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Code.org Wants Participating Students' Data For 7 Years 90

Posted by timothy
from the data-driven dept.
theodp writes "As part of its plan to improve computer science education in the U.S., the Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates-backed Code.org is asking school districts to sign a contract calling for Code.org to receive 'longitudinal student achievement data' for up to seven academic years in return for course materials, small teacher stipends, and general support. The Gates Foundation is already facing a backlash from the broader academic community over attempts to collect student data as part of its inBloom initiative. The Code.org contract also gives the organization veto power over the district teachers selected to participate in the Code.org program, who are required to commit to teaching in the program for a minimum of two school years."
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Code.org Wants Participating Students' Data For 7 Years

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  • by steelfood (895457) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @04:53PM (#45550937)

    What else could be expected from names like Zuckerberg and Gates?

    I'll bet they'll veto anyone who tries to use Linux or teach kids about privacy.

    • by Cryacin (657549) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @04:55PM (#45550947)

      I'll bet they'll veto anyone who tries to use Linux or teach kids about privacy.

      I'm sorry, that information is confidential.

      • When they list the 'longitudinal student achievement data' for up to seven academic years as one of the requirement, all alarm must be sounded

        Students must be treated and be respected as individuals

        They must not be treated as mere numbers or drones

        The students' "academic achievement" are but a small part of what makes up their individual selves

        Our society must understand that if we continue to treat the students as drones, as " yet another brick on the wall ", the future will be very bleak.

        We do not nee

        • by quetwo (1203948)

          And that is why we have laws like FERPA that protect this data and are supposed to prohibit schools from sharing this information with 3rd parties...

          That is -- when schools choose not to ignore it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      inbloom runs their website on Linux (and their entire software stack is open source). Don't let reality intrude on your conspiracy theories.

      http://toolbar.netcraft.com/site_report?url=http://www.inbloom.org

      Microsoft was ruthless and anti-competitive during Gates's tenure. No one doubts that. But the Gates Foundation is a true philanthropic effort trying to solve really big problems - like improving public education and curing malaria, for fsck's sake. How exactly does curing malaria help Microsoft and Bill

      • by femtobyte (710429)

        Anyone who wants a functioning website runs the backend on Linux. Microsoft ran Microsoft Hotmail on Linux backends for a long time during Billy G's ruthless tenure. I note you don't respond to the actual question of whether students are being brainwashed into narrow use of proprietary products, instead of learning about the world of superior tools outside profitable product lines. Sure, Microsoft cronies know how to efficiently run their own operations with Linux on the back end (not as if they'd make mone

        • by Anonymous Coward

          i think you mean freebsd

        • by jbolden (176878)

          Microsoft ran BSD on the backend for Hotmail. It was migrated a long time ago. They also run gigantic and much larger data projects on their own server project.

          • by femtobyte (710429)

            Yes, I was sloppy on slighting BSD for credit and inappropriately using "Linux" as a stand-in for "Free and open-source UNIX-derived operating systems and associated server infrastructure." One should note that Microsoft internal projects enjoy the benefits of IIS as a free and open-source product, with unlimited expert support to make the system work; a situation that exists for nobody else outside Microsoft.

            Nonetheless, the point raised in the original post still stands: are students being educated about

          • by Dunbal (464142) *
            Still runs on a Blue Screen Device.
        • by mindwhip (894744)

          I started on a ZX81 then moved to a ZX Spectrum, and then to a +3. did some basic programming, played some games and was content with what I had. I was in effect vendor locked into Sinclair as it was the only system I had access to or knew how to use.
          Then I got access to BBC Masters at school and I was even more content learning to program in Comal. It was the only system I had any programming teaching in until my Uni days.
          Then I moved to an Amiga 500, Rexx, Amos, and others. All learned on the totally

          • by femtobyte (710429) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @06:37PM (#45551569)

            The "good and the best," self-motivated learners with the drive and resources to seek out and find the best available resources, don't need Code.org in the first place. Yes, you learned to program and use a broad variety of devices --- without any help from Code.org (who didn't exist).

            The Code.org project is primarily about reaching out to a broader selection of students who haven't already learned to program on their own resources. It's mass-educational-material for ordinary classroom students. As such, it should be held to a high standard of being educational in a broader sense than churning out factory-ready robots. Students who would discover the broad world of Free software on their own probably don't need Code.org. For everyone else, learning whether to think "outside the box" of proprietary products, or --- on the opposite side --- being brainwashed into being ignorant and terrified of everything outside that box --- is a matter of education. You can expand students' minds beyond what many would discover on their own; or, you can actively work to chain and constrict those minds. We should be extremely wary about turning the future of computer education over to Microsoft and Facebook's corporate interests. The "best and the brightest" will still escape; but they'll be sentenced to live in a world overwhelmingly populated by the mentally crippled products of megacorporate education.

            • by mindwhip (894744)

              But if things were different what would the best moan about on /.?

              • by femtobyte (710429)

                Intricacies of computer technologies? In an otherwise perfect world, you could always still gripe and moan about the latest kernel scheduler tweaks or edge-case oddities of compiler optimization --- you know, proper nerdly stuff. Fix education and healthcare; establish just distribution of resources, in an ecologically sustainable manner; bring about world peace and global solidarity of humankind: I'll not stand in the way of such things for fear of running out of things to nerdrage about, because there wil

            • by exomondo (1725132)

              I just had a look at their website [code.org] and much of it seems to be device and platform agnostic, in fact some things are just critical-thinking tasks that don't even require a computer. I doubt it would be difficult to tie all the corporate and private donors together to come up with some big conspiracy theory about how this is all to enslave everybody as corporate drones and somebody should think of the children but there doesn't really seem to be anything to actually support that notion so wouldn't a more effe

          • > Anyway my point is just because you start somewhere doesn't mean that's where you stay.

            Said the programmer, about a situation which won't repeat itself unless we magically uninvent PCs and start all over again.

            The computer average user, instead, cried: WHERE ARE MY ICONS? THEY USED TO BE HERE at every slight change of any desktop.

            If the OS taught at school did not matter, school would have no special programs with MS or any other, it's this simple.

        • by recoiledsnake (879048) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @07:31PM (#45551845)

          Have you ever used Stackoverflow.com ? Congrats, you just used IIS/Exchange/Windows. Oh and it scales really well and is used by a lot of popular web sites.

          http://highscalability.com/blog/2009/8/5/stack-overflow-architecture.html [highscalability.com]

          • by Anonymous Coward

            FTA: "As you add more and more database servers the SQL Server license costs can be outrageous. So by starting scale up and gradually going scale out with non-open source software you can be in a world of financial hurt."

            There's one big reason why people choose Linux and a database system that runs on it like PostgreSQL -- right there in the article you posted.

          • by serviscope_minor (664417) on Friday November 29, 2013 @06:03AM (#45553893) Journal

            With enough thrust, a pig can fly.

            • by slick7 (1703596)

              With enough thrust, a pig can fly.

              But, can it land? I see at least two things wrong with this concept.
              1. Longitudinal data allows the gleaning of code without compensation.
              2. Copyright issues, some people make lots of money goofing around with coding in school and at home, the apps environment being one. Why should the likes of Gates or Zuckerberg profit from the work of others without just credit.

        • by Xest (935314)

          So your argument against Windows hosting is that Microsoft used Linux for Hotmail (the platform and stack Hotmail was built on before they bought it) back in the 90s? Really? You don't have anything more convincing than that?

          Windows Server and IIS are pretty solid nowadays (can't speak for Exchange, not touched it in the best part of a decade) and there isn't really much in it in terms of performance and definitely not in terms of security and stability.

          It's more expensive, but if you're developing with .NE

      • by koan (80826)

        "How exactly does curing malaria help Microsoft and Bill Gates?"

        Really? Really?
        The OP went to far and you're at the opposite end, if Zuckerberg is involved I doubt the motives are philanthropic.

        Side Note: My observation of Zuckerberg makes me think genetic inclination towards aspergers or some other variant (high functioning of course) but with the same 0 empathy shark eyed stare and behaviour.

        In other words he is incapable of actually philanthropy or empathy.

    • by mindwhip (894744) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @05:32PM (#45551219)

      There's noting like a good conspiracy story to get a rise from /. regulars but hell I've got karma to burn so I'm going the other way...

      Some achievement tracking is justified and useful (and even necessary) for the project itself. For code.org to justify its efforts (both to itself and to schools in general) it needs to prove that they made a difference and its hard to do that with no data on how well students improved compared to those not involved. Also since there seems to be some kind of grading/tests/qualifications involved and code.org is issuing them they need to be (as for any examining body) able to keep records of what student did what and that they achieved the required competency and how the difficulty of these achievements compare to other disciplines the students are involved with.

      The power to veto teachers is also justified to some extent given how many bad teachers there are out there and bad teaching of the material will likely have the opposite effect than the project wants (that is put talented kids off coding for life). As there are 'small teacher stipends' involved this seems very reasonable to me as does training teachers... something that there isn't nearly enough of (especially in the sciences and technology given how fast things change) which just results in even more bad teaching.

      Committing to teach for two years also makes sense given the first year the teachers are likely learning the material just in time to teach it, the second (and presumably subsequent) years the teacher will be able to teach it better due to familiarity. It also ensures at least some consistency for students from one year to the next.

      There is two things that I would change from what I read and they are 1) Parents need to have the option to opt-out their sprogs from the achievement tracking but since it would seem that they need to give permission to participate in the first place this is a moot point and 2) the extended performance data needs to be anonymous.

      • by femtobyte (710429) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @06:00PM (#45551385)

        No, Code.org does not need centralized tracking of each individual student's activities over many years. Tracking student achievement; determining who has passed classes and qualified for credits; is the responsibility of the local school district and educators in the classroom. For improving quality of the educational materials, all Code.org needs is aggregate summary data, at the classroom level at the very finest-grained, and to encourage evaluation and feedback from classroom educators on how well each portion of the material engages/baffles/bores/frustrates/enlightens students.

        • by mindwhip (894744)

          And there is why so many educational programmes only ever give average results. They measure averaged data against averaged data and surprisingly normally come out around average. The result is an average level of education.

          Understanding if the programme benefits students with higher or lower abilities is important not only statistically important but also for any educational programme to make sense. There is no point to the programme if while the overall class did better than average it was down to one

          • by femtobyte (710429)

            You can determine this from anonymous aggregated data. You don't have to be completely stupid and average every grade in every class into a single district-wide mean. But, you can report "here's the distribution of grades on the Module 4.3b semester-end test" without Code.org needing to read each student's report card.

            The approach taken by Code.org of centralizing data to create silly metrics is part of the whole process of industrializing education to a horrible "one size fits none," teach-to-the-test app

            • by mindwhip (894744)

              Teaching styles and results vary however due to the way data is gathered, averaged and analysed it is always possible to prove one is better than the other. If I could be be bothered (which I can't) I'm sure I could dig out several peer reviewed studies that show the bigger the class and the more standardised the material the better the education level of the population... The small class, focused teaching case falls apart compared to the fixed lesson plans scenario any time the teacher for whatever reason

              • by femtobyte (710429)

                I'm sure I could dig out several peer reviewed studies that show the bigger the class and the more standardised the material the better the education level of the population

                It would be interesting to see what those studies showed --- and how, when comparing across societal populations that may vary in other ways than typical class size --- they controlled for external factors.

                From what I can find of scientifically controlled studies (rather than uncontrolled observational research), where people from the same population were randomly assigned to smaller or larger class sizes, smaller classes showed benefits. For example, some analysis of the Tennessee STAR experiment [classsizematters.org].

                Isolated

        • For improving quality of the educational materials, all Code.org needs is aggregate summary data

          I don't think that's necessarily true, or at least it's not true that more specific detail than aggregate data won't lend itself to additional useful insights.

          For instance it's reasonable to imagine that different people learn better in different ways and that by accumulating data on individuals one might be able to determine different groups among them which might in turn lead to more tailored materials for d

          • by femtobyte (710429)

            Fine-grained individual learning evaluation is something that the educators in the classroom should be in charge of. I know all my good teachers were the ones who put effort into learning the character of each student, and adjusting things to work. Centralizing control over analysis of student performance data --- taking the capability away from teachers to evaluate how a program is really working, and placing it in the hands of Gates and Zuckerberg to push whatever megacorporate agenda they want --- is far

            • Centralizing control over analysis of student performance data --- taking the capability away from teachers to evaluate how a program is really working, and placing it in the hands of

              You seem to view this as a zero sum game.

              Additional central analytics doesn't necessarily take capabilities away from teachers. It could inform and help them.

              Anything can be used badly, it seems to me the fight should be to use analytics well, not stop it being used.

              • by femtobyte (710429)

                I view this as a zero-sum game because I recognize the players. A negative-sum game, in fact. With the likes of Gates and Zuckerberg at the helm, do you seriously think they're not pushing for absolute centralized corporate control, conveniently packaged as a cost-saving package because you can fire a bunch of those redundant teachers? As you say, "anything can be used badly" --- and Gates and Zuckerberg are the types of folks who will be on the leading edge of maximizing that badness.

      • Some achievement tracking is justified and useful (and even necessary) for the project itself.

        Apparently the system they use to assess students and teachers is based on "stacked ranking", an employee performance system that Gates introduced at Microsoft, and continued under Ballmer for a decade, but which Microsoft has more recently dropped utterly.

        Importantly, this policy has already been introduced in over 30 states for teacher assessment, thanks to Gates' donation to the Obama administration, and the administration tying the adoption of the system to education grants. Teacher job satisfaction in

      • by sgt_doom (655561)
        "There's noting like a good conspiracy story to get a rise ..."

        Sure sounded factual to me, sonny? WTF are you prattling on about? Oh, you believe we exist in a meritocracy in America, do you?
        • by mindwhip (894744)

          All the BEST conspiracies are factual... especially the ones that seem so unlikely no sane person could believe them to be true...

    • The people aren't a good start; but the problem is arguably not one of personality: Is a program, designed by (and to a nontrivial extent, for) people who view the product as future human resources(and, even if it no longer has a personal interest, like Gates who is semi-retired, draws heavily from 'technocrats who certainly don't think that 'privacy' is even on the radar when the employees are on the clock, or, increasingly, off it), rather than students, going to combine the managerial style of corporate
    • I don't think so. This isn't about future consumers. It's about future employees. I imagine that the kids who match the profile they seek get an offer of coding trade school tuition in exchange for a few years of indentured servitude (bringing "european apprenticeship traditions" to the USA).
    • by wahi (1465145)
      i already didn't buy code.org's shrill rhetoric. now i am just blown away.
    • Don't forget the data must include facebook and hotmail identities to go with the marks, along with full names and home addresses/phone numbers.

  • Billionaires can be trusted. Money is virtue. It says so, in the Bible.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Stands to reason if there is some tracking, stalking, mining or following to be done the American tech companies will gladly help especially if there is a buck to be made.
    Follow someone in the street and you will be arrested, do it with a computer and its somehow called innovation and forward thinking, makes you wonder what kind of society they want to create ?

  • by MLCT (1148749) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @04:59PM (#45550983)
    It is a Mark Zuckerberg project - he hasn't exactly got a good track record for respecting people's privacy and not trying to build profiles that can be exploited down the road.

    Honestly, even in a supposed "philanthropic" venture, I would always question the motive.

    "Push until you meet resistance, then pull back, then push again when people aren't looking" that is the facebook/zuckerberg motto.
    • by Animats (122034) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @06:09PM (#45551423) Homepage

      "Push until you meet resistance, then pull back, then push again when people aren't looking" that is the facebook/zuckerberg motto.

      That follows "When they advance, we retreat. When they hunt, we hide. When they sleep, we attack. When they retreat, we advance." from "On Guerrilla Warfare", Mao Zedong, 1930. This is the standard operating procedure for guerrilla groups. Classically it is a strategy of the weak against the strong. It's interesting to see it used by tycoons.

    • The Gates Foundation uses their clout as the largest charity in the world to push for stronger IP laws. So Zuck is just trying to get in on some of that sweet, sweet charity power for his own interests.

      http://hyperlogos.org/blog/drink/Why-Gates-Foundation-Evil [hyperlogos.org]

  • From our benign corporate overlords.

  • I'm not saying I'd trust them either, but it is hard to determine how successful your program is if you don't get some kind of feedback. Seven years does seem excessive, but without knowing the results of the program, they can't modify it to be more effective.

    • by femtobyte (710429)

      "Some kind of feedback" means collecting aggregate data reports from teachers and local school districts on how the program is working. "Some kind of feedback" does not require centrally tracking every assignment grade from each individual student. That level of intrusive tracking serves different ends from improving the educational quality of the material --- for which the companies involved have a proven track record of being heinously evil.

  • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @06:20PM (#45551483)

    Bill, Zuck,
    Here's an alternative approach. Take your money out of offshore tax havens and pay your taxes so that voters can determine school policy. That may mean public schools, school vouchers, or any other approach with widespread support. Zuck, you've still got majority voting power, so you can even do that with your Face(whatever it is) company.

    • by Tom (822)

      A hundred times this.

      Whenever you hear of the philantropic efforts of multi-millionaires, always keep in mind that they took that money of theirs out of the local economy. It's not like it appeared out of nowhere, you know?

    • by sgt_doom (655561)
      And while they are at it, tell Gates to direct Microsoft Corporation to cease financially supporting (along with others) David Rockefeller's and Henry Kissinger's American Friends of Bilderberg, Inc.. (But we both know they never will......)
  • by superwiz (655733) on Thursday November 28, 2013 @06:40PM (#45551587) Journal
    I want that data, too. Why isn't performance data public record? These are public schools which operate completely on tax payers' dollars. All teacher salaries are public record as is all public employee data. Why shouldn't performance metrics be public record? I doubt they are asking for students to be named by name. I am sure they would be happy with just the student performance data in a way that keeps students names impossible to find. I would like to know that data, too. Certainly when I pay property taxes I'd like to know what they buy me.
  • Anyway... Putting all the privacy/Evil Overlords/Brainwashing arguments aside it hasn't been signed by anyone under duress. It is really just a starting point for negotiations between the "entity" and code.org. In the corporate world you never sign anything without legal looking at it. If it is for something important (like this is) you always negotiate better terms especially when the other party needs you more than you need them (code.org needs the schools more than the schools need code.org).

    The first

    • by Improv (2467)

      If we think we might object to provisions we wouldn't like in the final contract, we'd better start objecting now. The end effect of such protests can only be positive for us, particularly because we often lack a direct input into terms and in the end are left with a thumbs-up-or-down; making a fuss early gives us some of the only kind of leverage we really can get.

  • That's how much those two years the teachers are required to teach are to the students.
    Where did these educational innovations come from? Where have they been tried before?
    And, more importantly, why are they performing these human trials in public schools?
    • by cyborg_zx (893396)

      And, more importantly, why are they performing these human trials in public schools?

      Where the fuck else you going to try them? A school of mackrel?

      • by d'baba (1134261)
        Private companies. Private schools. Children in public schools should not be experimented on.
        • by cyborg_zx (893396)

          Children in public schools should not be experimented on.

          Why not? It's happening anyway done for political reasons based on nothing but mere ideology. Why not actually apply some scientific scrutiny to the education system rather than come up with something like "No Child Left Behind," and then kind of hope it does what it's supposed to? Is that the system you prefer? Or do you advocate that things just stay as they are and never change? What do you think is better? Or is it just an irrational response to

  • I'm not sure we need to improve CS education. What we need is to give CS grads jobs that actually require using their CS skills rather than just becoming glorified code monkeys. Or worse yet, managers.

  • The Times Union recently had a front page story [timesunion.com] on how the New York State Department of Education was selecting curriculum and programs like InBloom. There's a small, secretive group of private workers (not bound by state worker rules). They raise donations from big companies/individuals and set educational policy. One of their biggest donors? The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Like that donation to the group setting the educational policy didn't result in InBloom being implemented at all.

    • Throw in the fact that Microsoft has now completely dropped the employee training and assessment policy that BG is basing his education programs around. Yet one of the main arguments used to support introducing it into schools is that it was successful at "knowledge companies" like Microsoft. The problem is that, unlike a company, once it's got its claws into education policy you can't remove it by putting a new person in charge (as at Microsoft HR), it'll be a decade after there's a general consensus from

  • How are they supposed to function without metrics?
  • Hi, i am an individual, 18 years old. I have an idea for a phone application, which will connect people in a new way. The features in this application has never been used, its completely new idea. I am looking for a student who is ready to develop and code this application, and become part of the group, if interested, or for more info contact hussain_shehada@hotmail.com

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