Monday, February 16, 2015

President's Day Special: Entangling Alliances, the Education Industrial Complex, and WriteToLearn vs. Learning to Write

In order to participate with success in the general curriculum, students with disabilities, as appropriate, may be provided additional supports and services, such as...Assistive technology devices and services to ensure access to the general education curriculum and the Common Core State Standards.
From the single page in the entire Common Core Standards website devoted to students with special needs. And so, the floodgates open to Education Industrial Complex behemoths like Pearson. From Pearson’s website:
Beginning this school year, the Common Core State Standards will require students to develop more rigorous writing skills with a stronger emphasis on the ability to synthesize and summarize informational text, formulate an argument and respond appropriately to source documents. To help students prepare for the rigor of the Common Core, Pearson today unveiled updates to its award-winning online literacy tool, WriteToLearn.
“In today’s information-driven world, strong writing skills are crucial to success in college and career, regardless of what path an individual chooses,” said Alistair Van Moere, president, of the Knowledge Technologies business of Pearson. “These updates to WriteToLearn are focused on ensuring that students have the tools for developing the skills that the Common Core State Standards have set forth as requisite for achieving that success.”
… WriteToLearn’s grammar checking has been updated to detect more common types of errors with improvements of 20 percent in areas such as subject verb agreement and using the correct verb form…
To further support struggling readers and writers, WriteToLearn now features Texthelp’s word prediction technology. This tool allows students to select correct word choices with fewer keystrokes and, ultimately, produce writing products with greater skill. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) has proposed word prediction as an allowable accommodation for students with disabilities on its Common Core writing exam.
WriteToLearn qualifies for for [sic] a wide variety of federal funding sources such as Title I, IDEA and Race to the Top. For more information, visit
Yup. And so, yet again (see here and here), public money pours into Pearson.

Meanwhile, as I asked earlier, how will these “access”-providing assistive technologies actually cause language-impaired students to improve their writing skills-- or, in Pearson’s eloquent (WriteToLearn-assisted?) words, “produce writing products with greater skill”?

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