Beware of Tech Titans Bearing Gifts

Reposted with permission from Nancy Bailey’s Education Website.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And LEAP calls for more tech company involvement.

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

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

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

It begins:

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

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

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

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

On the Leap website they also say:

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

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

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

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

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

-Nancy Bailey


The Movie “Most Likely to Succeed” is a Paid Infomercial for Project Based Learning


At the beginning of the school year, I went to a showing of Most Likely to Succeed in Bellevue, Washington. I was irritated by the premise that High Tech High – which has been heavily subsidized by Gates – was held up as the answer to the movie’s depiction of public education as the factory model of education, which, according to the movie, is killing kids’ love of learning with its emphasis on a rigid curriculum and over testing. Of course, Gate’s role in forcing common core and high stakes testing into public schools wasn’t mentioned in the film. Big surprise.

At a school which prides itself on encouraging thoughtful, critical thinkers my high schooler was required to watch “Most Likely Succeed” and told to “get inspired” by one of the vice principals. Parents had no idea this was happening, and were only informed after the fact.

During the mandatory classroom discussion after the movie, my kid was skeptical, pointing out the connection of the movie to the charter chain, Big Picture Learning, and how the movie was essentially propaganda. The teacher facilitating the discussion decided to argue and let the rest of the class know my kid was wrong.

At the beginning of the school year, I went to a showing of Most Likely to Succeed in Bellevue, Washington. I was irritated by the premise that High Tech High – which has been heavily subsidized by Gates – was held up as the answer to the movie’s depiction of public education as the factory model of education, which, according to the movie, is killing kids’ love of learning with its emphasis on a rigid curriculum and over testing. Of course, Gate’s role in forcing common core and high stakes testing into public schools wasn’t mentioned in the film. Big surprise.

The most enlightening part of the evening was the discussion after the movie. Guess who was on the panel?

  • Jeff Petty, Regional Director of Big Picture Schools
  • Jen Wickens, formerly of Summit, and currently Co-Founder and CEO of IMPACT Public Schools – a charter chain specializing in project based learning trying to make inroads in the region.

Big Picture Learning also operates high schools which specialize in project based learning in Washington State. These schools are located at Highline, Bellevue, Issaquah, Chelan, and Twist. Showing Most Likely to Succeed to high school students in Seattle and telling them to “get inspired” isn’t a neutral act, in my opinion.

Here’s the irony of this whole sad affair: I wasn’t going to write about Most Likely to Succeed – but here we are. For the last year, I’ve been thinking a lot about the state of education activism and where our public schools are headed. I’m not seeing a lot of hope. The looming destruction has made me tired, but mostly sad.

I’m sad my kids go to schools where lawlessness is the district norm, rather than the exception to the rule. Where principals know they can do whatever they want and won’t be held accountable, no matter how questionable the behavior. In my district, principals know any sort of suspect behavior will be excused after the fact by the suits downtown.

I’m sad schools that want to embrace equity and Black Lives Matter don’t see this in direct conflict with using Teach Like A Champion – the handbook for no-excuse charter schools which put kids on the pathway to the school to prison pipeline – as a professional development tool.

I’m sad activist and union leaders value the preservation of institutions over the needs of the people who make up these organizations.

I’m sad that read and re-Tweet activism has pushed out critical thinking and uncomfortable conversations.

I’m sad civic engagement has devolved into marketing strategies, where the rich and powerful use the delphi method to control the conversation and push their already decided upon solution.

I’m sad education activists in my state are letting Democrats off the hook with McCleary and have also given up on the battle over smaller class size.

Mostly, I’m sad that as a society we have lost our moral compass.

We no longer see kids as unique individuals to be nurtured, loved and protected. Instead, we’ve accepted the idea that it’s OK to turn children are commodities. Widgets which can be data mined, profiled, molded and manipulated into profit making vehicles for adults – snake-oil salesmen who we welcome with open arms into what is left of our public schools.

-Carolyn Leith

Correction: I’ve received many emails pointing out Big Picture Learning’s school in Highline isn’t a charter school. Instead, it falls under Washington State’s law regarding innovative schools. This goes for the other schools operated by Big Picture Learning in the state.

ALEC was behind the push for states to adopt innovate schools regulations and provided model legislation for doing so. According to ALEC Exposed:

This “model” legislation creates a new term of art for schools to allow them to change rules and legal obligations, including waiving provisions of collective bargaining agreements: “districts of innovation.” This is, in essence, a way to create charter schools within the public school system and again, like many ALEC corporate proposals, targets changing worker’s rights and the rules for teacher pay, pensions, hours, and other conditions of employment. The bill would give chartering authority for these so-called “innovative schools” to state-level officials, even though the bill purports to respect the tradition of local administration of schools systems. (emphasis mine)

You can read ALEC’s The Innovation Schools and School Districts Act model legislation here.  Click here to look up the waivers granted by the State Board of Education to Big Picture Learning.

To learn more about the venture capitalist behind Most Likely to Succeed, start here: Ted Dintersmith is Not Here to Save Neighborhood Schools!





 “Summit teachers do not see themselves as disseminators of knowledge”: Summit charter enterprise disappoints and a lawsuit ensues




The difference between parents’ expectations when enrolling their students into a Summit charter school and the reality of the educational experience, or lack thereof, is enormous.

This has been experienced by parents and teachers around the country and will be felt here as well with Summit opening a school in Southeast Seattle.

What parents aren’t aware of is that you don’t need a teaching credential or have experience teaching to be hired by Summit Sierra charter school as an Indeed ad posted by Summit describes. In the ad they also state, “Summit teachers do not see themselves as disseminators of knowledge”.

What exactly do these self-described “facilitators” do? The facilitators answer student’s questions as the students use software programs on various subjects during their three to four 1½ hour sessions each day on computers.

The promise is far different from the reality as reflected in this Facebook post by a parent in Boone County, Kentucky:


In an article published in the Kentucky Tribune titled Some parents don’t like the new ‘Summit Personalized Learning Platform,’ want to opt out:

…more than 30 parents showed up to a usually empty Site Based Decision Making (SBDM) meeting at Camp Ernst Middle School (CEMS) to express their concerns on Thursday, October 13. This was an impressive turn out given that the meeting was held at 3:30 p.m., a time when many parents are still at work.

The parents said they didn’t know how their children were chosen for this experimental teaching tool. They were told they couldn’t opt out. One parent said she asked Principal Stephanie Hagerty to remove her child from the program, but was told no. Hagerty allegedly told the parent, if she didn’t like it she could send her child to another school. More than one parent attending the meeting said they want back their parental choice, that changing schools or homeschooling isn’t an option.

Some parents, present at the meeting, said they had tried to reach Principal Hagerty, but she didn’t return their phone calls. They claimed that when they showed up in the office she refused to see them.

Some parents started wanting to opt-out when they saw a controversial section on Islam that was only visible using their child’s log-in information. They say, they couldn’t see what their child was learning from the parent portal. The syllabus provided to parents didn’t match what was being taught to their children.

Many parents indicated concern over the amount of screen time contradicting the recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics. They recommend no more than two hours of screen time and said the following, “Studies have shown that excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity. In addition, the Internet and cell phones can provide platforms for illicit and risky behaviors.

Others said their children were finishing too quickly stating some children had completed the curriculum in eight weeks. Some parents said their children were just skipping to the assessments without reading the material. They only had to get eight out of the ten multiple choice questions correct to pass.

Data collection intrusive?

According to Superintendent Poe, the assessments, as well as KPREP, MAPS, and STAR assessments on each student, will be shared with Summit Learning and SCALE in order to evaluate the programs impact. The written agreement with Summit Public Schools Personalized Learning Services indicates sharing with other third party providers including Facebook and Google. The agreement gives Summit Learning permission to collect data from any devices used to access the program, which means parents accessing the program from home or work devices may be susceptible to data collection too. Some parents are upset with their students’ data, and potential their own data, being shared outside of the district.

Despite being asked not to talk about the program, some teachers have described it as a “disaster” saying that it is impossible to have so many students at various stages of progress. Teachers are required to provide 10 minutes of mentoring each week per student. However, many teachers have been unable to meet this goal. Some students are going several weeks before teachers are able to talk with them about their progress. One report indicated that during a summer training some teachers walked out in frustration.

The curriculum was designed by Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity (SCALE). The curriculum is aligned to the California standards, not Kentucky. Kentucky hasn’t adopted new social studies standards. Yet parents were told by Principal Brewer at Conner Middle School that the curriculum was being implemented to comply with Common Core Standards. If that is the case, then they don’t comply with the standards currently in place in Kentucky. Some have argued the California standards are below what Kentucky has required in the past. Parents are upset by the choice of a curriculum that lowers standards for struggling schools.

An attorney from the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ), Carly Gammill, who is representing some of the parents, says the curriculum is unconstitutional, because it crosses the line between information and indoctrination. She has given the district until Tuesday, October 18 to remedy the curriculum and their social media policy.

For more on what’s happening in Kentucky, see What the NEA probably wouldn’t want you to know about “personalized” learning in Boone County, KY.

For more on Summit charter schools, see:

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

A checklist for parents considering Summit Sierra charter school in Seattle

Parents Rebel Against Summit/Facebook/Chan-Zuckerberg Online Learning Platform


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

Dora Taylor




Indiana Parents Concerned About Summit Charter School and Online Learning


There have been concerns expressed by parents around the country about online learning and specifically about Summit charter schools which devote their educational experience to online learning. It’s a cheap platform and has great financial benefits for the owners of the schools. The schools receive the per student allotment for public school attendance which ranges from $5,000 to $10,000 per student based on their geographical location but the cost is low, providing students with laptops, if necessary, and software programs. There is a teacher of sorts who can answer questions via email. The student must check in physically with the school on a weekly or monthly basis.

Summit opened a school, which is basically a virtual school, in a predominately minority neighborhood in Seattle, a community which is the typical target of these predatory enterprises.

For more on Summit, see:

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

A checklist for parents considering Summit Sierra charter school in Seattle

Parents Rebel Against Summit/Facebook/Chan-Zuckerberg Online Learning Platform


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


A fellow public school advocate shared the following article with me about parents in Indiana who have concerns about a Summit charter school online program that came into their community.

-Dora Taylor

From the Indiana Gazette by Chauncey Ross:

Summit Learning issue continues to simmer

Parents and other school district residents reminded the Indiana Area school board on Monday that their dissent of the Summit Learning program hasn’t waned, even though the administration scaled back the program and put it on “opt-in” status for the 2018-19 school year.

Summit is a brand of mass customized learning, a style of teaching that relies on students following a computer-based curriculum and relying on online sources to achieve goals set in their classes. Instead of delivering lectures to entire classes, teachers tailor their instruction to individual students based on their pace of learning.

“Just because a lot of parents are not here doesn’t mean it has been deemed OK. It is not,” said Thomas Kauffman, a parent of a sixth-grader in the pilot program. He questioned whether the administration has actively polled parents of fifth-graders and the current sixth-graders for what they want for their kids next year.

“Traditional school should be the norm. We’re still very concerned,” he said.

Parents began protesting the Summit program in October, complaining that it was a radical departure from traditional forms of instruction, that it was introduced on short notice, and that the online resources provided in the California company’s curriculum were inappropriate for Indiana County students in the 10- to 12-year-old age range.

“I come to the meetings again and again because of the fear that this will become mainstream and there will not be an opt-in later,” said Julie Brunetto. “That is my biggest concern as I have a third-grader coming up.”

Brunetto said her older child, a sixth-grader, has been uplifted since Summit was rolled back.

“She is excited about certain classes that have been taken off … excited that there is discussion, not just lectures, but discussion and excitement about the subject again.”

Brunetto also warned that if Summit becomes mandatory for students, she would move her family from the district.

“That scares me to death and that’s why I will be here for every meeting.”

Mihaela Nowak acknowledged that the science and social studies classes have reverted to the traditional teaching method while Summit is used only for math and English Language Arts classes.

She, too, said she stood for other parents who were unable to attend the meeting.

“We have invested in child care, we have families, we have jobs. We have put a lot into this. If one of us is here, all of us are here,” Nowak said.

“We communicate constantly with parents from eight other states who are fighting this same fight,” Nowak said. “We are not the only district who saw this, constantly being belittled and pushed back by the administration that doesn’t understand that this is not good. This is a bad program, bad to the core, and we feel very strongly about that.”

Board members handled only one matter related to Summit on the business agenda, the administration’s request to authorize travel for eight staff members for updated training on the Summit Learning program from March 11 to 13 in Hyattsville, Md.

The board delayed action.

District Superintendent Dale Kirsch said the training is part of an organized sequence of sessions and would be unlike another session set for the summer.

Those listed to attend include Assistant Superintendent Jeff Boyer and Junior High Principal Michael Minnick. The others are sixth-grade teachers or mentors who consult with students to guide their progress in Summit, but only two of the teachers use Summit in their classrooms.

While Summit would cover the costs of the conference and lodging, the administration proposed allowing $250 each for transportation and other expenses.

Board members hesitated to approve the request, in part “due to the uncertainty of Summit,” several said.

They voted 6 to 3 to table the request until February. Board President Walter Schroth and directors Barbara Barker, Tom Harley, Terry Kerr, Tamara Leeper and Ute Lowery approved the delay. John Barbor, Julia Trimarchi Cuccaro and Doug Steve voted no.


Additional reading:

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



More Red Flags for School Board Candidate Omar Vasquez as Ed Reform Cash pours in to the Campaign of Charter School and Teach for America Candidate Vasquez


Independent Expenditure (IE) jumps into race for Omar Vasquez who is running for Seattle School Board, District 5. IE funded by those that seek to privatize education!  NO Surprise!

On September 17, 2017 we alerted our readers to the candidacy of Omar Vasquez, who is running for Seattle School Board, District 5. Red flags began to wave when Vasquez  accepted $1,000 from Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) and $1,000K from Vulcan, Inc. (Link to PDC here. See also: The stealthy campaign for charter schools found in emails of Seattle Public School employees and the candidacy of Omar Vasquez. )

Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) is a New York-based national political action committee that aims to -privatize education- Vulcan, Inc. is the Seattle-based development corporation of Microsoft confounder Paul Allen which has also been involved in efforts to privatize education. Vulcan contributed $1.5M to the “YES on 1240” campaign to privatize education by legalizing charter schools in Washington State in 2012. (Link to PDC here. See also: The Charter-Pushers: Who is Bankrolling the $8 Million Effort (and counting) to Bring Charters to Washington State? and Charter Schools in Washington State – by Hook or by Crook? )

At the time of our first report, Vasquez was a member of the state board for Summit charter schools. ” Vasquez served on the state board for Summit Public Schools, which operates three Washington charters…”

Only recently (and apparently reluctantly) did he step down from Summit’s Board. Yet he continues to receive significant infusions of money from major charter-backing enterprises.

It comes as no surprise that in the final weeks of the election, Democrats for Education Reform has contributed $20,000 to Vasquez’s campaign via an Independent Expenditure, paying for digital advertising.

Yes the battle to hijack and privatize Seattle Public Schools continues. The effort is funded by the same few political players. 

Voters should be sure to stay informed and vote for the candidates who oppose privatizing our public schools and will protect our public trusts. In District 5, that means vote for Zachary DeWolf. In District 7, that means Vote for Betty Patu. And in District 4, Vote for Eden Mack.

-Dora Taylor and Carolyn Leith 



Debunking the “Truthiness” of Bill Gates’ Glowing Review of Summit’s Personalized Learning Platform

Gates Dollars two


The quality of stating concepts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than the facts.

Origin: Stephen Colbert, “The Colbert Report,” 2005

In spite of being handicapped by attending two outmoded, “factory style”  public schools, both my kids have managed to learn that if you make a claim in an essay you must back it up with credible evidence.

Somehow, this fundamental concept seems to have escaped Bill Gates. Case in point: Gates glowing review of Summit’s personalized learning platform in his August 22, 2016 Gates Notes post titled: I Love This Cutting Edge School Design.

This is what Bill Gates had to say about the marvels of Facebook’s Basecamp a personalized learning platform used by Summit Sierra Charter School in Seattle:

At its best, personalized learning doesn’t just let students work at their own pace. It puts them in charge of their own academic growth. Summit, the network of charter schools that Summit Sierra belongs to, worked with Facebook to develop software that guides the students’ learning. For example, you might set a goal like “I want to get into the University of Washington.” Working with their teachers, the students develop a personalized learning plan in the software. They can see all the courses they need to meet their goal, how they’re doing in each class, and what it will take to get a given grade. They set weekly objectives and note their progress in the software.

Free Meaning The Gates Foundation Gave One Million To Make it Possible.

Here’s the first bit of truthiness:

A personalized learning plan like the one I saw at Sierra would’ve taken the mystery out of things. After my visit, I emailed Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook to tell him how great it is that their engineers are working on this project. (Summit is making the platform available to other schools for free.)

Actually, The Gates Foundation awarded Summit “Public” Schools over a million dollars so Summit could provide Facebook’s Basecamp to their partner schools for free. It’s interesting that Gates doesn’t mention how his Foundation made it all possible.

Gates-Summit-FB Basecamp

Has Bill Gates Been in a Real Classroom with Actual, Human Teachers?

I’m not sure if the next two paragraphs are an example of truthiness or just how out of touch Bill Gates is with what actually goes on in real classrooms.

Any parent who has had the opportunity to volunteer knows “connecting one-on-one” is what human teachers do day-in and day-out.

I would bet most teachers would argue that making these connections is really what teaching is all about. It’s shocking to me that Bill Gates doesn’t understand this.

Personalized learning represents a big shift for teachers too. As most will tell you, it’s rare to find a school that gives them the opportunity to connect one-on-one with their students. But in personalized learning, that’s not the exception, it’s the rule.

For example, Summit teachers are matched with students whom they will mentor for all four years in school. During my visit, teacher Aubree Gomez showed me how it works. First she took out her laptop, pulled up a list of the 17 students she’s mentoring, and explained how the software showed her what each student was doing, down to the level of which lessons they had looked at and which tests they had taken.

The idea that a professional teacher needs some type of intermediary software to manage a portfolio of students is equally bizarre.

It only makes sense to me if children are viewed as tiny slivers of skill-based competencies to be managed by impersonal algorithms – kids as commodities – rather than valued as the complicated human beings all children are.

Evidence? Who Needs it.

Gates may have displayed borderline truthiness when it comes to teachers and what teaching is all about, but it’s truthiness to the max when it comes to citing evidence that personalized learning is an effective tool for instruction.

First, Gates cites a study from the Rand Corporation as evidence that personalized learning works, but later admits, there really isn’t a lot of solid evidence to prove it.

We still need more data about the strengths and weaknesses of personalized learning, but the results so far are promising. One study found that among 62 schools using personalized learning, students made more progress in two years than their peers at other schools. They started below the national average in reading and math; two years later, they were above it.

To be fair, we don’t know yet how much of this improvement is due to personalized learning, versus other good things these schools are doing. And in any case, personalized learning won’t be a cure-all. It won’t work for all kids at all ages, and it’s just one model among many promising ones. But I’m hopeful that this approach could help many more young people make the most of their talents.

Turns out, Rand isn’t a very credible source when it comes to personalized learning. In fact, The The Institute for the Future (IFTF), which is an outgrowth of The Rand Corporation, is an active promoter of personalized learning, blockchain, and the gig economy. Check out the video.

Gates may have reached peak truthiness with his flippant “to be fair” dismissal of his lack of evidence to support the effectiveness of personalized learning; but here’s something to think about: there’s almost no evidence showing online or the classroom equivalent, competency-based learning, to be effective.

First, let’s look at some indirect evidence.

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

How bad was the negative impact?

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


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

Here’s a few of the highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s two more damning studies.

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

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

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

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

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

The Failed State of American Democracy

Sheldon Wolin wrote in Democracy Incorporated about inverted totalitarianism, the state of affairs where democratic institution are hallowed out and replaced with top down authoritarian systems ruled by money and a powerful elite. The institution remains, in name only, while the shadow parallel system holds the real power.

Wolin explains the process in detail in this article for The Nation:

Representative institutions no longer represent voters. Instead, they have been short-circuited, steadily corrupted by an institutionalized system of bribery that renders them responsive to powerful interest groups whose constituencies are the major corporations and wealthiest Americans. The courts, in turn, when they are not increasingly handmaidens of corporate power, are consistently deferential to the claims of national security. Elections have become heavily subsidized non-events that typically attract at best merely half of an electorate whose information about foreign and domestic politics is filtered through corporate-dominated media. Citizens are manipulated into a nervous state by the media’s reports of rampant crime and terrorist networks, by thinly veiled threats of the Attorney General and by their own fears about unemployment. What is crucially important here is not only the expansion of governmental power but the inevitable discrediting of constitutional limitations and institutional processes that discourages the citizenry and leaves them politically apathetic.

Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg’s team up to promote personalized learning is a perfect example of the hallowing out and replacement of the democratic structures tasked with overseeing our public schools.

From EdWeek:

In a statement, an initiative spokeswoman expressed similar sentiments.

“The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is excited to partner with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support New Profit’s work,” the statement says. “We share an interest in seeing significant improvement in education and are committed to learning from each other.”Since 2009, the Gates Foundation has given more than $300 million to support research and development on personalized learning, including past grants to New Profit totaling about $23 million. (Education Week has received support from the foundation in the past for the newspaper’s coverage of personalized learning.)

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, meanwhile, was launched in 2015. Zuckerberg and Chan said then they intended to give 99 percent of their Facebook shares—worth an estimated $45 billion—to a variety of causes, headlined by the development of software “that understands how you learn best and where you need to focus.”

Since the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is an LCC, they don’t have to respond to public records requests or other transparent practices expected of democratic institutions. In fact, The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative can operate with zero transparency, thanks to the shielding effect of the LLC designation.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is not a traditional nonprofit foundation. Instead, it’s an LLC. That organizational structure allows for direct investment in for-profit companies and political lobbying and donations, as well as philanthropic giving. It also limits the extent to which the group is legally required to publicly report on its activities.

So far, The Gates Foundation has given $300 million of support to promote and develop personalized learning – with more likely to come.

Now the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is adding “99 percent of their Facebook shares—worth an estimated $45 billion” to the mix.

This is enough money to overpower and colonize any system, democratic or private.

Add to that the shielding power of an LLC designation – which will keep the public’s prying eyes far away from the inner working this partnership – and we’re suddenly facing a serious democratic crisis in the fight to save public education.

No wonder Bill Gates prefers half-truths and lies of omission rather than full disclosure when it comes to Summit, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and personalized learning.

-Carolyn Leith


Parents Rebel Against Summit/Facebook/Chan-Zuckerberg Online Learning Platform

Reprinted with permission from Leonie Haimson, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy.


Anyone that has not dealt with this program first hand as a teacher, parent, student or observer really needs to make an unannounced visit to one of their schools.  Words do no justice to explain the disgust one feels when they realize that the kids being exposed to this will be the ones that ultimately pay the price. “

Last October, the Washington Post published an article on its front page about the “personalized” online learning platform that Summit charter schools and Facebook developed in collaboration.  This platform, called Summit Basecamp, is a learning management system complete with a curriculum, including projects, online resources and tests.

Currently, Summit claims that the program has been adopted in about 130 schools across the country, both public and charter schools.  About 38 percent of schools using the platform are middle schools, 24 percent high schools, 13 percent elementary schools, and the rest are K–12 or K–8 schools. Summit also recently was awarded a $10 million grant from the Emerson Collective, run by Laurine Powell Jobs, to “reinvent” the high school by starting a new school in Oakland that will run an expanded version of its online learning platform.

In March, it was announced that the operation and further development of the Summit online platform would be transferred from Facebook to the Chan/Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), the for-profit LLC owned by Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, with billions of dollars at its disposal. At about the same time, Summit decided it would no longer ask for parent consent before collecting and re-disclosing their children’s personal data.

The Washington Post article last year reported primarily on parent concerns with their children’s lack of data privacy at these schools, as the Summit parental consent formPrivacy Policy and Terms of Service were astonishingly open-ended – essentially providing Summit with the ability to share student data with nearly anyone they choose.

Over the course of the 2016-2017 school year, parents throughout the country rebelled against the platform, both because of its lack of privacy but also because they experienced its negative impact on their children’s learning and attitudes to school. In addition, Summit and the schools using the platform are no longer asking for parental consent, probably because so many parents refused or resisted signing the consent forms.

After the Washington Post article appeared, I expanded on the privacy concerns cited in that piece, and pointed out additional issues in my blog.   I included a list of questions parents should ask Summit to clarify their data-sharing plans.  Parents who sent them to Summit informed me that Summit failed to answer these questions.  (I later expanded on these questions, and Rachael Stickland, the co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, submitted them to Summit representatives after personally meeting them at SXSW EDU conference in March.  She also received no response.)

Meanwhile, the list of Summit schools, both public and charter, that had allegedly adopted the platform last year was taken down from the Summit website sometime between February 15 and February 18, according to the Wayback Machine  – making it even more difficult to ascertain which schools and students are were actually using it.

On March 3, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported on the experience of parents in Boone County, Kentucky whose schools had adopted the platform– many of whom did not want to consent to their children’s data being shared with so little specificity and so few restrictions:

At the beginning of the school year, parents had to sign a permission slip allowing Summit to access their child’s profile information. Summit uses the info to “conduct surveys and studies, develop new  features, products and services and otherwise as requested,” the form states.  The agreement also allows Summit to disclose information to third-party service providers and partners “as directed” by schools.  That, perhaps, is the biggest source of contention surrounding Summit. … “It’s optional. Nobody has to do Summit, [Deputy Superintendent Karen] Cheser said… Summit spokeswoman declined to speak on the record with The Enquirer.”

Yet within weeks of the publication of this article, at about the same time that the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative took over, someone involved in the Summit initiative decided that parents would no longer be granted the right of consent – either for their children to be subjected to the Summit instructional program or for their data to be shared according to Summit’s open-ended policies.  In fact, Summit claimed the right to access, data-mine and redisclose their children’s data in the same way as before – yet now, without asking if parents agreed to these terms.

They explained their decision this way – in a post now only accessible through the Wayback Machine:

Do parents need to provide consent for their children to use the Summit Learning Platform?

You used to require parental consent, why has your approach changed?

We heard directly from our partner schools and districts that they have established processes for making instructional decisions—such as adopting a textbook series or curriculum—to meet the needs of their students.  The Summit Learning Platform is a teaching and learning tool that includes a comprehensive 6th-12th grade curricula in English, math, science, Spanish, and social studies—as well as all the tools and learning resources students and teachers need for the school year. We want to respect each school’s process. Therefore each school’s leadership and teaching team will determine whether to use Summit Learning on behalf of their community.

In other words, the crucial decision of whether students would be subjected to this experimental platform and how widely their personal data would be shared would no longer be made by their parents, but by Summit and their schools.

On August 1, Summit updated their Privacy Policy and Terms of Service,  although confusingly the original versions remain online as well (here and here).  The new Privacy Policy contains a long list of personal student data that they will collect and share with unspecified “Service Providers and Partners” who must comply with the terms of the Privacy Policy.  The data can be used for used for various purposes, including to “operate, develop, analyze, evaluate, and improve the educational tools, features, products, and services”.

The personal student data they say they will collect and can share with their partners is expansive, and includes, among other things;

  • Contact information such as full name and email address, username and password;
  • Course information including student work in applicable media (e.g., video, audio, text and images) and course progress;
  • Test scores, grades and standardized test results;
  • Narratives written by students, including their goals and learning plans, their communication with teachers and other students;
  • Teacher curricula and notes and feedback to or about students;
  • Student record information such as attendance, suspension, and expulsions;
  • Student demographic data; presumably including race, ethnicity, and economic status;
  • Outcome information such as grade level promotion and graduation, college admission test scores, college acceptance and attendance, and employment.

While the Privacy Policy promises that Summit “does not, and will not, sell student data,” they also claim the right to provide the data to other companies or organizations through an “asset sale,”  which appears to contradict this statement as well as the Student Privacy pledge that bars the selling of student data.  On Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg himself made a point of emphasizing that Summit had signed this pledge: “Summit subscribes to the White House-endorsed Student Privacy Pledge, so everyone working on this has strict privacy controls to protect student data in accordance with the Pledge.”

Yet neither Facebook nor CZI has signed the Student Privacy Pledge.

The fact that Summit claims the right to transfer student data in an “asset sale” also appears to violate SOPIPA, the California student privacy law that bans selling student data even more emphatically – though 36 California public and charter schools were using the Summit platform this past school year, the most of any state.

In its Terms of Service, Summit demands that schools and teachers are prohibited from changing any of the materials or curricula in the platform without prior permission, and that if they suggest improvements through feedback, Summit will claim “an  irrevocable, non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, worldwide license to use, modify, prepare derivative works from, publish, distribute and sublicense the Feedback without any compensation.”

To make things worse, anyone using the platform gives up the right to sue in court, but must instead resolve disputes through confidential binding arbitration by an arbitrator located in San Mateo — home of Silicon Valley, Facebook and CZI. The Terms of Service also bars individuals or schools from entering into class action lawsuits or complaints. (Last month, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau prohibited banks and financial service companies from denying consumers the right to file class action lawsuits.)

Finally, Summit also claims the right that it can change the Terms of Service at any time without prior notification, simply by posting the changes online, to be effective ten days after posting.

The head of Summit Charter Schools, Diane Taverner, is also the President of the California Charter School Association, posing a risk that student and parent data could be sold for political ends, and that the work of public school teachers could be used in her charter schools without recompense.

Growing parent and student resistance to Summit platform in Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Illinois

To some extent, Summit’s announcement that they would no longer ask for parent consent makes sense. Throughout the fall, winter and spring, parents with children at schools using the Summit platform reached out to me personally and the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy for help and advice.

One grievance early on was that contrary to the Summit’s public posture, their schools told them that if they did not grant their permission to have their children’s data shared in this way, they would not receive any other form of instruction. By the end of the school year, because of their children’s disastrous experience with the Summit platform, some desperate parents in Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois and Virginia decided to either move out of their school district, homeschool their children or apply for a transfer.

One Virginia parent confided that she felt pressured to consent to the Summit Schools privacy policy because her son’s sixth grade teachers told him he’d fall behind if he didn’t return the document signed. She has friends who decided to homeschool their children as a result; and she is now requesting an out of-zone transfer.

She explained to me why she is pulling her son out of the school: “There are numerous issues I have with this pilot program. My son complained of headaches and other aches and pains all year… He was on the computer a lot, every day! He managed to get Honor Roll but hated the program.

“In my opinion, this program doesn’t truly get the children prepared for college as they claim because they are allowed to retake assessments over and over again until they have mastered the material. I do not remember any of my college professors allowing me to retake exams. I feel that it this practice inflates grades and unfairly suggests that this program is ‘working’. Some of the content that I was able to view wasn’t age appropriate for a 6th grader. For example, for American history they assigned a Dora the Explorer rap video about the 13 colonies that was of poor quality and had numerous grammatical errors in the text shown.”

She also had problems with the “parent dashboard” that Summit claims provides parents with full access to the curriculum – but that she could only see while her son was logged in and engaged in doing his homework: “I expressed numerous times that the dashboard was useless! I was unable to view a majority of the material my son was learning, whether it be a worksheet or video. …. Lastly, one of my greatest concerns is the fact that all the privacy policies are very vague and I have NO idea EXACTLY what data is being collected and how it is being used. The school does not know either. Very disheartening. “

Stacie Storms, a parent who lives in Boone County Kentucky, told me that when she withheld her consent, the response from her child’s school was that she would have to pull him out of the school. She chose to homeschool her child, though she has gone to her elected local and state representatives to protest.

Many Boone County parents were concerned how the privacy agreement puts at risk not only their children’s privacy, but their own, as recounted in the Northern Kentucky Tribune:

The agreement gives Summit Learning permission to collect data from any devices used to access the program, which means parents accessing the program from home or work devices may be susceptible to data collection too. Some parents are upset with their students’ data, and potential their own data, being shared outside of the district.

Parents told the reporter that “their children were just skipping to the assessments without reading the material. They only had to get eight out of the ten multiple choice questions correct to pass.”

Students were provided insufficient time with their teachers, and as one parent wrote me: “The schedule does not allow for a program like this to work with 25+ students… The teachers have admitted that they cannot get to every student, every week with the schedule.

According to the Summit system, each student is supposed to have dedicated one-on one time with a teacher, to ensure they stay on track and are actually learning. Though the program only requires 10 minutes per week with their “mentor”, some students are not even provided with this amount of minimal time.

Parents confessed that their children had become bored, disengaged and falling behind; and many of them no longer wanted to go to school.  Students are also subjected to numerous ads via YouTube and the other websites assigned by the platform, which can be very distracting, especially for children with special needs.

Parent Jennifer R., who asked that her last name and school district be withheld, said: “I think Summit learning is the worst thing that has ever happened to the education system. My child is having a HORRIBLE experience with it and the teachers are like “well, we are kind of stuck on what to do to help him.” Really?! How’s about ditch the stupid tablets and program and go back to what works, books and ACTUALLY handwritten homework.”

Another parent confided: “My objection to this program is lack of teacher instruction, lack of class discussion where students can process as a whole — learning from the questions their peers may have and of course their amount of screen time. I knew the content of the curriculum wouldn’t be perfect, but had no idea how disengaged this program would have my daughter from school…. She has always been an easy kid that enjoys school. This year? Mornings are tough…she doesn’t want to go. It’s booorrriiinnnggg. She needs that teacher engagement to hold her attention. Computer screen doesn’t cut it.”

Another: “To be realistic the curriculum our kids are using on the program right now SUCKS.”

Here are the observations of a student, assigned to the Summit platform, whose comments are posted to the Northern Kentucky Tribune article linked to above:

Honestly I hear tons of kids talking about dropping out, I look around on other students’ computers and a lot of them are falling behind …. it is so stressful once you start to fall behind you dig yourself in a hole and it’s hard to get out of it… It has been really hard for me to stay focused and staring at these computer screens all day really takes a tole [sic] on your eyes. Everyone is on a different pace, classrooms are quiet and not engaged like they used to be. …

I have been complaining about summit since the first week of school yet no one listens to me and my counselor basically tells me that is my fault for failing and I should get used to summit because it will always be there. …. I have stress, anxiety and depression and this year i have had 5 anxiety attacks over summit, i do not want to come to school anymore i hate it and i am failing which has ever happened to me before i have always been a student to get good grades. Lastly teachers are not realizing that most student open up another tab while they’re taking assessments and cheat. I see it being done by a lot of people. If i cheated on my tests then I’d be passing right now. …. I am dropping out next year. I can’t deal with another year of summit.”

Mirna Daniel-Eads, a Boone County parent, took her child out of the school and moved to another district because of the Summit platform.  She explains her family’s decision this way: “Summit is all computer, most days the internet was down so my son was learning nothing. The teachers were not teaching… a complete waste of time.”

Despite the widespread discontent, Boone County administrators applied to the state be named as a “District of Innovation.”  Part of the application involves waiver requests to allow teachers to teach outside of their certification areas – and to “allow teachers’ assistants (para-professionals) the ability to oversee digital curriculum and to allow them levels of instruction and supervision.”  As the district explains, “There are many teacher assistants that are capable of assisting students with virtual and digital content.”

Yet in response to numerous parent complaints, the Kentucky Office of Education Accountability (OEA) released three reports on August 18, 2017, which found fault with the way in which the Summit platform and curriculum were adopted in Boone County schools.  The reports describe how the district was lured into the program, after principals attended a seminar at the University of Kentucky Next Generation Leadership Academy.  Subsequently, the district sent 82 teachers and administrators to California to be trained at Summit’s expense, and three Boone County middle schools and one alternative school implemented the Summit platform.

Among the many problems outlined by David Wickersham, Director of the Kentucky OEA, included the following:

  • No Boone district or school official attempted to determine if the Summit program was aligned with Kentucky state learning standards before adopting it, and several teachers reported that it was not aligned with the standards in social students, math or science.
  • At least two of the schools implemented the Summit curriculum without the agreement of the School-Based Decision-making Council, made up of parents, teachers and the principal, in violation of Kentucky law 160.345. Nor was the curriculum approved or given a waiver by the State Textbook Commission or the state Digital Learning team.
  • Principals entered into contracts with Summit without the approval of the Boone district superintendent or school board, contrary to Kentucky law.
  • The decision to disclose personal student data to Summit was illegal once parental consent was no longer required, as Summit employees could not be defined as “school officials” under Kentucky law: “It appears that, to satisfy Kentucky law, the release or disclosure of records, reports, or identifiable information on students to Summit requires parental or eligible student consent.”
  • Finally, Summit’s open-ended permission to share data with additional third parties and for unspecified uses appears to conflict with Kentucky law 365.734 , which restricts the use of personal student data by a “cloud computing service provider” such as that employed by the Summit program.

Here are the observations of Chicago public school parents whose children were assigned the Summit platform last year:

It feels like badly designed computer programs are now teaching my children.” (6th/8th grade parent.)

We are not having a good experience either, my kid hates it. Seriously considering a move.” (7th grade)

“[My kid] broke down last night in a very sad way. I’ve never seen him like I did. He finally said he was very stressed because of PLP [Summit’s Personalized Learning Platform].” (6th grade)

Kids are playing games and listening to music instead of interacting … during small group discussion time. … looking at screens instead of making eye contact – you know, one of the critical elements to learning. Teacher pulls only 5-7 students for individual one-on-one mentoring during ELA block – most of which takes place with both teacher and kid looking at Chromebook screen.”

Probably the biggest issue I have with implementation is that there isn’t enough $$. Our school got a grant for $280K, a condition of which is that we use this program. [The grant was provided by the Gates Foundation through an organization called LEAP Innovations.]  As of January, we still didn’t have the money, yet they pulled at least two teachers out the classroom to become instructional coaches. Class sizes went up, quality of instruction went down, and my older kid is drowning. My 6th grader has NO choice, and she has moved from a kid who liked learning new things to a kid who views school as a 7-hour daily chore. “

An Ohio student wrote: “I don’t like basecamp.  I want to be taught by a teacher like I used to be.  Staring at the computer all day gives me a headache and then I lose interest in doing my work.  I don’t like having to watch videos and take notes all day.  …. I like a teacher to teach me.  I am a hands-on learner and I don’t feel like I learned anything with Basecamp.”

Laura Gladish, a parent in Ohio, told her son’s story:

My son was in 6th grade at Mayer Middle School for the 2016-2017 school year.  He came out of 5th grade an honor student, also receiving the Presidential Award. He loved school and always did very well until 6th grade.  In the beginning of the year he came home and said that I needed to sign this paper so that he could do his schoolwork. … I called the school and was told that if I didn’t he wouldn’t be able to stay in school since this was the new program that the district was using.  I was shocked that I was being told this from a public school.  So I reluctantly signed the form.

Within weeks my son started coming home from school upset and didn’t want to go to school.  He said that he didn’t like being taught by a computer and sitting in front of a computer watching videos and taking notes all day. He was basically in charge of his own education at the age of 12.  

I called the counselor and was assured that the kids were being taught by the teachers; they were only reinforcing what the teacher already taught in class and taking tests on the computer.  My son kept telling me that wasn’t true; they sat in front of the computer all day and if they didn’t finish they were expected to go home and work on the computer longer …

So I called for a meeting with all of his teachers.  They told me that the kids needed to learn how to manage their time and stay on task. They were expected to watch a video and take detailed notes.  Then they ask the teacher to check their notes and if the teacher felt they were ready they would open the test for them, only on Fridays, and they could use their notes to take the test.  I said to them, then what exactly are they actually learning if they are taking tests with notes?  How to take notes?  I was told no they are learning from repetition.  If they fail the test they can re-watch the video and take more notes and retake the test.  They can keep doing this until they pass.  But by doing this they also fall behind because you can’t move on until you pass the test.

By October my son was falling behind and hated school.  I was so frustrated I called the superintendent for a meeting…  I asked him that if there are kids who are not doing well with platform learning, and since this was a public school, there should be a choice to use basecamp or not.  And there should be regular classes available to my son.  I was told there was no option, this is it.  He also told me that they chose the Summit learning platform because no one can fail and this program will raise the district test scores.

So I called the state board of education to ask my question.  If my son attends a public school how come I can’t opt him out of a program he wasn’t doing well with.  I was told that there is nothing I can do and that the districts can teach however they want and the State only steps in when the state test scores fall below average. 

After Christmas break I had had enough and I pulled my son out and he’s enrolled in an online school.   He had more one-on-one teacher time with the online school then he did at Mayer Middle School.  He ended the year with all A’s and one B.  I want to see Summit basecamp out of all public schools.

Finally, below is a letter I received last June from Colleen Faile, a parent in Fairview Park City, Ohio, reprinted in full, with her permission:

My school district (Fairview Park High and Lewis Mayer Middle) DOES NOT listen, care, acknowledge complaints or even consider parent input. If they do not need parental consent it will most likely make their lives easier having to deal less with us the parents.  

The district has lied from the initial presentation of Summit….one week prior to the start of school and has continued to lie, manipulate, cover up and blatantly ignore any parent with concerns. 

They have embarrassed my daughter for stating truthful facts and attempting to find a resolution for the lack of care or attention they provide her as an A student. She completed half of the year’s assessments for world history last Thursday. 8 assessments in 1 day! One day to complete a semester of work! Her mentor met with her one time ALL YEAR! School ends June 8th! Every week she sends he weekly update…We have experimented since December and each week she has no goals and nothing to work on. Nobody cares, nobody reads it, nobody holds her accountable. 

I am in the process of collecting signatures to take to the board demanding Summit be removed instead of expanded.  They made a deal with Apple to change from Chromebooks to MacBook Airs in 6-12….a three-year $1.5 million dollar contract. Yet we have math classes at 30+ kids and one teacher using the PLP all working at their own pace…and the teacher is able to help everyone?! Sitting in on these classes makes me sick; who can learn…especially math in this environment?

Summit will be in 6-8 grades and 9 and 10th next year. They also wanted to expand to 5th grade next year… the teachers won that battle…but we all know it is temporary. Our teachers cannot speak up or the district will bully them. 

This program is a disaster in so many ways. Our children are NOT RECEIVING AN EDUCATION! …

Anyone that has not dealt with this program first hand as a teacher, parent, student or observer really needs to make an unannounced visit to one of their schools.  Words do no justice to explain the disgust one feels when they realize that the kids being exposed to this will be the ones that ultimately pay the price. “

Meanwhile, an even more intense PR campaign has begun by the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative to expand the use of the Summit program.

In a Facebook post on March 13, 2017, Jim Shelton signaled that CZI would continue to push for even more schools and, especially, individual teachers to adopt the platform: “Over the course of this year, we’ll begin work on a free online tool called the Summit LearningPlatform, which empowers teachers to customize instruction to meet their students’ individual needs and interests….We could not be more excited by the platform’s potential.”

In a TED talk the following month, Shelton claimed that when students are logged into the platform, “their level of engagement and motivation goes up…The fact that the first word that comes to mind when students think of high school is ‘boring’ is our fault, not theirs.”

 And in an article in the fall issue of Education Next, Joanne Jacobs further promoted the use of the Summit platform, in glowing terms.

Parents, beware of Summit Learning Platform.  Fight back as if your child’s privacy and education depend on it; because they do.  You can also reach out to the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy at with your questions and concerns.

Did you know Facebook and Summit Charter Schools Have Teamed Up to Deliver Personalized Learning?

Facebook Napalm Girl

It was a lucky shot, some say of Nick Ut’s famous Vietnam War photo The Terror of War, or Napalm Girl, as it is more commonly known. Less lucky, of course, was the little girl in the photo, Kim Phuc. She was running down the street, naked, after a napalm attack on her village. Her skin was melting off in strips. Her home was burning in the background. It was June 8, 1972. Ut was 21 years old. “When I pressed the button, I knew,” Ut says. “This picture will stop the war.” It has been 42 years since then. But that moment still consumes him.

In 1972, three years after the Tet Offensive, the Vietnam War had put President Nixon in a very tough spot during an election year.

For the first half of 1972, President Nixon made public overtures towards a formal peace agreement with North Vietnam.

After winning his re-election bid and the peace negotiations unravelling, President Nixon decided to change tactics.

During a meting with Henry Kissinger and Presidential military aide General Alexander Haig, the decision was made to bring in B-52 Bombers to escalate and up the intensity of the bombing campaign in North Vietnam.

As Alexander Haig put it, the goal of the bombing campaign was to “strike hard…and keep on striking until the enemy’s will was broken.”

Napalm Girl

On June 8, 1972, Associated Press photographer, Nick Ut, took a picture of a 9 year old girl running down the road after her village had been bombed with napalm. Her clothes had disintegrated, her skin scorched by the 2,200 degree burn of napalm.

Ut took the little girl to the hospital and demanded she be treated, despite being told by doctors that she had no chance.

Miraculously, Kim Phuc survived.

Many believe Ut’s photograph of Phuc helped end the Vietnam War.

It was a lucky shot, some say of Nick Ut’s famous Vietnam War photo The Terror of War, or Napalm Girl, as it is more commonly known. Less lucky, of course, was the little girl in the photo, Kim Phuc. She was running down the street, naked, after a napalm attack on her village. Her skin was melting off in strips. Her home was burning in the background. It was June 8, 1972. Ut was 21 years old. “When I pressed the button, I knew,” Ut says. “This picture will stop the war.” It has been 42 years since then. But that moment still consumes him.

Nick Ut’s photograph won the Pulitzer Prize. Kim Phuc and Ut forged a friendship that’s lasted for 45 years.

Facebook’s Censorship of Napalm Girl

In 2016, Norwegian author and journalist Tom Egeland posted on Facebook eight photos, one being Napalm Girl, as examples of how photography can change the world.

Facebook deleted Napalm Girl citing nudity concerns.

The Norwegian newspaper Dagsavisen contacted Kim Phuc for a comment on the censorship of the iconic photo. This is what she had to say:

“Kim is saddened by those who would focus on the nudity in the historic picture rather than the powerful message it conveys,” Anne Bayin, a spokesperson for the Kim Phuc Foundation, told the newspaper in a statement.

“She fully supports the documentary image taken by Nick Ut as a moment of truth that captures the horror of war and its effects on innocent victims,” she added.

When Tom Egeland posted a link to the Dagsavisen article, Facebook deleted it and suspended Egleland for 24 hours.

The controversy quickly spun out of control. How absurd was Facebook’s commitment to censorship and being the final arbitrator of what their users can see?

The Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg, posted Naplam Girl to her account. Facebook deleted it. Solberg promptly encouraged her cabinet members to post the photo on their Facebook feeds. Half of them did.

In the end, Facebook finally backed down – not because they saw the error in their authoritarian censorship.

No way.

Rather, Facebook finally woke up from it’s my-way-or-the-highway brinkmanship to find itself engulfed in a firestorm of controversy which had reached such a fenzy the company faced a mini-insurrection of users and lots of bad press.

By Friday the internet saw a mini-insurrection, with defiant Facebook users sharing the photo in a protest against apparent ham-fisted censorship. Some 180,000 people used Facebook to view the Guardian’s account of the row – illustrated, paradoxically, with the same uncensored photo. Another 4,000 shared it on Facebook.

Facebook and Summit Charter Schools Team Up to Deliver Personalized Learning

Given Facebook’s perchance for censorship coupled with the company’s ability to control the content users see with proprietary algorithms, I’m shocked any parent would allow or want their kids to be taught online by a black-box, digital curriculum developed by Facebook.

But it’s happening, with the help of gushing, non-critical reporting like this piece from the New York Times:

But the Summit-Facebook system, called the “Summit Personalized Learning Platform,” is different.

The software gives students a full view of their academic responsibilities for the year in each class and breaks them down into customizable lesson modules they can tackle at their own pace. A student working on a science assignment, for example, may choose to create a project using video, text or audio files. Students may also work asynchronously, tackling different sections of the year’s work at the same time.

The system inverts the traditional teacher-led classroom hierarchy, requiring schools to provide intensive one-on-one mentoring and coaching to help each student adapt.

And this:

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, were the catalysts for the partnership. It is the couple’s most public education effort since 2010 when they provided $100 million to help overhaul public schools in Newark, a top-down effort that ran into a local opposition.

The Facebook-Summit partnership, by contrast, is more of a ground-up effort to create a national demand for student-driven learning in schools. Facebook announced its support for the system last September; the company declined to comment on how much it is spending on it. Early this month, Summit and Facebook opened the platform up to individual teachers who have not participated in Summit’s extensive on-site training program.

Summit is doing it’s part by offering a teacher residency program which focuses on training a new type of teacher: one who’s content to be the-guide-on-the-side while the Basecamp software does most of the actual teaching.

A network of charter schools in Northern California this month will launch the nation’s first teacher residency program focused on personalized learning.

Twenty-four teachers-in-training will be part of Summit Public Schools’ first Summit Learning Residency Program, which will train teachers to lead students in a personalized learning classroom setting, a hallmark of the Summit model.

And to cement their knowledge of the budding concept that tailors education to the individual, the residents themselves will also learn their coursework and receive their teaching credential through personalized learning.

Teachers if you don’t think the teaching profession is being downsized, this is your wake-up call.

The Inherit Racism of Summit Charter Schools

A few years back, this blog called out Summit’s racist practices. Summit’s recent team-up with Facebook doesn’t help to change our impression.

Censoring Napalm Girl is a deal breaker.

Racism is alway part of the mix and an unspoken justification for the United State’s expansion of empire – from Manifest Destiny to Vietnam. Times may change, but this old habit refuses to die.

Napalm Girl is part of our country’s unflattering past and if censored or left unacknowledged will continue to be repeated.

-Carolyn Leith


OSPI State Superintendent Candidate Erin Jones’ list of donors: A who’s who of corporate ed reformers thanks to Stand for Children lobbyist Jim Kainber


In March of this year, my co-editor Carolyn Leith and I interviewed the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) Candidate Erin Jones. In preparation for the interview we noticed several of her donors were pro-charter school individuals and organizations who Ms. Jones referred to as her “friends” during the interview.

As I wrote in an introduction to the conversation we had with OSPI candidate Erin Jones:

Ms. Jones largest donors so far include Teach for America, Inc. (TFA), the League of Education Voters (LEV) and Stand for Children (SFC) but at the time of the interview, Ms. Jones said she was not aware of who her donors were.

During the interview we questioned her about her donors and after the interview, Carolyn and I sent Erin Jones information on LEV, SFC and other Gates’ backed groups assuming her to be naïve about the corporate reform movement. Apparently, Ms. Jones chose to either ignore the information or felt it was to her advantage to accept the money and therefore the influence of these individuals and groups.

Since the interview, Erin Jones has hired  SFC lobbyist Jim Kainber to assist her with generating  campaign donations.

To follow is what we have collected as of the date of this posting of money flowing into Erin Jones’ campaign from people and groups who are spending millions of dollars on privatizing the public school system of Washington State.

A big thank you goes out to people who have been working behind the scenes, gathering the information that is published in this post.

You can peruse her list of campaign donors here.

To follow is a breakdown of some of her contributors:

Stand for Children (SFC)

For information on Stand for Children, see Stand for Children Stands for the Rich and the Powerful…, For or Against Children? , Bain Capital, Stand for Children and Initiative 1240 and Parents! Know the truth about Stand for Children.

SFC contributed $168K for mailers for the Erin Jones for OSPI campaign.

And speaking of SFC, check out another contributor to SFC, Howard Behar.

Behar has contributed about $41,000 to Stand for Children. He has also donated to individuals that seek to privatize our education system such as Washington State pro charter school representatives Steve Litzow, Chad Magendanz and Guy Palmbo.

He also contributed money to the No on 1098 campaign. Initiative 1098 was a push to establish an income tax in Washington State. Washington State has one of the most regressive state tax systems in the US relying solely on a sales tax to support all state and public services including schools.

Behar has donated $2,000 to Erin Jones campaign.

Another major contributor to Stand for Children is David Nierenberg who has donated a total of $60K over the last several years to Stand for Children and donated $6K to Erin Jones’ campaign.

Evelyn Rozner, married to Matt Griffin who is a big supporter of charter schools and Teach for America and tried to buy the Seattle school board, contributed $1K to Erin Jones’ campaign,  contributed $5,000 to Stand for Children.

 Tom Alberg

Alberg is a venture capitalist who is not into paying a state income tax, which would inevitably support public schools, contributed $800 to the Erin Jones’ campaign and $35K to Stand for Children.

He also contributed $25K to the anti income tax campaign No on 1098.

For those who have been following this blog for a while, an interesting note that Alberg is also on the Investment Committee of the Seattle Foundation.

The League of Education Voters (LEV) and the LEV PAC, the Education Voters Political Action fund

To learn more about LEV, see A Look Back at the League of Education Voters and The Charter School Bill 1240 and the 1%: An Analysis. LEV has been heavily financed by Bill Gates who has been spending millions on various campaigns to have charter schools established in Washington State.

LEV has been very supportive of Erin Jones, featuring her as a keynote speaker at one of their events in 2014 and then for a LEV fundraiser as a featured speaker this year in Seattle.

Jene Jones, a lobbyist for LEV, who’s name keeps popping up when researching supporters of Erin Jones, spoke in Olympia in favor of a bill that would have elaminated  levies which is a way for districts to raise money for public schools. This may have to do with the fact that charter schools, which are still unconstitutional in our state, cannot receive tax levy money.

Starve the beast, feed the monster.

The LEV PAC is endorsing many charter school proponents to serve in the Washington State House and Senate this year.

Kelly Munn, a Field Director with LEV, who Erin Jones considers one of her “friends”, contributed $250 to Jones’ campaign fund.

The Education Voters Political Action fund include contributors such as Christopher Larson, who contributed $20K, and Steve Sundquist, a former Seattle school board member and disciple of our former Broad Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson.

Christopher Larson also contributed to the YES on 1240 campaign with $10K to establish charter schools in Washington State. Larson has donated $2,000 to the Erin Jones campaign.

To see the correlation between Yes on 1240 contributors and Jones’ donors, you can peruse the Yes on 1240 pdc list.

Rena Holland

Clyde and Rena Holland contributed $4K to Jones. Holland is a developer who has contributed to Republicans in Washington State and those with a right wing agenda.  Holland provided Tim Heyman with enough cash to push forward an initiative that requires a 2/3 majority of votes in the State House and Senate rather than a simple majority to approve bills.

This makes it more difficult for schools to get approval for much needed state funding.

Democrats for Education Reform (DFER)

For more on DFER, see Democrats for Education Reform also known as DFER and The deets on DFER, Democrats for Education Reform.

As stated in The deets on DFER post:

The Democrats for Education Reform have initiated a shameless war on public education, even as they claim to support children, teachers, and schools.

Dan Grimm, who is on the Board of Advisors for DFER, hosted a fundraiser for Erin Jones at the Asian Pacific Center on October 3, 2016.

To see the list of contributors to DFER, check out their pdc file.

Ruth Libscomb

Ruth Lipscomb, a self-proclaimed “education activist”, made a $500 contribution to the Erin Jones’ campaign. Lipscomb also contributed $3K to DFER and $7,500 to LEV’s PAC, the Education Voters Political Action fund.

Jamie Lund

Jamie Lund, the Senior Policy Analyst with of the anti-union Freedom Foundation has contributed to Erin Jones’ campaign.

Amy Liu

Amy Liu sits on the board of Summit charter school. Liu has contributed to the Erin Jones campaign as well as Yes on I 1240 and DFER.

Rainier Prep charter school

Maggie O’Sullivan, who is the founding principal of Rainier Prep charter school, a charter school that Erin Jones testified in favor of, contributed $350 to Erin Jones’ campaign.

SOAR charter school

Thelma Jackson of SOAR charter school, contributed $250 to Erin Jones campaign.


David Yunger, a Vice President at Pearson, contributed $1,000 to the Erin Jones campaign and listed himself as an “entrepreneur”.

All these people, many who were contacted by Stand for Children’s Lobbyist Jim Kaimber requesting donations, want to see Erin Jones elected and the reason is clear. They see Jones as a way to gain entry and influence over education in Washington State.

Dora Taylor



Watson Tango Fremont Washington Middle School PTA! Charter schools recruiting at your “High School Success Night”?!?


I’d say the Washington Middle School PTA has some explaining to do.

This is the flyer that went out to all of the parents at the middle school for High School Success Night:

Please join
Washington Middle School
WMS High School Success Night
Tuesday, March 1st, 6:30pm
Calling all 8th graders and their parents or guardians!
On Tuesday, March 1st at 6:30pm,
WMS will be hosting
High School Success Night.
A light dinner will be served.
  • Counselors from Franklin High School & Garfield High School will give lots of helpful information about navigating the academic and social life of high school.
  • Principal from Summit Charter School will be present to share information about their school.
  • A panel of high school students will be available to share about the transition to high school and for a Question & Answer Period.
Come with your questions in hand!
See you on Tues, March 1 at 6:30pm!

For more on Summit charter school, see

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

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

San Jose charter school teacher arrested for having sex with minor

Dora Taylor