21st Century Education glossary: “While the term is widely used in education, it is not always defined consistently, which can lead to confusion and divergent interpretations. In addition, a number of related terms—including applied skills, cross-curricular skills, cross-disciplinary skills, interdisciplinary skills,transferable skills, transversal skills, noncognitive skills, and soft skills, among others.”

21st Century classrooms are digitized. Instruction and assessment are delivered by electronic platforms. Students will spend an increasing amount of hours working at computers and less time with peers and teachers in non computer based settings. The goals for learning are developed and delivered by private companies at the behest of global corporations looking to hone children to meet their own market driven needs. 21st Century learning morphs “competency-based education” into modular learning which will be delivered via privately managed online education companies who “reward” children with “badges”.


  1. Increased risks of obesity with increased seat time.
  2. Reduction of opportunities to engage with multiple learning styles: kinesthetic, social, verbal, environmental…all reduced to visual screen time.
  3. Loss of socialization and development of social cuing.

“You can’t learn nonverbal emotional cues from a screen in the way you can learn it from face-to-face communication,” said Yalda Uhls, a senior researcher with UCLA’s Children’s Digital Media Center, in a news release. “If you’re not practicing face-to-face communication, you could be losing important social skills.”

4. Kids are spending more time than ever in front of screens, and it may be inhibiting their ability to recognize emotions, according to new research out of the University of California, Los Angeles.

5. Damage to eyes, hands/wrists, and neck.

According to New York Times report: “Children can develop pain in their fingers and wrists, narrowed blood vessels in their eyes (the long-term consequences of which are unknown), and neck and back pain from being slumped over their phones, tablets and computers.”

6. Data privacy = online platforms delivered to third party organizations who track every response and behavior your child makes in their learning process. Every bit tracked and monitored and managed. See Knewton “data palooza” video for a frightening scenario.

7. Increases ADHD-like symptoms. New York Times reports: “Children who are heavy users of electronics may become adept at multitasking, but they can lose the ability to focus on what is most important, a trait critical to the deep thought and problem solving needed for many jobs and other endeavors later in life.”

8. Creates an adrenaline-driven mentality to learning (like an addiction).  Psychology Today reporter states, “As a practitioner, I observe that many of the children I see suffer from sensory overload, lack of restorative sleep, and a hyper-aroused nervous system, regardless of diagnosis—what I call electronic screen syndrome.These children are impulsive, moody, and can’t pay attention…excessive screen-time appears to impair brain structure and function. Much of the damage occurs in the brain’s frontal lobe, which undergoes massive changes from puberty until the mid-twenties..”

Comment from an NPR post “A lot of school systems are rushing to put iPads into the hands of students individually, and I don’t think they’ve thought about the [social] cost,” she explains. “This study should be, and we want it to be, a wake-up call to schools. They have to make sure their students are getting enough face-to-face social interaction. That might mean reducing screen time.”



Read what others have to say about digitized learning and competency-based education here:

Comments from Sheila Ressenger on Competency Based Education-

“My take is that the PR for so-called proficiency based, personalized learning is riddled with code words that translate into outsourcing education to ed-tech vendors and “community partners,” marginalizing classroom teachers, holding students accountable to pre-determined, inappropriate standards (Common Core or Core-like), not allowing them to progress until they have achieved “mastery” of these inappropriate standards, feeding them game-like academic programs that foster zombie cognitive processing rather than real learning, and using extrinsic motivation like rewards and badges, all the while scooping up reams of sensitive data that will go who knows where and be used for who knows what.”


Posted comment by Ronee Groff on  Global Nightmare

In 1991 Douglas D. Noble published The Regime of Technology in Education where we were then and where we were going and he was screaming off the pages.

“Above all, high-tech corporate interest in education reform expects a school system that will utilize sophisticated performance measures and standards to sort students and to provide a reliable supply of such adaptable, flexible, loyal, mindful, expendable, “trainable” workers for the 21st Century. This, at bottom, underlies the corporate drive to retool human capital. :We in the personal computer industry,” notes Apple CEO John Sculley, also Chair of the National Center on Education and the Economy “are really in the behavior-changing industry. We have the challenge to create the tools that fundamentally are going to change the way people learn, the way they think, the way they communicate, the way they work!” such is the scope the hubris of the regime of technology in education, a legacy of military fantasy conjoined with the unbridled self-interest of corporate power.”

Add to the statement by Sir Michael Barber of Pearson that ‘-everything can be measured and therefore controlled.’ You have the makings of a coalition of power mongering, creed obsessed, and the ‘others’ who would come to survive and grow the octopus of what will be a one world initiative beyond the yearning for freedom and creative uniqueness inherent in each of us. We are racing to space for the few and leaving behind the great majority.

Personal commentary from Alison McDowell

“CBE has ties to higher ed and Community Colleges. Lumina and Nellie Mae who are funding lots of these initiatives are linked with student loans and finance. My sense is they are creating some mass market mid-range technical/industry-linked new higher ed model that relies largely on online learning and competencies. It would maybe bridge that gap between an associates degree and a 4-year liberal arts degree.  As those 4 year degrees become out of reach of most Americans, and the feds underwrite their workforce development plans for “free” community college, these new CBE folks will swoop in to “train” these associates for their jobs. And if you think about it, 20 years ago when companies invested in human resources, they would have done that training of new staff on the job. You hire someone who knows how to think and train them because you want them to stay for the long term.  The new model is to require up front certifications to even apply for jobs (because they are being screened by algorithms), so the people have to pay and finance some type of education to even have a shot at getting the “digital badge” they need in their online portfolio to get through the screeners. That means people are going to have to take on more debt, but the badges-based CBE model isn’t really education that is open and transferable, it is industry specific. It puts all the power in the hands of industry.”



Lying and twisting facts seems to be s staple among corporate reformers. The problem is that too few  of us can see it when it’s happening. Maryland citizens must become savvy to when they are being “marketed to” under the guise of “expertise”, and when our children are being sold up the river for corporate profit. Take this event for example.

There was a special event hosted on the campus of Towson University the evening of Nov 17th entitled: Signature Forum: Supporting Baltimore’s students from Pre-K through College

Only a year ago Towson held a similar event link which also featured Jason Botel. It also featured Wes Moore. However, this blog focuses specifically on Jason Botel and the issue of charter school policies in Maryland. Botel is a former longtime Baltimore-KIPP Executive Director, Executive Director of Maryland CAN, and school choice expert Read more about him here.

I attended the event with the goal of challenging Botel’s pro-charter message with a basic question:

How do you respond to the enormous body of research which documents how charter schools have 1) been fraught with financial and ethical fraud, 2) the egregious attrition rates cited at charter schools, including KIPP chains around the country, 3) the role charters play in increasing segregation (cited by the Civil Rights Project), and 4) the closure of successful public schools to make way for new charters?

I did not get a chance to ask my question. But for those who did not attend it here’s a recap of what you missed.

The event was sponsored by the “Innovation in Teacher and Leader Preparation Initiative” which receives its support from the St. John Foundation, UTeach, M and T Bank as well as notable individuals Vince Talbert, William Hackermann, and Peter Angelou.

Botel started by speaking on the concerns he had over the “lack of cultural competency” demonstrated by teachers in Baltimore City Schools. I am sure his stint in Teach for America qualifies him as an expert on this subject.

He emphasized the “problems with traditional public schools,” highlighting  the history of the “suppression of African Americans” via public schools, and the lack of “personalization” in schooling. He added we “have a different economy” and a “lack of access to opportunities for children in Baltimore.” He suggested that we need a “customized education” which “breaks the link between poverty and success rates.” He surmised that this is a “structural problem.”

So let’s decode his message:

Poverty doesn’t matter. A customized education means one which can be delivered via online corporate-run education systems. Rather than attending classes with actual human teachers, children living in poverty can be given online “competency based” education delivered by a “personalized” computer program which spits out a certificate or a badge upon completion. Yes. This shall certainly rectify generations of structural inequality and institutional racism.

Botel referenced the low test results for the PARCC tests in Maryland. He stated that while cities like Dallas and Chicago which have poverty rates that exceed those in Baltimore, their PARCC scores were higher in those places because… (wait for it) “they have more charter schools.” I’d like to see the research that provides proof of direct correlations between PARCC scores in those cities and the number of charter schools. I think the communities of Chicago would beg to differ. Yes, I am sure Botel was banking on those low PARCC scores to justify a major increase in charter schools for MD communities. Slam. Dunk.

Botel then twisted the data from a notable CREDO study. He conceded that the CREDO study evidenced that charter schools “don’t do any better”—hit the pause button

Mr. Botel… the actual wording of THAT CREDO report (2009) says that 37% of charter UNDER-PERFORM their public school counter-parts. Botel then switches, without noting he is referring to a DIFFERENT study (published in 2015), defending a finding in that study that says that, “urban charters are by- in- large successful.” Note this second CREDO study had a curious cast of “interests” which may have influenced their findings.

Botel then explained that we need a “fundamental change in central office,” suggesting that charter schools should have their OWN “charter boards for over-site and accountability.” Yes, nothing guarantees real “accountability” like having the same self-serving enterprises watch over their own accountability system. That should rectify the ever-growing number of charter school scandals and questionable practices.

Botel then reviewed the recent law suit being filed against Baltimore City schools over issues of the school funding formula. He contends that city charters want evidence that the monies they are receiving complies with the funding formula. I wanted to ask Mr. Botel if that funding formula takes into account the over 8 million dollars KIPP Baltimore claimed in assets in its tax return for 2013.  Yes, they must be cash starved, poor babies. He asked the audience, “Will this cause some charter schools to fail because funding is not sufficient?”

Gosh. I don’t know.

Does Mr. Botel care to acknowledge that we have starved public schools, especially in urban communities of color, into failure for decades? So, according to him, public schools fail because of a monopoly system, lack of innovation, and unionized teachers. But if charters fail it will be because THEY don’t get sufficient funding? Serious hypocrisy at play.

Botel warned that because of the lack of funding, many “high performing” charters might have to close! Yikes. I am wringing my hands in despair! Mr. Botel, how many high performing PUBLIC schools have been closed in order to make way for privately managed charter schools? What about schools like Langston Hughes? Was closing that school the “choice” of THAT neighborhood?

He doesn’t seem too concerned over the equity and justice and suppression of THOSE “black and brown urban children” and how closing THEIR school will destroy THEIR learning opportunities.

The moderator Dr. Nancy Grasmick  asks, “What are the key things we need to change in teacher preparation?” Botel responded we need “greater calibration between what teachers are learning and what kids need.” Mr. Botel, I wonder how you respond to the question, “Who decides exactly what it is that kids need?” Do they need equitable and fully funded public schools in every neighborhood that provides a rich meaningful curriculum, and a society willing to do serious self- reflection to eradicate systemic oppression?

No. According to people like Mr. Botel, they just need charter schools, rigorous standards, and open- badges. The latter will ensure they take their necessary role as the future workers as designed by the corporate moguls shaping current education policies in order to serve their own economic and ideological interests. After years of zero-tolerance obedience “training” at these charter schools these kids will be prepared to take their place in prisons..whoops…um, I meant…industry.

Finally, after one more leading question about whether or not charter schools are feasible beyond the Baltimore City lines, Botel responded that he sees charter school expansion “as an opportunity for students across the state of Maryland.”

You know who else sees charter school expansion as an opportunity? Two of the major sponsors of the evening’s event.

The Edward St. John Foundation and Vince Talbert a PayPal executive. Both of these moguls essentially pay for Dr. Grasmick’s position at Towson University. According to Mercedes Scheinder, “Apparently Grasmick is garnering additional philanthropic reformer money for her Towson revamp:

Edward St. John, a Baltimore developer and philanthropist, and Vince Talbert, a PayPal executive, have agreed to donate money for the overall program. St. John, a friend of Grasmick’s, is giving $300,000. [Emphasis added.]

Curious how the Edward St. John logo was so much more prominent than all the rest across the banner which ran on a large screen in the background during the entire event:

Scheinder adds that, “Vince Talbert, an active angel and promoter of Ed-Tech, reacted to the PG (Prince George’s) Board’s proposal (that the school system owns the work created by its teachers using school system resources) by focusing on the monopolistic nature of the K-12 industry. According to Vince, “this is just another case of the public school system putting up barriers to innovation to protect the status quo.” Vince continues, “public schools are the only industry I know where the supplier is a monopoly and the customer (payer) is a monopoly and they are the same entity.” As Vince rhetorically asks, “how do we expect our schools to improve when there is no mechanism to raise the bar?” As the students who attend and are supposed to benefit from our public school system investment, Vince concludes, “we need to demand that our elected officials break up these monopolies so that market forces will drive improvement.”

What else should we know about Mr. Talbert? He presented at the New Schools Venture Summit in 2011 at The Aspen Institute.

Meanwhile, real estate mogul Edward St. John donates to KIPP Schools, and Teach for America. In 2013, a new K-8th grade Frederick Classical Charter School in Frederick MD signed a lease with St. John Properties. According to Tom Neumark, school President, “It is clear that St. John understands and values the importance of creating this charter school to better serve the needs of the local community.” With the continuing onslaught of charter schools and education reform initiatives being pushed forward, it is likely that St John properties will be signing many more real estate contracts like this one.

The issue of corporate-style colonization of education is not an issue particular to Towson. It’s far more endemic than one institution. Edward St. John also funds a program called The Edward St. John Teaching and Learning Center at the University of Maryland. This new center will “be home to the Academy of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the new Teaching and Learning Transformation Center.

What disturbs me more than reformers like Jason Botel, is that in an audience of maybe 150 people, no one seemed interested in challenging what was being said. Most of them will leave thinking that charters are the savior for MD children. Will Maryland educators and parents sit quietly by, being polite, while reformers like Botel receive a red carpet and a microphone? If we don’t start showing up and making some noise and speaking the truth at events like these, we will have to stop blaming reformers for being the self interested creatures they are, and start blaming ourselves for letting it happen.


If you’ve ever lived with small children then you know this feeling: You have just cleaned the house. All clutter is put way. Table tops and floors have no dirt or food. Clothes are folded. And then, they come home. Next thing you know there’s a trail of chocolate chips on the floor from the refrigerator into the TV room. The cabinets and drawers are vomiting out their contents; pencils, rubber bands, clothing, snacks, scissors. There’s mud and leaves all over the floor…. And you know that within a short period of time you’ll have to pick everything up all over again. Now, I’ve come to terms with this process. It comes with the territory. It’s never ending. At least until they move out.

But, now imagine having this feeling as an educator as it pertains to education policies.  It appears apparent to anyone who has worked in education for more than a few years that what we have before us is a never-ending avalanche of policies. Further, dedicated and committed teachers try their best to follow instructions.  They try to follow the latest round of “to-do” lists hurled upon them from above by “experts” and policy makers.

But there’s a catch.

We are naïve in believing that there will ever be an end to the policy demands, or that, once we finally get a grasp on the latest “thing” and have command of it, that we can get ever get “caught up.”  It’s an illusion (a deliberate one at that) that this next “thing”, whatever it is, will be the solution to our education woes. We are being sold an endless slew of promises– that all we need to do is “clean house” and the problems will be solved. But we must do our part…right?

However, the house of education, beset by a neoliberal agenda is designed to perpetually re-create new messes for us to “clean up.” What does this mean? “(A)t the heart of neoliberal ideology is the appreciation of the role of market in defining and ensuring (supposed) ‘human well-being’, where the state is more of a facilitator providing institutional supports in the form of ‘strong private property right, free markets, and free trade’ (Harvey, 2005, p. 2).

It’s a foolish notion to believe that if we “just do everything we are told” (compliance) then we will somehow come out the other end, having achieved anything. Before we are half way through (assuming we still have classrooms to go to after reformers are done with us), the next round of “fixes” in the name of “innovation” or “accountability” will be upon us. So we must stop believing that anything can be truly achieved by compliance.

The neoliberal narrative of “accountability” is about LABOR AND POWER. Even if there were 100% compliance across the board, the manufacturers of education policies would have to find flaws in whatever it is we accomplish in order to keep the machine running. So long as we are too busy being compliant in the name of “accountability” –meeting the needs of neoliberal profiteers, and not ours nor our children’s-we remain unable to direct our energies or attention toward the real problem and real solutions.

Think about it. Ever since 1983, when A Nation at Risk informed the United States that our education system was failing, and as such was a “threat to national security,” we have been in a race (to the top) to “fix” our educational “crisis.” How is it possible that after 30 years of hard core initiatives, billions of dollars, and immeasurable hours of labor and sweat, we are still no closer to solving the problems of this education “crisis” than we were 30 years ago? There are a few answers to this question. The first involves the notion of “crisis” to begin with. A neoliberal agenda necessitates a “manufactured crisis” (Berliner and Biddle, 1996) in order to accomplish its goals: profits and privatization.  The problem and the “solutions” to these problems are crafted by elite politicians and corporate moguls.  If the problems in education were solved, what would there be left to gain for them? Without a problem, there’s no solution to market and sell. If we solved the real crisis, we would dissolve the existing inequities upon which they depend. There will always be more messes to clean up. We are promised, “This new policy (or test, or curriculum, or innovation) is the solution to all our woes.” And it never is. It’s designed to be that way.

Peter Taubman describes it this way:  “It’s a remarkable sleight of hand. The best way we educators can address serious social, political, and economic problems is to comply with regulatory agencies and their mandated audit practices, subject ourselves to constant surveillance, render ourselves and our situations as quantifiable data, and surrender to normalizing discourses that drain (there’s that vampire metaphor again) our subjectivities.” (The Tie That Binds: Learning and Teaching in the New Educational Order, Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy, 4 (2), 150-160)

Secondly, we might consider that the crisis, as defined by a neoliberal agenda, is not the real problem at all– and so the solutions it forces (sells or markets) on unsuspecting public cannot ever remediate the true problems which lie outside the framework of their narrative. In other words, the crisis is not in failing teachers but with issues of poverty, or systemic injustices. The solutions are not better or innovative curriculum and assessments, nor with catchy slogans like competency-based education and Universal Design for Learning. This is a classic bait and switch.  Notice who writes and promotes the framing of the “crisis” narrative—it’s always think tanks and non-profits funded by global billionaire corporations. Those who craft the “frame,” craft the “blame”—and blame always lies with those with the least power. We have never really been able to “fix” what’s wrong in education because we are fixing the wrong things and the wrong people.  A real transformation would require that the ELITE change. It would require a dramatic re-arranging of our existing racist, classist, and sexist system from which they benefit.

The narrative of “crisis” and “reform” always fixates on their needs—global companies are not getting the workers they want. Students are not coming out with the skills corporations need. In primary sources dating back to the late 1970’s (notably those published by UNESCO) evidence makes it clear that the global corporate and political community have spent 30 or more years focused on the needs of “the global economy” (code for corporate interests), and demanding that reforms tend to their needs. Teachers, students, parents and communities must follow an agenda of compliance and allegiance to the ideological, economic, or social demands of the powerful—never their own. In fact, one white paper in 1995 entitled Education Policy Planning Process: An Applied Framework,   which focused on education reforms in Jordan, Peru, Thailand and Burkina Faso identified “parents, teachers, communities and unions as OBSTACLES” to their desired reforms. If you read these primary documents (which I do), whether crafted by UNESCO, World Bank, McKinsey and Co, American Legislative Exchange Council, or the Business Roundtable, the policies are always constructed by, and in collaboration with, major corporate moguls such as Microsoft (Bill Gates), IBM (Lou Gerstner), Pearson (Sir Michael Barber), the Koch Brothers, and other global private economic interests.

The development of the neoliberal agenda, which frames our shared perceptions of labor and power and our “roles” within the framework, are global and corporate:

Since the early 1980s UNESCO has supported the neoliberal image of culture as a politically neutral resource that can be applied to capitalist development goals. Key UNESCO programs … promote vibrant urban markets for cultural products and workers first and foremost. It was soon after the new postcolonial nations entered the organization and started trying to arrive at enforceable regulations to support their own autochthonous cultural production and definitions of modernization. The developed-world member nations, which benefited from these markets being poorly served by local producers, and from having the power to control how the developing world appeared in the media, began to insist on the expansion of unregulated free markets for culture. …(a) cultural history of neoliberalism should recognize how its free-market rhetoric silenced – and was expressly designed to silence – those who favored regulating cultural markets in order to rectify imbalances and inequities produced by colonialism.

Notice how blame in the “crisis” narrative always points downward, while power and profit always point upward. There’s a labor caste system in this well-oiled machine: There are the elite who create the frame of reality which constructs the problem (it’s always the labor, parents or children at fault). They create layers of middle-management or technocrats (Boards of Ed, superintendents, university deans, etc) whose job it is to ensure that we (the “human capital) are “accountable”. The neoliberal framework convinces these technocrats that their job is very important. The technocrats are deluded into thinking: a) that they really have the power to solve these problems, and b) that it is the worker (teacher, student or parent) that needs to be fixed or somehow changed (fixed, i.e. merit pay will motivate teachers, or, changed, i.e. selling us new online edu-tech solutions, which require we accept changes in educational delivery systems). These technocrats are really under the delusion that they too are powerful and can “move up” just like their elite masters. As the vampire Peina in the film The Addiction tells Kathleen, another (weaker and newer) vampire:

Peina: I’m not like you. You’re nothing. That’s something you ought not to forget. You’re not a person. You’re nothing! … Whatever good is in you, I will use for my own sustenance. And for you?  You’ll feel as though you haven’t eaten in weeks.”

In other words, we will never gain anything for ourselves by being complicit in the existing reform narrative. They will use us, and we will be left feeling hungrier and more drained than ever. The system of neoliberalism is predicated on a narrative of “accountability” which makes those with the least power and resources accountable to the machine. You are expected to get an education despite the crumbling educational infrastructure (no air conditioning or nurses or libraries-only more tests). You are expected to get a job while they outsource those same jobs to other countries (taking advantage of slave labor of other disempowered nations). You are supposed to be a law abiding citizen while they craft zero tolerance laws designed to make sure you wind up in prison. And then, you are expected to be “reformed” and thrust back into society despite legal red tape that makes it nearly impossible for you to get a job, find housing, or achieve any level of stability. Our compliance to the existing system will never produce what it promises (for us). At what point are we ready to accept this and find the courage to reject compliance and embrace our own power? And what will happen if we don’t?

Reclaim the Frame

So why…WHY…do we keep fooling ourselves that being compliant will actually help our children, our communities, or our profession? Testing refusal is not just about refusing what is wrong and harmful. We do not refuse and then sit around “waiting for Godot.”  We refuse so that we can create space and energy to focus on real solutions; solutions which we can never manifest so long as we allow them to send us scrambling about, exhausting ourselves, believing that there will ever be a happy ending to the neoliberal fairy tale. It’s not a fairy tale. It’s a horror show– and we are the fools rushing into the dark woods to see what the noise is.  It’s nearly impossible to create solutions while you are still engaging actively with the problem. How can change be possible while continuing to embrace the obstacles to that change? We have to tell corporate reformers (in all their many guises) to “GO AWAY.” As Casanova says to Kathleen in The Addiction,“Tell me to go away. Say it like you mean it.”  Instead, Kathleen pleads and whimpers. Casanova bites her. And as she walks away, Casanova calls her a “collaborator”- because Kathleen complied rather than fighting back.

Without active REFUSAL we become collaborators of our own demise.


I said it over three years ago and I’ll say it again. Common Core was, and is, an agenda crafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). It was never about “communism,” or “socialism.” It was the state and federal governments serving as the delivery boys for the privatization of public education at the hands of global corporate interests (think: Trans Pacific Partnership and UNESCO).

What are the outcomes?

Outsourcing K-12 education, eliminating teachers (union busting), eliminating Colleges of Education, data mining, creating for-profit alternative certification programs, and outsourcing teacher preparation to online corporations.

How: 1) Create a set of “common”standards, 2) break standards down into modules called student learning outcomes (SLO’s), 3) use SLO’s to manufacture Competency-Based Education (CBE) framework, which..4) can be provided by private/corporate entities via online education and technology-driven resources (no classroom or teacher…or school, required).

So let’s begin.

Common Core is the alpha and omega of this process. The end results of the Common Core plan directly reflect the model bills developed by ALEC (whose goals include: privatizing public education by outsourcing content, teachers, and schools to online education tech companies). With Lamar Alexander and John King at the helm, it’s a fait accompli. The only “human capital” left to be mined will be children.

Each step of this progression (described below/see visual chart at end) includes a few examples of evidence to support each step. These examples are by no means the ONLY examples, they are merely a sampling. This also does NOT cover the correlation between CCSS outcomes and CHARTER SCHOOLS (a whole separate post would be needed for that).


Start with the Who Created Common Core (CCSS).

Remember this?

JPEGLabyrinth Slide (2)

(Common Core flow chart made by Morna McDermott, made Power Point by Karen Bracken)

The same organizations that crafted CCSS are marketing and profiting from the outcomes. A majority of the corporations and politicians invested in CCSS are also members of ALEC.

The Business Roundtable (member of ALEC) notes: Recommendation: Create national standards for portable, ‘stackable’ credentials for certificates, apprenticeships and pathways for earning credit at two- and four-year programs.”

According to a promotional flyer created by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation:

“Education leaders have long talked about setting rigorous standards and allowing students more or less time as needed to demonstrate mastery of subjects and skills. This has been more a promise than a reality, but we believe it’s possible with the convergence of the Common Core State Standards, the work on new standards-based assessments, the development of new data systems, and the rapid growth of technology-enabled learning experiences.” 

Elements of the re-authorization of ESEA (“Every Child Achieves Act”) make this possible. In my previous blog:

“It lets states develop accountability systems – restoring to states the responsibility for determining how to use federally required tests for accountability purposes. States will also be permitted to include other measures of student and school performance in their accountability systems in order to provide teachers, parents, and other stakeholders with a more accurate determination of school performance. In addition to opening the flood gates to charter schools (aka online edu tech companies), “This bill affirms a State’s responsibility to identify and eliminate barriers to the coordination and integration of programs, initiatives, and funding streams, and provide technical assistance and training in order to disseminate best practices.”


From Common Core, Student Learning Objectives (SLO’s) can be created.  A Student Learning Objective is an academic goal for a teacher’s students that is set at the start of a course. “It represents the most important learning for the year (or, semester, where applicable). It must be specific and measurable, based on available prior student learning data, and aligned to Common Core, State, or National Standards, as well as any other school and District priorities.”

  • CTAC, the Boston-based Institute for Compensation Reform and Student Learning at the Community Training and Assistance Center partners with departments of education to develop and promote SLO’s. William Slotnik is executive director of CTAC. He advocates for VAM and merit pay schemes. “William Slotnik,… has argued that performance-based compensation tied directly to the educational mission of a school district can be a lever to transform schools.”
  • NASBE Annual Conference (2012). Common Core State Standards. The panel consisted of David Coleman, “The Architect of the Common Core,” along with Christopher Koch (CCSSO and CAEP), Illinois superintendent of schools, and Jean-Claude Brizard, CEO of Chicago Public Schools.
  • According to CAEP, Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) provide summative effectiveness ratings based in part on Student Growth, defined as a positive change in achievement.
  • Vamboozled writes: “The structure of a typical SLO is now determined by a national system of data gathering funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and U.S. Department of Education.”
  • In 2010 presentation at United States Mission to UNESCO, Arne Duncan cites Sir Michael Barber (now CEO at Pearson, and advocate for corporate model reform) and says:

    Sir Michael Barber’s book, Instruction to Deliver, reminds us that the unglamorous work of reform matters enormously. He urges us to ask five questions that are almost the opposite of the compliance-driven process of technical assistance that has prevailed at the U.S. Department of Education.

    His five, disarmingly simple questions are:
     What are you trying to do?
     How are you trying to do it?
     How do you know you are succeeding?
     If you’re not succeeding, how will you change things?
     And last yet not least, how can we help you?


For More See: http://educationalchemy.com/2015/10/25/reading-between-the-lines-obamas-testing-action-plan/

From SLO’s, competency-based instruction and assessment can be “streamlined” and used to evaluate students, teachers, schools and teacher preparation programs via new (or alternative) “accountability” systems.

  • One blog states: “Competency-based education has been part of Achieve’s strategic plan for a few years, … states and national organizations that have made this topic a priority: Nellie Mae Education Foundation, iNACOL, Digital Learning Now, CCSSO and NGA.”
  • Pearson. “With competency-based education, institutions can help students complete credentials in less time, at lower cost.”
  • CCSSO Network for Transforming Educator Preparation (NTEP) project.
  • Competency Based Education Network (C-BEN). Funded by Lumina.
  • Also see Emily Talmage expose on CBE’s here.


For More See: http://educationalchemy.com/2015/10/17/competency-based-learning-online-education-and-lamar-alexanders-esea-revisions/

Because CBE is modulated it can be streamlined into online education systems. CBE directly aligns with “Open Badges” and online competency programs which can replace traditional classrooms AND teachers, and teacher preparation programs.

  • Digital Learning Now!, is a national initiative of the Foundation for Excellence in Education.
  • New Student Learning Objectives Management Tool Ensuring an Effective Educator for Every Student: partnership between CTAC and TRUENORTHLOGIC.
  • Digital badges for teacher mastery: an exploratory study of a competency-based professional development badge system CCT REPORTS (NOVEMBER 2014).
  • Open Badges: “Improving Competency-Based and Online Education: pathway to accreditation for competency-based and online education advocates … competency-based education is beginning to partner with online education.”
  • From Edutopia: “One of the main goals of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is to prepare students for “college- and career-ready performance.” Badges can acknowledge the learning that has occurred along the way.”
  • Pearson has unveiled Acclaim, an Open Badge platform designed for academic institutions, professional associations and other credentialing programs.
  • Need more evidence? “The nonprofit behind this digital push, Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, is funded by online learning companies: K12 Inc., Pearson (which recently bought Connections Education), Apex Learning (a for-profit online education company launched by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen), Microsoft and McGraw-Hill Education among others. The advisory board for Bush’s ten digital elements agenda reads like a Who’s Who of education-technology executives, reformers, bureaucrats and lobbyists, including Michael Stanton, senior vice president for corporate affairs at Blackboard; Karen Cator, director of technology for the Education Department; Jaime Casap, a Google executive in charge of business development for the company’s K-12 division; Shafeen Charania, who until recently served as marketing director of Microsoft’s education products department; and Bob Moore, a Dell executive in charge of “facilitating growth” of the computer company’s K-12 education practice.”
  • And the game.set.match for Lou Gerstner, former CEO of IBM, co founder of Achieve:  Obama Administration Announces More than $375 Million in Support for Next-Generation High Schools: “Commitments to develop and launch 100 next-generation schools serving more than 50,000 students over the next five years, including IBM’s commitment to support an additional 25 P-TECH schools and totaling more than 125 in development over three years, the New Tech Network expanding to an additional 50 schools, Silicon Schools Fund investing $40 million to launch 40 more schools, EDWorks’ new campaign to seed 12 early-college high schools in the South, and the Institute for Student Achievement tripling the number of high school students they serve from 25,000 students to 75,000 students.”


For More See: http://educationalchemy.com/2015/10/06/pedagogy-of-doubt-and-the-attack-on-colleges-of-education-part-i/

CAEP is the new accrediting body being formed through the unification of two organizations charged with assuring quality in educator preparation—the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC).

College Board was founded in 1900, the College Board was created to expand access to higher education.

  • Now, with the two main original architects of Common Core, Chris Koch (now President of CEAP) and David Coleman (now President of College Board), at the helm of the two most influential university-level organizations, Common Core can be actualized via competency-based instruction at universities, and delivers courses (and teacher education preparation) by online (outsourced) providers.
  • Chris Koch served on the Board of the Council for Chief State School (CCSSO) (architect and funder of Common Core) for a number of years and served as President from 2010-11. In addition, he was selected by the Council to serve on the Presidential transition team in 2008. He also served on the Commission on Standards and Performance Reporting, a national commission that developed more rigorous performance standards for accreditation of educator preparation programs.
  • Koch endorses NCTQ: “State School Superintendent Chris Koch, Democrats for Education Reform, Advance Illinois and two former CEOs of Chicago Public Schools endorsed the NCTQ review.” NCTQ is a corporate-constructed mechanism for branding Colleges of Education as “failures” and ripe for “innovative” take-overs.
  • In February of 2012, CAEP announced: “In order to help ensure that every classroom in the nation has an effective teacher, a high profile Commission on Standards and Performance Reporting will develop rigorous accreditation standards for educator preparation that will raise the bar for preparation providers, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) announced today.” The announcement adds: “Support in helping to underwrite the costs of the Commission is provided by Tk20, Inc., Pearson, and Educational Testing Service (ETS). Tk20, Inc. and ETS are providing support for Commission meetings, and Pearson is providing support for outreach”
  • C-BEN. Competency Based Education Network “is an ‘incubator’ that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is funding through its Next Generation Learning Challenges grant, which is managed by Educause … competency-based programs share goals with the Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP), a Lumina-funded effort …”
  • iNACOL.  Redefining Teacher Education: K-12 Online-Blended Learning and Virtual Schools
  • Language of the connections between iNACOL, Common Core and UNESCO can be found here: “One of UNESCO’s newest education efforts is guiding mobile learning as a strategy for reaching the Education for All goal, given the ubiquity of mobile phones, especially in the developing world, and the growth in low-cost tablet computers (Vosloo, 2012) … As K-12 schools consider and adopt mobile learning approaches to increase student access to learning experiences, “flip the classroom” to expand learning time and increase engagement, personalize learning of Common Core standards, and broaden avenues for teacher communities of practice, school leaders are seeking models and evidence that mobile learning programs work.”
  • and here: “Today, states are collaborating in more ways than ever on the goals of college and career readiness building on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). This guide is meant to help educational institutions and state governments understand the benefits of fostering deeper learning and personalized learning through open educational resources (OER). Open educational resources (OER) are learning materials licensed in such a way as to freely permit educators to share, access, and collaborate in order to customize and personalize content and instruction … UNESCO OER Toolkit: http://oerwiki.iiep-unesco.org/index.php?title=UNESCO_OER_Toolkit”


Elements of each of the initiatives outlined here (CCSS, SLO’s, CBE, online outsourcing, higher education) can be seen in the language of these bills:

For more ALEC model bills also see Mercedes Schneider post. 


The 2011 ALEC Annual Conference Substantive Agenda on Education shows their current interests:

“…the Task Force voted on several proposed bills and resolutions, with topics including: digital learning, the Common Core State Standards, charter schools, curriculum on free enterprise, taxpayers’ savings grants, amendments to the existing model legislation on higher education accountability, and a comprehensive bill that incorporates many components of the landmark school reforms Indiana passed this legislative session. Attendees will hear a presentation on the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards’ initiative to grow great schools, as well as one on innovations in higher education.”

Peggy Robertson reminds us: “Revolution continues to be the only answer. If the test and punish system remains in any shape or form – then the structure remains for them to move silently forward with a new paradigm shift that will appear – at first – almost invisible to the public. Any sort of weak stance on our part that accepts any part of their plan allows them to move more quickly.”



(click to enlarge and view)




Is Obama’s Testing Action Plan, like Fruit Loops, part of a nutritious breakfast? Don’t believe the hype.

This has been over a decade in the making. In 2000 Business Week  listed the companies benefiting from the new boon in online education stating, “Dozens of new companies are springing up to serve the emerging K-12 market for digital learning. Investors have poured nearly $1 billion into these companies since the beginning of 1999, estimates Merrill Lynch.”

Obama’s “Testing Action Plan” declares a reduction in standardized testing! Is less testing a good thing? Yes, of course it is! But what are we getting in its stead? The privatizers are hoping we aren’t asking that, or hoping we won’t look. But we are looking and we are asking. These are the same folks who are driving the policies to privatize public education. What do they gain for reducing testing? Our trust? It makes them look good. And they hope it gets “us” off “their backs.”  But what are we getting in exchange for this?

Remember…the same folks crafting test and punish want to privatize public education. That is their goal.  We are getting rid of over-testing – yes….that is good. BUT … In lieu of that we are now going to have states outsource the “innovative” outcomes-based assessments to the edu-tech industry. Their mission accomplished. Federally mandated testing was getting too much heat. So they’ve built a better mouse trap. One they hope we will not recognize.

If the reduction or elimination of federal standardized testing were the GOAL of United Opt Out National we would find greater cause to feel hopeful. But we believe that HST was/is merely an instrument toward privatization (profit) and therefore testing refusal is a strategy to dismantle corporate reform. But corporate reformers have not  put down their weapons. They have changed weapons…and strategy. Our goal is not ending testing. Our goal is protecting children, public schools and democratic educational practices. And so our fight wages on with a new face.

This is what the “Testing Action Plan” (TAP) says:

The new plan will “include competency-based assessments, innovative item types.” It states also “The Department will also share tools already available to do this work, including The Council of Chief State School Officers’ (CCSSO) Comprehensive Statewide Assessment Systems: A Framework for the Role of the State Education Agency in Improving Quality and Reducing Burden and Achieve’s Student Assessment Inventory for School Districts.”

This is what it means:

Remember CCSSO? They are the ones who crafted the Common Core State Standards. The standards were developed to create a “standardized” system that allows third-party companies to develop systems for outsourcing education. Now with a set of “national” standards as benchmarks, instruction can be metered out by online edu-tech companies who provide new “competency” based instruction and assessment. No teacher required.

In 2010, the Foundation for Excellence in Education (who supported Common Core) convened the Digital Learning Council, a diverse group of more than 100 leaders in education, government, philanthropy, business, technology and members of policy think tanks led by Co-Chairmen Jeb Bush, and Bob Wise (both integral in the creation and promotion of Common Core).  It’s an ALEC model-endorsed comprehensive framework of state-level policies and actions  “designed to advance the meaningful and thoughtful integration of technology into K12 public education.”

This idea is stated again toward the end of the Testing Action Plan (TAP): “Congress should continue to require the Department to work with external assessment experts to ensure states are using high-quality assessments that are aligned with state-developed standards and valid for the purposes for which they are used.”

TAP Says:

“…the Department granted a temporary waiver to New Hampshire to pilot a competency-based assessment system in four districts ….” as a way to set a national example, (and),  “The Department will work with external assessment experts…”

What this means:

The department will outsource education curriculum and assessment to corporations just like it did in NH where they “…have adopted unique and innovative learning approaches, such as digital learning, that create a more flexible learning schedule that extends beyond the school day.”

EXTERNAL assessment experts. Why? State depts of education already hire folks with years of experience and/or PhDs in curriculum and evaluation. WHY do we need “external” experts? Who are they? And who defines their “expertise”?

The Alliance for Excellent Education  (Bob Wise serves as president) in 2013 stated: “Competency-based advancement is an important part of New Hampshire’s strategy for implementing the Common Core State Standards.”

TAP Says:

“The Department will be part of the community of researchers, technologists, and innovators within the assessment community who are piloting new models, by providing federal funding and incentives for these next-generation assessments and by, where feasible, removing policy barriers to advance this goal.”

What this means:

Researchers: Think-tanks funded by the corporations who profit from their “recommendations” like Alliance for Excellent Education who promoted the NH policies touted in the TAP. Also, Knowledge Works , who wrote a policy brief back in 2013 promoting “competency-based” policies for the role of the U.S. Dept of Education.

Technologists: Online education companies, as mentioned above, such as KnowledgeWorks (the ones writing the policy recommendation) who state, “Since our founding in 2000, KnowledgeWorks has evolved first from an involved philanthropy focused exclusively in Ohio to become an operating foundation and finally a social enterprise engaged in work across the United States.”

Or, CCSSO Innovation Labs: “The goal of the ILN is to spur system-level change by scaling locally-led innovation to widespread implementation” Innovators: For-profit enterprises who receive your tax payers dollars to have your child’s educational services outsourced to them. And here’s that ”next generation” language again (stated in TAP) mirrored from Alliance for Excellent Education  (2013): “… the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium are working to develop next generation assessments, as well as real-time digital assessment systems, all of which are aligned with the new the Common Core State Standards.

Removal of Barriers: Thanks ALEC.

TAP Says:

Invest in innovative assessments: Congress should provide dedicated competitive funding for states with new ideas to develop innovative ways to measure student learning.”

What This Means:

Monies will be directed toward private companies who will be hired by states to implement online education and assessment services.

Here it is stated again: “developing innovative new assessment instruments, such as performance and technology-based academic assessments.”

Here’s how your child’s learning will be assessed  in this next generation:

“Further instructional technology advances will ensure ever more sophisticated learning platforms and data systems that not only more efficiently identify student needs, but also more effectively identify and deliver matching interventions from a repository of adaptive software, engaging digital content and instructor-delivered resources (online and face-to-face) not otherwise available through traditional means. The maturity of data interoperability and content portability standards will enable educators, students, and software applications to assemble ever more unique, best of breed resources customized to each student.”

TAP Says:

“This review process must respond to changes in the field, such as accounting for the increased prevalence of the use of technology-based assessments as well as techniques for demonstrating their technical quality … This could include competency-based assessments, innovative item types (and) … using technology to administer and score assessments …”

What This Means: Computers will determine what children should learn, how they learn, why they should learn, and who they are as learners.

Scratch away all of the other words used for window dressing. Distill the document down to its essence (i.e how many times is something repeated or rephrased). Hold it up against Alexander’s ESEA language and you get a clear picture: WE WILL GET RID OF  UNNECESSARY FEDERAL TESTING (not to actually re empower teachers and recreate meaningful learning) BUT TO MAKE WAY FOR THE INFUSION OF ONLINE AND TECHNOLOGY BASED LEARNING OUTSOURCED  BY STATES TO PROFIT-DRIVEN COMPANIES. WE CALL IT OUTCOMES –BASED. WE CALL IT INNOVATION. OUTSOURCING WILL BE CALLED “EXTERNAL EXPERTS.”

What they call it behind closed doors is PROFITS AND PRIVATIZATION. Alexander’s ESEA revisions are leading the way.

Sure, it’s hard to imagine that schools, especially in well-off suburban neighborhoods would permit their teachers to be replaced with technology. Or their children’s education to be outsourced to online companies. But more and more technology is infused with classroom learning and its becoming “normalized” gradually. Some states require kids to take at least one on-line course in high school. But the best weapon privatizers have at their disposal is our disbelief that “it could happen.” The words “that’ll never happen” are the hallmark of nearly every horrifying affront to democracy and human rights we’ve seen happen in modern history.  I go with what history has to show. “Only history itself can convince you of such a truth. And once you’ve seen that truth-really seen it-you cannot look way” (Kostova, 2005).

Who is bending the ear and wallet of YOUR STATE-LEVEL POLICY MAKERS to determine WHAT performance-based assessments will look like? You? Or, the corporations who are in bed with ALEC (which meets with state legislators behind closed door to craft model legislation)? How often do WE get to meet behind closed doors with legislators? Who do you think they will LISTEN to?

ALEC Model Legislation Reflected Between the Lines

Adopting the 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning:


Statewide Online Education Act:


“Course Choice Program Act”:



Was Someone Mean to You Today? 


by T. Poetter and J. Googins (Eds)

A book review

I need to begin with full disclosure: I have known and been friends with the co-author Tom Poetter for fifteen years. I am a huge fan of his other work including The Education Sam Sanders and Teacher Leadership for the 21st Century , for which I was invited to write the Forward in the first edition.  Poetter is one of the finest education scholars of our time; a curriculum scholar who embraces the idea of public pedagogy (outside the comfy walls of the ivory tower), and who possesses a rich critical understanding of how education policies look and feel in the k12 arenas in which they are implemented.

Like the books that have preceded this one, Was Someone Mean to You Today does not disappoint its readers. Poetter and co-editor Jody Googins perform a feat of magic, in which they eloquently weave together scholarly theories (so often left lifeless on the graduate school floor) and examine how these theories are manifest in the real world lived experiences of educators, students and parents. As someone fairly well versed in curriculum theorizing and the idea of currere (a curricular concept created by William F Pinar circa 1975), I was impressed with how Poetter and Googins are able to “translate” currere into the central guiding framework for the book.  It is intelligible, practical and relevant in ways I could have never imagined prior to reading this book. Currere becomes a powerful tool for those of us wishing to reclaim public education from the destructive grip of “mean” policies.  Citing William F. Pinar, Poetter and Googins define currere as a “four step process that involves viewing life experience and our interpretations of reality as a venture into curriculum theorizing that is ‘the scholarly effort to understand the curriculum, conceived … as a complicated conversation’ (Pinar, 2012, p.1).”

The reader of this book need not be intimidated by dense and impenetrable theorizing, something which too often alienates non-curriculum scholars (aka “normal people”). Rather than spending too much time talking about it, Poetter and Googins show their readers HOW currere looks in action, and by example, make the case for its power in dismantling dominant discourses.

The question, “Was Someone Mean to You Today” is one we usually associate with children confronting bullies in the school hallways, except in this case, as the title implies, the bullies are the corporate-style reformers intimidating and terrorizing teachers and students with “bully” policies. The book demonstrates how currere becomes a tool for standing up to the bullies.

As Poetter explains in the Introduction:

“These ‘treatments’ (papers) would be four-page, scholarly essays with an autobiographical perspective, ‘synthesizing’ the course readings, course writing by other students, discussions in class, the news, societal trends, recent movements in the reform universe etc (currere’s synthesis step) … What I wanted them to begin seeing were the complex connections among our stories, the emergent themes that became resonant, and the power the larger story, told by all of us, about the problems that current ‘reform’ movement has created for American public schools ..” (p. 8).

And the multiple authors do not shy away from strong language, for example entitling Chapter One “NCLB: Educational Genocide.” They call ‘em as they see ’em. I respect writing like that.

Through the process of currere, these graduate students (now turned authors) transform  their own self-reflective journeys into a cohesive book that tackles the more painful and challenging issues in education including equity, racism, classism, accountability, technology, power, dominance and democracy. The students in this project reflect on their own stories of public schooling and interactions with education policies. The voices of each student, reflecting on their own journey expose the grotesque underbelly of the testing and accountability narratives. Their first -person accounts layer with, across and upon one another, forming a symphony of powerful anti-reform stories that truly speak “truth to power.” For example, on p. 19,  Googens, Shoen, and Smith demand that, “Data, statistics, and test scores cannot tell our story.”

And the book is undeniably relevant. The New York Times this past week examined how Texas is re-writing its social studies curriculum to soften the narrative of American slavery. And this news echoes the words of currere-author Kim Jenkins in her section entitled “Framing the Issue: Race and the Rhetoric of Disguise” where she says, “”Never let them dilute your history because if you let them, they will take control of your story and lessen the horror…” p, 84.

In between these individual personal narratives the editors and authors “zoom out” so as to guide the reader through a meta-analysis of the stories, drawing from various scholars such as Dewey, Kumashiro, or Heidegger, within the context of the bigger themes which the stories address. For example in Chapter Three the authors “frame” the story of “Peggy” (one of the many currere-authors), stating:

“In the following piece by Peggy Larrick, she speaks about the hidden curriculum in schools set forth by social norms for student behavior in terms of appearance and respect for authority figures. Peggy reflects on her naïve mission to help children in her district achieve social justice, but comes to realize that imposing her middle-class ways on students is not the answer to their success” (p. 91).

The stories are honest, difficult, heart-wrenching and inspirational. Through these stories we can relate, and consider the possibility of reflecting on our own stories, and changing ourselves. The story-tellers do not tell readers what they ought to do, they do not lecture, they do not preach; but they relate to us through their personal experiences.

Before I was even through the Introduction I was thinking to myself, “I need to get my colleagues to read this.” Before I was through Chapter One I was thinking, “I need to get my students to read this book.” I found myself highlighting nearly every line on every page. My final recommendation is that anyone who cares about the future of public education read this book. Rare is it find a text that is powerful, honest, informed, and accessible to all possible (real) stakeholders: teachers, parents, students, and community activists.

Poetter and Googins successfully elevate currere from the pages of graduate syllabi and textbooks, giving the currere process life and power through their own self -reflective narratives, and in doing so having given those of us fighting for democracy and equity in public education an invaluable resource.

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(A special thanks to Allison McDowell for provoking me to this research and to an amazing blog by Emily Talmage  that had mad amounts of information on this subject)

This has been over a decade on the making. In 2000 Business Week  listed the companies benefiting from the new boon in online education stating, “Dozens of new companies are springing up to serve the emerging K-12 market for digital learning. Investors have poured nearly $1 billion into these companies since the beginning of 1999, estimates Merrill Lynch.”

The development of what we now call Common Core, competency-based learning and the online education industry have a long history. Click here for more on that.

Begin with ALEC Model Legislation  called Resolution Adopting the 10 Elements of High-Quality Digital Learning for K-12

One element which states, “Advancement: Students progress based on demonstrated competency.”

This resolution was adopted in 2011 following a proposal crafted by Bob Wise and Jeb Bush. Tom Vander Ark, also proclaims himself an “architect of Digital Learning Now’s 10 Elements of Digital Learning”

Tom Vander Ark was the first business executive to serve as a public school superintendent and was the first executive director for education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Mr. Vander Ark is chairman of theBoard of Directors for iNACOL, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning. You can see his blog.

Bob Wise and Jeb Bush along with Bill Gates were central to the development of the Common Core State Standards. These standards are an integral part of the new online competency based network.

According to Talmage: “A paper produced by the Gates Foundation describing current investments related to Common Core has a section titled “Proficiency-Based Pathways.” The report states that “conditions are ripe for creating personalized learning opportunities beyond school—in an anytime, anywhere fashion,” and that “we believe it’s possible with the convergence of the Common Core State Standards, the work on new standards-based assessments, the development of new data systems, and the rapid growth of technology-enabled learning experiences.”

Achieve (instrumental in development of CCSS) helps create state policy frameworks for graduation requirements tied to career and college ready standards.

According to a promotional flyer created by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation:

“Education leaders have long talked about setting rigorous standards and allowing students more or less time as needed to demonstrate mastery of subjects and skills. This has been more a promise than a reality, but we believe it’s possible with the convergence of the Common Core State Standards, the work on new standards-based assessments, the development of new data systems, and the rapid growth of technology-enabled learning experiences.” 

In 2010, the Foundation for Excellence in Education convened the Digital Learning Council, a diverse group of more than 100 leaders in education, government, philanthropy, business, technology and members of policy think tanks led by Co Chairmen Jeb Bush, and Bob Wise.  The 10 Elements of High-Quality Digital Learning were released at this 2010 National Summit on Education Reform. It’s an ALEC model-endorsedcomprehensive framework of state-level policies and actions “designed to advance the meaningful and thoughtful integration of technology into K12 public education.”

Read the full list of members and advisors (I am sure you will recognize quite a few of these names central to the ed reform playbook—hint: yes, Gates is in there). This policy is further promoted by International Association for K12 Online Learning (iNACOL) in their website statement:

“Digital Learning Now’s Roadmap For Reform provides lawmakers, Governors, and policymakers with tangible steps to transform education into a model for the world, a system where every student graduates from high school with the skills and knowledge to succeed in college and careers.”

On the Board of Dircetors of iNACOL is Nicholas C. Donohue who serves as President and CEO Nellie Mae Education Foundation “Which has been on the receiving end of the Gates Foundation’s investments in developing and promoting the concept of “proficiency based” education has been the Nellie Mae EducationFoundation, a non-profit that retained 250 million dollars as an endowment when it separated from the Nellie Mae Corporation in 1998. In 2010, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation also received 1.7 million dollars from the Gates Foundation.” Talmage.

Also  the vice chair of board of directors is Mickey Ravenaugh Executive Vice President Connections Learning. Notably she is the former co-chair of the Education Task Force for ALEC.

Also remember Tom Vanderark proclaimed architect of this bill is also on board of directors. He uses his blog for self promotional webinars and posts.

Competency Based Learning meets Online Education

In Maine, we are witnessing this very experiment take place in our schools in the form of proficiency-based learning. The Nellie Mae report writes, ‘Schools and districts are developing increasingly mature competency-based pathways and approaches that others can study and potentially replicate.’ States that have not adopted proficiency-based learning will look in the future to data gathered from students and schools in Maine when deciding whether or not to adopt similar legislation to LD 1422.”

The connections between state legislation in Maine and ALEC edutech companies going back to 2012 can also be found here.


Add another ALEC model bill called “Statewide Online Education Act”:

“This legislation creates a statewide program that provides high school students with access to online learning options regardless of where the student lives. The options are designed to be high quality and allow for maximized learning potential by focusing on student mastery of subjects at their own pace and own time, instead of the traditional seat-time learning requirements.”

Also see ALEC model legislation “Course Choice Program Act”

You can see now why Lamar Alexander’s re authorization of ESEA promoted a return to the states for decision making about assessment. It’s not the tests. It’s the online ed tech corporations that can now deliver state-wide curriculum and instruction. The ESEA reauth says states would be “responsible for establishing asingle statewide accountability system which differentiates between schools based on student achievement, and would determine specific interventions for identified schools.  The bill does not list specific strategies or requirements that must be used for these interventions.”

But the ALEC bills make clear what strategies will be used. The ALEC Statewide Online Act bill states: “The Statewide Online Education Program is designated as a program of the public education system.” Let’s review the beginning here: The 10 Elements of High-Quality Digital Learning for K-12 is “a comprehensive framework of state-level policies and actions designed to advance the meaningful and thoughtful integration of technology into K12 public education.”

This is a timely piece of model legislation given Lamar Alexander’s re authorization of ESEA giving states control over curriculum and assessment. While I am an advocate of the elimination of federally mandated testing and the opt out movement, we should have known better to trust Senator Alexander. One of the things this bill does is: “It lets states develop accountability systems – restoring to states the responsibility for determining how to use federally required tests for accountability purposes. States will also be permitted to include other measures of student and school performance in their accountability systems in order to provide teachers, parents, and other stakeholders with a more accurate determination of school performance.”

In addition to opening the flood gates to charter schools (aka online edu tech companies) “This bill affirms a State’s responsibility to identify and eliminate barriers to the coordination and integration of programs, initiatives, and funding streams, and provide technical assistance and training in order to disseminate best practices.”

Heck, even Microsoft is applauding the bill! (hashtag- not shocked). http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2015/07/17/every-child-achieves-act-will-improve-access-to-k-12-stem-learning-nationwide/

See this link for iNACOL Statement on Support for Competency Education in Senate ESEA Reauthorization Discussion” in which they state:

“The International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) applauds Chairman Lamar Alexander for taking the first step to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) by releasing a discussion draft that includes encouraging elements for supporting next generation accountability systems…and establish the option to implement competency-based systems of assessments.”http://www.bizjournals.com/prnewswire/press_releases/2015/01/15/DC08771

Oh, did I mention that iNACOL is a member of ALEC?

Did we REALLY ever believe that handing testing and assessment back to the states was going to be a “win” for the opt out movement knowing who it was behind the scenes crafting the legislation?

iNACOL proclaims: “A key challenge for Congress will be ensuring that a reauthorization of ESEA increases equity in our K-12 education system while rethinking how assessments and accountability systems are structured. iNACOL looks forward to working with Chairman Alexander on an ESEA reauthorization that begins a transformation of our education system to student centered learning.”


We have gone from the frying pan into the fire. So light it up.