Friday, November 28, 2014

Anita Hoge's OPEN LETTER to PA Dept of Ed's Dumaresq

The following is the complete text of the formal letter that Anita Hoge addressed to Carolyn C. Dumaresq, Acting Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Education on Nov. 21st. This letter gives the full details behind the PRESS RELEASE issued several days ago, which we published in its entirety on this blog (click HERE). 

Parents and concerned citizens should read Anita's letter to learn the truth about the Common Core standards. Once again, we republish this in its entirety so that all can have access to this public letter.

November 21, 2014

Carolyn C. Dumaresq, Ed. D.
Acting Secretary of Education
Pennsylvania Department of Education
333 Market Street
Harrisburg, PA 17126

Dear Secretary Dumaresq,

I want to thank you for your letter dated October 24, 2014. I have five major concerns that I will discuss in this correspondence.

My first concern is in my letter dated September 12, 2014, where I stated the following,
"I have grave concerns about the direction that the Common Core standards movement has taken, as well as, my concerns of the ethics of testing and teaching in the affective domain. I must question the legality of these methods without proper safeguards and ask that legal counsel respond to this direction that Pennsylvania has taken."
I do agree with you that a state has the freedom under the Constitution to not accept the Common Core Standards copyright. But upon acceptance of the Memorandum and Race to the Top (RTTT) Pennsylvania agreed to the guarantee that 85% of the standards cannot be changed. Unfortunately, when Secretary of Education, Ronald Tomalis signed and agreed to the ESEA Flexibility Waiver, 2013, Pennsylvania accepted the waived conditions of No Child Left Behind, which mandates not only Common Core, but also the College Career Citizenship Readiness Standards, teacher training for Common Core, and extension of the Common Core of Language Arts and Math into the affective domain in Principle 6. The provisions also change Title I to blanket a school by eliminating poverty guidelines to cover all children. Contracts that I have recently reviewed state specifically that Pennsylvania is proceeding with the Common Core Standards. As you know, the affective domain has always been a major part of Pennsylvania's research on children since the EQA that I had filed a federal complaint against.

Parental input will have NO impact on the Common Core standards or the direction that education is heading because of these signed grants and contracts. The Governor's hearings for parents to have a seat at the table, and to have input concerning the standards, are therefore pointless and only relate to a very small percentage of change. The national Common Core agenda is in place in Pennsylvania.

Principle 6 states in the signed grant,
"Principle 6 establish a school environment that improves school safety and discipline and addresses other non-academic factors that impact student achievement, such as students social, emotional and health needs."
 What is most interesting about your letter is that you state that the College Career Citizenship Readiness Standards are not part of Pennsylvania's Standards. But yet, these standards were being implemented into the classroom through the Standards Aligned System (SAS) portal under Safe Schools and the Interpersonal Skills Standards dated April 25, 2012. This does not pre-date Governor Corbett's election. These standards were cleansed from the SAS portal after my presentation on October 20, 2014 in Senator Folmer's office in Harrisburg.

The Chief State School Officers had expanded the Common Core Standards copyright to include dispositions. In order for Pennsylvania to not be obligated to implement these standards on the state level, our Governor and Pennsylvania Department of Education would have to withdraw from the ESEA Flexibility Grant. I would also point out that the SAS portal also referred to these Standards as "academic," in which parents are not truthfully being informed of their rights. These Common Core affective domain standards are not academic, and the law should apply so that informed parental consent would truly mean informed.

I also questioned the "present position that the State Board and the Pennsylvania Department of Education has on testing and teaching in the affective domain by referring to the following 'academic' standards and anchors, and if written parental permission is used when engaging in these interpersonal trait activities."

In your response to my letter you refer to 22 PA Code 4.51 (c) that states: Neither State assessments nor academic standards under §  4.12 may require students to hold or express particular attitudes, values or beliefs. [Emp. mine]

Although worded in a peculiar way, the regulation does not forbid testing, evaluations, interventions, surveys, or collecting personal information about attitudes, values, or beliefs. However, the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) and BEC 8-90 does protect students from being required, as part of any program, to submit, without written prior consent, to psychiatric or psychological examination, testing, interventions, or treatment in the 7 protected areas to which (I allege) the Department of Education is not adhering.

Parents question why these affective standards are included on the SAS portal, with curriculum and lesson plans that are totally aligned. Why is the Department of Education creating standards that would test, score, teach, and remediate attitudes, values, opinions and beliefs of Pennsylvania students? Affective domain standards were tested and scored in the past in the Pennsylvania EQA. The questions that beg to be asked are 1) what exactly is being tested and 2) how will that standard be scored for proficiency in interpersonal skills or personality traits? The Pennsylvania Department of Education was found in violation of federal law for testing and scoring attitudes, values, opinions, and beliefs in the past. I am referring to the policy BEC 8-90 that was extensively negotiated to resolve my federal complaint against the EQA. This debate continued against the  controversial student learning outcomes under the Outcome Based Education battle in 1992.  At that time affective outcomes and standards were removed from Chapter 4 rule-making package by the IRRC. It is an abuse of power and a conspiracy to try to implement these affective domain standards without vetting, without parental input, without any regulatory oversight, and without informed written parental consent. Why is the Department of Education so bold as to ignore the law?

I do not believe you answered my question: Is informed written parental permission obtained when engaging in these activities? I have listed below an experimental program called the Penn Resiliency Project from the University of Pennsylvania. The Interpersonal Skills Standards are listed and aligned to this project's objectives.

Quoting from the PRP program:
"The Penn Resiliency Program (PRP), designed by our research team, is a group intervention for late elementary and middle school students. The curriculum teaches cognitive-behavioral and social problem-solving skills and is based in part on cognitive-behavioral theories of depression by Aaron Beck, Albert Ellis, and Martin Seligman (Abramson, Seligman, & Teasdale, 1978; Beck, 1967, 1976; Ellis, 1962). Central to PRP is Ellis' Adversity-Consequences-Beliefs (ABC) model, the notion that our beliefs about events mediate their impact on our emotions and behavior."
I am requesting a direct answer to these questions: 1) Is informed written parental consent obtained for incorporating the Interpersonal Skills Standards into the curriculum and assessments? and 2) Is parental permission obtained for teaching this particular curriculum (PRP) which was on the SAS portal?

Another experimental program from the University of Pennsylvania is the Duckworth laboratory called Character Lab that has done research and created scales to measure grit and self control. Duckworth also has a list of schools where she has performed her research. Is informed written parental consent used in these experimental programs? Do parents understand that their children will be used for research that aligns a psychometric record on their personalities?

Quoting from Angela Duckworth's research that measure soft skills and personality type questionnaires: 
"Researchers and educators are welcome to scales we have developed in our lab for non-commercial purposes. On a cautionary note, we point out that these scales were originally designed to assess individual differences rather than subtle within-individual changes in behavior over time. Thus, we do not know whether they are valid indicators of pre- to post-change as a consequence of interventions. We also discourage the use of the scales in high stakes settings where faking is a concern (e.g., admissions or hiring decisions)."
My second concern is related to the expunging of the Interpersonal Skills Standards from the SAS portal. How will that relate to the way the Interpersonal Skills Standards have been embedded into the curriculum, as well as, other Core Academic Standards listed on the SAS portal? I have found that these affective domain standards continue to be found in the following "academic standards" areas:
  • Career Education and Work
  • Family and Consumer Sciences
  • Health Safety and Physical Education

In fact, when you search the SAS website portal and query Interpersonal Skills, there are 2,383 activities, lesson plans, programs, curriculum, etc., that are returned that still remain on the portal. The Safe Schools website portal also includes Interpersonal Skills Standards listed.

These embedded Interpersonal Skills Standards, according to federal law and state policy, must have informed written parental permission before any student is exposed to these lesson plans and curriculum. I would like to have your position, as well as that of Governor Corbett, legal counsel, the IRRC, and the State Board, in response to this serious situation. If the Interpersonal Skills Standards were NOT vetted or approved by the State Board, and then cleansed from the SAS portal after my meeting, then the curriculum and the lesson plans were also not vetted or approved and must be cleansed from the SAS portal.  I would ask that you respond concerning this egregious situation, and let the parents of Pennsylvania know that you, the IRRC, the State Board, and the Governor will correct this situation. It will be very important that all curriculum and lesson plans be eradicated, root and branch, from the portal and classrooms, immediately.

My third concern is the interventions that are in the affective domain that do not have a direct relationship to academic content. It is my understanding that a behavioral system of support, screening, assessment, evaluation, and intervention is being performed in the regular classroom and called Response to Instruction and Intervention or RTII. This multi-tiered system of support (PA-MTSS) which is funded through the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), with training implemented through Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Program (PATTAN), does not obtain informed written parental consent for behavioral assessments that are being used to screen, assess, evaluate, and implement interventions for students in order to attain academic and behavioral standards relating to Pennsylvania's Core standards, including the repudiated Interpersonal Skills Standards. The PATTAN website and training modules state:
"PA-MTSS represents a broad set of evidence-based practices that may be implemented across a system to include Academics AND Behavior within a recursive and systematic problem-solving process. PA-MTSS is relatively synonymous with RtII and is intended to help ALL students meet with continual academic and behavioral success." [Emp. mine]
This screening precludes an IEP process using US Department of Education Special Education funds. Parents of regular classroom students have NOT been granted protection nor permitted input. The framework tabs in the RTII training modules also correlate and use behavioral standards aligned to the SAS portal. The three levels of interventions have a continuum that increases to the third level with intensive interventions before and without the protection and permission of the parent that is usually required in an IEP process for Special Education children. This process is used on ALL children. The screening, testing, evaluating, and intervention activity is done in the regular classroom for all students, without the knowledge or consent of parents, aligning to the SAS portal and Pennsylvania standards.

There have been several lawsuits that substantiate that, under IDEA protections, parental input and written permission is demanded in the beginning and throughout the entire process, including RTII, particularly whether a student is or is not referred to Special Education.  I would ask legal counsel to respond to this question, is the RTII, MTSS, and PATTAN, regarding screening and doing interventions in the affective domain, obtaining informed written parental consent for the Response to Instruction and Intervention process with all classroom students in the regular classroom?

This will be an issue based on the fact that the Interpersonal Skills and Standards (and other embedded curriculum associated with those behavioral standards) are being implemented in the regular classrooms under Common Core, and the interventions are using IDEA funding. In other words, parents are NOT informed of this process, and written permission is NOT obtained. I must add that one of Pennsylvania's contractors, Pearson, has also developed a phone application for behavioral and clinical assessment for children in the classroom called BOSS, Behavioral Observation for Students in School, researched at Lehigh University, which must also have informed written parental consent to be used in the classroom. Is informed written parental consent obtained before these programs are initiated?

My fourth concern regards the data collection and personally identifiable information that is in a student education record. In Chapter 4.51 Assessment (e) and (g) in the regulations state:
(e) To ensure that information regarding student performance is available to parents and teachers, State assessments developed under this section must include student names.

(g) The Department and other Commonwealth entities are prohibited from collecting    individual student test scores and may collect only aggregate test scores by school and      district.
Upon reviewing current written agreements of the Department, individual test scores and personally identifiable information on students and teachers are being accessed and entered into the Pennsylvania Information Management System (PIMS) data warehouse in which the Department, other Commonwealth entities, including outside contractors, have access to personally identifiable information. This is in violation of Chapter 4 regulations that I previously cited in 4.51 (e) and (f). Outside contractors are defined as a "school official" in FERPA, (Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1232g (b)(1) and (b)(2)(A) § 99.31). Those contractors who apply for access to personally identifiable information are considered a Commonwealth authorized representative when entering into written agreements with the Department of Education. Therefore, these vendors are legally only able to access aggregate data according to Chapter 4 Regulation. These contractors are in violation of Chapter 4.

Since a state unique personal ID has been issued to all students in Pennsylvania, and names are being placed on the tests, it enables easy cross-referencing capabilities when used with directory information. The state PIMS longitudinal database is a data repository in which data is maintained on the individual. The data collected is entered by the local school district and/or intermediate unit. The issue of directory information being released, to be used to pre-print labels or pre-identify the student, also becomes a bigger issue when linked to or cross matched to other identifying features including: state unique ID, SSN, name, zip code, the school, the teacher, birthdate, address, mother's maiden name, etc. The use of biometric data (fingerprints, voice prints, iris scans, DNA sequences, etc.) is also an issue, particularly because biometric data is included in the definition of personally identifiable information in FERPA. This is the data allowed to be shared with outside vendors. I am requesting the Attorney General and the Governor to stop the release of this data. 

Personally identifiable information must be protected. Objective privacy data and computer analysts must be involved with safeguarding Pennsylvania students, knowing that this personal information is being released. Carnegie Mellon University, with a grant through NSF, is collecting biometric data in their research with Learn Sphere. Is informed written parental consent obtained in these research projects? Do parents understand how the biometric data collected will be used in relationship to their children meeting affective domain Common Core Standards?

Student information on the local level must be de-identified and stripped of all identifying criteria, NEVER allowing personally identifiable information to be linked to the state PIMS and/or sent to any state or federal databases, including the National Center for Education Statistics, or any outside contractor. This system has several serious legal questions that must be reviewed by legal counsel and computer experts.

I am requesting that the Attorney General, Federal and State Inspector Generals and legal counsel review this situation and report their findings, and rescind all contracts that allow personally identifiable information to be released to outside providers in violation of Chapter 4.

I am also concerned that the Department of Labor, considered a Commonwealth entity, can obtain personally identifiable information, thus creating a "womb to workplace" dossier on a student in cooperation with the Department of Education and the National Center for Education Statistics. Every person was given a unique ID according to the contract with eScholar in 2006, with 1.8 million students from birth to college age who were identified. Deloitte completed the eScholar Data Warehouse in 2007. In summary, every person today, from age 26 and under has a complete dossier that was integrated into the Department's applications. Every state has applied for this same longitudinal data base identifying every person in their respective states using Pennsylvania as their model. Is this nation prepared to accept that in 20+ more years, the federal government shall have a complete demographic and  psychometric dossier on every person in the United States? Womb to workplace? This collection of data goes far beyond the premise of national demographic census data, or perhaps,  is this the premise? Will this data collection replace the census? How does the Department explain how this personal data will be used in the future?

After carefully reviewing the contracts I have reached the conclusion that the Department of Labor may legally only receive aggregate data, and not personally identifiable information.  If this database is presumed to extend from birth into the workforce, including wages, SSN's should never be collected and entered into the PIMS database due to reasonable privacy concerns, as well as cross referencing capabilities that can be linked with a state student unique ID, directory information, and personally identifiable information.

Please explain how all encompassing data on an individual from birth is linked to human capital or wages that will be added to the PIMS and Department of Labor dossier. I would advocate that the Attorney General and Inspector General be advised to review the contracts with the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania Department of Labor that have written agreements that enable them to access personally identifiable information using an individual's unique national ID, inconspicuously initiated as a state project for a state unique ID must also be reviewed.

A local unique personal ID must be used that de-identifies and strips personal data that does not link to the PIMS data warehouse, the Department of Labor, or Commonwealth entities for the best protection of our students. This system has several serious legal and privacy questions that must be reviewed by legal counsel.

I am requesting information regarding who it is that oversees the decision, the protocol used, and by what criteria these decisions are based, as well as who is qualified to receive personally identifiable information on our students? I am also requesting information regarding any profit that is made in the re-disclosure of personally identifiable information to any contractor, or from personal data that may be acquired for free.  Another question that must be discussed is who owns the data? The parents? The state who secretly collects the data? The data researcher who accesses personally identifiable information? Or the data user who develops curriculum, software, tests, or app's for phones? Who gets the data for free and sells their wares back to the schools? Who owns the children?

My fifth and final concern is directly related to the collection of data from the Interpersonal Skills Standards, including Response to Instruction and Interventions, or from any of the embedded affective standards in any of the other core areas such as Career Education and Work, Family and Consumer Sciences, and/or Health Safety and Physical Education, and entered into the PIMS data warehouse.  In reference to personally identifiable information (that is accessed and/or re-disclosed by the Department of Education, other Commonwealth entities, or any outside contractors), are attitudinal, behavioral assessments, personality traits, social or emotional learning, or any private or sensitive information collected, entered into a local computer or phone application and shared with the PIMS data warehouse? There are severe legal implications and violations if personally identifiable information, including behavioral and personality traits, are provided to outside contractors that have written agreements with the Department of Education. Bottom line, this data is combined in a psychometric record. It is not a mere transcript of academic content on reading and math that is being released and re-disclosed. The Penn Resiliency Project and the Pearson BOSS phone app referred to earlier in this correspondence comes to mind.

Collection and re-disclosure of this information would be in direct violation of the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (please refer to the definitions in the PPRA for psychological and psychiatric testing and treatment) and state policy, BEC 8-90. Psychological, psychiatric or behavioral data are private and are legally protected and shall not be collected or shared with anyone without informed written parental consent.

I request that the Attorney General, the Inspector General and legal counsel review these written agreements that are admitting access to personally identifiable information. An investigation must be conducted into the implications of personal violations against Pennsylvania students that by law must have informed written parental consent to access the students, and into the use of data that is forbidden to be collected or re-disclosed. The entire PIMS data warehouse must be investigated, as it may be in violation of federal law, state policy, and 22 PA Code Chapter 4.

I appreciate the Department's quick response after my meeting on October 20, 2014 in Senator Folmer's office with Andrew Paris from the Governor's office attending. At that time, I reviewed several contracts and helped identify problems with standards that were in the affective domain associated with an attached copy of the Interpersonal Skills Standards. The removal of the Interpersonal Skills Standards from the SAS portal, and sending out the PennLink to all 500 school districts to partially expunge the SAS portal of the affective domain standards, is an extremely important action, and an acknowledgement of wrongdoing to the children and parents of Pennsylvania. I believe parents have the right to know and understand exactly how their children and their records are being protected in the classroom. Privacy is a very huge issue.

Improving education for the children of Pennsylvania is a goal we both share. Thank you for your prior response as we continue to work together. I am sorry for the length of this request, however, these issues must be resolved.

I will look forward to your reply and the legal position of the Pennsylvania Department of Education in each of my five concerns.

Anita B Hoge

Jennifer Bransetter, Governor Corbett's Office
Andrew Paris, Governor Cornett's Office
Kathleen Kane, Attorney General
Karen Molchanow, Executive Director, Pennsylvania State Board
John F. Mizner, Chairman, IRRC
Aaron R. Jordan, Acting Assistant Inspector General for Investigations
Steven Anderson, Special Agent Federal Inspector General
Michael Sprow, Pennsylvania Inspector General
Kathleen Styles, Chief Privacy Officer