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.


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.


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.”

  2. “The Chamber of Commerce and National Governors Association Global Workforce Plans”
  3. “Common Core in Oklahoma” (“state led” Common Core “stakeholders”)
  4. “ Competing Principles” -Stanford University Report on RTTT and federally funded curriculum:

U S SENATE -Controversial SB-1177 Education Act passes by 81 VOTES -What’s Next?

The U.S. Senate has ended the consideration of their legislation to rewrite the mammoth Elementary and Secondary Education Act -ESEA by passing SB-1177 named the “Every Child Achieves Act” -ECAA. The Act includes the highly controversial NCLB -No Child Left Behind and the widely supported Title 1 through Title 10 programs– containing Reading programs, Indian Tribal aid and Military Base Impact aid for public schools, as well as many other areas of funding, in a complex collection of programs.

The high level process, which came to the Senate floor ten days ago, was skillfully led by Republican Senator Lamar Alexander -TN, who was Secretary of Education under President George H. W. Bush.  Alexander is a long time “national education plan” supporter, former Governor, former Chair of the National Governors Association -NGA (which created Common Core) and former ally with the Clinton administration agenda for education.  Alexander co-authored the bill with Democrat Senator Debbie Murray -WA. Murray with all the other Democrats voted to keep federal control of Education.  That vote is seen clearly in the rejection (54 to 44) of Republican Senator Daines’ Amendment 2110, which would have gutted NCLB’s Federal Control on July 9.  Alexander with eight Republicans joined the Democrats on that vote to stop the amendment.

One of the Democrat supported amendments which failed to get enough Republicans to pass, Senator Al Franken’s Amendment 2193, would have expanded federal control to include regulations regarding discrimination against LGBT students. At the end of the process, Senator Alexander slid into home base with his bill SB-1177 after pressuring, persuading, listening and opening the process to receive 190 amendments.  The vast majority of those amendments did not get an individual hearing by the full senate but the ones which did are listed below.

During the debate and passage of the bill, thousands of calls, letters, emails and tweets against and for SB-1177 were received by Senators who had to decide how to vote at each point of the process and how to cast their final vote on the complex collection of programs that should never have been contained in one very diversified and huge package, in my opinion.  That is one of the reasons we end up with very bad laws.  NCLB -No Child Left Behind could probably have been defeated and repealed if it were not contained in ESEA with all of the other programs that are highly supported.  Of course, those who voted for Federal Control over our schools know that!

House ESEA rewrite bill HR-5 has already passed and the final bill to reauthorize ESEA will be the product of decisions made in the days ahead.

The final ESEA rewrite could end up being acceptable or unacceptable to a majority of members of the combined House and Senate.  Then the President can sign or veto any bill that reaches his desk.   He has already said he will veto the House bill HR-5, which does away with more federal control than the Senate bill SB-1177.

This huge Senate bill will be discussed and dissected for days and years to come.  It is important to find out in your own state, what your Senators voted for and against.  Not just their final vote on the bill but on the amendments as well.  Some Senators who highly oppose the federal control of education voted for the bill knowing they had taken out as much federal control as they could in the current Senate.  The NCLB -No Child Left Behind Act was added to ESEA under President Geo. W. Bush and the split in support and opposition to it in the Republican party will continue to be heard in the Presidential Primary.  Senators Ted Cruz -TX and Rand Paul -KY have their voting record on this bill to show their determination to STOP Federal Control of Education.  The battle is over on SB-1177 but many battles lie ahead on Federal and State control over our schools and our children’s lives.

Here is what Republican Senator Chuck Grassley -IA, a longtime fighter for Local Control of education said about one part of SB-1177 where Federal Control is removed:

“It eliminates the very specific mandates on states requiring that they evaluate schools based on test scores and apply federally designed interventions.  States will be free to design their own assessment and accountability systems.  The bill retains the requirement that states test annually in grades 3-8, which I understand was necessary to get a bipartisan agreement.  However, states will have wide discretion in how they design their assessments.  And, the elimination of the federally mandated school interventions that raise the stakes on the test results will reduce teaching to the test.  This bill also consolidates federal funding in a way that provides more latitude to local school districts to better meet their individual needs, although less so than in the House-passed bill,” ” — Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican -Iowa

Amendments Passed and Rejected on SB-1177 (190 amendments were filed, these were brought to a vote) U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 114th Congress – 1st Session (2015)

Vote (Tally) Result Question: Description Issue Date
249 (81-17) Passed On Passage of the Bill: S. 1177 As Amended; An original bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to ensure that every child achieves. S. 1177 Jul 16
248 (79-18) Agreed to On the Cloture Motion: Motion to Invoke Cloture on S. 1177; An original bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to ensure that every child achieves. S. 1177 Jul 16
247 (45-52) Rejected On the Amendment S.Amdt. 2242: Casey Amdt. No. 2242; To establish a Federal-State partnership to provide access to high-quality public prekindergarten programs from low-income and moderate-income families to ensure that they enter kindergarten prepared for success, and for other purposes. S. 1177 Jul 16
246 (53-44) Agreed to On the Amendment S.Amdt. 2100: Brown Amdt. No. 2100; To amend title V of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to establish a full-service community schools grant program. S. 1177 Jul 16
245 (59-39) Agreed to On the Amendment S.Amdt. 2247: Burr Amdt. No. 2247 As Modified; To amend the allocation of funds under subpart 2 of part A of title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. S. 1177 Jul 16
244 (68-30) Agreed to On the Amendment S.Amdt. 2243: Coons Amdt. No. 2243; To authorize the establishment of American Dream Accounts. S. 1177 Jul 16
243 (43-55) Rejected On the Amendment S.Amdt. 2177: Sanders Amdt. No. 2177; To provide for youth jobs, and for other purposes. S. 1177 Jul 16
242 (40-58) Rejected On the Amendment S.Amdt. 2180: Cruz Amdt. No. 2180; To provide for State-determined assessment and accountability systems, and for other purposes. S. 1177 Jul 16
241 (43-54) Rejected On the Amendment S.Amdt. 2241: Murphy Amdt. No. 2241; To amend the accountability provisions. S. 1177 Jul 15
240 (46-50) Rejected On the Amendment S.Amdt. 2161: Kirk Amdt. No. 2161; To ensure that States measure and report on indicators of student access to critical educational resources and identify disparities in such resources, and for other purposes. S. 1177 Jul 15
239 (58-39) Rejected On the Amendment S.Amdt. 2171: Heitkamp Amdt. No. 2171; To reinstate grants to improve the mental health of children. S. 1177 Jul 15
238 (44-53) Rejected On the Amendment S.Amdt. 2176: Markey Amdt. No. 2176; To establish a climate change education program. S. 1177 Jul 15
237 (86-12) Agreed to On the Cloture Motion S.Amdt. 2089: Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Alexander Amdt. No. 2089; In the nature of a substitute. S. 1177 Jul 15
236 (52-45) Rejected On the Amendment S.Amdt. 2093: Franken Amdt. No. 2093; To end discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools. S. 1177 Jul 14
235 (32-64) Rejected On the Amendment S.Amdt. 2162: Lee Amdt No. 2162; To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 relating to parental notification and opt-out of assessments. S. 1177 Jul 14
234 (97-0) Agreed to On the Amendment S.Amdt. 2194: Isakson Amdt. No. 2194; To require local educational agencies to inform parents of any State or local educational agency policy, procedure, or parental right regarding student participation in any mandated assessments for that school year. S. 1177 Jul 14
233 (56-40) Agreed to On the Amendment S.Amdt. 2169: Booker Amdt. No. 2169; To require a State’s report card to include information on the graduation rates of homeless children and children in foster care. S. 1177 Jul 14
232 (45-51) Rejected On the Amendment S.Amdt. 2132: Scott Amdt. No. 2132; To expand opportunity by allowing Title I funds to follow low-income children. S. 1177 Jul 14
231 (89-0) Agreed to On the Amendment S.Amdt. 2080: Hatch Amdt. No. 2080; To establish a committee on student privacy policy. S. 1177 Jul 13
228 (98-0) Agreed to On the Amendment S.Amdt. 2094: Toomey Amdt. No. 2094 As Modified; To ensure that States have policies or procedures that prohibit aiding or abetting of sexual abuse, and for other purposes. S. 1177 Jul 09
227 (98-0) Agreed to On the Amendment S.Amdt. 2099: Brown Amdt. No. 2099; To amend part A of title IV of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to allow funds provided under such part to be used for a site resource coordinator. S. 1177 Jul 09
226 (44-54) Rejected On the Amendment S.Amdt. 2110: Daines Amdt. No. 2110; To allow a State to submit a declaration of intent to the Secretary of Education to combine certain funds to improve the academic achievement of students. S. 1177 Jul 09
225 (45-52) Rejected On the Amendment S.Amdt. 2139: Alexander Amdt. No. 2139; To allow States to let Federal funds for the education of disadvantaged children follow low-income children to the accredited or otherwise State-approved public school, private school, or supplemental educational services program they attend. S. 1177 Jul 08
224 (56-41) Agreed to On the Amendment S.Amdt. 2107: Tester Amdt. No. 2107; To restore sections of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. S. 1177 Jul 08
223 (47-50) Rejected On the Amendment S.Amdt. 2109: Hirono Amdt. No. 2109; To amend section 1111(b)(2)(B)(xi) to provide for additional disaggregation for local educational agencies with a total of not less than 1,000 Asian and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander students. S. 1177 Jul 08
222 (98-0) Agreed to On the Amendment S.Amdt. 2085: Reed. Amdt. No. 2085; To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 regarding school librarians and effective school library programs. S. 1177 Jul 08


In a vote of 44 to 54, the U.S. Senate failed to pass an amendment that would have given state legislators the ability to opt their states out of the federal controls of SB-1177 ECAA -Every Child Achieves Act, the current Senate version of the reauthorization of ESEA -Elementary and Secondary Education Act, including the highly controversial NCLB -No Child Left Behind.

This vote is a picture of the “high-noon” showdown, which isn’t over yet, in this battle between those who believe the federal control is necessary to improve education and those who believe the federal control has never improved education and the authority belongs in states and local communities.

Ted Cruz-TX, Rand Paul-KY, Jim Inhofe-OK, James Lankford-OK and other Republicans(total 44 Yea) voted to pass the control to states.  Republican Lamar Alexander-TN and 8 other Republicans (Capito-WV, Cochran-MS, Collins-ME, Corker-TN, Hatch-UT, Kirk-IL, Murkowski-AK and Portman-OH) joined the 45 Democrats (total 54 Nay) who voted to keep the federal control.  So now we see the “strong bi-partisan support” that Lamar Alexander keeps talking about!!!  9 Republicans and 45 Democrats in consensus is not what Republicans expect our majority party in the Senate to achieve!!

This battle is not over!  Please thank and support those Senators who are standing for LOCAL CONTROL of education. Encourage them to keep fighting for the parents, teachers and students who want freedom to teach and learn.  Please contact those Senators who are NOT supporting LOCAL CONTROL and tell them why they should!  The Senate will be meeting again Monday, July 13, at 3:00 pm to vote on more amendments.

A link to the Senate vote on the amendment:

The first part of the following article below from Education Week gives some details about the amendment battle, then describes other amendments to SB-1177.

“Senate Rebuffs ESEA Amendment to Let States Opt Out of Federal Accountability”

“Day Three of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization debate in the U.S. Senate opened and closed in the span of a few short hours Thursday, with the chamber passing 14 amendments and rejecting one that underscored the precarious path co-authors Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., must traverse to maintain the bipartisan nature of the bill.

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., offered the highly contentious A PLUS Act amendment, which would have allowed states to opt out of federal accountability entirely and send funding under the current law back to states in the form of block grants.

“It will help expand local control of our schools and return federal education dollars where they belong, closer to the classroom,” Daines said. “States would be freed from Washington-knows-best requirements.”

And Sen. Mike Lee, R- Utah, chimed in, arguing that unless the amendment was adopted, the underlying bill would have “the same disappointing results of No Child Left Behind [the current iteration of ESEA].”

But Alexander slammed the proposal, knowing full well that if adopted it would sink his chances of getting the ESEA reauthorization across the finish line. “This is unnecessary, misintentioned, won’t pass, and undermines the bipartisan agreement that we’ve reached,” he quickly quipped before putting it up for a vote.

As Alexander predicted (and as was widely assumed), the proposal, which needed to overcome a 60-vote threshold, failed, 44-54.

The same amendment also failed to garner enough votes during the ESEA reauthorization debate Wednesday in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Notably, Alexander postponed a vote on an amendment from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., that would have allowed states to cross-tabulate student achievement data for subgroups of students.

What does that mean? It means that things like graduation rate and academic assessment data would be not only disaggregated, but also segmented by more than one subgroup, such as by race and gender together, or by gender and disability together, or by race and disability together.

The proposal is one of several that the White House, civil rights groups, the Council of State Chief School Officers, and others are hoping will be adopted in order to beef up accountability in the underlying bill.

Alexander said he’d like to postpone the vote in order to work with Warren and Murray to finesse some of the language in the amendment. The fact that Alexander thinks they could strike a deal bodes well for the proposal on the whole, and if adopted, would go a long way in appeasing some of the major accountability concerns that Democrats, civil rights groups, and others have with the bill.

Want to know more? Here is a letter from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights sent to senators Thursday.  The other high-profile item of the day was a background check amendment from Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., which he modified overnight amid stiff opposition to the entire proposal.

Originally, the amendment would have required criminal background checks of all school employees as well as prohibit states from a practice known as “passing the trash,” in which a school allows a known child molester to resign quietly and helps that person find a new teaching job.

Toomey has unsuccessfully offered the amendment to several bills in hopes that it becomes law. But senators on both sides of the aisle have opposed the specific language of the background-check portion, arguing that it would constrain schools’ ability to hire, and would create costly and redundant paperwork. Instead, they’ve favored similar proposals from Alexander and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.

Ultimately, however, Toomey agreed to remove the background-check language from the amendment and offer only the portion prohibiting schools from passing on known criminal offenders.

“We have had many long, often difficult conversations,” conceded Toomey. “We started in what seemed like irreconcilable differences on this issue. Despite the stiff opposition there was at times, we were able to find common ground.”

The amendment passed unanimously, 98-0.

Here are some additional amendments that passed without much debate or fanfare by voice vote:

  • An amendment from Sen. Sherrod Brown, R-Ohio, that would allow the use of federal funds to put school coordinator resources in schools. PASSED 98-0;
  • An amendment from Sen. Rob Portman, D-Ore., that would provide supports for students addicted to drugs. PASSED via voice vote;
  • An amendment from Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., that would make career and technical education a core subject. PASSED via voice vote;
  • An amendment from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that would allow school authorities to certify that a student is homeless. PASSED via voice vote;
  • An amendment from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., that would allow schools to use federal funds on programs that promote volunteerism and community service. PASSED via voice vote;
  • An amendment from Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., that would prevent federal intrusion into how local schools are governed. PASSED via voice vote;
  • An amendment from Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., that would require states to submit their Title I and Title II plans to governors for review. PASSED via voice vote.

Alexander and Murray also offered a slate of pre-agreed upon amendments under unanimous consent, which the Senate adopted en bloc, without votes:

  • An amendment from Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., that allows funds to be used for dual or concurrent enrollment programs;
  • An amendment from Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., that allows teachers certified in one state to teach in other states without completing additional licensures;
  • An amendment from Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D-N.Y., that increases access to STEM for underrepresented groups of students;
  • An amendment from Gardner regarding charter school representatives;
  • An amendment from Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., that ensures that if a child with disabilities needs an adaptive device to take a test that the child is familiar with the device before the test day;
  • An amendment from Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., that allows districts to create STEM specialty schools or STEM specific programs within schools.

In addition, Alexander and Murray readied a new slate of six amendments, two of which they scheduled for a vote Monday evening.”