Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin is wasting no time setting the wheels in motion to destroy public education in Virginia, considered the fourth-best public school system in the country. If he manages to do this, it will add to America’s already ominous future of free public schooling, school ownership shifted to big business instead of constituents.
Most schools in Virginia have had a sense of community, and Virginians could lose them to charters and vouchers. They will also wind up giving away their child’s privacy to more data collection.
Virginia has the fourth-best public schools overall in the United States, ranking fourth for quality and safety. Virginia public schools were found to have the fourth-highest math test scores in the country. Virginia schools also have the fourth-lowest bullying incidence rate and have “no significant shortcomings” when assessed for safety from violence, bullying, harassment, and substance use.
During the campaign, Youngkin tried to demean the students and teachers in the state by claiming the standards in Virginia were low, a trick used by the Chamber of Commerce and big business for years.
Here’s how it works:
- When students do well on tests, say the standards are too easy.
- Make tests increasingly difficult until students fail.
- Claim public schools and teachers failed.
- Convince parents they vouchers or charter schools will be better.
The Failure of Charter Schools and Vouchers
Both charters and vouchers, around for years, have steered funding away from public schools weakening them while never showing the promised education improvement for children.
The Christian Science Monitor described how charter schools do no better than public schools on average. Urban charters might show some student improvement, but charter schools seem unnecessary for suburban schools which already do well.
Even urban charter schools do poorly. The ten-year charter school experiment in Memphis, Tennessee, the Achievement School District, failed. They recently announced that those charters would return students to real public schools.
Vouchers aren’t really any better either, considering that school administrators, not parents, selectively choose their students.
In 2017, the Economic Policy Institute noted:
In the only area in which there is evidence of small improvements in voucher schools—in high school graduation and college enrollment rates—there are no data to show whether the gains are the result of schools shedding lower-performing students or engaging in positive practices. Also, high school graduation rates have risen sharply in public schools across the board in the last 10 years, with those increases much larger than the small effect estimated on graduation rates from attending a voucher school.
Youngkin appears to ignore research, seeking to remove the power of Virginians away from their local school districts to convert schools into business-run schools heavily oriented to technology.
The New Focus—Your Child’s Data and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Youngkin’s first cabinet choice is Aimee Rogstad Guidera. She has never been a teacher in a public school, is no educator, but was the founder and former chief executive of the Data Quality Campaign (DQC), and is also a supporter of charter schools.
Here’s her bio from Harvard’s Center for Policy Research. It’s easy to see her quest for school privatization.
What you won’t find here is her connection to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which has heavily supported Guidera’s DQC along with other familiar groups.
The list can be found however on the DQC website along with other anti-public school groups.
Profiling students and their privacy in school surrounding data have raised considerable concerns among parents across the country for years.
In 2017, in The Legacy of InBloom, Guidera spoke favorably of the $100 million educational technology initiative to collect data on students, halted by worried parents.
“If people don’t have access to information and they’ve never gotten information in a timely way, in a context that answers their questions and tailors to their needs, then they’ve never really gotten any value out of data, and as a result, if you don’t get value out of it and then on top of it you don’t trust it not to be used to hurt you, you’re not going to use it p.18.”
In 2013, Leonie Haimson, a parent advocate and Executive Director of Class Size Matters, founder of the NYC Public School Parent blog and Parents Across America, organized a Town Hall advertised by Diane Ravitch on her blog, and her activism helped put a stop to InBloom.
Here were the concerns raised:
- Parents, do you know your child’s confidential, personal school records are going to be shared with a corporation called inBloom Inc?
- This highly sensitive information will be stored on a data cloud and disclosed to for-profit corporations to help them develop and market their “learning products.”
- The data will include your child’s names, address, photo, email, test scores, grades, economic and racial status, and detailed disciplinary, health and special education records.
Here is a more detailed InBloom Timeline from Haimson’s website.
Guidera promotes the idea that data will provide teachers and parents with information to personalize learning, and personalized has become synonymous with online learning.
Ask teachers how much data helps them improve classrooms with poor ventilation. Or how it provides them with the resources they need to teach their students.
Audrey Watters, author of Teaching Machines: The History of Personalized Learning, wrote on her blog in 2017.
Data collection – facilitated by inBloom – was meant to be “the game-changer,” in the words of the CEO of the Data Quality Campaign [Guidera], providing a way to “actually use individual student information to guide teaching and learning and to really leverage the power of this information to help teachers tailor learning to every single child in their class. That’s what made inBloom revolutionary.” “The promise was that [inBloom] was supposed to be adaptive differentiated instruction for individual students, based on test results and other data that the states had. InBloom was going to provide different resources based on those results,” according to the superintendent of a New York school district.
But this promise of a data-driven educational “revolution” was – and still is – mostly that: a promise. The claims about “personalized learning” attainable through more data collection and data analysis remain primarily marketing hype.
Watters also says:
So while “personalized learning” might be a powerful slogan for the ed-tech industry and its funders, the sweeping claims about its benefits are largely unproven by educational research.
But it sounds like science. With all the requisite high-tech gadgetry and data dashboards, it looks like science. It signifies science, and that signification is, in the end, the justification that inBloom largely relied upon.
Virginia might as well be signing back on to InBloom.
Instead, they should be scrutinizing and pushing back on the changes the new governor is bringing to schools in Virginia, and they should be questioning lofty goals using scientific claims.
They may wake up to find their democratic public schools are no more, that their child’s privacy is compromised, and that they’re shut out of any control over what and how their children are taught.