Data Unicorns? Tech Giants and US Dept of Ed Form Alliance to Leverage Student Data — Without Parent Consent.

Reposted with permission from Missouri Education Watchdog

Leveraging Student Data

Project Unicorn: Billionaire partners promoting data interoperability and online “Personalized Learning”

When the Unicorns “protecting” student data are interoperable with the Unicorns taking it, parents and lawmakers might want to pay attention.

According to Technopedia, in the Information Technology world, “a unicorn is most commonly used to describe a company, for example, a Silicon Valley startup, that started out small but has since increased its market capitalization to, say, $1 billion or more. …For example, the social media giant Facebook, which has a market capitalization of more than $100 billion, is considered as a “super-unicorn among unicorns”.  Interesting coincidence because the name of a MEGA financed K-12 student data alliance is a unicorn.

Meet Project Unicorn.

Project Unicorn’s Mission is to Leverage Student Data and Make Data Interoperable

Project Unicorn

Project Unicorn’s steering committee is a who’s-who of edtech bundlers, billionaires, and student data power-players. They have formed an “uncommon alliance” committed to leveraging student data by making the data interoperable, flowing seamlessly, between all K-12 applications and platforms. While addressing student data security and privacy is a much needed conversation, it would seem that Project Unicorn has the cart before the horse. There is no talk of student data ownership or consent prior to collecting and using student data but rather, per this press release, Project Unicorn will continue to take the data, make data interoperable and talk about it afterwards, “Once interoperability is in place, we can start working with teachers and students to ask questions about the data.”  You can see by tweets below that Project Unicorn initially claimed it wanted to “shift data ownership to the student”; they have since withdrawn that statement.  Several schools and districts have been encouraged to join the Project Unicorn Coalition; we wonder if parents in these schools were given an option or are even aware of what this means. We’re going to talk about a few of the Project Unicorn partners and then circle back to their interoperability goals and how that fits with student data ownership, ethics, and the newly formed and related Truth About Tech and Humanetech.

A few points before we start:

  • When it comes to “free” edtech products, you know if it is free, you are the product; you pay with your data and your privacy. With edtech and 1:1 devices, personalized learning, online assessments online homework, LMS systems, students usually do not have a choice. Students do not have the ability to consent or opt out. Why?
  • Not all philanthropy is charity. As this article points out, for some, philanthropy is an investment, these nonprofits may “look” charitable but they are truly meant to make money and to buy power and influence policy, and sometimes do harm.
  • McKinsey Global estimated that increasing the use of student data in education could unlock between $900 billion and $1.2 trillion in global economic value. 
  • Children are not data points to predict, standardize and analyze. Currently online platforms can collect every key stroke, analyze and predict children’s behaviors. Children are not meant to be experimented on and#KidsAreNotInteroperable.
  • Currently, students’ data can be shared, researched, analyzed, marketed without parental consent. Often, parents cannot refuse the data sharing, cannot see the data points shared and how they are analyzed.
  • Edtech and Silicon Valley companies can gain access to personal student information without parent consent, under the School Official exception in FERPA. The US Department of Education not only promotes edtech companies, it tells tech companies HOW to gain access to student data, and is partnered in this project to make data sharing interoperable.
  • Interoperable data systems will allow even larger, very predictive data profiles of children–everything they do, are. The best way to protect privacy is to not collect data in the first place. Interoperability, with bigger and more detailed, sensitive data sets, sharing and mixing data with third parties is risky for both privacy and security. The US Department of Education has already warned of cyber hackers ransoming sensitive data from schools; who will be responsible and liable for more data breaches?

Back to unicorns.

How is the US Department of Education involved with Project Unicorn? 

The USDoE (your tax dollars) has been a major driving force of funding and support in online education, and data interoperability. Part of the data interoperability requires common data standards. CEDS (Common Education Data Standards) are codes used to tag student data, you can see these over 1,700 different data codes or elements, in the federal student data dictionary.  These common data tags were created with the help of  Bill Gates, funder of the Data Quality Campaign; read about the mission of DQC at the US Department of Education Summit here. Data Quality Campaign also provides policy guidance to legislators and education agencies, such as this 2018 DQC Roadmap promoting Cross-Agency data sharing. With the shift in education focusing more on workforce talent pipelines (see both ESSA and WIOA), the Workforce Data Quality Campaign (Gates, Lumina, Arnold, Joyce Foundation funded) has also influenced the US Department of Labor. The US Department of Labor-Workforce Data Quality Initiative plans to use personal information from each student, starting in pre-school, via the states’ SLDS data system. You can read more about  the SLDS, the roles that the US Department of Education and Bill Gates play in student data collection, the weakening of federal privacy law FERPA  here. In recent years Microsoft’s commitment to data privacy has been called into question, as per this EdWeek article. Even Microsoft itself admits they can take a peek and trend through student data and can put it on the market.

“If students are using certain cloud infrastructures, and it’s held by a third party, it is possible for [the vendors] to trend through the data,” said Allyson Knox, director of education policy and programs for Microsoft. “When [information] is flowing through a data center, it’s possible to take a peek at it and find trends and put it on the market to other businesses who want to advertise to those students.”

Knox said Microsoft has a “remote data center” where student information is housed but that “students’ data belongs to them.” -Microsoft https://www.fedscoop.com/lawmakers-hear-testimony-on-student-data-and-privacy/                     

Does Microsoft still believe that student data belongs to the student?

Gates: In 5 Years

Microsoft, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a nonprofit whose IRS 990 forms can be seen here and (2016) here and TRUST here; their awarded grants can be seen in this searchable database. Gates spends billions on K-12 and higher ed reform. Gates (and Data Quality Campaign) both support a national student database, and now Gates is shifting his Multi-Billion focus from Common Core to K12 networks and curriculum.

(See With new focus on curriculum, Gates Foundation wades into tricky territory .)

Microsoft is desperately hoping to regain ground in the K-12 classroom 1:1 device market, with management systems, cloud, gamification of education (yes, Microsoft owns Minecraft and is promoting Minecraft in classrooms), K-12 LinkedIn Data Badges (yes, Microsoft owns LinkedIn-and yes there are LinkedIn K-12 badge pilots in AZ and CO), introducing chatbots and Artificial Intelligence into education and several online tools like Microsoft OneNote, favorably reviewed here by their unicorn partner Digital Promise. Microsoft is also part of the US Department of Education’s push for online curriculum, via Open Ed Resources OERs. Microsoft will be handling and indexing the content for the Federal Learning Registry. (You can read more about how the Federal Department of Defense and Department of Education are involved in OERs here.)

According to this December 2017 New York Times piece, Microsoft is fiercely trying to regain ground in the K-12 classroom market.

Tech companies are fiercely competing for business in primary and secondary schools in the United States, a technology market expected to reach $21 billion by 2020, according to estimates from Ibis Capital, a technology investment firm, and EdtechXGlobal, a conference company.

It is a matter of some urgency for Microsoft. 

Chromebooks accounted for 58 percent of the 12.6 million mobile devices shipped to primary and secondary schools in the United States last year, compared with less than 1 percent in 2012, according to Futuresource Consulting, a research company. By contrast, Windows laptops and tablets made up 21.6 percent of the mobile-device shipments to schools in the United States last year, down from about 43 percent in 2012. – https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/02/technology/microsoft-google-educational-sales.html [Emphasis added]

Digital Promise

If you aren’t familiar with Digital Promise, it is a non-profit created by the US Department of Education, to PROMOTE edtech in the classroom. Read about Digital Promise and Global Digital Promise here. Digital Promise is demanding data interoperability for school districts. Digital Promise presented their report The Goals and Roles of Federal Funding for EdTech Research at this 2017 symposium  which was funded by tech foundations and corporations, such as Bill and Melinda Gates, Chan-Zuck, Strada, Pearson, Carnegie… you get the idea.   In their report, Digital Promise acknowledges that the federal government has spent significant money on developing and disseminating technology-based products in the classroom with little to no information on how these products are working.  So, is the answer to rely on tech financed entities and unicorns to review and research the efficacy of future edtech products?  No conflict of interest there. Digital Promise also utilizes the heavily Gates funded and controversial Relay Graduate School, which you can read about here.

The Personalized Learning algorithm driven model does not work.

Digital Promise and others in edtech continue to push for online Personalized Learning despite many warnings from edtech insiders including this from Paul Merich, entitled Why I Left Silicon Valley, EdTech, and “Personalized” Learning. Merich’s concerns with the algorithmic driven Personalized Learning, are summed up with this quote,

“It was isolating with every child working on something different; it was impersonal with kids learning basic math skills from Khan Academy; it was disembodied and disconnected, with a computer constantly being a mediator between my students and me.”

And in this piece by Rick Hess, A Confession and a Question on Personalized Learning, the CEO of Amplify admits Personalized Learning is a failure. We wish every policy wonk and educrat would read this:

…“Until a few years ago, I was a great believer in what might be called the “engineering” model of personalized learning, which is still what most people mean by personalized learning. The model works as follows:

You start with a map of all the things that kids need to learn.

Then you measure the kids so that you can place each kid on the map in just the spot where they know everything behind them, and in front of them is what they should learn next.

Then you assemble a vast library of learning objects and ask an algorithm to sort through it to find the optimal learning object for each kid at that particular moment.

Then you make each kid use the learning object.

Then you measure the kids again. If they have learned what you wanted them to learn, you move them to the next place on the map. If they didn’t learn it, you try something simpler.

If the map, the assessments, and the library were used by millions of kids, then the algorithms would get smarter and smarter, and make better, more personalized choices about which things to put in front of which kids.

I spent a decade believing in this model—the map, the measure, and the library, all powered by big data algorithms.

Here’s the problem: The map doesn’t exist, the measurement is impossible, and we have, collectively, built only 5% of the library.

To be more precise: The map exists for early reading and the quantitative parts of K-8 mathematics, and much promising work on personalized learning has been done in these areas; but the map doesn’t exist for reading comprehension, or writing, or for the more complex areas of mathematical reasoning, or for any area of science or social studies. We aren’t sure whether you should learn about proteins then genes then traits—or traits, then genes, then proteins.

We also don’t have the assessments to place kids with any precision on the map. The existing measures are not high enough resolution to detect the thing that a kid should learn tomorrow. Our current precision would be like Google Maps trying to steer you home tonight using a GPS system that knows only that your location correlates highly with either Maryland or Virginia.

We also don’t have the library of learning objects for the kinds of difficulties that kids often encounter. Most of the available learning objects are in books that only work if you have read the previous page. And they aren’t indexed in ways that algorithms understand.

Finally, as if it were not enough of a problem that this is a system whose parts don’t exist, there’s a more fundamental breakdown: Just because the algorithms want a kid to learn the next thing doesn’t mean that a real kid actually wants to learn that thing.

So we need to move beyond this engineering model…” — Larry Berger, CEO of Amplify, excerpt Rick Hess Straight Up Blog [Emphasis added]

 

And…Digital Promise just published a 2018 report promoting “Personalized Learning”, co-authored by Tom Vander Ark, here.  In this report you can find such gems as this global mantra (including in the US) that learning and teaching knowledge is no longer the main goal of education, it is more important to gather data about how students think and feel.

According to the World Economic Forumthe top five most valued skills for workers in 2020 are: 1) complex problem solving; 2) critical thinking; 3) creativity; 4) people management; and 5) coordinating with others. This is a far cry from simply needing a grasp of reading, writing, and arithmetic to be marketable to employers. While mastery of the three Rs remains critical, it is merely the launching point and no longer the end goal. We need to re-think the education system”  –US Department of Education’s Digital Promise http://digitalpromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/lps-policies_practices-r3.pdf

Getting Smart, Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is Getting Smart author, creator and is the “director of 4.0 Schools, Charter Board Partners, Digital Learning Institute, eduInnovation, and Imagination Foundation, and advises numerous nonprofits.” Vander Ark was also the former Executive Director of Education for Microsoft.  Vander Ark, in this 2011 video said that Common Core’s mandate of online assessments could be used as a lever to get computers into the classroom, computers for personalized learning to help replace teachers. Tom Vander Ark also said gone are the “days of data poverty” once we use online formative tests rather than end of year high stakes tests. Vander Ark is also featured in this Global Education Futures conference; notice that Vander Ark is speaking on how to Unbundle Billions in Education.

Dell Foundation.

What could Dell computers possibly have to do with tech in schools and student data you ask? For starters, Dell funds some heavy hitters in data analytics, such as McKinsey and Boston Consulting Group. Dell also has a “free” app for high school students called Scholar Snap, which handles students’ personal scholarship data. Interestingly, Scholar Snap is also partnered with the Common App, both of which are third party vendors within Naviance, a K-12 Workforce data platform. (You can read about Naviance and their data mining, including how Common App asks students to waive their FERPA rights by clicking here.) Additionally, Dell (along with Gates) helps fund CoSN, the makers of the (industry self-policing, self-awarding) Trusted Learning Environment Seal for Student Data. CoSN  also promotes data collection and personalized learning.  Their “data driven decision making mission” is to “help schools and districts move beyond data collection to use data to inform instructional practice and personalize learning“. Not surprisingly, CoSN is also co-author of this Horizon Report, touting the virtues of Virtual Reality (VR) and robotics and wearable tech, expected to be adopted in K-12 education within the next 3 to 5 years.

The wearable format enables the convenient integration of tools into users’ everyday lives, allowing seamless tracking of personal data such as sleep, movement, location, and social media interactions. Head-mounted wearable displays such as Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard facilitate immersive virtual reality experiences. Well-positioned to advance the quantified self movement, today’s wearables not only track where people go, what they do, and how much time they spend doing it, but now what their aspirations are and when those can be accomplished.”  –CoSN Horizon Report 2018

Side note: It’s not just students who will be required to track and share their biometric and personal data. As this New York Times piece reports, teachers in West Virginia were required to submit their personal information to a health tracking app or risk a $500 penalty.

They implemented Go365, which is an app that I’m supposed to download on my phone, to track my steps, to earn points through this app. If I don’t earn enough points, and if I choose not to use the app, then I’m penalized $500 at the end of the year. People felt that was very invasive, to have to download that app and to be forced into turning over sensitive information.

The Future of Privacy Forum

The Future of Privacy Forum, is a Project Unicorn partner and DC think tank funded by many tech foundations and corporations including but not limited to: Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Comcast, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Verizon, Samsung, Sidewalk Labs (Google’s Alphabet, Smart Cities), Walt Disney, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, National Science Foundation. Hobsons (Naviance), Intel, Palintir, Pearson, Netflix, Mozilla name only a few of their big name supporters. Their K12  arm focuses on balancing student data privacy while supporting innovation and technology in the classroom.

New technologies are allowing information to flow within schools and beyond, enabling new learning environments and providing new tools to improve the way teachers teach and the way students learn. Data-driven innovations are bringing advances in teaching and learning but are accompanied by concerns about how education data, particularly student-generated data, are being collected and used.

The Future of Privacy Forum believes that there are critical improvements to learning that are enabled by data and technology, and that the use of data and technology is not antithetical to protecting student privacy. In order to facilitate this balance, FPF equips and connects advocates, industry, policymakers, and practitioners with substantive practices, policies, and other solutions to address education privacy challenges.

While it is fantastic to have such a well-funded group concerned about student privacy, we wish they would go further. The Future of Privacy Forum  doesn’t advocate for student and parent consent before taking or using student data, nor do they say students should own their own data. We wish they advocated for the right of parents to be ensured paper pencil / book / human face to face teacher alternatives to online curriculum.  We also wish that Future of Privacy Forum would better highlight that predictive algorithms are not regulated or transparent; meta data and personalized, adaptive learning are exempted from state privacy laws, often with this or very similar language:

Nothing in this section

And though the Future of Privacy Forum does promote technology in the classroom, screen addiction is a concern for parents. (Although tech addiction has seen increased media coverage as of late, it’s not new; see this 2015  New York Times article on the toll that screen addiction has on children. However, surprisingly, some would still argue that tech is not addictive. ) When promoting technology in the classroom, the Future of Privacy Forum could do a better job addressing the many well-documented health risks of screen use including behavioral changes, link to teen depression and suicide, sleep disturbance, damage to retinas and vision loss, and better highlight guidance from the American Academy of Pediatricians, warning that wireless devices and cell phones can cause cancer.

Common Sense Media

Common Sense Media is a nonprofit who is supported by several foundations, including but not limited to: The Bezos (Amazon) Family Foundation, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett FoundationCarnegie Corporation of NY,  Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation,Overdeck Family Foundation, R.K. Mellon Foundation Symantec ,The Anschutz Foundation,  Annie E. Casey Foundation.  Another of their investors states that, “Common Sense Media provides unbiased and trustworthy information about media and entertainment that helps parents and children make informed choices about the content they consume.”

Can Project Unicorn or any of its Partners truly claim to be unbiased, since they are funded by the data driven tech industry? Since they are in a position to inform and advise on education policy, this is an important question.

Common Sense Media, even after hosting an event about tech addiction, see Truth About Tech below, is still advocating that only certain screen time exposure is addictive or concerning. Common Sense says when it comes to screen time, “there really is no magic number that’s “just right.”   Parents would argue that while content is certainly important, addiction, retinal damage, cancer risk, permissionless data collection, online safety risks apply to both educational and non-educational screen time, and affect children regardless of digital content.

Common Sense Tweet

To their credit, Common Sense Kids Action recently hosted a full day conference (video) on “Truth About Tech– How tech has our kids hooked.” It is great to get this conversation into the spotlight , you can see the agenda here, but there was no mention of giving students and parents ownership and control of how student data is collected, analyzed and shared. With online personalized learning and 1:1 devices being pushed at students as early as kindergarten and preschool, and no laws regulating meta data, data analytics, hidden algorithms, limiting screen time in schools and consent for data collection should have been discussed. Instead, Common Sense along with Project Unicorn is focused on data interoperability to keep the K-12 data flowing and will continue to ask parents to better control children’s screen time use at home.

Common Sense YouTube

The last segment of Common Sense’s Truth About Tech event, entitled “Solutions for Families, Schools, and Democracy” was moderated by Rebecca Randall, Vice President of Education Programs, Common Sense with guest speakers and Common Sense partners Dr. Carrie James, research associate, Project Zero, Harvard School of Education,, and Randima Fernando, Center for Humane Technology. This entire piece is worth your time, Mr. Fernando had some excellent points on gaming and technology.  However, we are going to focus on Dr. James’ comments since, as Ms. Randall mentions, it is on Dr. James’ work regarding digital ethics that Common Sense bases their K-12 digital literacy and citizenship curriculum.  Common Sense Media is about to begin working again with Dr. James and Harvard’s Project Zero to develop updated K-12 digital guidance.

At 49 minute mark,  Dr. James remarks:

“In answering a question around parents as role models, responded that, “We have a growing pile of evidence to suggest that parents are not doing a great job in this regard in recent research that we’re doing with Common Sense we’ve reached out to schools and teachers across the country and in a couple of countries around the world and asked you know what are some of the most memorable digital challenges your schools have faced and a surprising number of them have to do with parents.”

With screens being so addictive, we agree that many parents and most of society undoubtedly could be better screen time role models, we disagree with Common Sense’s continued emphasis only on non-educational screen use. We hope that Common Sense, their partners at Harvard Project Zero who will be working on new digital literacy citizenship curriculum, will consider age appropriate screen use, health and safety guidelines, parental consent and data ownership for children using devices and screens for educational purposes, including online homework. Parents send their children to school expecting them to be safe. Many parents do not want their children required to use screens and technology for regular coursework and when learning core subjects.  Many parents are uncomfortable with online personalized learning and would prefer face to face human teachers and text books as an option. The cost of attending public schools should not be mandatory screen exposure and loss of privacy. We hope that Common Sense will address these concerns in their work.

Project Unicorn is Promoting Interoperability. What is it?

An April 2017 Clayton Christensen Institute blog posted on the Project Unicorn news website explains the path of data interoperability as this,

“The first path toward interoperability evolves when industry leaders meet to agree on standards for new technologies. With standards, software providers electively conform to a set of rules for cataloging and sharing data. The problem with this approach in the current education landscape is that software vendors don’t have incentives to conform to standards. Their goal is to optimize the content and usability of their own software and serve as a one-stop shop for student data, not to constrain their software architecture so that their data is more useful to third parties.

Until schools and teachers prioritize interoperability over other features in their software purchasing decisions, standards will continue to fall by the wayside with technology developers. Efforts led by the Ed-Fi Alliance, the Access for Learning Community, and the federal government’s Common Education Data Standards program, all aim to promote common sets of data standards. In parallel with their (sic) these efforts, promising initiatives like the Project Unicorn pledge encourage school systems to increase demand for interoperability.”  [Emphasis added] https://www.christenseninstitute.org/blog/making-student-data-usable-innovation-theory-tells-us-interoperability/

A one-stop shop for student data, flowing seamlessly for third parties: Interoperability. 

How will  Project Unicorn help give students ownership of their data? Will students have consent and control over their data? We asked. 

Interestingly, up until a few days ago, Project Unicorn’s twitter profile stated that their focus is “shifting the ownership of data to schools and students.” See this screenshot from February 18, 2018 and a twitter conversation below.

Project Unicorn Tweet 2Project Unicorn replied the following day but they did not immediately answer my question about student data consent and ownership. Instead, they listed a few of their partners: Data Quality Campaign, Future of Privacy, Common Sense Media, National PTA. Again, I asked them about their statement about shifting ownership of data to the student.

Project Unicorn Tweet 3

Project Unicorn Tweet 4

Gretchen Logue also replied to Project Unicorn and their partners, asking if students can NOT have their data shared. Two days later, she still had not received a reply.

Logue

I directly asked Project Unicorn’s partner, Digital Promise to help answer whether students can consent to data collection. (Remember, DP is the edtech /personalized learning promoting non-profit created by the US Department of Ed.)  Digital Promise never responded to this parent’s questions. Maybe they just need a little more time or maybe parents aren’t important enough to bother with?

Tweet 5

tweet 6

tweet 7

Project Unicorn replied: they changed their twitter profile to better reflect the scope of their projectThey no longer claim to shift data ownership to students. They are promoting data interoperability. To be clear: they are NOT giving students ownership of their data. See their new twitter profile in this February 23, 2018 screen shot below.

Project Unicon interoperability

Why do edtech companies and our government have such a problem giving students consent and true ownership of their data? Data is money. Data is identity.  Student data is NOT theirs to take. 

Without the student, the data does not exist. If a student writes an essay for a class assignment, that written work belongs to the student. If a student draws a picture in art class, that artwork is theirs. Parents (and the Fourth Amendment) would argue that personal information about a student, created by a student, should belong to the student.

#TruthinTech: Unicorns are taking student data and sharing it without consent. What say you @HumaneTech?

Humane tech

Tech is hacking kids brains, but it is also stealing their data, students’ every keystroke can be collected and analyzed and student education records can be shared.  (FERPA is a 40 year old law that doesn’t cover data or meta data, or algorithms and was substantially weakened  in 2011 to allow personally identifiable information to be shared outside of the school with nonprofits, researchers, anyone approved as a school official or  educational purpose–without parent consent or knowledge). HumaneTech folks, are you good with this predictive profiling, leveraging and capitalizing of children who are held hostage in this mandatory surveilled school system? Schools are the new smart cities –except children are a captive audience and they are being exploited. They have no choice.

Why not do real, independent research, set guidelines and protect kids from screens in schools? Why not give parents and students a choice of tech vs paper, allow the option of learning knowledge vs in-school personality surveys and emotional assessments and biometric health trackers? Why not be transparent about algorithms and analytics and get consent BEFORE collecting and using student or teacher data?

GDPR.

Europe requires consent before collecting and sharing personal data, including automated decision making. GDPR gives Europeans (including students) more control on how their data is handled, including breach notification and penalty, data redaction, and consent. Why would American students be any less deserving than students in Europe? GDPR will have global implications.  Modernizing FERPA and COPPA to align with GDPR would be both practical and ethical. Why isn’t Project Unicorn also advocating for the GDPR standard of basic human privacy and data identity rights for American citizens and children? 

A final question note. Project Unicorn is not an elected, governing body, are they directing US education policy? Decisions should be made democratically, by those closest to the children, instead of by a few billionaires. What gives philonthro-funders the right to leverage children’s data and encourage schools with their procurement $trategies? The Edtech Billionaires directing education-experimenting on children have created (and are profiting from) this data driven problem: teachers are so busy collecting endless data points they don’t have the time or the freedom to teach. Now the regretful tech industry, wants to swoop in and make the data collection process easier, free up teachers (or replace them?), with a Single-Sign-On Standardized data collection tool. Children are not a product to be leveraged.  Please stop using schools and children as a permissionless innovation data supply.

IMS Global

And why oh why, Project Unicorn, are you working with IMS Global?  Uncommon Alliance indeed.

“…interoperability specification for educational click stream analytics created by the education community for the education community. Major educational suppliers are using Caliper to collect millions of events every week and the data is helping to shape teaching and learning on multiple levels. Several leading institutions are also working on putting Caliper in place. Now is a great time for both institutions and suppliers to begin putting learning analytics in place using Caliper.”

IMS Global Learning Consortium

-Cheri Kiesecker

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

Reposted with permission from Missouri Education Watchdog.

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

Duncan: Digital Promise

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

Digital Promise Global

Digital Promise’s roots go deeper than its launch in 2011. Digital Promise was previously authorized in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, and Arne Duncan reminded us of that at the 2011 DP launch when he said,

Duncan: Digital Promise Higher Education

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

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

Digital Text Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SLDS federal funding

DATA and DOLLARS

Click this Workforce Data Quality Campaign’s site to see their analysis of the White House’s proposed 2017 budget as it relates to DATA.  The 2017 Federal budget more than doubles monies for SLDS and creates all kinds of new, vague data gathering projects.Aligning student data bases and workforce pathways is also in line with the US Department of Labor-Workforce Data Quality Initiative which plans to use personal information from each student, starting in pre-school, using the states’ SLDS data system.

Workforce Data Quality

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

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

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

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

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

headphones

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.

The Myth of Local Control and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA): Why do the Collaborative for Student Success and Bellwether Education Partners Get to Independently Review State Plans?

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As more cards are laid on the table, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the much hyped local control provision in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was designed to keep the locals, especially parents, under control.

A perfect example is the rushed creation of Washington State’s ESSA Plan.

This is what I discovered and wrote about in the blog post: Passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – $8 Million from the Gates Foundation and the Myth of Local Control. 

Were parents “meaningfully involved and consulted in the development of” Washington’s state plan? So far, the evidence I’ve found points to “No”.

When I look over the list of the voting members of the ESSA Consolidated Plan Team, I see no parents listed.

What’s even more egregious: Of the 70 member of the ESSA workgroup, only one is designated as a parent representative – and THEY’RE also associated with the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.

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Even the Parent and Community Engagement Workgroup had minimal parent input. Of the 22 voting members, three were parents: Ellie Hutton, Laura Regala, and Stacey Klim.  But get this, of the three parent representatives, only one – Ellie Hutton, attended the three meetings of the workgroup. (Meeting minutes: May 20th 2016June 17th 2016, July 15th 2016.)

Even at the state level, it looks like the deck is stacked against parent input.

Now Politico is reporting this:

GROUPS TEAM UP FOR THEIR OWN ESSA PLAN REVIEWS: The nonprofit education groups Collaborative for Student Success and Bellwether Education Partners are teaming up to review state plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act. Each state plan is already subject to a federal review, in which a team of educators and experts examine the plans to ensure they gel with the law. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will have the final say on approving the plans. But the Collaborative and Bellwether — in addition to a number of other education groups — are doing their own independent reviews, too. The unofficial third party reviews come as advocates anxiously await the level of scrutiny state plans will receive under the Trump administration and whether DeVos will take a backseat approach, as Senate HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander has suggested.

Let’s take a moment to review the current situation.

In August of 2016, the Gates Foundation awarded over $8 million in grants to support states as they developed and implemented their ESSA plans -with the understanding that adoption of personalized learning was job one. Now, Collaborative for Student Success and Bellwether Education Partners – and other un-named education groups – get to conduct their own independent reviews of individual state ESSA plans BEFORE they’re submitted to the Department of Education for official review.

What part of this long con would inspire any individual – hopeful of maintaining any of their personal credibility – to boast that this process is an example of the local control?

Let’s take a look at Collaborative for Student Success and Bellwether Education Partners.

Here’s the mission and funders for Collaborative for Student Success. Yes, the Gates Foundation is on the list. Along with ExxonMobil and the Hewlett Foundation.

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Following the money for the Bellwether Education Partners was trickier. Per their website:

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Except when you look over the website, there’s no funders to be found. Then I did some Googling and found this blog post: Three Non-Profits Selling Out Public Education…in the name of “public education”. Guess who’s the first non-profit on the list? Bellwether. Go read the blog post. It’s all there: Bain & Company, The Mind Trust, McKinsey, TFA, and on, and on.

Why did Collaborative for Student Success and Bellwether Education Partners get to jump the line and give their final stamp to state plans before they’re submitted to the Department of Education?

I don’t have an answer, but it’s a question worth pondering.

What I do know is this: The Every Student Succeeds Act was a perfectly executed confidence game, promising everything, and costing us dearly.

Welcome to the ESSA dumpster fire. It’s gonna burn for a long, long, time.

-Carolyn Leith

Postscript: Here’s one interesting grant from the Gates Foundation to Bellwether Education Partners.

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It’s time to restructure the US Department of Education

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The structure of the USDOE as of 2013 and now with 5,000 employees.

 

Two of our constitutional amendments played an important role in public education. In 1791, the 10th Amendment stated, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  Public education was not mentioned as one of those federal powers, and so historically has been delegated to the local and state governments.

The League of Women Voters: Role Of Federal Government In Public Education: Historical Perspectives

Let’s restructure the US Department of Education so we don’t have another DeVos or Duncan.

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Betsy DeVos with Donald Trump.

For the last decade, educators and parents have been in a reactive mode in terms of federal policies on education starting with No Child Left Behind, then Race to the Top, charter schools, vouchers and now the selection of Betsy DeVos as the new Secretary of Education.

Looking at the last eight years while following public education closely, I have continuously been in a reactive mode, constantly writing about what shouldn’t be rather than what should be.

It’s time to turn the tables and look at where we are now, how we got here and a better way forward and I suggest starting at the top with the US Department of Education (USDOE).

Over the years there has developed a disconnect between what teachers are doing and achieving in the classrooms and what a President with a politically appointed Secretary of Education has in mind for those teachers and their students. It has become a top-down approach to education with little to no public participation and loss of local control over the priorities of the community and how money is spent.

The USDOE has become less responsive to the needs of students, teachers and parents year after year.

In the last few decades, the USDOE has created a constant state of flux in our public schools, based on the whims of politicians and guided by big money with the tacit or explicit approval of the President in office.

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US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan with Eli Broad at Obama’s first Inaugural Ball.

For example, billionaires Bill Gates and Eli Broad, influenced federal policy that affected teachers and students around the country in every district and township. Neither have credentials in education or child development, have not taught in a public school and have no direct knowledge of what’s happening in classrooms or neighborhoods around the country, and yet they determined education policy for millions of students. The revolving door of employees between the Gates Foundation and the Department of Education has been well-documented and the Broad Prize trophy is displayed in the offices of the USDOE.

How did we get to the point where education has become top-down, starting with the President of the United States appointing a cabinet level Secretary of Education – in clear violation of the 10th Amendment? Many of the past appointees have not been educators. Shirley Ann Mount Hufstedler, the first Secretary of Education, was a lawyer and judge, while William Bennett, Lamar Alexander and Richard Riley were politicians, and Arne Duncan, a basketball player who, through personal connections, found his way to being CEO of Chicago Public Schools.

And, has the U.S. Department of Education gotten too big to be accountable? If so, how can it be streamlined? What should its role be? Where is the accountability in terms of its policies’ successes or failures? And finally, what has the cost been to enforce Federal policies on a state and district-wide basis such as the required and costly technology upgrades of school districts and the computerization of classrooms to provide access to the Common Core Standards’ required testing?

These are the questions I began to ask after chronicling the many failings of former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan with his push for the Common Core Standards, high-stakes testing, merit pay based on students’ test scores, Race to the Top, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Waiver, the privatization of public schools by way of charter schools and the weakening of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Duncan’s final “accomplishment” was the rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) now called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that places greater pressure to adhere to Federal “guidelines” with the threat of withholding Federal funding, a push to increase the number of charter schools in the country and promotion of “personalized” or “blended” learning in which you have a student interact with a computer, rather than a human instructor, for the greater part of their class time.

And let’s not forget the millions of dollars in grants that the USDOE provided to Teach for America and to aid in the proliferation of charter schools.

“Personalized learning” and the Common Core State Standards provides an inexpensive way to provide an “education” to students. This is particularly useful for charter school owners wanting to keep their operating costs and staff budgets to a minimum. It’s also being seen as a path to digital edu-bucks, “Edublocks”, and digital badges creating a permanent gig economy of piecework employment.

In the last few decades, the direction of public education has gone from bad to worse, starting with former President Clinton’s propensity for privatization of public schools in the 1990s by way of charter schools and a desire to establish national standards which is unconstitutional, George W. Bush’s unrealistic No Child Left Behind (NCLB) policy which required 90% of high school students graduate on time by 2015, (The date was moved to 2020 by Arne Duncan) and the rewrite of it by President Obama’s administration titled Every Child Achieves Act (ESEA), and Race to the Top legislation.

Now with a new President and Secretary of Education along with a rearranged Congress, no one knows which way the wind will blow for us or our students. The thing is, it doesn’t have to be like this.

When do we begin to take back public school education on a local level and have it reflect the goal of creating well-educated responsible citizens with the capacity for thoughtful, critical and creative thinking and discourse? An informed citizenry that is necessary to support a strong democracy? When will we have a curriculum created by educators who have an understanding of child development and the requirements of a diverse population? Do we need the behemoth of a bureaucracy that has become the USDOE passing down to us the latest edicts for us to faithfully adhere to?

Let’s take a look at the evolution of the US Department of Education. It’s time to determine if we should go back to its original intent with modifications to address our growing and diverse population or leave it as it is now which doesn’t seem to be working for anyone but the 1%.

The state constitutions of Massachusetts and New Hampshire in the early 1780’s, set up systems of public education that reflected the thinking of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Horace Mann who understood the importance of an educated citizenry to grow a fledgling democracy.

Money was raised through taxes for public schools along with the buying, selling or renting of public land and Congress granted land in the public domain as endowments. The federal government also granted surplus money to states for public education.

In 1867, the Office of Education this minor bureau was established within the Department of the Interior. Seventy-two years later, the bureau was transferred to the Federal Security Agency, where it was renamed the Office of Education. Then in 1953, the Federal Security Agency was upgraded to cabinet-level status as the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

President Carter advocated for creating a cabinet-level position for the Department of Education and in 1980, a bill to create the Department of Education was approved by Congress. The primary functions of the Department of Education were to “establish policy for, administer and coordinate most federal assistance to education, collect data on US schools, and to enforce federal educational laws regarding privacy and civil rights” and “to increase the accountability of Federal education programs to the President, the Congress and the public.”

Since the approval of a Department of Education to be run by a political appointee, that arm of government has grown into a bureaucratic behemoth retaining approximately 4,000 employees in 32 different divisions with a budget of $70.7 billion in 2016. Imagine what each state could do with their piece of $70B in one year. Which leads to the question of where is this money going? No one sees it in our schools, some which are in poor repair and unsafe. Nurses, librarians and counselors are rare in urban school districts and teachers pay for their own supplies many times.

Even though the term “Accountability” was used ad nauseam during Arne Duncan’s era as Secretary of Education and reverberated throughout school districts across the country, no one seems to be holding the USDOE accountable for anything.

With all of the new regulations that have been passed due to ESSA and the NCLB waiver requests, the USDOE asked Congress for additional employees in 2015. The question is, were these policies necessary? How successful have these programs been? And, how much are they costing school districts and taxpayers? Where is the accountability?

A principal said to me when I raised the concern about the Common Core Standards, “Wait a few years and it will all change again”. But is this the way we want to teach our students, with changes made according to the political whims of those in power and the whimsy’s of a few billionaires?

To follow is how our students have been affected by those in power on the federal level.

The report “A Nation at Risk” was published in 1983 and promoted by William Bennett, a politician who served as Secretary of Education under President Reagan. Bennett later went on to co-found K12, Inc., a publicly traded online education company.

There is much hyperbole in “A Nation at Risk” and yet it is devoid of substantiated evidence, statistics or peer-reviewed studies but it was enough to open the gateway for privatization, first with Milton Friedman stating that school vouchers were the answer to this dire emergency, and continued with charter schools, the privatization of a public trust. This phenomenon is described in Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine where she outlines how public education privatizers exploited the devastating event of Hurricane Katrina to reconstitute the New Orleans school districts entirely with charter schools (which, by most measures, has been a failed experiment).

With President George W. Bush, work began on national standards and a national assessment system, which is illegal according to ESEA, and an education reform program called Goals 2000: Educate America Act  “To improve learning and teaching by providing a national framework for education reform” and establishing “school choice” as a priority. The term “school choice” is a euphemism for vouchers and charter schools. It is the “choice” of profiteering education reformers whose goal has been to redirect public funds into private hands and replace elected oversight of school districts with appointed boards with no public accountability

President Clinton continued Goals 2000 setting up a “Goals Panel” and a Director position with staff to determine “voluntary national content standards, voluntary national student performance standards and voluntary national opportunity-to-learn standards”.

Along with Goals 2000 came AmeriCorps which funded a new organization, “Teach for America”. This multi-million-dollar enterprise hires recent college grads, no background in education required, trains them for five weeks and sends them into low income schools and charter schools for a two to three year stint to teach the most vulnerable of our children. With the influence of Bill Gates and Eli Broad, the USDOE has granted Teach for America, Inc. $100 million so far in grants, although certified teachers could be hired for these same positions.

Then former President George Bush brought us “No Child Left Behind,” which included punitive measures if schools and districts did not perform to a specified standard and the unrealistic goal of a 90 percent graduation rate by 2015. If schools did not meet the standard, federal funding would be diminished or cut off entirely, taking money away from schools as opposed to supporting them.

President Obama stepped up “No Child Left Behind” a notch by introducing “Race to the Top” with $5 billion to incentivize states to accept the Common Core State Standards and offered four possible options for addressing “failing” schools which was defined as the bottom 5 percent of all schools in each district based on standardized test scores. These extreme, at times draconian measures, included closing the schools, converting them into charter schools, firing half of the school staff or replacing the principal.

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President Obama with Melinda Gates at Tech Boston Academy.

This policy was greatly influenced by billionaire Eli Broad, a proponent of charter schools, and Bill Gates who has spent millions of dollars promoting charter schools, merit pay and the Common Core State Standards.

What have we gained with these presidential decrees that have been influenced by politicians and their multi-billionaire backers who have their own ideas about education?

So far we have an explosion of unregulated charter schools with little regard to whether they are any better than public schools, high-stakes standardized testing, which has taken classroom and recess time away from students and substituted it with test prep, and the unproven and costly experiment known as the Common Core Standards where every student is to be on the same page as all other students around the country with no exceptions, sucking the creativity and opportunity for critical thinking out of the classrooms with little room for teachers to respond to the student’s needs and intellectual growth.

Somewhere along the way, this nation has forsaken the opportunity for parents, teachers, students and the community, to be involved in public education and instead handed over all policy decisions to politicians with no understanding of the methods, practices or the art of teaching and the processes of learning.

This was not the original intent when an arm of the federal government was established in 1780 to ensure there were public schools and teachers available to all school-aged children.

In Finland, a country that is held up as a model of providing quality education, decentralized governance in the early 1990’s. Per Finland’s Board of Education:

Education providers are responsible for practical teaching arrangements as well as the effectiveness and quality of the education provided. Local authorities also determine how much autonomy is passed on to schools. For example, budget management, acquisitions and recruitment are often the responsibility of the schools.

And while we’re on the subject of making major and much needed changes to our educational system:

Most education and training is publically funded. There are no tuition fees at any level of education. An exception are the tuition fees for non-EU and non-EEA students in higher education, effective from autumn 2016. Most higher education institutions will introduce such tuition fees in 2017, and more information can be found here. In basic education also school materials, school meals and commuting are provided free of charge.

With the majority of $70 billion going to the states, we could fund community and state colleges and provide lunch to students free of charge. I was shocked to find that my daughter had to pay for lunch in Washington State public schools. Lunch, snacks and transportation were covered when I attended public school and there is no reason it shouldn’t be covered now.

Back in the day we also had nurses, librarians taking care of well-stocked libraries, counselors to bridge the gap between school and families and then other counselors who helped us reach our goals when graduating from high school.

Much of the money that could have stayed with the districts instead has gone to every failed federal policy since No Child Left Behind.

Taking local control of schools and how federal money is spent is not a radical idea.

If we are to survive as a country, and we are in a survival mode at this time, we need to look at all of our institutions and question what has worked and what hasn’t and make the necessary changes for this country to thrive. Of the greatest importance is having an educated and informed citizenry as understood by Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Horace Mann, but at this time, we have failed reaching that goal.

It’s time to look at the history of public schools and evaluate where we need to be today in terms of federal edicts. It’s time to reassess the role of the US Department of Education and whether the head of the USDOE should be a cabinet level position that is influenced by the party in power.

This is our opportunity to affect change, through conversation and debate. In four years we need to be prepared to take back the reins and have structures in place which will make for a stronger society and democracy.

Dora Taylor

Suggested reading:

  • The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud, And The Attack On America’s Public Schools, David Berliner
  • The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein
  • The Reign of Error, Diane Ravitch
  • Role of Federal Government in Public Education:  Historical Perspectives, the League of Women Voters.
  • Got dough?: How billionaires rule our schools, Joanne Barkan for Dissent Magazine

Passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – $8 Million from the Gates Foundation and the Myth of Local Control

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Remember when a return to local control was the biggest selling point for the passage of The Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA)?

States would be allowed to set their own education policies. Principals, teachers, and parents could escape the long shadow of the “broken” No Child Left Behind.

I’ll let Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers take us back.

For years, educators, parents and members of our broader communities were the canaries in the coal mine, crying out that hypertesting was hurting students, demoralizing teachers and frustrating parents. We will continue to be vigilant as work shifts to the states to fix accountability systems and develop teacher evaluation systems that are fair and aimed at improving and supporting good instruction. This new bill promises the creation of better accountability and support systems, and our students, their parents and their educators deserve nothing less.

To be fair, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, President of the National Education Association, was sure passage meant teacher and parent input would matter.

But “shrinking” doesn’t describe Garcia. She firmly declares that the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act earlier this year, the major federal education overhaul, opens the way for her members, in partnership with parents and other groups, to reinvent education for the better — this time, with an eye toward equity and educating the whole child. “I think the next big thing is doing the opposite of all the bad things,” she says.

Sounds so wonderful, right?

But how does this play out in the brutal and dysfunctional world of state politics? Where lobbyists rule, money is king, and the lack of the proper connections gets you nowhere.

For the Gates Foundation, this deplorable state of democracy is a distinct advantage. All that foundation money and non-profit proxies willing to do your bidding – for a price. It’s the perfect playing field for keeping the locals from having any real control.

Case in point:

In August of this year, the Gates Foundation awarded over $8 million ($8,725,010) in grants to:

  • support states as they development and implement ESSA plans
  • support Personalized Learning adoption in states leveraging the new ESSA guidelines

Wow, $8 million in Gates money to “help guide” the implementation of the ESSA.

Just in case you missed it: the local control provision in the ESSA means squat if Gates can use his money to co-opt the process. And that’s exactly what he’s doing.

But wait, there’s more.

Politicians, like Patty Murray and Lamar Alexander, get political cover from the soon to be horrible implementation of the ESSA by arguing that they fought hard for local control – knowing full well Gates had the interest, money and influence to exploit this “in” to dominate and shape how the ESSA would be implemented. What an ingenious scam.

Back to grants. Let’s take a look:

$7,900,010 to the New Venture Fund

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$75,000 to Rodel Charitable Foundation DE

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$750,000 to Education Commission of the States

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Parent Involvement?

This got me thinking: What was the quality of the parent involvement that went into the development of Washington’s ESSA state plan?

According to a white paper by the National PTA, parents are supposed to play a big role:

ESSA specifically calls for parents to be meaningfully involved and consulted in the development of state and school district education plans. These education plans provide the framework for how a state and school district will deliver education services to public elementary and secondary school students. Additionally, the law requires that parents must be involved in the creation of “state report cards” that provide information on how all schools in the state are performing—such as graduation rates, attendance and student achievement levels. The report cards must be written in a parent-friendly manner so that families can understand the information provided and take action to support their child’s education.

Were parents “meaningfully involved and consulted in the development of” Washington’s state plan? So far, the evidence I’ve found points to “No”.

When I look over the list of the voting members of the ESSA Consolidated Plan Team, I see no parents listed.

What’s even more egregious: Of the 70 member of the ESSA workgroup, only one is designated as a parent representative – and THEY’RE also associated with the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.

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Even the Parent and Community Engagement Workgroup had minimal parent input. Of the 22 voting members, three were parents: Ellie Hutton, Laura Regala, and Stacey Klim.  But get this, of the three parent representatives, only one – Ellie Hutton, attended the three meetings of the workgroup. (Meeting minutes: May 20th 2016June 17th 2016, July 15th 2016.)

Even at the state level, it looks like the deck is stacked against parent input.

Which bring up the uncomfortable question: How do parents stand a chance against the Gates Foundation money and the insider approach to the development of the ESSA plan?

Answer: They don’t.

Final Thoughts

Randi Weingarten, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, and the rest of the ESSA promoters have a lot to answer for – and we should make them do it.

Randi and Lily both seem to love accountability for other people, especially children.

Now is the time for both union leaders to step up and own their mistaken faith in and active promotion of the ESSA as the answer to the wrongs created by No Child Left Behind. Otherwise, they’re just more empty suits spouting empty talk. (I’m not holding my breath.)

The rest of us need to get over the idea that our leaders hold our best interests above their own. Here’s the hard truth – they never have and never will.

You can’t outsource your activism. Protecting public education is too important to trust to politicians or any other leader. It’s something we have to do for ourselves.

-Carolyn Leith

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

-Carolyn Leith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read more here.

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

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

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Data and Dollars

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

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

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

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

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

Time Magazine: Screens in school a $60 Billion Hoax

EdWeek: Edtech is a $7.7 Billion Dollar Market

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

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

-Cheri Kiesecker

The ESSA and opting out of the SBAC

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Some state departments of education have threatened to withhold a high school diploma if a student doesn’t take and pass a so-called college readiness test in grade 11. However, no state legislature has passed a statute linking the award of a high school diploma to passing a state or federal mandated college readiness test in grade 11 (and it’s highly unlikely any legislature would).

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was replaced in December, 2015 with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

This new Federal mandate was written to replace the No Child Left Behind Act. The main concerns that Carolyn and I have with ESSA are:

For greater detail on the ESSA, Mercedes Schneider has done a brilliant job of combing through the law and commenting on each aspect of the Federal Act.

About opting out of the Common Core testing, the state of New York in the spring increased their opt out numbers from 20% to 22%. There have been threats and pushback since the opt out numbers came out with the Federal government pressuring New York to come up with forms of punishment for districts who do not adhere to the 95% participation rate but as Sandra Stotsky points out, no state  has been penalized by withholding Title I money and passing a mandated standardized test to graduate from high school needs to be put into law by the state legislature to be legitimate.

We also need to keep in mind that the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) has yet to be determined to be reliable and valid as an assessment of students’ understanding of subjects taught.

To follow is a repost of the article in full:

Opting out: A civic duty, not civil disobedience

The writers who crafted the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the 2015 bill co-sponsored by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) re-authorizing the Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA), thought they had worded an airtight case to prevent parents from removing their children from federal mandated testing.

States are responsible for ensuring a 95 percent participation rate of all its K-12 students in exchange for ESSA funds. If the rate is less than 95 percent, the US Secretary of Education has several options. Most allow USED to help the state come up with a plan to address the matter. In effect, ESSA turns state departments of education into school bullies.

Indeed, many state departments of education have begun to rattle their sabers, trying to bluff parents into believing that parents who opt their kids out of a federally mandated test and reduce overall participation to less than 95 percent thereby place the state at risk of not getting the money coming to it for its low-income kids. It remains to be seen how effective this version of a guilt trip will be. In the meantime, some bureaucrats are busy trying to figure out how to make the punishment fit the crime.

Some state departments of education have threatened to withhold a high school diploma if a student doesn’t take and pass a so-called college readiness test in grade 11. However, no state legislature has passed a statute linking the award of a high school diploma to passing a state or federal mandated college readiness test in grade 11 (and it’s highly unlikely any legislature would).

Without such a statute in place, state departments of education cannot make local school boards withhold a high school diploma from students who have met other, legal requirements for a high school diploma. And if a grade 11 test is called a high school exit test, it raises serious questions about USED’s recent decision to let states use the SAT or ACT for an accountability purpose. These tests are known as only college admissions tests, NOT achievement tests or high school exit tests. Moreover, they cannot be constructed validly for more than one of these purposes.

In addition, USED itself sent 13 states a letter in November or December 2015 telling them that they needed to address high opt-out rates throughout the state or in specific school districts. The letter helpfully included possible examples of how states could act, such as lowering a school or district’s rating on state accountability systems, and counting non-participating students as not proficient for accountability purposes.

Opt-outs are the Achilles Heel of federal attempts via mandated Common Core-aligned testing to get very low-achieving students into college and to lower above-average student achievement in order to close demographic gaps. The more opt-outs there are, the less valid are any tests aligned to Common Core’s standards, and the less control federal and state policy makers have over the content of the school curriculum.

It has become difficult to remember that the central purpose of ESEA was to improve the education of low-income children. Civil Rights organizations immediately bought into the first authorization of ESEA in 1965, believing that targeting the education of low-income students with federal money would improve their education. But these organizations have steadfastly hewed to this position for over 50 years despite the fact that low-income kids’ scores have shown almost no improvement on National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests since their inception in the early 1970s, and despite the research showing little relationship between student achievement and spending for schools or per/student.

Will making states responsible for reducing opt-outs be effective and, if so, improve the education of low-income kids? All USED could say in its warning letter to the 13 states with high opt-out rates was that full student participation in its mandated assessments would provide “better information” to parents and teachers. Better than what? Is it the case that our teachers are incapable of discerning students who can read and write from those who can’t? What kind of information did PARCC or SBAC provide in 2015 that was more useful for instruction than information teachers had already gleaned from their own observations and tests?

After 50 years and billions of dollars, it is clear that increased regulations and more testing for all students in K-12 isn’t the answer.

If Common Core’s standards and tests are, as it is claimed, so much better than whatever schools were using before, why not use them only for low-achieving, low-income kids and let them catch up? Why can’t Congress amend ESSA to exempt students already at or above grade level in reading and mathematics and target ESSA funds to curriculum materials, teachers, and tests for just the kids who need a boost? That’s just the beginning. Maybe a different use of federal money is also needed.

We have no explanation from USED of why earlier incarnations of ESEA have been so fruitless. Nor do we know why Congress has been unwilling to demand accountability from its own policy-making education agencies, or why governors haven’t demanded accountability from their own education policy-making boards and departments? That’s where accountability needs to begin, not with teachers.

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Sandra Stotsky is a former Senior Associate Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Education and is Professor of Education emerita at the University of Arkansas.

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For more on the SBAC and its validity, rather, the lack thereof, see:

SBAC Tests Show No Validity or Reliability

Pearson and others are exploiting our children by using them to establish the validity, or lack thereof, of the SBAC

 

 

Who is actually running the US Department of Education?

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Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Eli Broad and recipient Dr. Wanda Bamberg

We have known about the Broad Prize award, representing an award given to school districts by the Broad Foundation, which is proudly displayed in the offices of the Department of Education, and the fact that Bill Gates has populated the US Department of Education (USDOE) staff with his acolytes but it’s another thing to hear about it from someone who spoke to the insiders of this campaign to takeover the public school system from the top down.

To follow is an interview that edushyster conducted with Megan Tompkins-Stange who is an assistant professor of public policy at the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan and the author of Policy Patrons: Philanthropy, Education Reform, and the Politics of Influence.

When I was first learning about this stuff in 2004, the *new* philanthropy was being described as *muscular* and *aggressive* as opposed to traditional philanthropy. How can there be more gendered terms than those? It’s the idea that you have to use force and a blunt instrument to achieve policy change…

Foundations Unfiltered

Megan Tompkins-Stange spent five years conducting confidential interviews with insiders at some of the foundations most involved in education reform. What they told her will surprise you. Or not…

But it also says something very important about why are these foundation staff members so afraid, and what are they so afraid of? Retribution from the foundations? Social or political censure? Their professional reputations? Often, the only way I could get these folks to talk to me was to offer to meet under the cover of darkness. Given how powerful foundations are in policy, that fear and reticence in and of itself is a really critical thing for us to think about as a democratic society.

EduShyster: You spent five years interviewing insiders at some of the foundations most involved in education reform, and your new book Policy Patrons allows readers to *listen in* on conversations that are, let’s just say, enlightening. I want to give readers a taste by jumping right into a Gates Foundation official’s take on the chummy relationship between the foundation and the Obama administration—or as one Obama staffer describes it in a telling slip of the tongue, the Gates administration.

Megan Tompkins-Stange: I think this is one of the more interesting quotes in the book, because it’s quite self-reflective. On the one hand, the source is acknowledging that the close coupling between Gates and the Department of Education under Arne Duncan was great because it pushed their agenda forward. But on the other hand, they’re acknowledging that it’s somewhat problematic in terms of democratic legitimacy. It was my sense that most of the people I talked to hadn’t engaged—at an organizational level—with the larger question of *What’s our role in a liberal democracy?* or *Is this the right thing for us to do as a foundation?* They were so focused on the work—they talked about *We’re changing things; we’re moving the policy, look at all these things we’ve accomplished.* The democracy part of it was not really a part of the equation in terms of their day-to-day discussions. It was more about, *How do we get the elites who can really move this policy on board?* But it seems like that is changing now in a few contexts.

EduShyster: I should point out that your book is filled with quotes like the one above. In fact, *heavy on hubris* might be an accurate way to describe its contents. We overhear the Broad folks reveling in their success in New Orleans and the failure of the opt out movement, and Team Gates crowing over, well, everything. But both have ended up getting some comeuppance of late—Gates over the Common Core and Broad over Eli Broad’s charter expansion plan in Los Angeles.

Tompkins-Stange: I think what we’re seeing, with Gates and Broad in particular, is that they started from the point of view that *If you apply capital to X problem then Y solution will happen.* For example, if you make a vaccine available, disease will be eradicated. But that worldview hasn’t translated well to education, and the challenge for them now is how do they change their culture and their values in order to better operate within this context? Because what they’ve done up to this point is based on a very strategic, very technical way of looking at the world.  You’re starting to see a real normative concern emerging in the field about not including people in public education reform, and not having the voices of these underrepresented groups that are going to be affected. Maybe now that we’re having this national conversation about power, race and oppression, that’s coming to the fore more as a topic of discussion within foundations.

EduShyster: You take us behind the scenes at foundations that represent two very different approaches: the outcome-oriented philanthropy of Gates and Broad vs. the field-oriented or *bottom up* style of Ford and Kellogg. Explain to us how outcome-oriented philanthropy views the world and, for your concrete goals, I’d like you to use the terms *theory of change* and *logic model* at least once.


Tompkins-Stange
: The outcome-oriented approach is rooted in strategic planning, which uses *theories of change* and *logic models* to map out objectives. As one example, the  theory of change for charter schools might be *Charter schools will introduce competition to the system of education, which will cause non-charters to improve in quality, which will increase achievement for all students.* Underlying that theory of change is an assumption that competition and choice lead to better outcomes. The  outcome-oriented approach is now so broadly accepted that it’s become a simple *best practice.* Who could be against something so obvious as trying to plan strategically to produce impact? As I argue, though, the outcome-oriented approach is anything but neutral and objective. It’s a distinct mode of engagement, defined by values as opposed to dispassionate facts. And these values, which are very managerial, sometimes have a blind spot for democratic processes or incorporating the views of citizens.

EduShyster: The insiders from Gates and the Broad Foundation you talked to offer up various explanations of why they view democracy as a hindrance to achieving maximum scaled-up impact and catalytic change now. My favorite is that democracy and citizen input are trumped by evidence. But some of the most startling quotes in the book come from sources who speak candidly about what one describes as the *rickety* quality of the evidence the foundations rely on. Let’s listen in on a Gates source:

processTompkins-Stange: There was a real cognitive dissonance that people reflected on in interviews. In one breath they’d say that what the foundations were doing was evidence-based. But in the next breath they’d note that the evidence isn’t all that great, or acknowledge the fragility of the evidence’s underlying assumptions. Another Gates source said: *I don’t know anyone in philanthropy who can chart a logic model. All these people just put arrows in between boxes and think it means something.* What’s incredible about these statements is that the informants—who are Gates employees—are saying that these core tools can be applied inappropriately, and yet they’re used to chart and manage policy initiatives that have significant impact in the broader field of education.

EduShyster: While education continues to be dominated by women, the field of transforming it strategically has a distinctly masculine cast. In fact, I often had a strong image in mind while reading your book of an outstretched hand emerging from a well-tailored suit…

Tompkins-Stange: When I was first learning about this stuff in 2004, the *new* philanthropy was being described as *muscular* and *aggressive* as opposed to traditional philanthropy. How can there be more gendered terms than those? It’s the idea that you have to use force and a blunt instrument to achieve policy change, as opposed to listening and acknowledging people’s lived experience, identity and emotions. I think Ford and Kellogg really understood something about institutional change in their cultures. You need to pay attention to people’s values and the things that they hold dear, and to their fears about change, and to building authentic relationships over time. It’s a much less businesslike to the problems the outcome-oriented foundations want to address, and so much less measurable in some ways.

EduShyster: One of the most fascinating lessons from Policy Patrons is how much the *new* philanthropy resembles the *old* philanthropy when it comes to foundations attempting to impose change on communities. I’m thinking of the Ford Foundation’s Grey Areas project which sought to *fix* urban poverty and ran into some, um, very familiar problems.

Tompkins-Stange: The Grey Areas project was a Ford Foundation demonstration project, based on the classic model that philanthropy is the R & D mechanism for the state, wherein foundations would say *We’re going to incubate all of these cool things, and the most successful we’ll transfer to the government and they’ll scale it up.* In many ways it was a very progressive project; the intentions were in the right place. Ford wanted to impact social justice by bringing economic opportunity to high-poverty neighborhoods. But when they actually implemented the program it didn’t work at all. It was a huge disconnect. They had white people running all of these intermediary organizations in a very top down manner, and they weren’t including the field practitioners, who were predominantly Black. People weren’t buying in because they didn’t have ownership. It amazes me that this pattern of foundation-funded initiatives faltering in implementation has been happening for 100 years. It’s exactly what happened with Gates and the Common Core. Maybe in the short term you can move a political agenda, but you can’t change hearts and minds without investing in a much longer-term community oriented strategy.

EduShyster: Based on what sources in the book were willing to tell you, you clearly have an amazing ability to get people to open up and share insights and reflections that they are no doubt regretting now. Any tricks of the trade you want to share?

Tompkins-Stange: I’ve always thought that I missed my true calling, and should be a therapist or minister, because complete strangers have a tendency to tell me their problems and secrets. It’s a very strange thing (and has led to many awkward moments at formal dinners). To their credit, not mine, most of the informants were able to get past the foundation party line and what was on their websites, and to be quite candid and philosophical. I think that’s due to granting confidentiality: give people a mask and they’ll tell you the truth. But it also says something very important about why are these foundation staff members so afraid, and what are they so afraid of? Retribution from the foundations? Social or political censure? Their professional reputations? Often, the only way I could get these folks to talk to me was to offer to meet under the cover of darkness. Given how powerful foundations are in policy, that fear and reticence in and of itself is a really critical thing for us to think about as a democratic society. Should private institutions that operate in the public sphere remain private? Or should they open their doors, expose their failures and challenges as well as their successes, and run the risk of tarnishing their brands and legacies—which were, of course, founded by private individuals?

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Related articles:

How Bill Gates pulled off the swift Common Core revolution

Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule Our Schools

How to tell if your School District is infected by the Broad Virus

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

 

 

 

Opposition to the Common Core now has bipartisan support in Washington State

From Truth in American Education:

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Washington State GOP Supports Student Privacy, Opposes Common Core

The Washington State Republicans passed a student privacy resolution at their recent state convention last month in Pasco, WA.  They also passed language opposing Common Core into their state party platform. Opposition to Common Core has crossed party lines, and is truly a bipartisan issue in Washington State. Last year, you may recall, the Washington State Democratic Party passed a resolution opposing Common Core.

Here is the resolution language which was written by our own J.R. Wilson.

Student Privacy Resolution

Whereas, privacy rights of students and parents are not forfeited upon public or private school enrollment and attendance or providing home based instruction; 

Whereas, non-cognitive factors include, but are not limited to, such things as attitudes, beliefs, attributes, feelings, mindsets, social and emotional learning, metacognitive learning skills, motivation, grit, tenacity, perseverance, self-regulation, and social skills; 

Whereas, the collection and retention of personal and non-cognitive data about students and parents is contrary to the right of privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution;

Whereas, the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) intends to begin assessing non-cognitive factors which may be in violation of federal law;

Whereas, the proposed federal Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA S227) expands research and the collection of student level data to non-cognitive factors and social emotional learning and allows for sensitive data prohibited in surveys to be collected in curriculum and assessments;

Be it resolved that parents and eligible students shall be informed of the student level data that is collected and who will have access to it; 

Be it resolved that parents and eligible students shall be entitled to and guaranteed free access to any and all information collected about their child by a local school, the state of Washington or contracted entities with provisions for correcting inaccurate information; 

Be it resolved that local public or private schools or the state of Washington or other entities shall not collect and retain student level personal and non-cognitive data through surveys, curriculum, assessments, or any other means without informed prior written parental consent.

Below is the pertinent language in their platform supporting local control of education and opposing Common Core:

We support the elimination of the Federal Department of Education and returning its control and funding to the States. Teacher performance should be monitored and rewarded at the local level. We recognized the educational needs of students vary throughout the country, which cannot be met with a single mandate requiring one size to fit all. We support the elimination of Common Core standards.