Final U.S. DOE Regulations For ESSA Accountability Leave Same Bad Test, Shame, & Punish Policies & No Changes On Opt Out

The United States Department of Education released the final regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act accountability section of the law.  Once again, despite protest by the Republican led Education & The Workforce Committee, the U.S. DOE is leaving many things that ESSA was supposed to get rid of.  We still have the damn standardized tests as the measurement of what makes a school failing.  We still have the blame game for teachers in the “lowest” 5% of Title I schools.  We still have the Feds indicating that state accountability systems must factor participation rate below 95% as part of their scoring matrix.  Nothing has changed.  Of course, the states can submit their own state standards to the U.S. DOE, but let’s get real- most states already have their standards (Common Core) in place.  Common Core and tests like PARCC and the Smarter Balanced Assessment are NOT going anywhere.  I don’t care what Donald Trump or Betsy DeVos say.

One thing the U.S. DOE did change was the due dates state ESSA plans.  Now they are April 3rd and September 18th.  Previously, they had been March 31st or July 31st.  The Delaware DOE (with no stakeholder input) chose the March 31st deadline (but said they would submit it on March 6th).

So can we expect more “priority” schools coming out of ESSA?

In schools identified for comprehensive or additional targeted support and improvement, the final regulations require that their improvement plans review resource inequities related to per-pupil expenditures and access to ineffective, out-of-field, or inexperienced teachers; advanced coursework; in elementary schools, full-day kindergarten and preschool programs; and specialized instructional support personnel such as school counselors and social workers—drawing on data already collected and reported under ESSA.

And what about opt-out?  Did the U.S. DOE offer any mercy to schools where parents make a constitutional, fundamental, and God-given right to opt their child out of the state assessment?  Yeah right!

To provide a fair and accurate picture of school success, and help parents, teachers, school leaders, and state officials understand where students are struggling and how best to support them, the law requires that all students take statewide assessments and that states factor into their accountability systems participation rates below 95 percent for all students or subgroups of students, such as English learners or students with disabilities. The regulations do not prescribe how states do this; rather they suggest possibilities for how states might take into account low participation rates and allow states to propose their own actions that can be differentiated based on the extent of the issue, but are sufficiently rigorous to improve schools’ participation rates in the future. Schools missing 95 percent participation must also develop plans to improve based on their local contexts and stakeholder input.

This is just more of the same but wrapped in a different package.  And of course, the National PTA, NEA, AFT and other organizations that should have known better jumped all over this law a year ago.  You reap what you sow!

Trump Picks Betsy DeVos For U.S. Secretary of Education: Let The Privatizing And Union Busting Begin

Out of all the people President Donald Trump could have picked for the United States Secretary of Education, why did it have to be Betsy DeVos?  She supports Common Core, hates teacher unions, loves school choice, vouchers, and more of the same corporate education reform crap we’ve had to deal with in education for the past 15 years.  She supports Right To Work laws, which she helped get through in Michigan.  Her family is the heir to the Amway Corporation.  The Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation started their own charter school in 2014, the West Michigan Aviation Academy.  That’s all we need, is one of… them.  Someone with big money thinking school choice and vouchers are the answers to everything.  So much for Trump’s promise to get rid of Common Core.  He is a liar.  But I am not shocked.

As for the unions, this is going to be a looooong four years for them.  According to Detroit News :

Speaking in July during a school choice forum at the Republican National Convention in Ohio, DeVos accused teachers unions of holding back innovation in education and called them “a formidable foe” at both state and national levels.

Both NEA and AFT should have picked Bernie Sanders in their endorsement for President.  They jumped on the Hillary train and look where they are now?  If they thought they had a tough time under President Obama, they haven’t seen anything yet!  I have no doubt there will be some serious meetings for both organizations in the coming weeks.  Meanwhile, every charter school cheerleader is probably doing cartwheels alongside the private school voucher advocates.  Public education will not know what hit them.  Meanwhile, we have Diane Ravitch backtracking on an earlier article she put up this week where she actually endorsed DeVos.  She thought people would see it as a joke, but apparently they didn’t.  A little too late Diane!  Thanks for that…

 

Parent, Education, and Privacy Groups Oppose Overturning The Ban On A Federal Student Database

Leonie Haimson, the co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, allowed me to share a press release issued by today by the following groups: Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, American Civil Liberties Union, Network for Public Education and NPE Action, Parents Across America, Badass Teachers Association, and New York State Allies for Public Education.

This morning a letter was sent to the federal Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking from parent groups, education advocates, and privacy experts, urging them against proposing that the ban on a centralized federal database of student personal data be overturned. 

Recently, several DC-based groups testified before the Commission, urging that this ban be lifted, which was established by Congress as part of the Higher Education Act in 2008.  The Gates Foundation has also announced that the creation of a centralized federal database to track students from preK through college, the workforce and beyond is one of their top advocacy priorities for 2017.

In the letter, parent, privacy and education organizations warned that eliminating this ban would risk that highly sensitive information would breached, as has occurred with sensitive data held by many federal agencies in recent years.  A hack into the Office of Personal Management released personnel records of about 22.1 million individuals. More recently, an audit of the US Department of Education found serious security flaws in their data systems, and a government security scorecard awarded the agency an overall grade of D.

Moreover, K-12 student data currently collected by states that would potentially be incorporated in the federal database often include upwards of 700 specific personal data elements, including students’ immigrant status, disabilities, disciplinary records, and homelessness. Data collected ostensibly for the sole purpose of research would likely be merged with other federal agency data and could include information from their census, military service, tax returns, criminal and health records.

Said Leonie Haimson, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, whose members led the fight against inBloom, designed to capture and share the personal student data of nine states and districts, “A centralized federal database containing the personal data of every public-school student would pose an even greater risk to individual privacy than inBloom.  It would allow the government to create dossiers on nearly every United States resident over time, and if breached or abused would cause immeasurable damage.”

As privacy advocates in England recently discovered, the personal information in a similar national student database that the government promised would be used only for research purposes has been secretly requested by the police and by the Home Office, in part to identify and locate undocumented children and their families.

“Our disastrous data privacy situation here in England should serve to warn Americans of the grave dangers of this sort of comprehensive student surveillance and database. The personal confidential information in our National Pupil Database was supposed to be used only for research, but we found out recently that data on thousands of students and their families has been secretly requested by the police and for the purposes of immigration control in just the last 15 months. It would be unwise and irresponsible for the United States to create a similar database, which can so easily be used for political purposes which are not in all children’s best interests,” said Jen Persson, coordinator of defenddigitalme, a privacy and digital rights group in the UK.

Chad Marlow, Advocacy& Policy Counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union, said: “Improving educational opportunities for children and protecting student privacy are not mutually exclusive goals.  In fact, it is our responsibility as parents, educators, and Americans to doggedly pursue both objectives.  Creating any type of centralized database for personally identifiable student data would pose real and significant risks to the privacy of America’s students, and that is why such databases have consistently been rejected in the past.  With education policy, as with privacy, ‘do no harm’ is a reasonable place to start, and here, doing no harm clearly requires rejecting any attempts to establish a universal database that compiles and tracks students’ most sensitive information.”

Diane Ravitch, President of the Network for Public Education and NPE Action pointed out, “Whether Democrat or Republican, the one thing parents agree on is the importance of their child’s privacy. To allow the federal government to collect personal and sensitive data on every public-school student in the nation risks that this information would be misused by the government and corporations. “

“Parents Across America opposes any effort to establish a national student record system. Ever since the federal government weakened protections for student privacy, parents have been in a crisis mode. Our children are exposed every school day to a growing mish-mash of screen devices and online programs that capture mountains of their data. We know that the threat to privacy will only get worse if there’s a national record system; education profiteers will line up to tap into an even more convenient source of private student information. But we are determined not to let that happen to our children’s data,” said Julie Woestehoff, Interim Executive Director of Parents Across America.

Lisa Rudley, Executive Director of the NY State Allies for Public Education, observed, “Data collection and sharing of our children’s personally identifiable information should require a parent’s informed consent. Just because the technology of data mining is here, it doesn’t mean children’s privacy rights should be sacrificed.”

“Our children and their families deserve protection of their data.  More importantly, we must understand that protecting our children relies upon protecting their personal information from breach or abuse,” concluded Marla Kilfoyle, Executive Director of the Badass Teachers Association.

The Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking is accepting public comment on this matter until December 14, 2016. For more information, visit the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy website here: http://www.studentprivacymatters.org/federaldatasystem/

####

I certainly hope the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association add similar public comments to this massive plan of Bill Gates…

An Open Letter To NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia

Dear Lily Eskelsen Garcia,

As President of the National Education Association, I am very curious why the NEA Foundation accepts money from the Gates Foundation. While that foundation does have some very noble projects going on with health issues in Africa, they also have some very disturbing things that have caused serious disruption in public education.  I can’t remotely fathom how anything even associated with the largest teachers union in the country would want anything to do with the Gates Foundation.

Gates and all the other foundations that support corporate education reform want to bust the teachers unions. They want to privatize education and make schools 21st Century community learning centers.  Everything the NEA stands for will eventually crumble to dust.  Gone will be a teacher instructing a class.  Instead, they will get training on how to guide students on their 1:1 devices.

I am not a teacher. I’m a parent.  I understand NEA is about teachers.  But lately, at least in terms of leadership, it seems like those leaders are all about themselves and their personal quest for power.  It isn’t even about the teachers anymore.  If I were a teacher, I would consider it a slap in the face knowing NEA actually collaborates with these entities.

I can only assume you are well-connected with these organizations and know exactly what they are planning. As an education blogger, I’ve written about it as have many others.  The writing is on the wall but you seem to be worried about that one tiny corner in the room with a tiny cobweb.  At least that’s what you tell your membership.  I find it abhorrent you would sell out those who elected you.

But what I find even more bizarre is the buzzwords coming out of NEA and all these education organizations pretending they know what is best for children. If you are following the corporate mantras then you lost touch with what is best for kids a long time ago.  This makes you, NEA leadership, and the NEA Foundation a part of the problem, not a hope for a solution.

When I first began blogging over two years ago, I soon find myself rooting for teachers. I joined the Badass Teachers Facebook page and began to see how all of this affected teachers.  But I find myself wondering why the supposed leadership of teachers is getting in bed with companies that want to destroy you and your membership.

I would like you to explain this. Not for me, but for the hundreds of thousands of teachers who elected you as President of the NEA.  Also for the students who are under the care of teachers for 1/3rd of their life until they graduate high school.

I understand many will take offense to this very open and public letter to you. But I also know what is coming up in the very near future, based on the seeds planted by the privatizers of education.  You keep watering those plants and they will weed out what is left of public education.  I warned you and AFT about jumping on the Every Student Succeeds Act and begging your membership to support it before the final legislation came out.  That law will destroy NEA and the American Federation of Teachers.

You seem more concerned with Donald Trump lately than the very real danger facing teachers as every state in the country submits their ESSA state plans. It doesn’t matter who the next President of this country is.  Our national government sold their souls to corporations and foundations a long time ago.  This is all just distraction so they can get their final pieces in play. I suppose that is why the NEA Foundation is actually helping to fund all these ed tech conferences and global future forums.  It is complete nonsense and they are taking teachers money and investing it in what will replace them.  Doesn’t that bother you in the slightest?

In my viewpoint, this is like the snake giving you the apple. But you don’t just take a bite out of it, you start taking tons of apples, begin making apple pies, and sell them for the snake.  It is just wrong.  If you can’t look out for teachers and their future, please step down.  And for those who are also subscribed to these viewpoints in NEA and AFT, you should step down as well.  The price for teachers and students is too big to have power brokers dancing with the devil.  I’m sure the viewpoint of parents is the last thing on your mind, but we are sick and tired of those who think they know what is best for our children but are selling them out behind the scenes.  You seem to forget that today’s students are tomorrow’s teachers.  What you do to them now will make sure NEA will become an archived post on Wikipedia that gets less readers by the year.

If you want our schools to become personalized learning competency-based career tracking community schools of the future, where students have no privacy and everything is catalogued while they earn to learn, then please, go work for a cyber charter school. If not, then please detach from any corporation that wants to destroy what you lead.  Only then will I truly believe you have teachers best interests in mind.  Your job should be leading teachers away from this madness, not embracing it.

 

Sincerely,

Kevin Ohlandt

Dover, DE

 

NEA Members Call Out Lily Eskelsen-Garcia Over “Partnership” With Relay Graduate School

A new business item showed up this morning at the National Educators Association’s annual representative assembly, held in Washington D.C. This one is very interesting. It concerns an alleged partnership NEA has with Relay Graduate School of Education. They are both involved in the corporate education reformer led “Teach Strong” initiative. But a partnership bears further investigation. In an article calling out both NEA and the American Federation of Teachers, both NEA leader Lily Eskelsen Garcia and AFT leader Randy Weingarten were raked over the coals for their affiliation with these groups and companies.

NEARelay

This action item calls for an explanation from Eskelsen-Garcia on why she is partnering with an organization that is the anti-thesis of NEA.  Programs like Relay and Teach For America diminish the role of teachers in public education and cause a wide-spread path of destruction along the way.  Their teachers, no matter what their intentions are, do not receive the same training regular teachers do, and get rammed into a crash-course on teaching.  Many of them frequently do not stay in the profession.  Some become administrators, leap-frogging past certified teachers, or get jobs with ed reform companies or state DOEs.  If NEA is partnering with an organization like Relay, their members definitely need an explanation from Eskelsen-Garcia.

I called her out last year over NEA’s rushed endorsement of the Every Student Succeeds Act.  As well, they were a very early endorser for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential candidacy.  Even though they are making it an official vote at this rep assembly to endorse her, it is something leadership did almost a year ago already.  Right now, Hillary is speaking to the assembled NEA members at their assembly.  In a picture taken before she arrived on the stage, teachers are seen waving and clapping as if Hillary is the second coming.  Someone made a comment of “Stepford Teachers”… a comment I am inclined to agree with.  I am no fan of Hillary, or Trump for that matter.  These are dark times…

NEAHillary

As the saying goes, while you may want a seat at the table, you also need to recognize when you are on the table.  NEA members need to be extra vigilant these days.  It’s not just a matter of trust, it is also a matter of survival in an increasingly hostile environment for public school teachers.   When dealing with these corporate education reform companies, collaboration is the same thing as alliance.  In Delaware, we have this ridiculous thing called “The Delaware Way” where parties comes to the table and compromise.  It is ridiculous and absurd and allows very bad entities into things they have no business being in.  NEA seems to have taken up this mantra as well.  Time to call out the leadership folks!

What Is The ESSA Implementation Network?

ESSAPic

The US House Committee on Education and The Workforce released a statement on the Every Student Succeeds Act implementation today.  It turns out a lot of the groups that were cheering Congress to pass the law now want a seat at the table for the transition.  Nobody really understands the full implications of the law.  It almost seems as if they threw a bunch of ingredients in a pot, stirred it all up, and called it legislation.  Now all those who begged people to support it don’t really know what it all means.  Or they do and they are just making it look like they are responsible stakeholders who will guide the states to full transparency.   You know, the unions, the National PTA, the Governor groups, national state board, school board, superintendent, legislator, and principal associations.  Many of the same organizations who created the mess to begin with!  The ones who made ESSA necessary by collaborating with the education reformers on high-stakes testing and Common Core.  The ones who never fully supported parent opt-out even though one of them has the word “parent” in their title…

And the press release from the Education & Workforce Committee:

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, chaired by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), today held an oversight hearing on the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Members learned what state and local leaders expect from the new law and discussed opportunities to ensure control over K-12 education is restored to states and school districts.

“The passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act puts states and school districts back in charge of education, and includes more than 50 pages of provisions to keep the Department of Education in check,” Chairman Rokita said. “Moving forward, it’s our collective responsibility to hold the Department of Education accountable for how it implements the law. Congress promised to restore state and local control over K-12 education, and now it’s our job to ensure that promise is kept.”

A key part of that effort is congressional oversight of the Department of Education as it implements the law. Kent Talbert, former general counsel for the department, described the responsibility of the administration in adhering to both the letter of the law and the congressional intent behind it. For example, under the Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal government is “prohibited from mandating, directing, or controlling a state, school district, or school’s instructional content, curricula, programs of instruction, or standards or assessments. This prohibition includes any requirement to adopt the Common Core Standards.”

Citing this and other examples, Talbert said the unifying theme of ESSA’s provisions is limiting the federal role in education and returning decision-making authority back to the states and school districts. That’s why, when it comes to implementing the law, Superintendent of Hartselle City Schools in Hartselle, Alabama Vic Wilson, said, “less is more.” Speaking specifically about the role the Department of Education, Wilson added, “[The department] can empower school districts to think outside the box and implement procedures and policies that best meet the needs of schools and students they serve.”

Dr. Wilson continued, “ESSA makes it clear … Congress’ intent is that states should be solely responsible for decisions regarding accountability, standards, teachers, and other factors.” Oklahoma’s State School Superintendent Joy Hofmeister agreed, adding her state-level perspective to the discussion. “States like Oklahoma,” said Hofmeister, “will only be able to achieve the full promise of the ESSA if the federal government holds true to the spirit of the law.”

“States are not only ready, but we are willing and able to lead,” Hofmeister continued, urging Congress and the department to “trust us as we work with parents, teachers and key stakeholders to transition to this new law.”

Those sentiments were echoed today by organizations representing parents, teachers, and state and local leaders. In a letter to Acting Secretary of Education John King, the organizations wrote, “We must work together to closely honor congressional intent. ESSA is clear: Education decision making now rests with states and districts, and the federal role is to support and inform those decisions.”

“It is my firm belief,” Chairman Rokita concluded, “that when the Every Student Succeeds Act is implemented as Congress intended, parents, teachers, and state and local leaders will be empowered to deliver the excellent education every child deserves.”

To learn more about this hearing, visit edworkforce.house.gov.

# # #

USA Teachers: It Is 11:59 On The Public Education Doomsday Clock! Wake Up And Act NOW! #StopESEA

clock

This is an urgent message to every single public school teacher in America.  You need to fight for your jobs.  That’s right.  You need to STOP this ESEA bill coming to a vote on Wednesday.  If you don’t, it will weigh on your conscience when all the bad stuff in the bill is implemented and you have even less control than you do now.  This legislation actually changes the future of teaching.  You will no longer be a teacher, giving instruction to your students.  You will become a data coach.  A facilitator.  Is this what you want?  If it is, then you can certainly stay the course.  If you want to stand around while children are plugged into computers all day and you base your very brief interaction with students on what will amount to a corporate written script, then stay the course.  But I urge you to read this legislation when it is made public tomorrow.  You need to act fast once you do.  Call your Congress representatives immediately if you do not think this is a good thing.

You have been under-minded by numerous companies and “leaders” in America.  Between No Child Left Behind, Common Core, Race To The Top, VAM, Standardized Testing, and so forth.  Are you really going to sit back and let this happen again?  You have a voice.  A very powerful voice.  Use it.  And not through the lips of your leaders.  Use your own voices.  But do it now before it is too late.

Just because your union presidents are endorsing this sham of an education bill does not mean you have to.  This bill is designed solely for the corporate education reformers.  The very same ones who pushed VAM and hardcore evaluations on you.  If you want to see the escalation of more money going out to companies instead of your classrooms, than doing nothing or endorsing this bill is your best course of action.  But if you believe that this is not education, but a nightmare being inflicted on kids and teachers, than you need to get on the phone, email, social media and any way or method you have to put a stop to this bill.

I am sure many of you are thinking “It’s no use.  There is nothing I can do.”  If you have that attitude, you are absolutely right.  But there are many of you fighting this fight and using their voice.  They will not quit.  They will not let public education be destroyed by greed and corruption.  If you truly believe in public education, then you need to fight.  And even if  you like some parts of this bill, you need to nuke the whole package with your voice.  All of you.

For those reading this who have no clue who I am, I will tell you.  I’m just a dad.  A very angry and upset father who has watched the fall of education happen before my very eyes.  I watched it affect my own son with disabilities in the worst ways possible.  I acted.  I researched.  I dove in to the data and the very diabolical events happening at my state’s Department of Education.  I saw how they pushed stuff through that was damaging to teachers and students and schools with no one the wiser.  I got wise.  I made it my mission to upset their plans as much as humanly possible.  I speak because so many of you can’t.  But it has reached a point where those of us who are fighting the good fight need you to rise.  If you have to march on your state capital or actually drive to D.C., do it.  Use social media as your weapon pointed right at those who would disrespect you and destroy what you enjoy.  But for the love of public education, do something!

You don’t have time to do nothing.  It is 11:59 on the public education doomsday clock!

 

The above picture was originally on Amazing Stories Mag

#StopESEA @NEAToday @AFTunion @BadassTeachersA Do Not Endorse This Reauthorization, Very Bad For Teachers

To the members of the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teacher, and the Badass Teachers Association:

I know many of you are torn over the latest edition of the Elementary/Secondary Education Act reauthorization.  It looks great on the surface.  But embedded within are numerous “easter eggs” designed to steal your jobs right out from under you.  It won’t happen tomorrow.  It won’t happen a month from now.  This is the long con.  This bill will eventually replace the jobs you rightfully deserve, and will put data facilitators in your place.  Students will be plugged into their personalized learning modules, striving to pass their current unit standardized assessment.  K-12 will become a thing of the past.  The need for teacher instruction will be gone.  I’m going to take a wild guess that most of you don’t see this as a great leap forward in your profession.  So I have to ask, why are the leaders of the NEA and AFT urging members to endorse this reauthorization?  Why are they considering this the great change that will bring back the respect and standing you have lost over the years?  Start at your local level and bring it all the way up the food chain straight to NEA President Lily Eskelen Garcia and AFT President Randi Weingarten.  Let your locals know you are not happy with this.  The devil is in the details, and while many of you are glad teacher evaluations are being looked at in different lights, do not think for one second that the entire profession of teaching as you know it is not in serious jeopardy.  And I would urge Garcia and Weingarten to look out for their members and not play politics with so much at stake.  Our children’s teachers deserve better than this bill, and I think you both know this.

To the Badass Teachers: you are all awesome and I love your dedication to education!  Don’t change a thing about what you do, but do not endorse this horrible legislation!

The Tentacles Of Corporate Education Reform And How They Pull Parents Down The Rabbit Hole

Embedded in the latest Elementary/Secondary Education Act reauthorization are initiatives and agendas that will transform education as we know it. This is not a good thing. Nothing in Delaware currently going on (WEIC, Student Success 2025, Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities) is original. This is happening across the country. The result: students plugged in to computers all the time who will only advance once they have gained proficiency in the Common Core-infused personalized learning technology. The benefits will not be for the students.  They come in the form of financial benefits which will belong to the corporate education reformers, hedge fund managers, and investors. Tech-stock will go through the roof if the current ESEA reauthorization passes, and companies like Schoology, Great Schools and 2Revolutions Inc. will become billionaires over-night. Meanwhile, our children will indeed become slaves to the system. The future is here!

The ESEA reauthorization has morphed into the classic quote from Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars movie: “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”  If you actually think this latest round of ESEA legislation that will come to a vote next Wednesday will reduce testing, you have been sucked down the rabbit hole!

Who is Schoology?  I’ve heard their name countless times in the past year.  I figured it was long past time I dove into this company that is essentially invading every single school district and charter in the First State.  Especially given the information regarding the upcoming ESEA reauthorization vote coming on 12/2.

Schoology offers a cloud service for personalized and blended learning.  For those who aren’t aware, personalized learning is defined by a Great Schools sponsored company as the following:

Personalized learning is generally seen as an alternative to so-called “one-size-fits-all” approaches to schooling in which teachers may, for example, provide all students in a given course with the same type of instruction, the same assignments, and the same assessments with little variation or modification from student to student.

But this is what it really is: a cash-cow bonanza for corporate education reform companies, especially those on the tech side who are pushing their internet-based modules out faster than you realize.  Schoology opened shop in Delaware with the BRINC partnership between the Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech and Colonial school districts.  These four districts used Schoology as the base for their personalized learning partnership, and the Caesar Rodney and Appoquinimink districts have joined as well.  The News Journal wrote a huge article on Schoology last March, and reporter Matthew Albright wrote:

Schools must figure out how to create the right infrastructure, providing enough bandwidth and wireless network capacity. They have to settle on the right computers or tablets and find ways to pay for them, configure them, and teach students how to use them.

And, while many teachers have taken their own initiative to find new educational tools, schools and districts have to find ways to train teachers in using these systems and make sure all educators are on the same page.

In Delaware, a group of districts has banded together to work out the best way to deal with those challenges.

The consortium is called BRINC, after the four school districts that originally participated: Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech and Colonial. The group added two more districts, Appoquinimink and Caesar Rodney, this year.

Over a year ago, I was distracted away from this by a company called 2Revolutions Inc.  After their appearance at the annual Vision Coalition conference, I looked into 2Revolutions and did not like what I was seeing.  My eye was on 2Revolutions coming into Delaware as a vendor, and I completely missed Schoology who was already here.  Meanwhile, 2Revolutions invaded the New Hampshire education landscape.  Schoology is not much different.  But they don’t just provide a cloud service in Delaware.  According to the minutes from the Senate Concurrent Resolution #22 Educational Technology Task Force in Delaware, Schoology has also integrated with e-School and IEP Plus.  In a press release from Schoology on 5/20/14, the company announced they were integrating with SunGard K-12 Education (the creators of e-school and IEP Plus):

SunGard K-12 Education’s eSchoolPLUS, an industry-recognized student information system, helps educational stakeholders—students, school administrators, district staff, teachers, parents, and board members—easily manage and immediately access the summary and detailed student information they need, when they need it.

While this seems like a good thing, it is a tremendous amount of data which is now in Schoology’s hands.  Schoology is also branching out like crazy all over the country.  They just announced a contract with L.A. Unified School District, as well as Seattle Public School District and Boulder Valley School District.  In terms of financing, they just secured their fourth round of financing with JMI Investments to the tune of $32 million dollars.  This brings their total financing amount to $57 million over the past couple years from investment firms.  The trick to all of this is in the surface benefits: the cloud-based service where teachers can share instruction is free.  But where it goes from there is unchartered territory, according to Tech-Crunch:

On the other side, there is an enterprise-grade product meant for school districts and universities, that gives richer functionality to administrators to hook into back-end student information systems, build out campuses and building maps, and far more. Schoology said that the price (which is per student, per year) is scaled down for larger clients, but he wouldn’t share the general price range for Schoology Enterprise.

Schoology also provides “assistive technology” services for professional development, according to more minutes from the SCR #22 Task Force:

The creation of comprehensive online professional development using the Schoology platform for both Delaware and Assistive Technology Guidelines documents.

The task force is also going to recommend the following:

Provide district/charters the opportunity to buy-into using Schoology with K-12 students at minimal cost. Increase funding to support growth of the use of Schoology that will drive the per student cost down.
Support the use of Resources within Schoology for sharing teacher-created content and OER.

The SCR #22 Educational Technology Task Force was brought forth by Delaware Senator Bryan Townsend, and sponsored by Senator David Sokola, State Rep. Earl Jaques, State Rep. Trey Paradee, and co-sponsored by Senator Colin Bonini. While this task force is going on, there is another task force called the Student Data Privacy Task Force, which came from an amendment to Senate Bill 79, sponsored by Senator Sokola.  Sokola and Jaques also sponsored the current Senate Joint Resolution #2 Assessment Inventory Task Force. I firmly believe every single one of these task forces, aside from having very similar legislators behind the scenes, will also serve to bring about the complete immersion of Delaware into personalized learning. I wrote last month about the clear and present danger behind the data collection occurring with Delaware students.  But it doesn’t just stop at personalized learning because at a state and national level there is a big push for “competency-based education”, which I wrote about a few weeks ago.

Competency-Based Education, also called Proficiency Based Learning, is a process where students do not advance until they have mastered the material. Instead of a once a year standardized assessment, students will be tested at the end of a unit, on a computer. Think Smarter Balanced Assessment broken up into numerous chunks throughout the year. This “stealth” testing will effectively “reduce the amount of testing” but would also give the exact same tests but at a micro-level. This is also an opt-out killer as parents would have no way of knowing how often their child is being tested, nor would they likely have access to the actual questions on the mini-assessments.  Meanwhile, as President Obama and soon-to-be-former US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan mirror Delaware’s Senate Joint Resolution #2, parents and educators are saying “Yes, yes, yes!” but bloggers like myself are saying “No, no, no!”

Save Maine Schools, a blog written by a teacher from Maine named Emily Talmage, has delved into this digital nightmare in great length.  Talmage bought the product these companies were selling until she wisely began to question the motives behind it all.  Maine, along with New Hampshire, Alaska, and Delaware, is one of the state guinea pigs where the experiment of Personalized Learning and Competency-Based Education is at the forefront.  All four of these states have smaller populations and are led by reform-style education leaders.  Talmage recently wrote about what has been going on while we were testing:

The fact is, the state-led testing consortia , which promised to use our tax money to bring us high quality tests that would get our kids “college and career ready”, were actually business consortia, strategically formed to collaborate on “interoperability frameworks” – or, to use simpler terms, ways of passing data and testing content from one locale to the next (from Pearson to Questar, for example, or from your local town to the feds).

Just as the Common Core State Standards were intended to unleash a common market, so, too, was the effort to create a common digital “architecture” that would allow companies like Questar and Pearson and Measured Progress and all the rest to operate in a “plug in play” fashion. (Think of Xbox, Nintendo, PlayStation, and all the rest teaming up to make a super-video-game console.)

The upcoming ESEA reauthorization, called the “Every Student Succeeds Act”, is filled with easter eggs and cash prizes for companies like Schoology, as seen in the below document from EdWeek.

That is a ton of federal money going out to schools from legislation designed on the surface to halt federal interference in education.  It sounds like Race To The Top all over again, but on a much bigger scale.  The tentacles from the feds reach deep into the states with this latest ESEA reauthorization, and behind the US DOE are all the companies that will feast on tax-payer funds.

The bill also allows for further charter school expansion and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools recently said:

The National Alliance congratulates the conference committee for taking another step forward in the bipartisan effort to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. While we have not yet seen the full text of the conference agreement, we are pleased to learn the proposal would modernize the Charter Schools Program, supporting the growth and expansion of high-quality charter schools to better meet parental demand.

When the opt-out movement grew in huge numbers earlier this year, many civil rights groups protested opt-out as a means of putting minority children further behind their peers.  What they don’t realize is the current ESEA reauthorization will ensure this happens!  Even the two largest teacher union organizations are jumping on this version of ESEA.  The American Federation of Teachers wrote a letter urging ESEA to pass as soon as possible.  National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia wrote:

We look forward to working with the congressional conference committee members to ensure that we produce a bill that, when signed by the president, gives every student the opportunity, support, tools, and time to learn.

How much do these civil rights groups and leaders of teacher unions really know about what is inside this bill?  Do they understand the danger of rushing this ESEA version to a vote and what it will mean for the future of education and children?  Don’t the teacher unions realize this will be the death knell for the future of teachers in America?  Once personalized learning is embraced by all public schools in America, teachers will become moderators or facilitators of the personalized learning modules.  The demand for “old-school” teachers will greatly diminish, and teacher qualifications will simply become how to review and program these digital instructional items.  The vast amount of money and resources will pour into technology and only the school leaders will be the ones with high salaries.  The current teacher salary models in each state will become a thing of the past.  With the charter school protections written in this bill, more and more charters will open up that will drain away local dollars.  With each state able to come up with their own accountability systems, the schools with the highest-needs students will slowly give way to charters.  Rinse, wash, repeat.  If I were a public school teacher that is in a union, I would seriously question why the national leaders are endorsing this.

Even American Institutes for Research (AIR), the testing vendor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware and holds numerous other contracts with other states and the US Department of Education is in on this new “digital age”:

As part of the Future Ready initiative, President Obama hosted more than 100 school superintendents at the White House during a November 19, 2014 “ConnectED to the Future” summit.  Superintendents signed the Future Ready District Pledge indicating their commitment to work with educators, families and communities to develop broadband infrastructures; make high-quality digital materials and devices more accessible; and support professional development programs for educators, schools and districts as they transition to digital learning.

But it doesn’t stop there, because AIR wants districts to invest heavily in all this technology:

Effectively using technology is an essential skill in today’s workforce but also critical to advancing teaching and learning. Today’s students aren’t just digital natives: they increasingly use digital devices to complete school assignments, stay informed, and network with peers around the world. A tipping point for technology and schooling may be in store soon:  instead of merely enhancing teaching and learning, technology may transform both by better accommodating individual learning styles and facilitating collaboration. Whether through the deeper learning, personalized learning, or blended learning approaches districts are exploring and investing heavily in now, technology could finally help your state unlock instruction—educational policy’s “black box”—and ultimately close achievement gaps.

It all comes back to closing those damn achievement gaps, based on the very same state standards and standardized testing that are creating those very same achievement gaps.  This is something AIR excels at, creating the “need” and then selling the “fix”.  Some have theorized, but been unable to prove due to an inability to get into AIR’s contracts and financial records, that companies like WestEd, Questar, Data Recognition Corp. (the “human scorer” company for the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware), and Measurement Inc. are merely shell companies for AIR.  AIR seems to be controlling so much of what is in education.  So much so, it is hard to tell the difference between AIR and the Council of Chief State School Officers.  Which brings us back to Delaware Governor Jack Markell.

This is a man who has been involved in corporate education reform for well over ten years, possibly longer.  He worked at McKinsey and Associates in the 90’s as a consultant, and after coining Nextel, he became the State Treasurer for Delaware, a role he served from 2001-2009.  Since then, he has served as the Governor of Delaware and been behind every single education reform movement that has swept the country.  When Markell served as the President of the National Governor’s Association in 2013, he attended some very big events.  Including the Milken Institute Global Conference.  While in attendance, he served on several panels that were not open to the public and were considered private “by invitation only”.  Why would an elected official, sworn to uphold the best interests of his state, serve on private panels for huge investment firms?  The panels Markell served on at the Milken conference were “Global Capital Markets Advisory Council” (along with Tony Blair, Michael Milken, Eric Cantor and Rupert Murdoch) and “K-12 Education Private Lunch”.  Those were the only two panels Markell talked on, both private, and both closed to the public.

Jack Markell, the great violator of parental rights, who vetoed opt-out legislation in Delaware that overwhelmingly passed the Delaware House and Senate, is one of the key political figures and puppet masters behind all of this.  With close ties to Achieve, McKinsey, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, New America, and the Center for American Progress, Markell is a very dangerous man in education.  Markell’s ambitions are not for the good of the citizens of Delaware.  His constituents are the very same companies behind the latest ESEA reauthorization, personalized learning, competency-based education, and the public shaming of educators everywhere unless they happen to belong to a charter school.  He was even involved in the creation of Common Core:

He has also served for three years as Chair of the National Board of Directors of Jobs for America’s Graduates, co-chair of the Common Core Standards Initiative and chair of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League.

The last of those groups is a civil rights organization in Delaware’s largest city, Wilmington.  When Markell first announced his “original” idea of assessment inventory, he was joined in the press conference by the head of that organization at the time.

In Delaware, we are led by a tyrant who leads the charge in education reform and allows the money-sucking vampires like Schoology to come in and pocket funds that allow bloated classrooms.  Companies like Schoology will make damn sure students with disabilities, children from poverty, and at-risk youth are always behind their peers.  This is what their services thrive on, the constant demand to fix education.  As our US Congress votes on the ESEA reauthorization, keep this in mind: it is not meant for every student to succeed.  It is all about the money.  Follow it, and you too will see the path to success.

What can parents and teachers do?  Aside from following the money, which is a mammoth task and all too frequently a lesson in humility, look at your local, state and national leaders.

Look at legislation and regulations.

What initiatives and plans are your district boards, charter boards, and state boards of education voting on?

For charter school parents, do you ever question why the boards of charters are appointed rather than elected?

Do you ever look at “task forces”, “working groups” and “committees” in your state and wonder who is on them and why there were appointed?

Does  your state sell the term “stakeholders” in determining policies but many of the same people serve on these groups?

Which of your state legislators are introducing legislation that seems harmless on the surface but has caveats and loopholes deeply embedded into it?

Which legislators are up for re-election and could be easily swayed for promises of future power?

Which legislators are running for higher office?

What policies and laws are your state Congress representatives voting on?

What is your Governor up to?  Do you see news blips about them speaking at private organizations but it is not on their public schedule?

Do you see action by legislators that seems to defy the beliefs of their individual political party?

Do you see education leaders and legislators comingling with lobbyists in your state Capital?

For teachers, where does your local union and state union stand on these issues?  Your national?

Parents: if your school has a PTA or PTO, what are their collective stances on these critical issues?

Do you know if your State Board of Education is elected or appointed?

Find out who your state lobbyists are.  Read.  Search.  Discover.  Question everything.  Email your state legislators and Congress representatives when you don’t agree with something you believe will have no direct benefit for your individual child.  Vote for those who you think will stand against this bi-partisan regime of education vampires.  Question those who sit on the sidelines and do nothing.  Push them.  Make your voice heard.  .  Look into initiatives going on in your state, or research groups looking into school funding or redistricting.  Part of the ESEA reauthorization has states looking at “weighted funding”, whereby funds would pour into more high-needs schools.  As well, the reauthorization would allow more Title I dollars to go into the “bottom” schools than they currently do.  When I say “bottom”, these are schools usually with the most high-needs students who do not do well on the standardized tests.  In many states, these schools become charter schools.  Once again, rinse, wash, repeat.

One thing to keep in mind is the corporate education reform movement is everywhere.  Like a secret society, they have embedded themselves and they are hiding in plain sight.  In every single one of the groups mentioned above.  Some of the people I am asking people to look into may not even realize they are a part of these agendas.  Some may just think they are doing the right thing.  For folks like myself, Diane Ravitch, Mercedes Schneider, Emily Talmage and countless others, our job is to expose and name them.  We discover the lies and call them out.  We are the last line of defense before your child’s worthwhile education is completely gone, lost in the shadows and truckloads of money behind those who would dare to steal your child’s benefit for their own future.  Unless you are part of the wealthy and elite, your child’s fate is being decided on next week during the vote for the ESEA reauthorization.  Most of you don’t even realize this.  Many that do have been duped and fooled into believing this is the right thing.  Many of us have been fighting the evil standardized test and opting out, and the whole time they have been plotting and scheming in closed-door meetings with companies to bring about the last phase of corporate education reform: the complete and utter brainwashing of your child wired into a never-ending state of constant assessment and proficiency based on the curriculum that they wrote.  They fooled the bloggers as well.  But we are the resistance, and we will not stop the defense of our children.  We will protect our schools and our communities from the corporate raiders.  We will keep opting out and fighting for the rights of others to do so as well.  We will not be bought or sold into the devious and intrinsic methodologies they seek to perpetuate on our society.  We will fight, not because we gain personal reward or acclaim, but because it is the right thing to do.

What Is Jack Markell Up To Today? Teachers Beware!

Delaware Governor Jack Markell is speaking at an “all-star” panel today about the best paths to move the teaching profession forward.  Who is the latest education reform think tank Markell is speaking for?  None other than the Center for American Progress.  From their press release:

Washington, D.C. — In order to ensure that all students are taught by excellent teachers, leaders must reimagine the systems and structure of the teacher career continuum. Yet the United States has never made a serious commitment to modernizing, elevating, and professionalizing the teaching pathway. This Tuesday, November 10, will mark the kickoff of the TeachStrong campaign, a diverse and powerful coalition of 40 education organizations that have come together to call on the nation’s leaders to make modernizing and elevating the teaching profession the top education policy priority in 2016 and beyond.

The TeachStrong launch event will feature Gov. Terry Branstad (R-IA) and Gov. Jack Markell (D-DE), who will deliver keynote addresses on their efforts to elevate teaching in their states. An all-star panel of education leaders will discuss the path forward around this critical issue.

WHO:

Opening remarks:
Carmel Martin, Executive Vice President for Policy, Center for American Progress

Keynote remarks:
Gov. Terry Branstad (R-IA)
Gov. Jack Markell (D-DE)

Moderator:
Amanda Ripley, Author, New York Times bestseller The Smartest Kids in the World

Panelists:
Peggy Brookins, Interim President and CEO, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards
Bobby Miles, Multi Classroom Leader and Science Teacher, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools; Member, North Carolina Association of Educators
Rep. George Miller, former U.S. Representative (D-CA); Senior Education Advisor, Cengage Learning
Mary Cathryn Ricker, Executive Vice President, American Federation of Teachers

WHAT:

TeachStrong Launch Event

WHERE:

The Mayflower Hotel
Palm Court Ballroom
1127 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, D.C., 20036

WHEN:

Tuesday, November 10, 2015
10:00 a.m. ET – 12:00 p.m. ET


Is it just me, or is Markell doing more education speeches for national organizations than he is in Delaware?  Is he posturing himself for life after 2016?  He is definitely up to something.  My greatest fear for education is Jack Markell as the next Secretary of Education under President Hilary Clinton.  Last summer he spoke at New America where he called the Smarter Balanced Assessment “the best test Delaware ever made”.

The other forty organizations involved in this Kool-Aid festival?  The usual suspects but also some other surprising organizations including the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.  Those are the two largest national unions in the country for teachers.  Why are they participating at this corporate education reform mess?  Bad move…teachers beware…