Dave Sokola’s Commercial For Corporate Education Reform & Money For The Poverty Pimps Will Not Sway Voters

Delaware Senator David Sokola is frantic over his upcoming election.  Meredith Chapman, a Republican in his district, filed earlier this year to run against the long-time Senator.  So how does Sokola respond to the many allegations that his actions have thwarted Delaware education for 25 years?  He writes a letter to the News Journal pimping the very same bad policies he helped create.  He does this by praising a report on how America has No Time To Lose, brought to us by the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Oh, and Dave helped write the report…

I felt the need to point out some of Dave’s fallacies in this letter.

We’re lucky in Delaware to have collaboration among our public and charter schools, businesses, unions, and higher ed institutions, plus community, foundation, and state leaders.  If we are going to succeed, and sustain that success, we need to be open, transparent and inclusive.

In Delaware, we call this the Rodel Foundation and their ten-year roadmap Vision programs and coalitions.  They send out surveys that lean heavily towards what they want and call that stakeholder input.  And since so many Delawareans believe in “The Delaware Way”, these education leaders and members of the business community feed the fire by sitting at the table.  Meanwhile, Dr. Paul Herdman pushes this because, well, that $344,000 salary sure is groovy.  Sokola’s firm belief in successful schools led to the creation of one of the most discriminatory schools in America, Newark Charter School.  Everything he does props up this school which he relies on for votes every time the election cycle spins around again.  And we saw this district and charter collaboration really working this past weekend in one of the shadiest back-room deals Delaware education has ever seen.  And I have no doubt in my mind that Sokola was somehow involved in that charter school scam.  Which charter school in Delaware would have received the most benefit from this change in funding?  Newark Charter School.  And it was their idea!  Thank God enough legislators acted fast enough to put this very bad idea on pause.  He is a bill destroyer when legislation comes around that would actually prevent his own ideas from coming to fruition.  His sole pupose in the General Assembly is to pervert the masses with Governor Markell’s very bad education beliefs.  In terms of “transparency”, this is a guy who doesn’t feel posting minutes for the Senate Education Committee is important.  The same guy who changes agendas for these meetings at the last-minute and yells at parents during meetings when they disagree with him.  Yeah, that guy…

We’re piloting innovative clinical residency programs and lab schools, on top of new models for peer observation, feedback, and reflection.

In corporate education reform lingo, we call this Teach For America, Relay Graduate Schools, and other bad teacher practices that put college graduates in low-income schools with six weeks of training.  Many of these “teachers” don’t end up staying in the profession and end up working for state Departments of Education or the thousands of education poverty pimp companies out there that take money from the classroom.  Sokola gutted a bill that would remove the Smarter Balanced Assessment as a sole factor in one of the components of our teacher evaluation system in Delaware.  He also thought having parent and student surveys would be a good idea in determining a teacher’s evaluation score.  The bill passed, but our Governor Markell hasn’t signed it yet.

The fact is that most American state education systems are falling dangerously behind the world in a number of international comparisons and on our own National Assessment of Educational Progress, leaving the United States overwhelmingly underprepared to success in the 21st century economy.

Yeah, we were fooled on this when Common Core and Race To The Top came into our lives.  Race To The Top ended, and many states are attempting to remove Common Core from their state standards.  The experiment failed.  What Sokola can’t get through his thick head is that Americans aren’t believing the lies anymore.  We don’t care what these reports say because we know they are built on statistics that are created to benefit these reports.  Many of the same people involved in this latest report created the very same tests that show we are failing.  And now they are telling us to trust them and find a new path for our country at risk (again)?  Sorry Dave, you can only tell the same story so many times until it starts sounding like crap.  This is a commercial.  Paid for by U.S. taxpayers.

And which countries did Sokola visit to make these grand-standing statements?

We visited high-performing systems here in the United States, as well as Beijing and Shanghai, China, to learn more about their success.

Okay, let’s go back to the old chestnut in comparing the U.S. to China.  This has been debunked more times than I can count.  China uses only the most successful students to take their standardized tests.  So of course their results will skew higher.  Enough Dave.  That is so 2012.

What kills me though is reading some of the names involved in this report.  But one stands out above the rest: Marc Tucker.  He is listed as the CEO and President of the National Center on Education and the Economy, who wrote their own “Tough Choices, Tough Times” report ten years ago which served as an impetus for Common Core. Yes, that Marc Tucker.  The one who wrote Hillary Clinton a letter in 1992 which set the blueprint for all that went down in public education since.  The one who believed every single word of the 1983 horror show called “A Nation At Risk”.  But now we need to heed these prophetic whispers of doom in this new report, according to Tucker:

This hard-hitting, refreshingly honest report is a bipartisan clarion call for a very different definition of ‘education reform’ than the one that has dominated the American political landscape for years.  The country will ignore it at its peril.

Okay Dr. Doom.  Thanks for your words of wisdom.  I think America is pretty much done with you.  How much money have you made on the “fix American education” racket you’ve been involved in for 25 years?  Which is about as long as Dave Sokola has been pimping this same bad education policy in Delaware.

Sokola is trying to give himself some credibility where he has none.  The barometer of everything that comes out of this washed-up Senator is the standardized test.  He lives and breathes on these tests.  He ignores the realities behind them and how they aren’t a true measurement of student success.  He is a broken record, stuck in the same groove since 1990.  He knows he is in extreme danger of losing his Senate seat.  But he isn’t listening to anything the majority of Delawareans are telling him: “Shut up Dave!”  Instead we get these cash in the trash reports designed solely to make corporations richer that take desperately needed funds out of our schools.

On Election Day this year, do the best thing in the world for the children in the 8th Senate District.  Vote for Meredith Chapman and help our children in the 21st Century to be one notch away from bad education policy in Delaware.  Look beyond party politics.  People like Sokola, who pretend to be Progressives, ride that train so they can get in the system for their own twisted agendas.  Dump Dave!

New Legislation Uses “Cyber Attack Threat” To Shield Delaware’s Student Data Mining Tactics

Delaware Governor Jack Markell sure is going out with a bang.  New legislation introduced a week ago in the Delaware Senate all but ensures any citizen requesting information on student data mining in Delaware will be met with a resounding no.  While the legislation mentions nothing about student data, it talks about the Delaware information technology system.  This bill would prevent a citizen from filing a FOIA request for the following:

Information technology (IT) infrastructure details, including but not limited to file layouts, data dictionaries, source code, logical and physical design of IT systems and interfaces, detailed hardware and software inventories, network architecture and schematics, vulnerability reports, and any other information that, if disclosed, could jeopardize the security or integrity of an information and technology system owned, operated or maintained by the State or any public body subject to the requirements of this Chapter.

SB258

On the surface, it looks like a great bill.  But the key words in this legislation are in the data dictionaries.  This defines how a system operates and what is included in it.  You can see one from the Delaware DOE below, from 2012:

The below are recommendations made to the Delaware DOE from Education Insight.  Some of the key words in this document pertain to exactly what is happening now, in current talk and pending legislation.  But the parties who come up with these ideas are trying to make it seem like this is brand new.  The jig is up.  This was planned a long time ago.

The four-year plan for DOE data systems as outlined in Race to the Top will result in a significant expansion in the amount of data available for use within the Department and for sharing with outside organizations. This expansion has implications for how data quality and data access will be managed in the future, and how DOE needs to be organized to meet this demand:

And the below document gives it all away:

Expansion of the warehouse to subject areas such as early childhood, higher education, workforce and social services will increase the need for more formal management of the data interchange process and increasing the demand for sharing of this data with owner organizations.

I have talked to quite a few tech people and none of them understand why “data dictionaries” would be included in this.  Especially when it comes to student data.  But this bill would exempt them from FOIA requests.  So what’s the big deal?  Who cares if your child’s data is tracked and catalogued?  If they aren’t doing anything wrong it should be no big deal, right?  Wrong.

DefiesMeasurement

Over a year ago, the documentary “Defies Measurement” showed parents the flaws of standardized testing. Back in February of this year, members of the Pennsylvania Parents Across America in Lower Merion Township began showing the documentary to other parents.  As a result, opt-outs in Pennsylvania grew bigger by the day. The Philadelphia Inquirer covered what was going on one weekend in February.  One teacher from New Jersey spoke about the threats and intimidation going on:

“They’re trying to use the fear and lack of information to coerce parents,” she said.

The documentary, clocking in at over an hour, is very informative. I encourage all Delaware parents, along with any parent in America who cares about education, to watch the entire thing.

In Delaware, parents opted their children out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment which began it’s second year of testing a week on March 9th.  Because Delaware agreed to replace Smarter Balanced with the SAT for high school juniors, it is expected opt-out numbers may be less than last year, but it is unknown how many parents opted their children out of the SAT this year.  There is one documented opt out from, of all schools, the Charter School of Wilmington according to a draft of their April 26th board meeting.  Meanwhile, many Delaware legislators played a high-stakes game of chicken in the Delaware House of Representatives.  They had an opportunity to override Governor Markell’s veto of Delaware’s opt-out legislation, House Bill 50, back in January.  Instead, they hung onto stagnant and outdated excuses by refusing to suspend rules to allow for a full House vote on the override. Even though the legislation does sit on the Ready List for a full house vote, Delaware Speaker of the House Peter Schwartzkopf has given no indication he will put it on the agenda for a full House vote.

Last June, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed House Bill 2655 which allowed parents to opt their child out of the state assessment.  The feds pitched a fit, but Brown heard what the people of Oregon were saying.

Meanwhile, in Georgia, their Senate passed their own opt-out legislation with a 39-9 vote.  Georgia Senate Bill 355 is also called the “Student/Teacher Protection Act”.  This is very similar to how the votes went down in Delaware last spring in our own Senate and House of Representatives.  Did Georgia Governor Nathan Deal sign the bill?  Not a chance.  He vetoed the bill on May 3rd.  Like Markell, he defied the will of the people and his own legislature to cater to corporate interests.  But of course he covers it up under the guise of, get this, making sure there is “local control”:

Veto Number 15

Senate Bill 355 allows federal, state and locally-mandated assessments to be optional for certain students. At present, local school districts have the flexibility to determine opt-out procedures for its students who cannot take the assessments in addition to those who choose not to take such assessments. As there is no need for state-level intervention in addition to the regulations already set in place on a local level, I VETO SB 355.

As organizations like the National PTA, the United Negro College Fund, and other Gates Foundation supported organizations come out with “position statements” against opt-out, parents are figuring things out on their own.  They are putting the pieces together and realizing how bad these tests really are.  What many don’t realize is the data mining that is happening right under our very noses. With these computer-adaptive tests, as well as all the personalized or blended learning modules students log into, there are embedded data mining algorithms involved.  These algorithms are sent to a joint system owned by the United States Department of Education and the Department of Defense.

Back in 2011, the US DOE and US DOD partnered together to create the Federal Learning Registry.  This joint system purported to be a massive sharing mechanism so anyone involved in education could contribute and access.  In an article from Local Journal in November, 2011, it describes the Federal Learning Registry  as being designed specifically “so that both commercial and public sector partners could freely take part.”

Even Education Week got in on the upcoming data mining explosion that was about to take place in education:

Predictive analytics include an array of statistical methods, such as data mining and modeling, used to identify the factors that predict the likelihood of a specific result.

It is hard for any federal agency to work with another.  So why this unprecedented partnership between US DOE and US DOD?  Technology has certainly advanced to this point where collaboration can save taxpayers a lot of money.  But in looking at the University of Southern California’s report on potential funding opportunities with the Department of Defense, there are some very distrubing ideas presented.  One of these is something called the Minerva Initiative:

Human Social, Cultural, and Behavioral Modeling (HSCB)
http://minerva.dtic.mil/
In addition to Service core HSCB programs, the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) funds S&T programs to address understanding and modeling of human behavior in social and cultural contexts. The basic research component is entitled the Minerva Initiative (see MAPS DOD Chart 128); it is presently administered by ONR.

Another one of these budget items shows where algorithms are changing technology at a rate faster than any of us can imagine or even keep up with:

FY2016DODBudget

What is a data-mining algorithm in this case? Microsoft defines it as:

A data mining algorithm is a set of heuristics and calculations that creates a data mining model from data. To create a model, the algorithm first analyzes the data you provide, looking for specific types of patterns or trends. The algorithm uses the results of this analysis to define the optimal parameters for creating the mining model. These parameters are then applied across the entire data set to extract actionable patterns and detailed statistics.

Microsoft, along with Google and Amazon, lobbied heavily against legislation introduced in many states last year.  In most of the states, the legislation was amended which allows for these data mining algorithms to go out to different sources.  Your child’s data, despite what legislation passed, is not safe. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) does not recognize the algorithms generated by these types of tests and personalized learning modules.  It does forbid any personal identifying information to go out.  This is otherwise known as PII. This type of information includes name, social security number, address, birth date, and other easily recognized information. This is the information that schools aren’t allowed to get released to everyone.  But the information does go out, in a “de-identified” format.  So how would a state DOE keep track of what information is going out?  They assign each student a student identification number.  So while the PII information doesn’t go out, it is attached to a number.

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) covered student data privacy and legislation in several states meant to protect student data in their online April magazine.  But like the legislation it glorifies, the article didn’t even touch what happens when outside companies get the de-identified data, make assumptions on it to form policy or assessments, and then send it back to the state.  The Every Student Succeeds Act is meant to limit federal control in education.  The states and local districts will have more control.  But because of the horrible federal mandates of the past eight years, the states are now just satellites of the same corporate education reform madness that infected the US DOE.  Instead of one central agency, we now have fifty calling the shots.

When you look closer at NCSL’s “concerns” about student data privacy, it is very alarming to see a study done by the Aspen Institute about the need for outside education companies to obtain student data.  This is an organization stacked with more corporate education reform leaders under one membership roof than any other organization I’ve seen.  There are many organizations like Aspen, and they all spit out the same bad methodology and education double-talk: high-stakes testing, Common Core, personalized learning, student data “privacy”, school choice, charter schools, turning schools into community centers, and so much more.  The problem is more and more of the education organizations that are supposed to be the last wall of defense against these corporate intrusions are joining them.  We saw this with the National Educators Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and the National PTA with the rushed passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act.  Parents have never been more alone in their education battles.  In Delaware, our state PTA can’t even talk about opt out due to the immense bullying of the National PTA.

As long as we have high-stakes testing, we will have opt out.  But now, happening everywhere across the country, there are many other reasons to opt your child out.  Out of anything that could allow your child’s data to be released to any outside organization.  Until legislation is passed in every single state stopping this charade, assume your child’s digital footprint is making some company a lot of money.  Because the states pay these companies to do the research on YOUR child.  And if Delaware has their way, you won’t even be able to track it.

It was for all of these reasons and more that I wrote a Parents Bill of Rights for Education and the accompanying petition.  Please sign the petition today and let our political leaders know our children are not data, to be bought and sold.  They are human beings.  They need to be children, not a part of this absolute destruction of their spirit in the name of corporate wealth.  And if you are a parent of a special needs child, a minority student, an English Language learner, or a low-income or poverty student, the time is now to stop listening to civil rights and advocacy groups that spread this disease in public education and start asking yourself- what is this really about?