Common Goal. Part II.

Recap from Part I: 

Lamar Alexander and Patti Murray didn’t write the new Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA). The Business Roundtable did. Let me break this down for you. By now, those of us who are fighting for public schools are pretty aware of how the Common Core standards were crafted behind the scenes by corporate interests (via ALEC and The Business Roundtable [BRT]).

The final culmination of all their efforts is the control of both the content (what is taught) and method (how it’s delivered).

It started (circa 1984 with UNESCO first coining term Common Core) and will end (post 2016) with the “disruptive, innovative, personalized, career and college ready” ELIMINATION of public education. The passing of ESSA has delivered everything the Business Roundtable wanted on a silver platter: Control of educational content, methods of privatization (charters and outsourcing services) and alternative assessments for teacher and teacher education “accountability.” They say this in their own words. One Business Roundtable (BRT) spokesperson says: “We are particularly pleased that the final legislation includes challenging academic standards; annual testing; increased transparency of school performance through state, district and school report cards; required state action to improve low performing schools; and enhanced support for public school choice and charter schools.” 

Method (aka HOW education content is delivered and evaluated)

While the idea of creating a set of national (0r international) standards has been in the works since UNESCO uttered the term Common Core in 1984, and the rocket fuel propelling it forward was provided by the growing influence that corporations and ALEC had on the international body of UNESCO through the 1990’s until present day. But it’s the advent of the technology industry that has really signaled the end of public education. Now corporate moguls (who largely hail from the tech industry since our post industrial economy is driven by technology innovations) can fulfill their ideological dream of privatizing public education as well. Here again Common Core played a fundamental role in this process. One report writes, “For states that have voluntarily adopted the Common Core State Standards, there are more than 100 direct mentions of technology expectations, and similar expectations exist in states adopting other college- and career-ready standards.”

Here is one example:

Within the body of the ESSA bill lies the seeds of privatization.

By opening the flood gates of funding for alternative methods of instruction and charter schools, the K12 online corporations can insert themselves into the system as providers. The creation a common set of standards formed the modular template upon which competency-based education (CBE) could be written and with CBE, online education is golden.  21st century technology enables corporate education reformers to make this possible in ways that were not feasible mere decades ago. Just look at the two examples here

  • In 2012 UNESCO and Brookings Center for Universal Education (CUE) joined efforts to convene a Learning Metrics Task Force that will investigate the feasibility of learning goals and targets to inform the post-2015 global development policy discourse”. There were three co-chairs representing the UN, the private sector and civil society including Sir Michael Barber, Chief Education Advisor at Pearson. The report claims that, “Exploring whether there is a discrete set of common learning goals that can be universally reached is an important step in shifting the education discourse toward access plus learning.
  •  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.” 

The principles and examples provided in a document called The National Educational Technology Plan align to the Activities to Support the Effective Use of Technology (Title IV A) of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) as authorized by Congress in December 2015. It says “ technology-enabled assessments can help reduce the time, resources, and disruption to learning required for the administration of paper assessments. Assessments delivered using technology also can provide a more complete and nuanced picture of student needs, interests, and abilities than can traditional assessments, allowing educators to personalize learning.”

Thanks to ESSA, this is what public schools will look like: See Different Forms of Online Learning (published by the Goldwater Institute-a member of ALEC).

ESSA includes a notable change related to education technology:

“This law contains new definitions for technology and explicit permission to spend more money on technology. Combined with the transition to mostly block grants, the means education decision makers have much more flexibility on how to spend money on technology hardware, software, and training. Now as advocates and community stakeholders, we must create an expectation that our states and districts invest their money with an eye toward the future.”

Given how BRT (notably the ed tech industry) spent decades planning for and building the CCSS as a vehicle for modularized competency-based online delivery  systems is it so far fetched to see how they designed it in order to do precisely what they are doing right now? CASHING IN?

One website explains: “The instructional shifts of the Common Core mandate changes in course design and emphasis as well as the kinds of questions we pose to students and the rigor with which we expect them to respond.”

iNACOL President and CEO Susan Patrick, along with Vice President for Federal and State Policy Maria Worthen, issued the following statement:

“iNACOL applauds President Obama and the United States Congress for their remarkable bipartisan efforts in taking this historic step to improve federal K-12 education law. ESSA will remove barriers from federal K-12 education policies and open opportunities for states to foster the adoption of student-centered learning models. Through ESEA reauthorization, Congress has committed to giving states flexibility to shift to new, personalized learning models while maintaining the law’s fundamental commitment to equity for all students. ESSA adopts iNACOL’s recommendations for ESEA to support new, personalized learning models by redesigning assessments, rethinking accountability, and supporting the modernization of educator and leadership development, among other actions.”


The Goldwater (member of ALEC) report also says, “’We stand at the vanguard of a shift in education,’ says Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen. Christensen predicts that by 2019—just four short years from now—half of all high school classes will be offered online.”

What Other BRT Corp Supports ESSA?

K12 Inc. This company was co-founded by the convicted junk bond trader Michael Milken and former federal education secretary William J. Bennett. One article called Online Schools a Virtual Reality in Sacramento says “K12 gets the full dollar amount of public funding for each student enrolled. Gary Miron … says the problem is that K12 is accountable to shareholders, not taxpayers.” According to a 2013 Editorial “K12, which contributed $21,000 to GOP candidates and another $25,000 to the Republican Party of Florida ahead of the last election, and other private online learning companies have been lobbying the Legislature hard for greater access to public funds.”

But this didn’t stop them from creating a non profit arm of K12 Inc in 2016 called the Foundation for Blended and Online Learning. Just in time for ESSA.

Wait. This just keeps getting better. John Engler is President of the Business Roundtable (since 2011). Engler also just so happens to serve on the board of directors for  K12, Inc.and the National Governors’ Association.

We need to become keenly aware of the language and intention of ESSA now-we do that by becoming familiar with whose interests it really serves and who its core architects truly are and what this means for the future of our children.


Common Goal. Part I.

Lamar Alexander and Patti Murray didn’t (really) write the new Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA). The Business Roundtable (BRT) did. Let me break this down for you:

By now, those of us who are fighting for public schools are pretty aware of how the Common Core state standards (CCSS) were crafted behind the scenes by corporate interests (via ALEC and The Business Roundtable. If you need a primer on that first, see HERE and HERE.

For a full list of education reform organizations associated with ALEC click here.

The final culmination of all their efforts is the control of both the content (what is taught) and method (how it’s delivered). CONTENT is covered in PART I of this blog. METHOD is covered in Part II.

It started (circa 1984 when UNESCO first coined the term Common Core) in a document called “A Methodological Guide to the Application of the Notion of Common Core in the Training of Various Categories of Educational Personnel.” It will end (post 2016) with the “disruptive, innovative, personalized, career and college ready” ELIMINATION of public education. The passing of ESSA has delivered everything the Business Roundtable wanted on a silver platter: Control of educational content, methods of privatization (charters and outsourcing services) and alternative assessments for teacher and teacher education “accountability.” They say this in their own words. One Business Roundtable (BRT) spokesperson says: “We are particularly pleased that the final legislation includes challenging academic standards; annual testing; increased transparency of school performance through state, district and school report cards; required state action to improve low performing schools; and enhanced support for public school choice and charter schools.”


Content is the “WHAT” we teach in a curriculum. Call it Common Core, call it  state-created “career and college ready standards.” Call it “lilly lala poohpa” for all I care. We can pretend that the adoption of the ESSA bills means that states DON’T HAVE to adopt CCSS and that we now have more “freedom” to choose standards. I can also pretend that unicorns exist… but that does not make it so. Member of the Business Roundtable have been supportive of the idea of national or Common Core standards for decades.

They’ve even devised COMMON EMPLOYABILITY SKILLSThis document was crafted by something called the National Network (within the BRT). Look this document over. Notice the overlaps with the new K12 “career and college ready standards” in your state or district. For example see how these Language Arts goals (below) in the Common Employability Skills paper eerily reflect the new language arts Common Core goals:

“READING: Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents • Read and comprehend work-related instructions and policies, memos, bulletins, notices, letters, policy manuals and governmental regulations • Read and comprehend documents ranging from simple and straightforward, to more complex and detailed • Attain meaning and comprehend core ideas from written materials • Integrate what is learned from written materials with prior knowledge • Apply what is learned from written material to work situations.”

Career and college ready objectives are designed in the likeness of their corporate sponsors. The Common Employability Skills paper states: “Educators and other learning providers will also have an industry-defined roadmap for what foundational skills to teach, providing individuals the added benefit of being able to evaluate educational programs to ensure they will in fact learn skills that employers value.”


According to their website, “The National Network represents major business sectors and is funded through a collaborative partnership of Business Roundtable (BRT), ACT Foundation, The Joyce Foundation, Lumina Foundation, Bill and Melinda gates and Walmart Foundation. Members include leaders in the manufacturing, retail, health care, energy, construction, hospitality, transportation and information technology sectors.” Now recall that 1984 UNESCO document entitled “A Methodological Guide to the Application of the Notion of Common Core in the Training of Various Categories of Educational Personnel.”

So if I am reading this document correctly, our children must spend 12+ years of their lives learning what it is that Walton, Broad and Gates value? Now their investment in the Common Core standards begins to make much more sense. The standards were always the intended gateway toward privatization (see more about this under Method).  These CEOs are calling for a modernized Higher Education Act and are working to ensure career and technical education programs authorized under the Perkins Act align with employer needs. 

The National Network of Business and Industry Associations, calls itself “an innovative partnership that joins 25 organizations focused on better connecting learning and work.” Their goal is to develop tools that:

  • articulate the common employability skills required for workers across all career fields;
  • rethink how various professional organizations build credentials to help workers move easily between professions; and
  • increase the use of competency-based hiring practices across the entire economy.

So one can read between the lines here now and see the clear intersections between bullet one and Common Core standards, while bullets 2 and 3 signal the development of competence-based (CBE) or outcomes-based education. One can begin to see how easily CBE fits in with the BRT goal in their Common Employability Skills document where they write: “This model can take its place as the foundation for all industries to map skill requirements to credentials and to career paths.” They add that educational institutions will be EVALUATED based on their ability “to ensure students will in fact learn skills that employers value.”

NOT coincidentally in May of 2014 UNESCO put out a report declaring the “need for tools to measure non-cognitive and ‘21st Century Skills’ in order to assess young peoples’ readiness to enter the workforce”.


Since the BRT had influence in the new ESSA legislation, and the intersections between BRT corporate goals and education reform policies are designed to achieve those goals, it’s logical to surmise how ESSA was designed to suit the needs of corporate interests.

Still not convinced?

Meet Dane Linn, the Vice President at Business Roundtable, who oversees the Education & Workforce Committee, advancing Business Roundtable positions on education reform, U.S. innovation. (wait until you see who the President of BRT is in Part II of this blog!)

According to the BRT website: “Linn joins the BRT most recently from The College Board, where he served as Executive Director of state policy. Prior to The College Board, Linn served as Director of the Educational Policy Division of the National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices. During his 16 years in this role, Linn represented governors’ education policy issues at the federal level and to state and local associations. He also co-led the development of the Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted by 46 states.”

We need to become keenly aware of the language and intention of ESSA now-we do that by becoming familiar with whose interests it really serves and who its core architects truly are and what this means for the future of our children.


…..The Pearson CITE Online Learning Conference.

First of all…I am NOT making this up. This is not science fiction. This is a REAL event happening next week, Feb 9-11th 2016. Hard to believe. It’s so bad I wish I were making this up.

This is not a conference. It’s a trade show. It’s an event where corporations can sell their educational services and products to meet the rising needs forced on us by education policies (lobbied and paid for) by these same industrial players. I’ve been attending education conferences for 18 years. Sure, usually they’re boring. Sometimes people get silly drunk and do silly things. Often presenters blather on about data that causes you to nod off. But more or less education conferences (even AERA) provide stories of and from experienced educators, administrators and/or teacher educators. Look at their bios, the majority of presenters or speakers have real experience in classrooms (with people). Or maybe they’re community activists who work with actual children. Some of the research might focus on the nails-on-a-chalkboard words like “accountability” but invariably the heart and soul of a true education conference is about caring for children, teachers, and the concept of democratic schooling.

So, sunny Amelia Island, FL is host to CITE: Online Learning Conference.

You may wonder, since the word LEARNING is in the title, is there anything about human development? Anything about joy? About imagination or curiosity? Anything about the benefits of the research being presented to children? Nope. These speakers have much higher credentials all related to business, profit, workforce and the free market.

The program states: “These 45-minute sessions are presented by online learning innovators representing K-12, two-year, four-year, and private sector colleges and universities, as well as leading corporate partners.”

Yeah…it’s pretty much being run by that last part.

And who is going to be presenting? They are MBAs and CEOs. There are a few PhD’s and higher ed faculty in the mix, but it’s the one’s with the corporate partnerships. This is about growing corporate interests… it has nothing to do with what is best for children. They don’t even hide it. The speakers are not educators. Not even close. They are business people who see education as a market. In each session the presenters have 45 minutes to present their services and products — its advertising and marketing disguised as legitimate inquiry and educational scholarship.

Here’s a short clipping of descriptors from the bios of the keynote speakers:

…. disruptive innovation to help clients create new growth businesses…. increase economic opportunity; and cultivate public-private education and workforce development efforts that support and advance these initiatives…. has expertise in all operations of online and blended learning programs including start up, legislative support, staffing, funding, marketing…  the firm’s largest and most profitable business unit … growing the company by launching and leading many of its research practices… is a former Peace Corps volunteer (Southern Chile) turned investment banker (Goldman Sachs)  …  is one of the nation’s foremost experts on higher education assessment … she worked as Executive Director for Higher Education at ETS … served on academic technology advisory boards for a number of information technology companies including Apple Computer, IBM, and Microsoft….  is a best-selling author and award-winning columnist who helps parents and higher-education leaders imagine the college and university of the future and how to succeed in a fast-changing economy…. she was a teaching fellow at Harvard College and a strategy consultant for McKinsey & Company. She graduated from Harvard College and received an MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School. … work readiness and employability, competency-based education models, online learning,… served as Executive Vice President and Chief Research Officer at Eduventures, a higher education research firm… He is founding director of the GRIT Institute, and the Global Resilience Institute, conducting research in 29 countries, as well as Founder and CEO of PEAK Learning, Inc…. a community of designers, coders, and entrepreneurs in which digital startups get their start … education venture capital firm investing in edtech startups. Previously he served as the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Here are Some of the Conference Highlights I Noticed (hang on to your hats!)

KISS MY GRIT(s) — One thing I learned reading the various sessions is that “grit” is now a trademark!!! What? Was “absurd” already taken? Now, it’s an actual step by step science (all yours for the price of $19.99). But wait, there’s more! If you call now we will throw in the The GRIT Gauge™ assessment for free!

Meet Paul Stoltz “Recently, the idea of GRIT, or Growth, Resilience, Instinct and Tenacity, is increasingly seen by educators and even the Obama Administration  as a key to success in higher education.  Building on the blooming popularity of GRIT in higher-ed, Pearson Education [5] has recently partnered with PEAK Learning in order to infuse their MyCareerSuccessLab service with the means assess a student’s GRIT.”

GROOVY BADGES — In one session: “Competency-Based Digital Badges as ‘Curricular Building Blocks’ Allison Eckert, Concordia University High-impact organizations invest in people. While some skills are prerequisites to employment, others can be acquired on the job, preparing people for more complex tasks, and even future leadership roles. That is the promise and possibility of building a progressive credentialing system using competency-based digital badges as “curricular building blocks.””      Thanks, Common Core!

Meanwhile, the schools of the future promise to track and record your every emotion no matter how hard you try to hide it because…. EAT YOUR HEART OUT FOUCAULT, THE PANOPTICON IS HEREiMotion “Measuring Learning Impact Using Next Gen Tools: A Learner-Centered View of Learning Affect, Behavior and Cognition Robert Christopherson, iMotions, Inc. Dan Shapera, Pearson Achievement is a key indicator of learning impact, but it often lacks the explanatory details of how a learner was successful or struggled to achieve within a learning environment. Measuring how a learner’s emotions influence final learning outcomes further supports iterative design decisions that can impact learner engagement.”

Here’s a list of their products:

Remember that US Office of Technology Report called Promoting Grit and Tenacity? Remember that page with the images of kids sitting at computers with sensors on their fingers and motion trackers on their eyes? (see p.44). In this conference we can see how GRIT in one session can hang out with Affective Monitoring right in the next room!


You don’t need a background in education! With some business acumen and your soul successfully sucked from your body, you too can start up an online school. Attend one of these sessions to learn “marketing, enrollment, and admission; how to create and maintain brand awareness.”    All the Starbucks franchises taken in your area? No worries! Learn how to build your own CBE! It’s in the mall right next to Build A Bear! Make sure to stop by these sessions:

Building Your Own Virtual Academy From the Ground Up

Direct Assessment and Competency-Based Education— What Is Required for Application Approval?

Seriously. There are numerous writers, activists, educators and parents right now who are aware and deeply concerned about how education reform, including the new national ESEA policy entitled Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA) is really a bundle package of numerous hidden ALEC sponsored bills that sell public schools out to private corporate interests. We see how words that sound great like “21st century learning” and “personalized instruction” are codes for “learning in front of a computer, taking a test, and spitting out a badge so that you can receive the job training designed in the mind’s eye of global corporate CEOs”.

But many, many more educators, administrator and parents need convincing. They might say you’re being paranoid. You’re over reacting. You worry too much.

Show them this conference program.

This is the future of public education.



use deception to deprive (someone) of money or possessions:
“a businessman swindled investors out of millions of dollars”
a fraudulent scheme or action:
“he is mixed up in a $10 million insurance swindle”
synonyms: fraud · trick · deception · deceit · cheat · sham · artifice ·

This post is a bloggers conversation with Baltimore Sun Op Ed authors Boyd and Weber (who serve as guest bloggers here, their words in italics, mine in bold)

Boyd and Weber: In a recent Op-Ed in the Baltimore Sun, “An inextricable bond between education, business,” January 15, 2016, Dr. Nancy Grasmick concludes that “[o]ur goal should be for the education community to work hand-in-hand with businesses to deliver “personalized” learning opportunities.”  

Cynthia Boyd and Leslie Weber wrote a letter to the editor in response where they expressed  “dismay [that] the relationship between business and the public schools is lauded without a single mention of the policies and ethics that must underlie such “conversations” and “bonds.”

They write “Education technology is big business; with the ed-tech market totaling more than $8 billion in 2012-2013 and investors flocking to the K-12 market, according to a recent article in the Atlantic.” 

Bloggers note: One can see the trajectory of the education technology industry beginning several decades ago with the origins of the common core (noted in a paper by UNESCO, 1984) which foretold of a long-range plan in which a common set of standards and outcomes-driven policies could become the means for outsourcing our public schools to the privately owned, profit-driven technology industry. For the full history of the partnerships between global entrepreneurialship, technology and Common Core standards read here

The foremost supporters and funders in the mid 1990’s of then emergent Common Core were the technology companies (think IBM, then run by Lou Gertsner, who later would become the co-founder of Achieve, the same non-profit that helped create Common Core). For example (the full history is far too long to record in one blog):

The Business Roundtable (a member of ALEC) notesRecommendation: 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.” 

But let’s get back to the main story here … which is about Baltimore County.

From the Letter to the Editor by Boyd and Weber: “Ms. Grasmick argues that the use of ‘computers, the Internet and social media’ should be at the forefront of education. Technology as a learning tool certainly has its place, but the positive and negative consequences of ‘using a wide array of technology to deliver academic content’ have yet to be thoroughly researched, both in terms of educational and even health outcomes. The costs of such programs should also be considered.  For example, Baltimore County Public Schools is spending over $270 million on tablet-style computers and personalized learning, and the district is planning to spend $40 million on classroom projectors.  The opportunity costs (a concept any supporter of business should understand) here are considerable; imagine what such money could buy in terms of smaller class sizes and safer school buildings.”

Bloggers note: It’s important to examine motive, or conflict of interests, possibly at play here as well. Dr. Grasmick’s position at TU is funded by private philanthropists, as Mercedes Scheinder reports, notably: “Edward St. John, a Baltimore developer and philanthropist, and Vince Talbert, a PayPal executive” who “have agreed to donate money for the overall program. St. John, a friend of Grasmick’s, is giving $300,000. [Emphasis added.]. 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 … Talbert concludes, ‘we need to demand that our elected officials break up these monopolies so that market forces will drive improvement.’  [Emphasis added.]”

I also noted in a Nov 2015 blog that the “Innovation in Teacher and Leader Preparation Initiative” at Towson University receives support from the St. John Foundation, and Vince Talbert. In that November post I also asked:

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. ”

Is Dr. Grasmick’s paid-for position (and subsequently her Baltimore Sun article) an opportunity for free market privatizers (interested in profiting from education reform) to capitalize on creating a spokesperson whose university position would create the illusion of legitimacy for their agenda?

Back to the Letter to the Editor.

Boyd and Weber: “Within the Baltimore County Public Schools system, the STAT (Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow) initiative is now pressing ahead with a 1-to-1 computer environment in elementary classrooms, with a focus on online educational programs and ‘personalized learning’ to achieve the goals of which Ms. Grasmick writes.  School administrators, whose official role is to educate 110,000 children, have been participating in speaking engagements, technology tradeshows, and even advisory committees that connect them closely with the very same companies contracting with their schools. They have received awards from technology organizations backed by those same technology companies. The annual BCPS State of the Schools program is also sponsored by companies with a financial interest in selling to the system; this includes the supplier of computers for the 1-to-1 program. Are we ‘hand-in-hand with business to deliver ‘personalized’ learning opportunities’ or have we already crossed directly into conflict of interest?’”

Bloggers note: Personalized learning is code for computer-based instruction. With the recent push toward Student Learning Objectives (SLO’s) running roughshod over meaningful instruction and exhausting teachers with a technocratic tsunami, the gateway has been opened for instruction to be delivered more easily by computers. SLO’s are the gateway to competency based education which was always designed with the purpose of creating online learning environments (replacing classrooms and teachers). In the words of Vander Ark (proponent of online education outsourcing and former Gates Foundation executive) “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.

The Letter to the Editor authors note the ethical conundrum here:

Boyd and Weber: “Ethical boundaries are necessary in leadership, in both education and business, to maintain both objectivity and clarity of purpose. Breaking down such essential barriers by blurring the lines between the needs of the market and the purpose of education will shortchange our children.”

Bloggers note: In other words, like in the film The Big Short, the private philanthropic industries, with policy-makers in their back pockets, are committing education fraud. Right under our noses our schools are being slowly dismantled, our teachers and genuine instruction replaced with “screen time” and meaningful assessments replaced with “competency tests” and “badges” (all of which profit the corporations who sold them to us). The marketers of the new “21st century” and “personalized learning” rely on spokespeople to perform in their advertisements, published in newspapers, which pass as policy.

In the film The Big Short the narrator tells the audience that the financial crisis happened while “none of us were paying attention” (except for the few outliers who no one believed). The same could be said for the authors of this Op Ed (Boyd and Weber) and few others of us around the nation who see the great swindle underway. Theirs is a wake-up call for BCPS parents and teachers. Will we learn from our past mistakes? Can we wake up and pay more attention this time? Or will public schools be sold out?

Here are some links worth reviewing relevant to the Letter to the Editor.

Scroll to the bottom for a list of some of the funders of the survey this year.



Dr. Cynthia Boyd is a parent of multiple children in Baltimore County Public Schools, and a physician.

Leslie Weber was a parent of children in Baltimore County Public Schools for 16 years, is a resident of Baltimore County, and is a longtime education advocate.



This is a guest post from a Baltimore area educator who wishes to remain anonymous:

Our local school system, Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS), is undertaking a 270 million dollar technology initiative (once entitled the Instructional Digital Conversion, but rebranded as the catchier STAT, “Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow”), with the goal of setting up a one-to-one computer tablet and online learning program for its 110,000 students. The program reaches from first grade to twelfth, though the complete rollout has occurred only in the elementary grades thus far; the middle school and high school program has been slowed due to implementation issues. Its stated goal is to offer “personalized learning” for every student and to “equip every student with the critical 21st century skills to be globally competitive.” As attractive as this sounds, however, there is limited evidence about the effectiveness of a system-wide one-to-one tablet program; no input has been garnered from parents, and the expectation is that teachers will fully embrace the program without question (not only were technology teachers left out of the conversation, their positions were eliminated from the BCPS system altogether). This is taking place in a school district that is in desperate need of improvements to infrastructure, transportation, class size reduction, and social programs, issues that have been financially pushed to the side in favor of STAT.

A series of Baltimore County Public Schools blog posts, press releases, and promotional videos preceded the rollout of the STAT program, which officially began in August 2014 in a small number of test schools; anecdotal evidence of the benefits to students of a one-to-one computer program was emphasized throughout, and numerous “partnerships” were quickly established with educational technology companies. The school superintendent and other key administrative personnel participated in several speaking opportunities and conference appearances, often sponsored by those same technology companies; almost immediately the STAT program received praise, starting with awards from online media organizations, also backed by corporate interests. The program had been in place for less than a full school year and was still in a limited testing phase, yet was getting national and even international attention, with the superintendent traveling to a technology symposium in South Korea to discuss the implementation.

While a certain level of promotion of an initiative can be expected, the close relationship between school system administrators and the technology vendors that serve the system raises questions of conflict of interest. Two vendors have produced infomercial-style videos at two of the test schools, praising the hardware and software that the school has adopted. The superintendent also sits on the advisory committee for the Education Research and Development Institute, with a mission to “provide a forum for dialogue between outstanding educational leaders and committed corporate partners,” many of which are vendors for the system. Shortly before the beginning of the technology push, the superintendent also repurposed the Baltimore County Public Schools Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization that had typically handled donations to local schools from area businesses. The new mission was to focus on “system-based projects,” including the STAT program and associated curriculum. In organizing the annual “State of the Schools” event for BCPS, the Educational Foundation has received sponsorships from numerous vendors of both hardware and software for the system, including a $50,000 sponsorship from Advance Path Academics.

A preliminary analysis of publically available data from the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) indicates that the test schools for the STAT program are performing below their non-STAT counterparts on the PARCC assessments; official outcome data will not be evaluated by the school system until the third year of the program, at which point many multi-year contracts for technology services will already be in place.

The STAT initiative comes at a critical time of need for infrastructure and program improvements across the school system. Fifty-two county schools lack air conditioning, and district-wide closures due to excessive heat have become an issue with a school year that begins in August and ends in mid June. Enrollment and class size have been steadily growing, with school construction lagging far behind. The bus transportation system suffers from too few drivers running too many routes. A rapidly rising number of impoverished students lack the simple basics of enough food (47 percent of school population is eligible for the Free and Reduced-Price Meals program). Technology, however, is being presented to constituents as the solution to close the equity gap in education and to sufficiently prepare students for college or a career. Children do need to appropriately use technology as a learning tool as they move through high school and towards graduation; however, elementary and middle school students can make use of technology through shared devices. The ongoing investment of money and personnel in an unproven one-to-one computer tablet program shifts resources away from the basic necessities of comfort, safety, food, and meaningful human interaction.

Bloggers (Morna’s) note: For more on how what we are experiencing in Baltimore is connected to national and global initiatives read:


Common Core and Corporate Colonization: The Big Picture

UNESCO and the Education Technology Industry: A Recipe for Making Public Education a Profiteering Enterprise. PART III

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“The process of taking on the corporate-state power nexus that underpins the extractive economy is leading a great many people to face up to the underlying democratic crisis that has allowed multinationals to be the authors of the laws under which they operate …. What is a democracy if it doesn’t encompass the capacity to decide, collectively, to protect something that no one can live without” (Naomi Klein, p. 361)

I recently read Naomi Klein’s new book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate. I was struck by how many similarities there were between the struggle to abate massive climate disaster and the current fight for public education. I think this is a good analogy because like climate change, education “reform” (aka privatization) is everywhere and nowhere. While the issues are clearly related to human and civil rights, there are no lunch counters to sit at, no visible or tangible signs of du-jure segregation. Rather … like the emissions, fracking and melting of ice caps, the erosion of public education is slow, insidious, and difficult to pin point by location or single origin. The problem feels just “too big” to tackle on some days.

I noted many marked parallels in both the nature/cause of the problem (between Klein’s book and education reform), as well as visions for a solution to both. They (ed reform and the capitalist/big oil co’s) are both “extrationist” in nature: We are mining the earth for coal, oil, natural gas, and other resources just as we are mining children’s data for profit, mining our children’s bodies as “human capital,” and mining schools of our tax dollars to line the pockets of corporations. They share an ideology of money, and the money to fund the ideology.

Fast forward to the conclusion: In order to 1) wrest public education from the hands of privatizers/corporate control ….and 2) to create PUBLIC schools that are sustainable, equitable and meaningful for all children (something we have never done before), we must be willing to completely revolutionize the way in which we think about, and act, in the world. Simple. But a tall order.

Naomi Klein says as much; that in order to truly address climate change, we must critically re-examine the entirety of the socio political and economic values embedded within a deregulated, global free- market paradigm. Ecological justice is social justice, just as education justice is tied to ecological and economic and cultural justice.

Think … lead in water in Flint MI and the effects on educational opportunities for those children.

IT’S ALL CONNECTED: The corporate interests that are driving privatization and global control of health services, access to food and water, and management of other public institutions (i.e. prisons) are the SAME corporations, using the same playbook, to dismantle public education.  And this issue is GLOBAL.

The existing structure is, as Klein illustrates (p. 48), hierarchical (top down) whether by government or by corporations (since the ladder owns the former), and highly “individualistic” (think, CBE as the new model for individualized learning at one’s own pace and interests, AKA computer-based learning).  The same ideological interests in big coal and oil support the ALEC agenda to eliminate public education. Think-tanks and corporate sponsored researchers work diligently to influence public education policy with questionable data. Charter “success” = jumbo shrimp. Or think of this analogy: Monsanto is to food production what Pearson is to education “innovation.” Both claim to have a solution to our 21st century problems (food scarcity/21st century learning for all children) when if fact, while they reap profits from privatizing a public good (food production/education) they exacerbate existing human inequalities. Any solution that does not have at it core a focus on equity and rights for the people is no solution at all.

The fossil fuels are like the standardized testing. It’s over. But they hang on, claiming to be necessary when in fact they’re not. We are moving to new horizons. However more dubious are the Big Greens (free- market led “green” advocates that claim to serve  environmental interests and oppose oil/coal, but in fact avoid addressing the real problems while making a nifty profit with green solutions or financial partnerships). They remind me of the new “anti standardized testing” PRO competency-based education “solutions”-Hell, even Bill Gates and Achieve are on board with “less testing.” Like Big Green, they oppose standardized testing but seek to market a “solution” which is not a real solution at all, but rather another nifty way to market-ize and privatize public education. The other groups Big Greens remind me of are the national leaders of the national unions. Unions as a force for support of labor are vital and necessary to fight for public schools. We must support union members and unionized teaching forces. Yet, the leadership, like the Big Greens CEO’s have, “entered partnerships with fossil fuel companies (never mind The Nature Conservancy, with its’ own Texas oil and gas operation” and this eerily reflects AFT and NEA partnerships with efforts funded by Eli Broad and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations (or Weingarten’s buddy buddy relationship with Hillary Clinton). Big Greens, like national union leadership can bought off and influenced by large donations to look and sound as if they are doing something to help address the problems but in fact do very little to disrupt the power structure driving those very problems. They DIVERT REAL change.

We must have a collective willingness to completely re imagine how we see relationships between labor, modes of production, goods, human services, and human rights. The top-down regimes of both unfettered corporate-run Capitalism and state-run Communism have both failed to provide a sustainable model for both human and planetary rights.  There exist many powerful organizations and leaders who while they claim to want education change, will avoid any efforts which actually disrupt the existing power structure. No plea to legislation, petition, or review panels on testing or equity will do much of anything except expend another decade while the push to privatize rolls forward. We do not have that kind of time. The influence of the fossil fuel lobbies is similar to the influence of the education technology lobbies (i.e. iNACOL) who are shaping education policies in their interests. Decades of global climate agreements, like ESEA since 1965 (NCLB, RtTT, now ESSA) pay lip service to change, equity and quality, while doing the precise opposite behind closed curtains and beyond the eye of public scrutiny. Legislation of ESSA, like any climate-related legislation according to Klein, is directly manipulated by corporate interests (even if it’s so-called “green” corporate interests, or “innovative” education efforts) it’s going to serve the free market ideology before it serves the common good.

There is a third model: But it demands a totally revolutionary dismantling of existing social political and power structures, in which asking “mother may I” of our politicians and education leaders will not suffice. Conducting MORE studies  and providing MORE information to those in power about what WORKS in education (i.e. restorative justice, the arts and small class size) and the negative effects of HST will not suffice (spoiler alert, they already know…they just don’t give a shit). The movement must mobilize from the bottom up, at localized levels, with rhizomatic power structures rather than hierarchical ones, in which compassion and care for others as well as ourselves, all matter. The work is co-operative, collaborative and democratic. It will NOT be led by corporate funded sponsors.

Fellow activist Chris Hedges says as much in his book Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt, when he writes, “We live in a system that is incapable of reforming itself. The first step to dismantling the system is to dismantle the ideas that give it legitimacy …” and yet, “the public’s inability to grasp the pathology of our oligarchic corporate elite makes it difficult to organize effective resistance” (2015, p. 61).

Klein suggests, “It’s not just the people we vote into office and then complain about –it’s us. For most of us living in a postindustrial societies, when we see the crackling black-and-white footage of general strikes in the 1930’s, victory gardens in the 1940;s, and Freedom Riders in the 1960’s, we simply cannot imagine being part of any mobilization of that depth and scale” (p. 460).

And yet, nothing LESS than MASS ACTION and mobilization will stop education reform from bulldozing public schools into non-existence. Climate activists chain themselves to trees. We need to start chaining ourselves to public schools slated for closure. Climate activists stand in front of bulldozers. We need to stand on front of computer labs clear cutting libraries and online programs felling classroom teaching jobs like rain forest trees. Climate activists rescue and free wildlife from the ravages of toxic oil spills. We must free our children from the ravages of standardized (toxic) testing.

  1. Divest: Reject any non-profit or education related organization that receives corporate funding or sponsorship. While in a capitalist society we like for rich corporations to “give back” to the communities, what we are seeing is goals and values of public education being undermined by corporate interests, who, since they pay the bill, get to have the “say” in what education shall look like. And increasingly now schools are becoming merely sites of future worker production in which “career and college ready” mean transforming children into the “model workers” desired by global corporations. Corporate funded organizations will serve corporate (not children’s) interests.  Therefore we must “chip away at social license with which we these companies operate” (p. 354). Education organizations committed to public education should DIVEST from corporate funding.
  2. Reinvest (but with awareness): We must do more than act against something, but simultaneously work toward real solutions-solutions we have never truly tried in our society. But remain AWARE. As we envision “authentic assessment”  … technology-driven interests are hijacking assessment into CBE’s (see Emily Talmage ) which replace teachers with computers, and classrooms with online badges. Hedges call this the “cult that presents itself as the solution to the problem it perpetuates” (p. 68). As we argue for community schools, Philadelphia’s community school movement is being influenced by organizations who will outsource (privatize) services to corporations. The key components are that schools remain public, FOR the public and BY the public (see #5).
  3. Connect the Dots: Labor rights and ecological issues are deeply tied with education issues. We need to reach beyond our silos and work together across issues. Also realize that WE are connected to each other.  Many of us might still enjoy good quality public schools. But we should care nonetheless. Klein, citing Thomas Paine, writes, “It is the good fortune of many to live distant from the scene of sorrow.” We must start caring about Others because the pillaging usually reserved only for the marginalized and economically disenfranchised  (i.e. closing schools in NOLA) is coming home to roost in increasingly privileged communities and schools. This affects ALL of us.
  4. Re-examine Power:  Currently, we rely on others to change things. We appeal to our legislators. We advocate for piecemeal adjustments to existing laws (ESSA) and tell ourselves compromise is necessary, that change is slow, and that we can’t expect too much. Within the existing power structure those would be true. It’s time to discredit these power dynamics. Why do we pay credence to Relay Graduate School “trainers” who come into our schools and tell us how to teach? Why do we follow Pearson scripted lesson plans even when they suck? Why do we administer meaningless tests that bring children to tears? Somewhere along the lines we forgot about our OWN power. Reclaim it.
  5. Reclaim Notions of Public and Commons: Corporate and state ownership have ceased to be viable options that benefit the average human being (the 99%). We must re imagine ways to provide public services as a common good. As Klein says, “All of this is why any attempt to rise to the climate challenge (I add, education challenge) will be fruitless unless it is understood as part of a much broader battle of world views, a process of rebuilding and reinventing the very idea of the collective, the communal, the commons, the civil, and the civic after so many decades of attack and neglect” (p. 460).

I’ll conclude with Klein’s own conclusion to the book (with my own insertions in italics):

Because these moments… (of crisis which create opportunities to seize change)… when the impossible seems suddenly possible are excruciatingly rare and precious. This means we must make more of them. The next time one arises, it must be harnessed not only to denounce the world as it is, and build fleeting pockets of liberated space. It must be the catalyst to actually build the world (…and public education) that will keep us all safe. The stakes are simply too high, and the time too short (…and our children and democracy matter too much), to settle for anything less



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.”