Idahoans Rally Against Common Core

KVTB Channel 7 in Idaho broadcast this story about an anti-Common Core rally at the Idaho Statehouse in Boise.

This rally was promoted and planned by our friends at Idahoans for Local Education, as well as, Idaho Education Watch. I am encouraged to see that a Republican candidate for Governor, Russ Fulcher, was a keynote speaker.

KVTB reports:

Russ Fulcher, a Republican candidate for governor, says the point of today’s rally is to encourage legislators to reverse course on this issue. He says today was also about raising awareness and educating the people in the state about Common Core.

“Engage with your school boards, engage with your local legislators and encourage them to return that control, return that input back to our families, back to our parents, back to our students and teachers,” said Fulcher.

Fulcher is one of two candidate who have announced their intention to run for Governor after pr0-Common Core Governor Butch Otter (R-ID) announced that he would not run for reelection. Idaho is a very red state so the most heated contest will be the Republican primary. Fulcher is a former state senator and member of the Idaho Board of Education. Lt. Governor Brad Little has announced his intention to run as well. The field could soon grow. Congressman Raúl Labrador (R-UT), businessman Tommy Ahlquist, and the current Attorney General Lawrence Wasden have also been discussed as potential candidates.

Protecting Privacy at the Expense of Privacy

When we think of children, the first thing that comes to mind is their protection; protection from known risks, protection from violence, drunk drivers, illness, and the likes of Madonna and Ashley Judd.  In the age of internet-everything we want kids to be safe from exposure to pornography and child predators who spy on children without our knowledge.  When we’re not with them, we want to find a place where they will be safe and we can feel comfortable they’re under the watchful eye of people who also want to protect them.

Many parents think of school as that place.  We anticipate teachers are concerned for our children’s well-being, Madonna and Ashley Judd won’t be invited for career day, and there wouldn’t be porn or internet stalkers (because we know schools wouldn’t let internet stalkers spy on our kids).

What could go wrong?  How about everything?

As technology has become more deeply embedded in school culture, student level data is being gathered at an accelerated rate.  Tech companies are being given nearly unfettered access to student information via 1:1 devices, online resources and apps used by teachers in classrooms, digital textbooks, and the expansion of adaptive/personalized learning.  Every keystroke, every search term, every bookmark, every internet site, every log-in to a standardized test, is gobbled up, chewed, and swallowed by Big Data.

The proliferation of technology in classrooms has created serious concerns about the glut of data streaming out of classrooms and into the possession of multi-billion dollar corporations.  Google, which has flooded classrooms with Chromebooks, has consistently been the subject of a myriad of litigation involving abusive privacy practices such as intercepting email communications, scanning email for the purposes of targeted advertising, and collecting and data mining children’s personal preferences. A class action filed in March 2016, alleges illegal collection and use of biometric information.  Hello there, creepy internet stalker!

In 2015, Congress passed the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  However, the bill signed by President Obama failed to either include student data privacy protections or close the loopholes in existing federal law.

In response to mounting evidence of misuse of student data, privacy violations and data breaches, the Software and Information Industry Association and the Future of Privacy Forum collaborated to produce the Student Privacy Pledge, a voluntary effort to commit student service providers to good privacy practices regarding their collection and use of student data.  Since its release in 2014, more than 300 companies have signed the pledge which contains specific prohibitions on selling personal information, and creating student profiles for behavioral targeted advertising.  The pledge was intended to offer reassurances that Google wouldn’t use information about children to inundate them with advertisements.

Since then, many states have adopted legislation to place similar restrictions on how tech companies can use, store, and share student data as it relates to targeted advertising.  Most of the new privacy laws are spearheaded by lobbyists for big data, i.e., Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, and merely codify the Student Privacy Pledge.  If you’re scratching your head wondering why Google, et al, would support legislation limiting their share of what some say will be a $59 billion industry by 2018, ponder no longer.

The Student Privacy Pledge only applies to targeted advertising and states:

“Nothing in this pledge is intended to prohibit the use of student personal information for purposes of adaptive learning or customized education.”

To date, all privacy legislation contains the same or similar language, which means those creepy internet stalkers from whom children need protection get a free pass.  The statutory language carves out an exception that allows service providers to gather student Personally Identifiable Information (PII), for use in digital learning programs.  They just can’t try to sell kids a Happy Meal based web on their browsing habits.

Parents need to know the definition of PII; any data that directly, or in combination with other data, identifies an individual or student, but they also need to understand the breadth of the definition.

For example, privacy statutes and pending bills (see New Hampshire, Oregon, California, Georgia, Arkansas, Maine, Connecticut, Idaho, Delaware, Kansas, and Nevada), define PII as data:

“…including, but not limited to, information in the student’s educational record or email, first and last name, home address, date of birth, telephone number, unique pupil identifier, social security number, financial or insurance account numbers, email address, other information that allows  physical or online contact, discipline records, test results, special education data, juvenile dependency records, grades, evaluations, criminal records, medical records, health records, biometric information, disabilities, socioeconomic information, food purchases, political affiliations, religious information, text messages, documents, other student identifiers, search activity, photos, voice recordings, or geo-location information.”

Biometric information is the measurement of people’s physical and behavioral characteristics.  It can include fingerprints, DNA, face, hand, and ear features, as well as typing rhythm, gait, voice recordings, iris scans, and gestures.  Biometric information has been used by schools to track such things as attendance and food purchases.  However, in 2014, Florida became the first state to ban schools from collecting student biometric data.

Nothing, however, prohibits the use of our children’s fingerprints, DNA, heart rate, or iris scans by multi-billion dollar corporations.  And nothing prevents private corporations from taking this information from students without parental consent.  At a time when aspirin can’t be dispensed to a student without a signed release, a parent’s authority to protect their child from invasive surveillance is non-existent.

Current online data privacy legislation is a ruse.  It ultimately protects very little and makes vulnerable some of the most sensitive, private characteristics of our children.  Parental authority is usurped, student privacy is eroded, and tech giants gather PII under the guise of building educational tools, none of which require biometric information to function.  Personally, I think I’d rather have Google try to sell my child a Happy Meal.

Is Betsy DeVos’ Confirmation as Secretary of Education in Jeopardy?

Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, looks to have a bumpy road toward confirmation that some believe is in doubt.

The Senate HELP Committee is scheduled to vote on her confirmation on Tuesday after a couple of delays and a lackluster performance by DeVos at her confirmation hearing.

Is her confirmation in jeopardy? Possibly.

Republicans only have a 12 to 11 majority on the Senate HELP Committee, and U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) has indicated that there is not a single Democrat Senator who will vote for her. Whether this is partisan bluster or an actual whip count remains to be seen, but DeVos is being vigorously opposed by Democrats.

A 2015 report by the Congressional Research Service explains how committees typically handle nominations:

A committee considering a nomination has four options. It may report the nomination to the Senate favorably, unfavorably, or without recommendation, or it may choose to take no action at all. It is more common for a committee to take no action on a nomination than to report unfavorably. Particularly for policymaking positions, committees sometimes report a nomination favorably, subject to the commitment of the nominee to testify before a Senate committee. Sometimes, committees choose to report a nomination without recommendation. Even if a majority of Senators on a committee do not agree that a nomination should be reported favorably, a majority might agree to report a nomination without a recommendation in order to permit a vote by the whole Senate. It is rare for the full Senate to consider a nomination if a committee chooses not to report it and the committee is not discharged by unanimous consent.

If Democrats are truly unified in their opposition, and if one Republican vote is flipped her nomination could get stalled in committee, especially if they choose not to report on the nomination.

There is still a way for the nomination to move forward however.

Although very few nominations proceed without the support of a committee, chamber rules make it possible for the full Senate to consider a nomination a committee does not report. Technically, Senate Rule XVII permits any Senator to submit a motion or resolution that a committee be discharged from the consideration of a subject referred to it. A motion to discharge a committee from the consideration of a nomination is, like all business concerning nominations, in order only in executive session.20 If there is an objection to the motion to discharge, it must lie over until the next executive session on another day. It is fairly common for committees to be discharged from noncontroversial nominations by unanimous consent, with the support of the committee, as a means of simplifying the process. It is far less common for Senators to attempt to discharge a committee from a nomination by motion or resolution.

It is less likely that her nomination will be held up if the Senate does vote for it. Nominations only need a majority vote to be approved. Now pre-2013 DeVos’ nomination could have possibly lost a cloture vote, but in 2013 Senate Democrats, when they were in the majority, changed the rules that cloture for any nomination except for the Supreme Court only require a simple majority vote, not a 3/5 majority vote that was previously needed.

We’ll have to see what happens on Tuesday.

Trump’s Questionable New Education Team

After the grassroots put their faith in Trump’s promises to end Common Core, his appointment of Betsy DeVos, an advocate of the standards, was a huge disappointment to them. Nevertheless, they remained steadfast in their support for Trump, and decided to send him a letter asking that any future appointments would hold the same views Trump expressed during the campaign. Unfortunately, their pleas were not heard. A list of education staffers sworn in this past Friday indicates that the Department of Education (ED) will be aligned to DeVos’ agenda, not Trump’s. Even if DeVos is not confirmed, likeminded people will be controlling White House education policies.

Despite Trump’s lambasting of Jeb Bush’s education policies, the list of staffers looks more like the choices that would have been made under a Jeb Bush administration. In fact, Politico reported that two of Jeb’s former employees have been given top posts on the education team. Josh Venable, who worked for both Jeb’s campaign and FEE, was listed as Trump’s “top choice for chief of staff.” Andrew Kossack, another alum of FEE, was also added to the mix. Kossack also served as general counsel to Indiana’s former superintendent of education, Tony Bennett, who championed the adoption of Common Core.

The grassroots are beginning to fear that Trump’s criticism of Jeb’s support for Common Core was all an act. Why wouldn’t they? Jason Botel, executive director of the Maryland education advocacy group MarylandCAN (financed by Bill Gates), also joined the Trump administration as senior White House adviser for education. Like DeVos, he has a long history of supporting Common Core. Unlike DeVos, there is video to prove it. During a forum held by the Maryland Public Policy Institute in 2014, he stated that, not only was he “excited about Common Core,” but that he would “insist on it” as a tool to compare student data from state to state.

It gets worse with the announcement of Phil Rosenfelt as acting education secretary. Politico reported that “the new senior adviser for education, Botel, will work closely with Acting Education Secretary  to lead a new team of individuals joining the Trump administration’s Education Department.” Rosenfelt is a career educrat who has worked as general counsel for the department for 40 years. He is considered to be the legal mastermind of No Child Left Behind’s Title 1 program, Race to the Top, and the Obama waiver program which forced states into adopting Common Core. As Arne Duncan’s chief of staff once commented, Rosenfelt’s “fingerprints are all over education law and the federal role of education in this country.”

These people are not the change agents Trump promised. Unless something changes, education policy under a Trump presidency isn’t going to be much different than Obama’s.
In addition to Botel, Venable, and Rosenfelt, the following names were included on the staffing list for Trump’s education team:

  • Derrick Bolen
  • Debbie Cox-Roush
  • Kevin Eck
  • Holly Ham
  • Ron Holden
  • Amy Jones
  • Andrew Kossack
  • Cody J. Reynolds
  • Patrick Shaheen
  • Teresa UnRue
  • Josh Venable
  • Eric Ventimiglia
  • Beatriz Ramos
  • Jerry Ward
  • Patrick Young

North Dakota Lawmakers Introduce Common Core Repeal Bill

HB 1432 has been filed and introduced into the North Dakota House Education Committee. The bill does a few things.

  1. It says the Superintendent of Public Instruction is not allowed to enter the state into any multi-state consortium.
  2. It further limits the Superintendent’s authority by striking from their code that the Superintendent will direct a rewrite process for standards, instead the Superintendent will just be a participant. No new standards can be implemented without the Legislature’s consent.
  3. It removes North Dakota from Smarter Balanced.
  4. It repeals the Common Core State Standards.
  5. It adopts the pre-Common Core Massachusetts academic standards that helped, along with other reforms, make the Bay State a leader in K-12 education. It also requires the development of an assessment aligned to those standards.
  6. It respects the right of parents to opt their student out of any activity, practice or testing without interference from the state.
  7. The new assessment can be taken by computer, but it won’t be required.
  8. The assessment is also to be available on the education department’s website for public review for thirty days after the assessment is given.
  9. It prohibits the collection of data pertaining to “values, attitudes, beliefs, or personality traits of a student or the family of the student or the medical, behavioral, mental, biometric, or psychometric of a student of (sic) the family of the student.”
  10. It directs local school districts to establish “fundamental academic curriculum” that defines academic objectives based on the school’s mission, long-term student educational goals, and student performance objectives. The bill also requires a public review and comment period time of 30 days before the final review.
  11. It bans all state agencies and departments from using state resources to promote Common Core, Common Core-aligned course content standards or Common Core-aligned assessments.

This bill has been sponsored by State Representatives Ben Koppleman, Larry Bellew, Daniel Johnston, James Kasper, Christopher Olson, Karen Rohr, Dan Ruby, and Robin Weisz, as well as, State Senators Randall Burckhard, Jordan Kanninen, Jerry Klein, and Oley Larsen.

Iowa Lawmaker Pushes for “Home Rule” for Local Schools

I reported at Caffeinated Thoughts last week about different education bills impacting K-12 education that has been filed in the Iowa House and Iowa Senate. Here are a few of the bills that concern our issues.

House Joint Resolution 3 – This bill filed by State Representative Jake Highfill (R-Johnston) proposes a constitutional amendment “to provide home rule powers and authority for school districts.”

It also adds, “The home rule powers cannot be inconsistent with state law and the power to levy  any tax is limited to those taxes expressly authorized by the general assembly. If the power or authority of a school district conflicts with the power and authority of a municipal corporation, county, or joint county-municipal corporation government, the power and authority exercised by a municipal corporation, county, or joint county-municipal corporation government shall prevail within the jurisdiction of the municipal corporation, county, or joint county-municipal corporation government.”

So it returns a lot of power over education policy back to school districts. If passed it will have to be passed again during the 88th General Assembly before Iowans can vote on it.

I have to say I very, very jazzed about this bill. This, if passed into Iowa’s Constitution, could be a game changer in truly returning control of education policy back to duly elected school boards.

House File 26 – This bill was also filed by Highfill and it also deals with home rule, but it does it in the Iowa Code, not the state constitution. The bill authorizes a school board to exercise any broad or implied power, not inconsistent with the laws of the general assembly, related to the operation, control, and supervision of the public schools located within its district boundaries. However, the authority does not encompass the power to levy any tax unless expressly authorized by the general assembly. Statutes relating to school boards and school districts shall be liberally construed to effectuate the authority granted under the bill.

Again, this is a great bill.

Senate File 30 – This was filed by State Senator Brad Zaun. This bill eliminates references and requirements to the Iowa Common Core or core curriculum or core content standards in the Iowa Code, but continues to direct the state board of education to adopt high school graduation requirements and assessment standards. It also creates a new task force for the development of a new assessment.

This bill was assigned to a subcommittee consisting of State Senator Craig Johnson (R-Independence), Rita Hart (D-Wheatland), and Tim Kraayanbrink (R-Ft. Dodge). The Iowa Department of Education, Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, Iowa Association of School Boards, and Iowa State Education Association have registered against the bill.

Zaun also filed another bill of concern, Senate File 29, which eliminates the Iowa Department of Education, and creates an education savings account. Our readership has varied opinions on school choice measures, but it’s not likely the Iowa Senate will pass a bill eliminating the state department of education – especially when the Iowa Constitution does give the state a role in providing public education.

I know with certainty there will be additional bills forthcoming including a stronger Common Core repeal bill so stay tuned.

Trump Pauses ESSA Accountability Regulations

President Donald Trump’s first action after being sworn in as our 45th President of the United States was to order a freeze of all Obama Administration regulations that had not yet taken effect pending review.

Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, sent a memo to all department and agency heads that read:

The President has asked me to communicate to each of you his plan for managing the Federal regulatory process at the outset of his Administration.  In order to ensure that the President’s appointees or designees have the opportunity to review any new or pending regulations, I ask on behalf of the President that you immediately take the following steps:

  1. Subject to any exceptions the Director or Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget (the “OMB Director”) allows for emergency situations or other urgent circumstances relating to health, safety, financial, or national security matters, or otherwise, send no regulation to the Office of the Federal Register (the “OFR”) until a department or agency head appointed or designated by the President after noon on January 20, 2017, reviews and approves the regulation.  The department or agency head may delegate this power of review and approval to any other person so appointed or designated by the President, consistent with applicable law.
  2. With respect to regulations that have been sent to the OFR but not published in the Federal Register, immediately withdraw them from the OFR for review and approval as described in paragraph 1, subject to the exceptions described in paragraph 1.  This withdrawal must be conducted consistent with OFR procedures.
  3. With respect to regulations that have been published in the OFR but have not taken effect, as permitted by applicable law, temporarily postpone their effective date for 60 days from the date of this memorandum, subject to the exceptions described in paragraph 1, for the purpose of reviewing questions of fact, law, and policy they raise.  Where appropriate and as permitted by applicable law, you should consider proposing for notice and comment a rule to delay the effective date for regulations beyond that 60-day period.  In cases where the effective date has been delayed in order to review questions of fact, law, or policy, you should consider potentially proposing further notice-and-comment rulemaking.  Following the delay in effective date

    a. for those regulations that raise no substantial questions of law or policy, no further action needs to be taken; and
    b. for those regulations that raise substantial questions of law or policy, agencies should notify the OMB Director and take further appropriate action in consultation with the OMB Director.

  4. Exclude from the actions requested in paragraphs 1 through 3 any regulations subject to statutory or judicial deadlines and identify such exclusions to the OMB Director as soon as possible.
  5. Notify the OMB Director promptly of any regulations that, in your view, should be excluded from the directives in paragraphs 1 through 3 because those regulations affect critical health, safety, financial, or national security matters, or for some other reason.  The OMB Director will review any such notifications and determine whether such exclusion is appropriate under the circumstances.
  6. Continue in all circumstances to comply with any applicable Executive Orders concerning regulatory management.

As used in this memorandum, “regulation” has the meaning given to “regulatory action” in section 3(e) of Executive Order 12866, and also includes any “guidance document” as defined in section 3(g) thereof as it existed when Executive Order 13422 was in effect.  That is, the requirements of this memorandum apply to “any substantive action by an agency (normally published in the Federal Register) that promulgates or is expected to lead to the promulgation of a final rule or regulation, including notices of inquiry, advance notices of proposed rulemaking, and notices of proposed rulemaking,” and also covers any agency statement of general applicability and future effect “that sets forth a policy on a statutory, regulatory, or technical issue or an interpretation of a statutory or regulatory issue.”

This regulatory review will be implemented by the OMB Director.  Communications regarding any matters pertaining to this review should be addressed to the OMB Director.

The OMB Director is authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.

In November the final draft of regulations that laid out the requirements for the submission of state accountability plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act was approved. Those regulations were set to go into effect on January 30, 2017.

Since these regulations have been already published in the Federal Register they will be delayed at least 60 days. If Betsy DeVos is confirmed as Secretary of Education she could propose a rule delaying the regulations longer.

It’s unclear what will happen with these regulations after the pause period has ended.

States That “Revise” Common Core Don’t Revise Much

Abt Associaties in a report they submitted for the state of Massachusetts did a cross-section of nine states that had gone through some process of revising the Common Core State Standards. They looked at Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, New Jersey, Ohio and Utah.

The authors of the report, Jill Norton, Jennifer Ash, and Sarah Ballinger, acknowledged due to the states that were chosen it doesn’t give a full picture of what has taken place nationally, but essentially they found states that revise the standards didn’t really revise much at all.

They reported on changes with the math standards, “Across all grade levels in mathematics, the nine states revised 26.5 percent of the standards, with 73.5 percent of the standards were kept the same. The number of math standards revised ranged from 17 changes in one state to 282 changes in another. Moreover, eight of the nine states added math standards, with a total of 51 new standards added.”

With those changes we’re really talking minor tweaks.

With ELA standards it isn’t much different.

They write, “The story for ELA revisions was similar, with 23 percent of ELA standards revised and 77 percent left unchanged. Again, the number of revisions varied by state, ranging from 12 standards revised in one state to 330 standards revised in another. States added fewer new standards in ELA, with only six new standards added across all nine states. For example, one state added a new standard in sixth grade reading literature that requires students to ‘Differentiate among odes, ballads, epic poetry, and science fiction.’”

Read their analysis of their findings here.

Takeaway…. bills or actions from the state board that just lead to revising the Common Core are generally worthless. We can’t really even note significant improvement in these states. We need to continue to push for a full repeal of the Common Core.

Members of the U.S. House Education & the Workforce Committee in 2017

Photo credit: UpstateNYer (CC-By-SA 3.0)

I recently shared the new make up of the U.S. Senate HELP Committee, and now that members have been assigned I thought I’d share the make-up of the U.S. House Education & the Workforce Committee for the 2017 session. This committee sees all education legislation first in the U.S. House of Representatives. I wanted to include the members below with links to their website and Twitter accounts.

Leadership:

Republicans:

Democrats:

Republicans have two vacancies and Democrats have one so there could end up being additional members on the committee. I’ll update if those vacancies are filled.

Supplement Not Supplant Is Dead

The U.S. Department of Education yesterday killed their draft rule for Title I funding in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) known as “Supplement, Not Supplant.” It’s not an issue that we’ve written a whole lot on here, but it highlighted one way that the Secretary of Education could gut any flexibility members of Congress thought they had when they passed ESSA.

If you were not familiar with the rule it basically said that  in Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as recently revised by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), that federal funds must supplement, and may not supplant, state and local funds. Civil rights activists and department bureaucrats were concerned that federal funding would replace state and local funding to the detriment of lower-income schools.

“For too long, the students who need the most have gotten the least,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr said in a released statement announcing the proposed rule last Summer. “The inequities in state and local funding that we see between schools within districts are inconsistent not only with the words ‘supplement-not-supplant’ but with the civil rights history of that provision and with the changes Congress made to the law last year. No single measure will erase generations of resource inequities, and there is much more work to do across states and districts to address additional resource inequities, but this is a concrete step forward to help level the playing field and ensure compliance with the law.”

Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, during her confirmation hearing on Tuesday also expressed concern with this proposed rule and promised to enforce ESSA in way that “Congress has intended.”

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee Chairman Todd Rokita (R-IN) issued a joint statement praising the decision.

This is a significant victory for students, parents, and school leaders across the country. The department’s regulatory scheme would have violated the law and unleashed serious harm on some of our nation’s poorest schools and communities. While this is encouraging news, we should never have faced the threat of this misguided regulatory proposal. We look forward to working closely with the new administration to ensure recent K-12 education reforms are implemented in a manner that respects the letter and intent of the law.

Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) also responded in a released statement:

I am glad the Education Department has listened to Congress and has chosen not to move forward with its proposed ‘supplement-not-supplant’ regulation. This proposal would have dictated from Washington how states and school districts should spend nearly all state and local tax dollars on schools in order to receive federal Title I dollars — which are only about 3 percent of total national spending on K-12 schools. A regulation like this is not authorized by law; in fact, it is specifically prohibited by law.

I look forward to working with the incoming Trump administration and Betsy DeVos, once confirmed, so we can ensure that the Every Student Succeeds Act is implemented as Congress wrote it, restoring control of public schools to states like Tennessee and to local communities.

So this is good news, but it would be even better news if Congress scraped ESSA altogether and sunset the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.