Baltimore Mom Takes on Pearson

In Baltimore County, where Superintendent Dallas Dance is implementing a 270 million 1:1 digital learning experiment called “STAT,” some parents are getting mad.  So mad, in fact, that one mom decided to buy a “virtual ticket” to attend the Pearson online learning conference where representatives from her district were speaking.

“It signals strange times when the average parent finds it necessary to attend the very conferences that her own school administrators attend,” the Baltimore parent writes in this blog post.  “When we find ourselves anxious to learn what exactly our school system executives are up to and what they are planning to do to our children, it might be a sign that things have reached desperate levels.  And at Baltimore County Public Schools, they most certainly have.”

At the conference, the parent discovered several disturbing things: first, that Baltimore County has not, in fact, been “pioneering” visionary ideas like blended and personalized learning, but is instead a “speck on the back” of a fast-moving, nationwide conversion to digital learning.

She also learned that parents are viewed by corporate executives as obstacles to overcome in the shift toward digital and online learning.

In one session, Bruce Friend, Chief Operating Officer of iNACOL, zeroed in on a mother from New Jersey who put her district’s digital learning program in jeopardy when she voiced concerns to her local school board.

As Friend projected a picture of the parent speaking to her school board, he explained to the audience that his presentation was “due to this woman.”

A year later, the Baltimore mom writes, Friend “was still pained about it and he found it necessary to use her, her picture, her school system and even the exact date of the BOE meeting at which she spoke, as an example of what happens when, in his view, school systems fail to educate parents and get their ‘buy-in.’”

Friend also provided enough detail about the New Jersey mom and her son that the Baltimore parent was able to find her in three minutes flat.

“What Mr. Friend did not know about this woman,” she writes, “was that she is an active and very vocal advocate and is in no way confused. In fact, she is well aware and well informed about what he, and others like him, are peddling. “

That Pearson video has since been pulled from Pearson’s webcast archives.

“We have, indeed, reached a level at which we have to pay attention and do desperate things like follow our school administration around, virtually and otherwise,” writes the Baltimore mom.

“Parents must become engaged and stay engaged.  We must do our own research and share our resources and not follow rumor and hysteria, but actively inform ourselves on information that already exists and is available. We just have to be willing to be awake and to become informed; and we must push passed the feeling that this is just too big, but keep moving forward, no matter what.  Our school system depends on it and our 112,000 students deserve it.”

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Correction: Original post said that mom in conference video is from Florida.  She lives in New Jersey.  

Author: Emily Talmage

My name is Emily Talmage and I teach fourth grade at Montello Elementary School in Lewiston, Maine. In addition to teaching in Lewiston, I have also taught special education and general education in New York City, including one year at a “high-performing” charter school in Brooklyn. I also have two master’s degrees; one in Urban Education from Mercy College, and another in Developmental Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University. I have also worked as a research analyst and assistant at the National Center for Children and Families at Columbia and Oldham Innovative Research in Portland.

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