Archives for category: Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative

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

When then Governor Christie and then Mayor Cory Booker persuaded billionaire Mark Zuckerberg to give $100 million to impose corporate reform on Newark, performance pay for teachers was the heart of their plan. Pay the “best” teachers for getting high scores, eliminate “bad” teachers, and Newark schools would be transformed.

In a major blow to the corporate reform movement, the latest teacher contract in Newark just eliminated performance pay.

It didn’t work in Newark, and it hasn’t worked anywhere else. It is a zombie idea. Teachers aren’t holding back, waiting for a bonus to goad them on. They are doing the best they know how. With help and support, they can improve, but not because of rewards and threats.

Merit pay was the heart of a ‘revolutionary’ teachers contract in Newark. Now the Cory Booker-era policy is disappearing.

In 2012, Newark teachers agreed to a controversial new contract that linked their pay to student achievement — a stark departure from the way most teachers across the country are paid.

The idea was to reward teachers for excellent performance, rather than how many years they spent in the district or degrees they attained. Under the new contract, teachers could earn bonuses and raises only if they received satisfactory or better ratings, and advanced degrees would no longer elevate teachers to a higher pay scale.

The changes were considered a major victory for the so-called “education reform” movement, which sought to inject corporate-style accountability and compensation practices into public education. And they were championed by an unlikely trio: New Jersey’s Republican governor, the Democratic-aligned leader of the nation’s second-largest teachers union, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who had allocated half of his $100 million gift to Newark’s schools to fund a new teachers contract.

“In my heart, this is what I was hoping for: that Newark would lead a transformational change in education in America,” then-Gov. Chris Christie said in Nov. 2012 after the contract was ratified.

Seven years later, those changes have been erased.

Last week, negotiators for the Newark Teachers Union and the district struck a deal for a new contract that scraps the bonuses for top-rated teachers, allows low-rated teachers to earn raises, and gives teachers with advanced degrees more pay. It also eliminates other provisions of the 2012 contract, which were continued in a follow-up agreement in 2017, including longer hours for low-performing schools.

“All vestiges of corporate reform have been removed,” declared a union document describing the deal.


The house of cards and propaganda that sustained the charter industry is beginning to crumble. Despite the Obama-Duncan promotion of charters through the disastrous Race to the Top program, no Democrat in the crowded presidential race will openly endorse charter schools. Not even Cory Booker will support charters, despite two decades of fighting for them.

Now, it is no longer cool for a Democrats to back charters.

Democrats support public schools, not charters, vouchers, or privatization. Thank you, Betsy DeVos, for clearing the air.

Shawgi Tell of Nazareth College in upstate New York describes what happened when Democratic Governor Tom Wolf stated the obvious: Charter Schools Are NOT public schools. 

Tell writes:

Calling a charter school public is mainly for the self-serving purpose of illegitimately funneling vast sums of public money from public schools to wealthy private interests who own-operate nonprofit and for-profit charter schools. Charter schools are essentially pay-the-rich schemes masquerading as “innovations” that “save public education” and “give parents choices.”

Charter school owners-operators would not be able to fleece public money from public schools if they were openly recognized as the privatized arrangements that they are. Most people understand that public money belongs solely to the public, not private interests. They understand that public wealth must be used only for public purposes and that private interests have no right to decide how to use public money.




Leonie Haimson has watched the development of CZI’s Summit Learning, a tech-based platform. She is a leader of Student Privacy Matters and the Parents’ Coalition for Student Privacy.

Here are recommended readings:
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There seems to be no shortage of money to create new corporate reformer organizations, and they seem to open faster than anyone can keep track of them.

Here is a new one: Results for America. 

You will recognize the names of some prominent figures in the Obama and George W. Bush administrations.

Notable among them is Jim Shelton, who worked for Gates, Arne Duncan, and then led the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

Let’s hope they pay attention to the scandals now afflicting the charter industry and don’t use their money and weight to promote more of what has already proven to be a failure.

The website cites the federal Every Student Succeeds Act as one of its successes:

Strengthening Public Education

RFA helped develop the evidence provisions in the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act which could help states and district shift up to $2 billion annually toward evidence-based solutions in FYs 2017-2020.

Considering that ESSA retained NCLB’s mandated annual testing, it is hard to see where the evidence is for its “success.” If the measure is test scores, then ESSA has not moved the needle. ESSA maintains the Bush-Obama failures, with the sole exception being the removal of the insane 2014 deadline by which every student would be proficient. What part of ESSA has succeeded? What evidence is there to believe that “every student” will succeed because of this pointless law?


Three teachers at Summit Public Schools (privately managed charter schools calling themselves ”public”) were terminated without cause. The three were trying to organize a union to improve working conditions and had been offered contracts for next year when they were suddenly informed that they were no longer wanted. No teachers other than these three were fired.

The Summit charter schools are funded by the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative and are noted for their infusion of computer instruction into classrooms.

This is the teachers’ website.

This is their petition on

In January, teachers at Summit Public Schools, a group of charter schools in the Bay Area, formed a union, Unite Summit, in order to promote teacher retention, improve student support services, and increase teacher voice in important decisions.

On June 7, the last day of the school year, three Summit teachers and union leaders were fired without cause. We believe this action is unlawful, unethical, and harmful to our students.

In each case, employees were not provided any rationale for their termination beyond “business reasons.” The removal of such outstanding teachers from our school communities not only impacts the quality of education provided to our students, it also shows that Summit is not respecting teachers’ democratic decision to form a union.

Unite Summit has worked to promote the retention of high-quality educators who are invested in our students’ success. Educators have the right to speak out about how to improve their schools without fearing retaliation. The California Educational Employment Relations Act, Section 3543.5.a, states that it is unlawful for an employer to “impose or threaten to impose reprisals on employees, to discriminate or threaten to discriminate against employees, or otherwise to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees because of their exercise of rights guaranteed by this chapter.”

We are therefore calling on SPS leadership to respect Summit teachers’ legal rights to unionize, to own their responsibility to refrain from intimidation, harassment, threats or retaliation, and to immediately reinstate the three fired teachers — Aaron Calvert, Evelyn DeFelice, and Andrew Stevenson.



Matt Barnum of Chalkbeat reports that the Chan-Zuckerberg tech-based schools called Summit have been underreporting the percent of schools that quit their program every year. 

After multiple news reports of high school students walking out in protest against the Summit tech platform, Summit responded by saying that only 10% of schools leave every year. That figure, writes Barnum, was widely reported.

Summit has led the “movement” for “personalized learning,” which is in fact “depersonalized learning.” To be personalized, there must be interaction between at least two persons, not interaction between a computer and a student.

Barnum writes:

When nearly 100 students walked out of their Brooklyn high school in protest last year, saying they were spending too much of their days in front of a computer, the story took off.

The students were complaining about their school’s use of Summit Learning, a curriculum and online learning system backed byFacebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. But the organizations behind Summit pushed back, saying the issues raised by the Brooklyn students weren’t representative of what was happening at the nearly 400 schools using the program.

One piece of evidence they offered: just 10% of schools quit using the platform each year, a number that ended up in multiple newsstories.

New data obtained by Chalkbeat — from Summit itself, in response to a public records request — shows that figure is misleading. Since the platform was made available, 18% of schools using it in a given year had quit using it a year later.

Asked about the discrepancy, a Summit spokesperson explained that its 10% figure comes from averaging the dropoff rates for each of the first three years. The number of schools adopting the platform was 19 in the first year and 338 in the third year, so Summit’s approach is skewed heavily in favor of the first year’s low attrition number.

Looking just at schools that signed on to the platform last school year, a quarter of them are no longer using Summit this year.

The Brooklyn walkout was one among many and a bellwether for the future. Students want human teachers.


Remember when Laurene Powell Jobs announced that she was running a competition for ideas to reinvent the high school? She was offering $10 million to each winning proposal, which she called “Super Schools.”

Nearly 700 proposals were entered, but only 10 were chosen.

One of the winners was in Oakland, California, a district that has been subject to nonstop disruption, charters, and and constant meddling by the Eli Broad foundation. For years, the district has been led by Broadies, who have run it into a ditch and failed to revive its fortunes.

The Oakland winner planned to open a Super School that incorporated Mark Zuckerberg’s Summit Learning online platform.

But things went poorly after Oakland’s Broadie superintendent Antwan Wilson was lured to the District of Columbia to be its chancellor (where he was soon ousted after it was revealed that he pulled strings to get his daughter into one of the best public schools, a practice that Wilson had forbidden for others. Wilson is now running an education consulting business.)

Two years ago, the Oakland Super School was abandoned before it opened. 

The turmoil in the district, which has been a near constant for years, made it impossible to open.

Summit Public Schools, which operates a chain of charter schools, with support from the Oakland school district and Mayor Libby Schaaf’s office, submitted a winning proposal for a charter school focusing on personal learning and real-world experiences. The goal was to open the new school at the California College of the Arts on Broadway in Rockridge in fall 2018.

But the effort started to fall apart over the last several months and was ultimately abandoned in recent weeks, The Chronicle has learned. Now, Summit leaders will use the money for one of their existing charter schools in Daly City.

“There are just better ways for us to help kids in the Bay Area,” said Jason Solomon, senior director of advocacy and engagement at Summit Public Schools, which operates eight charter schools in the Bay Area and three in Washington state.

Solomon noted that the team’s entry to build the new school included the support of former Oakland Superintendent Antwan Wilson, who resigned this year to lead the Washington, D.C., schools. On top of the turnover in leadership, the district is grappling with the need to close or consolidate schools given declining enrollment while juggling a $30 million budget shortfall over the next year.

Community groups were unhappy that the proposed charter would be sited very close to an existing Oakland public school that had not yet been disrupted and destroyed.

With Antwan Wilson gone, Summit charters was not sure they would have a champion so they shifted the funding to one of their schools in Daly City.

Summit substitutes computer-based instruction for real teachers, and it has driven out in places as distant as Connecticut and Kansas, by parents and students.


Today, the New York Times posted a story about a rebellion in Kansas against Mark Zuckerberg’s Summit Learning platform. 

They said NO to Facebook’s “personalized learning,” which replaces teachers with Chromebooks.

Good for the students of Kansas!

WELLINGTON, Kan. — The seed of rebellion was planted in classrooms. It grew in kitchens and living rooms, in conversations between students and their parents.

It culminated when Collin Winter, 14, an eighth grader in McPherson, Kan., joined a classroom walkout in January. In the nearby town of Wellington, high schoolers staged a sit-in. Their parents organized in living rooms, at churches and in the back of machine repair shops. They showed up en masse to school board meetings. In neighborhoods with no political yard signs, homemade signs with dark red slash marks suddenly popped up.

Silicon Valley had come to small-town Kansas schools — and it was not going well.

“I want to just take my Chromebook back and tell them I’m not doing it anymore,” said Kallee Forslund, 16, a 10th grader in Wellington.

Eight months earlier, public schools near Wichita had rolled out a web-based platform and curriculum from Summit Learning. The Silicon Valley-based program promotes an educational approach called “personalized learning,” which uses online tools to customize education. The platform that Summit provides was developed by Facebook engineers. It is funded by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, a pediatrician.

Many families in the Kansas towns, which have grappled with underfunded public schools and deteriorating test scores, initially embraced the change. Under Summit’s program, students spend much of the day on their laptops and go online for lesson plans and quizzes, which they complete at their own pace. Teachers assist students with the work, hold mentoring sessions and lead special projects. The system is free to schools. The laptops are typically bought separately.

Then, students started coming home with headaches and hand cramps. Some said they felt more anxious. One child began having a recurrence of seizures. Another asked to bring her dad’s hunting earmuffs to class to block out classmates because work was now done largely alone.

“We’re allowing the computers to teach and the kids all looked like zombies,” said Tyson Koenig, a factory supervisor in McPherson, who visited his son’s fourth-grade class. In October, he pulled the 10-year-old out of the school.

In a school district survey of McPherson middle school parents released this month, 77 percent of respondents said they preferred their child not be in a classroom that uses Summit. More than 80 percent said their children had expressed concerns about the platform…

The resistance in Kansas is part of mounting nationwide opposition to Summit, which began trials of its system in public schools four years ago and is now in around 380 schools and used by 74,000 students. In Brooklyn, high school students walked out in November after their school started using Summit’s platform. In Indiana, Pa., after a survey by Indiana University of Pennsylvania found 70 percent of students wanted Summit dropped or made optional, the school board scaled it back and then voted this month to terminate it. And in Cheshire, Conn., the program was cut after protests in 2017.

Hello, Mark Zuckerberg! Students want teachers, not interfacing with computers!

“Personalized learning” means human interaction, not interfacing.

Summit, go away!



Mark Zuckerberg and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative funded the Summit learning program, which is computer-based online instruction. not personalized learning.

Students in Kansas sent a message to Zuckerberg:


Another student #walkout vs #SummitLearning – this time at McPherson MS in Kansas. Like earlier one in Brooklyn, protest was sparked by students’ frustrations about inadequacies of the online Learning program

Waving signs and chanting “No Summit, No Summit, No Summit,” the students spent their afternoon out of class venting their frustration with the changes in their curriculum…. “It’s a learning program that is supposed to be a better way, but you are just on a computer,” said Drake Madden, a seventh grader. “Every time I get home, my head starts hurting.” he said.

Video here: