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Topic: [ncsm-members] Baltimore Co.: $200 Million for Tech. [Payoffs, Payola, Pay to Play, Neglected Facilities]
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
[ncsm-members] Baltimore Co.: $200 Million for Tech. [Payoffs, Payola, Pay to Play, Neglected Facilities]
Posted: Nov 8, 2017 2:11 PM
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From Diane Ravitch's blog - A site to discuss better education for
all, Sunday, November 5, 2017. [SEE
AND New York Times, Friday, November 3, 2017 [SEE
SEE, also, John Merrow: Greed (Tech + Profits + Schools) = FIASCO at
Disgrace in Baltimore County: $200 Million for Technology Amid Claims
of Payoffs, Payola, Pay to Play, and Neglected Facilities

By Diane Ravitch

The New York Times published a front-page story yesterday about the
huge commitment that Baltimore County has made to technology in the

The story begins slowly, as a conventional account of a district that
wants to prepare its students for the new world of technology.

Baltimore County is one of the nation's most ambitious classroom
technology makeovers. In 2014, the district committed more than $200
million for HP laptops, and it is spending millions of dollars on
math, science and language software. Its vendors visit classrooms.
Some schoolchildren have been featured in tech-company promotional

Tech companies are salivating over the school market, which is
supposed to reach $21 billion in spending by 2020.

School leaders have become so central to sales that a few private
firms will now, for fees that can climb into the tens of thousands of
dollars, arrange meetings for vendors with school officials, on some
occasions paying superintendents as consultants. Tech-backed
organizations have also flown superintendents to conferences at
resorts. And school leaders have evangelized company products to
other districts.

These marketing approaches are legal. But there is little rigorous
evidence so far to indicate that using computers in class improves
educational results. Even so, schools nationwide are convinced enough
to have adopted them in hopes of preparing students for the new

But then as we read on, we learn about covert payoffs, payola, lavish
expenses, cozy deals between vendors and school officials, and the
mysterious resignation of the superintendent who started this
expensive initiative. We see a district committed to spending
hundreds of millions on technology while some children are in
trailers for classrooms, and water fountains are spouting brown
water. In other words, basic needs have been neglected to pay for the
shiny new machines. One parent, a physician, says that the
relationships between school officials and the industry reminds her
of Big Pharma and its cultivation of medical professionals.

Then we learn, almost as a throw away line, that the machine that the
district settled on, was not the one with the highest evaluation.

The district wanted a device that would work both for youngsters who
couldn't yet type and for high schoolers. In early 2014, it chose a
particularly complex machine, an HP laptop that converts to a tablet.
That device ranked third out of four devices the district considered,
according to the district's hardware evaluation forms, which The
Times obtained. Over all, the HP device scored 27 on a 46-point
scale. A Dell device ranked first at 34.

The superintendent appeared in an HP video, promoting the company.
The HP product ran Microsoft software, and Microsoft honored the
district as a Microsoft Showcase. The district's tech leader was
honored as an "Intel Education Visionary."

Worse, we learn that the company that makes the machine has discontinued it.

Recently, parents and teachers have reported problems with the HP
devices, including batteries falling out and keyboard tiles becoming
detached. HP has discontinued the Elitebook Revolve.

Mr. Dickerson, the district spokesman, said there was not "a
widespread issue with damaged devices."

An HP spokesman said: "While the Revolve is no longer on the market,
it would be factually inaccurate to suggest that's related to product

No, of course not.

While the superintendent has resigned, the interim superintendent is
as deeply engaged with the tech companies as her predecessor.

Question for Baltimore County residents? Do you know or care where
your tax money is going?

The article says:

Baltimore County's 173 schools span a 600-square-mile horseshoe
around the city of Baltimore, which has a separate school system.
Like many districts, the school system struggles to keep facilities
up-to-date. Some of its 113,000 students attend spacious new schools.
Some older schools, though, are overcrowded, requiring trailers as
overflow classrooms. In some, tap water runs brown. And, in budget
documents, the district said it lacked the "dedicated resources" for
students with disabilities.

Parents, what are your priorities? How about prohibiting school
officials from consorting with or taking favors of any kind from
Jerry P. Becker
Department of Curriculum & Instruction
College of Education and Human Services
Southern Illinois University Carbondale
625 Wham Drive / MC 4610
Carbondale, Illinois 62901

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