What’s Wrong With a Federal Unit Tracking System? Video Testimony From D.C. Hearing on Student Unit-Record Identifiers   2 comments

The brand-newly created federal Commission on Evidence-based Policymaking (CEP) held a public hearing in Washington, D.C. a few days ago.


The testimony of Emmett McGroarty of the American Principles Project (APP) stood out from the other testimonies that were presented, and is posted in full below, with permission from APP.   Many of the other organizations whose representatives testified do financially benefit from the privacy-stomping, data-mining, gold rush, including the  Data Quality Campaign, American Institutes for Research, etc.  But APP does not.  APP exists to maintain local control, constitutional rights, and individual privacy rights.

On the video, Mr. Emmett McGroarty of APP testifies at about hour 2:45 to 3:07.  To see the agenda of who else was slated to testify at this hearing, click this link: final-cep-oct-21-agenda_updated-1

Testimony Abstract:

We urge the Commission to resist calls to repeal the statutory prohibition on the development, implementation, or maintenance of a federal student unit-record system. Such a system would curtail liberty interests of the individual, would invite the collection and use of ever-more data, and would fundamentally alter the relationship between the individual and government in a way that is incompatible with our constitutional republic.

Statement by Emmett J. McGroarty, JD

The Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking was created to pursue a laudable goal: To improve analysis of the effectiveness of federal programs. But when such a pursuit is used to justify collecting, conglomerating, and tracking massive amounts of Americans’ personal data, as is certainly true in the realm of education, it’s necessary to examine the dangers and the tradeoffs. American Principles Project (APP) believes that such activities suppress the liberties of the people and pervert the relationship between the people and government. We urge the Commission to reject calls to establish a federal student unit-record system and to engage in such Orwellian activity.

Section 134 of the Higher Education Act wisely prohibits the development, implementation, or maintenance of a federal student unit-record system (one that would allow the government to collect personally identifiable information (PII) on individual higher-education students and link education data to workforce data). Recently, though, an orchestrated demand for repeal of this prohibition has been swelling. According to well-funded organizations with a vested interest in accessing that data for their own purposes, the federal government suffers from data-deprivation. Think how much more efficiently our nation could operate, and how much more the government could help people run their own lives, if it maintained a centralized repository tracking almost every conceivable data point about every citizen – where he attended school, what courses he took, what grades he earned, what extracurricular record (good or bad) he compiled, what jobs he applied for, what jobs he got, what salary he made, whether he was promoted, what salary he earned in his new position, whether he lost his job and why, whether he joined the military, what sort of military record he established, whether he was arrested and for what, whether he went to jail, and on and on ad infinitum.

This is not a description of a free and open United States of America. This is a description of a totalitarian society that keeps tabs on its own citizens – for their own good, of course. It’s also a description of what would inevitably happen with the establishment of a student unit-record system, all in the name of “better consumer information,” “accountability,” and “transparency.”

What’s wrong with a federal unit-tracking system?

First, it would compile students’ personally identifiable information (PII) without their consent – or even their knowledge that their data is being collected and disclosed. It’s one thing to collect data from a student who voluntarily (which of course presumes actual notice of the program) participates in a government program and understands that participation will expose his PII to program administrators; it’s quite another to forcibly suck every individual into a datacollection system simply because he enrolled in an institution of higher education. Telling that student that he must hand over his personal data to promote a greater good as defined by bureaucrats and lobbyists – or even worse, just dragooning him without telling him anything – is simply un-American.

Second, the purposes of the proposed system would be so open-ended that the repository is certain to be expanded over time to centralize data far beyond collegiate and employment data. In the creative bureaucratic mind, literally everything can be linked to education. So why stop with employment data? Why not see how one’s education affects his participation in the military? Or his health? Or his criminality? Or his housing patterns? Or the number of children he has? Or whether he purchases a gun? Or his political activity? Inquiring bureaucrats want to know, and every question can be justified by citing “better consumer information.”

And will this dossier created on every citizen become permanent? Presumably so. If the goal of providing maximum consumer information is to be achieved, both historical and current data – constantly updated and expanded – must be compiled and preserved.

Perhaps this expansion won’t happen. Perhaps the federal government, in stark contrast to its behavior over the last 100 years, will stay within its boundaries. But reality-based Americans know the government will push the envelope as far as it possibly can, as it always does. And they know that giving that government access to such a treasure trove of data is dangerous to privacy and to individual liberty.

Third, the idea that this massive repository of PII will be protected against unauthorized access and data breaches is quite simply delusional. Less than a year ago, a hearing of the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform revealed the shocking lack of student-data security throughout the U.S. Department of Education (USED). The problems encompass both lax controls over the people allowed access to sensitive data, as well as outdated technology and inadequate security to prevent unauthorized access.

USED’s system contains over 139 million Social Security numbers (largely through its office of Financial Student Aid), along with sensitive borrower information about students and families contained in the National Student Loan Database. The findings of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the General Accounting Office were disturbing:

  •  Of the 97,000 account/users with access to this information (government employees and contractors), fewer than 20 percent have undergone a background check to receive a security clearance.
  • The security mechanisms protecting that data are grossly inadequate. As one OIG witness testified, “During our testing . . . OIG testers were able to gain full access to the Department’s network and our access went undetected by Dell [the vendor] and the Department’s Office of the Chief Information Officer.”
  • USED ignored repeated warnings from OIG that its information systems are vulnerable to security threats.

That the federal government should now consider ballooning the sensitive data contained in these insecure systems is at best misguided and reckless.

Even if the data systems were secure, the Obama administration’s gutting of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) means that government education officials (federal, state, and local) now have enormous leeway to disclose PII on individual students without their consent. Pursuant to the recent FERPA regulations, these officials may share private PII with other government agencies, nonprofit entities, corporations, researchers, and literally anyone on the planet as long as the disclosure can be characterized as an audit or evaluation of a (broadly defined) “education program.”

Will the new conglomeration of student data be fair game for disclosure under these regulations? The danger is too real to dismiss.

The philosophical problem with a federal student unit-record system is that it treats free-born American citizens as objects of research and study. It assumes that the goal of benefitting others in society, in vague and theoretical ways, authorizes the powerful federal government to collect and disseminate millions of data points on individuals – without their consent. This fundamentally changes the relationship between the individual and government. Collecting and holding massive amounts of data about an individual has an intimidating effect on the individual—even if the data is never used. This is even more so the case when the collector has the force of the law behind it. Our republic rests on the idea that the citizen will direct government. That cannot happen where government sits in a position of intimidation over the individual.

Submitted by:

Emmett J. McGroarty, Esq.

Senior Fellow

American Principles Project


If you wish to testify, there will be additional public hearings in various places across the country.  You may also submit written testimony online.



Here’s a P.S. to all of the above from me, Christel, because I am absolutely screeching and screaming over this and wish more people would get it, would speak up and would speak out.

It does not take a brilliant lawyer to understand how wrong this is– although it’s nice to have the brilliant Mr. Emmett McGroarty, and words cannot describe the debt that freedom lovers owe to APP and McGroarty.

But this unit-record identifier issue is not, at heart, complicated, nor should it be the least bit intimidating –to anyone in this country, of any age or occupation.  Get involved.  Say something.

Ask people to think:

Who holds the keys and drives education?  It should be those closest to each individual child: the parents, the teachers, and the principal.  They are the most accountable and care the most.

But today, because “We, the People” collectively have not been paying attention, corporations and governments have taken too much power over DATA  –and that’s daily increasing.  If CEP goes in the direction that it seems to be going, then soon, individual student record identifiers will track individuals so that governments and corporations can “see” and “help” us all. Heaven save us from that kind of help.

The federal and corporate push for ever more individual data is supposedly to improve education and workplaces for the children, but this agenda does not seem to serve children, but to treat them as “human capital” –experiments, worker bees and lab rats, while making certain groups unbelievably rich, meaning rich both in money itself, and also rich in data –which in our day equals money.

Our country went through the land rush, the gold rush, but now it’s the data rush.

Now it’s data mining instead of strip mining.

WE are the ones being mined—by BigGov-BigBiz-BigEd.

If the push for personally identifiable information sharing succeeds fully, we will not own ourselves.

The sweetest and most naiive among us are thinking, “It’s okay if the corporations and governments know everything about me, about my children, my finances, my religious beliefs, gun rights, sexual morality beliefs and more– because I don’t do anything wrong.

By whose definition do you not do anything wrong?  Do your values and beliefs match those of the government’s so perfectly that you can trust its judgment and its interventions over your own?

Think about what’s going on.

To the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, you are now labled WRONG if you believe in God, because religious doctrine of any kind is only a “pretext” to discriminate on the basis of racism, sexism, etc.  That’s your federal government judging your “social emotional learning” right there!

To gun control advocates at the state and federal levels, you are not concerned about “supporting nonviolence” if you own a gun.

To the federal political activists of the LGTB movement, you are either a discriminator or mentally unwell if you promote marriage between a man and a woman.

And now that SEL (Social Emotional Learning) standards for K-12 are being developed and promoted to track “non-cognitive” factors, starting on children and moving into the workplace, it seems not even our personal psychology is to be permitted to be private any longer.  What types of emotions or beliefs or traditions are mentally or socially “at-risk” and by whose definition?  When we give up power over our own data privacy, we give up at least some control over our own judgments of values.

What makes us certain that the world that federal SEL activists and the CEP Commission wants is the same world that I or you or other free people want?  Just look at what the federal activists are doing!  Don’t give them more power over us!

As Dr. Karen Effrem and Jane Robbins recently pointed out at The Federalist:

“The new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) …requires rating schools based partly on “nonacademic” factors.  ESSA …  pours money into SEL programs, “which may include engaging or supporting families at school or at home” … training school personnel on “when and how to refer… children with, or at risk of, mental illness,” and implementing programs for children… “at-risk” of academic or social problems, without ever defining “at-risk”  …ESSA language urges school officials to cast a wide net for special education in school-wide “intervention” and “support” programs, allowing schools to sidestep parental consent requirements. [There’s a] planned revision of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the test referred to as “the nation’s report card,” to assess mindsets and school climate… [There’s] funding for federally controlled and funded “social emotional research” in the proposed Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA)—a bill supported by individuals and corporations that will profit handsomely from all this sensitive data to help them mold worker bees for the global economy…  A third federal initiative is USED’s bribery of states to promote SEL standards and data-gathering on preschool children via the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grants. These grants, along with the preschool grants in ESSA and Head Start, promote “Baby Common Core”-style SEL standards and data-collection.”

Please find a way to stand up and say no to the call for using “Unit-Record Identifiers,” no matter what the reasoning may be.  Say yes to personal privacy, personal responsibility, and to family-based, individual-based, local control of social and emotional and academic and religious values.

Testify Now.   4 comments


The purpose of this post is to ask you to testify this week to the newly created White House Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (CEP)– either online or in person— against CEP’s idea of studying to remove protective barriers on unit-level data for federal access and policymaking.

Here’s why.



Apparently chafing against constitutional and tech barriers against unrestrained access to student-level data, the federal government, this year, invited 15 people to help remove those barriers.

It’s a motley crew: a British behavioral scientist, an American data crime lawyer, a White House Medicaid bureaucrat, and piles of professors who formerly worked for the feds.

They named the group The Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (CEP) and passed a law (led by Dem. Senator Murray, Speaker Ryan and President Obama) that gives the semblance of authority to the commission and allows them to post on the White House website.

The law passed in March.

The CEP’s stated purpose is to increase “use of data in order to build evidence about government programs“.

How would this be done?  CEP doesn’t say on its website, but the trend in data mining is to push for unit record data sharing.

Individual students are, in computer jargon, “unit record data“.  CEP promises to focus on “existing barriers” that are standing in the government’s way of accessing data [unit record data included] or, in their words, “data already being collected” [by states, in SLDS systems]. That data is none of the federal government’s business. In my opinion, it’s none of the state’s business. My data belongs to me. My child’s data should not be harvested without my written consent. The state never asked before it began to longitudinally study my child. And now, the feds want full access to disaggregated data to “build evidence” of all kinds.

CEP’s website claims that “…while protecting privacy and confidentiality” the Commission will “study how data, research, and evaluation are currently used to build evidence, and how to strengthen the government’s evidence-building efforts.

In the context of the decade-long Congressional debate for and against unrestrained federal study of individuals,  how can CEP simultaneously persuade Congress that it will protect student privacy while pushing Congress to increase its evidence-building efforts?

I suppose if they gain unlimited access to data but deny access to at least one person, they can call this “protecting privacy”.

They used the phrase “protecting privacy” while they:

  1. Installed fifty interoperable, federally designed-and-funded “State Longitudinal Database Systems” (SLDS)  to track the nation’s schoolchildren. There was no vote, no request for parental consent– it was part of the “government evidence-building effort”.
  2. Stripped privacy protections that used to  be in federal FERPA law, which earlier had  mandated parental consent (or adult consent) –for the all important “government evidence-building effort”.

They made scary, transformative changes effortlessly, as unelected bureaucrats dangled money (our taxes) in front of other unelected bureaucrats.  No representation.

When CEP begins its planned study of “practices for monitoring and assessing outcomes of government programs,” and other “studies,” you can just insert your child or grandchild’s name wherever you see the term “government programs”.

It’s all about unit-record data: the kids.

And it’s not a new idea!

In 1998, Hillary Clinton and Marc Tucker conspired to create a system they envisioned as “seamless”; a “cradle-to-grave system that is the same for everyone” to “remold the entire American system” using “large scale data management systems”.  It was exposed, but not abandoned.

In 2013, Senators Warner, Rubio and Wyden called for a federal “unit record” database to track students from school through the workforce.  That was shot down; Congress didn’t want to end the protective ban on unit record collection. In 2008, reauthorization of the Higher Education Act expressly forbade creation of a federal unit record data system.

In 2013 InsideHigherEd.com reported:

A unit record database has long been the holy grail for many policy makers, who argue that collecting data at the federal level is the only way to get an accurate view of postsecondary education…

…[V]oices calling for a unit record system have only intensified; there is now a near-consensus that a unit record system would be a boon… An increasing number of groups, including some federal panels, have called for a federal unit record system since 2006: the Education Department’s advisory panel on accreditation, last year; the Committee on Measures of Student Success, in 2011; and nearly every advocacy group and think tank that wrote white papers earlier this year for a project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation…

… through linkage with Social Security or other databases, it could track graduates’ wages… The Obama administration — unable to create a federal unit record database — has offered states money to construct longitudinal databases of their own…”

It is time to stand up.

We missed the public meeting and the public hearing last month, but we can still speak at next week’s public testimony at the Rayburn Office Building.

If you can be in D.C. next Thursday, and want to offer public comment to offset the Gates-funded organizations that will be speaking in favor of sharing unit-record data, please send an email to  Input@cep.gov.  Ask for time to speak on the 21st of October.  They ask for your name, professional affiliation, a two sentence statement, and a longer, written statement.

If you can’t make it to D.C. on Thursday, you can catch them in a few months at similar meetings in California and in the Midwest.

At the very least, you can send your opinion online to the CEP at:   https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=USBC-2016-0003


My submission to the CEP is below.  Feel free to use it as a template.


Dear Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking,

I love the American concept of voter-based, Constitution-based, elected representative-based, policymaking.  It’s why I live in America.

In contrast to voter-based policymaking there is evidence-based policymaking, which I don’t love because it implies that one entity’s “evidence” trumps individuals’ evidence, or trumps individuals’ consent to policy changes.

Former Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson said something about education that also applies to educational data and policymaking:

“The best way to prevent a political faction or any small group of people from capturing control of the nation’s educational system is to keep it decentralized into small local units, each with its own board of education and superintendent. This may not be as efficient as one giant super educational system (although bigness is not necessarily efficient, either) but it is far more safe. There are other factors, too, in favor of local and independent school systems. First, they are more responsive to the needs and wishes of the parents and the community. The door to the school superintendent’s office is usually open to any parent who wishes to make his views known. But the average citizen would be hard pressed to obtain more than a form letter reply from the national Commissioner of Education in Washington, D.C.”

Local control, and consent of the governed, are two foundational principles in our great nation.

Because the CEP is not an elected body, it does not actually hold representative authority to collect, or to recommend collection, of student-level evidence, or of any evidence, without written consent; and, for the same reasons, neither does the Department of Education.

Because the fifty, federally-designed, evidence-collecting, State Longitudinal Database Systems never received any consent from the governed in any state to collect data on individuals (as the systems were put into place not by authority, but by grant money) it follows that the idea of having CEP study the possible removal of barriers to federal access of those databases, is an egregious overstep that even exceeds the overstep of the State Longitudinal Database Systems.

Because federal FERPA regulations altered the original protective intent of FERPA, and removed the mandate that governments must get parental (or adult student) consent for any use of student level data, it seems that the idea of having CEP study and possible influence removal of additional “barriers” to federal use of data, is another egregious overstep.

As a licensed teacher in the State of Utah; as co-founder of Utahns Against Common Core (UACC); as a mother of children who currently attend public, private and home schools; as acting president of the Utah Chapter of United States Parents Involved in Education (USPIE); as a patriot who believes in “consent of the governed” and in the principles of the U.S. Constitution; and, as a current tenth grade English teacher, I feel that my letter represents the will of many who stand opposed to the  “study” of the protective barriers on student-level data, which the CEP’s website has outlined it will do.

I urge this commission to use its power to strengthen local control of data, meaning parental and teacher stewardship over student data, instead of aiming to broaden the numbers of people with access to personally identifiable student information to include government agencies and/or educational sales/research corporations such as Pearson, Microsoft, or the American Institutes for Research.


To remove barriers to federal access of student-level data only makes sense to a socialist who agrees with the Marc Tucker/Hillary Clinton 1998 vision of a cradle-to-grave nanny state with “large scale data management systems” that dismiss privacy as a relic in subservience to modern government.  It does not make sense to those who cherish local control.

It is clear that there is a strong debate about local control and about consent of the governed, concerning data and concerning education in general. NCEE Chair Mark Tucker articulated one side of the debate when he said:  “the United States will have to largely abandon the beloved emblem of American education: local control. If the goal is to greatly increase the capacity and authority of the state education agencies, much of the new authority will have to come at the expense of local control.”

Does that statement match the philosophical stand of this commission?  I hope not.  Local control means individual control of one’s own life.  How would an individual control his or her own destiny if “large scale data management systems” in a cradle-to-grave system, like the one that Tucker and Clinton envisioned, override the right to personal privacy and local control?  It is not possible.

I urge this commission to use any influence that it has to promote safekeeping of unit-record data at the parental and teacher level, where that authority rightly belongs.


Christel Swasey





Common Core’s Role in Hot State School Board Race   4 comments


Senate President Niederhauser and House Speaker Hughes

The State School Board race has never drawn much attention before. But this year, the Salt Lake Tribune reported, businesses and even top-tier elected officials are personally campaigning and fundraising for and against certain candidates.

Yesterday’s headline was: “Niederhauser and Hughes ask Business Leaders to Help Defeat UEA-Backed School Board Candidates“.  Yesterday, too, business organizations such as the Utah Technology Council and the School Improvement Association joined Niederhauser and Hughes in a fundraising webinar that promoted a slate of pro-Common Core candidates who happen to be not favored by or funded by national teacher’s unions.

I understand why someone with a conscience would campaign against out-of-state big UEA-NEA money buying Utah’s state board election.  So they should.

But I don’t understand why these groups have chosen to campaign against both the anti-Common Core candidates (in blue) as well as against the UEA-backed candidates (in red) as they showed in this slide at yesterday’s insider fundraising webinar:



Nor do I understand why our House Speaker and Senate President don’t see the hypocrisy in speaking against big money buying votes (NEA) while both of them are personally funded by big business money (Education First).

But my bigger questions are: how do the Speaker and the Senate President dare to campaign for Common Core candidates, thus going directly against Governor Herbert’s call to end Common Core alignment in Utah?

How do they dare campaign against the resolution of their own Utah Republican Party that called for the repeal of the Common Core Initiative?

Have they forgotten the reasons that their party is strongly opposed to all that the Common Core Initiative entails?

Have they forgotten Governor Herbert’s letter that called for an end to Common Core and SAGE testing just four months ago? (See letter here.)  For all the talk about wanting to move toward local control and to move against the status quo, this seems odd.

Next to the governorship, there aren’t more powerful offices in the state than those held by House Speaker Hughes and Senate President Niederhauser. So what does this powerful endorsement of a certain slate of candidates signify?

First, it signifies what is probably a sincere concern for (partial) local control: In the fundraising webinar held yesterday (by Hughes, Niederhauser, the School Improvement Network and the Utah Technology Council) the following slide was displayed:  Out of $308,512 raised for the political action of the Utah UEA (teacher’s union) $300,000 of it came from out of state.  Hughes and Niederhauser are right in being alarmed at that money’s probable effect on local control.



(What they didn’t highlight is this: all of the anti-Common Core candidates’ funding, combined, doesn’t come close to what even one of the UEA-funded candidates are spending because none of them are backed by corporate or political powers.)

Secondly, it signifies Utah leadership’s alignment with Obama’s vision for education, which among other things mandates sidelining certain subjects in favor of others. Niederhauser told the Tribune that he didn’t want any board member’s vision to “dominate the board” which, to  him, meant to “supplant business and technology representatives.”  So he wants to make sure that business and technology is at least as dominant as any other interest.   The School Improvement Network is of the same opinion.

We could ask why. Why, specifically, would legislators be endorsing the fields of business and technology over the fields of languages, medicine, history, social work, the arts or any other thing?  And where’s the idealogical division between what NEA wants and what Niederhauser-Hughes want?  Is it fair to speculate that NEA corporate funders are in competition against the Education First corporate funders, and all of this is just an economic struggle pretending to be a struggle for the children’s best interests?  Utah tax dollars are, after all, the passionate pursuit of multiple players in the now $2 Billion per year ed tech sales industry.

Many people know that both Hughes and Niederhauser’s political campaigns are heavily funded by Education First, a Utah political action committee for Prosperity 2020 that puts businesses first.

Not voters first.  Not education –broadly– first; this is education as defined by the ed-tech sales industry and by Obama’s 2020 vision. Read it in their own words.  In an Tribune op-ed taking credit for passing legislation that Education First had lobbied for, you’ll see little focus on funding for paper and pens, school basketballs, violins, gluesticks, old-fashioned books, or heaven forbid, large teachers’ salaries– no, ed funding to Education First means to fund the priorities that precisely (coincidentally?) match Obama’s 2020 vision:  early childhood education (which competes with free enterprise/private preschools), workforce development (China-styled central planning) “community schools” (Obama’s vision to integrate healthcare with academics and with socio-political movements “using government schools as a hub”) and standardized personalized learning (an oxymoron that cements Common Core academics and its data tags).

Don’t mistake this as a fight between tech lovers and tech haters.  None of the candidates for state school board are anti-technology, though the smart ones are pushing for improved laws governing student privacy in this modern age.

So what are Hughes and Niederhauser really saying when they say they’re for the pro-tech candidates?  What does that really mean?  That Utahns should sit back and let the ed tech sales industry, or businesses, sit in the driver’s seat for educational decision-making?  That’s the stated aim of Education First (in Utah) and of Obama’s 2020 (nationally) and, according to his Tribune quote above, it’s also the aim of President Niederhauser.

Education First doggedly, directly, lobbies citizens, governments, and school districts, to strong-arm their narrow vision, that businesses should “help” direct education.  They refer to my child and yours as the economy’s.  They call children “human capital” on their website.  This is, when ripe, the 1992 Hillary-Tucker dream coming true, with the collective economy dictating to the individual on the assembly line.

Education First wants a high “concentration of science and engineering occupations” in Utah, which you may or may not agree with; what I hope you do agree with is that this new, business – public ed partnershipping governance system, with business being handed power to influence schooling, when taken to the extreme, is fascism.  In fascism, there’s no distinction between government and business.  And the voter has no say.

Do we want to walk down that slippery slope?  Do we want the Education First business community to be given power in schools?

Whether promoting science and engineering at the expense of other subject and careers is the will of the people, or not, really doesn’t come in to the discussion. Prosperity 2020 has said that businesses will “provide a business oriented plan to improve results” for schools.

If Hughes or Niederhauser would respond to my emails to them, I would ask them this:  how is it any more helpful toward Constitutional local control–  if that is what you really want– to let businesses take over the driver’s seat for educators, as your financial backers aim to do, than for out of state (NEA) funding to call the same shots?  Either way, students and schools and voters lose personal freedoms to self-appointed experts who think they know best.

So when Niederhauser worries that “big money groups effectively buy the election,” he is right.  The hundreds of thousands of dollars pouring in to NEA-UEA approved candidates’ purses should raise eyebrows.  But shouldn’t the same eyebrows rise too, seeing in-state big money groups like Education First and Prosperity 2020 now, as in the past, funding the pro-Common Core candidates –and funding Hughes and Niederhauser themselves– effectively buying the election in the very same way?

Meanwhile, none of the liberty-first, anti-Common Core candidates,  Alisa Ellis, Lisa Cummins, Michelle Boulter or Dr. Gary Thompson, are richly funded.   All they really have to stand on is true principles of liberty –and word of mouth.

Many voters know that Common Core is anti-local control.  The Governor almost lost in the primary to anti-Common Core challenger Jonathan Johnson because of this.  The Governor was repeatedly booed at political conventions this year because he had been such a promoter of the Common Core, prior to his turnaround.  What will the governor say about Niederhauser’s and Hughes’ current effort?  More importantly, what will voters say?

Dr. Gary Thompson, a district 10 candidate for state school board, said today:

“I was pleased the that the Speaker of the House and Senator Neiderhauser identified who the “anti common core” education candidates are in this election. I was pleased to be labeled as one of them. This provides a clear choice for members in the community to chose from as they please.  Comments made by the Speaker in regards to the UEA did not receive a prior endorsement by this campaign.  I look forward to having a professional, cordial discussion with my UEA endorsed opponent on September 28th regarding education issues that will affect our children in District 10″

For anyone wanting to watch the debates between state school board candidates, please check that schedule here. 


Pictured below are the candidates for state school board that I endorse, whom the UEA, NEA, UTC, SIN, Senate President and House Speaker do not:

For true local control of education:

Alisa Ellis, Michelle Boulter, Lisa Cummins, Dr. Gary Thompson.

alisa vote


lisa cummins

dr t

The Enemy Inside: How #GoOpen, The Federal Learning Registry, and the U.S. Internet Throwaway Threatens Student Speech, Religion and Privacy   4 comments


Recently, a friend mentioned that she was happy that Common Core was finally gone, and that we could finally look toward something better.

Why did she think the Common Core Initiative was over?  It’s grown.

But it’s hidden, for the most part.  Feds and states don’t use the term anymore because it’s so unpopular; in my state, they call it “Utah Core Standards” –although, if pressed, state school boards will admit that these are Common Core: they have to be, or they wouldn’t get federal funding.  Also, the D.C. legislators were told that the new federal law, ESSA, had gotten rid of Common Core and had returned control to states. How untrue that line was; the Department of Ed had just renamed it “Challenging State Academic Standards”.  Common Core standards and data tags are still in the driver’s seat for all the new movements in ed reforms:  from the #GoOpen Initiative, Open Educational Resources movment, and the Learning Registry to federal SETRA which is being voted on right now. Read on.

(Don’t get depressed.  We can take bold action to reclaim many of our lost freedoms.  We  know that pretending that everything is fine, or pretending that it’s too late or too difficult to change things, is wrong.  So choose the right.)

First, remember this: Common Core academics and data mining are utterly married. 


The most “commonizing” thing about the Common Core Initiative was never the set of academic standards (“Common Core State Standards”- which have recently been federally renamed “Challenging State Academic Standards”.  We can call them anything we want as long as the feds can see that they still align to the data and testing programs so that we can be tracked.)

The most commonizing thing was the implementation of federal data standards, known as “Common Educational Data Standards” (CEDS).

In the screenshot below, we read that CEDS is a partnership that includes the federal Department of Education and the CCSSO (private co-copyright holders over the Common Core academic standards).  Whether you think the capacity for government to monitor free citizens over the course of our whole lives is good or bad, you can’t deny that that was and is the agenda of CEDS and SLDS.

This screenshot is the reason that I’ve never understood why so many say that Common Core has nothing to do with data collection, and  that saying so is a conspiracy theory; these are clearly conspiracy facts: the government conspired with the private trade group CCSSO to standardize educational data nationally –without allowing legislatures or voters to vote on the matter, simply by calling the initiatives voluntary and by using cash incentives to make the standardization initiatives  happen.  Money for both the academic standards and the data standards came from two main sources: unelected philanthropist Bill Gates, who profits wildly from the initiatives, and from the federal Dept. of Education.  Follow the money trails if you want to know what’s being built.


Federally approved academic standards, bad as they are, can still be interpreted locally to some extent. Federal data standards, though, are like matching keys in matching locks: there’s only one way they’ll work, and that’s if they are exactly, precisely the same.

So CEDS standards are used in all fifty states’ database systems because the funding and instructions for construction of those systems using CEDS came from the feds.  CEDS standards are also used in the federal EdFacts Data Exchange.  They’re also used in the digital testing, whether it’s end of the year testing or embedded curricular testing, in every state.  They’re also mandated every time your state gets a new federal cash infusion for its State Longitudinal Database System.  If your state moves toward embedded tests in an effort to get rid of over high-stakes testing, as my state is, then CEDS will still be used and your child will still be tracked.  Now with the federal push for “Community Schools” that must share students’ medical and mental health data, combined with academic data, common data standards across agencies has become the federal “must”.

CEDS interoperability and standardization are the height of fashion and efficiency, but are also the death of individual flexibility and local control and citizen data privacy. Worse, the education reformers, both political and corporate, are not content to just standardize academic standards, testing, and data mining tags between states.  They also want to standardize these things globally.

(If humans were angels, this might not pose any problem.  The history of the human race, however, tells a sad tale of bullying and tyranny that has been significantly interrupted only by America’s noble founders.  Since we cannot trust human nature generally, the U.S. Constitution logically placed checks on human power, and placed balances against human ambition, so that individual freedom would not be deleted by the noble-or-not initiatives of bullies. Humans are not angels, and giving so much power to governmental– especially globally governed– entitites, is flat-out stupid. Where are your rights to freedom of speech, of religion, of conscience, when the Constitutional rights have been demoted in the move toward global citizenship, and global data mining?)

oer commons

The twin movements (of global content regulation over education and of global data standardization) are quickly apparent in these three things:

  1.  THE LEARNING REGISTRY  – a gateway for “approved” federal data and lessons, partnered with global data and ed systems; this is the main tool of the #GoOpen initiative.  The Learning Registry defines itself as “a new approach” to “sharing data” that aggregates information about the “publisher, location, content area, standards alignment, ratings, reviews, and more.”  It claims that finding educational resources and assessing their quality is a “burden” on educators.  That responsibility will be taken over, to unburden educators– by the federal dept. of ed working with the federal dept. of defense.  As much as I love to give and receive, I don’t want to share or have shared with me, educational content under the moral and educational “guidance” of the department of defense and of education.  Appealing to my sense of altruism is not going to help.   Ironically, Midgely admits that the love of money is the root of #GoOpen.  At minute 13:52 in that video, he says, “to be honest, there’s a lot of money to be made as well”.  He says that digital badges will be the common currency of K-20 and adult, corporate education.  Although Midgely says that “you don’t have to conform your data sets,” and “we accept native formats” and that the system is peer-based, not censored, I think: but it’s run by the federal government.  How is that peer-based?  Who runs the show? What happens, down the road, when an educational resource hasn’t been run through the registry filter?  Is it the orphaned, unusable resource?  This registry was designed by the Dept. of Education, by federal Deputy Director of Ed Tech, Steve Midgely (whose video about the registry is here. ) Is it not weird that this learning registry is co-created by the Department of Defense and the Department of Education?   And that its global partners include the “federated community” of the Soros-partnered Ariadne in Europe; the Global Grid for Learning, a Gates baby; the U.N.’s OER and more?  Is this registry going to marginalize traditional, classical books and lessons even further than Common Core’s glorification of “informational text” did to English literature?  Remember:  Common Core never outlawed Shakespeare, but it endorsed informational text reading in the English classrooms to the point that many public schools today have no room for much Shakespeare.  The endorsement of whatever the Learning Registry finds endorsable, will likely marginalize other content, if and when the registry becomes the new pink.  Endorsement means the feds are picking winners and losers.  go-open-oer-used
  2. THE #GoOPEN INITIATIVE – the name of the federal campaign serving the learning registry.  For it, the federal Dept. of Ed is proposing a regulation to make it impossible to receive federal funds for any curriculum building that doesn’t fit in with the registry and #GoOpen.  Local ideas for public education will not be funded if not in line with the registry and the campaign to #GoOpen.  (Utah is one of the main guinea pigging states in #GoOpen. Not proud of that claim to fame.)godi-800
  3. TRANSFER OF THE INTERNET FROM THE U.S. TO THE GLOBALISTS – Sept. 30, 2016 is Obama’s date to make that reality. Have you read the letter from a tiny handful of Republican legislators that exposes the huge mistake this transfer will be for liberty?   The internet is now used by the whole world, but it is an American national treasure, and its key operating functions were funded by U.S. taxpayers.  Why give authority over the Internet away?  The letter points out that transferring power over the Internet away from the U.S. will “greatly endanger Internet freedom” (look at how countries like China and Iraq censor the writings of their citizens online.) It points out that it will “significantly increase the power of foreign governments over the internet.”  It also points out that U.S. taxpayers funded the key operating functions of the internet.  The supreme law of our land, that upholds freedom from censorship and freedom of religion, can not exist in the soon to be globally-governed internet future.  What will happen to the ways in which we learn, if the Internet is to be controlled by countries who do not prize free thought?


Recurring Nightmare – Action Needed- Sign Federal Public Comment Form by Sept 9   9 comments

rttt 2


Like a recurring nightmare, Race to the Top 2.0 is here.

Race to the Top #1 is an ugly story from 2009 that some Americans might not know.  Picture the Federal Department of Money riding in a buggy, driven by the Secretary of Education.  There are 50 horses (taxpaying states) pulling his load, and 5o sticks (RTTT grants and data systems) with 5o carrots (RTTT monies) dangling in front of each horse.  Carved into each carrot is the word “Race to the Top” to make the horses feel noble, and not embarrassed about so lustily chasing the cashcarrots, because the horses can then say that they only chased the cashcarrots to improve education.

But it was never, ever about improving education.  It was about implementing a labeling system for individuals, lifelong (with State-federal-corporate data tags) and it was about  controlling education from the top.   Regardless of what we are now calling Common Core (“Challenging State Academic Standards” is ESSA’s latest name) –it was the common data tags and systems that  married corporate greed to the federal power agenda by labeling individuals, tests and digital curricula uniformly, and nationwide (CEDS).

Race to the Top 1.0 dangled huge money lures in front of state education departments.  If the state boards of education took the bait, they might or might not ever see the cash, but the buggy drivers (feds) had successfully lured all the states into driving in the direction they wanted them to drive– and they only had to give out the money to a few “winners”.  (Utah was not a RTTT grant winner).

Where did they drive the states? In the direction of big “Fed Ed” –by signing on to Common Core standards, Common Educational Data Standards, State Longitudinal Database Systems, aligned tests and more.)

Now, United States Parents Involved in Education (USPIE) reports, we have to stop Race to the Top 2.0.

It isn’t called 2.0 by the feds, but instead is called the ridiculous title of:  The Elementary and Secondary Education Act as Amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority.  

What a name.  The anachronym would be TEASEAAABTESSAIADA.

Just call it  2.0.

It’s like the first Race to the Top  in its federal bribery, coercion, and control grabbing from states.

  • Like Race to the Top 1.0, it increases data mining of children without parental consent. 2.0 requires federal study of children’s data by peer reviewers including psychometricians and requires states to “collaborate” with federal data mining agents at the Institute of Educational Sciences.
  •  Like 1.0, it pushes federally aligned tests, but this time, states are encouraged to get away from parent-opt-out-able standardized tests by using other systems:  “an array of innovative assessments” which will likely mean stealth/gaming assessment.
  • Like 1.0, cements Common Core Standards but under the new name of “challenging State academic standards,” which are, of course, still aligned to the federal-corporate common data tags.
  • Like 1.0, it cements the use of student tracking and labeling via common data tags (CEDS).
  • And, as if federally aligned education was not “Big Brother” enough, it also promotes globally aligned education and data standards  and asks states to continue to use the  “Universal Design for Learning.


In USPIE’s recent blog post, we read more about these federally proposed regulations which must be commented upon LOUDLY AND FIRMLY by citizens, teachers, and legislators.   The deadline is September 9th for comment and that commenting link is here:


Before you comment, you could read this summary –provided by USPIE parents:  (footnotes documentation also below.)

“The following are specific areas in which the proposed regulations are egregious in their attempts to impose a common, Federal education system, stripping parents and SEAs of what little local control of education remains, and in many ways contradicts and undermines the law in which they are intended to provide guidance.

PROPOSED 200.76:

  • Clarifies that any innovative assessment design can be used as long as it meets the Department’s requirements and is aligned to the State’s “challenging academic standards.”

NOTE: In other words, only assessment designs aligned to Common Core and approved by the Department can be used. This is contrary to the meaning of “innovation,” and flies in the face of ESSA prohibitions.

  • Gives States “flexibility” by allowing them to choose computer-adaptive statewide tests, so long as they align to “challenging State academic standards,” and are approved by the Department.

NOTE: This gives the illusion of flexibility while still ensuring States’ assessment systems align to the Common Core State Standards. Furthermore, since 2013 countless computerized testing malfunctions have been recorded leaving invalid results and wasted classroom time.1

  • Requires applications to be peer reviewed to help the Secretary of Education determine whether an applicant will be able to successfully meet the requirements. The peer review panels will include “psychometricians” (psychometrics is the modeling of test taker responses (behavior) in response to items (situations),2“measurement experts,” and “researchers.”

NOTE: These peer review panel members will collect data on children’s behaviors while testing, which is well beyond the scope of assessing a child’s knowledge…

  • Requires applications to include a description of how a State’s innovative assessment demonstration will align to” challenging State academic standards.” NOTE: The Department is requiring States to align to the subpar Common Core State Standards in order to receive funding. Parents are not fooled by the rebranding.


PROPOSED 200.77:

  • Requires a State Educational Agency to prove it has collaborated with “experts” including the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the lead Federal agency in charge of data collection, and in the planning, development, implementation, and evaluation of innovative assessments.

NOTE: The entire mission of IES is to collect data on America’s school children and share it.3

  • Requires State Educational Agencies (SEAs) or consortia to ensure assessments are “accessible for all students including children with disabilities and English learners. An SEA may also incorporate the principles of Universal Design for Learning in developing its innovative assessments.”4

NOTE: Universal Design for Learning uses computerized assessment programs to track a child’s brain function.5


PROPOSED 200.78:

  • Is aligned with the principles of President Obama’s Testing Action Plan, as is much of the proposed regulations. The criterion of the President’s plan will help SEAs or consortiums to develop “an array of innovative assessments so that we may learn from a variety of models rather than establish a preference for one particular approach.”6

NOTE: Obama’s Testing Action Plan states that there are “other means” of measuring a student’s performance alongside assessments such as school assignments, portfolios, student surveys, school climate, etc. This will certainly encourage more surveys given in schools and lead to more data mining.7

  • Clarifies the selection criteria the Secretary will use to evaluate an application and permit the Secretary to provide Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority to an SEA or consortia of SEAs.

NOTE: Under ESSA, the federal government is prohibited from funding the development of assessments. 8

  • Requires SEAs to ensure that each Local Education Agency (LEA) has the technological infrastructure to implement the [aligned] testing system.

NOTE: This requirement will incentivize increased State spending in order to compete to receive Federal funds.  Very few states have the necessary technology9 to support the federally designed testing system, and ESSA prohibits the Federal Government from mandating “… a State or any subdivision thereof to spend any funds or incur any costs not paid for under this Act.”10

  • Requires an SEA or each SEA in the consortium to annually report to the Secretary updates on the implementation of the innovative assessments. Definitions of innovative assessments may include: “cumulative year-end assessments, competency-based assessments, instructionally embedded assessments, interim assessments, or performance and technology-based assessments.”

NOTE: These types of assessments are based on the mastery/competency/performance based education model or blended learning where children will be assessed and data mined all day long electronically and through projects.11  The federal government is incentivizing states to implement computer adaptive, nationally-aligned assessments and education models through a pilot grant. This is all prohibited in ESSA.12

  • Requires States, for selection purposes, to include continuous improvement process assurances for “developing or improving balanced assessment systems that include summative, interim, and formative assessments, including supporting local educational agencies in developing or improving such assessments.”13

NOTE: Testing consortia providers such as the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium offer a complete assessment kit including formative (daily classroom testing tools through their digital library of computerized learning video games, etc.), interim, and summative assessments. As these new pervasive testing systems are incentivized by Federal funding, the potential of data mining will be expanded to all day long, every school day. As testing evolves into a daily activity embedded in the curriculum, the opt-out movement will die, and parents will lose more authority over their children’s education.


PROPOSED 200.79:

  • Requires States and consortia to annually measure the progress on the Academic Achievement indicator of at least 95% of all students.

NOTE: Under ESSA, States are still obligated to the 95% participation rate of the burdensome NCLB, but with even more restrictions as opt-outs are added into the rate and with punitive actions taken against schools with low participation rates.14

  • States an SEA may use their innovative assessment system for purposes of academic assessments and statewide accountability only after the Secretary determines whether an SEA’s innovative assessment system is of high quality.

NOTE: “No State shall be required to have academic standards approved or certified by the Federal Government in order to receive assistance under this Act” (ESSA).15


Works Cited

1   Computerized Testing Problems- Chronology:


2 Improving Assessment: The Intersection of Psychology and Psychometrics:

(P. 4) http://www.ets.org/Media/Research/pdf/RM-08-15.pdf

3 Institute of Education Sciences, Connecting Research, Policy and Practice:


4 Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority; Proposed Rule: P. 44962

5 National Center on Universal Design for Learning, The Three Principles of UDL:


6 Innovative Assessment Demonstration Authority; Proposed Rule: P. 44967

7 U.S. Department of Education- October 24, 2015, Fact Sheet: Testing Action Plan:  http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/fact-sheet-testing-action-plan

8 ESSA SEC. 8549A (a)(1); p. 865

9 “Are schools “tech-ready” for the Common Core Standards?”http://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/technology-ready-for-the-common-core-tests/

10 ESSA SEC. 8549A (a)(1); p. 865

11 ESSA SEC. 1201 (2)(L); p. 209   

12 ESSA SEC. 8549A (a) and (b); pp. 865-866

13 ESSA SEC. 1201 (2)(F); p. 207

14 ESSA SEC. 1111 (4)(E); pp.87-88

15 ESSA SEC. 8527 (d)(1); p. 845-846

Thanks to USPIE parents !


Local School Board Member Asks Parents to Take Action on Federal ESSA   1 comment

Wendy Hart, a star board member of my local district, Alpine School District, is so dedicated to transparency that she keeps a blog about her work.  I have permission to repost her important (latest) blog post  here.  Please read it, act, and share.

(Side note:  The Alpine School District Board is philosophically divided when it comes to a vote, with half of the board voting for local control and the other half voting for federally originated agendas.  This November, when local control voter and board member Brian Halladay steps down, voters will either replace him with local control supporter Rachel Thacker, or with federal agenda supporter Mark Clement.  I support Rachel Thacker.   Until November, we have these three who consistently vote in harmony with my own conscience:  Wendy Hart, Brian Halladay, and Paula Hill.)

Feds and Bonds


Guest Post by Wendy Hart

The ESSA public comment period has a deadline of Monday, Aug. 1, 2016.
In December, 2015, Congress passed the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), nicknamed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  At the time, I said I was opposed to it, due to the 1 step forward, 2 steps backward attempt at ‘removing’ federal control in education.  I still believe ESSA to be a net negative (Yes, as bad or worse than NCLB).  However, those members of Congress who voted for it, generally, see the regulations that the US Dept of Ed have put out on ESSA to be an egregious overreach of the law, itself.  (Find the Regulations here:http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/essa/index.html?src=essa-resources)

The biggest area of concern (and there are many) is the recommendation that schools with high opt-out rates of  Common Core testing be penalized.  See this article: http://longisland.news12.com/news/us-education-secretary-john-b-king-penalize-schools-with-high-rates-of-common-core-opt-outs-1.12031057

In June, I attended a training session on ESSA presented by the National School Boards Association (aptly titled: A New Federalism).  The presenter, an attorney, recommended that we work with our legislators to remove the ability of parents to opt their kids out of state testing.  The consequence, she said, would be to jeopardize our federal funding under ESSA.  So, the one avenue parents have to protest and to protect their students is under attack by the ‘new’ supposedly kinder, gentler, less-federal-encroachment law.  Additionally, I asked how they would be able to do this when some states, like Utah, for example, have opting out codified in state law, the state law predates ESSA, and under the 10th Amendment, the states would have jurisdiction in this area that the feds clearly do not.  Her response, paraphrasing, “Since the monies in ESSA are ‘voluntary’, you will not be able to get someone to challenge it on 10th Amendment grounds.”  In short, by taking the federal monies from ESSA, we are subverting state (and natural) law–voluntarily.

Also, the ESSA includes the ‘Family Fixing Policy’ as it is described by education blogger Peter Greene.  I wrote about this at the end of last year:

http://wendy4asd.blogspot.com/2015/12/jan-4-2016-deadline-to-support-family.html  Nothing we want taking place in our state.  The concern is that if the Feds have the ability to (which it appears they do) to force states to do what they want, then the State Board will have no options (other than rejecting federal funding) in creating their ‘Family Engagement Plan’.  It will have to come very close to what the US Dept of Ed has proposed.

Incidentally, the NSBA presenter mentioned that the regulations overseeing how Special Education students are dealt with under ESSA were, to put it bluntly, a nightmare.  She said they were not out for public comment yet, but they were on the US Dept of Ed website.  I haven’t found them yet, but if you do, please let me know.

Take Action on ESSA:
1. An organization, US PIE (US Parents Involved in Education) has as its goal the elimination of the US Department of Ed.  It has drafted a letter to send to Congress.  You may add your name by emailing afew@uspie.org and asking to be added to the letter.  Include your name and title and state.
2. Comment on the US Dept of Ed regulations BY AUGUST 1 (MONDAY)!  https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=ED-2016-OESE-0032-0001
3. Contact your members of Congress and make sure they know the Dept of Ed is over-stepping it’s bounds.
4. If you like twitter, use the hashtag #ReignInTheKing and #StopFedEd



Thanks for your support!



 Wendy Hart also blogged about parents needing to participate in the upcoming board meeting, where a new bond would be voted upon (whether or not to place that decision on the ballot for voters to determine this fall).  See that here, too.

Common Core’s National Curriculum Has Arrived: “Learning Registry,” OER, and #GoOpen Initiatives   Leave a comment

Jane Robbins and Jakell Sullivan co-authored this article at Townhall.com, which is reposted here with permission.  Please note the links to learn more.  


oer commons


In May 2014, conservative columnist George Will warned that Common Core represented the “thin edge of an enormous wedge” and that “sooner or later you inevitably have a national curriculum.”

Will’s concern is now closer to realization. One lever the U.S. Department of Education (USED) may use to hasten this outcome is the #GoOpen Initiative, through which USED will push onto the states Common Core-aligned online instructional materials. These materials are “openly licensed educational resources” (Open Educational Resources, or OER) – online resources that have no copyright and are free to all users. Utah is part of the initial consortium of states that will be collaborating in #GoOpen.



#GoOpen is part of a larger global and federal effort to institute OER in place of books and traditional education (in fact, USED appointed a new advisor to help school districts transition to OER). More disturbingly, another part of this scheme increases the federal government’s ability to monitor and track teacher and student use of these online resources – and perhaps even influence the content.

This outcome could result from a related, joint USED-Department of Defense initiative called the Learning Registry. The Registry is an “open-source infrastructure” that can be installed on any digital education portal (such as PBS) and that will facilitate the aggregation and sharing of all the linked resources on the Registry. The idea is to “tag” digital content by subject area and share on one site supposedly anonymous data collected from teacher users (content such as grade-level, recommended pedagogy, and user ratings). That way, Registry enthusiasts claim, teachers can find instructional content to fit their particular needs and see how it “rates.”

Putting aside the question whether USED should push states into a radical new type of instruction that presents multiple risks to students and their education (see here, here, and here), the Learning Registry threatens government control over curriculum. Here’s how.

USED has proposed a regulation requiring “all copyrightable intellectual property created with [USED] discretionary competitive grant funds to have an open license.” So, all online instructional materials created with federal dollars will have to be made available to the Registry, without copyright restrictions.

[Federal law prohibits USED from funding curricular materials in the first place, but this Administration’s violation of federal law has become routine.]

learning registry

The Registry will compile all user data and make “more sophisticated recommendations” about what materials teachers should use. So federal money will fund development of curricular materials that will be placed on a federally supported platform so that the feds can make “recommendations” about their use. The repeated intrusion of the word “federal” suggests, does it not, a danger of government monitoring and screening of these materials.

And speaking of “user data” that will fuel all this, the Registry promises user anonymity. But consider the example of Netflix movie ratings, in which two researchers were able to de-anonymize some of the raters based on extraordinarily sparse data points about them.

Despite Netflix’s intention to maintain user anonymity, its security scheme failed. How much worse would it be if the custodian of the system – in our case, USED – paid lip service to anonymity but in fact would like to know who these users are? Is Teacher A using the online materials that preach climate change, or does he prefer a platform that discusses both sides? Does Teacher B assign materials that explore LGBT issues, or does she avoid those in favor of more classical topics? Inquiring bureaucrats want to know.

In fact, in a 2011 presentation, USED’s bureaucrat in charge of the Registry, Steve Midgley, veered awfully close to admitting that user data may be less anonymous than advertised. Midgley said, “[Through the Registry] we can actually find out this teacher assigned this material; this teacher emailed this to someone else; this teacher dragged it onto a smart board for 18 minutes. . . .” [see video below].  The Registry will also use “the math that I don’t understand which [will] let me know something about who you are and then let me do some mathematical operations against a very large data set and see if I can pair you with the appropriate relevant resource.”

Sure, all this will supposedly be done anonymously. But teachers should hesitate to embrace something that could possibly reveal more about them than they bargained for.

USED would protest that this is all hypothetical, and that it would never abuse its power to influence teachers and control instructional content. But with this most ideological of all administrations, denials of ill intent ring hollow (remember Lois Lerner?). If the power is there, at some point it will be used. Never let an “enormous wedge” go to waste.




Thank you, Jakell Sullivan and Jane Robbins, for this eye-opening report.

%d bloggers like this: