On Sunday, October 6, 2013, New York Times' reporter Natasha Singer wrote an in-depth story on inBloom and Jefferson County public Schools (Jeffco) published on the front page of the Business Section called, "Deciding Who Sees Students' Data."  Please read her entire 6-part series on data privacy titled "You For Sale."
 
 
The Columbine Courier Editorial Board wrote an opinion piece on October 8, 2013, outlining criticisms of the Jeffco school district:, including this statement about inBloom: "It’s time to stop demonizing the opposition to inBloom. Plans to test the system have been shelved in several states; parents and school board members have expressed legitimate concerns and deserve a legitimate response and a transparent approach."
 
Why is Jeffco getting so much attention?
 
Jeffco forged a compelling relationship with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation over the last year.  In September 2012, Jeffco signed a Service Agreement with Gates' controversial $100 million student data initiative called inBloom (formerly the Shared Learning Collaborative).  Jeffco was one of the original nine states/districts who agreed to pilot inBloom and remained a committed partner despite overwhelming parental disapproval.  This partnership took a slight turn on September 16, 2013, when Jeffco announced it had listened to privacy concerns and would allow families to opt-out of the "classroom dashboard" powered by the inBloom middleware and data storage. (Update: The Jeffco Board of Education voted on November 7, 2013 to sever all ties with inBloom.  See more information here.)
 
Summer 2013 brought additional Gates grant dollars to the district when Jeffco was awarded $5.2 million to create teacher professional development systems, to "make use of new models of delivery such as in-class coaching, video, and online or blended learning."  Shortly thereafter, Jeffco issued this RFI (Request for Information) for a web-based teacher observation tool.
 
Gates invests millions in K-12 education policy across the nation each year.  What is Gates' agenda for education?    
 
A primary focus of his agenda is data.  In 2008-09, Gates funded and supported a data exchange project under WICHE (Weste
rn Interstate Commission for Higher Education): 
"This project is particularly aimed at building data systems that span K-12 education, postsecondary education, and workforce data. It also seeks to engage multiple states in developing a prototype framework that could be used to establish and govern a multi-state exchange of data...   Our goal was to create a framework for a Human Capital Development Data System that would enable states to better understand the stock and flows of human capital into and through their education systems and into the workforce without having that information compromised by mobility across state lines."  Within a few years of this work, and in partnership with the NGA and CCSSO, inBloom was in full blossom.
 
According to its website, inBloom is designed to collect over 400 data points on students and teachers.  Some critics also believe private data will be collected and shared through the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and companion tests like PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers).  With heavy financing from the Gates Foundation, many are calling this new curriculum the  "Common Core "Gates" Standards."  Colorado adopted the standards in 2010; opposition to CCSS is swelling across the nation. 
 
Teacher evaluation and professional development could also use some tinkering, according to Gates' unique $5 billion vision to videotape our nation's teachers.  This proposal along with his quotes on increased class size - despite researched benefits to the contrary - make many parents and educators uneasy.  "If you look at something like class sizes going from 22 to 27, and paying that teacher a third of the savings, and you make sure it's the effective teachers you're retaining," he said, "by any measure, you're raising the quality of education as you do that." (Washington Post)
 
Not surprisingly, Gates also has a fascination with technology in the classroom.  His spooky 5-7 year vision for our schools demonstrates a reliance on inBloom's analytics (which will create stigmatizing personality profiles below taken from the inBloom promotional video) delivered through tablet devices designed by accused phone-hacker Rupert Murdoch.  Murdoch bought Wireless Generation who then built inBloom.  His new edu-tech company, Amplify, was recently awarded $12.5 million to develop and deliver CCSS curriculum through the Amplify tablet.  More recently, a North Carolina school district halted its $30 million Amplify tablet program due to safety concerns, suspending use of 15,000 devices.  
 
 
 
Test scores, attendance records and daily grades may not provide Gates with the entire picture he desires to track our students.  Taking prescriptive learning and analytics to the next level, Gates proposes using "galvanic" bracelets to measure student engagement in the classroom.  "[T]he  Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is spending about $1.1 million to develop a way to physiologically measure how engaged students are by their teachers’ lessons. This involves “galvanic skin response” bracelets that kids would wear so their engagement levels could be measured."  (Washington Post
 
Parent and teacher organizations - those who should be advocating for our children and speaking up for community control of our schools - aren't immune to Gates' education agenda.  See this data privacy flyer co-written by the National PTA (funded by Gates) and the Data Quality Campaign (Gates-funded organization).  Kerrie Dallman, president of the Colorado Education Association (CEA), publicly supported inBloom yet she failed to disclose her personal association with the Gates-funded Aspen Institute/Bellweather Education Partners and recent grant dollars awarded to the CEA by the Gates Foundation.   
 
Gates' influence is strong in America's schools and beyond.  Interviewees on this KALW California radio show recount how Gates invests his philanthropic dollars to drive his education agenda including the Common Core and inBloom (tune into the 36:20 minute mark).
   
Are the parents of Jeffco prepared to embrace the education experiments of the Gates Foundation? 
 
Decisions in Jeffco should be made by the community of parents and
members of the board of education. 
Not outside influences.  Not Gates.