Jun 29, 2015

Student Psychological Profiling in Federal Education Legislation, Testing, & Policy

Karen R. Effrem, MD – President of Education Liberty Watch & Executive Director of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition

Uncle Sam is lately wearing a white coat and placing American students on the psychiatrist’s couch. The number of federal education bills, tests, programs and other policies promoting indoctrination and assessment of affective attitudes, beliefs, “mindsets,” “non-cognitive skills” and other non-academic traits is rapidly and alarmingly proliferating.  Here are the most recent and very concerning examples:

1)      The Every Child Achieves Act (S 1177) – This is the 792 page Senate version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization.  Some of the many examples of federal expansion of mental health screening in the schools include:

Training teachers who are not mental health professionals to mentally screen student

Doing special education (IDEA)-style behavioral monitoring and intervention school-wide without delineation between observation, suggestion, and treatment nor clear methods of parental consent and privacy protection for behavioral information.

The federal government is promoting the concept that schools taking on the functions of families and physicians by paying for schools to provide mental health care
They are even putting mental health in physical education

2)      The Student Success Act (HR 5) – The House version of the ESEA/NCLB reauthorization expands affective testing by omission instead of commission and also continues mental health programs for certain groups:

The rewrite of the section that discusses state standards, assessments and accountability leaves out the key protection that prohibits the federally mandated state tests that “evaluate or assess personal or family beliefs and attitudes.”  This was one of the few good pieces of language in No Child Left Behind.
Title I funding includes funding for coordination of all sorts of health and social services, including mental health.

3)      The Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA – S 227)

The Senate reauthorization bill for the Institute for Education Sciences (IES) that houses the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the National Assessment of Educational Progress also plans to allow “research on social emotional learning.” (See Section 132)  The 2002 reauthorization of this bill gave us the scourge of the state longitudinal databases and was extremely problematic at the time.

4)      Measuring Psychological Variables in the NAEP

Education Week reports that The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) intends to start collecting affective survey data on students who take the test in 2017:

“The nation’s premiere federal testing program is poised to provide a critical window into how students’ motivation, mindset, and grit can affect their learning… The background survey will include five core areas—grit, desire for learning, school climate, technology use, and socioeconomic status—of which the first two focus on a student’s noncognitive skills, and the third looks at noncognitive factors in the school. These core areas would be part of the background survey for all NAEP test-takers. In addition, questions about other noncognitive factors, such as self-efficacy and personal achievement goals, may be included…”

5)      A summary of the grant proposals in the preschool version of Race to the Top, called the Early Learning Challenge, had various states boasting about how they would profile and monitor our babies:

“California will offer additional provider training in assessing social – emotional learning and ensure greater access to developmental and behavioral screenings.”

“The state’s (Minnesota) existing birth-to-five child development standards will be aligned with K-12 standards, which will be expanded to include non-academic developmental domains for children ages five to 12.”

6)      A Federal  Register notice of a grant program called the Middle Grades Longitudinal Study is described and seeks to add social emotional assessment:

Title of Collection: Middle Grades Longitudinal Study of 2016-2017 (MGLS:2017) Item Validation and Operational Field Tests.

Abstract: The Middle Grades Longitudinal Study of 2016-2017 (MGLS:2017) is the first study sponsored by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education (ED), to follow a nationally-representative sample of students as they enter and move through the middle grades (grades 6-8). The data collected through repeated measures of key constructs will provide a rich descriptive picture of the academic experiences and development of students during these critical years and  allow researchers to examine associations between contextual factors and student outcomes. The study will focus on student achievement in mathematics and literacy along with measures of student socioemotional wellbeing and other outcomes.

The problems with these proposals and efforts are numerous, both from the policy and medical/scientific viewpoints.  Here are just a few:

1)     These measures set up the federal government as arbiters of what is normal thought, behavior, belief, attitudes, and values in children, even very young children – The danger of this situation to freedom of thought and conscience is profound and cannot be over stated.  There is recent history of attempts to make racism and homophobia delusional disorders treated by antipsychotics in the most recent version of the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5).  That “treatment” was forced on California state prison inmates in 2005 under that paradigm.  Extreme racism and homophobia were ultimately not added to the DSM, but given the widespread teaching of the issue, even in preschool an kindergarten coupled with the new Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage and statements by activists who want to attack expressions of religious conscience regarding homosexual unions as prejudice,  there is more than a little reason to be concerned.

2)     These socioemotional standards and assessments are extraordinarily vague, subjective, and difficult to apply to children, especially young children.  Here are some examples of expert opinion (See Child Mental Health Quotes and References for details):

“Without highly reliable, multimethod, multiinformant measurement batteries whose validity has been demonstrated for diagnosis, it will be difficult for a practitioner to justify the individual diagnosis of children’s personal qualities, such as self-control, grit, or growth mind-set,” was in an essay by two researchers that admit that the assessments are not valid and ready to be used for judging children, teachers and schools.

“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.” [Translation: Psychiatric diagnosis is an educated guess.]

“Broad parameters for determining socioemotional outcomes are not clearly defined”

“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.”

3)     Socioemotional standards and screenings are leading to overmedication with psychotropic medication that can have brain damaging and life threatening side effects – Studies are finding alarming increases in medication of young children without adequate studies on the effects of these drugs on growing bodies and brains.  The drugs can cause suicidal thoughts and actions, violence, psychosis, stunted growth, brain damage, and a 25 year shortened life span.

4)     Data from these subjective assessments will be in an electronic dossier that will follow a child for life – The federal government already has much data due to contracts like PARCC and SBAC that require individually identifiable data to be given to the US DOE, through the linking of federally mandated state longitudinal databases, and via the regulatory gutting of Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.  Parents greatly opposed the InBloom database held by private entities and there is no evidence that this contained socioemotional data.  Wait until many parents understand how routinely their children’s minds will be probed.  In addition, given the willful misuse of citizen data by the IRS and NSA, and the inability of the federal government to protect the integrity of its employees’ data, there is plenty of reason for parents to be upset.  Also, at some point employers and universities will have or demand access to this data.

5)     Belatedly putting in parental consent requirements will not make profiling via academic assessments or routine mental screening in schools acceptable – We have already seen how the prohibitions on psychological assessment in the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) are sidestepped and the gaping loophole of the statute not applying to assessments and curriculum. The notion of parental consent will be used as a fig leaf to assuage concerns long enough for the government or corporations to figure out a way sidestep the rules.  Asking consent for something that is so constitutionally, legally and ethically wrong does not make it right.

6)     The rapidity and scope by which the Constitution, federal law, ethics, and parental autonomy are being shredded is breathtaking and very alarming, particularly with this issue – Parents are expected to submit their children to this kind of government profiling and psychological experimentation with no explanation, no way to express concern or opt their children out, no way to see the federally mandated academic statewide assessments , the NAEP or any of the international assessments that do much of this profiling to find out what was asked of their children.  Federal law currently prohibits federal government involvement in regular curriculum and standards, but somehow it is now fine for the federal government to mandate and support the assessment or screening or teaching of socioemotional topics, because they want to assess something that is ostensibly a positive trait or this will have an alleged benefit for a child?  This defies logic.

Short of shutting down the US Department of Education or at least the Institute for Education Sciences that houses the National Center for Education Statistics, the data mining and emotional profiling arm of the US DOE, we can halt the ESEA/NCLB and other federal legislative reauthorizations until there is an administration that is not so in favor of Common Core, expansive federal control, testing, profiling, and data mining.  The other very important and practical thing to do is to support Senator David Vitter’s Student Privacy Protection Act (SPPA) as a stand-alone bill. Data privacy and freedom of conscience are too important for this bill to be lost and eventually watered down in the monstrous reauthorization bills. This is the only legislation offered that truly protects against the psychological profiling described here while updating and strengthening FERPA from all of the weakening that happened during this administration. Our children deserve nothing less.

[NOTE:  A fully referenced and more detailed version of this article in PDF format is available at this link: Student Psychological Profiling in Federal Education Legislation - Footnoted]

Jun 29, 2015

Reasons to Support the Student Privacy Protection Act – S. 1341

Karen R. Effrem, MD – President of Education Liberty Watch & Executive Director of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition

The following is a more detailed analysis of why congressional members’ support of Senator David Vitter’s (R-LA) privacy bill, the Student Privacy Protection Act (SPPA), S. 1341[1] is so important. This bill is the culmination of many discussions and the attentive listening of Senator Vitter with constituents, parents, pro-privacy attorneys and physicians, and others who have spent years fighting the data collection[2] associated with the Common Core standards and aligned assessments and the mental screening of children. Here is important information that will show that this legislation is a major step forward in improving student data privacy and protecting students’ freedom of conscience and freedom from government directed psychological profiling.

SPPA Prohibits Psychological Screening:

One of the most exciting parts of SPPA, especially for analysts and activists like the author, who has been fighting mental screening and the over-diagnosis and drugging of children as young as infancy for more than a decade,[3] is the prohibition on psychological testing and the strengthening of the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment.  After defining various terms, the bill does not merely require consent for mental screening and assessment or surveying of psychological attitudes with federal funds (a completely inappropriate federal activity), it fully prohibits psychological screening and profiling. The only exception is for special education evaluations, which is already current law. Significantly, the bill extends the prohibition of psychological screening and profiling to assessments, and thus would also ban the more horrific features of the Common Core assessments.

Here is the key language of SPPA:

‘‘(2) IN GENERAL.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no funds provided to the Department or Federal funds provided under any applicable program shall be spent to support any survey or academic assessment allowing any of the following types of data collection via assessments or any other means, including digitally[4] (Emphasis added):

This language protects a long list of affectively related surveying and testing parameters,[5] and is much more protective of students in this area than any other legislation, state or federal, introduced anywhere.

SPPA Closes the PPRA Loophole that Allows Psychological Screening in Regular Classroom Curricula and Assessments:

PPRA, which requires parental consent before surveying or evaluating students on eight categories of sensitive information[6], contains loopholes that render the privacy protections moot in the case of curriculum and assessments:

(4) Exceptions

(A) Educational products or services

Paragraph (1)(E) [the eight areas of sensitive information requiring parental  consent for surveys] does not apply to the collection, disclosure, or use of personal information collected from students for the exclusive purpose of developing, evaluating, or providing educational products or services for, or to, students or educational institutions, such as the following:

(iii) Curriculum and instructional materials used by elementary schools and secondary schools.

(iv) Tests and assessments used by elementary schools and secondary schools to provide cognitive, evaluative, diagnostic, clinical, aptitude, or achievement information about students (or to generate other statistically useful data for the purpose of securing such tests and assessments) and the subsequent analysis and public release of the aggregate data from such tests and assessments. (Emphasis added)

The Vitter language to include assessments in the prohibition on psychological testing and screening was designed specifically to close this gaping loophole.  This is also especially relevant because of the very recent news that the National Assessment of Educational Progress plans to assess non-cognitive, social emotional parameters[7]:

The nation’s premiere federal testing program is poised to provide a critical window into how students’ motivation, mindset, and grit can affect their learning…

…The background survey will include five core areas—grit, desire for learning, school climate, technology use, and socioeconomic status—of which the first two focus on a student’s noncognitive skills, and the third looks at noncognitive factors in the school.

SPPA is also vitally important because of already documented intent of the Common Core standards and aligned assessments to psychologically manipulate and profile students (see these statements from U.S. Department of Education (USED) and other national education organization documents[8]):

“[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.” (Emphasis added).[9]

“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.”[10]

In national policy, there is increasing attention on 21st-century competencies (which encompass a range of noncognitive factors, including grit), and persistence is now part of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.”[11] (Emphasis added.)

National model standards often contain elements of social and emotional learning. For example, 42 states and two territories are in the process of adopting the Common Core Standards in Math and English Language Arts, which contain standards on communication (especially speaking and listening), cooperation skills, and problem solving.”[12] (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.”[13] (Emphasis added).

“There are many other Common Core Standards that these social and emotional basic skills can be integrated with.”[14] (Emphasis added.)

SPPA Prevents Psychological Profiling of our Students through the IES/NCES Reauthorization (SETRA):

SPPA actually preemptively prohibits social and emotional research on school children to prevent expansion into socioemotional research by the Institute for Education Sciences and The National Center for Education Statistics in S. 227, the Strengthening Research Through Education Act (SETRA) by Senator Lamar Alexander, about which several organizations have warned.[15]

Here is the problematic language in SETRA:

”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. . . ”[16] (Emphasis added).

USED is already in flagrant violation of the Tenth Amendment and probably the Fourth Amendment with the amount of data collected and disclosed on individual children, families, and teachers. The Vitter language stops the federal government from researching the thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and behaviors of free American citizens, especially innocent children:


.—No funds provided to the Department or to an applicable program may be used to pilot test, field test, implement, administer, or distribute in any way any federally sponsored national assessment collecting any psychological data or any federally sponsored research on social-emotional data in education. (Emphasis added).

This bill stops the unacceptable expansion of IES and NCES into the realm of affective research in their SETRA reauthorization.

SPPA Adds Important Protection against 2nd Amendment Data Collection to PPRA:

SPPA contains all of the same important protective elements as the current PPRA statute, and adds “Personal or family gun ownership,” to prevent nosy bureaucrats from snooping into if and how students and their families are exercising their Second Amendment rights.

SPPA Helps Limit the Millions of Data Points on Students, Teachers, and Families Collected by Third Party Vendors:

SPPA changes the term “education records” to “education data.” There are myriad types of data outside of “educational records” that are already being collected without parental consent, especially by third-party vendors. A Politico investigation[17] showed that private corporations have access to up to “ten million” data points on every child and described one company’s efforts:

“Interactive Health Technologies stores multi-year fitness records on students, based on data from heart monitors they wear in P.E., and integrates them with ‘unlimited data points’ from the classroom, including behavioral and nutrition records.”

The term “student record” originated in 1974, when the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) was first written, and when records were on paper and kept in filing cabinets.  There were no online/digital data gathering, no cloud computing, and no student longitudinal databases.

The idea for the change in terminology came from testimony by Professor Joel Reidenberg, a law professor and privacy expert from Fordham University Law School (to be distinguished from the decidedly pro-Common Core Thomas B. Fordham Institute), who has been one of the few pro-privacy experts to be allowed to testify in Congress, amongst the corporate shills and bureaucrats who want to grab as much student data as possible.  Here is an excerpt from his testimony[18]:

Update the definition of “Educational Record”

FERPA covers “educational records” in a very narrow sense and contemplated only those records that were originally kept in central administration files such as transcripts. The statute also specifically carves out an exemption for “directory information” including a student’s name, address, date of birth, telephone number, age, sex, and weight.

The 1974 definition and the directory information exclusion no longer make sense in 2015. Much of the data gathered and used in the context of online services will be outside the scope of the existing definition. For example, metadata gathered from a learning app used by a child in school that was then compiled to create a profile of the child for content delivery would not be an “educational record” and would fall outside the bounds of FERPA. Similarly, information developed by a school’s transportation company identifying the street corners where 6th graders wait to take the school bus would fall outside FERPA and could be disclosed for advertising purposes and even possibly disclosed to non-custodial parents. Likewise, a child’s homework assignment saved or shared with a teacher on a third party service would not be an “educational record” and would not be protected by FERPA.

For meaningful protection of student privacy in this environment, FERPA needs to encompass any information gathered about children for educational and school related uses. This would include profiles, whether or not identified to specific students, if those profiles will have an effect on the child’s education or school related services.

This is a very important update to FERPA.

SPPA Reins in Data Collection by Third Party Contractors:

While there is always more work to do, SPPA goes a long way to rein in third-party contractors and actually imposes financial penalties and allows private lawsuits for data breaches and disclosure of data.  In addition, SPPA requires parental consent for ALL personally identifiable information accessed by third-party vendors, including directory information and student ID numbers[19]:

“(8) LIMITATIONS ON THIRD PARTY USE.—Notwithstanding paragraph (1) or any other provision of this section (not including paragraph (6)), no funds provided to the Department or under any applicable program may be provided to an educational agency (including a State educational agency) or institution that allows any third party (including any contractor or other person acting under direct control of the agency or institution) to access student data of students, including personally identifiable information and directory information, unless—

“(A) the agency or institution receives consent from the parents of the student for the student data to be made available to the third party;

“(B) prior to receiving the consent described in subparagraph (A), the agency or institution provides the parents with notice, not less than 30 days before the records would be provided to such outside party if consent is obtained, that informs the parent

“(i) of the student data that would be accessed;

“(ii) that the student data will only be made available if the parent consents;

“(iii) that the parent have the ability, under subsection (a), to access the student data of their students held by the agency or institution or outside party, and a description of the process to make corrections for inaccurate data; and

“(iv) that the agency or institution and the outside party are liable for any violation of this section and that the remedies described in subsection (k) are available;   (Emphasis added)

SPPA Prevents Federal Government Data Cross Matching and Career Tracking:

SPPA requires any data outside the district to be “aggregated, anonymized, and de-identified.”  It also prohibits federal data cross matching, longitudinal tracking, and career tracking.[20]

Look at Who Is Supporting and Opposing SPPA:

Perhaps the best indicator of the value of SPPA is the enemies it has drawn. The Data Quality Campaign, which is heavily funded[21] by pro-Common Core groups and anti-privacy corporations that stand to profit from access to our children’s sensitive data, has attacked SPPA and lamented that Sen. Vitter’s “intent is to respond to parents’ concerns” (DQC meant this as a criticism!)[22]. In addition, the American Education Research Association, another group that makes its living on our children’s data, is opposed.[23] AERA’s president said in an email, “This legislation, if it were to pass, would have a devastating impact on the quality of education research.” The federal government and these organizations do not have an automatic right to our children’s sensitive data without at least consent.  They should have zero right to psychologically profile our children.  The safety and privacy of data, thoughts, and beliefs of our students, teachers, and their families is of far higher importance than the convenience of a bunch of bureaucrats, researchers and corporations

In contrast, several important conservative organizations (such as Home School Legal Defense Association, Eagle Forum, and Concerned Women for America[24]), in addition to the organizations represented by the author of this paper, are supporting this bill. These have made protecting the privacy rights of children and families a high priority for a long time, even before Common Core and the IES.

One privacy expert (unaffiliated with any of the supportive organizations) said of this legislation, “The Vitter bill is not perfect, but it is the strongest and most authentic educational privacy bill out there.” This bill greatly deserves support.

[3] Dr. Effrem has been opposing invasive, subjective mental health screening from infancy through adolescence for many years by:


[4] SPPA Section 6 (2)

[5] SPPA protects:

‘‘(A) Any data collected via affective computing, including analysis of facial expressions, EEG brain wave patterns, skin conductance, galvanic skin response, heart-rate variability, pulse, blood volume, posture, and eye-tracking‘‘

(B) Any data (including any resulting from national or State assessments) that measure psychological resources, mindsets, learning strategies, effortful control, attributes, dispositions, social skills, attitudes, intrapersonal resources, or any other type of social, emotional, or psychological parameter.

‘‘(C) Any data collected through predictive modeling to be used to detect behaviors, beliefs, or value systems, or for predicting or forecasting student outcomes.

‘‘(D) Any type of psychological data, including assessment of non-cognitive skills or attributes, psychological resources, mindsets, learning strategies, effortful control, attitudes, dispositions, social skills, or other interpersonal or intrapersonal resources collected via any national or State student assessment.

[6] These are the categories listed in PPRA:

(b) Limits on survey, analysis, or evaluations

No student shall be required, as part of any applicable program, to submit to a survey, analysis, or evaluation that reveals information concerning – (1) political affiliations or beliefs of the student or the student’s parent; (2) mental or psychological problems of the student or the student’s family; (3) sex behavior or attitudes; (4) illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, or demeaning behavior; (5) critical appraisals of other individuals with whom respondents have close family relationships; (6) legally recognized privileged or analogous relationships, such as those of lawyers, physicians, and ministers; (7) religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or student’s parent; or (8) income (other than that required by law to determine eligibility for participation in a program or for receiving financial assistance under such program), without the prior consent of the student (if the student is an adult or emancipated minor), or in the case of an unemancipated minor, without the prior written consent of the parent.

[8] See more details on the psychological manipulation of Common Core at http://bit.ly/1AElgkm

[9] U.S. Department of Education Office of Technology – Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance: Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century  – February 2013  removed from http://www.ed.gov/edblogs/technology/files/2013/02/OET-Draft-Grit-Report-2-17-13.pdf but now available at http://www.flstopcccoalition.org/files/F6A22756-73E4-4406-BC0F-F9E8340A37C6–E36F73DA-E434-44F5-B829-1C27BAA8532F/grit-tenacity-and-perseverance-feb-2013-doe.pdf

[10] Ibid

[11] Ibid

[12] Linda Dusenbury – State Learning Standards to Advance Social and Emotional Learning: The CASEL State Scan of Social and Emotional Learning Standards: Preschool through High School – Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, April 2011 http://casel.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Brief-on-the-State-Scan-4-18-2011.pdf

[13] American School Counselors Association – Change Behaviors by Changing Mindsets – https://www.schoolcounselor.org/magazine/blogs/november-december-2014/change-behaviors-by-changing-mindsets

[14] EduThompson Blog  – Integrating Social Emotional Curricula and the Common Core – 7/20/13 http://insidetheclassroomoutsidethebox.wordpress.com/2013/07/07/integrating-social-emotional-curricula-and-the-common-core/

[19] SPPA  Section 3,(8)

[20] SPPA Section 3 (9) & (10)

Jun 29, 2015

More Dangerous Federal Control with New Preschool Grants within the Every Child Achieves Act

Karen R. Effrem, MD – President of Education Liberty Watch and Executive Director of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition

The Every Child Achieve Act’s (ECAA) Early Learning Alignment and Improvement Grants (Sec. 5610)[1] offer new federal funds to “assist states” to “more efficiently using existing Federal resources to improve, strengthen, and expand existing high-quality early childhood education, as  determined by the State.” Despite the benign and pleasant sounding offer of help and resources to be used as states see fit, these grants greatly expand federal control over preschool as Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind have done for K-12.  Here are the problems:

There is no evidence of long-term effectiveness of early childhood programs that justify their great cost, but there is evidence of academic and emotional harm.[2]

Each state applying for a grant must promise to and explain how it will use “existing Federal, State, and local resources and programs that the State will coordinate to meet the purposes of this part, including”… “Head Start”[3] and the “Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG).[4]” [Sec. 5902]

Analogous to the Common Core standards incentivized by Race to the Top and the federal mandates for statewide standards and tests required by the 1994 version of the ESEA, there is a rapid spread of statewide or federal early learning standards and early childhood assessment incentivized by the 2011 and 2014 Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge (ELC) Grants and mandated by the 2007 Head Start and 2014 Child Care and Development Block Grant reauthorizations.

According to the ELC Collaborative analysis of the ELC grants[5], at least 15 states declared openly that they are aligning their early learning standards to Common Core or admitted that they are aligning to the K-3 standards, which is a de facto admission of Common Core alignment.

Mentioning it eleven times in the legislation, Head Start requires not only every Head Start program, but also every other state pre-k program[6] to fully align to the Head Start Child Outcome Framework,[7] a set of national early childhood standards, which is being correlated to Common Core.[8] Most state standards and the Pearson Work Sampling System (WSS) kindergarten readiness assessment contain similar or identical language to the Head Start framework in its various iterations.  Pearson also admits in its advertising video that the WSS is based on “national standards.”[9] The only national preschool standards that are available are the Head Start Child Outcome Framework. This is federal control of academic content that includes the thoughts and attitudes of our youngest children, and should be concerning regardless of one’s views on any particular topic.  The K-12 Common Core standards promote social emotional goals[10] as well, but are much less overt than the Head Start Child Outcome Framework.

The CCDBG strongly incentivizes[11] a “tiered quality rating system (QRS),” to rate programs and providers. Though portrayed as “voluntary,” many programs, including private and religious programs, comply in order to be competitive in a bad economy for funding and referrals.  In most states, eighty per cent of child care is private.  The main requirement for a top rating in the QRS is use of the state early learning standards that are often far more subjective, controversial, and psychosocially based than those in K-12. This is resulting in a state takeover of private and religious childcare, because now these organizations outside of the state system are being bribed or coerced to teach the public program curriculum in order to get a good rating. Minnesota admitted this in its ELC application.[12] The rating systems themselves are subjective and controversial and lack evidence they will improve child outcomes.[13]

Both the Head Start and individual state standards, which are all remarkably similar, are also vague, subjective, and in some cases, controversial, both for academic topics and for the non-cognitive social emotional topics, which are actually required for preschool but not for K-12.  Here are some examples:

Approaches to Learning (Head Start[14]): “Child shows interest in and curiosity about the world around them.” Substantially similar language to this extremely subjective standard is also found in multiple state documents and the WSS.

Language and Literacy (Maryland[15]): “Shows beginning understanding of concepts about print.” Similar language is found in multiple states, the WSS and the Head Start Framework.

Mathematics (Illinois[16]): “Count with understanding and recognize “how many” in small sets up to 5.” There is identical language in the WSS, similar language in the 2015 Head Start Framework, and this standard is noted to be correlated to Common Core.

Social Skills (Minnesota[17]): “Displays concern, respect, care, and appreciation for others and the environment” “This very subjective standard on “concern” or “empathy” is found in many state standards, the WSS, and the current Head Start Framework.

Social Studies (Florida[18]):  “Make sure your three year-old has access to books and other materials that show diversity in family composition and in careers.” This family structure diversity issue, again, regardless of one’s views, is controversial and difficult enough for adults to navigate and it should be up to each family to decide how to manage the discussion.  Although no longer in the 2015 Head Start Framework, it is definitely important to the national organization:


One Head Start document on family engagement said the following: “THE TERM “FAMILY” is used to convey all of the people that may play both a parenting a role in a child’s life and a partnering role with HS/EHS staff. This includes fathers, mothers, grandparents, kith and kin caregivers, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered) parents, guardians, expectant parents, teen parents, and families with diverse structures that include multiple relationships with significant others.”[19] The Florida standards define family as “a group of individuals living together.”

An HHS blog recommended using “Inclusive intake and enrollment forms that are not specific about the gender of parents and caregivers” in order to make GLBT families feel more welcome.[20]

The noble sounding prohibitions “in this part [Sec. 5902(g)]” on federal interference with “early learning and development guidelines, standards, or specific assessments, including the standards or measures that States use to develop, implement, or improve such guidelines, standards, or assessments;” or anything to do with what determines the designation of “high quality” is at best worthless and at worst quite disingenuous.  This is because this bill already requires the states to comply, align, and coordinate with the major federal programs, Head Start and CCDBG, that mandate or strongly incentivize either  federal or state standards and the quality rating system that also requires these very problematic standards.  The ELC grants have also had the same effect, because states changed policy regarding the standards, curriculum, and the rating systems to win them. Finally, there is no enforcement mechanism behind the prohibition.

The student data collection and invasions of privacy already occurring with P20W longitudinal data systems are particularly frightening in the early childhood realm because of the greater emphasis on social emotional and developmental issues as well as efforts to integrate this data with prenatal medical data and then integrate it with K-12 data:

Rhode Island’s proposed early learning data system will be linked to both the state’s K-12 data system and to the state’s universal newborn screening [genetic] and health data system, helping to identify children with high needs, track participation in programs, and track children’s development and learning.” (Emphasis added)[21]

There is also a national effort going on to integrate Head Start data with every other type of preschool data and K-12 data.[22]

This provision is also of dubious value due to cost issues, especially when the national debt level is so high.  The authorization for appropriations for this new nanny state program is the extremely vague and always alarming “such sums as may be necessary for each of fiscal years 2016 through 2021 [Sec. 5903].” The income eligibility for participants in this program is absurdly extravagant for median income only requiring that “family assets do not exceed $1,000,000 (as certified by a member of such family) [Section 5901(b)(2)(B)(iii) - Emphasis added].

Due to this unconstitutional, invasive, and expensive expansion of federal control that will further harm states’ rights, parental autonomy, and the innocence and privacy of young children without any benefit, the Early Learning Alignment and Improvement grants within ECAA, as well as the entire underlying bill, should be rejected.

[2] Effrem, K. Studies on Effectiveness of Early Childhood Programs, Education Liberty Watch, 3/20/2011 http://edlibertywatch.org/2011/03/studies-on-effectiveness-of-early-childhood-programs/

[4] Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 https://www.congress.gov/113/plaws/publ186/PLAW-113publ186.pdf

[5] Stepping up to the Challenge: State Profiles of the 2011 Early Learning Challenge Grant Applicants http://ffyf.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Stepping_Up_to_the_Challenge.pdf

[6] Head Start Act Compilation – Section 642B(a)(2)(A) says that when giving out “collaboration grants,” the national Head Start offices will work with “entities that carry out activities designed to benefit low-income children from birth to school entry, and their families.

[7] Section 642B(a)(2)(B)(iii), which says, “promote alignment of curricula used in Head Start programs and continuity of services with the Head Start Child Outcomes Framework and, as appropriate, State early learning standards,” is just one example.

[8] “In January 2012, the latest draft of the Head Start- Common Core Correlation Project was released…” http://www.ecs-commoncore.org/aligning-early-childhood-education-with-the-common-core/

[10] Effrem, K. – Psychosocial Manipulation in the Common Core Standards and Aligned Tests and Curriculum, 2/12/2015 http://bit.ly/1AElgkm

[11] CCDBG – Section 658G(b)(3)

[12] Minnesota admitted in its ELC application, “Minnesota’s Early Learning and Development Standards (called the Early Childhood Indicators of Progress, or ECIPs-see C1) for children birth to five are at the foundation of [Parent] Aware. Parent Aware Program Standards require that instruction and assessment be aligned with the ECIPs and the ratings are built on the ECIPs, which function like a scaffold. For example, ELD Programs must ensure that their staff members are familiar with the ECIPs before earning 1 star, and to reach 3 or 4 stars requires both familiarity with the ECIPs and also alignment of curriculum and assessment with them.” (Emphasis added)  http://unitedfrontmn.org/minnesotaracetothetopapplication/files/B1.pdf  pp. 2-3 of PDF

[13] Effrem, K. – Evidence on Effectiveness of Quality Rating Systems – Education Liberty Watch 3/19/2011 http://edlibertywatch.org/2011/03/evidence-on-effectiveness-of-quality-rating-systems/

[17] Latest Draft of Minnesota’s Early Childhood Indicators of Progress, http://education.state.mn.us/mdeprod/groups/educ/documents/basic/055947.pdf, p. 12 of PDF

[18] Florida Early Learning and Developmental Standards, Birth to Five,  p. 107 of PDF – may be downloaded at this page – http://www.floridaearlylearning.com/parents/parent_resources/floridas_early_learning_and_development_standards_birth_to_five.aspx or http://bit.ly/1IA48dh

[20] Godfrey, A. – Partnering with LGBT families in Early Head Start and Head Start – http://1.usa.gov/1JkpjFJ

[22] Early Childhood Data Collaborative – Linking Head Start Data with State Early Care and Education Coordinated Data Systems – http://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/ecdc-head-start-brief.pdf


Jun 9, 2015

Important Connection to Common Core as Scholars Release Critical APUSH Letter

Karen R. Effrem, MD – President

As reported by Peter Berkowitz on Real Clear Politics and Michele Malkin, fifty-five respected academics released a letter warning of the dangers of and strongly opposing the AP US History (APUSH) framework.  Here is a relevant excerpt:

There are notable ideological biases inherent in the 2014 framework, and certain structural innovations that will inevitably result in imbalance in the test, and bias in the course. Chief among these is the treatment of American national identity. The 2010 framework treated national identity, including “views of the American national character and ideas about American exceptionalism”as a central theme. But the 2014 framework makes a dramatic shift away from that emphasis, choosing instead to grant far more extensive attention to “how various identities, cultures, and values have been preserved or changed in different contexts of U.S. history with special attention given to the formation of gender, class, racial and ethnic identities.”
This very problematic framework came from the College Board now headed by David Coleman who was one of the main architects of the Common Core English standards and who admitted that he and his fellow authors “unqualified” to write those standards.  Despite the constant claims by Jeb Bush and other proponents that there is no connection between Common Core and social studies, please rememberthe following:
To those who say this has nothing to do with Common Core, because Common Core is only supposed to be about English and math, please remember that the full name of the Common Core Standards is the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects.  As documented in our testimony, Minnesota, in what may well have been a test case for this curricular coup, when adopting new social studies standards freely admitted that the Common Core English Standards were used in the development of the social studies standards.Here is a statement from Minnesota’s Statement of Need and Reasonableness (SONAR) admitting the connection of Common Core to the new more radical MN social studies standards:

In addition to legislative directives, the state’s system of academic standards has been influenced by at least two important multi-state initiatives: 1) the American Diploma Project (ADP)33, and 2) the Common Core State Standards Initiative.34 The state’s process for reviewing and revising the K-12 academic standards was developed in consultation with experts from the ADP sponsored by Achieve. Achieve is a bipartisan, non-profit organization that helps states raise academic standards, improve assessments, and strengthen accountability to prepare all young people for postsecondary education, work and citizenship. (Emphasis added – p. 13)
And here is a telling paragraph from another MDE document clearly linking the Common Core English standards to Minnesota’s new radical social studies standards:
Another way that the Commitee ensured that the proposed social studies standards provide college and career readiness, was to align the social studies standards with the 2010 Minnesota Academic Standards in English Language Arts. [Common Core] The language arts standards contain content related to literacy in history and social studies. They include all of the Common Core language arts standards–rigorous standards that have been widely documented as aligned with college and career-readiness expectations. (Emphasis added – p, 13 )

It appears that  Coleman and the College Board are doing on a national level what the Minnesota Department of Education did to that state’s social studies standards as described by Dr. John Fonte of the Hudson Institute in his National Review piece, America the Ugly and in his review submitted to the state:

“Nine years ago a group of history professors from the University of Minnesota sent a letter to the state’s education department. They complained that the history/social-studies standards for Minnesota presented American history too positively. The historians wanted early American history described in terms of “conquest,” “subjugation,” “exploitation,” “enslavement,” and “genocidal impact.” For these academics, the story of America primarily meant slavery for African Americans, genocide for American Indians, subjugation for women, xenophobia for immigrants, and exploitation for poor peopleIt looks like the Minnesota academics have finally achieved their goal. …
…But, American achievements are downplayed while the overarching theme becomes “institutionalized racism.” Of course, this logically means that the major “institutions” of American liberal democracy — the courts, Congress, the presidency, state and local governments, businesses, churches, civic organizations — and the entire democratic system and its civil society are racist and therefore, clearly, illegitimate.”

Please show the scholar’s letter and the connection to Common Core to your school, your district and state board of education members and do NOT let your high school student take APUSH!