Words used to promote “future ready” public education do not mean to reformers what they mean to parents, teachers, and community members. For that reason I wrote this post to pull the curtain back and expose the truth behind venture capital’s shiny promises of “personalized” tech-centered, data-driven education. Below is a list of terms that should be on everyone’s radar. Click here for a short summary to read and here for a one page handout to print and share.

Big Data and Venture Capital


Technology-centered products and practices, which are untried, unproven and disruptive to classroom practices (“status quo”). Disruption is a sought-after property, to create conditions favoring a take-over.

Venture capital is thrown at unproven educational apps. Synonyms 21st century education, “Future Ready.” If we can disrupt and break the public system, you’ll allow us to experiment on your children to see if we can get the results we need to meet our “pay for success” impact investment projections.

1:1 Devices

Each child having a tablet or laptop of their own to connect directly with cloud-based vendors, and with teacher activities run through their management programs.

In schools today where everyone is expected to do more with less and justify oneself with data, administrators will be able to reduce the number of human teachers and build enormous data sets on everyone. It may bankrupt your district, since you’ll be paying off the tech bonds well beyond the lifespan of the devices and infrastructure you’ve purchased; but it will help the bottom line of the tech and finance industries so we’re hoping everyone will just play along.

Data Dashboards

Software products that consolidate and arrange standardized scores, metrics and sometimes performance scorecards on a single screen for each student.

Online learning management systems and gamified behavior management programs enable us to rapidly build robust profiles of each student with much less effort. In 1:1 device schools we always know exactly where students are, plus with dashboards we can “grade” schools and teachers in real time and using predictive analytics.


Privately controlled “what works clearinghouses” set up to collect and analyze Data on the outcomes of public programs, with no oversight on their own conflicts of interest. They are already being given the power to approve or bar public expenditures, and rate the success of individual programs.

Pay for Success

Venture capitalists put money into social programs (like education, foster care, prison recidivism) and get paid with added profit when performance targets are met.  Runs on big data, to demonstrate “impact” and “efficacy” and show that profitable “solutions” (largely online) are “evidence-based.

Honestly, we oligarchs have accumulated so much money we’re having a tough time finding new investment opportunities. The number we did on the housing market was a doozy, and it took us a few years to come up with a new trick. But we’ve been thinking long and hard about it with the Rockefeller Foundation, and our new plan is to “do well by doing good.” Since governments are short on money, because we’re so good at ducking our tax bills, we’ve decided to pitch public-private partnerships as the solution to funding for public programs.

Going forward, your education, health care and mental health services will be increasingly mediated through digital devices. We need that data to justify our investments, and you can be sure we’ll pressure everyone using those services to provide it. Direct access to human service providers will be limited, since they’re less reliable in providing the data. But hey, that’s a small sacrifice for fiscal prudence. It goes without saying we’ll also define terms of “success” in ways that work best for our interests since we have all the best lawyers setting up the partnership agreements. You’re ok with that aren’t you?

Social Impact Bonds (SIBs)

Bonds (that aren’t actually bonds but rather contractual agreements) where private capital is invested in a social program that is supposed to save the government money. If a private data clearinghouse determines money was saved, the “savings” are paid out to investors as profit, instead of going to other programs.

For example saving on special education costs by providing pre-k or reducing recidivism costs by offering prisoners workforce training. We hear governments are interested in education and workforce training SIB opportunities. If the programs we invest in meet the agreed upon measures of “success,” we’ll net a profit. The one wrinkle is that programs that involve success metrics like workforce outcomes require tracking participants for years to determine if our investment was “successful.” But what’s a bit of surveillance in the name of fiscal accountability and transparency, right?

We’re not sure there is actually profit to be made in the SIB deals themselves. The big money will be in derivatives, bets on the SIBs once we bundle them into asset-backed securities. Then, we’ll be able to trade them in global financial markets; it’s legalized gambling. It worked so well with mortgages we’re definitely bullish on the prospects for a futures market in education data. We just need to get all the devices into schools, the data dashboards online, and Pay for Success legislation approved nationally and we’ll be good to go.

“Personalized” Learning

Student-Centered/Student Voice/Agency

Online learning (we’ve redesigned education so children can now teach themselves!) Their mentor or facilitator (we discourage using the dated term “teacher”) will curate digital content matched to a student’s passion and ability as indicated by their data dashboard. There may be a period of adjustment.

We realize students may still be attached to the old “factory model” of education where learning happens with a teacher and other students.  We’re confident they’ll develop a solid relationship with their tablet or laptop. It’s portable, so they can take it anywhere and learn all the time.


Students are assigned individual playlists and with a unique computer login we can automatically personalize each student’s education based on their data file. The questions adjust in difficulty in response to student answers, optimizing their performance to meet each and every state standard.

Those of us in Silicon Valley have been intensely refining artificial intelligence with the goal of ushering in a new era of public education. One day each of us will have a lifelong AI (artificial intelligence) companion guiding our learning journey as we navigate the challenges of an increasingly automated economy. Individualism is an innately American value, and our approach to education reflects that. Our programs learn your child, using programmed feedback loops to ensure they attain the proper mindset and don’t get distracted by different points of view as might happen in a traditional classroom setting. That is what makes “personalized” learning so personal. Experts agree that this approach is the most efficient (and cheapest) way for every child to achieve.


Rather than expecting student access to a teacher for a full day, we’ll emphasize the efficiency of them working on their computer assignments for many blocks, and having direct contact with the teacher for a tiny portion of the day.

We’re not going to make the jump to Artificial Intelligence learning coaches in one fell swoop. We realize we need to normalize digital education first. And these austerity budgets and chronic teacher shortages are going to help with that. Soon there simply won’t be enough teachers available, and tech will come to the rescue. Parents still expect some teacher presence. But with hybrid learning, students are spending more and more time working on their own with devices in the classroom. It’s all in how you sell it. We’ll call it hybrid and people probably won’t recognize their children are being cheated out of human contact.


Spending all day on a tablet or laptop can be pretty soul deadening for students. To balance out the mind-numbing online worksheets, we’ve been researching and developing online educational games. Kids love games, and folks like the Entertainment Software Association is excited at the prospect of opening a new market for their products. Plus, it turns out games are a great way to gather new types of data on behavior and social-emotional states. It’s a win-win-win. More fun, more data, and more venture capital investment opportunities in game development!

Standards /Competency / Mastery / Proficiency-Based

Electronic portfolios listing skills one has “mastered” or attained a “proficiency or competency” in is all that is needed.  Standards-based grading helps with that shift.

Our ultimate plan is to move education out of school buildings. With devices to gather the data on skills and standards, spending money on heating buildings and paying salaries seems pretty darn wasteful, doesn’t it? Public monies could be much better spent on programs that deliver consistent, measureable results. And these measurable results are front and center for impact investors.

For that to happen though, parents need to be disabused of old fashioned notions of age-based classrooms, report cards, diplomas…because lifelong learning for tomorrow will be constant reinvention of ourselves as independent operators in the gig economy.  The Chamber of Commerce wants to know how many skills a person has. Actually, the algorithms will be reviewing the skill codes. It’s much easier to have a comprehensive list of what a person can do. Nuance is a liability when it comes to economic sorting and profiling. We want clear cut data-yes/no. A student’s human capital value is a measure of the skills attained at a given moment in time. We need granular data, much more than can be recorded in a traditional report card format.

Assessment & Credentials

Assessment Reform

Every Student Succeeds Act will allow you to replace one horrible test with an equally-horrible nationally-recognized one like the SAT or ACT; start using MULTIPLE accountability measures so we can get even MORE data, including soft skills; and incorporate performance assessments which will hasten the shift to competency-based education.

Parents, students and educators despise end-of-year standardized tests, but technology and venture capital interests aren’t about to let go of data-driven instruction. Instead, our plan is to make you feel heard and begin to phase out the single BIG test. We’ve worked closely with elected officials to craft flexibility under ESSA. We’ll also encourage you to use lots of smaller tests that will appear to answer concerns about having real-time, actionable information and reduce student stress. Student Data will belong to our corporate vendors, because it can be used to assess education impact investments and determine education data futures markets. Derivatives require dynamic data, so we’re really pleased that we were able to get this flexibility embedded into ESSA. In the end, it will give us even more of what we want and that is data on your children.


We measure student success, using computer algorithms that compare each student’s data to theoretical projections to determine how much “growth” the student shows, regardless of their performance level.

Since our long-term plan is to profit from the datafication of education through impact investing, we needed the end-of-year tests to go away. The serious money to be made is from social impact bonds tied to education outcomes.   It will be much better if we shift from absolute measures to “growth,” because we can measure growth over and over again.  The sky’s the limit! And each time we measure, bets can be placed, and those bets are somebody’s profit. Are we shorting Detroit schools this quarter? Who are we to deny venture capital that chance? So many people thought using VAM (Value Added Model) and SLOs (Student Learning Objectives) in schools was ridiculous, but once you realize it’s all about market fluctuations it all starts to make sense, doesn’t it?

Multiple Measures

Using the school report card framework, we can break out an infinite number of elements to evaluate: students’ academic performance in all subject areas; their behaviors (growth mindset, anyone?); their attendance; their rates of college acceptance; eventually even health or mental outcomes for in-school wrap around services.

Accountability is about generating data, data that informs education investment markets. The more opportunities you have to collect data, the more opportunities there are for profit taking. With that in mind, why would we limit collection of data to ELA and math scores? No, our plan going forward is to measure EVERYTHING. No opportunity for data collection should go to waste. That is why If we talk convincingly enough about whole child instruction and the need to incorporate a wide range of student achievements into school evaluations, we’re expecting you’ll be distracted and not notice the vast datasets we’re creating on your children.

Performance Assessments

Students will be expected to jump through hoops created by outside entities, and they’ll still be evaluated by rigid rubrics that limit the professional judgment of your child’s teacher.

We’ll talk a good game about creating authentic task-based assessments as an alternative to multiple-choice standardized tests. You’ll like the sound of that. But we won’t go out of our way to tell you these assessments remain aligned to the developmentally inappropriate Common Core State Standards or that teachers will NOT be creating performance tasks themselves.

In fact, we might even take a real world activity like a chemistry lab and virtualize it so students watch an online version of an experiment on a screen rather than physically participating. While not nearly as satisfying as the real thing, it collects more data AND saves on materials costs. The fact that these assessments also incorporate “habits of mind,” is a boon for us because it expands collection of social-emotional data.

At the end of the year your child will have an e-portfolio chock-full of digitized bits showing “evidence of learning.” Missing, of course, will be many intangible aspects of education that can never be stored in an online learning locker. We’re hoping you won’t stop to think about all the relationship building, connections and opportunities for truly creative and innovative thinking that were lost along the way while we were busy ticking off the boxes for the many required performance tasks every child is expected to complete.


The system demands granular data on individuals, not only what a person knows and what skills they have, but also who they ARE and how they operate in the world. For that reason, we’ve decided to shift to online learning lockers or e-portfolios. Once Blockchain is set up for educational records, we’ll be able to hold an infinite amount of data.

21st-century education is about preparing human capital for an uncertain economy where students are expected to hone their personal brand from an early age so they can out-compete their peers. Those of us in human resource management are aiming to design an educational system that will flow uninterrupted from pre-k through college and into the workforce. We’ll call it “lifelong learning” to make you more comfortable with the idea.  Report cards and diplomas may have served the twentieth-century “factory model” of education, but they are entirely too vague for today’s needs. No, we need precision to be able to sort the wheat from the chaff. How will we know whom to hire if we can’t review a person’s academic and behavioral record from their earliest years? We’ll tell you it’s secure, although we know the vulnerabilities. Your record will be permanent and exhaustive in detail, just like we like it.

Behavior and Emotion

Deeper Learning

“Deep Learning” describes a type of machine learning where unsupervised computers refine their artificial intelligence capabilities by analyzing unstructured data. Hewlett Packard is enthusiastically committing $30 million to advance a “deeper learning” approach to public education that supposedly fosters knowledge of core academic content, critical thinking, collaboration, communication skills, learning-to-learn, and development of appropriate “mindsets.” BUT at the same time, they’re making significant investments in Open Education Resources (OER). Once OER is adopted and 1:1 devices become the norm, learning in relationship will be supplanted by an isolating “playlist” version of education where students are disconnected from teachers and one another. Students will spend a majority of their day watching videos and consuming modular education content aligned to standards, just like those unsupervised computers. In the name of progress, innovative disruption will bring artificial intelligence to everyone, humans and non-humans alike. Meanwhile, knowledge and wisdom be limited to those who can afford real, human instruction.

Whole Child / Social Emotional Learning

Data collection ramped up to track social-emotional learning, behavioral traits, and mindsets. We have a number of techniques including gamified and avatar-based online programs lined up to make collection of this data more palatable. Efforts are being spearheaded by CASEL (Collaborative for Academic Social Emotional Learning) whose financial support comes from numerous foundations with ties to social impact investing and digital curriculum.

Over the past fifteen years we’ve systematically transformed schools into toxic learning environments through punitive testing, data walls, and developmentally inappropriate standards. Now that so much damage has been done, our next step is to “fix” children by adding a new layer of accountability and measurement.  You’ll hear “whole child” and likely think we intend to address our past mistakes and care for the children that have been harmed, but in reality we are only interested in the “whole child” as it pertains to the ways in which they can be commodified to generate data for our social impact investments.

Growth Mindset / Grit / Resilience / Self-Regulation

Those of us running the system want to ensure children from a very young age are raised to believe that with the proper growth mindset they will enjoy a stable future. Hard work and discipline will be their ticket to success. If they have strong character, persistence, and grit that should suffice. Not being afraid to fail, when the entire system sets you up for one failure after another, is a sought after trait.

We are living in an irreparably broken economic system that concentrates resources and power in the hands of a few at the expense of the many. To maintain this system we need everyone to believe that if they simply work hard enough, they will eventually come out ahead. The idea that the system itself must be changed is anathema.

As long as people stay focused dealing with the chaos of their own situations, they will not have the capacity to connect with one another, recognize their shared struggle and organize to change society in any revolutionary way. Efforts remain isolated and cannot gain traction when everyone is looking out for their own interest. For that reason our approach to social emotional learning in schools will concentrate on the individual. We will monitor how students do or do not meet our behavioral expectations. That data will help us determine an appropriate place for students within in the economic system (or not). Given anticipated workforce instability, matching the right behavioral profile to a given job will be key.

Brain Breaks

We’ve determined that allowing children to take a break and move around, meditate or listen to music on occasion resets their neurotransmitters.

When you have to spend hours working through online learning modules, having a brain that is quiet and focused is important, and we’re willing to sacrifice a few minutes here and there to achieve it.

We recognize that the climate of school accountability and the test-prep culture it engenders can be hard on students. The amount of information they’re expected to process every day IS significant. So we’ve been working with cognitive neuroscientists to find ways of optimizing children’s brains to maximize the amount of information they can absorb without completely falling apart.

Outsourced Instruction

Community School

“Full-Service Community schools” operate on the theory that opportunities and supports will be offered through partnerships with vendors assigned to the school. For efficient and cost-effective delivery, these partnerships must be scaled up and centrally administered, with a range of service vendors to choose from.  Community health dollars could be diverted to vendors in low-income districts, while music teachers might be chosen for a showcase school.

Years of top-down mandates and relentless suppression of minority children’s rights have ensured families and educators are primed to embrace our new privatized version of the community school concept. People are going to think we’ve finally come to our senses and decided to invest more decision-making power at the local level. The truth is that by starving schools of resources over the past decade we’ve ensured countless opportunities for non-profits and other interest groups to step in and provide services that were once part and parcel of normal school operations in wealthy districts.

Art programs, music programs, library services, extracurricular activities, and especially nursing and counseling services for vulnerable children have been cut severely. This has created openings for outside partners and the foundations and investors that fund them. Privatization is happening incrementally, one essential service at a time, in schools that have not been closed or put in turnaround or charter networks.

Organizations like Communities in Schools have built close relationships with impact-investing players like Social Finance and the Social Innovation Fund. At the same time entities like Strive Together are positioning themselves to facilitate partnerships and guide children from “cradle to career” while collecting data at every turn. As our version of the community schools model is adopted, new markets will open up for health, mental health and out-of-school time providers to capitalize on childhood poverty and trauma via the mechanism of Social Impact Bonds.

At first glance, most will think we mean “Little C” community when talking about community schools, people who live in the neighborhood and who work in the school.  In reality it will be the “Big C” community that stands to benefit; partners like the United Way, institutions of higher education, chambers of commerce, regional-health and social service providers and even local employers. Children accessing wrap-around services, out of school learning (ELOs) and workforce training will generate the data that these predatory partners will use to manufacture their profit. All of this is predicated on continued defunding of public education.

Innovation and Empowerment Zones

When schools or districts reach the end of the accountability clock, we have put laws in place to suspend local control and take over management.  Such districts are inevitably lower income, so who cares?  Innovation Schools or Innovation Zones can then be offered as one model, to allow us maximum control of resources.

Rather than continuing school closure campaigns, which ignite considerable public outrage, we’ll advance privatization by working within the system. Encouraging elected officials to establish “innovation” or “empowerment” zones will eliminate contractual protections for staff and students. This “Third Way” melds charter school approaches with public school operations, touting autonomy and flexibility but delivering no additional resources with which to do the work.

These initiatives open the door for districts to contract with outside management companies, while maintaining they are still “public.” Within these zones, significant changes can also be made to budget allocations, staffing levels, curriculum, assessment, even the length of the school day and year. Through the innovation concept we can promote competency-based, tech-centered curriculum and online “personalized” learning as a means of being “future ready” while doing more with less. We can also begin to disconnect student funding from “seat time” (time spent in a school building), which enables us to outsource instruction via credit flexibility to out-of-school partners and cyber instruction.

Anytime, Anywhere Learning

The reform vision of twenty-first century education is one of “lifelong learning” run through devices that deliver digitized content and aggregate personal data for credentialing and predictive analytics purposes.  This will decrease expenses for children whose predictive analytics suggest lower level career placements.  Of course the data will also be used to evaluate return on impact investments in education, which drives our profits.

Adopting this model diminishes the need for physical school buildings and formally trained teachers. Our pitch is that with a device children can “learn” “anywhere.” The trade-off is the surveillance that goes along with it and the isolated nature of life on your own individualized learning pathway. Are you ready to trade in neighborhood schools for cyber-learning and centralized drop-in centers where students check in occasionally with a mentor to review their data dashboards and assess their progress? How comfortable are you that children with special needs, those whose first language is not English, those without reliable transportation, those with complex medical conditions, the children who are the most vulnerable can just pick up a device and learn “anytime” without meaningful, face-to-face support from a trained professional?

The MacArthur Foundation and Knowledgeworks are pushing the concept of learning ecosystems where “The city is your classroom,” but they aren’t going to come out and tell you these ecosystems with their cool maker spaces are intended to replace schools, not supplement them.

Credit Flexibility

Before we can implement “anytime, anywhere” digital learning we must normalize the idea that education can be removed entirely from school buildings. Many states have laws that require a specific amount of instruction take place in a school or link funding to “seat time.” Our aim is to eliminate the concept of “seat time” and replace it with mastery or competency based learning.

“Seat time” is the term used for spending time in a classroom with a teacher for a certain duration (year or semester) during which you complete assignments, are given grades and earn credit for a course. With a competency model you simply need to demonstrate you have met a standard through some sort of performance-based task. Theoretically a student with prior knowledge could demonstrate mastery in a subject without ever participating in coursework at all.

Implementation of a competency model enables the removal of all age-based grade cohorts and even the idea of school progression (elementary, middle, high school). Once we move to this model and have credit-flexibility legislation in place, students can earn credit for exclusively online courses or credit-bearing Extended Learning Opportunities (ELOs) run by out-of-school partners. Eventually this “hackable” education model whereby students put together various online and offline learning experiences will make neighborhood schools obsolete.

ELOs/Extended-Expanded-Enriched Learning Opportunities

ELOs provide students with opportunities to earn credit in out-of-school (OST) settings. They can take many forms including volunteer work, non-school sporting activities, and work-based learning-even family trips! Those are the types of activities we promote often as “project-based learning,” but we’ve ensured online courses also qualify.

Ultimately we’d like to see widespread adoption of unlimited ELO credit-bearing policies. In the meantime, however, we’re happy to promote them as elective or recovery credit. Ohio’s Credit Flex Program, set up in 2010, is a solid model that supports the shift away from “seat time” to “anywhere, anytime” learning. Requiring teachers to manage burdensome paperwork associated with custom learning contracts while at the same time reducing school funding commensurate with the amount time students spend in an ELOs, has the potential to disrupt already weakened public education systems on a massive scale.

Community partners have been promoting ELOs as a solution to address very real opportunity gaps for children in low-income communities. Much of this work is coordinated through 21st Century Community Learning Centers. Partners develop standards-aligned programs that are implemented in after school and summer programs. Such efforts provide cover for the credit-flex, “hackable” education agenda that is our long-term goal. Another strategy we’re using is to promote ELOs as a way to expand access to “extras” like art, music, and foreign languages have been systematically eliminated from neighborhood schools. Philanthropic support flows freely, because Out of School Time (OST) settings are optimal environments for scaling digital learning, character education, and collection of social emotional learning (SEL) data. Partner dependence on funding also makes them easy to control.

Regionalization / Consolidation

Consolidation is a tool to create more efficient markets for education impact investments. Small districts, strapped for funds and often under threat of take-over for low scores, are increasingly forced to trade local control for the opportunity to cost-share with nearby communities.

That suits us just fine since it means there are fewer school board elections for our PACs to get involved with. Education Service Agencies are key players in this enterprise and operate in over 80% of public school districts in the nation. These entrepreneurial organizations have historically provided support in the areas of professional development and special education. They are now moving into the delivery of 21st century education services, namely cyber education and work-based learning opportunities. Both activities complement the Ed Reform 2.0 agenda. Because ESAs operate within the “public education” framework, they are perceived of as a more palatable and value-oriented option than cyber charter schools, many of which have records of financial impropriety.

Lifelong Learning

College and Career Readiness

The goal of Ed Reform 2.0 is to efficiently slot children into the economy using predictive analytics that maximizes returns on educational investments, wasting no resources on children destined for the permanent underclass. Emphasis on post graduation outcomes means student data will continue to be compiled, encompassing college enrollment, degree completion, workforce placements, and income levels for the lucky children we deem worthy.

Using the language of human capital management, we aim to reduce public education to a mechanism that sets up children on pathways into regionally designated sectors of the workforce, a process set up by the 2014 Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA). This is being done despite growing concerns about the future of work as increased automation and advances in artificial intelligence portend serious disruptions in labor systems.

College and Career Readiness must be continuously monitored, from pre-school onward, so it can be used to justify private investments made in academic and social-emotional learning programs in K-12. Participation in the public education system or using an Education Savings Account or voucher program means your child WILL be tracked and their data fed into the national system being planned by the C. It is entirely unclear how long that tracking will last since the plan is to equate educational outcomes to a person’s future income. Outcomes will be used to rate schools and districts, providing ammunition for continued takeover and turnaround campaigns.

The language of “college and career readiness” allows corporate interests like the College Board, ACT and Naviance to claim increasing amounts of instructional time for college admission test prep and remediation, administration of career-oriented assessments and expansion of AP coursework, including online AP classes. Career-oriented language supports the push for out-of-school time and  work-based learning placements, which reduce education costs while they raise child labor concerns for the low-performing cohort. The language around “college for all” will expand markets for the student loan industry, one of the primary interest groups driving the shift to competency-based education.

Digital Badges

The MacArthur Foundation, and Mozilla have been working on developing a wide variety of badging systems for over a decade, and last year we joined with IMS Global to begin to scale open badging systems globally.  Picture Boy Scout merit badges, or miniature completion certificates.  And nothing else.

Digital badges are suited to an educational model where acquisition of skills is valued above integrated knowledge. People love games and collecting and competing. It’s to our advantage to remake learning as a kind of Pokemon Go quest. First we aligned instruction to an exhaustive framework of standards, Common Core and its rebranded successors, that could eventually be represented by badges. This framework normalized the idea that education is something that can be broken down into discrete pieces.

Once we had the standards in place, we could move to competency-based instruction. Students only need to demonstrate they’ve “met a standard” and check the box. That allows us to eliminate report cards and diplomas and shift to digital learning lockers and backpacks that will feed workforce-oriented “lifelong learning” e-portfolios of credentials.

The framework ALSO enables “community partners” to replicate standards-based instruction OUTSIDE a school setting.   If a student is meeting a standard, we’ll say it shouldn’t matter how they are doing it.  They might be in a neighborhood school with a full-time, salaried teacher or at a private makerspace, art center, work placement or library with a non-certified, part-time, gig economy staff person.  They might be with a well-intentioned community volunteer. Outsourcing instruction via CBE and badging allows school boards to cut costs while creating revenue streams for online learning providers and non-profits funded by the foundations we control.

Digital badges have always been a key part of our program. Initial badging programs have been embedded within summer and after school activities for children and professional development opportunities for teachers. As we train teachers to accept badges as representations of achievement, it will be difficult for them to oppose use of such systems as competency-based education is implemented.


“Cradle to career” pathways promoted by organizations like StriveTogether and the Business Roundtable align children’s educational experiences to regional economic sectors. Instruction is outsourced to work-based “experiential” learning settings where students earn badges and stackable credentials. Regional employers create career “road maps” that are integrated into the curriculum. Work-based learning fits the “anytime, anywhere” learning premise where “your community is your classroom.” Embedding career exploration into the curriculum creates robust data profiles (academic and behavioral), so by the time students reach middle and high school their options for college or workforce pathway can be curtailed accordingly.  Rather than racial or class profiling, this process will be framed as helping children find their “passion.” STEM careers will be emphasized, though most will not realize until too late that the platform economy is transforming many of these very jobs into low-wage, contract work.

As public funds for public education continue to shrink, greater efficiencies are demanded. Maintaining a broad curriculum in K12 that encourages all students to explore multiple interest areas, particularly areas outside of STEM, isn’t prudent or cost-effective. Lean models that maximize return on investment in terms of human capital production become the priority. Dual enrollment with community colleges and the ability to earn certifications through work-based learning are selling points for families worried about rising tuition costs. It eases overcrowding in schools starved of resources and with students spending so much time outside district facilities, school boards will be able to reduce certified teaching staff and consolidate services.

Controlling educational pipelines (and the data they generate) permits industry to develop accurate projections about labor markets and profitably manipulate wages. The career pathway approach prunes away extraneous expenditures, saving school boards money, though it is likely to ultimately deliver large numbers students into dead-end or non-existent jobs. Such a model reinforces the economic status quo, which of course serves industry’s bottom line.

Lifelong Learning

Lifelong learning is the expectation that individuals are personally responsible for continued up-skilling as they compete in the globalized gig economy. Precarious employment means companies no longer take responsibility for training workers. Rather workers are expected to self-finance acquisition of new skills, primarily via online credentialing programs.

Algorithms screen e-portfolios of badges to identify candidates with an optimal mindset, skill set and salary history. As automation increases many who invest in “lifelong learning” opportunities will not attain stable employment and be burdened by insurmountable debt. Public education is being reinvented as a platform to feed workers into this system, creating a compliant, malleable pool of human capital whose knowledge base is restricted to that which corporate and finance interests deem to have immediate and tangible economic value.