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MACC CALL TO ACTION! ESSA Federal Grant Hearing

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MACC CALL TO ACTION: ESSA Federal Grant Hearing

MDE’s DANGEROUS STATE PLAN for ESSA Act FEDERAL GRANT
LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE HEARING
Wednesday, July 19, 2017, 1:00 – 3:00pm, Room 5, State Office Building, St. Paul

NOW: Email House Education Committee Chairs:
Rep. Sondra Erickson rep.sondra.erickson@house.mn
Sen. Eric Pratt sen.eric.pratt@senate.mn

Tell them “NO” to the “MCA student failure labeling” when parents refuse the federally-aligned tests.

Opting out is a parent’s prerogative to protest the adoption of federalized standards, curriculum, data collection and aligned testing. To mandate the federal tests for ALL students is to close the FINAL DOOR ON LOCAL CONTROL, thus federalizing our Minnesota schools and contradicting our own state law.  Opting out of federal testing and/or curriculum remains a parent’s right!

When the No Child Left Behind Waiver, Race to the Top K-12 and Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge federal grants were submitted in 2010 and 2011, we at MACC had not yet understood the dangers inherent in these federal regulations. Our limited actions in 2013 involved reading the federal law/grant applications and corresponding changes in state law, as well as, listening to archived deliberations of the legislative committee. We now have a great opportunity!!!

NEXT WEDNESDAY, a legislative committee from the House and Senate will convene to review, hear testimony and adopt the MDE State Plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The ESSA is another federal set of intrusive regulations from the already burgeoning Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which contains over 1,000 pages. Many of us attended the MDE ESSA public meetings and met like-minded individuals with similar concerns. Unfortunately, our and many others’ input fell on deaf ears. The MDE did not embed public input into our state plan.   This time, the legislature is in charge of looking over the plan prior to adoption and submission to the feds.

At issue: Linking MCA Federal-Accountability Testing (which aligns to the federal standards and international curriculum) to student proficiency. Students will now receive points for exceeding, meeting or partially meeting proficiency. What’s new? If parents opt their kids out of testing, the student will receive no points and declared, “not proficient”. What will the labeling and consequences of “not proficient” mean for some of our highest-achieving students whose families annually choose to opt out.
Why is MACC concerned with the MCA testing and the ability to opt out?
1. The federal accountability testing (MCA for Minnesota) is the last nail in the coffin to fully realize a federalized education program for America. A federalized education program is unlawful, unconstitutional and leads us down that road where “the state” is the final authorizer and arbiter of educating and raising children.

2. By adopting the ESSA testing refusal point system failure-rating, Minnesota laws will now sanction and penalize parental voice. Only those approved parental voices who compliantly praise the federal testing program will be allowed.

3. By adopting the ESSA, Minnesota will be fully adopting all the federalized standards, including the Common Core standards and College-and-Career Ready Standards for English and Math. These standards are fully embedded in ESSA, unless the MDE has an exception for Math, as well as the next iteration, Competency-Based Education, the online-only option for schools. The ESSA federal tests align to these federal standards.

4. The online education companies are run by 3rd-party corporate entities from far, far away. This move will “lock down” testing, as well as remove parental engagement regarding standards, curriculum and aligned testing.

5. The MCAs tests align with the 3rd-party corporate national curriculum.

6. The Minnesota statute 120B.11 (Minnesota’s World’s Best Workforce) has already diminished a parent’s role in curricular engagement through mandating huge 30-member curriculum teams which heretofore were intimate curriculum meetings between a few teachers and parents.
7. Testing is in fact a part of curriculum. Testing is curriculum. Curricular decisions to review and opt out, found in Minnesota Statute 120B.20 will be diminished if not annulled.

8. Further reason that Minnesota parents may want to opt their children out of MCAs is that the MCA’s are a Pearson product. Pearson states directly on their website that they align with the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals. This alignment structures and embeds international curriculum and testing content into Minnesota school curriculum and tests.   Pearson represents neither local control or parental rights.
This is just how dangerous removing that last bit of local control and parental authority over testing and curriculum will be! MACC invites you to reach out and contact Rep Sondra Erickson and Senator Eric Pratt, Committee Chairs for the ESSA Plan Hearing, at your earlier convenience. Consider contacting your personal representative and senator. A quick email from each of us will make a dramatic impact.
Thank you in advance for advocating for Minnesota’s children!

 

ALERT! Dangerous New MACC-Imitator Looking for a Handout

CFIF donation page

ALERT!!!     MACC HAS A DANGEROUS NEW IMITATOR

If you have received a letter like the one posted above, do not be fooled.  This is from a “think tank” in Washington D.C. and is not an actual Minnesota organization.  They are using our old name to try and illicit money from you.

And while their message of Common Core being dangerous is actually what we have been touting for many years, our mission has evolved as the challenges our children face comes from a variety of sources at the Federal and State level dealing not with just standards, but also curriculum, testing, data mining, workforce development, privacy and parental rights.

“Minnesotans Against Common Core” is funded by a “conservative” think tank called the Center for Individual Freedom.  Their PO Box is in Washington DC.  Unfortunately, their message is a little antiquated, and we could have really used their help with defending against ESSA, especially since elected officials of their own persuasion were so instrumental in jamming it through.

This is even more confusing since one of our very own Republican State Senators announced just last week in a committee hearing, “We don’t have Common Core in Minnesota”, and “We, in the Education Committee, aren’t concerned with Common Core”.  Somebody had better figure out their story.

So please, don’t confuse MACC – Minnesota Advocates and Champions for Children, an actual Minnesota-based grassroots organization fighting for our children, parental rights and local control, with this questionable organization from Washington D.C.

But if you would like to donate some money, we would gladly receive it.  We haven’t really asked for much over our four years of meeting and working with legislators at the Capitol as concerned parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. as well as working with Minnesotans in group presentations and individual consults. And unfortunately, if the statements from the Senator are any indication, we have a lot of work yet to do.

 

 

 

 

ALERT! SF 1475 Time is Short. MAKE CALLS Today and Tomorrow!

 

SLP Teacher testifies on SF 1475

St. Louis Park teacher testifies in opposition to SF 1475

ALERT!  Make your calls and emails now concerning Senate File 1475.  We have until Friday morning at 9:00am when the hearing will take place for possible passage. The bill has already passed one committee late last week.   Tell the Senators to vote “NO” on SF 1475 if parental rights and local control are important to you.

 

CALL NOW:  Senator Eric Pratt  651-296-4123

 

                                sen.eric.pratt@senate.mn

 

        Senator Gary Dahms  651-296-8138

 

sen.gary.dahms@senate.mn

 

                       Senator Roger Chamberlain 651-296-1253

 

                                 sen.roger.chamberlain@senate.mn

 

                        Senator Carla Nelson 651-296-4848

 

                                 sen.carla.nelson@senate.mn

 

Senate File 1475 pushes further the embedding of Common Core system-wide tests into our schools.  The MCA Standardized Test is the FEDERAL Common Core test meant to measure system-level accountability. Call it a “state test” if you must, but we are cognizant that these are the federally-mandated tests. These scores have nothing to do with student achievement. The MDE themselves have stated over and over that the MCAs are not to be used for student achievement.

 

For four years, MACC’s primary themes have revolved around parental rights and local control.  Here are a few important points.

 

1.      Minnesota has witnessed a considerable decrease in parental rights and local control since MACC began studying the Common Core initiative system of standards, curriculum, testing, data collection and workforce development.  Our standards have been rewritten to federal in every subject area.

 

2.      SF 1475 will remove parent’s last little bit of freedom in guiding their children’s education within the Common Core system.  The MCAs are the federally-mandated Common Core tests that measure system-level accountability and does not measure individual student achievement.  The MCAs measure our compliancy with Common Core Standards.

 

3.      Although opting out remains an option for every family, by financial incentivizing MCA testing within the basic formula, districts and teachers will have no choice but to push for a higher percentage of test-takers.  The MCAs take up a considerable amount of time with prep testing and curricular prepping, promoting a system of standards that most parents do not support.

 

4.      Local control has become more dictatorial among superintendents and school boards.  SF 1475 gives more dictatorial control to school districts and their “stakeholders” by dismissing parents and incorporating a “carrot and stick” approach.

 

5.      By furthering a federally-led education curriculum, the intent brings into question our State Constitution, and it’s requirement of a locally-developed curriculum.

 

Frustratingly, parents feel that they have little voice in their school districts and at school board meetings.  Of course, this fact does not deter parents.  SF 1475 will continue to erode that freedom we now enjoy by causing undo pressure from the disticts to onto the parents mandating that their children take the MCAs or the district will loose much-need funding. 

 

What can we do?  How can we amend this bill?  In reading the ESSA Rules ourselves, we can see easily that each state may adopt their own state plan. We have been handed a golden opportunity to create our own plan.  Let’s make the most of it!  Let’s take a look at what the ESSA has to say to states and subsequently, compare how Minnesota is considering implementing the MCA testing into our state law.  I believe you’ll see that that Minnesota has decided to go more “stringent” than the ESSA requires via the letter and intent of the law.  Thanks to FairTest for pulling out the pertinent test and opt out language in ESSA.  http://www.fairtest.org/federal-law-and-regulations-opting-out-under-essa

 

Federal Law on Opting Out Under ESSA:

 

The U.S. Congress has canceled Department of Education (DoE) regulations regarding accountability.  MACC reported on this cancellation last week.  This includes regulations that would have governed test participation, the requirement to test 95% of all students, and federally mandated accountability consequences. As a result, states must turn to the language of the law itself, at least until the DoE provides new regulatory language. States may impose more stringent requirements than does ESSA.

 

Language on testing and accountability:

 

1003(b)(2) is the section (‘paragraph’) requiring testing.

 

1003(c) is the section on accountability. Within that:

 

‘‘(E) ANNUAL MEASUREMENT OF ACHIEVEMENT.—(i) Annually measure the achievement of not less than 95 percent of all students, and 95 percent of all students in each subgroup of students, who are enrolled in public schools on the assessments described under subsection (b)(2)(v)(I).

 

‘‘(ii) For the purpose of measuring, calculating, and reporting on the indicator described in subparagraph (B)(i) [FT: the statewide test indicator], include in the denominator the greater of—

 

‘‘(I) 95 percent of all such students, or 95 percent of all such students in the subgroup, as the case may be; or

 

‘‘(II) the number of students participating in the assessments.

 

‘‘(iii) Provide a clear and understandable explanation of how the State will factor the requirement of clause (i) of this subparagraph into the statewide accountability system.”

 

Language on opting out:

 

1111(b)(2)(K): “RULE OF CONSTRUCTION ON PARENT RIGHTS.—

 

“Nothing in this paragraph shall be construed as preempting a State or local law regarding the decision of a parent to not have the parent’s child participate in the academic assessments under this paragraph.”

 

1112(e)(2)(A): 

 

“(2) TESTING TRANSPARENCY.—

 

“(A) IN GENERAL.—At the beginning of each school year, a local educational agency that receives funds under this part shall notify the parents of each student attending any school receiving funds under this part that the parents may request, and the local educational agency will provide the parents on request (and in a timely manner), information regarding any State or local educational agency policy regarding student participation in any assessments mandated by section 1111(b)(2) and by the State or local educational agency, which shall include a policy, procedure, or parental right to opt the child out of such assessment, where applicable.”

 

On March 13, DoE issued a “template” for states to submit their ESSA plans. It asks states, “Describe how the State factors the requirement for 95 percent student participation in statewide mathematics and reading/language arts assessments into the statewide accountability system.”

 

The ESSA law shows us more clearly:

 

1.       While states must administer statewide assessments/tests, nothing in federal law requires students to take them.

 

2.      ESSA contains no requirement that states punish schools or districts which have high rates of refusal.

 

3.      “States have to take into account what happens to a school if the individual school fails to meet the 95 percent participation requirement within the state accountability system. But this can be very flexible. A state could choose a variety of outcomes—including that test participation has no impact on a school’s identification (emphasis added):… It is up to the state.”

 

4.      Min  “A state can, as required, report test participation rates using at least 95% of all eligible students as the denominator. It can then use only the scores of those who take the test in calculating test-based accountability indicators (proficiency scores, growth scores, ELL language proficiency test scores). This would enable states to report average scores with the denominator of at least 95%, to not include scores of refusers in identifying “low performing” schools, and to take no specific steps against schools with lower test participation rates. A state can also separately publish results from only students who took the test (denominator is number of test takers) and report the number of students who did not take the test.”

 

5.      “Under current federal laws and regulations, low participation by itself does should not lead to a school being declared low performing. States should not punish schools or districts because of parent actions in order to forestall federal “requirements” that do not exist.”

 

Now how does our prefaced Minnesota SF 1475 bill set up our state plan?  The language of SF 1475 states,

 

Senate File 1475 is coding a new law 120B.361 into existence.  The introduction of the bill tells the story.  A bill for an act relating to education; creating financial incentives for school districts to help students and families understand state standards and encourage MCA and MTAS testing participation.  In fact, this bill will financially reward districts for high-percentage test-taking as well as to help students and families understand and enjoy the Common Core Standards better! 

 

Here is the purpose of the bill: Pay off districts to push high test participation.  Financial incentives will absolutely drive administrators and teachers to push children and parents to take the tests.  And schools hold the keys to grading and a child’s very future career.

 

Subdivision 1.

 

Purpose.

 

To help improve student and family understanding of state
standards and statewide testing required under section 120B.30, the financial incentives
provided in this section shall apply to all school districts and charter schools that receive
general education aid under section 126C.10, subdivision 2.

 

 

 

How will the basic formula be amended?  (This is the compensation that schools receive annually.)

 

 

 

Subd. 3.

 

Participation incentives.

 

(a) Each year, in confirming the amount of the formula
allowance increase a district or charter school will receive for the next fiscal year, the
department must take into account the district’s MCA and MTAS testing participation rates
under this subdivision.

 

(b) If a district’s or charter school’s grades 3 to 8 participation rate and high school
participation rate are both greater than or equal to 95 percent, the district or charter school
will receive 100 percent of the formula allowance under section 126C.10, subdivision 2.

 

(c) If a district’s or charter school’s grades 3 to 8 participation rate or high school
participation rate or both are less than 95 percent, for the next fiscal year only, the district
will receive a percentage of the formula allowance increase equal to the all-grades
participation rate.

 

 

 

As you can easily see, our state plan is much more stringent than the ESSA federal grant program!  The problem comes with reporting the 95 percent.  Minnesota is required to report the 95 percent but is tasked to create their own plan or “consequence” if 95 percent is not met, that is, due to opt outs.  For example. they could require districts to inquire why less than 95 percent of parents are refusing the Common Core test, the MCAs.  The “consequence” can be hard or light.  Minnesota can choose! Instead, the SF 1475 elects to more stringently punish school districts through financially incentives that will surely push parents into testing using the 95 percent “rule” when in fact, there is no federal requirement for how we choose to reward or punish districts. 

 

A quick word about Local Control:  If passed, school districts will have additional “local control” to bully parents into compliance.  Local control in all our school districts is best described as dictatorial superintendents and their rubber-stamping school board members.  This is not true local control!  Local control is the foundation which places constituents (not “stakeholders”) in charge, who elect school board members, who in turn serve those constituents.  Our Constitutional Republic is flipped, and no thanks to SF 1475, which continues this expansion of district dictatorial “local control”.

 

And what about your constituents?  Where are we to turn?  What about parental rights?  I hope these ideas are not lost to our Senators!  By furthering a federally-led education curriculum, the intent brings into question the violation of our State Constitution, and it’s requirement of a state- developed curriculum.

 

We ask that you read the ESSA Rules again and start over.    We have done extensive research on this law and it’s effects, and ask that you ask these Senators look to MACC for guidance.

 

Linda Bell, Kerstin Schulz, Chris Daniels, Anne Taylor, Jennifer Black-Allen

 

Minnesota Advocates and Champions for Children, a non-partisan grassroots group

 

 

 

Again, if this parental rights and local control are important to you, tell the senators, “NO” on SF 1475.

 

CALL NOW:  Senator Eric Pratt  651-296-4123

 

                                sen.eric.pratt@senate.mn

 

        Senator Gary Dahms  651-296-8138

 

sen.gary.dahms@senate.mn

 

                       Senator Roger Chamberlain 651-296-1253

 

                          sen.roger.chamberlain@senate.mn

 

                        Senator Carla Nelson 651-296-4848

 

                          sen.carla.nelson@senate.mn

 

 

 

“Mother Rabbit” Leads the Animals Back to the Original Data Source: Our Minnesota Department of Human Services, While Threatening our Children’s Department of Education Records

 

klise-meanest-mother-on-earth

“Mother Rabbit” Leads the Animals Back to the Original Data Source:  Our Minnesota Department of Human Services, While Threatening our Children’s Department of Education Records

By: Anne Taylor

 

“Wait!” said Mother Rabbit.  “I’ll show you all something guaranteed to terrify.”

“You will?” asked Little Rabbit, burying his head in fear.

“Yes – follow me!”

Mother Rabbit led the animals back to the Rabbit’s house.

“Welcome to the Messiest Room on Earth,” Mother Rabbit announced grandly.  “Stinky socks! Dirty Rocks!  An Emporium of Odiferous Oddities!  You won’t believe your eyes – or your nose.”

“This is shocking,” said the skunk, sniffing a fossilized after-school snack. 

“Unbelievable,” opinioned the ox.

“After you conclude your tour of the Messiest Room on Earth, you may take anything you like as a souvenir,” said Mother Rabbit.  “In fact, take two. Or three.”

The above quote from Sarah Klise’s book “Little Rabbit and the Meanest Mother on Earth” illustrates what I believe to be the blatant openness of how far out of control our data system has become regarding our students in school.

In fact, so open, it’s there for anyone (or any company, rather) to come in and collect just about anything and everything at will to the point of claiming children’s information as ‘souvenirs’ for profit.  The stealing of such data is unwarranted, unpermitted and stinky just as a child’s “fossilized after-school snack.”  And yes, many of us parents have been there finding just that in regards to school data collection!

For the last week my youngest, who is of pre-school age, has ironically asked me to read Klise’s book to her numerous times.  So when I saw last night’s ten o’clock news clip regarding the lack of data safety and so-called outcry for better cybersecurity and spending to curtail hackers, my mind could only say:  “Unbelievable!” just like the Ox in Klises’s book.

Being the ‘meanest mother on earth’ that I am, I found it outrageous to listen to the rhetoric of the local news acting as though cybersecurity was something of a new kind of threat in this state as seen in one clip from WCCO news as being unheard of, even ‘shocking.’

Not so shocking to me.

We here at MACC have shared concern for years, researched this, discussed it, wrote about it, preached it, informed parents, legislators and community members about it.

In 2013, the late state Capitol reporter Jim Ragsdale revealed “In Minnesota, a legislative auditor discovered that the state department of education’s computer systems ‘lacked adequate internal controls and comprehensive security plans’ and that department employees ‘had failed to document where private (student) data was held or the internal controls needed to secure it.’ The federal government having access, via these interconnected longitudinal data systems, to so much data about our kids is frightening. And it’s not just academic information that’s at stake.”

In the spring of 2016, myself and several members of the MACC board testified before our Minnesota House Education committee on the very issue of student data security.  While the 2013 audit was brought up by House Representative, Eric Lucero (R-30B), the Minnesota Department of Education admitted they ‘fixed’ the problem with several million dollars to upgrade their system.

However; and shortly thereafter, further testimony that day revealed that even after the system was upgraded, our own MN DOE blatantly neglected to run an audit, and has NOT on any of its 30 plus contractors in a decade.  Once again, common sense business practice with the government just went out with the stinky socks and fossilized after-school snacks!  And who’s footing the bill and why so long to fix it?  Why now?

While the news release focused mainly on the Department of Human Services, it is no accident the Commissioners backdrop was that of education records and student social security numbers.  What the news failed to report is that during last spring’s testimony, it was revealed Minn-LInK is full-on open data for anyone to take as the treasure chest of the crowned jewels in data.

Minn-LInK exposes the following:  Student standardized test records, General education testing records, child protection records, children’s mental health records, records of incarcerated adults, juvenile court records, student academic records, academic disciplinary records and “other” human services.

And a word about the Student Health Surveys I’ve written about and one of the most controversial, among other third party companies and schools themselves conducting their own surveys, that information also creates huge exposure.

According to Federal education instructors on data privacy, what is even more concerning are the breaches we don’t know about.  As a parent, what is truly concerning is that there are little if any teeth in the law to hold districts, educators and our government institutions accountable.

Pre-1984/Pre-Mouse?  According to some I’ve asked on computer safety, what’s unknown is how the data is stored, and where it is.  It is an embarrassment to know that our state has to call in retired tech people to FIX our systems that already had millions poured into them time and time again.

Once again, as a society we have completely taken all of this for granted: Trusting the system. In this case, bluntly put, our state has been negligent in protecting our children’s information.

It is time for a complete re-evaluation and overhaul of student data laws and revisions.  (SLEDS, Infinite Campus, to name a few).  Verify your school contracts with Google.  What do they say?  Who or what is the real problem around the technology crisis we are in.

As I wrote in my article in 2014 following the passing of the late Minnesota Capitol reporter, Jim Ragsdale following his 2013 audit on our schools, we have to ask ourselves, did we as parents grant that permission to give school’s our most private information on our children?  Our family information?  Why is there a sudden need to ‘protect’ that information when all the while we have been subjecting our children to such profiling through an insurmountable survey’s on our students – some as high as standardized testing, even after we have a student survey statute under 121A.065 passed and enacted in 2016.

“Nearly every critical government service that we provide to Minnesotans is provided through our IT systems,” said Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans.  According to Department of Human Services, Chief Business Technology Officer Scott Peterson, the Minnesota Department of Human Services was hacked in 2015.  With the DHS having it’s comingling with student data, this should cause alarm and concern.  We have a growing number of students who are on medications, have personal student reports and health records that feeds into a larger data pool such as our State Longitudinal Data System (SLEDS) that feeding into the ever larger federal education system.

Gov. Mark Dayton proposed $125 million worth of cybersecurity reforms, with $74 million going to cybersecurity defenses, while $51 million would go to upgrading the state’s information technology infrastructure.  How much of this could have been avoided had our state upgraded with the times?  We are one of the few states so very far behind in technology reform, and yet the most forward thinking in innovation/technology systems in our schools and without proper protections in place at a statewide level.

Here are some classic examples of where your child’s information may be shared with the school district and beyond:  Name, grade, height, weight, parents address and information, types of social media use, clubs, birthdate, academic records, favorite social media uses, sports physicals, immunizations, social-emotional attitudes and behaviors, discipline records, mental health, political affiliation, religious attitudes and beliefs, favorite colors, likes/dislikes of food, even cartoon characters, study habits, job and work values.

This is just a small list, and yet, these seemingly minuscule data links can be narrowed down to pinpoint a student’s shoe size with just this amount of information – or less.

It’s time to clean up the messiest room on Earth, Minnesota, and it starts with audits, sound laws and upgraded systems with full accountability to those who disregard any parent who should trust first and foremost the system that is in place before them.

Are there glitches in the system?  Sure.  But this?  Blatant neglect.  Minnesota families should absolutely have the first and foremost say on their data and trust that it is secure.