URGE A NO VOTE ON HR 5 - NCLB Replacement Continues Federal Control

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Ideally this massive, unconstitutional, ineffective and expensive law would be repealed and the Department of Education would be closed.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.)
  • 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.
WE URGE A NO VOTE ON HR 5 AND OFFER THESE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE BILLS:
  1. 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.
  1. Do NOT reauthorize the ESEA until the massive breaches in student and teacher privacy and data security are fixed.
  2. 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 .
  3. Refuse to fund any program that psychologically teaches, assesses, or collects data on children under the guise of academics.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Posted in Federal Education, Testing. Tagged as AYP, data, Elementary & Secondary Education Act, FERPA, No Child Left Behind, PPRA, privacy, Rep. Bradley Byrne, Rep. Curt Clawson, Rep. John Kline, Rep. Ron DeSantis, Rep. Steve Russell, Rep. Ted Yoho, Rep. Tom Rooney, testing.

Startling Validity Failures from Florida's AIR FSA Contract

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 7.6.3.6. (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

Posted in Testing. Tagged as AIR, Alpine, American Institutes for Research, Deb Herbage, Dr. Karen Effrem, FSA, Pam Stewart, testing, Utah, validity.

Response to Jeb Bush's 11-20 Foundation Summit Speech

November 26, 2014

Karen R. Effrem, M.D. - Executive Director
Jeb Bush gave the keynote speech at his Foundation for Excellence in Education national education summit in Washington DC on November 19th. He made an effort to soften his attacks on those who oppose Common Core by now saying he respects us and by shifting blame to the federal government. As his remarks in Education Next on Common Core required a rebuttal, so too do his efforts to continue his unreasonable defense of Common Core. Here is a response to some of his statements on Common Core from that speech:

JB: This is why the debate over the Common Core State Standards has been troubling.

KRE: What is really troubling is that you think these horrific standards that are academically inferior, developmentally inappropriate, and psychologically manipulative with their accompanying tests and invasive data collection system should just be imposed on the nation without a word of protest from the parents, students, and teachers that have to suffer under them.

JB: I respect those who have weighed in on all sides of this issue. Nobody in this debate has a bad motive.

KRE: I suppose that we should be happy that you have changed your tune from this same speech a year ago when you called opposition to Common Core "political" and full of "conspiracy theories." However, everyone can see that it is you who are being political as you try to placate opposition while getting ready to run for president.

JB: Read more

Posted in Problems of Common Core. Tagged as Common Core, Dr. Karen Effrem, Foundation for Educational Excellence, Jeb Bush, testing.

Volusia County School Board Candidate John Hill Discussion of Common Core Tests

October 31, 2014

As a Family Physician I have a responsibility to plainly communicate with my patients about their health and their responsibilities to maintain their good health. A clear and concise message to each patient helps them follow my recommendations and maintain wellness. My approach to Common Core is to both study and understand this complex program and provide leadership...and some understanding to the families who will ultimately have to live with it.

After having read much on the issue, I think I have found one simple statement that sums up the concerns of implementing Common Core. The Washington Post's Valerie Strauss has brought out a clear point in her article that references "The white paper, called "The Ramifications of Standardized Testing on our Public Schools," was just released by the Central Florida School Board Coalition, a group of top officials from 10 school districts."(April 18,2012)
The article states:
In 1998 (after its initial field testing), the first FCAT was field tested in grades 4, 5, 8, and 10 in reading and math and the first Florida Writes exam was tested in grades 4, 8, and 10. As of 2011, testing has progressed to include:
FCAT 2.0 Reading in grades 3 10
FCAT 2.0 Reading in grades 3 10
FCAT 2.0 Math in grades 3 8
FCAT Writing in grades 4, 8, and 10
FCAT Science in grades 5, 8, and 11
FAIR testing (K-2) one to one with teacher
FAIR testing (3-12) computer based testing
NAEP in grades 4, 8, and 12
EOC Algebra 1 in grades 8, 9, and 10
EOC Biology in grade 8
EOC Geometry in grade 10
U.S. History in grade 11
PERT Math in grade 11
PERT Reading in grade 11
PERT Writing in grade 11
FCAT Reading & Math retakes through grade 12
PERT retakes through grade 12

An enormous Read more

Posted in Testing. Tagged as Common Core, Dr. John Hill, FAIR, FCAT, NAEP, PERT, testing, Volusia County.

On Testing, Crisafulli Minimizes Sovereignty of Parents, the State, and Local Boards

September 29, 2014

Karen R. Effrem, MD Executive Director

Both House Speaker-designate Steve Crisafulli's Florida Today op-ed and the email sent to Jeff Solocheck at the Tampa Bay Times are emblematic of the low esteem the State of Florida has for the role of parents and the U.S. and Florida Constitutions. Here is a piece of the Tampa Bay Times column:
Incoming House Speaker Steve Crisafulli told the Gradebook that he's not interested in providing that choice [to have parental opt-out of the tests].

"Creating an opt-out process would negatively impact our students, teachers, and schools," the Merritt Island Republican said via e-mail. "Students who opt-out would not be eligible to receive a high school diploma or a Bright Futures Scholarship. In addition, an opt-out process would make it impossible to provide raises to our teachers and would cost schools state and federal funds."

Of course, all these provisions are set by the Legislature, and they did not always exist.
He added, "According to the Florida Constitution, the state has the paramount duty to provide a high quality public school system. Without an accountability system for all public school students, the state cannot ensure that children attending our public schools have the opportunity to receive a high quality education."

Perhaps Rep. Crisafulli needs a refresher in understanding on the following issues:

The Supreme Role of Parents in Education - That parents have the right to direct the care, education, and upbringing of their children has been part of American jurisprudence since the nation's founding and part of legal tradition for Read more

Posted in Testing. Tagged as No Child Left Behind. federal mandates, Pierce vs Society of Sisters, Rep. Steve Crisafulli, Tenth Amendment, testing.

UPDATE - Jeb Bush Now Blames Obama for Common Core Problems

September 16, 2014

As with Rick Scott, Jeb Bush is continuing to have Common Core problems. So much so, that in an interview with the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin, he didn't do his usual bashing of Common Core opponents, but rather blamed Barak Obama for the conditional waivers associated with No Child Left Behind. Rubin writes with our comments:

Bush may be best known for his education reforms in Florida and his continuing efforts to see comprehensive reform throughout the country. He admits, however, "In the last year or year and a half there has been a stalling-out of the comprehensive reform movement." Common Core has been in the middle of this, with supporters advocating the adoption of high standards originally developed by the states and critics characterizing them as the administration's attempt to take over education. This is a distraction, in Bush's view, along with less central issues like the amount of testing required of children.
COMMENT: This continues to show Bush's tone deafness as both in survey after survey and in numerous scholarly papers, the perception and evidence for federal overreach is plain to see. And if he continues to think that testing is merely a distraction when it takes 40% of instructional time, does not aid teaching, psychologically profiles and career tracks kids, and makes profound decisions for their lives based on just a few tests that are written to be failed, then he will continue to have major problems with the public.

Interestingly, Bush does not castigate Common Core critics for peddling misinformation about the state-developed standards. Instead he invokes a theme conservatives find familiar: "The principal reason [for the fight] has been the president. There is no trust he will Read more

Posted in Political Aspects of Common Core. Tagged as Common Core, Florida, Jeb Bush, New Hampshire, polls, Rand Paul, testing.

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