Why Does Congress Want to Psychologically Profile Your Children?

Photo credit: Lucelia Ribeiro via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

If the GOP-led Congress had not done enough damage to public education by passing the statist Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), it’s poised to make things even worse. The new threat is the Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA). If SETRA passes in its current form, the federal government will be empowered to expand psychological profiling of our children. Parents must understand this threat so they can mobilize to stop it.

SETRA is a proposed reauthorization of the Education Sciences Reform Act, which created bureaucracies and funding for education research (the results of which are routinely ignored if they contradict the dogma of the progressive education establishment). But SETRA would go beyond merely wasting money and plunge the government into an area it has no constitutional, statutory, or moral right to invade: the psychological makeup of children.

Section 132 of SETRA expands authorized research to include “research on social and emotional learning [SEL] . . . .” SEL is defined as “the process through which children . . . acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

SEL is all the rage in public education. The idea is that imparting academic knowledge is passe’ because if a student wants to know something, he can Google it (seriously – this is a common theme in education circles).

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Student Privacy Under Attack

At first few people noticed and even fewer understood.

In 2002, the Bush administration started incentivizing states to create massive databases of personal student and family information. The Obama administration – aided and abetted by a roll-over Congress — threw that effort into overdrive. It did so through, among other efforts, the 2009 Stimulus Bill and its Race to the Top grants. And through unauthorized regulatory changes, it stripped away vital privacy protections. (For details see the Pioneer Institute paper Cogs in the Machine.)

But now citizens are taking notice and are alarmed at these threats to their children’s privacy. They are pushing back with the same informed activism underlying the movements against non-instructive testing and Common Core (see here and here). The huge educational-technology-industrial complex is alarmed as well – not that children’s privacy is at risk, but that its cash cow may be roped in by data-privacy legislation.

Time for the corporate conglomerates to head this off at the pass.

An early preemptive strike was development of the Student Data Principles, a set of “foundational principles for using and safeguarding students’ personal information.” These principles are supported by private organizations such as the Data Quality Campaign and Common Core owner Council of Chief State School Officers, who believe fervently that education can be transformed if we just measure every conceivable aspect of a child and share those measurements with “experts” who can mutter incantations over them and create a 21st-century worker.

Given the predilections of the creators, it’s not surprising that the principles are specific about the wonderful uses of data but less so about what should be done to secure it.

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Who Is Really Watching Your Child?

Photo credit: Lucelia Ribeiro via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

I read an article recently about an assistant professor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology who wrote a research paper proposing that the immensely popular “Elf on the Shelf” is teaching kids that giving up privacy is “normal.” These voyeuristic little elves purportedly report back to the North Pole every night to fill in Santa on the behavior — or misbehavior as the case may be — of the elf’s assigned child. According to Assistant Professor Laura Pinto, this elf surveillance, something the big man in the red suit has been doing for centuries, will normalize NSA spying, which has also been going on for what seems like centuries.

Whilst Dr. Pinto has been analyzing the comings and goings of peeping elves, she has seemingly overlooked the very real privacy crisis being waged in our culture. More specifically, in our classrooms.

Children learn very quickly their lives are not private. Whether they completely comprehend what that means is another question. Based on what seems to be a cultural devolution, neither do their parents. From their first breath, children are powerless to maintain their own privacy. It has become customary in our culture to prolifically document our children’s every waking moment; every achievement, every embarrassment, every selfie in the drive thru lane at Starbucks, and then splash their images prominently across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and a whole host of other social media platforms. Our children can barely eat an after school snack without it becoming a photo-worthy Facebook moment. Continue Reading

This School Software Could Put Students’ Privacy At Risk

Most public-school parents have heard glowing claims that “digital” or “personalized” learning will transform education, but they may not understand exactly what this means. The Georgia Senate Education and Youth Committee is now considering a bill, Senate Bill 281, that would protect parents’ right to be told what’s going on in the classroom.

“Digital learning” in this context refers not to an alternative means of accessing text (such as a Kindle), but to interactive programs in which a student is given a prompt, to which he responds, which generates another prompt, and so on. Think Pavlov.

These interactive programs, marketed by private vendors, frequently use sophisticated software that collects massive amounts of highly personal information about the student’s behaviors, mindsets, and attitudes – the “21st-century” psychological skills that the government thinks he should have.

The U.S. Department of Education has released two draft reports describing in detail this brave new world of psychological profiling and brain-mapping. The first, “Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance,” discusses the “affective” computing that can analyze students’ psychological attributes and emotional states as they interact with the software. The report touts the potential educational value of recording data from posture analysis, skin-conductance sensors, EEG brain-wave patterns, and eye-tracking.

The second report, Expanding Evidence: Approaches for Learning in a Digital World, lauds these programs’ psychological data-collection and urges sharing of this data with other “stakeholders” (such as other government agencies) that may have an interest.

The bottom line is that sophisticated programs owned by private corporations are collecting and analyzing highly sensitive data on children – and parents have no idea this is happening.

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Jeb Bush’s Friends Spend Big to Support Student Data Grab

Just as the Common Core pushing textbook publishing giants like Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Pearson have had financial incentive to support Jeb Bush and his now former organization, the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE), corporate cronyism is also alive and well via those companies involved in Big Data.

The Data Quality Campaign (DQC) is a corporate-backed front group that spends all its time trying to portray the ugly and invasive womb-to-tomb data grab and psychological profiling of our children as helpful, necessary, and the government’s right. They strongly support the incredibly invasive Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA) which sadly has already passed the Senate after an unannounced voice vote, with fawning praise after an earlier version passed the House in 2014:

DQC sees immense value in the ability to link data across early childhood education, K–12, postsecondary, and workforce systems. The most pressing questions for education stakeholders (alignment, feedback, etc.) require data to be shared from disparate collections, which means that it’s vital to align these systems to effectively answer these questions. SETRA would require grantees to do that. By linking data systems across the P–20/workforce spectrum, states will gain the ability to evaluate whether students, schools, and districts are meeting their college- and career-readiness expectations. [Emphasis added]

DQC also loves having data on the workings of our children’s minds:

Early warning systems (EWS) are one of the best examples of transforming data into actionable information that, when used effectively, can improve student outcomes. EWS, developed around research-based indicators such as student academic performance (grades) and attendance and discipline records, help educators accurately and quickly identify students who are most at risk of academic failure, not being on track to graduate college and career ready, or dropping out of school.

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Big Brother Wants to Be “Engaged” with Your Family. Here’s How . . .

Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Building in Washington, DC (photo credit: IIP Photo Archive via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

As the pro-Common Core Republican candidates get winnowed out, the remaining combatants should be quizzed in greater detail about federal education policy — particularly, the many troubling provisions of the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

We’ve recently written about the Big Brother aspects of ESSA, including “21st-century community learning centers” and “full-service community schools.” (See here and here to learn how your House member and senators voted.) Part of the intrusion into parental rights is cloaked under the benign term “family engagement.” If you think that means encouraging parents to attend PTA meetings, think again.

The family-engagement provisions of ESSA begin on p. 580 of the 1,061-page “conservative” bill (as an aside, any bill that has 1,061 pages is by definition not conservative). The goal is to fund “systemic and effective family engagement policies, programs, and activities that lead to improvements in student development and academic achievement” (pp. 580-81). State plans should coordinate federal, state, and local services so that families can be subject to one mammoth bureaucracy rather than just a piddling local busybody.

This bureaucracy is to take the form of a “statewide infrastructure for family engagement in education” (p. 584). The first task for this infrastructure is to “determine parental needs and the best means for delivery of services to address such needs” (p. 587). Apparently, it didn’t occur to Congress that parents’ primary need may be for government to go away and leave them alone. Continue Reading

Kasich Isn’t for Local Control in Education

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

While in New Hampshire, Ohio Governor John Kasich told “Fox News Sunday” that he is “for total local control” when it comes to education.

CNSNews.com reports:

“I propose taking 104 federal education programs, putting them into four buckets and sending them to the states. I have been clear from the very beginning that I support high standards and local control. That’s exactly what we do in Ohio. Our state school board approves the standards, and the local school boards are the ones that create the curriculum,” Kasich said, adding, “I am for total local control.”

That sounds great, but his record doesn’t indicate he would actually do that, as he has supported top-down initiatives for his state like the Common Core State Standards and PARCC.

Ohio has since stopped using PARCC, but let’s be clear — that was a state legislature-initiated move. Ohio still has a Common Core-aligned assessment.

Here is what we do know from Kasich’s record — he is one of two presidential candidates to receive an ‘F’ on our Common Core report card.

Emmett McGroarty wrote specifically about Kasich’s record:

Like Bush, Kasich is an unapologetic cheerleader for the Common Core. His only response to the large and active anti-Common Core grassroots operation in Ohio is to make fun of them.

In May of last year, Governor Kasich said on a Cleveland radio program that the Common Core Standards were “written by local school districts.” Governor Kasich continues to be an ardent proponent of the Common Core standards — one who hook, line, and sinker accepts the false talking points of the Common Core developers, owners, and funders….

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The Forgotten Story: How Common Core Changed the Race in Iowa

Photo via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0 BR)

Now that Iowa caucus-goers have spoken, lost in the discussion of Donald Trump’s underperformance, Ted Cruz’s ground game and Marco Rubio’s surge is an acknowledgement of one issue that separated the top Iowa finishers from (as Trump would say) the “losers.” That issue is Common Core.

Cruz and Rubio have long been on record as opposing the national standards. Trump has relentlessly raised the issue ever since he entered the race. As the Iowa campaign came down to the wire, Trump released a Common Core-specific ad, and Rubio began devoting more and more time in his stump speech to the issue (although his record on child privacy is problematic, something on which other candidates have not honed in). Apparently, these gentlemen recognized what the base was upset about — and Common Core is high on the list. All three garnered significantly more votes than the winner in the 2012 contest. (See the 2012 results and the 2016 results.) They each received over 40,000 votes. The winner in 2012 received 29,839 votes.

The voters overwhelmingly rejected Common Core proponents. Jeb Bush and John Kasich received 5,238 and 3,474 votes, respectively. Bush, of course, was appropriately branded as pro-Common Core from Day One and wasn’t salvageable even by his bulging war chest. Kasich still loves Common Core and drips with disdain for anyone who disagrees.

Next up are those candidates who once supported Common Core but then had campaign conversions. They were never able to justify why they had so blindly supported such a bad product. Continue Reading

Tampa Bay Times Examines Rubio’s Involvement in Common Core

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times discussed Common Core’s role in the campaign of the two Florida presidential candidates, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush. The article, titled “Rubio may oppose Common Core but has supported the ideas behind it,” lists several ways that Marco Rubio has supported the components of the Common Core system:

…while Rubio never advocated for Common Core, he was a proponent of the building blocks.

Bush on Thursday noted that Rubio had supported Race to the Top, the federal program that incentivized states to adopt Common Core.

I think that’s a good idea,” Rubio said in 2009. He did stress, however, that he felt “education is a state function, best regulated and governed at the state level.”

That year Rubio also praised Obama’s hire of Arne Duncan as education secretary, calling him an “innovator” while praising the federal government’s effort “encouraging” states to adopt curriculums “that reflect the 21st Century.”

Rubio’s 100 Ideas book, a template for his tenure as House speaker, endorsed ideas such as more testing and a revamped curriculum. Idea No. 2 called for Florida to “systematically and sequentially replace the Sunshine State Standards with a new, world-class curriculum comparable to those found in the leading education systems in the world.”

As Gary Fineout of The Associated Press pointed out Thursday, Rubio never asked state officials or Gov. Scott to stop Common Core from being adopted in Florida. (Amid the backlash, the state has simply whitewashed the words Common Core from official policy.) [See also Even Mainstream Media Question Scott’s Statements about Being Out of Common Core]

Obviously, Race to the Top and Arne Duncan were the means the Obama administration used to impose and spread the Common Core that was aided by Bush and his Foundation for Excellence in Education, as Rubio correctly pointed out. Continue Reading

New Level of Overreach: Government Report Recommends Schools Conduct “Home Visits”

Photo credit: EdenPictures via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, people hungered for a land of freedom and choice — a place where they could worship as they pleased, where they were free to prosper or to fail, where God and family were the most important aspects of life. This place used to be America.

Today, we live in a society of excuses and government dependency. Our culture is being lost to social engineering and suffocating government micromanagement. No more are we exceptional and overcomers of adversity; we are all victims. We are taught that we cannot succeed without the government’s “help.”

There are many examples I could refer to, but I am choosing just one to share now: our public education system. Public education has been corrupted by federal intrusion and forced compliance — intrusion in the form of Common Core and aligned high-stakes assessments, and compliance forced by a slightly veiled threat of withholding federal funds. Some of the changes, such as the gutting of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, have been accomplished by regulatory action, bypassing Congress.

The U.S. Department of Education (USED) did not exist until 1979, when President Carter created it to pay off teachers’ unions for their support. I can’t help but wonder how the education system that took the U.S. to the moon and back has been lost. How in the world did our 20th-century scientists, writers, engineers, historians, and political leaders accomplish so much without the benefit of nationalized standards and USED? Continue Reading