Archive for August 2012
Is the federal government just unwilling to call anything what it really is?
“Career and College Readiness” and “Education for All” both mean creating a mediocre standard that narrows the high achievers and raises the low achievers to a common, narrow, mediocre standard that aims no higher than nonselective community college.
“State-led” doesn’t mean the states rather than the federal government promoted it; it means the states are supposed to believe they had a hand in starting it before the federal government took it over.
“No Child Left Behind” means no (or very few) decisions by teachers or administrators will be left to their own judgment.
“Rigorous standards” doesn’t mean rigorous compared to the best; it means rigorous compared to the worst. It means mediocre nationalized standards, which are lower for many states and higher for some, depending on the state and the school subject.
“Data sharing” means data baring. It means standing privacy-stripped before a web of citizen surveillance you didn’t vote for and can’t repeal. (Ask around: what do P-20 and State Longitudinal Database Systems mean? Why is E.P.I.C. suing the Dept. of Ed over privacy?)
“Sustainable Development” means giving plants and animals equal rights with humans, and making property rights a thing of the past.
So, today I’ve been studying the latest euphemism: Communities That Care.
Such a nice sounding name. Would any community be against it, or want to be one that doesn’t give a hoot?
But the more I study what Communities that Care (CTC) is all about, the less I like it.
Like Common Core, Communities that Care is a youth-oriented, government promoted, data collecting, reform program. (Common Core says it’s creating better schools. Communities that Care says it’s cutting down on youth crime/substance abuse.) In both cases, voters don’t get to vote on the programs, and state legislators don’t get to discuss adoption of the programs. A tiny group (city council, or school board) gets to sign the rest of us up for it.
Like Common Core, Communities that Care is presented first of all as free money. (With Common Core, the first introduction to it was Obama’s Race to the Top grant; with Communities that Care, our city’s first introduction to it is the appealing form of a $10,000 grant from the Dept. of Health and Human Services.)
But when you look beyond the words, in both cases, these federally funded, “progressive” programs are ways for the federal government to control localities.
Well, look at this, http://www.sdrg.org/ctcresource/Community%20Assessment%20Training/Trainer%20Guide/CAT_TG_mod2.pdf
The document is called Using the Communities That Care (CTC) Youth Survey.
It assumes guilt. It assumes kids are drinking and doing other detrimental things.
It also falsely assumes that having guns in a community increases crime. I’ve known all my life –haven’t you?– that in towns/countries where there are high numbers of gun owning citizens, there’s more often less, not more, crime. http://gunowners.org/op0746.htm
Obviously, the authors of this CTC document are believers in having only the government own the guns, and that young people can not be trusted around guns. Well, many people would disagree.
Here’s what the document calls “risk factors”:
Risk Factors and Scales in the Communities That Care Youth Survey
Availability of Drugs
Availability of Firearms
Community Laws and Norms Favorable toward Drug Use, Firearms and Crime
Transitions and Mobility
Low Neighborhood Attachment and Community
Family History of the Problem Behavior
Family Management Problems
Favorable Parental Attitudes and Involvement in the Problem Behavior
Academic Failure Beginning in Late Elementary School
Lack of Commitment to School
Friends Who Engage in the Problem Behavior
Favorable Attitudes toward the Problem Behavior
Early Initiation of the Problem Behavior
Perceived Availability of Drugs and Handguns
Laws and Norms Favorable to Drug Use and Handguns
etc. etc. etc.
But that’s not all!
Some things about the Youth Surveys are creepy. See survey here: http://www.sdrg.org/ctcresource/CTC_Youth_Survey_2006.pdf
Some of the questions seem to assume guilt. They introduce substance abuse, depression, suicide and other ideas to the minds of the youth who take the surveys, even those who may be so innocent that they don’t even understand the question. (Why can’t we write our own, better questions if we really need this type of data for our local police or youth groups?)
What are the chances you would be seen as cool if you a) smoked cigarettes b) began drinking alcoholic beverages regularly c) smoked cigarettes d) carried a handgun [Shouldn't this be an essay question at the very least? There is no room in multiple choice]
Used derbisol in your lifetime? [what the heck is derbisol and how do I mark a multiple choice quiz to say huh?]
We argue about the same things in my family over and over. (Yes, YES, No, or NO) [what a question.]
Well, I’m not going to spend much time fighting Communities That Care. Let the local city council make this choice. As a parent, I’m not going to let them survey my children, anyway.
Reblogging from Boston Globe’s Rock the Schoolhouse:
An Expert’s View of Common Core’s Focus On Nonfiction Texts
by Jim Stergios August 30, 2012
The Common Core national standards are increasingly controversial, with Utah, Indiana and a number of states that had adopted them now reconsidering. A recent New York Times education blog notes the following:
Forty-four states and United States territories have adopted the Common Core Standards and, according to this recent Times article, one major change teachers can expect to see is more emphasis on reading “informational,” or nonfiction, texts across subject areas:
While English classes will still include healthy amounts of fiction, the standards say that students should be reading more nonfiction texts as they get older, to prepare them for the kinds of material they will read in college and careers. In the fourth grade, students should be reading about the same amount from “literary” and “informational” texts, according to the standards; in the eighth grade, 45 percent should be literary and 55 percent informational, and by 12th grade, the split should be 30/70.
And seeing itself as a potential vendor, the Times chirps cheerfully:
“Well, The New York Times and The Learning Network are here to help.”
There’s been a lot written on the loss of literature in curricula around the country. And there is good reason for that. As I noted in testimony to the Utah Education Interim Committee:
Massachusetts’ remarkable rise on national assessments is not because we aligned our reading standards to the NAEP. Rather, it is because, unlike Common Core, our reading standards emphasized high-quality literature. Reading literature requires the acquisition in a compressed timeframe of a richer and broader vocabulary than non-fiction texts. Vocabulary acquisition is all-important in the timely development of higher-level reading.
But even if you agree with the idea of refocusing our classrooms on nonfiction texts, what is the quality of the offerings suggested by Common Core, a set of standards copyrighted by two Washington-based entities (the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association)?
I can think of no one whose opinion might be better informed on the topic than Massachusetts’ own Will Fitzhugh, who founded The Concord Review in 1987 and has received numerous prizes and appointments as a result of his work there. For those who aren’t familiar with The Concord Review, it is a quarterly journal that has now published 1,033 exemplary history research papers (average 6,000 words), on a huge variety of topics, by high school students from 46 states and 38 other countries. The journal accepts about 6% of the papers submitted.
In a January 2011 piece highlighting his work, then-education reporter Sam Dillon of The New York Times noted that Fitzhugh
showcases high school research papers, sits at his computer in a cluttered office above a secondhand shop here, deploring the nation’s declining academic standards…His mood brightens, however, when talk turns to the occasionally brilliant work of the students whose heavily footnoted history papers appear in his quarterly, The Concord Review. Over 23 years, the review has printed 924 essays by teenagers from 44 states and 39 nations…
Fitzhugh is deeply concerned by the fact that the majority of students pack up their duffelbags and computers, and head off to college without ever having completed a genuine research paper on history. The Concord Review has been a labor of love that seeks to change that sad state of affairs. In a piece entitled “Skip the Knowledge!” published inEducationViews.org at the start of August 2012, Fitzhugh articulated his view on the value of Common Core in getting students to be truly college-ready in reading and writing non-fiction texts:
It is not clear whether the knowledge-free curricula of the graduate schools of education, or the Core experiences at Harvard College, in any way guided the authors of our new Common Core in their achievement of the understanding that it is not knowledge of anything that our students require, but Thinking Skills. They took advantage of the perspective and arguments of a famous cognitive psychologist at Stanford in designing the history portion of the Core. Just think how much time they saved by not involving one of those actual historians, who might have bogged down the whole enterprise in claiming that students should have some knowledge of history itself, and that such knowledge might actually be required before any useful Thinking Skills could be either acquired or employed. If we had followed that path, we might actually be asking high school students to read real history books—shades of the James Madison era!!
Keep Poor James Madison, back in the day, spending endless hours reading scores upon scores of books on the history of governments, as he prepared to become the resident historian and intellectual “father” of the United States Constitution in the summer of 1787 in Philadelphia! If he had only known what we know now thanks to the new Common Core, he could have saved the great bulk of that time and effort if he had only acquired some Thinking Skills instead!
In a piece entitled “Turnabout,” which came out Tuesday, Fitzhugh goes further.
The New Common Core Standards call for a 50% reduction in “literary” [aka fictional non-informational texts] readings for students, and an increase in nonfiction informational texts, so that students may be better prepared for the nonfiction they will encounter in college and at work.
In addition to memos, technical manuals, and menus (and bus schedules?), the nonfiction informational texts suggested include The Gettysburg Address, Letter from Birmingham Jail, Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, and perhaps one of theFederalist Papers.
History books, such as those by David Hackett Fischer, James McPherson, David McCullough, Ron Chernow, Paul Johnson, Martin Gilbert, etc. are not among the nonfiction informational texts recommended, perhaps to keep students from having to read any complete books while they are still in high school.
In the spirit of Turnabout, let us consider saving students more time from their fictional non-informational text readings (previously known as literature) by cutting back on the complete novels, plays and poems formerly offered in our high schools. For instance, instead of Pride and Prejudice (the whole novel), students could be asked to read Chapter Three. Instead of the complete Romeo and Juliet, they could read Act Two, Scene Two, and in poetry, instead of a whole sonnet, perhaps just alternate stanzas could be assigned. In this way, they could get the “gist” of great works of literature, enough to be, as it were, “grist” for their deeper analytic cognitive thinking skill mills.
As the goal is to develop deeply critical analytic cognitive thinking skills, surely there is no need to read a whole book either in English or in History classes. This will not be a loss in Social Studies classes, since they don’t assign complete books anyway, but it may be a wrench for English teachers who probably still think that there is some value in reading a whole novel, or a whole play, or even a complete poem.
But change is change is change, as Gertrude Stein might have written, and if our teachers are to develop themselves professionally to offer the new deeper cognitive analytic thinking skills required by the Common Core Standards, they will just have to learn to wean themselves from the old notions of knowledge and understanding they have tried to develop from readings for students in the past.
As Caleb Nelson wrote in 1990 in The Atlantic Monthly, speaking about an older Common Core at Harvard College:
The philosophy behind the [Harvard College] Core is that educated people are not those who have read many books and have learned many facts but rather those who could analyze facts if they should ever happen to encounter any, and who could ‘approach’ books if it were ever necessary to do so….
The New Common Core Standards are meant to prepare our students to think deeply on subjects they know practically nothing about, because instead of reading a lot about anything, they will have been exercising their critical cognitive analytical faculties on little excerpts amputated from their context. So they can think “deeply,” for example, about Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, while knowing nothing about the nation’s Founding, or Slavery, or the new Republican Party, or, of course, the American Civil War.
Students’ new Common academic work with texts about which they will be asked to Think & Learn Deeply, may encourage them to believe that ignorance is no barrier to useful thinking, in the same way that those who have written the Common Core Standards believe that they can think deeply about and make policy for our many state education systems, without having spent much, if any time, as teachers themselves, or even in meeting with teachers who have the experience they lack.
It may very well turn out that ignorance and incompetence transfer from one domain to another much better than deeper thinking skills do, and that the current mad flight from knowledge and understanding, while clearly very well funded, has lead to Standards which will mean that our high school students [those that do not drop out] will need even more massive amounts of remediation when they go on to college and the workplace than are presently on offer.
“Turnabout” may mean many things, including fair play, a reversal of direction or evenwhat we might call a turncoat. (My own favorite reference is to Hal Roach’s screwball, gender-bender comedy of the 1940s.) But the more serious people look at it, the more Common Core is looking like an attempt to revive that merry-go-round of ed fads that have never worked in American education–and are best abandoned.
We were watching Paul Ryan’s incredible Republican National Convention speech last night on t.v. when I got a text message that a reporter who was at the convention wanted to talk to me. Me?
I had submitted the idea to “Eliminate Common Core Collective Education” at the GOP website when they were soliciting grassroots input a few days ago. So the reporter was fast, and the article’s published, and here’s the link to that article: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2012/08/common_core_state_standards_di.html
But the link to my educational topic for the GOP input is gone now; I guess, since the convention’s going on, they don’t want more platform input. But here’s the text of what I wrote, which was seconded by 39 people in the one day that it was there before they took down the site:
ELIMINATE COMMON CORE COLLECTIVE EDUCATION
I. COMMON CORE IS NOT ACADEMICALLY SOUND
It is a fact that the only math professor on the official Common Core Validation Committee, Dr. James Milgram, flatly refused to sign off on the standards as being valid. The math standards lack a coherent sequence and do the opposite of what they claim to do (make USA students more internationally competitive). The Asian Tigers have Alg. I in 8th grade. Common Core has it in 9th. By junior high, Common Core places students one to two years behind what they should be.
In the English department, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, who also served on the Common Core Validation Committee, also refused to sign off on the standards being adequate. They are not legitimate college prep because they slash narrative writing and classic, time-tested story reading to make room for info-texts. This is almost like book burning in its refusal to make generous room for literature in American classrooms. Under mandate.
Dr. Kirst of Stanford University said his concern was that the standards call 4 year, 2 year, and vocational school preparation the same thing. Is college prep to be dumbed down? Yes, absolutely. That is how we will make all our students common.
This Harrison Bergeron-esque attempt to make all students equal and common is absurd.
II. EDUCATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION:
Local educational decision-making capacity is severely reduced by Common Core.
Common Core is education without representation: the federal government incentivized its adoption by states but the public did not vote on the initiative, did not know what it was until after state school boards and governors implemented it, and has no means to amend the standards, as they are under NGA/CCSSO copyright. (Source: http://www.corestandards.org/terms-of-use )
There is no means provided for voters to recall Common Core standards-setting administrators. And the Dept. of Ed put a 15% cap on how much states can add.
We can do better.
So, I hope somebody read it. I hope the truth about Common Core comes out for all citizens, teachers, and within both parties, as more and more people study what it does and does not do.
Yes, the data collection push is out of control.
Data collection issues and privacy rights were the last thing on my mind, until last April, when I learned what Common Core was (besides educational standards that are communizing America’s education). When I learned that common core tests gather kids’ data that is nonacademic, personally identifiable, and longitudinal –meaning it goes from preschool through adulthood and is tracked by the government and researchers who will not need permission to study it– I was horrified. But the data collection desperation of agencies worldwide, continues. For example:
- Just this morning I got an email from a company that contracts with a company I work with to translate foreign documents. They wanted to purchase –in any language– full blogs, full email accounts, and other writings, for a secret client that they said needs a lot of data to practice a new spellchecker. Nuts! (I’ll post the full “job” email* at the bottom.)
- This week, I learned about a German man, Malte Spitz, now an international data privacy freedom fighter. Here’s part of his story (for full text: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/25/malte-spitzs-ted-talk-_n_1701775.html )
In 2006, the EU issued the Data Retention Directive, Directive 2006/24/EC. This allowed European phone companies to store user data for six months to two years — including phone numbers, addresses, the times emails and data were sent, as well as users’ locations. Since then, several countries have either rejected or declared unconstitutional this legislation. In 2010, Germany’s Federal Constitution Court suspended the directive, calling it “inadmissable.”
The directive does state that the content of users’ text and voice conversations are not to be stored.
Police agencies could request information from mobile phone companies to access user data, but only via the court system. Spitz filed a suit against his phone company Deutsche Telekom in order to receive his own stored data.
After reaching a settlement, Spitz received a CD of his records in the mail. “At first I thought, okay — it’s a huge file,” he said, “But then I realized, this is my life. This is six months of my life […] You can see where I am, when I sleep at night, what I’m doing.”
- Then there’s Joanne Weiss, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Dept. of Education, who openly admits to “data-mashing,” meaning blending the databases from different federal agencies. She also has said she wants to be helpful to states who want to “partner” and share data.
- Then there’s John Brandt, our Utah Technology Director, CCSSO chair, and NCES member (translation: he’s a fed). He openly admist on his powerpoint online, that the Dept. of Education can be one of the recipients of Utah’s inter-agency data mashing.
- Then there’s “Communities that Care,” a nice-sounding euphemism for a federal lure to give up local data via a program that on the surface, is all about preventing teen drug use and crime. But it’s also a way for the federal government to access what we are thinking, both via ongoing youth surveys, and via archived family and individual data kept by the city.
- My own doctor said that he was offered thousands to share data with the government about his patients. He opted not to accept the money because he believes in patient privacy.
Why are governments so desperate to gather so much private data on citizens? So desperate that they’re overriding Congressional FERPA laws, so desperate that they’re cutting out parental consent.
To read more about this topic:
Department of Education Being Sued for Invasion of Privacy: http://epic.org/apa/ferpa/default.html
Oregon Senator’s Website: http://www.merkley.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/?id=457f640a-2995-49c4-b386-27ca44c639a8
Federal Surveillance of data via Common Core tests: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf
TrapWire Surveillance: http://thenewamerican.com/usnews/constitution/item/12473-trapwire-the-federal-govt-is-literally-watching-every-move-you-make http://thenewamerican.com/tech/item/12635-trapwires-alleged-corporate-and-government-connections-grow
SmartMeter Opt-Out: http://thenewamerican.com/tech/energy/item/12344-privacy-and-health-concerns-on-%E2%80%9Csmart-meters%E2%80%9D-growing-globally
Many thanks for your interest in our program and for providing your experience in translation. Unfortunately we are not looking for a translation service at present; however, as mentioned in our advert we are collecting many versions of data on behalf of a client of ours. This data will be used to assist them in the development of their language tools. If this is something which you think you can assist us in, then please review the details below.
Below you will find some frequently asked questions which will provide you with more data on the program. Please read carefully to check if your language is available.
Note: We are only accepting languages which are available on the list at present.
We aim to collect a large amount of data for each language, so we hope we can collect a minimum of 150,000 words from each person participating. If you think you can reach this number, please let us know. If not, then please continue to save your data and contact us again in the near future.
Unfortunately everyone who contacts us may not be able to join this program, however, if you do know of someone that has their language included, please pass our information to them. We encourage all people to review their language / data.
On reading the FAQ, please reply and let us know what type of data / language you can provide to our program. We can then work on the collection process.
Please note, we do allow participants to donate more than one language if available.
We look forward to working with you.
Kind Regards, Lionbridge Data Collection Group
1) What languages are available? In our program we are now looking for the following languages: English UK, English US, Basque, Bulgarian, Croatian, Estonian, Finnish, Galician, Hungarian, Kazakh, Lithuanian, Romanian, Serbian (Latin and Cyrillic), Slovak, Slovenian, Turkish, Ukrainian, Arabic (Standard), Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Czech, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Latvian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese European, Spanish European, Swedish, Indonesian, Latin American Spanish, Danish and Thai.
2) What if my language is not on the list? We are beginning with the languages listed above. However, we may begin collecting for your language in the future. Please begin to save your emails / reports etc. Also, you may know of a friend / colleague who may be able to join now. If so, then pass on our information to them.
3) Who gets my data? We are collecting all data in conjunction with a client who requires a large amount of words to help develop their language tools e.g. spellchecker. No other party will have access to your data
4) What data can I include? a. Email – you can include personal emails which you have written in your own language b. Reports – If you are at college, you can include draft reports which you have written for college (i.e. these are the first writings of your reports, not the final delivered version to your lecturer). If you are a journalist, you can include drafts of articles you have written. Note draft articles should contain both grammar and spelling mistakes i.e. they are not proof read. c. Letters – any letters which you have written in your native language d. Blogs – If you have created a blog and write regular updates, this could be included.
5) If I send email, what happens if I include personal email? Once you send us your email, we will first change all of the email addresses and numbers to email@example.com <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> and 000 to remove any personal identification. Your name / signature however will remain on the email if included.
6) Can I use any email account? Yes you can use most email accounts which can be setup either on the internet or at home. Note we are having some issues with exporting from yahoo.
7) How much data to I need to send you? We are looking to collect 600,000 words from each person; however we understand that this is a lot of data for one person. Therefore to assist you we are willing to receive as low as 150,000 words: - On average 2,000 emails. - 200 pages
8) What if I do not have enough data? Don’t worry if you don’t have enough data right now. You can begin to save your data and join our program at a later date. Also, remember, if you have emails and reports, you can join both to reach the required number. We can help you with this.
9) How long do I have to collect the data? We appreciate it can take time to get this detail together and to assist you we will be providing step by step instructions. This program is running until September 30th 2012.
10) Do I get paid for my data? Yes you do! For every 100,000 words you send to us, we will pay you $110.
11) How do I know my data is secure? On acceptance of your data, you will sign a data release form to say that our client can now use your data. No other party will have access to your data.
A neighbor told me that Heber’s city council was considering applying for a $10,000 grant.
Accepting the money would join our city to ”Communities That Care,” a federally promoted anti-youth-problems program.
Now, everyone likes money. And everyone is opposed to youth doing drugs and crime. So what’s not to like?
A little research shows that “Communities That Care” raises serious anti-gun issues, as well as possible data privacy issues.
So, here’s the letter I sent to city leaders:
I’m writing to let you know that I’m one of those Heber residents who is now researching Communities that Care, so that we have plenty of information to make an informed decision for our city about whether it’s a good or a bad move for us. My gut feeling already is that it’s a bad idea. Why?
I used to write grants full time. One thing I learned is that there are no free grants. It’s not just money; the grantor always has an agenda and a reason for putting his or her money where the grant is going. The grantee has a duty under contract to fulfil the obligations of the grant. Before we apply for a grant, we need to know exactly what that agenda is. The money will be spent, but the agenda lingers. If our residents’ values truly match those of the grantor, that’s good. If not, it’s bad.
My preliminary research is showing me that a collectivist, socialist mentality is behind “Communities that Care,” which places the community (both local and national) above the family/parents. Why do I say this? A great portion of the program deals with data collection on teens and their families. Data will be collected through archives of the community, and also through surveys administered to young people on an ongoing basis. Who has access to this data other than our own community, and why? (Federal databases are currently being “mashed” and shared, according to sources such as Joanne Weiss, chief of staff of the Dept. of Education. So we don’t have any guarantees that privately collected data will remain with the entity that originates that collection. And Communities that Care is a branch of the federal government.
As you know, questions in surveys can and do present agendas. We may or may not find our values reflected in the way the questions are written. Sometimes, the way a question is asked does not give room for a response that accurately matches local reality. We need to read the survey ahead of time, find out who writes the survey, and who has authority to change or amend the questions on that survey. We also need to make sure it’s not a mandate; some parents may not want children taking surveys for data collection that may be used for purposes other than that which was originally intended.
Communities that Care is not an unknown entitity with an unknown agenda: the Dept. of Health and Human Services runs it; it’s the federal government. Let’s make sure we are true experts on all the possible future consequences to our city, before we consider signing on the dotted line.
P.S. Gun Rights Alert: I just now, while writing to you, searched and found a document online from Communities that Care called “Community Assessment Training: Collecting Archival Data” http://www.sdrg.org/ctcresource/Community%20Assessment%20Training/Participant%20Guide/CAT_PG_mod3.pdf
It says, among other things, that a “risk factor” for problem behavior indicators is “community laws and norms favorable to the use of drug use, firearms and crime”. Firearms are considered to be in the same basket of bad behavior risk factors as crime and drug use? Not in Heber.
The same chart shows “parental attitudes” and even “constitutional factors” as possible risk factors. Does this sound neutral, parent-friendly, gun-owner friendly or big-government friendly, to you?
Innocence Alert: I also found a survey used for a Communities that Care program in Massachusetts. http://esb.plymouth.k12.ma.us/attachments/2e3d9da3-cc55-4720-a79b-793eb5219c40.pdf One question there was how often the child had “Used prescription stimulants, such as Ritalin or Adderall without a doctors’s orders during the past 30 days?” The question did not allow the child to say “What the heck is Adderall?” or “It was actually 31 days ago,” or “my doctor has no qualms about prescribing whatever I’m willing to pay for.” There are all kinds of problems with these types of impersonal questions, including introducing innocent non-users to the idea that they could experiment with prescription drugs.
“I find the claim that I can’t design or develop curriculum on my own insulting. To suggest we need a national Common Core Curriculum because local teachers can’t develop curriculum on their own is pure nonsense. As an ordinary classroom teacher, I’ve done just that for two major units I taught.
I can, however, see how national companies, marketing testing programs or other educational products, would benefit from having every state and every school district tied to the same common standards. Makes their job easier, their overhead and R&D lower, and their profit margin greater. And none of that, necessarily, makes education any better in America.”
Here’s an audio recording of the United States Constitution, in three parts, followed by the Bill of Rights:
Bill of Rights: http://youtu.be/7Y5w9gr3nl8
“A solid education should be the second rung on the ladder to success, but the system is failing. President Obama’s solution has been to deny parents choice, attack private schools and nationalize curriculum and student loans. Mitt Romney believes that parents and the local community must be put in charge — not the Department of Education.” (See 5:50 on http://youtu.be/sJB6TVfz8-E )
- Rick Santorum’s speech at Republican Convention this week
“Under Mitt, Massachusetts’schools were the best in the nation. The best.” - Ann Romney’s speech from last night at the convention
(Ann’s past tense use of “schools were the best” refers to the fact that since Common Core was adopted, Massachusetts’ stellar standards have been dramatically lowered to match the Common Core national standards.)
“Mr. President, I’m here to tell you the American people are awake. And we’re not buying what you’re selling in 2012.” -Mia Love (Mia Love told me, when I met her in Heber this spring, “I am educated on Common Core.” She knows what it’s really about.)
Mia Love’s Speech http://youtu.be/FQ8Utno-f4g
Ann Romney’s Speech http://youtu.be/4p3GFBdnCGo
Rick Santorum’s Speech http://youtu.be/sJB6TVfz8-E
Common Core: Our new national curriculum
According to the Montana Common Core Standards Document, issued by the Office of Public Instruction, the standards were written to “fulfill the charge issued by the states.” Where did this “charge” come from? The work was “led by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA).” My question is this: When did Montana begin to be represented by associations and councils rather than our elected representatives in the legislature? Denise Juneau, our state superintendent, went to the Montana Board of Public Education, an appointed body of seven, to gain approval to mandate Common Core in all our schools. The Pioneer Institute published an in-depth financial analysis of Common Core and determined that it would cost the state of Montana about $40 million to implement. Where will that money come from, and why wasn’t the legislature the body to decide if this was the right path for Montana schools?
Common Core is a federal action hiding under cover of the CCSSO and the NGA. President Obama offered waivers to states from No Child Left Behind to join a national curriculum (Common Core was the only one) and then offered grants from his Race to the Top Program to states that joined Common Core. Federal Race to the Top money is being used to fund the tests for Common Core, which are extensive.
David Coleman, known as the architect of Common Core, has never even been a teacher. He professes to know how teachers should teach in the entire country and what they should teach, and yet, he is not a teacher. Coleman worked for McGraw-Hill (textbook publishing company) before leaving to create GROW a curriculum testing company which was later bought by McGraw-Hill. Bill Gates (who funded the creation of Common Core) and McGraw-Hill stand to make huge profits from Common Core. According to NextUp Research, the research arm of Global Silicon Valley Corp., the e-learning market in the United States is expected to grow $6.8 billion by 2015, up from $2.9 billion in 2010. According to Sanjeev Ahuja, the vice president of K-12 marketing for the company Blackboard, Common Core is a clear bonus for e-learning companies because “We don’t have to go and do 50 updates.” So this is a win-win for computer companies, more business and less cost, but what about our students and teachers?
According to the Montana Common Core Standards, kindergartners will “Participate in shared research and writing projects,” first-graders will “write opinion pieces,” and second-graders will “participate in shared research and writing projects.” The school day is short and the amount of foundational learning, just math and reading basics alone, is vast. Do our students have time to do research and spend time discussing their opinions? Young children need to know something before they are ready to do research. Let’s let kids learn something before they begin questioning their parents and telling them that their opinions are based on their “research.”
The sample testing items for Common Core Curriculum that have come out are very revealing. Smarter Balanced (the consortia Montana has been signed up for) asks sixth-graders to figure out what they need to build a community garden to a given set of specifications. Sixth graders will also research and present reports on community service. They must research and present a five-minute speech on a “young wonder” of their choice. Eleventh-graders will read excerpts from a speech by women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony. I didn’t see anything in the samples that indicated they would be teaching the free enterprise system and the wonders of our founding fathers and the United States Constitution.
Other countries that have federally mandated curriculums, like China and France, have found that a national curriculum did not put them at the top academically. China has never had a Nobel Prize winner. Many countries that perform worse than the United States on International assessments have national standards.
The outreach to the public from our Montana Board of Public Education was held almost exclusively for selected educators. Common Core was developed behind closed doors without public input and without research and trials. Montana needs to step back from Common Core and do financial and technological readiness analyses, as well as bring the public up to speed on this extensive and intrusive program that will take control away from teachers and local school boards.
Barbara Rush is a retired teacher from the Helena Public Schools.
I wrote this letter to our State Superintendent today. Do you think he’ll respond this time? He never has before. But hope springs eternal.
Dear Superintendent Shumway,
Although I have asked for a meeting with Carol Lear, with Judy Park, and with Brenda Hales, my requests have been turned down.
As you may know, I’m a Utah teacher with an up to date level II credential and a former English professor at UVU, and am concerned about Common Core nationalized education both for academic and liberty-based reasons.
I have tried to meet with your staff to discuss this in person. I would deeply appreciate a meeting to talk about these things, or a referenced, thorough email response to the following:
1. What proof can you offer teachers and parents that Common Core standards are not equalizing education within such narrow limits that they actually dumb down the expectations for 4-year college readiness to cater to career readiness and 2-year nonselective college readiness? People as diverse as Stanford’s Michael Kirst and Jason Zimba, Common Core architect, have addressed this issue but Utah has not done so on the USOE website or elsewhere.
2. Why is the board citing the retiring CCSSO leader Gene Wilhoit’s verbal assurances that “there’s no common core police” rather than believing what our state has committed to in writing, which is the federal government’s 15% speed limit on adding to the non-amendable standards, being copyrighted (by NGA/CCSSO) ?
Fact: We need to be able to add more than 15%. More than a year’s worth of math is missing for most grades, according to Dr. James Milgram, the only math professor on the Common Core Validation Committee. Speed limit on learning is set in stone at 15% in writing. Why is that okay with the Utah school board? Please explain.
3. It has been claimed that many teachers actually had input into the writing of the standards; yet no one I know, including myself, was ever asked to help write the national standards. And the copyright on the standards (held by NGA/CCSSO) states: NGA/CCSSO are the “sole developers” and sole owners, and “no claims to the contrary shall be made.” http://www.corestandards.org/public-license
4. Why was Common Core never piloted nor ever discussed in the public eye, with parents or teachers or legislators, before this transformative, experimental program was implemented across America?
5. How can Common Core avoid lowering standards for top-achieving students when “college and career readiness” means the exact same thing for 4-year college, 2-year college, and vocational school prep?
6. Why does Common Core diminish classic literature? What research supports this drastic change? What percentage of English Language Arts teachers and professors actually approve of this, or believe in the idea that this is increasing rigor and improving college prep? Do you know?
7. Common Core claims to improve international competitiveness. Why then is Algebra I introduced in 9th grade under Common Core, but it was previously introduced in 8th grade in most states and is introduced in 8th grade in the amazing Asian countries? Fact: Massachusetts had the highest standards in the nation but dropped them to adopt mediocre Common Core. Massachusetts even tested independently as an independent country, and ranked extremely high –but before Common Core.
8. If it is true, as has been claimed, that Common Core is a state-led program, then why is the federal government incentivizing its adoption via grants (Race to the Top and Race to the Top for Assessments)?
9. Why is the federal government further incentivizing its adoption via No Child Left Behind waivers if there are no federal strings attached?
10. How can states afford Common Core in this economy? Utah, like most states, hasn’t done a cost analysis. Texas and Virginia did a cost analysis and both states rejected the offer to join Common Core. (Texas estimated a $3 billion dollar implementation).
11. Why can’t we have an open, referenced, well-publicized public hearing on common core with experts from both sides being heard in a non-confrontational, non-argumentative way?
The Granite District meeting was dominated by Ms. Roberts’ long speech, with only 2 minutes then given for hundreds of members of the public; and no experts were given time there from the opposition to common core side.
12. Why hasn’t the Longitudinal Database System and the P-20 student tracking system been made transparent to the public, so that parents who would prefer not to have their child and family tracked by the government, could choose to send their children to private school or homeschool?
Let’s talk openly about these issues, for the good of the students, the teachers, the taxpayers, the general public, and the cause of liberty as it applies to education under the U.S. Constitution.
I got my favorite magazine, the Ensign, in the mail yesterday. The newest issue features an article entitled, “Restoring Morality and Religious Freedom” by Elder Quentin L. Cook: http://www.lds.org/ensign/2012/09/restoring-morality-and-religious-freedom?lang=eng
It says, “The Church respects the rule of law and constitutional government in every nation and expects Latter-day Saints to adhere to the law, to use their influence to promote and preserve their God-given rights, and “to make popular that which is sound and good, and unpopular that which is unsound” (Joseph Smith, in History of the Church, 5:286).”
“That which is sound and good” does not include Common Core education. It diminishes classic literature in English classrooms. It diminishes math learning, most noticeably for grades six and nine. It equalizes college and career preparation, making 4-year college, 2-year college, and vocational school preparation the very same thing for all. It stifles innovation. It concentrates power over education in a small group that includes the federal Dept. of Education, the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governor’s Association, rather than leaving power over educational decision-making in the hands of states and school districts. It sets an actual cap of 15% on the amount of learning above Common Core standards that is to be permitted.
And where is the liberty in that?
Why do so many people support Common Core, nationalized education, while they oppose ObamaCare, a nationalized medical system. Does that make any sense? Either you’re for independence or you’re for government control over your life. Why the double standard?
In the Book of Mormon, book of Alma, chapter 46, there’s an interesting story.
Captain Moroni tore a piece of his own clothing and wrote on it, calling it the “Title of Liberty.” He gathered freedom fighters with its slogan: “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children– and he fastened it upon the end of pole.” (v. 12)
- He asked people to “maintain their rights.” (v. 20)
- He said, “Yea, let us preserve our liberty.” (v. 24)
- He wanted “to support the cause of freedom, that they might maintain a free government” (v. 35)
- He “caused the title of liberty to be hoisted upon every tower wich was in all the land.” (v. 36)
- He “planted the standard of liberty among the Nephites.” (v. 36)
Can’t we do the same thing?
What are we waiting for? What is holding us back from cutting ties to Common Core?
Is it ongoing confusion about whether or not Common Core is truly a threat to freedom? –Earlier, the state office of education said that there were “no federal strings attached” but that mantra has long been abandoned out loud. True, the USOE’s fact v. fiction flier still makes that false claim, but if you talk to Board Members, they readily admit that the NCLB waiver has created federal pressure to either obey No Child Left Behind law, or substitute Common Core. They also admit that the federal Dept. of Education has set a cap of 15% on learning. That’s a written mandate denied orally by CCSSO leader Gene Wilhoit, but what’s in writing is binding on Utah. The State Office of Education also admits that the National Governor’s Association and the CCSSO have put a copyright on the standards and there is no means for states to amend them.
Where’s the liberty in that?
At this link, you can submit ideas for the Republican Party as they update the platform.
I submitted the following today, but had to shorten it because they only take a certain number of words.
COMMON CORE IS NOT ACADEMICALLY SOUND
It is a fact that the only math professor on the official Common Core Validation Committee, Dr. James Milgram, flatly refused to sign off on the standards as being valid. They aren’t valid. They lack a coherent sequence and do the opposite of what they claim to do (make USA students more internationally competitive). The Asian Tigers have Alg. I in 8th grade. Common Core has it in 9th. By junior high, Common Core places students one to two years behind what they should be.
In the English department, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, who also served on the Common Core Validation Committee, also refused to sign off on the standards being adequate. They are not legitimate college prep because they slash narrative writing and classic, time-tested story reading to make room for info-texts. Common Core disrespects and diminishes the importance of classic literature, letting it be downgraded to a marginalized fraction of what is taught by high school English teachers in favor of mandating informational text readings. This is almost like book burning in its refusal to make generous room for classic literature in American classrooms.
Dr. Michael Kirst of Stanford University was asked to look at the standards and said his concern was that the standards call 4 year, 2 year, and vocational school preparation the same thing. Is college prep to be dumbed down? Yes, absolutely. That is how we will make all our students common.
This Harrison Bergeron-esque attempt to make all students equal and common is absurd.
EDUCATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION: Local educational decision-making capacity is severely reduced by Common Core.
Common Core is education without representation: the federal government incentivized its adoption by states but the public did not vote on the initiative, did not know what it was until after state school boards and governors implemented it, and has no means to amend the standards, as they are under NGA/CCSSO copyright. (Source: http://www.corestandards.org/terms-of-use )
There is no means provided for voters to recall any Common Core test-creating or standards-setting administrators. No matter how radiant the claims of Common Core, the standards are unproven, untested, and unfunded.
The state school board’s unauthorized decision traded state control of quality education for an unvalidated, un-amendable national educational experiment and minimized our local ability to control –or to abandon– the experiment.
The following documents show the ways in which local decision making has been severely reduced:
- 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.” Putting a 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. This speed limit represents dumbing down some of our students rather than providing the promised “rigor”.
- Copyright on CCSS National Standards – The proponents of Common Core claim the initiative was state-led and was written by educators’ input nationwide, but 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
- ESEA Flexibility Waiver Request – This document, like the RTTT grant application, also 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/
- Cooperative Agreement – The Department of Education’s cooperative agreement with the SBAC testing consortium, to which half of the United States are now 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” Although this data sharing is said to be subject to privacy laws, the Dept. of Education altered privacy laws this year, as well. So there is nothing to stand in their way. 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
- 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 a state’s 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.
PRIVACY RIGHTS ARE BEING HURT BY DEPT OF ED. AND COMMON CORE
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.
- 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.
- Press Release Shows states using 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
- Statement from Utah State Office of Education (USOE) – No Utah public school attendee may attend school without being tracked by the P-20 and SLDS systems. See http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/now-that-the-state-admits-they-track-pii-on-every-kid-and-our-feds-have-requested-data-mashing/
- 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 )
- 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
- 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
- Powerpoint by John Brandt shows federal access to student transcripts and other data; Brandt is not only a state Technology Director of Utah but is also 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
What should we do?
Rather than pushing national, common standards, education leaders can allow the creation of each state’s own standards, using local citizens’ and universities’ expertise.
Example 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
Example of South Carolina
Unlike Virginia and Texas, both Utah and South Carolina did adopt the Common Core standards and joined a nationalized testing consortium. 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.”
We can work against the overreach of the Dept. of Education by having Congress create conditions or prohibitions on the funding they provide. So, for example, an option would be to attach a requirement that funds cannot be used to implement Common Core as it currently stands, requiring a process that states can choose to involve top scholars locally and nationally to revisit the standards and revise them to ensure that they are truly internationally competitive, but states are accountable only to state leaders, not to the federal government.
Federal agencies and state consortia are not stakeholders in state educational decision making, as evidenced by G.E.P.A. law and the 9th and 10th Amendments to the Constitution. D.C. (whether the Dept of Education or the NGA/CCSSO with its copyright on standards) should not determine our choices.
Having reasserted the importance of state sovereignty and freedom to determine education locally, states can then look to legitimate good examples to create new standards for Utah. For example, states 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.
States can regain local control over the quality and type of education, can reclaim the local ability to vote educational leaders in or out of office, can reclaim the ability to add to her own standards without restraint; and can take a strong stand against the Dept. of Education’s push that aims to expose students and families to unprecedented privacy intrusions via data collection and FERPA regulatory changes that eliminate the need for parental consent and that loosen the definitions of “educational program” and “authorized representative.” (For more details on the FERPA overstep, read the details of the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s lawsuit against the Department of Education.)
The Republican platform should clearly state that it has been brought to light that Common Core is an experimental and untested, inferior educational program, an attempt at nationalizing education, and an un-American, un-Constitutional attempt which President Romney will stop in its tracks.
Return the reins of education to the states.
There is still plenty o’confusion in the state of Utah. Lawmakers are realizing that due to the Utah Constitution’s giving authority to the Board to determine educational issues, they are almost powerless (except to defund Common Core). The board seems skittish and embarrassed now that so many of us know the new standards are inferior and that our freedoms have been traded for what started out as a way to increase Utah’s chance at a federal education grant during an economic low. And some on the USOE and state school board ship seem to be steering toward the possibility of purchasing SBAC tests despite the fact that Utah just voted to cut membership ties with SBAC.
The board now admits it’s a federal program. Lawmakers are not fully aware yet of all aspects of Common Core, while the Board is digging in their heels about giving any references for their claims of increased rigor or local control.
It’s a great drama, but a sad one.
Illustration: After the meeting, Alisa Ellis and I asked School Board Chair Debra Roberts if we might get a chance to sit down and talk with her about all of this. She said, “We’ve already wasted $10,000 in Board time as this group has been sitting down with us so much.”
Really? We asked who they have actually been talking/sitting with. (I’ve never had the opportunity, but would like it. I have had the majority of my many emails ignored and was told “no” to a sit-down conference with USOE lawyer Carol Lear.)
Chair Roberts said, “Well, we’ve sat with Christel many times.” Hmm. I said, “I am Christel. And that is not true.”
She insisted it was. So, I asked who said that they had sat and talked with me. She didn’t say. I said that somebody has misinformed you or somebody needs to take a lie detector test.
She hurried away, refusing to even discuss sitting down with us. So did Superintendent Shumway. Strange. The board now seems afraid of the truth that might come out during a legitimate discussion with an educated citizen, and they simply will not give references for their claims nor will they sit down and talk like gentlemen. Or gentlewomen.
Both the Tribune and the Deseret News covered the historic meeting of the House and Senate Education Committee on Common Core at the State Capitol yesterday. But they failed to report on some of the more fascinating moments.
Like what? Well, they skipped the Data Alliance’s data-mashing discussion and skipped the probing questions legislators directed toward both the pro-Common Core, such as Utah Superintendent Larry Shumway (and his staff) and to the visiting experts who testified at the meeting, the heroes of Utah’s day:
Jim Stergios of the Boston-based Pioneer Institute and Ted Rebarber of the D.C. -based AccountabilityWorks
The papers also totally blew the hilarious part, where Rep. Moss’ rhetorical questions got “Yes!”es –called out by several audience members including me, after Rep. Moss asked, “Have these people even read the standards? Are they English teachers? Do they have Master’s Degrees?”
So, here are links to the local newspapers’ coverage of the event:
And here’s my version. Photos first, details follow.
Senator Howard Stephenson: he said if he were “the king of Utah,” he would follow the recommendation of the visiting education experts.
Representative Francis Gibson: he asked Stergios and Rebarber to clarify whether it was true that Massachusetts had had the highest educational standards in the nation [and had tested as an independent country, ranking in the top six internationally] before they dropped their standards to adopt Common Core. You could have heard a pin drop. Stergios answered: it was the very reason a Massachusetts scholar traveled to Utah to testify against Common Core.
Rebarber and Stergios: Why not brand Utah as the great state with courage to be independent of federal manipulation via Common Core?
Jim Stergios and Ted Rebarber have agreed to share written copies of their ten minute testimonies to the Utah legislature, but until I get a copy, here are a just few bullet points:
- The quality of the Common Core standards is mediocre. Cutting classic literature to make room for informational texts has been said by Dr. Sandra Stotsky to be weakening college prep, taking away from the richer and broader vocabulary of classic literature.
- The math standards are less rigorous; for example, they place Alg. I in high school rather than in middle school. Math lacks a coherent grade by grade progression. The Common Core experimental approach to teaching geometry has never been successfully piloted in the world.
- Stergios quoted Jason Zimba, math architect for Common Core, who said that passing the Common Core test in math will only show a student is prepared to enter a nonselective community college.
- Stergios said that CCSSO administrator Gene Wilhoit’s recent statement to the Utah School Board that “there’s no Common Core police,” is misleading. Stergios said that gentlemen’s agreements quickly become mandates, as the pattern of the Dept. of Education’s recent history shows. It is best to rely on what is in writing.
- Stergios mentioned the Race to the Top for DISTRICTS, which is brand new. This shows zero respect for state authority over education. There is a steady pattern of encroachment by the federal government on education.
- Common Core did not have adequate deliberation; after a 2 day approval and no public input, Utah adopted Common Core. Even Fordham Institute, a pro-common core think tank, rated Utah math standards higher prior to adoption of Common Core.
- Stergios said Utah should brand itself as independent, thus attracting more talent and economic growth by reversing the adoption of Common Core.
- Legislators hold the purse. There’s a separation of powers between the legislature and the State School Board, which holds the authority over determining standards. There’s also the Constitutional principle of checks and balances. The ESEA waiver shows the federal arm is tying funds to adoption of Common Core –or to a college program that the Dept. of Ed must approve. If legislators don’t approve of either the experimental, inferior aspect, or the federally-promoted aspect of the standards, they can withhold all Common Core funding. The school board will have to create independent standards.
- NAPE tests provide national results; SAT and ACT do not. They are only used by certain states, not all.
- SBAC’s passing scores are non-negotiable; the purpose is to define what proficient means. Utah can’t affect SBAC.
- Federal Dept of Education has herded states into a set of standards. The benefits for collaboration are over when all have the same standards, whether you call them Utah Core or Common Core. It is the same.
- Texas’ Robert Scott has said he would love to do collaborative work with other states, creating an item bank rather than exact common tests. There are other approaches and ways that don’t require everyone to be the very same.
- The legislature has a duty to protect the right of Utah citizens not to give up education to federal control. Protecting state sovereignty is a legitimate concern.
Of the nearly packed to capacity room, who spoke up or asked questions? Several lawmakers:
Rep. Ken Sumison:
Who spoke up from the Utah Data Alliance and NCES? One man:
And who spoke at lennnnggggth from the Utah State School Board?
Superintendent Larry Shumway
Assistant Superintendent Judy Park
(who used the word “thrilled” multiple times in the same sentence as “sharing with the Department of Education”)
–and Utah State School Board Chair Debra Roberts:
Chair Roberts said: “I don’t care what the federal government has to say…I will listen to Utah educators.” (But she refuses to speak for even five minutes to educators like me, who oppose Common Core. )
Others in the audience (non-speaking roles) included:
The Honorable Judge Norman Jackson: (who has thoroughly reviewed the legal aspects of Common Core and based on his assessment, recommended Utah reject Common Core)
Rep. Kraig Powell
who has been studying both sides of Common Core with interest
And the pro-freedom in education activist, Alisa Ellis, with many more citizens against Common Core restraints:
So, with the exception Aaron Osmond –who says he’s to the point of nausea because of how much he’s had to face Common Core controversy –most legislators and citizens and teachers still don’t understand what Common Core is. I make this judgement from having heard very important, basic questions asked by legislators.
Sen. Stephenson, Rep. Gibson, Rep. Nielsen, Rep. Moss, Rep. Christianson, Rep. Sumison and others asked good, probing questions and made clear, excellent points, such as Rep. Sumison’s “Whoever pays, makes the rules.” (He wasn’t referring to the fact that the legislators hold the Utah public purse, but to the fact that the federal government has financially incentivized Common Core.)
–I’ll get to the rest of the legislators in a minute.
First, all in the audience had to trudge through almost two hours of the Pro-Common Core Show led by Superintendent Larry Shumway and Judy Park.
Park reported on the No Child Left Behind waiver. Dr. Park bubbled and gushed about what she called her “thrill of sharing Utah’s work with the Department of ED” in applying for No Child Left Behind. She used the word “sharing” and “thrilled” multiple times. Superintendent Shumway said that he was “offended” that people “in this room” have implied that he gets something out of sitting on boards outside Utah other than providing a helpful service. He said he receives no pay for sitting on the board of CCSSO (The Council of Chief State School Officers). He did not mention another board he sits on, WestEd, which is the test writer for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).
John Brandt and his staffer said the Utah Data Alliance is no threat to citizen privacy, although, he chuckled, ”there are no guarantees,” and he admitted that ”about 10 people will have clearance to access personally identifiable” citizen information.
The Q + A:
So: What did the legislators want to know? What did the pro and con answerers say?
When Rep. Moss asked her rhetorical questions and got “Yes!”es shouted out in response, Superintendent Shumway answered her, too: “Standards set a base line. Standards don’t set a cap.” (I thought: Really? What does the 15% speed limit on learning set by the Dept of Education, and copyrighted by NGA/CCSSO, do– if it does not cap our rights to educate as we see fit? Please.)
When Rep. Stephenson pointed to the academic reviews of Common Core that are unfavorable to the school board’s claims that the standards will increase rigor and strengthen legitimate college prep, Superintendent Shumway deflected the question. Waving aside official reviews by actual members of the only official national Common Core Validation Committee, professors who refused to sign off on the Common Core standards as being adequate, Superintendent Shumway said: “there’s no dearth of documents.” (The referenced reviews of Dr. Sandra Stotsky on English and by Dr. James Milgam on math are available in Exhibit A and B here: http://pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120510_ControllingEducation.pdf and in many other places.
Rep. Christensen said he wants Utah to be independent and said, “Education is a local matter.” He was troubled by the”implicit recognition of federal supremacy,” illustrated by the majority of states having asked the federal government for waivers from No Child Left Behind. He added, “We’re going down a road” he is not happy about, illustrated by the fact he cited: a school board member said Utah had paid a $90,000 fine for noncompliance with No Child Left Behind.
In response, Superintendent Shumway said that there were various disclaimers in the No Child Left Behind application.
Rep. Nielsen asked if it was true that by 7th grade, under Common Core math, students would be two years behind world class standards. Jim Stergios responded that indeed, Common Core was a step backward for Utah, but it would be closer to one year behind. For other states, Common Core brings math standards back two years.
Rep. Nielsen stated concerns about local control, saying that the U.S. Dept of Education uses terms like “allows” this and “allows” that. Sup. Shumway responded that “We are navigating through compliated waters.”
Sen. Osmond and Sen. Stephenson asked cost-related questions: hadn’t Utah already borne the brunt of the online costs for technology to match Common Core? Ted Rebarber answered that the state should do a cost analysis as other states have done. Common Core requires transformative realignment to the national standards. Rebarber asked, “Why do it?” –Since the cost/benefit analysis shows Utah is giving away state authority while adding costs, for inferior standards or at best, very similar to previously held, state standards.
Sen. Stephenson asked about the “legitimate concerns about abandoning what districts are doing” concerning assessments. Sup. Shumway said, “We haven’t preselected any vendor [for testing]. We were careful not to create requirements that would exclude anyone.” Shumway invited any Utahn to go to schools.utah.gov and click on “popular links” and submit input on specific standards that Utahns find problematic. He said these must be academically central comments, not comments about state sovereignty over education.
Several legislators questioned the timing of simultaneously asking the public for feedback to change the standards when the test Request for Proposals (RFP) has already been written and the SBAC has long been in the test writing process. How could Utah’s changed standards match? (I would add, how do you think we’re going to get away with changing more than 15% of our standards when it’s copyrighted and the Dept. of Ed. is aiming for seamless commonality between states?)
Sup. Shumway said that the timetables are challenging.
Both Rep. Nielsen and Rep. Christensen were concerned with the costs of Common Core and the state longitudinal data system (SLDS), costs which have not been studied by Utah. The SLDS grant will run out in 2013.
Utah Technology Director John Brandt responded that he hoped the legislature would continue to fund SLDS, ”this valuable tool.”
Valuable tool for whom? Children? Parents? Freedom lovers? –Excuse me while I run screaming from the room and cross-stitch and frame in gold the 4th Amendment to the Constitution.
The SLDS and Data Alliance is either–
- What John Brandt and his team said it is, yesterday: a state network of data (never to be shared with federal agencies) –a way to share preschool-to-workforce data about Utahns, among six state agencies (Dept. of Workforce Services, Utah State Office of Education, and more). Brandt assured legislators that personally identifiable portions of this data would be only accessed by about ten people in the state, but countless people can access the nonidentifiable portions of the data.
This makes more sense since Brandt belongs to the Dept. of Education’s research arm, the NCES, and he also belongs to -and chairs– the group that developed and copyrighted the Common Core standards, the CCSSO or Council of Chief State School Officers. NCES has a long-standing “National Data Collection Model” you can view here: http://nces.ed.gov/forum/datamodel/Information/howToUse.aspx
So Brandt is a fed, along with being the Technology Director for the state of Utah.
Relevantly, the Dept. of Education’s Chief of Staff, Joanne Weiss, has recently said that she’s combining or “mashing” data systems of federal agencies and is “helping” states (Oh, thank you!) by writing reports to assist them in developing research partnerships. She has said, ”Politicians often warn of the law of unintended consequences—as if all unintended consequences are negative ones—but in the world of data, we should also be aware of the law of welcome surprises.” (Weiss at the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) annual conference. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/inside-school-research/2012/07/ed_urges_states_to_make_data_s.html Thanks, Ms. Weiss. That makes me feel better.
I will keep this in mind while I continue to study exemplary progressive collectivism such as China’s Ministry of Public Security, as I recall the “data sharing” on citizens in Germany’s 1940s, or as I enjoy George Orwell’s immortal “1984″.
Utah, let’s keep our wits about us.
Have to repost this one. From the Washington Post this week:
Eight problems with Common Core Standards
By Marion Brady
E.D. Hirsch, Jr.’s book, “Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know,” was published March 1, 1987.
So it was probably in March of that year when, sitting at a dining room table in an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, my host — a publishing executive, friend, and fellow West Virginian — said he’d just bought the book. He hadn’t read it yet, but wondered how Hirsch’s list of 5,000 things he thought every American should know differed from a list we Appalachians might write.
I don’t remember what I said, but it was probably some version of what I’ve long taken for granted: Most people think that whatever they and the people they like happen to know, everybody else should be required to know.
In education, of course, what it’s assumed that everybody should be required to know is called “the core.” Responsibility for teaching the core is divvied up between teachers of math, science, language arts, and social studies.
Variously motivated corporate interests, arguing that the core was being sloppily taught, organized a behind-the-scenes campaign to super-standardize it. They named their handiwork the Common Core State Standards to hide the fact that it was driven by policymakers in Washington D.C., who have thus far shoved it into every state except Alaska, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia.
This was done with no public dialogue, no feedback from experienced educators, no research, no pilot or experimental programs — no evidence at all that a floor-length list created by unnamed people attempting to standardize what’s taught is a good idea.
It’s a bad idea. Ignore the fact that specific Common Core State Standards will open up enough cans of worms to keep subject-matter specialists arguing among themselves forever. Consider instead the merit of Standards from a general perspective:
One: Standards shouldn’t be attached to school subjects, but to the qualities of mind it’s hoped the study of school subjects promotes. Subjects are mere tools, just as scalpels, acetylene torches, and transits are tools. Surgeons, welders, surveyors — and teachers — should be held accountable for the quality of what they produce, not how they produce it.
Two: The world changes. The future is indiscernible. Clinging to a static strategy in a dynamic world may be comfortable, even comforting, but it’s a Titanic-deck-chair exercise.
Three: The Common Core Standards assume that what kids need to know is covered by one or another of the traditional core subjects. In fact, the unexplored intellectual terrain lying between and beyond those familiar fields of study is vast, expands by the hour, and will go in directions no one can predict.
Four: So much orchestrated attention is being showered on the Common Core Standards, the main reason for poor student performance is being ignored—a level of childhood poverty the consequences of which no amount of schooling can effectively counter.
Five: The Common Core kills innovation. When it’s the only game in town, it’s the only game in town.
Six: The Common Core Standards are a set-up for national standardized tests, tests that can’t evaluate complex thought, can’t avoid cultural bias, can’t measure non-verbal learning, can’t predict anything of consequence (and waste boatloads of money).
Seven: The word “standards” gets an approving nod from the public (and from most educators) because it means “performance that meets a standard.” However, the word also means “like everybody else,” and standardizing minds is what the Standards try to do. Common Core Standards fans sell the first meaning; the Standards deliver the second meaning. Standardized minds are about as far out of sync with deep-seated American values as it’s possible to get.
Eight: The Common Core Standards’ stated aim — “success in college and careers”— is at best pedestrian, at worst an affront. The young should be exploring the potentials of humanness.
I’ve more beefs, but like these eight, they have to do with the quality of education, and the pursuit of educational quality isn’t what’s driving the present education reform farce.
An illustration: As I write, my wife is in the kitchen. She calls me for lunch. The small television suspended under the kitchen cabinets is tuned to CNN, and Time cover girl Michelle Rhee is being interviewed.
“On international tests,” she says, “the U.S. ranks 27th from the top.”
Michelle Rhee, three-year teacher, education reactionary, mainstream media star, fired authoritarian head of a school system being investigated for cheating on standardized tests, is given a national platform to misinform. She doesn’t explain that, at the insistence of policymakers, and unlike other countries, America tests every kid — the mentally disabled, the sick, the hungry, the homeless, the transient, the troubled, those for whom English is a second language. That done, the scores are lumped together. She doesn’t even hint that when the scores of the disadvantaged aren’t counted, American students are at the top.
If Michelle Rhee doesn’t know that, she shouldn’t be on CNN. If she knows it but fails to point it out, she shouldn’t be on CNN.
It’s hard not to compare Rhee with Jennifer, a friend of my oldest son. He wrote me recently:
…I asked Jenn if she was ready for school.
“I’m waiting for an email from my principal to find out if I can get into my classroom a week early.”
“Why a whole week?”
“To get my room ready.”
She teaches second graders. I ask her why she loves that grade. She laughs and says, “Because they haven’t learned to roll their eyes yet.”
But I know it’s much more than that. Her sister was down from Ohio for Jenn’s birthday, and when she asked her what she wanted, Jenn said she needed 18 sets of colored pencils, 18 boxes of #2 pencils, 18 boxes of crayons, construction paper, name tags and so on — $346 dollars total.
She’s been doing this for 25 years. I’m sure she makes less than I do, but they could probably cut her salary 25 or 30% and she’d still want to get into her room early.”
Rhee gets $50,000 a pop plus first-class travel and accommodations for putting in an appearance to tell her audiences what’s wrong with the Jennifers in America’s schools, and what clubs should be swung or held over their heads to scare them into shaping up.
Future historians (if there are any) are going to shake their heads in disbelief. They’ll wonder how, in a single generation, the world’s oldest democracy dismantled its engine — free, public, locally controlled, democratic education.
If they dig into the secretive process that produced the Common Core State Standards, most of their questions will be answered.
The following essays were written about Common Core by four teachers whose names are being protected. See http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/teacher-comments-on-common-core/
I just attended the Core Academy for math as an elementary teacher and was told for 4 straight days that the common core does NOT require math facts or the teaching of standard algorithms. I was taught how to teach solely using discovery learning or weird, unusable, at least with larger numbers, fuzzy math algorithms which actually make understanding place value unnecessary to solve problems requiring regrouping. What? I thought the core was supposed to help teachers REMEMBER to teach skills and standard algorithms … I am devastated and do not even know if I can teach in Utah if this is the direction we are going…aligning ourselves with Washington state which is all discovery and has some of the poorest performing math students in the country…where they still believe Terc Investigations is great Curriculum. May the saints preserve us all.
I teach in the ________ district. Our district is adopting the core and is very involved in training their teachers. I will be attending meetings at my school to receive training. What can I do, if anything to keep my job, but not be chained to teaching the core? Last year, we implemented the writing portion of the core. I followed the core. My students did not accomplish as much with the core, as with the program I had been using. This year, I am quietly going back to the writing program I used before. This year we will be implementing the core math curriculum, I think I will quietly take ideas that I like, but keep teaching what I know works. Any advice?
Last Tuesday, Rep. Kraig Powell hosted a forum in Heber on Common Core. In attendance at this meeting were a number of teachers and administrators including Wasatch Superintendent Shoemaker. At lunch, a teacher who is involved with trying to get Utah off Common Core, was speaking with Sup. Shoemaker and another long time teacher’s name came up that this teacher had student-taught under. The Superintendent told this teacher how fortunate it was that she student-taught under her because she was a master teacher. She told the Superintendent that this long time teacher told her she wasn’t thrilled with Common Core and the Superintendent replied, “I’m not surprised, a teacher like her wouldn’t be.” The exact note this master teacher had sent her was “too bad districts aren’t questioning [common core] instead of parents. As a teacher, I am having common core shoved down my throat. We’re back to the 70’s. Way to go on your endeavors. ”
I am a 3rd grade teacher at a Charter School in Utah. I am becoming very frustrated with Common Core, and I am starting to feel helpless, and feel that I am failing my students, which will one day affect me as they grow up and enter the workforce.
I attended the Math CORE Academy this summer and was told that Utah is not going to suggest a math book that will meet the new standards, instead I have to use whatever math book my school is using to create work for the students. It is incredibly difficult to teach the Common Core using Tasks with the math book we have, and I imagine it is just as difficult with any math book. First of all, it takes 2-3 hours to create a Task using a math book, I had to help create 2 at Core Academy. Secondly, the instructors encouraged us to leave out key pieces of information so that the students could construct their own knowledge. I cannot imagine elementary students doing well in Algebra or Calculus after spending years learning that whatever number they come up with is correct. I am frustrated that students are required to make a guess to solve the problem, and of course, they are correct, because any number they choose would work. They would then see that their classmates all chose different numbers, and yet all of the answers are correct? How confusing for an elementary student! I have decided to send these Tasks home as extra credit so that the parents in my class can see what to expect in the next school year. I am sure I will get many complaints that the problems are unsolvable, because important information has been left out! I believe that math has right and wrong answers, and that teaching students that any answer can be correct is foolish.
I am so upset that cursive has been removed from the Core! I had such a successful year last year teaching cursive. When I ask students during the first week of school what they are excited to learn in 3rd grade, at least 10 students say learning to write in cursive! I already had 2nd graders telling me they were so excited to be in 3rd grade so they could learn cursive. I am then supposed to deny them something they want to learn!? That is absurd! Even before the actual cursive instruction began, I had many students trying cursive on their own and asking if they were doing it correctly. My students became better readers because they learned cursive last year, seeing italics or cursive in books did not confuse them any more. Most of my students handwriting improved considerably once they could write in cursive, especially the boys’ handwriting. If I can’t teach cursive, the students will miss out on developing those fine motor skills- many suggest typing, but my students will only get keyboarding once a week, and yet I have set aside 20 minutes each day for them to learn cursive. I think it is also a way of self expression. I write in cursive all of the time; my signature is part of who I am. So, this generation will not be able to create a signature for themselves? Nor will they be able to read any handwriting other than print. It is so much fun for me and my students when I write on the board in cursive and they can read it! How empowering for them! They are all able to write faster in cursive, and even in third grade they realize this. They are learning to concentrate, and focus their attention- which is very helpful for all other areas of learning. They are learning to slow down, and watch what they are doing. They are learning the you have to work hard to get good at something, and yet they improve quickly enough that they are motivated to stick with it, they can see week by week that they are getting better. They are learning that practicing something over and over will help you get better. These skills are, in my opinion, only found in handwriting. There is nothing else that I can teach them that they can see improvement day by day, and that they can see themselves getting better at. Writing, math, science, social studies- none of these can show the student progression, nor help in motivating a student to keep trying. I am hoping that I can change my administrator’s mind about letting me teach cursive, but if they don’t I will certainly make sure the parents of my students know that I feel it is an important skill and I suggest that they teach their students at home.
If it comes down to being on the principle’s good side or doing what’s best for my 28 students, I’m going to do what’s best for my students. If I get fired, then I’ll look for another job and hope I can find one.
Let’s reason with John Adams. In 1763, Adams didn’t know Utah would be facing the decision to reverse adoption of Common Core and reclaim local freedom over education, or not. But he did know this much:
- “…[A]s we know that ignorance, vanity, excessive ambition and venality, will, in spite of all human precautions, creep into government, and will ever be aspiring at extravagant and unconstitutional emoluments to individuals, let us never relax our attention… We electors have an important constitutional power placed in our hands… It becomes necessary to every subject then, to be in some degree a statesman, and to examine and judge for himself of the tendency of political principles and measures. Let us examine, then, with a sober, a manly, a British, and a Christian spirit; let us neglect all party virulence and advert to facts; let us believe no man to be infallible or impeccable in government, any more than in religion; take no man’s word against evidence, nor implicitly adopt the sentiments of others, who may be deceived themselves, or may be interested in deceiving us.”
Do some research. Don’t assume others’ claims and promises are correct or true, when they give no verifiable references. Even leaders (especially leaders) are subject to vanity, ignorance, ambition and unconstitutionality. Search for facts. Ask questions. Look for an application of Constitutional principles on new education reforms. Do they put the government above the parent? Do they put federal government above local? Do they sell something valuable for something temporarily sparkly? Be smart.
Learn what Common Core means to local control of standards, to Constitutional issues like representation and limited government power over people, to student math standards, to English standards, to taxpayer burdens, to data privacy, to parents worried about the speed and quality of what their kids are being taught, to parental consent issues. Common Core is much more than most realize.
Adams did speak to us directly:
- “Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present Generation to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.”
Adams also said:
- “There are two types of education… One should teach us how to make a living, And the other how to live.”
Common Core Architect David Coleman’s idea was to cut classic lit and narrative writing so that schools churn out kids who can read and write computer manuals and infotext.
But how to live? That comes from stories. David Coleman is blind to the spiritual human need for stories. And he just got promoted to be the College Board President. Heaven help us all.
There are those who hold Sec. of Education Arne Duncan’s letters as if they were freedom-guaranteeing facts, as if the letters held any legal water in comparison to his mark on definitive documents states are really bound by: the Race to the Top Executive Summary, the ED website’s definitions pages, the ESEA Flexibility Waiver, the Cooperative Agreement.
I apply it to the USOE’s unreferenced
lie claim that Common Core makes kids “globally competitive” and gives more “rigorous” standards while all the while it’s homogenizing 2 year, 4 year and vocational college-readiness, (common for all) and while it slows Alg. I from 8th grade to 9th grade, and while it slashes cursive and classic literature. –Oh, and there are the little details called GEPA law and the U.S. Constitution, which Common Core kicks to the curb. And then there’s that little fact that the only math professor (James Milgram) and the top English Language Arts professor (Sandra Stotsky) refused to sign off on the standards when they served on the Common Core Validation Committee because the standards were not high. Truth and factuality are slung aside by Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, and the Common Core troops.
Three more John Adams quotes for Common Core debate:
1- “Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom.” AMEN.
2- “I read my eyes out and can’t read half enough…the more one reads the more one sees we have to read.” Yep.
3- “But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.”
Utah Takes First Step in Regaining Control of Education
by Lindsey Burke
Reblogged from Heritage Foundation – August 6, 2012 at 4:00 pm
When the fight for control over what is taught in American schools is won, Utah will be remembered for having fired the shot heard ’round the country’s classrooms and statehouses.
In a move that should inspire other state leaders concerned with the Obama Administration’s push to nationalize standards and tests through the Common Core State Standards Initiative, the Utah State Board of Education voted 12–3 to withdraw from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), the national testing consortium the state joined as part of the its agreement to adopt national standards.
While Utah still plans to implement the standards in the coming academic year, it will now choose from among various testing companies to measure the academic achievement of students, divesting the state from the federally funded testing consortium. As Washington’s overreach creeps further into the nation’s classrooms, Utah has wisely taken a step away from further federal intervention into its schools.
After the Berlin Wall fell in the late 1980s, central planning was all but discredited throughout the world. The exception, Representative Rob Bishop (R–UT) 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.” Indeed, the central planning mentality continues apace with the push for national standards and tests. As the Pacific Research Institute’s Lance Izumi points out:
The end result of President Barack Obama’s centralization schemes is loss of control by individual Americans. Under the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, the Congressional Budget Office says that millions of workers will not be able to keep their current coverage. Under the president’s national standards-and-testing regime, individual parents will have less and less control over the education of their children and what takes place in the classroom.
Bishop argues that further centralizing education and nationalizing standards isn’t going to solve Utah’s 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.”
Utah has now gained a little more of that freedom back and will be choosing from a market of testing companies. Hopefully the Beehive State will take that thirst for educational freedom a step further and exit the national standards bandwagon entirely.
— —– —– —– —— —— ——
Thank you, Lindsay Burke and Heritage Foundation.
It was good to see Governor Herbert at the parade today, wearing his cowboy hat.
I believe he had something to do with the state school board’s decision to withdraw from the SBAC Common Core testing consortium just yesterday.
Thank you, Governor Herbert!
Dear School Board, Superintendent Shumway and Governor Herbert,
I am writing to express my gratitude to those who were instrumental in yesterday’s vote to reverse Utah’s membership in the SBAC testing consortium. It was a heroic moment and America is watching.
Early on, when I read the Cooperative Agreement between the SBAC and the Department of Education, I was horrified to see that it required SBAC members to expose student data to the federal government “on an ongoing basis, subject to applicable privacy laws,” and I knew that the Dept. of Education had changed privacy FERPA regulations to make that data easy to access.
I had also been horrified by the micromanagement the Dept. of Education planned to do, in demanding that PARCC and SBAC synchronize tests “across consortia,” effectively nationalizing education under the triangulation of those two consortia with the Dept. of Education. Also, in writing to WestEd, the SBAC’s test writing project manager, I had found out that “In order for this [testing] system to have a real impact within a state, the state will need to adopt the Common Core State Standards (i.e., not have two sets of standards.)” -April 2012 statement from WestEd Assessments and Standards Senior Research Associate Christyan Mitchell, Ph.D.
This meant that the 15% additional content which the Dept. of Education was permitting states to add to their local version of Common Core, would have been meaningless in the context of the tests. Teachers would not have been motivated to teach that extra 15% of unique Utah content, since there would be such pressure to conform to the high-stakes, competitive tests. Now they are freed from that pressure and can teach students, not teach for others.
I am extremely relieved to find that we have reclaimed our independence in the realm of testing and in the realm of easy federal access to student data collected via tests. But I am still concerned that the federally paid-for state longitudinal database system (SLDS) and the P-20 student tracking systems will be available to the federal government and marketers, since our Utah Technology leader, John Brandt, who is a chair member of CCSSO and a member of NCES, the research arm of the Dept. of Education, has published the fact that our data can be shared with state agencies and at the federal level. Also, Chief of Staff of the Dept. of Education Joanne Weiss made a statement recently that she is mashing data systems on the federal level, and is releasing reports to ”help” states to use SLDS systems to mash data as well. These things trouble me. I hope you are aware of them and are taking steps to fortify our citizens’ privacy rights against federal intrusion which can easily invade in these other ways –other than the SBAC test data collection method, which we seem to be freed from.
–Or are we? Attendees at yesterday’s State School Board meeting have informed me that there is school board talk of purchasing SBAC tests anyway, regardless of the conflict of interest issue. This, even now that we’ve cut membership ties with SBAC. If our board votes to use SBAC tests, we will hardly be better off than if we had not taken the step of cutting off membership ties. Our childrens’ data would then still be collected by SBAC, and we know from the Cooperative Agreement that the SBAC will triangulate tests and data collected with the federal government. We must cut all ties with SBAC, including purchasing or using SBAC or PARCC written tests.
On Sept. 6th, the ESEA flexibility waiver window ends. I have asked a question but have not received a response: does that Sept. 6th deadline mean that after Sept. 6th, Utah’s option to write her own standards, ends?
We need legitimately high, not spottily or for just some grades/topics, occasionally high, standards. We need standards like those Massachusetts had before that state caved to political pressure to lower standards in adopting Common Core. Massachusetts tested as an independent nation and was among the very top. Massachusetts’ standards were the highest in the USA. Then Common Core took them down to the middle of the road. Does Utah really want that? If so, why? Is it Superintendent Shumway’s board membership in CCSSO and SBAC that is driving these decisions? Or is it what’s really the highest possible standards for our children and teachers?
Political and money-making pressures are pushing Utah to stay aligned with Common Core, while attempting to obscure the truth: that Common Core is not rigorous enough. It does not solve our very real educational problems.
First, it blurs excellence and sub-par into a common standard that is mediocre. Stanford University Professor Michael Kirst assessed the standards and said that “My concern is the assertion in the draft that the standards for college and career readiness are essentially the same. This implies the answer is yes to the question of whether the same standards are appropriate for 4 year universities, 2 year colleges, and technical colleges. The burden of proof for this assertion rests with CCSSO/NGA, and the case is not proven from the evidence presented”.
Dr. Bill Evers, Hoover Institute scholar and professor at Stanford, said that the “Asian Tigers” countries keep Algebra I in 8th grade, as Utah’s prior standards had them; but Common Core retards Algebra I to 9th grade.
Dr. James Milgram, the only math professor on the Common Core Validation Committee, refused to sign off that the standards were adequate. Dr. Sandra Stotsky, the head English professor on the same committee, also refused to sign off on the standards. She said they did not represent a coherent, legitimate pre-college program and she opposed slashing classic literature and narrative writing, as 99% of all English teachers –and parents– would surely agree.
Importantly, the NCLB/ESEA waiver allows two ways to fulfull the “college readiness” requirement. 1) States can use Common Core. Or 2)states can write their own standards, using University approval as a benchmark. If we choose option 2, by Sept. 6th, 2012, then we can write our own standards, using what’s best out of common core, building up to a better standard set by Massachusetts, led by the very professor who created Massachusetts’ superior standards— for free!
Dr. Sandra Stotsky has promised Utah that if we pull out of Common Core and want help in developing our own ELA standards (better than what we used to have), she will help write them, for free. She worked on the excellent, (Common Core-Less) Texas standards in 2007-2008, contracted with StandardsWork.
Dr. Alan Manning, of BYU, who is opposed on academic grounds and on grounds of lost liberty, to Common Core, would be a great resource for writing Utah’s standards, as well.
Please contact Dr. Stotstky and Dr. Manning about the possibilities of creating superior standards for Utah.
Thank you sincerely for your continued work on educational issues in Utah.
Today, 12-3, the state school board voted to get Utah out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). The political climate was cited as a reason for the move. Yes, we do care in this state about freedom from federal control and this is a huge win for educational freedom. The Cooperative Agreement will no longer be binding on Utah as it is on Washington and the many other states in SBAC. The federal government cannot demand access to the data they would have gathered via the high-stakes tests. Arne Duncan now cannot micromanage Utah’s testing choices as he would have if we had stayed in SBAC, synchronized with PARCC. It also means that if Utah elects to add 15% to the common standards, no test will discourage teachers from not using our unique 15%. So, it is a happy day for freedom. Ding dong, the witch is dead –or at least thrown aside, far aside. I’m so grateful that I think I should send a bouquet of flowers to the state school board.
There’s a meeting, open to the public, to be held in room 30 in the House Building at the State Capitol in Salt Lake City. This meeting will be important, as heavy hitters will be speaking about Common Core issues:
Dr. Larry Shumway, Utah Superintendent of Schools, John Brandt, Technology Director, and Dr. Judy Park, Associate Superintendent, will be speaking.
Dr. Sandra Stotsky, University of Arkansas, member of Common Core Validation Committee http://www.uark.edu/ua/der/People/stotsky.html
–and Texas Commissioner of Education Robert Scott, will be speaking.
A G E N D A
Education Interim Committee – Utah Legislature
Wednesday, August 15, 2012 • 2:00 p.m. • Room 30 House Building
1. Committee Business
2. Flexibility Waiver
Utah is among the 32 states granted a flexibility waiver to replace the federal accountability system created under No Child Left Behind with its own state accountability system. Beginning with the 2011-12 school year, schools will be evaluated based on a new state accountability system, and school performance reports will be issued this fall showing each school’s results under the new state accountability system. Committee members will receive a briefing on the flexibility waiver and the new state accountability system.
3. Utah Data Alliance and the State Longitudinal Data System
As a collaborative, multi-organizational partnership, the Utah Data Alliance seeks to enhance the quality of educational research and analysis in Utah regarding policies, practices, and programs by utilizing an integrated statewide longitudinal data system of individual, de-identified information. The Utah Data Alliance provides policy and decision makers research findings with the goal of improving education and workforce policy and practice. Committee members will receive a briefing on the Utah Data Alliance and the state longitudinal data system.
4. Report on Utah’s Core Standards and Participation in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium
Dr. Shumway will report on a process for the State Board of Education to receive and consider proposed changes to Utah’s core standards for English language arts and mathematics. He will also report on State Board of Education action regarding Utah’s participation in the Smarter Balanced Assessment consortium.
5. Common Core
Dr. Stotsky, a member of the National Validation Committee for the Common Core State Standards Initiative, will testify on the common core standards. Mr. Robert Scott, Commission of Education of Texas, a state that has not adopted the common core, will express his concerns with the common core.
• Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Department of Education Reform, University of Arkansas
• Robert Scott, Commissioner of Education of Texas
6. Other Items/Adjourn
QUESTION OF THE DAY: Since Massachusetts’ educational standards were the highest in the nation before Common Core came along; since Massachusetts’ standards were so high that, testing as an independent country, they ranked in the top worldwide, then why did we adopt Common Core “race-to-the-middle-denominator” instead?
James Gass, of Boston’s Pioneer Institute, asked this question. He said:
Given the historic success of Massachusetts on NAEP and TIMSS testing and the very average performance of the states that have worked with national standards players, unless national standards weren’t a ‘a race to the middle,’ why didn’t other states just adopt the Massachusetts standards, as 2010 Pioneer Institute and Diane Ravitch recommended?
Ravitch goes so far as to say that the Obama administration is wasting its time trying to establish national standards in English and math. “I wish they had just adopted the Massachusetts standards,’’ she said. “They could have saved themselves a lot of trouble.’’
Diane Ravitch, historian of education, an educational policy analyst, and research professor at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
Democrats, Republicans and others packed the Wasatch Bagel Cafe in Park City to standing room only last night in an effort to learn the pros and cons of Utah’s membership in the Common Core Movement. Common Core is a set of national standards and common tests that was initiated by states, is incentivized and promoted by the federal government, and is backed financially by private interest groups, largely by Bill Gates.
Wasatch Representative Kraig Powell, Senate Education Committee Chair Aaron Osmond, House Committee Chair Francis Gibbons, and Joel Briscoe, also of the Utah Legislature, led the meeting. None of the four vocalized a strong stand for or against the Common Core Initiative. Questions and comments by citizens generally addressed the questions of whether local autonomy and control over educational standards and good education would be available with Common Core.
Doctor and Park City citizen John Zimmerman said, “We don’t need the federal government in education,” and asked why the Common Core educational movement was involved with the federal government. Aaron Osmond responded that the movement did not start out being federally led but the federal government has taken advantage of the movement. Kraig Powell added that it’s as if we were headed down the road in a small car and the federal government came along with a faster car and we got in.
Representative Kraig Powell said that raising educational standards is an important and laudable goal. He said that he trusts people and feels that as long as there is plenty of public discussion, Utah will come up with something we can all live with. He voiced concern about the Department of Education’s use of “shall” language in the No Child Left Behind waivers that push states toward Common Core. He mentioned that there was a larger legislative turnout than he’d ever seen last month when four national educational experts spoke against Common Core at a legislators’ lunch and at another public forum. He emphasized that there must be lots of input and study so people’s voices can be heard. (Currently, few citizens know what Common Core is.) Powell also noted that just as Medicaid has put mandates on Utah which come with funding concerns many Utahns are not comfortable with, there is a concern that the same demoralization of teachers and the same costly requirements may happen with Common Core that were problematic with No Child Left Behind.
Senate Education Committee Chair Aaron Osmond said that the Utah Constitution allows the state school board a lot of power. He voiced a concern that we must preserve state sovereignty and the right to control standards in our state, saying, ”If we lose that, I concur that it’s wrong.”
Newly appointed chair of the Utah House Education Committee, Francis Gibson, said that both the pro and con sides of the Common Core have arguments that make sense. He liked the fact that the standards promised not to dictate curriculum and hoped there was a way to fix the low portion of the math segments of Common Core. He did not mention whether there was a way to amend standards under the common core contractual documents.
Representative Joel Briscoe said that his entire family, including himself, consists of teachers. While the Common Core requires students to read less literature, he felt that fact did not represent any lowering of standards. He addressed the fact that at the high school level, 70% of English language readings are to be informational text with only 30% being allowed to be classic literature readings. He supports the less-literature, more-informational text shift. He did not address Common Core’s shift away from narrative writing. He did not address the non-amendability of the reading and writing standards.
Heber citizen Anissa Wardell asked what the legislators’ stand was on data collection, including personally identifiable student information, to be gathered without parental consent, a concern connected to Common Core reforms. Kraig Powell responded that we have to ask ourselves whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing that the P-20 systems and/or private entities track a child from before kindergarten through college and work. He did not take a stand on the question.
All four legislators said they applauded the effort of the Utah State School Board in attempting to raise educational standards for Utah.
Why I Don’t Want my Children to be Educated for Sustainable Development: Sustainable Belief
By Bob Jickling Yukon College
Bob Jickling is instructor of environmental studies at Yukon College in Whitehorse. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 20th Annual Conference of the North American Association for Environmental Education Saint Paul, Minnesota, September 1991.
There is considerable debate about the merits of sustainable development and the actions it requires. As we enter the 1990s, this term has become, for many, a vague slogan susceptible to manipulation. For some it is logically inconsistent. For others there are concerns that efforts to implement it will obscure understanding of the economic, political, philosophical and epistemological roots of environmental issues, and adequate examinations of social alternatives. This raises questions about the idea that anyone should teach such a thing in the first place. With this in mind, I wish to examine two concerns.
The first concern arises from my observations of the research seminar held during National Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE)’s 1990 conference held in San Antonio. Amid discussions about quantitative, qualitative, and action research, talk about philosophical analysis was conspicuous by its absence. The lack of attention to educational philosophy, and the research methods employed by philosophers, has been an impediment to the development of environmental education. This is a matter of considerable importance.
The second concern relates to the proposed relationship between education and sustainable development, particularly as it is described in the phrase “education for sustainable development.” I will argue that this locution epitomizes a conceptual muddle that environmental educators ought to do something about.
These two concerns are of course related. It is precisely the lack of attention to philosophical analysis of the concepts central to environmental education that allowed the expression and proliferation of such questionable ideas. I will begin by briefly talking about environmental education and the importance of philosophical analysis in this field of study. I will then critique sustainable development education and in so doing will illustrate the importance of philosophical research which employs techniques of conceptual analysis.
One of the problems in environmental education has been the failure of its practitioners to reconcile definitions of environmental education with an . priori conception of education. It is important to understand that concepts such as “education” and “environmental education” are abstractions, or ideas which describe various perceptions. While studying how a word functions will provide some understanding about the enterprise or phenomena that it represents, the analysis remains an interpretation of an abstraction in peoples’ minds. It is a mistake to think of concepts as objects or concrete entities; they are nothing more than conventional signs or symbols. This is not a precise business. For this reason the idea of a true, correct, or perfect statement about a concept is implausible. Analysis of concepts is essentially a dialectical business and such analyses are in constant need of re-examination and clarification (Wilson, 1969).
These points can be illustrated by attempting to identify some of the criteria useful in describing an educated person. For example, we might ask ourselves if acquisition of knowledge is a necessary condition. Many would affirm this, claiming we would not normally say that someone is educated but that they do not know anything. However, while the dissemination of information is an important function of schools, we might continue our analysis by asking if the accumulation of mere facts and disconnected information is enough.
For example, my son at nine years of age, could go to a map of the world and identify an astonishing number of countries, but this was hardly sufficient to convince me that he was educated. We expect the educated person to have some understanding of the relationships between these bits of information which enable a person to make some sense of the world; the educated person should have some understanding about why a relationship exists. We might also wonder if the ability to think critically is a necessary criterion for the educated person. Again we would expect to find considerable agreement; we would be reluctant to say that a person was educated if we judged that he or she could not think for him or herself.
While this constitutes an abbreviated analysis it does provide a glimpse at the general approach taken in this kind of research. The philosopher, thus, attempts to find out which of the possible criteria are necessary. It is important to note that this analysis cannot provide a definitive or complete answer, but only a collection of logical arguments of greater or less merit. This point is frequently misunderstood. For example, one of the pitfalls for researchers working in fields such as education and environmental education is to think as if abstract nouns were:
the names of abstract or ideal objects: as if there were somewhere, in heaven if not on earth, things called `justice’, `love’ and `truth’ [and environmental education]. Hence we come to believe that analyzing concepts, instead of being what we have described it to be, is really a sort of treasure hunt in which we seek for a glimpse of these abstract objects. We find ourselves talking as if `What is justice?’ [or environmental education?] was a question like `What is the capital of Japan?’ (Wilson, 1969 p. 40)
What this means for environmental education is, of course, that the claim environmental education “does have definition and structure” (Hungerford, Peyton & Wilke, 1983) is unlikely. Or, to attempt to solve the so called “definitional problem” in environmental education in any fashion, let alone by the American Society for Testing and Materials (Marcinkowski, 1991), is misplaced. In the field of environmental education we appear to be witnessing a treasure hunt for an infinitely illusive abstract object. Environmental education will surely continue to wallow along rocky shores until this field allows an important place for conceptual analysis within its research community.
My preview of conceptual analysis also identifies some criteria useful for understanding the term “education.” Having identified such essential criteria, in this case the acquisition of knowledge, understanding, and the ability to think for oneself, I can now introduce the next task of the philosopher. This job is to examine the implications which logically follow from use of the concept to see if application of the term is consistent with those essential criteria teased out during analysis. While this analysis of education is by no means complete, the criteria proposed are sufficient to illustrate this task. At the same time the adequacy of “educating for sustainable development” can be examined.
While environmental education is in the midst of a conceptual muddle the same can be said for sustainable development. For example, at the 1990 NAAEE conference Slocombe and Van Bers (1990) reminded us that this term is only a concept and that it is characterized by a paucity of precision. Their observations are not unique. Like Slocombe and Van Bers, some researchers acknowledge that there is no agreement about an overall goal for “sustainable development” (e.g. Huckle, 1991; Disinger, 1990; & Rees, 1989). Analysis of the term has not yet been able to identify sufficient criteria to elucidate common meaning and coherence.
It is also possible that that conceptual coherence cannot be achieved. For Huckle (1991), the term “sustainable development” has entered the dialectic which characterizes modern environmentalism. For him, it has taken different, and possibly irreconcilable, meanings for technocentrists and ecocentrists. According to this view, the term is contested and its shared understanding is rendered impossible by inherent contradictions arising from these divergent world views. Disinger (1990) reports views which reinforce these doubts. He states: “To some, sustainable development is an oxymoron – a self-contained non sequitur between noun and modifier.” (p. 3) It appears that there are those who are troubled by questions of logical consistency when “sustainable” is juxtaposed against “development.” If such inconsistency is borne out, the conceptual muddle that surrounds sustainable development will be perpetuated.
The observations reported in the previous two paragraphs accentuate the need for philosophical research, particularly conceptual analysis. Clarifying common understandings of “sustainable” and “development” and examining the logical coherence of their association will help to assess the usefulness of sustainable development. In the meantime disagreement exists. The implication of this reality upon education is foreshadowed by planner William Rees (1989) who argued that a prerequisite to developing acceptable policies and plans for sustainable development is a satisfactory working definition of the concept. It seems equally improbable that we can accept any educational prescription in the absence of an adequate conceptualization of sustainable development. It therefore seems unlikely that I should want anyone to educate my children for sustainable development when it is not clear what on earth it is that they are aiming for.
If, however, an adequate conceptualization of sustainable development was argued, we would still be concerned with the educational appropriateness of aiming for it. In spite of such misgivings there does appear to be considerable momentum amongst environmental educators who wish to teach sustainable development. For example, John Disinger in his article “Environmental Education for Sustainable Development?” (1990), discusses the development of this momentum in North America. Noel Gough (1991) suggests that much environmental education in Australia is concerned with land protection and is often associated with “conservation for sustainable development.” And, UNESCO (1988) has looked to environmental education as a vehicle to promote “training, at various levels, of the personnel needed for the rational management of the environment in the view of achieving sustainable development.” (p. 6) In Canada the environmental education arm of UNESCO, MAB/Net, affirms this objective and characterizes its mission as “Education for Sustainable Development.” However, this momentum is not without anomalies which should raise our suspicions.
Disinger (1990) also reports that many environmental educators have difficulty identifying their own positions, particularly with reference to the eco-anthropocentric continuum. However, he claims that educators generally place greater emphasis on “wise use” than on non-use perspectives. While the implications of these observations are not perfectly clear, there is the suggestion that teachers have sought to identify their preferences in order to determine what perspectives to espouse. Noel Gough (1991) was more explicit. According to his view, environmental education has been overcome by promoters of instrumental land values which are frequently associated with sustainable development. Does this mean that environmental education has frequently become a promotional tool? It seems thus far that many educators implicitly or explicitly assume that their task, teaching sustainable development, involves the advancement of a particular agenda.
Inspection of comments in Our Common Future (1987) illustrates this problem:
Sustainable development has been described here in general terms. How are individuals in the real world to be persuaded or made to act in the common interest? The answer lies partly in education, institutional development, and law enforcement. (p. 46)
This statement suggests that sustainable development is in the common interest and the public must be persuaded, or made, to pursue this end. Further, education can be contributory to the process of persuasion or coercion required. This raises the question: Should education aim to advance a particular end such as sustainable development? Is it the job of education to make people behave in a particular way?
To seek answers to these questions consider first the idea that environmental education should promote “training for the rational management of the environment in the view of achieving sustainable development.” (UNESCO, 1988, p. 6) As I have argued elsewhere (Jickling, 1991), training is concerned with the acquisition of skills and abilities, and frequently has instrumental connotations. We generally speak of training for something; we might be training for football or training for work in a trade. Further, training tends to be closely associated with the acquisition of skills which are perfected through repetition and practice and are minimally involved with understanding. Thus, the capacity for rational management is inconsistent with the means suggested for its achievement.
In contrast we speak of a person being more or less well educated indicating a broader, and less determinate understanding which transcends immediate instrumental values. We would not normally speak of educating “for” anything. To talk of educating for sustainable development is more suggestive of an activity like training or the preparation for the achievement of some instrumental aim. It is important to note that this position rests on several assumptions. First, sustainable development is an uncontested concept, and second, education is a tool to be used for its advancement. The first point is clearly untrue and should be rejected; there is considerable skepticism about the coherence and efficacy of the term. The second assumption can also be rejected. The prescription of a particular outlook is repugnant to the development of autonomous thinking.
As we have seen in the earlier analysis, education is concerned with enabling people to think for themselves. Education for sustainable development, education for deep ecology (Drengson, 1991), or education “for” anything else is inconsistent with that criterion. In all cases these phrases suggests a pre-determined mode of thinking to which the pupil is expected to prescribe. Clearly, I would not want my children to be taught sustainable development. The very idea is contrary to the spirit of education. I would rather have my children educated than conditioned to believe that sustainable development constitutes a constellation of correct environmental views or that hidden beneath its current obscurity lies an environmental panacea.
However, having argued that we should not educate for sustainable development, it is quite a different matter to teach students about this concept. I would like my children to know about the arguments which support it and attempt to clarify it. But, I would also like them to know that sustainable development is being criticized, and I want them to be able to evaluate that criticism and participate in it if they perceive a need. I want them to realize that there is a debate going on between a variety of stances, between adherents of an ecocentric worldview and those who adhere to an anthropocentric worldview. I want my children to be able to participate intelligently in that debate. To do so they will need to be taught that these various positions also constitute logical arguments of greater or less merit, and they will need to be taught to use philosophical techniques to aid their understanding and evaluation of them. They will need to be well educated to do this.
For us the task is not to educate for sustainable development. In a rapidly changing world we must enable students to debate, evaluate, and judge for themselves the relative merits of contesting positions. There is a world of difference between these two possibilities. The latter approach is about education; the former is not.
Barrow, R. St. C., & Woods, R. G. 1988. An introduction to the philosophy of education (3rd. Ed.). London: Routledge.
Disinger, J. F. 1990. Environmental education for sustainable development? Journal of Environmental Education, 21(4), 3-6.
Drengson, A. R. 1991. Introduction: Environmental crisis, education, and deep ecology. The Trumpeter. 8 (3), 97-98.
Gough, N. 1991. Narrative and nature: Unsustainable fictions in environmental education. Australian Journal of Environmental Education, 7, 31-42.
Hamm, C. M. 1989. Philosophical issues in education: An introduction. New York: Falmer.
Huckle, J. 1991. Education for sustainability: Assessing pathways to the future. Australian Journal of Environmental Education, 7, 43-62.
Hungerford, H. R., Peyton, R. B. & Wilke, R. J. 1983. Yes, EE does have definition and structure. Journal of Environmental Education, 14(3), 1-2.
Jickling, B. 1991. Environmental education and environmental advocacy: The need for a proper distinction. To see ourselves/to save ourselves: Ecology and culture in Canada. (pp. 169-176). Montreal: Association for Canadian Studies.
Marcinkowski, T. 1990-91. The new national environmental education act: A renewal of commitment. Journal of Environmental Education, 22(2), 7-10.
Rees, W. 1989. Defining “sustainable development.” CHS Research Bulletin, UBC Centre for Human Settlements.
Slocombe, D. S. & Van Bers, C. 1990. Seeking substance in sustainable development. Paper presented at North American Association For Environmental Education. San Antonio, Texas.
United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization-United Nations Environment Programme (UNESCO-UNEP). 1988. International strategy for action in the field of environmental education and training for the 1990s. Paris & Nairobi: UNESCO-UNEP.
United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization-Canada/MAB (UNESCO-Canada/MAB). Environmental education for sustainable development (Brochure). Canada: UNESCO-Canada/MAB.
Wilson, J. 1969. Thinking with concepts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
World Commission on Environment and Development. 1987. Our common future. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Copyright retained by author(s)
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What an incredible article. The most important and clearest thought that I found was this:
“[E]ducation is concerned with enabling people to think for themselves.
Education for sustainable development, education for deep ecology (Drengson, 1991), or education “for” anything else is inconsistent with that criterion.
In all cases these phrases suggests a pre-determined mode of thinking to which the pupil is expected to prescribe.
Clearly, I would not want my children to be taught sustainable development. The very idea is contrary to the spirit of education.
I would rather have my children educated than conditioned to believe that sustainable development constitutes a constellation of correct environmental views“
A Heber citizen, Anissa Wardell, contacted the Utah State School board to ask whether Utah can still get out of Common Core (and write our own standards, using University input, an option also known as ESEA option #2) –after the waiver deadline of September 6, 2012.
Rather than answering the question, state school board member Tami Pyfer told her constituent that there was no chance our state would get out of Common Core and then proceeded say that evidence proving that Common Core was free of federal strings had “been presented in a variety of public forums numerous times.” This is simply not true.
1. Most people don’t even know what the term Common Core even means, according to a recent poll by Achieve, Inc. (Do you? Does your neighbor? Do your teachers know– other than knowing there are different standards this year– do they know that the standards are under copyright, can’t be amended, dumb down college readiness to a lowest common denominator that matches vocational/tech schools, and they were never validated by the only math professor and were also rejected by the English professor on the official Common Core validation committee? Nobody knows these things. Why? Because the Dept. of Education doesn’t want them to know. They think that if they say “these standards are good” often enough, they’ll be good.)
2. The one and only public forum put on by the USOE about Common Core was held two years after the state school board signed us up for Common Core. That forum was at the Granite School District last spring. The first 45 minute speech, praising Common Core (without any documentation or evidence) was given by the USOE, followed by 2 minute testimonials from impassioned parents and teachers and politicians from both sides of the issue: hardly fair or thorough or timely. And nope, evidence was not shared there, to prove federal strings were not attached. (Incidentally, Professor David Wiley told this exact same lie, just as publically, when he was debating FERPA regulatory changes done illegally by the Dept. of Education this year.) The bypassing of the public and of legislators in pushing Common Core on us all, is something the proponents of Common Core are willing to lie about. Or do they really not understand? Have they really not seen the documentation of lost autonomy?
3. The statement: “Common Core is federal strings-free” is not true. The Department of Education is micromanaging the common tests, the testing consortia, and forcing consortia to synchronize their efforts and give the Dept of Education access to data collected thereby. Evidence: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf Even if we get out of the SBAC, which we might, tomorrow, if the school board votes that way, we are still federally controlled by Common Core. Look at this definitions page from the Dept. of Education’s website: http://www.ed.gov/race-top/district-competition/definitions . 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, which must certify that students who meet the standards will not need remedial course work at the postsecondary level.” So you either have to do common core, or write your own university approved standards. But the deadline is ending Sept. 6th, so perhaps after that, the only option will be common core. Wish I livd in Virginia or Texas right now. They are the only states with educational freedom. And Utah not only doesn’t have educational freedom anymore, but we collectively don’t even seem to realize it’s gone.
And the Dept. of Education has mandated in the waiver, in the original RTTT application which our Governor and board signed, and in the assessments RTTT that Washington state, our contracted fiscal agent, signed us up for and which we are responsible to obey as long as we are in the SBAC, that we can’t take anything away–nothing– and we can not add anything beyond 15% to the national standards. How can anyone call this federally string free? How? It is an absolute falsehood.
With that introduction, here are the emails:
Dear Governor & Board,
It is my understanding that there is a way for Utah to get out of Common Core so that we are free of any strings attached. 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?
Is the Board considering this? Now would be the time to decide. Please discuss this at this Friday’s meeting. Please respond to me with more information.
Tami Pyfer [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Wednesday, August 01, 2012 3:26 PM
Personally, I have no intention of unadopting the new math and ELA common core standards. We are already “string free” and it’s unfortunate that some groups feel otherwise.
If we really are string free, would you kindly show proof of that? I have done a great deal of research on my own, outside of those you refer to and from what I can see, we are not string free. The math standards are horrible! I am going to have to pay hundreds of dollars this year alone for my 6th grader so that she will be ready for Algebra. Utah’s math standards were already better and were more understandable than what we have just adopted.
While I have this audience, I also want the Board (and everyone else on the list) to know that as a parent I want cursive writing to stay in our state curriculum.
Please provide all of us evidence to back up your understanding.
From: Tami Pyfer [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, August 01, 2012 5:53 PM
I appreciate your passion, but the “evidence” has been presented in a variety of public forums numerous times. Your disagreement with the facts does not change them. I will continue to respond to my constituents who are truly looking for answers to their questions regarding our core standards.
Well thank you Tami. You have not answered my question, and if there is proof I honestly would like to see it. You incorrectly assume that I do not want true answers. If there is this information and it has been provided many times, please tell me where I can find it.
It is answers like yours that are frustrating for constituents. I will continue to ask for answers. I never said we have to agree, I am searching for answers and because you are a board member and you have been entrusted with the mantle to ensure high quality curriculum standards and instruction, and because you are supposed to represent your constituents, I expect you to live up to that.
I didn’t make up this question: “Can FERPA and SLDS coexist?”.
It’s in a white paper written by ESP solutions group, called “Could FERPA halt your SLDS: A Mini-Guide That Explores Potential FERPA Roadblocks Disruptive to Your SLDS Project,”directed at state leaders who are attempting to data-mash their state agencies’ systems.
(I’m guessing readers of this document are people like Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Dept. of Education Chief of Staff J. Weiss, Utah Technology Director John Brandt, Utah School Superintendent Larry Shumway, the USOE, and folks like Professor David Wiley. I add in Wiley because he’s partnered with USOE to write Common Core books and has publically said he is FOR going behind parents’ backs to get access to student data for research purposes.)
FYI- Data systems mashing and meshing is also soon to be done with federal data systems, not just state SLDS, according to a recent statement by J. Weiss, the Chief of Staff of the Department of Education.
The ESP white paper shows the disregard the movement has for individual privacy –calling privacy law, FERPA, a “roadblock”– and it shows the conflict the data-seeking SLDS/P-20 crowd feels toward traditional privacy law, such as the Congressionally approved and created FERPA as it was originally written in the 70′s by people who actually respected parental consent law and student privacy.
Remember, though, that the Dept of Education has altered FERPA to empower the data-mashing gang i.e., Arne Duncan, President Obama, John Brandt, Shumway, Weiss and Wiley. The Dept. of ED has been sued for doing so, by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (thank heaven and hope they win.)
What meaning do I make of it?
The good news is, FERPA still has the data-hungry, big-government educrats scared. Remember: state FERPA laws have not changed although federal regulations to FERPA did.
The bad news is, there are individuals and whole organizations like ESP or David Wiley, getting paid by our government (by us) to think of ways of getting around family privacy law so that without our consent, they can access private information– in the guise of caring for our students and with the good intentions of any non-elected, self-appointed stakeholder/decisionmaker over other people’s children.
Dear Principal Weber,
Thank you for giving my son and me a tour of your beautiful campus last week. You were gracious to spend so much time with us, and we were impressed with the skiing and other wonderful programs your school offers, and with the care you show for the individual student.
Prior to the visit, we were not aware of the extent to which sustainable development is a part of the school’s educational emphasis. The posters on the walls and the students’ artwork heavily promoted sustainable development. Also, the information packet stated that the school’s charter is environmental education.
While studying nature is neutral, the sustainable development movement is not academically nor politically neutral. I don’t think it would be reasonable nor kind for me to have him attend the school and at the same time be critical of its main emphasis. I am sorry we will be missing out on the other wonderful benefits of Soldier Hollow.
Thanks again very much for your kindness and time, and we wish you and your school the very best.
P.S. Here is a journal article that explained to me how environmental education is not academically neutral.
Excerpt: “[E]ducation is concerned with enabling people to think for themselves.
Education for sustainable development, education for deep ecology (Drengson, 1991), or education “for” anything else is inconsistent with that criterion.
In all cases these phrases suggests a pre-determined mode of thinking to which the pupil is expected to prescribe.
Clearly, I would not want my children to be taught sustainable development. The very idea is contrary to the spirit of education.
I would rather have my children educated than conditioned to believe that sustainable development constitutes a constellation of correct environmental views“ - Bob Jinkins, Yukon College
Does cursive handwriting belong in education anymore? Yes.
Why does Common Core slash cursive handwriting from students’ learning experience, when the latest research indicates that handwriting importantly influences reading, writing, language, and critical thinking?
Some educators have shifted their focus from handwriting instruction to teaching only keyboarding. While keyboarding is undoubtedly necessary, teaching this skill in lieu of handwriting can leave students at a disadvantage. If handwriting isn’t learned and practiced, students are not given the opportunity to experience the related benefits of this skill that has been shown to:
• increase brain activation
• impact performance across all academic subjects.
• provide a foundation for higher-order skills.
Research also recommended that knowing how a child’s brain works should inform our educational practices. The act of writing by hand makes a significant difference to brain activation patterns. Young children looking at and identifing a letter did not exhibit the same brain activation as adults. In the brain’s visual regions, when comparing writing, typing, tracing, and visual control, much more activation was exhibited after the writing experience than any of the other experiences. Cursive is also helpful for students who cannot easily differentiate between “d”s and “b”s when they are printed.
We should keep cursive in our schools.
Handwriting Conference – RESEARCH PAPER ON CURSIVE – LINK: http://www.hw21summit.com/media/zb/hw21/H2948_HW_Summit_White_Paper_eVersion.pdf