Archive for the ‘Emmett McGroarty’ Tag

What’s Wrong With a Federal Unit Tracking System? Video Testimony From D.C. Hearing on Student Unit-Record Identifiers   8 comments

The brand-newly created federal Commission on Evidence-based Policymaking (CEP) held a public hearing in Washington, D.C. a few days ago.

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The testimony of Emmett McGroarty of the American Principles Project (APP) stood out from the other testimonies that were presented, and is posted in full below, with permission from APP.   Many of the other organizations whose representatives testified do financially benefit from the privacy-stomping, data-mining, gold rush, including the  Data Quality Campaign, American Institutes for Research, etc.  But APP does not.  APP exists to maintain local control, constitutional rights, and individual privacy rights.

On the video, Mr. Emmett McGroarty of APP testifies at about hour 2:45 to 3:07.  To see the agenda of who else was slated to testify at this hearing, click this link: final-cep-oct-21-agenda_updated-1

Testimony Abstract:

We urge the Commission to resist calls to repeal the statutory prohibition on the development, implementation, or maintenance of a federal student unit-record system. Such a system would curtail liberty interests of the individual, would invite the collection and use of ever-more data, and would fundamentally alter the relationship between the individual and government in a way that is incompatible with our constitutional republic.

Statement by Emmett J. McGroarty, JD

The Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking was created to pursue a laudable goal: To improve analysis of the effectiveness of federal programs. But when such a pursuit is used to justify collecting, conglomerating, and tracking massive amounts of Americans’ personal data, as is certainly true in the realm of education, it’s necessary to examine the dangers and the tradeoffs. American Principles Project (APP) believes that such activities suppress the liberties of the people and pervert the relationship between the people and government. We urge the Commission to reject calls to establish a federal student unit-record system and to engage in such Orwellian activity.

Section 134 of the Higher Education Act wisely prohibits the development, implementation, or maintenance of a federal student unit-record system (one that would allow the government to collect personally identifiable information (PII) on individual higher-education students and link education data to workforce data). Recently, though, an orchestrated demand for repeal of this prohibition has been swelling. According to well-funded organizations with a vested interest in accessing that data for their own purposes, the federal government suffers from data-deprivation. Think how much more efficiently our nation could operate, and how much more the government could help people run their own lives, if it maintained a centralized repository tracking almost every conceivable data point about every citizen – where he attended school, what courses he took, what grades he earned, what extracurricular record (good or bad) he compiled, what jobs he applied for, what jobs he got, what salary he made, whether he was promoted, what salary he earned in his new position, whether he lost his job and why, whether he joined the military, what sort of military record he established, whether he was arrested and for what, whether he went to jail, and on and on ad infinitum.

This is not a description of a free and open United States of America. This is a description of a totalitarian society that keeps tabs on its own citizens – for their own good, of course. It’s also a description of what would inevitably happen with the establishment of a student unit-record system, all in the name of “better consumer information,” “accountability,” and “transparency.”

What’s wrong with a federal unit-tracking system?

First, it would compile students’ personally identifiable information (PII) without their consent – or even their knowledge that their data is being collected and disclosed. It’s one thing to collect data from a student who voluntarily (which of course presumes actual notice of the program) participates in a government program and understands that participation will expose his PII to program administrators; it’s quite another to forcibly suck every individual into a datacollection system simply because he enrolled in an institution of higher education. Telling that student that he must hand over his personal data to promote a greater good as defined by bureaucrats and lobbyists – or even worse, just dragooning him without telling him anything – is simply un-American.

Second, the purposes of the proposed system would be so open-ended that the repository is certain to be expanded over time to centralize data far beyond collegiate and employment data. In the creative bureaucratic mind, literally everything can be linked to education. So why stop with employment data? Why not see how one’s education affects his participation in the military? Or his health? Or his criminality? Or his housing patterns? Or the number of children he has? Or whether he purchases a gun? Or his political activity? Inquiring bureaucrats want to know, and every question can be justified by citing “better consumer information.”

And will this dossier created on every citizen become permanent? Presumably so. If the goal of providing maximum consumer information is to be achieved, both historical and current data – constantly updated and expanded – must be compiled and preserved.

Perhaps this expansion won’t happen. Perhaps the federal government, in stark contrast to its behavior over the last 100 years, will stay within its boundaries. But reality-based Americans know the government will push the envelope as far as it possibly can, as it always does. And they know that giving that government access to such a treasure trove of data is dangerous to privacy and to individual liberty.

Third, the idea that this massive repository of PII will be protected against unauthorized access and data breaches is quite simply delusional. Less than a year ago, a hearing of the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform revealed the shocking lack of student-data security throughout the U.S. Department of Education (USED). The problems encompass both lax controls over the people allowed access to sensitive data, as well as outdated technology and inadequate security to prevent unauthorized access.

USED’s system contains over 139 million Social Security numbers (largely through its office of Financial Student Aid), along with sensitive borrower information about students and families contained in the National Student Loan Database. The findings of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the General Accounting Office were disturbing:

  •  Of the 97,000 account/users with access to this information (government employees and contractors), fewer than 20 percent have undergone a background check to receive a security clearance.
  • The security mechanisms protecting that data are grossly inadequate. As one OIG witness testified, “During our testing . . . OIG testers were able to gain full access to the Department’s network and our access went undetected by Dell [the vendor] and the Department’s Office of the Chief Information Officer.”
  • USED ignored repeated warnings from OIG that its information systems are vulnerable to security threats.

That the federal government should now consider ballooning the sensitive data contained in these insecure systems is at best misguided and reckless.

Even if the data systems were secure, the Obama administration’s gutting of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) means that government education officials (federal, state, and local) now have enormous leeway to disclose PII on individual students without their consent. Pursuant to the recent FERPA regulations, these officials may share private PII with other government agencies, nonprofit entities, corporations, researchers, and literally anyone on the planet as long as the disclosure can be characterized as an audit or evaluation of a (broadly defined) “education program.”

Will the new conglomeration of student data be fair game for disclosure under these regulations? The danger is too real to dismiss.

The philosophical problem with a federal student unit-record system is that it treats free-born American citizens as objects of research and study. It assumes that the goal of benefitting others in society, in vague and theoretical ways, authorizes the powerful federal government to collect and disseminate millions of data points on individuals – without their consent. This fundamentally changes the relationship between the individual and government. Collecting and holding massive amounts of data about an individual has an intimidating effect on the individual—even if the data is never used. This is even more so the case when the collector has the force of the law behind it. Our republic rests on the idea that the citizen will direct government. That cannot happen where government sits in a position of intimidation over the individual.

Submitted by:

Emmett J. McGroarty, Esq.

Senior Fellow

American Principles Project

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If you wish to testify, there will be additional public hearings in various places across the country.  You may also submit written testimony online.

 

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Here’s a P.S. to all of the above from me, Christel, because I am absolutely screeching and screaming over this and wish more people would get it, would speak up and would speak out.

It does not take a brilliant lawyer to understand how wrong this is– although it’s nice to have the brilliant Mr. Emmett McGroarty, and words cannot describe the debt that freedom lovers owe to APP and McGroarty.

But this unit-record identifier issue is not, at heart, complicated, nor should it be the least bit intimidating –to anyone in this country, of any age or occupation.  Get involved.  Say something.

Ask people to think:

Who holds the keys and drives education?  It should be those closest to each individual child: the parents, the teachers, and the principal.  They are the most accountable and care the most.

But today, because “We, the People” collectively have not been paying attention, corporations and governments have taken too much power over DATA  –and that’s daily increasing.  If CEP goes in the direction that it seems to be going, then soon, individual student record identifiers will track individuals so that governments and corporations can “see” and “help” us all. Heaven save us from that kind of help.

The federal and corporate push for ever more individual data is supposedly to improve education and workplaces for the children, but this agenda does not seem to serve children, but to treat them as “human capital” –experiments, worker bees and lab rats, while making certain groups unbelievably rich, meaning rich both in money itself, and also rich in data –which in our day equals money.

Our country went through the land rush, the gold rush, but now it’s the data rush.

Now it’s data mining instead of strip mining.

WE are the ones being mined—by BigGov-BigBiz-BigEd.

If the push for personally identifiable information sharing succeeds fully, we will not own ourselves.

The sweetest and most naiive among us are thinking, “It’s okay if the corporations and governments know everything about me, about my children, my finances, my religious beliefs, gun rights, sexual morality beliefs and more– because I don’t do anything wrong.

By whose definition do you not do anything wrong?  Do your values and beliefs match those of the government’s so perfectly that you can trust its judgment and its interventions over your own?

Think about what’s going on.

To the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, you are now labled WRONG if you believe in God, because religious doctrine of any kind is only a “pretext” to discriminate on the basis of racism, sexism, etc.  That’s your federal government judging your “social emotional learning” right there!

To gun control advocates at the state and federal levels, you are not concerned about “supporting nonviolence” if you own a gun.

To the federal political activists of the LGTB movement, you are either a discriminator or mentally unwell if you promote marriage between a man and a woman.

And now that SEL (Social Emotional Learning) standards for K-12 are being developed and promoted to track “non-cognitive” factors, starting on children and moving into the workplace, it seems not even our personal psychology is to be permitted to be private any longer.  What types of emotions or beliefs or traditions are mentally or socially “at-risk” and by whose definition?  When we give up power over our own data privacy, we give up at least some control over our own judgments of values.

What makes us certain that the world that federal SEL activists and the CEP Commission wants is the same world that I or you or other free people want?  Just look at what the federal activists are doing!  Don’t give them more power over us!

As Dr. Karen Effrem and Jane Robbins recently pointed out at The Federalist:

“The new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) …requires rating schools based partly on “nonacademic” factors.  ESSA …  pours money into SEL programs, “which may include engaging or supporting families at school or at home” … training school personnel on “when and how to refer… children with, or at risk of, mental illness,” and implementing programs for children… “at-risk” of academic or social problems, without ever defining “at-risk”  …ESSA language urges school officials to cast a wide net for special education in school-wide “intervention” and “support” programs, allowing schools to sidestep parental consent requirements. [There’s a] planned revision of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the test referred to as “the nation’s report card,” to assess mindsets and school climate… [There’s] funding for federally controlled and funded “social emotional research” in the proposed Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA)—a bill supported by individuals and corporations that will profit handsomely from all this sensitive data to help them mold worker bees for the global economy…  A third federal initiative is USED’s bribery of states to promote SEL standards and data-gathering on preschool children via the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grants. These grants, along with the preschool grants in ESSA and Head Start, promote “Baby Common Core”-style SEL standards and data-collection.”

Please find a way to stand up and say no to the call for using “Unit-Record Identifiers,” no matter what the reasoning may be.  Say yes to personal privacy, personal responsibility, and to family-based, individual-based, local control of social and emotional and academic and religious values.

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

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

The article begins:

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

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

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

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

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Another important point:

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

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

Read the entire article at Townhall.com.

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

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What Does the Passage of HR5, the New No Child Left Behind, Mean For American Children?   19 comments

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What does it mean that HR5, the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, passed?  What does it mean for children, teachers, parents?  Who benefits?  Why was it so strongly promoted?

Attorney and author Emmett McGroarty reported this week at The Pulse 2016 how “House Republicans Betray Common Core Moms” with the passage of HR5. He explained that the bill serves the testing industry, not the people:

“By failing to eliminate or even curb the federal testing mandates, the bill instead serves the testing industry rather than the people.  Under NCLB, that industry has grown to a $2 billion per year enterprise.”

McGroarty’s article explains that HR5 promotes psychological profiling of students: HR5 “removes protection against socio-emotional profiling in the statewide assessments (eliminating NCLB’s prohibition against including assessment items that “evaluate or assess personal or family beliefs and attitudes”). Not only does it fail to protect against psychological data-gathering, it actually dictates the type of Brave New World assessments that operate by compiling and analyzing psychological profiles on children.  Unlike NCLB, H.R. 5 also requires assessment on behavioral/skills-based standards rather than solely academic standards.”

These and other, equally disturbing items in HR5,  can not explain why the Republican House of Representatives passed this 800-page bill.  And why was there virtually no transparency on the language of the bill in town hall meetings and media outreach?

McGroarty points out that the bill is “one of the most far-reaching pieces of domestic legislation” yet was passed “without holding many, if any, town hall meetings. Certainly, the effort that leadership spent arm-twisting its membership would have been better spent encouraging its members to meet with their constituents and giving them time in which to do so.”

Read the whole article here.

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Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan wrote, this week,

“On Wednesday, I was honored to stand up for parental rights by voting no on ‪#‎HR5‬, the bill to reauthorize ‪#‎NoChildLeftBehind‬. The bill increases federal control of education. Here are the facts you should know about H.R. 5 and the current status of NCLB:

The funding authorization for No Child Left Behind expired more than seven years ago. Contrary to some statements and press reports, H.R. 5 does not repeal NCLB; it reauthorizes NCLB with modifications. If H.R. 5 becomes law, NCLB will be authorized for the first time since FY 2008.

Why do states and schools continue to act as though No Child Left Behind is current law? Because Congress has continued to appropriate money for NCLB as though the funding authorization never expired! In other words, the program is legally dead, yet Congress continues to send federal funding to schools, with strings attached, as though the law remains in effect.

How should Congress deal with No Child Left Behind? Simply stop funding it. There’s no current authorization for the funding, so the funding needs to stop.

Don’t we need this new bill to stop Common Core? No, we don’t. H.R. 5 reauthorizes No Child Left Behind, which provides federal funding for education. The bill says none of that money may be used (or withheld) to push Common Core. But voting no on H.R. 5 means voting no on the funding authorization that the federal government uses to compel states to adopt Common Core. So, either way, Common Core loses.

Doesn’t this new bill include an amendment to allow parents to opt out of standardized testing? Yes, but it’s H.R. 5 that authorizes federally mandated standardized testing in the first place. Voting no on H.R. 5 means voting no on such standardized testing.

Was there an amendment to allow states to opt out of No Child Left Behind even if H.R. 5 becomes law? Yes. I voted yes on the Walker amendment, but remarkably it failed 195-235 in a Republican-led House of Representatives.”

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Meanwhile, my own representative, Representative Jason Chaffetz,  disagrees with McGroarty and Amash.  He voted for HR5.

Chaffetz put out a press release saying that he voted for  HR5 because it “Reduces the federal role in education”.   That phrase is honey to many Utahns’ ears but the phrase doesn’t match the language of the bill.

I’m so disappointed that Rep. Chaffetz, who I’ve until now appreciated–  for his willngness to fight Hillary Clinton and search for justice and documentation in the Benghazi murders.  But his press release on HR5 includes no documentation: no bill language with references, nothing to reassure people like me that he did more than blindly adopt the bill’s talking points and cut & paste them to his press release.  Did he study that bill?  If so, I’d like to see Rep. Chaffetz intelligently debate Rep. Amash on HR5.  I’d like to have seen a town hall on the subject PRIOR to its passing.  I’ve heard Chaffetz say, multiple times, with roaring applause, that he would like to see the Dept. of Education disbanded.  But his vote doesn’t match that sentiment.

He voted FOR this bill that cemented the unconsitutional master-servant relationship of feds over states:

  • “For any State desiring to receive a grant under this subpart, the State educational agency file with the Secretary a plan,” “Each State plan shall demonstrate [to the federal agents]” – 1111(a)1 –
  • “If a State fails to meet any of the requirements of this section then the Secretary shall withhold funds” – 1111(g)
  • “The Secretary [federal] shall have the authority to disapprove a State plan” – 1111(e)2 D
  • “If a State makes significant changes to its State plan, such as the adoption of new State academic standards or new academic assessments, or adopts a new State accountability system, such information shall be submitted to the Secretary under subsection (e)(2) for approval.” – 1111 (f)
  • “If a State fails to meet any of the requirements of this section then the Secretary shall withhold funds” – 1111(g)

He voted for a bill that has zero privacy protections because it relies on the shot-full-of-holes FERPA:  “Information collected under this section shall be collected and disseminated in a manner that protects the privacy of individuals consistent with section 444 of the General Education Provisions Act and this Act.” – 1111(i) (For more on FERPA’s deliberate loosening (destruction) by the Dept. of Ed, see the E.P.I.C. lawsuit.)

He voted FOR a bill that creates unelected committees that have real power over state citizens who did not elect them. (And that uses the unelected groups to eliminate policies that don’t match federal policies)

  • “State rules, regulations, and policies… conform to… the committee of practitioners”
  • “Each State educational agency that receives funds under this title shall create a State committee of practitioners”

  • “Eliminate the rules and regulations that are duplicative of Federal requirements… identify any duplicative or contrasting requirements between the State and Federal rules or regulations; report any conflicting requirements to the Secretary… (1403)

He voted FOR a bill that extends federal tentacles and data collection to preschoolers.

  • “perform child-find screening services for the preschool-aged children of the tribe” – 5133 a
  • “assessment of  family-based, early childhood, and preschool programs for Native Hawaiians” – 5304 (c) 2
  • “evaluate the aggregate short- and long-term effects and cost efficiencies across Federal programs… under this Act and related Federal preschool, elementary, and secondary programs”  – 6601
  •  “improve the identification of homeless children (including preschool-aged homeless children and youths) ” – 702
  • “Coordinator for Education of Homeless Children and Youths established in each State shall— gather and make publically available… comprehensive information on— the number of homeless children and youths identified… the nature and extent of the problems homeless children and youths have in gaining access to public preschool programs” – 702
  • collect data for and transmit to the Secretary, at such time and in such manner as the Secretary may require, a report containing information necessary to assess the educational needs of homeless children and youths within the State, including data necessary for the Secretary to fulfill the responsibilities… including teachers, special education personnel, administrators, and child development and preschool program personnel – 702

  • “Plans required:  … how the local educational agency will use funds under this subpart to support preschool programs”  – 1112

He voted FOR a bill that dictates uniformity and promote psychological profiling and federally-controlled test standards:

“Academic assessments… shall…  provide coherent and timely information about student attainment of such standards… be consistent with… nationally recognized… technical standards… be administered in each of grades 3 through 8 and at least once in grades 9 through 12… in the case of science, be administered not less than one time during—grades 3 through 5;  grades 6 through 9; and in the case of any other subject chosen by the State, be administered at the discretion of the State; measure individual student academic proficiency and, at the State’s discretion, growth…  be administered through multiple assessments during the course of the academic year that result in a single summative score that provides valid, reliable, and transparent information on student achievement … enable results to be disaggregated… be administered to not less than 95 percent of all students, and not less than 95 percent of each subgroup of students described in paragraph (3)(B)(ii)(II); and be the same academic assessments used to measure the academic achievement of all public school students… provide for— the participation in such assessments of all students… produce individual student interpretive, descriptive, and diagnostic reports regarding achievement on such assessments in … uniform format…” –1111

(To see the Dept. of Education’s aligned recommendation that schools engage in psychological and biometric profiling, read its report here, especially page 44.)

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Voting for such a bill is not okay with me.

Protecting Kids: Pioneer Institute’s Call to Action for Parents, Schools, Congress   Leave a comment

stealth assessment babyI’m posting today to draw attention to Cogs in the Machine, an important white paper published last year by Pioneer Institute, written by Jane Robbins, Joy Pullman and Emmett McGroarty.   It’s about public-system-assisted big data collection –and how Americans can protect their kids.  The paper includes specific, effective action points for parents, schools, state- and nationally-elected representatives.  The length of the white paper, though, makes me think few will read down to find these treasures, so I’m posting just the final recommendations here.  Please read (and share)  the whole white paper when you can.   If you click here and scroll down to the end, you can read the whole paper, and much more easily.  Pasting from the pdf is causing tight spacing that I don’t know how to fix.
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The white paper’s policy recommendations for parents, schools, state and national lawmakers:
This report  has discussed dangers that unchecked data-collection poses to individuals and the United States as a whole. 
What are some ways to check these dangers?
 
PARENTS: 
• If your child has any sort of computer login or participates in any computer program (say, a computer vocabulary game or computerized tests) as part of school, his or her data is being automatically logged and compiled through these devices. If this concerns you, ask your school to explain how they will protect your child’s privacy. If these protections are not satisfactory, ask the school to modify its contract with the technology provider to guarantee it will not sell or indefnitely compile your child’s information.
• If your child’s school is implementing digital-learning platforms, insist on an explanation of what kinds of information will be compiled through those platforms. Will the software record data about your child’s behaviors and attitudes ratherthan just his academic knowledge? If so,and if you object to this data-collection, opt out.
• If you child is using a vendor’s education apps, verify that the vendor is not mining your child’s data to use for marketing or other purposes.
• As always, be vigilant about what happens in your child’s classroom. Read all notices schools hand out about data-and information-sharing, and don’t sign off on anything you don’t understand. Choose not to provide information when the reasons someone wants it are not explained to your satisfaction.
• When your child takes a standardized test, demand to know what data the assessment will collect and to whom it will be disclosed. Find out if the test measures non-cognitive attributes such as self-control, home environment, etc. If any answers are unacceptable to you, opt out.
• Be especially wary of having healthcare services provided to your children at school. These are not subject to thetighter privacy protections required of non-school healthcare providers.
You are entitled to know what information your school has already collected about your child, and to correct any errors in that record. All you have to do is ask someone in charge at your child’s school.
Demand that state lawmakers pass strong legislation protecting your child’s information.
SCHOOLS:
When you sign contracts with technology providers, include clauses that require the vendor to erase student-level information after the contract term has ended, forbid the vendor from selling or sharing student information with any other entity unless mandated by law, and as far as possible provide for student anonymity by using ID numbers and random logins rather than personal identifiers such as names, email addresses, and especially Social Security numbers.
STATE POLICYMAKERS:
• Introduce and vote for legislation to correct the relaxation of FERPA.  The legislation should include penalties that will make it not worth a company or nonprofit or agency’s while to disobey the law. It is also essential for states to pass student-privacy laws because, even if FERPA is restored or strengthened, the more bulwarks against excessive data-collection, the better. Further, laws made closer to the people who must follow them offer better protection to citizens and the ability to tailor laws to the needs of each state.
• Require state departments of education, local school systems, and schools to include tight privacy protections in all contracts with vendors, contractors, cloud computing services, and so forth.
• Limit the information the state demands that schools collect to the least data required to comply with federal mandates in exchange for federal funds.
• Prohibit state departments of education from accepting federal grants that include any data-collection mandates without prior review and public approval by the legislature.
Be wary of investing in and implementing any digital-learning platforms without understanding exactly what capabilities they have for compiling data on students, such as measuring psychological resources and other affective assessments. No such platforms should be used without full explanation of their data-collection capabilities to, and consent by, parents.
Amend any state laws that require parents to opt out of automatic data-collection and require them instead to opt in. Also amend state laws that penalize parents or children for choosing to opt out of state tests.
• Hold town hall meetings on private and government data-collection.
• Pass comprehensive laws to address the state’s authority to collect, whether directly or through private sources, personal data and its authority to pass that data on to others, including the federal government and private entities. 
NATIONAL LAWMAKERS:
Immediately reaffirm the original privacy protections of FERPA and seek to strengthen that law with one fit for the digital age, which affirms individuals’ ownership of their own private information.
Prohibit federal agencies from demanding or accepting student-level data from, or disclosing such data to, any private entity or any health, labor,workforce, social services, education, or other agency.
• Replace demands for data in exchange for federal education funds with federal laws that block grant such funds to states with freedom to spend their education dollars as they see fit. This is the model of the A-PLUS Act, a good step toward sending unproductive and intrusive federal education mandates at all levels.
• Pass legislation that recognizes the right of the individual to exploit (i.e., prohibit the exploitation of) his or her personal information. Such legislation would, ofcourse, have to specify at what point such a right of action vests in the individual (at what point of data collection and manipulation may an individual take action).”

Congress, Please Investigate Gates’ Takeover of US Education; Congress, Stop NCLB rewrite – Every Child Achieves Act 2.0   4 comments

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Two of my favorite ed reform analysts, Diane Ravitch and Emmett McGroarty come from opposite sides of the political aisle, yet each has called on America to sit up, take notice, and take action against the Common Core movement.

Is Congress too busy, or too conflicted, to pay attention?

Diane Ravitch has long been calling for a Congressional investigation into “Bill Gates’ swift and silent takeover of American education.”  She rightly called Gates’ unelected, leviathan influence an unauthorized coup worthy of Congressional investigation  and wrote, “the idea that the richest man in America can purchase and — working closely with the U.S. Department of Education — impose new and untested academic standards on the nation’s public schools is a national scandal.”  

Bloomberg via Getty Images

Ravitch’s congressional investigation needs to happen fast, though, because– once again, we and our children are under the gun.

Emmett McGroarty, pointed out this week, at Townhall.com that the “No Child Left Behind” horror is being refried and re-offered to American school children as a worse, sweatier mess of Gates-inspired, CEDS  and Datapalooza -aligned Common Core cement, now being called “The Every Child Achieves Act” (ECAA).

Think of the new ECAA bill as the 2.0 –but not from No Child Left Behind only;  also from an earlier version of itself just two months ago.  Remember that this “Every Child Achieves Act” bill went down in flames —  thanks to actual grassroots moms and dads and teachers screaming NO earlier this year.  But it’s risen from the ashes, more sly this time, like a recurring nightmare.

McGroarty writes that the ECAA targets the [parental freedom to say no to high stakes testing] Opt-Out movement. He and co-author Lisa Hudson explain:

It [ECAA] keeps the testing requirements. A state must still have an “accountability system” that includes as a “substantial” factor student performance on standardized tests. It does try to lessen the teach-to-the-test pressures by allowing the state to determine “the weight” of the tests…  But this will not alleviate such pressures. It’s like saying, ‘We’re going to beat you with a wooden bat, not a metal one.’  … each state must demonstrate that it will measure ‘annual progress of not less than 95 percent of all students’  …Now is the time for all the senators and representatives who support local control of education and all those who support federalism to stand up and get rid of the federal dictates on how often and in what subjects our children are tested.”

So, if Congress is debating passage of ECAA, and if many in Congress are pushing the bill, will Congress simultaneously investigate Common Core, and its own governmental and business allies?

Keep in mind Diane Ravitch’s call for congressional investigation of Gates and his federal allies:

“The close involvement of Arne Duncan raises questions about whether the law was broken” knowing that Gates, “one very rich man bought the enthusiastic support of interest groups on the left and right to campaign for the Common Core…”

Ravitch’s call needs to be echoed and re-echoed throughout our nation.  She asks:

“Who knew that American education was for sale? Who knew that federalism could so easily be dismissed as a relic of history? Who knew that Gates and Duncan, working as partners, could dismantle and destroy state and local control of education?

The revelation that education policy was shaped by one unelected man, underwriting dozens of groups. and allied with the Secretary of Education, whose staff was laced with Gates’ allies, is ample reason for Congressional hearings.

“…I could not support the Common Core standards because they were developed and imposed without regard to democratic process. The writers of the standards included no early childhood educators, no educators of children with disabilities, no experienced classroom teachers; indeed, the largest contingent of the drafting committee were representatives of the testing industry.

“No attempt was made to have pilot testing of the standards in real classrooms with real teachers and students. The standards do not permit any means to challenge, correct, or revise them.

…The high-handed manner in which these standards were written and imposed in record time makes them unacceptable. These standards not only undermine state and local control of education, but the manner in which they were written and adopted was authoritarian. No one knows how they will work, yet dozens of groups have been paid millions of dollars by the Gates Foundation to claim that they are absolutely vital for our economic future, based on no evidence whatever…. Local boards are best equipped to handle local problems. States set state policy, in keeping with the concept that states are “laboratories of democracy,” where new ideas can evolve and prove themselves… Do we need to compare the academic performance of students in different states? We already have the means to do so with the federally funded National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)… Will national standards improve test scores? There is no reason to believe so. Brookings scholar Tom Loveless predicted two years ago that the Common Core standards would make little or no difference. The biggest test-score gaps, he wrote, are within the same state, not between states… the most reliable predictors of test scores are family income and family education.

“… at a time when many schools have fiscal problems and are laying off teachers, nurses, and counselors, and eliminating arts programs, the nation’s schools will be forced to spend billions of dollars on Common Core materials, testing, hardware, and software.

“Microsoft, Pearson, and other entrepreneurs will reap the rewards of this new marketplace. Our nation’s children will not.

“Who decided to monetize the public schools?  Who determined that the federal government should promote privatization and neglect public education? … Who decided that schools should invest in Common Core instead of smaller classes and school nurses?

“These are questions that should be asked at Congressional hearings.”

 

Please, please share these thoughts with your Congressional representatives.  Stop the current Every Child Achieves Act.  Don’t let Congressmen tell you that they can’t get involved because education is a states’ issue.  It is!  But because it is a constitutionally designated states’ issue, Congress must get involved and get the feds and the privateers out of our schools.

We Will Not Conform Event: A Report   8 comments

conform At the Provo mall theater  Tuesday night, people were being turned away because every seat was purchased for the Glenn Beck “We Will Not Conform” event.  The theater was overflowing with parents, teachers and grandparents wanting to know how to reclaim locally controlled education and a feeling of empowerment.  I  don’t know about the other 700 or so movie theaters, but at this one in Provo, people were energized.  After the event, audience members had to  be asked to leave because many stayed to talk long after the event. Those post-event conversations moved me more than anything I saw on the screen, even though the event itself was excellent.  I’ll explain further along, down this post.

The filming took place in Dallas live, and  included a powerful group of panelists.  Audience members nationwide participated via twitter, taking surveys and being asked to answer questions. On July 29th, there will be a rebroadcast of the event.  If you didn’t attend last Tuesday, or  can’t attend on the 29th, here are a few highlights:

  • Michelle Malkin  – Malkin, that vibrant firecracker of an analyst, called Common Core “educational malpractice” and said that no one has a right to experiment upon, and track, our children as if they were guinea pigs.  Malkin said that parents need the intellectual ammunition to fight the regurgitated talking points of the pro-Common Core groups.  She said that parents should verify and re-verify the claims and assumptions being spoken by the pro-Common Core side.
  • Kathleen Jasper – Jasper, a former teacher and vice principal, said that there is a giant machine of common core and high-stakes testing that can only be stopped by cutting off the fuel supply, which is the testing;  she said parents and teachers must stand up and boycott the common core aligned assessments.  She said parents need to know that media centers and computer centers in schools are being shut down to accomodate the high-stakes tests; all the money that classrooms need is being redirected to pay for the testing machine.
  • Emmett McGroarty- McGroarty, of American Principles Project, said that Common Core’s highly defined standards/curriculum/testing program ushers in an unconstitutional system that parents can stop.  He said that legislators must be held accountable by voters; if they’re not fighting it, they are going along with it.  Tolerance of common core is a litmus test for legislators.
  • Jenni White – White, a mom who was instrumental in getting Common Core repealed from Oklahoma, said that one of their greatest challenges was the Chamber of Commerce, since it was paid by Bill Gates to push Common Core.  She said that persistence (and matching, eye-popping T-shirts) were key.
  • Glenn Beck – Beck said that the kinds of teachers who can make the complex simple and the mundane exciting are worth their weight in gold, but these teachers are being systematically wiped out because of the enforcement of Common Core by the tests that make everyone and everything conform.
  • David Barton – Barton, a historian, make the point that some people think Common Core is “not that bad,” but it is like a tiger cub, cute and manageable at first, but given time, will destroy.
  • Terrence Moore – Moore, a professor and principal, said that because Common Core uses public money, the public has the right to ask, “what is education?” and not have it re-defined for us.  He said, “We have to get those stories back,” referring to the classic literature and the great American stories that Common Core marginalizes due to an emphasis on informational text and progressive ideology.
  • Heather Crossin – Crossin, an Indiana mom, made the point that we have the truth on our side; once people begin to look at Common Core they realize that the talking points aren’t true.
  • Brian Glicklich – Glicklich, a marketing specialist, said that when we work to repeal the Common Core agenda, we have to remember that rarely can we be both angry and effective; we should make our best points, but don’t try to make all of our points at once.

When the event ended, some friends and I passed out fliers inviting people to attend the Utah State School Board meeting on August 8th, and to take the time to make public comment there (two minutes per person are allowed.)  At that event, the state board will vote on whether or not to cowtow to the federal government by renewing the ESEA/NCLB waiver, which Utah received in exchange for the agreement to do Common Core (as option a; we also could have chosen option b, which was to create local standards using higher ed as a sounding board). After the event, I listened with mouth agape as to two teachers  spoke about their distress about Common Core in the theater lobby. One said that her first graders are being truly cheated and manipulated by the new Common Core math.  She said that when she attempted to speak out in staff meetings, she had her job threatened by her administrator.  She got scared.  She feels that teachers being forced to “collaborate” by PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) — having to sign off, promising to not veer from the common core as defined by the PLC, feels extremely restrictive.   She said that healthy debate does not exist; it’s not allowed to exist in the professional educator community.  She said that if teachers don’t agree, they have to be silent or they are labeled  “not a team player”  or “insubordinate.” The teacher also told me that she received a letter from her district, informing her that although parents have the right to opt students out of the tests, teachers do not have the right to inform parents of that right.  The letter said that teachers must administer the tests, and any teacher found telling students or parents that they have the legal right to not take these tests, would be in trouble. I spoke with a mother of twelve who has been learning about and fighting against Common Core for three years.   She said that many of her neighbors and friends who work in the school system have told her that they feel their hands are tied, and that they cannot do anything about Common Core even though they see its damages.  She opts all children out of the tests. In Utah, at least, we are fortunate because we have the law on our side; schools are not allowed to penalize a student’s grade if that student refuses to take the test. Opt out!

Maine Hosts Stop Common Core Rally and Press Conference This Wednesday   3 comments

Please come if you can, or spread the word if you have contacts in or around Maine:

On Wednesday, August 21st at noon, there will be a Stop Common Core press conference in Augusta, Maine, at the Capitol in the Hall of Flags led by Maine State School Board member Heidi Sampson.

There will also be a Stop Common Core Rally at 6:00 pm that night at the Governor Hill Mansion, Augusta, Maine.

I am excited. I get to participate in person.

Speakers will include Heidi Sampson, of the Maine State School Board; Emmett McGroarty, of American Principles Project; Jamie Gass, of Pioneer Institute; Erin Tuttle, activist mom from Indiana; and me– Christel Swasey, from Heber City, Utah.

The East Coast is suddenly exploding with new energy dedicated toward stopping Common Core and reclaiming education.

Last weekend in New York, we saw the tremendous, unprecedented example set by Superintendent Dr. Joseph Rella of Comsewogue, NY, at his high school football stadium rally with parents against Common Core.

And now, Heidi Sampson, a member of the Maine State School Board, steps up to the plate, leading citizens of Maine to see the facts and take action against the damages of Common Core.

If you visit some of the parent-led websites on Facebook and elsewhere, representing states all up and down the East Coast, you’ll see No Common Core Maine, Stop Common Core of Florida and Stop Common Core of Georgia and Stop Common Core in North Carolina and Stop Common Core in South Carolina and Stop Common Core New Hampshire, and you will be impressed— Each site tells the same story: parents and educators are hosting increasing numbers of town hall meetings and informational presentations; on radio stations, in churches, in conference calls, in auditoriums, at State Capitol Buildings, and in their homes– all over, from Miami, Palm Beach, Rome, Greenville and Raleigh, to Concord, Alfred, Augusta, and more.

And in New York State, on September 21st, there’s going to be an important forum, put on by the parent-led Stop Common Core in New York State with grassroots activists, esteemed professors and think-tank professionals flying in from across the country to participate.

The big boys and their millions cannot, can not, stand up to the tens of thousands of Mama and Papa bears who are here to protect our children.

Common Core is going out. Liberty and local control are coming back. We the People are taking back the educational rights and privacy rights of our children. Count on it.

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