Archive for April 2012

Education Without Representation: a response to the unsubstantiated claims of the Utah State School Board’s Common Core flier   2 comments

Education Without Representation: 

A response to claims of the Utah State School Board’s Common Core flier  

The Utah State Board of Education has circulated a flier which is posted on the official website. http://www.schools.utah.gov/core/DOCS/coreStandardsPamphlet.aspx

None of the claims of the flier have been backed up with references.

 This response will be backed up with references to verifiable sources and legally binding documents.

The flier says that Utah is “free to change the Utah Core Standards at any time”

and denies that adoption of the Standards threatens the ability of parents, teachers and local school districts to control curriculum.

FACT: It is true that Utah can change the current Utah Core.  But Utah is not free to change the common CCSS standards.  Very soon, the CCSS standards will be all we’ll teach.  The CCSS standards are the only standards the common test is being written to.  The CCSS standards are the only standards that are truly common to all Common Core states.  Unique state standards are meaningless in the context of the tests.  This has been verified by WestEd, the test maker.  http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/04/06/what-is-wested-and-why-should-you-care/

When teachers realize that merit pay and student performance depend on how well teachers teach the CCSS, and not on how well they teach the Utah Core, they will abandon the state core and focus on teaching to the CCSS-based test.  Since there is no possibility for Utah to make changes to CCSS, we have given up our educational system if we take the common test.  This is education without representation.  Already there are significant differences between the Utah Core and the CCSS (such as, we allow lots of classic literature and CCSS does not; it favors slashing literature in favor of infotexts in English classes).  When additional changes come to the CCSS standards, under Common Core, Utah will be unable to do anything about it. CCSS has no amendment process.

FACT:  The CCSS standards amount to education without representation.  They cannot be amended by us, yet they are sure to change over time.  A U.S.O.E. lawyer was asked, “Why is there no amendment process for the CCSS standards?” She did not claim that there was one.  Instead, she replied:  “Why would there need to be? The whole point is to be common.” (Email received April 2012 by C. Swasey from C. Lear)

The flier states that this is a myth:  “Utah adopted nationalized education standards that come with federal strings attached.”

FACT:   Utah’s Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Department of Education (via the SBAC tests; link below) presents so many federal strings, it’s more like federal rope around Utah’s neck.

The Cooperative Agreement mandates synchronization of testing arms and testing, mandates giving status updates and written reports and phone conferences with the federal branch and it demands that “across consortia,” member states provide data “on an ongoing basis” for perusal by the federal government.  This federal control is, according to G.E.P.A. laws and the U.S. Constitution, an illegal encroachment by the federal government on our state.  http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf

FACT:  The Federal government paid for the promotion of Common Core.  It paid other groups to do what it constitutionally forbidden to do.  Each group that worked to develop the standards and/or the test were federally funded and each remains under compliance regulations of federal grants.    For two examples, PARCC (a testing consortium) was funded through a four-year, $185 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Education to delivering a K-12 assessment system.  http://www.achieve.org/achieve-names-three-directors.  WestED, the other consortium test writer for SBAC, is funded by the executive branch, including the  U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Justice.  http://www.wested.org/cs/we/print/docs/we/fund.htm.  There are many more examples of federal funding and federal promotion of this supposedly state-led initative if you just do a little digging.

FACT: To exit the SBAC, a state must get federal approval and the permission of a majority of consortium states.  www.oaknorton.com/Utah-rttt.zip    (page 297).

FACT:  Utah joined the SBAC in an effort to receive a Race to the Top Grant.  SBAC then applied for a grant through Race to the Top for Assessments and won.  It was a REQUIREMENT to adopt Common Core in order to join SBAC. Utah is a Governing State of SBAC.

The USOE is telling people that an MOU is not a binding contract. This may be true, but once that application is placed in a grant application and the grant is awarded, the MOU becomes binding, as the grant contract binding the group to the money is in force. That is what has happened with Utah and the SBAC and the U.S. Department of Education.

http://www.smarterbalanced.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Smarter-Balanced-Governance.pdf  – pg. 3

FACT:  When South Carolina recently made moves to sever ties with the Common Core Initiative, Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, began to make unsubstatiated attacks, insulting South Carolina.   http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/statement-us-secretary-education-arne-duncan-1   Duncan had similarly insulted Texas education on television and had made incorrect statements when that state refused to join Common Core.

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2089503,00.html

The flier states that this is a myth:  “Utah taxpayers will have to pay more money to implement the new Utah Core Standards.” 

 

FACT:  No cost analysis has been done by Utah.  (Ask U.S.O.E. to see one.)

FACT:  Other states cited high implementation costs as reasons they rejected the Common Core Initiative.  The Texas Education Agency estimated implementing the Common Core standards in the state would result in professional development costs of $60 million for the state and approximately $500 million for local school districts, resulting in a total professional development cost of $560 million.  http://www.pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120222_CCSSICost.pdf (p. 15) Also, Virginia’s State School Board cited both educational and financial reasons for rejecting Common Core.  http://www.doe.virginia.gov/news/news_releases/2010/jun16.pdf

FACT:  California is asking for tax hikes right now to pay for Common Core Implementation. http://www.educationnews.org/education-policy-and-politics/california-wants-a-tax-hike-to-pay-for-common-core/

FACT:  South Carolina’s Governor Haley is right now trying to escape Common Core’s federal and financial entanglements.  http://www.educationnews.org/education-policy-and-politics/sc-gov-nikki-haley-backs-bill-to-block-common-core-standards/

The flier states that  “The Utah Core Standards were created, like those in 44 other states, to address the problem of low expectations.”

This is a half-truth.   While some dedicated Utahns have been working to address the problem of low expectations for years, the Common Core Initiative was hastily adopted for financial reasons.  Utah agreed to join the Common Core and the SBAC long before the common standards had even been written or released, or any cost analysis or legal analysis had taken place.  Utah joined Common Core and the SBAC to get more eligibility points in the points-based “Race to the Top” grant application.  While Utah didn’t win the grant money, it stayed tied to Common Core and the SBAC testing consortium afterwards.  http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/phase1-applications/utah.pdf

The flier states that this is a myth:  “Political leaders and education experts oppose the Common Core State Standards.”

FACT:  Stanford Professor Michael Kirst testified, among other things, that it is unrealistic to call four year, two year, and vocational school preparation equal college readiness preparation: http://collegepuzzle.stanford.edu/?p=466

FACT:  Professor Sandra Stotsky who served on the CC Validation Committee refused to sign off on the standards as authentic English preparation for college: http://parentsacrossamerica.org/2011/04/sandra-stotsky-on-the-mediocrity-of-the-common-core-ela-standards/

FACT: Mathematician Ze’ev Wurman has testified to the South Carolina Legislature that the math standards are insufficient college preparation: http://pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120216_Testimony_Stergios_SC.pdf  and  http://truthinamericaneducation.com/tag/zeev-wurman/

 The flier states inaccurately states: “Most thoughtful people on this issue have lined up in favor of the Common Core State Standards.”

FACT:  Governor Herbert is in the middle of a legal, educational and financial review of the standards right now. He affirmed to Heber City teachers and citizens last month that he is willing to review the standards and the political complications of the Common Core Initiative and to meet again with the teachers and citizens together with his legal team.

FACT:  The majority of gubernatorial candidates and candidates for senate and house representation at the Republican convention have stated that they are directly opposed to the Common Core Initiative.  This fact is verifiable via the document published for the 2012 Republican convention by Alisa Ellis, on which each candidate was asked to state whether he/she was for, against, or still learning, about the Common Core Initiative.

FACT:  In less than two weeks, more than 1,500 Utah teachers, parents, taxpayers and students have signed the petition at  http://utahnsagainstcommoncore.com without any advertising or marketing efforts, just by word of mouth.

FACT:   There is a significant group of Utah educators who have not and will not speak out in this forum, although they do have serious concerns about the Common Core.  There is a perception that to speak against the Common Core Initiative is unacceptable or disloyal. This spiral of silence spins from the fear educators have of losing their jobs if they express what they really see. Some educators quietly and confidentially reveal this to others who boldly oppose to Common Core.

Utah educators might respond well to an anonyomously administered survey, so that educators might feel safer in sharing multicolored rather than all rose colored, experiences from this first year of Common Core Implementation, without having to identify themselves.  Educators who have had a good experience with this first year of implementation of Common Core dare speak out.  But Utah educators who do speak out boldly against common core, if you pay close attention, are those who are on maternity leave or who have sources of income other than educating, for financial support, and are thus unafraid of losing jobs.

This final point is obviously difficult to substantiate, but ought to be studied and either verified or proven false, by the Utah State School Board

POSTSCRIPT:  The most misleading point of all was unwritten, but implied by the flier:  that Utah somehow benefits from the political ties of the Common Core Initiative or needs these ties to use the standards themselves.  These educational standards are in the public domain.  When we cut ties to the Common Core Initiative and the SBAC, we are free to use any standards that work for us in Utah, and we are free to amend them in the future.  –Not so if we stay bound to the Initiative itself.

Letter to Corbin White and Jordan School District: On FERPA revisions   Leave a comment

Dear Corbin White and Jordan School District,

 

It was good to meet you at the U.S.O.E. forum on Common Core yesterday. Although we testified on opposite sides of this issue, I think there is nothing to contend about.  We all want great school standards.  We all want political and parental freedom.

 

I’m writing as I said I would, requesting that you review and verify the information I’m sending, and that you share it with the other members of Jordan School Board and other Utah school boards or citizens if you feel it is appropriate.

 

Thursday night at the Wasatch School Board meeting, my local school board revised FERPA to overrride parental consent law in favor of the federal government and educational research groups having direct access to student data.

 

Parents did not want and were not informed of this.  Teachers and parents were not allowed to speak, but mouthed “please no,” and the board responded, “We can’t not pass this. It’s a federal law.” I do not know who sent our school board the directive to revise FERPA.  (If you have received such a directive,  I request that you share who sent it to your board.)

 

Without public input, without actually having researched federal and state FERPA laws and Utah’s SB287, and declining 30-day review, the Wasatch Board passed the revision. 

 

This FERPA revision is wrong for 5 reasons:

 

1.  Parental authority trumps federal authority over children’s privacy based on state FERPA laws.

2.  The board’s own bylaws demand that the board must “work closely with the public” especially on major policy changes.

3. State FERPA laws are in direct conflict with recent revisions to federal FERPA regulations, altered illegally by the executive branch (not by congress).

Only Congress is authorized to make changes to federal FERPA.  And if congress at some future time truly did elect to revise FERPA, to take away parental authority over student data, as the executive branch has attempted to do, in any constitutional conflict, states hold power over educational issues. (Also true under G.E.P.A. law).

4. School districts may face lawsuits from parents who learn what has been done to their parental authority, based both on state FERPA laws and on Utah’s SB287.

5. Data collection has changed; schools used to collect aggregated academic scores for legitimate educational reasons.  It’s all different now.

 

Now schools/states are being asked to collect personal information along with academic information, including (according to the National Data Collection Model) unique identifiers including names, nicknames, residences, immunization history, family income, extracurricular programs, city of birth, email address, bus stop times, parental marital status and parental educational levels, to name a few. You can view the National Data Collection Model database attributes (data categories) at http://nces.sifinfo.org/datamodel/eiebrowser/techview.aspx?instance=studentPostsecondary

 

When parents and teachers met with our Wasatch Superintendent yesterday, he agreed to share these things with the rest of the Wasatch school board. We anticipate that the board will agree to overturn Thursday night’s ruling and will begin a serious review of issues, as other school boards, congressmen, and the public, are doing.

 

Still, simply clarifying laws against federal intrusion is not enough. I feel Utah must create technological independence as a guarantee against losing local control of personal data.

 

Utah has already created technological interoperability that makes it easy for the federal arm to encroach on individuals’ privacy in the guise of educational and medical data collection.

 

A longitudinal database was made in 2009 in Utah, created from a federal $9.6 million ARRA stimulus grant Utah accepted in exchange for making “systems that promote the linking of data across time and databases from early childhood” –including childhood through post-secondary and workforce data collection– to “promote interoperability for easy matching and linking of data across institutions and States.”   http://nces.ed.gov/programs/slds/pdf/fy09arra_fedregister.pdf

 

The buck can stop right here.

 

The federal push for personal and academic data collection and loss of parental and state control, crouching under the good educational improvements of the Common Core Initiative, has gone too far.  Parents and local school boards must stand up and say no to the federal educational data collection.

 

There is no need for contention or fighting about any of this.

 

Districts who love Common Core improvements will be able to continue using these improvements because Common Core standards are in the public domain.  Cutting ties with the data collection push and the federal attempt to override parental rights has nothing at odds with raising Utah’s educational standards. When Utah stands up for her constitutional rights –whether it’s refusing to implement illegal requests by the executive branch, or whether it’s cutting ties with Common Core– we do not have to cut ties with high standards nor negate all the hard work that boards and teachers have done this year. 

 

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Christel Swasey

Heber City

Teacher and Parent

 

 

 

 

 

References:

 

1.  From Utah’s SB287:

 

http://le.utah.gov/~2012/bills/sbillenr/SB0287.htm

   

    53                (6) The state may exit any agreement, contract, memorandum        of understanding, or                     54            consortium that cedes control of Utah’s core curriculum        standards to any other entity, including                     55            a federal agency or consortium, for any reason, including:                     56                (a) the cost of developing or implementing core curriculum        standards;                     57                (b) the proposed core curriculum standards are        inconsistent with community values; or

                    58                (c) the agreement, contract, memorandum of understanding,        or consortium:                     59                (i) was entered into in violation of Part 9, Implementing        Federal Programs Act, or Title                     60            63J, Chapter 5, Federal Funds Procedures Act;                     61                (ii) conflicts with Utah law;                     62                (iii) requires Utah student data to be included in a          national or multi-state database;                     63                (iv) requires records of teacher performance to be        included in a national or multi-state                     64            database; or                     65                (v) imposes curriculum, assessment, or data tracking        requirements on home school or                     66            private school students.                     67                (7) The State Board of Education shall annually report to        the Education Interim                     68            Committee on the development and implementation of core        curriculum standards.

 

2. From Utah’s FERPA law:

 

There are two portions to Utah’s law

 

http://le.utah.gov/~code/TITLE53A/htm/53A13_030100.htm  – this one was amended last fall

 

http://le.utah.gov/~code/TITLE53A/htm/53A13_030200.htm

 

3.  Federal FERPA:

 

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-12-02/pdf/2011-30683.pdf

 

4.  Utah’s Federally Promoted Longitudinal Database:

http://nces.ed.gov/programs/slds/fy09arra_announcement.asp

So Who Cares If The Feds Have My Kids’ Data? FERPA – Part II   Leave a comment

For those who are still asking, “Who cares if the federal government has access to my kids’ data without my parental consent?”

–please view the National Data Collection Model database attributes (data categories) at http://nces.sifinfo.org/datamodel/eiebrowser/techview.aspx?instance=studentPostsecondary  to see what kinds of data they will be collecting– it is unbelievable.

See the rules of the game:  read the “assurances” here:

and read with awe of all the intense federal controls http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf  over the testing and data collection, coordinating “across consortia” and synchronizing efforts nationally, all mandated by one man, without authority under the Constitution: Secretary Arne Duncan.

The Department of Education had no right to make changes that only Congress was constitutionally permitted to make.  Yet the Dept. of Education implemented changes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and overrode the privacy protections Congress had included in FERPA, the Competes Act, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  The changes allow access to any of the information in the databases.

While we have no reason to suspiciously assume that the federal government would abuse the power of knowing practically everything about practically everyone, we also have no guarantees that they would not abuse that power.

I’m thinking about China, where tiny kids who happen to be good at a sport get taken away from their families in order to train for the Olympics.  I’m thinking about countries in which it is mandated that women have abortions to align with federal agendas of low population growth.   Could bad grades, bad health, or behavioral problems documented in elementary school keep someone from getting a scholarship or a job many years later?

I’m wondering how these foreign federal agencies would ever have been able to enforce such things if they didn’t know so much about everybody from diapers to grave.  Knowledge is power and privacy is a sacred freedom.

I take very seriously the fact that our local school board deleted parental consent authority over kids’ data this week.  I wrote a letter to my son’s wonderful teacher and principal today, explaining why I will not allow him to take this year’s standardized test, even though it’s not the Common Core SBAC test.  (It’s state-collected and will be federally accessible now.)

April 25, 2012

Dear Ms. Marshall and Mr. Brown,

Thank you for all you do.  You are wonderful teacher/principals, and my son adores you both.

I am writing to let you know that during the testing times of April 30 and May 3, 7, & 9, I will be checking my son out of class.  Please let me know the exact times of the tests so I know what time I should come.  I will return him as soon as the testing is over.

I have never allowed my children skip testing before.  But this week, our local school board deleted parental consent laws in favor of federal access to student academic and personal data without encouraging or allowing, any parent to voice a comment about it. (The Wasatch school board’s ruling is attached).

I’ve recently become aware of the longitudinal databases about kids that our Common Core Initiative requires. States built database systems, according to federally dictated standards, to qualify for ARRA stimulus money. All 50 states either now maintain or are capable of maintaining extensive databases on public-school students. Utah was praised for having a database that met all ten essential components for the database, outlined by the federal government.

The information to be gathered by the U.S.O.E. and passed on to the executive branch is more than academic test scores. According to the National Data Collection Model, the government should collect information on health-care history, family income, family voting status, gestational age of students at birth, student ID number, bus stop times and more. This is not just student information, but information on families, too.

You can view the National Data Collection Model database attributes (data categories) at http://nces.sifinfo.org/datamodel/eiebrowser/techview.aspx?instance=studentPostsecondary .  When Utah signed up for Common Core, part of the application, mandated (page 288 of RTTT application) that Utah must “identify and implement a plan to address barriers in State law, statute, regulation, or policy to implementing the proposed assessment system and to addressing any such barriers prior to full implementation of the summative assessment components of the system.”   As long as Utah’s bound to Common Core, we’re going to change state laws that stand in the way of the federal data collection goal.

The only choice I can make right now to ensure my child’s privacy from what I now see as federal illegality, is to opt out of standardized tests for my kids.

I do not want my son’s private or academic information to be accessible by the federal government for any reason.  Schools need to know academic information about children, but they have no business giving out that information to the federal government, especially without parental consent.

The Utah FERPA laws protected family and student privacy, but the newly rewritten federal FERPA laws do not.  They take privacy away.  Our local school board unfortunately believes federal laws have more clout than state FERPA laws do, based on their statements that “We can’t not pass this law,” at Thursday’s meeting.

According to the U.S. Constitution and G.E.P.A. law, educational decisions are in the hands of states, not the federal government. But for now, until our school board reinstates the constitutional sovereignty of Utah over federal FERPA law, and parental sovereignty over the privacy of children’s data, Axel will not be taking state-collected, federally accessible standardized tests.

I hope you understand.  Thank you sincerely for all you do for my son.

Christel Swasey

 

Posted April 26, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

BYU Professor Wiley   Leave a comment

Dear Professor Wiley,

I read your article in the Deseret News, extolling Common Core.

http://www.deseretnews.com/user/comments/765571454/Utah-should-adopt-the-Common-Core.html

I must respond.

I’m a BYU alum, too.  B.A. in English, M.A. in Communications.  I’m also a teacher (Cal State San Bernardino K-12 credential) and have been an adjunct professor (UVU, English).

A few questions on Common Core:

1.  Do you know that all over Utah, school boards are deleting parental consent laws to accomodate federal easy access to student data because of Common Core’s goals?

This week, our local Wasatch school board deleted parental consent laws in favor of federal access to student academic and personal data without encouraging or allowing, any parent to voice a comment about it. (The Wasatch school board’s ruling is attached).  They bypassed protective FERPA laws to accomodate Common Core and its testing requirements.

On pg. 288 of the RTTT grant application, Utah agreed to “address” any state laws and “remove barriers” that might stand in the way of Common Core’s goals.

2.  Do you know that the longitudinal databases about kids that our Common Core Initiative requires make us a lot like countries without freedom?  You can view the National Data Collection Model database attributes (data categories) at http://nces.sifinfo.org/datamodel/eiebrowser/techview.aspx?instance=studentPostsecondary .  When federal governments know everything about everyone, from diapers to grave, they tend to abuse that power.  It’s historic.  Look at China, mandating abortions because the feds know best about overpopulation.  Look at Germany, sending intellectuals to concentration camps because their feds knew better than the intellectuals how to value Jews. While there is no guarantee the U.S. feds would abuse similar power, there’s also no guarantee they would not. We have given away those guarantees because we have been blinded by the pretty promises of Common Core.

3.  Do you realize that our U.S. states have built massive, longitudinal database systems, according to federally dictated standards, to qualify for ARRA stimulus money?  The feds incentivized it, and now, all 50 states either now maintain or are capable of maintaining extensive databases on public-school students. Utah was praised for having a database that met all ten essential components for the database, outlined by the federal government.

The information to be gathered by the U.S.O.E. and passed on to the executive branch is more than academic test scores. According to the National Data Collection Model, the government should collect information on health-care history, family income, family voting status, gestational age of students at birth, student ID number, bus stop times and more. This is not just student information, but information on families, too.

4.  Have you read how Common Core and its FERPA-deleting mandates, also delete state authority over education and parental authority over children’s data?

When Utah signed up for Common Core, part of the application, mandated (page 288 of RTTT application) that Utah must “identify and implement a plan to address barriers in State law, statute, regulation, or policy to implementing the proposed assessment system and to addressing any such barriers prior to full implementation of the summative assessment components of the system.”   As long as Utah’s bound to Common Core, we’re going to change state laws that stand in the way of the federal data collection goal.  FERPA laws are sacred laws.  They protect families.  They protect children.  Common Core does not respect FERPA, families, or children’s rights to privacy and freedom from federal control.

I do not want my child’s private or academic information to be accessible by the federal government for any reason.  Schools need to know academic information about children, but they have no business giving out that information to the federal government, especially without parental consent.

The Utah FERPA laws protected family and student privacy, but the newly rewritten federal FERPA laws do not.  They take privacy away.  Our local school board unfortunately believes federal laws have more clout than state FERPA laws do, based on their statements that “We can’t not pass this law,” at Thursday’s meeting.

According to the U.S. Constitution and G.E.P.A. law, educational decisions are in the hands of states, not the federal government. But for now, until our school board reinstates the constitutional sovereignty of Utah over federal FERPA law, and parental sovereignty over the privacy of children’s data, my kids will not be taking state-collected, federally accessible standardized tests.

5.  Have you read the “Cooperative Agreement Between the U.S. Dept. of Education and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium” for yourself?  http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf

The U.S.O.E.’s lead lawyer, Carol Lear, had not even read it until I provided the PDF for her.  Nobody is watching Utah’s back, constitutionally, on the Common Core’s intrusions on freedom.

That document triangulates data “across consortia” under the supervision of the U.S. Dept of Education, which mandates telephone conferences, status updates, synchronized testing, and centralization of data for federal perusal.

6.  Have you realized that Utah’s current Core will be irrelevant by 2015?  I wrote to WestEd myself, asking for an explanation as to how the test developer would address differences in states’ own standards.  They wrote back to say that it’s not helpful to have two sets of standards.  The federal set, CCSS, would do.  (Letter in WestEd attachment.)  What teacher, motivated by merit pay and high student scores, will teach to any other set of standards.

7.  Do you realize that while the Utah Core can be amended by the state school board’s majority vote, the CCSS standards have no provision for amendment by Utah?  We have no voice.  The federal standards can change, sending any wicked teaching down the pike, and we have to teach it and be tested on it.  This is as true as I’m sitting here typing to you.

8.  Did you know that there’s was no legislative discussion, no cost analysis, no legal analysis, and not even any educational analysis of Common Core before Utah joined in 2009?  The standards were released in 2010.  We are stuck with so much expense, so much that’s mandated, and so many freedoms stolen away, because we married before we dated Common Core.  In the words of Senator Mike Fair of South Carolina, “we sold our educational birthright without even getting the mess of pottage.”

9.  Did you know that Common Core is in the public domain?  So any good that anyone likes from Common Core, we can keep and use, under our own sovereign Utah educational rights.  No teacher needs to cry when we cut ties to the CC Initiative.

10.  Did you know that a famous, retired Utah Judge has reviewed the legally binding documents of Utah’s arrangement with Common Core, and has stated that Utah is not free under Common Core?  Are any educational benefits meaningful without political freedom?

I would truly appreciate a response to these questions.  Thank you.

Christel Swasey

Posted April 26, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

If the Founding Fathers Came to Heber City   Leave a comment

There is wisdom in acknowledging the inspiration of our Founding Fathers and in supporting political candidates who are truly dedicated to the Constitution in the tradition of our Founding Fathers.

Likewise, we should support school boards who show by their actions that they are truly dedicated to the Constitution in the tradition of our Founding Fathers.

I do not think our Founding Fathers would stand up for the side that is fighting to give away FERPA parental consent law and states’ constitutional rights.  They would not favor stripping FERPA law and would not approve of the  Common Core Initiative, which promotes many things, including federal government access to children’s data without parental consent.

But the “feds-trump-all” side is the side our local school board appears to be standing with, whether they realize it or not.  We must kindly but firmly hold our school board accountable for overturning parental rights last Thursday night.  We must hold our governor and state school board accountable for overturning Utah’s sovereignty over education to the Common Core Initiative and its testing system and tight federal controls. http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf

A great American civic and governmental leader who also served as a prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Ezra Taft Benson, wrote, “Civic Standards For The Faithful Saints.”  http://www.lds.org/ensign/1972/07/civic-standards-for-the-faithful-saints?lang=eng

He said:

“… Our wise founders seemed to understand, better than most of us, our own scripture, which states that “it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority … they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” (D&C 121:39.)

“To help prevent this, the founders knew that our elected leaders should be bound by certain fixed principles. Said Thomas Jefferson: ‘In questions of power then, let no more be heard of confidence in man but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.’

“These wise founders, our patriotic partners, seemed to appreciate more than most of us the blessings of the boundaries that the Lord set within the Constitution… In God the founders trusted, and in his Constitution…

“President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., put it well when he said:

“God provided that in this land of liberty, our political allegiance shall run not to individuals, that is, to government officials, no matter how great or how small they may be. Under His plan our allegiance and the only allegiance we owe as citizens or denizens of the United States, runs to our inspired Constitution which God himself set up. So runs the oath of office of those who participate in government. A certain loyalty we do owe to the office which a man holds, but even here we owe just by reason of our citizenship, no loyalty to the man himself. In other countries it is to the individual that allegiance runs. This principle of allegiance to the Constitution is basic to our freedom. It is one of the great principles that distinguishes this ‘land of liberty’ from other countries.” (Improvement Era, July 1940, p. 444.)

“’Patriotism,’ said Theodore Roosevelt, ‘means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the President or any other public official save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. …

“’Every man,’ said President Roosevelt, ‘who parrots the cry of ‘stand by the President’ without adding the proviso ‘so far as he serves the Republic’ takes an attitude as essentially unmanly as that of any Stuart royalist who championed the doctrine that the King could do no wrong. No self-respecting and intelligent free man could take such an attitude.’ (Theodore Roosevelt, Works, vol. 21, pp. 316, 321.)

“And the Prophet Joseph Smith said, “… let the people of the whole Union, like the inflexible Romans, whenever they find a promise made by a candidate that is not practiced as an officer, hurl the miserable sycophant from his exaltation. …” (DHC, vol. 6, p. 207.)

“…’I am the greatest advocate of the Constitution of the United States there is on the earth,’ said the Prophet Joseph Smith. (DHC, vol. 6, p. 56.)

“The warning of President Joseph Fielding Smith is most timely: ‘Now I tell you it is time the people of the United States were waking up with the understanding that if they don’t save the Constitution from the dangers that threaten it, we will have a change of government.’ (Conference Report, April 1950, p. 159.)

Another guideline given by the First Presidency was ‘to support good and conscientious candidates, of either party, who are aware of the great dangers’ facing the free world. (Deseret News, November 2, 1964.)

Fortunately we have materials to help us face these threatening dangers in the writings of President David O. McKay and other church leaders…But the greatest handbook for freedom in this fight against evil is the Book of Mormon.

This most correct book on earth states that the downfall of two great American civilizations came as a result of secret conspiracies whose desire was to overthrow the freedom of the people. “And they have caused the destruction of this people of whom I am now speaking,” says Moroni, “and also the destruction of the people of Nephi.” (Ether 8:21.)

“Now undoubtedly Moroni could have pointed out many factors that led to the destruction of the people, but notice how he singled out the secret combinations, just as the Church today could point out many threats to peace, prosperity, and the spread of God’s work, but it has singled out the greatest threat as the godless conspiracy. There is no conspiracy theory in the Book of Mormon —it is a conspiracy fact.

“Then Moroni speaks to us in this day and says, “Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you” (Ether 8:14.)

The Book of Mormon further warns that “whatsoever nation shall uphold such secret combinations, to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold they shall be destroyed. …” (Ether 8:22.)

“… By court edict godless conspirators can run for government office, teach in our schools, hold office in labor unions, work in our defense plants, serve in our merchant marines, etc. As a nation, we are helping to underwrite many evil revolutionaries in our country.

“Now we are assured that the Church will remain on the earth until the Lord comes again—but at what price? The Saints in the early days were assured that Zion would be established in Jackson County, but look at what their unfaithfulness cost them in bloodshed and delay.

“President Clark warned us that ‘we stand in danger of losing our liberties, and that once lost, only blood will bring them back; and once lost, we of this church will, in order to keep the Church going forward, have more sacrifices to make and more persecutions to endure than we have yet known. …’ (CR, April 1944, p. 116.) And he stated that if the conspiracy “comes here it will probably come in its full vigor and there will be a lot of vacant places among those who guide and direct, not only this government, but also this Church of ours.” (CR, April 1952.)

“Now the third great civic standard for the Saints is the inspired word of the prophets—particularly the living president, God’s mouthpiece on the earth today. Keep your eye on the captain and judge the words of all lesser authority by his inspired counsel.

“The story is told how Brigham Young, driving through a community, saw a man building a house and simply told him to double the thickness of his walls. Accepting President Young as a prophet, the man changed his plans and doubled the walls. Shortly afterward a flood came through that town, resulting in much destruction, but this man’s walls stood. While putting the roof on his house, he was heard singing, “We thank thee, O God, for a prophet!”

“Joseph Smith taught “that a prophet was a prophet only when he was acting as such.” (DHC, vol. 5, p. 265.)

Suppose a leader of the Church were to tell you that you were supporting the wrong side of a particular issue. Some might immediately resist this leader and his counsel or ignore it, but I would suggest that you first apply the fourth great civic standard for the faithful Saints. That standard is to live for, to get, and then to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Said Brigham Young: “I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. … Let every man and woman know, by the whisperings of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not.” (JD, vol. 9, p. 150.)

“A number of years ago, because of a statement that appeared to represent the policy of the Church, a faithful member feared he was supporting the wrong candidate for public office. Humbly he took the matter up with the Lord. Through the Spirit of the Lord he gained the conviction of the course he should follow, and he dropped his support of this particular candidate.

“This good brother, by fervent prayer, got the answer that in time proved to be the right course.

“We need the constant guidance of that Spirit. We live in an age of deceit. “O my people,” said Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, “they who lead thee cause thee to err and destroy the way of thy paths.” (2 Ne. 13:12.) Even within the Church we have been warned that “the ravening wolves are amongst us, from our own membership, and they, more than any others, are clothed in sheep’s clothing…” (J. Reuben Clark, Jr., CR, April 1949, p. 163.)

“The Lord holds us accountable if we are not wise and are deceived. “For they that are wise,” he said, “and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived—verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day.” (D&C 45:57.)

“And so four great civic standards for the faithful Saints are, first, the Constitution ordained by God through wise men; second, the scriptures, particularly the Book of Mormon; third, the inspired counsel of the prophets, especially the living president, and fourth, the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

“God bless us all that we may use these standards and by so doing bless ourselves, our families, our community, our nation, and the world, I humbly pray, as I bear my witness to the truth of this great latter-day work, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.”

Amen, President Benson.

Judge Rules: Utah Is No Longer Free Under Common Core   Leave a comment

Excerpted from Retired Utah Judge Norman Jackson’s report on Utah’s Common Core Standards:

Date: April 14, 2012 2:21:02 PM MDT

Subject: Whether the State of Utah or the United States Department of Education Is Or Will Be In Control of “Common Core” Educational Standards?

 

… [T]he political pot on this issue seems to be overflowing into two separate schools of thought…

The first school of thought in Utah comes from the Governor’s Office and the State School Board. They are circulating a six page Q&A document: Utah’s Common Core, Draft 2.22.12. It poses questions in three groupings 1. Frequently Asked Questions 2. Process 3. Implementation and Future Work. The next to the last question is: What is the role of the federal government in (Common Core) standards implementation? The answer is: The federal government has had NO role in their implementation. The first question on Page 2 is: Who is leading the Common Core State Standards Initiative? The answer is: The Council of Chief State State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center).

The second school of thought comes from several citizens, including concerned mothers and teachers who have done their homework. They have directed me to three basic underlying contract documents which Utah’s Executive Branch has agreed to. They conclude that these documents grant control of “Common Core” standards and implementation to the Federal Government, namely the United States Department of Education, ie President Obama’s staff.

Based on my examination of –  1. Memorandum of Understaning/SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium/Race to the Top Fund Assessment Program: Comprehensive Assessments Systems Grant Application/CFDA Number: 84.395B,  2. Smarter Balanced Assesment Consortium – Governance Structure Document, July 1, 2010, Amended November 22, 2011, and  3. Cooperative Agreement Between the U. S. Department of Education and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the State of Washington (fiscal agent) dated January 7, 2011, PR/Award #: S395B100003 and S395B100003A (190 pages).

I Concur with the conclusion of the citizens.

My opinion is based on the plain language of these contracts as set forth in my Memo: To Whom It May Concern, Subject: Federal/State Common Core Initiatives and Standards, Dated April 12, 2012 (4 pages attached). The opinion has detailed analysis of each contract.   This opinion is also supported by a grant award notification letter (GAN) dated September 28, 2010 from Director Conaty of the U. S. Department of Education to Washington State Governor Gregorie. The award is for the Race to the Top Assessment Program. It is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on the basis of an approved budget of $159,976,843 for the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium. The notice set a deadlilne of January 7, 2011 to finalize the above Cooperative Agreement which bears the same date. The GAN states that it will “include substantial involvement of the U. S. Department of Education”.

FYI: I  have also attached a copy of National Federation of Republican Women Resolution, Defeat National Standards for State Schools, Adopted Unaniously at the NFRW 36th Biennial Convention, October 1, 2011 (1 page) .   In the interest of time, I am sharing this message with several other people. I invite them also to examine these materials and share their comments. Your cooperation and assistance are appreciated. Norman H. Jackson, Judge Utah Court of Appeals, Retired.

2 attachments — Download all attachments

Common Core Memo.docx 35K   View   Download

AFRW_Resolution_to_D_484455_(1)_10-12[1].doc 77K   View   Download

Posted April 25, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

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Dear Anonymous Neighbor   Leave a comment

I received a letter from an anonymous person in Heber.  I will post the full text of what he/she wrote, and the full text of my response.  This is America.  Free press is important.

 

 

Dear Christel,

This is written out of concern for you and other friends and relatives of mine whose integrity you are questioning. This is Heber. Everyone is related to someone, but we’re all brothers and sisters regardless.

The simple truth is that nearly everyone who is given accurate information about the common core supports it. Active teachers do and tell me they are not afraid of speaking their minds if they didn’t. I’ve talked to all of them I know. I’ve known and worked with many of them my whole life.

That alone does not mean common core deserves my support. However, when I read the documents you forward around and your websites, your statements about our rights, literary education, privacy, cost, etc., simply seem unfounded to me. Because I, like you, am an informed fellow patriot dedicated to investigation, I’ve read them and the other side’s. It seems like you have not read or choose to ignore anything from the other side.

I don’t know you as well as I know some of the good people you do not trust. I also know the bad reputation of some of the extreme people and groups who support your cause in the papers.

Many good people I know believe many things that are just not true. They are entitled to their own opinions until they become so jaded and overly suspicious of everyone, and eventually faithless, disloyal Americans who hurt their community and country and others as they try tearing them down. In the end, they drag themselves down.

This is a great country with the ability to change course if necessary. This is a great town with great people. You’ll find after this battle, those you’ve offended will quickly forget.

Please rethink your approach. Some of the things you are writing, especially about public servants, are not true. It may have become too personal for you. If you choose to share this with others please be honest and don’t take my words out of context.

Having asked for honesty, I’m sorry I don’t have the courage to sign this, but you seem to have become increasingly uncharitable with anyone who disagrees with you — even some who should be your friends.

I have already read your info, your websites and the sites you refer to. No need to respond. This is the only time you’ll hear from me.

Sincerely,

One of several neighbors who are afraid you are damaging your reputation beyond repair, and hurting our schools.

 

Dear Anonymous Neighbor,

 

Thank you for your letter.   I’m sad that you feel the way you do, and I wish you would talk to me face to face. You cared enough to write to me, and so I appreciate you.  I hope you do write back because I want to know in detail how I have been “uncharitable to those who disagree” –If that is true, I am sorry I came across that way.

I am going to hold our local school board accountable for taking away parental consent laws that protect us all. If that’s uncharitable, then I guess you are right.  By that definition, Captain Moroni and Paul Revere and George Washington and Joseph Smith would be called uncharitable, too.

How can I not question the validity of the standards, since my own daughter tells me she’s learned nothing in math all year long?  I hope you are not her math teacher.  (Sorry, but that is what she testifies.)  How can I not question the validity of taking away parental consent law in Wasatch District?  That is totally outrageous for them to have done such a thing.

I wonder where you got the idea that I am “jaded and suspicious” or a “disloyal American.”  Wow.  I am actually willing to read anything you or any other Common Core proponent will send me.  As for disloyalty to America?  My whole argument is that we need to defend the U.S. Constitution from federal intrusion.  So I don’t understand that one.

I demand evidence that Common Core allows us to be free, which the Utah State Office of Education does not provide.  People who want to know what Common Core is, must  track down documents signed by Utah’s leaders, and read them on their own; the USOE is not transparent at all.

To know truth, we must study and ponder the meanings of binding evidence before believing claims made by anybody about Common Core, on either side of the argument.  And honestly, you should ask for evidence, too.  Some things are not just opinion, but are based on legal facts.

Nobody has entered into any kind of give and take with me, except one person on the school board.  So I don’t know who you say I won’t listen to.  I have been giving my emails to local teachers who are against Common Core secretly and who don’t dare say anything but they wink at me and want more knowledge and hope Utah gets us free of Common Core.  They want out.

I am not questioning any one person’s truthfulness or integrity, and I’m sorry you see it that way.  There is no finger pointing that needs to happen; I think we’ve all, all been duped by Common Core.

What I am questioning is people’s blind faith in the claims of the Utah State Office of Education without seeing any evidence to back up the claims, and people’s lack of spine in standing up to federal requests for access to our constitutionally delegated, local rights.

I am especially questioning the validity of deleting parental consent in schools, which our school board did Thursday.  I am questioning the Utah State Office of Education, the State School Board, and those whom the Governor has entrusted with the educational freedom of this state.

Did you know that over 90% of the Republican candidates for senate, governor, and representative, are firmly opposed to Common Core?   We called and asked them all before the convention.  More Utah leaders are against Common Core than are for it.  Even Governor Herbert, after Alisa and Renee and Kevin and I met with him, agreed that there is so much evidence that it confused him.  He wanted his legal team to look at it before he invited us back to his office.  So there is no consensus that Common Core is wonderful by any means.

If you will take the time to read the legally binding documents and explain them to your friends, you will see that the Emperor of Common Core is wearing no clothes.  Utah is no longer free.  Even a retired Utah judge has now studied these documents and has affirmed that under Common Core, Utah is not free.

Utah is not free, he said.  Doesn’t that matter at all?  Is that not worth me ruining my reputation for, freedom?

These are the legal facts, whether friends and relatives and neighbors choose to read them or not.  That is up to each of us.

We cannot afford to give in to Common Core, out of fear of our own reputations.

The research is solid, so my sadness about what a neighbor might say or think about me is of little consequence.  I am following my conscience on this.  I am very proud to have a reputation as someone who recognizes error and fights to help others see it, because it’s about the Constitution even when others may interpret my efforts as “hurting schools.”

Of course I wish everyone agreed with me and loved me for doing this, but I can’t ask for that.

When we put flags in our yards on the fourth of July, what does it mean if we have no educational freedom any longer?  Should I really be quiet, out of fear of what others think of me, and allow freedoms to get sifted away? Would be the right thing for me to do, after all the knowledge I have?  Is that what you would have me do?

You said that I ignore everything from the other side. Not so.  I’ve asked that both sides provide more than “he-said, she-said” and they haven’t.  Only the anti-Common Core side has any proof and evidence.  Isn’t that strange?  Why does the CommonCore advocacy side not have any evidence backing up their claims?  It is beyond strange.

You said “everyone who is given accurate information about Common Core supports it.”  I would love to see that accurate information you speak of, and where it comes from.  I’ve read the entire U.S.O.E. website.  I’ve read the Common Core website.  And guess what?  They don’t back up their claims with evidence.  I’ve had to dig up the documents to read for myself.

I do not believe the claims because they don’t match the documents.  Please don’t accuse me of not being willing to read and review things.  That is exactly what the Common Core advocates do, and that is a sin in my book.  Send me anything and I will read it and compare it to the legally binding documents our Utah leaders have signed.

I have never refused to read anyone’s documents.  I’m willing to read more.  But are you?

Most importantly, I’ve read the legal documents our Governor and board signed, and they truly bind our state– lost freedom, loss of educational control, loss of the ability to amend the CCSS federal testing standards, which is something the U.S.O.E. has not been transparent/honest about.  This is as true as I’m sitting here typing.

I do not think you wrote to me because you have read the documents and actually have grounds to disagree with me.  I think you wrote to me because you have not read much at all and you are afraid– of not having everybody that you care for, see things the same way and appear to get along. But there is a time to agree and a time to disagree and this is one of those times!

You don’t have to read the evidence on both sides, if you don’t want to.  I do want to.

And we don’t have to be contentious, and hopefully, we will not be.  Contention is bad and wrong and I hope and pray to avoid it. But fighting for truth and freedom, even if it divides friends, is simply unavoidable to an honest heart.

We are free to disagree and still love one another and that is the American way.

Thanks for your letter.

 

Christel

 

 

 

 

Posted April 25, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

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Disagree, With Dignity   Leave a comment

Give me liberty or give me death!

I’ve noticed that some people allow themselves to become paralyzed into not speaking or acting, out of fears like:

1.  They might not know it all.

2.  They might be seen by others as too outspoken.

I’m here to encourage you to speak anyway.  Believe it or not, I did not even know what Common Core was, one month ago.  I’ve learned by reading documents available online, reading official websites and comparing them to the documents, writing to my local and state school boards, calling my representative, interviewing the U.S.O.E. and its legal arm (you learn as much from what they refuse to answer as you do from what they do answer) and talking with other parents and other teachers. I’ve attended local and state school board meetings and read the minutes they have to keep for public record.

If you don’t know what to say, just ask questions.  The burden of proof is not on you; it’s on them.  Ask officials to back up their high sounding claims with legally binding evidence and documents you can read for yourself, unhurried, with a highlighter.

Once you realize that THE EMPEROR IS WEARING NO CLOTHES, where Common Core is concerned, and that cutting ties with Common Core is a win-win for teachers, taxpayers, and kids, you gain a lot of confidence and you can think of more and more and more questions.  Soon, you are full of faith.  You see that if we can only get these facts out to enough people with honest hearts and a love for liberty and education, we can turn the monster of Common Core around.  And this is what I believe.

I don’t fear the U.S.O.E. coming around and reprimanding me or taking away my teaching credential, just because I’ve spoken out to them about the Common Core Initiative.  This is America.  We are allowed and encouraged to civilly disagree and to engage in lively debate. 

If you feel caught in the spiral of silence as an educator, parent, or citizen, and you are afraid to speak out, it’s only because you perceive that you are alone in your feelings.  But you are not alone.  So speak up.  Don’t you wish the 1940s Germans had spoken up and had asked pointed questions before their Jewish neighbors agreed to get on the trains?  We do not know where losing liberties, bit by bit, will land us.  So speak up and ask away.  Don’t be afraid to look foolish.  There is no stupid question.

Contention is bad, but lively debate is good.  Don’t be silenced by those who label all dissenting opinions as bad.  The freedom to debate and offer dissenting opinion is a precious freedom.  We are not living under a rule of iron-fisted consensus yet.  If the pressure to conform and to appear united ever edges out freedom of speech, freedom of religion, or freedom of thought, then there is too much pressure to conform. 

We can disagree without making personal attacks.  We  can disagree  without venom. 

Disagree, with dignity.

Posted April 25, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Understanding FERPA and Parental Consent Authority   Leave a comment

April 24, 2014

Dear Heber Parents,

Some of you have asked for this FERPA revision attachment that our school board passed on Thursday in Heber City and that school districts all over Utah will be passing unless parents stop them.

I will give some context.

FERPA laws are very important.  They protect families and students against school-originated  identity theft or federal intrusions on personal data.  It used to be that schools were only allowed to give student data to doctors in emergencies, to other schools when students moved, etc.

Thursday, our Wasatch school board “revised” FERPA laws #8 and #9.   They didn’t allow for the usual 30-day review.  They did it fast and they tried to keep it quiet because they knew parents would freak out, as I am.

This FERPA change by our school board troubles me greatly.  It must be overturned. The board broke their own laws that state the board must  include the public on major policy changes in the district.  They tried hard to keep it a secret, speaking in code at the school board meeting, never uttering the words “parental consent” or “privacy law changes” out loud.  But a few of us were watching and we asked for a copy of this, which they legally had to provide if someone asked.

Parents are the number one authority over kids.  For a school district to override parental consent law is very serious. I don’t want kids being tracked throughout their lives as people are tracked and pressured in countries that aren’t free.

By changing FERPA law this week, our board deleted parental authority.  Now anyone can come in and get student data if they use the language “for educational research.” And the federal government doesn’t even have to use that language.  (See attachment).

Here’s where the Common Core Initiative comes in.  Common Core’s agenda is making academic standards common across the nation and centralizing education and data collection on all kids. All but a handful of states signed on to Common Core in 2009, hoping for grant money in exchange for their sovereignty.  Schools in Utah began implementing Common Core this year, and it’ll be all fully implemented by 2015.

The Common Core Initiative literally asks states to get rid of state laws that stand in the way of its goals.  Common Core doesn’t just collect academic data for educational research and local schools as we used to do with testing. This is longitudinal, personalized, individual data, including health information, age, name, skills, psychological health, and more.  It’s labeled only academic testing, but the result is much more than simply comparing reading and math scores.

If you read about “Common Core” from the proponents’ point of view, minus the legal documents, it sounds like manna from heaven.  But notice that proponents do not  back up pretty words with evidence.  There’s no proof, for example, that standards are higher or internationally benchmarked.  It’s experimental; for example, CCSS will dump a lot of classic literature requirements from 6th to 12 grades to make space for more info-texts, in English classes.  My daughter says her 9th grade math this year is just a repeat of 8th grade.  But proponents claim it’s “rigorous” and getting kids “college ready” and “globally competitive.”  There’s no proof anywhere that “we still have local control,” sadly.  There’s not been a Constitutional analysis; in fact, the lawyer at the U.S.O.E. told me there was “no point” in having freedom to disagree; the point was to be in-common, and to agree, under Common Core.  Many, like this lawyer, falsely equate unity under mandates with unity out of free will.

The proponents of Common Core say that this is a state-led program.  The feds funded every single group, whether state based or D.C. based, that promoted Common Core, that wrote the standards, or that developed the test.  Common Core promotion has been funded by the U.S. Dept of Education grants but Common Core won’t pay for its implementation or maintenance.  They “allow” states to add to the standards, up to 15%.  But I wrote to the test developer and they wrote back to say the test does not use any of the states’ 15% input to write the test.  We’ll only be tested on the federal standards.

The test itself is like the ACT or SAT, except it’s given to little kids, too, and taken multiple times a year, every year –and it’s not just an academic test but also a data-collection strategy for the feds. (This is where FERPA revisions come in to play).

If you want evidence that what I’m saying is real, google and read: “The Cooperative Agreement Between the U.S. Dept of Education and the SBAC” (Utah is bound by the  SBAC, the Common Core’s testing arm).  Mandates, micromanaging and compliance rules are all you’ll see:  the feds own the SBAC tests.  They oversee, synchronize and triangulate the tests, and there is no provision for  keeping the feds away from the data; quite the opposite.  And there’s no voice for Utah to amend the federal standards.  (We can amend Utah’s current Core, but so what? Teachers teach to the test and it’s based on the unamendable, federal CCSS.)

Common Core is a perversion of the democratic process: the proponents used Governors, school boards, and superintendents to sign states up.  Legislatures were bypassed.  The public was bypassed.  Few knew anything about Common Core until it was already adopted.  There was not any cost analysis done, because the congressional budget office was bypassed and the huge implementation costs were handed to the states.  Why did states sign up?  Were states searching for national standards and federal advice and the opportunity to give away parental consent in favor of federal data collection?  Nope.

The feds dangled the carrot of huge federal monies in front of them: Race To The Top, they called that grant.  Yet Utah got zero money when we applied.  And states who never joined Common Core and SBAC are getting the same federal education dollars Utah is getting.

What happened was this:  the grant, called Race To The Top, gave out points to increase eligibility, like a lottery.  States got more points if they agreed to adopt Common Core standards (—FYI the standards hadn’t even been written when Utah agreed to implement them). Utah also got more points for agreeing to join the testing consortium.  So we did both.  Well, we never got the money.  Other states won it.  But we got stuck –and are still stuck, three years later– with membership in Common Core and the SBAC testing consortium.

Under SBAC testing, Utah must submit to any decision of the other states, over costs and technology, by consensus, totally diluting our voice.  But worse– when push comes to shove, we have to obey the lead state, which is Washington State. Giving other states our power over our own education is no better than giving it to the feds directly.  Yet, we did that, too.  The feds control the standards and we have to teach to those standards. If the feds want to include any useless, strange or wrong teaching and call it “raising standards” they may do that and Utah has no voice.  None.

Utah’s current standards are what the USOE calls the “Utah Core Standards” but that will never be on the common test, so teachers won’t be motivated to teach it once the testing begins in 2014.  Teachers are going to be motivated by merit pay and lost tenure to get their students to get high scores on the test, and they’ll follow the federal (CCSS) standards more and more closely.  The USOE is so proud to announce that the state school board can amend the “Utah Core Standards” by a majority vote of the board, but they fail to tell people that there are two sets of standards, and you can’t amend the federal set.

Utah would be greatly empowered if every one of us remembered two things:

1.  The Constitution was written by people who had government oppression fresh on their minds.  They divided state and federal powers for that reason. Because of our inspired U.S. Constitution, the feds have no Constitutional authority over education; states are sovereign over education.  Reread that last sentence and remember it.

(There is no law that says the feds can withhold our tax dollars from us if we don’t jump through their hoops.)

2. The GEPA law and other federal laws (General Education Provisions Act) protect states from federal intrusions even further.  They specify that the feds can’t control, supervise,direct or in any way put their demands on states’ educational decisions.  It’s up to us to keep the feds from bullying us.  This week, it was up to the school board.

Our local school board does not seem to believe in these two points.  While they were passing this FERPA deletion of parental authority on Thursday night, we who understood what was going on shook our heads, “no,” pleading (we weren’t allowed to talk) for them to not do this, at least to allow a 30-day review.  Under their breath, they muttered, “Well, we can’t NOT pass it,”  and “It’s a federal law.”  –What?

Did they believe they had to obey a federal request to remove parental authority over children just to make it easier for the federal agenda of testing and data control to become reality?  Whether this request came from Common Core (via the Governors’ group or other federally funded groups) or directly from the U.S. Dept. of Education, is irrelevant.  Locals have control and authority over educational issues.

At some point, our school board has to be courageous and say no.  The buck must stop here.

Whether the board understands or believes all I’ve written to you tonight is not important; what is important is that they understand that they broke their own law that stated they must work closely with the public and that they had no authority to give away parental authority.

They refused a public 30-day review.  They failed to provide copies of the document I’ve attached here.  (While they flashed other topics on a huge screen –school store merchandise, landscaping plans, etc.– they left the screen blank when they brought up “Ferpa additions eight and nine,” and passed it so fast that nobody would have understood what just happened, unless they’d been studying it.)

I’m meeting with a member of the school board this week.  I’m going to learn and execute the appeals process, whatever it may be, to get this overturned.  If that fails, and if persuasion and reason and evidence and the voice of many other citizens and parents fail, then I feel we parents must sue the school board for handing over parental consent authority in favor of easy access for the federal government — which the board did, ironically, without getting any parent’s consent.

Christel Swasey

Ferpa Laws Wasatch County 4-19-2012 001.jpg 378K   View   Share   Download

Posted April 25, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Go to your school board meetings and get the FERPA documents they are trying to alter.   Leave a comment

Attend your local school board meetings and DO NOT let your board pass any amendment to FERPA laws. Just say no. It’s your parental authority versus the federal authority over your child’s data that is at stake. If they tell you the feds are forcing them to change FERPA, you tell them to get a spine and say no. There is no legal authority for the feds to tell states or districts what to do where education is concerned, and where parental authority is concerned. Our Wasatch board already did this Thursday night and now we are busting our buns trying to get them to overturn it. They had no authority to give away parental authority. It is ridiculous. If Wasatch refuses to return parental consent authority to FERPA, I’m taking my kids out of school this fall. Kids belong to parents, not to governments.

Posted April 24, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Letter from teacher Donna Garner to USOE about Common Core   Leave a comment

4.24.12 

To:  Utah State Office of Education

Re:  Common Core Standards

From:  Donna Garner, Retired Teacher

 

National standards lead to national curriculum and national assessments. Because the Common Core Standards Initiative will implement a national database, individual student’s assessment scores will be tied back to their individual teachers. To keep their jobs, teachers will be forced to teach each day to their students whatever is on the national assessments. The national database will have student- and teacher- identifiable data that will end up being shared with unnamed persons and federal agencies. 

 

The Common Core Standards and Race to the Top are the Obama administration’s takeover of the public schools by the federal government.

 

The Obama administration’s social justice agenda will become the curriculum taught each day to our public school children. The Obama administration has already changed the Title IX definition of the word “sex” to mean “gender identity” instead of “male” and “female,” and the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (LGBT) agenda is being forced upon every government agency and institution.  It is being promoted to the public schools under the “bullying” agenda; but instead of emphasizing that no children should be bullied, the Obama administration is fixating all its efforts on the bullying of LGBT students. 

 

Utah and other states will completely lose their state and local control if they adopt the Common Core Standards. Teachers will no longer be allowed to teach what they believe are the important knowledge and skills that their students need to learn. The Obama administration will make all curriculum decisions for the public schools based upon whatever that administration desires to push upon the next generation.

 

Utah must pull out of the Common Core Standards and write its own standards. Texas has already completed the adoption of ELAR, Science, Social Studies, and Math curriculum standards and will proceed to Health and Fine Arts standards next. Utah can do the same.

 

Donna Garner

Wgarner1@hot.rr.com

Retired Teacher

Posted April 24, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Cutting Ties With Common Core is a Win-Win for Utah   Leave a comment

I am still learning about Common Core and its financial, political and educational complications. But I won’t let what I don’t know stop me from asking questions about what I do know.

The burden of proof is on the Utah State Office of Education, which has not proved its claims (creating college readiness, allowing local control, ensuring high and honorable standards, being free of federal intrusions, no privacy loss for kids) with legally binding documents we can have faith in. 

Sorry, pretty words about college readiness are not enough. Show me some facts.

What I see in the legally binding documents I’ve studied, and that others like me have studied, leads us to believe cutting ties to the Common Core Initiative is a win-win for all Utahns.

1. Taxpayers win when we cut ties to Common Core.  Utah can escape the expensive mandates of the SBAC and can demand genuine congressional relief from both NCLB and Common Core.  Utah does not have to accept a NCLB waiver nor the Common Core fetters.   See what Florida Senator Marco Rubio had to say.

Here is Senator Rubio’s letter to the federal Dept. of Education on the subject:  http://www.rubio.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?ID=8aab326e-4051-4545-9ae2-76ca29434eb8

Here’s an “Exit Strategy” report for governors like Nikki Haley of South Carolina, and (hopefully) Governor Herbert of Utah, who want to escape Common Core. From the Heritage Foundation:

http://www.themoralliberal.com/2012/02/11/a-national-education-standards-exit-strategy-for-states/

Also from Heritage:

http://blog.heritage.org/2012/04/09/district-nclb-waivers-an-unsettling-pact-with-washington/

If you don’t think Common Core costs Utah money, read how California is struggling to raise taxes now to pay for expensive Common Core implementations.  http://www.educationnews.org/education-policy-and-politics/california-wants-a-tax-hike-to-pay-for-common-core/

And read the cost analysis done by the Pioneer Institute on the outrageous costs to states of implementing Common Core.  This is money we’ll have to come up with, on top of our educational needs that we’ve always had, before Common Core hit. http://www.pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120222_CCSSICost.pdf

We got zero money for the Race to the Top application.  That’s a blessing because we don’t have to give it back when we sever ties with Common Core.

Utah also got no money from the SBAC’s Race to the Top application, but we are still bound by the terms of that grant so long as we stay in the SBAC, because the SBAC did get money to make the test. Utah belongs to the SBAC now.  We need to cut ties with SBAC for that reason as well as for the reason that they can boss us around as a consortium and, when push comes to shove, Washington State gets to tell Utah what to teach Utah kids.  WA is the fiscal agent and lead state in the consortium. That’s just plain silly, giving WA power over Utah.

Where is the law that says:  In order for states to receive educational funding (our own tax dollars returned to us) we must obey federal mandates over education?  This is absurd.  The Executive Branch has no authority over educational decision making although it is trying illegally to use intimidation tactics to do so.  This must be stopped by you and me and Senator Rubio and others like him, including our local school board and state leaders.

2.  Teachers win when we cut ties to Common Core.  The teachers who dislike Common Core are mostly afraid to say so out loud because they fear losing their jobs or being seen as “not team players.” But the teachers who love Common Core are very vocal about it.  They even say things like, “Don’t take this program away from us, now that Utah’s finally gotten higher standards.”  Well, good news, folks!  Anything you like about Common Core is in the public domain and you can use it.  Anything you don’t like, we can delete from Utah’s standards.  Utah can genuinely raise standards across the bar, setting the assertions aside that CCSS standards are experimental or still too low, http://pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/100520_emperors_new_clothes.pdf  and

http://educatingourselves.blogs.deseretnews.com/2012/04/23/making-standards-and-sausages/

–and we can retain our rights of freedom and flexibility in Utah school districts to determine what local standards should be.

3.  Parents win when we cut ties to Common Core.  Parents, upset about the privacy laws being overturned by school boards all over Utah to make way for Common Core’s intrusive data-collecting goals, can reclaim their rights to determine who gets to study their kids’ psychological, physical, and academic characteristics.

And parents worry about the fact that the federal CCSS standards can be changed at any time (but not by locals) to include any horrific standard unapproved by Utahns. These parents will be happy when we cut ties to Common Core and the SBAC tests, because Utah will reclaim its right to set its own educational standards according to local values and high, flexible academic aspirations.

 

We must take a stand.   No one else will do it for Heber or for any other Utah town; our governor is indecisive so far, and our State School Board is totally pro-common core– led by Larry Shumway, who sits on three Common Core boards outside of his job as Utah State Superintendent of Schools.  We each, locally, must say no to each one of these federal intrusions.

Many people realize that the very existence of the federal Dept. of Education is constitutionally illegal and a constitutional president should and would disband this entity.

It’s funny; I wrote a letter to the U.S. Dept of Ed. recently and they responded with a form letter that quotes the 9th and 10th Amendments to the Constitution, as a reason for not replying.  It is so ironic.

The feds know they have no Constitutional right to say or do anything about state education, and they hide behind that fact when they don’t want to answer difficult questions about the Common Core Initiative, which they promoted, and which they control on the testing and data collection end.

They send people like me to the NGA or CCSSO to get questions answered, even though we know the NGA and the CCSSO are Common Core promotional agencies,  funded by the federal Dept of Education.

The Dept. of Education has paid others to do what it is not legally permitted to do.  It’s a scam; all of Common Core is a scam to try to persuade us to allow the federal arm to take over our state educational system.  We are too smart for that.  Stand up and say, “We see this for what it is and you can’t boss us around.”  We need to call their bluff.  The Emperor (of Common Core) Is Wearing No Clothes.  There is nothing in it for Utah.

Without Common Core, we can still have high standards and be the masters of them.  We can be free.  We lose no money, we lose no power to raise standards, we lose no freedoms, we don’t have to do the expensive mandates of the SBAC and Common Core;  it’s a win-win for us to cut ties with CC and SBAC.

I wish people would realize that it’s not just about standards; it’s about who got to set them, who has authority to amend them, and who ends up paying for their huge implementation costs.  It’s about freedom and self-determination.

 

What the National Federation of Republican Women Said About Common Core   Leave a comment

Highlights (paraphrased) from the Resolution by the National Federation of Republican Women (to reject Common Core): 

The “Common Core State Standards” initiative is the centerpiece of the federal agenda to centralize education decisions at the federal level;

The proponents of Common Core have used the same model to take over education as was used for healthcare by using national standards and boards of bureaucrats, whom the public didn’t elect and can’t fire or otherwise hold accountable;

National education standards remove authority from States over what is taught in the classroom and how it is tested;

National education standards undercut the principle that states, not the federal government, make educational decisions under the Constitution;

There is no constitutional or statutory authority for national standards, curricula, or assessments and in fact the federal government is expressly prohibited from endorsing or dictating state/local decisions about curricula; and

The proponents of Common Core are attempting to evade constitutional and statutory prohibitions to move toward a nationalized education system by (1) having the federal government fund more than $345 million to groups that developed national curriculum and test questions, (2) tying national education standards to the Race to the Top charter schools initiative in the amount of $4.35 billion, (3) using the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) to pressure State Boards of Education to adopt national standards with the threat of losing Title 1 Funds if they do not, and (4) requesting Congress to include national ecuation standards as a requirement in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary School Act (No Child Left Behind);

What to do:

(1) contact State Board of Education members, State Superintendent and Governor to request that our state retain control over academic standards, curriculum, instruction and testing, (2) contact Congress Members and request that they (i) protect the constitutional and statutory prohibitions against the federal government endorsing or dictating national standards, (ii) to refuse to tie national standards to any reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, (iii) defund “Race to the Top” money, and (iv) prohibit any more federal funds for the Common Core Initiative, including funds to assessment and curriculum writing consortia, and (3) spread the word about the federal government takeover attempt of education.

 

Source:

https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=gmail&attid=0.1.3&thid=136cc160563d9268&mt=application/msword&url=https://mail.google.com/mail/?ui%3D2%26ik%3D83383bff27%26view%3Datt%26th%3D136cc160563d9268%26attid%3D0.1.3%26disp%3Dsafe%26zw&sig=AHIEtbRL_TjzsRnB-VpeFd6VTewYq5Vkbg

Posted April 23, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

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Common Core Costs Money; It Doesn’t Grant Money   Leave a comment

Some people are under the impression that we got some benefit from joining Common Core.  We did not.

High standards were already available in public domain.   Educational standards are in the public domain, so we didn’t have to give up our state sovereignty over education for the standards.

We got no money by joining Common Core and SBAC.  Utah did not get “one red cent,” according to Brenda Hales, of the Utah State Office of Education.  You can verify this fact by reading online who received grant monies from their Race to the Top Application for inital funding.  It wasn’t Utah.  (This is a blessing because we don’t have to return any money when we cut ties to Common Core as some other states would have to do.)  And even though Utah is obligated to the terms of the SBAC grant (SBAC is a testing group that Utah joined when we joined Common Core) Utah did not receive any money there, either.  The SBAC used that money granted by the federal government and gave it to WestEd, the test developer.

No Cost Analysis was done by Utah.   Crazy as it sounds, nobody in Utah did a cost analysis before we signed up for Common Core.  Virginia and Texas, two states who declined to join, cited the hundreds of millions or billions it would cost to implement, as one of the reasons they wouldn’t do it.  California  was in the news this week for asking for more tax money to help implement Common Core.  Check out the cost analysis done by the Pioneer Institute: http://www.pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120222_CCSSICost.pdf

They can’t withhold educational funding:  Although the USDOE is attempting to force states to choose between No Child Left Behind and Common Core, this is illegal and unconstitutional.  Read G.E.P.A. laws.  Read the 9th and 10th Constitutional Amendments.  Utah can  get genuine congressional relief from both of the federal intrusions on state education if we demand our right to do so.

Posted April 21, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

How Easy Is It To Leave The Consortium (SBAC) and the Common Core Initiative?   Leave a comment

The U.S.O.E. has been circulating the claim that Utah can “get out of Common Core anytime we like.”

But how easy is it, really, to leave the Consortium (SBAC testing club that includes a majority of U.S. states) and to flee the Common Core adoption, that Utah signed on to in 2009 (to be fully implemented in 2014-15) ?

A South Carolina senator said it’s about as easy as getting out of the federal highway program.

Utah must leave as soon as possible –before our educational system is so entangled with federal assumptions about what is best for Utah, and before our budget is strapped by the testing-technology- interoperability mandates of the SBAC.

Legislators can’t get us out.  It’s up to our Governor, School Superintendent, and State School Board, who got us in, in the first place.

To flee the SBAC, we have to give written notice, get the approval of a majority of the SBAC states, and get FEDERAL approval.  (So much for the USOE’s claim that this program is state-led and operated).

To flee Common Core’s entanglements, we have to NOT accept a federal No Child Left Behind waiver and ask for genuine congressional relief  from both the Common Core and the No Child Left Behind unfunded federal mandates.  (Illegal, too.  See G.E.P.A. law and the 9th and 10th Amendments)

The federal government only has as much power over states as states do not defend for themselves. (Read what Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin said about this issue; federal oppression was fresh on their minds when they wrote our protections in to the Constitution. )

Renee’s husband, a state delegate, says: “Show me the law that says the federal government can withhold educational funding (OUR tax money) if we don’t jump through hoops for them.”  Great point.

Some people are under the mistaken impression that we got money for joining CC and SBAC.  Nope.  In fact, it will cost us money.  No one knows how much, because Utah’s top ranking educational leadership found it unnecessary to conduct a cost analysis or a legal analyis before we signed up.

But the Pioneer Institute has done an estimate, not for Utah, but for other states, and estimates are staggering, on top of what states already struggle to come up with for regular education.  http://www.pioneerinstitute.org/search_Press.php

Some people are under the impression that we got higher standards for joining CC and SBAC.  Half true.  Ask math teachers if it’s better or worse.  Look at the testimony of Dr. Sandra Stotsky on the English preparation of the CCSS standards, for authentic college preparation.  She refused to sign off on the standards, and served on the official CCSS validation committee.  But these educational standards are a moot point; we aren’t free to amend them and had no voice in writing them, and if they change, which they will, who changed them?  Not us.

Some people are under the impression that the Utah Common Core is what our kids will be tested on.  Nope.  It’s the CCSS federal standards that the test is written to.

Why isn’t the U.S.O.E. telling us the whole truth about Common Core?

Posted April 21, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

WHY WASATCH SCHOOL BOARD HID DELETION OF PARENTAL CONSENT PRIVACY LAWS   Leave a comment

I was so angry last night after coming home from the local Wasatch School Board meeting.  Here’s why. 

That arrogant board had the audacity to delete parental consent in privacy laws in schools, and they did it secretively, quickly and in code –so no one knew what was going on.  (Except a handful of watchdogs like me who were shaking our heads while it was happening.)

On the School Board’s Statement of Purpose, it says: “to work closely with the community in keeping the public informed of the program of the schools and the needs of the system. The actions of the board did not match its stated purpose.  I respectfully asked in an email today that the Board overturn its hasty and secretive passing of the revision of FERPA law that deletes parental consent over their own children. Why? 

Evidence of Wasatch School Board Deliberately Hiding Facts:

 1. The “parental consent deletion” revision of FERPA protection that was voted on that night was never even spoken verbally, but was only referred to in a code that only Board members would understand, such as “we added 8 and 9 to FERPA.” 

 

No attempt was made to clarify even so much as the acronymn FERPA, which is The Family   Educational Rights and Privacy Act which has, until last night’s deletion, protected the privacy of student education records.

 

2. The FERPA revision document was not displayed on the large screen, yet other topics of the evening were displayed on the large screen, including landscaping plans, the merchandise available at the WHS school store, and more.  The document was not photocopied as the agenda had been photocopied for attendees.  One citizen only got a copy of the document after the meeting was over because the citizen knew it was illegal for the Board to refuse to provide the document.

 

3.  While between ten and twenty minutes were devoted to such topics as Cowboy Poetry, football feeder team startups, landscaping and USOE financial disasters, zero time was allowed for speaking about the FERPA parental consent deletions.

 

Because the Board deliberately minimized or hid these facts from the public, I made a motion via email that this FERPA “parental consent deletion” revision be overturned immediately so that the public may have time to consider the facts fairly.

Transparency, representation, and the School Board’s own statement of purpose demand that some sort of survey should be provided to parents with the revision document clearly provided, asking this simple question:

Would you, as a parent, prefer to have parental consent and privacy laws remain intact, as they were prior to Thursday’s Board meeting’s removal of those parental rights over student information?  Circle Yes or No.

 So, you might be wondering, why does the Common Core Initiative so desperately want to collect data without parental consent?  Why collect so much data at all? 

  •  We’ve never had federally centralized and federally supervised data collection from schoolkids before the Common Core Initiative.
  •  This is not aggregated academic data, but personal, individualized, academic and nonacademic information about every child –taken to D.C.

In the feds’ ironically titled guide, “Safeguarding Student Privacy” we find out why the educational leaders want to test our kids repeatedly and obsessively and why they want to change FERPA privacy laws to do it.  http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/safeguarding-student-privacy.pdf

“High quality data and robust data systems will help us measure our progress towards President Obama’s        goal for us to be first in the world in college      completion by the year 2020 and better meet the needs of parents,      teachers, and students. [ How exactly does it "better meet my needs" to allow feds to obsessively test my child and give all the personal and academic data they ask for!?] 

“…Whether we are referring to data    collected by a State in aggregate form or student‐level data stored    by a school – we all share responsibility for those data [Nope. We don't "share responsiblity," dear feds. You have no business in our local educational data.] …The current and proposed    Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) regulations are a    critical piece of this effort; however, it is equally important to    consider that FERPA does not address the full scope of policies and    procedures that should be in place to adequately protect student    privacy in today’s world of evolving technology and information use.   [Did you just say what I think you said?  That privacy laws aren't helpful enough, so we will revise these privacy laws, taking away parental consent and other safeguards, to make data more private??  Uh, that makes zero sense and you and I both know it, dear feds.] … The U.S. Department of Education (Department) has begun    several initiatives to provide technical assistance to States,    districts, and schools to protect the privacy rights of students,    promote the responsible use of data to inform education policy [Wait a minute.  To "inform educational policy" for a federal group who has no legal right to be making educational policies for states in the first place?  That makes no sense either.] and    practices and empower parents, teachers and students to use this    information to advocate for their rights…” [I feel here like I might throw up.  Did you just say  "empower parents" in the same paragraph that you mention the FERPA revisions which will delete parental consent law??]      

In all my life, I’ve never seen such doublespeak.  So Obama, Arne Duncan, and others –who have no constitutional right to direct or control states’ educational systems– are saying that they will protect student privacy by deleting parental consent.  It makes no sense at all because it is a lie.  They are not trying to protect student privacy, but the exact opposite.  They want to have access to student and family data that they have no right to.  What good can you think of that could come from the feds knowing intimate details about every single citizen from preschool to grave? 

Please stop thinking of these educational tests and only educational tests.  They are data collection vaccuum cleaners with the hoses sucking private data through schools to the federal government. In the information age, knowledge is power and the feds for whatever reason, clearly want to control every citizen by knowing everything about everyone.

Let’s just take a moment to breathe and think.

The wise founders of this country had oppression fresh on their minds.  So they wrote up the U.S. Constitution to protect future generations–us– from big government oppression. 

They set up our country so that states hold the most power.  Not the feds.  The founders gave very small, limited powers to the federal government.  In a very few cases, like military organization, it’s helpful to have someone organizing the states.  But in most things, including of course education, the feds have zero authority –ZERO AUTHORITY– to tell us what to do. 

It is illegal for them to tell states what to do with education. Illegal.  (9th and 10th Amendments, G.E.P.A. law, etc.) Remember that.  They can ask us for stuff all day long, but they can enforce nothing! 

And who is protecting us?  Ourselves!  Our own knowledge of our own power, and our willingness to stand up for it. 

The feds aren’t going to stand up for us; quite the opposite.  We have to stand up for ourselves and put up a wall they can’t come over, as Thomas Jefferson advised in 1791.

Freedom is not defended just by the Governor or the Representatives; it’s up to individuals on local school boards; it’s up to individual citizens who write to the State School Boards.  We are the ones defending our freedoms today, and if we neglect our Constitutional rights –or don’t know about them, and fail to stand up for them– we are the ones to blame.  Don’t blame the feds; they just asked for more power.  We are the only ones with the agency to foolishly hand that power over to them. 

Don’t do it.

Posted April 20, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Wasatch School Board Overturns FERPA Parental Consent Law for Common Core Agenda   Leave a comment

Dear Editor:

Does the Wasatch School Board take into account the wishes of parents, teachers and taxpayers?  Few of us would have chosen what they chose for us Thursday night.

 As a taxpayer, mother and teacher, I motion that the local school board re-open the question of FERPA law revision –and leave it similarly open for each Common Core-related request for privacy and funding intrusion that will come– giving the public at least 30 days’ notice to deliberate and to advise the board.

 

Without so much as a one-minute discussion, the school board voted unanimously to adopt revisions to our protective FERPA laws, that now align Wasatch with the Common Core Initiative’s agenda. The carelessly made decision to change FERPA law deserves new discussion by  parents since it concerns the protection of student and family data from federal control.

 

“Well, we can’t not pass it,” said one board member. “It’s a federal law,” said another, two seconds before they passed it.  But revising FERPA was not a legal federal request.  Ironically, federal laws prohibit the federal government from making invasive requests to tighten control over educational testing by altering privacy laws.

 

Thomas Jefferson would not have been happy with that meeting.  He used to say that states themselves must defend “barriers at the constitutional line as cannot be surmounted either by themselves or by the General Government.”  But Wasatch caved to the improper request to change state law like butter under a hot knife.

 

The Common Core Initiative does suggest that states and districts alter laws and ignore Constitutional separations of powers that grant states the sole right to direct any and all aspects of education.  But we don’t have to cave to flawed requests.

 

The Common Core wants local laws to match its goals, not only to nationalize education, but to dramatically increase data collection and centralization. FERPA laws stand in its data-hungry way. So the board just “revised” FERPA.  If it’s anything like what Davis County recently revised, it waives the need for parental consent to access student data.

 

The board must be aware that federal control over state educational decisions carries zero authority; federal or consortia requests to alter Utah law are not permissable. 

–Unless, of course, a local school board deliberately hands over the keys to the feds like they did this week. 

 

FERPA laws are protective for student and family privacy rights, but since they do not match the goals of the Common Core Initiative, districts are asked to rewrite the protective laws.  Davis did it.  Now Wasatch has done it.  Yet under the Constitution and G.E.P.A. law, neither the federal arm (nor a federally-promoted consortium of states) is permitted to direct or control any aspect of state education –except as we drunkenly hand control away.

 

It is unthinkable that this board would not know that. It appeared that the School Board shrugged off the FERPA revision,  as if unaware that no outside force can mandate that locals change their laws.

 

The Common Core Initiative itself, which requested this invasion of privacy, repeatedly has claimed to be “state-led” and “not a federal initiative” in order to avoid the appearance of breaking laws that forbid the federal arm from imposing ideas about how families, districts and states should educate kids.

 

We can not blame our own weak willingness to give away local control, on the feds’ or anyone else’s unauthorized requests to have that control.

 

It is our fault, locally, that control is being lost.  It’s not just the Governor’s fault, or Superintendent Shumway’s, or the USOE’s.  It is ours.  It is our school board’s.  We are not defending ourselves.

 

One board member recently told me I was misinformed and insisted that “Under Common Core, we have local control.” Tonight, she ironically gave away even more local control, right in front of my eyes, at a request from those who had no authority to ask for it. Why?

 

 

Christel Swasey

 

Posted April 20, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Connecting the Dots: If Common Core’s Bad, Why Does It Sound So Good?   Leave a comment

Some teachers really love Common Core.  They are the ones who have taught the subjects that actually have raised standards.  They view anyone who’s against Common Core as the Grinch coming to steal Christmas away.

But the teachers who don’t like Common Core remain in the spiral of silence, afraid to speak up in fear of losing their jobs or being seen as odd in an ocean of Common Core accepters, toleraters, or promoters.

Then there are teachers like me and a few others who can’t seem to be shut up.

There are definitely extremes on this issue.

I’m saying things like:

The standards aren’t high enough in math. The CCSS standards don’t allow enough classic literature, and don’t have any amendment clause (not Utah’s current Core but the federal CCSS standards, have no amendability).

But current standards, ultimately, are irrelevant because they’re going to be replaced by the federal standards once teachers figure out that in order to get high student scores and merit pay, they have to teach to the test, and the test is based on the federal standards, not on the Utah Common Core.  (The centralized testing system will be implemented by 2015).

On one hand, if you visit the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) website, the official Common Core website, or sites for any Common Core or nationalized-education promoting entity (such as the U.S. Department of Education, the CSSSO, NGA, Bill and Melinda Gates, Achieve, WestEd, or the Council on Foreign Relations sites, you will hear beautiful words about how free, educationally sound, and positive Common Core is, both educationally and politically.  On the other hand, if you read my research, Alisa Ellis’ research (http://commoncorefacts.blogspot.com) or the research of any not-federally-funded think tank, such as Heritage Foundation or Pioneer Institute, you’ll hear a very different song from the one the Common Core is singing.

If Common Core’s so good, why am I calling it bad?  What is wrong with me?  Am I paid by some fanatical anti-government group? Am I being fed propaganda by special interest groups?  Who am I to say these things?  Am I really just a mom and a teacher who cares about freedom of education that much?

Yes, indeed, I am.

So, I’ve realized that I need to simplify and slow down and explain things from the beginning, so that anyone can understand how I arrived at these conclusions, and what possessed me to sign the http://utahnsagainstcommoncore.com petition at all.

I have only been researching Common Core for a few weeks.  I started in March.  It’s April.  I didn’t know ANYTHING in February. It’s not rocket science.  You just have to connect the dots.

When my friend sent me the link to a local Heber school board meeting to watch, I saw two women who I’d never seen before, although they live only blocks away from my house.  One was a teacher, Renee Braddy.  One was a mother of seven, Alisa Ellis.  They gave a presentation about their concerns about Common Core.  They’d been doing research.  http://youtu.be/Mk0D16mNbp4 As soon as I saw their presentation I asked my friend to give me their contact information (she knew them).  I needed to know more for myself.

I started studying intensely.  I started to write emails and to ask questions of local and state school board members, teachers, administrators, legislators, senators, think tank writers, and students who were trying out Common Core right now.  The more I learned, the more I needed to know and the more I realized how little I, or any teacher or regular citizen, knew about it.

I became a little obsessed.  I stayed up later and got up earlier to study and to write.  My laundry piled up worse than it usually does.  I quit baking.  Okay, it’s been three weeks, and I am still no less obsessed.  I feel compelled to share what I am learning because it is so important.

I found out that Utah had joined the Common Core in 2009 in order to qualify for more points to get more eligible to win a federal grant.  Utah didn’t win it, but in the application process for the grant, we’d gotten hooked.  We hadn’t done a legal analysis.  We hadn’t done a cost analysis.  We hadn’t had a public vote.  We hadn’t had a legislative discussion.  Teachers and administrators weren’t asked to give input until much later.  We just plunged in.

This was nuts by anybody’s definition.  The standards hadn’t even been written yet, nor the test that we’d just agreed to change our entire educational system to abide by.  We were like gamblers in Vegas, hoping for a win.  So very foolish of us.

I’m not pointing fingers.  We all get information overload, and grant applications are huge, thick, dense forests of words that take extreme focus, legal teams or grant professionals to decipher. Maybe the three who signed:  Governor Herbert, Superintendent Larry Shumway, and School Board Member Debra Roberts, simply didn’t understand when they signed the whole State up (teachers, students, taxpayers– doesn’t that cover every soul in Utah?) –Maybe they had no idea of the vast implementation work ahead, or the giving away of Utah’s ability to set her own standards, or the budget-thunking gravity of Common Core and its testing arm, which they’d signed up for in that grant application.  Let’s give all three of them the benefit of the doubt.

But by now, haven’t they each been pestered by teachers, taxpayers, parents and citizens –including me– sufficiently that they must now realize it’s high time to shift into reverse?

Keep Thomas Jefferson’s wisdom in mind:

“It is important to strengthen the State governments; and as this cannot be done by any change in the Federal Constitution (for the preservation of that is all we need contend for), it must be done by the States themselves, erecting such barriers at the constitutional line as cannot be surmounted either by themselves or by the General Government. The only barrier in their power is a wise government. A weak one will lose ground in every contest.” –Thomas Jefferson to Archibald Stuart, 1791.

Posted April 19, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Part II: Deciphering the Cooperative Agreement: One grant writer’s translation…   Leave a comment

 

Part II:  Translating the document:  The “Cooperative Agreement” says that:

“The objective is to assist the consortium in fulfilling, at minimum, the goals articulated in the consortium’s approved Race to the Top Assessment (RTTA) application, requirements established in the RTTA Notice Inviting Applications (NIA) for New Awards for Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 that was published in the Federal Register on April 9, 2010, and any subsequent additions detailed through this agreement. “

So, right there, they said, “It is our goal to enforce our goals which we already told you about in previous documents you signed (hope you kept your copy; we kept ours) and to let you know we’ll add plenty more mandates in this document.”

Later in the document, after saying they’ll be requiring status updates, phone calls, and written reports from us, they say we must also give them our students’ data, on an ongoing basis:

coordinate with the ED staff to fulfill the program requirements established… including, but not limited to working with the Department… to make student-level data that results from the assessment system available on an ongoing basis”

Translation:  You will coordinate testing and standards with us.  You will give the feds your students’ data whenever we like.  

Then they say:  “The Program Officer is responsible for supporting the recipient’s compliance with Federal requirements”

Translation:  The federal government will make sure you comply.  (Remember how the USOE and Arne Duncan kept calling Common Core “voluntary” and “state-led”? Hmm.)

 “The Program Officer will facilitate interaction with other offices of the Department as needed”

Why on earth would we need other Department offices in on this?  Isn’t it enough to have to coordinate data with the other consortium and with the federal arm?  Is there no end to the lack of control and privacy over student data?

Next: “respective Project Directors for RTTA and GSEG AA-AAAS will collaborate to coordinate appropriate tasks and timelines to foster synchronized development of assessment systems supported by these grants. The Program Officer for the RTTA grantees will work with the Project Directors for both RTTA grantees to coordinate and facilitate coordination across consortia.”

Translation:  Utah and her huge consortium, plus Florida and her huge consortium, must act as one.  The almost-national tests will be totally synchronized and centralized, so that the Federal arm can better research and control your educational ideas, your data and you. 

Thus, only a handful of states (Virginia, Texas, South Carolina, etc.) who were smart enough not to join the Common Core movement or who pulled out fast, before becoming too financially and functionally invested to pull out, will have their student privacy intact and their freedom over education intact

 

 

Posted April 19, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Part I: Deciphering the Cooperative Agreement: One grant writer’s translation   1 comment

I wrote grants for a living, for a little over a year.  It wasn’t fun. And I don’t know all there is to know about grants. But  I know a few things about grants that lots of people don’t.

1.  Grants are not free money.  Grantors have written agendas.  Grants are legally binding contracts.  If you receive grant money but do not obey the terms of the contract, you have to give it back.  This is why it was a blessing to Utah that we didn’t get any money from the Race to the Top application when we joined Common Core.  We can sever ties with Common Core and lose nothing.

2.  Grants are like algebra.  You have to define terms (sometimes outside of the grant document itself) and solve for sections of the grant, and then plug in what those terms mean in other places.  For example, if you read “Program Officer” in the example below, you have to think, “U.S. Department of Education,” each time you read it.  If you read “Project Director,” you have to think, “Utah,” since Utah’s in the SBAC, and the SBAC’s project manager is WestEd, and WestEd is the test writer/grant recipient.  Connect the dots.

The funny thing is, the word “Utah” never even appears anywhere in the Cooperative Agreement document.  But Utah has given over her rights to the SBAC’s fiscal agent, Washington State.  So anything Washington State agrees to, concerning the national assessments, Utah must live by.  That’s what consortium consensus means, folks.

One grant’s rules affect another’s, even if they don’t both say the same things.  So even though Utah won no grant money in one first Race to the Top application, Utah’s agent did win money in the other Race to the Top assessments application.  So Utah has to obey the rules of that grant– unless we choose to be free of all of this.  Which we still can if our leaders would take action.

Let’s look at the Cooperative Agreement, line by line, and translate what it means.  (My comments are in bold)

COOPERATIVE AGREEMENT Between the U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION and the SMARTER BALANCED ASSESSMENT CONSORTIUM and the STATE OF WASHINGTON (fiscal agent)

Date: January 7, 2011. PR/Award #: S395B100003 and S395B100003A

In accordance with 34 CFR 75.200(b)(4), this award is a cooperative agreement because the Secretary of Education (Secretary) has determined that substantial communication, coordination, and involvement between the U.S. Department of Education (Department or ED) and the recipient is necessary to carry out a successful project. Consistent with 34 CFR 75.234(b), the terms and conditions identified in this cooperative agreement set out the explicit character and extent of the anticipated collaboration between ED and the award recipient.

“In accordance with 34 CFR 75… “ blah blah blah–   this tries to sound like it’s referring to a law, but if you google that blah blah blah part, it’s just a grant application.  It’s money.  So it’s claiming authority “By the authority of money, not of law” –that’s is what the U.S. Dept of Ed. is saying.

“this award is a cooperative agreement because the Secretary of Education (Secretary) has determined”  –Did you catch that?  One man, Arne Duncan, a huge proponent of Common Core, a buddy of Obama, an enemy to states’ sovereignty (check out what he says about Texas and South Carolina for not wanting to be part of the Common Core)– this one man, alone, takes authority –which he doesn’t have Constitutionally– but by the authority of money, he makes these legal-sounding demands and intrusions to affect over 90% of every U.S. child concerning privacy issues, data collection and educational testing and standards. 

“(Secretary) has determined that substantial communication, coordination, and involvement between the U.S. Department of Education (Department or ED) and the recipient is necessary” Here’s where it really gets intrusive. Compare the words “communication, coordination, and involvement” with the words in the General Educational Provisions act and other laws.

ESEA does not authorize any federal official to “mandate, direct, or control” the content taught in local schools.

The General Education Provisions Act of 1970 says that “no provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize” any federal agency or official “to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction” or selection of “instructional materials” by “any educational institution or school system.”

The law establishing the Education Department forbids it from exercising “any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum” or “program of instruction” of any school or school system.  Interesting.  But there’s much more! 

  (Read Part II )

Posted April 19, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

EVIDENCE AND LINKS – official links and documents that show Common Core robs Utah of educational freedom   Leave a comment

There is much more.  But this is a starter:

1.  Cooperative Agreement Between SBAC (Utah’s consortium)  and U.S. Dept. of Educationhttp://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf

This document shows the oppressive rules of oversight of the federal government on testing and data collection. It shows the triangulation and centralization of data collection and test creation between the two groups of states and the federal government.

2.  Race to the Top Grant Application lost freedom hooked Utah http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/phase1-applications/utah.pdf

This document is where Utah tried, but failed, to win a grant.  Why does it matter now? There were ways to get more eligibility points to raise the odds that we’d win, hoops to jump through, including signing up for a testing consortium (SBAC) and signing up for Common Core.  This is where we got seduced, by the hope for money we never saw, into selling our educational birthright and losing freedom over education.

3. Two sets of standards  – WestEd letter – http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/04/06/what-is-wested-and-why-should-you-care/

This is a letter I received from SBAC’s project manager, WestEd/  WestEd writes the test Utah kids will take.  I asked how Utah’s separate standards would be relevant if we’re all in a consortium.  They responded that x

4.  Freedom diluted or deleted –and no one cares. The USOE and most members of the State School Board do not seem to care whether Utah is free over her own educational decisions or not.  The U.S.O.E. lawyer responded to the question of why is there no amendment process over the CCSS standards by saying, “Why would there need to be?  The whole point is to get to a place where there is a ‘common core’ – that would mean the same standards for all the states that adopt it.  If the states had the freedom to ‘disagree’ and ‘change’ them, I guess they would no longer be ‘common’.”

http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/evidence-and-links/

5. Literally, a double standard on standards – If you read the USOE website or the US Dept of Education website, you will find some truths and some lies.  Lies include the omission of the fact that there are two sets of standards, the claim that the federal government did not promote, lead, or direct the initiative in any way, and the claim that the Common Core raises standards across the board.  In fact, the Common Core standards do raise some standards, but lower others.  One size does not fit all. http://www.schools.utah.gov/core/Utah-Core-Teachers-Resources.aspx

Posted April 19, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Letter to USOE / Sydnee Dickson about Deseret News article   Leave a comment

Dear U.S.O.E. / Sydnee Dickson,

I read Ben Woods’ well researched article in the Deseret News yesterday. You were quoted: “I have yet to hear any of the political comments [against Common Core] that are valid,” Dickson said. “It’s all steeped in fear and not fact.”

There is a teacher (me) who is not only against common core but who has been trying very, very hard to get an appointment with the USOE legal department to clear up some of the “misinformation that has been circulating.” I can’t get information from my own district; everyone’s caught up in the spiral of silence here in the Wasatch District.

I want to go over legal documents, line by line, with a USOE lawyer or any lawyer. But I’m not allowed to talk to the USOE until “public input time” April 23rd through 27th. I can’t get a face to face appointment to give educator input based on facts that prove Common Core does tie Utah educators to rules we didn’t make and can’t amend.

The USOE refuses to address legally binding issues, or to direct the USOE legal department to do so.

The USOE’s focus solely on the standards is a huge problem. It’s like focusing on not messing up your nail polish while the house is burning down outside the bathroom door. Standards have only temporary value or meaning without political freedom.

Power has been given away, by people who had no right to give it away, to a consortium of states: Utah will have to submit to Washington State’s will, when push comes to shove, on decisions that affect Utah’s school children, under the SBCA rules. Look it up on the SBAC’s website.

Power has also been given away to the federal government. Utah, as part of the SBAC, must give telephone conferences, written reports, status updates, must coordinate “across consortia,” and triangulate data with the feds that we teachers will be collecting on children to give to the feds. (Not aggregated academic data, but personal, psychometric, identifiable data, just as the government collects info on kids in China and other un-free countries). It’s a fact. Read the attached legal document: “Cooperative Agreement between the U.S. Dept. of Ed and the SBAC”.

Your top lawyer told me, when I referred to it, that she thought the “Cooperative Agreement” was a hoax.

That is how little she, or any legal mind in the state, has studied it. (The USOE lawyer was also unaware that our state never did a cost analysis on Common Core.)

I sent the USOE laywer the Cooperative Agreement PDF. Before she’d read it, she’d invited me to call the secretary to get an appointment to see her and Judy Park. But the next day, the appointment was cancelled. I have the emails to prove it.

USOE employees told me that they had been directed not to speak with me, but to pass me to the P.R. department, Brenda Hales. Who is afraid of me and why? Why not look at Utah’s educationally binding legal documents with a Utah teacher?

After Carol Park read the Cooperative Agreement PDF, she said, “I disagree with your interpretation.” (Read it. Attached.)

So I asked Dean Rowley, one of the nonvoting state board members from Nebo District, if he could get any lawyer to work on this. He directed me to Reed Park of Nebo’s legal team. Reed Park said these are complex legal questions that he does not have time to examine unless he is directed to do so. I asked the Nebo School District to give Mr. Park permission to study these issues. Then Dean Rowley said, on behalf of Nebo, Mr. Park doesn’t have the permission or time.

Why doesn’t Mr. Park have the time to study whether or not Utah’s given up her educational decision making rights to a consortium and to the federal branch?

Alisa Ellis, Renee Braddy and I (two teachers and a mom) visited with the Governor two weeks ago. We gave him a binder of evidence and a jumpdrive.

We pled with our Governor to sever ties with Common Core, based on the evidence. We told him that The Emperor (of Common Core) is wearing no clothes: Utah didn’t need Common Core to raise standards. It’s all in the public domain. Nobody loses anything, no teacher is going to cry, when we sever ties to Common Core. We can do whatever we like in Utah– but only if we examine our sovereignty and how it’s been handed over to a consortium of states closely directed and controlled by the feds.

The governor said he’d have us back in his office later, along with Larry Shumway and his lawyers in the room, because the evidence we presented was confusing to him.

But there’s more evidence.

I took the time to write to the test writers (WestED) directly, because I couldn’t get a clear legal response from USOE’s P.R. woman, Brenda Hales. Adorable though she is, she tends to talk around, rather than answer, questions.

I asked: “Please help me understand how the individual standards of a member state of SBAC will still be relevant in light of the fact that all the SBAC states take the same test.”

West Ed responded: “state-specific 15%… is not considered the Smarter Balanced test.In order for this system to have a real impact within a state the state will need to adopt the Common Core State Standards (i.e., not have two sets of standards)”.

So WestEd realizes that there are two sets of standards. Only one set can be amended by Utah.

But the USOE does not realize this, or at least they aren’t transparent about it on the website.

There are the Utah Core Standards, which are slightly higher –at least in the amount of classic literature allowed in the English
classroom. Utah can amend them via our State School Board. Then there are the CCSS standards, which are a HUGE problem for state freedom. There is NO AMENDMENT PROCESS for the CCSS standards.

Proof?

The USOE lawyer, before she was directed to not speak to me, cleared it up.

I asked: “Why is there no amendment process for the CCSS standards?”

She said: “The whole point is to get to a place where there is a ‘common core’ – that would mean the same standards for all the states that adopt it. If the states had the freedom to ‘disagree’ and ‘change’ them, I guess they would no longer be ‘common’.”

So it’s not that there’s no lack of evidence. There is only a lack of willingness. The USOE and its legal arm will not defend our state’s legal rights and educational freedoms. Who will? I will. Will you?

Common Core is led by forces outside Utah. By adopting Common Core, Utah gives up her freedom to disagree. Utah gives up her freedom to ever raise or lower educational standards. Choice is over. State sovereignty is over. And that’s okay with Larry Shumway, Arne Duncan and the USOE.

But is it the right thing to do?

FERPA privacy laws are being clobbered; see what Davis County just rewrote in order to get around parental consent laws to align with Common Core’s data collection rules.

G.E.P.A. laws are being utterly ignored– not just by the feds, but by Utah herself!

The 9th and 10th Amendments to the Constitution, which like G.E.P.A. laws, forbid the feds from controlling states’ rights, have been forgotten.

This is your moment of truth. Your decision, whether to turn a blind eye or look at the legal facts, will affect millions of kids and teachers and taxpayers for years to come.

You can call me misinformed. Or you can grab a lawyer and start doing your homework.

Christel Swasey

Heber City

Teacher

 Petition signer: Petition to the Superintendent, Board and Governor at http://utahnsagainstcommoncore.com

 

 

 

Posted April 18, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

John Valentine’s 3 Question Litmus Test for Educators   Leave a comment

From John Valentine:

“Like most legislation, [CORE curriculum] stared out with the best of intentions to give teachers and students across the state the best teaching tools available. However…

In weighing any education reform legislation, I use three key questions to serve as a litmus test in determining if it would help or harm our students:

 

1. Is this something that is moving power away from parents and teachers and toward the government?

 

2. Will it create larger class sizes or restrict per-student funding?

 

3. Does it add unnecessary levels of administration and/or arbitrary testing?

 

“If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” the legislation fails my test and should be either slowed down to remove the harmful aspects in a thoughtful, deliberative manner or it should be scrapped altogether. This is why I voted twice to ask the state board of education to reconsider the adoption of common CORE.”

 

“I oppose any “No Child Left Behind” style of legislation, which needlessly adds levels of bureaucracy and testing, burdens the learning environment and takes local control away from teachers and parents. I believe common CORE curriculum many contain some of these same burdensome mandates and definitely brings many unanswered questions.”

 

“Teachers and parents — not the government – know what is best from their students, which is why I oppose top-down control in education that makes it difficult, if not impossible, for teachers and parents to adjust curriculum to better meet students’ needs. Parents should not be forced to lobby the state legislature in order to customize what is taught in their child’s classroom.”

 

Amen, Mr. Valentine!

Posted April 18, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Transparency Opportunity – Public Comments and Forum at USOE April 23-27th   Leave a comment

The USOE is hosting a forum April 26th from 6-8 p.m. 

Public comments are being recorded April 23-27th at:

email- contact@schools.utah.gov

facebook – http://facebook.com/UtahPublicEducation

twitter- @UTPublicEd #corestandards

The event will be live-streamed at http://connect.schools.utah.gov/USBE

Be at the Granite School District Board Room 2500 South State Street, SLC, Utah, on April 26th at 6-8.

Posted April 17, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Letter from Rosie Bahr: Longitudinal databases track students and families from preschool through career   1 comment

Ms. Swasey,

I recently received a forwarded copy of your email regarding common core and couldn’t agree more. Thank you for speaking out and for raising awareness about the issue. I sent letters to State School Board, Governor Herbert, PTA president, Congressmen and Senators a couple of months ago. The responses I have received, and they have been few, have not been comforting.

One additional issue that has been in the works by the DOE for several years and was finished off by common core is the creation of a longitudinal database designed to track students and their families from preschool through career. This database collects information that no one should collect, let alone be kept in a government database and is readily available to just about anyone due to changes made in January by the Department of Education. Common core was the  pathway used to justify linking and increasing accessibility of this information.

According to the American Recovery and Reinvestment, states had to agree to build database systems according to federally dictated standards to qualify for stimulus money. All 50 states either now maintain or are capable of maintaining extensive databases on public-school students. Utah was recently praised for having a database that met all ten essential components for the database as outlined by the federal government. The information contained in this database is much more than name, address, and test scores. According to the National Data Collection Model, the government should collect information on health-care history, family income, family voting status, gestational age of students at birth, student ID number, and bus stoptimes among other pieces of information on the student and their families.  You can view the National Data Collection Model database attributes (data categories) at http://nces.sifinfo.org/datamodel/eiebrowser/techview.aspx?instance=studentPostsecondary

As of January 3, 2012 the Department of Education implemented changes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and basically overrode the privacy protections Congress included in FERPA, the Competes Act, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act where privacy protection of student information was specifically addressed and reiterated. The changes allow access to any of the information in the databases by any “authorized representative” without any notificationrequirement. The Fordham Law School Center for Law and Information Policy included the following explanation as part of comments they submitted during the comment period prior to implementation of the changes.

The Department [redefined] the term “authorized representative” to allow disclosure of educational records to individuals or entities who are not under the direct control of control of state, local or federal educational agencies and who are not performing educational audits or evaluations on behalf of state, local or federal education agencies. This new overbroad definition, in connection with the Department’s proposed definition for “education program” (which is discussed below), will expand the disclosures under the audit and evaluation exceptionfar beyond the intent and mandate of Congress and allow promiscuous datasharing that undermines accountability for privacy violations…

The Department’s new interpretation of “authorized representative” stretches the meaning of the term “representative” beyond its standard use. The re-interpretation alongside the Department’s new definition of the term “education program,” demonstrates that authorized representatives will now be external agencies or institutions conducting independent reviews and evaluations of programs unrelated to the Department and school based education. This construction of a “representative” is a significant departure from the ordinary usage of the term. A representative is typically considered one who stands in the shoes of another or operates on behalf of another. The new representatives that the Department proposes will not be acting on behalf of or under the direction of anyone. They will be independent actors with independent concerns and interests. If Congress had intended to permit disclosures to independent entities, it would have selected a term other than “representative” to reflect that intent…

The broad expansion of “education program” would undermine the Congressional goal of limiting access to educational records to those programs directly supervised by state and federal educational agencies. FERPA was very carefully crafted to preserve confidentiality of student records and allow through exceptions the use of students’ personal information for the provision and improvement of the educational programsprovided by traditional local education agencies…

The Department states as a goal the desire to have a broad definition in order to permit local educational agencies to share personally identifiable education records with non-educational agencies and entities. The Department would, in effect, be including private college test tutoring services, workforce training programs such as courses on bartending and flooring installation, and adventure playground programs within the definition of “educational program” and thus make them eligible to receive detailed educational records from kindergarten onward without student or parental consent. This redefinition of “educational program” contradicts the Department’s enabling mandate in FERPA and would indeed result in the sharing of educational records to organizations not covered by FERPA at all…

The Department now seeks to expand the exception to allow broad sharing of personally identifiable information with unlimited third parties so long as those parties can identify some type of educational services they provide.

The complete comments submitted by The Fordham Law School Center for Law and Information Policy during the open comment period last year are available at http://law.fordham.edu/assets/CLIP/CLIP_Comments_on_FERPA_NPRM.pdf

The Fordham comments are very substantive. Here is an opinion and blog related to the issue as well.

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/how_the_feds_are_tracking_your_kid_xC6wecT8ZidCAzfqegB6hL#ixzz1htUXiCRd http://pjmedia.com/blog/arne-duncans-brave-new-world-dept-of-education-wants-your-kids-blood-type/

Thank you for your willingness to step forward on behalf of all Utah students.

Gratefully,

Rosie Bahr

Posted April 16, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Exit Strategy For States Desiring to Sever Ties With Common Core and Assessment Consortiums   Leave a comment

Highlights from “National Standards Exit Strategy” by Lindsay Burke of Heritage Foundation:   http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/12/a-national-education-standards-exit-strategy-for-states

 

Exiting the Common Core National Standards

State policymakers should reclaim control over the content taught in their local schools by resisting the imposition of national standards and tests and preventing their implementation. States should consider the following three strategies:

 

1. Determine how the decision was made to cede the state’s standard-setting authority.

States can exit from the national standards overreach by first determining which state entity agreed to adopt the Common Core State Standards. For most states, the state board of education is the body that made the decision.

 

State boards of education have wide-ranging authority over education policy in most states. While authority varies from state to state, state constitutions and statutes generally give broad authority to state boards to implement policies governing standards, assessments, and curricula.

The adoption of Common Core national standards represents an abdication of this authority. Putting national organizations and Washington bureaucrats in charge of standards further removes parents and taxpayers from the educational decision-making process.

 

State boards of education were elected or appointed to govern state education policy, not to surrender educational authority to a centralization movement. Advocates of federalism should be concerned that their state officials have ceded authority of the standards and assessments that drive what is taught in local schools. They should also be concerned that, in addition to the heavy cost to liberty, states stand to incur significant new expenses as a result of Common Core adoption.

 

2. Prohibit new spending for standards implementation.  

Adoption of nationalized standards means overhauling existing state standards and assessments, which will be a costly endeavor for states. State and local taxpayers expended significant amounts of money in most states to implement and maintain existing state standards and tests. Making pedagogical and curricular changes, revamping professional development, and aligning textbooks and assessments to adhere to the Common Core will burden already-strained state budgets. Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott estimates national standards adoption would cost taxpayers in his state more than $3 billion.

 

To assess the full fiscal impact, state leaders should request an independent cost analysis of national standards adoption to inform taxpayers about the short-term and long-term costs of the overhaul.

 

At the same time, governors and state policymakers concerned with the national standards push should refuse to expend any state or local resources to align state standards, tests, and curricula with the Common Core national standards and tests. 

 

3. Determine how to reverse course.  

The rushed adoption of the Common Core in many cases preceded the election of 2010, which brought in new governors, legislators, and board members. Newly elected conservative leaders should be concerned about the authority handed to centralizers by their predecessors and investigate how to bring standards and curriculum control back into the hands of state leaders.

 

And here’s a link to the full version: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/12/a-national-education-standards-exit-strategy-for-states

Posted April 16, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

From One Utah Teacher To Another   Leave a comment

April 15, 2012

Dear Teachers,

 

I’m a Utah teacher.  I’ve taught 3rd grade for two years, high school English for five years, and college English at Utah Valley University for two years.  Teachers often stay neutral on political issues. But the Common Core Initiative affects what millions of children will be taught and what future educators will be able to teach for many years to come, not only in Utah but in a majority of U.S. states.

I’m concerned about Utah educators’ sustained freedom under the rules of the Common Core Initiative (CCI) and its testing arm, the SBAC. The experimental educational ideas of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS standards) –not identical to Utah’s current version of Common Core– come with few benefits and CCI has many long term liabilities to local freedom and values.

As an English teacher, I dislike the way the CCSS standards dramatically slash the percentage of classic literature permitted to be taught (to be replaced with info-texts). You might be thinking:  “but Utah uses the Utah Common Core, not the CCSS standards; so who cares?” Hold on; I will explain below how Utah’s standards won’t matter by 2015 in the “WestEd” paragraph below.

We Can Keep What We Like About CCI:

Many teachers do not realize that all the new standards that Utah started to implement this year were available in public domain; we did not need Common Core.  If we choose to sever ties with the Common Core Initiative and its testing arm to ensure freedom from federal or consortia controls, we are still free to use anything that’s in the public domain, including the standards of Common Core.  But we should write standards under our own sovereign state power, as the Constitution requires. (If you are thinking:  “But this is a state-led initiative, not a federal initiative,” hold on.  I will explain below, how the state-led claim is  technically true but not functionally true.)

The marketing of Common Core has been so excellent that very few people question it.  I attended last week’s State School Board meeting and realized that even at the administrative and state level, very few people have taken time to read the legally binding documents of Common Core and its accompanying testing and data collection arm, that I have studied.  These documents testify that Utah has given up her freedom over education, yet I feel alone in my sense of urgency to investigate this issue.  (Documents attached if you care to read them)

Common versus Sovereign:

As a high school English teacher, I loved “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut, a short story that begins as if it were introducing 2012 and the Common Core Initiative:

“THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.”

 Like the society in “Harrison Bergeron,” Utah has volunteered to be bound to in-commonness at the expense of freedom and innovation.  Utah has agreed to a system of nationalized standards and assessments in which Utah has little or no voice. Utah must submit to the consensus of a consortium of states on key educational decisions. There are many ways in which Common Core impacts Utah’s sovereignty over educational decisions.

There’s ample proof that Utah has given away her own freedom  over education to federal and consortium control.  There is evidence (see “WestEd” below) that the current “Utah Common Core” will be swapped for the non-amendable CCSS.  The federal CCSS will rule, bringing with it the already determined slashes to the percentage of allowable classic literature (in favor of info texts) and other yet-to-be-determined changes, not amendable by us. There is no way for Utah or any state to control what is contained in, or will change in, the CCSS.

Federal Control:

The Common Core Initiative is a movement that claims to be completely free of federal controls, claims to be a “state-led” raising of educational standards, and claims to promote college readiness.

As you know, Utah joined CCI in 2009 and implementation will be complete in 2015. But did you know that Utah did not seek out CCI?  We joined both CCI and SBAC because the federal government incentivized it. Joining meant we got more points toward winning a competitive grant called Race to the Top.  We didn’t win that grant– not a penny– but we are still bound to CCI and SBAC.  South Carolina Senator Mike Fair calls this error that South Carolina, Utah and other states made, a selling of our educational birthright without even getting the mess of pottage.  It’s hard to sever ties.  In fact, you need (among many other things) federal approval to withdraw.

Common Core requires states to accept common standards, to which states may only add 15% more. (But that 15% will never be tested by the common test).

The U.S. Dept. of Education funded (and works closely with) each group that played a role in developing the national standards and both consortia contracted to write tests to CCSS standards. The U.S. DOE closely supervises data collected by the tests. The groups who did this educational work (that the federal government was not constitutionally  allowed to do) were groups paid by federal grants. They include West Ed, Achieve, Inc., The National Governors’ Association, and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The U.S. DOE holds tight control over the tests and has requirements for each group of states to coordinate tests “across consortia,” to give status updates and to provide access to information about the tests to the U.S. DOE on “an ongoing basis.” (See “SBAC Cooperative Agreement.”)

The standards themselves are not unquestionably high across disciplines.  Texas opted out of Common Core because it had higher math standards already and didn’t want the 3 billion dollar implementation cost of adding Common Core.  Massachusetts actually lowered state math standards by joining Common Core.  Professor Sandra Stotsky, who served on the Common Core Validation Committee, refused to sign off that the English standards were authentic for college prep. Stanford Professor Michael Kirst said: “the standards for college and career readiness are essentially the same. This implies the answer is yes to the question of whether the same standards are appropriate for 4 year universities, 2 year colleges, and technical colleges. The burden of proof for this assertion rests with CCSSO/NGA, and the case is not proven”.

The CCSS are common, one-size-fits-all standards that restrict local innovation, and the ability to further raise standards, regardless of whether the standards are currently higher or lower. The tests that go with the standards don’t allow local innovating either. Since educational standards and decisions are meaningless without political freedom, there is little sense in analyzing whether the Utah Common Core standards are now better or worse;  Utah can’t control any aspect of the CCSS.

 

There are two sets of standards (Utah Common Core & Common Core State Standards) that Utah will need to choose between and only the first  has an amendment process. See “WestEd” below.

SBAC is the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.  Utah belongs to this group, but the state in charge (and the fiscal agent) is Washington State.  Although Utah received no money from the Race to the Top grant, collectively the SBAC did win a grant to develop a testing system. Utah is bound to obey the terms of the SBAC’s grant which include many freedom-closing mandates and expensive requirements. As a condition of the grant, all member states must adopt the Common Core (CCSS federal standards) No analysis has been done by Utah on CCI/SBAC implementation costs.

USOE,  the Utah State Office of Education, is a powerful office. Yet the USOE did not legally analyze Common Core; it was flatly accepted as true doctrine.  A USOE lawyer told me a few days ago that she thought that the “Cooperative Agreement” I referred her to didn’t exist or was a hoax.  After I sent her the PDF, she then changed her response and said she disagreed with my interpretation of it.

The same USOE lawyer answered my question: “Why is there no amendment process for the CCSS standards?” by saying: “The whole point is to get to a place where there is a ‘common core’ – that would mean the same standards for all the states that adopt it.  If the states had the freedom to ‘disagree’ and ‘change’ them, I guess they would no longer be ‘common’.”  So freedom is not a priority to the USOE legal team.

The day after she wrote me that email, a directive went out at the USOE that no one (the legal department included) was allowed to answer further questions from me, a Utah teacher asking appropriate questions. They were told to direct me to the Public Relations department. So then I wrote to the Utah Attorney General for help and am still waiting for his response.

Another teacher, a friend, and I visited the Governor in his office two weeks ago to plead with him to reject Common Core.  We talked, gave him a binder and a jump drive containing evidence that federal control and consortia-control of Common Core jeopardized Utah’s educational freedoms, and asked him to sever ties with CCI and SBAC.  He said we were confusing him and promised to have us back in three weeks with Superintendent Shumway and his lawyer in the room.  (I can keep you posted.)

WestEd  – As the project manager/test writer for the SBAC, WestEd holds an important role in the CCI.  I wrote a letter to WestEd in which I inquired, “Please help me understand how the individual standards of a member state of SBAC will still be relevant in light of the fact that all the SBAC states take the same test. For example, if  Colorado added 15% more calculus to their math standards than the federal standards had, while Utah added 15%  more geometry, how will those individual state standards be addressed by the test?  If the WestEd’s test contains neither Colorado’s calculus nor Utah’s geometry, because their standards were actually higher than those of the federal government’s, how will the test benefit the SBAC states?”

WestEd replied, ” If a state chooses to add their state-specific 15% to the Consortium test, then that additional information can be included in their  local reporting, but is not considered the Smarter Balanced test.  In order for this system to have a real impact within a state the state will need to adopt the Common Core State Standards (i.e., not have two sets of standards). As a condition of the grant, all member states participating in the assessment must adopt the Common Core.”

Did you catch that?  “…Not have two sets of standards”.  What happens when states want to compete for high scores on a common test?  They will need to teach to the same set of standards that the test uses.

Why haven’t we been told more about Common Core?  Hypothesis:  Superintendent Larry Shumway sits on the board of WestEd. He also sits on two of the boards that contracted the development of the CCSS standards. It’s not strange that he has not provided transparency for Utahns about Common Core’s mandates and costs.

A Spiral of Silence 

Marketing of Common Core has been target-specific. The national PTA received a two million dollar donation to actively promote Common Core. But CCI proponents didn’t promote it outside the school system and CCI was never up for public vote or legislative input. It slid under taxpayer, parental, and legislative radar.  The Governor told my friend he did not recall having signed it.  He probably trusted those around him to do their homework.

Even though CCI was funded by, and is largely controlled by, the federal government, it was labeled a “state-led initiative.” The federal government paid groups to do what it was not constitutionally permitted to do.  The Congressional Budget Office never could do a cost analysis and the taxpaying public was kept in the dark. Remember, the Constitution and G.E.P.A. laws clearly forbid the federal government from controlling or making decisions related to states’ education.

If teachers or administrators don’t like CCI,  they don’t dare speak against it because it’s been handed down as an unassailable doctrine of raising school standards. They fear losing their jobs by speaking out.

There is a survey that must be taken by anyone hoping to apply as a candidate for the Utah State School Board.  The very first question is:  “Do you support Common Core?” Can anyone who does not agree with Common Core be elected to the State School Board?

Fight for Educational Freedom

The Common Core question comes down to this: would Utah rather have education in common with a majority of other states, under the partial or full control of others’ ideas about what is good for our kids, or would Utah prefer to have sovereignty to make educational decisions?

A great American, Ezra Benson, said: “I say to you with all the fervor of my soul that God intended men to be free. Rebellion against tyranny is a righteous cause. It is an enormous evil for any man to be enslaved to any system contrary to his own will…  once freedom is lost, only blood –human blood – will win it back.”

There is a petition that Utahns are signing to sever ties with CC/SBAC.   Links to documentable evidence are available at  http://utahnsagainstcommoncore.com and  http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com (my own blog) as well as at http://commoncorefacts.blogspot.com/.  Emails to State School Board Members are attached.

Please consider the long term impacts of Common Core and let your Utah School Board, Superintendent Shumway, and Governor Herbert know how you feel.  Now is our window of opportunity.  If we wait, we’ll be too financially and in other ways invested to withdraw from Common Core.

Thank you for your time.

Christel Swasey

Utah Teacher

 

 

State School Board Contact Information:

 

Tami  Pyfer

 

tami.pyfer@usu.edu

 

435-753-7529

 

 

 

Keith Buswell

 

kbuswell@wadman.com

 

801-510-1773

 

 

 

Craig Coleman

 

dosmetros57@gmail.com

 

801-654-3655

 

 

 

David Thomas

 

dthomas@co.summit.ut.us

 

801-479-7479

 

 

 

Michael Jensen

 

jensen1brit@earthlink.net

 

801-955-5550

 

 

 

Joel Coleman

 

joel@joelcoleman.com

 

801-634-6251

Laurel Brown-Murray

 

laurelobrown@hotmail.com

 

801-261-4221

 

 

 

David Crandall

 

crandall@xmission.com

 

801-232-0795

 

 

 

Carol Murphy

 

camurf@hotmail.com

 

435-729-0941

 

 

 

Mark Openshaw

 

markopenshaw@gmail.com

 

801-377-0790

 

 

 

Dixie Allen

 

dixieleeallen@gmail.com

 

435-789-0534

 

 

 

Debra Roberts

 

debrar@netutah.com

 

435-438-5843

Posted April 16, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Letter to Church Leaders   Leave a comment

April 14, 2012

 

Dear Church Leaders,

 

President Benson said:  “As a watchman on the tower, I feel to warn you that one of the chief means of misleading our youth and destroying the family unit is our educational institutions.”

Usually, the church stays neutral on political and educational issues. But the Common Core Initiative affects what millions of Latter-day saint children and future missionaries will be taught for many years to come, not only in Utah but in a majority of U.S. states.

As a Latter-day Saint and as a lifelong teacher, I’m concerned about Utah’s involvement in the federally-tied Common Core Initiative, the experimental educational  program that comes with few documented benefits to Utah’s educational system, and with many long term liabilities to local freedom and values.

The marketing of Common Core has been so excellent that very few people question it.  I attended last week’s State School Board meeting and realized that even at the administrative and state level, very few people have taken time to read the legally binding documents of Common Core and its accompanying testing and data collection arm.  These documents testify that Utah has given up her freedom over education, yet I feel alone in my sense of urgency to investigate this issue.  (Documents attached)

Utah has volunteered to be tied down to nationalized standards and assessments in which Utah has little or no voice. Utah must submit to the consensus of a consortium of states on key educational decisions. There are many ways in which Common Core impacts Utah’s sovereignty over educational decisions. I would like to share what I have learned.

CCI  is the Common Core Initiative, a movement that claims to be completely free of federal controls,claims to be a “state-led” raising of educational standards, and claims to promote college readiness.  Utah joined CCI in 2009 and implementation will be complete in 2015.

Utah did not seek out CCI.  We joined both CCI and SBAC because joining meant we got more points toward winning a competitive grant called Race to theTop.  We didn’t win that grant but we are still bound to CCI and SBAC.  South Carolina Senator Mike Fair calls this error that South Carolina, Utah and other states made, a selling of our educational birthright without even getting the mess of pottage.

Common Core requires states to accept common standards, to which states may only add 15% more. (That 15% will never be tested by the common test).

The U.S. Dept. of Education funded (and works closely with) each group that played a role in developing the national standards and each group writing the tests. The U.S. DOE closely supervises data collected by the tests. The groups who did this educational work that the federal government was not legally allowed to do, groups which were paid by federal grants, include WestEd, Achieve, Inc., The National Governors’ Association, and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The U.S. DOE also holds tight control over the tests and has requirements for each group of states to coordinate tests “across consortia,” to give status updates and to provide access to information about the tests to theU.S. DOE on “an ongoing basis.” (See “SBAC CooperativeAgreement.”)

The standards themselves are not unquestionably higher.  Texas opted out of Common Core because it had higher math standards already and didn’t want the 3 billion dollar implementation cost of adding Common Core.  Massachusetts actually lowered state math standards by joining Common Core.  Professor Sandra Stotsky, who served on the Common Core Validation Committee, refused to sign off that the standards were adequate. Stanford Professor Michael Kirst said that “the standards for college and career readiness are essentially the same. This implies the answer is yes to the question of whether the same standards are appropriate for 4 year universities, 2 year colleges, and technical colleges. The burden of proof for this assertion rests with CCSSO/NGA, and the case is not proven”.

Regardless of whether the standards are considered high or low, they are common,one-size-fits-all standards that restrict local innovation. The tests that go with the standards don’t allow local innovating either. Since educational standards and decisions are meaningless without political freedom, there is little sense in analyzing whether the Utah Common Core standards are now better or worse;  Utah can’t control any upcoming changes to them.

There are two sets of standards (Utah Common Core & Common Core State Standards) that Utah will need to choose between and only the first  has an amendment process. See”WestEd” below for an explanation.

SBAC is the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.  Utah belongs to this group, but the state in charge (and the fiscal agent) is Washington State.  Although Utah received no money from the Raceto the Top grant, collectively the SBAC did win a grant to develop a testingsystem. Utah is bound to obey the terms of the SBAC’s grant which include many freedom-closing mandates and expensive requirements. Asa condition of the grant, all member states must adopt the Common Core (CCSS federal standards) No analysis has been done by Utah on CCI/SBAC implementation costs.

USOE  is the Utah State Office of Education, a powerful office with no meaningful accountability to anyone. No objective legal analysis has been done on Common Core by the USOE; Common Core is flatly accepted as true doctrine.  The lawyer there told me she thought that the “Cooperative Agreement” I referred her to didn’t exist or was a hoax.  After I sent herthe PDF, she said she disagreed with my interpretation of it.

The same USOE lawyer answered my question, “Why is there no amendment process for the CCSS standards?” saying: “The whole point is to get to a place where there is a ‘common core’ – that would mean the same standards for all the states that adopt it.  If the states had the freedom to ‘disagree’ and ‘change’ them, I guess they would no longer be ‘common’.”

The dayafter she wrote me that email, a directive went out at the USOE that no one (the legal department included) was allowed to answer further questions from me, but was to direct me to the Public Relations department. So then I wrote to the Utah Attorney General for help and am waiting for his response.

Two friends and I visited with the Governor in his office two weeks ago to plead with him to reject Common Core.  We talked, gave him a binder and a jumpdrive containing evidence that federal control and consortia-control of Common Core jeopardized Utah’s educational freedoms, and asked him to sever ties with CCI and SBAC.  He said we were confusing him and promised to have us back in three weeks with Superintendent Shumway and his lawyer in the room.

WestEd  is the project manager/testwriter for the SBAC.  I wrote a letter to WestEd in which I inquired, “Please help me understand how the individual standards of a member state of SBAC will still be relevant in light of the fact that all the SBAC states take the same test. For example, if  Colorado added 15% more calculus to their math standards than the federal standards had, while Utah added 15% more geometry, how will those individual state standards be addressed by the test?  If the WestEd’s test contains neither Colorado’s calculus nor Utah’s geometry, because their standards were actually higher than those of the federal government’s, how will the test benefit the SBAC states?”

 

WestEd replied, ” If a state chooses to add their state-specific 15% to theConsortium test, then that additional information can be included in their local reporting, but is not considered the Smarter Balanced test.  In order for this system to have a real impact within a state the state will need to adopt the Common Core State Standards (i.e., not have two sets ofstandards). As a condition of the grant, all member states participating inthe assessment must adopt the Common Core.”

 

Superintendent Larry Shumway sits on the board of WestEd. He also sits on two of the boards that contracted the development of the CCSS standards. He has not provided transparency for Utahns about Common Core’s mandates and costs.

 

A Spiral of Silence 

Marketing of Common Core has been target-specific. The national PTA received a two million dollar donation to actively promote Common Core. CC proponents didn’t promote it outside the school system and it was never up for public vote or legislative input. It slid under local radar.  Even though it was funded by, and is largely controlled by, the federal government, it was labeled a “state-led initiative.” The federal government paid groups to do what it was not constitutionally permitted to do.  The Congressional Budget Office never did a cost analysis and the taxpaying public was kept in the dark.

If teachers or administrators don’t like CCI,  they don’t dare speak against it because it’s been handed down as the unassailable doctrine of raising school standards. They fear losing their jobs by speaking out.

For example, there is a survey that must be taken byanyone hoping to apply as a candidate for the Utah State School Board.  The first question is:  “Do you support Common Core?” How can anyone who does not agree with Common Core be elected to the State School Board?

The question comes down to this:  would Utah rather have education in common with a majority of other states, under the control of others, or have sovereignty to make educational decisions?

President Benson said: “I say to you with all the fervor of my soul that Godintended men to be free. Rebellion against tyranny is a righteous cause. It is an enormous evil for any man to be enslaved to any system contrary to his own will…  once freedom is lost, only blood –human blood – will win it back.”

 

There is a petition with links to supporting evidence at http://utahnsagainstcommoncore.com and my own research is contained at http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com

 

Please keep this in your prayers and advise as you see fit.  Thank you for your time.

 

Christel Swasey

Teacher

Heber City, Utah

 

Posted April 15, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Evidence and Links   2 comments

Evidence and Links

 

A rising number of teachers, parents and taxpayers are expressing concerns about Utah’s adoption of the Common Core Initiative (CCI), its accompanying federal standards for states (CCSS) and its federally overseen and controlled testing arm (SBAC). Why?

1.   Utah did not seek out CCI; the initiative was presented as an eligibility enhancement by the U.S. Department of Education in its The Race To The Top grant. Joining the SBAC, too,  improved eligibility in the grant application. When Utah agreed to join the CCI and SBAC in 2009, the standards had not yet been written. 

EVIDENCE:    http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/faq.pdf

Utah joined both the CCI and the SBAC to win points toward getting the grant, and although Utah won no money, the extremely expensive and educationally restricting consequences of having agreed to sign up for CCI and SBAC remain.

2.  Utah has two new, conflicting sets of educational standards to juggle– the Utah Common Core, to which we currently teach, and the CCSS, to which our tests are being written. Utah is not likely to stick with the Utah Common Core when testing begins based on the federal CCSS in 2014. The appendix to the SBAC states that the tests will be based on the CCSS (federal) standards, and the SBAC project manager, WestEd, has affirmed:

EVIDENCE:   “In order for this [testing] system to have a real impact within a state, the state will need to adopt the Common Core State Standards (i.e., not have two sets of standards.)” -April 2012 statement from WestEd Assessments and Standards Senior Research Associate

3.  There is no amendment process for the CCSS (federal standards) and withdrawing from the SBAC requires federal approval.

Right now there is now a window of opportunity for Utah to sever the ties that bind us to CCI and SBAC; if we wait, the state will be too financially invested and legally entangled to withdraw. Withdrawing from the SBAC requires not only Utah’s, but also the consortium’s, and also federal, approval.

EVIDENCE:  http://www.smarterbalanced.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Smarter-Balanced-Governance.pdf

4. There has been no cost analysis, legal analysis, legislative input and little public input regarding CCI/SBAC.  Implementation of CCI has already begun in Utah schools; full implementation of the initiative and its tests will be completed in the 2014-2015 school year. 

An independent think tank in Massachusetts states that the cost over the first 7 years to states will be 16 billion dollars, or over 200 million per state, on top of regular educational needs. The Congressional Budget Office was not asked to do a cost analysis because asking would have pointed out that this was not a state-led initiative, contrary to the claims of its proponents. States’ commitments to CCI require billions of dollars in implementation and maintenance spending, money that competes with already-stretched educational budgets.

EVIDENCE: http://www.pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120222_CCSSICost.pdf 

5. The Common Core initiative represents an overreach of federal power into personal privacy as well as into state educational autonomy. There will be personal student information collected via the centralized testing-data collection, accessible to the Executive Branch.  This individualized data collection includes both academic and psychometric data about children, which is illegal in Utah.

 

EVIDENCE:   SBAC assessments’ inclusion of  psychometric testing is a violation of Utah law per code section 53A-13-302.

Both of the CCI’s testing arms (SBAC and PARCC) must coordinate tests and share information “across consortia” as well as giving the U.S. Department of Education phone responses, written status updates and access to information “on an ongoing basis.” Data will be triangulated with control, oversight and centralization by the Executive Branch (U.S. Dept. of Education). 

 

EVIDENCE:  “Cooperative Agreement between the U.S. DOE and the SBAC” http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf

 

The U.S. Department of Education (through the America COMPETES Act, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and the Race to the Top competition) has required the states to develop massive databases about school children.

The Department has eviscerated the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) by issuing new regulations that allow nonconsensual tracking and sharing of this personal data with other federal agencies, with government agencies in other states, and with private entities.

 

6. Utah has ceded her voice and educational sovereignty because Utah’s top educational leaders are persuaded that having standards and testing in common with other states matters more than holding onto the state’s right to raise standards sky-high. To Utah education leaders, the right to soar seems a freedom not worth fighting for, and maintaining state educational sovereignty is not a priority.

 

EVIDENCE:  ” The whole point is to get to a place where there is a ‘common core’ – that would mean the same standards for all the states that adopt it.  If the states had the freedom to ‘disagree’ and ‘change’ them, I guess they would no longer be ‘common’.” -April 2012 statement from USOE legal department

 

7.  The effort to nationalize and centralize education results in severe loss of state control of education and pushes states into a minimalist, common set of standards.  Dr. Sandra Stotsky, an official member of the CCSS Validation Committee, refused to sign off on the adequacy of the standards and testified that “Common Core has yet to provide a solid evidentiary base for its minimalist conceptualization of college readiness–and for equating college readiness with career readiness. Moreover… it had no evidence on both issues.”

The Common Core standards are experimental, expensive, controversial, and have not been piloted.

EVIDENCE: http://pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/100520_emperors_new_clothes.pdf)

Common Core standards are not considered among the best standards in the nation, and there are clearly superior standards.  Additionally, the CCI robs states of the sovereign right to raise state standards in the future. There’s no provision for  amending the CCSS federal standards, were we to choose to still remain bound by them.

The Common Core English standards reduce the study of literature in favor of informational texts designed to train children in a school-to-work agenda. The unsophisticated composition of those selected to write the Common Core Standards and the lack of transparency about the standards-writing process also raises concerns.

CCSS states a goal to promote “career and college ready standards,” a euphemism for “school-to-work” programs, diluting individual choice by directing children where to go and what to learn. They make no distinction between 2-year, 4-year or vocational standards.

8. Common Core has not proven to be state-led nor strictly voluntary; the U.S. Department of Education Secretary rages against states who reject the Common Core Initiative. 

When South Carolina Governor Haley backed away from the “voluntary” CCSS, she drew a sharp response from Arne Duncan, the federal Secretary of Education.  Duncan also publicly insulted all Texas students on television, saying “I feel very badly for Texas school children,” following Texas Governor Perry’s refusal to join the CC initiative. (Yet Texas math standards are higher than Common Core standards.)  Messages in public letters from Duncan to Utah leaders conflict with multiple, legally binding documents signed by his team at the U.S. Department of Education.

EVIDENCE:  Utah’s State School Superintendent admits that the U.S. Dept. of Education is already putting requirements on the state of Utah associated with the Common Core standards.

9.  The Common Core Initiative, far from being state-designed, is the product of the U.S. Department of Education funding and directing special interest groups (NGA, CCSSO, NCEE, Achieve, Inc., WestEd, and others) via federal grants.

EVIDENCE: http://www.wested.org/cs/we/print/docs/we/fund.htm

http://www.edweek.org/media/nga.pdf

 

10.  The Common Core Initiative violates fundamental laws that protect states’ independence.  Several national laws state that the federal government may not exercise any control of educational decisions.

But the Federal Government’s creation of national curricular materials, through contractors, and its control and oversight of testing and data collection, and its tests written to federal, nationalized standards, are in violation of three existing laws: NCLB, the Department of Education Organization Act, and the General Education Provisions Act; States have a responsibility to protect the balance of powers granted in the Constitution.

Utah has the responsibility to protect its rights to make educational decisions without federal input or control.

 

 11.  Transparency and  public debate about Common Core are lacking.  Utah educational leaders have a responsibility to encourage public discussion and lively debate about Common Core, because the initiative will impact children, taxpayers and teachers for a long time to come.

 

A spiral of silence has descended upon Utah educators, many of whom fear losing their jobs if they speak up against Common Core.  There is intense pressure to agree with Common Core Initiative at the State School Board level as well. Applicants for School Board membership must take a survey before the Board selects its pool of potential candidates. The survey asks: “Do you support Common Core?”

 

How could one with a differing view ever be elected? 

Posted April 12, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

So What Is Common Core? Fact Sheet with Links to Evidence   Leave a comment

 

 

Utah schools began to use Common Core (CC) standards this year.  Utah will have implemented all CCSS federal standards and SBAC tests, fully controlled by the federal government, by 2015. (http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf)   Utah has committed to billions in new CC spending that competes with Utah’s already-stretched educational budget to implement the mandates of CC and its testing arm, the SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium). http://www.pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120222_CCSSICost.pdf 

 

There is a small window of opportunity to guarantee educational freedom now; we can still sever ties with Common Core and the SBAC. http://www.utahsrepublic.org/proof-utah-is-on-the-hook-with-sbac/ Later, our state will be too financially and federally entangled to withdraw.  Although Utah’s sovereign right to educate is guaranteed by the Constitution, the initiative threatens that sovereignty and has slipped into being under most people’s radar.  It came in the form of a grant application (Utah didn’t get the money). Utah’s still bound to the RTTT grant conditions via CC’s testing arm, which we’d joined at the time we applied for the Race To The Top grant.) http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/pdf/arra/sbac_narrative.pdf

 

Facts:

  • There      is intense pressure to agree with Common Core Initiative among educators.  School Board applicants must take a      survey before the State Board selects a pool of candidates. The survey      asks: “Do you support Common Core?”  No one with a differing view can be      elected. 
  • No cost      analysis was done.      The USOE legal team claims, “I believe a cost analysis was done,”      but it has not.  The      Congressional Budget Office was not asked to do an analysis. Asking would      point out that this was not a state-led initiative. An independent think      tank’s cost analysis: http://www.pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120222_CCSSICost.pdf 
  • No      educational analysis has been done. How does Utah retain power to raise educational      standards in the future? (If ideas do not align lockstep with federal      Common Core Standards (CCSS), states under CC must submit to federal      agendas. Also, USOE’s website fails to explain that the current Utah Core      will be invalidated by CCSS federal standards when testing begins.
  • Utah      Legislators were left out of the loop: legislators are asked to allocate taxes to      support CCI and SBAC, but they were never appraised of budgetary demands      nor of the cost to freedom.
  • CC      comes with SBAC (testing arm) membership and student privacy loss. Both academic and      psychometric data is to be collected and shared (triangulated) across      consortia and with the Executive Branch (U.S. Dept. of Education).  This is clearly evidenced in the      “Cooperative Agreement between the U.S. DOE and the SBAC” http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf
  • There      is no amendment process      to disagree with the federal CCSS that Utah is contracted to teach. The USOE      lawyer’s response? “Why would      there need to be?  The whole point      is to get to a place where there is a ‘common core’ – that would mean the      same standards for all the states that adopt it.  If the states had the freedom to ‘disagree’      and ‘change’ them, I guess they would no longer be ‘common’.”

 

This is key:  the USOE lawyer realizes Utah has ceded our sovereignty and freedom.  She,  like most CC-proponents, value being common more than she values Utah being sovereign. Educational standards are meaningless without political freedom.  Utah has agreed to “possibly-better-possibly-worse” standards, and has signed on to a system that will not allow us to choose for ourselves to ever raise them higher or amend them.

Please contact the State School Board, the Governor and Superintendent of Schools and ask them to sever ties with CCI and SBAC. 

Any good that came from CCI implementation this year is in the academic public domain, and we can keep it.  

Uphold educational sovereignty in Utah.

Posted April 11, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Educational Decisions Are Meaningless Without Political Freedom   Leave a comment

Some teachers and administrators like Common Core standards.  Some don’t.  Those who like them are unhappy that I (and others like me) are petitioning Utah’s leaders to sever ties with Common Core and the SBAC.  Yesterday, an administrator accused me of not caring about education but only about politics.  How can she separate the two?  Educational decisions are meaningless without political freedom.

Like this administrator, I love the idea of higher educational aspirations and standards for our kids.   Why does she believe that if we sever ties with CCI and SBAC we’ll lose any good thing that has happened in Utah’s educational system as a result of beginning the CCI implementation this year?  Why would we lose any good academic choice in salvaging the academic freedom to choose?  It makes no sense.

Not only can we retain all the good we want to retain, since it’s all in public domain and we didn’t get any new standard that we’ll have to return; but importantly, we will retain our educational sovereignty.  If we sever ties with CC and SBAC:

  • No one will be able to tell us that we can’t raise Utah’s educational standards even higher (because of the severed necessity of staying “common” with the other consortium states).
  •  No one will be able to tell us that they’ve changed the CCSS standards at the federal level and that we must now, by mandate, add ideas and values to our curriculum and standards that we may oppose whether on academic, social, political, religious, or privacy related grounds.
  •  We will not be bound to the CCSS, which as you know, has NO AMENDMENT PROCESS.  We will not be bound to the SBAC tests, which, as you know, have zero input from the Utah Common Core and are based on the federal CCSS standards alone.  We will not be financially and technologically invested in a system that does not look kindly on withdrawals.

Posted April 11, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Plea to Utah Attorney General – April 2012   4 comments

 

Dear Utah Attorney General,

 

I am not a lawyer.  I am a teacher of high school English, third grade, and college English at UVU.  I’ve written education grants for schools in Utah County.  I’ve written for newspapers.  I translate documents from English to Swedish as I am currently staying at home with a one year old. I have no political agenda and nobody is paying me to fight Common Core.

 

I started to do my own research about the initiative a few weeks ago.  I am now fighting against Common Core’s full implementation in Utah and fighting for Utah’s guaranteed educational freedom, because that freedom is unquestionably threatened and has not been assigned any legal team to research and defend it.

 

Please look into the following questions about Utah’s involvement with the Common Core Initiative. There is a small window of opportunity now; we can sever ties with Common Core and the SBAC.  Later, our state will be too financially and in other ways entangled to withdraw.

 

There are discrepancies between what teachers and parents against common core have found, and what the Utah State Office of Education and its legal department have found.  This letter will outline a few.

 

There is an egregious lack of transparency about the intense pressure to agree with Common Core Initiative among educational administrators, teachers and USOE employees.

 

To illustrate: State School Board candidacy applicants must take a survey before the School Board selects a pool of candidates from which the Governor appoints new board members.  The survey’s first question is “Do you support Common Core?”  No one with a differing view can make it to the governor’s pool of candidates. 

 

There is a lack of understanding among citizens, educators and taxpayers about what Common Core costs, not only in terms of budget (no cost analysis was done on Common Core implementation) and in terms of Utah’s future power to raise educational standards when state ideas may not align lockstep with the ideas of the federal Common Core Standards (CCSS).  Legislators are expected to allocate funding to support Common Core, but they were never appraised of its budgetary demands nor of its cost to state educational freedom.

 

There is a lack of common knowledge among Utahns that Common Core comes with SBAC membership (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) and that there are not only untold financial costs but also as privacy infringements and FERPA law issues connected with the academic and psychometric data to be collected and shared (triangulated) across consortia and with the Executive Branch (U.S. Dept. of Education).  This is clearly evidenced in the “Cooperative Agreement between the U.S. DOE and the SBAC” (Exhibit A below).  However, the lawyer at the USOE told me that she did not agree with my interpretation of the agreement.  She diagrees with much of what I am reading and interpreting, which is why I have appealed to you.

 

To oversimplify:

 

  • Teachers and Parents Claim:  Common Core Initiative hurts Utah Education and robs state autonomy and budget
  • USOE Claims:  Common Core Initiative helps Utah  Education and does not rob state autonomy nor state budget

 

 

USOE claims that because U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has written public letters that affirm that Common Core in no way threatens Utah’s educational sovereignty, then Utah is guaranteed educational sovereignty.

 

There are problems with believing in the letters of Arne Duncan.  The public letters are not legally binding as the contractual, legally binding documents which he and his staff have signed, are binding; the letters also directly conflict with the documents in their many compliance regulations and G.E.P.A. law oversteps.  These documents are signed by the U.S. Department of Education and by Utah’s fiscal agents, (See Exhibit A) and Superintendent and Governor, (See Exhibit C) and they use carefully chosen words that misrepresent the set controls.  (See Exhibit B)

 

 

http://www.doe.k12.de.us/rttt/DE%20RTTT%20Narrative%20Final%20-%20100119_0116.pdf    (we did not win it but signed up for CC/SBAC on the application, to become eligible to win it)

and

http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/pdf/arra/sbac_narrative.pdf  (the SBAC testing consortium won this one; and Utah’s bound by it , via Utah’s SBAC fiscal agent, Washington State.)

 

 

The USOE lawyer wrote that “We did not win RTTT funds so Utah is not under the requirements of the grant.” She is correct that Utah did not win the first round of RTTT funds in the original application, but she is incorrect that Utah is not under the requirements of the grant, because Utah did, as a member of the SBAC consortium of states, “win” the other RTTT testing development grant, and although we get no money, Utah is bound to those consortium mandates and requirements.

 

USOE claims that “the supports we will receive and the testing that will be developed will be important so we can institute accountability to the standards.”

 

First, to which standards is she referring?  There are two sets of standards, the Utah Common Core and the Common Core State Standards.  One is being taught today, the other is the federal set to which teachers will teach after 2014 when testing has been implemented, since the test is written to that CCSS federal set of standards.  I assume she means the federal standards.

 

Second, why does Utah aspire to “be accountable to” minimalist federal standards that a) have not been proven to be high enough to enter college, (See Exhibit D) although in some areas such as grammar (but not in math) they are probably higher than what Utah had before;  and b) the federal standards have been proven to be much lower than what many other states had (Texas has higher math, South Carolina has higher history, Massachusetts had higher English before they lowered their standards in order to conform to the Common Core.)  Why not aspire to standards that are clearly superior to what Utah had before, standards that have an amendment process allowed, and standards over which Utah has a voice? 

 

The USOE’s claim that these are “more rigorous standards” has not been backed up by research.  In fact,  Professor Sandra Stotsky was one Common Core Validation Committee Member who refused to sign off on the standards, saying that: “The wisest move all states could make to ensure that students learn to read, understand, and use the English language appropriately before they graduate from high school is first to abandon Common Core’s “standards” and ask the National Governors Association to ask a national organization devoted to authentic literary study (ALSCW, e.g.,) to develop a set of high school literature standards that could serve as the backbone of a coherent literature curriculum from grade 6-12″

 

The USOE lawyer claims that “I believe a cost analysis was done,” when it has not. Here’s a link to an independent think tank’s cost analysis. The Congressional Budget Office was not asked to do a cost analysis because that would have pointed to the fact that this was not an initiative unrelated to the U.S. Department of Education, as some have claimed, and is not a state-led or state-controlled initiative.

http://www.pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120222_CCSSICost.pdf

 

 

USOE claims that there was public and legislative input; there was not:

“I believe there was consideration, great consideration,” wrote the USOE lawyer.

 

The USOE lawyer first told me the Cooperative Agreement (Exhibit A) must be a hoax because she hadn’t seen a copy of it.  I sent it to her.  Next she wrote this about the “Cooperative Agreement” (Exhibit A)

“I don’t believe it represents a “loss of control” of education in Utah for education leaders in Utah. ”  Does the lawyer realize that as our fiscal agent and as the lead state in the SBAC consortium,  Washington State has our educational voice and Utah does not?

The USOE website says nothing about two sets of standards.  Only the Utah Common Core is represented there, not the CCSS federal set.  USOE claims that it’s not a problem to have two sets of standards, with the federal one having no amendment process Utahns may approach.  The lawyer wrote:

 

“There may be a year where we are teaching to the CCSS and are still tested with the CRTs.  As I believe the new standards are superior, I don’t believe it will be a problem of great proportions.”

 

I asked:  Why is there no amendment process to change or disagree with the federal CCSS that Utah contracted to join?

 

The USOE lawyer responded:  “Why would there need to be?  The whole point is to get to a place where there is a “common core” – that would mean the same standards for all the states that adopt it.  If the states had the freedom to “disagree” and “change” them, I guess they would no longer be “common”.”

 

This illustrates a key point: 

The USOE lawyer realizes Utah has ceded our sovereignty and freedom.  She,  like most CC-proponents, value being common more than they value being free.

 

Educational standards are meaningless without political freedom.  Utah has not only agreed to possibly-better-possibly-worse standards, but signed on to a system that will not allow us to choose for ourselves to ever raise them or amend them.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration of these matters.

 

Sincerely,

 

Christel Swasey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Utah State Board of Education

2012 Candidate Interview Questions

 

Due April 12, 2012, 7:00 AM

 

 

Name:_____________________________________                        District: ___________

Please answer the following questions with a Yes or No answer:

  • Do you support the Utah Core Curriculum Standards?
  • Do you support increased rigor for high school students?
  • Do you support more STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) requirements for high schools students?
  • Do you support the investment in and use of technology as part of the educational experience?
  • Do you support students having the option to take courses online?
  • Do you support students having the option to choose the providers for online courses?
  • Do you support merit-based pay for educators?
  • Do you think sex education should be taught in schools?
  • Do think schools should address the skills gap that employers are seeing?
  • Do you support raising taxes or impact fees to provide more funding for the education system and school buildings?
  • Do you support the FFA program and teaching of agriculture in the classroom?
  • Do you support student-based budgeting (money following the child to the school level)?

In questions previously sent to you, you gave an answer to the question:  What do you think are the two biggest issues or challenges facing public education in the state of Utah?  Explain how you would solve the challenges/problems identified in your answer.

Please email your answers to Lorraine Austin at lorraine.austin@schools.utah.gov

no later than 7:00 AM on Thursday, April 12. 

Posted April 11, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Please Sign The Petition To Save Utah From Loss of Voice in Education   Leave a comment

 There’s a petition that I just signed yesterday.  It’s here:
 
http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/
 
 
Here’s a list of links to explain why I signed the petition:
 
 
http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com   (my blog  –and may I just say, for those who like the new Common Core, that all those ideas are in public domain.  Utah can adopt any great standards we want to, including keeping the Common Core standards if we so choose. No one is arguing against raising standards.  We are arguing against the loss of voice to a consortium of states, a loss of control via documents that bind us to federal intrusions and expenses –all of which come on the party platter of adopting Common Core)
 
http://www.utahsrepublic.org/blog/  (a free-thinking and constitutionally sound Utah blogger)
 
http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2010/03/25/alaska-texas-reject-common-core-standards  (news article about why other states are opting out of CCI too)
 
http://pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120216_Testimony_Stergios_SC.pdf  (expert testimony examines Common Core’s impact on a state)
 
http://pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/100520_emperors_new_clothes.pdf  (examines the standards themselves)
http://www.pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120222_CCSSICost.pdf  (cost analysis –done independently since the state and the feds didn’t do one)
 

Posted April 10, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

The Emperor Is Wearing No Clothes: Why Won’t the USOE or Superintendent Shumway Answer Questions?   Leave a comment

The Emperor Is Wearing No Clothes

 Why Won’t the USOE Legal Dept. or SuperintendentShumway Answer These Questions?

Please join other parents and teachers in requiring answers to these questions from state educational leaders:

·       Why was no cost analysis done before Utah adopted Common Core?

http://www.pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120222_CCSSICost.pdf

·        Why was there never public, teacher or legislative input used to consider Common Core?    http://pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120216_Testimony_Stergios_SC.pdf

·       Since we are free to use any academic standard we like without the political ties of Common Core, what is the purpose of Utah remaining tied to the CCI and the SBAC?

·       Documents show discrepancies between what the Federal Department of Education says in public letters and what the Department has bound Utah to, in dense, legally binding contractual agreements and grant applications. These show Utah has lost control of state education to federal control.

http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf

·       Why are there two sets of standards, the Utah Common Core and the federal Common Core State Standards?  Why do we teach with one and get tested on the other? http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/04/06/what-is-wested-and-why-should-you-care/

·       Why is there no amendment process to change or disagree with the federal CCSS that Utah contracted to join?

·       Why did Utah join Common Core when evidence shows some aspects of CCI  actually lowers educational standards? http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/expert-testimony-about-common-core/

·       What did Texas, Virginia, South Carolina and other free-thinking states see in the CCI that caused them to refuse to join?  http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2010/03/25/alaska-texas-reject-common-core-standards

·       Isthere any law states that the Federal Government can withhold educational funding from states if they refuse to adopt Common Core/SBAC?  http://www.fed-soc.org/publications/detail/the-road-to-a-national-curriculum-the-legal-aspects-of-the-common-core-standards-race-to-the-top-and-conditional-waivers

·       What benefit did Common Core give to Utah that we didn’t already have access to via public domain?

·       Why won’t Larry Shumway, Judy Park, the USOE legaldepartment, or Arne Duncan answer real questions with real answers instead of unsubstantiated rhetoric?

·       Why did PTA accept a 2 million dollar donation that was conditional upon advocating for Common Core?

·       Why does the State School Board weed out potential board candidates with the survey question:  AreYou For Common Core?

Posted April 10, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Virginia, Texas, South Carolina: Why Free-Thinking States Opt Out of the Common Core Initiative   1 comment

How do Virginia, Texas and South Carolina think differently from how Utah thinks?

Why are their Governors and school boards savvy enough to reject Common Core (or are trying to, amid opposition) –when top Utah’s leaders are not?  Here, in their  own words, are the freedom fighters who value liberty in education, speaking out across America today:

 South Carolina’s Governor Nikki Haley:

South Carolina’s educational system has at times faced challenges of equity, quality and leadership – challenges that cannot be solved by increasing our dependence on federal dollars and the mandates that come with them. Just as we should not relinquish control of education to the Federal government, neither should we cede it to the consensus of other states. Confirming my commitment to finding South Carolina solutions to South Carolina challenges, I am pleased to support [Senator Fair's] efforts to reverse the 2010 decision to adopt common core standards.

While I understand and agree with looking outside South Carolina for ideas to improve educational outcomes, I firmly believe that our government and our people should retain as much local control over programs as possible. The solution to many of South Carolina’s educational challenges will be found by sending more of our limited resources to the classroom and offering educational choices to meet the needs of South Carolina’s students. Our children deserve swift action and the passage of a clean resolution that will allow our State to reclaim control of and responsibility for educating South Carolinians.  -excerpted from Governor Haley’s public letter to Senator Fair of South Carolina http://www.educationnews.org/education-policy-and-politics/sc-gov-nikki-haley-backs-bill-to-block-common-core-standards/    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/may/10/obamas-education-plan-gets-closer-look/

South Carolina’s Senator Mike Fair ‘s bill (S.604) simply stated:

The State Board may not adopt and the State Department may not implement the Common Core State Standards developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Any actions taken to adopt or implement the Common Core State Standards as of the effective date of this section are void ab initio. http://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess119_2011-2012/bills/604.htm

Why did Senator Fair write that bill for South Carolina’s educational freedom from Common Core?

Senator Fair explained in an op/ed piece for the Greenville News:

“…If the federal government didn’t create Common Core, how is this a federal takeover?  Simple– the Department of Education is funding the development of the national tests aligned with Common Core.  Even Common Core proponents admit that whoever controls the test will, for all practical purposes, control what must be taught in the classroom.

And once Common Core is implemented, no one in this state will have the power to change any standard…  The Legislature never had a chance to review Common Core because the feds timed their deadlines for adopting them to fall when the Legislature wasn’t in session. So, to qualify for a shot at Race to the Top money in 2010, the (previous) state superintendent and the (previous) governor had to agree to adopt Common Core– standards that had not even been published yet… By the way, South Carolina wasn’t awarded Race to the Top money, so we sold our education birthright without even getting the mess of pottage.” http://www.electmikefair.com/?p=220

Texas’ Governor Perry said:

“I will not commit Texas taxpayers to unfunded federal obligations or to the adoption of unproven, cost-prohibitive national standards and tests” — excerpt from Gov. Rick Perry’s letter to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. http://governor.state.tx.us/files/press-office/O-DuncanArne201001130344.pdf

Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott explained:

The standards were “originally sold to states as voluntary, [but] states have now been told that participating in national standards and national testing would be required as a condition of receiving federal discretionary grant funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA),” Scott wrote. “Texas has chosen to preserve its sovereign authority to determine what is appropriate for Texas children to learn in its public schools…”  http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2010/03/25/alaska-texas-reject-common-core-standards

 Patricia Wright, Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction, said:

“…If we had taken the 249   million dollars, would I go to the General Assembly and then ask the General Assembly for more money to meet the federal requirements [to implement Common Core]?  No.  That is not the Virginia way.”  http://blog.heritage.org/2011/02/02/video-national-academic-standards-pose-threat-to-local-control-of-education/

Virginia’s School Board explained why it opposed Common Core: http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/common_core/index.shtml

“The Board of Education supported — and continues to support — the development of internationally benchmarked standards for states to adopt outright or to use as models to improve their own standards. The board, however, opposes the use of federal rulemaking and the peer review process as leverage to compel word-for-word adoption of the Common Core State Standards.”

The Virginia State Board of Education sent out a press release June 24, 2010 announcing its unanimous adoption of the following statement at its June 24, 2010, meeting in Richmond:

“The Board of Education is committed to the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) program and opposed to adoption of the newly developed Common Core State Standards as a prerequisite for participation in federal competitive grant and entitlement programs.

“[Virginia's] Standards of Learning are clear and rigorous and have won the acceptance and trust of Virginia educators. Whatever adjustments might be warranted to ensure alignment of the SOL with the Common Core State Standards can be made within the process through which the Board of Education exercises its constitutional authority to establish standards for the commonwealth’s public schools.

…The subtle differences between the SOL and the Common Core do not justify the disruption to instruction, accountability, professional development and teacher preparation that would follow word-for-word adoption.

• Adoption of the Common Core would leave teachers without curriculum frameworks, scope and sequence guides and other materials specifically aligned with the standards students are expected to meet. Experience shows that these supports are critical to successful standards based reform.

• Virginia’s accountability program is built on a validated assessment system aligned with the SOL; validated assessments aligned with the Common Core do not exist.

• Virginia’s investment in the Standards of Learning since 1995 far exceeds the $250 million Virginia potentially could have received by abandoning the SOL and competing in phase two of Race to the Top.

 Alaska’s Dept. of Education said:

The Race to the Top application didn’t ask open-ended questions about what states think will work… We didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a losing battle. We wanted to formulate our own plan…[Alaska] would like to be the entity that declares its own standards.”  -Eric Fry, spokesman for Alaska’s Department of Education.  http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2010/03/25/alaska-texas-reject-common-core-standards

Massachusetts Almost Rejected Common Core:

Massachusetts State officials wanted assurances that national standards would not dilute existing state frameworks.

MA Education Secretary Paul Reville has said the Commonwealth would not adopt the common core standards if they were lower than those established in the state. “We are not going to endorse anything that is not at least as rigorous as our own standards,” Reville told the Boston Globe.  Minnesota also cited concerns over the math standards as reasons not to adopt the Common Core.  But, caving to political pressure, Massachusetts did give in, at last.  http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2010/03/25/alaska-texas-reject-common-core-standards

  Dr. Sandra Stotsky, professor of education at the University of Arkansas and a member of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, oversaw the development of Massachusetts’s earlier standards. She said the common core frameworks would be a step down for Massachusetts.    http://www.uark.edu/ua/der/People/Stotsky/Reasons%20for%20not%20signing%20off%20on%20Common%20Core’s%20final%20standards.pdf

Caving to political pressure eventually, however, Massachusetts adopted the Common Core in 2010.

Minnesota:

  Minnesota opted half-in, half-out:  State Rep. Carlos Mariani  (D-St. Paul), chairman of the Minnesota House K-12 Education Policy and Oversight Committee said:

“It is a fact that state legislators are leery of what federal involvement means… Given the federal government’s less than honorable history in under-providing special education funding after mandating it as a priority, we are prudent to be skeptical.”   http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2010/08/13/minnesota-rejects-common-core-math-standards

Minnesota has opted out of the math portion of the Common Core national frameworks. The Gopher State was among the first to join the  effort by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers in 2009 to develop common English and math frameworks. But now Minnesota officials have decided to step back—and risk losing a portion of federal Race to the Top and Title I funds—in order to maintain control of their own education standards.”

Although Alabama adopted Common Core, that may  soon change.

In Alabama, a group of liberty-minded women have worked hard to pass a resolution that has been cosponsored by organizations in many other states.  http://www.nfrw.org/documents/convention/2011/program.pdf    See below.

NATIONAL FEDERATION OF REPUBLICAN WOMEN RESOLUTION

Defeat National Standards for State Schools Passed Unanimously at the NFRW36th Biennial Convention Kansas City, MO – October 1, 2011

WHEREAS, The national standards-based “Common Core State Standards” initiative is the centerpiece of the Obama’s Administration’s agenda to centralize education decisions at the federal level;

WHEREAS, The Obama Administration is using the same model to take over education as it used for healthcare by using national standards and boards of bureaucrats, whom the public didn’t elect and can’t fire or otherwise hold accountable;

WHEREAS, National standards remove authority from States over what is taught in the classroom and how it is tested;

WHEREAS, National standards undercut the principle of federalism on which our nation was founded;

WHEREAS, There is no constitutional or statutory authority for national standards, national curricula, or national assessments and in fact the federal government is expressly prohibited from endorsing or dictating state/local decisions about curricula; and

WHEREAS, The Obama Administration is attempting to evade constitutional and statutory prohibitions to move toward a nationalized public-school system by (1) funding to date more than $345 million for the development of national curriculum and test questions, (2) tying national standards to the Race to the Top charter schools initiative in the amount of $4.35 billion, (3) using the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) to pressure State Boards of Education to adopt national standards with the threat of losing Title 1 Funds if they do not, and (4) requesting Congress to include national standards as a requirement in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary School Act (No Child Left Behind);

BE IT RESOLVED, That the National Federation of Republican Women vote to encourage all State Federation Presidents to share information about national standards with their local clubs; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That State Federation Presidents ask their members to (1) contact their State Boards of Education members and request that they retain control over academic standards, curriculum, instruction and testing,  (2) contact their Congress Members and request that they (i) protect the constitutional and statutory prohibitions against the federal government endorsing or dictating national standards, (ii) to refuse to tie national standards to any reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, (iii) defund “Race to the Top” money, and (iv) prohibit any more federal funds for the Common Core State Standards Initiative, including funds to assessment and curriculum writing consortia, and (3) spread the word about the threat of a federal government takeover of education.

Submitted by:  Alabama Federation of Republican Women Elois Zeanah, President

Co-Sponsors:

 Nebraska Federation of Republican Women

Delaware Federation of Republican Women

Wisconsin Federation of Republican Women

Georgia Federation of Republican Women

Tennessee Federation of Republican Women

I wish Utah would do the same thing!  We need our educational freedom.  Wake up, everyone!  Please stand against the nationalized oppression of Common Core and stand for liberty and educational sovereignty for states!

Contact our governor and his education advisors:        

Utah Governor Herbert:  http://governor.utah.gov/goca/form_governor.html

Utah Education Director: ckearl@utah.gov

Utah School Superintendent:  larry.shumway@schools.utah.gov

Utah State School Board: Board@schools.utah.gov

Your local school board:  http://www.onlineutah.com/schooldistricts.shtml

Be that one person whose voice is heard joining the many across our nation that still believe in individual rights.

Take a high-heeled stand-up moment for freedom.

Five Top Reasons We Don’t Need Common Core   4 comments

http://pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120216_Testimony_Stergios_SC.pdf

To read a more eloquent and studied version of what I’m about to say, read the expert testimony of Jim Stergios to the South Carolina legislature (above) as they studied whether to sever ties with Common Core/SBAC or stay bound.

But here’s my version:

1. We don’t need Common Core.  We didn’t go seeking it.  It found us in the form of a grant. We signed up without knowing what we were signing up for (the standards hadn’t been written yet, nor the test) because we wanted points. The more points, the more likely we were to win a federal grant:  Race to the Top.  We didn’t win but were still members of CC and SBAC unless we took specific steps to escape.  Which is what we should do now.  And we don’t need “expert” strangers who aren’t necessarily even experts, telling local experts what to teach kids.

2. It was never debated by the public, by teachers, or by the legislature.  It snuck in under the radar claiming to be “state led” and “not a federal initiative.”  Ha. Ha. Ha.  Who believes that silliness?  The whole thing was pushed, incentivized, and controlled in such obvious ways by the feds from the beginning.  Do your homework and you will see it.

3. No cost analysis was ever done.  Pioneer Institute estimates it will cost each state 16 billion over the first seven years that we implement it.  That’s a heavy burden for states who struggle to make educational ends meet, who drop music and arts programs, who drop tutoring programs, who lay off teachers for economic reasons, already.  Common Core proponents want to gloss over the cost.  They do not want you to ask about this one.

4. It doesn’t raise all standards for all states, period.  It’s been called substandard by many professors and educational experts, and by kids who’ve tried it this year.  But that’s beside the point.  If we stay in, we won’t have the freedom to argue about it.  We’ll be cemented in to the Common Core by so many threads and ties and expenses and rules and mandates and bureaucratic waste that we will not have our freedom anymore.  Importantly, (tell your teacher friends this who actually like common core standards) –it’s all in the public domain.  Anything you like from Common Core, you can have.  And states don’t need the CC membership to go with it and to drag our freedoms down.

5. It’s illegal.  The Constitution and many other laws give education solely to states and prevent the federal government from coordinating, overseeing, directing, gathering educational data or putting educational mandates on states.  This is why the federal Common Core pushers go to great lengths to get groups other than themselves to push Common Core.  They pay others to do what they are forbidden to do.  Nice.

Posted April 10, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Common Core Q&A for Public Gatherings   Leave a comment

Dear Schools, PTA groups, and political groups,

I’m a Utah educator and parent.

I’m writing to you to volunteer to answer questions publically concerning Utah’s adoption of the Common Core Initiative and what it means to educators, students and parents.  I am happy to present only the “sever ties with Common Core” side, and equally happy to be part of a pros and cons debate if you can find someone to defend the Common Core from the USOE (so far, I have not been successful in that effort.  They don’t want to answer questions.)

My neighbors and I have researched and found evidence that important state educational freedoms have been lost via the Common Core Initiative.  They may appear to be intact, they may be defended by some at the USOE, but evidence is solid that our state educational autonomy will be gone when the Common Core Initiative is fully implemented in 2014-2015.  Evidence not disclosed by Larry Shumway or the Utah State Office of Education proves this to be the case.

I’ve been studying the Common Core Initiative intensively for three weeks.  It has come to my attention that the initiative lacks transparency, is promoted heavily by special interests and the federal Department of Education, and threatens Utah’s educational sovereignty in real and permanent ways.  When I ask the USOE to answer questions, I get rhetoric rather than documented proof that we have local control of our own state’s education under the Common Core Initiative.

 

The question is not “does it raise Utah’s standards?” but “will Utah have any control over her own standards once full implementation of the Common Core initiative has taken place?”  Sadly, the answer is no.  Equally important:  why don’t we have a cost analysis of what is sure to be a multi billion dollar, mostly state-paid, initiative?  Sadly, the answer is: because proponents of Common Core find it expedient to gloss over costs, and, because the Congressional Budget Office, as well as the voting, taxpaying public and legislature, was left out of this “state-led” initiative.

 

Common Core slid under the radar because it was not sought after by Utah; rather, it was an afterthought:  Utah wanted to win the RTTT grant.  A condition of candidacy was Common Core and SBAC membership.  We didn’t win the grant.  Brenda Hales of the USOE assured me Utah got “not one red cent,” yet we are stuck with CC and SBAC membership and its federal entanglements.

 

We have some wiggle room now to get out before full implementation makes it cost prohibitive.

 

For teachers who like the Common Core standards, let’s be clear:  all the academic values of Common Core are available via public domain.  We can keep whatever works for Utah.  But we should keep those portions under Utah’s sovereign standards, not under the Common standards.  There are two sets of standards, Utah’s, and the federal standards.  The kids will be tested on the federal set.

 

I’m attaching a just a sampling of relevant documents and this link to South Carolina’s legislative testimony on the subject of getting out of Common Core: http://pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120216_Testimony_Stergios_SC.pdf.

 

A group of Heber City residents including me have petitioned the Governor to study the legal aspects of Common Core and then to get Utah out ASAP.  Unfortunately, there is a spiral of silence at the USOE.  The legal department won’t answer questions.  The official Common Core Spokeswoman’s statements contradict legal documents (RTTT grant, Cooperative Agreement, etc.) that bind Utah to the SBAC and the CCI.  And the legal department hasn’t read the documents.

 

I created a blog on this subject today.  It’s not fancy, but it’s got links to the evidence:  http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com

 

I am speaking on the Heber City KTMP radio program on Thursday.  I am speaking at a pros-cons public debate in Heber April 26th. I am speaking at the “public commentary” time at the State School Board meeting this week. I have written two opinion editorial for local newspapers.  One has been published; one is about to be published this week.  I am trying to turn around this elephant.

 

Two fellow teachers and parents with me are volunteering now to speak at any public gathering, large or small, if you would like to have us answer questions based on our research and the research of other free-thinking, non-federally funded organizations.

 

Educating the public, teachers, administrators and taxpayers about the full ramifications of Common Core is crucial if we are to retain educational sovereignty –and state solvency– in the years to come.

 

Respectfully,

Christel Swasey

 

Heber City

 

Posted April 10, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Testimony to South Carolina Legislature by Jim Stergios of Pioneer Institute   Leave a comment

 The Pioneer Institute is one of very few respected think tanks that do not accept federal grants (bribes) to analyze the Common Core Initiative.  When South Carolina pulled out of the CCI recently, it was in part due to the testimony of experts and the Pioneer Institute.

Pioneer Institute listed five concerns about the Common Core national standards and assessments:

“Importantly, states that have adopted the national standards and assessments have done so without adequate deliberation and without state legislative input. The quality of the standards is mediocre at best. The costs are outrageous. The promotion of national standards and assessments by the federal government is, in fact, illegal. Finally, the implementation of national standards and assessments limits the state’s ability to innovate and address underperforming schools with urgency.”

The whole legislative testimony is here: http://pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120216_Testimony_Stergios_SC.pdf

Posted April 9, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

The Cooperative Agreement Arne Duncan Authored That Proves the Initiative Illegal   16 comments

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is a man of two faces.

On one hand, he writes letters http://utahpubliceducation.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Secretary-Arne-Duncan-March-7-2012-Letter_edited-1.jpg

assuring state leaders that they, not he, is in control of their state’s educational decisions.  On the other hand, his written grants and cooperative agreements specifically contradict the messages of his public letters.

He tends to be angry when states don’t submit to the Common Core agenda. http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/statement-us-secretary-education-arne-duncan-1

He said, on national television, that he felt very sorry for the poor children of Texas who weren’t being educated under Common Core.  http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/08/arne-duncan-i-feel-very-very-badly-for-kids-in-rick-perrys-texas-schools/

His unfounded public insult of Texas education–    http://nation.foxnews.com/arne-duncan/2011/08/21/dallas-morning-news-obama-education-secretary-flat-out-lied-about-texas-education    — drew a wonderful letter from Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott, which you should read when you’ve finished reading about the Cooperative Agreement:   http://www.texasgopvote.com/arne-duncan/texas-commissioner-education-robert-scott-calls-out-obamas-education-secretary-a-003216

The Cooperative Agreement (Between SBAC/FED ED)

One of the clearest violations of federal law broken by the Arne Duncan-led U.S. Department of Education in the wake of Common Core comes in the form of a “Cooperative Agreement Between the SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) and the U.S. Department of Education.”  Here’s the link to the whole document:

http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf

 

 “In accordance with 34 CFR 75.200(b)(4), this award is a cooperative agreement because the Secretary of Education (Secretary) has determined that substantial communication, coordination, and involvement between the U.S. Department of Education (Department or ED) and the recipient is necessary to carry out a successful project.”

In this, the first sentence of the Cooperative Agreement, one man (Arne Duncan) asserts authority that he does not have under federal or constitutional law, to that because he determined it, so shall it be.  The rest of the document details ways in which this power grab is to take place, including:

 “Actively participate in any meetings and telephone conferences with ED staff… Be responsive to requests from ED for information about the status of the project… including by providing such information in writing… Comply with, and where applicable coordinate with the ED staff … including, but not limited to working with the Department to … make student-level data that results from the assessment system available on an ongoing basis…

 In other words, we will tell you what to do and you will tell us exactly what you have done, including giving us your academic and psychometric data collected on every student in the two consortia. (This nationalized, centralized data collection plan leaves alone only students in five of the United States because of the triangulation of data across testing consortia and with the Federal Department of Education.)

But wait, there’s more:

“…respective Project Directors [this means the WestEd/SBAC testing arm and the PARCC/Achieve, Inc. testing arm] will collaborate to coordinate appropriate tasks and timelines to foster synchronized development of assessment systems… The Program Officer for the RTTA grantees [this means the Feds] will work with the Project Directors for both RTTA grantees [this means the WestEd/SBAC testing arm and the PARCC/Achieve, Inc. testing arm] to coordinate and facilitate coordination across consortia. 

We just proved that the Federal Government is in control of, and has access to, the test data gathered on our individual children via the Common Core Initiative.

If you look at the 9th and 10th Amendment and many other federal laws, you will learn that the federal government has zero authority over states’ education systems.  This “Cooperative Agreement” clearly breaks the laws of the United States.

Why are we allowing this in Utah, or anywhere?

When I contacted the legal department of the Utah State Office of Education, the lawyer told me:

“I am not persuaded that the information you sent [the link to this Cooperative Agreement] are the agreements themselves or documentation.”

Yikes!  The legal department of the USOE not only hadn’t analyzed it, they didn’t even know it existed, and accused me of making it up.

I doubt the U.S. Department of Education lost their copy of it.

 

 

Posted April 9, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Utah State Board of Education Candidate Questions: No, we don’t stack the deck.   Leave a comment

Utah State Board of Education 2012 Candidate Interview Questions

Due April 12, 2012, 7:00 AM

Name:_____________________________________

Please answer the following questions with a Yes or No answer:

District: ___________

• • •

Do you support the Utah Core Curriculum Standards? Do you support increased rigor for high school students? Do you support more STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) requirements for high schools students? Do you support the investment in and use of technology as part of the educational experience? Do you support students having the option to take courses online? Do you support students having the option to choose the providers for online courses? Do you support merit-based pay for educators? Do you think sex education should be taught in schools? Do think schools should address the skills gap that employers are seeing? Do you support raising taxes or impact fees to provide more funding for the education system and school buildings? Do you support the FFA program and teaching of agriculture in the classroom? Do you support student-based budgeting (money following the child to the school level)?

 

In questions previously sent to you, you gave an answer to the question: What do you think are the two biggest issues or challenges facing public education in the state of Utah? Explain how you would solve the challenges/problems identified in your answer.

Please email your answers to Lorraine Austin at lorraine.austin@schools.utah.gov no later than 7:00 AM on Thursday, April 12.

Posted April 9, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Get Utah Out of Common Core: Utahns Cite Low Standards, No Cost Analysis and Lost Local Control   Leave a comment

How Common Core affects kids, teachers, and Utah’s budget

Why some Utah teachers and parents question Utah’s adoption of Common Core and the SBAC tests

 

  • No cost analysis was done before Utah adopted Common Core.
  • No public or legislative input has been used to consider Common Core.
  • The Federal Government, not states, have control of educational testing under Common Core.
  • No local control of educational standards will happen under Common Core.
  • No amendment process exists to disagree with or alter the Common Core.
  • Common Core lowers standards in significant ways.
  • Other states are have opted out of Common Core for smart reasons.
  • No law states that the Federal Government can withhold educational funding from states if they refuse to adopt Common Core.
  •  Common Core gives Utah nothing that we didn’t already have.   
  •  The PTA accepted a 2 million dollar donation to advocate for Common Core and have done so without looking at all the repercussions of Utah’s joining.
  • There is a lack of transparency about Common Core’s adoption by the State School Board

For additional information about these points, read the following posts:

1.     What is West Ed and Why Should You Care?

2.    The Cooperative Agreement Arne Duncan Authored That Proves the Initiative Illegal

3.     Evidence of Federal Intrusion

 

 

Posted April 9, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Expert Testimony About Common Core   1 comment

  Expert Testimonies Concerning Common Core State Standards

I.    Testimony of CCSS Validation Committee Member Dr. Sandra Stotsky:

 Common Core Holds Minimalist Conception of College Readiness, Weakens Literary Base

Dr. Sandra Stotsky served on the National Validation Committee for the Common Core State Systemic Initiative and on the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, co-authoring its final report as well as two of its task group reports. She also served on the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.  She was Senior Associate Commissioner in the Massachusetts Department of Education and a research associate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, directing an institute on civic education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  She served as editor of  Research in the Teaching of English, the research journal sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English. She has taught elementary school, French and German at the high school level, and graduate courses in reading, children’s literature, writing pedagogy, and English language arts standards.

When Dr. Sandra Stotsky served on the CCSS Validation Committee, she refused to sign off on the standards because they were far from adequate. Dr. Stotsky stated:

“The wisest move all states could make to ensure that students learn to read, understand, and use the English language appropriately before they graduate from high school is first to abandon Common Core’s “standards” and ask the National Governors Association to ask a national organization devoted to authentic literary study (ALSCW, e.g.,) to develop a set of high school literature standards that could serve as the backbone of a coherent literature curriculum from grade 6-12, with successively more diffcult texts required from grade to grade.”

Dr. Stotsky also testified that:

“Beyond the lack of clarity from the outset about what college readiness was intended to mean and for whom, Common Core has yet to provide a solid evidentiary base for its minimalist conceptualization of college readiness–and for equating college readiness with career readiness. Moreover… it had no evidence on both issues.”

(See http://pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/100520_emperors_new_clothes.pdf)

A Boston Globe article cited Dr. Stotsky and co-author Ze’ev Wurman, stating:

“High academic standards are the foundation of Massachusetts’ landmark education reform success. Let’s not give them up for a set of so-called college readiness standards that won’t even get our children into college.”

In a Pioneer Institute white paper (http://www.pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/common_core_standards.pdf ) Dr. Stotsky concluded that:

“…By adopting Common Core’s standards for their own, California and Massachusetts significantly weaken the intellectual demands on students in the areas of language and literature. They also weaken the base of literary and cultural knowledge needed for actual college-level work now implied by each state’s current or draft standards.”

Dr. Stotsky also pointed out that David Coleman, the leader of the ELA standards, is not a professor, not a teacher, and never has been a good choice for his position.

II.  Statement About Common Core by Stanford University Professor Michael W. Kirst :

My concern is the assertion in the draft that the standards for college and career readiness are essentially the same. This implies the answer is yes to the question of whether the same standards are appropriate for 4 year universities, 2 year colleges, and technical colleges. The burden of proof for this assertion rests with CCSSO/NGA, and the case is not proven from the evidence presented in the draft.

The ELA standards hedge this issue by saying “the evidence strongly suggests that similar reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills are necessary for success in both the college and workplace.” There is no similar wording preceding the math standards. I have reviewed the sources included in the draft, and cannot follow how the panel deduced that college and career readiness standards are the same.

Some basic underlying assumptions used by the panel are unclear. For example, what level of jobs in the O*NET job zone classifications of 1-5 did the panel use in its deliberations? For example, preparation needed for zone 4 jobs is mostly the same as a 4 year college standards, but this is not true for ONET zone 2 jobs. Another issue that needs to be clarified is whether the panel endorses a multiple pathways concept that a career and technical education in secondary school needs to keep the option open for all students to obtain a 4 year degree.

I have worked intensively with some states in the college/career readiness issue. Policymakers find it difficult to understand why the standards are the same for the flagship state university and their technical college system (e.g. Georgia, Texas, etc.).  … if you examine closely the math requirements in Kentucky for specific occupations for a technical program like welding, there are very specific secondary school preparation differences for 3 programs offered in specific community and technical colleges : the Associate of Applied Science (ASS), diploma, or certificate program. The latter two programs may not need to meet the mathematics proposed in the common core draft. Each separate terminal award (A.S.S, diploma, certificate) utilizes a different set of math courses for completion. I am unclear whether the panel had these distinctions in mind as it prepared this draft.

… I chaired the National Assessment Governing Board Technical Panel on 12th Grade Preparedness Research. On pages 18-23 of our final report, we present our strategy for funding needed research for discovering the academic standards for workplace preparedness. Our approach seems different from those embedded in the sources consulted for career readiness in the draft.

The NAGB technical panel pointed out that many occupations do not have a consistent training core. Some occupations require substantial geometry, while others may focus more heavily on algebra, or simple numerical computations.

The NAGB panel crafted a research strategy to identify examples of occupations deemed most informative for estimating the entry-level reading and mathematics requirements for multiple sections of the labor force. Then we support identifying job training programs targeting jobs in the exemplar occupations. The next step would be to identify ELA and mathematics training performance standards for entry into each occupation. This would include interviewing personnel who actually prepare CTE workers in the exemplary occupations.

This seems to be a more valid and precise method of discovering CTE standards…This could exaggerate skill requirements to begin the academic preparation needed for an occupation at postsecondary education institution.

III.   Testimony Concerning Common Core by  Mathematician Ze’ev Wurman,

Member of the California Commission to Review Common Core Standards

                       

Ze’ev Wurman

Ze’ev Wurman, a software engineer from Palo Alto, was a senior policy adviser in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development from 2007-09 and served on the California commission that reviewed the Common Core standards in 2010. He serves on the panel that reviews mathematics test items for the California standards-based tests, and was a member of the California State mathematics curriculum framework committee.

The Common Core standards are mediocre: They are clearly better than those of about 30 states, as good as those of 15 about states, and clearly worse than those of three states, California among them. Despite claims to the contrary, Common Core is not on par with international high achievers, nor will meeting Common Core qualify students for entry to either CSU or UC. In fact, California had to significantly supplement the standards just to close the gap between the Common Core and our current standards, which incidentally are based on those of high-achieving countries and will qualify students for CSU.

EdSource estimated the implementation cost of the Common Core for California to be $1.6 billion. That estimate does not include the massive technology infusion needed for the federally peddled national assessment, nor does it include the cost of restructuring the teacher preparation courses, the licensure examination, and principal training. Recently, the state Department of Education published its initial estimates of implementation costs. If we just take three basic numbers from them – $203 per student in new textbooks in K-8, $2,000 per each math and English teacher training, and $1,000 for English Learning training for almost every teacher – this comes to $850 million, $360 million, and $260 million respectively, close to EdSource’s original estimate.

Based on the number of existing classroom computers in the state, we need to spend $220 million to buy additional computers to bring their number to the minimal ratio of one computer to four tested students, and another $60 million to install and wire them, to provide bandwidth, and to train the staff. These sums amount to one-time spending over the next 2-3 years; afterward, we will need to spend an additional $35 million annually for assessment (at an optimistic $10 per student more than today) and $75 million more for computer support and amortization. ..

What is the logic behind adopting the Common Core, anyway? Do we really believe that a diverse country like ours needs some central planner in Washington, D.C., to tell us what to teach in our California schools? Canada and Australia don’t think so, yet they are high educational achievers. Are we really willing to sacrifice our independence just to satisfy Obama and Duncan in Washington? …California should bail out and return to its own standards as soon as possible. Losing the Race to the Top was a blessing in disguise; we should now take advantage of it.


 IV.  Testimony to South Carolina Legislature by Jim Stergios of Pioneer Institute:
http://pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120216_Testimony_Stergios_SC.pdf
V.  Short Statements by Experts About Common Core:

Heritage Foundation

“Federal involvement in the Common Core national standards push is not some figment of

           the imagination. Billions in federal funding, strings-attached NCLB waivers, and                   

           significant rhetorical support clearly point to a nationalization of the content taught in the

           local schools. . . .  South Carolina – and states across the country – are right to have pause

           about this latest federal overreach.  And they shouldn’t be ridiculed by a federal agency

           that has already done plenty to centralize education spending and authority.”

 

Brookings Institute

           “The Common Core will have little to no effect on student achievement. The quality or

           rigor of state standards has been unrelated to NAEP [National Assessment of Educational

           progress] scores. Moreover, most of the variation in NAEP scores lies within states, not

           between them. Whatever impact standards alone can have on reducing within-state

           differences should have been already felt by the standards that all states have had since

           2003.”

 

Pioneer Institute

“Implementation of the Common Core Standards is likely to represent substantial

           additional expense for most states [estimated at $16 billion nationwide]. . . . [S]tates

           should step back and encourage a public discussion of the potential benefits and costs of

           implementing the Common Core Standards. Is realigning the local education system

           to the Common Core Standards the best investment of scarce educational resources?

           What are the other options that should be considered?”

 

Cato Institute

“In the U.S., advocates of a national curriculum have for years pointed to nations

            at the top of TIMSS and PISA rankings and argued that because those countries

            have national curriculums, a national curriculum must be good. The argument is

            without merit. What the advocates neglect to observe is that countries at the bottom

            of the international rankings also have a national curriculum. . . . [T]here is no

            meaningful evidence that national standards lead to better outcomes.”

 

Edwin Meese III, former U. S. Attorney General

“[T]here is no constitutional or statutory basis for national standards, national

            assessments, or national curricula. . . . Even if the development of national curriculum

            models, frameworks, or guidelines were judged lawful, we do not believe Congress or

            the public supports having them developed by a self-selected group behind closed

            doors and with no public accountability.”

 

 

American Principles Project

             “The Common Core Standards facilitate the practically unlimited sharing of our

              children’s private, personally identifiable data with other government agencies

              such as the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services, and even with

              private entities.”

 

Ze’ev Wurman, former U. S.Department of Education official

              “[E]ven the defenders of the national standards do not claim they are at the level

               of international high achievers. Currently South Carolina has good standards in

                English and mathematics, even as they can be improved. . . . [I]ts new history

                standards are the best in the nation, and its science standards are also excellent

                and among the top 5 in the nation. South Carolina showed it can improve the

                standards on its own if it so wishes and has no need to trade them for mediocre

                standards that transfer control out of state to Washington, D.C.”

 

Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Professor of Education Reform, University of Arkansas

               “Common Core’s ‘college readiness’ standards for English language arts and

                reading are simply empty skill sets. . . . Common Core’s ELA ‘college readiness’

                standards weaken the base of literary and cultural knowledge needed for

                authentic college coursework.”

 

 

 

Posted April 9, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

What are respected thinkers realizing about Common Core?   Leave a comment

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ABOUT COMMON CORE

 

Heritage Foundation

“Federal involvement in the Common Core national standards push is not some figment of

           the imagination. Billions in federal funding, strings-attached NCLB waivers, and                   

           significant rhetorical support clearly point to a nationalization of the content taught in the

           local schools. . . .  South Carolina – and states across the country – are right to have pause

           about this latest federal overreach.  And they shouldn’t be ridiculed by a federal agency

           that has already done plenty to centralize education spending and authority.”

 

Brookings Institute

           “The Common Core will have little to no effect on student achievement. The quality or

           rigor of state standards has been unrelated to NAEP [National Assessment of Educational

           progress] scores. Moreover, most of the variation in NAEP scores lies within states, not

           between them. Whatever impact standards alone can have on reducing within-state

           differences should have been already felt by the standards that all states have had since

           2003.”

 

Pioneer Institute

“Implementation of the Common Core Standards is likely to represent substantial

           additional expense for most states [estimated at $16 billion nationwide]. . . . [S]tates

           should step back and encourage a public discussion of the potential benefits and costs of

           implementing the Common Core Standards. Is realigning the local education system

           to the Common Core Standards the best investment of scarce educational resources?

           What are the other options that should be considered?”

 

Cato Institute

“In the U.S., advocates of a national curriculum have for years pointed to nations

            at the top of TIMSS and PISA rankings and argued that because those countries

            have national curriculums, a national curriculum must be good. The argument is

            without merit. What the advocates neglect to observe is that countries at the bottom

            of the international rankings also have a national curriculum. . . . [T]here is no

            meaningful evidence that national standards lead to better outcomes.”

 

Edwin Meese III, former U. S. Attorney General

“[T]here is no constitutional or statutory basis for national standards, national

            assessments, or national curricula. . . . Even if the development of national curriculum

            models, frameworks, or guidelines were judged lawful, we do not believe Congress or

            the public supports having them developed by a self-selected group behind closed

            doors and with no public accountability.”

 

 

American Principles Project

             “The Common Core Standards facilitate the practically unlimited sharing of our

              children’s private, personally identifiable data with other government agencies

              such as the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services, and even with

              private entities.”

 

Ze’ev Wurman, former U. S.Department of Education official

              “[E]ven the defenders of the national standards do not claim they are at the level

               of international high achievers. Currently South Carolina has good standards in

                English and mathematics, even as they can be improved. . . . [I]ts new history

                standards are the best in the nation, and its science standards are also excellent

                and among the top 5 in the nation. South Carolina showed it can improve the

                standards on its own if it so wishes and has no need to trade them for mediocre

                standards that transfer control out of state to Washington, D.C.”

 

Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Professor of Education Reform, University of Arkansas

               “Common Core’s ‘college readiness’ standards for English language arts and

                reading are simply empty skill sets. . . . Common Core’s ELA ‘college readiness’

                standards weaken the base of literary and cultural knowledge needed for

                authentic college coursework.”

 

           

 

 

Posted April 9, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

How Common Core’s Lack of Transparency Affects Utah Teachers and Kids   Leave a comment

How Common Core’s Lack of Transparency Affects Utah Teachers and Kids

Utah educators have been given half truths and catch-phrases instead of documented realities about the impacts and repercussions of the Common Core Initiative.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  • CC Proponents say that states should belong to the Common Core Initiative because it ensures “high standards”, “college readiness”, “global competitiveness” and easy school transfers for kids that move from state to state. http://www.corestandards.org/  (Official Common Core website)

COLLEGE READINESS?  AS DETERMINED BY WHOM?

College readiness and global competitiveness are not at all guaranteed by Common Core.  As Stanford Professor Michael Kirst realized:

My concern is the assertion in the draft that the standards for college and career readiness are essentially the same. This implies the answer is yes to the question of whether the same standards are appropriate for 4 year universities, 2 year colleges, and technical colleges. The burden of proof for this assertion rests with CCSSO/NGA, and the case is not proven from the evidence presented in the draft.

The ELA standards hedge this issue by saying “the evidence strongly suggests that similar reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills are necessary for success in both the college and workplace.” There is no similar wording preceding the math standards. I have reviewed the sources included in the draft, and cannot follow how the panel deduced that college and career readiness standards are the same.

As Mathematician Ze’ev Wurman realized:

The Common Core standards are mediocre: They are clearly better than those of about 30 states, as good as those of 15 about states, and clearly worse than those of three states, California among them. Despite claims to the contrary, Common Core is not on par with international high achievers, nor will meeting Common Core qualify students for entry to either CSU or UC. In fact, California had to significantly supplement the standards just to close the gap between the Common Core and our current standards, which incidentally are based on those of high-achieving countries and will qualify students for CSU.

As Common Core Validation Committee member, Dr. Sandra Stotsky refused to sign off on the standards because they were far from adequate. Dr. Stotsky stated:

“The wisest move all states could make to ensure that students learn to read, understand, and use the English language appropriately before they graduate from high school is first to abandon Common Core’s “standards” and ask the National Governors Association to ask a national organization devoted to authentic literary study (ALSCW, e.g.,) to develop a set of high school literature standards that could serve as the backbone of a coherent literature curriculum from grade 6-12, with successively more diffcult texts required from grade to grade.”

Dr. Stotsky also testified:

“Beyond the lack of clarity from the outset about what college readiness was intended to mean and for whom, Common Core has yet to provide a solid evidentiary base for its minimalist conceptualization of college readiness–and for equating college readiness with career readiness. Moreover… it had no evidence on both issues.”

  • CC Proponents say that  Common Core is a state-led, not a federal initiative

CC Proponents claim the initiative is “state-led” and “is “not a federal initiative.” This claim has even been made by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in public letters on multiple occasions.

Technically, this is true:  the NGA (a group of governors) and the CCSSO (Council of Chief State School Officers) initiated Common Core and Achieve, Inc., developed the federal standards.  But who paid for it?  The Feds.  There were huge grants given to the NGA, the CCSSO, and Achieve,Inc.

And who gives out federal grants (bribes) to manipulate states to adopt Common Core?  The Feds.  And who mandates that tests and data collection must be shared “across consortia” and overseen and coordinated by the Feds?  The Feds.

And whose set of standards will the test developers use to base test questions upon–any state’s, such as  the Utah Common Core Standards, or the Common Core State Standards/federal standards?   The Fed’s set, of course.

  • CC Proponents say that Utah still has local control of education because Utah’s School Board can change the Utah Common Core Standards any time by a majority vote.

Being able to change Utah’s Common Core is meaningless.  The federal standards (CCSS) are the basis for the tests.  Why would a teacher, after 2014-1015 when the testing has begun, choose to teach Utah’s Common Core when it differs from the CCSS federal core?  We would want our students to achieve high scores.  We would be unmotivated to teach to the Utah Common Core.

  • CC Proponents focus on the strands of the initiative that they feel benefits schools and kids.

Whether it’s computer adaptive testing, added vocabulary and grammar, or fewer math concepts, some teachers list good things they approve about the new Common Core.  However, as stated earlier, these strands of standards can and should be adopted within Utah’s sovereign state standards, after we sever ties with Common Core Initiative, the accompanying testing arm, SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) and all its accompanying privacy intrusions, outrageous costs, and federal mandates. Once Utah is fully aligned with the Common Core Initiative, withdrawing will be cost prohibitive.

Worst of all, the freedom to argue at district and school levels about things like whether Saxon math or Investigations math should be adopted, will end.  Nationalizing standards, testing and curriculum ends local autonomy and innovation.

  • CC Proponents say that “Common core is like a building code; teachers build innovatively within that code.”

The question is, what if we want a taller building than the code permits?  What if we want to build something better than the code-mandators envisioned?  Common core’s code  stunts schools’ abilities to soar beyond it.

Posted April 9, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Opinion Editorial #2: The Common Core Initiative: What’s Hidden Between the Lines? (not yet published)   Leave a comment

The Common Core Initiative:  What’s hidden between the lines?

by Christel Swasey

Ever since I saw Alisa Ellis and Renee Braddy’s “2 Moms Against Common Core,” I’ve barely slept.  My laundry is backed up.  I’m losing weight. All I do is research the Common Core Initiative (CCI).

I talk to teachers.  I read think tanks and pester the U.S.O.E.  I compare the Education Secretary’s public letters to his dense grants and legal agreements.

On Wednesday I joined Alisa and Renee to petition the Governor to study Utah’s loss of control of education under CCI.

We noted that all academic elements of Common Core are in public domain; if we like them, we can keep them.  But CCI membership comes with federal intrusion that robs Utah of sovereign rights, commits Utah to foot the bill, and silences educational freedom.  A collection of evidence is posted at whatiscommoncore.blogspot.com.

How did Utah’s educational freedom get hijacked without a peep out of Utah?  How did CCI slide under the radar of legislators and taxpayers?  Can we turn around this loss of state control over education?  YES–  if people view CCI as more than an academic change. It’s up to us to act.

The State Superintendent won’t act. He sits as board member of three pro-Common Core groups. Two promoted and developed CCI’s federal standards; the other is the test maker.

The State School Board won’t act. That board is so collectively pro-CCI that they’ve devised a way to make sure nobody can get elected who isn’t pro-CCI: a survey for candidates for School Board asks, (first question): “Are You For Common Core?”

The Governor might act.  His lawyers are studying statements from Arne Duncan versus compliance rules written by Duncan  which do conflict.

The burden of proving CCI is an asset rather than a liability to Utah, rests on Utah leaders and lawyers who refuse public debate, dodge phone calls and won’t answer questions such as:

1. Why haven’t teachers been told that everything about CC  was already available under public domain law?  CCI membership doesn’t give us anything but does dilute freedom.

2. Why has no cost analysis or legal analysis been done? A think-tank estimates CCI will cost each state hundreds of millions over the first seven years and will make states’ unique standards irrelevant. CCI violates laws against federal intrusion on states’ educational sovereignty. Why allow it?

3. If CCI is state-led and voluntary as it claims, why did Secretary Duncan rage when South Carolina withdrew? Why has Duncan required that testing arms must coordinate reporting to him and “across consortia”? Why can’t a state withdraw from SBAC without federal permission?

3. Why was no public or legislative input taken? Utah didn’t seek out CCI;  we joined as an afterthought, as a condition for candidacy to win a grant which we didn’t win.

4. Why did Utah agree to standards and assessments that hadn’t even been written in 2009 when we joined?

5. Why stay in? We have wiggle room now to get out; it’s the beginning of implementation.  Later, we’ll be too financially and technologically invested.

6. Why are there two different sets of standards?  The Utah Common Core (UCC) is being taught, while the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) will be the basis for the SBAC tests in 2014.

7.  Why did Utah take the CCI’s word for the idea that the standards were high enough?  CCSS won’t ready students for average colleges like University of California, said Mathematician Ze’ev Wurman. Stanford Professor Michael Kirst and Validation Committee Member Professor Sandra Stotsky called CCSS standards low.

8. Why did Utah join, when free-thinking states like and Texas and Virginia refused? CCI was cost prohibitive,  lowered some standards, and deleted sovereignty, they said.

9. Why did the National PTA accept a two million dollar “donation” to one-sidedly promote CCI?

10. Why is there no amendment process for the federal  standards upon which kids will be tested? 

11. Why has no one noticed that the SBAC test is as much a nationalized personal data collection vehicle as it is an academic test? 

12. Why is there no transparency? Educators are in a spiral of silence that prevents them from voicing concerns.

Who will stand up and respond with real evidence to these questions?

The lawyer at the Utah State Office of Education asked me to not engage in public debate. She deflected questions rather than answering them.  Isn’t it my right and responsibility to ask questions?  As a lawyer for the Utah State Office of Education, doesn’t she have a duty to answer?

Heber City Residents Petition Governor to Get Utah Out of the Common Core Initiative   1 comment

Heber City Residents Petition Governor to Get Utah Out of the Common Core Initiative

Evidence that Common Core is federally operated   Leave a comment

1.  No cost analysis of Common Core has been done in Utah nor been provided by the U.S. Department of Education.  Usually, the Congressional Budget Office cost analyzes things like this.  But in fully claiming the partial truth that Common Core is a “state-led” initiative, the federal forces cleverly circumvented the law that prevents federal direction of states’ educational systems, making it impossible for the Congressional Budget Office to look at costs of implementation.  Common Core advocates slid this initiative under the radar of the taxpaying public and the “please foot the bill” Utah legislature.

Researchers estimate that Common Core implementation will cost consortium states 16 billion dollars collectively over the next seven years, a sum that goes on top of the costs states already struggle to come up with for schools. States adopting Common Core will need to spend approximately $2.47 billion in one-time costs to obtain aligned English language arts and mathematics instructional materials

2.  No Utah public or Utah legislative input. The U.S. Dept. of Education paid groups to do what it was forbidden by the Constitution to do. Thus, even though Common Core and SBAC membership require many changes to Utah’s educational system legislators and the public were not part of the adoption of the Common Core Initiative, and the Congressional Budget Office was never asked to review costs. The Common Core Initiative slipped through in the lure of a grant, which Utah neversaw a penny of.  Those accountable for signing us up are Utah Superintendent of Schools Larry Shumway, the 15-member State School Board, and the former Governor.

3. No local control of testing is assured under the Common Core initiative and its accompanying SBAC membership.  Read the Cooperative Agreement between SBAC and the US Dept. of Education.  Total federal control.

Although the USOE is correct in stating that control is to be maintained by Utah over the Utah standards because the Utah Board can vote to change the Utah standards, that is a moot point.  WestEd, the testing arm of the SBAC, has affirmed that they are writing the test to match CCSS standards. Utah’s educational standards will very soon be irrelevant; power and control are held by the SBAC  because teachers teach to tests.  When teachers realize that the Utah standards are not perfectly aligned with the SBAC test, they will teach to the national CCSS standards. The binding Federal Department of Education/SBAC Agreement document shows all reports concerning the test will be controlled and overseen by the federal government. The Federal Department of Education, in the same document, mandates information sharing “across consortia,” meaning that all the SBAC states (like Utah) plus all the PARCC states (like Florida) must coordinate tests as well as sharing all results with the Federal Department of Education.  This triangulates data and means we have directly signed up for nationalized, centralized testing and have indirectly signed up for nationalized standards and curriculum.

Our State School Superintendent sits on the board of WestEd, the SBAC’s testing arm.

4. No local control of standards is assured under the Common Core initiative and its accompanying SBAC membership. There are two sets of Common Core standards:

1) The CCSS are the federal standards, developed by a D.C. group called Achieve, Inc., and these CSSS are the basis for the test that Utah students will take.

2) The Utah Core Standards (USS) are our state’s version of the CCSS standards.  Utah was “allowed,” by the rules of CC, to add up to 15% of our own local content to their standards and curriculum. Yes, we could teach our own USS and curriculum, but we would only be tested on the CSSS.

Our state has a voice on the SBAC testing board, but had no voice in what had already been written in the CCSS governing standards by Achieve, Inc., nor in the Cooperative Agreement document that binds Utah via the tests to the Federal Government’s oversight and coordination.

Total federal control.

5. No amendment process exists.

There is no local process for amending the CSSS standards, upon which  the SBAC test Utah kids will take, is based.

6. Common Core lowers standards in signficant ways.

The U.S. Dept. ofEduvcation is always talking about equality rather than freedom.  CCSS makes all schools the same in a mistaken effort to promote equality; CCSS stunts growth, innovation and local collaboration.

Expert testimonies argue that Common Core lowers standards in significant areas.  One of the official Common Core Validation Committee members, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, refused to sign off on the CCSS because they “significantly weaken the intellectual demands on students in the areas of language and literature. They also weaken the base of literary and cultural knowledge needed for actual college-level work.” Stanford Professor Michael Kirst wrote, ” My concern is the assertion in the draft that the standards for college and career readiness are essentially the same. This implies the answer is yes to the question of whether the same standards are appropriate for four-year universities, two-year colleges, and technical colleges. The burden of proof for this assertion rests with CCSSO/NGA, and the case is not proven from the evidence presented”. Mathematician Ze’ev Wurman testified that “Common Core is not on par with international high achievers, nor will meeting Common Core qualify students for entry to either CSU or UC.[i]

7. Other states are fleeing the Common Core federal entanglement:

Texas refused to join Common Core, citing the fact that their math standards were already higher than Common Core, and they valued state sovereignty over consortia membership.  Virginia valued its Sequences of Learning and had already invested financially in SOL; also, Virginia did a cost analysis on Common Core and quickly said, “No, thanks”.  South Carolina, like Utah, initially joined, but is now opting out of Common Core.  South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said that she saw no difference in ceding control to the Federal Government and ceding control to a consortium of states. Senator Mike Fair said that South Carolina had “sold our educational birthright without even getting the mess of pottage”.

8. No law states that the Federal Government can withhold educational funding from states if they refuse to adopt Common Core.   Yet the U.S. Dept. of Education tries.

Although the Federal Government is attempting to bribe states to stay in Common Core by holding out the No Child Left Behind waivers as a trade, Utah should not succumb to the bait.  We are protected by the U.S. Constitution and cannot be force to submit by our Executive Branch, which holds no legal authority over education in any state in our country.  Three federal laws in addition to the U.S. Constitution state that the federal government has zero authority to direct states’ education. Senator Rubio of Florida is currently in the news over this very issue.

9. Common Core gives Utah nothing that we didn’t already have.   The federal rhetoric is full of half truths and full lies.  CCSS is not benefiting our state in any way.  Public domain means that Utah can access and use any standard we find useful in Common Core. Utah receives no benefit from Common Core membership that isn’t already available in the public domain, but we do take on financial burdens, obligations, and threats to our educational autonomy and diversity.

10.  The PTA accepted a 2 million dollar donation to advocate for Common Core without ever analyzing whether Common Core was for the best of our nation’s children and teachers.  This might be one reason why nobody, not even educators, seem to know more than catch phrases and rhetoric concerning Common Core.


Posted April 6, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Why are other states trying to get out of Common Core, too? How is it to be done?   1 comment

Texas refused to join the Common Core Initiative.  Texas math standards were higher than CCSS anyway.

Virginia refused to join Common Core.  Virginia liked their Sequences of Learning program and didn’t want to foot the bill for a big, unnecessary change.

Alaska didn’t join.

Nebraska didn’t join.

Other states came in, but halfway.

South Carolina joined but regretted it, and withdrew.

Alabama women’s groups are fighting to cut Alabama free.

Will enough Utahns see the light and push Utah to withdraw as well?

Maybe.  Let’s look at what other free thinking states have done.

 

Governor Nikki Haley wrote a letter of support for Senator Mike Fair’s bill, S. 604 that would block the common core state standards from being implemented.

Dear Senator Fair

South Carolina’s educational system has at times faced challenges of equity, quality and leadership – challenges that cannot be solved by increasing our dependence on federal dollars and the mandates that come with them. Just as we should not relinquish control of education to the Federal government, neither should we cede it to the consensus of other states. Confirming my commitment to finding South Carolina solutions to South Carolina challenges, I am pleased to support your efforts to reverse the 2010 decision to adopt common core standards.

While I understand and agree with looking outside South Carolina for ideas to improve educational outcomes, I firmly believe that our government and our people should retain as much local control over programs as possible. The solution to many of South Carolina’s educational challenges will be found by sending more of our limited resources to the classroom and offering educational choices to meet the needs of South Carolina’s students. Our children deserve swift action and the passage of a clean resolution that will allow our State to reclaim control of and responsibility for educating South Carolinians.

Thank you for the important work you have done on this issue; please let me know if I may be of further assistance.

Governor Nikki Haley

 

 

 

Posted April 6, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

What is Achieve, Inc., and why should you care?   13 comments

What is Achieve, Inc.?

 

The information is available on Achieve, Inc.’s official website: http://www.achieve.org/AboutAchieve.

 

Achieve, Inc.,  is a Washington, D.C. group formed in 1996 by a group of corporate leaders and some governors who wanted “standards-based education” across states.  (See http://www.achieve.org/AboutAchieve)

“Much of Achieve’s work has focused on English Language Arts and mathematics standards, most recently around the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).”

Achieve takes boasts about releasing the CCSS standards:

“With the release of the Common Core State Standards in June 2010, states now have a clearly defined set of expectations in English language arts/literacy and mathematics.” http://www.achieve.org/achieve-applauds-final-k-12-common-core-state-standards

 Achieve openly admits that it developed the Common Core and that the organization’s goal is to alter states’ policies:

“Our work doesn’t stop with the publication of reports; we have developed tools that help states change policies and practices.  Chief among these are benchmark expectations – model K-12 academic standards – in mathematics and English…  which served as a pre-cursor to the Common Core State Standards.”  (See http://www.achieve.org/AboutAchieve)

The Race To the Top grant funded two testing arms of the Common Core Initiative: SBAC and PARCC.

PARCC’s project manager is Achieve, Inc.  (See http://www.parcconline.org/project-management-partner). This means that Achieve, Inc. not only wrote the Common Core State Standards that would be turned into currriculum and tests, but they also are writing the tests themselves. The tests will   “signal whether students are on track to graduate ready for college and the workplace” as defined by that small D.C. group.

 Achieve “provided Common Core ‘boot camp’ to a number of states… to support implementation efforts.”  http://www.achieve.org/AboutAchieve

In a June 2, 2010 press release by Achieve, Inc., the company praised itself, the NGA and the CSSSO for providing “a clear path – from kindergarten to high school graduation” and “encourages states to adopt and fully implement the Common Core State Standards” released the day of that press release, June 2, 2010. http://www.achieve.org/achieve-applauds-final-k-12-common-core-state-standards

Full implementation of Common Core “means aligning graduation requirements, curriculum materials and instructional tools, educator preparation and professional development, assessments, accountability indicators and data systems with the Common Core State Standards so that the whole system – down to every classroom – is geared toward the same end goal” according to the press release.

Leadership of Achieve, Inc:

Michael Cohen has been president of Achieve, Inc. since 2003. Before that, he was a career-long federal education officer:

Michael Cohen has been Director of Education Policy at the National Governors Association (1985-90) and Director of Planning and Policy Development at the National Association of State Boards of Education (1983-1985). During the Clinton Administration he served as Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, Special Assistant to President Clinton for Education Policy, and Senior Advisor to U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley.

Thus, Michael Cohen went from a career in the U.S. Department of Education to leading Achieve, the national-standards group that wrote the CCSS, to then working for the national standards’ testing arm, PARCC, as its project manager, thus writing the tests for those standards which his group had written, that now will be federally directed and overseen* by the Department he long worked for.

 (*See Cooperative Agreement with SBAC for requirement statements about coordinating and reporting to the federal government and sharing project status and research data collected on students from that test “across consortia”.)

Posted April 6, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

What is WestEd and why should you care?   31 comments

What is WestEd and why should you care?

“In order for this [testing] system to have a real impact within a state, the state will need to adopt the Common Core State Standards (i.e., not have two sets of standards.)” -April 2012 statement from WestEd Assessments and Standards Senior Research Associate Christyan Mitchell, Ph.D.

 

The information cited on these pages comes from WestEd’s website and WestEd employees.

 

Background:

How WestEd is funded:

In 1966 Congress created a network of Regional Educational Laboratories, under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, two of which became WestEd. Today WestEd is no longer officially run by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), but it is still funded largely by the federal government. With grants from the DOE and other federal and private granting agencies, WestEd laboratories work as “a public agency performing an essential government function, exempt from income taxes.” Last month, Nancy Pelosi congratulated WestEd on a $5 Million Department of Labor Award.

The WestEd – Utah connection:

WestEd is the project manager for the SBAC,  a consortium of states all willing to take the same federally-funded and overseen test.  SBAC was joined by Utah in 2009. Although Utah does not receive any money through its membership in SBAC, the consortium’s testing cooperative is funded by the RTTT federal grant to produce tests that Utah students are slated to take beginning in 2014. Larry Shumway, Utah’s Superintendent of Schools, is on the board of the SBAC’s test producer/project manager, WestEd. WestEd also has other connections with Utah, as the Salt Lake Tribune reported in November 2011 that WestEd would now be partnering directly with  the  Utah State Office of Education on another, unrelated, school program.

How WestEd’s relationship with U.S. DOE impacts Utah’s educational concerns:

WestEd/SBAC is required, by the document entitled “Cooperative Agreement” which is written by the U.S. DOE, to coordinate “across consortia,” which means working closely with Achieve, Inc., (program manager for PARCC, the Common Core’s other testing arm) as well as having to coordinate, report and give status updates to the DOE.  This triangulation appears to be in violation of federal laws prohibiting federal involvement or oversight in state educational programs.

According to the company itself, its activities and “influence is enormous, from the daycare center… to the floors of Congress… Our products and services…  sometimes even shape national policy… Legislators need sound information to inform their decisions… WestEd offers them access to the best research and to the most effective practices…. We give policymakers the information they need.”

Stanley Rabinowitz, Director of Assessment & Standards at WestEd, was a member of the Common Core State Standards Validation Committee before he got the job of writing tests for those standards. 

Letter from WestEd to a concerned Utah educator: (emphasis added)

To: esato@wested.org, ccarrol@wested.org

Sent: Monday, April 2, 2012 4:44:12 AM

 

 

Dear Edynn Sato and Cathy Carroll / WestEd,

 

Please help me understand how differents states’ standards will be “crosswalked” or taken into account, on the SBAC assessments.

 

Please help me understand how the individual standards of a member state of SBAC will still be relevant in light of the fact that all the SBAC states take the same test.

 

For example, if  Colorado added 15% more calculus to their math standards than the federal standards had, while Utah added 15% more geometry, how will those individual state standards be addressed by the test?

 

If the WestEd’s test contains neither Colorado’s calculus nor Utah’s geometry, because their standards were actually higher than those of the federal government’s, how will the test benefit the SBAC states?

 

Thank you.

 

Christel

 

Date: Mon, Apr 2, 2012 at 7:07 PM

Cc: Edynn Sato <esato@wested.org>

 

Dear Christel:

 

Thank you for the question regarding assessment alignment within the Consortium. Consistent with the terms of this Race to the Top grant, the Consortium will be developing an assessment system that ensures comparability across member states. To that end, the Consortium is developing, through state-led input and consensus, test blueprints that measure the Common Core State Standards that are the same across all member states.

 

If a state chooses to add their state-specific 15% to the Consortium test, then that additional information can be included in their local reporting, but is not considered the Smarter Balanced test.

 

In order for this system to have a real impact within a state the state will need to adopt the Common Core State Standards (i.e., not have two sets of standards).

 

As a condition of the grant, all member states participating in the assessment must adopt the Common Core. In our discussions with member states regarding the desire to implement the additional 15% we have found that most interest comes from states with standards that fall outside English language arts or mathematics (e.g., Native American history).

 

If you have any further questions please feel free to contact me directly or email SBAC@wested.org

 

Thank you.

Christyan

Christyan Mitchell, Ph.D.

Senior Research Associate

Assessment and Standards Development Services

WestEd

phone:  415-615-3115

fax: 415-615-3200

email: cmitche@wested.org

 

 

 

 

Posted April 6, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

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