Jun 29, 2015

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

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:


.—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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Jun 29, 2015

More Dangerous Federal Control with New Preschool Grants within the Every Child Achieves Act

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

The Every Child Achieve Act’s (ECAA) Early Learning Alignment and Improvement Grants (Sec. 5o10)[1] offer new federal funds to “assist states” to “more efficiently using existing Federal resources to improve, strengthen, and expand existing high-quality early childhood education, as  determined by the State.” Despite the benign and pleasant sounding offer of help and resources to be used as states see fit, these grants greatly expand federal control over preschool as Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind have done for K-12.  Here are the problems:

There is no evidence of long-term effectiveness of early childhood programs that justify their great cost, but there is evidence of academic and emotional harm.[2]

Each state applying for a grant must promise to and explain how it will use “existing Federal, State, and local resources and programs that the State will coordinate to meet the purposes of this part, including”… “Head Start”[3] and the “Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG).[4]” [Sec. 5902]

Analogous to the Common Core standards incentivized by Race to the Top and the federal mandates for statewide standards and tests required by the 1994 version of the ESEA, there is a rapid spread of statewide or federal early learning standards and early childhood assessment incentivized by the 2011 and 2014 Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge (ELC) Grants and mandated by the 2007 Head Start and 2014 Child Care and Development Block Grant reauthorizations.

According to the ELC Collaborative analysis of the ELC grants[5], at least 15 states declared openly that they are aligning their early learning standards to Common Core or admitted that they are aligning to the K-3 standards, which is a de facto admission of Common Core alignment.

Mentioning it eleven times in the legislation, Head Start requires not only every Head Start program, but also every other state pre-k program[6] to fully align to the Head Start Child Outcome Framework,[7] a set of national early childhood standards, which is being correlated to Common Core.[8] Most state standards and the Pearson Work Sampling System (WSS) kindergarten readiness assessment contain similar or identical language to the Head Start framework in its various iterations.  Pearson also admits in its advertising video that the WSS is based on “national standards.”[9] The only national preschool standards that are available are the Head Start Child Outcome Framework. This is federal control of academic content that includes the thoughts and attitudes of our youngest children, and should be concerning regardless of one’s views on any particular topic.  The K-12 Common Core standards promote social emotional goals[10] as well, but are much less overt than the Head Start Child Outcome Framework.

The CCDBG strongly incentivizes[11] a “tiered quality rating system (QRS),” to rate programs and providers. Though portrayed as “voluntary,” many programs, including private and religious programs, comply in order to be competitive in a bad economy for funding and referrals.  In most states, eighty per cent of child care is private.  The main requirement for a top rating in the QRS is use of the state early learning standards that are often far more subjective, controversial, and psychosocially based than those in K-12. This is resulting in a state takeover of private and religious childcare, because now these organizations outside of the state system are being bribed or coerced to teach the public program curriculum in order to get a good rating. Minnesota admitted this in its ELC application.[12] The rating systems themselves are subjective and controversial and lack evidence they will improve child outcomes.[13]

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Jun 9, 2015

Important Connection to Common Core as Scholars Release Critical APUSH Letter

Karen R. Effrem, MD – President

As reported by Peter Berkowitz on Real Clear Politics and Michele Malkin, fifty-five respected academics released a letter warning of the dangers of and strongly opposing the AP US History (APUSH) framework.  Here is a relevant excerpt:

There are notable ideological biases inherent in the 2014 framework, and certain structural innovations that will inevitably result in imbalance in the test, and bias in the course. Chief among these is the treatment of American national identity. The 2010 framework treated national identity, including “views of the American national character and ideas about American exceptionalism”as a central theme. But the 2014 framework makes a dramatic shift away from that emphasis, choosing instead to grant far more extensive attention to “how various identities, cultures, and values have been preserved or changed in different contexts of U.S. history with special attention given to the formation of gender, class, racial and ethnic identities.”
This very problematic framework came from the College Board now headed by David Coleman who was one of the main architects of the Common Core English standards and who admitted that he and his fellow authors “unqualified” to write those standards.  Despite the constant claims by Jeb Bush and other proponents that there is no connection between Common Core and social studies, please rememberthe following:
To those who say this has nothing to do with Common Core, because Common Core is only supposed to be about English and math, please remember that the full name of the Common Core Standards is the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects.  As documented in our testimony, Minnesota, in what may well have been a test case for this curricular coup, when adopting new social studies standards freely admitted that the Common Core English Standards were used in the development of the social studies standards.Here is a statement from Minnesota’s Statement of Need and Reasonableness (SONAR) admitting the connection of Common Core to the new more radical MN social studies standards:

In addition to legislative directives, the state’s system of academic standards has been influenced by at least two important multi-state initiatives: 1) the American Diploma Project (ADP)33, and 2) the Common Core State Standards Initiative.34 The state’s process for reviewing and revising the K-12 academic standards was developed in consultation with experts from the ADP sponsored by Achieve. Achieve is a bipartisan, non-profit organization that helps states raise academic standards, improve assessments, and strengthen accountability to prepare all young people for postsecondary education, work and citizenship. (Emphasis added – p. 13)
And here is a telling paragraph from another MDE document clearly linking the Common Core English standards to Minnesota’s new radical social studies standards:
Another way that the Commitee ensured that the proposed social studies standards provide college and career readiness, was to align the social studies standards with the 2010 Minnesota Academic Standards in English Language Arts. [Common Core] The language arts standards contain content related to literacy in history and social studies. They include all of the Common Core language arts standards–rigorous standards that have been widely documented as aligned with college and career-readiness expectations. (Emphasis added – p, 13 )

It appears that  Coleman and the College Board are doing on a national level what the Minnesota Department of Education did to that state’s social studies standards as described by Dr. John Fonte of the Hudson Institute in his National Review piece, America the Ugly and in his review submitted to the state:

“Nine years ago a group of history professors from the University of Minnesota sent a letter to the state’s education department. They complained that the history/social-studies standards for Minnesota presented American history too positively. The historians wanted early American history described in terms of “conquest,” “subjugation,” “exploitation,” “enslavement,” and “genocidal impact.” For these academics, the story of America primarily meant slavery for African Americans, genocide for American Indians, subjugation for women, xenophobia for immigrants, and exploitation for poor peopleIt looks like the Minnesota academics have finally achieved their goal. …
…But, American achievements are downplayed while the overarching theme becomes “institutionalized racism.” Of course, this logically means that the major “institutions” of American liberal democracy — the courts, Congress, the presidency, state and local governments, businesses, churches, civic organizations — and the entire democratic system and its civil society are racist and therefore, clearly, illegitimate.”

Please show the scholar’s letter and the connection to Common Core to your school, your district and state board of education members and do NOT let your high school student take APUSH!