Saturday, July 20, 2013

Colorado Education Association President Promotes inBloom - without the Facts

Yesterday I read an opinion piece in the Denver Post by Kerrie Dallman, teacher and president of the Colorado Education Association, the state affiliate of the NEA. I am a Colorado public school teacher, a parent with a child in the public schools and finally, I am a member of the NEA.

Ms. Dallman is a fan of inBloom and believes it is efficient and will personalize student learning. She states, “I know inBloom will be a great asset to every teacher and student, and I'm disappointed to hear that such a promising service has been mischaracterized, misinterpreted and undervalued by some.”

She fails to mention that inBloom can share student data with for-profit vendors to allow them an opportunity to tailor their educational products to students’ needs.  She fails to mention that “personalized learning” too often means hooking children up to computers with software programs – which is really depersonalized learning.

She fails to mention that federal privacy laws were weakened to allow for-profit companies access to student data without parental consent, and that Jefferson County schools are not allowing parents to opt out of inBloom.  This despite the fact that inBloom has said they will not be responsible if the information leaks out either in storage or transmission.

She fails to mention that inBloom is collecting 400 data points on each child – including the most sensitive information: names, addresses, test scores, grades, economic and racial status, as well as detailed special education, immigration and disciplinary records. These data points could create a detailed profile and follow your child throughout his/her educational career; this could indeed narrow your child’s opportunities within school and after graduation.

One must ask, why do they need all these data points about our children? inBloom has also said that starting in 2015, states and districts will have to pay from two to five dollars per student for putting their most sensitive data on an insecure data cloud and offered up to vendors.  inBloom is also considering charging the vendors for access to the data – which is comparable to selling children’s data or renting it out.

And why, are those that helped fund inBloom, such as Bill Gates, or those profiting off of it, like Rupert Murdoch, not sending their children to schools where such data collection occurs? Why aren’t the teachers from Sidwell, where Obama’s children attend, begging to use inBloom…I’ll answer that – they don’t take these corporate high stakes tests, they don’t put children on computers and provide teaching via digital “learning tools”.  These schools have small classes, with plenty of discussion and debate and engage in authentic assessment such as portfolios and projects.  Let’s face facts – treating students as data points and commercializing their most sensitive information is only for OUR children.

Ms. Dallman fails to mention that inBloom - and others like inBloom - are the next big thing in corporate education reform because NOW that Race to the Top has mandated more testing - testing online, testing attached to longitudinal databases, all in sync with the same set of standards via common core standards – now gathering DATA will be the name of the game like never before.  

She fails to mention that inBloom is also collecting teacher data which violates teacher privacy and may risk their future job opportunities.

She fails to mention that assessment and instruction is best created via authentic learning experiences with face-to-face interaction between students and teachers.  Most data being gathered and entered online in public schools today is data that is based on assessments created by corporations – corporations who know NOTHING about our children – most of this data is worthless.

In this brave new world assessment is more important than learning. Assessment creates immediate profit, and the results of the assessment - gathered by the likes of inBloom - create more profit. It is a cash cow that just keeps giving - using our children, our tax dollars and our communities.

In this brave new world where data-mining rules, we will be required to spend massive amounts of money so that children will be  hooked up to the internet in order to take the tests -  which are necessary to get the data – so that the data can be plugged into software that will prep children for the next test.  We haven’t even discussed the continual updates needed to update technology, nor the testing fees for purchase, administration, and grading of these assessments, nor the data gathering fees required by the software that is supposed to gain access to the data through the inBloom cloud. It is costing New York schools more than $1 billion to simply get hooked up to the internet – imagine the costs to our nation?

In this brave new world, poverty is ignored, teachers are laid off, and schools do not have budgets for janitorial supplies, libraries, librarians, music, art, PE, bus service and more, yet we all have funding for testing and the databases necessary to keep the cycle of privatization churning.

In this brave new world, unions take money from corporate education reformers and then remain silent on issues that could save public schools and promote issues that harm public schools. The Colorado Education Association recently received $300,000 from the Gates Foundation.

In this brave new world our children are being sold to the highest bidder with the assistance and/or silence from politicians, corporations, unions, and sadly, citizens who walk on by and merely protect their own.

As a parent, I will refuse to allow my own son to participate in any corporate testing – for many reasons – but in regard to Ms. Dallman’s opinion piece, to avoid the chance that it might end up in a database such as inBloom. As an educator, I will continue to speak out against corporate education reform.  As a member of NEA, I will push forward NEA’s commitment to share opt out information with parents via NBI 24. As a citizen, it’s one more day of realizing that this fight will be long, hard and full of pushback. Carry on.
Meanwhile, teachers and parents should express their concerns about inBloom to the Colorado Board of Education at state.board@cde.state.co.us  – and Ms. Dallman by emailing her at kdallman@coloradoea.org
For more information on inBloom:

For more information on CEA and following the money:








6 comments:

  1. I am going to share. Great work.

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  2. NYSUT got more than Yall did from Gates. We're very proud of that here in the Empire State.

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  3. Great piece, Peg, and, as always, good work.

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  4. It seems to me that these issues are where conservatives and liberals ought to be one big happy antagonist. At least if this post at Conservative Teachers is any indication:

    http://conservativeteachersofamerica.com/tag/inbloom-inc/

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  5. I absolutely agree with you. Private and especially sensitive information that could specifically identify and prove potentially injurious to students should not be disclosed. Despite any weakening of privacy laws, this sounds and is in fact criminal. Misappropriating information, especially information that could unfairly prejudice educational institutions and potential employers against a student is unethical.
    I am a champion of education reform, including development of educational products that could improve student performance, but means of development of those products should not pose threat of harm to the very students that they're supposedly designed to help. If the inBloomers are really serious about improving student performance, why not select a few schools to offer products that they've developed to improve academic performance, and without compromising student confidentiality. Seeing that any successes or failures of students utilizing their products would also demonstrate the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of their products, exposing any information that might demonstrate ineffectiveness would be bad for business.

    The thoughts of another concerned mother.

    Kudos to Peg for resourceful ranting!

    Follow my education and social reform blog at http://yolandamichellemartin.wordpress.com/

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  6. This is wonderful. Thank you from a fellow NEA member. Here was my response to Ms. Dallman:

    http://teacherbiz.wordpress.com/2013/07/21/an-open-letter-to-cea-president-kerrie-dallman/

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