Arizona Parents Say Nope To NAEP Expansion

Arizona parents are joining dozens of organizations and individuals from across the United States in objecting to the proposed expansion of the NAEP test beyond assessing students’ academic content knowledge to include subjective, non-cognitive, socioemotional parameters. The objection to the expansion is based on the belief that it is illegal.

Dubbed “The Nation’s Report Card,” the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is a program of the U.S. Department of Education. The NAEP assessments are conducted in mathematics, reading, science, writing, the arts, civics, economics, geography, and U.S. history. NAEP’s governing authority is the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB).

NAGB announced that NAEP will measure “grit,” “desire for learning,” and “school climate.” The American Principles Project, the Liberty Counsel and other organizations believe that the new assessment could “potentially allow the government to determine and possibly reshape children’s moral and religious beliefs about controversial social issues.”

In March, Diane Ravitch reported that Angela Duckworth, who is “at the center of the movement to teach and grade “grit,” by which she means character, self-control, persistence, and similar behaviors,” expressed her “opposition to assessing “grit” on standardized tests and holding teachers and schools accountable for their students’ character development.”

Ravitch praised Duckworth for “speaking out against this effort to quantify character, but can’t help wishing she had closed the barn door before the horse got out. As reported earlier, both the National Assessment of Educational Progress and the international test PISA are incorporating measures of this amorphous quality into their crucial tests. Soon we will be comparing states and nations on their students’ character or “grit.” And perhaps firing teachers and closing schools for their “grit” scores.”

Ravitch called the idea of trying to quantify “grit” and holding teachers and schools accountable “goofy.”

“In the current climate, Big Data has become a near-religion. Social scientists must exert whatever influence they have to stop the misuse of their ideas, sooner rather than later,” urged Ravitch.

“This kerfuffle makes me think of the report cards I brought home in the 1940s. On the left side were my grades for subjects like reading, writing, arithmetic, science, and social studies. On the right side were the teacher’s judgments about my behavior,” continued Ravitch. “There was a list of behaviors that referred to conduct and responsibility. The teacher checked off either unsatisfactory, satisfactory, or excellent. She was acknowledging my behavior, judging me. I was responsible for my conduct, not the teacher or the school. It was up to me to try harder next time.”

“Everything old is new again, but in our age, it gets quantified and misused. The urge to quantify the unmeasurable must be recognized for what it is: stupid; arrogant; harmful; foolish, yet another way to standardize our beings.” concluded Ravitch.

Jennifer Reynolds, founder of Arizonans Against Common Core and a member of the Mommy Lobby stated, “Parents are fed up with the over-reach of Federal and State Governments through questionable standards and testing. Testing our children has become big business laden with profit stemming from the rich personal data that tests collect. Now, the NEAP, (The Nation’s Report Card) is being hi-jacked to measure non-academic skills. It is absolutely unacceptable to test our students on non-cognitive attributes such as mindset, grit, perseverance, attitudes, and beliefs. These items are beyond the scope of any content standards and are frankly out of bounds for the school setting. Will positive attitudes towards one political party, a policy, or values give a student a better score? Will NAEP over time shape the values of our kids? Parents didn’t give NAEP the authority to sit in judgment to assess subjective values and beliefs of our children.”

The Liberty Counsel, in a letter to three congressional committees, noted that if “grit,” “desire for learning,” and “school climate” are assessed as part of the NAEP test itself, their inclusion violates federal law prohibiting assessment of “personal or family beliefs and attitudes” via 20 USC section 9622. If they are instead part of the background survey given to students, their inclusion violates the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment, 20 USC section 1232(h), which requires that such material be made available for parental inspection before administration.

Jane Robbins, senior fellow at American Principles Project, issued a statement in which she argued that the “expansion of NAEP will not only violate federal law but also possibly expose students to negative consequences of having their most sensitive personal information – subjectively determined – collected and maintained in unsecured government databases. Even without federal statutes prohibiting such action, this overreach would invade parental sovereignty over the education and moral direction of children.”