Life Long Learning

Lifelong Learning

We are always learning, right? We learn from school. From friends and family. From life experiences. And we don’t stop learning just because we have graduated school. But Ed Reformers use the word a little differently. For them, lifelong learning is the expectation that you are are personally responsible for continued up-skilling (taking more and more classes to gain new skills) as you compete in the globalized gig economy(see definition for that). You full time long term employment will not be secure or guaranteed. This means companies no longer take responsibility for training workers. Rather workers are expected to self-finance (pay for) acquisition of new skills, primarily via online credentialing programs.

Algorithms(see definition) screen e-portfolios (like LinkedIn or Facebook) of badges (credits earned like Boy Scout badges) to identify job applicants with optimal qualifications including mindset and salary history. They will see what badges you have earned to decide if you are the right candidate for a specific short-term job (rather than having short term jobs included as part of a long-term full-time job positions). 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.


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 (gaming)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.