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Big news in fight against Common Core: InBloom-peddling Jefferson County CO superintendent resigns tonight; school board severs ties with inBloom

By Michelle Malkin  •  November 7, 2013 09:27 PM

As longtime veterans of the Common Core wars know, the battle isn’t merely about how Fed Ed’s so-called “standards” are susceptible to left-wing propagandizing.

The bigger fight has been against the Big Government/Big Business machine infiltrating school districts through testing, textbook, and technology trojan horses. On this front, conservative, liberal, and independent parents alike have all united against the Common Core juggernaut and its invasive push into student data/family privacy. And now, there’s big news out of Jefferson County, Colorado tonight, where a leading edu-tech promoter has resigned from her post as superintendent and the school board has voted to sever ties with leading, Common Core-associated tech boondoggle, inBloom.

JeffCo parents told me tonight that JeffCo superintendent Cindy Stevenson surprised the school board with her resignation. She had served in the district for 12 years and will leave June 30. I’ve also learned that the school board voted to sever ties with inBloom. The significance of this abandonment can’t be underscored enough. JeffCo was Ground Zero for the Common Core/inBloom crowd. The Gates Foundation poured millions into the district for buy-in. Stevenson was a poster child.

I’ve previously mentioned the movement in Jefferson County, Colorado against inBloom, where Gates Foundation-supported superintendent Cynthia Stevenson garnered New York Times headlines for her embrace of Common Core-compliant data tracking system inBloom.

The Blaze spotlighted parent activists Sunny Flynn and Rachael Stickland’s fight last month.

News of the inBloom pilot program had been stirring in the community for months before Flynn’s first school board meeting. Rachael Stickland, who has children in third and sixth grade, said she first heard of the district’s relationship with inBloom in January. After reading up on it, she became concerned. Eventually, Stickland was able to schedule a meeting with the district’s superintendent, Cynthia Stevenson.

“My first question before we even sat in our chairs was ‘has the board approved this?’” Stickland told TheBlaze. Stevenson said no, noting it was a staff-level decision, according to Stickland. “It was a red flag that [the school board was] not more in the loop,” Stickland said. “Boards are elected bodies for a reason.”

InBloom is a nonprofit that began as “Shared Learning Collaborative” with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Carnegie Corporation of New York. The Gates Foundation provided support to the tune of $100 million.

According to inBloom’s website, it’s a software program that collects information and helps teachers identify students who might need extra attention, even directing educators toward learning materials for students’ specific needs.

…Disciplinary information was at one point to be collected and stored as well. The decision to omit it — and allow parents to opt children out — came only in August after Stickland had been making other parents aware of the program and the concerns surrounding its privacy for months.

…Common Core and inBloom are not the only initiatives people like Flynn and Stickland are concerned about. Flynn pointed to recommended readings on inBloom’s website as an example of what she fears are to come.

Data Backpacks: Portable Records & Learner Profiles, a paper by Digital Learning Now with support from Foundation for Excellence in Education, which Flynn pointed out receives funding from the Gates Foundation, details technology, like keystroke-logging devices.

Even collecting information from student’s out of school activities, like mentorship or tutoring, DNL’s Data Backpack piece stated is “neither Utopian nor Orwellian” as it could “further bolster the Learner Profile’s ability to present a holistic picture of the student across every stage in a lifetime of learning.”

My previous coverage of inBloom is here. As I wrote in March:

Along with two dozen other tech firms, CompassLearning sees even greater financial opportunities to mine Common Core student tracking systems. The centralized database is a strange-bedfellows alliance between the liberal Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (which largely underwrote and promoted the Common Core curricular scheme) and a division of conservative Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. (which built the database infrastructure).

Another nonprofit startup, “inBloom, Inc.,” has evolved out of that partnership to operate the database. The Gates Foundation and other partners provided $100 million in seed money. Reuters reports that inBloom, Inc. will “likely start to charge fees in 2015” to states and school districts participating in the system. “So far, seven states — Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina and Massachusetts — have committed to enter data from select school districts. Louisiana and New York will be entering nearly all student records statewide.”

Grass-roots revolts in every one of those states have been led by parents and educators of all ideological stripes. The principles that unite them: local control, parental sovereignty, privacy protections, and fundamental skepticism about the actual educational benefits of massive tech expenditures in the name of “reform.”

Message: Elections have consequences. Stevenson saw the writing on the wall. Last week, three new school board members (who will now hold a majority) were elected in Jefferson County. All three oppose inBloom.

Julie Williams, John Newkirk, and Ken Witt won decisively over their opponents on election day. The slate which dubbed themselves, “W-N-W”, will now have majority control of the Jefferson County School Board.

The platforms presented by these candidates pushed for more school choice for parents. That could mean more charter schools or option schools.

The district is considering using a data sharing program through a non-profit called InBloom to allow teachers instant access to information on students. Privacy and security are primary concerns and all three new school board members are opposed to this program.

Common Core is a sleeper ballot box issue that will shake both sides of the aisle for months and years to come. The Davids are exercising their freedoms of speech and association to beat back the deep-pocketed Goliaths at their schoolhouse doors.

Parents across the country: This battle can be won.

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Categories: Education