Promises and Threats In The 21st Century: Salmon Bay school’s Parent Information Exchange presents four movies on education issues

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Parent Information Exchange (PIE) Presents:

THE 2018 FILM SERIES 

 Salmon Bay School

1810 NW 65th Street

Seattle, WA

February 13th, February 28th, March 7th and March 13th

7:00 PM

The movies:

Education Inc.

The trailer:

https://vimeo.com/157617318

 

Rise Above the Mark

The trailer:

 

Backpack Full of Cash

The trailer:

 

Standardized

The trailer:

 

ALL FOUR FILMS will take place at Salmon Bay School auditorium at 7:00 PM and will also feature:

  • Free Admission
  • Popcorn and Candy
  • Drinks (Non-Alcoholic)
  • Several Random Door Prizes!
  • AND an Optional Essay Contest for interested Salmon Bay middle school students with prizes for each randomly chosen entry.

A Fun And Informative Evening For EVERY member of the family. Join Us!

For additional information, please call 206-786-4428 or email at steve@takebackyourtime.org.

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A Must Listen: Jennifer Berkshire Interviews Gordon Lafer on Have You Heard

Have You Hear

One of the highlights of attending this year’s Network for Public Education Conference was being in the audience for the panel When the 1% Run Our Schools: A Conversation with Jennifer Berkshire and Gordon Lafer.

Not only is Jennifer Berkshire an entertaining interviewer, Gordon Lafer provides a concise and insightful big picture overview of the corporate education agenda and why it’s so dangerous.

Have a listen.

-Carolyn Leith

The stealth campaign for charter schools found in emails of Seattle Public School employees and the candidacy of Omar Vasquez

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We have published several articles on Summit charter schools and “personalized learning” which is a sugar coated description of placing students in front of a computer for all their lessons and tests. There is nothing personalized about the programs, simply that the student can do the lessons at their own speed and has nothing to do with their interests, strengths or academic weaknesses. The program is prepackaged and a robot could provide the same learning experience.

Speaking of robots, Summit charter school and other commercial enterprises are now developing “academies” where anyone who has a pulse can take a course, become a “trainer”/“facilitator” and be hired by Summit or another online school to respond to student’s questions and track their progress. This is not my idea of receiving a good education but is a cash cow for business enterprises.

Another aspect of the idea of “personalized learning’ is that it is unvetted. No one knows who developed the programs, their credentials, and unlike a text book, you can’t open it and get an idea of the subject matter, its accuracy or whether the information is objective and unbiased.

We have written about how the small Mary Walker School District in Eastern Washington chose to include online charter schools under their umbrella under the guise of ALEs – Alternative Learning Experiences — even though the State Supreme Court had determined that charter schools were unconstitutional in the state. A hefty investment in Mary Walker by the Gates Foundation helped the small, cash-strapped district carry out this charter-laundering deal.

Seattle Education also noted later that in January of 2016, the Mary Walker School District (MWSD) rescinded their request for approval of charter schools in the City of Seattle after requests were made twice, first by The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and then by MWSD, for the school district to recognize the charter schools and thereby provide legitimacy to the schools.

During the legal limbo all Washington charter schools found themselves in after the state’s charter law was (rightly) found unconstitutional in the fall of 2015 and they were declared illegal, Summit Sierra Charter School in Seattle decided to recast itself as a ‘homeschooling center’ and avoid the Mary Walker scheme. But now it is back as a charter school, with no ties to the Seattle School District.

With all of this in mind, why are officials who represent the Seattle Public School district and various principals falling all over themselves to develop relationships with Summit charter schools, wasting valuable time and resources supporting a charter school when Seattle is still struggling with a limited budget and all the complexities of managing 104 actual public schools?

The Seattle Public School board passed a resolution on March 2, 2016 making clear its commitment to public education and its opposition to charter schools. Why are people within the administration ignoring that resolution?

Our next question is, why keep all this activity in the dark for three years, not providing the information to the Seattle Public Schools’ Board of Directors or the School Board’s Curriculum & Instruction Policy Committee? Is Seattle’s School Superintendent Larry Nyland aware of this activity? Michael Tolley, Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, who Michael Starosky reports to, the person who began the chain of events that we will describe, is to report directly to the superintendent. Is that happening? It seems as if there is a shadow district within the Stanford Center that neither the school board, parents nor teachers know anything about.

Per emails that we received through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), there have been numerous conversations between Seattle Public Schools’ key administrators and Summit representatives, meetings at Seattle Public Schools’ administrative offices, the Stanford Center, sharing of district information with Summit Sierra charter school and tours provided by both parties.

There has also been communication between Seattle Public School principals and Summit Sierra charter schools.

We will provide a timeline of the two batches of emails, Part One and Part Two, bringing to light what has been in the shadows for the last three years in a series of posts beginning today.

The focus of this first set of emails is a conversation between Eric Anderson, Director of Research, Evaluation & Assessment within Seattle Public Schools who shows on his LinkedIn page interests in the Broad Foundation (Center), Teach for America, The KIPP Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Malia Burns, Founding Executive Director of Summit Sierra charter schools who refers to herself as “Principal” as the occasion dictates, who is also on the Washington State Teach for America State Board.

Eric Anderson appears to have taken over from Broad Foundation “Resident” Brad Bernatek whom some of you might remember from his false17% stat about graduation rates.

To follow is the first timeline:

The specific emails referenced below can be viewed here. 

10/3/2014

Michael Starosky, Chief of Schools with Seattle Public Schools, does a “virtual introduction” between Malia Burns, former “Principal” of Summit charter schools, and Eric Anderson, Director, Research & Evaluation at Seattle Public Schools.

Starosky suggests Anderson would be a great resource to Burns in “learning in all things SPS”, particularly around data systems and measuring student growth.

10/6/2014

Anderson writes to Burns expressing his excitement in partnering with Summit Sierra charter schools.

4/8/2015

The Seattle Times reports the Seattle School Board has no interest in becoming a charter school authorizer. Unbeknownst to the board and public, Eric Anderson continues to collaborate with Summit Sierra charter school and continues to do so after the board’s position on charters is made public.

7/7/2015

Malia Burns with Summit charter schools contacts Eric Anderson to make arrangements to meet or talk on the phone about student assessments.

7/7/2015

Eric Anderson immediately responds to set up an appointment the next day.

7/7/2015

Malia Burns and Eric Anderson decide to meet at the Stanford Center where the Seattle Public School administration offices are located.

7/9/2015

Malia Burns to Anderson, “It’s great to meet kindred spirits working in education to support the work we all are doing within schools.”

Ms. Burns shares with Eric Anderson the login to Summit’s Personalized Learning Plan and cognitive skills rubric.

2/9/2016

Eric Anderson to Malia Burns, ”With all the Charter School news in recent months I thought I’d check in” and sharing his hope that everything “remains positive” for Summit Sierra charter school.

Anderson expresses interest in bringing a small team from Seattle Public Schools to visit Summit Sierra charter school.

2/9/2016

Malia Burns responds to Eric Anderson that they would “love to have a group visit” from people representing Seattle Public Schools.

2/9/2016

Jen Wickens, Chief Regional Officer for Summit charter schools who is also on the Strategic Advisory Council for Teach for America. Inc. and CEO of Impact Public Schools “providing leadership in the ed reform sector”, replies to Eric Anderson to arrange a visit to Summit suggesting sometime during the week March 14, 2016.

2/9/2016

The same day Eric Anderson responds to Jen Wickens confirming a visit the week of March 14, 2016 and stating an interest in Personalized Learning.  Anderson states he would like to bring in a group of 4-5 people with “our new Senior Research Scientist from my team” and “a couple of others from Teaching & Learning”.

11/10/2016

Jen Wickens and Eric Anderson arrange another onsite visit for Anderson to see a student demonstration of Summit’s Personalized Learning Plan

The next set of emails will focus on correspondence between Summit Sierra charter schools and principals within the Seattle Public School district.

Note: “Chief of Schools” is a new position created for Starosky. Starosky reports to Michael Tolley, Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning which is a relatively new position. Starosky oversees the activities of five Executive Directors which is another layer of Seattle Public Schools bureaucracy created by Broad trained Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson six years ago.

Michael Tolley is the last vestige of the Goodloe-Johnson era. The former superintendent brought Tolley with her from Charleston, SC.

*********************************

How Omar Vasquez fits into the push for charter schools in Seattle

Omar Vasquez, who is running for a position on the Seattle School Board, is on the Washington Board of Directors for Summit charter schools but he won’t likely tell you that. Omar started in education as a Teach for America, Inc. recruit, is now on the Washington State Teach for America Board and has been active with charter schools ever since since first working for Teach for America, Inc. Recently all information about his involvement with charter schools has been scrubbed from his website and LinkedIn Page. As an attorney in Seattle, he has represented charter schools.

When Mr. Vasquez was asked about charter schools during his candidate interview with the King County Young Democrats, he lied and said he never had any involvement with charter schools. The Young Democrats decided to endorse him based on that interview.

As Michael Maddox wrote on his blog #hashtag:

Omar Vasquez – I mean, this guy told one group that he supported Charter Schools, and another that he didn’t. The guy lies, and when he’s called out or criticized, shows a temperament that does not lend itself as evidence that he could be a good school board member. Blatant lying, shitty temperament, and support for Charter Schools? HARD PASS.

The Washington State Democratic Party platform states in no uncertain terms that the party opposes charters yet the State Democratic Party gave Vasquez $2,000 worth of in-kind donations to his primary campaign, most likely to obtain access to the vital GOTV tool VoteBuilder, which helped him eke out a second place finish in the primary after Zachary DeWolf and just ahead of Andre Helmstetter. The thousands of dollars from corporate ed reformers like Lindsy Hill, founder of the Washington TFA, and the Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) helped as well. His dishonesty about his charter ties helped smooth the deal. Do the State Democrats know they have been underwriting someone whose positions and work history directly conflict with their platform?

The teacher’s union at least, was not fooled by Vasquez. His Teach for America history would likely have been a deal breaker for them. The short-term  flash-trained TFA recruits have been used as a union-breaking tool and cheap labor for charter schools. As we have pointed out on this blog numerous times, the founder of Teach for America, Inc., Wendy Kopp is married to the founder of one of the biggest charter school franchises, KIPP’s Richard Barth. It’s bitterly ironic that charter schools which claim to aim to serve underprivileged students of color, offer these students the least qualified, high turnover teachers available – in direct contradiction of all research that shows that experienced, stable teaching staff serve these students best.

Vasquez’s Twitter history also reveals his support of charter school’s legal victory in Washington State.

The Seattle Public School (SPS) board passed a resolution on March 2, 2016 reaffirming its commitment to public education and its opposition to charter schools.

The final paragraph of the resolution states:

RESOLVED, that the Seattle School Board of Directors (1) requests that the Legislature focus on its paramount duty to amply fund K-12 educational needs first as mandated by the McCleary decision; (2) opposes charter schools and charter school legislation; and (3) disapproves of the establishment of Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) status for former charter schools when operated by non-resident school districts.

No wonder Vasquez is trying to hide his charter connections.

**************************************

Dora Taylor

 

Related articles:

Seattle Public School Board candidates

The scoop on Seattle School Board Candidates Chelsea Byers and Omar Vasquez: Buyer Beware

Summit Sierra charter schools

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

A checklist for parents considering Summit Sierra charter school in Seattle

Serious student privacy concerns with new Summit/Facebook platform

Summit (Sierra) charter school: The skinny on the Gates-backed school set for Seattle, Brad Bernatek (remember him?) and a host of others

Personalized Learning

Personalized Learning Pathways & the Gig Economy

Teach for America

Colonizing the Black Natives: Charter Schools and Teach for America

Teach for America

A professor’s encounter with Teach for America

The grifters of corporate ed reform: KIPP charter schools with the aid of the DOE

The Broad Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule Our Schools

The Broad Foundation: A Parent Guide to the Broad Foundation’s training programs and education policies

The Battle for Seattle, Part 2: Hijacked!

Bill Gates has spent $440M to push charter schools: Here is the list of recipients

Bill Gates funds the media, including the Seattle Times’ Education Lab, then secretly meets with them

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

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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

 

 

ELO’s: How Community-Based Learning Advances the Cyber Education Agenda, Part 1

 

Editor’s note: Post republished with permission from Wrench in the Gears.

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ELOs: How Community-Based Learning Advances the Cyber Education Agenda

ELO’s are learning experiences that by definition happen OUTSIDE the classroom. This makes them a perfect foil for digital learning. These learning opportunities, pitched as experiential and hands-on, will readily capture the imaginations of students and parents who have been steamrolled by the test-and-punish system. In selling the 21stCentury “redesigned” ecosystem version of education, reformers will play up exciting partnership programs like robotics, filmmaking, and CTE apprenticeships. There will be allusions to educational technology, its importance for 21st century work force skills, but the extent to which this new version of public education relies on adaptive, data-mined modules will be downplayed.

This is the third installment in a series on learning ecosystems. For more information see these related posts: “Future Ready” schools and digital badges.

A key tenet of Ed Reform 2.0 is “anytime any place learning.” Detaching education from the normal school day and physical school buildings will permit the transfer of face-to-face classroom instruction to digital platforms. Once implemented, these systems of “personalized learning” will efficiently extract children’s data so their futures can be channeled through black box algorithms, while significantly reducing staff costs since online instructors can theoretically “teach” thousands of children at a time. If reformers were up front about it, “Future Ready Schools” would be a much harder sell. And since they are nothing if not expert at framing their issues, my belief is that they intend to use Extended/Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELOs) as cover for this planned cyber takeover. Most Americans would never willingly trade neighborhood schools for a chrome book education, but reformers will sell the public on project-based learning in communities while minimizing the central role devices are intended to play. Out-of-School-Time (OST) learning will be presented as a welcome relief, an antidote even, to the harm wrought by No Child Left Behind. It’s all part of the plan, so please don’t be fooled.

ELOs are learning experiences that by definition happen OUTSIDE the classroom. This makes them a perfect foil for digital learning. These learning opportunities, pitched as experiential and hands-on, will readily capture the imaginations of students and parents who have been steamrolled by the test-and-punish system. In selling the 21stCentury “redesigned” ecosystem version of education, reformers will play up exciting partnership programs like robotics, filmmaking, and CTE apprenticeships. There will be allusions to educational technology, its importance for 21st century work force skills, but the extent to which this new version of public education relies on adaptive, data-mined modules will be downplayed.

ELOs are vastly different from school-community partnerships of the past. We’re not talking about an organization working closely with a teacher or group of teachers and their classes on a unit of instruction- planning field trips, research opportunities, projects and presentations. This is not about collaboration, organizations coming INTO schools to do their work. No. ELOs are about sending students OUTSIDE schools, individually, to earn credit towards graduation by demonstrating competencies tied to set national standards. While a teacher may work with a student to develop an ELO plan and monitor their progress, they have no instructional role in the process. They are essentially case managers handling the paperwork.

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The Afterschool Corporation (TASC) is an ELO proponent. George Soros founded TASC in 1998 with funding from the Open Society Foundations. In 2012 TASC prepared a policy brief entitled “Learn Anytime, Anywhere: Rethinking How Students Earn Credit Beyond School Hours.” The document outlines strategies states can employ to expand opportunities for students to earn credit in alternative settings. Among those recommendations are:

  • Giving districts the ability to award school credit via proficiency based assessments.
  • Providing stimulus money to develop new credit-bearing ELOs.
  • Creating databases that match students to ELO providers.
  • Transferring public school funding to Out-of-School-Time education programs/partners. Tie funding to mastery rather than enrollment.
  • Encouraging the use of ELOs as part of school turnaround strategies.

I encourage you to investigate the amount of foundation support being poured into Out-of-School Time (OST) learning where you live. If it’s a major metropolitan area, my guess is there is quite a bit of money flowing. Does your city have a cool new maker space? Neighborhood robotics program? Culturally responsive creative writing center? 21st Century Community Learning Center? Are unusual things showing up in your library? Things like 3D printers and culinary programs? Maybe your town is a HIVE learning community or a LRNG city?

Once you have a sense of the OST programs and their funding sources, consider the following:

  • Are the foundations funding non-profit community-based learning spaces ALSO advocating for appropriate funding of our public schools, reduced class sizes, access to safe-healthy buildings and adequate instructional materials? And if not, why not?
  • What interest might those funders have in controlling the public education sphere? Do they influence what gets taught and what does not through their grant making?
  • How about those community partners? Does the existence of their organization or educational program depend upon continued denial of resources to the schools they serve?
  • Are the programs being offered by community partners something that would normally have been found IN a school 15 years ago?
  • Are your community’s OST or after school programs experimenting with digital badging?
  • What data are these partners collecting on students, and with whom is it shared?

ELOs further privatization interests, but in this case community-based non-profits and workforce partners are the ones who stand to benefit, not charter schools. This is one way Ed Reform 2.0 differs from Ed Reform 1.0. Years of budget cuts have taken their toll on neighborhood schools, and many districts serving majority low-income populations are no longer able to provide a well-rounded curriculum with arts, music, school libraries, sports, and extracurricular activities. As a result, schools have become reliant on public-private partnerships to fill gaps where they can.

In recent years the Community School movement has risen in prominence, and the ranks of organizations vying to meet the needs of students caught in intentionally defunded school systems has swelled. It should be noted that while ELOs are a significant component of Community School movement nationally, they are rarely part of the public discussion. You can read more about issues with a community school model here. It should be noted that Strive Together is a major player in this movement. Pushing pathways from cradle to career, Strive is a program of Knowledgeworks. Knowledgeworks, based in Cincinnati OH, is funded by the Gates Foundation and one of the most prominent advocates for the learning ecosystem model that relies on badges and ELOs.

Unless we call attention to it, few will question the growing role of Out-of-School Time, project-based learning in public education. Even if it means tacitly accepting that due to ongoing austerity this type of learning has less and less of a place WITHIN schools, people are likely to accept it because something is better than nothing. But by making this concession, rather than fighting for the well-resourced schools our children deserve, we normalize the starvation of neighborhood schools and lay the groundwork for the transition to a decentralized learning ecosystem. Schools are being hollowed out. Many of the activities we, as children, were fond of-clubs, plays, and creative writing-are being turned over to the OST sector. Certified teachers with knowledge of child development and pedagogy are being forsaken, abandoned in their device-filled classrooms and left to enforce the data-extraction process. We shouldn’t allow that to happen. We need to reclaim joy and bring it back INTO our schools. Once we start outsourcing credit, elective or core, to community partners the days of neighborhood schools are truly numbered.

Part two will provide background on the rise of ELOs as a tool of education reform as well as examples of how they are being implemented nationally.

– Wrench in the Gears

Questions We Should Be Asking About “Future Ready” Schools

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

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

Questions we should be asking about “Future Ready” schools

future-ready-schools-partners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Wrench in the Gears

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

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All of the elements are in place:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of the elements are in place:

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

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

Is This for Real?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sound familiar?

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

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

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

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

-Carolyn Leith

 

Related posts:

The Ledger: Lab Rat America

The Ledger, Millennials, Dear Hillary, and Free College

Post Script:

And don’t forget:

pearson.jpgDora

Following the charter school cash in the Washington State Primary: The latest money scheme

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UPDATE: Two mistakes have been corrected from the original post.

Voters for Washington Children spent $15,000 in digital ads AGAINST Luis Moscoso in the District 1 Senate race. In addition, Voters for Washington Children spent $10,000 AGAINST Branden Durst in the Legislative District 29, Representative race.

Our sincerest apologies to Luis Moscoso and Branden Durst.

————————————————————————-

Nowhere is the chasm between the hard reality of our political system and the American ideals of merit, choice, and freedom more on display than during an election cycle.

Money matters – a lot.

The challenge for large money donors is how to spend big on your candidate(s) without offending the voters you’re trying to persuade. Voters understand politics is a dirty game, but they still believe in the idea that democracy should work for everyone.

Big donors have come up with a practical two step solution to this problem:

  1. Keep the money moving through various PACs.
  2. When it’s time to spend the money, use independent expenditures to further mask the source.

Openly supporting charter schools is a still a risky position for many politicians in Washington State. Let’s take a look at how pro-charter PACs supported their preferred candidates through the use of a PAC with a different name and independent expenditures.

The Name Game

Between July and August of 2016, three PACs contributed $265,500 dollars to Voters for Washington Children. They were:

Stand for Children Washington PAC

7/14    $76,000

7/25    $10,000     

Total: $86,000

Washington Charters PAC

7/15   $70,000

7/25   $27,500

7/25   $10,000

8/03   $15,000    

Total:$122,500

Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) Washington PAC

7/14   $40,000

7/18   $  7,500

7/25   $10,000    

Total:$57,500

The Independent Expenditure Shell Game

Voters for Washington Children contracted with a group called RALLY in San Francisco to produce digital ads and mailers for the candidates Stand for Children, DFER, and Washington Charters PAC supported.

Never heard of RALLY?

Their clients include: Teach for America, Inc. (TFA), TFA-Bay Area, the Green Dot charter chain, National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), Students Matter (of the lawsuit Vergara v. California), and Act Now for Washington Students.

Remember the charter school ads that ran during Seahawks games last year? RALLY was behind them. They also bused kids to Olympia to testify for the charter bill and coordinated all of those heartfelt cards and letters sent to the state Legislature.

From RALLY’s website:

The Washington State Charter Schools Association, along with coalition members Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), Stand for Children, the League of Education Voters, and leaders from the business community, partnered with RALLY to find and drive a solution that saved the existing schools and reinstated the will of the voters. RALLY developed and managed a high-impact legislative advocacy campaign that forced legislators, especially elected Democrats, to confront the prospect of being held responsible for closing public schools that serve a racially and economically diverse student population – or taking action to support their constituents.

To deliver our message, RALLY created a campaign that truly put parents and students front and center. We built, encouraged, and supported a strong grassroots advocacy team that made more than 1,000 calls per week to elected officials, flooded legislative offices with homemade postcards and letters, and brought hundreds of people to Olympia for multiple rallies to keep schools open. A statewide petition activated 20,000 new public charter supporters and created a backbone for a strategic digital effort that augmented the on-the-ground tactics.

Grassroots efforts were coupled with an aggressive paid media campaign designed to make it impossible for state leaders to ignore the plight of public charters. RALLY produced four television ads, which aired during Seattle Seahawks games and nightly newscasts. Additionally, voters in key swing districts around the state received a series of direct mail, robo-calls, and targeted earned media. Statewide, every major newspaper endorsed saving the schools and called on Democrats to stay true to their social justice roots. These tactics were combined with a PAC fundraising effort, a relentless online digital presence, and a robust social media strategy.

RALLY’s Independent Expenditure Ads and Mailings

How did the candidates supported by the pro-charter PACs do in the primary? Let’s take a look at the races where RALLY’s services were put to use:

Legislative District 29-State Representative Pos. 1

Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 9.38.27 PM

David Sawyer, Democrat, Representative, 29th District

7/26   $10,000 for digital ads AGAINST Branden Durst, Democrat

7/27    $10,000 for digital ads

Total: $20,000

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 10.12.30 AM

Legislative District 1-State Senator

Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 9.41.00 PM

Guy Palumbo, Democrat, State Senate, District 1

7/21   $10,925 for digital ads

7/23   $11,714.55 for mailing

7/26   $15,000 for digital ads AGAINST Luis Moscoso, Democrat

Total: 37,639.55

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 10.29.17 AM

Legislative District 5-State Senator

Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 9.45.42 PM

Mark Mullet, Democrat, State Senate, District 5

7/21    $10,658.19  direct mail

7/23    $16,189.83  two mailings

7/26    $11,525.07  direct mail  

Total: $38,373.09

Legislative District 41-State Senator

Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 9.48.20 PM

Stephen Litzow, Republican, District 41, Senate

7/22    $4,000  digital ads

7/25    $19,930.28  direct mail

7/26    $16,782.63  direct mail

Total: $40,712.91

Not to be forgotten, 0n 7/27 RALLY was contracted to produced $30,000 worth of digital ads for Steven Hobbs, Democrat, who ran for the Lieutenant Governor position during the primary. Hobbs ended up coming in fourth after Cyrus Habib, Marty McClendon, and Karen Fraser.

Conclusion

Besides the Lieutenant Governor’s race, every campaign where RALLY’s services were engaged resulted in one of Voters for Washington Children’s candidates advancing to the general election.

Seems like Stand for Children Washington PAC, Washington Charters PAC, and Democrats for Education Reform Washington PAC got a solid return on their investment.

-Carolyn Leith

 

 

 

The ESSA: A renewed attack on parents’ and students’ rights

Reposted from SocialistWorker.org:

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John King, Secretary of Education, with President Obama

 

The education deform empire strikes back

by Marilena Marchetti

The battle over high-stakes testing and the future of public education is back in play after the Obama administration’s latest moves.

THE PROPOSED regulations for national implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) signal that new Education Secretary John King is determined to continue the Obama administration’s relentless emphasis on high-stakes testing–by financial blackmail if necessary.

The passage of ESSA in late 2015 appeared to offer a concession to the growing concern that public schools are being taken over by high-stakes testing, which degrade curriculums and are misused to shame and blame teachers for the outcomes of an impoverished public education system and justify closing public schools in order to privatize the system with charters.

Enacted after a spring of historically high boycotts of exams around the country, ESSA gives each state the ability to determine how to meet the prescribed 95 percent participation rate in federally mandated tests that are given each year from 3rd to 8th grade and once in high school.

But in what can only be read as a tightening of the noose around the growing movement to “opt out” of state tests, King’s new regulations threaten states with financial sanctions should they fail to put a stop to test boycotting.

Here is how a Department of Education (DOE) summary puts it:

The proposed regulations do not prescribe how those rates must be factored into accountability systems, but they do require states to take robust action for schools that do not meet the 95 percent participation requirement. States may choose among options or propose their own equally rigorous strategy for addressing the low participation rate. In addition, schools missing participation rates would need to develop a plan, approved by the district, to improve participation rates in the future.

For many supporters and participants in the opt-out movement who believed that the tide was finally beginning to turn in their favor, these regulations are a sobering alert that the fight to ensure that students are treated as more than a score is far from over.

King might be the new Education Secretary, but he is making the same old mistakes: not respecting the voices of parents, teachers and students; doubling down on threats to financially punish students for boycotting tests; and digging in his heels to prevent the long overdue termination of standardized testing.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

NEW YORK, where King was the state education commissioner before his promotion this January, has been at the center of these swirling crosscurrents as officials scrambled to contain the crisis of testing legitimacy.

More than 200,000 students opted out of the New York’s standardized tests in 2015, and it’s estimated that similar numbers refused the tests this spring–one of the largest test boycotts in U.S. history.

When the record-breaking opt-out numbers were released last August, King’s successor as state education commissioner, MaryEllen Elia, warned that schools with high test refusal numbers could lose funding, but then quickly backpeddled in the face of public pressure.

Then in December, momentum seemed to decisively shift away from over-testing. On the national level, there was the passage of ESSA, an updated version of George W. Bush’s awful No Child Left Behind Act that maintains the overall testing apparatus, but at least reduces the power of the federal government to use test scores as a weapon against schools.

Meanwhile, the New York Board of Regents unexpectedly voted to suspend some of the harmful practices associated with the tests, like tying teacher evaluations to student scores.

But now what looked like significant victories for the opt-out movement on both a local and national level appear to have been just temporary respites. Soon after the DOE’s punitive new regulations were announced, DNAInfo reported that 16 New York City schools had been ruled ineligible for up to $75,000 in grants because of their high test refusal numbers.

Betty Rosa, the new state Board of Regents Chancellor, who is widely seen as sympathetic to the opt-out movement, claimed that the loss of potential funding wasn’t a punishment from the state, but was instead an “unintended consequence” of the grants being tied to test scores.

Semantics aside, it appears that these schools might be the test case for New York to determine whether “robust actions” are capable of reining in the powerful opt-out movement.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

SO IT looks like the heated battle over public education is still on. It’s a battle that pits those who work for and/or send their children to public schools against those with a stake in seeing more funding diverted to testing companies and charter schools.

High-stakes standardized tests imbue toxic levels of stress into a school–as anyone who works in one knows quite well–bringing profit to education corporations at the expense of children’s well-being. John King is the mediator of this conflict between everyday people and a hugely profitable testing industry, and it’s clear what side he is on.

The opt-out movement has its work cut out for it, not least because both leading presidential candidates have dismal platforms for public education.

Donald Trump wants to gut the DOE and bust teachers’ unions, and Trump University is an infamous example of the horrors of privatized education. But Hillary Clinton has a long record of backing charter schools and high-stakes testing. She should be confronted at every turn this fall by public education supporters demanding that she oppose these DOE regulations.

Parents, teachers and students fighting for everyone to have the right to a rich and meaningful education are going to have to continue building on the grassroots strategies that have made the movement to into the impressive force that it is today in order to meet this next round of challenges.

 

The original post can be found here:

https://socialistworker.org/2016/06/15/the-education-deformers-strike-back.

Video: John Nichols & Robert McChesney: “People Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy”

McChesney-Nichols-book-talk-02182016

 

We have been losing our democracy incrementally over time. I began to notice it beginning with the corporate reform movement in public education and then began to see the larger picture, that a few wealthy individuals, who have no need for the democratic process, were changing our lives in rather drastic ways; from the privatization of prisons where minorities are seen as a commodity to be used and abused to our public schools where the children are simply seen as data points and dollar signs by the testing companies and charter school commercial enterprises, and where teachers are described as “human capitol”. Mayoral control, charter schools that lack public oversight and yet receive taxpayer dollars, your dollars, the Common Core Standards and the associated tests, all of this has been created by a moneyed few

You can also see it in the appointment of Emergency Managers as in Flint and elsewhere in Michigan, where the people no longer have a say in the water they drink or the schools their children go to because the emergency managers are not elected and only report to the politicians who appoint them. Emergency Managers in Michigan have been place in mostly minority communities and replaced the public school system with charter school chains.

I saw it most strikingly with the Democratic (and I use that term loosely)  primary where the corporate press basically made Trump the Republican nominee with a phenomenal amount of free airtime and gave Bernie Sanders, a threat to their very existence, a fraction of press coverage. The calling out of Hillary being the nominee by the corporate press the day before the primaries were to happen in six states was astonishing. The closing of 80% of polling places in some states and the complete lack of voter information in many states causing people who wanted to vote not to be heard reflects a broken system. This is not democracy. All of this and other actions made by those in power, made it clear to millions here and around the world that we no longer have a democracy, at least not as flouted by our flag waving political leaders who like things just the way they are.

Today I came across this video of Robert McChesney and John Nichols, co-authors of the book “People Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy”, speaking on March 9, 2016 at the Seattle Town Hall.

This is a highly recommended watch.

Dora Taylor

 

 

 

Washington BADASS Teachers (WA BATS) Opt-Out Cheer Squad

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As Washington BADASS Teachers (WA-BATS), we believe that everyone should do anything and everything they can to fight the so-called “reforms” that are destroying our public schools. 

Unfortunately, the reality is that currently employed educational employees have to be very careful about how vocal they are.  Many school administrators threaten teachers with discipline, including probation and suspension without pay if they dare to inform parents of their right to opt children out of tests. 

Most teachers need to keep their jobs, but ah!,  there is such liberation in being able to retire! Three retired Highline teachers, Donna Shaman, Keitha Bryson, Karen Adlum (that’s me) have decided to promote the OPT OUT movement,  because, dammit,  we finally can! No school administrator can cow us.  No superintendent can fire us. The freedom this gives us is exhilarating!

Newly retired, and committed to the struggle, I was sitting at home when I saw a Facebook message come in to Keitha and myself from Donna Shaman . Donna wanted to know if we were interested in meeting to discuss, “engaging in very visible” ways to share about Opting Out/Refusing the Tests. She mentioned going to festivals, schools, and businesses with signs to draw attention our cause. “We can sing!”, she wrote.  “We can talk to people and hand out literature!”

This is my first year as a retiree.  I have been an education activist for several years. The Opt Out movement has been my passion ever since I became an anti-school DE-form activist.   I even talked about it to any parents who I trusted enough not “squeal” on me.  It was frustrating because I couldn’t talk to enough of them, but it was such a rush when I learned that four parents had opted their children out of tests after listening to my advice. So of course, I immediately responded to Donna, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

At our first meeting, Donna described an interesting vision to us.   She thought we should dress up as “Opt Out Cheerleaders” with pom poms and other regalia. 

Frankly, this made me squeamish at first. It’s not easy for me to be noticeable.  I had tried to be a support person; to stay in the background during my teaching career.  This was way outside my comfort zone, but Donna was excited about the prospect. 

We continued to meet regularly to plan and schedule our first Opt Out Pep Rallies. I was very nervous, but it was far off in the future, so I just ignored my anxiety. We checked into ordinances and school dismissal times, parking availability, etcetera.

Finally, the day arrived for our first action.  I had butterflies in my stomach, but thought, “Oh, what the hell!” We met at the school and stood on the sidewalk because we knew we were within our rights if we stayed off school property. It went off without a problem, and while parents looked bemused, they did read our shirts and our signs, and they listened to our chants. Perhaps a seed was planted?

Our little group has since done actions at several more schools, and it has gotten easier for me. I am having a great time calling out the deception of the testing regime!

I have even gotten brave enough to yell things such as, “Don’t take the false tests! Your child is more than a score! Don’t take the SBAC!”

We are beginning to upgrade our outfits. We now have matching skirts and hats, and we have designed a new shirt which we are having printed. We are finding our way in this impassioned new venture. It feels terrific to be doing something to slow down the testocracy’s machine, while being creative.

We have printed flyers which we recently had translated into Spanish, and we plan to add more translations in the future.

We pass out information to any parent who will take it while doing our cheers : “Hey, Hey, why are we here? To tell the parents, ‘OPT OUT THIS YEAR!”  Sometimes the parents ask questions, and sometimes they just smile, but they always notice us.  And that’s something. The Opt Out movement isn’t as big in Washington State as it is in New York YET,  but we hope we are doing our bit to move it forward.

If you have any interest in joining us or starting your own group, please feel free to contact us at: Gyzmotoo@aol.com We would love to share what we did to begin our work, and to design our flyers. We’d be glad to share our successes and our thoughts for improvement with you. Opt Out!  Fight back! Let’s get this party started!

Karen Adlum, WA-BATS