Dallas Dance is in trouble. But don’t forget his agenda. The attempted transformation of a school system to personalized learning is troubling. How many school districts have administrators or school board members pushing personalized learning at all cost?
Anyone hearing buzz words and phrases like “no walls and no boundaries?” I have posted before about former Baltimore County Public Schools Superintendent Dallas Dance.
Joanne Simpson’s and Laurie Taylor-Mitchell’s poignant writings about BCPS are in depth and filled with critical links. You can find links to their previous posts below.
Learning about Baltimore County can help us all to understand and keep a watchful eye on what’s happening in our own school districts.
Joanne Simpson has kindly given me permission to re-post her recent report from STAT-us BCPS covering Dance’s connections and the trouble he is in now. It is filled with valuable links.
In one of the videos she shares, Dance speaks glowingly about digital learning anytime, anyplace. He likens a child’s digital device and reading to a teddy bear.
Thank you, Joanne!
State prosecutors are investigating former Baltimore County Public Schools Superintendent S. Dallas Dance, multiple sources told the Baltimore Sun:
“The Maryland State Prosecutor’s Office launched a criminal investigation more than six months ago, issuing a subpoena for school system records, and this month several people associated with the system were interviewed by investigators, sources said.”
Among issues apparently under review: Dance’s “involvement with SUPES Academy,” which did business with BCPS and for which Dance consulted at the time. “In 2014, school system ethics officials ruled that Dance had violated ethics rules by taking a part time job with SUPES after the company got an $875,000 contract with the school system,” the Sun noted. For other info on SUPES and various linkages to Dance, read also this post.
Dance offered no comment to news of a current state prosecutor investigation, but this very recent video by the resigned superintendent speaks volumes.
Other details: The investigative news story on SUPES, which revealed Dance’s consulting job, was first broken in 2013 by The Chicago Reporter and then followed by the Sun. Dance agreed to drop the outside job.
Former chief of Chicago Public Schools Barbara Byrd-Bennett, once named as a favorite mentor by Dance, was among those embroiled in the SUPES scandal and convicted this year of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks and sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison.
Dance, who promised not to consult again after the ethics finding on SUPES, has been cited for other ethics violations and criticized for various “appearances of conflict of interest,” as well as costly taxpayer-funded travel to numerous edtech conferences and events, among other issues. His limited liability corporation Deliberate Excellence Consulting LLC was listed as Active and “Not In Good Standing” a few months ago, as also reported in this blog—a status which remains.
According to revised financial disclosure forms filed “under penalty of perjury” after the last ethics findings, Dance reported no personal income from his LLC, which according to charter records was formed “to consult and partner with school systems, businesses and organizations around best practices to obtain maximum organizational outcomes.”
Dance unexpectedly announced his resignation in April, partly saying he wanted to spend more time with family. Meanwhile, a few of his post-BCPS consulting positions are no longer listed on those firms’ sites nor on Dance’s LinkedIn profile page, including “Partner, Strategos Group,” and a full-time senior vice president position he announced with MGT Consulting Group when he left the superintendent position on June 30.
On LinkedIn, Dance now only features his own Richmond Va.-based consulting company The DDance Group, Inc. and his role as founder, president and CEO. The group’s website was launched a few weeks ago and can be found here. Dance’s overall LinkedIn profile describes him thus: “Father, Leader, Educator, Author & Innovator Reasonably impatient about improving educational outcomes for ALL children.”
Dance’s private consulting group lists numerous testimonials apparently linked partly to his $287,000 annual taxpayer-paid BCPS role as super, as well as conferences and events at which he spoke during his tenure here. The site also showcases photos of Baltimore County Public School children (posted for corporate advertising purposes . . . is that with their permission or that of their parents?).
At least one DDance Group photo prominently features Hewlett-Packard’s HP EliteBook Revolve 810 G2, the centerpiece of Dance’s controversial signature laptop-per-student program, Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow (STAT). The laptop/tablet hybrids have been leased under an unheard-of $205 million single contract spending authority awarded to Daly Computers, Inc. STAT has morphed into a $300-million-plus six-year “digital conversion” (including ongoing digital curricula, infrastructure upgrades, continual software license fees, and professional development—public school district costs that would rise substantially). Daly Computers, then a Hewlett-Packard affiliate, has been a top donor to the Education Foundation of Baltimore County Public Schools.
Despite Dance’s departure, STAT is still being pursued and expanded under current Interim Superintendent Verletta White, who pressed for a nearly $4 million expansion of just two software contracts, iReady and DreamBox Math, this year (see postscript below), despite questions by school board members about the programs’ high costs and lack of objective evidence of benefits. Via the software programs, elementary school children as young as 6 watch math or English language videos, and do gaming-style lessons, or play video games as “rewards” on the devices during the school day.
Among other topics, SUPES also promoted edtech and “personalized” computer-based learning in its SUPES superintendent training, including “virtual learning,” during the years Dance participated. UPDATE: Among the messages offered superintendents from SUPES-related training in Chicago: “We make a huge mistake by thinking that facts make a difference. Facts don’t build trust, perception does.” And perhaps partly explaining why the costs and actual results of expanded tech-in-schools programs has had little analyses by regional media so far: “The key is having the media report “news” from your point of view.”
As CEO of The DDance Group, Dance remains on the board of directors of ISTE, the International Society for Technology in Education, an edtech industry support group where Dance long held a board position as BCPS superintendent. ISTE also promotes Dance’s new biz contact info and, with language similar to his LLC charter, Dance’s bio features his “consulting management firm that partners with schools, districts, governing agencies and organizations to improve educational outcomes . . . ” He also remains listed as a Senior Fellow at the e-Republic* affiliated Center for Digital Education (CDE), roles reserved for “experienced and respected state and local government practitioners and scholars who have demonstrated records of success in support of public service.”
In the low-tech The DDance Group promotional video posted on Sept. 14, an unshaven Dance says he has 20 clients already and hopes to garner the help of others to solve “tough, tough, challenges:” “I have been very fortunate, very humbled, very blessed by what many would consider a pretty successful career, even though it is nowhere near over.”
— Joanne C. Simpson: is a former staff writer at The Miami Herald and Johns Hopkins Magazine, a BCPS stakeholder, college educator, and freelance writer based in Baltimore.
*As first reported here in The Baltimore Post: The company e.Republic (which backs the Center for Digital Education) works with over 700 companies – from “Fortune 500s to startups” – to help executives ‘power their public sector sales and marketing success.’ Among those listed: Intel, IBM, Blackboard, Microsoft, Aerohive, Apple, Samsung, Dell and Google.” Intel, IBM, Microsoft, Apple, and other companies are familiar entities at BCPS.
Also, among a litany of “no-bid” digital curricula contracts recently implemented at our county’s public schools: the reading/English language software program iReady, which had a $1.2 million BCPS contract spending authority expanded in July to $3.2 million for fewer than 5 years, as approved by the Board of Education and requested by interim superintendent White.
DreamBox Math, meanwhile, jumped nearly $2 million more to $3.2 million for just three more years.
If contacts don’t link, can copy and paste this lengthy link: http://www.boarddocs.com/mabe/bcps/Board.nsf/files/AMQQTE6AD435/$file/061317%20JNI-778-14%20Modification%20and%20Extension%20-%20Mathematics%20Supplemental%20Resources.pdf
Such price tags total a whopping more than $6 million for two software programs alone in a cash-strapped school system with many pressing needs.
In the end, many would agree digital technology has a place as a modern tool of learning. But analyses are required when children’s minds and futures are involved. Consider this objective 2017 National Education Policy Center report on “blended and virtual learning,” and a recent Business Insider story on DreamBox, which also questions the tenets of the “personalized-learning” computer-based approach, and points out just how many data points are collected on children–50,000 per hour per student just by DreamBox. There’s also the widespread industry marketing campaigns and venture capitalist profit-margins behind it all.
Previous posts about BCPS on this blog include:
Is the Digital Conversion of Baltimore County Schools a Concern for All Schools. “What’s the Status of STAT Costs? In a Dozen Years, that Could Be a Billion Dollar Question.” by Joanne C. Simpson Jan. 25, 2017.
Priorities In a School System Where Nearly Half of Students Live in Poverty. by Laurie Taylor-Mitchell. January 28, 2017.
Dallas Dance is Dancing into School Districts with Digital Devices. “Resigned BCPS Superintendent Dallas Dance Takes Consulting Jobs.” by Joanne C. Simpson July 8, 2017.