Just when you thought you had enough, the Seattle Public School district bought another standardized test, Amplify
Created and funded by the Gates and Carnegie Foundations with $100 million, inBloom Inc. was designed to collect a maximum amount of confidential and personally identifiable student and teacher data from school districts and states throughout the country. This information — including student names, addresses, grades, test scores, economic, race, special education status, disciplinary status and more — was to be stored on a data cloud run by Amazon.com, with an operating system by Wireless/Amplify, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. InBloom Inc. planned to share this highly sensitive information with software companies and other for-profit vendors.
Just when you thought you had enough, the district is spending more money on more standardized tests. The Seattle Public School district wants to buy Amplify’s mClass Beacon to implement it district-wide in 2016. It is to be administered at the end of the school year but because of the testing that is already set into place, there is no time for students to take it in May or June so it will be given in February.
The cost of the pilot program implemented in 50 schools in 2014 came just under $250k. That is under the $250,000 threshold required for approval by the Seattle school board. Coincidence? I think not. This was the same tactic used when folks at the Stanford Center decided we needed more of the MAP test. The school board and public were not given the opportunity to discuss, debate or vote on either battery of tests.
Now the district wants to implement Amplify across the district at an estimated cost of $433,160.
Unfortunately there are those at the Stanford Center who have different agendas from that of the public’s best interest, but more on that later.
I asked Leonie Haimson with NPE, who is a founding member of Parents Across America and who also founded Class Size Matters, recently about Amplify. It was to be a part of a data collection and sharing system in New York State called in-Bloom until parents pressured the state to pull out of the agreement.
The CPS No-Bid Investigation Spreads to CPEF, Once Chaired By Bruce Rauner
The principal-training consultants who received the $20 million contract, the focus of a federal investigation, got seed funding from the Chicago Public Education Fund—whose board is a who’s-who of Chicago power brokers.
Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett is facing scrutiny for a $20.5 million contracted awarded to SUPES Academy, which previously received money from the Chicago Public Education Fund.
When I was writing a profile of Bruce Rauner last summer, his friends and admirers gushed over his dedication to creating and nurturing charters and improving Chicago Public Schools. CPEF—the Chicago Public Education Fund—came up time again as the nonprofit that allowed Rauner, who joined CPEF’s board in 2001, served as CPEF chairman, and is now an emeritus member, to pursue his passion for education reform. CPEF board member Susan Crown told me that the future governor was “incredibly dedicated to CPEF. Put everything he had into it.”
Now CPEF has been drawn into the latest CPS controversy—one that goes straight to the top.
The focus in early reporting from the Chicago Tribuneand Chicago Sun-Times was on Rahm Emanuel-appointed CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who is being investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s office regarding a no-bid $20.5 million contract awarded in June 2013 to a Wilmette-based for-profit company called SUPES Academy. Hardly a household name, SUPES was hired to provide training to CPS principals.
What made the story so damaging to “B-Three,” as Rahm calls Byrd-Bennett, is that until she joined CPS as a coach and a consultant in 2012, quickly becoming CPS’s Chief Education Officer and then CEO, BBB had worked for SUPES. According to Sarah Karp, who writes for Catalyst, an education watchdog, BBB was still listed as working as a senior associate for a superintendent search firm called PROACT Search—with the same ownership as SUPES—four months after joining CPS. (BBB denied at the time that she had ever workeded for PROACT.)
Issued so far are subpoenas for grand jury appearances to aides close to BBB—three of whom she had worked with previously in other cities and brought to Chicago for six-figure jobs—seeking records pertaining to “financial benefits, gifts, honoraria, meals and reimbursements” from SUPES.
Over the last few days came reports that CPEF—its board loaded with wealthy friends and donors to both Rahm Emanuel and Rauner, and also with advocates of charter schools and Teach For America, both targets of the Chicago Teachers Union—was also in the headlights. The feds demanded CPS records pertaining to CPEF, which according to the Tribunehad provided the “seed money” to “launch” the SUPES training program for principals, called Chicago Executive Leadership Academy (CELA).
Were there better options than SUPES?
Why CPEF funded SUPES is, at this point, anyone’s guess. True, one of CPEF’s published goals is to create better principals through training. “Everyone [at CPEF],” Susan Crown told me, “is interested in quality principals and how to get better leadership.” CPEF’s website describes its goal as “build[ing] a critical mass of great public schools in Chicago by investing in talented principals.”
But there should have been some warning flags about SUPES, not only BBB’s prior relationship with the company (which was no secret) but also the background of one of the company’s owners, Gary Solomon. A former dean and teacher at Niles West, Solomon, the Tribune reported in 2001, accepted a settlement with Niles Township High School District 219 after being “accused of sending sexually explicit e-mail messages to female students before he left his position in 1999.” The $50,000 settlement included the stipulation that Solomon could never again work in the District.
Solomon aside—he denied the allegations and was never criminally charged—why fund an obscure for-profit firm when the city is so rich in universities, several of which have programs to train principals?
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