Browsing articles in "Federal Education"
Aug 12, 2013
ELW

Feds Resolute Yet Tone Deaf on Data Collection

Karen R. Effrem, MD – President of Education Liberty Watch

Attending the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)  STATS DC 2013 Data Conference “Discovering Through Data” was certainly an eye-opening experience for me.  Despite protestations that they are concerned about the public perceptions on privacy protection, it was very clear that they are not backing down on the amount and type of very personal private information they intend to collect on children and families from a young age and that gathering data is still a greater concern for them than individual student privacy.  Here is my report showing some evidence of that contention based on sessions that I attended.

NCES Commissioner Jack Buckley won the award for  most tone deaf presentation title, calling his introductory keynote speech (not kidding!) “We Are From the Federal Government and We REALLY Are Here to Help You.”  In that talk, while acknowledging that the” balance [between privacy and the government’s desire for data] is in a very delicate place, and that if we fail here in a very spectacular way, much of what we have done in the last ten to fifteen years could be undone,” he also spoke of “balancing the rights of our students & their families to keep their data confidential & secret as appropriate, but also to balance the needs that we have for the massive investment in education, of understanding its returns, of understanding how the system is working, how do we improve it, with the ultimate goal always of improving the educational outcomes of our citizens…” It is clear that the “massive investment” is more important than privacy.

That data privacy is a secondary concern is confirmed by this quote from the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) website that says, “While state policymakers bear the responsibility for protecting student privacy, they need not do so at the sake of restricting the use of quality, longitudinal education data in support of their ultimate goal: improving student achievement.”  It is important to note that the DQC is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, Alliance for Early Success,, AT&T, and Target, all entities that will profit heavily by having lots of data collected on our children.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is also funding a very alarming student database project called inBloom that already  holds data that includes “name, address and sometimes social security number…learning disabilities…test scores, attendance…student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school – even homework completion.”

Buckley also complained about he and his fellow federal data gatherers  being of accused of an “attempt to catalog students and track them for life based on their eye color or their genetic code…”  Apparently, he was not aware of the content of all the presentations planned for the conference.  Interestingly enough one of the sessions that I attended later in the conference was called P-20W Data Standards for More Successful Student Transitions and Life-Long Learning.  In that session, they spoke of the data collection from early childhood through the workforce, including health and developmental (mental health) data in early childhood.  Not even realizing that the early childhood presenter was from Rhode Island, I asked about that state’s plan documented in their Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Application to combine health data, including the newborn screening, i.e. genetic, data with their preschool and K-12 data.. [We reported on this outrageous government collection of the most personal of data in Preschool Government Tyranny – “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”] saying:

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 and health data system, helping to identify children with high needs, track participation in programs, and track children’s development and learning.” This is a classic example of the rapidly expanding philosophy that the government owns every single bit of medical and education data about you and every family member from conception until after death. We are seeing this played out in the realm of DNA medical data and now private mental health data through these subjective and worthless assessments.   These assessments will then be added and linked to health data so that government bureaucrats will be able to label the young children they consider to be mentally ill or flag them for future evaluations.

The Obama preschool plan is largely based on the ideas of the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge. That plan is to also expand home visiting programs which are accompanied by even more data collection on infants and families.  Continue reading »

Jul 25, 2013
ELW

U.S. House Passes Student Success Act with Strong Anti-Common Core Language

Despite numerous communications from Common Core proponents on boths sides of the aisle that anyone that raises concerns about the Common Core system is “misinformed,” “a conspiracy theorist,” or “crazy,” we are very grateful that the US House of Representatives did not get those memos. Great thanks and congratulations should go to the Reps. John Kline (MN-2 and chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee) and the 12 co-sponsors of HR 5, the Student Success Act,as well as the 200+ other members that voted for this bill that contained such strong anti-Common Core Language. The purpose of HR 5 is to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as No Child Left Behind. Here are two of several excellent examples of the anti-Common Core language:

  • Voluntary Partnerships- A State may enter into a voluntary partnership with another State to develop and implement the academic standards and assessments required under this section, except that the Secretary shall not, either directly or indirectly, attempt to influence, incentivize, or coerce State–`(1) adoption of the Common Core State Standards developed under the Common Core State Standards Initiative, any other academic standards common to a significant number of States, or assessments tied to such standards; or`(2) participation in any such partnerships.
  • SEC. 5521. PROHIBITION AGAINST FEDERAL MANDATES, DIRECTION, OR CONTROL.`(a) In General- No officer or employee of the Federal Government shall, directly or indirectly, through grants, contracts, or other cooperative agreements, mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school’s specific instructional content, academic standards and assessments, curricula, or program of instruction, (including any requirement, direction, or mandate to adopt the Common Core State Standards developed under the Common Core State Standards Initiative or any other academic standards common to a significant number of States), nor shall anything in this Act be construed to authorize such officer or employee to do so.`(b) Financial Support- No officer or employee of the Federal Government shall, directly or indirectly, through grants, contracts, or other cooperative agreements, make financial support available in a manner that is conditioned upon a State, local educational agency, or school’s adoption of specific instructional content, academic standards and assessments, curriculum, or program of instruction, (including any requirement, direction, or mandate to adopt the Common Core State Standards developed under the Common Core State Standards Initiative, any other academic standards common to a significant number of States, or any assessment, instructional content, or curriculum aligned to such standards), even if such requirements are specified in an Act other than this Act, nor shall anything in this Act be construed to authorize such officer or employee to do so.

In addition, a “Sense of Congress” amendment to HR 5 was passed by 231 of 234 Republicans that “States and local educational agencies should maintain the rights and responsibilities of determining educational curriculum, programs of instruction, and assessments for elementary and secondary education.” This amendment was authored by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer.(MO-3) who had also authored an excellent letter to Secretary Arne Duncan about the many problems with Common Core, federal overreach, and data collection.  That letter was co-signed by 35 other members including Rep,MIchele Bachmann (MN-6) and Rep. Trey Radel (FL19).  Rep. Radel said the following in support of the Luetkemeyer amendment:

  • “The Department of Education heavily incentivized & pressured states into adopting the Common Core State Standards Initiatives.  These national standards and assessments ultimately determine the curriculum and teaching materials used in classrooms across the nation.”

We wonder if the proponents of Common Core, such as Arne Duncan, former Governor Bush, Florida Senator John Thrasher, who continue to put out tired talking points without proof and impugning opponents as mentally unstable consider Rep. Radel and the rest of the House Republicans that supported this legislation “misinformed” and laboring under “conspiracy theories”?

Finally, Rep. Martha Roby (AL-2) along with eight co-sponsors have authored HR 2089, The Defending State Authority Over Education Act of 2013.  It is a separate bill that contains anti-Common Core  language similar to that of HR 5 quoted above.  Both because HR 5 passed as a partisan bill with little or no Democrat support and therefore facing a steep uphill climb in the Senate, where a bill that seeks to centralize federal power over education even more has passed committee, and because this really should be a non-partisan issue, we urge you to contact your members of Congress and talk to them about supporting HR 2089 which only covers Common Core and federal control of education.  Thank you.

Despite numerous communications from former governor Jeb Bush, Commissioner Tony Bennett and the Florida Department of Education, Governor Rick Scott, State Board of Education Member John Cologne, Majority Leader Steve Precourt, Senator John Thrasher, and numerous former Republican chairs that anyone who raises concerns about the Common Core system is “misinformed,” “a conspiracy theorist,” or “crazy,” we are very grateful that the US House of Representatives did not get those memos. Great thanks and congratulations should go to the Reps. John Kline (chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee) and the 12 co-sponsors of HR 5, the Student Success Act,as well as the 200+ other members that voted for this bill that contained such strong anti-Common Core Language. The purpose of HR 5 is to reuathorize the Elementary and secondary Education Act, currently known as No Child Left Behind. Here are two of several excellent examples of the anti-Common Core language:

  • Voluntary Partnerships- A State may enter into a voluntary partnership with another State to develop and implement the academic standards and assessments required under this section, except that the Secretary shall not, either directly or indirectly, attempt to influence, incentivize, or coerce State–`(1) adoption of the Common Core State Standards developed under the Common Core State Standards Initiative, any other academic standards common to a significant number of States, or assessments tied to such standards; or`(2) participation in any such partnerships.
  • SEC. 5521. PROHIBITION AGAINST FEDERAL MANDATES, DIRECTION, OR CONTROL.`(a) In General- No officer or employee of the Federal Government shall, directly or indirectly, through grants, contracts, or other cooperative agreements, mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school’s specific instructional content, academic standards and assessments, curricula, or program of instruction, (including any requirement, direction, or mandate to adopt the Common Core State Standards developed under the Common Core State Standards Initiative or any other academic standards common to a significant number of States), nor shall anything in this Act be construed to authorize such officer or employee to do so.`(b) Financial Support- No officer or employee of the Federal Government shall, directly or indirectly, through grants, contracts, or other cooperative agreements, make financial support available in a manner that is conditioned upon a State, local educational agency, or school’s adoption of specific instructional content, academic standards and assessments, curriculum, or program of instruction, (including any requirement, direction, or mandate to adopt the Common Core State Standards developed under the Common Core State Standards Initiative, any other academic standards common to a significant number of States, or any assessment, instructional content, or curriculum aligned to such standards), even if such requirements are specified in an Act other than this Act, nor shall anything in this Act be construed to authorize such officer or employee to do so.

In addition, a “Sense of Congress” amendment to HR 5 was passed by 231 of 234 Republicans that “States and local educational agencies should maintain the rights and responsibilities of determining educational curriculum, programs of instruction, and assessments for elementary and secondary education.” This amendment was authored by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer.(MO-3) who had also authored an excellent letter to Secretary Arne Duncan about the many problems with Common Core, federal overreach, and data collection.  That letter was co-signed by three Republican Florida members of Congress: Rep. Richard Nugent (FL-11), Rep. Ted Yoho (FL-5), and Rep. Trey Radel (FL19).  Rep. Radel said the following in support of that amendment:

  • “The Department of Education heavily incentivized & pressured states into adopting the Common Core State Standards Initiatives.  These national standards and assessments ultimately determine the curriculum and teaching materials used in classrooms across the nation.”

We wonder if the Florida proponents of Common Core, such as Governor Bush, Governor Scott, Senator Thrasher, and others consider Rep. Radel and the rest of the House Republicans that supported this legislation “misinformed” and laboring under “conspiracy theories”?

Finally, Rep. Martha Roby (AL-2) along with eight co-sponsors including Rep. Radel have authored HR 2089, The Defending State Authority Over Education Act of 2013.  It is a separate bill that contains language similar to that of HR 5 quoted above.  Both because HR 5 passed as a partisan bill with little or no Democrat support and therefore facing a steep uphill climb in the Senate, where a bill that seeks to centralize federal power over education even more has passed committee, and because this really should be a non-partisan issue, we urge you to contact your members of Congress and talk to them about supporting HR 2089 which only covers Common Core and federal control of education.  Thank you. – See more at: http://www.flstopcccoalition.org/news/2013-07/us-house-passes-student-success-act-with-strong-anti-common-core-language.htm#sthash.7p7LG4s5.dpuf

 

May 13, 2013
ELW

Common Core Battle Rages Across the Nation – A Report from the Front

The battle against the Common Core standards is raging across the country. Here is some of the more recent news.

 

HERE IS THE GOOD NEWS FIRST:
Florida – In a great combined effort between a statewide coalition of activists under Floridians Against Common Core Education and Education Liberty Watch, Florida’s invasive data mining/tracking bill, SB 878 was stopped. This bill connected Florida’s data collection system to the National Center of Education Statistics data elements that contain 300-400 pieces of very personal and private data as well as gathering data on students through their work lives.  For a bill that had passed both chambers of the legislature unanimously with the difference of a small amendment to be stopped is unprecedented, even miraculous.  It speaks to the intense concern about and passion of parents to protect the privacy of their children’s and families data from government bureaucrats and corporate profiteers, as well as the inspired research and lobbying team that fought for parental rights in Tallahassee. Details are here.  Legislative leaders, the chairman of the state Republican party and the governor are no longer using the phrase “Common Core” in press releases. This combined with some language that will hopefully slow the pace of Common Core implementation in Florida will allow the battle to continue next year.

Indiana –  Governor Mike Pence heard the voice of the people of Indiana whose elected representatives passed by wide margins a bill to take a pause on the Common Core by allowing public hearings and a fiscal analysis before further implementation.  Passage of this bill makes Indiana the first state in the nation to pause or withdraw from Common Core after having adopted it.  Heather Crossin and Erin Tuttle along with their statewide coalition Hoosiers Against Common Core deserve great credit for their perseverance and passion despite attacks by the always big government promoting Chamber of Commerce and the other corporate and foundation interests.  Details are available here.

Michigan – The Michigan House passed an amendment to defund the Common Core.  There is a rally to continue that effort in Lansing on May 14th.

U.S. House of Representatives – Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) has written a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan with concerns about the lack of congressional oversight into Common Core and the irregular process by which the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) was changed to weaken student privacy without Congress via regulation.  Education Liberty Watch is thankful to Rep. Leutkemeyer and all of the 33 cosigners including Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN 6), Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL 19), and Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL 5) for this effort that will hopefully lead to legislation restoring the privacy protections of FERPA.

U.S. Senate – Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) and eight other senators [Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), Senator James Inhofe (R-OK),  Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE), Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)]  sent a letter to Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) requesting the defunding of the Common Core standards and tests in compliance with federal law.  We can only hope that this effort is successful, but it will be difficult given the partisan divide of the Senate.

The Republican National Committee – The RNC unanimously passed a resolution at their Spring meeting condemning the Common Core and it associated data collection system.  It is available here.  This sets up a needed debate between the freedom minded, limited government and the corporate and foundation backed establishment elite.

NOW FOR THE BAD NEWS:

Minnesota – Despite many valid legal, legislative, and content concerns, an administrative law judge approved the Common Core linked Minnesota Social Studies standards.  The judge’s decision may be viewed here and a cogent analysis by attorney Marjorie Holsten may be viewed here.  Legal options are still being considered.

In addition, Minnesota’s education finance bills seem to be performing a stealth implementation of the Common Core math standards that they had so wisely and on a bipartisan basis rejected.  That implementation is being accomplished by using the ACT or SAT as the graduation exam.  Because these tests are aligned to the Common Core standards, Minnesota students will in essence have to learn the Common Core math standards in order to pass this exam.  This is despite the fact that experts like James Milgram, professor emeritus at Stanford, and who refused to sign off on the final version of the math standards while serving on the validation committee, sees the standards as being behind international norms by at least two years at the end of eighth grade.

Florida – The education finance bill is still going ahead with an implementation plan for the Common Core assessments.

Georgia – This state’s Common Core withdrawal bill was tabled in the state senate.

Alabama Alabama’s bill to withdraw from Common Core was killed by the Senate President Pro Tempore.

There are starting to be cracks in the dam of the once inevitable Common Core system, but as one can see there is much work still to be done.  Education Liberty Watch appreciates your support.  Please stay engaged with both your activism and your finances.

Apr 15, 2013
ELW

RNC Adopts Anti-Common Core Resolution & Florida Goes in Wrong Direction

Karen R. Effrem, MD  – President

Despite the fact that the Republican National Committee has listened to the grassroots and moved towards freedom in education and student privacy by unanimously adopting an anti-Common Core resolution, the Florida Legislature has moved in the completely opposite direction.   The education appropriations bill, SB 1076 that implements the Common Core standards and aligned assessments passed the full legislature and is being sent to Governor Scott and SB 878, the horrific data tracking bill passed the full Florida Senate. (See our reports about SB 878 here and here).

Although there were some good efforts to protect some sensitive student data and Florida activists used their best efforts to warn senators about the truly invasive data collection in SB 878, Jeb Bush and corporate interests whispered in the ears of leadership and other senators and won the day.  The bill passed on April 10th unanimously, because the senators had been deceived into believing that student data had been protected.  Although Senator Galvano did put some stronger language in to shield some of the more sensitive data and make it anonymous from outside researchers and corporations, for which he deserves thanks, the fact remains that far too much personal data is still being collected by the State of Florida on innocent children and their families and given to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).  Thanks to the weakening of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) that data can be shared with other federal agencies.  The attitude is that all of this data on our children belongs to the government and if we, their benighted parents scream and beg, maybe they will protect it or say they are going to do so.  The questions never get asked, “Why are you collecting so much data on our children without consent?” and “By what authority do you do so?”

Although he may not have intended it to come off that way, when author of SB 878, Senator Galvano, was interviewed for the Bradenton Herald after Chrissy Blevio and other members of Liberty in Action who live in his district protested the still alarming amount of data collection in the passed bill, his remarks seemed very patronizing.  He said these parents “are well-intended but they misunderstand” and the paper portrayed his views of his constituents as laboring under a cloud of “confusion” and “a case of misinformation.”  For the edification of Senator Galvano and the rest of the legislature, these parents are not confused or misinformed, they are justifiably angry as the rest of the parents in the state will be when they find out what has happened to their children’s privacy.  Here are the facts:

1)      Although the bill limits some of the sensitive data given to corporations and outside researchers, all of that sensitive data that we showed from the National Center for Education Statistics National Data Model is and will still be collected by the state and given to the federal government whether parents like it or not. This data still includes:  Bus Route, Bus Stop, Arrival Time, At Risk Status, Amount of Non-school Activity Involvement, Distance From Home to School and hundreds of other data points.  Because the bill requires the Governing Board to “promote adoption of a common set of data elements identified by the National Center for Education Statistics to support the effective exchange of data within and across states,” one can be sure that those data points will still be included.

2)      The data that is not covered by Senator Galvano’s good amendment (“student’s or a student’s family’s juvenile delinquency records, criminal records, medical records, biometric information, religious affiliations, beliefs, political affiliations or beliefs, and sexual or attitudes, or behavior”) will still be given or sold to outside corporations and researchers.

3)      Hopefully the data will be aggregated, anonymized and de-identified as stated in the amendment.  However, because of the wording used in the amendment,” the Florida Department of Education is not required to, but “may assign an anonymized random identification number to each record before providing access to data.”

4)      Conspicuously absent from the list, despite our multiple pleas, are mental health records and psychological data such as the  “psychological resources, mindsets, learning strategies, effortful control, attributes, dispositions, social skills, attitudes, and intrapersonal resources” that the U.S. Department of Education plans to measure in the Common Core aligned assessments (p. 17 and 49 of pdf) via all of their fancy affective computing equipment, such as wireless skin conductance bracelets, facial expression cameras, etc. (See p. 62 of the pdf from the same report).

In addition to all of the data privacy issues in SB 878, SB 1076, the education appropriations bill about to be signed by Governor Scott is moving full steam ahead to force Common Core standards and their aligned, psychologically manipulative assessments on every public school, student, and teacher in the state of Florida.  Here are some of the many issues with this bill:

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