Archive for the ‘massachusetts’ Tag

From Big Think Tanks to Individual Thinkers: a “NO” to NGSS Common Science Standards   2 comments

poli science

What’s the big deal about Utah changing its science standards?  Doesn’t “new” equal “improved”?

I have three items to share on this subject that come from other people, which I add to what I wrote in yesterday’s letter to the USOE Auditing Department, and then I’ll spout my own thoughts at the end.

1) First, I’m sharing an open letter of fellow Utah mom, Rhonda Hair, to the State Board, protesting Utah’s move toward inept common national science standards;

2) Second, I’m sharing a link to a review of the “science” in these standards by top biology professor Stan Metzenberg, published by Pioneer Institute;

3) Third, I’m republishing Alpine District board member Wendy Hart’s video alerting the public to the error of Utah adopting NGSS (also known as Utah’s New Science Standards or Massachusetts’ “new” draft science standards.

(If you want still more, read Utah scientist Vince Newberger’s blog, Science Freedom; see the side by side comparison of NGSS to Utah’s “new” standards (they are as identical twins with one freckle different); watch the  video documentary to hear recorded promises of Utah legislators and board members who explained why Utah should/would never adopt federal/common science standards; read the furious report of parent Alisa Ellis who served on Utah’s parent review committee for these draft standards, read why Kansas parents for objective education sued their state school board for adopting these standards; watch the May 2015 public comment meeting in Salt Lake City about these standards, and read what Jakell Sullivan and I researched about NGSS many months ago.)

Then, contact the board:  board@schools.utah.gov !

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  1.  FROM A UTAH MOTHER, RHONDA HAIR:

Dear Utah State School Superintendent Brad Smith, State Science Specialist Ricky Scott, and State School Board Members:

I filled out the survey and would like to let you know a few things.
First, I am frustrated with the survey: it reads like a scholarly paper and is inaccessible to so many parents who intuitively know what is good but are intimidated by its complexity and minutiae. As a consequence, only parents who have obtained high-level education are going to feel confident about filling out such a survey. Are they the only parents who matter? I’ve been told you keep hearing from professors that these standards are great. Of course they think that. Your survey and standards draft are aimed at people at that level, and they live in a fairly insulated world of theory and numbers, not regular, real-world jobs.
Last time you offered a survey to parents, it was of a similar nature. I attended the board meeting when the results were reported. My survey was not counted; though I did give feedback, it didn’t fit your data set structure. If I remember correctly, only about 70 surveys had been filled out the way demanded. That is because what you are asking about is not what the parents are concerned about. You are asking about the cabins and furniture on a ship that has been hijacked.

While I do object to some specifics in the standards, what is most crucial in my opinion is the overruling of parental control that the Utah Board and Office of Education have done, with the legislature’s blessing. I don’t need to spend considerable time reviewing the standards (though I did) to know you are on the wrong track. These things should be decided at the very local level, where parents and teachers can work together to address the needs, wants, talents, and values of the families and individuals. The state Constitution specifies the Board is to have “general control” of education, which means what can apply to everyone, not “detailed control”. Your predecessors overstepped the intended bounds.
Please help remedy the situation by dropping these standards, rejecting federal strings and intervention, dropping state educational core curriculum, and allow the resulting vacuum to be filled naturally by the districts, schools, and families.

Sincerely,
Rhonda Hair
Parent of Utah public-ed students and homeschool students, B.S. in Elementary Education

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2.  FROM PIONEER INSTITUTE:

Study Calls for Draft Science and Technology/Engineering Standards to Be Withdrawn

“Astonishing” gaps in science content too large to be resolved editorially

BOSTON – Massachusetts’ draft pre-K through introductory high school Science and Technology/Engineering standards contain such startling gaps in science that they should be withdrawn from consideration, according to a new Policy Brief published by Pioneer Institute.

“The proposed science standards have significant, unacceptable gaps in science content,” says Dr. Stan Metzenberg, a professor of biology at California State University and author of “A Critical Review of the Massachusetts Next Generation Science and Technology/Engineering Standards.” “For example, they are stunningly devoid of Mendelian genetics and large parts of cellular biology. This is an astonishing oversight for a state that has notable institutions of higher education and a thriving biotechnology industry.”

At the high school level, the draft standards almost completely exclude Mendelian genetics. These concepts are not easily absorbed before high school, and their exclusion means students won’t be exposed to ideas that revolutionized biology at the beginning of the 20th century.

Their exclusion also makes it impossible to understand modern evolutionary theory and for students to grasp their own risk of carrying inherited disease. Massachusetts’ current science and technology/engineering curriculum frameworks include three Mendelian genetics standards.

The draft standards also exclude large parts of cellular biology, failing to teach high school students about the nucleus, mitochondria or chloroplasts.

Massachusetts currently has a curriculum framework for each of the body’s seven major systems (digestive, circulatory/excretory, respiratory, nervous, muscular/skeletal, reproductive and endocrine). But the draft would include these systems in a single composite standard, reducing students’ understanding and lessening their ability to talk to and understand their own physician and make healthy choices.

The draft standards never mention the name “Charles Darwin” and don’t adequately develop the basis for concepts of natural selection, making it exceedingly difficult to address Darwin’s theory of evolution in later grades.

Finally, the way the draft standards are written is overly complex, using sometimes ambiguous or grammatically incorrect language that fails to clearly communicate what students should know and be able to do. This ambiguity causes difficulty in the later grades.

About the Author

Dr. Stan Metzenberg is Professor of Biology at California State University, Northridge. He has 20 years’ experience teaching biological science at the university level. He was a senior science consultant for the Academic Standards Commission in California (1998) and a state Board of Education appointee to the California Science Project (1999-2003), the California Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission (2003- 2006) and a content review panelist for development of the California Standards Tests (1999-2010). He has recently assisted the ministries of education of Saudi Arabia (2010) and Qatar (2015) in training teacher leaders to use newly adopted science instructional materials.

About Pioneer

Pioneer Institute is an independent, non-partisan, privately funded research organization that seeks to improve the quality of life in Massachusetts through civic discourse and intellectually rigorous, data-driven public policy solutions based on free market principles, individual liberty and responsibility, and the ideal of effective, limited and accountable government.

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3.   From Wendy Hart, board member of Alpine School Board, Utah’s largest public school district:

 

 

Thank you, Rhonda Hair, Professor Metzenberg, and Wendy Hart.

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And now, a few closing thoughts of my own:

ON ACADEMIC FREEDOM

The entire nation of scientists do not agree on a common core of science.  Why should kids be forced to do so?  Science is a quest.  Academic freedom to question with a fully open mind, matters.  NGSS ends that for schools.  NGSS’s vision of truth, including political underpinnings of “green” science, is the only correct science.

While some members of the USOE have pretended that the anti-NGSS people (like me) are anti-science people who would  force God and intelligent design  on all students, and that we would have public schools teaching nothing but the Old Testament as science school, that is not true.   It is the pro-NGSS people who want to limit truth.  They want the one-sided, politically charged version of science, slanted toward controversial “facts” being accepted by students as unquestionable scientific standards of truth; they want kids to believe that global warming and climate change is a fact, for example– even though in the real world of real scientists, that is a hotly debated and far from settled scientific issue.  They want kids to believe that Darwinian evolution is flawlessly true.  But that’s not what real scientists agree upon.  Academic freedom demands the continuation of these huge questions in the classroom.  That won’t happen with NGSS and the associated tests and curriculum defining scientific truth from a slanted perspective.

ON MISSING OUT ON MORE THAN JUST A FEW STRANDS OF SCIENCE

Beyond academic holes such as missing Mendelian genetics and missing math in NGSS, beyond the blind acceptance of Darwin and an overabundance of green-slanted “science” –there is an even bigger issue.  In adopting NGSS, we are losing the freedom to set our own standards in the future because NGSS alignment stifles and shackles us with common, aligned tests and common educational data standards that tag our students’ daily work.

ON THE LOSS OF CONTROL OF STANDARDS, TESTING AND PRIVATE STUDENT DATA

It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of preserving the right and power of our local teachers, principals, parents, scientists, and board members to influence what is to be taught as truth under the banner of science.

Adopting NGSS, which are not being called NGSS standards by the USOE, but which are, in fact, NGSS standards, (see the side by side comparison of NGSS to Utah’s “new” standards )  is more than adopting academically debatable, “new” but not “improved” standards.

It’s a decision to shackle our students and teachers to a nationalized, common content that NGSS is promoting, and to shackle them to the testing and data mining of student attitudes about this politicized science.  This move makes it efficient and easy for centralized power-holders (NGSS, federal government, state government, CEDS-aligned researchers) who have no business doing so, to not only dictate what truth in science looks like, but what student “achievement” in science will be.  Why give them that power?

Note:   the official site for NGSS states: “To reap the benefits of the science standards, states should adopt them in whole, without alteration”.   That is what Utah is doing.  Compare for yourself.

Opting out of standardized testing will not get around these problems, by the way,  since “embedded assessment” (aka stealth testing) will make every student using technology in any form, a data-mining gold mine, daily.

Please, wake up, friends!

We are, right now, putting Utah on the conveyor belt of politically loaded, pre-packaged “true science” defined only by NGSS, with matching SAGE tests (or the upcoming, embedded tests) to monitor whether our kids are buying their version of “true science”.

This grave error comes with  long lasting consequences.  It will be as immovable as any long-lasting, formative decision.  Long ago, we decided to build I-15.  Theoretically, we can put it somewhere else now.  But that is not very likely when the traffic (as NGSS-aligned technologies, codes, curricula, tests, teacher professional development, textbook purchasing and more) begins to barrel down that imperious boulevard.

ON THE WORD “NEXT GENERATION”

Big wigs have verbally crowned their crime against academic freedom with the glittering term “next-generation science.”  Some people fall for the term; it must be the next great thing with such a title; but NGSS buy-in is an  investment in long-term political and academic snake oil.  There is nothing modern and magical about this slippery snake oil  except the  very big marketing dollars behind it.

Inform your representatives and  board members that  you say “No” to NGSS.  (State board email: board@Utah.schools.gov)

 

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Update:  11/13/15

Vince Newmeyer reported that:

“Board members have been told that the October draft is the existing standards updated with just the good stuff from the NGSS. To support their claim then produced a spreadsheet called the USEO standards crosswalk… I have taken their crosswalk and researched it further. The results are:

One new standard was written (6.3.4). Two standards originating from the current Utah Standards were added (7.2.4 & 8.1.2). Some existing NGSS standards went through a thesaurus translation but generally without change in character. Some NGSS standards remain word-for-word. Six standards were formed by combining two or more of the previous NGSS standards. Most of the previously duplicated standards were removed. Only one NGSS standard (MS-LS1-8) is not found. see also http://www.sciencefreedom.org/Issues-With-Oct-SEEd-Draft.html http://www.sciencefreedom.org/Oct-Utah-NGSS-Side-By-Side.html

USOE Admits that they Seek to generally adopt the National Next Generation Science Standard

 

USOE now admits in the materials distributed to the board members related to the October draft of the (UT SEEd) Standards October for their October 8-9, 2015 meeting that “Most SEEd standards remain based on the Next Generation Science Standards.” A similar statement is found in the foot notes of the introduction pages to each grade level of the standards released for the 30-day public review. (http://www.schools.utah.gov/CURR/science/Revision/SEEdStandardsDraft.aspx ) As we have seen in this text that “most” means that essentially all of the NGSS standard concepts are found in the October draft of the “Utah SEEd” with little added.
More details are at my ScienceFreedom.org webpage under articles.”

–From Vince Newmeyer

 

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With Common Core States Face Critical Problem: Which Tests?   1 comment

By Sandra Stotsky

 

The burning education issue facing most states at the moment is which tests should they give their K-12 students next year to satisfy the conditions of their waivers from the United States Department of Education (USED) or the commitments they made in their Race to the Top (RttT) applications, whether or not they received an RttT grant or other funds from the USED or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

The two testing consortia funded by the USED – Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) – for the purpose of developing common tests based on Common Core’s standards have experienced dwindling state commitments. SBAC is down to less than 20, and PARCC is down to possibly 9. Both consortia have been piloting test items across the states this past academic year to acquire the pool of items needed for computer-adaptive testing (by SBAC) and for gauging difficulty levels at all the grade levels participating in the assessments (K-11).

A new twist is the question of whether state boards, commissioners, and/or departments of education committed their states (i.e., the taxpayers) to particular testing companies and future technology costs without going through statute-mandated bidding procedures and cost-benefit analyses. New Mexico and Louisiana seem to be tied up in constitutional issues on contractual matters, while Arizona is trying to ensure it follows its own statutory bidding procedures.

What hasn’t been getting much attention from mainstream media, possibly because most reporters have no children in Common Core-based classrooms and don’t talk to parents of school-age children on a regular basis, are the problems students and teachers are encountering with the tests themselves and the similarities in the problems reported for PARCC and SBAC pilot tests.

The information on PARCC’s pilot tests comes from school administrators in the Bridgewater-Raynham Regional School District in Massachusetts, as reported on June 18 in Wickedlocal.com. The article was based chiefly on what took place at a school board meeting in June, during which the School Committee voted unanimously to stay with MCAS, the state test, for the next academic year. At the meeting, the school administrators explained why they wanted to stay with MCAS, based on the experiences teachers and students had with the PARCC pilot tests the school district gave in the spring of 2014. 

“It’s like telling our teachers, ‘We’ll teach you how to drive.’ But then the test says you won’t be driving cars. You’ll be driving boats,” said Bridgewater-Raynham school Superintendent Jacqueline Forbes of the PARCC exam. “It’s not aligning with our curriculum or instruction.”

angryteacher

Based on pilot testing, school officials said PARCC did not match up with Bridgewater-Raynham’s teaching methods and also contained numerous technological flaws.

“The one word I’d use to sum up our experience is ‘frustration,’” said Brian Lynch, an elementary school principal. “First, there were a lot of problems administering the test, which is taken on a computer – and the snags weren’t on the district’s end.”

“Second, the test requires students to be familiar with software programs the district does not teach,” Lynch continued. “The district uses a lot of technology, but students still take basic math tests on topics such as number lines and graphing using a paper and pencil.”

“Are we testing math or are we testing a child’s ability to drag and type?” asked Forbes. “We don’t teach typing in third grade. It’s not developmentally appropriate.”

According to high school Principal Angela Watson, the district piloted the PARCC Algebra I test to randomly selected ninth graders.

“Unfortunately, what we found is our written, taught and assessed curriculum doesn’t match up exactly with the PARCC exam. … It puts kids in unfamiliar territory,” Watsonsaid. “It would take time and resources to make the switch to a curriculum that matches up with PARCC.”  

Forbes, however, said that effort might turn out to be misdirected because other districts have articulated similar concerns about the PARCC test.

Regarding SBAC’s pilot tests, a recent letter by Fairgrounds Middle School Principal John Nelson to Nashua Superintendent Mark Conrad provided a disturbing picture, wrote theNashua Telegraph in late January.

New Hampshire teachers had been asked by their local superintendent of schools to take an early version of SBAC in December 2013. According to the article, the teachers said the “new computerized test is confusing, doesn’t work well, and leads to frustration.”

In his letter to members of the Nashua Board of Education, Nelson said, “Teachers shared frustrations they had when they were taking the test and disappointment in test format and the difficulties they had trying to use their computer to take this test.”

His teachers agreed the test should not be used on Nashua students.

Nelson wrote:

The FMS staff collectively believe that the Smarter Balance Test is inappropriate for our students at this time and that the results from this test will not measure the academic achievement of our students; but will be a test of computer skills and students’ abilities to endure through a cumbersome task.

Despite the teachers’ plea and support from Nashua’s teacher union, Conrad, the state board, and Department of Education refused to back down, leaving Nashua’s students with a test their own teachers think is meaningless.

As in Nashua and Bridgewater-Raynham, local reporters all over the country are likely reporting what is happening in their local schools as they pilot Common Core-based tests. But Congress, state legislators, governors, and other policymakers at the state and national levels are not getting an accurate picture of what is happening to the curriculum in our public schools or to the children in them. 

Sandra Stotsky, Ed.D. is Professor Emerita at the University of Arkansas.  This article is posted with her permission and was first published at Breitbart.com

Common Core Update and Simple Actions You Can Take   3 comments

apple books

 

Here are several important news/action  items for those concerned about stopping the Common Core “reforms” and restoring freedom in education:

1. Michelle Malkin has joined American Principals Project and others on a letter-signing campaign aimed at governors, insisting that they break free of Common Core.  Read and sign here.

2.  The Utah State Office of Education is permitting people to give public comment on the new common library book standards.

I urge you to comment; the survey takes very, very little time.  Also, send a personal letter to the USOE on this issue, to these addresses for the board:  librarycomments@schools.utah.gov      and    Board@schools.utah.gov

Here is one of the library standards: 1.2.4. Maintain a critical stance by questioning the validity and accuracy of all information. 

This simple little sentence begins with “maintain a critical stance” –implying having good critical thinking skills, but then it veers into idiocy by “questioning the validity and accuracy of ALL information.”

Are children to doubt the existence of any truth?  Yes, according to the state school board’s library standards.

Classical (very pre-common core) education taught children to confidently and logically pursue truth.  But “progressive” education teaches children that there is no truth, no morality, no known anything.  Thus all information is of equal importance and any library book is of equal worth:  reading the rantings of Joe the communist pedophile may be as worthy a way to spend class time as studying what Washington, Einstein and Shakespeare wrote. What a terrible “standard”!

Of course there is truth; and there are facts. Doesn’t our existence on earth depend on the  truth that the earth is a certain, precise, indisputable distance from the sun?  If it were not so, we’d freeze or burn! That library standard has got to go.

Utah Standards for Library Media are posted;  comment  please. (The USOE Web site is hosting the public comment  –before Aug 17, 2014.  Also widen your audience by posting your opinion of the library standards to   librarycomments@schools.utah.gov      and    Board@schools.utah.gov as well as to your local newspapers and radio stations.)

 

3.  Jenni White of Oklahoma’s ROPE has this blog post:  If you do nothing, nothing happens!

4. Governor Herbert has approved government preschool in Utah, and President Obama is pushing for federal preschool for all,  but is anyone questioning the wisdom of such a move?  What are its impacts on the business of private preschools?  What are its impacts on little ones who would stay home with their families if not for the big government push to put them in rigorous preschools? Jonas Himmelstrand’s my favorite opponent of this push.  This Swede has spoken to countless groups in many countries about the disintegration of families, mental health and academic success when government daycare becomes the norm.  He speaks from experience.  Himmelstrand’s voice needs to be more widely heard.  Please read  more here and here.

 

5. If you haven’t already seen them, see these news links, published by Oak Norton at Utahns Against Common Core today:

Pioneer Institute Study Finds That New Technology, Relaxation of Protections Threaten Student Privacy A must read press release: you can also download the full Pioneer Institute study. 

Here’s a relevant clip: “These expansive data structures are intimately connected to the Common Core State Standards Initiative and national testing. Any information from the data initiatives mentioned above that is given to the two federally funded national assessment consortia aligned with the Common Core State Standards will be made available to the USED. The national standards will also create a unified “taxonomy” that facilitates creation of common instructional materials and data-collection technology. Because Common Core focuses not on academic knowledge but rather on “skills” that involve attitudes and dispositions, it paves the way for national assessments and digital platforms that measure such attributes.” http://pioneerinstitute.org/featured/study-new-technology-relaxation-of-protections-threaten-student-privacy/

 

Massachusetts Teachers Association Elects Anti-Common Core President We’ve already had the NY and Chicago teachers unions take anti-CC stances, but for a strong teachers association to join in is a great step. “The Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA), a union that represents about 110,000 teachers in the Bay State, elected an anti-Common Core president on May 10 in a hotly contested and close election. Barbara Madeloni, a clinical psychologist turned teacher, beat a Brockton teacher by 681 to 584 votes. A proponent of local control, Madeloni opposes high stakes testing and nationalization of educational standards.” http://www.hslda.org/hs/state/ma/201405130.asp

Saber-Rattling on Common Core (Utah) This is why we want legislators who understand Common Core issues. “On Wednesday, education officials climbed Capitol Hill to inform lawmakers of the progress they’re making on implementing the Common Core education system into Utah’s K-12 schools. But the educators were met with an extremely hostile welcome, as Republican lawmakers expressed their animosity towards the Core changes, which have grown increasingly unpopular among conservatives nationwide.”

http://utahpoliticalcapitol.com/2014/05/22/saber-rattling-on-common-core For the audio go here: http://le.utah.gov/asp/interim/Commit.asp?year=2014&com=INTEDU

Conflict: Common Core Testing Company VP Evaluating NCLB Waivers Utah mom Autumn Cook dug this interesting tidbit out showing a Vice-President of AIR (the SAGE test company) was selected to review NCLB waivers. http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/conflict-common-core-testing-company-vp-evaluating-nclb-waivers/

 

Student-centered or subject-centered education?

This article by Lynn Stoddard in the Standard contains a great story about a mom who noticed what her struggling autistic child was good at, and now, as a 15-year old, the child is being considered for a Nobel prize. For that full story here’s a link (http://themotherlist.com/mother-tore-label-nurtured-sons-hidden-genius/) http://www.standard.net/Opinion/2014/05/08/Student-centered-or-subject-centered-education.html

Massachusetts Dad to Department of Education: My Child Will Not Be Your Guinea Pig   5 comments

 Video update here:  http://www.masslive.com/news/worcester/index.ssf/2014/03/video_common_core_protesters_v.html

mass mike watson
Protesting Common Core and PARCC testing during Arne Duncan’s visit to Worcester today:  Mike Watson and son

“We met a lot of great folks at the protest but I spent most of my time with my favorite little activist! It was fitting this little man in the Spider Man hat was with us, as Common Core, PARCC and the policies of Arne Duncan and Mitchell Chester will directly impact his education and his future along with the rest of his generation….unless we stop them!

As a parent who cares deeply about my children (and others across my state and our country) I have a message for Arne, Mitchell Chester, Bill Gates, the big testing and data collection companies and my elected representatives on Beacon Hill who either support Common Core and PARCC or who are not willing to speak out in an effort to tow the party line……

NOT MY KIDS!You will have to arrest me and drag me through the courts along with all the media attention that will bring before I allow you to force my children to take a field test for a private company in our public schools! Our children our NOT your guinea pigs or state property to be used to test your experimental education reforms!Massachusetts is currently leading the country in education standards and positive student outcomes with our standards that were in place before Common Core. Standards that were publicly vetted, involved local educators and decision makers and have now been proven to produce positive outcomes.

Why throw all of that hard work and progress away for yet another untested education reform experiment? The little boy holding the sign in the picture will have to pay the price if your experiment fails as will children across the great state of Massachusetts. I refuse to let you throw away a generation of children without a fight and the army of parents, educators and citizens from across our state and our country have my back!

Mike Watson
Massachusetts

No….. NOT OUR KIDS!

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Yes, Mr. Watson.  The rest of us have your back. 
For more on today’s Massachusetts protest at Arne Duncan’s town hall:   http://www.masslive.com/news/worcester/index.ssf/2014/03/common_core_protesters_picket.html
Video update here:  http://www.masslive.com/news/worcester/index.ssf/2014/03/video_common_core_protesters_v.html

Senator Markey: Letter to Arne Duncan Questioning Student Data Collection Practices   9 comments

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Democratic Massachusetts Senator Edward J. Markey has written a vital letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan about the loss of student privacy under new education reforms. The Senator asks the Secretary eight great questions. My favorite is question #2.a): “Should parents, not schools, have the right to control information about their children?”

Senator Markey’s full letter is posted below. Please share it with your senators and with your state superintendents, who may, by their connection to the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and its partnership with the U.S. Department of Education, have sway in getting to real answers more quickly.

Markey letter on data

October 22, 2013

The Honorable Arne Duncan
Secretary
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20202

Dear Secretary Duncan:

The efficient collection, analysis and storage of K-12 students’ academic records holds promise for improving scholastic performance and closing the achievement gap. By collecting detailed personal information about students’ test results and learning abilities, educators may find better
ways to educate their students. However, putting the sensitive infomation of students in private hands raises a number of important questions about the privacy rights of parents and their children.

According to a recent article in The New York Times (“Decidir1g Who Sees Students’ Data”, October 5, 2013), a growing number of school districts are outsourcing data storage functions to private companies. This change, the companies assert, will “streamline access to students’ data to bolster the market for educational products”. While better analysis of student reading may, for example, help educators better target the appropriate reading materials to students, disclosure of such information, which mayr extend well beyond the specific private company hired by the school district to a constellation of other firms with which the district does not have a business relationship, raises concerns about the degree to which student privacy mayI be compromised.

Moreover, as the article cited above also explains, sensitive information such as students’ behavior and participation patterns also may be included in files outsourced to third-party data firms and potentially distributed more widely to additional companies without parental consent.

Such loss of parental control over their child’s educational records and performance information could have longstanding consequences for the future prospects of students.

Recent changes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) permit “schools to share student data, without notifying parents, with companies to which they have outsourced core functions like scheduling or data management,” according to the Times article. The infomation shared with private companies mayr vary from infomation such as grades, test scores, and attendance records, to other sensitive data such as disability, ­family relationships, and
disciplinary data.

In an effort to understand the Department’s views on the impact of increased collection and distribution of student data on their privacy, I respectfully request that the Department provide answers to the follow questions:

1) In 2008 and 2011, the Department issued new regulations with respect to FERPA that addressed how schools can outsource core functions such as scheduling or data management and how third parties may access confidential information about students. These changes also permit other government agencies that are not under the direct control of state educational authorities, such as state health departments, to access student infomation. Please explain those changes.

a. Why did the Department make these changes?

b. Did the Department perform any analysis regarding the impact of these changes on student privacy? If yes, please provide it. If not, why not?

2) Has the Department performed an assessment ofthe types of infomation that are shared by schools with third party vendors, including but not limited to Contact information, grades, disciplinary data, test scores, curriculum planning, attendance records, academic subjects, course levels, disabilities, family relationships, and reasons for enrollment? If yes, please provide it. If not, why not?

a. Should parents, not schools, have the right to control infomation about their children even when their data is in the hands of a private company?

b. Do you believe that parents should have the right to choose which infomation is shared by schools with third party vendors and which is kept confidential?

In other words, is it the Department’s view that some elements of personal data are more sensitive than others, and therefore deserve greater protections?

2) Has the Department issued federal standards or guidelines that detail what steps schools should take to protect the privacy of student records that are stored and used by private companies? For example, are there guidelines about access to the information, how long it can be retained, hcw it will be used, whether it will be shared with other parties (including but not limited to colleges to which students apply), and if it can be sold to others? lf yes, please provide those standards 0r guidelines. If not, why not and will the Department undertake the development and issuance of such guidelines?

4) Are there minimization requirements that require private companies to delete information that is not necessary to enhance educational quality for students?

5) Do students and their families continue to have the right to access their personal infomation held by private companies as they would if their personal information were held by educational institutions? If yes, please explain how students and families may exercise this right and how they should be informed of the existence of this right. If not, why not?

6) While there are significant potential benefits associated with better collection and analysis of student data, does the Department believe that there also are possible risks when students’ personal infomation is shared with such ñrms and third parties? If yes, what is the Department doing to mitigate these risks? If not, why not?

7) Does the Department require entities that access student data to have security measures in place, including encryption protocols or other measures, to prevent the loss of or acquisition of data that is transferred between schools and third parties? What security measures does the Department require that private companies have in place to safeguard the data once it is stored in their systems?

8) Does the Department monitor whether these third parties are safeguarding students’ personal infomation and abide by FERPA or guidelines released by the Department? If yes, please explain. If not, why not?

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. Please provide written responses to these questions no later than November 12, 2013. If you have any questions, please have a member of your staff contact Joseph Wender on Senator Markey’s staff at 202-224-2742.

Sincerely,

Edward J. Markey
United States Senator

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Thank you, Senator Markey.

Boston Globe Op Ed: How Common Core Harmed Massachusetts   1 comment

In the upside down, inside-out world of education reform, one of the most glaring inconsistencies is the case study of Massachusetts, a state that led the nation in standards and high student test scores, a state that had actually achieved competitiveness with leading international competitors, yet a state that dropped all that success, dropped its own tried and true success formula, to apply for a Race to the Top grant which tied it to common standards: Common Core.

I’m sharing portions of a recent opinion editorial written by the former president of the Massachusetts Senate, Tom Birmingham, on the subject of how Common Core hurt Massachusetts.

The full article is here, at the Boston Globe.

Birmingham said:

“If you had told me on that hot day in Malden 20 years ago when Governor Bill Weld signed the Education Reform Act that over 90 percent of Massachusetts students would pass MCAS, or that the Commonwealth’s SAT scores would rise for 13 consecutive years, or that our students would become the first in every category in every grade on national testing known as “the Nation’s Report Card,” or that Massachusetts would rank at or near the top in international science tests, I would have thought you wildly optimistic…

I’m …troubled by the Commonwealth’s willingness to replace our tried-and-true standards and MCAS with totally unproven national standards and testing. This conversion will come at an estimated cost of $360 million for new textbooks, professional development, and technology…

Most of the lowest-performing states have adopted the standards, known as Common Core. Based on nationally administered exams, states like Alabama and Mississippi could not hope to attain Massachusetts’ standards.

In implementing the Common Core, there will be natural pressure to set the national standards at levels that are realistically achievable by students in all states. This marks a retreat from Massachusetts’ current high standards. This may be the rare instance where what is good for the nation as a whole is bad for Massachusetts.

Given our incontrovertible educational successes, those seeking changes should bear in mind the admonition of the Hippocratic oath: First, do no harm.”

Tom Birmingham, former president of the Massachusetts Senate, is senior counsel at Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP. He coauthored the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993.

Op Ed: Professor Colorio of Massachusetts on Common Core   Leave a comment

Shine light on Common Core

By Donna Colorio
Massachusetts Educator

As I see it, our country is going through a major educational transformation and I ask myself, “Where are the parents?”

In 2010, a D.C.-based nonprofit called Achieve, under the guidance of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, created what is now known as the “Common Core” standards. It appears that the goal is to create standardized learning throughout our country.

I hope this makes you ask yourself, “What is the Common Core?”

In my opinion, the lack of transparency is disturbing. In May 2008, The Gates Foundation started funding the promotion of the Common Core standards. In December 2008, the National Governors Association, Council of Chief State School Officers, and Achieve released their report “Benchmarking for Success.”

The first draft of the Common Core grade level standards was released to states in November 2009. The first public draft followed, on March 10, 2010. By that time, 40 states had already applied for Race to the Top phase-one grant funding.

If the new and largely untested Common Core standards were not adopted by a state by Aug. 1, 2010, the state would lose crucial points in Round 2.

Massachusetts applied for Race to the Top funds by the Jan. 19, 2010, round one deadline. Our Department of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted the Common Core state standards that July, with a goal to be fully implemented in 2013-14.

Just like that, essentially brand new curricular standards had re-oriented 17 years of curricular development and MCAS alignment, which had evolved in Massachusetts since passage of the Education Reform Act of 1993.

Now is it clear: Parents, elected representatives, school committee members and teachers appear to have been largely bypassed in the initial process of adopting the Common Core state standards.

Educational policy is too important to be decided this way. It ignores the very heart of the democratic process, and the value of thoughtful, deliberative, inclusive planning. As parents, we should be very concerned.

As a parent and School Committee member, I believe many questions still need to be answered:

How much local control of education do we lose to a nationalized-educational curriculum? Have the Common Core standards been piloted to show they work? Are the present Massachusetts educational standards (using the MCAS as a benchmark) better or at least equal to the Common Core? How much will this new standard cost the Massachusetts taxpayers (estimates are over $15 billion)? What kind of tests will be required as a result of the implementation of the Common Core? How are our disadvantaged or higher achieving students affected by this change in standards? What will the impact be on our teachers?

There is a secondary impact of the Race to the Top money. In 2012, there was a change in federal educational privacy law. According to the Massachusetts Department of Education website ( http://www.doe.mass.edu) a significant share of the Race to the Top money awarded to Massachusetts mandate enhanced data collection activities about our students. As parents, we should ask ourselves, “What type of questions are our students being asked? How much of this student data will be shared with the federal or state government? Do we want this data collected or shared?”

I have long believed that education is a state and local responsibility. As a member of the Worcester School Committee, I believe it is my job to ensure that our students are being taught to the highest academic standards and that curriculum is developed or chosen by our state and/or local authority.

Parents have the right to know what is happening with their child’s education. It seems that Common Core is yet another reform being pushed through too quickly with too many potential costs and lifelong learning consequences (remember Whole Language?).

Neither parents nor educators had a truly effective opportunity to study the standards, to enable them to exercise an informed and persuasive voice in the process or decision, prior to their adoption. Some Catholic and other private schools are also implementing the Common Core. As parents, we need to understand what we gain or lose with this decision.

A forum titled “Can Common Core Standards Make Massachusetts Students Competitive?” will take place at the Worcester Public Library, 3 Salem St., in Worcester from 6:30 to 9 p.m. next Tuesday, May 28. It is free and open to the public. The forum features English Language Arts curriculum author Sandra Stotsky and cost and accountability expert Ted Rebarber.

I encourage Massachusetts’ parents, members of school committees, state representatives and teachers to attend this one-time forum. Don’t be left in the dark.

Donna Colorio is an educator at Quinsigamond Community College and serves on the Worcester School Committee. She can be reached at dcolorio@gmail.com.

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This op ed was published at Telegram.com and is republished with permission from Donna Colorio. http://www.telegram.com/article/20130522/NEWS/105229940/0/SEARCH&Template=printart

The forum mentioned in the article was filmed and viewable online.

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