Archive for the ‘It’s Not Too Late To Reclaim Educational Sovereignty For Utah’ Category

Responding to the Attorney General’s Report on Common Core   4 comments

utahns against Common Core

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

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

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

cute kids

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

3) That Common Core does not impact curriculum.

 

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

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

barack arne

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

This clearly goes against our state’s law.

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

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

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

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

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

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

copyright

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

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

ccsso_logo

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

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

nga

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

baby

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

 

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Update: Pushback Against Testing Increases   2 comments

Guest Post by Bob Schaeffer, Colorado Principal

 

In this week’s stories, all key public education stakeholder constituencies — parents, teachers, administrators, school board members, community activists, and the general public — add their voices to the ever louder call for assessment reform. Too many politicians, however, give little but lip service to the movement’s demands while continuing to double down on failed test-and-punish policies. The Atlanta and Philadelphia standardized exam cheating scandals are reminders of one kind of ugly fallout from this obsession

Be sure to check out FairTest’s new fact sheet, “Teacher Evaluation Should Not Rest on Student Test Scores”
http://fairtest.org/teacher-evaluation-fact-sheet-2014Arizona Legislators Should Take the Tests They Promote
http://www.azcentral.com/story/brahm-resnik/2014/09/24/12news-arizona-citizenship-test-state-legislators-pass/16139755/

Largest Southern Colorado School District Proposes to Opt-Out of State Testing
http://gazette.com/d-11-board-votes-unanimously-to-request-change-in-testing-rules/article/1538211
Colorado Teacher Refuses to Administer Common Core Exams
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/09/23/colorado-teacher-i-refuse-to-administer-the-parcc-common-core-test-to-my-students/

Connecticut Governor’s Record on Testing Contradicts His Record
http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/default/article/Lecker-Malloy-s-empty-words-about-testing-5768147.php

Did Rhee-formers Close any Washington, DC Public School Achievement Gaps?
http://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2014/09/28/did-rheeformers-rhee-and-henderson-actually-close-any-of-those-achievement-gaps-in-dc-public-schools/

Calls to Suspend Florida State Testing Intensify as More Districts Weigh In
http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/testing/calls-to-suspend-state-mandated-testing-intensify-as-more-school-districts/2199071
Lee County School Board Strikes Down All Grade K-5 District-Mandated Tests
http://www.abc-7.com/story/26620085/district-mandated-k-5-test-elimination-makes-florida-history#.VCNcscmwRrs
Florida Parents Push Back on Standardized Testing
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/education/article2261678.html
Florida Education Association Position on Testing and Opt Out
http://feaweb.org/fea-resolution-on-accountability-and-testing-opt-out
Florida School Superintendents Ask For Testing Relief
http://tbo.com/news/politics/schools-superintendents-ask-for-relief-in-transition-year-to-new-test-standards-20140929/

Atlanta Test Cheating Scandal is “Tip of an Iceberg”
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/30/us/racketeering-trial-opens-in-altanta-schools-cheating-scandal.html
http://www.fairtest.org/%E2%80%9Catlanta-tip-iceberg%E2%80%9D-new-count-shows-widespread-t
Georgia Seeks One-Year Delay in Test-Based Teacher Evaluation
http://www.ajc.com/news/news/state-regional/georgia-seeks-one-year-delay-in-high-stakes-teache/nhTB7/

Illinois Districts May Seek Legislative Relief From Testing Mandates
http://evanstonnow.com/story/education/charles-bartling/2014-09-23/66202/d202-board-may-seek-relief-from-springfield-on

New Massachusetts Board of Ed Chair Says Schools Too Focused on Test Prep
http://www.patriotledger.com/article/20140923/NEWS/140928749/12344/NEWS
Boston Teachers’ Petition: Say “No” to PARCC and High-Stake Exams
http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/boston-say-no-to-parcc

Minnesota Educators Concerned With New High School ACT Test Requirement
http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_26624750/minnesotas-new-act-requirement-has-some-educators-worried

Testing in New Mexico Has Gone Too Far
http://www.lcsun-news.com/las_cruces-opinion/ci_26605498/elaine-hampton-new-mexico-has-gone-too-far
Teachers Sue to Block New Mexico Teacher Evaluation System
http://www.lcsun-news.com/las_cruces-news/ci_26628104/union-sues-over-new-mexico-teacher-evaluation-system
Moratorium Urged on Using Student Test Scores to Assess Teachers
http://www.abqjournal.com/470012/news/moratorium-urged-on-using-test-scores-in-teacher-evals.html

New York Congressman Promotes Bill to Reduce Federal Testing Mandates
http://www.theislandnow.com/opinions/readers-write-legislation-would-end-excessive-testing/article_4b158d08-44d0-11e4-bbe1-ef9f4e73f305.html
Thousands of Long Islanders Opt Out of Common Core Tests
http://www.antonnews.com/farmingdaleobserver/news/39726-common-core-tests-parents-choice.html
Mapping Poverty and Test Scores in New York State
http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2014/09/8551205/mapping-poverty-and-test-scores-new-york-state
Federal Mandates Set Some New York Kids Up For Failure
http://www.newsday.com/opinion/oped/some-students-being-set-up-to-fail-roger-tilles-1.9414375

Ohio Triples Number of Exams Required for Graduation
http://www.bucyrustelegraphforum.com/story/news/local/2014/09/26/testing-overload-grad-tests-triple-high-schoolers/16261961/
Ohio Parents Debate Effects of Increased Standardized Testing
http://ysnews.com/news/2014/09/parents-consider-effects-of-increased-standardized-testing

No “Accountability” for Oklahoma Testing Contractor
http://www.newschannel6now.com/story/26624035/oklahoma-board-to-consider-testing-contract

Two Former Philadelphia Principals Arrested for Alleged Test Cheating to Meet NCLB Mandates
http://www.philly.com/philly/education/20140926_2_more_Philly_principals_charged_in_cheating_probe.html
Penn. School Leaders Say Intense Pressure to Increase Test Scores Created Climate for Cheating
http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/item/73265-fallout-of-pa-cheating-scandal-continues-with-charges-against-two-philly-principals?

Tennessee Teachers Want Testing Transparency, Accountability From State
http://www.knoxnews.com/opinion/columnists/citizens-voice-beth-brown-teachers-want-accountability-from-state-testing-transparency_98316156

Texas Seeks $30 Million to Develop, Pilot Alternative Assessments
http://educationblog.dallasnews.com/2014/09/texas-education-agency-wants-30-mil-to-pilot-alternative-to-staar.html/

West Virginia Teacher Evaluations Must Be Fair
http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140927/ARTICLE/140929417/1103

“No Pineapple Left Behind” — New Video Game Skewers Testing and Corporate Ed. “Reform”
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/DigitalEducation/2014/09/satirical_video_game_skewers_n.html

Standardized Tests Don’t Accurately Reflect Anything Meaningful
http://conversationed.com/2014/09/22/why-standardized-tests-dont-accurately-reflect-anything

Why “Ed Reformers” Are Having Second Thoughts About Test-Driven Schooling
http://www.salon.com/2014/09/24/arne_duncans_staggering_statement_why_ed_reformers_are_having_second_thoughts/

Common Core Testing Will Take More Time Than Initially Estimated
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2014/09/common-core_assessment_group_revises_testing_time.html

Will Common Core Testing Technology Undermine New Math Performance Tasks?
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/09/24/05math.h34.html

The Scarring Effects of Primary Grade Retention
http://sf.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2014/09/03/sf.sou074.full

Mercyhurst University Adopts Test-Optional Policy
http://www.yourerie.com/news/news-article/d/story/mercyhurst-u-adopts-satact-optional-policy/17370/lBxxnviAm0uCw3l65v56Mg

Test-Optional Colleges vs. Test-Fixated K-12 Education
http://lancasteronline.com/opinion/editorials/standardized-tests-are-a-more-helpful-to-college-bound-kids/article_26901790-45d0-11e4-9e2d-0017a43b2370.html

Common Core Kills Love of Reading: Anonymous UT Student Teacher’s Story   5 comments

by an anonymous Utah student teacher
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Last semester I worked in a first grade classroom as part of a class I was I was taking at Utah Valley University.  The teacher said she could do more teaching if she didn’t have to do so much Common Core testing, so she had me do the testing.  These children have 4 packets, 20-25 pages each, they have to get through during the year.   Part of this is a list of 100 words, 400 for the year, they need to know by sight.  As I was testing, one little boy he stopped and said, “I don’t like words.  I don’t like reading.  I don’t like books.”
My heart broke.
apple books
I went to our library here in town and checked out as many books as I could.  I went back to school every day and pulled him out of class to read just one book to him.   At first he was hesitant because he thought he was going to have to read to me. Eventually he relaxed and started enjoying.  He got so he would even turn the pages on occasion. We read one book, “The Red Book,” which has no words in it.  You make up the story yourself. When we finished I asked him if he’d rather read a book like this or would he rather have a book with the words already there.
He preferred a book with words in it.  This went on for several weeks.
book and kite
Then they had a reading competition in the classroom. On Friday whoever read the most books that week got to wear the pirate hat.  I came in one Friday and he was wearing the pirate hat.
I was thrilled.pirate
Since then it has occurred to me that I should talk to the principal.  How would he feel if someone came into his office and tested him regularly, and often, to see whether he is making any progress, getting everything done that he should do, etc.?  He would probably quit his job if he was under such testing regulations, and still they put these little kids through all this stress.
Stress-at-work
This teacher has eighteen students.  Within a week I could tell which six children were working above grade level, which 6 children were working at grade level, and which 6 children were working below grade level.  This was simply from my observations, not from any testing I was doing.  Six children took the assignments and whizzed through them.  Six children took the assignments and worked through them, but eventually they got there.  Six children got very little of the assignments done without help, and in some cases a lot of help.  Obviously, Common Core upsets me.  I’m sure there is some good there, and there are good intentions, but they are way off base.

 

U.S. Senate Stands Against Dept of Ed Recklessness: Let’s #THANKHATCH #THANKKIRK #THANK ISAKSON #THANKENZI #THANKBURR #THANKMURKOWSKI #THANKROBERTS #THANKALEXANDER   3 comments

Join Utahns Against Common Core in a  heartfelt thank you to the following U.S. Senators whose official letter both exposed Sec. Duncan’s assumption of unauthorized educational authority (which is only to be held by states); and called out Duncan’s unauthorized takeover of the rights of children with disabilities via standardized tests.

If you tweet, Facebook, or  email, please thank them.  What they did was important.  I’m using the hashtags #THANKHATCH, #THANKKIRK, etc.

 

Utah – SENATOR ORRIN HATCH  @SenOrrinHatch

orrin

 

Georgia – SENATOR JOHNNY ISAKSON  @SenatorIsakson

senator johnny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alaska – SENATOR LISA MURKOWSKI @lisamurkowski

AKSR

 

Kansas – SENATOR PAT ROBERTS @PatRoberts2014

patroberts

Illinois – SENATOR MARK KIRK  @SenatorKirk

KIRK

 

 

Wyoming – SENATOR MIKE ENZI @SenatorEnzi

 

Mike_Enzi,_official_portrait,_111th_Congress

 

North Carolina – SENATOR RICHARD BURR @SenatorBurr

 

nc

 

Tennessee – SENATOR LAMAR ALEXANDER  @SenAlexander

lamar

 

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If you live near Salt Lake City, please join us at 11:00 at tomorrow’s public and media event at Royal Wood Office Plaza, 230 west 200 south.  Bring signs.  Wear green if you have green.  Be prepared to take a turn on the soap box with the megaphone to use your freedom of speech and make your voice heard.

Inside the Royal Wood Office building, a federal agent of Arne Duncan’s Dept of Education will be meeting tomorrow with Utah State Office of Education leaders to ensure their compliance with federal mandates –mandates that the eight senators’ letter  just called illegal.   Let’s let our Utah State education employees know we defend their right to not comply, as they host this unauthorized federal visitor.

 

Tomorrow at 11:00 – Protest Unauthorized Federal Enforcement / Support Children With Disabilities   4 comments

orrin

Note:  Event address changed:  Tomorrow, Thursday, 11:00 at Royal Wood Office Plaza, at 230 West 200 South in Salt Lake City.

Senator Orrin Hatch –together with Senators from other states: Senators Enzi, Alexander, Burr, Isakson, Roberts, Murkowski and Kirk — penned a powerful letter of rebuke to the federal Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan last month. (Read it here.)

The letter is an example of how checks and balances are supposed to work in this country.  When the executive branch (Duncan) oversteps its authority, the legislative branch (Hatch) reins it in.  Great system.

One would imagine that Secretary Duncan might feel humbled by the letter’s exposure of his obvious violations.  The letter says:

“Please provide the specific statutory authority for each indicator under your Results-Driven Accountability Framework,” the senators’ letter states.  It goes on: “Please identify the source of funding and authority to use funds for your $50 million technical assistance center.”  Finally:  “Changes to the existing framework must comport to the letter of the law and cannot be made by administrative fiat.”

However, Arne Duncan has shown no intention of submitting to congressional authority.  Rather than apologize and retract, he’s decided to send a federal enforcer out to the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) to inspect compliance to his unauthorized authority.  This week.

Utahns Against Common Core is therefore hosting a protest tomorrow at 11:00 at Royal Wood Office Plaza, at 230 West 200 South in Salt Lake City.

Please come.  Shy people are needed too.  You can just stand in the shade with your sign and sip a soda.  Loud people are needed as well: we can stand on the soap box (crate) provided and can state exactly why we oppose Duncan’s doings, and thank Senator Hatch for his letter.

The bottom line for me –why I’m spending time, energy and gas money to drive to Salt Lake tomorrow– is this:  when the federal government (and local state government enablers) step on my Constitutional right to control education locally because of money bribes or misguided faith in central planning,  I lose the power to run and care for my own local school(s) and the children I love who go there. 

I choose to stand up, show up, push back and say, “The buck stops here.  Don’t tread on me.”  My children can’t do this; it is MY responsiblity.  Please join me.

I’m now going to paste what Oak Norton,  of Utahns Against Common Core, wrote: 

 

Tomorrow: Thursday at 11:00 at Royal Wood Office Plaza, at 230 West 200 South in Salt Lake City ). Invite everyone, especially parents and teachers of children with disabilities.

In a nutshell: Secretary Arne Duncan violated federal law seeking to punish state school disability programs, got caught big time, and a federal Dept. of Education official is here in Utah on a “routine” visit. Time for a protest.

What you are about to read should result in congressional hearings and Arne Duncan probably being fired as the US Secretary of Education.

Federal law sets forth certain things that can be done under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). No one may circumvent those laws. Only Congress can change laws, but because of the current Executive Branch’s agenda to bring states under federal control, grant-based regulations and mandates have increasingly been created by Secretary Duncan, in violation of the Constitution.

On June 24, 2014, Secretary Duncan circumvented congress and issued mandates for changes in the way state special education programs are evaluated. (http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/new-accountability-framework-raises-bar-state-special-education-programs)

“To improve the educational outcomes of America’s 6.5 million children and youth with disabilities, the U.S. Department of Education today announced a major shift in the way it oversees the effectiveness of states’ special education programs.”

He then went on to explain what changes he is mandating.

Eight U.S. senators prepared a letter explaining the violations of law involved in Duncan’s action and asked the Secretary a number of very pointed questions. Evidently, Senator Hatch from Utah walked that letter into a meeting, interrupting it, to deliver it to Secretary Duncan. The senators’ letter is embedded at the bottom of this article.

In essence, the mandate changes the way the school funding game is played by suddenly announcing that historical NAEP test score data will be used retroactively to evaluate federal funding on schools that have children with disabilities. As the senators’ letter points out this is a very clear violation of the law.

Duncan calls this new framework, “Results-Driven Accountability.” It’s simply unconstitutional and illegal. The press release states:

“Last year, when the Department considered only compliance data in making annual determinations, 41 states and territories met requirements. This year, however, when the Department includes data on how students are actually performing, only 18 states and territories meet requirements.”

Why are they so eager to tell states they aren’t meeting requirements? So they can enact more requirements. It’s the way things work for those in power. Tell schools they aren’t performing and then punish them with additional requirements.

Utah happens to be coming up short and is on the list of states that “need assistance.” The USDOE continues, “If a state needs assistance for two years in a row, IDEA requires the Department to takeactions such as requiring the state to obtain technical assistance or identifying the state as a high-risk grant recipient.”

So Utah is at risk of losing federal funds due to the feds moving the goal post and mandating, against the rules of the game, that teams retroactively enact the new rules. Suddenly the score that was 14-0, is 0-0.

Now I’m no fan of federal funding in any respect and I’d love to see it abolished, but until we are able to accomplish that, this is an egregious violation of the law and should result in Duncan and maybe others being short-timers on the hill for their actions.

NAEP was supposed to be for a common set of data between the states and was mandated to never be used for high stakes testing determination.

So what kind of “technical assistance” does the USDOE have in mind?

“As part of the move to RDA, OSERS [Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services] will fund a new $50 million technical assistance center – the Center on Systemic Improvement – to help states leverage the $11.5 billion in federal special education funds which they currently receive to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. In addition, OSERS will be working with each state to support them in developing comprehensive plans designed to improve results for children with disabilities.”

Because so many states were suddenly deemed to be below threshold (without knowing that’s how they would be evaluated), we’re going to see a new federal “assistance” center because obviously the states aren’t capable of educating children with disabilities. We “need” that federal help…  (Oh, and Common Core isn’t being pushed by the feds either, of course.)

Interestingly, Gregory Corr, the Director of Monitoring and State Improvement Planning at OSEP (Office of Special Education Programs), is coming to Utah *right now* to do some type of investigation. This is beyond normal. Directors don’t go to states on “routine” visits.  I understand he will be at the State Office of Education on Thursday.

Please come Thursday,  tomorrow: 11:00 at Royal Wood Office Plaza, at 230 West 200 South in Salt Lake City . Help tell the the feds to stop violating the law, stop violating Utah’s sovereignty, and stop messing with children with disabilities. It’s OUR education system. Bring your signs:  “Stop Fed Ed”  “Support Children With Disabilities”  “Defend Local Control”  “Thank You Senator Hatch”.

 

Alpine School Board Members Speak Out For Student Privacy   4 comments

Alpine-Board-10x8-1024x819

 

Three remarkable Alpine School Board Members: Wendy Hart (front left) Brian Halladay (standing, middle)  and Paula Hill (front, right) have written an open letter on student privacy, citing documented realities (contracts, documents and laws) that boldly stand for student privacy and parental rights, against Common Core SAGE/AIR testing.  The letter stands tall against statements from State Associate Superintendent Judy Park and the Utah State Office of Education that claim all is well with student privacy in Utah schools.

Hats off to Hart, Halladay and Hill for speaking up despite pressure to go along in silence with the decisions or positions held at the state level.

Before I post the letter, here’s a little background:

Before Common Core testing even began, Utah officially dropped out of SBAC (a federally funded Common Core test maker) but then immediately picked up, as a replacement, test maker  AIR  (American Institutes for Research– also  federally approved, but not federally funded; Common Core-aligned; a test maker that specializes in psychometrics and behavioral testing,  prioritizes promoting the LGTB philosophy –and is officially partnered with SBAC!)  Many Utah parents are opting their children out of these tests, and state level officials are desperately trying to persuade the population that there’s no reason to opt out.

Statements promoting and approving AIR and SAGE, by Assistant Superintendent Judy Park, have been rebutted and even publically debated before– but this new letter stands very, very  tall, shedding much more light on the student privacy dangers of SAGE/AIR and highlighting the lack of Utah laws that protect an individuals’ ownership over his/her own data.

 

Here’s the letter:

 

September 18, 2014

 

Dr. Judy Park

Utah State Office of Education

Dear Dr. Park,

 

Thank you for taking the time to address some of the issues with AIR and SAGE testing.  We especially appreciate your citations of the contract.  In the interest of openness and transparency, we have a point of clarification, as well as some follow-up questions.

To begin, a point of clarification.  Your letter is directed to Superintendent Henshaw who communicated some of our concerns about SAGE and AIR to you.  In your letter, you indicate that “False, undocumented and baseless allegations need to cease.”  We wish to clarify that the concerns expressed by Dr. Henshaw were not coming from him, and, as such, your directive would not be to him but to those of us on the board and our constituents who are raising questions, based on our reading of the AIR contract with USOE.  Because Dr. Henshaw reports to the Alpine School Board and not the other way around, any directive for Dr. Henshaw to rein in these ‘allegations’ from board members or constituents would be inappropriate.  We can appreciate that you are troubled by this, but we would recommend that more information and more discussion would be a preferable way of resolving concerns, as opposed to suggesting that concerned representatives and their consitutents simply remain silent.

So, in that spirit of openness, we have the following clarifications and follow-up questions.

We begin by addressing the sections of the AIR contract cited in your letter of August 14.  It was very much appreciated because these are the same sections of the contract that we have studied.  We were hopeful that there would be additional insight.  Unfortunately, we did not find any assurance in the pages listed.

I-96 – I-98:  This section nicely addresses the physical, network, and software security for the server and test items.  However, the only reference to AIR employees, their ability to access or use any data is left to “Utah’s public records laws, FERPA, and other federal laws.”  FERPA, as many know, has been modified by the US Dept of Education to allow for the sharing of data without parental knowledge or consent as long as it can be justified as an ‘educational program’. Additionally, FERPA only contains penalties for those entities receiving federal funds.  Since Utah is paying directly for SAGE testing, FERPA is a meaningless law in this regard.  Additionally, Utah’s public records laws appear to only address the openness of public records, but are insufficient when it comes to privacy or use of data, including that of a minor.  If there are robust privacy laws in Utah’s public records laws, we would appreciate additional citations.  Please cite the other federal laws that protect the privacy of our students.

I-61:  Addresses the technical protocols for the data transfer, as well as encryption of passwords.  Again, this doesn’t address those who are given access by AIR to the data for whatever purpose.

I-72 – I-73:  Addresses the security of those contractors who will be manually scoring during the pilot testing.  This addresses a particular third-party in a particular role, but not AIR as an entity or its employees, other than this particular instance.

I-85 – I-86:  Addresses the issues of users and roles for the database and USOE updates.  This limits the appropriate access to those of us in Utah, based on whether we are teachers, principals, board members, USOE, etc.  Again, this does not address anything about AIR as an entity or its employees.

While all these security precautions are necessary, and we are grateful they are included, they do nothing to address the particular issues that were raised at the August 12, 2014 Alpine School Board Meeting.  Some of our concerns are as follows:

1)  Prior to the Addendum from March 2014 (for which we are grateful) there was no prohibition on sharing data with a third-party.  As indicated, the changes to FERPA would allow AIR to legally share data with a third-party as long as that sharing was for ‘an educational program’ without parental knowledge or consent.  As such, the addendum now allows for that sharing only with the USOE’s consent.  We are still concerned that parents are not asked to give consent and may not have knowledge of their student’s data being shared.

2) AIR itself is a research firm dedicated to conducting and applying the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation.  As such, they are involved with data collection and evaluation. In the contract and addendum cited, there is nothing that prohibits how AIR or its subsidiary organizations may use, query, analyze or access any or all student data from the SAGE tests in Utah.  They would have access to many data sets from many entities.  They also would have multiple on-going research projects.  There is no prohibition on what inquiries, research or analysis can be done on the data from SAGE testing.  As long as AIR does not profit from the data or share with a third-party without the USOE’s consent, the data is managed by AIR and available for access.  What are the methods in place to prevent AIR from accessing the data for additional research or analysis?  AIR does not need to share the data with a third-party to violate the privacy of a student or a set of students.  However, since they control and manage the database, there is nothing that would prevent this access.

3) There are no prohibitions in the contract regarding behavioral data.  While we realize Mr. Cohen has said the contract does not call for gathering or evaluating behavioral data, and that AIR is not inclined to do so, there are, again, no prohibitions or penalties associated with gathering or evaluating behavioral data.  State law allows for the use of behavioral data in the year-end testing.  So, there are no legal prohibitions on the use or collection of behavioral data.  Since behavioral research is the primary mission of AIR, as indicated by its mission statement, it is a concern for parents.  If AIR has no desire to collect behavioral data as part of the SAGE testing, it should state so explicitly in a legally-binding manner.

4) Many parents have, legally, opted out of SAGE testing for their students.  As such, why is AIR receiving any information on these students?  Parents feel it is a grave violation of their trust by USOE that any data the USOE has received from the schools can be input into the SAGE database, not to mention the State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS).  There must, at a minimum, be a way for parents to opt out of all sharing of their student’s dat with AIR and the SLDS.  At what point, if any, will student data be purged from the AIR database?  What is the method for demonstrating the data has been properly purged?

Additionally, we appreciate the response of Mr. Cohen to our concerns.  Based on his response, we have the following questions.

1)  Please list the “express purposes” for which the release, sharing or sale of data is not prohibited, per contract.

2) What third parties are AIR “explicitly permitted by the State of Utah” to provide data to?

3) What research has AIR been requested and directed by the Utah State Office of Education to conduct?

4) What entity (or entities) has AIR been authorized by the State of Utah to release data to?

5) Please list the source of the contract that states that AIR is prohibited from releasing data to the federal government.

6) What entity (or entities) have been designated by the USOE to receive data from AIR?

7) The memo does not address companies owned or operated by AIR, which would not be considered third-parties.  Please state, per contract, where AIR does not share data within related party entities.

Finally, we have the following questions related to the validity and reliability of the SAGe testing.  We understand that this information would not be protected by copyright, and therefore, could be provided to us, as elected officials.

1. Normative Sample Details (who took the test)

2. Coefficient Alpha Reliability

3. Content description Validity

4. Differential Item Function Analysis

5. Criterion Prediction Validity

6. Construct Identification Validity

7. Other types of validity scales/constructs that are applicable only to CAT test designs

We appreciate the opportunity to discuss this more in the future.  As those who are responsible to the parents of this district, we feel it is imperative that our concerns are addressed.  And, when all is said and done, it is most important that parents have the opportunity to protect whatever student information they feel is necessary.  Just because parents decide to educate their children in our public school system does not mean that we, as a state government, are entitled to whatever information about their children we feel in necessary.  Parents are still, by state law, primarily responsible for the education and the upbringing of their children.  As such, their wishes and their need to protect information on their students is paramount.  As members of the Alpine School Board, we must represent the different views and concerns of all the parents in our area.  For those who have no concerns, then you may proceed as usual.  For those who do have concerns, it is incumbent on us to raise these questions and to obtain the most accurate information possible.

Thank you for your time, and we look forward to more information in the future.

 

Sincerely,

 

Brian Halladay

ASD4

Wendy Hart

ASD2

Paula Hill

ASD1

 

—————————————————————————–

 

I wish every Utah parent, teacher, student and principal read this letter– and took action!

The time has long passed for blind trust in Dr. Park, in the State Office of Education and in the State School Board. Surely, power holders –in the legislature, in district administrative offices, and in the governor’s office who read this letter– will finally act.

Share this letter!

UT Canyons District Teacher: “This is Why Teachers Are Afraid to Speak Out”   9 comments

Utahns Against Common Core receives notes from parents and teachers on a regular basis.  Here is a heartbreaking message from an anonymous teacher in Canyons District:

 

“We are currently gearing up for our new educator evaluation system called CTESS.  Today I was reading through the evaluation and of the 12 standards 3 require you to show that you are supportive of and actively teaching the “Utah Core Standard”, otherwise known as “Common Core.”  This is why teachers are afraid to speak out. I really am fearful for my job. There have been times when I have wanted to speak up, like recently when attending a district meeting and Common Core came up. The comment was made by a district official that those who were against Common Core were “kooks.”  This is the environment teachers have to work in.  If you disagree, you have no place to turn. I am ready to find another career and get out.”

 

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