The scoop on Chelsea Byers, Seattle public school board candidate

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Chelsea Byers is running against School Board Director Betty Patu, a champion of public education advocating for equity in education for all.

Ms. Byers, on the other hand, is a former Teach for America (TFA) recruit who taught in a school without any formal training for two years in Oakland, California in what I imagine was a charter school. Most charter schools are staffed by poorly paid and under qualified Teach for America recruits and are rarely hired by a pubic school district when it is between a TFA recruit and a certified teacher with a background in education.

 

As I wrote in the article titled The scoop on Seattle School Board Candidates Chelsea Byers and Omar Vasquez: Buyer Beware :

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

Chelsea Byers is also all about the “data”, meaning her focus with her work is teaching tech to adults interested in a job in technology. There is a push in Seattle to have more online learning and less teaching by qualified human beings who, unlike computer software, understand children and how students learn and interact with the world at different ages.

There are links at the end of this article to information about the push for computer based learning and evaluations in our schools sometimes referred to as “Personalized Learning”.

Ms. Byers largest contributors are a Teach for America PAC out of DC calling themselves Leaders in Education, The Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) which is all about privatizing public schools and Vulcan which never misses an opportunity to fund the corporate takeover of public schools in Seattle.

On the other hand, School Board Director Betty Patu is deeply connected and committed to the various diverse communities of her district. She has an institutional knowledge of the district, as well as longstanding relationships with district, city and state level officials and staff. She has the support of all of her current colleagues on the Board. On her watch, the district adopted a Race and Equity Policy, Rainier Beach High School graduation rates rose from 53 to 81 percent, she voted to bring International Baccalaureate to Rainier Beach and STEM to Cleveland High School. Ms. Patu supported both Board resolutions opposing charter schools, and voted in support of policies governing testing that established student and parent rights and granting more Board oversight to program placement decisions.

We endorse Betty Patu to continue the work she has been faithfully doing for our schools and suggest Ms. Byers first get some experience and understanding of public schools in general and specifically the Seattle public school district with its community of teachers, parents and students.

Dora Taylor

 

Recommended reading:

Colonizing the Black Natives: Charter Schools and Teach for America

A professor’s encounter with Teach for AmericaI Quit Teach for America

I Quit Teach for America

The deets on DFER, Democrats for Education Reform

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

Robots Replacing Teachers? Laugh at Your Own Risk.

The Charter School Bill 1240 and the 1%: An Analysis

The NAACP calls for a moratorium on charter schools

 

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The stealth campaign for charter schools found in emails of Seattle Public School employees and the candidacy of Omar Vasquez

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We have published several articles on Summit charter schools and “personalized learning” which is a sugar coated description of placing students in front of a computer for all their lessons and tests. There is nothing personalized about the programs, simply that the student can do the lessons at their own speed and has nothing to do with their interests, strengths or academic weaknesses. The program is prepackaged and a robot could provide the same learning experience.

Speaking of robots, Summit charter school and other commercial enterprises are now developing “academies” where anyone who has a pulse can take a course, become a “trainer”/“facilitator” and be hired by Summit or another online school to respond to student’s questions and track their progress. This is not my idea of receiving a good education but is a cash cow for business enterprises.

Another aspect of the idea of “personalized learning’ is that it is unvetted. No one knows who developed the programs, their credentials, and unlike a text book, you can’t open it and get an idea of the subject matter, its accuracy or whether the information is objective and unbiased.

We have written about how the small Mary Walker School District in Eastern Washington chose to include online charter schools under their umbrella under the guise of ALEs – Alternative Learning Experiences — even though the State Supreme Court had determined that charter schools were unconstitutional in the state. A hefty investment in Mary Walker by the Gates Foundation helped the small, cash-strapped district carry out this charter-laundering deal.

Seattle Education also noted later that in January of 2016, the Mary Walker School District (MWSD) rescinded their request for approval of charter schools in the City of Seattle after requests were made twice, first by The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and then by MWSD, for the school district to recognize the charter schools and thereby provide legitimacy to the schools.

During the legal limbo all Washington charter schools found themselves in after the state’s charter law was (rightly) found unconstitutional in the fall of 2015 and they were declared illegal, Summit Sierra Charter School in Seattle decided to recast itself as a ‘homeschooling center’ and avoid the Mary Walker scheme. But now it is back as a charter school, with no ties to the Seattle School District.

With all of this in mind, why are officials who represent the Seattle Public School district and various principals falling all over themselves to develop relationships with Summit charter schools, wasting valuable time and resources supporting a charter school when Seattle is still struggling with a limited budget and all the complexities of managing 104 actual public schools?

The Seattle Public School board passed a resolution on March 2, 2016 making clear its commitment to public education and its opposition to charter schools. Why are people within the administration ignoring that resolution?

Our next question is, why keep all this activity in the dark for three years, not providing the information to the Seattle Public Schools’ Board of Directors or the School Board’s Curriculum & Instruction Policy Committee? Is Seattle’s School Superintendent Larry Nyland aware of this activity? Michael Tolley, Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, who Michael Starosky reports to, the person who began the chain of events that we will describe, is to report directly to the superintendent. Is that happening? It seems as if there is a shadow district within the Stanford Center that neither the school board, parents nor teachers know anything about.

Per emails that we received through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), there have been numerous conversations between Seattle Public Schools’ key administrators and Summit representatives, meetings at Seattle Public Schools’ administrative offices, the Stanford Center, sharing of district information with Summit Sierra charter school and tours provided by both parties.

There has also been communication between Seattle Public School principals and Summit Sierra charter schools.

We will provide a timeline of the two batches of emails, Part One and Part Two, bringing to light what has been in the shadows for the last three years in a series of posts beginning today.

The focus of this first set of emails is a conversation between Eric Anderson, Director of Research, Evaluation & Assessment within Seattle Public Schools who shows on his LinkedIn page interests in the Broad Foundation (Center), Teach for America, The KIPP Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Malia Burns, Founding Executive Director of Summit Sierra charter schools who refers to herself as “Principal” as the occasion dictates, who is also on the Washington State Teach for America State Board.

Eric Anderson appears to have taken over from Broad Foundation “Resident” Brad Bernatek whom some of you might remember from his false17% stat about graduation rates.

To follow is the first timeline:

The specific emails referenced below can be viewed here. 

10/3/2014

Michael Starosky, Chief of Schools with Seattle Public Schools, does a “virtual introduction” between Malia Burns, former “Principal” of Summit charter schools, and Eric Anderson, Director, Research & Evaluation at Seattle Public Schools.

Starosky suggests Anderson would be a great resource to Burns in “learning in all things SPS”, particularly around data systems and measuring student growth.

10/6/2014

Anderson writes to Burns expressing his excitement in partnering with Summit Sierra charter schools.

4/8/2015

The Seattle Times reports the Seattle School Board has no interest in becoming a charter school authorizer. Unbeknownst to the board and public, Eric Anderson continues to collaborate with Summit Sierra charter school and continues to do so after the board’s position on charters is made public.

7/7/2015

Malia Burns with Summit charter schools contacts Eric Anderson to make arrangements to meet or talk on the phone about student assessments.

7/7/2015

Eric Anderson immediately responds to set up an appointment the next day.

7/7/2015

Malia Burns and Eric Anderson decide to meet at the Stanford Center where the Seattle Public School administration offices are located.

7/9/2015

Malia Burns to Anderson, “It’s great to meet kindred spirits working in education to support the work we all are doing within schools.”

Ms. Burns shares with Eric Anderson the login to Summit’s Personalized Learning Plan and cognitive skills rubric.

2/9/2016

Eric Anderson to Malia Burns, ”With all the Charter School news in recent months I thought I’d check in” and sharing his hope that everything “remains positive” for Summit Sierra charter school.

Anderson expresses interest in bringing a small team from Seattle Public Schools to visit Summit Sierra charter school.

2/9/2016

Malia Burns responds to Eric Anderson that they would “love to have a group visit” from people representing Seattle Public Schools.

2/9/2016

Jen Wickens, Chief Regional Officer for Summit charter schools who is also on the Strategic Advisory Council for Teach for America. Inc. and CEO of Impact Public Schools “providing leadership in the ed reform sector”, replies to Eric Anderson to arrange a visit to Summit suggesting sometime during the week March 14, 2016.

2/9/2016

The same day Eric Anderson responds to Jen Wickens confirming a visit the week of March 14, 2016 and stating an interest in Personalized Learning.  Anderson states he would like to bring in a group of 4-5 people with “our new Senior Research Scientist from my team” and “a couple of others from Teaching & Learning”.

11/10/2016

Jen Wickens and Eric Anderson arrange another onsite visit for Anderson to see a student demonstration of Summit’s Personalized Learning Plan

The next set of emails will focus on correspondence between Summit Sierra charter schools and principals within the Seattle Public School district.

Note: “Chief of Schools” is a new position created for Starosky. Starosky reports to Michael Tolley, Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning which is a relatively new position. Starosky oversees the activities of five Executive Directors which is another layer of Seattle Public Schools bureaucracy created by Broad trained Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson six years ago.

Michael Tolley is the last vestige of the Goodloe-Johnson era. The former superintendent brought Tolley with her from Charleston, SC.

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How Omar Vasquez fits into the push for charter schools in Seattle

Omar Vasquez, who is running for a position on the Seattle School Board, is on the Washington Board of Directors for Summit charter schools but he won’t likely tell you that. Omar started in education as a Teach for America, Inc. recruit, is now on the Washington State Teach for America Board and has been active with charter schools ever since since first working for Teach for America, Inc. Recently all information about his involvement with charter schools has been scrubbed from his website and LinkedIn Page. As an attorney in Seattle, he has represented charter schools.

When Mr. Vasquez was asked about charter schools during his candidate interview with the King County Young Democrats, he lied and said he never had any involvement with charter schools. The Young Democrats decided to endorse him based on that interview.

As Michael Maddox wrote on his blog #hashtag:

Omar Vasquez – I mean, this guy told one group that he supported Charter Schools, and another that he didn’t. The guy lies, and when he’s called out or criticized, shows a temperament that does not lend itself as evidence that he could be a good school board member. Blatant lying, shitty temperament, and support for Charter Schools? HARD PASS.

The Washington State Democratic Party platform states in no uncertain terms that the party opposes charters yet the State Democratic Party gave Vasquez $2,000 worth of in-kind donations to his primary campaign, most likely to obtain access to the vital GOTV tool VoteBuilder, which helped him eke out a second place finish in the primary after Zachary DeWolf and just ahead of Andre Helmstetter. The thousands of dollars from corporate ed reformers like Lindsy Hill, founder of the Washington TFA, and the Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) helped as well. His dishonesty about his charter ties helped smooth the deal. Do the State Democrats know they have been underwriting someone whose positions and work history directly conflict with their platform?

The teacher’s union at least, was not fooled by Vasquez. His Teach for America history would likely have been a deal breaker for them. The short-term  flash-trained TFA recruits have been used as a union-breaking tool and cheap labor for charter schools. As we have pointed out on this blog numerous times, the founder of Teach for America, Inc., Wendy Kopp is married to the founder of one of the biggest charter school franchises, KIPP’s Richard Barth. It’s bitterly ironic that charter schools which claim to aim to serve underprivileged students of color, offer these students the least qualified, high turnover teachers available – in direct contradiction of all research that shows that experienced, stable teaching staff serve these students best.

Vasquez’s Twitter history also reveals his support of charter school’s legal victory in Washington State.

The Seattle Public School (SPS) board passed a resolution on March 2, 2016 reaffirming its commitment to public education and its opposition to charter schools.

The final paragraph of the resolution states:

RESOLVED, that the Seattle School Board of Directors (1) requests that the Legislature focus on its paramount duty to amply fund K-12 educational needs first as mandated by the McCleary decision; (2) opposes charter schools and charter school legislation; and (3) disapproves of the establishment of Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) status for former charter schools when operated by non-resident school districts.

No wonder Vasquez is trying to hide his charter connections.

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Dora Taylor

 

Related articles:

Seattle Public School Board candidates

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

Summit Sierra charter schools

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

A checklist for parents considering Summit Sierra charter school in Seattle

Serious student privacy concerns with new Summit/Facebook platform

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

Personalized Learning

Personalized Learning Pathways & the Gig Economy

Teach for America

Colonizing the Black Natives: Charter Schools and Teach for America

Teach for America

A professor’s encounter with Teach for America

The grifters of corporate ed reform: KIPP charter schools with the aid of the DOE

The Broad Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule Our Schools

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

The Battle for Seattle, Part 2: Hijacked!

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

Bill Gates funds the media, including the Seattle Times’ Education Lab, then secretly meets with them

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended articles:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association video: What corporations have in store for public schools

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The third episode of PJSTA Live, in affiliation with Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association, deals with what corporate reformers see as the future of public education.

The two guests in this episode are Alison McDowell and Jia Lee.  Alison McDowell is a parent and a public education activist who blogs at Wrench in the Gears.  Jia Lee is a member of the Movement of Rank and File Educators and organizes teachers in the fight against public school privatization.

Alison’s PowerPoint can be found here.

A corresponding article written by Alison, “Digital Curriculum: Questions Parents Should Be Asking”, is here.

Submitted by Dora Taylor

 

 

Future Ready Schools: How Silicon Valley and the Defense Department Plan to Remake Public Education: A Talk by Alison McDowell on March 25th

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Future Ready Schools:

How Silicon Valley and the Defense Department Plan to Remake Public Education

March 25th, from 10:30 AM-Noon

Lake City Branch of the Seattle Public Library

12501 28th Ave. N.E., Seattle, WA 98125

This talk is free and open to the public.

Since the passage of No Child Left Behind, schools across the country have been destabilized by ongoing austerity budgets and punitive data-driven policies. Meanwhile, an alternative infrastructure of digital education has been quietly developed and refined through public-private partnerships set up between the Defense Department’s Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative, technology companies, and higher education interests.

The Obama administration made a big push for 21st Century School redesign where teachers would be turned into “guides on the side” with children spending more and more time on adaptive learning management systems. Now we face a future in which education policy is being handled at the state level, where ALEC holds considerable sway, and a new Secretary of Education who touts the benefits of virtual schools and vouchers.

We are on the brink of being pushed into a new paradigm for education, known as “Learning Ecosystems.” The goal of this talk is to identify Ed Reform 2.0 elements and discuss strategies we can use to advocate for public education that prioritizes learning in human relationship rather than technology-based education that isolates and commodifies children.

Alison McDowell is a parent activist from Philadelphia, PA, a district that has been a crucible of education reform efforts for over a decade. She has a high school-age daughter who attends a magnet school in the district.

Alison has served as an elected parent representative on the School Advisory Council. She was a state-level contact for United Opt Out for three years, working locally with Opt Out Philly, the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, and the Caucus of Working Educators to raise awareness around issues with high-stakes testing, particularly as it relates to ongoing school privatization efforts.

Recently, she has turned her attention to the forces behind implementation of digital-curriculum and data-driven “personalized” learning across the nation. Her research is available at Wrench in the Gears.

Please join Alison McDowell as she delivers her talk: Future Ready Schools: How Silicon Valley and the Defense Department Plan to Remake Public Education.

This event is sponsored by Parents Across America-Puget Sound.

You can download a flyer here.

Questions We Should Be Asking About “Future Ready” Schools

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How far are we from the day we’ll be forced to rely on online education modules to inspire and excite the minds of young people; where badge collections replace diplomas; and virtual reality games substitute for Friday night dances, track meets, spelling bees, and school plays?

Editor’s note: Original post written for Wrench in the Gears and re-published with permission. Visit Wrench in the Gears for more information on the danger of “learning eco-systems.” -Carolyn Leith 

Questions we should be asking about “Future Ready” schools

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How far are we from the day we’ll be forced to rely on online education modules to inspire and excite the minds of young people; where badge collections replace diplomas; and virtual reality games substitute for Friday night dances, track meets, spelling bees, and school plays? How much time do we have before certified human teachers are replaced by “Task Rabbit” pathway designers and AI personal “tutors?” Before we lose all expectations for privacy surrounding how and when we access our educations? Before the entirety of our educational lives becomes consolidated under a unique ID number and its associated digital shadow?

Online learning is claiming ever-larger blocks of instructional time in bricks and mortar schools. Budgets prioritize technology purchases over investments in human staff and facilities. Increasingly responsibility for assessment is being taken away from teachers and placed under the purview of data dashboards and black boxes that monitor in minute detail our children’s academic and social-emotional “progress” towards standards we had no part in setting.

For all of these reasons, we need to take a critical look at school redesign programs that are showing up in communities across the nation. Our government is rolling these initiatives out right now in coordination with think tanks, philanthropies, and the education technology sector. If thousands of superintendents nationwide are signing on to “Future Ready Schools” it is imperative that as citizens we start considering the far reaching consequences a data-driven, technology-mediated system of public education will have for the health and wellbeing of our children and our democracy.

As we move into the era of the quantified self. I find myself worrying. I worry a lot. I worry that we should be asking questions, a lot of questions, and that our window for questioning is shrinking by the day.

Many who spend their days in our nation’s schools have been put into positions where they are almost compelled to welcome the concept of “school redesign.” They have been living for years in the test-and-punish nightmare that No Child Left Behind created. They’ve been coping with austerity budgets, toxic buildings, staff shortages, lack of respect, frozen wages, and the ongoing challenge of meeting the needs of students living in poverty with far too few resources at their disposal.

Current conditions in many of our nation’s schools are appalling, and that is by design. It is through this dissatisfaction with our current situation that they hope to accomplish a shift away from a “standardized” education based on a single high-stakes test given at the end of the year to a “personalized” digital education that employs ongoing online data collection as children progress through the curriculum year round.

So with that in mind, I invite you to consider the questions below. Hopefully they will give you some ideas you can use to start your own conversations with parents, teachers, and school board members in your own community. In my heart I believe the 21st century schools parents and human teachers desire for their children are very different from the version being pushed, behind closed doors, by the educational technology sector.

Questions we should be asking about school redesign and “Future Ready Schools:”

Technology-mediated education is considered to be a disruptive force. Many “innovative” 21st century education approaches seek to undermine traditional concepts like “seat time,” the Carnegie Unit, age-based grade levels, the centrality of teachers in classrooms, report cards, diplomas and to extend credit-based learning beyond the school building itself. Before moving forward with these ideas, shouldn’t there be a wider public discussion about which aspects of traditional schooling we want to retain moving forward? Disruption for the sake of creating new markets for businesses is an insufficient reason to dismantle neighborhood schools.

Why should we allow our children to be human subjects in this grand data science experiment? This is particularly troublesome given the fact that ethics codes for data scientists are not nearly as well developed as codes of conduct for bio-medical research.

What are the implications of expanded 1:1 device use and screen time on children’s health and emotional states?

How does the use of embedded “stealth” assessments contribute to the normalization of a surveillance society in the United States?

What overlap exists between data analysis used to monitor national security interests and data analysis used to assess educational content and activities in our nation’s schools? How does the Office of Educational Technology interface with the Department of Defense and how comfortable are the American people with those relationships? See xAPI or Tin Can or Douglas Noble’s 1991 extensively-researched book “Classroom Arsenal: Military Research, Information Technology, and Public Education” for additional background information.

As nano-technology advances make wearable devices more commonplace, shouldn’t parents have the right to refuse the collection of live data streams on behalf of their children? What types of monitoring (bio-metric and otherwise) have been enabled through the expanded presence of devices in our schools? Cameras, microphones, touch screens, and fit bits for example?

While personalized learning platforms tout their “individualization,” to what extent do these programs recognize our children’s humanity? As systems thinking becomes embedded within public education policy, are our children being valued as unique human beings possessed of free will, or merely as data points to be controlled and managed?

Feedback loops influence human behavior. In what ways could large-scale implementation of adaptive education programs and online educational gaming platforms contribute to the collective brainwashing of our children?

Personalized education means that algorithms decide what educational content your child CAN see, and what content they won’t see. Is it the duty of education to expose children to a wide range of content that will broaden their view of the world? Or is it the role of an adaptive learning program to feed the child information for which they have already expressed a preference? Consider the implications of a “Facebook” model of education.

How much data is too much? Data is never neutral. Who is collecting the data and to what end? Data is always a reflection of the ideology in which it is collected. Why should we trust data more than the professional expertise of human teachers?

We caution children about their online presence, but through the imposition of digital curriculum we are forcing them to create virtual educational identities at very young ages. Should that worry us? What are the implications of our children having digital surrogates/avatars that are linked to comprehensive data sets of academic and social-emotional information? Do we really understand the risks?

Who owns the intellectual property that students create on school-managed cloud-based servers? Do they have the right to extract their work at will?

What roles do teacher education programs and certification policies play in furthering a technology-mediated approach to public education?

Will students enrolled in private schools have their data collected at the same level as public school students? Is privacy something that will become ultimately be available only to the rich and elite? Will we allow that to happen?

Should it be the basic human right of all children to have access, if they choose, to a public education model in which humans teach one another in (non-digital) community in an actual school building?

-Wrench in the Gears