Saying No To Naviance: Active Non-Cooperation Is The Best Form of Resistance

Reposted with permission from Wrench in the Gears.

free library

Of course the point of Naviance is to preemptively erase people like me. It won’t do for scrappy, critically thinking, non-cooperators to remain on the board when gameplay begins. The “college and career readiness” enforcers expect everyone to passively accept their assigned slot; to be grateful to even have a slot; so grateful they won’t risk imagining another future or challenging the status quo to create an alternate reality. Which is exactly why our family refused to allow our high-school daughter to create a Naviance account two years ago. Parents in other states are doing the same.

John Trudell espoused a policy of non-cooperation. To his way of thinking, when confronted by oppression, it is our responsibility look for ways to gum up the system. This week my wrench-throwing target was Naviance, a subsidiary of Hobsons, a company that promotes itself as a college and career readiness solution.

The Philadelphia School District entered into a five-year, $1.5 million contract with Naviance in 2015. The William Penn Foundation and the Philadelphia School Partnership, both proponents of school privatization, pitched in with $750,000 to cover half the cost. An article from Inside Philanthropy stated the software is “essentially, a high school guidance counselor in a website form.”

It is a program that seeks to replace human interaction with digital ones, which is bad enough, but the company also builds its bottom line collecting data mined from students’ tender, just-forming identities starting as early as middle school. The software deploys intrusive surveys and “strengths assessments” to develop robust profiles used to track kids into career pathways.

I would have fared poorly in such a system. I was a humanities-loving art history student, who took up a graduate degree in historic preservation with a focus on cultural landscapes. Over time, and with the guidance of friends who helped me open my eyes and look hard at the world, I developed an analysis that led me to become a radical researcher intent on exposing purveyors of predatory digital disruption.

Of course the point of Naviance is to preemptively erase people like me. It won’t do for scrappy, critically thinking, non-cooperators to remain on the board when gameplay begins. The “college and career readiness” enforcers expect everyone to passively accept their assigned slot; to be grateful to even have a slot; so grateful they won’t risk imagining another future or challenging the status quo to create an alternate reality. Which is exactly why our family refused to allow our high-school daughter to create a Naviance account two years ago. Parents in other states are doing the same.

But now, as a senior, she had to figure out how to get transcripts to apply to college. In a growing number of school districts Naviance holds families hostage. If they refuse to set up an account and complete all the surveys their children cannot graduate, request letters of recommendation, or have transcripts sent. Naviance, a private company whose profits are manufactured from the student data they collect, is becoming a gatekeeper to college admission. Plus, our district paid them $750,000 (plus the $750,000) for the privilege! Below is a comment on a recent blog post to that effect.

After several email exchanges with school district officials and a productive meeting with our daughter’s lovely human (not web-form) guidance counselor, we came up with a plan to do the application process sans-Naviance. We’d do it the old-fashioned way with embossed seals, paper copies, signatures across envelopes and snail-mail postage. Sure, she’ll have to pull her submissions together a bit sooner to give us a buffer in case something gets lost along the way, but in exchange we’ll enjoy the peace of mind knowing her “strengths” remain beyond the reach of Hobson’s predictive analytics.

Below are two emails I sent to the Chief Information Officer of our district with Superintendent Hite copied, as well as the Head of Student Support Services. It explains our thinking and affirms the stance we took was not just for ourselves, but to keep the door open for others who desire to pursue the same course.

If you can opt out of Naviance at Masterman, you should be able to opt out of Naviance anywhere in the School District of Philadelphia and be supported in your decision to do so. Support your school’s guidance counselor. Opt out and demand funds used to pay these data-mining companies instead be used to reduce counselors’ caseloads and free them up to spend more quality time with their students.

Our concerns about Naviance:

Email dated September 20, 2018

Dear XXXX,

I think you were looped in later, so I wanted to make it clear to all involved that our desire to opt out of the Naviance platform is grounded in concern over:

1) use of student data to create profit streams for private companies

2) use of data to generate profiles of students that may in fact cause them harm, especially given its use of surveys and strengths assessments

3) outsourcing student services to private companies when public funds would be better spent expanding access to HUMAN counselors in our schools

4) Naviance, a private company, becoming a de facto gatekeeper for access to post-secondary opportunities

See the excerpt from a market report for Hobson from 2013.

“Hobson is also developing a third business line – data and analytics – which focuses on this data, much of it proprietary, that flows through its solutions at both K-12 and HE (higher education). The recent acquisition of National Transcript Center (NTC) from Pearson enables Hobson to capture data along the student lifecycle by facilitating e-transcript exchanges…The company’s acquisition of Beat the GMAT in October 2012, together with its College Confidential business, also supports Hobson’s strategy in creating communities with strong underlying data, which has a value to HE institutions and CAN BE MONETIZED.”

Most people don’t take the time to dig into the corporate underpinnings of the online platforms their children are supposed to use, but in this case it does merit serious consideration. Naviance is owned by Hobson, a division of the Daily Mail and General Trust in the UK. Lord Rothermere, former owner of the Daily Mail, consistently gave positive press to Hitler throughout the 1930s link.

Hobson is also based in Cincinnati, Ohio, which is quite interesting in that that is also the corporate headquarters of Knowledgeworks, one of the primary advocates for a shift to a learning ecosystem model. This model seeks to replace schools with drop-in centers, badged credentials, and a combination of digital and out of school time learning opportunities. I have seen the data fields for Naviance, and it appears this platform is aligned to such a model. As a person who values the importance of neighborhood schools as physical places, this worries me greatly.

Among the primary responsibilities of public school districts is the management of student records and support of students in accessing those records. I feel strongly this is a responsibility that should not be delegated to a for-profit, third party company that has a stated interest in expanding their market share through data-mining children. While some families may find this “service” a convenience, we do not.

Our daughter has two institutions to which she intends to apply early action. Those deadlines are the first of November. She is in the process of finalizing her materials now, but we need to know how we can transmit official copies of her transcript and her letters of recommendation to the institutions to which she is applying outside of Naviance. We need to have this information by the end of September.

I very much appreciate the School District leadership’s assistance in helping us with this matter.

Sincerely,

Alison McDowell

Post-Meeting Follow Up Email

September 20, 2018

Hello everyone,

I just wanted to share an update. XXX and I had a very productive meeting with XXX this morning. There is indeed an embossing stamp of approval for printed transcripts and provisions to obtain paper copies of letters of recommendation in sealed envelopes. I very much appreciate the school’s flexibility in accommodating our desire to pursue the college application process outside this platform, and we have a plan over the next month to pull everything together for her early action forms.

That said I want to re-emphasize that the School District of Philadelphia would do well to revisit its contractual agreements with Naviance, given the fact that their business model is fueled by student data. The amount of data being poured into this company, including sensitive behavioral data, is extremely troubling given its historic origins. It is imperative that adults do all they can to protect the children in their care from being harmed or used as a profit center. Many families do not have access to the background information I do and may not be aware that they have the option to apply to colleges outside of this third-party platform. I hope the district would extend the same level of support to other families that choose to opt out of Naviance.

As a parent and taxpayer I would prefer to see public funds used to reduce caseloads for school counselors so they have more time to spend with students. XXX has been great to work with over the years.

Once again XXX, thanks for your time today and your knowledgeable input.  We look forward to coordinating with you as we plan XXX’s next steps.

Sincerely,

Alison McDowell

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School Transformation Double Talk Threatens Students and Teachers

Reposted with permission from Nancy Bailey’s Education Website.

college ready

Empowered is a popular word. But in North Dakota they are handing schools over to Knowledgeworks, a foundation that will convert schools to technology.  The only way teachers will be empowered is if they sign on to Knowledgeworks!

It’s easy to be confused by what is said about schools today. We are told one thing, when quite the opposite is taking place.

We are told that with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), education will involve local decision making. Simultaneously, the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation is giving $44 million to affect state school decisions.

A citizen may have suggestions for their local school board, but who’s going to listen when that school district is taking money and doing what the Gates Foundation wants them to do?

Another example is North Dakota. Superintendent Kirsten Baesler did a podcast six months ago discussing “innovation” and “customization” of learning. She was trying to get teachers and citizens to support ND 2186, a bill that passed there to transform schools to technology.

The discussion involves double talk. These same buzz words and claims can be found in school districts across the country.

Claim: Teachers will be “empowered.”

The Reality:

Empowered is a popular word. But in North Dakota they are handing schools over to Knowledgeworks, a foundation that will convert schools to technology.

The only way teachers will be empowered is if they sign on to Knowledgeworks!

Claim: We are moving away from No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

The Reality:

NCLB was all about destroying public schools with strict accountability.

Total technology without teachers is the NCLB frosting on the cake!

Claim: Teacher creativity is important.

Reality:

The State of North Dakota has partnered with Ted Dintersmith, who wrote a book about what schools should be like. But he is not an educator.

Ted’s professional experience includes two decades in venture capital, including being ranked by Business 2.0 as the top-performing U.S. venture capitalist for 1995-1999. He served on the Board of the National Venture Capital Association, chairing its Public Policy Committee. From 1981 to 1987, he ran a business at Analog Devices that helped enable the digital revolution.

Where’s the teacher creativity in this?

Dintersmith uses the same line as Betsy DeVos and other corporate school reformers. In a Forbes interview he says, Schools still use a 125-year-old model, put in place to train people for industrial jobs, which lives with us to this day. 

He has also worked with Tony Wagner who once worked with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Claim: Customized learning is innovation.

Reality:

Customized learning is also called personalized, competency-based, proficiency-based, digital, and online learning. It means children will rely on screens for instruction and nonstop testing. Much data will be collected about them.

Teachers will become secondary to the computer as facilitators, or they could be out of a job.

Brick-and-mortar schools are also jeopardized. Students might learn at home or in libraries, museums, or charter schools.

Claim: Teachers will get authority because they are trusted.

Reality:

If this is true, why has North Dakota partnered with Dintersmith, and turned schools over to Knowledgeworks? Are teachers being used to spread the customized learning message? Will their jobs be intact in a few years?

Claim: Loosening regulations and laws will help students.

Reality:

This is dangerous. We hear it echoed by Betsy DeVos. Think about laws that protect students.

For example, if it weren’t for IDEA,  schools would not have to work with students with disabilities.

Other federal laws include Section 504, FERPA, and Protection of Pupil Rights.

North Dakota State laws can be found here. 

ND 2186 permits these changes, found on the Knowledgeworks website.

  • Awarding credit for learning that takes place outside normal school hours
  • Awarding credit for learning that takes place away from school premises
  • Allowing flexibility regarding instructional hours, school days, and school years
  • Allowing any other appropriate flexibility necessary to implement the pilot program effectively

How will we know what students learn? You can see here how brick-and-mortar schools could be on their way out.

Claim: We are doing what’s right for children.

Reality: There is no proof that this is true. An OECD study in 2015 found that students did better with less technology!

______________________________

This is just some of the double talk out there. Check out my list of state superintendents and compare what they say with other state leaders.

Tune in to the language. It isn’t always what it seems.

Note. Knowledgeworks will be working with North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina (and Indiana?). Will they be coming to your state?

All of the changes in North Dakota were across party lines.

______________________________

Here is a well-researched and more detailed explanation of North Dakota’s situation. “They’ve Got Trouble, up there in North Dakota.” Wrench in the Gears.  

-Nancy Bailey

Tracking Students: Google Rolls Out “Anytime, Anywhere” Learning in Kirkland, WA Parks This Spring

Reposted with permission from Wrench in the Gears.

KITE

If you’re going to spend time in your local park, do you want your child glued to a device? Should they be looking at flora and fauna, or screens? Students, parents, teachers, and administrators need to start critically assessing the surveillance and data-gathering aspects of initiatives like the KiTE STEM challenge. As Eric Schmidt of Alphabet (Google’s parent company) says, data is the new oil. With each multiple choice answer (and the location and activity data associated with it) children are being mined for value. I’m not comfortable with that.

Fast forward fifteen years. Imagine that the vision advanced by Knowledgeworks, the futurists at the American Alliance of Museums, the MIT Media Lab, Institute for the Future, and ed-tech impact investors has been realized. Neighborhood schools no longer exist. Buildings in gentrifying communities have been transformed into investment condominiums with yoga studios and roof-top bars. Those in marginal neighborhoods exist as bare-bones virtual reality warehouses where the poor are managed for their data. If you want the narrative version, you can read it here.

A handful of designated structures have been retained as education drop-in centers, places where “lifelong learners” consult with mentors about their (bleak) prospects for acquiring “just-in-time” workforce skills. The global economy has gone digital. Everyone has a Blockchain identity and biometrically enabled payment account. Both are linked to a person’s permanent online record of academic and social-emotional competencies, the public services they’ve obtained, and determinations regarding the “impact” those services have had on their human capital. The social impact investors watch the data dashboards and take their profits.

Redefining Teacher Education
Source: Redefining Teacher Education for Digital Age Learners, 2009

“Future Ready” education has been gamified, decontextualized, and dehumanized. “Learning” repackaged into a product that can be dispensed, consumed, tracked, and evaluated via corporate apps. ICT (Information and Communication Technology) devices have largely supplanted human teachers, who had neither the capacity nor the inclination to gather learner data in the quantities demanded by Pay for Success contracts.

Austerity and technological advances gradually transitioned hybrid, “personalized” learning outside of classrooms and schools entirely. “Freed” of seat time requirements, teachers, grades, report cards, and diplomas, students pursue, in isolation, pathways to “career readiness.” What the concept of “career” means in a time of automated labor, precarious employment, and AI human resource management is open to debate.

A friend shared an article with me this week that reveals early phase trials of digitally mediated learning ecosystems are here. I plan to do another post that goes into detail about the Internet of Things, iBeacons, online learning lockers, Education Savings Accounts, badges, and informal learning settings. For now, it’s enough to know that the Cities of LRNG model the MacArthur Foundation is advancing via their spin off “Collective Shift” involves students using the “city as their classroom.”

Devices monitor an individual’s movements via apps, and accomplishments are logged as students undertake “any time, anywhere” learning. Sometimes it happens in the real world. Other times it happens in virtual or augmented reality. Either way, Tin Can API is watching, logging data fed to IMS Global. Watch this video by Rustici Software LLC, developers of Tin Can API, it’s under two minutes and worth every second. Pay attention to all the layers of data being collected in this simple interface.

In the case of Kirkland, WA, a Seattle suburb, education rewards are being offered to students who choose to participate in an informal STEM learning program in local parks between April 23 and May 13, 2018. A student downloads the app, and questions are delivered to them based on their age. This activity is targeted at children as young as kindergarten. Students can earn “entries,” chances to win personal prizes (museum admissions, IMAX tickets, and Google swag) as well as up to $34,500 in cash for Lake Washington District school PTSA organizations.

Attempting a question, even if incorrect, will win a student one entry, while a question correctly answered in a Kirkland park awards 15 entries. In order to qualify for bonus entries, a student must allow the app access to their real time location, which verifies by GPS if they answered the question while they were within the park system. I find it troubling that awards vary by the student’s location when answering. I can imagine, in some dystopian future, technologies like this being deployed to digitally redline education. It’s a chilling prospect, but not unthinkable.

The app also encourages students to allow the app to track “Motion and Fitness Activity.” Purportedly this is about “increasing battery efficiency;” however, knowing the prevalence of fitness tracking apps and how they are being incorporated into policies around health care (see Go360, the West Virginia teachers strike, and research being done at the Cornell-Tech Small Data Lab) I find this also very concerning. The amount of data being collected on students who download the app, if they follow the recommended settings, is significant.

According to the FAQ, Google is the financial sponsor of this challenge. Partners include the Kirkland Parks Foundation, the Lake District Schools Foundation, the City of Kirkland, the Pacific Science Center, Eastside Audubon, Brilliant.org (an online STEM network and talent scouting enterprise), and KiwiCo (age-based STEAM kit subscriptions). If you are a school administrator you can email them for a free action plan with tips to encourage students to upload the app, so their education can be monitored as part of Google’s pilot learning ecosystem experiment.

If you’re going to spend time in your local park, do you want your child glued to a device? Should they be looking at flora and fauna, or screens? Students, parents, teachers, and administrators need to start critically assessing the surveillance and data-gathering aspects of initiatives like the KiTE STEM challenge. As Eric Schmidt of Alphabet (Google’s parent company) says, data is the new oil. With each multiple choice answer (and the location and activity data associated with it) children are being mined for value. I’m not comfortable with that.

I wrote a companion to this post, Navigating Whiteness: Could “Anywhere, Anytime” Learning Endanger Black and Brown Students? I live in Philadelphia, and the arrests of two black men at a local Starbucks has me thinking a lot about how black and brown students could be placed at risk by the learning ecosystem model. Continue reading here.

-Alison McDowell

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

Reposted with permission from Wrench in the Gears.

library as makerspace

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

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

Doug Burgum

The Governor’s Summit on Innovative Education

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

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

Innovative Education Summit ND 2017

Dintersmith the Promoter

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

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

Student Data Extraction

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

Mentor Connect

Mastery-Based Learning Eliminates Grades

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

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

Work-Based Learning?

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

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

more agile workforce

Dintersmith strikes again

What about the teachers?

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

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

ND SB2186

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

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

Knowledge Works CC

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

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

The Truth About Local Control

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

ND Innovative Education Partners

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

Knowledgeworks Staff

Grants to Knowledgeworks

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

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

School ReTool

Get in touch with the parents in Maine!

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

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

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

ND Innovative Education Task Force

Innovative Education in North Dakota

-Alison McDowell

Ted Dintersmith is not here to save neighborhood schools!

Reposted with permission from Wrench in the Gears.

Dintersmith your schools are obsolete

Dintersmith knows good storytelling has the power to sway people’s opinions and has the money to buy the best messaging. His first outing was “Most Likely To Succeed” a documentary screened nationally with the goal of initiating discussions about disruptive education.

No, Ted Dintersmith is not coming to save our schools, because to him they’re obsolete. Last week Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post pitched Ted Dintersmith’s new book “What School Could Be,” and many ed-activists ate it up. I thought by now a “philanthropic” white male technocrat investor with absolutely no teaching experience coming on the scene to tell us how to fix our broken-on-purpose schools would be met with a healthy dose of skepticism. Dintersmith might say what we want to hear. His pitch might validate our concerns about punitive high-stakes standardized testing and the psychological damage caused by developmentally inappropriate education standards. He may criticize AP classes and the College Board; but if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Consider his quote from a recent EdSurge article “the focus should really be on funding schools that produce future entrepreneurial adults, instead of entrepreneurial adults today funding obsolete schools.”

Dintersmith’s is the face of Ed Reform 2.0. The new paradigm for education he envisions replacing our “obsolete” schools with is one where:

Competency or mastery-based education is the norm.

Skills are uploaded to online portfolios via apps.

Mindsets and habits of work are tracked.

Children teach one another.

Students are expected to be “in charge” of their learning.

Teachers become “mentors;” or are even replaced by volunteers.

Out of school internships are prioritized.

Instruction may be outsourced to community or work-based organizations.

Students are expected to have a passion and a pathway to the workforce.

With such a model, bricks and mortar schools and certified teachers could wither away and eventually disappear.

I had exchanges this week where I was told that everything in the Strauss piece sounded so good. It couldn’t be argued with, even though the person delivering the message hailed from one of the largest early-stage tech venture capital firms in the world. We should simply accept what he said at face value and be grateful that someone was saying it. I expect many teachers reading the article wanted to believe they would be the ones leading the project-based learning Dintersmith pitched; that one day they would be given back their autonomy and allowed to manage their classrooms again. If they had paused to consider how the venture capital crowd is reimaging education, surely they would have soon realized those were unrealistic expectations. The Dintersmith version of “personalized” learning is about disempowering teachers. Those projects will happen “Out of School Time” and be run by cyber-education companies or gig-economy precarious labor in the learning ecosystems envisioned by Knowledgeworks.

Dintersmith knows good storytelling has the power to sway people’s opinions. He founded and funded the Catalyst Initiative with Sundance to match “forward-thinking financiers” with social justice film projects. He has the money to buy the best messaging. His first outing was “Most Likely To Succeed” a documentary screened nationally with the goal of initiating discussions about disruptive education. Many many ed-activists took the bait and screened the film not understanding it was a Trojan horse for Ed Reform 2.0. The blogger Edu-Shyster interviewed him at the time, and Diane Ravitch shared Berkshire’s post noting, “This is good news! A venture capitalist has seen the light.” At least one thoughtful commenter, Dienne, saw through the sham.

Dienne - Dintersmith

It is interesting that in her piece Strauss attempted to set up Dintersmith as a foil to Gates, a kind of “good philanthropist” “bad philanthropist” dynamic. In fact, they are both on the same team. Case in point: High Tech High, which was a focal point of Dintersmith’s film, is a charter school based in San Diego that was provided seed money in 2000 by the Gates Foundation to the tune of $9.3 million.

Gates High Tech High

A recent feature in the Chronicle of Higher Education ran the headline “A Venture Capitalist Uses Philanthropy to Reimagine Education,” while a Forbes article from last November proclaimed “How A Former VC Wants to Disrupt American Education.” Are you seeing the red flags now? Dintersmith made his fortune at Charles River Ventures, where he is listed as partner emeritus. The company invests in technology startups. A few are education-related, like Udacity, but more involve AI, robotics, cloud-based computing, biotech, and automation. You can review the company’s extensive holdings in Crunchbase. CSV’s Boston office is located at One Broadway in Cambridge, a stone’s throw from MIT’s Sloan School of Management where Jean Hammond, founder of the Learn Launch ed-tech accelerator, sits on the board. They also have offices in San Francisco and Palo Alto.

CRV

CRV Other team members

Dintersmith likes to portray himself as just an average person who happens have the wherewithal to take two years off to tour, meeting with billionaires, politicians, teachers and students to reimagine public education. Though retired, he is cultivated as a thought leader in tech and innovation. The year he launched his film, Dintersmith met with Gates and Global Education Futures Forum affiliate Tom Vander Ark in Seattle to discuss impact investments in education.

The 2015 gathering, hosted by Vulcan Inc. included representatives from Digital Promise, the Clayton Christensen Institute, and Dreambox. Vulcan Inc. is the “engine behind Microsoft cofounder Paul G. Allen’s network of organizations and initiatives.” Mr. Allen has his hands in many enterprises. In addition to being an incubator for innovative technologies, the firm manages extensive real estate holdings, ownership of the Seattle Seahawks, and the Allen Brain Science Institute. A number of guests at the Vander Ark/Vulcan meet-up created videos to promote impact investing in education. This is Dintersmith’s clip.

Dintersmith - Getting Smart

That conference resulted in the 37-page report “25 Impact Opportunities in K12 U.S. Education.” It references Dintersmith’s film and can be read here. I have found no evidence that Charles River Ventures is directly involved in Pay for Success or Social Impact Bonds. They are, however, based in Cambridge, the epicenter of the innovative finance sector, and make investments in the types of technological “solutions” that will enable the data-collection and impact evaluation of outcomes-based contracts.

In November of 2015, Dintersmith was referenced in a White House press release detailing the launch of the Obama administration’s Next Generation High School initiative. The president’s call to action specified a more “personalized,” “real world” approach to learning that, of course, emphasized STEM. Dintersmith, along with Ed Reform 2.0 funders like the Nellie Mae, Grable, and Overdeck Foundations, teamed up with Hewlett Packard to create a MOOC that would promote a “deeper learning” approach to education to a thousand school leaders nationwide. Their “School ReTool” effort is housed within IDEO, a global design and innovation company focused on “social impact.” Among IDEO’s partners are the Gates, Rockefeller and Bezos Family Foundations. Richard Culatta, Director of Educational Technology under Obama, former Chief Innovation Office for the State of Rhode Island and now CEO of the International Society of Technology in Education, is currently a design resident for IDEO.

School ReTool

In recent years Mr. Dintersmith has invested some of his fortune in Big Picture Learning, a school model where students pursue work-based placements for much of their school week. The organization based in Rhode Island launched in 1995, and with considerable support from the Gates Foundation expanded to a network of 65 schools operating in the United States, Canada, Belize, the Netherlands, Italy, New Zealand and Australia. Work-based internships are a key element of their program, and Dintersmith put $100,000 towards Big Picture’s capacity to share the ImBlaze internship coordinator and data collection platform app created by Salesforce with other education service providers. The platform tracks academic and social-emotional competencies students demonstrate on the job.

Salesforce - Dintersmith - Big Picture Learning

Dintersmith also financially backed the Mastery Transcript Consortium, a collective of private schools and non-profit groups that hopes to replace traditional transcripts based on graded academic content with mastery-based learning standards and micro-credentials. The plan is to leverage the reputation of elite private schools to fundamentally restructure the college admissions process for all high school students.

Dintersmith - Big Picture Learning

Members of the Mastery Transcript Consortium’s Advisory Council include:

Andrew Calkins of Next Generation Learning Challenges

Auditi Chakravarty of the College Board

Virgel Hammonds of Knowledgeworks

Emmi Harward of the Association of College Counselors in Independent Schools

Mark Milliron of Civitas Learning

Kaleb Rashad of High Tech High

Todd Rose of the Mind, Brain and Education Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education

David Ruff of the Great Schools Partnership

Chris Sturgis of CompetencyWorks

Tom Vander Ark of Getting Smart

Connie Yowell of Collective Shift (Cities of LRNG, formerly of MacArthur Foundation)

Knowing the background of these individuals it seems clear they are laying the groundwork for a system along the lines of Edublocks described in Institute for the Future’s video “Learning is Earning.” This is a must-watch if you have not yet seen it.

Competency-based education is a means by which reformers and investors intend to move instruction outside schools, away from certified teachers, and into cloud-based platforms and community and work-based learning programs. It’s about making education subservient to the needs of industry. It will erode the centrality of the student-teacher relationship and cement public education as a profit-center for the technology and social impact investors. That is what Mr. Dintersmith is selling. While I appreciate many teachers want to believe the best about people, I need for you all to start to be more skeptical and militant in pushing back against this transformation. He is giving you a sugar-coated poison pill. They know how to play you, and they are doing it. Let’s turn this around, shall we?
-Alison McDowell

The US Department of Education’s Digital Promise to Advance the Ed-Tech Field, CBE, and Online Learning

Reposted with permission from Missouri Education Watchdog.

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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 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, realtime 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”.

Duncan: 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?

Digital Promise Global

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 DP launch when he said,

Duncan: Digital Promise Higher Education

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

Digital Text Books

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) 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.
read more here.

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.)

SLDS federal funding

DATA and DOLLARS

Click this Workforce Data Quality Campaign’s site to see their analysis of the White House’s proposed 2017 budget as it relates to DATA.  The 2017 Federal budget more than doubles monies for SLDS and creates all kinds of new, vague data gathering projects.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.

Workforce Data Quality

KnoweldgeWorks,  iNACOL,  Edutopia 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 edtech 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 edtech, online competency based assessments and workforce data badges? ….Could it be the money?

Robots Replacing Teachers? Laugh at Your Own Risk.

Reposted with permission from Save Maine Schools – Helping You Navigate Next-Gen Ed Reform.

Robots replacing teachers

Read their own documents, and you’ll see that they are planning to turn live, face-to-face teaching into a “premium service.”

A premium service.  

Meaning that they know face-to-face instruction is a better way to learn, and they have no intention of having their own children learn from machines.

*Disclaimer: the mother in this article requested to keep her identity anonymous for the time being. Additional details are forthcoming.

This fall, parents in a California school district discovered at a sixth grade open house that their child would no longer have a teacher.

Instead, the district had invested in an “exciting new way of learning” – a “personalized learning program” called Summit, designed by Facebook.

After listening to a presentation about the system that parents had received no prior information about (including no information about the programs data-sharing agreement, which gives Summit full authority to sell student information to third parties), they were ushered into a classroom where they told to log onto the software program.

When it became clear that no teacher was to be found, one mom went searching for an explanation.

“I went out into the  hallway and found a really young looking woman. She called herself the classroom facilitator, and told us that ‘teacher’ was just an old term.”

The mom’s jaw hit the floor.

Recently, an article has been circulating the web claiming that “inspirational robots” will begin replacing teachers in the next ten years.

Some have laughed it off, others have called it fear mongering.

One woman went so far as to call it “catastrophizing conspiracy horseshit.”

To these people I say: dismiss this at your own risk.

Those following education policy closely know that the only outrageous part of the headline is the use of the word “inspirational.”

While they may not look like this:

th0KCIT7PO

robots – in the form of data-mining software programs that operate under the Orwellian term “personalized learning” – are already invading our classrooms at lightning speed.

And if you think that what happened in California isn’t about to happen nationwide, check out this document from the high-profile, well-funded Knowledgeworks Foundation, which offers a menu of career opportunities for displaced teachers.

Proponents (who stand to make a boatload off the new system) claim that machine learning is an “inevitable” wave of the future; that it will “free up” teachers to do more “projects” with kids.

But that’s hogwash.

Read their own documents, and you’ll see that they are planning to turn live, face-to-face teaching into a “premium service.”

A premium service.  

Meaning that they know face-to-face instruction is a better way to learn, and they have no intention of having their own children learn from machines.

In that sense, maybe the idea of robots teaching children is “catastrophizing conspiracy horseshit,” if – and only if – you’re among the lucky few.

Save Maine Schools

Is the Teaching Profession Being Downsized?

Kick Out Teachers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screen shot 2016-03-06 at 4.06.12 PM

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

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

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

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

Here is how KnowledgeWorks explains the impending shift:

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

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

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

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

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

Save Maine Schools

Personalized Learning Pathways & the Gig Economy

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Individual learning pathways,

21st century skills,

Embracing the whole child;

These empowering phrases are being used to sell the public on a technology-centric, radical redesign of public education. Why? So our students will be able to keep pace in the highly competitive global economy.

David Coleman, father of the common core standards, let slip a rare insight into the real role individual students are to play in the new personalized education landscape of college and career readiness. Coleman’s statement was in response to the common core writing standards’ emphasis of analysis over opinion writing.

“As you grow up in this world, you realize people really don’t give a s— about what you feel or what you think,” he said. “It is rare in a working environment that someone says, ‘Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday, but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.’”

Forgive me, but workers bowing their heads and biting their tongues before the boss, who doesn’t give a shit about what they think or feel, sounds more like a 18th century skill to me – going back to the industrial revolution and persisting today in almost every workplace in the United States.

Personalized Pathways: Empowering or a Re-Branded Subjugation?

Katherine Prince of KnowledgeWorks, had this to say about the radical personalization of education:

Not only will schools take many forms but teachers will be those in the classroom and beyond. Prince calls these “learning agents” and they include developers and technology experts who will help create technologies that can measure learning and help teachers know when students understand what is being taught and when more instruction is needed. A blend of online learning and classroom instruction could be part of the redesign as it now being put in place in a growing number of universities.

Students also need to be prepared for the reality that full-time employment will continue to decline and workers will increasingly be hired for short-term jobs. Students need to be prepared for “mosaic careers,” Prince says.

The key skills they will need for future employment will be the ability to embrace change, appreciation of experimentation, problem solving and the ability to quickly analyze information. Young people must be trained to expect continuous learning and manage disruptions.

Wait, what?

Students need to be prepared for short-term jobs and not expect full-time employment. How empowering is that?  Sounds like the goal of this radical re-imagining of education is to produce workers willing to eek out a precarious existence in the gig economy.

The Global Education Futures: Agenda GEF.Agenda_eng ( pages 12 ) gets even more to the point: education has to be re-structured to support a jobless economy and provide an avenue to ease social tension caused by this mass financial hardship.

The transformation of economy structure inevitably changes the structure of employment. In coming years, automation of manual and intellectual routine labor will lead to substantial job reduction — which may increase social tension unless displaced workers can acquire new skills and enter job markets in new sectors. Education may serve as a social buffer that helps this shift — and educational institutions should proactively prepare for the coming transformation.

If workers are the losers, there must be someone benefiting from the new economy. Again from the GEF Report ( page 25).

Besides that, a new and extremely important trend in education is the emerging opportunity of direct talent investment (e.g. a recent crowdinvesting platform Upstart allows to invest up to US$ 200,000 into a talented young person who then shares a small share of their income over 5 or 10 years). This model has for a long time been employed in athlete and actor job markets, but it can soon become a mass solution as big data models of competence profiles would allow to estimate the most beneficial educational & career tracks. The beginning of 2020s may see the emergence of first ‘man-llionaires’ — owners of investment portfolios, made solely of talented people investments, that worth more than one billion dollars. Later, the same model of direct talent investment could be applied by pension funds — in fact, it can be described as a modified version of Bismarckian pension system where highly performing youth would work in the interest of retired investors.

The rising demand for personalized education from employers and investors will spur the development of personal education management systems (and respective market infrastructure). In particular, we expect the standardization of descriptors defining the contribution of specific courses and other educational products (e.g. games & simulators) to the competence profile (much like ‘nutritional facts’ on food products packaging). We also expect that within next 2-3 years a fully functional search engine for educational online services will appear, most likely as a search option within major search engines such as Google, Baidu, or Yandex. In addition to that, it is highly probable that specialized educational content aggregators will offer ‘branded’ educational tracks: a path to create a target competence profile, e.g. an average profile of a skilled industry professional or a profile of a ‘hero’ such as an industry leader (e.g. Bill Gates or Jack Welch). These ‘branded’ tracks will gradually develop into 24/7 (artificial intelligence) virtual instructors that could make flexible adjustments to the educational trajectory to adapt it to the current results, objectives, and body-and-mind state of the student.

Lots to discuss here.

First, who benefits from this education re-design? Investors, for one, and the ‘man-llionaires’ who will own portfolios of talented people and get a cut of their holdings’ earnings for the next 5-10 years.

Of course, whoever wins out and becomes the most popular platform delivery system for connecting workers to gigs will profit greatly as well.

And how is a branded learning track possibly personalized?

Selling kids the online Bill Gates “hero” learning pathway, complete with an AI virtual instructor, symbolizes for me all that’s wrong with personalized learning.

Conclusion

Luckily, the dystopian future of personalized learning pathways isn’t set in stone. Even GEF admits it (page 8).

BASIC PRINCIPLES OF MAPPING THE EDUCATION FUTURES:

The future can be created, it depends on our efforts;

There are many possible futures — it is not determined by the past, but depends on current decisions taken by participants and stakeholders;

There are areas in relation to which one can make predictions, but in general, the future is not reliably predictable; we can get ready for the future or prepare the future the way we envision it to be.

As concerned parents, educators, and citizens, we need to reject personalized learning pathways and the rise of the gig economy. There’s many possible futures, time to start creating the one we want to live in.

-Carolyn Leith

From Neighborhood Schools to Learning Eco-Systems, A Dangerous Trade

Reposted with permission from Wrench in the Gears

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If we hope to preserve neighborhood schools for future generations we must recognize how reformers are reframing the idea of public education in dangerous new ways. A coordinated campaign of ALEC legislation, philanthropic investments, and slick re-branding is underway with the ultimate goal of replacing school buildings and certified, human teachers with decentralized, unregulated learning eco-systems and non-credentialed mentors and/or AI “tutors.”

It is a challenging concept to grasp. Therefore, I have decided to work on a series of posts. Taken together, I hope they will provide a base of information that people can share with others. This initial post will provide a framework for understanding the concept of a learning eco-system. Subsequent ones will cover: school redesign, digital badging, credit-bearing ELOs, Social Impact Bond financing, and changes to teacher training/hiring.

What is a learning eco-system?

Proponents of a data-driven, technology-mediated approach to public education see 21st-century learning as a “quest” in which participants diligently work to assemble proof that they’ve obtained the assorted skills and bits of knowledge they need to compete for jobs that pay a living wage. Rather than a humanistic approach that values individual creativity and civic discourse, the focus is on gathering data and shaping children to become standardized cogs in service of the global economy. The intent is to maintain the status quo, not to develop thinkers who might tip the apple cart and create a future that better serves the needs of the masses. Screen time trumps face time.

By shifting how we think about education-from a human process that happens within a community of learners to a game in which students demonstrate standards and accumulate badges-reformers aim to move much of the  K12 education process out of physical school buildings where face-to-face interaction is the primary mode of instruction, and into virtual classrooms, game environments, cultural institutions, and work settings. This is how they will attempt to replace neighborhood schools with learning eco-systems.

By learning ecosystem, we mean a network of relationships among learning agents, learners, resources, and assets in a specific social, economic, and geographic context.

As we look ten years out, we see great potential for education stakeholders to create diverse learning ecosystems that are learner centered, equitable, modular and interoperable, and resilient.  But we worry that we might be more likely to create fractured landscapes in which only those learners whose families have the time, money, and commitment to customize or supplement their learning journeys have access to high-quality personalized learning that reflects their interests and meets their needs.” Katherine Prince, Knowledgeworks

Financialization of the education sector requires separating “education” from school buildings that remain under the control of local school boards and unionized teachers and administrators. Free market principles cannot prevail if educational experiences remain subject to local oversight and trained, veteran teachers continue to be part of the conversation.

Reformers propose to replace our “outdated, factory-model” neighborhood schools with learning eco-systems. There is considerable talk about redesigning education for 21st-century learners. The Ed Reform 2.0 landscape for K12/P20 is built upon the premise that “anytime, any where learning” is the best option to train students to navigate the gig economy. Proponents of learning-ecosystems seek disruption and radical reinvention. They picture a future where big-data and algorithms create efficient pools of human capital for use by global markets. For them grade levels, peer groups, report cards, and diplomas are a thing of the past.

The above quote, by Katherine Price, Director of Strategic Foresight at Knowledgeworks, indicates that even the private sector has qualms about how this transformation may play out. The essay “A Learning Day 2037,” by Elizabeth Merritt of the American Alliance of Museums uses Moya’s story to show what happens when the “vibrant learning grid” doesn’t exactly fulfill its promise, especially for children on the margins of society. It is interesting to note that Knowledgeworks, a long-time partner with the Gates Foundation, is a major player in the push for learning eco-systems. Knowledgeworks is also involved with community schools initiatives through their program StriveTogether that promotes data-driven decision-making for children from “cradle to career.”

Widespread adoption of “personalized” digital education platforms underpins the learning eco-system model, as does reliance on big-data (academic and social-emotional) to guide students on their appropriate workforce “pathway” and reinforce desirable behaviors like “deep learning.” They see children as dynamic sets of skills, competencies and personality traits that can be quantified, sorted, and placed in digital portfolios.

The story of your personal evolution as a thinking, questioning, curious member of society? Not important except to the extent that you can put a badge on it, and they can use it to profile you. Learning in community, learning in relationship to others, also not important. If they can’t match it with a data tag, it does not factor into the equation. Those life-changing memories we hold in our hearts from our time in school are not the kinds of things you can easily upload to a “Learning Record Store.”

So, what types of experiences could a learning eco-system contain? Really, almost anything to which you can assign a standard and slap on a badge. Sample personalized playlists might include:

Watching a video

Listening to a podcast

Completing an audiobook

Playing a online-game

Participating in a virtual reality experience

Going to a museum-even a “virtual museum tour”

Participating in an online community forum

Doing a webx chat with an online “tutor”

Completing a virtual “lab” experiment

Working at your after school job

Participating in a after school club

Going to a rock-climbing gym

Providing “volunteer” tech support to your school district

And you can see how this approach to education expands to encompass workforce development in this eye-opening video from the Institute for the Future “Learning is Earning.” Data and proof of achieving mastery or competencies tied to standards will be tracked and documented through software like xAPI. The items in the above list are not “bad.” It is the idea that they could, in the present climate of austerity education budgets, become substitutes for authentic, in-school learning that concerns me. I’m sure in the hands of a thoughtful educator, many of the ideas noted could be used in moderation to enhance a school-based educational experience.

BUT the learning eco-system model is designed to MARGINALIZE the human teacher. Teachers are meant to be “guides-on-the-side,” staying in the background, checking the playlists, pathways, and portfolios, rather than providing direct instruction to students, building relationships with them, or creating classroom community. Most of these activities do NOT depend on children actually being IN a school building. As 1:1 device initiatives become the norm, students can demonstrate their “mastery” from almost any location that has Wi-Fi. And this is how we end up outsourcing oversight of our children’s education to unknown parties. I fear the day we allow education to become an elaborate game of Pokémon Go, where “anyone can grant an edu-block.”

In the personalized learning environment, children, young children who have very limited experience in the world, are expected to find their own direction, their own passion, which is incredibly troubling. Or worse, they may have their direction chosen FOR them based on analysis of unknown data generated from online stealth assessments or third-party survey tools. It is scary to consider a child may have their future life choices constrained by unknowingly expressing an interest in an academic subject in elementary school. Perhaps the high school junior will be denied access to a graphic design class after having expressed an interest in medicine as a ten year old? If children step off the assigned path, will they be castigated for not being gritty or resilient and then remediated until they comply? The government has set up a maze of developmentally inappropriate standards, and now the “personalized” learning model is forcing teachers to take a spot on the sidelines and watch as things unfold.

Is it not the purpose of K12 education to provide a rich set of experiences and material that children can draw upon to craft, adapt, and refine their identities based on their own ways of being in the world? Aren’t connections to their teachers, classmates, and school staff paramount? We know that economic circumstances will require coming generations to be creative problems solvers, so why put our kids in educational and emotional straightjackets under the guise of giving them “personalized” cyber educations? It is about control, limiting access to information and human contact, and monetizing our children’s data.

It would be very naive to think given the limited public funds being invested in children, we would EVER have the resources required to maintain THREE systems of education: neighborhood schools, virtual schools, AND community-based learning eco-systems. If past experience is any measure, bricks-and-mortar neighborhood schools are going to get the short end of the stick. Which may be why districts seem intent on investing in so much technology as their facilities fall into decrepitude.

In the land of learning eco-systems everyone goes it alone. You might mix with others here and there, peers or mentors or pathway guides, but it is a “personalized” journey. They seem to be tapping into some sort of warped American ideal of individualism. I am special. I have an education “playlist” designed just for me. It is exclusive. It is one of a kind. And the reformers are thinking…Don’t ask questions. We will optimize you based on our exhaustive knowledge of who you are. We know all your 1’ and 0’s. We know more about you than YOU know. We will put you in your place, but we will be very careful in making you believe you had a choice in the matter.

Neighborhood schools are among the last public spaces where open, civic discourse can take place. They are supposed to be safe spaces where children are nurtured. They are spaces where people can come together. It is imperative that we fight for their continued existence. Trading them in for learning eco-systems or community drop-in learning centers would be a very bad idea. Next up-Future Ready Schools.

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-Alison McDowell

KnowledgeWorks, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the push for competency based learning

big money

How can I have a problem with competency based learning? This is a question I get asked quite a lot these days.

To be fair, critics of my stance usually take the time to patiently explain in the comment section how my concerns miss the point – competency based learning doesn’t have to be done online or on an electronic device; it’s all about students showing mastery.

Let me lay out my concerns.

I think the term competency based learning has multiple meanings, based on the goals of those who are using the phrase.

It’s a clever strategy to introduce an idea the public would reject outright – like students spending their time on computers rather than being taught by human teachers – and wrapping it in a concept the public does value.

Who doesn’t like the idea of students showing mastery of material in an independent, self-paced manner?

Dick DeVos, husband of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, laid out how to use this stealth approach to ed-reform during a speech at the Heritage Foundation.

The goal is to re-package destructive policy initiatives by co-opting ideas that are considered social positives. This marketing strategy both disarms critics and cuts across ideological lines.

So, while personalized learning can be done in a hands-on way in the classroom, the big money is behind the push for students on devices, working their way through adaptive learning environments.

KnowledgeWorks is just one organization working to replace traditional brick and mortar public schools with kids on laptops, learning at anytime and in any place.

KnowlegeWorks has dreamed up an entire pay as you go, privatized, just-in-time education economy.

Students learn to earn, by mastering very specific skills. These narrow competencies can be traded for money or re-invested in another education opportunity offered by the gig economy. All of this is wrapped in the gee-wiz veneer of a high-tech, innovative, learning ecosystem.

This model works if we, as citizens, accept the idea that the value of education is purely financial. Students are nothing more that vessels to be filled with knowledge which later can be traded in a market. Competition will decide who has access to the best educational opportunities, colleges, and careers.

The problem for KnowledgeWorks is everyone knows that the old system of college and career is broken. Today’s crushing student debt coupled with the disappearance of living wage jobs proves it; preparing for college and career is a lie.

This is why the re-imaging of public education away from the liberal arts and towards personalized learning is so critical; it prepares kids for the coming gig economy and redirects attention from the current human suffering caused by of the old college and career self-betterment strategy.

There wouldn’t be much public buy-in, especially from parents, if they knew what all this innovative talk was really about. What if coding for kids and STEM programs run by big cultural organizations like the WISE Consortium, didn’t put their children on the fast track for success, but rather was preparation for their role as future precariats in the cognitive gig economy.

Personalized learning is a way for the wealthy to remake the economy in a way that allows them to keep their fortunes, while dealing with, and profit from, future job scarcity. It also avoids a public discussion about wealth inequality or how to create a system where all could benefit.

It’s no surprise then that KnowledgeWorks is absolutely giddy over the opportunity to push personalized learning into more states during the implementation of the ESSA. This strategy fits perfectly with Dick DeVos’s plan to take education reform to the state level, with local advocates who know the political landscape.

In fact, KnowledgeWorks has a created a tracker to document future markets for personalized learning – thanks to the ESSA.

From Yahoo Finance:

The first federal deadline for Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) state plan submissions is quickly approaching, and a new KnowledgeWorks tool gives a comprehensive look at the ideas states are considering to personalize learning for their students.

A Nationwide Look at State Strategies to Advance Personalized Learning,” highlights the strategies that states are exploring in their draft ESSA plans to increase personalized learning opportunities for students. States are finalizing draft plans to submit to the United States Department of Education (USED) either on April 3, 2017 or Sept. 18, 2017.

As citizens who care about public education, we need to push past the feel-good sound bites when politicians make education policy proposals and really research what is going on below the surface.

Follow the money. Find out who profits or loses when these friendly sounding initiatives are made law. Details matter – now more than ever.

-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