Questionable contract?

If you want to volunteer for our Citizens Contract Oversight Committee, or have a tip to share, please email us at NYCschoolcontractwatch@gmail.com

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Part III: Highlights from 2012 NYSED emails regarding their plan to share student data with inBloom



NYSED's emails to the Gates Foundation about inBloom and Wireless Generation from 2012 are below; highlights include a dinner party at Merryl Tisch's home, to which Commissioner King invites an array of corporate reform leaders -- to the dismay of  Joe Scantlebury of the Gates Foundation.  Also amusing is their account when I crashed a Gates-sponsored " SLC Learning Camp" designed to lure software developers into designing products to take advantage of the wealth of personal student data to be gathered and shared by inBloom.  You can also check out Part I and Part II for more background on this FOIL and excerpts from 2011. 

1/6/12: Sandeep Chellani of NYC DOE warns Asst. Commissioner Ken Wagner and Doug Jaffe of the Regents Research Fund that the NYC Comptroller John Liu is about to reject the DOE’s renewal of its contract with Wireless for the DOE data system known as ARIS.  “This information will likely … create challenges for us pushing this through.  As this might have down streams [sic] effects on your work we wanted to give you a heads up…” 
NYC Comptroller John Liu

This rejection is announced ten days later, on Jan. 16, 2012.  According to the NYC Comptroller, the DOE re-assigned the last month of the expiring five-year, $83 million contract from IBM to Wireless, which then allowed them to give Wireless two more years without undergoing competitive bidding.  “Under that move, Klein’s company’s inherits IBM’s option to a two-year renewal.” 

Susan Lerner of Common Cause comments: “This definitely has the appearance of an arrangement to avoid proper scrutiny and public oversight…In this time of budget shortfalls and economic challenge, we need greater transparency and scrupulous competitive bidding to ensure the public is receiving the greatest benefit from these large highly specialized contracts.” 

Yet the rejection only delays the awarding of the contract but doesn’t stop it – as unlike the State Comptroller's cancellation of the NYSED's Wireless contract, the NYC Comptroller doesn’t have the authority to cancel DOE contracts, just delay them.  

1/10/12: Rachel Monahan writes in the Daily News that the earlier State Comptroller’s rejection of NYSED’s Wireless contract may endanger their $700M Race to the Top grant, since it could delay the data tracking of student performance. “New York . . . has recently hit a roadblock that not only impedes Race to the Top but could threaten other key reform initiatives as well,” said US Education Secretary Arne Duncan.”

An email follows from Joan Lebow of Wireless to Tom Dunn and Dennis Tompkins of NYSED:  “Did you guys see Rachel’s latest story?  Do you have a PR contact in Duncan’s office?  Her lead is the most absurd A equal C stretch of fiction.“  Yet later, when opposition to inBloom intensified, Ken Wagner NYSED would use the same excuse when arguing against pulling out of the project: that pulling out would endanger their RTTT grant.   At this point, inBloom has apparently replaced NYSED's original plan (and obligation) to create a separate internal state student data system.

2/8/12:  Sharren Bates, the Chief Product Officer of the SLC for the Gates Foundation, bugs Ken Wagner about the need to sign a strict non-disclosure agreement .

The same day, Stacey Childress of Gates emails David Jaffe, Regents fellow, Wagner and King.  In reply to King’s email and an NYSED draft paper dated 2/2/12 (which was not made available through the FOIL), she argues against King’s concerns that the data system may “lock in” certain providers to the exclusion of others.  Childress emphasizes that they want to encourage as many vendors as possible to develop high-quality applications.

Chancellor Merryl Tisch
3/16/12: Joe Scantlebury of the Gates Foundation thanks Merryl Tisch for agreeing to “meet with our US Program President [Allan Golston] and hosting him and a small team at your home for dinner on Friday.”  He asks Tisch for her address, expected arrival time, and the names of the other invitees.  This leads to a hilarious chain of emails, when Scantlebury learns from King’s assistant Anne Coonradt that Tisch and King have invited several extraneous people, including Cami Anderson, then the Newark Superintendent, Rich Buery of the Children’s Aid Society (now Deputy Mayor under Mayor de Blasio), and Dacia Toll of Achievement First charter schools, along with Amy McIntosh and Kristen Huff, Regents fellows.  

Scantlebury politely protests: “This is quite a list.  Curious about the Achievement First and Newark Invites as Allan will be most curious about the NY State work and will likely bypass a direct discussion with NYC.  Please help me understand the connections.  Also-the foundation has been asked to consider deeper investment in Newark.  To date, we have passed on that opportunity.  Does this create expectations that we can meet for Newark and similarly Achievement First?”

John King interjects: “The Chancellor understood from your conversation that there was a general interest in both reform in NYS and inviting an array of partners.  As you know, Achievement First has a large NYC presence and Cami was NYC TFA ED (she and Amy worked together when Amy was the TFA NYC board chair) and a District 75 sup in NYC.  I don’t think there are any funding expectations, just hopes for an interesting conversation.  We are awaiting responses form additional colleagues.”

The next few days, the list of invited guests grow, including Sharon Contreras, Syracuse Superintendent, Jemima Bernard, Regional VP for TFA, and Dan White, BOCES Superintendent, Monroe County, Monica George-Fields, Regents Fellow, Jon Schnur, CEO America Achieves (and a Bloomberg top advisor), and David Weiner, Deputy Chancellor of NYC DOE.

Scantlebury protests once again:  This is feeling really big.  Is there an agenda or program, will there be a sit down meal or standing reception? Please advise.”

Joe Scantlebury of Gates Foundation
John King replies: “The Chancellor is planning a sit down dinner.  I assume no program, but maybe short remarks at the start of dinner from the Chancellor and me?  Would something more formal be better?”

Scantlebury: “Thanks John.  I want to make sure that Allan has maximum time with you and the chancellor, so hopefully you all will be seated together.  Nothing more formal is necessary.”

(Sadly, no record of the dinner exists, and whether Allan Golston came away from it with major pitches from TFA, Newark school, or Achievement First.  America Achieves had already gotten Gates funding, and got more in 2012 and 2013 – totaling $4 million. TFA got its largest Gates grant the following fall – for $1.5 million – but for its Colorado and Louisiana chapter to use videos in their training. Achievement First also received its biggest Gates grants – three totaling $1.8 million – in July and November 2012, following the dinner. Poor Newark - it had already received $3 million for a data system to support teacher “growth models” from Gates through the New Schools Venture Fund in 2011, but as far as we know, got nothing more after that dinner.)

3/ 22/ 12: Henry Hipps, VP of Gates, informs John King that they have deleted the restriction from the MOU that would bar NYSED’s ability to inform the public about facts related to the project if “the content of such …has already been released publicly.”  Yet “The SLC would still like advance notice and copies for awareness purposes and so that it has an opportunity to work with states to clarify or correct statements as needed and appropriate.” 

They also added an Exhibit B, that described how the data system would include “over 400 granular data elements and the flexibility to add more as needs evolve”; in 39 Domain types, including disciplinary data, student record, report card, assessments, supplemental services, demographic information, etc. “The expected datasets that will be stored in SLI will continue to develop over time with feedback from our Pilot States.” Attachment C, “the Data and Privacy Plan”, absolves the Gates Foundation of any responsibility if there are breaches in storage or transmission.  

The MOU is finally signed by NYSED on April 13, 2012.  It contains the phrase: “NYSED agrees it will use all reasonable efforts to notify the Company prior to referencing the Company, this MOU, the SSLI Pilot, or the Technology Build in any press releases, media statements, press or media interviews, or presentations. NYSED agrees to use all reasonable efforts to provide the Company with an advance copy of any press releases, media statements, presentations, or other written material intended for public release in order to allow the Company to review and provide comment.  Except as, and to the extent, required by law, NYSED agrees to not disclose, and will maintain the confidentiality of certain specifications and/or software specifically related to protecting data privacy and security that may be disclosed to NYSED under this MOU and that the Company marks or otherwise indicates in writing is to be treated as confidential, restricted or proprietary.”

US Education Secretary Arne Duncan
5/21/12: John King invites Joe Scantlebury of the Gates Foundation to a “special roundtable discussion with Arne Duncan on June 4th at Citigroup, where  he and Tisch “will address a range of topics – from the Common Core to teacher & leader effectiveness in school turnaround to engaging parents and communities [Hah!] – and field your questions in an off-the-record conversation exclusively for the supporters of the Regents Research Fund and a handful of invited guests.”

5/23/12: Scantlebury politely declines, but say he will send “our NY Policy Advisor Vincent Marrone” to the meeting.  [Marrone is later interviewed by a Westchester paper, and described as one of the few parents who support the Common Core at one of King’s contentious town hall meetings in the fall of 2013. He doesn’t identify himself as a Gates lobbyist but a sharp-eyed reader later does.]

6/29/12:  Matthew Gross, head of the Gates-funded Regents Research Fund writes Bill Tucker, Deputy Director of US Programs for the Gates Foundation to introduce him to the newly-named Commissioner, John  King. “Bill, I feel remiss in not doing this earlier, but I’d like to introduce you to Commissioner John King, who has maintained a relationship with several of your colleagues at the Gates Foundation over the years.  Bill and John you are two of the most interesting and thoughtful people I know and I do hope you connect soon.  I’m sure sparks will fly.”  Again, this suggests how the Regents Fellows acted as a bridge between Gates and NYSED.

Matthew Gross of the Regents Research Fund
10/1/12:  At some point in October 2012 a separate “Service Agreement” is executed that appears to change some of the terms of the agreement, including adding FedRamp security provisions to the data cloud that will hold the student information; and that NYSED may not grant access to the data to third parties without authorization by a school district “or as otherwise authorized by FERPA. However , a state education agency may be a third party application provider of a school district that is a customer of SLI Service for such purposes, and if so, may grant access to another 3rd party application provider to assist it in performing these services.”

The contract also has a clause that “If a school district decides they no longer wish to use the SLI system, they may request that district student data be deleted from the SLI data store.”  Though later several NY Superintendents demand in writing that their student data be deleted, their request to the Gates Foundation is ignored.

Attorney Norman Siegel
10/14/12: Frustrated at our inability to get any information from NYSED, Class Size Matters, along with parent leaders and attorney Norman Siegel, hold a press conference in NYC, and release  a letter to to NY State Attorney General and Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, demanding that the State release its contract with the Shared Learning Collaborative, hold public hearings, and require parental consent before sharing any student’s personally identifiable information with the SLC or the Gates Foundation.

Later that day, SED finally releases its Service Agreement  with the Shared Learning Collaborative to reporters.  It confirms our worst fears that parental consent is not going to be required; in addition, there are only minimal protections from “data leakage” and the Gates Foundation has written the contract to shield itself from any financial and legal liability if the agreement violates FERPA or other privacy laws, or if it allows data breaches to occur.

10/18/12:  With a subject line “Activist parent attending NYC Camp”, Genevieve Haas from the PR firm Waggener Edstrom, emails Ken Wagner and Tom Dunn of NYSED, copying others at Gates and NYSED,  that they have noticed that “Leonie Haimson has registered “ for the SLC “Learning camp” to be held in NYC on October 20; She describes me as the “Driving force behind the recent letter to the NYSED  - presumably the one we released to the Attorney General and Regents Chancellor Merryl Tish at the press conference.

Haas says she will be attending the camp “to support SLC communications with Leonie and to keep track of how she may try to leverage any content from the camp.”  She adds:

While we will be prepared to remove anyone who creates a major disruption at the event, our strong preference is to engage with Leonie (or any critics) politely and substantively on side.  Sharren Bates will be available to speak with her with me staffing.  We should expect Leonie to tweet, record and blog her experience both in real time and after the fact.  Tom, please let me know if you’d like to proactively plan on speaking with Leonie, or if not, how you would like me to handle if she requests time with you.”

Genevieve Haas of Waggener Edstrom, PR firm  for inBloom
Tom Dunn of NYSED replies that “we saw her registration last night…She appears to have signed up at the very beginning.”  He tells Genevieve that “Ken, Dennis and I will confer before Saturday to make sure SED is one mind as to how present we’ll be during the camp.”

Dennis Tompkins of NYSED emails that “the SLC agreement has been posted on our webpage for several days.  To the best of my knowledge Leonie has not asked anyone in our office for the agreement.”  [Of course not, I got it from reporters after our press conference. ]

Genevieve Haas follows up with an email to Tom Dunn, cc; Wagner, Kathleen Moorhead, MaryAnn Van Blarcom, Dennis Tompkins, Jonathan Burman of NYSED, Amrit Singh and Doug Jaffee of the Regents Research Fund, Stacey Childress, and Katie Ford of Waggener, to share a “Q and A that we developed to address SLC-specific questions raised by the Class Size Matters letter sent earlier this week.  This is only messaging for SLC and we will of course refer any questions specific to NY to NYSED, but we wanted you to have this language (which has been vetted by our legal counsel) which will inform any conversations we have about privacy at the camp this weekend.  Tom, my cell is -------, if you need to reach me quickly.“

Stacy Childress interjects, “Seems to me the important point on this topic is not whether or when asked NYSED for the agreement.  The important point is within 2 business days of a countersigned agreement between NYSED and SLC, NYSED posted it for public viewing on its website.”

10/20/12: Along with my friend and technology consultant, Justin Wedes, I  attend the Gates Foundation “Shared Learning Collaborative camp” for software developers in NYC.  We meet Sharren Bates, who makes it clear that they will not recognize the right of parents to consent before their children's data will be shared with third parties, and that this data will include names, test scores, grades, disciplinary and attendance records, special education status and IEPs, etc.   

She insists that the “district” will be making all the decisions as to which data to share with vendors and under what conditions, and that neither parent notification nor consent will be required.  When asked, she explains that the “district” means the NYC Chancellor will be making those decisions.  I tell her that most NYC parents do not trust Chancellor Walcott to make these highly sensitive  decisions for their children.  She describes the great benefits of inBloom, and I explain that we’ve heard it all before, when the $85 million DOE data system called ARIS was being touted, and yet few parents or teachers find it useful.  Only after I return home and google her name do I discover that she she directed the development of ARIS for DOE.  For more on what transpired at this event, see my blog here.

Later that day, Genevieve Haas reports back to the group:

Sharren Bates of Gates Foundation and then CPO of inBloom
 “Hi all, As I shared with Tom, we held a tense but civil conversation with Leonie (which she recorded) and her associate Justin who was here to ask more pointed on technical questions like specifically how access to data is authorized.  I will share more complete notes after I’ve had time to clean them up, but the basic issue is that while she understands that SLC is relying on the district’s determination of legitimate education need, she (and the parents she feels she speaks for do not trust the district.  She b believes SLC should assume the moral (vs legal) responsibility to ensure parents know what the district is doing with student data.  She also just fundamentally feels that third party apps making money by using student data is always bad. 

I chatted separately with Amrit [Amrit Singh, Regents Fellow in charge of the data project ] and we touched on how we might develop some very simple language (including a hypothetical scenario) that explains why third party application providers would need student PII in order to provide valuable services.  Her lack of technical knowledge makes it difficult for her to conceptualize how student data is being used to personalize education. [Hah!]

A sign at the NYC SLC Camp, with the claim parents are part of their "community"
She asked about Wireless Gen, but after Sharren explained that WG will not own or host the student data and that it will not own the rights to the technology it’s building, we did not touch on WG again. Interestingly, Sharren Bates suggested that Leonie actually propose an application that would enable parents to see how their student’s data is being shared via SLC, so we took some time to help her map out her concept.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t pair her with a developer today because she missed the window to match up with a dev, but we plan to continue engaging and will look for an opportunity to introduce her to a relevant dev if possible. “ [The chief developer told me they weren’t interested in engaging with parents that point; only with teachers.]

She has now left (and doesn’t plan to come back tomorrow) but we do plan to keep  engaging and she proactively suggested that she might be willing to partner with us on a forum for parents to get engaged (nothing that we committed to).  As will not surprise you, she is hostile toward the NYSED and the district and generally feels that parent rights are not protected by policy makers.”  [You can say that again!]

Please let me know if you have concerns or questions.  Although much of the decision-making authority that she challenged lies in SEA/LEA hands, which we explained she did not ask for a contact at SED, so we didn’t provide one.  I will stay in touch about our ongoing engagement with her.”  [Which proves non-existent; when I followed up with Sharren Bates, who had expressed interest in briefing parents on the project, she refuses to attend.]

11/01/12: Henry Hipps sends a draft “Data Privacy and Security Policy” for the SLC; explaining, “We have developed a process to get input from SLC states and districts in time to get to a final version before the December v1 Go Live.”

11/16/12: Amrit Singh, Regents Fellow, sends Hipps “NYSED’s edits and comments on the policy document”, to which Hipps responds to by saying “I’ve forwarded to the legal team” sent via an email on his Windows Phone. 

A Windows Samsung phone
Humorously, Ken Wagner interjects, “I didn’t know that anyone actually used a Windows Phone.  I suppose it is required by Gates?!”  Hipps confirms: “You won’t find a foundation sponsored iPhone on campus.  Or anywhere!  That said my Samsung Windows phone is surprisingly solid.”

12/4/12: Email from Hipps to the state “partners” telling them SLC will soon morph into a separate corporation called inBloom, which will be “working to make personalized learning a reality for every US student.   inBloom provides technology services that allow states and public school district to better integrate student data and learning applications…etc. “ And:  “If you have questions about how the inBloom brand should be used or need assets depicted in the guidelines, please reach out to Waggener Edstrom [their PR firm].” 

Now read Part IV , the Final Chapter, recounting how inBloom's launch in 2013 was immediately accompanied by controversy, followed quickly by parent protests, and ultimate collapse.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Weird sense of entitlement, indignation and patronizing superiority for a band of thieves.