Rally Tomorrow: School Grading Bill is Interconnected with Common Core Tests   1 comment

Tomorrow, Sept. 3rd, at 10:30 a.m. there will be a rally. It’s not directly about Common Core. But it’s about an issue very, very closely related: school grading. And what makes this one interesting is that it’s not parents, but the Utah School Boards Association (USBA) that’s heading the rally. The USBA may even be surprised to see that many Utahns Against Common Core members will be there to support their rally. (I can’t go; I will be teaching at that time, but I’m there in spirit.)

Wendy Hart, a school board member in Alpine school district, has written an article that explains how school grading and common core are intertwined and must be opposed. I highly recommend it. She says, “School Grading is touted as a way for parents to find out how well their school is doing. Obviously, we pay lip-service to parents being primarily responsible for their child’s education, but we have higher levels of masters who take that power away from parents. If the teachers, schools, and student are graded based on how well the student does on a test, then everything is dependent on that test. I believe all those involved in setting standards, assessments, and school grading in this state are intending to have the best outcomes available for children. However, it is important to stop and look at the principles behind these issues and what the end results most likely will be. Who is the master we will serve?” (Read the rest.)

I think people get stuck on the misused word “accountability” which is often used as if it is always a good thing. But accountability’s obviously dependent on who is accountable to whom. People who don’t have authority to ask for an accounting, shouldn’t be given any accounting. It’s wrong. And it leads to abuse of power.

Should teachers and principals be accountable to the parents of the children they serve? Yes.

But should they be accountable to the long list of so-called “stakeholders” who have no authority over them under the Constitution, GEPA law, or common sense? No.

Should they be accountable to Common Core’s creators or testing agents, including the nonelected clubs of superintendents (CCSSO) and governors (NGA) and the AIR testing group, groups which now hold power over what will be on Utah’s standardized, nationally common test, to be nationally used as an accountability measuring stick? No!

And that’s why I oppose these Utah bills touting school grading. It’s accountability to the wrong groups, groups who are far removed from those who actually care.

Details of this Stop School Grading rally: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at 10:30 a.m. at the Utah School Boards Association (USBA) office at 860 E. 9085 South (East on 90th South, just east of 700 East and the Canyons School District ATC buildings).

Parents and others from Utahns Against Common Core have been encouraged to bring signs saying “No School Grading tied to Common Core Tests.”

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Wendy Hart has given her permission to repost her entire article here. Thanks, Wendy.

Friday, August 30, 2013

No Man Can Serve Two Masters: School Grading/Accountability

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. (Matthew 6:24)

School Grading is touted as a way for parents to find out how well their school is doing. Obviously, we pay lip-service to parents being primarily responsible for their child’s education, but we have higher levels of masters who take that power away from parents. If the teachers, schools, and student are graded based on how well the student does on a test, then everything is dependent on that test. I believe all those involved in setting standards, assessments, and school grading in this state are intending to have the best outcomes available for children. However, it is important to stop and look at the principles behind these issues and what the end results most likely will be. Who is the master we will serve?

A prime case in point is the presentation we received as a Board on Aug. 13 about the new school grading and teacher evaluation programs. (A great overview can by found online, courtesy of the Alpine Parent Society.) These programs have been put into law by the legislature, but are also requirements of the Federal Waiver from No Child Left Behind. I could go into the mathematical flaws in the system, the necessary faith in the test creators, and the fact that testing drives what is taught in the classroom. However, the biggest issue I have is who will truly have the power to determine what our children learn. If you realize teacher evaluations, school grades and student grades are all tied to the Common Core tests, you realize whoever writes and grades those tests affects every aspect of education in this state. Say what you will about standards, the practical application of it will be in the tests.

Here’s an example. Some people have heard recently of the Toni Morrison book, The Bluest Eye. I have never read it, but the excerpts I’ve read put it, in my opinion, in the category of pornography. (You may disagree, but bear with me for the sake of the argument.) I have an acquaintance back East whose children have read this repeatedly in her private, Catholic school, not because the teachers and administrators agree with the book, but because selections from the book appear on the AP English test. In this case, the AP test determines what is taught in the classroom, even if it is completely contrary to the values and mission of a particular school.

Additionally, the federally-funded Common Core tests (SBAC and PARCC) are testing “process and communication skills over content knowledge”, according to one reviewer. Since our test-developer (AIR) is also developing the SBAC test, one wonders if our state tests will follow suit. If so, anyone who fails to teach the proper methodology, not just the facts, puts their students, their career, and their school in jeopardy. (An example of this from another state can be found here.) Testing is the way standards, curricula and teaching methods are enforced.

Joseph Stalin is supposed to have said, “It doesn’t matter who votes. It matters who counts the votes.” Similarly, “He who makes the tests, controls the education.”

Parents can want certain things taught. Our laws and constitution can say how parents are primarily involved in their child’s education. We can speak till we’re blue in the face about how parents and local control of education is so important. But as soon as we tie everything to the grade on a test–a test parents have ABSOLUTELY NO CONTROL over–we realize we have a different master. Instead, we must have complete faith in the test developers. Have they created a fair, accurate system of measuring what we, as parents, want? And if they do not, there is nothing we can do at a local level to change it.

We think an end-of-year test will be testing fact, knowledge, and information. However, the emphasis of Common Core and its testing is to test “higher-order thinking” over fact. Most parents want their kids to learn higher-order thinking. But what does higher-order thinking mean to the test developer? Benjamin Bloom, author of the well-respected Bloom’s Taxonomy (used extensively in education) defines it this way,”…a student attains ‘higher-order thinking’ when he no longer believes in right or wrong.” (Major Categories in the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, p. 185) This is completely inconsistent with my motto on education: Truth vanquishes darkness. You cannot serve two masters. Education cannot serve the parents if they don’t control the test. Higher-order thinking cannot lead to the discovery of truth if it also means no right or wrong. In the end, who is the master of education in Utah? The state tests, brought to you by American Institutes for Research. It’s not you, and it’s not me.

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About 50% of the time, I agree with the Utah School Boards Association (USBA) on legislation. This is one of those times. We may not agree for all the same reasons, but we agree on the end result. Last session, the legislature passed SB271 on school grading. This is an update of a school grading bill from 2011. In response to the 2011 law, the State Office of Ed developed a process for grading schools, called UCAS. UCAS is mathematically flawed and, like every accountability measure emanating from the state, will take local control away. SB271 is opposed by the USBA because, while they must have some sort of school grading to get the No Child Left Behind waiver, they prefer the UCAS grading system. I think we need to get rid of it all. However, I will be at the press conference/rally the USBA is holding in opposition to the current version of school grading, SB271, on Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at 10:30 a.m. at the Utah School Boards Association (USBA) office at 860 E. 9085 South (East on 90th South, just east of 700 East and the Canyons School District ATC buildings). I’d invite everyone who is opposed to the enforcement Common Core via testing, or to centralized control over education to attend.

Just remember, we can’t serve two masters. Until we reassert our rightful position, as masters of our children’s education, education in Utah will continue to be subject to a master set up by those who are willing to fill the void we have left.

–Wendy Hart, member, Alpine School Board

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OTHER STOP COMMON CORE EVENTS THIS WEEK:

Layton, Utah
Wednesday night, September 4th 7:00 pm
Common Core Informational Meeting
Speakers – Peter Cannon (Davis School District Board Member) and Pamela Smith (Eagle Forum)
Layton City Library – September 4, 2013
155 Wasatch Dr.

Cedar City, Utah
Saturday, September 7th, 7 pm
Speaker – Alisa Ellis – of Utahns Against Common Core
Crystal Inn (1575 W. 200 N. Cedar City, Utah)

Roy, Utah
Thursday September 12, 2013 @ 7:00 pm
Roy Library, Eagle Forum presentation on Common Core

Ogden, Utah
Tuesday September 24, 2013 @ 6:30pm
North Ogden Library
(475 E. 2600 N. North Ogden, Utah 84414)
Eagle Forum presentation on Common Core

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One response to “Rally Tomorrow: School Grading Bill is Interconnected with Common Core Tests

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  1. Hi Christel,
    Pat Murray from Maine here. Once again you have made a great point that I will be stressing here. It is all connected. As I have been saying recently, I am convinced as I’m sure many of us old “Math War Veterans” are that the “Fuzzy Math” and “Whole Language” movement was a strategy employed by the same people now pushing Common Core to bring our education system to it’s knees so they can now rush in with Common Core to Save the Day!
    All the Best to You and Your Group,
    Pat

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