Archive for the ‘Academic Standards’ Category

Missouri Common Core Tests Halted by Restraining Order   2 comments

missouri

A judge has issued a restraining order in Missouri that says that Missouri is “restrained from making any payments in the form of membership fees to the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium… including but not limited to disbursements pursuant to “Invoice #1″ issued to the State.”  The restraining order is, at least temporarily, halting Common Core SBAC tests in the state.

According to the Missouri Education Watchdog, “the Solicitor General, in arguing for the state defendant, argued that  if the fees were not paid, there would be no assessments available in Missouri schools this year at all.  This contradicts what an SBAC spokesperson said on the phone to legal counsel for the plaintiff when she said  that the membership fees are separate and distinct from the charge for using the assessments.  It also seems to contradict provisions of federal regulations that require the assessments developed by the consortia to be generally available to non-member states…  if other states were to withdraw their membership based on the same grounds, this would require a significant reorganization of the test supplier into a commercial venture as opposed to a testing consortia…  it would weaken the federal government’s requirement that states use the consortia tests in order to comply with federal regulation or waivers, because then the federal government would be granting a monopoly to a particular private company.

This ruling is a sign that the court sees some merit in the case, that SBAC may be an illegal interstate compact and thus the state’s membership in it should be null and void.

Federal Secretary of Education: “To Phase Out the Authority of States”   33 comments

Have you seen the new regulations that just came out of the White House?

Americans who see these must run screaming to legislators for protection against the Department of Education.

The new regulations declare that Secretary Arne Duncan will amend ESEA to “phase out the authority of States to define modified academic achievement standards and develop alternate assessments based on those modified academic achievement standards in order to satisfy ESEA accountability requirements. These amendments will permit, as a transitional measure, States that meet certain criteria to continue to administer alternate assessments… for a limited period of time.”

http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?pubId=201410&RIN=1810-AB16

“Phasing out the authority of the states” has been precisely the point for every last one of Duncan’s promoted education reforms, from Common Core to Common Data Standards to State Longitudinal Database Systems to P-20 programs to Common Core Assessments to teacher and school evaluations.

It’s been the shared vision of non-governmental education reformers as well, from Marc Tucker to Michael Barber to Linda Darling Hammond to the Center for American Progress.

Utahns Against Common Core have been pointing out this phase-out of local authority for over two years. Others have been saying it for decades.

But fat cats (Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, School Improvement Network, Prosperity 2020, Education First, Pearson Inc., Microsoft) –each of whom wants to sell fat educational products to the fat, “uniform customer base of Common Core” (as Gates put it) will not listen, and will mock and scorn critics because they want to get fatter and fatter on the taxpayer’s dime.

Why does such a supposedly conservative state allow the educational authority of the state to be “phased out” –because of businesses’ greed and lack of care for our children?  Where are our children’s educational defenders when we need them?  Where is the action behind all the flag-waving speeches that we’ve heard, now, Governor Herbert, Education Advisor Pyfer, Senator Stephenson, Representative Powell?

Why doesn’t our Governor, our legislature, our state school board, lift a finger to fight for our Constitutional right to educational self governance?

I cannot understand the apathy and the complacency and the tolerance– even at the legislative level– of all reforms aligned to the Common Core.

Is it not tragically crazy that we, as a state, willingly allow liberties –guaranteed under the supreme law of the land– to slip so easily out of our lives?  We allow ourselves to be lied to by our leaders, who cradle these education reform lies in positive, appealing language, and only for one reason:  cash flow.   Not for our children, at all.

When will Utah, when will America, wake up to this devastation of liberty and education?

 

To Phase Out the Authority of States Screenshot

Leaked Letter: Utah Teachers’ Evaluations (Pay) Will Depend On Common Core Test Scores in 2015   7 comments

An email sent to schools by the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) this week was forwarded to me.

It’s gross evidence of a gross circumstance.   The USOE decided that teacher evaluations (read: salaries) will be directly tied to Common Core/SAGE student results starting at the latest next fall (2015-2016 school year).

If teachers didn’t “teach to the Common Core test” before, they will now.

Their  value as a teacher is, by USOE policy, to be determined by SGP –Student Growth Percentile, meaning: the amount of Common Core -based “improvement” that students showed on their Common Core SAGE tests.

It’s a heavy, disrespectful blow to teachers.

I have learned of some teachers who outwardly nod their heads “yes” to administrations and boards but in fact ignore the Common Core standards, continuing to teach the children in their better way, in the same way they always had, prior to Common Core.

How will independent minded teachers survive this new blow?

I don’t know.

I want to remind everyone that many times the USOE has proclaimed that teachers and schools may teach in the manner that in the local, professional judgment, the schools and teachers deem best.  They say Common Core and its tests do not micromanage teachers.

How untrue that claim has been.

Actions speak louder than words.  The state-level threat of teachers losing pay or status, if a particular teacher’s students don’t speed along the Common Core/SAGE test chain, is an almost insurmountable, powerful micromanagement of Utah’s teachers by its government.

Why did Utah allow the USOE to evolve this much power over us?   The USOE, so monstrously staffed, so stuffed full of bureaucrats, consumes many of our precious education dollars but runs un-accountably –to anyone.  And the USOE has zero authority under the Utah Constitution!

Only the State School Board holds constitutional authority of Utah’s education, checked and balanced by the legislature which hold the power of the purse.   The USOE is a deformed, runaway growth, much bigger and heavier than its stem.  Think about it: corrupt though the state board’s election system has been, still, the electing of State Board members has been at least theoretically representative; taxpayers can vote board members out of office.

Not so for the USOE and it’s leadership and staff.  Taxpayers and teachers and parents have zero say in who gets to run our educational show at the USOE level.  We can’t un-elect the writers of that letter, nor can we vote out the vast number of fat-salaried appointees who boss around the teachers, principals and students of this state.

Just as the federal U.S. Department of Education has no Constitutional validity, neither does the USOE have any state-constitutional validity.

I wish school administrators, school boards, the legislature and especially the state board would respond to the USOE with a little spit and vinegar– in defense of teachers and in non-acknowledgement of the assumed authority of the USOE and its policies, schmollisees.

Here’s that letter.

 

======================================

 

Date: Wed, 12 Nov 2014

From: “Estrada, Christelle” <Christelle.Estrada@schools.utah.gov>

To: “ALL “

Subject: [Secondary ELA] Clarification – SAGE and SGPs

Colleagues:  I am forwarding this clarification from both the Assessment and the Educator Effectiveness departments at USOE so that you can disseminate it to your fellow teachers.

 

 

Dear LEAs,

 

This E-mail is to clarify possible misunderstandings and up-to-date information in regards to SAGE and Student Growth Percentiles (SGPs), and SLOs. The SAGE results for the 2013-14 school year that were released to the public on October 27, 2014 are valid and reliable assessment results.  The results create a new baseline for student achievement.   Educators and parents should seriously review these results and use the results with all of the other educational information and data to support students and assist them in improving their academic achievement.

 

We would like to clarify the relationship of SAGE results to Student Growth Percentiles (SGPs) and to Educator Evaluation in general. The SAGE results you have recently received may be used in all of the ways you have typically used test results to make instructional decisions, inform the school improvement process,  inform professional development, and evaluate programs; however, the 2013-14 SGPs are not calculated for the purposes of educator evaluation, nor to identify schools for focus and priority status under the ESEA waiver.

 

Business rules for calculating SGPs for educator evaluations are currently being developed by the USOE Educator Effectiveness section in cooperation with the USOE Assessment section. District representatives including Superintendents, HR Directors, Curriculum Directors, Educator Evaluation Liaisons and other stakeholders will have an opportunity to give input to these business rules prior to their implementation in June of 2015. These business rules will be used to generate teacher-level SGPs that may be used for calculation of a portion of the  educator evaluation as early as August 2015, although their use will not be required until the 2015-2016 school year.

 

Meanwhile, districts should continue to provide professional development and continue to build rater reliability in relation to teacher and leader observations. They should continue to implement their SLO development plans and make choices about how stakeholder input will be gathered and calculated. The Educator Effectiveness team continues to recommend that teachers of both tested and non-tested subjects learn how to develop and use SLOs to provide additional measurement information about student growth.  SGPs will be available for calculating student growth for the 2014-15 school year (they are also available this year), and they will be available to apply to educator evaluation in 2015-16.

 

If you have additional questions about these topics, please continue to contact any of the following for additional clarification as needed: Linda Alder atlinda.alder@schools.utah.gov<mailto:linda.alder@schools.utah.gov> or 801-538-7923;  Kerrie Naylor at kerrie.naylor@schools.utah.gov<mailto:kerrie.naylor@schools.utah.gov>  or 801-538-7950;   Jo Ellen Shaeffer, joellen.shaeffer@schools.utah.gov<mailto:joellen.shaeffer@schools.utah.gov> or 801-538-7811.

 

Please note Utah has a very broad public records law.  Most written communication to or from our state employees regarding state business are public records available to the public and media upon request. Your email communication may be subject to public disclosure.

 

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Video: NJ Symposium to Stop Common Core: Drs. Stotsky, Tienken, Pesta, Williams, Borelli and Borelli   3 comments

In September, Concerned Citizens of Southern New Jersey  held a symposium entitled “No More Common Core,” featuring:

  • Dr. Sandra Stotsky, emeritus professor and member of the original Common Core validation committee
  • Dr. Christopher Tienken, professor at Seton Hall University
  • Dr. Duke Pesta of Freedom Project Education
  • Dr. Tom Borelli, a molecular biologist
  • Deneen Borelli of FreedomWorks
  • Dr. Vern Williams of MathReasoning

The symposium was filmed and is posted here in three segments.

One of the event organizers, Janice Lenox, wrote an op-ed in the Cape May County Herald that succinctly explains why this symposium was so needed.

After a tremendous amount of grassroots labor, the Assembly bill against Common Core was read and voted on.  Lenox wrote:

“We were there for the vote and absolutely ecstatic when the vote 72-2 in our favor was called. Now, on to the Senate…  the Senate president passed over the bill without posting for a vote. We were told that the governor had a meeting with the Senate president and the Teachers Union president and cut a deal. “Regulation, not Legislation” –that’s what the governor wanted. He issued an executive order… He was to assemble a Study Commission to examine the PARCC testing and alleviate the teachers’ assessments for a year… and look at the Common Core…  That was July 19 of this year… As of this date, Nov. 1, no Commission of any kind has been named and no information has been forthcoming…  We urge Senator Steven Sweeney to do the people’s business and post Senate bill S2154 to the floor for a vote and let the peoples’ voices be heard….  Let teachers teach and parents parent.”

If the good people of New Jersey will simply watch, learn, and share these vital messages from the symposium speakers, and then firmly let Senator Sweeney and their other elected representatives exactly how important this is, maybe this mountain will move move.

Go, New Jersey!

 

Symposium Part One:

 

Symposium Part Two:

 

Symposium Part Three:

Has Your School Adopted All-Year-Round Common Core Testing?   10 comments

mtville

 

One of the reasons that our family moved from Wasatch County to Utah County last month was to be closer to the school in Alpine (Utah County) that my son is attending this year. The 50-mile (times two) daily commute was worth it.

Filled with uniformed students and happy-looking staff, Mountainville Academy’s a cheerful, academically-focused K-9 school that displays the Covey Seven Habits of Highly Effective People posters all over the school (and incorporates the 7 habits into classwork.)  Parents each volunteer 40 or more hours of service to the school, and it shows.

We chose Mountainville Academy because it was one of the few remaining public schools that was using time-tested, excellent Saxon Math (2007 version; pre-Common Core), and it was a rare school where students were grouped by achievement level rather than by age, at least for math.  This meant that a sixth grader would often be found in an eighth grade math class, or vice versa, placed not by government tests, but by a “results-remained-in-the-school” performance test.

Also, despite the government  mandate that the school administer end-of-year Common Core SAGE/AIR tests, the school had been gracious with parents who chose to opt students out of those end of year tests.

This school year had been good, so far.

But last night, I received a school email that has resulted in our family’s decision that our son will not attend Mountainville next year.  I was so sad.  I truly felt sold out, as Alyson Williams described it, because this board could not claim ignorance.  I had met with them, presented to them, emailed them, shown them links and documentation and countless reasons why this decision would harm the students and the school.

The email, from the school’s academic excellence committee, stated that despite the two presentations I made, and despite other parents also speaking out, the school will abandon “results-remain-in-the-school” performance testing, to adopt year-round, formative SAGE/Common Core testing.

This, the email said, was in the best interests of the children.

I was sickened by the email’s news, but also confused– how can anyone, having received the amount of information and documentation that I presented and emailed to the board and the committee about SAGE/AIR, still say with seriousness that this decision was “in the best interests of the children”?

I don’t get it.

But I’m going to post the email that I gave to the board, which the board had requested from me as a follow-up to my five or ten minute oral presentation.  I’m also going to post the email I received last night.

So, is this an epic ruination of a great, formerly-parent-led school, or was this decision made truly “in the best interests of the children”?  The school  has been altered to its very center.  The school-altering decision was made without taking a vote from parents, without even announcing in the weekly “Mountainville Minute” that the school will now be very, very different.

It will be administering Common Core testing throughout the year, and on purpose, voluntarily, rather than only administering the state-mandated end of year SAGE/AIR test.   It will  necessarily align its teachings more and more to the federal desires for what college-and-career readiness is, because placing students in different levels of learning will be structured all year long now upon common core testing and teaching.

I can’t see any way that this course of action can take place and still keep classic education, Saxon math for example, at the school for long.  Because formative tests are utterly Common Core and David-Coleman-club  aligned, to get the state version of “excellent” scores on these tests, teachers will be pressured to teach more Common Core and less classic Saxon.  The formative tests will form student’s paths and teacher’s definitions of what education now means, and that’s giving up the reins of power, reins that had made this school so unique and wonderful.

Beyond the academic transformation is something probably even more serious:  student data privacy.  Privacy for Mountainville students is thrown out the window, because individuals and schools were the only defense we had against the federal-corporate partnership that is aiming to rape the nation of its student privacy.

The state government won’t protect us if Mountainville’s board won’t; the state’s SLDS (State Longitudinal Database System) tracks children without parental consent or knowledge and gives much of it to the federal EdFacts Data Exchange and to the corporate American Institutes for Research, which is then free to share that data with its countless affiliates, including Data Recognition Corporation and Smarter Balanced Advisory Consortium (SBAC) which happens to be under contract to share its student level data with the federal government.  American Institutes for Research, the primary data collector of Utah’s SAGE tests, is a behavioral research organization focused on psychometric data collection and behavior.

All of this is known to Mountainville’s Board of Trustees, and with full knowledge, the Board has decided to still jump on the year-round SAGE testing bandwagon.  Neither preserving a classical education nor student data privacy apparently matters too much to the Mountainville Board.

But it does to me.

My heart goes out to the students and their families who will remain at Mountainville, most likely oblivious to the fact that the school’s educational program and their student’s academic and behavioral data privacy  just took a very sharp nose dive down.

 

Here are the emails.

——————————————–

On Oct 13, 2014, at 2:12 PM, Christel wrote:

 

Dear Mountainville Academy,

 

I’m following up from last week’s school board meeting with a summary of my concerns underlying my request that Mountainville Academy continue to use the in-house testing system that’s worked so well in past years, rather than switching over to the state’s SAGE/AIR formative testing system.

 

(I began to study education reforms two and a half years ago and have researched, summarized and posted findings at  “Common Core: Education Without Representation” where I hope you will read much more than I can summarize here about student data privacy,  the common core experimental standards, and the unconstitutionality and freedom-sapping of recent education reforms.)

 

The reason my sixth grade son’s commuted 50 miles– from Heber to Alpine– and back, each day this school year (up until this week when our family moved from Heber to Pleasant Grove) is that Mountainville is very different in important, crucial ways, from other public schools.  I love those differences and want them to remain in place.

 

  • The use of time-tested Saxon math rather than the kind of experimental Common Core math that’s being taught elsewhere was reason #1 for our choosing Mountainville.
  • Reason #2 was the in-house testing that places children where they need to be, rather than placing them in a common pace that does not serve individual needs as well; the fact that these in-house test results remained only at Mountainville, rather than being submitted to state or federal entities– as government-mandated school tests are– was a big deal to me.

 

If Mountainville switches to SAGE/AIR formative testing, I predict that many parents, like me, will very sadly decide to leave the school.  Here’s why:

 

  1. LOCAL CONTROL:   American Institutes for Research (AIR), the company that writes Utah’s SAGE tests (along with some limited Utah educator input), represents a lack of local control and freedom to me. AIR is federally approved and  is officially partnered with the federally funded and micromananged SBAC, Utah’s former Common Core test maker.  AIR/SAGE partnership makes Utah indirectly   partnered with the federal government via that SBAC partnership.  AIR has a progressive, left-leaning agenda, a focus on psychometric rather than academic testing, and a set of values that do not match mine. I do not trust that the questions will be values-neutral nor that the questions will not push children toward pre-determined beliefs that go far beyond traditional academic facts or even critical thinking about traditional truth.  I feel this way about AIR based on carefully studying AIR’s own website, mission statement, clients, staff, secretive questions, history; vague responses by the USOE and state leaders in response to parental concerns; the research of Alpine School Board members, and the actual contract between AIR and Utah.

 

  1. PARENTAL KNOWLEDGE:  Neither Mountainville parents nor teachers are ever allowed to view SAGE tests– not even months after the testing has happened.

 

  1. PRIVACY:  Privacy will go out the window.  What is reported about students by Mountainville to the state, federal and corporate research entities will go from a tiny trickle to a fast-flowing river of data.  Formerly, Mountainville performance tests remained at the school level.  Now, the state of Utah would be tracking and collecting all in-house formative information on each child, without parental knowledge or consent.  While parents can opt out of end of year SAGE tests, they cannot opt out of year -round formative tests while remaining at this school.

 

  1. FEEDING THE SLDS:  Because the legislature has not clearly defined, as far as I can tell, who owns individual student data in our state, the state is making what I feel is  the wrong assumption –that it owns or is entitled to student data.  Common sense says that the student and his/her family should own his/her data.   Because it’s not clear in current law, our children are unprotected.  This is evidenced by the existence of the state longitudinal database system (SLDS) which follows and tracks students without parental knowledge or consent, from the moment a parent registers a child for school (unless it’s private school) until the child is in the workforce.  The SLDS system was created to federal specifications, with federal interoperability rules, using $9.6 million federal dollars to build Utah’s SLDS.  Every other state also has a federally paid for SLDS.  Much student data is shared from the SLDS to the federal EdFacts Data Exchange.  Because we do not know exactly what data is shared from Utah to the federal government, we are wise to not feed Utah’s SLDS any more data that we are absolutely required to by state law; i.e., don’t drop our in-house testing and use the state’s SAGE/AIR system.

 

  1. FEEDING THE NDCM DATA POINTS:  There is a National Data Collection Model at the federal level  which requests– it does not mandate, but it requests– over 400 data points about every student in our state. It is an invasion of student and family privacy, yet at the state level, Utah is increasingly conforming to the NDCM requests using its P-20 system promoted in Governor Herbert’s Prosperity 2020 program. I do not see any benefit or need to cooperate with these unethical requests.

 

  1. FERPA WAS SHREDDED: We are not protected by formerly protective federal privacy law, FERPA.  The Department of Education went behind Congress’ back to make regulatory, policy changes (not laws, but still binding).  These changes included reducing the requirement to get parental consent (before viewing/sharing student data) to a “best practice” rather than a mandate. The changes also included redefining personally identifiable information (pii) as biometric information. That means that behavioral data (the type of data AIR specializes in collecting) and biological data can be used to identify students at the federal level.  The Federal Register lists fingerprints, blood type, handwriting samples, DNA and many other methods of identifying pii of a student..  We have to ask ourselves whether a vast data-collection archive or student privacy is of greater value to our children.  We cannot have control of both.

 

  1. DON’T PASS THE BUCK ON PROTECTING CHILDREN:   In my experience I have found that most Utah legislators, state school board members and even our governor’s staff do not know nor work to understand these things..  They have not taken the time to understand recent education reform changes, or they see them as a positive thing.

 

We cannot depend on others to protect our children.  We need to be the first line of defense as parents, teachers and local school board members.  I ask you to retain Mountainville’s in-house tests, keep the strengths of Mountainville, and reject the opportunity to use Utah’s SAGE/AIR year-round testing system.

 

Thank you.

 

Christel Swasey

Mountainville Academy Parent

(also a Utah credentialed teacher)

————————————————————————–

Date: Mon, Nov 10, 2014 at 2:05 PM
Subject: Re: Request to continue with in-house testing rather than
formative SAGE testing


Christel,

I just wanted to let you know the status of our SAGE testing decisions.


At Mountainville Academy, we make every decision based on what is best for our students.  After listening to all sides with concerns about SAGE testing, we as an academic excellence committee has decided to go ahead with the interim SAGE testing.  We feel that it will help students learn and prepare for SAGE testing in the spring.  As you know, spring SAGE testing is mandatory and schools are not allowed to opt out of testing.


After reviewing the results from SAGE testing of spring 2014, we recognize the many challenges that come with a new test, but are excited by the tools created to help our students achieve greater understanding of various topics.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.  I completely understand your concerns and we will continue to monitor the testing and SAGE program.  Thanks for coming to our board and committee meeting.

Thanks Again!


Board of Trustees
Mountainville Academy

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(For those with concerns,  look into schools that are not yet taking the path of Common Core year-round testing.  In Utah County there’s the (fully aware of the Common Core problem) Maesar Prep (a public chartered jr. and high school), American Heritage (private K-12), Timpanogos (public elementary charter) or one of the many home school co-op academies nearby.)

Who’s Your Daddy? Authority Posers v. Authority Holders   2 comments

babyParents are in charge of their children.

It is not for corporations or federal entities to delegate an education  “role” to the state or to schools or parents, like a play director hands out a role or a prop to an actor.  Similarly, it’s not a school’s or any agency’s right to delegate parents as partners in their child’s education.   Teaching children is not a governmental dictatorship, nor is is a community collective.

Parents and families are the authority, followed by teachers, followed by districts, followed by states.  Unless a parent specifically requests involvement, it’s never a federal or corporate or a “collective” right to rule over the parent-led student’s education. The state is lower on the totem pole than the local district and the schools and families.   The federal government and corporations are not even allowed on the totem pole.  Neither is the United Nations  despite what it has planned for local schools.

We hold the American, Constitutional right to control our own lives, and not to be bullied by outside forces, but the stream of control over education is trying to flow the wrong way:  outside in.

Case in point:  here is a new homework assignment for those in Common Core 101 (aka researching the unconstitutional ways in which federal ed reform is destroying representative government and parental control):   Read and analyze this 268-page  document for constitutional viability:  “The State Role in School Turnaround“.

No, wait a minute.   Don’t bother to read the whole 268 pages.  Just read the title– and nothing else– and realize that it’s completely unconstitutional.

Think about it.  The “state role”?  Under this Republic and its Constitution, the people are in charge– under laws they have created via elected representation.  The states individually are in charge –and not the federal government agencies (nor its agents or branches, like WestEd, which wrote this document.)

The phrase “School Turnaround” is a federal concept comes from Obama’s four pillars of education reform.

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America, we are losing the local representative form of government, losing power to control what happens in our schools, because of central planning taking place by “councils” and “stakeholders” and “partnerships” and chambers of commerce that lack authority in schools and individuals’ lives.  Money, not actual legality, is the source of the assumed authority.

The above “State Role” document happens to be new in 2014, but there are countless other, equally unauthorized, equally arrogant documents written to support mandates created by grant-givers (Bill Gates or federal Dept of Ed) who lack the authority to control our state educational system, but who are nonetheless beginning to rule over us.

  1. example one:  2011 Federal grant to create Common Core tests which mandates states sharing student-level data SBAC  In this document you will see that the authority cited is not a legal code but simply money.  Money is the authority– money the Dept. of Education had no right to be offering for obedience to its mandates.
  2. example two: 2009 Federal ARRA grant to monitor citizens without consent, in State Longitudinal Database System; all must be federally interoperable.  Again, the federal government had no authority to create a federal citizen database.  But by offering money, it got states to make a giant, state-fed-interoperable bunch of databases that it could then tap.
  3. example three: 188 corporate Gates grants that implement Common Core in American schools, each from the same corporate “philanthropist” who sells Common Core technologies and textbooks via official partnerships and governmental alliances.  Again, no authority:  no voter asked Bill Gates to push Common Core onto schools; nothing but the temptation of money fuels the monstrous takeover of the majority of our nation’s schools.

Don’t buy into the posture of authority or the glossy, legitimate-seeming pdf’s and conferences.  Groups like WestEd, AIR, CCSSO, NGA, Microsoft, Pearson, Achieve Inc., SBAC, PARCC, ACT, The College Board,  The Center on School Turnaround, The National Center on Education and the Economy– are nongovernmental.  We didn’t elect them and we can’t boot them out.

So why are we allowing them to dictate to us?

Know that we, the people, are in charge, legally, of our own children.  Individuals, families, local schools are in charge, in that order, and as designated by the family, not by districts or a state.

We have to know it to defend it.  Spread the word.

 

 

Responding to the Attorney General’s Report on Common Core   8 comments

utahns against Common Core

The Utah Attorney General (AG) recently issued a report about Common Core.  I’m grateful that Common Core concerns are receiving much-needed attention, rather than being dismissed as unfounded. I thank the Attorney General for his time spent on this issue.  But the report is egregiously errant.

I’m just a full-time mom, not a lawyer.  Though I have many years of experience teaching in public schools, plus years spent researching ed reforms, I never aimed to rebut a state attorney general’s education report.  But truth is truth and error should not be accepted as fact.

Please study this out for yourself. I’m here to point out and to back up with documentation, the errors and omissions of the A.G.’s  Common Core report.  It’s for you to draw your own conclusions.  It’s for our children to live with what we adults see as truth.

cute kids

Before I get to the errors and omissions, I will point with gratitude to three key issues that the report correctly clarified:

1)  The report’s first paragraph correctly clarified the fact that the “Utah Core” for K-12 math and English is, in fact, the exact same thing as “Common Core.”  Many have been confused about this fact and some in leadership allow that confusion to continue because they know Common Core has become a toxic term.  But no one need be confused.  The A.G. is correct:  Utah does (unfortunately and voluntarily) adhere to centralized, standardized Common Core standards and tests.

2) The report also  correctly stated that the US Dept. of Education ( by imposing waiver conditions and pushing states to adopt federally approved standards) “has infringed upon local and state authority over public education” and that Utah and other states “consented to this infringement through federal coercion...” (emphasis added).

3) The report correctly said that “Utah has the legal ability to repeal” Common Core.  Most people already knew that Utah CAN withdraw from Common Core; our point has always been that we REQUEST that our state will indeed withdraw from Common Core.

 

The Attorney General’s report wrongly concludes three main things, which I will afterward explain in detail:

1) That adoption of Common Core followed the rule of law; that the parent-teacher lawsuit –brought against the state’s decision to adopt Common Core without proper vetting– holds no water and that the board’s adoption of Common Core was legal;  that Common Core standards do not qualify as rules –so the UARA’s rulemaking process did not need to be followed;

2) That Utah has not ceded authority nor lost local control over its education system via the Common Core Initiative; and that there are no groups that now hold direct or indirect control over Utah’s education system;

3) That Common Core does not impact curriculum.

 

1.   The report incorrectly states that the board’s adoption of Common Core followed the rule of law, using “a very public process” and that it was not illegal in any way.  That question will soon be determined in a Utah court.  The lawsuit to which the report referred –in which parents and teachers are suing the board over its method of adopting Common Core– is still a live, active lawsuit.

Connor Boyack of Libertas Institute (the institution supporting the lawsuit) was correctly quoted by the Deseret News, saying, “Specific behavior was required of the board that was not done. That is the basis of our lawsuit, and that was not responded to by the attorney general.  Our allegations still stand and we’re confident that a judge will determine that the board, in fact, did not comply with the law.”

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The A.G. came to a different conclusion not only from that of Libertas Institute but also from U.S. Department of Education secretary Arne Duncan, who noted that Utah’s state school board and many other states very quickly, quietly adopted Common Core “without studying it, without writing a white paper on it,” without consulting with the teachers, administrators and others whose careers would forever be altered by it.

This clearly goes against our state’s law.

As a public school teacher whose credential has never lapsed out of date, I can attest that when Common Core came to Utah, neither I nor any teacher, to my knowledge, received so much as a letter or an email consulting with or discussing or debating or communicating the fact that a decision was in process, nor announcing any potential positive or negative consequences of the decision.  Local school boards can and have attested that they were likewise left out of the decision.   Millions of public school parents can testify that there was no “very public process”.  Although parents often get  letters, robocalls and emails about school pajama day, the fall carnival, community council elections and many other issues, it was only long after the state had agreed to Common Core (and its associated data, testing and evaluation reforms) that parents and teachers became aware of what it was and how it would change our lives forever.  Teachers and the general public would have had to have been actively scouring the state office of education website weekly basis (–and why would they?)  –to have come across any invitation for public discussion or feedback on this huge, transformative issue.

The report also falsely states that prior to adoption of Common Core, Utah was an active participant in the creation of Common Core standards.  This claim is not backed up with evidence of any kind. Listening to the minutes of the state school board meetings surrounding adoption of Common Core reveals that the claim is far from true.

Last, there’s the reference to Utah’s  UARA  which defines rules and rulemaking.  The A.G.’s report correctly states that a plausible case can be made that  because Utah is now ruled by Common Core’s rules, the rulemaking process should have been followed, and was not. UARA defines a rule as a statement by an agency (in our case, the USOE/school board) which implicitly or explicitly requires some class of people or agencies (in our case, school system employees)  to obey it; a statement that implements or interprets law (in this case both state and federal law, even though the federal government does not have constitutional authority to make education laws– since it has done so and it uses money to control states’ obedience to these unauthorized laws and policies, and now Common Core-implementing state laws are congruent with Common Core education reforms as well).

Common Core standards must be considered rules since the state school board and USOE mandate statewide adherence to its benchmarks and tests, and the legislature specifically mandates  teacher and school evaluation using Common Core computer adaptive testing.

But the A.G.’s report oddly states that because Utah law does not define the meaning of the term “standard,”  the standards aren’t really rules so the rulemaking process was correctly skipped over. That defies common sense, and research.  Teachers and administrators rely on USOE/USSB statements on Common Core to interpret and implement education law and policy.  Common Core is mandated by the legislature’s Common Core CAT testing laws, and adherence to Common Core was partial payment for receipt of federal waivers, monies and technologies; it was parceled with federal No Child Left Behind waivers, ARRA grant obligations, SBAC (Utah’s former) testing grants, and the federal SLDS grant, each of which helped bind Utah schools, teachers and students to Common Core and common data standards.

2.  The report incorrectly states that Utah has NOT ceded authority over standards and curriculum.  Utah ceded her authority by adopting Common Core, in several ways:

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Way one:  Utah has no vote or voice in the revisions to “its own” common core standards.  Utah did not write Common Core.  Neither did any other state. Common Core was never, despite its marketing claims, a state-led process.  The creator-copyrighters of Common Core were two unelected, nonpublic groups— unaccountable-to-voters groups, cannot-be-influenced-by-voters groups; closed-door, private D.C. groups, that go by the misleadingly governmental-sounding titles of “National Governors’ Association” (NGA) and “Council of Chief State School Officers” (CCSSO).  NGA and CCSSO are private clubs–  they are nongovernmental, and not all governors nor all superintendents choose to belong to NGA/CCSSO; in fact, some U.S. governors and state superintendents avoid the NGA and CSSSO like the plague.

The power of the NGA and CCSSO over standards and education policy in many states is the prime example of education without representation.

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Way two:  Utah cannot vote for those who have authority to revise or change Common Core.  And we know that Common Core IS going to change.

Utah’s Common Core standards are under copyright by NGA/CCSSO.  Utah can’t influence who gets hired by NGA/CCSSO or what policies get created in those closed-door meetings.  Utah can’t participate in any amendment meetings when Common Core “living work” standards get altered and revised, which the copyright holders  have promised to do.   The standards state:  “The Standards are intended to be a living work. As new and better evidence emerges, the Standards will be revised accordingly.”

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Way three:  The CCSSO –significantly– has also created the Common Educational Data Standards (CEDS), in partnership with the federal department of education, to match up with the Common Core standards technologically as well as academically.  Utah promised the federal government to adhere to CEDS tracking technologies in such documents as   Utah schools’ 2009 ARRA federal grant application,  which is fully explained and linked here.  Because our federally paid-for State Longitudinal Database System is also (per federal grant requirement) interoperable with federal systems, and because our Common education standards and Common data standards match the CCSSO’s CEDS requirements, student privacy and state autonomy over data systems are also no longer in our control.  Truly, control over student data privacy is threatened via the interdependence of Common Core standards and federal Common data standards.

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Way four:  Utah’s statewide SAGE/AIR Common Core tests enforce the Common Core being taught in Utah schools and the Common data standards (CEDS) being used in Utah schools.  SAGE/AIR are Common Core-led, computer adaptive tests which are not only end-of-year but year-round formative tests, controlled and created by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) with token help from a handful of appointed Utah teachers.  AIR is officially partnered with both the federal government and the SBAC (federally-funded testing consortium).  This means that the micromanagement of tests and the sharing of student level data –to which the SBAC is subject by contract– also binds AIR-partnered Utah.  Utah students must be tested on Common Core standards using SAGE/AIR tests, which are secretive in nature, written by psychometricians with a mission statement that focuses on applying behavioral and social science research, and which follow the Common Core copyrighters’ philosophies.  Test cannot be seen (because of secrecy rules) by those governed and tested and evaluated by them.

All of these controls do fetter Utah citizens to federal dictates, and each rests on the Common Core standards.

3.  The report incorrectly states that Common Core impacts only standards and not curriculum.  Because the state Common Core tests (aka SAGE tests) are not only year-end but formative (year-round) tests, they impact curriculum very much– much more than any previous statewide testing did.  Because state and federal reforms have now attached teacher evaluations and school evaluations directly to student scores on these Common Core tests, teachers must choose from an ever-narrowing spectrum of curriculum that teaches to the test more than ever before.  The SBAC testing group, which is partnered with Utah’s AIR testing group, and Microsoft (Bill Gates’ company) which is partnered with Pearson (the world’s largest education sales products company) each offer Common Core test-matched curriculum, and Utah schools and technologies are purchasing them over other products, because the board mandated that Common Core would be Utah’s Core.

Lead Common Core funder Bill Gates revealed in a speech, “Identifying common standards is just the starting point.  We’ll only know if this effort has succeeded when the curriculum and tests are aligned to these standards… When the tests are aligned to the common standards, the curriculum will line up as well. And it will unleash a powerful market of people providing services…  For the first time there will be a large, uniform base of customers looking at using products…”

The A.G.’s report also omits key concerns, including:

I. Copyright and control of Common Core-  The report ought to have clarified who truly controls and holds copyright over the Common Core standards and its related data standards, and who has authority to revise them.  Neither voters, nor elected representatives,  nor local teachers, nor Utah’s State school Board, but only the nonpublic D.C. group, NGA/CCSSO, controls them.)  As has been stated, there is no amendment process for our state to revise the “living work” of Common Core, by which we are now governed, although these standards will be revised by its copyrighters.

II.  The State Duty to Educate Locally – While the report is correct in saying that the federal government coerced states into adopting its definition of college and career ready standards with the hope of getting federal money, the report does not stand up and say that Utah is under a constitutional obligation to stand up for the right to educate via local dictates.  The A.G.’s report does not recommend that Utah cease being controlled by and unreasonably swayed by federal money.  It apparently accepts Utah’s seeming submissiveness to the federal (unconstitutional) posture of authority over education.  If the A.G.’s office has not itself adopted the submissive mindset under the federal posture of (unauthorized) authority, then the report should have recommended that Utah fight for a reclaiming of state power over all aspects of education.  If Utah’s A.G. believes in the constitutional separation of powers and in the importance of maintaining local control of the constitutionally state-held right and responsibility over state education — then the report should have focused on that point rather than sidelining it as an historical, water-under-the-bridge detail.  Nor did the report recommend standing in solidarity with Oklahoma, a state which recently repealed Common Core and has faced federal power grabbing struggles as a result.

The report said, “Will we lose federal monies if we modify Common Core standards? No.”

That is a half-truth.  Utah didn’t lose federal monies by adding cursive to Utah’s English standards in addition to Common Core, true.  But if we make more than minimal additions (there’s a 15% cap on adding to Common Core) or if we aim to repeal the whole enchilada we end up with severe federal pushback as has been demonstrated in the case of Washington state and Oklahoma.  We should, of course, still hold the line of state authority and ignore the pretended authority of Secretary Duncan.

III.  The State Board’s Constitutional Duty to Not Cede Its Authority – The report correctly states that the school board has the authority to set standards, and that the board “is the appropriate constitutional body” to withdraw from Common Core, based on the Utah Constitution‘s words:  “The general control and supervision of the public school system shall be vested in a state board of education consisting of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and such other persons as the legislature may provide.”  True.

But nowhere in Utah’s Constitution does it say that the board, superintendent and other persons may give away or delegate  that “general control and supervision of the public school system”.

Conclusion:

The Attorney General’s report receives an “F” in my gradebook.  It simply veers so far from the truth that it cannot be taken as correct.

I don’t expect to hear from the Attorney General’s office, apologizing for the errors.  I don’t expect the state school board members nor those education staffers at the Governor’s office who openly call me and other teachers and parents “crazy” to suddenly fact-check, turn around and be enlightened.  I simply wrote this piece for other people like me– people who care about the truth, people who aren’t financially rewarded by and tied to the claim that Common Core is the One True Path, people who value this knowledge, to better protect and educate their children and to possibly have a chance at saving some of the local control that is our Constitutional inheritance.

 

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