Archive for the ‘How the Common Core Initiative Hurts Kids, Teachers, and Taxpayers’ Category

Utah Senate Set To Vote on HB118   1 comment

Dear Senators,
Why is there a single “yea” vote for HB118?  I really want to know.
It can’t be about funding.  Zero federal dollars are on the line if HB118 passes, or not. This was clarified by Superintendent Dickson in a recent state school board meeting. You can see it at minute 17:00-20:00 here:
 
It can’t be about improving the academic experience of a child. Not a single child in our state is benefited by the test. The SAGE/RISE  is not the type of test that a child can learn from, or that a teacher can gain insight from– no one gets to see it.  Despite not benefiting kids, HB118 will raise the test to an extremely important status since taking the test may result in parties, prizes, and easy GRADES. Less class time will be spent on education that’s not in the narrow band of tested skills. Teachers won’t be teaching as much, because they will have to teach directly to the test. That cheats students. It creates a terrible temptation for students who care about their grades, to skip new learning  and substitute test-taking. I taught high school English for many years, and required students to write MLA-formatted research papers— following having read, researched, drafted, revised, and learned to create citations and works cited pages. How can a SAGE/RISE test replace that? Students are human beings– they are not going to choose to do rigorous classwork if they can easily get a high grade for just taking a test.
It can’t be about improving the mental health of a child. Countries that raise the stakes of testing see increased youth unwellness and suicide.  Doing poorly on the high stakes test, or fearing that one might do poorly, increases test anxiety and youth depression.  This understanding alone should make our senate unanimously vote NO on HB118.
It can’t be about an honest belief that this test is a fair measure.  Last year, this legislature passed HB201 which made illegal the use of the SAGE test for grading teachers, so why now, do some in the legislature believe the test should be used to grade children?? This especially makes no sense, considering the fact that SAGE test producer AIR explained, “When you’re using a test for accountabilityyou’re not really using it to measure the kid. You’re using it to measure the school, or the teacher, or the district.” VP of AIR, Jon Cohen. See min. 3:07 at https://vimeo.com/80927107
It can’t be about accountability.  Some proponents of the bill cite “accountability” as the reason they’re voting for it. Accountability for whom?  AIR said it’s not a valid measure for a student.  HB201 said it’s not a valid measure for a teacher. Yet HB118 seeks to use SAGE/RISE to measure a student and to pass out grades based on the test. The test isn’t accountable to Utahns. Students and teachers and parents don’t get to see what questions were missed; so it is of no benefit to those for whom education exists.
  PLEASE vote no on HB118.
   Sincerely,
   Christel Swasey
Daniel Thatcher <dthatcher@le.utah.gov>,
David Hinkins <dhinkins@le.utah.gov>,
Evan Vickers <evickers@le.utah.gov>,
Jerry Stevenson <jwstevenson@le.utah.gov>,
Karen Mayne <kmayne@le.utah.gov>,
Ralph Okerlund <rokerlund@le.utah.gov>,
“amillner@le.utah.gov” <amillner@le.utah.gov>,
“dipson@le.utah.gov” <dipson@le.utah.gov>,
“dkitchen@le.utah.gov” <dkitchen@le.utah.gov>,
“jiwamoto@le.utah.gov” <jiwamoto@le.utah.gov>,
“kriebe@le.utah.gov” <kriebe@le.utah.gov>,
“rwinterton@le.utah.gov” <rwinterton@le.utah.gov>,
“ssandall@le.utah.gov” <ssandall@le.utah.gov>
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Utah Schools to be Alarmingly Test-Centric under HB 118   3 comments

 

Dear Utah Senators,

Please vote no on HB118. The bill contains five big red flags.

1. The first one is a pawn-off, trading real educational experiences and fair grading, for participation in the big standardized test and an easy grade. That’s a shady trade.

See line 13: “allows at teacher to use a student’s score on certain assessments to improve a student’s academic grade”.

2. The second big red flag: equating test-taking for actual student competency toward college in a way that can allow students to never learn certain things (that aren’t on the federally aligned test).

Line 83 says that a teacher may use a student’s score on the high school test to improve the students academic grade OR to “demonstrate a student’s competency within a relevant course.”

Lines 142-145 say: “LEA shall allow a student to earn course credit toward high school graduation without completing a course in school by a) testing out of the course; or b) demonstrating competency in course standards.”

Since only 15 people in the state may view the test, most students, teachers, legislators and parents are blocked from seeing the test. How would academic competency and equality be verified? It won’t be. It’s false to say, without viewing and analyzing the two things being compared, that one thing (the standardized test) matches another (Utah-defined, teacher-defined, academic competency). Moreover, wherever Utah standards and teachers have tried to teach above and beyond Common Core standards, those differences may go away, since they can’t benefit, students taking these tests for their grades.

3. The third big red flag is the twisting of a good principle: parental accomodations for students’ best interests. The bill cites the good Utah code that “a student’s parent or guardian is the primary person responsible for the education of the student, and the state is in a secondary and supportive role… has the right to reasonable academic accommodations”.

But it’s out of context. Test taking pressure has nothing to do with empowering parents. It is not a “reasonable academic accommodation” (regardless of whether it’s a parent’s or a teacher’s idea) to redefine what quality academics are; to trade teacher-created, meaningful and robust coursework for a passing score on a big, nationally standardized test. It simply is not reasonable.

I taught English for many years, in high schools and at Utah Valley University. I can imagine how many students would rather gamble on a big standardized test, than actually read novels, and actually write MLA-formatted essays and reports. This bill has the power to make a joke of legitimate educational expectations of teachers. Talk about dumbing down effects!

 

 

4. Fourth, there is the issue of opting out rights. Pressuring (or tempting) students and parents to quit opting out, incentivizing that temptation with the lure of an easier grade, will surely have the bill’s desired impact of reducing opt outs and will put the state in greater compliance with federal wishes– but the question is, at what cost ? Do we really want Utah to pressure and coerce people into opting in to something they have determined isn’t a valid measure of their child?

5. Fifth, the bill will alter Utah’s education culture, making it more and more test-centric. That move that has been shown in many places, outside the US and inside it, to drive up anxiety, depression, and suicide rates.

 

At what cost are we incentivizing and valuing the SAGE/RISE Common Core tests? How many students will opt in, and lose the opportunity to be held accountable for real academic experiences? How many parents and students will get into a family fight because the student wants the easier grade, but the parent does not feel right about opting in to the test?

How will watching HB 118 pass; seeing Utah bullying its own people into taking this test, then affect the federal confidence level that it can continue to enforce unconstitutional, federally-orginated change in Utah education? How many will suffer anguish due to the increasing high-stakes test pressure? How many suicides will be partially or completely resultant from the change that makes Utah increasingly test-centric in deciding how it values students?

Please vote no on HB 118.

Sincerely,

Christel Swasey

Utah Senators:

Wayne Harper ,
Deidre Henderson ,
kcullimore@le.utah.gov,
lfillmore@le.utah.gov,
Daniel McCay ,
Daniel Thatcher ,
Jacob Anderegg ,
dhemmert@le.utah.gov,
Keith Grover ,
Curt Bramble ,
ssandall@le.utah.gov,
amillner@le.utah.gov,
Allen Christensen ,
gbuxton@le.utah.gov,
Jerry Stevenson ,
Stuart Adams ,
Todd Weiler ,
Ralph Okerlund ,
Lyle Hillyard ,
rwinterton@le.utah.gov,
David Hinkins ,
Evan Vickers ,
dipson@le.utah.gov

 – – – – – – –

This week, KUTV produced a short t.v. article about HB 118.  I happened to be interviewed as a mom in favor of retaining the right to opt out of the high stakes tests.  Here is that link.

https://kutv.com/news/local/90-million-in-federal-money-for-utah-schools-at-risk-from-standardized-test-opt-out-rates

 – – – – – – –

The title of KUTV’s article is false.  There is no risk of a 90 million dollar loss in funding if we don’t pass HB 118.

 

Alisa Ellis, a state school board representative, showed that the notion is false, and that Utah is at no risk of losing federal funding.  She wrote:

 

HB118 is sweeping through the legislative session based on a false premise.

There is a growing misconception that we need to incentivize students to take the end of year tests or we are at risk of losing federal $$. This is completely false.

Please take a moment and watch our board meeting from last October.

https://youtu.be/nSdQ0jkhiqc

It would be well worth your time to watch the entire segment but if you don’t have time here are a couple of places that are critical.

Beginning at 6:25-

As our opt-out rate increases above the 95% participation threshold, the federal government requires that we change our calculation. In our board meeting the Superintendent estimates about 5 schools would be affected in the state.

We would look at the lowest 5% performing schools in the state and then the change in calculation would only occur if any of those schools had more than 5% opt out.

It’s also important to note that we aren’t even required to send the calculations to the Federal government. We simply have to run a report and post it for public consumption.

Beginning at 17:50 –

I asked if our opt out numbers continue to climb if we are at risk for losing federal $$$. The answer was no.

Please reach out to the Senate Education committee and ask them to vote no on HB118.

Senator Henderson – dhenderson@le.utah.gov
Senator Davis – gdavis@le.utah.gov
Senator Fillmore – lfillmore@le.utah.gov
Senator Grover – keithgrover@le.utah.gov
Senator Hillyard – lhillyard@le.utah.gov
Senator Millner – amillner@le.utah.gov
Senator Reibe – kriebe@le.utah.gov
Senator Stevenson – jwstevenson@le.utah.gov

#UTPOL #NOHB118 

Privacy-Crushing FEPA Bill #HR4174: 10 Nitty Gritty Facts You Missed #VETO !   1 comment

 

History itself must be holding its breath to see what happens next.  H.R. 4174, Foundations of Evidence-Based Policy, a bad bill for liberty and privacy, awaits President Trump’s signature –or his veto.

I’m not a lawyer, and I’m not a data expert.  I’m pretty good with reading, though.

In reading, I noticed:

  1. The bill creates an inventory of citizens, their land, and their money. It includes indentifiable info (pii).
  2. It is actively hostile toward, and seeks to alter, policies and laws that uphold privacy rights.
  3. The bill allows the federal government to collect, archive and share personally identifiable information.
  4. The bill authorizes government to break confidentiality pledges and punish citizens based on the perceived accuracy of data citizens submit.
  5. The bill actively seeks to “convert” databases that don’t match its machine-interoperability standards. 
  6. An agent who shared/sold sensitive information from these databases might receive zero punishment.
  7. The bill forces agencies and instrumentalities to share data with other agencies.
  8. The bill empowers the Deep State, not allowing elections for data heads. Bureaucratic appointees only. 
  9. The bill authorizes federal agents to use private organizations and individuals to mine data.
  10. The bill replaces informed consent with (pointless) informed public comment.

Below this video is a detailed, language-focused, page-specific, quote-laden excavation of the bill.  It is more detailed than the video.

 

 

 

  • FACT #1: The bill creates an inventory of citizens, their land, and their money.  

The new, federal “comprehensive data inventory” will feed into a “federal data catalog” and it’s “statistical” data includes the whole, or relevant groups, or components within, the economy, society, or the natural environment” (page 17).  What else IS there on earth, that isn’t covered under people, money, and nature itself?

An interesting spot to detect this in action is on page 19, where an exception is granted to the Energy Information Administration:  “Data or information acquired by the Energy Information Administration under a pledge of confidentiality…shall not be disclosed in identifiable form” –meaning, obviously, that data acquired by agencies other than EIA –even under a pledge of confidentiality– CAN be disclosed in identifiable form!

  • FACT #2:  It is actively hostile to laws that uphold individual or local privacy rights.

The bill does not clearly forbid ANY type of data sharing, nor does it forbid anyone from at least requesting sensitive data access– and the bill treats privacy statues or policies as obstacles.

See page 2: “evidence-building plan… shall contain… a list of any challenges to developing evidence… including any statutory or other restrictions“. See page 22: “… Statutory constraints limit the ability of these agencies to share data...”  So state privacy laws are limiting the federal ability to share data?  This reminds me of The Princess Bride movie. It’s Prince Humperdink (this bill) trying to steal Princess Buttercup (students’ data) from Vizzini (state SLDS databases) “You’re trying to kidnap what I’ve rightfully stolen.”

And (not in the bill, but in the bill’s fact sheet and in the CEP’s report to Congress) we learn, shockingly, that the CEP views America’s privacy-protecting “student unit record” ban as “one potential ban that Congress may want to revisit“.

In the bill, neither the term nor the concept of “privacy rights” is ever mentioned.  Agencies are advised that the motivation for letting the public think agencies honor “pledges of  confidentiality” is that not doing so will affect data quality: “Declining trust of the public in the protection of information provided under a pledge of confidentiality… adversely affects both the accuracy and completeness of statistical analyses.”

 

  • FACT #3:  The bill allows the federal government to collect and archive and share personally identifiable information.

The bill redefines many terms so that the words don’t really work the way you might think that word would work.  This reminds me of The Princess Bride, too.

The bill doesn’t overtly lie, so much as it assumes you don’t know what it’s talking about, or that you won’t notice its fancy footwork.

The bill defines a “nonstatistical purpose” as “affecting the rights, privileges or benefits of a particular identifiable respondent“.  In contrast, the bill defines “statistical purpose” as “analysis…without identifying the individuals”.   However it’s not actually a contrast: in addition to “statistical purpose” it also defines “statistical ACTIVITIES” –as “components within the economy, society or the natural environment”. Notice that since statistical activities can be a “component within” society, it can be information about one person. which sure sounds like individuals are included. So both nonstatistical purposes and statistical activities in this bill do include personal information.

Also, the bill defines “evidence” as:“information produced as a result of statistical activities conducted for a statistical purpose.”  Note that the word “information” is adjective-free.  It didn’t say that evidence is only aggregated data, statistical-purposed data.  It’s anything-goes, collected information, collected while aiming to find statistical-purpose data.  So if, in the process of developing methods or resources (or anything, anything– they also mention sampling frames and models and other activities)  the researcher or bureaucrat happen sto stumble upon some unrelated information, well, that’s evidence. Evidence is any information gotten as a result of activities about “components” within society, or the economy, or nature.

  • FACT #4:  The bill authorizes the government to punish citizens based on the accuracy level of the data they submit.

The bill reveals that its agents plan to break confidentiality when citizens or organizations are accused of submitting false information (whatever that really means).  Such citizens will be punished in two ways: first, government pledges of confidentiality will be broken and the person or organization’s identifiable information will be used; second, the person or organization will be prosecuted by law enforcement. Page 20 says, “information collected…under a pledge of confidentiality may be provided…to a law enforcement agency for the prosecution of submissions… of false statistical information under statutes that authorize criminal penalties or civil penalties”. 

Who gets to define “false”?  Who will determine whether the information was really false?  Who ensures that information was really submitted by the very person being punished?  How does the government return confidentiality to the person if the accusation proves to be mistaken?

  • FACT #5: The bill actively seeks to “convert” databases that don’t match its machine-interoperability standards. 

Under “Guidance to make data open by default” (page 7)  Agencies are advised to convert data that are not machine-readable:  “ensure that any public data asset of the agency is machine-readable“.  Everything is to flow interoperably toward the three main designated agencies:  The Bureau of the Census, The Bureau of Labor, and The Bureau of Economic Analysis.  Those three form the new federal database.  (P.S. The Labor and Education Departments are poised to merge.)

It’s interesting to note that in the case of public education, states gullibly accepted the millions of “free”  federal grant dollars for their databases  when common data standards and common core came knocking.  Interoperability mandates of fed-paid, state databases set us up for this bad moment, when easily, the feds can now take what states should never have collected/shared beyond the walls of the school itself. That money came conditionally: the grant language said that state databases had to be nationally interoperable.  Agencies other than state school systems that don’t already have matching data standards will see this bill’s implementers try to convert them. (Don’t do it.)

  • FACT #6:  An agent who shared or sold sensitive information from these databases might receive zero punishment.

There is a little loophole under “Fines and Penalties”.  A person who deliberately shares or sells information could either get a punishment, or NO punishment.  On page 21, it says that an agent or employee who “willfully discloses the information in any manner to a person or agency not entitled to receive it, shall be guilty of a class E felony and imprisoned for NOT MORE THAN 5 years, or fined NOT MORE THAN $250,000, or both.”

Not more than five years could mean one day, or no days.  Not more than $250,000 could mean a penny, or nothing at all.   

  • FACT #7:  The bill forces agencies and instrumentalities to share data with other agencies.

Page 26 says, “Presumption of accessibility for statistical agencies and units:  …the head of an agency shall… make any data asset maintained by the agency available upon request to any statistical agency or unit“.  (P.S. “unit” is one, as in one department or one person.)

And when privacy is spoken of, it’s in suggestion-mode:  that agencies  “take into account” the “risks and restrictions related to the disclosure of personally identifiable information” and “take into account” any “security considerations“.  There’s a stark contrast from the bill’s forceful “shall” language concerning data mining.  “Shall” is used 116 times in the 29 page bill, but never regarding the protection of privacy rights.   Instead of what should have been written– something like “agencies shall not disclose personally identifiable information” the bill’s creators just asks agents to “take into account risks and restrictions“.  That’s a toothless and blind defense.  Over and over the bill gives “shall” mandates about data inventory like the one on page 10, which says that every agency head “shall to the maximum extent practicable, develop and maintain a comprehensive data inventory”.

  • FACT #8  The bill empowers the Deep State.  It weakens representation– our Constitutional right to representative governance.

The bill mandates that the top dogs in every one of the innumerable agencies must be be appointed  (page 3)  from among agencies’ “existing employees” (page 29) –meaning Deep State loyal bureaucrats, untouchable by any vote.  Additional authorized agents are defined as anyone with a pulse: consultants, contractors, employees of contractors, even self-employed researchers (page 16).

Because the bill redefines the word “agency” to mean “executive agency” –which means it includes not only the long list of household-knowledge executive agencies (like Department of Transportation, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, etc.) but also all the departments and all instrumentalities of each federal agency– the bill uses and empowers the deep, unelected bureaucracy known as the “Deep State”.

  • FACT #9:  The bill authorizes the federal agents to use private organizations and individuals to help mine data.

On page 5, agencies are told to work on “interagency and private sector coordination”.  On page 9, the bill asks agents to “engage the public and calls for “hosting challenges, competitions, events or other initiatives designed to create additional value from public data assets”.

  • FACT #10:  The bill replaces informed consent with (pointless) informed public comment.

On page 24, it says: “Whenever a written agreement concerns data that respondents were required by law to report and the respondents were not informed that the data could be shared... the terms of such agreement shall be described in a public notice… a minimum of 60 days for public comment.”  Notice that there is no consequence or change that can happen due to the public comment; no mention of the data after comment time NOT being shared.

Now, let’s just reason together about this bill, and its facts.

The title is its own clue:  Foundations of Evidence-Based Policymaking.  The bill is a punch in the gut to privacy and representative governance.  Evidence holders (bureaucrat councils) become the new policymakers. Where does evidence-based policymaking put power?  In the hands of whoever holds the evidence– not with We, the People.  Think about it:  policymaking will be done by those who hold the evidence, not by those from whom evidence has been collected.  Citizens are demoted to being data, and decisions will be made by those unelected policymakers who frame and interpret that data.  And this is a foundational bill;  more of the same is coming.

Do the “algebra” inside the bill.  (You have to solve for X, excavating definitions and then inserting them where the word surfaces).  Doing so shows the word-gaming going on to hide the power grab of this bill, with power going away from individuals and into the hands of a huge new system, not managed by the elected representatives.

If you’ve skimmed the bill, you might be thinking:  “The bill does include one privacy officer in the 23 officer federal board that will run the nationwide system, and it does mention privacy and confidentiality.”

Friends, it’s a game of words.

Only a fool would believe lip service about privacy that tinsels a bill, while it mandates so much authority and access to data for agents and agencies.  Please remember three things:

  • There is information that MUST stay secret, for reasons of national security and for individual Constitutional privacy rights.
  • If this bill were legitimate, such information would not only be clearly forbidden from being shared, but also nobody would be given power to share that information, ever.
  • This bill does not clearly forbid sharing of identifiable information, and, for certain agencies and agents, power exists to share it.

A person cannot serve opposing masters (Matthew 6:24) and a bill’s purposes cannot be traveling in two opposite directions at the same time.  This bill wants you to believe that a bird can simultaneously fly north and south.  While the “pledge of confidentiality” words pull one way, the data-sucking mandates of the bill pull the other way. The data-sharing “shall” mandates in this bill prevail, especially since the privacy-mentioning lines are weak and loop-hole-y.

The bill is grievous– indefensible.  The bill’s promoters are (whether they know it or not) real enemies to liberty. They (the CEP) deliberately  hid the truth from the public about this bill, and have done so for two years.   

They are obsessed with gathering data –at any cost.

The obsession may stem from sincere intentions about how data collecting might help society, but look at the cost.  It’s federal creation of a system (using pre-existing local databases) to create one river of citizens’ data– all mined by mandate, without informed consent of the individuals being data-mined.  We, the People under this bill’s full implementation will soon become prisoners of intimidation, cowering under lockstep policymaking, instead of directing our own government.

Data is not the enemy.  Data can be used for good or ill.  But individual rights will always matter more than efficiency.

As Jane Robbins pointed out to Congress:  “The problem arises when the subjects of the research and analysis are human beings [with rights!]  … The analyses contemplated by the commission go further than merely sharing discrete data points… they involve creating new information about individuals via matching data, drawing conclusions, and making predictions about those individuals, so in essence, the government would have information about a citizen even he or she doesn’t have.

Last year, I called Trey Gowdy’s office and talked with a staffer there, trying to understand why this patriot would promote the FEPA bill.  The staffer said that because veterans are suffering, due to corruption in their hospital systems and other systems, Trey Gowdy wanted to support them with more accountability by federal agencies to Congress.  The problem with this angle is that Congress is just one more entity that has to request access to all this federal data.  Creating this huge data mining system is not going to solve all the problems of corruption and mismanagement, and in the process of trying, it will harm liberty and privacy, or set up a system that can do so!

The moment is now.  What happens next?

If President Trump vetoes this bill, he sides with America’s right to privacy, as he promised he would on the campaign trail.  If he signs the bill into law, he sides with Big Control Via Big Data, as the Chinese government does.

Is that decision really clear to him?

Dear President, and Dear Congress, please take a second look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Open Letter to President Trump —#VETOHR4174   5 comments

 

Dear President Trump, 

There’s danger in the “Evidence Based Policy” bill that the majority of Congress just passed— oddly without any hearing or any debate— which you now will either sign into law or veto. I’m praying you’ll veto; praying you’ll remember your campaign promise in New Hampshire to protect privacy rights. You said, responding to Ann Marie Banfield, “Close the loopholes… you gotta have privacy, you gotta have privacy.” The American soul agrees with your statement.

But HR4174 dramatically alters and harms privacy rights for Americans. The bill’s fact sheet should be called a deceit sheet instead; it says that no new federal database will be created, but fails to mention that by linking all federal and state agencies, by mandating tech interoperability and by making no proper protections for personally identifiable information, no provision for informed consent of pii being shared between agencies, this bill sets up a system using databases already in existence that’s as real as the new federal database that the fact sheet promises isn’t being made. 

I’ve followed the public meetings of the commission that created this bill, the Commission for Evidence-based Policy (CEP). Buried inside lengthy, incredibly boring hours of audio, were some very important revelations about the purposes and goals of the CEP, and of this bill. For example, when one attendee asked CEP leadership whether linking pii (personal individual data) between agencies such as the Social Security Agency, Census office, etc., might alarm privacy minded Americans, the response was that this initiative must move patiently, and not “rip off the band-aid” from the American people. In other words, CEP leadership was potently aware that this initiative was extreme and shocking, or could be.

As Dr. Karen Effrem pointed out, a government that has access to virtually unlimited, personal data about its citizens, collected by thousands institutions— and private businesses, too— has an intimidating effect on its freeborn citizens, even if it never uses the information against them. 

As privacy expert Barmak Nassirian said of this type of legislation:

“Tracking autonomous free individuals through most of their lives in the name of better information for the benefit of others may be justifiable, but its extremism should at the very least be acknowledged and addressed.”

The bill’s fact sheet neither acknowledges nor addresses its extreme disfiguring effect on American future privacy. 

Why not? It’s the same reason that the bill was passed during the Christmas break, under the radar, without the light of debate or any hearing, the very reason CEP leadership said they mustn’t “rip off the bandaid” obviously.

The bill is sooo very long— of course— and written in a deliberately uninteresting way; unnecessary lengthiness and wordiness discourage anyone from reading or understanding it. Its deceptive and Swiss Cheese holed fact sheet, as well as its (unenforceable) lip service to privacy rights, has further confused congressional reps. 

It’s not confusing to the CEP, which created the bill. Its goals have been crystal clear from day one. In its public meetings, CEP openly and repeatedly stated that research and data collection were of vital, almost worshipful, import. 

Nothing else, not state laws, not agency policy, not even (consent of the governed) individual privacy rights—- nothing must be permitted to block the collection of data for research and evidence building, said CEP.

But I ask you, President Trump, is the value of voluminous data, even for the noblest of causes, higher than the value of liberty?

Privacy really matters —much more than we happy Americans often realize. I think about communist countries such as China, where privacy rights are gone. There, citizens are tracked and are given behavior modification reward or penalty points that impact their lives. If a citizen exercises free speech, criticizing the government, and loses points, that citizen may no longer have simple rights, like the simple right to ride the public bus. How would the Chinese government know that an individual criticized the government, and alert the bus system, without inter-agency linking such as HR4174 creates? It would not have been possible. 

Now, in China, they could be collecting evidence for noble causes, too: the bank robber or rapist might be excluded from the bus along with the disgruntled freedom lover. There are always two sides to every coin. 

Remember the recent IRS scandal when businesses who used terms like “patriotic” were targeted by the agency’s list called “BOLO” (Be On Look Out). They were horribly dominated and harassed by corrupt power holders at IRS. 

How would similar harassments roll out under HR 4174, with increased access by “researchers” using inter-agency databases containing personal information on individuals and children— including, for example, religious, gender, political or financial standing? 

Which side of this coin are you on? Is it efficiency and big data access, Big Brother style? Or is it individual rights and unhack-able, local control? 

The question isn’t whether federal evidence building will end up mostly helping, or unintentionally hurting, the people it is written to govern. A more essential question is, does Washington have the right to access and grant others’ access to collected evidence on me or you— without informed consent by the individual?

I say, no!

Please, please veto.

#VETOHR4174

Christel Swasey

Plead for President Trump to Veto HR 4174   5 comments

Even though Americans cannot call the White House today (the answering machine says it’s due to the shutdown) we can tweet @POTUS @WhiteHouse @RealDonaldTrump —or send an email. (Scroll to the bottom of this article for easy contact links).

Please alert (plead with) President Trump to veto this already passed bill, HR 4174, that Congress passed WITHOUT a hearing, so stealthily, during the Christmas break when supposedly none of us are paying attention.

—Except that some are!  Like the barking dogs who sent the alarm down the valley to alert others that Cruella DeVil was doing her evil, please join us and be a barking dog today.

If President Trump gets this message, he can veto.

Word of mouth, person to person, tends to be stronger than marketing initiatives.

Even if Trump doesn’t veto in time, Americans need to become aware quickly about what this bill will do. So bark!

HR 4174 doesn’t promote informed consent by individuals for agencies taking personally identifiable information for “sharing.” It promotes data sharing across federal agencies and between state and federal entities. HR 4174 will not make America great again! It will make America more like communist China, less like the America of liberty and justice for all, because its whole point is to collect EVIDENCE on you and me, and to create evidence-based policies, based on one-size-fits-all, federal moral values.

Do you want to give your own and your child’s and your neighbor’s privacy away —to public-private research partnerships, whom you never elected and cannot fire?  Do you want all agencies to alter their databases to make them all interoperable and therefore much more in danger of huge scale hacking?!

This bill comes from the CEP (Commission for Evidence Based Policy) which formed thanks to Patty Murray, Paul Ryan and Obama a few years ago with a mission to consolidate ALL data of ALL Americans from ALL sources into one “central clearinghouse”.

Now, the fact sheet on the bill denies that it’s creating a new, central, federal data repository.  This is on the surface of the words, true.  But linking thousands of federal and state agencies’ data interoperably IS creating a new system that actually operates as a new federal repository— of data not given by individual informed consent. That’s flat out theft— especially in the context of the CEP’s history and stated goals (such as getting rid of protective student unit record bans).

The title of the commission, and of this bill, sounds innocuous. Evidence based policy making.  But even back when the CEP was first organized, even though it came in part from Republican Paul Ryan, I was in full panic mode, and wrote about CEP’s goals and meetings, a lot. Search this blog.

Now the CEP’s privacy dismissing plot is to become US law (unless we see a veto from President Trump).

People won’t be able to ignore its effects.

When ALL data from ALL sources gets combined (for research purposes only, they promise us) into the de facto central clearinghouse, freedom can quickly go away.

The CEP wants access for officials and researchers to ALL DATA.  This is not anonymous data, but Pii (Personally Identifiable Information) on children and adults from everywhere—every US school, every test and tech based report or assignment, data from every document held by public private partnerships including preschools, hospitals, foster families, the social security department, criminal justice departments, both state and federal; the IRS, the CIA, the FBI, the EPA, the TSA, student loans, colleges, universities, including private corporations in public private partnerships, and much much more. When personal data is accessible to a “researcher” or bureaucrat, whether a legitimate policy maker or a nefarious hack, without YOUR informed consent, that’s very, very, exceptionally bad news.

Without revisiting too many historical CEP conference details —you can read those by searching CEP on this blog— just let me share one telling fact that has always stuck out in my mind…

(And yes, this is an appropriate time to be freaking out and taking action)—

This I can not forget:

One of the top dogs at the CEP said— during one of the endless, hours-long conferences that CEP held— that the CEP mustn’t  act too FAST in its research-based enthusiasm to take over Americans’ data. That, he said, would be “RIPPING OFF the band-aid” (of privacy)  from the American people. (Too obvious! Someone might notice.)

Well, some of us do notice.  President Trump, please notice!

Veto. Veto. Veto.

 

——

 

Here’s Dr. Effrem’s article for more information:

https://townhall.com/columnists/kareneffrem/2018/12/28/lameduck-congress-plays-grinch-to-citizens-by-passing-antiprivacy-database-bill-n2538151

 

ACTION:

Please tweet @POTUS @WhiteHouse @RealDonaldTrump to ask Pres. Trump to veto this bill.
The switchboard is not taking calls, but you can call your local congressional representative in-state, and send an email to Trump at www.whitehouse.gov/contact.
Please also send an email to Rep. Hice thanking him for his wisdom and courage in voting no. https://hice.house.gov/contact/

 


 

Will School Board Illegally Reward Opt-Ins & Lure Kids Who Opt Out of Tests?   Leave a comment

November 1, 2018

After tonight’s public hearing of the school board in Salt Lake City,  I spoke with the state school board’s lawyer, and he promised to review the document, below.  I told him it will show him  that the new rule (which the hearing protested) is illegal, along with being harmful to a child’s education.   I will keep you posted…

 

October 30, 2018

Dear State School Board,

As a mother with children in elementary and high schools; as an experienced, licensed teacher currently serving as a special needs aide in a public school; and on behalf of members of United States Parents Involved in Education, I request that rule R277-404-6c be stricken from Utah’s rules.  The rule states: “an LEA shall reasonably accommodate a parent’s or guardian’s request to allow a student’s demonstration of proficiency on a state required assessment to fulfill a requirement in a course.

 

Thoughtful reading reveals that the rule assumes for the state unprecedented authority to begin to use “a state required assessment to fulfill a requirement in a course”.

 

There can be no “reasonable accommodation” for violation of law, nor for manipulative education policy. The new rule attempts to legitimize an illegitimate thing;  to let the state (or school) tempt students to barter away legitimate course work in exchange for participation in the state’s exercise titled the SAGE/RISE assessment.

 

That barter is an unheard-of deviation from good education.  Never before have K-12 standardized test scores been used for exchange, in trade for legitimate education.  The schools will “pay” students by releasing them from some course work and will determine– at least partially if not maximally–  a student’s grade in a class if he or she engages in the SAGE/RISE exercise.

 

It’s bad education policy, but it also violates laws.

 

Under Utah law, a school “may not reward a student for taking an assessment” (https://le.utah.gov/xcode/Title53G/Chapter6/53G-6-S803.html).  It simply may not.  Is this rule’s offering not a reward to students? The rule tantalizes students with the lure of easy grades– especially if schools weigh the SAGE/RISE  as a large portion of course fulfillment. Meanwhile, students who opt out of the tests may face increasingly difficult class work, if schools try to strong-arm them to take SAGE/RISE, which some schools will, faced with the threat of opt outs lowering the school’s’ test-based school-grade.

 

Under Utah law, a school “shall consider multiple academic data points when determining an accommodation”. (https://le.utah.gov/xcode/Title53G/Chapter6/53G-6-S803.html).  Even though this rule exalts SAGE/RISE, setting a parturient exchange rate that equates strenuous coursework with government-test taking; still,  the SAGE/RISE is what it was designed to be– an attempt to measure schools, not students. It never claimed to be a replacement for individuals’ learning experiences. The test’s maker, American Institutes for Research, declared that “When you are using a test for accountability, you’re not really using it to measure the kid.  You are using it to measure the school, or the teacher, or the district” (VP Jon Cohen, min. 3:07). https://vimeo.com/80927107   A SAGE/RISE score is thus not a valid academic data point to consider when determining student accommodations.

 

Moreover, in  a law called “Parental right to academic accommodations” (https://le.utah.gov/xcode/Title53G/Chapter6/53G-6-S803.html) we learn that  “Each accommodation shall be considered on an individual basis and no student shall be considered to a greater or lesser degree than any other student”.  In contrast to that law, the new rule elevates “reasonable accommodations” only for some:  those who opt in.  Opting out is protected and cannot be punished. –But this rule will end up punishing vulnerable populations, including those with mental, academic or emotional disabilities, as well as minorities, who statistically suffer most from high stakes testing.  They cannot legally or ethically be coerced to opt in;  they will not have equal opportunity under the new rule. This is significant.

Utah law holds opting out as an important freedom: “upon written request of a student’s parent or guardian, an LEA shall excuse the student from taking a test that is administered statewide”  –and the state is to remain in a “supportive role to the guardian”. Utah law requires the state to be in a supportive role, secondary to the guardian. Neither the state nor the school can usurp the authority of parental, educational best  judgment. Tempting students to manipulate their parents into opting them in to tests, either for easy educational rewards or other reasons, is usurping. (How is it supportive to guardians for the state to create this scenario: “Dad, Mom, I don’t have time to write my research paper; I don’t want to read this literature for the final; the state/school says I can skip requirements if I take the SAGE/RISE test –so sign this accommodation note”?)

 

In addition to breaking the letter and spirit of Utah’s laws, the new rule lacks wisdom, integrity and common sense. It belittles the teaching profession, it ignores the impossibility of verifying its “exchange rate”; it ignores the lack of SAGE/RISE test validity approval; it disregards the voice of the people and responds to moneyed lobbies; and it is not well-intentioned toward children..

 

Consider:

 

  1. The rule denigrates the judgment and value of a teacher.  A teacher’s work is teaching, including customizing projects and finals and reports for students.  Why is that life-work to be dismissed with a cheap trade for a SAGE/RISE score?

  2. Evaluation is impossible, of the alignment between a course requirement and the SAGE/RISE. Teachers are never permitted to preview SAGE/RISE tests– nor read them after they are given– and that “confidentiality” means that equating (or trading) that test –for anything– is meaningless.

  3. Few, if any, tests would be worthy to replace high-quality course requirements, but in the case of SAGE/RISE, there is an abyss of foundational abyss. SAGE, used by both Florida and Utah, went under serious scrutiny –after Utah was already using it– when Florida commissioned two independent companies to verify its validity.  (This may have happened, in part, because a famous Utahn offered $100,000 to the State Office of Education if it would produce evidence that the SAGE test had been tested for validity. The State Office could produce nothing.) Then Florida, using Utah students’ scores as its guinea-pig study of SAGE validity, found pages and pages of egregious problems (see page 172-177).  The independent verifiers admitted that SAGE demonstrated “notable exceptions” to the use of “best practices”. See the full report of SAGE’s defects here:  https://www.flgov.com/wp-content/uploads/pdfs/FSA_Final_Report_08312015.pdf   In light of that report, does it make sense to use this test (or RISE, which is not materially different) as real currency in a trade against educational experience and work?

  4. The rule disregards the voice of the people, who have written laws to protect the right to opt out.  The rule responds instead to unelected agents and moneyed lobby groups which aim to increase Utah’s opt-in rate. The USBA lobby’s stated priority for political lobbying this year is quashing the rights of students and parents to opt out of SAGE/RISE, saying:  “students… should participate in state created end-of-year assessments, and educators should be allowed to encourage and motivate students to do their best on the state exams.”   http://usba.cc/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/JLCPriorities.pdf   Interestingly, this board gets pressure, but no financial reward, from the federal government for increased opt-in rates.  It also gets pressure from USBA to promote increased opt-in rates. But this board (and USBA) might remember that state law prohibits schools or educators from bribing (“encouraging and motivating”) students to take the SAGE/RISE tests.  It is nothing but selfish for adults to bribe students –for the benefit of adults’ interests (school grading, school funding, etc.)

 

Rather than complying with USBA pressures, this board should prioritize truly child-centric, parent-and teacher-supportive, honest education.  Let’s not enshrine the manipulation of children through acceptance of this  rule.  Let’s not become the school bullies that our state laws so firmly stand against.  Let’s strike R277-404-6c from the books.

Sincerely,

Christel Swasey

Utah Advisory Board Member

United States Parents Involved in Education

 

 

 

 

Show-Up Time: UT Public Hearing on Thursday– Concerning Test Opt-outs v. Course Requirements   2 comments

Your presence is requested at a special hearing this Thursday, November 1, 2018 from 5:00 to 6:30, in the Board Room at the State Office of Education, 250 E. 500 S., Salt Lake City.

Written comments may be submitted before close of business on Wednesday, October 31, 2018, here:  rule.comments@schools.utah.gov

If you wish to make public comment at the hearing, in person, that request must be made before the close of business on Wednesday, Oct. 31, to lorraine.austin@schools.utah.gov

This special hearing is in response to three parent-teacher groups’s requests:

  • United States Parents Involved in Education
  • Return to Parental Rights
  • United Women’s Forum, Salt Lake County Chapter

Each of these groups will be speaking for ten minutes at the hearing.  Other parties will be permitted to speak as time allows, with priority given to those who make the request by email on the previous day (see above).

In September, Utah’s executive branch published the “Utah State Bulletin” which contains many new rules on a host of subjects.  Rule No. 43183, beginning on page 14, called R-277-404, is titled “Requirements for Assessments of Student Achievement”.

Under 6(c) the new language states that a school (aka LEA) “shall reasonably accomodate a parent’s or guardian’s request to allow a student’s demonstration of proficiency on a state required assessment to fulfill a requirement in a course.”

This language needs to be stricken from the rules.  The language subtly, yet dramatically elevates the status of the SAGE/RISE/Common Core tests, without merit, without valid reason, and with unethical, damaging future effects.

Prior to the new rule, SAGE/RISE was something from which many parents and students could, and did, opt out–  for a host of reasons.  (See Top Ten Reasons to Opt Out of Common Core/SAGE testing.  See also  The National Center for Fair and Open Testing.   In a nutshell, SAGE/RISE/CommonCore tests are: locally and nationally controversial, even teacher and parent-disapprovedCommon Core-based, dangerously flaweddid I mention controversial, secretive, unvalidated; even mining students’ non-academic data.).

Now, unless this rule’s language is stricken from the rules, here’s the new opt out scenario:  any requirement in a course could potentially be skipped, if a school decides to allow a SAGE/RISE/CommonCore test score to replace it, with parental approval.  So, the student who used to be opted out of the government test by his or her parent, will now be strongly tempted to persuade his or her parent to opt in.  “I don’t have time/don’t want to write my final paper.  I didn’t have time/don’t want to read the literature;  the school says I can skip this requirement if I take the SAGE/RISE/CommonCore test and if you sign this form.”  This may drive a wedge between a student and parent.  It can create a wedge between a student and hard course requirements.  It can damage a teacher’s professional judgment and his or her course-designing value.

If SAGE/RISE/CommonCore tests weren’t controversial, if they weren’t secretive, so that a teacher could actually correlate a course with this test, to see if it actually measured the thing that the new rule language implies that this test can adequately replace, that might almost make sense.

But the tests remain controversial, and they are secretive, and they cannot be correlated with the course offerings of any given class by virtue of that secrecy.

I taught high school English and English at UVU, for a combined total of about 9 years.  (I have also taught third grade.)  As an English teacher, I imagine how this rule would play out.  Think about it.

Good teachers tend to assign challenging, classic literature to be read, and challenging essays and reports to be written.  Often, final exams and writing assignments feel like burdens to students, but they are, in fact, blessings.  (How else will students know how to research, draft, write and edit a well-referenced, fully cited, MLA-formatted paper at the end of the class? Not from a government screen-based test.)  And would any student need to really know the literature to pass a government/CommonCore test?  No.  A student can just read little snippets on the test and bubble in the multiple-guess responses.

Students will not grow from burdens they can skip.  Do we really want to put into state law the option to “get your parents to request that the government test will fulfill the essay writing/literature final/ other requirement of the class” ?

The executive for Utah’s SAGE test (AIR VP Jon Cohen) stated that “when you’re using a test for accountability, you’re not really using it to measure the kid, you are using it to measure the school, or the teacher, or the district.” 3:07 in the video clip:

 

 

Please consider making time in your day to show up, or at least to send in written comment on this issue.

Rule 277-404 6c might seem like small, barely significant language, but its effects may prove to be huge.  Besides seeming seriously unethical, implicitly encouraging students to beg their way into an opt-in to Common Core-aligned testing, the effects may be very long-lasting and damaging to an individual child’s education.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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