Last week Susan Patrick of iNACOL (International Association of K12 Online Learning) and Chris Sturgis of CompetencyWorks presented “An Overview of K12 Competency-Based Education for Education Leaders and Teachers.” The webinar and slides can be accessed here. Compare the slides below and consider the gravity of our situation.
The first shows the reach of Competency-Based Education policies today. Only Wyoming remains untouched.
The second shows the reach of those policies in 2012.
Over the past five years digital learning interests have advanced steadily, infiltrating districts and classrooms under the guise of “personalized,” “student-centered” and “blended/hybrid” learning models. The transition to “playlist” online education where teachers are relegated to being “guides on the side” will be gathering steam as state education plans aligned to the Every Student Succeeds Act and its innovative assessment provisions roll out in the coming months.
Last September the Gates Foundation awarded iNACOL a grant “to develop an evidence-based report that identifies how personalized learning is emerging in the United States, what the drivers for moving to personalized learning are, and identification of patterns of why and how personalized learning is taking hold.”
In 2014 the Nellie Mae Education Foundation awarded a grant to “support iNACOL in the development of an integrated learning system that provides a platform for a school’s learning environment by enabling the management, delivery and tracking of student-centered learning and includes robust reporting and analytics capabilities.”
This week the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education and Digital Promise are bringing hundreds of researchers, teachers, entrepreneurs, professors, administrators, and philanthropists to Washington, DC to collaborate on EdTech Efficacy Research. Click here for bios of working group members who will be finessing data analytics that will set the stage for widespread adoption of impact investing in public education.
With the Ed Reform 2.0 transition well underway, it is imperative that education activists familiarize themselves iNACOL’s operations. The organization’s 2014 tax filing states their mission is to “Ensure all students have access to a world-class education and quality blended and online learning opportunities that prepare them for a lifetime of success.” Susan Patrick, President and CEO, left her position as Director of the US Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology in 2005 to launch iNACOL. While at the US DOE, she was the primary architect of the 2004 National Educational Technology Plan. Her LinkedIn profile notes she earned degrees in English and Communications and was employed as a legislative liaison and administrator of educational technology programs, but never taught or worked in a K-12 school setting.
iNACOL maintains close ties with the Florida Virtual School, an incubator for K12 digital learning, and receives funding from many education reform interests. A PDF of grants found received by iNACOL from various sources can be reviewed here.
Click HERE to see $4,391,050 in Gates Foundation grants to iNACOL since 2010.
Click HERE to see $2,050,000 in Carnegie Corporation grants to iNACOL since 2010.
Click HERE to see $1,483,000 in Nellie Mae Education Foundation grants to iNACOL since 2010.
2010 was the year Gates launched Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) to provide capital for ed-tech development. The program’s goal was to create competency-aligned, modular content with embedded assessments that would move education beyond “seat time.” The foundation has plowed over $55 million into technologies they hope will allow students to learn “any time, any place,” free of the encumberances of school buildings and teachers (a 2001 report by the National Association of State Boards of Education indicates just how long this plan has been in the works). Other NGLC funders include the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, and the Broad Foundation. iNACOL is a partner in NGLC along with the Chief Council of State School Officers. See the full partner list here. Proposals funded under NGLC to date include 58 secondary schools, 29 blended learning/learning analytics products, and 19 additional technology products tied to Common Core State Standards.
iNACOL receives additional support from membership dues that start at $60 annually for educators and $500 for institutional members: school districts, state departments, education agencies, universities and colleges. According to their website, iNACOL has over 200 institutional members spread across 43 states. There are 75 Associate members in 18 states that identify as nonprofits, think tanks, and research organizations. Check this link and this link to see what members are active in your state. Blackboard, Pearson, and Connections Academy each pay iNACOL $25,000 per year for platinum level corporate memberships.
iNACOL’s board includes members representing organizations that advocate for learning ecosystems (Knowledgeworks), blended online learning (Jaquelin Hume Foundation), competency-based education (Nellie Mae Education Foundation), school redesign (Donnell-Kay Foundation and Lindsay Unified School District), cyber schooling (Connections Academy, Florida Virtual School, and Arizona State University), and online learning management systems (Dreambox).
Click here for interactive relationship map of the iNACOL board.
CompetencyWorks is an online information clearinghouse and public relations vehicle for iNACOL and associated reform interests. A relationship map of their advisory board can be found here.
I stumbled upon iNACOL in 2015 watching recordings from the December 2009 convening “Redefining Teacher Education for Digital Age Learners.” Below is the feature image used on the convening’s website:
At the event Susan Patrick gave a talk entitled “Trends in Online Learning, Implications for Teacher Education” that has haunted me ever since. You can watch it here and review the associated briefing paper here. For some reason her half-hour presentation is split across four separate segments; you’ll need to click to the next segment at the conclusion of each clip. I encourage you to, at the very least review the third segment at timestamp 1:48. At that point Patrick describes Singapore’s adoption of a national policy of holding an e-learning week once a year where schools are shut down entirely, and all students “learn” from home. Singapore’s program was ostensibly set up as a precautionary measure during the SARS outbreak. However as ed-tech’s influence over public education grows, we should be extremely wary of creating digital infrastructure, whether public or charter, that reproduces in virtual form the functions of bricks and mortar neighborhood schools.
Talk of e-learning days in the United States has begun to surface, mostly within the context of snow days. Last year Park Ridge High School in New Jersey experimented with a work from home day “where in-person classes were replaced with written lessons and real-time video chats delivered online.” E-learning from home during district professional development days have also been piloted in Mountain Brook Schools in Alabama and Farmington Area Public Schools in Minnesota. The state of Indiana created an E-Learning Flex Pilot Program in 2012 “that supports “school corporations interested in exploring innovative approaches to school schedules by leveraging eLearning options.” Not limited to inclement weather, the pilot encourages “utilizing digital learning that innovatively alters the traditional school day.” Program participation grew from six districts in 2013-14 school year to twenty-eight this school year. The article “Portage schools launch E-Learning Day” identifies the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club as important community partners. In order for a virtual school model to work, there must be a support network in place for young students where adults are employed outside the home during the day. Robert Behning, Chair of Indiana’s House Education Committee attended the 2016 iNACOL symposium. You can listen to his remarks about the event, as well as his enthusiasm for Competency Based Education and assessment reform in Tom Vander Ark’s Getting Smart Podcast between timestamp 8:08 and 12:30. At one point he likens his experience at the conference to being in a candy shop.
The description of Patrick’s 2009 talk reveals the direction Ed Reform 2.0 is pushing the teaching profession. If we don’t push back vigorously and very soon, we will end up with a disempowered, de-professionalized “education” workforce that, due to the contingent nature of employment, will feel compelled to oversee data-mining of students’ academic and non-cognitive skills via online learning management systems, no questions asked.
“The innovation of online learning is creating new delivery models to solve the bigger challenges of K-12 education reform: offering more rigorous courses and internationally-benchmarked curriculum to ensure all students are prepared for college and 21st century careers, providing highly qualified teachers through virtual learning, creating new professional opportunities for teachers with part-time, adjunct and telecommuting jobs, generating new engagement models to expand the use of informal and formal learning time, and enabling new capabilities for student learning through personalized, differentiated and individualized instructional models in data-rich blended and online courses for students.”
Would it shock you to learn the American Federation of Teachers was among the convening organizations for the 2009 “Redefining Teacher Education for Digital Age Learners” event? Perhaps. Or perhaps not, for those of you already aware of top union leadership’s decision to partner with ed-reformers in redesigning the US education system through the “Education Reimagined” initiative launched in 2015. If this is this news to you, be sure to read Saving Maine School’s “Anatomy of a Betrayal.”
I’ll close with an examination of an interesting $2.5 million Gates Foundation grant made last November to the Lindsay Unified School District in California.
Thomas Rooney, superintendent of the district, serves on iNACOL’s board. The district has been a pioneer in competency-based education and digital learning. In describing the district’s approach to school redesign Rooney states “We didn’t just make a tweak. We dismantled our entire education system.” Pay close attention to the wording below.
“Purpose: to design and test a tool for adult learning that clearly defines competencies adults need to master to implement personalized learning, highlights the systematic barriers that stand in the way of adults mastering those competencies.”
A focus of early-stage Ed Reform 2.0 has been training teachers to implement digital “personalized” learning. In fact Getting Smart (Tom Vander Ark) and Vulcan Inc. identified “competency-based teacher prep” as a high-impact, moderate risk option for investors (see below).
So why does this grant not mention teachers given that the “Topic” was identified as “K-12 Education”? In the world of Ed Reform 2.0 will it be sufficient to merely have an adult, any adult, monitoring children while they are hooked up to their cyber assignments? Well, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is supporting Lindsay Unified’s efforts to create a program where their competency-based education model (you know, the one based on dismantling the existing system) can be prototyped and implemented in other districts and charter management organizations via teams of student and staff change-agents. Based on this press release it appears they are collaborating with Summit Charter Schools. And with Summit’s “free” Basecamp platform gaining ground in states like Massachusetts, it’s time for the resistance to get organized. We can’t all move to Wyoming.