Archives for category: Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative

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:

The city supervisor of San Francisco wants to take Mark Zuckerberg’s name off the city’s only public hospital. Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, pediatrician Priscilla Chan made a gift of $75 million to the hospital, where Dr. Chan once worked. Maybe they could just rename it the Dr. Priscilla Chan Hospital.

Citing Facebook’s mishandling of user privacy and its use of an opposition research firm to discredit critics, San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin is pushing to remove Mark Zuckerberg’s name from the city’s public hospital.

The hospital was renamed Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital in 2015 after the Facebook CEO and his wife contributed $75 million to the hospital’s foundation.

Peskin on Tuesday asked the city attorney to outline a procedure for removing Zuckerberg’s name from the hospital. (Though it formally bears Chan’s name, the hospital often calls itself just “Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center” in signage.) In his remarks, Peskin cited the Cambridge Analytica scandal — in which the political data firm obtained the personal information of as many as 87 million Facebook users without their consent — and revelations in a recent New York Times article about Facebook’s hiring of a political consulting firm to discredit activists critical of the company. The social network, according to the Times, sought to cast some criticism of Facebook as anti-Semitic, while Facebook’s consulting firm was also accused of tactics tainted with anti-Semitism.

“It is not normal for private entities to use that information to spread, and in this case anti-Semitic, conspiracy theories on platforms they control,” Peskin said at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. “It is not normal for Mark Zuckerberg and (Facebook chief operating officer) Sheryl Sandberg to refuse to accept responsibility and to publicly distance themselves from acts that they have personally instigated. … This is about the integrity of institutions and spaces that are overwhelmingly funded by public money and taxpayer dollars.”

A spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera said the office has received the request to look into the matter and does not have a policy position on the issue.

The city has moved to rename some public structures before, such as Justin Herman Plaza on the Embarcadero, but removing Zuckerberg’s name from the hospital may trigger a dispute because of a naming agreement Zuckerberg and Chan reached with the hospital, which is owned and operated by the San Francisco Department of Public Health. The agreement, adopted by the Board of Supervisors in 2015, says the hospital is to be named the Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center for 50 years. The $75 million gift is believed to be the single largest contribution by private individuals in support of a public hospital in the United States.

“It is customary in hospital capital campaigns to provide naming opportunities in honor of major philanthropic gifts, as a critical strategy for raising awareness for the project within the community and for garnering action from other community members and philanthropists,” the resolution said.

The resolution does not explicitly address what would happen if the naming were revoked. When asked whether the hospital, if the city were to seek to remove Zuckerberg’s name, would have to give the money back, a hospital spokesman said he “couldn’t offer an opinion on that.”

Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital is the only public acute-care hospital in the city, serving about 108,000 people each year. Chan, Zuckerberg’s wife, previously worked there as a pediatrician.

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.

In a written statement, hospital CEO Susan Ehrlich said Zuckerberg and Chan’s contributions have helped the hospital acquire new technology to serve patients, renovate the building and improve patient care.

“In acknowledgment and appreciation of that gift, our hospital now carries their names,” Ehrlich said. “Naming is an important convention in philanthropy that encourages additional donors. … We are honored that Dr. Chan and Mr. Zuckerberg thought highly enough of our hospital and staff, and the health of San Franciscans, to donate their resources to our mission.”

Students at the Secondary School for Journalism walked out to protest the Chan-Zuckerberg Summit depersonalized learning program, but thought Mark Zuckerberg might not have noticed. So they wrote him a letter to explain why they don’t like interacting for hours a day with a computer. They wrote and told him that they were learning little or nothing, and they complained about the collection of their personally identifiable data. They asked why Summit (and CZI) was collecting all this data without their knowledge or consent. Great points!

The article appears in EdSurge, a tech journal that is partially underwritten by the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative. I bet Mark and Priscilla see it.

They had tried before to address their concerns with the program, says Kelly Hernandez, one of the organizers of the protest. But no matter how many times they talked to their principal, or how many calls their parents made to the school to complain, nothing changed.

“We wanted to fight back with a walkout,” Hernandez, a 17-year-old senior, tells EdSurge, “because when we tried to voice our concerns, they just disregarded us.”

The Secondary School for Journalism is one of about 380 schools nationwide using Summit Learning, a personalized learning program that involves the use of an online instructional software, called the Summit Platform. This program grew out of Summit Public Schools, a network of 11 charter schools based in California and Washington, and soon caught the eye of Facebook, which lent engineers to help build the software. The platform was later supported by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

Earlier this year, Summit Public Schools announced it would be spinning the program out as an independent nonprofit in the 2019-2020 school year.

This is not the first time that the Summit software has attracted questions and protests. Around this time last year, a Connecticut school suspended its use of the software just months after implementing it.

For Hernandez and her classmates, the breaking point came the week of Halloween, when students got their report cards, she says. Some weren’t showing any credit for the courses they’d taken and passed—courses that were necessary to graduate. Others had significant scheduling errors. “It was just so disorganized,” Hernandez recalls.

So she and her friend, senior Akila Robinson, began asking around to see who might participate in a walkout. A few days later, on Nov. 5, nearly 100 students left the school to protest Summit.

“We didn’t necessarily want attention,” Hernandez says, even though they got plenty from the media. “We wanted the changes we felt we needed.”

Some changes have come. The school dropped the learning program for 11th and 12th grade students, because teachers of those grades didn’t receive any professional development for Summit. It is still using it with 9th and 10th graders, which Hernandez wants to change.

She believes a lot of the problems with Summit fall on her teachers and administrators, who were not properly trained in using it. Summit Learning officials, in an email to Education Week, also attributed the problems described by the students to poor implementation and a lack of professional development for teachers.

But fundamental issues with the learning system, as well as concerns over the data Summit collects and shares about its students, must be addressed with the people behind Summit, Hernandez feels. That’s why she and Robinson drafted and sent a letter to Zuckerberg on Thursday.

Below is the full text of the email the students sent to Facebook’s chief executive. Diane Tavenner, CEO of Summit Public Schools, is also copied on the note.

[Please open the link to read the students’ letter.]

Disclosure: EdSurge has received grant support from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

New York Magazine takes notice of the rebellion against Mark Zuckerberg’s Summit Program, Which puts students on computers for hours a day.

It is important when the world beyond education takes notice of really bad ideas. Zuckerberg can ignore parents in Connecticut and students in Brooklyn, but when the bad news seeps into the mainstream media, he notices.

It begins:

The revolt over the Summit Learning Program, an online learning system partially bankrolled by Mark Zuckerberg and implemented in schools nationwide, has come to Brooklyn. Last week, a group of high-schoolers at Park Slope’s Secondary School for Journalism staged a walkout in the middle of the school day to have the “personalized learning” regimen removed from their classrooms.

Summit’s leaders say the school’s administrators botched the rollout, introducing it to all the grades at once and not putting all of their teachers through training. But this isn’t the first time Summit has earned the enmity of the communities it’s meant to help. Parents in many other districts throughout the country have also complained, generally with mixed success; in one Connecticut district, parents of middle-schoolers were able to get the program jettisoned after a months-long campaign. (You can read more about the Cheshire revolt against Summit here.) But Brooklyn’s student-led charge is a new phenomenon — perhaps because the program has been concentrated until now in middle schools, not high schools. As it continues expanding to higher grades, more teens may well become the faces of their local opposition.

Summit was designed roughly six years ago by a network of West Coast Charter schools, and developed later with software help from Facebook engineers. It’s now funded by Zuckerberg and several other billionaires and foundations. The idea is to help kids take charge of their own education, in part by working independently on the software instead of listening to teachers lecture. Some families love it, and the leadership says the dissenters make up a small minority, magnified by their presence on social media. It’s impossible to get an objective overall picture, because there are no empirical studies on satisfaction rates, and the data on outcomes is limited.

At SSJ in Park Slope, some of the students’ complaints echo those that have arisen in Cheshire and elsewhere. “I didn’t like that it was a more self-taught kind of thing,” said Akila Robinson, a senior who helped organize the protest last week. “A lot of kids are more comfortable learning the more traditional way.” Other students have said it leaves them feeling stranded and requires an uncomfortable amount of screen time.

One teacher, who asked to have her name withheld, said most kids using Summit clearly haven’t been able to concentrate. “I’m walking around thinking, This is absolutely insane. They’re not learning,” she said. “I tell the kids to come off that Walkman, tell them to come off the phone, tell them to come off the website they’re on and go back to their modules.”

Leonie Haimson provides a comprehensive report on the context for the Brooklyn high school protest against the Chan-Zuckerberg tech program called Summit. As she says, this is a David-Goliath situation. The students are powerful!

Last week, on November 5, about 100 students at the Secondary School of Journalism in Brooklyn walked out of their schools to protest the Summit online program. This digital instruction program, funded by Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Bill Gates, forces students to spend hours staring at computers, left at sea with little human interaction or help from their teachers, all in the name of “personalized learning.”

As one of the students, Mitchel Storman, said to Sue Edelman who reported on the protest in the NY Post, “I have seen lots of students playing games instead of working….Students can easily cheat on quizzes since they can just copy and paste the question into Google.”

Zenaiah Bonsu, Kelly Hernandez and Akila Robinson credit: Helayne Seidman
Senior Akila Robinson said she couldn’t even log onto Summit for nearly two months, while other classmates can’t or won’t use it. “The whole day, all we do is sit there.” A teacher said, “It’s a lot of reading on the computer, and that’s not good for the eyes. Kids complain. Some kids refuse to do it.”

Since Norm Scott wrote about the walkout on his blog, and Sue Edelman’s reporting in the NY Post, the story has been picked up elsewhere including Fast Company and Business Insider. The online program, which originated in the Summit chain of charter schools in California, and was further developed and expanded with millions of dollars from the Gates Foundation, Facebook and nowthe Chan Zuckerberg LLC, has now invaded up to 300 or so public schools, and is collecting a huge amount of personal data from thousands of students without their knowledge or consent or that of their parents.

I have been writing and questioning Summit for the past two years, and last year, met with Diane Tavenner, asked her all sorts of questions she never responded to, and toured her flagship charter school in Redwood City. My description of this visit is here.

Since then, parents in 15 states have reached out to me in huge distress about the negative impact of this program on their children. Many report that their children, who had previously done well in school, now say that they aren’t learning, that they feel constantly stressed, are beginning to hate school and want to drop out. Some parents have told me that they are now homeschooling their kids or have decided to sell their homes and move out of the district

The high-tech learning “platform” called Summit has been controversial, but nowhere more than in Brooklyn, where high school students walked out of school to protest the amount of time they spend online.

Susan Edelman writes in the New York Post:

Brooklyn teens are protesting their high school’s adoption of an online program spawned by Facebook, saying it forces them to stare at computers for hours and “teach ourselves.”

Nearly 100 students walked out of classes at the Secondary School for Journalism in Park Slope last week in revolt against “Summit Learning,” a web-based curriculum designed by Facebook engineers, and bankrolled by CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan.

It’s annoying to just sit there staring at one screen for so long,” said freshman Mitchel Storman, 14, who spends close to five hours a day on Summit classes in algebra, biology, English, world history, and physics. “You have to teach yourself.”

Listen to the students. They make more sense than the adults. Not always

Summit stresses “personalized learning” and “self-direction.” Students work at their own pace. Teachers “facilitate.” Each kid is supposed to get 10 to 15 minutes of one-on-one “mentoring” each week.

Mitchel said his teachers sometimes give brief lessons, but then students have to work on laptops connected to the Internet.

“The distractions are very tempting,” he said. “I have seen lots of students playing games instead of working.”

Kids can re-take tests until they pass — and look up the answers, he added: “Students can easily cheat on quizzes since they can just copy and paste the question into Google.”

Listen to the students.

This is an amazing story of a town in Connecticut where parents looked at Mark Zuckerberg’s ideas about how to educate their children and said “Hell, no.”

We live in a strange era where a handful of billionaires have taken it upon themselves to transform education. Think Eli Broad, Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Laurene Powell Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg. They decided, not based on their own experience but based on their inflated egos, that they alone know how to re-engineer the nation’s schools, the schools that enroll 50 million children.

The schools of Cheshire, Connecticut, are fine schools. The parents are happy with their public schools. But the schools’ administration decided to adopt the Summit Learning Program, putting students on Chromebooks for their lessons. Things went south, and eventually parents rebelled. At some point, they realized that “personalized learning” is actually “depersonalized learning.” Worse, they learned that their children’s personal data would no longer be private, and that the learning program was data mining their children.

And Mark Zuckerberg’s Summit Learning Program was kicked out of the schools of Cheshire, Connecticut.

Read the article to learn how it happened.

Last year, several classes in Cheshire, Connecticut’s elementary and middle schools switched to a new classroom model, where lessons were supposed to be tailored to every student. The kids and their parents were caught off-guard that first week of school. “We walked into math class,” recalled Lauren Peronace, now an eighth-grader, “and my math teacher said, ‘Everyone open up your Chromebooks. We’re going to go on a website — Summit.’”

Reactions were mixed. Most everyone in Cheshire, which is between New Haven and Hartford, is there for the public schools, which are among the area’s best. Some parents were skittish about the creep of more technology into the classroom, especially when they found out Facebook engineers had helped build the software and Mark Zuckerberg was spending millions promoting it. Others were at least cautiously optimistic. “My son initially thought it sounded cool,” said one parent, Theresa, who asked to have her last name withheld because of all the drama that followed. “The teachers told him, ‘You’re going to be on your own; you’ll be independent; you’re going to move at your own pace.”

The program had come with money for 130 Chromebooks, so every student could have one — courtesy of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Zuckerberg’s philanthropic LLC, and Summit’s other wealthy backers. But to hear the administrators explain it, the technology would be only one piece. The Summit Learning Program, which originated at a series of West Coast charter schools between 2012 and 2013, is conceived as a comprehensive program of “personalized learning” that promises to put students in charge of their own education. It’s now being used in some 380 districts and charter schools nationwide. Rather than having a teacher stand at the front of the room and talk, it emphasizes group projects, dialogue between students, and one-on-one time with teachers, guaranteeing at least a ten-minute “mentoring” session for each student every week. It also makes use of specialized software for regular lessons and assessments. Cheshire’s teachers had gone to training that summer in Providence, Rhode Island, at an event also funded by Summit.

But the implementation over the next few months collapsed into a suburban disaster, playing out in school-board meetings and, of course, on Facebook. The kids who hated the new program hated it, to the point of having breakdowns, while their parents became convinced Silicon Valley was trying to take over their classrooms. They worried Summit was sharing their kids’ data (it is, with 19 companies at present, including Amazon and Microsoft, according to its website), or, worse, selling it. It isn’t, but given that the guy who’d helped buy them all laptops had created a $500 billion company out of vacuuming up data and creating economic value from it, it seemed reasonable to have suspicions that the learning platform backed by CZI might also be data-hungry. Concern turned into exasperation when bizarre and sometimes inappropriate images appeared on their kids’ screens on third-party websites used as reading assignments: a pot plant, a lubricant ad, and then the coup de grâce, an ancient Roman statue of a man having sex with a goose.

Ultimately the superintendent halted the program, making Cheshire the only one out of hundreds to do so. To the program’s supporters, this makes it a fluke, the only one that never got past the learning curve. To detractors, the Cheshire parents are among the most articulate voices on Summit’s perils, the model of successful resistance.

One day, we might wake up and discover that half a dozen people own all of our schools. One of them, you can be sure, is Mark Zuckerberg, who owns the personal and sort-of and sometimes private data of about one billion people.

Peter Greene tells the story here of Summit Learning, which is controlled by Zuckerberg. It has infiltrated scores of public schools as a cheap way of delivering in-line instruction. Parents have fought back, apparently wanting teachers who are actual living human beings.

If you happen to have a child in a school that has joined up with Summit, you should make inquiries about your child’s personal data.

Facebook has recently informed tens of millions of its users that their personal data were compromised.

Depersonalized Instruction is stoppable if parents speak out.