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Tied to Tech
March 21st, 2011

On Friday, Comptroller John Liu announced he would conduct audits of two Department of Education tech projects: the Achievement Reporting and Innovation System, popularly known as ARIS and the Innovation Zone or iZone, the department’s initiative to reshape city schools using on line learning and other technology, among other techniques. The announcement comes at time of increased scrutiny for all the Bloomberg administration technology projects, following the CityTime scandal, including those at the Department of Education.

The Department of Education hired IBM to develop the ARIS system to track student achievement in 2007, spending some $80 million on it. Last week, NY1 reported that many city schools had chosen to buy another system that they claim works better instead. Meanwhile the city is sticking with ARIS and plans on testing a new version of it this spring, Gotham Schools has reported.

Both the past and former chancellor have ties to ARIS The current chancellor, Cathie Black, sat on IBM’s board from 1995 until she stepped down to become chancellor late last year. Over the years, IBM paid Black $300,000 a year for the part-time job, according to the Post In addition to that, Black got a $3.3 million payout when she left the board.

Her predecessor, Joel Klein, now works as chief executive of the new education unit at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, reaping a base salary of $2 million and hundreds of thousands of dollars more in possible bonuses. (Like a baseball bonus baby, he also got a signing bonus, reportedly $1 million in cash.)

Shortly after Klein announced his move, News Corp. bought Wireless Generation, which led the development, of ARIS for the city and helped “roll out the system.” “We continue to work closely with the New York City Department of Education on ARIS,” the company’s web site http://www.wirelessgeneration.com/data-systems/arissays.

Klein championed development of ARIS during his tenure at Tweed. In November the education department said Klein would recuse himself from all dealings between his new employer and his forum one.

Well, as his new employer might say, we report, you decide.

As to the iZone, the proposed capital budget released by the Department of Education earlier this month boosts spending for technology enhancements while cutting new classroom construction. (For more on that budget, see Education Department Slashes Plans for Building More Schools.

“Despite the current fiscal constraints, the department will allocate significant funds towards initiatives that will enhance the current foundation and further embed the new technologies such as an online learning platform as well as next generation wireless in the instructional space,”‘ the budget says, adding a key challenge of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s third term is “making schools of the past into schools of today and putting children first. (Italics are the department’s.)

Critics though have argued the city has embarked on this program with little evidence that this kind of technology actually helps students learn — or in other words, puts children first.

By on March 21, 2011, 1:21 pm
In category: Education,Gotham City,Tech | 5 Comments »

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