The following guest column by Dr. Effrem was published at Sunshine State News discussing the many conservative reasons that the defeat of the proposed Amendment 8 was a correct decision.
As the Florida Supreme Court considered and ultimately removed Amendment 8, the education constitutional amendment, from the November ballot, there was a debate occurring among Florida conservatives over both the wording and the merits of the proposal.
Part of the amendment allowed entities other than duly elected school boards, to authorize education alternatives, charter schools being chief among them. Some well-meaning conservatives have been arguing that opposition to Amendment 8 was limited only to liberals. These conservatives also said that opposition to Amendment 8 was a "vote for the status quo" where half of students, especially poor students, can't read at grade level.
The truth is that there were many Floridians who opposed Amendment 8 specifically and are concerned about the rapid expansion of charter schools for conservative reasons. Here are the six most important:
Loss of Local Control
When has moving control of anything farther away from the local level increased parent or citizen control? Putting charter decisions in the hands of Tallahassee legislators or bureaucrats, many funded by the very charter corporations viewed with suspicion by Floridians, will not improve parental or local decision-making. The majority of charters are not high-performing like the Hillsdale classical charter in Collier County. They are corporate charters, the boards of which may not be in the same state or even country (think the controversial Turkish Gulen Harmony Schools), much less the same city or county as the schools they control. The same establishment groups and individuals that gave us Common Core and data mining were promoting this amendment. Neutering and or eliminating duly elected school boards has been on their to-do Read more
Apparently to pave the way for another testing vendor or to choke off the option of using a test not so heavily aligned to Common Core, the Florida Board of Education is getting ready to phase out using the math section of the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test (PERT) as an alternative for students that do not pass the Algebra I End of Course (EOC) test to allow high school graduation with a standard diploma.
Though stated not to be adequately academically rigorous, the PERT is the current test used as an entrance test to allow high school students to take credit bearing courses at Florida's community colleges for the dual enrollment program.
This is quite illogical and should be opposed. If the PERT math test is good enough to measure readiness for enrance into the dual enrollment program for college courses, it should be more than adequate as an alternative to the Algebra I EOC which is sadly based on the academically inferior and confusing Common Core math standards. Common Core was rebranded as the Florida Standards by the Florida Legislature and Governor Scott in 2014 after insignificant tweaks.
The comment period is now open until May 7th. You may go to this link to read the proposed rule and to submit a comment: https://www.flrules.org/Gateway/View_notice.asp?id=20300662 by clicking on the "Make a Comment" button.
It does not need to be very elaborate. Please personalize your comment, but you may say something simple along the lines of:
The math section of the PERT should be kept as an alternative to the Algebra I EOC. If the PERT is used as an entrance exam for high school students to take college level math courses in the Florida dual enrollment system, it is perfectly adequate to serve as an alternative for the Algebra I EOC.
Remember - You have until May 7th to try to keep this means of opting out! Read more
FSCCC recently joined over 100 national and state organizations in signing a letter to Congress strongly urging an overhaul to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the federal law overseeing student privacy.
It is incredibly important to fix FERPA and protect student data and psychological privacy as we have seen on multiple occasions in the recent past:
The Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal is affecting students and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development is testing and planning to manipulate the same personality traits in students involved in the Facebook dust-up.
Just this week, there was another major scandal with Pearson committing psychological experiments on college students without consent.
The National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development is pushing for social emotional learning (SEL) to be involved in school safety issues, which will not help.
Mental screening programs with all of their subjectivity and inaccuracy are starting to pop up all over the country, such as those discussed in Texas.
Efforts to increase data sharing with corporations, researchers and among federal agencies without consent in Congress through the Foundations for Evidence-based Policy Making Act (FEPA) and the College Transparency Act (CTA) are also being pushed by the data grabbers.
Here is the link to the full letter. Please use it to contact your members of Congress and congressional candidates. so that we may protect the privacy and minds of our children and our freedoms as Americans.
This excerpt is from a follow-up to the recent article by Dr. Effrem on the Parkland shooting and discusses the dangers of knee-jerk legislative responses to complex problems:
But the most dangerous and unrecognized part of this bill is the increased psychiatric screening of "at-risk" students and the training of teachers to recognize the signs of mental illness and violence, imposing on them the responsibility to intervene.
Both sides used mental health issues as a scapegoat. Leaving the gun issues aside for a moment, not only will the mental health provisions do little to protect students in schools, they will harm essential liberties like freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, data privacy, and parental autonomy. By greatly increasing the potential for more students to be labeled and drugged with medications like ADHD drugs (which the Parkland shooter was reportedly taking) that are known to be associated with increased hostility and violence, it may also increase the incidence of these horrific events.
There are two aspects of the mental health issues in this bill that especially need more attention.
First is the hypocrisy of saying that it is wrong, dangerous, and too burdensome to give teachers and other school staff the voluntary option to be trained to carry weapons if the sheriff and the school board agree, but not saying the same of turning already overburdened teachers into psychologists to recognize mental health challenges and intervene. It is illogical and dangerous to the majority of other students to have teachers, who are unqualified in this realm, try to do -- after only a few hours of training -- what psychiatric professionals, who are trained for years, freely admit that they cannot do: predict who will become violent. Here is Dr. Julian Ford, professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut, who had extensively analyzed the life of Newtown shooter Adam Lanza, speaking to the Los Angeles Read more
Excerpt from Dr. Effrem's article at The National Pulse:
In other words, psychiatric diagnosis is guesswork, and predicting violent behavior in known patients, much less children briefly screened, does not work even when done by experts. So, given the possibility for misdiagnosis that has no medical privacy protection in schools and will be added to longitudinal databases, training teachers for a few hours to screen and diagnose mental illness seems foolish and dangerous.
Mental screening for "at-risk" students is notoriously inaccurate. One study of a mental health screening instrument called TeenScreen admitted that the survey "would result in 84 non-suicidal teens being referred for evaluation for every 16 youths correctly identified." This is very dangerous when treatment could include psychiatric medications that have harmful or even fatal side effects, such as suicide, homicide, aggression and hostility, heart problems, brain changes, and many more.
The problem with mental screening in general and with labeling "at-risk" children with a psychiatric label is that the already admittedly subjective diagnostic criteria discussed above are even more difficult to apply to children. The World Health Organization has said (and there are many similar quotes available here):
Childhood and adolescence being developmental phases, it is difficult to draw clear boundaries between phenomena that are part of normal development and others that are abnormal.
There is no instrument that is specifically useful or validated for identifying potential school shooters or mass murderers," said Stephen D. Hart, a psychologist at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver who is the co-author of a widely used Read more
Formal comments on Florida's consolidated plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) were submitted by Dr. Karen Effrem, FSCCC's executive director.
There were two strong points of agreement with the Department's plan:
Seeking a waiver from the 95% testing mandate
Not using subjective psychosocial criteria as the "any other factor" in the accountability scheme.
There were also several points of disagreement that included: Continued use of the Common Core standards rebranded as the Florida Standards and AIR's FSA as the state test.
Receiving federal funds for ineffective, psyhologically invasive, privacy harming programs under Title IV, such as the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (AKA Parent Replacement Centers) and the safe and healthy schools programs that include a lot of psychological monitoring and data gathering, including by teachers that are already overburdened and not formally trained for this type of activity.
FSCCC hopes that Florida will reappropriate its 10th Amendment right to control education. We strongly agree with American Principles Project senior fellow Jane Robbins, who said in a recent article:
This chatter illustrates a deeper problem. Over the last 50 years, state education establishments and their auxiliary politicians have developed a Washington-dependent mindset. State educrats continually tell parents, for example, that the Common Core standards can't be ditched because what else would Washington approve? What else could we possibly use? And what about assessments? Heaven forbid we implement our own testing policy, because surely Washington knows best. We must seek permission from Washington to make any changes that push the ESSA envelope. Is it worth risking our federal money to venture from the tried-and-(un)true?
Obviously, ESSA restricts both USED and the states. But USED could do much more to achieve the "liberation" that Read more
1) Charters still require the Common Core tests, which basically then require the academically inferior, psychologically manipulative standards and curriculum.
2) Charter boards are unelected, unaccountable to parents and the public and may not even be in the same state as the school(s) they oversee.
3) Charters do not work to improve failing schools. There is a higher percentage of failing charters than there are "F" public schools in Florida as admitted in this chart from Jeb Bush's foundation. The KIPP charter school in Jacksonville is a D school.
4) There is strong bipartisan opposition to this bill in Florida and national concern from all points on the political spectrum about school choice/charters/vouchers
5) Charters and vouchers are being pushed by Jeb Bush and Betsy DeVos and the corporate/big government education establishment of both parties that gave us Common Core.
6) The bill only gets rid of one test and only does paper/pencil for grades 3-6 when many legislators tried to listen to the concerns of parents and teachers to significantly reduce testing.
7) HB 7069 is terrible legislative process, with the final bill put together in secret at the very end of session only by Speaker Corcoran and Senate President Negron with much not debated or amended on the floors of both chambers and only an up or down vote at the end. Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala basically urged the governor to veto it during floor debate.
8) The national private charter corporations do not even want to come to Florida to do the turnaround models required by Schools of Hope, because it is not profitable for them.
9) According to Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman, David Simmons, who was one of 3 Republicans to vote against the bill, it i s poorly written and will be complicated, if not impossible to properly implement. Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala basically urged Read more
Karen R. Effrem,MD - Executive Director
Betsy DeVos at her January 17th confirmation hearing - Photo Credit to Caffeinated Thoughts
I strongly agree with Shane Vander Hart at Caffeinated Thoughts that Betsy DeVos' confirmation hearing to be Secretary of Education was not terribly informative. Aside from a brief mention of Common Core by Senator Cassidy (R-LA) where she said she wouldn't mandate it from the secretarial level and her answer to a question from Senator Alexander (R-TN, chairman of the HELP Committee holding the hearing) that she wouldn't implement school choice from the federal level, none of the major concerns in our national parent coalition letter about Common Core, privacy, and school choice were asked or answered.
Here is a brief discussion of several issues that did come up and those that should be closely monitored during her control of the U.S. Department of Education:
Common Core Mrs. DeVos answered Senator Cassidy's brief yes or no question, that she would not continue Common Core from the federal level. it is interesting that she said in her prepared opening statement:
And every teacher in America dreams of breaking free from standardization, so that they can deploy their unique creativity and innovate with their students.
If she wants teachers to "break free from standardization" how is it that she has supported national standards and standardized tests that require "standardized" teaching for so long?
However, as stated in numerous writings by many anti-Common Core experts and activists, the foundation of the Every Student Succeeds Act mandates the Common Core by imposing secretarial veto of state plans and requiring states' compliance with eleven different federal laws all mandating statewide standards and tests that are Common Core even if not labeled such. How she implements ESSA will be critical.
Federal School Choice While it was somewhat reassuring Read more
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