Social Emotional Learning Tests

By: Linda Murphy, Oklahoma Educator

Introduction:  This article was first published in “The Oklahoma Constitution” in the Spring 2016 Issue and was entitled: “How will Oklahoma’s K-12 Students be Tested?”  Oklahoma pulled out of the highly controversial Federal backed PARCC Partnership for Assessment of Readiness in Careers and College Consortium testing in 2013. In May of 2014 the Common Core State Standards were removed from law and a mandate for new  non-common core standards and aligned testing was put into law. Now…..the new student testing trend on the national level is expanding into the Social Emotional Learning area. This is not acceptable to the majority of Oklahoma parents and teachers who know about it nor by many other American citizens.

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Student testing is in transition across America. We typically think of students taking tests so we can see if they have learned the facts, knowledge, information and academic skills expected at their grade level. Today, however, there are major efforts being made to test more…… much more. Before we go there and jump on “the newest bandwagon” we need to take a very close look. We should step back and ask “Why are we testing students? What do we need to know about students and why do we need to know it?”

There is great anxiety growing among teachers and parents in several states because testing is being expanded into what is called “Soft Skills” or “Social and Emotional Learning” (SEL). This new testing is being added to tests required by some states as part of their accountability system. SEL testing can also be embedded into curriculum sold directly to schools in states where SEL testing isn’t required.

SEL testing is frequently found in programs delivered by computer software or online but can also be found in pencil and paper tests or in simple surveys printed on paper. Social and Emotional Learning involves psychological or behavioral performance, which is classified in the “Affective Domain” and includes emotions, feelings, attitudes, values and beliefs.

The goals used in traditional teaching and testing are from the “Cognitive Domain” including mental skills used in academics. For years, teachers have been writing and teaching traditional lessons focused on skills in the Cognitive Domain.

In my college courses I learned to write Individualized Education Plans, IEPs, for students with special learning needs. Students with IEPs had individualized traditional cognitive or academic goals but also sometimes had needs for “Affective” or behavioral goals and at times they needed goals from the Psycho-motor Domain or manual/physical skills. (These three domains are from “Bloom’s Taxonomy” classification system.)

Never….ever… would I (nor any professional educator) write plans, test or train a student in the Affective or Psycho-motor skills without parental consent. It is illegal and potentially dangerous to work with students in the psychological area of emotions, feelings, attitudes, values and beliefs except with parental consent and a certified professional administering the test and interpretation of test results. The student’s test results and IEP are called “confidential files” and are kept in locked cabinets. I always guard the key for security. But now under President Obama’s administration, states have created State Longitudinal Data Systems where even confidential student information can be stored if state officials allow it.

We are entering an era of unprecedented efforts to deliver testing and training for students via technology. Instead of being certain that a certified professional educator who knows and cares about your child will be in the classroom making a final decision about what your child is given, we now must consider that more and more teachers are being moved to the side while technology delivered programs take center stage.

In some programs critical decisions that affect your child’s future are being made without the classroom teacher’s input. In those situations the teacher may not have an opportunity to see or evaluate what their students will see and be learning while sitting at the computer.

Some of the newest technology is delivering “adaptive” curriculum and assessments containing SEL items. These computer delivered programs will “adapt” and become individualized to each student’s performance level as they respond to tasks on the screen. Other new interactive programs are designed like games where the student responds to a screen display and their performance is recorded. There are games being designed to score both psychological and academic skills for a “fun” and often undetected form of testing.

As I said in the opening…… Before we go there and join “the newest bandwagon” we need to take a very close look. We should step back and ask: Why are we testing students? What do we need to know about students and why do we need to know it?

This is just the tip of the iceberg as we consider challenges in choosing the best direction for Oklahoma Public Schools and we strive to provide unlimited opportunities for all students to learn to the best of their individual ability in a safe school environment.


Linda Murphy, Oklahoma Educator, is a leader in grassroots politics in Oklahoma. She led the repeal of Outcomes Based Education from state law in 1995 and helped lead the repeal of Common Core State Standards in 2014. She is a strong proponent of a full and well-rounded education for students using proven methods as well as local control of education and parents’ rights.

Linda Murphy has served as Education Advisor to the Governor of Oklahoma and as Deputy Commissioner of Labor for Workforce Education and Training. She has been a certified teacher for 30 years. Linda works with students who have learning difficulties including visual perception problems and developmental delays. She is certified in testing and training students to develop their skills using the SOI -Structure of Intellect program. She has spoken to hundreds of groups of parents and teachers about education, child development, vision and learning, education policy and politics around the state and nation.

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STOP Illegally Funded -Federal Common Core Curriculum

President Obama and his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have used excessive amounts of “stimulus” money to push the biggest ever Federal advancement of control over the classrooms across America and even over what our children will learn. The Federal control has advanced into curriculum and that is now documented in a published article from Stanford University as described below. Standards, testing and curriculum funded by the Federal government are aligned to Common Core, even while states are repealing Common Core Standards from their state law, as we have in the state of Oklahoma.

One of the most basic guarantees of our American Constitution is that States have all Rights of government not specifically given to the Federal government. Education policy is a Local and State Right, NOT a Federal government Right and most importantly it is the Right of parents to determine education for their own child. Parents’ Rights can only be maintained if we maintain Local Control of education where a locally elected school board is accountable to the citizens of the local school district. This is especially important because of the increased curriculum changes that contain political and even religious worldviews which are pushed into textbooks, worksheets and online (where parents and often teacher never even see them). These materials are intentionally designed to “change” the attitudes, values and beliefs of students. President Obama has already announced that he is changing the NAEP -National Assessment of Education Progress testing given in public schools to include behavioral/ affective assessment items in the future. 1

The rewriting of the huge ever expanding Federal government education bill, ESEA -Elementary and Secondary Education Act (including NCLB -No Child Left Behind) has not yet passed both houses of Congress. The battle and debates for States’ Rights and Local Control vs Federal Control, which are going on in Congress with the ESEA rewrite, have been widely reported. Currently presidential candidates are staking out their positions on Common Core and other education plans. Common Core supporters are suffering in the polls. In November 2016 we will have a new president who will set the direction for the Federal Department of Education. Candidates who are listening to the American people are hearing strong opposition to federal education. Other candidates are barreling ahead with their agenda for education in spite of wide-spread opposition.

Those of us fighting to STOP the Federal Government control of education must continue to work to educate, expose and assert state, local and parents’ Rights while we continue to urge U.S. Senate and House members to join us to set our children free from the centrally controlled Common Core aligned system.

We have repeatedly been told that Common Core State Standards are “just standards” as though they stood alone but that is not true. Common Core Standards are just one component of an entire system of “transformation” of education into a globally aligned system centrally controlled according to specifications from multi-national corporations for the workforce. 2

This transformation which was first rolled out through Common Core marketed as “high standards” and “state led” standards through governors and the National Governors Association is being rejected by parents, teachers, state legislators and others around the country. 3

As we keep seeing the “wheels come off” of the Common Core “bandwagon”, another documented revelation has come to the surface. The following statements are published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review by author Joanne Weiss, who boasts of her accomplishments in advancing the social engineering agenda of President Obama. 4

…..“New curriculum materials funded through Race to the Top and released in 2014 are already in use in 20 percent of classrooms nationwide.”This is a quote from, Joanne Weiss, the woman who was in charge of the program at the Federal Department of Education.

She said “Working with US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, I led Race to the Top from its inception through 2010. At that point, we had awarded all of the grant money that was available under the program. I then served as chief of staff to the secretary through mid-2013, and during that period I remained involved in the program’s implementation. Today, six years after the launch of the initiative, we can start to place its achievements—and, in some cases, its missteps—in perspective.”

  1. “STOP PRESIDENT OBAMA’S MOVE INTO “THE DARK SIDE OF NATIONAL TESTING” https://lindamurphyoklahomaeducator.wordpress.com/2015/06/09/obama-administration-advancing-the-dark-side-of-national-testing/
  2. “The Chamber of Commerce and National Governors Association Global Workforce Plans” https://lindamurphyoklahomaeducator.wordpress.com/2015/09/04/the-chamber-of-commerce-and-national-governors-association-global-workforce-plans/
  3. “Common Core in Oklahoma” (“state led” Common Core “stakeholders”) http://www.oklahomaconstitution.com/ns.php?nid=459&commentary=1
  4. “ Competing Principles” -Stanford University Report on RTTT and federally funded curriculum: http://ssir.org/articles/entry/competing_principles

U.S. Senate & House *** STOP FEDERAL EDUCATION TESTING NOW

HELP STOP Federal Education Testing!

Please Call, Write, Email and Tweet your Senators and Congressmen

#StopFedTesting        #StopNCLB

The bill for ESEA and NCLB (Elementary and Secondary Education Act / No Child Left Behind act) is scheduled for a VOTE on July 7th in the U.S. Senate and also for July 7th in the House Rules Committee so the whole House could vote as soon as July 8th. Tell Senators and Congressmen to —

STOP ALL FEDERAL INVOLVEMENT, CONTROL, OVERSIGHT, REVIEW, REVISION, REQUIREMENTS and FUNDING of STUDENT TESTING.

Here are three of the very intrusive Federal Tentacles in K-12th grade public school student testing, which also affect curriculum because it must be changed to align with testing for students to perform well on the tests:

  1. The Federal Department of Education funded student testing along with Bill Gates, through CCSSO -Council of Chief State School Officers which established two testing consortia.  They developed testing which the Federal Department of Education is now “reviewing and revising” according to Education Week, April 2013.  These Federally funded and controlled tests are now being rejected in state after state and are known as: PARCC -Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Careers and College and the SBAC -Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortia testing.  These are Common Core tests.
  2. The new Senate version of the ESEA/ NCLB mandates even MORE Federal Control over student testing than the already extremely oppressive testing. As Jane Robbins with the American Principles Project said: “The bill is dubbed the “Every Child Achieves Act” (ECAA). This bill maintains NCLB’s requirement of administering annual assessments in English and math in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school. But ECAA doesn’t ignore the “opt out” movement – in fact, it adds language that effectively encourages the states to lower the boom on noncompliant students and parents.Under ECAA (as under NCLB), state assessments must “[m]easure the annual progress of not less than 95% of all students . . . .” But while NCLB applies this requirement only to the subset of low-income schools that receive federal Title I funding, ECAA extends the requirement to all schools by making it part of the mandatory state accountability system. If ECAA passes, expect USED to ramp up its threats against states that have too many opt-outs and thus fail in their commitment to ensure 95% participation.” http://townhall.com/columnists/janerobbins/2015/06/30/alexander-murray-bill-tightens-the-screws-of-mandated-assessments-n2018919
  3. NAEP -National Assessment of Education Progress is being dangerously changed to include behavioral assessments.  President Obama and the Federal Department of Education have released information regarding their plans to include student testing in the areas of attitudes, values, beliefs, emotions, feelings, motivations and other “affective” domain responses.  Education Week reports “The nation’s premiere federal testing program is poised to provide a critical window into how students’ motivation, mindset, and grit can affect their learning… The background survey will include five core areas—grit, desire for learning, school climate, technology use, and socioeconomic status—of which the first two focus on a student’s noncognitive skills, and the third looks at noncognitive factors in the school. These core areas would be part of the background survey for all NAEP test-takers. In addition, questions about other noncognitive factors, such as self-efficacy and personal achievement goals, may be included…”   (State Plans are also being pushed to include these assessments in a statewide counseling program for ALL students K-12 grade.  See Alabama’s plan which has been stopped for now and more about President Obama’s plan for rolling this out in 2017 in recent articles listed below.)

Strong and clear language must be included in ESEA to set our public education system FREE from this oppressive Centralized control!  This is A GOAL WE CAN WIN –Because the ESEA/NCLB is being “rewritten” and “reauthorized”.  We can fight for a STOP to the Federal Testing mandates and win with the nationwide opposition which has developed. Under NCLB national “accountability” requirements have driven more and more testing with great amounts of time increasingly consumed from teaching and learning.  In addition Common Core tests from PARCC, SBAC and other vendors have been disastrous in taking the focus from academics and placing it on processing and other philosophical shifts. Student scores have plummeted in many states due to the shift. Find out where your Congressmen and Senators stand on these Federal testing issues. Get their commitment to Stop Federal Education Testing!   We must continue to work to inform those Senators and Congressmen who are “buying in” to the false idea that a centralized national system for accountability (which means TESTING) in education will somehow make it better.  The evidence over time has proven that is not true. Along with the testing/assessing, the student response data is being collected and stored to be shared with other entities as officials determine, adding to the great concern and opposition nationwide.   We still have much work to do to eliminate the federal education “noose around the neck” of local public schools and states that are standing up for their state rights to re-establish Local Control of education.  Today we have an opportunity to shape the ESEA/NCLB bill into one that eliminates the federal control over testing and thus the curriculum aligned to testing, which is all being done in the name of “accountability”.

LET’s CELEBRATE INDEPENDENCE and get busy on this bill!