Archive for the ‘How the Common Core Initiative Hurts Kids, Teachers, and Taxpayers’ Category
This is the second in a series of posts to be added by members of Utah’s Common Core SAGE test’s parent review board. Parent Molly Hunter spoke out previously and is joined now by fellow mom Christine Ruiz as a SAGE parent review committee member who also wishes to set the record straight and to expose the objectionable aspects of the tests.
SAGE Parent Review Committee Member Speaks Out
By Christine Ruiz
In 2013 the Utah Legislature mandated parental review of SAGE test questions and established what is now called the SAGE Parent Review Committee. It was a response to concerns that the computer adaptive tests could include biases or agendas that are objectionable to Utah family values.
Much has been written about the committee and unfortunately some of it has been misleading. Consequently many Utah parents are misinformed about the review committee and are making decisions with that ‘bad information’; decisions that affect their children.
I am one of those committee members and I’d like to correct the record.
The statute, 53A-1-603, is vague as it relates to our duties; “…a committee consisting of 15 parents of Utah public education students to review all computer adaptive test questions.” Yep, that’s it. Talk about your nutshell.
So, here’s what we did and didn’t do.
WE DID review all questions (about 1500 each).
WE DID flag questions for a variety of reasons (grammar, typos, content, wrong answers, glitches, etc.).
WE DID sign nondisclosure statements (agreeing not to discuss specific test questions and materials).
Now the important part …
WE DID NOT ‘approve’ the test. We were neither tasked to nor qualified to approve the test in any aspect.
It has been erroneously suggested that “…we all feel comfortable with the test” in an article by the Deseret News (Nov 2013). That’s a misleading quote from only one member of the committee. That statement was actually contradicted by another member later in the same article. But it’s no surprise here; we expect that from the media.
However, the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) perpetuated that myth when it plastered that same quote all over its SAGE informational brochures. We/ I expect more due diligence from USOE.
I never received a phone call to verify that I concurred and I suspect the same is true for the rest of the committee. It was either an act of deliberate deceit or jaw-dropping negligence to tell parents across the state that the Parent Review Committee gives its blanket approval of the test. Neither option comforts me in the slightest.
I shudder to think that some parents may have decided to let their children take the SAGE because ‘we’ said it’s okay. That’s on me and every other committee member that feels the same as I, and didn’t speak out sooner.
This myth and any others perpetrated in the future will no longer go unanswered by this committee member. That’s a promise.
state statute 53A‐1‐603
(a) The State Board of Education shall establish a committee consisting of 15 parents of Utah
public education students to review all computer adaptive test questions.
(b) The committee established in Subsection (8)(a) shall include the following parent members:
(i) five members appointed by the chair of the State Board of Education;
(ii) five members appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives; and
(iii) five members appointed by the president of the Senate.
(c) The State Board of Education shall provide staff support to the parent committee.
(d) The term of office of each member appointed in Subsection (8)(b) is four years.
(e) The chair of the State Board of Education, the speaker of the House of Representatives, and
the president of the Senate shall adjust the length of terms to stagger the terms of committee
members so that approximately 1/2 of the committee members are appointed every two
(f) No member may receive compensation or benefits for the member’s service on the committee.
With gratitude to Joy Pullman, whose long version of “Top Ten Things Parents Hate About Common Core” article, with photos and videos, is posted at The Federalist, I’m sharing this extremely condensed two-pager, which can be printed out as a one-pager, front to back, on neon colored paper.
Top Ten Things Parents Hate About Common Core
By Joy Pullman – Condensed from: http://thefederalist.com/2014/09/24/top-ten-things-parents-hate-about-common-core/
This is the year national Common Core tests kick in. It’s also the first year most people heard of Common Core, four years after bureaucrats signed our kids onto this complete overhaul of U.S. education. Why do 62 percent of parents think it’s a bad idea?
- The Senseless, Infuriating Math
Common Core deforms elementary math. Even simple addition takes inordinate amounts of time.
- The Lies
Common Core’s lies and half-truths include talking points essential to selling state leaders on the project, such as that Common Core is: “internationally benchmarked,” (“well, we sorta looked at what other nations do but that didn’t change anything we did”); “evidence based” (“we know there isn’t research to undergird any standards, so we just polled some people and that’s our evidence“); “college- and career-ready” (“we meant community-college ready“); “rigorous” (as long as rigorous indicates “rigid”); and “high-performing nations nationalize education” (so do low-performing nations).
- Obliterating Parent Rights
Parents are frustrated. When they go to their school boards they get disgusted looks or thumb-twiddling or worse. A New Hampshire dad was actually arrested for going over his two-minute comment limit in a local school board meeting that was packed with parents complaining about graphic-sex-filled literature assignments.
- Dirty Reading Assignments
Objectionable books on the Common Core-recommended (not mandated) reading list include called “The Bluest Eyes,” by Toni Morrison. “Make Lemonade” by Virginia Euwer Wolff, “Black Swan Green” by David Mitchell, and “Dreaming in Cuban” by Cristina Garcia. There are so many excellent works of literature available that schools can’t possibly fit all the good ones in. Why does Common Core recommend trash?
- Turning Kids Into Corporate Cogs
The workforce-prep mentality of Common Core focuses on the materialistic benefits of education, and is not concerned with passing down knowledge, heritage, and morals. The workforce talk certainly tickles the ears of Common Core’s corporate supporters, but why do corporations get to dictate what kids learn?
- Data Collection and Populace Management
Common Core enables the theft of kids’ and teachers’ data, furthering businesses’ bottom lines and governments’ populace-control fantasies, at the expense of private property and self-determination.
- Common Core tests are the key instrument of data collection.
- Common Core architect David Coleman admitted special interests packaged data mining into Common Core.
- Common Core classifies enormous amounts of data, like as an enormous filing system.
- States that use federally funded Common tests have given control of collected data to private organizations which have promised the government access to kids’ data.
- Common Core and data vacuuming are philosophically aligned—they both justify themselves as solutions to problems. The goal is to use data to “seamlessly integrate” education and economy. In other words, we learned nothing from the USSR.
- Distancing Parents and Children
A recent study found that the Common Core model of education results in parents being less engaged in their kids’ education and expressing more negative attitudes about schools and government.
- Making Little Kids Cry
It’s one thing to teach a child to endure life’s suffering for a higher purpose. It’s another thing to inflict suffering on children because you’ve got a society to remake. Psychologists and teachers say Common Core inflicts poorly designed, experimental instruction and testing on children.
- The Arrogance
Imagine you’re a mom or dad whose child is sobbing at the table trying to add two-digit numbers. Then you hear your elected representatives talking about Common Core. And it’s not to offer relief. It’s to ridicule opposition to Common Core. Florida Senate President Don Gaetz said of Common Core: “They’re not some federal conspiracy.” Wisconsin state Sen. John Lehman (D-Racine) told an audience state hearings on the topic were “crazy”. Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D) called opponents a “distract[ing]” “fringe movement.” Well-paid “experts” say parents don’t get what’s going on because this is above parents’ ability to understand.
- The Collectivism
Common Core supporters admit that several states had better curriculum requirements than Common Core. Then they say it’s still better for those states to have lowered their expectations to Common Core’s level, because that way the US has more curricular unity.
Tech companies are uber-excited about Common Core because it facilitates a nationwide, uniform market for products. But the diversity of the unregulated private market far, far outstrips the diversity of the Common Core market. That variety is one of substance, not just branding. In other words, it’s true diversity, not fake diversity. Which would you rather have: fake freedom in education, where others choose your end goal, but “let” you decide some things; or real freedom, where you pick goals and how to achieve them, and you’re the one responsible for the results? Whoops, that’s a trick question. The overlords have already picked fake freedom for us. It’s Common Core or the door, baby.
Joy Pullmann is managing editor of The Federalist and an education research fellow at The Heartland Institute.
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 initiatives, reports 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?
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com<mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> or 801-538-7923; Kerrie Naylor at email@example.com<mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> or 801-538-7950; Jo Ellen Shaeffer, email@example.com<mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> 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.
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:
Connecticut Against Common Core hosted Seton Hall University professor Dr. Christopher Tienken last month. Start at minute 4:22 for Dr. Tienken’s speech.
Dr. Tienken talks about intended and unintended consequences of any treatment –including educational “treatment,” to children. He explains how important it is to have evidence for the need and the effectiveness of Common Core, which he refers to as “the latest round of standardization.” He defines himself not as others do, as “anti-Common Core” but more “pro-evidence”. He assesses education reforms through the lens of evidence, sourcing all of his statements and writings against Common Core, which you may read at his website and in the many academic journals in which he has been published.
He challenges the assumptions that underlie advocacy for Common Core.
For example: What if the results of the international test are not meaningful? –We might not be lagging at all in international competitiveness. None of the international tests can tell you the quality of a national education system nor can they predict the economic future. That’s not just an opinion; that’s his job, he says –reading 400 page technical manuals on international testing. Only about 6,000 kids in a country take these tests, and they may not be at all representative of the rest of the kids in that country. In China and Singapore, for example, most students aren’t in high school when the tests are administered. Only the wealthiest kids take these tests, not second language learners and others. These tests, he says, are sensitive to factors outside of school. PISA and TIMMS tests, for example, measure skills akin to the 19th century. Innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship, skills that drive economies today, are not even measured.
Why do Americans think that one narrow test (not evidence based) will be the ultimate predictor of student and national economic achievement?
Dr. Tienken later breaks out the charts to show how well the United States is actually doing, showing the misguidedness of Common Core’s foundational claims.
Watch the video to hear the rest. It’s great.