Karen R. Effrem, MD – President
The Republican Party Platform was released on July 18th. The battle between grassroots parent activists and the corporate/foundation/bureaucratic establishment is evident, but the preponderance of the education platform is a testament to the hard work and dedication of parents all over the country including those on the Platform Committee. Here is my list of the most important quotes from both perspectives and a bit of analysis of important issues fought to a draw.
Grassroots Parent Wins
- The primacy of the parental role in education –
“Parents are a child’s first and foremost educators, and have primary responsibility for the education of their children. Parents have a right to direct their children’s education, care, and upbringing. We support a constitutional amendment to protect that right from interference by states, the federal government, or international bodies such as the United Nations.”
- The critical need for two parent families –
“It is also why everyone should be concerned about the state of the American family today, not because of ideology or doctrine, but because of the overwhelming evidence of experience, social science, and common sense. All of which give us these truths about traditional marriage: Children raised in a two-parent household tend to be physically and emotionally healthier, more likely to do well in school, less likely to use drugs and alcohol, engage in crime or become pregnant outside of marriage. We oppose policies and laws that create a financial incentive for or encourage cohabitation. (Emphasis added)
- Affirming the need to eliminate or greatly reduce the federal role in education –
“Education is much more than schooling. It is the whole range of activities by which families and communities transmit to a younger generation, not just knowledge and skills, but ethical and behavioral norms and traditions. It is the handing over of a cultural identity. That is why American education has, for the last several decades, been the focus of constant controversy, as centralizing forces from outside the family and community have sought to remake education in order to remake America. They have done immense damage. The federal government should not be a partner in that effort, as the Constitution gives it no role in education.”
“Since 1965, the federal government, through more than 100 programs in the Department of Education, has spent $2 trillion on elementary and secondary education with little substantial improvement in academic achievement or high school graduation rates.”
- Opposition to national standards –
“We reject a one-size-fits-all approach to education and support a broad range of choices for parents and children at the state and local level. We likewise repeat our long-standing opposition to the imposition of national standards and assessments, encourage the parents and educators who are implementing alternatives to Common Core…” (Emphasis added).
- Opposing out of control test-based accountability –
“It rejects excessive testing and ‘teaching to the test’ and supports the need for strong assessments to serve as a tool so teachers can tailor teaching to meet student needs.”
- Protecting student privacy and freedom of conscience –
“The federal government has pushed states to collect and share vast amounts of personal student and family data, including the collection of social and emotional data. Much of this data is collected without parental consent or notice. This is wholly incompatible with the American Experiment and our inalienable rights.”
“…and believe that federal funds should not be used in mandatory or universal mental health, psychiatric, or socio-emotional screening programs.”
- Local control –
“…parent-driven accountability at every stage of schooling”
“…classroom discipline; parental involvement; and strong leadership by principals, superintendents, and locally elected school boards”
- Affirming academic basics and other important foundations –
“We strongly encourage instruction in American history and civics by using the original documents of our founding fathers.”
“A good understanding of the Bible being indispensable for the development of an educated citizenry, we encourage state legislatures to offer the Bible in a literature curriculum as an elective in America’s high schools.”
“To ensure that all students have access to the mainstream of American life, we support the English First approach and oppose divisive programs that limit students’ ability to advance in American society.”
“…STEM subjects and phonics”
- Affirming the view of students as individuals, not products or “human capital”
“At the heart of the American Experiment lies the greatest political expression of human dignity: The self-evident truth that ‘all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.’ That truth rejects the dark view of the individual as human capital — a possession for the creation of another’s wealth.”
- Safety, privacy, and health –
“Their agenda has nothing to do with individual rights; it has everything to do with power. They are determined to reshape our schools — and our entire society — to fit the mold of an ideology alien to America’s history and traditions. Their [Title IX] edict to the states concerning restrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities is at once illegal, dangerous, and ignores privacy issues. We salute the several states which have filed suit against it.”
“We renew our call for replacing ‘family planning’ programs for teens with sexual risk avoidance education that sets abstinence until marriage as the responsible and respected standard of behavior. That approach — the only one always effective against premarital pregnancy and sexually-transmitted disease — empowers teens to achieve optimal health outcomes. We oppose school-based clinics that provide referral or counseling for abortion and contraception.”
“All personnel who interact with school children should pass background checks and be held to the highest standards of personal conduct.”
Fought to a Draw:
There was no mention of Hillary-style universal early childhood programs despite early reports that they might be rejected by the committee and $250 million was spent on them in the statist and tyrannical Every Student Succeeds Act. There was also no mention of ESSA itself, despite desperate attempts of the Republican congressional leadership to portray it as a conservative win, even during convention speeches.
- Portability and Universal School Choice – Federal Title I and IDEA portability will clearly bring federal mandates, regulations, national standards like Common Core that were so sadly cemented into place by the passage of the ESSA, tests and data collection into the private schools. That is what is happened with the voucher bill in Indiana under Governor Mike Pence. That danger is also ever present to home schooling autonomy under the guise of “universal school choice options,” so in favor with Jeb Bush and his foundation. When government school mandates are imposed on home and private schools, these will be eliminated as real alternatives to the FedEd Leviathan. It is also inconsistent with the other plank in the platform of reducing or eliminating the unconstitutional federal role in education.
“We propose that the bulk of federal money through Title I for low-income children and through IDEA for children with special needs should follow the child to whatever school the family thinks will work best for them.”
“We support options for learning, including home-schooling, career and technical education, private or parochial schools, magnet schools, charter schools, online learning, and early-college high schools. We especially support the innovative financing mechanisms that make options available to all children: education savings accounts (ESAs), vouchers, and tuition tax credits.”
- Misuse of test scores for every kind of accountability – The platform mentions a concept very near and dear to the Jeb Bush faction of the GOP – “ending social promotions.” However, much research shows that third grade retention is not helpful and in many cases, harmful. Even worse, numerous Florida school districts are using this ineffective practice to punish parents that opt their children out of the validity challenged tests and retaining the students with no documented reading deficiency just because they have no test score. Parents are readying a lawsuit.
“More money alone does not necessarily equal better performance. After years of trial and error, we know the policies and methods that have actually made a difference in student advancement: …career and technical education; ending social promotions; merit pay for good teachers…”
- No acknowledgement of state Common Core rebrands – Despite the language congratulating “the states which have successfully repealed it,” thanks to the efforts of Common Core proponent organizations, no state has successfully repealed and replaced the Common Core with any standards that are not just deceptive rebrands. This includes Indiana under Mike Pence, Florida under Rick Scott with guidance from Jeb Bush, and the Bill Gates funded legal effort to block the Massachusetts ballot initiative.
“…and congratulate the states which have successfully repealed it.”
- Portrayal of education as skills-based workforce training – Per Jane Robbins’ excellent analysis, this legislation is a “Soviet-style monstrosity that divides states into regions and sets up crony-populated labor boards to control training and workforce-development for politically connected industries. This concept is not just anti-conservative; it’s anti-American. Republican members of Congress should be begging forgiveness, not blowing their horns.”
“Their Workplace Innovation and Opportunity Act — modernizing workforce programs, repealing mandates, and advancing employment for persons with disabilities — is now law.”
- Emphasis on technology in education – This is the establishment effort to support teacher replacing, data mining, expensive and ineffective competency based education.
“Because technology has become an essential tool of learning, it must be a key element in our efforts to provide every child equal access and opportunity.”
Jenni White at the Heartland Institute’s School Reform News wrote an excellent article about Orwellian ESSA “accountability” regulations. You know things are bad when Dr. Effrem and Michael Petrilli of the pro-Common Core Thomas B. Fordham Institute both express similar concerns.
Here are quotes from both:
“Effrem says several factors may make the proposed regulations a ‘disaster.’
‘We have terrible and invasive tests with a punitive, ineffective, unconstitutional, and federally mandated accountability system that has now been made worse by ESSA with all of these Alice-in-Wonderland rules and proposed regulations based on a very byzantine law with no statistical standard, multiple different undecipherable factors, and Orwellian psychological data mining,” Effrem said. “It’s a looming disaster.’”
“Petrilli says DOE’s new ESSA rules have a rough road ahead of them.
‘I do think we’re going to see some states push back on the executive branch overreach apparent in the rule making process,’ said Petrilli.”
The congressional education leaders are finally realizing the major problems with these regulations which are based on an an extremely flawed law. It is too bad that they did not listen to parent organizations in states all over the country and nationally. Read the whole great article HERE.
Thanks to The Federalist for publishing Dr. Effrem’s article showing the growing research consensus confirming her contention that there is no research basis to justify massive federal expansion of preschool: Sending Government Agents Into People’s Homes Won’t Fix Preschool’s Failures. Here is an excerpt discussing preschool:
First, the good news: even think tanks generally aligned with the education establishment in supporting federal involvement in education, particularly early childhood education, are starting to admit the stark truth of the longstanding and stunning lack of evidence for preschool as an effective means to close racial and economic achievement gaps and improve life outcomes.
Dale Farran is one of the co-authors of the 2015 Vanderbilt University study showing not only government preschool’s oft-seen fadeout of benefits to children and society but also the increasingly frequent academic and emotional harm of these programs. She recently admitted in a Brookings Institution white paper that despite 50 years of research, the early childhood research is too small to support: 1) “the proposition that expanding pre-K will improve later achievement for children from low-income families;” 2)“the presumption that solid research exists to guide the content and structure of pre-K programs;” or 3) evidence “about which skills and dispositions are most important to effect in pre-K and what instructional practices would affect them.”
Farran also rightly discusses the sad truth that preschool quality measures have “no empirical validity.” She goes on to say, “Despite being included in national and state policies and used to hold pre-K providers accountable, none of the widely used measures of classroom and center quality relates strongly, if at all, to child growth on the school readiness outcomes on which most pre-K programs are focused.”
AEI’s promotion of home visiting is even more alarming. Despite their contentions that parent-child programs like Perry, Abecedarian, and the NFP are the most effective early childhood programs, they fail to mention many significant problems. Besides the IQ issues discussed above, at least one study shows a decline in behavioral parameters for child participants in the Abecedarian program.
The Perry Preschool Project was a very small, unique, and difficult-to-scale program that has been consistently criticized over long periods for many methodological flaws, with the most noticeable one the same as discussed with the Chicago study: the program required significant parental involvement—a mother home during the day—making the experimental group very different from the control group.
Even home visiting programs like the NFP admit their own flaws in the realm of child development. A 2004 review by Olds and Robinson stated that children paraprofessionals visited regularly saw no effects on language, organization (executive functioning), emotional regulation, or behavior. Nurse-visited children had no statistically significant differences in “sensitive-responsive mother-child interaction, children’s emotional regulation, or externalizing behavior problems.”
Here are the conclusions and recommendations:
Jeynes’ review of data from more than 20,000 African-American and Hispanic high school students in the National Educational Longitudinal Survey shows the spectacular result that two-parent families and religious observance actually erases the achievement gap. Students with intact families and high levels of religiosity scored as well as all white students on most achievement measures, and higher than black and Hispanic counterparts without intact families or high religiosity.
This is something that more than $2 trillion dollars and 50 years of oppressive, unconstitutional federal interference have never come close to achieving.
The two-parent family part of this equation can be promoted by removing the marriage penalty in programs like Obamacare (which should be eliminated altogether), ending the penalty for paternal involvement in welfare, and reducing no-fault divorce. The religious involvement part can be achieved by returning to release time to allow students to participate in religious services with their families or extra-curricular clubs. We cannot jump from the preschool frying pan into the home visiting fire, because government programs replacing parents have not ever been nor will ever be successful.
Jane Robbins, attorney and senior fellow for the American Principles Project and Shane Vander Hart at Truth in American Education, have both written excellent columns about the dangers of the next big edu fad – social emotional learning standards. Eight states are working with CASEL to adopt them. These are California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington.
We have long written about the dangerous loss of freedom of conscience and privacy inherent in social emotional research and data gathering via the allegedly academic Common Core aligned tests that are being amplified in the Every Student Succeeds Act’s accountability paradigm. Mrs. Robbins was kind enough to cite Dr. Effrem’s research paper on this topic. Here is an excerpt:
When non-psychologists dabble in these murky waters, the result is tremendously subjective analyses of what a child is thinking or feeling as opposed to what the government thinks he should be thinking or feeling. Dr. Karen Effrem, who has researched and written extensively about the issue of SEL, warns about the subjectivity of this kind of analysis, particularly with young children.
Even prominent SEL proponents caution that assessing students on SEL standards, especially with the common mechanism of student surveys, can be a shot in the dark. Researchers Angela Duckworth and David Yeager have said that “perfectly unbiased, unfakeable, and error-free measures are an ideal, not a reality.” [Read the whole column titled: The Latest Big Education Fad, Social-Emotional Learning, Is As Bad As It Sounds]
CASEL or the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning receives major taxpayer funded grants. Their website says they received funding from the Institute for Education Sciencesthat is also pushing the social emotional research and profiling on students via the Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA):
Goal number one of Goals 2000 says, “All children will start school ready to learn.” As we have documented, this mandate, disguised as a goal, has given rise to the metastatic growth of early childhood programs across the country. In these programs, “ready to learn” has little or nothing to do with preparing young children to learn academic subjects and much to do with indoctrination of our very youngest and most vulnerable children in the most radical of ideologies. Even if accepted by some parents, it is completely wrong to teach ideology to three, four and five year old children. The ideas being promoted include: earth worshiping environmentalism, radical feminism, engendering fear and hatred of our military, and acceptance of homosexuality. It is these principles that are taught to young children and considered part of “social and emotional” development.
Social and emotional development is a large part of another mandate within Goals 2000. Goal eight says, “Every school will promote partnerships that will increase parental involvement and participation in promoting the social, emotional, and academic growth of children.” Notice that academic growth is the lowest priority on that list. That relegation of academics to such a low priority has resulted in an emphasis on work based and service learning out of the classroom, group projects, whole language, fuzzy math, and civics that undermine the principles of freedom within the Declaration of Independence.
It is critical that we as parents fight to protect the hearts and minds of our precious children from this growing threat to their privacy and freedom of thought. We must reject this overt indoctrination of our children and demand an end to psychological data mining inherent in Common Core based teaching, tests, data mining, and competency based education.
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Education Liberty Watch Projects
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- Restore Oklahoma Parent Empowerment
- Stop Common Core
- The Pioneer Institute
- Truth in American Education
- What is Common Core – Education Without Representation