Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

Big (BIG!) Money Behind ESEA Rewrites

Ohanian Note: the original post has charts and graphs that I can't reproduce here.

I share Emily Talmage's view of Personalized Learning. As I've pointed out before, in 21st Century Learning parlance, personalized learning is double cousin to Blended Learning and both use computers to spit out material that looks a whole like workbook pages. The difference is that the computer assigns individual kids different pages at any given time. Thus personalized means in a class of 28 fifth graders, those kids could be looking at 28 different workbook pages.

Pumpkin Spice Latte contains no pumpkin; Computer-Delivered Personalized Instruction contains no teaching persons.

Remember the headline for the inBloomâ„¢ launch? "inBloom Inc. Launches to Enable Personalized Learning Through Easier Access to Information and Technology."

InBloom may have withered but we have our US Department of Education--and our Congress--to push Personalized and Blended Learning.

Here's Arne:

Personalized learning. . . says that all students should reach mastery in all skills, while the approach and schedule should be adapted to help them get there. –Arne Duncan, "Teaching Our Teachers: Arne Duncan on Bridging the Digital Divide," Classroom Technology News, Sept. 14, 2014

All students master all skills.

In April 2015, the following groups signed a letter to Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray of the HELP Committee asking for them to support an amendment to add a separate educational technology program to the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) of 2015 that will be offered by Senators Baldwin and Hatch--money for personalized and blended learning:

AASA, The School Superintendents Association
Association of Educational Service Agencies
Consortium for School Networking
International Society for Technology in Education
National Association of Elementary School Principals
National Association of Secondary School Principals
National Association of State Boards of Education
National Education Association
National PTA
National Rural Education Association
National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition
Partnership for 21st Century Learning
State Educational Technology Directors Association

And so on and so on.

Also remember: In 2011,the following people were listed as experts advising the Shared Learning Collaborative (SLC), the forerunner of inBloom:

  • Michael Horn, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Education, Innosight Institute

  • Michael Lomax, President and CEO, United Negro College Fund

  • David Riley, President, Alembic Foundation

  • Andrew Rotherham, Co-Founder and Partner, Bellwether Education Partners

  • Cheryl Vedoe, President and CEO, Apex Learning

  • Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers

  • An article in the Alberta Teachers Association Magazine takes a different view:

    Personalized learning is neither a pedagogic theory nor a coherent set of teaching approaches; it is an idea struggling for an identity. A description of personalization of learning tightly linked to technology-mediated individualization ‘anywhere, anytime’ is premised on old ideas from the assembly line era. It is a model that is being advanced by the rapidly growing private corporations, virtual schools and charter school in the United States.—Philip McRae,"“Rebirth of the Teaching Machine through the Seduction of Data Analytics: This Time It's Personal," McRae blog and Alberta Teachers Association Magazine Summer 2013
    Also see: McRae, P. (2010). The politics of personalization in the 21st century. Alberta Teachers' Association Magazine 1 (91): 8-11. b.ca/Publications/ATA Magazine/Volume-91/Number-1/Pages/The-Politics-of-Personalization-in-the-21st-Century.aspx

    by Emily Talmage

    In March of 2010, Yong Zhao, author, professor, and director of the Institute for Global and Online Education at the University of Oregon, praised the National Educational Technology Plan released by the US Department of Education by saying:

    "Personalized learning instead of a one-size-fits-all curriculum, pace of teaching, and instructional practices." What a vision! The group that worked for the plan must be congratulated for what they have done and the Department praised for releasing the reportâ€Â¦I hope the recommendations of this plan will be taken seriously by the Department. Moreover I hope the same philosophy will be driving the reauthorization of the ESEA (now under the name of NCLB).

    Zhao, who has been celebrated by many (including Diane Ravitch),for his anti-standardized testing rhetoric and warnings that we are moving toward an authoritarian, Chinese-style system of education, must be very pleased with much of the language found in both versions of the ESEA rewrites.

    "Personalized learning" is without a doubt the next frontier of educational reform -- not only in the US, but around the world. There is a great deal of confusion surrounding what personalized education really is, but when stripped of the rhetoric that usually accompanies it, the concept is quite simple: students progress at their own pace, moving from one lesson to the next when they have proven "mastery." At its core, it is a theory of learning based on behaviorist theories of B.F. Skinner. Many other terms, such as "blended learning," "competency-based education," "proficiency-based education," "mastery learning," "self-paced learning," and "customized learning," are in fact manifestations of this same theory of learning.

    Despite the fact that a 2006 meta-analysis from the US DOE found no studies contrasting K–12 online learning with face-to-face instruction that met methodological quality criteria,and thus no evidence that it is best for our kids, technology and online learning companies have seized upon this concept, and for good reason: wide-scale "personalized learning" is only possible if we have their products in hand.

    Ambient Research, a market research firm whose client list includes all the big players in educational technology, including Microsoft, Apple, Pearson, K-12 Inc, and McGraw Hill, uses this graph to show the massive investments that are being made toward "learning technology suppliers." (See graph here)

    Check out the circle at about 11 o̢۪clock -- "Education Policies Mandating Online Learning" -- and now read this section H.R. 5, the House version of the ESEA rewrite:

    From the amount of funds a State educational agency reserves under subsection (c)(3) for each fiscal year to carry out this paragraph, the State educational agency shall award grants on a competitive basis to eligible entities in the State to carry out blended learning projects described in this paragraph.

    The term 'blended learning project' means a formal education program that includes an element of online learning, and instructional time in a supervised location away from home, that includes an element of student control over time, path, or pace; and in which the elements are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.

    Grants can be used for:

    Planning activities, which may include development of new instructional models (including blended learning technology software and platforms), the purchase of digital instructional resources, initial professional development activities, and one-time information technology purchases, except that such expenditures may not include expenditures related to significant construction or renovation of facilities.

    According to this report from Ambient Research, over 25 states initiated high-profile legislative efforts relating to PreK-12 online learning in 2011 alone.

    Other states, like Maine, have implemented legislation that is less direct but equally targeted toward an expansion of digital and online learning.

    If you are curious as to how your state ranks according to its online and digital learning legislation, you can check out your state's report card issued by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which crafts much of the legislation we find in our states:

    The Senate version of the ESEA is also less direct in its push toward personalized/digital learning, but it is there nonetheless in the opportunities it offers states to develop assessment systems based on "competency-based" models of learning.

    Is it any wonder, then, that Zhao, who despite his inspiring anti-standardized testing rhetoric is head of an online learning company called Oba and is leading the global push toward "personalized" learning, would hope to find such legislation in the ESEA rewrites and our state policies?

    Is it any wonder that he is praising China for their move away from standardized testing toward personalized learning, and touting an online learning company called ePALs, which -- according to Ambient Research -- is leading the globe in investments?

    Is it ever about the kids??

    — Emily Talmage with Ohanian comment
    Save Maine Schools blog





    This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.