Archive for the ‘Academic Standards’ Category

You Shall Not Pass: Utah Senator Mike Lee Isn’t Fooled by No Child Left Behind Reauthorization   Leave a comment

Legendary US Dept of Education whistleblower Charlotte Iserbyt  has  pointed out at her blog, ABCs of Dumbdown, that some members of Congress are deliberately concealing machinations of No Child Left Behind/ESEA  and are planning a rushed vote so that no time is allotted for public scrutiny nor for full Congressional analysis of the huge federal law.  She also points out that others, like Utah Senator Mike Lee, aren’t falling for the ruse.

In the official Congressional Record of two days ago, you can read the entire statement of Utah Senator Mike Lee, who said (see page S8032):

So from the surface it will still look like the conference process is happening, is unfolding in the manner in which it is supposed to, but beneath the surface we know that all of this has already been prearranged, precooked, predetermined by a select few Members of Congress working behind closed doors free from scrutiny, and we know this vote was scheduled on extremely short notice so it would be difficult, if not impossible, for the rest of us to influence the substance of the conference report through motions to instruct.”

Senator Lee also stated that the new ESEA/NCLB aims to spend $250 million on federal preschool, even though:

“Nowhere has the top-down, centrally planned model of public education failed more emphatically than in our nation’s public pre-K programs. The epitome of federal preschool programs is Headstart, which has consistently failed.”

Senator Lee noted that the bill must be stopped because it cements Common Core:

“The bill also doubles down on the discredited common core approach to elementary and secondary education the American people have roundly and consistently rejected. Parents and teachers across America are frustrated by the heavy-handed, overly prescriptive approach to education policy by Washington, D.C.   I have heard from countless moms and dads in Utah who feel as though anonymous government officials living and working 2,000 miles away have a greater say in the education of their own children than they do.”

Please call the US Capital in D.C. to ask your senators and representatives to VOTE NO on ESEA/NCLB reauthorization.  202-224-3121. 

For additional information and details on who is fighting with us and why we must stop the bill, click here.

From Big Think Tanks to Individual Thinkers: a “NO” to NGSS Common Science Standards   2 comments

poli science

What’s the big deal about Utah changing its science standards?  Doesn’t “new” equal “improved”?

I have three items to share on this subject that come from other people, which I add to what I wrote in yesterday’s letter to the USOE Auditing Department, and then I’ll spout my own thoughts at the end.

1) First, I’m sharing an open letter of fellow Utah mom, Rhonda Hair, to the State Board, protesting Utah’s move toward inept common national science standards;

2) Second, I’m sharing a link to a review of the “science” in these standards by top biology professor Stan Metzenberg, published by Pioneer Institute;

3) Third, I’m republishing Alpine District board member Wendy Hart’s video alerting the public to the error of Utah adopting NGSS (also known as Utah’s New Science Standards or Massachusetts’ “new” draft science standards.

(If you want still more, read Utah scientist Vince Newberger’s blog, Science Freedom; see the side by side comparison of NGSS to Utah’s “new” standards (they are as identical twins with one freckle different); watch the  video documentary to hear recorded promises of Utah legislators and board members who explained why Utah should/would never adopt federal/common science standards; read the furious report of parent Alisa Ellis who served on Utah’s parent review committee for these draft standards, read why Kansas parents for objective education sued their state school board for adopting these standards; watch the May 2015 public comment meeting in Salt Lake City about these standards, and read what Jakell Sullivan and I researched about NGSS many months ago.)

Then, contact the board: !




Dear Utah State School Superintendent Brad Smith, State Science Specialist Ricky Scott, and State School Board Members:

I filled out the survey and would like to let you know a few things.
First, I am frustrated with the survey: it reads like a scholarly paper and is inaccessible to so many parents who intuitively know what is good but are intimidated by its complexity and minutiae. As a consequence, only parents who have obtained high-level education are going to feel confident about filling out such a survey. Are they the only parents who matter? I’ve been told you keep hearing from professors that these standards are great. Of course they think that. Your survey and standards draft are aimed at people at that level, and they live in a fairly insulated world of theory and numbers, not regular, real-world jobs.
Last time you offered a survey to parents, it was of a similar nature. I attended the board meeting when the results were reported. My survey was not counted; though I did give feedback, it didn’t fit your data set structure. If I remember correctly, only about 70 surveys had been filled out the way demanded. That is because what you are asking about is not what the parents are concerned about. You are asking about the cabins and furniture on a ship that has been hijacked.

While I do object to some specifics in the standards, what is most crucial in my opinion is the overruling of parental control that the Utah Board and Office of Education have done, with the legislature’s blessing. I don’t need to spend considerable time reviewing the standards (though I did) to know you are on the wrong track. These things should be decided at the very local level, where parents and teachers can work together to address the needs, wants, talents, and values of the families and individuals. The state Constitution specifies the Board is to have “general control” of education, which means what can apply to everyone, not “detailed control”. Your predecessors overstepped the intended bounds.
Please help remedy the situation by dropping these standards, rejecting federal strings and intervention, dropping state educational core curriculum, and allow the resulting vacuum to be filled naturally by the districts, schools, and families.

Rhonda Hair
Parent of Utah public-ed students and homeschool students, B.S. in Elementary Education



Study Calls for Draft Science and Technology/Engineering Standards to Be Withdrawn

“Astonishing” gaps in science content too large to be resolved editorially

BOSTON – Massachusetts’ draft pre-K through introductory high school Science and Technology/Engineering standards contain such startling gaps in science that they should be withdrawn from consideration, according to a new Policy Brief published by Pioneer Institute.

“The proposed science standards have significant, unacceptable gaps in science content,” says Dr. Stan Metzenberg, a professor of biology at California State University and author of “A Critical Review of the Massachusetts Next Generation Science and Technology/Engineering Standards.” “For example, they are stunningly devoid of Mendelian genetics and large parts of cellular biology. This is an astonishing oversight for a state that has notable institutions of higher education and a thriving biotechnology industry.”

At the high school level, the draft standards almost completely exclude Mendelian genetics. These concepts are not easily absorbed before high school, and their exclusion means students won’t be exposed to ideas that revolutionized biology at the beginning of the 20th century.

Their exclusion also makes it impossible to understand modern evolutionary theory and for students to grasp their own risk of carrying inherited disease. Massachusetts’ current science and technology/engineering curriculum frameworks include three Mendelian genetics standards.

The draft standards also exclude large parts of cellular biology, failing to teach high school students about the nucleus, mitochondria or chloroplasts.

Massachusetts currently has a curriculum framework for each of the body’s seven major systems (digestive, circulatory/excretory, respiratory, nervous, muscular/skeletal, reproductive and endocrine). But the draft would include these systems in a single composite standard, reducing students’ understanding and lessening their ability to talk to and understand their own physician and make healthy choices.

The draft standards never mention the name “Charles Darwin” and don’t adequately develop the basis for concepts of natural selection, making it exceedingly difficult to address Darwin’s theory of evolution in later grades.

Finally, the way the draft standards are written is overly complex, using sometimes ambiguous or grammatically incorrect language that fails to clearly communicate what students should know and be able to do. This ambiguity causes difficulty in the later grades.

About the Author

Dr. Stan Metzenberg is Professor of Biology at California State University, Northridge. He has 20 years’ experience teaching biological science at the university level. He was a senior science consultant for the Academic Standards Commission in California (1998) and a state Board of Education appointee to the California Science Project (1999-2003), the California Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission (2003- 2006) and a content review panelist for development of the California Standards Tests (1999-2010). He has recently assisted the ministries of education of Saudi Arabia (2010) and Qatar (2015) in training teacher leaders to use newly adopted science instructional materials.

About Pioneer

Pioneer Institute is an independent, non-partisan, privately funded research organization that seeks to improve the quality of life in Massachusetts through civic discourse and intellectually rigorous, data-driven public policy solutions based on free market principles, individual liberty and responsibility, and the ideal of effective, limited and accountable government.



3.   From Wendy Hart, board member of Alpine School Board, Utah’s largest public school district:



Thank you, Rhonda Hair, Professor Metzenberg, and Wendy Hart.


And now, a few closing thoughts of my own:


The entire nation of scientists do not agree on a common core of science.  Why should kids be forced to do so?  Science is a quest.  Academic freedom to question with a fully open mind, matters.  NGSS ends that for schools.  NGSS’s vision of truth, including political underpinnings of “green” science, is the only correct science.

While some members of the USOE have pretended that the anti-NGSS people (like me) are anti-science people who would  force God and intelligent design  on all students, and that we would have public schools teaching nothing but the Old Testament as science school, that is not true.   It is the pro-NGSS people who want to limit truth.  They want the one-sided, politically charged version of science, slanted toward controversial “facts” being accepted by students as unquestionable scientific standards of truth; they want kids to believe that global warming and climate change is a fact, for example– even though in the real world of real scientists, that is a hotly debated and far from settled scientific issue.  They want kids to believe that Darwinian evolution is flawlessly true.  But that’s not what real scientists agree upon.  Academic freedom demands the continuation of these huge questions in the classroom.  That won’t happen with NGSS and the associated tests and curriculum defining scientific truth from a slanted perspective.


Beyond academic holes such as missing Mendelian genetics and missing math in NGSS, beyond the blind acceptance of Darwin and an overabundance of green-slanted “science” –there is an even bigger issue.  In adopting NGSS, we are losing the freedom to set our own standards in the future because NGSS alignment stifles and shackles us with common, aligned tests and common educational data standards that tag our students’ daily work.


It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of preserving the right and power of our local teachers, principals, parents, scientists, and board members to influence what is to be taught as truth under the banner of science.

Adopting NGSS, which are not being called NGSS standards by the USOE, but which are, in fact, NGSS standards, (see the side by side comparison of NGSS to Utah’s “new” standards )  is more than adopting academically debatable, “new” but not “improved” standards.

It’s a decision to shackle our students and teachers to a nationalized, common content that NGSS is promoting, and to shackle them to the testing and data mining of student attitudes about this politicized science.  This move makes it efficient and easy for centralized power-holders (NGSS, federal government, state government, CEDS-aligned researchers) who have no business doing so, to not only dictate what truth in science looks like, but what student “achievement” in science will be.  Why give them that power?

Note:   the official site for NGSS states: “To reap the benefits of the science standards, states should adopt them in whole, without alteration”.   That is what Utah is doing.  Compare for yourself.

Opting out of standardized testing will not get around these problems, by the way,  since “embedded assessment” (aka stealth testing) will make every student using technology in any form, a data-mining gold mine, daily.

Please, wake up, friends!

We are, right now, putting Utah on the conveyor belt of politically loaded, pre-packaged “true science” defined only by NGSS, with matching SAGE tests (or the upcoming, embedded tests) to monitor whether our kids are buying their version of “true science”.

This grave error comes with  long lasting consequences.  It will be as immovable as any long-lasting, formative decision.  Long ago, we decided to build I-15.  Theoretically, we can put it somewhere else now.  But that is not very likely when the traffic (as NGSS-aligned technologies, codes, curricula, tests, teacher professional development, textbook purchasing and more) begins to barrel down that imperious boulevard.


Big wigs have verbally crowned their crime against academic freedom with the glittering term “next-generation science.”  Some people fall for the term; it must be the next great thing with such a title; but NGSS buy-in is an  investment in long-term political and academic snake oil.  There is nothing modern and magical about this slippery snake oil  except the  very big marketing dollars behind it.

Inform your representatives and  board members that  you say “No” to NGSS.  (State board email:



Update:  11/13/15

Vince Newmeyer reported that:

“Board members have been told that the October draft is the existing standards updated with just the good stuff from the NGSS. To support their claim then produced a spreadsheet called the USEO standards crosswalk… I have taken their crosswalk and researched it further. The results are:

One new standard was written (6.3.4). Two standards originating from the current Utah Standards were added (7.2.4 & 8.1.2). Some existing NGSS standards went through a thesaurus translation but generally without change in character. Some NGSS standards remain word-for-word. Six standards were formed by combining two or more of the previous NGSS standards. Most of the previously duplicated standards were removed. Only one NGSS standard (MS-LS1-8) is not found. see also

USOE Admits that they Seek to generally adopt the National Next Generation Science Standard


USOE now admits in the materials distributed to the board members related to the October draft of the (UT SEEd) Standards October for their October 8-9, 2015 meeting that “Most SEEd standards remain based on the Next Generation Science Standards.” A similar statement is found in the foot notes of the introduction pages to each grade level of the standards released for the 30-day public review. ( ) As we have seen in this text that “most” means that essentially all of the NGSS standard concepts are found in the October draft of the “Utah SEEd” with little added.
More details are at my webpage under articles.”

–From Vince Newmeyer


Please Audit Utah State Office of Education’s Public Comment Survey   3 comments

After everything scientist and patriot Vince Newmeyer has written, after everything that people in other states have said and done (and sued about) concerning the INSANE  error of adopting national, common science standards; after all the parental uproar here in Utah, still, the USOE is still moving ahead with its bullheaded determination to strip Utah of any local control and align everything we do to federal standards. I am convinced that this is simply because of USOE’s passionate devotion to money –not to children, teachers or education– but to continued federal grant eligibilty.  There is no other logical explanation.
Today is the last day that you can make public comment on Utah’s move to “Utah Science Standards” –standards which are, in fact, national common standards also known as NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards.  See the official NGSS link here.
NGSS standards are beloved of the Obama administration (Obama launched a global warming education initiative recently).   NGSS are politicized and controversial, which Utah’s previous standards were not.  NGSS have been called the anti-science science standards because they minimize the scientific habit of actually questioning settled science, while maximizing “climate change” evangelism as presented by the left wing.
If Utah teachers and parents really wanted common NGSS standards, I would have to put a sock in my mouth and go away.  But the Utah Office of Education (USOE) has underhandedly presented these standards, refusing to admit that they are NGSS (by changing one word here or there) and by calling them “Utah Science Standards”.
The public comment site is RIDICULOUS.  I encourage you to go there tonight and spout off, but beware; they’ve made it hard.  They have almost made it impossible.
Click to make public comment here.  (Deadline today)
Hence my letter today, sent to the auditing department, asking them to sock it to USOE for their dishonesty and sellout of our schools and kids and real science.   Here’s the board’s email address if you feel so inclined to take a stand next to me on this issue.    
Dear Audit Department of USOE and State Board,
I am writing to ask you to audit the USOE’s public comment survey about the new NGSS/Utah Science standards.
These “standards” are being called “Utah Science Standards” but they are in reality the same as the NGSS, common national science standards.  This fact has been concealed by USOE in its presentations to the public, unfortunately, but it is true.
Today is the last day that the public is invited to comment.
I am certain that very, very few people have commented.    It severely restricts and frames comments.  The micromanaging nature of the survey, which is a narrow, opinion-managing effort, does not allow for true public comment on the entire scope, process, nature and academic quality of the proposed standards.
It limits commenters to specific strands of specific grades and even limits the space for commenting itself!  What if I was a science teacher who wanted to explain in scientific, pedagogic detail, why it’s so wrong to take out most of what we used to teach kids about electricity, for example?  That has happened.  But there’s no space for it on the survey.
But there is more.
  • Nowhere does the survey allow a member of the public to state opposition to the fact that these standards are IDENTICAL to the NGSS common, national standards.
  • Nowhere does the survey allow a member of the public to state opposition to the fact that these standards are exactly ALIGNED with federally-approved standardized testing.  (This is probably why USOE pushed these narrowed standards so hard; federal cash follows federally-aligned standards for embedded CEDS tags.)
  • Nowhere does the survey allow a member of the public to state opposition to narrowing the science survey to only 6th through 8th grades.
  • Nowhere does the survey allow a member of the public to state opposition to the politically slanted nature of a new, extreme interest in environmentalism, materialism, and “climate change”; the survey pretends that the science standards are only about science.
  • Nowhere does the survey allow space for true freedom of expression.
I could go on.
It feels as if this survey was deliberately written to constrain the public to NOT say what they may want to say; as if the survey-data-tally officers wanted to be able to throw out any comments that did brought up the controversies that the creators didn’t want to discuss.
This is certainly an auditing issue.
Millions of dollars will be spent by USOE and the school system to replace Utah’s previous science curricula.  Millions will go to “trainings” for teachers to alter our traditional, time-tested science pedagogy to make it match the new, NGSS, national-federal standards.
Money will be spent (wasted) not just in an excited, misguided grab for the latest and the best, but in a sickeningly politicized, even anti-God, materialism-belief-based, green-evangelized “science” that the USOE pretends is not NGSS.
The dishonest presentation of the 6th to 8th grade science standards to the public as if they were not NGSS is an issue for an audit.  Does honesty matter, or not?
The money that will be spent bases in part on this very survey, will be taken from taxpayers to put Utah on the federally aligned (unconstitutional) curriculum for politicized science, which is an issue for an audit.
For almost four years, many of us (including teachers, like me) have been carefully, sadly following the  activities of the USOE as it has, time and time again, sold out what’s best for Utah’s children, teachers, and future autonomy, for money.  For grant upon grant upon federal grant.
It is sickening.  NGSS alignment is more of the same.
Please audit this public comment survey and let’s insist that USOE be honest.  Have a public comment survey that actually invites full commentary on all aspects of this transformation of our schools.
Audit this survey, and strike it.  Have an honest look at NGSS and ask the public about  moving to national standards for science.
Ask the public to evaluate NGSS, and call it what it really is.  Audit whether it is even legitimate science.  It redefines the concept by dropping the classic scientific model of questioning, basing itself and its unquestionable “facts” on controversial issues with heavy political underpinnings, not on real, actual, open-minded science.
Christel Swasey

Stanley Kurtz: Drilling Through the Core   2 comments

I can’t wait to read Drilling Through the Core.

I’m sharing this brand new book before reading it myself, because I know these authors and I’ve read their work, making it a must-read for me.

You can check out the book’s review at:  The Corner (National Review) by Stanley Kurtz, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Buy the book  here.


 white Book cover isolated on plain background
Kurtz’ review of Drilling Through the Core says:    “It’s all here, from the most basic explanation of what Common Core is, to the history, the major arguments for and against, and so much more. The controversies over both the English and math standards are explained; the major players in the public battle are identified; the battle over Gates Foundation’s role is anatomized; the roles of the tests and the testing consortia are reviewed; concerns over data-mining and privacy are laid out; the dumbing-down effect on the college curriculum is explained; as is the role of the Obama administration and the teachers unions. I found the sections on “big data” particularly helpful. I confess that despite my considerable interest in Common Core, I hadn’t much followed the data-mining issue. Boy was that a mistake. It strikes me that the potential for abuse of personal data is substantially greater in the case of Common Core than in the matter of national security surveillance. With Common Core we are talking about databases capable of tracking every American individual from kindergarten through adulthood, and tremendous potential for the sharing of data with not only government but private groups…
    Read more at:



Fake Research Used to Remove Authority From States Over Special Education Testing and Curriculum   5 comments




The US Department of Education created a “Final Rule” under the new No Child Left Behind to take away constitutional local control; this time, control of special education tests and standards.  It said:


The Secretary amends the regulations governing title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended (ESEA) (the “Title I regulations”), to no longer authorize a State to define modified academic achievement standards and develop alternate assessments based on those modified academic achievement standards…

Dr. Gary Thompson, a Doctor of Clinical Psychology who has exposed the non-validity of the Common Core tests themselves, has now written an analysis of the federal “Final Rule” entitled “Primum Non Nocere: First Do No Harm.”

(Please share “Primum Non Nocere,” or this introduction to it with legislators and school board members, and especially with US Congressmen who voted FOR the NCLB reauthorization –under the premise that it would not harm parental nor local control but was supposed to “reduce the federal footprintOrrin Hatch and virtually the entire US Congress bought that talking point.)

Dr. Thompson was furious that the Final Rule of NCLB, which takes effect September 15, 2015,  forces special education students to take the same tests and to use the same curriculum that all other students take, based on cited research studies of the U.S. Dept. of Education –studies that are ludicrously far from being valid.  (More on that, below.)  He was even more infuriated when he discovered that the research studies were unapplicable, or fake.

In a follow-up post to the “Primum Non Nocere” analysis, Dr. Thompson made all of this fake research much  easier to wrap our brains around with this analogy: Imagine that a parent takes a very sick child to the doctor’s office and the doctor prescribes eating “Froot Loops” three times each day while watching SouthPark episodes.  The doctor cites research to support this course of action, taken from the journal of gynecology, and expects the parent to comply.




Dr. Thompson finds this as ludicrious, and so he has put into more readable language what the US Department of ED decreed –and remember, this decree takes effect September 15, 2015:

1. All learning-disabled students can become grade level scholars with no differentiated learning– they just need great teaching and great supports.

2. The new testing (Common Core/SAGE) is valid for ALL students with ALL learning disabilities.

3. These new tests are so good that we don’t need alternative or modified tests.

4. The ONLY thing reading and math disabled students need, to become grade level scholars, are good teachers.

5. These new tests are so perfect that they were designed specifically to perfectly measure academic achievement in ALL learning-disabled children.

6. States and ground-level teachers have denied proper instruction for divergent-learning students; therefore, we no longer need individual states to make special tests, because now special education students will be saved by the new Common Core Standards.


In “Primum Non Nocere,” Dr. Thompson read through each of these USDOE decrees,  went to the cited research journal itself, and dug around.

He pointed out that in every case, the research was either directly paid for by the USDOE and its partners, or it did not qualify as research because it had never been peer reviewed, or it tested one age or ability grouping of children but applied the findings to a different age or ability grouping;  or the decree/claim was not even linked to any research study whatsoever.

Below are just three sample highlights from Dr. Thompson’s “Primum Non Nocere” that stood out as I read the 44-page analysis.

I hope this seems important enough to study more closely and to share with your senators and representatives; Dr. Thompson is calling for a Congressional hearing on this, the US Department of Education’s obviously false use of research, which it used to fraudulently justify taking away local authority over our special education children.

I hope that our nation is not so numb to morality that we no longer care to prosecute deceit and fraud– especially even when it concerns innocent, disabled children.



THREE HIGHLIGHTS from Primum Non Nocere:


US Department of Education Fraudulent Conclusion – Number One:

To support the Department’s decree, that special education students don’t need special education, it cited a 2010 research journal article: “Do Special Education Interventions Improve Learning of Secondary Content? A MetaAnalysis.”  Dr. Thompson went to that research journal.

Guess what he found there?

  • That research didn’t include kindergarteners through fifth graders–  no elementary school aged children were studied!  Most of the students were in eighth grade.  –Yet the Department is applying their conclusion to all students.
  • The “study” was paid for by the US Department of Education.
  • Math and reading weren’t included.  The studies used science, social studies, and English; and, only 10% of those studies actually reported on English at all.  –Yet the Department includes math and reading in its approved Common tests, to be applied to all, now including special education students.
  • Most of the students included in the meta-analysis were of average I.Q.  Yet the Department is applying their conclusion to special education.
  • Virtually none of the students were behaviorally or emotionally disturbed (only 4%)  Yet the Department is applying their conclusion to special education students who are behaviorally or emotionally disturbed.
  • It was not an original research study.  It was a holistic, literary study of other studies.
  • Demographics were lacking, so nobody knows how these studies impact children who come from groups who historically test very poorly.


US Department of Education Fraudulent Conclusion – Number Two:

To support the Department of Education’s decree that special education students will benefit from taking Common Core/SAGE tests,  it claimed that “new assessments have been designed to facilitate the valid, reliable, and fair assessment of most students, including students with disabilities who previously took an alternate assessment”.

Guess what Dr. Thompson found?

  • There was no research study cited.
  • There was no evidence given.
  • The claim that these new tests have been designed to be fair and valid and reliable for special education students, is utterly baseless.
  • Not one of the Common Core testing consortia, funded by grants from the U.S. Department of Education the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (such as SBAC, PARCC, and AIR which designs Utah’s SAGE test) have published independently reviewed validity data on special education students (or any students for that matter).



US Department of Education Fraudulent Conclusion – Number Three:

To support the Department’s decree that “alternate assessments based on modified academic achievement standards are no longer needed,” the Department cited a  study that (surprise) was also paid for by the US Department of Education– in partnership with the CCSSO, the group that co-created Common Core.  This study was never peer-reviewed, and thus qualifies as propaganda rather than real scientific research.



Other studies, that were also used as references by the USDOE, openly urgedcaution in interpretation of our findings given the small number of participants,” and warned: “no instructional method, even those validated using randomized control studies, works for all students” — serious cautions that the USDOE clearly did not heed.

Dr. Thompson has called for a congressional hearing:

If the U.S. Department of Education’s force feeding of “Fruit Loops”to our public school children (especially with our vulnerable divergent learning and minority children & teens, all justified via the use of “gynecology” research,) does not justify an immediate Congressional Hearing, I honestly don’t know what the hell else would justify that action.   My four, soon to be five children, are more important, and deserve more attention, than Benghazi, or Hillary Clinton’s alleged misuse of government email servers.






I urge you to read all of the findings of USDOE fraudulent use of citations, as discovered in “rimum Non Nocere“.  These were only three highlights of many sobering points.


Primum Non Nocere: Dr. Gary Thompson on USDOE Final Rule for Special Education   3 comments


Primum Non Nocere:  First Do No Harm

An Ethical & Psychology-Based Analysis of the U.S. Department of

Education’s Change in Common Core Testing Policies for Divergent Learning

Children in Public Schools

by Dr. Gary Thompson

Early Life Child Psychology and Education Center

10757 S. Riverfront Pkwy. #275 South Jordan, Utah 84095

Phone: 385-900-4020





Primum non nocere in Latin means “first, do no harm.” One of the elemental precepts of ethics, taught across disciplines and throughout the world, this ancient principle holds that given an existing problem, it may be better not to do something, or to do nothing, than to risk causing more harm than good. It reminds the doctor, the psychologist and the educator that he or she must consider possible damage that any intervention might do and to invoke Primum non nocere when considering use of any intervention that carries a less- than-certain chance of benefit.

As objective, local clinical community scientists, we at Early Life Child Psychology and Education Center have had no previous interest or involvement in education public policy or in politics.   Our involvement now stems from observations as professionals, is founded on ethics, and must increase as we see that as a consequence of changes in education policy, many children’s lives are being fractured.

We are not a special interest group: within the walls of our Education Psychology Clinic are professionals from diverse cultural, political, ethnic and religious backgrounds, united under one cause: the ethical and safe practice of administering psychological assessment, therapy, and educational interventions to “divergent learning” children who reside in our respective communities in Southern California, and Salt Lake City, Utah. We are African Americans, Caucasians, Latinos, Asians, progressives, tea party activists, socialists, LGBT, traditionally married and single parents, agnostics and conservative Christians.

The harmony we share as a diverse group of clinicians-educators, dedicated to serving the needs of children, has not been duplicated by the diverse group of political and corporate public policy makers who have been entrusted with decision-making power. We here note: that agenda-laden political and corporate partnerships, entrusted with power, have made life-altering decisions regarding education policies for children in public schools, placing their interests above the direct needs of children, resulting in ground-level chaos we have heretofore never seen.

This paper is written not only because of our professional observations of increased numbers of suffering public school children whom our clinic serves; it is also written in response to recent public policy changes, initiated by U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan under the 2015 reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, regarding assessment practices and states’ loss of authority over the education of our nation’s “special education” children. Those new policies and the cited research, upon which they claim to be based, are herein examined.

Under the light and concept of ethics, using ethical application of peer-reviewed science toward the subject matter of testing and mental health, this paper examines the influence of each on education policies. It will be clear to objective readers that Secretary Duncan’s policies do not share the ethical professionals’ commitment to the standards set by the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Code of Ethics. The US Department of Education’s interpretation of cited “studies” used to justify policy changes have been dangerously manipulated and are utilized to achieve political goals at the expense of millions of public school children.

We strongly encourage politicians, policy makers, and state education leaders to examine education policies under the light and scope of ethics, as opposed to catering to the requests of corporate and political special interests. Failure to do so will result in harm to our nation’s vulnerable divergent learning children, including African American, Latino, autistic, dyslexic, gifted, mentally ill, poverty-stricken, and “learning disabled” children.

Parents, not governments, are and must always be the resident experts of their own children. May readers be endowed with discernment and wisdom as they ponder the effects of policy in the service of children.




Wendy Hart & Brian Halladay:

Alpine District school board members whose intellect and courage, in the face of much ridicule and derision, have been an inspiration to thousands of parents nationwide.

Colorado public school teacher Peggy Robertson:

Ms. Robertson’s courageous stance against high stakes, experimental achievement testing on behalf of poverty stricken African American and Latino youth in America, set the tone nationwide for public school teachers to find their voices.

2016 Utah Gubernatorial Candidate Jonathan Johnson & Staff:

For challenging the current incumbent so that ground level parents and teachers can best meet the needs of students, as opposed to serving corporate and political interests.

Parents, educators and advocates in the States of New York & Florida:  Positive proof that opposition to increased high stakes testing  is a culturally and politically diverse endeavor.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist Dr. Francis Thompson:

Her creative and ethical service to children in our community, as well as her own large contingent of children/teens in her own home, has been inspirational.


Media Inquiries:

Please direct all inquiries for media requests, interviews, or commentary to Mr. Brook Wardle, Chief Operations Officer/Spokesperson for Early Life Psychology, via email ONLY:



Guide to Content:

Eight direct statements were examined from the U.S. Department of Education’s August 2015 Rule titled: “Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged: Assistance to States for the Education of Children With Disabilities.”

Every factual statement written by the USDOE that was referenced and cited to peer reviewed research as support for the policy changes was examined separately under the heading of “USDOE STATEMENT OF FACT #     .”

All eight “USDOE STATEMENT OF FACTS” were directly copied and pasted from the “Rule” to this review document. The statement of fact will be quickly and concisely reviewed and evaluated under the following subheadings:


  1. Research cited to support USDOE’s factual statement: A direct citation of the research cited by USOE is provided.
  2. Scope & Limitations of USDOE Cited Research: The size and conceptual scope of the research, and cautionary limitations of the cited research, often quoted directly by authors.
  3. Summary & Conclusion:  A straightforward, brief summary analysis to determine if the research cited by the U.S.D.O.E. was relevant and supporting of the factual statement.
  4. Prior to presenting the Department of Education’s eight “statements of facts”, we have copied and pasted the Department’s “Summary” and “Background” sections of the Rule for your brief review. That full 8-page ruling can be found at this link
  5. This review will close with a concluding message to all stakeholders in public school education, and a reference to several applicable American Psychological Association (APA) statements of ethics.





“Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged; Assistance to States for the Education of Children With Disabilities”


Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services


Final regulations.


The Secretary amends the regulations governing title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended (ESEA) (the “Title I regulations”), to no longer authorize a State to define modified academic achievement standards and develop alternate assessments based on those modified academic achievement standards for eligible students with disabilities.

In order to make conforming changes to ensure coordinated administration of programs under title I of the ESEA and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Secretary is also amending the regulations for Part B of the IDEA.


These regulations are effective September 21, 2015.


In 2007, the Department amended the Title I regulations to permit States to define modified academic achievement standards for eligible students with disabilities and to assess those students with alternate assessments based on those modified academic achievement standards. The Department promulgated those regulations based on the understanding that (1) there was a small group of students whose disabilities precluded them from achieving grade-level proficiency and whose progress was such that they would not reach grade-level achievement standards in the same time frame as other students, and (2) the regular State assessment would be too difficult for this group of students and the assessment based on alternate academic achievement standards would be too easy for them. 72 FR 17748 (Apr. 9, 2007). In addition, at that time, the Department acknowledged that measuring the academic achievement of students with disabilities, particularly those eligible to be assessed based on modified academic standards was an area “in which there is much to learn and improve” and indicated that “[a]s data and research on assessments for students with disabilities improve, the Department may decide to issue additional regulations or guidance.” 72 FR 17748, 17763 (Apr. 9, 2007).




  1. States may no longer define modified achievement standards for the vast majority of divergent learning students in public schools.


  1. States may no longer develop alternative assessments based on modified achievement standards (with the exception of a small percentage of children ill- defined and labeled “severely cognitively impaired”).


  1. Prior April 2007 modifications allowed such action under the premise that students with disabilities would not reach grade level achievement standards in the same time frame as other students.


  1. Prior April 2007 modifications allowed testing modifications under the premise that students with disabilities would find the regular State Assessments too difficult.
  2. Prior April 2007 modifications stated that “as addition data and research was obtained in the future on tests for students with disabilities, the Department “may decide to issue additional regulations for guidance”. (72 FR 17748, 17763 (Apr. 9, 2007).



The Department of Education now requires that states can no longer modify academic standards for students with disabilities (with the noted “exception” of the most cognitively impaired special education students), nor can states develop alternative assessments for those modified assessments.he Department of Education justified these new rule modifications from the prior 2007 rules based on new research that it claims supports the idea that all students with disabilities can perform on the same grade level as traditional students, and that students with disabilities can be tested fairly on the same test used by traditional students.   An examination of the claims of the USDOE, and its research, which the Department says supports these claims, are outlined in the next section.




Since these regulations went into effect, additional research has demonstrated that students with disabilities who struggle in reading and mathematics can successfully learn grade-level content and make significant academic progress when appropriate instruction, services, and supports are provided.”

Research Cited To Support the USDOE’s Factual Finding #1:


Scruggs, T., Mastropieri, M., Berkeley, S., & Graetz, J. (2010). Do Special Education Interventions Improve Learning of Secondary Content? A Meta- Analysis. Remedial and Special Education, 31(6), 437-449.


Scope & Limitations of USDOE Cited Research:



  1. Meta Analysis of existing research; not an original research study:

(“To address these issues, we conducted a comprehensive literature search and synthesis”) P.437

  1. Criterion for inclusion in this study did not include elementary students from Kindergarten to grade 5:

(“Included in this meta-analysis were original content area intervention studies that included data on secondary aged students with disabilities for which standardized mean difference effect sizes could be computed. Students were considered secondary if they were identified as attending classes in middle schools, junior high schools, or high schools.”) (P. 438).

  1. Content areas examined for this study were limited to only science, social studies, and English. Math and reading were not included in this meta-analysis:

(“Content area interventions included content relevant to any area within science (e.g., chemistry, biology), social studies (e.g., history, geography), or English.). P.438


  1. The mean grade level of participants reviewed was 8th grade:


(“Of the 67 studies (95.7%) that provided grade-level information, students were enrolled at a mean grade level of 8.3 (SD = 1.5). p. 439


  1. The mean I.Q. level of reported participants was “Average”:

(The 42 (60.0%) studies that included IQ information reported a mean sample

IQ of 91.2 (SD = 7.2).) P.439


  1. Only 4.3% of the students examined in the Meta analysis were categorized as emotionally/behaviorally disturbed:


“(Including students with emotional/behavioral dis- abilities (4.3%).). P. 439


7.). Only 50% of the studies examined reported data on race/ethnicity. The studies that reported data on race and ethnicity were not sufficient in number to warrant substantive conclusions:


(“These proportions overrepresented Caucasian students (61.7%) and underrepresented African American (20.5%), Hispanic (14.6%), and Asian/Pacific Islander (1.9%) students (USDOE, 2005)”.). P. 440


  1. Only 10% of the studies examined reported subject matter data on English:


(“More studies were conducted in the area of science (40.0%), followed by social studies (34.3%), English(10.0%) ). P. 440


  1. Researcher’s state that “unfortunate” limitations of this study are the lack of demographic variables:


(“It was unfortunate to note that not all studies reported important demographic variables, such as gender and race/ ethnicity. Such information can provide information regarding whether research samples are representative of the students placed in special education today.) P. 445


  1. The study was paid for by the USDOE:


(“Research for this article was supported in part from grants from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, numbers H325D020020, H325D070008, and H324C020085.)


Summary & Conclusion:

This peer-reviewed study cited by the USDOE, as “evidence” that all special education students “struggling in reading and mathematics” can “successfully learn grade level content,” is a claim that is clearly not supported.   Specifically, the subject of math was not examined, no Kindergarten through Grade 5 students were part of this meta-analysis, and an extremely limited number of emotionally disabled, African American, Latino, or Pacific Islanders were examined.   The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Education.



In addition, nearly all States have developed new college- and career-ready standards and new assessments aligned with those standards. These new assessments have been designed to facilitate the valid, reliable, and fair assessment of most students, including students with disabilities who previously took an alternate assessment based on modified academic achievement standards.”


Research Cited To Support the USDOE’s Factual Finding #2:


Scope & Limitations of Cited Research:




Summary & Conclusion:


Not one of the Common Core testing consortia funded by grants from the U.S. Department of Education, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (SBAC, PARCC, AIR) who designed these new Common Core assessments, has published independently reviewed validity data on special education students (or any students for that matter).

“Validity”, simply put, is the process of providing empirical evidence that a designed test performs as it’s stated purpose.

In the absence of such documentation, it is reasonable to conclude that the USDOE of educations statement in this regard, has no basis in truth, and to change policies based on this assertion is a potentially dangerous and far-reaching violation of ethics in the fields of psychology and psychometrics.

1 The Florida Department of Education (FLDOE), under pressure from lawmakers and activists, paid $600,000.00 to a private psychometric research group, Alpine Testing, to perform a validity test on their high stakes, experimental Common Core achievement test. The non-peer reviewed results of their study were published September 1, 2015. The scope, depth, and subject matter of inquiry of the test review deviated radically from traditional psychological methods of scientific assessment validity inquiry. We elected to not provide legitimacy to FLDOE”s politically driven “validity” project by providing extensive commentary to a report that does not place the legitimate science of psychometric validity in a true and accurate light.



“Therefore, we believe that alternate assessments based on modified academic achievement standards are no longer needed and, with high-quality instruction and appropriate accommodations, students with disabilities who took an alternate assessment based on modified academic achievement standards will be able to demonstrate their knowledge and skills by participating in the new general assessments.

Research Cited To Support the USDOE’s Factual Finding #3:


Thurlow, M. L., Lazarus, S. S., & Bechard, S. (Eds.). (2013). Lessons learned in federally funded projects that can improve the instruction and assessment of low performing students with disabilities. (Note: This research was not peer reviewed, and was prepared by a “think tank” funded in full by the USDOE).


Scope & Limitations of Cited Research:


  1. Research was not peer reviewed, was funded by the USDOE and was written in collaboration with the USDOE-partnered education reform group, CCSSO.


  1. The compilation of multiple articles submitted by multiple State Offices of Education did not address specific special education populations.


  1. Every separate article placed in this document cited the need for further research, and mostly relied on “surveys” of education teachers as the source of their data.

Summary and Conclusions:

Not one sentence, or article submitted in this compilation of papers by various state education agencies, supported (or even mentioned) the USDOE’s premise that alternative assessments should be eliminated for any population of public school students.   In fact, multiple articles cited herein, suggested the need for further research on how to implement better alternative assessments for special education children in their respective states.


“The assessments being developed by States based on college- and career-ready standards, including those developed by PARCC and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, do not eliminate the authority or need for States to administer alternate assessments based on alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.”

Research Cited To Support the USDOE’s Factual Finding #4:


Scope & Limitations of Cited Research:


Summary & Conclusion:

The USDOE has not issued eligibility criteria of what constitutes a special education student having “significant cognitive disabilities.”   USDOE has stated within this document that these students will compromise approximately 10% of all disabled students in a given population.   This narrow and arbitrary definition excludes minority groups who have traditionally not performed well in high stakes testing arenas (e.g., African American, Latino students, etc.) and also takes away local States’ choices so that they cannot create and implement alternative assessments for children with dyslexia, severe emotional disturbances and disabilities, and children who have been diagnosed as being along the autistic spectrum.

To date, no peer reviewed publication in the world has opined that the education or clinical psychology community has ever designed a high stakes achievement test that has achieved a high level of validity for the aforementioned groups of children and teens in public school systems.   USDOE is thus dictating the use, application, and interpretation of a test not validated for these specific purposes or interpretations.


“Research demonstrates that low-achieving students with disabilities who struggle in reading [6] and low-achieving students with disabilities who struggle in mathematics [7] can successfully learn grade-level content when they have access to high-quality instruction.”


Research Cited To Support the USDOE’s Factual Finding #5 (Reading):

Allor, J. H., Mathes, P. G., Roberts, J. K., Cheatham, J.P., & Champlin, T. M. (2010). Comprehensive reading instruction for students with intellectual disabilities. Psychology in the Schools, 47, 445- 466

Scope & Limitations of Cited Research:

  1. Extremely small sample size of study participants. Only three students were used: (“Three students were selected based on teacher recommendation and difficulty in transferring skills on progress monitoring measures. The participants were Jus- tin, Grace, and Kristen. Justin was an 8-year-old Hispanic male with an IQ of 52. Grace was a 10-year-old Hispanic female with an IQ of 59. Kristen was a 12-year-old African American female with an IQ of 45.”) P.348

(“Clearly, we urge caution in interpretation of our findings given the small number of participants.”) P.354

  1. No independent investigation was taken to verify the accuracy and efficacy of the I.Q. scores of the participants located in their school records files. Regardless, by all indication, all three participant’s scores indicate “mental retardation” on a severe level.
  2. The psychometric instrument to measure “reading” performance in this study was the DIBELS. No validity measures were provided for this instrument. No commonly used measures of reading that have decades of peer reviewed validity studies attributed to them were utilized for this study:

(“Progress monitoring scores, specifically Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS; Good & Kaminski, 2002), phoneme segmentation fluency (PSF), nonsense word fluency (NWF), and first-grade ORF subtests were used to identify students who showed limited growth despite some progress during the daily instructional sessions.”). P. 349


  1. The study does not conclude that the end result of the interventions provided, resulted in these children learning how to read. (“In summary, these preliminary results provide promising evidence that even students who initially do not respond to systematic instruction can learn to improve their ability to sound out and unitize words.”) P. 355
  2. The study did not, on any level, conclude (or even examine) whether the three participants were ever able to read at grade level.
  3. Study funded by the “Institute of Education Science,” an arm of the USDOE.


Summary & Conclusion:

Given the small sample size, as well as the other serious limitations in this study provided above, an attempt by the USDOE to utilize such psychometrically weak and/or non existent evidence to support broad claims that all students with disabilities can read at grade level with proper instruction, is fanciful at best, and deliberately deceitful at worst.

(The two other articles cited to support the USDOE statement specifically dealt with ADHD, and “interventions” to improve reading. Neither study provides any support for the USDOE’s broad claims, and were not worthy of this reviewer’s additional time to write up the deficiencies of the studies, as such related to the USDOE claims. For those who wish to review them; they are cited in the USDOE references under #7).

Research Cited To Support the USDOE’s Factual Finding #5: (Math):

Fuchs, L. S. & Fuchs, D., Powell, S. R., Seethaler, P. M., Cirino, P. T., & Fletcher, J. M. (2008). Intensive intervention for students with mathematics disabilities: Seven principles of effective practice.

Scope & Limitations of Cited Research:

  1. This was the first independent, peer-reviewed article cited by the USDOE that was not funded by the Department of Education.   It was very well written.
  2. The authors listed “Seven Principles in Designing Effective Intensive Interventions” for student with math disabilities.   One intervention, “Ongoing Progress Monitoring” was formed under the premise that “no instructional method, even those validated using randomized control studies, works for all students”. P.86
  3. Individually tailored programs of intervention are needed. (“We also emphasized that the last principle, ongoing progress monitoring to quantify response and formulate individually tailored programs, may be the most essential principle of intensive intervention.”) P. 86
  4. The focus of this research was limited to only 3rd grade students.

Summary & Conclusion:

This was the most complete, independent, interesting and well-researched article thus far cited by the USDOE, yet does not support the overreaching conclusions

of the Department’s rule change in any aspect of its scholarly work.   (In fact, this article may lend itself to the notion of even more diverse methods of intervention, teaching, and testing of children who suffer from math disabilities than what may be on the current “curriculum menu” in many public schools.)

Nevertheless, a well written and crafted study limited to just 3rd grade students, does not support USDOE premise that every learning disabled child in America can, and will benefit from current interventions developed and implemented in public schools.

(The last article cited by the USDOE as evidence of efficacy for the 5th “finding of fact”, was written directly and published by the USDOE and will not be reviewed. The subject matter is based on “Response to Intervention”, and it is general knowledge amongst educational and neuropsychologist in the field that this practice, although effective amongst some student populations, has no peer- reviewed backing that suggests that it can be used on all reading “disabled” students successfully in the entire country.)


the developers of the new generation of assessments considered the needs of students with disabilities to ensure that the assessments are designed to allow those students to demonstrate their knowledge. [9]

Research Cited To Support the USDOE’s Factual Finding #6:


For additional information on assessment accommodations, see: PARCC Accessibility Features and Accommodations Manual (Nov. 2014) at features- accommodations-manual-11-14_final.pdf.


Scope & Limitations of Cited Research:

  1. Disturbingly, test developer cited by the USDOE (PARCC) to support this bold premise, no longer has the link listed above on its corporate site. (“The requested URL /sites/parcc/files/parcc-accessibility- features-accommodations-manual-11-14_final.pdf. was not found on this server.”)

Summary & Conclusion:

There are no independent studies (or even grant-supported studies from the USDOE) in existence, which indicates that Common Core test developers (PARCC, AIR, SBAC) have published validity documents indicating that they:

considered the needs of students with disabilities to ensure that the assessments are designed to allow those students to demonstrate their knowledge.” More than likely, these high stakes, Common Core developed tests are still in the experimental phase of development while they are being currently used on special education students, as well as every other child in public schools in the nation.

Evidence strongly suggests that the above-named testing consortia and developers, supported by tax payers’ dollars, may in fact be in the midst of the largest, most comprehensive experimentation –as defined by the Ethics Code of the American Psychological Association– on American public school children, in our nation’s history.

If, in fact, independent investigations confirm this well-grounded theory, the U.S. Department of Education, and Secretary Arne Duncan, are in violation of multiple APA (American Psychological Association) assessment and experimentation ethics codes. (See APA Ethics Codes 8.02 “Informed Consent to Research” & 8.07 “Deception in Research” & 9.03 “Informed Consent In Assessments”

The basic foundational purpose of conforming assessment and research practices to ethics codes is to ensure that vulnerable populations, such a special education students, are not exploited and/or harmed.


We learned through States that received funding from the Department through the GSEG and EAG programs that some students with disabilities who might be candidates for an alternate assessment based on modified academic achievement standards may not have had an opportunity to learn grade-level content, and more effort was needed to support teachers in ensuring students have meaningful opportunities to learn grade-level content….. Six of the projects found that students who might be candidates for an alternate assessment based on modified academic achievement standards had difficulty…”


Research Cited To Support the USDOE’s Factual Finding #7:


Thurlow, M. L., Lazarus, S. S., & Bechard, S. (Eds.). (2013). Lessons learned in federally funded projects that can improve the instruction and assessment of low performing students with disabilities. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes.

Scope & Limitations of Cited Research:

(Note: This same compilation of research “studies” was cited above in Findings of Facts #3. The “limitations” noted in #3 are applicable and repeated below).


  1. Research is not peer-reviewed and is funded by the USDOE. It was written in collaboration with the Council of Chief State School Officers, a group long partnered with USDOE (for example, USDOE and CCSSO partnered in the creation of national common educational data standards, called CEDS.)


  1. The compilation of multiple articles submitted by multiple State Offices of Education did not address specific special education populations.


  1. Every article placed in this document cited the need for further research, and mostly relied on “surveys” to education teachers.


Summary and Conclusions:


A statement of belief by the USDOE that “more effort was needed to support teachers in ensuring students have meaningful opportunities to learn grade- level contentis not justification to limit local and states’ judgment and creativity with regard to modifying assessments and curriculum for special education students.

Not one sentence or article submitted in this compilation of papers by various state education agencies, supported (or even mentioned) the USDOE’s premise that alternative assessments should be eliminated.   In fact, multiple articles cited herein the need for further research on how to implement better alternative assessments for special education children in their respective states.



“Parents and teachers have the right and need to know how much progress all students, including students with disabilities, are making each year toward college and career readiness. That means all students, including students with disabilities, need to take annual Statewide assessments.


Research Cited To Support the USDOE’s Factual Finding #8:


Scope & Limitations of Cited Research:



Summary & Conclusion:

It would be reasonable and proper to assume that parents and education stakeholders would “have the right and need to know” how much progress their divergent learning students were making academically.

The USDOE, however, insists that parents and teachers need to know about students’ “career and college readiness.” What exactly is “career- and college readiness” and how does such a confusing and undefined standard apply to children and teens with diagnosed learning disabilities?

What evidence does the USDOE have to show that all students wish to have a career, and if so, are at a developmental or life-experience level to start to think along those lines?

What evidence does the USDOE have to show that it is responsible, or even possible, to assess for “college readiness” for divergent-learning students?

What evidence does the USDOE have to make the unilateral decision, on behalf

of every student and scientist living in the country, without regard to the judgment or wishes of individual students, parents, teachers, doctors, or states, that all students, including students with disabilities, “must take annual statewide assessments?”

How ethical is it to require every public school student in the country to take an experimental test, without their informed written consent; a test that has yet to undergo independent validity reviews by any organization free of contractual ties to either the U.S. Department of Education or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation?




We need to know much more than we now know about the actual consequences of implementing large-scale, high-stakes assessment and accountability systems.

It is assumed that holding schools responsible for improved outcomes for students with disabilities, will lead to increased instructional effort, improved instruction, and better outcomes. A government education agency, making policy changes based on assumptions, is engaging in experimentation– unethical experimentation on our nation’s most vulnerable children.

Educators do not yet have the science to know how to teach most of these standards to students with moderate and severe developmental disabilities. At the present time little is known about how much academic content students with moderate and severe learning and emotional disabilities can learn in traditional public school settings.

Common sense, as well as decades of peer-reviewed research in the areas of cognitive and developmental psychology, indicates strongly that restricting students to curricula beyond their cognitive capacities substantially lowers their achievement.

Test publishers often have not conducted adequate research on how accommodations affect test validity. It is unfair and discriminatory to penalize a student with a disability, any disability, for using a needed accommodation on an assessment, simply because the test publisher has not conducted the necessary research about the effect of the particular accommodation on the test.

In fact it is unfair, discriminatory and unethical to require any student to take a test that, by all accounts, is an experimental design that has yet to undergo extensive, independent validity reviews.   There should be candor not only about what is known about these high stakes, computer adaptive assessments, but also about what is unknown. (LORAN Commission, 1988, p. 27) (LORAN Commission. (1988). Report of the LORAN Commission to the Harvard Community Health Plan: Harvard Community Health Plan, Boston, MA.)

Assessment technology, like medical technology, is not perfect; there are potentially harmful side effects associated with treatments determined to be generally safe and efficacious. We certainly are not suggesting to throw the baby out with the proverbial bathwater. (We utilize the same, if not similar, innovative assessment technologies as the education system). However, like physicians and clinical psychologists, educators should know the nature and extent of research documented harmful side effects on vulnerable groups of children, before adopting any high- stakes testing program. Always, there must be informed, written consent from parents.

Failure to do so places special education students in positions of being subjected to frustrations that may exacerbate known, as well as unknown, potential comorbid emotional disorders that many of these students may possess.

We encourage public school districts across the nation to disprove our well- researched and disturbing hypothesis, that not one district website in the entire nation has notified parents of the experimental nature of Common Core high- stakes testing, nor has a single one of the government-funded test makers ever completed independent, peer reviewed validity studies on these assessments.

These “lies of omission,” perpetuated and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education under the leadership of Secretary Duncan, will continue to have dangerous consequences for traditionally “test vulnerable” African American, Latino, Pacific Islander, autistic, dyslexic, dual-exceptional, poverty-stricken, and emotionally disturbed children who are enrolled in public and charter schools across the country.

It is the ultimate height of hypocrisy for an Education Department Secretary to insist on “evidence” based conformity to unilateral rule changes, and then make massive special education rule changes based on cited references which appear to have been pulled blindly out of the magician’s hat.

Under Secretary Arne Duncan’s tenure, public schools and special education teachers are not getting the support they need to meet IDEA requirements anywhere in the country, despite special education ballooning class sizes and despite massive layoffs of teachers and support staff all over the country.

Secretary Duncan’s prescription of education reform has resulted thus far in feeding those frenzied financial interests that are aligned with corporate testing corporations, as well as alienating masses across the country, and not just conservative-leaning “white suburban moms” as Secretary Duncan blustered.

We are not politicians or public policy experts. We do not purport to have the answers to perplexing issues facing our nations children in public schools.   What we DO know is that parents are, and must always be, the resident experts of their own children.

A shift from the dictatorial-like control now emanating from the Department of Education, and supported by Big Testing’s financial corporate interests– back to states, local school districts, and ground level teachers and parents– is the foundation from which all hope and change in our nation’s education system must start.

Respectfully submitted by:


Gary Thompson, Psy.D.

Early Life Child Psychology & Education Center






  1. See discussion of this research in Assessing Students with Disabilities Based on a State’s Academic Achievement Standards.


  1. See Scruggs, T., Mastropieri, M., Berkeley, S., & Graetz, (2010). Do Special Education Interventions Improve Learning of Secondary Content? A Meta-Analysis. Remedial and Special Education, 31(6), 437-449.


  1. ESEA flexibility refers to the Department’s initiative to give a State flexibility regarding specific requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 in exchange for developing a rigorous and comprehensive plan designed to improve educational outcomes for all students, close achievement gaps, increase equity, and improve the quality of instruction.


  1. For more information, see: Thurlow, M. L., Lazarus, S. S., & Bechard, S. (). (2013). Lessons learned in federally funded projects that can improve the instruction and assessment of low performing students with disabilities. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes.


  1. The IDEA prescribes certain requirements for IEPs for students who take alternate assessments aligned to alternate academic achievement standards. 34 CFR 300.160(c)(2)(iii), 300.320(a)(2)(ii), and 300.320(a)(6) (ii). This approach addresses the educational and assessment needs of a relatively small percentage of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, estimated at approximately 1% of all students in a State (approximately 10% of students with disabilities), who cannot be held to the same academic achievement standards as students without the most significant cognitive disabilities.


  1. For example, see: Allor, H., Mathes, P. G., Roberts, J. K., Cheatham, J.P., & Champlin, T. M. (2010). Comprehensive reading instruction for students with intellectual disabilities. Psychology in the Schools, 47, 445- 466; Kamps, D., Abbott, M., Greenwood, C., Wills, H., Veerkamp, M., & Kaufman, J. (2008); Mautone, J. A., DuPaul, G. J., Jitendra, A. K., Tresco, K. E., Junod, R. V., & Volpe, R. J. (2009). The relationship between treatment integrity and acceptability of reading interventions for children with attention- deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Psychology in the Schools, 46, 919-931; and Scammacca, N., Vaughn, S., Roberts, G., Wanzek, J., & Torgesen, J. K. (2007). Extensive reading interventions in grades K-3: From research to practice. Portsmouth, N.H.: RMC Research Corporation, Center on Instruction; and Vaughn, S., Denton, C. A., & Fletcher, J. M. (2010).


Why intensive interventions are necessary for students with severe reading difficulties. Psychology in the Schools, 47, 32-444; Wanzek, J. & Vaughn, S. (2010). Tier 3 interventions for students with significant reading problems. Theory Into Practice, 49, 305-314.


  1. For example, see: Fuchs, L. S. & Fuchs, D., Powell, S. R., Seethaler, P. M., Cirino, P. T., & Fletcher, J. M. (2008). Intensive intervention for students with mathematics disabilities: Seven principles of effective practice. Learning Disabilities Quarterly, 31, 79-92; and Gersten, R., Beckmann, S., Clarke, B., Foegen, A., Marsh, L., Star, J. R., & Witzel, B. (2009).

Assisting students struggling with mathematics: Response to Intervention (RtI) for elementary and middle schools (NCEE 2009-4060). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved November 1, 2010 from

  1. For example, see Archamboult, I., Janosz, M., & Chouindard, R. (2012). Teacher beliefs as predictors of adolescent cognitive engagement and achievement in mathematics. The Journal of Educational Research, 105, 319-328;

Hinnant, J., O’Brien, M., & Ghazarian, S. (2009). The longitudinal relations of teacher expectations to achievement in the early school years. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101 (3), 662-670; and Hornstra, L., Denessen, E., Bakker, J., von den Bergh, L., & Voeten, M. (2010). Teacher attitudes toward dyslexia: Effects on teacher expectations and the academic achievement of students with dyslexia. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 43 (6), 515-529.


  1. For additional information on assessment accommodations, see: PARCC Accessibility Features and Accommodations Manual (Nov.2014) at accessibility- features-accommodations-manual-11-14_final.pdf.


  1. For more information, see: Thurlow, M. L., Lazarus, S. S., & Bechard, S. (). (2013). Lessons learned in federally funded projects that can improve the instruction and assessment of low performing students with disabilities. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes.


  1. Achieve. (2012). The Future of the U.S. Workforce: Middle Skills Jobs and the Growing Importance of Post Secondary Education. American Diploma Project,



Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct

Adopted August 21, 2002 Effective June 1, 2003

With the 2010 Amendments Adopted February 20, 2010

Effective June 1, 2010




Areas covered include but are not limited to the clinical, counseling, and school practice of psychology; research; teaching; supervision of trainees; public service; policy development; social intervention; development of assessment instruments; conducting assessments; educational counseling; organizational consulting; forensic activities; program design and evaluation; and administration.




Psychologists respect and protect civil and human rights and the central importance of freedom of inquiry and expression in research, teaching, and publication. They strive to help the public in developing informed judgments and choices concerning human behavior. In doing so, they perform many roles, such as researcher, educator, diagnostician, therapist, supervisor, consultant, administrator, social interventionist, and expert witness.




3.04 Avoiding Harm


Psychologists take reasonable steps to avoid harming their clients/patients, students, supervisees, research participants, organizational clients, and others with whom they work, and to minimize harm where it is foreseeable and un- avoidable.


8.02 Informed Consent to Research


(a) When obtaining informed consent as required in Standard 3.10, Informed Consent, psychologists inform participants about (1) the purpose of the research, expected

duration, and procedures; (2) their right to decline to participate and to withdraw from the research once participation has begun; (3) the foreseeable consequences of declining or withdrawing; (4) reasonably foreseeable factors that may be expected to influence their willingness to participate such as potential risks, discomfort, or adverse effects; (5) any prospective research benefits; (6) limits of confidentiality; (7) incentives for participation; and (8) whom to contact for questions about the research and research participants’ rights. They provide opportunity for the prospective participants to ask questions and receive answers.


9.01 Bases for Assessments


(b) Psychologists use assessment instruments whose validity and reliability have been established for use with members of the population tested. When such validity or re- liability has not been established, psychologists describe the strengths and limitations of test results and interpretation.


9.05 Test Construction


Psychologists who develop tests and other assessment techniques use appropriate psychometric procedures and current scientific or professional knowledge for test design, standardization, validation, reduction or elimination of bias, and recommendations for use.



Thank you, Dr. Thompson.



C.S. Lewis and the Freedom to Fail   4 comments



Are you afraid of freedom?  Are you so afraid of the possibility that, with freedom to choose, some people choose to fail, that you would remove all freedom, even the freedom to soar?

A few weeks ago, at the Utah County Republican Convention,  I met a man at our Stop Common Core booth.  He was a sweet faced,  caring man.  He liked the common core agenda of national standards and tests because, he said,  he could not stand to see anyone suffer and fail because he’d seen the worst of the worst in Mississippi.  The fact that Massachusetts had dropped its high academic standards to come down to Common Core’s level didn’t bother him, he said, because lowest-performing states like Mississippi had upped their standards to the Common Core level.  He didn’t want to see anybody fail; so he’d rather see everyone mediocre.

This one sided “philanthropy” struck me as misguided, but it is the trendy philosophy of social justice, the philosophy of Arne Duncan-style redistribution.  It is theft– easily justified because it’s done on a large, impersonal, governmental scale.

Where do you stand?

Would you– alone– steal from one, in order to benefit another?  Then why do you let government do it?  What gives “us” the right to redistribute anything at all– money, education standards, teachers, data?  Would you make this a habit: Alone–  you walk outside, knock on the door,  and then forcibly take money or items from your next door neighbor to then hand to another neighbor?  It’s cruel.  That is, on a smaller scale, what our society is doing on a large scale with its increasingly socialistic answers to almost every aspect of life, with the justification that this theft is a kindness, a social justice.   This type of enforced equality is an impossible absurdity (Read Harrison Bergeron) but people believe it will work.  It’s why we are in this ed reform mess.

The freedom to fail and the freedom to soar are two ends of the same stick.  So much freedom has been sacrificed at the fake altar of “no soul left behind”.   Ironically, as these equality enforcements  come, people still fail.  This fake philanthropy (aka “social justice”) takes away the possibility for those who might soar, to ever soar.  In the 1950s, they used to call this equalizing “communism”.  But today, if you use describe the education reforms taking place in America as socialistic/communistic, you get labeled a believer in Unicorns.  (Thanks, Representative Kraig Powell.)

Truth is truth whether people believe it or not.

Long after I’d left the man that day at the booth, I found this perfect answer to his confused philanthropy.  Thank you, C.S. Lewis.


“God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can’t.

If a thing is free to be good it’s also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.

A world of automata -of creatures that worked like machines- would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free.

Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk.

(…) If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will -that is, for making a real world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings- then we may take it it is worth paying.”

                                                                                                               – C.S. Lewis


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