Louisiana Educator: The Course Choice Cancer (promotional posting)

Louisiana Educator: The Course Choice Cancer (promotional posting)

You need to read this post by Mike Deshotels.  One of the reasons John White is handing student data over to private, unaccountable vendors is to make it easy for them to enroll you kids in terrible virtual courses, taught by uncertified teachers, on the state’s/your dime.  Not only are these often classes taught by uncertified “teachers” recruited from Craigslist, but school districts have no choice in the matter of awarding students credit for these courses.

This is especially bad for the following reasons:

  • Student performance is tied to teacher performance.  If a student takes a Course Choice class in Algebra I and passes, but without learning anything, and then reports to another real teacher’s class for a higher math class, that teacher will get a horrible score and face possible termination.
  • School and district closures and takeovers are tied to student performance.  If a significant number of students take these crap courses to get easy credits, then take the tests used to determine SPS scores (School Performance Scores) they will do terrible.  That’s a guarantee.  This will mean school districts will be taken over and away from those parents and kids that did not participate in “Course Choice” and handed over to for profit companies, without any accountability or oversight.  Course Choice is a way to accelerate school takeovers by trashing school performance.
  • If significant numbers of students take these substandard courses, you can forget about students from Louisiana getting fair treatment when it comes to applying for colleges or jobs after high school.  Once the ill prepared kids reach the job market Louisiana’s reputation, such that it is already, will plummet even more.  A diploma from Louisiana will be little better than a piece of used toilet paper.  We might as well just start awarding diploma’s online for a 99 dollar fee when kids are born.  They will carry as much weight as the actual ones.

buy a degree

Course Choice: What a steal.  Get Yours Today!!!!!

. . .In the Name of the Children

. . .In the Name of the Children

I’ve been getting regular reports on progress and events taking place in the local and national arena in relation to the illegal student data sharing situation. One of the things that have been revealed recently in other states is that the costs associated with this inBloom project could become astronomical both from a direct annual fee based cost as well as from liability issues that will be created. The State of New York, the only other state as far along as Louisiana in the data sharing situation, revealed in a town hall style meeting that the state and local school districts would be on the hook for any liability related to intentional or accidental exposures of student data because:

‘If there is a data breach from inBloom (as many people believe is nearly inevitable) the state will be legally and financially liable, since the Gates Foundation has insulated itself and inBloom from responsibility.”

This will leave parents and children impacted with a difficult decision in the event of misuse from hacking or irresponsible behavior on inBloom’s part. They can either deal with the repercussions themselves (and eat any costs associated with it) or they can sue their own state and local school district which will have an impact on them in the form of reduced funding for schooling and services. A large class action settlement could lead to the discontinuation of significant public services, or increased taxes, or both.

Despite what inBloom and the provider of the data cloud inBloom will be using (which is Amazon) clouds are very easy to penetrate and hack into. Just this past week an Amazon cloud client you have probably all heard of called LivingSocial suffered a massive breach from a data cloud. Living Social is partially owned by Amazon. If Amazon really had a magic bullet to prevent such disclosures don’t you think they would have protected one of their own companies?

I’ve been collecting various new clips on the inBloom situation from various publications across the United States (mostly from people forwarding them to me.) This is not an issue that will simply go away, nor should it. John White has claimed he cancelled Louisiana’s contract with inBloom, but the CEO of inBloom, Iwan Streichenberger, has repeatedly and publically denied these claims to which John White has made no comment when asked such as during this interview with EdWeek, (one of the nation’s premier education information publications.)

The privacy and security section of inBloom’s website states that, “inBloom, Inc. cannot guarantee the security of the information stored in inBloom or that the information will not be intercepted when it is being transmitted.”

When I asked White about this language, he responded, “I don’t know. I’m not a lawyer and I can’t speak for them.”

According to a letter inBloom’s CEO Iwan Streichenberger sent to districts it was working with (and posted on Twitter by education writer Audrey Watters), Louisiana has decided to “pause” its “fast-track implementation” to talk further with the state board and others. Louisiana only got on the “fast-track” implementation recently, after initially being on a “slower” one, he wrote. He referred to White’s action as a “pause,” and that inBloom supported his decision.

“The pause also supports Louisiana’s efforts to transition from using Social Security numbers (SSNs) to randomized student I.D. numbers, in keeping with inBloom’s requirements and with industry best practices,” Streichenberger wrote.

In response to Streichenberger’s comments about a “pause,” White said, “I don’t really know what it means,” and stressed that the state no longer had student data stored with inBloom.

How can John White consider forcing Louisiana to partner with someone as disingenuous and untrustworthy as White is making Iwan Streichberger out to be? If Iwan is lying publicly and repeatedly about this, he and his organization should never be trusted by anyone for anything, not for hauling trash, not for cleaning windows, not for sweeping floors, and most definitely not for protecting highly sensitive and potentially life-altering student data. To do so would be the epitome of irresponsibility. However if John White is lying, that is even worse. To date John White has not released the original data sharing MOU/contract he promised to share promptly, nor has he shared the statement/cancellation notice of the contract he has claimed to have made with inBloom. Lawsuits have now been filed to force him to release what he has promised to our State Board of Education, BESE, to release promptly, and which he has a legal obligation to provide under the Freedom of Information Act. Failing to do so is illegal and will cost the state money. Refusing to do so is not the action of an honest person asking us to believe he has our best intentions at heart. John White has been entrusted with our children and their future’s and has a blank check to buy whatever he wants with our money in the name of our “children.”

Reformers like White are almost all liars and manipulators of data as well as emotions. One of their favorite tactics is to claim they are doing everything “for the children.” They love to name their organizations things like “Children First” when the reality has always been putting themselves and their greed first, foremost and exclusively. Anyone and everyone who gets in their way, including children, are just obstacles to be overcome or eliminated. They are unable to handle different opinions, truthful disclosures of data, or dissent, because the foundation they have built their empires upon is the same shifting sand I was reminded of from Matthew 7:26

7:24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:

7:25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.

7:26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:

7:27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

When you build your Department of Education upon the sands, as White has done, it cannot withstand even the slightest tremor or breeze. Even now John White is purging the last of the bedrock from this agency. He has laid off nearly all of the experienced educators and eliminated almost all off the programs that support schools districts. If you have a gray hair or in an in-state license plate, John White has no use for you. Just this week White eliminated senior staff from the arts, teacher certification, and much, if not all, of our Special Education personnel. John White will be replacing them with grains of TFA sand. If you try and call the agency now, you will not be able to contact anyone of substance; just the overpaid, foreign grains White has imported from other states to own strict allegiance to him, and not to Louisiana. Anyone who looked after Louisiana (or Louisiana children is gone) or about to be shown the door. This was done to ensure we get no further disclosures of the inBloom sort.

John White must be fired now before he does anymore damage, betrays our trust anymore, or causes us many millions in damage Louisiana taxpayers will have to foot the bill for. If you look at the list of questions below, it is obvious that John White is trying to find cover from some of our local school districts for things he has already done or committed us too. He has called the SAC, Superintendent’s Advisory Council together for May 16th in the hopes of providing some cover for the illegal actions he has already done, and the amoral contracts he has already committed us too.

“Below is a note from BESE President Chas Roemer, sharing a request from the Board for discussion of a specific topic at the SAC meeting on May 16th. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to Chas (or me) directly.




Members of the Superintendents’ Advisory Council,

Thank you for your service on BESE’s advisory council. The Board values the insight, guidance and feedback you all provide as we all strive to increase opportunities and outcomes for the children of Louisiana.

As you may have heard, data use and collection received quite a bit of interest at the most recent BESE meeting. BESE members are interested in continuing the conversation, and before we move too far along, the Board would like to learn more about how local districts collect and use student data. Specifically, the Board is hoping to learn:

What student data is collected by local districts

Who has access to identifiable and non-identifiable data

How data is stored, including names of any third-party and/or outside vendors used

How student privacy is protected

How student data is used, for academic and non-academic (e.g. bus routes) purposes

As an advisory council to the Board, we are hoping you can provide us with a snapshot of what is occurring across the state. We are not looking to nitpick specific districts, rather the Board would like to receive a general summary of current practices in districts at its June meeting to help inform the conversation at the state level. The Board is requesting you all discuss data collection and use at the May 16th SAC meeting, allowing staff to summarize your discussion and current practices for presentation to the Board in June. Supt. Faulk is prepared to guide the conversation at your May meeting and will be asking you to share information about the above. I am writing to ask you to arrive to the May 16th meeting prepared to participate in this conversation.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to me or BESE staff if you have any questions or concerns.


If any districts divulge that they are providing data for non-educational purposes (I would consider bus route info an educational purpose) I would expect that district’s parents and children would be very interested in learning that info. You see, even if the law allows something, which it is questionable whether a policy change can undermine a law, that does not mean it is safe, ethical, necessary, wise, or in the best interest of children.

Chas and White may try to spin bus routes as an example of a non-educational use of data, but don’t let them.

Here are some other questions superintendents attending the SAC meeting need to ask, because we will be asking them the answers.

  • Why is DOE sharing actual name dob and SSN instead of just the de-identified GUID built internally for the LEDRS project and used currently for accountability scores, dropout counts, COMPASS/VAM grad index, etc.
  • What assurances do parents and districts have that once the state enters into this contract with directory data, that more/all data won’t be shared?
  • What assurances do we have vendors won’t change their terms, just like Apple does every day, and allow this data to be shared for non-educational purposes since USED has ruled this OK?
  • Where will the 3-5 dollar fee paying for this storage come from? (This is supposed to be charged to states in 2014 or 2015 and on an annual basis thereafter.) (5 dollars times 700,000 children is a minimum of 3.5 million dollars per year or the cost of the entire internally built data warehouse that DOE has already built with Federal tax dollars.)
  • Where will the student data end up after students graduate? What is the disposal policy?
  • Will parents be allowed to opt out? How do they to that in an orderly verifiable fashion?
  • Why is the state insisting on doing this rather than allowing districts the choice?
  • How many other vendors than just inBloom are involved and what are their roles? (we already have info on Ed-Fi, Alvarez Group, Amplify, Course Choice, Celt, Wireless Generation. Where are their contracts?)
  • Will the state always be sending this data or will districts be expected to send data eventually?
  • Who gets the reports and how much do they cost?
  • What other fees are associated with this plan and who pays them (MFP?) Or DOE budget?
  • If inBloom is not responsible for accidental exposures, misuse or hacked data, who is and what recourse do parents have? (New York has stated they are responsible, which would mean Louisiana and Louisiana taxpayers.)
  • How can parents/students get records of everything contained/stored on them and request corrections or deletions? (IF this is just directory information, this should not be a problem.)
  • Exactly which person, board or other made the decision to share student data without parental consent with an outside entity? Does this person understand technology enough to appreciate the risks and are they willing to be personally responsible for misuse and exposures?
  • Does this person, board, or other also have the authority to restrict student data sharing?
  • Was the public ever notified that the approximately 4 million dollar state-of-the-art LEDRS database( paid for with their tax money) was dismantled to be replaced by another data base (Gates)? Who made this decision?
  • Will parents receive free copies of the information and/or be able to view the information for free that InBloom and possibly others intend to store, share, sell. How often will parents be updated on the data of their children as it continues to accumulate?
  • Who is going to pay for any anxiety/and or psychological repercussions that children may incur after realizing that information (which may be unflattering/ embarrassing/or even erroneous ) is now available for scrutiny; i.e. psychiatric or psychological treatment?
  • Is Race and/or Religion included in the collected Data. If so WHY and for WHAT PURPOSE? What other non-academic information (photographs, social security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, teacher comments, etc.) is included and why?
  • Should any suicide of children occur over unflattering or mistaken data attached to their name, who are we to hold responsible?
  • Should any abductions/molestations, rape, etc. of children be facilitated as an unintended consequence of release of this data (i.e. pictures, addresses, phone numbers ,etc. who is going to be held accountable, both criminally and civilly?

Other recent articles on the inBloom issue include:

Here are also some recent videos and newsclips that capture the intense anger expressed by many parents nationwide.

John White has built his DOE agency on the bed of sand; it’s time for us to blow it down and start over with bedrock and granite.