“Blended learning” bombshell: NJ mom becomes iNACOL target

Heather Hicks, leader of our newest PAA chapter, PAA-Ocean County NJ, has just posted a devastating video showing how the chief operating officer of iNACOL (the International Association of K-12 Online Learning) gave a workshop at a Pearson conference focusing on her as the prime example of how parents must be managed so that they don’t get in the way of the blended learning steamroller.

Here’s Heather’s story:
     As a mother and an elementary special education teacher, I became more and more concerned about the direction of education a few years ago. At work, the change from New Jersey standards to Common Core spurred me to investigate further. Of course, the more I found out, the more concerned I became. From there my interests in and reservations of the current ‘reforms’ grew with each new bit of information I learned. I did not allow my son to take the PARCC last year, nor will I this year, as a protest against high stakes testing and the influence of Pearson and other large corporations have on educations.
     My concerns continued to grow when my son began to complain about his Biology class and a program product they were using for Blended Learning. I researched Blended Learning, the specific program- Edgenuity – and spoke with other parents and my son’s friends. I also watched some lesson segments with my son. The program was garbage and I spoke at two board of education meetings about it. The district ultimately did not renew the contract, and many parents and students were relieved.
     A year later, my story took an interesting turn when I received a call from a parent from Baltimore who had just attended a Pearson conference. She is very active in the technology issues and fighting the 1 to 1 initiative there, so she goes to conferences like this to learn as much as she can. At the conference, she attended a session presented by Bruce Friend, the chief operating officer of iNACOL. His talk was about stakeholder buy in for Blended Learning. This parent was horrified when Mr. Friend projected an image of myself, a still shot from the BOE meeting I spoke at, and proceeded to talk about how I ruined 3 years of his efforts as a consultant in the district with a 10 minute presentation to the board. He gave the name of the school district and the date of the meeting. He gave enough identifying information that this woman was able to find out who I am within minutes.
     I’m grateful she contacted me, but this led me down another road in the education reform movement- the efforts to separate parents from decisions in education. During his presentation, Mr. Friend not only outright lied about me, but he used his entire time to make the point that parents ‘like me’ don’t understand 21st Century learning or what a classroom looks like with current trends in technology, and that parents really need to be taught what is best for their children. He also discussed conversations with the board and superintendent regarding my son and his utilization of Edgenuity, which is obviously a breach of privacy, but, as far as I can tell, not specific enough to merit a FERPA or PPRA complaint.
     Needless to say, I have a renewed determination. In the past year, I’ve built up a small following in a Facebook group called Lacey Cares About our Schools, which I use as a platform to share information on reforms, legislation and general issues in education both locally and at the state, national, and international level. However, the recent incident with Mr. Friend has lit a fire of urgency in me that I didn’t have before.
     There are many parents who are beginning to understand some of the issues facing education today. For example, some are concerned about PARCC. Others are wary of too much screen time at school. But I don’t think most parents are aware of how all these issues are connected. I want to inform parents of the deep issues that stem from the corporate take over of education and to empower them to take action, through letter writing, petitions, and so forth.
     If you’re wondering about Mr. Friend, I had a lawyer contact his legal team and they claim he will no longer be using my likeness or information in his seminars.
You can read the story from the viewpoint of the Baltimore parent who attended Mr. Friend’s presentations.
Here is Heather’s original testimony to the Board of Education.
Heather is now working with other PAA leaders on an education campaign for parents about blended learning and all that goes with it.
Posted on by Julie Woestehoff Posted in Misc

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