Archives for category: For-Profit

Cheri Kiesecker is a Colorado parent who pays close attention to technology that invades student privacy.

She left the following warning as a comment:

In response to the question about GAFE. Below are a few links that may be of help.
GAFE, Google, Chromebooks… seem to suffer transparency issues on how they track and use and analyze student data. When parents have asked to see what data points Google collects, how that information is analyzed, who it is shared with, there are no transparent answers.

Many privacy organizations and advocates have concerns and questions about the algorithms used and data collection/ sharing in GAFE.
Google Chromebooks are pre-set to send student data, all user activity, back to Google.

This article explains how ChromeSync feature tracks students. Some schools purposely leave the SYNC feature on. Others, however, turn off Sync before asking students to use Chromebooks. MANY schools and parents are NOT AWARE of the Chrome Sync tracking feature.

This blog does a great job explaining GAFE issues in Where The Sidewalk Ends: Wading Through Google’s Terms of Service for Education:

Google defines a narrow set of applications as “core” Apps for Edu services. These services are exempt from having ads displayed alongside user content, and from having their data used for “Ads purposes”. However, apps outside the core services – like YouTube, Blogger, and Picasa – are not covered by the terms of service that restrict ads. The same is true for integrations of third party apps that can be enabled within the Google Apps admin interface, and then accessed by end users. So, when a person in a Google Apps for Edu environment watches a video on YouTube, writes or reads a post on Blogger, or accesses any third party app enabled via Google Apps, their information is no longer covered under the Google Apps for Education terms.

To put it another way: as soon as a person with a Google Apps for Education account strays outside the opaque and narrowly defined “safe zone” everything they do can be collected, stored, and mined.

So, the next time you hear someone say, “Google apps doesn’t use data for advertising” ask them to explain what happens to student data when a student starts in Google apps, and then goes to Blogger, or YouTube, or connects to any third party integration.” read more…


The privacy watchdog group Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a complaint with the FTC about Google’s deceptive tracking of students.
Chrome books are set to send back students’ entire browsing history to Google but that is not all.

Google’s Student Tracking Isn’t Limited to Chrome Sync

Many media reports on (as well as at least one response to) the FTC complaint we submitted yesterday about Google’s violation of the Student Privacy Pledge have focused heavily on one issue—Google’s use of Chrome Sync data for non-educational purposes. This is an important part of our complaint, but we want to clarify that Google has other practices which we are just as concerned about, if not more so.
In particular, the primary thrust of our complaint focuses on how Google tracks and builds behavioral profiles on students when they navigate to Google-operated sites outside of Google Apps for Education. We’ve tried to explain this issue in both our complaint and our FAQ, but given its significance we think it’s worth explaining again.

To understand what’s going on, you first have to understand that when it comes to education, Google divides its services into two categories: Google Apps for Education (GAFE), which includes email, Calendar, Talk/Hangouts, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Sites, Contacts, and the Apps Vault; and everything else, which includes Google Search, Blogger, Bookmarks, Books, Maps, News, Photos, Google+, and YouTube, just to name a few.

Google has promised not to build profiles on students or serve them ads only within Google Apps for Education services. When a student goes to a different Google service, however, and they’re still logged in under their educational account, Google associates their activity on that service with their educational account, and then serves them ads on at least some of those non-GAFE services based on that activity.

In other words, when a student logs into their educational account, and then uses Google News to create a report on current events, or researches history using Google Books, or has a geography lesson using Google Maps, or watches a science video on YouTube, Google tracks that activity and feeds it into an ad profile attached to the student’s educational account—even though Google knows that the person using that account is a student, and the account was created for educational purposes.

This is our biggest complaint about Google’s practices—that despite having promised not to track students, Google is abusing its position of power as a provider of some educational services to profit off of students’ data when they use other Google services—services that Google has arbitrarily decided don’t deserve any protection. read more

Google and other apps may be “free”, but as privacy experts warn, your child’s data is the price. GAFE is just one example of needing transparent and enforceable privacy laws to protect students and why schools and teachers should read the privacy policies, terms of service surrounding data collection and use…and communicate that information with parents before signing a child up for GAFE or any app. Ideally, every parent should be given the choice to opt-in, as many parents are not aware of data privacy issues surrounding edtech.
…and as privacy groups warn, Google is playing with [COPPA] fire in promoting GAFE to children under 13.

The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) is one of the most profitable charter schools in the nation. Its owner, William Lager, is one of the biggest donors to the Republican party in Ohio. ECOT offers K-12 instruction online and is paid full state tuition for every student. Most of this money is deducted from the funding of the local school district where each student lives. ECOT has the lowest graduation rate in the nation. According to the New York Times, in the 2014 fiscal year, the last year for which federal tax filings were available, the school paid the companies associated with Mr. Lager nearly $23 million, or about one-fifth of the nearly $115 million in government funds it took in.

The state recently asked ECOT to demonstrate that its students are actually logging on and participating in instruction. The issue is in court because ECOT says that the state is overstepping its bounds and the company has no obligation to demonstrate that its students participate even for a minute a day.

Here is the story.

The state’s fight over whether the giant ECOT online school deserves the $106 million in state money it receives hit the courtroom today, with ECOT lawyers saying the state is using rules that are “unenforceable” and the state saying the school’s objections are “absurd.”

The school and Ohio Department of Education are expected to be before Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Jennifer French for the next three days to present their differing views on a crucial issue: Whether online schools have to show that students actually participate in their online classes, or just that the schools provide classes.

In opening arguments this morning, lawyer Marion Little said state rules and a 2003 contract with ODE only require the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow to prove that students are enrolled, not that they are engaged in their lessons.

Little said that e-school funding is set by enrollment but the state this year has tried to “merge” the “distinct” and separate ideas of participation with enrollment to audit the school and put its funding at risk.

The original idea of charter schools, as espoused not by Albert Shanker but by people like Chester Finn Jr., was a deal: Autonomy in exchange for accountability.

ECOT offers a different deal: Autonomy without accountability. Just give us the money and trust us.

Valerie Strauss found many ironies in Donald Trump’s decision about where to give his big education policy speech.

To begin with, he parroted Jeb Bush’s line about public schools as a government monopoly. He mocked him in the debates, now he steals his lines.

Next, he made his speech in Ohio, which has been celebrated for the public exposure of numerous charter school scandals. The biggest charter operators have the worst schools and donate the most money to Republican politicians.

And amazingly, he chose a for-profit charter as his venue, which recently was given an F by the state for poor student growth.

Another irony: the absurd idea of rating schools with a humiliating letter grade was devised by none other than “low energy” Jeb Bush, who has not endorsed Trump.

Stephen Dyer said that the for-profit charter school in Cleveland where Donald Trump spoke is a failing school, based on its letter grades. The conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which is an official authorizer of charters in Ohio (though not this one), said that Dyer was wrong. As you may know, the A-F report card idea was invented by Jeb Bush in Florida and has spread to accountability-obsessed states like Ohio. It tends to be an accurate measure of family income. Dyer points out that Fordham was gung-ho to adopt the A-F grades, but doesn’t like them so much now. Ron Packard, the owner of the charter in Cleveland, was previously CEO at the online charter corporation K12, where he was paid $5 million annually. His background is McKinsey and Goldman Sachs. K12 Inc. gets bad reviews for its terrible education record, even from charter advocates.

Dyer responds here:

As you know, Donald Trump came to Cleveland to visit a charter school and announce a massive federal infusion of dollars for school choice programs. Regardless of the wisdom of that plan, I found it curious that he would visit a school with an F grade from the state on student growth — considered the most important metric by many charter school advocates. So I called the grade “failing” in several news accounts.

The Fordham Insitute took me to task for that today. So I felt I needed to respond bceause I actually agree that school performance needs more nuanced measures than the simple test regime we have today. But I found it amazing that Fordham, which pushed for Ohio to go to an A-F report card system because it would give parenhts more transparency about how their schools performed so they could then choose whether a charter would be a better option, is now saying that the F grade at the Cleveland Arts and Social Sciences Academy doesn’t actually mean it’s failing. Especially given that Fordham said the drop in grades this year (due to PARCC and Common Core) gave Ohioans a more accurate assessment of how kids are “actually doing.”

Here’s my response:

Best Regards,

Stephen Dyer
Education Policy Fellow
Innovation Ohio
35 E. Gay St.
Columbus, Ohio 43215

The comments about the closing of ITT for-profit colleges by the U.S. Department of Education’s suspension of federal aid reminded me of another story that was published just a few months ago.

A group of men who are friends and former high-level officials in the Obama administration bought the University of Phoenix, the nation’s largest for-profit provider of “higher education.”

The purchase of University of Phoenix involved one of the President’s closest friends, financier Marty Nesbitt, and former Deputy Secretary of Education Tony Miller. Miller had been in charge of cracking down on the for-profit higher education sector. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois said that the purchase raises the “appearance” of impropriety. On February 16, 2016, the Wall Street Journal ran an editorial called “Regulating For Profit,” accusing the Obama administration of driving down the stock price, so that former officials could then pick it up at a bargain price. (Sorry, I can’t give you the link, as the WSJ is behind a paywall, but you can find it by googling the article name.)

What does this mean? Closing Corinthian and ITT, while Obama pals take over University of Phoenix. I don’t know.

You may recall that the huge Corinthian College for-profit chain closed down last year, stranding over 16,000 students who were saddled with debt and worthless credits. The bankruptcy was precipitated when the U.S. Department of Education cut off federal funding after investigations revealed numerous frauds.

Now the ITT chain of for-profit colleges is going belly-up, after the Feds pulled the plug. The move leaves 35,000 students and employees out of luck. The students will have difficulty transferring their credits to another college or university since the for-profits are not respected by established institutions.

“Just days before the start of a new school term, ITT Educational Services, one of the nation’s largest for-profit educational companies, closed nearly all its campuses on Tuesday.

“The company cited the Education Department’s recent decision to bar the chain of colleges from using federal financial aid to enroll new students as the reason for the sudden shutdown.

“Except for a small school that operates under a different name, the move puts an end to an operation that has been accused of widespread fraud and abuse, leaving roughly 35,000 students and 8,000 employees in the lurch.

“ITT Educational Services, whose recruitment, lending practices and educational quality have been under scrutiny by federal regulators and state prosecutors for years, said in a news release that it had “exhausted the exploration of alternatives, including transfer of the schools to a nonprofit or public institution.””

Given their long-standing record of fraud, false promises, worthless degrees, predatory recruitment of veterans and low-income students, why did the Education Department allow them to get federal aid for so many years? At long last, accountability. Only the students are left holding the bag.

Chester Finn, Jr., Bruno Manno, and Brandon L. Wright declare in the Wall Street Journal that public schools and elected school boards are dying a slow death and being replaced by charter schools. All three are associated with right wing think tanks (Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Walton Family Foundation).

Bear in mind that some 50 million children attend public schools, and fewer than 3 million attend charter schools. Bear in mind also that voters have never voted to replace public schools with privately managed charter schools. Americans have never been asked whether they want to pay their taxes to private corporations to run schools that can choose their students. The charter movement has flourished because of massive investments by billionaires like Gates, Broad, and Walton, political support by right wing groups like ALEC, right wing governors, and the unfortunate support of the Obama administration.

Public education, open to all, has for many years been considered an essential democratic institution and a basic cause of the great economic, social, and cultural success of our nation. Finn & friends hope for and celebrate its demise. They tacitly acknowledge that charter schools don’t get higher scores than public schools. They note that some charter operators are frauds. What they don’t admit is that they welcome the Hyper-segregation of American society. One of the reasons our society functions as well as it does is because public schools bring children from different backgrounds together, across lines of race, religion, class, gender, and ethnicity. It doesn’t happen enough, but the authors don’t care if it happens at all. They welcome the return of segregation as a step forward, not retrenchment from our ideals.

Similarly, they see no value in democracy. Elected school boards are a fundamental exercise of democracy. They are established in state constitutions. Yet the authors would wish them away and replace them with privatization.

This article and the book it is based on comes at a time when the privatization movement is staggering. Charters were just recently criticized by the NAACP and the Movement for Black Lives, a collection of 50 organizations. Charter scandals are breaking into the mainstream media, most recently with the admission by an online charter founder in Pennsylvania that he stole $8 million from the school. And the CREDO study finding that students in online charters learn close to nothing. And then there was the John Oliver program on the shoddy and corrupt practices of charters that close overnight and charters that steal and cheat taxpayers. And there was the Washington State and NLRB decisions that charters are not public schools.

When the charter movement began, Finn and Manno wrote about the promise of charter schools: in return for public money, they would be held accountable for better results at lower costs. Now we know that charters are not held accountable, do not produce better results unless they cherrypick students, and do not cost less.

They write:

“America’s devotion to local control of schools is dying, but it is also being reborn as a new faith in charter schools. These independently operated public schools—nearly 7,000 across the country, and counting—provide a much-needed option for almost three million youngsters in 43 states.

“As students return to school, the enterprise responsible for educating them is changing in ways that few people are aware of. Charters are fomenting a quiet revolution in governance in public education.

“The prevailing arrangement in America’s 14,000 school systems starts with an elected board. The board appoints a superintendent, who manages more-or-less uniform public schools staffed by a unionized workforce of government employees. This setup functioned well for an agrarian and small-town society in which people spent their entire lives in one place, towns paid for their own schools, and those schools met most of the workforce needs of the local community.

“This arrangement does not perform nearly so well in a country of mobile and cosmopolitan citizens, where states make most education rules and furnish most of the money, where government intrudes in myriad ways, and where discontent with education outcomes is rampant. It doesn’t meet the requirements of people who change neighborhoods and cities as well as jobs and careers, and it’s ill-suited for an era of fervent agitation about equalizing—and compensating for—the treatment of children from different backgrounds, locales and needs.

“Nor does local control mean what it once did. Some 90 school districts today struggle to educate more than 50,000 students each in systems sprawling over many miles and run by massive bureaucracies. The Houston Independent School District is responsible for 215,000 pupils, Chicago for 400,000, Los Angeles for 700,000 and New York City for more than a million. The governance of these systems doesn’t work well when elected boards have evolved from panels of public-spirited civic leaders into gaggles of aspiring politicians and teachers-union surrogates.

“The feebleness of traditionally governed public schools explains the burgeoning alternatives. Yet far from undermining local democratic control, these new schools are reinventing it—down to small communities of families that now run their own schools, each with six or seven board members.

“Because these boards function more like nonprofit organizations than political bodies or public agencies, their members need not stand for election. Being generally union-free, they don’t have the headaches of collective bargaining. And with freedom to engage and deploy principals and teachers, and to adjust budget, curriculum and instruction to do their students the most good, charter schools are attracting to their boards selfless citizens and community leaders who see a plausible chance to promote change.

“The charter phenomenon is also reinventing the school district. Instead of geographically bounded municipal units run in top-down fashion, “charter management organizations” comprise virtual networks—confederations, really—of similar schools that may be located hundreds of miles apart, that mostly run themselves, but that can draw on the organization for expertise and services that individual schools may not be able to muster for themselves. The Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) started as a single classroom in Houston and now boasts 200 schools in 20 states. Eva Moskowitz’s high-performing Success Academy began in Harlem and now has 41 schools in four boroughs of New York City.

“Charters don’t answer every education prayer. Their test scores are all over the place, though the best studies show strong, positive effects for poor and minority children. Funded with about three-quarters of the per-pupil dollars that traditional schools receive, many charters have trouble making ends meet and rely heavily on private philanthropy and entrepreneurial energy.

“Established education interest groups—always more attentive to adult jobs than to kids’ learning—fight them relentlessly, as do a few civil-rights groups aligned with the unions. Some charter leaders and board members have been guilty of self-dealing and corrupt behavior.

“But that’s where democracy comes in. While autonomous in many ways, charters are ultimately accountable to public authority. They’re a new species of school, but they remain public schools, open to all comers, paid for by taxpayers and licensed by the state. If they fail to meet standards of academic performance and fiscal soundness, charters—unlike district schools—are supposed to be closed or restarted under fresh leadership. More than 1,200 charters closed between 2010 and 2015 even as more opened. Some states are still figuring out how to make this work, but most are getting better at it.

“Twenty-five years from its beginnings, chartering portends profound changes in the structure of American public education. That’s why the battles around it are about more than market share, test scores and discipline codes. They’re proxies for what’s really in dispute: power and control over a K-12 education behemoth that spends more than $600 billion a year and employs some six million adults.

“Local control as we’ve known it is growing obsolete. Let’s hail the kind of local control that charter schools embody. And welcome back to school, girls and boys.”

Messrs. Finn, Manno and Wright are the authors of “Charter Schools at the Crossroads,” out from Harvard Education Press in October.

Charter Schools Are Reinventing Local Control in Education

I have trouble thinking of K-12 education as a marketplace. But that’s just me. I know that the textbook and testing industries have their marketplaces. Now there is a new marketplace where investors hope to profit on edtech.

Apparently, Education Week now has a regular feature that showcases the latest entrepreneurial ventures, where equity investors jump in with a million here, a million there.

I suppose I should not be surprised. Edtech is the next big thing, or maybe it is the Big Thing right now, where investors see the chance of a killing.

Which reminds me that several commenters on the blog have pointed out that the most innovative education today is hands-on, doing things, making things, creating things without the aid of a computer. Low-tech is now innovative. That is sort of a hopeful sign that our children will not turn into avatars.

Dr. Nicholas Kardaras is a licensed psychotherapist and a specialist on children’s screen addiction. In this article in TIME magazine, he asserts that the schools’ investment of $60 billion in new technology benefits the tech entrepreneurs, not the students. He calls it a hoax driven by the pursuit of profit.

He writes:

As the dog days of summer wane, most parents are preparing to send their kids back to school. In years past, this has meant buying notebooks and pencils, perhaps even a new backpack. But over the past decade or so, the back-to-school checklist has for many also included an array of screen devices that many parents dutifully stuff into their children’s bag.

The screen revolution has seen pedagogy undergo a seismic shift as technology now dominates the educational landscape. In almost every classroom in America today, you will find some type of screen—smartboards, Chromebooks, tablets, smartphones. From inner-city schools to those in rural and remote towns, we have accepted tech in the classroom as a necessary and beneficial evolution in education.

This is a lie.

Tech in the classroom not only leads to worse educational outcomes for kids, which I will explain shortly, it can also clinically hurt them. I’ve worked with over a thousand teens in the past 15 years and have observed that students who have been raised on a high-tech diet not only appear to struggle more with attention and focus, but also seem to suffer from an adolescent malaise that appears to be a direct byproduct of their digital immersion. Indeed, over two hundred peer-reviewed studies point to screen time correlating to increased ADHD, screen addiction, increased aggression, depression, anxiety and even psychosis.

Why have we allowed this educational “Trojan Horse” into the schools, he asks. Answer: Follow the money.

The education tech marketplace represents a $60 billion market. Everyone in the industry wants to get a piece of the market. The salmon are working overtime to convince your school and school board that you must have the latest thing.

But Dr. Kardaras says: Wait. Look at the evidence of the harm that screen addiction does to children.

Apparently, leaders of the tech industry know this. We read five years ago about the hottest school in Silicon Valley where tech entrepreneurs send their own children. It is a Waldorf school in Los Altos that does not allow children to use technology in school. Instead they learn with their all their senses and bypass technology until they leave school.

The chief technology officer of eBay sends his children to a nine-classroom school here. So do employees of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard.

But the school’s chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud. Not a computer to be found. No screens at all. They are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home.

Schools nationwide have rushed to supply their classrooms with computers, and many policy makers say it is foolish to do otherwise. But the contrarian point of view can be found at the epicenter of the tech economy, where some parents and educators have a message: computers and schools don’t mix.

This is the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, one of around 160 Waldorf schools in the country that subscribe to a teaching philosophy focused on physical activity and learning through creative, hands-on tasks. Those who endorse this approach say computers inhibit creative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans.

In an amusing tour de force, NBCT teacher Stuart Egan (in North Carolina) poses the question, what if businesses were run like public schools?

Public Schools Aren’t Businesses – Don’t Believe Me? Try Running a Business as a Public School

No business leader could function under the same conditions.

Comparing schools to businesses isn’t like comparing apples to oranges, it’s like comparing apples to rocks.

For example:

“Be prepared to open up every book and have everything audited. If you are a public school, then every cent, every resource, and every line item is open to scrutiny by a variety of inspectors. Be prepared to be constantly audited and have those findings be available and open to interpretation to people outside of your business, even when those people may not know how your business operates.

“Be prepared to publicize all of the salaries of the people who work for you. ALL OF THEM. Furthermore, there would no negotiating on salaries. In fact they are all set, not by market standards or demand of talent, but by the government. Furthermore, the salaries of all of your employees will be fodder for politicians and the public alike, especially in election years.

“You must allow every stockholder to have equal power on how your run your business even if they own just one share. Actually, you won’t have stockholders. You have stakeholders. And everyone is a stakeholder because they pay taxes. And stakeholders have voting rights. You constantly have to answer to these stakeholders except everybody – EVERYBODY – is your stakeholder. In essence, you answer to everybody, even the homeowners and properties owners when they see that the value of their homes and property might be closely tied to the schools that service the area.

“Be prepared to abide by protocols and procedures established by people outside of the business. These aren’t the rules and regulations or laws established by governing bodies, but rather curricula and other evaluation systems that are placed on your business by people who really have no background in your field.

“You will not get to choose your raw materials. If your business makes a product, you do not get to negotiate how your materials come to you. You do not get to reject materials based on quality. You must take what is given to you and you must produce a product that is of the same quality as a business that may have choice materials. That is unless you are a private school. But they get to charge money. Your business doesn’t.”

Schools don’t run like businesses. Businesses don’t run like schools.