In 2014, Ryan Imbriale, the Executive Director of Innovative Learning for Baltimore County Public Schools, was tasked with participating in the implementation of a “Speak Up Survey,“ which was intended to provide community feedback to the Board of Education on stakeholders’ buy-in of the incoming laptop-per-student STAT program.
However, what might have seemed like a well-intended effort to garner the community’s sentiment on the controversial program was likely flawed from the start: The outside “survey” was designed, in part, by the very person that aggressively promoted the STAT program from its inception, Mr. Imbriale.
In a 2014 meeting of the Speak Up Survey, Mr. Imbriale was quoted saying;
“I mean, when… when this is marketed as ‘all about teaching and learning’, then that drives a whole different conversation, a whole different avenue. And then you’re talking about Chief Academic Officers. Then my sell to my CAO changes completely because I’m not going in and saying (he whispers): ‘we need to do a technology survey’. It’s a completely different story and, for a district like Baltimore County, this needs to be marketed as a ‘teaching and learning opportunity’. It’s about ‘teaching and learning’. This is …and what data we get from this can drive conversations about ‘learner centered environments’ and (then)… where do we need to go with the “equity” conversation? And what that means for our classrooms in terms of teachers, students, and space. That…. that’s what comes from here. But it’s not… if everyone’s not talking the talk then it still is ‘about technology’.”
At another point in the meeting, Mr. Imbriale is also quoted as saying;
“I would agree. I think that it could continue to be that. [Meaning a technology survey]. I mean, see, I’m a little bit skewed on this because my district is large enough that we can take this survey data — and our research department can compare it to other data points we have — and we can create that ‘teaching and learning’ PICTURE…”
It’s no wonder that community outrage continues to build surrounding the STAT issue. The “Speak Up Survey” has been only one of a series of questionable acts used to manufacture support for the STAT program.
- School board member David Uhlfelder, has stated, more than once, that “I don’t need to wait for a study” to pass budgets in support of the STAT program.
- Johns Hopkins University studies, conducted as independent evaluations of STAT, were conveniently never available to the Board of Education when voting for the renewal of STAT program spending.
- County schools’ central office staff have a history of organizing rallies seemingly intended to drown out public opinion by shear force and numbers. (Editor note: See for example this recent story in The Baltimore Post.)
- Former superintendent Dallas Dance has stated on the record that the school district and others must employ new teachers who are “drinking the Kool-Aid” related to “digital learning” and STAT.
This leaves one wondering: If the STAT program was so great, why would our school administrators and some members of the Board of Education find it necessary to skew public perception from the very outset?
Given the recent developments with the conviction of former Superintendent Dance, who spearheaded the STAT program, on charges of perjury, and the questionable contracts awarded to technology vendors, there is no better time for a complete outside audit of Baltimore County Public Schools.
Community trust in senior school administrators is eroding fast. Senior staff who are actively against a full audit are not hearing the community, those which they serve, and it only leaves the public wondering what they have to hide.
A guest opinion post by Citizens for a Better Baltimore County
Editor’s postscript: See the sponsors and partners of the Speak Up Survey here, whose “champion sponsors” include DreamBox Learning and Blackboard, and the edtech industry groups iNACOL (see emerald sponsors) and ISTE, which notes that sponsors such as Microsoft and Google “are more than just supporters, they are active participants and contributors.” BCPS administrator Ryan Imbriale is listed as a member of the Speak Up Survey ‘Advisory Council.’
Additional update: Efforts seem to continue as marching orders go out to teachers to make comments on social media, yet not necessarily identify themselves as STAT or technology-oriented staff? Some of the comments also use the same edtech buzzword phrases as the industry groups listed above: “21st Century Learning,” and hours of screen time translates to ‘allowing students to have ownership.” Another ad-like image of a fifth grade teacher’s Twitter feed: “Presenting…the durable, new HP ProBook X360 — awesome new BCPS student device pending contract approval” [see previous posts on $140 million laptop contract up for vote]. And a campaigning comment by another teacher who has also written this pro-“personalized learning’ article for Tech & Learning, which touts vendor DreamBox and favors utilizing computer-based “data to drive the instructional decision-making process.”
There’s also apparently a sanctioned Twitter handle: