Archive for the ‘Parents’ Rights’ Category
Alyson Williams, who worked in data management for the publishing industry, a mother who has written and spoken much about education and data reforms over the past several years, has just given a speech at the Agency Based Education Conference.
It’s worth your time.
Alyson raises and expands upon many of the issues that are also being raised by other data privacy experts, including American Principles Project, Elana Zeide, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Education Liberty Watch, Return to Parental Rights, the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
She asks us to consider how current trends toward consent-less gathering and use of student data are to be affected by frameworks already in place (such as SLDS databases) and by new movements, such as the federal Commission on Evidence-based Policymaking (CEP) and the Competency-based Education reforms now arising in many legislatures (including Utah’s) today. She points out that a key cheerleader for Competency-based Education is Marc Tucker, the avowed enemy to local control of education who is, nonetheless, a mistakenly respected advisor to the Utah legislature. How might Marc Tucker’s CBE Baby affect my children and yours?
Please watch and share with your legislators.
I agree with Joy Pullman: “I shouldn’t have to give a flying fig about whom Donald Trump picks for this position.”
But we care, and the figs are flying, because there’s so much power unconstitutionally wielded by the executive branch over local education.
Although Trump did say in a campaign interview that he wanted to eliminate the Department of Education, it does not look as though that’s going to happen, sadly. The next best thing is to name a local-control oriented, constitution-loving Education Secretary.
Will Trump do that?
Trump’s choice of ed guru Bill Evers to his transition team spoke hope to those opposed to Common Core. Evers, a scholar at Hoover Institute (Stanford University) had been speaking out and writing books, white papers, think tank documents, and columns against Common Core; he served on panels and published opinion editorials against the nationalization of our formerly autonomous educational system. He’d been featured widely for his scholarship and activism; see for example, Breitbart, CSPAN, Stanford University, Utahns Against Common Core, Education Reporter.
Evers proclaimed that Common Core “violated the traditions of open debate and citizen control that are supposed to undergird public schooling” and said that “Common Core’s national uniformity runs counter to competitive federalism”.
Surely Evers would turn the Common Core machine around, thought parents and freedom loving teachers across this nation, and they took action.
A public letter from United States Parents Involved in Education last week pleaded with Trump to choose Dr. Bill Evers for Education Secretary. (See who signed that letter here.)
A similar public letter from Parents Against Common Core asked Trump to consider, along with Dr. Bill Evers, Dr. Larry Arnn, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Dr. Peg Luksik, or Dr. William Jeynes.
You can still sign that letter here.
Frighteningly though, this week Trump interviewed Michelle Rhee, one of the top ten scariest education reformers in the nation, for the job; the scandal-pocked former Commissioner of Education in D.C. and author of a creepy ed reform book, “Radical” is no friend to children, to opt-out liberty, or to the free market. Of “letting them choose wherever they want to go,” she said, “I don’t believe in that model at all.” So, Goodbye freedom, under Rhee.
There should be no chance that she’s chosen. (Even though she’s suddenly, cutely, dressing in red, white and blue to meet the president elect, do not be fooled!)
I hope Trump’s receiving a storm of anti-Rhee letters this week from parents and educators at his public input website. He’s probably going to make his announcement this week. Please, please speak up.
#BillEvers for Secretary! #NeverRhee!
This must-read article is partially reposted from Emily Talmage’s blog (Maine mom against common core). I think my favorite part is the video clip at the end, depicting a real cat and a real alligator, where the cat swats and intimidates the alligator, causing it to retreat in fear. What an iconic metaphor for what we the little people are trying to do as we fight the machine.
Read the whole article at EmilyTalmage.com.
Several weeks ago, I wondered in a blog post whether or not public education would survive the next administration. Admittedly, I was all but certain at the time that Hillary Clinton would be our next president, and my predictions were more than dismal: more screen time for even our youngest children, inflated local budgets, invasive school-wide and individual data collection, a proliferation of low-quality online K-12 and higher education programs, etc.
Ever since the big shock of Tuesday night, however, I’ve been scrambling to say something coherent about what we can expect now that Donald Trump really is going to be our next president.
Will public education survive?
Here’s the funny (and by that I mean incredibly scary) thing about federal public education policy: the big agenda – the real agenda – seems to survive no matter who is put in charge.
The real agenda – the ongoing march toward a cradle-to-grave system of human capital development that relies on the most sophisticated data collection and tracking technologies to serve its unthinkably profitable end – is fueled and directed by a multi-billion dollar education-industrial-complex that has been built over the course of decades.
It’s an absolute beast, an army of epic scale, and it’s a system that has the same uncanny ability to blend in with its surroundings as a chameleon.
Take, for example, the new “innovative assessment systems” that are being thrust on us every which way in the wake of ESSA. Under the banner of free market ideology, the far-right American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is promoting the very same assessment policies that far-left groups like the national unions and the National Center for Fair and Open Testing are now pushing. And though some claim that one ideology is merely “co-opting” the ideas of the other, the reality is that they lead to the same data-mining, cradle-to-career tracking end.
Consider, too, the massive push for blended, competency-based, and digital learning – all unproven methods of educating children, but highly favored by ed-tech providers and data-miners.
Most of these corporate-backed policies were cooked up in Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, and then made their way not only to the far-right ALEC, but also to left-leaning groups like the Center for Collaborative Education, the Coalition for Essential Schools, and the Great Schools Partnership. Depending on what sort of population each group is targeting, these wolves will dress themselves up in sheep’s clothing and make appeals to different values. For the right, they will package their policies in the language of the free market and choice; for the left, they will wrap them in a blanket of social-justice terminology.
Pull back the curtain far enough, however, and you will see they are selling the same thing.
There is, of course, no question that Hillary Clinton has been deeply entrenched in the education-industrial-complex for many, many years – even profiting from it personally – and that the big agenda was going to move full speed ahead if she were elected.
But what will happen now that we’re guaranteed to have a President Trump?
Unfortunately, we need look no further than the man leading Trump’s education transition team to understand how much trouble we are in.
Not long ago, Gerard Robinson, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, was one of only eleven members of the Executive Team of Jeb Bush’s “Digital Learning Now!” council, along with Joel Klein of NYC Public Schools, Gregory McGinity of the Broad Foundation, and Susan Patrick of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning.
Former Gates Foundation executive Tom Vander Ark, who sits on the board of the world’s creepiest education organizations while overseeing a giant portfolio of digital and online learning companies, picked Robinson as one of his top ten reformers to watch back in 2010.
It should be no surprise, then, that Robinson recently told EdWeek: “I see [Trump] supporting blended learning models, alternative learning models,” and that he will “likely want to continue significant investments in colleges and universities, but also closely track how well graduates do in the labor market.”
That’s all part of the big agenda right there, and here is no big surprise: for-profit education chains are already seeing their stocks rise.
For those of you now protesting that Trump said he would get rid of the Department of Education, well, President Reagan said that too, but then he sponsored a report called “A Nation at Risk” which kicked the role of the federal government in education into high gear. According to Robinson, Trump may “streamline” the department …whatever that means.
As for rumors circulating that either Ben Carson or William Evers of the Hoover Institute will be tapped for the role of Education Secretary under Trump, I think we’re more likely to get someone akin to what Robinson told Edweek: “Someone from the private sector, who may not have worked in education directly, but may be involved in philanthropy or some kind of reform.”
So what does this mean for us? For our kids, our schools and our communities?
More than likely, it won’t be much different nor any less dismal than what I wrote when I assumed Hillary would be president: more screen time for even our youngest children, inflated local budgets to support one-to-one tech initiatives, invasive (way more invasive) school-wide and individual data collection, and a proliferation of low-quality online K-12 and higher education programs.
And this is a big unless..
Unless parents and activists from across the political spectrum can mobilize now and stand up now to say enough is enough. We knowwhat the big agenda is, and we aren’t going to manipulated by superficial policy change anymore.
This means that those who lean right can’t afford to go back to sleep once they hear talk of school choice and vouchers and the elimination of Common Core, and those leaning left can’t afford to throw in the towel or be led astray by phony anti-privatization movements run by neoliberal groups pushing the same darn thing as everyone else…
Read the rest here…
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.
Guest post by Dr. Sandra Stotsky, published with permission from the author;
article was originally published July 8, 2016 at New Boston Post.
Dr. Sandra Stotsky
Last week, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts stopped voters from weighing in on a citizen-backed initiative to repeal Common Core.
In her opinion, Chief Justice Margot Botsford blocked on a technicality the petition to let voters decide whether to keep Common Core or revert to the state’s own educational standards. Her reasoning? The measure, she wrote, was unconstitutional because the portion of the ballot question that required the state to release used test items is unrelated to the transparency of state tests.
Got that? Justice Botsford thinks that release of used test items is unrelated to the transparency of state tests and standards as a matter of coherent public policy.
It was an oddly-reasoned decision since any classroom teacher in Massachusetts could have told her that the annual release of all used MCAS test items in the Bay State, from 1998 to 2007, was clearly related to the transparency of the state tests and very useful to classroom teachers. Among other things, the information allowed teachers to find out exactly what students in their classes did or did not do well and to improve their teaching skills for the next year’s cohort of students.
Botsford could have asked test experts as well. Any test expert would also have told her that the transparency of an assessment begins with an examination of the test items on it, followed up first by the names and positions of the experts who vetted the items on all tests at each grade level, and then by information on how the pass/fail scores for each performance level were determined, and the names and positions of those who determined them.
Botsford could also have found out from the testimony of those involved with the state’s tests from 1998 to 2007 that the cost of replacing released test items is negligible. It is not clear if her unsupported belief that there is a high cost for replacing released test items was what led her to conclude that the petition addressed matters that were unrelated to each other. As Botsford indicated in her ruling, “the goal of the petition…
… comes with a significant price tag: as the Attorney General agreed in oral argument before this court, implementing section 4 will require the development and creation of a completely new comprehensive diagnostic test every year, which means a substantial increase in annual expense for the board — an expense to be borne by taxpayers and to be weighed by voters in determining whether increased transparency is worth the cost.
In 2015, Attorney General Maura Healey certified the petition for placement on the November 2016 election ballot. But the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE) was not content to let the democratic process play out, so they brought a lawsuit — seemingly paid for by grants to the MBAE from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — to stop the matter from ever reaching the voters.
Both Botsford’s decision that the petition was unconstitutional and the unanimous agreement by the other justices as part of a “full court” session are puzzling, given the thorough review the petition had received from the Attorney General’s office. Here is how one of the pro bono lawyers who wrote the petition for the organization collecting signatures to place it on the November 2016 ballot described the vetting process to me (in a personal e-mail):
The process for an initiative petition has a series of check points. The initial draft is reviewed by the staff in the Government Bureau in the Attorney General’s Office (AGO). They look at the proposal to identify whether the proposal meets the threshold of the Constitutional requirements. The Government Bureau is made up of the best attorneys in state government. This review raised no flags.
After the collection of the signatures and submission to the AGO, the language is published and offered for public comment. It was at this point (in 2015) that the MBAE weighed in and opposed the petition (in a Memorandum of Opposition), using arguments that were dismissed by the AGO but that were later used in 2016 with the Supreme Judicial Court (as part of the MBAE’s lawsuit). In 2015, the review includes the staff attorney who oversees the petitions, the chief of the Government Bureau, the chief of the Executive Office (the policy-making administrative part of the AGO) and the Attorney General herself. This is a strictly legal discussion on the merits. … In my opinion, she decided it on the legal issues alone. And she and her staff decided that the petition passed the Constitutional requirements.
Now there can be legitimate differences on legal issues. But we structured the petition with the advice of a former U.S. attorney and his staff at his law firm. We passed several reviews at the Attorney General’s Office, including a contested review. The AGO’s brief on behalf of the petition was strong.
We had a petition that was complete, parrying threats that would have undermined the repeal of Common Core. The Attorney General understood that and supported our desire to bring it before the public.
To date, the parent organization that collected about 100,000 signatures for the petition has received no explanation from the lawyers who wrote the petition for them about why there was a unanimous decision by the Supreme Judicial Court that the petition was unconstitutional (on the grounds that there was a lack of connection among its sections, even though all the sections were in the original statute passed by the state legislature in 1993—a statute that was never criticized as incoherent). Nor has there been any word from the Attorney General’s office.
By preventing the voters from having their say, the Massachusetts court did a disservice not only to our public schools – which were better off under Massachusetts’ own rigorous academic standards — but even more to the institution of democracy itself.
Sandra Stotsky, former Senior Associate Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Education, is Professor of Education emerita at the University of Arkansas. Read her past columns here.