Sep 21, 2016
ELW

FedEd Budget Alert – Protect the Hearts & Minds of Our Kids!

 

 

 

Congress is fighting with the president over the federal budget, including for education  for the new fiscal year that starts on October 1st. There is likely to be a temporary bill called a continuing resolution. Congress in this election seems to be listening to education concerns of parents and freedom organizations around the nation. We have an opportunity to support some important cuts for the US Department of Education as a whole and the Institute of Education Sciences that oversees the data collection, research, and social emotional learning (SEL). The details are in Dr. Effrem’s full article at Truth in American Education. (Thanks Shane Vander Hart for posting!)

Here is what you can do right now:

1) Please contact the following:

  • Speaker Paul Ryan at 202-225-0600
  • Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at 202-224-2541
  • House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers at 202-225-4601
  • Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran at 202-224-5054
  • Your own U.S. House member or use the House Capitol Switchboard at 202-225-3121
  • Your two US senators or use the Senate Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121

Thank them for being willing to decrease the education budget overall and for their great work to protect privacy by cutting the IES budget. Tell them that you support the House position on these items.

 

2) Send them this compilation of major research studies showing the failure of government preschool programs and this compilation of quotes showing the subjectivity and dangers of SEL. Respectfully tell them that with $19 trillion in debt, we should not be spending $430 million more on failed preschool programs. Nor should the federal government be spending any of our hard-earned tax dollars to mold and monitor the thoughts and emotions of our children. Tell them that you want to see real and significant cuts in early childhood spending and that you support the Senate cuts for School Improvement Programs that teach and assess SEL.

 

3)  Be encouraged that all of our work together is making some progress.

Sep 12, 2016
ELW

Tennessee Family Groups & Legislators Stand Up to Social Emotional Standards Onslaught

Karen R. Effrem, MD – President

Congratulations to the education freedom activists and legislators in Tennessee for standing up to social emotional learning (SEL) national heavyweight, CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning). Federally and foundation funded CASEL is trying to impose these subjective, indoctrinating SEL standards via grants in eight states, including Tennessee. The others are California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

CASEL implemented free-standing social emotional standards in Illinois in 2004. We fought them back then as EdWatch. Here is an example of the extremely subjective standards put in place:

“Consider ethical, safety, and societal factors in making decisions.”

The Tennessee Department of Education (TNDOE) said in its presentation that the five competencies that would be taught are: 1) Responsible Decision Making 2) Relationship Skills 3) Social Awareness 4) Self-Awareness 5) Self-Management. These are essentially the same ones mandated in Illinois.

How, does a student, especially a young child, “consider ethical…factors in making decisions” when adults that are supposed to be role models are not doing so?  For example, some physicians are shirking their ethical duty to protect the health and emotions of gender-confused children by prescribing dangerous, life-altering hormone treatments at the drop of a hat when a child declares a transgender identity, despite overwhelming research (also HERE) showing more than 80% of these adolescents revert back to an identity corresponding to their biological sex at birth, and the suicide rate among those who complete the transition to the opposite sex is very high.

TNDOE also said that these SEL standards would be integrated into every area of learning, but then claimed there would be no assessment and no student data collection. It is nice to see that they may be listening to the main concerns, even if only in an effort to deflect them, from many organizations and parents across the nation. However, research from Joy Pullman of the Heartland Institute, Jane Robbins and Emmett McGroarty of the American Principles Project, and Shane Vander Hart of Truth in American Education as well as from us here at Education Liberty Watch and our related organization, The Florida Stop Common Core Coalition, make that highly unlikely if not impossible to believe. SEL with affective data mining is the Holy Grail for Common Core, for corporations seeking a compliant workforce, and for government busy-bodies. Here is an example of another prominent group besides CASEL pushing SEL via Common Core:

ASCA [American School Counselors Association] – “Mindsets & Behaviors align with specific standards from the Common Core State Standards through connections at the competency level.”

As all of these documents show, social emotional standards are highly subjective and dangerous to freedom of thought and conscience, as well as privacy. They also perpetuate the false notion that it is the government schools’ responsibility to inculcate these values in place of parents and religious institutions; allow for indoctrination on controversial non-academic issues; and place more emphasis on job skills than on academics.

Many thanks to the Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACTN)Tennessee Eagle Forum (TNEF) and Tennessee Against Common Core for standing up to protect the families of Tennessee in this matter.  All three groups alerted their members and warned legislators. Here is part of a podcast from FACTN:

This initiative is a potential Trojan Horse for social engineering in our schools.  If we do not take action and contact our legislators, our children may be taught values at school that conflict with values being taught at home.

TNEF alerted its members with this information from the EdWeek article about the multistate effort and its many problems (problems admitted even by this very pro-government and Gates Foundation-funded education publication):

What about that tricky issue of measuring social-emotional learning? The controversial approach has been heavily discussed lately because the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, requires states to add an “additional indicator” to their school accountability systems in addition to traditional factors, like student test scores…But many prominent researchers have questioned the validity of self-reported student surveys, which are most commonly used to measure SEL. And some have said it’s problematic to use those surveys for high-stakes accountability purposes.

Tennessee Against Common Core also sent out an important and helpful alert.

The legislators involved also showed keen discernment about this problematic endeavor. It was clear from the legislative hearing (beginning at 1:42:12) that the elected officials were very concerned about these on a number of levels, the most obvious from the hearing being national/federal interference in the education system of a sovereign state. Parents’ rights, cost, overcrowding of an already packed school schedule, and burden on teachers were other important concerns raised.

All of these combined to show TNDOE that there was little appetite in that state for this effort. Here is the letter from the executive director of Tennessee’s Office of Safe and Supportive Schools, Pat Connor, as documented by TNEF containing the bureaucratically disguised cry of “Uncle!” (emphasis added):

The previously scheduled meeting for Thursday has been postponed. We will reach out soon with a new date for our first meeting.

The work around social and personal competencies is vital to Tennessee students’ readiness for the workforce. Thus, it is critical to align this work with other state goals around workforce readiness. Due to the time required to ensure this alignment, we cannot meet the timeline set forth by CASEL. As a result, we will not be able to be a part of the Collaborative States Initiative. However, based on the feedback we continue to hear about the need to support teachers in meeting the non-academic needs of all students, we will continue to independently develop Tennessee social and personal competencies. These competencies will be optional and will not be assessed.

We are excited about this continuing work and will have internal dates and agendas forthcoming. In addition, opportunities for external stakeholder engagement will be announced soon.

Best,
Pat Conner | Executive Director – Office of Safe & Supportive Schools

 

This is a very encouraging development and Tennessee activists and legislators deserve much credit and congratulations. This success will be helpful and inspiring to the other states targeted by CASEL. As mentioned in its email, however, the TNDOE still plans to pursue psychological indoctrination and profiling of the state’s children in service of “workforce readiness.” As was also pointed out by Bobbie Patray, president of TNEF in her newsletter, constant vigilance as well as strong parental action is still needed because of the SEL teaching materials already developed, such as the TNDOE document titled “Incorporating Social and Emotional Learning Into Classroom Instruction and Educator Effectiveness: A Toolkit for Tennessee Teachers and Administrators.”

Let us celebrate this victory in a battle, but continue the fight of the long war. Stay tuned for more updates. As Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, so wisely said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Thank you for all you do to protect the hearts and minds of our children! And to CASEL, we say, “Game on!”

Sep 9, 2016
ELW

More Deception from Common Core Proponents

Jane Robbins, attorney and senior fellow at the American Principles Project, has chronicled the latest in Common Core deception in her recent post at Truth in American Education.  First, she discusses the lies we all have chronicled about Common Core:

“Dishonesty has been a defining characteristic of the campaign to promote and implement the Common Core national standards. The project was “state-led”; the standards were “internationally benchmarked”; they were created by teachers across the nation; they are “rigorous” and promote “critical thinking.” None of this was true, of course, but once states had adopted the standards in an attempt to obtain federal Race to the Top money, the propaganda had the desired effect of beating back the opposition.”

She then begins to discuss why the latest lie – that the US must improve international test scores on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) given by the UN agency OECD in order to be competitive as recommended in a new National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) report and that Common Core is the perfect way to do that – is so false.

Revamping education to improve PISA scores is, at its root, a flawed undertaking. Subpar performance on PISA simply isn’t the warning bell that NCSL suggests. Unlike the other major international assessment, Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), PISA focuses not on academic content knowledge but on the “skills and competencies students have acquired and can apply . . . to real-world contexts by age 15.” In other words, PISA is aligned to the same type of non-academic training embodied in the Common Core standards. (The head of OECD’s Directorate of Education, Andreas Schleicher, in fact was appointed by persons unknown to serve on the Common Core Validation Committee. How many Americans would have thought it appropriate to have a United Nations official — and a German citizen at the time — influencing American education standards?)

Sandra Stotsky, who as an education official in Massachusetts largely sparked the “Massachusetts Miracle” before the state accepted a federal bribe to replace its remarkably successful academic standards with Common Core, explains the difference between PISA and TIMSS: “PISA assesses the skills that average young adults are presumed to need in daily life. It is not for college-bound kids. It fits with Common Core and an emphasis on skills. . . . TIMSS is a test of the math and science curriculum. It’s the test that tells a country how well these subjects are being taught in the schools. The U.S. Department of Education doesn’t like TIMSS because it’s oriented to content; the USED wants to go with PISA because it fits Common Core’s stress on skills.”

 Robbins also mentions numerous other lies from the education establishment and kindly includes our compilation on Early Childhood:

Among other predictable recommendations, NCLS advocates more preschool (despite the documented ineffectiveness and even harm from government-controlled, institutional “early learning”) and more career pathways and technical training as a replacement for classical liberal-arts education. It also mentions that state education systems should develop government-approved “behaviors” in students. All of these tactics are now being pushed onto the states through federal legislation such as the Every Student Succeeds Act, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, and pending legislation that would balloon and standardize career and technical education and “social-emotional learning.” The goal is to create a managed economy powered by narrowly trained workers with government-approved mindsets. All of these efforts, NCSL believes, will improve PISA scores, and they may well do so. But as genuine educators might say, so what?

After discussing the “inconvenient truth” for Common Core proponents of declining NAEP scores under CCSS and how the deceivers will likely cover that up, she summarizes where this all seems to be heading and what should be done:

All this maneuvering about various assessments is designed to accomplish two things: to provide an excuse for further “transforming” education into the progressive dream, and to hide from parents and the general public that students are no longer being educated, but rather simply trained for the workforce. Meaningless PISA scores are being leveraged to gin up anxiety about American education, and that anxiety in turn is used to justify even more efforts to convert education from the classical liberal-arts model that worked so well for decades (before the federal educrats and other progressives got hold of it) to sterile workforce-training.

Implementing Common Core was Step One in the most recent phase of this lengthy process. Step Two, aided by this new NCLS report, is to accelerate everything harmful that Common Core is doing to move schools away from genuine education. But at least the PISA scores will be better.

In the early days of the struggle against Common Core, an insightful state senator from one Southern state mused that it seemed to him the proponents wanted kids to “look smart rather than be smart.” Developments since then have borne out his observation. Appearances can be deceiving, and Common Core and its progeny are tools of master deceivers.

To keep the education establishment honest, legislators should insist that participation in international tests focus on TIMSS rather than PISA. Then they can make decisions based on reliable evidence rather than meaningless measures of performance. Perhaps NCSL’s next report will recommend that.

Jul 22, 2016
ELW

Important Education Quotes from the 2016 Republican Platform

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.”

“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.

 

Establishment Wins:

  • 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.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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