Archive for the ‘Transparency Problems: Why Won’t State Leaders Answer Questions?’ Category
I am so annoyed. Those words actually came out of the mouth of the CEP Commission leader: “Ripping the Band-Aid (of data privacy and control) probably would not fly.” But pulling it off using (in his words) “baby steps” is the CEP’s plan, he said in the video of yesterday’s meeting.
Four-hour federal meetings posted on YouTube are not fun to watch. These arrogant –and, let me remind you, unelected CEP members, who we cannot possibly fire (they’re appointed) –spout blah-blah-blah that can consistently be summarized as something like: “… I feel great about the way we persuade the elite and rob Americans of privacy –without widespread knowledge and completely without consent.”
Wait: Before I say one more word: TOMORROW, 12-14-16, is the deadline for public input on privacy v. fed authority over data —here’s the comment link.
Please comment, even if all you write is something very short and very simple: “I believe in informed consent. I oppose non-consensual data mining. Stop this madness.” Do it, please: https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=USBC-2016-0003
You and I both suspect that zero consideration will be taken by the CEP of the comments from the public. Do it anyway. Don’t let them think nobody sees or opposes this assault on personal data privacy. And yes, it’s about disaggregated data. See the quotes below, repeatedly speaking about PII. (Personally Identifiable Information as defined in federal FERPA includes so much, even biometric information: behavioral data, DNA samples, nicknames, bus stop times, family history, academic history, fingerprints, blood samples, etc.)
Since CEP has disabled embedding of its public meeting, I’m embedding a video that suffices as a metaphor for the whole thing, before I tell you what went on in the meeting itself.
See how this carnivorous sundew plant injests this insect? It illustrates the stealthy federal hunger for individuals’ data. As individuals (the insects) are drawn to the sweet federal dollars (nectar) coming from the hungry plant (federal government) the tentacles of the plant (federal data mining; SLDS and CEDS) become more and more attached until the insect finally loses all autonomy.
Here’s one where a carnivorous plant lures and later digests a mouse.
If state legislators and administrators would exercise some self-reliance, tighten their financial belts, turn to ourselves (localities) to fund schools and other agencies instead of using federal funds or national, corporate lobby cash, which only give money in exchange for data– then the federal and global data mining traps would fail.
States are stupidly giving away our vital liberties, addicted to the sweet, sticky money that we’ve been lapping at federal troughs.
I am longing to see evidence that our friends in freedom (in D.C. or here in Utah) are making the smallest peep to protect our children from this ongoing, slow-motion, tsunami-like data grab. Maybe it’s happening behind the scenes. I pray at least that that is so.
So, unembedded, if you want to hear the federal “Let’s Take Student Data Without Consent” Commission (aka CEP Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking) is saying, check out this link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXasJLAWgtc
Ironically, CEP disabled the video‘s embedding function (it’s a public meeting) but if you look at this link, at hour 1:25 to 1:31 you’ll hear this question from an attendee, followed by a CEP response that summarizes the event:
“Let me try and ask what I think is a very difficult question, and I don’t expect you to be able to answer it, but maybe we can start a conversation that could be useful to us. So, I see census as having made a lot of steps to move in the kinds of directions that are suggested or anticipated by the Commission bill, in that you are working to bring data from other agencies or you have, into the — you’ve broadened their mission and you are bringing together data from many agencies and allowing researchers in and outside of government to access the data that you’ve brought together. What are the ways that you could expand those efforts? Um, and I’m not suggesting that we talk about a single statistical agency across government, but how could there be more of a coordination or maybe a virtual one statistical agency where census is playing a coordinating role, or what kinds of movements in that direction should we think about? What kinds of things have you thought about? What are the barriers to moving toward more coordination between the statistical agencies?”
The response at 1:29 from the CEP:
“…One of the biggest constraints that everybody involved in this sort of endeavor faces is the different rules that are attached to data that are sourced from different agencies or different levels of, you know, whether it’s federal or state… that if there was broad agreement in, that, you know, if there was one law that prosc– had the confidentiality protections for broad classes of data, as opposed to, you know, here’s data with pii on it that’s collected from SSA, here’s data with pii on it that’s collected from the IRS; here’s data with pii on it that’s collected from a state; versus from a statistical agency– if data with pii on it was treated the same, you know I think that would permit, you know, organizations that were collecting pii-laden data for different purposes to make those data available more easily. Now, that’s probably a pretty heavy lift… do this in sort of baby steps as opposed to ripping the band aid. I think ripping the band-aid would probably not fly.”
Summary: the CEP just said that “ripping the band-aid” of privacy off the arm of the American people will “probably not fly”; so the CEP has got to “do it in sort of baby steps.”
I don’t think I’m going to watch the rest of this dog and pony show. I’m going to write again to Mia, Jason, Mike and Gary.
What are you going to do? Send CEP a comment? Email your legislators? Say a prayer for the privacy of American people? Re-read 1984 to motivate yourself to care?
You can attend the CEP’s next public meetings in various places across the nation by visiting the CEP federal site here.
A news bomb about the theft of student data exploded in Utah’s Deseret News last July, but nobody noticed, apparently.
The article’s headline — “Wrongful Termination Lawsuit Puts Spotlight on Utah Autism Rates” — focused primarily on things other than the data theft. It highlighted former University of Utah research professor Judith Zimmerman’s allegations that university researchers were falsifying Utah’s autism rates.
But to me, the unheadlined bomb that the article dropped was the 750,000 students who had their data and their families’ data stolen by unauthorized “researchers”. The families now have no way of knowing this happened.
Zimmerman was fired for raising concerns about protected student data that she said the researchers had “compromised and accessed without proper authority.” She told the Deseret News that unauthorized individuals took 750,000 sensitive records with neither parental nor schools’ consent. This private “medical and educational information” included “names, birthdays, information about medical characteristics… special education classification and parents’ names and addresses,” reported the Deseret News.
How would these families now be notified? I wonder: with the whistleblower fired and with a years-long lawsuit and likely gag orders pending, the only people who now could potentially contact those families would be still employed at the university –who, being accused of the wrongdoing, certainly won’t go out of their way to inform the affected families right now.
I’m not going to discuss the ways in which the stolen records, and the children they represented, are vulnerable to potential crimes of credit card fraud, health insurance identity theft, crimes of predatory stalkers or the mandates of well-or-ill-intentioned governmental activists.
I’m here to ask –and answer– a very simple question that I hope readers are asking: how could this have happened? How were three quarters of a million records of children just lying around under the noses of any unscrupulous university researchers?
It’s simple. Utah has a STATE LONGITUDINAL DATABASE SYSTEM (SLDS) and it’s managed by the UECP at the University of Utah.
You, your children, and your grandchildren are in the SLDS whether you like it or not –unless you pay 100% of your own money in tuition for a 100% private school, and always have. There is no other way to opt out. I’ve tried.
Don’t get me started about how blindly stupid Utah is (all states now are) for having –and continuing to support– the SLDS.
We’re subject to this SLDS data surveillance system simply because in some USOE cubicle, some clueless grant writer responded to Obama’s mess of pottage and decided that the state of Utah might exchange students’ privacy for a $9.6 million dollar federal grant.
Utah traded all students’ data records, longitudinally (permanently) into this data-slurping machine, euphemistically titled the State Longitudinal Database System, which the feds designed and oversaw— all for the love of money and nonconsensual research.
Without parental consent, Utah children’s data now is daily being collected –using schools to vaccum it up. This is not a legitimate situation, but you can’t blame schools. They are being used. They have to give daily data to the state/fed system, or they lose funds/grind to a halt. In a recent Utah rulemaking statement, we read: “all public education LEAs shall begin submitting daily updates to the USOE Clearinghouse using all School Interoperability Framework (SIF) objects defined in the UTREx Clearinghouse specification. Noncompliance with this requirement may result in interruption of MSP funds.”
So we can’t believe the ear candy we’re told, about how this data mining is about keeping data on kids so teachers can do their best teaching. It’s not staying in the local school for teachers and administrators to legitimately peruse, but it goes into the federally designed, federally interoperable SLDS database held at UECP/U of U which many state agencies can peruse and which the feds can already partially peruse.
(Side note: the feds are feverishly working to get much greater unit-record access as we speak. If you’re interested, livestream the CEP’s federal public hearing on that subject today: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvvatB_NBWI )
Every state has an SLDS system. The feds paid the states to build them. The feds told the states how the SLDS’s had to be built. Utah got nearly $10 million to make Utah’s federal SLDS in 2009. And the grant’s been renewed to keep trading cash for students, in recent years.
Utah children and their families thus have their data sucked away to where unelected, unaccountable “researchers” are entrusted with data via SLDS. The University’s “Utah Education Policy Center” (UEPC) is a founding partner in the Utah Data Alliance, which controls Utah’s SLDS system. According to UEPC’s website:
“Five other partners include the Utah State Office of Education (public education), Utah System of Higher Education, Utah College of Applied Technology, Utah Education Network, and the Department of Workforce Services. UEPC serves as the research coordinator for the Utah Data Alliance. UEPC coordinates access for individuals and organizations interested in collaborating with the Utah Data Alliance, or researchers interested in accessing data for research purposes.”
That’s a long answer to a short question. That’s how the data got stolen.
Here’s the follow up question: what’s keeping the other millions of records of students from going the same way that those 750,000 records went?
Ask your legislator that question. Ask him/her to show you any proper privacy protections that are actually in place. (FERPA was shredded; don’t let them pretend there’s protection anymore under FERPA.)
We do not even have the freedom to opt out of SLDS tracking. But all of this can change– if more good people speak up– act.
How did the fox persuade the gingerbread boy to get on his back? The fox said that he would never eat him, but would surely protect the gingerbread boy from everyone who was trying to eat him on the dangerous side of the river.
On shore stood the hungry horse, the farmer, the dog, the others– and the fox said that he could help the gingerbread boy to get away. The fox protected the gingerbread boy like the federal government is protecting your child’s personal data.
Every time I read an official promise like this recent CEP statement (and there are so many; even the federal alterations to FERPA sounded like the CEP statement) –I think of the gingerbread boy. The CEP (federal “Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking”) promises that the government only wants more individual “data in order to build evidence about government programs, while protecting privacy and confidentiality.” I think of the fox “protecting” the gingerbread boy.
That fox wanted to eat the boy just as much as the dog and the farmer and everyone else did. Even the gingerbread boy probably suspected it, but he really, really wanted to cross that river.
When the government says that it can and will protect privacy while accessing greater amounts of data, I think:
River = money
Gingerbread boy = a child’s sensitive data
Horse = educational sales corporations
Farmer = educational researchers
Fox = federal government
Dog= state government
The oven where the boy was born = SLDS database
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.
Jane Robbins and Jakell Sullivan co-authored this article at Townhall.com, which is reposted here with permission. Please note the links to learn more.
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.]
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.
It is one of the ironies of life that Secretary King’s name matches his actions as throne-sitter at the unconstitutional U.S. Department of Educsation. As Secretary of Education, he has followed in the outrageous, extreme, fully socialist footsteps of his predecessor, Secretary Arne Duncan.
Tonight, U.S.P.I.E. (U.S. Parents Involved in Education) is pushing back, hosting a nationwide #StopFedEd twitter rally to raise awareness.
Tweet about the outrageous encroachments of the Department of Education. Tweet about our current Secretary, John King, also known as “The King of Common Core.” You can learn more about Secretary King by reading posts and articles that many have written, for years, about his education shenanigans. (#ReinInTheKing)
Please join the rally at PJNET; click here.
Make some noise across the twittersphere.
Let the U.S. Department of Education know that millions of voters, teachers, parents and legislators aim to stop its monstrous agenda that wants to eliminate local control of schooling. Let them know we are not blind to the unwanted data gathering agenda, the teacher-stifling agenda, the collectivist agenda, nor the encroachments that abound in the new federal ESSA. Let them know that we will not put our heads in the sand while Secretary King and his unconstitutional department has its heavy-fisted, unkind, unconstitutional way with our tax dollars and our children.
This is America; we, the people, standing on the U.S. Constitution, claim our rights and reject this King! Tweet it, Facebook it, LinkedIn it, Pin it; share your voice. We demand educational local control and liberty and true, high quality education.
Use the hashtags #ReinInTheKing and #StopFedEd, please. If you want to find out more about USPIE, click here. To join the twitter rally click here, or just tweet #ReinInTheKing and #StopFedEd, with whatever message you wish to send @ federal and state leadership
(Here’s one link to the twitter handles of the U.S. Congress, to get you started.)
For additional context:
Below is a letter to be delivered this week to the U.S. Congress. It is written by U.S.P.I.E. and has been signed by pages and pages of names of leaders of U.S. organizations and individual teachers and parents and voters. That official list of signers will be available soon, as the deadline is tonight. If you want to be a signer, email Ms. Few at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is the letter:
United States Parents Involved in Education (USPIE), a nationwide, nonpartisan coalition of state leaders with thirty state chapters focused on restoring local control of education, do hereby submit opposition to the proposed regulations of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) accountability and state plan rule-making. USPIE is joined in our dissent by many other local and national organizations with shared goals as cosigners to this letter.
As part of our opposition, we point to Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Lamar Alexander’s comments concerning ESSA, “…it prohibits Washington from deciding which schools and teachers are succeeding or failing.” As well, Senator Alexander states, “…the new law explicitly prohibits Washington from mandating or even incentivizing Common Core or any other specific academics standards.” These two quotes point directly to our opposition. As Senator Alexander explains, ESSA “prohibits Washington” from being entrenched in education. As detailed below, we find this to be untrue.
In a thorough review and analysis of the proposed regulations against the Act, written into law in January of 2016, we found five main areas where the requirements of the regulations supersede States’ rights as defined in the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The five areas include: The Power of the Secretary of Education, accountability through data reporting, accountability through assessments, state plan requirements, and identification for targeted support and improvement. Below are bulleted concerns where we believe federal overreach impedes states’ rights. These beliefs correspond with specific sections of the proposed regulations.
THE SECRETARY OF EDUCATION IS GRANTED MORE POWER OVER STATES
- Proposed 299.13 allows the Secretary to control how States are to submit their education plans and the deadline by which they are to submit.
- Proposed 299.13 states the Secretary is authorized to establish consolidated State Plan Programs, information about these programs, the materials needed for these programs, and to set all assurances for the programs for adherence.
- The proposed regulations allow the Secretary to amend requirements for implementing Title I programs including requirements for States when submitting their State Education Plans.
- Proposed 299.13 say if States make any changes to State Education Plans, the Secretary must approve.
- 46 of ESSA: The Secretary can withhold funds if States fail to meet any of the State Plan requirements.
**Recommendation: The Secretary should not be allowed to amend requirements. Title I should be implemented as the law states, not how the Secretary thinks it should be carried out. States should not be bribed into complying with regulations issued from any government agency.
DATA REPORTING IS EXPANDED AT THE COST OF THE STATES
- Proposed 200.20 gives States “flexibility” to average data across years or combine data across grades because averaging data across school years or across grades in a school can increase the data available as a part of determining accountability.
- Proposed 200.20 will also require States who combine data across grades or years to also report data individually for each grade/year, use the same uniform procedure, and explain the procedure in the State plan and specify its use in the State report card.
- ESSA is supposed to give flexibility and more control to States by decreasing the burden of reporting requirements. Proposed regulations 299.13 and 299.19 will expand data reporting for “States and LEAs in order to provide parents, practitioners, policy makers, and public officials at the Federal, State, and local levels with actionable data,” which will entail additional costs for States. These reports must include accountability indicators to show how the State is aligned with a College and Career Readiness Standard (Common Core).
- Proposed regulations 200.30 and 200.31 will implement requirements in the ESSA that expand reporting requirements for States and LEAs “in order to provide parents, practitioners, policy makers, and public officials at the Federal, State, and local levels with actionable data,” and information on key aspects of our education.
- Proposed 200.17 clarifies data disaggregation requirements. It states that the n-size used to measure test scores and graduation rates of any subgroup for state accountability purposes should not exceed 30 students.
- Proposed 200.21 through 200.24 require LEA’s to include evidence-based interventions in order to receive improvement funds. Such interventions include the safe and healthy school environments and the community and family engagement plans. These plans include the heavy use of surveys—student surveys and home surveys.
**Recommendation: We recommend removing these regulations, letting States decide subgroup size as ESSA states
**Recommendation: We recommend not expanding data collection. Along these lines, we recommend the federal government not collect data on children at all.
RIGOROUS STANDARDIZED TESTS ARE THE MEASUREMENT FOR STUDENT SUCCESS
(These regulations heavily incentivize keeping Common Core as State standards)
- Proposed 200.12 will require a State’s accountability system to be based on the challenging State academic standards (Common Core) and academic assessments.
- Proposed 200.13 will require States to establish ambitious long-term goals and measurements of interim progress for academic achievement that are based on challenging State academic standards (Common Core) and the State’s academic assessments.
- Proposed 200.14 states assessments provide information about whether all students are on track to graduate “college-and-career-ready” (Common Core).
- Proposed 200.15 will require States who miss the 95% participation requirement to: a) be assigned a lower rating (200.18); b) be assigned the lowest performance level under State Academic Achievement (200.14); c) be identified for target support and improvement (200.19); and d) have another equally rigorous State-determined action, as described in its State plan, which the Secretary has to approve.
- States who miss the 95% would be required to develop and implement improvement plans that address the law participation rate and include interventions.
- Proposed 200.15 will require States to explain in its report card how it will factor the 95% participation rate requirement into its accountability system. (This is not flexibility; this is the government telling States what to do.)
- Proposed regulations will ensure that States who fail to meet the 95% rate have rigorous actions taken (lower rating, identified for targeted support/improvement), providing incentive for schools to ensure all students take the annual State assessments.
- Proposed 200.18 requires each school to receive a single “summative” grade or rating, derived from combining at least 3 of the 4 indicators used to measure its performance. Further, the regulation “forbids” states from boosting school’s rating if it has made substantial improvement in the 4th non-academic category.
- Proposed 200.15 requires states to intervene and/or fail schools who do not meet the 95% participation rate on the state test.
**Recommendation: We recommend letting states determine their own rating system and choose other indicators of school performance.
**Recommendation: We recommend taking emphasis off Common Core aligned assessments and giving teachers the freedom to teach.
**Recommendation: We recommend removing these regulations as it violates the provision of the ESSA to recognize state and local law that allow parents to opt-out their child from participating in the state academic assessments.
STATE PLAN REQUIREMENTS
- Proposed 299.13 will establish procedures and timelines for State plan submission and revision and the Secretary is authorized to approve revisions.
- Proposed 299.14 to 299.19 will establish requirements for the content of consolidated State plans.
- Proposed 299.16 will require States to demonstrate that their academic standards and assessments meet federal requirements.
- Proposed 299.19 will require states to describe how they are using federal funds to provide all students equitable access to high-quality education and would include program-specific requirements necessary to ensure access.
- Proposed 299.13 outlines requirements for an SEA to submit in order to receive a grant. The state must submit to the Secretary assurances in their plan including “modifying or eliminating State fiscal and accounting barriers so that schools can easily consolidate funds from other Federal, State, and local sources to improve educational opportunities and reduce unnecessary fiscal and accounting requirements”.
**Recommendation: We recommend removing these regulations and allowing States to establish State plan procedures and timelines.
IDENTIFICATION FOR TARGETED SUPPORT AND IMPROVEMENT
- Proposed 200.15 will require subgroups (homeless, military, foster, etc.) to adhere to the 95% participation rate along with their peers.
- Proposed 200.19 will provide parameters for how States must define “consistently underperforming.”
- Proposed 200.24 grants States additional funds for low performing LEAs but instructs how States must use these funds.
- Proposed 299.17 will include State plan requirements related to statewide school support and improvement activities.
- Proposed 200.24 says if schools do not show improvement by a set time, SEAs may take additional improvement actions including: a) replacing school leadership; b) converting to a charter school; c) changing school governance; d) implementing new instructional model; or c) closing the school. This is called, “whole school reform.”
- Proposed 200.19 and 200.23 also talk about the use of whole school reform.
**Recommendation: We recommend giving States the power to define schools which “consistently underperform” and allowing States to decide appropriate improvement activities.
We, the undersigned, agree to these points and respectively ask Congress to reconsider the regulations as written. Our suggestion is the regulations are retracted and either rewritten so they closer align with the law or they are completely discarded and States are left to interpret the law as they see fit.
Lastly, USPIE leadership is more than willing to meet and discuss these points, our recommendations, and solutions with any Congressional member at a time and place convenient to them. Like you, we would like to see education brought to a level where all children, teachers, schools, and communities succeed.
With utmost respect and regards,
Sheri Few, President
United States Parents Involved in Education
Tracie Happel, President
South Carolina Parents Involved in Education
Lynne Taylor, President
North Carolina Parents Involved in Education
Ida Frueh, President
North Dakota Parents Involved in Education