Archives for category: Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative

The National Education Policy Center reviewed Summit Learning Program, which has been heavily subsidized by the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative and the Gates Foundation, is spreading, but careful review shows no evidence for its success.


The Summit Learning Program: Big Promises, Lots of Money, Little Evidence of Success

Key Takeaway: Despite a lack of evidence that it is effective, the Summit Learning Program, propelled by a flood of Silicon Valley money, continues to spread.

Find Documents:
Press Release: https://nepc.info/node/10398

NEPC Publication: http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/summit-2020

Contact:

William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net Faith Boninger: (480) 390-6736, fboninger@gmail.com Alex Molnar: (480) 797-7261, nepc.molnar@gmail.com

BOULDER, CO (June 25, 2020) – Virtual learning and personalized learning have been at the forefront of education reform discussions for over a decade. One leader of this sector, Summit Public Schools, has been backed by almost $200 million philanthropic dollars from the Chan- Zuckerberg Initiative, the Gates Foundation, and others. Summit Public Schools has aggressively marketed its Summit Learning Platform to schools across the United States since 2015. As a result, the Summit Learning Program is now one of the most prominent digital personalized learning programs in the United States.

In “Big Claims, Little Evidence, Lots of Money: The Reality Behind the Summit Learning Program and the Push to Adopt Digital Personalized Learning Platforms,” Faith Boninger, Alex Molnar, and Christopher M. Saldaña, of the University of Colorado Boulder, provide a thorough analysis of Summit Public Schools, an 11-school charter network operating in California and Washington. Summit Public Schools began marketing its proprietary Summit Learning Program to potential “partner” schools in 2015 as a free, off-the-shelf, personalized learning program; it is now used in nearly 400 schools nationwide.

The marketing message of Summit Learning Program trades on the alleged success of the Summit Public Schools. Summit claims to have developed a “science-based” personalized learning model of teaching and learning that results in all of its students being academically prepared for college. It further claims that its students succeed in college and are prepared to lead successful, fulfilled lives. These successes, it claims, are the result of its unique approach to personalized learning and the use of the digital platform at the heart of its approach.

None of these claims made by Summit Public Schools have been confirmed by independent evaluators. In fact, other than scant bits of self-selected information provided by Summit itself, Boninger, Molnar and Saldaña found no evidence in the public record that confirms the claims. Nor did Summit Public Schools provide the information that the authors solicited in a California public records request.

Despite the lack of evidence to support the claims made by Summit Public Schools, the Summit Learning Program has been adopted by nearly 400 schools across the country. While Summit has offered positive anecdotes and some selected data, there is no solid evidence that “partner” schools are experiencing the promised success; to the contrary, there have been a number of reported incidents of problems and dissatisfaction. Further, the student data collected pursuant to the contracts between Summit and these partner schools presents a potentially significant risk to student privacy and opens the door to the exploitation of those data by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and possibly by unknown third parties—for purposes that have nothing to do with improving the quality of those students’ educations.

Virtual education and personalized learning are at the top of the education reform agenda in large measure because of hundreds of millions of dollars in funding and advocacy by philanthropic organizations (e.g., the Gates Foundation), large digital platforms (e.g., Facebook and Google), and venture capitalists anxious to access the school market.

Exacerbated by the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, schools across the country are struggling to find safe ways to educate their students. The rapid spread of the
policymakers with to protect the public interest by establishing oversight and accountability mechanisms related to digital platforms and personalized learning programs.

Find Big Claims, Little Evidence, Lots of Money: The Reality Behind the Summit Learning Program and the Push to Adopt Digital Personalized Learning Platforms, by Faith Boninger, Alex Molnar and Christopher M. Saldaña, at:

http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/summit-2020

This research brief was made possible in part by the support of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice (greatlakescenter.org).

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

People have many times asked me if I had some good ideas for the billionaires who have been foisting terrible ideas on our public schools. What could they do instead of screwing up the nation’s public schools?

Like they have nothing better to do than to make students and teachers miserable with endless testing, pricey consultants, and mounds of paperwork. Like their best idea is to eliminate elected school boards and let clueless entrepreneurs play with other people’s lives. Like their best/worst idea is to give hundreds of millions of dollars to a bunch of guys—who have already failed at “school reform”—so they can do some more “reforming” without any accountability for the disruption they cause.

Friends, the billionaires need a new idea!

I found it!

Here is a problem they can solve just by spending money. If they do this, they won’t break anything. They won’t hurt any children or break up any communities.

Please, Bill. Mark. Jeff. You can do this!

John Arnold! Laurene Powell Jobs! You too!

Be a hero, not a villain!

Pay attention! Make someone happy.

Robin Wright wrote this story for the New Yorker.


In late March, an elegant four-year-old tiger named Nadia, at the Bronx Zoo, developed a dry cough and lost her appetite. The zoo had been closed for eleven days because of the coronavirus pandemic, and no employee had symptoms of the new coronavirus sweeping across New York. Out of an abundance of caution, the veterinary staff tested Nadia in April, as her problems persisted. It was not a simple swab. The zoo had to anesthetize the two-hundred-pound cat and take samples from her nose, throat, and respiratory tract, then ship them off to veterinary labs at Cornell University and the University of Illinois. Nadia is also no ordinary tiger. Malayan tigers are among the world’s most endangered animals; with fewer than two hundred and fifty left in the wild, they are threatened with extinction because of human poaching and loss of habitat. Nadia was born at the Bronx Zoo, as part of its Malayan-tiger breeding program. Her covid-19 test came back positive. By the end of April, seven other big cats—four more tigers, in addition to three lions who live in a separate exhibit—also tested positive, through samples of their feces. The zoo concluded that they had all been exposed to a human, probably a zoo employee, who was asymptomatic. The news about Nadia stunned staff at more than two hundred accredited U.S. zoos (not including animal “exhibitors,” like Joe Exotic, of “Tiger King” fame) and more than ten thousand zoos around the world. Within twenty-four hours, many introduced stricter handling protocols, more protective gear, and social distancing between humans and zoo animals—not just tigers but also other animals now believed to be vulnerable to covid-19, from great apes to ferrets and even skunks.

But Nadia’s test result six weeks ago was only the beginning of an unprecedented series of crises—some existential—faced by zoological parks dedicated to the study and survival of thousands of the Earth’s other animal species. Unlike entertainment centers, movie theatres, or sports stadiums, zoos can’t simply shut their doors or tell staff to work from home. Zoos still have to feed and care for animals—nearly a million, from six thousand species (a thousand of them endangered or threatened) in the United States alone—at a time in which revenues have plummeted to nothing, Dan Ashe, the president of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, told me. In the United States, at least eighty per cent of zoos and aquariums accredited by the A.Z.A. are closed, which means no ticket sales, no merchandise bought for the kids, no stroller rentals, and no food sales, all of which contribute to both zoo programs and long-term conservation worldwide.

“The amount of losses through the whole zoological community is staggering,” Steven Monfort, the director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, in Washington, D.C., told me. “Most of us are trying to figure out how to get to the spring of 2021 and hope that there’s a vaccine or something so that visitation by then will be more normal.” With new social-distancing rules, most zoos expect to reopen eventually, but, at least initially, at roughly a quarter capacity—producing only a quarter of income, at best. “All of us have plans, but we don’t know how well those plans will work,” Monfort added.

Most U.S. zoos have laid off or furloughed up to half of their staffs, according to several zoos. In Portland, the Oregon Zoo has laid off a quarter of its staff, in addition to two hundred part-time employees. Sixty per cent of its revenue comes from ticket sales, but zoos generally operate on a seasonal basis, so, for nine months of the year, costs have long exceeded revenues. “If we can’t open, we will just run out of money by the end of September,” Sheri Horiszny, the Oregon Zoo’s deputy director, told me. “We won’t be able to operate as we have—possibly ever, and certainly for the immediate future.” The problem is global, she said. “Ninety per cent of the zoos on the planet were closed. Virtually all are now strapped—some are devastated.”

In northern Germany, the shuttered Neumünster Zoo has a wrenching contingency plan for its seven hundred animals if funding or the food-supply chain fail to help the facility survive. “If—and this is really the worst, worst case of all—if I no longer have any money to buy feed, or if it should happen that my feed supplier is no longer able to supply due to new restrictions, then I would slaughter animals to feed other animals,” Verena Kaspari told the German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur last month. The zoo made a list of which animals it would euthanize first, she said. The zoo is noted for its panda twins, penguins, and seals. The last to go, Kaspari said, would be Vitus, a snowy polar bear that stands twelve feet tall.

In Canada, two playful pandas at the Calgary Zoo—Da Mao and Er Shun—are being sent back to China. The zoo’s star attractions, they are the victims of another aspect of the pandemic: the disruption of food supplies. The zoo was able to stockpile and freeze fish for the penguins, horse meat for the large cats, and protein biscuits for the primates. But each panda eats eighty-eight pounds of fresh bamboo every day. Calgary used to get its fresh bamboo flown in from China, but then flights from China to Calgary stopped. The only remaining route was a weekly flight from China to Toronto, but the bamboo wasn’t fresh by the time it reached Calgary. The zoo started importing bamboo from California, but then flights stopped from there, as well. The zoo then tried trucking bamboo from the West Coast of the U.S. to Calgary, in central Canada, but the trucks stopped in Vancouver first, and, by the time they arrived in Calgary, the bamboo was spoiled. The zoo then hired a courier company to pick up the bamboo from Vancouver. But access to the airport took three days—and more shipments of the bamboo spoiled. Finally, the zoo began trucking in bamboo from Victoria, a region near Vancouver, but bamboo is not an indigenous plant, so the region couldn’t supply the quantity needed.

“Every ten days, there was a curveball,” Clément Lanthier, the C.E.O. and president of the Calgary Zoo, told me. “These are very precious animals. I can’t take the risk of having to tell my staff that the pandas could starve because bamboo won’t get here until tomorrow or next week. So it’s time for the pandas to go back home.” The pair arrived in Calgary only two years ago—after six years of planning and a twenty-one-million-dollar investment.

The food challenge is staggering for zoos everywhere. “People’s perceptions of zoos is that we just pick up poop,” Horiszny, from the Oregon Zoo, told me. The Portland zoo made changes early on when it realized food was an issue for the entire planet. “But imagine if you have a dinner party with six to ten guests, and one is lactose intolerant, another has a gluten allergy, and a third is philosophically vegetarian,” she said. “We have two thousand ‘guests’ from two hundred and twenty species with different dietary needs. So every day we have a challenge meeting those needs.”

The cost of animal care can also be staggering. In 2018, the San Diego Zoo and its sister Safari Park spent more than two hundred million dollars on operations to feed and care for its animals. The Oregon Zoo budgets more than a quarter million dollars just to care for Chendra, its Asian elephant, for six months. The zoo has an innovative program to save the Oregon silverspot butterfly from extinction. But it costs a hundred and twenty-six thousand dollars for nine months—for a horticulturist to tend to the thousands of violet plants in a greenhouse that provide food for twelve hundred silverspot caterpillars. A human also needs to keep the caterpillars clean, watered, and fed until they become adults and can be released, the zoo’s director, Don Moore, told me. “Yes, it’s very expensive to feed animals!” he e-mailed. Zoos also have heavy medical costs, from artificial insemination of endangered pandas to providing medication and surgery for ill or aging animals. Ashe, the A.Z.A. president, noted that veterinarians provide twenty-four-hour care to the animals at zoo facilities. “They get better health care than you or I do,” he said.

The National Zoo, in Washington, D.C., is losing more than a million dollars a month that it has no chance of recouping. Like other zoos, it launched a covid-19 emergency-response campaign for donations. “But there’s no way, no philanthropic answer, that will fill the bucket of needs,” Monfort told me. “The question is what happens in the longer run.” The Washington zoo also manages long-term research programs in twenty-five countries, in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In 2018, American zoos, in total, contributed more than two hundred and thirty million dollars for field conservation worldwide—funds generated largely off ticket sales. “Without revenue coming in, it is challenging our members to find ways to keep up that commitment to conservation. We fear the bottom will fall out of that in 2020,” Ashe told me. “This dormant period is going to have a real impact on conservation in the field for animals,” ranging from elephants and giraffes to rhinos, manatees, orangutans, gorillas, and condors.

Zoos that qualify as small businesses—with fewer than five hundred employees—have applied for federal aid through the Payroll Protection Program. At least sixty per cent of the members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums have won aid, Ashe told me. The current program covers payroll and other expenditures, but not animal care—and only for two months, through mid-June. Larger zoos—in San Diego, St. Louis, and the Audubon Zoo, in New Orleans—do not qualify. Others, in Cleveland and Little Rock, and the National Zoo, don’t qualify because of their ties to the government. Horiszny, of the Oregon Zoo, predicted that some zoos will never recover. “Virtually all are now strapped, some are devastated,” she said. “In natural disasters, some of those animals were sent to other zoos. Now there is nowhere to send an animal. Everyone’s in trouble.”

The pandemic has affected the behavior of animals, as well. Many species have demonstrated the same kinds of loneliness that people have. “It’s fair to say animals miss people as much as people miss animals,” Ashe, the A.Z.A. president, said. In zoos, humans offer a form of sensory stimulus to other species. Without them, the penguins, pandas, elephants, chimpanzees, and even camels and meerkats seem a little bored. “The variety of smells that come through the zoo every day are enrichment for them. Their day is less interesting or varied without us.” Some species—particularly elephants and great apes—notice the absence of humans. “They have strong bonds and enjoy interacting with guests and showing off,” Monfort, from the National Zoo, said. “When guests are not there, some tend to act a little needy.”

In Calgary, the normally nonchalant camels have been wandering up to the moat to interact with the few people still on site, while the gorillas come to the window when anyone passes by. “I walked by the meerkats in the Savannah building yesterday, and they ran right up to me,” Lanthier said. Chloe, the chimp matron at the Oregon Zoo, was so famous for kissing visitors (through a window) that the park hosted a kissing-booth party for her last year, when she turned fifty. She has been so lonely during the pandemic that keepers for other animals have been urged to call on her. “She was really craving attention,” Horiszny said. “The chimps, like us, are not experiencing life as usual.”

Last week, the Kansas City Zoo arranged for its three penguins to take a field trip to the local Nelson-Atkins Art Museum for a “morning of fine art and culture.” “We’re always looking for ways to enrich their lives and stimulate their days,” Randy Wisthoff, the zoo director, said, in a video posted on the museum’s Web site and the zoo’s Facebook page. “The penguins absolutely loved it.” The museum’s executive director, Julián Zugazagoitia, noted that the three Humboldt penguins “seemed to react much better to Caravaggio than to Monet.”

In Chicago, a Rockhopper penguin named Wellington has become an Internet sensation after the Shedd Aquarium posted videos of him hopping around other exhibits at the zoo. He now has his own hashtag, #whereswellington. He had a particularly winsome encounter, through a window, with a white beluga whale. They seemed fascinated with each other. The Chicago aquarium also let the sea lions roam around its administration offices. Zoos in Denver and Portland have let their pink flamingos wander along pathways where people once strolled. The Toronto Zoo took llamas and a donkey on an excursion to visit the polar bears.

In Hong Kong, Ying Ying and Le Le, the two pandas at the Ocean Park Zoo, have become more productive—literally—during the pandemic. After a decade together, they used the serenity of the shuttered zoo to finally mate for the first time, in March. Female pandas are fertile only once a year, and only for three days, a major reason for the species decline. The pandas having sex was such a breakthrough for conservation—and for the quarantined public—that the park put out a press release. A panda cub would be a rare bit of good news well beyond Hong Kong during this otherwise deadly global pandemic.

Thomas Ultican has analyzed the billionaire funders behind the pro-Disruption, anti-democracy website “Education Post.”

The major funders are the usual members of the Billionaire Boys and Girls Club: Bloomberg, Waltons, Chan Zuckerberg, and Mrs. Jobs.

Please open and read his post.

If you thought the Disrupters might have softened their tone during the pandemic, like, as a show of decency, you will be disappointed. They are still attacking, vilifying, and mocking anyone daring to defend public education, which is a cornerstone of our democracy. It must really upset them that after all these years and billions spent on privatization, only 6% of American students enroll in charter schools.

For some reason, I am one of their prime targets. I suppose I should take it as a compliment.

I will never answer in kind.

They are swimming in cash, but what they cannot buy is civility, kindness, compassion, or dignity.

Roger Léon, superintendent of Newark schools, wants to close four charter schools and ban most new ones. 

Patrick Wall of Chalkbeat reports:

The head of the Newark school system is calling for the closure of four local charter schools and a ban on most new charter schools, a clear signal that the district hopes to rein in the city’s fast-growing charter sector.

The schools — M.E.T.S., People’s Prep, Roseville Community, and University Heights — are up for renewal, meaning they must apply for state approval to continue operating after this academic year. In a series of letters this month, Newark Public Schools Superintendent Roger León asked the state to reject their applications, arguing that the publicly funded, privately managed charter schools sap funding from traditional public schools and are failing to serve their fair share of students with special needs.

The state education commissioner is expected to make a decision by Feb. 1.

León also urged the state to deny “any and all” applications for new charter schools or the renewal of existing charter schools unless they serve “a specific educational need.” While other local officials have sought to halt the expansion of Newark’s charter sector, whose student population quadrupled over the past decade, León is taking a more extreme position by demanding that existing charter schools be phased out.

“The writing is on the wall for corporate charter schools,” said Newark Teachers Union President John Abeigon, an outspoken critic of charter schools, which tend to be non-unionized. “The days of unchecked charter school applications are over.”

Poor Mark Zuckerberg! He dropped $100 million into Newark to make it the “New Orleans of the North.”

Now that 49% of New Orleans’ charters are rated D or F by the state, why would anyone follow that model.

Superintendent Léon has made clear that he’s not taking that route.

Summit Public Schools, a Bay Area chain of charter schools that receives tens of millions of dollars from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Gates Foundation, found a way to skirt the intention of California’s recently passed charter transparency bill, SB 126. They held a board meeting 12/12/19 and only allowed six members of the public in the boardroom. Summit’s CEO said it was because allowing more of the public to join in person would “create an inappropriate working environment.” The rest of the 40 or so students, parents, and teachers who drove 30 miles to attend the meeting were shuttled into in a nearby Summit charter school to watch over video.
One provision of SB 126 requires charter management organizations with multiple campuses to establish two-way video-conferencing from each campus for their board meetings — with the intent of making these board meetings accessible — so that families, students, and teachers don’t have to travel hundreds of miles if they are not able to attend in person. It appears that Summit is using this provision to decrease transparency and democracy by preventing members of the public from being able to attend charter board meetings in person.
This was an important meeting because, last month, out of nowhere, Summit announced it was closing one of its schools, Summit Rainier, at the end of the school year, with seemingly little plan for what would happen to Rainier students. Summit educators, who recently unionized, have demanded to bargain for weeks about the impacts of this closure on Summit students, families, and teachers.
Students from Summit Rainier wanted to attend the meeting but were told to watch it in an adjoining room by video.
Student journalists wrote this article about being excluded from what should have been an open public meeting of the Summit board.
They got a lesson about what democracy is not.

Numerous community members prepared to attend today’s Summit Public Schools board meeting to discuss the closure of Summit Rainier but faced a surprise. Upon entering Home Office, where the board was meeting, they found out they had limited access to speaking to the board in-person. 

CEO Diane Tavenner informed the crowd a total of six people could enter the board meeting and the rest would have to watch from an overflow room at Summit Prep, a school building adjacent to the SPS Home Office. 

The Coalition for Student Privacy writes here about a new book by Dianne Tavenner, who leads the Chan-Zuckerberg-funded Summit Charter Schools. The Summit approach is based heavily on screen time, and it has encountered student and parent protests in numerous cities.

Tavenner’s new book is called Prepared: What Kids Need for a Fulfilled Life.

The book will be launched at an event funded by the far-right Walton Family Foundation in New York City, where Tavenner will have a dialogue with Angela Duckworth, she of “Grit” fame. If you are in the area, why not drop in for free food and drinks on the Walton dime?

The Summit charters have had some little problems with their teachers, some of whom want to form a union. That’s a sure way to lose Walton funding!

Morgan Ames is a techie. She majored in computer science at Berkeley and now works at the Center for Science, Technology, Medicine, and Society. She wants to convince you that techies know computer science, but we should not look to them for advice about child-rearing, education, or other social issues. Their range of expertise is narrow. It may make them very rich. But it does not make them wise in every field of endeavor.

in particular, she is critical of the media narrative that techies shield their children from early use of technology.

She writes:

“These articles assume that techies have access to secret wisdom about the harmful effects of technology on children. Based on two decades of living among, working with, and researching Silicon Valley technology employees, I can confidently assert that this secret knowledge does not exist.

”To be sure, techies may know more than most people do about the technical details of the systems they build, but that’s a far cry from having expertise in child development or the broader social implications of technologies. Indeed, most are beholden to the same myths and media narratives about the supposed evils of screen time as the rest of us, just as they can be susceptible to the same myths about, say, vaccines or fad diets. Nothing in their training, in other words, makes them uniquely able to understand arenas of knowledge or practice far from their own.”

Whoa. I disagree with Ames. Monitoring children’s screen time and allowing them time to read and play is one of the most important jobs of parents today.

I think Ames would have been on safer grounds had she criticized techies’ entrance into politics or other realms about which they are clueless, where they think their financial success makes them superior to everyone else and encourages them to scoff at democracy. Or where they think that their financial success gives them the right to “reinvent” education and scoff at democracy. Think Zuckerberg, Gates, and Mrs. Jobs.

Masha Gessen, a Russian emigre and journalist, always has interesting commentaries on U.S. politics.

In this New Yorker article, she writes about Mark Zuckerberg and his flawed interpretation of the First Amendment.

In the course of the article, she reveals a startling fact. Zuckerberg is advising Mayor Pete.

Gessen writes:

What is the First Amendment for? I ask my students this every year. Every year, several people quickly respond that the First Amendment guarantees Americans the right to speak without restriction. True, I say, but what is it for? It’s so that Congress doesn’t pass a law that would limit the right to free speech, someone often says. Another might add that, in fact, the government does place some limits on free speech—you can’t shout “fire” in a crowded theatre, or say certain words on broadcast television and radio. I ask the question a third time: What is the First Amendment for? There is a pause as students realize that I am asking them to shift their frame of reference. Then someone says that the First Amendment is for democracy, for the plurality of opinions in the national conversation.

My students are undergraduates, some of whom will become journalists. Before they leave the confines of their small liberal-arts college, they will develop a more complicated view of politics and the media than the one they started with. The adult world they are entering, however, generally sticks to an elemental level of discourse. Last week, for example, the head of the country’s largest media company, Mark Zuckerberg, of Facebook, gave a nearly forty-minute lecturein which he reiterated that the right to free speech was invented so that it wouldn’t be restricted. In Zuckerberg’s narrative, as my colleague Andrew Marantz has written, freedom of speech, guaranteed by technological progress, is the beginning and the end of the conversation; this narrative willfully leaves out the damage that technological progress—and unchallenged freedom of all speech—can inflict. But the problem isn’t just Zuckerberg; more precisely, Zuckerberg is symptomatic of our collective refusal to think about speech and the media in complicated ways.

People having the power to express themselves at scale is a new kind of force in the world,” Zuckerberg said in his address. “It’s a fifth estate, alongside the other power structures in our society.” Zuckerberg was appropriating a countercultural term: beginning in the nineteen-sixties, “the fifth estate” referred to alternative media in the United States. Now the head of a new-media monopoly was using the term to differentiate Facebook from the news media, presumably to bolster his argument that Facebook should not be held to the same standards of civic responsibility to which we hold the fourth estate.

This strategy of claiming not to be the media has worked well for Facebook. On Monday, when Bloomberg broke the news that Zuckerberg has advised the Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg on campaign hires, the story called Zuckerberg “one of tech’s most powerful executives.” CNN referred to him and his wife, Priscilla Chan, as “two of America’s most influential businesspeople and philanthropists.” Vox’s Recode vertical calledhim “the world’s third-richest person” and observed that he had become so toxic that “accepting a political donation from Mark Zuckerberg in 2020 is nowhere close to worth the money.” (The Times appears not to have covered the story for now.) Any one of these frames makes for an important and troubling story: a Presidential campaign in bed with a major tech corporation, influenced by and possibly intertwined with one of the country’s richest men—that is bad. It’s worse when one recalls Buttigieg’s attempts to go after Elizabeth Warren during last week’s Democratic debate. Warren has called for breaking up Facebook’s social-media monopoly, and Zuckerberg has referred to Warren as an “existential” threat to the company. Now imagine if it were the head of ABC or CNN or the New York Times Company who had served as an informal hiring consultant to a Presidential candidate. It would almost certainly be a bigger story and more broadly perceived as troublesome. Most of us still believe that the media are an essential component of democracy, and that a media outlet that is partisan or committed to a single candidate, but not in a transparent way, is a bad democratic actor.

Peter Greene demonstrates here (yet again) that there is nothing that money cannot buy (and corrupt). Now it is Sesame Street (although as he points out, HBO already bought Sesame Street). Is there anything not for sale?

Open the link and read the whole sorry story.

If you haven’t been paying particularly close attention, you may have missed the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative slowly inserting its hyper-wealthy proboscis into a hundred different corners of modern life, using its not-quite-philanthropy LLC model to follow in the Gatesian footprints of wealthy technocrats who want to appoint themselves the unelected heads of oh-so-many sectors.

One of those sectors is, of course, education. Their latest bold new initiative is being trumpeted in People, where it is getting exactly the fluffy uncritical reception one might expect, which is too bad, because there’s plenty to be critical of.

The tech mogul, 35, and pediatrician’s philanthropic organization, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, is working in conjunction with The Primary School and Sesame Workshop to help fund a “new curriculum” that aims to “integrate social emotional learning into early childhood literacy lessons,” according to a press release.

The Primary School is out in Palo Alto, “expanding the boundaries of traditional education.” It is the elementary school that Chan co-founded in 2016 to bring together issues in education and pediatrics. They have all sorts of business style leadershippositions like “director of talent” and “director of strategic initiatives” and the teaching staff seems to be made of a few “lead teachers” and a whole lot of “associate teachers.” Their CEO comes from the NewSchool Venture Fund and Aspire. Their “director of innovation and learning” spent two whole years in Teach for America. The school’s principal once founded a charter school and stayed with it for five years. Of the lead teachers a little more than half have actual teaching backgrounds, while the rest are TFA or other “non-traditional” approaches to the field. I admittedly didn’t check every single one, but a spot check of the associate teachers turned up zero with actual teaching backgrounds.

In short, it’s very new, very reform, very Palo Alto-y, and yet, wonder of wonders, the folks at the Sesame Workshop, “the global nonprofit behind Sesame Street and so much more” and who have been at this for fifty years (longer, I’m betting, than virtually every staff person at The Primary School has been alive)– those folks feel an urge to team up with The Primary School.

 

 

Technology in the classroom has become so ubiquitous that the use of papers and pencils or pens seems innovative.

The Wall Street Journal published a front-page story about the high-powered push to buy technology and the growing disillusionment of some parents and teachers.

When Baltimore County, Md., public schools began going digital five years ago, textbooks disappeared from classrooms and paper and pencils were no longer encouraged. All students from kindergarten to 12th grade would eventually get a laptop, helping the district reach the “one-to-one” ratio of one for each child that has become coveted around the country. Teaching apps and digital courses took the place of flashcards and notebooks.

Despite the investment, academic results have mostly slipped in the district of about 115,000 students.

Over the last decade, American schools embraced technology, spending millions of dollars on devices and apps, believing its disruptive power would help many children learn faster, stay in school and be more prepared for a competitive economy. Now many parents and teachers are starting to wonder if all the disruption was a good idea.

Technology has made it easier for students and teachers to communicate and collaborate. It engages many students and allows them to learn at their own pace. But early indications are that tech isn’t a panacea for education. Researchers at Rand Corp. and elsewhere say there is no clear evidence showing which new tech-related education offerings or approaches work in schools.

The uncertainty is feeding alarm among some parents already worried about the amount of time their children spend attached to digital devices. Some believe technology is not doing much to help their kids learn, setting up a clash with tech advocates who say technology is the future of education.

Across the country—in Boston, Fort Wayne, Ind., and Austin, Texas—parents are demanding proof technology works as an educational tool, and insisting on limits. They’re pushing schools to offer low- or screen-free classrooms, picketing board meetings to protest all the online classes and demanding more information about what data is collected on students.

In April, a report from the National Education Policy Center, a nonpartisan research group at the University of Colorado at Boulder, found the rapid adoption of the mostly proprietary technology in education to be rife with “questionable educational assumptions . . . self-interested advocacy by the technology industry, serious threats to student privacy and a lack of research support…”

Baltimore County said earlier this year it would scale back the ratio of laptops in first and second grades to one for every five students. A few miles away, in Montgomery County, a new curriculum this fall will return textbooks, paper and pencils to the classroom to supplement laptops.

In both cases, school officials say they were responding, in part, to parents and teachers. Baltimore County’s early-learning teachers said they didn’t need so many laptops. Parents wanted their children to “have a mixed media experience touching paper and reading books and down on the carpet without a device in their hands,” said Ryan Imbriale, who heads the school district’s department of innovative learning