Marianna Mom Ali Wiggins: Speaks about Hurricane Michael, isolation & recovery

For many survivors of Hurricane Michael Facebook is the only place to reach out in hopes of being heard. It was Ali Wiggins post about life after Michael that really resonated with me.

Many affected counties like Jackson and Calhoun are difficult to reach rural, farming communities.  Children from at least eight counties — Washington, Liberty, Jackson, Gulf, Gadsden, Franklin, Calhoun and Bay aren’t returning to school any time soon. In a direct message, Ali said to me, “We all feel isolated here. And we all know help is coming, but we never knew how long it would take. We never knew what our “help” would have to go through just to get to us. Heartbreaking.”

Ali’s voice and words are powerful, please read:

Ali Wiggins, October 25, 2018, Hurricane Michael survivor, Marianna, Florida. Printed with author’s permission.

MARIANNA DOWNED TREES

If you are tired of seeing Hurricane Michael posts, maybe you should unfollow me. And this post will be longer than most so move along if you need to. This is pretty much the only sure fire way we can communicate with folks.

If you think a little rain and some wind rolled through here, you’re wrong. If you think since folks are getting their power turned back on everything’s fine now, you’re wrong. If you’ve seen some pictures and think you know what it feels like to live it cause you’ve seen a hurricane before, you’re wrong. 45 minutes either east or west of us is probably close to being normal again.

If I hear one more person say, “Yea, I’ve seen a few hurricanes. “So and so” hurricane was bad.” Well this wasn’t just a hurricane. It was the third strongest hurricane to hit the US in modern history. And I don’t care what hurricane you’ve seen, you ain’t seen bad! If you were alive in 1935 and saw the “Labor Day” hurricane hit the FL Keys, or in Mississippi in 1969 to see Camille, then we’ll talk. If not, you have no clue.

If you are seeing the news about Panama City and Mexico Beach, we are close to the same. The storm never really slowed down much or weakened when it left them. It hit us full force and we are 60 or so miles inland. Jackson and Calhoun counties were hit just as hard. Folks are living with generators, ridiculously made slow-pour BS gas cans, sometimes rationed gasoline if you can find a place that sells it. Curfews. Only two times of day: daylight and dark. Living in tents, their cars, friends houses, hotels.

You don’t go to the store, you get in line at the PODs. We have long lines for water, MREs, tarps, bugspray, and baby diapers. You could be the wealthiest guy around and it wouldn’t matter. There are very few places to spend it. It’s cash only purchases, no fast food, no ATMs. The stores that are open are only open from sun up to sun down. So you can forget picking up a gallon of milk on your way home. Winn Dixie closes at 5 now. And Walmart probably not long after that.

We have no idea what’s going on outside of this bubble because we have no internet, no phones, no cell service, no tv. We live with our windows wide open and no air conditioning. We have looters and scammers. We have people from all over the nation here, most of them to help us. But how do you know for sure? Some just walk up behind you in your own yard while you’re hanging your laundry on the clothesline and scare the crap out of you just asking if you need help with a downed tree.

Fella snuck right up behind me. He should’ve hollered from his truck. NOT COOL! You can’t tell who belongs in your neighborhood or not. You carry a pistol with you at all times just in case you guessed wrong on whether they are a good guy or a bad guy. Now it’s time for bed, the whole family piles up in one room with air mattresses, fans, open windows and our firearms in case someone decides they need your generator or gas cans or food more than you do.

You can’t sleep because you hear every single noise outside. You hear every siren and you cringe with each one. Flashlights in the dark? It could be a lineman or a boogie man, you don’t know! You go a week and then realize you haven’t seen nor heard one bird because there are no trees left. All the trees are on the ground, and I mean ALL of them, and all the creatures that lived in them are now everywhere. Yellow jackets and mosquitoes that look like they’re from Jurassic Park. The sounds of chainsaws, diesel trucks, helicopters, sirens, and generators constantly.

The death toll continues to rise. Houses are burning down as some folks get power and all the history that they’ve held are now gone with them. Debris piles are taller than the homes they sit in front of. One lane roads and downed power lines everywhere. AND THIS IS DAY 15!!

The depression this brings is real. No one here is dreaming this up. You couldn’t even if you tried! And if you think you could handle all this and go right on like nothing happened, you are welcome to set up camp here in Jackson County, Florida. I’ll give you my spot. I would love to see how you fair. Every where else in the world seems to be business as usual. Not here!

We are all now using the phrase, “new normal”. I hate it! I liked my old normal (as crazy as it was) just fine!!! I’ve cried. I’ve thrown shit. I’ve screamed. And I’ve cried some more. My heart hurts for so many people right now. And I am no where near what some people have experienced. They’ve lost it all. We still have our family and our home. A little damaged but still intact. So many don’t.

This wasn’t just a hurricane. This destroyed the lives of thousands of people. We post a dozen or more things a day to help folks find what they are looking for, whether it be a place to wash clothes, a hot meal to fill their bellies, or 5T clothes for their little boy or girl.

We post what we are living. This is all we can think about. This last 15 days have been awful. And if you can pick right up and get back to it already, then good for you. I’m having a little trouble with that right now. It still looks like a war zone here. Things won’t ever be the same again. I’ve tried so hard to be positive for the last two weeks. Now on day 15, I’m tired. My muscles ache from cutting trees and hauling fence. I wasn’t cut out for this. I’ve got poison ivy and ant bites. I’m pissed and I wish this was all just a bad dream. And I really, really miss Netflix.

Whew! Glad I got that out. I feel better now. Goodnight from JACO. Now y’all can go on about ya business.

How to help Florida Panhandle victims.

How to help Florida Panhandle victims.

Student data mining: Parents deserve right to refuse

WARNING EX POINT CIRCLEUnfortunately, states and school districts are embracing student digital badges, programs like i-Ready, adaptive computer-based education and other Ed-Tech products in exchange for money and/or one-on-one devices. The growing focus on data mining our children’s personal information, sentiments, social/emotional information, even  creating “predictive” profiles,  is something parents deserve the right to refuse for their student.

In Consider Yourself Warned, Deb Herbage explores K-12 data mining and the grave threat it poses to student privacy. Re-blogged with permission:

If you were walking down the street and a stranger stopped you and asked you to hand over your driver’s license and social security card….would you?  Of course, you wouldn’t!  Those two items contain extremely personal information – YOUR personal information.  Your driver’s license has your full name, your picture, your birth date, a unique number (in some state’s it could be your social security number), your address, your height and weight, any restrictions for driving a vehicle and even your eye color.  How about if you put your wallet down for a few seconds and a stranger snatched it, essentially stealing your information.  Wouldn’t that make you feel violated?  You would have to start the whole process of canceling your credit cards, getting a new driver’s license and possibly putting a hold on your credit.  How about if that same stranger who asked you to hand over your driver’s license and social security card in the street told you they wanted your information so they could sell it to the highest bidder.  Wouldn’t you be outraged?  Then WHY are you allowing it to happen to your child(ren)?

Schools across the country have been and continue to set up accounts for our children with a multitude of Edtech vendors.  Schools are allowed to do this under COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act – set up in 1998), however, they are not informing parents and they are not seeking parental permission to do so – especially for minor children under the age of 13.  Parents are completely unaware this is happening.  In most cases, schools are instructing kids to click “I Agree” when they set these accounts up, bypassing parental permission and essentially allowing these Edtech companies to collect and mine massive amounts of data from our kids.  Data they do not have permission to take from parents but do from schools.   Please know, this data is not restricted to when your child is using the application/software/program at school……when kids come home from school and log in to complete homework assignments or study…..the data is flowing from your home computer/iPad/device to the Edtech company.  Your IP address is considered personal information because it is specific to you – that is just one of the over 50,000 data points being collected by the Edtech companies.  Under the new GDPR – that would be a fineable offense.  The data being collected is not being protected.  Here is an article from 2012 detailing the worst offenders of privacy violations – Privacy Hall of Shame – Microsoft, Google, and Facebook – who all own Edtech companies and push for data collection:  https://www.networkworld.com/article/2185187/security/15-worst-internet-privacy-scandals-of-all-time.html

I looked into just one of the Edtech companies my daughter’s school chose to use and set up accounts with on her behalf, without my permission or even acknowledgment, and I was horrified at what I read.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH).  There are many more she is being forced to use where accounts were set up for her.  I read the privacy policy for HMH and this is what I learned about the school setting up my daughter’s account without my permission from HMH’s privacy policy. They state that I consented to:

  • I consent to having private information collected and stored which will be shared with third party vendors and “others”.
  • I consent to HMH using and sharing our information and data and “other activities”.
  • I consent to them using our and my daughter’s personal information, demographic information and usage information for a “variety of purposes”.
  • I consent to tracking technologies that collect and store information for a “variety of purposes” whether my daughter is at home or at school.
  • I consent to their tracking technologies which include, without limitation, these methods: cookies, web beacons, embedded scripts and entity tags which they will, from time to time, supplement with information they collect directly from my daughter with outside records from third parties.
  • I consent to them collecting personal, demographic, and usage information from my daughter for internal business purposes such as troubleshooting, data analysis, testing and service improvement.
  • I consent to them using, sharing and disclosing my and my daughter’s name, voice, likeness and other personal information that is part of the “user content” for advertising, marketing, publicity and promotional items.
  • Finally, giving my consent, they can and will give my information and my daughter’s information to third parties such as network advertisers and ad exchanges such as “Behavioral Ads” and “Contextual Ads”.

I did not consent to any of that.  I was not made aware that the school or school district set that account up for my daughter.  I found out by watching her log in on her personal laptop at home to complete homework.

When I confronted my school district via an email….I was told by the IT manager that it is MY responsibility to reach out to HMH with my concerns.  It is MY responsibility to contact HMH if there are any data breaches.  The data being collected is not limited to demographic information.  The data (education records) being collected has continuously expanded since 2014 to include SEL (Social Emotional Learning) skills which include the student’s values, beliefs, “grit” and attitudes.  How is this data collected?  Through algorithms.  Algorithms that lack transparency that are created to obtain specific information.  Algorithms that a lot of times are inaccurate.  You can read about this in this extremely well-documented article by Cheri Kiesecker.  http://missourieducationwatchdog.com/are-schools-allowing-edtech-software-to-map-every-online-click/

This information and data, which are considered “education records” are being collected and sold to the highest bidder.  https://nepc.colorado.edu/newsletter/2017/08/sold-highest-bidder

Some responsible school districts are offering Opt-In forms to parents.  These school districts are seeking parental permission for their child to participate in and use Edtech software/applications/programs. Here is an example of a responsible school district Opt-In form: http://www.swasd.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Coppa-Combined-Forns-2017-18.pdf

Parents, I cannot urge you strongly enough to look into what Edtech companies your child is using and read their privacy policies.  Look into what your school district has consented YOU to and what accounts have been set up for your child.  Many of these companies’ programs/software/applications are experimental.  Pearson, one of the education titans, was found to be embedding “social-psychological” experimental software in student’s educational and learning software.  https://gizmodo.com/pearson-embedded-a-social-psychological-experiment-in-s-1825367784   Many of the applications our children are using fail to protect their data. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/07/27/we-tested-apps-for-children-half-failed-to-protect-their-data/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.c64b9167b1a6

Thousands of Edtech applications/programs/software are improperly and illegally tracking children.  Another well researched and well-documented article by Cheri.  http://missourieducationwatchdog.com/bombshell-study-thousands-of-educational-apps-are-improperly-tracking-children/

Tech “titans” are unrestricted, unregulated and profit off the backs of many unsuspecting parents and children.   It is a datapalooza free-for-all at the expense of our children.  You may not see any repercussions now…..but I can assure you – you will at some point in your child’s life.

If you feel violated after knowing someone stole your wallet containing your personal information or you experienced a data breach with your medical records, why are you allowing Edtech companies to violate your children?  Why are you allowing schools and school districts to set up accounts for your children without your permission or consent?  Why are you allowing your minor child(ren) to be continuously data mined?

How do we stop the data mining?  By not collecting it in the first place.  By being vigilant and protecting our children.

Consider yourself warned.

Six Reasons Conservatives Should Believe the Defeat of Amendment 8 Was Correct

kareneffremm.d

By: Karen Effrem, M.D. | September 11, 2018 |Sunshine State News

As the Florida Supreme Court considered and ultimately removed Amendment 8, the education constitutional amendment, from the November ballot, there was a debate occurring among Florida conservatives over both the wording and the merits of the proposal.

Part of the amendment allowed entities other than duly elected school boards, to authorize education alternatives, charter schools being chief among them. Some well-meaning conservatives have been arguing that opposition to Amendment 8 was limited only to liberals. These conservatives also said that opposition to Amendment 8 was a “vote for the status quo” where half of students, especially poor students, can’t read at grade level.

The truth is that there were many Floridians who opposed Amendment 8 specifically and are concerned about the rapid expansion of charter schools for conservative reasons. Here are the six most important:

Loss of Local Control

When has moving control of anything farther away from the local level increased parent or citizen control? Putting charter decisions in the hands of Tallahassee legislators or bureaucrats, many funded by the very charter corporations viewed with suspicion by Floridians, will not improve parental or local decision-making. The majority of charters are not high-performing like the Hillsdale classical charter in Collier County. They are corporate charters, the boards of which may not be in the same state or even country (think the controversial Turkish Gulen Harmony Schools), much less the same city or county as the schools they control. The same establishment groups and individuals that gave us Common Core and data mining were promoting this amendment. Neutering and or eliminating duly elected school boards has been on their to-do list for decades.

No Improvement in Curriculum – Still Common Core

While Florida parents may be under the impression that charter schools offer children a superior education, this is often not the case. The curriculum in the majority of charters follows the same Common Core standards used by Florida’s public schools, rebranded as the Florida Standards, and students are tested using the same invasive, Common Core-aligned assessments.

Lack of Financial Stability

Many charters have proven to be fly-by-night operations that go belly-up without warning, abandoning the kids they are supposed to help. These charters leave  local taxpayers on the hook for all of the land, building, and equipment costs – $70 million through 2015. Despite this fact, taxpayers have little to no oversight or decision-making at these schools.

Poor Academic Performance

The academic performance at charters is on the whole no better than public schools, especially at the low end, with data from Texas and Florida showing the same or greater percentages of disproportionally failing charters compared to public schools. These schools often refuse to serve children who need help the most – the poor and disabled. Looking at the demographics of high-performing charter schools, they do not include many of the children who were “waiting for Superman” – they have the kids who are already doing well.

Lack of Transparency

Regardless of one’s opinions of charters, if the ideas behind the charter-related provisions of Amendment 8 were so fabulous, why weren’t the title and language made more clear so that there could be a reasonable debate? Incredibly, the amendment didn’t even mention the word “charter.” Why was this piece of it bundled with two other issues more favored by voters? If 8 was so great, shouldn’t it have been able to plainly stand on its own?

Excessive Government Strings

Co-mingling public funds for other education alternatives mentioned by Amendment 8 proponents would have opened the door widely to further government control of standards, curriculum, testing, and teaching. All parents would get in the end is a choice of location, not a choice of what their kids are taught. Conservative parents who want a true alternative to public schools want real choice without government strings, just as much as public school parents do not want public funds supporting private alternatives.

For these reasons and more, the courts were right to reject Amendment 8. Even if the courts had kept it on the ballot, voters should still have rejected it. Florida’s families deserve better.

Karen R. Effrem, M.D., is executive director of The Florida Stop Common Core Coalition

Teacher Kim Cook on Andrew Gillum & saving Florida public education

RUNNING OUT OF TIME

Florida has been under single party rule for more than 20 years. This complete lack of checks and balances has normalized an unrelenting assault on our most precious asset: public education. With each year, the destructive political intent behind the “school reform” agenda has grown bolder and more extreme. We are at a place where politicians make little attempt to hide their contempt for teachers, students, parents and districts.

 

Alachua teacher, Kim Cook shares her views on just how important the current governors’ race and upcoming 2018 election is to Florida public education:

 

I’ve seen some educators saying on social media that they won’t vote for Andrew Gillum. Here is my response.

For those of you who are saying you won’t vote for Gillum, please consider the following (from a teacher):

The Florida legislature and governor’s office has been Republican for 20+ years. In that 20 years, we have seen nothing but bill after bill with the sole intent of destroying public education. The vast majority of those bills have been signed into law by the governor. Here is a review of the legislation (please add anything I forget):

  1. The Republican legislature and Jeb Bush introduced the FCAT in order to track student “progress” ignoring the fact teachers are entirely capable of assessing their own students.
  2. The Republican legislature and Jeb Bush then started using FCAT results to grade schools, falsely equating low socioeconomic schools with “bad teaching.”
  3. The Republican legislature and Jeb Bush linked passing the third grade FCAT with retention and the 10th grade FCAT with high school graduation–despite research that clearly demonstrated this would be detrimental to students and communities.
  4. The Republican legislature and Jeb Bush linked school grades to money–awarding “A” schools with more money and “F” schools with less.
  5. The Republican legislature and Rick Scott connected student test scores to teacher evaluations, otherwise known as VAM.
  6. The Republican legislature and Rick Scott imposed a tax on educators by requiring them to contribute 3% of their salary to their pensions; however, that 3% goes into the general fund, NOT the pension.
  7. The Republican legislature and Rick Scott changed the pension plan by requiring new hires to choose between the defined benefit pension and the 401k plan within the first nine months of their careers. Any educator who doesn’t choose by the required date automatically goes into the 401k plan, undermining the financial health of the defined benefit pension.
  8. The Republican legislature and Rick Scott passed a law that decertifies any teacher union that falls under 50% membership, making that district’s contract and salary schedule null and void. Unions for first responders were exempt from the law (they are mostly men who vote Republican. after all).
  9. The Republican legislature and Rick Scott passed legislation creating the “Best and Brightest” program. B&B bypasses providing the money to districts so that it can be put into salary schedules. The B&B money is considered a bonus, so it doesn’t count towards teachers’ pensions. The money also cannot go to “non-instructional personnel”–educators like media specialists (I teach ALL day every day, but nope, I’m not eligible), guidance counselors, deans, etc.
  10. The Republican legislature and Rick Scott passed legislation that allows voucher schools; thus, tax dollars go to private, often religious, schools, that do not have the same accountability measures as public schools. They have expanded the program just about every legislative session.
  11. The Republican legislature and Rick Scott have created laws to turn over public schools to for-profit charters. We have an entire district in Florida that is now a “charter” district.
  12. Many Republican members of our legislature own or have a vested interest in charter or voucher schools and testing companies, yet they pass legislation that pads their wallets.
  13. The Republican legislature and Rick Scott passed legislation that requires school districts to harden schools, yet didn’t fully fund the program. They also allow “non-teaching personnel” like me, the school librarian, to carry guns.
  14. The Florida legislature fully intends to continue to destroy our pension bit by bit. My state senator, Keith Perry, admitted this. He told us that the state had no business running a pension program.
  15. From Ceresta Smith: The Republican legislature and Rick Scott made Bright Futures Scholarships harder for non-whites to receive as they upped the bar on standardized tests, which provide advantage based on class and race.

Most likely, our legislature will continue to be Republican dominated. If we don’t have a Democratic governor to veto the legislation that will continue to destroy public schools, destroy our salaries, and decimate our pension, we are sunk. I don’t know about you, but I’m counting on my pension in retirement. I don’t know what we’ll do if it’s not there, or if the state tries to pay us off with a lump sum, as other states have done.

If all Gillum does is veto destructive legislation, he’s still better than having DeSantis who will rubber stamp every horrible anti-public education bill the legislature sends him.” – Kim Cook

 

Commentary: Meet Ms. Karen Smith, who taught self-absorbed teens about the world beyond

by: Kathleen Oropeza|May 22, 2918| The Orlando Sentinel  

Graduation season is a poignant time. This year is especially so, as my oldest son, CRITICAL THOUGHTNicholas, is graduating with his 2018 Boone High School Senior Class. It’s hard not to reflect on the indelible mark teachers leave on our lives. I wonder if teachers know that we think about them years later? That we remember them for the kind word that made a difference, that we appreciate how hard they pushed us, that some of them set standards for us that would last a lifetime?

What’s your best teacher memory? Who made the greatest impact and why? When I think about all the amazing teachers I had, it’s hard to choose.

What I remember about my favorite teachers is that their classrooms were a place that seemed suspended in time. Where we, as a group, became so transfixed by the subject matter that we were both startled and sorry when the bell rang. Ms. Karen Smith, my World History teacher at Oak Ridge High School in Orlando, knew exactly how to weave that sort of magic.

She inspired me to think deeply about the connection between history and human nature. To be forever curious not just about present circumstances but what might happen 30 steps down the line, the ramifications, the consequences. Every day Ms. Smith used her considerable story-telling skills to breathe life into events, contrasting man’s inhumanity to man with examples of great bravery and grace.

She taught us to envision the gritty reality of history, to try to grasp the horrific evil of the Holocaust, to see Roman politics as a parallel to modern times, to understand that history is a roadmap for the future. I think of her often and the way she deftly drew us high-school kids into a mesmerizing conversation about the human condition without realizing that we were getting hooked on history.

Thanks to her teaching style, I had no trouble memorizing dates, people and facts, as they were all part of a tremendous story. I looked forward to Ms. Smith’s long-form essay tests because it was a way to continue the conversation with her. I can’t imagine the time it took her to read all our essays and write all her insightful, even pointed comments. I hope she was pleased to see lessons reinterpreted and analyzed by students who had come to love the content of her class. I hope she realized that we loved her for talking to us like adults, for expecting us to digest big ugly truths to begin our own journeys of understanding.                                                                                                                              KAREN SMITH

Ms. Smith must have known we were crazy about her. Current and past students were always popping in to say hi or just hang out. Now, decades later, I realize what a significant impact she had on me. I have never stopped studying and considering how history affects us today. I’m sure I’m not alone among her students. That’s the real legacy of Ms. Karen Smith, World History teacher. She got us to think beyond our self-absorbed teenage selves, and she did it in the wisest, most brilliant way — by telling a story.

Florida voters should reject amendment on schools

JULIE DELEGAL

 

by Julie Delegal | Jacksonville.com | April 21, 2018

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has voted to approve ballot language for changes to Article IX of our constitution, relating to public, K-12 education.

Duval voters have good reasons to reject the proposal.

If enacted by 60 percent of the voters, the education ballot item will result in three distinct changes to Florida’s Constitution:

  • Term limits for school board members statewide.
  • A loss of local control for charter schools.
  • The enshrinement of civics education into our Constitution.

It’s clear that the most controversial issue — the loss of local control of charter schools — was piggybacked on the much more popular ideas of term limits and civics education to increase its chances of passing.

Duval County voters should know civics education has already been elevated in Florida. Former Jacksonville state Rep. Charles McBurney led the passage of the Sandra Day O’Connor Civics Education Act in 2010. As a result, Florida’s civics literacy rate among middle-school students now nearly triples the national average. We achieved this without cluttering up the Florida Constitution.

Further, Duval County voters didn’t need a state constitutional amendment to institute term limits for our locally elected leaders. In 1992, Duval County voters approved a referendum in favor of term limits for school board members — the referendum was overturned and then reinstated by the Florida Supreme Court. Just as we wouldn’t want residents of other counties voting on our local school board matters, voters in other counties should decide for themselves the issue of school board term limits. This issue doesn’t belong on a statewide ballot, either.

The most controversial portion of the education ballot proposal is charter school supervision. According to the Times-Union, Duval’s success with charter schools is mixed. In fact, former Superintendent Nikolai Vitti asserted that the poor performance of charter schools brought down Duval County’s grade in the statewide grading system.

Fortunately, Duval’s School Board has had the power to shut down nine mismanaged or under-enrolled charter schools over the past decade. Our elected leaders have closed 27 percent of the county’s 33 charter schools. Taking supervision out of the hands of local elected officials — in favor of some yet-to-be-defined state bureaucracy — is the for-profit charter industry’s latest method of avoiding accountability.

This November, Jacksonville’s voters should reject the K-12 education ballot proposal.

Read full article here.

Steer clear of “Social-Psychological Interventions.”

BRAIN

It sounds like a sci-fi movie: altering behavior and personality by surreptitiously embedding psychologically manipulative messages into a computer platform. But according to Education Weekthat’s what mega-publisher Pearson did in 2017 to over 9,000 unwitting college students. And this episode foreshadows what’s coming soon to a K-12 classroom near you.

Pearson’s project used “social-psychological interventions,” which roughly equate to the “social emotional learning” (SEL) being implemented at breakneck pace in K-12 schools. Rather than putting more effort into teaching genuine academic content (which might be recommended in light of the wheel-spinning that’s occurring with student achievement nationally), many schools — plus the global education establishment — are concentrating instead on probing children’s personalities. The students can then be shaped into the kind of people the government thinks they should be.

As an experiment in people-shaping, last year Pearson “embedded ‘growth-mindset’ and other psychological messaging” into some versions of software used in college computer science classes. For example, the software might feed users who missed a problem a chirpy message exhorting them to keep trying. Pearson distributed its software randomly to 165 colleges and universities. The goal was to “track whether students who received the messages attempted and completed more problems than their counterparts at other institutions.”

The minor takeaway from this experiment is that the manipulative messages had only modest effect (the guinea-pig students successfully solved somewhat more problems than did the control-group students, although the control group actually attempted to solve significantly more problems than did the guinea pigs). This is in keeping with research showing that schemes to instill “growth mindsets” in students have little benefit.

But the vastly more important questions are how a corporate researcher and its education-establishment cheerleaders can justify this type of manipulative experimentation on human beings — without their consent — and what this portends for the future of education and student privacy.

The report Pearson presented apparently didn’t mention the ethical violation of ignoring the consent requirement applicable to psychological research. Nor did SEL proponent Joshua Starr, who voiced concern only about the effectiveness of Pearson’s tricks: “‘In a narrow way, it’s great if kids are getting these kinds of messages, and that’s leading to greater persistence,’ said Starr of Phi Delta Kappan. ‘But it’s certainly not sufficient.’”

The only commenter Education Week found who flagged the absence of consent was Ben Williamson, a lecturer at a British university: “‘It’s especially troubling… that the company did not seek informed consent from the young people who became subjects in their study.’”

The failure to obtain consent from the research subjects — a tactic that SEL proponents didn’t deem even worth mentioning — illustrates the dangerous road that lies ahead for students from pre-K through college. The SEL pushers seem to simply assume that corporations and their allied government schools have the right to conduct psychological experiments on unsuspecting students.

The point of the Pearson experiment, as well as other SEL schemes, isn’t just to help students do their best — it’s to change their behavior and indeed their personalities in fundamental ways. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which wields tremendous influence over education practices globally, plans to use data from its new SEL profile for “personality development.” For instance, OECD identifies “extroversion” as one of the “Big Five” personality traits that schools should assess and develop. So now the government has determined that introverted children are defective, and that SEL tactics should be employed to turn them into something they’re not?

As British professor Williamson noted, “’It’s concerning that forms of low-level psychological experimentation to trigger certain behaviors appear to be happening in the ed-tech sector, and students might not know those experiments are taking place.’”

The Pearson report doesn’t see the problem. The report touts “the possibility of leveraging commercial educational software for new research into the emerging science around students’ attitudes, beliefs, and ways of thinking about themselves.” Indeed. And when corporations and the government learn how to influence “attitudes, beliefs, and ways of thinking,” is there any limit to what they can do? Can they counteract the effect of family and faith on political or social issues? Can they mold students to be passive, uncritical receptors of information — information carefully monitored by the same corporations and government?

Pearson is selling off its K-12 operations, so for the foreseeable future the company will prey only on higher-education students. But for every Pearson there are hundreds of corporate bad actors — aided and abetted by the government — who will conduct similar experiments on much younger and more malleable children. Parents should block such platforms from ever being used in schools.

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

Teachers were heroes as Florida politicians cower before NRA

Kathleen OropezaGuest Columnist, Orlando Sentinel, 2.16.18                                                                                                                                     

Another mass shooting. Seventeen families inducted into an exclusive club no one ever wants to join. Eighteen school shootings in the first 45 days of 2018. Along with the hollow political chorus of “thoughts and prayers” by folks enriched by NRA cash, we are told to “see something, say something.” Well, here goes. I’ve worked as a full-time volunteer public-education activist for 10 years. I’ve advocated, written, researched and lived through my own children the systematic, politically driven effort to dismantle public education in Florida.

I see a glorious public asset, our schools, torn apart brick by brick every year by politicians taking orders from the likes of Jeb Bush and the Koch brothers. I see our public-school funding hollowed out as legislators write bills brokered by vendors in exchange for campaign cash. I see disbelief and sorrow in the impossible fight to overcome a 3:1 GOP to Democrat ratio, where the odds are never in our kids’ favor. I see political leadership maligning teachers as “evil,” making educators their whipping boy, refusing professional pay, stripping classroom autonomy, threatening to dismantle their union, marginalizing teaching certificates.

“I managed to get 19 kids in the closet with me. Society failed these kids today,” Melissa Falkowski, a journalism teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, told CNN just hours after the shooting. She and all the other teacher heroes kept terrified teenagers quiet, knowing that each of them was someone’s precious baby.

I see politicians standing in extreme denial of the obvious. They have grossly defunded school counselors, social workers, behavior specialists and psychologists, the very professionals best suited to identify and help troubled kids. It says a lot about priorities when funding pays for only one psychologist for six schools filled with thousands of students. I see recalcitrance on the part of politicians who will not even utter the words “sensible gun control” for fear of losing millions in NRA political-action-committee dollars. Ironically, earning an A+ from the NRA is more important than putting all options on the table to find a way to save lives.

I see folks on social media parroting cable news talking points instead of examining the cold, hard truth. Each of us had better take a long look in the mirror. Why are we willing to accept the world politicians choose for us? The Second Amendment, sensible gun control and mental-health professionals for schools can all stand firmly on common ground. What we lack are courageous lawmakers ready to lay down their political lives to make this a priority.

I’ve seen teacher after teacher step up in the face of gun violence to protect everything we hold dear and sacred in lives — our children. What does it say about us as a nation, as a state, if we as parents, voters and lawmakers will not find the bravery to do the same? It’s way past time to take “see something, say something” one step forward. It’s time to replace those politicians who will not be part of the solution.

This is the very least that we owe to all of the American heroes like Coach Aaron Feis and Melissa Falkowski, whose bravery puts the rest of us to shame.

Printed in the Orlando Sentinel, 2.16.18

Authors note: It is with great sadness and pain that there is yet another occasion to write about a tragic, preventable mass killing of children and their teachers. The first time I wrote about such a horrible event was for Sandy Hook. Back then, it was everyone’s desperate hope that our nation would for once ignore the NRA and act to protect our children by banning assault rifles and large magazines, investing in mental health care and screening and closing all loopholes for both the gun registry and sites of purchase, including private and gun show sales. This is the piece I wrote about Sandy Hook and Teacher Bravery on December 17, 2012 and it was printed in papers across the country. As the brilliant student survivors of MSDHS say: #NeverAgain.

Rosanne Wood on the March for Science: a powerful blueprint for what education should be

ROSANNE WOOD

Tens of thousands of scientists and supporters in 600 cities across the world participated in a Global March for Science on World Earth Day, Saturday, April 21st to stand up for science and protest the current politically-driven push to deny proven facts.

Here’s an excerpt from the powerful remarks made by Leon County School Board Member Rosanne Wood at the Tallahassee March for Science:

Parents: the first time your toddler discovers that mixing water and dirt together can create a cool mud pie, I want you to celebrate your miniature scientist and nurture that sense of wonder and discovery from then on.

Teachers and Administrators: I want you to realize, that despite all the pressures for good test scores and school grades, we must make time for recess, field trips, science labs, thematic learning and hands-on problem solving.

Everyone: I want you to know that school and fun do not have to be antonyms; they can be synonyms. There is nothing more fun than learning how to read a book or play an instrument or do a science experiment in a lab.

I want you all to remember–Children are naturally curious and love to learn. They will persevere If we can just refrain from draining all the joy and adventure from learning. No adult nor child likes constant grading, testing and tedious homework. School should not be about stress, it should be about challenge—and that’s what science is.

Science makes sense of the world and teaches us to question things that don’t make sense. Science teaches students how to make and defend an argument based on real facts supported by evidence.

Our education system needs a make-over. Students literally have all the facts and figures that they need at their fingertips. Science education needs to start on day one of pre-kindergarten with that first mud pie or bumble bee that lands on the flower. The Scientific method which values trial and error and learning from mistakes should be at the core of our instructional methods.

Legislators and policy makers: We need to have a serious talk about what does and does not work when it comes to nurturing our future scientists and mathematicians, as well as our artists and poets. We need you to use the scientific method and gather information on how to save our public schools-It’s not rocket Science! Start by asking a teacher.

Next attract young people and working scientists to become teachers by providing autonomy and a good salary. Teaching is the most noble profession; we need to treat it as such. And if any of you out there want to become a teacher-we need you, now more than ever.

I can tell you with certainty that the path we are on now, which rewards correct answers on tests over in-depth learning is not the way forward. If we are counting on the next generation to save our planet- we need to make sure they can solve complex problems, not just answer multiple choice questions.

Science is the opposite of being rewarded for the right answers; science is about asking the right questions.

Rosanne Wood represents District 2 on the Leon County School Board. She has built an impressive career in public education, including her groundbreaking role as principal of SAIL (School for Arts and Innovative Learning) High School in Tallahassee.

Photos from around the world:

SCIENCE MARCH TALLAHASSEE

Tallahassee March for Science

SCIENCE MARCH WASHINGTON DC

Washington D.C. March for Science

SCIENCE MARCH NEW YORK

New York March for Science

MARCH FOR SCIENCE WASHINGTON DC

Portland, OR March for Science

SCIENCE MARCH SYDNEY AU

Sydney, Australia March for Science

SCIENCE MARCH BERLIN

Berlin, Germany March for Science

Despite “photo op” Trump budget slashes $85M from Historically Black Colleges & Universities

TRUMP AND DEVOS

By now everyone knows that President Trump and ED Secretary DeVos staged a grossly insincere photo-op with the leaders of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). That’s where DeVos displayed her unforgivable ignorance to the suffering of African Americans at the bigoted hands of the Jim Crow South by making a glib self-serving comparison of HBCUs as “pioneers” of school “choice.”

HBCU leaders attended the meeting with the reasonable expectation that President Trump planned to budget some much needed Federal dollars for these chronically underfunded institutions. Instead, DeVos proceeded to speak these unsettling obtuse words, rather than focus solely on funding, we must be willing to make the tangible, structural reforms that will allow students to reach their full potential.”  

It didn’t take long to find out what that meant.

President Trump’s budget slashes $85 million dollars from Historically Black Colleges and Universities and cuts $4 billion dollars from Pell Grants, which serve financially-needy students. Seventy percent of students attending HBCUs receive Pell Grants. 

The Washington Post reports:

“Less than three weeks ago, this administration claimed it is a priority to advocate for HBCUs but, after viewing this budget proposal, those calls ring hollow,” Rep. Alma Adams (D-N.C.), a graduate of the largest HBCU, North Carolina A&T State University, said in a statement.

At the time, United Negro College Fund President Michael L. Lomax, who attended the ceremonial signing, lamented the lack of financial support in the order, noting that none of the funding recommendations were included… “President Trump pledged to do more for HBCUs than any other president has done before. However, this budget is not reflective of that sentiment. Without strong federal investments, President Trump’s commitment to HBCUs and the rebuilding of African American communities will be promises unfulfilled,” Lomax said.

Historically black schools educated nearly 300,000 students in 2014, the latest figure available from the National Center for Education Statistics. Education Department data shows that three-quarters of all doctorates awarded to African Americans and 80 percent of black federal judges earned an undergraduate degree at historically black schools.

Though the federal government sets aside money in the budget for historically black colleges, those schools have not benefited from the same level of public funding as other institutions of higher education. The disparity in funding public HBCUs, in particular, has resulted in a series of lawsuits, including a decade-old case in Maryland that is still being fought in the courts.

Considering Trump’s intended $85 million HBCU budget cut, could it be that DeVos’s shameful “choice” comment was deliberate instead of ignorant?

Inside Higher ED reports, DeVos said, “black colleges were created when “there were too many students in America who did not have equal access to education. HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice.”  The institutions were founded because black students had, in many respects, no choice. They could not enroll at predominantly white institutions in the South, even public institutions in their own states.

Further, as states created public historically black colleges, they did so to meet “separate but equal” requirements, and never took the equal part of that statement seriously. Public black colleges were created with a fraction of the budgets, programs and facilities of their predominantly white counterparts. While many students did thrive at these institutions, educators there constantly decried the lack of resources (and many maintain that continues to this day).