Mom and Dad, how would you answer the questions on this Trauma Informed survey from American Institutes for Research, AIR?  What do you think of adding Trauma Informed pilots and surveys in K-12 schools? Schools already give students a number of very personal surveys including questions about drug use, sexual activity, home life, behavioral risks–these are frequently given to most middle and high schools students across the country: Colorado Middle School Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (HKCS) , Florida Middle School Health Behavior Survey (MSHBS) , Georgia Middle and High School  Student Health Survey 2.0 ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ , Kansas Communities That Care Middle School Student Survey , Maryland  Youth Risk Behavior Survey, Massachusetts Youth Health Middle School Survey, Washington State Middle and High School Healthy Youth Survey.

Parents have long voiced misgivings about these youth health surveys (which seem similar to the CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey); parents are concerned because the surveys are intrusive, cover explicit and personal topics, which are normally protected by PPRA. Yet, somehow these surveys do not require parent notification or consent; often students are passively required to take the surveys.  Parents have been assured there is nothing to worry about, as these surveys are anonymous.  But concern has been raised since these student surveys are shared outside of school and can potentially be linked back to the individual student. (If taken on a computer- the IP address or student log-in will identify the student;  identification by deductive reasoning is possible-if there is only one Hispanic female in grade 8 who has a disability, is known to be homeless…etc.)  Research shows, it only takes 2 to 3 data points to re-identify someone from “anonymous” data.  How many parents are aware of the questions that school surveys ask, where does this information go, and what is the reason for these surveys?  

According to a 2010 report, these health and “school climate” surveys, along with Pearson’s Social Skills Improvement System are the precursor for a larger framework:  Social Emotional Assessments,  Standardization of the Behavioral and Emotional Rating Scale:


The new  SEL assessments are definitely NOT anonymous.

As the below November 2016 AIR webinar on SEL (and associated AIR policy brief) indicates, our new federal education law, ESSA, promotes data collection, specifically non-academic, social-emotional data collection.  We’ve written previously about how this ties in with the national commission currently working to standardize Social Emotional Learning, SEL, and grade students based on their SEL score.   Data is money.  Social Emotional Data, though subjective, biased, unreliable, difficult to standardize, ethically questionable,  is the Future of Education, accountability and Workforce Futures.


iNACOL,  Zuckerberg, and Equity Assessments

The new Social Emotional assessments will be online, and according to this iNACOL ComptencyWorks post, the tests are being promoted as Equity Assessments. Sounds friendly, right? Who would possibly be opposed to equity and honoring students’ backgrounds? Unless of course, that was a clever marketing strategy to access loads of personal information and share it with the ever expanding workforce-P20-education-tech industry and their goal of Revolutionizing Education with data, unbundling Billions in Student Data, accessing $1.2 Trillion in Student data,  or  $76B global market for education and talent technology.   Data is money and students’ emotional data is gold. 

(If you aren’t familiar with iNACOL, read here and here.) From the April 2017  iNACOL Assessing for Equity post,

“The Assessment for Learning Project (ALP) agenda is based on the following five questions:

How can assessment support a broader definition of student success?

What assessment practices most effectively empower students to own and advance their learning?

How can we most effectively build educator capacity to gather, interpret, and use evidence of student learning to enhance instruction?

How does assessment for learning inform broader contexts of accountability, policy, and system design?How can we pursue equity through assessment for learning? ”  

The Hawai‘i State Department of Education (HISDE) has led the effort to create a culturally aligned framework of six outcomes “to be strengthened in every student over the course of their K-12 learning journey” called HĀ or, when using English, form the word BREATH. The six outcomes are belonging, responsibility, excellence, aloha (care and respect for families and communities), total well-being, and (strengthened sense of) Hawai’i. HISDE is working with 2Revolutions to develop processes and tools to support implementation. (You can learn more about HĀ in this article from McRel.)

Summit Public Schools- (See an archived list of  Mark Zuckerberg’s initiative with 100 Summit Public Schools hereThis is the same Summit Schools with Serious Privacy Concerns regarding their platform that “sharing student personal data with Facebook, Google, Clever and whomever else they please.”) “Summit Public Schools is developing a research-based framework for assessing their Habits of Success (which include social emotional learning, academic mindsets, learning strategies, and self-directed learning). They have organized twenty-nine skills into three domains: mindsets, social and emotional, and self-directed learning strategies.”


  • Growth mindset
  • Self-efficacy
  • Sense of belonging
  • Relevance of school

Social and Emotional

Self awareness and self management

  • Self awareness and self management
  • Self advocacy
  • Self reliance

Social awareness and interpersonal

  • Social awareness
  • Navigating differences
  • Interpersonal interactions
  • Conflict management

Decision-making and responsible behaviors

  • Decision-making
  • Responsibility
  • Community contribution

Self-Directed Learning Strategies

Meta level

  • Goal setting
  • Planning
  • {Showing learning}
  • reflection

Self-directed learning behaviors

  • Strategy shifting
  • Appropriate help seeking
  • Challenge seeking
  • Persistence

Learning strategies

  • Time management
  • Test taking
  • Memorization/recall
  • Studying
  • Strategic reading
  • Collaborative learning
  • Note taking
  • Check for understanding


Is it just a lucky coincidence that Zuckerberg’s Summit Schools is piloting the SEL assessments, when the president of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative “education philanthropy”  is also part of the Aspen Institute’s National Commission to create SEL standards?  Also probably coincidental, the Assessment for Learning Project (ALP) has some interesting partners. “ALP is led by the Center for Innovation in Education (CIE) at the University of Kentucky in partnership with Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) at EDUCAUSE.”  ALP, the promoter of Equity Assessments (for SEL data)  is funded by Hewlett Packard and Bill and Melinda Gates, also involved in the SEL commission. 


So, if you know that a child’s personal history, emotions will be used to grade, rank, possibly predict their success… Remember when you registered your child for kindergarten?  All of the family background information, siblings’ information, social security number, date of birth, birth history, childhood illnesses, disabilities, allergies, impulsivity, your child’s likes and dislikes; it’s all collected. Then think about all of the surveys you and your child will complete, all of the information collected while in school for the next twelve years. Who has access to that data? Does it leave the school?  ASK, most of the time the answer is YES.  Your child’s personal information is collected and stored in a state database; each child has a golden record of sorts.  Student data can be photos, videos, reports and essays, grades and test scores, tardiness, absences, family income status,  home addresses, surveys, weight, height, heart rate, eyesight, medications and medical issues, personality tests, sexual activity, drug use, suicidal thoughts, discipline incidents, attitude, their coachability, leadership skills, awareness,  self control, alertness, ability to communicate,  ability to cope, their perseverance or grit (all the 21st century measures of Social Emotional Competencies), even financial and family information when applying for financial aid, college grants and scholarships. It’s a huge dataset.

Forget report cards, forget A-F grades.

We now have Facebook and facial recognition, emotion detecting software in the classroom,  Data Badges, or Credentials and Competencies and mountains of hidden data, analyzed data, meta data, about each child. New Hampshire is leading the way in this personalized assessment of No Grades.  It’s called “personalized learning’ or online, blended,  Competency Based Education (supported and promoted by reformers and edtech  folks), and many say it is an experiment that is Orwellian and doomed to fail.

The digital dataset about your child is his or her reputation, an electronic shadow or calling card and it gets bigger, much bigger when you consider the millions of electronic data points collected  (every keystroke) and analyzed every time a child logs onto a computer to do online schoolwork or educational games. Like your adult credit score,  student data can also be shared and marketed and used to predict success or failure.

Measuring Mindset, SEL , and GRIT is assumed a better predictor of success

According to the latest fad in education, researchers (herehere, here )  believe that non-cognitive data,  a child’s emotional mindset, their grit, and HOW they think is more important than what they know. This is leading to a shift in what is measured in education, including universal mental health screenings for every student.


Students are also taking surveys and personality tests in school, often without parent knowledge or consent. For example, we’ve previously written about Naviance and their multiple personality assessments, but did parents know that student answers to one of these “about me” Naviance assessments, a 78 question StrengthsExplorer survey, is actually sent to Gallup? Who else sees the data from these personal surveys and questionnaires?


So parents, if you knew your child was being GRADED on his or her mindset and grit and Social Emotional skills, if you knew your child’s future career path was dependent upon their perceived risk of developing mental health disorder, ranked by their critical thinking ability and leadership qualities, would you answer any of those questions differently? Would you maybe stop telling the school about your child’s weaknesses and start building up and reporting more on your child’s strengths?  When answering surveys, would you tell your child to answer honestly or maybe answer what will make them more competitive in the job market? After all, that is what education is about.  Education is no longer about teaching facts, it is about collecting predictive data, training workforce skills and measuring children’s mindsetsbackfilling curriculum for workforce needs.  Rather than growing up and padding that adult resume or  college application, the ed-workforce system that collects and predicts children starting from pre-school has parents and students grooming their responses, their attitudes, their strengths, starting in childhood.

Teach your children to SMILE.

Nothing says grit like gaming the system and that’s what savvy parents have started to do.

Expect to see a lot more of this. There are already books, and websites, and blogs on how to improve your SEL, grit score.


So, is padding that personality SURVEY, upping your child’s SEL score, the new form of Opt Out?  

Many say yes. Others say don’t just opt out of the end of year tests, opt out of  the surveys and personality tests and manage your child’s digital reputation and their social-emotional, grit score.  Game the system.   The Education Futurists say your child’s  social emotional talent score is important and that we are On the Brink of Massive Change. Are you ready? Is your child?

In case you are curious about what data is or will be collected, shared, and how your child’s data (including online meta data) is used and profiled –you can use this toolkit from the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood for help in asking for contracts and advocating for stricter standards in your child’s school.



Cheri Kiesecker

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