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inBloom and Data Mining: A Common Core Cousin

January 8, 2014

This week I posted this piece about a January 9, 2014, webinar promoting data mining– a webinar with Gates money all over it. (Here is a briefer follow-up to the post.) The initial post had a record number of comments, some of which were made by an inBloom representative. The comments prompted me to further investigate some of the nuances of inBloom, including key funding for and individuals associated with this data storage mammoth, and of the privatizer-promoted data mining craze in general.

Before inBloom: Shared Learning Collaborative

The precursor to inBloom was the Gates- and Carnegie-funded Shared Learning Collaborative (SLC). (To read an excellent, brief history of SLC, see this summary, written by Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters.) In July 2011, Gates gave SLC $87.3 million “to build, manage, and promote the Shared Learning Infrastructure (SLI).” Only a few months earlier, in March 2011, the Carnegie Corporation forked over $3 million for the same purpose.

“Infrastructure building”… “management”… and “promotion.”

Data stored in inBloom are not meant to remain unseen. One does not “promote” what is not meant for exposure.

McKinsey and Company

McKinsey and Company is ubiquitous in education reform.The company has contracted for SLC involvement in Louisiana, where Governor Bobby Jindal happens to be a former McKinsey employee. McKinsey is connected to both CCSS testing consortia, and never forget that CCSS “lead architect” David Coleman turned to McKinsey for employment “advising public schools” when he could not secure a New York teaching position.

McKinsey and Company is happy about “open data” (also referred to as “liquid information”):

It has long been recognized that free markets and free societies thrive on the free exchange of information. Transparency of market prices and of government operations are the foundations of efficiency and integrity, encouraging participation by market players and citizens, and spurring new ideas and innovations. Today, with massive computing power and data analytics, it is possible to make open digital information “liquid” and shareable to an unprecedented degree.

Open data—from both public and private sources—are adding a new dimension to big data analytics and giving rise to novel, data-driven innovations. Businesses are finding new ways of segmenting markets by blending open data with proprietary data and discovering new ways to raise productivity by using open and proprietary data to benchmark operations. [Emphasis added.]

Anyone who observes what is happening regarding the push for collecting massive data and dismisses the profit motive is denying reality.

inBloom: The “Bucket” Becomes Its Own Nonprofit 

On February 5, 2013, SLC became inBloom:

UPDATE: As of February 5, 2013, the Shared Learning Collaborative has been renamed inBloom Inc.

The Shared Learning Collaborative, which receives significant support from the Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation, is developing a project called the Shared Learning Infrastructure. It was originally started by the Council of Chief State School Officers. The SLI provides a data warehouse in the cloud for all kinds of student data, and links that data, through Common Core standards, to digital educational content.

The main part of the Shared Learning Infrastructure is a huge, carefully structured bucket: the data store/warehouse, which holds, well, a bucket-load of student data across grades and subjects, such as individual student names, demographic information, discipline history, grades, test results, teachers, attendance, graduation requirements, even detail of standards mastered. [Emphasis added.]

Why do education privatizing interests need a gargantuan “bucket” of data if not to advance their own interests of privatization?

Notice that CCSS content is part of the bucket. Don’t call it curriculum–that might make it sound like ed-reform philanthropy and business want to monitor, control, and financially profit from the entire teacher-student dymanic (tongue in cheek).

InBloom is a bucket, and I guarantee, the handle of that bucket is out of reach for the stakeholders whose information is to be in that bucket.

The inBloom 2012 990

The only 990 available for inBloom is this one for a single month in 2012 (June 1-30).  Since the Gates startup grant of $16.8 million was not paid until October 2012, inBloom’s 2012 990 includes no financial information. However, it does include the names of three “directors.”

The first is Stacey Childress, faculty of Harvard Business School and deputy director of education for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Childress is listed as inBloom’s interim CEO.

(The Gates Foundation is a launching pad for career-minded reformers. Los Angeles iPad fiasco star, Superintendent John Deasy is a former deputy director of the Gates Foundation. Also, former “under the radar” Gates Foundation Director of Advocacy Stefanie Sanford has moved on in her reformer career to join Common Core State Standards (CCSS) “architect” David Coleman at College Board. Coleman is president, and Sanford is chief of policy, advocacy, and government relations.)

Second on the inBloom board as listed on the 2012 990 is Director/Secretary Michele Cahill:

Michele Cahill is vice-president for national programs at Carnegie Corporation of New York. She leads the philanthropy’s strategy to expand educational opportunity through systemic change across K-12 and in higher education…. Prior to rejoining Carnegie Corporation in 2007, Cahill served as senior counselor to the chancellor for education policy in the New York City Department of Education under Chancellor Joel Klein. [Emphasis added.]

Of course, Klein is now with Rupert Murdoch, who owns 90% of Wireless Generation and whose company is being “compensated” for SLI software as per the SLI contract with Louisiana. Murdoch’s Amplify (run by Klein) also has a contract with the testing consortium Smarter Balanced to develop “professional learning tools for educators.”

Corporate reform: Few major players; multiple fat business opportunities.

The third individual listed on the inBloom board according to its 2012 990 is Gene Wilhoit, director/treasurer, who is also the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) executive director and whose 2012 CCSSO compensation was $350,000.

Wilhoit also sits on the board of the Data Quality Campaign (DQC), one of the participants in the previously-mentioned, heavily-Gates-funded, pro-data-mining webinar. To date, Gates has funded DQC $13.5 million.

In this comment about Coleman and CCSS, one can see the shadow of inBloom, both its funding and its “board of three”:

Referred to as ‘Common Core lead standards authors’ by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), David Coleman and Jason Zimba are just two in a long list of Common Core creators whose academic roots are with the education-for-a-revolution machine borne by Annenberg Institute, Carnegie Corporation, Bill Gates, et al. [Emphasis added.]

The affiliations of all three inBloom board members are listed in the above paragraph– and all are connected to Coleman and his CCSS.

Addressing Some Previous Data-sharing Comments

On my January 3 data sharing post, some commenters have noted that the attention to inBloom detracts from the overall issue of the dangers of centralized, watery-FERPA-permitting data collection. Others have noted that inBloom holds the data cloud monopoly and is additionally dangerous for that reason. I think that both points are well made. InBloom is arguably a monopoly. Even though other “data clouds” might exist, both the money and well-positioned individuals behind inBloom make it possible for inBloom to swallow the meager competition, literally, via business deals and possible mergers. And certainly it is possible to forget that the chief issue behind inBloom is that centralizing this data makes for easy exploitation by those whose chief aims are money, power, and prestige.

Another notable point is that this inBloom centralized data “bucket” is readily available for federal dipping. Consider this comment from former Louisiana Department of Education data analyst Jason France. In his comment France alludes to the issues of inBloom monopoly, federal access, and other logistics of “cloud” operation. France’s comment is addressed to inBloom CTO Garrett Suhm:


Are you anticipating teachers will start entering data directly into inBloom, or will they not simply be forced to use the same applications they do now, that create the data you store, thus storing the data in two places. You talk about creating efficiencies by eliminating the need for data transfer, but that transfer must still take place, just it must be sent to you now. The only way I see this as potentially more efficient is in the long run, if you replace local storage and vendor databases with your framework. Then any vendor that wants to create a new field will have to ask you to create them to hold their data, true? You intend to be the ultimate backend environment, by obsoleting all current systems school districts currently use. You will then collect fees from school districts and your partners, true? inBloom has already proposed ways it will lessen fees to school districts, when they purchase products from your vendors. You intend to build a data monopoly that will require all vendors to work with you, and starve off/out all vendors not doing business with you. You claim you are doing this for efficiency, but the real goal is to build a student warehousing monopoly.

Additionally, any Federal agency that wants data can secretly subpoena you, as they do with cell phone company records now, and get data for whatever purpose they want, without states having a recourse. This would have sidestepped Louisiana’s sovereignty with the Federal government over voucher data, which might have been a positive, but I wonder if states realize by allowing this they are essentially ceding data over to the Federal government without due process? That’s my little epiphany nugget for Federalists to chew over. [Emphasis added.]

Suhm responded to a number of comments. To France’s detailed comment he did not, except in the form of this “sales-speak” regarding “collecting fees”:

Yes, we are a self-sustaining non-profit that charges a small fee for operating costs. We are continually working to drive these costs down and pass the savings along to our customers. [Emphasis added.]

“Pass the savings to our customers.”

A nonprofit with “customers” doesn’t sit well with me.

As to inBloom’s “small fee for operating costs,” Leonie Haimson notes the following:

InBloom officials have said they intend to charge its “clients” $2-$5 per student; recently according to NY officials that has risen to $3-$5 per student. They have also said they are exploring charging vendors for the “services” it supplies; which in my mind is very similar to selling access to the data. …

One of the education officials in NYS pointed out that we will be have to pay each year to get back from inBloom the student data that we gave them for free. A great business model for them; especially if they can charge vendors for access to the data as well. [Emphasis added.]

The amount of money that inBloom stands to make is obscene. Louisiana has roughly 730,000 public school students. At $3 per student, inBloom would rake in $2.2 million per year from Louisiana for storage alone. In the Unites States, there are approximately 50.1 million public school students. If inBloom contracted to store data for only 25% of these students at $3 per student, inBloom would collect $37.6 million per year for storage alone.

“Small fee for operating costs”??

As it stands, this primarily-Gates-financed “infrastructure” has few employees. According to Suhm’s Linkedin profile, inBloom has “1 – 10 employees.” It just so happens that these are listed on Suhm’s profile:

So. Once one factors in the many ways that inBloom can make money (data storage; data vending back to school districts; data vending outside of the school district; the collecting of fees annually), one might imagine that the handful of individuals running this show are in a powerful and undoubtedly well-compensated position. How nice for them, indeed.

I haven’t even discussed potential data leaking (intentional or not) and the associated potential scandals.

I have, however, returned to a question that never leaves me for long:

How is this cumbersome and frightening “liquid data” burden supposed to benefit the quality of the student-teacher interaction and enhance the learning environment?

Answer: It isn’t.

The attempted erasure of privacy rights allowing for unprecedented data mining is meant to deliver public education into the hands of privatizers– the common end of the entire spectrum of so-called education reforms.

From → LDOE, Student Data

  1. 2old2tch permalink

    “The attempted erasure of privacy rights allowing for unprecedented data mining is meant to deliver public education into the hands of privatizers– the common end of the entire spectrum of so-called education reforms.”

    You need to fill in a few blanks for me. I am totally appalled by inBloom, but I missed how the subversion of privacy rights leads to the privatizing of public education. I see that it creates opportunities for all sorts of misuse of what should be private information, and I see no benefit to public education, but I am missing the link to the end of public education.

    • I have been writing about the spectrum of reforms– how these are intended to be implemented as a package– the goal being to completely privatize education. The reforms all fit together. Removing privacy rights will be a component, for it makes what used to be personal student information “for sale”– at the mercy of “free market principles.”

      • 2old2tch permalink

        I thought that might be where you were going with the argument, but although I have followed your blog closely, I wanted to make sure I hadn’t missed something. Restating that it is part of the “Reform” package is important because data mining leaves us vulnerable to abuses beyond the eventual dissolution of public education. The discussion of data mining has veered more toward the “emotional rape” of this intrusive collection of information on Diane Ravitch’s blog. Since I read both of you, I may be confusing myself.

    • Hi, 2old! I’m thinking that in order to privatize education, one must prove that public education is failing. The utopian planners (Gates, Soros, Illuminists, etc.) must create an ILLUSION which proves the existence of the failure. They erect and spectacularly sell an education reform plan which introduces to every elementary school child (nationwide) learning programs guaranteed to confuse and emotionally twist the most innocent of people; programs which present the child with curricula so impossibly difficult that majorities of students WILL FAIL. After test upon test is administered, and the data collected and evaluated, the pre-programed result will “PROVE” the school to be a failure. Then, out of the blue, will come a consortia of business people who will save the day, and offer to set up a private school, accountable to no one but themselves; and THEY will control WHAT is taught and HOW it is taught and WHO will teach it, as the consortia lines its pockets $$$$$$$$$. This process will work quite well in inner city and other low socio-economic school situations. Let’s hope that the consortia is centered on the welfare of the children. . . . . . . . .let’s hope. . . . . . . .

      Since Common Core (CC) was introduced to me through a math assignment brought home by my grandson (2nd grader) in December of 2013, I have learned much about this “reform” plan.
      18 + 3 = ? A one-step process should reveal the answer, right? “NOT SO” according to CC. It’s a four-step process. I figured it out after some study; what a nightmare!

      After having performed solidly ON gradelevel in reading as a 1st grader, he, as a 2nd grader, was found to be failing as of mid December of 2013. A retired reading resource specialist who lives on his street (and was employed in the same districtin which my grandson lives) offered to help him.
      Because of his “failure”, he was too embarrased to to show his face in her house. After much loving and prodding, he decided to try her out. She found that he IS reading SOLIDLY ON grade level !

      Something had changed since the summer of 2013: CC had been implemented in North Carolina.


      The schools of our nation are simply treasure chests of data to these utopians. Through data sale and control, these people plan to guide and operate ALL education in the U.S.A. and beyond, and they are using the platform of “education reform” to do it.

      Enforcing privacy rights of students WOULD CUT OUT THE HEART OF THE DATA MINING MACHINE, so there would be NO privatization of our schools, and the profiteers would have to deceive and damage someone other than our children and grandchildren in order to increase their wealth and control the world.

      My wife and I are retired New York State public school teachers.

      • H.A. Hurley permalink

        Could not be stated better or clearer! We must continue to get the word out and stop the data mining, the Mother Load for the CorpEdReformer$.
        Our children are becoming more confused every day, especially with convoluted steps in Math. Who in the H—- made this crap up? What a joke!
        Stope Data Mining! 1st on the agenda, after we save our children at the end of each day.

  2. Thank you for this important post. NY’ers please sign and share this student data privacy petition

  3. Laura h. Chapman permalink

    In case you missed this revival of Skinnerian research in our classrooms, courtesy Bill Gates.
    here is another example of accountability gone wild. Reminds me of some mid 1960’s research, likely more valid, that bounced a beam of light from the retina of a child’s eye in order to track where “reluctant” readers were looking on a page, dwell time and so on. The whole apparatus made this visible in real time by projecting a dot on the screen that also displayed the text. This Gates attention watch strapped to the wrist of a student looks like version of the skin response testing–discredited in the legal world. I imagine that Gates would go for a student helmet or headband with sensors to detect brainwaves. I’d like to file this as fantasy, but the Bill Gates, and the academics who are supporting his absurd data-mongering ventures need to be called out. Thanks for doing this and providing this space to comment.

    • H.A. Hurley permalink

      The days of asking parents permission to involve their children in anything outside of routine school stuff, are gone. Our kids belong to Gates? Just because he had skills in technology and became rich enough to pay off our National Debt, does apparently give him full privilege and access to EVERYTHING. First with so-called generous donations. Why more people don’t recognize the strings, ropes, attached to his contributions? They may until it is too late. Contributions is a misnomer, he is buying it! Controlling it! Forever! He has enough $$$ and lack of emotional sensitivity, responsibility and humanity….über frightening! Feels like we are in a really bad science fiction movie. Bad movies end and go away. This will not!

    • dolphin permalink

      Good Lord, this man is insane. Who does that? Who is so detached from the real world that he thinks some electronic gadget is the answer? But first, you would have to get into his mind to know what the question is…

  4. navigio permalink

    I dont understand why districts would need to pay to retrieve the data. Is this confirmed, or just surmising based on their statement of ‘exploring charging vendors for services’.. ?

    • Leonie Haimson heard this from an education official.

    • It is public knowledge admitted by inBloom that they will start charging districts $2-$5 per student starting in 2015. They originally said that if more states signed on, that fee could lessen over time; only instead most all the districts have pulled out and only NYS clearly remains involved, so the price could go up. Indeed, Ken Wagner of NYSED testified that he now expects inBloom’s cost to be $3-$5 per student. if districts are using inBloom “services” that amounts to having to buy back the data that they gave inBloom for free.

  5. Reblogged this on Crazy Crawfish's Blog and commented:
    Great additional info about inBloom and its apparently incestuous relationship with Common Core and Rupert Murdoch’s Wireless Generation. This prominently featuress a very insightful comment by me (if i do say so myself) as a bonus. 🙂

    Nice research, Mercedes!

  6. Mercedes,
    Thank you for digging deeper into the origins of inBloom. I’m part of a loosely organized group of teachers, parents, administrators, and other locals ( who have started a conversation about how to create great educational experiences for all students in our valley. A recent link in our conversation ( confirms what you have been pointing out, we are part of a national groundswell against high stakes tests, etc…
    Perhaps, we should create a common site that aggregates all these grassroots efforts. Not that you have time for that but I’m putting it out there for readers of your blog who may be so inclined and have the geek-power (I tip my hat to you) to do it.

    • The movie trailer looks great. How can we see the whole movie?

  7. It appears that the Predators are fighting us for the rights to pick the bones of our own Children. And they are making US pay for it.(along with a tip)
    Education is no longer about Education…it is about Control. Control of your Children, and control of the money YOU pay for the State Education of YOUR Children.

  8. Here in Massachusetts, parents don’t get to decide who sees their child’s data, because the process is being carried out so secretively, parents don’t even know.
    The Massachusetts data vault (located in Edwin Analytics) is scheduled to merge with the newly-created Edwin “Teaching and Learning” interface in a few months. . The Edwin teacher/student dashboard is rolling out now, and districts are being trained to implement a program that promises to track student data from preschool to grade 12.
    When we began our training, we saw that we are all actually logging onto a site run by a private contractor called thinkgate. I’m already in the site, and so are all my students. Teachers are being ordered to create and upload four dummy classroom assessment points this year. Students will submit their responses directly to the vendor’s site, on their iPads. The dashboard also displays a feature which will collect and upload “district assessments”. The site promises to centralize data-driven decisions for individual students, and I found it shocking to see my students’ names already listed there.
    Confidential student academic and discipline records are being used in “complex” statistical calculations that flag individual students, without parental consent. The Massachusetts DOE site recommends not informing parents that the system has labeled their child at “high risk” for low performance on an upcoming high stakes exam, for instance.
    This contract escaped the Massachusetts safeguards for ethical and transparent procurement by a novel extra-legal maneuver, through which invoices are generated in Ohio and paid by our state DOE, without oversight.
    “We had to make some concessions in order to abide by Ohio’s procurement rules …. Leadership in both states stepped in on multiple occasions to help negotiate pathways around obstacles … We had to figure out how one state would reimburse another for example, since states are much better at processing payments than issuing invoices.”
    I suppose that’s what kept the deal so quiet here. I wonder if readers in those other states have more information about this contractor?

    • More re Cahill; Joel Klein wanted her as his deputy chancellor but she did not have the education credentials esp as he had none. Instead she was put in charge of the highly controversial Gates funded small HS initiative in NYC. Along with the attorney Norman Siegel, other parent activists, NYS Senator Liz Kreuger, and Patrick Sullivan Manhattan member of the Bd of Ed, we met with Cahill at the Carnegie Corporation HQ last year. At that point she was ostensibly in charge of the LT governance plan of the Shared Learning Collaborative which later turned into inBloom, though this LT plan never seemed to emerge.
      We tried to impress on her the riskiness of this project, the need for some independent privacy experts (not paid for by Gates) along with representatives of stakeholder groups ( not paid for by Gates) to be appointed wither to the board or to form an advisory body that could evaluate their plans, and whether there needed to be parental notification and consent before the data was shared with vendors. We also impressed on her the need for public notification and hearings,
      she completely turned us down; said there was no need for any independent representation on the board or an advisory board, no need for public hearings or any sort of notification, and essentially stonewalled us while claiming we were spreading misinformation without specifying what she meant, this has been the MO of inBloom and its supporters from the beginning. Work in deep secrecy and provide as little info as possible, while randomly attacking anyone who questions your plans with spreading misinformation, while not explaining how.In the past few months inBloom has refused to testify at hearings of the NYC council and the NYS Assembly though expressly invited to both. And this is an organization that is being entrusted with the highly sensitive data of 2.7M children?

  9. H.A. Hurley permalink

    Mercedes ~
    As always, incredible work!
    You are the SuperSleuth in Education! The Best!
    Thank you so very much.

  10. There is a grassroots effort in New York State to “Stop the New York State Education Department (NYSED) from sharing confidential information without parental consent and violating the privacy rights of students and parents.” This includes inBloom and the passage of meaningful legislation that would protect the privacy rights of students and parents. All are encouraged to read and sign this petition

    Thank you Mercedes Schneider for continuing to shed light on this important topic.

  11. Debbie Sachs permalink

    January 19, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    Wow ! Mercedes – Talk about BUSTED! Let me know when your book/movie comes out! I would love to invest in this BLOCK BUSTER!

    No wonder this is so hard to fight in Louisiana: 1) Gov. Bobby Jindal’s former employment at the “pinnacle” of the Common Core Initiative – Mckinsey Corporation, 2) His appointment of head of the LDOE Superintendent John White from New York, 3) John White’s connection to Joel Klein (NY), 4) Klein’s association to Rupert Murdoch, 5) Murdoch’s connection to Bill Gates (InBloom))….and lest we forget, 6)Holly Boffy (La. BESE member) working for John White – oh but I thought John White worked for her:

    7)….and I still can’t figure out why the Superintendent of Catholic Schools in New Orleans went for this hook, line, and sinker.

    All in all – just makes for a more fascinating read: Gates Foundation, Rupert Murdoch(child hacker scandal), Federal Government, and even the Catholic Church all interwoven, involved for the “benefit” of our children???

    • Debbie Sachs permalink

      Debbie Sachs

      January 19, 2014 at 2:11 pm

      In addition now we understand why John White withdrew Louisiana from InBloom:

      Louisiana is the ONLY state in the country where students’ social security numbers are their student identification numbers. This would have brought too much attention to InBloom uploading children’s social security numbers to their cloud site. InBloom wanted to keep this quiet so that they might continue their expansion into other states.

      To this day, parents in Louisiana have never been NOTIFIED that their children’s social security numbers have been TAKEN and SHARED thus DAMAGED and COMPROMISED. Isn’t their a law against this?

      • Debbie Sachs permalink

        Correction to my earlier comment – child “phone” hacker

  12. Data mining is simply a process of collecting huge information from various relevant data sources and helps every business owners to analysis their competitors for business improvement.

  13. H.A. Hurley permalink

    I continue to be surprised that these companies reforming education or cyphoning our children’s confidential data without wanting parental monitoring of such data, have absolutely NO BACKGROUND or EXPERIENCE in Education, Children, Psychology, Social Work, Child Development or even in the Humanities. REVENGE OF THE NERDS is upon us and they could care less about any of our concerns. They don’t even know what we are squawking about. It’s all about $$$ & BIG DATA and the pursuit of both.
    Mercedes, thanks for including inBloom’s LinkedIn profiles. I have been looking at many foundations and EdReformers’ backgrounds and education…I swear, these BS PoliSci & PublicPolicy majors are absolutely EVERYWHERE. What is going on? What did they used to do before Kids became so profitable? What fields did they pollinate before they messed with our children’s futures?
    They have the B—- to criticize teachers’ education, our credentials, our ranking on college entrance exams….B–S—-! Most teachers have more education than these PoliSci majors and of course…Bill Gates.
    We need to continue to dig into their educational backgrounds and question their skills & knowledge. Requiring PreK kids to be exposed to college ready curriculum and ignoring our teachers’ recommendations, is insane. Imposters with privilege and arrogance. Lethal combination!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. inBloom and Data Mining: A Common Core Cousin | Opt Out Central New York
  2. Schneider: A History of inBloom and Its Cozy Nest | Diane Ravitch's blog
  3. The Octopus of inBloom… | Dolphin
  4. Why parents are “paranoid” about Common Core | Michelle Malkin
  5. Abuse of the GED /  The Ave
  6. Amplify… A Modern Day Medusa | DivineSparkIgnites
  7. Michelle Malkin | » Why parents are “paranoid” about Common Core

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