NH Families for Education is Seeking Legal Statements -- Upholding Parental Right to Refuse Objectionable Assessments

Parents are being told by school administrators that their written requests to Refuse or Opt-Out their child from the Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced assessments are not valid. This is false. It's deliberate intimidation of parents and it must be stopped!

NH Families for Education is looking for a few good attorneys to write statements, upholding the well established right of parents to direct the education of their children, including the refusal of a school administered assessment. Parents have refused to allow their children to take assessments for years in New Hampshire.

This is a well established tradition, one that the NH Department of Education has documented and tracked. "Parent Refusals" can be verified on the NH Department of Education's own website:

 

NH Families for Education would like to help stop these efforts to isolate and intimidate good parents, acting in the best interests of their children. As such, NHFFE is looking for legal statements that can be shared with parents in their fight to protect their children.

FEDERALIZING EDUCATION BY WAIVER ? by Derek W. Black

The "Conclusion" of a  51 page paper -- "Arne Duncan's NCLB Waiver ILLEGAL" by Derek W. Black, which is attached at the bottom of the article:

     With no more power than the authority to waive noncompliance with NCLB, Secretary Arne Duncan achieved a goal that educational equality advocates had long sought, but never secured: the federalization of public education.  His path to the "holy grail" of education, however, was fundamentally flawed.  He only reached it by imposing waiver conditions that were neither explicitly nor implilcitly authorized by the text of NCLB. Thus, he exceeded  his statutory authority and violated the Constitution's clear notice requirements regarding conditions on federal funds.

     States only acceded to these new and unforeseeable terms because their impending non-compliance with NCLB put so much at stake financially, practically, and politically.  By the time Secretary Duncan announced the conditions, states were out of options and left in a position where the Secretary could compel them to accept terms that, under most any other circumstances, they would reject. The administration took the states' vulnerability as an opportunity to unilaterally impose policy that had already failed in Congress. In doing so, the administration unconstitutionally coerced states.

     An explict grant of conditional waiver power could have cured some of these problems, but not all. To have justified conditions as broad as Secretary Duncan's, the statute would have had to either explicitly authorized the types of conditions Secretary Duncan imposed or explicitly grant him an open-ended authority to condition waivers. The former is implausible because Congress does not possess perfect foresight. The latter is unconstitutional because it would not have been constrained by an intelligible principle. It also would have granted the Secretary a power broader than any other previously approved by the Court.

     The import of this analysis reaches far beyond education. An agency power to remake the law through statutory waivers may be a useful and efficient mechanism for adapting laws to changing circumstances and needs. Congress can, and likely will, explicitly extend this authority to some agencies in the future. But as the experience of NCLB's conditional waivers demonstrates, conditional waiver power, if not carefully circumscribed, is fraught with practical and constitutional dangers. It has the potential to give agencies a power that exceeds that of legislation under which the agency is acting. The executive can unilaterally achieve ends that neither it, nor Congress could have achieved through negotiated legislation, including bringing states futher under the regulation of agencies than the organic statute the agency is waiving. In these respeccts, conditional wiaver authority can threaten the balance of powers Constitution secrues between states and the federal government, and between Congress and the executive. Thus, it is no surprise that the NCLB waiver process helped spark a series of bitter legal fights at all branches of local, state, and federal government, with Congress suing state legislature and vice versa over the Common Core Curriculum, and teachers and students suing states over changes to teacher evaluation and retention rights. Next in line is a direct challenge to the Secretary of Education's authoirty to impose and enforce the conditions it exacted in exchange for an NCLB waiver. This Article provides important guideposts for resolving that dispute.

 

 



GOP House Leadership Opposes Homeschooling Bill, HB 1571


Rep. Shawn Jasper testified yesterday, January 25, 2012 AGAINST House Bill 1571 "on behalf of the House Republican Majority office," i.e., Rep. DJ Bettencourt.  Oddly enough the GOP leadership was the ONLY opposition to the bill at the public hearing before the House Education Committee.

In his testimony Rep. Jasper defended his opposition to changing the home education law by saying parents could not be relied on to properly assess their children.

Rep. Jasper does not trust parents.

He claims that because homeschool parents were not certified teachers it was legitimate to require that they still assess their children every year and send those assessments to someone else for oversight. He said that it is the state’s responsibility to protect children and to give them the “best education we can.”

This is clearly discriminatory since non-certified teachers in non-public schools have no such requirement to assess their students annually -- let alone send those assessments to the state for oversight.

When parents told Rep. Jasper that they were disappointed with his testimony, he said that homeschool parents should have to “prove they are doing a good job.”

So much for the presumption of innocence:  that individuals are innocent until proven guilty. 

Parents were shocked that the majority office of the House opposed this common sense bill that recognized the right of parents to direct their child’s education.

However, when checking with the majority office, it was discovered that the majority office had absolutely NO OPPOSITION to the homeschooling bill.  Rep. Jasper had just fabricated that very tall tale -- all by himself.


Please contact Rep. Jasper (shawn.jasper@leg.state.nh.us) and Bettencourt (betts24@gmail.com) and tell them to support this homeschooling bill.  Even lobbyists didn't testify against HB 1571!   2012 is an election year and homeschoolers may recall that their homeschooling legislation did better under Democrats rule of the House in 2010 than under Republicans in 2012.  In 2010 Rep. Ingbretson's homeschooling homeschooling bill fell 16 votes short of passage out of the House.

The current bill, HB 1571 eliminates the requirement to submit annual homeschooling evaluations, eliminates probation and eliminates termination of homeschooling programs in NH.  Additionally, it protects homeschoolers from privacy violations as federal regulations now allow for the distribution of student data without parental permission, even to foreign countries.

Parents would still be required to have their children evaluated annually, but those evaluations would stay with the parents.  These assessments "Shall not be used as a basis for termination of a home education program" and they "Provides a basis for a constructive relationship between the parent and the evaluator, both working together in the best interest of the child."



Text of HB 1571:  <http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2012/HB1571.html>

Detailed analysis:
Given the that No Child Left Behind and other federal programs intrusively collect private student data and then allow the distribution of this information without parental permission, it’s reasonable to protect these private records, allowing parents to maintain these records and evaluations at home.
 
New rules were announced last month by the Obama Administration and its Department of Education regarding the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).  Students’ data is now more accessible. These new rules allow, without consent by parents, the government and even private companies to share students’ information.  The government can even share this information with foreign countries.
 
So the need for privacy is a very real concern.
 
However, many parents currently work with public schools to have their home schooled children evaluated.  So frequently both parties know the test results.
 
These test results should only a talking point.  Our objective should be how can the district constructively help the child, if or when it is needed.  Not how can the child be placed on probation or can someone terminate his program.  No public school program is ever terminated over poor test results.  So change is equitable.
 
Home schooled child’s records should not be maintained by public schools and disclosed under federal mandate.
 
Consider other home schooling statutes: 40 states have no procedure to terminate home schooling programs based upon test results.
 
Only 15 states require testing.  9 states require a review of the portfolio; one state (MN) requires a portfolio review but doesn’t require the submission of the evaluation.
 
Only 10 states have provisions to terminate a home schooling program.  Probation is found in only 4 states ranging from 1 to 2 years.
 
NH has the highest bar for standardized testing in the nation:  over 40th percentile. The range is 13th to 40th percentile or the top 2/3 to 3/4 stanine.
 
WV has essentially unlimited probation in that if the student is under the 50th percentile (which seemingly is the highest requirement), yet all that is needed is a demonstration of year-to-year incremental progress.  A student can go from the 6th percentile to the 7th percentile in a year and that’s sufficient incremental progress.  Thus, WV never terminates.

 

States

Evaluation

Probation

Termination

CO

13th percentile

 

yes

FL

 

1 yr. probation

yes

HA

top 2/3 stanine (grades 3 & up only)

 

yes

NH

40th percentile

1 yr. probation

yes

NY

33rd percentile

2 yr. probation

yes

OH

25th percentile

 

yes

OR

15th percentile

 

yes

PA

 

 

yes

VT

 

 

yes

VA

top 3/4 stanine

1 yr. probation

ye


 
There are currently over 5,400 registered home schoolers in NH. That's is roughly 3% of the school age population.  Yet many home schoolers in NH are underground, up to half the home schooling community is underground.  Estimates are that nearly 5% of the school age population is currently being home schooled.
 
Home schooling is a nationwide grassroots movement in response to the lack of recognition for parental rights in public schools.
 
Over the last ten years enrollment in NH pubic and private schools have fallen by 8% due to demographic changes.  At the same time NH home schooling enrollment has gone up by 33%, which does not even include the underground. [Information taken from the NH DoE website: http://www.education.nh.gov/data/attendance.htm]

 

March 2015

Vol. 5, Issue 3

House Bill 603 - Recognizing the RIGHT of Parents to OPT OUT their Child from SMARTER BALANCED Assessments, Questionnaires, or Surveys

There's a public hearing on House Bill 603 on FRIDAY, February 20th at 9:30 am in the House Education Committee in Room 207 of the Legislative Office Building in Concord.

 

Parents have the right to direct the education of their child.  

 

Rep. JR Hoell (R-Dunbarton) has submitted legislation to protect the right of parents to Opt Out of statewide assessments, questionnaires or surveys.

The Commissioner of Education is breathing down the necks of superintendents to get 95% participation rates or higher on the Smarter Balanced assessment this Spring.  Parents are being bullied when trying to inform their districts that their child is not participating. The Commissioner claims that her policies supersede the RIGHT of parents to Opt Out of these assessments. So there is a very real battle going on right now between maximizing federal $$$ and the welfare of our children.

Districts have been told to force children to take these Smarter Balanced assessments even when parents notify districts in writing that they do not want their child participating.  There is a 12 week window during which these assessments will be given, or during which make-up exams can be taken.  Parents will have a tough time getting districts to respect their rights in this hostile climate. 

Parents need to support Rep. Hoell's bill to clarify that a parent's rights trump the Commissioner's policies.

Please SUPPORT House Bill 603.

 

HOUSE BILL 603

AN ACT relative to student exemptions from assessments, questionnaires, or surveys.

SPONSORS: Rep. Hoell, Merr 23; Rep. Itse, Rock 10; Rep. Abramson, Rock 20

COMMITTEE: Education

ANALYSIS

This bill requires school districts to adopt a policy allowing a student to be exempted without penalty from any assessment, questionnaire, or survey based on a parent’s or legal guardian’s determination that the assessment, questionnaire, or survey is objectionable.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE

In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Fifteen

AN ACT relative to student exemptions from assessments, questionnaires, or surveys.

Be it Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened:

1 New Paragraph; Access to Governmental Records and Meetings; Exemptions. Amend RSA 91-A:5 by inserting after paragraph IX the following new paragraph:

X. Documentation of requests made by a parent or legal guardian for student exemption from assessments, questionnaires, or surveys as provided in RSA 186:11, IX-d or from objectionable course material as provided in RSA 186:11, IX-c.

2 New Paragraph; State Board of Education; Duties. Amend RSA 186:11 by inserting after paragraph IX-c the following new paragraph:

IX-d. Require school districts to develop and adopt a policy allowing a student to be exempted without penalty from the statewide assessment required pursuant to RSA 193-C and exempted without penalty from any questionnaire or survey, based on a parent’s or legal guardian’s determination that the assessment, questionnaire, or survey is objectionable. The policy shall include a provision requiring the parent or legal guardian to notify the school principal or designee in writing of the assessment, questionnaire, or survey to which they object and a provision requiring the school district, if requested by a parent or legal guardian, to provide an alternative activity for the time period during which the assessment, questionnaire, or survey will be given which may include a delayed arrival, study hall, or library period for the student. The alternative activity shall be agreed upon by the school district and the parent or legal guardian. There shall be no penalty to a student when a parent or legal guardian objects to an assessment, questionnaire, or survey. The name of the parent or legal guardian and any specific reason disclosed to school officials for the objection to the assessment, questionnaire, or survey shall not be public information and shall be excluded from disclosure under RSA 91-A.

3 Statewide Education Improvement and Assessment; Assessment Required. Amend RSA 193-C:6 to read as follows:

193-C:6 Assessment Required. Each year, a statewide assessment shall be administered in all school districts in the state in grades 3 through 8 and one grade in high school. All public school students in the designated grades shall participate in the assessment, unless such student is exempted pursuant to school district policy established under RSA 186:11, IX-d, or provided that the commissioner of the department of education may, through an agreement with another state when such state and New Hampshire are parties to an interstate agreement, allow [pupils] students to participate in that state’s assessment program as an alternative to the assessment required under this chapter. Home educated students may contact their local school districts if they wish to participate in the statewide assessment. Private schools may contact the department of education to participate in the statewide assessment. A school district shall not penalize any student for being exempted from the statewide assessment, nor shall the department of education or the state board of education penalize any school district for a lower participation rate.

 

Please attend the public hearing on Thursday, February, 20th at 9:30 am. It is important for the commitee members to see parents who oppose this amendment.

Legislative Office Building 33 North State Street Concord, NH 03301

Free parking on side streets to the west of the LOB. Closer in is 2 to 3 hour parking zones. Two to three blocks away there's unlimited free parking.

 

If you can't attend, please contact House Education Members with the reasons why you SUPPORT House Bill 603. 

Protect LOCAL CONTROL of our schools.

Email the entire House Education Committee members with this single email address:

HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us

Or contact House Education Members individually with your support for this bill:

House Education Committee Members: Email Committee Members
Chairman: Rick Ladd(r) Bills Currently in Committee
V. Chairman: John Balcom(r) Bills Originally Referred to Committee
Clerk: Barbara Shaw(d) Mailing list of Committee Members
 
 
 
Ralph Boehm (r) Glenn Cordelli (r) James Grenier (r)
Robert Elliott (r) Christopher Adams (r) Allen Cook (r)
Josh Moore (r) Jason Osborne (r) Victoria Sullivan (r)
Terry Wolf (r) Mary Gile (d) Mary Gorman (d)
June Frazer (d) Andrew Schmidt (d) Mel Myler (d)
Deanna Rollo (d) Mary Heath (d) James Verschueren (d)

HB 301 - OPTING OUT of Statewide Data Bases is Parental RIGHT

HB 301 would allow a parent to OPT OUT their child from the Statewide Longitudinal Data System maintained by the department of education. 

It's simple.  Parents have the right to direct the education of their children.  OPTING OUT to protect their child's privacy rights is only reasonable.

State law explains quite clearly the duty of a parent in terms of compulsory attendance.

RSA 193:1 the Duty of Parent; Compulsory Attendance by Pupil.
    I. A parent of any child at least 6 years of age and under 18 years of age shall cause such child to attend the public school to which the child is assigned in the child's resident district. Such child shall attend full time when such school is in session...

No where in state law does it mandate that a parent must allow their child's private information to be stored for an indefinite period of time on a statewide database that will be shared with the federal government. 

This is an electronic dossier on each and every student with over 400 data points of information which ranges from academic gradess to discipline, vaccines and medical records, the family's political affiliation and financial status, etc.

For any legislator to refuse to acknowledge the right of parents to protect their child's privacy is obhorrent.  For any agency official to complain that it's too much work to count attendance without all this unrelated information being tracked and stored is just nonsense.

Parental rights do not disappear when it's "inconvenient" for  State officials.

Protect PARENTAL RIGHTS.

Email the entire House Education Committee members with this single email address:

HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us

Or contact House Education Members individually with your support for this bill:

House Education Committee Members: Email Committee Members
Chairman: Rick Ladd(r)  
V. Chairman: John Balcom(r)  
Clerk: Barbara Shaw(d) Mailing list of Committee Members
 
 
 
Ralph Boehm (r) Glenn Cordelli (r) James Grenier (r)
Robert Elliott (r) Christopher Adams (r) Allen Cook (r)
Josh Moore (r) Jason Osborne (r) Victoria Sullivan (r)
Terry Wolf (r) Mary Gile (d) Mary Gorman (d)
June Frazer (d) Andrew Schmidt (d) Mel Myler (d)
Deanna Rollo (d) Mary Heath (d) James Verschueren (d)

URGENT ACTION NEEDED: Please EMAIL Legislators on FOUR BILLS to Protect LOCAL CONTROL

On TUESDAY, February 10th the House Education Committee will vote on a very important bill for parents:

House Bill 301 which allows parents to OPT OUT their child from the Statewide Longitudinal Data System, protecting student privacy. 

Every state received federal grant money to create an identical statewide databases with over 400 data points per student.  Using this database schools now track student everything from discipline problems, a family's religious back ground and political affiliation, vaccination and medical records, and other very private information.

All this information is shared with the federal government to create a federal database on all our children. This information will follow the child from pre-school to the workforce.

Parents have the right to direct the educaiton of their children.  This includes OPTING OUT their child from a database that might compromise their child's privacy.

For more information on HB 301 click here.

PLEASE email House Education Committee as soon as possiblt to support House Bill 301 to protect your family's privacy.

You can contact members with this single email address:

HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us

Or contact House Education Members individually with your support for this bill:

House Education Committee Members:  
Chairman: Rick Ladd(r)  
V. Chairman: John Balcom(r)  
Clerk: Barbara Shaw(d)  
 
 
Ralph Boehm (r) Glenn Cordelli (r) James Grenier (r)
Robert Elliott (r) Christopher Adams (r) Allen Cook (r)
Josh Moore (r) Jason Osborne (r) Victoria Sullivan (r)
Terry Wolf (r) Mary Gile (d) Mary Gorman (d)
June Frazer (d) Andrew Schmidt (d) Mel Myler (d)
Deanna Rollo (d) Mary Heath (d) James Verschueren (d)

 

On Thursday, February 12th the State Senate votes on three important bills that would protect local control of your school. 

Parents need to tell their senators to support these three bills.


Senate Bill 81 removes the direct authority of the state Board of Education over public schools, protecting local control.

Schools are best governed by the communities they serve. This bill:

·  Directs the Board of Education to focus on governing the state Department of Education, allowing public schools more flexibility.

·  Restricts the Board of Education to adopting rules “necessary for the proper interpretation of laws enacted by the General Court,” not to micro-managing each and every school.

· Restores the balance between state Board of Education and local districts with duly elected representatives closest to citizens.

For more information on SB 81 click here.


Senate Bill 82 removes the direct authority of the state Commissioner of the Department of Education over public schools, protecting local contro.

Schools are best governed by the communities they serve.

Common Core was implemented in every school district without the knowledge or consent of parents, taxpayers or even elected school board members using non-transparent and unaccountable protocols.

This bill protects transparency and accountability to parents, taxpayers and elected school board members.

This bill prevents the commissioner from managing district administrators behind the backs of parents, teachers and students.

For more information on SB 82 click here.


SB 101 prohibits the State from requiring Districts to implement Common Core standards.          

This bill clarifies that Districts are not required to adopt Common Core.


This bill protects local control of education by clarifying that adoption of Common Core standards is at the discretion of local districts, and not mandated by the state.

Common Core standards employ controversial metrics for measuring educational “competencies.”

The sponsor’s amendment is consistent with legislative intent of previous education bills to keep "competency-based education" away from 'state approval standards' (SB 192 in 2011 and SB 82 in 2013).

This amendment restores academics as focus of public education, not student “dispositions,” by defining “competencies” in terms of academic mastery only, not values, attitudes or beliefs under Common Core aligned “competency-based education.”

For more information on SB 101 click here.

PLEASE contact these Senators, telling them to SUPPORT Senate Bills 81, Senate Bill 82 & Senate Bill 101:

Tell the Senate  that these three bills protect LOCAL CONTROL and provide parents with a voice in their children's education.

Jeff Woodburn (d)
(603)271-3207
Jeff.Woodburn@leg.state.nh.us

Jeanie Forrester (r)
(603)271-4980
jeanie.forrester@leg.state.nh.us

Jeb Bradley (r)
(603)271-2106
jeb.bradley@leg.state.nh.us

David Watters (d)
(603)271-8631
david.watters@leg.state.nh.us

David Pierce (d)
(603)271-3067
david.pierce@leg.state.nh.us

Sam Cataldo (r)
(603)271-4063
sam.cataldo@leg.state.nh.us

Andrew Hosmer (d)
(603)271-8631
andrew.hosmer@leg.state.nh.us

Gerald Little (r)
(603)271-4151
Jerry.Little@leg.state.nh.us

Andy Sanborn (r)
(603)271-2609
andy.sanborn@leg.state.nh.us

Molly Kelly (d)
(603)271-3207
molly.kelly@leg.state.nh.us

Gary Daniels (r)
(603)271-2609
Gary.Daniels@leg.state.nh.us

Kevin Avard (r)
(603)271-4151
Kevin.Avard@.leg.state.nh.us

Bette Lasky (d)
(603)271-3091
bette.lasky@leg.state.nh.us

Sharon Carson (r)
(603)271-1403
sharon.carson@leg.state.nh.us

Dan Feltes (d)
(603)271-3067
Dan.Feltes@leg.state.nh.us

David Boutin (r)
(603)271-3092
dboutin1465@comcast.net

John Reagan (r)
(603)271-4063
john.reagan111@gmail.com

Donna Soucy (d)
(603)271-3207
donna.soucy@leg.state.nh.us

Regina Birdsell (r)
(603)271-4151
Regina.Birdsell@.leg.state.nh.us

Lou D'Allesandro (d)
(603)271-2117
dalas@leg.state.nh.us

Martha Fuller Clark (d)
(603)271-3076
martha.fullerclark@leg.state.nh.us

Chuck Morse (r)
(603)271-8472
chuck.morse@leg.state.nh.us

Russell Prescott (r)
(603)271-3074
represcott@represcott.com

Nancy Stiles (r)
(603)271-3093
nancy.stiles@leg.state.nh.us

 

 

     
     
     
     
     

Anita Hoge: Smarter Balanced Assessments, Psychometric Assessments of Students

Educational researcher Anita Hoge presents information on psychometric assessments, such as the Common Core - Aligned Smarter Balanced Assessments. What are the longterm effects upon representative government from these federal education reforms?

Listen to her presentation starting at 0:30 minutes.

     Anita Hoge presenation

Back in the 1990's her son was given a assessment, the Pennsylvannia EQA assessment, which was a precursor or the Common Core-aligned assessments. 


Here’s a sample question:

If you saw a little old lady standing on the side of the road, what would you?

    (a) push her in the street
    (b)  throw rocks at her

These assessments focus on the Affective Domain: measuring student values, attitudes and beliefs, not Academics

How do you measure interpersonal skills and proficiencies: responsibility, self esteem, sociability, self management, integrity and honesty?  Who scores these assessments?

How is the State going to remediate a child who doesn't score high enough?  Remediation of his values, attitudes and beliefs. 

What happens when a parent and the state disagrees on this mental health agenda? 

This is operant conditioning via B. F. Skinner.  The goal is functional literacy with the politically correct mental health re-education.

Common Core aligned assessments provide information to create psychometric dossiers for each and every student.  Proposals for future national assessments include biometric assessments.

Anita Hoge discusses State Longitudinal Databases, which eventually will be birth to workplace tracking and contains over 400 data points per student.

Career Pathways were laid out by the Secretary of Labor in a 1992 report: 

LEARNING A LIVING: A BLUEPRINT FOR HIGH PERFORMANCE; A SCANS REPORT FOR AMERICA 2000

Common Core is an individual mandate to students to meet federal outcomes. Common Core transfers power from local district controlling the curriculum to the federal government.

Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) was changed to "unlock the data" and eliminate student privacy, including biometrics. 

Is a child frustrated while doing an assessment?  This will be scored and noted on student record.

All this information can now be shared with any school contractor without parental consent

Students have become "workforce capital."  Assessments will measure what each student's worth is to the national or global economy.

In the NCLB Waiver, the Title I threshold was lowered so each and every child now has to meet the Common Core mandates.


Why are parents allowing the state to track students from birth to workforce?

Example of evaluating student values are embedded in reading exercises:

The Dove (free spirit) and the Ant (industrious) story

Who are the two characters in the story?

Who would you rather be?

Other examples measure student stress levels, willingness to participate in groups, etc.

Programs used to remediate or re-educate a child:

          RTI - Response to Intervention

          PBIS - Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports

PPRA - Protection of Pupils Rights Amendment protects against behavioral and psychometric assessments on your child.

A Mental Health Professional’s Perspective on the Common Core

Dr. Gary Thompson
Director of Clinical Training & Community Advocacy Services
Early Life Child Psychology & Education Center, Inc.
www.earlylifepsych.com

 

 


 

 

I am writing this note on behalf of your joint request to address issues surrounding the Common Core State Standards Act (CCSS) that is currently in the process of being implemented in the vast majority of our public school systems in the country.

By way of background, I’m an African American Doctor of Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.) currently serving as Director of Clinical Training & Community Advocacy at a private child psychology clinic in South Jordan, Utah. I completed undergraduate education at both the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, and Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. In addition to my personal experiences involving my four children in public schools, I have completed multiple thousands of hours in training/therapy/assessment/legal advocacy work with children in both the private and public school settings in multiple western states. I am also the author of a award winning doctoral project/dissertation which tackled the ago old problem of why many African American school aged children underperform in public schools titled, “Cracking the Da Vince Code of Cognitive Assessment of African American School Aged Children: A Guide for Parents, Clinicians & Educators” (Thompson, G. 2008).

As a “local clinical community scientist”, I have an ethical obligation to our community at large to provide unbiased opinions regarding issues that affect the education experiences of school-aged children and their respective guardians. The “Common Core States Standards Act” (CCSS) falls uniquely into this category. I have devoted many hours reading commentaries and studies, both pro and con, regarding the overall efficacy of CCSS.

In a nutshell, the (mostly) progressive public education community speaks highly of CCSS and its stated goal of raising educational standards across the board in a effort to improve the educational process for all students in the country, particularly under performing African American and Latino students nationwide.

The (mostly) conservative opponents of CCSS claim that involvement in public school education should be primarily a local/statewide process, and that Federal intrusion into public school education is not effective for multiple alleged reasons. In addition, there are disputes involving the CCSS curriculum itself whereas proponents cite multiple sources of research that allegedly support the efficacy of the education content.

Opponents also cite similar competing references that support their contention that CCSS curriculum stifles’ teachers’ creativity and that the content, especially in math, is not effective for early learners, gifted students, and children with diagnosed learning disabilities. The amount of information available to voters and parents by “experts”, both for and against CCSS, is overwhelming in its length, complexity and emotional intensity. Like the Affordable Care Act, the implementation of the Common Core State Standards in the vast majority of public schools nationwide, has caused a seemingly unbridgeable divide in many quarters of this country.

I am not an expert in the development and implementation of core educational curriculum in public schools, so I will not comment on the issue. I am not an expert on the effects of federal government involvement, verses local involvement, in public school education, so I will not comment on the issue. I am not a forensic accountant with expertise in the areas of national and local financial accounting tax monies submitted towards public education, so I will not comment on that issue. I am also not a politician, nor do I represent any special interest groups that could even be remotely tied to the multiple and complex issues surrounding CCSS. I find the political process in this day and age to be ineffective and personally unfulfilling, and will not comment on the efficacy of education platforms set forth by the three main political parties. I am, however, an expert in psychological and educational assessment/testing, as well as privacy acts surrounding the use of these tests in both private and educational settings. My remaining comments will focus on these two issues as they are addressed by the CCSS.

Educational Testing

According to the U.S. Department of Education, CCSS will authorize the use of testing instruments that will measure the “attributes, dispositions, social skills, attitude’s and intra personal resources” of public school students under CCSS (USDOE Feb, 2013 Report). In a nutshell, CCSS simply states that it will develop highly effective assessments that measures….well….almost ”everything.”

Our clinic performs these comprehensive IEE’s (Individual Education Evaluations) on a daily basis. These test measure “attributes”, “dispositions”, “social skills”, “attitudes” and “intra personal resources” as stated by the USDOE. In addition, we utilized state of the neuro-cognitive tests that measure the informational process functioning of children in school (Cognitive Assessment System, Naglieri 2002).

A careful, or even a casual review of a “comprehensive evaluation” would clearly show that the level of information provided about a particular child is both highly sensitive and extremely personal in nature. They are also extremely accurate. In a private clinic such as ours, we follow strict privacy guidelines regarding patient privacy (HIPPA) and when dealing with educational institutions, we also make sure that we comply with the FERPA Act (Federal Education Reporting & Privacy Act).

Bluntly put, if a client’s records somehow get into the hands of anyone besides the parents without written consent from the parents, or a court order, our clinic would be shut down in a heartbeat and the clinician who released unauthorized comprehensive assessments would lose their license. Clinical Psychologists in graduate level classrooms and clinical training sites spend years getting these basic privacy rights pounded into our heads. Failure to articulate and implement strict privacy guidelines issued by the Federal Government, State licensing boards, or the American Psychological Association (APA) would result in immediate dismissal from graduate school academic institutions, as well as any clinical psychology training sites in either Internship or Residency settings.

The accuracy of psychological testing has grown in the past 10 years to astonishing levels. The same tests used in our clinic for assessments, are used in part by federal law enforcement agencies, the military, local police departments, and the Central Intelligence Agency. (Interesting enough, these agencies are also interested in finding out about alleged terrorist’s, serial killers, or airline pilots “attributes, dispositions, social skills, attitudes and intra personal resources”). When placed in the “right” hands of trained mental health professionals, psychological testing can save lives. Placed in the “wrong” hands, psychological testing can ruin lives as well as cause psychological trauma to people if they have knowledge that their results were used for nefarious purposes.

Below are issues regarding CCSS “testing” policies that have not been addressed by the Common Core to State’s Governors’, State Superintendents, State School Boards, local school district superintendents, local school boards, to parents of children in public school education:

Common Core does not address what types of tests will be utilized on our children.

Common Core does not address, specifically, exactly who is developing these tests.

Common Core does not address the fact that these tests have not yet been developed, and are not available for public consumption or private review by clinical psychology researchers and psychometric professionals.

Common Core does not address if the soon to be completed tests will be subjected to the same rigorous peer review process that ALL testing instruments are subjected to prior to being released to mental health professionals for their use in the private sector.

Common Core does not state which public school employees would be administering or interpreting these tests. There is a reason that School Psychologists cannot “practice” outside of their scope in school districts. As hard working and as wonderful as this group is, their training pales in comparison to the average local clinical psychologist.

Common Core does not address the well documented, peer-reviewed fact that both African American and Latino students, due to cultural issues, tend to have skewed testing results when cultural issues are not addressed prior to the initiation of such testing. This should probably be addressed if these results are going to be following a student “from cradle to high school graduation.”

Lastly, once these highly intimate, powerful, and most likely inaccurate testing results are completed, who EXACTLY will have access to all of this data? Common Core DOES address this issue and it is the subject of the next section.

Privacy

I mentioned above that our private clinic is subjected to multiple federal, state, and professional association regulations when it comes to protecting and releasing mental health records. The rationale behind these regulations is obvious in nature both to the professionals, as well as their clients. Records do not leave our clinic unless the guardians of the children instruct us, or unless a District Court judge orders the release of the records. In some cases, we are even ethically obligated to fight court orders that request private mental health records.

Common Core State Standards radically changes this game.

Prior to CCSS, public school districts were required to adhere to the same rules and regulations regarding private records as our clinic is subjected to. HIPPA tells us how to store records, were to store records, and whom to release them too. FERPA (Federal Education Records Protection Act) is subjected to HIPPA requirements when it comes to protecting sensitive education records. As show herein, educational testing records are highly sensitive and it only makes common sense that this practice of protecting these sensitive records continues.

Buried in all of the fine print of the CCSS is a provision that allows participating school districts to ignore HIPPA protections. The newly revised FERPA laws grants school districts and states HIPPA privacywaivers.

Department of Health & Human Services Regulation Section 160.103 states, in part,:
“Protected health information EXCLUDES individually identifiable health information in education records covered by the Family Education Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA), as amended 20 U.S.C. 1232 g”.

CCSS also states that this “information” may be distributed to “organizations conducting studies for, or on behalf of, educational agencies or institutions to develop, validate, or administer predictive testing.” (CCSS (6)(i).

In summary CCSS allows the following by law:

Grants school districts a waiver from FERPA in terms of deleting identifying information on their records. Allows school districts to then give these identifiable records basically to anyone who they deem to have an viable interest with these records.

These organization or individuals chosen by the government to use this data to develop highly accurate predictive tests with no stated ethical procedures, guidelines, or institutional controls. (What are they exactly trying to “predict”?”

All without written parental consent.

The “Comprehensive Statewide Longitudinal Data System,” employed by CCSS that will hold this sensitive data, per DOE webpage, states, “all States implement state longitudinal data systems that involve elements specified in the “America Competes Act”. I spent two hours pouring over this Act to see if there were any further guidelines to Federal of State officials as such may pertain to privacy issues. None could be found.

Proponents of the CCSS point to volumes of articles and promises and policies that state that our children’s data will be private and protected by the national and state data systems that will shortly be implemented per CCSS guidelines. I have very little doubt that the computer systems employed by Federal, State and local districts that contain this data will be state of the art computer systems. Others whom are experts in this field may differ strongly). The point however is this: CCSS does not specify who can have access to their records, or for what specific purposes this sensitive data will be utilized. When it comes to addressing privacy issues, the CCSS contains abundant, generalized “legal speak”.

In terms of privacy issues, below are issues regarding CCSS “privacy” policies that have not been addressed by the Common Core to State’s Governors, State Superintendents, State School Boards, local school district superintendents, local school boards, to the parents of children in public school education:

Exactly WHO will have access to records obtained by this national/state database? The generic political answer of “Appropriately designated education officials or private research entities” does not “cut the mustard.” For what EXACT purpose will this sensitive data be utilized?

What organizations will have access to identifiable academic records? Other than generic information regarding race, age, gender and geographic location, why does the Federal database require identifiable information to be accessible?

If the political responses to these questions are “all information contained in the database is unidentifiable and securely stored,” then why were changes made to FERPA to allow an exemption to educational privacy rights when it comes to the implementation of Common Core State Standards?

What type of “predictive tests” are currently being designed and who will have access to results of whatever is being measured?

Conclusion

Like the infamous “No Child Left Behind” laws that on some levels (with the sole exceptions of the 2004 IDEA Act included in NCLB), have set back progress of public school education years, I honestly believe that a few lawmakers with good hearts and intentions honestly wanted to find solutions to our public school systems. I believe also that the Obama Administration wants every child to have a proper and rigorous education and that the implementation of Common Core will bring them closer to that goal.

I am also, however, a local clinical community scientist. In this role I have several serious questions concerning CCSS noted herein which have yet to be answered to my satisfaction as a scientist, education advocate, and parent. I would implore every Governor, State Superintendent, and State School Board member in the country to honestly and openly explore the issues cited above and provide accurate answers to these issues to the public in “plain speak”.

Given the gravity of these issues, I cannot professionally endorse the Common Core State Standards as currently written until pointed clarification is provided by politicians and educators from both party’s endorsing CCSS. Nor in good conscience can I enroll my toddler in a public school system that utilizes CCSS until these issues are clarified to my satisfaction.

The issues involving psychological testing and privacy are issues that should be of concern to every parent with a child enrolled in public school. The power granted federal and state education administrators via the regulations of CCSS are unprecedented in nature. Some parents will be quite comfortable with CCSS even in light of the issues detailed in this letter. Some parents would be aghast with the same provisions. Regardless, parents deserve to be clearly informed about these and other issues surrounding CCSS in a clear and straightforward manner so that they can make educated choices regarding their children’s educations.

On a final note, I wish to publically show my support to the underpaid and overworked public school teachers nationwide. If I had the power, I would elevate their status to that of a medical doctor in terms of pay and prestige. What they do with the limited resources available, and with the burden of bureaucracy following their every professional move is simply nothing short of amazing. Our clinic employees several public school teachers (One is a former Utah Teacher of the Year), and school psychologist due to their amazing talents and abilities of reaching the hearts and minds of our young and diverse educational psychology clients.

There are answers to most of the perplexing questions facing public school officials. I believe these answers can be readily found in multiple peer-reviewed journals in neuropsychology, clinical psychology, education and public policy. Answers can also be found by mining the experiences, wants and needs of our hardworking public school teachers on the local and statewide ground level, as well as local parenting organization of various stripes. Once science and cultural based solution are found and implemented, I believe even cynical conservative lawmakers nationwide would be more willing to pony up additional tax payer money when presented with imaginative, science based educational models in pubic school systems. On the other hand, simply adding billions of dollars towards a 150-year old foundational system of education in crisis without implementing massive changes is irresponsible, unimaginative, and most likely politically and monetarily motivated.

When politics and money are taken out of the public school education policy arena and replaced with common sense and culturally sensitive science, mixed in with local value systems, I believe we, as a nation will make great strides in the goal of educating our children.

Until that time comes, it is my wish that regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation and political affiliations, our country will join together at the grass roots to amicably reach “common core” grounds of restoring our once proud public education system.

Best regards,

Dr. Gary Thompson
Director of Clinical Training & Community Advocacy Services
Early Life Child Psychology & Education Center, Inc.
www.earlylifepsych.com

House Bill 302 - Providing Transparency and Public Hearings for Federal Grant Applications

There's a public hearing on House Bill 302 on Wednesday, February 12th at 2:30 pm in the House Education Committee in Room 207 of the Legislative Office Building in Concord.

NH Board of Education Chair Raffio claims that HB 302, which only requires transparency and public hearings, would shut down the NH Department of Education.  Clearly, this is ridiculous.  Why does Raffio oppose transparency and public hearings?

Under House Bill 302, every federal grant application would require a public hearing before the House Education Committee; all testimony would be given to the Commissioner.  

This bill does not in any way derail federal grant applications from being submitted. It only provides transparency.

Why is Chairman Raffio afraid of transparency?

Please SUPPORT House Bill 302.

HOUSE BILL 302

AN ACT requiring a public hearing prior to the submission of a grant application by the department of education.

SPONSORS: Rep. Ferreira, Hills 28; Rep. Seidel, Hills 28; Sen. Avard, Dist 12

COMMITTEE: Education

ANALYSIS

This bill requires the department of education to submit all grant applications to the house of representatives committee concerned with educational issues for a public hearing and comments.

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STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE

In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Fifteen

AN ACT requiring a public hearing prior to the submission of a grant application by the department of education.

Be it Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened:

1 Duties of the Commissioner; Department of Education. Amend RSA 21-N:4, VI to read as follows:

VI. Plan and apply for federal and other grants on a department-wide basis. Prior to the submission of any grant application, the commissioner shall notify the chair of the committee of the house of representatives with primary responsibility for education issues. The chair of such committee shall schedule and hold a public hearing on the application and shall forward all testimony to the commissioner along with comments by members of the committee. The commissioner shall review the testimony and comments prior to the submission of the corresponding grant application.

Please attend the public hearing on Thursday, February, 12th at 2:30 pm. It is important for the commitee members to see parents who oppose this amendment.

Legislative Office Building 33 North State Street Concord, NH 03301

Free parking on side streets to the west of the LOB. Closer in is 2 to 3 hour parking zones. Two to three blocks away there's unlimited free parking.

 

If you can't attend, please contact House Education Members with the reasons why you SUPPORT House Bill 302. 

Protect LOCAL CONTROL of our schools.

Email the entire House Education Committee members with this single email address:

HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us

Or contact House Education Members individually with your support for this bill:

House Education Committee Members: Email Committee Members
Chairman: Rick Ladd(r) Bills Currently in Committee
V. Chairman: John Balcom(r) Bills Originally Referred to Committee
Clerk: Barbara Shaw(d) Mailing list of Committee Members
 
 
 
Ralph Boehm (r) Glenn Cordelli (r) James Grenier (r)
Robert Elliott (r) Christopher Adams (r) Allen Cook (r)
Josh Moore (r) Jason Osborne (r) Victoria Sullivan (r)
Terry Wolf (r) Mary Gile (d) Mary Gorman (d)
June Frazer (d) Andrew Schmidt (d) Mel Myler (d)
Deanna Rollo (d) Mary Heath (d) James Verschueren (d)
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