. Ask us, we would love to discuss it!

I took the teacher up on it, and responded with the following questions:  In 2008-2014, there was a lot of talk about differentiating instruction and creating individual experiences within the class for students; how are these different or the same as personalized learning? Is there a reason [School Name] is changing the way we describe these activities? I am confused by the way these terms are being used because personalization and differentiation have different etymologies and are not synonyms, because learning and teaching have different etymologies and are not synonyms. 

The teacher invited me in for a casual conversation about personalized learning. I asked: I am still having a hard time understanding how personalized learning represents something akin to one-on-one tutoring. And, more importantly, how personalized learning is “research-based”?  When we met, the teacher told me that she was happy to talk to me about it, but also that everything she told me was had to stay in the room. I continue to honor that request. (No one else was in the room where it happened.)

In early February, a group of almost 90 parents signed a petition urging the school to reconsider use of the Summit PLP. Chief among parental concerns:

  • Summit Basecamp PLP requires too much parent involvement.
  • It is developmentally inappropriate and in some cases, harmful, for students to spend so much of their learning day using technology.
  • For many students, the one-on-one mentoring sessions that are supposed to take place once/week for 10 minutes with an adult “mentor” are less frequent and for a shorter duration than advised. Students have less contact with their teachers and more contact with their Chromebooks.
  • Instructional material found on Summit PLP is often confusing and of poor quality. Students must find their own “resources” from within the platform to understand basic concepts, answers to their own questions, and self-teach themselves the material. This is further complicated by the lack of textbooks or alternate, non-computer-based resources.
  • Summit PLP erroneously assumes that students in 6th and 7th grades have developed the academic skills to be independent learners.
  • Despite the “one stop view” promised, parents must sign into at least three different platforms in order to review their child’s progress and grades.
  • Increased class sizes and lack of teacher attention compound the negative effects of near-constant use of Chromebooks in the classroom.

The group presented the petition, accompanying signatures, and a list of the questions below to the local school board in mid-February. It was a public school, the local school board is an elected body of school stakeholders, and these discussions should be happening in public.

  1. What does the school’s data say about the PLP, and how does that compare to previous methods of instruction or content delivery?
  2. Is the PLP attracting people to the school or driving them away, and by what measurement?
  3. Why did we suddenly replace our previous methods of instruction with Summit?
  4. Why did the school roll out the PLP to one grade / one subject and then remove it without explanation or comment?
  5. Will Summit PLP provide any publicly available evaluation data? If so, when? Who has access to this data and how secure is it?  Are third parties allowed access?  What information security procedures does Summit have in place?
  6. How can we evaluate the veracity and transparency of Summit’s analysis and evaluation methods?
  7. Will Summit’s data be useful to our teachers or parents?  How much did Summit consult with classroom teachers and experts in developing their metrics?  Will the breakdowns and statistics provide items useful to an educator?  Does the school have staff members that can accurately evaluate this data?
  8. Summit’s claims of being innovative are self-purported at this point. There is no data available for the public to evaluate.  Will we trust their data and analyses completely since it comes from within their echo chamber?
  9. Will the school explain curricula and instruction delivery changes before the open enrollment or transfer deadline?

Teachers’ response to the petition was to testify as to the benefits of the program. The school’s response was to have more private conversations about the Summit PLP with signers, and to respond more broadly with the following emails:

Many parents and teachers expressed a desire to have more conversations and training around personalized learning and Basecamp.


I want to thank each and every person who has reached out to me over the past few weeks to share your questions and feedback related to our work with Personalized  Learning! It has been wonderful to hear your ideas and answer your questions. I have truly enjoyed each and every conversation that I’ve had. This is what makes us a community! Some of you have received [an] email regarding additional events related to PLP, but I would like to share it here for those of you who haven’t seen it. I encourage anyone who is interested to please respond to this [survey] so that we can plan the types of training and discussion events that YOU would like to see. We want to work together to make each and every student and parent comfortable with this learning platform.

Eventually, in March, the administration addressed some of the group’s questions:

The school would not say whether it would discontinue use of the Summit Basecamp PLP for the 2016-2017 school year or into the future.

Using Summit Basecamp PLP not as instructional delivery, but instead as an organizational tool to keep students on track. Not relying on Summit’s traditional metrics, but is using the school’s regular testing and evaluation measures (such as NWEA) to evaluate student progress, as has been done in the past.

Using the experiences and reactions of the teachers and the students in the classroom to evaluate Summit PLP’s effectiveness. Administration did not share precisely what measurements the school is using to make this evaluation beyond this feedback.

Consensus among teachers is that the Summit Basecamp PLP is effective at keeping students on-track, better than the school’s previous methods. As evidence of this organizational support: more current 6th grade students have made the principal’s honor roll this year. They did not offer data on how many of these students made honor roll in 5th grade, or how many students who are currently in 7th grade made honor roll when they were in 6th grade.

In terms of information security, the school shares the following personally identifiable information (PII) about students with Summit: first name, last name, Google Apps for Education email address, student ID number, and grade level. This PII represents the minimum amount of data that Summit requires schools to share in order for students to use Summit PLP. Summit PLP uses a third-party application named Clever to share encrypted information between the school and Summit PLP.

The details of the agreement signed by school parents to authorize sharing of their students’ PII with Clever and Summit PLP can be found at zendesk. That Summit’s privacy policy and terms of service covered in the agreement were not shared with parents was discussed.

In May, the school sent out another parent survey on the PLP with this message:

Would love to hear your feedback on your overall experience with the Summit Basecamp Learning Platform, otherwise known as the “PLP“.  Please take the time to thoughtfully answer the questions in this brief survey.
Later that month, the school quietly shared with incoming families that it would again reprise use of Summit PLP for the 2017-2018 academic year. Parents can read about it in via a link from its website.

-Real Chicago Mama