No Mention of K-12 Education in Trump’s First SOTU Address

President Donald Trump did not explicitly address K-12 education in his first State of the Union address last night and had very little to say about education in general. He briefly plugged an investment in workforce development.

He said:

As tax cuts create new jobs, let us invest in workforce development and job training.  Let us open great vocational schools so our future workers can learn a craft and realize their full potential.

Out of one hour and twenty minutes or so that is it.

While workforce development has been tied to K-12 education, his focus appears to be on vocational schools which could impact K-12 education but will probably have to do with post-high school education opportunities. Based on what he said it is hard to discern what the particular policy will look like.

Then we have Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ statement after the State of the Union address.

“America must do better to prepare our students for success in the 21st-century economy. I join the President in calling on Congress to act in the best interest of students and expand access to more education pathways,” she said.

It was probably difficult for her communications team to find anything to say about his State of the Union address. I’m surprised he didn’t make even a brief comment about school choice.

On one hand, this could be seen as a good sign. K-12 education should NOT be a priority for the President or the federal government.

On the other hand, I would have appreciated comments from President Trump about how he planned to further cut down the federal regulatory environment that burdens public schools. I also would have appreciated comments about how he planned to return more power back to states and local school boards.

I’m afraid his silence means further status quo.

Jane Robbins Testifies to House Committee on Education & the Workforce

Jane Robbins, senior fellow, with American Principles Project was one of four witnesses for the House Committee on Education and the Workforce‘s hearing on “Evidence-Based Policymaking and the Future of Education.”

Robbins and Paul Ohm, a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, were the only two witnesses who seemed to be concerned with student privacy. The other two witnesses, Dr. Casey Wright, Mississippi’s State Superintendent of Education, and Dr. Neal Franklin, the program director for Innovation Studies with WestEd, were touted the gains that could be made with student data.

You can watch the whole hearing below:

Here are the transcript and video of Robbins’ opening statement to the committee:

Madam Chairman and members of the committee:

My name is Jane Robbins, and I’m with the American Principles Project, which works to restore our nation’s founding principles. Thank you for letting me speak today about protecting privacy when evaluating government programs, especially in the area of education.

The Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking was created to pursue a laudable goal: To help analyze the effectiveness of federal programs. We all certainly agree that public policy should be based on evidence, on facts, not on opinion or dogma. So unbiased scientific research, for example, is vital for policymaking.

But the problem arises when the subjects of the research and analysis are human beings. Each American citizen is endowed with personal dignity and autonomy and therefore deserves respect and deference concerning his or her own personal data. Allowing the government to vacuum up mountains of such data and employ it for whatever purposes it deems useful – without the citizen’s consent, or in many cases even his knowledge – conflicts deeply with this truth about the dignity of persons.

Bear in mind that the analyses contemplated by the Commission go further than merely sharing discrete data points among agencies. They involve creating new information about individuals, via matching data, drawing conclusions, and making predictions about those individuals. So, in essence, the government would have information about a citizen that even he or she doesn’t have.

Our founding principles, which enshrine the consent of the governed, dictate that a citizen’s data belongs to him rather than to the government. If the government or its allied researchers want to use it for purposes other than those for which it was submitted, they should get consent (in the case of pre-K-12 students, parental consent). That’s how things should work in a free society.

Let’s consider a few specific problems. The Commission’s recommendations to improve evidence-building, while well-intentioned and couched in reasonable language, fail to recognize that data turned over by citizens for one purpose can be misused for others. It is always assumed that the data will be used in benevolent ways for the good of the individual who provides it. But especially with respect to the enormous scope of pre-K through college education data, that simply isn’t true.

Literally everything can be linked to education. Data-analysis might study the connection between one’s education and his employment. Or his health. Or his housing choices. Or the number of children he has. Or his political activity. Or whether his suspension from school in 6th grade foreshadows a life of crime. Education technology innovators brag that predictive algorithms can be created, and those algorithms could be used to steer students along some paths or close off others.

And much of this education data is extraordinarily sensitive – for example, data about children’s attitudes, mindsets, and dispositions currently being compiled, unfortunately, as part of so-called “social-emotional learning.” Do we really want this kind of data to be made more easily accessible for “evidence-building” to which we as parents have not consented?

The Commission recommends that all this data be disclosed only with “approval” to “authorized persons.” But we should ask: Approval of whom? Authorized by whom? There are myriad examples of government employees’ violating statute or policy by misusing or wrongfully disclosing data. And even if the custodians have only good intentions, what they consider appropriate use or disclosure may conflict diametrically with what the affected citizen considers appropriate. Again, this illustrates the necessity for consent.

We should take care to recognize the difference between two concepts that are conflated in the Commission’s report. “Data security” means whether the government can keep data systems from being breached (which the federal government in too many cases has been unable to do). “Data privacy” refers to whether the government has any right to collect and maintain such data in the first place. The federal Privacy Act sets out the Fair Information Principle of data minimization, which is designed to increase security by increasing privacy. A hacker can’t steal what isn’t there.

Another problem with the “evidence-building” mindset is that it assumes an omniscient government will make better decisions than individuals can themselves. But what these analyses are likely to turn up are correlations between some facts and others. And correlations do not equal causation. So, for example, we might end up designing official government policy based on flawed assumptions to “nudge” students into pursuing studies or careers they wouldn’t choose for themselves.

Human beings are not interchangeable. Our country has thrived for centuries without this kind of social engineering, and it’s deeply dangerous to change that now.

In closing, I reiterate my respect for the value of unbiased research as the foundation for policymaking. But speaking for the millions of parents who feel that their concerns about education policy and data privacy have been shunted aside at various levels of government, I urge you to continue the protections that keep their children from being treated as research subjects – without their consent. This might happen in China, but it should not happen here. Thank you.

You can read her longer, written testimony here.

Different committee members asked questions of the panel. Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), the committee chair, asked Robbins the first question.

Congressman Brett Guthrie (R-KY) asked Robbins whether there is a balance between gathering useful information and privacy protection that can be found.

She had an exchange with Congressman Rick Allen (R-GA) about data collection and student privacy.

Congressman Tom Garrett, Jr. (R-VA) asked her why couldn’t the federal government pull together all of the metadata already out there.

She discussed the College Transparency Act with Congressman Paul Mitchell (R-MI).

She also explained to Congressman Glenn Thompson (R-PA) why education reformers will ignore evidence when it is negative, like in the case of digital learning.

She discussed longitudinal data systems with Congressman Glenn Grothman (R-WI).

Congressman Lloyd Smucker (R-PA) asked what student data would be ok for schools to collect, and if there was any data ok to share.

This Made Me Roll My Eyes

There have been many, many articles I have read that caused an involuntary eye roll. This article has to be the first that I’ve felt compelled to address.

Education Week found a way to spin social-emotional learning into the government shutdown story.

Evie Blad wrote “Social-Emotional Learning for Senators: This Elementary School Exercise Helped End the Shutdown.”

U.S. Senator Sue Collins’ talking stick saved the day!

She wrote tying this into social-emotional learning:

The experience illustrates something school leaders have told Education Week in the past: It’s wrong to assume that adults have social-emotional learning all figured out. We all need help with skills like social-awareness and relationship skills, and some tools and scaffolding never hurt anybody. Many school leaders who’ve put social-emotional learning plans into place have later said they should have started with adults, like teachers, who are crucial for modeling respect and healthy interactions to students.

It’s amazing to me that these folks seem to believe that educators, youth workers, parents, etc. did not teach or model social skills like listening before.

No, this is a “new thing,” and even U.S. Senators are trying to figure it out!

“Now we need to wrap it up with a bow into a new fad.” Let’s “be intentional” about teaching it and let’s assess it as well!

She continues her consideration of the talking stick and how things like it can help the educational process:

But young students don’t always recognize how they communicate with body language and facial expressions. So some schools use the same kinds of “scaffolding” exercises when they teach listening as they do when they teach traditional academic subjects, like writing. That might be posters with sentence starters that help children reflect what they heard back to their peers, or objects like talking sticks to make the roles of speakers and listeners more deliberate.

A few years ago, I watched a group of fifth-grade students in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, an area known for gang violence and poverty, complete a listening circle. To help listening become more deliberate, their teacher had created a routine. First a classmate led them in some mindful breathing to “inhale the positive and exhale the negative.” Then they went around the circle answering questions from their teacher: What is something they’ve said or done that made someone happy? What’s something they’ve done that made someone hurt? How could they “set an intention” to fix it?

Mindful breathing? Is this a 5th-grade classroom or yoga class? Perhaps Senator Collins’ needs to introduce this into her meetings.

Look, I don’t have a problem with things like talking sticks. I’ve employed ideas like this myself as a youth pastor (and *shocker* I didn’t need training on social-emotional learning). Teaching kids to listen was the secondary outcome. The primary focus was discussing content I wanted them to grapple with.

That is where teachers’ focus should be as well. If teachers have an opportunity to model listening and find teaching moments when students are not listening well then great. What Senator Collins did was help her group not to talk over one another. Teachers (and anyone who has led meetings) have been doing that for years.

Ok, I need to stop rolling my eyes otherwise they will be permanently stuck there. Thanks for letting me rant.

We Do Have Some Allies at the U.S. Department of Education

We’ve been pretty harsh about some of the appointments and hires at the U.S. Department of Education. I thought I would highlight some good news.

We need some good news, right?

The U.S. Department of Education announced yesterday that Kent Talbert joined the department as Senior Policy Advisor.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos today announced the appointment of Kent D. Talbert as Senior Policy Advisor to the Deputy Secretary. Mr. Talbert has been delegated the duties of the Deputy Secretary pending the confirmation of General Mick Zais by the U.S. Senate.

“We are thrilled to have Kent join our team,” said Secretary DeVos. “He has dedicated the better part of his professional career to serving our nation’s students, and his expertise will be a tremendous asset as we work to improve opportunities for all students throughout their lifelong learning journey.”

Mr. Talbert most recently practiced law in Washington, DC, where he counseled educational institutions, accreditation agencies, charter school organizations and professional and trade associations. From 2006-09, he served as General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Education, and from 2001-06 as Deputy General Counsel for Departmental and Legislative Service. Earlier in his career, Mr. Talbert served for over 12 years on Congressional staff as Education Policy Counsel for the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and as a professional staff member of the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources (now HELP).

Talbert, you may remember, was the co-author of the Pioneer Institute/American Principles Project/Pacific Research Institute/The Federalist Society white paper, The Road to a National Curriculum along with Robert Eitel and Bill Evers.

Also, I did not realize, but Robert Eitel was hired back in April a senior counsel to the Secretary. He is also the co-chair for the regulatory task force and regulatory reform officer for the department that is looking at rolling back the regulatory burden on the states.

There aren’t enough of them, but we do have some allies at the department.

A Belated Win for Student Privacy

Photo credit: Nick Youngson (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The U.S. Department of Education recently found that the Agora Cyber Charter School in Pennsylvania did violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Rules established during the Obama administration weakened FERPA, and there has been concern about how outdated it has become considering the rise of educational tech. So it’s remarkable anyone would be found in violation.

Unfortunately, the original complaint was filed on December 16, 2012, and it took the Department of Education almost five years to respond.

EdSurge reports:

Last November, after reviewing responses from Agora, the Department found that the cyber charter did violate FERPA. To use services from Agora, which contracted with third-party service providers such as K12 Inc., Blackboard, and Sapphire, parents were required to agree to policies set forth by those providers. K12’s Terms of Use policy required students to enter identifiable data and granted the company and its affiliates “the right to use, reproduce, display, perform, adapt, modify, distribute, have distributed, and promote [information put into the platform] in any form, anywhere and for any purpose.”

The Department ruled that requiring students to use third-party services that share student data with unauthorized parties as a condition of enrollment is a violation of FERPA. In its letter, federal education officials wrote that “a parent or eligible student cannot be required to waive the rights and protections accorded under FERPA as a condition of acceptance into an educational institution or receipt of educational training or services.“

Perhaps this is a sign that the Education Department under the Trump Administration will be responsive to parents’ student data privacy concerns. This ruling is a good first step. Let’s hope they significantly reduce the response time.

State Departments of Education Should Explain Legal Basis for Mandates on Schools

A bill in the Iowa Senate would require the Iowa Department of Education to identify their statutory or regulatory authority for any request for reports made of school districts. Photo Credit: Ashton B. Crew (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Iowa State Senator Amy Sinclair (R-Allerton), chair of the Iowa Senate Education Committee, told me in an email, “I’ve had several superintendents and principals asking me why they are completing so many reports, especially after we passed school district home rule last year.”

The home rule act, HF 573, passed the Iowa House and Senate last session and was signed into law by former Governor Terry Branstad. It simply reads:

The board of directors of a school district shall operate, control, and supervise all public schools located within its district boundaries and may exercise any broad and implied power, not inconsistent with the laws of the general assembly and administrative rules adopted by state agencies pursuant thereto, related to the operation, control, and supervision of those public schools.

The new law really isn’t a boon for local control, in my opinion, because there is still so much the state dictates to local school districts. This does mean, however, that the Iowa Department of Education can’t keep piling on mandated reports, etc. without specific law or an administrative rule giving them that authority. Which, apparently, they are still doing.

So the question that State Senator Sinclair kept getting from school administrators is eye-opening.

So she offered a bill. ” I figured requiring the DE to cite the legal authority for gathering the information wasn’t too much to ask. And if there is no legal authority, then maybe they won’t require the report,” she told me in an email.

They may still try to require it, but without specific authority, a school could politely ignore the request.

The bill she offered is SSB 3001. It requires the director of the department of education to cite the state or federal statute, rule, or regulation necessitating the inclusion of information in any report which the department requires a school district, area education agency, and accredited nonpublic school, or the officers or employees of such entities to submit.

The bill that was introduced by Sinclair in the Senate Education Committee was assigned to a subcommittee consisting of State Senators Mark Chelgren (R-Ottumwa), Jeff Elder (R-State Center), and Robert Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids).

I think it’s safe to say this bill should pass, and frankly, it is common sense. State Departments of Education should have to cite the law or regulation whether state or federal that gives them the authority to require anything from a local school district.

Florida House and Senate Bill Allows Schools to Write Own Academic Standards

Florida’s Historic Capitol and Current State Capitol Building in Tallahassee, FL.
Photo Credit: Michael Rivera (CC-By-SA 3.0)

A bill filed in the Florida House and in the Florida Senate allows Florida school districts to write their own standards provided they are equivalent to or better than the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards. Florida’s current standards which the bills would make the minimum baseline were the product of a review and revision of the Common Core State Standards.

Essentially, the revisions made stayed with the 15 percent threshold allowed by the National Governor’s Association and Council of Chief State School Officers. They did put cursive back in their standards, and the Florida State Board of Education in 2013 rejected the Common Core appendices.

Even so, the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards are still functionally Common Core just like every other state we’ve seen pursue the “review and revise” method of addressing them.

State Representative Charlie Stone (R-Ocala) introduced House Bill 825 in the Florida House. The co-introducers are State Representatives Stan McClain (R-Belleview) and George Moraitis, Jr. (R-Fort Lauderdale). The Florida Senate companion bill Senate Bill 966 was introduced by State Senator Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala) and it is co-introduced by State Senator Debbie Mayfield (R-Vero Beach).

The bill says a school district’s standards must “(b)e equivalent to or more rigorous than the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards, or courses offered in the district for the International Baccalaureate program. Instructional materials adopted pursuant to these standards must be consistent with school district goals and objectives and the course descriptions established in rule by the State Board of Education.”

It also reads:

Curricular content for all subjects must integrate knowledge-based learning, critical-thinking, and problem-solving, and workforce-literacy skills; communication, reading, and writing skills; mathematics skills; collaboration skills; contextual and applied-learning skills; technology literacy skills; information and media-literacy skills; and the demonstrable, in-depth understanding of the founding values and principles of the United States as required by s. 1003.42

The bill states all standards whether the school adopts the state’s current standards or adopts higher ones they must meet the following requirements:

(a) English Language Arts standards must establish specific curricular content for, at a minimum, reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language which significantly improves student outcomes.

(b) Science standards must establish specific curricular content for, at a minimum, the nature of science, earth and space science, physical science, and life science. Controversial theories and concepts must be taught in a factual, objective, and balanced manner.

(c) Mathematics standards must establish specific curricular content for, at a minimum, algebra, geometry, statistics and probability, number and quantity, functions, and modeling.

(d) Social Studies standards must establish specific curricular content for, at a minimum, geography, United States and world history, government, civics, humanities, and economics, including financial literacy. Financial literacy includes the knowledge, understanding, skills, behaviors, attitudes, and values that will enable a student to make responsible and effective financial decisions on a daily basis. Government and civics content must strictly adhere to the founding values and principles of the United States as required under s. 1003.42. Financial literacy instruction must shall be an integral part of instruction throughout the entire economics course to and include the study of at least Keynesian and Hayekian economic theories, in addition to understanding the basics of information regarding earning income; buying goods and services; saving and financial investing; taxes; the use of credit and credit cards; budgeting and debt management,including student loans and secured loans; banking and financial services; planning for one’s financial future, including higher education and career planning; credit reports and scores; and fraud and identity theft prevention.

(e) Visual and performing arts, physical education, health, and foreign language standards must establish specific curricular content and include distinct grade level expectations for the core content knowledge and skills that a student is expected to have acquired by each individual grade level from kindergarten through grade 5. The standards for grades 6 through 12 may be organized by grade clusters of more than one grade level.

Here are the reporting requirements the bill gives:

The district school superintendent shall annually certify to the department that all instructional materials for core courses used by the district are aligned with all applicable state standards, including those that are equivalent to or more rigorous than the applicable state standards or are aligned with courses offered in the district for the International Baccalaureate program; and have been reviewed, selected, and adopted by the district school board in accordance with the school board hearing and public meeting requirements of this section.

The bill does not explicitly give the state the authority to reject the annual certification or whether or not they can determine whether a school’s standards are in fact higher.  There could be an administrative rule that does, but I don’t see any language indicating that in this bill.

Should the bill pass it would go into effect on July 1, 2018.

Note: I’ve reached out to State Senator Mayfield’s office for background on the bill, as well as, Karen Effrem with the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition to get her thoughts on this bill. I’ll update when I have additional information.

Update: Sue Woltanski, a parent in Florida told me she suspected the bill had to do with Hillsdale College’s Classical Curriculum. She wrote to me in an email, “The economic theories mentioned (the study of at least Keynesian and Hayekian economic theories), I believe, is a priority of Hillsdale College. Our House Speaker (Corcoran) and a few legislators (specifically Rep.. Donalds) are closely tied to Classical Charters, associated with Hillsdale. “

Karen Effrem also got to me. “The purpose is to allow districts to write their own standards with the Common Core as the floor instead of the ceiling. So they use what they want if anything from Common Core, but still, give the appearance of using CC so as not to get the state’s or feds’ undies in a twist about rejecting the standards,” she said in an email.

Three Observations About Betsy DeVos’ Speech at AEI

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos at AEI Conference on 1/16/18.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos at the AEI Conference on 1/16/18.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spoke at the American Enterprise Institute conference yesterday and reading through her prepared remarks, discussing education reforms by President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, here are three observations.

1. Common Core is far from dead.

Where the Bush administration emphasized NCLB’s stick, the Obama administration focused on carrots. They recognized that states would not be able to legitimately meet the NCLB’s strict standards. Secretary Duncan testified that 82 percent of the nation’s schools would likely fail to meet the law’s requirements — thus subjecting them to crippling sanctions.

The Obama administration dangled billions of dollars through the “Race to the Top” competition, and the grant-making process not so subtly encouraged states to adopt the Common Core State Standards. With a price tag of nearly four and a half billion dollars, it was billed as the “largest-ever federal investment in school reform.” Later, the Department would give states a waiver from NCLB’s requirements so long as they adopted the Obama administration’s preferred policies — essentially making law while Congress negotiated the reauthorization of ESEA.

Unsurprisingly, nearly every state accepted Common Core standards and applied for hundreds of millions of dollars in “Race to the Top” funds. But despite this change, the United States’ PISA performance did not improve in reading and science, and it dropped in math from 2012 to 2015.

Then, rightly, came the public backlash to federally imposed tests and the Common Core. I agree – and have always agreed – with President Trump on this: “Common Core is a disaster.” And at the U.S. Department of Education, Common Core is dead.

Sure, the U.S. Department of Education is not actively pushing Common Core, they don’t need to. The standards and assessment consortiums don’t need to be funded anymore. The damage is done.

They don’t need to publicly push it because ESSA essentially codified Common Core.

Peter Cunningham, the former assistant secretary for communications at the U.S. Department of Education, served under former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says to say ESSA gets rid of Common Core is nonsensical.

He wrote in an op/ed he wrote shortly after the bill was passed:

(Alexander) begins an op-ed in the Tennessean with the outlandish claim that he ran for reelection last year on a promise to “repeal the federal Common Core mandate and reverse the trend toward a national school board.”

Sorry, Senator, but there never was a Common Core mandate so your new law can’t repeal what didn’t exist.

There was an incentive to adopt “college- and career-ready” standards in the Obama administration’s Race to the Top grant program and some conservative pundits and politicians viewed this incentive as “coercive.” But it wasn’t a mandate. It was voluntary and 46 states and D.C. leaped at the opportunity to compete for those dollars by adopting higher standards.

Ironically, the new law that the senator from Tennessee is so proud of, the Every Student Succeeds Act, now mandates the very thing he rails against. Under the new law, every state must adopt “college- and career-ready” standards. Thus, the new law all but guarantees that Common Core State Standards—or a reasonable imitation under a different name—will likely remain in place in most states.

So, unfortunately for Secretary DeVos (and us), status quo keeps Common Core in place.

Truth in American Education shared early our concerns with ESSA.

As a requirement of the ESSA, states must “demonstrate” to the Secretary that they have adopted standards that are aligned to the same definition of “college and career” standards used to force states into adopting Common Core under NCLB waivers.

Also, we noted that “The state accountability system must be structured as per the federal bill.”

Then, we observed, “Bill language appears to require standards that align with career and technical education standards, indicating that the standards must align to the federally approved Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.”

And voila, while states may have changed the name of their standards or revised some of their standards all have essentially rebranded and tweaked Common Core. No one has gotten rid of root and branch.

So while Common Core may be dead in the U.S. Department of Education, I have my doubts as many Common Core advocates now work there, but it certainly is not dead in the states.

2. She says federal mandates don’t work, but supports a federal mandate.

She said:

Federally mandated assessments. Federal money. Federal standards. All originated in Washington, and none solved the problem. Too many of America’s students are still unprepared.

Perhaps the lesson lies not in what made the approaches different, but in what made them the same: the federal government. Both approaches had the same Washington “experts” telling educators how to behave.

The lesson is in the false premise: that Washington knows what’s best for educators, parents and students.

Rick, you’ve rightly pointed out that the federal government is good at making states, districts, and schools do something, but it’s not good at making them do it well. Getting real results for students hinges on how that “something” is done.

That’s because when it comes to education – and any other issue in public life – those closest to the problem are always better able to solve it. Washington bureaucrats and self-styled education “experts” are about as far removed from students as you can get.

Yet under both Republican and Democratic administrations, Washington overextended itself time and time again.

Educators don’t need engineering from Washington. Parents don’t need prescriptions from Washington. Students don’t need standards from Washington.

That’s a nice sentiment, but what is Secretary DeVos going to do about it? If this is something she truly believed she would support the repeal of ESEA instead of touting it in its current form as the Every Student Succeeds Act.

She said:

The Every Student Succeeds Act charted a path in a new direction. ESSA takes important steps to return power where it belongs by recognizing states – not Washington — should shape education policy around their own people. But state lawmakers should also resist the urge to centrally plan education. “Leave it to the states” may be a compelling campaign-season slogan, but state capitols aren’t exactly close to every family either. That’s why states should empower teachers and parents and provide the same flexibility ESSA allows states.

But let’s recognize that many states are now struggling with what comes next. State ESSA plans aren’t the finish line. Those words on paper mean very little if state and local leaders don’t seize the opportunity to truly transform education. They must move past a mindset of compliance and embrace individual empowerment.

Under ESSA, school leaders, educators and parents have the latitude and freedom to try new approaches to serve individual students.


States still have to play “Mother, may I” with her department.

Until she actively fights to decouple federal mandates from states and local school districts the rhetoric is meaningless.

3. She says she opposes top-down reforms but then touts one.

She gave kudos to personalized learning without actually using the term:

Our children deserve better than the 19th century assembly-line approach. They deserve learning environments that are agile, relevant, exciting. Every student deserves a customized, self-paced, and challenging life-long learning journey.

Sitting in front of a screen. Personalized learning is another education fad pushed by education “experts” and embraced by education technology providers who have dollar signs in their eyes.

This is also just another dataless reform pushed from on high like Common Core, not only that, but the concept contradicts what we already know to be true as Jane Robbins recently pointed out:

How does PL conflict with this scientific reality? Because students who are controlling the content of their learning, usually by finding information on the Internet or clicking through an educational-software program, are highly unlikely to commit that information to long-term memory. They scan it, they click it, they’re on to the next task. Certainly there are exceptional students who will delve deeply enough to implant the information in their brains, but the vast majority of students simply won’t, unless they’re made to.

If by personalized learning, we mean smaller class sizes, individualized attention, homeschooling, etc. That’s great, but where personalized learning is headed it may be personalized, but it is hardly learning.

And the U.S. Secretary of Education just gave it a shout-out.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy: Time to Get Rid of PARCC

Governor-Elect Phil Murphy (D-NJ) announced Dr. Lamont Repollet’s appointment as New Jersey’s new Commissioner of Education

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, who was sworn in today, announced last week as Governor-Elect that it is time for the Garden State to get rid of PARCC as their state-wide assessment.  Philadelphia public radio station WHYY reports:

At an elementary school in Asbury Park where he announced that Asbury Park School District Superintendent Lamont Repollet will lead the state education department, Murphy said it’s time to scrap those tests.

“We are asking Dr. Repollet to end the failed experiment that has been PARCC testing and create new, more effective and less class time-intrusive means for measuring student assessment,” Murphy said.

Murphy said shorter tests should be developed with teacher input.

He doesn’t have a firm timeline reports:

“The answer to the logistics of how it’s done, honestly, I don’t know,” the Democrat said after an unrelated event in Ewing the day before he’s set to be sworn in. “So bear with me on that. But soon.”

He added.

“The notion of assessing kids to make sure we understand how they’re doing, I’m all in for that,” Murphy said Monday. “But these big, white-knuckle, once-a-year, with lots of weeks getting folks tuned up to take a particular test I’m not a fan of. Never have been.”

He noted not only that he has four children but that one of his sisters is a retired teacher from Boston who is against the tests.

“We’re into shorter feedback loops,” Murphy said. “You take the test on Monday and you find out how you did on Friday or the next Monday or something like that.”

“I think educators should be first and foremost at the table to figure out what the actual best model is,” he added.

PARCC’s membership has dwindled to Colorado, District of Columbia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New Mexico. When New Jersey officially leaves only six five states and the District of Columbia will remain in a consortium that once boasted 25 states and DC.

(Update: I was reminded that Colorado left PARCC. They do still purchase some PARCC test items. Louisiana also does a PARCC hybrid. Massachusettes also offers a hybrid assessment. So that really just leaves three states and D.C who use it exclusively.)

(Video) Jane Robbins: What is FEPA?

Jane Robbins, a senior fellow at American Principles Project, recorded this short video for Red Kudzu explaining what the Foundations of Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (S. 2046) is and what it will do if passed by the U.S. Senate.

The bill is before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or use the contact info below and ask them to oppose S. 2046, the Foundations of Evidence-Based Policymaking Act.

Here is the list of the committee members along with their Twitter handles and office phone numbers.

The primary issue with FEPA is that it would create a “unified evidence-building plan” for the entire federal government – in essence, a national database containing data from every federal agency on every citizen.