DeSantis Orders End of Common Core in Florida

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

Local news reports that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) has signed an executive order abolishing Common Core in the state.

Tampa Bay Fox Affiliate Fox13 reports:

“One of the things we would constantly hear about on the campaign trail was a lot of frustration from parents in particular with this idea of Common Core,” said Gov. DeSantis. “When you complained… I heard you. I told you I’d do something about it. And today we are acting to bring promises to reality.”

DeSantis gave the order to replace Common Core-type standards with a new system that increases the quality of curriculum, and places a higher emphasis on teaching civics.

Florida education standards will not change this year. Gov. DeSantis said he and Commissioner Corcoran will seek input from teachers and parents, then present a reform plan to the legislature, to enact in 2020.

You may remember that Florida’s academic standards were tweaked and rebranded (Next Generation Sunshine State Standards), but still closely resembled the Common Core State Standards. Time will tell if this will bring a significant change, but it is encouraging to see Governor DeSantis follow through on a campaign pledge.

Read the rest.

How Well Does Your State Protect Student Privacy?

The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy released a comprehensive report card on each state’s privacy laws. It is an amazing tool for parents, teachers, legislators, and privacy advocates.  The full press release is posted below. You will want to be sure to use the downloadable comparison matrix and share the report cards with your schools and legislators.

Why Student Privacy is Important

Thanks to the federal student  privacy law FERPA being weakened in 2011, student’s personal data can be shared outside of school walls, without parents knowledge or consent. The data can be shared and analyzed by government agencies, nonprofits, businesses, researchers, and edtech companies who can further share with third parties, (or even sell student data), or used for advertising to students.  Online “Personalized Learning”,  computer “edtech” programs that collect millions of points of data, and use hidden algorithms to profile children are not regulated by federal law and are exempted from state laws.   Recently, the FBI issued a warning about the dangers of edtech data collection. With multiple data breaches, and cyber hacks into school databases,   education performs dead last in terms of cyber security. Over the last few years, parents across the country have gone to schools, state and local boards, state legislators, and asked for transparency and more control of their children’s data.  In every state, parents have received pushback, often from the BigTech lobbyists who send representatives to weaken bills and fight privacy legislation. Silicon Valley spends millions to lobby and shape “tech favorable” privacy policies at the federal level. Google led the multimillion-dollar tech industry lobbying blitz in 2018.

Besides the millions of data points collected by edtech, astonishing amounts of student data are stored in local and state databases, often called SLDS, or P20 databases.  With the recent passage of Federal law HR4174, making data held in federal and state databases linkable, (shareable) and interoperable, it is more important than ever to minimize what student data, especially sensitive medical, mental health, disability data, goes into these databases.  FERPA is a 45 year old law that needs updating. We need a strong data privacy law that ensures opt-in consent, provides enforceable penalties,  data minimization, and private right of action to parents. This 2015 Answer Sheet  article in the Washington Post, explains the issue and need for student privacy legislation:

“During a February 2015 congressional hearing on “How Emerging Technology Affects Student Privacy,” Rep. Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin asked the panel to “provide a summary of all the information collected by the time a student reaches graduate school.” Joel Reidenberg, director of the Center on Law & Information Policy at Fordham Law School, responded:

“Just think George Orwell, and take it to the nth degree. We’re in an environment of surveillance, essentially. It will be an extraordinarily rich data set of your life.”

Most student data is gathered at school via multiple routes; either through children’s online usage or information provided by parents, teachers or other school staff. A student’s education record generally includes demographic information, including race, ethnicity, and income level; discipline records, grades and test scores, disabilities and Individual Education Plans (IEPs), mental health and medical history, counseling records and much more. [Emphasis added]

Under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), medical and counseling records that are included in your child’s education records are unprotected by HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act passed by Congress in 1996). Thus, very sensitive mental and physical health information can be shared outside of the school without parent consent.

the federal government has mandated that every state collect personal student information in the form of longitudinal databases, called Student Longitudinal Data Systems or SLDS, in which the personal information for each child is compiled and tracked from birth or preschool onwards, including medical information, survey data, and ….

Every SLDS has a data dictionary filled with hundreds of common data elements, so that students can be tracked from birth or pre-school through college and beyond, and their data more easily shared with vendors, other governmental agencies, across states, and with organizations or individuals engaged in education-related “research” or evaluation — all without parental knowledge or consent.

Every SLDS uses the same code to define the data, aligned with the federal CEDS, or Common Education Data Standards, a collaborative effort run by the US Department of Education, “to develop voluntary, common data standards for a key set of education data elements to streamline the exchange, comparison, and understanding of data within and across P-20W institutions and sectors.”… You can check out the CEDS database yourself, including data points recently added, or enter the various terms like “disability,” “homeless” or “income” in the search bar.”

The US needs to do more to protect students from identity theft, invisible digital profiling, trafficking and selling of their personal data. Children should not be subjected to compulsory surveillance, forced to forego privacy, as a condition of attending public schools.  Parents, not corporations, not the government, need to know what data is collected and should have the Right to NO when it comes to sharing or processing their children’s data.

Here is the press release from the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy and the Network for Public Education:

New Report Card Grades Each State On How Well it Protects Student Privacy

In the first of its kind, the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy and the Network for Public Education have released a report card that grades all fifty states on how well their laws protect student privacy.  

The State Student Privacy Report Card analyses 99 laws passed in 39 states plus DC between 2013 and 2018, and awards points in each of the following five categories, aligned with the core principles put forward by PCSP: Transparency; Parental and Student Rights; Limitations on Commercial Use of Data; Data Security Requirements; and Oversight, Enforcement, and Penalties for Violations.

Two more categories were added to the evaluation: Parties Covered and Regulated and Other, a catch-all for provisions that did not fit into any of the above categories, such as prohibiting school employees from receiving compensation for recommending the use of specific technology products and services in their schools.

No state earned an “A” overall, as no state sufficiently protects student privacy to the degree necessary in each of these areas. Colorado earned the highest average grade of “B.” Three states – New York, Tennessee and New Hampshire– received the second highest average grade of “B-“.  Eleven states received the lowest grades of “F” because they have no laws protecting student privacy: Alabama, Alaska, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Carolina, Vermont and Wisconsin.

The report tracks specific versions of state laws over time.  For example, many of the state privacy laws enacted since 2013 were modeled after the California’s 2014 law known as the Student Online Personal Information Protection Act (SOPIPA). While California barred all school vendors from selling student data, eight states subsequently passed laws that allowed the College Board and the ACT to do so.  Laws with specific loopholes to allow these companies to sell student data were enacted in Arizona, Colorado, District of Columbia, Nebraska, North Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia –presumably because of lobbying efforts.

The issue of data security is also critical.  The primary federal student privacy law known as FERPA requires no specific protections against data breaches and hacking, nor does it require families be notified when inadvertent disclosures occur.  In recent years, the number of data breaches from schools and vendors have skyrocketed, and some districts have even been targeted by hackers with attempted blackmail and extortion. A recent report rated the education industry last in terms of cybersecurity compared to all other major industries.  As a result, this fall the FBI put out an advisory, warning of the risks represented by the rapid growth of education tech tools and their collection of sensitive student data,  saying that this could “result in social engineering, bullying, tracking, identity theft, or other means for targeting children.”

“The inBloom debacle in 2013 exposed the longstanding culture of fast and loose student data sharing among government agencies, schools and companies,” said Rachael Stickland, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, parent of two public school children in Colorado and the primary author of the report. “Consequently, parents across the nation began urging their state legislators to address the problem, resulting in a complex web of state privacy laws that are difficult to untangle and understand. Our hope is to bring attention to state laws that make a reasonable effort to protect student privacy and identify those that need improvement. Parents and advocacy groups can use our findings to advocate for even stronger measures to protect their children.”

NPE Executive Director Carol Burris noted, “This report card provides not only critical information regarding the existing laws, but also serves a blueprint for parents to use for lobbying for better protections for their children.”

As Leonie Haimson, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, pointed out, “FERPA was passed over forty-five years ago and has been weakened by regulation over time to allow for the sharing of personal student data by schools and vendors without parent knowledge or consent.  State legislators have stepped up to the plate to try to fill in some of its many gaps and to require more transparency, security protections, enforcement, and the ability of parents and students to control their own data. Yet none of these laws are robust enough in each of these areas.  Congress must strengthen and update FERPA, but meanwhile, this report card can serve as a guide to parents and advocates as to which state laws should be strengthened and in which specific ways.”

An interactive map that shows the grades of each state, both overall and in each of the categories is posted here. The report is posted here; here is a technical appendix with a more detailed account of how each law was evaluated.   There is also a downloadable matrix with links to all of the state laws, as well as specifying how many points were awarded in every category.

Why Data Has Not Fixed the Education System

Simon Rodberg, who is the founding principal of the District of Columbia International School, wrote an insightful piece in Harvard Business Review entitled “Data Was Supposed to Fix the U.S. Education System, Here’s Why It Hasn’t.”

Some excerpts:

The cure is worse than the disease:

The big numbers are necessary, but the more they proliferate, the less value they add. Data-based answers lead to further data-based questions, testing, and analysis; and the psychology of leaders and policymakers means that the hunt for data gets in the way of actual learning. The drive for data responded to a real problem in education, but bad thinking about testing and data use has made the data cure worse than the disease.

Missing the forest through the trees.

We’ve slid from a reasonable, necessary, straightforward question — are the students learning? — to the current state of education leadership: where school leaders and policy-makers expect too much of data, over-test student learning to the detriment of learning itself, and get lost in their abundance of numbers.

What we’ve really learned from “data-driven reform.”

We wanted data to help us get past the problem of too many students learning too little, but it turns out that data is an insufficient, even misleading answer. It’s possible that all we’ve learned from our hyper-focus on data is that better instruction won’t come from more detailed information, but from changing what people do. That’s what data-driven reform is meant for, of course: convincing teachers of the need to change and focusing where they need to change.

Money quote:

Don’t try to turn teachers into data analysts; try, instead, to help them be better teachers.

Read the whole piece.

New York Sees a Spike in Regents Exam Failures Five Years After Common Core

New York State Department of Education Building in Albany, NY. Photo credit: Matt H. Wade (CC-By-SA)
New York State Department of Education Building in Albany, NY
Photo credit: Matt H. Wade (CC-By-SA 3.0)

David Rubel, an education policy consultant, released a report that showed a spike in the failure rate of New York students on their math and ELA Regents Exam. This is five years after Common Core.

In his summary he writes:

It’s now five years since the Algebra 1 (Common Core) Regents and Exam was first used in June of 2014. After five years of a transition period, schools should be in a much stronger position to teach the Common Core (now known as the Next Generation Learning Standards). However, this year’s test results show a surprising shift downward with thousands more students failing the Algebra 1 Common Core Regents Exam. At the very least, the number of failing students should stay comparable with pre-Common Core Integrated Algebra Exam. There was also a significant increase in the number of students failing the ELA Regents exam. 

With the math exam he notes:

For reasons that have yet to be determined, last year’s Regents Exam was tougher for thousands of high school students. 13,074 more students failed the Algebra 1 exam this year than in 2016-17. The scoring system did not change so other factors must be in play. Two high need risk groups, students with disabilities and English Language Learners saw more students failing. 61% of students with disabilities group and 60% of English Language Learners are now failing the Algebra 1 Regents exam. Passing a math Regents exam is a requirement for graduation.

Regarding the ELA exam he wrote:

12,456 more students failed the ELA Regents in 2017-18 than in 2016-17; and increase of 6%. For the first two years of the ELA Common Core Exam, the test scores were impressive with a stable first year (2015-16) test results and even less students failing in the second year of test administration (2016-17) than with the old Comprehensive Regents exam. However, the 2017- 18 test scores have thrown a wrench into the transition. The increase in the failing students occurred with both students with disabilities (3,955) and English Language Learners (2,699). 49% of SWD students and 64% of ELL students failed the ELA Regents this year.

I can’t say that I am surprised. NAEP scores have been stagnant and there has been a widening gap between low and high performing students. ACT math scores have declined as well.

HT: The Hechinger Report

President Trump Has One Day to Veto FEPA Before It Becomes Law

Education Secretary Betsy DeVoss and President Donald Trump at St. Andrew Catholic School in Orlando, FL

If President Donald Trump does not veto The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (FEPA) (H.R. 4174) (S 2046) by tomorrow, Saturday, January 12, it becomes law.

Jane Robbins in 2017 provided a great description of what this bill will do. FEPA, she wrote, “encourages all federal agencies to share the data they maintain on American citizens and to make that data available for ‘research’ by outside interests. All this would be done according to rules set by each agency and without the knowledge or consent of the citizens whose data would be disclosed and scrutinized.”

“In a free society, the government is subordinate to the citizen. If it wants to use his data for something he didn’t agree to, it should first obtain his consent. FEPA operates according to the contrary principle – that government is entitled to do whatever it wants with a citizen’s data and shouldn’t be hindered by his objection,” Robbins stated.

What data could that be? Robbins said to consider all of the data collected by the U.S. Department of Education on a FAFSA form for instance which you can see below:

1. Student’s Last Name:
2. Student’s First Name:
3. Student’s Middle Initial:
4. Student’s Permanent Mailing Address:
5. Student’s Permanent City:
6. Student’s Permanent State:
7. Student’s Permanent ZIP Code:
8. Student’s Social Security Number:
9. Student’s Date of Birth:
10. Student’s Telephone Number:
11. Student’s Driver’s License Number:
12. Student’s Driver’s License State:
13. Student’s E-mail Address:
14. Student’s Citizenship Status:
15. Student’s Alien Registration Number:
16. Student’s Marital Status:
17. Student’s Marital Status Date:
18. Student’s State of Legal Residence:
19. Was Student a Legal Resident Before January 1, 2012?
20. Student’s Legal Residence Date:
21. Is the Student Male or Female?
22. Register Student With Selective Service System?
23. Drug Conviction Affecting Eligibility?
24. Parent 1 Educational Level:
25. Parent 2 Educational Level:
26. High School or Equivalent Completed?
27a. Student’s High School Name:
27b. Student’s High School City:
27c. Student’s High School State:
28. First Bachelor’s Degree before 2017-2018 School Year?
29. Student’s Grade Level in College in 2017-2018:
30. Type of Degree/Certificate:
31. Interested in Work-study?
32. Student Filed 2015 Income Tax Return?
33. Student’s Type of 2015 Tax Form Used:
34. Student’s 2015 Tax Return Filing Status:
35. Student Eligible to File a 1040A or 1040EZ?
36. Student’s 2015 Adjusted Gross Income:
37. Student’s 2015 U.S. Income Tax Paid:
38. Student’s 2015 Exemptions Claimed:
39. Student’s 2015 Income Earned from Work:
40. Spouse’s 2015 Income Earned from Work:
41. Student’s Total of Cash, Savings, and Checking Accounts:
42. Student’s Net Worth of Current Investments:
43. Student’s Net Worth of Businesses/Investment Farms:
44a. Student’s Education Credits:
44b. Student’s Child Support Paid:
44c. Student’s Taxable Earnings from Need-Based Employment Programs:
44d. Student’s College Grant and Scholarship Aid Reported in AGI:
44e. Student’s Taxable Combat Pay Reported in AGI:
44f. Student’s Cooperative Education Earnings:
45a. Student’s Payments to Tax-Deferred Pensions & Retirement Savings:
45b. Student’s Deductible Payments to IRA/Keogh/Other:
45c. Student’s Child Support Received:
45d. Student’s Tax Exempt Interest Income:
45e. Student’s Untaxed Portions of IRA Distributions:
45f. Student’s Untaxed Portions of Pensions:
45g. Student’s Housing, Food, & Living Allowances:
45h. Student’s Veterans Noneducation Benefits:
45i. Student’s Other Untaxed Income or Benefits:
45j. Money Received or Paid on Student’s Behalf:
46. Student Born Before January 1, 1994?
47. Is Student Married?
48. Working on Master’s or Doctorate in 2017-2018?
49. Is Student on Active Duty in U.S. Armed Forces?
50. Is Student a Veteran?
51. Does Student Have Children He/She Supports?
52. Does Student Have Dependents Other than Children/Spouse?
53. Parents Deceased?/Student Ward of Court?/In Foster Care?
54. Is or Was Student an Emancipated Minor?
55. Is or Was Student in Legal Guardianship?
56. Is Student an Unaccompanied Homeless Youth as Determined by High School/Homeless Liaison?
57. Is Student an Unaccompanied Homeless Youth as Determined by HUD?
58. Is Student an Unaccompanied Homeless Youth as Determined by Director of Homeless Youth Center?
59. Parents’ Marital Status:
60. Parents’ Marital Status Date:
61. Parent 1 (Father’s/Mother’s/Stepparent’s) Social Security Number:
62. Parent 1 (Father’s/Mother’s/Stepparent’s) Last Name:
63. Parent 1 (Father’s/Mother’s/Stepparent’s) First Name Initial:
64. Parent 1 (Father’s/Mother’s/Stepparent’s) Date of Birth:
65. Parent 2 (Father’s/Mother’s/Stepparent’s) Social Security Number:
66. Parent 2 (Father’s/Mother’s/Stepparent’s) Last Name:
67. Parent 2 (Father’s/Mother’s/Stepparent’s) First Name Initial:
68. Parent 2 (Father’s/Mother’s/Stepparent’s) Date of Birth:
69. Parents’ E-mail Address:
70. Parents’ State of Legal Residence:
71. Were Parents Legal Residents Before January 1, 2012?
72. Parents’ Legal Residence Date:
73. Parents’ Number of Family Members in 2017-2018:
74. Parents’ Number in College in 2017-2018 (Parents Excluded):
75. Parents Received Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income?
76. Parents Received SNAP?
77. Parents Received Free/Reduced Price Lunch?
78. Parents Received TANF?
79. Parents Received WIC?
80. Parents Filed 2015 Income Tax Return?
81. Parents’ Type of 2015 Tax Form Used:
82. Parents’ 2015 Tax Return Filing Status:
83. Parents Eligible to File a 1040A or 1040EZ?
84. Is Parent a Dislocated Worker?
85. Parents’ 2015 Adjusted Gross Income:
86. Parents’ 2015 U.S. Income Tax Paid:
87. Parents’ 2015 Exemptions Claimed:
88. Parent 1 (Father’s/Mother’s/Stepparent’s) 2015 Income Earned from Work:
89. Parent 2 (Father’s/Mother’s/Stepparent’s) 2015 Income Earned from Work:
90. Parents’ Total of Cash, Savings, and Checking Accounts:
91. Parents’ Net Worth of Current Investments:
92. Parents’ Net Worth of Businesses/Investment Farms:
93a. Parents’ Education Credits:
93b. Parents’ Child Support Paid:
93c. Parents’ Taxable Earnings from Need-Based Employment Programs:
93d. Parents’ College Grant and Scholarship Aid Reported in AGI:
93e. Parents’ Taxable Combat Pay Reported in AGI:
93f. Parents’ Cooperative Education Earnings:
94a. Parents’ Payments to Tax-Deferred Pensions & Retirement Savings:
94b. Parents’ Deductible Payments to IRA/Keogh/Other:
94c. Parents’ Child Support Received:
94d. Parents’ Tax Exempt Interest Income:
94e. Parents’ Untaxed Portions of IRA Distributions:
94f. Parents’ Untaxed Portions of Pensions:
94g. Parents’ Housing, Food, & Living Allowances:
94h. Parents’ Veterans Noneducation Benefits:
94i. Parents’ Other Untaxed Income or Benefits:
95. Student’s Number of Family Members in 2017-2018:
96. Student’s Number in College in 2017-2018:
97. Student Received Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income?
98. Student Received SNAP?
99. Student Received Free/Reduced Price Lunch?
100. Student Received TANF?
101. Student Received WIC?
102. Is Student or Spouse a Dislocated Worker?
103a. First Federal School Code:
103b. First Housing Plans:
103c. Second Federal School Code:
103d. Second Housing Plans:
103e. Third Federal School Code:
103f. Third Housing Plans:
103g. Fourth Federal School Code:
103h. Fourth Housing Plans:
103i. Fifth Federal School Code:
103j. Fifth Housing Plans:
103k. Sixth Federal School Code:
103l. Sixth Housing Plans:
103m. Seventh Federal School Code:
103n. Seventh Housing Plans:
103o. Eighth Federal School Code:
103p. Eighth Housing Plans:
103q. Ninth Federal School Code:
103r. Ninth Housing Plans:
103s. Tenth Federal School Code:
103t. Tenth Housing Plans:
104. Date Completed:
105. Signed By:
106. Preparer’s Social Security Number:
107. Preparer’s Employer Identification Number (EIN):
108. Preparer’s Signature:

What could possibly go wrong with the federal government sharing that information with various agencies and private entities?

Robbins also recorded this short video for Red Kudzu as a primer in 2018.

Due to the government shutdown, the best way to get President Trump’s attention is to tweet at him – @realDonaldTrump or @POTUS. Use the hashtag #VetoFEPA.

Truth in American Education has a New Mission Statement

Since its founding Truth in American Education (TAE) has mainly focused on providing information about and addressing issues related to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), assessments of those standards, student privacy/FERPA/state longitudinal data systems, Race to the Top, and the reauthorization of ESEA/NCLB (now ESSA).  The CCSS has been the common thread in those issues.  These have been the issues of concern that brought folks in agreement to TAE.  It has been the feeling of TAE’s founding core for quite some time that we have accomplished what we set out to do—provide information and bring about awareness of the issues.  There is still a lot more to do that includes continuing to address related issues.  The TAE’s founding core feel the time has come to formally broaden our focus.

The Truth in American Education founding core group has approved a new mission statement.  This mission statement does not fundamentally change TAE.  In many ways it expands our focus while providing guidance for how and what issues are addressed.

This mission statement puts our focus on parent rights, local control, and providing students a classical liberal arts education.  TAE’s founding core is of the belief that bringing control and decision making back to the local school community and parents is best done by working and providing information at that level.

In the eyes of Truth in American Education, promoting local control involves encouraging parents, taxpayers, voters, and local communities to stand strong in efforts to regain, retain, and exercise rights to make decisions for themselves.  This precludes undue influence by corporations, foundations, private groups, non-elected groups and individuals, and special interest groups.  Legislative mandated local control with established qualifiers or requiring federal approval of such a plan is not acceptable.

Here is the new mission statement:

About Truth in American Education

Truth in American Education is a national non-partisan grass roots advocacy organization composed of parents and citizens.

Truth in American Education Mission Statement

Truth in American Education’s mission is to address education issues related to: parental rights, local control of schools, and classical liberal arts education.

In pursuit of our mission, Truth in American Education members will research, share information, network, provide mutual support, and actively work towards:

  • Identifying and/or providing resources to support parents in their efforts to protect their rights with regard to directing the education of their children; and
  • Bringing public school control and decision making back to the level of the local school community of parents, with minimal state interference and without federal influence, financial coercion, or regulation; and
  • Promoting a classical liberal arts education to transmit knowledge, culture, and traditions in order that the next generation may develop the wisdom and virtue necessary to be self-governing citizens in a republican government.

Truth in American Education defines parents’ rights as the right and responsibility to make determinations regarding their child’s upbringing and education, including decisions about: academic training, transfer of religious and moral values, and the child’s physical health and mental wellbeing.

We believe regaining local control will require parents, taxpayers, voters, and local officials to stand strong in demanding this constitutionally protected right. We reject the undue influence of corporations, foundations, public/private partnerships, private financial investors, and special interest groups in our public education system. 

We believe the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights, as well as U.S. Supreme Court opinions, support and affirm the mission of Truth in American Education.

Access ​​to Devices at School Increases, But Do Parents Have a Veto?

Photo Credit: Lexie Flickinger (CC-By-2.0)

A survey of school district technology leaders conducted by the Consortium for School Networking showed school district connectivity and student access to devices have increased.

They note that confidence in a school district’s wi-fi network has increased:

Districts’ confidence in their wireless networks to support one device (or more)per student is increasing. A large majority (69%) of respondents report they are “very confident” in their network’s ability to support one or more devices per student as compared to the prior year’s 58%. 

They also note broadband access has increased:

Ninety-two percent (92%) of districts are meeting the FCC short-term goal of 100 Mbps per 1,000 students for all their schools. Even more impressive, this year over a third (35%) of districts achieved the FCC long-term goal (1 Gbps per 1,000 students) for all schools – up nearly 100% from last year. 

Student access to devices has increased. Almost one-half of respondents say that their students have access to at least one device. While almost a quarter of respondents say their students have access to two devices and that number is expected to jump to 38 percent in three years.

The survey also noted two primary concerns.

The first was the “homework gap” that education tech can bring. Fewer than 10 percent of schools reported that every student had access to non-shared devices at home. This makes it difficult for students to complete homework online.

The second concern was about cybersecurity. “The majority of districts (52%) say breach detection is their highest cybersecurity service concern. Despite concerns about a myriad of network security threats, only 12% of districts have a dedicated network security person to manage the challenges,” the report reads.

With cybersecurity concerns come student data privacy concerns and schools have failed in that regard. The education sector stinks at cybersecurity. Online school data is not safe even student health data. The ed tech companies that schools partner with are busy collecting data.

So data privacy concerns are just a given.

The absence of concern about students’ screen time I found to be striking.

Schools and educrats are so invested in whether or not they can provide the connectivity needed for the growing market of education tech that they are not asking whether they should.

Have they wrestled with what expanded screen time is doing to kids? It’s not like there has not been any research as Lisa Hudson noted back in 2016:

It’s actually fairly easy to locate studies that report excessive media use can lead to increased reports of mental health issues (children twice as likely to report mental ill-health), decreased sensitivity to emotional cuesschool difficulties (heavy media users report lower grades), eating disorders (strong correlation between  increased use of internet and discontentment with weight, and body shame), sleep difficulties (greater risk of sleep disturbances, stress), structural and functional changes in brain regions, and obesity (obesity associated with frequent television/video use).  What is surprisingly limited are studies or research concluding that excessive exposure to digital media is beneficial for kids.

According to a Pew Research study, 92% of teens reported going online daily and 24% of those reported being online “constantly.”  Today’s children are spending an average of seven hours a day on entertainment media, including televisions, computers, phones and other electronic devices.  This number doesn’t include the amount of exposure kids are getting at school, especially with the current tech-to-the-rescue mindset of education reformers, none of which has been shown to be beneficial to student performance.  In fact, more and more research seems to conclude all the tech exposure in school isn’t helping to improve educational outcomes, anyway.  For example, using laptops to take notes resulted in shallower processing.  And in another study, students who used digital devices performed worse in class.

In fact, just last month, 60 Minutes reported on a National Institutes of Health study on the impact of screen time on adolescents’ brains. They noted the premature thinning of the cortex in the MRIs of some kids who use smartphones, tablets, and video games more than seven hours a day. Our cortex is the part of our brain that processes information from our five senses. They are not drawing any conclusions about what this might mean.

They also noted kids who spend more than two hours a day on screens got lower scores on thinking and language tests.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise as lots of screen time has been linked to symptoms of ADHD in teens.

Yes, I understand that some parents, as noted in the study first mentioned, demand devices for their students.

Students often get too much screen time outside of school. Since that is the case why would schools want to add to that? Also, what about the parents who are actively trying to limit the amount of time their child is front of a screen? Are schools listening to those parents? Or are they forging ahead?

As we dive deeper into education tech in schools are those schools giving parents who are concerned about the negative consequences of too much screen time the ability to opt their student out?

Do they get a veto when the school wants to thrust a device in front of their child?

Denis Ahern (1950-2019)

I am sorry to have to inform our readers that Denis Ahern (he went by the pen name Denis Ian when writing here), a regular contributor at Truth in American Education, has passed away. His friend and co-author for many of his articles, Michelle Moore, said he was found yesterday morning in his favorite spot, his writing desk. He was 68-years-old and is survived by his wife Megan, three sons (Dennis, Ian, and Brendan) and six grandchildren.

Denis was raised in New Rochelle, NY and Graduated from Iona Prep and received his Bachelor and Masters degree’s from Iona College. He was a  Social Studies teacher for many years at Mamaroneck High School retiring in 2006. In retirement, he devoted himself to educational advocacy that included writing at TAE.  

Denis brought a unique writing voice to TAE. I only knew him through our emails and his writing, but through that I could see his passion for students and was heartbroken over the kind of education they were receiving.

He once wrote, “There is no virtue in making children so brave that they might withstand the idiocy of adults.”

I could not agree more.

Denis and I emailed each other Saturday night over his last piece that we published yesterday. He wrote, “Not sure if you’d be interested in this piece … because you’re probably sick of me.”

I never was, and wrote back, “No actually I love it when you share articles with me.” And I did. He brought a perspective, experience, and voice to TAE that was very different than my own and I was happy to share that here.

Denis will be missed.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced, but I will update this piece when I learn more.

Update: Michelle emailed the funeral arrangements.

Denis’ wake will be this Thursday from 5pm-9pm at the Craft Funeral Home (40 Leicester St, Port Chester, NY 10573). His funeral will be this Friday at 10 am at Church of the Resurrection (910 Boston Post Road, Rye, NY 10580).

The Teacher Union’s War on Parents

Lily Eskelsen García, President of the National Education Association

Is there a suicide prevention hot-line for teacher unions? 

There oughta be.

A half-century ago, teachers unions had a place in the American public. Now they have forgotten their place … going from protectors … to enablers of greed and malfeasance.

Half of America now sees teacher unions in a negative light. And the unions won’t stop poisoning that well of public opinion. Their promise of more aggressive activism has energized lots of resistance … even among teachers themselves.

It’s a bizarre sort of kamikaze mission.

Like many issues today, public education is as edgy as it gets. Old guard unionists are now squeezed between radical activists and an exploding phalanx of fed-up parents and disillusioned teachers. 

Teacher unions have always gotten their juice from the moms and dads they serve. They earned that favor with “their vision for improving public education: More arts classes and fewer standardized tests, more equitable funding and fewer school closures.” That was a winning strategy. 

Then they threw it all away.

Today, too many Americans “see teachers’ unions as a negative influence on public schools.” What the hell happened? Where did all that good will go?

It’s hard to know where to begin.

They became political big-shots. They sold out to suspect reformers and protected seedy characters. They paid less and less attention to the classroom teachers … those important everyday professionals. Instead, they fell in with social justice hellions … answering to radical factions rather than to the parents who owned the schools … and paid the bills.

And they deserted children, too.

Unions listened more intently to social justice demagogues than to educational professionals whose expertise … and dedication … made American public education the great social equalizer. They swore off measured reforms and reprioritized the ambitions and intentions of public education. 

And they didn’t bother to ask parents … 

The moms and dads who had values and attitudes they didn’t want disturbed. Morals and behaviors they valued as indispensable. 

Lots of bad genies got out of the bottle. 

They kissed off important support groups and embraced controversy … advocating for itchy issues like LGBTQ curriculum inclusion, sanctuary campuses, and Black Lives Matter influence in schools.

They backed Dreamers, the transgender ideology, and graphic sex education programs that have gagged … and enraged … parents across the country.

They became mighty bullies.

Righteous sorts. 

Militant ideologues whose dogma became more important than their classroom pedagogy … or any child.

And then Goliath got thumped.

Parent-teacher Rebecca Friedrichs sued her union … the California Teachers Association … when she “witnessed union forces bully and intimidate teachers, parents, and children, and work overtime to create a culture of fear.”

Her lawsuit set the stage for the most important court ruling of the last fifty years … and  her best-seller … Standing Up to Goliath … crystalized the national disenchantment with the new radicalism of teacher unions.

A subsequent Supreme Court decision struck down forced union membership. Teachers were no longer required to join any unions … or pay any dues … as a condition of employment.

And the suicidal strangeness of the teacher unions got scarier.

Both national unions … the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association …  reaffirmed their commitment to radical activism. Defiant teachers insist that such activism is part of the job description they seemed to have designed for themselves.

Still forgetting who owns the schools.

They’ve stated publicly that … despite sagging memberships … they intend to double-down on their activist agenda because they know what public education should become … and parental opinions aren’t very necessary at all. 

It’s a decision doomed to turn teacher unions into loathsome agitators.

Angered parents and neglected teachers are coalescing into a formidable opposition … willing to bump chests with those who’ve turned schools into cultural petri dishes.

They’ve had enough … 

because they’ve had too much.

They want their children’s education to be free of bias and indoctrination. They want balance back in the classroom … and they want real-deal teachers … not social zealots.

The great union movement that did so much to improve the lot of teachers … and students … and America … has skidded into unprofessional darkness.

And they have only themselves to blame.