Laura Chapman writes:

This is the new “public policy.”

I see that the Oregon backers of Achievement For All Children in North Carolina paid state politicians for the right to substitute charter schools for low performing public schools in a new multi-count “Innovative School District.”

I looked at the website for the Achievement for All Children franchise ( I think the word franchise is correct because there is a one-size-fits all basic curriculum, with non-trivial online deliveryof content—a boon for cost cutting and really attractive to charters. What’s more, much of the curriculum is free or low cost, so reimbursements for managing schools and hiring paraprofessionals may well be where much of the public money goes.

I took some time to look at the curriculum, the partners, and the funders of this operation. North Carolina schools in this concocted “Innovative School District” will have tightly sequenced grade-by-grade lessons from a ready-to use curriculum. The curriculum has significant on-line components, and/or practice workbooks. These materials also offer teacher handholding materials–what to do, when, and how.

The main curriculum will be E. D. Hirsch’s Core Knowledge® program with grade-by-grade mastery of content beginning in Kindergarten. This content is also organized to fit the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). In 2011, Hirsch endorsed the Common Core State Standards and changed the rhetoric of Core Knowledge® to accommodate the CCSS aims of college and career readiness. Substantial portions of the Core Knowledge program are now available on line and “aligned” with the CCSS.

The Hirsch’s Core Knowledge® program has tapped online services “for building Common Core-aligned reading and language arts skills.” One example is “Quill.”

Quill, is a two-tier service, one free, the other premium. The premium service requires a fee, but that fee can be waived for low-income schools. The Quill curriculum requires the application of grammar, writing and proofreading skills to Core Knowledge content (from Core Knowledge Language Arts® and Core Knowledge History and GeographyTM.). The online assignments, each about 10-15 minutes, are organized by the Common Core standards.

Quill gathers data on student performance in real time then steers each student into an improvement program. The premium program adds data gathering suitable for tracking progress on “national writing standards,” especially “sentence combining” for a logical presentation of ideas.

A second online program has been tapped for use in the Core Knowledge® program. It is free, and offered by According to the ReadWorks website, the service offers “the largest, highest-quality library of curated nonfiction and literary articles in the country, along with reading comprehension and vocabulary lessons, formative assessments, and teacher guidance.”

ReadWorks is incorporating content from the Core Knowledge® program into their “Article-A-DayTM” feature—brief nonfiction texts intended to build students’ “background knowledge, vocabulary, and reading stamina.”
These ReadWorks services are paid for by private and corporate “partners” as well as the generosity of specific content providers.

Here are the private and corporate supporters of the content: Brooke Astor Fund for New York City Education; Frances L. & Edwin L. Cummings Memorial Fund; Cleveland H. Dodge Foundation; Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Imagine K12; Amherst Foundation; William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust; NewSchools Venture Fund; Smith Richardson Foundation; Spotlight Fund; Tsunami Foundation – Anson and Debra Beard, Jr. and Family; and Travelers. The “partners” with Imagine K12; are venture capitalists as are those with NewSchools Venture Fund.

Readworks also has partners who integrate their content into the ReadWorks on-line program, especially the “Article-A-DayTM” feature. These content providers include: The American Museum of Natural History; Museum of Modern Art, The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History; New York Historical Society and Museum; Philadelphia Museum of Art; New York Philharmonic; Audubon; Exploratorium; The Wall Street Journal; New York City Ballet; Civil War trust; Learning Ally (for students with dyslexia and visual impairments) and Wordsmyth. (dictionary, thesaurus)

Imagine K12 is of special interest. This is an “investment accelerator” for startups in the tech industry. Educators are enlisted to test and help promote the products through the Imagine K-12 network. Participants in the network–tech-loving educators–are eligible for special invitations to Silicon Valley to be in on and test products/services from the latest tech startups.

Since 2011, Imagine k12 has launched more than 75 apps, online programs and services. Many of these de-school education, and remove educators from decisions in favor of algorithms. The website lists 18 apps, services, products for classroom management, 19 for curriculum, 11 for feedback and assessment, 17 for student learning, 15 for school operations, and 14 for postsecondary education. (These categories are not mutually exclusive).

I conclude that the Innovation School District will be a profit-centered operation with little school-level control of decisions by educators My guess is that parents will have marginal engagement of the school staff unless that is accomplished with the aid of a mobile app. There is no doubt about this: The students will be sources of massive amounts of data for exploitation by venture capitalists.