December 29, 2021

Mercedes Schneider: Student Data Collector Aimee Guidera to be Next VA Education Secretary

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Teacher and author Mercedes Schneider takes a look at the Virginia education secretary and sees problematic times ahead for student data safety. Reposted with permission.

On December 20, 2021, Virginia Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin announced that his choice for state education secretary is “education consultant” Aimee Guidera. In the ABC8News in which I read Youngkin’s choice, political analyst Rich Meagher commented, “We don’t know a lot about this nominee just yet in part because she is not a political operative. She is a data scientist.”

We don’t know much about this nominee, but let’s unequivocally label her a *data scientist* and not just a data collector.

The ABC8News article does identify Guidera as “founder and former chief executive of the Data Quality Campaign (DQC), a leading voice advocating for improving the use of data to increase student achievement,” a statement that reads more like the pro-data-collection sales pitch than perhaps the article author realizes.

Guidera holds no degree in data collection and analysis or statistics and research. According to her Linkedin bio, Guidera’s bachelors of arts is from Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs (public policy), and her masters is in public policy from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Nevertheless, since she founded and operated a data collection organization, Guidera is cloaked in presumed credibility as a student data expert.

For those who are sketchy about founder Guidera and her DQC, allow me to offer information from several posts I have published between 2013 and 2017 concerning DQC, DQC’s controlling nonprofit, Education Trust, and her connection to Common Core and ubiqitous Gates funding, among other market-based, ed-reform connections. Then, readers can decide whether they believe “education consultant” Guidera to be more “data scientist” or just a well-funded, well-positioned data collector.

As for me, I’m going with “well-funded, well-positioned data collector.”

Below are excerpts from my first post, “Data Quality Campaign: Encouraging States to Ramp Up Data Collection” (November 12, 2013):

Corporate education reform is designed to turn profits for privatizers. That said, in corporate reform, there are two huge money makers that will “outprofit” all other profiteering: standardized testing, and data sales and storage.

The two are inextricable. Consider the mandates for state participation in Race to the Top (RTTT). In order to compete for RTTT funding, states were required to demonstrate both a standardized testing dependence and establishment of a “statewide longitudinal data system.”

While the federal government insists that reform is being driven “by the states,” it is clear that the USDOE is actively clearing the way for reforms that it supports, one of which is the collecting of an unprecedented amount of data on America’s school children. Consider US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s January 3, 2012, revision of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to include the definition of the term “educational program”:

Amend § 99.3 to define the term ‘‘education program’’ as any program principally engaged in the provision of education, including, but not limited to, early childhood education, elementary and secondary education, postsecondary education, special education, job training, career and technical education, and adult education… (Emphasis added)

This, my friends, is the open door for education companies to gain access to student data. It takes little imagination to conceive how such profit-driven companies might easily couch their financial motives in terms of accessing data “for the sake of the children.”

This brings me to the featured organization of this post: The reformer-run, data management nonprofit, Data Quality Campaign (DQC).

Created in 2005 by once-National Governors Association-affiliated Aimee Guidera, DQC is described as follows:

The Data Quality Campaign (DQC) is a national, collaborative effort to encourage and support state policymakers to improve the availability and use of high-quality education data to improve student achievement. The campaign will provide tools and resources that will help states implement and use longitudinal data systems, while providing a national forum for reducing duplication of effort and promoting greater coordination and consensus among the organizations focused on improving data quality, access and use. 

Where there is need for millions to fund massive education data collection, there is Bill Gates.

Up to the time of this writing, the Gates Foundation has funded DQC $12.7 million.

The following excerpts are from “Common Core, Aligned Curriculum, and Other NGA/Duncan-decided Issues” (November 24, 2013):

In this post, I would like to offer information on the beginnings of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and its interconnectedness with other so-called reforms. I refer to three documents (all linked below) from June 2008, June 2009, and June 2010.

At the June 2009 Hunt Institute and the National Governors Association (NGA) symposium focused on the allocation of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding, Duncan and the governors decide to focus on four areas for education reform:

1. Common standards

2. Teacher performance (value-added assessment)

3. “Turnaround” of “low performing” schools

4. Building data systems.

As for the importance of collecting data, Aimee Guidera, founder of the reform-dripping Data Quality Campaign, was present to offer her reform-friendly advice and services:

Whether connecting teacher performance data to teacher preparation programs as in Louisiana, or identifying schools that are likely to need turnaround support, quality data systems and the capacity to use them effectively are key to meeting all of the assurances of the ARRA. Aimee Guidera, executive director of the Data Quality Campaign, emphasized that governors need not start from scratch, but can draw upon successful state models. Collaboration among states, as well as interagency collaboration within individual states, is important as states continue thinking about P-20 data systems.

Next, excerpts from “Beware of Data Sharing Cheerleaders Offering Webinars” (January 2014):

Perhaps the most sobering component of the privatization push is its unprecedented demand for data collection (data “mining”) on American students. Data mining is not just an American issue. However, on the American front, two education activists have been at the forefront of the fight against this mammoth student data collection: Louisiana’s Jason France (here’s a great example of his writing on the subject) and New York’s Leonie Haimson (her is her testimony on student data/privacy issues in a September 2013 New York city council meeting).

(For those unfamiliar with the data mining issue, see this concise yet thorough summary on the WhatIsCommonCore blog.)

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan believes that there is “power” in data for “school reform”.

Indeed there is. The issue isn’t whether there is “power” in data collection and storage, and its potential sharing. There certainly is power. That is precisely why the public is wary of the federal push to develop statewide, longitudinal data systems.

The question is whether state and federal governments (and the privatizing interests nurtured by state and federal governments) should have control of over 400 data points per student.

As is true with any attempt to hand over the public to privatizing interests (i.e., the heart of corporate reform), the potential for exploitation abounds is this so-called “data storing/ data sharing” endeavor.

Those promoting the data collection want to assure those who will be subject to it that there is nothing to fear, that if handled properly, the mountains of data can only benefit those whose lives have been mined.

Enter the “reassuring” data sharing webinar. This is sponsored by the Education Writers Association (EWA):

Student Privacy: Lost in the Cloud?

Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014

3:30 p.m.


As more school districts share data with parents and teachers, privacy advocates warn that they run the risk of violating students’ privacy. How valid are such concerns? Should parental rights trump educators’ efforts to track students? What should the federal role be?

Our webinar will look at these issues, with a particular focus on how the rollout of assessments linked to the Common Core State Standards could affect student privacy. Speakers include:

Aimee Guidera, Data Quality Campaign

Joel Reidenberg, Fordham University

Jim Shelton, U.S. Department of Education

Ben Herold, Education Week (moderator)

Space is limited — register today! 

To those who would isolate the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) from other reforms: This webinar maintains that CCSS, its assessments, and resulting data collection are a package deal.

Furthermore, notice the wording: Should parental rights trump educators’ efforts to track students? 

Got that? It’s the educators who want to track the students!

Now, know that the term “educators” is the fashionable disguise to hide those with either zero or arguably cosmetic classroom experience but who have inserted themselves into key decision making positions in public education.

It isn’t the teachers and local administrators who want to collect hundreds of data points and store these in some “cloud.”

In our upside-down, corporate-reform-shaken world, educators also means education for-profits and education philanthropists.

Guess whose “education stuff” dollars are all over this webinar?

Yep. Bill. Gates.

irst of all, it was Gates money that funded the inBloom data “cloud.”

Next, the sponsor of the webinar, EWA, has taken $2.7 million in Gates money since 2003.

Third, the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) has taken $13.5 million in Gates money. (In November 2013, I wrote this post on Aimee Guidera and DQC. Enlightening reading.)

Fourth, USDOE Assistant Secretary for Innovation and Improvement Jim Shelton used to work for Gates as the Gates Foundation director of its education division. Shelton is also a partner with the charter-market-creating New Schools Venture Fund (a connection to Education Undersecretary nominee Ted Mitchell) AND was a senior management consultant for McKinsey and Company (former employer of Common Core “lead architect” David Coleman).

Fifth, Fordham University professor Joel Reidenberg and others conducted a study on privacy issues and “cloud computing”… funded by Microsoft.

No one on this panel will offer strong cautions against massive data collection. 

Incidentally, no one on this panel will be subject to having the likes of inBloom “store” hundreds of data points connected to their lives in some unregulated “cloud.”

And so it goes in the world of corporate reform: Those cheerleading and strategically devising ways to entice “voluntary” participation/agreement are themselves removed from the consequences of their own advice.

Still more excerpts, this time from “On the Serving Platter: The NEA-TeachPLus Partnership” (February 2014) concerning DRC controllong entity, Education Trust:

Education Trust and Its Nonprofit Spawn

Education Trust is a privatizing entity run by CEO Kati Haycock. As previously noted, Haycock promoted the NCLB concept of gauging education success based upon student test scores. Haycock pushes “school turn around,” but only for select schools.

Haycock’s Ed Trust is heavily Gates-funded. Since 2002, Gates has given Ed Trust $41.5 million.

Over half ($22.8 million) was for “general operating support.”

According to IRS forms 990, Ed Trust is the “direct controlling entity” for three other nonprofits: US Education Delivery InstituteEdinnovations, and the Data Quality Campaign.

Thus, the nonprofit Ed Trust controls three other nonprofits. Edinnovations is just a shell– no money yet. The US Education Delivery Institute is functional; it includes the following mission on its 2011 990:

The US Education Delivery Institute (EDI) is an innovative non-profit organization that focuses on implementing large-scale system change in public education. Our mission is to partner with K-12 and higher education systems with ambitious reform agendas and invest in their leaders capacity to deliver results. 

Kati Haycock is secretary/treasurer for EDI.

Gates has paid $7.1 million to EDI, with $3.2 million devoted to getting the organization started in April 2010.

Next is the more intriguing Data Quality Campaign (DQC).  Kati Haycock sits on its board as a “director.”

The mission of DCQ as stated on its 2011 990 is to “encourage” the collection of student data:

To encourage and support state policymakers to improve the availability and use of high quality education data to improve student achievement. 

Gates has paid DQC $12.7 million, with $2.3 million devoted to operating expenses.

Finally, my most recent post DQC-related, ed-reformer-interconnection post, “The Pahara Institute Proliferation of Corporate Ed Reformers” (March 2017):

In 2012, the Gates Foundation funded Pahara Institute $2 million “to support the Pahara Institute and its two leadership programs, the Pahara-Aspen Education Fellowship Program and a new emerging leaders program designed to accelerate the development of high potential emerging leaders of color.”

However, Pahara Institute’s primary “partner” is the Aspen Institute, also a major vehicle for advancing corporate education reform ideas. (I wrote a chapter about the Aspen Institute in my first book, A Chronicle of Echoes, including its history and mammoth annual event, the Aspen Ideas Festival.)

Note that the Gates Foundation is a major funder of the Aspen Institute (over $94 million since 2002), which, in turn, is the primary “partner” of Pahara Institute. However, the Aspen-Pahara fiscal connection becomes murky as Pahara Institute is not mentioned on the Aspen Institute tax form and vice-versa.

The first cohort of Pahara fellows (2007) included the following corporate ed reformers (bio links from main link above are rich with corp ed reform connections):

Russlyn Ali, Managing Director of Ed Fund, Emerson Collective

Chris Barbic, Founding (former) Superintendent, Tennessee Achievement District

Richard Barth, CEO, KIPP Foundation

Michael Bennet, US Senator (Colorado)

Susan Colby, Partner, McKinsey and Company

John Deasy, Former Los Angeles Superintendent, now with The Broad Center

Kaya Henderson, Former DC Chancellor

Jon Schnur, Co-leader, New Leaders for New Schools

Jim Shelton, Former Ed Program Director, Gates Foundation

Elisa Villanueva Beard, CEO of Teach for America

Some more Pahara fellows from other years:

Ben Austin, Founder, Parent Revolution (2014)

Tom Boasberg, Superintendent, Denver Public Schools (2013)

Chaka Booker, Managing Director, the Broad Center (2015)

Derrell Bradford, Exec. VP and Exec. Director, NYCAN, 50CAN (2016)

–Jean-Claude Brizard, Former CEO, Chicago Public Schools (2010)

Chris Cerf, Superintendent, Newark Public Schools (2016)

Deborah Gist, former Rhode Island Commissioner of Ed and current Superintendent, Tulsa Public Schools (2013)

Aimee Guidera, Founder and Exec. Director, Data Quality Campaign (2013)

Keri Hoyt, Chief Operating Officer, Success Academy Charter Schools (2014)

Shavar Jeffries, President, Democrats for Education Reform (2017)

Michael Johnston, Colorado State Senator (2013)

Neerav Kingsland, Former CEO, New Schools for New Orleans (2013)

Patricia Levesque, CEO/Exec. Director, Foundation for Excellence in Education (2013)

Marc Porter Magee, Founder, 50CAN (2014)

Deborah McGriff, Partner, NewSchools Venture Fund (2013)

Kira Orange-Jones, Executive Director of Teach for America, New Orleans (2010)

Dana Peterson, Deputy Superintendent, New Orleans Recovery School District (2013)

Margaret (Macke) Raymond, Founder and Director, CREDO (2017)

Caroline Roemer (Shirley), Exec. Director, La. Assn. of Public Charter Schools (2012)

Stefanie Sanford, Former Director at the Gates Foundation, now with The College Board (2011)

Laura Slover, CEO, PARCC (2013)

Andy Smarick, Partner, Bellwether Education, and Member, Maryland Board of Education (2010)

Preston Smith, Co-founder, Rocketship Education (2010)

Daniel Weisberg, CEO, The New Teacher Project (2016)

Aimee Guidera is an established, market-based ed reformer. Her degrees are removed from the K12 classroom. Her experience is also removed from the K12 classroom. Her professional history is as a Bill Gates prop for student data collection. She is connected to failed, test-score-driven education policies such a s No Child Left Behind and Common Core. She holds no degrees in data collection and analysis or statistics and research, but she is happy to push states to collect student data.

Guidera is no data scientist. She is a student data collection advocate. In her most recent gig (as of June 2018), she formed her own consulting business using a Minnesota residential address and declared herself president. Now, she is to be in charge of education in Virginia. (Guidera’s Linkedin bio has her operating out of Minnesota since 2017 at a residential address since 2018, but the residence is not a homestead according to Hennepin County tax records for 2020.)

Youngkin says Guidera as VA ed sec “removes politics from the classroom” and that “she understands that parents matter.” It sounds nice, but Guidera pushes for student data collection; she has taken millions in Gates funding via her DQC, and she is notably connected to Common Core– all of which are politically-loaded issues that have riled up parents in the past and not likely to make Guidera a favorite among Virginia parents.

Aimee Guidera
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