Moral Compass or Court Prep? Updated.

Photos of children from Baltimore County Public Schools were removed yesterday from the consulting website of former superintendent Dallas Dance, about one week before his case on perjury charges is set to go to trial.

After recent revelations in this blog, and other outreach, the photos of children in BCPS hallways and classrooms—some featuring Dance interacting with students wearing name tags—have been removed from the private, for-profit The DDance Group website. Dance set up the consulting site two months after resigning from BCPS on June 30. One of the photos also prominently featured the HP Revolve laptops, and student lanyard IDs–both controversial programs brought to the schools by Dance, with contracts totaling more than $215 million combined. While superintendent, a taxpayer-funded job which paid more than $250,000 a year, Dance did promotional videos and related for both companies, Hewlett Packard (HP) and ScholarChip Card, LLC.

Yet the apparently misleading and questionable edtech advertising goes on unabated. [UPDATE: See also another $140 million contract being considered this upcoming week for a new round of one-to-one laptops in the district. And commercial tie-ins with the vendor, Daly Computers, Inc., a re-seller of Hewlett-Packard devices.]

A slew of ScholarChip videos articles partly promoting the company’s relationship with BCPS have also appeared after the ID program was mostly defunct. See images of similar cards here; the program and Dance here (and when it first launched here); as well as references to the district and its One Card in news articles here on the company’s site. ScholarChip has also been listed as a Pearson Independent Software Vendor.

The company, a finalist for the “Emerging Technology Solution” award from EdTech Digest in 2012, was hired by BCPS in 2014 under a $10 million taxpayer-funded contract. ScholarChip has been paid more than $4 million by BCPS, administrators have acknowledged, with over $200,000 still going out annually—even though the unwieldy student IDs are no longer used, and the attendance kiosks sat idle and were sent back.

Is such false advertising in the best interest of Baltimore County Public Schools? Seems a Cease and Desist order is needed. Yet again. As well as further investigation into the former superintendent’s affiliations with the company, especially considering taxpayer dollars are still going into ScholarChip coffers and shoring up company promotion.

Student IDs and door entrance cards are not a bad idea, especially in high schools, but is this company’s product actually being used here at BCPS to “get police and fire departments on board. Here’s a video on how BCPS did it?” Possible misleading advertising using our district might impede the adoption of other proven safety measures to protect schools and students here and elsewhere.

Dance, under indictment on four charges of perjury, allegedly failed to disclose paid outside consulting he did mostly with school systems regarding leadership training, which is also prominently featured on his website. The DDance Group’s “Pillars of Focus” are “Leadership Development, School Improvement/District Improvement, Leadership Support and Strategic Advising.” One of the districts listed in the indictment (though not under investigation), Pasadena Unified School District, still features a testimonial on Dance’s site: “In all interactions, Dr. Dance has been a motivating presence in support of schools and students.”

Despite the fact that Dance widely touted education technology while at BCPS as “21st Century Learning,” his consulting group barely mentions tech in schools. So, one-laptop-per-student and software-delivery of lessons are not The Way? Such digital learning was touted, and vociferously so (“Just Ask, Siri”), by the former superintendent in panels and edtech events nationwide during his tenure.

Will the cash-strapped public school district continue to be used to promote private edtech industry interests?* Dance’s “Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow (STAT)” program is still expanding next year to all 112,000 students in Baltimore County, despite ongoing ethics issuesexorbitant costs near $300 million, and no independent proof of positive outcomes overall.  

Guest opinion post by Joanne C. Simpson, freelance journalist and BCPS stakeholder.

In related news, Dance is set to go before a Baltimore County jury on March 8, in Baltimore County Circuit Court in downtown Towson. For the latest news on the superintendent’s barred consulting gigs while at the helm of the public school system, see this story and upcoming articles by investigative reporter Ann Costantino.

*See this Global Silicon Valley symposium video, also featuring Interim Superintendent Verletta White (then Chief Academic Officer). And continued Digital Promise promotion here. And V. White’s role at the Center for Digital Education here. And, just several months ago, start-ups awarded contracts at BCPS, including Workbench “online learning hub” and CourseArc, an “e-learning content creation platform.” Promotional tweet here. (Orwell, from his Politics and the English Language viewpoint, would be appalled.) Also, vendor HP promos and controversies, as well as Middlebury Interactive Languages (MIL), another mega-contract at $7.5 million and a very aggressive advertising campaign featuring BCPS.

See also, this post regarding ScholarChip by education blogger Anne Groth.

IMG_0616


And this second D. Dance video, posted after the ScholarChip ID pilot program failed:

ScholarChip added 1 video / BCPS / 2016

1

BCPS / ScholarChip

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