Archive for the ‘Data Privacy is a Right Schools Must Not Violate’ Category

Civil Disobedience   2 comments

I wrote this essay for the Libertas Institute essay contest. If you like it, please click on “like” at the Libertas link before August 22nd 2014, and share it so that I have a shot at the prize for the most “like”s. Thank you. Also, thanks to Libertas for asking Utah citizens to think and write about this important subject.

esther

 

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE

Queen Esther of the Bible modeled the proper role of civil disobedience when she chose to break the law to free her people from the sentence of death. She did not shrink from personal consequences that her act of agency would bring. She said, “I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.”

Esther illustrated the justification for civil disobedience: we break a law only when lawful appeals cannot overcome threats to life, liberty, property, or free exercise of conscience; when it’s the only honorable course. Esther’s selfless act contrasts with the self-indulgence of others who break laws without being willing to shoulder the consequences.

Martin Luther King wrote about that willingness: “An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.”

Thoreau explained that governments were only able to commit wrongdoings, to “crucify Christ and excommunicate Copernicus and Luther, and pronounce Washington and Franklin rebels,” because individuals upheld bad governments by their failure to exercise agency, who “serve the state…as machines.” He pressed every individual not to “resign his conscience” to a government, and asked, “Why has every man a conscience then?”

Utah’s predominant religion teaches “We believe… in obeying, honoring and sustaining the law” (Article of Faith 12) and warns: “sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected ” (D&C 134). But further study of D&C 134 reveals that “thus protected” means “protected in their inherent and inalienable rights” –defined as “free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.” “Thus protected” is key: we honor government as long as we are protected in our inalienable rights. When laws fail to protect, when foul oppressions are enacted, people of conscience recognize the duty –of lawful pushback when possible, and of civil disobedience when regular appeals fail.

Pondering heroic acts of civil disobedience helps to clarify the difference between noble and ignoble disobedience.

1. 150 B.C. – Abinadi of the Book of Mormon defied the rule against freedom of speech and willingly faced the consequence of death by fire. 2. 1500′s – English protestants by the hundreds were burned at the stake or beheaded for breaking the law in refusing to follow the state religion under Queen Mary I (“Bloody Mary”). 3. 1776 – Many signers of the Declaration of Independence were punished or killed for signing, which was an act of civil disobedience under British law. 4. 1850′s – Harriet Tubman traveled between Northern and Southern states, illegally freeing 300 slaves. 5. 1940′s – Sweden’s diplomat, Raoul Wallenberg, jumped on top of trainloads of Jews on their way to death camps; ignoring governing protocol and soldiers’ warning bullets, Wallenberg gave out illegal passports and ordered captives to exit the trains. He saved thousands and then lost his own life in a Russian prison. 6. 1940′s – Holland’s Caspar Ten Boom illegally hid Jews during World War II. He responded to those who criticized him: “You say we could lose our lives for this child. I would consider that the greatest honor that could come to my family.” 7. 1950′s – Rosa Parks was arrested for breaking segregation laws by deliberately sitting “illegally” on a bus. 8. 1989 – China’s “Tank Man” in Tiananmen Square deliberately walked straight into communist tanks aimed to quell all freedom-seeking demonstrators. He was seized; it’s unknown whether he was executed. 9. 1990′s – Mongolia’s Oyun Altangarel, a state librarian, was fired for seeking freedom of religion and speech, but her organization’s hunger strike moved her country toward freedom.

Oppression is not only found in distant times and countries. It’s happening under our noses in 2014 in Utah –as are corresponding heroes of civil disobedience. Consider three stories.

1. In 2013, the Salt Lake Tribune published teacher Ann Florence’s op-ed, in which Florence wrote about “an avalanche” of counter-productive mandates which did not benefit students and did cause teacher demoralization. She lamented standardized tests and Common Core. She wrote, “We are tired of the threats and disrespect… tired of having our dedication reduced to a number. Educating children is… a life’s work that deserves the highest honor.”

In 2014, when Florence openly criticized computer-adapted standardized tests as “a waste of time and irrelevant,” refused to grade them, and spoke out to news media, the honors English teacher was fired by Granite School District for “a pattern of noncompliance”.

Florence told ABC4 news, “I am challenged constantly to teach my students to consider their own opinions, to examine their opinions …but when I try to employ critical thinking as a teacher and I have the support of hundreds of other teachers, I’m silenced and I’m fired.”

2. When Stuart Harper, St. George High School Physics Teacher, spoke out against the Common Core “reform,” he was threatened with job loss.  Harper had stated that he didn’t like Common Core being “pushed upon us [teachers],” nor could he tolerate the “lack of control we have over its content.” He criticized the “awful quality of its math core,” an “over-emphasis on testing,” “burdens on schools for curriculum changes and data collection” and said that “its focus drives schools deeper into the political realm and further from real education.”

The district told Harper he’d created rebellion and insubordination. They insisted that he accept their claims about Common Core– as if seeking verification was not scientific; as if truth cannot hold up under scrutiny; as if freedom of thought equals insubordination; as if debate equals unethical conduct.

Harper reasoned with officials, saying, “my intent was not to promote rebellion, but to simply encourage personal research on the subject and exercise freedom of speech on my off time, as a citizen and father. I was told, ‘Those freedom of speech rights you are probably referring to do not apply’ … I made it clear that if I continued to be intimidated into silence that I would resign…”

Harper would not be silenced, though he knew that the system “expects acceptance and conformity to its decisions… and even goes as far as intimidating and threatening those who have differing opinions. ” In his resignation letter, he wrote, “Any society or organization that silences and discourages freedom of speech removes the possibility to express ideas…” He revealed that the system hurts not only teachers’ freedom of conscience but also students’ freedom of conscience: it “no longer promotes learning, but rather focuses on training. It teaches what to think, not how to think.”

Harper was pressured to resign and did resign– not just over academically inferior standards, but over “an environment that clearly has no respect for the Constitutional right of free speech.”

3. When Utah high school student Hannah Smith (not her real name) saw, during the state’s Common Core (SAGE) test, that an objectionable test question should be viewed by parents, she captured screen shots of the question with her cell phone. She sent them to her mother, and they were shared, published and viewed nationally.

Smith was threatened by administrators with possible loss of graduation and was told that she was a cheater. The teacher who had been in the room was also threatened with professional action. State education leader Judy Park was quoted by the Salt Lake Tribune, threatening, “Any licensed educator that has been involved, I will report to UPPAC (Utah Professional Practices Advisory Commission of the state Board of Education), because they have now violated the obligation to follow ethics.” Park added, “[A]ll this concern about Common Core and SAGE has led us to the point that parents are encouraging students to break the law.”

Utah’s government uses multiple methods to stifle debate and freedom of thought in education. Utah teachers and school staff report (anonymously) that they must conform to education and data reforms without discussion. They’re told that they may not inform parents nor students of legal rights to opt out of SAGE testing, nor speak out against the Common Core without punishment for insubordination.

Key to the coffle is the state school board’s selection procedure, which narrows the candidate pool before voters get a chance to vote. The selection procedure starts with a survey that asks whether candidates support Utah Core/Common Core. It is further narrowed by insider committees and narrowed again by the governor to two pre-selected candidates. From these, voters may choose one. A rejected candidate recently sued the governor, calling this selection procedure “viewpoint discrimination.”

Why must we reclaim the sacred freedom to disagree and debate? Benjamin Franklin explained: “Grievances cannot be redressed unless they are known; and they cannot be known but through complaints and petitions. if these are deemed affronts, and the messengers punished as offenders, who will henceforth send petitions?”

Speaking against inappropriate education reforms now ranks as civil disobedience for Utah educators. Utah parents who opt children out of SAGE tests are sometimes chided by school administrators as “unsupportive” of schools despite the law upholding the parental right to opt out of the tests.

Utah’s predominant religion says that we “do not believe that human law has a right to…… bind the consciences of men” (D & C 134). It states that the “magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.” The chapter teaches “that the commission of crime should be punished… all men should step forward and use their ability in bringing offenders against good laws to punishment” (D&C 134). I think Thoreau would agree: he called government’s harm to conscience a “sort of bloodshed” and said, “through this wound a man’s real manhood” flows out. He wrote: “we should be men first, and subjects afterward.”

Although Utahans are witnessing the lack of freedom being put into place by the Common Core tests and Common Educational Data Standards (CEDS) –most fail to step forward.

Why?

In part this may be because there is controversy over whether new standards harm or help, but it’s unarguable that the oppressive nature of implementation harms free exercise of parent/teacher conscience and that the tests and data collection systems make students unwitting guinea pigs of D.C.’s experiment. These things should matter; even those who believe Common Core’s claim to improve education may recall that the Declaration of Independence speaks of “consent by the governed” which Common Core can’t claim since it wasn’t vetted by teachers, parents or taxpayers prior to adoption.

Fact: Utah’s government oppresses exercise of conscience by threatening job loss to educators who exercise it. Teachers governed thus are not protected in their inalienable rights. Fact: because the government creates no allowance for parents to opt children out of its federal-state database tracking system (State Longitudinal Database System) it also violates parental “right and control of property”–privacy being personal property. Fact: for at least two years the state school board (collectively) has rejected every plea for relief from parents and teachers on this matter, and the legislature has not succeeded in righting the wrong.

The choice then has become to behave as silent property, as governed as cooped chickens, or to rise to the scary, defining moment of Common Core. Stand-up actions (parents opting students out of testing, administrators claiming the right to say no) may result in ridicule or job loss but may be the only way we can defend the Constitutional right to local control of education, the only way to do the right thing.

Consider Thoreau’s words: “under a government which imprisons unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.”

For the sake of our American liberties and for the sake of our children, it is time for those who share the spirit of Queen Esther to echo her example: “I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.”

Dr. Gary Thompson: On the State Board of Education Meeting   1 comment

Dr Thompson

 

Dr. Gary Thompson is a rock star.

Despite his shy nature, he’s one of the loudest, smartest, funniest and most fearless fighters in the quest to protect children and to expose the widespread education-establishment corruption called Common Core.

He actually fights.  Actually cares.  Is not in it for money.

He’s not one of the politicorporate bad guys who use the pretense of “doing what’s best for the children” as a facade for just the opposite– to gain power, prestige and money at children’s expense.  (I’m talking about:  Pearson Education/Bill Gates/Arne Duncan/A.I.R./Chambers of Commerce/Marc Tucker/ Obama/ CCSSO, etc. etc. –as well as those who sustain the bad guys’ club, promoting Common Core and student data mining and teacher redistribution– yes, yes, the education folk whom we’ve elected or appointed even here in Utah.)

Dr. Thompson is a Utah doctor of clinical psychology and a very vocal advocate for children’s protection –from data mining, from excessive high-stakes testing and from age-inappropriate educational standards.

He’s given me permission to post his notes here, which were directed to the Utah State School board and State Office of Education.  Thanks, Dr. Thompson.

 

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From July 18, 2014:

 

In a public hearing yesterday Utah State Board members debated the issue of going back to the “old” (“No Child Left Behind”) or pushing forward with the developmentally inappropriate Common Core.

debra roberts   State Board Member Debra Roberts stated –in support of going forward with Common Core and renewing the NCLB waiver– “What counts to me is the immediate impact on individual students who are most vulnerable, and absolutely there would be an immediate impact on those kids.”

The adoption of Common Core for “the most vulnerable” of our kids flies in the face of science and parental common sense. I will leave all the political and money issues to the Board experts, but I will crucify on social and national media any and all Utah State Board members who are insane enough to cite the heart string pulling, manipulative “vulnerable kids” argument in support of Common Core.

That one-size-fits-all recent adoption of special education policies of the U.S. Department of Education is nothing short of developmental and cognitive child abuse.

Yes, Ms. Roberts, I said “Child Abuse“.

Use ANY other justification to support your wish to go forward with the waiver and stay on course with Common Core, but to use “vulnerable children” as any part of that justification is disingenuous, not supported by facts of science and child psychology.

Ms. Robert’s comments are nothing but a shameless manipulation of parents who voted for her to represent the best interests of their children, not the special interest groups of Utah’s teachers union or Bill Gate’s special interest testing groups.

Fellow Board Member Jeff Moss had the wisdom and courage to pull a last second, heroic motion out of his bag of procedural tricks to halt voting on this issue until more facts were gathered. One of these facts is the harm Common Core has on our States “most vulnerable children.”

Regardless of the consequences personally or professionally, I will not silence my voice while any Utah State Board Member uses the “vulnerable children” argument as justification to move forward with the NCLB waiver so that Common Core can continue to cause emotional, developmental, and cognitive harm to the children I dedicated my life to treating and serving…. and raising.

Ms. Roberts: Feel free to “spin” money issues. Spin the Standards debate. Spin anything you want in this debate Ms. Roberts. However, if you use “vulnerable children”…my therapist’s clients…or my own developmentally vulnerable children as part of your spin, I promise I will make you famous this summer.

-Dr. Gary Thompson-
Parent & Stay Home Dad

 

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Dr. Thompson also posted this letter, which is somehow hilarious even though it points out a tragic fact: that our educational leaders are promoting experimental, unvetted, non-peer-reviewed education standards –the Common Core standards– as if they were legitimate.

 

From July 24th:

Dear USOE:

Attached is something called “peer reviewed research”. When treating or testing children, especially those designated as “vulnerable populations,” we gear all our practices to be aligned with this type of research.

It’s best practice. It’s safe for the children. It’s the smart thing to do.

We do not base services provided to kids based on influences of special interest groups or Bill Gates. Nor do we give out propaganda-based information to parents, as such may pertain to children in vulnerable populations.

Peer reviewed research: Try it. You may like it!

exc.sagepub.com

 

-Dr. Gary Thompson

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The next Utah State School Board meeting is on August 8th.  It’s an open meeting.  The public is wanted–and needed.

Many will be there, showing by our presence that it matters to us what the board does in this vote.  We will wear matching stickers to petition the board NOT to renew the waiver from No Child Left Behind (ESEA).  The board will vote on that day.   The email for the board is board@schools.utah.gov and the phone number is 801-538-7517.  You may have two minutes to speak at that meeting if you call well in advance.

We Will Not Conform Event: A Report   7 comments

conform At the Provo mall theater  Tuesday night, people were being turned away because every seat was purchased for the Glenn Beck “We Will Not Conform” event.  The theater was overflowing with parents, teachers and grandparents wanting to know how to reclaim locally controlled education and a feeling of empowerment.  I  don’t know about the other 700 or so movie theaters, but at this one in Provo, people were energized.  After the event, audience members had to  be asked to leave because many stayed to talk long after the event. Those post-event conversations moved me more than anything I saw on the screen, even though the event itself was excellent.  I’ll explain further along, down this post.

The filming took place in Dallas live, and  included a powerful group of panelists.  Audience members nationwide participated via twitter, taking surveys and being asked to answer questions. On July 29th, there will be a rebroadcast of the event.  If you didn’t attend last Tuesday, or  can’t attend on the 29th, here are a few highlights:

  • Michelle Malkin  – Malkin, that vibrant firecracker of an analyst, called Common Core “educational malpractice” and said that no one has a right to experiment upon, and track, our children as if they were guinea pigs.  Malkin said that parents need the intellectual ammunition to fight the regurgitated talking points of the pro-Common Core groups.  She said that parents should verify and re-verify the claims and assumptions being spoken by the pro-Common Core side.
  • Kathleen Jasper – Jasper, a former teacher and vice principal, said that there is a giant machine of common core and high-stakes testing that can only be stopped by cutting off the fuel supply, which is the testing;  she said parents and teachers must stand up and boycott the common core aligned assessments.  She said parents need to know that media centers and computer centers in schools are being shut down to accomodate the high-stakes tests; all the money that classrooms need is being redirected to pay for the testing machine.
  • Emmett McGroarty- McGroarty, of American Principles Project, said that Common Core’s highly defined standards/curriculum/testing program ushers in an unconstitutional system that parents can stop.  He said that legislators must be held accountable by voters; if they’re not fighting it, they are going along with it.  Tolerance of common core is a litmus test for legislators.
  • Jenni White – White, a mom who was instrumental in getting Common Core repealed from Oklahoma, said that one of their greatest challenges was the Chamber of Commerce, since it was paid by Bill Gates to push Common Core.  She said that persistence (and matching, eye-popping T-shirts) were key.
  • Glenn Beck – Beck said that the kinds of teachers who can make the complex simple and the mundane exciting are worth their weight in gold, but these teachers are being systematically wiped out because of the enforcement of Common Core by the tests that make everyone and everything conform.
  • David Barton – Barton, a historian, make the point that some people think Common Core is “not that bad,” but it is like a tiger cub, cute and manageable at first, but given time, will destroy.
  • Terrence Moore – Moore, a professor and principal, said that because Common Core uses public money, the public has the right to ask, “what is education?” and not have it re-defined for us.  He said, “We have to get those stories back,” referring to the classic literature and the great American stories that Common Core marginalizes due to an emphasis on informational text and progressive ideology.
  • Heather Crossin – Crossin, an Indiana mom, made the point that we have the truth on our side; once people begin to look at Common Core they realize that the talking points aren’t true.
  • Brian Glicklich – Glicklich, a marketing specialist, said that when we work to repeal the Common Core agenda, we have to remember that rarely can we be both angry and effective; we should make our best points, but don’t try to make all of our points at once.

When the event ended, some friends and I passed out fliers inviting people to attend the Utah State School Board meeting on August 8th, and to take the time to make public comment there (two minutes per person are allowed.)  At that event, the state board will vote on whether or not to cowtow to the federal government by renewing the ESEA/NCLB waiver, which Utah received in exchange for the agreement to do Common Core (as option a; we also could have chosen option b, which was to create local standards using higher ed as a sounding board). After the event, I listened with mouth agape as to two teachers  spoke about their distress about Common Core in the theater lobby. One said that her first graders are being truly cheated and manipulated by the new Common Core math.  She said that when she attempted to speak out in staff meetings, she had her job threatened by her administrator.  She got scared.  She feels that teachers being forced to “collaborate” by PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) — having to sign off, promising to not veer from the common core as defined by the PLC, feels extremely restrictive.   She said that healthy debate does not exist; it’s not allowed to exist in the professional educator community.  She said that if teachers don’t agree, they have to be silent or they are labeled  “not a team player”  or “insubordinate.” The teacher also told me that she received a letter from her district, informing her that although parents have the right to opt students out of the tests, teachers do not have the right to inform parents of that right.  The letter said that teachers must administer the tests, and any teacher found telling students or parents that they have the legal right to not take these tests, would be in trouble. I spoke with a mother of twelve who has been learning about and fighting against Common Core for three years.   She said that many of her neighbors and friends who work in the school system have told her that they feel their hands are tied, and that they cannot do anything about Common Core even though they see its damages.  She opts all children out of the tests. In Utah, at least, we are fortunate because we have the law on our side; schools are not allowed to penalize a student’s grade if that student refuses to take the test. Opt out!

Utah: Getting Involved   Leave a comment

These are watershed moments for education in our State.

  If you’ve signed the petition at http://utahnsagainstcommoncore.com  you received the following update today.  If not, here you go.

 

Common Core Alerts

 

 

 

ACTION ITEMS:
1. Attend the Utah State Board of Education meetings Thursday, July 17 from – 4:00 PM to 5:45 PM and Friday, August 8 (please save the date) at Utah State Office of Education, Board Room/Conference Rooms, 250 East 500 South, Salt Lake City, Utah. We plan to PACK THE HOUSE.

The state school board will consider “a decision on whether to apply for an extension to its waiver under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)” to be voted on at the August Board meeting (http://schoolboard.utah.gov/news/board-considers-not-applying-for-an-extension-on-utahs-esea-waiver).  We hope that they DO NOT renew the waiver from No Child Left Behind.   By not renewing the waiver, Utah can send a clear message that we are in charge of our education and would take us one step closer to cutting the many federal ties that are preventing true local control over education.  We will not be the first state to make this vital stand.  Read more here.

Our strong presence is vital to voice our support so that the board to vote in our favor. This is a critical vote. Please attend; bring your children; we need to fill the room. (This is their work meeting but with brief public input, so we need to be respectful.  Signs are welcome to use in the hallways or outside.)

 

2. Call and write, before the July 17th meeting, to Governor Herbert, the State School Board, USOE representatives and send copies to your legislators, newspapers, and local school boards, asking them NOT to renew the ESEA waiver, to get us out of Common Core, and to return full control of education to Utah.

CONTACT INFORMATION:

Governor – http://governor..utah.gov/goca/form_governor.html State Board – board@schools.utah.gov Your Board Member – http://schoolboard.utah.gov/board-members-2

Find other officials here – http://vote.utah.gov/vote/menu/index

 

3. WE WILL NOT CONFORM – GLENN BECK EVENT

JULY 22nd we hope to see you as we pack all the available movie theaters throughout our state (and nationwide) for  Glenn Beck’s event: “We Will Not Conform: A night to make Common Core history”.  It’s in 700 movie theaters!  Several Utah parents will be attending the event live in Texas as well.  An updated theater list can be found here: http://www.fathomevents.com/event/we-will-not-conform-live/more-info/theater-locations

 

4.  Parent Groups and Candidates Organized to Stop Common Core:

We have updated the local parent group listings for those organizing in their areas.

http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/action-list/parent-groups/

 

There is a large SLC group until smaller groups form from it. Here’s an announcement from them.

Salt Lake County Committees – To Organize, Plan, Educate, and Act! Salt Lake County Committees will meet each fourth Thursday, except when it is a Holiday – like July 24. In which case we will meet on the third Wednesday (to help other attend that might not be able to). So we will meet July 16th 7 PM, at 7679 South Main St. (700 West), Midvale, a nicer and more central location. All are needed at these education and organization meetings (but attendance is more vital at State Board meeting on the 17th). Come one, come all and join your efforts to making Utah Education the best. The building is Utah Addition Centers – but is unmarked so look for signs, to enter, on the front and rear doors. Parking is in the rear. Contact Wendell W. Ashby ashbyww@gmail.com, and Administrative Support – Michelle Rodgers shelbysemail@yahoo.com

Candidate Alert

If you live in –or know people who live in– Rich County, please contact Bryce Huefner (435-757-0967behuefner@gmail.com) to help with his campaign.

Artist (Teacher) Protests Common Core at New York Art Gallery   2 comments

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An interesting art exhibit now at the 464 Gallery in Buffalo, New York  features the work of a teacher, Jennifer Scott.  It’s receiving national  attention because the art is an anti-Common Core protest. The central piece in Scott’s exhibit, “For the Love of Learning: Students First” stars a man in a crown of standardized test bubble sheets –a man exactly resembling NY Education Commissioner John King.

johnkingny

Another Jennifer Scott art piece with a privacy-invasion theme also features Commissioner King.  This time he’s a giant, peering in through the school room window with a gleeful countenance at small, unhappy students.

jenniferscottartmany

Why does Jennifer Scott use King as the puppetmaster of Common Core?  Why not Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, Sir Michael Barber, David Coleman or President Obama?

Commissioner King has been an longtime, outspoken defender of the indefensible in New York.

Recently, King has been more than just hotly criticized. The New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE, a coalition of 45 parent and educator groups in the state)  actually, publically condemned Commissioner King to termination last month in a press release.

NYSAPE cited  too much emphasis on testing, problems with Common Core standards, “one-size-fits-all” statewide curriculum, and the casual dismissal of the concerns of parents and educators “to the detriment of their children for far too long.”  (Stop Common Core New York, a parent-led group, had been calling for King’s resignation for at least six months previous to NYSAPE’s call.)

The New York anti-fed-ed-reform movement grows and grows. (A full 48% of Worcester Central School District, NY, opted out of standardized math tests!) It was New York (Comsewogue District) Superintendent Joseph Rella who led a huge rally in his school’s football stadium against Common Core last year.  And now, national news about the poignant art of teacher Jennifer Scott is receiving media attention while New York legislators  work to restore local control and legitimate education.

Still, can the art of an indignant teacher, or can a handful of legislators, or can the pressure of 45 educational coalitions in New York, or can the clear reasoning of remarkable, outspoken local professors– Diane Ravitch, Alan Singer, Christopher Tienken, Nick Tampio and others–  really oust John King, his Board of Regents and the fed-ed reforms?

Consider the fact that King is a favorite, a true darling of Secretary Arne Duncan and a staunch member of the brave new politicorporate ed reform establishment.  For years, King and Duncan have been buddying about, making speeches both together and separately, officially explaining the religion of fed-ed.  This includes not only Common Core and “robust” federally accessible data but also the idea that children should be forced to stay in school for more  hours of the day, (a longtime Duncan favorite theme) or “let’s mandate more and more high stakes testing with Common Core adoption”   –notions the two insist are very, very good for children– despite a complete lack of empirical evidence to support their points.

How do they get away with this?

duncanandking

I don’t know.  It’s so clearly wrong.  More people need to know it.

Let’s hope Jennifer Scott’s art multiplies and influences millions of additional New Yorkers to take a long, hard look at the awful transformations happening in their school systems.  Let’s hope the parents and educators in New York win the fight for their children.

Then, let’s have an early  –very early– retirement party for Commissioner King.

 

jenniferscottartt

Thank you,  Jennifer Scott.

 

 

Brilliant Teachers Expose Federal-Corporate Connivance   3 comments

school

First, here’s a list.

It’s a smattering of teachers’ names with links to what they have said or spoken.  Their experience and research make a powerful, nearly unarguable case for stopping corporate-federal Common Core.  They are current teachers, retired teachers, and teachers-turned-professors-or-administrators.

Malin Williams, Mercedes Schneider, Christy HooleyPeter Greene, Susan Kimball, Paul BogushLaurie Rogers,  Paul Horton, Gerald Conti, Alan Singer, Kris Nielsen, Margaret Wilkin, Renee Braddy, Sandra Stotsky, J. R. Wilson  Amy Mullins, Susan Wilcox, Diane Ravitch, Susan Sluyter, Joseph Rella, Christopher Tienken, Jenni White,  David Cox, Peg Luksik,  Sinhue Noriega, Susan Ohanian, Pat Austin, Cami Isle, Terrence Moore, Carol Burris, Stan Hartzler, Orlean Koehle, Nakonia HayesBarry Garelick, Heidi Sampson; also, here’s a young, un-named teacher who testified in this filmed testimony, and  an unnamed California teacher/blogger.

Notice that these teachers come from all sides of the  political spectrum.   It turns out that neither Democrats nor Republicans relish having their rights and voices trampled.

And alongside those individual voices are teacher groups. To name a handful:  the Left-Right Alliance,   132 Catholic Professors Against Common Core,  the United Opt Out teachers, the BadAss Teachers, Utah Teachers Against Common Core,  Conservative Teachers of America,  and over 1,100   New York professors. 

These teachers have really, really done their homework.

I’m going to share the homework of one brilliant teacher, a Pennsylvania teacher/blogger named Peter Greene who wrote  about what he called his “light bulb moment” with how the Common Core Standards exist to serve data mining.

Speaking of the millions of data points being collected “per day per student,” he explained:

“They can do that because these are students who are plugged into Pearson, and Pearson has tagged every damn thing. And it was this point at which I had my first light bulb moment. All that aligning we’ve been doing, all that work to mark our units and assignments and, in some places, every single work sheet and assignment so that we can show at a glance that these five sentences are tied to specific standards– all those PD [professional development] afternoons we spent marking Worksheet #3 as Standard LA.12.B.3.17– that’s not, as some of us have assumed, just the government’s hamfisted way of making sure we’ve toed the line.  It’s to generate data.  Worksheet #3 is tagged LA.12.B.3.17, so that when Pat does the sheet his score goes into the Big Data Cloud as part of the data picture of pat’s work. (If you’d already figured this out, forgive me– I was never the fastest kid in class).”

Peter Greene further explained why the common standards won’t be decoupled from the data collection.  His words explain why proponents cling so doggedly to the false claim that these Common Core standards are better academically (despite the lack of research-based evidence to support that claim and the mounting, on-the-job evidence to the contrary.)

He wrote:

Don’t think of them as standards. Think of them as tags.

“Think of them as the pedagogical equivalent of people’s names on facebook, the tags you attach to each and every photo that you upload.

“We know from our friends at Knewton what the Grand Design is– a system in which student progress is mapped down to the atomic level. Atomic level (a term that Knewton lervs deeply) means test by test, assignment by assignment, sentence by sentence, item by item. We want to enter every single thing a student does into the Big Data Bank.

“But that will only work if we’re all using the same set of tags.

“We’ve been saying that CCSS [Common Core Standards] are limited because the standards were written around what can be tested. That’s not exactly correct. The standards have been written around what can be tracked.

“The standards aren’t just about defining what should be taught. They’re about cataloging what students have done.

“Remember when Facebook introduced emoticons. This was not a public service. Facebook wanted to up its data gathering capabilities by tracking the emotional states of users. But if users just defined their own emotions, the data would be too noisy, too hard to crunch. But if the user had to pick from the facebook standard set of user emotions– then facebook would have manageable data.

“Ditto for CCSS. If we all just taught to our own local standards, the data noise would be too great. The Data Overlords need us all to be standardized, to be using the same set of tags. That is also why no deviation can be allowed. Okay, we’ll let you have 15% over and above the standards. The system can probably tolerate that much noise. But under no circumstances can you change the standards– because that would be changing the national student data tagging system, and THAT we can’t tolerate.

“This is why the “aligning” process inevitably involves all that marking of standards onto everything we do. It’s not instructional. It’s not even about accountability. It’s about having us sit and tag every instructional thing we do so that student results can be entered and tracked in the Big Data Bank.

“And that is why CCSS [Common Core] can never, ever be decoupled from anything. Why would facebook keep a face tagging system and then forbid users to upload photos?

“The Test does not exist to prove that we’re following the standards. The standards exist to let us tag the results from the Test.

“… Because the pedagogical fantasy delineated by the CCSS does not match the teacher reality in a classroom, the tags are applied in inexact and not-really-true ways. In effect, we’ve been given color tags that only cover one side of the color wheel, but we’ve been told to tag everything, so we end up tagging purple green. When a tagging system doesn’t represent the full range of reality, and it isn’t flexible enough to adapt, you end up with crappy tagging. And that’s the CCSS…   Decoupling? Not going to happen. You can’t have a data system without tagging, and you can’t have a tagging system with nothing to tag. Education and teaching are just collateral damage in all this, and not really the main thing at all.”

Read more here.

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I’ll add more two points in support of Peter Greene’s words:

1-  First, the creators of Common Core and its copyright have openly stated that they work toward both academic standards’ commonality and data standards’ commonality –I suppose for the very reasons Greene outlined.  Check out the Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) –a Department of Education/private CCSSO partnered enterprise,  here.

2– Second, the federal grants that the states all swallowed, the data mining capability-hooks embedded in the juicy worm of funding, called “State Longitudinal Database System” grants, did specify that states MUST use interoperable data standards (search for SIF Framework, PESC model, CEDS standards, NDCM model) to track educational progress.

In other words, the 50 individual states’ database systems were designed so that they can, if states are foolish enough to do so, fully pool student and workforce data for governments or corporations– on an national or international level.

 

 

UT Associate Superintendent Park Responds to Open Letter on Student Data Privacy   3 comments

judy park

Yesterday, UT Associate Superintendent Judy Park responded to an open letter  (posted below) that I sent a week ago.  I had sent the letter to support St. George parents who want to opt children out of the standardized testing.

Ms. Park’s response was a one-sentence email message that included a link to a graphic, also posted below, under the open letter.

She did not respond to the vital issues brought up in the letter, nor did her graphic reveal, despite its little red lock-icons (labeled “secure“) –any actual laws or proper policy protections that exist to make our students’ data secure from inter-agency and vendor sharing.  No such laws, that I am aware of, yet exist in Utah.

——————————-

Here’s my letter:

Dear Associate Superintendent Judy Park,

Recently, you wrote (and were quoted in a letter sent out by a St. George charter school to the parents –a letter that aimed to prevent parents from opting children out of the Common Core testing– the following:

“The advocates of anti-common core are falsely accusing USOE and schools and districts of collecting and storing data that is “behavioral data and non-academic personal information”. They have no real evidence or examples to support this claim. The only data that is collected and maintained is the specific data required by state and federal law.”

Here’s unfortunate evidence to the contrary, Ms. Park.  First there is a Utah law about Common Core standardized tests. This law, HB15, created in 2012, requires the collection of behavior indicators. It calls for “ the use of student behavior indicators in assessing student performance” as part of the testing. This is Utah’s S.A.G.E. –aka Common Core or A.I.R.– test.

But another law  (HB177) has been requiring, from the 2002-03 school year on, “the use of student behavior indicators in assessing student performance.” Since 2002!

2. Utah has paid at least $39 million to the AIR company to write its Common Core-aligned standardized tests:  American Institutes for Research”s  mission:  “AIR’s mission is to conduct and apply the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation…

Are we to believe that although AIR’s purpose is to test behavioral and social indicators, and although Utah laws say that the test must note behavioral indicators, the AIR test still won’t?

3. Utah’s SLDS grant application talks about authorizing de-identification of data for research and says that individuals will be authorized to access personal student information in the various Utah agencies that belong to UDA. (Who are these individuals?  Why does the UDA trust them with information that parents weren’t even told was being gathered on our children?)

Starting at page 87 on that same SLDS federal application, we read how non-cognitive behaviors that have nothing to do with academicswill be collected and studied by school systems.  These include “social comfort and integration, academic conscientiousness, resiliency, etc.” to be evaluated through the psychometric census known as the “Student Strengths Inventory. (SSI)”  That SSI inventory –my child’s psychological information– will be integrated into the system (SLDS).  Nonacademic demographic and other personal information is also captured while administering the test. SSI data will be given to whomever it is assumed, by the so-called leadership, that needs to see it.  (This should be a parental decision but has become a state decision.)

The SLDS grant promises to integrate psychological data into the state database.   “Utah’s Comprehensive Counseling and Guidance programs have substantial Student Education Occupation Plan, (SEOP) data, but they are not well integrated with other student data. With the introduction of UtahFutures and the Student Strengths Inventory (SSI) and its focus on noncognitive data, combining such data with other longitudinal student level data to the USOE Data Warehouse the UDA.”  It also says:

“… psychosocial or noncognitive factors… include, but are not limited to educational commitment, academic engagement and conscientiousness, social comfort and social integration, academic self-efficacy, resiliency…  Until recently, institutions had to rely on standardized cognitive measures to identify student needs. … We propose to census test all current student in grades 11 and 12 and then test students in grade 11 in subsequent years using the Student Strengths Inventory (SSI) – a measure of noncognitive attitudes and behaviors.”  So the Student Strengths Inventory (SSI) is a “psychometric census” to be taken by every 11th and 12th grade student in Utah.  That’s one way they’re gathering the psychological data.

4.  Ms. Park, you are a key player and even a writer for the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) –the organization that co-created and co-copyrighted Common Core.  This makes me fairly confident that you are aware of what the CCSSO stands for and what its goals are.  On the CCSSO website, it states that one of its main goals is “Continued Commitment to Disaggregation” of student data.  Disaggregation means that academic bundles of students’ information will be separated into groups that are increasingly easy to identify individually.

5.   “Utah’s Model for Comprehensive Counseling and Guidance.” (UMCCG)   is an official document from the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) that actively endorses the collection of behavioral and non-academic data.   It says, for instance, that perception data must be assessed.

-From page 172: “Perception data: Perception data answer the question, “What do people think they know, believe or can do?” These data measure  what students and others observe or perceive, knowledge gained, attitudes and beliefs held and competencies achieved. These data are often collected through pre- and post-surveys, tests or  skill demonstration opportunities such as presentations or role play,  data, competency achievement, surveys or evaluation forms.” (pgs. 58-59)

-From page 66: Examples of attitudes or belief data  include: “74 percent of students believe fighting is wrong.”

This list of Student Outcomes (which will be tracked by computers, according to the document) is full of non-academic outcomes.

-From page 136: 
MG:A1 Demonstrate a deep regard for self and others
MG:A2 Demonstrate a personal commitment to basic democratic principles
MG:A3 Demonstrate a civil and considerate spirit while participating in society”
(Some people may object to MG:A2, for example, since “basic democratic principles” aren’t the same thing as “basic republican principles” and FYI, the Constitution specifically guarantees individuals a republican form of government.  (Article 4, Section 4, U.S. Constitution.)  So what if my child’s been taught about Article 4, Section 4, at home, and he/she doesn’t test “correctly” on MG:A2?  These outcomes may sound innocuous to many, but here’s the REAL point:  if the government/school system/USOE claims the right to test our children for one set of beliefs, be they good or bad, they can test our children for other sets of beliefs.  They don’t have the right to assess this, in my opinion,  without parental consent or at least an opt-out-of-the-SLDS-database option for parents who do object.)

These 5 points together prove, at least to me, that the educational government of Utah is collecting behavioral and non-academic data on our children without our consent.

But lastly, there is this issue:  Ms. Park also wrote, “The only data that is collected and maintained is the specific data required by state and federal law.”

This is a big problem since the state and the federal privacy protection requirements do not match anymore.  Ms. Park does not seem to be aware of this.  But today, the state is much more protective of students’ rights.  Federal FERPA regulations have been altered –not by Congress but by the sneaky  Department of Education (DOE).  The DOE changed the definitions of terms.  They reduced from a requirement to only a “best practice” the previously protective rule that parental consent had to be obtained (prior to sharing private student data).  They redefined personally identifiable information.  So, no more parental consent needed and whatever they can con states into sharing, will be shared.  Is this the kind of federal rule that Ms. Park is content to have us obey?

Because Utah agreed in that same SLDS federal grant applicaton to use PESC standards and SIF interoperability frameworks, Utah’s children’s private data can be accessed by other states and federal agencies very easily as long as current Utah policy permits it. Unless bills like Rep. Anderegg’s HB169 student data privacy bill and others like it are taken seriously, we have no proper legal protections and a wide open policy of quite promiscuous data sharing here in Utah.

Sad but true.

Christel Swasey

Heber City

—————————-

From: Park, Judy <Judy.Park@schools.utah.gov>
Date: Thu, Mar 13, 2014 at 4:09 PM
Subject: RE: Open Letter to Judy Park on Student Data Privacy Facts
To: Christel S <212christel@gmail.com>
Cc: “Allen, Dixie” <dixieleeallen@gmail.com>, “Menlove, Martell” <Martell.Menlove@schools.utah.gov>, Board of Education <Board@schools.utah.gov>, Constituent Services <govgoca@utah.gov>

A data document is available on the website.

http://schools.utah.gov/assessment/Testing-Director-Resources/StateLong-DataSys-5.aspx

——————-

Yep.  That one sentence is all the response that she had.

Below is what Ms. Park’s link brings up.   Click here to see it for yourself at the USOE site.

Alisa Judy 1

alisa judy 2

——————–

Notice the continued insistence that no behavioral or belief related data is collected despite the links I provided above.   Notice that the USOE states its purpose for the SLDS database is to serve schools and districts on this graphic; but in federal grant applications, federal sites and federal/corporate partnered websites, it’s stated that the SLDS exists to serve federal and “stakeholder” decision-making. Always it’s a two-step, two-faced dance.

Please know, Utahns, that while probably Ms. Judy Park is a lovely person in many ways,  she is very unfortunately and very definitely not a friend to local control.   She’s an active member of the CCSSO, which created national Common Core, and she was an Executive Committee co-chair of SBAC, the federally funded testing group which, by federal contract, mandated that states aligned with SBAC must allow federal management of testing and data.  FYI– Utah since then dropped its SBAC membership and is currently partnered with AIR, but AIR is fully partnered with federally mandated and funded SBAC.

I can also testify that if a teacher or parent asks Ms. Park a question in person, which I have, she’ll put her hand on her hip, beam an uncomfortably long-lasting smile; not answer the question, and lightly dismiss the legitimate issue of concern with: “You certainly are passionate about what you believe.  I need to move on to the next person.”

This oft-demonstrated attitude, pervasive at the USOE and USSB, is truly hurting some of the most important and best people –the students and teachers– in our beautiful state of Utah.

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