It is a David and Goliath type battle with Alpine School Board members Brian Halladay and Wendy Hart, along with psychologist Dr. Gary Thompson, on a campaign to expose one of the corporations behind Common Core testing.
In an upcoming public meeting, Halladay, Hart, and Thompson will guide Utah parents into “A Journey into the Wild, Wild West of Common Core Testing and the Corporation Who Designed It.” (The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, October 30th, 2014 from 7-9PM at the offices of dōTERRA International located at South 1300 West; Pleasant Grove, UT 84062.)
While Utah adopted the Common Core State Standards, the state refers to its standards as the “Utah Core.” Like other states, Utah has codified into law a teacher accountability system connected to high stakes testing.
Most states adopting the Common Core State Standards joined either the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC) or the Partnership for Assessing Readiness of College and Careers (PARCC). Utah withdrew from SBAC in favor of creating their own statewide computer adaptive assessments.
The Utah State Office of Education (USOE) awarded a contract to the American Institutes for Research (AIR) to develop Utah’s Common Core test known as the Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence (SAGE). According to the USOE, the state of Utah contracted with AIR “for the development, administration and reporting of the SAGE Assessment System.”
Although Utah is no longer a part of SBAC, it partnered with a company connected to the testing consortium. AIR provides test delivery and administration for SBAC.
Brian Halladay counsels parents, educators, and politicians looking into AIR to ask these three questions:
- Who is AIR?
- How is AIR funded?
- Where is our children’s data going?
But after a little digging into those three questions, a fourth one presents itself: Is Utah Partnering With AIR To Measure Academic Achievement or Psychological Variables?
Who Is Air?
AIR is a behavioral research company steeped in data mining. It touts itself as being “one of the world’s largest behavioral and social science research and evaluation organizations.” According to the AIR Web site, their mission is “to conduct and apply the best behavioral social science research and evaluation towards improving peoples’ lives, with a special emphasis on the disadvantaged.” The Web site states that their part of their vision is to become the pre-eminent organization on a global level that “produces improvements in education, health, and the workforce.”
How Is Air Funded?
According to Halladay, AIR has received hundreds of grants and contracts from the federal government. The Gates Foundation has also awarded tens of millions of dollars in grants to AIR over the years.
Where is Our Children’s Data Going?
Halladay says that nothing in the Utah contract prevents AIR from sharing data with federal agencies, their related institutes, or their multiple partners.
However, it’s not just AIR that may be sharing data. Local school districts and state boards of education have been granted more latitude in the sharing of data due to new guidelines issued by the United States Department of Education. The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA)—originally enacted to protect student privacy—has been gutted under the leadership of Arne Duncan. For example, school districts may share data without parental consent with organizations which conduct studies on behalf of the school. These research organizations are not bound by FERPA.
Is Utah Partnering With AIR To Measure Academic Achievement or Psychological Variables?
The possibility of using standardized tests to measure and even change behavior is not new. In a February, 2014 presentation, education expert Dr. Peg Luksik shared some examples of how this was done prior to computerized tests and stated that the computer adaptive tests are more open to manipulation.
But the billion dollar question remains—Why would Utah engage a behavioral research company in the formulation of their statewide standardized tests?