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.

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

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  1. Christel,

    Thank you for the work you are doing. I’m glad to see so much evidence. I was looking at the USOE’s flier at the Forum and thinking that I wanted to do something like this too.

    I’d like to add some more evidence to back your letter.

    Membership in the assessment group SBAC, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, then required states to adopt Common Core Standards (http://www.smarterbalanced.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Smarter-Balanced-Governance.pdf) – pg. 3

    Nearly at the same time as the above RTTT, the Federal Government announced additional incentives with the Race to the Top for Assessments (RTTTA) Funds requiring states to join with other states and create common assessments and standards to receive the prize.
    EVIDENCE: “To be eligible to receive the award an eligible applicant must include a minimum of 15 states.” (http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/rtta2010smarterbalanced.pdf – pg.12)
    EVIDENCE: “…an eligible applicant must submit assurances from each State that the State will adopt a common set of … standards” (pg. 15)

    The Utah State School Board was given a weekend to sign an Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which;
    a. Authorized the creation of Common Core Sate Standards
    b. Gave the Federal Government permission to “provide key financial support for this effort in developing a common core of state standards and in moving toward common assessments, such as through the Race to the Top Fund. (http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/phase1-applications/appendixes/utah.pdf- pg. 90)
    EVIDENCE: Dr. Hales presented the information about developing Common Standards to the Board on May 1, 2009 and “Indicated that they would like us to sign a MOU on Monday [May 4th] if we are going to participate.”
    (http://www.schools.utah.gov/board/Minutes/2009/090501.aspx – pg. -18068-)

    In the audio of the above meeting they said that ACHEIVE, ACT, and all of these groups were willing to write these standards for FREE but ONLY if we signed the MOU by Monday.

    The Utah State School Board recognized Common Core Standards as National Standards from the beginning as is noted in the State School Board Minutes from April 2009.
    EVIDENCE: “WestEd which is an arm of the US Department of Education has askedfor some that are in that [American Diploma Project ADP] to come together to create some common standards. All is coming to a peak moment with the stimulus package for national common standards.
    On April 17 Board Leadership has approved her [Superintendent Harrington] travel to visit with CCSSO and the expectation is that Utah might sign a Memorandum of Understanding that we might begin the dialogue. It will not commit her [Superintendent Harrington] or the Board but would add Utah to the states that are interested in understanding on how we might develop common standards.
    It was clarified that the national standards would focus around language arts and math.”
    (http://www.schools.utah.gov/board/Minutes/2009/090403.aspx – pg. -18048-)

    The Utah State School Board hastily and negligently signed our state up for the Common Core Initiative which included SBAC in an effort to receive money from a Federal grant.
    EVIDENCE: “Part of our Race to the Top Application was participation in a Common Assessment Consortium – Associate Superintendent Judy Park reported that states are scrambling to see who they want to align themselves with or partner with. Because the federal government required we declare what consortium you were in we were under an impossible deadline. To make it work we all agreed we would do a Non-binding MOU’s into a Consortium. Utah along with many other states signed on to multiple consortiums.” State School Board Meeting Feb. 2010
    (http://www.schools.utah.gov/board/Minutes/2010/02-05-10.aspx – pg. -18257-)

    Three of the consortiums joined together forming SBAC and we later signed a binding MOU
    (http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/rtta2010smarterbalanced.pdfpg. ut-16)

  2. I should note that the MOU became binding when SBAC was awarded the grant for the assessment. In the application for the grant Washington, the fiscal agent acting in our behalf, stated, “I certify on behalf of the consortium that each member of the consortium has agreed to be bound by every statement and assurance in the application and that each Governing State is fully committed to the application and will support its implementation.”

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