Archive for the ‘Data Privacy is a Right Schools Must Not Violate’ Category

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 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  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:


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?


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, 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.

Video: Dr. Gary Thompson For Utah State School Board: The Dirty Dozen   Leave a comment

In case you missed the rally speeches and missed the Fox News report, here begins a series of posts featuring the speakers at this week’s rally at the state capitol, where Utah voters had the opportunity to hear from candidates for Utah State School Board.

The rally was entitled “Elevating Education:  Common No More”.

Radio host Rod Arquette introduced each school board candidate speaker and the gubernatorial candidate Johnathan Johnson. Each speaker declared that Utah can elevate education beyond the Common Core.

The first video shows Dr. Gary Thompson‘s speech; below is the text version of that speech.   (Other candidates’ speeches will be posted soon.)

Text of Dr. Thompson’s speech:

Communities are judged by how well they treat the most vulnerable children amongst them.

If given the honor of representing parents and teachers as a State Board Member, I will only ask four questions regarding any policies placed in front of me regarding our children and students:

1.  Does the policy conform to industry standard ethical practices?

2.   Does the policy allow ground level parental control and teacher choice?

3.   Are stealth psychological evaluations and data collection being performed on children without your knowledge and informed consent?

4.  Is the policy based on “Voodoo-Pseudo Science”, or independent, peer reviewed research?

Our School Board’s failure to view education policy via these four principles has resulted in 12 dangerous realities in place in Utah public schools:

I call them the “Dirty Dozen”:

1.    Lawmakers recently deemed the SAGE test invalid for teacher evaluations, yet did nothing to protect our most vulnerable children from the same flawed test.

2.   Many Utah Standards are developmentally inappropriate for our younger children.

3.  Not one independent developmental psychologist was active in writing Utah K-3 Educational Standards.

4.  The test used to measure knowledge of Utah Standards, the SAGE test, has never been independently validated to measure academic performance.

5.  Without parental knowledge and informed written consent, Utah schools are collecting our children’s most intimate cognitive, behavioral, emotional, and sociological information.

6.  Utah’s test vendor, AIR, is currently using Utah public school children as “experimental lab rats”, as part of the largest, non consensual, unethical, experimentation ever performed on Utah soil.

7. Performing unethical, experimentation on Utah’s children place many of them at risk for serious emotional, behavioral and cognitive damage.

8.  Common Core special education practices are harmful, not based on sound science, and put our divergent learning students at risk for suicide.  Utah has one of the highest youth suicide rates in the Country.

9.  The Utah State Board of Education does not have effective policies in place requiring technology vendors to follow ethical and privacy guidelines, designed to protect parents and children from exploitation and harm.

10.  Student data security and privacy is a myth.

11.  Utah’s Preschool and Kindergarten programs are not supported by independent, peer-reviewed research.

12.   Utah’s adoption of the Common Core Federal mandate to have ALL Kindergartners reading, as opposed to emphasizing play, is abusive, and flies in the face of 75 years of child developmental research.

Since the advent of Common Core, the Board of Education, and the Utah State Office of Education, have dismissed “The Dirty Dozen” as “dangerous misinformation”, and have accuse parents like me of spreading fear into the community.

Today I draw a line in the sand, and for the sake of my children and Community, I ask State School Board Chairman Dave Crandall to do the same.

The contrasts between us could not be more evident.

One of us will protect your children….
One of us is dangerously wrong.

In Exchange, I challenge Chairman Crandall to publicly acknowledge the existence of “The Dirty Dozen”, as THE most pressing, dangerous assault on parental rights, teacher autonomy, and child safety present in Utah Public Schools.

If Chairman Crandall ignores this,  and ignores this challenge, I believe he is not fit to serve another term representing our children, and I respectfully request for him to immediately drop out of the election.

I ask the next Governor of this State, sitting on this stage;  I ask Governor Johnson to place the destiny of the next generation of children into the hands of local parents and our talented ground level teachers, as opposed to catering to technology special interest groups, who now own many Utah lawmakers.

I ask parents to demand that our education leaders base their decisions on ethics, and the rule of constitutional law, as opposed to agenda based, harmful mandates being forced upon our children via the U.S. Office of Education, and adopted without question by the Utah State Office of Education, and the State Board of Education.

I close from a quote from an American who was buried yesterday in Kentucky, Muhammad Ali. His example and courage inspired my father to pursue a dream of becoming one of America’s first generation of black medical doctors in modern history:

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given, than to explore the power they have to change it.

Impossible is not a fact…. It’s an opinion.

Impossible is not a declaration…. It’s a dare.

Impossible is potential…Impossible is temporary….Impossible is nothing.”

Thank you for your time and consideration. May God bless this great, and truly exceptional Nation.”


Dr. Thompson’s campaign website link is here:!Dr-Thompsons-Utah-CapitolTown-Hall-Speech/b8v6m/575b6c780cf24c9615a7f130

Early voting begins tomorrow, and voting ends June 28th.  Please vote wisely.  No elected position in this state affects your children and your family more than the state school board position.

Miracles Do Happen: Governor and Chair of Common Core Organization (NGA) Rejects Common Core   7 comments


Governor Herbert surprised a lot of people this week, including me.

After spending the past six years promoting,  marketing, and providing workforce alignment strategies to serve Common Core, and after rising to the throne of Common Core’s organization, National Governors Association, to become its chair, and after going out of his way to have the Utah Attorney General provide “proof” that Common Core supposedly represented local control– after all of this,  Herbert has now turned his back on the Common Core and has written a letter to the State School Board, asking it to move away from Common Core.

The media in Utah say that they are “puzzled” and confused.  Not me.  I’m doing the happy dance!


happy dance dog

Regardless of the Governor’s motives in this election year, regardless of the possibility that Utah might just endure a wasteful rebranding effort that could redeliver Common Core under a new name (as many other states, have done and done and done) –I still see this letter from Governor Herbert as a home run for the freedom team.

Read it.  The letter admits that Common Core is not an example of local control, that it is the federal will, and that it damages local control –of testing, data collection, curriculum and instruction.

The letter asks the board to keep these principles in mind while it moves away from Common Core: 1) maintain high academic standards; 2) keep the federal government out of educational decisions in Utah; and 3) preserve local control of curriculum, testing, data collection and instruction.

It also says, “Just as important as the actual educational standards is the process by which we arrive at those standards.  This should be a Utah process with public comment and discourse.”  It continues, “…[W]e all understand the shortcomings of a one-size-fits-all approach. It is imperative that any new standards are flexible enough to allow a wide variety of curricular decisions by individual school districts …I believe that our teachers need more freedom to be creative in the classroom.

Well, those words are a surprise, and a miracle, to me.

Some people are suspicious because the governor’s in the middle of his re-election campaign, while his challenger, has been extremely successful with voting delegates because of his staunchly anti-Common Core stand.  I was there when the governor got booed by a crowd over well over 1,000 delegates at the Utah County GOP Convention last month, when he spoke about Common Core; I know he is under campaign pressure, but he didn’t have to do this!   He knew it would make him look like a fair-weather politician. He knew that most of those who are already voting for the more-conservative Johnson won’t change their minds and that those who already support Herbert won’t likely change their minds.  So why did he really do it?

Maybe a key to why the governor wrote this letter is in its closing paragraph.  His own children and grandchildren do not like the Common Core. The letter says, “I have eleven grandchildren in Utah public schools. I have seen firsthand the frustration they and their parents have had…”

What grandfather can stand up to his own grandchildren’s lobbying efforts against the Common Core?  So he caved, in a good way.  He’s publically admitted that Common Core is academically miserable and politically for socialists.

I cannot see this letter as anything but great news.

So what’s next?  What will the Utah State School Board do?

I don’t think it can get away with yet another meaningless rebranding job. The now-somewhat-savvy Utah public won’t stand for that, knowing what so recently happened to Utah’s previously-good science standards, or knowing what happened when Oklahoma, Arizona, New Jersey, Tennessee, Indiana, and other states passed Common Core repeal laws that resulted in nothing better, but common core 2.0 (under new names).  To the dismay of those who actually wanted freedom and autonomy beyond the federal 15% no-change alignment “suggestion”, better standards didn’t actually mean, better standards.  But we have the advantage of other states’ errors to learn from today.

The letter didn’t spell out every problem with education reform.  For example, it didn’t say, “Let’s finally permit parents to opt children out of the federal/state data data monitoring system SLDS“.

But I don’t see the federal SLDS (Utah’s federally-provided student data mining system, which came to Utah alongside Common Core) very much longer reading “long life and happiness” in its fortune cookie.  Why?  Too many Utahns are aware that common data standards and common academic standards were a package deal from day one.  Utah legislators recently passed bills that  took protective action on student data privacy– taking a stand against the opposition’s  national data-mining-and-monitoring movement.  The governor will not be able to sidestep SLDS, even if he wants to.   SLDS didn’t need to be in the letter because it’s on everyone’s mind.

freedom of speech


One of my happiest thoughts, after seeing this letter,  has been thinking about the countless Utah teachers and administrators who have previously not felt free to speak their minds about Common Core.  The governor’s letter, in many ways (and unintentionally, perhaps) helps to reclaim freedom of speech to Utah educators.  While educators opposed to Common Core have mostly remained quiet or anonymous, some of those who have not, have been bypassed, mistreated or branded as “insubordinate” for speaking out– for refusing to pretend to like Common Core –either academically or politically.  Some have even been pushed to resign.

But now, if even the reigning governor is saying he’s not happy about the Common Core –academically nor in terms of lost local control– then finally,  perhaps, any teacher or principal can pipe up, too.

So, this letter is very good news.

Thanks, Governor Herbert.



#STOPSETRA – Congress! Protect the Psychological Privacy of Children   1 comment



Here’s a must-read, new article at (here) by Emmett McGroarty and Jane Robbins, “Why Does Your Congressman Want to Psychologically Profile Your Children?”

The article begins:

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

It also states:  “Section 132 of SETRA expands authorized research to include ‘research on social and emotional learning [SEL] . . . .’

“SEL is defined as ‘the process through which children . . . acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.’  SEL is all the rage in public education…”

“…SETRA would authorize the federal government to sponsor research on these social and emotional attributes. This means the government may analyze a child’s psychological makeup…”

stealth eye two

Another important point:

“…even if there were real, measurable educational value in analyzing every child’s psyche, do members of Congress really believe government has any business doing this?… SETRA also allows the approved bureaucracy to ‘establish . . . cooperative education statistics systems for the purpose of producing and maintaining . . . data on early childhood education, elementary and secondary education, postsecondary education, adult education…‘”

The article concludes:  “SETRA passed the Senate on a voice vote and now awaits action in the House. House members, take note: A vote for SETRA in its current form is a vote for psychological profiling of innocent children. It’s bad enough that so-called conservatives in Congress voted for ESSA; it will be unforgivable if they vote for SETRA.”

Read the entire article at

Call US Congress at 202-224-3121 to influence your elected representatives.

crying stopesea


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