By Loretta Hunnicutt
“The human race is about to enter a totally data mined existence and it’s going to be really fun to watch.” ~ Jose Ferreira, CEO of Knewton
Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker told an Iowa audience recently that under his administration, Common Core was but gone. He assured them that the people of Wisconsin had control over their school districts – thus they had control to accept or not accept the federally created standards.
He failed to mention that the schools, no matter how desperately the worked to cleanse their schools from the data grabbing Common Core scheme, would still have only one test to teach to. He failed to mention that the test is precisely the data collecting and delivery system they loathe.
When the residents of Arizona elected Dianne Douglas as their new Superintendent of Public Instruction, they chose her for her stand against Common Core and specifically data mining. Huppenthal, an engineer by trade, used his office to install the social engineering Common Core program in classrooms across the state. He preached data driven decision making as the solution to all of education’s ills.
In less than two weeks, supporters of data mining began discussing a recall of Douglas. In Arizona, a person must hold office for at least 6 month before they can be recalled. As a result, their efforts to begin the recall have little affect other than to continue the chambers of commerce smear campaign against Douglas and provide a distraction for her supporters.
The case of Douglas is instructive. How is it possible that so much vitriol is generated and energy expended attacking a woman about whom few know anything other than she was elected almost solely due to her opposition to Common Core’s data mining? What drives the opposition?
The short answer is money. The liberals, who oppose her, are being manipulated by the very people they despise. The chambers, which will likely fund any future recall effort of her, must crush her one way or another. Following the lead of the very corporate masters they despise, the liberals go on the attack to destroy the one person they should celebrate.
The world is upside down, but big money can tilt any axis.
Data mining is big business and big business has spent big bucks to perfect it. Think about it this way; every piece of data equals one fraction of one cent that industry does not waste on useless advertising campaigns and/or human resource department personnel. If they know about a child, and by extension their family, they target sales pitches to create a need or sate an appetite. If they know that a child is struggling in third grade, they won’t have to waste valuable classroom assets trying to teach them to be anything other than a complacent widget maker.
The decisions the data drives are not made to enhance a child’s learning; they are made for the benefit of the educational industrialized complex and the other industries the data is sold to.
Enter Jose Ferreira, CEO of Knewton. Ferreira, who spent most of his career in education and technology, worked at Kaplan, and according him in an interview with publicist Lauren Drell, he was one of the first people trying to bring innovation into for-profit education.
“Behind the data generating-and-collecting behemoth that is Pearson is a company called Knewton,” according to retired teacher Peter Greene.
In a video released by the Office of Educational Technology at the US Department of Education, Ferreira explains at the Office’s Education Datapalooza event, how much data they harvest from our children. In the video, Ferreira states that the “human race is about to enter a totally data mined existence and it’s going to be really fun to watch. It’s going to be one of those things where our grandkids are going to tell our kids I can’t believe you grew up in a world like that just the way our kids complained that we went to record stores.”
Ferreira describes a future world like the one in which Tom Cruise exists in the movie Minority Report. Ferreira explains, “… and the ad beams right to his eyes and says, “Hey Mr. Cruise you should you go on that Caribbean vacation you’ve been thinking about.”
Ferreira asserts that “education happens to be today the world’s most data minable industry by far and it’s not even close.”
According to Ferreira, education is valuable “because it’s so big, it’s like the fourth biggest industry in the world that produces incredible quantity of data. But data that just produces one or two points per user per day is not really all that valuable to an individual user. It might be valuable to like a school district administrator, but maybe not even then.”
However, we are told that they data the educators want to gather is only for the benefit of teachers and administrators, right?
Wrong, the publishers like Pearson want it and so does every other industry that caters not only to schools but sells to children.
Ferreira claims that “Newton today gets five to ten million actionable data per student per day.” They do that, according to Ferreira by getting “people, if you can believe it, to tag every single sentence of their content so publishers, we have a large publishing partnership with Pearson, and they tag all their content…. If you tag all your content and you do it down to the automatic concept level, down to the sentence, down to the clause, you unlock an incredible amount of trapped hidden data.”
As Ferreira explains, “everything in education is correlated to everything else down to the concept. Now this is where education’s different from search and social networking. If someone tagged every single line, every single sentence of all the world’s web pages for Google, or every single line of dialogue from Netflix, which no one’s done, but even if they had they’re not really a whole lot of interesting correlations there. Everything in education is correlated to everything else. Every single concept is correlated in a predictable way to everything else using psychometrics right. So if you do 10 minutes of work in Google you produce a dozen data points for Google. Because everything that we do is tagged at such a granular level if you do 10 minutes of work for Newton you cascade out lots and lots of other data…”
Think of the possibilities.
“What you can do with the data if you actually do all that work is you can figure out exactly what students know and how well they know it,” says Ferreira. But you can do a lot more according to Common Core’s critics.
In the new book, Common Ground on Common Core, composed of essays from opponents on the left and right, Jane Robbins writes of the threat to student privacy. In May 2014, a Pioneer Institute White Paper penned by Emmett McGroarty, Joy Pullmann, and Robbins addresses the “many initiatives that the federal government has worked with private entities to design and encourage states to participate in, in order to increase the collection and sharing of student data, while relaxing privacy protections.”
The authors offer recommendations and urge state lawmakers to pass student privacy laws and recommend that Congress correct the 2013 relaxation of FERPA.
In Arizona, newly elected lawmaker, Representative-elect Mark Finchem, is hoping to work on legislation that will strengthen student’s privacy rights on the state level. He has also called on Governor-elect Ducey to appoint members of the Arizona Board of Education that will support Douglas’s effort to stop Common Core and its invasive and excessive testing.
In the video, Ferreira notes that in 2012, Newton had access to 180,000 students’ information. “By December it’ll be 650,000,” he stated at the time. He anticipated having access to millions in 2013, and by 2014, he expected to have access “through our Pearson partnership” to 10 million students’ psyches.
As Brad McQueen, author of The Cult of Common Core writes, lead researcher on LearnSphere, Ken Koedinger, a professor of human computer interaction and psychology at Carnegie Mellon, is setting up “another data suctioning/storage system called LearnSphere which will collect “student behavioral” data…” LearnSphere, according to McQueen, “will allow researchers to store their data on their own servers, rather than at a central location, and give them greater control over who can access their data. The Obama administration changed the education privacy regulations (FERPA) so that private companies could suction and store student data without notifying parents or getting their permission.”
Does anyone believe that the data will be kept under lock and key for the use of classroom teachers and administrators? They shouldn’t; Ferreira has already admitted that the publishers will have the data. Does anyone believe that Pearson will keep that information confined solely to educational efforts? They shouldn’t; Pearson is part of Pearson PLC, which also owns Penguin Books and the Financial Times.
Scott Walker could be the next president, let’s hope he wants to be the next education president. If he does, he will have to learn a little more about it.