When THEY say “personalized learning” it is time to be afraid, very afraid

The Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS), the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE), and the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS) are among the most vocal Connecticut champions of the Common Core and the unfair, discriminatory and expensive Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing scheme.

Although the three organizations are funded primarily from local taxpayer funds and are supposed to be advocating for local public schools, all three have spent the last three years lobbying for Governor Malloy’s restrictive, centralized and top-down Corporate Education Reform Industry agenda… An agenda that undermines local control of education, seeks to limit the rights of parents, denigrates teachers and turns Connecticut’s public schools into little more than Common Core testing factories.

In fact, the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS), perhaps more than any other entity in Connecticut other than the Malloy administration itself, has been promoting the “big lie” that parents cannot opt their children out of the absurd Common Core SBAC tests.

But yesterday, in a moment of supreme – (ah) – irony – representatives of these three entities held a press conference at the Legislative Office Building to announce that the solution to Connecticut’s educational achievement gap is “personalized learning.”

And what pray-tell is “personalized learning?’

Thanks to an article in CTNewsJunkie entitled, “Education Organizations Tout ‘Personalized’ Learning,” we learn that according to the representative of the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS), personalized learning is,

“recognizing that all children learn differently and it’s about helping them learn the way they learn best. For example, if a grade schooler is interested in dinosaurs, it’s giving him an assignment related to dinosaurs that allows him to demonstrate his abilities.”

Now who would have ever thought of that idea?????

And the director of the Superintendent’s organization added, “Everybody wants to have the time they need to learn something and everybody wants to be taught in the way that they learn.”

Truer words have never been spoken, but the concept of true personalized learning is about as far from the Common Core and Common Core SBAC testing system as one can get.

And as if to prove the hypocrisy of their commitment to true personalized learning, the “White Paper” the group of Common Core advocates released reiterated their support for Governor Malloy’s inappropriate Teacher Evaluation System, a system that relies on the test results of the unfair and discriminatory Common Core SBAC Test.

Out of one side of their mouths the education reformers claimed they were holding their press conference to promote a more individualized approach to learning, while out of the other side of their mouths they were re-dedicating themselves to a teacher evaluation system that seeks to rank order teachers based on a Common Core SBAC test program that is purposely designed to make sure that 6 in 10 children are deemed failures.

So what exactly is this concept of “personalized learning” that these education reformers are talking about?

Interestingly, not one of the spokespeople at the press conference explained what “personalized learning” really means in today’s world of education reform.

The harsh reality is that “personalized learning” has become a buzzword of the corporate education reformer industry.

About four years ago media mogul Rupert Murdoch announced that he was splitting his massive multi-national corporation into two pieces.

One company would seek to continue to buy up and dominate the world’s mainstream media outlets and the other would focus on what Murdoch famously described as the $500 billion untapped market called America’s Public Education System.

To head the new operation, Murdoch hired Joel Klein, the former NYC Education Chancellor who had done so much damage to New York City’s public schools.

They named their new company Amplify and claimed that it would serve as the foundation for a new education system based on “personalized learning.”

As reported at the time, the new company was developed around the concept of the Amplify tablet, a mini-computer that would provide students from kindergarten through the 12th grade with “personalized learning.”

According to the company’s marketing propaganda Amplify would serve as a “student’s centralized education hub.”

Amplify and its products would not only take the place of textbooks but it would also provide games, simulations, “and even a curated library tailored to each student.”

In an interview with WiredAcademic.com in 2013, Joel Klein laid out the fundamental concepts behind Amplify and their strategy of promoting “personalized learning.”

As the article explained,

“These tablets come pre-loaded with curriculum from Amplify, the education company Klein leads. The company wants every student in every K-12 school to use a tablet. It also provides data services to schools to help them track student progress in coursework.

Many school districts that have the money and will to buy tablets for students are currently buying iPads from Apple or Android devices, which they customize for their students. Amplify says it has created a more education-focused tablet than tech rivals such as Apple or Google are currently offering.

“We work with special development people who work with teachers hand in glove,” Klein said, noting that his company sold 20,000 devices to schools in Guilford County, NC, rolling out a system there this Fall. Amplify has also piloted the tablets with a dozen school districts. “It’s about the software we are putting on there that makes this a really optimal learning platform.”


At the same time, Murdoch hopes Amplify buoys News Corp.’s journalistic holdings such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Post by creating a hybrid news and education business model on par with Pearson PLC, which owns The Financial Times, and The Washington Post Co., which owns education company Kaplan (but recently sold the namesake Washington Post to Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos).

Klein says Amplify’s strategy fits in well with the newly launched Common Core education standards that are going into use in more than 40 states. They “enable you to align your curriculum across the country,” he said. “Because we don’t have a legacy publishing business, we can align our curriculum right away with the Common Core. It gives us an advantage.”

We asked him his views on some states such as Indiana that are bucking against the Common Core and whether that could potentially set back his business. “I don’t think it is consequential. Some states might come off the Common Core… There were never 100% that were part of the Common Core (there were 45 state to begin with). Most states that aren’t on the Common Core may still require the curriculum we are building,” he said. “You make some differences for Texas. But the students in Texas will want the good curriculum we are developing.”

Klein’s impact on education reform in New York had ripple effects around the country. He’s helped mold and select several new superintendents in other cities ranging from Baltimore to New Orleans. He’s involved with the Broad Center, funded by L.A. billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad, which aims (among its other projects) to train and place reform-minded superintendents in the education sector.


Amplify acquired its way into the education business, buying up Brooklyn-based education data systems Wireless Generation for $360 million in 2010. It also provided professional development training to teachers. Klein hopes to sell news content and educational curriculum on the tablets and to disrupt the textbook market at the same time, posing a huge risk to other large textbook publishers such as McGraw-Hill, Houghton Mifflin, and Pearson, which together have $2.6 billion in annual revenue. “I think the printed textbook should be given a respectful and decent burial,” Klein said, during a recent interview with THE Journal. “I think it should be gone.”


“It’s not about tech for tech sake,” Klein says, about putting tablets into the hands of every student at every school. “It is about facilitating the learning process. If it doesn’t do that, it is not succeeding. I’ve had teachers in many places who say kids who were not engaged are now engaged and writing on the tablet. It gives them a feeling of responsibility.”

All of this brings us back to The Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS), the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE) and the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS).

When they say “personalized learning,” do they mean the “personalized learning” that is being forced upon our children by companies like Amplify, Pearson and the other corporations and corporate executives behind the Corporate Education Reform Industry?

If that is what they are saying, then they need to stand down and back off before they do any more damage to Connecticut’s public schools.

You can read the CTNewsjunkie article about yesterday’s press conference at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/education_organizations_tout_personalized_learning/

Gates Foundation and Scholastic Corporation report that teachers love the Common Core!

Teachers, parents and public school advocates may want to play the YouTube video of Bobby McFerrin – Don’t Worry Be Happy song while reading this blog post.

The USA Today headline reads, “Survey: Common Core standards working well.”

In other words, the USA Today and other “main stream media outlets” are telling the Common Core naysayers to sit down and shut up with all this anti-common core mush.

How do we know the Common Core standards are working well?

Because the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the driving force behind the Common Core and its unfair, inappropriate and expensive Common Core Testing Scheme, along with one of the companies that will profit most from the implementation of the Common Core, have a new public opinion survey showing that public school teachers love the Common Core.

The highlights of the Gates Foundation/Scholastic Corporation survey show the following…

  • As of July 2014, nearly two-thirds of public school teachers report that the implementation of the Common Core is “mostly or fully complete” (65%, up 19 points from 2013), and teachers increasingly agree that the implementation of the Common Core is “going well in their schools” (68%, up six points from 2013).
  • In addition, more public school teachers report feeling prepared to teach to the Common Core, with 79 percent of teachers saying they are “very” or “somewhat” prepared (up eight points from 2013), even as more agree that implementation is challenging (81%, up eight points from 2013).
  • According to the survey, among the challenges that teachers continue to face is “critical resources they need to ensure successful implementation,” with more than eight in ten teachers citing Common Core–aligned instructional materials (86%) and quality professional development (84%), and many teachers wanting additional planning time (78%) as well as opportunities to collaborate with other teachers (78%).  In other words, school districts need to invest in more computers, more common core software and more common core-aligned instructional materials.
  • Finally, an incredible seven in ten (68%) public school teachers report that they are “enthusiastic about Common Core implementation in their classrooms,” although slightly fewer agree this year over last (down five points from 2013).

So where did this wonderful, albeit unbelievable, survey come from?

According to the press release issued by the Scholastic Corporation,

NEW YORK, NY – October 3, 2014 – Scholastic (NASDAQ: SCHL) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today released results from a survey of more than 1,600 of America’s pre-K–12 public school teachers who are in the more than 40 states where the Common Core State Standards are being implemented. Focused on how the new standards are affecting teachers’ students and classrooms, the survey found that over the past year the majority of teachers have remained optimistic that the Common Core will lead to greater levels of student achievement and that many are observing positive changes in their classrooms despite some challenges in implementation. This survey, which was conducted in July 2014, is a follow-up with the teachers who responded in July 2013 to the comprehensive survey that comprised Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on Teaching in an Era of Change

The actual internet survey being reported about today was conducted by YouGov, an on-line multi-national polling company that is headquartered in England and run by a group of businessmen that are primarily associated with Britain’s Conservative Party.

YouGov’s former Chief Executive Office won a seat in Parliament as a Conservative member in 2010 and the company’s current CEO ran as a Conservative Party candidate for Parliament in 1997.  The company’s chairman is a successful media entrepreneur, while YouGov’s president is a well know political commentator in England.

This year’s Gates Foundation/Scholastic Corporation Survey was another in a series of opinion research projects aimed to building government, business and public support for the Common Core and its related standardized testing program.

According to the Scholastic Corporation, “The first edition, which was fielded in 2009 and surveyed more than 40,000 teachers, is widely considered the largest-ever survey of America’s teachers. The following second and third editions were fielded in 2011 and 2013, respectively. The third survey asked 20,000 teachers their views on the many changes occurring in America’s classroom. Acknowledging the fast pace of these changes, the 2014 Update shows the impact of one year on teachers’ views on the Common Core State Standards.”

It is unclear how the 40,000 or 20,000 teachers were selected to participate in the various on-line studies, although see below for how YouGov generally recruits participants.  You can find the report on the 2013 Gates Foundation/Scholastic Corporation survey at:  http://www.scholastic.com/primarysources/2013preview/PrimarySourcesCCSS.pdf and the most 2014 press release on the new study at: http://mediaroom.scholastic.com/press-release/survey-provides-first-hand-look-how-one-year-has-affected-teachers-views-common-core

This year’s survey apparently used a similar on-line questionnaire, this time polling 1,676 pre-K–12 full-time public school classroom teachers.

According to the report released with the survey, “All Common Core State Standards implementation states, plus the District of Columbia, are included in this research with the exception of Delaware. The states not included are Alaska, Nebraska, Virginia, Texas, South Carolina and Indiana. The sample is balanced on population characteristics including grade(s) taught, years of teaching experience, gender and urbanity, as was the case in each edition of Primary Sources.”

Putting aside the broader questions about the selection of participants, the methodology, including the impact of internet based self-selection and the impact that weighting can have on the results, it is important to note that the “2014 Common Core Update…fielded online by YouGov, includes teachers who participate in Primary Sources, Third Edition: America’s Teachers on Teaching in an Era of Change, which was fielded in July 2013.”

This means that the survey was simply a sub-set of teachers who had already shown their support for the Common Core in the 2013 survey.

Some readers may recognize the YouGov name.  The company generally recruits people,

who like to express and share their opinions, and earn points along the way…As a panel member you will receive regular email invitations for new surveys. Every survey you complete earns points that when accumulated can be redeemed for rewards such as movie ticketsgift cards, and other prizes. You will also receive surveys that don’t have points but enter you in a monthly prize draw…All YouGov surveys are completed online and filled out at a time that is convenient for you. Redeem Points for Rewards… Join Today and Receive Our 2000 Points Welcome Bonus.

So there you have it.

Thanks to the Gates Foundation and the Scholastic Corporation we now know that the implementation of the Common Core standards are going great and that an incredible seven in ten public school teachers report that they are “enthusiastic about Common Core implementation in their classrooms.”

Don’t worry, be happy!

Corporate America has everything under control.