Friday, October 20, 2017

Social Emotional Data. The new Cash Cow in the Corporate Assessment Industry

Recently I was asked to allow my son to participate in a survey at school. The "opt in" survey form specifically stated, "the questions on the survey relate to peer relationships, how safe students feel at school, and the quality of student-teacher relationships." It went on to say that the questions might make my son feel uncomfortable and that this was all voluntary, with the ultimate goal being to "inform a more effective bullying prevention program and help improve the safety, social and emotional skills, and well-being for all students."

There it was. Social Emotional. The new cash cow in corporate assessment building. ESSA created an additional data point which schools must use to report their progress. Each year schools must report back on school quality in some shape or form; in other words, how is the school climate? Is there bullying? Is it safe? How well are students or teachers engaged and are they feeling confident, successful? More or less, it's about feelings. How we feel and interact as humans, is complex and incredibly difficult to confine to a data point.  Confining learning to a data point is not new. They've managed to confine academic learning to data points by defining finite standards which must be measured in small bites in order to create the ability to control teaching and learning (therefore humans) and profit off of public schools.  Corporate assessments are not about helping children, they are simply about making money - assessing social emotional learning is the new cash cow.

True assessments, created by teachers, are messy and include teacher commentary, student commentary, pieces of student work, teacher observation and more - true assessment occurs by teachers who know their students and develop solid student/teacher relationships with them.  It's impossible to plug all of that into finite data points because humans are not robots.  We feel. We read each other's body language, we make choices and decisions every day that are influenced by our background, our surroundings, our mood, our daily interactions with others, our health, and more. To think that we can now accurately assess student feelings and catalog these feelings into social and emotional competencies, well, it's just ridiculous and unnecessary. But that's what they are doing because there is huge profit to be gathered and ultimately all of this data can be funneled to create more effective artificial intelligence, therefore our children can further learn via online learning versus humans - less need for teachers and less need for teachers with actual teaching degrees.

Social emotional data will confine children to specific finite social emotional competencies that will define who they are, what they are capable of, and what intervention is needed to make them act and behave as demanded by the requirements of the corporate online assessments. 

Recently a contest was held to review social emotional learning assessments. I watched the webinar to view the results of the contest, and in a nut shell, well, the results were just plain stupid.  I'll try to recap quickly for you as I would hate for you to have to sit through the webinar as it's absolutely mind numbing boring.

The webinar reviewed the assessments of the winners. The first presenter (from NWEA) had assessed students who rapidly guessed during test taking and the presenter decided that if they did indeed rush through the test, there was a high likelihood that this child could not self manage and was not engaged.  He showed data demonstrating that this most definitely could lead to suspensions and dropping out of school. Therefore, it's important to intervene with these rapid guessers and modify their behavior so that they no longer rush through some mind numbing corporate online test. Emily Talmage has blogged about this happening in her classroom during testing - you must read it to see how absolutely ridiculous and wrong this SEL assessment is. 

But according to NWEA, rapid guessing = low engagement and lack of self management.

Goodness, these wild unmanageable children!! Umm...how about, these kids think the test is STUPID? How about maybe they are tired or hungry or worried that they may have to sleep in the car again tonight and therefore they simply don't give a rat's ass about this stupid pathetic excuse for an assessment? Seriously I could go on for pages and pages about all the reasons the children flew through the test. Hey, maybe their parents told them it's bullshit and said just fill in the bubbles and get out of the online program and go read a book and use your time wisely. Truly the number of reasons for rapid guessing are infinite. Maybe these kids are revolutionaries in the making - better squelch that quick, huh?

It was very surreal watching this webinar and listening to adults talk about this like it was deep stuff. Seriously, these people have PhDs and this was absolute idiocy.

On to the next assessment......this one really did me in. This assessment was about becoming a social detective and being able to really understand how someone else feels. In other words, walk in their shoes. This assessment, courtesy of Panorama, had children watch interviews of people and then determine what the person was like - how does that person feel? Who are they? Are they shy?  And so on. If you didn't perceive the person as the author of the test determined you should, you lacked the ability to read people more or less. And therefore.....you were given strategies on how to improve your ability to really understand people.

Okay. Again, stupid. Why? Because number one, students can actually interact with real people in real life and get real feedback from one another and/or parents, teachers, and other adults involved in their lives. Two, maybe the student thinks this assignment is stupid and the actors in the interviews seem fake? Maybe the student would rather go outside and kick a ball around with his or her friends? Why waste time meeting people on a computer that you don't care about and DON'T KNOW??? Seriously I could care less about these people they interviewed. I don't know them. They aren't real to me.  So, does this mean at parent/teacher conference a parent might be told that the child lacks the ability to really perceive others due to this assessment when in reality the child has great friendships and gets along well with everyone? Sheesh.

The third assessment dealt with puzzles. Let me tell you a bit about my experience with puzzles. Every Christmas I buy a puzzle and as soon as I get it out to start the puzzle the family all gives one another a "look" and then suddenly, they vanish. Poof. Gone. I like puzzles. They hate them. When I first started doing puzzles they would all pretend to like them because they didn't want to hurt my feelings. As the years wore on and every year they watched me excitedly purchase a new puzzle they finally had to come clean and confess that they do NOT LIKE PUZZLES. Yup, catalog all those social emotional competencies that went into those family interactions.

So...if my boys were asked to do this assessment which asks if you would like a more challenging puzzle they'd both say umm...no thank you. And at parent/teacher conference I would be told that they were not "challenge-seeking." Hilarious.

Okay, I'll stop there, but you get the picture at this point I'm sure. If you want to feel the gut wrenching pain that accompanies watching (catalog that emotion competency) the webinar here it is.

The hard part about this particular blog is that I have so much more to say, as this is one small piece of a very big and very scary picture of where we are headed, but I truly need to stop before I lose my audience. I'll write more on this again I promise. Also check out www.emilytalmage.com , www.wrenchinthegears.com , and www.educationalchemy.com

Bottom line, the gathering of social emotional data, is a new frontier in corporate assessment creation. ESSA created major funds for this to occur - ESSA being the federal bill that the unions supported - yup THAT ESSA.  ESSA = fast track to privatize. Thank you AFT and NEA  - oh, and the unions are also happily unionizing those charter teachers who will be absolutely stellar in monitoring all this online learning and assessment needed to gather SEL data, but that's another blog for another day.

Regarding $$$ for SEL,  I found a quick summary of the SEL funding via ESSA. I can't speak to how this actually rolled out, but the total sum appears to be around 21 billion in 2016. Correct me if I'm wrong, see here.

Quoting this NPR article: But, at the root of it all, is the fact that "emotion data" is not the same thing as the real, vivid, present, enacted emotional experiences we have being human. Our emotions are not our faces or our voices. They aren't data. They can't be pulled out like a thread, one by one, from the fabric of our being.

Big picture - this is about compliance. This is about colonization. Compliance is necessary in order to profit and control a population so that the outcomes fit the needs and demands of the market and the elite. Children living in poverty must learn to regulate their emotions as the corporations see fit and they must comply with the system, even when they are hungry and tired. 

How about taking that SEL funding and feeding, housing and providing health care for these children and their families? Oh wait, this isn't about the children. It's about profit.

So, back to my original story about the survey my son's school wanted him to take.....I, of course, refused it. I researched the behavior curriculum they are using at my son's school. The name of the program is Second Step and as of August of 2017 they have joined forces with Panorama (the same Panorama I discussed above in the SEL contest) to create a technological platform to gather social emotional data. Big surprise. And even more fascinating, Panorama came out with a rigid list of social emotional competencies in 2015, the same year ESSA rolled out. Again, there are no coincidences here.

So, as a parent, I sat down with Luke and discussed all of this and he is aware that he is not to participate in any surveys or online learning that is related to Second Step. And of course, I informed the school of all of this before the school year even started.

So, that's a small window into the brave new world we have entered. Back to my chickens who make me happy.  How does one catalog chicken happiness?


Fyi...I rejoined Twitter. My love/hate relationship with social media is never ending. I didn't de-activate, I literally deleted it so I lost all my followers. If you are interested in keeping up with me once again follow me @Pegwithpen



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