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

Missouri Common Core Tests Halted by Restraining Order   2 comments

missouri

A judge has issued a restraining order in Missouri that says that Missouri is “restrained from making any payments in the form of membership fees to the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium… including but not limited to disbursements pursuant to “Invoice #1″ issued to the State.”  The restraining order is, at least temporarily, halting Common Core SBAC tests in the state.

According to the Missouri Education Watchdog, “the Solicitor General, in arguing for the state defendant, argued that  if the fees were not paid, there would be no assessments available in Missouri schools this year at all.  This contradicts what an SBAC spokesperson said on the phone to legal counsel for the plaintiff when she said  that the membership fees are separate and distinct from the charge for using the assessments.  It also seems to contradict provisions of federal regulations that require the assessments developed by the consortia to be generally available to non-member states…  if other states were to withdraw their membership based on the same grounds, this would require a significant reorganization of the test supplier into a commercial venture as opposed to a testing consortia…  it would weaken the federal government’s requirement that states use the consortia tests in order to comply with federal regulation or waivers, because then the federal government would be granting a monopoly to a particular private company.

This ruling is a sign that the court sees some merit in the case, that SBAC may be an illegal interstate compact and thus the state’s membership in it should be null and void.

Duncan Distances Himself from San Diego Protesters   Leave a comment

Adding to the Breitbart report that many have already have seen is this report by Dr. Sandra Stotsky, who was present during this month’s Common Core promotional visit by Secretary of Education to California.  The U.S. Secretary of Education ignored parent protesters but spoke about his programs for implementing Common Core, including his aim to lengthen the school day and to extend each school year to year-round school.  Dr. Stotsky stands in the middle of San Diego protesters in this photo.

Sandra cropped

USDE Not Interested in Parents’ Perspective on Common Core

By Sandra Stotsky

 

While Professors R. James Milgram and Sandra Stotsky were on a 13-city speaking tour throughout California (joined by Ze’ev Wurman in Southern California) in November, a protest rally against Common Core by parents in San Diego took place.  What exactly were they protesting?  A speech by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, invited by the Council for Chief State School Officers for prime time at its 2014 Annual Policy Forum at the U.S. Grant Hotel.  The advanced description of his speech suggested that his talk was to center on ways to promote implementation of Common Core, such as by lengthening the school day and extending the school year to include summer as well as fall, winter, and spring. A few protesters wondered if parents would be given visiting rights.

 

While marching back and forth in front of the main door to the hotel, they asked the security guards to let Duncan, CCSSO officers, and the state superintendents in the audience know they were outside. No invitation to come in and listen to Duncan’s speech was forthcoming. The protesting parents outside the hotel were completely ignored by the CCSSO, Duncan, and the state superintendents listening to him, just as parents across the country have been ignored by them for five years. Not one public meeting with upset parents in any state by a US Department of Education official, a state board of education, a state commissioner or superintendent of education, a governor, a local board of education, or a local superintendent.

 

This is apparently the official federal policy toward the parents of the children in our public schools on whom the states have imposed the deeply flawed educational policies associated with Common Core: Keep them at a distance.

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Thank you, Dr. Stotsky.

This is a pattern. Recently, a federal agent from the Department of Education visited Salt Lake City.  Although Utahns Against Common Core organized a protest during this event  to call attention to the federal visit and to support Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch’s letter of rebuke of the Department of Education and its false assumption of authority, the Salt Lake City protest was, like the San Diego protest, completely ignored by the visiting federal agent.   (“Keep them at a distance.”)

First Parent Member of Utah SAGE Test Review Committee Speaks Out   1 comment

Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. -Dietrich Bonhoeffer
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According to Utah law, a 15-member parent committee must be assembled to review the test questions on the Common Core SAGE test prior to the test being administered statewide.
Members of the committee now report that, contrary to what was reported by the Utah State Office of Education and the media, there was no consensus of approval on SAGE by the parent committee. Several members want to set the record straight. Here is the first of what will be a series of parental testimonies that all was not well with SAGE tests.  This comes from committee member Molly Foster, with her permission.

Email from Molly Foster (written to the other members of the 15-parent committee to review SAGE test questions)

… In the spring when I was made aware of the USOE putting words in my mouth I contacted Judy Park several times, through email and phone messages to no avail until I sent a more honest email to her one day, she immediately responded. I will enclose our emailed conversation.

…The results of the SAGE test across the state were not surprising for the 5 Supers I spoke to in southern Utah. Judy Park herself told them in training that the students would fail until they got all the curriculum aligned, this could take years, and quite frankly by then they will have another mandatory program they are shoving down each district’s throat, keeping everybody busy testing instead of teaching, and most importantly nurturing human relationships within their own schools and communities… Let’s not forget that the test scores are also tied to school grades, and teacher performance pay.

As a teacher, I believe formative and summative assessing is best done at district level. An antiquated idea, I know. While our law makers spend their time passing bills with the impression they are providing a little vehicles for educators in their state to produce “college and career ready” students, even “globally” ready for life I have to laugh (in order to not cry).
Last I checked, this is America! The rest of the world is trying to come here to work and live. Remember? We have the liberty and freedom to work and educate people as we so desire. Comparing test scores to kids in Scandinavia or Singapore does nothing. Their kids in the end have no choice of whether they will pursue arts, science, technology, this is decided for them before many have even hit puberty! I love that American kids get to choose. Some may really like science through high school but when they begin college they may find a new love for the arts and find a degree in that pursuit. In America you may even decide NOT to go to college (gasp!). Isn’t this the greatest country?!
The state is not going to get rid of a 38 million dollar exam anytime in the next few years. The parent committee is nothing but a political move they will continue to use to their advantage as long as ya’ll stay quiet and polite. Best case scenario for me would be to administer it only at the end of the year, just like the old state tests.
Cut any ties it has to teacher performance pay, and school grading. If they think this is silly you should tell Judy Park and the rest of the USOE staff and all the legislators to take it themselves three times a year, tell them they will be fired if they don’t score at an appropriate global level. Tell them not to get nervous when they sit down in front of a computer for 2-4 hours a day, for 5 days, 3 times yearly. They might have to start “working to the test” but in the end it will all be worth it, I am sure they will immediately understand why this multi million dollar test is the only way to make them college and career ready. They will see how easy it is to judge their workday hours on a CAT exam, they can grade each employee and determine pay scales on their scores.
You were all a great bunch of parents and I urge you to each speak. Share your personal opinions with the parents, teachers and administrators in your communities, that is why you are there! Be honest with the USOE. Best part…..you don’t have to all have the same opinion!
But you do have the obligation to the people you represent to be their voice. Teachers and administrators cannot safely voice personal opinion. I have a lot of family members and loved ones working in Utah that need more parents to make a stand for education. Lucky for them there are some real smart, delightful people on the committee that will do just that!
Enjoy another round of tests!
Best to each of you!
Molly Foster
The emails:
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Ms. Park,
 
I am very disturbed at what you said in a recent letter sent to districts across the state:
 
“There are also concerns that the test questions contain inappropriate content of a social or political nature.  Every question on the SAGE assessment has been reviewed by the 15 member parent committee last fall.  Every parent on the panel (including the parents that do not support the common core) agreed that there was nothing in the questions that was inappropriate.”
 
I am on your 15 member parent committee and you know we agreed there were questions that were inappropriate.
 
It is unfortunate that I have to tell people that the USOE is not a trustworthy entity. I did not intend my participation that week to be a blanket validation for your political purposes.
 
Thank you.
 
Molly Foster
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From Utah State Office of Education’s Dr. Judy Park to Molly Foster:
Molly, I am so sorry that you misunderstood my comments.  I am regularly receiving concerns that the questions have inappropriate language and are pushing a social agenda.  When we held the parent debrief panel the last day of the parent committee review, when asked if the test questions had inappropriate words or pushed a social agenda (I don’t remember exactly how it was worded), all 15 parents responded that the questions did not.  There is no doubt that there were many questions that were flagged by the parent committee.  I have freely shared the information you received from John Jesse that showed the number of items that were flagged by the parent committee and the resolution of those items.  I am also in the process of preparing the items that were dropped from the test due to the input from the parent committee, for public release.  I think it will be very helpful for any interested persons to see the actual items that have been eliminated.  I have tried in all of my comments about the parent committee (written or verbal) to honor the great work of the committee and appropriately portray the views and opinions that were shared.  I will try to be much more specific in the future to hopefully prevent misunderstanding.
Thanks
Judy W. Park, Ed.D.
Utah State Office of Education
Associate Superintendent
Student Services and Federal Programs
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Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.
- Leo Tolstoy

Leaked Letter: Utah Teachers’ Evaluations (Pay) Will Depend On Common Core Test Scores in 2015   7 comments

An email sent to schools by the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) this week was forwarded to me.

It’s gross evidence of a gross circumstance.   The USOE decided that teacher evaluations (read: salaries) will be directly tied to Common Core/SAGE student results starting at the latest next fall (2015-2016 school year).

If teachers didn’t “teach to the Common Core test” before, they will now.

Their  value as a teacher is, by USOE policy, to be determined by SGP –Student Growth Percentile, meaning: the amount of Common Core -based “improvement” that students showed on their Common Core SAGE tests.

It’s a heavy, disrespectful blow to teachers.

I have learned of some teachers who outwardly nod their heads “yes” to administrations and boards but in fact ignore the Common Core standards, continuing to teach the children in their better way, in the same way they always had, prior to Common Core.

How will independent minded teachers survive this new blow?

I don’t know.

I want to remind everyone that many times the USOE has proclaimed that teachers and schools may teach in the manner that in the local, professional judgment, the schools and teachers deem best.  They say Common Core and its tests do not micromanage teachers.

How untrue that claim has been.

Actions speak louder than words.  The state-level threat of teachers losing pay or status, if a particular teacher’s students don’t speed along the Common Core/SAGE test chain, is an almost insurmountable, powerful micromanagement of Utah’s teachers by its government.

Why did Utah allow the USOE to evolve this much power over us?   The USOE, so monstrously staffed, so stuffed full of bureaucrats, consumes many of our precious education dollars but runs un-accountably –to anyone.  And the USOE has zero authority under the Utah Constitution!

Only the State School Board holds constitutional authority of Utah’s education, checked and balanced by the legislature which hold the power of the purse.   The USOE is a deformed, runaway growth, much bigger and heavier than its stem.  Think about it: corrupt though the state board’s election system has been, still, the electing of State Board members has been at least theoretically representative; taxpayers can vote board members out of office.

Not so for the USOE and it’s leadership and staff.  Taxpayers and teachers and parents have zero say in who gets to run our educational show at the USOE level.  We can’t un-elect the writers of that letter, nor can we vote out the vast number of fat-salaried appointees who boss around the teachers, principals and students of this state.

Just as the federal U.S. Department of Education has no Constitutional validity, neither does the USOE have any state-constitutional validity.

I wish school administrators, school boards, the legislature and especially the state board would respond to the USOE with a little spit and vinegar– in defense of teachers and in non-acknowledgement of the assumed authority of the USOE and its policies, schmollisees.

Here’s that letter.

 

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Date: Wed, 12 Nov 2014

From: “Estrada, Christelle” <Christelle.Estrada@schools.utah.gov>

To: “ALL “

Subject: [Secondary ELA] Clarification – SAGE and SGPs

Colleagues:  I am forwarding this clarification from both the Assessment and the Educator Effectiveness departments at USOE so that you can disseminate it to your fellow teachers.

 

 

Dear LEAs,

 

This E-mail is to clarify possible misunderstandings and up-to-date information in regards to SAGE and Student Growth Percentiles (SGPs), and SLOs. The SAGE results for the 2013-14 school year that were released to the public on October 27, 2014 are valid and reliable assessment results.  The results create a new baseline for student achievement.   Educators and parents should seriously review these results and use the results with all of the other educational information and data to support students and assist them in improving their academic achievement.

 

We would like to clarify the relationship of SAGE results to Student Growth Percentiles (SGPs) and to Educator Evaluation in general. The SAGE results you have recently received may be used in all of the ways you have typically used test results to make instructional decisions, inform the school improvement process,  inform professional development, and evaluate programs; however, the 2013-14 SGPs are not calculated for the purposes of educator evaluation, nor to identify schools for focus and priority status under the ESEA waiver.

 

Business rules for calculating SGPs for educator evaluations are currently being developed by the USOE Educator Effectiveness section in cooperation with the USOE Assessment section. District representatives including Superintendents, HR Directors, Curriculum Directors, Educator Evaluation Liaisons and other stakeholders will have an opportunity to give input to these business rules prior to their implementation in June of 2015. These business rules will be used to generate teacher-level SGPs that may be used for calculation of a portion of the  educator evaluation as early as August 2015, although their use will not be required until the 2015-2016 school year.

 

Meanwhile, districts should continue to provide professional development and continue to build rater reliability in relation to teacher and leader observations. They should continue to implement their SLO development plans and make choices about how stakeholder input will be gathered and calculated. The Educator Effectiveness team continues to recommend that teachers of both tested and non-tested subjects learn how to develop and use SLOs to provide additional measurement information about student growth.  SGPs will be available for calculating student growth for the 2014-15 school year (they are also available this year), and they will be available to apply to educator evaluation in 2015-16.

 

If you have additional questions about these topics, please continue to contact any of the following for additional clarification as needed: Linda Alder atlinda.alder@schools.utah.gov<mailto:linda.alder@schools.utah.gov> or 801-538-7923;  Kerrie Naylor at kerrie.naylor@schools.utah.gov<mailto:kerrie.naylor@schools.utah.gov>  or 801-538-7950;   Jo Ellen Shaeffer, joellen.shaeffer@schools.utah.gov<mailto:joellen.shaeffer@schools.utah.gov> or 801-538-7811.

 

Please note Utah has a very broad public records law.  Most written communication to or from our state employees regarding state business are public records available to the public and media upon request. Your email communication may be subject to public disclosure.

 

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Video: NJ Symposium to Stop Common Core: Drs. Stotsky, Tienken, Pesta, Williams, Borelli and Borelli   3 comments

In September, Concerned Citizens of Southern New Jersey  held a symposium entitled “No More Common Core,” featuring:

  • Dr. Sandra Stotsky, emeritus professor and member of the original Common Core validation committee
  • Dr. Christopher Tienken, professor at Seton Hall University
  • Dr. Duke Pesta of Freedom Project Education
  • Dr. Tom Borelli, a molecular biologist
  • Deneen Borelli of FreedomWorks
  • Dr. Vern Williams of MathReasoning

The symposium was filmed and is posted here in three segments.

One of the event organizers, Janice Lenox, wrote an op-ed in the Cape May County Herald that succinctly explains why this symposium was so needed.

After a tremendous amount of grassroots labor, the Assembly bill against Common Core was read and voted on.  Lenox wrote:

“We were there for the vote and absolutely ecstatic when the vote 72-2 in our favor was called. Now, on to the Senate…  the Senate president passed over the bill without posting for a vote. We were told that the governor had a meeting with the Senate president and the Teachers Union president and cut a deal. “Regulation, not Legislation” –that’s what the governor wanted. He issued an executive order… He was to assemble a Study Commission to examine the PARCC testing and alleviate the teachers’ assessments for a year… and look at the Common Core…  That was July 19 of this year… As of this date, Nov. 1, no Commission of any kind has been named and no information has been forthcoming…  We urge Senator Steven Sweeney to do the people’s business and post Senate bill S2154 to the floor for a vote and let the peoples’ voices be heard….  Let teachers teach and parents parent.”

If the good people of New Jersey will simply watch, learn, and share these vital messages from the symposium speakers, and then firmly let Senator Sweeney and their other elected representatives exactly how important this is, maybe this mountain will move move.

Go, New Jersey!

 

Symposium Part One:

 

Symposium Part Two:

 

Symposium Part Three:

Who’s Your Daddy? Authority Posers v. Authority Holders   2 comments

babyParents are in charge of their children.

It is not for corporations or federal entities to delegate an education  “role” to the state or to schools or parents, like a play director hands out a role or a prop to an actor.  Similarly, it’s not a school’s or any agency’s right to delegate parents as partners in their child’s education.   Teaching children is not a governmental dictatorship, nor is is a community collective.

Parents and families are the authority, followed by teachers, followed by districts, followed by states.  Unless a parent specifically requests involvement, it’s never a federal or corporate or a “collective” right to rule over the parent-led student’s education. The state is lower on the totem pole than the local district and the schools and families.   The federal government and corporations are not even allowed on the totem pole.  Neither is the United Nations  despite what it has planned for local schools.

We hold the American, Constitutional right to control our own lives, and not to be bullied by outside forces, but the stream of control over education is trying to flow the wrong way:  outside in.

Case in point:  here is a new homework assignment for those in Common Core 101 (aka researching the unconstitutional ways in which federal ed reform is destroying representative government and parental control):   Read and analyze this 268-page  document for constitutional viability:  “The State Role in School Turnaround“.

No, wait a minute.   Don’t bother to read the whole 268 pages.  Just read the title– and nothing else– and realize that it’s completely unconstitutional.

Think about it.  The “state role”?  Under this Republic and its Constitution, the people are in charge– under laws they have created via elected representation.  The states individually are in charge –and not the federal government agencies (nor its agents or branches, like WestEd, which wrote this document.)

The phrase “School Turnaround” is a federal concept comes from Obama’s four pillars of education reform.

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America, we are losing the local representative form of government, losing power to control what happens in our schools, because of central planning taking place by “councils” and “stakeholders” and “partnerships” and chambers of commerce that lack authority in schools and individuals’ lives.  Money, not actual legality, is the source of the assumed authority.

The above “State Role” document happens to be new in 2014, but there are countless other, equally unauthorized, equally arrogant documents written to support mandates created by grant-givers (Bill Gates or federal Dept of Ed) who lack the authority to control our state educational system, but who are nonetheless beginning to rule over us.

  1. example one:  2011 Federal grant to create Common Core tests which mandates states sharing student-level data SBAC  In this document you will see that the authority cited is not a legal code but simply money.  Money is the authority– money the Dept. of Education had no right to be offering for obedience to its mandates.
  2. example two: 2009 Federal ARRA grant to monitor citizens without consent, in State Longitudinal Database System; all must be federally interoperable.  Again, the federal government had no authority to create a federal citizen database.  But by offering money, it got states to make a giant, state-fed-interoperable bunch of databases that it could then tap.
  3. example three: 188 corporate Gates grants that implement Common Core in American schools, each from the same corporate “philanthropist” who sells Common Core technologies and textbooks via official partnerships and governmental alliances.  Again, no authority:  no voter asked Bill Gates to push Common Core onto schools; nothing but the temptation of money fuels the monstrous takeover of the majority of our nation’s schools.

Don’t buy into the posture of authority or the glossy, legitimate-seeming pdf’s and conferences.  Groups like WestEd, AIR, CCSSO, NGA, Microsoft, Pearson, Achieve Inc., SBAC, PARCC, ACT, The College Board,  The Center on School Turnaround, The National Center on Education and the Economy– are nongovernmental.  We didn’t elect them and we can’t boot them out.

So why are we allowing them to dictate to us?

Know that we, the people, are in charge, legally, of our own children.  Individuals, families, local schools are in charge, in that order, and as designated by the family, not by districts or a state.

We have to know it to defend it.  Spread the word.

 

 

Open Letter from Nevada Mother on Common Core   5 comments

Christina Leventis and spouse

Open Letter From NV Mom

 

Christina Leventis, a mother from Nevada,has had it with Michael Petrilli of Fordham Foundation, for his unwavering support for Common Core.
Christina Leventis and her husband are in the photo.

Dear Mr. Petrilli:

It is near impossible to catch my breath between your compulsory admonishments on “embracing the core.”  I continue to read them and I continue to reject them.  Your reasoning is unsound and, frankly, I simply disagree with you.  So, I have a question for you Mr. Petrilli.

What if I just don’t want my children to be taught under the Common Core State Standards or any aka there of, period?

I do not understand this game of tug-of-war over my children.  In polite society, Mr. Petrilli, when a mother says “No, thank you” on behalf of her child, she means “No, thank you.”  It is not code for “verbally abuse me until I lay my child at the altar of Thy-Will-of-Bill-Gates-Be-Done.”

My mind ponders at length the accomplishments of Bill Gates.  He is an excellent example of the American dream.  Bill Gates capitalized on American freedom to live as he pleased; to learn in a way that fit him; to create and build for himself and his family.  The irony that Bill Gates is now using his amassed millions to usurp that same freedom from American families and to pigeon-hole the nation’s children into a standardized learning that suits him is grotesque and unjustifiable.

I had the privilege this past week to meet some of the national moms standing against this federal rush for our children.  I looked long and hard at each of them because I was looking for something specific.  What I found was a group of moms: funny, wise, sharp, thoughtful, sincere, caring, focused, genuine, and much more.  I didn’t find what I was looking for though.  I didn’t find any bullies.

The mothers in this fight are not the bullies – white, suburban or otherwise.  What we are is the last line of defense, in some cases, the only line of defense for our children.  I’m afraid our silence has been mistaken for complacency.  Maybe we were quiet when we should have spoken.  That’s on us.  But we are speaking now.  We tried polite.  We tried firm.  We tried loud.  When we are not being ignored we are being labeled.

If the pushers could stop the diversion tactics for just five minutes they would be able to recognize the point of failure immediately.  The “architects” did not start with the children in mind, whereas, mothers always begin with their children in mind.  The writers begin with job placement – moms begin with giving life.  The writers think assessment – moms think development.  The writers think corporate boardroom – moms think sandbox.   Life is an unfolding of an individual’s soul and spirit – it is not a race of the mindless clones to the factory time clock.

Here is my admonishment to you Mr. Petrilli – I love my children and Bill Gates will run out of money before I ever run out of love for my children.

Sincerely,

Christina Leventis

Nevada Mother

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