Aug 12, 2013
ELW

Feds Resolute Yet Tone Deaf on Data Collection

Karen R. Effrem, MD – President of Education Liberty Watch

Attending the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)  STATS DC 2013 Data Conference “Discovering Through Data” was certainly an eye-opening experience for me.  Despite protestations that they are concerned about the public perceptions on privacy protection, it was very clear that they are not backing down on the amount and type of very personal private information they intend to collect on children and families from a young age and that gathering data is still a greater concern for them than individual student privacy.  Here is my report showing some evidence of that contention based on sessions that I attended.

NCES Commissioner Jack Buckley won the award for  most tone deaf presentation title, calling his introductory keynote speech (not kidding!) “We Are From the Federal Government and We REALLY Are Here to Help You.”  In that talk, while acknowledging that the” balance [between privacy and the government's desire for data] is in a very delicate place, and that if we fail here in a very spectacular way, much of what we have done in the last ten to fifteen years could be undone,” he also spoke of “balancing the rights of our students & their families to keep their data confidential & secret as appropriate, but also to balance the needs that we have for the massive investment in education, of understanding its returns, of understanding how the system is working, how do we improve it, with the ultimate goal always of improving the educational outcomes of our citizens…” It is clear that the “massive investment” is more important than privacy.

That data privacy is a secondary concern is confirmed by this quote from the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) website that says, “While state policymakers bear the responsibility for protecting student privacy, they need not do so at the sake of restricting the use of quality, longitudinal education data in support of their ultimate goal: improving student achievement.”  It is important to note that the DQC is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, Alliance for Early Success,, AT&T, and Target, all entities that will profit heavily by having lots of data collected on our children.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is also funding a very alarming student database project called inBloom that already  holds data that includes “name, address and sometimes social security number…learning disabilities…test scores, attendance…student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school – even homework completion.”

Buckley also complained about he and his fellow federal data gatherers  being of accused of an “attempt to catalog students and track them for life based on their eye color or their genetic code…”  Apparently, he was not aware of the content of all the presentations planned for the conference.  Interestingly enough one of the sessions that I attended later in the conference was called P-20W Data Standards for More Successful Student Transitions and Life-Long Learning.  In that session, they spoke of the data collection from early childhood through the workforce, including health and developmental (mental health) data in early childhood.  Not even realizing that the early childhood presenter was from Rhode Island, I asked about that state’s plan documented in their Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Application to combine health data, including the newborn screening, i.e. genetic, data with their preschool and K-12 data.. [We reported on this outrageous government collection of the most personal of data in Preschool Government Tyranny - "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet"] saying:

Rhode Island’s proposed early learning data system will be linked to both the state’s K-12 data system and to the state’s universal newborn screening and health data system, helping to identify children with high needs, track participation in programs, and track children’s development and learning.” This is a classic example of the rapidly expanding philosophy that the government owns every single bit of medical and education data about you and every family member from conception until after death. We are seeing this played out in the realm of DNA medical data and now private mental health data through these subjective and worthless assessments.   These assessments will then be added and linked to health data so that government bureaucrats will be able to label the young children they consider to be mentally ill or flag them for future evaluations.

The Obama preschool plan is largely based on the ideas of the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge. That plan is to also expand home visiting programs which are accompanied by even more data collection on infants and families.  Continue reading »

Jul 25, 2013
ELW

U.S. House Passes Student Success Act with Strong Anti-Common Core Language

Despite numerous communications from Common Core proponents on boths sides of the aisle that anyone that raises concerns about the Common Core system is “misinformed,” “a conspiracy theorist,” or “crazy,” we are very grateful that the US House of Representatives did not get those memos. Great thanks and congratulations should go to the Reps. John Kline (MN-2 and chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee) and the 12 co-sponsors of HR 5, the Student Success Act,as well as the 200+ other members that voted for this bill that contained such strong anti-Common Core Language. The purpose of HR 5 is to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as No Child Left Behind. Here are two of several excellent examples of the anti-Common Core language:

  • Voluntary Partnerships- A State may enter into a voluntary partnership with another State to develop and implement the academic standards and assessments required under this section, except that the Secretary shall not, either directly or indirectly, attempt to influence, incentivize, or coerce State–`(1) adoption of the Common Core State Standards developed under the Common Core State Standards Initiative, any other academic standards common to a significant number of States, or assessments tied to such standards; or`(2) participation in any such partnerships.
  • SEC. 5521. PROHIBITION AGAINST FEDERAL MANDATES, DIRECTION, OR CONTROL.`(a) In General- No officer or employee of the Federal Government shall, directly or indirectly, through grants, contracts, or other cooperative agreements, mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school’s specific instructional content, academic standards and assessments, curricula, or program of instruction, (including any requirement, direction, or mandate to adopt the Common Core State Standards developed under the Common Core State Standards Initiative or any other academic standards common to a significant number of States), nor shall anything in this Act be construed to authorize such officer or employee to do so.`(b) Financial Support- No officer or employee of the Federal Government shall, directly or indirectly, through grants, contracts, or other cooperative agreements, make financial support available in a manner that is conditioned upon a State, local educational agency, or school’s adoption of specific instructional content, academic standards and assessments, curriculum, or program of instruction, (including any requirement, direction, or mandate to adopt the Common Core State Standards developed under the Common Core State Standards Initiative, any other academic standards common to a significant number of States, or any assessment, instructional content, or curriculum aligned to such standards), even if such requirements are specified in an Act other than this Act, nor shall anything in this Act be construed to authorize such officer or employee to do so.

In addition, a “Sense of Congress” amendment to HR 5 was passed by 231 of 234 Republicans that “States and local educational agencies should maintain the rights and responsibilities of determining educational curriculum, programs of instruction, and assessments for elementary and secondary education.” This amendment was authored by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer.(MO-3) who had also authored an excellent letter to Secretary Arne Duncan about the many problems with Common Core, federal overreach, and data collection.  That letter was co-signed by 35 other members including Rep,MIchele Bachmann (MN-6) and Rep. Trey Radel (FL19).  Rep. Radel said the following in support of the Luetkemeyer amendment:

  • “The Department of Education heavily incentivized & pressured states into adopting the Common Core State Standards Initiatives.  These national standards and assessments ultimately determine the curriculum and teaching materials used in classrooms across the nation.”

We wonder if the proponents of Common Core, such as Arne Duncan, former Governor Bush, Florida Senator John Thrasher, who continue to put out tired talking points without proof and impugning opponents as mentally unstable consider Rep. Radel and the rest of the House Republicans that supported this legislation “misinformed” and laboring under “conspiracy theories”?

Finally, Rep. Martha Roby (AL-2) along with eight co-sponsors have authored HR 2089, The Defending State Authority Over Education Act of 2013.  It is a separate bill that contains anti-Common Core  language similar to that of HR 5 quoted above.  Both because HR 5 passed as a partisan bill with little or no Democrat support and therefore facing a steep uphill climb in the Senate, where a bill that seeks to centralize federal power over education even more has passed committee, and because this really should be a non-partisan issue, we urge you to contact your members of Congress and talk to them about supporting HR 2089 which only covers Common Core and federal control of education.  Thank you.

Despite numerous communications from former governor Jeb Bush, Commissioner Tony Bennett and the Florida Department of Education, Governor Rick Scott, State Board of Education Member John Cologne, Majority Leader Steve Precourt, Senator John Thrasher, and numerous former Republican chairs that anyone who raises concerns about the Common Core system is “misinformed,” “a conspiracy theorist,” or “crazy,” we are very grateful that the US House of Representatives did not get those memos. Great thanks and congratulations should go to the Reps. John Kline (chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee) and the 12 co-sponsors of HR 5, the Student Success Act,as well as the 200+ other members that voted for this bill that contained such strong anti-Common Core Language. The purpose of HR 5 is to reuathorize the Elementary and secondary Education Act, currently known as No Child Left Behind. Here are two of several excellent examples of the anti-Common Core language:

  • Voluntary Partnerships- A State may enter into a voluntary partnership with another State to develop and implement the academic standards and assessments required under this section, except that the Secretary shall not, either directly or indirectly, attempt to influence, incentivize, or coerce State–`(1) adoption of the Common Core State Standards developed under the Common Core State Standards Initiative, any other academic standards common to a significant number of States, or assessments tied to such standards; or`(2) participation in any such partnerships.
  • SEC. 5521. PROHIBITION AGAINST FEDERAL MANDATES, DIRECTION, OR CONTROL.`(a) In General- No officer or employee of the Federal Government shall, directly or indirectly, through grants, contracts, or other cooperative agreements, mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school’s specific instructional content, academic standards and assessments, curricula, or program of instruction, (including any requirement, direction, or mandate to adopt the Common Core State Standards developed under the Common Core State Standards Initiative or any other academic standards common to a significant number of States), nor shall anything in this Act be construed to authorize such officer or employee to do so.`(b) Financial Support- No officer or employee of the Federal Government shall, directly or indirectly, through grants, contracts, or other cooperative agreements, make financial support available in a manner that is conditioned upon a State, local educational agency, or school’s adoption of specific instructional content, academic standards and assessments, curriculum, or program of instruction, (including any requirement, direction, or mandate to adopt the Common Core State Standards developed under the Common Core State Standards Initiative, any other academic standards common to a significant number of States, or any assessment, instructional content, or curriculum aligned to such standards), even if such requirements are specified in an Act other than this Act, nor shall anything in this Act be construed to authorize such officer or employee to do so.

In addition, a “Sense of Congress” amendment to HR 5 was passed by 231 of 234 Republicans that “States and local educational agencies should maintain the rights and responsibilities of determining educational curriculum, programs of instruction, and assessments for elementary and secondary education.” This amendment was authored by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer.(MO-3) who had also authored an excellent letter to Secretary Arne Duncan about the many problems with Common Core, federal overreach, and data collection.  That letter was co-signed by three Republican Florida members of Congress: Rep. Richard Nugent (FL-11), Rep. Ted Yoho (FL-5), and Rep. Trey Radel (FL19).  Rep. Radel said the following in support of that amendment:

  • “The Department of Education heavily incentivized & pressured states into adopting the Common Core State Standards Initiatives.  These national standards and assessments ultimately determine the curriculum and teaching materials used in classrooms across the nation.”

We wonder if the Florida proponents of Common Core, such as Governor Bush, Governor Scott, Senator Thrasher, and others consider Rep. Radel and the rest of the House Republicans that supported this legislation “misinformed” and laboring under “conspiracy theories”?

Finally, Rep. Martha Roby (AL-2) along with eight co-sponsors including Rep. Radel have authored HR 2089, The Defending State Authority Over Education Act of 2013.  It is a separate bill that contains language similar to that of HR 5 quoted above.  Both because HR 5 passed as a partisan bill with little or no Democrat support and therefore facing a steep uphill climb in the Senate, where a bill that seeks to centralize federal power over education even more has passed committee, and because this really should be a non-partisan issue, we urge you to contact your members of Congress and talk to them about supporting HR 2089 which only covers Common Core and federal control of education.  Thank you. – See more at: http://www.flstopcccoalition.org/news/2013-07/us-house-passes-student-success-act-with-strong-anti-common-core-language.htm#sthash.7p7LG4s5.dpuf

 

Jul 16, 2013
ELW

Marjorie Holsten’s SWMTP Presentation on Common Core

A link to the video of Education Liberty Watch board member, attorney, and home schooling mother Marjorie Holsten’s excellent presentation on Common Core to the Southwest Metro Tea Party in Chanhassen, MN is available at http://www.ustextalert.com/SWMetroTeaParty/videos.aspx.  Please select the June 24th presentation entitled “Education or Indoctrination?”

 

May 29, 2013
ELW

Florida Commissioner Tony Bennett’s Unsuccessful Attempt to Defend Common Core

Florida Education Commissioner was interviewed by Daybreak Show host Drew Steele on WFSX FM out of Naples on May 24th.  Mr. Steele is a staunch opponent of Common Core, and even though he asked tough questions, conducted a very polite interview.  Still, it was obvious that the commissioner is in over his head trying to defend the indefensible.  The podcast is available here.  Below follows some of our responses to his statements.

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Statement (Bennett): “Common core is not a curriculum.”

Facts:  Common Core is a set of national standards that is aligned to federally funded and supervised national tests and model curriculum that will drive curriculum choices, because the stakes are so high for the test results. It is highly unlikely that teachers or districts will choose curriculum that is very different from the national model curriculum or the text exemplars in the English standards (see below). As Bennett’s interviewer, Drew Steele, eloquently stated, “If the teachers are making the curriculum but they are teaching to a federal test that tells us some of these things we need to teach to, then I am not sure it makes any difference, because it’s still the federal government telling us what to do.”  

Statement (Bennett): “That’s exactly what should happen in my vision with Common Core.  The local communities are in charge of what gets taught.”

Facts: Florida is the financial agent for PARCC, one of the two large groups of states putting together the national tests that will be given multiple times per year on computer.  These tests are aligned to the national standards, NOT the 15% of standards that the states were “allowed” to use as their part of the standards after the states were required to adopt the national standards verbatim.  This also applies to whatever a local school district may try to choose.  It will be functionally impossible for teachers and districts to choose what is taught and still have their students do well on these national and federally controlled tests unless it is compliant with these national standards and associated model curriculum.  Many teachers have written about how they are leaving the profession because trust for knowing what and how to teach has been taken away with Common Core as they are forced to use scripted lessons or online curriculum to teach to tests.  (See here for more details).

Statement (Bennett): “I am a huge local control guy… if I capitulate to the federal government, then I want to be held accountable to that and I hope Governor Scott does.

Facts:  The commissioner is in an appointed position, not an elected one.  When he was in an elected position, he lost his election due to his staunch support of Common Core.  Additionally, if local control is so important, why do we need an appointed commissioner and state board of education making such a huge decision that affects millions of Florida students, teachers, and families to adopt Common Core without public hearings explaining it or consulting with any elected legislators or school board members?

Statement (Bennett and Scott):  There will be no more teaching to the test as with the FCAT.

Facts:  A Palm Beach Post editorial reminds us of the problems that occurred with making the FCAT high stakes that include, “The test covered only a few subjects, students took it long before the end of the school year, and half of elementary and high-school students didn’t even take it. Yet the entire school received a grade, on which parents, students and Realtors fixated.” “Teaching to the test” will only grow worse under Common Core because the stakes are so high and will continue to grow higher for everyone.  Grade promotion, graduation, teacher pay and tenure, and district funding are or will all be based on test scores. If the Obama administration has its way, federal Title I funds will be tied to test scores and whether states are using the Common Core as well.  

Statement (Bennett):   “We should be using things like our founding documents, like the critical conversations, like Shakespeare.”

 Facts: While it is true that the list of text examples reference the major American founding documents  and some works of William Shakespeare, there are several problems.  The list of exemplar texts do not include the entire U.S. Constitution, but do include a reading from an EPA manual about Insulation levels and another about health care costs.  The model curriculum for the Gettysburg Address requires students to read it and for it to be taught without emotion, historical background or context One teacher who tried to use this model curriculum said, “The exemplar instructs teachers to ‘avoid giving any background context” because the Common Core’s close reading strategy “forces students to rely exclusively on the text instead of privileging background knowledge, and levels the playing field for all.’”  The point of learning the Gettysburg address should not be for test preparation or for social justice.  The Shakespeare examples are accompanied by Julia Alvarez’s work In the Time of the Butterflies to be taught in 9th and 10th grades that some college professors are embarrassed to teach due to the book’s sexually explicit nature and leftist propaganda elements.  These are just a few of the myriad examples of problems with these national standards, national tests, and model curriculum just in English Language Arts.

Statement (Bennett):  The state of Florida obtained Race to the Top funds to pay for the costs of implementing Common Core Standards.

Facts:  Race to the Top is a four year grant that will run out after 2014, and as is being discovered with the costs of insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansion, will not completely cover the costs of implementation, much less ongoing use.  The Pioneer Institute estimates that implementation in Florida will be over $1.024 billion dollars.  Florida received $906 million in grants.  There has been no cost analysis in Florida and the commissioner’s cost estimate was off by $342 million for this next fiscal year.

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