Browsing articles in "Mental Health"
Jul 9, 2016
ELW

Federally Funded National Group Pushes More Social Emotional Standards

Jane Robbins, attorney and senior fellow for the American Principles Project and Shane Vander Hart at Truth in American Education, have both written  excellent columns about the dangers of the next big edu fad – social emotional learning standards. Eight states are working with CASEL to adopt them.  These are California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington.

We have long written about the dangerous loss of freedom of conscience and privacy inherent in social emotional research and data gathering via the allegedly academic Common Core aligned tests that are being amplified in the Every Student Succeeds Act’s accountability paradigm.  Mrs. Robbins was kind enough to cite Dr. Effrem’s  research paper on this topic. Here is an excerpt:

Assessment and development of students’ social and emotional skills is risky business. What kind of training will teachers or other school personnel have for this responsibility? Psychologist Dr. Gary Thompson points out the extremely sensitive nature of evaluating children’s social-emotional makeup and warns about having inadequately trained personnel implementing plans designed to alter students’ psyches.

When non-psychologists dabble in these murky waters, the result is tremendously subjective analyses of what a child is thinking or feeling as opposed to what the government thinks he should be thinking or feeling. Dr. Karen Effrem, who has researched and written extensively about the issue of SEL, warns about the subjectivity of this kind of analysis, particularly with young children.

Even prominent SEL proponents caution that assessing students on SEL standards, especially with the common mechanism of student surveys, can be a shot in the dark. Researchers Angela Duckworth and David Yeager have said that “perfectly unbiased, unfakeable, and error-free measures are an ideal, not a reality.”  [Read the whole column titled: The Latest Big Education Fad, Social-Emotional Learning, Is As Bad As It Sounds]

CASEL or the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning receives major taxpayer funded grants. Their website says they received funding from the Institute for Education Sciencesthat is also pushing the social emotional research and profiling on students via the Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA):

In 2013, CASEL was one of six grantees nationwide to receive funding through the first round of Researcher-Practitioner Partnership grants. With IES support, CASEL is partnering with Washoe County School District in Reno, Nevada to create a monitoring system that includes SEL indicators and can be used to develop preventative interventions that promote academic, social, and emotional learning among their students.
The group has been involved in pushing this paradigm of non-academic, subjective learning for a long time. Illinois was the first state into which CASEL inserted its tentacles back in 2003. The social emotional standards had connections to federal education law at least as far back as 1994 as Dr. Effrem wrote back at the time:
The merger of the social and emotional with the academic has elevated vague, subjective psychosocial concepts to an equal or even higher plane than academic knowledge. It has also confused what is academic and what standard must be met to succeed in school. Is learning that if 4 birds are in a nest and 2 fly away that 2 are left more important or is learning how to empathize with the birds that are left in the nest? Is it more important to learn tolerance for all lifestyles and behaviors or that certain behaviors have serious physical and emotional consequences.
It was in Goals 2000 and the 1994 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), NCLB’s predecessor, that federal interference with local education began in earnest, by demanding the imposition of state standards based on the eight goals of Goals 2000.

Goal number one of Goals 2000 says, “All children will start school ready to learn.” As we have documented, this mandate, disguised as a goal, has given rise to the metastatic growth of early childhood programs across the country. In these programs, “ready to learn” has little or nothing to do with preparing young children to learn academic subjects and much to do with indoctrination of our very youngest and most vulnerable children in the most radical of ideologies. Even if accepted by some parents, it is completely wrong to teach ideology to three, four and five year old children. The ideas being promoted include: earth worshiping environmentalism, radical feminism, engendering fear and hatred of our military, and acceptance of homosexuality. It is these principles that are taught to young children and considered part of “social and emotional” development.

Social and emotional development is a large part of another mandate within Goals 2000. Goal eight says, “Every school will promote partnerships that will increase parental involvement and participation in promoting the social, emotional, and academic growth of children.” Notice that academic growth is the lowest priority on that list. That relegation of academics to such a low priority has resulted in an emphasis on work based and service learning out of the classroom, group projects, whole language, fuzzy math, and civics that undermine the principles of freedom within the Declaration of Independence.

The merger of the social and emotional with the academic has elevated vague, subjective psychosocial concepts to an equal or even higher plane than academic knowledge. It has also confused what is academic and what standard must be met to succeed in school. Is learning that if 4 birds are in a nest and 2 fly away that 2 are left more important or is learning how to empathize with the birds that are left in the nest? Is it more important to learn tolerance for all lifestyles and behaviors or that certain behaviors have serious physical and emotional consequences.
We would add that regardless of one’s view on any controversial topic, it is the parent’s job to do this training.

It is critical that we as parents fight to protect the hearts and minds of  our precious children from this growing threat to their privacy and freedom of thought. We must reject this overt indoctrination of our children and demand an end to psychological data mining inherent in Common Core based teaching, tests, data mining, and competency based education.

May 2, 2016
ELW

Acute Need for Psychological Data Protection Demonstrated by Sexual Orientation Survey

A Florida public school teacher was suspended and then resigned after giving the following “White Privilege” survey in Spanish class that asked questions about sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, and disability status:

Collecting data about religious affiliation, but not any of the other parameters in this survey, is a violation of current Florida statute 1002.222:
1002.222 Limitations on collection of information and disclosure of confidential and exempt student records.–

(1) An agency or institution as defined in s. 1002.22(1) may not:

(a) Collect, obtain, or retain information on the political affiliation, voting history, religious affiliation, or biometric information of a student or a parent or sibling of the student…
The Orange County school system said that they do not collect this type of information on their students and rightly suspended this teacher who then resigned. However, this is only one example of controversial curricula, standards, and assessments that are being perpetrated on our children, even young children. Here is an example of a gender identity standard in the Common Core aligned federal Head Start standardswhich governs the new preschool program imposed on the nation in Every Student Succeeds Act:

Here is the definition of Gender Identity from The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in a pre-K curriculum called Making Room in the Circle:
Refers to a person’s internal, deeply felt sense of being either male or female, or something other or in betweenBecause gender identity is internal and personally defined, it is not visible to others.”
Apr 16, 2016
ELW

Message to Congress: Our Children Do Not Exist to Provide Data to Researchers & the Feds!

The US House Education and Workforce Committee recently held a hearing titled “Strengthening Education Research and Privacy Protections to Better Serve Students.” Although there were some great positives such as hearing from a parent from the organization that took down inBloom, The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, there was an alarmingly pervasive attitude that student data belonged to the government and researchers and that parent concerns about privacy are over blown. What follows is the introduction, a summary of the pros and cons from the hearing, our conclusions and  recommendations from our extensively referenced document written by our president, Dr. Karen Effrem – Response to US House Privacy and Research Hearing. A summary of this document is available HERE.

INTRODUCTION:

We are grateful that the committee convened the very important recent hearing, “Strengthening Education Research and Privacy Protections to Better Serve Students, and for the opportunity to comment on it. With the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act being 40 years old; the Strengthening Research Through Education Act (SETRA) continuing dossier building via state longitudinal databases; and the expanded efforts to psychologically manipulate and profile our children via social emotional and mindset assessments in standards, curriculum and tests; it is extremely important that these bills be updated. Government data gathering on our innocent children must be very significantly pared back in content and kept to the local level and privacy protections strengthened. It is not just the data security that is an issue, but the type and amount of data that is gathered.

POSITIVES:

It is wonderful that Rachel Stickland from The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, an organization that receives no government or special interest funding, founded and composed of parents, which brought down the Bill Gates multi-million dollar inBloom operation, was able to testify. Ms. Stickland did an excellent job given that she was defending herself and parents from three other Big Data witnesses. (See NEGATIVES below).

Some of the questions by members seemed to indicate a good understanding about the dangers of the extensive student data collection taking place and took parental concerns on that topic seriously, particularly Mrs. Foxx, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Brat, and Ms. Bonamici.

Ms. Stickland’s description of the State Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) was excellent and correct, especially the part about the result of this longitudinal data collection resulting in dossiers from birth.  This includes genetic data at least in Rhode Island. I would just add that although the funding push for SLDS occurred during the stimulus bill, in a separate provision, in the Race to the Top grants, and in the America COMPETES Act, they were codified in ESRA in 2002 and continue in SETRA, which is why the data transparency language she mentioned is so critical for both SETRA and FERPA. If, as Dr. Hannaway mentioned, it is really true that the data is completely anonymized, this should not be a problem.

This question by Mr. Heck and Ms. Sticklands’s response as reported by Politico:

“He asked whether Common Core has ‘required new depths of data mining’ of students. ‘I’ve heard the same concerns from parents across the country,’ said Rachael Stickland, Parent Coalition for Student Privacy co-founder and co-chairwoman.  ‘There’s a lot of new measurements of student achievement that doesn’t necessarily have academic purposes – grit and tenacity and those sorts of things, the sort of emotional factors. There are a lot of parents who are very, very concerned about this.’”

This is not just a concern, but absolute fact, and we applaud her for saying so.  There is much evidence  that non -academic social emotional teaching is being promoted through Common Core standards  which means that there is psychological data gathering happening in the federally mandated mostly Common Core state tests.

NEGATIVES AND MISSED OPPORTUNITIES:

The incontrovertible and unbalanced Big Data bias of the rest of the panel besides Rachel Stickland
Except for Mr. Heck’s excellent question, there was no discussion of the large elephant in the room – the social emotional data mining in ESSA, SETRA, the NAEP, etc. The social emotional research language in SETRA in Sec. 132 is completely unacceptable both to parents and even education researchers and professionals like Dr. Angela Duckworth that used to support the idea of gathering this data for accountability purposes due to subjectivity and validity concerns. There is also concern from school board members in California that is leading the way in trying to implement this very unwise idea.
There seemed to be little awareness or concern by the committee of the whole section of FERPA regulations allowing sharing of personally identifiable student information with the federal government and third parties without parental consent.
These same regulations say that personally identifiable information may be “redisclosed” to other entities without consent, again justifying the concerns of parents about loss of control over their children’s longitudinal data that can have life-changing consequences.
Closely related to this “re-disclosure” concern is the fact that the FERPA regulations allow the use of personally identifiable information for “predictive testing.” To have this subjective, validity-challenged socioemotional data not only stay in a longitudinal database that follows a student for life, but also be used to make predictions of future academic or workforce performance used for critical life decisions appalls and horrifies parents when they learn of it.
There was no mention of the two very important and illuminating recent hearings convened by Chairman Chaffetz and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee [HERE and HERE] showing the deplorable state of data security at the US Department of Education. A November Inspector General’s report showed how vulnerable those data are to hackers and that by comparison, it would dwarf the Office of Personnel Management data breach.

CONCLUSIONS:

We believe that student privacy and parental consent should always be considered pre-eminent compared to the research desires of the government or private sector, especially in the realm of psychological profiling.

The government has no constitutional, statutory, or moral right to collect data on highly personal and sensitive socioemotional data on our children.

According to data presented to this committee by the Cato Institute several years ago, federal involvement in education has yielded either stagnant or declining academic performance:

The vast majority of federal education programs are unconstitutional because the entire US Department of Education is unconstitutional, meaning that most of these programs should be eliminated with any remaining that can be shown to be effective and constitutional programs being block granted to the states.

Many studies showing the ineffectiveness and or harm of current government education and child social programs and the effectiveness of two parent family structure and other non-government academic and social measures are ignored raising the question of why we need so much research in the first place.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

Remove the social emotional research language from Section 132 of SETRA.

Prohibit social emotional data gathering and the use of data for predictive testing in the FERPA reauthorization.

Put in strict data transparency language and update the data security language per the recommendations of technical experts like Dr. Joel Reidenberg or Barmak Nassirian in any FERPA reauthorization.

Require third party software and testing vendors to notify parents of what data is collected on students and how it is used.

Find a way for students whose identity and privacy is compromised to be compensated, not just researchers or private vendors to be penalized.

Close the curriculum and assessment loophole for invasive surveys in PPRA.

Immediately demand that the US Department of Education repair the federal data security failures found in the Inspector General’s recent report and uncovered by the House Oversight Committee.

Strongly consider a moratorium on further federal research until programs already shown to ineffective and harmful are transformed or eliminated and until actually effective measures are actually implemented.

 

 

Apr 15, 2016
ELW

Robert Holland Describes Federal Psych Profiling in Town Hall Column

Robert Holland interviewed Dr. Karen Effrem about the growing dangers of federal psychological profiling in multiple federal education programs in an excellent article entitled  Do Parents Want Their Children on Uncle Shrink’s Couch?. He discussed how the US Department of Education is psychologically profiling our children in preschool programs like Race to the Top, Head Start, and now ESSA; via the reauthorization of the federal education research bill, SETRA (Strengthening Education Through Research Act – S 227), and planning to test subjective, non-academic, psychosocial “mindsets” via the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The government’s term for all of this is social emotional learning (SEL).  We have frequently discussed this topic in relation to child mental screening, Common Core, and preschool. Here are some excerpts:

One of the most influential ways the federal government is molding young minds is through “social and emotional learning” (SEL) programs, a prominent feature of the omnibus Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which was signed into law by President Barack Obama in December 2015.

SEL has no clear definition in federal law, but many education sites tout SEL as instilling in students the necessary attitudes and skills that will supposedly enable them to manage their emotions, which in turn theoretically helps them do good things, such as showing empathy for others.

Very much in the same vein is the Strengthening Research Through Education Act (SETRA), which is currently being considered by Congress and will likely be passed soon. SETRA is a reauthorization of a George W. Bush-era law that extended the U.S. Education Department’s research arm into the collection of personal data about students and also authorized the use of linked state longitudinal databases.

Proceeding so far with minimal debate in Washington, DC, SETRA would expand federal education research to pupils’ “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.”

This kind of subjective probing of children’s attitudes, beliefs, and behavior amounts to psychological profiling that (thanks to electronic dossiers) could haunt an individual throughout a lifetime.

Dr. Karen Effrem, a pediatrician who has tracked this trend for years as the president of Education Liberty Watch, laments, “Parents are expected to submit their children to this kind of government profiling and psychological experimentation with no explanation, no way to express concern, [and no way to] opt their children out.”

Effrem also says SETRA is incredibly problematic because parents are afforded “no way to see the federally mandated assessments or to find out what private, sensitive psychological data was collected on their children as part of some online assessment and shared with some third-party vendor without their consent.”

Starting with the 2016–17 school year, the exploration of what education theorists call “the affective domain”—meaning feelings and emotions, as opposed to actual thought—will spread to the fairly well-respected National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also called the Nation’s Report Card. A background survey accompanying NAEP will attempt to assess a child’s grit and motivation, among other qualities.

Holland goes on to describe the preschool programs and the family engagement rule draft that are both very heavy on SEL and what the effects would be:

In plain language, this means the government will assess children every single step (or crawl) of the way, from cradle to career, to be certain they acquire all the attitudes, beliefs, and dispositions the omniscient, omnipotent government deems they must have. SEL, baby, SEL.

The plan to assess children and have this life long dossier determine their futures has been the plan for a very long time – at least as far back as Mark Tucker’s infamous 1992 “Dear Hillary” letter:

His vision is “…to remold the entire American system” into “a seamless web that literally extends from cradle to grave and is the same system for everyone” that is coordinated by “a system of labor market boards at the local, state and federal levels” where curriculum and “job matching” will be handled by counselors “accessing the integrated computer-based program.”

It has continued through the tenure of Arne Duncan’s tenure as Secretary of Education:

 We must as parents stand together to protect the lives, privacy and futures of our children.

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