Schools Ditch Academics For Emotional Manipulation

The following article by is reprinted with permission from

This summer the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) announced it had chosen eight states to collaborate on creating K-12 “social emotional learning” (SEL) standards. All students, from kindergartners through high-school seniors, would be measured on five “non-cognitive” factors: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

Under such a system teachers become essentially therapists, and students become essentially patients. Supposedly this will clear away the psychological deadwood that obstructs a student’s path to academic achievement.

But less than two months later, two of the CASEL states (Tennessee and Georgia) have withdrawn from the initiative. Parents have begun to realize the dangers of SEL and to challenge their schools’ lemming-like march toward psychological manipulation of children.

Federal Government Probes Students’ Psyches

We’ve written about the push by the U.S. Department of Education (USED) and the rest of the progressive education establishment to transform education from academic content instruction to molding and assessing children’s attitudes, mindsets, and behaviors. The infamous “outcome-based education” (OBE) in the 1990s began the trend, and Head Start and the Common Core national standards advance the same foundational principles.

The new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) ramps up the trend in several ways. ESSA requires rating schools based partly on “nonacademic” factors, which may include measures of SEL. It also pours money into SEL programs, “which may include engaging or supporting families at school or at home” (i.e., home visits by bureaucrats).

Other provisions include training school personnel on “when and how to refer . . . children with, or at risk of, mental illness,” and implementing programs for children who are deemed “at-risk” of academic or social problems, without ever defining “at-risk.” Similar ESSA language urges school officials to cast a wide net for special education in school-wide “intervention” and “support” programs, allowing schools to sidestep parental consent requirements for formal evaluations.

Beyond ESSA, at least three other federal initiatives aim to monitor children’s attitudes and beliefs. One is the planned revision of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the test referred to as “the nation’s report card,” to assess mindsets and school climate. This revision has been challenged not only on constitutional and privacy grounds, but as a violation of federal law. Of course, law is merely an inconvenience to the Obama administration.

The second effort would fund federally controlled and funded “social emotional research” in the proposed Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA)—a bill supported by individuals and corporations that will profit handsomely from all this sensitive data to help them mold worker bees for the global economy.

A third federal initiative is USED’s bribery of states to promote SEL standards and data-gathering on preschool children via the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grants. These grants, along with the preschool grants in ESSA and Head Start, promote “Baby Common Core”-style SEL standards and data-collection and preserving this in states’ student-data systems. So now every child’s permanent dossier can include how well he played with others when he was four.

Should Government Track Students’ Thoughts, Feelings?

The problems with SEL are both philosophical and operational. Parents rightly object that the school (which means the government) has no business analyzing and trying to change a child’s psychological makeup. It’s one thing to enforce discipline in a classroom and encourage individual students to do their best; good teachers have done that from time immemorial. It’s quite another to assess students on their compliance with highly subjective behavioral standards that may measure personality and individual or family beliefs more than objective shortcomings in performance. The school exists to assist parents in educating their children, not to replace them in that role.

Writing in trade publication Education Week, a SEL consultant touts a new assessment “to generate data about such character strengths as responsibility, resilience, teamwork, curiosity, and leadership.” This violation of both privacy and freedom of conscience is also an alarming effort to standardize children, who normally develop at very different rates and in very different ways, to fit government-determined norms. The government has no right to collect data on any child’s “character strengths,” which are the most personal aspects of a child’s psyche. Period.

The operational problems are also daunting. Who will be assessing a child using these subjective criteria? Psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors undergo years of training to delve into this murky area. But even these experts admit there are no firm criteria for mental-health diagnoses, especially in children. The World Health Organization, hardly a bastion of conservative medical or political thought, warned: “Childhood and adolescence being developmental phases, it is difficult to draw clear boundaries between phenomena that are part of normal development and others that are abnormal.”

Through SEL, however, the government wants to have teachers making such evaluations. Psychologist Dr. Gary Thompson has emphasized that placing this type of responsibility in the hands of untrained even if well-meaning people can be dangerous for the children who may be improperly labeled. These dangers can include even forced treatment with medications that have harmful side effects, or threatened or actual removal of children from their homes if parents refuse the treatment.

Student self-reporting such as surveys, another common means of compiling SEL data, is similarly unreliable. Prominent SEL proponents Dr. Angela Duckworth and David Yeager have pointed out that students may interpret survey questions differently from how the creators intended, and that the questions are unlikely to detect incremental changes. As parents of teenaged boys can attest, many children will treat such surveys as a joke and gladly take the opportunity to respond in the most outrageous manner possible.

Because “perfectly unbiased, unfakeable, and error-free [SEL] measures are an ideal, not a reality,” Duckworth and Yeager argue, such measures should not be used to evaluate schools or teachers. Duckworth was so concerned about using these highly subjective criteria in federally mandated accountability schemes that she withdrew from a California project to do just that. But this is exactly what USED is pushing through ESSA, and CASEL through its K-12 standards.

Dangerous Data in the Permanent Record

Despite the objections even from SEL proponents, the movement advances to assess, record, and analyze personal characteristics of children. What happens to all that data? Incentivized by USED, states are building massive statewide longitudinal data systems to track every aspect of every student from cradle to, or through, their career. Thus, unreliable data collected from making guesses about students’ emotional states will presumably be entered into the database, to live in eternity.

Who might want to get their hands on that data? Would a college or employer be interested in whether a particular applicant shows curiosity or “grit”? Would a prosecutor like to know if a young suspect lacked “relationship skills” in high school? Or perhaps that prosecutor would want to know if that child had violated the school’s zero-tolerance policy in kindergarten, even if only with a “bubble gun.” Because USED has gutted federal student-privacy law to allow sharing personally identifiable information on students with almost anyone the government wants, it’s very possible such entities could access that data—without parental consent.

If such psychological data resided in a psychologist’s office, it would be protected by HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Would it be similarly protected if located in a school’s database? No. It would probably be considered merely an “education record” subject to (not protected by) federal student-privacy law.

Opening Doors for Indoctrination

So as parents are beginning to recognize, this entire SEL scheme is objectionable on many levels. Particularly troubling are indications that CASEL and other SEL proponents advance political and cultural viewpoints that conflict with those of many families. Parents will be assured the goal is merely to instill more positive mindsets to increase academic achievement, but the evidence suggests another motivation is in play.

It’s revealing to examine the connections CASEL has to far-left individuals and organizations that push particular agendas. One CASEL board member is Linda Darling-Hammond, the radical education professor who was Bill Ayers’s choice to be President Obama’s secretary of Education.

Darling-Hammond also leads the liberal Aspen Institute’s new National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development. In a video made to promote this commission, Darling-Hammond makes it clear that SEL will be used to instill attitudes that will ultimately help solve perceived global problems: “If you look at the state of the world, with conflict and inadequate resources for many people . . . it is our social and emotional intelligence that is going to pull us through to the world that we want.” Parents might wonder if the world they want and the world Darling-Hammond wants are the same thing.

CASEL’s partnerships and funding also show a distinct political tilt. CASEL is funded partly by the federal government’s Institute for Education Sciences (the same agency that wants to assess mindsets in NAEP and to have social emotional research become a federal mandate) and partly by a range of liberal foundations. Among these are the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which promotes socialized health care and bemoans the effect of climate change on “health and equity”; and the 1440 Foundation, which pushes Buddhist “mindfulness” techniques and raises alarms about climate change.

Another major funder of CASEL is the NoVo Foundation, which seeks to use SEL to “play a significant role in shifting our culture of systemic inequality and violence toward a new ethos that values and prioritizes collaboration and partnership.” NoVo’s founders make funding decisions to change “systems [that are] based on domination, competition, and exploitation.” Presumably they think CASEL and SEL will help them overturn these exploitative systems.

One area of particular concern to NoVo is LGBT issues. In December 2015, NoVo partnered with the Arcus Foundation to kick off a five-year philanthropic initiative focused on “improving the lives of transgender people worldwide.”

So CASEL partners with organizations that openly seek to change the world (or “systems”) in areas such as health care, climate regulation, and sexual politics. How would SEL help accomplish that? Well, if schools are measuring students’ “social awareness,” might that encompass opinions of supposedly critical global problems such as climate change? And might a student’s “relationship skills” be deemed deficient if, in keeping with the influence of his family and faith, he rejects the LGBT agenda such as same-sex marriage and normalization of gender dysphoria?

Lest we be accused of alarmism, consider the many sample lessons offered by a CASEL partner called Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility. One teaches students the perils of climate change and fracking in North Dakota; another encourages students to “take action toward transgender equity.” This fits well with the type of surveys and assessments being collected on children in a Florida middle-school Spanish class:

florida school surveyRegardless of one’s opinions on a given issue, it is parents’ right and authority to discuss these issues with their children, not the government’s to set standardized norms about thoughts, emotions, attitudes, and beliefs. When government begins manipulating the mindsets of still developing and impressionable children, the dangers are legion. Imagine what Vladimir Lenin could have done with these types of standards, curricula, and linkable databases accessible at the touch of a button.

Samuel Adams said in 1776, “Driven from every other corner of the earth, freedom of thought and the right of private judgment in matters of conscience direct [new Americans] . . . to this happy country as their last asylum.” Unless parents and other citizens stand against this kind of tyranny of the mind, our country will warp into one Adams wouldn’t recognize, and our children will be sacrificed to achieve the transformation.

Jane Robbins is an attorney and a senior fellow with the American Principles Project in Washington DC. Dr. Karen Effrem is a pediatrician and president of Education Liberty Watch.

Utah Lt. Governor’s Bombshell on Common Core

Spencer CoxRecently given to me by someone who shall remain anonymous, the below emails by Utah Lt. Governor Spencer Cox, while not completely accurate on all points, shows that he recognized problems and tried to get the Governor on board with changing Common Core two years ago. Then he shared his old email again this year during the heat of the campaign. I think the Governor even used some lines from this speech when he spoke to the State Board this summer asking them to replace Common Core and help his campaign which was getting hammered over his strong support for Common Core.

Utah Speaker of the House Greg Hughes recently endorsed Dr. Gary Thompson stating “Dr. Gary Thompson is a conservative champion who will support common sense policies for students and protect local control. He is a man of integrity who will be a welcome addition to a new and improved state board of education.”

The Utah Technology council recently put out this slate of candidates they recommend voting for (but don’t directly “endorse”). I agree with all of them but district 13 which I have changed to the school teacher running for office that the UEA didn’t endorse (showing they do NOT represent teachers, they represent their own agenda). He’s opposed to federal intrusion and Common Core. Check out his website.

District 4: DAVE THOMAS – (Northern Davis County, Southern Weber County)(
District 7: SHELLY TEUSCHER –  (Salt Lake City, Southern Morgan County)(
District 8: RICHARD NELSON –  (East Salt Lake County from I-80 to I-215 including Holladay, Millcreek, Murray, S. Salt Lake, and Sugarhouse)(
District 10: DR. GARY THOMPSON – (Eastern Salt Lake County from I-215 to Draper including parts of Cottonwood Heights & Midvale, Sandy, Draper): (
District 11: LISA CUMMINS – (Southwest Salt Lake County including South Jordan, Riverton, Herriman, Bluffdale and Northwest Utah County including Cedar Fort & Fairfield) (
District 12: ALISA ELLIS – (Orem, Lindon and Summit, Wasatch, Duchesne, Daggett, Uintah Counties) (
District 13: SCOTT NEILSON – (Provo, Spanish Fork) (
District 15: MICHELLE BOULTER – (Washington & Iron Counties): (

It looks to me like there is some strong support for these candidates!!!

Also, in Alpine School District, please vote for Rachel Thacker in seat 4, and Miriam Ellis in seat 6.


From: “Spencer J. Cox”
Date: April 8, 2016 at 8:10:33 AM MDT
Subject: Fwd: Common Core Thoughts

I don’t mean for this to be an “I told you [him] so,” and it’s probably too late to do anything now. However, I found this email from 2 years ago that I wrote as a proposed statement for the Governor to solve the Common Core dilemma. I’m guessing anything we do now will just look too politically motivated. But if we happen to get reelected, we might consider actually doing something about the growing frustration.

Begin forwarded message:

From: Spencer Cox
Date: May 6, 2014 at 10:17:04 AM MDT
To: “Spencer J. Cox”
Subject: Common Core Thoughts

Let me state at the outset, that I firmly believe in the importance of high academic standards in all subject areas for Utah students. We have a proud history of academic standards in Utah that pre-date the common core. Over the past year, I have listened intently to the growing chorus of concern with regards to the adoption of Common Core standards. While there is clearly a great deal of misinformation being disseminated on both sides of this issue, there are legitimate concerns that I share with those opposed to the Common Core. As I have listened, and researched, it has become clear to me that, although well-intentioned, the conflict, discord and divisiveness associated with these standards is doing more harm than good. Unfortunately, we have lost the focus on what matters most–our students and making sure our teachers have the resources and tools necessary to provide a world-class education. As such, today I announce that I am withdrawing my support for Common Core.

In doing so, I wish to reiterate the three main principals that should guide our actions in Utah when it comes to academic standards for our public schools. These principals are:
1) maintaining high academic standards in all subject areas for all our students
2) keeping the federal government out of education decisions in Utah
3) preserving local control of curriculum, materials and instructional practices

In light of this decision, I am proposing a special session of the legislature for a few distinct reasons. First, to give the legislature an opportunity to weigh in on this debate. While the actual decision on Common Core rests with the State Board of Education, I believe that, as elected representatives of the people, we have a duty to weigh in on this critical debate. As such, I would like to give the legislature an opportunity to make their voices heard.

Next, just as important as the actual educational standards is the PROCESS at which we arrive at those standards. This should be a Utah process and this should be a transparent process. During the last session, the Legislature passed HB342, sponsored by Rep. Layton, which I signed into law. This bill requires the establishment of a standards review committee made up of 7 subject experts including teachers, higher ed faculty, business representatives, along with 10 parents of students currently in public schools. While I believe this is the right concept, today I am proposing legislation to expand of this committee to include….[….] The legislation would further provide direction for this independent to allow for public comment and discourse. If you have a problem with a specific standard, your voice will be heard.

This committee will begin a review of all academic standards, beginning with our math standards, and will make recommendations for improvement in the standards.  Some standards might be removed, some standards might be made more rigorous, and many standards might not be changed at all. I will ask this team to assure that we have rigorous academic standards which will prepare Utah students for entrance into our universities, applied technology colleges, or other specialized training programs without the need for remediation. I will also ask them to report on how the standards are preparing advanced students for placement in accelerated programs in and out of the state. I am inviting parents, teachers, and other members of the general public to submit alternative standards or written suggestions for improvement on the current math and English language arts standards to this team of experts, who will evaluate all suggestions.

Furthermore, the proposed legislation will give the committee the ability to make recommendations regarding implementation of new standards. One of the biggest faults with Common Core has been the unfortunately rushed sometimes shaky implementation in many districts. Too often the problems with implementation have resulted from a lack of available curriculum and a lack of necessary training for our teachers. Because of a significant reduction in professional development days for teachers, it is more difficult than ever for our teachers to understand, prepare for and implement the new standards. I promise to work with the legislature next year to push for an increase in funding for professional development days. We must listen to the concerns and complaints of teachers and administrators who truly understand the needs and difficulties of these critical changes in their classrooms.

I also want to reiterate that, in Utah we take the issue of local control a step further, by requiring that locally-elected school boards and charter schools choose the curriculum, materials, and instructional methods to be used in their schools. As the Governor I will continue to support this local control and will work to shore up state resources for curriculum development at the local level. The State Board of Education is drafting a rule that would require all charter schools and school boards to establish a process for local review and response to curriculum, increasing transparency in this process. This will provide yet another process to ensure that we keep education local.

Two years ago I worked with Sen Margaret Dayton on SB287, which requires Utah to “exit any agreement, contract, memorandum of understanding, or consortium that cedes control of Utah’s core curriculum to any other entity for any reason.” We are currently in complete compliance with this state law, and under my watch we will continue to keep the federal government out of education decisions in Utah. I understand that the State Board of Education is re-evaluating their waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind mandate to confirm that it is also in compliance with this law and look forward to their report. I call upon our congressional delegation to fix and reauthorize No Child Left Behind so that Utah and isn’t forced into the position of having to request a waiver.

In addition to concerns about Common Core, I have also listened to complaints regarding testing in our schools. It is important to note that the new SAGE adaptive testing is NOT tied directly to the Common Core. This testing was first recommended […..] This is a distinctly Utah test, developed in Utah and reviewed in Utah by Utah educators, administrators and parents. I also support the idea of using technology, and computer adaptation, to better assess the knowledge of our students. However, while I believe in the importance of testing and accountability, I share three distinct concerns with testing.

First, the amount of testing. There is rising concern that we have gone from not enough testing to too much testing. Although there is disagreement among experts on this issue, I worry that we might be spending too much of our time testing, and that testing is weighted too heavily in when it comes to evaluating our students and teachers. As such, I will also propose that our independent standards committee also be empowered to evaluate the amount and significance of testing.

Second, I am deeply concerned about the secrecy surrounding this new testing. While I do NOT believe that there are any conspiracies or hidden agendas in the SAGE testing, openness will always be best way to engender trust. If we truly have nothing to hide, then we should stop hiding. While I do not support the wide-release of off all test-questions prior to a test (for obvious reasons), I absolutely believe that students, parents and teachers should have the opportunity to review the questions missed by the student. I call on the State Board to make whatever policy changes are necessary to allow for the release of this information.

Third, I worry about the type of data being collected, the purposes and uses of that data and, critically, the security of that data. While I understand and support the importance of collecting data to improve our education system generally and to respond to the individual education needs of our students, we must be extremely careful in the way we use and store this data. To this end, I have asked Dr. Eric Denna to lead a review of student data collection and protection practices in Utah and issue a report on how we are protecting student privacy and whether or not additional measures need to be taken. Dr. Denna is the director of information technology information services at the University of Utah and previous managed very large information services, such as the worldwide information systems for the LDS church as well as several other large corporations.

Let me conclude by stating that I understand education is a very passionate issue–and it should be. The future of our state and nation depends in a very real way on the education of our children. More than ever, we are competing in a global marketplace and must raise the level of education. We should not be afraid of high standards or hard tests. We can and should expect more of our students, more of our teachers, more of our parents, more of our legislature and more of our governor. I know these changes will not silence all of the critics, but I do hope that we can now take these divisive issues off the table and move forward, together, on the things that really matter.

Why the CLT Exam should replace the SAGE/ACT/SAT exams

KSL recently reported that Utah lawmakers are considering replacing the SAGE exam with the ACT test for 11th graders. While I am all in favor of getting rid of the SAGE exam, the ACT is only modestly better. ACT and SAT have both been aligned to Common Core. They are no longer college entrance exams, but at their core, they are now high school graduation exams. They won’t test college preparedness, but if a student has achieved high ability with Common Core prescribed skills.

If teachers teach to the test, which they do, and schools want to showcase their students’ abilities, which they do, then the best thing Utah and other states could do would be to switch to a test that is more representative of college level work.

CLT ExamThe Classic Learning Test (CLT) is such a test and it has grown rapidly being adopted by over 20 colleges this year as a valid exam for college entrance.

If the CLT becomes the premier college entrance exam, it will trickle down through the schools so the material becomes richer in classics and philosophy because schools will want to perform better on the exam and prepare their students for a true college level entrance exam.

Watch this video about the test. Then go to the CLT Practice Exam and try it out. There are three sections of about 40 questions each for reading, writing, and math.

Here’s a couple additional articles about the exam if you are interested.


Common Core Math: Is Mom > or < Dad?

An alert parent in Alpine School District sent me this assignment for her junior high school child, obviously from the collection of “real-life problems” students should work on related to mathematical inequalities. I’m sure glad to see items 4-6 below are subjective because that’s what math is really all about. What do you feel good about? Then lets get children picking sides between their parents. What could possibly go wrong? Thank you Utah school board for adopting us into this nonsense! Time for a change of board members!

Mom vs. Dad

Common Core’s Role in Hot State School Board Race

Originally posted at Posted with permission.


Senate President Niederhauser and House Speaker Hughes

The State School Board race has never drawn much attention before. But this year, the Salt Lake Tribune reported, businesses and even top-tier elected officials are personally campaigning and fundraising for and against certain candidates.

Yesterday’s headline was: “Niederhauser and Hughes ask Business Leaders to Help Defeat UEA-Backed School Board Candidates“.  Yesterday, too, business organizations such as the Utah Technology Council and the School Improvement Association joined Niederhauser and Hughes in a fundraising webinar that promoted a slate of pro-Common Core candidates who happen to be not favored by or funded by national teacher’s unions.

I understand why someone with a conscience would campaign against out-of-state big UEA-NEA money buying Utah’s state board election.  So they should.

But I don’t understand why these groups have chosen to campaign against both the anti-Common Core candidates (in blue) as well as against the UEA-backed candidates (in red) as they showed in this slide at yesterday’s insider fundraising webinar:


Nor do I understand why our House Speaker and Senate President don’t see the hypocrisy in speaking against big money buying votes (NEA) while both of them are personally funded by big business money (Education First).

But my bigger questions are: how do the Speaker and the Senate President dare to campaign for Common Core candidates, thus going directly against Governor Herbert’s call to end Common Core alignment in Utah?

How do they dare campaign against the resolution of their own Utah Republican Party that called for the repeal of the Common Core Initiative?

Have they forgotten the reasons that their party is strongly opposed to all that the Common Core Initiative entails?

Have they forgotten Governor Herbert’s letter that called for an end to Common Core and SAGE testing just four months ago? (See letter here.)  For all the talk about wanting to move toward local control and to move against the status quo, this seems odd.

Next to the governorship, there aren’t more powerful offices in the state than those held by House Speaker Hughes and Senate President Niederhauser. So what does this powerful endorsement of a certain slate of candidates signify?

First, it signifies what is probably a sincere concern for (partial) local control: In the fundraising webinar held yesterday (by Hughes, Niederhauser, the School Improvement Network and the Utah Technology Council) the following slide was displayed:  Out of $308,512 raised for the political action of the Utah UEA (teacher’s union) $300,000 of it came from out of state.  Hughes and Niederhauser are right in being alarmed at that money’s probable effect on local control.



(What they didn’t highlight is this: all of the anti-Common Core candidates’ funding, combined, doesn’t come close to what even one of the UEA-funded candidates are spending because none of them are backed by corporate or political powers.)

Secondly, it signifies Utah leadership’s alignment with Obama’s vision for education, which among other things mandates sidelining certain subjects in favor of others. Niederhauser told the Tribune that he didn’t want any board member’s vision to “dominate the board” which, to  him, meant to “supplant business and technology representatives.”  So he wants to make sure that business and technology is at least as dominant as any other interest.   The School Improvement Network is of the same opinion.

We could ask why. Why, specifically, would legislators be endorsing the fields of business and technology over the fields of languages, medicine, history, social work, the arts or any other thing?  And where’s the idealogical division between what NEA wants and what Niederhauser-Hughes want?  Is it fair to speculate that NEA corporate funders are in competition against the Education First corporate funders, and all of this is just an economic struggle pretending to be a struggle for the children’s best interests?  Utah tax dollars are, after all, the passionate pursuit of multiple players in the now $2 Billion per year ed tech sales industry.

Many people know that both Hughes and Niederhauser’s political campaigns are heavily funded by Education First, a Utah political action committee for Prosperity 2020 that puts businesses first.

Not voters first.  Not education –broadly– first; this is education as defined by the ed-tech sales industry and by Obama’s 2020 vision. Read it in their own words.  In an Tribune op-ed taking credit for passing legislation that Education First had lobbied for, you’ll see little focus on funding for paper and pens, school basketballs, violins, gluesticks, old-fashioned books, or heaven forbid, large teachers’ salaries– no, ed funding to Education First means to fund the priorities that precisely (coincidentally?) match Obama’s 2020 vision:  early childhood education (which competes with free enterprise/private preschools), workforce development (China-styled central planning) “community schools” (Obama’s vision to integrate healthcare with academics and with socio-political movements “using government schools as a hub”) and standardized personalized learning (an oxymoron that cements Common Core academics and its data tags).

Don’t mistake this as a fight between tech lovers and tech haters.  None of the candidates for state school board are anti-technology, though the smart ones are pushing for improved laws governing student privacy in this modern age.

So what are Hughes and Niederhauser really saying when they say they’re for the pro-tech candidates?  What does that really mean?  That Utahns should sit back and let the ed tech sales industry, or businesses, sit in the driver’s seat for educational decision-making?  That’s the stated aim of Education First (in Utah) and of Obama’s 2020 (nationally) and, according to his Tribune quote above, it’s also the aim of President Niederhauser.

Education First doggedly, directly, lobbies citizens, governments, and school districts, to strong-arm their narrow vision, that businesses should “help” direct education.  They refer to my child and yours as the economy’s.  They call children “human capital” on their website.  This is, when ripe, the 1992 Hillary-Tucker dream coming true, with the collective economy dictating to the individual on the assembly line.

Education First wants a high “concentration of science and engineering occupations” in Utah, which you may or may not agree with; what I hope you do agree with is that this new, business – public ed partnershipping governance system, with business being handed power to influence schooling, when taken to the extreme, is fascism.  In fascism, there’s no distinction between government and business.  And the voter has no say.

Do we want to walk down that slippery slope?  Do we want the Education First business community to be given power in schools?

Whether promoting science and engineering at the expense of other subject and careers is the will of the people, or not, really doesn’t come in to the discussion. Prosperity 2020 has said that businesses will “provide a business oriented plan to improve results” for schools.

If Hughes or Niederhauser would respond to my emails to them, I would ask them this:  how is it any more helpful toward Constitutional local control–  if that is what you really want– to let businesses take over the driver’s seat for educators, as your financial backers aim to do, than for out of state (NEA) funding to call the same shots?  Either way, students and schools and voters lose personal freedoms to self-appointed experts who think they know best.

So when Niederhauser worries that “big money groups effectively buy the election,” he is right.  The hundreds of thousands of dollars pouring in to NEA-UEA approved candidates’ purses should raise eyebrows.  But shouldn’t the same eyebrows rise too, seeing in-state big money groups like Education First and Prosperity 2020 now, as in the past, funding the pro-Common Core candidates –and funding Hughes and Niederhauser themselves– effectively buying the election in the very same way?

Meanwhile, none of the liberty-first, anti-Common Core candidates,  Alisa Ellis, Lisa Cummins, Michelle Boulter or Dr. Gary Thompson, are richly funded.   All they really have to stand on is true principles of liberty –and word of mouth.

Many voters know that Common Core is anti-local control.  The Governor almost lost in the primary to anti-Common Core challenger Jonathan Johnson because of this.  The Governor was repeatedly booed at political conventions this year because he had been such a promoter of the Common Core, prior to his turnaround.  What will the governor say about Niederhauser’s and Hughes’ current effort?  More importantly, what will voters say?

Dr. Gary Thompson, a district 10 candidate for state school board, said today:

“I was pleased the that the Speaker of the House and Senator Neiderhauser identified who the “anti common core” education candidates are in this election. I was pleased to be labeled as one of them. This provides a clear choice for members in the community to chose from as they please.  Comments made by the Speaker in regards to the UEA did not receive a prior endorsement by this campaign.  I look forward to having a professional, cordial discussion with my UEA endorsed opponent on September 28th regarding education issues that will affect our children in District 10″

For anyone wanting to watch the debates between state school board candidates, please check that schedule here. 


Pictured below are the candidates for state school board that I endorse, whom the UEA, NEA, UTC, SIN, Senate President and House Speaker do not:

For true local control of education:

Alisa Ellis, Michelle Boulter, Lisa Cummins, Dr. Gary Thompson.

alisa vote


lisa cummins

dr t

Students asked religious beliefs

Last week I was sent an email by an alert parent who had taught her child well. The child was in a Careers class and given an assignment that was to be graded, asking students to rate how strongly they agreed or disagreed with statements. About 10% of the test involved religious questions such as these:

  • I will take my children to religious services often.
  • I have taught a religious class or been active in my religion.
  • I believe in a god who answers prayers.
  • I give time or money to my religion.
  • I pray about my problems.
  • I believe that grace should be said before meals.
  • I believe there is life after death.
  • I read religious writings often.
  • I believe that people were created to look like the creator.
  • If I ask, my sins will be forgiven.

The student took out a cell phone and snapped shots of the exam. Here’s one page.


The student in this situation actually had the knowledge to cross out all the religious questions and not answer them. This was someone who had been well trained by informed parents.

On it’s face, it seemed like this was a violation of FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) law.  In the end, this assessment was only personal for the students to reflect on what they believe, and not graded except for participation. The teacher has informed the parent that this wasn’t transmitted or uploaded anywhere.

He explained that State and District Standard 1.A. requires him to help students identify their values, interests, and personalities and how they affect their career choices but he agreed to investigate another survey to cover this subject in the future. He also spoke to the students and made it clear that if they ever felt uncomfortable with any personal questions, they wouldn’t be forced to answer those questions. Kudos to the teacher for taking that step and agreeing to look for another assessment.

If you are unaware of yours and your children’s rights, this is a link to the Utah FERPA law section that discusses what has to have parental permission to be covered in school.

Here is a part of the section which is relevant. I encourage you to discuss the specific points with your children so they aren’t caught off guard at school or forced to do something they know they shouldn’t be made to do. This situation above was a great situation to allow this child to assert their rights and will give confidence for the next time a situation arises.

Effective 5/10/2016
53A-13-302. Activities prohibited without prior written consent — Validity of consent — Qualifications — Training on implementation.

(1) Except as provided in Subsection (7), Section 53A-11a-203, and Section 53A-15-1301, policies adopted by a school district or charter school under Section 53A-13-301 shall include prohibitions on the administration to a student of any psychological or psychiatric examination, test, or treatment, or any survey, analysis, or evaluation without the prior written consent of the student’s parent or legal guardian, in which the purpose or evident intended effect is to cause the student to reveal information, whether the information is personally identifiable or not, concerning the student’s or any family member’s:
(a) political affiliations or, except as provided under Section 53A-13-101.1 or rules of the State Board of Education, political philosophies;
(b) mental or psychological problems;
(c) sexual behavior, orientation, or attitudes;
(d) illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, or demeaning behavior;
(e) critical appraisals of individuals with whom the student or family member has close family relationships;
(f) religious affiliations or beliefs;
(g) legally recognized privileged and analogous relationships, such as those with lawyers, medical personnel, or ministers; and
(h) income, except as required by law.

(2) Prior written consent under Subsection (1) is required in all grades, kindergarten through grade 12.

(3) Except as provided in Subsection (7), Section 53A-11a-203, and Section 53A-15-1301, the prohibitions under Subsection (1) shall also apply within the curriculum and other school activities unless prior written consent of the student’s parent or legal guardian has been obtained.

(a) Written parental consent is valid only if a parent or legal guardian has been first given written notice, including notice that a copy of the educational or student survey questions to be asked of the student in obtaining the desired information is made available at the school, and a reasonable opportunity to obtain written information concerning:
(i) records or information, including information about relationships, that may be examined or requested;
(ii) the means by which the records or information shall be examined or reviewed;
(iii) the means by which the information is to be obtained;
(iv) the purposes for which the records or information are needed;
(v) the entities or persons, regardless of affiliation, who will have access to the personally identifiable information; and
(vi) a method by which a parent of a student can grant permission to access or examine the personally identifiable information.
(b) For a survey described in Subsection (1), written notice described in Subsection (4)(a) shall include an Internet address where a parent or legal guardian can view the exact survey to be administered to the parent or legal guardian’s student.

Students Assigned to Report on Parents’ Drug Use

ferpa violationI received the below letter from a parent of a student at Tooele Junior High School where this took place. The parent has asked to remain anonymous.

UPDATE (7/14/16): Another parent has come forward whose child attends Clarke Johnson Jr High in Tooele who also received this same assignment. Two different schools and teachers in the same district.

I believe these schools have violated state FERPA law 53A-13-302 entitled “Activities prohibited without prior written consent — Validity of consent — Qualifications — Training on implementation.”

Specifically section 1(e) which forbids “(e) critical appraisals of individuals with whom the student or family member has close family relationships;” without the prior written consent of the parents…among other sections. How a teacher thought this was OK is beyond me.

The local school district is supposed to provide training on this and the board is supposed to provide disciplinary action, per the last two statements in this code section.

In the “opt-out law” (line 158) that Senator Aaron Osmond got passed a few years ago, under state law parents are supposed to be notified each year of their rights. I don’t believe that’s happening at any school and it seems like parents need to be notified of their FERPA rights as well.

And now, the letter.


“In 2014 my 8th grader brought home an assignment for his health or science class, I don’t recall which subject. The students were learning about drugs and alcohol and were given a worksheet titled “Parent Interview”.  The students were instructed to interview their parents, write their parents’ answers down and return the worksheet to their teacher. This was a graded assignment.

The worksheet asked questions like “Have you ever used drugs?”, “What age were when you first used a drug or alcohol?”, “What did it make you feel like?”, “How often or how many times did you do drugs?”, and questions of that nature.

I was uncomfortable with the worksheet because I did not think it was any of the school’s business.  My husband and I had already talked to our kids, and continue talking to our kids about drugs and what we expect.  I did not see why the school felt the need to force this discussion and/or get a record of our discussion.  I answered the worksheet so my son will get credit, but I did not answer honestly on all questions.  My son did not like to have to interview me on this topic and turn it in to his teacher.

In the 2015/2016 school year my younger son received the same assignment in 8th grade.  I filled it out again and was not honest with my answers.  Again I felt it was none of the school’s business.   A lot of parents I know in the community were given this same assignment.  Some of them talked about how they just wrote “no” on all the answers and turned it in, or they wrote that they will not fill it out.

I don’t think the school should be putting parents and students in this position, nor should they know or have that kind of information.”

Substitute Teacher Exposes Common Core Math Nonsense

The following letter was sent to me by a Utah substitute teacher who wishes to remain anonymous.

One of the first experiences I had with the new methods used to teach Common Core math was when I co-taught  a math class as a substitute teacher in junior high school.  My job was to assist students with the assignment led by the math teacher.   The teacher was illustrating equations, for example, 34 x 3.  She was using the white board and instructed the students to draw out 30 boxes to represent the number 30.  She drew on the white board 3 boxes (each representing 10), but told the students that they could not draw 3 boxes, they must draw 30 boxes.   It was difficult to keep the students on task.  Many students stopped drawing and were shaking and massaging their hands because they hurt from writing.  Many became distracted.  A good portion of the 50 minute class period consisted of drawing out boxes to represent different numbers all grouped by 10.

As I was leaving the classroom I told the teacher that substitutes need training on how to teach the curriculum using the new Common Core  methods.    She stated that teachers need the course as well. I left the class feeling inadequate, like it was a waste of the students’ time and mine, and feeling bad because I had to encourage the students to do something I am not even following.  Before the standards were implemented I had substituted for this particular math teacher many times and I always found her lesson plans well organized and easy to follow.   Since Common Core I do not sign up for her math classes.

I had a similar experience co-teaching the “new math” with another substitute teacher.  We were both trying our best to learn the lesson plan before the students arrived but were unable to understand the new teaching methods.  When we presented the lesson to the students they seemed just as confused as we were and we were unable to answer their questions.  The students got distracted and we were unable to teach the lesson.

When I’ve substituted in elementary schools since the implementation of Common Core I often find that the worksheets are confusing, incorrect, and there is not enough information to solve word problems.   One such example was on a test for fourth or fifth graders, I don’t recall which, in which Juanita’s sticker problem (below) appeared. I found the image below online after seeing it on our students’ test.  The students were confused and asked me what to do.  I instructed them to write that there is not enough information provided to answer this question.

Our students deserve a MUCH better curriculum.

Common Core Math Juanita

Maine State Board of Education member speaks out against CBE

Reprinted with permission from:

My name is Heidi Sampson, I am a member of the State Board of Education in Maine. I am in no way speaking for the Maine SBE, but as a concerned citizen who has a vested interest in NH.  I wanted to share information with the New Hampshire Legislators on the Competency Based Education model now being implemented in the New Hampshire Schools.  Maine has been engaged in the same transformation although in Maine it’s called Proficiency Based Education.  The name is different but the problems will be the same because both models are based on the old and failed Outcome Based Education model which is part of the national redesign in public education.

As you move forward with legislation on Competency Based Learning and Assessments (HB323) it’s important to have this foundation of knowledge and history to carefully analyze whether you or your constituents really want this model in their local public schools.  Ask yourself, when did any of your parents demand your local public schools transform to the old, failed Outcome Based Model?  Chances are they did not.  The driving force behind this educational transformation is the Nellie Mae Foundation.  They heavily funded Non Profits in Maine to carry their water.  Great School Partnership got its start with Nellie Mae grants for their first 2 years.  Contracts have indicated a sizable fee with no deliverables identified. Currently the legislature is considering a bill to repeal the mandate to implement Proficiency Based Diplomas.

In Maine we began the process in earnest toward Proficiency Based Education that is identical to Competency Based Education. It was introduced on a large scale with the pilot program, Reinventing Schools Coalition (RISC). RISC was initiated in Alaska and implemented in California and Colorado.  Their results have been nothing stellar, no evidence of academic improvement was apparent. In fact, many, many, three year comparisons showed downward trends in Math, ELA and Science at all grade levels.  I have included a chart below from the pilot schools as well as some forerunners in Maine.

RISC has morphed into MCL (Mass Customized Learning) prior to the states adoption of the Proficiency Based Diploma mandate LD 1422 which passed in 2012. All these approaches have the same philosophy in common.  This is nothing new and has been around for generations being soundly rejected as a failure every time.

Outcome Based Education decades ago was the last big push to change the nature and outcomes of our public education.  It destroys traditional education, its methods, curriculum, and its means of assessment, time frames and goals. The Competency-Based model will only teach students what to think, not how to think. It will necessarily lower the bar in an attempt to equalize outcomes… and that never works.

Competency/Proficiency are such a palatable words.  Of course we want children to be competent or have competency or be proficient.

The average citizen understands what these words mean; a high aptitude, to have expertise, knack or know how, to be highly skilled, talented and very capable.

BUT what do the proponents of this effort really mean by competence/proficient?

First, it is critical to understand an important distinction:

•  Competency relates to attitudes, responses, behaviors or actions easily scored on a machine.

•  Education involves much more, requiring well trained, experienced human beings to assess and score.

These are not the same, yet we are led to conclude they are synonymous?

The word selection is deliberately designed to neutralize the unsuspecting public and even legislators, so it will be embraced.

So, what about where it has been tried? After billions of dollars and tremendous upheaval to school systems both large and small, the reformers have failed to deliver what they claimed. In fact, the failures were so complete that the systems were dismantled. This has happened in individual schools, districts, cities and states across this country. It happened in other countries.

It’s a challenge to keep up with all the changes in Maine education since our own Reform Act of 1984 and all of the ramifications of the federal programs; America 2000, Goals 2000, No Child Left Behind and now the infamous Race-to-the-Top. The consistent federal interference has not helped our state.

There is no middle ground with the move away from a time and [Carnegie] unit based system.  Schools have been moving away from teaching academics toward skills training – for workforce labor. Workforce development has nothing to do with self-selecting career choices and building a resume to that end.  Workforce labor development is a pre-selected path based on external information, not driven by a student’s dreams, desires or determination. This teaching model is a departure from Classical Approach for Education to BF Skinner’s Behavior Modification model of education.

If an expectation is not met, a child must repeat the drill again and again until they meet the predetermined outcome.  No need to prepare and no need to strive to do better; just do enough to get by and move on to the next standard. Subject matter will be broken down and compartmentalized.  A set of pre-determined expectations are the gate keeper to moving to the next compartmentalized subject matter.  No need to prepare; they just need to know how to properly respond by hitting the correct button.  This will enforce compliance.

Does this sound like the development of creative, innovative and independent thinkers? Or does this sound more like training pigeons?

Does this sound like we are creating competitive opportunities for them? Please consider this:

•  Independent, creative students will become the job creators.

•  Students who can manage the pressure of competition will succeed and thrive with the future challenges they will face.

The highest achievers and lowest achievers are either disheartened or disenfranchised, respectively.

The incessant, constant testing of each tiny, segregated standard has disemboweled every subject matter.

•  Learning is not linear!

•  The whole picture is lost to them.

•  Truth and knowledge are irrelevant.

•  Students will be sorted and ranked using psychometric (behavioral) data collected.

•  A child’s behavior, attitude, belief system and attributes will determine a child’s ‘value’  as human capital for the global labor market.

A premium is set for a student to know how to respond to a series of questions not what is of value and substance. The former is a subjective (opinion based) assessment; the latter is the only quantifiable (factual) assessment.

Like a rat navigating a maze in a lab, children are expected to navigate the useless information with a mouse to complete their test on time.

Behavior modification has nothing to do with true education, that of acquiring knowledge, using logic, or assessing truth. But this is the focus in education now, especially with competency based education.

There are indications students are learning less.  I’ve included two sample High School Physics Exams.  At one school (a forerunner for PBE), this year’s Honors Physics seniors took a 2007 pre Proficiency Based Education basic-level Physics exam and most were unable to pass what the lower level class was able to complete 8 years ago.  (See attached example of physics exams)

Physics Accel Exam2007- (Pre MCL)

Physics Honor Exam2015 (MCL 6 years)


Maine’s Education and Cultural Affair Committee commissioned a 2 year study to be conducted on this issue.  David Silvernail and the USM Center for Education Policy, Applied Research, and Evaluation posted their work April 30, 2014 titled Implementation of a Proficiency-Based Diploma System: Early Experiences in Maine. Although this work was funded by the Nellie Mae Foundation, which strongly advocated for proficiency based education this report is not a glowing report. There evidence of success is lacking:  “After an extensive review of the literature, it became evident that, while there are many conceptual pieces describing what a standards-based or proficiency-based education system should look like, there are few existing conceptual models that envelop all of the requisite elements for successful implementation. Furthermore, there is limited empirical evidence of the effectiveness of these systems, which has resulted in school districts having little historical information and no clear evidence to guide them in developing the new diploma systems.” (pgs. 16-17).

A related study sited within the same USM study stated: “In addition, this study’s statistical comparison of a proficiency-based intervention programs to nonintervention programs revealed that the intervention group demonstrated lower academic performance.” (Lewis et al., 2013, p. 3-4).

From a strictly objective scientific evidence piece of research, it would be necessary to have a separate study conducted that is not funded by Nellie Mae, the Gates Foundation or Educate Maine.  All these organizations are self-propagating and the public is not receiving evidence that is unbiased or will help to further the cause of the funding organizations. If this system was highly ineffective, with the current studies, we would not discover this until it is far too late.

In Maine over 100 districts are not prepared to properly implement the mandated Proficiency Based Diploma system and have therefore filed and received extensions. It seems a logical conclusion to assume the legislature was misled during the passage of LD 1422.  This is not a surprise as they were only allowed to receive one perspective; only the potential of an unproven system.

Now that we have been able to evaluate the policy closer and have had time to speak with stake holders; teachers, parents, students, college admissions personnel and special education professionals, we now have a much clearer picture of what a Proficiency Based Diploma system brings.

“Our data suggest that an additional issue with local translation of external standards and state-level legislation was evident in the lack of consistency in the definition of key features necessary in developing and implementing proficiency-based diploma systems”. (pg. 49)

The fact that curricula would have to change is another area that should be examined. School Boards are to a great extend completely unaware of what this is all about.  In many Maine districts, the School Boards have approved “A Concept” which has given the administration; cart-blanche approval to bring in anything and everything without any accountability.

If you want a system where teachers can teach and students can learn, imposing a learning culture and curricula based on an unproven ideology further clouded with problems of interpretation and implementation only complicates the goals.


We have now invested years in this experiment, with years to go; years of continued interruption and false hope for the parents and students. There will be more talks, presentations, demonstrations, slide shows and testimonials aimed at convincing us that we are on a path to improvement. But in the end, after the money is spent and changes have been made, after school boards and legislatures have changed, we’ll discover what so many others did.  Our Proficiency-Based model will collapse under its own weight. We can wait for that inevitability or we can do the right thing now.

ScoresScores Source:

Protecting Our Children