Archive for the ‘Evidence That Utah Lost Educational Sovereignty Under Common Core Initiative’ Category

Video: Utah Teacher Speaks Out in Detail About Problematic Common Core   Leave a comment

This Utah teacher is the dedicated, experienced and compassionate kind we all want for our children. She has a genuine passion for teaching and a sincere interest in the growth of each unique student.  What makes her even more special is her willingness to voice concerns about current education reforms –in spite of the negative consequences she has already and will continue to face as a result. She is not willing to say things are perfect or working well when she can see they are not.

The specifics she shares in this video, about how her teaching has been affected and particularly about the professional development, offer insights I hadn’t heard before.

Agree or disagree, can any policy be so perfect to be above discussion or dissent?

Let’s help her voice be heard. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vq2uNDxHoMA

 

Vanderbilt Law Review: Duncan’s Waivers Illegal   1 comment

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Peter Greene, teacher, blogger and Huffington Post writer, has written another funny and fascinating ed reform article.  In this one, he highlights the findings of University of South Carolina law professor Derek W. Black.  Black’s soon-to-be-published findings include the following:

Two of the most significant events in the history of public education occurred over the last year. First, after two centuries of local control and variation, states adopted a national curriculum. Second, states changed the way they would evaluate and retain teachers, significantly altering teachers’ most revered right, tenure. Not all states adopted these changes of their own free will. The changes were the result of the United States Secretary of Education exercising unprecedented agency power in the midst of an educational crisis: the impending failure of almost all of the nation’s schools under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The Secretary invoked the power to impose new conditions on states in exchange for waiving their obligations under NCLB…. As a practical matter, he federalized education in just a few short months.”

Peter Greene divides the law journal article into four simple, easy-to-digest segments, and explains them.  You will laugh as you learn.

For example, under “Part I:  No Changing the Rules” Greene writes:  “When the feds pass a law, they have to lay out all the rules that do and will apply to that law. You can’t pass a law, start folks working under it, and then years later announce, ‘Oh, yeah, and by the way, we’ve changed this law about making cheese sandwiches so that it also covers sloppy joes, and also, if you don’t go along with us on this, we get to take your car.”Also, you can’t suddenly say, ‘We’ve given my brother-in-law the power to judge your sloppy joes.’  Conditions for receiving federal fund must be “unambiguous” and non-coercive.”

Both the funny and easy-to-understand analysis of Duncan’s illegal waiver-waving, and the official law journal publication by Dr. Derek Black, as soon as it becomes available to the public, must be read and shared.

Let’s stop the Department of Education’s lawless disrespect for constitutional local control of education –and protect our children– by learning and then sharing these facts widely.

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.

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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.”

Utahns Petition State School Board to Drop Fed Waiver and Common Core   1 comment

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If you have not already done so, please sign the petition letter that’s going to the State Board of Education.  Link here.

 

Tomorrow’s state school board meeting is a big deal.   Please be there and bring people.  Wear a grass green shirt to show opposition to the federal ESEA/NCLB waiver and to Common Core.

At 9:00 a.m., this peaceful outdoor protest by the offices of education will feature YOU and YOUR friends and family, with your signs, taking a stand.

We will take a stand against the stripping away of local control of our schools, the guinea pig-like academic experimentation on our children, and against the replacement of classic, time-tested education with the Common Core snake oil that nobody was consulted about, prior to being billed for.  We will  stand against the unconstitutional power grab of the Department of Education and claim the right as parents and as citizens to reclaim local control.  We are calling the bluff of the Department of Education, which pretends to authority that it does not hold.

If you have not already done so, please sign the petition letter that’s going to the State Board of Education.  Link here.

Another letter and petition has already gone to the State School Board from members of the Utah Chamber of Commerce and others.  It says the opposite message.  Understand:  the national and state Chambers of Commerce have put huge pressure on the state school boards to continue with the ESEA/NCLB waivers for one simple reason:  money.

In their  letter, signed by many Utah business people and local school board members, the governor’s appointee to review Common Core wrote that “as a key stakeholder, surely the perspectives and support of the business community are an important plan of any successful plan for improving education in the state.”  Translation:  “because we’ve invested money in the Common Core-based technologies and are making a mint off this experiment, and because we work for organizations heavily funded by Common Core financier Bill Gates, we want and claim a stake in your child’s education.”

Our letter, which was written yesterday, has already been signed by hundreds and hundreds of people.  It says this  (highlights):

 

To the Members of the Utah state Board of Education:

… To receive a waiver from NCLB, Utah agreed to option A, which required Utah to show proof that we had adopted Common Core.  In other words, the state was coerced into agreeing to a reform package that exerts a far greater control over our state education system than NCLB.

The waiver should not be renewed… The U.S. Constitution gives the federal government no opportunity to be involved in Utah education.  By renewing the waiver, Utah will be obligated to continue with their Common Core commitment to the federal government, which is a violation of both federal and state Constitutions.  

…Utah law states that we can and shall be flexible with our funding to utilize it to meet state goals and objectives over federal goals and objectives.

Concerns that there may be a reduction in federal funds affecting Title I schools should not stop the board from doing the right thing.

 It will be the responsibility of the legislature and the Governor to make sure that Title I schools have necessary funding.

Please do not sign the waiver.

Signed—

 

Please ask friends to  sign  our letter to the board.   Then come to tomorrow’s open board meeting and to the protest.   If you are unable to come, write to the state and local boards of education.

Thank you.

 

 

 

Utah T-shirt Design Contest   Leave a comment

Click here to participate in Utah’s Stop Common Core T-shirt Design Contest and to get information about how to vote on the winning design.

We plan to wear these shirts at upcoming state school board meetings and at the State Capitol to help raise awareness about Common Core.

The shirts will be available in a week or two!

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!

Video: Utah Dad Speaks About Common Core   9 comments

Utah Dad, Oak Norton, made this information-packed presentation last week, entitled “Pulling Back the Curtain:  What’s the Real Agenda Behind Common Core?”

 

 

 

Oak Norton’s educational research story began when he asked his daughter’s third grade teacher why she hadn’t been learning the multiplication tables and was told, “We don’t do that anymore.”  That day, he bought multiplication flashcards for his daughter, realizing that it was time to take education back into his own hands.  This led to his many years of research on education reform, condensed in this one-hour presentation.  Mr. Norton shares the concentrated top of his research iceberg, discussing the historical roots of compulsory (forced government) education and answering why there is such a defined socialist agenda for national education.  That defined agenda includes teaching sex ed to five-year-old school children; officially tracking children from birth through the workforce; and central planning by the government of all education, including preschools.

Thank you, Oak Norton.

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