February 18, 2015
Karen R. Effrem, MD - Executive Director
The US House Education and Workforce Committee amended and passed its Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind six hundred plus page reauthorization bill on February 11th
. (Video, Bill and amendment language are available here
). It passed on a straight party line vote and is scheduled to be debated on the House floor on February 24th. The Obama White has already issued a paper
criticizing the bill, as well as a veto threat.
Ideally this massive, unconstitutional, ineffective and expensive law would be repealed and the Department of Education would be closed. Sadly, that is unlikely to happen anytime soon. Dr. Sandra Stotsky and other friends and experts in the movement issued a statement
calling for a major elimination of mandates.
The bill, called The Student Success Act (HR5) was described by committee member and former Alabama State School Board member Bradley Byrne as "a step in the right direction, but still has far to go," because the federal government "needs a large dose of humility" when it comes to education. We agree!
However, while we oppose this bill as a whole, before discussing the significant issues of concern, it is important to congratulate and thank Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and the committee members that supported good language and fought off bad amendments. Here are the highlights:
The bill contains language found in an anti-Common Core, anti-Federal interference bill call the Local Control of Education Act, HR 524 by committee member Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) and co-sponsored by Florida Republican Reps. Curt Clawson, Tom Rooney, Ron DeSantis, and Ted Yoho, as well as 43 others. This language prevents the Secretary of Education from "incentivizing" or "coercing" national standards like Common Core or and national test like SBAC or PARCC in any federal law or program like waivers. It is important for preventing future disasters like Common Core.
Rep. Steve Russell's amendment to prevent the transfer of individually identifiable student data to the federal government passed and was added to the bill. That amendment states that "All personal, private student data shall be prohibited from use beyond assessing student performance as provided for in subparagraph (C). The State's annual report shall only use such data as sufficient to yield statistically reliable information, and does not reveal personally identifiable information about individual students."
The Committee fought off efforts to amend in a requirement for "college and career ready standards for all students," i.e. Common Core. Although the Student Success Act does not go far enough, at least the national standards would not imposed for everyone by the law.
All of Title IV of NCLB was repealed. This includes many invasive, ineffective, and expensive education programs that EdWatch/Education Liberty Watch have been warning about since NCLB passed in 2001. These include early childhood mental health programs; federally run civic and community service programs; Ready to Learn Television, which basically contains money for propaganda in PBS children's programs like Sesame Street; and the full service schools idea of Arne Duncan and Lamar Alexander. An effort to put a lot of these back in the bill was defeated.
The majority also defeated an effort to put in universal preschool language. Education Liberty Watch has chronicled the lack of effectiveness; academic and emotional harm; and high cost of these programs for a very long time, including Head Start and the Race to the Top Early learning Challenge. We are appreciative to the committee for their work on this.
Eliminates unworkable Adequate Yearly Progress provisions These requirements would have made nearly 100% of schools failures. These provisions were the impetus behind the federal waivers that coerced Common Core.
Now, here are the major concerns with the Student Success Act and why we urge a NO votet:
Continues the federal mandate that standards "include the same knowledge, skills, and levels of achievement expected of all public school students in the state." This use of cookie cutter standards for every unique child is unacceptable. Local and duly elected school boards in concert with parents and teachers should set their standards the way it was done prior to 1994 the beginning of federal interference in standards and assessments by the George HW Bush and Bill Clinton administrations.
Continues the annual testing requirement - HR 5 continues the federal mandate that states test students every year in reading/English and math from grades 3-8 and once in high school require using "the same academic assessments...to measure the academic achievement of all public school students in the state." According to likely pro-Common Core presidential candidate, Jeb Bush, that is the proper role of the federal government in education, continuing the policies of his father and brother. This denies proper autonomy to local districts and has been ineffective according to much research including a statement signed by over 500 university professors.
Portability provision risks inserting federal and Common Core control in private schools The Student Success Act currently has federal Title I funds follow students to the public or charter (also public schools but with less publicly accountable governance) of the family's choice. An amendment that was offered and withdrawn by Rep. Messer (R-IN) would have allowed that portability to apply to private schools as well. This should be vehemently opposed because it will likely end up requiring the state public school Common Core tests and therefore the standards on private schools as Indiana's voucher plan already has. This idea was pushed in Mitt Romney's education plan authored by Jeb Bush during the 2012 campaign which said:
The Romney Administration will work with Congress to overhaul Title I and IDEA so that low-income and special-needs students can choose which school to attend and bring their funding with them. The choices offered to students under this policy will include any district or public charter school in the state, as well as private schools if permitted by state law... To ensure accountability, students using federal funds to attend private schools will be required to participate in the state's testing system. (Emphasis added.)
WE URGE A NO VOTE ON HR 5 AND OFFER THESE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE BILLS:
This bill does nothing to deal with psychological manipulation, profiling, and data collection rampant in Common Core and numerous other federal education programs These efforts by the US Department of Education, those behind the Common Core standards and tests, preschool socioemotional teaching and testing by the Head Start program, and admissions by major national organizations are extensively documented in our major research paper and discussion of the issues with the major federal data and research legislation. It is bad enough that the federal government is involved in education at all, but to then have them involved in the "social and emotional" needs of any citizen as on pages 426 and 508, much less children is not acceptable.
The data protection statutes and those involved with student surveys are not yet updated The massive amount and frightening extent of student data collection with no real privacy protection due to the Obama administration's regulatory weakening of the Family Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) passed in 1974 and the large loophole in the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) allowing invasive and psychological profiling through academic curriculum assessments need to be remedied first before any reauthorization.
There is potentially dangerous federal involvement in the parental relationship with schools Although well intended and with efforts to prevent coercion, the parental involvement language in Section 118 is yet another area in which the federal government has no authority to be involved. After all, we have seen how effective federal prohibitions on interference in standards and assessments have been in preventing the whole Common Core debacle.
Students and families need protection against coercion to be labeled and placed on psychotropic medication There has been a tragic trend of labeling children, particularly minority children with behavioral and emotional disorders to improve test scores to make Adequate Yearly Progress and not because of the pressure of high stakes tests for performance pay. This story of a Florida father's loss of his son due to medication induced side effects after being coerced, which a teacher admits as all too frequent, is heart breaking. Rep. John Kline, chairman of this committee actually sponsored the Child Medication Safety Act in 2005-2006 to try to prevent this coercion and it passed the House 407-12, but was blocked in the Senate. Extensive references and testimony are available from EdWatch/Education Liberty Watch.
Cut Federal Financial Strings with the LEARN Act, HR 121, by Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) - Although clearly better than No Child Left Behind, the Student Success Act still keeps the federal government too much in control of education for which it has no constitutional authority. Rep. Garrett's bill does the following:
"The LEARN Act would give states the option to opt out of No Child Left Behind. In return, the federal government would provide taxpayers of the opt-out state a tax credit, thereby keeping money in the pockets of taxpayers instead of sending it to Washington, D.C. This method immediately cuts the authoritative and financial strings of the federal government so that state and local governments can set their own educational standards while ensuring maximum parental involvement."
This legislation was co-sponsored by twenty members
in the last Congress, including Florida Reps. Posey and Southerland, who clearly understand that the role of the federal government has to be eliminated or at least greatly reduced. This legislation should be amended into HR 5 or substituted for it.
Do NOT reauthorize the ESEA until the massive breaches in student and teacher privacy and data security are fixed.
Eliminate the yearly statewide testing requirement and use the NAEP/TIMMS test on a sample of students or at the very least, decrease the statewide testing requirement in math and reading to once in elementary, once in middle school and once in high school as is done for science currently .
Refuse to fund any program that psychologically teaches, assesses, or collects data on children under the guise of academics.
Amend in an updated version of the Child Medication Safety Act that prohibits federal funds from going to states or schools that allow parents to be coerced via threat of not receiving academic teaching or a child protection referral if they refuse to put their children on any psychotropic medication The language needs updating from the 2005 version so that children are protected from coercion by ALL psychiatric medications, not just Ritalin and Adderall and any others that are on the DEA's controlled substances lists. There has been much research and evidence that all of the psychiatric medications have potentially great, if not fatal dangers for children, including suicide and homicide, strokes and heart attacks.
Remove the parental involvement language in Section 118 Parental involvement is a good thing. Having the federal government anywhere near it is not. The only exception would be the language that prohibits coercion of parents to have their children developmentally screened or to participate in any preschool program. This language should be applied to programs for Alaskans, Native Hawaiians, and Native Americans as well.
October 24, 2015
Wonderful mom, researcher, and activist Deb Herbage gave a great sppech cogently pointing out the problems with Florida's testing system and its lack of validity at the Pasco County School Board meeting on October 20th. It is reproduced here with permission.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Browning for sending the letter to Governor Scott requesting an executive order to suspend the use of the 2014-2015 FSA data. While we appreciate your efforts and the efforts of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents (FADSS) in speaking out against the flawed accountability system here in Florida, we, the parents, teachers, grandparents and students here in Pasco County and across the state of Florida are not asking for a "pause" with an ultimate reinstatement of the FSA. We are asking that you HALT the FSA. This test is no longer about our kids. This test is no longer about a fair and accurate measure of "accountability". We are not asking for a pause with the FSA because of technical glitches and the failed administration of the FSA last spring. We are asking for a halt because the test is not a valid measure of ANYTHING. We are asking for a halt of the FSA because AIR and the FL DOE have been unable to produce ANY validity documents. In the executed contract the FL DOE has with AIR contract # 14-652 that Commissioner Stewart signed - it specifically stated AIR "must provide empirical evidence of psychometric validity and reliability" AIR failed to do that and worse the FL DOE did NOT hold AIR to the terms of the EXECUTED contract.
A retired psychometrician in CA sent a letter to Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), which is developed by AIR and part of the FSA platform, requesting the validity documents and he was told they don't have them. The Utah [district school board members] sent a letter to Senator Simmons ( Read more
September 16, 2015
The following is reproduced with permission by teacher and psychometric expert Darcey Addo, a school board candidate in Brevard County as more information continues to emerge about how problematic the FSA and the validity study are (see also the FSCCC study analysis amd discussion of the AIR contract)
Diane Ravitch recently called Florida legislators "test-crazy", but if the legislators are test-crazy, then the Commissioner of Education, in conjunction with Alpine Testing Solutions and the Florida Department of Education may be delusional. Sometimes, people can lie to themselves so much that they begin to believe themselves. We have an obligation to educate parents about the reality of testing in our public schools.
Here are five fairly basic things I think every Florida parent should know about the testing debacle:
1.) The Florida Commissioner of Education testified to the Florida Senate on March 4, 2015, that the FSA was "the content of the test is absolutely psychometrically valid and reliable." She said that she would "be happy to provide" the evidence to support that claim. (More on that here if you're interested.) Repeated requests for the evidence were made, with no success. You can come to your own conclusion about the Read more
September 11, 2015
As expected and in typical bureaucratic doublespeak, the Florida Department of Education used the report by the sole bidders for the allegedly independent review of the 2015 FSA test to magically deem that Florida's test scores could be used in the aggregate for school grades and teacher evaluations. Commissioner Pam Stewart who has presided over much chaos and bears much responsibility for the many problems and lack of accuracy of her own statements in the Common Core standard and testing fiasco, called this statement by Alpine "welcome news." However, even the authors of the study, who have multiple incestuous relationships to the development of Common Core standards and the testing industry, admit numerous problems with their work blaming it all on a fast timeline or other factors beyond their control. Here are some of the most important issues:
Admitted lack of rigor and adequate standardization The report's executive summary said, ""The evaluation team can reasonably state that the spring 2015 administration of the [Florida Standards Assessments] did not meet the normal rigor and standardization expected with a high-stakes assessment program like the FSA."
Basing the FSA on the Utah Test which has no Validity As FSCCC has previously reported, Florida is renting test questions from Utah for three years at a cost to the taxpayers of $16.2 million in addition to the reported $220 million cost of the 6 year testing contract. Read more
August 25, 2015
Dr. Gene V. Glass, a seminal figure in the field of educational psychometrics and data mining has had enough. According to his blog post republished on the Washington Post's Answer Sheet blog, this pioneer in the field of education statistics is "no longer comfortable being associated with the discipline of educational measurement."
This is a man who actually developed the term and process "meta-analysis," which is the statistical procedure of combining the results of multiple smaller studies into one larger analysis to try to get more information and reliability from greater numbers.
Glass described his history and the history of psychometrics in general: My mentors both those I spoke with daily and those whose works I read had served in WWII. Many did research on human factors -- measuring aptitudes and talents and matching them to jobs. Assessments showed who were the best candidates to be pilots or navigators or marksmen. We were told that psychometrics had won the war; and of course, we believed it
The next wars that psychometrics promised it could win were the wars on poverty and ignorance. The man who led the Army Air Corps effort in psychometrics started a private research center. (It exists today, and is a beneficiary of the millions of dollars spent on Common Core testing.) My dissertation won the 1966 prize in Psychometrics awarded by that man's organization. And I was hired to fill the slot recently vacated by the world's leading psychometrician at the University of Illinois. Psychometrics was flying high, and so was I.
In the emphasized language above, Glass appears quite likely to be describing the Read more
July 30, 2015
It is getting very hard to keep up with the American Institute for Research's educational malfeasance in the testing realm. Parent Advocate Deb Herbage and Dr. Karen Effrem of FSCCC have reviewed the 2245 page contract between AIR and the Florida Department of Education. Here are just a few of those revelations as Alpine spends another $600,000 of Florida taxpayer funds to do a validity study that should have already been done and that Commissioner Stewart promised was done. The public has been told this test is going to cost the public $220 million over six years. It is very important to verify what has been paid for has been done.
The following information was taken directly from the executed contract Contract #14-652 for the development of the state assessment (FSA) and Algebra I, Algebra II, and Geometry End of Course (EOC's) exams executed on 6/3/14. The contract was signed by Pam Stewart (FLDOE) and Vickie Brooks (AIR). [The full 2245 page contract is available at the Florida CFO website with all page numbers referencing this document].
1) Potentially Missing Linking, Validity and or Field Studies Have Florida Taxpayers Paid for Work Not Completed? The FLDOE required in its ITN (Invitation to Negotiate) that:
7.6.0. Scaling, Equating, Scoring and Special Psychometric Studies (Pg. 77)
Excerpt from the ITN" Other than the annual regular psychometric operations, such as sampling, test construction, and SES for the assessment system, the contractor will conduct a set of special psychometric studies for these assessments, described in Section 220.127.116.11. (Pg. 77)
The contractor must show evidence that the Department's preferences are psychometrically defensible and operationally feasible. The respondent may include in the reply a different proposal for scaling, equating, and scoring of these Read more
April 30, 2015
Karen R. Effrem, MD - Executive Director
Jeff Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times wrote a confused and confusing column yesterday about the effects of the new testing law (HB 7069) on third grade retention, saying the following:
Because the law no longer mandates retention, districts are now figuring out how to have uniform decisions throughout their elementary school systems.
Here are four pieces of evidence showing that his statement is not true:
His earlier column on the subject:
This wording [The diluted Hays amendment requiring a validity study allegedly before retention] does not end or put off the retention of third graders.
The language to which he refers for the statement above that third grade retention is not ended:
1216 (c) Until such time as an independent verification of the
1217 psychometric validity of the statewide, standardized assessments
1218 first implemented in 2014-2015 is provided,for purposes of
1219 [determining - stricken] grade 3 English Language Arts student performance
1220[ retention pursuant to s. 1008.25(5) - stricken] and high school graduation
1221requirements pursuant to s. 1003.4282, student performance on
1222 the 2014-2015 statewide, standardized Read more
March 30, 2015
Thank you to so many people that came to Tallahassee to testify, and who called and emailed members of the Senate Appropriations Committee urging them to pass Senator Alan Hays extremely important amendment to SB 616 requiring independent validity studies for the new Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) and technological load testing before making high stakes decisions.The amendment was withdrawn and replaced by another from Senator Simmons. The discussion of the reading amendment discussed in our last alert was ultimately postponed. Senator Hays is still reviewing options and will work with Senator Simmons who is significantly concerned with validity issues due to their legal consequences. The bill will go to the floor on Wednesday. New information will be out shortly.
For those that want more information and documentation, here is a detailed report to understand the context.
The video of the hearing is available HERE with discussion of the bill in general starting at about 4:39:00. The discussion of the Hays validity amendment starts at 4:58:55 and the discussion of Senator Simmons' validity amendment starts at 5:43:09.
Senator Hays offered that amendment due to grave concerns with lack of validity of the FSA based on the failure of Commissioner Pam Stewart to properly answer excellent questions from Senator David Simmons in hearings regarding the validity of the FSA. There is legal precedent showing that people may not have their lives changed with high stakes educational decisions like third grade retention or teacher evaluations based on an invalid test.
The language of the amendment that Senator Hays offered Read more
March 20, 2015
Bills to deal with the out of control testing system in Florida advanced in the House and Senate this week. Here is an overview:
HB 7069 Unfortunately the two good amendments by Rep. Mia Jones and Rep. Evan Jenne that we discussed in our last alert were defeated along party lines on the 17th. We do thank Rep. Debbie Mayfield (Indian River) and Rep. Tom Goodson (Orange) for being the only two Republicans courageous enough to join all of the Democrats and vote for Rep. Jenne's very common-sense amendment to allow a paper and pencil option and to affirm the requirement for load testing that Commissioner Stewart so flagrantly ignored. Unfortunately, the rest succumbed to the difficult to swallow concept that paper and pencil tests would be too expensive and "blow up the budget," when the state, according to State Board of Education president Gary Chartrand, admitted during the February 18, 2014 hearing and an FSBA memo have both stated that the switch to online Common Core testing will cost Florida taxpayers $2 billion.
One very important issue that we mentioned in our last alert was about reading and third grade retention. We said that HB 7069, "While attempting to streamline the issues surrounding third grade retention for reading deficiency, it actually appears to decrease flexibility for parents trying to prevent retention by limiting any "Good cause" alternatives until after the child has failed the state reading test." Although the language says that a portfolio may be Read more
March 10, 2015
The Senate Education Committee met on March 4th to discuss a proposed committee substitute for SB 616. The bill, sponsored by committee chairman John Legg, makes some good attempts to begin to deal with the testing issue, but given the severe extent of problems, needs additional protections for student and parental rights, privacy and other issues. The bill works to have a 5% cap on testing, which is a step in the right direction, but does not explain who is going to and how the time is going to be kept on different students who take different tests especially in high school. It gets rid of the 11th grade Reading/English test and keeps the 10th grade high stakes test. It allows districts to seek a waiver on school grades if they so choose for technological or financial reasons. However, if they choose that option they cannot qualify for any kind of performance bonuses even if the problems are beyond their control. The bill also decreases the percentage for which test scores are used in teacher evaluations.
Several common sense amendments by Senator Bullard that would have enhanced these good first steps were rejected along party lines. One of these amendments allowed a paper/pencil alternative for testing that deals with technology issues and would have also protected students from the manipulative and data mining aspects of computerized testing. This is the same language contained in his bill SB 1450, the Senate companion to Rep. Debbie Mayfield's HB 877, analyzed here.
The DOE is now saying in response to emailed inquiries that the FSA is not nor will be adaptive, meaning that the questions change based on Read more