Students across Colorado are now taking their PARCC assessments, also known as the Colorado Measure of Academic Success. United Opt Out, the organization working to stop standardized tests such as PARCC, will find out whether it can successfully push testing opt-out into middle and elementary schools.
On April 11, Colorado’s House Education Committee unanimously passed the Student Data Collection Use Security bill, HB16-1423, to provide transparency to parents on how their children’s personally identifiable information is used by the state, school districts, and third party vendors.
Also on April 11, Achieve, an education reform enterprise supported by state governors, foundations, and businesses such as Microsoft, IBM, and Intel, announced that Colorado’s interim Department of Education Commissioner, Elliott Asp, joined their “team.” Asp will “work with states to develop, enact, and sustain college and career-ready policies and initiatives. This includes leading Achieve’s work with developing … competency based pathways.”
Underlying all of this activity is the rapid growth of online, competency-based education content supported by three groups: education publishers, technology companies and education reform nonprofits and foundations.
Publishers include Pearson Co. of the United Kingdom, which delivers Colorado’s PARCC tests; McGraw Hill, owned by Apollo Global Management; and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt of Boston. Education Testing Service and ACT are also big movers in Colorado’s GED and high school annual testing markets. Hardware and software corporations include the usual suspects: Microsoft, Apple and Google.
In Colorado, the Donnell-Kay Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Colorado Education Initiative are the nonprofit players with whom Asp has collaborated over the years.
HB16-1423 takes some steps to protect the personally identifiable information — known as PII — generated by these education content providers and their supporters. It prohibits selling data and marketing targeted at students. It also gives school districts more oomph in contracts with third-party vendors such as Google and Microsoft.
The bill encourages vendors to use PII collected through their software to provide “adaptive learning” content. Edgenuity, Pearson’s adaptive learning platform, is now making its way across school districts nationwide. It replaces live teachers with computers, talking-head video instructors and lessons.
Students sit at their computer stations for a couple of hours a day and interact with lessons in science, math, history, literature, etc. With every lesson comes an assessment. If students don’t get the content, back they go for a do-over. That’s “adaptive learning” (see The Student Experience — Edgenuity).
HB16-1423 protects these tools as “some of the positive ways in which personally identifiable information may be used to improve a student’s education.” The bill will provide data transparency by requiring districts and vendors to list the types of PII collected, its uses, its term of collection, etc. Parents will get an eyeful and can take their complaints to their districts.
But the bigger picture suggests that a larger discussion must occur among parents, educators and policy makers. Peggy Robertson of Colorado’s United Opt Out believes that these education platforms will replace teachers, reducing personnel costs while driving up technology purchases.
Ironically, she says, the technology invasion will replace annual tests, as students will take their assessments every single day.