Tag Archives: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

A RESPONSE TO CHESTER E. FINN, JR.

Submission* by Karen Schroeder

Common Core: conservative to the core” is one of many articles Chester E. Finn, Jr., has penned encouraging conservatives to embrace Common Core State Standards. Unfortunately, Mr. Finn never discloses that his “conservative” Thomas B. Fordham Institute has accepted nearly a million dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop supportive materials for Common Core Standards. Mr. Finn’s conflict of interest renders his assessment of Common Core self-serving and lacking credibility.

Advocates for Academic Freedom is funded solely by private donations. Representing taxpayers from every political party, every religion, and every socio-economic group, AAF has one goal: to demand truth and quality in all aspects of education. Our assessment of Common Core Standards conflicts with that of Chester Finn. CCS are not new, not rigorous or innovative, not fiscally responsible, not state created; they undermine accountability and traditional American values.

The Gates Foundation, David Coleman from the College Board, the International Baccalaureate Organization, the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and a myriad of others wrote Common Core Standards—NOT the states.

Common Core represents another “We have to pass it so we can find out what is in it” policy. During a February, 2010, Governors’ Luncheon, President Obama told governors to adopt CCSS to receive federal Title I funds. Since the standards had not even been written, the federal government added the word “state” to the title so the public would think that the normal process of teacher and public involvement had been employed. We the people are growing tired of these insulting shell games imposed by governmental agencies.

Teachers and taxpayers should be outraged that any set of standards would require a retraining of teachers to assure implementation. Why should a teacher need to have special training to implement Common Core? The reason is that Common Core Standards do not emphasize student acquisition of knowledge and development of skills. They demand that students develop a belief system and attitudes needed to create a population with a “world philosophy”.

Americans are being forced to spend sixteen billion dollars on a plan shaped by the same policies of Benjamin Bloom that have been failing our children since the 1960s. Dozens of standards that are far more rigorous than Common Core Standards are free and available on the internet. States have always had access to them. When one compares TIMSS math standards for fourth graders to those of Common Core for the same grade level, it becomes painfully obvious that CCSS are not the rigorous standards promised.

CCSS is peppered with standards like this one for nine-year olds in fourth grade: “Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others”. Most teachers would ask themselves: What is a viable argument appropriate for a nine-year-old child? What happens when a non-conformist refuses to critique a classmate/friend? What remediation will be provided? Will that remediation help the creative child learn to use non-conformity in a productive manner? How will this standard be assessed or tested for mastery?

Most math skills required under TIMSS at fourth grade can be found under the CC standards for fifth grade. Standards that are superior to CC focus on knowledge acquisition and skill development—not conformity, values, or beliefs.

Mr. Finn states that CC standards “written correctly, they do not dictate any particular curriculum of pedagogy.” Really? Then why has the federal government provided funding to publishers to align their textbooks to CCS and to testing consortiums to align all tests, ACT, SAT, accreditation, etc., to CCS?

Local control of schools includes a role in determining the curriculum taught. That is the American tradition that makes America a Constitutional Republic. When federal and state governments collude to impose standards upon the public, their DoEDs are acting in a dictatorial manner. America’s strength has always come from its people—not from its government.

It is time for taxpayers to get on the agenda for the next local school board meeting to demand rejection of CCSS and implementation of any one of the other excellent sets of standards available for free. It is time that citizens organize to stop the federal funding and the federal manipulation of the American educational system. Advocates for Academic Freedom works to build a grassroots movement to eliminate federal funding of education, to reallocate those federal educational dollars to the states, and to reinstate local control of schools. You may sign a petition on line at http://advocatesforacademicfreedom.org/petition.asp#.UdFzEuMo6po

Karen Schroeder is the President of Advocates for Academic Freedom, a member of the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board, an experienced public school teacher, and an educational consultant. She provides informational seminars to promote citizen involvement at local and state levels of the educational system. Ms.Schroeder supports a return to fact-based curricula, accountability, and academic excellence in public education. Frequently interviewed by Wisconsin radio personalities including Vicki McKenna, Karen writes for the U.S. Journal and other newspapers in several states. Karen can be reached at [email protected] or by calling 715-234-5072. Address: 331 S. Main St., Suite 307, Rice Lake, WI. 54686

*This is a submission. Submissions do not necessarily reflect an official position of Conservative Teachers of America. One of our goals is to give a larger voice to the many conservative voices that exist inside of education.

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Filed under National Standards (Common Core)

The Sharing of Student Data Creates Concern in NYC

by Gretchen Logue of Missouri Education Watchdog

From nbcnewyork.com and Parents Blast New State Database of Private Student Info:

Parents and privacy experts are blasting a new national database that compiles personal student information for educational companies that contract with public schools.

New York State officials, working with the city, have already uploaded students’ names, addresses, test scores, learning disabilities, attendance and disciplinary records into the inBloom database, according to the Daily News.

Read more here and watch the news video.

What is inBloom?  From the Daily News:

InBloom, a 3-month-old database, is funded primarily by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. A division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. built the infrastructure for the new electronic portal.

The state spent $50 million in federal grants to partner with inBloom and finalized its agreement in October to share data with the fledgling company.

The new service will not cost the city any money at first, though inBloom officials said they will probably start to charge fees in 2015.

Names, attendance records, disciplinary histories, addresses, test scores and more are delivered to the state. The state contracts with inBloom, a database that warehouses that information. InBloom then contracts with private companies selling educational products and services that can access the information.

Wouldn’t “contracting with private companies selling educational products and services” that access students’ personal information be considered selling student information without parental permission or knowledge?  Why is this being funded partially by federal grants so that the state can partner with inBloom and share student information with the company?

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Filed under Data Mining/Tracking, Data Systems

Database in #CommonCore Explained. Segregation Revisited?

by Gretchen Logue of Missouri Education Watchdog

We shared Mark Garrison’s written testimony yesterday supporting MO SB 210 and HB 616 which calls for the halting of Common Core implementation.

Garrison writes in An Irrational $170 Million Database We Most Certainly Don’t Need about the data to be gathered on students via databases and Common Core standards:

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While some folks have been warning the public about this for over a year, a recent Reuters article has renewed popular outrage over a privately controlled centralized database that will house an unprecedented amount of individual level data without the consent or even the knowledge of parents, and apparently, state or federal legislatures. My comments are throughout, as I can’t resist. The article reads, in part:

An education technology conference this week in Austin, Texas, will clang with bells and whistles as startups eagerly show off their latest wares. But the most influential new product may be the least flashy: a $100 million database built to chart the academic paths of public school students from kindergarten through high school. In operation just three months, the database already holds files on millions of children identified by name, address and sometimes social security number. Learning disabilities are documented, test scores recorded, attendance noted. In some cases, the database tracks student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school — even homework completion.

Brushing off real concerns about this development, readers are reassured with this declaration: “Federal law allows [schools] to share files in their portion of the database with private companies selling educational products and services.”
Further on readers are informed:

Federal officials say the database project complies with privacy laws. Schools do not need parental consent to share student records with any “school official” who has a “legitimate educational interest,” according to the Department of Education. The department defines “school official” to include private companies hired by the school, so long as they use the data only for the purposes spelled out in their contracts.

This raises a host of questions, ones that I’ll deal with in a future post. But, for now, let’s follow the “logic” outlined in the rest of the article and what it reveals about the “Career and College Ready” agenda that is driving this initiative.

“This is going to be a huge win for us,” said Jeffrey Olen, a product manager at CompassLearning, which sells education software. CompassLearning will join two dozen technology companies at this week’s SXSWedu conference in demonstrating how they might mine the database to create custom products — educational games for students, lesson plans for teachers, progress reports for principals.

Maybe I’m confused, but I thought teachers created lesson plans and principals created reports? This discourse suggests the intensification of the de-skilling and de-professionalization of educators that began decades ago with scripted protocols, etc. Once in place, any Teach for America like temp worker can print up the computer-generated lesson plan, which will certainly include some “educational games”. Results of those “games” will automatically populate the report that the virtual principal will produce for the virtual school board.

Next we are told:

The database is a joint project of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which provided most of the funding, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and school officials from several states. Amplify Education, a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp [known for violating privacy rights and spying], built the infrastructure over the past 18 months. When it was ready, the Gates Foundation turned the database over to a newly created nonprofit, inBloom Inc, which will run it.

What isn’t shared in the article is the role this database will play in implementing the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI), which would not exist in its present form without the Gates Foundation. The inBloom website discussion board clearly indicates that this database is designed around the CCSS. The CCSSI assessment apparatuses are likely to directly tie into this database if and once they become fully functional. And, given that the plan is to have student essays graded by computer, there are likely to be “digital” assessments of student writing from the dispositional point of view. Might an angry or merely “different” essay by a student trigger a “no education list” (a la the U.S. Terrorist Screening Center’s no fly lists) and be used by corporate charters in screening applicants, inventing a vast and detailed hierarchy of “human capital”?

The article continues:

States and school districts can choose whether they want to input their student records into the system; the service is free for now, though inBloom officials say they will likely start to charge fees in 2015. So far, seven states — Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Massachusetts — have committed to enter data from select school districts. Louisiana and New York will be entering nearly all student records statewide.

So, individual data collected by public authorities that are responsible to protect the privacy claims of these individuals is turned over to a private company, and then the public authority has to pay the private company for access to that data? Now that’s “critical thinking”! And while “inBloom pledges to guard the data tightly, its own privacy policy states that it ‘cannot guarantee the security of the information stored … or that the information will not be intercepted when it is being transmitted.’ ” Seems like a double standard when you think about how “reformers” would scream if a public school stated that it could not protect student privacy.

The article does report that parents from

New York and Louisiana have written state officials in protest. So have the Massachusetts chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union and Parent-Teacher Association. If student records leak, are hacked or abused, “What are the remedies for parents?” asked Norman Siegel, a civil liberties attorney in New York who has been working with the protestors. “It’s very troubling.”

I encourage parents to send a letter, similar to this.

What follows is the main justification for the initiative, and it is worth parsing out in detail.

“We look at personalized learning as the next big leap forward in education,” said Brandon Williams, a director at the Illinois State Board of Education.

First, I believe “personalized learning” is the new language for what used to be called tracking based on “ability”, social class, or other forms of social differentiation (“race,” ELLs, etc.). But it gets better:

Does Johnny have trouble converting decimals to fractions? The database will have recorded that — and may have recorded as well that he finds textbooks boring, adores animation and plays baseball after school. Personalized learning software can use that data to serve up a tailor-made math lesson, perhaps an animated game that uses baseball statistics to teach decimals.

What kind of non-thinking human being creates such narrative? Even the most unmotivated mediocre teacher can determine if a student has trouble converting decimals to fractions! And wouldn’t the database be more useful if it could identify those students who actually found textbooks exciting? And, seriously, might teachers, unencumbered by the demands of “accountability” that increasingly block them from establishing meaningful relationships with their students, know which student likes baseball?

No teacher, school administrator or parent needs this database; it is a solution to a non-existent problem. It’s a complete hoax. It is also frightening that someone thought the above narrative was a useful public justification and that it could stand in a news item. How far gone are we that the absurdity is not evident? “Personalized learning” = remove the teacher -> collect “data” -> replace real teaching with “virtual games” -> so as “to get to know the student.”[1]

But wait, there’s more!

Johnny’s teacher can watch his development on a “dashboard” that uses bright graphics to map each of her students’ progress on dozens, even hundreds, of discrete skills.

Forgive me, but I prefer to watch the development of young people in person. “Bright graphics” — sounds like Disney, not education. “Discrete skills” — nothing says “product specification” better than “discrete skills.”

“You can start to see what’s effective for each particular student,” said Adria Moersen, a high school teacher in Colorado who has tested some of the new products.[2]

If you need a glowing, colorful dashboard of “discrete skills” to “see” your “students develop” and discern what is “effective” there’s definitely a problem. Or, maybe that’s the vision? Let’s continue:

The sector is undeniably hot; technology startups aimed at K-12 schools attracted more than $425 million in venture capital last year, according to the NewSchools Venture Fund, a nonprofit that focuses on the sector. The investment company GSV Advisors tracked 84 deals in the sector last year, up from 15 in 2007.

NewSchools is a big supporter of charters and other privatization schemes.

In addition to its $100 million investment in the database, the Gates Foundation has pledged $70 million in grants to schools and companies to develop personalized learning tools.

Again, I offer my suggestion that “personalized” is the new language of tracking. Data will be the new marker used to segregate.

Also of note is that the official estimates of the Gates Foundation contribution to the Common Core Standards is $100 million; but if we include all those grants that are part of the Core agenda, the number becomes much, much bigger; the above $170 million constituting a start. Based on data I have collected from their Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation website, I estimate the total expenditure to be about $1.5 billion between 2009 and 2012. The next bit is revealing as well.

Schools tend to store different bits of student information in different databases, often with different operating systems. That makes it clunky to integrate new learning apps into classrooms. […] The new database aims to wipe away those obstacles by integrating all student information — including data that may previously have been stored in paper files or teacher gradebooks — in a single, flexible platform. […] Education technology companies can use the same platform to design their software, so their programs will hook into a rich trove of student data if a district or state authorizes access.

This reminds me of the justification for the security state built post 9/11. We would all be safe if we could just break down those barriers between databases (e.g., eliminating boundaries between local, state and federal police agencies) and remove the blocks to spying!

At the Rocketship chain of charter schools, for instance, administrators must manually update at least five databases to keep their education software running smoothly when a child transfers from one teacher to another, said Charlie Bufalino, a Rocketship executive. The extra steps add expense, which limits how many apps a school can buy. And because the data is so fragmented, the private companies don’t always get a robust picture of each student’s academic performance, much less their personal characteristics.

First point: you most likely don’t need the software; the money could be better spent. Second point: who cares if the “private companies don’t get a robust picture”? Why are we all of a sudden so concerned about private companies having a “robust picture” of our children?

Yes, it even gets better.

Larry Berger, an executive at Amplify Education, says the data could be mined to develop “early warning systems.” Perhaps it will turn out, for instance, that most high school dropouts began to struggle with math at age 8. If so, all future 8-year-olds fitting that pattern could be identified and given extra help.

Forgetting for a moment that Larry’s statement erases more than 40 years of research on the predictors of “dropping out” (linked mostly to poverty, racism and lack of funding), my question is this: will the “early warning system” be color coded, like the now infamous “terror alerts?” Is “fitting the pattern” the new language for profiling? Sounds like the noble language of helping to prevent “drop outs” might hide something a little less palatable; maybe inBloom will partner with state governments to alert them of students not “ready” to vote?

Companies with access to the database will also be able to identify struggling teachers and pinpoint which concepts their students are failing to master. One startup that could benefit: BloomBoard, which sells schools professional development plans customized to each teacher.

Well that’s good news. Private companies that are charging the public for access to the data provided to them by the public will assist in further attacking teachers as the source of the problem while social inequality reaches new heights! Hopefully BloomBoard will lobby for more computers — I just hope some of the leaking roofs won’t short out the circuits. I also hope their statisticians can develop models that can compensate for students not giving a damn as they sit, alienated, in their PARCC testing cages.

The new database “is a godsend for us,” said Jason Lange, the chief executive of BloomBoard. “It allows us to collect more data faster, quicker and cheaper.”

But I thought it was “all about the kids”?

In the end, this is an untenable plan, doomed to failure, with more harm along the way. It should be opposed.

  1. Even the introductory video on the inBloom website presents a vision of the teacher/student interaction as completely mediated by their database which is to form the basis of and completely structure the student/teacher relationship. In the video, both students and teachers are presented as passive, with very limited voice, only acting through the devices devised by the database developers.
  2. The formulation “each particular” set me off, so I went searching on the Internet for Adria, and I came up with what appears to be someone who loves signing up to all the social media, but never really uses any of it (is she real?). No posts from her twitter account. No info on Linkedin, but a member. “Summitt Post” indicates “high school teacher” in Colorado. On “Clas talk”, nothing. Uses “pinterest” — what I saw was vapid. Appears on “rate my teacher” with 3 stars out of 5, from six respondents (“fun” was used frequently by those posting). (Obviously the sites that did not identify her profession and location could be for someone else.) From what I could find, she does not come across as an authority on the subject of using large databases to enhance education. She has been a teacher for a short time, and in general strikes me as an odd choice for an interview by an international news agency.

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Filed under Data Mining/Tracking, Data Systems, National Standards (Common Core)