Karen R. Effrem, MD – President
President-elect Donald Trump has selected Michigan billionaire; Republican mega-donor, and school choice advocate Betsy DeVos as his Secretary of Education. The corporate, big government Republican establishment, such as Jeb Bush, his Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE), Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, as well as groups that have received her large contributions, are thrilled with her appointment. Key education freedom leaders like Frank Cannon, president of the American Principles Project who called her a “very Jeb-like pick”; Joy Pullman, managing editor of The Federalist; and grassroots parent anti-Common Core groups in Michigan, Oklahoma, Florida, and around the nation are justifiably concerned.
Understanding her future boss’ promise to get rid of Common Core, as well as how fatal it was to the presidential campaigns of her friend and fellow FEE board member, Jeb Bush, whom she supported, and others that Donald Trump beat, she put out a hastily constructed statement on Twitter and her website the day she was appointed, alleging her opposition to Common Core, stating that she is “not a supporter-period,” because it had turned into a “federalized boondoggle”:
Here are several important things to know about DeVos based on her rhetoric quoted above; her record as documented by the Stop Common Core in Michigan parents who have experienced her brand of education reform firsthand, and other sources.
1) DeVos used Jeb Bush’s “high standards” euphemism for Common Core Her mention of “high standards” in her website statement and the report of having discussed “higher national standards” in the Trump Transition Team readout of her November 19th meeting with the president-elect, are identical to Jeb Bush’s efforts to deflect criticism of his Common Core support before and during his failed presidential campaign right down to the “Period.”:
Education Next: You have been a steadfast supporter of the common core, even when others have become increasingly critical. Why? What do you say to critics?
Bush: I support high academic standards. Period.
This has all the believability of a multi-level marketing campaign selling educational snake oil. Bush readily admitted while campaigning for Rick Scott in 2014 that there was no major difference between Common Core and the rebranded Florida Standards:
Bush and DeVos have never been able to explain just exactly how Common Core standard may be considered “high” when they were untried; are not rigorous; not internationally benchmarked; developmentally inappropriate, etc.
And her concept of “high standards” with local control is a complete oxymoron. Whether these “higher national standards” are called Common Core or not, the federal government has no place whatsoever promoting national standards at the federal level or in the states. Yet, sadly, by use of the secretarial veto of state plans and federal requirements to have standards and tests comply with 11 different draconian federal laws, this is what has happened with Jeb Bush’s admitted involvement in ESSA. If and until the USED is closed or scaled back and or ESSA is repealed, if she believes in local control, she must approve the state plans.
2) Betsy DeVos has no record of Common Core opposition. The website statement and tweet the day she was appointed were the first indications of being against Common Core ever documented. In fact, she has been described as supporting Common Core by Tonya Allen of the Skillman Foundation in the Detroit News. There is absolutely no record of her or any of the three major organizations that she has founded, chaired or still chairs, and funds The Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP), The American Federation for Children (AFC), and the Philanthropy Roundtable (PR) ever having opposed Common Core. She never reached out to, and in fact, steadfastly refused to meet with or assist Stop Common Core in Michigan in any way. The GLEP executive director even threatened these parents with legal action.
3) The organizations that she ran, not just “worked with,” were intensely pro-Common Core:
Actively worked to block a bill that would have repealed and replaced Michigan’s Common Core standards with the Massachusetts standards, arguably the best in the nation (GLEP)
Actively lobbied for continued implementation of Common Core in Michigan (GLEP)
Financially supported pro-Common Core candidates in Michigan (GLEP)
Threatened the grassroots parents’ organization Stop Common Core in Michigan with legal action for showing the clear link between GLEP endorsement and Common Core support (GLEP)
Funded Alabama pro-Common Core state school board candidates via the Alabama affiliate of AFC
4) Betsy DeVos personally lauded, and AFC strongly supported, and funded the 2011 Indiana law signed by Mitch Daniels that imposes Common Core on private voucher schools via the tests. The law requires voucher recipient schools to administer the public school Common Core-aligned tests without the option of choosing a nationally norm-referenced test (sec. 4.7) and submit to the grading system based on those same tests. The tests determine what is taught. Indiana still has Common Core via the infamous rebrand perpetrated by VP-elect Mike Pence and “is the second-worst in the country on infringing on private school autonomy” according to the Center for Education Reform because of that and other onerous requirements. Indiana’s law received an F grade on the Education Liberty Watch School Choice Freedom Grading Scale.
5) DeVos and AFC are strong supporters of federal Title I portability. This program would require the same public school, Common Core tests and likely, the rest of draconian and unconstitutional federal regulations for private schools as are currently imposed on public schools. This would eliminate them as a real “choice” and would expand the “federalized boondoggle” she says she opposes. Jeb Bush recommended this same kind of program requiring the state tests for Mitt Romney in 2012 (p.24).
6) DeVos seems to favor highly regulated Common Core-aligned charter schools Although charter schools are public schools usually requiring the public school Common Core tests, there are some that are trying to blaze a trail of independence. Hillsdale College in DeVos’ home state of Michigan is nationally renowned for its classical and constitutional teaching and for not taking federal funding. It has also developed non-Common Core classical charter schools. Hillsdale President Dr. Larry Arnn says, “…we only put those charter schools in states where the charter law enables the independence of the school under a local board to run the school as they please.”
Although there are token mentions of the Hillsdale programs on various of her organization websites, that style of charter school is not favored by her. The Philanthropy Roundtable group that DeVos chaired until her appointment published a report on charter schools, but did not once mention the Hillsdale program. There is no evidence that her family foundation has made a single donation to Hillsdale College, including to its charter program. She should be asked why she seems to want all charter schools in Michigan and elsewhere to only teach Common Core aligned standards, curriculum and use those tests. How is that advancing any real parental choice in education?
7) The DeVos organizations seem very cavalier about student privacy – The Philanthropy Roundtable, which she chaired until her appointment, published a report called Blended Learning: A Wise Giver’s Guide to Supporting Tech-assisted Teaching (analyzed HERE) that lauds the Dream Box software that “records 50,000 data points per student per hour” and does not contain a single use of the words “privacy,” “consent,” “transparency” [as in who receives that data and how software algorithms crunch that data to make life changing decision for children]. The report also prominently mentions Knewton, whose CEO bragged about collecting “5-10 million data points per user per day.” Blended learning is the same as Competency Based Education with its teaching, invasive data mining, and psychological profiling by machine that we have warned about .
It is in stark contrast to another Trump promise on the campaign trail to protect student privacy. When asked if he would close the FERPA loophole opened by the Obama administration allowing sensitive data to be shared widely without consent, he said:
Whose philosophy will prevail?
8) The DeVos-led (until recently) PR group also supports expanding invasive, subjective social emotional learning The PR’s national conference had a breakout session titled: Enabling Student Success: How Social-Emotional Learning Can Impact Schools. The recap had no discussion of privacy,freedom of conscience, or indoctrination concerns. It called parents merely “assets” in student learning. The T74, a pro-Common Core education blog funded by the DeVos FamilyFoundation carried a post attacking the Federalist article written by Jane Robbins and myself as the “journalistic equivalent of yelling ‘fire’ in a theater” without substantively answering our concerns. The author works at Bellwether Education Partners, whose partners include (surprise, surprise) DeVos’ PR, Bush’s FEE, and the Gates Foundation, all major supporters of Common Core and of SEL.
None of this constitutes “draining the swamp” in education. American Principles Project senior fellow Jane Robbins said it very well in her excellent piece, Jeb’s Revenge:
Dr. Susan Berry of Breitbart News highlights the potential schism between parent supported anti-Common Core officials and the pro-Common Core, corpratist establishment candidates to run the US Department of Education (USED). Here is an excerpt:
Dr. Carson has since declined a cabinet position and the only other person on that list against Common Core is Bill Evers, who has been fighting it since 2011. Hopefully it is a good sign that President-Elect Trump has made him head of the education transition team.
Parent group leader from across the nation are concerned and want to help President-elect Trump keep his promises to stop Common Core, make education local and decrease the size and scope of the US Department of Education:
“When Donald Trump talked on the campaign trail about ‘the forgotten men and women’ of America, many of us who have been fighting Common Core in the trenches felt like he was talking to us,” says Heather Crossin of Indiana, who adds that many parents have lost a voice in their children’s education.”We are counting on President-elect Trump to stand up and fight for us against the powerful special interests, who not only profit off of Common Core but who pull the strings of the vast majority of politicians in both parties,” she explains.
Other strong candidates acceptable to parents include or should include English Standards expert Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Dr. Peg Luksik, Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn, Dr. William Jeynes, and former Texas education Commissioner Richard Scott. More details about each are available HERE.
Please help Donald Trump remember those “forgotten” parents that work to get him elected. Send a short note to the transition team at http://apply.ptt.gov/yourstory or tweet to @realDonaldTrump, @stevenkbannon and @transition2017 and include hashtags: #KeepYourPromises #DontForgetParents #EversforEd #StotskyforEd #LuksikforEd #JeynesforEd.
Karen R. Effrem, MD – President
Emmett McGroarty, director of education at the American Principles Project testified at the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (CEP) about the highly dangerous idea of creating a longitudinal higher education/workforce database. This plan would lift the ban on this concept currently in federal law. The proposal is being pushed by Florida Senator Marc Rubio in a bill called The Know Before You Go Act, the concerns about which we have discussed before.
Here is the testimony starting at 2:45:48 (Thanks to Shane Vander Hart at Truth in American Education)
Mr. McGroarty gave excellent testimony, as usual, and covered many critical points, especially about how this database would make students/employees subservient to and intimidated by the government, flipping the arrangement put in place by our Founders. The commissioners in their questioning tried to minimize his concerns saying that it would only involve higher education students and would not involve social emotional or “soft” or 21st century skills that is such a concern in pre-K to 12 as we have covered elsewhere. McGroarty held firm and said that these are issues no matter what the grade level of the individual and that the federal government has no constitutional authority to be gathering all of this data on individuals.
We also know that the commissioners arguments were straw man arguments. Corporations and foundations are already very interested in gathering this fuzzy, subjective SEL data on our kids as evidenced by the efforts of the Gates Foundation and the Business Roundtable. And we know that USED has long spoken of wanting to have linkable data on everyone from pre-K through the workforce, so there is no reason that this college workforce would not be eventually be linked to the pre-K through 12 data they are putting together through the state longitudinal database systems.
Here are some additional thought to be added to Mr. McGroarty’s always great testimony on this topic taken from Education Liberty Watch’s response to the March US House Education and Workforce hearing on education research and data collection:
We believe that student privacy and parental consent should always be considered pre-eminent compared to the research desires of the government or private sector, especially in the realm of psychological profiling.
The government has no constitutional, statutory, or moral right to collect data, especially highly personal and sensitive socioemotional data on our children.
According to data presented to this committee by the Cato Institute several years ago, federal involvement in education has yielded either stagnant or declining academic performance:
The vast majority of federal education programs are unconstitutional because the entire US Department of Education is unconstitutional, meaning that most of these programs should be eliminated with any remaining that can be shown to be effective and constitutional programs being block granted to the states.
Many studies showing the ineffectiveness and or harm of current government education and child social programs and the effectiveness of two parent family structure and other non-government academic and social measures are ignored raising the question of why we need so much research in the first place. This includes early childhood and home visiting programs.
We have an opportunity to submit comments to this commission on this and other data privacy related issues by November 14th! Please participate. You may use information from Emmett McGroarty’s testimony, this post and other sources like the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy. Please do not let the federal government create lifelong dossiers on us and our children!
UPDATE: The deadline for comments has been extended to December 14th. Please submit comments and protect the privacy of your children!
We are grateful to the Federalist for posting the latest article on social emotional learning from Jane Robbins of the American Principles Project and Dr. Effrem:
It is great that Georgia has joined Tennessee in withdrawing from the CASEL SEL standards movement, but sadly, CASEL is pushing on with a new effort detailed in the article along with a detailed discussion of the dangers of SEL.
This summer the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL)announced it had chosen eight states to collaborate on creating K-12 “social emotional learning” (SEL) standards. All students, from kindergartners through high-school seniors, would be measured on five “non-cognitive” factors: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.
Under such a system teachers become essentially therapists, and students become essentially patients. Supposedly this will clear away the psychological deadwood that obstructs a student’s path to academic achievement.
Federal Government Probes Students’ Psyches
We’ve written about the push by the U.S. Department of Education (USED) and the rest of the progressive education establishment to transform education from academic content instruction to molding and assessing children’s attitudes, mindsets, and behaviors. The infamous “outcome-based education” (OBE) in the 1990s began the trend, and Head Start and the Common Core national standards advance the same foundational principles.
The new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) ramps up the trend in several ways. ESSA requires rating schools based partly on “nonacademic” factors, which may include measures of SEL. It also pours money into SEL programs, “which may include engaging or supporting families at school or at home” (i.e., home visits by bureaucrats).
Other provisions include training school personnel on “when and how to refer . . . children with, or at risk of, mental illness,” and implementing programs for children who are deemed “at-risk” of academic or social problems, without ever defining “at-risk.” Similar ESSA language urges school officials to cast a wide net for special education in school-wide “intervention” and “support” programs, allowing schools to sidestep parental consent requirements for formal evaluations.
Beyond ESSA, at least three other federal initiatives aim to monitor children’s attitudes and beliefs. One is the planned revision of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the test referred to as “the nation’s report card,” to assess mindsets and school climate. This revision has been challenged not only on constitutional and privacy grounds, but as a violation of federal law. Of course, law is merely an inconvenience to the Obama administration.
A third federal initiative is USED’s bribery of states to promote SEL standards and data-gathering on preschool children via the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grants. These grants, along with the preschool grants in ESSA and Head Start, promote “Baby Common Core”-style SEL standards and data-collection and preserving this in states’ student-data systems. So now every child’s permanent dossier can include how well he played with others when he was four.
Should Government Track Students’ Thoughts, Feelings?
The problems with SEL are both philosophical and operational. Parents rightly object that the school (which means the government) has no business analyzing and trying to change a child’s psychological makeup. It’s one thing to enforce discipline in a classroom and encourage individual students to do their best; good teachers have done that from time immemorial. It’s quite another to assess students on their compliance with highly subjective behavioral standards that may measure personality and individual or family beliefs more than objective shortcomings in performance. The school exists to assist parents in educating their children, not to replace them in that role.
Writing in trade publication Education Week, a SEL consultant touts a new assessment “to generate data about such character strengths as responsibility, resilience, teamwork, curiosity, and leadership.” This violation of both privacy and freedom of conscience is also an alarming effort to standardize children, who normally develop at very different rates and in very different ways, to fit government-determined norms. The government has no right to collect data on any child’s “character strengths,” which are the most personal aspects of a child’s psyche. Period.
The operational problems are also daunting. Who will be assessing a child using these subjective criteria? Psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors undergo years of training to delve into this murky area. But even these experts admit there are no firm criteria for mental-health diagnoses, especially in children. The World Health Organization, hardly a bastion of conservative medical or political thought, warned: “Childhood and adolescence being developmental phases, it is difficult to draw clear boundaries between phenomena that are part of normal development and others that are abnormal.”
Student self-reporting such as surveys, another common means of compiling SEL data, is similarly unreliable. Prominent SEL proponents Dr. Angela Duckworth and David
Yeager have pointed out that students may interpret survey questions differently from how the creators intended, and that the questions are unlikely to detect incremental changes. As parents of teenaged boys can attest, many children will treat such surveys as a joke and gladly take the opportunity to respond in the most outrageous manner possible.
Because “perfectly unbiased, unfakeable, and error-free [SEL] measures are an ideal, not a reality,” Duckworth and Yeager argue, such measures should not be used to evaluate schools or teachers. Duckworth was so concerned about using these highly subjective criteria in federally mandated accountability schemes that she withdrewfrom a California project to do just that. But this is exactly what USED is pushing through ESSA, and CASEL through its K-12 standards.
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