Archive for July 2013

Does Opting Out Mean a Student is Labeled Nonproficient? Force-Feeding Students Ed Testing Reforms   6 comments

“A teacher shall consider students’ summative adaptive assessments in determining students’ academic grades for the appropriate courses and students’ advancement to the next grade level… Students not tested due to parent request shall receive a non-proficient score which shall be used in school accountability calculations.” -Proposed amendment to Utah Senate Bill 175

After I read that a Utah student who opts out of common core testing will be labeled “nonproficient” and that his or her school will be punished in accountability scores, I was stunned.

So I wrote to my state school board representative and the state superintendent for clarification. I still don’t know who wrote the amendment or whether it will be law soon. Here is the email string.

Martell or Dixie,

Please explain why USOE documents now say that students who opt out of common core testing will be given a nonproficient score and their school will suffer “accountability” punishments. I have not and will not allow my high school student to take state standardized tests. She takes a pencil and paper alternative so that her school teacher (not the entire state) knows how she’s doing. Up till now this has never affected her straight A record. It has not harmed her schools’ scores.

Am I to understand that new policies will damage her record and her school’s record?

Thanks for taking the time to explain.

Christel Swasey
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Christel,

Unfortunately the State Board of Education and the Utah State Office of Education do not write the legislation that requires our schools, districts and state to provide data on school performance for our students, their teachers, their schools, districts or the state. We are required under several legislative mandates to provide data on student performance in relationship to our schools, teachers and our state. Thus if we have parents and students that refuse to provide such data via the assessment systems provided to evaluate student success, we cannot provide the necessary data to the state or national legislative mandates that require such data. It is not that we wish to punish anyone for “accountability”, but as a state organization, we must live by the rules as well as those we serve.

Christel, I would highly encourage you to read a book I just rediscovered from Gerald W. Bracey called “On the Death of Childhood and the Destruction of Public Schools”. It was written in 2003 based on the fallacy of “No Child Left Behind” calling the Act “The Plan for the Destruction of Public Education: Just Say No”. To me it speaks volumes of how far we have come in regard to this act and how long it has taken parents to recognize the expectations it brought to our school system.

Needless to say, as a teacher, a mother, a grandmother, I believe our State Office of Education and our State Board are doing the best they can to limit the intrusion, while abiding by the legislation that we must enforce. I hope you will take the time to look deeper into this issue and others you rail against.

Dixie
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Dixie,

I do aim to fully study the history of education reform once I don’t feel so threatened by the suffocating power of Common Core.

But thanks, and I will take the book recommendation for later. Right now, I have no time.

Because of this school board’s decision to implement Common Core –without ever sending out a memo to teachers, letting us know that our kids and our teaching careers were going to be forever strangled by the transformations of Common Core-- because of that decision, I have to homeschool my kids and give speeches and write articles to try to knock sense into those who do not study these things– none of which I did before, none of which I want to do, none of which I get paid to do.

My time, my life, has been redefined by this school board’s terrible, terrible decision.

This is why I “rail” against the decision. I “rail” for liberty. I rail for legitimate education that puts kids, not fat bank accounts of educational sales companies, first.

I’m sorry that it bothers you. I am doing what I feel compelled to do. I am trying to save something precious.

Christel
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Martell, do you agree with Dixie on this? Was it the legislature, and not the USOE or USSB who created the language that says that a student who opts out of the common core test will be labeled “nonproficient”? Do you agree with, or disagree with, this language? If you disagree will you join me in writing a letter to our legislature to amend the language so that no student nor school will be punished for excercising their free agency?

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Then I wrote to a few legislators who are concerned with education:

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Dear Legislators,

Please direct me to those who are writing proposed amendments to SB 175. I would like to meet with them to discuss deleting the proposed changes.

The amendments effectively stop a parent’s or student’s ability to opt out of the secretive, nontransparent Common Core tests and the related mandatory behavioral indicators assessments (See HB 15 line 59) and the related SLDS federal surveillance* program.

In SB 175′s new wording,

1. Schools will be punished if students opt out of the Common Core tests.

2. Students will be punished if they opt out of the Common Core tests, not just with a crashing G.P.A. due to the mandated “non-proficient” score to be received for opting out (which is, of course, inaccurate and dishonest labeling for an opt-out) but also because Common Core tests will count on a student’s academic grade and will help determine whether he/she advances to the next grade.

3. Parents will be punished because any good university will decline allowing a student to enter who has a suddenly-crashed G.P.A., due to having opted out of the Common Core test.

“A teacher shall consider students’ summative adaptive assessments in determining students’ academic grades for the appropriate courses and students’ advancement to the next grade level… Students not tested due to parent request shall receive a non-proficient score which shall be used in school accountability calculations.”

Years of straight A’s and hard work will be marginalized whenever the parental right is exercised, to opt out of Common Core testing, a punishment for following the dictates of conscience.

Utah education reforms such as this one are out of control. Please stop this freedom-suffocating trend.

Christel Swasey
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I will publish their responses when I get them.

Fox News: Common Core is a Risky Experiment on Children – by James Milgram and Emmett McGroarty   3 comments

Do the math — Common Core = a massive, risky experiment on your kids

Yesterday’s Fox News editorial by Emmett McGroarty and James Milgram is staggeringly important. I’ve pasted excerpts. Plese read the whole article at this link.

Remember that James Milgram is a former NASA mathematician, Stanford math professor, and the only true mathematician to serve on the validation committee for Common Core (a mathematician, a math analyst, as opposed to just being a math teacher). He refused to sign off that there was adequate academic legitimacy to Common Core. This is why.

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“One of Common Core’s most glaring deficiencies is its handling of adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing numbers.
… The classic method of, for example, adding two-digit numbers is to add the digits in the “ones” column, carry the remainder to the “tens” column, and then add the “tens” digits. This “standard algorithm” works first time, every time. But instead of teaching this method, which enables students to solve problems quickly and routinely, Common Core creates a two-step process.

The first is to let students choose from several alternative algorithms (number lines, estimating, etc.) for doing one-digit additions, subtractions, and multiplications.

The second is probably to extend these student constructions to more complex calculations. (We say “probably” because the standards are not at all clear on this point.)

There is no point where the student-constructed algorithms are explicitly replaced by the very efficient standard methods for doing one-digit operations.

Why does Common Core adopt this convoluted method of teaching math?

The stated reason is that learning the standard algorithm doesn’t give students a “deeper conceptual understanding” of what they’re doing. But the use of student-constructed algorithms is at odds with the practices of high-achieving countries and is not supported by research. Common Core is using our children for a huge and risky experiment.

There are also severe problems with the way Common Core handles percents, ratios, rates, and proportions – the critical topics that are essential if students are to learn more advanced topics such as trigonometry, statistics, and even calculus.

As well, the way Common Core presents geometry is not research-based – and the only country that tried this approach on a large scale rapidly abandoned it.

In addition to these deficiencies, Common Core only includes most (but not all) of the standard algebra I expectations, together with only some parts of standard geometry and algebra II courses. There is no content beyond this.

Hidden in Common Core is the real objective – presenting the minimal amount of material that high-school graduates need to be able to enter the work force in an entry-level job, or to enroll in a community college with a reasonable expectation of avoiding a remedial math course.

There is no preparation for anything more, such as entering a university (not a community college) with a reasonable expectation of being able to skip the entry-level courses.

(Virtually no university student who has to take an entry-level math course ever gets a degree in a technical area such as the hard sciences, engineering, economics, statistics, or mathematics.)

Common Core thus amounts to a disservice to our students. It puts them at least two years behind their peers in high-performing countries, and leaves them ill-prepared for authentic college course work.

Those who doubt that this low-level workforce-development is the goal of Common Core should ponder the admission of Jason Zimba, one of the chief drafters of the math standards.

In a public meeting of the Massachusetts State Board of Education in 2010, Dr. Zimba testified that Common Core is designed to prepare students only for a non-selective community college, not a university… …”

Read the rest:

Dr. James Milgram, Professor of Mathematics at Stanford University, has extensive experience developing mathematics standards throughout the nation and served on the Validation Committee for the Common Core Standards.

Emmett McGroarty, serves as Executive Director of the American Principles Project’s Preserve Innocence Initiative which informs Americans about the dangers of centralizing education through the Common Core. He is co-author of “Controlling Education From the Top: Why Common Core Is Bad for America.”

Dr. Milgram has elsewhere written (responding to a request for clarification about math standards):

I can tell you that my main objection to Core Standards, and the reason I didn’t sign off on them was that they did not match up to international expectations. They were at least 2 years behind the practices in the high achieving countries by 7th grade, and, as a number of people have observed, only require partial understanding of what would be the content of a normal, solid, course in Algebra I or Geometry. Moreover, they cover very little of the content of Algebra II, and none of any higher level course… They will not help our children match up to the students in the top foreign countries when it comes to being hired to top level jobs.“

Even Salt Lake Police Will Root for Anti-Common Core Demonstration Friday at USOE: Teachers and Parents Against Common Core   2 comments

When Carie Valentine, a mother against Common Core, secured the proper permit yesterday to have a peaceful demonstration against Common Core this coming Friday, she also called the Salt Lake Police to let them know about the event.

The officer on the other end of the line told her that he was thrilled that Utahns are not backing down and asked her to continue the fight, saying that he spoke for many in his office.

Wow.

So, this Friday, outside the State School Board’s monthly, all-day meeting, Utah teachers, parents and citizens will demonstrate against Common Core. The peaceful demonstration has been organized for many reasons.

1. Normally, the public may only speak at USSB meetings if a request is made ahead of time, and only two minutes are given per person, with a firm limit on numbers allowed to speak.

2. There is a long history with most of the members of this board, that demonstrates a refusal do adequate research about the experiment called Common Core or to acknowledge that there are terrible, sobering academic flaws, and even unconstitutional flaws, in the new agenda. The board tends to use talking points rather than evidence or references, such as pilot studies, references to laws, or empirical data, to make their parroted claims that the Common Core system is legitimate. Many citizens feel that this atmosphere of no debate is an anti-intellectual, un-American stance.

3. There are numerous, serious concerns about the 518-page agenda to be addressed in the meeting, (including a tax-funded propaganda campaign to push common core acceptance on schools, media and parents).

4. The board did not provide a thorough public and media vetting of the transformative changes to our children’s educational experience prior to implementation; and Common Core cannot be amended without Utah asking permission from unelected D.C. groups who copyrighted the standards Utah uses. Local control has thus been opted away by the board.

5. There appears to be no escape now for parents who object to Common Core’s tests (for many reasons, including behavioral assessments mandated by HB 15). Why? SB 175 mandates that any child who opts out of Common Core testing will be labeled “non-proficient” and the child’s teacher is forced by the state to give the child a bad grade and the school will be punished. It reads: “A teacher shall consider students’ summative adaptive assessments in determining students’ academic grades for the appropriate courses and students’ advancement to the next grade level… Students not tested due to parent request shall receive a non-proficient score which shall be used in school accountability calculations.” Opting out of tests, standards or attendance quotas should be a parental decision, God-given. As long as we are a free country, the state should take a back seat to parental conscience. But most of the education reforms happening in Utah display a disregard for parental (or teachers’) conscience and agency.

Many who would stand up and protest can not do so; they have to be at jobs at 8:30 on a Friday morning; or they are children, who don’t have a voice to articulate their displeasure with the Common Core situtation; or they are principals, staff and teachers whose jobs depend on them appearing to agree with Common Core’s implementation in Utah.

Keeping that in mind, if you can make it, please come. Know that you likely represent thousands who cannot join us Friday.

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Where:

Utah State Office of Education
250 East 500 South
Salt Lake City, Utah, 84114

When: beginning 8:30 a.m. this Friday, August 2.

Who: All are welcome.
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From Carie Valentine, event organizer:

“…[W]hen I found out about Common Core I was upset and even angry that our state would make such radical and damaging changes to our education system. Since that time, many good parents just like you have worked tirelessly to get the word out about Common Core. Parents are not being educated by our own state school board and so we have had to educate ourselves.

The rally at the capitol was amazing. The [many hundreds of] people that showed up to voice their opposition was inspiring. I would like to continue that momentum and demonstrate in front of the state education offices. Their last meeting before the traditional school schedule begins is this Friday, Aug 2. Please join me to send them a message that we are in this for the long haul.

I have secured the proper permit for a demonstration this Friday at the State School Board Offices in Salt Lake City. This is considered a spontaneous demonstration.

…I have also called the SLC police dept. and they know we are coming and the officer I spoke with was thrilled we aren’t backing down. He asked us to continue the fight and said he spoke for many in his office.

If you have access to a bigger bank of people, please pass the word along. These are our children, our tax dollars, and our schools. You have my permission to give out my email address to others who want to come. Please try and make time. We are all busy but this is important.

This is a chance to let them know we are not going away. If you are coming, plan on attending the public comment period from 8-8:30 and the picketing will be from 8:30am-9:30am. Please make your own sign and if you have an button wear that. Here are the “rules”.
We can’t block the sidewalk or the entrance to the building. We can’t (shouldn’t) swear or yell through bull horns. We can hold signs and chant something clever about “no common core”. We can’t prevent movement of pedestrians on the sidewalk. Please email me your confirmation so I can have an idea of how many of us there will be.

If you would like to speak to the board directly the public comment period will be from 8-8:30.

You must sign up in advance. I tried attending and signing up at the meeting and they took the sign up away before I could put my name on it.

To sign up to speak at the board meeting in advance, contact Board Secretary Lorraine Austin at (801) 538-7517.

To picket outside, there is no need to sign up in advance, but if you want to give us a head count, email Carie Valentine at carie.valentine.2@q.com

Utah State School Board Propaganda Machine for One-Sided Common Core Campaign – Your Tax Dollars at Work   14 comments

http://www.schools.utah.gov/board/Meetings/Agenda/8-2-13Agenda.aspx

Is this the proper role of government?

The Utah State School Board is using your tax dollars and mine to create a huge marketing machine with the aim to persuade all Utahns (utterly without legitimate evidence) that Common Core will not damage, but will improve education, and that Common Core has nothing to do with the federal government.

Is propaganda in the realm of the proper role of government? There are public-private partnerships that gain financially from the promulgation of Common Core. Our tax dollars are thus enriching companies we never voted into office and cannot vote out. It’s not just Pearson and Bill Gates; it’s Utah individuals and companies, too. This is corruption, in my humble opinion. We are not putting the kids and teachers first. We are putting pride, and money, and the illusion of money, first.

Precious, needed education dollars are now officially funding the Utah propaganda machine for Common Core. The machine is devoid of source documents or references, devoid of empirical evidence or pilot studies to support its “talking points” and it’s devoid of voter representation and academic legitimacy.

The machine has a “Communications Committee” including paid PR people specifically assigned to Tweet and Facebook message and email legislators, the governor and business leaders about Common Core. There are people specifically assigned to bend the ears of news editors and reporters to the official (socialist) line: pro-common core. There are people who are supposed to “supply schools” with “talking points” (not evidence, of course) to persuade parents, legislators and teachers how great Common Core will be.

Read pages 232-236 of the State School Board’s published agenda for August, the state board announces how it will “improve attitudes toward Utah’s Core Standards.” (Notice, they never call them Common Core.)

This propaganda machine was approved June 7th, 2013. It’s a done deal. So we taxpayers funded it, and now we get to sit back and watch it, like a gigantic, offensive press, as it spews its narrow, unbalanced, and false claims about Common Core.

The board’s goals include “increasing social media coverage” of Common Core by sending out daily Tweets and weekly Facebook updates about Common Core; making schools participate in “public messaging” to advocate for Common Core; making the public believe that there should be no “worries of federal intrusion.”

Its key audience: “Utah general public, Parents, Business community, licensed educators, administrators, officials; Higher education; Legislators, Governor’s Office, Delegates.”

The school board’s stated strategy is: to “increase USOE web, media and social media influence on the issue” and the measurement will be how many mass media stories they can count, accompanied by public opinion polls.

The board will “seek out opinion leaders within key groups (schools, PTAs, business partners including Prosperity 2020, social media and bloggers, legislators, party leadership, delegates, Governor’s Office personnel, local media personalities, etc.) and ask for…
endorsements through media outlets or personal contacts.”

Endorsements?!! Based on what?! Their charming smiles? Their positions of power? How about voter vetting or teacher analysis of the standards PRIOR to implementation? How about some evidence? How about a pilot study? How about something REAL? Excuse me while I run screaming from the room, pulling out my hair!

They will be using your tax dollars and mine to “contract with DTS in creating/designing a usbe.utah.gov webpage” and to assign a person to “Send out regular Tweets (daily) and Facebook updates (every 7-10 days) highlighting aspects of Utah’s Core Standards.”

They will, of course, “Provide talking points to help schools.” (Can’t educational institutions speak or think without USOE prompters?)

(Please notice that they will provide talking points, but won’t provide evidence or source documents– because no pilot studies or empirical testing has ever been done to legitimize claims that Common Core is academically valid. THE EMPEROR OF COMMON CORE IS WEARING NO CLOTHES. But the state board is hell-bent on persuading us that his clothes are mighty, mighty fine.)

The board also will “make Utah’s Core Standards part of their message during the Legislature’s annual back-to-school event”

They also plan to “initiate an advertising campaign in media to include newspapers, radio, etc. before the winter legislative session.

They will be using your tax dollars and mine to pay for a person to “send regular weekly e-mail updates from Board Chair or Superintendent to legislators and key business partners informing them of progress being made in schools.” Key business partners!? Is this about money? Or is it even a little bit about legitimate education for our children!?

They will be manhandling the PTA. “PTA liaison Templates, websites, etc. for local PTAs to access in order to be proficient with messaging,” and they will “create electronic distribution, handouts on Utah’s Core Standards and computer-adaptive testing (SAGE) for use in fall 2013 back-to-school meetings.”

They will also “seek out the inclusion of [Common Core] Utah’s Core Standards on the agenda of meetings such as P2020, Rotary, Chamber of
Commerce, etc.” I know there is no stupid question, but let me ask it anyway: what expertise exists at the Rotary club, or what research have members of the Chamber of Commerce done, to make them competent analysts and endorsers of one form of educational testing and standards over another?

The board will also work with PR leads in districts, charter, and regional service centers “to help local schools own” the messaging. They can’t “own” it. The D.C. groups who are utterly unaccountable to Utahns, own it. That’s the CCSSO, NGA, Achieve Inc., and Bill Gates grants which funded it, invented it, and own it. You can’t force an unfounded feeling of loyalty, but the state board aims to try.

The board plans to “take advantage of this spring’s last CRT tests, this fall’s first CAT formative tests, and next spring’s CAT summative test
to push mass media stories (newspaper, TV, radio coverage, radio and TV talk shows, etc.), especially stories centered in the classroom.

They will also “hold USBE/USOE news conference at a school with teacher/student participation to discuss the new test” after it’s taken next spring.

Some of us are wide awake. We will hear the radio ads, read the news articles, see the tweets, and laugh. Literally. So will our kids.

But how many people won’t see the humor? How many are still asleep to the monster of Common Core’s “education reform”? How many will hear this propaganda messaging and will swallow it?

How dare the Utah State School Board use my tax money in this illegitimate, one-sided, anti-intellectual way? This is not the proper role of government. I am fully disgusted with our state school board.

You Are Invited: Common Core Cottage Meeting in Syracuse, Utah- Tomorrow   1 comment

Tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. there will be a Common Core informational meeting at a home in Syracuse, Utah. If you live nearby, please feel free to stop by and bring a friend. Dalane England and I will be speaking about the Common Core. Address: 2532 South 1300 West, Syracuse, Utah, 84075.

We plan to answer the following questions:

What is Common Core, and why are so many people fighting day and night to repeal it?
Does it harm my child?
Did all citizens and legislators get a chance to vet Common Core prior to its adoption by the state school board?
How does it kill local control of education, of privacy and of local values?
Why is it constitutionally threatening? / How are voters shut out of the decision making processes of Common Core?
Why don’t teachers or principals dare speak out against it?
Why must Utah’s state school board ask permission from unelected D.C. groups to modify ed standards in Utah, under Common Core?
How does unwanted student (and teacher) data mining and tracking rely on Common Core tests and standards?
Why has the Department of Education been sued for its Common-Core-test related changes to the Family Educational Rights Privacy Act?
What are intended and unintended consequences of having students take the Common Core tests?
How does Common Core affect homeschoolers and charter schoolers?
How is parental consent of student information sidestepped by the Common Core agenda?
Who paid for Common Core’s development, tests, and trainings and who will pay for Utah’s future Common Core costs?
Who gets wildly rich when Common Core aligned curriculum are virtually the only salable education products in America?
Why are both the Utah Chamber of Commerce and Utah’s Governor involved in promoting Common Core as part of Prosperity 2020?
What does the anti-common core legislation look like in those states that are withdrawing from Common Core –and can we do this in Utah?
Is there any evidence that Common Core can raise academic success or economic success in Utah? / Was there ever a pilot study or a field test of the standards? / Which lead creator of Common Core admitted that these standards only prepare students for a nonselective 2-year college?
Why did the main creator of Common Core get promoted to be president of the College Board and how will it dumb down college standards?
Which source documents from the Department of Education mandate teacher redistribution, sharing of student level data, not adding more than 15% to the standards in any state, and asking permission of D.C. groups to make amendments to these common standards?
How do we reclaim our now-lost educational power?

Alyson Williams at Utah State Capitol: “The Fistful of Flowers They’ve Shoved in My Face”   5 comments

Utah parent Alyson Williams gave permission to share the following speech which she gave at last week’s Common Core informational meeting at the Utah State Capitol. Dozens of legislators as well as parents, teachers, students and school board members heard this speech.

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I was reading recently about George Washington as a child. I’d heard the story of the cherry tree and his father, but there was another story with his mother that was new to me.

His mother had a prized peony bush. One day, with the sweetest of intentions, George picked some of the flowers and presented them to his mother. He was surprised when she was angry. Young Washington learned that actions taken with good intentions still have consequences.
I think there are those who brought Common Core to Utah with good intentions. But they seem to not understand that in making decisions that affect my children, they are in my garden, messing with my flowers.

In response to the complaints of Utah parents about the way Common Core came into our State, Board Member Dave Thomas wrote last week that we are “late to the party.”

I think that is like a policeman telling someone who’s house has been robbed that it’s their own fault because they weren’t home at the time of the theft.

The truth is I was home – but while I was watching the front door, the thieves snuck in the back door… and the the policeman is the one who gave them the key.

The Utah constitution gives authority to the State School Board to set academic standards. It does not say that they can outsource a role we entrusted to them to the National Governors Association who outsourced it to another group of so called experts. No meeting minutes, no public records, no obligation to even respond to the input of anyone who submitted it, including any input from our school board. As a parent and a taxpayer, this process cuts me out completely.

And now they’re surprised that I’m not pleased with the fistful of flowers they’ve shoved in my face. They only want to talk about how pretty the standards are.

When George Washington’s father learned about the flowers, he took the opportunity to help his son reflect on how his desire to be helpful didn’t change the fact that he’d done something he had no right to do.

There is no such thing in the Constitution as a council of governors or chief state school officers. Comparing best practices is one thing, but Governors working together to jointly address issues that affect the whole nation is not a legitimate alternative to Congress, our national representative body. If every state, or even most states have the same standards, we have de facto national standards. Those who brought Common Core to our nation, state-by-state, had no constitutional commission to do what they did. It’s a role they assigned themselves, and they did it in a way that circumvented constitutional representative processes.

So why am I talking to you, members of the legislature? I don’t want the legislature to act as a school board, or to set standards, but when the State executive branch or State school board act outside of their enumerated powers or try to delegate those powers to others who have no obligation to Utah voters, I think they should be held accountable. Isn’t that what the checks and balances of our Constitutional Republic are all about?

For me this is not only about my children’s education it’s about preserving the kind of constitutional government I hope they will inherit when they have children of their own.

According to our laws the role of the state is supposed to be secondary to that of parents, but as I’ve sought answers to my concerns in various meetings I’ve been dismissed, told I’m not an expert, been given Utah history lessons, and told that it’s a complicated issue in terms of the law. For me it is really simple: “These are my kids, it’s my garden! If you want to even get near my flowers you’d better come to the front door and ask!”

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What a powerful, important speech. Thank you, Alyson Williams.

Former Teacher Speaks Out: The Red Flags of Common Core   5 comments

Utahn Laureen Simper, a former school teacher, gave the following speech at the State Capitol last week to an audience of 500-600 people, including dozens of legislators as well as teachers, parents, students, and other citizens concerned about Common Core. She has given permission to publish it here.

I am a former school teacher, I currently teach privately, and as a mother, I battled Common Core in the 90′s under its former name: outcome-based education. There are a number of red flags I have seen as I have studied and learned about Common Core.

When parents can’t get anything more concrete from a teacher than to call Common Core standards “more rigorous,” this is a red flag.

When teachers are afraid to speak against the Common Core standards for fear of losing their jobs, this is a red flag.

When university students studying in the education department are told that their professors don’t know what to teach them to qualify them as certified teachers because of Common Core, this is a red flag.

When teachers skulkingly hand a parent a text book to help their child at home, as if that text book is contraband, this is a red flag.

When the federal government is spending the money of taxpayers who have not yet been born to fund the untested Common Core and bribe states to receive waivers for No Child Left Behind or money from Race to the Top, this is a red flag.

When educrats advocate funneling a child into an educational system that will determine what that child will grow up to be for the good of a global job market, which undermines the true self-determination that has been a prized value of liberty since this country’s beginnings, THIS IS A RED FLAG!

When someone wants to run for the Utah State Board of Education fills out an application and one of the first questions is, “Do you support the Common Core”, essentially eliminating him for consideration if he answers “NO”, this is a red flag.

That is a succinct fact that is absolutely appalling.

There is good news across the country about states taking a closer look, pulling out, and defunding Common Core – exhibiting true leadership on this issue, rather than sheep-like group think.

I ask Utah legislators to put Utah on that list.

Utah Teen Takes a Stand Against Common Core at State Capitol   1 comment

Kenny Bradley, a Utah teenager, gave the following speech at the State Capitol last week, which was heard by a crowd of 500-600 people that included dozens of legislators, and teachers, parents and school board members. Bradley, a recent high school graduate, Valedictorian, Math Sterling Scholar Winner in the Southwestern Utah Region, and former math teacher’s aide, aiding in Common Core math classes, has given permission to share this speech.

______________________________________________________________

I would like to start my speech with Aesop’s Fable of The Flies and the Honey-Pot.

“A number of flies were attracted to a jar of honey which had been overturned in a housekeeper’s room, and placing their feet in it, ate greedily. Their feet, however, became so smeared with the honey that they could not use their wings, nor release themselves, and were suffocated. Just as they were expiring, they exclaimed, ’O foolish creatures that we are, for the sake of a little pleasure we have destroyed ourselves.’”

I oppose Common Core because it is like the honey that trapped and suffocated the flies, because although it appears to be wonderful, it is dangerous. It is untested, unalterable by the people and teachers in local communities, and we cannot realistically “opt out” after it is fully implemented.

First, as a recent high school graduate, Valedictorian, Math Sterling Scholar Winner in the Southwestern Utah Region, and a former math teacher’s aide, I experienced firsthand the common core math standards being implemented at my high school. I saw students struggle with the common core curriculum in the math class where I was a teacher’s aide. Not because it was advanced or difficult, but because of the rapid pace at which new concepts were introduced and the lack of necessary explanations. Many lessons jumped from one concept to another and often combined them after five problems or so, before they have fully learned or even understood the original concepts. Most importantly, they never learned “why” these concepts function, work together, or even exist. They simply learned “what” they are called and, if they are lucky, they learned “how” to do them.

Despite these issues with the math section of common core, our school is being forced to adopt Common Core fully this next school year –if something is not done by the legislature soon.

Second, Common Core is taking our children’s education away from us locally and placing them into the hands of an ever expanding government. Almost every case of this in history has led to a tyrannical government fueled by the rising generation that has been indoctrinated with specific political and social views, such as the example of youth being taught to believe in anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany.

Thankfully, our Founding Fathers included the Tenth Amendment in our Constitution to protect States’ rights protecting our children’s education from any federal program. The General Educational Provisions Act (GEPA) also explicitly protects the education system from federal control. We must enforce these protections.

Third, once Common Core is fully implemented in the next school year, with so much invested money and training, we will not be able to easily “opt out.” This is especially alarming because State
Education Boards signed into Common Core before the standards were ever written!!! Common Core’s federal control does not stop with public schools. Students in charter and private schools, as well as homeschoolers, will also eventually have no choice but to learn what the federal government wants to teach them. Why? Because of the National Standards that will naturally follow Common Core in the States that it is implemented in. The ACT and SAT, necessary tests for college placement, will be aligned to Common Core standards, which may prevent homeschooled children from attending college if they do not study Common Core material.

Therefore, I oppose Common Core because it is untested, unalterable except by getting permission from outside Utah, and we are unable to “opt out.” May our children and our education system not become stuck and suffocate in Common Core like the flies trapped in honey from Aesop’s fable.

Thank you.

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You can imagine that, despite the no-applause-please request of the meeting’s moderator, there was thunderous applause following this speech. Thank you, Kenny Bradley.

Marco Rubio Takes a Stand Against Common Core   1 comment

The Tampa Bay Times reports that popular Florida Senator Marco Rubio has taken a firm stand in opposition to the Common Core.

“Common Core started out as a well-intentioned effort to develop more rigorous curriculum standards,” Rubio said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times. “However, it is increasingly being used by the Obama Administration to turn the Department of Education into what is effectively a national school board. This effort to coerce states into adhering to national curriculum standards is not the best way to help our children attain the best education. Empowering parents, local communities and the individual states is the best approach.”

“I have long supported and continue to support strong standards and accountability for public schools,” Rubio said, charging that Obama has used Common Core for no good.

Rubio said that standards should be drawn at the state level.

Rubio hasn’t mentioned Jeb Bush and his “Foundation for Excellence in Education,” a Gates-funded, pro-common core foundation. But his stand against Common Core further highlights the break in the Republican party that has been caused by Common Core. Most Floridians realize that the stand Rubio has taken against Common Core is a stand against Jeb Bush’s foundation. Bush, former Florida Governor and brother/son to the former Presidents Bush, had been a respected voice in the Republican party.

While some Republicans side with Jeb Bush, and others side with Marco Rubio on the Common Core issue, at the same time, in the Democratic party, there are people lining up on the pro and on the con side of the Common Core argument. Even progressive education reformer Michelle Rhee is quoted in the Tampa Bay Times article as saying:

“Some way right-wing tea party people don’t like federal mandates, then you’ve got left wing teacher union folks who don’t like accountability for their teachers.”

It is, after all, a freedom issue even more than it is an academic one. Both sides of the aisle can see it.

Common Core Watch   1 comment

In Utah, lawmakers and the Utah State School Board are hotly debating solutions to the problems created by the adoption of Common Core.

I wanted to share this one, to the Utah School Board from Pleasant Grove’s Representative Brian Greene.

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On Thu, Jul 25, 2013 at 5:30 PM, Brian Greene wrote:

The 15% rule is a “red herring” and entirely inconsequential. The fact that K-12 assessments used by 90% of the states will be aligned to the CC standards, and the SAT & ACT will be aligned to the CC standards, will preclude any deviation from the standards by states that have adopted CC. For any state to deviate even 5% will put their public education system at a comparative disadvantage relative to other states, and will compromise their students’ chances of gaining acceptance to the most competitive universities and colleges.

All the federal Dept. of Education needs to do now is to triumphantly watch and wait as states blindly consolidate their independence and sovereignty into a tidy package that can be swiftly raided. In light of the recent attempts by the federal government to inject itself into this “state-led” process, and the proclamations of success by President Obama and Arne Duncan for encouraging adoption of CC by 46 states, it is naïve to think that the federal government will take a hands-off approach once CC is fully implemented in 90% of the states.

Even if you believe that CC is the best ever advancement in education, it should be rejected on the basis that states are being complicit in creating a structure that significantly increases the risk of and opportunities for a complete federal takeover of all education.

Utah can have assessments that allow its students to be compared with students from other states, or Utah can have its independence—but we are foolish to believe we can have both.

Brian Greene

Utah House of Representatives

Utah County – District 57

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Representative Green hit the nail on the head.

What’s happening outside Utah? Here are some highlights, which Heartland Institute collected this week: (See full article here: http://news.heartland.org/education )

Common Core Watch

• TEST COSTS: One of two Common Core testing groups announces a price hike for the national tests. Georgia immediately withdraws from plans to administer the tests. The price hike puts the national tests above what several states currently pay for state-controlled tests.

• HIGHER TAXES: The FCC commissioners release more details on their proposed Common Core tax through the federal program known as E-Rate. The big news: Instead of calling for an end to the troubled K-12 tech subsidy, this is the first time a Republican commissioner instead suggests ways to revamp and expand it. A few weeks earlier, the federal agency discussed increasing phone taxes by $5 per line per year to subsidize the tech buildup necessary for Common Core tests.

• CLOSED LIPS: A Kansas board of education member wants to know why the people who worked on national science standards had to sign confidentiality agreements. Shouldn’t public affairs be conducted in public? he asks. That same question hangs, unanswered, over the English and math Common Core standards.

• FLORIDA: The state’s top legislators tell Superintendent Tony Bennett to drop national Common Core tests. The federally funded national testing group is still low on details lawmakers want, just one year out from their tests hitting school computers.

• OHIO: A lawmaker plans to introduce a bill to reconsider Common Core. Gov. Kasich indicates he’ll veto it.

To read the rest from Heartland Institute, click here.

Oklahoma Mom Against Common Core Defines the Word Conservative for Mike Huckabee   3 comments

An Oklahoma mom’s response to Mike Huckabee’s letter to Oklahoma legislators from last month:

http://restoreoklahomapubliceducation.blogspot.com/2013/07/are-common-core-conservative-answer-to.html


Is Common Core Conservative?

An answer to Mike Huckabee’s letter to legislators, June 3, 2013.

by Jenni White, President, Restore Oklahoma Public Education

July 24, 2013

First, let us define: What is a “Conservative”?

Readers may feel this to be a rhetorical question – something not unlike “What is the measure of a man?” I assure you, it is not.

In fact, through countless political races I have heard, and on the pages of immeasurable numbers of articles of journalistic intent I have read, words to the effect of, “I am a conservative.”

Our Governor said it during her campaign. Governor Fallin would have gone on to collect millions of dollars to implement a health care exchange here in Oklahoma on the way to a full blown implementation of ObamaCare – a notion thoroughly dispelled by vote of the people in 2012 – had she not been stopped in her tracks by angry citizens.

Our State Superintendent said it during her campaign. Dr. Barresi – with help from the Governor – has gone on to accept, or apply for, one federal education grant after another to instill yet more controls over the way Oklahomans educate their children.

Though we can hardly say with a straight face that the Common Core State Standards, pushed endlessly, illegitimately, needlessly, deceitfully, by Dr. Baressi and Governor Fallin are federally promulgated, are they a Conservative notion?

What is Conservative? The word has many different meanings, but the political meaning, as copied from the Merriam/Webster online dictionary is:

a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change; specifically : such a philosophy calling for lower taxes, limited government regulation of business and investing, a strong national defense, and individual financial responsibility for personal needs (as retirement income or health-care coverage)

I’d actually call that fair, as I self-identify as a Conservative.

What about Mike Huckabee?

Governor Huckabee penned a letter to Oklahoma’s “Conservative” legislators last month to,

“encourage you to resist any attempt to delay implementation of the improved standards adopted by your State Board of Education in 2010.”

In the first sentence, he self-identifies as a “Conservative, so let’s put Common Core to the “Conservative” test.

1. Will it lower taxes? NO. Schools all over Oklahoma have had (will have) to either raise money through school bonds or apply for ERate grants to be able to afford the upgrades to their broadband systems necessary to take the ‘next generation’ tests necessary to appropriately assess the behavior, thoughts and ideas of students related to Common Core. Taxpayers pay for school bonds. Citizens pay taxes on their cell phones to fund ERate. In addition, the state education budget has increased by 74 million dollars (and even that’s still not enough) – does that grow on one of the trees on the Capitol Complex? No, those are taxpayer derived funds.

2. Will it limit government? NO. As noted by the increase in the education budget, the Department of Education grows, hiring 4.3 million dollars of REAC3H coaches to train teachers in the Common Core – oops, sorry, the Oklahoma Academic Standards – oops, sorry, the C3 standards…

3. Will it strengthen individual responsibility? NO. Schools will soon fall under the A-F grading scale. Right now, no teacher, administrator, or school janitor has any idea of the manner in which students will be tested on the Common Core standards next year, but we are quite sure state test scores will be rolled up into the A-F grade. If a school gets a D or an F (according to our NCLB waiver document), the school can be taken over by the State Department of Education or one of its contractors. So how can administrators maintain individual responsibility for their schools? How can teachers?

Governor Huckabee says a number of other things with which I take umbrage.

1. “Many of you voted in favor of these standards in 2010.”

Strange, but many of the legislators we have spoken to over the years were either not in their legislative seat in 2010, or knew much – if anything – about the standards themselves (encompassing 1 paragraph in a 35 page bill) when the bill that codified the standards into law finally passed on the second try (SB2033 – 2010)

2. “These standards, known as Common Core State Standards, have been near and dear to my heart since I served as Governor of your neighboring state of Arkansas.”

Governor Huckabee was Arkansas’s governor from 1996-2007. The Common Core weren’t even finished for review during the time he was in office. Was he with Achieve? How did he know about the Standards? I thought they were ‘state led’.

3. “And it’s disturbing to me there have been criticisms of these standards directed by other conservatives including the RNC.”

In other words, “Republicans should stick together and present a united front! To heck with whether we’re wrong or right or following Conservative principals!” That concept doesn’t work for me. Many of us self-identifying, Oklahoma Conservatives still operate on the “right is right and wrong is wrong” principal not the “go along to get along” principal. PS: he’s referring to the NATIONAL Republican Committee voting unanimously for a resolution against the Common Core. Unanimously.

4. “Speaking from one conservative to another”

Okay, that one’s easy.

5. “I’ve heard the argument these standards “threaten local control” of what’s being taught in Oklahoma classrooms…and this just isn’t true.”

Wow, Governor, how do you come to that conclusion? The standards impose what children are expected to “know and do” in each grade. Yes, teachers may have latitude to determine how that is to be taught, however, all books and ancillary materials will be aligned to the Common Core. In fact, in order to make a buck, many ‘education’ companies are creating curriculum packages so teachers can easily just pick one up and follow the dots. Why would they do this? REAC3H coaches have been providing spotty instruction in teaching to the Core all across Oklahoma. You gotta teach to get a check and you gotta have the check to live. One more thing…even states that adopted the standards completely, as did Oklahoma, have to abide by the 15% rule – we can’t add more than 15% to the standards – like cursive. I guess I don’t follow where Common Core ‘local control’ is akin to the amount of local control present in the previous PASS standards.

6. “From an economic and workforce development perspective, these standards are critical. Innovation driving the successful companies in Oklahoma…These standards ensure Oklahoma remains competitive in the race to attract companies with the highest paying jobs for Oklahomans…”

Two questions in answer: 1. When did America begin educating their children for the workforce? When did we educate children in America in order to fulfill an economic imperative? The Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce wants little automatons that can be expected to churn out iPhone contracts like China? 2. When did INNOVATION spontaneously erupt from homogeneity? How can one be ‘innovative’ and uniform at the same time? Uniformity does NOT drive successful companies and innovation springs from choice and depth in education, not an “inch wide and a mile deep” standards (as opposed to the hated and disparaged “inch deep and a mile wide” standards of traditional elementary and mid high education).

7. “Children of military families will not fall behind when their parents, who’ve chosen to defend our freedom, are asked to move from Fort Benning, Georgia to Fort Sill in Lawton or Vance Air force base in Enid.”

The Department of Defense has their own educational arm. If they chose the Common Core path after consultation with military families, so be it. That does not translate into a need for a set of national-level standards as military families make up a small overall percentage of most public schools. Many military families also home school. Why don’t we use homeschooling as our yardstick for a national education model?

In closing, the idea of a nationally uniform set of standards may seem righteous on first inspection. Closer inspection finds it lacking on a number of fronts. Please take the time to inspect the arguments for yourself. Ask questions. Seek answers. Common Core isn’t “Conservative” nor is it appropriate for American students and the American way of life.

Jenni White
President
Restore Oklahoma Public Education
http://www.RestoreOkPublicEducation.com
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Thank you, Jenni White.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Postscript: I just want to add here that there are many wonderful people in this country who self-identify as progressives, not as conservatives, who are vehemently opposed to Common Core as well. The point isn’t that all conservatives ought to be opposed to Common Core; the point is that anyone who cares about legitimate education, local control, teacher autonomy, American traditional values and fairness, ought to be opposed to the Common Core. –C.S.

Today: Dr. Sandra Stotsky on Utah’s Radio and Newspaper   Leave a comment

Dr. Sandra Stotsky published an opinion editorial in today’s Deseret News, and has also been interviewed by Rod Arquette on his radio show at KNRS today, for this afternoon’s program.

Sandra Stotsky is a lump of gold in a pile of pyrite. She’s one of the strongest voices in America, saying that we must study what we’ve signed up for, do our own fact-checking about Common Core, and wake up before it is too late to change course.

Dr. Stotsky served on the official validation committee for the Common Core standards, and she, along with Dr. James Milgram, a Stanford University mathematician, refused to sign off that the standards were legitimate or that they represented an upgrade for American schools.

Here are a few highlights from today’s op-ed. Read the whole article here.

Dr. Stotsky writes:

“The notion that Common Core’s college and career readiness standards are “rigorous” needs to be publicly put to bed by Arne Duncan, his friends at the Fordham Institute and the media. Two of Common Core’s own mathematics standards writers have publicly stated how weak Common Core’s college readiness mathematics standards are. At a public meeting of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in March 2010, physics professor Jason Zimba said, “The concept of college readiness is minimal and focuses on non-selective colleges.”

“Common Core supporters still can’t figure out how to deal with legitimate criticisms of its English language arts (ELA) standards. So they just keep parroting the line that Common Core’s ELA skills are actually standards, are rigorous and prioritize literary study, when it’s quite obvious to any English teacher that they are none of the above.”

“Common Core was/is not about high-quality national education standards. It was/is not about getting low-income, high-achieving students into advanced math and science courses in high school and then into college. CCSSI was and is about how to lower the academic level of what states require for high school diplomas and for admission to public colleges.”

“Of course, Common Core proponents can’t say that lowering academic standards is their goal. Instead, they claim that its standards will reduce the seemingly terrible problems we have with interstate mobility (actually less than 2 percent nationally) or enable Massachusetts teachers to know how Mississippi students compare to theirs (something they never said they were eager to learn), or facilitate nationally the sale of high-tech products to the public schools (something the P-21 skills folks were eager for). They have looked desperately for motivating issues and these are the best cards in their deck, as poor as they are.”

“Their major selling point is how poor our K-12 public education system is in too many states. But it needs to be strengthened, not weakened. We continue to need capable doctors and engineers who build bridges and tunnels that won’t collapse.”

“Are we as a society really ready to agree to Common Core’s low-expectations for college readiness (as professors Zimba and McCallum indicate)? Are we willing to lower the bar as a way of closing the achievement gap?”

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Sandra Stotsky is a professor emeritus at the University of Arkansas.

Dr. Gary Thompson: This is Cognitive Child Abuse   9 comments

Guest Post by Dr. Gary Thompson

Our staff has been working on the best way to teach Common Core math to our kids with “learning differences”. Referencing the attachment below, in the high school section, PARCC tells teachers regarding the example listed that heavy “symbolic processing skills” will be needed to find the deeper, varied answers to the problem.

After two weeks, we simply gave up….along with the math genius among us, who scored a perfect score on the ACT, and has been teaching/tutoring kids with dyscalculia (Math Disorder) and anxiety disorders for years.

There are kids/teens (as well as adults like myself) who will never master “symbolic processing” of numbers and math concepts…..just like I will never be able to hit a 90 mile per hour fastball 385 feet over the left field wall in Dodger Stadium.

Ever.

We have high functioning, genius IQ autistic/Aspergers kids who, despite demonstrated giftedness in math, will never be able to answer this question due to their brains’ inability to process anything symbolically….let alone stuck at a desk in front of a computer screen.

Tens of thousands of Utah public school children will never be able to process math in this manner over the course of their public school education.

This is cognitive child abuse.

As such, we are not even going to attempt to provide supplemental teaching/tutoring services in Common Core Math to children and teens with certain cognitive and emotional assessment profiles.

We are simply going to provide data to the parents supporting our recommendation that they pull their children out of the public school system.

Nor can we ethically take money from parents to utilize our special education attorney to rectify this mess.

There is no solution. Even if they “win,” the kid will still lose.

This is what happens when tests are designed and implemented without (published) pilot studies by arrogant Ivy Leaguers in “secret” without ANY input and design suggestions from local developmental psychologists and ground level teachers.

This will not end well for Utah’s children.

http://parcconline.org/sites/parcc/files/PPT_Messaging%20for%20PARCC%20Math%20Sample%20Items_FINAL_revised_081212_1.pptx

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Thank you, Dr. Thompson, for sharing your experience and insight.

TODAY: FEDERAL COURT TRIES U.S. DEPT OF ED. FOR DESTRUCTION OF FAMILY PRIVACY/CONSENT   8 comments

Today is big.

The federal district court in Washington, D.C. is hearing arguments today from Khalia Barnes and Marc Rotenburg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in support of nationwide student privacy, in support of parental consent laws, in support of protective definitions of terms.

So, who on earth is on the opposite team? Who’s actually arguing against student privacy? Drumroll….

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION.

Yes, really.

Read:
EPIC to Defend Student Privacy Rights in Federal Court

On July 24, EPIC President Marc Rotenberg and EPIC Administrative Law Counsel Khaliah Barnes will present arguments in federal district court in Washington, DC in support of student privacy. In EPIC v. Dept. of Education, No. 12-327, EPIC is challenging recent changes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) that allow the release of student records for non-academic purposes and undercut parental consent provisions. In 2011, EPIC submitted extensive comments to the agency opposing the changes. After the Education Department failed to modify the proposed regulation, EPIC filed a lawsuit and argued that the agency exceeded its authority with the changes, and also that the revised regulations are not in accordance with the 1974 privacy law. EPIC is joined in the lawsuit by members of the EPIC Board of Directors Grayson Barber, Pablo Garcia Molina, Peter Neumann, and Deborah Peel. For more information, see EPIC: EPIC v. The U.S. Department of Education and EPIC: Student Privacy.

http://epic.org/2013/07/epic-to-defend-student-privacy.html

The big question is, why isn’t this gigantic, unbelievable story being covered by the mainstream media?

It’s not important enough? People don’t really care about the privacy rights of children? Parents don’t really care that their parental consent rights have been undercut by the U.S. Department of Education? It’s no big deal that the U.S. Department of Education redefined terms that include “directory information,” “educational agency,” and “authorized representative,” –loosening and widening each term to make students’ privacy easier to hack?

No big deal?

Shame on the mainstream media for blacking this out in favor of non-news, celebrity scandals and trumped-up racism stories.

Share, share, share.

Compulsory Education’s Unforeseen Consequences: Nebraska Case Studies   5 comments

Lately, there’s been quite a buzz about ending compulsory education. Utah Senator Aaron Osmond propelled the idea when he wrote a piece on this subject at the Utah Senate blog. Osmond pointed out that it is a “parental right to decide if and when a child will go to public school,” adding that “in a country founded on the principles of personal freedom and unalienable rights, no parent should be forced by the government to send their child to school under threat of fines and jail time.”

Public education started out as an opportunity, but over the years, turned into a governmentally enforced mandate. The mandate flies in the face of other laws, such at Utah’s FERPA, which asserts that it is the parent, and not the government, who is the primary authority over a child.

That’s just common sense to most of us; in fact, most parents are utterly unaware that there is a battle going on between government “collectivists” and parents. The idea that parents hold authority over a child is not acceptable to an alarmingly pushy segment of society, who say government should take ownership of children.

This is, of course, communism.

But it’s becoming acceptable to many. Watch the video put out by MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry, of the Lean Forward campaign. She asserts that “we have to break out of the notion that children belong to parents.”

It is time to wake up and protect parental authority. With that introduction, I’m presenting this guest post by Autumn Cook. Thank you, Autumn.

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COMPULSORY EDUCATION: THE GREAT CONTROL GRAB

Guest Post by Autumn Cook

12-year-old Lucas Maynard and his parents found themselves in truancy court last week. Lucas’ offense? He got sick too much this year. The punishment? They’re still waiting to find out, but the judge has informed him that removal from his parents’ custody is a possibility.

All around the country, there is a quiet assault on families taking place. In the name of “helping children,” state laws and school district attendance policies are being altered to draw thousands of innocent children into the juvenile justice system and wave the heavy threat of state force and social services intervention over the heads of ordinary good parents.

Innocent children whose crimes amount to being frequently ill, or struggling with mental health issues such as autism, or being the victim of bullying, are being hauled into court, coerced into lengthy “diversion programs,” threatened with removal from the custody of their parents, actually removed from the custody of their parents, and in other ways terrified and treated like criminals. Their families are being put through the wringer with unpaid time from work for court dates, costs for attorney fees, and fear of state intervention in their families.

Untold numbers of other families are being frightened into doing everything possible to avoid entanglement in this system, including sending their kids to school sick and cancelling family travel. It is happening in states all over the country – I personally know of cases in Indiana, Texas, and Wyoming, with particular knowledge of what is happening in Nebraska because of personal involvement.

Here’s how it’s been playing out in Nebraska. In 2010, motivated by an attempt to get points on its Race to the Top application, the Nebraska legislature passed a law at the request of the Governor which effectively took away the right of a parent to excuse her child from school. The new law required schools to report kids to law enforcement if they had more than 20 days of absence – for any reason at all. Nebraska could get more points on its application by having a plan in place to increase attendance. All states were able to earn more points for implementing more oppressive attendance laws.

At the same time, school districts started tightening up their attendance policies, disallowing excuses for family travel or time home with seriously ill family or military parents on leave from deployment. Before the change, Nebraska applied the reasonable and widely-used standard of reporting kids with unexcused absences – those whose parents hadn’t accounted for their whereabouts.

Where once state law, school district policies, and public officials worked to reduce truancy – kids missing school without their parents’ permission (a.k.a. “skipping”) – the focus is shifting to reducing absences of any kind. The shift is leaving untold collateral damage in its wake, including the relationships between school administrators and the parents they serve. And it’s shifting our culture to embrace the “state knows best” mindset, minimizing the authority of parents and giving far too much power to state officials to decide what’s “best” for individual children. It’s also generating a lot of business for the social service industry.

Last week, the story of the Maynards – referred to above – became the latest in a long list of such abuses out of Nebraska. Their story highlights much of what’s wrong with the “brave new approach” to school attendance that’s sweeping the nation. Lucas experienced a lot of illness – plus two days of impassable winter roads in rural Nebraska – during the past school year. This innocent offense landed him in court, forced to sit away from his parents between the prosecutor and the guardian ad litem assigned to him, listening in terror as the judge informed him that one of the consequences of his absences from school could be removal from his parents’ custody. (Children are assigned a guardian ad litem in cases of alleged abuse or neglect. So the state of Nebraska has implied that the Maynards committed abuse or neglect by keeping their son home when he was ill and when the roads were too dangerous to travel!)

The Maynards’ entire story can be read at the Nebraska Family Forum blog. Unfortunately, it’s only one of hundreds if not thousands of such cases, and that’s just in Nebraska. The toll around the country is much higher, with many cases even more egregious, such as this one involving a 9-year-old in Wyoming.
If you see attendance policies and laws like this, don’t wait a day to contact your local school boards and state legislators. They need to hear the message that laws and policies must protect the fundamental right that parents have to make decisions for their children. For those who are lucky enough to live in states and districts where this approach hasn’t been implemented yet, watch your legislature and local board meetings like a hawk! Proponents of this approach to school attendance are pushing the “state knows what’s best for each child” approach all over the country, including here in Utah this last session.

It’s another piece – an especially frightening piece – of the education reform puzzle that is shaping up all over the country.

More stories from Nebraska

The Chambers Family
A quiet middle-schooler with severe allergies is sent to the county attorney, forced to submit to a drug test without her parents’ knowledge, made to feel like a criminal, and ends up attending school when sick, staying in a quiet room where she naps and eats lunch – just so they can count her present.

The Herrera Family
A mother decides to homeschool her 3rd-grade daughter for the last few weeks of the school year after school officials fail to deal with her bullies and she gets beaten with a stick on the way home from school. Because she doesn’t waited to receive official notice of approval from the state – her daughter was in imminent physical danger – when she comes back the next year she is reported to law enforcement, made a ward of the state, and her mother is placed on the child abuse and neglect list.

The Garrity Family
The story of a 15-year-old boy with autism shows how families who already struggle with unique challenges are abused and put through further suffering by the state of Nebraska and its school districts.

The Hall Family
A well-liked honor roll student with seasonal asthma is forced into a “diversion program.” Diversion from what? Asthma? The solution the following year is that when she is too sick to go to school, her parents must bring her to school so the school nurse can verify the parents’ judgment.

Standing Room Only at Utah State Capitol’s Stop Common Core Meeting   3 comments

Legislators heard two and a half hours of public testimonies at last night’s Stop Common Core meeting at the Utah State Capitol Building which packed the Hall of Governors to overflowing.

Legislators claimed the first few rows of seats, and at least 500 people filled every chair while many people had to stand along the walls. The crowd and the legislators listened to two and a half hours of testimonies from teachers, parents and students.

Hundreds who wanted to speak out against Common Core were prevented by time. (Their written or filmed testimonies will be uploaded later at Utahns Against Common Core.)

Highlights:

– Teenage students speaking out against Common Core.
– Teachers, both current and retired, speaking out against Common Core.
– A licensed child psychologist speaking out against Common Core.
– Three (out of the seven members) of the Alpine School Board, Utah’s largest school district, each speaking out against Common Core, especially noting concerns about the common core-aligned standardized testing which ends liberty and local control.
– A legislator who rose to the enthusiastically cheering crowd and said, “We hear you. And we are going to work.”

The event was filmed and will be viewable soon. It was also covered by Channel 4 and by the Deseret News.

http://www.abc4.com/mostpopular/story/Utahns-gather-at-the-State-Capitol-to-voice/IA79JikQ2EmeaAnaG-M6LA.cspx

Calling All Utahns Today: Historic Day at the Capitol   2 comments

Today is a historic day in Utah.

Dozens of Utah senators and representatives have RSVP’d to come tonight, to hear hundreds of teachers, parents, local school board members and even students speak out against Common Core.

Each person may speak for up to three minutes. We are asking legislators to defund and halt Common Core testing, teacher retrainings, educational product purchasing, and other forms of implementation, just as Michigan, Indiana, Pennyslvania and other states are doing (pending a serious public vetting of this foundationless whole-system transformation.)

Individuals are the reason.

Children and teachers deserve non-experimental, piloted education standards, tests and curriculum; they deserve the freedom to opt out of the SLDS data tracking system which amounts to surveillance of all they do throughout their school careers; they deserve not to be over-tested like lab rats nor to be viewed as human capital, pipelined into the workforce according to the needs of the government, rather than planning according to their own desires, personal dreams and faith.

They deserve a system that is representative, as America is supposed to be. The Common Core system is simply education without representation; Utah can only alter “her own” standards by getting permission from the D.C. groups that copyrighted it and can’t add more than 15% according to federal dictates; also, Utah’s Common Core A.I.R. standardized tests are aligned to the shared standards that Utah has no voice in amending; and the curriculum aligned with Common Core is monopolizing the educational sales market, drowning alternative voices and ending the publishing of future school texts containing innovative, individual lines of thought.

The only way to hold on to the reins of local control is to take a stand: we, the people. Not paid lobbyists. Not obligated politicians. Moms. Dads. Students. Teachers. Grandparents. Please come tonight. If you are shy, just come to watch. Show up. Show that it matters.

5:30 at the State Capitol, Hall of Governors. See you there.

Not Internationally Benchmarked   3 comments

Common Core proponents often say that the Common standards are “internationally benchmarked.”

What an appealing concept– except that it’s not true.

James Milgram, the mathematician who served on the Common Core validation committee and refused to sign off on the standards, said:

I can tell you that my main objection to Core Standards, and the reason I didn’t sign off on them was that they did not match up to international expectations. They were at least 2 years behind the practices in the high achieving countries by 7th grade, and, as a number of people have observed, only require partial understanding of what would be the content of a normal, solid, course in Algebra I or Geometry. Moreover, they cover very little of the content of Algebra II, and none of any higher level course… They will not help our children match up to the students in the top foreign countries…”

Likewise, Professor Sandra Stotsky, who served on the same committee, who also refused to sign off on the Common Core standards because they were academically inferior, has written:

“…we are regularly told that Common Core’s standards are internationally benchmarked. Joel Klein, former head of the New York City schools, most recently repeated this myth in an interview with Paul Gigot, the Wall Street Journal editor, during the first week in June. Not mentioned at all in the interview or the op-ed he co-authored in the WSJ a week later is Klein’s current position in a company that does a lot of business with Common Core. An Exxon ad, repeated multiple times during a recently televised national tennis match, also suggested that Common Core’s standards were internationally benchmarked. We don’t know who influenced Exxon’s education director. Gigot never asked Klein what countries we were supposedly benchmarked to. Nor did the Exxon ad name a country to which these standards were supposedly benchmarked. Klein wouldn’t have been able to answer, nor could Exxon have named a country because Common Core’s standards are not internationally benchmarked. Neither the methodologically flawed study by William Schmidt of Michigan State University, nor the post-Common Core studies by David Conley of the University of Oregon, all funded by the Gates Foundation, have shown that Common Core’s content is close to, never mind equal to, the level of the academic content of the mathematics and English standards in high-achieving countries. Moreover, Conley’s studies actually contradict the findings of his much earlier pre-Common Core study showing what college faculty in this country expect of entering freshmen in mathematics and English.”

The next time someone says that Common Core will increase U.S. international competitiveness because the standards are “internationally benchmarked,” simply ask them what evidence they have. This phrase is misleading millions of people.

Utah Ed Standards Were Modified by Permission from an Unelected D.C. Group   3 comments

http://schools.utah.gov/CURR/mathelem/Core-Curriculum/Utah-Core-Standards-in-Mathematics-Approved-Versio.aspx

If you click on the link above, you will come to the Common Core standards for Utah.

I believe that the Utah State Office of Education is deliberately misleading us in this document, which calls itself Utah Core State Standards, not Common Core Standards.

The document presents itself as if it were a Utah-specific set of standards. But it’s Common Core.

How do we know?

If you go to page four, you will see that these standards were modified after Utah asked for permission to do so, from the Council of Chief State School Officers (a group not accountable to taxpayers nor unelectable by the voting public).

Page four says:

© Copyright 2010. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School
Officers. All rights reserved. Modified and printed with permission from CCSSO, May, 2012.

Video: Ending Compulsory Education   6 comments

This five-minute video is worth our time. Oak Norton explains why ending compulsory education benefits us all. It makes so much sense that I am left wondering why we didn’t do this, long ago.

Dear President Obama: Open Letter From Chicago Teacher Paul Horton   7 comments

Isn’t it interesting that in this still-great country, an increasing number of both Democratic and Republican teachers see eye to eye on the tragic error of anyone– whether a governmental body or a corporate body or a partnership between the two– disfiguring our educational system and labelling it reform, while circumventing the voices of experienced teachers and of the American voters to do it?

Please read Paul Horton’s Open Letter to President Obama which was published in Education Week Teacher this week.

—————————

Dear Mr. President,

Like thousands of experienced classroom teachers throughout our great country, I am very concerned about how you decided to go the way that you did with your Education policies.

I was recently told by a close friend of the yours that “Arne’s Team looked at all of the options” and decided to go with its current policies because “they would get us where we needed to go more quickly than any other set of alternatives.” I was also told, “that not everybody could be in the room.”

The problem was that you and Mr. Duncan did not listen to experience. The blueprint for Arne’s plan for stimulus investment that morphed into the Race to the Top Mandates (RTTT) featured advisers from the Gates and Broad Foundations, analysts from McKinsey Consulting, and a couple of dozen superintendents who were connected, like Mr. Duncan, to the Broad Foundation. Most of those who were invited to advise you were committed supporters of heavy private investment in Education who favored high stakes testing tied to teacher evaluations. Most of these advisers also favored the scaling up of measurable data collection…

If you had listened to the leading experts on standardized testing and the achievement gap, you would have learned that your policies were bound to fail… You should have taken the time to learn learn about Campbell’s Law, a concept that is taught in every graduate level statistics course here at the University of Chicago.

…Mr. President, you consulted many of your contacts in Democrats for Education Reform, an organization funded mostly by Democratic leaning Wall Street investment firms. And you were also very impressed by the ideas and passion of a Denver charter school principal and Democratic activist, Michael Johnston.

…The true measure of one’s commitment to Education is one’s willingness to sacrifice one’s will to power and economic potential to be successful in the classroom. TFA kids who go back to grad school after two years in the classroom and buy into corporate education reform are embracing their will to power. Most of these kids tend to have every advantage to begin with, they get an Ivy League education, and they are ambitious young liberals.

Rather than staying in the classroom and truly making a difference by developing their teaching skills over twenty or thirty years, they can achieve administrative positions in the charter world that have far more economic potential than teaching positions by buying into the mantra of data-driven corporate reform lingo.

… You and your administration have encouraged a “Cultural Revolution” in American education. Your Education Secretary embraced and applauded the Madame Mao of this movement and allowed his Inspector General to whitewash an investigation of cheating in DC Schools.

You promoted your basketball buddy and very close friend of your campaign finance manager to be Secretary of Education. You chose someone with a Broad Foundation background. The Broad Foundation has written a “toolkit” for the destruction of public schools that is being used in Chicago, Philly, and New Yorks and in many cities across the country.

Your policies represent a new elitism. You seem to think that: “if we can get these really smart Ivy League educated former TFA people in senior policy, superintendent, and administrative positions, then we can turn this whole thing around.”

This idea is arrogant beyond belief, the equivalent of the “best and the brightest” idea that drove us into the ground in Vietnam, only you have decided to do it in Education… Mr. Duncan has a great deal of empathy, however his policies are misguided…. his use of the authority of his office overstepped the legal parameters of the laws circumscribing federal involvement in the formulation of Education policy.

Ms. Weiss and Mr. Sheldon III, two of Secretary Duncan’s advisors who worked for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation prior to serving under Secretary Duncan, articulated what Mr. Gates wanted on his terms in exchange for tacit support for your campaigns.

Several Wall Street investing firms also made it clear to you and to Mr. Emanuel that they were willing to support you if your Education policies encouraged private investment in charter schools.

… The policies that you have endorsed will set the teaching profession back twenty years much as the Cultural Revolution set China back twenty years. While recent studies have indicated that only two to three percent of classroom teachers are ineffective, your policies vilify the 98% who are effective and exemplary.

… You have bought into a corporate model of Education Reform: you seek to create competition among public and private schools, you encourage the “creative destruction” that your University of Chicago Business School buddies and Judge Posner love, and you seem to be gung-ho about selling off the public commons of American Education that were built with the sweat and blood of American farmers and workers…

Your Education policies embrace the management tactics of McKinsey Consulting that call for the firing of twenty to twenty-five percent of the teacher workforce every two years. You have said that Education should not “all be about bubble tests,” but your policies measure progress by bubble tests and they narrow the curriculum…

Read the full article-letter here:

Thank you, Paul.

Video: College Board Accidentally Explains Dumbing Down AP to Match Common Core   4 comments

AP tests are aligning to Common Core. So, explain this, Common Core proponents: the reason to change college-credit AP tests to Common Core is to make sure that they were actually college-ready?

Um, that makes no sense.

This video is a must-see. Start at about 1:05 when the College Board representative says that Common Core doesn’t include Calculus.

By definition a college-credit test should be testing college-ready information. So, the only reason to change the AP tests is to hide the Common Core’s decline for true college-readiness.

That does make sense, since Common Core is a concession to national, agreed-upon, defined middle ground (mediocrity). While some states have risen to the new Common Core, other states have dropped their standards to adopt Common Core. That’s what collectivism does, folks. It erases excellence and success because it values sameness above soaring.

It makes sense, then, that college entrance exams and AP exams that are Common Core-aligned, will be dropping their standards, too.

Now that AP, SAT, and ACT tests are changing to be Common Core aligned, we can’t compare pre-Common Core to post-Common Core and will not be able to prove the massive failure that would most likely have been discovered in the near future.

This College Board representative in the video doesn’t come out directly and say that Common Core only prepares students for a nonselective two year college, but he might has well have said it.

Jason Zimba, a lead Common Core writer, did say it. So did Professor William McCallum of the University of Arizona, one of the three writers of the math Common Core standards:

“While acknowledging the concerns about front-loading demands in early grades, [McCallum] said that the overall standards would not be too high, certainly not in comparison [with] other nations, including East Asia, where math education excels.”

http://boston.com/community/blogs/rock_the_schoolhouse/2011/11/myths_about_national_standards.html

Another Unbearably Long Email Discussion With UT Board Member Dave Thomas   2 comments

For anyone who can stand to plow through it, here’s another letter I wrote in response to Mr. Thomas’s response to my response to his response to my questions posted in the Deseret News op-ed last month.
____________________________________________________________

Dear Mr. Dave Thomas,

Please remember that I am not your enemy. I am a fellow Utahn, a mother, and a teacher. I hope for great schools and happy kids and teachers. I hope for the maintenance of local control of education. That is the goal here. Just to clarify.

On Evidence: You said: I actually gave more than Fordham’s opinion (although I might add that the Fordham study is the most extensive that has been done). I included the source material that backs up the Common Core standards in math and English language arts. You claim that the standards are not research based, but every time you are given the research your response is simply to ignore them. Common Core uses the “best practices” in both the United States as well as internationally. My research shows the Common Core standards not to be experimental, but an increase in quality and rigor over Utah’s prior standards. Math and ELA experts at our Utah colleges and universities agree with me.

I say: Even your fellow board member, Dixie Allen, admits that there is no evidence to support claims that Common Core will improve education; so she bases her approval of Common Core on trust –that those who wrote the standards had the best interests of students at heart. This is like buying a car, trusting that it won’t break down, trusting that its claims to improve gas mileage are correct— but never having test-driven it –or never even reading about someone who had actually test driven it. Since Common Core has never been piloted, it cannot be more than an experiment. You say that professors agree with you, but I, too, quote names of professors at BYU, UVU, Stanford University, Seton Hall University, University of New Hampshire, University of Colorado, etc., who do not agree that Common Core will “increase quality and rigor” in math.

On the Reduction of literature: You said:

Your response is to simply brush off the actual language of the standards and assert that “its common knowledge” that informational texts will be the main type of reading in English classes. Actually, that’s not common knowledge, because it is inconsistent with the actual standards. Both informational texts and classic literature will be taught in English classes. As I noted, the 70-30% ratio that is being touted as being exclusive to English classes is actually across the entire curriculum. Hence math, science and social studies teachers will not be teaching literature, but will be teaching the vast majority of the informational texts. Again, there is nothing in the Common Core ELA which states that the main teaching in English classes will be informational texts at the expense of literature. If you have some precise standards which state this, then I would like to see them because I can’t find them. As for textbooks, there are plenty of textbooks that have come out asserting that they are common core aligned. Most are not. Teachers and school districts will need to be vigilant in selecting textbooks and other instructional materials that truly align to the Utah core standards.

I say: Common Core increases informational text and reduces classic literature. For proof, in addition to actually reading the standards themselves, in addition to looking at Common Core curriculum sales companies’ interpretations of the standards, in addition to reading debate on the subject in the New York Times and Washington Post, in addition to listening to testimonies of Professor Stotsky and others, you can simply watch ELA chief architect David Coleman’s video speeches to teachers. Remember that he is not only the ELA architect, but now President of the College Board, aligning his radical ideas to the SAT. Watch his contempt for narrative writing and his preference for informational text. Watch his sterile view of reading. Is this what you, or most teachers, or most Utahns, believe in and hope for, for our children? I have never seen a believable or clear explanation of how that 70%/30% split would be accomplished across all subjects. Are there trainings for math, science, and P.E. teachers on how to teach English Language Arts in the Common Core Academies of Utah?

On Math Problems: You said:

Actually, the majority of math professionals are trending in the direction of an integrated model, as the National Math Panel suggests….

Dr. Milgram certainly dissented from the Validation Committee, but he was not the only mathematician on the Committee – there were a total of 5. In fact, there were 18 math professors on the Math Work Group and another 9 on the Feedback Group. I point to Dr. Wu because he was another one of the authors of the California Math Standards. The reality is that the vast majority of math educators support the Common Core math standards, including our most prominent Utah math professors. I find it interesting that you find it offensive that experts from outside Utah were involved in creating the Common Core State Standards, but you rely upon Dr. Milgram and other outside experts. Notwithstanding, I also rely upon our inside Utah experts who overwhelmingly approve of the Common Core Math Standards. Why don’t they have as much influence on you as Dr. Milgram?

I have found it interesting that Dr. Milgram does not seem to endorse any math standards that he, himself, has not personally written. He didn’t like our 2007 Utah math standards either….

As for the majority of Utahns never being able to weigh in? There were a total of three 30 day comment periods before the Utah Board adopted the standards.

I am not a math expert, although I have taught elementary school level math. Yet, this much I know: there is no universally endorsed math belief. There are math wars raging. So it is not true that “most” math professionals are believing in or trending toward any single math style. This math war issue needs to be vetted by the Utah public and by Utah teachers, not by a tiny group of mostly non-educators who make up our school board.

As for the majority of Utahns being able to weigh in on the math or English? My teaching credential has never lapsed, yet I never even received a letter or an email of any kind, letting me know that my entire future career would be drastically different because Common Core had come to town. It is absurd to think that Utah teachers or other citizens would surf onto the USOE website frequently enough to have been aware of Common Core’s adoption or of the public comment period.

To the claim that there were 5 “mathematicians” on the Validation Committee: Not everyone who has the word “mathematics” in his title is a math expert. As Dr. Milgram explains: “each of the others mentioned as ‘mathematicians’ on the validation committee actually has his or her advanced degree (if any) in mathematics education, not mathematics. I suppose that there is a general confusion about this distinction since both subjects have the word mathematics in their description. But there is actually a vast difference. The mathematical knowledge of virtually all U.S. citizens who call themselves mathematics educators stops with ratios and rates, not even algebra or calculus. Most of them are assumed to have had calculus in college, but typically it didn’t stick, and when I or my colleagues talk with such people we have to be very careful, as their knowledge of the actual subject is spotty.”

So Dr. Milgram was, in fact, the only mathematician, by this definition, on the Validation Committee, and the only one who really understood what preparation is required for higher-level university mathematics.

But as math-standards-drafter Jason Zimba has admitted, Common Core is not designed to prepare students for such courses – only for math at nonselective community colleges.

Even Common Core proponents admit that the math standards were not drafted by “70 math experts” but rather by three men: Jason Zimba, Phil Daro, and William McCallum (only McCallum had any previous experience writing standards). The other members of the two groups established as the “development team” (especially the large Feedback Group) frequently saw their contributions ignored, without comment. Because the drafters worked in secret, without open-meetings scrutiny or public comment, it’s impossible to know any of the thought processes that went into creating the standards. The only thing we know for certain is Zimba’s admission (see above) about the low level of the Standards, and McCallum’s comment that the math standards would not be “too high,” especially compared with the high-achieving Asian countries.

Sources:

http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2013/06/07/five-people-wrote-state-led-common-core

http://boston.com/community/blogs/rock_the_schoolhouse/2011/11/myths_about_national_standards.html

http://www.nga.org/cms/home/news-room/news-releases/page_2009/col2-content/main-content-list/title_common-core-state-standards-initiative-validation-committee-announced.html

http://www.uaedreform.org/wp-content/uploads/2000/01/Stotsky-Invited-Testimony-for-Georgia.pdf

On Amendability: You said:

With respect to Utah, there is no 15% cap. Such was certainly discussed by the NGA and CCSSO, but the 15% cap rule did not make it into the actual public license. The public license allows free use of the standards without any 15% cap. I have read the Utah NCLB Flexibility Waiver, and there is no 15% cap in that either. I admit that I have not researched the Race to the Top requirements because Utah did not receive a grant and is not bound by such. The Utah State Board of Education has never asked for permission from anyone to modify our Utah core standards and as long as I am on the Board never will.

There is a 15% cap. You are right that the copyrighters didn’t place it; but the federal government and its associates did. The same language is repeated in many places, including in the Race to the Top grant application, Race to the Top for Assessments, in the documents of SBAC, PARCC, and Achieve, Inc., and it was also previously in the ESEA, but has been removed. For example, see http://www.achieve.org/files/FINAL-CCSSImplementationGuide.pdf

You said that the board never asked permission to alter Utah’s standards, yet on the Utah Core Standards document online, to which the link is currently broken, it said “Modified by Permission.”

On Data Collection: You say:

While admitting that the Common Core State Standards do not require data collection, you assert that the “Common Core agenda” does. I am not aware of such an agenda. Certainly the President has such an agenda, but the President is not part of the Common Core Initiative, although I admit that he wants to be. He certainly would like to use the Consortiums to collect data, but we are not members of SBAC.

You assume that AIR will violate our agreement and Utah law, and share Utah private student data with SBAC. We have received written assurances from AIR that they will not be sharing such data. Hence, you assume wrongdoing where there is no evidence of such.

Your answer, however, did not address my concerns – which are with NAEP. The National Education Data Model is not being used by Utah and will not be used by Utah. NAEP, however, is a different story. I have tremendous concerns over NAEP.

I say: It doesn’t matter whether the corporate groups (Bill Gates/Pearson/Achieve/AIR) or the federal groups (Obama/Duncan/Linda Darling-Hammond) first pushed national, Common Core standards and the data collection agenda, which moves hand in hand with the common tests and standards. Both groups are shamelessly power-grabbing. The two groups are equally unwelcome to monopolize Utah education standards and tests.

It matters who here in Utah will put a stop to it.

The corporate – public collusion creates a loss of local voices and local control in multiple ways. Those at the top benefit financially and control-wise, when they can persuade all of us to believe in their collectivist ideology.

You may not have read the report by the President’s Equity and Excellence Commission entitled “For Each And Every Child.” In it, we learn that redistribution of resources is the whole point of the “education reform” agenda, Common Core or whatever you want to call it. Redistribution– of money and of teachers and principals. A total loss of local control. This top-down redistribution can not be accomplished if those governmental bodies and corporate bodies at the top do not have access to personally identifiable information about teachers, as well as of students.

We cannot separate data collection issues from Common Core reforms. They work hand in hand.

To protect Utah citizens from groups gaining improper access to student data, we need more than assurances. (I am not interested in evidence of wrongdoing; we need impenetrable knowledge that such improper access is impossible) I mean that we need to end Utah’s use of the federally promoted and funded and nationally interoperable State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS). We should at the very least make parents aware that personally identifiable information on their student is being collected, and make an opt-out form available widely.

On Testing: You said:

Unlike SBAC, we control our own CAT. AIR is our contractor who works for us, not for SBAC. So I see a big difference between SBAC and AIR. The tests given and the questions asked are approved by the State Board, not AIR. We have a 15 member parent committee who also reviews all of the questions. With respect to “behavorial indicators,” AIR is not free to ask any questions about Utah students. Behavioral indicators has been interpreted by the State Board to mean only graduation data, grades, school discipline and attendance – nothing more. AIR has no ability to collect the data which you fear them collecting. While AIR does behavioral research, that is not what they are tasked with in our contractual arrangement. AIR is one of the premiere computer adaptive testing providers – that is what we contracted with them to do.

I say: AIR is partnered with SBAC and is philosophically aligned (and contractually connected) with George Soros, the Clintons, Microsoft/Gates, and the U.S. Department of Education, to name a few.

What evidence do we have that Utah, not AIR and its partners, has full control over the AIR common core-aligned test? How can we ever go beyond the 15% Common Core alignment rule for common core aligned tests? What are the actual writers’ names and qualifications for AIR tests for Utah? What qualifies the State Board to approve questions while Utah teachers and principals cannot? Why can’t all parents– not just fifteen– see the questions? Have you read what Utah psychologist Dr. Gary Thompson has advised us on this subject?

On Constitutionality: You said:

The State Board completely controls the standards and testing as it pertains to the Utah core standards. Of this I have first-hand knowledge.

I say: The State Board has zero say in what will be written on the NGA/CCSSO produced Common Core standards, nor can they affect its future changes which will be handed down, top-down, to all the states who adopted Common Core. The State Board has no evidence that is can write AIR/SAGE tests to any standard that it desires, beyond the 15% rule for Common Core aligned tests.

On Spiral of Silence: You say:

Once again, I see no evidence of such. Provide to me a name and contact information of a teacher whose job was threatened by speaking out against the Utah Core standards.

I say: No, I will not provide to you the names of the Utah teachers and other staff who I have personally spoken with, who feel that their jobs are threatened if they who dare speak out about Common Core. I have already provided you with the names of those who have retired who are speaking out. And I can promise you that there are many who currently teach, who wish they dared.

On Not Being State-Led: You say:

This assumes that the Common Core Initiative is a federal led effort. There is no evidence of such. Simply because President Obama wants to claim credit for something he didn’t do, does not make it so. I believe he also got a Noble Peace Prize for not doing anything either. These trade organizations are state led – the elected governors and state superintendents control them. 48 state boards of education joined them in the Initiative. The federal government was expressly excluded and no federal funds were used. The states often act through their trade associations as a collective group. The National Governors Association does that on a regular basis. It was in my capacity as a member of the National Association of State Boards of Education and member of the Utah State Board that I confronted the US Department of Education. You assume that the elected governors, state superintendents and state school boards do not control their own associations. I can tell you that in my experience that is not the case.

I say: Is the NGA or CCSSO accountable to the public? No. Do they have open door meetings or financial transparency? No. Were they elected to determine my local school district’s policies in educational matters? No. Do they have a right to assume governance and influence over my child or over me as a teacher, when I have not elected them nor can I un-elect them? No. These groups are not representative of the states. Not even all superintendents belong to CCSSO. Not even all governors belong to NGA. It’s all outside the framework of our founding.

State-led implies that Congressmen and Representatives led and vetted it, in the American way, which is by voter representation. This was never the case. It is not honorable to continue to call this “state-led” because it implies something that it never was– a movement with actual representation.

On Cost: You say:

Tell me who those teachers are so I can confirm this. I find this hard to believe because none of our textbooks have ever been aligned to our core standards. We have intentionally put forth a 5 year implementation of the Utah core standards so that textbooks are bought on the same current cycle. Line items on the costs of teacher development and textbooks are available through the Office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst as well as from the Utah State Office of Education. Those budgets do not show any measureable increase in the amount spent on either teacher development or textbooks. In fact, you find that over time, the teacher development monies have significantly decreased.

I say: No, I will not provide to you the names of the Utah teachers and other staff who I have personally spoken with.

Governor Herbert agreed in a face to face meeting that a cost analysis should have been done, and was not. He agreed to have one done. He has not. All we have is your word for it. Nothing is on paper. This is not fiscally responsible, especially considering that the largest chunk of Utah tax monies go toward education, and in this case, toward implementation and marketing of Common Core in Utah.

On NAEP: You say:

…the horse you’re riding, the 2001 Massachusetts standards, are the dressed up federal NAEP standards. Dr. Stotsky sits on the NAEP Steering Committee for the Reading Framework. Dr. Driscoll, the Commissioner of Education of Mass, has stated that they aligned their standards and curriculum to NAEP. You will find that I am not a believer in NAEP.

I say: Honestly, I have not studied NAEP very much. So I asked friends in Massachusetts. They told me this, which I will not right now take time to verify, but you and I should both study it further, obviously.

“NAEP only has assessment standards–for its tests. It has no curriculum standards. Stotsky helped to develop curriculum standards in MA. They were approved by the teachers in the state. Stotsky is not on any NAEP committee. To get $250,000 in Race to the Top money, MA adopted Common Core. Gates funded evaluations that were intended to show Common Core standards were better than MA own standards.”

In closing, Mr. Thomas, I am sure you and I would both have a better summer if we actually met face to face rather than spending so much time writing unbearably long emails back and forth.

Please let me know if this is a possibility.

Christel Swasey

Response to UT School Board Member Dave Thomas on Common Core   1 comment

http://utahpubliceducation.org/2013/07/10/sit-in-my-seat/#comment-97870

When I saw that a Utah State School Board member had taken the time to (sort of) answer my questions about Common Core, I was grateful. When I realized that he had not read previous rebuttals on these same topics, I was discouraged. I don’t think they are studying what we have been asking them to study.

Here’s today’s letter. Here’s the link that it was based on. Here’s the list of questions that his letter was based on.

——-

Dear Mr. Dave Thomas,

I appreciate you taking the time to answer previously unanswered questions about the Common Core agenda.

Unfortunately, the questions were incompletely and not directly answered.

I hope to someday meet in person, to have an open discussion using source documents; until that meeting is offered, I will try writing point by point.

No evidence to support the experiment

You answered question #1 by giving Fordham’s opinion of Common Core. That’s not empirical data nor is it evidence of field testing. No research has ever been done to prove that Common Core will help our students. It’s theoretical and experimental.

We need to see a long-term pilot study of students trying out Common Core to know that it works better. There is no research to support Common Core’s claims –because it is an experiment.

Reduction of literature

You answered question #2 by saying that ELA does not reduce literature. This is untrue. It is common knowledge that informational text is to be the main type of reading for students in Common Core English classes. Common Core testing companies, curriculum writing companies, and teachers all know it. You can see it in the standards themselves. It is unrealistic to think that math and science teachers will be teaching literature; the split is going to harm the amount of literature kids read in English classes. Saying otherwise does not reconcile with the textbooks coming out right now, that are Common Core aligned. While some people believe it’s better to focus on informational texts (I do not) the point is, where were the dissenting voices? Where was the debate? How did this huge transformation toward informational text happen without obvious, noisy vetting?

Math Problems

If integrated math was universally seen as superior, and was beyond debate, then why is there so much arguing going on about whether its viable as a math system among top educators? Why didn’t the Utahns get to debate whether we’d use integrated math, of which not everyone shares your high opinion?

It is common knowledge that Algebra II is taught at the eighth grade level in top performing Asian countries. James Milgram who was the mathematician who rejected Common Core when he served on its validation committee, said:

“I can tell you that my main objection to Core Standards, and the reason I didn’t sign off on them was that they did not match up to international expectations. They were at least 2 years behind the practices in the high achieving countries by 7th grade, and, as a number of people have observed, only require partial understanding of what would be the content of a normal, solid, course in Algebra I or Geometry. Moreover, they cover very little of the content of Algebra II, and none of any higher level course… They will not help our children match up to the students in the top foreign countries when it comes to being hired to top level jobs.“

You mention Dr. Hung-Hsi Wu. But for every Dr. Hung-Hsi Wu who approves of this type of math, there’s a Yong Zhao and a Ze’ev Wurman and a James Milgram, arguing just the opposite.

The point: The majority of Utahns never got to argue out this vitally important transformation of what we are to teach our kids.

Amendability

On the issue of amendability, you slid right past discussion of the 15% cap that the federal government placed on the standards after they were copyrighted by the CCSSO/NGA. Utah can only amend these standards by 15% and that 15% will not be on the common core nationally-aligned tests. We only amended cursive by asking for permission from the CCSSO/NGA. It says so, right on the USOE website: “By Permission.” Where’s the autonomy in that?

Data Collection

On the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) tracking and the Common Core tests’ data collection issue, you correctly say that the federal government is requiring aggregated student data to be given. However, you do not admit that Utah is collecting increasing amounts of student information, both academic and nonacademic, using schools as data collectors for the SLDS, and that AIR will collect even more when it administers the Common Core aligned tests.

AIR is partnered with SBAC, which you failed to mention. And SBAC is under obligation to share its collected student data with the federal government. What evidence is there that AIR and SBAC don’t share collected data? The National Education Data Model and the Common Educational Data Standards and the Data Quality Campaign– all federal groups– ask for personally identifiable information down to voting status and bus stop times.

You are correct that this is not part of the standards, but it is part of the overall Common Core agenda and it is part of the President’s vision for education, and it confirms what eScholar CEO said at the White House Datapalooza event –that “Common Core is the glue” without which the masses of student data could not be so easily shared.

Testing

You say that “Utah is not part of any of the Common Core testing consortiums,” but the test that we have opted to use (AIR) is partnered with one of the Common Core testing consortiums (SBAC) and it is totally Common Core-aligned. I see no benefit to choosing AIR over SBAC. Do you? In fact, in light of the “behavioral indicators” that HB15 (line 59) mandates that the CAT tests will be collecting, and in light of the fact that AIR is a behavioral testing institution, with a mission to apply behavioral research, I think we are in over our heads as far as attempting to hold any type of student psychological data privacy inviolable –while remaining with AIR.

Constitutionality

It is not true that “No one from outside our state is setting standards, creating tests or monitoring them as part of Common Core.” Private interest groups in D.C. have written the standards we now call “Utah Core,” for math and English. It is unrepresentative to allow our state school board to cede control of standards, testing, or to give access to school-collected data to groups outside Utah.

Pushback on Federal Overreach

I would like thank you and anyone on the state school board who has been “fighting federal intrusion into public education,” but I personally haven’t seen any evidence of it. I see the exact opposite happening; whatever comes from D.C., our state school board seems to applaud and obey as if there were no G.E.P.A. law, as if there were no constitutional prohibition for federal “accountability” from states in educational matters.

It is nice that the NASBE told the USDE to stay out of Common Core; but the USDE clearly laughed at that message. In fact, according to the U.S. Secretary of Education, “in March of 2009, President Obama called on the nation’s governors and state school chiefs to develop standards and assessments.” Secretary Duncan seems to think it was President Obama’s idea to have Common Core. It never was “state-led” in any way.

Spiral of Silence

If you would like to see evidence of a culture of silence, simply ask teachers to fill out an anonymous survey as we have done. Teachers won’t speak out –unless, like me, or Susan Wilcox, or Margaret Wilkin, or David Cox, or Renee Braddy– they are Utah teachers who have retired, semi-retired, or are soon to retire.

Teachers value their jobs and therefore, fear speaking out.

Not State-Led

While you assert that Common Core was state-led and that it “was the brainchild of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers,” according to the U.S. Secretary of Education, Common Core was originally President Obama’s brainchild. He says, “in March of 2009, President Obama called on the nation’s governors and state school chiefs to develop standards and assessments.”

Utahns do not elect our governor to represent us on a federal stage; for that, we have representatives and congressmen. Were they asked to analyze Common Core before our state adopted the agenda? Not even close.
Cost

Do you believe that not having done a state cost analysis of Common Core implementation was wise?

Do you believe that the total transformation of all Utah schools to a different set of standards, tests, teacher trainings, and textbooks, will not require any additional funding? I don’t. I also cannot believe the claim that “there was no more impact to textbooks than there normally is,” when teachers are telling me that they have put excellent, even newly purchased, textbooks into permanent storage, because all new Common Core aligned materials must be bought. If indeed this is somehow true, that there was no increase to schools because of Common Core, let’s see the line-item proof to be transparent with taxpayers.

Imposition of Federal Standards

You implied that those of us who want to return to educational liberty want to “impose the federal NAEP standards on Utah,” but this is false. We want to control education locally.

Christel Swasey

Utah Credentialed Teacher

Heber City

UTAHNS AGAINST COMMON CORE AT THE CAPITOL JULY 17   Leave a comment

You are invited to a public and legislators’ meeting to express concerns about Common Core.

The meeting will be held Wednesday, July 17, at 5:30 p.m. until 8:00 p.m., in the Hall of Governors, on the first floor of the Utah State Capitol.

Each person attending will be given 3 minutes (max) to testify before the legislators in attendance. Answer this question: why do you oppose Common Core?

Please bring your spouse, friends, and neighbors. They can come to listen or they many choose to testify.

The day before, Tuesday, July 16th, the Utah State School Board is having their own meeting with legislators to tell them why they believe Common Core is the answer for Utah students.

It is important for the legislators to hear that there are thousands of us who disagree with these Board members –and why.

————–

Here’s a list of questions that the board has remained silent on, which you may want to ask out loud:

Where is a shred of evidence to support the claim that Common Core improves education?

Where are any studies showing that the reduction of literary study improves college readiness?

Where is some evidence that slowing the age at which students learn math algorithms improves college readiness?

Where is any amendment process for Common Core math and English standards, under the copyrighted Common Core?

How can one opt out of the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) tracking and the Common Core tests?

Where is the legal — constitutional — authority for people outside our state to set our local standards and to create and monitor our tests?

Why does Utah stand by while Obama announces that he will redesign schools and tax all Americans to pay for it, without Utah putting up a fight?

Why is there a spiral of silence culture now, that demands everyone pretend to agree; where is freedom of expression and freedom of speech in the common agenda, now that teachers and principals don’t speak out for fear of losing their jobs?

How on earth can anyone call Common Core “state-led” when unelected boards that operate behind closed doors, that are not accountable to the public, developed and copyrighted the standards, bypassing voters and the vast majority of teachers and legislators?

Where is the line-item cost analysis of taxpayers’ money being spent on Common Core technologies, teacher training and texts?

When will state leadership address Common Core’s specific damages with the people who elected these leaders to serve us, rather than bowing to every federal whim?

Will the board and governor ever stand up to the Department of Education’s tsunami of assaults on liberties?

Will the board continue to fight against local teachers and citizens who rightfully demand local liberty and who rightfully ask for proven, non-experimental, amendable standards — following the example set by the national and world-leading education system in Massachusetts, prior to Common Core?

Hope to see you there on July 17.

If possible, please RSVP if you can attend by clicking the Utahns Against Common Core survey link and confirm how many will attend from your group (even if it’s just you). We need an idea of how many chairs to ask them to set up. But feel free to come and stand in the back if you decide to come at the last minute. http://survey.oaknorton.com/index.php/survey/index

Video: What We Shared at Beck’s Man in the Moon Event   7 comments


Here’s a video from the conference at Glenn Beck’s Man in the Moon event in Salt Lake City this weekend. Thanks to FreedomWorks for introducing and filming this presentation.

In this video, Renee Braddy, Alisa Ellis, Christie Hooley and I speak.

In this one, Wyoming teacher Christie Hooley speaks again.

You are invited: Alisa, Renee and I are presenting tomorrow at Salt Lake City’s Grand America Hotel   3 comments

Tomorrow at 2:00 at Salt Lake City’s Grand America Hotel ballroom, Alisa, Renee and I will be making a presentation about Common Core, courtesty of Freedom Works and Glenn Beck’s Man in the Moon Event.

Hope to see you there.

Video: Heritage Foundation and Heartland Institute Speak Out Against Common Core   3 comments

Joy Pullman of Heartland Institute and Lindsey Burke of Heritage Foundation give one of the most articulate, compelling presentations about Common Core that I’ve seen. These speakers are rock stars– they have studied the Common Core “education reform” agenda meticulously, and it shows. Watch this video!

Emmett McGroarty Video Interview: Stop Common Core   2 comments

Attorney Emmett McGroarty speaks about the national effort to stop Common Core. McGroarty leads the Preserve Innocence Initiative of the American Principles Project.

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