Part 4 of 4: I Want it, and I Want it STAT! (from The Truth About STAT)

The final installment in the STAT video series.  Thanks to BCPS Chicken Little for caring enough to research, create, and share.

I Want it, and I Want it STAT!

See the rest of the series here.

Here’s the note which accompanied the video:

There are many advocates here in Baltimore County who have worked long and hard — for many months and years.  It is (and has been) incredibly frustrating, depressing, AND quite scary at times.

Sometimes there is a sense that this is so politically and tech-industry orchestrated that no one should DARE get in the way.

It has felt as if this is happening for reasons well beyond our understanding.  That this “pretendathon” absolutely must happen so that someone can move up the ranks to a larger level of influence and power.

It defies logic, insults our intelligence, and (not to be too dramatic) makes some of us lose a little more faith in humanity.

It is also woefully decadent when there are schools in our system that go without the basic necessities and where school systems across the country have – what seems like –  new issues every day, with blatant and mind-blowing problems with school leadership corruption and – what seems like –  willy-nilly closing of schools, firing of teachers and punishments of principals who dare to do the right thing.

In many ways, Baltimore County has it easier.  And I recognize that.  I look at some other school systems across the country and the inhumane treatment of both teachers and students, as if they are “throwaways” to the world.  So much needs to be done to fix this.

I have no idea what or how, but much needs to be done to help those who don’t even have a shot at a good education or a decent place to live or decent wage to earn (because of the lack of education).  I don’t know what the answer is, but I suspect that there are certainly aspects of technology that can help bridge the chasm.  In fact, I am sure of it.  But it is not all technology, either.  Not in this way and not as an end-all solution either.  I do not believe that our most vulnerable citizens need video-game-type learning to succeed, to make passive learning a way to engage them. I believe that they deserve better than this.  And I do not believe that the ed-tech industry has the answers.  I believe educators have the answers and that technology is a tool that educators can use.

What I have learned through the process of studying (by accident) the problems with my school system (which led me to studying that of others) is that some in this education industry are rock stars for the purpose of being rock stars and, yet, the humble go unnoticed or are even punished.  The ones who are in it for the kids, don’t ask for limelight, don’t seek recognition and are probably too busy to even think about receiving ridiculous amounts of awards.

There is an unbelievable imbalance between the life of a rock star superintendent and the realities of our most vulnerable students.  There is something really wrong when superintendents and other top admin (like my own) are staying in fancy luxury resorts all over the country, when schools in their own system are in need, or when school systems across the country have schools barely scraping by.

There is something wrong when our superintendents (and other admin) find little side-jobs in which they can cash in on their positions and expertise.  There is something really wrong with this and it is so prevalent (and all over the country).  In this way, it honestly seems to me that “school superintendency” is its own industry which has little to do with education.  It is as if they are the portal to many things.  To impacting social change, to geography, to how communities are built, to what happens to pieces of land, to how tax money is spent.  They are in a position to wield a lot of power and I suspect that a great deal of temptation comes along with that.

In my view, we need a different type of leadership in education if we are going to finally solve our country’s problems.  I realize that there is more to it than this, but I think that is a good start.  We don’t need rock stars.  We need people with an expansive vision, who are educators at heart.

In closing and be clear, the videos are in no way an attack on a man.  They are intended to help awaken parents and are a response to the insult of all of the above, to the obfuscation, to the frustration, to the dishonesty.  They were also made as a way to help disallow this from spreading as easily – elsewhere – in the way this has consumed us.

They also make a very frustrating situation a little bit humorous sometimes. I honestly laughed my ass off at points (and THANK GOD for that!)



Part 3 of 4: STAT AS KOOL-AID (from “The Truth About STAT”)

Yet another great video from a very astute (and creative) Baltimore County citizen.  We’ll be sad when this four-part series is done.

STAT as Kool-Aid

It’s scary because our Superintendent speaks about BCPS getting Towson University education students to drink the BCPS Kool-Aid before they even enter our school system as teachers.  Yes, he actually uses the word “Kool-Aid.” An earlier STAT-us BCPS post talks about heavy-duty ed-tech connections to Towson’s teacher-prep program.

It’s maddening because it shows clearly that BCPS spent millions on the inferior iReady program and that the iReady developer, Curriculum Associates, is a sponsor of the BCPS Education Foundation, the primary mission of which is to promote and fund STAT.  Read another post about other questionable connections between school system ed-tech vendors and the foundation.

It’s upsetting because it paints a picture of future schools where computers have taken over.

See previous videos here.

COMMENTS from the video’s creator:

After literally many thousands of hours of research, it is abundantly clear to many of us that:

  1. What is happening here is not unique, we are just a little bit ahead in some areas.
  2. A great deal has been learned about other schools systems and superintendents who are doing identical things in their systems (i.e. proactively pursuing colleges to change their curriculum to suit tech initiatives in the public schools — albeit prematurely) to hire teachers who are already on board with the program. Also, targeting the younger kids to “carry the initiative forward”, as well as the creation of vanguard groups of teachers (within schools systems — which includes those “pre-loaded” college grads) to be the cheerleaders/ arbitrators of change.
  3. What DOES make Baltimore County unique is that, due to the insane amount of public relations campaigning, marketing and ridiculous amounts of vendor-sponsored speeches and presentations, there is an enormous amount of material which serves as a breadcrumb trail of how this is going down.  For this reason, it is easy to piece together the entire puzzle of “premature celebrations” — to phony awards — to manipulated technology surveys — to conflicts of interest with our vendors — to being “bought and paid for” by the ed-tech industry (many members of which have zero educational background).
  4. Lastly — and probably the most important reason — is that there is a very high likelihood that our leadership could become the leadership for the U.S. Department of Education (in some capacity).

To be clear, this is not an issue about technology.  Technology  (of course) is not bad.  That is not the issue.  Many experts in education agree that technology most certainly has a place in education and is helpful in many ways.  The issue is how it is (and will be) used and how the role of teachers is being diminished from Pre-K to 12.   But more than anything, the issue is that what is happening in BCPS is shrouded in deception.  That is the primary reason why there is so much resistance from some in the community.

There is something very wrong going on here and it is our belief that BCPS will be used to replicate this to a larger degree, across the country.  There is so much deceit here and we have a media that is not paying attention (or chooses not to).  Yet, it is nearly impossible for those paying attention to just let it go and turn a blind eye.  So this is more like documenting the lies, than it is about technology — although those lies have the potential to lead to disastrous results for public education.

What started out as some research into a particular issue — having nothing at all to do with any of this — has turned into THIS!  It is scary to imagine where we would be, had it not been for the other problems that caught our attention in the first place.

While watching the new video, keep in mind the following:

The Towson University College of Education was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) at a Teacher Preparation Innovation Summit in Washington, D.C. TU was selected because of its leadership in the innovative use of technology to support the learning of pre-service teachers.

‘America’s pre-service teachers must be prepared to use technology effectively in the classroom,’ said Joseph South, director of the ED Office of Educational Technology. ‘We are excited by the innovations we’re seeing at Towson University to ensure their pre-service teachers have opportunities to actively use technology to support learning and teaching through creation, collaboration, and problem solving.’

‘We were honored to attend and present at the 2016 Teacher Preparation Innovation Summit  hosted by the U.S. Department of Education and ASCD,” Mullen said. “The summit was an opportunity to join educators across the country who are on the leading edge of innovation and educator preparation.”

Sure sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Also, there are at least two other BCPS employees (in addition to Dallas Dance) who work closely with the U.S. Department of Education on Personalized Learning technology initiatives, all of whom also attended and presented at the recent ASU Global Silicon Valley event in San Diego.  Joseph South presented, as well.

Ryan Imbriale and Verletta White are both on the Superintendent’s Technical Working Group under Joseph South’s Office of Educational Technology for the US Department of Education

So, is it any surprise that Towson University would be so easily sucked up into the national recognition machine?

Advice to BCPS Parents from “Wrench in the Gears” and Why iNACOL Loves ESSA

Recent days have seen an uptick in conversations about online Competency-based Education or CBE, the scary wave of educational transformation rapidly sweeping over the country.  BCPS students, teachers, and parents are at the front edge of this wave with STAT. 

Here is a post by a parent of a public school student who advocates for doing much more than just opting out of end-of-the-year tests.

From Wrench in the Gears (A Skeptical Parent’s Thoughts on Digital Curriculum):  Stop! Don’t opt out. Read this first.

National education expert Diane Ravitch recently linked to the blog.

One of the main “benefits” of our 1:1 initiative, according to Dr. Dance, is that it would allow children to be assessed anytime, anywhere. We’re spending millions on contracts to use and sometimes develop computer-based assessments at the end of every unit.

If you have any doubts about whether the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) replacement, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), is ripe for computer-based personalized learning assessments, iNACOL, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, a major trade group, and its partners love ESSA.  Review the slides from this recent webinar hosted by the iNACOL president, iNACOL’s VP for Federal and State Policy, and KnowledgeWorks’ Senior Director of National Policy and you’ll begin to understand why.

During a keynote presentation at iNACOL’s annual meeting, our own Superintendent said:

“The other conversion was this whole idea around the assessment conversion.  There’s a lot of talk around the country about that right now.  Let’s get away from this idea of paper and pencil, you know, multiple-choice assessments.  How do we assess our students without even stopping class, space and time to do that?  Great teachers do this all the time with formative assessments.  But, we also know, in order to personalize learning for young people, we should be able to assess students at any moment, to figure out what level they’re on, what standards they’ve mastered, so they can move along the continuum as [sic] appropriately.”

Watch here. Go to minute 33.

Read, share these links, ask questions, and follow the suggestions from “Wrench in the Gears” that already apply to those of us in BCPS:

~ If your school offers a device for home use, decline to sign the waiver for it and/or pay the fee.

What happens if you don’t sign the waiver for middle and high school?  BCPS needs to make that clear.  We also have elementary students using a 1:1 (that means their own) device at school in first grade!   Many parents are totally unaware how much time students are spending with it, or what they are doing.  Turns out, BCPS leadership doesn’t know how much time students are spending on it either (at approximately 1:00, we hear that there’s “very limited research” on safe screentime in an educational context)!

~ Refuse to allow your child’s behavioral or social-emotional data to be entered into third-party applications. (e.g. Class Dojo)

Ask questions about all the third-party applications being used in BCPS.  Class Dojo tracks behavior.  Check out whether Common Sense Media’s privacy evaluation team has rated the applications. Subscribe to the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy’s blog and check out their back-to-school advice.

~ Refuse in-class social networking programs (e.g. EdModo).

We’re curious about how this is being used in BCPS classrooms and what other social networking software is used.  In general, parents should be very cautious about introducing social media to children – BCPS’ own advice for parents says so.  Parents should have a say about when and how their children are introduced to social networking for school.

~ Set a screentime maximum per day/per week for your child.

Research has shown that when children are spending more than a half-hour per day on the computer, learning outcomes are worse.  The evaluation of STAT thus far has NO data on learning outcomes.  Read the JHU STAT reports here. Ask for homework alternatives that do not require use of a computer.  Ask for textbooks so that reading can be done without more time on the computer.

~ Opt young children out of in-school screentime altogether and request paper and pencil assignments and reading from print books (not e-books).

Parents Across America (PAA), a grassroots, non-partisan organization, has a number of useful linksHere are some questions to ask your school.

~ Begin educating parents about the difference between “personalized learning” modules that rely on mining PII (personally-identifiable information) to function properly and technology that empowers children to create and share their own content.

Dreambox and iReady, so-called “personalized learning” software, are being used in BCPS.  Neither empowers children to create their own content.  See this link on iReady, and this one; this link concerns Dreambox.  Look in BCPSone.  Ask your kids.  Ask your teachers and principals.  What else are they using?  Log in at home with your child if you can and check it out – if you don’t have access to a computer at home, ask your school to show you the programs in action.  You have a right to know what your child is doing at school.

~ Insist that school budgets prioritize human instruction and that hybrid/blended learning not be used as a backdoor way to increase class size or push online classes.

The County Auditor’s report of 2015 notes that class sizes have increased with the implementation STAT.  STAT teachers used to be classroom teachers – they are no longer, instead focusing on professional development.  Hybrid and blended learning have a host of definitions, but here are some examples of how it is playing out so far for kids as young as first grade in BCPS.

As Dr. Dance says:

“Most of the nation’s classrooms have about 30 students in them. How can a teacher personalize and customize unless you leverage technology?  In BCPS we have five-year journey to go 1:1 in grades K-12 to where every single kid has a device.” 

But wait.  Respected education policy center NEPC at the University of Colorado says:

“Smaller classes are particularly effective at raising achievement levels of low-income and minority children.”