Charters & School Board Races: Is There a Project Renaissance Coming Your Way?

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By Amy Frogge

Project Renaissance is folding. Let me take a moment to explain what this group is really all about.

Last summer, Project Renaissance injected itself into local school board races with a vengeance, trying to take down several board members and replace them with pro-charter school candidates. I believe Project Renaissance was founded in large part to focus on our local school board elections, but the organization failed in this mission, as those of us who were targeted last summer handily won back our seats.

However, there is a greater purpose for groups like this, which are funded by very wealthy individuals who advocate for charter schools and other such market-based, money-making “reforms” (standardized testing, vouchers, etc.) while sending their own children to private schools.

Charter schools need two things to survive: (1) Teachers willing to work for extremely low salaries and benefits who will churn and burn long hours; these are typically young teachers with no traditional teacher training or experience. Many come from TFA, which provides them only weeks of training before throwing them into classrooms. (In charter schools, the money goes to the top, not the classrooms.) (2) They also need parents who are trained to spread the message of “failing [traditional] schools” and “choice” in order to create greater parent demand for charter schools. (Charters die without enough parents choosing their schools, and for this reason, charters spend a lot of money on marketing.) Because parents are not clamoring for more charter schools (they usually have little to no wait lists), wealthy charter backers must resort to recruiting families by trying to build groups like “Nashville Rise.” The whole thing is astroturf, but the lovely people involved in organizations like “Nashville Rise” don’t understand this. I’ve heard many well-intentioned and thoughtful parents sent from “Nashville Rise” to speak at our board. They believe they are fighting for civil rights and the rights of poor children to receive a better education, but they don’t realize that the agenda set forth by Project Renaissance and “Nashville Rise” actually increases inequity and segregation in our school system.

Because public opinion has changed on charter schools and polling now shows that Nashvillians are predominantly against the idea at this point, Karl Dean has decided to take a different tack during his campaign for governorship. While mayor, Dean successfully fought to remove local control of schools in Nashville. He also wanted the board to open a segregated charter school for wealthier students, and he pushed the board to open as many charter schools as possible (even extremely low performing schools like Rocketship), despite evidence that the influx of charters was having a negative fiscal impact on other schools in the district. Now that he’s running for governor, though, he maintains he’s really not about privatization or charter school expansion.

So there you have it. If we actually responded to real parent demand (not demand for “choice” contrived by millionaires), we would have had a very different conversation in Nashville over the last five years. And if we truly wanted “high quality” teaching, we would demand well trained, experienced teachers and spend some of the money we must now direct at charter operators and testing to pay teachers accordingly.

I am grateful that this organization is closing in our city, but I hope public education advocates will remain wary in other locations. This is surely coming your way.

Amy Frogge  is an elected member of the Metro Nashville Board of Public Education.

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An Interview with Alison McDowell: KEXP’s Mind Over Matters Community Forum

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On August 5th Alison McDowell was a guest on KEXP’s news program Mind Over Matters. You can listen to the interview by clicking on the link below ( be patient – it takes a little bit of time for the file to load). A transcript of the interview follows.

Alison McDowell Interview

My concern as a parent is within these adaptive learning systems, I don’t want an online system that has to learn my child to work. I don’t want a system that has to know everything my child did for the last six months, to operate properly. Because I think that becomes problematic. How do you ever have a do over? Like, is it just always building and reinforcing certain patterns of behavior and how you react…it’s, they, I think they present it as flexible and personalized, but in many ways I think it’s limiting.

Mind Over Matters – KEXP

Community Forum

Interview with Alison McDowell

Mike McCormick:  It’s time once again for Community Forum, and we’re very lucky to have with us live in the studios this morning, Alison McDowell. Alison McDowell is a parent and researcher, into the dangers of corporate education reform. She was presenter this last March this year here in Seattle. The talk entitled Future Ready schools: How Silicon Valley and the Defense Department Plan to Remake Public Education. Alison, thank you very much for coming in and spending time with us this morning.

Alison: Oh, I’m very glad to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

Mike:  So, tell us, how did you get interested and involved with the issue of corporate education reform?

Alison: Well, I’m a I’m a parent. I have a daughter who is sixteen in the public schools of Philadelphia. And we’re sort of a crucible for many different aspects of education reform. We’ve had multiple superintendents from the Broad Academy. We’ve been defunded. Our schools have been, numerous of our schools have been closed, teachers laid off and about three years ago I became involved in the Opt Out movement for high stakes testing. Because at that point I felt that if we were able to withhold the data from that system we would try to be able to slow things down. Because they were using that testing data to close our schools. So I worked on that for a number of years until I saw that the landscape was starting to change. And a lot of it was leading up to the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act. That that passage. And it seemed at that time that our school district, which is challenging in many respects, was all of a sudden actually interested in Opt Out, and making that, sharing information and materials… Pennsylvania has a legal Opt Out right on religious grounds…and making materials available in various languages. And something just didn’t compute in my head. I’m like, well, even if, if we’re entitled, the fact that they were interested in engaging with us on that, made me sort of question why that was. And then so post ESSA, it became clear that the shift that was going to be taking place was away from a high stakes end of year test and more towards embedded formative assessments. So in our district we’ve seen an influx, even though there isn’t funding for many other things, lots of technology coming in, lots of Chromebooks. Every, all of the students have Google accounts. Google runs our school district. Even though they say philsd.org, their Google accounts, and each student, their email address is actually their student id number. So to access a Chromebook as soon as you login, you know all of that information is tied back into their id number. So the technology was coming in. Many schools were doing multiple benchmark assessments. So there was less and less time for actual meaningful instruction throughout the school year and there were more and more tests taking place, many computerized. So, at that point, we were looking into like, what did this mean, what is the role of technology and the interim testing, in this movement And so, I had come across my…I have a blog. It’s called Wrench in the Gears. It’s a wordpress blog. So you, I have a lot of information there, and it’s all very well documented and linked. My colleague Emily Talmage, who’s a teacher in Maine, who has seen this first-hand. She has a blog: Save Maine Schools. And so I had found her blog and at one point she said, you know…you know, only click on this link, you know, if you’re willing to go down the rabbit hole. And at that point it was, it was a website called Global Education Futures Forum, and they have this agenda for education up to 2035. And it is their projection. And it’s a global…global membership led by Pavel Luksha, who’s connected with the Skolkovo Institute, in Russia. But the local person here, actually he’s very local, is Tom Vander Ark, is one of the US representatives. And so he was former Gates Foundation. And has his own consulting firm now. And it’s based out of Seattle. And, but anyway, so they have sort of what they call a foresight document, a sort of projecting based on trends and patterns, where they see things going for education, like over the next 20 years. And so really, they have a very sophisticated map. And all you have to do is sort of look at their map. And then match it up to current events. And you can see, like, where they’re pretty much on target where things are headed. And there, they have some really interesting infographics and, one of them, it’s a very decentralized system. So education is just like the individual at the center. So everything you’re hearing, personalized learning, and and individual education plans, like it’s one big person and you’re the center of your own universe. And sort of around you, there aren’t teachers or schools. It’s it’s many sort of digital interfaces, and devices, and data-gathering platforms. And this idea that education is a life-long process. Which I think all of us generally agree with, but the idea that you’re sort of chasing skills in this new global economy, and like constantly remaking yourself. Or like the gig economy and what that means. And managing your online reputation. Not just your skillsets. But your mindset. And your social outlook. And your behaviors. And the role of gamification. So there are many many elements to this, that if you look into it, I think raise a lot of questions. And increasingly, really over the past five years there’s been a lot of discussion about remaking education. Re-imagining education. You know, education for the 21st century. Future Ready Schools. And I think for the most part, parents and community members have been left out of this conversation, of what really does Future Ready Schools mean? And the folks who are running the conversation, are running the agenda, are largely coming from a tech background. And this is something that’s built up since the mid-nineties, when the Advanced Distributed Learning Program was set up within the Defense Department, and the Department of Education.  To have like you know, Tech Learning for all Americans. Which, you know, again  I think we all need to be tech knowledgable, I, the question is, how is the tech used and how in control of of your education are you, and your educational data. So anyway, a lot of this is being driven by interests of digitizing education. And really, through austerity mechanisms, pulling out more human interaction, out of the equation. So we’re, we’re seeing things that a number of years ago, Detroit, had a kindergarten, where they would have a hundred kindergarteners, with like one teacher and a couple of aides, and a lot of technology. So there’re lots of questions increasingly about the use of technology especially in early grades, and I know in, in Washington State there’ve been a big push for tablets down to the kindergarten level. Our children are being part of this sort of larger experiment that has health considerations that have not been closely examined. In terms of eyestrain, audio components, even hygiene with earphones. The wifi aspects. And then also the data collection. So, there’s this grand experiment going on for Future Ready Schools, and parents and community members aren’t really aware of the fact that it is an unproven experiment, and what the implications are long-term.

Mike: And it’s being driven heavily by corporations that are producing these platforms, this software, the electronics, kind of behind the scenes, because no one knows this is going on except a select group of administrators and teachers?

Alison: Yeah, well so they have, there are a number of like pilot districts. So the idea is sort of, you get a beachhead, and then you, you roll it out. You convince, I mean they have very sophisticated marketing manuals. Like Education Elements, they say, this is how you do it. You know first you, you have a social media campaign, you get the young teachers who are really into tech and you train them up in the way that you wanna do things, and then they mentor all the veteran teachers and you get the principal on board and then you have the parent meetings and it’s…again…with…if you understood it as, like selling a corporate product as opposed to public education, it might not be so disturbing. Like for me, I find having this sort of corporate approach to marketing, a new approach to public education. That’s, that’s what, what I find disturbing. I’ve called this Education 2.0, because I think we’re, we’re about to see a shift from the earlier version of privatization, which was the high stakes, end of year high stakes testing, vouchers, charter schools. Those things will all still continue, but they’ve, they were never the end game.  So they have been used as a way to de-stabilize the, the landscape of neighborhood schools. And in many cases they’ve been used to, you know, acquire real estate, further sort of gentrification, insider contracts, like there are many aspects that allow that to become a profit center. But there’s going to be a point of diminishing return. Where sort of like all the easy pickings have been taken. And if you’re pursuing sort of a tailoristic model , like the ultimate efficiency, lean production, Cyber-Education is the end game. So creating a system of education that really has very little in human resources.  There’s lots of folks within Pearson and IBM and Microsoft who are looking at AI, like everyone will have your own artificial intelligent, like learning sherpa for your life. You know, and this isn’t just K12, this is forever.  You know, someone on your shoulder telling you what you should be doing next. But removing the humans out of the equation and putting more technology in place. So I think that’s what this shift to Education 2.0 is going to be about, is largely cyber but I think most parents at this point are not comfortable with that model. They wouldn’t say, you know, and I will admit, like there, there’s a small group of kids who are highly motivated for whom a cyber, exclusively cyber model may work. I mean a lot of the research shows that for most kids the outcomes are not great. So what they will be selling is project based learning. And that’s what you’ll hear a lot about, coming up, like in the next couple of years. But those projects won’t necessarily be linked to schools. So you’ll hear more and more about, anytime, anyplace, anywhere, any pace learning. So they’re looking to de- disconnect education from physical school buildings, and actual teachers in classrooms, to sort of what’s called a learning eco-system model. So something that’s more free-flowing, you’re just out in the world collecting skills. And that’s what was so interesting about, like the Common Core State Standards set-up. And I know a lot of states have sort of rolled back or renamed them. But the idea of having education tied to very specific standards, was a way of atomizing education and making it available for digitization. So if, if education is a human process of growth and development, that’s very murky to try to put in a metric, right? You need bits and bytes. And so if you create an education that’s strictly around standards and like sub standards and little sets, you can just aggregate those, and collect them or not collect them, and run that as data in a digital platform. So that push toward standards, yes it allowed for school report cards and value added modeling and things that hurt schools and teachers, but it also normalized the idea that education was less a human process and more people collecting things. Like collecting skills and standards, which is what you need for like a competency based education approach.

Mike: So, talk about some of the specific examples…one of the advantages to going into your site is you have links to so many different documents from the very corporations and people that are producing these systems. And one of the examples you’ve talked about in your talk back here in March was something called Tutormate? That was involved, kids getting pulled out of class, to go see, basically AI icons talking to them and they become attached to them…

Alison: Yeah…

Mike: …it’s disturbing.

Alison: Well there were a couple of, there’s a couple of interesting things. I had sort of a slide saying who’s teaching your children? Because increasingly it’s not necessarily their classroom teacher. The chatbot was actually Reasoning Mind, which is a math program. It was developed in Texas. And so it’s been like long-running and gotten a lot of funding, both from public and private sources. About refining sort of a personalized learning towards math. But kids were interacting with these online chat bots and developing connections and relationships to these online presences in their math program. I’m in Pennsylvania. So a lot of, a lot of things are developing in Pittsburgh. They have a whole initiative called Remake Learning in Pittsburgh which I believe is sort of early-stage learning ecosystem model and a lot of that is coming out of Carnegie Mellon because Carnegie Mellon is doing a lot of work on AI and education. And they have something called Alex. So they like the idea of peer-based learning. That sounds attractive like, yeah, kids like to learn from their peers. This, their version of peer-based learning is that you have a giant avatar cartoon peer on a screen and the children interact with this peer on a screen. So that’s something that’s being piloted in southwestern Pennsylvania right now. And then Tutormate is actually a different variation but they were pulling kids out of class, away…these were young children, from their classroom setting to put them in a computer lab to do tutoring with a corporate volunteer via skype, and an online platform. So in this case it actually was a human being, but this was during school hours. This was not a supplement to classroom instruction, this was in lieu of having direct instruction with a certified teacher. They were being put into an online platform with a corporate volunteer and you know, it turns out a number of the sponsors of that program had ties to defense contracting industries. You know, Halliburton, and Booz Allen Hamilton. You know, things that you might wanna question, is that who you want your second grader spending their time chatting with? You know, in lieu of having their second grade teacher teach them reading. So again, there is this shift away from, from teachers. There’s, there’s a model that’s going on right now, within many one-to-one device districts, so districts where every child has their own device. Young kids often have tablets, older kids have Chromebooks, in high-end districts you might have an actual laptop, with some hard-drive on it. The Clayton Christensen Institute, or Innosight Institute, they’ve been pushing blended learning. So blended learning is this new model. Where, there are a number of different ways you can…flipped classrooms, which many people have heard of…but there’s one called a rotational model. So children only have direct access to a teacher a third of the time. Like the class would be split into three groups. And you would be with a teacher for a third of the time, doing peer work a third of the time, and doing online work a third of the time. So again, it’s a way of increasing class size supposedly, like supposedly the quality time you have when you’re with the teacher with the ten kids instead of thirty is supposed to be so great even though maybe you only get fifteen minutes. What’s happening in other districts is they’re saying the time where kids are not with their teachers, and they’re just doing online work, they don’t really need a teacher present, they could just have an aide. So that’s again, in terms of pushing out professional teachers, is that, well if kids are doing online learning, maybe you just need an Americorp volunteer, in the room, to make sure that no one’s  hurting them…each other. You know, and that they’re on, supposedly on task. You know I think that’s a worrisome trend. And even though they’ll sell blended learning as very tech forward and future ready, the kids don’t love spending time on these devices, like hour after hour after hour. And my concern as a parent is…we’re all starting to realize what the implications are for big data. And how we interact with online platforms, either in social media, or other adaptive situations. And how, that these devices are actually gathering data, on ourselves.. .so, they they gather information through keystroke patterns, they all have cameras, they all, you know, the tablets have TouchSense, so theoretically there’s body temperature and pulse sensors. Like there’s many many elements, are they all being used now? No, but there is that capacity for using them to develop that level of engagement. To understand how you’re interacting with these programs. And that’s being developed through, with the Army Research Lab and USC, their Institute for Creative Technologies. And they are developing, a lot of this is being developed in conjunction with the Defense Department, for their interactive intelligent tutoring systems and with the Navy actually, which is relevant to Seattle. A lot of these early prototyped intelligent tutoring systems have been developed specifically with the Navy in mind. Training very specifically on computer programs, and optimizing that. But once they develop the infrastructure, then they’re able to apply that in non-military settings. And so it’s, it’s making its way out. So there’s a lot of data that can be collected and the other, the other push that you’ll start to see is gamification. So games, like gaming in schools. And kids love games, like parents love games. It sounds so fun. But I think what we have to realize is there’s a lot of behavioral data that’s coming out of the gaming too. That we’re not necessarily aware of.  And so this push for gamification, or sometime…like gamified classroom management systems. So Google has something called Classcraft. And all the kids have avatars. And like if they’re behaving in class, they can, you know they earn points, or have points deducted, and you’re on teams, and you can save your team member or not. And with ESSA, having passed, you know, they’ll tell the story that like we care about more than just test scores, we really wanna care about the whole child, we wanna, you know we we care about children as individuals. Really they wanna collect all of this data, not just on your academic skills, but on your behaviors, and your mindset. And are you gritty, and are you a leader, or are you, you know, flexible, are you resilient. And these, these gamified platforms, whether they’re run by the teacher, or gaming that’s done with the students in these simulations, and also AR/VR, augmented reality/virtual reality games that you’re starting to see. There’s just a lot of information going through, and you have to wonder, how is it being used, what are the privacy implications, and also what are the feedback loops being created? In terms of how you interact with a platform. Is it reinforcing aspects of your personality that you may or may not want reinforced. My concern as a parent is within these adaptive learning systems, I don’t want an online system that has to learn my child to work. I don’t want a system that has to know everything my child did for the last six months, to operate properly. Because I think that becomes problematic. How do you ever have a do over? Like, is it just always building and reinforcing certain patterns of behavior and how you react…it’s, they, I think they present it as flexible and personalized, but in many ways I think it’s limiting.

Mike: In some of the documentation you present, they have systems that wanna pay attention to whether a person that is working with the program is getting bored, or falling asleep, or whatever, so they were like watching like you know, the eye, literally to see if it’s like where it’s wandering off to…you said they potentially could be checking your, your temperature, your heart rate…

Alison: I mean, you know, are they doing it right now? I don’t know that they, but the capacity is there. And…

Mike: And all that data is being saved somewhere. And shared. In some capacity. We don’t know.

Alison: W…and I think it’s very unclear. And I think they’re, they’re many parents who are very concerned about privacy and working that angle of controlling what data goes in…I mean I think all of us are aware that once something is up in the cloud, even if there are promises made about privacy and protections, that nothing is really safe up there. In terms of from hacking, or even just legal. Like FERPA is very, the education records, sort of, privacy has a lot of loopholes. You know anyone who, many of these organizations, companies are third parties are designated agents of school districts. So they have access to this information. And I will also mention Naviance, because the other shift that we’re seeing happening is the shift towards creating an education system that is geared towards workforce development. That, that, that children at younger and younger ages should, should be identifying their passions, and finding their personal pathways to the workforce and the economy. And so Naviance is one of a number of companies that does strengths assessments and surveys. And many states you can’t get your diploma unless your child does a complete battery of assessments, personality assessment through Naviance, which is this third-party program. Also linking towards like their future college plans, and other things linked in, and very detailed information about people’s family situations. So again, the, the amount of data that’s being collected on many many different levels to supposedly like guide students moving forward into the economy, I think it merits a larger conversation. And I’m not saying that everyone needs to agree with my position, but I think that the, the agenda that’s being moved forward is being done in a way that for the most part, parents and community members, there’s not been a consensus reached, with us. That this is okay. That this new version of school is, is what we desire.

Mike: And being a parent in the Philadelphia School District, when these new systems are, have been implemented, you know, and the potential use of all, gathering of all your child’s data, I mean, have you been consulted on that prior? Did, every time they bring in a new system did they let you know, oh, we have another piece of software here that potentially could be, you know, data-mining your kid, are you okay with that?

Alison: So I think on the, on the plus side, because we have been so severely defunded, we haven’t seen quite as much of an influx of tech yet. Although I, I anticipate it’s coming. We’ve just had a big roll-out of Minecraft I think in schools. That’s their new thing that they’re, they’re all…there are a number of schools, like within turnaround sort of, that, that are being piloted for these one-to-one devices. I will say that there was an opt-out form for Google Apps for Education. Which is, and I so I opted, I opted my child out of Google Apps for Education. I may have been the only parent in the Philadelphia School District who did that, and it, it makes it complicated because again, there, it’s convenient, you know, it’s a nice, you know, way for teachers not to have to carry around lots of papers, and they have kids put it all on their Google drive. But I, I think we’re all starting to be a little wary about the amount of information and power that Google has, you know, in the world and what the implications are for that. So I think if, if people have concerns around some of these privacy aspects, you know, that’s, that’s a potential starting, starting place, is to opt out of Google Apps for Education, and see where that goes. Or even have targeted like device and data strikes, during the school year. So we don’t get a notice every time there’s a new program. I guess long story short.

Mike: Just a few minutes left. And again, some of the companies, in addition to Defense Department having early hooks into education reform, and online learning, some of the companies involved, and heavily investing in this, as an example, like Halliburton and Booz Allen, which to me, let’s say Booz Allen which is also heavily tied into doing, they have access to data bases that the NSA does and, Edward Snowden worked for Booz Allen.

Alison: I would say like right now, like the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, LLC, is huge and they’re pushing Summit Basecamp. I know we just have a few min…minutes in closing so I also wanna mention, in addition to tech, we also have global finance interests involved, because in ESSA there are provisions for Pay for Success. Which is where they’re looking to use private venture capital to affect educational outcomes. Either right now it’s in universal pre-k, also early literacy. So we need to be aware of the role that Pay for Success is going to play in this, and that’s essentially like “moneyball” for government. Where they’re looking to save money. I mean there’s a conference that they, they’ve put this together. Evidence based policy. That’s what they call it. That’s sort of the code word. Is that if you can come up with a computerized program that will give you specific success metrics, venture capital can make money on that. So a lot of global finance interests, and impact investing interests are looking, I believe at education as a market, a futures market in student education data. So I have more information on that on my blog. But social impact bonds and Pay for Success are a critical piece to understanding why education is being digitized. Also Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, IBM, the tech interests, Summit Basecamp, AltSchool, Micro Schools are another big component of this. These value-model private schools, if vouchers go through, that, we’re gonna be seeing a lot more of that. The tech is also focusing on Montessori school models, and, and very high-end. So you have Rocketship Academy, which are sort of stripped down versions for low-income districts and, but they’re also marketing tech to affluent families and aspirational families as being sort of future-ready. So it’s really a, there’s many different branded versions of education technology.

Mike: So long story short, you have a kid in, going through school, or, you know, anyone you care about then, this would be something to look into.

Alison: Yes. Understand how much time they’re spending on devices. Advocate that school budgets prioritize human teachers, and reasonable class sizes, and not data-mining, not adaptive management systems. And and have this conversation in your community. Is education about creating opportunities for students to learn and grow together as a community, or is it these isolating personalized pathways, where people are competing against one another. And and I think that’s a larger conversation we all need to have in our school districts.

Mike: Alright. We’re speaking with Alison McDowell. She is a parent and researcher in the Philadelphia school system. Produced a series,  Future Ready Schools: How Silicon Valley and the Defense Department Plan to Remake Public Education. And again, your website is…

Alison: Wrenchinthegears.com

Mike: Wrenchinthegears.com. And with that we’re unfortunately out of time. I want to thank you for coming and spending time with us this morning.

Alison: Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related posts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACT study: Common Core, not ready for prime time

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

Common Sense Questions About the Common Core Test

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

Who wrote the Common Core Standards? The Common Core 24

The facts about the Common Core Standards

Submitted by Dora Taylor

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

Male Hand Holding Stack of Cash Over Clouds and Sky

Per a previous post titled, “Before you can fund the charter school, you have to fund an advocacy organization that can create a climate for the charter school to exist”, Bill Gates has been busy for several years funding established organizations or creating new ones to funnel cash into a push to establish charter schools in Washington State and around the country.

To follow is a list of organizations and schools that have received grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The organizations and schools with figures shown in bold relate directly to charter school promotional activity in Seattle and surrounding areas. For the amounts given to all other recipients, go to Google docs.

Stand for Children: $9,000,000 +/- (I got tired of counting and recounting)

Aspire Charter Schools: $21M +/-

National Council of La Raza : $32M +/-

Community & Parents for Public Schools of Seattle (CPPS): $159,440 (per the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation website , “Purpose: to develop a strategic plan for building a dynamic parent network that can embrace and catalyze change within Seattle Public Schools”, meaning integrating charter schools into Seattle, particularly in the minority communities.)

Charter School Growth Fund: $5M

University of Minnesota

New York Charter School Resource Center Inc

Chicago Charter School Foundation

Success Academy Charter School: $400,000

Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund

St. HOPE Academy

Local Initiatives Support Corporation

Thomas B. Fordham Institute: $7M

New Schools Fund dba New Schools Venture Fund: $93M +New Schools Fund dba New Schools Venture Fund: $93M +/-

Progressive Policy Institute

University of Washington Foundation: $1,089,761 (Lot of papers and “studies” came out of the UW supporting charter schools. Also a Teach for America, Inc. training ground was set up in the School of Education.)

GreatSchools, Inc.: $9M +/

Perspectives Charter School

Noble Network of Charter Schools: $2M +/-

California Charter Schools Association: $6M +/-

NCB Capital Impact

Progress Analytics Institute

High Tech High Foundation

Keys to Improving Dayton Schools, Inc.

Cesar Chavez Public Policy Charter High School: $1.6M +/-

Pacific Charter School Development Inc.

Charter Schools Policy Institute: $200,000

Charter School Leadership Council: $800,000

Illinois Network Of Charter Schools: $1.4M +/-

Stanford University: $12M +/- (Charter school “studies” were produced here. Unfortunately for Gates, the most well known study Stanford produced, the CREDO Report, stated charter schools were either the same or lower performing than public schools.)

RAND Corporation: $7.5M +/-

National Alliance For Public Charter Schools: $12.5M +/-

Green Dot Public Schools: $9,675,588 (One  was approved for Seattle.)

KIPP, Inc charter schools.: $10,000,000 (KIPP charter schools were touted by state legislators as the best thing since sliced bread. Sad day for them, they’re not and none were approved for Washington State.)

Institute for Research and Reform in Education Inc.: $11M +/-

Marquette University

Aspira Inc of Illinois

Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools: $670,000 +/-

Charter Fund Inc dba Charter School Growth Fund: $57.5M +/-

California Charter Schools Association: $6.5M +/-

New Schools for New Orleans Inc: $8.6M +/-

Houston Area Urban League Inc

District of Columbia College Access Program

Newark Charter School Fund, Inc.: $3,595,070

National Association Of Charter School Authorizers: $15M +/-

Trustees of Dartmouth College

Local Initiatives Support Corporation

Texas Charter School Association: $1.6M

FSG, Inc.

New York City Charter School Center: $4.7M +/-

Friendship Public Charter School

New Visions for Public Schools, Inc: $73.5M +/-

School District of Philadelphia

Denver School of Science and Technology Inc

The Arizona Charter Schools Association: $200,000

New York Charter Schools Association Inc: $204,988

Partners for Developing Futures Inc.

Mastery Charter High School

Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools: $650,000

League of Education Voters (LEV) Foundation: $2,586,378

Colorado Education Initiative

Black Alliance for Educational Options Inc.

100 Black Men of America, Inc.

Colorado League of Charter Schools: $818,471

The Boston Educational Development Foundation, Inc.

E.L. Haynes Public Charter School

The King Center Charter School

Rocketship Education: $200,000

Georgia Charter Schools Association Inc.: $250,000

Jumoke Academy Inc

Denver Public Schools: $4,001,999 (The Seattle Public School board members took a trip to Denver a few years ago to visit charter schools. They came back with rave reviews about KIPP charter schools.)

Hartford Public Schools

Spring Branch Independent School District

Achievement First Inc.

Philadelphia Schools Project

Boston Private Industry Council Inc

American Federation Of Teachers Educational Foundation: $10M The AFT had Bill Gates as their main speaker when their convention was in Seattle.

Harvard University: $33.6M +/- (Lots of papers and “studies” favorable to charter schools were produced at Harvard for Eli Broad and Bill Gates.This number is based on grants tagged for K12 education and doesn’t include community grants)

Washington State Charter Schools Association: $10.5M +/-

Mississippi First Inc.

CHIME Institute

Seneca Family of Agencies

Summit Public Schools: $8,000,000

Spokane School District #81: $525,000 

Children’s First Fund, The Chicago Public School Foundation

LEAP Innovations

East Lake Foundation, Inc.

New Schools for Chicago

Low Income Investment Fund

Fund for Public Schools Inc

Friends of Breakthrough Schools

Puget Sound Educational Service District: $27.5M +/- (See CCER, the Road Map Project and the loss of student privacy)

Franklin-McKinley School District

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The list above does not include Teach for America which Bill Gates granted $2.5M to open an office in Seattle and the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) that came to town with their dog and pony show bashing teachers and trying to make way for Teach for America. Bill Gates has granted that group $12M+/- between 2009 and 2013.

Also see The Fordham Institute and the National Council on Teacher Quality: Manipulating Teacher Layoffs (& Union-Busting?).

It is also interesting to note that the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) recently received $1,743,064.

For the list with all of the numbers see Google docs. The list was put together by a Parents Across America Portland member using information provided at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Awarded Grants website.

So, if Gates paid his fair share of taxes in our state rather than be the man behind the curtain, would it help us fund public schools adequately?

My guess is “YES!”.

Dora Taylor

Post Script:

Check out Mercedes Schneider’s post to find additional expenditures made by Bill Gates pertaining to charter schools:

Who Does Gates Fund for “General Operating Support”?

 

The Weekly Update: The corporate empire of public education and where that leaves the rest of us, ALEC, Gates and charter schools

So much news, so little time.

From Real News:

U.S. Student Homelessness Up 10% Since Last Year

 Highest increases of homeless children seen in states like North Carolina where austerity policies predominate.

All those people we come in contact with daily, the sales clerk, that friendly person at the bank, the barista…they’ll all hurting, quietly, and I never knew they were in such pain, not until the strikes began to happen. Then I realized that these workers get paid so little that we are subsidizing the overhead of the 1% by providing workers with food assistance and healthcare, ensuring that the wealthy few can maintain their standard of living while the rest of us stoically suffer:

From the Real News, 1 out of 3 Bank Tellers in NY on Public Assistance

New report finds bank executives receive big bonuses, while 39% of frontline bank employees must rely on welfare because of insufficient wages

Remember that many of these employees have families, children in school, and they are barely able to make ends meet.

On the other hand, from Mother Jones:

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Can’t touch this

  • The Army uses more than twice as much building space as all the offices in New York City.

  • The Pentagon holds more than 80 percent of the federal government’s inventories, including $6.8 billion of excess, obsolete, or unserviceable stuff.

  • The Pentagon operates more than more than 170 golf courses worldwide.

  • 70 percent of the value of the federal government’s $1.8 trillion in property, land, and equipment belongs to the Pentagon.

…the Pentagon has once more gotten a reprieve from the budget ax: Under Murray and Ryan’s congressional budget deal, the Pentagon will get an additional $32 billion, or 4.4 percent, in 2014, leaving its base budget at a higher level than in 2005 and 2006. (The Department of Defense expects its total 2014 budget, including supplemental war funding, to be more than $600 billion.)

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost $1.5 trillion, about twice the cost of the Vietnam War when adjusted for inflation. Those funds came entirely from borrowing, contributing nearly 20 percent to the national debt accrued between 2001 and 2012. And that’s just the “supplemental” military spending passed by Congress for the wars—the regular Pentagon budget also grew nearly 45 percent between 2001 and 2010.

One out of every five tax dollars is spent on defense.

Too big to audit

Where does the Pentagon’s money go? The exact answer is a mystery. That’s because the Pentagon’s books are a complete mess. They’re so bad that they can’t even be officially inspected, despite a 1997 requirement that federal agencies submit to annual audits—just like every other business or organization.

The Defense Department is one of just two agencies (Homeland Security is the other) that are keeping the bean counters waiting: As the Government Accountability Office dryly notes, the Pentagon has “serious financial management problems” that make its financial statements “inauditable.” Pentagon financial operations occupy one-fifth of the GAO’s list of federal programs with a high risk of waste, fraud, or inefficiency.

Critics also contend that the Pentagon cooks its books by using unorthodox accounting methods that make its budgetary needs seem more urgent. The agency insists it will “achieve audit readiness” by 2017.

 Defense_4Web.indd

To read this article in full, go to Mother Jones.

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So what does the 1% do with their money? Well, they would like to rule the world, at least control what they haven’t gotten already.

One of the vehicles used to do that is through ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Let’s see what they’re up to now.

From Education Alchemy:

“Big Brother” Has an Ugly Corporate “Big Stepsister”!

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There’s a lot wrong with ALEC legislation, now, in the past, and undoubtedly into the future. I could fill volumes of pages of such concerns. But for the sake of focus, today’s blog drills down into their most recent “model” legislation aimed at selling our schools to the edu-tech industry. It’s so blatant it’s painful. I would have expected more subterfuge from ALEC. They’re getting lazy. Or their getting bold. Their agenda is too clear. Kind of disappointing really. They took all the fun out of having to dig for it.

I am pasting snap shots of their latest rounds of policies. The rest speaks for itself.

From the “Early Intervention Act”

“…to provide interactive computer software for literacy or numeracy instruction, or both, and assessments for students in kindergarten through grade 3.”

Really? Because nothing screams “developmentally inappropriate” like putting a five year old in front of a computer in lieu of a real live caring and experienced teacher during the most vulnerable and formative stages of cognitive development. But of course, this is a boon for the software industry!

In order to receive the early intervention funds for the “enhanced kindergarten program” described in this model bill, a school district must agree to contract with software companies to provide online learning programs.

“In addition to an enhanced kindergarten program described in Subsection (B), the early intervention program includes a component to address early intervention through the use of an interactive computer software program.”

To read this post in full, go to Education Alchemy

And speaking about the 1% buying what they want, for Bill Gates it’s the privatization of our schools by way of charter schools and the standardization/homogenization of our children through Common Core Standards and all those tests.

Recently Gates provided the League of Education Voters with $4,200,000to build capacity for a state-wide public charter school support organization in Washington State”.

burning bucks

Continuing on  the theme of privatization, there is this from The Nation:

Ted Mitchell, Education Dept. Nominee, Has Strong Ties to Pearson, Privatization Movement

Ted Mitchell, the chief executive of the New Schools Venture Fund, was nominated in October by President Obama to become the Under Secretary of the Department of Education.

As the administration continues to reshuffle its team, and confront new regulatory challenges, some view Mitchell’s nomination as a move towards greater privatization. In the coming months, the Department of Education will release “gainful employment” rules to rein in for-profit colleges, an experiment in proprietary education that many see as an unmitigated disaster.

As head of the NewSchools Venture Fund, Mitchell oversees investments in education technology start-ups. In July, Zynga, the creators of FarmVille, provided $1 million to Mitchell’s group to boost education gaming companies. Mitchell’s NewSchool Venture Fund also reportedly partners with Pearson, the education mega-corporation that owns a number of testing and textbook companies, along with one prominent for-profit virtual charter school, Connections Academy.

Jeff Bryant, a senior fellow with the Campaign for America’s Future, says it seems likely that Mitichell will “advocate for more federal promotion of online learning, ‘blended’ models of instruction, ‘adaptive learning’ systems, and public-private partnerships involving education technology.”

Mitchell did not respond to TheNation.com’s  request for comment*.

His ethics disclosure form shows that he was paid $735,300 for his role at NewSchools, which is organized as a non-profit. In recent years, he has served or is currently serving as a director to New Leaders, Khan Academy, California Education Partners, Teach Channel, ConnectED, Hameetman Foundation, the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, Silicon Schools, Children Now, Bellwether Partners, Pivot Learning Partners, EnCorps Teacher Training Program, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, and the Green DOT Public (charter) Schools.

In addition, Mitchell serves as an adviser to Salmon River Capital, a venture capital firm that specializes in education companies. Mitchell sits on the board of Parchment, an academic transcript start-up that is among Salmon River Capital’s portfolio.

Salmon River Capital helped create one of the biggest names in for-profit secondary education, Capella University. “As a foundational investor and director, [Salmon River Capital’s] Josh Lewis made invaluable contributions to Capella’s success. From leading our landmark financing in 2000, when Capella was a $10 million business operating in a difficult environment, through a successful 2006 IPO and beyond, he proved a great partner who kept every commitment he made,” reads a statement from Steve Shank, founder of Capella.

The Minnesota-based Capella heavily recruits veterans and has received $53.1 million from the GI Bill in the past four years. The Minnesota attorney general is currently investigating several unnamed for-profit colleges in her state.

To read this article in full, go to The Nation.

nsvf

By the way, Bill Gates provided the New Schools Venture Fund with $30M recently to support  NSVF in their “Efforts to Provide 200 High-Quality Charter Schools for 100,000 Low-Income Students”.

And while on the subject of the Gates/Gates Foundation investments, check out this article from grist:

The Gates Foundation’s hypocritical investments

With an endowment larger than all but four of the world’s largest hedge funds, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is easily one of the most powerful charities in the world. According to its website, the organization “works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives.” So how do the investments of the foundation’s $36 billion investing arm, the Gates Foundation Trust, match up to its mission? We dug into the group’s recently released 2012 tax returns to find out.

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 The Gates Foundation did not respond to requests for comment; however, its investment policy says the trust’s managers “consider other issues beyond corporate profits, including the values that drive the foundation’s work.”

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In its most recent annual report to investors, private prison company GEO Group listed some risks to its bottom line, including “reductions in crime rates” that “could lead to reductions in arrests, convictions and sentences,” along with immigration reform and the decriminalization of drugs. Military contractor DynCorp, meanwhile, has faced allegations of fraudmismanagement, and even slavery from the Middle East to Eastern Europe.

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Moving on to charter schools, what Bill Gates and the Waltons want for the rest of us, from alter net:

Major Charter School Chain’s Classrooms Look Like Cubicles for Telemarketers

As Bill Gates once said, “It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.”

The Rocketship chain of charter schools is hoping to expand across the country. It’s backed by some of the biggest names in the tech world and claims high test scores.

Rocketship leaders brag that they think outside the box. Teachers, for instance—who needs them? The company says it saves half a million dollars a year by using fewer teachers, replacing them with non-certified instructors at $15 per hour.

These instructors monitor up to 130 kids at a time in cubicles in the schools’ computer labs. Rocketeers, as students are called, sit looking at computer screens up to two hours per day, supposedly learning by solving puzzles.

Business leaders such as Bill Gates often stress the need to train kids for the jobs of the future—digital animators, nanotech engineers? But it looks more like the Rocketeers are being prepared for online “microtasks” at Crowdflower, which contracts out data categorization and de-duplication.

According to a recent wage and hour lawsuit, these microtaskers are often paid as little as $2 an hour.

Overall, the growth these days is not in skilled, middle-class jobs like public school teaching—which is shrinking, thanks to charter chains like Rocketship—but in low-wage jobs.

It’s no coincidence that Rocketship employs the same kind of de-professionalized, non-union workforce it seems to be training. Half its teachers have less than two years’ experience; 75 percent come from Teach for America.

Screen Time

Critics of the Rocketship model cite the American Association of Pediatrics, which recommends less than two hours of screen time per day—total.

When you figure in that kids will be on computers and phones when they aren’t in school, too—they spend on average seven hours a day on various devices as it is—it raises a red flag.

Skeptics say the Rocketship test scores just demonstrate the schools are focusing on test preparation at the expense of arts, languages, and real learning.

Rocketship’s board and advisors represent the Gates, Walton, and Broad Foundations—familiar faces in corporate “education reform.” Benefactors include Facebook, Netflix, and Skype.

Rocketship’s schools are in California, Wisconsin, and Tennessee with plans to expand into Indianapolis, D.C., and New Orleans: 25,000 students by 2017.

Guinea Pigs

Rocketship targets low-income students, making them the guinea pigs for the cubicle model of education.

Who doesn’t like their kids being experimented on? As Bill Gates once said, “It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.”

In fact, the chain is already scrapping the 100-cubicle learning labs for its older students, fourth and fifth graders. Students weren’t always engaged, and sometimes were just staring at the screen and guessing.

To hear their enthusiasm, you might imagine the tech elites would be dropping their kids off every day for these cutting-edge education experiments. But instead, many Silicon Valley leaders send their kids to private schools like Waldorf Peninsula—whose philosophy is to avoid computers, arguing that they hurt children’s development and attention spans.

Those who can afford private schools choose those that offer creative, hands-on learning, small classes, arts, and teacher-student interaction. But apparently the cubicle is good enough for everyone else.

Somehow, it doesn’t seem like a coincidence that these business leaders’ model spends public education dollars on their own products. Education is a half-trillion-dollar industry. See here for another example: L.A. schools give every student and teacher an apple—an iPad, that is.

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And this from Scathing Purple Musings (listen up Seattle):

Shaky Grant From For-Profit Charter School Ensnares Miami Republican Sen. Anitere Flores

Auditors say both the grant and a problematic lease they scrutinized are evidence of a larger issue created when the independent governing boards tasked with overseeing charters share close ties with the companies paid to run the public schools, often for a profit. In the Doral case, several board members of the school and college serve in various other capacities for charter school giant Academica, which manages both schools

Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami) never met a piece of legislation that benefited the for-profit charter school industry she didn’t like. Just pay no attention to the little matter that she works for one. This week’s revelations that the one she works for  received a tax-payer funded grant marks the beginning of another episode in the shady relationships between Florida legislators and the for-profit charter school industry. Miami Herald reporter David Smiley reports:

Fledgling Doral College got a $400,000 windfall two years ago that helped the small start-up open its doors. The “grant” came from Doral Academy Charter High, a publicly funded school run by the same company.

The deal helped Doral College stay in the black and furthered a joint effort with the charter school to establish an in-house dual-enrollment program. But the transaction also caught the eye of Miami-Dade school district auditors, who have spent the last year questioning why and how a school funded by the state could hand hundreds of thousands of public dollars to an unaccredited, private college.

“The authority and legality of said expense is also not clear to us,” investigators wrote in an audit presented Tuesday.

Auditors say both the grant and a problematic lease they scrutinized are evidence of a larger issue created when the independent governing boards tasked with overseeing charters share close ties with the companies paid to run the public schools, often for a profit. In the Doral case, several board members of the school and college serve in various other capacities for charter school giant Academica, which manages both schools.

Academica president Fernando Zulueta declined to comment Tuesday when approached by a reporter.

But in a biting response to the audit, an attorney representing the school said the grant was a legitimate transaction between partners in education, which existed under the same company when the charter school first set aside the $400,000 for the college. The district’s critical audit, attorney Eleni Pantaridis argued, omitted crucial facts and was the flawed work of a biased investigator who “does not support the charter school system.”

“They’re picking and choosing the facts that benefit them and ignoring the facts that don’t,” she said Tuesday during a hearing

To read this post in full, go to Scathing Purple Musings.

Today, I will leave you with Bill Moyers and Henry Giroux Zombie Politics.

Giroux touches on the subject of education quite a bit in this discussion.

Submitted by Dora Taylor