Flock of sheep, New Zealand, Pacific

Someone please sign everyone at the USDoEd up for a refresher course on the constitution. They are really struggling with the concept of the 10th amendment.

The latest from Arne Duncan et al continues the tradition of the federal government inserting its nose into local school district decisions which the constitution does not allow for and ESEA expressly forbids. They are now going directly to local school districts and asking 16,000 Superintendent across the country to sign THEIR Future Ready technology pledge.

From the letter sent to Superintendents,

The U.S. Department of Education seeks to encourage and support superintendents who commit to taking a leadership role in this transition with recognition and resources to help facilitate this transition to digital learning.

The main goal of this initiative is to get districts, charters and private schools to commit to maximizing their use of digital learning and broadband access to the internet. They want schools to fund the resources necessary to “leverage their maximum impact on student learning… to develop the human capacity, digital materials, and device access to use the new bandwidth wisely and effectively.” In other words, buy more devices so you can meet our Race To The Top goal of 1:1 student:device ratio so you can purchase more digital learning services and supplies. They have a lot of high powered (well funded) friends of Washington who produce educational supplies and services who need to be repaid for helping get the right people in office so the bureaucrats could get an appointment.

They want districts to “transition to effective digital learning,” to “achieve tangible outcomes for the students they serve.” So here we all still are on the outcomes based education bandwagon.

It’s a nice little system. Millions of students with no other education option, will be pushed into using a private company’s product which will in turn continuously collect data on their use to improve said product. And who benefits from this? The private company. How many of our Superintendents will gladly be team players and sign this little pledge without any careful consideration of the costs of such an action? If history is any example, it unfortunately will be many (see photo above.)

Among other things, the pledge commits districts to helping support home internet access. Since when is this the job of a school district? If it is, then shouldn’t they also support efforts to get every child a nice desk and chair at which to study? Shouldn’t they also be in the business of making sure every child has a nice bed since sleep is critical to learning readiness? Where does the school district’s responsibility end when it comes to a child’s education? And since when is it the job of the education department of the federal government to make sure that internet is available in the home? Sure the internet is useful, but is this how we want our education dollars spent – paying for school officials to work on these kinds of ancillary projects? Aren’t we in fact turning our district personnel into free lobbyists for all the private companies who will benefit financially from the district’s use of technology?

The pledge commits districts to providing teachers with more data to “make better instructional decisions.” Has your district made the case that teachers would do a better job teaching if only they had more data? Shouldn’t there be a demonstrated need before a district invests thousands or millions of dollars in a solution?

This line in the pledge, “Future Ready districts use carefully selected high quality digital content that is aligned to college and career ready standards” is code for “we need this to continue the implementation of Common Core.”

Which leads to their conclusion, “all of which help to return America to the nation in the world with the highest college completion rate by 2020.” The highest college completion rate is a rather vague and arbitrary goal. Complete in four years? Six? Or maybe just two? Just complete college? What if you finish but with a mediocre GPA? What if you finish but with a useless degree? Complete college in order to what? Make more money than those who didn’t complete college? If lots more people have college degrees, then the value of those degrees goes down and your compensation bargaining chip is greatly diminished. Supply and demand folks. The nice talking point becomes much less meaningful when you start asking questions.

And while you’re at it, look up 2020 in your state and see how many programs are being geared up to become effective in 2020. What is the machine that they are planning to turn on that year?

The pledge recognizes some of these challenges, but recognizing and having the realistic ability to address these challenges are two different things. Talk to the districts who bought hundreds of tablets for their students already only to find many of them out of service at any one time due to improper care or use by the students costing the district thousands of dollars on a continuous basis for repair and maintenance.  Ask your Superintendent if he/she has talked to the district’s IT personnel about the risks to the district of giving hundreds of kids access to the internet, even on devices that supposedly have parental controls on them. Kids have an uncanny knack for finding ways around those controls which lets viruses get into the district’s servers. And some of those viruses are simply tracking programs that look for ways to access sensitive data stored on a school’s system. Ask your Superintendent if they have looked into the cost of hiring additional IT staff to protect the privacy of district records or full time legal counsel to address data breaches before they signed this little pledge. These are two professions where you get what you pay for so you can’t skimp on compensation for these positions.

Propaganda for this pledge is being blasted out on Twitter with the hashtag #futureready. You can also search Future Ready on FaceBook to find more pandering to the digital overlords.

Is your Superintendent pushing this on your school board now? Ask them why they need to sign the US Department of Education’s pledge if they are really committed to using technology in the classroom. Could they not realize many of these benefits with the technology they can afford without taking on the additional strings of accountability that will no doubt come with the federal “support” for the technology the district itself  cannot really afford? Isn’t this a federal teat we don’t need to latch on to? Doesn’t signing this pledge to the federal government further chip away at the state’s rights and responsibility for education decisions by saying we need federal support? Aren’t we just telling them that this is a very effective strategy to take over education, piece by piece, pledge by pledge?

 

The text of the pledge is shown below or you can download it here. Superintendents are being pushed to sign this before the Superintendent’s Summit at the White House on October 7, 2014 where they will honor 100 exemplary Superintendents for their leadership in the digital transition.

 

Future Ready District Pledge

I, _______________________, Superintendent of _________________________ do hereby affirm the commitment of this district to work with students, educators, families, and members of our community to become Future Ready by engaging in a wide range of activities such as:

Fostering and Leading a Culture of Digital Learning Within Our Schools.
Future Ready district leadership teams work collaboratively to transform teaching and learning using the power of technology to help drive continuous improvement. We work together to protect student privacy and to teach students to become responsible, engaged, and contributing digital citizens.
Helping Schools and Families Transition to High-speed Connectivity.
Future Ready districts conduct comprehensive diagnostic assessments of the district’s technology infrastructure and develop a sustainable plan to ensure broadband classroom connectivity and wireless access. Future Ready districts work with community partners to leverage local, state, and federal resources to support home Internet access outside of traditional school hours.
Empowering Educators through Professional Learning Opportunities.
Future Ready districts strive to provide everyone with access to personalized learning opportunities and instructional experts that give teachers and leaders the individual support they need, when they need it. Future Ready districts provide tools to help teachers effectively leverage learning data to make better instructional decisions.
Accelerating Progress Toward Universal Access for All Students to Quality Devices.
Future Ready districts work with necessary stakeholders to ensure that all students and educators across the district have regular access to devices for learning. Future Ready districts develop tools to support a robust infrastructure for managing and optimizing safe and effective use of technology, so students have opportunities to be active learners, creating and sharing content, not just consuming it.
Providing Access to Quality Digital Content.
Future Ready districts align, curate, create, and consistently improve digital materials and apps used in the support of learning. Future Ready districts use carefully selected high quality digital content that is aligned to college and career ready standards as an essential part of daily teaching and learning. Teachers are able to share, discover, and adapt openly-licensed materials and teaching plans.
Offering Digital Tools to Help Students And Families #ReachHigher.
Future Ready districts make digital resources available that help access expanded college, career, and citizenship opportunities. Future Ready districts promote ways to leverage technology to expand equity through digital activities such as completion of the FAFSA online, virtual counseling services, college scholarship search tools, and online advising access, all of which help to return America to the nation in the world with the highest college completion rate by 2020.
Mentoring Other Districts and Helping Them Transition to Digital Learning.
Future Ready districts work to design, implement, and share their technology plans. Future Ready districts join regional summits, participate in an online Connected Superintendents’ community of practice, and publish their Future Ready technology plan at a site such as www.MyDistrict.org/FutureReady.
Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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