Who knew Google played a role in the ed-workforce 21st Century Skills (data) pipeline?   

Google for Education commissioned this 2015 study entitled, Driving the skills agenda: Preparing students for the future. The report apparently tries to predict how to best prepare for an unknown future and jobs that don’t yet exist, as evidenced by the following quotes,

“This research programme, sponsored by Google, [is] to examine to what extent the skills taught in education systems around the world are changing. For example, are so-called 21st-century skills, such as leadership, digital literacy, problem solving and communication, complementing traditional skills such as reading, writing and arithmetic? And do they meet the needs of employers and society more widely?”

How can education best prepare young people to navigate their way through an increasingly interconnected and complex world in which factual recall will perhaps matter less than their ability to understand differing perspectives?

“As proponents of 21st-century skills point out, we have no way of knowing what challenges tomorrow’s graduates will face, and still less what jobs will exist for them to apply for. The best education can hope to do is to equip students with sufficiently transferable skills to be able to respond to whatever the future holds.”

Google’s 2015 study found that schools need to teach critical thinking, emotional intelligence, leadership, creative thinking, problem solving, digital literacy, team work, and all the other 21st Century Skills,  Social-Emotional, Competency-Based buzzwords that have invaded our classrooms in recent years.

In a survey given to business executives, Google’s skills agenda study states,

“There is a disconnect between the demand-side and the supply-side of skills,” notes Mmantsetsa Marope, director of the International Bureau of Education at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). “Education systems, or should I say educators, hardly ever talk to businesses, to employers, to parents, to a whole range of stakeholders who are on the demand-side of the competencies which they are supposed to facilitate learners to acquire.”

Greater collaboration between schools and industry—whether through work placements, industry involvement in course planning or industry representatives brought into schools to demonstrate the real-world application of theories and techniques—appears to be key to improving students’ readiness for work. In Germany, for example, 60% of school leavers continue their education by means of “dual vocational training” (rather than attending university or a full-time vocational college). Under the dual system, students are employed as apprentices and trained on the job by their employers, while also attending vocational college one or two days a week. This system, and the resulting close interaction between employers and educators, is credited with contributing to the country’s low level of unemployment.”

…”According to the business survey, employers feel they should play a more active role in deciding what students are taught and that their position as stakeholders should be more explicit. Nearly three-fifths (57%) of executives think business does not have enough say in setting the curriculum in their country, while 36% identify improved access to company schemes and internships as the educational change that would most benefit their business.” [Emphasis added]

Who was interviewed and who contributed to this Google Skills Agenda Report?

You should read the rest of the Google sponsored study, as it has multiple references to technology and the “digital classroom”, “teach less”,  “global digital economy”, and gems like this, The business executives surveyed agree that broadening access to technology in schools and universities is one of the top three ways in which the education system in their countries could benefit business.”  Benefit business. That’s rich.  What about education benefitting  …children? 

(Maybe they will change their pro-technology stance since we know digital devices pose many risks and now that The World Health Organization confirms that internet gaming is addictive. Interestingly, in the UK , social media and gaming giants are being sued for millions for violating children’s human rights. Could we see more of this? Schools and countries should be protecting children.)


The Current Proposed Ed-Workforce Merger

The 2015 Google Driving the skills agenda: Preparing students for the future certainly seemed to set the stage for turning education into a tech driven business for skills training. Fast forward to today where Google has teamed up with Common Sense Media (a Project Unicorn partner) to teach Digital Citizenship curriculum. Of course they are–Education is big business for Google.  Chromebooks, G-Suite, Google Classroom, Google app bundles are in nearly every classroom. After all, their Skills Agenda study stated that “Technology has a central role to play in skills development.” and “technology access is one of the top three ways the education system …could benefit business”.

The bigger  mainstream news story today, is the Trump Administration’s recent proposal to restructure the federal government by merging the Departments of Labor and Education into a single Department of Education and the Workforce.  As Politico reports, “Mick Mulvaney, director of the OMB, has been working on the reorganization plan since his confirmation more than a year ago.

Many organizations, parents, education advocates oppose the White House Ed-Labor merger.  Most see the merger as a creation of a mega agency, with immense power.  (A similar mega agency was previously suggested by the Lumina Foundation, calling for a “Department of Talent”.)  The Trump Administration’s merger does nothing to limit the Dept of Labor’s plan to access students’ personal data starting in pre-school-through age 20. The merger does nothing to return consent to parents prior to sharing their children’s data with agencies, researchers and companies like Google (who claim to be a “school official”.)  A few organizations opposing the Ed-Labor merger have stated,


The Ed-Workforce Merger and the Ed-Workforce Pathways 

Even with experts saying this Ed-Labor merger has a slim chance of passing Congress,  the Education- Workforce pathways agenda isn’t going away overnight because it has deep roots.

Childhood lost: Schooling a workforce


Marc Tucker, author of the infamous Dear Hillary Letter, and President of NCEE, The National Center on Education and the Economy, has long had a vision of transforming American education into workforce pathways and linked data pathways like those in Switzerland and Germany. 

Interestingly, US Secretary of Ed,  Betsy DeVos also likes the Swiss education-workforce pipeline and wrote about it, just days prior to the White House announcement of the proposed Ed-Labor merger. 

In September 2015, (the same year as Google’s Skills Agenda Report), the CCSSO issued a press release announcing 17 states had joined “to make career readiness a higher priority in state accountability systems by incorporating a more robust set of career-focused indicators that measure and value successful completion of meaningful pathways, work-based learning experiences, and credentials.” 

In October 2015,  Governor John Hickenlooper, then Chair of the National Governor’s Association (NGA), sent this letter to all Governors, urging them to be bold and overcome the challenges because “Moving toward an education system organized around competency will prompt changes in each segment of the pipeline, from early education to college and career training and, ultimately, to the workforce.” 

(Related: In June of 2015, Governor Hickenlooper issued an Executive Order for K-16 workforce pathways and data badging system for the entire state of Colorado, where workforce needs would drive K-16 curriculum.  This was followed by the Colorado Education and Workforce Alignment Pathways Blueprint in 2016 and duplicate k-12 LinkedIn, Markle, Jobs for the Future, Edx, data badging pilots in Arizona and Colorado.  *The k-12 data badge pilots were slated to scale-up, state-wide within 2 years, by 2018.  (See Sorting Coloradoans like shoes: by Size, Shape and Color )   

In August 2014, the National Center for Education Statistics, NCES  published this document entitled, Linking K12 Education Data to Workforce; it goes on to explain how,

“states are in the early stages of matching records across education and workforce agencies within their statewide longitudinal data systems (SLDSs).  …Idaho and Kentucky share their procedures for linking K12 education and workforce data, how they approached challenges to linking individual records, and the questions they hope to answer about education and employment outcomes through their SLDSs.” 
“The involvement of the Department of Transportation is key to Idaho’s process for matching individual records across education and workforce programs. Because the K12 data system identifies student records by name, date of birth, and gender, and the Department of Labor’s records contain only Social Security numbers and some names, a method was needed to link the education sector’s demographic information to Labor’s Social Security numbers. Driver’s license and state ID records from the Department of Transportation’s Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV), which contain names, dates of birth, genders, and Social Security numbers, supply that link (see figure 1).”

“In order to gain a more complete understanding of how Kentucky’s education institutions, workforce programs, and industries interact, KCEWS collects data from a range of sources. These sources include early childhood programs; public K12 data on students and teachers; public, independent, and out-of-state postsecondary institutions; public and private student financial aid; unemployment insurance records; career technical education programs; and agencies receiving Workforce Investment Act funds.”  -NCES  https://nces.ed.gov/programs/slds/pdf/Linking_K12_Education_Data_to_Workforce_August2014.pdf

*Be sure to look at the graphics and footnotes,  especially interesting is the NCES’  SLDS Webinar Summary: Using DMV Records to Access Social Security Numbers  http://nces.ed.gov/programs/slds/pdf/Using_DMV_Records_to_Access_SSNs_Webinar_Nov2013.pdf

**More on WQDI grants to expand education and workforce data sharing here.


We could go on, but the point is, the proposed Ed-Workforce merger didn’t just “happen” by coincidence and one has to wonder which Silicon Valley or Business Round Table partner helped write the proposal. We’ve seen this trick before.

Maybe it’s good that the Trump Administration is looking to do a little pruning; maybe they can instead, hone their focus and make some cuts to the unconstitutional, incredibly expensive, non-consensual student data pipeline.






Cheri Kiesecker

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