"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, June 22, 2017

From a Sunless Mind to a Solar Wall

After the gilded slumlord gangster President resigns, this will be long remembered as one of his most astonishing thought disorders to become public:

. . . .US President Donald Trump said he’s proposed building a “solar wall” on the Mexican border that would pay for itself by generating electricity.
“We’re thinking of something that’s unique, we’re talking about the southern border. Lots of sun, lots of heat,” Mr Trump said at a campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. 
“We’re thinking about building the wall as a solar wall, so it creates energy, and pays for itself. And this way Mexico will have to pay much less money, and that’s good. Is that good?” . . . ."

Friday, June 16, 2017

Massachusetts Teachers Take a Stand Against "Personalized Learning"

from Wrench in the Gears
June 16, 2017

During the annual meeting in May, representatives of the Massachusetts Teachers Association overwhelming approved three New Business Items opposing the roll out of so-called “personalized” learning programs in the Commonwealth via the MAPLE/LearnLaunch initiative. Additionally, a commitment was made to expand research the MTA has been conducting on privatization to include “personalized” learning and to create a webpage to share information and document the harm being done by such programs to teaching and learning.

I have written about digital curriculum in Massachusetts HERE and HERE. Mark Zuckerberg’s “personalized” learning platform Summit Basecamp has been making its way into a number of Massachusetts districts as well as districts in neighboring Rhode Island, which reformers have targeted for conversion as the nation’s first “personalized learning” state. More on that HERE.

In an email to members yesterday, Delegates say NO to personalized learning and YES to funding, MTA president Barbara Madeloni highlighted a number of NBIs passed by delegates during the meeting, including those related to Personalized Learning. Click here to see the screenshots of the resolutions passed by the delegates.

The email also acknowledged the need to incorporate “personalized” learning into the high-stakes testing discussion, since both further the privatization agenda and seriously impact the time teachers and students have for authentic, meaningful instruction.

As far as I am aware, this is the first instance of union members in the United States directly challenging the ed-tech takeover of our schools. I hope you will draw inspiration from the stand they have taken and build on it. I expect this work will have to come through grassroots organizing, since top leadership of both national unions have aligned themselves with a concept of “Future Ready” schools that prioritizes digital curriculum over face-to-face instruction with certified teachers. Read the particulars HERE, HERE, and HERE. Full text of the NBIs can be accessed below. If you are an NEA member and planning to be in Boston later this month come prepared. This is not just Massachusetts’s fight, it is a fight on ALL of our doorsteps. Let’s get to work.

Text of the NBI motions, shared with me by the submitters, includes supporting links and reference information: MTA Personalized Learning NBIs

Thursday, June 15, 2017

KIPP Memphis: Negative Growth and Lots of "flight risks"

Based on a new study of the segregated KIPP schools and their effects on test scores, KIPP Memphis is in the basement.  One of KIPP's Memphis schools has shut its doors this year, and four remain, even as they struggle against the earned KIPP reputation as the "Kids in Prison Program." 

A new CEO (the third in 3 years) has been brought in from Oakland, CA to try to staunch the bleeding.  Her name is Kendra Ferguson, and in an interview with the corporate education online rag, Chalkbeat, Kendra reminds us of why KIPP has a reputation as a penal business model, rather than as a humane educational model (my bolds):

[Chalkbeat] Maintaining or growing enrollment has been a challenge for many Memphis schools, and KIPP hasn’t been an exception. How are you addressing that?

[Ferguson] At the end of each school year, we have folks spending more time looking at who’s a flight risk and why they’re thinking of leaving. Is there assistance we can provide? Is there a transportation issue? … What is it that’s causing folks to want to leave?
It is not at all surprising that KIPP views its students as captives: what is surprising is that they would use this language in public.  

Meanwhile, the billionaires and hedge funders continue their unerring support for the incarceration and cultural sterilization of the children of the poor.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

What the NEA probably wouldn't want you to know about "personalized" learning in Boone County, KY.

from Wrench in the Gears
June 13, 2017

Just weeks before the 2017 Annual Meeting opens in Boston, an article from NEA Today, As More Schools Look to Personalized Learning, Teaching May Be About to Change, makes it clear NEA’s top leadership prioritizes digital curriculum over the right of a student to be educated without data mining and to have unconditional, full time access to a human teacher. For those familiar with NEA’s and AFT’s partnership with Ed Reform 2.0 interests on the Education Reimagined initiative this comes as no surprise, though seeing the propaganda in print is still jarring. If you’re NOT aware of this partnership, stop and read Emily Talmage’s Anatomy of a Betrayal now. Oh, and later check out the NEA’s 2011 Policy Brief in support of blended learning. Here Tom Vander Ark notes the content of the brief is largely drawn from the work of Clayton Christensen’s reformy Innosight Institute.

The general rule for ed-activists is to never, ever read the comments, though I encourage you to make an exception in this case. Over fifty heartfelt statements against digital curriculum have been logged thus far, though you should be aware that at least four other comments were posted and subsequently removed by the site administrator. One was from Emily Talmage and included a link to Anatomy of a Betrayal. Another was from a former NEA member and midwestern teacher “NEA’s motto-destroying public education from within.” A Connecticut teacher and NEA member wrote “What a deceptive article – shame on NEA Today.” And the fourth was submitted by Massachusetts Teachers Association member Mary Porter.

Mary’s comment included the full text of New Business Item 6, MTA Opposes the MAPLE / LearnLaunch Partnership with Massachusetts DESE. The NBI was approved at the state meeting of the Massachusetts Teachers Association on May 20, 2017, and as far as I am aware it is the first instance of a union taking an official position opposing digital curriculum. I am grateful to all who crafted, sponsored and supported this NBI, and I am sharing Mary’s comment below because this NBI is a landmark policy and a model other unions should look to as they develop their own responses to ed-tech’s assault on our nation’s schools.
MTA Opposes the MAPLE/LearnLaunch Partnership with Massachusetts DESE
NBI # 6 Adopted
Massachusetts Teachers Association Representative Assembly, May 20 2017
1.The MTA opposes the MAPLE/Learn launch partnership of the Massachusetts DESE, on the grounds that it reflects a predetermined plan to impose a new, untested “personalized” oversight system on the public schools. This initiative is privately controlled by LearnLaunch, a non‐profit consortium of for‐profit education technology ventures. The MTA will investigate the legality of this partnership and its appearance of being a crony arrangement to guarantee return to for‐profit vendors who would benefit financially from the policies being imposed through collaboration with the DESE.
The MTA will inform the DESE of our position in a letter, accompanied by a press release to the public.

2. The MTA will establish a MAPLE/Learnlaunch Toolkit Page, which will collect and review reports from members, describing instances where, in their professional judgement, the educational opportunity of students and the respect for teaching staff are undermined by the products and working conditions demanded by the consortium.

3.  MTA members and staff will use our toolkit to share strategies to combat the harmful effects of and unvalidated edtech products on our students, and to defend teachers’ professional judgement and standards against interference by business interests.

1.  Office of Digital Learning Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education 75 Pleasant Street Malden, MA 02148-5023 odl@doe.mass.edu www.doe.mass.edu/odl @MASchoolsK12
Digital Learning Advisory Council Meeting Minutes Date: Wednesday, January 6, 2016:
a. MAPLE (Massachusetts Personalized Learning EdTech) Consortium is a public / private partnership emerging between ESE and LearnLaunch as an effort to catalyze personalized and blended learning supported by technology in districts and schools across the Commonwealth. MAPLE is having discussions with some philanthropic organizations to support this effort.
b. There will be a convening of the DCPS (Digital Connections Partnership Schools) Grantees at LearnLaunch Symposium and a second convening of the DCPS later in the spring.
c. The Commissioner set goal of 100% online testing in Commonwealth by 2019. ODL/DLAC will be involved in advising for this effort.”

2.  Promotional materials for the Center for Collaborative Education describe its agenda-driven out-of-state backers:
“In 2016, CCE launched the Massachusetts Personalized Learning Network (MA PLN) to work with district leaders, principals, and teachers to design and implement personalized learning plans…
Center for Collaborative Education (CCE) is proud to partner with Massachusetts Personalized Learning Edtech Consortium, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and Agilix. CCE is a regional partner with Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) as part of a national initiative to scale up personalized learning schools. PLN is supported by EDUCAUSE through the Next Generation Learning Challenges, the Barr Foundation, Nellie Mae Education Foundation, W. Clement & Jessie V. Stone Foundation, and IBM.” http://cce.org/work/district- school-design/massachusetts-personalized-learning-network
3.   Learnlaunch is a “non-profit” consortium of for-profit investors and vendors, which specifically advertises to member investors that it has the capacity to maximize their financial return.
“Investor Path   Want to hear from other edtech investors on how they make decisions in such a fast-paced marketplace? Want to see demos from LearnLaunch Accelerator startups and pitches from our pitch competition finalists? Check out these sessions for a closer look into the trends, innovations, and companies that are shaping the future of edtech.” http://learnlaunch.org/investorpath/
LearnLaunch sponsors http://learnlaunch.org/sponsor2017/
Learnlaunch Accelerator for-profit member Companies: http://learnlaunch.com/accelerator/accelerator-companies/
Some supporting links:
Our Children @ Risk – Parents Across America Details the Dangers of EdTech
Follow the Money – Who is Nellie Mae? Save Maine Schools
Overview and Timeline of personalized learning drive in Massachusetts: Hybrid Learning, Cicada Killers & the Next Big Fight
Given that the NEA has tipped its hand on where leadership stands with regard to Zuckerberg’s “personalized” playlist education agenda, it’s time to shine a light on what is happening in Boone County, Kentucky. The Boone County School District is exactly the type of environment described in the article, and it’s imperative that teachers, parents and community members understand what reformers REALLY mean when they use terms like “personalization” and “innovation,” because it’s NOT what you think.

To give you some idea of the problems see the post below (shared with permission) describing a school meeting that took place last October in which parents expressed serious reservations about the implementation of the Summit Basecamp personalized learning platform in their local middle school.

Click here to read a post by the Concerned Parents of Boone County and to read the rest of this article. 


Friday, June 09, 2017

Scholarchip IDs: Convenience but at what cost?

from Wrench in the Gears
June 9, 2017

I’m grateful to the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools for keeping tabs on the Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission’s monthly meeting agendas. They recently alerted me to a resolution about student ID cards, that in turn started me thinking about ubiquitous computing, digital classrooms as nodes within Smart Cities, and the role big data, payment systems, public-private partnerships, and Blockchain ledger-based finance could play in Ed Reform 2.0.

The SRC passed the Philadelphia School District’s 2017-18 budget last month, and the upcoming meeting on June 15 is packed with resolutions for new contracted services. Among these is a 5-year, $6.5 million contract with Scholarchip, the company that manages the district’s student ID and automated attendance system. Philadelphia is transitioning to a new student information system, Infinite Campus. A perfect name for the learning ecosystem age; no need to restrict learning to schools when the entire city can be your “campus.” One reason the district gave for deciding to extend Scholarchip’s contract was their use of smart card technology.


Scholarchip handles student ID cards for private schools, and their payment gateway system is set up for tuition payment plans. The learning ecosystem of the future will have different requirements than the traditional voucher. There will be no up-front, lump-sum tuition payment, because the plan will be for students to chart their own educational pathways as they go along, cobbling together a combination of online and community project-based options. For that reason the industry needs a mechanism, like a card (or at some point even a chip in your finger? See Eggers The Circle) that can handle micropayments to multiple providers. In all likelihood those money transfers will be linked to meeting academic or non-cognitive student performance measures through a Blockchain or smart contract process. I’m sure those pushing ledger-based educational finance will say that it offers security, transparency and accountability, but at that point the process of education simply becomes transactional. Students’ lives are digitally transferred to the ledger, and the money follows the child and his or her performance in a very public way.

Even more concerning is the resolution’s off-hand reference to putting student health conditions onto a smart card, especially given the push to gather social-emotional data on children through gamified classroom behavior management apps and surveys.

Big Education Ape: Schools Matter: Diane Ravitch's Very Selective Bla...

Big Education Ape: Schools Matter: Diane Ravitch's Very Selective Bla...: Schools Matter: Diane Ravitch's Very Selective Blame Game : Diane Ravitch's Very Selective Blame Game Jim Horn Until just a few y...

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Charter schools harm students

Remediation costs from charter high school “graduates” getting into college, but not having basic proficiency are astronomical both in terms of economics, and in demoralizing students. Education legal scholars like Robert D. Skeels have called for wealthy charter school executives and their unelected boards of directors to be held personally liable for the damages both to individual students, and to society at large. The costs of putting charter greed before student need are grave. It’s time to end the racist and classist “school choice” project.

Source http://asd.calstate.edu

Monday, June 05, 2017

Chavous, Personalized Learning, and Real Indy Voices


By Doug Martin

The end game … is personalized learning.  We are going to get to this place where as opposed to every child being shepherded into a schoolhouse where they sit in a classroom and where a teacher stands and delivers, and then they regurgitate back … those days are not going to be the future.”  KEVIN CHAVOUS

When Kevin Chavous joined the Indianapolis-based Mind Trust board of directors in late 2015, it was a sign of more bad things to come.  Chavous, as I discuss in Hoosier School Heist, has been a paid spokesperson for corporate ed reform from day one, working for the Democrats for Education Reform, the DeVos/Walton clan, the Black Alliance for Educational Options, and even the digital/virtual/personalized learning movement invading the United States. 

Since charter schools and online learning companies have used blended and virtual learning for years, the billionaires’ plan now, to kick "the end game" in gear, is to dupe local public school districts and teachers to buy into the edtech arrangement, seeking to dismantle public education from inside the schoolhouse itself.

It is working, and Chavous’ voice is a part of it. 

Chavous’ edtech/virtual learning promotion goes back at least to 2010, when he sat on Jeb Bush and Bob Wise’s Digital Learning Council,” an ALEC promoted outfit, alongside representatives from Google, Apple, Connections Academy, Carnegie Corporation, K12, INC., the Gates Foundation, Rocketship, Microsoft, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and many others.

The Digital Learning Council also included Michael Horn from the Innosight Institute, now a separate consulting group and connected to the Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, a leader in the personalized learning movement.  Horn will be in Indianapolis at MSD of Warren Township Schools next month as a keynote speaker (along with Tom Sayer, Head of School Transformation and Change for Google for Education).  I have much more on Horn (and privacy issues surrounding Google for Education) to say at a later date. 

In January 2016, Chavous began chairing a new "charity" started by virtual learning company K12, INC. entitled Foundation for Blended and Online Learning, which promises to give out scholarships and grants to students and teachers, or in Chavous’ words, "to advance the field of blended and digital learning with an emphasis on giving back to schools, students and communities."

When the Lindsay Unified School District (LUSD) in California, with a beginning $499,860 grant from the Gates Foundation for the California Consortium for Development and Dissemination of Personalized Learning, took its big step in letting the corporate school/edtech promoters inside of its schools in 2016, adding later in June of that year a partnership with Facebook’s Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and another $2.5 million grant from Gates (for LUSD’s connections to the edtech movement and more on the Gates grant, read this by Alison McDowell), Chavous was included in a book entitled Beyond Reform: Systemic Shifts Toward Personalized Learning by the Lindsay Unified School District, published in February of this year by Marzano Research in Bloomington, Indiana, which was devoted to praising LUSD’s digital upgrade. 

 In the book, Chavous writes: "The Lindsay Unified School District story represents one of the most amazing success stories in American public education history ... I have visited hundreds of school districts around the country, and none has been able to do what Lindsay has done."

In October 2016, Chavous, in an editorial in The Detroit News, called on Detroit schools (in shambles, crumbing, and many rat-infested at the time of Chavous' article) to change to a personalized learning system,  where he tried to sell Detroit the Indianapolis Innovation Network Model and the Mind Trust, writing that “The new leaders for the reconstituted schools are trained through a fellowship program administered by the Mind Trust, a highly regarded education nonprofit group. Indy parents and students love the new and improved schools.”

But parents and students and the community in Indy rightfully  don't trust the corporate narrative that Chavous and others are selling.   That is why tonight, June 5th at 6 PM, concerning the three high schools set to close in Indianapolis,  an open community meeting (not sponsored by the Indianapolis Public Schools or the Mind Trust, but sponsored by Concerned Clergy, Parent Power, Community Voice for Education, Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, Baptist Ministerial Alliance, and Education-Community Action Team) will take place at the Purpose of Life Ministries at 3705 W Kessler Blvd North Drive, at the corner of 38th and Kessler. 

It will be good to hear real voices for a change.