Here Comes Big Brother: Home Visiting Laws Threaten Parental Rights Nationwide

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In this article for The National Pulse, Dr. Karen Effrem details the slow degradation of parental rights in federal education across the board.

Now that researchers and the staunchest proponents of the progressive nanny state are starting to admit that government preschool programs are failing to improve academic achievement for poor children, the big-government Left is joining with the corporate establishment to expand the even more invasive and still unsuccessful idea of home visiting. Bills are being pushed to do so in deep blue states like MinnesotaOregon and Washington — plus, as documented by Cheri Kiesecker, in other states like Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire and New Mexico.

The many problems with these programs have been documented in-depth at The Federalist and in this space (see here and here). Here is a review of the major concerns:

Lack of Consent for Referrals

The word “consent” for referrals does not exist in the Minnesota, Oregon or Washington bills. This means that government bureaucrats are or will be mining the poorly protected (by HIPAA, FERPA, etc.) health, education, social services, family, and other data of expectant mothers and siblings to determine which families need a visit from Big Brother. Although several of these bills say that families may refuse the visits without consequences, this is another data point that will be added to the family’s lifelong government data file.

Loss of Fourth Amendment Rights

Families may unknowingly give up Fourth Amendment rights by accepting home visits from mandated reporters who collect much data on the family and whose government-determined opinions and cultural norms may be quite different from the families they visit when deciding what constitutes abuse or neglect.

Also alarming on the parental rights front is an Iowa bill that requires home visits by school officials once per quarter for homeschooling families, and if the parents refuse, the home visitors can get a court order with “probable cause” to enter the home anyway to interview and observe the child. Kiesecker asks the very relevant question:

The 4th Amendment says probable cause means when you have reason to believe that a crime has been committed and that evidence of the crime will be found in the place to be searched. Is home schooling a crime? [Emphasis in original]

Differences in Philosophy Between Parents and Home Visitors

Any parent knows that there are a myriad of views on a whole range of parenting issues from discipline to if, how and when children are evaluated and treated for social, emotional issues when the screening instruments are admitted to be far from reliable. These differences are exacerbated by cultural differences among the many ethnic groups that may be receiving home visits.

However, under American cultural and historical tradition and current jurisprudence, parents, unless there is evidence of real abuse or neglect, have the ultimate right to make decisions about the raising and upbringing of their children. These bills are trying to end that parental autonomy and turn us into a literal nanny state like Norway.

Extensive Data Collection Without Consent

Family data is the pre-eminent goal of home visiting programs. Data is the lifeblood of these programs both for public and private funders. Data elements for government include whether and how long a mother breast-feeds, her depression screening scores and other family mental health information, education status, and program participation history for all the family members.

Foundations like the Pew Charitable Trust are also big into the home visiting data mining game. They want as much data on individual family members as possible, especially on the young children targeted by the visits. Particularly important to them are the SEL data, even though it is very hard to accurately assess even for highly trained professionals like psychologists and psychiatrists:

By documenting, on a regular basis, how children are developing in key domains—including literacy, executive functioning, socio-emotional security, and fine and gross motor skills—family support providers gain critical information for improving program content, and states gain confidence in the ability of these investments to improve school readiness.

Inconsistent Training of Home Visitors

As with preschool and K-12, especially regarding SEL issues, the level of training for visitors can vary substantially. One study found that success varied with how the program was organized even when attempting to implement an established home visiting model. Additionally, the study found there was “difficulty programs faced in retaining participants.” Finally, as also discussed above, information presented may be unscientific or biased, resulting in government-directed parenting.

The rest of the article can be viewed here at The National Pulse’s website.

New Report: 50 Years of ‘Fed Ed’ Has Failed to Close Achievement Gap

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This article written by Dr. Karen Effrem for The National Pulse details the failings of the U.S. federal education system to raise the academic performance for underprivileged students.

A History of Fed Ed: From ESEA to Common Core

That federal interference started with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which began compensatory grants for poor children in K-12, and Head Start, the federal preschool program, both passed in 1965. Both laws, plus the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA), started out relatively benignly with all sorts of comforting language about how the federal government was not going to interfere in local autonomy regarding curriculum, etc.

However, both federal education laws have gradually increased the iron grip of federal control over states and school districts over the last fifty years. These three statutory provisions protecting local control have essentially been ignored.

First, the feds imposed statewide standards and tests on states as a prerequisite for federal funds in the 1994 reauthorization of ESEA, called the Improving America’s Schools Act. Not only did they take away school district autonomy in choosing standards and tests, but they also required those standards to comply with the federal Goals 2000 standards. Goals 2000 was an intensification of federal control of both state and federal pre-K programs that had to comply with Head Start — and also marked the first time that “social emotional learning” appeared in the federal education lexicon.

Then came the 2001 version of ESEA, called the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). It ratcheted up federal control even more by requiring statewide tests in math and English/reading every year in grades 3-8 and science once in elementary, middle, and high school. SEL and preschool elements from the 1994 bill also survived in the new version. However, the worst part of NCLB was the completely unrealistic 100-percent proficiency requirement in math and English by 2014 for every subgroup under the threat of districts losing federal funding.

Years later, the Obama administration then used that threat plus the Great Recession to bribe/coerce states into adopting Common Core via illegal waivers and the Race to the Top grant program, all well explained in the white paper by Robert Eitel and Kent Talbert: “The Road to a National Curriculum — The Legal Aspects of the Common Core Standards, Race to the Top, and Conditional Waivers.”

The rest of the article can be viewed on The National Pulse’s website.

Mar 26, 2019

President Trump’s 2020 Budget: The Good and Bad News for Education

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This article written by Dr. Karen Effrem for The National Pulse lays out and simplifies this year’s education budget proposals.

As discussed for the last two budget cycles (here and here) President Trump is working to keep his 2016 campaign promise to cut the size and scope of the U.S. Department of Education (USED). Here is some of the good, bad and ugly of the Fiscal Year 2020 budget:

The Good News

The 2020 budget seeks to cut overall USED spending by $7.1 billion or ten percent. That is consistent with his previous budgets and a good start on what is a big job. Basically level funding is maintained for both Title I, the main federal education program for poor students in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and for the Individuals with Disabilities Act.

Within that 10 percent, for a total of $6.7 billion, the proposed budget eliminates “funding for 29 programs that do not address national needs, duplicate other programs, are ineffective, or are more appropriately supported with State, local, or private funds.”

Among those 29 programs proposed for elimination are several that we have followed over the years that are particularly invasive:

Full Service Community Schools — a.k.a. Parent Replacement Centers

21st Century Community Learning Centers — Besides being terribly ineffective, according to a national study performed by USED, there is evidence that these programs are actually harmful to behavior.

Safe and Supportive Schools Program — This $1.17 billion program is new since ESSA was passed in 2015 and contains many social and emotional learning programs with all of their subjectivity and data collection with the potential to live forever in the state longitudinal systems (SLDS), whether the data is accurate or not.

State Longitudinal Data Systems — Given the porousness of student data protections due to the age and weakness of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) already with rampant sharing of very sensitive student and family data, including SEL data,  with government agencies, corporations, and researchers, all without parental consent, this is possibly the best cut on the list.

The Institute for Education Sciences (IES) that oversees the SLDS and all other federal education data mining is taking a 15 percent cut in this budget.

As it did last year, the budget request zeroes out the $250 million Preschool Development Grants. Given the near constant stream of data from the federal government or scholarly sources, even to the left of center, showing government preschool to be at best, ineffective, and at worst harmful, this is a very wise move.

Regional Education Laboratories — These education research centers have long been petri dishes for failed progressive policies that, as admitted by the head of one regional lab back in 1989, are seeking “…the total restructuring of society…”

Ready to Learn Television — This is further government supplementation of public broadcasting, which is already biased toward the left end of the political spectrum to produce government approved children’s programming that has contained many topics controversial among adults.

The Bad (or Less than Ideal) News

There is a push to use the savings from the eliminated or reduced funding to promote public and private school choice, a big priority for both the President and Secretary DeVos — but which has detractors on all points on the political spectrum. The significant problems with federal school choice from a conservative perspective, particularly the strong potential for imposing state tests and therefore the state standards, were discussed by Joy Pullman at The Federalist and by me a few weeks ago.

The budget calls for $53.4 million for school climate grants, including tiered programs like Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), that begins with monitoring the attitudes and behaviors of the entire student population and advances toward intensified “interventions” as the staff determines children need more “help.” PBIS was originally included in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to try to resolve academic or mental/SEL issues of “at-risk” students short of a full special-education referral, but ESSA expanded the program school-wide. Despite claims by proponents that PBIS is “evidence based” or “research based,” the federal PBIS technical support center admits that “school-wide PBIS is in its infancy” and that all of PBIS is quite experimental. In other words, there are no controlled trials involving large numbers of students to know if the concept really works. Nevertheless, PBIS is embraced uncritically in the public-education realm; even the federal School Safety Commission has recommended it as a means to prevent school violence. The literature on PBIS includes little to no discussion of how the universal or at-risk behaviors are chosen; what sensitive, personally identifiable information is collected on children for the various tiers; how children’s attitudes, values, and beliefs are modified; and what outcome data is included in children’s lifelong data dossiers (more about this below). Also, the phrase “parental consent” rarely, if ever, appears on PBIS explanatory websites.

The Bottom Line

Unfortunately for the great cuts in this budget and fortunately for the bad items, if Congress, even under total Republican control, was unable or unwilling to pass most of the President’s budget request, it is highly unlikely to happen now, given that Democrats control the U.S. House. However, with the 2020 elections upcoming, there is a chance that if we unite, we can make our voices heard on these vital issues of academic excellence, parental autonomy, and privacy. Stay tuned!

The full article can be found on The National Pulse’s website.



Mar 15, 2019

Invasive International Survey Targeting Pre-K Students Is Coming to U.S.

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This article written by Dr. Karen Effrem for The National Pulse details the international survey titled the International Early Learning Survey (IELS), and how the questions it asks inherently violates the privacy of Pre-K students.

It is important to note that this assessment will be conducted via digital media.

The comments submitted by Education Liberty Watch about this study outline several major problems:

1.) The compelling evidence of ineffectiveness and or harm (also here) of early childhood programs, especially government-sponsored ones, as admitted even by proponent researchers, renders the need for yet another taxpayer-funded study completely moot.

2.) As extensively discussed in our new research paper, “Social-Emotional Learning: K-12 Education as New Age Nanny State,” there is significant subjectivity in the questions asked of these young children and very thin to non-existent scientific support for social-emotional assessments and SEL programs in general in young children. After all, SEL has been a prominent part of Head Start and early childhood programs for many years, yet many studies have shown early childhood programs to be at best ineffective and at worst harmful, as described above.

3.) There are clear ties of SEL to Common Core, which hundreds of early childhood experts have rightly declared developmentally inappropriate.

4.) The data privacy concerns are extremely significant, as the U.S. Department of Education (which houses the National Center for Education Statistics that will be conducting this study) has shown itself utterly incapable of protecting student data, and this data on sensitive SEL parameters will be shared with a large international organization (OECD), which does not comply with even the weak, outdated data privacy provisions of FERPA.

5.) This data gathering violates multiple U.S. Supreme Court precedents placing parents in charge of the raising, education, and other care of children, including social-emotional care.

Early childhood experts have criticized this effort globally. Here are a couple of examples:

Early-childhood experts from at least 25 different nations oppose OECD’s IELS, questioning “whether political and corporate profit interests are being privileged over valid research, children’s rights and meaningful evaluation.” They also argue that “the motives and interests driving international standardised assessment and its underlying assumptions need to be questioned at all levels.” They “disagree with an approach that conceptualizes and instrumentalises early childhood education and care mainly as preparation for the following stages of formal education, and as tool [sic] for achieving long- term economic outcomes—which are in itself questionable or unsubstantiated.”

According to Education Dive, a very pro-early childhood and workforce education reform publication, another early childhood expert questioned whether social-emotional skills can be measured through digital media. “Once again, we have opened Pandora’s box,” he wrote. “If more and more countries participate in this study — as I expect will happen in the long term — we will see a further narrowing and standardization of early-childhood education. There will be no room for culturally and contextually sensitive comparison and discourse.”

There is clear evidence that these assessments represent OECD’s goal to expand student surveillance beyond the school and into home and family life.

The full article can be viewed on The National Pulse’s website.