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Dear  Tom VanderArk and education transformers,

When “rebundling education“, and ending  “data poverty” are you more concerned about our bundles of joy or your bundles of money?

You, along with a handful of powerful people are making decisions for and about other people’s  children, without their consent or knowledge.

With great power comes great responsibility.

What are you doing to ensure the safety of children? Will you give parents a voice or choice in their own children’s education and how their children’s data will be used?  Before placing children in compulsory use of online education products that gather data about them and make decisions for them, via personalized and  blended learning, please address these concerns from parents and the medical community regarding health affects from increased screen time. Also listen to privacy advocates,  including the FTC,  who call for better regulation of student data collection and transparency in the use of hidden blackbox algorithms embedded in online applications.  Will you help parents to see who has access to their own children’s data, including data gathered online and shared with the Federal Learning Registry,  via open  educational resources?


Mr. VanderArk,  you took part in this global panel only days ago,  New Education: How to Unbundle the Potential of a Multi-Billion Dollar Marketand  we also note you plan to talk about similar rebundling of Colorado children on May 3 with KnowledgeWorks and ReSchool and our Colorado Commissioner of Education Rich Crandall.

 [Coincidentally, Colorado’s new state commissioner Rich Crandall happened to announce last week, (apparently with no prior input or discussion from the State Board members–many of which seemed surprised and taken aback), that Colorado should be one of USDoE’s 7 states of innovation. What’s the new assessment and accountability plan for Colorado?  Please make sure that does not mean hidden, online data collection.]


Mr. VanderArk, we also note from your 2013 blog, that you work with this non-exhaustive list of reformers:

  •  the “Super Senator” Mike Johnston,
  • DFERS,
  • Colorado Succeeds,
  • Colorado Children’s Campaign,
  • Colorado Education Initiative / Legacy Foundation,
  • Donnell Kay Foundation (DKF partners with the Clayton Christensen Institute although many call the  data driven Disruptive Innovation Theory a false promise of disruption.),
  • MIND Research,
  • Digital Learning Now!,  
  • Pearson (Pearson is embracing the use of artificial intelligence in the classroom)
  • you are on the board of Global Education Futures, see future map here
  • you are a director of BloomBoard
  • former director at iNACOL
  • former director of Edmodo

We note you are also a former executive at the Gates Foundation, (Gates funds the Data Quality Campaign who helped create the state SLDS data systems with the intent to share individual student data across states–in this press release), and  you are promoting the use of  competency based tests.


cbe vanderark

Competency based learning uses hidden, embedded full-time, data collecting,  formative tests, rather than one end of the year test because, as you state:

“Initiated in the dark ages of data poverty, state tests were asked to do all these jobs. As political stakes grew, psychometricians and lawyers pushed for validity and reliability and the tests got longer in an attempt to fulfill all four roles….But it is no longer necessary or wise to ask one test to do so many jobs when better, faster, cheaper data is available from other sources.”  -Tom VanderArk

When discussing whether to immediately replace the end of year state tests like PARCC,  you also wrote in  emails to the Foundation for Excellence in Education and the Council for Chief State School Officers:

 “ The shift to digital learning and the resulting flood of keystroke data will yield thousands of entries into a student’s standards based gradebook–that will be more than enough data correlated to the Core to make comparisons of academic growth and kids at/above grade level.  I think it will be possible to build lists of tests and testing components can be certified for comparability rather than give everyone the same test. New tests will hinder rather than help competency-based models… I’m afraid that consortia/states will get cheap and only do end of year tests rather than systems that measure progress along the way.”


vanderark personalized learning in every classroom

“Our mission is to advance digital learning in every classroom, in every school, in every state in America…”- Tom VanderArk


Before one can focus on any perceived benefits of personalized, bundled, blended, online education, one must address the very real (and currently exempted) dangers of secret online algorithms and key stroke data that profile children.  Before implementing this blended plan to put children in front of a screen, in every classroom, help pass laws that regulate data use and collection and protect children. Data can be powerful; it can also be biased or wrong,  and can be used in ways we cannot see, ways we cannot yet control or regulate.


Children are a gift. They are not scalable or marketable. We are meant to protect children.  Mr. VanderArk, will you help protect the little ones?


Rather than support the edtech industry that attacks parents, as iNACOL did in this video, during multiple presentations hosted by Pearson,  and rather than support the software industry who is actively derailing  privacy bills that only aim to show parents what data is collected and safeguard how that data is used and shared… in this age of digital learning and big data, please help us protect children in this broken world.


Cheri Kiesecker