Feb 11, 2016
ELW

New Details on the Dangerous Social Emotional Research in SETRA

Karen R. Effrem, MD – President

Although there are several major problems with the reauthorization of the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA) now called The Strengthening Research Through Education Act (S 227, SETRA), the most pressing and concerning is the expansion of federal education research to psychologically profile our children beginning in preschool:

Section 132 of the bill (page 28, line 16-21) inserts the following:
“and which may include research on social and emotional learning, and the acquisition of competencies and skills, including the ability to think critically, solve complex problems, evaluate evidence, and communicate effectively…” (Emphasis added).
Here are more of the many concerns:

1)      Lack of Constitutionality - The federal government has no constitutional authority (Tenth Amendment) to be involved in education, much less doing research and collecting data on the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of our innocent children.  The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution says:

The right of the people to be secure in their personshouses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” (Emphasis added).

Having the federal government sanction and fund psychological profiling of children is the worst kind of privacy invasion.

2)      Subjectivity These parameters are admitted even by experts in the field to be extraordinarily subjective and difficult to define and measure.  There is still no agreement about their meaning or even their selection over a period of ten years:

Challenges Involved in Infant and Early Childhood Diagnosis
 ”Diagnostic classifications for infancy are still being developed and validated…”
“Lack of longitudinal outcome studies”
“Broad parameters for determining socioemotional outcomes are not clearly defined” (National Center for Infant and Early Childhood Health Policy Addressing Social Emotional Development and Infant Mental Health in Early Childhood Systems 2005 (Emphasis added)
Engage the Community in Collectively Defining SEL Standards
The process of collectively defining standards provides a great way to address the first two pitfalls. Developing collective standards and engaging all stakeholders in the process of constructing the standard help to ensure that everyone understands and supports the implementation of the learning standards.  - Social and Emotional Learning Research Review: Avoiding Pitfalls 12/1/2015
Here are some quotes from leading researchers in the field cautioning against using these measures for accountability reported by Education Week:
Or, as researchers Angela Duckworth and David Yeager put it in a May essay ”perfectly unbiased, unfakeable, and error-free measures are an ideal, not a reality…”
“…Current data and theory suggest schools that promote personal qualities most–and raise the standards by which students and teachers at that school make comparative judgments–may show the lowest scores and be punished, whereas schools that are least effective may receive the highest scores and be rewarded for ineffectiveness,” they wrote.
This is analogous to the difficulty of making accurate diagnoses and predictions in the realm of psychiatry, and especially in child psychiatry:
At present, most psychiatric disorders lack validated diagnostic biomarkers, and although considerable advances are being made in the arena of neurobiology, psychiatric diagnoses are still mostly based on clinician assessment.‖ (Jeste, D (President of the American Psychiatric Association) The New DSM Reaches the Finish Line Huffington Post 12/11/12.
Childhood and adolescence being developmental phases, it is difficult to draw clear boundaries between phenomena that are part of normal development and others that are abnormal.‖ (World Health Organization (2001) World Health Report)
To then have highly sensitive information collected under extremely subjective criteria be in a child’s lifelong academic record affecting grade advancement, special education referrals, college entrance and future employment is completely unacceptable.
3)      Horrific Data Security in the US Department of Education The US House Oversight and Government Accountability Committee chaired by Rep. Jason Chaffetz has held two hearings dealing with the deplorable state of student data security in the US Department of Education.  Here are some of their findings (emphasis added):
  • The Committee learned at the November 17, 2015 hearing that the US Department of Education:
Holds 139 million unique Social Security numbers;
Continues to be “vulnerable to security threats” according to the IG, and has repeat findings in annually-required FISMA  audits;
Failed to detect a penetration test of its systems conducted by the IG during its FY2015 FISMA audits [Federal Information Modernization Security Act];

Received an “F” on the Committee’s FITARA scorecard [Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act] .
The Department of Education’s (ED) Chief Information Officer (CIO) Danny Harris received substantial bonuses despite poor performance in securing IT systems at the Agency and significant ethical lapses in judgment.
o Despite the IG’s evidence to the contrary, Acting Secretary King asserted that Mr. Harris did not violate any law, regulation, policy, or standard of ethical conduct.
o Mr. Harris testified his home theatre installation and car detailing activities were “hobbies” and not businesses. The IG testified that these activities qualified as businesses.
It was in excess of two years before ED responded to the IG’s initial report of findings and referral for administrative action.
o The Department of Justice (DOJ) declined to prosecute the IG’s criminal referral and deferred to ED leadership for action. Acting Sec. King deemed verbal counseling and a three-page ethics guidance letter as appropriate consequences.
Does anyone really want psychosocial research and assessment results housed in the US Department of Education under these circumstances?
4)     Dangerously weak and gutted Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) After the Obama administration’s regulatory hatchet job on the already weak data protection efforts of FERPA, there was an entire section of FERPA regulations that allow sharing of student data without parental consent. (See the Formal Response to the Chief State School Officers’ Letter on Student Data Privacy for details). To then have sensitive and subjective socioemotional data gained by research or assessments such as is the plan with Common Core assessments PARCC and SBAC is extremely concerning:
“Comply with and where applicable coordinate with the ED staff to fulfill the program requirements established in the RTTA Notice Inviting Applications and the conditions on the grant award, as well as to this agreement,including, but not limited to working with the Department to develop a strategy to make student – level [individual] data that results from the assessment system available on an ongoing basis for research, including for prospective linking, validity, and program improvement studies; subject to applicable privacy laws” (Emphasis added)

5)      Consent Issues -
If curriculum and assessments are used to gather this data, will the consent requirements for this socioemotional research be circumvented by that loophole in Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA)? PPRA, cited in section 82 as 20 USC 1232h, prohibits the collection of psychological, political, religious, and other sensitive data in surveys, however, the law says that these prohibitions do not apply to “curriculum and instructional materials” or to “tests and assessments,” such as those required to be aligned to Common Core in most states.
Here are a few statements from the US Department of Education and other major national education groups showing that a major purpose for Common Core curriculum and assessments, which are still required in a vast majority of the United States, is clearly psychosocial:
  • “In national policy, there is increasing attention on 21st-century competencies (which encompass arange of noncognitive factors, including grit), and persistence is now part of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.” (US Office of Educational Technology -emphasis added.)
  • ASCA [American School Counselors Association] Mindsets & Behaviors align with specific standards from the Common Core State Standards through connections at the competency level. (Emphasis added)”
  • “[A]s new assessment systems are developed to reflect the new standards in English language arts, mathematics, and science, significant attention will need to be given to the design of tasks and situations that call on students to apply a range of 21st century competencies that are relevant to each discipline. A sustained program of research and development will be required to create assessments that are capable of measuring cognitive, intrapersonal, and interpersonal skills.” (US Office of Educational Technology-emphasis added.)
  • “There are important opportunities to leverage new and emerging advances in technology (e.g.,educational data mining, affective computing, online resources, tools for teachers) to develop unprecedented approaches for a wide range of students.” (US Office of Educational Technology -emphasis added.)
This type of research should not be done at all, especially under these potentially very questionable consent scenarios.

For these and many other reasons, please continue to contact your US House member at 202-224-3121 to let them know of the dangers of this bill. Please let them know that not objecting to an unrecorded voice vote or voting yes in a recorded vote will be considered allowing federally sanctioned psychological profiling and invasion of your children.

Jan 21, 2016
ELW

The Pulse 2016 Publishes Effrem Review of Bush Education Plan

Thanks to the Pulse 2016 that published Dr. Effrem’s latest article, a review of Jeb Bush’s education plan titled: Six Reasons Jeb’s Plan Fails to End Federal Tyranny in Education.  Here is the introduction and list of concerns:

Former Florida Governor and presidential candidate Jeb Bush released his education plan on January 18th.  In it, he tries hard to sound like he cares about and supports local control and parental autonomy. In fact, the document, on pre-K through grade 12 issues, is merely a kinder, gentler form of federal tyranny that continues unconstitutional government involvement in pre-K, high stakes testing, data mining, and K-12 education in general. The plan fails on multiple important fronts:

Federal Involvement in Education

Preschool

Title I and IDEA Portability

Data Collection and Data Privacy

Promotion of Charter Schools

Continued Dependence on a Flawed High Stakes System

Please read and share!

Jan 7, 2016
ELW

Education Liberty Watch Comments on Federal “Family Engagement” Policy

Detailed comments were submitted by Dr. Karen Effrem on January 4th in response to the US Departments of Health ad Human Services and Education’s Orwellian Family Engagement Policy Framework. The full document is available here: Family Engagement Policy Comments.  A summary of the four main points of contention are as follows:

  1. Parents are not just “equal partners,” they “own the store” when it comes to raising their children – Although the document says on page one that “Families are children’s first and most important teachers, advocates, and nurturers” on page 1, it does not clearly set forth the preeminent role of parents in the education and upbringing of their children.  Based on Pierce vs. Society of Sisters, Troxel vs Granville, and Meyers vs. Nebraska to name a few seminal Supreme Court decisions that have affirmed the constitutional right of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children, the pervasive language in this document that parents are mere partners with government or that government programs are to perform “parenting interventions” is extremely disturbing and unacceptable.
  2. Promotion of government home visiting programs – Based on this agency’s own research, these programs are extraordinarily ineffective in two of the major areas that they are alleged to help:

    Prevention of Child Maltreatment:  For primary measures in the studies reviewed where there was data listed, only 15/75 parameters (20%) showed a positive effect while 60/75 parameters (80%) showed no effect and there were many programs not studied.
    Child Development and School Readiness:  For primary measures in the studies reviewed where there was data listed, only 77/448 parameters (17%) showed a positive effect while 362/448 parameters (82%) showed no effect, 3/448 parameters (1%) showed a negative or ambiguous effect, and there were many programs not studied.

  3. Focus on social emotional parameters and data for young children – It is the epitome of destruction of parental autonomy to have the federal government via any agency tamper with, manipulate, set norms for, or otherwise deal with anything in this realm.  Psychiatric diagnosis and social emotional parameters are extremely subjective to begin with and are especially difficult to use for young children in particular. Having data and evaluations of these subjective and inaccurate parameters in children’s records that follow them for life is extraordinarily problematic.
  4. Data Privacy – The draft document is replete with references to expand data collection such as this recommendation on page 9: “Develop and integrate family engagement indicators into existing data systems.” Students, families, and teachers whose sensitive personal and family data about everything from “social and emotional” issues to genetic data in newborn screening is collected and shared between many federal agencies and private entities. According to an investigation by Politico, education technology companies are “scooping up as many as 10 million unique data points on each child, each day.”  FERPA has been severely weakened via regulatory fiat to gut consent requirements and broaden access to data by federal agencies and private entities.  Given both the extent and sensitivity of the data that would need to be collected, the spectacular failure of the federal government to protect citizen data (Healthcare.gov, OPM and NSA data breaches), and the complete absence of the word “consent” in this document, this kind of data collection should be eliminated, not expanded

 

Jan 5, 2016
ELW

SETRA – The Federal Data Mining & Psychological Profiling Bill Returns

ACTION ALERT! THIS BILL CAN COME UP ANY TIME! Like the zombie movie character Freddie Krueger that refused to die, the federal psychological profiling and data mining bill, Strengthening Education Through Research (SETRA, S. 227) has been resurrected by Senator Lamar Alexander and it Big Data backers .  This bill that you helped us stop in February was rammed through by Senator Alexander on a voice vote after ESSA and the omnibus budget passed right before the holidays.  It expands psychological research on school children, strengthens state longitudinal databases that are or soon will be linked into the prohibited national student database and contains other privacy horrors.

Thanks to American Principles Project and the Pulse 2016 for publishing Dr. Effrem’s article on this very important topic excerpted here:

Here is a recap and update of what we wrote earlier about the extremely serious problems with SETRA:
SETRA reauthorizes the 2002 Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA) that has been very problematic, because it started the concept of state longitudinal databases, evaded the prohibition on a national database by creating “national cooperative education statistics systems,”  allowed personally identifiable information to go to international agencies, and removed the  previous penalties of fines and imprisonment for misusing individual student data. SETRA continues or worsens all of that. Here are four major problems with SETRA (A detailed analysis of these points is available HERE):
1. SETRA seeks to expand federal psychological profiling of our children.
Section 132 of the bill (page 28, line 16-21) inserts the following:
“and which may include research on social and emotional learning, and the acquisition of competencies and skills, including the ability to think critically, solve complex problems, evaluate evidence, and communicate effectively…” (Emphasis added).
The US Department of Education (USED) is already in flagrant violation of the Tenth Amendment.  The amount of data collected on individual children, families, and teachers via USED through this law and the weakening . . .  of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) . . .  is appalling and [violates] the Fourth Amendment as well.  To then give the federal government the right to research the thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and behaviors of free American citizens, especially innocent children, is completely unacceptable . . . .
2. SETRA only appears to prohibit a national database, but actually promotes it.
Section 157 of the bill takes out the word “national” and ostensibly prohibits a national database. While this appears to be an improvement, it unfortunately doesn’t do anything to stop the egregious loss of privacy that has happened since ESRA established the “national cooperative statistics systems” and “state longitudinal databases” in 2002.  These databases have become more invasive via The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, Stimulus), Race to the Top, and the America COMPETES Act.  In addition, they are relying on outdated and weak student privacy laws (FERPA and PPRA), there is no enforcement mechanism, and we have seen how the federal government repeatedly and flagrantly violates its promises not to extend its authority, as with Race to the Top, Common Core, and the national tests.
3. The bill continues to rely on a severely outdated and weakened Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
(FERPA) to protect student privacy.Both ESRA and SETRA refer to FERPA (20 USC 1232g) . . .  and require data privacy to be handled according to that law.  However, FERPA passed in 1974 long before the presence of interoperable databases and cloud computing.  It also only discusses sanctions on entities that mishandle the data and those [sanctions], which used to include fines and imprisonment, were severely weakened when ESRA was passed in 2002.  Students, families, and teachers whose sensitive personal and family data about everything from “social and emotional” issues to genetic data in newborn screening data have no redress.  According to an investigation by Politico, education technology companies are “scooping up as many as 10 million unique data points on each child, each day.” (Emphasis added) Finally, FERPA has been severely weakened via regulatory fiat to gut consent requirements and broaden access to data by federal agencies and private entities.
4. SETRA continues the large loophole that renders PPRA ineffective in preventing nosy social questions in curriculum and assessments.
PPRA, cited in section 182 as 20 USC 1232h, prohibits the collection of psychological, political, religious, and other sensitive data in surveys, but not in curriculum and assessments such as in Common Core.
In addition to the Rep. Tim Ryan’s gushing admission during ESSA floor debate, here is another of many pieces of evidence that a key purpose of the Common Core standards and aligned assessments is to psychologically manipulate and profile our children:
“ASCA [American School Counselors AssociationMindsets & Behaviors align with specific standards from the Common Core State Standards through connections at the competency level. (Emphasis added)”
SETRA is not listed on the House of Representatives schedule for the week of January 4th, but will likely come up very soon, probably on the consent calendar. Fortunately, if only one House member objects and calls for a recorded vote, we’ll see who in the House believes in the psychological invasion of our children. Please call your House member at 202-224-3121 and ask him or her to object to SETRA if it appears on the consent calendar. It should be removed from the consent calendar and, at the very least, the social emotional research language should be removed via amendment.  If it is to be passed regardless of these serious objections, it must be done via a recorded vote. Any politician who supports exposing our children’s psyches to the federal government should at least have to do so in the light of day.
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