Browsing articles in "Federal Education"
Dec 3, 2016
ELW

DeVos & Bush Engage in “High Standards” Snake Oil Sales

Karen R. Effrem, MD – President

President-elect Donald Trump has selected Michigan billionaire; Republican mega-donor, and school choice advocate Betsy DeVos as his Secretary of Education. The corporate, big government Republican establishment, such as Jeb Bush, his Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE), Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, as well as groups that have received her large contributions, are thrilled with her appointment. Key education freedom leaders like Frank Cannon, president of the American Principles Project who called her a “very Jeb-like pick”; Joy Pullman, managing editor of The Federalist; and grassroots parent anti-Common Core groups in MichiganOklahomaFlorida, and around the nation are justifiably concerned.

Understanding her future boss’ promise to get rid of Common Core, as well as how fatal it was  to the presidential campaigns of her friend and fellow FEE board member, Jeb Bush, whom she supported, and others that Donald Trump beat, she put out a hastily constructed statement on Twitter and her website the day she was appointed, alleging her opposition to Common Core, stating that she is “not a supporter-period,” because it had turned into a “federalized boondoggle”:

Here are several important things to know about DeVos based on her rhetoric quoted above; her record as documented by the Stop Common Core in Michigan parents who have experienced her brand of education reform firsthand, and other sources.

1)      DeVos used Jeb Bush’s “high standards” euphemism for Common Core    Her mention of “high standards” in her website statement and the report of having discussed “higher national standards” in the Trump Transition Team readout of her November 19th meeting with the president-elect, are identical to Jeb Bush’s efforts to deflect criticism of his Common Core support before and during his failed presidential campaign right down to the “Period.”:

Education Next: You have been a steadfast supporter of the common core, even when others have become increasingly critical. Why? What do you say to critics?

Bush: I support high academic standards. Period.

This has all the believability of a multi-level marketing campaign selling educational snake oil. Bush readily admitted while campaigning for Rick Scott in 2014 that there was no major difference between Common Core and the rebranded Florida Standards:

Bush and DeVos have never been able to explain just exactly how Common Core standard may be considered “high” when they were untried; are not rigorous; not internationally benchmarked; developmentally inappropriate, etc.

And her concept of “high standards” with local control is a complete oxymoron. Whether these “higher national standards” are called Common Core or not, the federal government has no place whatsoever promoting national standards at the federal level or in the states. Yet, sadly, by use of the secretarial veto of state plans and federal requirements to have standards and tests comply with 11 different draconian federal laws, this is what has happened with Jeb Bush’s admitted involvement in ESSA. If and until the USED is closed or scaled back and or ESSA is repealed, if she believes in local control, she must approve the state plans.

2)      Betsy DeVos has no record of Common Core opposition. The website statement and tweet the day she was appointed were the first indications of being against Common Core ever documented. In fact, she has been described as supporting Common Core by Tonya Allen of the Skillman Foundation in the Detroit News. There is absolutely no record of her or any of the three major organizations that she has founded, chaired or still chairs, and funds The Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP), The American Federation for Children (AFC), and the Philanthropy Roundtable (PR) ever having opposed Common Core. She never reached out to, and in fact, steadfastly refused to meet with or assist Stop Common Core in Michigan in any way. The GLEP executive director even threatened these parents with legal action.

3) The organizations that she ran, not just “worked with,”  were intensely pro-Common Core:

Actively worked to block a bill that would have repealed and replaced Michigan’s Common Core standards with the Massachusetts standards, arguably the best in the nation (GLEP)

Actively lobbied for continued implementation of Common Core in Michigan (GLEP)

Financially supported pro-Common Core candidates in Michigan (GLEP)

Threatened the grassroots parents’ organization Stop Common Core in Michigan with legal action for showing the clear link between GLEP endorsement and Common Core support (GLEP)

Funded Alabama pro-Common Core state school board candidates via the Alabama affiliate of AFC

Does anyone honestly believe that she would allow these groups she basically controls to take such pro-Common Core actions if she opposed the standards?

4) Betsy DeVos personally lauded, and AFC strongly supported, and funded the 2011 Indiana law signed by Mitch Daniels that imposes Common Core on private voucher schools via the tests. The law requires voucher recipient schools to administer the public school Common Core-aligned tests without the option of choosing a nationally norm-referenced test (sec. 4.7) and submit to the grading system based on those same tests.  The tests determine what is taught. Indiana still has Common Core via the infamous rebrand perpetrated by VP-elect Mike Pence and “is the second-worst in the country on infringing on private school autonomy” according to the Center for Education Reform because of that and other onerous requirements. Indiana’s law received an F grade on the Education Liberty Watch School Choice Freedom Grading Scale.

5) DeVos and AFC are strong supporters of federal Title I portability.  This program would require the same public school, Common Core tests and likely, the rest of draconian and unconstitutional federal regulations for private schools as are currently imposed on public schools. This would eliminate them as a real “choice”  and would expand the “federalized boondoggle” she says she opposes. Jeb Bush recommended this same kind of program requiring the state tests for Mitt Romney in 2012 (p.24).

6)      DeVos seems to favor highly regulated Common Core-aligned charter schools Although charter schools are public schools usually requiring the public school Common Core tests, there are some that are trying to blaze a trail of independence. Hillsdale College in DeVos’ home state of Michigan is nationally renowned for its classical and constitutional teaching and for not taking federal funding.  It has also developed non-Common Core classical charter schools.  Hillsdale President Dr. Larry Arnn says, “…we only put those charter schools in states where the charter law enables the independence of the school under a local board to run the school as they please.”

Although there are token mentions of the Hillsdale programs on various of her organization websites, that style of charter school is not favored by her. The Philanthropy Roundtable group that DeVos chaired until her appointment published a report on charter schools, but did not once mention the Hillsdale program. There is no evidence that her family foundation has made a single donation to Hillsdale College, including to its charter program. She should be asked why she seems to want all charter schools in Michigan and elsewhere to only teach Common Core aligned standards, curriculum and use those tests. How is that advancing any real parental choice in education?

7)      The DeVos organizations seem very cavalier about student privacy – The Philanthropy Roundtable, which she chaired until her appointment, published a report called Blended LearningA Wise Giver’s Guide to Supporting Tech-assisted Teaching (analyzed HERE) that lauds the Dream Box software that “records 50,000 data points per student per hour” and does not contain a single use of the words “privacy,” “consent,” “transparency” [as in who receives that data and how software algorithms crunch that data to make life changing decision for children]. The report also prominently mentions Knewton, whose CEO bragged about collecting “5-10 million data points per user per day.” Blended learning is the same as Competency Based Education with its teaching, invasive data mining, and psychological profiling by machine that we have warned about .

It is in stark contrast to another Trump promise on the campaign trail to protect student privacy. When asked if he would close the FERPA loophole opened by the Obama administration allowing sensitive data to be shared widely without consent, he said:

“I would close all of it,” Trump replied. “You have to have privacy. You have to have privacy. So I’d close all of it. But, most of all, I’d get everything out of Washington, ’cause that’s where it’s all emanating from.”

Whose philosophy will prevail?

8)      The DeVos-led (until recently) PR group also supports expanding invasive, subjective social emotional learning The PR’s national conference had a breakout session titled: Enabling Student Success: How Social-Emotional Learning Can Impact Schools. The recap had no discussion of privacy,freedom of conscience, or indoctrination concerns. It called parents merely “assets” in student learning. The T74, a pro-Common Core education blog funded by the DeVos FamilyFoundation carried a post attacking the Federalist article written by Jane Robbins and myself as the “journalistic equivalent of yelling ‘fire’ in a theater” without substantively answering our concerns. The author works at Bellwether Education Partners, whose partners include (surprise, surprise) DeVos’ PR, Bush’s FEE, and the Gates Foundation, all major supporters of Common Core and of SEL.

None of this constitutes “draining the swamp” in education.  American Principles Project senior fellow Jane Robbins said it very well in her excellent piece, Jeb’s Revenge:

Bush professed himself thrilled with DeVos’s “outstanding” nomination to be Education Secretary, and with good reason – he surely believes she’ll use the stratagems the cartel has employed for so long to impose its own vision of what American education should be. DeVos must instead assure the grassroots that she’ll use her new position to eliminate federal interference and truly return education policy to the states. Trump was elected to achieve that goal, not to install Jeb’s agenda. He should make sure DeVos understands that.
Nov 16, 2016
ELW

New at Breitbart: Parents Groups Urge Trump to Appoint Anti-Common Core Education Secretary

Dr. Susan Berry of Breitbart News highlights the potential schism between parent supported anti-Common Core officials and the pro-Common Core, corpratist establishment candidates to run the US Department of Education (USED). Here is an excerpt:

The grassroots groups have been fighting against federal intervention in education for years. They’ve activated email alerts in light of what has been released as Trump’s short list of possible candidates for U.S. Education Department (USED) secretary. The list includes:
U.S. Rep. Luke Messer of Indiana, a supporter of school choice who backed Jeb Bush in the GOP primary and has been an ardent supporter of the new massive education law, Every Students Succeeds Act;
Former Florida education commissioner Gerard Robinson, who was also a member of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change and is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute
Eva Moskowitz, the pro-Common Core CEO and founder of Success Academy Charter Schools;
Michelle Rhee, the pro-Common Core former chancellor of Washington, D.C. public schools and the founder of Students First, an organization whose board of directors once included Common Core architect David Coleman and math standards writer Jason Zimba.
Tony Bennett, the ousted Indiana superintendent of public education who was investigated for fraud and resigned later as Florida commissioner of education;
Dr. Ben Carson, former neurosurgeon and 2016 GOP presidential candidate;
Williamson M. Evers, Hoover Institution education expert who has been vocal in his opposition to Common Core and federal intervention in education.

 

Dr. Carson has since declined a cabinet position and the only other person on that list against Common Core is Bill Evers, who has been fighting it since 2011. Hopefully it is a good sign that President-Elect Trump has made him head of the education transition team.

Parent group leader from across the nation are concerned and want to help President-elect Trump keep his promises to stop Common Core, make education local and decrease the size and scope of the US Department of Education:

“When Donald Trump talked on the campaign trail about ‘the forgotten men and women’ of America, many of us who have been fighting Common Core in the trenches felt like he was talking to us,” says Heather Crossin of Indiana, who adds that many parents have lost a voice in their children’s education.”We are counting on President-elect Trump to stand up and fight for us against the powerful special interests, who not only profit off of Common Core but who pull the strings of the vast majority of politicians in both parties,” she explains.

Dr. Karen Effrem of Florida also points to Trump’s promise to end Common Core and make education local once again.
“Choosing pro-Common Core, establishment people like Tony Bennett, Michelle Rhee, or Eva Moskowitz would be a complete betrayal to those parents in every state who helped elect him,” she says.
While on the campaign trail, Trump said Common Core is a “disaster” and that Washington, D.C. should leave education to states and local school districts. Most of Trump’s recent discussion about education has been in the area of school choice.

Other strong candidates acceptable to parents include or should include English Standards expert Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Dr. Peg Luksik, Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn, Dr. William Jeynes, and former Texas education Commissioner Richard Scott. More details about each are available HERE.

Please help Donald Trump remember those “forgotten” parents that work to get him elected. Send a short note to the transition team at http://apply.ptt.gov/yourstory or tweet to @realDonaldTrump, @stevenkbannon and @transition2017 and include hashtags: #KeepYourPromises #DontForgetParents #EversforEd  #StotskyforEd #LuksikforEd #JeynesforEd. 

 

Thank you!

 

Sep 23, 2016
ELW

New Head Start Performance Standards Cement National “Baby Common Core” Content Standards, Assessments, and Curriculum

 

The federal government continues its long march to ensnare more of our children in its tentacles at an ever-younger age. “Baby Common Core” has reared its ugly head.

Head Start, the failed but lavishly funded federal pre-K program, recently released its new Program Performance Standards.  These standards are the yardstick by which Head Start programs nationwide will be evaluated. Chief among the many problems with these standards is the cementing  in section 1302.32 of the mandate occurring 11 times in the federal Head Start Act of 2007 requiring that all curriculum be  “aligned with [or “based on”] the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework: Ages Birth to Five” (Framework). This Framework provides federalized “Baby Common Core”– style curriculum content standards.  In fact, efforts have already been made to align both the Framework itself as well as state pre-K standards, often based on the Head Start Framework, to the Common Core national standards for Kindergarten through grade 3. So under the new Performance Standards, any Head Start program will implement Baby Common Core in order to achieve a good rating.

Addressing the 2007 reauthorization of the Head Start Act, the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge (ELC) grants, and the harmful  $250 million preschool grants in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – grants that must be used to develop programs in compliance with Head Start — we warned of the dangers of nationalized preschool content standards, assessment, and curriculum. Particularly concerning is the intense focus on subjective and indoctrinating social emotional learning (SEL) standards. Yet that is exactly what the Head Start Act and these new Performance Standards have produced.

The controversial content standards in the Framework not only exist in Head Start programs, but are intertwined with many state preschool standards that govern private preschool programs when there is a quality rating system.  According to CASEL (the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning), the national SEL  bully, “approximately 48% of states consulted the Head Start Framework when developing their standards, and 60% of states relied on the NAEYC [National Association for the Education of Young Children] Developmentally Appropriate Practices.”  The following examples explain why every parent should be alarmed with the Head Start and NAEYC standards and curriculum.

 

Gender Identity for 3-Year-Olds and the LGBT Agenda

Most concerning of the many problematic standards in the Framework is this set:


 

This standard goes beyond having children identify their biological sex, an objective physical characteristic, but rather embroils them in the complex and controversial issue of gender identity.  The gender-identity issue has been central for a long time in Head Start, NAEYC, and the many state standards based on both.  The curriculum Making Room in the Circle: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Families in Early Childhood Settings defines gender identity as follows:

… a person’s internal, deeply felt sense of being either male or female, or something other or in between. Because gender identity is internal and personally defined, it is not visible to others. (Emphasis added.)  [The same definition appears in The Policy Institutes of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, p. 8]

In its diversity handbook for preschool programs titled Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves (p.  91), NAEYC identifies these goals regarding gender identity and gender roles:

  • Children, regardless of gender, will participate in a wide range of activities necessary for their full cognitive and social-emotional development. (Anti-Bias Education [ABE] Goal 1)
  • Children will demonstrate positive feelings about their gender identity and develop clarity about the relationship between their anatomy and their gender role. (ABE Goal 1)
  • Children will talk about and show respect for the great diversity in appearance, emotional expressiveness, behavior, and gender roles for both boys and girls. (ABE Goal 2)
  • Children will recognize unfair or untrue messages (including invisibility) about gender roles. (ABE Goal 3)
  • Children will practice skills for supporting gender role diversity in their interactions with peers.  (ABE Goals 3 & 4)

 

NAEYC also foments gender confusion by encouraging cross-dressing by young children (p. 93):

Some of the favorite costumes in the center are made from women’s skirts.  Small slits cut just under the waistbands for the children’s arms let the skirts become super hero capes, princess gowns, doctors’ uniforms – anything the children want them to be.  One morning the teacher puts out some of the costume skirts. Brad puts on the red one, but Victor hesitates. He reaches for the bright turquoise satiny one. “Is this a boy’s costume?” he asks. “Are you a boy?” the teacher responds. “Yes,” he responds soberly. “Then if you wear it, it’s a boy’s costume,” she says. Victor’s face brightens and he puts it on and with arms outstretched swirls around with delight.

Without asking why childhood innocence must be breached to discuss these issues at all, NAEYC also recommends using anatomically correct dolls to guide the conversation:

Many programs use anatomically correct dolls.  Some put the dolls out for children to play with freely; others use them in persona doll stories to help children explore issues of gender identity.  These stories also provide teachers opportunities to use anatomical terms in a matter-of-fact way.  Sometimes a family may object to your using an anatomically correct doll with their child.  If this is an issue in your program, having respectful conversations with the family can lead to a third space solution (as described in chapter 4). – p. 95

Head Start also seems more concerned about making LGBT families comfortable in its programs than about families who believe in traditional marriage. In fact, Head Start created an entire webpage about the issue titled Creating a Welcoming Early Childhood Program for LGBT-Headed Families:    

One of the resources on this page contains a checklist that includes these items:

❏ Do images show people who represent diverse races/ethnicities, economic status, physical ability, age, and family structure?

❏ Do posters, children’s art, children’s book displays, and photos of your real families (including staff) depict the many ways that people work, play, and live as families?

While all children and families in these programs should be treated with respect, there is no concern for the confusion and difficulties this will bring to the majority of preschoolers by portraying these minority and very alternative lifestyles as normative.  And regardless of one’s beliefs on this contentious issue, should taxpayer-funded government programs be deciding how gender identity is discussed or family structure portrayed? And what about parental rights and religious liberty?

Turning Uncle Sam into Uncle Shrink – Government-Mandated Emotional Norms

Among the other controversial Head Start standards is this set that mandates empathy in young children:

 

Empathy can be a highly subjective and difficult trait to assess. This and many others of these social emotional standards are expecting teachers to function as psychologists, for which they have neither the time nor the training.   Even highly trained psychologists and psychiatrists and experts on preschool standards admit that there is little agreement on standards, assessment, or diagnosis based on them for young children.   Additionally, gender differences would penalize boys compared to girls, because boys by their normal emotional make-up do not tend to be empathetic at that age. So boys will be more likely to receive low assessment scores, or referrals for unnecessary evaluations and treatments, for non-existent emotional problems. And of course, this subjective data would follow them for life in their government dossiers affecting “college and careers.”

Government Takeover of State, Local, and Private Preschool and Childcare

Federal law also mandates that Head Start coordinate with other federal programs such as the Child Care and Development Block Grants (CCDBG).  This federal childcare law heavily promotes the Baby Common Core curriculum by strongly incentivizing grantees to implement state quality rating systems, many of which mandate these same Head Start Framework or state standards based on the Framework or NAEYC curriculum described above.  This is analogous to what the federal Race to the Top grants did to impose the K-12 Common Core standards on the states. The result is a state takeover of private and religious childcare, because now these programs outside of the state system (about 80% of childcare) 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 when it said, “….to reach 3 or 4 stars requires both familiarity with the ECIPs [standards] and also alignment of curriculum and assessment with them.” (Emphasis added). Minnesota’s standards are heavily based on an earlier version of the Head Start Framework and discuss gender identity, family structure diversity, careers, and environmentalism with preschoolers. This then allows the latest Head Start Framework and curriculum to be interwoven into the state and local, public and private, preschool programs outside of Head Start.

As with the Race to the Top K-12 and Early Learning Challenge grants, the Head Start grants usurp power from states, parents, and local programs. This is federal control of academic content, designed to influence the thoughts and attitudes of our youngest children.  Regardless of their positions on any particular topic, parents should be alarmed at allowing such control over their children by any government.

The K-12 Common Core standards promote social emotional goals as well, but are much less overt than the Framework. The feds were likely emboldened to directly impose national Pre-K content standards because Head Start is housed in the Department of Health and Human Services rather than the Department of Education (USED). Thus, some of the constitutional and statutory objections that parents and other citizens have addressed to USED’s overreach are less applicable to HHS (although the constitutionality of HHS as well is a valid debate to have).

Conclusion

On top of all of this, Head Start just does not benefit children. Hundreds of taxpayer-funded studies about the program have produced no good evidence that it is effective beyond third grade.  That is why we support major cuts to the program this year and a major overhaul or better yet, elimination of the program in the next Congress.  As stated in our recent analysis of the federal education budget, “With $19 trillion in debt, we should not be spending $430 million more [as the House is proposing] on failed preschool programs. Nor should the federal government be spending any of our hard-earned tax dollars to mold and monitor the thoughts and emotions of our children. “

Congress is now completing its work on the budget or continuing resolution that will fund the government until after the election. The fiscal year ends on September 30th. Make your voice heard. (202-224-3121)

Sep 21, 2016
ELW

FedEd Budget Alert – Protect the Hearts & Minds of Our Kids!

 

 

 

Congress is fighting with the president over the federal budget, including for education  for the new fiscal year that starts on October 1st. There is likely to be a temporary bill called a continuing resolution. Congress in this election seems to be listening to education concerns of parents and freedom organizations around the nation. We have an opportunity to support some important cuts for the US Department of Education as a whole and the Institute of Education Sciences that oversees the data collection, research, and social emotional learning (SEL). The details are in Dr. Effrem’s full article at Truth in American Education. (Thanks Shane Vander Hart for posting!)

Here is what you can do right now:

1) Please contact the following:

  • Speaker Paul Ryan at 202-225-0600
  • Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at 202-224-2541
  • House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers at 202-225-4601
  • Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran at 202-224-5054
  • Your own U.S. House member or use the House Capitol Switchboard at 202-225-3121
  • Your two US senators or use the Senate Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121

Thank them for being willing to decrease the education budget overall and for their great work to protect privacy by cutting the IES budget. Tell them that you support the House position on these items.

 

2) Send them this compilation of major research studies showing the failure of government preschool programs and this compilation of quotes showing the subjectivity and dangers of SEL. Respectfully tell them that with $19 trillion in debt, we should not be spending $430 million more on failed preschool programs. Nor should the federal government be spending any of our hard-earned tax dollars to mold and monitor the thoughts and emotions of our children. Tell them that you want to see real and significant cuts in early childhood spending and that you support the Senate cuts for School Improvement Programs that teach and assess SEL.

 

3)  Be encouraged that all of our work together is making some progress.

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