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.)
On Thu, Jul 5, 2012 at 5:58 PM, State School Board Member Dixie Allen wrote:
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.
On Tue, Jul 3, 2012 State School Board Member Joel J Coleman wrote:
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…
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.
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!
From State School Board Member Dixie Allen:
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.
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.
On Fri, Jun 29, 2012 at 9:02 AM, Christel S <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
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.
From Wasatch School Board President:
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.
Wasatch School District Board President