Archive for the ‘Democrats and Republicans agree’ Category

Update: Growing Pushback Against Common Core Tests Nationally   2 comments

Twenty-two of the United States are represented in this list of national news articles about frustrated teachers, parents, professors and psychologists pushing back against Common Core tests.

Is Common Core Testing “A Cash-Grabbing Hoax?”
http://www.reviewjournal.com/opinion/common-core-must-prove-it-s-not-cash-grabbing-hoax

More Central Florida Families Consider Opting Out of State Exams
http://www.myfoxorlando.com/story/27387181/opting-out-becoming-more-popular-option-for-central-florida-families

Utah’s Dr. Gary Thompson: SAGE Common Core tests break basic codes of test ethics  http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2014/11/18/dr-gary-thompson-sagecommon-core-tests-break-basic-codes-of-test-ethics/

Oklahoma First Grade Teachers Explain Why They Won‘t Administer Standardized Test
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/11/18/your-kids-deserve-better-than-this-first-grade-teachers-tell-parents/

Don’t Copy China’s Test-Prep Culture
http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/17/opinion/zhao-common-core-testing/index.html?hpt=hp_t3


Arizona District Seeks Exemption From New State Test
http://www.abc15.com/news/region-northern-az/lake-havasu/havasu-schools-seek-to-exempt-some-from-new-test

New Mexico Teachers Say Testing Overkill is Undermining Education
http://www.koat.com/news/teachers-standardized-testing-is-taking-away-from-education/29710982
Common Core Tests Prompt New Mexico Backlash
http://www.taosnews.com/news/article_dc24c53c-6c4b-11e4-ae30-a38a2d5729ca.html

New York Regents Try to Make Field Tests “Mandatory” to Combat Exam Boycotts
http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2014/11/8556878/faced-opposition-regents-move-bolster-field-testing

Local North Carolina School Boards Seek End of State-Mandated, Test-Based School Grades
http://www.statesville.com/news/school-board-voices-disagreement-with-state-policies/article_658f6090-6a8d-11e4-a9e3-47ed378d838e.html

 

Education Groups Seek Delay of California Test-Based School Ratings
http://edsource.org/2014/school-groups-ask-to-delay-api-scores-another-year/70029#.VGuAZnvvcZy

Thousands of Colorado High School Students Refuse to Take State Tests
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/14/us-usa-colorado-education-idUSKCN0IY2HO20141114
Is Colorado Student Opt-Out a Harbinger of Broader Protests?
http://takingnote.learningmatters.tv/?p=7361
Coloradans Launch Petition to Overturn Test-Based Teacher Evaluation
https://www.change.org/p/the-colorado-legislature-repeal-senate-bill-191-linking-standardized-test-scores-to-teacher-pay-and-performance

High-Stakes Testing Pressure Drives Experienced Teachers Out of Florida Classrooms
http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20141108/ARTICLE/141109731

Florida Teachers Consider Civil Disobedience to Say “No” to Testing
http://stateimpact.npr.org/florida/2014/11/17/florida-teachers-consider-civil-disobedience-to-say-no-to-testing/

The Problems With Using Tests to Rate Georgia Art, Gym and Music Teachers
http://www.myajc.com/news/news/local-education/the-problem-with-using-tests-to-rate-music-art-and/nh3bP/

Why One Illinois Parent Opted Her Children Out of State Exams
http://realchicagomama.wordpress.com/2014/10/06/standardized-testing-redux/

Film Premiere Sparks Indiana Opt-Out Movement
http://in.chalkbeat.org/2014/11/16/testing-foes-call-for-change-after-films-premiere/#.VGn5EnvvcZw
Indiana Panel Asks Whether Testing Has Gone Too Far
http://in.chalkbeat.org/2014/11/17/teachers-students-community-members-debate-merits-of-testing/#.VGtGQnvvcZw

Iowa Parents Should Stand Up to Claims They Have No Opt-Out Rights
http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/abetteriowa/2014/11/13/amy-moore-school-testing-opt-out/18969065/

How Frequently Should Kansas School Children Be Tested?
http://www.thekansan.com/article/20141111/NEWS/141119984/-1/Sports

Debate Ranges About How Much Time Maryland Students Should Spend Testing
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/education/bs-md-testing-investigation-20141115-story.html#page=1

Minnesota Legislators Plan Bills to Cut Back Testing
http://forestlaketimes.com/2014/11/12/education-issues-on-the-docket-for-2015-house-republicans/
No Quick Fix for Minnesota Achievement Gap
http://www.sctimes.com/story/opinion/2014/11/14/turn-quick-answer-achievement-gap/19048273/

Parents Push Back Against New Jersey’s Latest Standardized Exam
http://www.app.com/story/news/education/education-trends/2014/11/13/parents-try-opt-parcc-test/18982547/
Local New Jersey Education Ass’n Adopts Strong Position on High-Stakes Testing
http://teacherbiz.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/the-delran-education-associations-position-on-high-stakes-standardized-testing/
Teachers Add Critical Voice to New Jersey Commission Investigating Testing
http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/14/11/11/teachers-add-critical-voice-to-newly-named-testing-commission/

Ohio Legislative Committee Approves Limits on Testing Time
http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2014/11/limit_on_state_testing_of_stud.html

Oregon Educators Offer Advice on Aiding Families Who Want to Opt Out of Testing
http://www.wweek.com/portland/blog-32442-permalink.html

Pennsylvania School Ratings Not Accurate Measure of Educational Effectiveness
http://standardspeaker.com/news/professor-scores-not-true-measure-of-school-districts-1.1786040
Local Super Blasts Pennsylvania’s Biased School Grades for Ignoring Poverty
http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2014/11/central_dauphin_superintendent_1.html

Resignation of Tennessee Ed. Commissioner Creates Opening for Testing Overhaul
http://wgnsradio.com/rep-womick-applauds-education-commissioner-leaving-and-hopes-common-core-exits-too–cms-23466

Virginia Test-Review Commission Prepares Recommendations
http://www.dailyprogress.com/newsvirginian/news/local/sol-committee-member-offers-update-on-work/article_0bef57a6-6a11-11e4-91e3-43c9050fee0f.html

Washington State Super Seeks State Grad Test Repeal
http://www.theolympian.com/2014/11/15/3425844_state-schools-chief-no-more-tests.html?sp=/99/101/112/&rh=1

Q & A With FairTest on Assessment Reform
www.asbj.com/HomePageCategory/Online-Features/FiveQuestions

FairTest on Education Town Hall Radio
http://educationtownhall.org/2014/11/16/fairtest-joins-bus/

“Smarter Balanced” Tests Not Ready for Prime Time
http://edsource.org/2014/smarter-balanced-tests-are-still-a-work-in-progress/69828#.VGoPr3vvcZx

Can We Stop Relying on Standardized Tests to Drive Education Reform
http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/can-we-stop-using-tests-to-drive-education-reform/



Thanks to Bob Schaeffer at FairTest for sharing his testing pushback article links.

Dr. Gary Thompson: SAGE/Common Core Tests Break Basic Codes of Test Ethics   11 comments

dr-thompson

I sat in the Early Life Child Psychology and Education center this week, watching Dr. Gary Thompson’s presentation about Common Core testing, thinking that Dr. Thompson is the fearless kid in the tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

Dr. Thompson stands armed with honesty, science and evidence, pointing out that the Emperor of SAGE/Common Core tests is stark raving naked.  All around Salt Lake City, meanwhile, people play along with the wealthy emperor, pretending that nothing’s wrong with what the whole world seems to have been paid to agree are such smashing, new  –dare we call them rigorous— clothes.

What does Dr. Thompson see as he analyzes the Common Core SAGE test in its birthday suit?

He points out foremost that there is such a thing as a code of ethics for the psychological testing of children.

“Wait, wait–” says the State Office of Education– “We’re not doing psychological testing on your kids.”  But this does not placate Utahns who fact check for themselves. SAGE/Common Core tests –in addition to being tests of academic subjects– are psychological tests. We know this because:

1) Utah law demands it.  HB15, passed in 2012, required Utah’s public and charter schools to administer computer adaptive tests aligned with Common Core.  It specified “the use of behavior indicators in assessing student performance.”  Behavior indicators are not math, science or language arts data points.  They are psychological data points.

2) The SAGE tests are created by Utah’s test contractor, American Institutes for Research (AIR) which is primarily “one of the world’s largest behavioral and social science  research organizations.”  Its stated mission is “to conduct and apply the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation.”

3) The federal Department of Education –which shouldn’t, but does, call shots for the Utah State Office of Education– openly encourages psychological profiling of students via tests, calling it “data-driven decision making,” “a data quality campaign” and other positive-sounding terms.  See any of its initiativesreports and recommendations  which do depend on/openly promote psychological profiling of children by testing.

Here’s how Dr. Thompson says that SAGE violates the code of ethics for psychological testing:

Standard 9.03 from the Ethical Principles of Psychologists states that “psychologists obtain informed consent for assessments.  SAGE does not do this.  The ethics for informed consent include telling the client (in SAGE’s case, the student and parents) what the nature, purpose and anticipated course of services will be; using clear language; allowing the client  (student and parents) to ask questions; telling them about involvement of any third parties who may have access to the information gathered via the test; disclosing whether experimentation will be used; informing the client whether the test administrator is a trainee or fully qualified to administer psychological testing; obtaining consent in advance of recording or observing; potential risks; potential limitations; and more.

Each of these codes of conduct were broken by the USOE in implementing SAGE tests on Utah schools.

Standard 9.02 states that “Psychologists use assessment instruments whose validity and reliability have been established…when such validity or reliability has not been established, psychologists describe the strengths and limitations of test results and interpretation.”

There have been no independent validity and reliability studies done on SAGE tests, whatsoever, as Dr. Thompson pointed out.  Another enormous principal of all scientific forms of testing– broken.

While it is clear that SAGE tests are psychological in nature, and that the tests do not adhere to the code of ethical conduct for psychological testing, there’s even more at stake.

Dr. Thompson pointed out that the future is very close to already here:  Game-based assessment, also known as Stealth Assessments, are secret tests embedded in video games for schools that are further eclipsing parental rights and knowledge about what data is being collected while children are at school.  Even teachers would not know what exactly is being collected or analyzed when stealth assessments are used in classroom settings.

In a scholarly journal entitled “District Administration” Dr. Thompson read, and shared, that now, in an attempt to lessen student stress, Gates-funded groups are telling us that video games are the education of the future. “District Administration” journal writes that because “complex thinking skills can’t be measured by traditional standardized tests, educators are turning to stealth assessments hidden in video games.” The article continues, “stealth assessments are seamless, so the distinction between learning and assessment is completely blurred.  Kids are playing, they are learning, and they are being assessed all at the same time.”  Further:  “testing companies are working on ways to integrate formative assessments into daily instruction.”  Children will be tested all of the time.  How does a person opt out of that?

 

 

what-is-stealth-assessment-1-728

Dr. Thompson’s presentation also touched on many other issues of great importance.  He spoke about the vulnerable populations that are forced to take Common Core SAGE tests (unless parents opt them out).  These include children with any of a host of learning disabilities, children with depression and anxiety, children with autism and Asberger’s,  children with  historically poor test taking scores due to cultural bias in testing including African-American and Latino children, children with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, children from high-stress poverty homes, children with psychotic disorders, ADHD, and dual exceptional (gifted and learning disordered) to name a few.

He shared from academic journals many ethical considerations associated with Common Core’s pushing of the very young into “rigorous” and age-inappropriate standards.  He shared research he’s collected, too, about the use of children’s data for marketing purposes, (quoting from the academic journal article, “Children as Consumers.”  This is relevant and troubling because the SAGE test creator, AIR, has open partnerships (and data sharing policies) with numerous corporations that have no restraint on accessing SAGE-collected student information.

Thompson further discussed harm to the brain of a child using Common Core testing practices on every type of child, and using Common Core styled math on every type of learner.  He spoke of the brain’s disorganization response to Common Core-styled math pedagogy and to high-stakes tests like SAGE.

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This brain-analyzing portion of the presentation must be explained in detail in a separate post.  Briefly: the neurological (brain-affecting) Common Core issues raised by Dr. Thompson’s research are extremely important in light of the fact that both Bill Gates (Common Core funder) and our federal government are highly focused on studying and applying research about the neurology of children, right now.  The federally approved Fattah Neuroscience Initiative, also known as the White House Neuroscience Initiative, was granted federal funds to invest in brain research and drug development, and not just to prevent Alzheimer’s.  Its stated aims: “optimizing interactions between the environment and the brain across the lifespan,” “applying the brain’s information processing capabilities” and “enhancing communication among federal agencies”.  Congressman Fattah  wrote that he is “a major proponent of brain mapping…  understand…the role of individual neurons in controlling our thoughts, movements…”.  –Recall that Secretary Duncan mocked  the idea that the federal government was involved in this, when it was accused of collecting student data using Common Educational Data Standards. He said, “Let’s not even get into the really wacky stuff: mind control, robots, and biometric brain mapping.” Yet that is exactly what the federal Fattah Neuroscience Initiative aims to do.  Congressman Fattah has made it clear that brain mapping is the aim of the White House Neuroscience Initiative.  Now, let’s use our brains.  Who is the only huge, captive group of guinea pigs they have under their control upon whom they can do brain mapping research (call it education) for hours and hours every single day?  

Dr. Thompson’s full presentation was long, and I will post it when I get a link to the film.  You’ll want to see the whole presentation and discuss it with your local and state representatives on the school boards in detail.  Each of the issues touched on in Dr. Thompson’s presentation deserves a chapter or a book written on it.

But to keep it simple, digestible, and close to home, let’s focus on one thing:  the thing Dr. Thompson focuses on; the SAGE test. You’ll want to opt your children out of every type of SAGE test:  summative (end of year), formative and interim (year round SAGE tests.)

It is the enforcer of Utah’s Common Core and the primary vehicle for massive student data collection right now.  We need to get rid of it, or opt individual children –by the thousands and thousands– out of it, so that its data collectors cannot do what they aim to do, and so that Common Core experimental standards cannot take deep root in our schools, cannot dictate teacher salaries, cannot narrowly define and narrowly present what is “education” to our children.

Somebody will look out for students’ mental health, privacy, and happiness, even in this age of politically motivated high-stakes SAGE testing –and soon, in this age of stealth testing.  Somebody will look out for the parents’ rights to know about and to guide psychological treatment or analysis of children.  Someone  will pound on the door of the USOE, the governor, and the legislators’ offices, demanding the end of SAGE tests in Utah schools, demanding answers to the questions that Dr. Thompson and other child psychologists, such as Joan Landes and Dr. Megan Koschnick (video below) have raised.

That someone is that person in your bathroom mirror or it’s nobody, because everybody’s so busy.

Legislators are busy.  Teachers are busy. Board members are busy. Reporters are busy.  Common Core technological implementers and teacher development conference producers are busy. Everyone is so busy being busy that the busy-ness that matters most of all— our children and our liberty-- have lost precious ground.

It is not too late.

 

Leaked Letter: Utah Teachers’ Evaluations (Pay) Will Depend On Common Core Test Scores in 2015   5 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.

 

 —————————————————————————————————-

app

 

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:

Video: New York Teachers Reject Common Core   1 comment

 

Why don’t Utah teachers speak out en masse, as New York teachers?

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

—————————————————————————

(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.

 

 

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