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.  

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