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Leonie Haimson Blasts Chalkbeat for Its Biased Coverage of Ed-Tech and “Personalized Learning”

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Leonie Haimson is one of the nation’s sharpest critic of scams, especially in the area of ed-tech and online learning.

She is outraged that Chalkbeat posted an uncritical article about the scams now sold to schools. He clearly wanted to lump together the critics of Common Core (those “right wingers” [like me]) and the critics of “personalized learning,” who have the retrograde belief that children should be taught by teachers, not computers.

Pay attention to the funders of Chalkbeat (Gates; Walton; Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and others who are pushing online learning and “personalized learning.”) They are listed at the end of this post. Don’t overlook the Anschutz Foundation. He is an evangelical Christian who produced “Waiting for ‘Superman,’” that anti-public school, anti-union propaganda film.

She writes:

Matt Barnum has posted an article at Chalkbeat on the controversy over online learning. I spent nearly an hour talking to him about its myriad problems, including the negative experiences of parents and students in schools where online learning predominates, serious privacy concerns because of all the data-mining by vendors that is involved, and a serious lack of research evidence — but the only quote he used from our conversation is one sentence: that the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy which I co-chair. has worked with allies in right-wing groups on the privacy issue.
Instead, when I spoke to him about this, I emphasized that the concerns about the expansion of online learning and its impact on privacy was shared by groups and individuals of all political persuasion, left right and center, and many parents with little interest in politics at all. That’s why our campaign against inBloom was so successful, and that’s why in NY State and elsewhere, parents and teachers in all nine states and districts that were participating were able to force them from dropping out of the program to share their children’s personal data and make it more accessible to vendors without parental consent. But he left that part out of my quote and his story as a whole, because it did not fit into his pre-ordained narrative.

Indeed, Barnum seemed eager to mischaracterize the opposition to so-called personalized learning as led by conservatives. He is also quick to frame the pushback vs Common Core in a similar fashion –as driven by many of the same right-wing groups — when one of the most successful protests against the standards occurred here in NY state, led by NY State Allies for Public Education, a coalition of mostly left-wing and politically moderate parents and teachers who also oppose the expansion of ed tech.

Barnum didn’t mention any of the other progressive groups, medical associations, and researchers across the country who are very concerned about the expansion of online learning in schools, including Screens and Kids, Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, the ACLU, Commonsense Media, National Education Policy Center, Parents Across America, the Badass Teachers Association and many others.
Nor did he bother to interview any of the many prominent progressive critics of ed tech like Diane Ravitch, Peter Greene or Audrey Watters. Nor did he acknowledge that Silicon Valley parents themselves are increasingly rejecting computerized learning, as reported in the terrific NY Times series by Nellie Bowles.

Instead, he quotes only one non-right wing critic of online learning by name– Merrie Najimy, the President of the Massachusetts teachers – while featuring many paragraphs of rosy spin from defenders of ed tech, like Diane Tavenner of Summit and Bethany Gross of CRPE, both funded by Gates and Zuckerberg.

Barnum cites a CRPE report also paid for by Gates that apparently says, oh yeah, teachers really like personalized learning – while ignoring the survey results in our Educator Toolkit for Teacher and Student Privacy, which showed widespread concern among teachers and administrators alike about the expansion of digital apps and online programs in our schools. He also quotes Randi Weingarten who, surprisingly, has nothing but kind words about the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which has done absolutely nothing that I can think of to earn her confidence.

Amazingly, Barnum also manages to write an entire piece about edtech and personalized learning, Summit, Gates and Zuckerberg without once mentioning the issue of data privacy, the widespread occurrence of breaches, the potential misuse of algorithms, and the over-reach of student surveillance in schools. The only mention of the word “privacy” is in the one sentence that quotes me about working with conservative allies on the issue.

Quite an achievement and yet more evidence of a serious blind spot in Chalkbeat’s education coverage, reminiscent of their failure to cover the parent opposition against inBloom that started here in New York and led to such a firestorm across the country that more than 120 state student privacy laws have been passed as a result of the inBloom controversy since 2013.

There is more to read, and you should open the link to see her many links to other articles and reports.

Chalkbeat should be ashamed. Its sponsors are showing their hands.

Here is a list of Chalkbeat funders.

Ann & Hal Logan via The Denver Foundation*
Anna and John J. Sie Foundation*
Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation
Awesome Without Borders
Azita Raji and Gary Syman
Ben & Lucy Ana Walton*
Better Education Institute, Inc.
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Brett Family Foundation
Brooke Brown via the Carson Foundation*
Buell Foundation
Carnegie Corporation of New York
Carson Foundation
Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
Charles H. Revson Foundation
Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation
Christopher Gabrieli
CME Group
COGEN Co-working
Community Foundation of Greater Memphis
Community Foundation of New Jersey
Democracy Fund
Donnell-Kay Foundation
Doug and Wendy Kreeger
EdChoice
EDU21C Foundation
Elaine Berman
Eli Lilly and Company Foundation, Inc.
Elizabeth Aybar Conti
Elizabeth Haas Edersheim (In Kind)
Emma Bloomberg
Ford Foundation
Fry Foundation
Fund for Nonprofit News at The Miami Foundation
Gail Klapper
Gates Family Foundation
GEM Foundation
George T. Cameron Education Foundation
Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation partnership with the Knight Foundation
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (In Kind)
J.R. Hyde III Family Foundation Donor Advised Fund of the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis
Jim and Marsha McCormick
Kate Kennedy Reinemund and Jim Kennedy
Ken Hirsh
Kresge Foundation
La Vida Feliz Foundation
Lenfest Community Listening and Engagement Fund
Lilly Endowment Inc.
Maher Foundation
Margulf Foundation
Mark Zurack
Memphis Education Fund
Naomi and Michael Rosenfeld
Overdeck Family Foundation
Debra and Paul Appelbaum
Peter and Carmen L. Buck Foundation
Polk Bros. Foundation
Quinn Family Foundation
Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation
Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, Inc.
Rick Smith
Rob Gary and Chris Watney
Rob Gary via the Piton Foundation*
Robert J. Yamartino and Maxine Sclar
Robert R. McCormick Foundation
Rose Community Foundation
Scott Gleason of O’Melveny & Myers (In Kind)
Scott Pearl
Silicon Valley Community Foundation
Skift (In Kind)
Spencer Foundation
Steans Family Foundation
Sue Lehmann
Susan Sawyers
Thalla-Marie and Heeten Choxi
The Assisi Foundation
The Anschutz Foundation
The Barton Family Foundation, a donor-advised fund of The Denver Foundation*
The Caswell Jin Foundation
The Colorado Health Foundation
The Colorado Trust
The Crown Family
The Denver Foundation
The Durst Organization (In Kind)
The Glick Fund, a fund of the Central Indiana Community Foundation
The Indianapolis Foundation, a CICF affiliate
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The Joyce Foundation
The McGregor Fund
The Moriah Fund
The Skillman Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation
Victoria Foundation
Walentas Foundation Ltd.
Washington Square Legal Services/NYU Business Transactions Clinic (In Kind)
Wend Ventures
Widmeyer, A FinnPartners Company (In Kind)
Will and Christina McConathy*
W.K. Kellogg Foundation
Yoobi (In Kind)

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