Monday, April 29, 2019

inBloom redux? NYSUT, NYSAPE and Parent Coalition for Student Privacy protest

Update: After we sent our letter to Anita Murphy below, the BOCES announced that "All seven of the Statewide Data Conversations set for this spring have been postponed to better coordinate with all stakeholder groups. At this time, new meeting dates have not been scheduled."  If and when they are re-scheduled we will let you know.

I thought this announcement was from 2013 until I saw the date: a new NY state effort to “envision” a new state data system with funding from the Gates Foundation.
Apparently the grant was obtained by the Capitol region BOCES but Commissioner Elia must have approved it. Do these guys never learn? 

Envisioning a New Statewide Data System

A variety of data is collected about children and students—from birth through their school years and into young adulthood. Used purposefully, this data can be a powerful tool to inform, engage and create opportunities for our students. It can paint a “bigger picture” of who students are and what they most need to grow, achieve and meet their educational goals, and help educators and others make connections that can lead to school and curricular improvements.

See the letter of protest sent today from NYSUT, NYSAPE and our Parent Coalition for Student Privacy below. Meanwhile, a series of sessions are being held throughout the state “to gather feedback” in late May and early June.  Please sign up if you can.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Success charters and Eva Moskowitz continue to violate children's rights as the US Department of Education rewards them with another ten million dollars

Today yet another lawsuit was filed against Success Academy charter schools today by Tanwa Omolade, a Brooklyn mom whose special needs son was repeatedly suspended, sent to the police station for misbehavior and who herself had the city's Administration for Children's Services (ACS) called on her by Success administrators in a “campaign of harassment” to convince her to pull her child out of the school. More on the lawsuit and the filings at Chalkbeat here.  As Chalkbeat writes,

The lawsuit makes a number of allegations that have popped up against Success and other charter networks before: that they have threatened parents with child welfare investigations, held students back from advancing to the next grade level for disciplinary reasons, and generally use harsh discipline practices that have a disproportionate effect on students with disabilities.

Success Academy has been repeatedly sued for abusing its students and violating their rights, as well as calling ACS on parents who complain;  here are just some of the previous and ongoing lawsuits against this chain of charter schools 

Yet in its wisdom, the US Department of Education just awarded this serial violator of civil rights ten million dollars to add to the $43.4 million they had already given the Success chain. 

In addition, Tufts has announced they will provide Eva Moskowitz an honorary degree, the head of Success Academy and a defendant in these lawsuits.  The former president of Tufts, Lawrence Bacow, who is the current president of Harvard is scheduled to speak at the Success high school's graduation, which last year only graduated 16 out of the 73 students who entered the school in Kindergarten  or first grade.  No doubt both occurrences were influenced by the fact that the head of the Success board, hedge funder Steve Galbreath, is also on the Tufts board of trustees and heads its investment committee.

The chaotic and abusive treatment suffered by her high school students and which caused most of the teaching staff to quit in disgust last year was extensively chronicled, including by this radio podcast. 

Meanwhile, at the end of February NYSED also sustained a complaint filed by Advocates for Children against Success for violating the due process rights of special needs students and failing to provide them with their mandated services; NYSED confirmed that NYC DOE had also done a lousy job in ensuring Success complied with the law.  

The State Education Department ordered Success Academy by March 29 to take the following steps, among others: to submit a list of students with disabilities whose mandated Individual Education Programs are not being implemented, evidence that Success has informed the DoE's Committee for Special Education that they have not implemented those IEPs, what actions they've taken as a result to address this failure, and who is responsible at Success for monitoring their implementation.  

In addition, the DOE was  ordered to implement a variety of "procedural safeguards" to ensure that parents and students are provided with their rights. The full NYSED decision and consent decree is below. 

McPherson Kansas students join the rebellion vs depersonalized learning and win the right to opt out of Summit

Yesterday, in a NY Times front page story, the reporter Nellie Bowles explored the many problems experienced by Kansas students and parents when the online Summit Learning program was imposed on their schools, including health problems, poor curriculum and lax privacy. "It sounded great, what they sold us,” said one parent. “It was the worst lemon car that we’ve ever bought.” Please read the article and if you're a Summit parent anywhere in the country, share your experiences in the online portal at the end of the article.  

I've written about growing resistance to the Summit platform since 2016, here, here, here  and here, including my visit to a Summit charter school here.  Though the NY Times article gives short shrift to the issue of privacy it does contain a quote from me about the tremendously intrusive wealth of personal data that Summit and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative are collecting. Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly broken every promise he’s made about keeping personal data private and neither CZI nor the new nonprofit that will take over Summit headed by Zuckerberg's wife have provided any reason that parents should trust them any more.

What's particularly moving about the article is that while Summit and its funders, including Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and  the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative claim Summit students are able to demonstrate " "greater ownership of their learning activities,” the McPherson Kansas students are actually taking ownership of their education by walking out of school and engaging in sit-ins are actually taking ownership of their education by walking out of school and engaging in sit-ins. Though of a very different demographic, they resemble the remarkable Brooklyn students who earlier this year walked out of the Secondary School of Journalism in protest against Summit, and followed up by writing an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg, saying “We refuse to allow ourselves to be experimented on in this way.“

This is a growing phenomenon. Note the thousands of Ontario students who organized a mass walk-out earlier this month of schools throughout the province, against proposed staffing cuts, rising class sizes, and a requirement that all high school students take online courses. All of these students are showing courage and agency by resisting the narrow technocratic and ultimately dehumanizing policies that threaten to fatally damage their education.

It was just announced that at as a "compromise" at the McPherson middle school that the NY Times reported on, up to 225 students will be allowed to opt out of Summit next year.

Five years ago yesterday, inBloom closed its doors after parents rebelled against this Gates Foundation $100 project, designed to collect and share the personal student information of nine states and districts with for-profit ed tech companies. At that time I asked, does that mean government officials, corporations and foundations have learned their lesson? The continued invasion of ed tech into our classrooms, including the expansion of Summit, sadly shows not. But as parents are increasingly joined with students in rebellion against depersonalized learning, perhaps we have a chance to beat it, once and for all.

Our updated fact sheet on Summit, including questions that parents and students should ask before the program is implemented in their schools is here: Summit fact sheet 4.22.19 and below.

Monday, April 15, 2019

NYC parents tell the Mayor to stop stalling and stop giving charter schools access to student information

Video and press release below about our press conference this afternoon.  Sorry for the low quality- it was broadcast on twitter live. 

For immediate release: April 15, 2019
For more information contact: NeQuan McLean, 347-470-4975,

NYC parents tell the Mayor to stop stalling and stop giving charter schools access to student information to market their schools

This afternoon, in front of the NYC Department of Education headquarters, NYC public school parents told Mayor de Blasio to stop bowing to the charter school lobby and halt the practice of giving charters access to student personal information to market their schools.  Instead, they said, he should listen to parents’ concerns, stop violating their children’s privacy, and cease this practice, which by helping charters expand, causes the loss of funding and space from our public schools.
In recent weeks, Chancellor Carranza has repeatedly promised parent leaders, both publicly and privately, that this practice would be discontinued, but the Mayor has yet to make a commitment to do so, and in the last few days he has said that he has not yet made a decision.  
Said Johanna Garcia, public school parent and President of Community Education Council in District 6 in Upper Manhattan:  “It is unconscionable that this practice continues. For more than a decade, parents and advocates have complained to DOE about the privacy violations incurred by allowing charters to access our children’s personal information without our consent.  I filed a FERPA complaint to the US Department of Education about this practice in November 2017.  Moreover, I am not aware of another school district in the country that voluntarily makes this information available to charter schools and undermines our public schools in the process."
NeQuan McLean, co- chair of the Education Council Consortium and the President of Community Education Council in District 16 Brooklyn said: “My mailbox is continually flooded with deceptive promotional materials from charter schools.  As a result of expensive marketing campaigns and the damaging co-location policies of the DOE, my district has been overrun by charters.  The Mayor repeatedly says he listens to parents; we are saying loudly and clearly that he should end this practice now.”
“Not only is personal student information unnecessary for appropriate marketing, providing access to it is an unacceptable violation of student privacy,” said Mark Cannizzaro, president of the Counselor of School Supervisors and Administrators.
Shino Tanikawa, the co-chair of the ECC and a member of NYC Kids PAC, agreed: “For years, DOE has ignored parents’ complaints about this practice, which started in 2006 when Joel Klein agreed to help Success Academy charter schools expand their “market share” as Eva Moskowitz put it in an email.  The result is that this year, more than two billion dollars has been diverted from our public schools. Why should our supposedly progressive Mayor continue this practice, when he promised parents he would defend our public schools in the face of charter encroachment?
Leonie Haimson, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, pointed out: “In Chicago, after student information was disclosed to charter schools by the district, resulting in parents receiving postcards urging them to enroll their children in their schools, this sparked a huge controversy and led to an investigation by the city’s Inspector General.  As a result, the staffer who released the information was fired and the district apologized to parents . Right now, in Nashville, their school district is defying a state law requiring districts to make parent contact information available to charter schools, and last week appealed a court order to do so.  NY State has no such law, and in fact, our state law bars the use of student data for marketing purposes.”
Naomi Peña, parent of four public school children and President of Community Education Council in District 1 in the Lower East Side, said: “For years, I along with other public school parents have been subjected to glossy flyers from charter schools, which have received donations from hedge fund billionaires to help them advertise in this way.  Charters also spend thousands of dollars on social media buys, TV and radio ads, and plaster their posters all over our subway.  Meanwhile, our public schools don’t have the funding to promote themselves in this way – and if they did, do we really want our public schools spending money on ads that should go to improving learning conditions for our kids?


Saturday, April 13, 2019

Come to rally on Monday to protest the Mayor letting charters access student information to help them recruit students

Please come and show your support and share with others.  Don’t let the Mayor chicken out on this important issue because he is more scared of the charter lobby than he is about ignoring parent wishes, violating their family's privacy and undermining our public schools.

Media Advisory    
Monday April 15, 2019                                                                                     
For more information, contact:
NeQuan McLean   


NYC Parents call for protection of their children’s privacy


What: Press conference to oppose DOE’s practice of sharing personal student information with charter schools
Who: NYC public school parents and parent leaders
When: Monday April 15, 2019 at 1:00 PM
Where: The steps of the Tweed Courthouse, 52 Chambers Street, downtown Manhattan

Why:   NYC public school parents and parent leaders  demand that the Mayor cease the practice of allowing charter schools access to student personal information.  NYC is the only district in the country which voluntarily shares this information with charters to help them market their schools and recruit students. In response to long-standing parent complaints, Chancellor Carranza has repeatedly promised parent leaders in recent weeks, both publicly and privately that this practice will be discontinued, but the Mayor has yet to make a commitment to do so and in the last few days has said no decision has yet been made.  

Parents have complained about the violation of their children’s privacy for years, and a FERPA complaint to the US Department of Education about this practice was filed in November 2017.  Moreover, by allowing access to this information, the DOE has encouraged the rapid expansion of charter schools, which are now costing our public schools more than $2.1 billion per year. As a result,  NYC public schools have less space and fewer resources to educate our neediest students.

While in the past, the DOE has suggested that public schools improve their “marketing”  to compete, they do not have the necessary funds to do so and in any case, most parents do not believe that the public schools  should be forced to divert what precious resources they have for this purpose.

The Education Council Consortium (ECC), made up of elected and appointed Community Education and Citywide Council members, was established to address issues that affect schools and communities throughout all five boroughs.  We meet regularly with the Chancellor to help shape, advise, provide feedback and comment on educational policies, visions and goals.