Dec 29, 2018
ELW

Townhall – Lame-Duck Congress Plays Grinch to Citizens by Passing Anti-Privacy Database Bill

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In a new column at Townhall.com, Dr. Effrem explains the dangers of the unrecorded voice vote passage of yet another privacy invading bill by the U.S. Senate, waiting until after the election to pass a bill that dozens of citizen and parent groups opposed when passed by the House in 2017. This excerpt discusses some of the many reasons HR 4174, the Foundations for Evidence-based Policymaking Act (FEPA) is so problematic based on a summary and a rebuttal prepared by groups opposing FEPA:

While FEPA itself doesn’t expressly establish a formal data system with a central repository, the bill’s mandates regarding linking and sharing data among multiple federal agencies and thousands of bureaucrats will create essentially the same result: a de facto national database.

The federal government is demonstrably incompetent at data security; moreover, it routinely ignores the overwhelming data it already has showing the ineffectiveness of many (most) federal programs. There is no reason to believe an even more enormous trove of data can be secured, or that it will actually change government behavior in any meaningful way.

Most importantlycollecting and holding massive amounts of data about an individual has an intimidating effect on the individual—even if the data is never used. This fundamentally changes the relationship between the individual and government. Citizen direction of government cannot happen when government sits in a position of intimidation of the individual.

The full commentary is available HERE and has also been discussed at Breitbart.com and EdWeek.org.

Due to the partial government shutdown, the White House comment line is not operating, but you may urge President Trump to veto this egregious violation of citizen led-governance and privacy by emailing him or tweeting to @realDonaldTrump or @POTUS.

 

Dec 19, 2018
ELW

Sunshine State News – Parents Have Been Right All Along About Common Core: Officials Should Listen

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This column, reproduced in its entirety, by Dr. Effrem was originally published by the Sunshine State News. It deals with the significant data showing the failure of Common Core to improve student achievement, as well as how school choice accountability schemes requiring the Common Core aligned tests harm private school autonomy.

 

The enormous problems with Common Core Standards (CCSS) and accompanying tests have been obvious to parents and citizens groups since they first were imposed by states succumbing to federal bribery/coercion in 2010. Voluminous evidence continues to confirm those perceptive beliefs.

Parents, along with many experts, saw the academic inferiority of CCSS immediately. Parents have been in the forefront of protesting the destruction of math education during the Common Core era. Not teaching standard algorithms, marking correct answers wrong because the student didn’t use Common Core methods, and developmentally inappropriate standards have made it impossible for parents, even engineers and professors, to help their children with math homework. The resulting distress has led to a mass exodus of both students and teachers from public schools.

In English, vocabulary-rich classical literature that both teaches students how to write well and important principles of Western Civilization has been replaced by dull technical manuals or psychologically manipulative texts. Snippets of classics are taught without context.

Data is vindicating these parental concerns in spades. Jane Robbins of the American Principles Project described a new Pioneer Institute study by Ted Rebarber of AccountabilityWorks and Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute, “Common Core, School Choice and Rethinking Standards-Based Reform,” that explains “how Common Core has not only damaged public education but also threatened the independence of private schools. How? By imposing government strings on the curricular autonomy of the schools that accept government funding via school-choice mechanisms such as vouchers. Rebarber called Common Core ‘the worst large-scale educational failure in forty years.’”

Undergirding that statement are the 2017 NAEP national results in math, which showed stagnation after declining for the first time in 25 years in 2015. Although Florida showed some improvement in math in 2017, Florida’s state test vendor  (American Institutes for Research) also performs “test development, psychometric analysis [and] validity studies” for the NAEP. So it is quite possible that Florida’s improvement has nothing to do with academic achievement, but with how its tests are written and validated.

2018 ACT results also confirm the CCSS slide. The national average composite score was down one full point from 2017 to 2018, with declines in English, math, reading and science. The percentage of 2018 graduates meeting none of the ACT college readiness benchmarks rose from 31% to 35%. Florida’s 2018 average ACT composite score is nearly one full point below the national average and basically the same as last year’s score, with readiness benchmarks below the national average and stagnant since 2014.

The ACT and NAEP also show that CCSS is harming struggling students. Achievement gaps that were improving before CCSS are starting to widen again in Florida, and elsewhere. State test results for charter schools, which generally teach Common Core, show the same or increased percentages of D or F schools as the public schools teaching more struggling students with which they compete. These results confirm that CCSS has failed to produce promised celestial levels of improved college readiness and that “choice” programs, especially if CCSS are imposed, are likely not the promised silver bullet either.  Continue reading »

Dec 12, 2018

The National Pulse – DeVos’ Swiss Agreement Overlooks Deep Problems with School-to-Work Model

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This article, written by Dr. Karen Effrem for The National Pulse, details the flaws in Secretary of Education Betsy Devos’ agreement with the Swiss Government to model U.S. school workforce on the vocational system of Europe. It also highlights similarities with this plan and other such initiatives like those put forth by billionaire Bill Gates.

This is reminiscent of the Gates Foundation “Smaller Learning Communities (SLC)” initiative that preceded their Common Core push. In that program, students were funneled into choosing a career path in sixth grade with little option to receive a broad-based academic education and before they had any idea what they wanted to do. Gates spent between $650 million and $1 billion on that school-to-work scheme, and it failed miserably, just like almost every other Gates education initiative, including Common Core.

Besides these concerns, there is a clear link between apprenticeships and competency-based education (CBE), Common Core, and social emotional learning (SEL). As previously noted, Anthony Carnivale — a board member of the National Center on Education and the Economy when Marc Tucker wrote his infamous “Dear Hillary” letter urging the remolding of “the entire American system” into “a seamless web that literally extends from cradle to grave and is the same system for everyone” — wrote in the Washington Post this summer that the new American workforce should include the following elements:

Assessments of “values and personality traits” — i.e. psychological screening and data mining, as does the OECD and education technology companies that want to do affective data mining.

“Firsthand exposure to alternative occupational pathways through internships and other applied learning opportunities” — which is edu-speak for further diluting the academic curriculum that has already been devastated by Common Core.

“Work experience to cultivate basic employability skills such as conscientiousness and collegiality in diverse workplaces” — translation: training in group-think and becoming worker bees.

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

Dr. Effrem’s National Pulse archive is available here.

Dangerously Flawed “TeenScreen” Mental Health Program Returning to Schools

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This article written for The National Pulse by Dr. Karen Effrem takes a look at “TeenScreen” which is a flawed tool used by schools to asses students’ mental health condition.

As the push for more school-based mental health intervention increases after recent high profile school shootings, one particularly controversial and inaccurate mental health screening instrument, “TeenScreen”, is starting to make a comeback. Developed by Dr. David Schaffer and other psychiatrists at Columbia University, TeenScreen is a 14-question computerized survey that was heavily used in as many as 40 states in the early 2000s.

However, the vague and subjective questions used by Teen Screen yielded an astronomical false-positive rate of 84 percent, as admitted by Dr. Schaffer:

The CSS’s positive predictive value of 16% (determined by a weighted prevalence of DISC positive in the sample) would result in 84 nonsuicidal [sic] teens being referred for further evaluation for every 16 youths correctly identified.

One egregious example of TeenScreen’s inaccuracy occurred when an Indiana high school student was forced to take the survey without her parents’ knowledge or consent. As a result of her Teen Screen responses, she was given two psychiatric diagnoses in the hall of the school by a perfect stranger. Because she was studious and did not like to party, she was labeled with social anxiety disorder, and because she liked to keep things clean, she was tagged with obsessive-compulsive disorder. The understandably outraged parents subsequently sued the school and mental-health agency administering TeenScreen.

The lawsuit and surrounding controversy caused the consent procedures to switch from opt-out to opt-in parental consent, resulting in a massive decline in the numbers of children screened (the Indiana school screening the student without parental consent stopping the procedure altogether). This change in consent procedure, the high false-positive rate, and the strong connection between TeenScreen and the pharmaceutical industry were all likely factors in forcing TeenScreen to eventually cease operations of its national program in 2012.

The Dangers of TeenScreen

However, this is unfortunately not the end of the TeenScreen saga. In 2016, Stanford University acquired the rights to the TeenScreen test, and it has been used in some school districts even as recently as the fall of 2018. Even more concerning is recent testimony by Dr. Mark Olfson, current scientific director of whatever is left of TeenScreen at Columbia University, before the federal School Safety Commission in July calling for expansion of “voluntary mental health screening” in an effort to prevent mass shootings such as the one at Parkland, Fla., despite other parts of his testimony rendering that recommendation dangerous and quite illogical:

There are concerns that many young people are being unnecessarily treated with these medications because approximately two-thirds of the increase, the overall increase in psychotropic medication use in youth has occurred among those with less severe or no impairment.

These concerns have focused most intensively on anti-psychotic medications, particularly their use in very young children and children in the foster care system.

He does not realize — or will not admit — that the reason the overall prescription rate increase has occurred in youth with “less severe or no impairment” is due to the promotion and widespread use of mental screening instruments like TeenScreen. Olfson does, however, admit some of the dangerous side effects of the medications:

In addition to uncertainty over the long-term effects on the developing brain, side effects of anti-psychotic medications include weight gain, high cholesterol levels and increased risk of diabetes.

Other severe and life-threatening effects associated with the antipsychotics (studies compiled here) include brain damage, movement disorders, suicide, and a 25-year shortened life span.

In addition, psychiatric experts readily admit that their efforts to predict which patients will become violent are only slightly better than chance, so it is unwise to train already overburdened school staff for a few hours and place this enormous responsibility on them. A psychologist involved in violence-prediction research told the Washington Post, “There is no instrument that is specifically useful or validated for identifying potential school shooters or mass murderers.” Another said in that same article that doing so would endanger both public safety and civil liberties.

Moreover, many experts also rejected the idea of expanded school mental-health screening after the horrific Sandy Hook shooting. A psychiatrist who extensively studied the Sandy Hook shooter told the Los Angeles Times after the Parkland massacre, “But unfortunately, it’s impossible for any of us to predict who is going to go from being troubled and isolated to actually harming others…It really means we can’t rely on prediction and identifying the bad guys. Because we’ll misidentify some who aren’t bad guys, and we’ll fail to identify others who may become bad guys.”

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

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