Student Data For Sale

Natasha Singer in The New York Times wrote about how student data collected by the College Board through surveys connected with the SAT and PSAT.

I wanted to highlight an excerpt:

Three thousand high school students from across the United States recently trekked to a university sports arena here to attend an event with an impressive-sounding name: the Congress of Future Science and Technology Leaders. Many of their parents had spent $985 on tuition.

Months earlier, the teenagers had received letters, signed by a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, congratulating them on being nominated for “a highly selective national program honoring academically superior high school students.”

The students all had good grades. But many of them were selected for the event because they had once filled out surveys that they believed would help them learn about colleges and college scholarships.

Through their schools, many students in the audience had taken a college-planning questionnaire, called MyCollegeOptions. Others had taken surveys that came with the SAT or the PSAT, tests administered by the College Board. In filling out those surveys, the teenagers ended up signing away personal details that were later sold and shared with the future scientists event.

Read the rest.

She mentioned the U.S. Department of Education in May released guidance on this particular practice (which ACT does as well). This guidance recommended that schools make it clearer that pre-test surveys are optional. You can it below:

 

RNC Approves Resolution Addressing Parental Rights Regarding Sex Ed

The Republican National Committee at their Summer Meeting in Austin, TX passed a resolution that protects students from potentially unsuitable content by supporting a parent’s right to grant prior written consent for sex education.

Cynthia Dunbar, Republican National Committeewoman for Virginia, introduced a resolution to protect public school children by requiring parental notification and approval for all human sexuality instruction, and that student participation requires parents to opt their student in instead of having to opt their student out.

Liberty Counsel which announced the RNC’s passage of the resolution in a press release wrote:

Many state laws and local school policies usually require that schools notify parents that their children will be taught human sexuality and provide access to review the materials. Then parents have the opportunity to notify the school that their child is to be exempt from the instruction and needs to be given an alternative.

However, these policies have been manipulated in many cases as districts do not always provide a complete description of the materials, make access difficult, and include the “opt out” forms with the flood of other permission slips and forms that parents have to fill out at the beginning of the school year. As a result, parents do not have effective notice of what their children will be exposed to or chance to opt them out.  The “opt out” laws are also usually limited to “human sexuality instruction” or “sex ed” and do not cover other subjects in which the materials would be offered.

Our readers probably have differing opinions about whether schools should provide sex education, and what should be covered if they do. I hope we have a consensus, however, that parents should have the final say and they should have a full notification of what the class entails and what materials are used.

Read the resolution below:

Ed Tech Executive: “Replace Traditional Teaching With Video Games”

I read an article at TES, an educational resource website in the United Kingdom, and I hoped, wished, prayed that it was a parody site or fake news. I say that because the idea promoted within the article is absolutely horrible.

One ed tech executive wants to replace traditional teaching with video games.

This idea has to be the MOST awful thing I’ve heard in education circles, and I’ve seen a lot of awful things. Now, I’m sure we would be told, it’s ok, these are EDUCATIONAL games. It’s like not like kids would be playing Minecraft, Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, or Legend of Zelda.

No, these would be games that would teach reading, science, and math or so the argument would go.

Will Hazell at TES reports:

Mohit Midha, the chief executive of Mangahigh, which develops maths games, said young people cannot focus for more than five minutes and that the traditional “instructional phase” in teaching is unnecessary.

Explaining his theory, he said children can learn to play video games like FIFA football without first being taught how.

Mr Midha co-founded Mangahigh with one of the men who set up the company that invented the Candy Crush Saga video game.

Speaking at a debate on artificial intelligence and education organised by the charity Nesta, Mr Midha claimed that “people are obsessed with video games” but are “totally out of love” with “traditional forms of instruction” involving “pen and paper”.

When it came to using technology to improve learning, he said it was important to understand what teachers are trying to achieve in the classroom, but “if we’re always listening to the teachers and trying to innovate around that, then we just end up with a faster horse”.

He continued: “If you look at kids now, and give a video game to a child – give them FIFA 2016 – and give them that for two days, you come back after two days and they’ll be scoring goals, they’ll be doing headers, they’ll be working as teams with other people on the internet, they’ll figure it out.

Read the rest.

The article also cited kids ever-decreasing attention span as a motivating factor for this particular idea.

This idea is akin to saying, “hey some kids are already overweight, they don’t like vegetables, so let’s give them more sugar, but we’ll make sure they have plenty of protein and vitamins as well.” Would anyone think that is a good idea? I hope not.

Just like kids with weight issues should cut back on sugar and pick up nutritious food instead, kids with attention problems should put down the tech and pick up a book. In both cases, less is more.

Not only will Mr. Midha’s education theory further decrease students’ attention span, but leaving students to their own devices, both literally and figuratively, there will be a lot of holes in what a student actually knows.

DeVos Speaks to Conservative High School Students

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spoke at the Turning Point USA High School Leadership Summit on Thursday in Washington, DC.

I wanted to highlight a couple of excerpts of her speech.

She first addressed educational freedom:

Way too many in the education world believe they need more involvement, more intrusion, more mandates, more money, more government.

But what do we believe? We believe in more freedom!

We are committed to expanding education freedom for all families across America. You’ve probably heard me described as “pro-school choice.” Well, I am, but choice in education is not defined by picking this building or that school, using this voucher or that scholarship. And it’s not public versus private. Parochial versus charter. Homeschool versus virtual.

It shouldn’t be “versus” anything, because choice in education is bigger than that.

Choice is really about freedom! Freedom to learn, and to learn differently. Freedom to explore. Freedom to fail, to learn from falling and to get back up and try again. It’s freedom to find the best way for you to learn and grow…to find the engaging combination that unleashes your curiosity and unlocks your individual potential.

You and your families already exercise freedom when you make choices about next steps for education after high school. I suspect many of you are going through this process right now.

You compare options, and make an informed decision.

If you choose to go to Georgetown, are you somehow against the Wolverines or the Fighting Irish? Well, you’re not — except when they’re on the basketball court.

If you decide to go to George Washington University, are you somehow against public universities? Of course not!

No one criticizes those choices. No one thinks choice in higher education is wrong. So why is it wrong in elementary school, middle school, or high school?

Truth is: there is nothing wrong with that! There is nothing wrong with wanting to pursue the education that’s right for you!

First, how about educational choice within public schools? She talks a lot about freedom from mandates and flexibility, but we are still waiting to see something, anything tangible headed in that direction from the Trump administration.

States still have to play “Mother, May I?” Utah had a request for flexibility denied. Schools still face top-down mandates. Parents still face difficulty in many school districts and states when attempting to opt their students out of assessments.

When are going to see real freedom from centralized control?

Secondly, federal programs can never truly expand freedom; they can only ultimately restrict it. Have we ever seen federal money come without strings attached? No. I favor school choice, but it should not come from the federal level. DeVos highlights choices that students have in college, but she neglects to mention all of the federal regulations colleges face from allowing federal student aid.

No thanks.

She then gives a nod to workforce development and personalized learning, she said:

It’s time to reorient our approach to education. We need a paradigm shift. A rethink.

“Rethink” means we question everything to ensure nothing limits you from pursuing your passion, and achieving your potential.

You – and all students – deserve learning environments that are agile, relevant, exciting. You should be able to pursue customized, self-paced, and challenging life-long learning journeys.

I recently visited a SkillsUSA conference where students competed with each other in a wide range of activities they had learned about: developing computer games, building homes, welding, baking, graphic design – to name just a few. They were all clearly excited about what they were doing!

And last week, I met a 70-year-old man who was in his fourth career. His first was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. He went on to work in the defense contracting industry, followed by another career in banking. He found retirement to be quite boring, so he learned the necessary skills to drive big rigs across the country. And he said his fourth career is his best one yet!

So be open to possibilities that aren’t pre-planned. I suspect some – or maybe many — of you feel like your life thus far has been ordered for you. Class to class, grade to grade, graduation to graduation. But you will find that nothing – not your families, your careers, your faith journeys — is as predictable as it seems.

So what you learn is about much more than just acquiring “skills” or diplomas. You are your most important resource. Your education is about you. It’s about your aspirations and abilities. Your passions and pursuits. Your ingenuity and what you do with it is what gives life to your education.

We’ve had too much “rethink(ing)” in education circles, we need to go back to basics. Schools need to address classical education. It’s not just about a student’s interest. It’s not about skills. Kids need content, and the pendulum is swinging wildly away from that.

(Video) Alternative Math

I watched a short film yesterday entitled “Alternative Math.” The description of the video says, “A well-meaning math teacher finds herself trumped by a post-fact America.”

Obviously, the plot is intentionally ridiculous, and, generally, we don’t see schools respond to parents like this fictional school acquiesced to the parents’ demands.  Also when parents complain about bias they’re not referring to something like math which is straightforward (except for the asinine way basic math is being taught due to Common Core).

That said, it literally made me laugh out loud. I’m thankful that in my brief time teaching I never encountered parents like this.

Enjoy!

The Public/Private Takeover of Education

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

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

The proposed merger of U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Labor will hurt our kids, and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wants parents to concede to the public/private takeover in education. Unfortunately, we are well on our way. Facts are facts, and regardless of what state you live in, initiatives for Public/Private takeover are common and homogenized for all states.  Let’s take my state of Minnesota for example.   

Standardized testing requirements and opt-out:  In May of 2017, the Minnesota Business Partnership pressured our Minnesota Senators to financially incentivize school districts, so that schools would earn more money when students tested at a higher percentage beyond the Federal 95% participation requirement.  During the hearing, it was postulated that Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA’s)/Pearson participation would soar to near 100% as others noted the outcome would remove parental voice and rights to opt out their children out of the federal-corporate corruption.   

Additionally, our legislature gave away the parental authority of writing a parental opt-out letter to the MDE, who was tasked with writing a “Commissioner’s Opt-Out Letter.”  Thanks to early ESSA documents Minnesota jumped into line with labeling opt-out kids as “non-proficient”.

Ultimately that changed, but only after intense testimony and parents taking a stand.  Later, it was discovered the MDE didn’t update their commissioner opt-out form so that schools and parents could understand the new law, creating mixed messages for parents and the public on the latest MDE changes.  

Local control has taken on an entirely new meaning, as reports came in that school boards bullied parents into believing they had no right to opt their child out of standardized testing without themselves going through a senseless barrage of red tape paperwork.  

Data collection:  In Minnesota, our state statute governing education and technology dates back to 1980, with relatively few updates since according to Minnesota legislator Eric Lucero who chief authored several data protection bills.  Yet, even after five years of pounding the pavement at the grassroots level, legislators can’t seem to get a bill passed due to the collusion of businesses and big industry involvement in our education system as seen this past legislative session.  

That’s not to say businesses and business leaders are “bad.”  That’s not to say that learning a trade is “bad.”  What is in serious question is the level of comingling of both government and business affairs in education as young as preschool, hence the further invasion of unethical data collection on children as young as three.  Why?  So they can cram a child into yet another cookie cutter mold to fit a corporate model.  How’s that for innovation?

World’s Best Workforce:  This is our own Minnesota duplicate of Federal education laws:  Goals 2000, School-to-Work, No Child Left Behind and lastly, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and business organizations and foundations (aka Chamber of Commerce) which was pushed on our schools which before it was fashionable to the degree we see today.   

U.S. Congress:  One of the saddest moments in education regarding the recent, and incredible, “happy bi-partisanship” under the Obama administration was through the passage of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  Not only did Congress codify Common Core in ESSA, but this version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) allowed furthering the highly controversial and manipulative Social Emotional Learning (SEL).  SEL is nothing more than glorified psychological profiling, making teacher’s unlicensed social psychologists when they actually should be teaching, as well as replacing logic with emotion when approaching subjects and problem-solving.  

FEPA, FERPA, and SELDS:  Did you ever in your life wonder how our government can keep up with their own acronym creations?  We have legislators running education roundtables that don’t even know what ESSA means, nor its implications regarding both family and education data privacy.  President Trump did sign new guidance guidelines for state education agencies and school districts on their responsibility to protect student privacy when facilitating college-admissions tests such as SAT and ACT.  However, this has still left grassroots education leaders fed up with years such a disorganized top-down government agenda in education.  

Here’s a hint:  Please stop trying to reinvent the wheel with more initiatives.  While encouraging on the surface, there is still very far to go, being that our state has signed onto nearly every Federal Education initiative available (just follow the money).   We have not yet heard anything on how FERPA will be given back to the parents, rather than a school entity and global industry who is controlling where a child’s data goes and who it gets sold to.  President Trump’s campaign promise was to dismantle the Federal Department of Education and get rid of Common Core, not merge more departments and create an even bigger form of government in education.  

All this being said – and this is so small in comparison to the larger issues at hand – I have seen nothing concrete on the dismantling of Fed Ed and how that will be handled, only that there is a proposed merger between the two departments.  Frankly, this tells me nothing as a parent, a concerned citizen and active grassroots participant.  

I will end my comment here with a quote I told our Minnesota Education Chair last summer upon testifying before committee: “Madam Chair, with respect, it’s about Liberty.” I believe Ms. DeVos needs to hear just that. Fed Ed doesn’t need reorganizing – it needs dismantling and dismantling should NOT include a merger with the Department of Labor.

What we need is a REPEAL of the workforce law in our education system, pull back the latest version of ESEA, then dramatically reduce the reach of the USDED.  Sprinkle in FERPA reform and we may just have a chance at dismantling a system that has broken local control and parental voice.

Responding to The 74 Jumping on the Social-Emotional Learning Bandwagon

An education news organization called The 74 (heavily funded by the Gates Foundation) recently jumped on the bandwagon for so-called social-emotional learning (SEL). This supposedly objective news source found little reason for skepticism about implementing SEL, as long as teachers are given sufficient resources and guidance. But such cheerleading masks deep concerns about whether schools should be manipulating students’ personalities via SEL. 

A brief response to The 74:

  • The 74 defines SEL as “teaching students skills such as self-regulation, persistence, empathy, self-awareness, and mindfulness” but admits that different research and media entities define SEL differently. This disagreement complicates SEL implementation and research/assessment, as evidenced in contradictory statements by The 74 and many other SEL proponents. As one researcher for CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) stated in a 2017 meta-analysis, “We know these skills are essential for children…” Yet in the same sentence, she said, “but there’s still a lot we don’t know about ways to enhance them.”
  • However SEL is defined, The 74 thinks this is what schools should be doing. But parents rightly object that the school (which means the government) has no business analyzing and trying to change a child’s psychological makeup. It’s one thing to enforce discipline in a classroom and encourage individual students to do their best; good teachers have always done that. It’s quite another to assess students on their compliance with highly subjective behavioral standards that may measure personality and individual or family beliefs more than objective shortcomings in performance. The school exists to assist parents in educating their children, not to replace them in that role. 
  • The 74 traces the concept of SEL back to the 1995 book Emotional Intelligence (which the news outlet apparently takes seriously). In fact, “emotional intelligence” has been debunked as “a fraudulent concept, a fad, a convenient bandwagon, a corporate marketing scheme.” SEL first entered the federal education lexicon in 1994 as part of the Goals 2000 legislation signed by President Clinton. These goals were “voluntary” as long as states were willing to give up their share of federal Title I money for not implementing them. This is analogous to recession-racked states’ “voluntarily” adopting the Common Core standards to qualify for federal money. 
  • Interestingly, research in a paper cited by The 74, as well as multiple other SEL proponents and education stakeholders, posits that the supposedly “rigorous” and “academic” Common Core supports  SEL and vice versa. The fact that Common Core is proving to be a drag on academic achievement demonstrates that neither is very effective. Besides seeing both SEL and Common Core as anti-academic, parents and citizens also recognize both as invasive and indoctrinating — so touting the SEL-Common Core connection is unlikely to engender support for either one.  
  • The 74 cites only studies supportive of SEL. But even the aforementioned CASEL researcher admitted, “The results to date have been mixed…There’s also a general lack of long-term studies that might give researchers a clearer picture of the programs’ effectiveness.” In fact, The 74 ignores glaring defects of the first meta-analysis it links — that only 15% of the 200+ studies reviewed did a long-term follow-up, and only 16% actually checked academic outcomes. The 74 also neglects to mention a decidedly negative analysis of preschool SEL in six longitudinal education databases, which concluded, “Early math skills have the greatest predictive power, followed by reading and then attention skills. By contrast, measures of socioemotional behaviors…were generally insignificant predictors of later academic performance, even among children with relatively high levels of problem behavior.” Ironically, the preschool years have the most uniform, numerous, and longstanding SEL standards in all fifty states. Yet this study, combined with a new Brookings paper, affirms much previous research showing that SEL-laden Head Start and other government preschool programs don’t improve academic outcomes. Nor does “growth mindset” (an SEL favorite), as confirmed by another recent study. 
  • The 74 also touts a paper claiming economic benefit from SEL interventions. But the paper’s authors emphasized that the SEL interventions they analyzed “are not representative of SEL generally,” and that the protocols and methods they used are racked with “deficiencies.” If there is any real economic benefit from SEL, this study doesn’t show it.
  • Turning to student SEL assessment, The 74 does admit that deciding whether SEL is working, or whether individual students are reshaping their personalities to the government’s satisfaction, is a tricky business. Only 17% of principals “know which assessments to use for measuring how their students are doing socially and emotionally,” especially since most states don’t have clear SEL standards or grade-by-grade benchmarks. But The 74 doesn’t report that even SEL gurus admit that meaningful assessment is at best problematic. This is because, among other factors, teachers aren’t mental-health professionals capable of assessing children and because, in any event, the assessment mechanisms usually depend on unreliable inputs (such as student self-reports). 
  • Speaking further of assessment, The 74 doesn’t mention the serious problem of placing all these unreliable, amateur psychological assessments into the longitudinal data system that will follow students, potentially, throughout their lives. Might employers or colleges or government agencies be interested in accessing records about a particular individual’s psychological makeup? 
  • The 74 approvingly links SEL to schools’ implementation of “restorative justice” in place of “punitive disciplinary practices.” The news outlet seems oddly oblivious to the controversy surrounding restorative justice. Many teachers across the country are rebelling against restrictions on their ability to discipline unruly kids, and such policies can have tragic consequences if criminal offenders are allowed to remain in schools. 
  • The 74 seems to endorse “deep breathing, counting, and mindfulness” for helping students improve their relationships with teachers. There is no acknowledgment that many parents would object to a school’s leading their children through such pseudo-spiritual practices. 
  • Prominent thought leaders in the teaching profession, even SEL proponents, are questioning whether SEL can be formally taught and standardized, as well the wisdom of burdening teachers with another responsibility for which they aren’t trained. (See here and here.) 

The bottom line is that SEL is far more subjective and invasive, and far less effective, than proponents claim. Maybe The 74 should take another look.

Lots of Screen Time Linked to Symptoms of ADHD in Teens

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association should be considered in light of the increasing amounts of education tech schools have embraced.

Their findings are not surprising. Researchers noticed a link between loads of screentime and ADHD symptoms in teenagers. Any parent of a teenager, teacher, or youth worker has probably noticed this as well. I have noticed, anecdotally, a marked difference in teenagers’ attention spans with the onset of smartphones, etc. (heck I’ve noticed a marked difference in MY attention span as a result).

The Verge reports on the study (which is behind a paywall):

Today’s study monitored ADHD symptoms in a group of nearly 2,600 high school teenagers. Students who used multiple types of digital media multiple times a day were roughly twice as likely to report new symptoms of ADHD over a two-year period than their less digitally active classmates, according to the study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Studies have linked digital media like social networks to changes in mental health before; Facebook use, for instance, has been linked to drops in well-being, but it’s hard to say what the cause is. In depression studies, one possibility is that depressed people who find it difficult to socialize are substituting online interaction for real-world interaction, which means the internet isn’t causing the depression at all. In today’s study, it’s possible that the emerging symptoms of ADHD are driving kids to the instant gratification of digital media. It could also mean that the constant distractions of the internet make it harder for adolescents to learn patience, impulse control, and focus, and lacking those things are hallmarks of ADHD.

This study didn’t say if more frequent digital media usage caused the ADHD symptoms or how those symptoms affected the teens’ lives. But it does make the case that these kids were using digital media before their symptoms started. “It’s not a doomsday scenario. It shouldn’t add to the moral panic about technology,” says Jenny Radesky, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan who was not involved in the study. But it is a reason for parents to talk to their kids about their motivations for and reactions to using technology.

Read the rest of the article.

The Not So Surprising Findings in Fordham Institute’s Survey of ELA Teachers

The Fordham Institute released Reading and Writing Instruction in America’s Schools, authored by Fordham’s senior research and policy associate David Griffith and FDR Group’s Ann Duffett that looked at how Common Core’s ELA standards were being implemented in the classroom. They surveyed 1,200 ELA teachers and this survey follows-up one they released in 2013.

As a reminder, Fordham was paid by the Gates Foundation to push Common Core.

I wanted to highlight a couple of their findings, related to the “third shift” they mention in their report – “Building knowledge through content-rich curriculum.”

This is something Fordham said Common Core would accomplish, but according to their own survey it’s not happening.

Teachers are assigning less fiction.

Gee, who could not see that coming?

They write:

Between 2012 and 2017, the percentage of time that teachers reported devoting to fiction decreased (from 54 percent to 41 percent) as they moved toward some combination of literary nonfiction and informational texts—especially at the middle and high school levels. In general, the trend toward more informational texts is consistent with the third shift. However, teachers also report that they are assigning fewer “classic works of literature”—a concerning development.

I find it amusing they are concerned by this development when they should have known because they were warned it would happen.

Most teachers say content knowledge is getting slighted.

They write:

Overall, 56 percent of ELA teachers say that “not enough” attention has been paid to “building students’ general knowledge,” 46 percent say their curricular materials “do a poor job of building students’ general knowledge,” and almost one-third report that students’ general knowledge has gotten worse in recent years. These results are particularly troubling given that teachers also report moving away from fiction and toward more informational texts. What sort of information is in those texts, if they aren’t making students more knowledgeable?

Again, this is not surprising as Common Core emphasizes skills not content.

Writing instruction needs attention.

They write:

There’s a place for creative and narrative writing, but high school students in particular need to know how to construct a coherent argument based on their analysis of one or more texts. So it’s worrying that more teachers say students’ ability to “write well-developed paragraphs or essays” has worsened (36 percent) than say it has improved (27 percent) compared to a few years ago. Similarly, 46 percent say students’ ability to “use correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling” has declined in recent years, while just 14 percent say it has improved.

Again, none of this is shocking to us. We noted a weakness in the writing standards as well.

Read the survey:

Does Pre-K Hurt Academic Achievement?

Dale Farran and Mark Lipsey with Vanderbilt University are authors of a study of Tennesse’s voluntary Pre-K program. They found that academic gains achieved by students in Tennessee pre-K classrooms began to fade out by first grade and vanished by third grade.

This study was highlighted in Straight Talk on Evidence with some new third-grade findings:

At the end of third grade, the study found statistically-significant adverse effects on student math and science achievement. In math, the VPK (voluntary pre-K) group scored 0.12 standard deviations lower than the control group, which equates to roughly 13 percent less growth in math achievement than would be expected in the third grade year. In science, the VPK group scored 0.09 standard deviations lower than the control group, which equates to roughly 23 percent less growth in science achievement than would be expected in the third grade year.

The study found no significant effects on reading achievement in third grade, or on school attendance, grade retention, or disciplinary infractions measured from kindergarten through third grade. The study found that VPK students were identified as needing special education services for speech/language impairment or learning/intellectual disabilities at a slightly higher rate than control group students (13.3 percent versus 10.6 percent in the third grade year).

I found the study authors’ comment on the initial reaction to their study remarkable:

Our initial results supported the immediate effectiveness of pre-k; children in the program performed better at the end of pre-k than control children, most of whom had stayed home.  The press, the public, and our colleagues relished these findings.  But ours was a longitudinal study and the third grade results told a different story.  Not only was there fade out, but the pre-k children scored below the controls on the state achievement tests.  Moreover, they had more disciplinary offenses and none of the positive effects on retention and special education that were anticipated.

Those findings were not welcome.  So much so that it has been difficult to get the results published.  Our first attempt was reviewed by pre-k advocates who had disparaged our findings when they first came out in a working paper – we know that because their reviews repeated word-for-word criticisms made in their prior blogs and commentary….

…It is, of course, understandable that people are skeptical of results that do not confirm the prevailing wisdom, but the vitriol with which our work has been greeted is beyond mere scientific concern.  Social science research can only be helpful to policy makers if it presents findings openly and objectively, even when unwelcome.

If an echo chamber exists among educrats, this certainly points to it.