Universal Design for Learning (UDL): From Personalized Learning, to Computer Based Learning, to Higher Order Thinking Skills, to measuring non-cognitive dispositions and mindsets, to mapping your child’s brain.

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires assessments to be developed to the extent practicable using the principles of universal design for learning. (UDL) That is a significant restriction on the kinds of tests schools can use.

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UDL measures “higher order thinking skills” and while that may sound good, the practice may be one parents and even school administrators want to avoid. Higher-order thinking skills have little to do with factual or academic knowledge.

http://www.eschoolnews.com/2015/05/19/udl-personalized-939/UDL is defined by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) as “a framework for designing educational environments that enable all learners to gain knowledge, skills and enthusiasm for learning….by simultaneously reducing barriers to the curriculum and providing rich supports for learning.

Over and over again, we hear about the over-testing in schools.  Please take the time to read that link from a Manchester teacher pleading to anyone who will listen.

Bureaucrats at the New Hampshire Department of Education even used over-testing as an excuse to bring in additional testing.  Yes you read that right. Bureaucrats acknowledged over testing by using the Smarter Balanced Assessment 1x/year and then brought in the PACE assessments that assess students even more.

As you can see in this excerpt from Leading the Co-Teaching Dance:Leadership Strategies to Enhance Team Outcomes, UDL should be embedded in those daily assessments.  That means MORE testing and less learning in schools.  Just ask your local teachers.
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For parents concerned about all of the screen time their children get now, expect even more.  That might be why High Tech parents in Silicon Valley are pulling their kids out of these schools and sending them to low-tech alternatives.  They are choosing schools that put less emphasis on technology and dumbed down skills and more emphasis on “… physical activity and learning through creative, hands-on tasks. Those who endorse this approach say computers inhibit creative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans.”

These assessments will measure, in a subjective way, skills such as critical, logical, reflective, metacognitive, and creative thinking. This means they will be measuring a student’s non-cognitive dispositions, attributes and mindsets. The focus on academic knowledge becomes secondary to these so-called higher order-thinking skills. http://childrenthinkingskills.blogspot.com/p/high-order-of-thinking-skills.html

This is exactly what many parents do not want schools measuring on a “standardized test or the daily assessments.” This is also often cited as a complaint by parents due to the subjective nature when measuring their child’s values or attitudes.

So what is the NH Department of Education doing to push back on this over-reaching push by the federal government on UDL?  They are hosting workshops for your teachers in order to make sure they are trained.

Within any education reform, you will find pros and cons.  However, the federal government shouldn’t be mandating any kind of program, pedagogy, curriculum, assessments or any thing else through federal laws.  However this is exactly what they are doing and under Governor Hassan. She is facilitating federal education reforms instead of leading on this important issue.

When you see this shift to daily assessments and computerized learning that profits the tech industry, it’s important to know where these reforms in the classroom are coming from.  This is not an organic grassroots effort by parents.  In fact, if parents object, chances are their concerns will fall on deaf ears. We have a federal government encroaching further into our classrooms and our Governor is facilitating that over-reach.

For those who value local control in education, these are issues to consider when it comes to electing representatives in this state.  Are they going to continue facilitating federal control in our schools or are they ever going to stand up to the feds and say, this is for our local parents, teachers and administrators to decide.

(**NOTE: parents need to request to see EVERY assessment their child takes at school.  They also can REFUSE standardized testing in their local schools but you should ask the administration if there are any consequences for that refusal. ESSA also includes language pushing participation rates)

Ann Marie Banfield currently volunteers as the Education Liaison for Cornerstone Action in 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 contact her at: [email protected]