Dr. Karen Effrem’s recent Florida Legislative testimony bears witness to sound advice falling on deaf ears.
“This would be especially tragic for our already beleaguered school districts, because this concept of tying NAEP proficiency to state test achievement levels has NO, and I repeat NO support in the government and research communities. The National Center for Education Statistics that administers the NAEP, as well as the National Academy of Sciences, The National Academy of Education, and the Brookings Institute all say that proficiency on the NAEP and achievement levels on state tests like the FSA are completely unrelated and should have nothing to do with each other.”
Please pay attention to this bill and ones like it in your own states. The freedom and futures of our children and the nation depend on our vigilance and willingness to take a stand.
Although a state-level bill, the psychological manipulation, and tracking via Common Core and CBE are nationwide and dangerous. Parents across the nation were originally told by Bill Gates, Jeb Bush, and their minions that Common Core was nothing but a set of “high” academic standards in English and math. Moms and dads are furious when they learn that schools and the corporate/big government establishment are using their children as guinea pigs and see them merely as chattel for the global labor force.
Karen R. Effrem, MD – President
Betsy DeVos at her 1/17/17 Confirmation Hearing
I strongly agree with Shane Vander Hart at Caffeinated Thoughts that Betsy DeVos’ confirmation hearing to be Secretary of Education was not terribly informative. Aside from a brief mention of Common Core by Senator Cassidy (R-LA) where she said she wouldn’t mandate it from the secretarial level and her answer to a question from Senator Alexander (R-TN, chairman of the HELP Committee holding the hearing) that she wouldn’t implement school choice from the federal level, none of the major concerns in our national parent coalition letter about Common Core, privacy, and school choice were asked or answered.
Here is a brief discussion of several issues that did come up and those that should be closely monitored during her control of the U.S. Department of Education:
Common Core – Mrs. DeVos answered Senator Cassidy’s brief yes or no question, that she would not continue Common Core from the federal level. it is interesting that she said in her prepared opening statement:
And every teacher in America dreams of breaking free from standardization, so that they can deploy their unique creativity and innovate with their students.
If she wants teachers to “break free from standardization” how is it that she has supported national standards and standardized tests that require “standardized” teaching for so long?
However, as stated in numerous writings by many anti-Common Core experts and activists, the foundation of the Every Student Succeeds Act mandates the Common Core by imposing secretarial veto of state plans and requiring states’ compliance with eleven different federal laws all mandating statewide standards and tests that are Common Core even if not labeled such. How she implements ESSA will be critical.
Federal School Choice – While it was somewhat reassuring that she said that she would not support a federal school choice law, her answers about wanting accountability combined with her record of support for very regulated voucher plans in Indiana and Louisiana that require administration of the state (Common Core) tests along with that strong push by her allies John Engler of the Business Round Table and Michael Petrilli of Fordham as well as most of the Democrats is extremely concerning for the autonomy and viability of private schools. Education freedom groups across the nation, including Education Liberty Watch, Eagle Forum and the Cato Institute are all very concerned.
Implementation of ESSA
- We hope that she is extremely liberal with waivers for state plans that seek to truly eliminate Common Core and the associated federally mandated state tests in favor of various state options or changes the regulations altogether. This is the best way in our view that Donald Trump can keep his promise to get rid of Common Core.
- It is also critical that she not favor or implement any kind of social emotional/21st Century skills standards or assessment programs in ESSA or its accountability scheme. This was one of our questions and is also an issue in the Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA) and the subject of a national commission.
Data Privacy – This topic did not come up during the hearing. Betsy DeVos chaired the Philanthropy Roundtable, which published a report called Blended Learning: A Wise Giver’s Guide to Supporting Tech-assisted Teaching that lauds the Dream Box software that “records 50,000 data points per student per hour”
- Senator Hatch seemed to be promoting the lifting of the prohibition on the student unit record system which would then allow data mining and a federal dossier on students from cradle to career. This was one of our questions and this idea must be firmly resisted.
- The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) was gutted by regulatory fiat during the Obama administration. At the very least, those privacy protections must be restored and preferably expanded to deal with all of the online data mining that is happening with technology-based education. Privacy was mentioned by Mr. Trump and was one of our questions not addressed during the hearings. It would be a huge improvement even to return to the previous regulations.
Preschool – Senator Isakson (R-GA) made the following very alarming statement during the hearing (1:02:55):
“She [Senator Murray] talked about her goal and my goal which we’ve shared with each other, that is to work toward requiring 4 year old prekindergarten for every student in the country…” (Emphasis added).
Thankfully DeVos demurred with her standard, “If confirmed, I look forward to working with you on…” statement. However, given how ineffective, harmful, invasive and expensive these programs are, including in Georgia, expanding preschool like this would be a “disaster” of Trumpian proportions.
GLBT issues – This was a key issue pushed by the Democrats and while we agree with her that no student deserves discrimination or harassment, we would have felt much better if she had also said that she also cared about protecting the First Amendment free speech, freedom of assembly and religious rights of all students and families. It will be important to see how she deals with the Title IX guidance.
Guns in Schools – Her response on guns in schools satisfied no one. While right that it is a states’ issue, the “grizzly bear” response was quite ineffective. Far more satisfying would have been a mention that almost all school shooters have been on psychotropic medications at the time of their crimes, including Knewtown, Connecticut, the home state of Senator Murphy (D). These drugs have the well-known side effect of violent, murderous reactions in certain individuals and that guns in the hands of responsible concealed permit holders would likely reduce the carnage in these incidents as it did in Pearl, Mississippi and other mass shootings.
What’s Next – Betsy DeVos was required to have her letter from the government ethics agency documenting that she would serve with no financial conflicts of interest by the end of today as President-elect Trump takes the oath of office in order to have her committee confirmation vote on January 24th. We will see if that happens and what comes next. Please consider contacting the Senate HELP Committee members and your own senators with the concerns we have listed.
Dr. Susan Berry at Breitbart covers more in-depth the influence of the DeVos fortune in promoting education news, Common Core, and social emotional learning which we described in our last post about the debate over SEL between Allison Crean Davis whose employer works with a number of DeVos-related entities and whose article was published on T74, the DeVos funded website:
The education reform website founded by former CNN anchor Campbell Brown is supporting Donald Trump’s education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos with the disclaimer that DeVos’ family foundation provides funding for the site.
Education Week writer Mark Walsh recently observed DeVos “has a friend” in Brown, who founded education news site The 74. He adds DeVos’ selection puts Brown in “an awkward position” in that The 74 is advertised as an independent education news site. Brown herself, however, advocates for school choice and charter schools – exactly the main causes DeVos espouses.
The disclaimer on Brown’s site reads as follows:
The Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation provides funding to The 74, and the site’s Editor-in-Chief, Campbell Brown, sits on the American Federation for Children’s board of directors, which was formerly chaired by Betsy DeVos. Brown played no part in the reporting or editing of this article. The American Federation for Children also sponsored The 74’s 2015 New Hampshire education summit.
In a recent column at The 74, Brown writes:
Social media attacks aren’t famous for accuracy, but it’s a pity that Betsy DeVos has been so misleadingly caricatured since Donald Trump asked her to serve as secretary of education last week.
Not just because she’s a friend. Also because her attackers needlessly reopen late-NCLB fault lines and deepen the clamor that follows Trump everywhere.
Brown adds that DeVos will work hard at “pushing to improve whatever model is working — traditional or charter or voucher or something we haven’t yet imagined.”
Berry also notes that Campbell Brown defended close DeVos friend and major Common Core proponent Jeb Bush. She then goes on to discuss the above-mentioned SEL debate by Common Core defender Davis:
However, in another recent article at The 74, Allison Crean Davis, a senior advisor at Bellwether Education Partners, bemoans, “Promising, well-intended initiatives, like the Common Core Standards, burn and struggle to survive even before there is a shared understanding of their potential, much less evidence of their impact.”
Davis continues in support as well of the integration of social emotional learning (SEL) into schools and criticizes Federalist writers Jane Robbins and Karen Effrem for their warning about the dangers of including psychological learning as part of the curriculum children are exposed to at school.
This article is the journalistic equivalent of yelling “fire” in a theater, designed to have folks crawling across the floor to the nearest exit. It’s as if the authors are saying: Don’t think. There’s danger. Escape! To which I say: Calm down. Harness one of the “subjective” social emotional skills in question, self-management. Instead of panicking, work to understand the rationale behind the push for more social emotional learning in schools and how the still-emerging science presents some limits to the work.
Characterizing the inclusion of SEL into curriculum as another “march of science,” Davis encourages the “exploration of the value of social emotional characteristics in schools.”
Robbins and Effrem, who assert the teaching of social and emotional qualities belongs not to the government, but firmly to parents who may be assisted by faith communities, respond:
Davis is firmly in the “government” camp. (So are the pro-Common Core and pro-SEL organizations working with her employer, Bellwether Education Partners, such as the Philanthropy Roundtable—chaired by Betsy DeVos—the Gates Foundation, and Jeb Bush’s ExcelinEd.) Her article mentions parents only once, in connection with paraphrasing and dismissing our arguments. Instead, she emphasizes the need to focus on “science” uber alles.
Berry concludes by quoting Jane Robbins who accurately describes the way elitists like DeVos and Jeb Bush work to have their way in education policy:
“Jeb Bush and his ideological compatriots, including DeVos, advance what could be called a ‘government-foundation cartel’ model of educational policy-making,” she writes. “Private foundations funded by wealthy individuals (who themselves may be dilettantes with no real experience in education) contribute ideas, and frequently personnel, to the government to achieve their policy goals.”
While Robbins notes Congress or state lawmakers may rely on “research” funded by such foundations to make policy decisions, she also observes that often the actual decisions are made by the administrative state, i.e., unelected federal and state executive agencies. This state of affairs explains why so many parents and citizens want to see the U.S. Department of Education eliminated.
Please read the whole article – Former CNN Anchor’s Education Site Funded by Betsy DeVos Family Foundation and share!
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