Where are We Living? Blaming Cyber-Attacks & Holding Children Who Refuse

March, 2015

The bizarre saga of the horrific FSA rollout continues as the Department of Education (DOE) began implementing the Common Core aligned Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) by the problematic and scandal plagued American Institutes for Research (AIR).
As we reported last week, the rollout of these tests has been nothing short of a disaster and that the Department ignored extensive warning and pleas about the technological problems with administering just the writing test, much less any of the other tests administered to many more students that are coming up.  The Department also seems quite likely to have ignored the law requiring statewide load testing with independent verification before the tests were to be given online. The emphasis is far more on data collection than on the well being or privacy of children. Our view was confirmed by the Miami Herald and other outlets, as well as Miami Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvahlo, who testified extensively last week at the legislature and accurately and succinctly tweeted:


On the afternoon of March 9, the DOE put out a press release blaming the technological problems on a cyber- attack on AIR's servers. Although saying that the evidence needs to be examined, given the extensive lack of preparation and ignoring warnings and the law, Dr. Effrem had concerns about this defense, part of which were quoted in the Sunshine State News:

"They failed to heed the warnings," said Florida Stop Common Core Coalition President Karen Effrem. "For them to blame the problems on a cyber-attack is just far too convenient. It doesn't pass the smell test to me."

Similar sentiments were stated by Bob Schaeffer of Fair Test, also in Sunshine State News:

"Either they failed to build a sufficiently secure testing system or they are fabricating an explanation for their technical fiasco."
The Department should have been aware of AIR's poor cyber-security history in that they have already failed to keep their own employees' data safe as we reported from article by Education Week:

"I'm concerned that my own personal information was not secured," said Hawkins, who now works as a senior study director with Westat, a research and statistical survey organization based in Rockville, Md.  "Given that AIR is constantly dealing with [clients] that require the highest security and encryption, that they didn't do that for their own employees, is to me a serious issue."

The other huge issue related to testing is the very disturbing reports of schools refusing to let students that opted out of testing be released to their parents.  One case in Orange County required the police to be called to make sure that the school knew that children are to be released to their parents unless the school is under lockdown. Other cases reported on Facebook required parents in Lake County and Palm Beach County having attorneys call the school before their children were released. Here is an excerpt from the Orange County case:

A parent of a fifth grader at Brookshire Elementary School in Winter Park was initially told she could not pick up her daughter, who was opting out of the state's new writing test, according to another parent who witnessed the incident this morning. That other parent said she called police...

...The Winter Park Police Department said the school resource officer for city elementary schools heard the 911 call dispatched and went to Brookshire.

The principal then had the girl removed from her class and brought to the office, so her mother could take her home, Bobinski said.
Myers said the school's principal, in earlier emails to parents, had said that releasing students during testing would be disruptive and not be allowed.

But the district has no policy that would allow school officials to detain a child under such circumstances, she said.
Bobinski agreed. "We do not hold children if parents come to pick them up," she wrote.
This kind of tyranny is completely unacceptable.  To quote the famous 1925 U.S. Supreme Court decision, "children are not mere creatures of the state."  Neither are they merely test scores and data points. Stand up and protect the hearts, minds, privacy and rights of your children!

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