Gambling With Our Futures: Big Data, Global Finance and Digital Life

Through predatory public-private partnerships, global financiers are in the process of digitizing not only our education system, but many other aspects of public service delivery. This 10-minute video provides an overview of “Pay For Success” and social impact bonds, detailing how their operations hinge on intrusive and oppressive collection of data from our classrooms, homes, jails, and clinics.

By defining “success” in narrow terms suited to outcomes-based contracting, powerful investors will control how public services are delivered. Securitization of debt associated with program operations will turn our lives, including those of our children, into fodder for financial speculation. YouTube originally categorized this video as a comedy; perhaps based on the whimsical nature of the collages. After watching it, however, I’m confident you’ll see it’s truly a horror show. A slide share version of the video can be viewed here and a PDF of the script is available here.

I wish to express my deep appreciation to all who offered support and input on the creation of this piece, especially Dr. Tim Scott whose groundbreaking research is foundational to understanding this topic (read more here, here and here) and Mary Porter for her valuable editorial insights. The artwork was prepared with scissors and construction paper at my kitchen table with the goal of making this critical information accessible to a wider audience. My hope is that it will pique your interest and spur you to explore the linked resources that follow.

Additional Resources

Impact Investing and Venture Philanthropy’s Role in Sowing the Seeds of Financial Opportunity, Tim Scott, Truthout, Link

Social Impact Bonds: The Titans of Finance as the Altruistic Merchants of Schools and the Common Good, Tim Scott, Dissident Voice, Link

Education Technology, Surveillance and America’s Authoritarian Democracy, Tim Scott, Dissident Voice, Link

Race, Finance and the Afterlife of Slavery, A talk given at the Whitney Museum of America Art by Dr. Justin Leroy, Link and his paper Bonded Life Download

Global Finance Needs Our Schools to Fail, Wrench in the Gears, Link

What You Should Know About “Pay For Success” As Testing Season Approaches, Wrench in the Gears, Link

Smart Cities and Social Impact Bonds: Public Education’s Hostile Takeover Part II, Wrench in the Gears, Link

Who are the Players in Pay for Success / Social Impact Bonds?, Wrenches of Resistance, Link

Is Wall Street About to Take Over Public Education Once and For All?, Emily Talmage, Save Maine Schools, Link

The Real Reason Your Child Is Being Psychologically Profiled At School, Emily Talmage, Save Maine Schools, Link

Wall Street Zombies, Coming Soon to a Pre-K Near You, Emily Talmage, Save Maine Schools, Link

Social Impact Bonds, A Primer, Deb Mayer, Parents Across America, Link

Pay for Success-Also Known as Social Impact Bonds, Senator Orrin Hatch and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Carolyn Leith, Seattle Education, Link

Pay for Success and the McCleary Crisis: Did the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Help Position Social Impact Bonds As A Last Resort Funding Option For Our Public Schools?, Carolyn Leith, Seattle Education, Link

The Proposed NSA-Like National Database for Student Data: Moneyball for Kids, Cheri Kiesecker, Missouri Education Watchdog, Link

Congress Suspending Rules to Rush Through Bill For National Citizen Data System: HR 4174, Cheri Kiesecker, Missouri Education Watchdog, Link! page of articles on Pay for Success Programs and Social Impact Bonds, curated by Roxana Marachi, EduResearcher, Link

Co-Opted Language: Decoding Ed Reform’s New Sales Pitch

The words used to promote “future ready” public education do not mean to reformers what they mean to you. This post is intended to pull back the curtain and expose the truth behind venture capital’s shiny promises of “personalized” tech-centered, data-driven learning. The list below features vocabulary that should be on everyone’s radar. Short definitions link to more detailed descriptions written from the point of view of the reformers-if they had to tell the truth about their plans to swap neighborhood schools for learning ecosystems. Complete list of long form definitions available here. One-page PDF handout for sharing available here.

1:1 Devices: A program where each child has their own data-gathering device for “anywhere learning.” More

Anytime, Anywhere Learning: A push to disconnect education from “constraints” of buildings and teachers. More

Assessment Reform / Computer Adaptive Testing: Punitive end of year tests exchanged for perpetual monitoring of online learning. More

Brain Breaks: Mental safety valve for students and teachers. More

College and Career Readiness: K12 public education as redefined by post-graduation outcomes. More

Community School: Business opportunities for non-profit providers created through intentional austerity. More

Data Dashboards: Tools to reduce learning to specific, measurable outcomes. More

Deeper Learning: Education reimagined as a big, unstructured DIY project. More

Digital Badges: Tokens of achievement rewarding skill acquisition or compliance. More

ELOs-Extended/Expanded Learning Opportunities: Outsourced learning opportunities for credit. More

E-Portfolio: Cloud-based skill storage that replaces report cards and diplomas. More

Evidence-Based: Parameters private interests use to set educational “success” criteria. More

Gamified: Use of entertainment platforms to make student data capture more palatable. More

Growth: Repeated data collection over time that can be used to evaluate returns on impact investments. More

Grit/Growth Mindset/Resilience: Self-discipline promoted as a tool to deal with dysfunctional social systems. More

Hybrid/Blended: Means to promote online learning while reducing face-to-face instruction. More

Innovation / Empowerment Zones: Designation that strips districts of contractual protections while promising autonomy. More

Innovative: Unproven “solutions” that disrupt school environments. More

Lifelong Learning: Uncertain employment outlook that demands constant re-skilling and up-skilling. More

Multiple Measures: Expansion of accountability categories for students, teachers and schools under ESSA. More

Pathways: Means to direct students into targeted workforce sectors based on their aggregated data. More

Pay for Success: Service delivery redesigned to capture proof of success for impact investments. More

Performance Assessments: Promise of authentic projects replaced by canned, standards-aligned rubrics. More

“Personalized” Learning: Digital profiling whereby algorithms control student access to educational content. More

Regionalization / Consolidation: Defunding and dwindling enrollment lead to diminished local control. More

Social Impact Bonds (SIBs): Finance scheme that uses public services to generate venture capital profit. More

Competency/Mastery/Proficiency-Based Education: Education reinvented as a perpetual skills checklist. More

Student-Centered/Agency: Self-serve education model where teachers play a marginal role. More

Whole Child / Social Emotional Learning: Non-cognitive traits are added to student academic profiles. More