Browsing articles in "Federal Education"

The National Pulse: Debunking 5 False Claims About “Social Emotional Learning”

by Karen Effrem, MD

The National Commission on Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (SEL) that we have discussed and warned about had a major gathering in Tacoma, Wash., this past November and sent out an email update in early January.

The commission is led by Linda Darling Hammond, the head of CASEL, who was radical terrorist Bill Ayers’ choice to be Secretary of Education in the Obama Administration. Another commission co-chair is former Michigan Governor John Engler, now chairman of the Business Roundtable (BRT), which has long promotedCommon Core, SEL skills development, and treating children as widgets in the labor-supply chain.

Five “takeaways” from the Tacoma gathering were listed in the email and on their website. As we have written in many articles and as is typical of SEL proponents, these contentions are overflowing with contradictions and fallacies. Below is a brief attempt to debunk them:


Dec 7, 2017

The National Pulse: Guess What? Congress Wants to Collect Even More Sensitive Student Data

Dr. Effrem discusses the new version of The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Mark Warner (VA). While improved on the basis of data security, the bill still allows the collection of way too much data without student knowledge or consent, fundamentally changing the relationship between citizens and the government. Read the full article HERE.

Nov 13, 2017

The College Transparency Act Must Be Rejected



“Transparency” is the new excuse for creating Orwellian tracking and surveillance systems. The federal government first takes over a function for which it has no constitutional authority – such as student loans – and then claims it must gather almost unlimited data on the citizens affected by that program to see how it’s working. The College Transparency Act (CTA) operates in this mold and must be rejected.

CTA would overturn the Higher Education Act’s ban on a student unit-record system, establishing a federal data system containing personally identifiable information (PII) about behavior in postsecondary education (enrollment patterns, progression, completion), post-collegiate outcomes (employment and earnings), and financial aid. This means that simply by enrolling in higher education, a student would be submitting – without notice or consent – to lifetime government tracking of his or her college, career, and financial trajectory.

CTA would require sharing of private student data among multiple federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid; the Departments of Treasury, Defense, and Veterans Affairs; the Social Security Administration; and the Census Bureau. (More may be added.) So an individual’s PII can be linked to his tax information, his military information, his Social Security records, and everything the Census knows about him. There are no limits on the purposes for which this data-matching can be used. The Administrative State will be able to compile a massive dossier on every American who enrolls in college.

Although collection of some sensitive data is currently prohibited, the Commissioner of Education Statistics is required to periodically review data elements and empowered to add more. Also, there is no specific prohibition against the collection of social emotional data.

This federal treasure trove of PII would be housed in a centralized database and routinely updated, throughout each subject’s life.

CTA violates many of the widely accepted Fair Information Practice Principles[1]: It takes data without subjects’ knowledge and consent; it contains no right to opt out, or to inspect or correct the data; it includes no mandate for data-minimization; and it has no limits on data-retention.

Although CTA requires that data given to researchers be de-identified, re-identification is far too simple when there are so many data points in the system.[2]

CTA mentions data security but requires no security audits, encryption, or protocols for detection and notification of breaches. And federal agencies have been notorious for data breaches.

CTA is unnecessary. Information about postsecondary outcomes can be compiled from student and alumni surveys,[3] and any legitimate institution of higher education is happy to share its statistics with the public.

[1] See

[2] See

[3] See

Nov 13, 2017

The Student Privacy Protection Act That Doesn’t Protect Student Privacy


The Student Privacy Protection Act (H.R. 3157 in the 114th Congress) (SPPA) is an attempt to update the 1974 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and to repair at least some of the damage caused by the 2012 regulatory changes[1] that gutted many of FERPA’s protections for personally identifiable information (PII), in flagrant disregard of congressional intent.[2] While SPPA contains some positive changes, such as removing the language allowing data for “predictive testing” and improving data-security requirements, many gaps and other issues remain:

SPPA does nothing to stop the invasive expansion of the scope of data collected on children, especially including social emotional learning (SEL) assessments and surveys that were greatly expanded under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This is because SPPA allows nonconsensual data use for audits and evaluations of any federal, state or local education program, including those in ESSA.

Releasing PII without consent is an egregious violation of human research ethics.[3]

The list of exceptions to parental-consent requirements for researchers and government entities remains disturbingly large, with no good definition of “legitimate educational interest.” This allows anyone, including corporations and “volunteers” using those magic words, to gain access to the mother lode of student data without the inconvenience of obtaining parental consent.

SPPA grants no private right of action for students and families harmed by misconduct of researchers or corporations that misuse student data or are responsible for data breaches. Penalties for misconduct go to the federal government for “technical assistance” instead of to the aggrieved students and families whose privacy or lives can be and have been seriously harmed by this data free-for-all.[4]

Under the American system of limited government, student privacy and parental consent should always be considered pre-eminent over the research desires of the government or private sector, especially in the realm of psychological profiling.

The federal government should not be using any data — and especially SEL data — to “improve learning,” because the federal government has no constitutional authority whatsoever to be involved in education.

There is no need for continued data collection and invasion of privacy, because the research is already conclusive that federal education programs “protected” by FERPA are utterly ineffective. This is true of ESEA, Race to the Top/Common Core, Investing in Innovation, Head Start, and home visiting, to name just a few.[5] Federal involvement in education has been a disaster, and no amount of data will overcome institutional incompetence.



[3] – See page 4


[5] References for these claims are compiled at: