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.”


  1. Don’t be shocked kids, someone made money on this monstrosity of a test. Teaching grit huh. Well damn, I thought STEM was the hot ticket. But what the hell do I know as a ex-teacher. The course outline should be a hoot to read. But one must wonder to teach “grit” how does it square with the participation trophies and helicopter parents that are invogue now? Somebody didn’t get the memo.

    • Jon,

      I think you have it about right. The test and textbook publishers made tens of billions of dollars from No Child Left Behind. When Congress finally passed the Every Student Succeeds Act to replace NCLB these publishers saw the gravy train pull into the station, and they were not happy. They have a lot of sway with appointed officials…they pay for a slew of junkets for folks in the US Department of Education…and they are counting on these unelected officials to restart that gravy train with all this nonsense testing that is not only unnecessary, but it takes time away from student efforts to learn real stuff” like how to read and write and maybe even how to do some math.

  2. Is this another way for the dems/libs to say they can prove all have ‘common sense’ therefore everyone should bow down to them starting in elementary school? How does one actually measure ‘character’, morals etc. As fgar as holding teachers feet to the fire the proof is if the kids can read, write and do simple math! Anything more is gravey, but the new ‘teaching’ is more about indoctrination it seems particularly in tusd. kids cant read write or do simple math it seems, but they can chain themselves to tables, protest and do other stuff that is ‘common sense’ to the dems/libs who run the area. Then they wonder why no companies want to locate here!

    • Why must you make this a democrat/liberal issue? It is not. All this testing and educational reformists crap comes from the corporate republicans who make tons of money off of testing material. Ask the other Bush brother who has made millions off of testing materials.

  3. The education reformists have turned the education system into a mess. Those that believe gov’t does everything better “for the children” are happy to go along with the next fad. Profiteers have jumped on the bandwagon because they figured out education reform, products, and data mining are lucrative. So who wins? Not the kids. We are losing sight of who the true beneficiary of education should be and who the decision makers should be.

    To be blunt: Education is for the child-not for the workforce. Kids are not human capital. Parents are in charge of the upbringing of their children and it is our right and obligation to question or pass on things that don’t serve our kids.

    Parents would rather schools focus on quality content standards in reading, writing, and math not morals, values, and beliefs. Who’s morals and beliefs are selected as the end all be all?

    The Common Core math ed reform has led many parents to spend their evenings and summers re-teaching basic math among other things to their children when that time should be spent on reinforcing their own family values and beliefs.

    Parents are told Common Core math teaches grit by making kids solve and think about math in new ways. Ed reformers are ok with kids crying over not being able to do their homework. Kids across the nation say “I can’t do the math problem Mom’s way or the teacher will mark it wrong.” It is a teacher’s discretion whether the “old way” is acceptable or not.

    One notable Common Core Math developer, Jason Zimba, tells parents NOT to help kids with their homework because we will confuse them. Yet, on an NPR interview he says HE spends every Saturday tutoring his own 2 daughters in math. Apparently the NY school he picked don’t have the right combination of grit to teach math properly either!

    The true combination that works in education is parents, teachers, and kids all working together. Parents are being actively squeezed out and kids are suffering for it.

    Parental Trust has been broken by the Ed Reformers. Even Dr. Duckworth, the champion of the “grit is good for kids” movement says herself grit can’t and shouldn’t be measured on testing. She’s walking a fine line of telling the truth and herself profiting from her grit research. Kudos to her for speaking the truth.

    For all the talk about accountability, again I ask: Who is accountable to parents and taxpayers? This NAEP redesign to include values etc have no proof of concept yet millions of dollars are spent with our kids as the research guinea pigs.

    NAEP Test has lost any small shred of credibility it once had. It will do wonders to further fuel the Opt Out Movement.

    NAEP is upfront and telling parents it is measuring non academic content. If I want a version of a psych test, I won’t be asking my school to provide it.

  4. Assessing soft skills is just another tentacle of the Common Core agenda. The NAEP Is not a mandatory test. Parents need to be educated about their right to say “No thanks.”

  5. cecillia read Listen to a Mom reply and you will understand that yes it is a dem/lib problem as they are the ones that established these things many years ago. The r’s are capitalists and if the dems/libs are gonna throw $$ away on nonsense might as well get in on it. Wouldn’t YOU?

  6. Cecilia, the prime movers behind common core and data gathering are Pearson Publishing (out of England and owned by the House of Saud) and Bill gates. These are hardly conservative greedy Republicans. Greedy people come in all flavors but the press singles out the R’s. Pearson Publishing explains why our text books are being converted to a sharp decline – even absence – of American history and government but using English instruction to teach Islam in schools.

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