Archives for category: Technology, Computers

Indiana legislators intend to introduce virtual pre-K as part of their expansion of preschool for the state. It is no doubt a way to save money for the state, just plopping babies in front of a computer, supervised by a parent, and calling it “pre-school.” Would they do it to their own children? Peter Greene wrote about this UPSTART program here.

The news report says, in all seriousness:

“It’s really attractive because it involves the parent specifically in providing the program for the kid and many times the issue with children who are not ready for school is unengaged parents,” Senator Luke Kenely, R-Noblesville, said. “This really engages the whole family. I just believe it’s a much more wholesome approach that will have a better lasting effect.”

The UPSTART online curriculum calls for parents to spend 15 minutes a day with their child five days a week. The program started in Utah and lawmakers hope to bring it to Indiana to reach low-income families in rural counties that might not have access to pre-K education otherwise.

“I think it will be a huge benefit for about 60 counties in the State of Indiana that they have never had that chance before,” Senator Kenley, who serves as the Senate Appropriations Chairman, said.

Lawmakers are planning to allocate $1 million toward the program in its first year. Senator Kenley said the average cost per student is about $1,400 and the program could serve about 700 Hoosiers in its first year.

Peter Greene describes the program, which will be adopted in Utah and probably Indiana, and says:

Pre-K can be done in so many beneficial ways, but none of those ways are focused on academic achievement. What four year olds need to do is play, play slightly organized games, play unorganized games, play by themselves, play with others, and also play. If they feel inclined to explore reading or math or science or art or whatever, that should be encouraged. But enforced or required. No, no, no, and also no.

Supporters will say, “Lighten up– we’re only talking about fifteen minutes a day, five days a week.” And I agree that beats some Pre-K classroom where students are expected to sit and study academic subjects for hours, just as being hit in the face with a hammer is better than being assaulted in the chest with a jackhammer.

But UPSTART also gives tiny humans an early close connection with a screen, introduces them to the idea of learning as a chore that must be done to someone else’s satisfaction, and gets the whole family acclimated to being data mined. It’s a sweetheart deal of the Utah-based Waterford company which makes out well whenever it can get legislators to purchase its product in bulk. Is this good use of Indiana taxpayer dollars? I doubt it. If I were an Indiana voter and taxpayer, I think I’d seriously question the aims of any Pre-K program, and I think I’d want my tiny humans to be interacting with real live humans, not software.

The epicenter of New York’s historic test refusal movement is gearing up for a repeat performance when testing begins on Monday.

The state is hoping that the introduction of computer-based testing will mollify parents but it shouldn’t. Numerous studies have shown that students get lower scores on computer-based tests than on tests that require pencils. Some children–especially in younger grades–are not adept with keyboard skills. Others find that scrolling up and down the online format is confusing as compared to using pencil-and-paper.

But the fundamental problems remain. Many parents and educators don’t like the Common Core. The results are reported far too late to help teachers because their students have moved to another grade. Students are not allowed to discuss the test questions or to learn what they answered right or wrong. In short, the tests have no instructional value. They are simply a way of ranking students without helping them.

They are pointless.

Enough parents understand this, which feeds the opt out movement.

If the Regents and the State Education Department can’t address the genuine concerns of parents, they should stop the testing. Until they do, parents should not allow their children to take the tests.

“Public school districts across Long Island and the state are bracing for what many educators and parents expect to be a fifth consecutive year of Common Core test boycotts in grades three through eight, even as eight districts in Nassau and Suffolk counties and dozens elsewhere introduce computerized versions of the exams.

“The state’s time window for the English language arts test starts Monday and closes a week later, both on the Island and statewide. Extra days were added, as compared with last year’s schedule, to allow flexibility in giving the computer-based exams. The traditional pencil-and-paper tests will be given Tuesday through Thursday.

“Officials in some Long Island districts put estimates of opt-outs at 40 percent to 70 percent of their eligible students.

“Brian Conboy, superintendent of Seaford schools, said he expects the boycott of English exams in his district to run close to last year’s 67.8 percent.

“I’m a firm believer in assessment,” Conboy said. “However, assessment has to be developmentally appropriate for students. In the case of how these assessments rolled out, all trust was lost.”

“Cheryl Haas, who lives in the Hauppauge district and is keeping her twin daughters out of the eighth-grade English test, also predicted that refusals would equal last year’s local rate of 71.9 percent. Haas, a former teacher, agreed that tests must be developmentally appropriate — that is, not beyond students’ age and skill levels.

“Until then, parents will stand united to do what is best for their children,” Haas said.

“Some boycott organizers noted that opt-out rates are difficult to project in advance, because many parents wait until the first week of testing to file refusal forms with their districts.

“More than a year has passed since the state Board of Regents moved to ease anxieties over testing by declaring a moratorium, until the 2019-20 school year, on using test scores in any way that might reflect poorly on students’ academic records or as a component in teachers’ job evaluations.

“The nation’s largest test-resistance movement, with Long Island as its epicenter, has emerged in New York State since 2013. Last April, the number of students in grades three through eight in the two-county region who skipped the English assessment reached 89,036, or 51.6 percent of the total eligible, based on data from 108 districts that responded to a Newsday survey.

“Reasons behind the phenomenon: outrage and anxiety among teachers, parents and students over a series of educational reforms pushed by state and federal authorities, without adequate time for teachers and students to prepare.

“Into the mixture this year add the introduction of computer-based tests.

“Schools in five districts in Suffolk County and three in Nassau are going with the electronic versions: Bridgehampton, Franklin Square, Islip, Massapequa, Mineola, Mount Sinai, Longwood and Remsenburg-Speonk.

“Districts on the Island that are administering tests electronically will do so only in selected schools or on selected grade levels. Other students in those districts will take traditional paper-and-pencil tests, as will students elsewhere.

“Computer-based testing also is scheduled in three nonpublic schools — Our Lady of Lourdes in West Islip, St. Patrick’s in Huntington and St. William the Abbot in Seaford — as well as in three special-education centers run by Eastern Suffolk BOCES.

“State math tests for grades three through eight are scheduled May 1-8.
Both kinds of tests, computer-based and paper-based, require three consecutive days for completion within the Education Department’s specified time periods.

“Statewide, about 150 districts will offer computerized testing in English, and 136 will do the same in math, according to the state Education Department. The state has about 700 districts in all.”

Nashville student, Toni Jones, is suing the state of Tennessee, because she thinks she should be taught by a human teacher, not a computer. The state says those decisions are not left to students.

“Do the rights of Tennessee students to a public education extend into the right to have a teacher, and if so, does a computer program count?

“Those questions were posed to a state appeals court Tuesday during oral arguments in a case involving a Nashville student, Toni Jones, that could set a statewide framework defining school districts’ obligations to their students.

“Jones was a freshman at Pearl-Cohn High School who was pulled out of an algebra class before an end-of-course test and placed into a computer-based credit recovery program, Jones’ lawyer, Gary Blackburn, said. He said the student was struggling in the algebra class but had a passing grade.

“The appeal stems from a lawsuit Blackburn filed in 2015, alleging the district was padding test scores by moving Jones and others to the other program. Several teachers who spoke out about the testing practices are suing the district in a separate case, saying they were inappropriately reprimanded by the district.

“He said precedent set in Tennessee court cases entitled Jones to a teacher, and that due process protections were violated when she was moved into the other class without notice to Jones or her family.

“The slippery slope so to speak is that if a teacher is not essential, then a school system can be offered entirely by computers,” he said. “Students can be placed in a gymnasium and put a computer on a desk, and say, here is your teacher. And we’re going to have a hall monitor to keep you from acting up. That is basically what happened to Toni Jones. That’s not teaching.”

“Metro argues that the judges should uphold a prior ruling dismissing the case. In February 2016, Nashville Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle agreed with Metro’s argument and dismissed the case.

“Blackburn argues in the appeal it should be reopened. The Tennessee Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, filed a court brief asking the appeals court to agree, saying teachers in classrooms are an essential part of a student’s education.”

I have earlier reported studies showing that students post higher scores when they take tests with pencil and paper, rather than on computers. Some children do not have keyboard skills, some get confused by scrolling up and down in search of the right text. Yet state officials demand that students take tests online. This is especially pernicious for the youngest children, who are least likely to have the computer skills needed for the testing. This parents asks why.

Open Letter to
Kimberley Harrington,
Acting Commissioner of Education
State of New Jersey

March 10, 2017

Dear Ms. Harrington,

You are making nearly all third graders in the state of New Jersey take the PARCC test on a computer knowing scores would measure more accurately, and very likely be substantially higher if the test were administered with pencil and paper. Many reputable articles in professional publications substantiate this. My son is in third grade. I am both a concerned father and an educator. Why would you not want New Jersey students to achieve the highest scores possible? PARCC assessment tests the knowledge students acquire from their teacher, not adeptness using a computer – or am I missing something? Your insistence the PARCC be administered on a computer not only likely negatively impacts scores, but also potentially reflects negatively on a teacher’s evaluation as 30% is based on PARCC scores.
I would like to understand more about your logic behind this mandate. Schools unfortunately have cast aside handwriting instruction and other important developmental skills to make room for PARCC. Why then insist the PARCC be administered on computer?

Many parents across New Jersey are anxious to hear your detailed reasoning on this matter.

David Di Gregorio
Father, Englewood Cliffs

The Washington Post ran a deeply disturbing story about a boy who became addicted to multi-player video gaming on the Internet. His life was consumed with gaming. His parents were distraught. When they tried to get him to turn off the computer, he had outbursts of rage.


His mother asked him, please, turn off the computer. It’s late.


Their voices got louder. She doesn’t remember exactly what made him reach for the glass on his bedside table. He threw it with such force that it spun across the room and shattered against his closet door, carving a two-inch gash in the white painted wood. Tiny shards glinted on the striped rug.


By then, the family’s stately home in New York was riddled with such scars — nicks in the walls, scratches in the floor, a divot in the marble countertop lining the kitchen sink. All remnants of the boy’s outbursts, which had intensified over the years, almost always triggered by a simple request from his parents: Byrne, please turn off the game. Please get off the computer.


When Byrne threw the glass, his mother, Robin, didn’t panic; she mostly felt numb. For five years, she and her husband, Terrence, had felt their son slipping away — descending deeper and deeper into a realm they didn’t like or understand, consumed by the virtual worlds shared by millions of strangers, all reachable through his Xbox and his computer. Robin and Terrence had conferred with therapists, medical experts and school counselors to try to help their son.


Just weeks before, they had turned to an education consultant, who helped them come up with a plan: Byrne had to go away — first, to a summerlong wilderness therapy program, where he could reconnect with himself and the real world around him, and then to a boarding school. He had to start over, in a place with strict structure, where he couldn’t spend his days immersed in video games.


This is a story that should concern all parents and educators. What is technology addiction doing to children?

Please watch the 10-second video at the end of this post. You will love it!

Emily Talmadge, a teacher-blogger in Maine, used to worry about the dangers inherent in a Clinton administration. Now she warns that the threat of competency based education–delivered online, all the time, profiting a few, bad for humans–will thrive in a Trump Administration.

“The real agenda – the ongoing march toward a cradle-to-grave system of human capital development that relies on the most sophisticated data collection and tracking technologies to serve its unthinkably profitable end – is fueled and directed by a multi-billion dollar education-industrial-complex that has been built over the course of decades.

“It’s an absolute beast, an army of epic scale, and it’s a system that has the same uncanny ability to blend in with its surroundings as a chameleon.

“Take, for example, the new “innovative assessment systems” that are being thrust on us every which way in the wake of ESSA. Under the banner of free market ideology, the far-right American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is promoting the very same assessment policies that far-left groups like the national unions and the National Center for Fair and Open Testing are now pushing. And though some claim that one ideology is merely “co-opting” the ideas of the other, the reality is that they lead to the same data-mining, cradle-to-career tracking end.

“Consider, too, the massive push for blended, competency-based, and digital learning – all unproven methods of educating children, but highly favored by ed-tech providers and data-miners.

“Most of these corporate-backed policies were cooked up in Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, and then made their way not only to the far-right ALEC, but also to left-leaning groups like the Center for Collaborative Education, the Coalition for Essential Schools, and the Great Schools Partnership. Depending on what sort of population each group is targeting, these wolves will dress themselves up in sheep’s clothing and make appeals to different values. For the right, they will package their policies in the language of the free market and choice; for the left, they will wrap them in a blanket of social-justice terminology.

“Pull back the curtain far enough, however, and you will see they are selling the same thing.”

Emily lives in Maine, whose Tea Party Governor Paul LePage was one of the first to jump on the Jeb Bush “Digital Learning Now!” bandwagon.

It was exposed in a wonderful, prize-winning “follow the money” investigative report.

Nancy Bailey watched advance promotional material for PBS’s “School of the Future,” and she is fearful that it will be a sales pitch for digital learning.

She writes:

“On Wednesday, Sept. 14, 9 pm ET, PBS and NOVA will air a two hour special called “School of the Future.” The advertisement tells us much. They are warning that the future for children demands that students need better preparation to succeed due to globalization. What they probably won’t tell us is that this future will likely continue to be manipulated by corporations.


“This abstract, strange future they speak about (possibly puzzling to the smartest among us), will be about technology, of course.

“Their message appears to be that we better address technology that can be used with students, even to study their brains to see if they can learn faster and better. The goal is to close the achievement gap.

“The ad has that hint of emergency for which school reformers are known.

“Sal Kahn of Kahn Academy fame will be on the program. I don’t mind Kahn’s online instruction, but it is naïve to believe that such a program will replace public schools and real teachers.

“And that’s what today’s technology is about. Don’t be deceived by the few teachers that might be shown on this program.

“In some parts of the country they are sitting children online in teacherless preschools.

“They are replacing elementary, middle, and high school classes led by teachers with all online instruction, even though research shows that more computer time doesn’t work out as well as less screen time.

“Many school districts have wasted an exorbitant amount of money on iPads that have not proven to be worth what administrators thought when they purchased them. In some places they sit unused in the closet.

“Technology isn’t bad. It can benefit teachers, students and parents. But it should not be made to appear like it will miraculously improve the way students learn used alone.

“Many parents understand this. The reasonable use of technology is what Parents Across America recently advocated for in a position paper. They recognize the overarching push many corporations are doing to destroy public schooling by creating all online schooling.

“The last chapter in my book Losing America’s Schools: The Fight to Save Public Education is about the technology threat. I believe, like many, that the ultimate goal of the school reformers involves closing public schools in favor of all online–at home or in substandard charter schools set up like warehouses.

“Technology might help the homebound student or the student in rural areas, but this is an alternative. It can also provide review for students who need it, or advanced information for students who want it, but it is not as good as brick-and-mortar schooling.

“It is also troubling to hear repeated claims that computers will individualize schooling which we will hear about in this program. They might give students lessons at their level of understanding, but truly personalized learning involves real teachers and students with which to connect. The human element is critical.”

Get ready for the Brave New World of education, the one without teachers. Think of the cost savings!


This just in from the parent advocacy group, Parents Across America:

Contact: Laura Bowman, PAA-Roanoke Valley: 540-819-6385
Julie Woestehoff, PAA interim executive director: 773-715-3989

Our Children @ Risk

Parents raise alarm about EdTech’s harmful effects on children’s
academic, intellectual, emotional, physical and social development

Echoing the 1983 “Nation at Risk” report, Parents Across America (PAA)
today declares, “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose
on America the takeover of public education by digital technology that
threatens our children’s health and well-being, captures their private
data, and undermines the best elements of their education, we might
well view it as an act of war.”

PAA has spent extensive time looking into recent writing and research
that raise red flags about the impact of the EdTech explosion on our
children. This high-pressure movement has brought a mishmash of digital
devices and online and other pre-packaged programs into our schools,
where they are promoted as “personalized,” “competency-based,”
“student-centered,” or “self-directed” learning, terms which we refer
to together as EdTech.

Today, PAA released a position paper and a series of reports, including
a 35-page background paper, detailing some of the many threats to
children’s health and well-being, parental control, family privacy, and
the quality of teaching and learning by this latest effort of corporate
reformers to profit from our children’s education and undermine
democratic public schooling.

PAA’s executive director, Julie Woestehoff, explains, “What we have
found out about the EdTech push alarms us, and should alarm any parent.
First of all, there is actually very little research addressing the
many news ways that EdTech is being used in our schools — our children
are truly being used as guinea pigs. What we do know about children and
screen time is based in part on new studies and in part on previous
research into children’s use of television, video games and computers,
which can help us anticipate some of EdTech’s health effects. And
EdTech’s teaching and learning track record is not positive. Yet
corporate reformers and the new federal education law, the Every Child
Succeeds Act, or ESSA, are investing heavily in EdTech and increasingly
pressuring its widespread use.”

Leader of PAA’s chapter in Roanoke, VA, Laura Bowman, says, “We are
speaking out for balanced, healthy classrooms for our children. We
strongly oppose the push to increase student screen time, replace
teachers with packaged lessons delivered by digital devices, and
continuously test students, data-mining the results. We are very
concerned that the massive and growing use of EdTech is displacing
valuable elements of schooling without providing clear benefits, and
threatening our children’s right to a healthy and educationally-
appropriate school environment.”

PAA is not against the appropriate use of technology in schools. Just
as the group opposes standardized test misuse and not the tests
themselves, they challenge technology use that reduces schooling to a
data-mining computer game, and not technology itself. We know that our
children need to master technology, and we acknowledge that parents
must work harder to monitor their children’s use of technology at home.
But we also strongly feel that schools, school districts and states
must become far more cautious, diligent, transparent and accountable
about their technology decisions.

PAA believes that, in the face of strong pressure from the parental
opt-out movement, and criticism that the misuse and overuse of
standardized tests harms children and their education, corporate
reformers and “Big Testing” have changed their tactics.

These education profiteers are promoting even more lucrative testing
and teaching strategies, mostly tied to the Common Core State Standards
and the PARCC or SBAC national tests.

These products help Big Testing continue to control the curriculum and
access vast amounts of student data. Meanwhile, students are spending
increasing hours glued to computer screens and other digital devices
which leaves less time for interacting with other children, adults or
their own imaginations, and exposes them to new dangers.

We have prepared a set of informational materials for parents covering
PAA’s specific concerns about EdTech’s:

-harmful effects on children’s mental and emotional development,

-negative impact on student intellectual and academic growth,

-damaging physical effects,

-depersonalization and other ways of undermining the educational

-questionable value and effectiveness,

-continuous testing of students, often without obtaining consent from
or even informing students or parents,

-threats to student data privacy, and

-hugely lucrative benefits for private companies.

Parents must be alerted to these potential risks, and be prepared to
challenge and, if necessary, opt out of school-based technology that
may be harmful to our children.

Based on these and other concerns, we call on legislators and education
policy makers to consider our list of recommendations found at http://p

Please see our documentation paper ( and
reports ( more detailed informat
ion, references and background.

Checker Finn wrote an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan (as did Marc Tucker and I, in large part to counter what Checker wrote).

Many readers wondered why anyone would write an open letter to the founder of Facebook and advise him what to do about reforming American education.

Nancy Bailey puts those concerns, that skepticism, and that sense of outrage into a post directed to Checker Finn.

Finn just wrote a letter to Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg for all of us to see, like we are the bystanders in their goofball, grand design of schools. Schools will no longer be public–other than they will still receive our tax dollars.

It is hard not to be struck by the arrogance of it all.

If one understands what a democracy is, and how it relates to public schools, they will be puzzled as to why Finn isn’t writing a letter to the American people–you know–the ones who are supposed to be the real owners of their schools.

But instead, he writes to Chan and Zuckerberg. He wants them to think about school reform. He sees them as the owners of America’s schools. They, like Gates and the other wealthy oligarchs, assume they know best how children learn because they made a lot of money and got rich.

She is especially repulsed by his reference to “personalized learning,” which is now a euphemism for sitting in front of a computer and letting the computer teach you. Some call it CBE, competency-based education, since the computer uses algorithms to judge your readiness for the next question or activity. The idea that computers might teach children with special needs is particularly troubling.

But real education is an exchange between people, not a machine and a person.

I have known Checker Finn for many years, almost forty. Our friendship was impaired when I left the board of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and publicly rejected school choice and high-stakes testing. I have always had a fondness for Checker and his family. But Checker went to Exeter, and his wonderful children also went to elite private schools. I don’t begrudge them that, but I think Checker really is out of touch with public education and with the work of teachers in public schools. I am not making excuses for him, just explaining why I think he really doesn’t understand the disastrous consequences of the ideas he has promoted and believes in–for other people’s children.

Kevin Ohlandt blogs at Exceptional Delaware.

He left the following comment in response to Peter Greene’s post about “Lab Rats for America.”

“But where oh where would all of this become incorporated? Look no further than the home of 85% of U.S. companies… the First State… Delaware. On May 2nd, Delaware Governor Jack Markell announced his state would begin to look at changes in state regulations and state code to allow for Blockchain start-ups to come to Delaware.

“As well, we have a coding school in Delaware which was founded by Ben DuPont, of the legendary DuPont family of Delaware. The same family that actually created many of the “brown schools” in our state in the early 20th Century. Also a big supporter of charter schools.

“This is what is has all been leading up to. And opt out? They love it. As long as they resist it just enough to issues threats and build the base for more parents opting out. Not wholesale, but steady increases. That way they can “realize the error of their ways” and lead us to a digital personalized learning competency-based education paradise where the state assessment is no longer given once a year, but throughout – in the form of end of unit online assessments. At the end of the year, the total scores will be calculated and serve as the official state assessments.

“Because these are also part of students grades and their ability to move on, the ability to opt out becomes moot. Teachers (or rather, glorified digital moderators), will get immediate feedback. The tests won’t be as long, so parents won’t have to worry.
They are three steps ahead of us, always. While we are lashing out about PARCC, Smarter Balanced, and teacher evaluations, they are laying the groundwork for all of this.

“They can say this is an attempt to erase all inequity, but we know that is a false narrative. This is the corporate takeover of America. This is the end of public education.
But the question we ALL need to ask ourselves… how do we stop it? We are seeing coding classes in 3rd grade in Delaware. Are kids actually laying the groundwork for a lot of this already? You know this is a data-mining paradise for them.

“The Rodel Foundation of Delaware has been pushing this in our state for a long time. Our State Board of Education and Dept. of Education are the most deceptive and fraudulent parts of our state.

“If we want to save public education and, I’m going to say it, the future of the country, we have to act now.”