URGENT: this bill is now in the House Education and Workforce Committee and it will go to the House for final vote.
Tell your US Congressman/woman (NH: Guinta or Kuster) to vote NO on SETRA:
LETTER TO THE EDITOR from Angela Pont (Portsmouth, NH)
VOTE NO ON THE STRENGTHENING EDUCATION THROUGH RESEARCH ACT (SETRA)
SETRA is a proposed reauthorization of the Education Sciences Reform Act which set up government agencies and funding to conduct education research. If SETRA passes, as written, it will allow the Federal Government to expand psychological profiling of our children. Section 132 of SETRA (I) expands authorized research to include “research on social and emotional learning (SEL).” SEL is defined as “the process through which children and adults acquire and affectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships and make responsible decisions”. All of this is proposed under the guise of improving educational outcomes.
How can one objectively measure and report on social and emotional skills? How is this data extracted, who gets to see the results and how is it used? How can such data be protected? The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) has been weakened to allow third party vendors to access private information from schools without parental consent, so it is no longer a safeguard. Will parents be able to opt their children out of these psychological studies? More importantly, who decides what the necessary skills and attitudes are to manage emotions? Who sets the parameters for what a positive relationship looks like? Our schools are not qualified or licensed to conduct psychological studies on our children nor do they operate under the “Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct”.
Sadly, New Hampshire is already attempting to measure SEL through what is referred to as Work Study Practices (WSP). On the NH education website WSP is defined as “behavioral qualities or habits of mind that students need to be successful in college, career, and life.” Performance Assessment of Competency Education (PACE) is a new assessment mechanism that is being piloted in various school districts around NH. PACE will measure Work Study Practices or Social Emotional Learning through what is called “Performance Tasks”.
How will our children be “graded” on social and emotional skills? Will our children be held back if they do not display the Federal/State “standards” of social and emotional behaviors or the “government approved” attitudes? It is important for parents to ask to see the actual tests such as the Smarter Balanced Assessment, PACE, or The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) so they can see the types of questions being asked and how their children have responded. These tests are supposed to be academic achievement tests yet psychological questions are imbedded in these assessments to measure SEL. In the NY Times article below it states that the NAEP will start testing for SEL next year.
We can all agree that it is important for students to respect each other and for teachers to give encouragement where needed to help our children achieve their goals. Social and Emotional Learning delves into areas of a child’s development that should be the responsibility of parents and families. Our children are not guinea pigs and the public schools should not be used as psychological laboratories providing data for government and corporate interests.
For more information on SETRA and SEL see the link below. Ask your Congressional representatives more about SETRA and if you are so inclined, urge them to protect our children and vote NO.
Ann Marie Banfield currently volunteers as the Education Liaison for Cornerstone Action in Bedford, New Hampshire. She has been researching education reform for over a decade and actively supports parental rights, literacy and academic excellence in k-12 schools. You can reach her at: [email protected]