Monthly Archives: April 2013

COMMON CORE STANDARDS: TWO STEPS CLOSER TO ELIMINATING SCHOOL CHOICE

Common Core Standards are a federal program in which the federal government will define the curricula and the academic standards for each subject taught in the every school setting. These Federal Standards will basically eliminate local control of schools and provide unfettered access to curricula by the Federal Government and eventually, by the United Nations. To date, 46 states have adopted Common Core Standards. The cost for implementing these standards may require a new method of taxation that is more accommodating for federal control of the educational system.

President Obama’s federal program Race to the Top provides bonus points to states that institute common learning goals. Common Core Standards represent about $16 billion in new unfunded mandates. It imposes mediocre standards upon the states which must be accepted or the states are threatened with loss of present funding. Federal mandating of these standards bypasses any congressional scrutiny and the state legislative process as well as violating the public trust by preventing any school board, parental, or teacher approval of these programs.

The federal government has been encouraged to implement these standards by educational policy experts because, as A New Civic Literacy: American Education and Global Interdependence provided by the Aspen Institute explains, “decentralization of education (local control) makes educational change difficult to introduce.” Therefore, policy experts recommend that the federal government be given the responsibility to assure the implementation of global interdependence. Advancing global interdependence has replaced the original educational goal and that is why our schools are failing academically, but schools are succeeding to advance our population’s acceptance of surrendering our boarder, our right to secure elections, and respect for our founding documents.

Common Core Standards have been written for math and English and are currently being written for social studies curricula. The standards for this subject are key to the successful advancement of the social and political policy of global interdependence which these standards are intended to help implement. According to A New Civic Literacy the “students in our public schools constitute the nation’s greatest and most attractive sucker list. Everybody with anything to sell—a global perspective—would naturally like to get at this market of future American adults, and get them as early in life as possible.”  The document identifies teachers of social studies and the publishers of text books as key points of leverage. Because of the importance of this access to the American public, these policy experts defined education as “the most important subject we as a people are engaged in.”

Teachers, parents, and some legislators have been discouraging the implementation of Common Core Standards because the standards are weak. They eliminate oversight by school boards, teachers, and parents and any control parents and educators would have over what happens in the classroom. The Wall Street Journal reported on May 8, 2012, in “School-Standards Pushback” that South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is concerned that these standards will “relinquish control of education to the federal government” and that Emmett McGroarty, executive director of American Principles in Action, called the standards “mediocre and costly to implement.”

Many are concerned that the Common Core Standards, once successfully implemented, will provide unfettered access of our educational system by the United Nations. Textbooks and curricula for our public schools have already been written by UNESCO and the International Baccalaureate program that is currently in many school districts across the United States. Grabbing additional access is a natural next step. Once they write the curricula, they must have authority to develop all testing tools. They will decide who becomes a teacher and what preparation will be provided for that teacher. The International Baccalaureate curriculum upsets parents and teachers because the focus includes sustainable development, abortion rights, gay marriage, universal disarmament and social justice curricula.

The UN involvement in the American educational system has already been facilitated by treaties signed by American presidents from both parties. Those documents include but are not limited to: Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Treaty on the Rights of the Child, Civic Education: Classroom Connections, and Agenda 21.

 EdWatch.org published “Marc Tucker’s New Education Initiative” written by Professor Allen Quist in 2007 in which the professor explains that experts representing the National Center for Education and the Economy (NCEE) seem to believe that it will be easier for the public to accept a new method of funding education once schools are burdened under these unfunded mandates. According to professor Quist, the NCEE suggests that regional development authorities be created and given power to tax removing all remaining local control of schools. Once the federal government has total control of education, what will happen to school choice?

For effective educational reform, citizens must unite around a single mission: eliminate federal mandates and federal funding of education and reallocate those funds to the states.

By: Karen Schroeder, President of Advocates for Academic Freedom

This article is provided courtesy of Advocates for Academic Freedom blog.

OBAMA IGNORES LAWS TO IMPLEMENT COMMON CORE STANDARDS

President Obama ignored federal statutes and federal student-privacy laws while he bullied states into accepting Common Core Standards (CCS) as part of the Race to the Top initiative. For nearly 100 years, educators have focused upon changing America. The Race to the Top represents a current resource for transforming America through changing the values of our children.

The General Education Provisions Act, the Department of Education Organization Act, and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 all include language prohibiting the federal Department of Education (DOE) from directing, supervising, or controlling curricula in any school. These statues also forbid the DOE from selecting textbooks or other instructional materials.

These laws were ignored when Common Core Standards became an integral part of the Race to the Top initiative. CCS allows the federal government to define what will be in every textbook, in every subject, in every classroom across the United States. Once the curriculum has been defined, the federal government will have the authority to create assessment tools which match those standards. Also, the 2009 Stimulus Bill created a State Fiscal Stabilization Fund which is accessible only to states that agree to develop broad State Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS), an integral part of the new educational goals.

SLDS will collect data on public-school students. According to A Pioneer Institute and American Principles Project White Paper: Controlling Education from the Top, all fifty states agreed to build an SLDS to become eligible for stimulus money.  The DOE now has authority to collect data on students from preschool to their experiences in the workforce.  According to the National Education Data Model, these records may include everything from health-care history, disciplinary records, social security numbers, and family voting status.

According to The Guide to Protecting the Confidentiality of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) Special Publication 800-122, the DOE issued new regulations in January, 2012, which allow “sharing” the information with any governmental or private agency. Each organization accessing the information will be reminded that they must be respectful of its sensitive nature, but parents need not be notified.

During a February 2010 speech at the National Governors’ Association,  President Obama explained that states would have to adopt Common Core to receive federal Title I education funding. The Pioneer Institute quotes the president, “We’re calling for a redesigned Elementary and Secondary Education Act that better aligns the federal approach to your state-led efforts while offering you the support you need…first, as a condition of receiving access to Title I funds, we will ask all states to put in place a plan to adopt and certify standards.” This maneuver allows the standards to now be called Common Core State Standards (CCSS). This name falsely implies that the standards are state developed.

CCSS resulted from generous funding from private entities such as the Gates Foundation. Including CCSS in the Race to the Top competition and imposing it upon the states is not unusual except this time the state legislators, educators, and parents have had no oversight in the formation of the CCSS.

Many taxpayers and educators are unaware that private institutions or educational agencies have influenced educational policy since the early 1900s. The public and educators are also unaware that most educational policy makers are not educators but are typically social and political policy people. They allow the teacher to be held mainly accountable for the failed outcomes of their policies.

Some experts including Dr. Sandra Stotsky and ZE’Ev Wurman focus upon student academic progress and express frustration with the “empty skill sets” and the “drastic costs” resulting from adapting Common Core State Standards for the current math and English curricula. The website and Facebook pages of conservativeteachersofamerica.com are peppered with articles and testimonials from teachers who are frustrated with the poor standards being imposed upon their classrooms.

Teachers are not eager to be held accountable for high levels of academic progress when the curricula they are required to use often expects less from students than do past state standards. New policies often focus on a determination to eradicate conservatism—NOT to promote academic excellence.

The Aspen Institute’s A New Civic Literacy: American Education and Global Interdependence explains that the conservative nature of teachers, school boards, and taxpayers has been a stumbling block to progress in gaining American support for global interdependence. Their solution is an increase in federal control of education.

A purpose of A Guide to Motivation in Education by Ronald G. Havelock is to transform educators into change agents. The guide explains that people who resisted their suggested changes had “really bad hang-ups” and that they needed “psychiatric help when they returned from training labs” because they were involved in an “extreme right-wing group”. The guide emphasizes that most conservatives are from the country and void of the enlightenment that comes from exposure to outside influences. The book repeatedly explains how and why it is necessary to “quell the irrational doubts and fears which the extremists (conservatives)…exploit.”

To exterminate conservative interference, the Behavioral Science Teacher Education Program (B-STEP) was developed to prepare teachers for a “changing society” and to alter “their impact on the program and on student attitude.” To accomplish this, “Clinical behavioral style permeates every phase of the program. Prospective teachers are trained so that they employ it.” Therefore, once clinical behavioral methods have been used to change their goals and values, the teacher is then expected to utilize those methods with future students. The focus is to expose students to non-Western thought and values, thus “sensitizing them to their own…inherent cultural biases.” This strategy was designed to influence prospective teachers to accept alternate social, political and economic value systems.

Federal government interference into education IS the main reason schools are continuing to fail in large numbers. The solution is to get federal dollars out of education, reallocate those dollars to the states, and reinstate local control of schools.

This article provided courtesy of Advocates for Academic Freedom blog.

COMMON CORES STATE STANDARDS ARE FEDERALIZING EDUCATION

The American educational system is being federalized through implementation of Race to the Top and Common Core State Standards. Once CCSS are completely implemented, the federal government will have total control of assessment tools and textbooks used in core subjects. Also, a national data collection system called State Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) will be used to determine a child’s educational opportunities. The federalization of education will turn all school-choice programs into federally approved programs.

The International Baccalaureate is a set of standards which are shaped by several United Nations treaties. The International Baccalaureate Organization explains that IB and CCSS share the values and beliefs of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights with emphasis on Article 26.

This means that CCSS and IB programs are teaching beliefs and values contained in treaties that the United States does not support.  Among these values are the surrender of the American Constitution, of national sovereignty, and of individual rights so students will accept becoming members of the “world community”. The CCSS standards focus on changing the social and political values of American children so they will embrace a world view of history and value systems. Few goals address academics; math standards actually lower expectations. What had been required from a fourth grade student is now required from a fifth grader.

The national data collection system will follow a child from Kindergarten to adulthood. A student’s IQ scores, test scores, Social Security number, and medical records will become part of the collected data which will be used to help determine educational and job opportunities afforded each student.

Once these systems are in place, all students in every educational setting will have to meet these state standards if they are going to pass the state-created assessment tools. Therefore, the education provided in every setting must include the curricula presented in state schools.

To accomplish these goals, the federal government and the United Nations have cooperated to write textbooks that meet the goals of CCSS and IB. The federal government is in the process of creating testing tools to assess the student’s progress in accepting the social and political ideologies being taught in the classroom. Implementation of CCSS is expected to be completed within the next two to three years.

The only effective means of preventing international control of the American educational system is to eliminate the federal funding of education. Advocates for Academic Freedom is an educational consulting firm working with legislators across the United States to organize a conservative movement to eliminate federal control of education. Visit the Advocates for Academic Freedom home page, find the Petition for Progress button on the left side of the page, click on that button and sign the petition. To stop the federalization of education, we must have proof that there is sufficient support from the electorate. Please sign the petition and become a member of the grassroots movement to limit federal governmental control by removing federal funding of education and reallocating those funds to the states.

This article is provided courtesy of Advocates for Academic Freedom blog.

REASONS FOR OPTING OUT OF COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS

SUMMARY OF COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS (CCSS)

  1. CCSS give the federal government authority to determine what will be taught in every subject in every classroom across the U.S. This federalizes education and limits local control of schools.
  2. The federal government will be creating assessment tools including some tests.
  3. Students attending school choice options will have to pass these federal exams. To do so, they must study the curricula shaped by the federal government.
  4. During the Governors’ luncheon in Feb. 2010, Obama told governors to commit to adopting CCSS to receive federal Title 1 funds. The standards had not even been written for the governors to study. This allowed the federal government to add the word State to the standards so the public would think that the normal process of teacher and public involvement had been employed when the standards were developed.
  5. Under that premise, states cannot nullify their own legislation.
  6. CCSS ignore the following federal statutes: The General Education Provisions Act, the Department of Education Act, and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 which prohibit the DoED from exercising any direction, supervision, selection of textbooks or instructional materials, or control and administration of curriculum.
  7. CCSS ignores student and parent privacy rights. Stimulus money is given to states that implement a STATE LONGITUDINAL DATA SYSTEM (SLDS). This system collects data on students from the time they enter school and continues for the rest of their lives. Social Security numbers, disciplinary issues, health issues, and IQ are recorded and shared among “governmental agencies” without requiring permission from students or parents.
  8. According to the International Baccalaureate Organization, the CCSS and International Baccalaureate curricula share standards shaped by many UN treaties including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with an emphasis on Article 26. This declaration was adopted in 1948. The IBO partnered with UNESCO in 1996.
  9. Among the many critics of CCSS is Dr. Sandra Stotsky, a Professor of Education Reform and 21st Century Chair in teacher Quality at the University of Arkansas. She explains that English standards are “empty skills sets” and “weaken the base of literary and cultural knowledge needed for authentic college coursework.” She also expressed concern about misleading definitions and neglect to teach students to distinguish between argument and expressions of opinion or to distinguish between academic argument and advocacy or persuasive writing!
  10. Ze’ve Wurman, past Senior Policy Adviser in the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development in the US Department of Education, notes that CCSS math standards replace the traditional foundation of Euclidean geometry with an experimental approach. Additional problems that he has identified include but are not limited to: failure to require proficiency with addition and subtraction until grade 4, a grade behind the expectations of the high-performing states and our international competitors. CCSS does not require proficiency with multiplication using the standard algorithm until grade 5, a grade behind expectations.
  11. CCSS are the curricula standard created by Benjamin S. Bloom in 1956. His taxonomy also followed the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. CCSS is simply a much more aggressive form of Bloom’s educational goal of creating a population with a “world philosophy.”
  12. The CCSS undermine our American republic, its values and traditions.
  13. Currently, eighteen states are contesting CCSS.

This article is courtesy of Advocates for Academic Freedom blog.

10 Reasons to STOP Common Core

Here are ten reasons to put an end to Common Core:

1.  Conflict of Interest:  The people that established the Common Core Standards benefit financially from the standards they set up.

2. Movement of Power:  The Common Core Standards take power away from families and local schools and give it to the government and business leaders.   Keeping the power at the federal level will result in our schools changing their standards each time a new administration steps into office.

3.  Reform that Relies on Standardized Tests:   The Department of Education has committed 300 million dollars to the creation of these new tests, developed by two consortia (PARCC and Smarter Balance).   There will be little effort to teach skills that are not tested.

4.  One Size Fits All Education:  45 states in our nation will be doing exactly the same thing in our schools.   What if these new methods do not work for your child?  The new math uses a different method of teaching than most of us grew up with.   Are we all prepared to move to Alaska?

5. Drowning Out New Thinkers in Education:   Common Core advocates believe that this is the answer to education reform.   We could miss the opportunity to listen to a new ideas that will help our children learn.

6. Loss of Great Literature:   The Common Core Standards recommends that students in Elementary School spend 50% of their time in literature and 50% of their time reading informational text.   During the high school years the numbers are 30% of their time in literature and 70% of their time reading informational text.

7.  The Influence of Big Money:  Education reforms should not be coming from the people in America that make the most money.  The Common Core Standards were influenced by the Gates Foundation and some of that money was able to buy propaganda.

8.  Can We Afford All This Change?:   The state checkbook is struggling with money during these difficult economic times.   How can we afford all the new text books, all the testing, the training, the new resources, etc… Maybe schools would rather use their money to hire a teacher instead of spending it on Common Core.

9.  Teaching Children to be “Common”:  Schools can add only 15% of new learning material to the set standards.   This forces teachers to stay in the box.   Everything will be the same.  Everybody common!   This is not the foundation of American.   We believe in the ideas of individualism, diversity, and choices.

10.  Data Collecting:  This should be every parents worst fear!   Records of physical and mental health, inappropriate behavior, disciplinary actions, test scores, personal information, etc… it can now follow your child starting in pre-school to age 20.  The information can be shared among government agencies and other private agencies that are approved.  This sharing can be done without your parental consent.   This issue is so serious that EPIC (Electronic Privacy Inform Center) is suing the Department of Education.

“Hands Off My Kids”

Here is a recent quote in an MSNBC ad by Melissa Harris-Perry, “We have never invested as much in public education as we should have because we’ve always had sort of a private notion of children.”   and “I believe wholeheartedly, and without apology, that we have a collective responsibility to children of our communities even if we did not conceive and bear them.”

 

Today Mellisa Harris-Perry was addressing her comments and she was confused on why her statements would cause such a controversy.     The reason is this:   It implies that the “community” or “collective” will raise and educate our American children better than individual parents.   That, Melissa Harris-Perry, is what makes parents upset.   Parents have seen “the village” and we don’t like what we see.

Parents also know  that, “the community”, “the collective”, “the village”, “the people” are words used in replace of the word – government.   Society is on a fast track to give up rights and freedoms to our government.    Why do people believe that our government will know what is best for our children and their future?

The following are some random quotes made by American People following Melissa Harris-Perry’s statement.    “I thank God for Melissa Harris Perry she has deep understanding of the conditions our children face when they go out to be educated.”       “It takes a village….”     “Children will not be yours forever….”    and lastly,    “People need to get rid of their backwards way of thinking and get clear on how the world is.  Educate yourself.”

Those statements are examples of people ready to give up their individual thoughts, rights, and freedoms to people in our government or ”the enlightened, educated society” (said with much sarcasm).

How are we losing our rights in education?   The Common Core Standards take power away from parents, grandparents, and local schools.    All the power is in a small group of people.   They are selling our schools an educational reform and that has the potential to influence millions of children.     FERPA laws have been amended to by-pass parental consent on data sharing.    Millions of children will have their personal information shared, discussed, and sold among government agencies and private companies.    I do not believe that “this collective” has my best interest at heart.   I think the Common Core is just another method to have more money, more power, and more influence.   These people are opening their greedy arms to an entirely new market – Our American Children.

Hands Off My Kids!

States Should Move Swiftly to Protect Student Data

States and schools are signing over private data from millions of students to companies and researchers who hope to glean secrets of the human mind.

Nine states have sent dossiers students — including names, Social Security numbers, hobbies, addresses, test scores, attendance, career goals, and attitudes about school —to a public-private database, according to Reuters. Standardized tests are beginning to incorporate psychological and behavioral assessment. Every state is also building databases to collect and share such information among agencies and companies, and the U.S. Department of Education has recently reinterpreted federal privacy laws so schools and governments don’t have to tell parents their kids’ information has been shared.

Promises of researchers’ and governments’ good intentions are not enough to justify this, especially when spending tax dollars, directing government energy, and invading privacy without parent or even school officials’ knowledge. Anything conducted in this manner should be immediately tabled and publicly examined. Stop. Collaborate. And listen to how parents and taxpayers react, after explaining what’s happening.

Very few U.S. citizens want to move even gradually toward a government like that of China, which keeps dossiers on all citizens’ performance and attitudes. These records influence work, political, and school opportunities. Because “everything they do will be recorded for the rest of their life … the dossier discourages any ‘errant’ behavior,” says Chinese professor Ouyang Huhua.

This is not to say big databases equal communist oppression, but here in the United States we do things differently because we believe in self-rule. When the government we are supposed to control has amassed a thicket of data about how we think and can thus manipulate our actions and opportunities, self-rule ends.

Any researcher or organization wanting to plumb data to potentially help kids learn more, faster, can do so without trampling individual rights. Here’s how.

First, historic practice with student records has been to keep them anonymous when shared outside schools. Researchers and even government accountability gurus don’t need to know Sally Smith failed Algebra 1. Her parents and teacher do. Researchers do not need personally identifiable information such as names, Social Security numbers, and addresses. They just need to know, for example, whether lots of students are failing Algebra 1, and in what context. Schools and states should check these privacy firewalls.

Second, students and their guardians should have full access to their records, with the ability to correct false information. They also should be informed of and able to opt out of all data-sharing involving their records. Schools need parent consent to give children an aspirin. They should get consent to share a student’s psychological evaluations or test performances.

Third, agencies should be required to explain exactly how they will keep the sensitive information in their hands from being hacked or exposed. The more people and organizations with access, and the bigger a treasure trove these databases become, the more likely security breaches will be. Hundreds of thousands of people were put at risk of identity theft in 2012 because of security breaches in government databases, including one affecting three-quarters of South Carolinians. And child identity theft is often not discovered until adulthood, which makes their records even more attractive to thieves.

Because the U.S. Department of Education has unilaterally knocked down federal privacy protections, lawmakers should rebuild that wall. Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Oregon are a few states considering such legislation. They should act swiftly, and so should others.

By Joy Pullmann (jpullmann@heartland.org), a research fellow of The Heartland Institute.  Reposted from this article with permission of the author.

Education Department Helps Leak Students’ Personal Data

States and schools are signing over private data from millions of students to companies and researchers who hope to glean secrets of the human mind.

Nine states have sent dossiers on students —including names, Social Security numbers, hobbies, addresses, test scores, attendance, career goals, and attitudes about school —to a public-private database, according to Reuters. Standardized tests are beginning to incorporate psychological and behavioral assessment. Every state is also building databases to collect and share such information among agencies and companies, and the U.S. Department of Education has recently reinterpreted federal privacy laws so that schools and governments don’t have to tell parents their kids’ information has been shared.

Promises of researchers’ and governments’ good intentions are not enough to justify this, especially when tax dollars are involved and government entities are helping invade students’ privacy without parents’ or even school officials’ knowledge.

Very few U.S. citizens want to see their government even slightly imitate that of China, which keeps dossiers on all citizens’ performance and attitudes. These records influence work, political, and school opportunities. Because “everything they do will be recorded for the rest of their life … the dossier discourages any ‘errant’ behavior,” says Chinese professor Ouyang Huhua. This is not to say big databases equal communist oppression. But we do things differently in the United States because we trust our citizenry and we believe in self-rule.

Any researcher or organization wanting to plumb data – perhaps to help kids learn more, faster – can do so without trampling individual rights. First, the historic and accepted practice with student records has been to keep them anonymous when shared outside of schools. Researchers and government accountability gurus don’t need to know that Sally Smith failed Algebra I, even if her parents and teachers do. Researchers do not need personally identifiable information such as names, Social Security numbers, and addresses. They just need to know, for example, whether lots of students are failing Algebra I. Schools and states should check these privacy firewalls.

Second, students and their guardians should have full access to their own records, with the ability to correct false information. They also should be informed of and able to opt out of all data-sharing involving their records. Schools need parent consent to give children so much as an aspirin. They should get consent to share a student’s psychological evaluations or test performances.

Third, agencies should be required to explain exactly how they will keep the sensitive information in their hands from being hacked or exposed. The more people and organizations have access, and the bigger a treasure trove these databases become, the more likely security breaches become. Hundreds of thousands of people were put at risk of identity theft in 2012 because of security breaches in government databases, including one affecting three-quarters of South Carolinians. And child identity theft is often not discovered until adulthood, which makes youngsters’ records even more attractive to thieves.

Because the U.S. Department of Education has unilaterally knocked down federal privacy protections, lawmakers need to rebuild that wall. Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, New York and Oregon are a few states considering such legislation. They should act swiftly, and so should others.

By Joy Pullmann (jpullmann@heartland.org), a research fellow of The Heartland Institute.  Reposted from this article with permission of the author.

Data Mining Kids Crosses Line

The U.S. Department of Education is investigating how public schools can collect information on “non-cognitive” student attributes, after granting itself the power to share student data across agencies without parents’ knowledge.

The feds want to use schools to catalogue “attributes, dispositions, social skills, attitudes and intrapersonal resources – independent of intellectual ability,” according to a February DOE report, all under the guise of education.

The report suggests researching how to measure and monitor these student attributes using “data mining” techniques and even functional magnetic resonance imaging, although it concedes “devices that measure EEG and skin conductance may not be practical for use in the classroom.” It delightedly discusses experiments on how kids respond to computer tutors, using cameras to judge facial expressions, an electronic seat that judges posture, a pressure-sensitive computer mouse and a biometric wrap on kids’ wrists.

And that’s not all the feds want to know about your kids. The department is funding and mandating databases that could expand each kid’s academic records into a comprehensive personal record including “health care history, disciplinary record, family income range, family voting status and religious affiliation,” according to a 2012 Pioneer Institute report and the National Center for Educational Statistics. Under agreements every state signed to get 2009 stimulus funds, they must share students’ academic data with the federal government.

As Utah blogger Christel Swasey has documented, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act used to protect highly personal psychological and biological information, including items mentioned above and, according to the DOE, “fingerprints; retina and iris patterns; voiceprints; DNA sequence; facial characteristics; and handwriting.”

Under the DOE’s 2011 FERPA reinterpretation, however, any local, state or federal agency may designate any individual or organization as an “educational representative” who can access such data as long as the agency says this access is necessary to study or evaluate a program. These can include school volunteers and private companies. A lawsuit against the regulations is pending.

Meanwhile, several agreements the DOE has signed with two organizations writing national Common Core tests insist the information these tests collect must be “student-level” – meaning these would not be anonymous records but instead tied to specific children.

Previous FERPA interpretations required data collectors to identify students by random numbers. No one knows what personal data the Common Core tests will collect, because those tests have yet to be written and released. But this information mother-lode has to come from somewhere. Since the tests are being written by private organizations, although entirely funded so far by the federal government, no one can do a public records request to find out.

In short, the government wants to collect a dossier on every child, containing highly personal information, without asking permission or even notifying parents. Officials believe “federal agencies should invest in programmatic portfolios of research” to monitor and influence student attitudes through schools, says the February DOE report.

The department recommends schools start tracking and teaching kids not just boring old knowledge but also “21st Century Competencies” – “recognizing bias in sources,” “flexibility,” “cultural awareness and competence,” “appreciation for diversity,” “collaboration, teamwork, cooperation,” “empathy,” “perspective taking, trust, service orientation,” and “social influence with others.” I’m really looking forward to seeing how psychologists profiling children for government reports interpret each of these characteristics.

Utah officials told Swasey no student may attend schools there without being tracked, even those in non-public schools. The personal data are currently being collected through the tests public schools are required to administer, but part of the agreement the states signed for stimulus money includes a requirement that schools collect data on students who are not tested.

All of this looks like another step in the federal government’s push to compile an intimate, cradle-to-grave dossier on every American. What they might intend to do with all that information remains a rather disturbing question.

By Joy Pullmann (jpullmann@heartland.org), a research fellow of The Heartland Institute.  Reposted from this article with the author’s permission.

Unwritten Tests Present Major Common Core Obstacle

Education leaders are beginning to publicly worry that two coalitions attempting to determine mandatory tests for some 40 million U.S. students by 2014 can’t pull their massive enterprise together by deadline or at all.

This threatens the entire Common Core project, which in 2014 will tie national tests to grade-by-grade education requirements 45 states adopted in math and English in 2010. Two networks, called SMARTER Balanced (SBAC) and Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), are creating separate tests.

“It’s easy to say Common Core is revolutionary, but implementing it is a completely different story,” said Andy Smarick, a former U.S. Education Department official who is now a partner at consulting nonprofit Bellwether Education Partners. “High-ranking state officials are … betting the farm on PARCC and Smarter Balanced, hoping it’s going to be rigorous and delivered on time. If they have any reason to question any of that, they’re going to have great incentive to pull the reins and say, ‘I’m not going to ask my governor for millions for common assessments’ or ‘We’re not going to depend on someone else’s decision on cut scores.’”

Some big questions include: where the testing groups will get money once federal grants run out six months before the tests appear in classrooms in 2015; whether testmakers and states can handle the technical problems of creating and administering ambitious, online tests; and whether states will tolerate higher passing score requirements.

SBAC’s 25 member states educate 19 million U.S. K-12 students, and PARCC’s 22 member states educate 25 million (a few states are members of both).

Queasy Feeling About Testmakers
A January survey of “education insiders” from consulting firm Whiteboard Advisors found concern growing about SBAC and PARCC. Fifty-five percent thought PARCC was on the right track, while 27 percent thought the same of SBAC.

“Both continue to operate with such opacity it is hard to know where things stand,” the survey quoted from one responder.

“PARCC is focused on providing a higher quality product,” another respondent said.

The insiders include current and former state and federal education department officials, state school chiefs, governors, congressional staff, and education organization and think tank leaders.

“Both consortia are struggling mightily with getting the work done on time and with quality,” another said.

Technical Difficulties
Many school districts do not have the computers, bandwidth, and IT staff to administer Common Core tests, which will be entirely online by 2016-2017. These items are costly, and states are facing growing costs, particularly in healthcare and pensions.

Testmakers are also attempting to pull several testing advances together, which ambition may exceed possibility. This includes attempting to have artificial intelligence score open-ended test answers and create “adaptive” tests that throw up harder questions after correct answers and easier questions after incorrect answers, according to Tony Alpert, SBAC’s chief operating officer.

Even writing the software for such tests is incredibly complex, said David DeSchryver, Whiteboard’s vice president of education policy. It must work on a wide variety of computing devices, operating systems, and internet browsers, and operate simply for non-techies like most teachers and principals.

“If you’re taking an assessment for certain kids at the school [what if] you’re going to shut down wireless access in the cafeteria?” he said. “How do you manage this in a way you don’t have failure? We just don’t know. This hasn’t been tested in reality.”

The massive undertaking has a very small margin for failure, he and Smarick said, because state and school leaders will quickly abandon a glitchy, frustrating system.

Lifting ‘Cut Scores’
A major complaint against previous state standards and tests was that the federal government required states to have all students testing “proficient” by 2014 under the now-defunct 2001 No Child Left Behind law. In response, states set low “cut scores,” or passing grades. The Common Core consortia have promised to set higher standards, but that’s politically tricky because fewer children will pass the new tests, Smarick said.

Elected officials will feel heat from parents and teachers when many more students fail, but lowering standards for that reason essentially means lying to the public about U.S. schools’ quality, Thomas B. Fordham President Chester Finn Jr. wrote recently. States with big differences in average student achievement will likely tussle over setting one pass rate.

Show Me the Money
The federal government jumpstarted SBAC and PARCC with 2010 grants, but that money runs out by fall 2014. This means strapped states must soon pitch money at a new, complicated testing program likely to make their schools look bad, Smarick noted.

“We’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. “It’s big, it’s expensive, it’s technically challenging. If you get that right, then states are going to continue. If states get concerned about this, we’ll quickly realize the governors, state chiefs, legislators, and board members in power in 2014 are not the same ones who signed on to Common Core.”

The vastness of the project, and its likelihood of changing nearly everything about U.S. education, means a small accumulation of problems can derail it, Smarick said: “Under the best of circumstances it’s going to cause heartburn.”

Learn More
“The Complicated Economics of Testing in the Era of Common Core Standards,” Andy Smarick, January 23, 2013: http://educationnext.org/the-complicated-economics-of-testing-in-the-era-of-common-core-standards/.

“Cutting to the Chase,” Chester Finn Jr. January 24, 2013: http://www.edexcellence.net/commentary/education-gadfly-weekly/2013/january-24/cutting-to-the-chase.html.

By Joy Pullmann (jpullmann@heartland.org) is a research fellow of The Heartland Institute.  Reposted from this article with permission of the author.