The Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) sent out an electronic consent form on their communications platform, ParentVue requesting the collection of a range of highly personal mental health information on students in grades K-12. The consent form was allegedly reported on July 19 by a Scottsdale USD parent who found it on ParentVue, according to the admin of the AZInformer.

Scottsdale USD/ParentVue Consent Form/@ThatParentP4P

It appears that two events prompted the electronic consent request. One was HB2088; a law passed in 2016 that included language requiring “informed consent” from parents to collect such information.

HB2088/Arizona House/2016/15-117

Arizona Senator Wendy Rogers explains the legislation and penalty for not following the law in the tweet below:

The second reason for the consent form communication was a decision made by the Scottsdale Unified School District’s administration on May 4, 2021, to include a program called FastBridge. According to an apologetic letter on the school district’s “media releases” page sent by the district superintendent Scott Menzel, he describes it “As a social-emotional learning screener for students in Kindergarten through 12th grades. It was already being used as an academic screener for grades K through 3,” Menzel was hired in July 2020.

Menzel sent out an email on July 20 saying the “consent for the SEL screener has been updated” to reassure parents that the district is “NOT collecting the other data listed…”

Scottsdale USD District Superintendent Menzel Email/July 20, 2021

According to the SUSD press release/letter, the consent form that was electronically posted contained language that was “incorrectly stated” and was “an oversight,” implying that the district did not mean to include the specific language used on the form:

Scottsdale USD Apology Letter/Arizona

What Is FastBridge?

According to its website, the FastBridge program—a U.S.-based curriculum assessment software tool developer—was launched in the spring of 2015. In 2005, two researchers at the University of Minnesota received a Department of Education competitive grant award for their Formative Assessment System for Teachers (FAST™) concept. Their “promise” to educators and reason for the development of the revenue-generating program reads:

“Dr. Theodore J. Christ and Dr. Zoheb H. Borbora conceptualized and created the Formative Assessment System for Teachers (FAST™) as a cloud-based academic assessment system at the University of Minnesota in 2010. Their goal was to use research and technology to make it easier for teachers to collect and use data to improve student outcomes. This was the beginning of how FastBridge came to be…

“We aspire to provide a seamless and fully integrated solution for PreK–12 teaching, learning, and assessment. We are not just about assessment. We are about learning and optimization of teaching, parenting, and being.” Christ continued.

BizJournals.com reported in 2017, FastBridge brought in about $6 million in revenue and had 48 employees. FastBridge was acquired by Illuminate Education in 2019. Their announcement explains that FastBridge:

“[Serves] nearly 2 million educators and students across 45 states, including a statewide implementation in Iowa, is committed to building knowledge and improving educational assessments. Its Formative Assessment System for Teachers (FAST™) is the only K-12 solution that combines Curriculum-Based Measurement (CBM) and Computer-Adaptive Testing (CAT) for reading, math and social-emotional behavior.”

Illuminate Education is part of the Insight Venture Partner’s portfolio and one of its principals, Boris Tresjunov, sits on the board of Illuminate Education. Notably, Illuminate Education features videos and information on the impact of Covid in education—and a K-12 Stimulus Funds FAQ sheet on how to use the Cares Act and other stimulus funds.

Aside from the obvious potential violations of privacy for families who might not have read the consent form and signed it anyway, the FastBridge program seems to focus on issues associated with CRT curricula. Many parents in Arizona and around the country have been fighting against adopting this curriculum in schools.

Notably, it is becoming a somewhat common practice to insert CRT through the back door with permission slips and consent forms in schools, as reported by UncoverDC in June. Many parents see such measures as a subtle and insidious weaponization of a particular agenda in schools.

A deep dive into the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) or Social-Emotional Behavior (SEB) component of FastBridge is discussed in the following June 2021 training video in the context of “implicit bias and equitable support,” both common terms used in Critical Race Theory circles. At the 13:00 timestamp, Dr. Eklund states that:

“As a White woman, it’s important for me to step in and recognize my own privilege, my own positionality in that interaction. Being aware of implicit biases and calling them out  and working to change them is what we will talk about today.”

Illuminate Ed/SEB Training Session/June 2021

Illuminate Education also features a Social-Emotional Behavior (SEB) Academy with a Master Class on SEB that focuses on “dual perspectives and discrepant data when screening for SEB skills.”

Michelle Dillard, a mother in Arizona who is the President of PurpleForParents, has been a staunch advocate for education issues statewide. According to Dillard, they have around 7600 members, many of whom live in the Scottsdale area.

Dillard posted a thread on Twitter about the consent form that generated a lot of interest and may have been one of the reasons the school district responded with a retraction of the wording on the consent form.

UncoverDC spoke with Dillard on Friday:

“The consent form that Scottsdale Unified used was a generic, catch-all CYA form used to comply with 2016 legislation that was intended to protect and inform parents. The idea was to require districts to gain parental consent before the district surveyed our children on any of those topics so that parents would be informed about what the schools are doing with our kids. Districts decided to use a blanket form that covered all of the topics, which gave them the ability to say that the consent form is just required by law vs. actually advising parents of their specific intent and seeking their informed consent.”

“I’m glad that my tweet generated enough exposure that it forced the district to modify their consent form to identify the particular screening they intended to do this year. If parents find it concerning, they can request to see the survey prior to consenting, or decline to allow their child to participate.”

Arizona Senator Wendy Rogers posted suggestions and a video about how to handle the consent form on her website.

Senator Wendy Rogers/Advice on the SEB Consent Form

It also featured a video showing her shredding the consent form.