Archives for the month of: June, 2017

Education Week reports on the plans of billionaires Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan to redesign American education. They have launched something called the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative–or CZI Initiative–to carry out their plan for “personalized learning”‘( I.e., “depersonalized learning”) to remake education into whatever they think in their limited experience is best. They have hired James Shelton–formerly of the Gates Foundation, formerly in charge of Arne Duncan’s failed SIG program (the School Improvement Grants part of Race to the Top, which federal evaluations found produced nothing of value).

What’s wrong with CZI? First, neither of its founders understands that public education is a democratic institution, in which parents and communities make decisions about their children’s education. It is not a start-up or a venture fund or an app. Did someone elect them to redesign American education without telling the public? What arrogance! Why don’t they pick a District and ask for permission to demonstrate their vision before they spend hundreds of millions to lobby for it?

Second, if they want to help children, why don’t they open a health clinic in proximity to every school that needs one? Dr. Chan is a pediatrician. Children’s health is something she knows about. Mark knows code. Children don’t need code. They need care.

Third, the article describes this as a “high-stakes venture,” but there are zero stakes for Chan and Zuckerberg. If they drop $5 billion, so what? Who will hold them accountable when they get bored and move on?

Why don’t they do what is needed, instead of foisting their half-baked ideas on the nation’s children?

And last, it is beyond obnoxious that they dare to call their tech-based approach “whole-child personalized learning,” which is an oxymoron. What part of “whole-child learning” happens on a computer?

Where are their plans to feed the hungry, heal the sick, create opportunities for play and imagination to run free?

Sad to say, this is a vainglorious and anti-democratic imposition of C and Z’s ideas on people who have nothing to say about it. The one-tenth of 1% toying with our children and our schools, for their enjoyment.

An excerpt from the Education Week article?:

“Pediatrician Priscilla Chan and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg are gearing up to invest hundreds of millions of dollars a year in a new vision of “whole-child personalized learning,” with the aim of dramatically expanding the scope and scale of efforts to provide every student with a customized education.

“The emerging strategy represents a high-stakes effort to bridge longstanding divides between competing visions for improving the nation’s schools. Through their recently established Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the billionaire couple intends to support the development of software that might help teachers better recognize and respond to each student’s academic needs-while also supporting a holistic approach to nurturing children’s social, emotional, and physical development.

“The man charged with marrying those two philosophies is former Deputy U.S. Secretary of Education James H. Shelton, now the initiative’s president of education.

“We’ve got to dispel this notion that personalized learning is just about technology,” Shelton said in an exclusive interview with Education Week. “In fact, it is about understanding students, giving them agency, and letting them do work that is engaging and exciting.”

“To advance that vision, Shelton has at his disposal a massive fortune and a wide array of levers to pull.

“Chan and Zuckerberg created CZI as a vehicle for directing 99 percent of their Facebook shares-worth an estimated $45 billion-to causes related to education and science, through a combination of charitable giving and investment.

“The initiative is structured as a limited-liability corporation, rather than a traditional foundation. That means CZI will be able to make philanthropic donations, invest in for-profit companies, lobby for favored policies and legislation, and directly support candidates for elected office ­ ­-all with minimal public-reporting requirements.

“For now, Shelton said, CZI is “one of the best-resourced startups in the world, but still a startup,” with fewer than 20 people on its education team.

“In the near future, though, he expects the initiative to give out “hundreds of millions of dollars per year” for education-related causes. Such a figure would place the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative among the highest-giving education-focused philanthropies in the country.

“Within five years, Shelton said in the June 22 interview, CZI’s work should have helped launch a “meaningful number” of schools and learning environments “where kids are performing dramatically better, and feel more engaged, and teachers feel more engaged in the work that they’re doing.”

“Chan, 32, and Zuckerberg, 33, also have embraced the idea of a long horizon for the initiative’s work, saying their support for personalized learning will extend over decades.

“From the outset, however, the couple’s attempt to engineer big changes in the U.S. education system faces significant obstacles.

“Personalized learning” was an amorphous concept even before this new attempt to integrate it with equally hard-to-define “whole child” strategies. It remains unclear how Chan, Zuckerberg, and Shelton intend to balance the organization’s support for research and development with their desire to quickly bring to scale new products and approaches, many of which have limited or no evidence to support their effectiveness.

“And CZI won’t commit to publicly disclosing all of its financial and political activity or to making the source code for its software open and accessible to the larger education community. That stance has stirred complaints about a lack of transparency.”

Today is the first Student Data Deletion Day.

This is a parent’s response to the obscene amounts of personal data collected about every child. Why do they do it? Because they can, and because you let them.

Please open to see the many links.

As usual, this is an excerpt:

“Our K-12 public schools are collecting an enormous amount of data about our kids that will pre-determine whether their dream schools will give their applications a fair assessment and if prospective employers will give them a chance to interview for an opening.

“The type and amount of data being accumulated and stored by our public schools and third-party vendors is staggering. For example, some elementary schools deploy identification cards with RFID chips that track when and how many times our kids go to the bathroom, how long they spend inside a bathroom stall while taking care of their personal business, and how many times they go to the water fountain along with all of their daily movements in and within the school’s property. Other schools utilize biometric palm readers that scan our kids’ hand or fingerprints to track everything our kids buy in the school cafeteria. All of this cumulative data is a honey pot for colleges, employers, insurance companies, data brokers, cyber criminals, foreign governments, etc…

“Every time our kids may be admonished for talking out of turn or texting in class they may receive a permanent demerit in Class Dojo. In the near future, classrooms may be filled with cameras and other tracking technologies that also analyze our kids every interaction with their teachers and class mates. This is not some type of crazy prediction; in China, this Orwellian future is already a reality.

“Multiple companies in the educational technology space have intentionally misled students, parents, teachers, administrators, and lawmakers about how they are using the personal data they are collecting about our kids in school. For example, Google was caught intentionally scanning student emails for advertising and other troubling purposes despite prior promises it was not. ConnectEDU tried to sell personal student data for profit when it went bankrupt despite promising not to do so. Edmodo, another educational technology company, was recently caught surreptitiously tracking students online to monetize their web surfing habits despite promises to the contrary.

“As a parent and privacy advocate, I have come to the realization that more needs to be done to raise awareness about these issues and to effectuate change. Therefore, I am calling for all K-12 public schools to automatically delete the following data points each and every June 30th after the school year has ended:

-All student Internet browsing history
-All student school work saved on platforms such as the Google G Suite
-All student created emails (and all other digital communications)
-All behavioral data points/saved class interactions (e.g. Class Dojo data points)
-All student physical location data points (e.g. obtained via RFID tags)
-All biometric data collected and tied to a student account (e.g. meal purchase information)
-Etc…
–An Easy To Follow School-Data-Deletion-Request-Template

“This is just the beginning of the conversation and as our schools collect more data points on our kids more data will need to be automatically deleted at the end of each school year. Each public school system and their vendors must be required to certify in writing that the requested data deletion has occurred.

“None of these above data points were kept on the Greatest Generation, Baby Boomers, or Generation X so they are not needed to be collected and saved for future generations. If we really want to make “America Great Again,” kids should be allowed to be kids without the fear that their every move is tied to them for the rest of their lives.

“Some educational technology vendors, industry funded think tanks/associations, and academics (e.g. George Mason University’s Law & Economics Center) may falsely claim deleting this data will harm our children and deprive parents and teachers of the knowledge they need to make more informed choices. Some arguments against automatic data deletion may include: it should be the parents choice, the data is needed for personalization, the information is needed to help improve the service offering so it will help better educate our kids, etc…

“None of these arguments are valid and should not be believed. Parents should not have to opt into protecting their children’s privacy, safety, security, and future. If a parent doesn’t want their child’s data deleted then they have the right to opt out of automatic data deletion.

“Privacy is the corner stone of a free and vibrant democracy. Therefore, we need to start by better protecting our kids in school. The amount of data being collected on our children is staggering and no matter how hard I have advocated for stronger student data privacy laws and for stronger digital privacy laws, I have been out gunned by lobbyists funded by companies that relish an Orwellian society they can easily monetize.

“As a parent, for the sake of our kids and future generations, I ask that you support National Student Data Deletion Day on June 30th by sending in an email or snail mail demanding that your public school system and their vendors start an annual purge of all the unnecessary data points collected about our kids.

“Before our kids email and other school provided digital accounts are set up for the following school year, all prior non-essential data (most of the data is non-essential) should be deleted. Our children should be given a fresh start every school year just like we were when we attended school.

“Data discrimination is real and to help prevent it now is the time to act before its too late! Please HELP OUR KIDS BE KIDS IN THE DIGITAL AGE! — Bradley Shear”

My dear friend and ally, Phyllis Bush, started a blog to write about her experience with cancer, which she insists on calling cancer schmanzer.

She is feeling better. She is cleaning closets. She is ready for the fight for her life.

Phyllis keeps me informed about the corporate and billionaire funded effort to destroy public education in Indiana. She is a fighter. She is a founding board member of the Network for Public Education. We are all rooting for her.

This is a heartbreaking story.

A young man appeared at a playground in Townsville, South Carolina, where first-graders were playing. He opened fire. A child died. The shooter, it turned out, was not a man. He was 14 years old. He stopped when his gun jammed. He was captured.

There are states and cities that think the answer to school shootings is to arm teachers. Given the speed of this shooting, no one could have stopped it. Twelve seconds. The teachers, if they were armed, could have shot him, but the child would still be dead.

This is madness.

Isn’t it great to be free of people watching over your shoulder when you are in charge of the money?

That’s what the employee of North Carolina’s largest voucher school thought. He just pleaded guilty to embezzling $400,000 over an eight-year period from the school.

Lindsay Wagner writes:

Heath Vandevender is a coach, teacher and the employee tasked with managing the payroll operations of the state’s largest private school recipient of state-funded vouchers—Trinity Christian School located in Fayetteville.

In a Wake County courthouse this week, Vandevender pleaded guilty to embezzling nearly $400,000 in employee state tax withholdings over an eight year period while serving in his capacity at Trinity Christian.

Vandevender entered into a plea deal struck with the state, whereby he will serve 3 months in prison, pay a $45,000 fine and be placed under supervised probation for five years. He will also serve 100 hours of community service. Vandevender has already repaid the nearly $400,000 owed to the state.

The basketball coach and journalism teacher will still be able to work at Trinity Christian, which is run by his father, Dennis. As a part of the plea deal, Vandevender will likely serve his incarceration at night while teaching, coaching, and—presumably—continuing to manage payroll operations during the day as part of a work release option.

Vandevender was charged earlier this year with embezzling $388,422 between Jan. 1, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2015, from Truth Outreach Center Inc., located in Fayetteville. Trinity Christian School, which has received more than $1 million in publicly-funded school vouchers since 2014, operates under the Truth Outreach Center’s umbrella.

Mercedes Schneider is not a lawyer but she is a very smart reader, who cuts to the chase.

She read the recent decision by the Supreme Court about the church that wanted to participate in a state program to resurface its preschool playground with recycled tires.

The decision doesn’t reach the voucher issue but it gives strong hints about where justices are likely to rule when they do get a voucher decision.

What are the implications, she asks.

You will find her analysis enlightening.

I liked SomeDam Poet’s interpretation of the decision, where she/he asked how access to a new playground–or lack thereof–interfered with the free exercise of religion by members of the Trinity Lutheran Church in Missouri.

Steven Singer has a new view of the recent Supreme Court ruling that the state of Missouri is obliged to pave the playground of a church.

If churches are going to receive federal funding, he writes, they should pay taxes.

What is more, think long term. Church schools that receive federal and state funding should expect to meet accountability standards for their curriculum and their hiring practices. Separation of church and state protected religious institutions from government regulation and control. Well, that’s over.

What conservatives seem to forget is that the wall of separation between church and state wasn’t erected just to protect the state from influence by religion. It also was set up to protect religion from the state.

Once you have money flowing from one to the other, regulations are soon to follow.

Expect your cute little parochial school to put away the Bible and replace it with “The Origin of Species”.

What? Your faith compels you to believe in the Creation of Man by God and not scientific evolution of organisms through heritable traits? I guess you’ll just have to teach the controversy.

Some people in America still think that there’s value in having both public and private schools. They seem to think that it’s actually a benefit having school systems where people are taught differently. But this new ruling paves the way (pun intended) to breaking down the walls between each type of institution.

Yes, public schools will become more like religious schools. But religious schools will also become more like public schools.

The entire education system will become one big watered down whole. And – giggle – those pushing for it actually call the process “School Choice”!

Oh the plutocrats will do their best to cover it all up with culture war nonsense. You’ll hear hours of cable news blather about poor conservative bakers fighting not to make cupcakes for gay people. But behind this high profile grist for the mill will be active efforts at homogenization, government overreach and oligarchy.

Corporate privatizers like Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump, Arne Duncan, and Peter Cunningham (previously Duncan’s communications director, now editor of the billionaire-funded Education Post) claim that turning public money over to operators of privately-managed contract schools (aka, “charter” schools) is the “civil rights issue of our time.”

But the authentic voice of the civil rights movement–the NAACP–does not agree. Last summer, the national convention of the NAACP passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on new charter schools until important issues of accountability were addressed and corrected. Despite a concerted effort to persuade the national board of the NAACP to repudiate the resolution, despite critical editorials in the New York Times and the Washington Post, the Board upheld the resolution at its meeting last October.

Since passing and confirming the resolution, the nation’s oldest civil rights group decided to hold hearings across the country. What they learned convinced them to stand by their demand for charter accountability. Even those whose own children are enrolled in charters stuck by the resolution.

Rebecca Klein, education editor at Huffington Post, writes:

“Next month the NAACP will release a report detailing what the task force found. HuffPost, through conversations with several task force leaders, received a glimpse into what these findings might look like.

“After spending time in seven cities, NAACP Task Force on Quality Education chair Alice Huffman says she is more convinced than ever that the call for a moratorium was the correct decision. The election of Trump, and his subsequent appointment of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, has given the issue specific urgency. DeVos, a notorious champion of school choice, would like to see more charter schools, and her department’s proposed budget has put funding behind them.

“Nobody is convinced … after going all across the country, that the moratorium was wrong,” said Alice Huffman, president of the California NAACP. “My mind wasn’t as made up as it is now.”

Advocates of privatization continue to defend charters, even though they are more segregated than public schools and have higher suspension rates. Supporters of the privatized schools deny that they cherrypick students and point to small test score gains.

I am very impressed that the NAACP did not succumb to the big-money behind the privatization movement. That shows their genuine commitment to the children and families for whom they fight.

At the recent school board meeting of Indianapolis Public Schools, Professor Jim Scheurich of Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis got up to speak. The story he tells is similar to what happened in Denver, where Stand for Children, DFER, and other conduits for anonymous donors bought every seat on the elected school board, swamping the opposition with cash they could not match.

This was his testimony:

“My name is Dr. Jim Scheurich.

“I have been a professor of education for 25 years, first at the University of Texas at Austin and then at Texas A&M University and now at IUPUI.

“Throughout those 25 years, I have studied school success in urban districts, even winning a couple of major national awards as a scholar.

“Based on having studied some of the best urban districts in the country, I would have to say that the IPS school board and administration are among the lowest quality I have seen.

“This conclusion is particularly evident in the many negative issues that have arisen in the school closing processes and decisions.

“What I want to address about these negative issues is how we came to have this particular school board that follows an agenda that consistently disregards what the community wants, like closing legacy high schools.

“Up until 2010, an ordinary citizen of Indianapolis could win a school board seat for $3-5,000.
Starting in 2012, Stand for Children and the Mind Trust provided over $50,000 each for their candidates. Over the last 3 elections, Stand for Children and the Mind Trust have provided around $1.5 million to elect all but one school board member, Elizabeth Gore.

“This means that six of the seven board members became board members through the purchase of our local democracy. This means they owe their allegiance to the agenda of Stand for Children and the Mind Trust and NOT to the Indianapolis community.

“It seems to me that the big money election of these six board members is certainly anti-community and anti-democracy.

“But this is not the end of this scary story.

“The $1.5 million spent on the last three elections flowed through Stand for Children that used a tax designation, 501c4, to hide the source of that money and the ways they spend it.

“Why would Stand for Children and the Mind Trust try to hide the sources and spending of all of this money if they are as community oriented as they say they are?

“What they don’t want you to know is that much of this big money is coming from wealthy individuals and organizations from all around the country.

“Because then you might ask why do wealthy folks who may never set foot in Indianapolis want to buy our school board?

“You also might ask why the same wealthy folks from around the country are doing exactly the same agenda in 35 other urban centers.

“Why are wealthy folks from around the country purchasing so many urban school boards? Why are these 35 purchased school boards following the same agenda, like closing legacy high schools and supporting the opening of charter high schools?

“We in Indianapolis do not want to follow some national agenda created by wealthy individuals and organizations from outside Indianapolis.

“Instead we want to follow an agenda that is Indianapolis centered and focuses on the voices and needs of ordinary Indianapolis people of all races and incomes.

“And, thus, what we don’t need is any closing of our legacy high schools.”

There is something very sad about watching a community’s public schools die.

The Indianapolis Public Schools superintendent has recommended the closing of three public high schools due to low enrollments. These are neighborhood schools that were the heart of their communities. Two will be converted to middle schools. The other is in a gentrifying neighborhood and will probably be sold to developers.

Only four public high schools will remain in the entire district if this plan is endorsed by the board. There will be no more neighborhood high schools. Students will be expected to choose their school based on its program, not its proximity to home.

“IPS enrollment has fallen precipitously over the last five decades from a peak of more than 100,000 students to fewer than 30,000 in the last school year. Its high school enrollment is just more than 5,000 students; its seven buildings have capacity for nearly 15,000.”

The Indianapolis Public School District is controlled by two privatizing groups: the Mind Trust, Stand for Children, and the voucher-happy Friedman Foundation. Charter schools in the city are the third largest district in the state. Mind Trust, Stand for Children, and the Friedman Foundation exist to destroy public schools, and they are doing a bang-up job in Indianspolis.

Indianapolis, under the thumb of corporate reformers, has numerous charter high schools. Curiously, their performance is worse than the public high schools whose students they were supposed to “save.”

Do the privatizers learn nothing from their failures? Answer: No. Never.

A community activist wrote this in a personal note:

“No other options were considered by the Task Force appointed by the Superintendent. The Task Force included no parents, no students, no teachers, no principals, and no community members who weren’t real estate developers, charter school financiers, family members of charter school founder/Board chair, etc etc. Most of the IPS central office members on the Task Force have lived in Indiana for 3 years or less, it appears.”

From another community activist:

“This is not the IPS Board’s final decision; this is the superintendent’s recommendation, but it is likely to be what happens.

“Not surprisingly, they completely ignored the community input.

“If you do not like this decision, go to the Board meeting tomorrow night, 6 pm, 120 East Walnut, John Morton Finney Center.”

The resistance to privatization communicates through this Facebook page as We Are IPS:

There is something I don’t understand about the so-called”reformers,” who have run the district for years. They don’t believe in community. They believe in consumerism. They see the relationship between families and schools as a transaction, involving no sense of loyalty, no sentiment.

They fail, fail, fail, and they learn nothing. Their experiments on the children and schools of Indianapolis have been a catastrophe.

What makes them tick?

If IPS dies, this much is sure: It was murdered by “reform.”