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Dick Rylander

Why schools can’t teach character

What isn’t genetic you pick up from your peers. Teachers – and parents – have irritatingly little to do with it

I participated in a lively discussion about character education at Policy Exchange earlier this week. For those of you who don’t follow every twist of the education debate, the idea that ‘character’ should be taught in schools has gained a lot of traction in recent years. And support for it doesn’t divide along party lines: both Tristram Hunt and Nicky Morgan are advocates of character education.

By ‘character’, the supporters of this idea have various desirable traits in mind, such as tenacity, reliance and self-control. There’s plenty of evidence that a child’s possession of these qualities is a strong predictor of later success. To give just one example, children who perform well in the marshmallow test, whereby they are given a choice between eating one now or two later, do better at school, are more likely to go to university and less likely to go to prison. According to believers in ‘character education’, it follows that we should teach children qualities like self-control, particularly in primary school.

I’m a detractor, although not completely dogmatic about it. I have no objection to teaching character outside the classroom. But I draw the line at devoting valuable curriculum time to it. Why? Because character traits are inherited, not taught.

I’m not talking about moral qualities, such as honesty, compassion and altruism. It may be that these can be cultivated. I mean performance-enhancing virtues, like stick-to-it-ness and the ability to bounce back from defeat, what exponents of character education call ‘grit’. There’s a growing body of evidence that these traits are largely hereditable, that is, encoded in our DNA. If you exhibit any of these qualities, it’s overwhelmingly likely that your parents did, too. And insofar as a child’s upbringing has any impact on the emergence of these qualities, it’s the peers they associate with during adolescence that matter, not their teachers.

This was the finding of the American psychologist Judith Rich Harris, who spent years researching the subject and published her conclusions in a book called The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do. Her hypothesis — that nature not nurture is the main determinant of character — has been corroborated by other numerous research studies, not least a 2005 paper by John Paul Wright and Kevin Beaver entitled ‘Do Parents Matter in Creating Self-Control in Their Children?’ By studying sets of twins separated at birth, Wright and Beaver show that when it comes to qualities we associate with a lack of self-control, such as impulsiveness, ADHD and hyperactivity, the impact of a child’s upbringing is negligible. Children’s defining character traits are evident by the time they’re 19 months old, with parents and teachers having little impact on their development.

This flies in the face of the teachings of child psychologists and suggests there’s little we can do when it comes to correcting children’s character defects. You can see why people resist it, particularly conservatives, since it lets negligent parents and irresponsible teachers off the hook. It even calls into question the idea that prisoners can be rehabilitated. But we cannot ignore the facts just because they’re unpalatable. If desirable character traits cannot be taught, we shouldn’t waste time trying to teach them.

As with so many educational fads, the problem is the opportunity cost — the time you’re wasting on gobbledegook that could be devoted to teaching children genuinely useful things, such as the history of the British Isles. Numerous research studies have shown that the best predictor of academic attainment is how much knowledge children possess at an early age.

For traditionalists like me, that’s reassuring, as was the recent report by the Sutton Trust which found that the most effective teaching method is not ‘discovery learning’ or ‘group work’ but direct instruction. Unfortunately, educational theorists are rarely led by the evidence, even when the brand of snake oil they’re peddling includes teaching virtues like honesty and truthfulness. One of the conclusions of a piece of research I read recently is that a strong predictor of academic success are fine motor skills. In short, if you want to maximise children’s life chances, particularly children from chaotic family backgrounds, you’d be better off teaching them handwriting than wasting time on character education.

Teaching Kids ‘Grit’ is All the Rage. Here’s What’s Wrong With It

The problem with KIPP’s character-education model

Imagine attending a high school where your teachers grade you on how well you handle disappointments and failures; respond to the feelings of your peers; and adapt to different social situations. Imagine, too, that the results are tabulated in a document called a “character growth card” and sent home to your parents along with your report card.

Sound far-fetched? Well, keeping tabs on a student’s character development is at the leading edge of the “new character education.” Paul Tough’s bestselling 2012 book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character, is the closest thing the new character education has to a manifesto; and it has helped to convince thousands of school administrators, teachers, and parents that “performance character” qualities such as perseverance, discipline, and self-control trump IQ when it comes to determining academic success.

I was one of thousands of educators from all over the world who signed up for an online class taught by one of the leading figures in this movement: Dave Levin, the charismatic co-founder of the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) network of charter schools and the inventor of the character growth card. When the class went live, I had a few outstanding concerns, but I still expected the KIPP method would have a lot to offer. By the end of the month-long course, my enthusiasm had waned, while my misgivings had multiplied. Here’s why.

Inspired by the field of positive psychology, character education at KIPP focuses on seven character strengths—grit, zest, self-control, optimism, gratitude, social intelligence, and curiosity. These seven strengths are presented as positive predictors of success in “college and life.” Grit, for example—a term Angela Duckworth used to mean “perseverance and passion for long-term goals”—has been shown to correlate with grade point averages and graduation rates. Levin envisions that character education will be woven into “the DNA” of KIPP’s classrooms and schools, especially via “dual purpose” instruction that is intended to explicitly teach both academic and character aims.

There are three major problems with the new character education. The first is that we do not know how to teach character. The second is that character-based education is untethered from any conception of morality. And lastly, this mode of education drastically constricts the overall purpose of education.

There may be an increasingly cogent “science of character,” as Levin says in the introductory video to his online class, but there is no science of teaching character. “Do we even know for sure that you can teach it?” Duckworth asks about grit in the same online video. Her answer: “No, we don’t.” We may discover that the most “desirable” character traits are largely inherited; stubbornly resistant to educational interventions; or both. We already know that grit is strongly correlated with “conscientiousness,” one of the Big Five personality traits that psychologists view as stable and hereditary. A recent report emphasizes that simply “knowing that noncognitive factors matter is not the same as knowing how to develop them in students.” The report concludes that “clear, actionable strategies for classroom practice” are few and far between. Consider the fact that the world’s “grittiest” students, including Chinese students who log some of the longest hours on their homework, have never been exposed to a formal curriculum that teaches perseverance.

If “dual-purpose” instruction is one pillar of the KIPP approach to teaching character, the other is the character growth card. Originally called the character report card, it’s perhaps the most provocative element of character education at KIPP. Students rate themselves on character strengths, responding to prompts such as “kept working hard even when s/he felt like quitting” for grit; “remembered and followed directions” for self-control; and “showed enthusiasm” for zest. All of a student’s teachers in turn rate the student, resulting in an “Average Teacher Score.” The overall goal is to use the card as a catalyst for “growth-oriented conversations” during parent-teacher conferences with the student present.

Levin claims that the character growth card is not meant to “evaluate, diagnose or compare” students. This assertion is either disingenuous or naïve. When Levin first hit on the idea of a character report card in 2007, he envisioned that students would eventually graduate with both a GPA and a CPA, or character point average. In Levin’s conception, the CPA would be a valuable tool for admissions officers and corporate human resources managers who would be delighted to know which applicants had scored highest on items such as grit, optimism, and zest. Even if Levin no longer believes the CPA is a wise idea, human beings have never devised an empirical performance measure that has not become fodder for making comparisons. Prepare to hear questions like “hey, what did you get on social intelligence?” in school hallways.

Levin claims that KIPP’s character education program is inspired by James Baldwin’s observation that “children have never been very good at listening to their elders but have never failed to imitate them.” It’s strange, then, that KIPP places such a strong emphasis on “labeling and talking about the character strengths” through conversations facilitated by adults. In footage from a seventh-grade math class featured in Levin’s online class, for instance, the teacher praises her students for working so hard, underscores the importance of “not giving up,” and then has the whole class say “grit” on the count of three.

“Words, words, words have become a cheap substitute for sound methods of character training,” education scholar Milo L. Whittaker sniffed in 1934, and it seems apt today. I have no doubt that many KIPPsters can rattle off the seven character strengths. The real question is whether learning to speak KIPP’s character language actually translates into substantive cognitive and behavioral changes. I am afraid that for most of the students, most of the time, the character lessons at KIPP will become indistinguishable from the kind of repetitive teacher-directed talk that only registers as so much background noise.

The second problem with the new character education is that it unwittingly promotes an amoral and careerist “looking out for number one” point-of-view. Never before has character education been so completely untethered from morals, values, and ethics. From the inception of our public school system in the 1840s and 1850s, character education has revolved around religious and civic virtues. Steeped in Protestantism and republicanism, the key virtues taught during the nineteenth-century were piety, industry, kindness, honesty, thrift, and patriotism. During the Progressive era, character education concentrated on the twin ideas of citizenship and the “common good.” As an influential 1918 report on “moral values” put it, character education “makes for a better America by helping its pupils to make themselves better persons.” In the 1960s and 1970s, meanwhile, character education focused on justice and working through thorny moral dilemmas.

Today’s grit and self-control are basically industry and temperance in the guise of psychological constructs rather than moral imperatives. Why is this distinction important? While it takes grit and self-control to be a successful heart surgeon, the same could be said about a suicide bomber. When your character education scheme fails to distinguish between doctors and terrorists, heroes and villains, it would appear to have a basic flaw. Following the KIPP growth card protocol, Bernie Madoff’s character point average, for instance, would be stellar. He was, by most accounts, an extremely hard working, charming, wildly optimistic man.

This underscores how genuinely innovative performance-based character education is with respect to eschewing values, especially religiously and civically inspired values such as honesty and service. Kindness is spotlighted in the KIPP motto (“Work Hard, Be Nice”), but it is conspicuously absent from KIPP’s official list of seven character strengths. It is not an accident that KIPP’s list of character strengths does not include items with clear moral overtones. As Levin told Tough: “The thing that I think is great about the character-strength approach is that it is fundamentally devoid of value judgment. The inevitable problem with the values-and-ethics approach is that you get into, well, whose values? Whose ethics?”

The decision to avoid overt references to values was no doubt intended to avoid the potential minefields of the “culture wars.” The trouble is that values have a way of intruding on territory that is meant to be value-free. What happens when your list of character strengths excludes empathy, justice, and service? The basic principle of individual achievement rushes to the forefront, as if filling a vacuum. This is “tiger mother” territory here—a place where the “vulgar sense” of success prevails. Life is narrowed into an endless competition for money, status, and the next merit badge.

The third and final problem with the new character education is that it limits the purposes of education to preparation for college and career. KIPP’s central mission is to help students from “educationally underserved communities,” 95 percent of whom are African American or Latino, get “into and through” college. This is an admirable mission, given the fact that for far too long, black and Hispanic students, especially those living in poverty, have not been perceived as “college material.” African American students in particular, of course, were excluded by law and by custom from attending most of the country’s colleges and universities for well over a century. So KIPP’s college-bound mission is both noteworthy and laudable. Whether it is wise is a different question for a different day and one that engages the contentious college-for-all debate. It is worth noting, however, that those educators who have embraced performance character seem to live in a world where their students are more likely to win a Nobel Prize than earn a living as a beautician, electrician, or police officer.

While KIPP’s college-for-all orientation ultimately aims to expand opportunity, it has undeniably narrowed the scope of its character education program. KIPP and other so-called “no excuses” charter schools have latched onto the new character education as a means of eliminating the “achievement gap.” Character is treated as a kind of fuel that will help propel students through school and up the career ladder. The fact that teachers are the only people who rate students on their character growth cards is indicative of how closely character is tied to academic achievement and cognitive skills. But can we really display more than a narrow range of our character strengths in a classroom context? I can’t tell you how many of my high school friends were listless in math class but “gritty” and “zesty” on the basketball court or the football field. 

If you click on the video at the top of the “Character” page on the KIPP website, you can watch a poignant clip of a parent describing how she wants her kids “to succeed” and to “have a better life.” KIPP and other similar schools are betting that the new character education will help students succeed academically and professionally. It is a risky bet, given how little we know about teaching character. It is also a bet without precedent, as there has never been a character education program so relentlessly focused on individual achievement and “objective accomplishments.” Gone are any traditional concerns with good and evil or citizenship and the commonweal. Gone, too, the impetus to bring youngsters into the fold of a community that is larger than themselves—a hopelessly outdated sentiment, according to the new character education evangelists. Virtue is no longer its own reward.

Study: Computer Use in School Doesn’t Help Test Scores

Study: Computer Use in School Doesn’t Help Test Scores

In top-performing nations, teachers — not students — use technology.

Computer use in schools may not have the desired impact on test scores.

By Sept. 22, 2015, at 8:30 a.m. + More


For those of us who worry that Google might be making us stupid, and that, perhaps, technology and education don’t mix well, here’s a new study to confirm that anxiety.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development looked at computer use among 15-year-olds across 31 nations and regions, and found that students who used computers more at school had both lower reading and lower math scores, as measured by PISA or Program for International Student Assessment. The study, published Sept. 15, 2015, was actually conducted back in 2012, when the average student across the world, for example, was using the Internet once a week, doing software drills once a month, and emailing once a month. But the highest-performing students were using computers in the classroom less than that.

[READ: Educators Work to Better Integrate Technology Into the Classroom]

“Those that use the Internet every day do the worst,” said Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills, and author of “Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection,” the OECD’s first report to look at the digital skills of students around the world. The study controlled for income and race; between two similar students, the one who used computers more, generally scored worse. *

Home computer use, by contrast, wasn’t as harmful to academic achievement. Many students in many high performing nations reported spending between one to two hours a day on a computer outside of school. Across the 31 nations and regions, the average 15-year-old spent more than two hours a day on the computer. (Compare your country here.)

Back in the classroom, however, school systems with more computers tended to be improving less, the study found. Those with fewer computers were seeing larger educational gains, as measured by PISA test score changes between 2009 and 2012.

[READ: Can You Beat a 15-Year-Old on the PISA Financial Literacy Exam?]

“That’s pretty sobering for us,” said Schleicher in a press briefing. “We all hope that integrating more and more technology is going to help us enhance learning environments, make learning more interactive, introduce more experiential learning, and give students access to more advanced knowledge. But it doesn’t seem to be working like this.”

Schleicher openly worried that if students end up “cutting and pasting information from Google” into worksheets with “prefabricated” questions, “then they’re not going to learn a lot.”

“There are countless examples of where the appropriate use of technology has had and is having a positive impact on achievement,” said Bruce Friend, the chief operating officer of iNACOL, a U.S.-based advocacy group for increasing the use of technology in education. “We shouldn’t use this report to think that technology doesn’t have a place.”

Friend urges schools in the U.S. and elsewhere to train teachers more in how to use technology, especially in how to analyze real-time performance data from students so that instruction can be modified and tailored to each student.

“Lots of technological investments are not translating into immediate achievement increases. If raising student achievement was as easy as giving every student a device, we would have this solved. It’s not easy,” Friend added.

[READ: Privacy Concerns Don’t Curb Use of Classroom Apps]

In a press briefing on the report, Schleicher noted that many of the top 10 scoring countries and regions on the PISA test, such as Singapore and Shanghai, China, are cautious about giving computers to students during the school day. But they have sharply increased computer use among teachers.

Teachers in Shanghai, Schleicher explained, are expected to upload lesson plans to a database and they are partly evaluated by how much they contribute. In other Asian countries, it is common for teachers to collaborate electronically in writing lessons. And technology is used for video observations of classrooms and feedback. “Maybe that’s something we can learn from,” said Schleicher.

In addition to comparing computer use at schools with academic achievement, the report also released results from a 2012 computerized PISA test that assessed digital skills. U.S. students, it turns out, are much better at “digital reading” than they are at traditional print reading. The U.S. ranked among the group of top performing nations in this category. In math, the U.S. was near the worldwide average on the digital test, whereas it usually ranks below average on the print test.

The digital reading test assesses slightly different skills than the print test. For example, students are presented with a simulated website and asked to answer questions from it. Astonishingly, U.S. students are rather good at remaining on task, clicking strategically and getting back on track after an errant click. By contrast, students in many other nations were more prone to click around aimlessly.

Interestingly, there wasn’t a positive correlation between computer usage at school and performance on the digital tests. Some of the highest scoring nations on the digital tests don’t use computers very much at school.

In the end, 15-year-old students need good comprehension and analysis skills to do well in either the print or the digital worlds. This study leaves me thinking that technology holds a lot of promise, but that it’s hard to implement properly. Yes, maybe there are superstar teachers in Silicon Valley who never get rattled by computer viruses, inspire their students with thrilling lab simulations and connect their classroom with Nobel Prize-winning researchers. But is it realistic to expect the majority of teachers to do that? Is the typical teacher’s attempt to use technology in the classroom so riddled with problems that it’s taking away valuable instructional time that could otherwise be spent teaching how to write a well-structured essay?

[READ: Teachers Colleges Struggle to Blend Technology Into Teacher-Training Lesson Plans]

Perhaps, it’s best to invest the computer money, into hiring, paying and training good teachers.

* In reading, students who used the computer a little bit did score better than those who never used a computer. But then as computer use increased beyond that little bit, reading performance declined. In math, the highest performing students didn’t use computers at all.

‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ removed from Philadelphia-area school curriculum over student concerns about racial slurs

PHILADELPHIA  — A suburban Philadelphia school is removing “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” from its 11th grade curriculum, saying the language and portrayal of blacks makes students uncomfortable.


The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Friends’ Central School decided the “community costs” of reading Mark Twain’s 1885 classic outweigh the literary benefits.

Art Hall, principal of the school in Wynnewood, says the book’s use of racial slurs was “challenging for some students, who felt the school was not being inclusive.”

The school is guided by a Quaker philosophy. The book will remain in the school’s library.

The book about manners, race and rebellion in pre-Civil War has inspired controversy since its release 130 years ago. In 2011, an Alabama publisher replaced the offending word with “slave.”

A Twain biographer has called book’s slur the “ultimate teachable moment in American literature.”

The successor to No Child Left Behind has, it turns out, big problems of its own

December 7

U.S. lawmakers always have reasons for what they do, so there must be one for why they didn’t make public the 1,059-page rewrite of the 2002 No Child Left Behind until a few days before Congress began voting on the compromise legislation last week. Could it be that they didn’t want critics to take too close a look?

The Every Student Succeeds Act is now expected to replace NCLB as the newest version of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, an overarching law that defines federal involvement in K-12 education. The House passed it last week and the Senate is expected to pass it this week, with President Obama promising to sign it.

Finally, the No Child Left Behind era — which in fact left many children behind — will be over, and its successor is being hailed by some in the worlds of education, business, and public policy as a big step toward increasing educational opportunities for the nation’s students.

But anybody expecting the Every Student Succeeds Act to be a fix-all will be disappointed.

There are major problems with this legislation; anybody who thinks federal dictates have disappeared are in for a surprise, and anybody who would like to see the federal government exercise its power to fix systemic school funding problems and seriously broaden the scope of reform are in for a letdown, too.

Among the concerns that have been raised:

  • Use of federal funds for “Pay for Success” programs allow wealthy investors to make profits from education investments, an issue that has concerned some special education advocates.
  • States will be required to fund “equitable services” for children in private and religious schools who are deemed eligible, and they must appoint an “ombudsman” to make sure the schools get their money.
  • Provisions in the legislation for the establishment of teacher preparation academies are written to primarily support non-traditional, non-university programs such as those funded by venture philanthropists, and they lower standards for teacher education programs that prepare teachers for high-poverty schools.
  • The federal government still will have a say in some areas, such as mandating standardized tests and requiring states to intercede in schools where student test scores are in the lowest 5 percent and then approving the state plans for academic progress.

The ESSA is a compromise bill among Republicans and Democrats who were intent on ending not just No Child Left Behind, the chief education initiative of former president George W. Bush, but also the Obama administration’s micro-managing of education policymaking. Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, made that evident when he said, as quoted by my colleague Lyndsey Layton:

“Now, let me be clear: This is not a perfect bill. To make progress, you find common ground. But make no mistake: We compromised on the details, and we did not compromise our principles.”

Local education decisions traditionally have been the provenance of states and local districts, but Bush led the way for more federal involvement — requiring students in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school to take standardized tests for school “accountability” purposes.  The tests were only in math and reading, leading schools to focus on those subjects and giving short shrift to history, science, physical education and the arts.

Many Obama supporters thought he would de-emphasize test scores, but instead his administration made them even more important for “accountability” purposes, and teachers found themselves in the crosshairs of unreasonable evaluation systems, sometimes being assessed by the scores of students they didn’t have and/or subjects they didn’t teach. (Really.)

Obama’s Education Department used its federal power to coerce states to adopt the Common Core State Standards, expand charter schools and use student test scores to evaluate teachers, an assessment method that experts warned against.  The department was accused of being a “national school board,” and, finally, eight years after NCLB was supposed to be rewritten, it has been — with some of it a direct rebuke to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, as seen in legislative language such as this:

The new legislation was crafted over months through efforts led by Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, as well as Kline. A chief concern among the negotiators was to walk a line between those constituencies that wanted to continue a federal mandate on standardized testing for “accountability” purposes and those that didn’t want any federal involvement in local education decisions.

Indeed, some people involved in the negotiations said that a key reason the compromise legislation wasn’t made public until shortly before the House voted was to appease conservatives in the House who might have staged a revolt over continued federal involvement and persuaded some moderates to go along with them in a bid to torpedo the new law. The idea was to keep the bill from being finalized until the very end so that all legislators could feel that they had been heard.

The tactic worked, and new House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, claimed a victory with the vote last week. But as more folks now get a look at the details, big concerns are emerging on various fronts.

The new law is more expansive than NCLB, providing for broader curriculum and early childhood education, for example, though the Preschool Development Grants program would reside not in the Education Department but in the Department of Health and Human Services. It also renders moot a series of controversial waivers from the most burdensome parts of NCLB awarded by the U.S. Education Department to states that promised to enact specific reforms favored by the administration.

And it sends back to the states and local districts major policy-making authority on issues such as standards and teacher evaluation. This has been hailed as a major achievement of the new legislation, but, as education activist Jeff Bryant noted: “It’s a sign of dysfunction, rather than a triumph of bipartisanship, to see officials in Washington, D.C. celebrating legislation that significantly curtails the influence of officials in Washington, D.C.”

But all federal power is not gone in education policy-making. The new legislation maintains the NCLB mandate that standardized tests in math and reading be given annually in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school, and, in an effort to make other subjects as important, science tests three times between grades 3 and 12. Now, though, the states — not the federal government — can decide what to do with schools that consistently have the lowest scores. The data on test scores, by subgroup, still must be turned over to the federal government.

The legislation also, as Layton reported, “require states to intervene with ‘evidence-based’ programs in schools where student test scores are in the lowest 5 percent, where achievement gaps are greatest, and in high schools where fewer than two-thirds of students graduate on time.” States would determine which actions to take in those struggling schools but the U.S. Education Department would have to approve the plans.

This might be seen as good news for those who worry that some states will — based on their history — do nothing to create meaningful accountability systems to raise the performance of minorities.

Other concerns that have been raised include:

  • The legislation provides for the use of federal funds by states and districts for a program known as “Pay for Success” in which investors put money into programs and make profits when a specific goal is reached. Special education activist Beverely Holden Johns says this could be disastrous for the special education community given the track record of Pay for Success programs. For example, she cites a Pay for Success program in Utah funded by Goldman Sachs. The global investment banking makes a profit for every student who goes through an early childhood program who is not — repeat not — referred for special education. According to the New York Times: “Goldman said its investment had helped almost 99 percent of the Utah children it was tracking avoid special education in kindergarten. The bank received a payment for each of those children.”  But the Times said that a number of early childhood education experts who reviewed the program questioned its metrics.
  • Kenneth Zeichner, a professor of teacher education at the University of Washington at Seattle, wrote in this post arguing that provisions in the legislation for the establishment of teacher preparation academies are written primarily to support non-traditional, non-university programs such as those funded by venture philanthropists. He also wrote that the legislation “oversteps the authority of the federal government” in several ways, including by declaring that “the completion of a program in an academy run by an organization other than a university results in a certificate of completion that may be recognized by states as ‘at least the equivalent of a master’s degree in education for the purpose of hiring, retention, compensation, and promotion in the state.’” He also wrote that the new education act seeks to mandate definitions of the content of teacher education programs and methods of program approval that are state responsibilities. It ends up, he wrote, lowering “standards for teacher education programs that prepare teachers for high-poverty schools … by exempting teacher preparation academies from what are referred to as ‘unnecessary restrictions on the methods of the academy.’ ”
  • States will now be required to fund “equitable services” for children in private and religious schools who are deemed eligible, and they must must appoint an “ombudsman” to make sure the schools get their money in “a timely manner.” In many places states don’t adequately fund services to eligible students in public schools — and now they will have to spend public money on students in private and religious schools.

NCLB supporters argue that the law had its virtues: Its insistence on looking at how all subgroups of students performed on standardized tests forced schools to pay attention to minorities and other groups of students traditionally ignored. And some credit NCLB with rising high school graduation rates.

What is missing from these arguments is that the scores of the tests that students were given were very narrow measures of what kids could do, and imbuing them with such importance is an insult to authentic assessment. As for rising graduation rates, school reform supporters, of course, credit NCLB and Obama’s initiatives, though an NRP investigation this year revealed that the current high school graduation rate of 81 percent — a historic high — “should be taken with a big grain of salt.” Why? “Some are mislabeling students or finding ways of moving them off the books,” and in some places, such as in Detroit and Camden, N.J., districts are making it easier to get a diploma at the very same time officials talk about making school more rigorous.

In high-poverty areas where progress has been made in closing achievement gaps, such as in Union City, N.J., and Clarke County, Ga., it wasn’t a focus on standardized testing that worked. It was a focus on kids’ actual needs, strong relationships among the teachers and administration and slow, high expectations and a realization that real progress is slow.

True educational equity comes from comprehensive school reform, which incorporates academic improvements along with health care, housing policy, funding changes, family support and other policies that allow students to go to class safely and actually focus on their work, and that provides teachers with a work environment and enough support to operate creatively, not like infantilized robots. The act does provide for community schools, which provide full services to students and their families, but not in a truly significant way.

Ultimately, the question is whether the Every Student Succeeds Act is an improvement over No Child Left Behind. (Where do they get these names?)  As Neal McCluskey, director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the libertarian Cato Institute, wrote:

“The Every Student Succeeds Act, the intended successor to the No Child Left Behind Act, is better than the law it would replace. That is what many analysts are saying as they hail the legislation as a good step in the right direction. But let’s be honest: you couldn’t set a bar much lower than NCLB.”


Roseville City School District Embraces Chromebooks, But At What Cost?

A Case Study of a California Father Fighting His Daughter’s School District Over Digital Privacy

Katherine W. was seven years old, in the third grade, when her teacher first issued Google Chromebooks to the class.

Katherine’s father, Jeff, was concerned. It wasn’t because he had a problem with technology. In fact, Jeff and his family are technology enthusiasts. “We bought a house in this area primarily because of the school district. And one of the things that excited us about the school was the use of technology,” Jeff explained during a recent interview with EFF.

That enthusiasm waned when the school retired its former laptops and brought in Chromebooks for the students instead, also assigning each third grader a profile in Google Apps for Education, Google’s cloud-based education suite. Chromebooks may have been cheaper, but Jeff feared they might come at the cost of his daughter’s privacy.

Roseville City School District, near Sacramento, is one of the many districts now issuing mobile digital devices to students. In fact, one study estimates that nearly a third of middle and high school students in the United States are using mobile devices like laptops and tablets issued by their schools.

When Jeff learned about the Chromebooks being offered to third graders, he acted quickly and was able to negotiate with his daughter’s teacher so she could use a different computer and not have to use a Google account. But as third grade came to a close, Roseville City School District made clear that there would be no exception made the next year.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects students’ “educational records,” including personally identifiable information. The data that students often use to log into a Chromebook or Google Apps for Education—like name, student number, and birthday—is covered by FERPA. Under FERPA, this data generally can’t be shared with third parties—including Google—without written parental consent.

But Roseville City School District never sought written consent from Jeff or his wife. The district provided no details about the types of devices students would be required to use or the data that would be collected on students. Rather than allowing Jeff to sign his daughter up for the Chromebook program, the district consented on his behalf, making the device mandatory for Katherine—with no ability to opt out.

Many people—including Jeff—assumed that the law would prevent Google from collecting data on his daughter for advertising purposes. But the truth is more complicated. While Google is legally forbidden from creating a profile on Katherine when she’s using the school-sanctioned Google Apps for Education tools (which include email and document sharing), it can collect data as soon as she uses other Google services that aren’t part of the student-specific suite—including YouTube.

This means that Katherine is required by the school to use Google with a personalized Google Account, and Google can create a profile of her and use it for advertising purposes the moment she clicks away from the Google Apps for Education suite.

But it’s even worse. When schools issue Chromebooks, Google’s browser Chrome comes with Chrome Sync turned on by default. So instead of storing sensitive data—like browsing history—locally on the device, Chrome syncs that data to the cloud and allows Google to collect and indefinitely store sensitive data about students’ use of Chrome to browse the Web.

With EFF’s guidance, Jeff started a dialogue with the Roseville City School District over the summer to try to resolve the issue before his daughter started fourth grade. He emailed the district superintendent, the principal, and the technology director, outlining his concerns. Jeff even offered to buy a different laptop for his daughter, but the school refused. Finally, after several emails and a tense meeting later, the district agreed to provide Jeff’s daughter with a non-Google option for fourth grade—but once again declared that such an accommodation would not be possible for fifth grade.

That’s when EFF reached out to the district. Our legal team drafted a letter to the Roseville City School District to outline the privacy concerns associated with school-issued Chromebooks. The letter urged the district to permit “all students – if their parents so decide – to use alternative devices, software and websites, for the upcoming school year and every year.” The district refused to meet with us to discuss the issue.

For Jeff, the biggest concern isn’t just the data Google collects on students. It’s the long-term ramifications for children who are taught to hand over data to Google without question. It’s normalizing the next generation to a digital world that’s less private by default, and built on proprietary software.

As Jeff explained it, “In the end, Google is an advertising company. They sell ads, they track information on folks. And we’re not comfortable with our daughter getting forced into that at such an early age, when she doesn’t know any better.”

Learn more about the privacy problems of school-issued digital devices. Are you a parent, teacher, or school administrator concerned with the privacy risk of school-issued devices? Tell us about it.

Image courtesy Jeff W.

ESSA – What’s really in it?

This is a repost from a blog. The writer spent 3 days reading the entire 1000+ pages and offers their thoughts with details:


07 Dec, 2015 by in education, ESEA, ESSA, NCLB, secretary of education Leave a comment

Image source: Gifted Education Online Resources


What is actually contained in the Every Student Succeeds Act, the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act?
I wanted to know.

So I spent three days straight reading EVERY SINGLE WORD the 1061 page bill which is set to go to the Senate for a vote tomorrow. I ask all congressmen to read the bill, especially the more concerning portions outlined below.

Know what you are voting on is not an end to common core or a return to local control. It is an expansion of “the secretary’s” duties and Federal control.

ESSA outlines data collection, competency based pay for teachers, pipeline services from birth to age 20, new federally monitored “promise” neighborhoods, an expansion of data driven computer adaptive testing, and in-school mental health services which will not be protected by HIPPA privacy protection laws.  It is an erosion of local control and the continuation of a data driven model which corporate interests will benefit from.

Do me a favor, count how many times you read the words “the secretary.”





‘‘(7) FAILURE TO MEET REQUIREMENTS.—If a 21 State fails to meet any of the requirements of this section, the Secretary may withhold funds for State administration under this part until the Secretary determines that the State has fulfilled those requirements.


‘‘(viii) Information submitted by the State educational agency and each local educational agency in the State, in accordance with data collection conducted pursu- ant to section 203(c)(1) of the Department of Education Organization Act (20 U.S.C. 3413(c)(1)), on—

‘‘(I) measures of school quality, climate, and safety, including rates of in-school suspensions, out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, school-related arrests, referrals to law enforcement, chronic absenteeism (including both excused and unexcused absences), incidences of violence, including bullying and harassment; and

P.85 .

‘‘(II) For purposes of subclause (I),the State may include measures of— ‘‘(III) student engagement;‘‘(IV) educator engagement;‘‘(V) student access to and completion of advanced coursework;‘‘(VI) postsecondary readiness;‘‘(VII) school climate and safety; and‘‘(VIII) ANY OTHER INDICATOR the State chooses that meets the requirements of this clause

Does the Government also intend to regulate private schools? See pages 186-187, 833-840

13 Section 1117, as redesignated by section 1000(3), is
14 amended—
15 (1) in subsection (a)—
16 (A) by striking paragraph (1) and insert-
17 ing the following:
18 ‘‘(1) IN GENERAL.—To the extent consistent
19 with the number of eligible children identified under
20 section 1115(c) in the school district served by a
21 local educational agency who are enrolled in private
22 elementary schools and secondary schools, a local
23 educational agency shall—
24 ‘‘(A) after timely and meaningful consulta-
25 tion with appropriate private school officials,
1 provide such children, on an equitable basis and
2 individually or in combination, as requested by
3 the officials to best meet the needs of such chil-
4 dren, special educational services, instructional
5 services (including evaluations to determine the
6 progress being made in meeting such students’
7 academic needs), counseling, mentoring, one-on-
8 one tutoring, or other benefits under this part
9 (such as dual or concurrent enrollment, edu-
10 cational radio and television, computer equip-
11 ment and materials, other technology, and mo-
12 bile educational services and equipment) that
13 address their needs; and
14 ‘‘(B) ensure that teachers and families of
15 the children participate, on an equitable basis,
16 in services and activities developed pursuant to
17 section 1116.’’;
18 (B) by striking paragraph (3) and insert-
19 ing the following:
20 ‘‘(3) EQUITY.—
21 ‘‘(A) IN GENERAL.—Educational services
22 and other benefits for such private school chil-
23 dren shall be equitable in comparison to serv-
24 ices and other benefits for public school chil
1 dren participating under this part, and shall be
2 provided in a timely manner.
3 ‘‘(B) OMBUDSMAN.—To help ensure such
4 equity for such private school children, teach-
5 ers, and other educational personnel, the State
6 educational agency involved shall designate an
7 ombudsman to monitor and enforce the require-
8 ments of this part.’’;



(b) ASSISTANCE TO OUTLYING AREAS.—5 ‘‘(1) FUNDS RESERVED.—From the amount made available for any fiscal year under subsection7 (a)(1), the Secretary shall—8 ‘‘(A) first reserve $1,000,000 for the Republic of Palau, until Palau enters into an agreement for extension of United States educational assistance under the Compact of FreeAssociation, and subject to such terms and conditions as the Secretary may establish, except that Public Law 95–134, permitting the consolidation of grants, shall not apply;


States are gathering data and reporting to “the Secretary”


‘(ix) gather data, solicit regular feed- back from teachers, principals, other school leaders, and parents, and assess the results of each year of the program of demonstration authority under this section, and respond by making needed changes to the innovative assessment system; and

‘‘(x) report data from the innovative assessment system annually to the Secretary, including—

19 ‘‘(i) a description of the local educational agencies within the State educational agency that will participate, including what criteria the State has for approving any additional local educational agencies to participate during the demonstration authority period;



  1. ‘‘(h) NONCOMPLIANCE.—The Secretary may, after

  2. 15  providing notice and an opportunity for a hearing (includ-
  3. 16  ing the opportunity to provide supporting evidence as pro-
  4. 17  vided for in subsection (i)), terminate a local flexibility
  5. 18  demonstration agreement under this section if there is evi-
  6. 19  dence that the local educational agency has failed to com-
  7. 20  ply with the terms of the agreement and the requirements
  8. 21  under subsections (d) and (e).


Incentivized teaching

to improve within-district equity in the distribution of teachers, consistent with sec- tion 1111(g)(1)(B), such as initiatives that pro- vide—

‘‘(i) expert help in screening can- didates and enabling early hiring;

‘‘(ii) differential and incentive pay for teachers, principals, or other school leaders in high-need academic subject areas and specialty areas, which may include per- formance-based pay systems;

‘‘(iii) teacher, paraprofessional, prin- cipal, or other school leader advancement and professional growth, and an emphasis on leadership opportunities, multiple career paths, and pay differentiation

P348 Human capital

  1. (2) to study and review performance-based
  2. 9  compensation systems or human capital manage-
  3. 10  ment systems for teachers, principals, or other
  4. 11  school leaders to evaluate the effectiveness, fairness,
  5. 12  quality, consistency, and reliability of the systems

3) HUMAN CAPITAL MANAGEMENT SYSTEM.— The term ‘human capital management system’ means a system—
‘‘(A) by which a local educational agency makes and implements human capital decisions, such as decisions on preparation, recruitment, hiring, placement, retention, dismissal, compensation, professional development, tenure, and promotion; and
‘‘(B) that includes a performance-based compensation system.
‘‘(4) PERFORMANCE-BASED COMPENSATION SYSTEM.—The term ‘performance-based compensation system’ means a system of compensation for teachers, principals, or other school leaders”

Are our students Human Capital or are they children?


Teachers and Administrators See pages p350-359!


1 ‘‘SEC. 2212. TEACHER AND SCHOOL LEADER INCENTIVE 2 FUND GRANTS. 3 ‘‘(a) GRANTS AUTHORIZED.—From the amounts reserved by the Secretary under section 2201(1), the Secretary shall award grants, on a competitive basis, to eligible entities to enable the eligible entities to develop, implement, improve, or expand performance-based compensation systems or human capital management systems, in schools served by the eligible entity.


‘‘(B) use evidence-based screening assessments for early identification of such students beginning not later than kindergarten;


P 453

23 ‘‘(6) SCHOOL-BASED MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES PROVIDER.—The term ‘school-based mental 25 health services provider’ includes a State-licensed or State-certified school counselor, school psychologist, school social worker, or other State licensed or certified mental health professional qualified underState law to provide mental health services to children and adolescents

Pages 599-618 are in my opinion the scariest section of the bill. They prescribe expanded learning time, pipeline services, full-service community schools, neighborhoods of promise and ‘‘(B) A needs assessment that identifies the academic, physical, nonacademic, health, mental health, and other needs of students, families, and community residents. This is federal intrusion into the home, the neighborhood and the health records of students.

Also see p 617.


Pgs 599-608
Expanded learning time

‘‘(ii) ensuring appropriate diagnostic assessments and referrals for children with disabilities and children aged 3 through 9 experiencing developmental delays, con- sistent with the Individuals with Disabil- ities Education Act (20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq.), where applicable.

‘‘(B) Supporting, enhancing, operating, or expanding rigorous, comprehensive, effective educational improvements, which may include high-quality academic programs, expanded learning time, and programs and activities to prepare students for postsecondary education admissions and success.



Needs assessment for pipeline services

‘‘(B) A needs assessment that identifies

the academic, physical, nonacademic, health, mental health, and other needs of students, families, and community residents


13 ‘‘(22) EXPANDED LEARNING TIME.—The term

14 ‘expanded learning time’ means using a longer

15 school day, week, or year schedule to significantly

16 increase the total number of school hours, in order

17 to include additional time for—‘‘(A) activities and instruction for enrich- ment as part of a well-rounded education; and ‘‘(B) instructional and support staff to col- laborate, plan, and engage in professional devel- opment (including professional development on family and community engagement) within and

across grades and subjects. P 783


Page 793
PROGRAMS NOT PROVIDING CREDIT.—Except as provided in subparagraph (A)(ii)(I)(bb), a student who is retained in grade or who is enrolled in a program leading to a general equivalency diploma, or other alternative educational program that does not issue or provide credit toward the issuance of a regular high school diploma, shall not be considered transferred out and shall remain in the adjusted cohort.

page 914


—Congress finds the following:15 (1) John Arthur ‘‘Jack’’ Johnson was a flamboyant, defiant, and controversial figure in the history of the United States who challenged racial biases.19 (2) Jack Johnson was born in Galveston, Texas, in 1878 to parents who were former slaves.21 (3) Jack Johnson became a professional boxer and traveled throughout the United States, fighting White and African-American heavyweights.24 (4) After being denied (on purely racial grounds) the opportunity to fight…

It goes on until page 918

Why is a posthumous pardon of a boxer in an education bill?

Why do we need 1061 pages of bill released two days before the House vote to repeal No Child Left Behind? Let teachers teach. Let local LEA’s govern their own schools. Let parents be the primary entity in charge of their child’s education. The family is the central unit of our society. Not the school. Not the federal government.

This is just the tip of the iceburg.

Dig in and read ESSA for yourself.

Tell me what you think after 50 pages.


Analysis of the conference report on ESSA


Actual Vote

US Parents Involved in Education (USPIE)

Text of Bill

Christel Swasey’s Analysis


Mercedes Schneider

Joy Pullman

Dora Taylor-Seattle

National Coalition (including Mike/Karen/Breann)–0B810B12-A6E9-4D7F-9414-7DC79D4D7940/congressional-esea-letter-final.pdf

Liberty Watch


*Competency model and testing is mentioned on pages 209 and 221,
This is a rebirth of School to Work stuff from the 90’s
I did see this on TAE
“First, as it relates to Common Core, this bill is like slamming the barn door shut after the horses have already run out. The damage has been done.

Second, the bill still requires state plans and gives the Secretary of Education enormous authority to approve or disapprove them which in reality negates the claims that this bill do anything to help states get rid of Common Core.

Third, this bill expands early childhood funding and thus federal strings into pre-school. The bill’s language still reflects a change in No Child Left Behind’s application to “all public elementary school and secondary school students” with “all public school students.”

Fourth, this bill still contains a testing mandate and the opt-out amendment that was added to the original House bill has been stripped out.

-Literacy program grants for BIRTH through grade 12. Pages 367-382.
-New wording added throughout.

“Local educational agencies, (new addition) educational service agencies, and schools”
p 918 line 19-22,  919 line 14-16 and it continues.  What is an educational service agency?
-Community schools are mentioned on pages 491-492
-Data privacy language is under the heading of “sense of Congress” which I learned upon looking it up means it’s like a nonbinding resolution.
-Page 734, line 13, we have Secretary of Education, Secretary of Interior, and Secretary of Health and Human services all working together….
Christel’s article:

Here, the feds dictate (page 24) what percentage of funds the state will use and for what purpose.  (7 percent for this, not less than 95 percent for that, 3 percent for this… on and on through page 32).

The feds dictate that the states then must turn around and inflict fed-like micromanagement on localities; they must be “monitoring and evaluating the use of funds by local education agencies” (page 26) and must give out monies to localities only if they “demonstrate the strongest commitment to using funds…[as feds see fit] and states must“align other Federal, State and local resources“.

(There’s that word “align” that we have read ten billion times in the past four years as we read official documents implementing Common Core and Common Data Standards.  The word pops up again on page 33:  “coursework that is aligned with the challenging State academic standards“.  They’ve now dropped  references to Common Core State Standards as well as any reference to College and Career Ready Standards.  But the word “aligned” they have not dropped.  It’s in the document 72 times, and,  notably, the word “standards” is in the document 269 times and “challenging state academic standards” is repeated 24 times; just not “Common Core” labeled anymore.  To me, “align” in ed reform now means to superglue to a global sameness; it means forget about scholastic creativity or imagination; it means forget about originality or home-grown ideas and powers.  It means that you are not represented; you are assimilated.   But I am off on a tangent.)

Pages 34 and 35 repeat the mantra that funds must be prioritized to low-achievers.  (First of all, how dare you tell a state how to prioritize its funds?  Secondly, how are the feds so sure that mid and high achievers won’t mind losing funding for their misdeed of having achieved?  Are mid or high achievers’ needs not all that important, anyway?)  Harrison Bergeron comes to mind; this is the Handicapper General at work.

Page 36 promises “a sufficient number of options to provide a meaningful choice for parents” which is a lie, of course; think about it.  Federal laws and conditional monies mean using federally approved standards and tests and CURRICULUM in every school receiving federal funds.  This is far from meaningful and it represents an extremely narrowed and controlled set of choices.  Meaningful does not happen in an atmosphere of standardized everything, just as wonderous meals do not bloom in the kitchens of McDonald’s.

Page 37 dictates that American tax dollars may only “provide instruction and content that is secular“.  This is old news.  But it is not old news that federal funds are increasingly being offered to private schools.  Does this mean that the feds are softening and will share taxpayers’ dollars with those who choose to attend private religious schools?  No.  It means that private schools are being coerced to secularize their core curricula and services so that they may receive federal money.

Page 38 is Section 1111:  STATE PLANS.

We’ll rename this one “Mother May I?”  (Thanks, Wendy Hart.)

States say:  “Mother, May I adopt these standards?”  Secretary of Education or his appointees say “no”.  Rinse and repeat until states eventually ask to adopt what the Secretary has already settled upon.  Here’s how it works:

Page 38:  “…State educational agency shall file will the Secretary a plan” which must meet, among other things, “Secretarial Approval” (page 39 line 23) and must be approved by a review team appointed by the federal Secretary of Education. (page 39-40)  That team (page 42) will have the authority to disapprove a state plan.  The state may revise its plan, appeal for a hearing (page 43) but ultimately, the process will “promote effective implementation of the challenging State academic standards [aka Common Core]” (page 43).


If ANYONE tries to tell you that this bill gives power to the States, point to these pages.  With such huge veto-wielding power, and review team appointing power, the Secretary becomes king over anything any state wants to do.  This is not good.  You can stop here.  That’s enough ammo.  VOTE NO.

I have to point out some sickening hypocrisy on page 44.  The review team must provide “objective feedback to the States” with “respect for State and local judgments with the goal of supporting State and local-led innovation“.  If your goal is to support State innovation, why not return to the Constitution which gives exactly ZERO authority to the feds in anything relating to education, tests, standards, or teachers!?

More hypocrisy on the same page: “Neither the Secretary nor the political appointees of the Department may attempt to participate in or influence the peer review process”.

On page 45:  “If a state makes significant changes to its plan at any time, such as the adoption of new challenging State academic standards or new academic assessments or changes to its accountability system… such information shall be submitted to the Secretary…”

Same page:  “If a State fails to meet any of the requirements of this section, the Secretary may withhold funds…” MICROMANAGEMENT HEAVEN.

A bit of a toothless joke on page 47:  “The State, in the plan it files… shall provide an assurance that public comments were taken into account”.

Page 47 also gives us this sobering mouthful:  “Each state, in the plan it files… shall provide an assurance that the State has adopted challenging academic content standards and aligned academic achievement standards (referred to in this Act as ‘challenging State academic standards’), which achievement standards shall include not  less than 3 levels of achievement…”  If you have studied how children are assessed, tracked and predestined to relegated top, middle, or bottom schools and careers in nations shackled by communism and socialism, this will make you very unhappy.

Page 48 says the state MUST align its standards to colleges and to tech-ed schools.

Page 49 says that only a small percentage of special education students– those with “the most significant cognitive disabilities” may be excused, and may use alternate standards, and only then if those alternate standards are “aligned with the challenging State academic content standards”.  On page 50 it adds that that severely disabled person must be “on track to pursue postsecondary education or employment” whether they want to or not.  The feds are not kind to special education students.  And they won’t let states determine these matters anymore.  Sadly, we already knew all of this was coming.

Page 51 offers us another blistering contradiction:  “The Secretary shall not have the authority to mandate, direct, control, coerce, or exercise any direction or supervision over any of the challenging State academic standards…”  Tell me how that works with page 45.   He can withhold funds and disapprove plans if the state files a plan that he doesn’t like for a slew of reasons that could include using curriculum, tests or standards that aren’t aligned to his vision of fed ed and he can mandate that the state has to use the exact same standards in every one of its schools (page 52 line 21) — but he in no way supervises the State’s standards?

Page 52 deals with “Academic Assessments”.  Feds dictate to states that the tests shall be the same in every school in the state (line 23) and that they will be “administered to all public elementary and secondary school students in the State” (page 53).  Does this end –or aim to end– the parental right to opt out of testing?  (See page 76 below)

Page  53 is an admission.  The bill says that the tests may not be used to “publically disclose personally identifiable information”.   They can’t disclose it publicly, but they can sure store it indefinitely.

Subtly, page 53 forces Common Educational Data Standards because the feds dictate that state tests must be:  “consistent with relevant, nationally recognized professional and technical testing standards”.

Next, the dictators tell states when and how much to test children:

page 54:  in grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 (every year) for math and language arts

in grades 9, 10, 11, 12 (at least once)

in grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12 for science (at least three times in those years)

On page 55, the dictators bring down the hammer:  “the participation in such assessments of all students”.  ALL.

On page 58 we see the racism and other -isms of the Department of Education: States are told that they must disaggregate test data by ethnicity, race, economics, disability, English proficiency, gender, and migrant status.

On page 59 we see the toxic term “universal design for learning“.  Tests are to be developed using IMS Global education standards.  This means not just state or national, but global sameness and tracking.  Is that a good idea or a bad one?  Is that something that we ought to have Congress think about for more than one day prior to a vote?

On page 61 the feds are dictating to states that no more than one percent of students may be considered so disabled that they may take alternate-standards-based tests.  “The total number of students assessed… using alternate assessments does  not exceed 1 percent of the total number of all students in the State”.  Later, on page 65, the bill says that there is no cap; but that schools must submit information “justifying the need to exceed such a cap”.  It also notes that the State shall provide “oversight” of any school required to submit justifying information.  In other words, States must show that they are monitoring schools’ decision making.

How would the federal government ever know whether a state happened to have fewer, or a greater number of students who needed and deserved something other than what the highest achieving students can and should do?  On what basis does it dictate one percent?  What if my child is severely disabled and is forced to take the common tests and to be taught to common standards inappropriate for him or her, because of the high number of students with disabilties?  How does that bless my child?

On page 62 they’re dictating “universal design for learning” again; this time, for severely disabled special education testing.

Page 66 is literally jaw-dropping to me.  It says that if the state “provides evidence which is satisfactory to the Secretary that neither the State Educational Agency nor any other State government official… has sufficient authority under State law to adopt challenging State academic standards and academic assessments aligned with such standards [aka Common Core standards and tests] which will be applicable to all students enrolled in the State’s public elementary schools and secondary schools, then the State educational agency may meet the requirements…”  by aligning unofficially anyway, bymeeting “all of the criteria…and any regulations… that the Secretary may publish”.  (page 67)   If your state law doesn’t allow for one size fits all, then adopt and implement policies that ensure that you are aligned anyway, or lose funding.  Talk about kicking Constitutional rights in the teeth.  This is dictatorship.

On page 69, states are told to dictate to schools again.  They must filter tests through the filter of “already been approved” (line 18) or they must “conduct a review of the assessment to determine if such assessment meets or exceeds the technical criteria” that has to be “established” (line 9) by the state.  This sounds to me like more herding of everybody into IMS Global’s universal design for learning.

On page 73, it almost sounds good until you finish the sentence.  It begins, “a State retains the right to develop and administer computer adaptive assessments, provided that….” and then we lose all the rights again, because they have to be aligned, aligned, aligned.

On page 76, it says that States can still decide whether or not to allow parents to opt out of testing but limits that concept to one paragraph:  “nothing in this paragraph shall be construed as preempting State” law.  So, in the rest of the over-1000-page bill, something might.  This is not making me feel better.




This article appears at: 


bill gates v5

Bill Gates has had an enduring fixation on the need to expand the collection and sharing of personal student data. In 2005, the Gates Foundation organized a “data summit” among its grantees, at which launched the Data Quality Campaign, “to Improve the collection, availability and use of high-quality education data, and Implement state longitudinal data systems to improve student achievement.”

The Data Quality Campaign has received more than $13 millionsince 2013 from the Foundation, which they have used to advocate for the US Department of Education to weaken student privacy protections and to allow for the sharing of personal student information among state agencies, between states, and with researchers, test companies, and technology vendors.

In 2008 and 2011, The Data Quality Campaign, along with its “partners” among other Gates grantees, successfully lobbied the US Ed Dept. to relax FERPA, to allow for the creation of state longitudinal databases to link student data from preK through the workforce and beyond, and the disclosure and redisclosure of personal student data with a wide variety of third parties without parental knowledge or consent.

According to a participant in a webinar hosted by the Data Quality Campaign on April 14, 2011, Steve Winnick, a prominent DC attorney working for DQC emphasized the need to deny parents the right to consent or opt out of their children’s data being disclosed, saying, “we don’t want parents to get in the way.” You can see the 2011 fact sheet released by Steve Winnick and the Data Quality Campaign about the many ways the US Department of Education weakened this “outdated” privacy law in response to their advocacyhere.

Earlier in 2009, the Foundation granted $22 million to schools, districts, and states for them to expand their data collection and disclosure efforts, and in 2011, spent $87 million to form the Shared Learning Collaborative, which in 2014 would morph into a separate corporation called inBloom Inc.

inBloom Inc. which would receive more than $100M in Gates funds before closing its doors due to parent protests in 2014, was a hydra-headed effort to collect the personal data from nine states and districts, store it on an Amazon cloud, with an operating system built by Amplify, and make it more easily accessible to ed tech vendors and other third parties without parental knowledge or consent. Here is more background on inBloom; here are a timeline and news clips.

Gates incentivized districts and states to participate in this project of data collection and sharing, with promises of big grants.  The Foundation also offered cash awards to vendors who would build their instructional products around this data, through  “interoperable” software.

inBloom was designed to help achieve Bill Gates vision of education: to mechanize instruction by plugging every child into a common curriculum, standards and tests, delivered by computers, with software that can data-mine their responses and through machine-driven algorithms, deliver “customized” lessons and adaptive learning.  By siphoning off the data into state and multi-state databases and then tracking children through life, educrats can better evaluate which teachers and software programs are effective, and also steer students towards appropriate college and careers, all in the name of improved “efficiency”. Gates has also funded multi-state student databases, which were illegal before FERPA was relaxed, including granting WICHE with more than $13 million, to enable the transfer of personal student information between fifteen Western states.

Since the demise of inBloom, the Gates Foundation has not given up their attempt to supplant real personalized learning with learning through software and machines. Recently, with the Future of Privacy, an ed tech industry group, they funded a survey that was pitched as showing that parents support schools sharing the personal data of their children, but upon further digging really showed the opposite.

Gates has also funded a new effort, in which 27 school districts along with The Consortium for School Networking, will create a “Trusted Learning Environment Seal” to reassure parents that their children’s data is safe. In this way, they appear intent on controlling the student privacy debate , and co-opting the intense parent concerns about rampant data disclosure that led to inBloom’s downfall.