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Laura Chapman writes here about “computer-based education” and who profits from it.

“Frankly, the scariest for-profit ventures are the tech companies that hope to replace teachers and schools with their “scalable” models.” Diane Ravitch.

Yes. Computer-based Education (CBE) is being marketed as personalized when it is exactly the opposite. Legislators in Ohio and elsewhere are counting on CBE to produce a radical reduction in brick and mortar schools and the need for educators who have college degrees and professional credentials.

CBE is part of the reason that we states are trying to install student-based budgets as the norm for schools and districts. Accountants are dissecting a district’s budget so costs can be allocated to specific schools, then to courses and grade levels in the school, including each teacher’s salary with benefit package, and the estimated cost of educating an individual student to a specific standard of mastery, given the student’s SES characteristics and the like. These estimates would take into account local revenues, the value of federal and state funds (usually less than 12% each), and so forth. The aim is to lay claim to CBE as the “best bang for the buck” while pointing to a system that “objectively” monitors student mastery of pre-determined content (delivered by computers).

Here are two maps that show the rapid uptake of CBE as if it is the new panacea for education. Look beyond the maps for excellent research on how CBE is being marketed.
Hoping to escape Competency-Based Education? Looks like Wyoming is your only option.

Here you will find amazing and disturbing stats and graphic illustrations of some interlocking initiatives, all designed to have a rapid and “collective impact” on the educational landscape.

The Gates Foundation is investing in a program that would train adults to serve as “providers” of CBE, therby eliminating the need for state certification to teach. In fact the whole CBE movement is aimed at “deschooling” education. That requires demonizing place-based brick and mortar schools and grade-by-grade instruction as part of the antiquated lock-step factory model.

The International Association for K–12 Online Learning (iNACOL) aims to expand access to online formats for learning, with mobile phone access for some programs. See especially their publications calling for “innovation zones” that would provide for “competency-based, personalized learning” free of brick and mortar schools.

“Policy makers establish innovation zone authority or programs through legislation or rule-making to catalyze the development of new learning models. The innovation zone authority provides increased flexibility for a state to waive certain regulations and requirements for schools and systems beginning to plan, design and implement personalized, competency-based education models. Innovation zones offer state education policy waivers in order to support practitioners in the process of developing and implementing new learning models. As practitioners implement their models, any rules or regulations that impede the model development are brought to light and can be addressed through waivers in a state, which has provided such innovation zones. This shifts the role of the state agency from one of compliance enforcement to support in enabling new model development to occur in districts.”

iNACOL lists the states with favorable legislation: Arkansas, Colorado, Kentucky, Mississippi, and New York. INACOL is supported by the The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Nellie Mae Education Foundation, and The Walton Family Foundation.

The work of iNACOL is closely connected with the National Repository of Online Content (NROC). NROC Project is a non-profit network focused on “college & career readiness.” It is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, and NROC institutional members. Members provide multi-media content and applications to websites like HippoCampus (six sources of online content in Math, Science, Social Studies, English and Religion) and EdReady (math to prepare for commonly used placement exams, such as AccuPlacer, Compass, SAT, and ACT). Membership in NROC keeps costs low for institutions, and free for individuals. NROC operates under the umbrella of The Monterey Institute for Technology and Education (MITE), a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation founded in 2003. MITE is staffed by three people. Taken as a group, they have worked for McGraw-Hill Education, CTB/McGraw-Hill, Harcourt Brace, in addition to having experience in corporate training, media, and financial management. MITE has received $16.2 million from the Gates foundation.

Although it is wise to keep attention focussed on the damage to public education being done by charter schools, vouchers, and the standardized testing requirements in ESSA, I think the larger threat to public education is CBE. Venture capitalists are investing in educational management systems and apps galore. markets CBE as teacher-free, learner-centered education organized by playlists of “opportunities for learning” with for-hire “sherpas” to guide students on “learning journeys.”

So far, there is very little discussion of the Trump/Republican roll-back of privacy regulations that once applied to internet service providers. There is little discussion of the prospect that this administration may eliminate the principle of net-neutrality in delivering content. The former means that student privacy (already thin and fragile as a moth’s wing in school contracts) is open to confabulation by personal/parental choices of products and services. The latter means that the speed and cost of internet services, including the e-rate program for schools, may become strictly market-based–supported by ads or other pay-to-play schemes.

CBE promoters see education organized in an ecological landscape with informal learning centers (for working parents), abundant on-line resources; opportunities for learning via community organizations such as art museums, libraries, parks, zoos, courts; and local businesses/workplaces.

Each of these providers of education would offer a badge or credential symbolic of learning. The badges or credentials are “stackable” so students who may verify their competencies as needed in seeking a job or advanced education. There is not much talk about the actual costs of CBE, the shelf life of hardware, the quality of on-line instructional materials, and unlimited possibilities for commercial exploitation of children and their parents. Choice through vouchers and CBE are perfect partners for creating the illusion that all children can and will have access to the best education in the world and completely personalized.

Parents Across America reported on an appalling abuse of a New Jersey parent’s privacy.


“Heather Hicks, leader of our newest PAA chapter, PAA-Ocean County NJ, has just posted a devastating video showing how the chief operating officer of iNACOL (the International Association of K-12 Online Learning) gave a workshop at a Pearson conference focusing on her as the prime example of how parents must be managed so that they don’t get in the way of the blended learning steamroller.”


-[ See more at:


Hicks is a mother and a teacher of elementary special education. She didn’t like the Pearson program her son used in school. She went to a school board meeting and explained what she didn’t like. The board investigated and agreed with her. They canceled the program.


She thought that was the end of the matter but it was not. A year later, she learned that a tech executive spoke at a conference and used her as an example of how to handle recalcitrant parents. He included her image in his presentation. Apparently she was a case of a parent who needed to be managed in the future.


What nerve! Imagine if you went into a store to look for a new pair of shoes. You tried on several but decided you didn’t want any of them. Later you hear that the company is using you as part of a workshop to train its salespeople in how to deal with a reluctant shopper.


You would think from this encounter that districts are obliged to buy Pearson product and that parents are not permitted to disagree. Whose children are they, anyway?

As we have seen again and again, in the rhetoric  of the Gates Foundation, Mark Zuckerberg, and assorted tech entrepreneurs, “personalized learning” means learning on a machine. In typical corporate reform talk, where up means down and reform means destruction, personalized means impersonalized.


And here it comes, as described by Politico Education:


“DISPATCH FROM SXSWedu: “Who here has ever complained about No Child Left Behind?” iNACOL President and CEO Susan Patrick asked a room full of people during a panel discussion at SXSWedu in Austin. The vast majority of hands shot up, our own Caitlin Emma reports. “The future is now,” she said. The Every Student Succeeds Act represents an “incredible opportunity,” Lillian Pace of KnowledgeWorks said: States couldn’t fully implement personalized learning systems under No Child Left Behind, but now there’s an opportunity to do something different. That’s particularly true when it comes to testing, she said. And there’s been a lot of discussion at SXSWedu about what New Hampshire is already doing with its Performance Assessment for Competency Education pilot. It took a while to get federal officials on board, New Hampshire Deputy Education Commissioner Paul Leather said. Leather said he first pitched former Education Secretary Arne Duncan on the idea just six months into the Obama administration. But Duncan told Leather to come back when the idea was more fully formed. So Leather did and blew Duncan away with his presentation: New Hampshire’s assessment pilot received federal approval last year.


“- Leather said his state has been working on competency education for about two decades. “It’s not a Johnny come lately” idea for the state and it shouldn’t be one for other states, he said. Seven states will have the opportunity to pilot [ ] innovative assessment systems under ESSA. But New Hampshire is a pioneer and for most states that are considering applying for the pilot, it’s their only frame of reference for an innovative assessment system, Pace said. States considering these systems should think carefully about what works best for them, Leather said – because what works for New Hampshire won’t necessarily work everywhere.”

You don’t have to look far into the future to see the technology sector circling the schools, giving generously to elected officials, hyping the wonders of computers instead of teachers (so much cheaper, and computers never need a pension), and gently persuading legislatures to add online courses as graduation requirements. Consider the federally-funded tests for Common Core: all online, all requiring a massive investment in equipment, bandwidth and support services. The Golden Fleece: replacing teachers with computers.


Laura Chapman writes:




Latest Bamboozlers are the “on-line only” promoters of “learning,” no need for teachers.


In a press release dated February, 3, 2014 KnowledgeWorks and The International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) announced their shared agenda for federal policies that would change “our entire K-12 education system” to fit a student-centered learning environment with demonstrations of competency, free of traditional notions of schools, teachers, and student learning.


The policy report addressed to federal officials calls for the status quo on requiring students to meet college-and career-ready standards, but these standards would be aligned with specific competencies mapped into the idea of optimum trajectories for learning that will lead to graduation. Individual students would be tracked on the “pace” of their mastery through the use of on-line and “real-time” data. The data for each student is supposed to inform the instruction, supports, and interventions needed by each student in order to graduate.


This vision requires competency-based interpretations of the college-and career-ready standards and measures of those competencies. It requires a recommendation system (data-driven guide) for prioritizing required learning and ensuring continuous improvement in learning until graduation.


The vision calls for federal funding to states and districts for developing “personalized learning pathways” (PLPs) for students along with the infrastructure needed to produce real-time data for just-in-time recommendations for the interventions and supports needed to move students to college and career readiness.


The system in intended to build reports on the progress of individual students relative to mastery, or a high level of competency, for the college and career readiness standards.


In addition to keeping individuals “on-pace” in demonstrating standards-aligned competencies, this entire system is envisioned as offering “useful information for accountability, better teaching and learning, and measures of quality in education.”


In effect, programmed instruction is the solution for securing student compliance with the Common Core State Standards, assuring their entry into college and a career, with “instructional designers and programmers” the surrogates for teachers. Teachers are not needed because the out-of-sight designers and programmers build the recommendation systems for needed “interventions,” also known as “playlists.”


This is a souped-up version of vintage 1950s programmed instruction amplified in scope and detail by technology–on-line playlists and monitors of PLPs–personal learning plans–available anytime.


In fact, students get one-size-fits education, at the rate they can manage. The rate learning is optimized by computers programmed to lead students to and from the needed playlists of activities (e.g., subroutines that function as reviews, simple re-teaching, new warm-ups for the main learning event or subsets of methods for presenting the same concept). The student does what the computer says and the computer decides if and when mastery or some other criterion for competence has been achieved.


The selling framework is for “personalized, competency-based student-centered learning in a de-institutionalized environment.


Out of view are scenarios where all education is offered by “learning agents” who broker educational services offered by a mix of for-profit and non-profit providers. Token public schools remain in the mix, but are radically reduced in number and the loss becomes a self-fulling prophesy justifying radical cuts in state support. Profit seekers, together with volunteers and “20-year commitments from foundations” provide for “students in need. This is one of several scenarios from KnowledgWorks.



The quest for federal funds is found here at


See more at the CompetencyWorks website