Monday, January 13, 2014

My Actual Fears Regarding inBloom

I've mostly just darkly alluded to what I'm actually worried about regarding inBloom. I should probably be specific (from least to most important):

  1. Putting too much data in one place no longer seems like a good idea. By 2014 we're a bit more conscious that while President Christie's NSA can probably get at your personal information almost anywhere, it makes it much easier for them if everyone just puts it in the same place (e.g., gmail). They would rather send out one national security letter to a non-profit than 50 or 1000 to states and districts.

  2. Encouraging more garbage-in garbage-out "research." While contemporary school reform is primarily driven by pension theft and an aversion to unions and the public sector in general, for an influential sub-set of technocrats, it is one big Data Quality Campaign. Data-driven reformers knew that their data (existing test scores) was crappy, so getting better data drove the need for new standards and assessments. As it turned out, they were wildly overconfident about their ability to create better standards and assessments by simply putting their "best people" (e.g., David Coleman) on the job.

    If reformers and their researchers get easy access to a huge pool of anonymous data (that is, including legally, with the permission of state government in particular), it is just going to encourage a steady stream of statistically baroque, decontextualized studies (months of learning, months!) with overhyped press releases which will have the aggregate effect of paralysing our education policy for another decade.

  3. Everything goes on your permanent record. Even if a student's personal data could not be released without his or her (parents') permission, what if it becomes an expectation to release that data, or an aggregate score (say, your IGQ - inBloom Grit Quotient) in order to get into college, or even certain elementary, middle or high school programs? You are still growing up in a panopticon, even if Rupert Murdoch isn't publishing your 4th grade IEP.

    The data snake may particularly swallow its tail regarding college and career readiness. We know the Gates Foundation in particular is focused on identifying factors contributing to success in college. Well, what if they succeed in working that out with a high degree of reliability? Then what? The Confucian civil service system was rigid, but at least value-based. Memorizing the Koran may be pointless, but I would take that over raising children to make their daily habits fit a statistical model sitting on top of a large pile of unquestioned assumptions.

    And that is precisely where this all leads.

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