A grassroots education coalition working to slow down the high-tech takeover of Baltimore County Public Schools
focused on the needs of the whole child
not against technology
for the balanced use of technology in BCPS
If you would like to contact us directly, please email STARBCPS@gmail.com (STAR stands for STAT, Technology, and Resources)
Why did BCPS parents join forces to question and research STAT?
Because they were so concerned about what was happening in their schools! Here are some key questions to consider:
- Is this educationally effective or even warranted? (see America’s Not-So-Broken Education System) Is it educationally sound from a pedagogical standpoint? (see Can Students Have Too Much Tech?)
- Are there unintended health and well-being consequences? How much time are children of different ages expected to spend with the devices during and after school? (see A Reconsideration of Children and Screen Time, the major study Facing the Screen Dilemma, and UCLA’s Are Young People Losing the Ability to Read Emotions?)
- How is student privacy secured? (see The Future of Big Data and Analytics in K-12 Education and The Astonishing Amount of Data Being Collected about Your Children)
- What are the opportunity costs of this expensive initiative? How do we value this initiative vs. the benefits of smaller class sizes, books for classrooms, and solving major bus transportation and infrastructure issues plaguing BCPS? (see below for the 2016 County Auditor’s Report, which asked some of these questions)
OTHERS QUESTIONS PARENTS SHOULD ASK FROM PARENTS ACROSS AMERICA (PAA)
Our Children at Risk: PAA Reports Detail the Dangers of Ed-Tech
Key Links to Better Understand STAT (Personalized Learning, Competency-Based Education)
December 2016 Update on STAT’s Eight Conversions (Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment, Organizational Development, Infrastructure, Policy, Budget Communication)
Johns Hopkins University’s Year 3 Mid-Year Evaluation of STAT (earlier STAT evaluations, presentations here)
Dr. Dance at Discovery Education Event: Digital Transition Roadmap & at ASU GSV event speaking on how to get community buy-in
Data & Society Research Institute’s Personalized Learning Primer: Personalized Learning; The Conversations We’re Not Having
The Atlantic: How Big is the Ed-Tech Market? The industry is worth more than $8 billion—even though skeptics question whether the new products improve learning.
Towson University Education Professor Dr. Morna McDermott (national opt-out leader and BCPS parent): CBE and ALEC Preparing Students for the Gig Economy
Baltimore Sun Op-ed: The Ed-Tech Takeover of BCPS
Towson Flyer Op-ed: STAT Costs Continue to Rise
Baltimore Sun Op-ed: Guidelines Needed for Screen Safety at School
Video: Why Teachers Need to Embrace Technology in the Classroom; LinkedIn Pulse Video Featuring Dr. Dance
Education Week: Technology in Education; An Overview
Alfie Kohn (National Education Expert, Author): The Overselling of Ed-Tech
Larry Cuban (Stanford University Education Professor): After Adopting Computers, Why is Schooling Yet to be Transformed?
The Chronicle of Higher Education: Understanding the Origins of Ed-Tech Snake Oil
University of Colorado’s National Education Policy Center’s (NEPC): Does Class Size Matter?
Class Size Matters: Online Learning vs. Class-Size Reduction; Which is Really “Personalized” and Which Helps Kids Learn?
National Education Blog, Curmudgucation: What’s So Bad About Competency-Based Education?
National Education Blog, Living in Dialogue: The Classroom of the Future; Student-Centered or Device-Centered?
Washington Post: Competency-Based Learning; The Newest Fad in Education and Why Some Teachers Find it Troubling AND FairTest Testing Reform Analyst on “Personalized Learning” Resulting in More Standardized Testing
National Education Blog, Tultican: ESSA Promotes Technology Over Good Pedagogy
The following information was researched by a BCPS parent and others.
Most of these points and supporting material were presented to the Baltimore County Council and Board of Education. All information is cited from sources.
~ EXTREME HIGH COST: The “Total Cost” of the 6-year STAT/ digital conversion was listed at $285 million, according to BCPS’s own documents. That number is not set in stone, and could increase or decrease depending on the software licensing contracts, cost of STAT teachers/mentors, and the cost of pricey interactive projectors if implemented. Overall, BCPS plans to spend about $63 million every year thereafter on STAT, a “forever cost.” Meanwhile nearly all of these taxpayer funds are slated to pay one company, HP-affiliate Daly Computers, to lease the $1,400-plus laptops under four-year leases.
This is an exorbitant price tag when other school districts can accomplish digital learning options for tens of millions total. The 1:1 model has been used in some smaller school systems with mixed success, yet such an approach in large districts has consistently failed elsewhere, often due to unwieldy costs, areas such as in Fort Bend, TX and Los Angeles, CA, where test scores remain stagnant or lower even though the district kept using the tablets. The use of laptops or other devices in kindergarten or 1st grade through 12th, on a 1:1 basis as implemented here under STAT, is not recommended or used even in school districts with “digital environments.”
Government Technology Magazine: What Went Wrong with L.A. Unified’s iPad Program?
LA School Report: LAUSD Scores Well Below State Average on New Tests
~ LACK OF UNBIASED SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE: BCPS is relying mostly on tech company-funded studies, dismissing increasing scientific evidence revealing a lack of improved test scores or learning outcomes in high tech-usage classrooms, or other potential negative fallout such as impaired knowledge retention by students. It is also using inappropriate research to justify STAT, to include a Rand Corporation study funded by the Gates Foundation, which mainly focused on charter schools.
Regarding ignoring scientific evidence, perhaps even more alarming are documented brain function alterations and addiction-related behavior fostered by dopamine-surge video game formats common to software being used in BCPS classrooms.
Time Magazine: Screens in Schools are a $60 Billion Hoax
NY Times: In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores
Scientific American: The Reading Brain in the Digital Age; The Science of Paper vs. Screens
~ IGNORING AVAILABLE DISTRICT STANDARDIZED TEST EVIDENCE: Lighthouse (pilot) schools’ PARCC scores have shown a nearly across-the-board drop in reading and math scores in the grade that used the devices. This alone has warranted a slowdown of the rollout and better piloting. The administration has noted that PARCC scores are down around the state, yet the scores in BCPS in 3rd grades with the devices last year were even lower than their counterparts in comparable schools that also took the PARCC exam. Overall, BCPS offers a lack of objective analyses, pursuing large scale 1:1 implementation as a “done deal,” and not considering other digital or online access options.
~ LACK OF TRANSPARENCY: Even a 6-year STAT price tag of $272 million first cited by the school administration was not reported to public, until pressed by the board. Admin refuses to answer questions or downplays related costs, such as $13 million in infrastructure to support STAT (total $285 mill); $40 million in proposed device-linked projectors if approved, & about $10 million annually in opportunity costs to pay non-classroom STAT mentors.
~ OPPORTUNITY COSTS: Overall, massive expenditures and ongoing maintenance costs siphon away needed funds for schools already struggling with large class sizes, undrinkable water, insufficient bus routes, a driver shortage, lack of assistants in special ed and other areas, and environmental impediments to learning such as lack of AC and workable heat. Capital and operating costs originate from different budgets, yet continual investment in STAT impedes fixing such ongoing problems.
~ LEGAL ISSUES: BCPS and the county are open to lawsuits due to well-documented vision and physical fallout—neck pain and wrist discomfort and injuries—from high device usage. Under the current scenario, children are relied on as test subjects without specific parental consent, and the mining of children’s data by for-profit companies is an issue that has yet to be fully addressed.
Entrepreneur: Four Ways Your Gadgets May Be Harming Your Body
Cornell University: Ergonomic Issues for Classroom Computing
The journal Ergonomics, University of Washington researchers: Gravitational demand on the neck musculature during tablet computer use.
Parent Coalition for Student Privacy: Are Most Parents Really Okay with Educational Use of Student Data?
~ EQUITY/PARITY UNLIKELY: Various studies (OECD, Pew) show that technology does not improve test scores or learning outcomes among disadvantaged students, especially in early grades when used more than a half-hour per day. This was a surprising finding to these and other researchers who did similar studies. The worst environments for learning are apparently those with high tech-usage, researchers found.
NPR Commentary on OECD Study: Caution Flags for Tech in Classrooms
This all follows with the respected University of Colorado’s National Education Policy Center’s (NEPC) reports:
“The scope of this study covers charter and district-operated virtual schools and blended learning schools. Miron notes that “large private education management organizations dominate the full-time virtual sector and they are increasing their market share in the blended school sector.” Districts are opening their own virtual and blended learning schools, although these are typically smaller and with limited enrollment relative to charter-operated virtual and blended schools.
“Measures of school performance consistently show virtual school outcomes that lag significantly behind those of traditional brick-and-mortar schools,” said Gulosino. “While this finding did not surprise us, given past research with similar findings, we were surprised to find that blended schools tended to score similar or lower on performance measures than virtual schools.”
THE BOTTOM LINE (from Anthony Cody’s Living in Dialogue Blog, April 2014):
“In this mode of instruction, these devices become the mediator of almost every academic interaction between students and their teacher, and even one another. Students are assigned work on the device, they perform their work on the device, they share work through the device, and they receive feedback via the device. What is more, the means by which learning is measured—the standardized test—will also be via this device.
It is the appliance that now becomes “intelligent” about each student and the appliance is the vehicle by which lessons are “personalized,” because the appliance is what is keeping track of what the student is capable of, and where the student is weak.
Of course the teacher has the ability to oversee and monitor the assignments the device is making, but the whole idea is to automate this process. And this is happening in an environment where there is a clear desire to increase class sizes. Thus we have “personalization” via digital device, at the same time we make teacher-student relationships far more difficult because budget constraints are increasing class sizes.”