October 28, 2014

More on More

I have received a surprising amount of requests from people asking me to clarify my objections to the Thomas More Law Center. It seems that some people think that I have a problem with Christians in general and they can't understand why. Interestingly most of these folks are self-identified Christians, but nevertheless I want to clarify things a bit. Mostly I'm going to pull pieces from the responses to comments I left on the actual post, and from an email that I sent to an associate.

In my ten years as a homeschooler, I met many people who are Christian. I found most of them to be lovely people and at one point even tried to participate in one of their support groups. However, through my experiences I have gained the understanding that many have a fundamental inability to separate anything they do from their belief that they are their god's servants; everything they do comes from a perspective of trying to serve him, spread his word, and bring him more followers.

Despite that, the reason for my "hard position" regarding Thomas More is not because they are Christian, but because their mission statement clearly states that their Christianity defines everything they do: "The Law Center’s purpose is to be the sword and shield for people of faith... We achieve this goal principally through litigation, seeking out significant cases consistent with our mission... The Law Center also defends and promotes faith..." and because they clearly state that they are a "ministry"; their whole purpose for existing is for religion.

On my original blog post I wrote "...we should actually avoid sending people to that website, unless of course, we know in advance that they are Christian and share all of the values that Thomas More does." So I completely agree that More's values will resonate with some people. But I can say that one of the things that I witnessed during all my homeschooling, is that religion can be very divisive. And until one has dealt directly with people whose religion is integral enough to who they are that they refer to themselves as a ministry, one cannot understand the depths of what that means.

Because of their religious viewpoint, the More Group will fight for liberties at the expense of others' liberties; they tout themselves as "...the leader in the effort to overturn Roe v. Wade..." and seek to fight the right of gay people to marry.  Please read their Wikipedia profile for a better and well referenced explanation of what they stand for: "The Thomas More Law Center is active in controversial social issues and cases..."

Because of their religious viewpoint, it would be very unlikely that they would take up a case, for example, where a teacher was reprimanded or written-up for expressing to their administrators that things like Common Core, extended day, or disciplinary issues with students are creating problems, if that teacher was openly gay or Wiccan.

I completely agree that "its easier to accomplish a daunting task when we as individuals set aside our differences and work together". But Thomas More will not set aside their differences; their religion is too integral to who they are, and they are therefore incapable of it.

I understand that wanting to have lawyers to back up parents for free would be wonderful. Totally. But I do not feel More is working for free; I believe the cost of their services is the exposure their help will get them. As they say on their website "The Law Center also defends and promotes faith and family through media and educational efforts."

So just as with homeschoolers facing improprieties with the schools, or in the case of parents of special needs kids whose schools are not doing right by them, parents who meet push-back from their school districts regarding testing refusals and other educational issues may need to pay a lawyer. And we do have Deborah Stevenson, who stays on top of all of this, if that becomes necessary.

The bottom line in all of this is that Thomas More Law Center is not irrelevant because they are Christian, it is irrelevant because they do not contribute to the conversation regarding Common Core in Connecticut.

But that may change if the Christian leaders of CT Against Common Core decide it's worth alienating the infidels who work with them. Only time will tell.

October 20, 2014

Thomas More Law Center

Here in Connecticut this group keeps finding its way into the conversation about Common Core. Last week they released a news piece pointing to their Resource Center, so I thought I'd poke around.

The very first sentence of their news article begins
From recommended literature that celebrates pedophilia...
I have to say that this automatically put me on alert; anyone who sees this as the biggest problem worth mentioning about Common Core is definitely not on the same page that I am. So without even reading further, I immediately went to their "About" page. Oh, and look!, their first sentence there is
The Thomas More Law Center defends and promotes America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and moral values, including the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life.
and further on, continues with
The Law Center’s purpose is to be the sword and shield for people of faith, providing legal representation without charge. We achieve this goal principally through litigation, seeking out significant cases consistent with our mission.

The Law Center also defends and promotes faith and family through media and educational efforts. Above all, the lawyers of the Thomas More Center seek to meet the highest moral and ethical standards of our Christian faith and our legal profession.

Our ministry was inspired...

Um, ministry?

OK, so after ten years of homeschooling and being witness to the workings of HSLDA, this intro to Thomas More Law Center leaves me feeling completely justified in my willingness to dismiss them as fringe, at least here in Connecticut.

They represent Christians. And fight Common Core from a strictly Christian perspective. And while I can see value in that for Christians, are they really the people to represent parents at-large? To help you decide, here is a sampling of their Key Issues:
  • Defending the Religious Freedom of Christians
The ACLU and like-minded organizations are using sympathetic courts to destroy the religious and moral foundations of our great nation...
  • Restoring Family Values
Traditional marriage and family are under attack by Hollywood, the secular media, and radical homosexual groups who demand the legalization of same-sex marriages.
  • Defending the Sanctity of Human Life
...the leader in the effort to overturn Roe v. Wade...
  • Defending National Security
The Law Center opposes the Defense Department’s actions to homosexualize our military...

So my personal feeling is that we should not be looking to Thomas More Law Center to be the folks to represent us in our fight against Common Core; like HSLDA there are factors beyond the one at hand that will dictate how they respond and litigate, factors that don't necessarily represent parents en toto, and in the end, could actually serve to divide us. So in fact, we should actually avoid sending people to that website, unless of course, we know in advance that they are Christian and share all of the values that Thomas More does.

I would also like to speak to their Student Privacy Protection Opt-Out Request Form; it seems to have some serious admirers here in Connecticut, people who keep pointing others to it. I originally read through it some time ago with an eye to picking out what is useful in organizing opt out advice for people in our state. Originally it mentioned only PARCC testing, but now I see that they've made one specifically for Connecticut that speaks to SBAC. I don't know why they haven't labeled it "SBAC Form" though, instead of Connecticut, since none of it is specific to us.
The problem with using this letter is twofold. The first is that fact that it is not specific to us. It says that the submitter opts of out of
Any and all standardized testing or activities required by law... Any and all tests, assessments, or surveys not limited solely to proficiency in core academic subjects...
Except that here in Connecticut some tests are standardized but not required by law, and arguably do measure proficiency in core academic subjects. For example, several districts around the state are using NWEA MAP testing. And this letter does not provide for refusing those.

Second is that people are using it when they don't know what everything on it even means. It covers lots of stuff and sounds really informative and has the name of a law group on it, so I can see how people might think it's a good idea. But as I have advised, time and time again, people should not use form letters to opt out without agreeing with all of the talking points in that form letter. And certainly, in this case, don't use a letter that you don't even understand; when a school asks for confirmation of your concerns you can't run to others to help you figure out what those are!

Which is why it is so important for parents to write their own letters, pulling information they agree with from all available sources. Yes, including, but I hope I convinced you not limited to, the Thomas More letter.

Finally, my last problem with the Thomas More Law Center is that they have the wrong address for the Connecticut website. The address they offer is a website that is run by, as far as anyone can tell, and individual who is working alone and refuses to communicate with anyone else. The correct address for the website for the actual movement in Connecticut, that is run by the same group of people who also provide support via Facebook and community forums, is ctagainstcommoncore.org

October 16, 2014

How To Teach Second Grade Math

This is an example of how second graders are being taught to do math. The teacher who posted this mess laments at having to do it this way. But underneath it all, a parent speaks to how other teachers are getting around it.

Let's remember that many teachers, especially the good ones who have been at it for a long time, don't like Common Core but feel forced to use it. Let's not blame them for the mess we are in.

October 14, 2014

Adaptive Testing

Someone on a Facebook group recently posted a video from McGraw Hill about "adaptive testing". McGraw Hill is the company writing SBAC, which is the Common Core test being given here in Connecticut.

And the conversation that followed went like this:

It's important to remember that while the ability to compare student/student school/school might be something that other states hope to accomplish, here in Connecticut that is not the stated goal of the testing.

Here in CT the goal of the testing is to ascertain "mastery":
Sec. 10-14n. Mastery examination. (a) As used in this section, “mastery examination” means an examination or examinations, approved by the State Board of Education, that measure essential and grade-appropriate skills in reading, writing, mathematics or science.

So in CT the words "standardized testing" are irrelevant, since a "mastery examination" can theoretically be an adaptive one:
Reading passages might vary from student to student according to the complexity of the language and concepts they contain. But all test-takers would be asked to engage in grade-appropriate higher-order thinking skills, such as making inferences about what characters in the passage might do next.

It's important that computer-adaptive testing be standards-based, meaning there is a blueprint that ensures every kid sees test questions that reflect the full breadth and depth of on-grade-level content.

Interestingly though, Pearson Publishing, the company responsible for writing PARCC, the Common Core test being given in states that are not using SBAC as we do here in Connecticut, writes that:
By definition, adaptive tests given to different individuals vary in their statistical specifications and, as such, cannot be considered equivalent in the strictest sense.

...we encourage the recognition that adaptive testing in the context of the common core assessments must be pursued cautiously and deliberately.

There are trade-offs with choosing to use adaptive testing over conventional testing. Adapting testing... does not produce tests that are equated in the strictest statistical sense. It is important to understand the threats to the validity of scores and interpretations resulting from adaptive testing...

So if I'm understanding this correctly, the company competing with SBAC's McGraw Hill, is telling us that adaptive testing may not be the best way to test for mastery, since each test is different for each student.

This all lends a lot of validity to a comment that another person left on that Facebook post:

Also pointing out that adaptive tests have more of a chance of being invalid is a parent, as quoted by Diane Ravitch on her blog, who states:
My kid doesn’t like online adaptive assessments. She likes knowing there are 50 questions in 40 minutes.  She hates tests that give you many more difficult questions when you answer correctly. The test seems to go on forever.

So, one time she decided to hit buttons randomly and get a bunch wrong. Then the computer spit out fewer, easier questions, and she was able to finish the test at last.

Stupid politicians and administrators seem to forget that kids are intelligent, and when they know the tests don't count towards their grades they don't try their best; they just figure out ways to get through it all faster. One teacher in Connecticut actually admitted to me that she subtly suggested that her kids randomly answer things just to get through it (of course at this point the testing is not connected to teacher evaluations in CT, and once that happens she will likely stop advising her kids to do that).

But the whole idea of testing the kids for mastery, or whatever you want to call it, is a stupid one. The bottom line is that the kids know it doesn't count toward their grade, so they don't take it as seriously. And tests don't accurately measure the academic capabilities of kids the way they are supposedly meant to:

So the best thing a parent should do is to continue to refuse to let your child take them.

October 11, 2014

The Weekly Quote

Poverty is the single most reliable measure for test scores. And if you want to see evidence of that look at the latest release of the SAT scores, they include a graph, in which they show the test scores of students in relationship to the income of their family. And there is a stair step, it's very regular. At the lowest in the stair step are the children whose parents are below $25,000 a year, and then it goes up; with every increment and income, it goes up, and up and up and up, to over $200,000 a year.

The gap between the lowest end and the highest end on the SAT is 400 points, and it's correlated with the income of the family.

It really hurts academically, when children don't have food on the table. It really hurts when they don't know if they have a home to go to.  It really hurts when they have asthma, or they don't get dental care, or they never got screening for vision, when they have hearing problems, and don't know what the teacher said.

The United States, to our shame, lead the advanced nations of the world in child poverty. This is the number one problem of our time.

~ Diane Ravitch
  Reign of Error @ Quinnipiac University

September 23, 2014

Get Your Questions Answered...

Education Reform Facts For the CT Parent
a live forum hosted by CT Against Common Core,
will be held on Sunday, October 5th
at Black Rock State Park
from 10am till 1pm
Rain or Shine (meeting will be held under the pavilion)
Admission and parking are free
although donations to cover the space and speakers are welcome, and can be made here.

They ask that you consider bringing a chair or blanket in case the picnic tables are not enough. And while it is an event for adults, children are welcome if other arrangements cannot be made for them.


10 am
Jessica Chiong, Founding Member of CT Against Common Core
Nick Coppola, Founding Member and Webmaster of CT Against Common Core

10:30 am
Keynote Speaker
Dr. Christopher H Tienken, Professor at Seton Hall

12:00 pm
Legalities of Common Core in CT
Deborah Stevenson, Connecticut Education Lawyer

12:15 pm
Opting Out
Cheryl Hill, Member of CT Against Common Core

12:30 pm
Overview & Final Questions
Chris & Lisa Simo-Kinzer, Members of CT Against Common Core

September 22, 2014

What's The Problem with the Gates Foundation Donating Money to Education?

Someone in a Facebook group I belong to said
On Monday the state Board of Regents held a town hall meeting at ...community college to discuss their "Transform 2020" plan. Basically it's strategy is to streamline the state universities and community colleges. During the Q&A I expressed my dismay over the state's using graduation rates as the primary measure of program success when our college is a transfer institution for most students.
The speaker's answer stunned me...."what do we do when the Gates Foundation asks us to present our graduation numbers?".
When I responded that it is not proper for state institutions to be beholden to a private institution she quickly backtracked claiming they only use the Gates Foundation for research. ...
I distinctly heard her say they have to give the Gates Foundation the outcomes that the private foundation wants.

This was very disturbing to me; although I knew that Gates is basically taking over education in the US,  this was the first first-hand account I've heard about Gates' influence directly here in CT and it affected me more deeply than anything else I'd heard.

So it was with special interest that I read this article I came across yesterday. It's about how Gates and cohorts control the conversation around Common Core by controlling the media. What we can expect to hear soon...
It was often repeated and became widely accepted as a result of their campaign that “public education is broken.” This was the narrative that has allowed for wholesale experimentation in the deconstruction of public education. Now, the story is shifting, and the new narrative is “Reform is Working!”

Please consider reading the entire article yourself. It's a good one.

September 19, 2014

Common Core Standards vs. Curriculum

There still seems to be a lot of people out there who believe that Common Core is just standards and not actually curriculum, and after a recent conversation with someone regarding this, I googled it, hoping to find an easy answer to provide. However, when I googled it, the first page of finds was junk from the Common Core websites themselves. So I'm spending a few minutes to clear it up and hopefully have this show up in searches for people who are looking for the reality and don't want to have to spend a lot of time digging for it.

After some digging myself, the first explanation I found came from an article in The Washington Post. It was written by "Award-winning Principal Carol Burris of South Side High School in New York [who] was once a supporter of the Common Core but came to be a critic after her state began to implement the initiative." The article speaks to way more than just the issue of standards vs curriculum, but like I said, I'm pulling it out and giving it its own post for Google indexing. I'm also posting the actual video she refers to, rather than just a link to it. Ms. Burris writes...

Of course the standards seek to influence instruction. Unlike previous standards that were statements of content matched to grade level, the Common Core standards embed 12 Instructional Shifts.

Here is an example. This is a pre-Common Core Kindergarten standard from Massachusetts.

Use objects and drawings to model and solve related addition and subtraction problems to ten.

It is clean, clear and developmentally appropriate.

Here is the equivalent Common Core standard:

Compose and decompose numbers from 11 to 19 into ten ones and some further ones, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record each composition or decomposition by a drawing or equation (e.g., 18 = 10 +8); understand that these numbers are composed of ten ones and one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, or nine ones.

Notice the difference. The Common Core insists upon the use of a particular method of math instruction (decomposing numbers) which you can see demonstrated here.
Although this may be helpful in increasing understanding for some students, it should be up to a teacher to use it, or not use it, as a strategy. Instructional strategies have no place in state standards, and indeed they are noticeably absent from other national standards, including those of high performing Finland.

You can read the article by Carol Burris, in its entirety, here. And I did previously blog about the "standards" actually being curriculum here, although without the help of a video to understand it.

August 15, 2014

A Summary of States' Opposition to Common Core

An article entitled Common Core's Growing Unpopularity tells us that:
Indiana was the first state to show the political power of the anti-Common Core movement. The activist moms defeated a superintendent of education and several legislators on this issue.

Oklahoma made the biggest splash when the state legislature voted to repeal the state's earlier endorsement of Common Core. The governor signed the repeal, but the unelected state board of education impudently filed suit to nullify the repeal, and then the Oklahoma state Supreme Court wisely upheld the elected legislature's repeal.

South Carolina's governor signed a bill repealing that state's commitment to Common Core. North Carolina's governor signed a more modest bill authorizing the state school board to tweak the standards.

The state of Texas, under Gov. Rick Perry, was smart enough to be one of the five states that never signed on to Common Core in the first place. But now the pressure is on to force Texas to use the new AP U.S. history exam anyway, and Texans claim that is illegal under state law.

Louisiana was one of the original 45 states that endorsed Common Core before the standards were even written. But one day Gov. Bobby Jindal actually read his son's Common Core math homework, was shocked, and then issued an executive order to block its implementation in Louisiana.

Two more governors have just seen the light and turned against Common Core. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker announced that he wants the state legislature to repeal the standards when it reconvenes in January, and Gov. Gary Herbert of Utah ordered his attorney general to conduct a review of the controversial standards.

You can read the rest of that article here.

August 13, 2014

Common Core Lowers the Bar on Math

Here is a great article about how Common Core will do just that. An excerpt...

Breitbart News asked Dr. R. James Milgram, professor of mathematics at Stanford University – who was asked to be a member of the Common Core Validation Committee but then refused to sign off on the standards – about Ratner’s observation regarding Common Core’s persistent emphasis on visual models, even for simple questions.

“It is believed by most U.S. math education Ed.D.'s that at-risk students learn better using manipulatives and that the focus of U.S. standards should always be these students,” Milgram said. “So they choose pedagogy that effectively turns off the average and even more so the above-average students in a desire to focus on the weakest students.”

Milgram observes, however, “The research on how at-risk students learn most effectively is absolutely clear on the fact that this is the worst possible method for teaching these students this material.”

“Likewise, the research on gifted students shows that those students learn best when they are allowed to accelerate and learn at their own speed,” he adds.

“Finally, over the last century, not one paper in the education literature that has met basic criteria for reproducibility has shown that the kind of group learning pushed in Common Core is more effective than direct instruction,” Milgram asserts. “In fact, a close reading of most of these papers seems to indicate that these methods are significantly less effective than direct instruction.”

“Given this, the most likely outcomes are an across-the-board-weakening of student outcomes,” Milgram warns.

August 11, 2014

The AP History Thing

I homeschooled my children for many years before they entered public school. And one of the things I tried very hard to do was to give them an accurate history of the United States, not just the white-guys-from-Texas version, starting with a more realistic account of how the first Thanksgiving came to be. And now that they are in school, I've continued the dialog about what they are learning in history, filling in things that are being left out, and correcting inaccuracies. Mostly, I've taught my children to look at history from the perspective of all who were involved in the events, and to not just believe what anyone tells them with blind faith, because everyone tells it from their own perspective.

So it was with interest that I learned that David Coleman is re-writing the AP History Syllabus. David Coleman is the head of the College Board, the "non-profit" company that produces the SAT, the GED, and all the Advanced Placement (AP) tests, and is also one of the "chief architects" of the Common Core. He inspires a lot of hatred, and as a result, anything he does is seen through a this-can't-be-good lens. Nevertheless, I have been trying to educate myself with a little bit more of an open mind.

The problem is that the partisan bickering has begun and threatens to spread in full force. The first article I read about it says “We are witnessing a coordinated, two-pronged effort to effectively federalize all of American K-12 education, while shifting its content sharply to the left,” and after half a dozen or so, the last article I read says "...conservatives no more want to understand the past than they do participate in our shared reality. They prefer a fantasy America, built up around their ideology, to which the record of the past must be bent in subjugation, much like those blacks, Indians, women, and religious minorities they still despise."


When it comes to American History it is simply impossible to be bi-partisan. Everyone wants their version of what happened to be what's focused on. My personal feeling is that history should be left out of the conversation when trying to mobilize people to take action against Common Core; it should not be mentioned on Fight Common Core websites or Facebook pages. But since my voice is not being heard in those forums, I want to use this one to talk about realities of the issue so you can decide for yourself where you stand.

First, this is all regarding a high school AP course. That is, a student takes it in high school and can theoretically get college credit for it. It's therefore optional; it's not going to be taught to every student in high school, just the ones who agree to pay the $89 to take the test at the end. So this is not a class that is going to be forced on your kids like the rest of Common Core. Maybe it will be in the future, but not now.

Next, you can read all about what will actually be taught yourself, here. You can then decide whether it's something you want your child to do. Unlike the rest of the Common Core curriculum.

And finally, my own two cents. Yes, as far as what I've read, it is clear that more of the uglier aspects of our history are being included in the class. But I don't have a problem with that. My problem is that, like with everything that actually is Common Core related, learning facts is taking a back seat to "critical thinking". In all I've read (so far) Education News puts it best:
The new AP U.S. History courses focus on “historical thinking skills” aims at turning high school students into “apprentice historians.”... It tells the students they are no longer merely students striving to get a foundation in facts and understanding, but rather young professionals in a learned academic discipline ready to develop their command of sophisticated analytic and synthetic skills.

This very much falls within the zone of contemporary education where colleges and universities—and schools—trip over themselves to assure students that they possess such insight and blazing intelligence that they can skip the learn-how-to-swim courses and go straight to the Olympic relay team.

To be sure, really bright high school students should indeed begin to work on chronological reasoning, comparing and contextualizing, crafting historical arguments using historical evidence, and interpreting and synthesizing historical narrative.  But they aren’t going to get very far on these sophisticated skills if they are not also acquiring a well-landscaped understanding of the big picture, a richly detailed recall of historical sequence, and a genuine familiarity with key people and key documents.  These are what the new AP U.S. History framework plays down.  The mentality seems to be, ‘if it is something the student can look up, we need not expect him to learn it.’

My personal opinion is that the AP course should not be allowed to replace American History in high schools, but that if students want to take it, they should be required to wait till after they take the class our local districts put together; they should get the real facts first (insofar as the white-guys-in-Texas textbooks will enable them to) and then take the analytical class as an elective.

And I definitely feel that this issue is a completely separate one from Common Core.

August 8, 2014

Written Parental Consent is Necessary
for Our Kids to Take SBAC

I came across this really intriguing essay a while ago, and asked the domain where it is hosted if I could reprint it in its entirety. Once getting that permission I took quite a while before doing so however, because I wanted to really follow through on the links and make sure it's all true. Best I can tell, it is; under the "Hatch Amendment" of PRRA (Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment) parents should be asked for permission to allow their children to take the SBAC exams; it seems to me that they ask questions that definitely cross the line from testing to surveying, which is what PRRA illegalizes.

I was concerned about the fact that technically speaking SBAC is not "administered by the U. S. Department of Education" but the verbiage in their "Cooperative Agreement" indicates to this lay person that they are part of "administering" it.

I edited the essay for parts that didn't add to the conversation, and also added a couple of more links to help with the argument. You can find the essay in its entirety without my revisions here

Under the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment WRITTEN PARENTAL CONSENT is Needed for Smarter Balanced Assessments
25 April 2014

There is reason to believe the SBAC items are developed to test "critical abilities" and dispositions, that is, attitudes, values, and mindsets, perhaps even political position -- "qualities" other than mastery of English language arts and math...

Consider the chart on p. 6 of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) publication Knowledge, Skills, and Dispositions: The Innovation Lab Network State Framework for College, Career, and Citizenship Readiness, and Implications for State Policy

Notice in the Dispositions column "Ethical behavior and civic responsibility" and "Social awareness & empathy."

Ethical behavior, and social awareness and empathy, are extensions of a person's values shaped by a personal world view. How does a student get a "correct" or "incorrect" answer on a standardized test -- unless there is only one world view in which the test items are grounded?

Since the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortia (SBAC) development was funded by the federal government, this triggers the Hatch Amendment. The Hatch & Grassley Amendment can be found on the US Department of Education's website in Recent Changes Affecting FERPA & PPRA, p. 2, 3
The No Child Left Behind Act contains a major amendment to PPRA that gives parents more rights with regard to the surveying of minor students, the collection of information from students for marketing purposes, and certain non-emergency medical examinations. PPRA has been referred to as the "Hatch Amendment" and the "Grassley Amendment" after authors of amendments to the law...
U.S. Department of Education Surveys

Subsection (a) of the legislation was not changed. Subsection (b) added an additional category (see bold below) and made minor changes to the existing seven categories. This provision applies to surveys funded in whole or part by any program administered by the U. S. Department of Education (ED). PPRA provides:
...that schools and contractors obtain prior written parental consent before minor students are required to participate in any ED-funded survey, analysis, or evaluation that reveals information concerning:

  1. political affiliations or beliefs of the student or the student’s parent;
  2. mental and psychological problems of the student or the student’s family;
  3. sex behavior or attitudes;
  4. illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, or demeaning behavior;
  5. critical appraisals of other individuals with whom respondents have close family relationships;
  6. legally recognized privileged or analogous relationships, such as those of lawyers, physicians, and ministers;
  7. religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or student’s parent; or
  8. income (other than that required by law to determine eligibility for participation in a program or for receiving financial assistance under such program).
It's time that parents asked their school board members why they are not following federal law?  Why are they not obtaining written parental consent prior to the administration of the federally funded Smarter Balanced Assessments?

July 23, 2014

The "National Night Of Action Against Common Core"

Last night I attended the Glenn Beck "event" in Waterbury, along with about 35 other audience members. The Facebook event page announced:
Glenn Beck and Fathom Events invite you to your local movie theater to experience a live national night of action against Common Core. WE WILL NOT CONFORM is a chance for anyone who’s tired of sitting idly by as the federal government continues its takeover of our schools to come together and do something about it.

WE WILL NOT CONFORM isn’t a typical show, it’s an interactive experience where theatergoers will work with experts... in pursuit of real, tangible strategies to wake up our friends and neighbors and make our voices heard. This isn’t an evening about observing, it’s a chance to learn, share and engage with people as frustrated and motivated as you are.

By the end of the night, the brainpower, experience, and passion of thousands of people from around the country will be captured in a comprehensive, unified plan of action distributed to all participants...

Um, not so much.

I spent $18 to watch in a theater for two hours and walk away with about five minutes of stuff I didn't know. O.K. and yes, a link to an "Action Plan".

As I wrote in the Stop Common Core in CT Library group this morning:
Although I wouldn't have missed it, I was disappointed. There was a lot of people preaching to the choir. I wish they had spent way more time on the PR or "messaging" portion. Even the guy who was heading that table said they could go on and on about it, and actually, they should have; I had expected the whole thing to be about that, and not wasting my time with interviewing parents and their kids. I also did not see the point to most of the polls they took. Finally, it was frustrating that they told us to network afterwards but then ended the thing with loud music accompanying the credits. That made it possible for several people to leave before they heard me announcing that everyone should join this FB group.

The most valuable thing about it all was, really, the packet they referred to. I did take notes, and so found it here. I haven't looked through it all yet, but what I did read looks good.

I am not going to bother summarizing the movie here (and that's really what it was, even if it was live) since the Action Plan goes into the detail the movie should have. I do, however, want to comment on the fact that most people I know who are opposing the education system in any way, have big problems with Charter Schools, and I was disappointed to see them listed as an alternative to public school. Here in Connecticut we have had problem after problem with Charter Schools, and they are to be avoided. (If you are interested in learning more about the realities of Charter Schools check out Diane Ravitch's book Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools.)

Despite its shortcomings, the movie will hopefully at least serve to get the wheels turning again. It's been too easy, now that summer is here and the legislation is not in session, to let thoughts of Common Core fall by the wayside. So even if the conversation continues to sputter through the summer, at least we all now have more to think about, so when we next meet we will hopefully do so with good ideas on how to create a cohesive plan of attack.

Addendum 7.24
Glenn Beck posted a summary of the movie that you can read here.

June 19, 2014

HSLDA and David Coleman

I homeschooled my kids for many years and am still a great supporter of it. So I know that many homeschoolers pay attention to the politics of education in order to protect their rights as homeschoolers, and many of them are concerned about how Common Core and data collection are going to affect their families.

HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) charges members $120 a year and basically acts as lobbyists for homeschoolers. Many parents of school children will have recently heard of them since they released the much talked about video "Building the Machine". I have to admit that I didn't watch it, because I am familiar with HSLDA and do not respect them as an organization since they have a serious problem with mixing causes. Their "About us" info starts out with:
Home School Legal Defense Association is a nonprofit advocacy organization established to defend and advance the constitutional right of parents to direct the education of their children and to protect family freedoms.

My problem is with the "protect family freedoms" part since in doing so they actually aim to lessen the freedom of others. Additionally, the information they have on their website about how to legally homeschool in Connecticut implies that the "suggested" procedures in place here are actually mandatory. And they are not.

Nevertheless, many Christian homeschoolers continue to accept HSLDA as the authority on homeschool legal issues. And HSLDA has a whole section of their website dedicated to Common Core. In question seven on their FAQ page about it they tell us that:
The Common Core will impact homeschools and private schools in at least three ways.
First, designers of the expanded statewide longitudinal databases fully intend to collect data about homeschool and private school students.
Second, college admissions standards will be affected: Common Core standards for college readiness will be used by institutions of higher learning to determine whether a student is ready to enroll in a postsecondary course.
Third, curriculum and standardized tests are being rewritten to conform to the Common Core.
So HSLDA has been correctly telling their members that Common Core is no good for homeschoolers too.

But a few days ago, I read a blog post by SpunkyHomeSchool. Seems that HSLDA held a webinar for its members:
David Coleman has offered homeschoolers an opportunity to hear directly from him about the redesigned SAT, and to ask him any questions you wish—including about the Common Core. On Friday, June 6... Up to 1,000 people can be on the webinar, and we are sending this to our HSLDA members only as a member benefit.
SpunkyHomeSchool says that:
If you were hoping for a take-down of Coleman it didn’t happen... The webinar was a a one-hour infomercial for Coleman to spew his propaganda unchallenged by experts.
Go read the whole blog post here. It's a good read.

Honestly, I don't know why the webinar would surprise anyone since Michael Farris, Founder and Chairman of HSLDA, posted a letter a year ago about an hour long conversation he had with David Coleman. (In case you are new to all of this, SpunkyHomeSchool does a good job of explaining his role in Common Core.) In it, Farris writes:
David Coleman, president of the College Board, is the acknowledged principal leader of the effort to create and implement the Common Core. And he wanted to talk with me about Home School Legal Defense Association’s position. I was very willing.

I walked away wishing that more political conversations could be like this one. Polite. Professional. Helpful.

He acknowledged some good ideas that I shared, and I did the same.

I strongly oppose the Common Core for reasons I shared with him in detail. But I want to do my best to avoid demonizing those who promote it. He is motivated by what he truly thinks is best for education and for kids. I think his plans are unwise, especially when coupled with government coercion. But I will not question either his motives or his character.

We came away believing that each of us is acting in good faith. I think we make better policy decisions when we avoid the invective and simply look to the substance. That much, David Coleman and I have in common.
So Farris thinks Coleman is a nice guy. Others thought so too the first time they met him. But SpunkyHomeSchool wants to know:
Why is HSLDA playing the game instead of fighting it?  Why are they blasting the other sides message instead?  

I wondered this myself, enough so that I finally googled it, looking for a connection between David Coleman, architect of the Common Core, and Michael Farris, Founder and Chairman of HSLDA. And it wasn't all that hard to find. Her name is Hanna Rosin.

In 1987 David Coleman was on the debate team of Stuyvesant High School with Hanna Rosin. In 2007 she wrote a book called God's Harvard: A Christian College on a Mission to Save America, which is about Patrick Henry College. And Patrick Henry College was founded by, you guessed it, Michael Farris. Small world.

Interestingly, Patrick Henry College has an awful lot of students working in the federal government.
Of the nearly 100 interns working in the White House this [2004] semester, 7 are from the roughly 240 students enrolled in the four-year-old Patrick Henry College, in Purcellville. An eighth intern works for the president's re-election campaign. A former Patrick Henry intern now works on the paid staff of the president's top political adviser, Karl Rove. Over the last four years, 22 conservative members of Congress have employed one or more Patrick Henry interns in their offices or on their campaigns, according to the school's records... About two-thirds of the students major in government.
And more about the school:
The college has one mission: to save America from its downfall, from the abyss into which Barack Obama has steered the country in the past four years. Young conservative Christians are the soldiers in this war. At Patrick Henry College they will be trained to fight one day on the front - as politicians, filmmakers, or entrepreneurs they will win back American society.

The more I read about Michael Farris, the more I understand that Common Core is something he simply can't be bothered with; he's saying what his members want to hear, while keeping friendly with those in political power. He's too busy trying to fix our whole government, and apparently drafting soldiers to his cause.

June 11, 2014

Just What is Bill Gates' Involvement with Common Core?

For those of you who might not be aware of just how enmeshed Bill Gates is with Common Core, you may want to head over to The Washington Post, where you will find a fantastic article that explains just how involved he was from the very beginning. An excerpt...
...What followed was one of the swiftest and most remarkable shifts in education policy in U.S. history.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation didn’t just bankroll the development of what became known as the Common Core State Standards. With more than $200 million, the foundation also built political support across the country, persuading state governments to make systemic and costly changes.

Bill Gates was de facto organizer, providing the money and structure for states to work together on common standards in a way that avoided the usual collision between states’ rights and national interests that had undercut every previous effort, dating from the Eisenhower administration.

The Gates Foundation spread money across the political spectrum, to entities including the big teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, and business organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — groups that have clashed in the past but became vocal backers of the standards.

Money flowed to policy groups on the right and left, funding research by scholars of varying political persuasions who promoted the idea of common standards. Liberals at the Center for American Progress and conservatives affiliated with the American Legislative Exchange Council who routinely disagree on nearly every issue accepted Gates money and found common ground on the Common Core...
Now go read the rest.

May 23, 2014

It only looks like I've stopped paying attention...

Unfortunately I have had some health issues that have kept me preoccupied and not posting as often as I used to. However, I do still check on the Facebook groups and my Google Updates for Connecticut specific information. But with the Connecticut legislative session at an end, and with schools just about done for the year, things on the local level have gotten quiet. (This does not include the 2014 gubernatorial race, which is actually extremely relevant locally, and which you can keep updated about here.)

I will continue to report on everything else that I feel parents absolutely need to know here, so please be sure to subscribe to my posts on the left sidebar so you will be informed when the blog gets updated.

And prayers and positive energy would be very appreciated to help me through this non-life-threatening but very uncomfortable time. Thanks.

May 7, 2014

Connecticut's Office of Legislative Research Releases a Report On the Changes to FERPA

Those of you who are regulars here know that I have been in contact with my local State Representative Dante Bartolomeo, who serves on the Education Committee, regarding my concern with what the changes to FERPA means to children here in Connecticut.

Today she sent me a copy of the Office of Legislative Research Report that she had requested, and that frankly arrived sooner than I had expected. You can find that report here.

To summarize, in discussing the "significant changes" the OLR state:
Under certain conditions, the new regulations allow broader access to PII. [Personally Identifiable Information]

The prior regulations used the term authorized representative but did not define it.

The new regulations no longer require the authorized representative be under the direct control of the education agency releasing the information

Some groups, including the National School Boards Association (NSBA), have raised questions about the changes, saying DOE had gone too far in loosening the restrictions on PII under FERPA. In a May 23, 2011 letter to DOE Secretary Arne Duncan... an NSBA senior attorney wrote that DOE’s definition of “authorized authority” is overly broad and the definition should be limited to employees of the educational agency that possesses the information or a contractor specifically under the agency’s direct control.
The DOE narrative also suggests that one government agency, such as a state Labor Department, cannot be under the director control of another agency at the same level of government, such as the state Department of Education, therefore the “direct control” principle does not make sense in that context.

The prior regulations prevented a state education department from releasing PII it received from local education agencies to a research organization unless it had specific legal authorization to do so (this is sometimes referred to as “redisclosure” as the local agency had already disclosed the information to the state agency). Under the new regulations, state education agencies can enter into agreements with research organizations for... study purposes without specific authority.

In its 2011 letter to DOE, NSBA also objected to this change and suggested it exceeds the statutory authority of FERPA. NSBA urged that a state education department should be required to seek permission from the local education agency that supplies the PII before the state agrees to provide that information to a research organization.

What I was happy to see in this Report was the OLR including the entire letter from the National School Boards Association to Arne Duncan as an attachment, thereby testifying to the points it makes and questions it asks as noteworthy and relevant.

Things I find most interesting include:
As a practical matter, it is not clear how the effective use of data in statewide longitudinal data systems (SLDS) as envisioned by the COMPETES Actor ARRA necessitates designation of others beyond an employee or a contractor as authorized representatives. Under what circumstances would others besides these two types of representatives conduct an audit or evaluation of a Federal or state education program that would necessitate non-consensual disclosure of PII?

Will "reasonable methods" and a written agreement likely ensure that "authorized  representatives" unfamiliar with the privacy concerns inherent in educational programs comply with FERPA?

...if for some reason, such an authorized representative, state or local educational authority, or agency headed by an official... makes an improper re-disclosure, DOE proposes that  the educational agency or institution from which the personally identifiable information (PII) originated would be prohibited from permitting the entity responsible for the improper re-disclosure access to data for at least five years. NSBA suggests that instead of requiring the educational agency or institution to deny access to data for five years, the entity responsible for the re-disclosure should be prohibited from requesting PII from the educational agency or institution for at least five years. It is unfair to put the onus on the originating educational agency or institution to deny access to the entity that made an improper disclosure. After all, the educational agency or institution did not make the improper disclosure and was reasonably relying on "reasonable methods" and a written agreement to prevent improper re-disclosure. Likewise, the educational agency or institution may not even be aware that an improper re-disclosure has been made. In a similar vein, NSBA encourages DOE to modify current §99.33(e) to state that if a third party improperly re-discloses PIT from education records that third party may not request PII from the originating education agency or institution for at least five years.

With today being the last day of the legislative session here in Connecticut, nothing is going to be done to protect our kids' privacy on a state level this school year. But some people are still optimistic about getting FERPA reversed on the federal level; with our own U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, and Ed Markey of Massachussetts introducing the Personal Data Protection and Breach Accountability Act, there is hope that Blumenthal can be made to see the FERPA problem. But regardless of whether or not that happens, legislation needs to be passed here in Connecticut to protect our kids' privacy. It will be an uphill battle considering that attempts have already been made to degrade it at the college level, but nevertheless, the battle will continue after the elections in the fall.

April 29, 2014

Essential Reading

I've stated here before that at times the whole Common Core thing becomes overwhelming to me and I need to step back and catch my breath for a while. I wouldn't let any information that absolutely needs to be conveyed go by though, at least without a mention, since I do consider this blog a place to turn to for the essentials. Please be sure to subscribe to my posts on the left sidebar so you don't need to check in every day and find nothing new; you will be informed of when the blog gets updated.

For today I am providing links to what I consider some essential reading from the last few days.

New Hampshire Families for Education posted a brilliant piece about how schools actually need to ask for permission to allow our kids to take the SBAC tests. I loved it so much that I asked for permission to reprint it in its entirety, but have not heard back. So go read it here.

Governor Malloy was recently interviewed on WNPR's Where We Live radio show where he said that "federal law restricts students from opting out of taking standardized tests..." which is a flat out lie, as testified by CT Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, and Chairman of the Connecticut Department of Education Allan Taylor, during the Common Core hearing in Hartford on March 12th. You can listen to the full radio interview with Malloy here or read a summary of the education points here.

Jonathan Pelto reports that Governor Malloy is trying to get a restraining order to prevent information being released to Pelto through his Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. I agree with Pelto's assertion that "while getting 'negative press' may be annoying to politicians, the notion that Governor Malloy’s administration would consider pursuing a 'restraining order' to prevent Freedom of Information requests is extremely disturbing considering the fundamental right that citizens have to get access to public information."

And finally, what's on the minds of Connecticut teachers:

You can read the Ann Cronin article referred to here. It's a good one.

April 16, 2014

Data Collection

It can be easy to toss our noses up at people who complain about data collection on kids, saying that they are being paranoid. But then an essay like this comes along, and instead of shaking our heads, we have to deal with the fear the reality brings. Excerpts:
A particularly troubling aspect of the Common Core scheme is the emphasis on massive data-collection on students, and the sharing of that data for various purposes essentially unrelated to genuine education. U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said:
Hopefully, some day, we can track children from preschool to high school and from high school to college and college to career... We want to see more states build comprehensive systems that track students from pre-K through college and then link school data to workforce data. We want to know know whether Johnny participated in an early learning program and then completed college on time and whether those things have any bearing on his earnings as an adult. 
To know all this, of course, we have to know pretty much everything Johnny does, throughout his lifetime.

What kinds of data are we talking about? The National Education Data Model includes over 400 data points, including health history, disciplinary history, family income range, voting status, religious affiliation, and on and on.

Pursuant to this enthusiasm for sharing student data, where might that data end up? One illustrative example (and an obvious one, in this workforce-development model) is departments of labor. In fact, USED [US Education Department] and the U. S. Department of Labor have a joint venture called the Workforce Data Quality Initiative, the purpose of which is “developing or improving state workforce data systems with individual-level information and enabling workforce data to be matched with education data.” Student education data are to be shared, to the extent possible, with labor agencies to promote the goal of workforce development.

Of course, under the new regulations that gutted federal student-privacy law, data can now be shared with literally any agency if the correct enabling language is used: the Department of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security... the IRS?

Both USED and state education officials further insist that privacy concerns are overblown, because student-level data will be anonymized. In the first place, this is simply not true – the data coming from the Common Core assessment consortia, and the workforce tracking data showing which students participated in which education programs and then earned which salaries, are necessarily student-specific.

In the second place, in the era of Big Data, there really is no such thing as anonymization. When there are multiple, perhaps hundreds, of items in the database, the absence of a name or a Social Security number becomes a mere inconvenience, not an obstacle to identifying the student.

There are many examples of data re-identification.  For instance in Kentucky in 1999, a researcher was able to match over 2,300 students who appeared on anonymized lists of test-takers – and the match had 100% accuracy.  And this was almost 15 years ago – long before education bureaucracies were collecting the myriad data they are now.

Where are we headed with all this? It is instructive to look at what USED itself is working on and writing about.

One report that appeared on the Department’s website in February of 2013 is called Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance. The thesis is that education must inculcate these qualities in students, and that their presence or absence must be measured in some way. How? The report suggests assessment of physiological reactions that a student exhibits to stimuli such as stress, anxiety, or frustration. These reactions could be measured through posture analysis, skin-conductance sensors, EEG brain-wave patterns, and eye-tracking, (pg. 41-45).And the report barely mentions the appalling invasion of privacy this kind of physiological measurement would entail; rather, it focuses on the “problem” that this isn’t practical for the classroom – yet, (pg. 45).

I haven’t even mentioned the ever-present problem of data-security. Hacking into student databases will occur, and in fact has already occurred. The wealth of data collected on students and their families is a hugely tempting target for people with malicious motives. But as serious as this problem is, the deeper problem is that the government has deemed our children little machines to be programmed, “human capital” to be exploited...
This is real.

April 15, 2014

Common Core Is An Industry

And this is a particularly educated editorial about the realities of the Common Core, from the Middletown Press. It's written by a member of the Middletown Board of Education. My favorite excerpts:
Common Core is an industry. Advocates will repeat the mantra over and over: “Common Core is not curriculum. It’s a set of standards.” What they won’t admit to is that most school districts do not have the luxury or the money to design custom curricula, create custom learning materials or formulate testing which would be accepted by the national standard-bearers. So, schools will have to pay for off-the-shelf curricula, text books, technology, learning materials and tests. Common Core is not just a set of standards, it’s everything that goes with it.

Common Core, for all it’s demands as an evidence-based system, offers no evidence of it’s efficacy. Common Core has not been vetted, tested, benchmarked, offered for academic review or scrutiny. It has been shoved down the throats of state educators who understood that if you didn’t swallow hard and accept the standards, you were less likely to receive federal dollars. Connecticut has received no Federal Race to the Top Dollars as a result of accepting the standards.

Common Core is going to make some people very, very rich. Because of the demands of the new standards, all new teaching and testing material will have to be created, and then purchased by hard-pressed school districts. But in the process, textbook publishers, test-manufacturers, technology creators are going to make lots of money. What’s more, because Common Core is predicted to show that most public schools are below standard, the Charter School industry, which is working hard to privatize public education, will be working diligently to pry public education dollars from the public schools where those dollars belong.

April 14, 2014

The Main Stream Media Chimes In...

I'd really like to know though, why people keep turning to Bill Gates as the authority on Common Core. Why wasn't Arne Duncan, United States Secretary of Education, interviewed? Oh yes, maybe because he's proven himself to be a horrible PR person?

April 12, 2014

The Weekly Quote

NGA Center/CCSSO shall be acknowledged as the sole owners and developers of the Common Core State Standards, and no claims to the contrary shall be made.


~ National Governor's Association & Council of Chief State School Officers
Attribution; Copyright Notice, & Representations, Warranties and Disclaimer

April 10, 2014

The United States Proposed Budget for Education for 2015 Reveals Where Education in the U.S. is headed.

First I have to start by reminding people that the United States should not have a budget for education at all; education is supposed to be in the hands of individual states.

That said, you can read the U.S. proposed budget in its entirety here. Following are some of the tidbits that jumped out at me.

The Federal Government wants to continue No Child Left Behind:
...To achieve even greater efficiencies and advance reforms that would improve student outcomes, Congress should enact the Administration’s proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) [No Child Left Behind].

The Federal Government admits that they are bribing states to adopt Common Core and everything that goes along with it. The code name the feds use for Common Core is College- and Career-Ready (CCR) Standards.
The Administration’s signature reform measures, including RTT and [NCLB] Flexibility, advance this goal through supporting State and local efforts in the implementation of college- and career-ready (CCR) standards and aligned assessments, rigorous accountability systems intended to help close achievement gaps and turn around our lowest-performing schools, and new teacher and leader evaluation and support systems aimed at ensuring that every classroom has an effective teacher and every school an effective principal.

They are going to keep giving us money to expand our P20 systems:
$70 million for Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems, an increase of $35 million, to support expansion and enhancement of systems that support the integration of data on school-level finances, teacher and leader effectiveness, and academic achievement that can be used to analyze links between the distribution of educational resources and student outcomes, with the overall goal of improving the effectiveness and productivity of our education system.

They want to re-design our high schools:
$150 million for a new High School Redesign program to support the transformation of the high school experience by funding competitive grants to school districts and their partners to redesign high schools in innovative ways that better prepare students for college and career success...

This one seems kind of strange, since CC, or CCR as the feds like to call it, completely destroys STEM preparedness. And it will be interesting to see how they think they can fit this into the school day when teachers are already complaining about how there's no time to do what they already have to.
$110 million for STEM Innovation Networks to provide competitive awards to LEAs in partnership with institutions of higher education, nonprofit organizations, other public agencies, and businesses to transform STEM teaching and learning by accelerating the adoption of practices in P-12 education that help increase the number of students who seek out and are effectively prepared for postsecondary education and careers in STEM fields.

The federal government intends to spend money to specifically teach kids non-cognitive skills, "or 'soft skills' [which] are related to motivation, integrity, and interpersonal interaction. They may also involve intellect, but more indirectly and less consciously than cognitive skills. Soft skills are associated with an individual’s personality, temperament, and attitudes":
$10 million for a new Non-Cognitive Skills initiative, under the Fund for the Improvement of Education, that would provide competitive grants to district and researcher partnerships to develop and test interventions to improve students’ non-cognitive skills in the middle grades.

More money for Race to the Top bribes:
In 2015, the Administration is requesting $300 million for a new Race to the Top – Equity and Opportunity (RTT-Opportunity) initiative centered on improving the academic performance of students in the Nation’s highest poverty schools. The initiative would drive comprehensive change in how States and school districts identify and close longstanding educational opportunity and achievement gaps. There would be two types of required activities.

First, grantees would develop, implement, or enhance data systems...Second, grantees would use funds to develop, attract, and retain more effective teachers and leaders...In addition to the required activities, grantees would be expected to address other factors contributing to educational opportunity and achievement gaps. These include, for example, school safety; non-cognitive skills; expanded learning time; fair and appropriate school discipline policies; mental, physical, and social emotional supports; college and career counseling...Grantees would examine the use and alignment of existing Federal education resources, including Title I, Title II, and Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems to ensure consistency with their RTT-Opportunity plans...

They hope to dangle $378 million in front of states to help pay for assessments, and to develop and implement Common Core standards in other subjects:
The request for a reauthorized Assessing Achievement (State Assessments under current law) program would help States pay the costs, including technology-related costs, of developing and implementing assessments aligned with college- and career-ready (CCR) [Common Core] standards.

Formula and competitive funds would support continued implementation of the assessments currently required by the ESEA [No Child Left Behind], as well as the transition to CCR-based standards and assessments that would capture a fuller picture of what students know and are able to do.

Grantees also could use funds to develop and implement CCR standards and assessments in other subjects, such as science and history, needed to ensure that all students receive a well-rounded education.

...The Department would set aside $8.9 million of the fiscal year 2015 request to support a grant competition to enhance or improve State assessment systems, which could include improving the accessibility of assessments, developing computer-enhanced and/or other new assessments or assessment items, providing high-quality professional development for teachers using assessment data to improve instruction, obtaining technology to help administer or analyze assessments, and/or conducting research to contribute to assessment knowledge and quality.

And the feds want to dump $248 million into Charter Schools:
The Supporting Effective Charter Schools grants program would make competitive grants to SEAs [State Education Agencies], charter school authorizers, charter management organizations, LEAs [Local Education Agencies], and other nonprofit organizations to start or expand effective charter and other autonomous public schools; funds would also support charter schools facilities programs.

I did not read through the sections on
C. Special Education and Rehabilitative Services,
D. Career, Technical and Adult Education,
E. Student Financial Assistance, and
F.  High Education Programs.
But I did read the section on The Institute of Education Sciences. That's the fed's research department:
The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) supports sustained programs of research, evaluation, and statistics to inform and provide solutions to the problems and challenges faced by schools and learners. Investment in research and statistics activities is critical in order to identify effective instructional and program practices, track student achievement, and measure the impact of educational reform. Through its four centers—the National Center for Education Research, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, and the National Center for Special Education Research—IES ensures that the Federal investment in education research, statistics, and evaluation is well-managed and relevant to the needs of educators and policymakers.

$70 million of the IES (Institute of Education Sciences) money would go to Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems:
This program supports competitive awards to State educational agencies to foster the design, development, and implementation of longitudinal data systems that enable States to use data on student learning, teacher performance, and college- and career-readiness to enhance the provision of education and close achievement gaps. Up to $10 million would be used for awards to public or private agencies and organizations to support activities to improve data coordination, quality, and use at the local, State, and national levels. The proposed $35.5 million increase would allow the Department to support $57 million in new grants emphasizing early childhood data linkages, promoting better use of data in analysis and policymaking, and integrating data on school-level finances, teacher and leader effectiveness, and academic achievement.

Finally, the feds plan to eliminate or consolidate some stuff, but my eyes are swimming at this point, so if you care enough you can follow the link up top to read through it yourself. There is also a list of links to some interesting appendices:
  • Summary of Discretionary Funds
  • Mandatory Funding in the Department of Education
  • Summary of Mandatory Funds
  • Advance Appropriations for the Department of Education
  • Total Expenditures for Elementary and Secondary Education in the United States
  • Detailed Budget Table by Program

April 9, 2014

When Your Kids Graduate UConn
The State May Be Able To Keep Following Them

On the Connecticut P20 website, we are told that
Connecticut needs a system for linking data across the agencies that serve individuals as they progress from early childhood through educational programs and into the workforce.

Yes, the state of Connecticut wants to collect information about your children from preschool all the way to age 20. And by the way, this was the brainchild of the Federal governement:
The process began with funding from the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) at the U.S. Department of Education in 2009.

The P20 website also states:
The State Department of Education (SDE), The Board of Regents for Higher Education (BOR) and the Department of Labor (DOL) are actively collaborating to implement the P20 WIN System. A cross-agency data governance structure has been formed, data sharing agreements have been approved and the technical infrastructure is being developed. The system is designed with the flexibility to expand to include connections to early childhood data, independent colleges and the University of Connecticut.  

Well, the system is on its way to being expanded. To include the University of Connecticut.

Connecticut House Bill No. 5381 was raised this year on February 26. A substitute was submitted on March 13. And the Committee on Higher Education and Employment Advancement passed that substitute on April 7 and is now on its way to becoming law.

According to the Office of Legislative Research
This bill requires UConn, in collaboration with the Board of Regents for Higher Education and the Education and Labor departments, to develop and implement the “P20 WIN” system to report on its graduates' success, by major, with regard to employment and earnings. Under the bill, the “P20 WIN” system, also known as the “Preschool through 20 Workforce Information Network”:

1. securely and privately links data across agencies and departments that serve individuals from early childhood through elementary and secondary school and into the adult workforce and

2. provides the data to “education and workforce leaders” to help them understand patterns over time and make decisions to improve outcomes for individuals and the state.

The bill does not specify the types of data the system shares, the people or entities it shares with, or the particular purpose for which it can be used [emphasis mine].

The part that I find most interesting in all of this though, is how the bill changed from the time it was proposed to the time it was passed. Here's the wording of it as it was first proposed:
And here's what it looked like when it passed:

Notice the difference? An important sentence was removed from lines 11 and 12:

By taking out the line "none of which may contain personally identifiable information", the state is clearly saying that it wants to be able to include that information in their databases. And of course, we already know just who that information can be shared with.

In case you've missed it along the way, here is a list of the data they actually want to collect at the college level. And for those of you who don't grasp that this is happening in grade schools too, here's the list of what the data they want on that level. Be sure to scroll all the way down.

The state can't make laws insisting that colleges outside of Connecticut share data with them. But they can do it for all schools that get Connecticut funding. And they are.

There is still time to share your thoughts with your state senator about HB 5381 before they vote on it.