COMPETENCY BASED EDUCATION: Destroying Public Schools One Profitable Data Point at a Time

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This is the planned statement I presented to the Monroe County School Board, my local district board, on Tuesday, January 26, 2015. In it, I called the alarm regarding Competency Based Education (CBE), data mining and the planned destruction of public school as we know it. Please read it, study the attached links and additional reading, and share the information.  We hope it will inspire parents and educators to speak out against efforts to destroy public schools while profiting off our children.

We believe Florida’s accountabaloney system is deeply entangled in this move to CBE.  Schools and teachers must be labeled as failing, otherwise there is no political will to completely overhaul them. Years of underfunding public schools has hastened their demise.  Voucher programs highlight the concocted need for students to flee failing schools while nothing is done towards funding needed public school improvements. State mandated remediation programs have brought CBE and data mining into our classrooms.

It must be stopped.

Mr. Chairman, Board Members, Mr. Superintendent,

Almost 2 years ago, I first spoke to this board about concerns regarding standardized testing. At that time I quoted State Representative Keith Perry who, during a House Education committee meeting had described the current state of education as a period of “Creative Destruction” in which only by destroying our schools will we emerge in the future with something better. He called this “the American Way.”  At last fall’s Excellence in Education Summit, Miami Representative Erik Fresen publicly repeated the need to completely destroy public schools (at 54:45).

“Policy is what matters… The most courageous policy of all, which is: take the entire system that exists right now and disrupt it completely. That will require policy changes.”

Today, I am here to, once again, sound the alarm and to inform you that the complete destruction of our public schools is closer than you think. It goes by the name of Competency Based Education and it has already infiltrated Monroe County Public Schools.  Multiple bills are currently being pushed through the Florida legislature this session allowing the unbridled expansion of the policies Mr. Fresen needs to “take down the entire system.”

I will try to outline what is happening:

In this modern computer era, digital personal data is gold, currently being traded like currency. You know when you search for something on Amazon and Google and then you start seeing ads related to that search in your feed? That is the result of data mining.

In a video I have linked, the CEO of Knewton explains how Education is today’s most data mined industry. He explains “the name of the game is data per user.” From Amazon or Netflix they get 1 data point per user per day. Google and Facebook 10 data points per user per day. In education, Knewton gets 5-10 million actionable data points per student per day! Apparently, every sentence of every passage in digital content has a data tag and they can tell how interested a child is in a certain topic, how difficult it was, etc., etc. Ten million data points a day! This data grab is a gold mine to companies that want to market and design products. For venture capitalists, Education is the new hot commodity.

This is probably why last year’s FSA had a reading passage straight out of American Girl… Not only is this, clearly, product placement advertising on our state mandated test, which should be questioned, but, by using a data tagged American Girl passage, data can be collected to see just what parts of the story is most interesting to boys and girls and marketing strategies can be developed.

This is also why, though paper and pencil tests would dramatically reduce testing time, there is an insistence on computer based testing. On a computer based test, more data than just marked answers can and is being collected and shared.

This also explains why state approved remedial reading and math programs have essentially all been computer based.  State tests can be created, and cut scores manipulated, in order to fail large numbers of students and state law can mandate each failing student participate in a digital remediation program, ensuring a steady stream of data points to third party participants.

Keep in mind that student test scores are digitally linked to personal identification data, including student address, IEP, free lunch status, health records, and discipline records and god knows what else. What if your “permanent record” went viral? Last November, a U.S. Congressional committee criticized the USDOE, exposing how vulnerable its information systems are to security threats. I encourage you to watch the proceeding. Currently, federal student data is NOT secure.

Monroe County already participates in the sharing of student data through associations with Certi-port, Achieve 3000, iReady, iStation, and more. These are vendors that are known to collect and distribute student data. Can they guarantee our student’s privacy is protected? Who are they sharing the data with? Do we know? We do not.

Last week, the Senate Education Committee voted favorably on SB1714. This bill allows for Competency Based Education pilot programs, funded by massive grants from the Gates Foundation, in Lake and Pinellas County and at P.K. Yonge. An amendment was added allowing Commissioner Stewart to expand the program to other counties. They are expanding the program before they have any data on its effectiveness. By 2022 every single school in Lake County will be converted to CBE.

In Florida, to my knowledge, There has never been a legislative workshop devoted to even discussing what CBE involves. CBE is a data driven education system that follows a set of prescribed standards and requires demonstration of “competency” before advancement. It has embedded testing within the curriculum that collects hidden streams of data via unknown algorithms. Stealth, continuous data–collected by vendors, can be shared with third parties–parental consent not needed.

The goal is to digitalize education so data can be collected and, remember, data is gold.

According to Edweek, researchers are busy developing computerized tutoring systems that gather information on students’ facial expressions, heart rate, posture, pupil dilation, and more. Those data are then analyzed for signs of student engagement, boredom, or confusion, leading a computer avatar to respond with encouragement, empathy, or maybe a helpful hint.” Creepy…

The measurement of social and emotional competencies, like grit, perseverance and tenacity, is a stated goal of the USDOE . Measurement of these non-cognitive competencies is already embedded into education programs.

Monroe has spent millions of dollars increasing our technology capabilities under mandates from the state. Initially we were concerned that all these computers were used for little more than testing and test prep. The mandates may, actually, have been in preparation for CBE.

The good news is that, with CBE, end of course exams and the FSA will become obsolete. When data on student progress can be collected every minute of every day, the “BIG” test is no longer necessary.

The bad news… teachers won’t be necessary, either. Current pilot programs include teachers as facilitators but soon taxpayers will wonder why we need to pay a professional to monitor students engaged in primarily an online education and a move will be made to hire a less expensive substitute. By then high quality teachers, stripped of all professional decision making, will have already left the profession in droves.

Why even have brick and mortar buildings for an education that mostly takes place on line?

Why even call it education anymore when it is really the harvesting of student data?

Consider this the alarm.

In  hindsight, it becomes clear that this was the goal all along. We have been allowing our children to participate in this huge data gathering scheme which has the ultimate goal of destroying public school as we know it.  Students need face to face interactions with humans. No computer algorithm can allow and encourage the creative mind. America has prospered because of creativity and ingenuity. We must fight to keep that in our schools. We need to stop participating in the system designed to destroy our schools. This is not about accountability and it is certainly not about what is best “for the kids.” What is best for the kids is that everyone stands up and says “our children are not data points for you to profit from.”

Competency Based Education is NOT the answer for the type of quality public education I want my children to have. It IS the complete destruction of public schools that Representatives Fresen and Perry have envisioned. Do not expect prestigious private schools to institute it. CBE is designed for “other people’s children” and it has already infiltrated our schools. And it will make a few people ultra rich.

SB 1714 allows for CBE expansion without any evidence it even works.

It is the start of a Brave New World and we need to keep it out of Monroe County until and unless long term data from these pilot studies demonstrates its effectiveness.

In the meantime, I ask that you protect our children from the data grab. Achieve 3000, iReady, iStation, and other CBE data mining programs are already being used throughout Monroe. There should be significant discussions regarding whether their risks outweigh their benefits.

The alarm has been sounded. Please heed this warning.

Thank you.

 

ADDENDUM:

While asking for input in writing these remarks, these two remarks were particularly worthy of repeating in full:

From an Electrical Engineer by training, Information Security Professional by career choice and Software Engineer, having developed many commercial applications. He has first hand experienced developing applications for education – and has witnessed the “lure of data data data”:

Your definition of CBE is far too generous and idealistic. Let me just say that CBE and CBT crap has been around for a very, very long time.. The essence of it really comes down to nothing more than one long series of IF THEN ELSE statements preprogrammed to provide the illusion that your advancing or retracting.

In other words this is just a three letter word that represents a profession (teaching) being codified into a linear progression of computer steps.

There is far too much faith that this will somehow magically create a more learned student than what a dedicated human being can. CBE and CBT are all about removing the need for professional teachers — fast forward 20 years…

If we let them use our kids to perfect this technology: teachers will look and act more like electronic librarians or proctors. All the courses and supporting standards will have been written I eve, debugged (at the cost of your children’s education) and shrink wrapped into a tidy downloadable virtual machine. Going to school will look a whole lot more like Startreck the search for Spock when Spock was brought back as a boy and forced to relearn a lifetime of knowledge downloaded into computer based CBT and CBE.

This stuff will make a lot if people very very rich, but until it’s fully functional we will loose generations of children to poor education through this grand technological dissection of the educational process. Computer Programmers are quite prone to being godlike – in commanding and getting their own way – after all they are creating their own alternate reality through their profession. That is CBE and CBT – a codified alternate reality that we won’t know if it’s good or bad until we put a classroom if kids through it !

From Peggy Robertson (www.pegwithpen.com)

People truly are not getting what is happening because mainstream media is keeping this very very quiet. Look at Colorado. One of the advanced states. Consequentially, CBE “advanced” states will also be the fastest to move towards alt. certified/fake teachers who stick around for a couple years. Because…… when you have 150 kids on computers and the computer creates the curriculum and the computer assesses students daily and plans for the next day’s instruction, well, golly, it seems there’s no need for a teacher in that picture. All that is needed is facilitators and a teacher here and there when it’s necessary to round up the kids for a computer lesson that the COMPUTER decides a human might actually need to teach. Don’t believe me? Check out Teach to One Math. Check out Carpe Diem. Check out Hickenlooper’s executive order for badges and Relay’s current foothold in Colorado. Check out my blogs that discuss this at http://www.pegwithpen.com. Check out the ESSA which GIVES FUNDING TO MAKE ALL THIS HAPPEN. And they will sell it as inquiry project/performance based that allows children to move and advance at their own pace – and let me tell you what it will really be…..mundane, skill,drill instruction that is tied to standards that will have many many data tags that will be used to track and manage children and make changes within the curriculum based on the shifts and demands within the market – NOT based on needs of children. If they want to, they can tell the public that suddenly we need a flood of pharmacists (for example), they can direct students into this profession via online classes, flood the market, therefore knock down salaries and benefit the corporate regime. Don’t think for a second that this was ever about the common good. Peggy

 

ADDITIONAL READING:

The first four are “must reads” but really you should read it all, and more. They are talking about profiting off the total destruction of public school.:

http://nancyebailey.com/2016/01/23/cbe-online-is-neither-personalized-nor-higher-order-thinking/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/11/12/the-astonishing-amount-of-data-being-collected-about-your-children/

http://missourieducationwatchdog.com/the-business-of-badging-and-predicting-childrens-futures/

http://nepc.colorado.edu/newsletter/2016/01/personalized-learning

http://emilytalmage.com She documents CBE which is being instituted in Maine Schools

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/01/07/new-student-database-slammed-by-privacy-experts/

In top performing nations, teachers – not students- use technology. http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/09/22/study-students-who-use-computers-often-in-school-have-lower-test-scores

https://epic.org/2016/01/epic-warns-education-departmen.html

http://kcur.org/post/missouri-auditor-finds-student-social-security-information-risk#stream/0

http://missourieducationwatchdog.com/data-breaches-and-ostriches/

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2015/10/internet-companies-confusing-consumers-profit

https://www.facebook.com/notes/alison-hawver-mcdowell/a-troubling-scenario-cbehigher-edindustrystudent-debttechinternet-providers/415669021959739?hc_location=ufi

http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/02/20/how-to-foster-grit-tenacity-and-perseverance-an-educators-guide/

Are Monroe County’s Chromebooks protected?

“Google’s Chromebooks as used in schools also come with “Chrome Sync” enabled by default, a feature that sends the student users’ entire browsing trail to Google, linking the data collected to the students’ accounts which often include their names and dates of birth. Google notes that the tracking behavior can be turned off by the student or even at a district level. But as shipped, students’ Chromebooks are configured to send every student’s entire browsing history back to Google, in near real time. That’s true even despite Google’s signature on the “Student Privacy Pledge” which includes a commitment to “not collect student personal information beyond that needed for authorized educational/school purposes, or as authorized by the parent/student.”

This is important: Google becomes school official if Chrome books used in classroom, meaning that FERPA rules do not apply. http://www.local15tv.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/Google-Becomes-a-39-School-Official-39-if-Chromebooks-Used-in-Classrooms-248827.shtml#.VqLG8sdYfSc

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2015/12/30/google-a-school-official-this-regulatory-quirk-can-leave-parents-in-the-dark/

 

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10 thoughts on “COMPETENCY BASED EDUCATION: Destroying Public Schools One Profitable Data Point at a Time

  1. Pingback: This is you should say no to Big Data | arthur~battram…

  2. There is another, bigger picture danger to CBE replacing humans as the reservoir of knowledge and experience on education and teaching. And yes, as I’m sure you realize by now, it is absolutely about replacement for all but the children of the financial elites, choice and all that. Anyhow, the danger lies in the many forms of hacking that can access, rewrite, and destroy the data reservoir that CBE will create. A short list. 1. Foreign interests be they nation states or corporations can make nefarious use of the data our corporations will be using for job placement. As in spying and blackmail. 2. Once the human reservoir has been destroyed, it becomes all but impossible to rebuild it in any reasonable amount of time. The silicon/cloud reservoir is vulnerable to the aforementioned hacks and to man made and natural EMP events. FYI, the major powers are all developing non nuclear EMP weapons, and they are not that hard or expensive for terrorist groups to build either. This means that the silicon/cloud reservoir can be wiped out leaving us with nothing. Also worthy of note is the cost of the IT infrastructure, the server farms etc, and the costs of maintenance and power to run them as well as the security protocol needed to defend them. IT infrastructure consumes a significant fraction of the worlds electricity production, and there are many IT industry articles about this. But of course climate change isn’t a real problem. Long story short, we are about to replace a resilient, broadly distributed human brain based education system with a localized cloud based one that has multiple vulnerabilities.

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  8. If you have not read any of Noel Wilson’s work on the complete invalidities of educational standards and standardized testing I urge you to do so. In his never refuted nor rebutted 1997 dissertation he shows all of the epistemological and ontological errors and falsehoods and psychometric “fudges” that permeate the processes of educational standards and standardized testing. He destroys Australia’s turn toward CBE (in the 90s, so this is nothing new in education discourse) in Chapter 18: “Competencies-The Great Pretender”

    For a start, here is my “Cliff Notes” summary. If you would like further clarification please contact me at dswacker @ century tel. net or call me 636 932 4124 (land line, leave message if I don’t answer):

    “Educational Standards and the Problem of Error” found at: http://epaa.asu.edu/ojs/article/view/577/700
    Brief outline of Wilson’s “Educational Standards and the Problem of Error” and some comments of mine. (updated 6/24/13 per Wilson email)

    1. A description of a quality can only be partially quantified. Quantity is almost always a very small aspect of quality. It is illogical to judge/assess a whole category only by a part of the whole. The assessment is, by definition, lacking in the sense that “assessments are always of multidimensional qualities. To quantify them as unidimensional quantities (numbers or grades) is to perpetuate a fundamental logical error” (per Wilson). The teaching and learning process falls in the logical realm of aesthetics/qualities of human interactions. In attempting to quantify educational standards and standardized testing the descriptive information about said interactions is inadequate, insufficient and inferior to the point of invalidity and unacceptability.

    2. A major epistemological mistake is that we attach, with great importance, the “score” of the student, not only onto the student but also, by extension, the teacher, school and district. Any description of a testing event is only a description of an interaction, that of the student and the testing device at a given time and place. The only correct logical thing that we can attempt to do is to describe that interaction (how accurately or not is a whole other story). That description cannot, by logical thought, be “assigned/attached” to the student as it cannot be a description of the student but the interaction. And this error is probably one of the most egregious “errors” that occur with standardized testing (and even the “grading” of students by a teacher).

    3. Wilson identifies four “frames of reference” each with distinct assumptions (epistemological basis) about the assessment process from which the “assessor” views the interactions of the teaching and learning process: the Judge (think college professor who “knows” the students capabilities and grades them accordingly), the General Frame-think standardized testing that claims to have a “scientific” basis, the Specific Frame-think of learning by objective like computer based learning, getting a correct answer before moving on to the next screen, and the Responsive Frame-think of an apprenticeship in a trade or a medical residency program where the learner interacts with the “teacher” with constant feedback. Each category has its own sources of error and more error in the process is caused when the assessor confuses and conflates the categories.

    4. Wilson elucidates the notion of “error”: “Error is predicated on a notion of perfection; to allocate error is to imply what is without error; to know error it is necessary to determine what is true. And what is true is determined by what we define as true, theoretically by the assumptions of our epistemology, practically by the events and non-events, the discourses and silences, the world of surfaces and their interactions and interpretations; in short, the practices that permeate the field. . . Error is the uncertainty dimension of the statement; error is the band within which chaos reigns, in which anything can happen. Error comprises all of those eventful circumstances which make the assessment statement less than perfectly precise, the measure less than perfectly accurate, the rank order less than perfectly stable, the standard and its measurement less than absolute, and the communication of its truth less than impeccable.”

    In other words all the logical errors involved in the process render any conclusions invalid.

    5. The test makers/psychometricians, through all sorts of mathematical machinations attempt to “prove” that these tests (based on standards) are valid-errorless or supposedly at least with minimal error [they aren’t]. Wilson turns the concept of validity on its head and focuses on just how invalid the machinations and the test and results are. He is an advocate for the test taker not the test maker. In doing so he identifies thirteen sources of “error”, any one of which renders the test making/giving/disseminating of results invalid. And a basic logical premise is that once something is shown to be invalid it is just that, invalid, and no amount of “fudging” by the psychometricians/test makers can alleviate that invalidity.
    6. Having shown the invalidity, and therefore the unreliability, of the whole process Wilson concludes, rightly so, that any result/information gleaned from the process is “vain and illusory”. In other words start with an invalidity, end with an invalidity (except by sheer chance every once in a while, like a blind and anosmic squirrel who finds the occasional acorn, a result may be “true”) or to put in more mundane terms crap in-crap out.

    7. And so what does this all mean? I’ll let Wilson have the second to last word: “So what does a test measure in our world? It measures what the person with the power to pay for the test says it measures. And the person who sets the test will name the test what the person who pays for the test wants the test to be named.”

    In other words it attempts to measure “’something’ and we can specify some of the ‘errors’ in that ‘something’ but still don’t know [precisely] what the ‘something’ is.” The whole process harms many students as the social rewards for some are not available to others who “don’t make the grade (sic)” Should American public education have the function of sorting and separating students so that some may receive greater benefits than others, especially considering that the sorting and separating devices, educational standards and standardized testing, are so flawed not only in concept but in execution?

    My answer is NO!!!!!

    One final note with Wilson channeling Foucault and his concept of subjectivization:

    “So the mark [grade/test score] becomes part of the story about yourself and with sufficient repetitions becomes true: true because those who know, those in authority, say it is true; true because the society in which you live legitimates this authority; true because your cultural habitus makes it difficult for you to perceive, conceive and integrate those aspects of your experience that contradict the story; true because in acting out your story, which now includes the mark and its meaning, the social truth that created it is confirmed; true because if your mark is high you are consistently rewarded, so that your voice becomes a voice of authority in the power-knowledge discourses that reproduce the structure that helped to produce you; true because if your mark is low your voice becomes muted and confirms your lower position in the social hierarchy; true finally because that success or failure confirms that mark that implicitly predicted the now self-evident consequences. And so the circle is complete.”

    In other words students “internalize” what those “marks” (grades/test scores) mean, and since the vast majority of the students have not developed the mental skills to counteract what the “authorities” say, they accept as “natural and normal” that “story/description” of them. Although paradoxical in a sense, the “I’m an “A” student” is almost as harmful as “I’m an ‘F’ student” in hindering students becoming independent, critical and free thinkers. And having independent, critical and free thinkers is a threat to the current socio-economic structure of society.

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  9. Pingback: Destruction of our Schools/ | School's Out…by Anne Groth, LMS, NBCT

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