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.”

                                                                                    

Jul 14, 2015
ELW

Horrific Senate NCLB Rewrite Bill Nearing Final Passage!

There were  rumors that the final votes on amendments and passage for the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) could have been as early as Monday or at the latest by Wednesday (July 15th). Apparently because parents and teachers have seen through the shiny but false promises about how this Senate reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), restores state sovereignty and parental control, is an improvement over NCLB, and supposedly lets states out of Common Core and testing mandates, the plan is to finish the bill before more opposition can be raised by those of us who know the truth and oppose this bill.

Details provided in the list by the American Principles Project show how the prohibition on federal involvement with standards are completely false.  This is especially important because presidential candidate Jeb Bush is perpetuating the falsehood that the prohibitions against federal control of standards are real.  In the following audio clip from a conference call with Alabama Republicans, Bush bragged about how he got his good buddy Senator Lamar Alexander to put this prohibition in the Senate bill (listen starting at 2:32).

The problem is that this type of prohibition was already in federal law in three places.  That did not stop the current administration from bribing and blackmailing states to adopt Common Core via the Race to the Top grant program and No Child Left Behind waivers.  In addition neither the old nor the new language contains any enforcement mechanism for the states that are coerced or bribed.  Either Jeb Bush is ignorant of this situation or he is knowingly participating in the deception.  Neither situation reflects well on him, especially since he is running for president and portrays himself as such an education guru.

As we have  chronicled in detail before, the other problems with and dangers of this bill are almost too numerous to count, especially in the areas of  psychological profiling and expansion of federally controlled invasive early childhood programs.  These other problems include:

  • Cementing in of Common Core under the name of College and Career Ready Standards
  • Continuing federal annual testing mandates
  • Keeping the Secretary of Education in Charge of approving state plans
  • Only sham protection against Common Core because there is no enforcement mechanism for the prohibitions against federal interference with standards
  • No repair for the severely weakened and outdated privacy law (FERPA)

These provisions are further evidence that promised protections for states, districts, family autonomy, teacher control and student privacy are false.
The  House passed their NCLB rewrite by a very narrow margin of  218-213 that required much arm twisting. So if and when this Senate bill passes, the two will have to go to conference committee and we will all have to be alert and do our best to continue to educate members of Congress. Please be aware of these issues as you contact your own Senators this week!

 


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 29, 2015
ELW

Reasons to Support the Student Privacy Protection Act – S. 1341

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

The following is a more detailed analysis of why congressional members’ support of Senator David Vitter’s (R-LA) privacy bill, the Student Privacy Protection Act (SPPA), S. 1341[1] is so important. This bill is the culmination of many discussions and the attentive listening of Senator Vitter with constituents, parents, pro-privacy attorneys and physicians, and others who have spent years fighting the data collection[2] associated with the Common Core standards and aligned assessments and the mental screening of children. Here is important information that will show that this legislation is a major step forward in improving student data privacy and protecting students’ freedom of conscience and freedom from government directed psychological profiling.

SPPA Prohibits Psychological Screening:

One of the most exciting parts of SPPA, especially for analysts and activists like the author, who has been fighting mental screening and the over-diagnosis and drugging of children as young as infancy for more than a decade,[3] is the prohibition on psychological testing and the strengthening of the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment.  After defining various terms, the bill does not merely require consent for mental screening and assessment or surveying of psychological attitudes with federal funds (a completely inappropriate federal activity), it fully prohibits psychological screening and profiling. The only exception is for special education evaluations, which is already current law. Significantly, the bill extends the prohibition of psychological screening and profiling to assessments, and thus would also ban the more horrific features of the Common Core assessments.

Here is the key language of SPPA:

‘‘(2) IN GENERAL.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no funds provided to the Department or Federal funds provided under any applicable program shall be spent to support any survey or academic assessment allowing any of the following types of data collection via assessments or any other means, including digitally[4] (Emphasis added):

This language protects a long list of affectively related surveying and testing parameters,[5] and is much more protective of students in this area than any other legislation, state or federal, introduced anywhere.

SPPA Closes the PPRA Loophole that Allows Psychological Screening in Regular Classroom Curricula and Assessments:

PPRA, which requires parental consent before surveying or evaluating students on eight categories of sensitive information[6], contains loopholes that render the privacy protections moot in the case of curriculum and assessments:

(4) Exceptions

(A) Educational products or services

Paragraph (1)(E) [the eight areas of sensitive information requiring parental  consent for surveys] does not apply to the collection, disclosure, or use of personal information collected from students for the exclusive purpose of developing, evaluating, or providing educational products or services for, or to, students or educational institutions, such as the following:

(iii) Curriculum and instructional materials used by elementary schools and secondary schools.

(iv) Tests and assessments used by elementary schools and secondary schools to provide cognitive, evaluative, diagnostic, clinical, aptitude, or achievement information about students (or to generate other statistically useful data for the purpose of securing such tests and assessments) and the subsequent analysis and public release of the aggregate data from such tests and assessments. (Emphasis added)

The Vitter language to include assessments in the prohibition on psychological testing and screening was designed specifically to close this gaping loophole.  This is also especially relevant because of the very recent news that the National Assessment of Educational Progress plans to assess non-cognitive, social emotional parameters[7]:

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.

SPPA is also vitally important because of already documented intent of the Common Core standards and aligned assessments to psychologically manipulate and profile students (see these statements from U.S. Department of Education (USED) and other national education organization documents[8]):

“[A]s new assessment systems are developed to reflect the new standards in English language arts, mathematics, and science, significant attention will need to be given to the design of tasks and situations that call on students to apply a range of 21st century competencies that are relevant to each discipline. A sustained program of research and development will be required to create assessments that are capable of measuring cognitive, intrapersonal, and interpersonal skills.” (Emphasis added).[9]

“There are important opportunities to leverage new and emerging advances in technology (e.g., educational data mining, affective computing, online resources, tools for teachers) to develop unprecedented approaches for a wide range of students.”[10]

In national policy, there is increasing attention on 21st-century competencies (which encompass a range of noncognitive factors, including grit), and persistence is now part of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.”[11] (Emphasis added.)

National model standards often contain elements of social and emotional learning. For example, 42 states and two territories are in the process of adopting the Common Core Standards in Math and English Language Arts, which contain standards on communication (especially speaking and listening), cooperation skills, and problem solving.”[12] (Emphasis added.)

“ASCA [American School Counselors Association] Mindsets & Behaviors align with specific standards from the Common Core State Standards through connections at the competency level.”[13] (Emphasis added).

“There are many other Common Core Standards that these social and emotional basic skills can be integrated with.”[14] (Emphasis added.)

SPPA Prevents Psychological Profiling of our Students through the IES/NCES Reauthorization (SETRA):

SPPA actually preemptively prohibits social and emotional research on school children to prevent expansion into socioemotional research by the Institute for Education Sciences and The National Center for Education Statistics in S. 227, the Strengthening Research Through Education Act (SETRA) by Senator Lamar Alexander, about which several organizations have warned.[15]

Here is the problematic language in SETRA:

”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. . . ”[16] (Emphasis added).

USED is already in flagrant violation of the Tenth Amendment and probably the Fourth Amendment with the amount of data collected and disclosed on individual children, families, and teachers. The Vitter language stops the federal government from researching the thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and behaviors of free American citizens, especially innocent children:

‘‘(4) NO NATIONAL ASSESSMENT USING PSYCHOLOGICAL DATA

.—No funds provided to the Department or to an applicable program may be used to pilot test, field test, implement, administer, or distribute in any way any federally sponsored national assessment collecting any psychological data or any federally sponsored research on social-emotional data in education. (Emphasis added).

This bill stops the unacceptable expansion of IES and NCES into the realm of affective research in their SETRA reauthorization.

SPPA Adds Important Protection against 2nd Amendment Data Collection to PPRA:

SPPA contains all of the same important protective elements as the current PPRA statute, and adds “Personal or family gun ownership,” to prevent nosy bureaucrats from snooping into if and how students and their families are exercising their Second Amendment rights.

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