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The Story Behind the Story: Deconstruction of Louisiana Superintendent John White's recall of student data stored with inBloom

Susan Notes:

Here's the real story behind the news, and it's a story everyone in the country should read because inBloom is after everybody's data. It is designed to be used in connection with the Common Cores, ostensibly so teachers can "personalize education."

If you believe that, next, they'll offer to sell you that bridge in Brooklyn.

Read a little about Mercedes Schneider's remarkable career as a inveterate learner and teacher. Now she's a remarkable blogger.

Don't miss the Quote of the Day in the newspaper piece posted below the blog (Kudos to the reporter for getting it into print.):

"Any time I see Bloomberg or Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation it makes me question because it appears there is always a connection with ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and the privatization of schools."-- Lottie Beebe, former principal and current member of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

by Mercedes Schneider/deutsch29 blog:

Today I read an article in the Monroe News-Star declaring that Louisiana State Superintendent John White had decided to nix his (it is his, not BESE's) controversial, formerly-clandestine agreement to share student data with InBloom.

InBloom is a data collection front for the likes of Bill Gates and Rupert Murdoch:

The database is a joint project of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which provided most of the funding, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and school officials from several states. Amplify Education, a division of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, built the infrastructure over the past 18 months. When it was ready, the Gates Foundation turned the database over to a newly created nonprofit, inBloom Inc, which will run it.

The ultimate purpose of this database is to serve education corporations already making millions off of the systematic privatization of America's public schools:

Local education officials retain legal control over their students; information. But federal law allows them to share files in their portion of the database with private companies selling educational products and services. Entrepreneurs can't wait. "This is going to be a huge win for us," said Jeffrey Olen, a product manager at CompassLearning, which sells education software. [Emphasis added.]

This database is for those dealing the data (including the likes of John White) to make money from selling information: "Local education officials retain legal control". . . and "can share files...with private companies selling educational products."

This database cost $100 million to get it going.

Imagine how much money Gates and Murdoch and others involved (even perhaps John White) expect to make.

And "entrepreneurs can't wait."

So, I ask you, why would John White so readily walk away from such an opportunity?

The simple answer is, he was cornered. And the InBloom arrangement ain't going anywhere.

Let me not get ahead of myself. Here is how the Monroe News-Star article [below]begins:

Louisiana Department of Education Superintendent John White says he is withdrawing Louisiana student information from a non-profit database, just two days after he assured Board of Elementary and Secondary Education members that the data was safe and could not be distributed without DOE approval.

"I'm confused," BESE member Lottie Beebe said early Friday after reading an email from White about the change.

These few lines reveal much more than the unsuspecting reader might see. Let us begin with "he is withdrawing." From the outset, John White has excluded BESE from this InBloom arrangement. AND it is not the first time White has been involved in Louisiana student-data-sharing arrangement. In December 2011, Interim State Superintendent Ollie Tyler entered into such an agreement with CREDO (Stanford University) for a study on RSD charter schools as part of an Investing in Innovation (i3) Grant with USDOE. (I have the pdf file for this document.) White was RSD superintendent at the time and was already being positioned to assume the role of state superintendent. (White became RSD superintendent in May 2011. In October, only five months later, Jeb Bush began using his influence via both the Foundation for Excellence in Education and Chiefs for Change to gain for White both state superintendency and a purchased, predominately-Jindal-compliant BESE board.)

The purpose of this arrangement between the State and CREDO is as follows:

NSNO (New Schools for New Orleans) and RSD have embarked on a bold five-year journey to standardize, validate and export the New Orleans Charter Restart Model... restarting [failing schools] with schools operated by successful charter operators. The project holds tremendous potential for guiding school turnaround efforts across the country. [Emphasis added.]

Before the study began, its framers planned its success in order to "export" the New Orleans Miracle, which turns out to be no miracle at all.

When confronted by Lee Barrios at the BESE meeting on April 17, 2013, regarding his involvement with this CREDO contract, and especially whether BESE approved the CREDO contract, White "tried to evade this connection at the BESE meeting when he said, 'I wasn't anywhere near this state in 2010.'. . .This study is still in effect according to this MOU (memorandum of understanding) and should be investigated."

More on Memorandums of Understanding to come.

Here is the text of Barrios' April 17, 2013, request at the BESE meeting for information regarding the CREDO MOU:

I also have a copy of an MOU from 2011 running thru 2015 signed By Ollie Taylor (sp) agreeing to release student information to Credo for a research project involving the RSD charters that I was told that Supt. White initiated or authorized. By what authority is Supt. White able to make these kinds of decisions and did the BESE board approve this MOU? This seems to be old news and yet BESE, legislators, educators and the public are just now becoming aware of it. How far has this data sharing gone without public knowledge? [Emphasis added.]

Indeed, according to the MOU, the RSD-CREDO study is in effect until August 1, 2016.

Notice how White works. It is true that he "wasn't anywhere near this state in 2010." He was wreaking havoc as a deputy superintendent in New York. However, the CREDO agreement is dated December 12, 2011. Not only was White "in this state"; he was "promoted" to state superintendent only one month later.

The words in the Monroe News-Star article, "he is withdrawing," indicates that the agreement with InBloom was with White separate from BESE approval. This is illegal. According to Louisiana RS 17:3911, "Data Collection System, Establishment," Section D, BESE is supposed to approve of any data collection contract entered into by the LDOE:

The board shall review and approve, modify, or reject the data collection system created by the department pursuant to this Section.

Instead, we have BESE member Lottie Beebe discovering such a contract exists seven months after its creation, and only because concerned parents began to contact her. (Beebe is my source for this comment.)

But there's more: The InBloom contract might not be the only one. Here is more from Barrios' testimony before BESE and White on April 17, 2013.

Additionally, In a series of email correspondences published a month or so ago obtained thru a FOIA ( http://crazycrawfish.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/sli.png) there is one stating:

"Both Agilix and the SLC-Gates-Alvarez team will be here Monday 1/7/13 to walk through the steps for getting our LDOE student data into the SLI warehouse. The Alvarez team will be providing LDOE with training on our data schematic in order to transform Our data file and co-devise a solution for Louisiana's identity management needs."

This indicates pretty clearly that LDOE is already sharing student information with at least one other company besides inBloom.

In February 2013, Agilix boasted "tapping into InBloom" in order to "give Louisiana Course Choice ready access to major data." Keep in mind that "course choice" is currently neither legally funded nor clearly regulated. But would-be providers could already have "ready access to major data."

An important question: Exactly how many data-sharing "partnerships" is John White involved with?

A second question: How many already have access to Louisiana student data?

The Monroe News-Star notes that InBloom is a "nonprofit database." This means that it is eligible for tax-exempt status. But do not believe for one minute that a nonprofit cannot do business with a for-profit, or that a nonprofit cannot be used as a front for for-profits. Consider that ALEC claims nonprofit status (href="http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jul/14/news/la-pn-alec-common-cause-20110714"> under question because of its lobbying), and it is notorious for financially benefiting the private sector.

The Monroe News-Star article continues and notes that White basically changes his mind about a "partnership" (a John White term) with InBloom "just two days after" he was all for the arrangement.

It was not even two days. It was a day according to my conversation this afternoon with BESE member Lottie Beebe.

I just had to call her. I was so doubtful of young Johnny's conversion experience because he's a career liar.

Beebe told me that at the Tuesday, April 16, 2013, BESE meeting, she was able to add the Shared Learning Collaborative (i.e., data sharing) issue to the discussion of the 2013 legislative session agenda item since, according to BESE President Chas Roemer, a number of legislators "had concerns." The item was also discussed at the Wednesday BESE meeting. Beebe noted her concerns about the InBloom website's disclaimer on data security and hacking into systems. White continued to promote the message that the "data is safe" and only being stored, and that any system could be hacked. In the course of the Wednesday discussions, Beebe requested a report from White regarding the InBloom arrangement as well as a copy of the MOU. (Barrios notes that White would not refer to the MOU as a "contract" and instead kept referring to it as a "partnership.")

Given how shady White and LDOE have been since White was positioned as state superintendent in January 2012, his attempted assurances that the data "is only being stored" is no consolation. After all, White did already bypass BESE and form this SLC/InBloom "partnership"illegally.

Now, here is the point at in my conversation with Beebe at which I saw a compelling reason for White's sudden change of position. In the Wednesday BESE meeting, Beebe publicly requested from White a report on the InBloom arrangement and a copy of the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding).

What exactly is a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)? According to businessdictionary.com, an MOU is as follows:

A document that expresses mutual accord on an issue between two or more parties.

Memoranda of understanding are generally recognized as binding, even if no legal claim could be based on the rights and obligations laid down in them. To be legally operative, a memorandum of understanding must (1) identify the contracting parties, (2) spell out the subject matter of the agreement and its objectives, (3) summarize the essential terms of the agreement, and (4) must be signed by the contracting parties. Also called letter of intent.

Thus, an MOU is a binding contract-- provided the contracting parties have the authority to enter into a binding agreement. Since White did not follow proper procedure in entering into this MOU, its legality is in question. However, the greater question rests in the actual content of the agreement. In other words, what exactly has White promised to InBloom, and, by extension, to Gates, and Murdoch, and others, regarding access and use of Louisiana student data? What other data is included in the arrangement? Employee data?

Is White the only Louisiana signator? Are other big names involved?

Has money changed hands? Other favors? "Business bartering"?

Beebe mentioned that on Thursday, White sent to BESE board members an announcement of his rescinding the InBloom "partnership"; White sent the notice to Beebe's work email, which she did not see until this morning. In the email, White notes that he has been in contact with InBloom about withdrawing from the InBloom agreement.

I told Beebe, "It was your request for the MOU. He does not want to you to see that document."

Beebe responded, "I still want to see the Memorandum of Understanding. I am not going to give up on that."

Beebe added, "I want to go on record as saying that I am elated at his (White's) withdrawing the InBloom contract. But I still have concerns about what that means. What is the penalty for breaking the contract? And what about money? Have we paid for something that we are no longer receiving? We may be obligated to a contractual fee. We need to know about these things."

In White's Thursday, April 18, 2013, email to Beebe, he writes that he has been in contact with InBloom about rescinding the Louisiana data sharing agreement. However, regarding the Monroe News-Star article published earlier Friday, the following message from InBloom was on Twitter the same evening, April 19, 2013:

57inBloom @inBloomEdu 2h
.@frankcatalano @audreywatters Louisiana still part of inBloom community. Many inaccuracies in coverage

Could White have-- gasp-- lied about canceling the MOU with InBloom?

It certainly looks that way.

It seems that White's stellar announcement is nothing more than a ruse to quiet the public and buy him some time in order to figure out how he might hide the contents of the InBloom MOU from Beebe and from public view.

Why, he has probably already spent hours engrossed in phenomenal email flurry trying once again to muddy yet another narrative.

That MOU must really be quite the enlightening read.

As Lee Barrios notes, "White is in a whole lot of trouble."

I think so, too.


UPDATE 04-20-13:

Fellow Louisiana blogger crazycrawfish (former LDOE manager of data) has included this information in this post:

John White unwittingly sent us a file for yet another (third?) data aggregator he shared student data with and did not run by BESE. You see, these xml files look like they came from and/or go to Ed-Fi if you read the header for this file. Ed-Fi is yet another data aggregation company owned by a different set of billionaires, Michael and Susan Dell. . . .

To summarize this set of emails (pdf available in post): it appears the Louisiana Department of Education was sending data to Ed-Fi too, long before inBloom.

White is apparently involved in a number of data sharing "partnerships."

John White's crumbling house of cards -- From VAM to worse

by Crazy Crawfish blog
April 23, 2013

These days John White might be needing a hug. It appears all the ill-will and poor decisions making he has sown over the past year is coming home to roost on his doorstep, all at the same time. Support the Louisiana Student Privacy Act Recently we called out White for lying to everyone in the state of Louisiana over carelessly and needlessly exposing all of our school children to unnecessary risks by handing over their some of their most private data to companies hoping to make a profit off the information by direct marketing products to children, charging the state millions of dollars for the privilege of using their storage services, and by marketing and providing this information to unlimited third party vendors. I encourage the legislature to craft and pass the Louisiana Student Privacy Act, which will go further than FERPA (the Federal Student Privacy Act) and actually protect our children's privacy instead of selling it out to anyone who asks.

Superintendent John White recalls student data stored with nonprofit inBloom

by Barbara Leader
Monroe News-Star
April 19, 2013

Louisiana Department of Education Superintendent John White says he is withdrawing Louisiana student information from a non-profit database, just two days after he assured Board of Elementary and Secondary Education members that the data was safe and could not be distributed without DOE approval.

"I'm confused," BESE member Lottie Beebe said early Friday after reading an email from White about the change. "The other day (he said) it was the best thing since mom's apple pie!"

White told BESE members this week that the inBloom Inc. database was only a "garage" for storing information and expanded on that analogy with The News-Star.

"We are storing our data in a database no different from putting a car in parking garage," he said earlier this week. "They can't touch the data just as the people in the parking garage can't touch the car."

In an email to The News-Star, White said that "the only student info we are storing in this garage: local student ID, first name, last name, gender, date of birth, ethnicity and race."

However, Department of Education employees say that the sharing was more extensive and likely included test information which could include special education classifications. Local student identifications are often social security numbers.

Documents presented by the Department of Education after this article appeared on thenewsstar.com do not show any information fields beyond those White described. The information was requested before publication of this article.

The volume of information and types of data stored with inBloom concerned parents.

"If they want to tout choice and letting parents decide what's best for the students, then give parents the opportunity to do what's best for their child and opt out of their information being sold," parent April Stockley said.

White said the data stored by inBloom would not be shared with any company beyond inBloom without permission of the state.

However, the inBloom site says it is "dedicated to bringing together the data, content and tools educators need to make personalized learning a reality for every student achieve this vision."

According to the site, inBloom partners with education technology companies, content providers and developers to support the creation of products compatible with infrastructure needed to integrate data, services and applications that work together to support personalized learning.

According to White, the state has a formal agreement with the company and began storing information with inBloom seven months ago.

Beebe said this week that to her knowledge, the agreement wasn't discussed in advance with BESE and she only learned about it after concerned parents contacted her.

Parents are worried that if the first agreement, establishing the initial transfer of information with inBloom was not known about in advance, the permission to share data might also not be known.

"There are no restrictions on how this data can be used or who it can be shared with, sanctions for improper usage or storage, or mechanism for correcting data that may be erroneous but could potentially be used by employers, credit cards, insurers, schools for admissions purposes and slander, not to mention to the potential for fraud and abuse should inBloom get hacked or compromised," parent and former DOE employee Jason France said.

Department of Education officials said earlier this week that "the department has no plans to give inBloom permission" and "if they did, it would be public record."

White also sent a letter to district superintendents earlier this month discussing the storage of information with inBloom.

"The data stored in this database will continue to be under the strict control of the state as it has been in the past," his letter said. "The LDOE is in strict compliance with all laws governing the privacy of student information and expects the same from all schools and school districts.

The department respects the right to privacy for children and families and is committed to safeguarding this right."

White assured superintendents the that the storage of information was all in compliance with the Family Education Rights Privacy Act.

Despite White's assurances that the data was safe, inBloom's web site says the company cannot guarantee the security of the information stored or that the information will not be intercepted when it is being transmitted.

According to The Washington Post, the creation of the inBloom non-profit is tied to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which provided most of the funding, along with the Carnegie Corp. of New York and school officials from several states.

Amplify Education, a division of Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp, built the infrastructure over the past 18 months, turning the $100 million database over to the newly created non-profit, inBloom.

"Any time I see Bloomberg or Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation it makes me question because it appears there is always a connection with ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and the privatization of schools," Beebe said.

White said Friday that because the data held by inBloom was so basic, withdrawing the information from data storage will not impact students in the classroom.

"Let's be patient and talk with the board about it, help the public understand more what all of this is, not just inBloom, but about the government storing data and information and then if there are future plans we can come back and engage those decisions after fully talking about it with the board," he said.

Beebe said she is happy White has listened to concerns and is withdrawing the student information from storage with inBloom.

— deutsch29


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