Monday, May 2, 2016

PTA Sells Out (Again)

The National PTA has become a one-stop shop for reformsters who want to push back against parents who insist on shrugging off the warm, reform embrace.

A recently emailed newsletter highlights the many super-duper friends that the PTA has made. For instance, they are proud to announce their keynote speaker for the Think BIG!... Think PTA 2016 National PTA Convention & Expo will be newly minted Secretary of Education John King. I'll betcha parents from New York State think that's an awesome idea. National PTA has also teamed up with Scholastic, Univision, and GreatKids (a part of the Walton and Gates funded GreatSchools)to create a Readiness Roadmap at the Be a Learning Hero website.

This is not a new thing. The National PTA has previously shilled for the standardized testing industry and offered itself up as a PR tool for the Department of Education in the bad old Duncan days. And they have their own car on the Bill Gates Gravy Train.

But none of that is as disappointing as the partnership the trumpet as the lead in this newsletter.

In partnership with leaders from across the education field, including Lee Ann Kendrick, National PTA's regional advocacy specialist, the Data Quality Campaign has developed a set of recommendations to help states enact policies that are critical to ensuring that data is used to support student learning.

The Data Quality Campaign has been around a long time in ed reform terms. DQC was put together in 2005 with ten partners:

Achieve, Inc. (
Alliance for Excellent Education (
Council of Chief State School Officers (
The Education Trust (
National Center for Educational Accountability ( or
National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (
National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (
Schools Interoperability Framework Association (
Standard & Poor's School Evaluation Services (
State Higher Education Executive Officers (

You may recognize many of our old reform friends here. CCSSO is of course one of the copyright holders of the Common Core State [sic] Standards. Achieve has also been a major player since CCSS was a pup. So what did all these reform types get together to do?

Founder and CEO Aimee Rogstad Guidera worked previously for the National Center for Educational Achievement, the National Alliance of Business, and the National Governor's Association (the other copyright holder of Common Core). She's excited because ESSA provides "a timely opportunity for states to change the culture around data use."

DQC wanted to agitate for at least ten "essential elements" which are

1. Student Identifier: A unique statewide student identifier that connects student data across key databases across years
Student Info: Student-level enrollment, demographic, and program participation information
Matching Student Test Records: The ability to match individual students' test records from year to year to measure academic growth
Untested Student Info: Information on untested students and the reasons they were not tested
Teacher/Student Data Link: A teacher identifier system with the ability to match teachers to students
Transcript Data: Student-level transcript information, including information on courses completed and grades earned
College Readiness Scores: Student-level college readiness test scores
Graduation/Dropout Data: Student-level graduation and dropout data
P-12/Postsecondary Records Match: The ability to match student records between K-12 and higher education systems
Data Audit System: A state data audit system assessing data quality, validity, and reliability

So, DQC is about data-mining the living daylights out of students.

DQC also had lots of advice for states about how they could help "ensure that states use their longitudinal data systems to continually improve education." Oddly enough, the ten state actions are all about aggregating, crunching and sharing. #1 on the state list is "Link data systems," because nothing helps a child learn to write a paragraph better than being able to compare her test scores with the scores of students states away from her.

Periodically DQC has released reports (Data For Action) on how the business of getting all fifty states hooked up, collecting, crunching and sharing. It seems to safe that the steadily rising pushback against data mining systems, resulting in events such as inBloom being chased out of New York, has not been happy news for DQC.

Parents just don't care for having their children turned into data generating widgets for corporate fun and profit. How could DQC get parents to unclench and share and give themselves up to Big Data's loving embrace? If only there were some organization that would give them access to educationally interested parents in the US...

So PTA is throwing its weight behind Time To Act: Making Data Work for Students, a new PR push dedicated to helping everybody just stop fighting and let Big Data have its way enjoy the awesome benefits of data mining.

When information about students is provided in a timely, useful manner, every adult working with a child is able to support that student’s learning more effectively. This vision can and must become a reality for every student. States have a unique and critical role to play in bringing it to life. In partnership with leaders from across the education field, the Data Quality Campaign has developed Time to Act: Making Data Work for Students—a set of recommendations to help states enact policies that are critical to ensuring that data is used to support student learning.

Perhaps I'll walk you through the full report some other day. Here are the essentials. It advocates for the same things that DQC has been pushing for for the last decade. Although it repeats the idea that more betterer data will improve student achievement, it has no actual research or data to prove it. It talks about success in some states (like Georgia and Kentucky) but that appears to mean success in having policies adopted-- not any sort of success in educating students. And despite the promo I quoted above, few actual educators, leaders or otherwise, appear to be involved.

In stead, the DQC leadership credited for helping out includes people from organizations like the US Education Delivery Institute, Lead Edge Capital, NCTQ (the least serious group in reformdom), a VP of Jeb Bush's reform Foundation, and Chris Stewart as a rep of Education Post. The actual teachers? Four Teachers of the Year.

So this is what the National PTA has climbed in bed with this time. It's worth noting, as always, that many state and local chapters of the PTA have stood up and been feisty for public education, and the students and teachers therein. But the National PTA seems bent on letting itself be turned into an astroturf group. The item in the newsletter says that this report (and DQC) include recommendations to make sure that data is used to promote student learning, but it appears that it's simply about making sure that data is collected, crunched and used-- by somebody. It's truly unfortunate that the PTA has gotten themselves involved in this.

1 comment:

  1. This makes me livid! Thanks for the information! I never wanted to be "extreme" but the more I learn about public education, the sicker I get. I'm voluntarily sending my kids into this? I was an unwelcome parent in our last PTA because I wasn't interested in being the principal's puppet, I was opposed to traditional fundraising, and I wanted to use my volunteer hours with students, not doing administrative duties with other adults...that began my negative view of PTA...this summer I think there's a very good chance I'll have to pull my kids out of public school. They are my greatest asset and I just can't leave their well-being to the government any more!!!