Misdirected Evaluation and Intimidation in Wake County, North Carolina

In this post, I am going to attempt to address a number of issues related to the situation in Wake County where the school district adopted the Mathematics Vision Project (MVP).  The three main issues I hope to address have to do with the evaluation of the implementation of the Mathematics Vision Project (MVP), MVP’s lawsuit against a parent, and the parent voice in Wake County (as well as across the country).  And for good measure, or bad, I’m likely to hit on other issues.  I keep hearing, “It’s complicated,” being said about so many things.  While this whole situation may be complicated, it doesn’t have to be and it shouldn’t be.  Are the parents the only ones involved in this situation who have not lost sight of what’s important—the students, their education, and their future?

For more information see the linked articles and legal documents provided at the end of this post.

The Wake County Public School System (WCPSS or Wake County) adopted MVP as the math program to be used throughout the district.  WCPSS appears to be the fifteenth largest school district in the country so the adoption of this program impacts a lot of students.  In short, parents and students have expressed concerns in a variety of ways.  In response, the school board hired MGT of America Consulting, LLC (MGT) to conduct an evaluation.  MVP filed a defamation lawsuit against a Wake County parent.  For more detailed information see the links at the end of this post for articles and legal documents.

Evaluation of the Implementation

An August 6, 2019 article says this about the Wake County Board of Education:

The board voted Tuesday to have an outside company, MGT of America Consulting, review MVP math. The review will include classroom visits, analysis of student work, in-depth data review, and focus groups. The total cost of the project will not exceed $125,000.

This is misleading.  It indicates there will be a review of MVP math.  It isn’t the MVP math program that will be reviewed. 

The board did contract with MGT to conduct an evaluation.  The contract with MGT says:

MGT of America Consulting will work with district staff to do a comprehensive evaluation of implementation during the fall of 2019.  This evaluation will include classroom visits, staff interviews and student, parent and teacher focus groups.

MGT is not being tasked with evaluating MVP, which is a math curriculum/program.  The contract clearly states the evaluation will be of the implementation of MVP.  I think it is important to make a clear distinction between the program itself and its implementation. 

In my eyes, evaluating the implementation does not address the problem and the questions parents in Wake County are raising.  Decision makers often seem to blame poor implementation when problems arise and concerns are expressed.  That blame gives reason for doubling down on implementation efforts. 

What needs to be evaluated first is the concerns parents have about this program, why they have those concerns, and solutions they may propose.  What are their concerns?  What do they like and not like about the program?  What kind of math education would parents like for their kids?  What math program would they like to be used in their child’s math class?  What is it parents want?  What solutions would they propose if given a chance to have them really considered?  Could the proposed solutions be put in place?  If not, why?

It seems in Wake County’s case, an evaluation of parent and student concerns should take place.  Instead, an evaluation of the implementation of MVP is being conducted.  Why aren’t parent concerns being evaluated?  Why isn’t an evaluation of the MVP program being conducted?  It seems like that ought to come before evaluating the implementation.  If the program is not acceptable to parents, regardless of whether it is effective or not, I doubt it would make any difference to parents as to whether the program is implemented well or not.  And what if a program is not effective and is well implemented?  In this case, I see effectiveness as being subjective depending on which camp one is in and on this issue there seems to be two camps.  I would venture to say that each camp, and likely each individual, has their own effectiveness criteria.

From news accounts and a committee report, it appears WCPSS responded to formal complaints submitted by parents.  A letter from the district’s Chief Academic Advancement Officer says it is in response to “your complaint about the selection and implementation of the Mathematics Vision Project (MVP) curriculum.”  WCPSS established a curriculum review committee to review concerns, determine if any board policies were violated, and provide recommendations.  From the committee’s report, it appears the committee members were all district employees.  There is no evident indication the committee talked with, met with, or communicated with any of the parents who submitted formal complaints.  The committee may very well have addressed the submitted complaints but it is hard to tell without seeing the actual complaints.  Is it possible that parent concerns go beyond whether a board policy was violated?  While the committee reviewed the formal complaints, it does not appear any in-depth evaluation of parent concerns has taken place.

Evaluating the implementation seems to be an expensive endeavor to appease parents by trying to fool them into thinking the district is looking into things.

 

MVP’s Lawsuit against a Parent

I want to start with a quote that I hope people will give serious thought to.

“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”      Ben Franklin

On July 5, 2019, lawyers on behalf of MVP filed a lawsuit against Blain Dillard, a Wake County parent.

This lawsuit is extremely important for all parents across the country.  It needs to be taken seriously.  I question how seriously MVP was in filing suit.  I would hope someone filing suit would take the endeavor seriously enough to spell the defendant’s name correctly.  The complaint filed by MVP is against Blaine Dillard.  His name is not Blaine, it is Blain.  I would think in a legal document it would be important to get the name of the person you are suing spelled correctly.  I wonder if a grammatically concerned judge would dismiss the case on that count?  Is the misspelling of the defendant’s name an indication someone is SLAPP happy?

strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit that is intended to censorintimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.[1] Such lawsuits have been made illegal in many jurisdictions on the grounds that they impede freedom of speech.    From Wikipedea

Many states have anti-SLAPP laws.  It appears that Utah, home of MVP, has a weak anti-SLAPP law and North Carolina doesn’t have an anti-SLAPP law.  In the absence of a strong anti-SLAPP law is it okay to SLAPP someone?  Morally and ethically would someone end up with a red face?

I have heard many questions raised and comments about this lawsuit.  One question I have heard asked is who funded the development of MVP and is someone funding their lawsuit.  I just bet they aren’t raising funds on GoFundMe.

Is this a lawsuit about corporate rights to make a profit vs parental rights in directing the education of their children which may include expressing concerns in many forms and venues?  Starting in the 1800s, the court system gradually began viewing corporations as “people” with many of the same constitutional rights as individual citizens (See here and here).  Citizens United seems to be the most recent capstone.  Is it possible that this contributes to the boldness of corporations to file suits against parents for exercising their first amendment rights?  Are corporate interests to be protected at the cost of individual first amendment rights?

Tom Loveless, a former director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, replied to Sandy Joiner and Barry Garelick on a twitter post with this statement:

This is a first. In all my years of studying parent protests over curriculum, I have never heard of a publisher taking legal action against parents. MVP will not emerge from this looking good. Neither will the Wake County admin and school board.

I agree with Tom—no matter the outcome of the lawsuit, I do not think it will serve MVP well in the long run.  Is it possible they may have done more damage to themselves by filing this lawsuit than anything any parent may say or write about MVP?

Like Tom, I am not familiar with any publisher suing any parents.  I am familiar with lots of parent criticism of lots of math programs, but no related lawsuits.  The only thing close to this I have seen has to do with cease and desist letters being sent to some individuals on behalf of Istation.

Kieran Shanahan, an attorney representing Istation, has sent cease and desist notices to several critics of the new contract. In a statement Monday, Shanahan said those people are “misrepresenting Istation by making false, misleading and defamatory public statements” and are unfairly harming and maligning the company.

“Istation was legally and appropriately awarded the contract in North Carolina and has a proven record and reputation as an industry leader in early education assessments across the country,” Shanahan said. “The cease and desist notices provided are a lawful and appropriate starting point to end the misinformation, set the record straight, protect Istation’s interests, and let the state move forward.” 

The cease and desist letters are to people in a different part of the food chain than parents.  Links to more info and articles about this issue are provided at the end of the post.  One link includes copies of three of the letters.

On page 4, in item 28, and again on page 5, item 37, of MVP’s complaint (lawsuit document), MVP claims Dillard made statements with the intent to harm MVP.  They claim he knew statements were false.  Did he?  If the statements are in truth false, how does MVP know whether or not he knew they were false?  How does MVP know what his intent was?  Is it possible his real intent is to have a good solid math education provided to his kids and others in Wake County?  If MVP knows Dillard so intimately as to know his intent and whether he knows something is false or not, how come they don’t know how to spell his name?

Item 29, page 4, of the complaint reads:

29. The publication and/or public speaking of these statements harmed MVP. Part of MVP’s business involves submitting proposals for education-related contracts with private schools, public schools, school districts, government entities, and other entities. Dillard’s statements harmed MVP’s reputation as well as perceptions of the efficacy of the products and services that MVP provides. Upon information and belief, MVP has been unable to enter into contracts, and/or has not been invited to make proposals for contracts, and/or has been forced to enter contracts on compromised terms, and/or has been denied extensions on contracts, and/or has been forced to accept contract extensions on compromised terms, and/or has been unable to attract employees and/or consultants, and/or has been forced to invest more resources than otherwise would have been necessary to consummate a contract, and/or has otherwise been harmed.

I would like to think that a great program will stand on its own merits and those merits would override and rise above any criticism or possible falsehoods made of the program.  Could it be that by filing this lawsuit, MVP has harmed itself to a greater degree than the possible harm of a parent’s statements?  At this point, if harm has been done, how would one ferret out whether the harm, or how much harm, is caused by MVP’s own actions or by the statements of a parent?  If harm is caused by MVP’s own actions, would they sue themselves?

Since harm is at issue here, let’s ponder a bit.  Suppose MVP has been harmed.  Suppose they prevail with their lawsuit.  Where is the greater harm?  The supposed harm to MVP?  Or the harm to the willingness of parents to speak out in the interest of their children’s education?  Will parents not speak out and express themselves out of fear of being sued?  Could the outcome of this lawsuit open the door for corporations to completely shut down the Parent Voice?

It appears that MVP posted Clarifications Regarding Our Work in Wake County on their website around September 20, 2019.  One could argue that this is damage control.  While a link to their lawsuit  is provided, I found it interesting that no mention was made or links provided for the Answer and Counterclaim and Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings documents.  Those documents are well worth reading, especially the Motion for Judgment. Does the counterclaim make a good case that MVP hasn’t proven harm?   Those documents were filed on behalf of Blain Dillard on September 9, 2019.  MVP’s Clarifications post spells his name Blaine.  Is the misspelling intentional?  Is the intentional misspelling of a name a form of microaggression?  An adult bullying tactic?  We may never know, but the “e”, or lack of, is interesting.

MVP does state in their Clarification post they are a five-person organization and not a big corporate publisher.  Even though it is small, MVP is an LLC which shields its members from personal liability.  Is an individual parent shielded from personal liability?  And while MVP may be a small, five member LLC, its website says it has partnered with Open Up Resources.  MVP does not seem to list any funders or supporters but Open Up Resources lists their Philanthropic Supporters as Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.

I wonder about a lot of things related to this whole situation.  I wonder…  Did MVP have a conversation with the parent about his concerns and claims before filing their lawsuit?  Or was it a nonversation?  If a conversation did take place, how come we haven’t heard about it?  How come we haven’t heard of any efforts to resolve this prior to the lawsuit being filed?  Lots of parents speak out critically, even with false claims possibly, about their kid’s teachers.  Ever hear of a teacher suing a parent for defamation?  I am not aware of any cases but I can imagine it has happened.  I wonder… Are there reasonable steps one might take in advance of filing suit that render a suit unnecessary?

One last comment related to that “e”.  Failure to use one’s preferred gender pronoun seems to become a civil or human rights issue these days.  What about the addition of an “e” to a person’s name?

Does this lawsuit subdue the freeness of speech?

 

For Parents and the Parent Voice

Here’s another quote.  This one is for parents all across the country.

“Make yourself sheep and the wolves will eat you.”      Ben Franklin

It appears the situation in Wake County is a part of the most recent phase of on going Math Wars.  To learn more about the Math Wars, I recommend reading two documents.  The documents are lengthy and informative.  Math Wars, by Alan H. Schoenfeld, is from the perspective of the progressive reform math camp and A quarter century of US ‘math wars’ and political partisanship by David Klein is more from the perspective of an explicit math instruction camp.

While it has been reported that the WCPSS received formal complaints from 16 parents, that’s just the formal complaints.  It is my understanding there’s more than 1400 Wake County parents with concerns enough to connect with each other.

Parents, take responsibility for your child’s education.  That includes math.  If you have concerns about or find the program being used is not satisfactory to you, teach your child math at home, single subject home school if allowed by your district and state, hire a tutor, or enroll in a tutoring or learning center.  If your child receives help outside school, you may want to consider opting out of assessments.  If your child scores well on assessments the school and others will credit it to the school program without considering the outside help. 

It appears Wake County has school choice options.  It would be nice if parents/students had a math program choice:  a progressive reform math program or a more traditional explicit example based instructional program.  In a district as a large as Wake County, that could work.  If they say they can’t do this, would it be because they are unable or unwilling?

Are Wake County parents up for the challenge of identifying potential candidates and supporting them in successful campaigns for the Wake County Board of Education.

The education system is supposed to work for parents and the community.  When will that system start listening to the parent voice?  What will have to happen to get the system to listen and act based on the parent voice?  And parents, are you willing to be a part of the parent voice?  Are you willing to take back control over your child’s education?  Are you willing to be a part of the rebellion it will take to regain local control?

 

Links to Related Articles and Information

Sites for Wake County Parents and Other Interested Parties

Wake County Parent Page   Website

Wake MVP Parent   Blog

Parents of MVP Math Students in WCPSS   Facebook Closed group

Parent Rights for All   Website by friends and supporters of Blain Dillard

Wake County Math Parent Legal Defense Fund   Go Fund Me

 

MVP lawsuit documents

MATHEMATICS VISION PROJECT, LLC, a Utah Limited Liability Company Plaintif, v. Blaine Dillard, an individual, Defendant   July 25, 2019

Answer and Counterclaim   Sept. 9, 2019

Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings   Sept. 9, 2019

 

News articles or posts

Clarifications Regarding Our Work in Wake County   c. Sept. 20, 2019 on MVP’s website

Meet Open Up Resources: partner to MVP math and funded by Bill Gates.   Sept. 19, 2019

A Few Facebook Comments—Abusive Litigation at its Worst   Sept. 15, 2019

Parent Who Criticized His Son’s Math Program Is Sued By Curriculum Company   Sept. 12, 2019

#WCPSS Updates: MVP Math, Reassignment plan, Restart Status and a Brain Drain   August 10, 2019

The Accidental Advocate   August 9, 2019

Wake school board stands by MVP math review, says it did not violate law, rules or policy   August 6, 2019

Common Core Math Publisher Sues Parent for Opposing Curriculum   August 6, 2019

Is An Education-World War Coming?   August 1, 2019

Dad wants Wake schools to drop this math program. Now he’s being sued by the company.   July 30, 2019

Wake Schools parent sued after criticizing math curriculum   July 30, 2019

MVP math suing Wake County parent for ‘libel and slander’ after he criticized program   July 30, 2019   updated July 30, 2019

After parent complaints, Wake will review panel that backs controversial math program   July 17, 2019

Wake school board to respond to parent’s MVP math appeal next month   July 17, 2019

WCPSS Mathematics Vision Project Curriculum Review Committee Report   June 18, 2019

WCPSS review committee backs controversial math curriculum amid protests   June 18, 2019

Wake schools to continue using controversial math program, but with ‘changes and improvements’   June 7, 2019

 Wake won’t drop controversial math curriculum but will make some changes   June 7, 2019

As some teachers defend controversial math curriculum, critics say it’s causing anxiety, PTSD   May 10, 2019

A Rising Parent Voice Gains Attention   April 29, 2019

Stop the coverup.’ Wake County parents and students protest new MVP math curriculum.   April 23, 2019

Nation’s 16th Biggest District Spends More Than a Million to Implement “Free” Discovery High School Mathematics Curriculum   March 21, 20

 

Related to Cease and Desist Letters

Why are parents and educators calling for an investigation of Istation pick?   July 19, 2019

Records show NC superintendent bypassed committee to award $8.3 million state contract   July 15, 2019

Company awarded K-3 reading contract sends cease and desist letters ‘to end the misinformation’   July 15, 2019   updated July 16, 2019   includes copies of three cease and desist letters

Cease & Desist Letters and a “Whistle-Blower” – This iStation Thing is Getting Murkier By The Minute   July 15, 2019

After outcry from educators, NC will delay use of computer-based reading test   June 28, 2019

 

Cross-post.

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UW College of Education: Immersion in Doctrinaire Social Justice Activism

A friend sent me a link to an article back in April.  While I found the article alarming, it didn’t really surprise me.  I knew things were bad at the University of Washington College of Education but I didn’t realize things were as bad as this person presents it.  The article, What They Don’t Teach You at the University of Washington’s Ed School, is well worth the read.  Be sure to take a look at some of the many comments.

The article was penned under the pseudonym Nick Wilson.  I was glad to see he did not have this published under his real name.  If he had, he likely would have been crucified and run out of the program with the possibility of never landing a teaching job.  I commend this person for exposing this.  Will anyone pay attention to what is going on?  Probably not but I hope so.

Initially, I wanted to immediately do a post about this article.  I ended up sitting on it with concerns about whether or not this is really taking place.  If it is taking place, I wondered how the University of Washington (UW) College of Education is spinning and promoting this kind of program so I went to their website.  A link on this site led me to a page called WATCH: Preparing asset-based equity oriented teachers where I found the video provided at the end of this post.  I recommend watching this video all the way through.  In my eyes, the video confirms the information about what this author says took place in his teacher preparation program.  You can’t make this stuff up.

Nick writes about his experience in the Secondary Teacher Education Program (STEP) at UW.  Hopefully, you have or will read his article.  In the event you haven’t, here are some excerpts from it.

2 teacha

Photo by dave at Morguefile.com http://www.opticgroove.com.au

Cognizant that in just over a year I would be responsible for teaching students on my own, and because of the university’s laudable reputation, I expected the program to be grounded in challenging practical work and research, both in terms of how to develop academic skills in young people, and also in the crucial role public education has in overcoming some of the most grave and intransigent problems in society.
—–
But whenever family and friends ask me about graduate school, I have to explain that rather than an academic program centered around pedagogy and public policy, STEP is a 12-month immersion in doctrinaire social justice activism.
—–
Moreover, instead of imparting knowledge about the rudiments of pedagogy or how to develop curriculum content and plan for high school classes, the faculty and leadership declare that their essential mission is to combat the colonialism, misogyny and homophobia that is endemic in American society.

Does that alarm you?  What a mission for a teacher preparation program.  Whatever happened to preparing teachers to provide all students with a classical education?  Who determined this direction?  Did parents ask for their kids’ teachers to be prepared this way at UW?  Did the state direct the UW to go in this direction?  How long will it be before school districts are openly looking for teacher candidates who are prepared to “combat the colonialism, misogyny and homophobia that is endemic in American society?”

This set me off on a mission to find what the actual missions say.  I wanted to see if UW’s mission and that of the College of Education support and promote the kinds of things taking place in STEP as portrayed in the article.  I found a webpage for the Role and Mission of the University.  I jumped for joy at reading this:

The primary mission of the University of Washington is the preservation, advancement, and dissemination of knowledge.

And then I went into a slump as I read further.  Additional information about the role of the university opens the door wide for the College’s mission and direction it is heading in.  The College of Education’s mission statement reads:

“As a public college of education, we strive to transform inequitable systems of education to create just, sustainable, and culturally-thriving democracies by engaging in dynamic, collaborative partnerships, practices, and research.”

The Statement on the College’s mission supports, promotes, and gives justification to the direction the College has taken with STEP.  It reads like a political statement.

Lots of times people don’t pay attention to mission statements and don’t see them as being important.  When you really look at them, you may find they really set the direction for the organization or institution.  Okay, enough on mission statements.  Back to excerpts from the article.

STEP’s relentless assumption is that group identity is the most important determinant of success or failure in public education and in civic life, and that all inequality can be attributed to discrimination, conscious or unconscious, perpetrated primarily by straight white men and other reactionary elements.

—–

1 bully

Photo by abbeyburnstein at Morguefile.com

When I pressed the TA to show me the evidence that this was an effective method, I was told that these workshops are “considered valuable” and that I should “work through” my “discomfort.” Obviously, no evidence for their efficacy was ever presented.

 

 
Is “considered valuable” a synonym for evidence-based?  Are you surprised they didn’t say “research shows” these workshops are “considered valuable?”  Who are these workshops valuable for?  The people conducting them?

These kinds of ridiculous juvenile tasks and restrictions, put on by professors with little work experience outside K-12 education, make a mockery of graduate school and remind you of the worst teachers you had growing up. I suppose they had one redeeming virtue: they teach you exactly how not to behave in a classroom.

“They teach you exactly how not to behave in a classroom.”  Only if one’s crap detector is similarly calibrated.  What about those impressionable students in the program that enthusiastically drank the Kool-Aid poured by those gurus on high they worshiped?  Will they go out and behave and teach in the same manner that was modeled for them in graduate school?

The program does have some elements of practical merit. A few sessions on how to create academic assessments for students were engaging and useful. I took two social studies methods classes and found them to be excellent. These classes teach you what methods to use to engage students in critical thinking and historical debate.

4 dogs

Photo by MMAARRSS at Morguefile.com

One commenter using the name Nick Podmore says:

It is quite clear from your writing that you have deeply internalised and socialised misogynistic, racist, homophobic, trans-phobic, Islamophobic beliefs forced on you by generations of deeply oppressive white patriarchal dominance which prevents you from seeing clearly and achieving enlightenment that would lead to greater social harmony as we all acknowledge our failings and take our rightful place within the correct social groupings ans structures.

Apparently, you can make this stuff up.  Mr. Podmore signs off as “The Dean, University of Washington, STEPS.”  A search does not turn up any dean at the UW named Nick Podmore.  Mia Tuan is the dean of the UW College of Education.  In the day of self-identification, Nick has dubbed himself as dean.  Surely, he has gone through the caucuses in this program and is open to and accepting of others having different viewpoints (snark alert).  I wonder, will the bank honor my request for a large withdrawal of funds if I self-identify as Bill Gates?

What can or should we make of all of this?  If it isn’t happening already, should we expect to see a shift in our public schools from providing an academic education to being social justice incubators?  For years now it seems our public schools have been saddled with the responsibility of solving of our society.  Will this approach be a viable solution?  Or will it make things worse?  After reading the College’s Statement, this article and viewing the video below, I wonder if this approach is going to stop hate speech, hostility, bullying, and harassment?  Or will it give justification for these to be used by those promoting such an approach?  Will this approach lead to sustainable, just, equitable, and culturally-thriving democracies?

Here’s the video.

Live conversation with Manka Varghese, Caryn Park and Julia Daniels

Here’s the info provided on Youtube about the video:

Manka Varghese, associate professor of education at the University of Washington, and UW College of Education alumni and Antioch University Seattle faculty members Caryn Park (PhD ’10) and Julia Daniels (PhD ‘18) discuss their new article on preparing asset-based, equity oriented teachers in a special issue of Teachers College Record. Read more about their article “Structuring Disruption Within University-Based Teacher Education Programs: Possibilities and Challenges of Race-Based Caucuses,” which draws from their work over the last several years in the UW’s elementary teacher education program, at http://www.tcrecord.org/library/abstract.asp?contentid=22738

 

P1060797

Photo by JR Wilson

It may clearly be black and white but it is still a lot of bull.

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Parent Voice: Persistence

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About Trump’s Education Policy

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Who Knows? Who Decides? Who Decides Who Decides?

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Repeal, Revise, Replace, Rebrand, Update, or Unique?

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Issues related to and surrounding the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are controversial and “toxic” (as Mike Huckabee put it) for many people both in and outside of education, including decision-makers.  Rather than truly replacing the CCSS, some states have … Continue reading

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Pearson: Profitable Disruptions of Education System

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I recently received a link to a report about Pearson.  Prior to reading it I thought the report was produced by Pearson and would be promoting and justifying their plans for taking over education around the globe.  How wrong I … Continue reading

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