Thursday, August 07, 2014

Gates to ConnectEDU: Where's Our Dough?

When we last left this story, ConnectEDU, a company that had an interactive program to try to connect middle school students with info on college/career.  From the story in the Wall Street Journal yesterday:

In July 2013, the well-known foundation awarded a nearly $500,000 grant to ConnectEDU to develop an interactive program to help students master literacy under the Common Core standards that many states use to guide how public school students are caught.
The money came with some conditions, including a promise to only use the funds for the development of the new technology as well as a timeline requiring benchmarks to be met along the way. The grant, paid out in two installments, was set to expire this December. 

I pause here to note that I didn't remember that the Gates grant to ConnectEDU was around Common Core.

ConnectEDU filed for Chapter 11 earlier this year.  Apparently since then, ConnectEDU has not answered the Gates Foundation's questions about the grant money. 

Well, guess who wants their money?  The Gates Foundation. 

They want the Court to put the money they gave Connect EDU (however much that is leftover at the point ConnectEDU went bankrupt) to be put in a separate account and given back to Gates.  (They also want ConnectEDU to give them documents they asked for and has asked the Court to make them hand them over to the GF.) 

It's as if the Gates Foundation thinks they are the most important company/group in the list of entities that want a share of any assets.  I have a feeling that the Court is going to say to Gates Foundation, "Get in line."

What is still unknown is how much SPS student data that ConnectEDU has and, in general, what ConnectEDU is going to do with all the student data from many districts that they have.  They could, in theory, sell it off to the highest bidder.


Mary Griffin said...

Most of the grants in the "College Ready" program are around the promotion of Common Core (all the grants to PTA are around Common Core) The stated purpose of the grant to ConnectEdu was "to build an innovative technology platform that will empower students to master Common Core standards for literacy through an engaging, personalized, and collaborative learning experience." The B and M Gates Foundation ARE in line as they are number 44 out of 59 claims so far. The largest two claims are to the IRS for a total of $9 million. Next largest is a stockholders claim. More concerning to me is who is representing the interests of the students and selling of data. Do you know, Melissa?

seattle citizen said...

Who was the CEO of ConnectEdu, how much were they paid, did they have any actual education experience (preferably teaching, and who did they know amongst the web of "reformers" that allowed them to get to a position where they could profit off of public ed and owe the government (us) money in taxes?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, my last thread I reported that the FTC is worried about this issue and will probably go to court if ConnectEDU tries to sell the data.

SPS seems to be worried more that ConnectEDU is breaking the contract by not giving the data back (I wish they would be more aggressive about their statement.)

I will try to keep up with this. I had expected some more info from the district on how many students and how much data was given to ConnectEDU.

Anonymous said...

Is the bankruptcy Chap. 11? Is ConnectEdu going to restructure? If so, wouldn't they need to keep the data?


mirmac1 said...

They are a new breed of web-hosting services that make money off marketing to students or off providing an "institutional service" to districts - thereby waiving the parent notification requirement in FERPA.

District's think that if they contract out data management and, in this case, counseling services they'll save money.

My kid is not going to be widget for these clowns.

Nick Mallare said...

A few thoughts. First of all, the software was never developed, nor released. So, the "student" information with regards to this CC platform is nonexistent. However, ConnectEDU did own many other student-related entities and we summarized many of them here.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Questioning, I honestly don't know the nuances but from the news stories, it appears they are shutting down.

Well, SPS thinks they have SPS student data so Nick, that's confusing.

Anonymous said...

Who care's! any data produced by SPS is most likely bad data. This is going nowhere.

The bad guys work at SPS not the BMGF, so focus your efforts on SPS and stop being distracted by every fart coming from Bill Gates.


Anonymous said...

an enemy of my enemy is my friend


Melissa Westbrook said...

Good one, Wilfred, except that the Gates Foundation is very much into this data issue. It's not manipulated data they seek; they just want to know everything about every kid.

Nice try.

Nick Mallare said...


They may very well have data on SPS students; however, it didn't come from this grant. To my knowledge (and I'm willing to admit I'm wrong if you can prove me wrong), this CC software was never actually released.


Anonymous said...

I read somewhere where they wanted the dental records for all students' Weird!

Maybe there's some correlation to diet or personnel hygiene and learning.

DNA will be next!

NB Parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Nick, I was probably not clear in my original thread. I did not say that SPS' use of ConnectEDU was for Common Core. I actually don't care what the Gates grant to ConnectEDU was for - I care that (1) Gates Foundation comes off as kind of whiny over the money and (2) SPS' connection to ConnectEDU is still problematic.

Catherine said...

That ConnectEdu was able to bilk Gates Foundation out of $500K, when Seattle's own Tableau software could OFF THE SHELF do most, if not all of the analysis that ConnectEdu was developing software to do... and for far less, and that it could be done in house at SPS... speaks to the decision makers in Gates, SPS, and ConnectEdu being so far removed from reality and commonly availably technology to be... embarrassing to each organization. No, I don't work at Tableau, I just know a bunch of people who do, use their software a bit, and this is just sad.

mirmac1 said...

I wonder if the grant was just a means for Gates to somehow obtain access to tons of student data.