YouScience, That is…
It may be a new year but education reformers are up to their same ol' tricks. As far back as 2013, we have been warning Momma Bears to wake-up and protect your babies from data mining.
Six years later, we are still warning you. This time, our children are being targeted by the Lee administration through his focus on vocational education. And it should come as no surprise that he picked Penny Schwinn to be his Education Commissioner. She has experience with this sort of dirty work. In fact, she has become quite the expert on letting third party vendors data mine school children.
Time for a little History lesson...
We told you all about when Schwinn briefly served as the Deputy Commissioner of Academics in Texas. It was during that time, she got into big trouble for giving a no-bid contract to her old Teach for America buddy, Richard Nyankori.
Despite having virtually no SPED experience, Nyankori operated a for-profit company called SPEDx that was tasked with helping Texas Education Agency to develop a strategic plan for special education services. Nyankori was given access to student IEP records containing highly confidential information about disabled children and their families. The "controversial data mining company" was supposed to develop a more efficient IEP process. Instead, critics accuse the company of gathering data to justify cuts in SPED services. Mercedes Schneider has all the details her blog.
Is Schwinn is up to her same old tricks here in Tennessee with her recently unveiled "Best for All" strategic plan?
Best for Who?
"Commissioner Penny Schwinn told reporters Monday that high schoolers were part of the creation of the 'Best for All' plan. And, she said, older students in the state worry high school is too late to learn about what fields they might be interested in.
So, the state will address career readiness sooner, Schwinn said.
"By Giving students the opportunity to identify what they like and what they are good at before high school, they will better able to navigate the opportunities available to them and select pathways that are a best fit," Schwinn said.
According to the plan, the state will provide school districts with free career exploration for students starting all the way back in pre-K and continuing through middle school. The plan will also create grants for districts to give high schoolers hands-on opportunities."
The focus on job readiness also lines up with Gov. Bill Lee's focus on vocational education after high school."
—Nashville Public Radio
Momma Bear's 2020 Prediction
YouScience is an online aptitude assessment that appears to be a harmless computer game. The program claims to "use psychometrically-valid brain games to uncover users' natural talents, then combine those aptitude measures with interests to generate the YouScience Profile. Within their Profile, users can explore their aptitudes, review personalized career matches, and develop affirming language to better highlight their assets in interviews and resumes." This computer game is much more than an aptitude assessment, it is an opportunity for a business to have access to data mine our children.
You never gonna guess who is behind this program to access our children's aptitude data...
YouScience is a for-profit business that was created in Brentwood, Tennessee. Its big investor is a venture capitalist firm called Clayton Associates whose co-founder and chairman is Brentwood resident, Stuart McWhorter.
Yup, that Stuart McWhorter!!!
Talk About a Conflict of Interest!!!
But that is not the only reason McWhorter's name sounds familiar. He has been in the news lately, named as a key player in the Lee administration's $4M so-called slush fund scandal. Accusers claim the new grant program was created on the sly to reward lawmakers who voted in favor of the controversial ESA bill last Spring.
"Critics say the former House speaker put together the grant fund to push the governor’s education savings account bill through the House. Amid an initial tie vote, it passed 50-48 in late April after Casada held the vote board open for nearly 45 minutes to work the chamber."
According to the Tennesseean, McWhorter initially denied knowledge of a list of grant recipients. "But emails between employees in the state’s economic and community development office suggest otherwise. According to a July 26 email between Rolfe and McWhorter, with several ECD employees attached, dozens of 'commitments' had already been identified for the $4 million fund."
And of course, no Williamson County conspiracy to privatize public schools would be complete without a Koch Brothers connection. So, there is this.... The YouScience lobbyist, Mark Cate, is also the Koch's lobbyist.
Speak Out, Momma Bears!!
Let your school board know that as a parent you have some serious concerns about YouScience and giving a third party vendor access to psychometric personal data on your child.
Momma Bears want to know: Is YouScience really a program designed to help students discover their natural talents? Or is it a nefarious attempt to data mine and force our kids into career paths that best serve Governor Lee and his rich, business buddies?