Archive for July 2012

The Smokescreen: Common Core State Standards Copyrighted by NGA/CCSSO for Dept. of Education   32 comments

    BYU Professor Ed Carter is an expert on copyright.  I called him to learn more about what it means to have our Utah educational standards under copyright by the NGA (National Governor’s Association) and the CCSSO (Council of Chief State School Officers).

So, how bound are we?

Professor Carter made it clear that his was not professional legal advice, nor was it any official statement from BYU.

He said it appeared to him that the NGA/CCSSO copyright on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is a smokescreen.

    Smokescreen – an action intended to obscure, conceal or confuse.

Smokescreen – a mass of dense artificial smoke used to conceal military areas or operations.

Because governments cannot copyright things (this was news to me) the Dept. of Education not only couldn’t legally write national standards under GEPA law* and the Constitution (I knew that part) but the Dept. of Education could not copyright standards, either.

So it’s getting clearer and clearer.  The only way the Dept of ED could do this nationalization of education and yank local autonomy out of our hands –and appear sort of legal about it– was to promote Common Core via other groups.  –And they have:  Achieve, NGA, CCSSO, Bill Gates– all nongovernmental groups– have written, promoted and paid for the Common Core.

    

The really odd part is that on the official Common Core website there’s a copyright page that says nobody better claim to have written these standards.  Yet, we’ve all been told that Common Core is a “state-led” initiative, with no federal strings attached, and the states themselves got together and wrote the standards.  Hmmmm.  Compare: “NGA Center/CCSSO shall be acknowledged as the sole owners and developers of the Common Core State Standards, and no claims to the contrary shall be made.”  http://www.corestandards.org/public-license

No, the NGA/CCSSO cannot force us to obey the national standards.  They just developed them and copyrighted them, but of course, since we didn’t elect them, we have no way to change the standards nor the administrators over them.

Simultaneously, the Dept. of Education promoted the standards and even went so far as to say states can’t delete anything from the CCSS national standards, and are limited in adding anything to them beyond 15%.  The Dept. of Education can enforce this obedience to the copyright through coercion.  They fund grants and offer waivers that can only be received on conditions of accepting the Common Core standards.

But there is a loophole!

I’ve been writing letters, begging our Governor and other state leaders to use that loophole.  It’s not complicated; Virginia did it.  They chose option 2 rather than option 1.  See:

On page 8 of the ESEA Flexibility document (updated June 7, 2012)  found at  http://www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility, it says:   “A State’s college- and career-ready standards must be either (1) standards that are common to a significant number of States; or (2) standards that are approved by a State network of institutions of higher education”.

Same thing appears on the official ED website: http://www.ed.gov/race-top/district-competition/definitions.

They define “college- and career-ready standards:  Content standards for kindergarten through 12th grade that build towards college- and career-ready graduation requirements (as defined in this document) by the time of high school graduation.  A State’s college- and career-ready standards must be either (1) standards that are common to a significant number of States; or (2) standards that are approved by a State network of institutions of higher education, which must certify that students who meet the standards will not need remedial course work at the postsecondary level.”

Here’s my question.  The ESEA flexibility request window shuts down Sept. 6, 2012.  Does this mean we have to resubmit our waiver request before then, or lose the option of doing loophole option 2 forever?  I do not know the answer to this question.  It seems incredibly important and I sure hope our state leaders are on it.

* GEPA LAW:  No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other printed or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system…

Now that the state admits they track PII on every kid, and our feds have requested data mashing…   Leave a comment

Dear Lorraine,
Thank you!  I appreciate you going to the effort to find the answer to my question. I have a follow-up question.
The Associate Superintendent over data collection said that USOE does not release student level data; could you tell me how long that policy will remain in place and where I can find it in written form?  Thank you.
I am concerned with this question because Joanne Weiss, the U.S. Education Department’s chief of staff, said that information from multiple federal data systems is being “mashed together” on the federal level and will be further mashed with state data. The U.S. Department of Education’s research agency is releasing information to “help” move states toward “developing partnerships” to use the student information gathered from state longitudinal data systems. (Source: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/inside-school-research/2012/07/ed_urges_states_to_make_data_s.html?cmp=SOC-SHR-FB )
Another source confirms this trend:  http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/2/prweb9201404.htm
It says, “Statewide longitudinal data systems (SLDS’s) are a single solution to manage, disaggregate, analyze, and leverage education information within a state. In recent years, the scope of these systems has broadened from the K-12 spectrum to now encompass pre-kindergarten through higher education and workforce training (P-20W) ” and that regional and federal groups are linked clients of Choice Solutions, Utah’s data networking partner.
Added to these facts is the fact that recent changes were made by the Department of Education to FERPA (privacy laws/regulations) that remove the necessity for researchers to gather parental or student consent prior to accessing personally identifiable information (PII).
So the only thing standing between our students’ PII and interstate, intrastate and federal persual (including entrepreneurs and both governmental and nongovernmental researchers) is local policy.
That is why I’d like to see what that policy is, and when it’s due to expire.
Thank you very much.  I appreciate your time.
Sincerely,
Christel Swasey
On Fri, Jul 27, 2012 at 9:27 AM, Austin, Lorraine <Lorrain.Austin@schools.utah.gov> wrote:

Christel,

I have consulted with the Associate Superintendent in the office over data collection, and have received the following answer to your question:

All students who attend public schools have their data submitted to USOE for multiple purposes including accountability and monitoring aggregate student progress.  USOE does not release student level data.  Current data systems do not allow for individual student data to be withheld from the data submission process.  Current state and federal accountability requires that a minimum of 95% of students participate in all assessment programs.

Lorraine

Lorraine Austin, Secretary to the Board

Utah State Board of Education

PO Box 144200

Salt Lake City, UT  84114-4200

(801) 538-7517

From: Christel  Sent: Thursday, July 26, 2012 1:07 PM To: Board of Education; Shumway, Larry; Park, Judy; Hales, Brenda Subject: Second Request for a Yes or No

Dear Board,

Last week, I asked a simple yes or no question.  I received one response, and that board member did not say yes or not, but said he’d forward my question to Judy Park’s secretary.  I still have no answer.

The question is simple:  Is it possible for a student in Utah to attend public school and not be tracked by the P-20 and SLDS tracking systems?

Thanks.

Christel Swasey

Heber, Utah

 

Let Freedom Ring In Education!   1 comment

  We have to get rid of the Common Core Initiative  –if we actually care about quality education and freedom over education.

Why?

I’ll start with a little intro– why I care:

I  hold an up-to-date Utah Level II teaching license and I have nine years of experience in classrooms. I’m currently a stay-home-mother.  My most recent teaching position was Adjunct Professor of English at Utah Valley University, where I taught Freshman English and remedial Basic Composition.  Teaching remedial English showed me that the educators’ cry for better prepared students is a real concern, not to be lightly dismissed.

Having studied the Common Core Initiative closely, however, I have come to the conclusion that Common Core is not the answer to the real educational problems we face. The Common Core educational standards present a sobering danger to quality education.  They are unproven, at best.  They are a dumbing down, at worst.

    As an English teacher, my concern is that by mandating the removal of narrative writing and greatly reducing the amount of classic literature that is permitted in Utah English classrooms, we have robbed our students of literary history, culture and the intangible values that cannot be imparted through informational texts and informational writing.  Is the slashing of time allotted for English literature much different from actual book burning, in its effect on students’ thoughts?

Common Core seems to take from, rather than give to students.  Professor Michael Kirst of Stanford University noted 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.”  This is one of the most sobering criticisms of the damage and dumbing down Common Core standards may do.

Regardless of who wins the argument about whether the national standards will be better or worse than Utah’s previous standards, the fact remains that the national educational standards are, to Utah, utterly meaningless:  there is no local political power over them; they can be changed at any time, but not by us.

Reclaiming Educational Freedom:

It seems that reversing the adoption of Common Core is both an educational and a Constitutional imperative.

    Reclaiming educational freedom and educational quality for Utah will meanwe have to : 1) withdraw from the SBAC testing consortium, 2) withdraw from Common Core national standards, 3) resubmit Utah’s ESEA Flexibility waiver request to choose state-unique standards, option 2, “standards that are approved by a State network of institutions of higher education”  and 4) creating legitimate, freed standards.

Toward those ends, this post will give evidence that the Department of Education’s reforms harm local freedom and education, all spearheaded by the Common Core Initiative.  These reforms have reduced Utah’s educational decision-making capacity without public knowledge or a vote;  have reduced, rather than improving, educational quality; and will expose students and families to unprecedented privacy intrusions by state, federal and nongovernmental entities, to be accessed without parental consent.

This post will also look at  efforts other states have made to reclaim local control of education.

 

Unconstitutionality of Common Core

The unconstitutionality of Common Core is clear because the initiative offers education without representation: the public did not vote on the transformative initiative and has no means to amend these national standards, as they are under copyright.  (Source:   http://www.corestandards.org/terms-of-use )

There is no means for voters to recall any Common Core test-creating administrators or standards-setting personnel.  No matter how radiant the claims of Common Core proponents sound, the standards are unproven, untested, and unfunded.  Voters deserve to know about, and vote upon, the board’s unauthorized decision that traded state control of quality education for an unvalidated, un-amendable national educational experiment.

http://truthinamericaneducation.com/common-core-state-standards/three-exit-strategies-from-the-common-core-for-state-leadership/

 Local decision-making capacity reduced

The following documents show that local decision making has been severely reduced:

  1. Race to the      Top (RTTT) Grant Application – on the definitions page, we learn      that states are restricted from adding to standards for local use. The application hooked Utah to Common Core, even      though we didn’t win the grant. It states:       A State may supplement the common standards with      additional standards, provided that theadditional standards do not exceed 15 percent of the State’s total      standards for that content area.” This      speed limit on learning is problematic; one example is the fact that 9th      graders will be repeating most of their 8th grade year (Alg. I moved from      8th to 9th grade for CCSS implementation) and the state will not be able      to add more than 15% to what they would be learning in 9th grade over      again.
  1. Copyright on CCSS National Standards  – Despite the fact that proponents of Common Core claim the initiative was state-led and was written by educators’ input nationwide, the copyright states:  “NGA Center/CCSSO shall be acknowledged as the sole owners and developers of the Common Core State Standards, and no claims to the contrary shall be made.  http://www.corestandards.org/public-license
  1. ESEA      Flexibility Waiver Request – This document, like the RTTT      grant application, shows that Utah is not      able to delete anything from the national standards and can only add a      maximum of 15% to them.  State      and local school boards do not understand or agree upon how this problem      is to be faced.  While the local      district says it is bound by top-down decision making and must adapt to      Common Core, the state school board says that “local districts and schools are clearly responsible for accommodating      individual students.” A Utah State School Board member confessed      that, seeing this math retardation problem ahead of time, she pulled her      grandchildren out of public school and homeschooled them before Common      Core was imposed on them.   http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/07/07/state-and-local-school-board-perceptions-of-common-core-differ-13-2/
  2. Cooperative      Agreement      – The Department of Education’s cooperative agreement with the SBAC      testing consortium, to which Utah is still bound, states that tests must      be synchronized “across consortia,” that status updates and      phone conferences must be made available to the Dept. of Education      regularly, and that data collected must be shared with the federal      government “on an ongoing basis.”  http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf

This Department of Education arrangement appears to be flatly illegal.  Under the Constitution and under the General Educational Provisions Act, the federal government is restricted from supervising education of states:  “No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other printed or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system…”  http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/20/1232a

  1. Letter From      WestEd      -      “In      order for this system to have a real impact within a statethe state will need to adopt the Common Core      State Standards (i.e., not have two sets of standards).”  This email      response from the SBAC test writers shows that the up-to-15% difference      between Utah Core Standards and Common Core State Standards (CCSS) will be      a 0% difference as soon as      testing begins in 2014-2015. Nothing but the national standards will be      tested.  (Source:  http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/04/06/what-is-wested-and-why-should-you-care/      ) Also, teacher and principal employment will soon depend upon student      performance on the nationalized tests.       (http://www.nea.org/home/proposed-policy-on-evaluation-and-accountability.html      ) Thus, there will be strong motivation to teach only to the test and skip      unique 15% additions to the local version of the national standards.

Educational quality reduced

The following educational testimonials illustrate that under Common Core, educational quality is reduced:

  1. 6.       The expert opinion of BYU Professor Alan Manning of the Department of Linguistics and English Language:  that Common Core is not a good idea.  “…Core standards just set in concrete approaches to reading/writing that we already know don’t work very well. Having the Core standards set in concrete means that any attempts to innovate and improve reading/writing instruction will certainly be crushed. Actual learning outcomes will stagnate at best… An argument can be made that any improvement in reading/writing instruction should include more rather than less attention the reading/analysis of stories known to effective in terms of structure (i.e. “classic” time-tested stories). An argument can be made that any improvement in reading/writing instruction should include more rather than fewer exercises where students write stories themselves that are modeled on the classics. This creates a more stable foundation on which students can build skills for other kinds of writing. The Core standards would prevent public schools from testing these kinds of approaches.” http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/07/07/byu-professor-alan-manning-expresses-concerns-about-common-core-slashing-story-writing-and-classic-story-reading/
  1. The expert      opinion of Dr. Sandra Stotsky, who served on the Common Core      Validation Committee and refused to sign off on the adequacy of the      English Language Arts standards: “…Despite claims to the contrary,      they are not internationally benchmarked. States adopting Common Core’s      standards will damage the academic integrity of both their post-secondary      institutions and their high schools precisely because Common Core’s      standards do not strengthen the high school curriculum and cannot reduce      the current amount of post-secondary remedial coursework in a legitimate      way.”      http://parentsacrossamerica.org/2011/04/sandra-stotsky-on-the-mediocrity-of-the-common-core-ela-standards/  and         http://pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120510_ControllingEducation.pdf
  2. The expert      opinion of Dr. James Milgram, who served on the Common Core      Validation Committee and refused to sign off on the adequacy of the math      standards:  that Common Core math puts      students about two years behind other countries, rather than creating a      competitive set of standards.       http://pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120510_ControllingEducation.pdf
  3. The expert      opinion of Ze’ev Wurman, who served on the California      Committee to assess the CCSS math standards:  that Common Core deletes or slows      important elements of math education.       http://pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120510_ControllingEducation.pdf
  4. Testimony      of Wasatch School District and Parents – Common Core was      implemented this year in Wasatch County, Utah.   Parents can testify that James Judd,      Wasatch District Administrator, coined the phrase “math bubble”      to refer to the 6th and 9th grade repetition forced by Common Core      implementation, which district administrators and math teachers are trying      to work around.  Students can      testify that in regular common core math classes this year, they repeated      what they’d learned in 8th grade.  Wasatch      County students are among signers of the Utahns Against Common Core      petition. http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/working-around-the-fact-that-common-core-math-dumbs-down-our-kids/   and       http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/

Department of Education FERPA alterations hurt privacy rights while empowering ED data collecting

The following documents and links show that a network of intrastate and interstate data collecting has been created, financially incentivized by the federal government’s ARRA stimulus money, and has been illegally empowered by Dept. of Education FERPA regulatory changes, made without Congressional approval.

This data gathering network meshes student data collection locally and then nationally,  including accessibility to personally identifiable information,  and is on track to be federal perused, as well as being available for non-educational, entrepreneurial, and even “school volunteer” perusal– without parental consent.

  1. ARRA Stiumulus Money bought Utah’s $9.6 million State Longitudinal Data System (SLDS):  http://nces.ed.gov/programs/slds/state.asp?stateabbr=UT  to be used for student tracking.
  2. Press Release Shows Utah is P-20 Tracking with UEN/Utah Data Alliance –  “Statewide longitudinal data systems (SLDS’s) are a single solution to manage, disaggregate, analyze, and leverage education information within a state. In recent years, the scope of these systems has broadened from the K-12 spectrum to now encompass pre-kindergarten through higher education and workforce training (P-20W) ” and that regional and federal groups are linked clients of Choice Solutions, Utah’s data networking partner. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/2/prweb9201404.htm
  3. 2012 Statement by  J. Weiss, U.S. Education Department’s Chief of Staff: information from multiple federal data systems is being “mashed together” on the federal level and will be further mashed with state data. The U.S. Department of Education’s research agency is releasing information to “help” move states toward “developing partnerships” to use the student information gathered from state longitudinal data systems. (Source: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/inside-school-research/2012/07/ed_urges_states_to_make_data_s.html?cmp=SOC-SHR-FB )
  4. Schools/states being asked by NCES –federal government– to collect personal information along with academic information, including 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. View the National Data Collection Model database attributes (data categories) at http://nces.sifinfo.org/datamodel/eiebrowser/techview.aspx?instance=studentPostsecondary
  5. EPIC lawsuit against Dept. of Education – A lawyer at E.P.I.C., Khalia Barnes, stated that FERPA regulatory loosening will affect anyone who ever attended a university (if that university archives records and received federal scholarships).  Not just children will have their data perused without parental consent– nobody will be asked for consent to be tracked and studied.  The lawsuit is ongoing from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and the Department of Education. It suit is filed under the  under the Administrative Procedure Act against the Department of Education.  EPIC’s lawsuit argues that the agency’s December 2011 regulations amending the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act exceed the agency’s statutory authority, and are contrary to law., including: a)  reducing parental consent requirements over student data to optional, a “best practice,” rather than a mandate and b) manipulating privacy laws by redefining terms and stretching the concepts of “authorized representative” and “educational program” past the breaking point so that even a school volunteer could access personally identifiable information.    http://epic.org/apa/ferpa/default.html
  6. BYU Professor David Wiley partnered financially with USOE in NCLB Waiver Request –  Professor Wiley is financially partnered with USOE and Common Core implementation.  Is he getting rich?  No clue.  But he has been so outspoken in defending the USOE’s adoption of Common Core as well as defending the Department of Education’s FERPA alterations that exclude parents being consented before student data is used for educational research.  (Source for partnership evidence:  Page 25 at:   http://www.schools.utah.gov/data/Educational-Data/Accountability-School-Performance/Utah-ESEA-Flexibility-Request.aspx  )  Source for Wiley pro-Common Core and anti-parental consent debate:

http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/christel-swasey-responds-to-brenda-hales/#comment-1456

  1. Powerpoint by John Brandt, USOE Technology Director, showing federal access to Utah student transcripts and other data;  Brandt is a federal NCES member and a CCSSO (Common Core creator) member.  His online powerpoint states:

Where student records and eTranscripts can be used:

  • LEA   <—->  LEA (local education agency)
  • LEA   <—->  USOE (Utah State Office of Education)
  • LEA     —->  USHE (Utah System of Higher Education, and beyond)
  • USOE  —->  USED (US Department of Education

 

So, What should Utah do?

Rather than choosing the option of using national, common standards, Utah leaders can create Utah’s own standards, using local universities’ expertise.

On page 8 of the ESEA Flexibility document (updated June 7, 2012) found at http://www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility,  it is stated: “A State’s college- and career-ready standards must be either (1) standards that are common to a significant number of States; or (2) standards that are approved by a State network of institutions of higher education”.  This option 2 was recently chosen by Virginia, a state that also wisely rejected Common Core national standards in the first place.

Case Study of Virginia:

Virginia rejected Common Core.  Common Core would be an unwise financial investment, the state said, and the standards would have left teachers stripped of the curricular SOL frameworks Virginia valued.

The Virginia Board of Education said “Virginia’s accountability program is built on a validated assessment system aligned with the Standards of Learning (SOL); validated assessments aligned with the Common Core do not exist.”  The Board also said, “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,” and the Board “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.” http://www.doe.virginia.gov/news/news_releases/2010/jun24.shtml

Option 2, using “standards that are approved by a State network of institutions of higher education”was chosen by Virginia, and that state did receive its NCLB waiver this year.  Utah can do the same. http://www.doe.virginia.gov/news/news_releases/2012/jun29.shtml

Case Study of Texas:

Texas rejected Common Core based on an estimated $3 billion implementation cost and the fact that Texas’ educational standards were already better than Common Core.  “I will not commit Texas taxpayers to unfunded federal obligations or to the adoption of unproven, cost-prohibitive national standards and tests,” Gov. Rick Perry wrote in a January 13 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://www.pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120208_RoadNationalCurriculum.pdf

Texas, along with 11 other states, has not made a NCLB waiver request. The Texas Education Agency explained that it was concerned the federal government might impose a national curriculum and a national system to test students’ abilities and evaluate teacher performance, and prefers state control.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/10/some-states-stay-with-edu_0_n_1267859.html

Case Study of South Carolina

Utah has much in common with South Carolina.  Unlike Virginia and Texas, both Utah and South Carolina did adopt the Common Core standards and both joined testing consortia.  South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and Senator Michael Fair are now working to withdraw the state from the national standards and assessments, against great political pressure to remain bound.

AccountabilityWorks  estimated the costs for South Carolina over the next seven years to be over $75 million for professional development, $42 million for textbooks and 115 million for technology.  To do adequate assessments, South Carolina would need a 4 to 1 ratio of students to computers, totaling 162,500 computers. 62,128 computers were still needed. South Carolina faced an estimated price tag of at least $232 million, over seven years, not including assessments, but just to implement the common core.  The number didn’t include the operational costs the state already paid for.

South Carolina’s Governor Nikki Haley explained in a public letter:

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…

South Carolina 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.

Senator Fair explained in 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.”

Conclusion

The Constitution is still the supreme law of the land.  Education reforms, including Common Core, go completely in the opposite direction of the spirit and letter of the Constitution.

Federal agencies and state consortia are not stakeholders in Utah.  They should not determine our choices.  Truly, the Utah School Board was never authorized to give away authority over local decision making and the state should reverse their decision immediately.

It appears that the way reclaim Utah’s educational freedom and educational quality is to: 1) withdraw from the SBAC testing consortium, 2) withdraw from Common Core national standards,  and 3) resubmit Utah’s ESEA Flexibility waiver request to choose state-unique standards, option 2, “standards that are approved by a State network of institutions of higher education,” and 4) write our own standards and tests to be controlled by Utahns and set privacy policies that abide by protective state, rather than un-protective federal  FERPA policy.

Having reclaimed our freedom, we can then look to legitimate good examples to create new standards for Utah. For example, we can look to (pre-Common Core) Massachusetts.  The state tested as an independent country and was still among the highest ranking educational systems worldwide, up until Common Core. Because Massachusetts had the highest standards in the nation before they discarded their standards and adopted Common Core, we could use those standards as a template for our own.

Utah can regain local control over the quality and type of education, can reclaim Utah’s local ability to vote educational leaders in or out of office, can reclaim Utah’s ability to add to her own standards without restraint; and can take a strong stand against the federal push that aims to expose students and families to unprecedented privacy intrusions.

Let’s do it.

USOE: The Answer is No. (–Can a Student Attend Public School Without Being P-20/SLDS Tracked?)   26 comments

Dear Utah School Board,

Last week, I asked a simple yes or no question.  I received one response, and that board member did not say yes or not, but said he’d forward my question to Judy Park’s secretary.  I still have no answer.

The question is simple:  Is it possible for a student in Utah to attend public school and not be tracked by the P-20 and SLDS tracking systems?

Thanks.

Christel Swasey

Heber, Utah

——————————-

On Fri, Jul 27, 2012 at 9:27 AM, Austin, Lorraine <Lorrain.Austin@schools.utah.gov> wrote:

Christel,

I have consulted with the Associate Superintendent in the office over data collection, and have received the following answer to your question:

All students who attend public schools have their data submitted to USOE for multiple purposes including accountability and monitoring aggregate student progress.  USOE does not release student level data.  Current data systems do not allow for individual student data to be withheld from the data submission process.  Current state and federal accountability requires that a minimum of 95% of students participate in all assessment programs.

Lorraine Austin, Secretary to the Board

Utah State Board of Education

PO Box 144200

Salt Lake City, UT  84114-4200

(801) 538-7517

——————————-

Dear Lorraine,

Thank you!  I appreciate you going to the effort to find the answer to my question. I have a follow-up question.

The Associate Superintendent over data collection said that USOE does not release student level data; could you tell me how long that policy will remain in place and where I can find it in written form?  Thank you.

I am concerned with this question because Joanne Weiss, the U.S. Education Department’s chief of staff, said that information from multiple federal data systems is being “mashed together” on the federal level and will be further mashed with state data. The U.S. Department of Education’s research agency is releasing information to “help” move states toward “developing partnerships” to use the student information gathered from state longitudinal data systems. (Source: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/inside-school-research/2012/07/ed_urges_states_to_make_data_s.html?cmp=SOC-SHR-FB  )

Another source confirms this trend:  http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/2/prweb9201404.htm

It says, “Statewide longitudinal data systems (SLDS’s) are a single solution to manage, disaggregate, analyze, and leverage education information within a state. In recent years, the scope of these systems has broadened from the K-12 spectrum to now encompass pre-kindergarten through higher education and workforce training (P-20W) ” and that regional and federal groups are linked clients of Choice Solutions, Utah’s data networking partner.

Added to these facts is the fact that recent changes were made by the Department of Education to FERPA (privacy laws/regulations) that remove the necessity for researchers to gather parental or student consent prior to accessing personally identifiable information (PII).

So the only thing standing between our students’ PII and interstate, intrastate and federal persual (including entrepreneurs and both governmental and nongovernmental researchers) is local policy.

That is why I’d like to see what that policy is, and when it’s due to expire.

Thank you very much.  I appreciate your time.

Sincerely,

Christel Swasey

Dept of Ed Pushes States to Hand Over Data Systems – Education Week   Leave a comment

ED Urges States to Make Data Systems More Open – Inside School Research – Education Week.

Posted July 28, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Control Over Education: More of the Debate Between Professor Wiley and Me   Leave a comment

David Wiley says:

July 21, 2012 at 2:39 am

Christel,

Let me start by saying thanks to you as well. I think this conversation has been extra-ordinarily civil, despite our obvious differences of opinion. In today’s political realm, I can think of nothing more important than civility in discourse. So much of what could be productive dialog is reduced to worse than time-wasting shouting. I am genuinely grateful for your obvious passionate – yet polite – engagement around this topic.

I would disagree that my argument has been that ‘because research is supremely helpful in making improvements to education, anything that stands in the way of gathering research is reduced to optional/unimportant.’ I have argued for the importance of research in improving education, and I have argued for the importance of the exceptions to FERPA – which are clearly limited.

The study exemption FERPA governs schools initiating research and evaluation of their own programs – in other words, a school or district that wants to study itself. If a school district doesn’t have sophisticated research expertise in-house (and given today’s budgets – how could they afford to?), under the study exemption they are permitted to engage outside expertise in the process of conducting that research. Those outside experts may be contractors, consultants, or volunteers. And they can conduct this research without having to ask parents’ permission first. That seems wholly appropriate to me.

You suggest that “researchers should shoulder the inconvenience of getting parental/individual consent” before any research can be done. If the researcher has come to the school and proposed the work, this is exactly what would have to happen. And the research rarely occurs because too few parents engage in meaningful tasks like helping their child with homework, let alone signing a research consent form. And if these researchers can’t persuade enough parents to consent the research won’t happen, which is perhaps as it should be.

But when a school asks, “We want to understand how we can serve our students better – Ms. Research Expert, will you please help us?” Then under the exception a strict written contract is executed governing what data Ms. R. E. can and cannot see and what she can and cannot do with that data. Now that she is under contract, she is treated like other employees because she is subject to similar contractual obligations. And those obligations are what make “employees” in the first place.

I agree that must act ethically. And I ask, which is more ethical – prohibiting students from achieving more of their potential by prohibiting research that would facilitate that fulfillment? Or providing all individuals who are appropriately and contractually obligated to protect PII with access to PII for the reasons specified in their contracts?

The USOE has been holding public meetings about Common Core literally for years now, asking for community feedback and listening carefully to all opinions expressed. Some of that feedback has been critical, some of it has been supportive. Regardless of which path they choose to follow, they were certain to disappoint a large portion of their constituency. I’m genuinely sorry that you feel they have made the wrong choice. If they had rejected the Common Core, I’m sure I would have felt the same overwhelming sense of frustration and disappointment that I expect you feel because of their adoption of it.

While I can’t speak on behalf of the USOE, I would guess that if they seem unexcited by the idea of holding yet another hearing on these issues, it is because they have already held so many of them and have heard the arguments for and against repeated so many times in these meetings and other settings (op-eds, blog posts, Facebook comments, etc.) that they can recite – and explain – each of the pro and con arguments from memory. This does not mean that they are anti-transparency or anti-public input. But once you’ve heard all the arguments a dozen or more times, there is simply no “gaining the public’s input” function served by convening yet another meeting. The USOE has a clear obligation to obtain and consider public input, but that obligation does not mean that meetings must continue to be held quarterly as long as a portion of the constituency disagrees with their decision.

I believe the record of open public meetings (which was reviewed at length in the most recent public meeting on Common Core) provided ample opportunity for these decisions to be made with meaningful public vetting from 100% of schoolchildrens’ parents. The fact is that – even when you and I run around the state talking to everyone we can get our hands on – people don’t engage. I agree with you, that most parents in Utah still don’t even know what Common Core is nor what FERPA is about. But it is only partly up to people like me (and you!) to right this wrong. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. You and I can cry from the rooftops about how important this issue is, but parents have the agency to choose to ignore us. And they have largely exercised that agency to choose apathy. If, as you say 99% of them won’t engage over something this important, what prayer do we have of them ever signing a research consent form? =)

Finally, please do mistakenly believe that my views represent those of the David O. McKay School of Education or BYU. I am not a spokesman for either, and there are people in both the MSE and broader BYU communities who agree with your point of view (perhaps more than would agree with me). I am simply a person who supports the Common Core, and finds great pleasure in constructive dialog with people with other opinions.

Reply

  • Professor Wiley,

    It is simply not true that the state has “provided ample opportunity” for meaningful public vetting.  There has never been a single hearing on Common Core.  There has never been a public vote. The one forum held by USOE at Granite School District last spring was dominated by the pro-Common Core side with a forty-five minute intro, after which some individuals from both sides, pro and con, were given time to say a few sentences each.

    A pitiful minority of teachers and parents even know what the term fully means.  Even teachers do not know that we aren’t free to change these standards; we have given up our authority over educational standards decision making and testing as we’ve agreed to nationalize our local system.

    This was not fair public vetting.  Common Core’s implementation and purpose is education without representation– both in the disregard you and other Common Core advocates show for parental involvement and consent, and also in the fact that Common Core standards are copyrighted and can therefore never be challenged by parents or by anyone at all.  We can’t even remove the personnel and administrators of Common Core by a vote. How un-American is that?!

    A recent poll done by Achieve, Inc. (ironically) showed that overwhelmingly, a majority of Americans have no idea what Common Core means.  I didn’t know what the term meant until this April.  The USOE has not been transparent, open, or had meaningful public forums to expose and discuss all the relevant points –on control of local education, on research, on Constitutional legality, on taxpayer cost, nor on the standards’ content.

    You are openly advocating for the removal of consent. No amount of eduspeak makes up for that.

    Christel Swasey

Heartlander: Michigan Article on Utah’s Common Core Controversy   Leave a comment

Utah Parents Object to Common Core 

Reposted from:  http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2012/07/26/utah-parents-object-common-core
July 26, 2012
Parents and citizens have formed activist groups to oppose Utah’s adoption of Common Core education standards, though state officials including the governor and education department spokesmen say these objections are groundless.

Approximately 300 packed a Salt Lake City auditorium for lectures on the standards, which describe what children should know in each grade for math and English. Forty-five states adopted the Core under Obama administration pressure.

Christel Swasey, a mom from Heber City, Utah, said she hadn’t even heard the term “Common Core” until April 2012—nearly two years after the state adopted it.

“I think most parents in Utah still don’t know what the term means,” Swasey said. “Utah adopted the Core before the standards had been published—like getting married without dating.”

Parent activist Alisa Ellis didn’t know about the Common Core until a teacher handed her a brochure, unable to explain the Core more than simply telling her it was “great,” Ellis said.

“For a year I couldn’t find any answers,” she said.

These Utah moms are not alone. Sixty percent of U.S. voters polled in May they have seen, read, or heard “nothing at all” about the standards. To rectify this in their state, these moms and dozens of other parents founded Utahns Against Common Core. Other groups have composed brochures and begun approaching state representatives.

Cutting Classic Literature

The Common Core replaces literature with informational reading in large portions of many states’ curriculums.

“When I found out they are slashing classic literature I was really bothered,” Swasey said. “That’s like book burning. If you don’t allow the child access to the literature it is the same thing as saying the literature doesn’t exist.”

The Core also requires students take algebra in ninth instead of eighth grade.

“My sixth grader is adept at math,” Ellis said. “It really bothers me that with the Common Core the only way for him to advance as his older siblings did is to skip a grade. I see value in him staying with his peers.”

Shifting the Curriculum

Aside from these practical issues, the Core is legally dubious, said Jim Stergios, executive director of the Pioneer Institute.

The federal government is paying for two state coalitions to develop tests aligned with the Core. It is illegal for the federal government to develop curriculum.

“The people who develop these tests cannot develop tests without developing specific curriculum and instructing teachers how they should teach,” Stergios said.

The Pioneer Institute asked two former U.S. Education Department lawyers to analyze the laws that might enable the federal government’s involvement. They concluded its involvement with the Core was illegal, Stergios said.

“These two groups, funded by the federal government, specifically state they will develop curriculum,” he said.

Swasey said she was also concerned about the testing system.

“It’s not a national curriculum, but it is a nationally controlled testing program and controlled standards. If you do that, you don’t need to control the curriculum,” she said.

 –Abigail Wood writes from Hillsdale, Michigan.  

Heritage Foundation Addresses Utah’s Fight to Reclaim Control of Education   Leave a comment

Lindsey Burke, of The Heritage Foundation, wrote an editorial about Common Core that’s printed in the Deseret News today.

http://desne.ws/PvkifD  Here it is:

Lessons for Utah from Iowa: Fight for control of education

After the Berlin Wall fell in the late 1980s, central planning was all but discredited throughout the world. The exception, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) notes, was in Washington, D.C., “where every bureaucracy has, since that time, doubled down to insist that central planning be done out of Washington with one-size-fits-all solutions.”

That central planning approach is visible in the Obama administration’s push for national standards and tests, and through its efforts to craft an executive branch re-write of No Child Left Behind, or NCLB, by offering strings-attached waivers to states. Most recently, the administration made NCLB waivers all but contingent on a state adopting the Common Core standards, creating another strong incentive for states to relinquish control of the content taught in local schools.

The waivers, which release states from some of the most onerous provisions of NCLB, have been offered only to those states that agree to implement the White House’s preferred education policies. When combined with the administration’s push for national standards and tests, the waivers represent one of the quickest ways states can abandon citizen ownership of education.

If the centralizing impact of the Obama education waivers wasn’t already clear, the recent decision by the U.S. Department of Education to issue its first waiver rejection to Iowa — a state well known for its history of local control — makes it unambiguous that the waivers are designed to increase federal control over education.

Why was the Hawkeye state denied this alleged flexibility? Evidently, Iowa’s long-standing legacy of school district autonomy prevented the state from being eligible for a waiver.

The U.S. Department of Education informed Iowa that it would have to implement a statewide teacher evaluation system if it hoped to receive a waiver. Because the legislature hasn’t vested the state department of education with the authority to mandate such regulations on school districts, Iowa can’t meet the federal government’s condition.

As U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote in a letter to Secretary Duncan’s post-waiver denial, “the Iowa Department of Education lacks the authority to implement such a system because the Iowa Legislature considered the matter and declined to grant that authority.”

“It is certainly not the place of the U.S. Secretary of Education to condition relief of certain federal requirements on the adoption of a whole new federal policy agenda that has never passed Congress and therefore lacks democratic legitimacy,” Grassley continued.

The senator is exactly right. The U.S. Department of Education has stood on dubious legal grounds from the very beginning of the waiver announcement. While the secretary has waiver authority under NCLB, that waiver authority exists to waive certain requirements for states. It does not permit the Department of Education to offer waivers to states that are buckling under the bureaucratic pressure of NCLB, on the condition that they adopt the administration’s preferred policies.

One is certainly hard-pressed to find cheerleaders for NCLB. The bureaucratic law created a tremendous paperwork burden for states and significantly grew Washington intervention into local school policy. But in the midst of congressional deliberations about the future of NCLB, President Obama began offering waivers from the law to states that agreed to implement Department of Education priorities.

To date, 37 states and Washington, D.C. have applied for a waiver from the law, and 26 states have been awarded waivers.

The waivers are sold as “relief” and “flexibility” from the heavy-handed federal law, but come at a steep price to state educational autonomy. States must agree to implement the Obama administration’s preferred policies, such as adopting national standards and tests. Accepting a waiver means agreeing to the conditions promulgated by the department, further relinquishing state educational autonomy.

Moreover, the NCLB waivers are emanating from the executive branch, creating a situation in which the White House is effectively re-writing the law without congressional approval.

One of the more frustrating aspects of the NCLB waiver issue is the fact that an alternative to NCLB that provides genuine flexibility for states exists, and doesn’t carry with it the strings associated with the waivers. For years now, conservatives in Congress have championed the Academic Partnerships Lead Us To Success Act, or A-PLUS, which would allow states to completely opt-out of NCLB.

States that choose to opt-out would be empowered to use their share of federal funding for any lawful education purpose under state law. And if a state can demonstrate over a five year period that it is able to improve student outcomes, the state can continue to enjoy that flexibility.

It’s a far better approach than further concentrating power in the halls of the Department of Education, which is the outcome we can expect if the White House waivers continue.

Moreover, it’s an approach to reducing the federal role and providing relief to states that is a product of Congress, as it should be.

Rep. Bishop argues that further centralizing education and nationalizing standards isn’t going to solve our education woes. “The only thing we haven’t tried to do,” Bishop notes, “is allow schools to be free. Go back to what has always worked: the free market. When people have freedom, they make better choices.”

While Utah applied for, and secured, a waiver from NCLB, it’s not too late to demand genuine relief from federal overreach. And it’s certainly not too late to back out of the Common Core national standards boondoggle, and regain control of local school policy.

Lindsey M. Burke is Senior Education Policy Analyst at The Heritage Foundation

Sutherland Institute Advises Utah to Reject Common Core and Says USOE Claims are Misleading   1 comment

Reblogged from Sutherland Institute: http://www.sutherlandinstitute.org/news/2012/07/18/fact-checking-usoe-claims-on-common-core/

“…After several months of research, Sutherland Institute published a report recommending the state exit Common Core and agreements related to it. In this blog post, we have rated how true or false the USOE claims are, and explain our ratings based on our research. All page numbers refer to our full report, and we made format changes to USOE quotes to maintain consistency.

USOE: “Personally identifiable student data has never been shared with or requested by the federal government. Utah retains control over student data. While there have been some recent revisions to FERPA regulations, the law still clearly states who has access to information and under what circumstances. Still in all cases the law is ‘permissive’ not ‘obligatory’; that is, Utah may share the data but it is never obliged to share it. Utah won’t share the data without compelling reasons and then only within the strictest confines of federal law.”

Rating:Likely true – with caution.

The key phrase here is “personally identifiable student data.” Utah must give education data to the federal government as a participant in programs like NCLB and IDEA, but this data is reported on the state, district or school level, not the individual student level. However, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), of which Utah is a member, has agreed to work with the U.S. Department of Education to “develop a strategy to make student-level data that results from the assessment system available on an ongoing basis for research, including for prospective linking, validity, and program improvement studies, subject to appli­cable privacy laws” (pg. 10). So while Utah is not currently obligated to share personal student-level data with the federal government, the state may be pressured or required to do so in the future as a participant in SBAC (Utah has agreed to support any decision SBAC makes [pg. 10]). We urge USOE never to share personally identifiable data with the federal government. No “compelling reasons” exist to do so.

USOE: “The State Board of Education has control over the standards and assessments for Utah. The State Board can and will change them as needed without outside group or federal approval. The State Board is solely responsible for overseeing the implementation of the standards in our state.”

Rating: False, except the final sentence.

Utah has entered three agreements that limit control over its standards and assessments. First, its agreement with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA) requires it to adopt Common Core standards in their entirety. The state has the option of adding up to 15 percent additional content but cannot subtract from or change the standards if it wants to retain its status as a participant in Common Core. To change its current core standards for lan­guage arts and mathematics, Utah would either have to convince the consortium to change the standards for all participating states or else exit its agreement with the consortium (pg. 8).

Second and third, Utah has agreed to adopt Common Core standards and SBAC’s computer adaptive assessments as part of its federally approved flexibility waiver for NCLB and its membership in SBAC. Thus, even if it ended its agreement with CCSSO and NGA, it would still be bound to participate in Common Core and SBAC assessments. To stop using these standards or assessments, the state would have to exit its agreement with SBAC, which requires federal approval, and either give up its NCLB flexibility waiver or receive approval from the Department of Education to use its own set of standards and assessments in order to maintain the waiver (this was an original option but any change would need federal approval) (pgs. 8-11). In summary, Utah can add up to 15 percent to its standards, but it cannot change them otherwise without approval from CCSSO, NGA and the U.S. Department of Education. It also must use SBAC assessments (still being developed) unless it receives approval from the same people. USOE might claim the state has control over standards and assessments because it can always exit its agreements with these entities, but as long as it maintains these agreements the state does not have control of its standards and assessments. For this reason, we urge the state to exit these agreements and develop its own standards and assessments.

USOE: “Utah has not lost its autonomy over standards and assessments.”

Rating: False.

See above.

USOE: “Utah reviews and updates core standards on a regular basis – typically improving and raising the bar on what Utah students need to know. The Utah core standards for Mathematics and Reading/English Language Arts were approved during the Board’s August 6 meeting. The State Board adopted them based on the quality of the standards. They were not adopted due to federal pressure, federal recommendations or federal money.”

Rating: Partially true and partially unknown.

The state does update its standards from time to time and improved its math standards not long before adopting Common Core (pgs. 2-3, 6). Whether the standards were adopted because of federal money is unknown. The timing of agreements leads one to wonder if Utah adopted the standards to qualify for Race to the Top funds, but only state officials know their true motives for adopting the standards.

USOE: “The Utah core standards may be changed by the State Board at any time.”

Rating: False, unless the state exits current agreements.

See above.

USOE: “The Utah core standards were not developed, funded or mandated by the federal government.”

Rating: Technically true.

The federal government did not develop, fund or mandate the standards, but it has encouraged the adoption of them through NCLB waivers. Utah could have chosen to develop its own improved standards superior to Common Core and still qualify for a waiver, as Minnesota and Virginia have done, but it chose to adopt Common Core standards (pg. 9). The federal government is funding SBAC assessments, which the state has signed on to use, through its Race to the Top program.

USOE: “The Utah core standards are not federal or national standards.”

Rating: Possibly true.

Common Core standards are not federal standards, despite the federal government’s encouraging all states to adopt them. Whether they are national standards depends on how one defines “national.” 45 states (90 percent) have formally adopted the standards, which means some people may consider them to be national standards, but perhaps others would want the other five states on board to call them “national standards.” In the end, what we do know is that a couple years ago each state had its own set of standards, and today 45 states have common standards.

USOE: “The Utah core standards were not obligatory because of Utah’s Race to the Top application.”

Rating: Technically true.

Utah did not have to adopt Common Core standards to apply for Race to the Top grants, but the Obama administration did give preference to states that had “demonstrated its commitment to adopting a common set of high-quality standards” by participating in a consortium that included “a significant number of states” and was “work­ing toward jointly developing and adopting a common set of K-12 standards” (pgs. 9-10). Utah did not win a Race to the Top grant, so it is not bound to remain in Common Core through that federal program.

USOE: “The Utah core standards are not under the control or manipulation of special interest groups.”

Rating: Somewhat false.

SBAC is a group of states with a special interest in creating assessments aligned with Common Core. While SBAC is a collaboration of public entities, it is a group outside of Utah to which the state has ceded some of its autonomy over public education. As a member of SBAC, Utah has agreed in advance to adopt Common Core and to support any decisions the consortium makes. For example, if SBAC decides to require member states to add specific elements to its current math and language arts standards or to adopt common standards in other subject areas, then Utah would need to adhere to those decisions unless it exits SBAC (pg. 10). This applies especially to Utah’s assessments, as the state has agreed to use SBAC assessments when they are completed. It’s also important to remember that while NGA and CCSSO (creators of Common Core) have public officials on their boards and committees, they are private special interest groups.

USOE: “The Utah core standards are not obligatory because of Utah’s NCLB flexibility request application.”

Rating: False.

As explained above, Utah had to choose one of two options to qualify for an NCLB flexibility request: It could adopt Common Core standards or develop its own improved standards. Utah’s adoption of Common Core qualified it for the waiver the federal government has already approved. The state is obligated to use Common Core standards unless it obtains permission from the federal government to develop its own standards and maintain its waiver, or unless the state chooses to back out of the waiver (pg. 9).

USOE: “In a letter dated March 7, 2012, Arne Duncan, the Secretary of the United States Department of Education affirmed that ‘states have the sole right to set learning standards.’ In Utah’s flexibility request we informed the Department of Education that we have chosen to use our Utah core standards. If and when the State Board decides to change or revise Utah’s standards they will do so.”

Rating: True.

Although if the State Board wants to change or revise its standards it must take the steps described above.

USOE: “Occasionally, the Department of Education has wrongly and problematically appeared to take credit for the standards. For example, an application for a federal grant for development of assessments erroneously stated that the standards were released by the Department of Education. This has led to confusion over who wrote the core. Stephanie Shipton from the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) reaffirmed in an email to the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) on March 27, 2012, ‘The statement ‘Common Core Standards released by the Department of Education’ is factually incorrect (assuming you are referring to the U.S. Department of Education). The NGA Center and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) hold the copyright. In addition, the U.S. Department of Education played no role in the development process (including but not limited to financial contributions, input on the standards, and input on the process).’”

Rating: Probably true.

USOE: “Utah applied to receive a Race to the Top (RTTT) grant, but did not receive one. At a federal government level, the Department of Education has in the past two years issued grants that encourage the use of the Common Core, Charter Schools, Educator Evaluation systems that include accountability for student growth, performance incentives, interventions for low-performing schools and other initiatives. Utah is under no obligation associated with RTTT and does not receive any RTTT funds.”

Rating: Mostly true.

As mentioned, Utah did not win a grant through Race to the Top and does not receive any funds directly through Race to the Top, but it does have obligations through its participation in SBAC (as described above), which is funded by Race to the Top (pgs. 9-12).

USOE: “Utah is using the state procurement process to implement a new assessment system and to determine future assessment purchases. Utah participates in a consortium of states to develop assessments and a computer adaptive assessment system. The consortium called SBAC receives federal funds from a federal grant [Race to the Top]. Utah signed a document agreeing to participate in the development of the Smarter Balanced Assessment System. Utah agreed to use the assessments if the state is still an SBAC governing state in the 2014-2015 school year. Utah may withdraw from the consortium at any time through a formal exit process. To date, six states have terminated their participation in the consortium with a 1-7 day process. Utah can choose to use SBAC or reject it.”

Rating: True, with qualifications.

The state can reject SBAC and withdraw from it at any time, assuming it receives approval from SBAC and the federal government. If Utah withdraws from SBAC it would need to rework its NCLB flexibility waiver because it has agreed to use SBAC assessments in order to obtain the waiver (pg. 11).

To learn more, see “Common Core: Is It Best for Utah Children?” “

Posted July 25, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Robert Holland on the Secrecy of the Common Core Initiative   1 comment

Illustration Education Jack-in-the-box by John Camejo for The Washington TimesReposted from The Washington Times, written by Robert Holland:   http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/jul/23/obama-quietly-implements-common-core/?page=all#pagebreak

 

New standards for math and English called Common Core are poised to hit public schools across the nation. Some schools will begin implementing them as early as this fall, before parents have any inkling what has happened to their children’s classroom instruction.

Parents will not know how or why the nationally prescribed curriculum came about or how to change it if they don’t like it.

That undoubtedly sounds similar to the famous assertion of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that Congress would have to pass the Affordable Care Act for people to know what’s in it. The nationalized Common Core for education is like Obamacare in ripping control over critical, life-altering decisions from those most affected.

Achieve, a band of like-minded corporate moguls that formed in 1996 to push national education standards, had to report rather sheepishly last month that its own poll showed Americans are almost totally in the dark about the Common Core juggernaut.

A remarkable 79 percent of registered voters know “nothing” or “not much” about what Achieve calls the Common Core State Standards. Another 14 percent said they knew “some,” and just 7 percent claimed to know “a lot.”

None of that is surprising: Those standards for teaching English and mathematics were put together behind closed doors starting in 2009 by “experts” assembled by resident bureaucrats of the Washington-based Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association.

In 2010, even before a final draft had been made public, the Obama administration began pressuring states to commit to the Common Core in order to be eligible for a slice of the $4.5 billion Race to the Top fund carved out of the federal stimulus.

More recently, the U.S. Department of Education made adoption of such “college- and career-ready standards” one of its many conditions for granting states No Child Left Behind waivers.

Thus, any pretense of these being voluntary “state standards” went out the window long ago — all the more so because the Common Core now is linked to mandatory national tests that are being paid for by another $350 million in Obama stimulus bucks.

Achieve had a headache remedy handy for the embarrassing lack of public knowledge revealed by its own pollsters: Write a glowing description of the Common Core and then ask folks again what they thought. After reading it, 77 percent of respondents said they supported implementation of the Common Core, a finding Achieve then touted. This was the description the pollster spoon-fed them: “These new standards have been set to internationally competitive levels in English and math. This means that students may be more challenged by the material they study, and the tests they take will measure more advanced concepts and require students to show their work.”That’s a classic example of a pollster manipulating questions to obtain a result desired by an advocacy group. Remember, the description was for folks who confessed to knowing basically nothing about the Common Core.

Suppose respondents had before them instead the following description:

“Your local schools are about to start implementing standards and assessments developed by Washington-based interest groups and pushed by the federal government. These standards, known as the Common Core, have never been field-tested, and your local school board has been unable to put them to a public hearing or vote.

“The national standards provide no process for states or localities to amend them. They will require students to take four federally subsidized tests a year, all of them via computer, and the results will be a factor in evaluating local teachers.”

Given that factual statement, it is doubtful the desire to push forward with immediate implementation would have reached 25 percent.

Would parents really trust behind-the-scenes forces to have total sway over their children’s education if they knew they would be powerless to monitor the content of lessons or the online testing?

Forty-six states are on board with the Common Core. Only Alaska, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia have chosen to stick completely to their own standards and thereby safeguard the rights of their citizens. In the compliant 46, local school systems are dutifully beginning the process of retraining their teachers to conform to the centralized system.

When 90 percent of parents, taxpayers and voters learn what is going on, perhaps the “repeal and replace” battle cry won’t refer only to Obamacare.

Robert Holland (rholland@heartland.org) is a senior fellow for education policy with the Heartland Institute.

Posted July 24, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Does Defending the Constitution Require Rejecting Common Core?   3 comments

    What Thomas Jefferson wrote matters:  government gets its power “from the consent of the governed.”

Without the consent of the people who are being told what to do, there is not a good or free government, but a system of subtle (or not-so-subtle) oppression.

Common Core is a system of oppression, by this definition.  How? Because parents, teachers, and state legislators have never given consent or been asked to vote on Common Core; in fact, the standards were set in concrete without any amendment process available, under copyright by the National Governors’ Association (a trade group that does not include all governors).  http://www.corestandards.org/public-license  Yet, we all are being made to take on Common Core, whether we know what it is, whether we like it, whether it makes legal, educational, financial sense to us –or not.

Common Core is not Constitutional.

It violates the major provisions of the Constitution, including:  the principle of representation; separation of powers with checks and balances; limited powers of the government, and sovereignty of the people (not of elites)– each of these principles is trampled by Common Core and its sister, the new FERPA student privacy law alterations.

True, adopting Common Core was voluntary for Governors and state school boards, initially, and true, it was not initiated by the Dept. of Education –but states’ adoption was strongly incentivized, financially and with the offer of NCLB waivers, by the Dept. of Education.  And it is controlled by the Department of Education, which also controls the testing consortia.

Ezra Taft Benson explained how unconstitutional agencies operate. This explanation applies precisely to the unconstitutional program of Common Core –of federalized education and tests.  He said:

“What many fail to realize is that most of these federal agencies are unconstitutional. Why are they unconstitutional? They are unconstitutional because they concentrate the functions of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches under one head. They have, in other words, power to make rulings, enforce rulings, and adjudicate penalties when rulings are violated. They are unconstitutional because they represent an assumption of power not delegated to the executive branch by the people. They are also unconstitutional because the people have no power to recall administrative agency personnel by their vote.”

When America created a Department of Education, it also created a law to make sure the agency didn’t overstep the reasons it was created.  This is called G.E.P.A. law, the General Educational Provisions Act.  G.E.P.A. says this:

No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other printed or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system.”

But the Common Core Initiative ignores  this.  The Department of Education coerces (“directs, supervises and controls”) the “choice” of states’ adoption of the standards; it controls the two consortia’s testing systems micro-management style;  http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf and it finances Common Core above any other educational initiative states might want to create (for example, via high-stakes grants such as Race to the Top, Race to the Top for Assessments and via the NCLB waiver/ESEA Flexibility request, etc.)

   J. Reuben Clark wrote this about the Constitution’s protective gift to us:

“It gave us, for perhaps the first time in all history, a republic with the three basic divisions of government– the Legislative, Executive, and Jucidial– mutually and completely independent, the one from the other, under which it is not possible for any branch of government legally to set up a system by which that branch can first conceive what it wants to do, then make a law ordering its doing and then, itself, judge its own enforcement of its own law, a system that has always brougth extortion, oppression, intimidation, tyranny, despotism– a system that every dictator has employed and must employ.” (Improvement Era, July 1940, p. 443; qtd in The Constitution, a Heavenly Banner, by Ezra T. Benson)

Thus, the Executive Branch (The Department of Education) has illegally set up Common Core, according to the supreme law of the land, the Constitution.  Also, the Department of Education illegally broke G.E.P.A. law.  Not only that, the Department of Education went behind Congress’ back to change FERPA privacy regulations six months ago, to enable Common Core tests to be accessed without parental consent, creating the very system described as illegal in the quote by J. Reuben Clark above.

Rigor or Dumbing Down? Common Core Sets Learning Speed Limit at 15   5 comments

    The fact is, Common Core limits learning.

There’s a defined speed limit on learning under Common Core.  Here’s the proof:

On the definitions page of the Race to the Top grant application (which hooked us to Common Core, even though we didn’t win the grant) it says this:

“Common set of K-12 standards means a set of content standards that define what students must know and be able to do and that are substantially identical across all States in a consortium.  A State may supplement the common standards with additional standards, provided that the additional standards do not exceed 15 percent of the State’s total standards for that content area.”

How does this hurt?

Well, it hurts everyone who adopted Common Core. Everyone but Texas and Virginia.

Here in Wasatch School District, where my kids go, it retarded our learning.  There is a “math bubble” of repetition for all 6th and 9th graders (ask the district; they’ll verify this; they made up the term!)  This meant that my child learned Alg. I in 8th grade prior to Common Core. Then she learned Alg. I in 9th grade, again, with Common Core.

The fact that Common Core proponents continue to call Common Core the answer to our educational problems, and the solution to so much college remediation being needed, is absurd.

We are forced by the 15% speed limit, as a district, and as a state, NOT to allow our 9th graders to learn more than 15% of what Common Core mandates for learning standards.

Am I angry?

Very.

But what can I do?  Anytime I try to get an answer from the district or the state school board they either completely ignore the question or write an official statement reiterating that this Common Core is creating college readiness and global competitiveness as never before.  They paint people like me with dismissive terms such as  “paranoid,” or “politically extreme,” or “a fringe group.”

When will anybody hold these people accountable for dumbing down our state’s educational system AND for selling out our freedom to ever change it?  YES, it’s true.  Common Core is not amendable. It’s under copyright. Here’s the link:  http://www.corestandards.org/public-license

The only way we can change this error is to WAKE PEOPLE UP and demand Governor Herbert gets us out of Common Core.

BYU Professor David Wiley: Parents Don’t Need to Know   3 comments

  Professor David Wiley is to be applauded for engaging in actual debate on the Common Core/FERPA issue with people like me.  I appreciate it.  He is rare for being willing to discuss these things without resorting to dismissive name calling as others have done.  Here is what he posted today, along with what Kristen Chevrier and I had to say back, below:

July 20, 2012 at 12:00 am

Christel,

Thanks for this ongoing conversation. I apologize for the choppy nature of my response, but I’m trying to reply point by point to your last post without copying your entire post into the body of mine.

You need PII to conduct the district / university study because you can’t learn anything meaningful by asking, “60% of the people in our district passed algebra – what percentage of our students tested into remedial math at the university?” and getting the answer “49%.” Are all 40% of people who didn’t pass algebra included in that 49%? Clearly some people who passed algebra still tested into remedial math. But what percentage? How well *are* we preparing our kids for college math? To get a meaningful answer you have to ask this question for each individual – did this person pass algebra in the district? Did they then test into developmental math at the university? And you need PII to connect the grade in the high school to the placement exam at the university level. I would guess somewhere between 1 and 3 researchers would see PII as this question was answered.

The exceptions to FERPA are important, but not because they make researchers’ jobs easier. The exceptions are important because some critical forms of large scale research are literally impossible without them. Everyone parent says that they want the teachers and staff in their schools to use research-based practices proven to be effective, but no one seems to want their child’s data to be collected or analyzed so that we can understand what is effective. I will nickname this issue the “freerider problem.” While it is possible to ask some meaningful questions without disclosing PII – and many of these questions have been asked and are well studied – the freerider problem prevents us from answering the important questions that require PII.

The idea that a random person on the street could acquire PII for their neighbor’s child with a persuasive verbal argument – and all due to the exceptions in FERPA – is hyperbole. Please reread the mandatory elements of the written agreements required to govern the un-consented disclosure of PII (in the documents you linked to previously) if you really thought this was possible. But I don’t suspect you did. Hyperbole of this kind does not productively advance the conversation.

For every quote from a prophet or general authority that purportedly proves one non-religious point, you can easily identify another quote that supports the opposing non-religious point. I don’t know that this type of dialogue is particularly productive. You offer Ezra Taft Benson’s quote, “An important test I use in passing judgment upon an act of government is this: If it were up to me as an individual to punish my neighbor for violating a given law, would it offend my conscience to do so?” (I find ellipses often hide important detail, so I’ve listed the complete quote.)

I will offer you Thomas S. Monson’s statement “When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of performance accelerates” as a counter to your Ezra Taft Benson quote. I don’t believe Thomas S. Monson was talking about measuring and reporting the aggregate performance of nameless thousands of people. But I’m sure you’ve already thought of another religious leader’s quote that supposedly counters this quote of Thomas S Monson’s, but this game can be played ad infinitum and is, consequently, uninteresting in the grand argument.

Your brief history lesson re: Orwell and Communism comes tantalizingly close to fulfilling Godwin’s Law.

You say, “Public schools sit as a golden grape of opportunity for the data-hungry feds.” A large collection of educational data will be interesting to anyone who cares about using rigorous scientific techniques to improve American schools – but it doesn’t mean they can access it without conforming to the law.

How large a role would you hypothesize parents play in the academic success of their children? If you believe they play a large role, then you already know why researchers would be interested in understanding more about students’ parents.

If the new interpretation of FERPA is so clearly unconstitutional, as you or EPIC (it was unclear) suggest it is, I’m sure the Supreme Court will let us know. Based on my current understanding, I don’t believe it is unconstitutional. However, I am always open to being persuaded by data. As my favorite saying goes, “The facts are always friendly.”

While I won’t go so far as to use your “flabbergasted” language, I guess I just don’t understand the paranoia. The idea that someone would proactively fight to *not* know how to improve their local school’s math instruction – in order to insure that their child’s PII aren’t seen by a couple of researchers – confuses me. That is the scale of un-consented disclosure we’re talking about, and that is the scale of benefit we’re talking about.

 Kristen Chevrier says:
  • Mr. Wiley: Could you please explain why it is necessary to connect student names with data? If you are measuring school, district or state performance, you don’t need to identify individual students. Monitoring the progress of individual students should be the job of the local teachers and parents. I don’t think anyone has a problem with data collection that is not connected with names.

    Kristen Chevrier says:
  • Please note, again, that the FERPA laws have been changed to allow the sharing of PII with the federal government. Please do not deflect this question, again, by saying that “the random person on the street” does not have access to the information. The random hacker does have access and neither the state nor the federal government needs or should have access. All the stats you need can be gathered without PII. So, please explain why anyone wants names.

    Also, the fact that a researcher has an interest in someone does not mean that they should have access to that person’s personal information at will. Researchers should be subject to Constitutional restraints.

  • Dear Professor Wiley,

    Correct me if I’m wrong.

    I see your line of reasoning similar to Arne Duncan’s, boiling down to this: research is supremely helpful in making improvements to education; therefore, anything that stands in the way of gathering research– such as researchers having to get parental consent before accessing student’s PII, or such as the executive branch technically not being Constitutionally permitted to make regulatory changes to FERPA without Congressional approval– is reduced to optional/unimportant.

    So I ask: Could instructional research possibly be improved  in other, more excellent ways, without resorting to going behind parents’ or Congress’ backs to get access to kids’ data?

    I have no argument with your “needing PII to connect the grade in the high school to the placement exam at the university level” –but researchers should shoulder the inconvenience of getting parental/individual  consent first.  Access by researchers to data, while wonderfully enriching, will never trump families’ and individuals’ authority over personal student data. Not even President Monson  (in the context of his quote that you shared, about measuring performance) would  approve of a policy of going around parents’ backs to measure student performance.

    You identified researchers’  “freerider problem” as not being able to do “critical forms of large scale research” because parents  don’t  “seem to want their child’s data to be collected or analyzed so that we can understand what is effective.”  That is tough; too bad.  If parents are unwilling to have their child’s data collected, we are out of researching luck.  We can not ethically “redistribute the data” any more than we can ethically “redistribute the wealth” against the will of parents and citizens. It amounts to a push for secretiveness that overrides  individual and parental agency and authority.  It may have begun with good intentions as a push for educational improvements via research– but that good is not more good than individual agency, parental authority, transparency and adult student consent.

    We can conduct any large or small scale research in the world, as long as we do so ethically, and that has to include taking the time to do a consent form– inconvenient or not.

    The idea that a random person on the street could acquire PII for their neighbor’s child due to the exceptions in FERPA  is not hyperbole.  While neither you nor I nor any human being has read the entire verbiage of all FERPA documents, I have read the recent exceptions page thoroughly.  It says that anyone who is determined to have “legitimate educational interests,” including a “contractor,” “consultant,” even a school “volunteer” can access this information, being “considered a school official”.  Full text: http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=1a7070ed933117bedbac3ab9e0c7458f&rgn=div8&view=text&node=34:1.1.1.1.33.4.132.2&idno=34 “99.31 Under what conditions is prior consent not required to disclose information? (a) An educational agency or institution may disclose personally identifiable information from an education record of a student without the consent required by §99.30 if the disclosure meets one or more of the following conditions:  (1)(i)(A) The disclosure is to other school officials, including teachers, within the agency or institution whom the agency or institution has determined to have legitimate educational interests.(B) A contractor, consultant, volunteer, or other party to whom an agency or institution has outsourced institutional services or functions may be considered a school official under this paragraph provided that the outside party— ( 1 ) Performs an institutional service or function for which the agency or institution would otherwise use employees…”

    There it is, in black and white.

    So, I am glad that your favorite saying is, “facts are always friendly.”  I agree.  I would welcome a formal hearing on Common Core and FERPA, so that all facts can be vetted by the good people of Utah and not just by you and I.  Would you agree to help make that happen?

    I hope you are able and willing because of your partnership with the USOE to influence that office to have a hearing. http://www.schools.utah.gov/data/Educational-Data/Accountability-School-Performance/Utah-ESEA-Flexibility-Request.aspx  See page 25 for your name.

    I doubt the USOE will agree, however, because that office seems to despise transparency.  It published an unreferenced, half-true “fact v. fiction” flier, it won’t answer questions or return emails, it won’t rebut rebuttals of their facts, and it continues to publish statements without verifiability, wherein it just redelivers claims of the Dept. of Education, the SBAC, NGA, NCES, and CCSSO.

    So I thank you again for taking the time to communicate with me.  I have never had such great feedback from anyone on the pro-Common Core side as I’ve had with you.

    Lastly, thanks for bringing up Godwin’s Law (that, given enough time, any online discussion—regardless of topic or scope— inevitably makes a comparison to Hitler and the Nazis.)  There is more than a small spark of truth in Godwin’s Law.  Why? If a discussion is important enough to continue at length, it will inevitably come to the issue that the Nazis vividly illustrated: power to control others at will, versus free agency.

    Though that issue’s been illustrated by WW2, fresh in our collective conscious, it’s been illustrated through time by many power-hungry regimes. In reality, “Freedom as we know it has been experienced by perhaps less than one percent of the human family”  (President Benson).  The freedoms we enjoy were set up via the Constitution by wise people extremely concerned –maybe you would prefer the word  “paranoid” — about losing freedom and rights in the future, or having their descendants lose hold of that rare bird, freedom.

    Freedoms are not un-alterable.  The choices we make, and that you are making, affect others’ freedoms, especially as a top-level educator who affects political decisions concerning education in this state.

    The USOE continues to aid and abet what Bill Evers of Stanford’s Hoover Institute aptly called the “Department of Education’s Immaculate Deception” –meaning Common Core, and its sister, the congressionally unauthorized FERPA regulatory changes.  These decisions were made without meaningful public vetting and 99% of schoolchildrens’ parents in this state still don’t even know what Common Core is nor what FERPA is about. It is up to people like you to right this wrong.

    I hope you will reconsider with gravity the aligning of Utah’s children and BYU’s Education Department with the philosophies and programs of Arne Duncan, David Coleman, Bill Gates, and the whole elitist group of Anti-American education reform activists.

    Christel Swasey

David Wiley and the Utah State Office of Education Partnership   1 comment

A friend just sent me this link.  It’s sad. 

http://www.schools.utah.gov/data/Educational-Data/Accountability-School-Performance/Utah-ESEA-Flexibility-Request.aspx

    But it explains a lot.  It explains why Professor David Wiley is so passionately pro-common core, so defensive of the USOE and of the Dept. of Education’s terrible FERPA alterations that empowered the Common Core Initiative, and why he does not want to read past the first link on my rebuttal to the USOE’s statement written last week by Brenda Hales.

So, on page 25 of Utah’s ESEA Flexibility Request (the No Child Left Behind waiver) it talks about Professor D. Wiley.  It says:

“Utah is a leader in developing and utilizing digital resources. For example, the USOE has entered into a partnership with Dr. David Wiley, an associate professor at Brigham Young University and a Senior Fellow for Open Education with Digital Promise, to research, develop and implement technologies that transform reaching and learning. The USOE staff, LEA and Higher Ed experts, and Dr. Wiley are working to develop online digital e-books that will be based on open-source materials. They will be available in a hybrid format for all Utah students. Teachers can use the digital or inexpensive print format (five dollars per book or less) to deliver instructional material to learners. Dr. Wiley is leading a successful pilot of open-sources science textbooks in Utah classrooms. By next fall, e-books based on Utah Core Standards [Common Core National Standards] will be available for secondary language arts and mathematics. The mathematics e-books will facilitate our transition to an integrated high school math model while the language arts e-books will contain heavier emphasis on content literacy and oral argumentative writing. [Notice, no classic literature or narrative writing because it's slashed under Common Core rules.] Digital resources are a key to designing and using highly relevant and responsive curriculum to Utah’s students. We also have a working relationship with Apple, use ITunes U and work with the Utah Education Network to provide resources aligned with the Standards. All of this can be found on the various content websites and linked to our CCSS website http://www.schools.utah.gov/core/. “

…I still do not think badly of Professor Wiley.

Nor of Brenda Hales.  Nor of my own local school board.  Why?

I don’t think they get it.  I do not believe they are deliberately, knowingly selling out our kids and our privacy rights.  They lack motivation to study it out and think about all the possible repercussions because their jobs and their egos hinge on their work for Common Core implementation in Utah.

Also, I am pretty sure these people don’t know what the Constitution’s about.  They take for granted that it will be there to protect us, even while they act against its principles, by each step they take for Utah/America, toward more and more socialist/communist styled programs. 

In case you forgot:  The Constitution says that the people are the sovereign; not a consortium, and not a federal Department of anything.  It says that separation of powers, that checks & balances idea, is the safeguard of rights; allowing the feds so much power over us is abusing the Constitution. It says the powers granted to the 3 branches are LIMITED, on purpose to never concentrate or centralize power but to keep it spread out in each locality; it outlines the principle of representation, which Common Core laughs at. There is no representation where there is no amendability of standards or of tests.)

And because these people, our Utah education system leaders, have not been valiant in detecting the problems brought by Common Core, such as detecting the subtle, powerful seeping away of control over education, and parental consent, and lost privacy rights; because they have not recognized it, and therefore have not stood up to it, the encroachments of Arne Duncan and his gang at the Department of Education increase. 

Yes, we are in a terrible place, teetering on the verge of not being able to get out.  We have lost many and are losing more and more liberties and rights of education and of privacy.

And David Wiley and the Utah State Office of Education are fine with it.

BYU Professor David Wiley Defends USOE’s Common Core/FERPA Statement   14 comments

  Rod Arquette hosts national education experts: James Gass of Pioneer Institute, Emmett McGroarty of American Principals Project, Bill Evers of Hoover Institute at Stanford, and Kent Talbert, D.C. lawyer and former counsel to Department of Education. Photo taken the day before the public forum in Salt Lake City.

On July 10th, 2012, a public forum was held where  Jamie Gass, Bill Evers, Kent Talbert and Emmett McGroarty, four national education experts, taught evidenced facts to the public concering Common Core.  A press release about the forum upset Brenda Hales, a USOE administrator, who then posted a statement on the Utah Public Education website giving the official line of the USOE on Common Core.

  Brenda Hales, Utah State Office of Education

I  decided to provide a referenced rebuttal to challenge her statement.  You can read at http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/christel-swasey-responds-to-brenda-hales/ .   (You can read Brenda’s post as well so you can see what’s being said by the USOE.)  The Utahns Against Common Core website posted both the USOE’s statement and my rebuttal.

  Dr. David Wiley, pro-Common Core professor

Next, comments were sent in on one aspect of the Common Core debate, privacy issues, by BYU Professor David Wiley.  The purpose of this blog post is to record his comments and my responses to his responses so readers may determine for themselves what they feel is right.

  • David Wiley says:

    The analysis in point 1, regarding personally-identifiable data, wanders back and forth between data that would allow a person to be identified, and “student-level” data. Student-level data can use randomized, nonsense identifiers like 12s47s8fd9231 instead of personally-identifiable information like a person’s name or social security number. In other words, student level data can be – and typically is – deidentified.

    The above analysis rails against the potential dangers of sharing personally-identifiable data, and then slides smoothly into a discussion of SBAC, saying that ‘states are obligated to share data with the federal government “on an ongoing basis”‘ – leaving the reader to understand that states are obligated to share personally-identifiable data.

    But what does the document you link to actually say? That the grant recipient will “make student-level data that results from the assessment system available on an ongoing basis for research, including for prospective linking, validity, and program improvement studies; subject to applicable privacy laws.”

    Wow! So the recipient is obliged to share student-level data only, not personally-identifiable data, and the data sharing is only for the purpose of research studies, and the data sharing is subject to applicable privacy laws. This is not quite the “sky-is–falling-we’re-required-to share-personally-identifiable-data” problem it was so smoothly made out to be.

    I stopped reading after I noticed this slight-of-hand trick in the analysis. I was frankly disappointed after all the chatter at the top of the document about facts and being able to “verify what is claimed.” This was literally the first link I followed, and you’ve completely mischaracterized what it says. Too bad.

    David Wiley
    •     Christel Swasey says:

      Dear Professor Wiley,

      I appreciate your response and would like to continue an open, respectful conversation on this important topic. I am trying to expose those who really are misrepresenting facts so it is important to me that I come across very clearly and I apologize if I did not do so.

      I may have wandered in my style of writing, but the federal government has not wandered from its goal to take parental rights and to permit –not require, but permit– schools to widely share students’ personally identifiable information (PII).

      I do understand the difference between aggregated and personally identifiable data. BOTH forms of student info are now permitted to be shared without parental consent or knowledge, under the federal regulation changes, made without Congressional approval by the Dept. of Education this year. This fact is huge.

      Did you read the quote above, from the Federal Register on page 51, that it is no longer a necessity for a school to get student’s or parent’s consent before sharing PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION? That direct quote did not even mention aggregated, student-level information; it mentioned personally identifiable information.

      While former FERPA rules did require schools to notify parents –except for in emergency situations– anytime they shared personally identifiable information with anyone, now, the notifying of parents has been reduced to an optional “best practice.” So the fact is that while some agencies will honorably, due to state or local FERPA policy that is stronger than the federal policy, only share aggregated data, others will certainly be sharing personally identifiable data and pointing to their federal permission to do so!

      No school or agency is restrained by federal regulation from sharing student PII, by anything stronger than a “best practice” suggestion. Correct me if I’m wrong.

      You are quite correct in quoting the Cooperative Agreement with SBAC as saying the sharing of data is “subject to applicable privacy law.” Now, ask what the applicable privacy laws actually are.

      Federal FERPA privacy regulations have been radically altered. New FERPA regulations have been loosened in favor of easy access by the feds and other groups, but out of reach of parental consent –conveniently altered by the very same Department of Ed that wrote the Cooperative Agreement with the SBAC. So Secretary Duncan might more transparently have written, “subject to applicable privacy law –which I happen to be changing right now so this requirement for ‘ongoing sharing of data with the Department’ won’t actually be subject to anything at all.”

      It is interesting to study the reasons for the current Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) lawsuit against the Dept. of Education (a suit filed for the Department of Education’s having exceeded statutory authority in making regulatory alterations to FERPA). The lead lawyer is Khalia Barnes. She said that the loosening of federal FERPA is an intrusion that applies not only to children’s data, but to anyone of ANY AGE whose college records are archived in any university or school that ever accepted federal funds or scholarships. So it’s not just kids or college students who will be tracked, federally.

      Barnes also said that the FERPA changes have redefined terms, stretching to the breaking point terms such as “authorized representative” and “educational program” to mean even non-governmental groups, such as medical programs and corporate, educational or governmental agencies; in effect, then, there is virtually no federal privacy regulation governing who can access school-acquired citizen data anymore (from the federal level; there could be protective state or local laws and policies.)

      Also, F.Y.I., the types of information that the Department is permitting (not requiring) schools to share, includes so much more than academic information: it includes biometric information (DNA, fingerprints, iris patterns) parental income, nicknames, medical information, etc. The federal government’s own websites make this clear. Please read the official NCES data collection model’s attributes to be collected: http://nces.sifinfo.org/datamodel/eiebrowser/techview.aspx?instance=studentPostsecondary

      The obligatory language of the Cooperative Agreement between the Department of Education and the SBAC may not alarm you. And there is a possibility Utah will opt out of SBAC membership soon. However, I still urge you to carefully read that document as it reveals Arne Duncan’s test data collecting scheme in a pretty straightforward way. It triangulates the two consortia and requires them to synchronize tests across consortia, to give status updates to the feds, and it places and puts the federal government in the middle of the data collecting program of the two consortia and their data. http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agree ment.pdf

      I don’t know any other way to interpret the evidence, and since Brenda Hales and the USOE are in the habit of never referencing anything, I urge you to go back and read the rest of the links in my rebuttal to Hales’ claims.

      Christel Swasey

  • David Wiley says:

    Christel,

    Thank you for your thoughtful response. I’d like to continue a respectful dialog on this topic as well.

    You state: The Federal Register outlines, on page 51, that it is not a necessity for a school to get student or parental consent any longer before sharing personally identifiable information; that has been reduced to the level of optional. “It is a best practice to keep the public informed when you disclose personally identifiable information from education records.”http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-12-02/pdf/2011-30683.pdf

    This quote is on the 51st page of the PDF document, page 75653 of the FR for those following along.

    FERPA dictates that PII (personally identifying information) from education records cannot be disclosed without consent of the family. The section of the document the above quote is taken from details two important exceptions to the consent requirement: the “studies” exception (when a school wants another entity to conduct some research on its behalf) and the “audit or evaluation” exception, when a state or federal program is being audited or evaluated. In both of these cases, when PII is disclosed without consent, the disclosure MUST be governed by a written agreement between the discloser and disclosee. The requirements and mandatory elements of these written agreements are on the 44th and 45th pages of the PDF, pages 75646-7 as paginated by the FR.

    For example, a school district and a local university might exchange PII without consent in order to do research on whether or not the district is preparing students for success at the local U. This exchange must be governed by a written agreement insuring protections on the privacy of the data as described beginning on 75646. These restrictions and requirements are compulsory. However, it is only a “best practice” – and not a requirement – for the schools to inform the public that they’re performing the research.

    I have absolutely no problem with this whatsoever. If the world worked the other way, and each and every family had to consent for their data to be included in the study, the costs and other logistics involved in carrying out this kind of research would become prohibitive, and we could never understand in any detail how the local schools need to improve to better prepare students for college. So the exception is appropriate and works for the public benefit. I believe this is the primary reason for the recent changes ad clarifications in FERPA. FERPA as spelled out in the FR document you link to provides significant and sufficient privacy protections for individuals and families, while finally making possible the kind of research necessary to move our students’ academic performance forward.

    As for notification, I would think that the local district would want to brag up the fact that they were engaged in research to make their programs better. But I don’t see any reason to require them to do so – I think encouraging it as a best practice is fine.

    The one quote you cite, taken out of context, sounds quite alarming. However, when understood in its proper context the quote is quite reasonable. Without the PII disclosure exceptions FERPA would literally eliminate the possibility of large scale research educational studies, due to both (1) the logistical and coordination costs of acquiring the consent of 100s of 1000s of people, and (2) the possibility that a significant portion of the individuals you did manage to contact would opt out. And without this level of research – the scale of research we’re able to conduct in every other field of human endeavor – educators, school boards, parents, and legislators are literally left in the dark, each with their own “hunch” about what works and no rigorous empirical data to demonstrate their their hunch is anything more than indigestion. This is the current state of dialog about “what works” in public schools – everyone has their pet theory which they believe to be “best” because “it worked for my child” or because it somehow harmonizes with their religious beliefs. Any educational approach which is truly effective can be shown to be effective through rigorous research, and policy decisions should be made on this basis. “In God we trust; all others bring data.”

    The balance of the exceptions to the consent requirement, the mandatory contract language whenever PII is disclosed without consent that protects privacy, and the best practices which are recommended but not required seems appropriate to me.

           –David Wiley
  • Dear Professor Wiley,

    When a school district and a local university exchange information in order to do research on whether or not the district is preparing students for success, why would that information need to be personally identifiable rather than aggregate?

    Your defense of parentally unauthorized collection of personally identifiable information excuses the Department of Education’s misdeed of bypassing Congress and sounds as if you feel groups who use the “authorized” and “educational” language really should get access to citizens’ information without their consent because it’s more convenient for researchers. I disagree.

    Ezra Taft Benson said that one way to judge the goodness of any governmental action is to bring it down to the individual level. “An important test I use in passing judgment upon an act of government is this: If it were up to me as an individual… would it offend my conscience?”

    Using his reasoning, picture this: if I had access via teaching or some other way, to your child, would I give away his/her personal information to my neighbor without your knowledge or consent –including report card, medical and psychological information, address, parental income, mother’s maiden name, child’s fingerprints, etc., if that neighbor smartly persuaded me it didn’t matter if I told you about it?

    Have you ever wondered how communist systems today precisely control their people? It’s via information. The government somehow keeps track of how many babies a woman has, to control population by mandated abortion. And young children, such as gymnasts barely past toddlerhood, are taken away from parents by those governments for those governments’ purposes. The list of abuses made possible easily by privacy rights loss, is endless.

    Would that never happen in America? Is human nature so much nobler here?

    Remember history. Remember the lessons of Orwell’s “1984,” Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron,” or Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451″. –When governments can “legally” wrangle personally identifiable information, these scenarios can and do become real.

    There is more than plenty in the FERPA document that is protective and that doesn’t need to be changed back to how it was. You have quoted those good portions at length.

    –But then, there are all those exceptions and the re-interpreted definitions of terms! These, like small cockroaches swimming in a large sweet sundae, are the details that ruin a good thing. The exceptions and re-definitions are what I’m focusing on. These are where the feds get a toe in the door of privacy and win in their plan to take power with impunity.

    This is what our founding fathers warned us not to let happen when they set up our Constitution and our system of checks and balances. This is where we must fight for our rights –and not defend those who are aiming to take them away from us.

    Public schools sit as a golden grape of opportunity for the data-hungry feds to pluck –mountains of information from a truly captive audience. In the 2009 stimulus bill we find the feds encouraging states to develop data systems. Utah got a nearly $10 million chunk of that ARRA money and built, as directed, a State Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) designed to collect academic and nonacademic information about citizens. This was incentivized financially and by the feds’ clever use of the sheep’s clothing of student testing and data-driven educational decision making.

    But why would the NCES’ National Data Collection Model ask states to collect voting status of parents, health care history, parent maiden names, nicknames, income? If this were purely motivated by children’s own educational needs, why the information on parents? All 50 states now have this system. And an increasing number of states have P-20 councils to make them seamless as they interact with inter-state and intra-state agencies, and yes, with the feds themselves. (See John Brandt’s powerpoint online. He’s the USOE Technology Director as well as a CCSSO chair member –and a NCES fed.)

    The Department of Education felt it could overcome legal obstacles to get this data by simply bypassing Congress, which it did. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) which sued the Dept. of Education –over what you and the Department are calling “appropriate” actions– say that the Department’s final regulations concerning FERPA “exceed the agency’s legal authority” and “expose students to new privacy risks.” They say that changes permit educational institutions to release student records to non-governmental agencies without first obtaining parents’ written consent and that they “broaden the permissible purposes for which third parties can access students records without first notifying parents.” These acts were illegal Constitutionally due to separation of powers. The Department’s FERPA changes, EPIC says, “fail to appropriately safeguard students from the risk of re-identification.”

    I am flabbergasted that this “seems appropriate” to anyone, much less someone with your credentials.

    Still, thank you for taking the time to respond. It is one of the blessings of America that we have freedom of speech and thoughts, and I’m grateful for the privilege to amiably disagree.

    Christel Swasey

South Carolina: Governor Nikki Haley’s Letter of Support to Senator Mike Fair on Reversing Common Core   1 comment

Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina

Today I’m thinking about the long list of heroes and freedom fighters whose names I didn’t even know five months ago, when I became introduced to the words “Common Core.” Topping the list are Senator Mike Fair of South Carolina, who, together with Governor Nikki Haley, took a valiant stand against Common Core, a move I pray Governor Herbert will follow.

Senator Fair said that by adopting Common Core, his state had “sold our educational birthright without getting the mess of pottage,” and because of this, he wrote a bill to reverse his state’s adoption of the common movement.

S.C. State Senator Mike Fair

S. 604 was Fair’s bill, which would have prevented the Common Core State Standards from being imposed on the state.  The bill was not passed.  It said:

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.

Even though Fair and Haley’s efforts to reclaim educational freedom for South Carolina didn’t succeed right away, these efforts serve as an inspiration to those of us in other states who want to reclaim the same freedom.  Nikki Haley wrote an open letter to Senator Fair, supporting his efforts, that explains so much:

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.

Alisa Ellis: To Wasatch School Board July 2012   Leave a comment

Mr. Judd,

Thank you for taking the time last month to sit down with us as concerned citizens and listen to our concerns.  As I told you last month I would not be expending a lot of energy pushing for public comment about this policy. It’s unfortunate that the board decided to write a “non-policy” when confronted with voices from their constituents.  We are not misinformed nor ignorant.  Many of the parents questioning these decisions are parents of some of your highest performing students.  We value education, we value teachers, we value children, and we value freedom.

It is for these  reasons that we are making your life and the board’s life a little more difficult.  Being challenged is good because it causes one to think.  Is there any merit to what we are saying?  You and the board may not think so but there are voices all over the Country that share my concerns and no they are not all of the same political spectrum.  This comment made me think: (from a Facebook discussion)

 ‎Alisa Olsen Ellis, what I find interesting and at the crux of your question is that right wing conservatives think socialism is behind CCSS, and left wing liberals think fascism (corporatism) is behind Ed Reform.

Is it a socialist movement? Is it “Common Core” as in “Communism”…which is extreme socialism? Is this part of Obama’s great socialist plan for the US: Obamacare and Obamacore? Will Common Core stifle innovation and the drive to succeed?

Or is this a Fascist movement? Is dismantling teacher unions and eliminating seniority the means to allow a nationalistic, authoritarian government? Is CCSS and the illusion of choice and vouchers an outward sign of intolerance. Do we keep hearing about rigor and skills as part of the need to discipline our nation’s children?

Which leads to me wonder, does it matter? The end result of either is slavery to an undemocratic system.

 

Please take the time to listen to concerned parents.  We aren’t asking for much, really.  Everyone from the district keeps telling us that they “would NEVER give out our children’s personally identifiable information”.  All we’re asking is that Wasatch School District has a policy in place that reflects the above sentiments.

Wasatch School District will never give out personally identifiable information without the prior consent of the parents.

This pretty much covers everything.  The medical form can have a check box on it where the parent gives permission for that information to be released in cases of emergency.  Maybe this is too simplistic but you guys tried it so I thought why not, I should too.

Please take the time to read my comments from last month — they still apply and my opinion hasn’t changed.

Thank you,

Alisa Ellis

P.S. Parents keep telling me that they are being told that if they don’t like this or that they can always pull their kids out of school and homeschool or put them in a private school, etc.  Is this really how we’re going to treat parents who have questions?  Tell them to go away — regardless of where our children go to school, we are still tax paying citizens who have a voice in what happens in the public school system.

Previous 30-day comment period’s letter to the Wasatch School Board from Alisa:

From: Alisa Ellis <alisa.ellis@gmail.com> Date: Thu, Jun 14, 2012 at 12:01 PM Subject: FERPA comment To: vicci.gappmayer@wasatch.edu

To Whom It May Concern –

I want to first thank you for answering our request to put the FERPA policy revisions up for a thirty-day review.  I want to make it clear that the intentions of my heart are far from contentious.  I understand that you may not see it that way.  I’ve avoided e-mail conversations because it is very hard to interpret tone and meaning through an email message.  I would much prefer an open dialect.  In this case that is not possible so I will do my best to put my thoughts down on paper.

A citizen asked me what I’m afraid of.  Do I think a black car will start following my kids?  This was tongue in cheek but an appropriate question.  The answer is NO.  I also believe the local administrators and board have the best of intentions and truly want to protect our children.  What I ask of you today is to make sure that the policies that our district votes to adopt truly reflect the intent of your hearts.

It has been said that the FERPA revision was to protect our children.  I recognize that as a citizen I cannot see the full scope of what was behind these changes but I can read the changes themselves.  (Wasatch FERPA old & new)

The changes put into place in our local policy give more exceptions to the rule.  In 9.2 it gives permission for “organizations conducting studies for specific purposes on behalf of schools.”  I am not opposed to all studies but my children are not guinea pigs.  Why on earth do organizations need my children’s personally identifiable information without my parental consent?  It is my right as a parent to decide what studies I’d like my children to be a part of.

Further at the April 19th meeting the changes to number 3 were not mentioned.  If I may make a suggestion I’d like to suggest that we as a district be more specific in our policy.

Who is an authorized representative?  As defined in the Federal Register the term is somewhat vague.  They state that they are doing this to streamline and protect children’s data but at the same time they are opening up our children’s personally identifiable data to just about anyone, as I see it.  Please clearly define this term.

I spoke with Carol Lear who is the in-house attorney at the State Office of Education.  She told me to just put a note in each of my children’s files stating that I do not allow Personally Identifiable Information to be released.  That is not good enough for many reasons one of which is that in Appendix B of the Federal Register it lays out “certain rights” as a parent “with respect to the student’s education records.”  In number 3 it then says “The right to provide written consent before the school discloses personally identifiable information from the student’s education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent”.  As you can see I have no power as a parent.  The policy overrides that authority.

You may be thinking that we won’t let anything happen that is not in the best interest of our children here in Wasatch County.  What I’m saying is that if the policy doesn’t clearly state your intentions you too may have no power just as my parental authority has been stripped.  We need to stand together to protect our children as parents, citizens, and educational representatives.

Thank you,

Alisa Ellis

Heber City Resident

Further items to Consider:

Race to the Top for the District

This was just announced in May and the Executive Summary is out for review.

Page 13

Program Requirements

5.  Work with the Department to develop a FERPA-compliant strategy to make all

implementation and student-level data (FERPA compliant) available to the Department or

its designated monitors, technical assistance providers, or research partners.

As I see this it is now circumventing the State office of Education and our district, if we apply, would be beholden to the Federal Department of Education be required to send them whatever information they ask for.

Recovery Plans from 2010 – i.e. Stimulus Bill

STATEWIDE DATA SYSTEMS RECOVERY PLAN

1. Program Purpose:

The purpose of assistance under this program is to enable State educational agencies to design, develop, and implement

statewide, longitudinal data systems to efficiently and accurately manage, analyze, disaggregate, and use individual student

data. In addition, the program may support awards to organizations to improve data coordination.

Dump Duncan: Grandfathers Lead Petition   2 comments

Many people are upset about federally imposed “education reforms” that leave teachers and parents out of decision making.  There’s now  a nationwide “Dump Duncan” movement that’s petitioning President Obama to fire the Secretary of Education.

Dump Duncan was started by two grandfathers, one in Washington State and one in New York, who are upset about what is happening to the public schools of the nation.  Those who have signed the Letter to Obama include parents, teachers, college professors, and other citizens.

The petition asks the President for: a Secretary of Education who is a lifetime educator; a meaningful voice for teachers, parents and administrators in Dept. of Education decision making that affect them; an end to the compelling of municipalities to use student test data as a basis for evaluating teachers, and more.

“Dump Duncan” has a Facebook page, a “Dump Duncan” website and a petition at http://dumpduncan.org/ .  It even put on an “Occupy the Department of Education” event this year.

There’s a collection of teacher-written poetry on the “Dump Duncan” poetry contest page,  and a lot of creative graphics uploaded by various petition signers.  So far, there are about 6,000 Dump Duncan petition signers.  This is what the full petition requests:

Dear President Obama,

We, the undersigned, a cross section of the nation’s teachers and their supporters, wish to express our extreme displeasure with the policies implemented during your administration by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Although many of us campaigned enthusiastically for you in 2008, it is unlikely that you will receive continued support unless the following three dimensions of your administration’s education initiatives are changed:

  1. The exclusion of teachers from policy discussions in the US Department of Education and from Education Summits called under your leadership.
  2. The use of rhetoric which blames failing schools on “bad teachers” rather than poverty and neighborhood distress.
  3. The use of federal funds to compel states and municipalities to use student test scores in the evaluation of teachers and as the basis for closing low performing schools.

Because of these policies, teachers throughout the nation have become discouraged and demoralized, undermining your own stated goals of improving teacher quality, upgrading the nation’s educational performance, and encouraging creative pedagogy rather than “teaching to the test.”

We therefore submit the following measures to put your administration’s education policy back on the right track and to bring teachers in as full partners in this effort:

  1. The removal of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education and his replacement by a lifetime educator who has the confidence of the nation’s teachers.
  2. The incorporation of parents, teachers, and school administrators in all policy discussion taking place in your administration, inside and outside the Department of Education.
  3. An immediate end to the use of incentives or penalties to compel states and municipalities to use student test scores as a basis for evaluating teachers, preferring charter schools to existing public schools, and requiring closure of low performing schools.
  4. Create a National Commission, in which teachers and parent representatives play a primary role, which explores how to best improve the quality of America’s schools.

We believe such policies will create an outpouring of good will on the part of teachers, parents and students which will promote creative teaching and educational innovation, leading to far greater improvements in the nation’s schools than policies which encourage a proliferation of student testing could ever hope to do.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

Common Core Creators Expecting –and Getting– Outrage From Parents and Teachers   1 comment

At the national ECS forum this week, David Coleman and Jason Zimba, lead writers of the Common Core, had two words about Common Core implementation for the audience: “Expect outrage.”

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/state_edwatch/2012/07/ecs_national_forum_day_2_expect_outrage_on_common_core.html?intc=es

Why outrage? Isn’t it one of the main claims of Common Core that this program is very rigorous and beneficial?  Isn’t it improving college readiness?  Isn’t it so marvellous that it’s worth even the sacrifice of our state educational autonomy to adopt it?

Here’s the problem, according to Coleman and Zimba:  Common Core has a “teach less, learn more” motto, but some parents –and teachers– are interpreting it as “teach less, period.”

Education Week reporter Andrew Ujifusa covered the Education Commission of the States (ECS) Forum.  He reported that Zimba and Coleman insist that teaching in depth on certain topics required by the common core will help. The average lesson length in the U.S. is about one day, they said, while in other countries with more successful academic records, the average is 10 days.

Ujifusa continued his report of the conference:

But then Monica Sims, a teaching fellow with Student Achievement Partners who works as a middle school teacher at a Chicago school, said that although fractions are a staple of what students should know in 5th grade, a textbook she had seen sets aside only one-and-a-half week for fractions.

“As a moral issue, I can’t move on. They don’t understand it,” Sims said.

Zimba fended off a question from an audience member about whether the common core had been comprehensively tested in the field…

“They’re not a pill,” he said.

Restoring Oklahoma Public Education educator Jenni White read Ujifusa’s report on the Coleman-Zimba ECS forum, and responded:

   “Had to comment to that giant piece of BS:

The source of the ‘OUTRAGE’ is that any teacher in any school could use EveryDay math to teach these concepts, putting their students light years behind even the light years behind!     The source of the ‘OUTRAGE’ is that between the PARCC tests and the school’s/state’s own testing, there is NO POSSIBLE way that Mrs. Sims isn’t correct in her assessment.  After learning that my child in first grade didn’t know his addition and subtraction math facts before adding two three digit numbers before the end of the year, I asked for a teacher conference.    What with all the testing and the State Standards and Common Core coming on board, my teacher reported, she didn’t have TIME to teach my child to MASTERY!    Oh what comfort is the thought of Common Core State Standards in rectifying the spectacular failure that is now public education.”

White also wrote:  “My first grader can not add 7+7, but by God he knows that rainforests are being destroyed before his eyes.  My 4th grader can not write a coherent, perfectly spelled paragraph, but she understands that American Indians were murdered by non-natives and that Global Warming is a fact.”  http://restoreoklahomapubliceducation.blogspot.com/2012/05/education-armageddon.html#uds-search-results

 

Posted July 17, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Partaking of Spoils   Leave a comment

    One summer when I was about nine years old, my friend and I explored the remains of a car that had been totaled in a highway accident. Among other things, there was a shiny blue metallic pinwheel in that car. 

I brought it home; my mother was horrified.

“That pinwheel,” she explained, “belonged to a little child who died in that car crash. You had no right to take it.”  And we brought it back.

I still remember that murky feeling. I had imagined that since nobody else was using the pinwheel, it would be alright to take it. But in my gut, I hadn’t felt good about it.  It was the heavy feeling of partaking of spoils.

The Book of Mormon tells a story of a band of collectivist thieves, called Gadianton robbers, who had “overspread all  the land of the Nephites and had seduced the more part of the righteous until they had come down to believe in their works and partake of their spoils and to join with them…” (Helaman 6:37-38) 

Why would it be “the more part of the righteous” who believed in the Gadianton robbers’ ideas and who partook of the spoils?  What was it that was so believable about the Gadianton robbers’ ways?

The answer to that question may also be the answer to why so many good Americans buy into socialistic/communistic ideas, pushing aside principles of liberty, autonomy and the Constitution.  The fact is, there are things about socialism/communism (like the belief that nobody will be poor, which is a lie) that do appeal to human beings, especially kind hearted ones.  But that doesn’t make socialism/communism any less wrong.  It’s still robbery, via taxation, both of money and of the freedom to determine what that money will be spent upon.

When we get “free money” offered to our state office of education or our local school district, by our federal Dept. of Education, is that partaking of spoils?  I think so. That money came from taxpayers who were forced to pay ever-increasing amounts of taxes to fund education.  As the definition of what constitutes “funding education” expands, and as taxes hike higher and higher, taxpayers are forced, on pain of jail or imprisonment, to pay taxes which fund many things that aren’t really education.  –Like the free lunches that everyone, even rich families, are invited to partake of, here in Wasatch School District.

But even if the fund-recipient is noble or needy, does that make forcible taxation okay?  Did you ever think that maybe the Gadianton robbers weren’t just a bawdy band of barely organized pirates, but maybe a highly organized, union-like cartel?  Or even a dignified order of socialist/collectivists, as is the leadership of the Common Core movement?

When the Department of Gadianton Robbers Education offered states the opportunity to compete in the “Race to the Top” funding contest, they allowed states to improve their eligibility status by jumping through certain hoops.  One of these hoops was to ADOPT COMMON CORE NATIONAL STANDARDS for their state.  They took care to call this voluntary so nobody could accuse the Dept. of Education of breaking G.E.P.A. laws or the Constitution, which forbid them from supervising or controlling education in any way.  But it was still coercive incentivizing with money.  And it worked.  Even though many states didn’t win the “Race to the Top” funding contest, many chose to increase their odds of winning by adopting Common Core national standards.  And even after the race was done and the money winning states and the empty handed states shuffled home, one fact remained:  they were all –all, except for Texas and Virginia– members of the Common Core.

The temptation to partake of spoils, not a sincere desire to improve state educational standards themselves, was the driving force behind our state’s adoption of Common Core.  Don’t believe it? Read the grant application for yourself.  Link:  http://www.schools.utah.gov/arra/Uses/Utah-Race-to-the-Top-Application.aspx

 

Posted July 17, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

Drumroll, please… Thursday night the Wasatch School Board will unveil yet another FERPA policy   Leave a comment

Dear Wasatch School Board,

I may pull out my hair and run screaming from the room if it is apparent in this Thursday’s school board meeting –as it was at the last meeting– that the board has not done any meaningful research on the facts concerning federal FERPA, and that the board remains Constitutionally ignorant, believing that the federal government has more authority than the state and local government and local district/parents have, over our own children and our children’s private data.

To be very, very clear:  The Federal Register outlines, on page 51, that new federal FERPA altered regulations make it no longer a necessity for a school to get student’s or parent’s consent before sharing personally identifiable information; that action has been reduced to OPTIONAL by the Dept. of Education. There is no parental consent requirement nor any meaningful privacy regulation governing schools anymore, from the federal level.

Wasatch School District has a moral obligation to do better than the federal law is doing.

Even the USOE’s Brenda Hales gave out a paper on FERPA  that shows (page 3) that the federal FERPA uses “permissive” language.  This means we need to fortify our local privacy policy because the federal FERPA would permit almost anyone access to students’ private, identifiable information.

I highly recommend that the new district policy should state that parents will always be asked before the district shares any personally identifiable information with anyone outside the district.

Christel Swasey

——————————————————————————————-

By the way, blog readers:  if you live in the Heber Valley and have not yet written an email to the board for this 30-day public comment period, please do.  Yes, I know they ignored us the last time, but Vicci Gappmayer retired last month and James Judd, her replacement, is much more reasonable and open to public input.  Email him at james.judd@wasatch.edu .

Who is David Coleman and Why Should You Care?   Leave a comment

David Coleman has never been a teacher.  And he’s kind of a jerk and a potty mouth.  But this architect of Common Core is now President of the College Board.

http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2012/04/david-colemans-global-revenge-and.html

He is Michelle Rhee’s treasurer at StudentsFirst.  He openly mocks narrative writing and classic literature.  He thinks literature is inferior to nonfiction (info-texts) and his Common Core does mandate the minimalizing of literature in English classes.

Explaining why he believes students need less literature and less narrative writing practice, he says, “As you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think.” –Coleman at NY State Department of Education presentation, April 2011

His bizarre ideas go virtually unchallenged.

A lot of English teachers disagree with him quietly.  But he’s the chief architect of the K-12 ELA Common Core national standards and President of the College Board. What can we do?  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/16/education/david-coleman-to-lead-college-board.html

At least, we should be aware of his mind operates; it affects all of us now.

He’s now aligning the K-12 Common Core national standards with college entrance exam standards.

Aligning the ACT and SAT to the CCSS will require lowering college standards.  If the K-12 CCSS were truly college- and career-ready standards, then why would anyone adjust the “standard measures” of college readiness?  http://boston.com/community/blogs/rock_the_schoolhouse/2012/05/the_wrong_lesson_on_national_s.html

So Coleman’s work is now to lower standards for most college students across the nation.  Why?

One of the lies of Common Core is that it raises standards for all.  This doesn’t even make logical sense.  How can everyone be brought to a single standard without holding back the highest achievers and without rushing the struggling achievers?  In reality, Common Core raises standards for students in states who had low standards before, and lowers standards for states who has higher ones before (like Massachusetts).

Stanford Professor Michael Kirst explained that Common Core’s

“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…”       http://collegepuzzle.stanford.edu/?p=466

These Coleman lies need exposure.  The illogical claims need exposure.  Colleges need to speak up and demand the removal of Coleman from the College Board and abolish his plot to create a single, common educational denominator for all.

Full Text: HARRISON BERGERON by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.   1 comment

Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron” was in the literature text we taught at Colton High School in Colton, California where I taught in 1995-2000.  My students read this  profound story, which has become ironic today, because public education is being transformed, via COMMON CORE, into the very nightmare Vonnegut envisioned. 

Our country has agreed  (with the exception of Texas and Virginia) that everyone ‘s educational experience must be the very same.

If you are gifted or educationally advanced, you really have been punished with an educational handicap.  Everyone must be common in Common Core.  

  Now, when I read this, I picture Common Core Architect David Coleman as the United States Handicapper General, and picture Secretary Arne Duncan as the television announcer.

HARRISON BERGERON

by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.


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.

Some things about living still weren’t quite right, though. April for instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime. And it was in that clammy month that the H-G men took George and Hazel Bergeron’s fourteen-year-old son, Harrison, away.

It was tragic, all right, but George and Hazel couldn’t think about it very hard. Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn’t think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.

George and Hazel were watching television. There were tears on Hazel’s cheeks, but she’d forgotten for the moment what they were about.

On the television screen were ballerinas.

A buzzer sounded in George’s head. His thoughts fled in panic, like bandits from a burglar alarm.

“That was a real pretty dance, that dance they just did,” said Hazel.

“Huh” said George.

“That dance-it was nice,” said Hazel.

“Yup,” said George. He tried to think a little about the ballerinas. They weren’t really very good-no better than anybody else would have been, anyway. They were burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat drug in. George was toying with the vague notion that maybe dancers shouldn’t be handicapped. But he didn’t get very far with it before another noise in his ear radio scattered his thoughts.

George winced. So did two out of the eight ballerinas.

Hazel saw him wince. Having no mental handicap herself, she had to ask George what the latest sound had been.

“Sounded like somebody hitting a milk bottle with a ball peen hammer,” said George.

“I’d think it would be real interesting, hearing all the different sounds,” said Hazel a little envious. “All the things they think up.”

“Um,” said George.

“Only, if I was Handicapper General, you know what I would do?” said Hazel. Hazel, as a matter of fact, bore a strong resemblance to the Handicapper General, a woman named Diana Moon Glampers. “If I was Diana Moon Glampers,” said Hazel, “I’d have chimes on Sunday-just chimes. Kind of in honor of religion.”

“I could think, if it was just chimes,” said George.

“Well-maybe make ‘em real loud,” said Hazel. “I think I’d make a good Handicapper General.”

“Good as anybody else,” said George.

“Who knows better than I do what normal is?” said Hazel.

“Right,” said George. He began to think glimmeringly about his abnormal son who was now in jail, about Harrison, but a twenty-one-gun salute in his head stopped that.

“Boy!” said Hazel, “that was a doozy, wasn’t it?”

It was such a doozy that George was white and trembling, and tears stood on the rims of his red eyes. Two of of the eight ballerinas had collapsed to the studio floor, were holding their temples.

“All of a sudden you look so tired,” said Hazel. “Why don’t you stretch out on the sofa, so’s you can rest your handicap bag on the pillows, honeybunch.” She was referring to the forty-seven pounds of birdshot in a canvas bag, which was padlocked around George’s neck. “Go on and rest the bag for a little while,” she said. “I don’t care if you’re not equal to me for a while.”

George weighed the bag with his hands. “I don’t mind it,” he said. “I don’t notice it any more. It’s just a part of me.”

“You been so tired lately-kind of wore out,” said Hazel. “If there was just some way we could make a little hole in the bottom of the bag, and just take out a few of them lead balls. Just a few.”

“Two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine for every ball I took out,” said George. “I don’t call that a bargain.”

“If you could just take a few out when you came home from work,” said Hazel. “I mean-you don’t compete with anybody around here. You just sit around.”

“If I tried to get away with it,” said George, “then other people’d get away with it-and pretty soon we’d be right back to the dark ages again, with everybody competing against everybody else. You wouldn’t like that, would you?”

“I’d hate it,” said Hazel.

“There you are,” said George. The minute people start cheating on laws, what do you think happens to society?”

If Hazel hadn’t been able to come up with an answer to this question, George couldn’t have supplied one. A siren was going off in his head.

“Reckon it’d fall all apart,” said Hazel.

“What would?” said George blankly.

“Society,” said Hazel uncertainly. “Wasn’t that what you just said?

“Who knows?” said George.

The television program was suddenly interrupted for a news bulletin. It wasn’t clear at first as to what the bulletin was about, since the announcer, like all announcers, had a serious speech impediment. For about half a minute, and in a state of high excitement, the announcer tried to say, “Ladies and Gentlemen.”

He finally gave up, handed the bulletin to a ballerina to read.

“That’s all right-” Hazel said of the announcer, “he tried. That’s the big thing. He tried to do the best he could with what God gave him. He should get a nice raise for trying so hard.”

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” said the ballerina, reading the bulletin. She must have been extraordinarily beautiful, because the mask she wore was hideous. And it was easy to see that she was the strongest and most graceful of all the dancers, for her handicap bags were as big as those worn by two-hundred pound men.

And she had to apologize at once for her voice, which was a very unfair voice for a woman to use. Her voice was a warm, luminous, timeless melody. “Excuse me-” she said, and she began again, making her voice absolutely uncompetitive.

“Harrison Bergeron, age fourteen,” she said in a grackle squawk, “has just escaped from jail, where he was held on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the government. He is a genius and an athlete, is under-handicapped, and should be regarded as extremely dangerous.”

A police photograph of Harrison Bergeron was flashed on the screen-upside down, then sideways, upside down again, then right side up. The picture showed the full length of Harrison against a background calibrated in feet and inches. He was exactly seven feet tall.

The rest of Harrison’s appearance was Halloween and hardware. Nobody had ever born heavier handicaps. He had outgrown hindrances faster than the H-G men could think them up. Instead of a little ear radio for a mental handicap, he wore a tremendous pair of earphones, and spectacles with thick wavy lenses. The spectacles were intended to make him not only half blind, but to give him whanging headaches besides.

Scrap metal was hung all over him. Ordinarily, there was a certain symmetry, a military neatness to the handicaps issued to strong people, but Harrison looked like a walking junkyard. In the race of life, Harrison carried three hundred pounds.

And to offset his good looks, the H-G men required that he wear at all times a red rubber ball for a nose, keep his eyebrows shaved off, and cover his even white teeth with black caps at snaggle-tooth random.

“If you see this boy,” said the ballerina, “do not – I repeat, do not – try to reason with him.”

There was the shriek of a door being torn from its hinges.

Screams and barking cries of consternation came from the television set. The photograph of Harrison Bergeron on the screen jumped again and again, as though dancing to the tune of an earthquake.

George Bergeron correctly identified the earthquake, and well he might have – for many was the time his own home had danced to the same crashing tune. “My God-” said George, “that must be Harrison!”

The realization was blasted from his mind instantly by the sound of an automobile collision in his head.

When George could open his eyes again, the photograph of Harrison was gone. A living, breathing Harrison filled the screen.

Clanking, clownish, and huge, Harrison stood – in the center of the studio. The knob of the uprooted studio door was still in his hand. Ballerinas, technicians, musicians, and announcers cowered on their knees before him, expecting to die.

“I am the Emperor!” cried Harrison. “Do you hear? I am the Emperor! Everybody must do what I say at once!” He stamped his foot and the studio shook.

“Even as I stand here” he bellowed, “crippled, hobbled, sickened – I am a greater ruler than any man who ever lived! Now watch me become what I can become!”

Harrison tore the straps of his handicap harness like wet tissue paper, tore straps guaranteed to support five thousand pounds.

Harrison’s scrap-iron handicaps crashed to the floor.

Harrison thrust his thumbs under the bar of the padlock that secured his head harness. The bar snapped like celery. Harrison smashed his headphones and spectacles against the wall.

He flung away his rubber-ball nose, revealed a man that would have awed Thor, the god of thunder.

“I shall now select my Empress!” he said, looking down on the cowering people. “Let the first woman who dares rise to her feet claim her mate and her throne!”

A moment passed, and then a ballerina arose, swaying like a willow.

Harrison plucked the mental handicap from her ear, snapped off her physical handicaps with marvelous delicacy. Last of all he removed her mask.

She was blindingly beautiful.

“Now-” said Harrison, taking her hand, “shall we show the people the meaning of the word dance? Music!” he commanded.

The musicians scrambled back into their chairs, and Harrison stripped them of their handicaps, too. “Play your best,” he told them, “and I’ll make you barons and dukes and earls.”

The music began. It was normal at first-cheap, silly, false. But Harrison snatched two musicians from their chairs, waved them like batons as he sang the music as he wanted it played. He slammed them back into their chairs.

The music began again and was much improved.

Harrison and his Empress merely listened to the music for a while-listened gravely, as though synchronizing their heartbeats with it.

They shifted their weights to their toes.

Harrison placed his big hands on the girls tiny waist, letting her sense the weightlessness that would soon be hers.

And then, in an explosion of joy and grace, into the air they sprang!

Not only were the laws of the land abandoned, but the law of gravity and the laws of motion as well.

They reeled, whirled, swiveled, flounced, capered, gamboled, and spun.

They leaped like deer on the moon.

The studio ceiling was thirty feet high, but each leap brought the dancers nearer to it.

It became their obvious intention to kiss the ceiling. They kissed it.

And then, neutraling gravity with love and pure will, they remained suspended in air inches below the ceiling, and they kissed each other for a long, long time.

It was then that Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, came into the studio with a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun. She fired twice, and the Emperor and the Empress were dead before they hit the floor.

Diana Moon Glampers loaded the gun again. She aimed it at the musicians and told them they had ten seconds to get their handicaps back on.

It was then that the Bergerons’ television tube burned out.

Hazel turned to comment about the blackout to George. But George had gone out into the kitchen for a can of beer.

George came back in with the beer, paused while a handicap signal shook him up. And then he sat down again. “You been crying” he said to Hazel.

“Yup,” she said.

“What about?” he said.

“I forget,” she said. “Something real sad on television.”

“What was it?” he said.

“It’s all kind of mixed up in my mind,” said Hazel.

“Forget sad things,” said George.

“I always do,” said Hazel.

“That’s my girl,” said George. He winced. There was the sound of a rivetting gun in his head.

“Gee – I could tell that one was a doozy,” said Hazel.

“You can say that again,” said George.

“Gee-” said Hazel, “I could tell that one was a doozy.”


“Harrison Bergeron” is copyrighted by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., 1961.

Don’t Tread On Me   Leave a comment

 

It was a handful of noble rebels that created America under the inspiration of God.  They rebelled against having their religion repressed, against all kinds of governmental oppression, against taxation without representation, and against a tyrant king who wanted to control their every move. 

The interesting story of how the “Don’t Tread On Me” flag came into being in the 1700’s is available here: http://www.foundingfathers.info/stories/gadsden.html and here: http://www.usflag.org/gadsden.html .

So, what does the “Don’t Tread On Me” flag mean today?  It means that the freedom and goodness that America was founded upon, will not bear trammelling.  It means that the long list of things they can get away with treading on does not include the erosion of any more of our freedoms, nor of the U.S. Constitution.

The forces that try to tread on us today are similar to those in the 1700’s: freedoms are waning, taxation has grown oppressive, medical and educational oppression are becoming normalized, and both the federal government and the U.N. seem to want to control citizens’ every move– all with the best of intentions, of course.

What do we do?  Wake up, realize what’s going on, and capture the spirit of the founding fathers again.  Don’t let our freedoms go away.  Work as if everything depends on us, and pray as if everything depends on God.

 

 

 

Is Common Core a Socialist Program?   1 comment

Is Common Core a socialist program?

Central to the meaning of socialism is common ownership of resources, free access to services/goods, and little or no personal property ownership.  Common Core is a national movement toward a single, collective set of common academic standards, common access to the academic standards and tests, and little or no unique or diverse education nationally; so yes, it’s a socialist program.

Upon acceptance, it forced top level states’ standards down, and forced low-level states’ standards up, to a middling standard that is mediocre at best: it’s common.  Common Core has even changed the definition of “college ready” to something more common; it now means anything from 4-year to 2-year, to vocational school-ready.  And Common Core has been adopted by each of the United States, except Texas and Virginia.

And, is socialism essentially the same thing as collectivism and communism?

Yes.  Ezra Taft Benson, two-term U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said:

“We must keep the people informed that collectivism, another word for socialism, is a part of the communist strategy. Communism is essentially socialism.” (This Nation Shall Endure, p. 90)

Common Core adoption by states was incentivized by federally held monies and by the federal bait of letting states acquire a waiver from No Child Left Behind mandates by implementing Common Core.  So the federal government pushes it and controls it,  tax dollars support it, and it’s a collective.  http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf

Sound socialist enough?

Socialism

But what’s wrong with socialism/collectivism?  Isn’t is what the purple dinosaur Barney sings about:  getting along, giving, sharing?

Nope.

What Barney, Thomas Jefferson and every righteous prophet of God have promoted is voluntary and heart-based giving. Socialism/collectivism/communism is the exact opposite.

In socialism, you give because the government pressures or forces you to share. Give, or you’ll be severely punished.  A simple test that President Benson suggested to judge the rightness or wrongness of a government program is to think of it in terms of one individual’s choice, rather than many.

“If it were up to me as an individual to punish my neighbor for violating a given law, would it offend my conscience to do so? Since my conscience will never permit me to physically punish my fellow man unless he has done something evil, or unless he has failed to do something which I have a moral right to require of him to do, I will never knowingly authorize my agent, the government to do this on my behalf…  when I give my consent to the adoption of a law, I specifically instruct the police – the government – to take either the life, liberty, or property of anyone who disobeys that law. Furthermore, I tell them that if anyone resists the enforcement of the law, they are to use any means necessary – yes, even putting the lawbreaker to death or putting him in jail – to overcome such resistance. These are extreme measures but unless laws are enforced, anarchy results… John Locke explained many years ago:  ‘The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom.’ ” -Ezra Taft Benson

Would you, as an individual, bribe your neighbor to adopt your educational standards and refuse to allow your neighbor to even ask for an amendment process or a voice in changing the standards?  Would it matter whether his standards were much lower or much higher already?  Or would the idea of imposing standards offend you?

Governmental oppression of education via Common Core socialism is already happening now, even though Common Core’s standards and testing implementation period is not complete until 2015. Sure, the state school board will tell you it was a state-initiated, voluntary program. And that is technically true.  But do states control it? No. Is it under copyright? Yes. Can states amend it? No. Can states refuse to share testing data collected via Common Core tests, with the feds?  Nope.

For example, when a state refuses to adopt Common Core, they are ineligible for big federal grants, ineligible for a ESEA flexibility request (No Child Left Behind waiver), and when they reject or try to back out of the adoption of Common Core, they may be mocked or abused by the federal Dept. of Education. (See Secretary Duncan downtalking and lying about  Texas’ education, for Texas’ rejection of Common Core, here: http://bloom.bg/pqFOxp and see Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott’s rebuttal of Duncan’s lies, here:http://dallasmorningviewsblog.dallasnews.com/2011/08/robert-scott-fi.html/

See Secretary Duncan berating South Carolina for trying to flee Common Core here: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/statement-us-secretary-education-arne-duncan-1 .

Many states cannot dream of fleeing Common Core because they won Race to the Top grant funds and if they were to withdraw from Common Core now, they’d have to return the money –a virtual impossibility for most states. Fortunately, Utah received no Race to the Top grant money directly, so if we dump Common Core, as we should, we’ll receive nothing but name-calling from Sec. Arne Duncan.  Hooray!

What’s stopping us?  Nothing but a lack of political will. Write your senators and legislators and the Governor.  Tell your neighbors and friends, especially teachers.  Educational standards are meaningless without political freedom.

Let’s run far and fast from nationalized collective education standards, Utah.

On FERPA and Common Core in Utah: How to Protect Our State’s Freedoms?   1 comment

State Power over Citizen Privacy

 

I’ve asked my local, state, and Congressional representatives to fortify and strengthen consent requirements over personally identifiable student data being shared beyond the school district.  It’s important for Utah to identify what Utah will officially recognize –and will not recognize– as being binding on Utah, coming from D.C.

The Dept. of Education’s recent FERPA regulatory changes should have no binding authority on Utahns, while original, Congressionally created FERPA laws should be what Utah recognizes. Why?

Utah prioritizes: 1) parental authority over children’s data; 2) adult individuals’ authority over the sharing of personal data acquired and archived by schools; and 3) constitutionally and legally* dictated guidance for which branch of government gets to amend laws/national regulations affecting students. (And Arne Duncan doesn’t make that cut.)

Federal FERPA does have many portions that need no addressing.  The part to address has loosened parental consent requirements and loosened the directory information sharing rules and loosened definitions of terms. In Utah, we need those portions to be fortified and clearly understood by school boards and districts.

Utah law should quote the original, privacy-protective federal FERPA which preceded the regulatory changes and which were an actual Congressional law, enacted by We the People.

Utah law should define several terms.  The original intent and definition of terms have been wrongfully changed by the Dept. of Ed, including “authorized representative” and “educational agency” and others. Those terms must be narrowly defined; for example, they should include parents and current teachers and principals, but should exclude federal agents and state agents claiming to be “stakeholders” in students’ lives, and they should exclude all non-governmental organizations; and they must be in harmony with the original intent of early FERPA law enacted by Congress.

Khalia Barnes and other lead lawyers (in the lawsuit filed by E.P.I.C. against the Dept. of Education over illegal FERPA regulatory changes made by the Dept. of Education) are experts on the ways in which the Dept. of Ed. exceeded statutory authority and broke law.  If you care to study their work, see http://epic.org/apa/ferpa/default.html  or ask Khalia Barnes at  barnes@epic.org .

The urgency of these matters must be communicated to Congress. Congress should have policed the Dept. of Education on  having exceeded authority by making regulatory changes to FERPA that completely turned the intent of the original federal FERPA on its head. Until they do, we depend on local law and policy that maintains the spirit of the original FERPA.

State Power over Education

We need a “State Power over Education” law that reasserts and/or increases the Utah legislature’s authority over, and accountability from, the Utah School Board.

Recent USSB decisions have affected our state’s autonomy over our standards, tests, and privacy. The board’s  role and authority was never meant to give away their authority to external forces, both consortia and federal, that now allows others: 1) to peruse Utahns’ personal data without parental consent or student knowledge; (via the Cooperative Agreement with the Dept. of Ed) and 2) to determine Utah’s educational standards/tests without even providing an amendment process. The board overstepped bounds in giving away that authority by adopting nationalized standards and testing for all Utahns to be overseen by consortia and by the federal government –this becomes a privacy, as well as an educational authority, issue. (See http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf)

The state’s and Congress’ authority to write FERPA laws, and the Dept. of Ed’s non-authority to make regulatory changes, must be made crystal clear to Utah school districts, the state board and legislators. (To illustrate: Wasatch School District treats regulations altered in FERPA by the Dept. of Education as supreme law, while ignoring original family-protective, congressionally approved FERPA laws –due to a lack of clear direction from the state school board or state law and due to a lack of appreciation for balanced, shared powers.)

Utah needs to assert Utah’s authority over the federal intrusions and over the Utah State School Board for ceding state educational authority.  Under GEPA law* and under the 9th and 10th Amendments to the Constitution, we have the right as a state to determine educational programs.  Under the FERPA laws as they stood, up until a few months ago, Utahns had the right to privacy in schools

Let’s articulate and maintain those rights.

 

 

* General Education Provisions Act (G.E.P.A. law):

  “No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other printed or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system.”

Yes, I’m Preaching.   Leave a comment

“And it came to pass that Moroni was angry with the government, because of their indifference concerning the freedom of their country.” (Alma 59:13)  This verse defines our current Governor, Lt. Governor, State School Superintendent and local and State School Boards.  The boards, I’ve noticed, certainly like to stand and say the pledge to the flag, but do they act upon the principles of freedom?  Do they walk the walk?  Not even close.

“Behold, could ye suppose that ye could sit upon your thrones, and because of the exceeding goodness of God ye could do nothing and he would deliver you? Behold, if ye have supposed this ye have supposed in vain.” (Moroni’s letter to his governor, Alma 60:11 in the Book of Mormon) This reminds me of the majority of the people I know, who naiively think it’s acceptable to just say “I’m not political,” and that by just saying prayers and not getting involved with local and national issues that affect our actual freedoms, we’ll be fine. All is well, all is well?  No.  All is not well in America. Moroni would be doing more for his country than just saying prayers and going to church, and so should we.

 

Alisa Ellis to Utah State Office of Education: Time for Face-to-Face Talk   Leave a comment

Brenda -

I know you and others at the State office are frustrated with our continual fight against Common Core. This is why I feel it is time we sit down and talk. As noted after the public forum at Granite district offices by a reporter (loosely quoted) “both sides left further entrenched in their views”.

I have seen the articles and statements put out by you and others at the state office and I have read many, many government documents relating to the Common Core Standards and other educational reform ideals. From my perspective the documents and the statements put out by your office do not mesh.    I’ve seen your timeline and also studied the minutes of your meetings. I’ve studied the minutes from other states and feel that there is a lot of misrepresentation. I know you feel that I am misinformed but I can assure you I’m more informed than I’ve ever been in my life.

Of course there are some documents and meetings I am not privy to, and so I feel it is imperative to sit down with you and Superintendent Shumway and go over all the questions I and other parents and citizens have. At a meeting on April 6th with Governor Herbert, he promised to help us set up a meeting with Superintendent Shumway and so I’ve copied his secretary to get that ball rolling if I must.

I would like to see documentation to the statements made by the state office.    I would like to see exactly how you and others in UT wrote the Math and ELA standards. Especially after I listened to the audio of the board meeting where you said they didn’t want us (UT) to send a team to help write the standards because they didn’t want it to turn into a Constitutional convention. I’d like to see a comparison showing the difference between Common Core State Standards and the Utah Core. I am very confused as to how UT claims to have written copyrighted standards. I read in the NCLB waiver that UT cross-walked our standards with Common Core standards. I’d like you to show me exactly how that was done and like I said show me the differences in the standards.

I’d like to know why members of the board are of the opinion that UT is not bound to any contractual obligations. We have an approved waiver application to NCLB (contractual obligation) and yet members of the board are of the opinion we can change our standards whenever we want. Be prepared in the meeting to explain exactly what process this will take when we’ve agreed to the definitions in the document and attached evidence of how we’ll meet the requirements outlined by the Dept. of Ed.

It is not effective to continue this “he said, she said dialogue”. We must have a meeting. I recognize it is summer but feel an urgency to sit down and talk with you.    I am available this week.    We do not need to keep down this path of confrontation. It is not conducive to constructive dialogue. I have 6 children in the public schools in UT and have no plans of backing down on my questions until I am satisfied that the answers given are backed up by fact and documentation and that this is the best move for our state and our children.    I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Thank you,

Alisa Ellis

Heber PTA President Janette Hall’s Letter to Utah State School Board   3 comments

July 15, 2012

Utah State School Board Members,

My name is Janette Hall and I have five children enrolled in the public school system in Utah. I am also the PTA president of Timpanogos Intermediate School. I have spent many years volunteering in schools and working closely with teachers and administrators. I appreciate the work that is conducted by the USOE for my children and their education, but I feel compelled to write this letter after reading a recent posting on your official blog by Brenda Hales regarding Utah’s Core Standards, Assessments and Privacy Regulations on July 10th, 2012.

It seems that the intent of the statement was to assuage the public instead of seeking to be factual. I was surprised at the definitive tone of Brenda Hale’s statement, when a study of the legal documents would lead one to the opposite conclusion.

As the public becomes more educated, our ability to see through statements like these increases at the cost of your board’s credibility. An organization that can admit that other points of view have credence is to be admired, not looked down upon. We are treading into uncharted territory and no one knows the exact outcome of the board’s actions to adopt the Common Core standards and join the SBAC, not even the USOE.

After reading her official blog I was shocked at the many misleading, and in my opinion, incorrect statements, such as the following:

2. The State Board of Education has control over the standards and assessments for Utah.

3. Utah has not lost its autonomy over standards and assessments.

4. The Utah core standards:
May be changed by the State Board at any time.
Were not developed, funded or mandated by the federal government.
Are not federal or national standards.
Were not obligatory because of Utah’s Race to the Top application.
Are not under the control or manipulation of special interest groups.
Are not obligatory because of Utah’s NCLB flexibility request application.

In a letter dated March 7, 2012, Arne Duncan, the Secretary of the United States Department of Education affirmed that “states have the sole right to set learning standards.” In Utah’s flexibility request we informed the Department of Education that we have chosen to use our Utah core standards. If and when the State Board decides to change or revise Utah’s standards they will do so.

The USOE has never, prior to Common Core, signed legal documents that have bound Utah’s ability to control standards and assessments; because of this we need to proceed carefully to fully understand our legal obligations. I have studied the issues related to Common Core and the SBAC for the past few months. I have also personally talked with Norman Jackson, a retired Judge from Utah, who analyzed the legally binding documents signed by Utah. You can see a copy of his analysis at http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/judge-norman-jackson-the-two-schools-of-thought-of-citizens-versus-the-utah-state-office-of-education/. I have also discussed the topic with three attorneys, one of which was my congressman, that have reviewed the legally binding documents related to the SBAC and No child Left Behind waiver. Their mutual consensus is contrary to Brenda Hale’s statements above. The documents clearly state that Utah cannot take anything away from the standards and can only add up to 15% additional material and the additional material will not be assessed. There is no amendment process associated with the standards. They are copyrighted by a private entity. They are not owned by Utah. The following link to Utah’s NCLB waiver application states that our adoption of the Common Core standards satisfies the requirements of waiver. http://www2.ed.gov/policy/eseaflex/ut.pdf (please see page 18 and 84.)

Bill Evers, a research fellow from Hoover Institute and a member of former Governor Romney’s educational advisory committee, recently informed Governor Herbert on July 9, 2012, in my presence, that he had personally discovered a minor error in the language arts standards, dealing with vowels. He contacted the authors, whom he knew, and they acknowledged that he was correct in his discovery, but informed him that the standards had already been printed and adopted in 35 states so they could not be changed; it was too late. If one person could not change an agreed-upon, blatant error in the standards, do you think Utah will have the ability to make changes to the standards? Mr. Evers’ expert opinion was that we will not have that freedom. Is our educational freedom worth giving up for an experimental common core?

I have seen a copy of the letter written by Arne Duncan. I asked Kent Talbert, an attorney focused on K-12 education, for his expert opinion and his initial thoughts were that it might be a political letter and not a legally binding letter. Have you had the letter reviewed by your attorneys to see if it would hold up in court or has any teeth in it to counter your signatures on legally binding documents? The letter is not a carte blanche for Utah to disregard legal obligations. Please seek legal advice before you make statements to the contrary.

Recently Mr. Evers compared Utah’s previous mathematical standards with Common Core’s and stated that the new common core math standards are lower than our previous standards. Do you have an educational analysis of the standards that you can release? What criteria did the validation committee use to judge the standards? After postings like Brenda Hales’ on your blog, I can no longer accept your word at face value. You are in a position of trust and you cannot throw statements around without documentation. It will ultimately hurt your cause and not strengthen it. I urge you to be cautious on the statements that you choose to release to the public. I hope that the blog represents Ms. Hales’ opinion and not the opinions of the entire USOE.

I listened to the Rod Arquette show last week with Joel Coleman and Craig Coleman. I felt like they were sincere in their desire to help educate our children. But again, they provided no references for their beliefs that Common Core would raise, rather than lower standards in Utah. I was also pleased to hear that the USOE will vote on the possibility of exiting the SBAC in August. I would like to lend my support and encouragement for the USOE to withdraw from the SBAC.

I do not usually write letters of this nature but when I read Ms. Hales’ blog I could no longer sit idly by. I feel that it is important that the USOE know how their words are perceived by the public. Obviously, I have a vested interest in the education of my children. There are few things that will move a parent more than the wellbeing of their children.

Thank you for taking the time to read over this. I have attached below a letter that I gave to Governor Herbert on July 9, 2012.

Sincerely ,

Janette Hall

‘Tis But A Scratch!   Leave a comment

In “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” a certain knight, while being slaughtered, is in stout denial. Each time he loses  a limb, he insists it’s nothing, no more than a scratch.  Soon limbless, still bouncing around, he’s full of confidence that he’s winning.

   King Arthur: Now, stand aside, worthy adversary! Black Knight: ‘Tis but a scratch! King Arthur: A scratch? Your arm’s off! Black Knight: No, it isn’t! King Arthur: Well, what’s that then? King Arthur: I’ve had worse. King Arthur: You liar! Black Knight: Come on, you pansy! [...Arthur cuts off the Knight's other arm] ..etc.

Many Americans, both liberals and conservatives, seem like this knight to me.  Many know that they are supposed to save the Constitution but they don’t get involved.  How do they think that it will happen without getting involved?  Joseph Smith said: “Even this nation will be on the very verge of crumbling to pieces and tumbling to the ground, and when the Constitution is upon the brink of ruin, this people will be the staff upon which the nation shall lean, and they shall bear the Constitution away from the very verge of destruction.” (July 19, 1840, Church Historian’s Office, SLC).

   We are losing our freedoms in America so fast and with so little media coverage, that it’s almost impossible to follow it all.  This is due to not only the Obama Administration but also due to the push of the United Nations to minimize each country’s sovereignty in favor of global government.  If you talk about it or write about it, even showing indisputable evidence from the organizations themselves, most people hurry along their busy paths, or go back to sleep, or call you dismissive names rather than study it out and get involved.

   Ezra Taft Benson, in “The Constitution: A Heavenly Banner,” wrote that the issue of whether God’s children will have “untrammeled agency to choose the course they should follow” or to “be coerced and forced to be obedient,is ongoing: “The war that began in heaven is not yet over. The conflict continues on the battlefield of mortality. And one of Lucifer’s primary strategies has been to restrict our agency through the power of earthly governments.”

  

 Some limbs from the great tree of freedom that we’ve lost or are in the process of losing right now:

1) Medical freedom (Obamacare)

2) Educational freedom (Common Core)

3) Privacy (FERPA regulations altered)

4) Property Rights (U.N.’s Law of the Sea allows the U.N. to tax our country and steal our land; see http://www.jbs.org/news/will-our-freedoms-be-lost-at-sea   and  http://www.un.org/Depts/los/convention_agreements/texts/unclos/closindx.htm )

None of these freedoms is less important than another.  But this blog is dedicated to freedom of education because education has been my life.  And education is the closest issue to our children.  President Benson warned:

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. President Joseph F. Smith referred to false educational ideas as one of the three threatening dangers among our Church members. There is more than one reason why the Church is advising our youth to attend colleges close to their homes where institutes of religion are available. It gives the parents the opportunity to stay close to their children; and if they have become alert and informed as President McKay admonished us last year, these parents can help expose some of the deceptions of men like Sigmund Freud, Charles Darwin, John Dewey, Karl Marx, John Keynes, and others.Today there are much worse things that can happen to a child than not getting a full college education. In fact, some of the worst things have happened to our children while attending colleges led by administrators who wink at subversion and amorality. Said Karl G. Maeser, ‘I would rather have my child exposed to smallpox, typhus fever, cholera, or other malignant and deadly diseases than to the degrading influence of a corrupt teacher. It is infinitely better to take chances with an ignorant, but pure-minded teacher than with the greatest philosopher who is impure.’ Vocational education, correspondence courses, establishment in a family business are being considered for their children by an increasing number of parents.”

( Source: Ezra Taft Benson, “A Plea to Strengthen Our Families”, General conference address, October 1970 )
 
I hope we wake up, collectively, and get involved.  Whenever an idea for a new law, a new tax, a new regulation, or a new educational reform is proposed, ask whether is maximizes individual freedom and parental authority over children, or whether it takes away from individual freedom and maxmimizes governmental authority over children.  It’s not that complicated. 
 
Write your representatives, your senators, your governor and school boards.  It makes a difference.
 

On Freedom: Video of This Week’s Utah Legislators’ Lunch   Leave a comment

“Freedom as we know it has been experienced by perhaps less than one percent of the human family,” wrote Ezra Taft Benson.

The freedom that has been set up in America is not unalterable.  The D&C (109:54) records a prayer by Joseph Smith:  “Have mercy, O Lord, upon all the anations of the earth; have mercy upon the rulers of our land; may those principles, which were so honorably and nobly defended, namely, the bConstitution of our land, by our fathers, be established forever.” 

The prophet prayed for Constitutional freedom, showing his understanding that without vigilance by Americans and assistance from heaven, freedom might fail.

Ezra Taft Benson also said that people should remain master over government, not the other way around. Government “cannot claim the power to redistribute money or property nor to force reluctant citizens to perform acts of charity against their will”  ( from “The Constitution, a Heavenly Banner”).

Local freedom over education versus federal control of education is the central issue of my blog, speaking about Common Core and its tests.

http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/the-common-core-presentation/

These clips were filmed this week in Utah during the visits of four national experts who came on their own dime to help educate our Governor, legislators, and the public about the truth of the “Common Core” education takeover by the federal government.

This page contains both a 90-second trailer as well as the full exclusive presentation to Utah legislators which runs just over an hour. Representative Keith Grover from Orem hosted the meeting.

   James Gass of Pioneer Institute

Senator Stephenson

More local links:  On Red Meat Radio today, Senator Howard Stephenson hosted Matt Piccolo, primary author of the Sutherland Institute paper advising Utah to get out of Common Core as quickly as possible, and also hosting Jamie Gass, Director of the Pioneer Institute.  You can listen to the clip archived from Sat. July 14, 2012 (this morning) at  www.k-talk.com.  You’ll hear Rep. Dan McCay as well as Martell Menlove from the USOE:  http://www.k-talk.com/pro/index.php/archive/

  Martell Menlove

Prayer for Liberty in America: George Albert Smith’s Idaho Falls Temple Prayer   Leave a comment

   In September 1945, George Albert Smith offered the dedicatory prayer for the Idaho Falls, Idaho, LDS temple. http://www.ldschurchtemples.com/idahofalls/prayer/  It was a prayer of thankfulness for the end of World War Two, and a prayer for peace to continue and liberty to reign.  I have posted only portions of it here:

O Thou great and eternal God, Father of our spirits, Creator of the heavens, the earth and all things therein; before whom all things are present, whether past or yet to come; full of mercy and love, guided by wisdom, judgment and justice in their perfection; in humility and with thanksgiving and with our hearts filled with gratitude unto Thee, we approach Thee through Thy Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our elder Brother, who, through the great and exquisite sacrifice wrought out for us magnanimous beyond our comprehension, made it possible that we might approach Thee in humility on this great occasion, with our petitions and supplications, in this House which we have built to Thy most holy name.

We pray Thee that Thou wilt cause our hearts to be purified in Thy sight and our faith in Thee to be multiplied and increased so that our petitions may reach Thy holy habitation and be answered in our behalf in accordance with Thy infinite wisdom and love, and grant that the blessings we here seek may be fully realized to Thy name’s honor and glory…

With deep gratitude in our hearts we thank Thee that the nations have ceased their warfare and the destruction of human life. We thank Thee that peace temporarily is established in the earth. We do pray that all people everywhere will now take cognizance of the horrors of war, and repent of their sins and follies and with contrite spirits turn unto Thee, the God of love and peace; that they may be inclined to follow the admonitions of Thy servants that thereby the peace now enjoyed by them may be made permanent, and the day of the coming of Thy Beloved Son hastened. We do most fervently pray that hate may lose its place in the hearts of men and that Thy peace and love may enter and abide therein. We also pray that Thy sons and daughters who have been required to participate in the great conflict to preserve liberty, may return to their homes and engage in wholesome and useful pursuits, and contribute to the building up of Thy Kingdom in the earth. May they whose release from the armed services, for any reason, may be delayed, be abundantly blessed of Thee and comforted, and be preserved in health and strength and righteousness, and may the day of their union with loved ones at home come as speedily as possible.

… We thank Thee, O God, for the choice land upon which we reside, and for the marvelous promises Thou hast made concerning America, that it should be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under Heaven so long as the inhabitants of the land should worship the God of the land who is Jesus Christ. Thou hast revealed unto us that in the great controversy which took place in Heaven that the cornerstone of Thy plan of salvation was the free agency of man, and that Lucifer, who was an angel in authority in Thy Holy presence, proposed a different way; that Lucifer’s plan was rejected because the effect of its application would be to deprive Thy children of their free agency. When Lucifer’s plan was rejected by Thee he rebelled against Thee; there was war in Heaven and he and his followers were cast out. We thank Thee that Thou hast warned us by revelation that Satan would deceive the nations in our time. Thou hast said: “I will give you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived, for Satan is abroad in the land, and he goeth forth deceiving the nations.” As we look about in the world among the various countries we find philosophies and forms of government the effect of which is to deprive men of their free agency, but by reason of Thy timely warning to us, we know that they are not approved of Thee. Since the God of this choice land is Jesus Christ, we know that His philosophy of free agency should prevail here. Thou didst amply demonstrate this great principle to us by raising up wise men for the very purpose of giving us our Constitutional form of government, concerning which Thou hast said: “I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles; that every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment. Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another. And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up into this very purpose.” There are those, our Heavenly Father, both within and without our borders who would destroy the Constitutional form of government which Thou hast so magnanimously given us, and would replace it with a form that would curtail if not altogether deprive man of his free agency. We pray Thee, therefore, that in all these matters Thou wilt help us to conform our lives to Thy desires, and that Thou wilt sustain us in our resolve so to do. We pray Thee that Thou wilt inspire good and just men everywhere to be willing to sacrifice for, support and uphold the Constitution and the government set up under it and thereby preserve for man his agency.

We thank Thee that Thou hast revealed to us that those who gave us our Constitutional form of government were men wise in Thy sight and that Thou didst raise them up for the very purpose of putting forth that sacred document.

Wilt Thou, O our Father, bless the Chief Executive of this land that his heart and will may be to preserve for us and our posterity the free institutions Thy Constitution has provided. Wilt Thou too bless the Legislative and Judicial branches of our government as well as the Executive, that all may function fully and courageously in their respective branches completely independent of each other to the preservation of our Constitutional form of government forever.

We pray that kings and rulers and the peoples of all nations under heaven may be persuaded of the blessings enjoyed by the people of this land by reason of their freedom under Thy guidance and be constrained to adopt similar governmental systems, thus to fulfill the ancient prophecy of Isaiah that “out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”

…Our hearts are filled with gratitude towards Thee, O God our Eternal Father, that Thou didst cause Thy Spirit to move upon our forebears and inspire them to come to this goodly land, declared by Thee to be choice above all other lands, where they might worship Thee untrammeled; that Thou didst promise, “The wilderness and solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing . . . And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water.” For the fertility of this land which, once most undesirable and forbidding, now produces in rich abundance delicious grain, fruits and vegetables, we are most grateful. We too express to Thee our joy in beholding great mountains towering majestically toward the sky to inspire Thy children to look up as well as around them that they might enjoy Thy handiwork.

…In the authority of Thy Holy Priesthood, we dedicate unto Thee these grounds, this building in all its parts, from foundation to capstone, together with all that appertains thereunto, including furnishings and equipment and all facilities, and we pray that accepting this our offering Thou wilt preserve the same from decay and the ravages of time. We now present this precious Temple unto Thee, Holy Father, with all that pertains to it, inside and out, with our love and gratitude, and pray that Thou wilt accept of our offering, and unto Thee we ascribe all honor, glory and praise forever through Thy Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

http://www.ldschurchtemples.com/idahofalls/prayer/

School Speech Therapist Battles Common Core   Leave a comment

A school speech therapist has started a discussion about Common Core with teachers and others on her blog: The School Speech Therapist.  Interesting dialogue:

http://www.theschoolspeechtherapist.com/core-curriculum-and-the-slp/

Option: University Approval of State School Standards In Lieu of Common Core Standards   Leave a comment

Dear Governor Herbert,

Thank you for meeting with Alisa Ellis, the national education experts, legislators, and others, including me, this week.

Judging from your questions and those raised by Lt. Gov. Greg Bell after the Governor left the meeting, I want to share the following information with your and your legal and educational staff.

1)  It seems that, despite the fact that states initiated the Common Core, the feds have taken it over and have cornered states.  One evidence of this the ESEA flexibility waiver, (NCLB waiver) which asked Utah to choose Common Core or University approval to replace NCLB.

On page 8 of the ESEA Flexibility document (updated June 7, 2012)  found at  http://www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility, :   “A State’s college- and career-ready standards must be either (1) standards that are common to a significant number of States; or (2) standards that are approved by a State network of institutions of higher education”.

Thus, since Utah chose option one, we are stuck in Common Core for at least the time the NCLB waiver lasts, by having chosen to accept the NCLB waiver.  If we choose to resubmit our waiver application, we could choose the University Approval option, and be free of the Common Core entanglements and our SBAC membership. Please correct me if I am wrong.

2) Secondly:  The waiver from NCLB http://www2.ed.gov/policy/eseaflex/ut.pdf  seems to commit Utah to the SBAC tests.  On pg. 32 of the waiver Utah checked Option A:   The SEA (state) is participating in one of the two State consortia that received a grant under the Race to the Top Assessment competition.  i. Attach the State’s  Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) under that competition. (Attachment 6)

Attachment 6 is evidence showing our MOU agreement with Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), which still shows Utah is a Governing Member.  If and when our state board votes in their August board meeting to withdraw from SBAC, I believe the NCLB waiver will need to be resubmitted to show that we are not in the SBAC.

Again, perhaps the “University Approval” option, which Virginia chose for their waiver, would be a wise path for Utah, rather than “Common Core” if we do resubmit that waiver without the SBAC membership attached.

Thank you for looking into these issues which have such long-term implications for students, parents and teachers.

Christel Swasey

Utah Parent and Teacher

Creepy Definitions Hidden in Common Core Governing Document   2 comments

Is it just me, or are some of the definitions on the “Definitions Page” of the Common Core governing document, downright 1984-Orwell-creepy?

You can peruse the definitions (and there are many) on your own, in the 2009 Race to the Top Application, which was the document that hooked Utah into the Common Core –despite the fact that we didn’t win that first RTTT grant.  It’s easy to find online.

From the Definitions Page:

“Innovative, autonomous public schools means open enrollment public schools that, in return for increased accountability for student achievement (as defined in this notice), have the flexibility and authority to define their instructional models and associated curriculum; select and replace staff; implement new structures and formats for the school day or year; and control their budgets.”

Does that not strike you as creepy?  –Only certain public schools will be allowed the authority to define their own instructional models, curriculum; to replace staff, to format their own school days, and to control their own budgets?  Yikes!  Try this one:

“Common set of K-12 standards means a set of content standards that define what students must know and be able to do and that are substantially identical across all States in a consortium.  A State may supplement the common standards with additional standards, provided that the additional standards do not exceed 15 percent of the State’s total standards for that content area.”

Is it just me, or does it seem weird and creepy that the federal government says a state “may supplement” our own school system’s standards, only if our standards “do not exceed 15%” educational speed limit of the common standards we’ve begin to call state standards?

This is particularly odd in light of the fact that federal G.E.P.A. law explicitly prohibits the federal government from bossing us around in this manner:  “No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other printed or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system…” (General Educational Provisions Act) http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/20/1232a

Okay, just one more:

“Effective principal means a principal whose students, overall and for each subgroup, achieve acceptable rates (e.g., at least one grade level in an academic year) of student growth (as defined in this notice).  States, LEAs, or schools must include multiple measures, provided that principal effectiveness is evaluated, in significant part, by student growth (as defined in this notice)…”

    So, rates of student growth and effectiveness of principals and teachers will be defined by the feds (“as defined in this notice”) and not by teachers, parents, or students themselves.  An effective principal or teacher is to be determined by people who live in D.C., not people who work with and know the principal face to face. It’s nuts.  The entire education reform movement, moving us toward greater and greater “accountability” to people who do not have actual authority to ask for it (Secretary Duncan) is mind-numbing and makes me want to run with scissors and use my outdoor voice.

Utah State School Board Neutered By National Standards   Leave a comment

The Utah State Board of Education has virtually no control over the national standards as they have been adopted for Utah. 

  • USSB has no ability to delete anything from the already adopted national standards:

A governing document of Common Core gives no provision for the Utah School Board to delete anything from the national standards. 

(See page 7, Race to the Top Application, at http://find.ed.gov/search?q=Race+to+the+Top+application+November+2009&client=default_ frontend&output=xml_no_dtd&proxystylesheet=default_frontend&sa.x=0&sa.y=0&sa. )

  • USSB has no ability to add meaningfully to the standards:

That  same governing document of Common Core states that states can only add 15% to the national standards.  But Utah needs that freedom to add much more than 15%.  Example:

A whole year’s worth of improvement is needed for some of the given standards.  For example, a 6th and 9th grade Common Core “math bubble” of repetition was experienced this year in districts like mine that implemented Common Core math.  http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/07/07/state-and-local-school-board-perceptions-of-common-core-differ-13-2/

We can’t add more and remain the same as Common Core nationally.  You’re either diverse, or you’re the same.  Our 6th and 9th graders learn no math for a year because of the lack of local control and the adoption of nationwide sameness.  (F.Y.I. –Prior to Common Core, 8th graders learned Algebra I.  Under Common Core, 9th graders learn Algebra I.) http://americanprinciplesproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Controlling-Education-From-the-Top.pdf

  • No amendment process exists:

Because the NGA placed the standards under copyright, Utah cannot amend them in any way. http://www.corestandards.org/terms-of-use   http://www.corestandards.org/public-license

  • How bad is it?

The lack of local control over the changes made by the national standards adoption is illustrated by this fact: this year, a current school board member pulled her grandchildren out of public school and home schooled both her 8th grade grandson and 9th grade granddaughter, she said, because “our school district had decided to adopt the Common Core for every grade, rather than what was proposed by the state. It was proposed that we only adopt for the 6th and 9th grade and provide alternative programs for those students who already had the skills…” http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/07/07/state-and-local-school-board-perceptions-of-common-core-differ-13-2/

  • Evidence of the above statements, from the official Common  Core test writer, WestEd:

The test developer, WestEd, affirmed that “in order for this system to have a real impact within a state, the state will need to adopt the CCSS, i.e., not have two sets of standards.”

Full email from WestEd at:   http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/04/06/what-is-wested-and-why-should-you-care/

WestEd also stated that any changes (up to 15%) that Utah makes to the national standards will never be taken into account on the common standardized tests.

Personally Identifiable Information Set Loose By Dept. of Education   Leave a comment

Q:  Will personally identifiable student data now be allowed to be given out by schools with governmental and nongovernmental entities, both in-state and out of state? 

A: YES.  Unless E.P.I.C. wins its lawsuit against the Department of Education, or unless Congress polices the Department of Education which is overstepping its authority, federal FERPA regulations will remain as they are, as they have been for about six months, which is extremely loose on who can access data and totally unconcerned with whether or not schools get parental consent before releasing that data. Here’s the evidence:

The Federal Register outlines, on page 51, that it is no longer a necessity for a school to get student’s or parent’s consent before sharing personally identifiable information; that action has been reduced to optional: “It is a best practice to keep the public informed when you disclose personally identifiable information from education records.”  http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-12-02/pdf/2011-30683.pdf

Dec. 2011 regulations, which the Dept. of Education made without Congressional approval and for which they are now being sued by EPIC, literally loosen, rather than strengthen, parental consent rules and other rules.  http://www.jdsupra.com/post/documentViewer.aspx?fid=5aa4af34-8e67-4f42-8e6b-fe801c512c7a

A lawyer at EPIC disclosed that these privacy intrusions affect not only children, but anyone who ever attended any college or university (that archives records, unless it is a privately funded university.)

Because the 2011 changes stretch and redefine terms like “authorized representative” and “educational program” to include nongovernmental agencies and many additional governmental agencies, effectively, there is no privacy regulation governing schools anymore, on the federal level. (Thanks to Utah legislators who are on the case, we might soon have stronger privacy laws existing to protect Utahns from the new federal intrusion.)

The types of information that the Department will collect includes so much more than academic information: it includes biometric information (DNA, fingerprints, iris patterns) and parental income, nicknames, medical information, extracurricular information, and much more. The federal government’s own websites make this clear.  See page 4 at  http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/pdf/ferparegs.pdf and see http://nces.sifinfo.org/datamodel/eiebrowser/techview.aspx?instance=studentPostsecondary

Utah, like every other state, agreed to build a federally-funded State Longitudinal Database System. This SLDS exists for the purpose of sharing data –not only among state agencies but from the state to the US Dept. of Ed. The SLDS also exists to “manage” and “disaggregate” educational information within the state.

Evidence:  A briefing was given in Utah, August 2010 by John Brandt, who is the USOE Technology Director and a member of the federal Dept. of Education, a member of the federal NCES, and a chair member of CCSSO (an organization that helped develop and promote the Common Core national standards.) On page 5 of Brandt’s online powerpoint, he explains that student records and transcripts can be used from school districts to the USOE or USHE “and beyond,” and can also be shared between the USOE and the US Department of Education.

Utah’s P-20 workforce council exists to track citizens starting in preschool, and to “forge organizational and technical bonds and to build the data system needed to make informed decisions” for stakeholders both in and outside Utah. — http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/2/prweb9201404.htm

The linking of data from preschool to postsecondary and on workforce, both locally and to D.C., allows agencies easy access, both technologically and in terms of the altered federal policies (Despite having been altered without authority by the Dept. of Ed., they have been altered and at least in my school district, people are abiding by those alterations.)

The SLDS and P-20 systems were paid for by the federal government and they do transform the way student/citizen data is shared– but remember, the federally stated purpose for all the data gathering is educational research– yet this also allows the state and federal governments to track, steer and even punish teachers, students and long ago-graduated citizens, very easily. http://cte.ed.gov/docs/NSWG/Workforce_Data_Brief.pdf    

Data linking changes are not just technological in nature; there are also changes being made in regulations and policies that make former privacy protection policies all but meaningless.  The changes are so outrageous, harming parental consent law and privacy concerns so much that the Department of Education has been sued over it. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) sued the Dept. of Education, under the Administrative Procedure Act, arguing that the Dept. of Ed’s regulations that changed the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act in Dec. 2011 exceeded the Department of Education’s authority and are contrary to law. http://epic.org/apa/ferpa/default.html

The Federal Register of December 2011 outlines the Dept. of Education’s regulations, that now decrease parental involvement but increase the number of agencies that may have access to private student data: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-12-02/pdf/2011-30683.pdf  (See page 52-57)

Although the Federal Register describes countless agencies, programs and “authorities” that may access personally identifiable student information, it does not use mandatory language.  The obligatory language comes up in the Cooperative Agreement between the Department of Education and the SBAC, the states’ testing consortium –of which Utah is still a member: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf

In that document, states are obligated to share data with the federal government “on an ongoing basis,” to give status reports, phone conferences and other information, and must synchronize tests “across consortia”. This triangulation nationalizes the testing system and puts the federal government in the middle of the data collecting program.

For more information about the history of similar actions taken by the federal Dept. of Education that infringe upon state law and freedom, see the white paper by ROPE (Restore Oklahoma Public Education) entitled “Analysis of Recent Education Reforms and the Resulting Impact on Student Privacy”  —  http://www.scribd.com/doc/94149078/An-Analysis-of-Recent-Education-Reforms-and-the-Resulting-Impact-on-Student-Privacy

What motivates the federal government to make these changes?  Read some of US Dept. of Education Arne Duncan’s or Obama’s speeches that show the passion with which the federal agency seeks access to data to control teachers and educational decisions. http://www2.ed.gov/news/speeches/2009/06/06082009.pdf

A response to the USOE statement published Jul 10, 2012 by Brenda Hales   1 comment

To Whom It May Concern:

 

The following information directly conflicts with this week’s statement about Common Core and national educational reforms as published by the USOE at http://utahpubliceducation.org/2012/07/10/utahs-core-standards-assessments-and-privacy-regulations/.

The following information has links to references so that you can verify what is claimed, unlike the unreferenced information given by the USOE.

 

1. Personally identifiable student data will be shared with governmental and nongovernmental entities, both in-state and out of state, as never before.

The Federal Register outlines, on page 51, that it is not a necessity for a school to get student or parental consent any longer before sharing personally identifiable information; that has been reduced to the level of optional.

“It is a best practice to keep the public informed when you disclose personally identifiable information from education records.”  http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-12-02/pdf/2011-30683.pdf 

Dec. 2011 regulations, which the Dept. of Education made without Congressional approval and for which they are now being sued by EPIC, literally loosen, rather than strengthen, parental consent rules and other rules.  http://www.jdsupra.com/post/documentViewer.aspx?fid=5aa4af34-8e67-4f42-8e6b-fe801c512c7a

A lawyer at EPIC disclosed that these privacy intrusions affect not only children, but anyone who ever attended any college or university (that archives records, unless it is a privately funded university.) 

Because the 2011 changes stretch and redefine terms like “authorized representative” and “educational program” to include nongovernmental agencies and many additional governmental agencies, effectively, there is no privacy regulation governing schools anymore, on the federal level. (Thanks to Utah legislators who are on the case, we might soon have stronger privacy laws existing to protect Utahns from the new federal intrusion.)

The types of information that the Department will collect includes so much more than academic information: it includes biometric information (DNA, fingerprints, iris patterns) and parental income, nicknames, medical information, extracurricular information, and much more. See page 4 at  http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/pdf/ferparegs.pdf and see http://nces.sifinfo.org/datamodel/eiebrowser/techview.aspx?instance=studentPostsecondary

Utah’s federally-funded State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS) exists for the purpose of sharing data not only among state agencies but from the state to the US Dept. of Ed.  The SLDS also exists to “manage” and “disaggregate” educational information within the state.   –A briefing was given in Utah, August 2010 by John Brandt, who is the USOE Technology Director and a member of the federal Dept. of Education, a member of the federal NCES, and a chair member of CCSSO (an organization that helped develop and promote the Common Core national standards.) On page 5 of Brandt’s online powerpoint, he explains that student records and transcripts can be used from school districts to the USOE or USHE “and beyond,” and can also be shared between the USOE and the US Department of Education.

Utah’s P-20 workforce council exists to track citizens starting in preschool, and to “forge organizational and technical bonds and to build the data system needed to make informed decisions” for stakeholders both in and outside Utah. — http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/2/prweb9201404.htm

The linking of data from preschool to postsecondary and on workforce, both locally and to D.C., allows agencies easy access, technologically and in terms of legal policy.

The SLDS and P-20 systems were paid for by the federal government and they transform the way data is shared– and the federally stated purpose for all the data gathering is educational research– yet this also allows the state and federal governments to track, steer and even punish teachers, students and citizens more easily. http://cte.ed.gov/docs/NSWG/Workforce_Data_Brief.pdf      

Data linking changes are not just technological in nature; there are also changes being made in regulations and policies that make former privacy protection policies all but meaningless.  The changes are so outrageous, harming parental consent law and privacy concerns so much that the Department of Education has been sued over it. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) sued the Dept. of Education, under the Administrative Procedure Act, arguing that the Dept. of Ed’s regulations that changed the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act in Dec. 2011 exceeded the Department of Education’s authority and are contrary to law. http://epic.org/apa/ferpa/default.html

The Federal Register of December 2011 outlines the Dept. of Education’s new, Congressionally un-approved regulations, that decrease parental involvement and increase the number of agencies that have access to private student data: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-12-02/pdf/2011-30683.pdf  (See page 52-57)

Although the Federal Register describes countless agencies, programs and “authorities” that may access personally identifiable student information, it uses permissive rather than mandatory language.  The obligatory language comes up in the case of the Cooperative Agreement between the Department of Education and the states’ testing consortium –of which Utah is still a member: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf  

In that document, states are obligated to share data with the federal government “on an ongoing basis,” to give status reports, phone conferences and other information, and must synchronize tests “across consortia”. This triangulation nationalizes the testing system and puts the federal government in the middle of the data collecting program.

For more information about the history of similar actions taken by the federal Dept. of Education that infringe upon state law and freedom, see the white paper by ROPE (Restore Oklahoma Public Education) entitled “Analysis of Recent Education Reforms and the Resulting Impact on Student Privacy”  —  http://www.scribd.com/doc/94149078/An-Analysis-of-Recent-Education-Reforms-and-the-Resulting-Impact-on-Student-Privacy

For understanding of the motivation of the federal government, read some of US Dept. of Education Arne Duncan’s or Obama’s speeches that show the passion with which the federal agency seeks access to data to control teachers and educational decisions. http://www2.ed.gov/news/speeches/2009/06/06082009.pdf

2. The State Board of Education has virtually no control over the national standards it has adopted for Utah. 

Governing documents of Common Core state that the Utah School Board may not delete anything from the national standards and can only add 15% to them.  If Utah needs to add about a whole year’s worth of improvement to a given standard, as is the case with the 6th and 9th grade Common Core “math bubble” of repetition experienced this year in districts that implemented Common Core math, we can’t add more –and remain the same as Common Core nationally.  Our 6th and 9th graders learn no math for an entire year because of the lack of local control.  (Prior to Common Core, 8th graders learned Algebra I.  Under Common Core, 9th graders learn Algebra I.)  Because the NGA placed the standards under copyright, Utah can not amend them in any way. http://www.corestandards.org/terms-of-use   To illustrate, even a member of the state school board couldn’t do anything more than pull her grandkids out of public school to deal with the situation.  The school board member home schooled her 8th grade grandson and 9th grade granddaughter this year, “since our school district had decided to adopt the Common Core for every grade rather than what was proposed by the state. It was proposed that we only adopt for the 6th and 9th grade and provide alternative programs for those students who already had the skills being taught to all through the Common Core.” http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/07/07/state-and-local-school-board-perceptions-of-common-core-differ-13-2/

Additionally, any changes (up to 15%) that Utah makes to the national standards will never be taken into account on the common standardized tests.  The test developer, WestEd, affirmed that “in order for this system to have a real impact within a state, the state will need to adopt the CCSS, i.e., not have two sets of standards.”

http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/04/06/what-is-wested-and-why-should-you-care/

Anecdotally: those Utah teachers who love Common Core confuse the academic standards themselves with the methodologies being used to implement them.  New methodologies in many cases are excellent, but have nothing to do with national standards.  They are used in non-Common Core states.  Innovative methodologies that work well are not tied to the common national standards, which are only academic levels that could just as easily be higher or lower, and can still be taught free of Common Core’s rules, using the good methodologies.

Utah has lost its autonomy over standards and assessments. The next time  Utah reviews standards and wishes to raise the bar, what will happen? There is no CCSS amendment process.  Also, since most states joined Common Core, and we’re virtually all the same; where is the collaboration, competition or better example to aspire to? 

The common national standards were adopted due to federal recommendations during the initial Race to the Top application for funding for federal money.  Fortunately, since Utah didn’t receive the money, we can escape Common Core without serious financial problems.  And we should.  Despite the letter of March 7, 2012 from Arne Duncan, stating “states have the sole right to set learning standards,” legally binding documents conflict with that Constitutional right, as well as with Duncan’s promises and with the Cooperative Agreement Duncan made with the SBAC.

When the Dept. of Education forced states to choose between No Child Left Behind and Common Core, they proved that Common Core is just the next federal program.

The ESEA Flexibility releases “waiver winning” states from No Child Left Behind law, only on conditions of implementing Common Core.  On page 8 of the ESEA Flexibility document (updated June 7, 2012)  found at  http://www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility, please read:   “A State’s college- and career-ready standards must be either (1) standards that are common to a significant number of States; or (2) standards that are approved by a State network of institutions of higher education”.

Thus, since Utah chose option one, we are stuck in Common Core by choosing to accept the NCLB waiver. On page 9 of the same document, we read: 

 “ ‘Standards that are common to a significant number of States’ means standards that are substantially identical across all States in a consortium that includes a significant number of States.  A State may supplement such standards with additional standards, provided that the additional standards do not exceed 15 percent of the State’s total standards for a content area. “

Utah not only has to stick with the Common Core State Standards by having accepted NCLB; we also are restricted from adding to “our” standards. 

3. Utah applied for, but fortunately did not receive a Race to the Top (RTTT) grant.   This means Utah can leave Common Core without having to pay back a grant, something that some other states wishing to flee Common Core’s entanglements cannot do.

But, because the SBAC did receive a large RTTT grant for assessment development and because Utah is a member of SBAC, we are bound to the federal government’s data collection rules and the national standards/assessments, with Washington State our fiscal agent as long as we remain an SBAC member.

The Department of Education first incentivized the adoption of the Common Core, and then incentivized adoption of national testing.  Utah is under obligations associated with the SBAC grant as long as we remain a member of that consortium.

Exiting the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium system requires getting federal approval.  But if Utah withdraws from the consortium via the formal exit process, we will then no longer be obligated to share data with the federal government and share nationally synchronized tests, but we will still be allowed to share data with the federal government under the new FERPA regulatory changes, unless EPIC wins their lawsuit against the Dept. of Education this year.

To sum up: Common Core is very similar to Obamacare.  Governor Herbert said very eloquently that Obama’s  “Affordable Care Act imposes a one-size-fits-all plan on all states, effectively driving us to the lowest common denominator. It results in burdensome regulation, higher costs, and a massive, budget-busting… expansion.”   If you substitute the word “Common Core” for “Affordable Care Act,” you’ll understand what the federal education push is all about.  The Dept. of Education did not initiate both the educational and the medical programs, but does control both.

 

Christel Swasey

Heber City

 

Evidence That Common Core Is a Federal, Not State-Led, Program   2 comments

 

I.  FEDS TELL US, “YOU PICK: EITHER NCLB OR COMMON CORE”

On conditions of implementing Common Core, the Dept. of Education’s ESEA Flexibility releases each “waiver winning” state from No Child Left Behind law/  But ONLY on conditions of implementing Common Core. 

On page 8 of the ESEA Flexibility document (updated June 7, 2012)  found at  http://www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility, we read:   “A State’s college- and career-ready standards must be either (1) standards that are common to a significant number of States; or (2) standards that are approved by a State network ofinstitutions of higher education”. Thus, since Utah chose option one, we are stuck in Common Core by choosing to accept the NCLB waiver. And on page 9 of the same document, we read:  

 “ ‘Standards that are common to a significant number of States’ means standards that are substantially identical across all States in a consortium that includes a significant number of States.  A State may supplement such standards with additional standards, provided that the additional standards do not exceed 15 percent of the State’s total standards for a content area. “

Thus, we not only have to stick with the Common Core State Standards by having accepted NCLB; we also are restricted from adding to the standards.  We can no longer soar since we can add no more than 15% to the standards (and can subtract nothing.)  The state does not seem to comprehend this fact yet.  Many have said that we are still free, that Common Core is just a minimum set of standards which we can soar beyond.

Even by a member of the State School Board, I was told that my district should add whatever was necessary to make sure the kids weren’t suffering in the “repetition bubble” of 6th and 9th grade math.  But if my district were to add a whole year’s worth of curriculum and standards, that would go far beyond the allowable 15%.  So my district can’t actually do that under Common Core rules.

 

 

 

 

II.  WHO WROTE THE STANDARDS AND THE COMMON TESTS?

Check out the D.C. governmental and nongovernmental groups claiming to have developed and released the standards and the tests:  Achieve, Inc.; http://www.achieve.org/ NGA (who copyrighted them)http://www.corestandards.org/terms-of-use ; WestEd (not technically a government agency, but they “perform essential government functions” and are tax-exempt. http://www.wested.org/cs/we/print/docs/we/agency.htm

III.  WHO COLLECTS THE COMMON TEST DATA?  THE FEDS.

The Cooperative Agreement between the federal U.S. Dept. of Education and the SBAC testing consortium, of which Utah is a member, states that “on an ongoing basis” we must give our data to the federal government. We must synchronize our tests with the other consortium.  We must give status updates to the federal government.   http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf

 

Oyun Altangerel, Mongolia, and People’s Power of Freedom   1 comment

  

I want to share the story that Dallin Oaks shares in this article:

 http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/oaks-religious-freedom      

“…To illustrate the importance of basic human rights in other countries, I refer to some recent history in Mongolia, which shows that the religious freedom we have taken for granted in the United States must be won by dangerous sacrifice in some other nations.

Following the perestroika movement in the Soviet Union, popular demonstrations in Mongolia forced the Communist government to resign in March 1990. Other political parties were legalized, but the first Mongolian elections gave the Communists a majority in the new parliament, and the old repressive attitudes persisted in all government departments. The full functioning of a democratic process and the full enjoyment of the people’s needed freedoms do not occur without a struggle. In Mongolia, the freedoms of speech, press and religion — a principal feature of the inspired United States Constitution — remained unfulfilled.

In that precarious environment, a 42-year-old married woman, Oyun Altangerel, a department head in the state library, courageously took some actions that would prove historic. Acting against official pressure, she organized a “Democratic Association Branch Council.” This 12-member group, the first of its kind, spoke out for democracy and proposed that state employees have the freedoms of worship, belief and expression, including the right to belong to a political party of their choice.

When Oyun and others were fired from their state employment, Oyun began a hunger strike in the state library. Within three hours she was joined by 20 others, mostly women, and their hunger strike, which continued for five days, became a public demonstration that took their grievances to the people of Mongolia. This demonstration, backed by major democratic movement leaders, encouraged other government employees to organize similar democratic councils. These dangerous actions expanded into a national anti-government movement that voiced powerful support for the basic human freedoms of speech, press and religion. Eventually the government accepted the demands, and in the adoption of a democratic constitution two years later Mongolia took a major step toward a free society.

For Latter-day Saints, this birth of constitutional freedom in Mongolia has special interest. Less than two years after the historic hunger strike, we sent our first missionaries to Mongolia. In 1992 these couples began their meetings in the state library, where Oyun was working. The following year, she showed her courage again by being baptized into this newly arrived Christian church. Her only child, a 22-year-old son, was baptized two years later. Today, the Mongolian members of our Church number 9,000, reportedly the largest group of Christians in the country. A few months ago we organized our first stake in Mongolia. Called as the stake president was Sister Oyun’s son, Odgerel.

One of the great fundamentals of our inspired constitution, relied on by Oyun of Mongolia and countless others struggling for freedom in many countries in the world, is the principle that the people are the source of government power. This principle of popular sovereignty was first written and applied on the American continent over 200 years ago. A group of colonies won independence from a king, and their representatives had the unique opportunity of establishing a new government. They did this by creating the first written constitution that has survived to govern a modern nation. The United States Constitution declared the source of government power, delegated that power to a government, and regulated its exercise.

Along with many other religious people, we affirm that God is the ultimate source of power and that, under Him, it is the people’s inherent right to decide their form of government…  As the preamble to our constitution states: “We the People of the United States . . . do ordain and establish this Constitution.”

This principle of sovereignty in the people explains the meaning of God’s revelation that He established the Constitution of the United States “that every man may act . . . according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:78).

 In other words, the most desirable condition for the effective exercise of God-given moral agency is a condition of maximum freedom and responsibility — the opposite of slavery or political oppression. With freedom we can be accountable for our own actions and cannot blame our conditions on our bondage to another…”

 

Why the lawsuit filed against the U.S. Dept. of Education’s invasion of privacy matters   Leave a comment

Privacy Matters.  And it’s being robbed, literally, gradually, concertedly, by the U.S. Dept. of Education, of all crazy things.  How can I say this?

Facts:

  • Every state has been paid in the past two years, by the federal government to create an SLDS, a State Longitudinal Data System.  This is a citizen tracking system, calling itself educational research.
  • Most states, including ours, has a P20 council or workforce, which exists to track citizens from preschool to age 20 and beyond.
  • The executive branch (really, the Dept. of Education) went behind Congress’ back to make changes to privacy law this January.  Sacred FERPA law (Family Educational Rights Privacy Act) was altered to make it easier for the feds to get easy access to data without parental consent or adult (former student) consent.

The Dept. of Education got sued for it, by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.  

The U.S. Dept. of Education should lose this lawsuit, because they really did overstep statutory authority by making changes without Congressional approval.  But why else should they lose this lawsuit?  Because privacy is a basic freedom that God would never take away from us.  And we should not allow the government to take it away, any more than we’d allow our neighbor, a stranger, or a thief to do so.

I read a great article on privacy and I want to quote most of it, here:

Your Identity Is Yours

·June 26, 2012   http://lfb.org/today/your-identity-is-yours/

…Every piece of personal information someone demands to know is something I don’t want to tell because no one has the right to demand access to my life.

The right to privacy rests largely on a presumption of innocence. It assumes  that — in the absence of evidence of wrongdoing — an individual has a right to shut his front door and tell other people (including government) to mind their own business.

Today this assumption has been twisted inside out so that a desire for privacy means you have something to hide. You are expected to prove your innocence by revealing every financial transaction, by filling in pages of government paperwork, by allowing state agents to frisk your person and property when you  board a plane or enter a public building. These invasions rest upon the presumption of guilt.

Privacy is also is the single most effective means of preserving freedom against an encroaching state. The act of closing your front door expresses the key distinction between the private and public spheres.

The private sphere consists of the areas of life over which you, as a peaceful human being, exert absolute authority and into which the government or any other uninvited party cannot properly intrude. Traditionally, the home or family is viewed as the private sphere. But it also includes the food you eat, your sex life, the books you read, your opinions of life.

The public sphere consists of the civic duties you owe to others. In a free society, these duties include paying your bills, respecting the equal rights of all, and living up to contracts. In the current society, a set of designed duties require you to pay ruinous taxes, to restrain your own rights, and abide by a mushrooming mass of laws.

The Austrian economist Murray N. Rothbard expressed what he considered to be the central political issue confronting mankind when he wrote, “My own basic perspective on the history of man…is to place central importance on the great conflict which is eternally waged between Liberty and Power.”

Historically, privacy has stood on the side of Liberty as a bulwark between the individual and government, between freedom and social control.

Imagine a world in which you do not report your income; there are  no government forms or census data; registration of everything from birth to marriage is optional; no permission is needed to open a business or travel abroad. Imagine a world in which  personal data is private.

… How could the military draft your children into war without knowing where to find them at home or at school? How could the censor punish your reading habits when no record exists of which books you buy? The machinery of the state is paralyzed without information about who you are.

Information has always empowered the state. On his infamous 1864 march through Georgia, General William Tecumseh Sherman used county maps with information about livestock and crops in order to loot and pillage more efficiently.

After the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor, the American military used census data to locate Japanese-Americans and herd them into detention camps. The IRS has routinely compared the names on foreign government lists to those on its own in order to locate ‘hidden’ assets.

The difference today is the higher efficiency of data collection due to technology. Most people’s employment, financial, medical, military, educational, housing, marital, telephone, travel, internet, automobile, and family records are now stored or easily accessed by government.

It is no coincidence that statist governments are renowned for wiretapping, surveillance, identification papers, informants, secret police and censorship. The control of information throughout society is akin to the control of blood flow through a body; it is vital to functioning.

And, so, today’s governments are intent on completely identifying everyone, like a miser taking inventory of his possessions. This has always been the case. In 1889, in a speech before the International Penitentiary Congress, France’s prison director Louis Herbette advocated fingerprinting in order “to fix the human personality, to give to each human being an identity, an individuality which can be depended upon with certainty, lasting, unchangeable, always recognisable and easily adduced…”

…it is useful to take a ‘time out’ to assert that the collection of data and issuance of documents can be a valid function of a free society. Quite apart from facilitating social control, identifying (IDing) people can function as a free market mechanism of authentication. It authenticates those who should have access to bank accounts, property titles, or inheritance; it certifies people as being skilled, for example as a thoracic surgeon….The state and its documentation have become the only way for a person to “prove” his or her identity and, thus, to access the basic rights and ‘niceties’ of life. The “unidentified” human being cannot board a plane or train, nor drive a car. He cannot open a bank account, cash a check, take a job, attend school, get married, rent a video (let alone an apartment), or buy a house. The unidentified person is a second-class citizen to whom the government closes off much of life and almost all opportunity to advance through labor, education or entrepreneurship.

Meanwhile, those who are “identified” by the state are vulnerable to having their bank accounts frozen, their access to healthcare denied, credit cards canceled, wages garnished, records subpoenaed. To become known to the state is to become vulnerable to a myriad of invasions that come from the government knowing exactly where and how to find you.

Those who resist being inventoried present a problem for the state. The first line of statist attack is to accuse them of being “suspicious” — that is, of having criminal or shameful reasons for refusing to answer questions.

“If you have nothing to hide …” the remark begins; it always ends with a demand for compliance. Invoking privacy has gone from being the exercise of a right to an indication of guilt.

This is a sleight of hand by which privacy is redefined as “concealment” or “secrecy”; of course, it is neither. It is merely a request for the personal to remain personal. As well as enabling freedom, privacy is part of a healthy, self-reflecting life.

…Everyone has areas of utter privacy to protect. Some people wear lockets containing photos of deceased relatives; others daydream about a forbidden love; still other people lock the door while luxuriating in a hot bubble bath; or, perhaps, they write a love letter that is meant for one other set of eyes only. These acts are a line drawn between the private and public sphere; they constitute a boundary over which no other human being can rightfully cross without invitation.

If a neighbor reads takes it upon himself to read letters in your mailbox or copies down the details of deposits in a bankbook he has ‘encountered’ in your desk drawer, you would feel violated and enraged by the invasion. What is wrong for your neighbor to do is also wrong for a government agent to do because there is only one standard of morality. Theft is theft, invasion is invasion. You have the right to slam the door on the face of anyone who says differently. A peaceful human being owes no debt to any other person.

Hold the state up to the same standard as your neighbors…because there are no double standards of right and wrong. Privacy is a right, not an admission of guilt. Your identity properly belongs to you…not to the state.

 

 

BYU Professor Alan Manning Expresses Concerns About Common Core Slashing Story Writing and Classic Story Reading   12 comments

BYU professor Alan Manning of the Department of Linguistics and English Language has given me permission to publish his email communication, which explains what the problem is with Common Core’s increase of informational text and the decreasing of English literature. 

 Professor Manning’s observations about the Core standards…

1. Existing reading/writing instruction strategies are by an large not as effective as any competent teacher would like them to be, and not as effective as they can be, but the Core standards just set in concrete approaches to reading/writing that we already know don’t work very well. Having the Core standards set in concrete means that any attempts to innovate and improve reading/writing instruction will certainly be crushed. Actual learning outcomes will stagnate at best.

2. An argument can be made that any improvement in reading/writing instruction should include more rather than less attention the reading/analysis of stories known to effective in terms of structure (i.e. “classic” time-tested stories). An argument can be made that any improvement in reading/writing instruction should include more rather than fewer exercises where students write stories themselves that are modeled on the classics. This creates a more stable foundation on which students can build skills for other kinds of writing. The Core standards would prevent public schools from testing these kinds of approaches.

 3. These arguments are elaborated in the attached article (proof copy of the final published article):

A. D. Manning, “The Syntax of Plot Frames in Storytelling,” Schwa, Brigham University Humanities Publication Center, 2012.

See also, extended discussion of the implications of this article for writing instruction here (KBYU radio, “Thinking Aloud” program for July 6, 2012.

http://www.classical89.org/thinkingaloud/archive/episode/?id=7/6/2012

If you can find time to read the article and listen to the discussion of its implications, you’ll have some ammunition to forestall a full-scale draconian implementation of the Core.

Another problem with it seems to me to be that it amounts to state-supported crony capitalism: Apparently some non-gov’t entity holds the copyright to these teaching materials and stands to profit immensely by having the State grant that private concern an effective monopoly over the learning-materials/testing business.

 All possible competitors are shut out even if they offer a better product. Is the Governor for truly free markets or isn’t he?

AM

Wow– State v. Local School Boards’ Perceptions of Common Core   4 comments

Before you read the emails below, here are some questions they have raised:

1. If they are so flexible, then why were the Common Core standards adopted –and why are they under copyright?

2. What is the purpose of the State Board of Education –if the responsibility to educate is each district’s?

3.  Why did Utah bother to accept Common Core –and why weren’t districts asked to vote on it?

4. How do you measure “adding to a math standard by 15%” ?

5.  Did you know that a State School Board Member homeschooled her grandchildren because of Common Core math?

Here is a string of emails on the math issues for Wasatch School District and the State School Board, on Common Core:

On 7/6/2012 11:53 AM, Christel S wrote:

Dear Mr. Kelly and Math teachers at WHS:

I realize that Common Core is a movement with many aspects  not having been clear at the time our state adopted them; I  do not hold you personally accountable for its failings, but  I’m writing to encourage you to continue to work around them  and to keep parents alerted about these things.

A new paper by mathematician Ze’ev Wurman says that the  math standards are decent for younger grades, but rob our  high school students.  http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/   The only math professor who served on the Common Core  Validation Committee said that he couldn’t sign off on their   adequacy for similar reasons. We need to be aware of the  facts so that we can take control of our children’s math education locally.  http://truthinamericaneducation.com/common-core-state-standards/common-core-state-standards-content/

Even though I feel angry that my daughter was robbed of  math this year, due to Common Core’s “bubble” that causes  9th and 6th graders to repeat the previous year’s learning   without adding to it– I have forgiven it, because I must.

What I am asking you to do is be communicative   and forthright with me and other parents about   the repetitive “math bubble,” as Mr. Judd has been, and  about other upcoming issues surrounding the testing,  standards, and data collection issues that come with Common Core.  This empowers parents to seek out alternatives,   tutoring or extra enrollments for our kids as needed for   authentic college preparation. I do appreciate your help  with this.

Please do all you can to make your staff aware and to put  fortifications in place for local educational freedom  and student data privacy. (The Electronic Privacy  Information Center’s lawsuit (EPIC) against the federal  Dept. of Education shows an implication of not halting the federal push toward nationalizing tests and standards: the  lawyer at EPIC told me that even old people will have their  data freely perused, if they ever attended a  high     school or university that archives records.)

Because the standards are under  copyright and there has not been any amendment process  outlined for states, we cannot change them.

Both Joel Coleman and Dixie Allen of the State School  Board have assured me that the power lies with us as a    district, not with them, to add as much as we   need to add, to the common standards.  (Their  letters are below.)

Christel

On Thu, Jul 5, 2012 at 5:58 PM,  State School Board Member  Dixie Allen  wrote:

Christel,

I concur with Joel and really can’t add any more  than my support for his answers and my belief that we are in control and will have a quality set of  standards and computer adaptive assessment to help  support student movement through those skills.

Dixie

On Tue, Jul 3, 2012  State School Board Member Joel J Coleman  wrote:

Christel,

1.  Parents are responsible to hold   their locally elected officials  accountable for the public education of  their children if they choose public  education. The LEA is the education  “provider,” so to speak.   The state sets  MINIMUM standards for achievement but does  not enforce  for individual students,  there is no mechanism for that. This is  the reason we have a republic with elected   offices in America, so the elected   officials can be held accountable in their    respective duties, and the LEA (district) is where the rubber meets the road with  individual families and students.

2.  RTTT is irrelevant because we have  no legally binding agreement there, our application was denied. And no, we aren’t    bound to RTTT vicariously through our  involvement with SBAC, nor did Utah   receive RTTT funds as you assert.   Even  if we were, our relationship with SBAC is short lived. Although you believe we are  bound to RTTT requirements, my review of  the information (including your arguments)  leads me to believe your claim is  incorrect.

3. Your concern about what can be added   to Common Core standards seems overblown because  Utah is developing its own tests and    will not be bound to a consortium, the  State Board will remain independent in  determining its standards. The Common Core was adopted not by coercion but  because Utah’s duly elected education leaders chose those standards as the  Utah core for math and English.

Like any constituent, you are  welcome to disagree and engage in  rigorous debate on the wisdom of the board’s decisions, so I guess the  standards are always up for debate. But  our control of our standards isn’t, at least for now. I personally believe  there is always a concern that the federal government will use their  financial control to dictate whatever  they want in our “sovereign” state…

Respectfully,

Joel

On Jul 2, 2012, at 10:45 PM, Christel  wrote:

Dear Joel and Dixie,

I do appreciate you both writing back to me.  Thank you.   Please help me with these three  concepts:

1.  It’s not clear who is in  charge of making sure parents of  6th and 9th graders (and all students) know how to ensure  the students receive a   sufficiently rigorous math program  to prepare them for a good 4-year  university.  Is it the responsibility of the local  district or the state board, or of  the NGA/national common standards writers to inform parents? Also,  what do you base the answer upon?  Common Core governing documents? Utah  laws? (The district doesn’t  necessarily see it the way you seem to, which is why I ask for a reference.)

2.  Why don’t you see the  conditions of RTTT applying to   Utah?  As long the state is bound  to the requirements of the RTTT  grant that the SBAC did receive on  Utah’s behalf,  I believe Race to the Top does apply to us.  We are    currently affiliated with SBAC.  SBAC’s grant paid for Utah’s and       other states’ common test    creation, so we are also still    affiliated with RTTT via our SBAC   membership. Right? (I get this notion from reading the SBAC’s   “Cooperative Agreement” which is  between Washington State, Utah’s   fiscal agent/lead state in SBAC,  and the Dept. of Education, and     that document cites    our consortia’s acceptance of that  RTTT grant money as the authority  for its mandatory language and  enforcement on page one, sentence  one. http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf   Please explain if that is  irrelevant to us.

3.  I am concerned that by the  time my one year old is in Common   Core high school math, schools will be so worried about the common test and competitiveness   with other states, that there will   be no time spent teaching the 15%   –or 95% if that is actually legal  under Common Core.  Right now,   there is some question about  which amount is allowed to be  added to the Common Core for my  current 9th grader.  But later,  will that be unclear?  I got a    letter from the test creator, WestEd, that told me, in effect,  that Utah is wasting time teaching  our kids anything other than precisely what is in the CCSS  national standards because it will  never be tested. http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/04/06/what-is-wested-and-why-should-you-care/  To be competitive, then, Utah teachers will teach to the common   test, which will test only the   CCSS national standards.  If a    district caters to people who want   more, the extra work will never be  reflected in the test that didn’t  incorporate the extra work of  districts or states.  Where’s the  motive to teach it?

Thanks for your input on these  three items.  I do appreciate your  time.

Christel

Christel,

It is true that if we    alter our standards they   will no longer be consistent with the common core, and I don’t dispute  they have set that number   at 15%.  But Utah has no  intention of changing   these standards that were  adopted shortly before I   was elected to the board.   So again, that’s not the  issue when it comes to    students accelerating. There   were other core  standards before the common standards were  adopted and those didn’t     prohibit students moving  ahead, either.

Local districts and  schools are clearly responsible for   accommodating individual  students during the  transition period over  these three or four years.      I don’t understand what  else you think I can “look into,” since your district    is an independent  governmental entity   governed by duly elected   representatives who are   responsible for meeting  the needs of the students enrolled in its schools.   For individual student and    family policy matters the buck stops there, closer    to the people, where it  should, not with the state  board of education. Despite state core standards (including the    common core standards in math and English), LEAs  can always customize  education for a child.

Incidentally, if we do  alter our math and english   standards more than 15% in the future, we just can’t  say they are common core –  but contrary to your assertions, nothing   precludes us from doing  so.  Of course it could  also affect our waiver  status, but that also will be our choice at that  time.  Citing Race To The  Top is irrelevant for our  discussion purposes since  we are not part of that   program, for which I am  grateful.

I will also copy this  email to Dixie because I noticed she responded to you earlier.

Happy Independence Day!

Joel

From State School Board Member Dixie Allen:

Christel,

I understand your frustration.  I home schooled my 8th grade grandson and 9th grade granddaughter this year since our school district had decided to adopt the Common Core for every grade rather than what was proposed by the state.  It was proposed that we only adopt for the 6th and 9th grade and provide alternative programs for those students who already had the skills being taught to all through the Common Core.  I believe strongly that the Common Core Standards will upgrade the level of education for all students, however, if we do not work to address students in regard to their level of instruction (which does not always align with their grade level or age), we will continue to create boredom for those students who already have the skills and frustration for those who don’t have the preliminary skills on which to build the new skills.  Either scenario will force a loss in learning time for students and possibly enough frustration that we loose the student completely.

However, this is not a symptom of The Common Core, but is based on our inability or unwillingness to place students in classrooms according to their ability. We are working at the State Board level now to try and help provide more Competency Based verification of student’s performance, so they can receive credit for classes which they already have the competency and move into a class that better fits their level of ability.

Although I know this is not a new problem and not created by the adoption of the Common Core, it is a problem that we must as schools, districts and the state try to solve, so that we are getting the maximum instruction of all students and attempting in a more productive way to meet their needs.

Regardless, if we continue to work with individual students, I strongly believe the Common Core will raise the standards of instruction in reading, language arts and math for all students.  We just need to work to be sure we are meeting individual student needs.  I strongly suggest you talk with your district to see about what they can do to solve this problem.  You have a great superintendent and high school principal that want to do their very best to provide a quality education for each and every child, so I am sure they will work to help you if they possibly can find the funding and programs for your child.

Needless to say. as a mother, grandmother, teacher, administrator and State School Board member, I clearly believe the education of my children and grandchildren are my ultimate responsibility.  I hope you feel the same.

Best Wishes,

Dixie

Dear Dixie,

You are right; it is the parent’s responsibility to make sure their students are learning.  However, this is impossible to do as long as our kids are enrolled in public school, without having communication and transparency at the district and state level about what is really being taught or not taught, under Common Core.

How was any parent supposed to know ahead of time that a child was not going to be learning anything new in 9th grade math, before we experienced it?  You said you took your grandkids out and homeschooled them over this.  That was possible because you were on the inside track as a state school board member, and you were aware, as very few Utahns could have been, that Common Core was going to dumb down the 9th and 6th graders.

What would you have done if you were me to have avoided this problem?  How is any parent even now to know? What steps are the state and local school board taking to make sure parents are aware of this problem so they can work around it?

Why is the state blaming the district?  The state signed Utah up for Common Core without asking anyone to vote on whether it was a smart idea or not.  Congress does need to get involved because Arne Duncan is forcing us to choose Common Core or No Child Left Behind, which is illegal for Arne Duncan to do.

Now, parents, districts and the state board need to work together to solve these immediate math problems –without blaming each other— by putting our heads together to make it right and to make sure all parents are aware of these problems so we can make our kids’ education work, right here and right now.

Please help this to happen.

Christel

On Fri, Jun 29, 2012 at 9:02 AM, Christel S <212christel@gmail.com> wrote:

Dear Board,

This is the second time I am writing to you about Common Core math and my daughter’s having learned nothing this year.  I hope this time some brave soul will respond.

My daughter was introduced to Common Core math at Wasatch High School this year.  She learned nothing in this 9th grade year because Common Core introduces Algebra I to ninth graders, but the old Utah math introduced Algebra I to 8th graders.  It was a robbery of my daughter’s mathematics education, a robbery of me as a taxpayer, a robbery of all Utah parents and children –especially, now, the 6th and 9th graders.

Some of you have tried to blame this on the Wasatch District or its math teachers.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Our district works hard to get around the serious defects of Common Core, by continuing to offer college-concurrent enrollment math classes which will partially make up for Common Core’s dumbing down of our kids.  A district leader told me this week that the “bubble” of repetition for 9th and 6th graders is an unavoidable consequence of implementing Common Core math. Why can’t this board be as transparent as he?

Many of us heard or read your promises– that Common Core would “increase rigor” and “increase global competitiveness” and “college readiness.”  What a bitter joke Common Core is to me now, and how little respect I feel for the “fact v. fiction” flier that is still on your website, which is a torrent of lies.  That flier includes the claims that Common Core has “no federal strings attached” and “most thoughtful people line up on the side of Common Core.” Worse, the flier lacks any references.  You may recall that I wrote a rebuttal to that flier, with references.  I asked you to respond to that, also, but nobody did.  http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/correcting-the-usoes-facts-education-without-representation/

Common Core’s Titanic educational, financial, and privacy calamity will become increasingly apparent to greater numbers of Utahns as the months and years tick past.

I urge you to stop this train.  Get us out of Common Core.  At the very least, be honest, forthright and transparent on your website and with parents and districts statewide, about the repetition of math for 9th and 6th graders, as my school district has been with me.

Christel Swasey

Heber, Utah

From Wasatch School Board President:

Christel,

I am sorry to hear your student learned nothing. I have never had that experience in this district with my own children. I would urge you to meet with you students teachers and administrators when feeling this way. I have always had teachers who were willing to extend and enrich my students who excel beyond the current curriculum or to assist them when struggling. I find they do much better at meeting the needs of my student when I meet with them through out the year and address my concerns as they come to my attention and I bring them to their attention. You are ultimately your student’s best advocate. We encourage involvement of parents with teachers to address individual needs of students. I hope you see with the math program we are testing into the accelerated classes and are willing to re-evaluate students when parents and teachers find someone is not being challenged.

Ann Horner

Wasatch School District Board President

Mathematician and Education Advisor Ze’ev Wurman’s New Paper on Common Core Math: Standards are decent for younger grades but rob high school students   3 comments

Comments on Utah Waiver Application, Pages 24-25. Ze’ev Wurman, Palo Alto, Calif. July 2012

Myth: The structure of the new math standards are in line with that of countries with high mathematics achievement.

Fact: CCSS are not any closer to high achieving countries than Utah’s 2007 standards. CCSS stopped claiming that they reflect what high achieving countries are doing and now they only claim that the standards are “informed by top-performing countries,” whatever it may mean. In particular, the high school programs of the high achieving countries closely resemble the 2007 Utah traditional sequence (Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II) and are completely different from the CCSS integrated Math-I, Math-II, Math-III sequence that Utah recently adopted.

Myth: The rigor and complexity of the new standards begins in Kindergarten and continues to accelerate through high school using an integrated approach. For example, students in ninth grade will be studying topics formerly common in Algebra, Geometry and Algebra 2.

Fact: It is true the CCSS are quite demanding in the early primary grades, but they significantly slow down by the third grade, and by grade eight they are one to two years behind what top-achieving countries expect of their students. The only mathematician on the CCSS Validation Committee refused to certify the Standards writing: “large number of the arithmetic and operations, as well as the place value standards are one, two or even more years behind the corresponding standards for many if not all the high achieving countries.” (Appendix B, http://www.pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/ common_core_standards.pdf )

Myth: The new core’s structure allows more flexibility to accelerate learning for students as they progress through their secondary education.

Fact: The new high school core is, if at all, less flexible and less demanding than the previous one. It is composed of loosely defined “integrated” courses in contrast to previous traditional coherent curricular courses of Algebra I and II, and Geometry. Further, these integrated courses exclude chunks of content that was traditionally taught in Geometry and Algebra II such as logarithmic and trigonometric functions and identities, complex number arithmetic, conic sections, infinite geometric sequences, mathematical induction, and more. As the result, it is expected that with this curriculum students will have more difficulty to take Concurrent Enrollment courses, or Advance Placement Calculus, in their senior year.

Myth: The new core includes Honors courses beginning in seventh grade and provides higher level math courses such as Calculus or AP Statistics for students who are ready to accelerate.

Fact: The accelerated (“Honors”) program starting in the seventh grade that is offered by CCSS (and Utah) is a poor replacement for an honest pre-Algebra course that Utah offers today. The proposed seventh grade program pushes a handful 8th standards into 7th grade, about half of them geometry,

creating a bloated seventh grade course unnecessarily heavy on geometry. It is somewhat similar to what states did for acceleration more than a decade ago, when less than 20% of their students succeeded in taking Algebra by grade 8.

Myth: In seventh and eighth grade, Honors courses contain extra topics not included in the former core. These topics include elements from discrete mathematics, non-traditional geometries, different counting systems, and other mathematics that would be interesting to advanced middle school students. … These courses have increased rigor and advanced content that will challenge the minds of high-ability students.

Fact: There is absolutely nothing in the seventh and eighth grade Utah’s CCSS curriculum that touches on discrete mathematics, “non-traditional” (presumably non-Euclidean) geometries, or “different” counting systems. Unless this document refers to something different from what Utah’s Board of Education had approved, as presented on the Utah Education Network site, it has no connection with reality. Consequently the promise to challenge high ability students rings hollow.

Myth: Courses for all students are much more advanced than in previous class work. Students on the regular pathway will be prepared for Pre-Calculus, AP Statistics, or CE in their senior year. In the accelerated pathway to high school (AP), calculus is a compacted version of Secondary I, II, III and Pre- Calculus and will begin in ninth grade. This pathway allows students successfully completing the three high school Honors courses to be ready for AP Calculus as seniors.

Fact: As already mentioned before, the new high school core has eliminated significant content in comparison to the 2007 core. Even if compacted as suggested, the future seniors will face AP Calculus or Concurrent Enrollment with minimal or completely absent preparation in topics such as infinite series, parametric functions, functions in polar coordinate system, and trigonometric identities. In other words, they will be ill prepared. The promises that the lofty prose above make have little connection to reality, and the number of seniors successfully prepared to take college-level courses is bound to drop sharply.

Teacher Susan Wilcox’s Story   Leave a comment

This comes from a Canyons District Teacher, Susan Wilcox, who gave me permission to publish her name and story here.

 

“I think we have lost our freedom in many ways in the past week, and I am so weary of trying to keep up with litigated issues in Special Education that I have to stop teaching next year to gain my sanity back.  I am 63 and OH SO TIRED of the unhappy changes.

I am doing school at home and trying to stay as far away from public education as I can.  It means not to have the ONE LAST YEAR of retirement I needed to have some kind of pension, because ALL ALONG I have felt the job in Public Education was impossible.  My attentions have been jerked from the student because of so many other duties heaped on teachers.  Our children have teachers showing up to class with little or no time for preparation, and the district deciding what you’ll say and do every step of the way as though we were uneducated and untrusted… it is hurting our children.

I can’t go back next year…  I have to build business in music teaching from home and started a preschool and hope to add tutoring for special education students in due time, if my energy lasts.  I got to the point I couldn’t remember all the things to do with increased paperwork and would often be found crying in my room trying to get it all done.  I worked part time salary to let my friend have her full time job, but ended up working FULL TIME anyway.

The administrations in our districts are OUT OF CONTROL because the feds are IN CONTROL and we have pretty much lost our system already.

I was told after school was out my job was no longer available due to numbers…

I am ready to help other teachers because their unions are powerless, obviously, because after all the dues and rhetoric, Utah teachers are still the lowest paid and keep getting put on guilt trips when they say “enough”…  I cannot go back another year.

I get SO much more done face to face with students at HOME!!

Teachers DON’T need the interference of district help.  I have wondered for years what it might be like to have them just run their own school and appoint a different “principal” each year, but I think we are too far gone.  Demands from federal laws CREATED this local beaurocracy in the first place and now we are all slave to it.  Paperwork to them, paperwork to parents, paperwork – constantly interrupting what teachers are HIGHLY trained to do – make good lesson plans and follow them.  We are now clerks….for the most part.  Our bodies  are busy keeping district people – not children, not parents – happy.

As you can tell – I have a lot to say.  I have kept quiet like all of them – it is survival.  I joined another union – UTU serves ONLY Utah teachers and does not connect with feds. No dues to NEA.  THey are much better and personable and have sponsored a bill which Senator Osmond is writing and supporting – it is about humanity in the work place, kindness and respecting experienced teachers when they age and need a little more help with updated technology.  I feel Canyons District was super at this, but you still get labelled from people enough that you feel miserable sometimes…       – Susan Wilcox

SLC Common Core PUBLIC Discussion Forum Tues. July 10   Leave a comment

JULY 10th – COMMON CORE  PUBLIC DISCUSSION

All welcome to a FREE public event featuring National Experts from around the country addressing Utah’s adoption of the Common Core Educational Standards. Come, learn and ask questions!

INVITE FAMILY AND FRIENDS!

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

7:00-9:00 pm

Larry Miller Auditorium – SLCC Campus

9750 South 300 West

Sandy, UT  84070

 

Featured Speakers:

Dr. Bill Evers

Member of Mitt Romney’s Education Policy Advisory Group

Research Fellow- Hoover Institute, Stanford Univ. California

Emmett McGroarty

Attorney and Senior Director – American Principles Project, Washington DC

James Gass

Director – Pioneer Institute Center for School Reform, Massachusetts

Dr. James Stergios

Executive Director – Pioneer Institute, Massachusetts

Robert s. Eitel or Kent Talbert

Founder and Co-Founder – Washington D.C. law firm, Talbert & Eitel, PLLC

On Common Core: Dear Senator Mike Lee   2 comments

Dear Senator Lee,

I’m writing to give evidence from the Race to the Top application, (under which Utah agreed to adopt Common Core standards) and evidence from the No Child Left Behind waiver that Utah just received from the Dept. of Education, to show states are being essentially forced to choose either NCLB or Common Core as the new federal education program.  This was the subject Renee Braddy and I spoke to you about when you were in Heber recently.

I want to give some context first:

On Nationalized Math:

My 9th grader learned nothing this year in math (and Common Core was implemented at her school this year) so I did a little research and found out that Algebra I was taught to her twice; first in 8th grade in the “old style” math, and again this year it was retaught, repeated, in 9th grade “Common Core” math.   My district knows it was a wasted math school year; I have spoken with the district face to face and was told that this repetition was due to “a Common Core Math Bubble” that causes 6th and 9th graders to learn very little, as they repeat the math from the previous year under Common Core nationalized math.

I appreciated my district’s honesty with me.  But when I asked the state school board about this, they unfairly blamed the district for this problem. The State School Board does not want to admit that Common Core is dumbing many of our kids down and restricting their college readiness; they still claim “rigor” and “college readiness” are the reasons Utah adopted Common Core.  But we agreed to adopt Common Core in 2009, before the standards had even been written in 2010, for a hoop-jumping event to improve our changes of winning a grant which we never got, in the Race To The Top application.  Utah did not even know what these standards were before we married ourselves to them.  We sold our educational birthright without even getting the mess of pottage, as S.C. Senator Mike Fair puts it.

This Common Core dumbing down math phenomenon was explained by Dr. James Milgram, who served on the Common Core validation committee, reviewed the math standards and refused to sign off on them.  (See pg. 4, 14 and 26 in  http://pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120510_ControllingEducation.pdf)  I want you to be aware of these facts.

On Nationalized English:

Not surprisingly, another Common Core validation committee member refused to sign off on the adequacy of the English Language Arts standards.  Dr. Sandra Stotsky said the standards “weaken the basis of literary and cultural knowledge needed for authentic college coursework,” because they de-emphasize the study of classic literature in deference to informational texts, “In fact, the Standards dictate that well over half the reading curriculum, at least in grades 6 through 12, should consist of informational texts rather than classic literature.. it is likely to diminish the communications skills students need”  (page 12: http://pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120510_ControllingEducation.pdf )

If this dumbing down that Common Core most surely will turn out to be, were no more than a state-led error, easily amended by our Governor and State School Board, I would not be writing to my Senator.  But the fact is, Utah needs genuine congressional relief from Common Core.  We can’t do it without Congress. Why?

The ESEA Flexibility releases “waiver winning” states from No Child Left Behind law, only on conditions of implementing Common Core.  On page 8 of the ESEA Flexibility document (updated June 7, 2012)  found at  http://www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility, we read:   “A State’s college- and career-ready standards mustbe either (1) standards that are common to a significant number of States; or (2) standardsthat are approved by a State network ofinstitutions of higher education”.

Thus, since Utah chose option one, we are stuck in Common Core by choosing to accept the NCLB waiver. On page 9 of the same document, we read:

“ ‘Standardsthat are common to a significant number of States’ means standards that aresubstantially identical across all States in a consortium that includes asignificant number of States.  A State may supplement such standards withadditional standards, provided that the additional standards do not exceed 15percent of the State’s total standards for a content area. “

Thus, we not only have to stick with the Common Core State Standards by having accepted NCLB; we also are restricted from adding to the standards.  We can no longer soar since we can add no more than 15% to the standards (and can subtract nothing.)  The Governor does not seem to comprehend this fact yet.  He and others have said that we are still free, that Common Core is just a minimum set of standards which we can soar beyond.

This restriction is a fact, but is not common knowledge.  Even by a member of the State School Board, I was told that my district should add whatever was necessary to make sure the kids weren’t suffering in the “repetition bubble” of 6th and 9th grade math.  But if my district were to add a whole year’s worth of curriculum and standards, that would go far beyond the allowable 15%.  So my district can’t actually do that.

Almost worse is this –if it is possible to think of anything worse than having given away our educational sovereignty–  is the way that the Dept. of Education has been gnawing away at what is considered sacred FERPA law, to accomodate Common Core’s testing and data-gathering goals. http://www.jdsupra.com/post/documentViewer.aspx?fid=5aa4af34-8e67-4f42-8e6b-fe801c512c7a

This January, without Congressional approval, FERPA regulations were changed by the Arne Duncan gang to loosen privacy law and override parental consent policies, to give easier access to children’s data, to governmental (and nongovernmental) agencies.  http://epic.org/apa/ferpa/default.html

A law suit is going on right now; EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) has sued the Department of Education.  I spoke with the lawyer at EPIC, Khalia Barnes.  She told me that it’s not widely known that the new regulations (if not overturned by the lawsuit) will not only affect children and college students, but also anyone who ever went to a semester of college at any institution that keeps records (of colleges and schools that receive federal funding).  So, old people will also have their data open to perusal by many governmental and nongovernmental agencies, without their knowledge or consent.  The federal FERPA regulations redefined words like “educational program” and “authorized representative” that stretches them past the breaking point to include almost everyone and anyone having access to private data without parental or student consent.  The types of information that the Department will collect includes so much more than academic information: it includes biometric information (DNA, fingerprints, iris patterns) and parental income, nicknames, medical information, extracurricular information, and much more. (See page 4 http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/pdf/ferparegs.pdf and see http://nces.sifinfo.org/datamodel/eiebrowser/techview.aspx?instance=studentPostsecondary )

Why did the Dept. of Education alter FERPA laws?  It has an obvious control agenda and an information-gathering scheme designed under the guise of education reform.

In the Cooperative Agreement between the U.S. Dept. of Education and the SBAC (Utah’s consortium) we clearly see this information-gathering and educational nationalization-scheme of the Dept. of Education.  This Cooperative Agreement, of course, breaks G.E.P.A. law and the 9th and 10th Amendments to the Constitution.  http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/20/1232a

The Cooperative Agreement calls for meetings, telephone conferences with ED staff, dissemination of products and lessons learned, sharing information, periodic expert reviews, collaboration with the other RTTA recipient [PARCC Consortium],  frequent communication, synchronized development of assessment systems, and giving the U.S. Dept. of Ed access to data “on an ongoing basis.”  http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf

Also, this “voluntary” and “state-led” program shows strangely mandatory language like “compliance reviews” and “enforcement” in its agreement.  By demanding synchronization of tests “across consortia” and by demanding access to the tests and the data collected thereby, the U.S. Dept. of Education has triangulated itself into the supposedly “state-led” Common Core movement, and has designed a U.S. nationalized education system that bypasses voters and legislators and takes the reins of education.

Senator Lee, please, put Arne Duncan in his place and help us reclaim Utah’s educational sovereignty and privacy rights.

Christel Swasey

Heber, Utah

(801) 380-0422

http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com

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