Soft Corruption

Reposted with permission from Anarchoeducator.

broke monopoly guy

When it comes to schools and morality, no one wants to call out decisions made by school administrators as corrupt.

There is something fundamentally wrong with the balance of power in our schools. Administrators feel no compulsion to respond to the actual needs of individual teachers in their classrooms. It starts with the principal whose main function is to coordinate the implementation of a predetermined policy which they have come to believe they have the liberty of implementing in their own way, giving them the false hope that their actions are their own and that the results will be due largely to their interpretation of policy. How naïve of them.

Of course principals are merely the first layer in the hierarchy that comes into contact with actual classroom teachers. There are many layers up to the Superintendent and many side spurs as well. But one thing is clear. The hierarchy is self-sustaining and not really dependent on the schools it is meant to manage. Each layer of the hierarchy protects the next layer up from the layer just beneath, so that classroom teachers never see the principal’s boss, the executive director. But all of the administrators see each other, even the principals, because they are all in a club with its own social conventions that are quite different from the social conventions in the schools. Yes, there is a class difference. This is where the corruption begins to be evident.

Just to be clear, the schools are only one hierarchical system within a network of hierarchical systems that relate to each other hierarchically. Superintendents live on the border of the next hierarchy up, government and the political system. Above that, of course, are the banks, big business and the military industrial complex.

When it comes to schools and morality, no one wants to call out decisions made by school administrators as corruption. “Corruption” conjures images of brown paper bags stuffed with cash. But the corruption I see has to do with the culture within the central administration offices. The people who place the orders with ed companies like Pearson are solicited by sales people who pump up their buyers’ self esteem. It is not that difficult to stroke the ego of someone with an important job, an advanced degree and a budget. They earned their place after all and have the credentials. They deserve the free lunch that comes with the territory, since they are so important and meritorious. The problem is they tend to listen to the sales people and the expert colleagues in their offices more than the stakeholders they are supposed to be responsible to. They have a self sustaining culture of “we know better”.

The actions they take, buying worthless text books or expensive solutions to non existent problems, are taken to reinforce their positions. That is what they are paid to do, (along with protecting the next, even more comfortable layer up). Their actions can be seen as job protection. It is self serving . That is corrupt. They actively justify racist policies because the comfort to which they have become accustomed is an easier choice to make than the choice to fight for what their teachers and student families want. Standardized testing has been locked into the system by legal contract. What a waste.

Ultimately, it is the profit motive that messes everything up, not just for the schools but for our society as a whole. Competition inevitably leads to cheating. When competition is monetized it goes into a completely different dimension and that dimension is corrupt. Once the idea “What’s in it for me?” has taken over, displacing it with the more humanistic notion of “How does it affect the next person?” becomes next to impossible. But that is where we are with our school system and its soft corruption. And one last thing; when an administrator claims the tough decision has to be made and it is “for the kids”, there is more than just a bit of insincerity in it.

-Anarchoeducator

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Beware of Tech Titans Bearing Gifts

Reposted with permission from Nancy Bailey’s Education Website.

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The Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) gift likely means huge changes for schools across the country. We’ve known for a long time that Chicago school experimentation is usually the country’s pilot project. And the CZI isn’t just putting money into personalized learning in Chicago. It’s tied to all-tech Summit Charter Schools (unfairly called public schools) and the College Board. They are also working in Massachusetts.

Chicago is getting $14 million through the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) that will be used for personalized learning, placing children online for their schooling. They are advertising their gift as “Supporting Chicago’s Teachers in Personalized Learning.”

The Chan-Zuckerberg website motto is “We believe in a future for everyone.” Here’s my question. Do they believe in a future for professional teachers?

Is the CZI goal to replace teachers? Ask them that question! Get them to tell us yes, or no. It’s a great question to start off Teacher Appreciation Week!

Many teachers will jump on the tech bandwagon. Technology is a useful tool. No one can deny that. But there’s no research to indicate that total tech without teachers will succeed in getting children ready for their college and career futures.

The CZI money in Chicago will also go to LEAP Inovations—a nonprofit that pushes tech with “Appy Hours” (tech instruction at the local bars?).

One of the CZI administrators is James H. Shelton. He used to work for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and also had the powerful position of Assistant Deputy Secretary of the United States Department of Education, under President Obama. Shelton oversaw the Office of Innovation and Improvement where he managed competitive programs involving teacher/leader quality, Promise Neighborhoods, school choice, and, of course, technology.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation may appear to support teachers and public schools, but their past actions show otherwise. They have supported charter schools and groups like Stand for Children, Teach for America, and many other anti-public school, anti-teacher nonprofits. Their Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) was an insult to teachers everywhere. In Memphis, where Gates had a prominent presence, teachers wore ear buds with coaches (called experts) in the back of the room directing them how to teach!

The CZI gift likely means huge changes for schools across the country. We’ve known for a long time that Chicago school experimentation is usually the country’s pilot project. And the CZI isn’t just putting money into personalized learning in Chicago. It’s tied to all-tech Summit Charter Schools (unfairly called public schools) and the College Board. They are also working in Massachusetts.

And LEAP calls for more tech company involvement.

Want exposure to Chicago schools, educator feedback, and valuable implementation and outcome data? Pilot your product with the LEAP Pilot Network!

Think of schools and tech companies looking like NASCAR drivers competing for children’s data to increase business.

LEAP presents a report called “Finding What Works: Results from the LEAP Pilot Network 2014-2015.”

It begins:

LEAP Innovations was founded on the premise that our outdated, one-size-fits-all education system isn’t working. Instead, LEAP is driving toward a new paradigm, one that harnesses innovation—new teaching and learning approaches, along with technologies—to create a system that is tailored around each individual learner.

Isn’t it funny (not really), how those of us who disliked high-stakes testing for so many years, used to use the “one-size-fits-all” argument? Corporations were the ones that pushed that testing, now they are using that line to sell personalized learning.

It’s also funny (not really) how teachers have begged for years to have reasonably sized classrooms so they could individualize learning. It always fell on deaf ears. 

The report goes on with the usual complaints about students not graduating and not doing well on tests, and how wonderful it is that edtech is growing. The citations in the report are from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Chamber of Commerce, and an article from The Atlantic.

On the Leap website they also say:

LEAP first reviewed applications internally, selecting for companies that clearly personalized the learning experience for students in literacy, as well as demonstrated a record of prior success. An external curation panel of learning scientists, educators, and other subject-matter experts was then assembled to further evaluate the applicants and decide which would be made available to schools for selection. Their criteria included the potential for student impact; company strength and stability; alignment to learning science and Common Core standards; augmentation of teacher capacity; and functionality around student feedback and motivation.

I’d love to hear from teachers, principals or any friends from Chicago involved with this panel.

There’s also talk of merging social emotional learning with tech. SEL is becoming known for its assessments that call for personal student behavioral data that makes parents nervous.

So, when schools aren’t funded and rich people with big ideas, no matter how they will impact children, come into the school district with a lot of money, public schools lose a lot of their public feedback.

For those who still don’t believe there’s a movement underfoot to replace teachers with tech, and collect even more data concerning student progress that will benefit corporations, watch the CZI in Chicago. Time always tells. It might be too late, but sooner or later we’ll learn the truth.

-Nancy Bailey

The Interregnum Mile: Chapter One

Reposted with permission from Educationalchemy.

Educationalchemy-Chapter One

NOTE: This is a full-length book, being published chapter by chapter with a new chapter posted every two weeks. Readers will have to stay tuned for “what’s next.” The story is copyrighted by the author (Morna McDermott) but may be freely shared and re-blogged/posted (with citation to the author). The purpose of the story was to create a thought experiment. What will happen if/when the corporate destruction of public education and society is complete? Can we begin to imagine/enact a different set of societal structures that are more equitable, anti-racist, sustainable, and democratic? Do we have the collective will to manifest such a future? What can we learn from good examples in the past? Can we take some cues from the world of fiction to begin the conversation? This is a story of hope.

Please join us and enjoy the story! Feedback/comments welcome in the comment box. 

Story Summary

Ryder, Keesha, and Deacon, three lifelong friends, now in their teens have been named the leader-futures for Interregnum City, the first city to decolonize itself from the script of corporate enslavement. The city has gone “off-script.” They, along with their friends and families take the reader into a hopeful landscape of what might yet be possible if, and when, communities embrace the revolutionary power of the collective will, imagination and love. It is fiction of hope; representing any city in America and set in an unknown future time. This is a tale of what could be. Ryder, Deacon and Keesha confront obstacles such as the looming data pods built along the Interregnum Mile, and their secret discovery of the terror that lies waiting for their community if they cannot stop the colonizers secret mission in time. With the help of Ryder’s Uncle Kelley, Deacons grandfather Pops, and Keesha’s mother Susan, these three youth lead their city on a mission for reclamation, resurrection, and resurgence.

CHAPTER ONE

The bloated data pods heaved and groaned with the weight of their burden. Like fat over fed cows they seemed sleepy, rested with a deadening stillness. Even though the pipelines had been dismantled years ago, after the explosions the original cache of intellectual oil still lay inside-billions of dollars of untapped financial fuel. The people called it the compost of rotted imagination and fetid possibility.

Ryder, mature for his fourteen years, liked letting that image roll around in his mind. Ryder liked to be contrary to common assumptions. Where others saw destruction he saw creation. Words like rotted and fetid reminded him of the garden his neighborhood quad had started. Every morning he stood at his bedroom window on the tenth floor of his housing project dressing for his community engagement, or perhaps the recreational trip if it was Friday. No matter what lay ahead for the day, he’d stand at the window and look down. Today he could see his friends Jacob and Chloe kneeling down in the soil along the rows of early tomatoes. They were laughing about something, perhaps a joke Jacob was making but even with the window open to let in the warm June breeze, Ryder couldn’t make out what they were saying.

Looking farther beyond the garden and down the city block, dotted with brightly colored row houses: orange, blue, pink and yellow, like a checkerboard of brick squares lining up on both sides of the street, he could see the data pods. High along the city skyline they were an ever present visible reminder to the people just how low they had gone in the name of “progress.” Then, scanning his eyes over the shaded parks, crowded storefronts, cafes, and thick over grown garden jungles (the keystone of every block), Ryder thought about how far they had come since “the interregnum”- when they fought to go off script and decolonize their city.  That’s why they replaced their colonized name with a new nickname: Interregnum City, in honor of the infamous Interregnum Mile which the Blacker Hatters (known for their illegal hacking skills) had dismantled. Ryder would try and conjure images of a world before they broke free. At least, he thought what he could of it using his imagination. Their community was re-created decades before Ryder was even born, but he enjoyed re hearing of it from his grandfather and his uncle Kelly, one of the original Blacker Hatters, the rouge hacking group. His father, he assumed would have been full of stories too, if he were here now. Unlike the innumerable details he had been given about the history of the movement, all he knew of his father’s fate was “whereabouts unknown.” It was all anyone, even his mother, knew.

The sky was a light overcast grey and Ryder knew that if he was working with Mrs. Johnson today, for his Legacy Contribution project, she’d want to take a walk through the park and sit on the bench to feed pigeons like she did every week. He’d be chilly if the wind picked up so he pulled a plain forest green sweatshirt from his middle dresser drawer and slid it over his tall thin frame. In his mind, he could hear his Uncle Kelley, using that booming dramatic tone he liked to use when he was talking about the movement to unscript themselves. If history only relied on his uncle Kelley for the retelling one would think he had single handedly dismantled the data mining pods and chased the corporations out of every city in America. He smiled to himself with affection. Kelley was short on stature, but he wasn’t short on bravado. Or courage, if the five inch knife scar going up the right side of his torso, was any indication. Decades since the injury, the scar still rippled up along his rib cage like the San Andrea’s fault.  Ryder thought of Kelley’s low voicem rising and falling with each piece of the story. He’d always begin the same way:

“There was a time, Ryder, when public schools were actual buildings where you went and sat all day in a classroom. Each classroom had a teacher. And you would read books, and fill out worksheets and take tests to show what you had learned.”

“Learned about what?” Ryder would ask. He tried to imagine what these buildings would look like. His mind could not quite determine what a “work sheet” could be. There was “work”… that’s the part he got. Everyone he knew worked. But what was a sheet? Like a bed sheet?

Kelley would say, “Whatever it was the government, well… really the corporate overlords using the government, wanted you to learn. We went from slavery to segregation to the promise of education. But once we got the right to attend public schools with white kids, they started coming up with all sorts of tests and regulations that put us right back where we were….” He stopped briefly to think carefully. “There were lots of folks, of all races tryin’ to create changes that would support what our kids and our communities needed. Parents, teachers, members of the communities. Even students were fighting for their own rights. But the corporate class with all their money and power just rolled over any resistance. They used the tests in schools to sort and track us into low paying jobs, and to close our schools and to push us out of an education before we had completed a diploma. But even that wasn’t enough for them!”

Ryder had heard the story a million times. This was where Uncle Kelley’s voice would rise to a roiled pitch. “They decided to hand over our schools and our children to private businesses for a profit! They turned public schools into charter school runs by companies who treated our kids like prisoners or investments for their portfolios. And the schools they couldn’t close, well, they let the corporations in through the back door. They outsourced everything from the tests, to the curriculum, and the classroom, the teachers, and finally even our kids’ private data, all handed over to these companies.”

“You mean all the information jammed up in the data pods, Uncle Kelley?”

Whenever Ryder looked out his bedroom window at the rusted machines slumped along Interregnum Mile, in his childish imagination they resembled iron dinosaurs. Something from a dystopic fairy tale. Well, even if they weren’t dinosaurs, that last part was accurate. The world had been living in a dystopic fairy tale.

“What did they do with the data, Uncle Kelley?”

“They used it to control our minds and our bodies. The electronic whip, we called it. With all that information, they could manipulate the choices we made. When Net neutrality was abolished the whole world around each of us was manufactured in a way to make us see what they wanted is to see, and to believe what they wanted us to believe. They controlled the access we had to the world. Worse yet, the data was used against us so prisons were built based on 3rd grade test scores of children of color. Employers decided whether to hire you based on a discipline record that went all the way back into kindergarten, Health care centers decided whether or not to provide you services based on the data they got from what you bought at the grocery store. If you ate foods that weren’t on the approved list, they could refuse to give you health care.  In schools they tracked kid’s pulses and eye movements to be sure they were paying attention. If the computer told the corporate masters you weren’t working hard enough, you could be severely punished.” Ryder did not bother to ask how.

Kelley’s voice dropped low and slow for emphasis. “That data… they just sucked right out of us… made themselves so wealthy and powerful that the people lost all hope of ever being able to have access to a free mind or clean food, clean water, or clean land ever again.”

Ryder tried to picture all that data, all that information like sewage flowing through clogged pipes churning and bubbling up on large screens as psychometric profiles and predictive behaviors. Even at the age of 14 he vaguely understood that in the wrong hands this would have brought his people back to a time of slavery and colonization. But this time, all people, black white or brown were going to be for sale. They had fought it back once. And the people woke up.

But the war wasn’t over. It had just gone underground. While Kelley was always eager to talk about the past with anyone willing to listen, neither he, nor any of the other adults, in Ryder’s world, would talk about the future. That was the cold chill of paralysis that kept up Ryder each night. Lying awake knowing that he, and Deacon and Keesha and the others were left with amorphous task of “re-imaging their future.”

Since they were toddlers, it seemed as if the three of them operated as one organic body: Keesha had the brains, Deacon had the courage, and Ryder had the heart. Best friends. Inseparable since their learning experiences in the Young Peoples Learning Center (YPLC). Deacon and Keesha were convinced that Ryder’s ability to feel so deeply for others came from spending his youth helping his mom who ran the YPLC on their street. Each apartment building, or city block of row homes, had its own YPLC to care for and educate the young children until the age of nine. In these small brightly painted rooms filled with music, paint, building blocks, books and outdoors spaces, the little ones from birth to nine years of age learned the basics: how to read, write, do math, sing, draw, speak multiple languages, cook, build and grow. Then they were graduated to city centers where they chartered their own learning agendas. Of course, parents and family members had influence on what the youth might learn, especially if there was a family business involved. But their contributions, which were places of learning, also contributed back to and within their community. All learning had purpose. And students chose their course. Back before going off script, the colonizers had tried to camouflage their corporate interests in the cloak of community efforts. But the people learned quickly that billions of dollars from outside sources were never intended to grow their community but to drain it. Double speaking in words of equality, freedom and choice, disguised social impact bonds and vulture philanthropy only worked for so long. Shortly after, they were driven out.

“Too much time with all those babies!” Deacon would sneer, using a tone of disgust underlining the word “babies.” Deacon couldn’t sit still long enough to listen to long drawn out stories strung together by small children with runny noses. He wanted round- the- clock action.

“Nu uh. It’s cause of his daddy. Ryder’s got preacher’s blood in him” Keesha would counter. The circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Ryder’s father when he was still a small infant was usually a hands-off topic no one could brooch with Ryder without winding up facing his fists in their face. But Keesha- she just knew how to say things just right so that the words were not unkind, or taunting. They were simply true. There wasn’t much Keesha could say or do that angered Ryder. With her, more so than with any of the others, his patience was endless. Whenever he saw her smile, or laugh, or simply draw a breath, Ryder’s whole body would light up with electricity. Simply being in her space created an invisible ripple effect from her to him. No one else could see it. But he could feel it. He wasn’t quite sure if she ever noticed this. But what folks did notice was how there was an unspoken orchestra of unity between the three of them. As young children they had simply revolved like planets into one another’s orbits and now they rotated around each other’s fields of gravity, inexplicably drawn together- even though their worlds at home were so markedly different. All they really had in common was their community, their age, and each other.

By the time they were twelve years old the Council of Elders had made it clear that very soon, the fate of their community, the growing success of the decolonized zone, rested with them. “Nothing thrills a teenager like getting the power he’s been yammering for” Kelley would say with an “I told you so” tone of voice. The he’d laugh. Ryder didn’t find it funny. None of them did. Sure they had the Council of Community Elders to lean on.  But it was really on them. And Ryder, not a huge risk taker, clung to Deacon and Keesha for their courage.

“Ryder!” his mom called from the kitchen downstairs. His mind was back to full attention of the present. He looked at the clock next to his bed. “Oh crap, I’m late! Coming mom! Be right there.”

As his foot hit the first stair he heard a low rumble from outside. The rumble grew into a roar. The house vibrated for a moment and he clutched the railing.

“Mom!” he called.

“Ryder, get down here. Quickly!”

He raced down skipping steps as he went. “What was that?

“I don’t know.”

“Call Uncle Kelley.”

She reached for the phone by the kitchen sink. Then a calm settled over the area. Ryder could hear neighbors outside on the street murmuring and asking questions. His mom hung up. “No answer.”

“I’ll go and find out, Mom. Don’t worry” Ryder said as he pushed open the front door to their row house and out onto the stoop. First thing he had to do was find Deacon.

-Morna McDermott

To continue click here for chapter two.

 

 

 

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

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

Here’s a few good reason to stay vigilant.

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

Why is this important?  

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

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

What’s competency-based learning?

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

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

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

Virtual schools deliver instruction exclusively online.

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

Here’s something to think about: there’s almost no evidence showing online or the classroom equivalent, competency-based learning, to be effective.

First, let’s look at some indirect evidence.

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

How bad was the negative impact?

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

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

Here’s a few of the highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jim Horn at Schools Matter found these damning studies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who’s Achieve?

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

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

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

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

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

Profit or Public Good?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guess who attended the meeting?

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

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

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

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

ale_better

Where Does Reykdal Stand on Competency-Based Learning?

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

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

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

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

Here’s my concerns about competency-based learning. 

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

It’s anyone’s guess.

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

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

-Carolyn Leith

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

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Beginning in 2008, many of us saw the tsunami of charter schools and the complete privatization of school districts coming our way in Seattle with the appearance of former Broad-trained school superintendent Goodloe-Johnson.

Many of us had questions about this superintendent because her actions did not make sense in terms of the best interest of students and the communities they lived in.

After much research, we discovered a link between former school board president Don Neilson, Stand for Children, Teach for America, Inc., which staffs charter schools with uncertified college grads, League of Education Voters, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER)the Broad Foundation, Bill Gates and the push to privatize our schools. People in Seattle and Washington State had made it very clear that we did not want charter schools in our state by voting three times against it up to that point but there were outside forces who either thought charter schools would benefit students or had dollar signs in their eyes. Most saw the money.

There is a second lawsuit in the courts now in Washington State challenging the constitutionality of charter schools so if you are a parent considering enrolling your student in a charter school in the state, take heed, the school may be closed unexpectedly due to a court decision.

Because of the experiences we have had with the organizations listed above, we are wary of people connected to any of these groups which are funded by wealthy donors and corporate money. Their agendas have been made very clear, the privatization of everything connected with public schools.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at two of the following Seattle school board candidates:

Chelsea Byers supports charter schools.  She checked the “NO” box on the King County Democrats’ questionnaire, but later explained that she does not support for-profit charters. Thing is, all charter schools are for-profit and making them “non-profit” makes it easier for people to accept. The CEO’s are well paid while siphoning off tax dollars earmarked for public schools.

Ms. Byers is a former Teach for America recruit and there is no indication she has children in Seattle Public Schools.

Omar Vasquez used the same strategy with the King County Democrats. This Teach for America alum told the group that he opposes charter schools…the for-profit ones. After Mr. Vasquez filed to run for Seattle School Board, he deleted all references from charter schools on his bio. Mr Vasquez also sits on Washington State’s Summit charter school board. Summit is a charter school making a profit by having students on computers at home, therefore only a small amount of space is needed to lease, and hiring “teaching” staff who are not certified and therefore inexpensive to pay.

Summit charter school is also racially biased.

From Mr. Vasquez’s profile:

Omar has experience advising education-related nonprofits, ed tech startups, and charter schools. Prior to law school, Omar taught AP Calculus for six years in Arizona through Teach for America.  

To top things off, Candidate Omar Vasquez is now on the Teach for America Board in Washington State.

Teach for America is very clear that they groom their un-certified recruits to be in positions of determining education policy. What better way to keep Teach for America in business populating charter schools?

There is no indication Mr. Vasquez has children in the Seattle Public School system.

Both candidates will push the agenda of charter schools as well as technology being the central aspect of our students’ lives. This is in concert with IT Lead John Krull’s vision of brick and mortar buildings and libraries, along with social interaction with students and teachers, being replaced by computers.

Buyer beware. These two candidates and their backers have more than just the best interests of your children in mind. Our students are only seen as a rung on the ladder.

Dora Taylor

Recommended reading:

Colonizing the Black Natives: Charter Schools and Teach for America

A professor’s encounter with Teach for America

A checklist for parents considering Summit Sierra charter school in Seattle

Serious student privacy concerns with new Summit/Facebook platform

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

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

Stand for Children Stands for the Rich and the Powerful…

The deets on DFER, Democrats for Education Reform

The NAACP calls for a moratorium on charter schools

Video: John Oliver on Charter Schools

Green Dot charter schools: A cautionary tale

Charter schools and corruption

Students’ rights in charter schools: There aren’t many

A Sea of Charter Schools in Detroit Leaves Students Adrift

Two Former New Orleans Charter Principals Exploited SPED Students for Money, Among Other Issues

Ten reasons not to hire Goodloe-Johnson as Florida Education Commissioner

 

 

 

 

 

Seattle Public Schools IT Head John Krull answers our questions…well, sort of

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

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

To put that in plain English, “blended and personalized learning” means that a student works in front of a computer the greater part of the day and the teacher is then able to manage over 40 to 50 students in a classroom, theoretically, which is a way to cut cost.

This is a popular approach for online charter schools like Summit charter school.

Computers or laptops are programmed with packaged lessons that many times have not been vetted by parents or teachers or as in Seattle, by the school board. There is also experimental software using a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) program that is integrated into the computers to determine a student’s mindset and attitude.

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

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

The following are the ten questions we submitted to John Krull, Chief Information Officer for Seattle Public Schools, with Krull’s answers after each question.

  1. Why did you decide to move to Seattle after two years in Oakland?

I thoroughly enjoyed my almost four years as Chief Technology Officer in Oakland. While there, I led a team that made numerous advancements in use of technology in students’ education.

Seattle Public Schools presents another exciting opportunity to leverage technology to provide the best educational experience for students in an area I call home. I have spent 20 years in the Seattle area where I attended the University of Washington, taught in Shoreline Schools and worked at Microsoft and I look forward to the next 20 years too.

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

Seattle Public Schools is testing Educational Data Solutions’ Homeroom software solution as part of improving our data systems. It is part of the district’s strategy to implement Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) to help students according to their individual needs and eliminate opportunity gaps. Both district and school staff will be able to use data collected to enhance and shape supports for their students. Right now we are field testing in 15 schools at a cost of $105,000. Full deployment at all schools will cost approximately $376,750.

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

The safety and security of our students is a top priority, including when it comes to collecting personal student data. Currently, discipline data is recorded in PowerSchool and will flow to Homeroom for reporting. This flow, along with training, will improve how data is collected and stored which will allow us to better support the district’s MTSS strategies.  All student information is stored according to retention rules set by the state and will be stored through high school.

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

The Technology Plan for this year and the next 3 years is outlined in the Buildings, Technology and Academics IV (BTA IV) Levy information. You can see the plan under the Technology section of the Seattle Public Schools Levies Information published in Winter 2016 https://bta.seattleschools.org/assets/Uploads/documents/Levies%20Information-Winter%202016%20brochure-Final.pdf .

Implementing our plan is the result of close collaboration with the district’s Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction, Student Services, Strategy & Partnerships, Business & Finance, HR, and Operations Departments to make sure our technology investments are implemented to align to the district’s strategic plan. Here is a link to the district’s strategic plan. https://www.seattleschools.org/district/strategic_plan

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

I am familiar with CASEL. Currently, the district follows a different Social Emotional Learning (SEL) model. While I don’t have an active role in the direction of SEL, I do believe SEL can be applied to the digital world. For example, Responsible Decision Making applies as much to the physical as the online world.

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

Again, the safety and security of students is a top priority, including all personal data collected by the district. Here is a link to the district’s policy procedure for collection of data as part of Superintendent Procedure 3231SP: (http://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/School%20Board/Procedures/Series%203000/3231SP_sig.pdf).

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

Here is a link to an article written for Edsurge by a colleague who worked on our presentation “How Do You Measure Return on Investment of Edtech”…  https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-08-18-how-can-we-measure-edtech-s-return-on-investment Unfortunately, I don’t have any documents supporting my presentation, “Creating a Platform for Staff and Student Growth”, on the internet. I do detail many other presentations on my website, http://www.johnkrull.org/

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

My department and staff is dedicated to supporting the use of all devices used by all students across the district. While the district’s education staff make grade-level device decisions, we are looking at Clever badges as a possibility to make logging into devices easier.

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

As the largest school district in the Pacific Northwest, we serve more than 53,000 students. This includes providing district technology staff “standard” equipment like computers, projectors, and document cameras to name a few, so they, in turn, can provide students with the best educational experience. The Seattle school district is dedicated to eliminating opportunity gaps for all students and supporting their individual needs. That includes supporting students through access to technology. “Secure” means we use applications and systems that comply with all FERPA and district rules, policies, and procedures to make sure we protect and maintain privacy. The safety and security of our students is a top priority.

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

I serve on an advisory panel for IMS Global that is working to develop standards to have education applications work together.

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

There you have it. Our questions and concerns were not truly addressed but maybe Krull is thinking more about the technology itself and not what role technology should have in the classroom. That’s a discussion parents and educators should be having now, before IT departments are allowed to pursue their vision.

Recommended articles:

Someone is driving the curriculum in Seattle Public Schools and it’s not educators, parents or the school board

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Serious student privacy concerns with new Summit/Facebook platform

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

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

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

From the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy:

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

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

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

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

Here is an excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions for Summit:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Automated Education + Chasing Skills + Debt = Social Control

Reposted with permission from Wrench in the Gears.

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I posted the scenario below in November of 2015 as a Facebook note. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve come across a number of items having to do with skills, automation, and human capital management, so I thought I would pull it back out to share. Below are a couple of articles that caught my eye:

New Tools Needed to Track Technology’s Impact on Jobs, Panel Says by Steve Lohr of the New York Times

The EIDCC, The Experience Graph, and the Future of Human Capital Analytics by Shelly Blake-Plock of Yet Analytics

The Omidyar Network and the (Neoliberal) Future of Education by Audrey Watters

I’m a parent activist, not an educator or economist. But after reading and listening to a wide range of sources, I came up with the construct below. In the 18 months since I wrote it, many indicators seem to confirm this is where we are headed. I’d be interested in hearing your feedback and welcome comments explaining how this is all wrong.

Originally posted to Facebook November 2015:

Emily Talmage
noticed a connection between ed reformers, those funding CBE, and student loan financing. I was thinking about it today, and I think I see how it will play out. Follow the money. Who stands to gain?

1. Move to the idea of online credentialing. Call it standards-based skills mastery, etc. Get everyone on board with CBE.

2. Break down old-fashioned notion of “seat time.” Everything is “student-centered” and “self-paced.” You don’t need true distinctions between high school and community college and four-year college and professional certifications. It’s all just one process of gathering up the “bits” of education required.

3. Collecting badges is seamless, and you just transition without any real breaks. If they can get rid of physical school buildings and campuses and move learning into online virtual worlds, that will be a natural progression.

4. Accept that a four-year liberal arts education will be beyond the financial reach of most people. Provide some public funding for community college.

5. Take over the boards of the community colleges to ensure they only offer coursework that is pre-professional and serves industry’s short term needs.

6. Have the government underwrite or subsidize Associates degrees to boost college completion for more students. At the end of the process, however, students will need more training.

7. Online, for-profit companies will offer students the chance to obtain credentials at a price considerably lower than tuition for a liberal arts college, but most will still need to take out loans.

8. Accept the fact that companies will no longer pay to train you for their jobs. They don’t want thinkers with raw potential. They want a set of credentials to do the job they have right now.

9. Algorithms sift through online applications demanding the exact credentials listed for each job. This is being done now, but imagine the increased efficiency when each skill is given a unique number, like a healthcare code. A person who doesn’t have the entire complement of codes up front will be out of the running.

10. When industry outsources your job or makes it obsolete, they lay you off and put up another online ad for a job with different competencies/skills.

11. People throughout their life (lifelong learning) will chase the newest set of in-demand credentials. Rather than paying for a four-year college, plus some higher degree, they’ll get a baseline pre-professional education and try to accumulate competencies/credentials that will allow them to keep up with a job market shaped by AI automation.

12. A liberal arts education is less and less valued unless you have a job at the highest levels of a company. Those jobs will go to the graduates of elite universities who secure positions through their networks. Children of the elite will not have to run the gauntlet of algorithms.

13. Companies will no longer do on the job training in a real sense. You will need to be serviced by these online education providers for training and professional development.

14. There will be a big new market for student loan financing that will be repeated throughout your life. That’s where Lumina and Nellie Mae come in.

15. Redefining education as a largely online process will benefit technology companies as well as Internet providers (but not human teachers or those whose job it is to support school operations and facilities). Plus, data!

16. There will be zero quality control. People pay education providers up front to try and get the credential for mastery, but if they don’t ever attain mastery, they don’t get their money back. The debt, however, stays with them.

I believe that is why interests associated with student loan finance are working so hard to transform K12 education into digital data farms that can be mined for profit and used for social control.

 -Alison McDowell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related posts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACT study: Common Core, not ready for prime time

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

Common Sense Questions About the Common Core Test

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

Who wrote the Common Core Standards? The Common Core 24

The facts about the Common Core Standards

Submitted by Dora Taylor

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

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

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

Don’t believe me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or

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

In it for the long haul.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

Crisis of courage. 

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

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

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

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

The only thing missing is the courage to do so.

Final thoughts.

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

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

-Carolyn Leith

 

 

 

 

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

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

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Editor’s note: Cheri Kiesecker was a panelists for the Webinar: Stop the Ed Tech Juggernaut hosted by Parents Across America. Click here for links to the video recording and slides from the program.

-Carolyn Leith

The USDoE’s Digital Promise to advance the ed-tech field, CBE, and online education

In 2011 the US Department of Education (USDoE)  launched the nonprofit Digital Promise,  and Digital Promise helped create The League of Innovative Schools. (Click to see the map of Innovative Schools in your area).  Digital Promise and the League of Innovative Schools are involved with Relay Graduate School, Bloomboard, the use of standardized student hand gestures, real-time data from student white boards, data badges (micro-credentials) and Competencies. Click to see details.  According to former US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan’s speech, the nonprofit marriage of Federal Government and Edtech, Digital Promise was created ” to advance the education technology field”.

“This is not a task for government alone. We can create the environment for innovation. But experts in schools, research labs, and entrepreneurs big and small will do the difficult work of developing new technologies, getting them adopted in homes, schools, and districts across the country.

Digital Promise will aid that work by bringing together people from business, education, and the research community to advance the education technology field.
Even as we’re launching this new effort, a group of school districts have stepped forward to lead this transformation. We’re calling them the League of Innovative Schools.
Digital Promise will be a truly collaborative effort across all sectors.”

Arne Duncan, Sept. 16, 2011 Launch of Digital Promise  

However, launching  Digital Promise in the U.S. was not enough.  The nonprofit GLOBAL Digital Promise was  launched in 2013.  Global DP’s work “supports learner agency” and US DP and Global DP  have “a formal agreement and informal relationships between the two organizations [to] enable deep and fluid collaboration.”  One has to wonder, what kind of  information and resources are shared in this formal and informal relationship?

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Digital Promise’s roots go deeper than its launch in 2011

Digital Promise was previously authorized in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, and Arne Duncan reminded us of that at the 2011 Digital Promise launch when he said:

“I especially want to thank Representative John Yarmuth, for his leadership. Along with Senator Dodd, Representative Yarmuth worked to authorize Digital Promise in the Higher Education Opportunity Act. That’s the reason we’re all here today.”

The US Department of Education has been ACTIVELY engaged in promoting businesses, corporations, and edtech in public education.

In 2012 the USDOE joined with the FCC in creating “DIGITAL TEXTBOOK PLAYBOOK,” A ROADMAP FOR EDUCATORS TO ACCELERATE THE TRANSITION TO DIGITAL TEXTBOOKS“:

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The US Department of Education later followed up on its promise to advance the edtech field and accelerate the transition from textbook to online education with their Open Education Resources, #GoOpen initiative in 2015.  Once again the USDoE joined forces with others: Department of Defense (Federal Learning Registry) , Microsoft, Amazon, Edmodo,  and a host of others to deliver this “free” online curriculum.  You can see from the USDoE Press Release that it appears that Microsoft will be handling the interchange of data sharing.

The seemingly urgent push to transform education into a global workforce talent pipeline, creating k-12 badge pathways, allow workforce to “utilize student data and develop curriculum to meet market demand”,  measure 21st century (non-cognitive) soft skills and competencies,  creation of workforce data badges /credentials and Competency Based Education (CBE) seems to be coming from the many sectors mentioned in Digital Promise.

This excerpt from a 2015 NGA  letter to all states explains the workforce-education competency based transformation and also mentions the NH Innovative testing model as an example of future CBE assessments:

“Communicating the Change (page 14) A policy change to a CBE system is unlikely to occur unless a governor who supports a move toward CBE can communicate the need for change, the potential value of CBE, and strategies to overcome the associated challenges. The basic message a governor can communicate is that a CBE system is responsive to the learning needs of individual students. CBE would benefit students and families, teachers, communities, and businesses. Well prepared individuals have a greater potential to be productive members of society who better use taxpayer money by staying in the education system only for as long as necessary to meet their professional goals. Despite the appeal of CBE and its potential benefits, the structure does not fit within society’s current entrenched vision of education and existing policies.

State policymakers and the public at large habitually picture desks, a blackboard, and students facing a teacher at the front of the classroom when thinking of a typical K-12 educational environment. Higher education produces a similarly traditional vision of 18-year-olds in ivy-covered buildings. These systems do not work for enough of today’s students. CBE is one way to respond to the evolution in the demands of current students and offers a new way to overcome existing shortcomings. Governors are well positioned to lead and encourage a discussion on the potential value of a move toward CBE.”

“K-12 Policy Environment  – If governors want to discuss the benefits of CBE for K-12 students, they should emphasize the ability to provide more personalized instruction so that far more students can meet more rigorous and relevant standards, regardless of background, ability, or stage of development. CBE is designed to meet students where they are and get them the help they need when they need it so that they can master the defined standards of learning. In a CBE system, the support and incentives are in place to increase the likelihood that students have mastered content and are ready for the next step. Maine produced several communication resources to educate the public about its progress toward a CBE system. The Maine Department of Education home page prominently features the state’s plan, Education Evolving, for putting students first and a separate Web site devoted to CBE in the state.  In addition to providing easy-to-navigate resources, the state created several informational videos that explain what CBE is and how it is benefiting Maine’s students. Governors in other states can use similar resources and work with their departments of education to develop plans and tools to publicize the benefits of CBE to students, families, educators, and state and local policymakers.”

Governors who seek to move their states toward a CBE system should consider several policy changes to overcome the barriers embedded in the current system. In a CBE program, the role of the educator and how he or she delivers the content can look different from current practice. Educators must be able to guide learning in a variety of ways, not simply supply content. Changing the role of the teacher has significant implications for teacher-preparation programs, certification, professional development, labor contracts, and evaluation. Computer-based learning is likely to be even more important in a CBE system than in the current time-based system. In addition, robust assessment is a key element of CBE, designed to facilitate more flexible and better testing of students’ learning. Assessment is frequently tied to accountability in K-12; therefore, policymakers might have to reconsider what they want their accountability systems to measure.

Finally, policymakers who want to implement CBE will need to figure out how to fund the transition to such a system and create the right incentives for educators and administrators. If policymakers want to pay for student learning instead of seat time, they will have to fundamentally change the way they budget and allocate dollars to school districts and higher education institutions.”

“ To deliver high-quality instruction in a CBE model, educators require access to assessments that measure learning progress along the way so that they can modify their teaching based on each student’s progress toward mastering the desired content and skills. To draw on the power of those assessments in a CBE system, assessments should be offered on a flexible timeline instead of during one window at the end of the semester or school year. No state has yet figured out how to make the switch to such a model at the K-12 level, but New Hampshire is working toward that goal.

You can read more here.

…and remember that NGA is part of another nonprofit, launched at a USDoE education summit in 2005 and created to implement student-level data sharing in every state:  The Gates funded, Marc Tucker managed Data Quality Campaign, whose 10 founding partners are at the forefront of Common Core and data driven  accountability.  

And if that weren’t enough, there is also a WORKFORCE Data Quality Campaign, whose focus is using K-16 student data to fuel workforce needs. As you can see, they were “giddy” when “The U.S. Departments of Education and Labor released joint guidance to help states match data for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) reporting. (For more on School Workforce and data badges see here, here, here, and here.)

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Data and Dollars

Aligning student data bases and workforce pathways is also in line with the US Department of Labor-Workforce Data Quality Initiative which plans to use personal information from each student, starting in pre-school, using the states’ SLDS data system.

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KnoweldgeWorks,  iNACOLEdutopia are just a few of the edtech organizations who have managed to influence policy and declare the need for online Competency Based Education, “personalized learning”, online “blended learning”, and measuring children’s social emotional soft-skills (SEL).

Keeping track of all the reforms and special interest groups is a difficult task. Luckily, there are a few maps for you to follow.  We suggest you look at the Global Education Futures map or do a quick search in the GEF Executive Summary.  Additionally, Silicon Valley has created a History of the Future playbook, listing the hurdles of incorporating ed-tech into education, they list the problem and what they did or plan to do, to “fix” it.

The push to advance online education does not take into regard the warnings and mounting evidence of health effects, inappropriate use of screen time, concerns over data privacy and profiling children, and the repeat studies that say online education does not enhance student learning and blended learning fares even worse.

Why then, is every sector promoting ed-tech, online competency based assessments and workforce data badges? ….Could it be the money?

Time Magazine: Screens in school a $60 Billion Hoax

EdWeek: Edtech is a $7.7 Billion Dollar Market

EdWeek: Sweetspots in K-12 assessment market, Computer Adaptive and non-academic assessments

McKinsey Global estimated that increasing the use of student data in education could unlock between $900 billion and $1.2 trillion in global economic value.

-Cheri Kiesecker