Nationwide Coalition letter
linked at Florida’s Stop Common Core Coalition here.
January 9, 2017
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
428 Senate Dirksen Office Building, Washington, DC 20510
Dear Chairman Alexander, Ranking Member Murray, and Members of the Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions Committee,
We, the undersigned leaders of a nationwide coalition of grassroots parent groups, wish to raise significant concerns about Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos, and request that you ask her these questions about education, standards, privacy and autonomy issues:
1) We understand that your website statement right after your appointment that you are “not a supporter – period” of Common Core was meant to reassure activists that you oppose the standards and will honor Mr. Trump’s promise to get rid of Common Core.
Please list your efforts during your extensive period of education activism and philanthropy to fight the implementation of the standards.
2) In your November 23 website statement you mention “high standards,” and in the Trump Transition Team readout of your November 19th meeting with the president-elect, you reportedly discussed “higher national standards.”
Please explain how this is different from Common Core. Also, please justify this stand in light of the lack of constitutional and statutory authority for the federal government to involve itself in standards, and in light of Mr. Trump’s promise to stop Common Core, make education local, and scale back or abolish the U.S. Department of Education.
3) Would you please reconcile your website statement that you are “not a supporter – period” of Common Core with your record of education advocacy in Michigan and elsewhere – specifically, when you have, either individually or through your organizations (especially the Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP) that you founded and chaired, and of which your family foundation is still the majority funder):
Been described as supporting Common Core by Tonya Allen of the Skillman Foundation in the Detroit News?
Actively worked to block a bill that would have repealed and replaced Michigan’s Common Core standards with the Massachusetts standards, arguably the best in the nation?
Actively lobbied for continued implementation of Common Core in Michigan?
Financially supported pro-Common Core candidates in Michigan?
Funded Alabama pro-Common Core state school board candidates?
Threatened the grassroots parent organization Stop Common Core in Michigan with legal action for showing the link between GLEP endorsement and Common Core support?
4) The Indiana voucher law that you and your organization, the American Federation for Children (AFC), strongly supported and funded requires voucher recipient schools to administer the public school Common Core-aligned tests and submit to the grading system based on those same Common Core-aligned tests. The tests determine what is taught, which means that this law is imposing Common Core on private schools. Indiana “is the secondworst in the country on infringing on private school autonomy” according to the Center for Education Reform because of that and other onerous requirements, and the state received an F grade on the Education Liberty Watch School Choice Freedom Grading Scale.
Do you support imposing public-school standards, curriculum and tests on private and or home schools?
5) Through Excel in Ed and the American Federation for Children, you have influenced legislation that has made Florida a “leader” in school choice, yet the majority of students, especially those in rural areas, in states like Florida, still chooses to attend traditional public schools. Public school advocates in Florida complain that expanded school choice has negatively affected their traditional public schools, even in previously high performing districts.
As Secretary of Education, how will you support the rights of parents and communities whose first choice is their community’s traditional public school?
6) You and AFC have been strong supporters of federal Title I portability. As Secretary of Education, would you require the same public school, Common Core tests and the rest of the federal regulations for private schools under a Title I portability program as Jeb Bush recommended for Mitt Romney in 2012 (p. 24)? If yes, please cite the constitutional authority for the federal government to be involved in regulating schools, including private schools, and explain how this policy squares with Mr. Trump’s promise to reduce the federal education footprint.
7) The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires secretarial approval of state education plans for standards, tests and accountability. Will you support state sovereignty by approving the state plans in line with Mr. Trump’s vision of decreasing the federal role in education, or will you exercise federal control by secretarial veto power over these plans?
8) The Philanthropy Roundtable group that you chaired published a report on charter schools, but did not mention the Hillsdale classical charter schools, even though they are in your home state of Michigan and Hillsdale is nationally renowned for its classical and constitutional teaching and for not taking federal funding. Have you or any of your organizations done anything substantive to support the Hillsdale model aside from a few brief mentions on your websites? If not, do you want all charter schools in Michigan and elsewhere to only teach Common Core-aligned standards, curriculum and tests?
9) During the primary campaign, President-elect Trump indicated that he strongly supported student privacy by closing the loopholes in the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), saying the following to a parent activist:
I would close all of it,” Trump replied. “You have to have privacy. You have to have privacy. So I’d close all of it. But, most of all, I’d get everything out of Washington, ‘cause that’s where it’s all emanating from.
Will you commit to reversing the Obama administration’s regulatory gutting of FERPA and to updating that statute to better protect student privacy in the digital age?
10) We are sure you are aware of serious parental concerns about corporate collection and mining of highly sensitive student data through digital platforms, without parental knowledge or consent. But the Philanthropy Roundtable, which you chaired, published a report called Blended Learning: A Wise Giver’s Guide to Supporting Tech-assisted Teaching that lauds the Dream Box software that “records 50,000 data points per student per hour” and does not contain a single use of the words “privacy,” “transparency” [as in who receives that data and how it is used to make life-changing decision for children], or “consent.”
Will you continue to promote the corporate data-mining efforts of enterprises such as Dream Box and Knewton, whose CEO bragged about collecting “5-10 million data points per user per day,” described in your organization’s report?
11) Related to Questions 9 and 10 above, there is currently a federal commission, the Commission on Evidence-based Policymaking, which is discussing lifting the federal prohibition on the creation of a student unit-record system. If that prohibition is removed, the federal government would be allowed to maintain a database linking student data from preschool through the workforce. That idea is strongly opposed by parent groups and privacy organizations.
Will you commit to protecting student privacy by recommending to the Commission on EvidenceBased Policymaking that this prohibition be left in place?
12) As outlined in a letter from Liberty Counsel that was co-signed by dozens of parent groups across the nation, the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) plans to add subjective, invasive, illegal, and unconstitutional survey or test mindset questions to the 2017 administration of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
What will you do to rein in NAGB and protect the psychological privacy and freedom of conscience of American students?
13) Through commissions, programs, federally funded groups, the newly passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the proposed Strengthening Education Through Research Act, and other entities, there has been an explosion of effort to expand invasive, subjective social emotional learning (SEL) standards, curricula and assessment.
What is your view of SEL and what will you do to protect student psychological privacy and freedom of conscience?
Thank you for your willingness to hear and address the concerns of hundreds of thousands of parents across this nation.
Should you need any further detail on any of these issues, I am acting as point of contact for this coalition.
Karen R. Effrem, MD President – Education Liberty Watch
National Organizations and Education Policy Leaders
Karen R. Effrem, MD – President, Education Liberty Watch
Sandra Stotsky, Professor of Education emerita, 21st Century Chair in Teacher Quality, University of Arkansas
Eunie Smith, Acting President & Mary Potter Summa, National Issues Chair – Eagle Forum
Angela Davidson Weinzinger – Leader, Parents and Educators Against Common Core Standards
Donna G. Garner, Retired Teacher and EdViews.org Policy Commentator
Christel Swasey – Advisory Board Member, United States Parents Involved in Education
Shane Vander Hart – Caffeinated Thoughts
Teri Sasseville – Special Ed Advocates to Stop Common Core
Michelle Earle – Founder and Administrator, Twitter Stop Federal Education Mandates in the U.S
Gudrun & Tim Hinderberger – Founding Administrators & Michelle Earle, Co-administrator, Americans Against Common Core Group
Alice Linahan, Vice-President – Women on the Wall
Teri Sasseville – Stop Early Childhood Common Core
Lynne M Taylor – Common Core Diva, education researcher and activist
State Organizations and Education Policy Leaders
Betty Peters – Member, Alabama State Board of Education
Jennifer Helms, PhD, RN – President, Arkansans for Education Freedom
Orlean Koehle – President, California Eagle Forum
Orlean Koehle – Director, Californians United Against Common Core
Karen R. Effrem, MD – Executive Director, Florida Stop Common Core Coalition
Meredith Mears, Debbie Higgenbotham, Stacie Clark – FL Parents RISE Keith Flaugh – Florida Citizens Alliance
Janet O McDonald, M.Ed., LMT, Neurodevelopmental Specialist & Instructor – Member, Flagler County School Board, District 2
Catherine Baer – Chairwoman, The Tea Party Network
Suzette Lopez – Accountabaloney
Sue Woltanski – Minimize Testing Maximize Learning
Beth Overholt, MSW – Chair, Opt Out Leon County
Deb Gerry Herbage – Founder, Exposed Blog
Lamarre Notargiacomo – Indian River Coalition 4 Educational Freedom
Charlotte Greenbarg – President, Independent Voices for Better Education
Teri Sasseville – Georgians to Stop Common Core
Stephanie Froerer Zimmerman – Founder, Idahoans for Local Education
Donald Bauder – V.P Hamilton County Grassroots Conservatives
Shane Vander Hart and Leslie Beck – Iowa RestoreEd
Lisa Huesers, Courtney Rankin, Rosy Schmidt – Kansans Against Common Core
Shirley Daniels – Kentucky Eagle Forum
Dr. Elizabeth Meyers, Dr. Anna Arthurs, Mrs. Mary Kass, Mrs. Terri Temmcke – Stop Common Core in Louisiana
Deborah DeBacker, Tamara Carlone, Melanie Kurdys , & Karen Braun – Stop Common Core in Michigan
Linda Bell, founder; Kerstin Hardley-Schulz, & Chris Daniels – Minnesota Advocates and Champions for Children
Jennifer Black-Allen and Anne Taylor – MACC Refuse the Tests
Karen Briske – Stop Common Core in Nevada
Ken Eyring – Member, Windham School Board
Michelle Earle – Founder and Administrator, Stop Common Core and Federal Education Mandates in the Fingerlakes, NY
Alphonsine Englerth – Advocate & Founder, Flo’s Advocacy for Better Education in NYS
Heidi Huber – Ohioans for Local Control
Oklahoma Jenni White – Education Director, Restore Oklahoma Parental Empowerment
Karen Bracken – President/Founder, Tennessee Against Common Core Bobbie Patray – President, Tennessee Eagle Forum
Lynn Davenport – Parents Encouraging A Classical Education (PEACE)
Mellany Lamb – Texans Against Common Core
Meg Bakich – Leader, Truth in Texas Education
A. Patrick Huff – Adjunct Professor, University of St. Thomas
Utah Michelle Boulter – Member, Utah State Board of Education, District 15, as an individual
Wendy K. Hart – Member, Alpine School District Board of Education, ASD2, as an individual
Oak Norton – Executive Director, Agency Based Education
Gayle Ruzicka – President, Utah Eagle Forum
Oak Norton and Christel Swasey – Co-Founders, Utahns Against Common Core
Dr. Gary Thompson – Founder, Early Life Psychology, Inc.
Angela Summers – WV Against Common Core
JR Wilson – Stop Common Core in Washington State
Leah Huck, Karen W. Larsen, and Breann Treffry, Administrators – Washington State Against Common Core
Jeffrey Horn – Stop Common Core in Wisconsin
State School Board candidate Dr. Gary Thompson’s tooth-and-nail fight against the Utah State Office of Education, a fight for ethical student testing and protection of student data –a years-long, ongoing fight– was completely omitted in the Salt Lake Tribune’s report yesterday about Dr. Thompson.
The Tribune stated that school board candidate Dr. Gary Thompson refused to participate in this week’s debate because “the one-minute-or-less response time… lent itself more to sound bites than productive dialogue”. The Tribune failed to note that Dr. Thompson has fiercely, publicly debated education ethics for years: look here for video of his recent campaign speech which called out incumbent Crandall; here for his campaign site, here for his blog, here for his famous offer to give $10,000 for evidence of actual validity for Utah’s Common Core SAGE/AIR test; here for his television appearance on The Blaze.
Last week, Dr. Thompson was infuriated when state assessment director Jo Ellen Schaeffer told legislators that UCLA had validated Utah’s SAGE testing, at the June 14th interim education session, stating that this showed SAGE to be a valid test.
While it is true that CRESST has an office on a UCLA campus, CRESST is not UCLA. CRESST is not a university; it’s a government-funded “research” group partnered with AIR (remember: AIR is Utah’s SAGE testmaking contractor). That’s a far cry from independent validity testing; it’s more like asking the the chef’s business partners to write his restaurant’s review.
That blurring by Schaeffer is no small thing. It seems impossible that Schaeffer would not know what independent validity testing is, as state assessment director. Thus, she must be unconcerned with the ethics of saying that a test was independently validated, when it never was.
Representative Snow followed up, asking for evidence of validity testing. The USOE returned a memo, not a validity report. The memo stated that Achieve, Inc., Education Next, UCLA and Florida had given evidence of the validity of SAGE. But it wasn’t true.
Dr. Thompson pointed out that alignment with NAEP testing is not independent validity testing on the SAGE test; the SAGE has never been validated.
He said: “Both the Utah State Board of Education and the Utah State Office of Education have a long, well documented history of providing lawmakers and parents in Utah with responses to inquiries laced with ‘lies of omission’. This deceptive practice places public school children in Utah at high risk for continued psychometric experimentation, and profit-motivated exploitation via the hands of SAGE test designer, AIR, Inc.”
Most people read whatever the USOE posts online about “validity” (without validity report links or any footnotes, of course) and just swallow it as truth. But Dr. Thompson and others are holding the USOE’s feet to the fire, saying that children deserve better than to be experimentation subjects for profit-motivated corporations and the power-tripping federal government.
Will enough people wake up and vote differently, or at least call or email the state school board, to make a difference? Phone: 801-538-7500 Address: 250 East 500 South PO Box 144200 SLC UT Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Thompson’s response to the USOE’s response is here:
Dear Ms. Sullivan [Parent who contacted Representative Snow],
I have read the Utah State Board of Education’s memo in response to Representative Lowry Snow’s inquiry, on your behalf, about his concerns regarding the validity of the Utah SAGE test. Here is a partial summary statement from the Board’s response informing Representative Snow, that the SAGE is indeed a valid test:
“The validity of Utah’s Student Assessments of Growth and Excellence (SAGE) has been confirmed through a number of independent sources. The most recent studies include: (1) The National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing, UCLA (CRESST), (2) Education Next, (3) Achieve.org, (4) Independent Verification of the Psychometric Validity for the Florida Standards Assessment. Each study substantiates both the high rigor of Utah’s standards and the validity and reliability of the assessments that measures those standards.”
As cited evidence of SAGE validity, the Board references “Education Next”, and “Achieve”. org”. Per the Board’s own memo, this cited evidence discusses “high standards and state proficiency levels” when compared to the NAEP test. This is not related to specific inquires regarding the validity of the Utah SAGE test. As such, a response from me will not be forth coming.
I also will not respond to the Board’s reference to the State of Florida’s Validity study. Several months ago, the Board used this same document to substantiate Utah’s SAGE test validity. I sent a written response to the Board, and the general public, factually rebutting this dangerously irresponsible, and inaccurate claim.
As you and thousands of Utah parents are aware, I am still waiting for a response. The letter sent to Board Vice Chairman, Dave Thomas, in response to his spurious claims, was referenced and published by Utahan’s Against Common Core’s Christel Swasey. Here is the link: http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/sage-validity-part-2-dr-thompson-responds/
Thus, the only item left to rebut from the Utah State Board of Education memo, is its unexplainable reliance on a yet to be published AIR-SAGE validity study, produced by the federally funded, quasi governmental, UCLA campus-based research group, CRESST.
I am going to keep this short and sweet:
Here are five (5) questions that you, Representative Snow, the media, and voters in Utah may wish to ask Board of Education Chairman Dave Crandall during his “debate” appearance this Wednesday, June 22 at Summit Academy:
1. Why did the State Board rely on the research group “CRESST” as the primary source of proof of SAGE validity, without letting parents and lawmakers know that CRESST is “funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI)”? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Center_for_Research_on_Evaluation,_Standards,_and_Student_Testing)
2. Utah paid $40,000,000 to AIR, Inc. (American Institute of Research) to design the SAGE test. Were you aware that the research group CRESST, which produced the “validity study”, is supported financially by, and lists AIR as “Partners” on its own website? (http://cresst.org/partners/) Does the Board leadership consider this to be an “independent”, and unbiased relationship?
3. Since 2012, were the Board and the State Office of Education aware that the current Director of CRESST, Li Cai, received multiple millions of dollars of personal research grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, U.S. Department of Education, and (you can’t make this stuff up) Utah’s SAGE test designer, AIR? (http://cresst.org/wp-content/uploads/LiAbridge.pdf ) How can a Director of a research organization produce an objective and unbiased validity study on the very group that has given him substantial amounts of money for independent research?
4. Why did the State Board of Education fail to inform parents that their children were taking a yet to be validated test for the past three years? Is not such omission a complete and blatant violation of trust?
5. Are you aware that Board placed hundreds’ of thousands of Utah children at risk of harm, and exploitation, at the hands of a behavioral research corporation (AIR), by allowing them to experiment on children without the informed, written consent of their parents? Are you aware that this unethical practice is also against Utah law? (https://le.utah.gov/xcode/Title53A/Chapter13/53A-13-S302.html) “Activities prohibited without prior written consent”
When the Utah State Board of Education and State Office of Education produce an independent validity study, I would be delighted to devote professional time to review it at your request.
In the meantime, the current memo submitted to Representative Snow in support of SAGE “validity” is clearly a deliberate attempt to deceive an esteemed member of the Utah Interim Education Committee, and only serves to highlight the unethical, unconstitutional, incestuous relationship between the State of Utah, and the U.S. Federal Government.
Both the Utah State Board of Education and the Utah State Office of Education have a long, well documented history of providing lawmakers and parents in Utah with responses to inquiries laced with “lies of omission.” This deceptive practice places public school children in Utah at high risk for continued psychometric experimentation, and profit- motivated exploitation via the hands of SAGE test designer, AIR, Inc. I have no desire to debate current Board Chairman Dave Crandall in a public setting, until this serious matter of continued experimentation and exploitation of our children is answered in a clear, ethical, fact based manner.
In summary, given the clear and present danger this poses to 650,000 vulnerable Utah children, it is my professional opinion that you consider asking Representative Snow to seek an independent inquiry regarding this matter via Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. It is my strong, evidence based, professional opinion that Utah’s education leaders at the Board of Education and State Office of Education, are more committed to adhering to the educational political “flavors of the day”, as opposed to providing Utah’s children with objective, science based solutions to serious education problems in our State.
Please let me know if I can be of more assistance to you in the future. Feel free to distribute this response to the general public as you deem to be appropriate under the circumstances.
Gary Thompson, Psy.D.
District 10 Candidate For Utah State Board of Education
In case you missed the rally speeches and missed the Fox News report, here begins a series of posts featuring the speakers at this week’s rally at the state capitol, where Utah voters had the opportunity to hear from candidates for Utah State School Board.
The rally was entitled “Elevating Education: Common No More”.
Radio host Rod Arquette introduced each school board candidate speaker and the gubernatorial candidate Johnathan Johnson. Each speaker declared that Utah can elevate education beyond the Common Core.
The first video shows Dr. Gary Thompson‘s speech; below is the text version of that speech. (Other candidates’ speeches will be posted soon.)
Text of Dr. Thompson’s speech:
Communities are judged by how well they treat the most vulnerable children amongst them.
If given the honor of representing parents and teachers as a State Board Member, I will only ask four questions regarding any policies placed in front of me regarding our children and students:
1. Does the policy conform to industry standard ethical practices?
2. Does the policy allow ground level parental control and teacher choice?
3. Are stealth psychological evaluations and data collection being performed on children without your knowledge and informed consent?
4. Is the policy based on “Voodoo-Pseudo Science”, or independent, peer reviewed research?
Our School Board’s failure to view education policy via these four principles has resulted in 12 dangerous realities in place in Utah public schools:
I call them the “Dirty Dozen”:
1. Lawmakers recently deemed the SAGE test invalid for teacher evaluations, yet did nothing to protect our most vulnerable children from the same flawed test.
2. Many Utah Standards are developmentally inappropriate for our younger children.
3. Not one independent developmental psychologist was active in writing Utah K-3 Educational Standards.
4. The test used to measure knowledge of Utah Standards, the SAGE test, has never been independently validated to measure academic performance.
5. Without parental knowledge and informed written consent, Utah schools are collecting our children’s most intimate cognitive, behavioral, emotional, and sociological information.
6. Utah’s test vendor, AIR, is currently using Utah public school children as “experimental lab rats”, as part of the largest, non consensual, unethical, experimentation ever performed on Utah soil.
7. Performing unethical, experimentation on Utah’s children place many of them at risk for serious emotional, behavioral and cognitive damage.
8. Common Core special education practices are harmful, not based on sound science, and put our divergent learning students at risk for suicide. Utah has one of the highest youth suicide rates in the Country.
9. The Utah State Board of Education does not have effective policies in place requiring technology vendors to follow ethical and privacy guidelines, designed to protect parents and children from exploitation and harm.
10. Student data security and privacy is a myth.
11. Utah’s Preschool and Kindergarten programs are not supported by independent, peer-reviewed research.
12. Utah’s adoption of the Common Core Federal mandate to have ALL Kindergartners reading, as opposed to emphasizing play, is abusive, and flies in the face of 75 years of child developmental research.
Since the advent of Common Core, the Board of Education, and the Utah State Office of Education, have dismissed “The Dirty Dozen” as “dangerous misinformation”, and have accuse parents like me of spreading fear into the community.
Today I draw a line in the sand, and for the sake of my children and Community, I ask State School Board Chairman Dave Crandall to do the same.
The contrasts between us could not be more evident.
One of us will protect your children….
One of us is dangerously wrong.
In Exchange, I challenge Chairman Crandall to publicly acknowledge the existence of “The Dirty Dozen”, as THE most pressing, dangerous assault on parental rights, teacher autonomy, and child safety present in Utah Public Schools.
If Chairman Crandall ignores this, and ignores this challenge, I believe he is not fit to serve another term representing our children, and I respectfully request for him to immediately drop out of the election.
I ask the next Governor of this State, sitting on this stage; I ask Governor Johnson to place the destiny of the next generation of children into the hands of local parents and our talented ground level teachers, as opposed to catering to technology special interest groups, who now own many Utah lawmakers.
I ask parents to demand that our education leaders base their decisions on ethics, and the rule of constitutional law, as opposed to agenda based, harmful mandates being forced upon our children via the U.S. Office of Education, and adopted without question by the Utah State Office of Education, and the State Board of Education.
I close from a quote from an American who was buried yesterday in Kentucky, Muhammad Ali. His example and courage inspired my father to pursue a dream of becoming one of America’s first generation of black medical doctors in modern history:
“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given, than to explore the power they have to change it.
Impossible is not a fact…. It’s an opinion.
Impossible is not a declaration…. It’s a dare.
Impossible is potential…Impossible is temporary….Impossible is nothing.”
Thank you for your time and consideration. May God bless this great, and truly exceptional Nation.”
Dr. Thompson’s campaign website link is here: http://www.vote4drgary.com/#!Dr-Thompsons-Utah-CapitolTown-Hall-Speech/b8v6m/575b6c780cf24c9615a7f130
Early voting begins tomorrow, and voting ends June 28th. Please vote wisely. No elected position in this state affects your children and your family more than the state school board position.
“Interesting enough, Utah’s most respected representative of the school of empirically based educational thought (USOE), has formed a basis for adopted policies associated with the SAGE Common Core test, that appear to be almost religious in nature..”
Dear Parents & Community Members:
During the next several weeks, between now and September 15, 2015, parents, activists, board members and politicians will be engaging in a very intense “disagreement” concerning the Common Core based SAGE test, and how its use and implementation in Utah is affected by recent administrative law changes implemented by the U.S. Department of Education, as such entail the use of the Common Core SAGE test on Utah’s population of divergent (“special education”) students. (http://www.noticeandcomment.com/Improving-the-Academic-Achievement-of-the-Disadvantaged-Assistance-to-States-for-the-Education-of-Children-fn-292468.aspx)
One side will definitely state that such changes will have absolutely no effects, ill or otherwise, on Utah’s current policies associated with the Common Core SAGE test (e.g., “Utah State Office of Education Administrators”)….
The independent medical and psychology experts will state that the changes in the policy may serious adversely affect the cognitive and mental health of potentially tens of thousands of divergent learning students in Utah, due to USOE’s dangerous, and almost mystical faith-based belief, that the SAGE test can be given to ALL divergent learning students, with zero adverse emotional and/or cognitive consequences. (In addition to the claim that the SAGE test will determine if ALL divergent students are “career and college ready”.)
Regardless of where one stands today on the issue, it is reasonable to state that there is no middle ground between the two parties. Both parties will submit “evidence” and state their respective positions to State Board Members, lawmakers, and parents of divergent learning children throughout the State of Utah. Both parties will hope that their evidentiary “proof” will hold sway over the general public, as well as mainstream media entities.
Before this “war” for the hearts and minds of the Utah populous begins, I just wanted to share a few interesting observations about “empirical evidence”, and “faith”, from two vantage points:
1. From the objective viewpoint of a doctoral level, “local clinical community scientist” in the field of clinical psychology.
2. From the faith-based viewpoint as a devout Christian, and member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
A common discourse and theme among many (certainly not all) members of the Christian faith, is that the current education system does not welcome inquiry in public school settings regarding concepts of “faith”, as such may be related to the existence of a higher being (God). (The legal reality of “separation of Church and State” is well established). The argument often made is that teachings of God, faith and creationism have no place in our education system because there is no empirical evidence to support them. I have no intention of “solving” this debate, my sole intent is to point out the obvious differences between the two schools of thought.
Interesting enough, Utah’s most respected representative of the school of empirically based educational thought (USOE), has formed a basis for policies associated with the SAGE Common Core test, that seems to be almost religious in nature. In other words, the Utah State Office of Education, the self appointed gate keeper between the illicit mixing of “pure” empirical science, and the subject of God in public schools, is demanding that parents in our community subject their children to a high stakes SAGE test entirely on the basis of….well….’faith’.
Here is what we do know, and what no person or organization in the country has yet to refute on any objective, empirical level:
The SAGE test is unscientific because it violate the basic rule of social science/academic achievement science. The assessment is not verifiable, because the SAGE test is not permitted to be subject to independent scientific evaluation. Its validity cannot be proven nor disproven. Under the guise of “test security” Utah’s $39,000,000.00 testing vendor, American Institute of Research (AIR), uses copyright laws so extreme that they prevent true scientific evaluation of the validity of these tests, by scientists with expertise in the fields of Education, Psychology, and related fields.
The main reason this practice of ignoring validity is scientifically reprehensible, is that U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and the USOE, has ignored this most accepted scholarship in the field of “testing”. The concept of Validity, or simply put, PROOF that a test performs as “advertised”, is used to halt the dangerous myth of “certainty” that permeates in the field of educational testing. The Utah State Office of Education, is asking our community of parents to accept that the SAGE test can measure academic constructs in special education students (other than the highest “1% of the most cognitively impaired students”) accurately, with no adverse emotional or psychological harm, on the basis of “faith”. In reality and practice, USOE and Secretary Duncan, expects this community to subject its most cognitively and emotionally vulnerable students to the admittedly experimental in nature SAGE test, simply because they said so.
“Just trust me.”
As one parent expressed to me last night in a social media exchange, “so what? Suppose the SAGE test is an invalid, unnecessary experimentation on the children in Utah…what’s the harm?” Here was my reply:
“Students (and many parents) “internalize” what SAGE scores mean, and since the majority of the students have not developed the mental skills to counteract what the “authorities” say, they accept as “natural and normal” that “story/description” of them. Although paradoxical in a sense, the “I’m a Top SAGE Proficient student” is almost as harmful as “I’m a Bottom Non Proficient SAGE student” in hindering students becoming independent, critical and free thinkers. And having independent, critical and free thinkers is a threat to the current socio-economic structure of Utah. Simply put, he who writes, administers and controls the test, literally controls the psycho-social structure of an entire community. Kids become in their minds, what the test says they are. If an education entity unleashes this powerful force on an entire community, they sure as hell better ensure that it works as advertised.”
One does not have to be a mental health professional to know the mental health ramifications associated with a child or teen who believes that he or she is “stupid” when compared to his peer siblings and/or peers on campus. Anxiety, depression, self-mutilation (cutting), drug abuse, and a well documented increase in youth suicidal ideation, are just a few of the consequences associated clinically with the high stakes academic testing game.
I make a living off of the art and science of academic, cognitive and emotional assessment. I understand, and believe in the benefits associated with tests and measurement. Our challenge to the Utah State Office of Education will be to simply verify their claims, as such pertain to the validity of the SAGE test, and its use and application with psychologically vulnerable populations of divergent learning and special education students….who are NOT categorized with the confusing and general label as the “1% of the most cognitively impaired.”
As professionals in the field of clinical psychology, we will rely entirely on independently produced, peer-reviewed research from this nations most prestigious universities, as well as established ethics as published by the American Psychological Association (APA Ethics Code), and the American Medical Association (AMA Ethics Code) , to present our case to the community.
Given the serious nature of the pending conflict, we will demand that the Utah State Office of Education use the same criteria of scholarship, ethics and communication with the public, as well as the Utah State Board of Education, as opposed to their current reliance on “faith”, as their basis of justification for accepting the changes to well established, local/state level Utah practices associated with divergent learning students in Utah. The misleading, disingenuous, omission laden guidance given to our elected State Board members from an administrator from USOE, regarding this serious unilateral rule change initiated by the Federal Government, would be comical if it were not for the fact that her propaganda, if accepted as a “matter of faith”, may result in the needless suffering of divergent learning students in the State of Utah. https://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2015/08/27/usoe-letter-tells-state-board-all-is-well-all-is-well-in-special-ed/
At the bequest of my own four divergent learning children (who do not fit into the U.S.D.O.E.’s criteria of “severely cognitive impaired“, as well as the hundreds of similarly situated diverse African American, Latino, Autistic, Suicidal, Dual Exceptional, Cognitively Gifted, Learning “Disabled”, Schizophrenic and otherwise emotionally disturbed children and teens in the State of Utah that my talented staff of Doctor and therapist have valiantly served, I humbly request that the Utah State Board of Education suspend their “faith”, as such apply to the USOE’s agenda laden claims, and protect our most vulnerable assets in our community: Our children.
Yours in service;
Dr. Gary Thompson
Early Life Child Psychology & Education Center
“Parents are, and must always be, the resident experts of their own (divergent learning) children.”
Source: God, Science, & The Utah State Office of Education’s Puzzling Stance Regarding High Stakes, Common Core Testing of Special Education Students.