I’ve been concerned about the kind of data the government is collecting on students who take standardized assessments.  Years ago we took achievement tests but today’s psychometric assessments are very different. Instead of testing for knowledge with an achievement test, schools are now using psychometric assessments on their values, attitudes and beliefs.  This is why many parents across the country are refusing to let their children take standardized assessments.

I’ve testified before New Hampshire legislators against the Smarter Balanced “Assessment” and that it should be replaced with an achievement test.  Parents want to know if their children have mastered math facts and basic grammar.  They are not sending their children to school so the government can collect, store and share personal information on their children.  However that is exactly what is happening when your children participate in these standardized assessments.

To make matters worse, because so many parents are now figuring out this testing scheme, the NH Department of Education is introducing new PACE assessments.  These are given more frequently (despite their claims that this reduces testing) and are based on “competencies.”

Parents assume that when their students are being tested, that they are being tested on how well they retained the academics they learned in class.  Unfortunately the federal education reforms have little do do with excellence in academics and more to do with “assessing” your child’s values and beliefs.

Teachers have to sign confidentiality agreements now when they administer these assessments.  That should tell you something.  They can’t share information on how bad these assessments are or they will be in violation of the agreement.

Nashua teachers, through their Principal warned parents a few years ago that these assessments were more like a psychological exam versus a test of knowledge.

Those of us who’ve been warning about this testing scheme have not been surprised by the mass exodus in testing by parents or the warnings from the teachers who’ve seen the questions on the Common Core / Competency Based Assessments.  We were not surprised when licensed medical professionals referred to the Smarter Balanced Assessment as “cognitive child abuse.”  This kind of assessing continues with the PACE assessments and the new Common Core SATs.  This might be why over 850 colleges and universities no longer consider the SAT/ACT in their college application process.

For parents who want to know if their child is on grade level, there are still some good achievement tests out there.  Check with home-school families.  They tend to use quality achievement tests to determine if their children are learning the academics.  Tests like the Iowa Basic Skills TEST can give you that kind of information without data mining personal information on your children and family and sending it off to government bureaucracies without your knowledge or consent.

This is why we are also starting to see new “tests” being developed.  Tests that colleges will be using to determine whether a graduate learned the academics to succeed.

How can you know what kinds of questions your children will be asked on standardized assessments?  If they release the questions prior to the assessment, it breaches the security.  Parents do have a right to see all of the questions once the assessment has been administered, but then it’s too late.  The information has been given to the assessment consortium and in the case of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, they have a signed agreement with the Federal Department of Education to send them the data.

The NH Department of Education also collects data on your children in the State Longitudinal Data-base.  The NH DoE then has reciprocity agreements to share that information with other entities.  In other words, you have no idea what kind of information is being collected on your children, where it goes and how it will be used in the future.

One of the latest examples of information gathered on students is coming from Utah where a student snapped a picture of a question on abortion:

“A student attending Stansbury High School was taking his biology exam in an online format and got this very personal question about handling an abortion. Thankfully he had his cell phone to take a picture of the test question he received. Click to enlarge it.

The student said this question had come up earlier in the year when taking a different test. This is a very disturbing question that appears to violate Utah law asking about potential religious and sexual beliefs.”

As New Hampshire continues to implement the federal education reforms, it’s important to understand that computerized assessments are one of the tools that will collect this information on your children.

Refusing the standardized assessments like the SAT, Smarter Balanced Assessment and PACE assessments will help reduce the amount of data points gathered on your children.  It’s also important to ask to see all quizzes, tests, curriculum, APPs, syllabus, assignments, etc.

The government can now share this information with other bureaucracies like the U.S. Department of Labor.  They’ve already agreed to share information with the Federal Reserve without your knowledge or consent. How will this impact your children when they apply to college or apply for a job ?  That remains to be seen but for now we know they are assessing your child’s political beliefs so maybe it’s time to start asking those questions.

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: abanfield@nhcornerstone.org