Q2 2013 K12 Inc. Earnings Conference Call
Source: Fair Disclosure Wire
Ever wondered what happens behind closed doors when corporate executives meet to discuss how their company is doing on the world of education reform?

Beyond the media sound-bites and advertisements, what do they really care about?

Please join me in this blog in reviewing the K12 Inc Earnings Conference Call (Feb 5th, 2013).

I am providing only a summary snap shot of what transpired during that call.

The full transcription is available here.

First, a Short Bio. Who is K12 Inc?

Read Sourcewatch. “K12 Inc. was founded by former Goldman Sachs executive Ron Packard and former United States Secretary of Education and right-wing talk show host William Bennett in 1999. Packard was able to start K12 Inc. with $10 million from convicted junk-bond king Michael Milken and $30 million more from other Wall Street investors.”

Services they provide:

K12 Managed Public Schools, International and Private Pay Schools, materials and resources to traditional public schools (i.e. curriculum) via subscription leases. They call this the institutional segment: business products, software and service business selling into school districts nationwide.

 Who was present in this conference call?

Nate Davis, Executive Chairman; Ron Packard, Founder and Chief Executive Officer; Tim Murray, President and Chief Operating Officer; and Harry Hawks, Chief Financial Officer.


Some highlights from their call

  • It’s all about marketing and sales

Nate Davis: “We will continue to sell more products, whether inside the managed services contracts or as a stand-alone implementation, selling by course.”

Soon, even Pre-K children will also be sitting in front of screens.

Meet the new Google Babies.

According to Tim Murray K12 Inc is “piloting a Pre-K program …” He says “We also released a number of applications for mobile platforms with distribution through iTunes, Google Play and the Amazon app store, bringing us to 16 mobile apps in total with over 600,000 downloads to date.”

They also sell teacher preparation!

Tim adds that “Two specific areas of focus on are teacher training and compliance” To that end K12 Inc provides its “own version of certifying teachers in accordance with iNACOL’s standards for quality online teaching.”

Nate Davis says SELL!!! (0ver and over again): “There’s a significant amount of revenue that comes from selling products … we sell our service of managing the school; we also sell the products to the school, the curriculum … remediation tools allow us to sell more products. So some of our product sales will not just be coming from the Institutional line of business, it will also be coming from within the Managed Schools area.”

Not to mention those untapped little pre schoolers! Davis adds, “We think there’s an opportunity there to sell more products in that category as well. Again, that’s brand-new. It has not officially been launched.”

And don’t forget those kids with special needs or learning difficulties/disabilities. They are the cash cow. Nate Davis says, “They may go off-line into a specialized remediation program, and that’s a service that we can sell (as well).”

And math labs. Davis adds, “That’s another program we can take and pour back into the schools … It’s the course-specific, topic-specific, remediation-specific, that we can sell back into the same school that we are in. And that’s where I think the opportunity is.”

Tim Murray: “(New) technologies … allow our customers to self-service themselves as able, which in turn reduces our cost.

  • Individualized education is code for online education

Ron Packard: “(We will) lead the transformation to individualized learning and educational liberty …. what K12 technology is about is driving an individualized education for every child … there’s going to be multiple programs within schools; there already are. But it could also be separate schools with different brand names as well.”

  • The “Experts”

Ron Packard: “We are excited about our new Chief Academic Officer, Margie Jorgensen, who comes to us with an extensive background in assessment and instructional practices … (and) K12 has formed an education advisory committee of outside experts.” (See Committee Composition here)

Dr. Jorgensen’s previous “expert” experience includes:

Founder and CEO of Measure2Learn; Managing director at Battelle for Kids, a non-profit enterprise focusing on several aspects of educational reform; Senior Vice President and before that Vice President, Product Development, Psychometrics and Research for Harcourt Assessment, Inc.; Assistant Vice President for Development, ACT, Inc.; (and) Senior Examiner for the Educational Testing Service.

Also see their Board of Directors

  • Show me the Money:

Tim Murray: “Total enrollments and semester course enrollments in our International and Private Pay Schools grew 10.9% and 1.5%, respectively … Revenue in Institutional sales grew 8.6%. When I look at our operational metrics for this team, I continue to see a growing pipeline, greater sales productivity than last year and a growing backlog.”

Harry Hawks: “Cash from operations for the six months year to date was a positive $32.1 million compared to the same period a year ago as negative $19.5 million and two years ago was $7.1 million … we know that net cash at 12/31 was $9 million higher than cash at 12/31 a year ago, notwithstanding our ongoing investments in curriculum, software and infrastructure.

Ron Packard: “We believe virtual schools are already a significant discount to what taxpayers pay for education and delivering a great value.”

Are we talking about used cars or children????

Nate Davis: “Institutional Business, the business of selling stand-alone products to schools is a higher-margin product … improving the sales of the Institutional Business, because that’s a very profitable products business for us.”

Not all services and products are equal. K12 is looking for “a shift in some cases toward higher-priced products that we are selling as opposed to lower-priced products” according to Tim Murray.

  • The Result?

Trace Urdan: “You guys are making disproportionate profits.”

  • How can they get away with this?

Nate Davis: “We start by looking at what we think the market opportunity is

Tim Murray “We have significant traction in reengineering policies and processes, creating a identified enterprise systems architecture and focusing on our unit cost improvements in our business.”


Tommy: Now you can’t hear me,
your ears are truly sealed.
You can’t speak either,
your mouth is filled.
You can’t see nothing,
and pinball completes the scene.
Here comes Uncle Ernie to guide you to
Your very own machine.

Does this        equal this                   ?

What is our choice to be?

For those trying to understand the reality of what competency based online education is going to look like for the learning experience of children, try this mock analogy (food=learning) for size:

Dear Parents,

We (the billionaire corporate policy makers) understand that nutrition is important to the development of your child. Research shows that eating a well-rounded diet of various foods is vital to growth and development. For decades now we, as a society, have been feeding children a range of daily meals in order to deliver both taste and nutrition. And this worked for a while.


(The traditional style of consuming food)

However, we also know how risky eating real food prepared by real people can be!  The foods we prepare often come laden with bacteria like salmonella. And, we also cannot control for the inconsistencies in quality of food preparation. Not all food workers are doing a reliable job of cooking food in a safe or reliable manner. We just cannot control for such risks to the health and well-being of your child. It’s time for a 21st century solution to replace this old one-size-fits-all mode: food preparation and mealtimes, as the only way to provide nutrients to our children.

Fortunately, we have come up with a 21st century solution which we are willing to sell to every cafeteria and cafe and household around the world!! We are using disruptive technology to provide a better way to deliver consistent and measurable nutrition to your children using more controlled and specific ways which personalize the preparation and nutrition-access experience for your child. With the advent of new technologies we have extracted the nutritional by-product from actual food and created a food-like material which provides the nutrition directly and cleanly with none of the messy inconsistencies brought on by human preparation of real food. No! Now you can be sure that the nutrition delivered to your child is guaranteed. And our system also streamlines the entire process for efficiency. No more lengthy meals which waste valuable time which could be spent performing work-related tasks. Our food extraction and digestion process saves time and money!


(This  is a thing of the past. Mealtime is the status quo. And food born contaminants are a threat to national security)

We are crafting state legislation called the State Wide Food Extraction for Nutrition Act in many states. Now, meal preparation and communal consumption (aka mealtime) can be a thing of the past and replaced with our own Food Digestion station (paid for by tax payers and philanthropic generosity) where children can efficiently “fill up” and be on their way to other work-related tasks. And we PERSONALIZE our product for each child!


(Your child will have their own PERSONAL mixture of nutrients blended exactly for them and pumped into their body at the precise moment our monitors indicate he or she is ready! No more waiting to eat!)

No more messy guessing if you kid is getting the nutrition they need! Now we can know exactly how much and what type of nutrition your child’s body needs and we deliver it directly to them. For small fee, we will insert a body regulator underneath the skin which measures the levels of protein, minerals and vitamins of each child’s body. The regulator sends a message to our company who whips up just the right combination of nutritional needs and sells it back to you in just the right formula. Now we know every minute of every day what is going inside your child’s body. We will track his or her every metabolic process and we stand at the ready to sell you just the right supplementary combination unique to your child!

Just think. Direct, personalized nutrition inserted into your child’s body!  We can create a common and measurable set of deliverable nutrients to all children to assure that some children aren’t eating better than others. You don’t want some children to starve… DO YOU??? Of course not. We are the ONLY solution available to this growing crisis.

The waste of uneaten food, the threat of poor preparation by incompetent chefs, the time wasted seated around the dinner table with friends and family, the variety of cultural and ethnic inconsistencies of food types, the inaccurate and unreliable (and un-measurable and un-trackable) determination of what your child is actually receiving nutritionally? ALL GONE!

Isn’t this so much better?



Than this?food9food8


…………… Or is it??????


It’s no secret that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has for one of its goals, the privatization (colonization) of public education. It’s no secret that their task force for education policy is routinely co-chaired by leaders from the education technology industry (i.e. Connections Academy). It’s no secret that the education technology industry anticipates the promise of billions of dollars of profits delivering “public education” services.

As Lee Fang says in The NationVenture capitalists and for-profit firms are salivating over the exploding $788.7 billion market in K-12 education.”  

Meet iNACOL … aka International Association for K12 Online Learning. It is the most influential education technology trade group today.  Their Board of Directors includes Mickey Revenaugh, Executive Vice President of Connections Academy.  She is also former Chair for the ALEC education task force. 

As Emily Talmage discovered, iNACOL is a “Trojan horse” for education reform (see minute 1:48).

iNACOL also appears to be the delivery boy (or Trojan horse) for ALEC. Just look at the two screen shots from this 2013 webinar they hosted on the future of technology in education policy entitled “Inacol-2013-02-13-federal-and-state-policy-what-is-needed-for-digital-learning”

inacol (2)inacol2 (2)

(click to enlarge)

Curiously, the title of the state bills in these screen shots, which iNACOL promotes as positive change, have titles identical to ALEC model legislation:

The ALEC  bill states: “The Course Choice Program created by this Act would allow students in public schools and public charter schools to enroll in online, blended, and face-to-face courses not offered by the student’s school, and would allow a portion of that student’s funding to flow to the course provider. This Act creates an authorization process for providers and identifies provider and course eligibility criteria.”

  • Look at that bill in Maine. Here’s what Emily Talmage has to say about the online education bills being pushed there: “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.“

And how about the Governor’s Digital Learning Task Force in Georgia? It too has an evil twin:

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 WiseThe 10 Elements of High-Quality Digital Learning were released at this 2010 National Summit on Education Reform. 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”

10 Elements draft by Jeb and Bob ALEC’s adopted model legislation
Customization and Success for All Students: All students should be able to access digital learning to customize their education to achieve academic success.

Student Access: All students are digital learners. Barriers to Access: All students have access to high quality digital learning. Personalized Learning: All students can use digital learning to customize their education. Advancement: All students progress based on demonstrated competency.

• A Robust Offering of High Quality Options: To effectively customize education, students must be able to choose from an array of rigorous and effective schools and courses.

Quality Content: Digital content and courses are high quality.

Quality Instruction: Digital instruction is high quality.

Quality Choices: All students have access to multiple high quality digital learning providers.


Assessment and Accountability: Student learning is the metric for evaluating the quality of content, courses, schools and instruction.

• 21st Century Infrastructure: Education must be modernize to ensure students have access to sustained digital learning.


Funding: Funding provides incentives for performance, options and innovations.


Infrastructure: Infrastructure supports digital learning


WHEREAS, academic success in the 21st century, and therefore the future of our state’s economy, is contingent upon our students’ access to high-quality K-12 education; and

WHEREAS, today’s students have access to the internet, technology and devices unavailable to previous generations; and

WHEREAS, excellent educational resources are becoming abundant in digital form, such as online and blended learning opportunities; and

WHEREAS, the primary barriers preventing our students from accessing these high-quality digital learning opportunities are outdated state statutes and policies; and

WHEREAS, this Legislature understands the urgent need for its leadership in removing the policy barriers standing between our children and the digital learning opportunities that can ensure their success, and our state’s, in this Information Age; and

WHEREAS, in August 2010, Governors Jeb Bush and Robert Wise launched the Digital Learning Council with leaders in education, government, philanthropy, business, technology and think tanks to define the actions that lawmakers and policymakers must take to spark a revolution in K-12 digital learning with their actions resulting in the creation of the 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning; and

WHEREAS, it is the intent of this Resolution that the 10 Elements be used as a framework from which to draft legislation specific to each state’s needs and not a mandate on any one body;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that [State] adopts the Digital Learning Council’s 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning, as hereby presented. It is the will of the Legislature that the Elements be incorporated as necessary through future legislation as well as immediate state regulation, strategic planning, guidelines and/or procedures on the part of the [State Education Agency], local education agencies, and any other relevant public or private bodies.

Digital Learning Council’s 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning

1. Student eligibility: All students are digital learners.

2. Student access: All students have access to high-quality digital content and online courses.

3. Personalized learning: All students can customize their education using digital content through an approved digital learning provider.

4. Advancement: Students progress based on demonstrated competency.

5. Content: Digital content, instructional materials, and online and blended learning courses are high quality.

6. Instruction: Digital instruction and teachers are high quality.

7. Digital learning providers: All students have access to multiple high-quality digital learning providers.

8. Assessment and accountability: Student learning is one method of evaluating the quality of content and instruction.

9. Funding: Funding creates incentives for performance, options, and innovation.

10. Delivery: Infrastructure supports digital learning.

Approved by ALEC Board of Directors on September 16, 2011.



As for the “model” policies iNACOL is promoting from PA and MN? One only need to read the 2011 ALEC Annual Conference Substantive Agenda on Education which states:

“…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.”

Look closely as the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) takes hold and changes begin to take place. The new ESSA favors alternative teacher preparation and creates new funding streams for online education platforms and charter schools.

So…what’s in YOUR state?

Visit more about the ALEC Education Task Force here.


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. They crafted their own draft called “Principles for Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.”

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: http://www.virtualeduc.com/common-core-standards-online-courses.php

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.”

Remember the Common Workforce standards published by BRT that I linked to in Common:Part I? That Workforce Common Core is aligned with “badges” put forth by online companies like Mozilla who intend to create a new line of degrees and diplomas: “In 2011, the Manufacturing Institute unveiled a pyramid of “stackable credentials” that workers can collect in the same way that budding Webmasters can earn a progression of badges from Mozilla. At the bottom of the pyramid is a basic credential—the National Career Readiness Certificate developed by the ACT testing service—attesting to the core workplace skills, such as critical thinking and teamwork, that every worker is expected to have.”

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. See the BRT resounding endorsement for ESSA here. Ok, they didn’t write it in the literal sense. Kind of like ALEC only writes “model”legislation. or maybe as they say it in their own words:

“Thanks to the efforts of our CEO members and partners in the civil rights community who worked with leaders in Congress, the new law is consistent with the principles Business Roundtable released and promoted while the legislation was being developed.”

Or let me share the Business Roundtable “Principles for Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act” guiding principles.  Pretty much ESSA in a nut shell.

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.” http://businessroundtable.org/resources/brt-letter-urging-passage-every-student-succeeds-act


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.