Parents Across America Group Outlines Ed-Tech 'Threats'
An influential parent-advocacy group that has vocally opposed high-stakes testing, the Common Core State Standards, and charter school expansion has its sights on a new target: education technology.
Parents Across America, a nonprofit group with 44 chapters across 25 states, last month issued a set of resources warning of the "threats" posed by the explosion of digital- and online-technology use in schools, including rising screen time for children, increased testing and data collection, and what the group views as misguided teaching strategies based on low-quality digital products.
Although the group says it supports "appropriate" use of technology in schools, its recommendations include such controversial suggestions as "no in-school screen time before 3rd grade" and "no 1-to-1 devices before high school."
Roughly half of American K-12 students now have access to their own school-issued mobile-computing devices, according to FutureSource Consulting, a United Kingdom-based research group. A nationwide 2015 poll of parents commissioned by the nonprofit Data Quality Campaign (which advocates greater data use in schools), meanwhile, found that parents overwhelmingly want access to information on such issues as their children's academic performance and safety.
Some prominent research and children's-media groups see Parents Across America's stance as alarmist. They express concern that the group is giving renewed attention to some questionable research, including one widely discredited study calling for no screen time at all for children younger than 12.
Parents are "absolutely right to call into question many of the overheated claims for ed tech's benefits," said Michael Levine, the executive director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, a New York City-based research center. But, Levine said, "all screens are not created equal. There is a huge difference between video chatting with grandma and being left alone to play first-person-shooter games."
Launched in 2010, Parents Across America is run on a small annual budget, with funding provided in part by a foundation associated with the Chicago Teachers Union. Despite its size and lack of structure, the group and some of its leaders have had a big impact: The standardized-testing opt-out movement they have helped support has gained considerable traction in recent years, and parent-activist concerns about student-data privacy played a huge role in the demise of inBloom, a massive student-data-warehouse project started with $100 million in support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York (both of which provide support to Education Week).
Julie Woestehoff, who has a 3-year-old grandson and a history of parent activism datingParents Across America Group Outlines Ed-Tech 'Threats' - Education Week: