Digital Learning Goes Back to School


Alison McDowell summarizes her extensive research into the dangers of corporate education reform and personalized learning.

So I had a back and forth online with someone recently who didn’t understand the significance of education/workforce badging programs and asked me to write something up. So my thoughts are below. Ultimately I think this is all going to be linked to the TiSA (Trade in Services Agreement) as they create a global market for digital education.
 How to create a global market for digital learning: (detailed background from Morna McDermott)
 1. Create a common platform of educational standards. Don’t get distracted by CCSS-the uber set of standards is all pretty much in place now.
2. Make sure all the developers are using a common schema for educational item data tagging.…
3. Make PII data and data-collection a priority in schools. Don’t limit yourself to academic performance. Layer in SEL and bio-metrics, too. These are all important for workforce development. Gather it via embedded assessments and gaming to make it more palatable.…
4. Focus on closing the digital divide by providing low-cost technology to districts with a majority of low-income students and by expanding broadband access to rural areas. For global, digital education to work, inexpensive internet everywhere must be put in place.
5. Expand 1:1 device initiatives. Design learning management platforms to be run on less-expensive tablets and chromebooks. Baltimore’s STAT program is one of these. This is a parent blog with a lot of current information on concerns about the program:….
6. Systematically defund bricks and mortar educational systems. Allow facilities to decline, reduce human teaching staff, implement ongoing austerity budgets, etc.…
7. Use fiscal pressure to introduce programs like 4-day school weeks and learn-from-home “e-days.” Public support for later high school start times can also be used to help push initiatives requiring students to take an online class in order to graduate.…
8. Control the teacher training pipeline to make digital learning the primary delivery vehicle.
9. In response to growing teacher shortages, introduce blended/hybrid learning options into regular public schools. This enables increases in teacher/student ratios and allows “personalized” digital instruction to claim a growing percentage of the instructional day. Public monies are redirected to private companies through contacts for learning management systems and standards-based online education modules.
10. Drive families out of the public school system via punitive measures (high-stakes testing, IEP non-compliance, “No Excuses” policies, etc.) and create a perception of public education as dangerous and/or ineffectual so people withdraw to do home school or private school.
11. Set up charter cyber schools to accommodate the new “home school” families. This will further destabilize public school systems.
12. Start to build up “virtual” public schools. In PA they are doing it through the county intermediate units. These will be cross-district, regional programs. Students will be encouraged to enroll in a “few” classes online via these programs. They will brand them differently than the cyber charters. They will market it as a savvy cost-saving measure. See PA Open Campus.…
13. Global corporations purchase cyber charter companies to do R&D to refine their online learning platforms and extend their reach-see Connections Academy (Pearson owned) in 29 states.…
14. Convince the public that online portfolios are better suited to the 21st century “gig” economy workforce than traditional diplomas/transcripts. Make it difficult to procure and access traditional credentialing avenues. See rise of Naviance use in schools. Push badging for non-academic skills.
15. Convince people that badging has merit and is a trustworthy measure of true skill. Continue to break down the “seat time narrative.” Learning can happen “anywhere.” You can earn badges anywhere, too-not just in school. (see the links between bitcoin and skills-related badging around timestamp 40:00…) ***If you do nothing else, watch this 6-minute video on “edu-blocks.”***…
16. Have legislation passed that allows for an increase in the use of credit-bearing ELOs (extended, expanded, enhanced learning opportunities)-preferably unlimited. Initially these programs will be before/after school and in summer, but once the community-based learning framework is in place, it can begin to usurp the role of bricks and mortar schools. Reduce seat-time funding requirements at a state level.
17. Use philanthropic and government funds to establish a system student-oriented maker spaces, code gyms, and other spaces for “out-of-school-time” learning. Piggy-back on the 21st Century Community Learning Center program. Push a vision that you can “remake education” by taking it out of a school building and moving it into the community. Once badging is firmly in place, make the case that bricks and mortar neighborhood schools are obsolete and that a redesigned digital learning program (complemented with some community-based projects-ELOs) provides students with the best career/life pathways.……
18. Blur the lines between high school and college through dual enrollment programs, many of which are delivered digitally. Couch it as “lifelong learning.” Expand online AP classes to target niche markets and add legitimacy to the online learning model.
19. Get Federal legislation passed so for-profit online education providers can access student loan financing for online courses that will result in badges and micro-credentials.
20. Establish a common list of skill codes for the labor force that can be tied to the online portfolios and to screen job applicants more efficiently. There will be limited on-the-job training in the future. People will need to finance their own training.
21. Open up global education markets via TiSA (Trade in Services Agreement). Digital education controlled by multinational corporations (with a supplement of local project based learning) becomes the norm in the 21st century. If you are up for a short dystopian essay. It paints a compelling picture:…

Don’t count on the non-profits to step up and save education. The ELO / Learning Eco-System model will allow them to significantly expand their programming, and once they accept philanthropic monies or funding via “Pay for Success” or social impact bonds, they will not be in position to fight back. Certified teachers will be replaced by Americorps/Vista kids keeping track of the online portfolios, and newly-minted college graduates will have temporary-grant funded jobs staffing project-based learning at cultural and job-training centers. No more need for certified teachers.…

For an in-depth look at corporate eduction reform and digital technology, see:

Education Technology, Surveillance and America’s Authoritarian Democracy | Schools Matter – August 19, 2016

Parents’ digital learning opt out form to share
Parents Across America

To Good to Be True?


By Alison McDowell
Alison is a parent of a public school student and a member of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools

February 17, 2016

On February 16, 2016, Diane Ravitch’s blog promoted a vision statement for the future of Texas public education that had been developed by a group of 35 Texas superintendents between 2006 and 2008. If you simply read the excerpted portions quoted on the blog, you’d likely find the sentiments expressed sympathetic to those who oppose the test and punish system. However, if you continued past the first twelve pages of the document, you’d have been abruptly confronted with “Article 1: The New Digital Learning Environment” that is at its core essentially a pitch for online learning. As a parent involved with opt out in Pennsylvania, I found many elements from these pages and the more-detailed tables available in a companion document, eerily similar to changes proposed for the PA school code that are now under consideration in my home state.

The corporate interests aiming to “transform” our schools know what we want to hear. They know we are weary and looking for hope wherever we can find it. They are not above manipulating our emotions to get what they want. They will distract us. They will speak our language, while at the same time sowing seeds like this “Article 1” that are meant to destroy neighborhood public schools. Pay attention and stay on your guard. If it sounds too good to be true…dig down until you find the real truth.

APPS testimony to the Philadelphia School Reform Commission – January 21, 2016

In the order of appearance at the SRC meeting.

Click here to see all of the videos.

Click the picture to view each video individually.

Lisa Haver SRC 1-21-16

Video of APPS member Lisa Haver testifying at the Philadelphia School Reform Commission meeting – January 21, 2016.

The full transcript of Lisa’s testimony (including the part cut off by the three minute time limit).


Karel Kilimnic SRC 1-21-16

Video of APPS member Karel Kilimnik testifying at the Philadelphia School Reform Commission meeting – January 21, 2016.

The full transcript of Karel’s testimony (including the part cut off by the three minute time limit).

Eileen Duffey SRC 1-21-16

Video of APPS member Eileen Duffey testifying at the Philadelphia School Reform Commission meeting – January 21, 2016.

The full transcript of Eileen’s testimony.



Diane Payne SRC 1-21-16

Video of APPS member Diane Payne testifying at the Philadelphia School Reform Commission meeting – January 21, 2016.

The full transcript of Diane’s testimony.



Carol Heinsdorf 1-21-16

Video of APPS member Carol Heinsdorff testifying at the Philadelphia School Reform Commission meeting – January 21, 2016.

The full transcript of Carol’s testimony.

Debbie Grill SRC 1-21-16

Video of APPS member Deborah Grill testifying at the Philadelphia School Reform Commission meeting – January 21, 2016.

The full transcript of Deborah’s testimony (including the part cut off by the three minute time limit).

Alison McDowell SRC 1-21-16

Video of APPS member Alison McDowell testifying at the Philadelphia School Reform Commission meeting – January 21, 2016.

The full transcript of Alison’s testimony (including the part cut off by the three minute time limit).

Robin Lowry  SRC 1-21-16

Video of APPS member Robin Lowry testifying at the Philadelphia School Reform Commission meeting – January 21, 2016.


Richard Migliore SRC 1-21-16

Video of APPS member Richard Migliore testifying at the Philadelphia School Reform Commission meeting – January 21, 2016.

The full transcript of Richard’s testimony (including the part cut off by the three minute time limit).





What could be wrong with a “community school” model?

alison mcdowell
Alison McDowell

by Alison McDowell

If you read my SRC testimony it paints a troubling picture. Given that my testimony was limited to three minutes, I wanted to add some additional thoughts to the conversation. It’s particularly important to get these ideas out there, because Philadelphia’s mayor elect Jim Kenney and his new Chief Education Officer, Otis Hackney, just took a trip to Cincinnati with the express purpose of learning more about the community school model and how it could work in our city. While Oyler, the school they visited, is lauded for its program, the long term success of the model remains uncertain.

As I see it, two groups are working concurrently on community school initiatives. They hold opposing views about what community schools are. Corporate education eformers talk about eliminating the concept of “seat time,” instead they want to promote the idea that you can learn anywhere at any pace. I see that line of thinking as potentially very dangerous if you’re someone like me who values real bricks and mortar schools as a cornerstone of civil society. At the same time there are an increasing number of people who are involved with community school initiatives on the local level. They see community schools as neighborhood anchors. The problem is that they have absolutely no knowledge that there is another powerful group, the corporate education reformers, including Tom Vander Ark, working to undermine all they are doing.

Click here to read the entire article.