Directions in Education?

President Elect Donald Trump has appointed Betsy DeVos as the U.S. Secretary of Education. A lot was said on the campaign trail. With a Trump-DeVos administration what direction will they take education?

Trigger warning: be aware that the following is speculative opinion or opinionated speculation or some such other nonsense and that it may offend some and those that it doesn’t offend should perhaps be offended that it doesn’t offend them.

As an educator, the first time a U.S. Secretary of Education really got my attention was direction-1033278_1280when Rod Paige compared the NEA to a terrorist organization. By extension, in my eyes, he was labeling teachers as terrorists. While he did catch a lot of flack for his comments, I thought he should have been removed from office. That didn’t happen. Since that time, I think a number of his successors have taken actions outside the boundaries of the constitution and legislation that have been much worse than Paige’s comments. And often done so with the support of or direction of the president.

I doubt Trump would fire or push DeVos to resign no matter how far she strays from his campaign “promises”. The inconsistencies of Trump’s own campaign “promises” regarding education allows for considerable guided or unguided meandering and have puzzled and concerned me. Getting rid of Common Core? Does the president or secretary of education have any legal authority to do this? Scale back or eliminate the US DOE… If scaled back, will the programs/activities that may be eliminated or scaled down be replaced with things like programs to ensure opportunity and access to college or vocational/technical education? Will those programs require federal legislation or some kind of regulations to be put in place? Will we see a shrink and expand phenomena? Which will be greater—the shrinkage or the expansion? Grant programs to expand school choice—-is that local control and where will it be managed if the US DOE is eliminated? Will there be strings (ropes, chains, or shackles) attached? Anything like that provides the opportunity to attach strings. That’s my string theory.

As for DeVos and the Common Core, there may be some major smoke and mirrors action used to influence public perception. I haven’t found any public statement on her part way-427984_640about supporting Common Core but I do see lots of involvement on her part in groups and with activities strongly promoting and protecting the Common Core and its cabal. I also don’t think I have found any public statements she has made indicating she opposes the Common Core. I don’t count “supports high standards” as a statement promoting or opposing Common Core. How many different ways will that be used to fool people? The transition team, not DeVos, has said there will be a focus on “setting higher national standards”. Is that possibly much more dangerous than the whole Common Core debacle? Does that sound like the early stages of paving the way for the federal government to develop a set of national standards? Is that worse than having two non-government entities develop standards? I can imagine a set of national standards that won’t be the Common Core but really will be. Some people seem to want things both ways and this may be a way for that to be possible. To me, it definitely does not look promising. I fail to see how “setting higher national standards” allows for local control. But that is just me. I am sure they will find a way to convince the public that having “higher national standards” is local control in its purist form. More smoke and mirrors…   and it is very clever how they will have DeVos appear to be anti-Common Core to the uninformed and unsuspecting general public.

In addition to DeVos saying she supports high standards, she says she supports strong accountability and local control. Jenni White makes a great point in her letter to President-Elect Trump when she says, “You simply can’t have “high standards” and “strong accountability” at the federal level and get LOCAL CONTROL.”

Will we have local control? Oh, I think we will… but not like most of us think of local control. Is it possible the definition of local control has been operationally changed? ESSAdirectory-466935_1280 was a step in the direction towards federally mandating local control. Can we expect more federal mandates for local control? Won’t it be great to return to local control by federal mandate with rules, regulations, and sanctions managed by folks in Washington, D.C.? Or perhaps to have it be more local by having federal education agents stationed in each state to enforce local control requirements? Local control in its purist form?

Which direction will education head in under the Trump-DeVos administration? My guess is as good as multiple spins of the Wheel of Fortune with a compass rose superimposed. Will we really turn and go in a different direction? Or continue on the same path but encounter switchbacks and many ups and downs? Will there be more or less privatization of public education? Will there be a stop to or a continuation of education profiteering by corporate and non-profit entities? Will students benefit? Will they receive a solid knowledge based academic education? Or will they be shoved into the workforce pipeline?

We can’t sit back and be quiet (and I don’t believe we are). Different people have different ways of addressing issues that are in front of them. While people need to continue addressing the issues we need to always be exploring and trying to find ways that may more effectively address the issues. We speak but is our voice being heard?


Appoint An Education Secretary With Integrity

A collaborative effort has resulted in a letter/petition Joy Pullmann has posted.  You are encouraged to go to the Appoint An Education Secretary With Integrity and sign the petition.  The content of the letter/petition is included below along with the initial signatories.

Sign the Petition.


Dear President-elect Donald J. Trump,

We, the undersigned, are the grassroots moms, dads, and teachers who have been fighting to end the Common Core. We are the people who travel to our state capitols and testify against this national monstrosity, only to have leaders of both political parties mock and ignore us.

Common Core and its future incarnations can absolutely be blocked at the federal level by devolving power back to the people and states, and we look forward to assisting your administration in fulfilling your campaign promise to “Get rid of Common Core – keep education local!”

We adamantly oppose any nomination for U.S. education secretary who has either openly supported or passively assisted Common Core by enabling education centralization, which includes most of the education establishment on the Right and Left. Such a pick would contradict your campaign promises.

Choosing Williamson M. Evers as part of your transition team for education policy has been a heartening indication of your commitment to end Common Core. He is not only well-qualified to lead your transition team, but also to be the U.S. education secretary who mitigates the severe damage his predecessors have done to Americans and our children. He has the professional, academic, and policy credentials worthy of a cabinet position, yet also the trust of the no-name moms and dads in the bipartisan, grassroots Common Core opposition.

He is well-qualified to lead the U.S. Department of Education into what you have pledged will characterize your administration: “Replacing a failed and corrupt political establishment with a new government controlled by you, the American people.”

Yes! Appoint a man committed to making this happen in education policy, who will help restore self-government in education. You can restore ordinary Americans’ power to make our kids’ education great again, and a man such as Evers would be an exemplary partner in that task. Other exemplary choices include Larry Arnn and Sandra Stotsky.

Power to the people! Make America smart again!

Jenny Baker
Return to Parental Rights and Gathering Families

Meg Bakich
Truth in Texas Education

Stacey Castleman
Stop Common Core in North Dakota

Micah Clark
American Family Association of Indiana

Heather Crossin
Hoosiers Against Common Core

Sheri Few
U.S. Parents Involved in Education

Aubrey Flaherty
Truth in Texas Education

Yvonne A. Gasperino and Glen A. Dalgleish
Stop Common Core in New York State

Christy Hooley
Wyoming Citizens Opposing Common Core
Citizens for Objective Public Education

Heidi Huber
Ohioans For Local Control

Janice Lenox
Concerned Citizens of Southern New Jersey

Shane Vander Hart
Truth in American Education

Betty Peters
Alabama State School Board Member
Truth in American Education

Joy Pullmann
Heartland Institute

Christel Swasey
Utahns Against Common Core

Erin Tuttle
Hoosiers Against Common Core

Jenni White
Reclaim Oklahoma Parent Empowerment

J.R. Wilson
Truth in American Education

Deborah Yoa
Concerned Citizens of Southern New Jersey

Monica Boyer
Kosciusko Silent No More
Indiana Liberty Coalition

Rick DeWitt
Montgomery County Tea Party

Diana Freeman
Boone County Tea Party

Paul Kilpatrick
Indianapolis Tea Party

Robert Hall
Grassroots Conservatives (Bloomington)

Ray Harney
Parke County Tea Party

Vivian Himelick
Fayette County Tea Party

Dwight Lile
Constitutional Patriots, Carmel

Margaret Niccum
Muncie 9/12

Al Parsons
Citizens In Action Lafayette

Randy Price
Coalition of Central Indiana Tea Parties

Janet Smith
Greenfield Tea Party

(Note: Affiliations listed are for identification purposes, not to indicate political or institutional endorsement.)

Weapons of Math Destruction

I was recently given a link to a video that caught my interest because of the title: Weapons of Math Destruction. The video features Cathy O’Neil, the author of Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy. The book is now at the top of my reading list. The video is an eye opener that hardly scratches the surface of a number of issues. I hope the book fills in more supporting detail. Watch the 12 minute video and see what you think.

In this brief video, Cathy O’Neil makes the point that algorithms are being used as weapons for social control and that these algorithms are a set of secret rules. This undermines the notion that understanding rules is a part of our democracy. These algorithms have a direct affect on targeted people, threaten democracy, and increases inequality. She provides three examples: one from education, one from the justice system, and the last from politics.

Education. The example she uses is the Value Added Model (VAM) for evaluating teachers. She makes that point that VAM is used to hold teachers accountable for good teaching yet there is no accountability for VAM.

Justice. She touches on the use of data, predictive policing, and evidence based sentencing.

Politics. Here she addresses the powerful use of micro targeting in politics.

With education as my main interest, concern about VAM should be evident but I see another possible concern that may be more alarming. Consider the kind of micro targeting in politics that she refers to. How much of a shift is it to think of the implications of micro targeting being used with students in our education system?


McGroarty Testifies Against Expanded College-Workforce Data Dossier

Karen R. Effrem, MD – President, Education Liberty Watch

Emmett McGroarty, director of education at the American Principles Project testified at the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (CEP) about the highly dangerous idea of creating a longitudinal higher education/workforce database.  This plan would lift the ban on this concept currently in federal law. The proposal is being pushed by Florida Senator Marc Rubio in a bill called The Know Before You Go Act, the concerns about which we have discussed before.

Here is the testimony starting at  2:4548 (Thanks to Shane Vander Hart at Truth in American Education)


McGroarty Testimony

Mr. McGroarty gave excellent testimony, as usual, and covered many critical points, especially about how this database would make students/employees subservient to and intimidated by the government, flipping the arrangement put in place by our Founders. The commissioners in their questioning tried to minimize his concerns saying that it would only involve higher education students and would not involve social emotional or “soft” or 21st century skills that is such a concern in pre-K to 12 as we have covered elsewhere. McGroarty held firm and said that these are issues no matter what the grade level of the individual and that the federal government has no constitutional authority to be gathering all of this data on individuals.

We also know that the commissioners arguments were straw man arguments. Corporations and foundations are already very interested in gathering this fuzzy, subjective SEL data on our kids as evidenced by the  efforts of the Gates Foundation and the Business Roundtable. And we know that USED has long spoken of wanting to have linkable data on everyone from pre-K through the workforce, so there is no reason that this college workforce would not be eventually be linked to the pre-K through 12 data they are putting together through the state longitudinal database systems.

Here are some additional thought to be added to Mr. McGroarty’s always great testimony on this topic taken from Education Liberty Watch’s response to the March US House Education and Workforce hearing on education research and data collection:

We believe that student privacy and parental consent should always be considered pre-eminent compared to the research desires of the government or private sector, especially in the realm of psychological profiling.

The government has no constitutional, statutory, or moral right to collect data, especially  highly personal and sensitive socioemotional data on our children.

According to data presented to this committee by the Cato Institute several years ago, federal involvement in education has yielded either stagnant or declining academic performance:

The vast majority of federal education programs are unconstitutional because the entire US Department of Education is unconstitutional, meaning that most of these programs should be eliminated with any remaining that can be shown to be effective and constitutional programs being block granted to the states.

Many studies showing the ineffectiveness and or harm of current government education and child social programs and the effectiveness of two parent family structure and other non-government academic and social measures are ignored raising the question of why we need so much research in the first place. This includes early childhood and home visiting programs.

We have an opportunity to submit comments to this commission on this and other data privacy related issues by November 14th! Please participate. You may use information from Emmett McGroarty’s testimony, this post and other sources like the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy. Please do not let the federal government create lifelong dossiers on us and our children!

This article was originally published on the Education Liberty Watch website and is re-posted here with the author’s permission.

For a copy of the hearing agenda and written  statements click here.


Stop the Ed Tech Juggernaut: A Parents Across America Webinar

This article appears on the Seattle Education website.  It is reposted here with permission from the author.

parents across americaMembers of Parents Across America (PAA) have spent extensive time looking into quantities of writing and research that raise red flags about the impact of the EdTech explosion on our children. This high-pressure movement has brought a mishmash of digital devices and online and other pre-packaged programs into our schools, where they are promoted as “personalized,” “competency-based,” “student-centered,” or “self-directed” learning, terms which we refer to together as EdTech.

What we have found out about the EdTech push alarms us and should alarm any parent.

First of all, there is actually very little research addressing the many news ways that EdTech is being used in our schools — our children are truly being used as guinea pigs.

What we do know about children and screen time is based in part on new studies and in part on previous research into children’s use of television, video games and computers, which can help us anticipate some of EdTech’s health effects. And EdTech’s teaching and learning track record is not positive. Yet corporate reformers and the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) are investing heavily in EdTech and putting enormous pressure on districts and schools to increase its use.

Join PAA activists and national experts to learn more about the negative effects of EdTech and what parents can do to slow down the digital learning juggernaut in your children’s schools:

Stop the Ed Tech Juggernaut 

Sunday,  October 16, 2016

7:00 PM EDT


How to join the meeting:

Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android:

Or iPhone one-tap (US Toll): +14086380968,529296692# or +16465588656,529296692#

Or Telephone:
Dial: +1 408 638 0968 (US Toll) or +1 646 558 8656 (US Toll)
Meeting ID: 529 296 692
International numbers available:

All are invited!

For more on Ed Tech, see:

PAA’s Position Paper: Our Children @ Risk

PAA Recommendations for appropriate, effective, healthful use of EdTech

EdTech Summary Brief – summary points that reflect what we have discovered about the proven and potential problematic effects of EdTech.

EdTech Overview – The latest push from corporate “school reform” undermines parental control, student privacy, and the quality of teaching and learning

EdTech: mental and emotional effects – How EdTech may be harming our children’s mental and emotional health

EdTech: impact on children’s intellectual and academic development

EdTech: impact on children’s physical health

How EdTech undermines quality teaching and learning

Facts on Sitting and Children’s Health

Blended learning? Personalized learning? Competency-based learning? Student-centered learning? Self-directed learning? We unpack the buzz words.

Buzz words images (EdTech: Let’s call it what it really is)

EdTech: Who Benefits? – Not our children!

Ed Tech: Questions to ask — What to ask at your child’s school:

He Just Sued the School System

This video is very well done and makes great points.  It highlights problems in our public school system, especially the current one-size fits all approach.  A lot of points, issues, and possible solutions are touched on in this video and not everyone is going to agree with everything presented.  There is plenty of food for thought in the video.  Should we continue to expect fish to climb trees?
Watch below: