When Carie Valentine, a mother against Common Core, secured the proper permit yesterday to have a peaceful demonstration against Common Core this coming Friday, she also called the Salt Lake Police to let them know about the event.
The officer on the other end of the line told her that he was thrilled that Utahns are not backing down and asked her to continue the fight, saying that he spoke for many in his office.
So, this Friday, outside the State School Board’s monthly, all-day meeting, Utah teachers, parents and citizens will demonstrate against Common Core. The peaceful demonstration has been organized for many reasons.
1. Normally, the public may only speak at USSB meetings if a request is made ahead of time, and only two minutes are given per person, with a firm limit on numbers allowed to speak.
2. There is a long history with most of the members of this board, that demonstrates a refusal do adequate research about the experiment called Common Core or to acknowledge that there are terrible, sobering academic flaws, and even unconstitutional flaws, in the new agenda. The board tends to use talking points rather than evidence or references, such as pilot studies, references to laws, or empirical data, to make their parroted claims that the Common Core system is legitimate. Many citizens feel that this atmosphere of no debate is an anti-intellectual, un-American stance.
3. There are numerous, serious concerns about the 518-page agenda to be addressed in the meeting, (including a tax-funded propaganda campaign to push common core acceptance on schools, media and parents).
4. The board did not provide a thorough public and media vetting of the transformative changes to our children’s educational experience prior to implementation; and Common Core cannot be amended without Utah asking permission from unelected D.C. groups who copyrighted the standards Utah uses. Local control has thus been opted away by the board.
5. There appears to be no escape now for parents who object to Common Core’s tests (for many reasons, including behavioral assessments mandated by HB 15). Why? SB 175 mandates that any child who opts out of Common Core testing will be labeled “non-proficient” and the child’s teacher is forced by the state to give the child a bad grade and the school will be punished. It reads: “A teacher shall consider students’ summative adaptive assessments in determining students’ academic grades for the appropriate courses and students’ advancement to the next grade level… Students not tested due to parent request shall receive a non-proficient score which shall be used in school accountability calculations.” Opting out of tests, standards or attendance quotas should be a parental decision, God-given. As long as we are a free country, the state should take a back seat to parental conscience. But most of the education reforms happening in Utah display a disregard for parental (or teachers’) conscience and agency.
Many who would stand up and protest can not do so; they have to be at jobs at 8:30 on a Friday morning; or they are children, who don’t have a voice to articulate their displeasure with the Common Core situtation; or they are principals, staff and teachers whose jobs depend on them appearing to agree with Common Core’s implementation in Utah.
Keeping that in mind, if you can make it, please come. Know that you likely represent thousands who cannot join us Friday.
Utah State Office of Education
250 East 500 South
Salt Lake City, Utah, 84114
When: beginning 8:30 a.m. this Friday, August 2.
Who: All are welcome.
From Carie Valentine, event organizer:
“…[W]hen I found out about Common Core I was upset and even angry that our state would make such radical and damaging changes to our education system. Since that time, many good parents just like you have worked tirelessly to get the word out about Common Core. Parents are not being educated by our own state school board and so we have had to educate ourselves.
The rally at the capitol was amazing. The [many hundreds of] people that showed up to voice their opposition was inspiring. I would like to continue that momentum and demonstrate in front of the state education offices. Their last meeting before the traditional school schedule begins is this Friday, Aug 2. Please join me to send them a message that we are in this for the long haul.
I have secured the proper permit for a demonstration this Friday at the State School Board Offices in Salt Lake City. This is considered a spontaneous demonstration.
…I have also called the SLC police dept. and they know we are coming and the officer I spoke with was thrilled we aren’t backing down. He asked us to continue the fight and said he spoke for many in his office.
If you have access to a bigger bank of people, please pass the word along. These are our children, our tax dollars, and our schools. You have my permission to give out my email address to others who want to come. Please try and make time. We are all busy but this is important.
This is a chance to let them know we are not going away. If you are coming, plan on attending the public comment period from 8-8:30 and the picketing will be from 8:30am-9:30am. Please make your own sign and if you have an button wear that. Here are the “rules”.
We can’t block the sidewalk or the entrance to the building. We can’t (shouldn’t) swear or yell through bull horns. We can hold signs and chant something clever about “no common core”. We can’t prevent movement of pedestrians on the sidewalk. Please email me your confirmation so I can have an idea of how many of us there will be.
If you would like to speak to the board directly the public comment period will be from 8-8:30.
You must sign up in advance. I tried attending and signing up at the meeting and they took the sign up away before I could put my name on it.
To sign up to speak at the board meeting in advance, contact Board Secretary Lorraine Austin at (801) 538-7517.
To picket outside, there is no need to sign up in advance, but if you want to give us a head count, email Carie Valentine at email@example.com
Is this the proper role of government?
The Utah State School Board is using your tax dollars and mine to create a huge marketing machine with the aim to persuade all Utahns (utterly without legitimate evidence) that Common Core will not damage, but will improve education, and that Common Core has nothing to do with the federal government.
Is propaganda in the realm of the proper role of government? There are public-private partnerships that gain financially from the promulgation of Common Core. Our tax dollars are thus enriching companies we never voted into office and cannot vote out. It’s not just Pearson and Bill Gates; it’s Utah individuals and companies, too. This is corruption, in my humble opinion. We are not putting the kids and teachers first. We are putting pride, and money, and the illusion of money, first.
Precious, needed education dollars are now officially funding the Utah propaganda machine for Common Core. The machine is devoid of source documents or references, devoid of empirical evidence or pilot studies to support its “talking points” and it’s devoid of voter representation and academic legitimacy.
The machine has a “Communications Committee” including paid PR people specifically assigned to Tweet and Facebook message and email legislators, the governor and business leaders about Common Core. There are people specifically assigned to bend the ears of news editors and reporters to the official (socialist) line: pro-common core. There are people who are supposed to “supply schools” with “talking points” (not evidence, of course) to persuade parents, legislators and teachers how great Common Core will be.
Read pages 232-236 of the State School Board’s published agenda for August, the state board announces how it will “improve attitudes toward Utah’s Core Standards.” (Notice, they never call them Common Core.)
This propaganda machine was approved June 7th, 2013. It’s a done deal. So we taxpayers funded it, and now we get to sit back and watch it, like a gigantic, offensive press, as it spews its narrow, unbalanced, and false claims about Common Core.
The board’s goals include “increasing social media coverage” of Common Core by sending out daily Tweets and weekly Facebook updates about Common Core; making schools participate in “public messaging” to advocate for Common Core; making the public believe that there should be no “worries of federal intrusion.”
Its key audience: “Utah general public, Parents, Business community, licensed educators, administrators, officials; Higher education; Legislators, Governor’s Office, Delegates.”
The school board’s stated strategy is: to “increase USOE web, media and social media influence on the issue” and the measurement will be how many mass media stories they can count, accompanied by public opinion polls.
The board will “seek out opinion leaders within key groups (schools, PTAs, business partners including Prosperity 2020, social media and bloggers, legislators, party leadership, delegates, Governor’s Office personnel, local media personalities, etc.) and ask for…
endorsements through media outlets or personal contacts.”
Endorsements?!! Based on what?! Their charming smiles? Their positions of power? How about voter vetting or teacher analysis of the standards PRIOR to implementation? How about some evidence? How about a pilot study? How about something REAL? Excuse me while I run screaming from the room, pulling out my hair!
They will be using your tax dollars and mine to “contract with DTS in creating/designing a usbe.utah.gov webpage” and to assign a person to “Send out regular Tweets (daily) and Facebook updates (every 7-10 days) highlighting aspects of Utah’s Core Standards.”
They will, of course, “Provide talking points to help schools.” (Can’t educational institutions speak or think without USOE prompters?)
(Please notice that they will provide talking points, but won’t provide evidence or source documents– because no pilot studies or empirical testing has ever been done to legitimize claims that Common Core is academically valid. THE EMPEROR OF COMMON CORE IS WEARING NO CLOTHES. But the state board is hell-bent on persuading us that his clothes are mighty, mighty fine.)
The board also will “make Utah’s Core Standards part of their message during the Legislature’s annual back-to-school event”
They also plan to “initiate an advertising campaign in media to include newspapers, radio, etc. before the winter legislative session.
They will be using your tax dollars and mine to pay for a person to “send regular weekly e-mail updates from Board Chair or Superintendent to legislators and key business partners informing them of progress being made in schools.” Key business partners!? Is this about money? Or is it even a little bit about legitimate education for our children!?
They will be manhandling the PTA. “PTA liaison Templates, websites, etc. for local PTAs to access in order to be proficient with messaging,” and they will “create electronic distribution, handouts on Utah’s Core Standards and computer-adaptive testing (SAGE) for use in fall 2013 back-to-school meetings.”
They will also “seek out the inclusion of [Common Core] Utah’s Core Standards on the agenda of meetings such as P2020, Rotary, Chamber of
Commerce, etc.” I know there is no stupid question, but let me ask it anyway: what expertise exists at the Rotary club, or what research have members of the Chamber of Commerce done, to make them competent analysts and endorsers of one form of educational testing and standards over another?
The board will also work with PR leads in districts, charter, and regional service centers “to help local schools own” the messaging. They can’t “own” it. The D.C. groups who are utterly unaccountable to Utahns, own it. That’s the CCSSO, NGA, Achieve Inc., and Bill Gates grants which funded it, invented it, and own it. You can’t force an unfounded feeling of loyalty, but the state board aims to try.
The board plans to “take advantage of this spring’s last CRT tests, this fall’s first CAT formative tests, and next spring’s CAT summative test
to push mass media stories (newspaper, TV, radio coverage, radio and TV talk shows, etc.), especially stories centered in the classroom.
They will also “hold USBE/USOE news conference at a school with teacher/student participation to discuss the new test” after it’s taken next spring.
Some of us are wide awake. We will hear the radio ads, read the news articles, see the tweets, and laugh. Literally. So will our kids.
But how many people won’t see the humor? How many are still asleep to the monster of Common Core’s “education reform”? How many will hear this propaganda messaging and will swallow it?
How dare the Utah State School Board use my tax money in this illegitimate, one-sided, anti-intellectual way? This is not the proper role of government. I am fully disgusted with our state school board.
Utah’s Republican state delegates sent a clear message to the Governor, Utah legislators, and to the State Office of Education at Saturday’s GOP convention when 65% of the state delegates voted yes to support the resolution written by Utahns Against Common Core.
Utah’s delegates are calling on Governor Herbert and the Utah State School Board to withdraw from Common Core, and are calling on the Utah State Legislature to discontinue funding all programs in association with the Common Core Initiative.
If you missed the GOP convention, here’s what happened.
An ocean of people swarmed in from every corner of Utah to the South Jordan Expo Center Saturday to debate and vote upon the issues of the day. Present were the Governor and his bodyguard; legislators, activists, school board members; candidates for political offices, and 2,584 delegates. The swarm began before 7 a.m. and didn’t end until late in the afternoon.
At the Utahns Against Common Core booth there was a video loop showing the audience current, common core aligned textbooks that are approved for Utah schools. The booth also featured a handful of teachers and parents, answering questions about why they opposed Common Core. (The video that was looped is viewable here. For further analysis of these texts from a Utah mental health therapist’s view — see this video, too.)
There were more delegates clustered around the Utahns Against Common Core (UACC) booth than around any other, by a long shot. Many of the delegates signed the UACC petition, wore Stop Common Core buttons and stickers, and asked questions because of the conflicting (and may I point out, unreferenced) information coming from the State Office about Common Core.
I told delegates near our booth that I dislike the mandates of the common standards and I don’t believe for a minute that they are the solution to our educational problems. (It seems a no-brainer that it’s harmful, not helpful, to lessen the amount of classic literature that a child may read, and to delay the age at which students learn basic math algorithms, etc.)
But academics are not the key issue; academic problems can normally be fixed, but under Common Core there is not even an amendment process. These are copyrighted, D.C.-written, common standards.
Without a written amendment process, it’s a case of education without representation. It’s a case of giving up the ability to even debate what the standards for Utah children ought to be. It’s a case of allowing the federal government, and the philosophies (and money) of Bill Gates-Pearson Co., to micromanage local educational decisions.
Driving home, after four hours, I wondered if the resolution for local control would pass. It did not seem likely even though our resolution closely matched the Republican National Committee’s anti-common core resolution that had passed earlier this year in California.
But in Utah, the GOP committee had given our resolution an “unfavorable” rating, saying that the wording was inflammatory. The Governor was against us, having long been promoting Common Core and a related project, Prosperity 2020, very openly. The State Office of Education was against us and had been passing out pamphlets, fliers and stickers to “support common core” –and had sent mailers to delegates, telling them to support common core. (They used our tax money for this. Since when is tax money used to lobby for one side?)
And the media were generally against us. Both the Tribune and KSL had been covering this issue mostly from a pro-common core point of view.
So I was just thankful that we had gotten the opportunity to educate people at our booth. I hoped for, but didn’t expect, the miracle of the resolution passing.
Four hours later, I was completely stunned with the great news. Alisa, my friend and a state delegate, texted me one word: “PASSED!!!!”
Our resolution passed! It did match the feelings of a majority of Utahns. 65% of the elected state delegates in the State of Utah voted NO to Common Core.
It was a welcome surprise.
Delegate friends filled me in on the details of what I’d missed. I learned that the powers-that-be tried their best to muffle the resolution. They held it to the very end, after multiple speakers and presentations and other votes were held. Some even called for the meeting to adjourn before the resolution could be debated on the stage. There was a vote about whether to adjourn that was soundly defeated by the delegates.
Finally the resolution was debated. There were elecrifying speeches, for and against. Then there was the vote.
Sixty five percent voted for it to pass! That’s well over a thousand people, elected by their neighbors, from caucuses in every corner of Utah, who all said NO to Common Core. This is huge, huge news to teachers, school boards, parents, students, and politicians, regardless of which side of the argument you choose.
But it didn’t make the Tribune. It didn’t make the Deseret News. It didn’t make the Daily Herald or KSL.
Who knows why? Sigh.
Looks like we have to spread this one by social media, folks. There are powerful people who want to muffle the voice of WE, THE PEOPLE.
Let’s not let them get away with it.
Stop Common Core
Talk given by Christel Swasey at the Weber County Republican Women’s Meeting Jan.7, 2013
A few months ago, a University of Utah exhibit displayed original documents, newspapers, books and letters written by Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin and many others. The exhibit did not only show the freedom fighters’ side of the argument, but also displayed articulate, meaningful debate from the other side. The heated 1700s argument boiled down to either standing for local freedom or standing for America remaining a managed colony under England’s non-representative government.
In retrospect, how obvious it is to us which side was correct; America should be free. But at the time it was not so clear to all. Both sides had strong arguments that made some sense.
There is a similar, heated battle going on in America over education now. Will we retain local freedom or will we be a managed colony under the Department of Education’s rule, with no say over testing, education standards and innovation? Unconstitutional though it is, this is the battle we face today– a battle for control of American classrooms. Most parents, students, teachers, governors and even State School Board Members seem unaware that it is going on at all.
It’s a battle for constitutional education with local decision making, versus nationalized education without representation. It’s a battle between states retaining the freedom to soar, versus having mediocre sameness of education across states. It’s a battle between teaching the traditional academics versus teaching the extreme political agendas of the Obama Administration; it’s a battle for who gets to decide what is to be planted in the mind of the child.
One of America’s strengths has long been its educated people. The world flocks to our universities. We have had one of the most intellectually diverse public education systems in the world.
But this is changing dramatically.
The Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) leads the changes. The vast majority of states have already replaced previous education standards with Common Core. These national standards standardize– McDonaldize– a dreary and mediocre education plan for the country that lies far below the previous standards of top-ranking states, such as Massachusetts. Although many respected organizations have pledged support for the Common Core, evidence is painfully lacking to support Common Core’s claims. The common core proponents are quick to make sweet-sounding claims, but their claims are not referenced and are, in fact, false.
Many independent reviews suggest supporters of Common Core are sorely misguided. Dr. Michael Kirst of Stanford University pointed out that the standards define college readiness as being the same for 4-year, 2-year, and vocational colleges, essentially dumbing down expectations for university students.
Dr. Christopher Tienken of Seton Hall University pointed out that the standards are meant to save us from what is a myth– the idea that American students are lagging behind international peers; Tienken writes: “When school administrators implement programs and policies built on faulty arguments, they commit education malpractice.”
Despite claims to the contrary, Common Core Standards do not meaningfully increase academic rigor, are not internationally benchmarked, do not adequately prepare students for 4-year universities, were never assessed by top curriculum research universities, were never voted upon by teachers nor the public, do not allow a voice for the individual; have no amendment process, and do rob states of control of education and students of privacy.
The Common Core is an untested, federally promoted, unfunded experiment.
The standards creators (NGA/CCSSO) have not set up a monitoring plan to test this national experiment, to see what unintended consequences the Core will have on children. The standards slash the vast majority of classic literature, especially from high school English classes; minimize narrative writing skills acquisition, and push student-investigative, rather than instructive, math at all levels.
COMMON CORE HISTORY:
The Constitution and 10th amendment have long made it clear that only states –not any federal agency– have the right to direct education. Americans seem to have forgotten that we do not live in a top down kingdom but in a Constitutional republic. Many believe the federal government has power to rule over the state governments. This is false. States alone hold the right to educate.
Our Constitution was set up with a vital balance of powers between states and federal powers, and each maintains separate roles and authorities. Nowhere is any authority given to the federal government to direct education.
In addition to the Constitution’s and the tenth amendment’s giving states sole authority to direct education, another law called the General Educational Provisions Act (GEPA) states: “No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other printed or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system…”
So the Common Core standards are a set of national education standards which the federal government are forbidden, by law, to control or supervise. Yet the standards were foisted upon the states by the federal government with the repeated assertion that they were state-led standards.
The Dept. of Education paid others to do what they were forbidden to do. The common standards were not written by the federal government, but they were financially incentivized by the federal government and then were promoted by private interests. Bill Gates, for example, spent $100M and plans to spend $150M more to push Common Core.
He gave the national PTA $@ million to promote it in schools. Common Core represents an ongoing cash cow for many groups, which explains why the media does not cover this issue. Many media outlets, even Fox News via Wireless Generation, are entangled in the massive money-making factory that is Common Core implementation. Microsoft and Pearson and others are seeing what a huge opportunity it presents them, as they benefit financially from the newly created false need: millions of new textbooks, teacher development programs, and new testing technologies are called for under the common core and its nationalized tests.
The standards were solely developed –and copyrighted– by nonacademic groups– the National Governors’ Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Neither state education agencies nor major curriculum research universities were asked for meaningful input.
We were told that the Common Core was voluntary and “state led,” but it was a case of arm-twisting and financial bribery on the part of the Dept. of Education. States did not come together to write and share great ideas. (If that had been the case, we would likely have adopted high standards, instead, like those previously had in Massachusetts.)
The first time states were introduced to these national standards was when the federal government bribed states with a shot at a huge grant (our own tax money) in 2009. It was called Race to the Top, a grant for states. The Department of Education made a state’s promise to adopt common standards –sight unseen– a prerequisite to getting points in the grant contest called “Race to the Top”. There were 500 points possible. Adopting Common Core and its tests gave us some 70 points. Making the federal tracking database on students, the State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS) gave us 47 additional points.
Not by any authority of Congress, but by the lure of money –the Stimulus Bill– was Obama’s Race to the Top funded. States were given only two months to apply.
States competed for this money like a taxpayers’ lottery with a points system. There were 500 points possible. By adopting Common Core tests and standards, a state could earn 70 points. By implementing the SLDS (State Longitudinal Database System that serves as surveillance on citizens) a state could earn 47 points. Even though Utah didn’t win any money at all, we took the Race to the Top bait. Then we were stuck with Common Core standards as well as the SLDS database which would track and control citizens.
We were repeatedly assured, “states can get out of Common Core any time they like” but, like the story of Gulliver, tied down by many strings, we are in fact bound– unless we realize our rights and privileges and assert them firmly to free ourselves while we still may, to shake off the ties that bind us down.
Gulliver’s First String: No cost analysis
One of the strings that ties us down is the financial obligation of Common Core. No cost analysis has been done by Utah to date. It’s like a family agreeing to build a house without knowing what it will cost beforehand. It’s absurd. Virginia and Texas rejected Common Core, citing on both educational and financial reasons.
While textbook companies without exception are on a marketing spree with “Common Core Alignment,” it is taxpayers who will carry the burden for the unwanted texts, tests, the professional development, testing technology, data centers, administration and more.
If corporations were getting wealthy at taxpayer expense yet we had agreed to it, by a vote after thorough public vetting, that would be acceptable.
But Common Core never had pre-adoption teacher or parent or media attention, had no public vetting, no vote, and now we see that some of the corporations providing implementation of the common core standards have alarming political agendas that will harm our children. One example is Pearson, headed by Sir Michael Barber, with whom the Utah State Office of Education has multiple contracts.
Gulliver’s Second String:
The myth: that Common Core solves educational problems
The second string tying states down, Gulliver-like, is the problem-solving myth, the myth that our many educational problems, such as low expectations or college remediation, are to be solved by Common Core. Without a doubt, Common Core will worsen our educational problems.
Professor Sandra Stotsky and James Milgram, English and Math professors who refused to sign off on the adequacy of the common standards when they served on the official Common Core validation committee, have written and have testified before legislatures that the standards are not sufficiently rigorous at all.
Students in our schools and universities are required to provide references for their reports. Yet the information provided by official Common Core sites, as well as by our state office of education, is unreferenced and contains half truths and false claims about Common Core.
I asked the Utah State Office of Education to provide me, a Utah teacher, with references to verify the “facts” about Common Core, but the office refused to do so. Why?
The myth that Common Core solves educational problems is far-reaching and is far from being harmless.
There’s a questionnaire that must be answered by any person wishing to be a candidate for Utah’s state school board. The first question on it is: Do you support the Common Core State Standards?
So anyone who for any reason opposes Common Core may not even stand in the candidates’ pool to run for this vital, elected position as a member of the state school board.
The emperor of Common Core is wearing no clothes. Yet, the myth that Common Core solves educational problems is so widespread that most teachers and principals fear raising concerns.
We are experiencing a huge Spiral of Silence. The Spiral of Silence is a well-known communications theory by Elizabeth Noelle-Neumann. The Spiral of Silence phenomenon happens when people fear separation or isolation from those around them, and, believing they are in the minority, they keep their concerns to themselves.
The Spiral theory arose as an explanation for why many Germans remained silent while their Jewish neighbors were being persecuted in the 1940s. This silence extends to parents and legislators who do not know enough about the common standards to feel comfortable arguing that we should be free of them. Truly, this movement has slid under the public radar.
Gulliver’s Third String: One Size Forever, For All
The third string tying us down, Gulliver-like, is the fact that we will never have a vote or a voice in the one-size-fits-all-standards.
Common Core’s copyright, placed on the standards by the National Governors’ Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, takes away educational flexibility. There is no way a local voice or voices can alter the standards when we discover the system doesn’t fit our needs. There is no amendment process.
Additionally, the NGA/CCSSO has zero transparency. Though the Council of Chief State School Officers holds over one hundred meetings per year, CCSSO meetings are closed to teachers, taxpayers, and the general public.
I asked a lawyer at the Utah State Office of Education what the process would be to amend the standards. She told me, “Why would there need to be [an amendment process]? The whole point is to be common.”
Her response illustrates the tragic fact that many of our state education leaders do not appreciate local, constitutional control over education for our state.
There is a 15% cap placed on the NGA/CCSSO’s copyrighted standards, a cap placed on top of the copyright by the Department of Education. We may delete nothing. We may add no more than 15% to any standard.
So when we run into a disaster –such as the rule that 12th grade reading material in an English class can contain no more than 30 percent classic literature, and must be 70% informational text, we are stuck. When we run into another disaster –such as the rule that Algebra I be introduced in 9th grade, when it used to be an 8th grade topic, we are stuck. We are literally voiceless and bound by the 15% rule plus the copyright it is based upon. But it gets worse:
Gulliver’s Fourth String: Problems with national testing
The fourth string tying us down, Gulliver-like, is nationalized, federally-supervised, compulsory testing. It commits our dollars without our input. And the content of the tests will be dictated by the NGA/CCSSO to test writers.
There isn’t even the tiny bit of 15% wiggle room on tests. I wrote to a test writer how they would incorporate the 15% variation in state standards and they told me that it is “in each state’s best interest” not to have “two sets of standards.” Why? Because the test won’t be incorporating anything in addition to the national standards.
Why is this bad? What we are valuing and testing is extremely narrow and cannot be altered by any state, but only by the NGA/CCSSO. It opens the door for a one-track, politicized agenda to be taught and tested.
Our local leaders continue to refer to “The Utah Core” as if it were not the exact same core as all the other states. This is misleading.
Teachers and principals will be evaluated and compared using these national tests’ results, so what would motivate them to teach anything beyond or different than what will be tested? The motivation to be an innovative educator is gone with the high stakes national tests. Right now Utah has only adopted math and English standards, but soon the NGA/CCSSO will be releasing social studies and science standards. One can only imagine how these subjects will be framed by the “progressive” groups who write the tests and shape the curriculum. And the test writers will be providing model curriculum for states to follow to prepare students for the tests.
Gulliver’s Fifth String: Common Core English:
David Coleman’s version of what is appropriate for the rest of the nation
The fifth string tying us down, Gulliver-like, was wrought almost singlehandedly by one wrongheaded man with too much power, named David Coleman.
Coleman was the main architect of the English standards for Common Core, despite never having been a teacher himself, and is now president of the College board. He is now aligning the national college entrance exams with Common Core standards. He holds a dreary, utilitarian vision of the language, without appreciation for classic literature or narrative writing. He has deleted much of it, and has deleted all cursive for students.
It was Coleman’s idea to make all children read 50% informational texts and 50% fiction in English classes, and then gradually to get rid of more and more fiction and classic literature, so that when a student is in 12th grade, he or she is reading 70% informational text and very little classic literature.
Does this differ from actual book burning?
It is as if Coleman mandated that all English teachers must put 70% of their classic textbooks outside the classroom door to be picked up for burning. Would the teachers put Dickens, Austen, Shakespeare, Melville, or O’Connor on the pile? Which classic books would you remove from a high school English classroom? And what informational texts are being recommended by Common Core proponents to replace the classics? Among the suggestions: Executive Order 13423. Writings by the Federal Reserve Bank. And more. (See: http://www.corestandards.org/assets/Appendix_B.pdf )
David Coleman explained why he decided that narrative writing should not be taught:
“As you grow up in this world you realize that people really don’t give a sh__ about what you feel or what you think… it is rare in a working environment that someone says, ‘Johnson I need a market analysis by Friday but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.’”
If Coleman were to value a diamond, he would base its worth solely on the fact that it’s the hardest substance in nature. The diamond’s beauty, or its history as the symbol of eternal romance, would not matter. Just so long as the darn rock can drill. That’s how he thinks about reading and writing.
This is why he has gotten rid of all things beautiful in education:
• No more cursive.
• Very little classic literature, to make room for mostly informational text.
• Informational texts to include Executive Order 13423, in the English classroom.
Gulliver’s Sixth String: Weakening Math
The sixth string tying us down, Gulliver-style, down is weak math. While the Common Core math standards may be an improvement over previous standards in some states, they are deficient for most, including for Utah.
Scholars have written extensively about these standards in reports published by Pioneer Institute and others. They say:
– Common Core replaces the traditional foundations of Euclidean geometry with an experimental approach. This approach has never been successfully used but Common Core imposes this experiment on the country.
– Common Core excludes certain Algebra II and Geometry content that is currently a prerequisite at almost every four-year state college. This effectively redefines “college-readiness” to mean readiness for a nonselective community college, as a member of the Common Core writing team acknowledged in his testimony before the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
– Common Core fails to teach prime factorization and consequently does not include teaching about least common denominators or greatest common factors.
– Common Core fails to include conversions among fractions, decimals, and percents, identified as a key skill by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
– Common Core de-emphasizes algebraic manipulation, which is a prerequisite for advanced mathematics, and instead effectively redefines algebra as “functional algebra”, which does not prepare students for STEM careers.
– Common Core does not require proficiency with addition and subtraction until grade 4, a grade behind the expectations of the high-performing states and our international competitors.
– Common Core does not require proficiency with multiplication using the standard algorithm (step-by-step procedure for calculations) until grade 5, a grade behind the expectations of the high-performing states and our international competitors.
– Common Core does not require proficiency with division using the standard algorithm until grade 6, a grade behind the expectations of the high-performing states and our international competitors.
– Common Core starts teaching decimals only in grade 4, about two years behind the more rigorous state standards, and fails to use money as a natural introduction to this concept.
– Common Core fails to teach in K-8 about key geometrical concepts such as the area of a triangle, sum of angles in a triangle, isosceles and equilateral triangles, or constructions with a straightedge and compass that good state standards include.
There is already evidence that book publishers’ revisions to texts that align with the standards are highly likely to be “inquiry-based”. Discovery and group learning approaches to math have had poor results when they have been used in classrooms across the country.
Gulliver’s Seventh String:
Neither Local Education Leaders Nor Federal Educational Leaders Value American Rights
• A current Utah State School Board member said to me, “I have always understood it is the principle of “equality” not “freedom” that was the guiding principle of our constitution… I have always understood the theme to be equality… you continue to reference freedom over equality.”
• The Dept. of Education has created regions for all America. These regions are to be answerable to the Department of Education. The creation of regional identities ignores the existence of states and consequently, of states’ rights, under the Constitution. This is a dangerous affront to our rights as states.
• Predestining kids: Secretary Arne Duncan says the government needs to control education and teachers via data-driven decisions. The data will be collected: “… so that every child knows on every step of their educational trajectory what they’re going to do.” He says, “You should know in fifth and sixth and seventh and eighth grade what your strengths are, what you weaknesses are.” He’s talking about a managed society, not a free society, where children are to be compliant tools for the government’s purposes, not the other way around.
• The Utah Data Alliance, SLDS system, and the federal Department of Education each seek data at all costs, even without parental consent. Sec. Duncan often says, ”We have to be transparent about our data.” (What Duncan really means is, states have to be transparent about their data to be supervised by the federal government– which is not Constitutional by any stretch of the imagination.)
Duncan’s data transparency statement explains much: why Duncan aims to triangulate data Common Core tests which will be collected and compared under his (unconstitutionally) watchful eye; why Duncan rewrote FERPA regulations without authority or Congressional oversight, why the Department of Education paid states to create SLDS systems to track citizens; why federally, states are pushed to have P-20 tracking councils, and more.
Duncan’s desire to grab private data is further illustrated by the changes Duncan has led in redefining key terms.
For example, you may notice that federal education leaders seldom refer to this movement as the Common Core. They use a code phrase (you can verify this on the definitions page at ed.gov) which is “college and career readiness”. But that code phrase is a deception. College and Career Readiness does not mean what you think it means; there is a new mediocrity to the standards which has made the same standards appropriate for 4 year universities, 2 year colleges, and technical colleges. It has essentially dumbed down the expectations for 4 year universities. So college readiness actually means nothing other than common and mediocre standards. By this definition, states can’t be preparing students for college unless standards are the same as every other state’s and country’s standards. It’s like the old Ford Advertisement: You can Have Any Color As Long as it’s Black.” Secretary Duncan’s version is– “You can have any standards as long as they are the exact same as all other states’ standards.”
Another phrase you’ll hear a lot is “world class education” which doesn’t mean “excellent education.” It means “non-competitive education.” Yikes. Some other phrases that have been officially redefined by the Dept. of Education in federal regulations are: “authorized representative” “education program” and “directory information”
What is the effect of these re-definings?
According to a group that has sued the Dept. of Education, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, this redefining has removed legal duties for state and local educational facilities that used to be in place to protect private student data.
The redefinings open up what used to be tightly protected. But why?
Because the Dept. of Education is using the testing consortia to triangulate the tests and to oversee the data collection. They want access to the data. Words give them access. This brings me to Gulliver’s string, and it’s a whopper.
Gulliver’s Eighth String: Invading Citizen Privacy
The eighth string tying us down, Gulliver-like, is a set of horrific privacy violations. It begins with the fact that Utah built a State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS) system, as required by the federal government in exchange for money. The SLDS was supposed to be a benefit to Utahns. The argument was that the more data they collect, the smarter decisions could be made about education. It sounded logical at first.
But the SLDS tracks children from preschool through workforce. It interacts with six other Utah state governmental agencies, beyond the K-12 system. It essentially guides and monitors citizens.
When I found out about this, I wanted to opt out for my children. I asked the Utah State Office of Education myself whether it is even allowed to have a student attend a school without being tracked by the Utah Data Alliance and the federal SLDS.
They finally gave me a straight answer, after I nagged them many a time, finally, and it was simply ”No.”No child, no citizen may escape tracking. We are all being closely tracked. Schools are the starting point.
Unknown to most parents, children’s data is being shared beyond the school district with six agencies inside the Utah Data Alliance and with UTREX, according to Utah Technology Director John Brandt. The student data is further to be “mashed” with federal databases, according to federal Education Dept. Chief of Staff Joanne Weiss: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/inside-school-research/2012/07/ed_urges_states_to_make_data_s.html
While Utah’s John Brandt assures us that only a handful of people in Utah have access to the personally identifiable data of children, recent alterations to federal FERPA (Famly Education Rights Privacy Act) regulations which were made by the U.S. Dept of Education, as we noted earlier, have radically redefined terms and widened the window of groups who can access private data without parental consent. (For more on that, see the lawsuit against the U.S. Dept of Education on the subject: http://epic.org/apa/ferpa/default.html)
In America, a law is a representative thing. Laws are made by people who either directly vote for that law, or who vote for a representative who votes for a law. Then the people must obey the law, or be forcibly punished.
But watch out for rules and regulations, which are not laws, and which come from unelected boards with appointed members who cannot be repealed by us. Rules and regulations are a form of nonrepresentation, and can be dangerous. Common Core is quickly becoming a snare because of its rules and regulations. FERPA regulatory changes are a prime example. Congress never changed the privacy law that FERPA was written originally to be. But the Department of Education made un-approved regulatory changes to FERPA that are being treated as if they were law today.
Our schools (teachers, adminstrators, and even State Office of Education workers) are being used: used to collect private data, both academic and nonacademic, about our children and their families.
I choose the word “used” because I do not believe they are maliciously going behind parents’ backs. They are simply expected to comply with whatever the U.S. Dept. of Education asks them to do. And the Dept. of Education is all for the “open data” push as are some notable Utahns, such as Utah Technology Director John Brandt and even some BYU Education professors, notably David Wiley. I have heard these men speak and they are passionate about getting data at all costs, even at the cost of not pausing for students’ parental consent.
What it means: Courses taken, grades earned, every demographic piece of information, including family names, attitudes and income, can now legally be known by the government via schools.
The U.S. Dept. of Education’s own explanation is here, showing why SLDS systems exist: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/slds/factsheet.html
There are 12 elements that states had to share or they would not have received ARRA stimulus money. The twelve elements of the SLDS (State longitudinal data system) include enrollment history, demographic characteristics, student’s scores on tests; info on students, even those who are not tested; transcripts, grades earned; whether they enrolled in remedial courses; and the sharing of data from preschool through postsecondary systems.
While all this data gathering could theoretically, somehow, benefit a child, or community, it can definitely hurt a child. Denial of future opportunities, based on ancient academic or behavioral history, comes to mind. The databases are to share data with anybody they define as “authorized.”
The now-authorized groups who will access student data will most likely include the A-list “philanthropists” like Bill Gates, as well as corporate educational sales groups (Microsoft, Pearson, Wireless Generation, and K-12 Inc., Achieve, Inc., SBAC, PARCC, NGA, CCSSO, for example) as well as federal departments that are far outside of education, such as the military, the workforce agencies, etc.)
Furthermore, even psychometric and biometric data (such as student behavioral qualities, DNA, iris and fingerprints) are also acceptable data collection points, to the Dept. of Education (verify: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/pdf/ferparegs.pdf )
Verify these facts on the government’s public sites, such as:
Our country is a miracle in the history of the earth. No other country has ever had such a Constitution that limits and spreads out the power of the government to ensure the maximum liberty of each individual, balancing the need for limited government to prevent anarchy. It is important to understand the document. “The powers not delegated to the United States Government are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Nothing could be more clear. It is unconstitutional for the federal government to exercise any power over education.
Our Department of Education is aware of this. Recent speeches by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan include the fact that the Department is “limited” in this country. Yes, very limited. Like, not allowed at all.
We may not be able to take back all the ground we have lost by allowing the federal government to dictate regulations to us in return for our own tax money. But we must not allow them any further ground.
The states (except for the handful of states that rejected Common Core) are otherwise like the neighbor who does not know where his rights are and can never know when they are taken and is thus unable to defend them. This neighbor believes he owns a piece of ground which his neighbor also claims, but he doesn’t know its boundaries. The other neighbor continues to encroach further and further onto land which the first neighbor suspects is his, but since he is never certain where the boundary is, he cannot stop the encroachment.
Until we take a firm position and say: “no further,” there is no line. Unless we remember our rights, we have none. My hope is that as a state, we will say “no further,” and hold onto our own right to educate our own children without interference.
Common Core does not improve college readiness. The educational value of the standards is low. And even if they were to be significantly improved, remember that educational standards are meaningless without political freedom.
There is no amendment process for Common Core. The standards have no checks and balances. Common Core was never voted upon. Common Core administrators cannot be recalled by a vote. Common Core represents an assumption of power never delegated by the voice of the people. The Common Core Initiative has transferred sovereignty from states to a collective controlled by the National Governors’ Association and by the Council of Chief State School Officers. It also transferred educational sovereignty from states to testing groups to be overseen by the Department of Education.
We must realize the strength of our position as states under the U.S. Constitution, and must hold up the Constitution, thus holding the Dept. of Education away from monitoring and directing states’ education.
Senator Mike Fair of South Carolina stated: In adopting Common Core, states have sold their birthright without even getting the mess of pottage. He is right.
Currently, thousands of people have signed the petition at Utahns Against Common Core. Websites and organizations are forming all over the country to fight Common Core. At least six U.S. Governors staunchly oppose Common Core. The majority of Utah legislators have said they oppose it. Americans deserve high quality education without federal interference and this will not happen without first dropping all ties to the Common Core Initiative.
Please let state leaders and school boards know we expect them to be valiant in that effort.
—– —– —–
Contact information: Utah Governor Herbert 801-538-1000 Utah State School Board. Board@schools.utah.gov
State Technology Director / leader of Utah Data Alliance: firstname.lastname@example.org“
Utah State Superintendent: email@example.com
Assistant Superintendent: firstname.lastname@example.org
Utah State Office of Education: Brenda.Hales@schools.utah.gov
Senate Education Committee members – (801) 538-1035
Stuart C. Reid email@example.com“
Patricia W. Jones firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark B. Madsen email@example.com“
Wayne L. Niederhauser firstname.lastname@example.org
Aaron Osmond – email@example.com
Howard A. Stephenson firstname.lastname@example.org
Jerry W. Stevenson – :email@example.com
Stephen H. Urquhart – firstname.lastname@example.org