Category Archives: Concerns

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But less than two months later, two of the CASEL states (Tennessee and Georgia) have withdrawn from the initiative.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.

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

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:

Dr. Thompson slams USOE misrepresentations about SAGE

Dr. Gary ThompsonAt a recent legislative interim meeting, Jo Ellen Schaeffer from the USOE stated to legislators that SAGE testing was validated by UCLA. This was quite the revelation since for years we’ve been stating that SAGE was an invalid test, and the testing that was done in Florida on Utah’s test proved it (Link1, Link 2).

With this news that UCLA had apparently done a validation study, Jakell Sullivan reached out to Dr. Gary Thompson to get his take on things since legislators were being told with authority, that SAGE was a valid test. Dr. Thompson’s quick response points out numerous problems with the USOE’s statements. With permission I post his letter here.

Dear Ms. Sullivan

I have read the Utah State Board of Education’s memo in response to Representative Lowery Snow’s inquiry, on your behalf, about his concerns regarding the validity of the Utah SAGE test.  Here is a partial summary statement from the Board’s response informing Representative Snow, that the SAGE is indeed a valid test:

“The validity of Utah’s Student Assessments of Growth and Excellence (SAGE) has been confirmed through a number of independent sources. The most recent studies include: (1) The National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing, UCLA (CRESST), (2) Education Next, (3), (4) Independent Verification of the Psychometric Validity for the Florida Standards Assessment. Each study substantiates both the high rigor of Utah’s standards and the validity and reliability of the assessments that measures those standards.”

As cited evidence of SAGE validity, the Board references “Education Next”, and “Achieve”. org”. Per the Board’s own memo, this cited evidence discusses  “high standards and state proficiency levels” when compared to the NAEP test.   This is not related to specific inquires regarding the validity of the Utah SAGE test.  As such, a response from me will not be forth coming.

I also will not respond to the Board’s reference to the State of Florida’s Validity study.   Several months ago, the Board used this same document to substantiate Utah’s SAGE test validity.   I sent a written response to the Board, and the general public, factually rebutting this dangerously irresponsible, and inaccurate claim.

As you and thousands of Utah parents are aware, I am still waiting for a response.   The letter sent to Board Vice Chairman, Dave Thomas, in response to his spurious claims, was referenced and published by Utahan’s Against Common Core’s, Chrystal Swasey. Here is the link:

Thus, the only item left to rebut from the Utah State Board of Education memo, is its unexplainable reliance on a yet to be published AIR-SAGE validity study, produced by the federally funded, quasi governmental, UCLA campus-based research group, CRESST.

I am going to keep this short and sweet:

Here are five (5) questions that you, Representative Snow, the media, and voters in Utah may wish to ask Board of Education Chairman Dave Crandall during his “debate” appearance this Wednesday, June 22 at Summit Academy:

1. Why did the State Board rely on the research group “CRESST” as the primary source of proof of SAGE validity, without letting parents and lawmakers know that CRESST is “funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI)”?  (,_Standards,_and_Student_Testing)

2.  Utah paid $40,000,000 to AIR, Inc. (American Institute of Research) to design the SAGE test.  Were you aware that the research group CRESST, which produced the “validity study”, is supported financially by, and lists AIR as “Partners” on its own website? (   Does the Board leadership consider this to be an “independent”, and unbiased relationship?

3.  Since 2012, were the Board and the State Office of Education aware that the current Director of CRESST, Li Cai, received multiple millions of dollars of personal research grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, U.S. Department of Education, and (you can’t make this stuff up) Utah’s SAGE test designer, AIR? ( )  How can a Director of a research organization produce an objective and unbiased validity study on the very group that has given him substantial amounts of money for independent research?

4. Why did the State Board of Education fail to inform parents that their children were taking a yet to be validated test for the past three years?  Is not such omission a complete and blatant violation of trust?

5. Are you aware that Board placed hundreds’ of thousands of Utah children at risk of harm, and exploitation, at the hands of a behavioral research corporation (AIR), by allowing them to experiment on children without the informed, written consent of their parents?  Are you aware that this unethical practice is also against Utah law? ( “Activities prohibited without prior written consent”

When the Utah State Board of Education and State Office of Education produce an independent validity study, I would be delighted to devote professional time to review it at your request.   In the meantime, the current memo submitted to Representative Snow in support of SAGE “validity” is clearly a deliberate attempt to deceive an esteemed member of the Utah Interim Education Committee, and only serves to highlight the unethical, unconstitutional, incestuous relationship between the State of Utah, and the U.S. Federal Government.   

Both the Utah State Board of Education and the Utah State Office of Education have a long, well documented history of providing lawmakers and parents in Utah with responses to inquiries laced with “lies of omission.”   This deceptive practice places public school children in Utah at high risk for continued psychometric experimentation, and profit motivated exploitation via the hands of SAGE test designer, AIR, Inc.   I have no desire to debate current Board Chairman Dave Crandall in a public setting, until this serious matter of continued experimentation and exploitation of our children is answered in a clear, ethical, fact based manner.

In summary, given the clear and present danger this poses to 650,000 vulnerable Utah children, it is my professional opinion that you consider asking Representative Snow to seek an independent inquiry regarding this matter via Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes.  It is my strong, evidence based, professional opinion that Utah’s education leaders at the Board of Education and State Office of Education, are more committed to adhering to the educational political “flavors of the day”, as opposed to providing Utah’s children with objective, science based solutions to serious education problems in our State.

Please let me know if I can be of more assistance to you in the future.  Feel free to distribute this response to the general public as you deem to be appropriate under the circumstances.

Best regards;

Gary Thompson, Psy.D.

District 10 Candidate For Utah State Board of Education


Tell your legislators NO to CBE

Now that the governor and state board seem to be interested in replacing Common Core with Utah standards (and that’s not the solution we’re looking for, but local control of standards, assessments, and curriculum at the district/school level), and SAGE tests are staggering from multiple body blows, what’s the “next thing” reformers want to impose on our children? Competency-based education (CBE).

Just say NO.

What is CBE? Let me point you to a fine resource that will help you understand the issues. The mastery of the parts does not equal the mastery of the whole. CBE is just the rename of “Outcome-based education” that was shot down decades ago, and now CBE must be shot down again. Just because we have digital tools now doesn’t mean it’s any more right for students today than it was back then .

Start here:

To the proponents of CBE, I would suggest that instead of personalized learning, we need personal learning. That’s not saying we need a greater teacher to student ratio, but we need to allow children to turn into self-learning adults. One major purpose of education should be to create life-long learners. I haven’t been in school for 25 years yet I continue to study and learn things because I enjoy it. Students need the same ability (and passion) of being interested in a subject without being told what to learn, when to learn it, and what’s on a test.

As students age through the system they need to be given more freedom of time to pursue their own interests. This can be a class period or more. Self-study should be required. Let them choose their own subject and present to the teacher a plan for their own mastery of the content at the level they want to master it. When they’ve done that let them present a plan for the next topic they want to dive into, whether it’s shallow or deep. When students pursue what they are curious about, they will learn it faster and better and the teacher can be there to guide the student in their own true journey. Completion of a unit would be writing a paper or doing a presentation for the class reflecting their mastery of that topic. That’s lifelong learning! Students could even review each others’ plans and challenge each other to perform.

Teachers in this class role could help students to obtain their own personal mastery, not some checklist of predefined mastery units or state standards. It is a grave disservice we do to students to tell them they have graduated when all they have done is learned to master what they have been told to do. If learning is truly self-learning, we need to reintroduce true self-learning to the school system.

Please read the above article and then contact your legislators and tell them you do not want Competency-Based Education in Utah. You want personal learning and local control.

Abortion Test Question

A student attending Stansbury High School was taking his biology exam in an online format and got this very personal question about handling an abortion. Thankfully he had his cell phone to take a picture of the test question he received. Click to enlarge it.

The student said this question had come up earlier in the year when taking a different test. This is a very disturbing question that appears to violate Utah law asking about potential religious and sexual beliefs. This is not a SAGE test, but some other provider openly seeking behavioral data on students.

Abortion Test Question