Browsing articles in "Federal Education"
Jan 7, 2016

Education Liberty Watch Comments on Federal “Family Engagement” Policy

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

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

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

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


Jan 5, 2016

SETRA – The Federal Data Mining & Psychological Profiling Bill Returns

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

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

Here is a recap and update of what we wrote earlier about the extremely serious problems with SETRA:
SETRA reauthorizes the 2002 Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA) that has been very problematic, because it started the concept of state longitudinal databases, evaded the prohibition on a national database by creating “national cooperative education statistics systems,”  allowed personally identifiable information to go to international agencies, and removed the  previous penalties of fines and imprisonment for misusing individual student data. SETRA continues or worsens all of that. Here are four major problems with SETRA (A detailed analysis of these points is available HERE):
1. SETRA seeks to expand federal psychological profiling of our children.
Section 132 of the bill (page 28, line 16-21) inserts the following:
“and which may include research on social and emotional learning, and the acquisition of competencies and skills, including the ability to think critically, solve complex problems, evaluate evidence, and communicate effectively…” (Emphasis added).
The US Department of Education (USED) is already in flagrant violation of the Tenth Amendment.  The amount of data collected on individual children, families, and teachers via USED through this law and the weakening . . .  of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) . . .  is appalling and [violates] the Fourth Amendment as well.  To then give the federal government the right to research the thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and behaviors of free American citizens, especially innocent children, is completely unacceptable . . . .
2. SETRA only appears to prohibit a national database, but actually promotes it.
Section 157 of the bill takes out the word “national” and ostensibly prohibits a national database. While this appears to be an improvement, it unfortunately doesn’t do anything to stop the egregious loss of privacy that has happened since ESRA established the “national cooperative statistics systems” and “state longitudinal databases” in 2002.  These databases have become more invasive via The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, Stimulus), Race to the Top, and the America COMPETES Act.  In addition, they are relying on outdated and weak student privacy laws (FERPA and PPRA), there is no enforcement mechanism, and we have seen how the federal government repeatedly and flagrantly violates its promises not to extend its authority, as with Race to the Top, Common Core, and the national tests.
3. The bill continues to rely on a severely outdated and weakened Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
(FERPA) to protect student privacy.Both ESRA and SETRA refer to FERPA (20 USC 1232g) . . .  and require data privacy to be handled according to that law.  However, FERPA passed in 1974 long before the presence of interoperable databases and cloud computing.  It also only discusses sanctions on entities that mishandle the data and those [sanctions], which used to include fines and imprisonment, were severely weakened when ESRA was passed in 2002.  Students, families, and teachers whose sensitive personal and family data about everything from “social and emotional” issues to genetic data in newborn screening data have no redress.  According to an investigation by Politico, education technology companies are “scooping up as many as 10 million unique data points on each child, each day.” (Emphasis added) Finally, FERPA has been severely weakened via regulatory fiat to gut consent requirements and broaden access to data by federal agencies and private entities.
4. SETRA continues the large loophole that renders PPRA ineffective in preventing nosy social questions in curriculum and assessments.
PPRA, cited in section 182 as 20 USC 1232h, prohibits the collection of psychological, political, religious, and other sensitive data in surveys, but not in curriculum and assessments such as in Common Core.
In addition to the Rep. Tim Ryan’s gushing admission during ESSA floor debate, here is another of many pieces of evidence that a key purpose of the Common Core standards and aligned assessments is to psychologically manipulate and profile our children:
“ASCA [American School Counselors AssociationMindsets & Behaviors align with specific standards from the Common Core State Standards through connections at the competency level. (Emphasis added)”
SETRA is not listed on the House of Representatives schedule for the week of January 4th, but will likely come up very soon, probably on the consent calendar. Fortunately, if only one House member objects and calls for a recorded vote, we’ll see who in the House believes in the psychological invasion of our children. Please call your House member at 202-224-3121 and ask him or her to object to SETRA if it appears on the consent calendar. It should be removed from the consent calendar and, at the very least, the social emotional research language should be removed via amendment.  If it is to be passed regardless of these serious objections, it must be done via a recorded vote. Any politician who supports exposing our children’s psyches to the federal government should at least have to do so in the light of day.
Dec 12, 2015

Dr. Effrem Interviewed by Inside Sources on Passage of ESSA

David Eldridge of of the national website Inside Sources interviewed Dr. Karen Effrem on her views of the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act in his article titled: How the New Education Bill Will Impact the Common Core Debate

“It’s a horrifically bad bill,” said Karen Effrem, executive director of Florida Stop Common Core Coalition.The Port Charlotte, Fla., activist told InsideSources on Thursday the ESSA is nothing more than the latest attempt to “rebrand” federal standards: “I think a lot of people drank the Kool-Aid that this bill devolves federal power down to the states and thought they were doing a good thing.”

Cross posted at the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition

Dec 10, 2015

Statement on the Enactment of the Every Student Succeeds Act

The following statement was released by Dr. Karen Effrem, president of Education Liberty Watch and the executive director of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition, and Randy Osborne, director of education for Heartland Research and Florida Eagle Forum, on the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act:
The president and Congress have chosen to give the parents of Florida and America a huge lump of educational coal this Christmas by enacting the Every Student Succeeds Act.  Despite this lopsided vote against the Constitution and parental rights, we are deeply grateful to the Republican members of Congress that voted to protect children from the tyrannical government intrusions in this bill. The wisdom of those twelve senators and sixty-four House members,  as with those who had the foresight to vote against No Child Left Behind in 2001, will be prescient. We are incredibly disappointed in the wholesale sellout of our children to Big Government, Big Corporations, and Big Data by the legislators of both parties.
We also thank presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Rand Paul for their steadfast opposition to the ESSA. Support of this disastrous bill by presidential candidates Jeb Bush, Linsdsey Graham, Bernie Sanders, and the failure of Marco Rubio to be involved in final deliberations for this incredibly important federal legislation will certainly not help their cause among this very active and engaged grassroots voting block. Parents, who are desperately seeking to protect their children from the terrible Common Core system of inferior and manipulative standards, psychologically profiling assessments and invasive data mining, want a candidate that will fight to slay the federal leviathan, not feed it or ignore it.
Sadly, on the day before the Senate vote, the Obama administration was already giving more than 200 parent and citizen groups in 46 states plenty of ammunition to say, “We told you so.”  According to state legislators meeting with US DOE chief of staff Emma Vadehra, the law now embeds “College and Career Ready Standards (the other name for Common Core) and because of the way the law is written, US DOE “does not expect any states to get away from the standards.” Vadehra also admitted the bill “solidifies the Department’s plans for full pre-K expansion.”
Any bill longer than No Child Left Behind that this president was giddy to sign, that received 100% support from the big government party of Congress, and that was endorsed by the owners of Common Core’s copyright and other proponents, does not “end the Common Core mandate” or protect parental rights. Our allegedly conservative Republican leadership has chained our children to expanded federal government control of education.  This is a day that will not be forgotten by the parents of this nation.