Don’t get your hopes up if you think the federal government, U.S. technology corporations, or their philanthropic appendages will give up on Common Core standards and student data mining anytime soon. There is too much money to be made for technology companies and the global market economy. Universal compulsory standards, Common Core or whatever name they may go by, are a key element in a planned wholesale changeover to a digital performance-based, “personalized” approach to education. Shawn Bay, CEO of eScholar, a company that claims to be the United States’ leading innovator in education data solutions that support personalized education, called the Common Core standards “the glue that actually ties everything together,”  (meaning instruction, assessments, and data collection).

This techno dream plan is to replace the “one-to-many” teaching approach (shorthand for replacing teachers) with technology-based personalized instruction by providing every student with a tablet device wirelessly connected to software programs in the cloud. The software will not only provide instruction aligned with Common Core learning standards, but it will also seamlessly integrate assessments every five minutes with instruction. If you hear that those onerous end-of-year tests, which hundreds of thousands of parents are opting their children out of, are being reduced, shortened, or de-emphasized, be aware that their apparent demise is a part of the plan to switch over to embedded assessments. And you can be sure that the embedded assessments will be linked to universal learning standards.

The strategic use of Big Data, or student data collection on a large scale, and compulsory national and global learning standards have the potential to create an education market for technology-based companies worth billions of dollars in the U.S, and trillions of dollars globally. And this is what corporate-led worldwide education reforms are really about. Current U.S. and global expenditures for elementary and secondary education are estimated to be $700 billion and $4.7 trillion respectively. Various groups have created future education narratives and mappings of a global artificial intelligence-based education system. This system is intended not just for elementary and secondary education but for “early childhood to a great age,” to, in effect, virtually encompass all of cultural life.

It is a market in which the main technology products—computer hardware and software—perform a double duty: They provide student instruction and assessments and at the same time collect vast amounts of student data by capturing assessment, biometric monitoring, and continuous video surveillance results along with family background, history, and habits.

Furthermore, it is a consumer market that is quickly becoming all but guaranteed by law and/or regulations attached to government funding. A steady stream of money flows to it, not only from taxpayers but from philanthropic interests as well, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, and Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.

This hoped-for, all-inclusive artificial intelligence-based education industry is the ultimate economic trifecta: A guaranteed market (parents, students, and educational institutions), an abundant consumer money supply (government-financed education and philanthropy), and the potential of vast, easily extractable natural resources (student data).

High Stakes All Around: How to View? What to do?

While there is a lot at stake for technology companies and the fragile global marketplace, there is even more at stake for parents. The health and wellbeing of their children are to be the subjects of an educational beta testing in the planned changeover from teacher-led to computer-led education.

Hundreds of thousands of parents have already exercised their rights and demonstrated their organizational ability in opposition to corporation-led reforms in such states as New York. In 2015, 220,000 New York families refused to allow their children to take the Common core-aligned state tests. It appears that there will be similar numbers in 2016. During the past two years their efforts have been influential in removing the state education commissioner; a major shakeup in the Board of Regents, including several replacements and a new Chancellor; the replacement of the company administering the state tests; the establishment of special task force by the Governor to overhaul the implementation of the tests, and a NY State Supreme Court decision that concluded rating teachers via their students’ growth scores on state exams is “arbitrary and capricious.”

The planned shift to a digital education will present a new and perhaps greater challenge to school parents and teachers who have been opposed to the end-of-year Common Core-aligned tests. As mentioned, the annual tests will no longer be administered, rather they will be replaced with embedded assessments in instruction software. As a result, a single visible point of rallying or resistance is eliminated. A multi-pronged strategy is now needed that aims for systemic changes, including reducing corporate and federal government influence in education.

Because universal learning standards and massive student data collection are essential to a personalized digital education system, they are also points of vulnerability. Here are some ways to counter the technology juggernaut. They center on the idea of slowing things down in order to make fully informed decisions.

  • The potential health effects of the pervasive use of artificial intelligence and technology in education, including addiction to electronic devises, must be evaluated before implementation of mandatory changes, so that the current generation of children is not harmed by social experimentation on a grand scale.
  • A moratorium needs to be imposed on further development of Common Core standards while state-based, educator-initiated and led task forces review the purpose and need for standards, and determine who should create them.
  • We must not allow the technology industry to determine when, how, and to what degree technology will be used in the education of children. There is just too much money at stake, and too much ignorance of what educating the whole human being is really about.
  • Finally, there needs to be a radical re-evaluation of the current state of public and private education. Educators, parents, health practitioners, and researchers must focus on the real needs of children and child development and deliberate together in de-politicized and de-commercialized forums. It is in these gatherings that a new narrative and imagination for education can arise, from the only legitimate source: People entrusted with the healthy development of children.

Anything less is a moral failure of humanity and its governing institutions to protect the rising generation of children.


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