[Editor's note: This posting contains excerpts of awritten by Alison McDowell, a parent in Philadelphia, who describes what and how she has learned about the vast reach of corporations in controlling what students learn through technology-enabled predatory investing.
The graphic in this posting, taken from Alison’s blog, shows the global connections of a single project, Silicon Valley Community Foundation’s Center for Early Learning, which advances early childhood education and early literacy initiatives. The Council is headed by Bernard Tyson, who also sits on the board of Salesforce, which has made investments in SocialSuite, a software dashboard program geared to provide metrics for government contracting and impact investors. SocialSuite partners with IXO Foundation, backer of Amply the social impact digital identity pre-k app being piloted in Cape Town, South Africa.]

 

The scope of my research has expanded greatly since I began this journey five years ago. My starting point was standardized testing. At the time I was under the naive impression that withholding student test scores could in and of itself  forestall the closure or “turnaround” of neighborhood schools in Philadelphia. During the spring and summer of 2015, I realized “end of year testing” was merely a warm up for “all-the-time” online testing.
The machine bearing down on us will use online interventions to manipulate student data in ways that redirect public funds into private hands under the guise of “evidence-based” “impact.” These systems are being deployed not only in charter schools, where they are field tested, but in neighborhood schools where blended “personalized learning” has taken hold. The incubation of Zuckerberg’s Summit Basecamp within Summit charter schools is but one example. Privatizers no longer need to close schools and replace them with charters to turn a profit. It is efficient, and often less rancorous, to negotiate agreements with outside management organizations that ostensibly keep schools “public” while setting children up for expanded data extraction. Once agreements are signed, administrators have free reign to impose data-driven initiatives that claim to “close gaps.” Technology-based instruction, whether implemented via laptops, tablets or Internet of Things tracking, sustains global markets in hardware, software, broadband and cloud computing, as well as “impact” investment markets linked to educational outcomes – DATA. The speculative nature of this enterprise centers “risk” analysis and profiling of students. It is incredibly dangerous.


By following the money, lots of it, I came to see how this system of converting human life to data for profit would not be limited to education, but extended into other social services: health care, counseling, workforce development, supportive housing, addiction treatment, prison re-entry. The goal is exhaustive data profiles collected on all children from pre-k through college, even extending to long range employment and health
Through continued austerity and reliance on outsourced services, including highly-anticipated “wrap around services,” education is systematically being woven into the nonprofit industrial complex, or as Sir Ronald Cohen father of British venture capital calls it, “The Social Sector.” Wherever the tech / telecommunication / impact investment sectors can take human services and put them online to leverage data-mining for profit, they will. Faux “tele-services” and apps are being pushed onto families and into schools using deceptive “community school” branding. These interventions, meta-data tagged bait and switches callously proffered in response to deep trauma and life and death need, will be weaponized against children and families, pushing the lives of the most vulnerable onto data dashboards for review by financiers.

The contains her analysis of the National Education Policy Center’s e-newsletter confronting the growing backlash against “personalized learning” in general and Mark Zuckerberg’s Summit Learning in particular.  She describes why the recommendations will actually intensify “datafication.”