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FSCCC & Eight Other FL Groups Sign National Letter to Congress on Student Data Privacy July, 2017





FSCCC and eight other Florida groups signed a letter from national parent coalition of national, state and local organizations concerned about student data and psychological privacy after a recent U.S. House hearing on the topic. We are grateful to the nine participating Florida organizations: 
Laurie Bartlett, President - The Florida Stop Common Core Coalition
Randy Osborne, Director of Education - Florida Eagle Forum
Meredith Mears, Debbie Higginbotham, Stacie Clarke, Co-founders - FLParentsRISE Randy Osborne Director, Nehemiah Project
Catherine Baer, Chair The Tea Party Network
Charlotte Greenbarg, President - Independent Voices for Better Education, Inc.
Randy Osborne, Director - Florida Government Watch
Keith Flaugh, Managing Director and Rick Stevens - Florida Citizens Alliance
John Nelson, Chairman and Bob Gilmore, Vice Chairman - The Highlands Tea Party
Joseph T. Doyle, MD, Director - Collier Citizens for Student Privacy and Safety 

The following email was sent to the Education and Workforce Committee:
Dear Chairwoman Foxx, Ranking Member Scott, Chairman Rokita, and Ranking Member Polis and the Education & Workforce Committee,

Thank you for holding the recent hearing on federal education research & privacy. Please see the following link to a national parent coalition letter containing the views, concerns and recommendations regarding student data and psychological privacy after the June 28th hearing of the Subcommittee on on Preschool, Elementary, and Secondary Education titled "Exploring Opportunities to Strengthen Education Research While Protecting Student Privacy."

This coalition includes 9 national organizations and 72 state and local organizations from 33 states, representing hundreds of thousands of concerned parents and citizens across the nation.

We respectfully, but strongly urge you to not include social emotional research in any reauthorization of ESRA, rescind the Obama administration regulatory gutting of privacy in FERPA as that is reauthorized, and enforce PPRA to prohibit psychological screening & profiling in any kind of assessments, not just surveys.

I will be happy to forward any responses from you to the coalition. Thank you for your attention to this critical education issue.

Best regards,
Karen R. Effrem, MD
President, Education Liberty Watch
Executive Director, The Florida Stop Common Core Coalition

Education Liberty Watch President and FSCCC Ececutive Director, Dr. Karen Effrem made the following statement to the media:

"It is extremely important for Congress to hear from parents of students whose lives are affected by the womb-to-tomb data collection and psychological profiling," Parent concern about the social emotional learning (SEL) research and other data collection in the Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA) as well as the regulatory weakening of FERPA were extremely important in keeping SETRA from passing in the last session of Congress. All of the data breaches and the push for SEL teaching, assessment, and research without consent has made parents more concerned, not less, about their students' privacy, and more determined than ever to protect it in this next session of Congress."

Please contact your members of Congress about this letter and demand protection of student privacy!


FSCCC & Common Ground Testify to House Subcommittee on NAEP Proficiency Issue & Other Costs in HB 773 March, 2017

FSCCC and Common Ground testified about the very significant costs associated with HB 773 (SB 926) in the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee on March 28th , especially the devastating costs of the NAEP proficiency languageVideo of the hearing is available HERE, with discussion of this bill beginning at 51:20. What follows are the prepared remarks of Dr. Karen Effrem, Marie Clare Leman, and Catherine Baer about different aspects of this very costly bill:



Dr. Karen Effrem (1:06:20)


 
Thank you Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. I am also with Common Ground and I am here to bring up a very important and what I hope is an unintended consequence of this bill. 

According to the staff analysis and Amendment 1, this bill has a fiscal impact of $1, 247, 251 in recurring General Revenue funds to implement Section 2 of the bill. One of the major provisions of Section 2 is the cost for the effects of tying proficiency levels on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also called the NAEP to Level 3 on the Florida Standards Assessment or FSA. We believe that this appropriation vastly under states the costs that will result. The NAEP only assess grades four, eight and twelve. This would require extrapolation of NAEP's proficiency levels to other grades, including educator and reactor panels and significant deliberation, which would incur significant costs.

However, these costs will pale in comparison to the recurrent local costs to districts when the proficiency alignment leads to the certain drop in passing rates. With this alignment, according to the Department of Education, the 4th grade passing rate for students in reading will decrease 50% from 54% to 27%.  Costs from this will include remediation, progress monitoring, more summer school, and make-up exams, not to mention costs for lower school grades directly due to the accountability system, as well as decreased property values, resulting in drastically lower school funding from decreased property tax revenues.

This would be especially tragic for our already beleaguered school districts, because this concept of tying NAEP proficiency to state test achievement levels has NO, and I repeat NO support in the government and research communities. The National Center for Education Statistics that administers the NAEP, as well as the National academy of Sciences, The National Academy of Education, and the Brookings Institute all say that proficiency on the NAEP and achievement levels on state tests like the FSA are completely unrelated and should have nothing to do with each other.

In addition, Commissioner Stewart and the State Board of Education rejected this idea a year ago with a 6-1 board vote. 

We are strongly opposed to this proficiency language in the bill because of the devastating fiscal, and especially the human costs it will have on our local schools, districts, students and teachers. Thank you very much
 

Marie Claire Leman - Opt Out Florida (1:01:35)  - Compressed Testing Window & CBE




 
I'm part of Opt Out Florida and I'm also here as part of Common Ground today and two of my colleagues will be discussing other parts of our combined presentation.

One of our concerns actually address on of your pertinent questions, Representative Brown, around the concern relating to technology and infrastructure necessary to administer all of the FSA ELA and the FSA math in a compressed three week period at the end of the year, especially at the end of the year, because that is also when high schools and middle schools are also administering the state EOCs. There are six of them Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Civics, U.S. History, and Biology. They're all computer-based tests and they're end of course exams. So they would, in order to abide with this provision, would have to in some cases be moved to earlier than the last three weeks of the school year, but they are end-of-course exams. So, we are concerned that the schools would not have the technological resources to do all of those exams.

There is also the concern regarding student time and infrastructure availability or technology availability to permit district end of course exams, final exams, because FSA exams are not the student course final exams. Those are the state exams, but there are also math and ELA final exams that have to be done at the end of the year in order to provide a student a grade on the report card. And the EOCs, just to be clear, do contribute to the students' course grades.

The other concern we have in terms of fiscal implication is that it's hard to know what the implementation costs would be of making available the new ELA and math assessment every quarter to students identified through competency-based education.  This is also in this bill. And I guess we have mostly questions for you. Would the testing entity that we contract with have to provide us with multiple versions of these assessments in order to make them available to be administered in every quarter? And wouldn't that increase the costs of our contract with that testing entity? And also, we are not clear on whether these tests every quarter would be available to students across the state or only to the students in the districts that are piloting competency based education, the four districts that are piloting that. That's all for me. Thank you very much.

 
Catherine Baer - Tea Party Network (1:10:25) - ACT/SAT Study 



 
Thank you very much. I'm also here with Common Ground. I wanted to talk to you about the staff analysis and Amendment 1 saying that this bill has a fiscal impact of $339,611 in nonrecurring General Revenue funds to implement the provisions of Section 1.  Section 1 covers the commissioner of education reviewing the SAT and ACT to determine their alignment with the core curricular content.  This study has an expense of $339,611.  I submit this outlay is unnecessary.  Currently the SAT and ACT are Common Core/Florida Standards aligned and can be used as concordant scores in place of FSA. In addition, I believe Seminole County completed as assessment last year, which was presented to the Senate Education Committee, as part of their advocacy for a "Seminole Solution" To repeat, this study would be redundant and certainly not worth the $339,000 expense. Thank you.
 
 


Thanks to You SB 926 is Postponed: Media Round-up March, 2017

Thanks to your great efforts, SB 926, the so-called "Fewer, Better Tests" bill that doesn't actually remove any tests, was postponed amidst a flurry of late-filed amendment that no one had a chance to read. Common Ground and individual members were featured prominently in several media reports. Here are some excerpts:

On the whole, SB 926 has been sharply criticized by parent groups and lawmakers, who have called the bill "useless."
 
"[The bill] does not truly eliminate any tests, so it's a big misnomer but even more concerning is language in it that ties proficiency on FSA to the NAEP," Florida Stop Common Core Coalition executive director Karen Effrem told Sunshine State News. It will actually do grievous harm and it will be hugely expensive in human and financial terms."

Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, who sponsors rival legislation to actually eliminate some tests in Florida, agreed. 

"That bill has great talking points, but if you read it, it does nothing," Lee has said. "It's very, very important that we have legislation that matches our talking points, and that when we go home and we say we did something to effect change, that we actually did that."

Opponents have also criticized SB 926 for tying Florida Standards Assessment cut scores beyond grade level proficiency by linking them to the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) test. 

NAEP is often considered one of the more rigorous national tests and education advocates have said its results are generally incomparable to statewide assessments. In 2016, the Florida Board of Education voted 6-1 to accept more lenient cut scores on the FSA, tying a level 4 to proficiency and keeping a 3 as "satisfactory."

Effrem and other critics of the bill fear students will fail at higher rates as a result of tying the FSA to NAEP, causing many of them to be held back a grade and resulting in a decline in school letter grades.

"The pass rate will go down significantly," Effrem said. 

James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat - Sen. Tom Lee hammers "Fewer, Better Tests" bill
 
"The bill (926) they had on the agenda today did nothing about testing," said Lee. "We have a Democratic member of the Senate who has three prime co-sponsors on his legislation and his bill is not up in committee . . . But instead, a piece of legislation (Flores') that essentially on its face does nothing is put up in committee. That is an affront to me and the members of the committee and to Sen. Montford."

Lee's action put the brakes on Flores' bill while Montford's remains unscheduled for a hearing.

There is a growing resistance to using standardized tests to measure student's learning gains. Parents and teachers complain that during the last two decades Florida has created a system that dominates the curriculum and school day.
Groups like Opt-Out Florida, Accountabaloney, The Tea Party Network and Stop Common Core have banded together into the Common Ground Coalition to pressure lawmakers to change a system they say benefits only the testing companies and "sucks the joy" out of learning, according to one former teacher.

Lee said that Flores' bill is an attempt by someone "on high" to get ahead of the problem.
 
"We have heard from parents, we have heard from teachers, we have heard from students that they need relief," Montford said at the time.

His proposal eliminates end-of-course exams in certain subjects, does away with the state's controversial teacher evaluation formula and allows districts to use the SAT and ACT in place of other state exams. The antipathy over testing has built on years of increasing public concerns, fueled by vocal parent groups who say Florida is over-testing its students, and getting little to nothing in return. Montford says his bill is just common sense.

"It puts control back in the hands of our teachers, principals and parents. It eliminates duplicative testing. Most of all, it lets our teachers get back to teaching."

The effort at an overhaul follows a vow by Senate Education Committee David Simmons who has promised changes are on the way. It's also being supported by former Senate President Tom Lee, who at one point approved of the state's testing system, but has now come to say it's gone too far.

"The time has come to address this issue. There's a growing chorus of people who are frustrated with the magnitude of testing going on in the system," Lee said. "There's another bill in the process right now that I also think is a reflection of acknowledgement of a problem. That bill has great talking points, but if you read it, it does nothing."  

That other bill is a proposal by Republican Senator Anitere Flores. Her "Fewer Better Testing" proposal is being cheered by the Foundation for Florida's Future, former governor Jeb Bush's education advocacy group. But it's running headlong into opposition from parent groups like Sue Woltanski's Common Ground.

"The other bill, if it were to pass with the proficiency levels included, would massively increase failure rates. School grades would plummet. District grades would plummet." she claims.

Woltanski says Flores' proposal does nothing to limit testing in the state. And she's worried language in the bill requiring Florida to align its student scoring scale to that of a national test called NAEP, will only hurt students. Woltanski says her group would much rather have Sen. Montford's bill.

 


URGENT! PLEASE CONTACT THE SENATE EDUCATION COMMITTEE ON TESTING BILLS! March, 2017


Details are below, but the Bush Foundation for Florida's Future bill carried by Senator Flores will not only NOT eliminate any tests, but it will drastically increase the failure rates, affecting school grades and property values. Senator Montford's SB 964 genuinely eliminates tests, and helps teachers, parents and students. 

ALSO PLEASE SEE OUR PRESS RELEASE & OUR FACT SHEET  ON THESE BILLS.


Please tell the Committee: I strongly oppose SB 926 as currently written. The NAEP proficiency language and competency based education language must be fixed or the bill should be voted down. I strongly support SB 964. Please hear it in committee and vote for it.

Senator Wilton Simpson (R) Acting Chairman
District: (352) 540-6074 Tally: (850) 487-5010

Vice Chair: Senator Debbie Mayfield (R)
District: (321) 409-2025 Tally: (850) 487-5017

Senator Gary M. Farmer, Jr. (D)
District: (954) 467-4227 Tally: (850) 487-5034

Senator Bill Galvano (R)
District: (941) 741-3401 Tally: (850) 487-5021

Senator Tom Lee (R)
District: (813) 653-7061 Tally: (850) 487-5020

Senator David Simmons (R)
District: (407) 262-7578 Tally: (850) 487-5009

Senator Linda Stewart (D)
District: (407) 893-2422 Tally: (850) 487-5013

Senator Perry E. Thurston, Jr. (D)
District: (954) 321-2705 Tally: (850) 487-5033

Senator Anitere Flores (R) New Member
District: (305) 222-4117 Tally: (850) 487-5039
 

Email Addresses:
mayfield.debbie@flsenate.gov, farmer.gary@flsenate.gov, galvano.bill@flsenate.gov, lee.tom@flsenate.gov, simmons.david@flsenate.gov,simpson.wilton@flsenate.gov, stewart.linda@flsenate.gov, thurston.perry@flsenate.gov flores.anitere@flsenate.gov
 
Sadly, it appears that it is another round of Jeb Bush's Foundation vs. Florida parents. Among the several education bills that were discussed, but not voted on in a Senate Education Committee "workshop" on March 21st, two testing bills could not have provided a clearer contrast in effectiveness and support.

The first, SB 964 by Senator Bill Montford (D) [HB 1249 by Rep. Halsey Beshears (R)] is a bipartisan bill that genuinely eliminates all of the statewide standardized End of Course (EOC) assessments except for Algebra I and Biology I. According to the bill summary that FSCCC helped prepare with colleagues in Common Ground, the bill makes other important and beneficial changes to Florida's convoluted accountability system:
Elimination of the 9th grade FSA
Using the ACT/SAT in place of the 10th grade ELA or Algebra 1 EOC
Elimination of Value Added Measure (VAM) formula from the accountability system
Provision for non-electronic testing options
 
SB 964 has bipartisan co-sponsorship by former Senate President Tom Lee (R), Education Committee Vice-Chair Debbie Mayfield (R), and Senators Rene Garcia (R), Linda Stewart (D), Audrey Gibson (D), and Doug Broxson (R). There was also extremely broad organizational support for this bill with testimony in support by the Florida Association of District School Superintendents (FADSS), individual superintendents, two of the organizations that are part of Common Ground Catherine Baer of The Tea Party Network and Beth Overholt and Marie Claire Lehman of Opt Out Leon County (FSCCC also supports this bill, but was unable to attend the hearing), and the Florida Education Association. There was no testimony in opposition.
 
That is in sharp contrast to the other testing and accountability bill discussed that day, SB 926 by Senate President Pro-Tem Anitere Flores [HB 773 by PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee Chairman Manny Diaz (R)]. Though dubbed the "Fewer, Better Tests" bill, this legislation, as admitted by the author and Patricia Levesque of the Foundation for Florida's Future, founded by Jeb Bush, at an introductory press conference (also analyzed HERE), does not actually eliminate any tests or change the stakes associated with them. It moves the testing window to the last three weeks of school and limits the testing window to three weeks, except for the 3rd grade reading test.
 
According to the Common Ground bill summary, the bill also has two other major flaws. (See other excellent analysis HERE):
It appears to tie FSA passing level 3 to NAEP proficiency which is much higher than grade level achievement, (described by the US Department of Education as "aspirational") and will result, according to the Florida DOE, in a drop from 51% to 39% passing for the fourth grade reading. This idea was rejected by the State Board of Education in a 6-1 vote last year. This will have a devastating effect on 3rd grade promotion and high school graduation rates, school grades, property values, and if property values decline due to worsening school grades, it will greatly harm Florida's economy and revenue to school districts and the state.
 
SB 926 also allows the expansion of competency-based education (CBE) to every district in the state. No expansion of CBE should be considered until data from the pilot districts becomes available. CBE programs result in data mining, career tracking, psychological profiling, and will harm the teacher-student interaction. (See details HERE). Already, Lake County, one of the pilot districts, is considering halting the program due to scant evidence of improvement at a very high cost of 2.5 million dollars per year.

The bill has only one co-sponsor, Rob Bradley, a Republican. The only groups testifying in favor of this bill were the Foundation for Florida's Future and the Florida Coalition of School Board Members, the latter of which used to support the things in Senator Montford's bill, but now seems to have joined the Bush Common Core and testing establishment along with the Chamber of Commerce, the Council of 100 and other corporate education reform groups.

Speaking against the bill were the three ladies from Common Ground listed above. They testified about the NAEP score and CBE issues. Catherine Baer's testimony also pointed out the issues related to the promotion of this bill by Bush's foundation and that testimony was picked up by multiple media outlets:

"It's not a bipartisan bill," said Catherine Baer, chairwoman of The Tea Party Network and part of a coalition backing stronger legislation. "It's been put forward by former Governor Bush's foundation. The foundation's educational philosophy has been soundly rejected by parents in the state of Florida and across the United States."
 
Now it appears that Senate Leadership is siding with the Flores bill as that is the only one of the two on Monday's (3/27) agenda for an actual vote. It is up to parents to once again stand against the Bush philosophy of education and protect the hearts, minds, and futures of their children.


More Evidence of CBE Failure: Lake County Considering Stopping Program March, 2017


Karen R. Effrem, MD - Executive Director


As with other Bill Gates Foundation boondoggles, the personalized or competency based learning grant program we warned against last year may not be funded by Lake County now that the three years of grant funding has almost run out.  As the Daily Commercial describes it, there are inconsistent test scores for the very high cost of $2.5 million per year: 



 

The latest data on the new learning method released in 2016 compared Florida Standard Assessment scores and FCAT science scores for students in personalized-learning classes in third through 10th grades with those enrolled in traditional classes.
In some personalized-learning classes, the test scores far exceeded the district average, but in others, the proficiency level was below the school and district average.

Personalized learning, which gives students a voice and choice in the learning process, was funded for the past three years from a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The School Board must now decide whether to continue funding it to the tune of $2.5 million a year because almost all the grant funding has been spent.



The Lake County Superintendent and several school board members all have significant and justifiable doubts about the program's viability:



 
 "I want to evaluate every program, including personalized learning to ensure we are getting the best return on our investment," she [Superintendent Diane Kornegay]  said. "Learning should be personalized. I need to take the time to evaluate and look to see whether it is working or not working. We don't want to invest in something until we know it's meeting the needs of all kids..."


 
 
He said there are many high-performing school districts that have excellent teaching practices without investing millions of dollars in a specific personalized-learning program.

"Even if we are not investing in a program called personalized learning, we are still going to be investing in professional development for our teachers," Dodd said. "We have seen some mixed results, and that is where there is apprehension from the board."

School Board member Kristi Burns also had reservations about funding the program.

"I think we need to allocate that money to support all of our teachers so they can teach in the best way they can," Burns said. "The techniques of personalized learning are not new. We want to support good teaching practices throughout the county."

School Board member Bill Mathias said if the intent of the grant was to create an environment where students took ownership of their learning, the district does not need the program to accomplish that.


Gates grants have been a major failure in other areas of education:
  • Bill Gates admitted in May of 2016 that despite spending millions of dollars on education technology, such as in personalized/competency-based learning, "we really haven't changed [students' academic] outcomes." 
  • Despite falling NAEP math, reading and college readiness scores, complaints from college professors about student unpreparedness, and many other problems since Common Core was implemented, Gates has refused to admit reality and thinks any problems were due to a "missed...early opportunity to engage educators -- especially teachers -- but also parents and communities so that the benefits of the standards could take flight from the beginning."
  • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also gave $100 million to Hillsborough County to reform teacher evaluation and pay with the county required to bring in additional $100 million, but the county's cost rose to $124 million and the program is being dismantled after largely failing.
  • Los Angeles wasted $1.3 billion on iPads for every student that were to be loaded with Common Core software that was a Gates-Pearson joint effort that were utterly unusable and resulted in FBI investigations for bid rigging.
  • Before moving into the Race to the Top and Common Core effort, the Gates Smaller Learning Community program, upon which the foundation spent $2 billion in an effort to track children into specific types of jobs-based education as early as 8th grade, was also a failure.‚Äč

The Florida Legislature's decision to limit the pilot to four school districts was wise given these very predictable results. Let us hope they do not attempt to make the pilot statewide as proposed by Senator Jeff Brandes.



 
 

 


FINAL DEVOS CONFIRMATION VOTE TUESDAY 2/7 AT NOON! PLEASE CALL OR EMAIL SENATOR RUBIO February, 2017

After skating by with a one vote margin in her HELP Committee confirmation vote, two Republicans, Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Susan Collins (ME), have announced their opposition to her confirmation. Unless another Republican joins them, the vote will be 50-50 and the tie will be broken by Vice-President Pence. Besides Michelle MalkinSusan Berryat Breitbart, Jane Robbins, and Joy Pullman at the Federalist, there has been near silence in the media. DeVos and the Jeb Bush team being placed at USED will undermine the Trump education promises to the grassroots parents. Please send the talking points HERE or in this document to:

Senator Marco Rubio: 202-224-3041 @MarcoRubio
 
One of the more disturbing newer pieces of information is DeVos' funding of pro-Islamic curriculum:
 



 


Effrem Report on DeVos Hearing & Vote Delay Covered by Breitbart January, 2017

Dr. Susan Berry of Breitbart News covered several major policy analysts' and activists' comments on the Betsy DeVos confirmation hearing as she also announced that the final U.S. Senate HELP Committee vote was delayed until January 31st due to significant concerns with one of DeVos' many complicated financial holdings:


The Office of Government Ethics released its report for DeVos after her hearing last Tuesday. One of the concerns reported by the NYT [New York Times] is that while DeVos said she had stepped down from the board of Neurocore, a Michigan company that operates biofeedback "brain performance centers" that offer alternative treatment for children and adults with diagnoses of attention deficit disorder and autism, she says she will still keep her financial interest in the company, valued at between $5 million to $25 million...

..."This is not an appropriate investment for the secretary of education," Richard W. Painter, an ethics adviser to former President George W. Bush, reportedly told the NYT...

Here are some quotes from Dr. Effrem that parallel our report on the hearing:
 
Dr. Karen Effrem, president of Florida-based Education Liberty Watch, observes to Breitbart News there was only one mention of the Common Core standards during DeVos' hearing, during a question posed by Louisiana Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy, who asked DeVos if she intended to coerce Common Core in the states. The nominee answered, "No." 

While pleased with DeVos' answer to that single question, Effrem explains why it is not enough for the thousands of grassroots parents and other citizens who have been battling against the Common Core in their individual states:
 
As stated in numerous writings by many anti-Common Core experts and activists, the foundation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) 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.
 
Effrem continued that while DeVos said she would not support a federal school choice law, that response is in conflict to her other answers regarding "accountability."

Those answers "combined with her record of support for very regulated voucher plans in Indiana and Louisiana that require administration of the state (Common Core) tests ... is extremely concerning for the autonomy and viability of private schools," she adds.

Effrem says if DeVos is confirmed, she and her organization will closely monitor how she implements ESSA; the ease with which she grants waivers for "state plans that seek to truly eliminate Common Core" and its associated tests; and the degree to which she resists implementation of social and emotional learning (SEL) accountability schemes.

"The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) was gutted by regulatory fiat during the Obama administration," Effrem notes. "At the very least, those privacy protections must be restored and preferably expanded to deal with all of the online data mining that is happening with technology-based education. Privacy was mentioned by Mr. Trump and was one of our questions."

Karen Braun of Stop Common Core in Michigan was quoted also:

She notes that DeVos seems most concerned about parents' choice of the "learning environment" for their children, while the content of what is learned cannot be chosen. She continues:

In her opening remarks DeVos made it clear what she believes:

[DeVos said then,] "Why, in 2017, are we still questioning parents' ability to exercise educational choice for their children? I am a firm believer in parents choosing the learning environment that's best for their individual children."

Choosing the learning environment is NOT true choice. For example, parents in a DeVos charter school in Grand Rapids wanted Common Core OUT of their school. The administration said it wasn't going to happen because "what the state and Mr. DeVos want they are going to get."


Jane Robbins, senior fellow at the American Principles Project summed up the major issue with the DeVos hearing quite well when she said:

"I would have hoped to hear Mrs. DeVos say, in response to almost every question she was asked about education policy, 'That's none of my business -- it's a state and local issue,'" ... "She gave the occasional nod to local control but didn't make it clear that under her guidance, the federal education establishment will be dismantled. That's disappointing."


Dr. Effrem Presents FSCCC Legislative Agenda at the Charlotte County Legislative Delegation Meeting January, 2017

Here are the prepared remarks that Dr. Karen Effrem presented to the Charlotte County Legislative Delegation Meeting in Port Charlotte yesterday:


Good morning members of the Charlotte County delegation. I am Dr. Karen Effrem, a wife and mother of three and I am here on behalf of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition, an organization made up of more than 50 groups from all over the state. 
The Common Core, widely admitted to be rebranded as the Florida standards, have failed. Besides being academically inferior, developmentally inappropriate and psychologically manipulative: 
  • They have not improved education outcomes in Florida or the nation, with falling or stagnant SAT, ACT, NAEP TIMMSand PISA scores.
  • The confusing Common Core Math techniques, "close reading" and the virtual elimination of fiction reading from classrooms are destroying children's love of learning and driving parents crazy
  • The standards are tied to assessments that are not useful in guiding instruction, developmentally inappropriate, time consuming, secretive, not fully validated and excessively expensive. Teaching to the test narrows the curriculum and online testing actually decreases learning time.
  • The Common Core aligned and constant Competency Based Education online testing, data collection and psychological profiling alarm and outrage parents.
  • Both long-standing and new research shows that 3rd grade retention is harmful and ineffective.  
Those politicians that have supported the Common Core system at the state and federal levels have paid a significant price at the ballot box. It is extremely important that you listen to the parents, rank-and-file teachers, and taxpayers that are demanding relief. Students and families across the state and nation are suffering under this untenable situation. Please listen to them!

We therefore strongly urge the following:
  • Repeal the Florida Standards in English and math.
  • Direct the commissioner to choose from one of the five best pre-Common Core sets of standards in the nation for each subject after widespread public hearings
  • Do not renew the AIR FSA contract when it runs out this year.
  • Choose from pre-2009 national norm-referenced assessments for state testing.
  • Minimize data collection and time spent testing, save many tax dollars, and improve test scores by returning to paper and pencil testing.
  • Prohibit the collection of non-cognitive, social emotional learning data and further protect student data in general to neutralize the federal weakening of data protection
  • Explore accountability systems that do not rely primarily on test score data, giving public schools the same flexibility given to private and home schools.
  • Do not expand the competency based education pilot program currently being run in 4 Florida districts
  • Expand local and parental control of curriculum
  • Stop 3rd grade retention as soon as possible

These requests will actually save money and improve academic achievement. I have more detailed quotes and references for you. Thank you very much for your consideration.  Blessings as you prepare for the 2017 session.


 


National Parent Coalition Concerned About DeVos Rapidly Grows & Receives Major Press Coverage January, 2017

Do not forget to contact the U.S. Senators on the HELP Committee (Health, Labor, Education, and Pensions)! Betsy DeVos' rescheduled conformation hearing takes place tomorrow, January 17th at 5 PM EST with coverage available on C-SPAN.
Since that hearing was postponed, the national coalition letter's list of signatures has rapidly grown to include 15 national groups and publications and 61 state level organizations and experts from 28 states.

It has also received national coverage from Dr. Susan Berry at Breitbart News which extensively quoted Dr. Effrem's summary of the letter as follows:

1) From all the evidence we can find, her statement when she was appointed on November 23rd was her very first against Common Core. Her statements and record via organizations that she has founded, funded, chaired, or on whose boards she has served and her political contributions have all been in support of Common Core and pro-Common Core candidates. Her statement and her interview with Donald Trump focused on "higher standards" which is a euphemism for Common Core, even though there is abundant evidence that the Common Core standards are anything but high.

2) Her American Federation for Children group has been strongly in support of state voucher laws in Indiana and Louisiana or federal Title I portability that imposes or would impose Common Core on private schools via the federally mandated state assessments. The education savings accounts that she touts could well place government regulations on home schooling for "accountability" purposes.

3) Although a strong supporter of charter schools, it appears she has never financially supported classical charter schools like the Hillsdale model in her own home state, only charters that require the teaching and testing of Common Core.

4) The Philanthropy Roundtable that she chaired until her appointment put out a report that is strongly in favor of extensive data mining of children without transparency of what data is collected and who receives it or parental consent and never mentions the word "privacy."

5) We are also concerned about continued expansion of invasive, subjective social emotional learning programs at the federal level and need to know her position on those.
 
Additionally,  Sunshine State News, a major statewide news and political website also discussed the nomination and hearing. Allison Neilsen clearly explained parent groups' concerns quoting Dr. Effrem as executive director of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition:
Other groups have suggested DeVos' views and Trump's campaign promises don't match up, specifically on the controversial Common Core State Standards.
"Her statements saying that she opposes Common Core are really new [and came out] basically the day she was appointed," Education Liberty Watch president and Florida Stop Common Core executive director Karen Effrem told Sunshine State News Wednesday. "Her record and the record of the organizations she founded, funded or chaired is strongly pro-Common Core and that's a real concern given President-elect Trump's promise to get rid of Common Core."

Effrem told SSN she hoped committee members would pose questions to DeVos, pushing her to lighten the federal footprint in the country's classrooms.

"I would hope she would vastly scale back federal control over states in education," Effrem explained.

While DeVos wasn't Effrem's first choice for Ed Secretary, she said she hoped DeVos would team up with Trump to make good on his promise to abolish Common Core.

"Compared to some of the other people Trump could have chosen, I'm greatly disappointed, but I have to trust that he will keep an eye on her and make sure that she fulfills the promises that he made on the campaign trail," Effrem said.
 
Thank you for your support and work to protect the hearts and minds of our children!!


BREAKING UPDATE: DeVos Confirmation Hearing Delayed Until January 17th! January, 2017


The US Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee has delayed the confirmation hearing of Secretary of Education designate Betsy DeVos originally scheduled for tomorrow until January 17th at 5 PM. While likely coincidental and not causal, it is extremely interesting to note that the Committee delayed the hearing for a week, citing Senate scheduling concerns within a few hours of receiving the parent coalition letter described in our last alert. 

Please continue to contact the HELP Committee members to raise the very significant concerns about DeVos' positions and record regarding Common Core, Social Emotional Learning, data mining, and school choice laws imposing Common Core on private schools.

Thank you!


FSCCC Joins National Parent Coalition Urging Senate to Ask Tough Questions of DeVos on CCSS, Privacy, SEL & More January, 2017

 

The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee is scheduled to vet the nomination of Mrs. Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education on Wednesday, January 11th at 10 AM.

The Florida Stop Common Core Coalition (FSCCC) has joined a very large national coalition consisting of nearly 60 parent organizations, education experts and writers, and elected officials that are extremely concerned about Mrs. Devos' record and views regarding Common Core, parental and private school autonomy, data privacy, freedom of conscience, and federal education overreach. The coalition has written a letter containing questions  HELP Committee members are requested to pose to Secretary-designate DeVos. 

Some examples of these questions include:
  • We understand that your website statement right after your appointment that you are "not a supporter - period" of Common Core was meant to reassure activists that you oppose the standards and will honor Mr. Trump's promise to get rid of Common Core. Please list your efforts during your extensive period of education activism and philanthropy to fight the implementation of the standards.
  • The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires secretarial approval of state education plans for standards, tests and accountability. Will you support state sovereignty by approving the state plans in line with Mr. Trump's vision of decreasing the federal role in education, or will you exercise federal control by secretarial veto power over these plans?
  • Through commissions, programs, federally funded groups, the newly passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the proposed Strengthening Education Through Research Act, and other entities, there has been an explosion of effort to expand invasive, subjective social emotional learning (SEL) standards , curricula and assessment. What is your view of SEL and what will you do to protect student psychological privacy and freedom of conscience?
"We believe that it is very important for the American people to hear her views on these critical education issues as the Senate prepares to vote on the DeVos confirmation," said Karen R. Effrem, MD, FSCCC Executive Director.

This coalition of national and state organizations, experts and officials represents hundreds of thousands, if not millions of American families. The signatories are from 23 state organizations including DeVos' home state of Michigan and many represented by members of the HELP Committee, such as Chairman Alexander, Ranking Member Murray,and Senators Isakson, Young, Roberts, Paul, Cassidy, Franken, Hatch, and Baldwin.  

Please read the questions and contact the US Senate HELP Committee with your concerns about Betsy DeVos! Contact information for each member is available at  http://www.help.senate.gov/about/members

 


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