School choice is becoming a very hot topic in education circles with the likely ascendancy of Betsy DeVos to the position of Secretary of Education in the new Trump administration. Because so many are pursuing the noble goal of trying to help poor children escape from failing public schools, they do not or will not see the dangers of these programs to private and even home school autonomy.
Education Liberty Watch has been trying to warn of these dangers for several years and is honored to be working beside tremendous organizations like Eagle Forum and the Cato Institute to raise this alarm.
Eagle Forum just published an article by FSCCC executive director, Dr. Karen Effrem, discussing this work. Here is an excerpt:
In 2012, we published the School Choice Freedom Grading Scale. States like New Hampshire and Georgia that had accountability directly to parents scored A+ grades while states like Indiana and Louisiana that imposed the state standardized tests on entire private schools received failing grades.
The ever brilliant education analyst and conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly instantly understood the dangers of both Common Core and these alleged school choice plans to private school autonomy. Shortly after having the honor of presenting our Grading Scale at her wonderful 2012 Eagle Council meeting, she wrote these insightful words in her weekly column, titled Like ObamaCare, Obama Core Is Another Power Grab:
The Obama Core advocates are even planning to impose their standards on private schools. As the school choice movement grows, the attempt will be made to force any private or charter school that accepts public funds to adopt Common Core standards and have their students take the national tests. (Emphasis added).
In the recent analysis of the DeVos nomination, it was mentioned that T74, a DeVos Family Foundation funded website published a critique of Jane Robbins's and Dr. Effrem's Federalist article warning of the dangers of social emotional learning (SEL) and that the author's employer had connections to many pro-Common Core and SEL groups:
The T74, a pro-Common Core education blog funded by the DeVos Family Foundation carried a post attacking the Federalist article written by Jane Robbins and myself as the "journalistic equivalent of yelling 'fire' in a theater" without substantively answering our concerns. The author works at Bellwether Education Partners, whose partners include (surprise, surprise) DeVos' PR [Philanthropy Roundtable], Bush's FEE [Now called ExelinEd], and the Gates Foundation, all major supporters of Common Core and of SEL.
Here is an extensive excerpt of the rebuttal to that misguided critique published in the Federalist today:
In response to our recent article in The Federalist exposing the dangers of so-called social emotional learning (SEL), Allison Crean Davis argues that parents have nothing to fear from governmental monitoring and manipulation of their children's psychological states. Writing for a new organization called The 74 (funded by the DeVos Family Foundation), she urges that Americans wait for the "iterative march of science" (no, we don't know what that means either) to help us figure out the best way to implement and measure SEL in schools.
At the outset Davis likens SEL to Common Core: a "promising, well-intended initiative" that should be given a chance to work. Now there's a comparison that will ease parents' minds.
It's also interesting that she wants education to be more like medicine, yet bemoans the fact that benighted parents didn't wait for the "research" to come out on Common Core before opposing it. If the Common Core scheme had followed the pattern of Read more
We are grateful to the Federalist for posting the latest article on social emotional learning from Jane Robbins of the American Principles Project and Dr. Effrem:
It is great that Georgia has joined Tennessee in withdrawing from the CASEL SEL standards movement, but sadly, CASEL is pushing on with a new effort detailed in the article along with a detailed discussion of the dangers of SEL.
This summer the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) announced it had chosen eight states to collaborate on creating K-12 "social emotional learning" (SEL) standards. All students, from kindergartners through high-school seniors, would be measured on five "non-cognitive" factors: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.
Under such a system teachers become essentially therapists, and students become essentially patients. Supposedly this will clear away the psychological deadwood that obstructs a student's path to academic achievement.
But less than two months later, two of the CASEL states (Tennessee and Georgia) have withdrawn from the initiative. Parents have begun to realize the dangers of SEL and to challenge their schools' lemming-like march toward psychological manipulation of children.
Jane Robbins,attorney and senior fellow for the American Principles Project, has written another excellent column 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:
Assessment and development of students' social and emotional skills is risky business. What kind of training will teachers or other school personnel have for this responsibility? Psychologist Dr. Gary Thompson points out the extremely sensitive nature of evaluating children's social-emotional makeup and warns about having inadequately trained personnel implementing plans designed to alter students' psyches.
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 Read more
Karen R. Effrem, MD - Executive Director
The three Republican candidates to replace outgoing constitutional conservative Congressman Curt Clawson in District 19 - former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino, Sanibel Councilman Chauncey Goss, and millionaire businessman Francis Rooney participated in a recent forum in Naples. From this account, federal early childhood and social programs was the only education issue among many important issues discussed. Here is an excerpt from the Naples Daily News.
As for domestic policy, Rooney stood apart from his opponents, saying he supported giving federal support to families with young children because "early learning is very important to a child's development."
To accomplish this, Rooney proposed an overhaul of welfare to figure out how to put "some of the money we're spending and wasting into preparing our children to be nurtured and learned."
But Bongino countered.
"The federal government, tragically, has no answer here. We have literally spent, not figuratively, tens of trillions of dollars in anti-poverty programs, and the percentage of Americans living in poverty has not moved a hair. Maybe a hair, we'll give them a hair," he said.
Goss said he didn't support increasing funding for families with young children because the country already is a "nanny state as it is" that has developed a "culture of dependency."
As well-intentioned as Rooney's idea may be, it is quite concerning. Bongino is absolutely correct about the failure of federal social programs in general despite trillions of dollars spent. And Goss' statemenst about these engendering "a nanny state" and "a culture of dependence" are also spot-on.
Specifically, there are more than two dozen studies about federal and state early childhood programs show one or more of four different possibilities: 1) Little or no benefit 2) Fade out of beneficial effect 3) Academic harm 4) Read more
Jane Robbins, attorney and senior fellow at the American Principles Project wrote another excellent article about invasive federal involvement in early childhood education, this time in the context of Hillary Clinton's dangerous pre-K plan. In it she discussed Clinton's strong desire to to extend her work as First Lady of Arkansas where she expanded a failed childcare/home visiting program called Parents as Teachers and then as US First Lady when she wrote the book It Takes a [Government] Village.
Robbins discusses the help Clinton has received on her quest from both President Obama who has been promoting universal preschool for his entire presidency and the Congressional Republicans who caved and gave him another $250 million for preschool in the Every Student Succeed Act.
She also discussed the push for even more national pre-K standards aligned to Common Core, especially the invasive social emotional standards and the terrible track record of failure and harm caused by these programs. On the last two issues, she was kind enough to mention or link to Dr. Effrem's research in these areas, for which we thank her. Here is an excerpt:
In any event, the Gates-funded ETS argues that as long as the federal government has pushed Common Core onto the states, beginning in kindergarten, the accomplishment-inducing preschool standards should be aligned with Common Core. That way preschool can be standardized across the country, eliminating the dreaded "inequity" by ensuring all preschoolers are drilled according to the same garbage standards. Alignment would also allow teachers to share instructional strategies and all teach the same thing. We can't have children in Kansas coloring duckies while Minnesotans are focusing on kittens.
And of course, these standards should emphasize "social-emotional learning." The government must expect teachers to observe and record toddlers' psychological development and attributes, which Read more
Karen R. Effrem, MD - Executive Director
Although there are several major problems with the reauthorization of the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA) now called The Strengthening Research Through Education Act (S 227, SETRA), the most pressing and concerning is the expansion of federal education research to psychologically profile our children beginning in preschool:
Section 132 of the bill (page 28, line 16-21) inserts the following:
"and which may include research on social and emotional learning, and the acquisition of competencies and skills, including the ability to think critically, solve complex problems, evaluate evidence, and communicate effectively..." (Emphasis added).
Here are more of the many concerns:
1) Lack of Constitutionality - The federal government has no constitutional authority (Tenth Amendment) to be involved in education, much less doing research and collecting data on the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of our innocent children. The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution says:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." (Emphasis added).
Having the federal government sanction and fund psychological profiling of children is the worst kind of privacy invasion.
2) Subjectivity These parameters are admitted even by experts in the field to be extraordinarily subjective and difficult to define and measure. There is still no agreement about their meaning or even their selection over a period of ten years:
Challenges Involved in Infant and Early Childhood Diagnosis
"Diagnostic classifications for infancy are still being developed and validated..."< Read more
After only hearing the news the day they were due due to the holidays and travel, Dr. Karen Effrem submitted comments on January 4th in response to the US Departments of Health and Human Services and Education joint and very Orwellian "family engagement" policy framework. Here is a summary of the issues discussed:
Parents are not just "equal partners," they "own the store" when it comes to raising their children Although the document says on page one that "Families are children's first and most important teachers, advocates, and nurturers" on page 1, it does not clearly set forth the preeminent role of parents in the education and upbringing of their children. Based on Pierce vs. Society of Sisters, Troxel vs Granville, and Meyers vs. Nebraska to name a few seminal Supreme Court decisions that have affirmed the constitutional right of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children, the pervasive language in this document that parents are mere partners with government or that government programs are to perform "parenting interventions" is extremely disturbing and unacceptable.
Promotion of government home visiting programs Based on this agency's own research, these programs are extraordinarily ineffective in two of the major areas that they are alleged to help: a) Prevention of Child Maltreatment: For primary measures in the studies reviewed where there was data listed, only 15/75 parameters (20%) showed a positive effect while 60/75 parameters (80%) showed no effect and there were many programs not studied.
b) Child Development and School Readiness: For primary measures in the studies reviewed where there was data listed, only 77/448 parameters (17%) showed a positive effect while 362/448 parameters (82%) showed no effect, 3/448 parameters (1%) showed a negative or ambiguous effect, and there were many programs not studied.
Focus on social emotional parameters and data for young children It is Read more
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 188.8.131.52. (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 assessments to obtain assessment results that are valid, reliable, and accurate. (Pg. 165)
AIR said in numerous places in Read more
Senator David Vitter's Student Privacy Protection Act, (SPPA) - S1341, is creating quite a stir. As expected and despite the long list of supporting organizations, the crowd at the Data Quality Campaign which is heavily funded by pro-Common Core groups and anti-privacy corporations that stand to profit from access to our children's sensitive data, has attacked SPPA and lamented that Sen. Vitter's "intent is to respond to parents' concerns" (DQC meant this as a criticism!). In addition, the American Education Research Association, another group that makes its living on our children's data, is opposed. AERA's president said in an email, "This legislation, if it were to pass, would have a devastating impact on the quality of education research."
Unexpectedly, however, a critique has arisen from a well-respected figure on the anti-Common Core side of the spectrum. This critique, though well intended and sincere, is based on a faulty factual and legal analysis. It is unfortunate that this opposition, coming as it does from someone who has done so much to advance the anti-Common Core and pro-privacy movement, may result in division among the parents and other citizens who have now been fighting these battles for years. SPPA is acknowledged by privacy experts to be by far the most protective legislation in existence. It is critical that our movement work with Sen. Vitter to perfect and advance this bill. In the face of the withering onslaught from our opponents, we cannot let a valuable advance be thwarted by friendly fire.
Therefore, after having been closely involved in the discussions that led to the drafting of SPPA, Education Liberty Watch President, Dr. Karen Effrem and American Principles in Action Senior Fellow, Jane Robbins have assembled this respectful disagreement with and response to this critique. (See this link also).
Although the critique mentions numerous concerns to which Effrem and Robbins respond, the major ones Read more
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