Category Archives: Common Core State Standards

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




        Senator Gary Dahms  651-296-8138


                       Senator Roger Chamberlain 651-296-1253




                        Senator Carla Nelson 651-296-4848




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.


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:




“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.”






“(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.




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




        Senator Gary Dahms  651-296-8138


                       Senator Roger Chamberlain 651-296-1253




                        Senator Carla Nelson 651-296-4848







“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



“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.

MN DHS Announces Hack from 2015: Timeliness Questioned

According to Department of Human Services, Chief Business Technology  Officer Scott Peterson announced yesterday that the Minnesota DHS was hacked in 2015.   Did they report this little item at the time of the breach??  No!  They are reporting a year or two later.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know what part of the DHS data was “hacked”?  As we’ve reported last year, the MN Department of Health and Human Services partners with the Department of Education and Labor to run the mega-data warehouse, the Minnesota SLEDS (State Longitudinal Educational Data System).  Children’s and families’ data is held in this database and of course this information is shared with numerous entities.  Was this a portion of what was hacked?

In testimony last year, the Minnesota Department of Education stated that there have been no audits on the 40+ contracts whom they share/sell data.  In fact, there have been no audits in over 10 years.  If the MDE is so cavalier with our children’s data, could the MN Health and Human Services Department have similarly lax policies?

Something to think about!






MACC Signs National Coalition Letter: Questions Regarding Betsy DeVos

MACC Signs National Coalition Letter:  Questions Regarding Betsy DeVos
Linda Bell
Minnesota Advocates and Champions for Children signed a national coalition letter earlier this week representing the concerns of hundreds of thousands of national, regional, state and local individuals and member organizations (with growing signatories). The purpose of the letter is to send  requested questions to the HELP (Senate education) committee to query the secretary-designate, Betsy DeVos.    The hearing on DeVos is said to occur on January 11th at 5:00p.m. Parents and citizens are questioning DeVos’ promotion of common core which is antithetical to local control, data privacy, parental rights, freedom of conscience and the continuation of federal education overreach.  It is important for citizens to understand DeVos’ record on Common Core.   The letter in full may be read here.–A1F249C3-E63B-4263-863C-269FBCFB19F9/letter-to-senate-with-questions-for-devos-1-9-online-version.pdf?lc=01092017110530
Here are the questions.
            1) We understand that your website statement ( right after your appointment that you are “not a supporter – period” of Common Core was meant to reassure activists that you oppose the standards and will honor Mr. Trump’s promise to get rid of Common Core. Please list your efforts during your extensive period of education activism and philanthropy to fight the implementation of the standards.
           2) In your November 23 website statement you mention “high standards,” and in the Trump Transition Team readout (  of your November 19th meeting with the president-elect, you reportedly discussed “higher national standards.” Please explain how this is different from Common Core. Also, please justify this stand in light of the lack of constitutional and statutory authority for the federal government to involve itself in standards, and in light of Mr. Trump’s promise to stop Common Core, make education local, and scale back or abolish the U.S. Department of Education.
         3) Would you please reconcile your website statement that you are “not a supporter – period” of Common Core with your record of education advocacy in Michigan and elsewhere – specifically, when you have, either individually or through your organizations (especially the Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP) that you founded and chaired, (  and of which your family foundation is still the majority funder):
 Been described as supporting Common Core by Tonya Allen of the Skillman Foundation in the Detroit News?  (
 Actively worked to block a bill that would have repealed and replaced Michigan’s Common Core standards with the Massachusetts standards, arguably the be)st in the nation?   (
 Actively lobbied for continued implementation of Common Core in Michigan?  (
 Financially supported pro-Common Core candidates in Michigan? (
 Funded Alabama pro-Common Core state school board candidates?  (
 Threatened the grassroots parent organization Stop Common Core in Michigan with legal action for showing the link between GLEP endorsement and Common Core support?
                  4) The Indiana voucher law that you and your organization, the American Federation for Children (AFC), strongly supported and funded requires voucher recipient schools ( to administer the public school Common Core-aligned tests ( and submit to the grading system based on those same Common Core-aligned tests. The tests determine what is taught, which means that this law is imposing Common Core on private schools. Indiana “is the second worst in the country on infringing on private school autonomy” according to the Center for Education Reform ( because of that and other onerous requirements, and the state received an F grade on the Education Liberty Watch School Choice Freedom Grading Scale ( Do you support imposing public-school standards, curriculum and tests on private and or home schools?
                5) Through Excel in Ed and the American Federation for Children, you have influenced legislation that has made Florida a “leader” in school choice, yet the majority of students, especially those in rural areas, in states like Florida, still chooses to attend traditional public schools. Public school advocates in Florida complain that expanded school choice has negatively affected their traditional public schools, even in previously highperforming districts. As Secretary of Education, how will you support the rights of parents and communities whose first choice is their community’s traditional public school?
               6) You and AFC ( have been strong supporters of federal Title I portability. As Secretary of Education, would you require the same public school, Common Core tests and the rest of the federal regulations for private schools under a Title I portability program as Jeb Bush recommended ( for Mitt Romney in 2012 (p. 24)( If yes, please cite the constitutional authority for the federal government to be involved in regulating schools, including private schools, and explain how this policy squares with Mr. Trump’s promise to reduce the federal education footprint.
                7) The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires secretarial approval of state education plans for standards, tests and accountability. Will you support state sovereignty by approving the state plans in line with Mr. Trump’s vision of decreasing the federal role in education, or will you exercise federal control by secretarial veto power over these plans?
                 8) The Philanthropy Roundtable group ( that you chaired published a report on charter schools, ( but did not mention the Hillsdale classical charter schools, even though they are in your home state of Michigan and Hillsdale is nationally renowned for its classical and constitutional teaching and for not taking federal funding. Have you or any of your organizations done anything substantive to support the Hillsdale model aside from a few brief mentions on your websites? If not, do you want all charter schools in Michigan and elsewhere to only teach Common Core-aligned standards, curriculum and tests?
                9) During the primary campaign, President-elect Trump indicated that he strongly supported student privacy by closing the loophole in the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), saying the following to a parent activist: “I would close all of it,” Trump replied. “You have to have privacy. You have to have privacy. So I’d close all of it. But, most of all, I’d get everything out of Washington, ‘cause that’s where it’s all emanating from.” (  Will you commit to reversing the Obama administration’s regulatory gutting of FERPA and to updating that statute to better protect student privacy in the digital age?
               10) We are sure you are aware of serious parental concerns about corporate collection and mining of highly sensitive student data through digital platforms, without parental knowledge or consent. But the Philanthropy Roundtable, (  which you chaired, published a report called Blended Learning: A Wise Giver’s Guide to Supporting Tech-assisted Teaching ( lauds the Dream Box software that “records 50,000 data points per student per hour” and does not contain a single use of the words “privacy,” “transparency” [as in who receives that data and how it is used to make life-changing decision for children], or “consent.” Will you continue to promote the corporate data-mining efforts of enterprises such as Dream Box and Knewton, ( whose CEO bragged about collecting “5-10 million data points per user per day,” described in your organization’s report?
                 11) Related to Questions 9 and 10 above, there is currently a federal commission, the Commission on Evidencebased Policymaking, which is discussing lifting the federal prohibition on the creation of a student unit-record system. If that prohibition is removed, the federal government would be allowed to maintain a database linking student data from preschool through the workforce. That idea is strongly opposed by parent groups and privacy organizations.( ( Will you commit to protecting student privacy by recommending ( to the Commission on Evidence Based Policymaking that this prohibition be left in place? Page 3
                   12) As outlined in a letter from Liberty Counsel ( that was co-signed by dozens of parent groups across the nation, the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) plans to add subjective, invasive, illegal, and unconstitutional survey or test mindset questions to the 2017 administration of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). What will you do to rein in NAGB and protect the psychological privacy and freedom of conscience of American students?
                  13) Through commissions, programs, federally funded groups, the newly passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the proposed Strengthening Education Through Research Act, and other entities, there has been an explosion of effort to expand invasive, subjective social emotional learning (SEL) standards (, curricula and assessment. ( What is your view of SEL and what will you do to protect student psychological privacy and freedom of conscience?
Contact information for the US Senate HELP Committee may be found here.