Browsing articles in "Mental Health"
Jul 19, 2015
ELW

Analysis of Amendments and Votes for the Every Child Achieves Act

Karen R. Effrem, MD – President

Sadly, despite clear and detailed warnings from parents, teachers, activists, and policy experts, the US Senate passed its rewrite of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB)/Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) called The Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA – S1170) on July 16th by a vote of 81-17.   Three Democrats voted against the bill because of not enough government control, but nonetheless did the right thing.  It is extremely clear that big government and big business interests, who are supporting pro-Common Core candidates like Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Hillary Clinton, are colluding to cement federal control over American education.

We would like to thank the following senators for their opposition votes to the overall bill:

NAYs —17

Blunt (R-MO)
Booker (D-NJ)
Crapo (R-ID)
Cruz (R-TX)
Daines (R-MT)
Flake (R-AZ)
Lee (R-UT)
Moran (R-KS)
Murphy (D-CT)
Paul (R-KY)
Risch (R-ID)
Rubio (R-FL)
Sasse (R-NE)
Scott (R-SC)
Shelby (R-AL)
Vitter (R-LA)
Warren (D-MA)

Three of the five presidential candidates in the Senate – Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) – voted no. Bernie Sanders (I-VT, a member of the Socialist Party running for president as a Democrat) voted for the bill. The fifth, Lindsey Graham (R-SC), did not vote. Senator Sanders offered one amendment on youth unemployment that was rejected (see below). Senators Rubio and Graham did not offer any amendments to the bill, nor did they make any statements about it afterwards.  Here are the statements of Cruz, Paul, and Sanders:

Cruz:

 “While this bill makes some improvements to the status quo, it ultimately falls short of empowering parents and local school districts. To that end, it is a missed opportunity for meaningful change.

“Decisions regarding our children’s future should be placed in the hands of those closest to students, and that is teachers and parents. This is why I introduced an amendment to give states the flexibility to develop their own accountability standards, rather than meeting criteria outlined by federal bureaucrats in the Washington cartel. This type of federal control has led to the failed, top-down policies that produced Common Core. We also had the opportunity today to significantly advance school choice for low-income students, giving them a chance to succeed at a public or private school of their choosing. Unfortunately, my colleagues in the Senate rejected these amendments, perpetuating the same tired approach that continues to fail our children.

“When the federal government is in charge, the most common outcome is accepting the lowest common denominator. When it comes to the future of our country and our children’s future, the lowest common denominator is simply unacceptable. We can do better and our children deserve better.”

Paul:

“I believe education is the great equalizer, but Washington’s intrusion in the classroom leaves most kids behind. This bill is not the solution, as it retains some of No Child Left Behind’s biggest flaws – a lack of adequate parental choice, a federal testing mandate, and continued support for Common Core,” Sen. Paul said.

 

Sanders:

“On Thursday, the Senate passed the Every Child Achieves Act, which would fundamentally reform No Child Left Behind. The law would replace the current high-stakes standardized testing model with an approach that would give Vermont significant flexibility to determine how to intervene in struggling schools. As a member of the Senate Education Committee, Sanders had a role in crafting the bill and successfully fought to lower the stakes on standardized testing and to preserve a federal after-school program that serves thousands of low-income students around Vermont. The bill also included a pilot program written by Senator Sanders that would allow states to develop innovative alternatives to standardized testing.”

Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who co-authored the bill with Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), boasted after the bill passed about the “remarkable bipartisan consensus.”   He tried to make those that voted  against the bill sound extreme by declaring that ECAA fixed about 80% of the problems with NCLB and that even Ronald Reagan said to be happy with getting 80% of what one wants.

Well, aside from the fact that things were not fixed, but made worse with this bill, here is a little history lesson for the senior senator from Tennessee.  There was an even more remarkable bipartisan consensus in Congress in 2001 when NCLB passed the Senate floor under Senator Edward Kennedy and President George W. Bush by a whopping 91-8 vote. Only eight senators had the constitutional and educational understanding to know what a disaster NCLB would be at this same point in the process. That number has more than doubled with ECAA, so from that perspective, the forces of educational freedom are actually making some progress. We especially also want to thank Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) who voted against NCLB as a congressman and remained consistent to vote against ECAA as a senator.  Also important to note is that Senators Mike Crapo (R-!D) and Richard Shelby (R-AL) voted for NCLB in 2001 and had the great sense to change their votes due to the major continued federal overreach, psychological profiling and expansion of invasive, Common Core aligned early childhood programs for ECAA and the strong work of the grassroots in their states.  They deserve great thanks for that!

It is very concerning that several senators look to be making the same disastrous mistake again of imposing punitive, ineffective, invasive, annual statewide testing on our students and teachers and all of the other flaws of NCLB that are falsely promised to be fixed in ECAA along with all of its new problems:

Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Michael Enzi (R-WY), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), John McCain (R-AZ), Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), ECAA Co-Author Patty Murray (D-WA), Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Jeff Sessions (R-AL),  Debbie Stabenow (R-MI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) [James Inhofe (R-OK) voted against NCLB off the Senate floor, but voted for the final NCLB bill and voted in favor of ECAA].

Although the overall bill passed, there were a few small bright spots:

Senator Alexander listened to the grassroots and realized the huge error of removing the prohibition on attitudinal testing in the statewide assessments.  In an amendment adopted by voice vote on July 16th, he restored the prohibition in NCLB to make sure the state assessments “do not evaluate or assess personal or family beliefs and attitudes, or publicly disclose personally identifiable information.” Here are statements released by Emmett McGroarty of American Principle in Action and myself in praise of this result:

Emmett McGroarty, Director of Education at American Principles in Action, said, “We are pleased that Senator Alexander has heard the concerns of parents and citizens and reinstated the prohibition on attitudinal testing in the statewide assessments. This is a good start. However, this addresses only one of the severe privacy and data collection problems with ECAA. Much more needs to be done to protect children.”

Karen Effrem, M.D., president of Education Liberty Watch and executive director of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition, added, “We hope this is an indication that Congress is going to rein in the many other places in ECAA, in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), in the Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA), and in early childhood programs where federal regulation authorizes the federal government to collect personal information on the dispositions, emotions, and attitudes of American children.”

The Senate also rejected, by a vote of 45-52, a universal preschool and home visiting program offered by Senators Robert Casey (D-PA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and others that would have been implemented on top of the already very concerning Preschool Alignment and Improvement Grants that we have explained.  Senator Alexander should be thanked for leading the opposition to this nanny state expansion, even invoking one of our talking points about “Baby Common Core,” instead calling it “Kindergarten Common Core.” All of the Republicans correctly voted against this bad amendment, except for Graham and Rubio, who did not vote. Sanders voted in support.

The Republican majority also rejected another huge expansion of mental health grants offered by North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp by a vote of 58-39 (60 votes were needed for passage). Given that there are already more than 10 other places that ECAA expands mental health programs and psychological profiling of our children, this amendment was completely duplicative and unnecessary. Of the presidential candidates, Paul and Rubio correctly voted no, Sanders voted yes, Cruz and Graham did not vote. All Democrats voted yes and all Republicans voted no except: Ayotte (NH), Cassiday (LA), Collins (ME), Daines (MT), Ernst (IA), Heller (NV), Kirk (IL), Moran (KS), Murkowski (AK), Portman (OH), Sullivan (AK), and Thune (SD).

Finally, the Republicans led by Alexander wisely rejected the Markey (D-MA) amendment (SA 2176) to establish a federal climate change education program. The amendment failed by a vote of 44-53. All of the Republicans exceot two joined by Democrats Heitkamp (ND) and Tester (MT) opposed this controversial and scientifically unsound language while all of the Democrats/Independents voted for it joined by Republicans Ayotte and Kirk.  Graham did not vote.

Here is a recap of some of the other important amendments and votes that were largely disappointing for those wanting educational freedom in this now approximately 1000 page bill based on category (Please see the Congress.gov website for all of the amendments offered with links to language and a list of status, the Senate website for specific roll call votes on the amendments and S 1177 itself, and Education Week  for other summaries.)

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Jul 17, 2015
ELW

One Small Bright Spot in Passage of ECAA – Restoration of Prohibition on Attitudinal Profiling in State Tests

The Senate rewrite of No Child Left Behind called the Every Child Achieves Act yesterday by a vote of 81-17.  Three of the four presidential candidates in the Senate – Cruz, Paul, and Rubio – voted against this terrible bill.  Graham did not vote.

The bill is still completely unacceptable and has many fatal problems, which we have detailed before and more information will be coming about amendments that passed during floor action, but there was one small ray of hope detailed in this statement put out by Emmett McGroarty of American Principles in Action and Dr. Effrem:

On Wednesday, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) won approval on S.AMDT 2201, an amendment to S. 1177, the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA), which reauthorizes No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

The amendment fixes one of the defects of ECAA – an omission of a key privacy and parental rights protection. Specifically, ECAA had omitted the requirement that the federally dictated statewide standardized tests “do not evaluate or assess personal or family beliefs and attitudes, or publicly disclose personally identifiable information.”

Emmett McGroarty, Director of Education at American Principles in Action, said, “We are pleased that Senator Alexander has heard the concerns of parents and citizens and reinstated the prohibition on attitudinal testing in the statewide assessments. This is a good start. However, this addresses only one of the severe privacy and data collection problems with ECAA. Much more needs to be done to protect children.”

Karen Effrem, M.D., president of Education Liberty Watch and executive director of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition, added, “We hope this is an indication that Congress is going to rein in the many other places in ECAA, in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), in the Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA), and in early childhood programs where federal regulation authorizes the federal government to collect personal information on the dispositions, emotions, and attitudes of American children.”

                                                                                    

Jun 29, 2015
ELW

Student Psychological Profiling in Federal Education Legislation, Testing, & Policy

Karen R. Effrem, MD – President of Education Liberty Watch & Executive Director of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition

Uncle Sam is lately wearing a white coat and placing American students on the psychiatrist’s couch. The number of federal education bills, tests, programs and other policies promoting indoctrination and assessment of affective attitudes, beliefs, “mindsets,” “non-cognitive skills” and other non-academic traits is rapidly and alarmingly proliferating.  Here are the most recent and very concerning examples:

1)      The Every Child Achieves Act (S 1177) – This is the 792 page Senate version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization.  Some of the many examples of federal expansion of mental health screening in the schools include:

Training teachers who are not mental health professionals to mentally screen student

Doing special education (IDEA)-style behavioral monitoring and intervention school-wide without delineation between observation, suggestion, and treatment nor clear methods of parental consent and privacy protection for behavioral information.

The federal government is promoting the concept that schools taking on the functions of families and physicians by paying for schools to provide mental health care
They are even putting mental health in physical education

2)      The Student Success Act (HR 5) – The House version of the ESEA/NCLB reauthorization expands affective testing by omission instead of commission and also continues mental health programs for certain groups:

The rewrite of the section that discusses state standards, assessments and accountability leaves out the key protection that prohibits the federally mandated state tests that “evaluate or assess personal or family beliefs and attitudes.”  This was one of the few good pieces of language in No Child Left Behind.
Title I funding includes funding for coordination of all sorts of health and social services, including mental health.

3)      The Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA – S 227)

The Senate reauthorization bill for the Institute for Education Sciences (IES) that houses the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the National Assessment of Educational Progress also plans to allow “research on social emotional learning.” (See Section 132)  The 2002 reauthorization of this bill gave us the scourge of the state longitudinal databases and was extremely problematic at the time.

4)      Measuring Psychological Variables in the NAEP

Education Week reports that The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) intends to start collecting affective survey data on students who take the test in 2017:

“The nation’s premiere federal testing program is poised to provide a critical window into how students’ motivation, mindset, and grit can affect their learning… The background survey will include five core areas—grit, desire for learning, school climate, technology use, and socioeconomic status—of which the first two focus on a student’s noncognitive skills, and the third looks at noncognitive factors in the school. These core areas would be part of the background survey for all NAEP test-takers. In addition, questions about other noncognitive factors, such as self-efficacy and personal achievement goals, may be included…”

5)      A summary of the grant proposals in the preschool version of Race to the Top, called the Early Learning Challenge, had various states boasting about how they would profile and monitor our babies:

“California will offer additional provider training in assessing social – emotional learning and ensure greater access to developmental and behavioral screenings.”

“The state’s (Minnesota) existing birth-to-five child development standards will be aligned with K-12 standards, which will be expanded to include non-academic developmental domains for children ages five to 12.”

6)      A Federal  Register notice of a grant program called the Middle Grades Longitudinal Study is described and seeks to add social emotional assessment:

Title of Collection: Middle Grades Longitudinal Study of 2016-2017 (MGLS:2017) Item Validation and Operational Field Tests.

Abstract: The Middle Grades Longitudinal Study of 2016-2017 (MGLS:2017) is the first study sponsored by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education (ED), to follow a nationally-representative sample of students as they enter and move through the middle grades (grades 6-8). The data collected through repeated measures of key constructs will provide a rich descriptive picture of the academic experiences and development of students during these critical years and  allow researchers to examine associations between contextual factors and student outcomes. The study will focus on student achievement in mathematics and literacy along with measures of student socioemotional wellbeing and other outcomes.

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Jun 3, 2015
ELW

Response to Controversy Regarding Student Privacy Protection Act

The Student Privacy Protection Act, (SPPA) –  S1341, is creating quite a stir. As expected and despite the long list of supporting organizations, the crowd at the Data Quality Campaign which is heavily funded by pro-Common Core groups and anti-privacy corporations that stand to profit from access to our children’s sensitive data, has attacked SPPA and lamented that Sen. Vitter’s “intent is to respond to parents’ concerns” (DQC meant this as a criticism!). In addition, the American Education Research Association, another group that makes its living on our children’s data, is opposed. AERA’s president said in an email, “This legislation, if it were to pass, would have a devastating impact on the quality of education research.”

Unexpectedly, however, a critique has arisen from a well-respected figure on the anti-Common Core side of the spectrum. This critique, though well intended and sincere, is based on a faulty factual and legal analysis. It is unfortunate that this opposition, coming as it does from someone who has done so much to advance the anti-Common Core and pro-privacy movement, may result in division among the parents and other citizens who have now been fighting these battles for years. SPPA is acknowledged by privacy experts to be by far the most protective legislation in existence. It is critical that our movement work with Sen. Vitter to perfect and advance this bill. In the face of the withering onslaught from our opponents, we cannot let a valuable advance be thwarted by friendly fire.

Therefore, after having been closely involved in the discussions that led to the drafting of SPPA, Education Liberty Watch President, Dr. Karen Effrem and American Principles in Action Senior Fellow, Jane Robbins have assembled this respectful disagreement with and response to this critique. (See this link also).

Although the critique mentions numerous concerns to which Effrem and Robbins respond, the major ones revolve around expansion instead of protection of students from psychological profiling and that changing the term “student record” to “student data” will increase instead of decrease access to private data by third parties.  Here is the partial discussion of those two issues as a sample:

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