Diana McKay is a currently teaching, Utah public school teacher who wrote this poem, “I Became a Teacher– Why?” and the essay “Saturday Musings” below, and also the statement on Common Core below that.
She said, “This poem sums up what it is that we want for our educated children and why I went into education –and why I never would in today’s climate. It is frightening to look at how political maneuvering can have a subversive intent that is not immediately apparent”.
I Became a Teacher. Why?
I became a teacher
to lead children along the journey of learning
so they might journey to where the love of learning leads.
I became a teacher
to introduce children to the world of awesome art
so they might create art to awe the world.
I became a teacher
to ensure children recognize and cherish nature’s gifts
so they might ensure nature’s gifts are preserved to cherish.
I became a teacher to encourage children to dream so they might find encouraging dreams to follow.
I became a teacher to open children’s minds to all that is possible so they might put their open minds to making the impossible, possible.
I became a teacher to show children how to find peace in the world around them
so they might bring peace to the world.
I became a teacher to inspire these future citizens of our country to have a vision
so they might envision a greater future for our country.
I became a teacher to model putting one’s efforts toward that which is greater than one’s self
so that my students might find the greatness within themselves.
This why I can no longer be a teacher. I can no longer do what I went
into teaching to do.
———————————————————————————- SATURDAY MUSINGS
by Diana McKay
A Letter to my mother-who believed I could have been more.
I just called you, wanting you to tell me that it is acceptable, no, justifiable, to still be in my pajamas at almost noon, escaping in novels, or just musing, thereby avoiding the endless and monumental pile of test papers waiting to be scored. I wanted you to tell me, that after almost forty years of nights, weekends, spent on lesson plans, on time consuming preparations and collections for science experiments or social studies lessons, on wasted hours providing so called “instructional feedback” that I deserve a break. I needed you to tell me that I am entitled to enjoy a Saturday. You didn’t answer. But, you would have scolded me again reminding me that I was magna cum laude, Phi Beta
Kappa, for hell’s sake, I could have been a doctor, lawyer, chief executive officer and I’d
retort, “They make only money, I make a difference.”
I often wonder was a “difference” worth it?
Then, once in a decade, a letter arrives at the school address, with “please forward to” in front of my name. No need to “forward to” me, I’m still here. The letter opens with, “You may not remember me, but I was in your 2nd grade class in 1988 and I became a teacher because of the way you taught,” or “ I just wanted to thank you for making me believe in myself,” and a flood of emotion washes over me. Is it joy in knowing I did indeed make a little difference or is it relief that my life was not totally wasted in hours of test grading? But, then it hits me with astounding clarity. It is not the lessons, the science experiments, the hours spent writing “constructive” feedback on papers or comments on report cards that make a difference. It is the moments spent in “real” time, the “teachable” moment, guiding students toward something far more vital and ephemeral. It is the discovery that we are only here in this world, this universe, to learn and grow into whomever we are meant or choose to be, and we’re here for such a short time.
So in these last hours of a lifetime career, I will wave a white flag and surrender the minutia of unnecessary skill “kill” drills.
I’ll surrender soul-sucking data delirium, and follow my 1969 musings about my future in education. I’ll embrace this quote by John Holt as I did in those youthful years when choosing to become a teacher.
“Children do poorly in school because they’re bored with the meaningless work . . . scared of being punished or humiliated . . . In essence I’d realized, from observing and teaching, that school is a place where children learn to be stupid!” – John Holt
Holt explains why in these last ten years I am shockingly aware of the seeming decline of intellect. In the effort to “train” students to perform better in world competition for the right answers on tests, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 has failed to raise test scores, failed to lower drop out rates, failed to increase literacy rates and failed to increase rates of college graduation. It has only been successful in “failure”. Failure is the theme, the torch, the stick, and the misnomer given to the public schools. Feed on failure, focus on failure, hold failure foremost, and what you get is failure. Is it the schools or the teachers’ failure or is it a failure of leadership?
It is a fact, as the proportion of children in poverty rises, the scores for US schools drop. In November 2012 the U.S. Census Bureau reported more than 16% of the U.S. population lived in poverty, including 22% of all people under age 18, approximately 13 million children. The number of people in the U.S. who are in poverty is approaching 1960s levels that led to the national War on Poverty. The war on poverty has been replaced with a war on public education scapegoating teachers who devote their
lives to educating our youth, despite the rhetoric.
Maybe next year will be my last.
I’ll be a casualty of that war, but, before I go I may just finally teach children “to fish” so that they will always be able to satisfy their hunger for information. Maybe I’ll create “seekers of knowledge” and guide them in their self selected quests to quench their curiosity. I will promote passion. I will not police production, or sort students by standardized scores, and waste gifted minds with endless mind numbing repetition so that “no child is left behind”. Next year, I will not bow to the tyranny of parent terrorists whose agenda is to destroy at least one teacher each year to appease their guilt over not really wanting to participate in educating their own child. I will not become dispirited by legislators abusing their political right to blame educators for their own failure in economic policy to reduce poverty. I will not surrender to the district dictates to demonstrate mastery of core skills under the NCLB Act which demoralizes both the student and me, with the threat of being doomed to failure if we don’t continually collect data as mandated, and to master the skills on the testing timeline. I think next year I will actually choose to “fail” to do what I am accused of failing to do and instead I’ll make a difference. But first, I’ll have to quit musing and get busy. I still have all those tests to score.
Statement by Diana McKay on Common Core:
My position is that the Common Core Standards left to teachers to teach is not the problem.
The problem is multifaceted. The data addiction and dictates derived from research using easily measured variables in schools impacted from poverty and applied to all settings is causing no child to be “left ahead”.
Overzealous testing of easily measured objectives using multiple choice answers and the omission of any untestable processes that are essential, reduces education to training. The arts are therefore being lost, but it might be worse if the arts were to be tested.
Scapegoating teachers and reducing them to robots who follow scripted lessons “with fidelity” that are designed by publishing companies has killed the professionalism of talented teachers. Publishing companies are profiting most from the Common Core– one set of texts fit all–no updates needed. Profiteers selling data system management has caused spread sheets to become more important than the content of instruction.
The grading of schools is a precursor to justifying voucher systems to line the pockets of richly connected individuals who can tap the taxpayers for private school buildings, etc. that aren’t needed, and which contribute to a caste system as children are prevented from mixing with ethnically or economically different peers.
This is my position. Politicians and corporations have no business in education and school districts
should not use taxpayers’ money to support the goals of business.
For example, there’s a taxpayer-funded Utah propaganda campaign that the Utah State School Board is to employ this year to “correct the misinformation” that the board members won’t actually, directly address, at all. (See page 232-236 of the 518-page document) There’s the fact that the USOE refers to critics of Common Core as “The Common Core Crazies” in teacher development trainings. This has been verified to me directly by multiple teachers who’ve attended Utah teacher conferences this spring and summer.
This fear of standing in light should signal to honest seekers of truth that there’s something very wrong: intellectual honesty (defined by empirical evidence and pilot testing of new programs) and freedom of speech and thought (defined by two-sided conversations) are concepts that the proponents of Common Core dismiss in favor of hand-me-down,Gates-funded “talking points.” It’s: One Size Fits All. (“If the shoe doesn’t fit, you still have to wear it.”)
These attacks, aimed at critics of Common Core, is actually great news: It’s evidence that we are making a dent in this power-grabbing beast.
Please remember three simple facts to spread the truth and to cut through Gates’ marketing noise:
It’s a shaky academic experiment; it slashes local control; it’s the glue in the unconstitutional surveillance program.
1) Common Core is an academic experiment on our children that will affect not just K-12 but also universities.
Nothing they say changes its experimental nature. There’s no empirical testing that’s ever been done, no pilot study, no proof that these standards are academically an improvement. It’s just marketing– the repetitive use of the misused words “rigorous” and “internationally benchmarked” which, just as any grocery item that’s labeled “new and improved” — isn’t remotely new or improved. But who fact-checks? And yes, we should be rattled; these are radical changes: less literature; untested, way-different math. The time-tested, classical instruction’s flown out the standardized-common-testing window with the massive increase of testing. The ACT/SAT/GED/AP are all aligning to the experiment. And don’t forget about the massive increase of nonacademic student data-mining linked to the Common testing. It’s not small potatoes, folks.
2.) Common Core circumvents local authority and hands power to those who are furthest from the children/teachers.
The copyright by NGA/CCSSO is one proof. The 15% rule of the feds, that disallows soaring, is another proof. The micromanagement of the feds over the testing is another. The lack of any coming together to create a state-led amendment process is another proof. The monopoly on thought (via all texts being aligned, all ACT/SAT/GED/AP tests aligned) is another. There is no local control when the standards and tests are created from “on high.” There is no legitimacy when the standards and tests are experimental in nature and lack empirical validity. So even if the standards WERE excellent, states/districts have no control over those entities (NGA-CCSSO) who can alter them without our consent, sooner or later. When you lose control, you lose control. It doesn’t come back.
Kenny Bradley, a Utah teenager, gave the following speech at the State Capitol last week, which was heard by a crowd of 500-600 people that included dozens of legislators, and teachers, parents and school board members. Bradley, a recent high school graduate, Valedictorian, Math Sterling Scholar Winner in the Southwestern Utah Region, and former math teacher’s aide, aiding in Common Core math classes, has given permission to share this speech.
I would like to start my speech with Aesop’s Fable of The Flies and the Honey-Pot.
“A number of flies were attracted to a jar of honey which had been overturned in a housekeeper’s room, and placing their feet in it, ate greedily. Their feet, however, became so smeared with the honey that they could not use their wings, nor release themselves, and were suffocated. Just as they were expiring, they exclaimed, ’O foolish creatures that we are, for the sake of a little pleasure we have destroyed ourselves.’”
I oppose Common Core because it is like the honey that trapped and suffocated the flies, because although it appears to be wonderful, it is dangerous. It is untested, unalterable by the people and teachers in local communities, and we cannot realistically “opt out” after it is fully implemented.
First, as a recent high school graduate, Valedictorian, Math Sterling Scholar Winner in the Southwestern Utah Region, and a former math teacher’s aide, I experienced firsthand the common core math standards being implemented at my high school. I saw students struggle with the common core curriculum in the math class where I was a teacher’s aide. Not because it was advanced or difficult, but because of the rapid pace at which new concepts were introduced and the lack of necessary explanations. Many lessons jumped from one concept to another and often combined them after five problems or so, before they have fully learned or even understood the original concepts. Most importantly, they never learned “why” these concepts function, work together, or even exist. They simply learned “what” they are called and, if they are lucky, they learned “how” to do them.
Despite these issues with the math section of common core, our school is being forced to adopt Common Core fully this next school year –if something is not done by the legislature soon.
Second, Common Core is taking our children’s education away from us locally and placing them into the hands of an ever expanding government. Almost every case of this in history has led to a tyrannical government fueled by the rising generation that has been indoctrinated with specific political and social views, such as the example of youth being taught to believe in anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany.
Thankfully, our Founding Fathers included the Tenth Amendment in our Constitution to protect States’ rights protecting our children’s education from any federal program. The General Educational Provisions Act (GEPA) also explicitly protects the education system from federal control. We must enforce these protections.
Third, once Common Core is fully implemented in the next school year, with so much invested money and training, we will not be able to easily “opt out.” This is especially alarming because State
Education Boards signed into Common Core before the standards were ever written!!! Common Core’s federal control does not stop with public schools. Students in charter and private schools, as well as homeschoolers, will also eventually have no choice but to learn what the federal government wants to teach them. Why? Because of the National Standards that will naturally follow Common Core in the States that it is implemented in. The ACT and SAT, necessary tests for college placement, will be aligned to Common Core standards, which may prevent homeschooled children from attending college if they do not study Common Core material.
Therefore, I oppose Common Core because it is untested, unalterable except by getting permission from outside Utah, and we are unable to “opt out.” May our children and our education system not become stuck and suffocate in Common Core like the flies trapped in honey from Aesop’s fable.
You can imagine that, despite the no-applause-please request of the meeting’s moderator, there was thunderous applause following this speech. Thank you, Kenny Bradley.
Here is a letter written to the Editor of a Southern Utah newspaper. I received permission to repost it here.
I am a concerned parent who strongly opposes Utah’s Core Standards (Common Core). Understand, I’m not opposed to having State-Controlled Educational Standards. My biggest concerns with the Common Core Standards are that they are controlled by D.C. private interest groups working closely with the United States Department of Education.
It is a public-private partnership. The Common Core tests are, in fact, funded by the federal government. It’s federally approved, federally funded, and federally promoted.
Frankly, it’s a control grab that cuts the American voter out and is clearly a violation of the General Educational Provisions Act (G.E.P.A.) which prohibits “any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration . . . of any educational institution, school, or school system .”
Further, there is no amendment process in place that our state can utilize if it disagrees with, or does not like the curriculum or the standards. The question begs to be asked: “Who will really be in charge of the curriculum, the state (as it should be) or private interest groups and the federal government?” It would appear that we will not be as free to make changes or improvements in the curriculum as easily as Ms. Roberts suggested in her recent letter to the editor.
Now is the time to act! We CAN and SHOULD withdraw from Common Core and protect our state’s educational system from the grasp of the federal government!
Ms. Roberts also stated that these standards were discussed and adopted over a period of time and in public meetings where we “could have commented during the public participation period”.
Does anybody else remember any advertising of such meetings? I don’t.
What I do know, however, is that there are parents and citizens that would like to have open discussions and answers to their questions RIGHT NOW!
Personally, I would like Ms. Roberts to publically answer the questions* outlined in the recent article by Christel Swasey–giving specific, detailed answers, not blanket statements and talking points.
I believe that parents have the ultimate responsibility of teaching their children and providing for their education.
If we do not stand up as parents and demand that our concerns and desires for their education be addressed and met by those in public leadership positions, then we will be held accountable.
Consequently, until Common Core is rejected, I am pulling my children from the public school system.
*The board is silent on these simple questions:
Where is a shred of evidence to support the claim that Common Core improves education?
Where are any studies showing that the reduction of literary study improves college readiness?
Where is some evidence that slowing the age at which students learn math algorithms improves college readiness?
Where is any amendment process for Utah’s math and English standards, under the copyrighted Common Core?
How can one opt out of the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) tracking and the Common Core tests?
Where is the legal — constitutional — authority for people outside our state to set our local standards and to create and monitor our tests?
Why does Utah stand by while Obama announces that he will redesign schools and tax all Americans to pay for it, without Utah putting up a fight?
Why is there a spiral of silence culture now, that demands everyone pretend to agree; where is freedom of expression and freedom of speech in the common agenda, now that teachers and principals don’t speak out for fear of losing their jobs?
How on earth can anyone call Common Core “state-led” when unelected boards that operate behind closed doors, that are not accountable to the public, developed and copyrighted the standards, bypassing voters and the vast majority of teachers and legislators?
Where is the line-item cost analysis of taxpayers’ money being spent on Common Core technologies, teacher training and texts?
When will state leadership address Common Core’s specific damages with the people who elected these leaders to serve us, rather than bowing to every federal whim?
Will the board and governor ever stand up to the Department of Education’s tsunami of assaults on liberties?
Will they continue to fight against local teachers and citizens who rightfully demand local liberty and who rightfully ask for proven, non-experimental, amendable standards — following the example set by the national and world-leading education system in Massachusetts, prior to Common Core?
Thanks to Deyette Bradley for sharing her letter here.
The Department of Education is increasingly creepy.
There’s no other word for it. It’s as bad as any Orwellian-styled fiction. I say this without being in the least speculative– proof is published openly in the actual source documents coming out of the current Department of Education.
This 126-page report was published four months ago by the Office of Educational Technology and the U.S. Department of Education.
The whole document is about student data mining– but not just the type of data mining we’ve talked about before, where math and English and a student’s personal name and address are the issues.
Here, the issue is having schools/governments collect data about a student’s will, character, beliefs and attitudes using multiple measures that go beyond standardized testing to physical control and measurement of the child, by eye tracking and nerve sensory devices.
We see clearly that it is not enough for the “education reformers” to nationally control, via common standards and testing, the math and English teaching; they also desire to test, analyze and control, noncognitive individual attitudes.
How is freedom of thought, freedom of belief/attitude/religion, or freedom of expression, upheld by these “reforms” in any way?
The document also says:
“There is a growing movement to explore the potential of the “noncognitive” factors— attributes, dispositions, social skills, attitudes, and intrapersonal resources, independent of intellectual ability…”
I re-read Orwell’s 1984 recently. Do you remember it? The main character lives in a world completely controlled by the government, which watches all citizens through virtually omnipresent screens and makes all citizens daily chant, with the same expressions on their faces– or else.
“Of course he chanted with the rest: it was impossible to do otherwise. To dissemble your feelings, to control your face, to do what everyone else was doing, was an instinctive reaction.”
In Promoting Grit, Tenacity and Perserverance, as in other documents and speeches promoted by the current administration, you will also see the marginalization of parents. Parents are not seen as the primary instructor and authority figure over the child. Parents are seen as just the supporting cast. They can play a role. They can support. They can be educated about governmental “best practices” to practice at home. Think I’m kidding?
From page xiv: “Conclusion 6: Parents and guardians can also play a direct and important role in promoting
their children’s grit, tenacity, and perseverance… Recommendation 6a: Parents may employ some of the research-based best practices at home as they work with their children around academic goals… Parents can also support children in structuring their home work
environments to support effortful control…
Recommendation 6b: Educators… should consider outreach to parents and guardians as an important support for
students… parents may need to be educated about best practices.
This goes right along with Obama’s Lean Forward campaign, where the video spokeswoman, Melissa Harris-Perry said, (see below) “We haven’t had a collective notion of ‘these are our children.’ We have to break through this kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents.”
But while the Department of Education is pushing behavioral indicator measurement, and while the testing company Utah has chosen to create its Common Core tests –American Institutes for Research– has a mission statement “to conduct and apply the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation,” and while the Utah legislature has passed HB15, a bill that requires “behavior indicators” in school testing, and when Bill Gates, the main funder of all things Common Core, is promoting the merger of technology, games, education and biometric-psychometric control– when these forces combine, how can anyone still believe that all is well?
All is not well.
Parents, teachers and legislators must stand up, speak out, and not be quiet until we stop this erosion of individual rights.
The Orange County Register published a smart editorial this week. It makes the point that most of the opponents of Common Core agree with: this is not about whether the standards are being lowered for some states and raised for others, or any other academic argument. This is about avoiding getting sucked into the central planning vortex. Below is a good chunk of that editorial. Read the rest at this link:
Common Core not right path for raising performance of American students.
We’re hopeful that the recent spate of scandals out of Washington will cause more Americans to think twice before ceding more authority to government. If there’s any good to be derived from the revelations of misconduct at the Internal Revenue Service and the Justice Department, it’s an increased recognition that the state can’t be blindly trusted to discharge its fiduciary duties to its citizens.
There is perhaps no issue where this insight is as valuable as education. Government involvement in our children’s schools represents a tremendous concession of sovereignty. By allowing the state to set the parameters of what children learn in their formative years, we grant government sweeping influence to form their character and shape their understanding of the world. This is a natural byproduct of widespread public education. We can, however, keep it from getting worse.
The first step is to resist Common Core, a set of nationwide K-12 curricular standards developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Thus far, 45 states, including California, have signed on to Common Core.
…The problem… is the centralization of power that Common Core introduces. Defenders of the program will note that states are not mandated to adopt Common Core – which is true only in the most technical of senses. The Department of Education has already made adoption of the program a factor for receiving grants from the Race to the Top program, as well as a condition of receiving waivers from No Child Left Behind. It’s a virtual certainty that the amount of federal money tied to Common Core will only increase. What Washington can’t get through coercion, it can usually achieve through bribery.
We’ve long insisted that one of the keys to meaningful education reform is decentralizing power. As often as possible, decision-making should devolve to parents, teachers, and state and local authorities. When it comes to shaping America’s next generation of citizens, one size cannot fit all. Education ought to be our children’s first introduction to the marketplace of ideas, not to a government monopoly.
We applaud the impulse to raise the quality of the nation’s schools – but such efforts should be undertaken freely and subject to competition in the marketplace. Central planning is always inefficient and dangerous. We find it doubly so with education.
This Louisiana teacher, Mercedes Schneider, has darned good aim. In this post, she explains why the AFT teachers’ union has Common Core wrong.
“I have not met American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten in person, but from what I have read about her, I have learned that she has chosen to “play to the middle”– to appear to support both traditional public school teachers and corporate reform at the same time. And now, Weingarten has positioned herself to appear to stand against Common Core via her ‘moratorium” while simultaneously standing with it…
… This AFT study is lousy research. Weingarten could have just dropped the insulting, shoddy “research,” cut to the chase, and said, “Bill and I have already decided to endorse CCSS. Forget the moratorium.
Teachers never asked for this federally-imposed curriculum in the first place.”
The public debate over the Common Core Standards is intensifying as parents and teachers learn more about the changes to our educational system.
When the proponents of the standards mention them, they always begin with the word “rigorous”. The word is always used, and there is never a synonym. This is marketing at its finest.
Who could ever be opposed to rigorous standards that would make America’s children college and career-ready?
Then the definition of “rigorous” began to emerge. To quote the training materials being used with teachers across Pennsylvania, rigor does not mean “difficult, as AP Calculus is difficult”. Rigor meant… that lots of effort would be required. In the example given by one of the official presenters, the rigorous activity in a high school chemistry class was to have the students use balls to build little models of each of the atoms in the Periodic Table. She explained that the brightest students were frustrated with this activity because they were not used to having to do such “rigorous” work.
And now the Common Core based secondary school math assessment has been revealed. To meet these “rigorous” new standards and be able to graduate from high school, America’s students will have to pass Algebra I.
In testimony before the PA Senate Education Committee this month, a proponent of these standards was asked about this situation. He responded that a graduate only needed Algebra I to be “career-ready” – which he clarified by specifying that he was referring to working a service or manufacturing job or joining the military.
His response brings us to the unasked questions in this movement to radically restructure our schools.
Who is the client of the educational system? What is the purpose of education?
In classical education, which is how most adults over the age of 35 were taught, the client of education was the child, and the purpose was to give each child the ability to reach his fullest potential. The school was supposed to open doors so children from any background would have the chance to achieve their dreams. Educational programs were not aimed at what a child “only needed” – they were aimed at giving each child as many options as possible. They aimed a child at the ceiling instead of the floor.
And in reaching the ceiling, those adults learned what they needed to find and keep a job. Some of them went to college and some of them entered the work force and some of them joined the military. But those decisions were theirs, based on their abilities and preferences and effort. And if they decided to make a different choice, they had the ability to do so.
But the Common Core changes the answers to those basic questions. In the new system, the client of the educational system is business, and the purpose of the educational system is to create a work force with the skills they need to do the job. And if the job only requires Algebra I, then, as the gentleman testifying said, there is no need for the workers in that job to have any education beyond Algebra I.
Who decides which students will be allowed to continue learning and which will be stopped at “the skills they need to do their jobs”?
That too is an un-asked, and un-answered, question.
Guest post by California English teacher Cherie Zaslawsky
The much touted Common Core Standards (CCS) Initiative that is being pushed as a silver bullet to improve our schools is not simply the latest fad in education: CCS is actually an unprecedented program that would radically alter our entire K-12 educational system, affecting content (i.e. curriculum), delivery (largely via computer), testing (also via computer), teacher evaluations (connected to test scores), as well as creating an intrusive database of sensitive information from student “assessments.” This program, for all the protestations to the contrary, represents the nationalization of education in America, extinguishing any semblance of local control. Furthermore, it was essentially developed at the behest of billionaire Bill Gates, who also funded it to the tune of some $150 million, and who clearly thinks he knows what’s best for everybody else’s children. (His own are safely ensconced in private schools).
California adopted the Common Core Standards (CCS) Initiative on August 2, 2010, only two months after the standards were released. Nor has this multi-billion dollar program ever been piloted anywhere! It’s a nationwide experiment—with our children as the subjects. Nor was CCS ever internationally benchmarked. In California, as in most states, there was no time to devote to studying the intricacies of the program, vetting it, or introducing it to the public. Instead, Race to the Top money was dangled in front of state legislatures, and 45 states sprang for it, but 16 of these states at last count are already seeking to withdraw from the program.
Parents need to understand the implications of the Common Core Standards. These standards, which amount to a national curriculum via bundled tests, texts and teacher evaluations, would severely degrade our local schools. How? By lowering the standards of high-performing schools to make them “equal” with low-performing schools, in a misguided attempt to reach what its proponents call “equity” or “fairness” by mandating the lowest common denominator for all schools. True, this would close the muchballyhooed “achievement gap”—but only by dumbing down the education of the best and brightest to better match that of the unmotivated and/or less academically gifted.
The idea that all students should perform identically sounds eerily like something out of Mao’s China. What happened to our relishing of individual talents and uniqueness? Would we lower the standards for the best athletes to put them on a par with mediocre athletes to close the “performance gap” in, say, high school football?
How do a few of the experts view this program? Dr. James Milgrim of Stanford University, the only mathematician on the Common Core validation team, refused to sign off on the math standards because he discovered that by the end of 8th grade, CCS will leave our students two years behind in math compared to those in high-performing countries. And according to Dr. Sandra Stotsky, the respected expert who developed the Massachusetts standards, widely regarded as the best in the nation, “Common Core’s ‘college readiness’ standards for ELA are chiefly empty skill sets and cannot lead to even a meaningful high school diploma. Only a literature-rich curriculum can. College readiness has always depended on the complexity of the literary texts teachers teach and a coherent literature curriculum.”
As English teacher Christel Swasey notes: “We become compassionate humans by receiving and passing on classic stories. Souls are enlarged by exposure to the characters, the imagery, the rich vocabulary, the poetic language and the endless forms of the battle between good and evil, that live in classic literature.” Instead, students will swim in the murky waters of relativism where all things are equal and no moral compass exists. We should not be surprised if they are also encouraged to view history along the lines of multiculturalism, “social equity,” and the Communitarian glorification of the collectivist “global village.”
Consider how drastically literature is being marginalized (30%) in favor of “informational” texts (70%) in the 12th grade, with a maximum of only 50% literature ever, throughout middle and high school English classes. The switch to a steady diet of “informational” texts virtually ensures that students won’t be learning to think critically or to write probing, analytical essays, let alone to develop the love of reading and appreciation for the literary masterpieces of Western culture. Put in practical terms, it means that instead of reading Hamlet, Great Expectations and Pride and Prejudice, your child will be reading computer manuals and tracts on “climate change,” “environmental justice,” and the virtues of recycling.
And the price of mediocrity? In California, implementation cost is estimated at $2.1 billion, with $1.4 billion as upfront costs—mainly for computers (every child needs one—along with special apps—could that be one reason Bill Gates poured a cool $150 million into this program? Perhaps giving new meaning to the word “philanthropist”…) along with training teachers to navigate the complicated new programs. Even though it’s been proven—as if we needed proof—that children learn better from real live teachers than from staring at LCD screens.
In addition, tests and “assessments” will be taken on computers—resulting in the harvesting of personal data that amounts to a dossier on every child, including choice tidbits about Mommy and Daddy. And what is to stop the powers-that-be from using these assessments and test results to “re-educate” “politically incorrect” students who show too much independence?
Clearly Common Core is a disaster in the making. So what can we do? The simplest solution is to insist that our school boards turn down the carrot of federal funding and reject Common Core in order to preserve the integrity of our local schools through local control and to continue to allow our teachers to use their creativity in the classroom. The price of compliance with Common Core, however tempting monetarily speaking, is just too high— the mortgaging of our children’s future.
Thanks to Cherie Zaslawsky for permission to publish her essay here.
The Ogden Examiner covered the Utah GOP’s rejection of the Common Core at Saturday’s convention. But Utah’s main newspapers, the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune, have not yet covered the story.
That lack of coverage speaks volumes.
Discussing Common Core is now akin to bringing up religion, sex or politics at family reunions. People have such varied, and intense, beliefs about it that it can get a little awkward.
WHAT DO TEACHERS WANT?
Almost whispering, a woman in my town came up to me this week and quietly said thank you. She said that she and the other educators are grateful for those who speak out. Most of those currently employed in schools don’t dare say anything against common core, fearing ridicule or job loss.
There are exceptions. David Cox is currently teaching; Margaret Wilkin, just retired; and others nationally have spoken out. And there’s even me. I’m also a currently credentialed teacher, but I’m homeschooling instead of sending my ten year old (and myself) into the schools of Common Core. Will the USSB renew my credential? Will schools hire me in the future when they know I disagree so strongly with the Common Core agenda? I wonder.
I spoke with a member of the Utah State School Board this week about teachers’ feelings about Common Core, asking if the board would be willing to create an official USOE anonymous survey for teachers like the one Utahns Against Common Core is doing, in order to receive honest, two-sided feedback about Common Core. The board member told me that would be pointless because “there are always teachers who are angry.” Those angry ones must not taken too seriously.
This makes me think that teachers need to make it clear to the USOE/USSB that the angry few are not the minority or the “always angry” types. I suggest that teachers write letters, anonymously if necessary, but often– and many. How else will the state leaders believe that there is a serious problem?
DEFINING COMMON CORE
Another reason there is a lack of coverage and discussion about the issue is that when we say “Common Core,” we don’t all think of the same thing.
Remember the story of the blind men describing the elephant? Each blind man reached out and touched the elephant, and were asked to describe it. One said it was like a tree trunk. One said it was like a wall. One said it was like a rope. All disagreed yet none was lying. The beast was just bigger and more complex than any of them realized.
Because different teachers teach at different grade levels, and different teachers teach different subjects (only some of which are affected by Common Core); and because some schools jumped on the Common Core implementation wagon fast, while others are slow; and because the Common Core tests don’t begin until this coming school year; and because the Common Core-aligned textbooks are for the most part, not yet purchased and not yet even printed, things look different in different places.
Then there’s the confusion outside the teachers’ arena; some people are aware of the political strings (such as the lack of an amendment process for common core standards; the copyright on CCSS, the 15% cap placed on it by the Dept of Education; and the lack of voter accountability to the groups who created the standards) –while many people are unaware, and say, “Common Core is just minimum standards.”
All of these various angles make it difficult to even speak about what Common Core is.
But we have to keep speaking about it.
MOVE– BEFORE THE CEMENT HARDENS
Common Core is not like past education reforms that are quickly altered and tossed away for another set of equally bureaucratic –but alterable– reforms.
This one’s going in cement. Two reasons:
1. The main architect for Common Core’s ELA standards, David Coleman, was given the position of College Board president, and is aligning college entrance exams (SAT) to Common Core. The ACT is said to be aligned as well. This fact alters our entire system of education in the country –and cannot be easily changed later.
2. There is a philosophical and curricular monopoly happening. The textbook industry is dominated by Pearson, the world’s largest education sales business. Pearson is officially partnered with Bill Gates, the world’s 2nd richest man, and the main funder of all things common core. The partnership is writing model common core curriculum (as are the testing consortia) to align all books, teacher trainings, and tests with the same standards. Meanwhile, 99% of all smaller textbook companies are also republishing all their books to align with Common Core because of this new monopoly on what academic standards ought to cover (or what they ought to skip).
We need more states, more private schools, and more textbook companies to stand independent of this outrageous, baseless monopoly. Otherwise, there will soon be no alternatives, no freedom of choice, no ability to soar above the common –for any of us.
We need alternatives to a common alignment with corporate monopolies and one college exam standard.
I hope the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News decide to cover this issue fully, rather than worrying about what the Governor, State School Board, and Prosperity 2020 businesses want them to do.
People deserve to hear the full story, thoroughly covered. It’s not unimportant:
We are reclaiming the local ability to determine what we will teach our kids.
Ed Week (Pioneer cited): Common-Core Pushback to the Pushback: Who Has the Political Mojo?
“Opponents of the common core are smelling blood in the water and are trying various methods to diversify their portfolio of attacks. On May 2, several anti-common-core groups and individuals held a “Twitter rally” to #stopcommoncore, and afterwards provided an analysis of anti-common-core tweets from the rally. The stats, provided to me by Jamie Gass of Pioneer Institute, showed that the rally produced 14,970 uses of the #stopcommoncore hashtag during the rally, which reached a peak at about 9 p.m. The analysis claimed that it had a “spread” of nearly 9.8 million Twitter accounts, referencing the number of accounts that “follow” those who tweeted or re-tweeted the hashtag.”
“Stanford’s James Milgram, the only mathematician on the Common Core Validation Committee, refused to sign off on common core math standards, arguing they leave students two grade levels behind their international counterparts in math by grade 8.”
“The new common core standards for English Language Arts differ from the previous way of instructing because they’re shifting toward new 21st century skills…teaching solely literature-based material is out…The new Common Core State Standards are moving away from traditional direct instruction models and expecting teachers to transition to more student-centered models. Instead of being the sage on the stage, teachers will become more of the guide on the side…”
On August 9, 2012, two groups sent a mass mailer to all legislators in Utah.
The two groups are Prosperity 2020, a business group led by our Governor, and a politcal action group Education First, who say they are a business-led movement concered with accountability. They do explain that their vision is to “champion educational investment,” but they never explain who is accountable to whom, and under what law they assume authority for such accountability.
Since when do business leaders take such an interest in elementary schools and secondary schools? What are all the reasons for this going out of their way– just altruism? What do they hope to gain? Why are they promoting the awful, untested experiment of Common Core? What will be the intended or unintended consequences of having businesses influence what’s taught in our schools?
They use the claim of “consensus” rather than persuading others that their group and its goals are based on a legitimate constitutional or voter-based foundation.
Has anyone noticed the extreme similarities between Prosperity 2020′s goals and Obama’s 2020 vision? Has nobody noticed how many “2020″ groups exist nationally and internationally? Why isn’t anyone questioning Prosperity 2020 in the local news?
Well, this is what last summer’s letter said.
IT STARTS WITH EDUCATION
August 9, 2012
RE: SUPPORT FOR COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS
Utah business leaders have organized a movement– Prosperity 2020– to advance educational investment and innovation. We share a common vision with Education First, a citizens group dedicated to improved accountability, innovation and increased investment for education in Utah. Our vision is that Utah’s educated and trained workforce will propel Utah to enduring prosperity…
Prosperity and Education First comprise the largest business led education movement in state history.
During the 2012 legislative session, Prosperity 2020 championed Common Core implementation accompanied by robust student assessment…
Business leaders have found consensus support for Utah’s utilization of Common Core… We stand with… our state board of education in moving forward with Common Core….
Prosperity 2020 and Education First are prepared to again champion educational investment and innovation during the 2013 legislative session…
And on and on the letter goes.
I am concerned about the effect of public-private partnerships on true capitalism and individual representation. It appears that Prosperity 2020 and Education First are concerned primarily about the economy, not about the well being of children or teachers. Evidence for this lies in the fact that even the state school board admits there is no evidence to support the theories upon which the Common Core experiment is built– it’s based on unfounded “consensus” and money-hungry “trust.”
These groups represent businesses and a political action committee, linking arms with the governing powers of Utah’s education system– for financial gain.
Do you know about public-private-partnerships? Study it.
“What is a public-private partnership? What purposes were they supposedly created to serve? What, on the other hand, is free enterprise? Are the two compatible? In answering these questions we shall see thatalthough advocates of public-private partnerships frequently speak of economic development, public-private partnerships really amount to economic control—they are just one of the key components of the collectivist edifice being built… -Dr. Steven Yates (Professor Yates’ white paper is available here. )
His main points are these:
Public-private partnerships really amount to economic control—they are just one of the key components of the collectivist edifice
The individual person does not own himself; he exists to serve the state or the collective
Public-private partnerships bring about a form of “governance” alien to the founding principles of Constitutionally limited government, government by consent of the governed
Vocationalism in education makes sense if one’s goals are social engineering, since it turns out worker bees who lack the tools to think about the policies shaping their lives
By not questioning the motivations and the possibly unintended consequences of these public-private partnerships, we set ourselves up to lose even more local control and voter representation.
Let’s analyze Prosperity 2020 a little bit more. Let’s not ”consensus” our way to disaster.
Yesterday, a Utah State School Board Member told me that Michelle Rhee is telling legislators to “reframe the debate” about Common Core– so that instead of it being about local control and the VOICE of the GOVERNED, it’s about being more and more like CHINA.
The school board member seemed to think this was a good idea.
Dismissive of the constitutional rights of Americans, yes.
Revealing of the fact that Rhee and her group care only about making money off Common Core, yes.
As you read the post from Diane Ravitch’s blog on the subject of John Merrow’s investigation of Michelle Rhee, please notice that she mentions the RIGHT supporting common core. And we all know Obama supports common core.
This is not a left v. right or a Democrat v. Republican issue.
This is about saving America for every last one of us.
Please pay attention.
Common Core ends local control in MULTIPLE WAYS:
It’s in the financial monopoly over educational materials held by the marriage of Pearson and Gates and the copycat alignment of 99% of all textbooks nationwide.
It’s in the political takeover of unelected boards that do not answer to the voters, groups that have copyrighted the standards and have left no amendment process for states.
It’s in the common core tests, which are federally reviewed and micromanaged and from which student data is given to the federal portal called the Edfacts Exchange for anyone– even researchers and vendors– to peruse.
It’s in the academic standards themselves, which are educational malpractice— unproven, unpiloted, unvetted, and relying on nutty theories like slashing classic literature and delaying the time math algorithms,get taught— standards which were passionately rejected by key members of the core validation committee, James Milgram and Sandra Stotsky.
It’s in the lack of any state cost analysis, with states throwing out perfectly good, actually vetted, curriculum, and bearing the burden of paying for all this implementation, teacher training, textbook purchasing, technology sales of Common Core aligned structures.
Is it logical to say that writing and literature will be effectively taught by all subject teachers? All teachers do not have adequate training in grammatical, literary and editing background teach writing and literature. But our Utah State Office is claiming that this will be the case. A letter, seen below, from Tiffany Hall of the Utah State Office of Education, will serve as evidence.
The USOE is telling legislators and parents that nothing is really being taken away by Common Core, but informational text is being added to English literature in all classes and across all subjects:
“The study of literature is not limited or reduced by the Standards,” writes Tiffany Hall of USOE, “Rather, we are looking at a more comprehensive view of literacy that includes a focus on reading information text in all content areas—and not just reading, but reading and writing with purpose and understanding in every subject area.”
Does that make sense? Can you imagine P.E. teachers, math teachers, and woodworking teachers effectively sharing the burden of teaching reading and writing skills, including literature and informational texts? This is how we cut down on remedial college work?
Before I post the USOE’s letter, here are two messages from Dr. Stotsky– a video, (above) and an explanation (below) from an email I received this week dealing with the misleading statements being put out by the Utah State Office of Education.
Dr. Sandra Stotsky, as you recall, served on the official Common Core Validation Committee and refused to sign off on the validity of the standards because they were so academically weak.
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Sandra Stotsky
This needs to be explained over and over again. The reading standards for ELA are divided into 10 informational standards and 9 literature standards. That division goes from K to 12. It affects high school English as well as middle school English.
It means that over 50% of the reading instruction must be devoted to informational reading and less than 50% to poetry, drama, and fiction. The 30/70 division is from NAEP and is for the selection of reading passages on NAEP reading assessments. It is specifically NOT for the English curriculum.
Just because David Coleman thinks that the NAEP chart is for the English curriculum doesn’t mean that it is. He does want informational reading in other subjects. But he refuses to clarify his stupid misunderstanding of the NAEP percentages. He doesn’t know how to read tables and charts.
If Tiffany really thinks the 30/70 split means what she thinks it does, ask her how the English teacher can take care of 30% literary reading on a weekly basis (or daily basis) when she only teaches English 20- 25% of the school day or week. Where is more literary reading to be done to get kids up to the 30% Tiffany thinks kids should be doing? What other classes will literary reading be done in, if 30% of what kids read every day or every week must be literary and the English teacher is only 1 of 5 subject teachers?
–Dr. Sandra Stotsky
From USOE’s Tiffany Hall:
I appreciate your concern about the Utah Core Standards limiting the study of literature in English classes. I studied and have taught English literature, and if I felt that students were not going to be reading high-quality literature as a part of their K-12 education, I would be devastated.
The study of literature is not limited or reduced by the Standards. Rather, we are looking at a more comprehensive view of literacy that includes a focus on reading information text in all content areas—and not just reading, but reading and writing with purpose and understanding in every subject area. You are correct that we already have these informational books; we are now focusing on using them more effectively, and in supplementing them with authentic reading from the appropriate content discipline.
On page 3, the Standards state “The Standards insist that instruction in reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language be a shared responsibility within the school. The K–5 standards include expectations for reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language applicable to a range of subjects, including but not limited to ELA. The grades 6–12 standards are divided into two sections, one for ELA and the other for history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. This division reflects the unique, time-honored place of ELA teachers in developing students’ literacy skills while at the same time recognizing that teachers in other areas must have a role in this development as well.”
This section continues on page 4, where there is a table indicating the recommended distribution of literary and informational passages by grade. This table shows a 50-50% split between literary and informational text in grade 4; 45-55% in grade 8; and 30-70% in grade 12. However, this refers to reading over the entire school day, not in a student’s English Language Arts course alone. The Standards strive to balance the “reading
of literature with the reading of informational texts, including texts in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects…” The level and quality of reading informational text in all subjects is a critical element of creating independent readers who can read and understand a wide variety of texts that are present in career and college settings.
So what do the Standards say about reading in English Language Arts courses? In addition to literature, they also include literary nonfiction. A good example of what these two categories mean can be found page 65, where literary fiction and literary nonfiction texts are sampled. These are not required texts; the choosing of texts remains a local decision. These are offered to illustrate the range of high-quality reading. For example, these are the sample texts listed for students in grades 11 and 12:Literary Fiction:
“Ode on a Grecian Urn” by John Keats (1820)
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1848)
“Because I Could Not Stop for Death” by Emily Dickinson (1890)
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937)
A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (1959)
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (2003)Literary Non-Fiction:
Common Sense by Thomas Paine (1776)
Walden by Henry David Thoreau (1854)
“Society and Solitude” by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1857)
“The Fallacy of Success” by G. K. Chesterton (1909)
Black Boy by Richard Wright (1945)
“Politics and the English Language” by George Orwell (1946)
“Take the Tortillas Out of Your Poetry” by Rudolfo Anaya (1995)
These selections have merit for their content and their writing. An ELA teacher has the opportunity to link themes and subjects across the full range of literary choices: novels, poems, dramatic works, essays, speeches, memoirs, etc. As an English teacher, I always tried to provide a variety of reading choices for students. Great literary works are how we understand other people, other times, and other cultures. Students need examples of many kinds of great writing.
In Appendix B, found here http://www.schools.utah.gov/CURR/langartsec/Language-Arts-Secondary-Home/APPENDIX-B.aspx, the Standards provide a list of exemplary texts. (These are not required texts, but rather examples of appropriate reading selections.) Please look at the Table of Contents, beginning on page 5, for a listing of readings organized by grade level. You will notice informational readings are included in addition to stories and poetry. Informational reading is an important part of helping students answer questions and learn content in the elementary classroom. However, the topics and presentation are interesting and grade-appropriate. At the elementary level, all subjects are generally taught in the same classroom and by the same teacher, so a wider range of topics is included in these lists.
You’ll notice that by the grades 6-8, the examples of Informational texts have been grouped by content area (ELA, History/Social Studies, and Science, Mathematics, and Technical Subjects); the ELA texts are literary nonfiction. And, you will probably also notice that the lists of fiction and poetry contain many of your favorites—there are certainly many of mine, including Chaucer, Faulkner, Hemingway, and Shakespeare.
I completely and fundamentally agree with your statement, beautifully written: “Great writing creates great writers. We learn how to write best from studying great literature. We learn about shared values. We learn the consequences of both good and bad choices without having to experiment personally. We learn about our rich culture and heritage when we study the works of Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson and others.” And when I look at the suggested readings in the Standards, these readings are reflected. They are the study of English and Language Arts.
I am not sure from whence the claim that we are replacing literature with “tracts from the EPA” or “dry technical writing” stems. As you have seen in the Standards, the writing is high-quality, appropriate, and interesting.
The Standards outline reading in all the content areas, including writing created by and for scientists, historians, engineers…every field has writing and communication that is important to the work that field supports. While I might not pick up a computer programming manual to read for fun, I know that there are many people who would, and I’m grateful that we are all different in our interests and reading. I am also glad that teachers in all the content areas will choose appropriate informational texts for their students to read and develop content knowledge and communication fluency. As a concerted effort, as a collaborative school, students will have the opportunity to read and learn what they will need to know in our society.
And I will always believe that includes Macbeth and To Kill a Mockingbird.
Thank you for your concern. I hope that examining the evidence—the actual Standards document—has assured you that students in Utah are reading high-quality literature in their ELA classrooms—and reading high-quality writing in all the content areas.
Tiffany Hall, MA, M.Ed.
K-12 Literacy Coordinator
Teaching and Learning
Utah State Office of Education
Please note: Utah has a very broad public records law. Most written communications to or from 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.
The Honorable Arne Duncan Secretary U.S. Department of Education 400 Maryland Avenue, SW Washington, D.C. 20202
Dear Secretary Duncan,
As you know, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) allows Congress to authorize and allocate funding for public K-12 education and, most importantly, is the primary vehicle in which we implement education policy reform. Most recently reauthorized through the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), the ESEA’s authorization expired on September 30, 2008, and has yet to be reauthorized. Since the ESEA’s expiration, the Department of Education (Department) has moved forward with education policy reform without Congressional input. Such action is, at best, in contravention with precedent.
In addition to expressing our concern with the Department’s circumvention of Congress to reform education policy, we are writing you to express our concerns with the implementation of Common Core standards and changes to federal data collection and disbursement policies.
In 2009, forty-six governors signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Governor’s Association committing their states to the development and adoption of new education standards within three years. As we understand it, states then had the option of adopting Common Core standards or creating their own equivalent standards. At the time, Common Core standards were simply an idea where states would collaborate to create uniformed education standards. Details about Common Core were not only unknown to the states, they did not exist. From there, your department offered Race To The Top (RTTT) grants and NCLB waivers to states under the condition that each state would implement “college and career ready” standards. At the time, the only “college and career ready” standards with the Department’s approval were Common Core.
In addition to serious concerns we have regarding the Department’s aforementioned coercion of states to opt-in to Common Core standards, many of which were and continue to have serious budgetary issues and specific issues with existing education policies, we have become increasingly concerned over the development of the Common Core standards themselves. Though initially promoted as state-based education standards, Common Core standards, as they have been developed over the last few years, are nothing of the sort. In just one very troubling instance, Common Core standards will replace state-based standardized testing with nationally-based standardized testing, the creation and initial implementation of which will be funded in full by the federal government. The long-term, annual administering of the exams, the cost of which has not been specified by the Department, is to be funded by the states.
As representatives from states across the nation, we understand the diverse cultures and state-specific education needs that exist in America. We believe that state-driven education policy is vital to the success of our children and that Members of Congress can best demonstrate the specific needs of their constituents. As with most one-size-fits-all policies, Common Core standards fail to address these needs.
As you know, because states opted-in to Common Core standards, there is little Congress can do to provide any relief from these burdensome and misguided standards. Instead, the ability to opt-out of these standards lies with the state. With that in mind, we will be working with our respective state legislatures and governors to provide relief to our education systems. In the meantime, we urge you to work with Members of Congress to reauthorize the ESEA in a manner that allows state-specific education needs to be addressed.
Separate from reauthorization, we are extremely concerned over recent changes your department has made to the manner in which the federal government collects and distributes student data.
As you know, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) was signed into law in 1974, guaranteeing parental access to student education records and limiting their disclosure to third parties. FERPA was intended to address parents’ growing privacy concerns and grant parental access to the information schools use to make decisions that impact their children.
Once again circumventing Congress, in 2011 your agency took regulatory action to alter definitions within FERPA. With the technological advances that have occurred in recent years, changes to FERPA deserve the full scrutiny of the legislative process more so than ever before.
In addition, we understand that as a condition of applying for RTTT grant funding, states obligated themselves to implement a State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS) used to track students by obtaining personally identifiable information.
The Utah State Office of Education sent out this email to state curriculum directors yesterday, labeling calls by teachers, senators and parents who ask for honest debate on the many constitutional, academic and privacy-related issues of the Common Core agenda, ”vicious” attacks. The recipients of the email have been removed to protect privacy. The links have been added to clarify the email.
Sent: Monday, April 29, 2013 3:55 PM
Subject: [Curriculum Directors] Your action is needed
At the same time, everywhere I go I am hearing stories of student successes that far exceed previous expectations. I am visiting with teachers who tell me about engaged students who are doing real mathematics, not just copying problems out of textbooks. And teachers are empowered by creating units of study for students that go beyond anything their textbooks ever provided. Wonderful things are happening in Utah!
The time is now to contact policymakers and reassure them that the adoption of the Core was the right thing to do and give them specific evidence of how the integrated model is supporting student learning of mathematics. It’s ok to recognize challenges, but it is critical that policymakers understand that the Core has already had a positive impact on student learning and is likely to result in changes that really will close achievement gaps in the future. I cannot stress enough how important it is that policymakers hear directly from teachers regarding what is happening in their classrooms. The teachers do not need to advocate for the core, just give evidence of the results.
Please invite teachers to send their stories to their own legislators and State Board of Education members. Also, letters to Aaron Osmond firstname.lastname@example.org and Todd Weiler email@example.com may have extra pull because of their roles in the Utah Senate. Copies sent to USOE, either to me or to Brenda Hales Brenda.firstname.lastname@example.org are also appreciated. The legislators and other policymakers need real information. If we do not voice our thoughts now, we may not have another chance.
Diana Suddreth, STEM Coordinator
Teaching and Learning
Utah State Office of Education
250 E. 500 South
PO Box 144200
Salt Lake City, UT 84114-4200
So, the USOE is inviting teachers to speak out. I thought that was what I was doing.
“Please invite teachers to send their stories to their own legislators and State Board of Education members.”
Now, I invite teachers to truly do this. Send your stories anonymously if you fear career repercussions for telling the State you don’t like to be micromanaged. Tell them the truth: that whatever’s okay about Common Core, we are free to do without the federal mandates. Whatever’s bad, we should be able to amend. The Constitutional right to self-direct education by states has been violated. SPEAK UP NOW or lose your chance, maybe forever.
Send letters and stories to legislators, the school board (at email@example.com ), newspapers, and send a copy here, in the comment area. I will repost as a guest post.
Also, remember to take the optionally anonymous teacher survey at Utahns Against Common Core.
“Indiana has just shot into the spotlight of the education world, with the legislature voting over the weekend to hit the pause button on the Common Core national curriculum standards. But this action is just the loudest strike in a growing backlash against the Core, a revolt set off by the arrival of the federally backed standards in schools across the country. And people are right to be wary, especially since Core supporters have too often ridiculed dissenters instead of engaging in honest debate.
While 45 states have adopted the Common Core, don’t mistake that for enthusiastic, nationwide support. States were essentially coerced into adopting by the President’s Race to the Top program, which tied federal dough to signing on. Even if policymakers in recession-hobbled states would have preferred open debate, there was no time. Blink, and the money would be gone. Which isn’t to say there wasn’t opposition — there certainly was among policy wonks — but most people hadn’t heard of the standards at adoption time, and their effects wouldn’t be felt for several years.
…Indiana is arguably the highest-profile rebel, with its new legislation set to halt implementation of the core so Hoosiers can, at the very least, learn about what they’re getting into. Nationally, the Republican National Committee has officially condemned the standards, while several states are in the process of potentially withdrawing from the core. Finally, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has requested that a Senate subcommittee handling education end federal meddling in standards and assessment.
…Rather than address worries and evidence that the Common Core is empirically ungrounded, moves the country closer to a federal education monopoly and treats unique children like identical cogs, supporters have often smeared opponents and dodged constructive debate.
… Michael Petrilli, executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, complained that the move “will bestow a degree of legitimacy upon the anti-standards coalition.” –As if the people who have been decrying the absence of research support for national standards, potential flaws in its content, or other logic and evidence-based concerns have all somehow been illegitimate.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — a leading Common Core spokesperson — elected to dismiss the RNC as ignorant for resisting the Core. “I don’t really care if the RNC, based on no information, is going to oppose this because of some emotional pitch,” he said. This despite the RNC resolution offering several valid reasons for opposing the Core, including the indisputable fact of federal coercion.
To be sure, there are some specious arguments being made against the Common Core, such as the claim that it requires schools to ditch Emerson in favor of reading EPA regulations. Such assertions should be refuted by people on both sides. But those are hardly the only concerns of Core opponents, and many standards supporters are guilty of no lesser deception when they insist, for instance, that the Common Core is “state-led” and “voluntary.”
One of the things that has been irritating and frustrating me is the comprehension that the end game of all of this is a complete lack of choice when it comes to education. It will only take a few years, because we have jumped on this bandwagon so quickly.
I think, if you get a chance, it is important to note that if Utah had adopted standards in isolation, there wouldn’t be the level of concern. (Of course, that was one of the “selling points”… commonality.) What the State Board says about “being able to change them” is technically true. They could drop Common Core standards at any time.
However, in 5 years, due to market forces, there will be nothing left to go to. Who will develop those standards, and what textbooks and professional development resources will we have? Nada!
When your ACT and SAT match Common Core, when all your textbooks and teaching materials are Common Core aligned, where is the market for anything “outside the box”? It was a brilliant move: 45 states signing on all at the same time. It will make the work of the other 5 irrelevant.
We MUST opt out and get a large group of the other states to opt out PRIOR to the SAT/ACT realignment. Once that’s done, it will be almost impossible to go back. Who or what, at that point, will have the power and desire to change it?
In the end, if I DON’T want my kids “aligned” with Common Core, what are my options? For the short term, I can do private school. But within 4 years, my prediction, just when my oldest is ready for college, the SAT/ACT tests will align, and if I haven’t been “on board”, he will be at a disadvantage. It just makes me ill.
Thank you, Wendy Hart, for this insightful, important statement.
I see that Diana Suddreth sent a “Your Action is Needed” email to defend the Utah Math Common Core. She is encouraging letters of support for the Utah Common Core and is concerned that the Common Core is under a “vicious attack.” She is inviting her supporters to send letters to both of you.
As a mathematics professor and someone who is very aware of the details of the Common Core, I would like to comment on what I feel is the awful way the Common Core Math Standards have been implemented by the USOE.
1. The Core was implemented before there were textbooks. In fact, some of those who favor the Utah Core do not even feel that textbooks are important. When I hear Suddreth say, ”And teachers are empowered by creating units of study for students that go beyond anything their textbooks ever provided” I know something is seriously wrong.
2. The Core was implemented before there were assessments in place.
3. The standards do not dictate any particular teaching method, but rather set goals for student understanding. However, the USOE has used the implementation of the new Core to push a particular teaching method; i.e., the “Investigations” type teaching that was so controversial in Alpine School District.
4. Evidence of the type of teaching promoted by USOE comes from the textbook used for the secondary academy, 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions (Margaret S. Smith and Mary Kay Stein) as one of the primary resources. The book is about the kind of group learning envisioned by Investigations and Connected Math (the sequel to Investigations).
5. The Mathematics Vision Project was created in partnership with the USOE. It has developed integrated secondary math material for the Utah Core. They openly admit that their “teaching cycle” is similar to the model of the Connected Mathematics Project. Here is a statement about their teaching method:
As students’ ideas emerge, take form, and are shared, the teacher orchestrates the student discussions and explorations towards a focused mathematical goal. As conjectures are made and explored, they evolve into mathematical concepts that the community of learners begins to embrace as effective strategies for analyzing and solving problems. These strategies eventually solidify into a body of practices that belong to the students because they were developed by the students as an outcome of their own creative and logical thinking. This is how students learn mathematics. They learn by doing mathematics. They learn by needing mathematics. They learn by verbalizing the way they see the mathematical ideas connect and by listening to how their peers perceived the problem. Students then own the mathematics because it is a collective body of knowledge that they have developed over time through guided exploration. This process describes the Learning Cycle and it informs how teaching should be conducted within the classroom.
6. The USOE does hold students back. This is not the intent of the Common Core, but it is Utah’s implementation. I regularly judge the state Sterling Scholar competition. Almost all of the bright kids take AP calculus as a junior or even earlier because they were taking Algebra 1 by seventh grade. Now it will be difficult to get that far ahead. The National Math Panel made it clear that there was no problem with skipping prepared kids ahead. The Common Core has a way for getting eighth graders into Algebra 1 which the USOE has ignored.
7. The USOE chose the “uncommon” core when they picked secondary integrated math. Hardly anyone else is doing this program. So there are no integrated textbooks except the one that the USOE is developing. I have been told that this is the “Asian” model, but I am very familiar with the textbooks in Hong Kong and Singapore. The Mathematics Vision Project Material does not look like Asian material, it looks like Investigations/Connected Math.
8. There is substantial information that Diana Suddreth, Syd Dickson, Brenda Hales, and Michael Rigby of the USOE participated in unethical behavior in the awarding of the Math Materials Improvement Grant. The USOE chose reviewers (including Suddreth and Dickson) who were conflicted. Suddreth helped the University of Utah choose a principal investigator who was her own co-principal investigator on a $125 K grant . According to the USOE internal email messages, the required sample lesson of the winning proposal contained “plagiarized material.” The sample lesson had “no text” instead it contained 79 pages of “sample materials” (some of which was plagiarized) for a teacher study guide including problems for discussion and homework. The adaptive performance assessment program for the winning proposal was non-existent. The principal investigators redefined “adaptive assessment” to be something that was never intended.
David G. Wright
I am a Professor of Math at BYU, but this letter is written as an educator, parent, and concerned citizen and does not represent an official opinion from BYU.
Brigham Young University has a policy of academic freedom that supports the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge and ideas. The university does not endorse assertions made by individual faculty.
— — — — —
Thank you, Dr. Wright, for your courage in speaking out.
The USOE’s Diana Suddreth has called the movement to stop common core a “vicious attack.” The State School Board’s Dixie Allen has said that we (teachers and parents against common core) are “creating turmoil in our state.”
In our defense: 1) we do not wish to disparage personally the USOE or the USSB or Governor Herbert’s staff, despite their endless claims, in the face of truckloads of evidence to the contrary, that Common Core is a benefit to Utahns. We do have much against the fact that as a state, we’ve sold out our kids to common core– to its slashing of local control, slashing teacher autonomy, slashing the right to amend our own education standards, deleting legitimate and proven academic standards, and ending student privacy.
I would appreciate not being called names, such as special interests, turmoil-makers or vicious attackers –since we have made no personal attacks, and are not making but are losing our personal money in this fight for true principles, our rightful duty to defend; and since we’re the ones trying to clean up the turmoil our leaders created by signing away local rights, privacy and standards, without letting us know it.
Personal pride, personal investment in the common core agenda, personal career investment related to the common core agenda, and social loyalties are not more important than LEGITIMATE education standards, student PRIVACY rights, PARENTAL consent requirements for state systems in testing students and in collecting student data, and most of all, they are not more important than constitutional, LOCAL control.
Senator Mike Lee of Utah joined other senators — Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) in signing Iowa Senator Grassely’s letter that points out that the Dept. of Education must be restrained from funding and promoting nationalized standards and must not be allowed to continue the illegal implementation of Common Core with federal tax monies.
The letter said: “”While the Common Core State Standards Initiative was initially billed as a voluntary effort between states, federal incentives have clouded the picture. Current federal law makes clear that the U.S. Department of Education may not be involved in setting specific content standards or determining the content of state assessments. Nevertheless, the selection criteria designed by the U.S. Department of Education for the Race to the Top Program provided that for a state to have any chance to compete for funding, it must commit to adopting a ‘common set of K-12 standards’ matching the description of the Common Core. The U.S. Department of Education also made adoption of ‘college- and career-ready standards’ meeting the description of the Common Core a condition to receive a state waiver under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Race to the Top funds were also used to fund two consortiums to develop assessments aligned to the Common Core and the Department is now in the process of evaluating these assessments.”
“The first principle of education, and therefore of education policymaking, is that parents are the primary educators of their children. And because responsibility for children’s education lies primarily with parents, to the greatest extent possible so should decision-making authority over Pre-K to secondary education. The further such decisions are removed from the parents and guardians of children, the further they are removed from those who will promote the best interests of students. Therefore federal influence over pre-K, elementary, and secondary education should be limited. Neither members of Congress nor Department of Education bureaucrats can be expected to promote the interests of individual students – with unique talents, interests, and learning styles – more than those students’ own parents, teachers or principals.
While the Common Core Standard Initiative was initially promoted as an effort to move in this direction, it has become polluted with Federal guidelines and mandates that interfere with the ability of parents, teachers and principals to deliver the education our children deserve.” Read More Here
A favorite highlight of the series includes the explanation of why students should be taught how to solve problems, and not just how to find internet resources to solve problems or invent their way to solutions.
Guest post by a parent who requested that his/her report would be anonymously published
I attended the meeting held by Uintah School District last week.
The meeting appeared to be a training on the new assessments for Common Core that will cost $30 million. The guy turned his back on the room and spoke quietly when he said ‘$30 mil’, so I’m not sure I heard him correctly. He was more than happy to face the room and speak loudly about how great these assessments will be and how very much we need them–in his opinion. (Note-his job is dependent on him holding to that opinion.)
A little more than halfway through the meeting, he finally allowed questions. He would NOT allow questions before that. When question time came, it was very clear that the majority of the people in the room were unhappy parents, not educators there for his training. With a great deal of pressure from parents, it was decided that some common core questions would be answered by Dixie Allen of the state school board.
All individuals interested in common core questions being answered were invited to get up and move to a smaller room to talk with Dixie. By the time everyone had gathered in the smaller room, common core was on a screen at the front of the room and Dixie was prepared to give a presentation. Parents tried to ask questions and Dixie tried to give a presentation.
When it became clear that Dixie’s intent was to deliver a Common Core ‘sale’, one parent specifically requested that questions be answered first and the presentation be given second because people were obviously wanting their questions answered now. Dixie said no, but eventually had to give in because the questions wouldn’t quit coming. We didn’t have to watch or listen to a big presentation from Dixie, but we did have to listen to her state several times that common core standards are higher (to which one parent consistently replied ‘no, they’re not’ every time). She also told the parent in the room who knew the most about Common Core that she (Dixie) didn’t want that mom asking anymore questions because the mom gave comments, informing other parents of the details so Dixie could not shut them down completely. Obviously, Dixie is frightened of the truth getting out.
Dixie also denied being the homeschool teacher for 2 of her grandchildren in her home. (I think the count was 2.) She later backtracked on that one and admitted that she teaches one grandchild who is in 9th grade right now and homeschooled because of bullying. (A difficult to fully believe claim because the junior high principal here is quite strict and everyone else says this principal put an end to bullying in that school when she was first put in as principal, long enough ago that bullying in that school would have ended by the time Dixie’s grandchild would have entered the jr. high.)
Dixie also repeatedly stated that Utah must do Common Core because otherwise we cannot buy curriculum to match our core because we don’t spend enough money on education and therefore the curricula vendors don’t cater to us. No one in the room agreed with her on needing more money, but she made this claim repeatedly. Then when the question “How much will these new curricula materials to match common core cost us?” was asked, the answer was “Nothing, we’re making our own.”
None of the parents in the room said anything, but note that the argument that we need to do common core so we can buy materials to match our core falls when you consider that we’re not buying the materials!
In short, no one in the meeting was convinced that common core was a good idea. Parents talked afterwards, exchanging their contact info and more information on common core. One parent had watched a program on the miserable failure of common core in Michigan and was there with her notes in hand, asking questions and providing details of how bad things are in Michigan. Dixie tried very hard, but unsuccessfully, to refute the points this good mom made throughout the meeting. Another mom mentioned that history has proven how very dangerous a national curriculum can be, but many people in the room are unaware of that and just thought she’s a little paranoid.
I left the meeting thinking that Dixie is either completely ignorant of the facts surrounding common core or she is an outright liar. I spoke with some people who know her personally the next day and they told me that she just truly believes in big government, so she wouldn’t even be able to see the facts. It was interesting to watch her at the meeting. Dixie is an elected representative of the people, but you couldn’t tell. Elected representatives should listen to the people, treat them respectfully, and do as the people want. Dixie did none of that. As an elected representative of the people, she ARGUED with them and spoke condescendingly when they didn’t understand education lingo. It was very sad.
Dixie did state that Utah might not adopt the science part of common core because of pressure from the ‘right wing’ in the state. She also said that Utah might try to vary from common core by more than the 15% allowed, but there will be no attempt to get out of common core.
Sadly, the powers that be cannot admit they’ve made a mistake and are completely disrespectful to the people who gave them power and pay the taxes that support them and their decisions.
- Anonymous attendee at UT State Office of Education Common Core presentation to Uintah School District
First, I received yet another “makes-no-sense” common core math explanation from the Utah State Office of Education, via Ms. Diana Suddreth.
Next, I asked nationally recognized experts to help me digest Suddreth’s words. This included curricular expert Dr. Christopher Tienken of Seton Hall University, New Jersey, former Dept of Ed advisor and Hoover Institute (Stanford University visiting scholar) Ze’ev Wurman of California; and U.S. Coalition for World Class Math founder Barry Garelick.
This is what they wrote. (Ms. Suddreth’s writing is also posted below.)
From Dr. Christopher H. Tienken:
The UTAH bureaucrat is referencing this book – see below. Look at chpts 7 and 11 for where I think she is gathering support.
Her answer still does not make curricular sense in that she explains that fluency with moving between fractions and decimals is assumed in some ways. With all due respect, the curriculum document is a legally binding agreement of what will be taught. Teachers are bound by law to follow it (of course many don’t but that is going to change with this new testing system). Therefore, if it is not explicitly in the document, it might not get taught.
There are a lot of assumptions made in the Core. Just look at the Kindergarten math sequence. It assumes a lot of prior knowledge on the part of kids. That might be fine for some towns, but certainly not for others.
Perhaps the bureaucrat can point to specific standards that call for students to demonstrate fluency in converting fractions to decimals etc.
However, I think the bigger issue is that parents now don’t have a say in terms of whether and how much emphasis is placed on those skills. Local control is one mechanism for parents to lobby for emphasis of content. Not all content is equally important to each community. The negotiation of “emphasis” is a local issue, but that has now been decided for parents by a distal force.
Christopher H. Tienken, Ed.D.
Editor, AASA Journal of Scholarship & Practice
Editor, Kappa Delta Pi Record
Seton Hall University
College of Education and Human Services
Department of Education Leadership, Management, and Policy
Ms. Swasey forwarded to me an email that you have received recently, discussing how Utah Core supposedly handles the conversion between fraction forms. I would like to pass you my comments on that email.
First, let me briefly introduce myself. I am a visiting scholar at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. I was a member of the California Academic Content Standards Commission in 2010, which reviewed the Common Core standards before their adoption by the state of California. Prior to that I served as a senior policy adviser at the U.S. Department of Education.
Response to Diana Suddreth’s note, passed to Utah’s Board of Education on April 23, regarding the question of conversion among fractional forms
(Original in italics)
The question that was originally asked was about converting fractions to decimals; therefore, the response pointed to the specific standard where that skill is to be mastered. A close reading of the Utah Core will reveal that the development of a conceptual understanding of fractions that leads to procedural skills begins in grade 3 and is developed through 7th grade. The new core does not list every specific procedure that students will engage in; however, explaining equivalence of fractions (3rd & 4th grade), ordering fractions (4th grade), understanding decimal notation for fractions (4th grade), and performing operations with fractions (4th, 5th, and 6th grade) all suggest and even require certain procedures to support understanding and problem solving. Unfortunately, Ms. Suddreth does not address above the question at hand—whether, or how, does the Utah Core expect students to develop fluency and understanding with conversion among fractional representations of fractions, decimals and percent—and instead offers general description of how Utah Core treats fractions. This is fine as it goes, but it does not add anything to the discussion.
In 5th grade, fractions are understood as division problems where the numerator is divided by the denominator. (In fact, the new core does a better job of this than the old where fractions were more often treated as parts of a whole, without also relating them to division.)
The above is incorrect. In grade 5, as in previous grades, the Common Core (or Utah Core, if you will) frequently treats fractions as “parts of the whole.” There is no other way to interpret grade 5 standards such as “Solve word problems involving addition and subtraction of fractions referring to the same whole … e.g., by using visual fraction models …” (5.NF.2) or “Interpret the product (a/b) × q as a parts of a partition of q into b equal parts;” (5.NF.4a). All this, however, has little to do with the question at hand.
As for percents, students learn that percent is a rate per 100 (a fraction), a concept that is fully developed with a focus on problem solving in 5th and 6th grade.
Yet again Ms. Suddreth is clearly wrong. Percent are not even introduced by the Common (Utah) Core before grade 6.
The new core promotes a strong development of the understanding of fractions as rational numbers, including representations in decimal, fraction, or percent form. Mathematics is far too rich a field to be reduced to a series of procedures without looking at the underlying connections and various representations. There is nothing in the new core to suggest that students will not develop the kinds of procedural skills that support this depth of understanding.
Here, like in her first paragraph, Ms. Suddereth, avoids responding to the question and hopes that writing about unrelated issues will cover this void. The argument was never that the Common Core does not develop understanding of fractions as rational numbers, as decimals, and as percents. The argument was that such understanding is developed in isolation for each form, and that fluent conversion between forms is barely developed in a single standard that touches only peripherally on the conversion and does it at much later (grade 7) than it ought to. Fluency with conversion among fractional representations was identified as a key skill by the National Research Council, the NCTM, and the presidential National Math Advisory Panel. It is not some marginal aspect of elementary mathematics that should be “inferred” and “understood” from other standards. The Common Core is already full of painstakingly detailed standards dealing with fractions and arguing that such cardinal area as fluency with conversion (“perhaps the deepest translation problem in pre-K to grade 8 mathematics” in NRC’s opinion) should not be addressed explicitly is disingenuous.
The new core is, in fact, supported by the Curriculum Focal Points from NCTM, which do not conflict with anything in the new core, but rather provide detailed illustrations of how a teacher might focus on the development of mathematics with their students. The new core is based on the research in Adding It Up. Some of the researchers on that project were also involved in the development of the Common Core, which forms the basis for the Utah Core.
Curriculum Focal Points explicitly requires fluency with conversion between fractional forms by grade 7, which is absent in the Common Core. It also, for example, expects fluency with dividing integers and with addition and subtraction of decimals by grade 5, which the Common Core expects only by grade 6. One wonders what else it would take to make Ms. Suddreth label them as in conflict. One also wonders how much is the Common Core really “based on the research in Adding It Up” if it essentially forgot even to address what Adding It Up considers “perhaps the deepest translation problem in pre-K to grade 8 mathematics”—the conversion among fractions, decimals, and percent.
In summary, Ms. Suddereth’s note passed to you by Ms. Pyfer contains both misleading and incorrect claims and is bound to confuse rather than illuminate.
Subject: Follow-up on Question about math standard
To: Board of Education <Board@schools.utah.gov>, “Hales, Brenda (Brenda.Hales@schools.utah.gov)” <Brenda.Hales@schools.utah.gov>
Cc: “Christel S (firstname.lastname@example.org)” <email@example.com>, “Diana Suddreth (Diana.Suddreth@schools.utah.gov)” <Diana.Suddreth@schools.utah.gov>
Dear Board members-
The note below from Diana Suddreth is additional information that I hope will be helpful for you in understanding the questions you may have gotten regarding the claim that the new math core doesn’t require students to know how to convert fractions to decimals, or addresses the skill inadequately. Diana has just returned from a math conference and I appreciate her expertise in this area and the additional clarification.
Please feel free to share this with others who may be contacting you with questions.
Hope this helps!
The question that was originally asked was about converting fractions to decimals; therefore, the response pointed to the specific standard where that skill is to be mastered. A close reading of the Utah Core will reveal that the development of a conceptual understanding of fractions that leads to procedural skills begins in grade 3 and is developed through 7th grade. The new core does not list every specific procedure that students will engage in; however, explaining equivalence of fractions (3rd & 4th grade), ordering fractions (4th grade), understanding decimal notation for fractions (4th grade), and performing operations with fractions (4th, 5th, and 6th grade) all suggest and even require certain procedures to support understanding and problem solving. In 5th grade, fractions are understood as division problems where the numerator is divided by the denominator. (In fact, the new core does a better job of this than the old where fractions were more often treated as parts of a whole, without also relating them to division.) As for percents, students learn that percent is a rate per 100 (a fraction), a concept that is fully developed with a focus on problem solving in 5th and 6th grade.
The new core promotes a strong development of the understanding of fractions as rational numbers, including representations in decimal, fraction, or percent form. Mathematics is far too rich a field to be reduced to a series of procedures without looking at the underlying connections and various representations. There is nothing in the new core to suggest that students will not develop the kinds of procedural skills that support this depth of understanding.
The new core is, in fact, supported by the Curriculum Focal Points from NCTM, which do not conflict with anything in the new core, but rather provide detailed illustrations of how a teacher might focus on the development of mathematics with their students. The new core is based on the research in Adding It Up. Some of the researchers on that project were also involved in the development of the Common Core, which forms the basis for the Utah Core.
Diana Suddreth, STEM Coordinator
Utah State Office of Education
Salt Lake City, UT
From: Christel S [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 10:42 PM
Subject: Follow-up on Question about math standard
My math and curriculum friends, I don’t know how to argue with these people. Can you assist? Here we have countless parents hating the common core math, and reviewers telling us it puts us light years behind legitimate college readiness, but the USOE continues the charade.
Please help– point me to facts and documentation that will make sense to the average person. Thank you.
It’s so ironic. In this article, the teacher says that an administrator told the teachers “not to use school resources to push political agendas.” Yet the entire Common Core Initiative is a political agenda! Look at who leads it: Arne Duncan, Linda Darling-Hammond, Chaka Fattah, Bill Gates, Sir Michael Barber and other extremists who have no respect for local control, the state-directed provisions of the U.S. Constitution or the forbidding by G.E.P.A. law for the federal government to direct state educational systems.
Here’s that quote:
“…My administrator said that there would be no more emailing, or talking about the common core amongst the staff. There was a finality to his tone and the meeting was quickly over at that point. I then received an email from my administrator reminding me of our district policy of not using school resources to push political concerns or agendas. He also stated that there was to be no more discussion about common core unless it was on an “educational” basis between staff members.
Ironically, I had several teachers contact me outside of school that same day, to say they were shocked at my administrator’s tone. They feel I was being genuine in sharing information that was previously unknown and could potentially affect educators. Several staff member have also approached me saying that they are grateful for this information and are now researching it on their own.
The question being asked in my school now is…Why can’t educators do what they do best? Research, question, inform?? Isn’t it better to question and discuss things, even if we don’t agree on them as to find what is best for the children we have been entrusted with? Should we turn a blind eye, and be lead like sheep off the cliff?”
Have you called your favorite Indiana legislator yet today?
317- 232-9600. 317-232-4567. 317-232-9677
Yes, I know we may not be from Indiana. But what happens elsewhere, affects our local freedom.
See what one Ohio resident wrote:
“I am from Ohio. My kids are grown, but I am active in opposing Common Core. God bless you in your fight to stall Common Core in Indiana.
This morning, I sent an e-mail to Indiana Speaker, Brian Bosma. The text was as follows:
“SB1427 must be called down for a vote!
The parents and residents in Indiana are fighting for time and the Indiana House of Representatives must allow this important bill to come to a full vote! You must hear the will of the people and parents of Indiana and you must call SB1427 for a vote!
SB1427 addresses Common Core Curriculum! The education of the children is too important to pass through any state without intelligent discussion and the involvement of the parents and residents.
I do not live in Indiana, but as a resident of Ohio, I am watching what happens in states across America. Common Core is just becoming known and there is growing and fierce opposition nation wide! I believe there is great cause for concern. Common Core has, quite frankly, been foisted upon the entire nation in secret. Please allow Indiana to be a stand-out state who upholds representative government!
Please bring SB1427 to the floor for a vote in the great state of Indiana!
God bless, Kathy L Johnson Ohio resident”
Call the Indiana Governor at (317)232-4567. Call the Indiana House 317-232-9600 . (Ask to speak to whoever you want, or to Speaker Brian Bosma.) Another number for Bosma: 317-232-9677
It seems in the Governor’s best interest and in the best interest of Utahns for him to drop out of the National Governor’s Association (NGA).
This nonprofit, unelected group creates the illusion that Governors have a legitimate federal presence on a national stage, when Constitutionally, they do not. Our elected D.C. representatives are to govern national issues. Governors are to govern inside of states.
Texas Governor Perry does not feel that NGA membership is a smart use of taxpayer funds; Maine’s Governor LePage said,
“I get no value out of those meetings. They are too politically correct and everybody is lovey-dovey and no decisions are ever made.”
Utah’s Governor’s NGA membership is particularly problematic because the NGA/CCSSO 1) uses taxpayer dollars to pay Governors’ dues, 2) writes national educational standards behind closed doors, 3) allows no amendment process for those illegitimate national education standards, 4) allows for no voter representation, since the whole NGA governance setup is an unwanted step-sister to the American system of actual representation by proper channels; and 5) NGA is a federal contractor.
I had an “A-ha!” moment, as I again watched Judy Park of the Utah State Office of Education present information about the Common Core tests.
I realized that Judy Park just does not know the answers to the big, big questions that are being asked. She isn’t actually being dishonest; she is simply clueless. It’s tragic. I feel almost sorry for her.
– Does she not know that the State Longitudinal Database System is federally interoperable, and that that was one of the conditions of Utah receiving the grant money to build the SLDS in the first place?
– Does she not know that the SLDS is under a (totally unconstitutional) mandate to report to the federal government via the “portal” called the EdFacts Exchange?
– Is she unaware that the Federal Register (following the shady alterations by the Dept. of Ed to federal FERPA privacy regulations) now redefines key terms such as who is an authorized representative and what is an educational agency, so that without parental consent and without school consent, vendors and corporate researchers can access data collected by the SLDS (State Database)?
“FERPA [federal privacy law] doesn’t allow that,” and: “I don’t believe that,” and “Personally identifiable information is not even in our state database.”
Dear Ms. Park! I wish I could believe you.
But last summer, at the Utah Senate Education Committee Meeting, we all heard (and Ms. Park was in the room) when Utah Technology Director John Brandt stood up and testified that “only” a handful of people from each of the agencies comprising the Utah Data Alliance (K-12, Postsecondary, Workforce, etc.) can access the personally identifiable information that the schools collect. He said it to reassure us that barring dishonesty or hacking, the personally identifiable information was safe. But he simultaneously revealed that the schools were indeed collecting that personal information.
Why don’t our leaders study this stuff? Why, why?
Even Ms. Park’s secondary title, which is something about “federal accountability” is disturbing. It’s an illegal concept to be federally accountable in the realm of state education. Has nobody read the 10th Amendment to the Constitution at the State Office of Education? Has no one read the federal law called the General Educational Provisions Act, which forbids —FORBIDS— the federal government from supervising, directing or controlling education or curriculum in ANY WAY.
I am not the only one flabbergasted at what I saw and heard on that live feed of the Davis District meeting today.
This portion is reposted with permission from clinical psychologist Gary Thompson.
I’m half tempted to shoot off (another) letter to the State Superintendent of Schools demanding that they stop all future “informational”meetings until they themselves either know the correct answers, or can be honest and simply state, ” we are investigating these issues currently, and we will get back to you when we know the answers.”
Anything other than that is pure deception, and if they (Judy Park, ect) are deceiving tax paying parents, then they should be asked to resign from their positions of trust. If I here one more meeting filled with deception and plausible deniability, I may take it upon myself to publicly ask for those resignations myself in a very public manner that will make the my Glen Beck appearance look like minor league.
It is just common respect. THEY asked for my letter of assistance and clarification. Attorney Flint and myself spent an entire weekend drafting it for them and the parents in our community.
Their response over a week later?
Not even a thank you note….and then they have the gall to present a LIVE feed to the entire State filled with definitive answers to parents questions that not only could they not answer during our 2 hour in person meeting, but asked for our assistance to clarify the issues they did not understand.
How hard would it had been to simply say, “We do not know.” ???
Ms. Parks response to questions regarding adaptive testing to children with learning “quirks” (out new name for disabilities) was so devious and deceptive that I had to turn it off.
Alisa Olsen Ellis, don’t you ever stop this fight as long as you have life in you.
God bless you.
— — —
Please, if you live in Uintah District, attend the meeting about the Common Core (AIR/SAGE) tests to be presented by the USOE on
April 25, 2013 @ 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm at the Maeser Training Center 1149 North 2500 West Vernal,UT 84078 USA
It’s time to help Indiana. What happens in other states does affect us.
Here are two messages from Indiana moms who need your support. Indiana is ahead of 90% of the states in that the state has TWICE voted in favor of the “time out” bill for Common Core, which will mean that the standards, tests, and data collection vehicles will have to wait while the state thoroughly vets and reviews all the intended and unintended consequences of Common Core. This is wise and should be emulated nationwide, but there is a chance that the effort will be crushed by those who want the agenda’s wealth-making potential more than they want locally controlled, amendable, and legitimately high-quality standards. Please, even if you don’t live in Indiana, call.
This is it – the legislative session ends this Friday. If HB1427 isn’t given a vote in the House by the end of the day on Friday, the bill is dead. We can’t allow this to happen! The fact is our Senate has voted twice in favor of the Common Core “time-out” bill, Superintendent Ritz has indicated a review is in order, and we believe that a solid majority of our elected Representatives in the House support HB1427. What’s more, Governor Pence continues to make encouraging remarks in our favor. All that stands in the way of Indiana citizens getting a thorough review of Common Core, is Speaker Bosma and the paid lobbyists, most of whom have vested financial interests in making sure Common Core is not reviewed in the light of day.
As Representative Rhoads was recently quoted as saying, “If it’s so wonderful, what is wrong with allowing it to have a review?”
The Chamber of Commerce has taken out vicious radio adds to try and kill HB1427. This means we are winning, and should not retreat now.
Please contact your State Representative again and ask them for support and an update on HB1427. Politely, tell them how outrageous it will be if this bill is denied an up or down vote. Then please call and leave a message for Speaker Bosma letting him know that the citizens of Indiana deserve better than to have back-room deals made on such an important issue.
The Indiana House switchboard is (317)232-9600 . Finally, call the Governor again at (317)232-4567 . I am told that the final hours of the session is when many important decisions are made. Let’s make sure they remember – this is an important decision!
Lastly, please, please, please join us at the Statehouse this Thursday, at 1:00 PM. We will be rallying to make our voices heard. I am told that if enough people show up in person, we will not be ignored. Erin and I cannot impress upon you enough how urgent and crucial it is that we get as many there as possible, one last time. Many decisions are made in the final hours of the legislative session. We have come too far, against all odds, to stop now. Please make coming a priority! We need you! We are also scheduled to be on W.I.B.C.’s Greg Garrison show that morning from 10:30am-11:00am. (Derek Redleman of the Chamber will be on from 10:00a.m. – 10:30a.m.)
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By Monica Boyer
Alert: Just in from the Senate:
Representative Rhonda Rhoads has agreed to concur with HB1427, (this bill puts Indiana Common Core on a year time out.) Concurring means that she accepts the bill as written, and it will go to the full house for a final vote.
HOWEVER: We now have word that Speaker Brian Bosma said he will NOT call this bill down for a vote. So yes, let me translate. A bill can go through the entire process and ONE MAN has the power to kill a bill. (That is wrong.)
We need calls to go directly to your Representative. (Ask them to demand a vote on this bill) Then we need to melt down Speaker Brian Bosma’s phone and demand he hear the will of the people and call SB1427 down for a vote.
This is your children’s future. Now is not the time for silence or fear. As of Friday, this bill is DEAD.
Indiana House 317-232-9600 . (Ask to speak to your Representative [or any representative].)
Speaker Brian Bosma: 317-232-9677
(There will also be a rally at the Statehouse on Thursday at 1 pm. More details coming soon)
Does it seem good that the meetings of the standards writers (the CCSSO/NGA) are all closed-door meetings?
I read that there is a 15% cap on a state adding to the Core; so what do we do if we need to add a whole lot more to actually prepare our children well?
Although I have been told that Common Core is state-led, both my legislator and I missed any invitation to discuss this before it was decided for us; please explain the analysis and vetting process for the upcoming national science and social studies standards.
The Constitution assigns education to the states, not to the federal government. Also, the federal General Educational Provisons 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…“ In light of this, please explain why our state has agreed to intense micromanagement by the federal government under Common Core testing.
You may want to read these posts before the meeting.
“Much has been said about Common Core – by those who support it and those who oppose it. To me, the greatest benefit of Common Core is the fact that it has generated an army of parent activists who have educated themselves on the implementation of national standards, USOE regulations, and the data mining of students academic and personal information. We should all take note of the trends taking place in education.” – Utah Senator Margaret Dayton
Students at the Hostos-Lincoln Academy in the Bronx blamed the English exams for making them anxious and sick. Teachers at Public School 152 in Manhattan said they had never seen so many blank stares. Parents at the Earth School in the East Village were so displeased that they organized a boycott. As New York this week became one of the first states to unveil a set of exams grounded in new curricular standards, education leaders are finding that rallying the public behind tougher tests may be more difficult than they expected. Complaints were plentiful: the tests were too long; students were demoralized to the point of tears; teachers were not adequately prepared. Some parents, long skeptical of the emphasis on standardized testing, forbade their children from participating.
The reviews are in, and the consensus among parents, students and teachers is that this year’s NYS/Pearson ELA exams were even worse than expected. The tests were too long, the questions confusing even for teachers, and many students ended up in tears. See just a sample of observations below. Is this what Chancellor Walcott meant when he said, “It’s time to rip the Band-Aid off” , or Regents head Merryl Tisch, when she explained, “We have to just jump into the deep end”? [Note: read the comments for details about these deeply flawed new tests.]
Embedded in this week’s English Language Arts exams are field test questions. They do not count toward the test score. They are being tried out so the publisher can see how the items work and decide which ones to use next year. I wonder if parents should have the right to give or deny permission for their children to participate in what is essentially research for Pearson LLC, the for-profit test publisher?
Pearson is one of the most aggressive companies seeking to profit from what they and others euphemistically call educational reform, but which teachers from groups like Rethinking Schools and FairTest see as an effort to sell, sell, sell substandard remedial education programs seamlessly aligned with the high stakes standardized tests for students and teacher assessments they are also selling. Pearson reported revenues of approximately $9 billion in 2010 and generated approximately $3 billion on just digital revenues in 2011. If it has its way, Pearson will soon be determining what gets taught in schools across the United States with little or no parental or educational oversight.
The British media giant Pearson PLC, whose holdings include Pearson Education, a testing and textbook publishing company that produces the NJASK tests, will receive large subsidies from NY & NJ to relocate 1300 jobs away from its facilities in Upper Saddle River in Bergen Co. NY will give Pearson $50 million in subsidies to move 630 jobs to NYC and NJ will provide $66 in subsidies to relocate 650 jobs to Hoboken.
I’m going to share some email strings from Utah school board members who are pro-common core, and me, and two mathematicians who are opposed to common core on academic grounds.
Ze’ev Wurman: 2010 California Common Core math validation committee member and former Dept. of Education advisor; opposes Common Core.
James Milgram: Stanford and NASA mathematician; served on official common core validation committe and refused to sign off on the academic legitimacy of the Common Core.
Dr. Milgram wrote (responding to a request for clarification about math standards) in a very recent email:
““I can tell you that my main objection to Core Standards, and the reason I didn’t sign off on them was that they did not match up to international expectations. They were at least 2 years behind the practices in the high achieving countries by 7th grade, and, as a number of people have observed, only require partial understanding of what would be the content of a normal, solid, course in Algebra I or Geometry. Moreover, they cover very little of the content of Algebra II, and none of any higher level course… They will not help our children match up to the students in the top foreign countries when it comes to being hired to top level jobs.“
Tami Pyfer: Utah school board member, pro-common core
Dixie Allen: Utah school board member, pro-common core
I am a little confused — From your email yesterday I thought you said that you, Brenda and others at USOE had decided we shouldn’t answer any questions from the Anti-Core patrons. Could you please make sure we know what the expectation is for all of us as Board Members. I had tried to answer anyone that was my constituents and some others, as I felt like it was my job as chair of Curriculum and Standards. But we probably need to know what the expectation is in regard to these questionable emails, etc.
Christel – Here is the specific standard that requires students to know how to convert fractions to decimals. (Fractions are rational numbers, perhaps that’s how you missed it in your examination of the standards.) See (d) and also the sample assessment task at the very bottom which asks kids to convert 2/3 to a decimal using long division.
Board members – Feel free to forward this chart along to legislators, constituents, and others asking you about the incorrect claim that we are not going to be teaching kids to convert fractions to decimals. It’s taken from our Utah Core Math Standards documents. I’ve already sent it to everyone who has emailed me about it.
Hope this helps!
In seventh grade?
My ten year old fourth grader (home schooled) knows how to convert fractions to decimals and ratios. Does the Utah Common Core recommend this skill be taught only at the level of seventh grade? That seems not very “rigorous.”
However, I am happy that it is taught at all. I am glad you found this for me. Thank you.
Please look at exhibit B which is on page 26 of this document, as you will see that in the math review of Common Core, by 2010 California Common Core validation committee member and math expert Ze’ev Wurman, Wurman states that Common Core fails to teach many key math skills along with the one we are discussing. I would love to see your review of his complete review to see if these things are taught, and at what grade levels.
Perhaps Ze’ev was reviewing the non-integrated math portion of Common Core, which as I understand it, only Utah and Vermont have adopted.
Minutes ago, I forwarded to James Milgram a copy of your email about Common Core math. He served on the official common core validation committee, and would not sign off on the academic legitimacy of these standards. Milgram was also a math professor at Stanford University and a NASA consultant.
Dr. Milgram wrote back:
“I can tell you that my main objection to Core Standards, and the reason I didn’t sign off on them was that they did not match up to international expectations. They were at least 2 years behind the practices in the high achieving countries by 7th grade, and, as a number of people have observed, only require partial understanding of what would be the content of a normal, solid, course in Algebra I or Geometry. Moreover, they cover very little of the content of Algebra II, and none of any higher level course… They will not help our children match up to the students in the top foreign countries when it comes to being hired to top level jobs. - Jim Milgram “
Please, return our state to local control of eduation and to academically legitimate, empirically tested standards.
The 7th grade standard Tami refers to is, indeed, the only Common Core standard that deals, at least partially, with converting between representations of fractions:
7. NS. 2.d: Convert a rational number to a decimal using long division; know that the decimal form of a rational number terminates in 0s or eventually repeats.
It only obliquely deals with converting a regular fraction to decimal, with a particular focus on the fact that rational fractions repeat. It does not deal with conversion between fractional forms (representations) per se. Further, it doesn’t deal with conversion of decimals to rational fractions, it does not deal with conversion between decimal fractions and percents and vice versa, and it does not deal with conversion of rational fractions to percent and back. In other words, it deals with only one out of 6 possible conversions. It also does it — as you correctly say — too late, and only obliquely at that.
Compare it to the careful work the NCTM Curriculum Focal Points did on this important issue:
Grade 4: Developing an understanding of decimals, including the connections between fractions and decimalsGrade 6: Developing an understanding of and fluency with multiplication and division of fractions and decimals … They use the relationship between decimals and fractions, as well as the relationship between finite decimals and whole numbers (i.e., a finite decimal multiplied by an appropriate power of 10 is a whole number), to understand and explain the procedures for multiplying and dividing decimals. Grade 7: In grade 4, students used equivalent fractions to determine the decimal representations of fractions that they could represent with terminating decimals. Students now use division to express any fraction as a decimal, including fractions that they must represent with infinite decimals. They find this method useful when working with proportions, especially those involving percents
(Curriculum Focal Points are available from NCTM for a fee, however you can get them for free here)
Here is what the National Research Council had to say about this issue in it’s Adding It Up influential book:
“Perhaps the deepest translation problem in pre-K to grade 8 mathematics concerns the translation between fractional and decimal representations of rational numbers.” (p. 101, Box 3-9)
“An important part of learning about rational numbers is developing a clear sense of what they are. Children need to learn that rational numbers are numbers in the same way that whole numbers are numbers. For children to use rational numbers to solve problems, they need to learn that the same rational number may be represented in different ways, as a fraction, a decimal, or a percent. Fraction concepts and representations need to be related to those of division, measurement, and ratio. Decimal and fractional representations need to be connected and understood. Building these connections takes extensive experience with rational numbers over a substantial period of time.” (p. 415, emphasis added)
(Adding It Up is here. If you register you can download the book rather than read it online)
And here is what the National Math Advisory Panel said on this issue in its final report:
Table 2: Benchmarks for the Critical Foundations (p. 20) … Fluency With Fractions 1) By the end of Grade 4, students should be able to identify and represent fractions and decimals, and compare them on a number line or with other common representations of fractions and decimals. 2) By the end of Grade 5, students should be proficient with comparing fractions and decimals and common percent, and with the addition and subtraction of fractions and decimals.
The NMAP final report can be found here.
All these important and widely acclaimed documents (by both sides) are quite clear that conversion between fractional representation is a critical component of mathematical fluency in K-8, that it takes time to develop, and that developing it should seriously start by grade 4.
Arguing that a single grade 7 standard, which only tangentially and partially addresses this critical fluency, is sufficient as “coverage” is disingenuous, to put it mildly.
Still wondering about a few basic questions that Judy Park says she will not answer. These are simple! Who will answer them?
1.Where’s the evidence that the standards are legitimized by empirical study– that they have helped, not hurt, kids who’ve been the guinea pigs on Common Core?
2.Where’s the study showing that lessening classic literature helps students?
3.Where’s the study showing that not teaching kids how to convert fractions to decimals helps students?
4.Upon what academic studies are we basing the claims that the common core standards are academically legitimate?
5.What parent or teacher in his/her right mind would approve giving away local control to have standards written in D.C. by the NGA/CCSSO?
–Am I being unreasonable here, or is Judy Park? These are our children. These are our tax dollars. Is it too much to ask to see a legitimate foundation for altering the standards so dramatically?
I can’t answer any of your questions with research data — because I don’t have such data — but I can answer your questions as a teacher and administrator in the Public Education System for 26 years and a mother of 4 and a grandmother of 11 (some of which have been in public school and some in private school and some in home school) and a State School Board Member of 11 years.
1. There is no empirical study of the Common Core Standards — rather they have been vetted by college professors in our state and others, specialists at our State Office of Education and others throughout the nation, other specialists outside the educational community, and patrons, parents and teachers around our state who had a voice in the approval of the Core Standards and their recommendations before they were completely adopted by our State Board of Education some 2 1/2 years ago.
2. There is no study that shows we should lessen the study of classic literature, but there are endless recommendations from universities and the job creators of our nation that our students need to learn to read informational text, as well as classic literature. So my hope is that our students are getting a mix of both, but believe that we need to insure that students can read informational text and understand what it says.
3. There is no study that says that converting decimals to fractions and visa versa isn’t an important part of mathematical study. However, there is a great understanding in the educational field that if we don’t start teaching algebraic and geometric understanding early in public education and expect all students to understand these mathematical facts, as well as fractions and decimals, that we will have students who cannot make it through the mathematical courses necessary to graduate from high school and be ready to go to college. As a high school principal, I had 300 students move into Uintah High from 9th grade that had to take remedial mathematics classes, because they had not passed Pre-algebra. All students need to understand basic algebra and geometric calculations.
4. We have based our faith in the Core Standards, based upon the specialists that created them and support their validity in the educational programs for students. I believe after a couple of years of getting these standards to students, that we are seeing improvement in a deeper set of abilities to process information both in mathematics and English/Language Arts. (Of course my proof are my own grandchildren and what teachers share with me.)
5. Local Teachers and parents don’t know everything about what is quality education — and we did not give away the standards to the federal government or Washington, D.C. — we asked experts in the field, at both the national and states levels of instruction to help develop standards that would help all students be Career and College Ready. The world has changed since we were educated and our students need to know different skills to succeed in the new world of technology and world wide companies.
I am so sorry that you feel so strongly about this issue that you have created such turmoil in our state. We are truly trying to do what is best for our students and if you can pinpoint any Core Standard that you feel is problematic or doesn’t help our students be prepared for college or work, please let me know and I will take it to the experts to see what they think and if they agree we will change the standard.
However, I do not plan to throw out the Common Core, as long as I am a State School Board member, because I believe it is a step in the right direction. I will, however, help correct and update any Standard that we feel needs to be revised.
I just saw this today in an email and wanted to share the fact that there are alternatives to common core aligned curricula.
Official Policy of FPE Curriculum on Common Core
In mid-March of 2013, FreedomProject Education was made aware that many homeschool publishers planned to adapt their textbooks to align with Common Core mandates, those national standards developed by Washington D.C. insiders, lobby- ists, and liberal special interest groups, all subsidized by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Upon learning that some of the textbooks currently used in FPE classes were slated for Common Core adaptation, FPE immediately reiterated our staunch commitment to removing any textbook from our curriculum that migrated to Common Core standards. We began an extensive review of our booklists and contacted many publishers and presses directly to ascertain first-hand their posi- tion and plans vis a vis Common Core. FPE also inaugurated a series of free and public Webcasts designed to explain and expose the insidious governmental power grab that is Common Core.
Among the things we discovered in researching our booklists is that a number of our current publishers do indeed plan to adapt their textbooks to Common Core requirements. In many cases this adaptation is in the works for future editions and has yet to manifest itself in the textbooks we currently use. In other instances, certain textbooks have already included elements in preparation for the coming move to Common Core. Further complicating the issue, some of our publishers have been designated by government agencies as “Common Core compliant” without—they claim—having asked for that designation or having taken any steps to adapt their curriculum to Common Core Standards. Our research has found a good deal of dishonesty in these claims, with representatives telling us there will be no incorporation of Common Core, while their very websites tout compliance. These are the realities as we currently find them since our investigation com- mencing in Mid-March 2013.
FPE decided on booklists for the upcoming 2013-2014 academic year in October of 2012, and those lists went out to faculty, current FPE families, and prospective students in early March 2013, two weeks before we learned that some homeschool publishers were adapting to Common Core standards. Given that 1) most of our current textbooks have yet to be altered to reflect specific Common Core guidelines; 2) that we have mailed out hundreds of program guides and distributed thou- sands of fliers listing as required the textbook list established in October 2012; 3) that many current FPE students, as well as new-enrollees for 2013-2014, have already purchased books based on the October 2012 list and will not easily be able to return them; and 4) that many of our teachers need time to adapt their courses to new textbooks that are free of any taint of Common Core ideology; we feel it is in the best interest of all concerned to proceed in the 2013-2014 academic year with the booklists established in October 2012.
Keeping the current roster of books will allow us to avoid the considerable confusion and expense that would occur if we made immediate and precipitous changes. It will also allow FPE to be careful and judicious in selecting alternative Common Core free textbooks for the 2014-2015 academic year. Further, the extra year will allow teachers to both monitor current books for Common Core problems and begin the process of transitioning from current texts to new ones in a methodical and pedagogically sound way. We plan to make each and every FPE teacher aware of any perceived Common Core bias in our current textbooks, to assist them in circumventing these standards, and to encourage them to bring to our attention any instances of infiltration they discover on their own.
We at FPE remain adamantly opposed to the implementation of Common Core in public schools, and under no circum- stances will we tolerate Common Core in our own classrooms moving forward. As we work through the upcoming 2013- 2014 school year, we encourage FPE faculty, families, and students to share with us their opinions about current textbooks and partner with us in being vigilant in opposing all such examples of gross government overreach. We also intend to host a new series of Webcasts in May 2013 that address FPE’s specific plans to counter Common Core and provide an online, homeschool education for America’s children that is free of spin, indoctrination, and cynical government manipulation.
1 (800) 807 7292 750 N. Hickory Farm Lane, Appleton, WI 54914
During the first public meeting on anything Common Core related in Nebo School District it probably should not have come as a surprise to the USOE that there might be a number of intensely inquisitive or disenfranchised parents in attendance… or that their questions might extend beyond the bells and whistles of the new testing software that was being introduced.
This is, after all, part of a broader reform that was set in motion when former Governor Huntsman and Superintendent Harrington signed a Memorandum of Agreement to participate in the National Governor Association’s Common Core State Standards Initiative in the spring of 2009.
Mr. John Jesse, the Assessment Director for the USOE must have felt like he’d been fed to the wolves… or more accurately to bears of the mama and papa variety.
Perhaps feeling caught off guard by the unusual and poorly communicated standards adoption process that required this initial agreement of participation before the standards were even written (recently re-framed by the State School Board as an “exploratory” phase minus the ability to explore), parents were understandably critical of Mr. Jesse’s emphatic claim that these tests were the “best in the United States” and that Utah was a shining example to the rest of the country of all things assessment.
“But, you said these particular assessments haven’t even been written yet, or piloted anywhere, right?” one mother clarified in an attempt to point out the glaring credibility gap of showing the timeline of implementation that is just beginning while at the same time making this emphatic claim.
There were so many questions a decision was made to have parents write their questions on a white board, to be answered at the end, in order to allow Mr. Jesse to complete his presentation (or even complete a sentence) with some coherence.
The introduction to the testing company that Utah has contracted with included the disclaimer, or justification, that a company can be involved with a variety of projects or seek certain societal outcomes that one does not agree with, but it is still okay to use their products that are unrelated.
This was likely intended to pacify or pre-empt concerns about the mission of the testing company, American Institutes of Research (AIR), to promote global values as key supporters of the Clinton Global Initiative, or with their work on issues of mental health and sexuality as applied to children.
In other words, as long as the tests themselves meet the need, it shouldn’t matter that Utah tax payers are giving $39 million to a company whose mission they would not otherwise support.
The main advantages of this software, according to Mr. Jesse, are features to accommodate special needs, i.e. hearing or vision impaired, that it is adaptive (questions each student sees are determined in real time based on previous response) and that the results are instantly available.
He also touted the optional, formative assessment capability that is basically the ability to administer both mini-tests and mini-curriculum from an open source curriculum library that has been developed by AIR and comes pre-loaded with the system. After being pressed on the issue, Mr. Jesse confirmed that student activity while using the formative system is tracked.
A number of teachers attended the meeting as well, and one had to wonder what was going through their minds as Mr. Jesse pointed out at least three times that these tests were not high-stakes tests for children but that they were high-stakes tests for teachers and for schools. (A reference to a law passed in 2012 linking teacher pay and school grading to tests.)
What might an experienced teacher’s reaction be to his explanation of how, with the help of precise statistical analysis by a computer, a teacher could really know if a student was struggling or excelling?
Is there research that substantiates the claim that student-teacher interactions are enhanced and not disrupted by certain applications of technology? This would seem an important reference to offer along with this particular assertion. So often in education assumptions that seem sound based on anecdotal observations have unexpected outcomes or unanticipated side effects.
Mr. Jesse did not touch on the aspect of the tests that might be considered the specialty of AIR, the integration of psychometric predictors – a science that requires far more scrutiny when applied to statewide assessments because of its powerful ability, in combination with statistical data mashing enhanced by the existence of interoperable State Longitudinal Data Systems, to profile individuals and assess “dispositions” without it being apparent in the questions or content of the assessment itself.
He, along with Edward D. Flint Esq. Special Education Attorney at Law, issued the following assertion as part of a longer article addressing this topic:
“Someone, independent of AIR, MUST have access to every single item on the tests being designed in order to insure that absolutely ZERO behavioral indicators are being measured on tests that parents in Utah believe are only measuring “reading, writing and arithmetic.”
As the question portion of the meeting began, Mr. Jesse reiterated his focus on assessments and his inability to answer unrelated questions. He took a head count of parents who expressed concern over the broader reforms related to the Common Core State Standards with the promise to report this to the USOE along with a request that there be another forum in the future for questions to be answered on a broader range of topics.
In response to the concerns related to content and the inaccessibility of the test questions to parents, or regarding the “use of behavioral indicators” (as specified in the section of 2012’s House Bill 115 governing computer adaptive testing) Mr. Jesse said that there would be nothing objectionable in the tests and that the audience should take his word for it, challenging those present to check his references if there were any doubts about his credibility.
This ironically was the straw that, in light of the circumstances already mentioned, broke the proverbial camel’s back in terms of credibility. “Trust me,” is not a phrase that any parent in the state wants to hear from anyone involved in the implementation of any aspect of Common Core right now… nor should it be sufficient regardless of the circumstances when it comes to a parent’s right to vet any program to which their child will be subjected.
As the tone of the meeting further devolved, insults and accusations of misinformation were exchanged leading to an abrupt end to the Q&A.
Mr. Jesse was admittedly put in a tough situation, and the meeting by any account was a disaster.
An informal survey of sentiment afterward garnered reactions that ranged from disappointment over the tone of both presenter and attendees in their remarks, to surprise that the audience had not been even more insistent thatanswers have some verifiable basis other than the word of the person whose job it is to promote the project.
The Federal government has established the National Education Data Model to facilitate state collection and sharing of behavioral, health, psychological, and family data. In 2012, Utah included provisions in law to permit schools to assess “student behavior indicators.” Utah also requires that “Computer Adaptive Tests” (CATs) be used in all Utah schools.
Utah has partnered with behavioral and social science company AIR to provide CAT tests. Utah has stated its intent to upload Utah student data to an AIR database in 2013. Utah plans to keep “SAGE” CAT questions secret from all but fifteen Utah parents. Utah has not disclosed to the public the student data types tracked in Utah’s federally-funded State Longitudinal Data System (SLDS.)
The US Education Department undercut “parental consent” in federal student privacy laws without going through congress “It is the public policy of this state that parents retain the fundamental right and duty to exercise primary control over the care, supervision, upbringing and education of their children.” -Utah Code Title 53A Section 302
National Education Data Model:
Sample from over 400 data points recommended for SLDS
Born Outside of the U.S.
Bus Route ID
Bus Stop Arrival Time
City of Birth
Class Attendance Status
Discontinuing Schooling Reason
Disease, Illness, Health Conditions
Distance From Home to School
Economic Disadvantage Status
Electronic Mail Address
Family Income Range
Family Perceptions of the Impact of Early
Intervention Services on the Child
Family Public Assistance Status
Federal Program Participant Status
Non-school Activity Description
Social Security Number
* A form has been created and is being circulated now, which parents will send to the school and State Superintendent. I will post it when I receive it from Utahns Against Common Core. The form states that the parents of this child withhold permission for the State to track the child’s personally identifiable information. We hope to flood the State Office of Education and the Governor’s Office with these forms to protect children across this state.
– — – — – — –
National Education Data Model, including behavioral, health, & other personal data elements: http://tinyurl.com/cyecjwt.
Utah HB 15 (passed in 2012), line 59: http://tinyurl.com/cxln3wk
Utah HB 15 (passed in 2012), lines 9, 10, 11: http://tinyurl.com/cxln3wk
AIR behavioral testing: tinyurl.com/bp55kxd and behavioral profiling: tinyurl.com/bwfdmnr
Utah contracted with AIR to provide Computer Adaptive Tests: tinyurl.com/cpxuoxk
Utah student data to be uploaded to AIR: tinyurl.com/cujlplf
Utah computer adaptive test questions to be reviewed by appointed panel of 15 out of 700,000 Utah parents (line 22):http://tinyurl.com/cxln3wk
EPIC is challenging changes to the Federal FERPA http://epic.org/apa/ferpa/default.html
“Student Data,” for the purposes of this document includes, but it not limited to, behavioral test question results, and the data elements in the federal government’s National Education Data Model (NEDM), found at tinyurl.com/crd944a. The NEDM includes over 400 student data elements, including those listed above.
The 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution specifies that the federal government must refrain from micromanaging states and outlines a few roles for the federal government (NOT including education) and gives ALL remaining authorities to the states alone. Nothing could be clearer. There is no constitutional authority for the executive branch to be bossing states around as the Department of Education has been doing. (See Cooperative Agreement, Race to the Top, No Child Left Behind, Sec. Duncan speeches)
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…”
Utah mom Alyson Williams has also pointed out that our state is represented on our national stage, for federal issues, by our Congressional representatives: Mike Lee, Jason Chaffetz, Rob Bishop, etc.
It is not the job of Governor Herbert to represent us on the national stage. His role is to govern inside Utah.
But because the power hungry executive branch (Arne Duncan) realizes that no “employee of the United States” may “exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction,” Governors have been used as brokers. Governors have been flattered into membership in the PRIVATE (not elected, not taxpayer-accountable, not transparent) NATIONAL GOVERNORS’ ASSOCIATION (NGA). This NGA has combined with the CCSSO to write the national standards. And to copyright them. Behind closed doors. Without voter input.
The NGA and CCSSO have been pawns in the Department of Education’s hands to get around the illegal brokering of education.
And why? Simply for power and money. (This was never about improving education; if it had been, there would have been legitimacy and empirical study attached to the adoption of the academically fraudulent Common Core.)
The executive branch wanted increased power and access to citizen data. The corporate world wanted the money flow that comes from monopolizing a nation’s curriculum. And so the corporate world created partnerships with the federal government and “philanthropically” gave enormous grant funds to the NGA/CCSSO and other common core promoters, to get control of the educational sales market.
2. The federal mandate that testing consoria must synchronize “across consortia,” that status updates and phone conferences must be made available to the Dept. of Education regularly, and that data collected must be shared with the federal government “on an ongoing basis”
3. The recent federal alteration of privacy laws that have taken away parental consent over student data collection to ensure easier access for multiple agencies and “research” vendors to student data.
4. At our Utah State Office of Education website you can find this and other “federal accountability” topics: “The Utah Comprehensive Accountability System (UCAS) is the state and federal accountability system” Why?
Why do we put up with “federal accountability” given what the laws of the land says about the states having a sovereign right to direct education?!
His office in an email sent late this afternoon document the steps the Obama administration has taken to push states to adopt the Common Core.
Making adoption of Common Core a pre-requisite for a state even being able to compete for Race to the Top funds.
Directly funding the two assessment consortia developing tests aligned to Common Core using Race to the Top funds.
Assembling a panel to review the work of the two assessment consortia.
Making implementation of Common Core or coordination with Common Core a funding priority for other, unrelated competitive grants administered by the Department of Education.
Making participation in Common Core essentially a prerequisite for being awarded a waiver from the Department of requirements in the No Child Left Behind Act.
The email said, “This means no more Race to the Top funds in support of Common Core or the assessments aligned with Common Core and stopping further federal review of the assessments produced by the two consortiums. It also means that the Department could not penalize a state that chooses to leave Common Core by revoking its NCLB waiver. The deadline for senators to sign on this letter is April 25 so it can reach the subcommittee in time to be considered. “
Why is a Pearson and Gates combination a nightmare for America, for anyone who cares about competitive free enterprise, constitutional rights regarding education, and local control?
First, a few facts:
1. Pearson, led by Sir Michael Barber, is the biggest education product sales company on earth.
2. Bill Gates is the second richest man on earth, a man who has almost single-handedly funded and marketed the entire Common Core movement.
Gates previously partnered with UNESCO to bring a master curriculum worldwide in his “Education For All” program. Gates openly values extreme socialism and says that it’s much better than American constitutional government. Listen to Gates at minute 6:20 on this clip. Gates says, “We’ll only know this works when the curriculum and the tests are aligned to these standards.”
Pearson’s CEA is Sir Michael Barber, a man whose company colludes with governments worldwide in public-private-partnerships (soft fascism) and believes that children’s data should be gathered on a global scale. Barber pushes his version of “sustainable educational revolution,” worldwide, explaining that sustainable education reforms mean “it can never go back to how it was.” See his speeches on YouTube and his Twitter feeds.
These two mega forces for globalizing and standardizing education have now come together.
“This is something that’s been missing in all the policy statements on the common core: a sequential curriculum,” Dr. Neuman said. But she worries that Pearson has few rivals.
“Pearson already dominates, and this could take it to the extreme,” she said. “This could be problematic for many of our kids. We could get a one size fits all.”
So when my state school board says that Common Core is just a set of minimum standards, not a curriculum, I will point them to this: the biggest monopolizer of textbooks, technologies and teacher training–Pearson– has now partnered with one of the wealthiest foundations on earth to create a one size fits all curriculum.
Where will private schools and others go to buy books, who don’t want Common Core-aligned curriculum? How will others stay in business with such huge competition?
Thank you, Pastor John of Maryland, for your words:
“We need more teachers to speak out.
As a Pastor I have joined the fight in Maryland to get the word out about Common Core. Today 6 of us spoke at a School Board meeting and were told by the Board President that they are going to put Common Core on the agenda for the next meeting so more time can be spent on it.
Pray for our efforts in Maryland.
Keep up the fight to expose U.S. Dept. of Ed’s agenda to control and indoctrinate our children with an amoral, progressive, globalist agenda at the expense of our liberties and our tax dollars.
This must be stopped. This must become our Alamo!”
Notable highlights: She calls Common Core ”such a significant shift and focus in our educational system.” Yes, it is. But not for the better.
She admits the Common Core allows much less classic literature/stories and increases informational text in its place. She does not address how this shift will affect students’ love for reading!
She does not talk about the horrors of the new math and the delays of the times at which children are taught to use algorithms that actually work. (Algorithm = how to quickly multiply, how to add or subtract or divide– used to be lower elementary, now it’s late elementary age)
She uses the term “internationally benchmarked” standards, as if she is unaware that that’s a flat-out lie. (For example, the Asian Tiger countries –recognized math gurus– teach algebra years before Common Core does, at about eighth grade, which is what Utah USED TO DO, BEFORE COMMON CORE! See Ze’ev Wurman’s and James Milgram’s math reviews.)
Arizona’s superintendent goes on:
@ 9:59 “But what’s critically important if we’re going to be effective are the additional wrap-around services that are provided…” This means the wrap-around services that have nothing to do with school at all– mental health interventions, government food, rides to school, provision of health care, etc. This brings to mind U.S. Secretary of Education Duncan’s vision of no-weekends off, no time off for summer; a totally school-centered life, the opposite of what most of us believe in– family centered life.
It’s socialism– where parents and their provision of service, love, learning and values, become irrelevant. Here’s more:
@ 10:40 “It becomes absolutely essential in our K-12 system that we have the additional support systems available for all students… that requires us to look at differentiated instruction… “Time on task: How important will extended learning time be for some students?…And again, how committed are we to making sure that all of our students graduate ready for post-secondary? That will require some additional reforms in K12…”
“school is… starting to look and sound very different. I encourage parents to stay the course… and learn to listen to diverse ways of thinking.” Listen. Why not have the school establishments listen to parents? These are our children and our tax dollars yet we are being told to be quiet and listen.
The superintendent says it’s so important that all students leave high school prepared for postsecondary learning. – SO THEN WHY TAKE AWAY CLASSIC LITERATURE? WHY TAKE AWAY LEGITIMATE MATH? WHY TAKE AWAY NARRATIVE WRITING? WHY SLOW DOWN THE TIME THAT CHILDREN LEARN ALGORITHMS?
Yes. I know that writing in all caps is a form of shouting.
Feel free to use this letter if it helps. I sent it today. If others wish to add their voices to mine, the board’s email is : Board@schools.utah.gov.
The Governor needs to hear from us, too.
Dear USOE and State School Board,
Parents and teachers like me are so very tired of reading lies about Common Core, which are stated (and published) repeatedly by the USOE and Utah State School Board, and which are then replicated across school district websites all over Utah. I’m writing to ask you to provide references to prove the claims are honest– or remove the claims. One or the other.
We’re tired of being told, for example, that there is a Utah Core. Most people do know that it’s the Common Core for Math and English. It’s misleading to say “Utah Core” unless you are talking about P.E. or history or other standards.
Some of you have not done much research about Common Core and you have been fed only the claims given you by Common Core proponents –such as Pearson, Wireless Generation, Bill Gates, and others, who stand to make a lot of money implementing Common Core.
You read Gates’ own publication, Education Week. You listen to the groups Gates has paid (bribed) to advocate for the untested experiment of Common Core, including the national PTA, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National Governor’s Association, the Harvard Newsletter, Manhattan Institute, Fordham Foundation and others. Gates admitted in a NY Times interview that he spent $5 Billion– billion– dollars pushing HIS version of education reform. So the marketing has been good. But the product is defective. You of all groups ought to study this thoroughly.
Sometimes people forward their emails from you to me. I am aghast at the unreferenced, untrue responses, such as “Common Core is an improvement” and “We still have local and parental control” and “We aren’t spending money on Common Core that we wouldn’t already be spending on education standards,” and “Common Core is academically rigorous.” These are absurd statements to anyone who has done their homework on Common Core.
Why not provide references for your ongoing claims to increase your trustworthiness in the public eye? If you are telling the truth, please show us. If not, it’s time to ‘fess up.
Parents deserve referenced truth. These are our kids. These are our tax dollars. And you are not telling the truth: that Common Core is an unproven, unwanted experiment –for which you’re using kids as guinea pigs.
The standards are not Utah’s. And they are not academically nor constitutionally legitimate. If I am wrong, please show me.
In education, as in medicine, the motto should be “First Do No Harm.”
Where is the evidence that Common Core standards are not harming our students? Where is the empirical data upon which this transformative alteration to Utah education was based?
More specifically, can you point me to a study that shows that not teaching kids how to convert fractions to decimals is better college prep in the long run? Where is the study that shows that lessening the teaching of classic literature and of narrative writing is going to benefit children as adults? Where is the proven, long term study that shows that informational text is more beneficial than classic literature?
If there is no such research, then why on earth have you foisted this hogwash on our kids– and called it “rigorous”!?!!
It does not even make sense. Rigorous? Running a mile is rigorous to a couch potato but it’s a dumbing down to an athlete. One size fits all can never be accurately described as “rigorous” and I pray you will quit abusing that word across our good state.
The adoption of Common Core is, ironically, dataless decisionmaking. It is decision making based on the wealth and influence of extreme politics, not based on the American principle of voter representation and local public vetting.
Where is the proof to back up the claim that Common Core is state-led? How can it be state-led when nobody in the state even knows about it? No legislator has a clue. No school board except the state school board was ever allowed to vet or vote upon this huge change to education. How can it be state-led when it’s written behind the closed doors of the NGA/CCSSO and there’s no amendment process?
Where is the proof that the Common Core is academically legitimate? We know it was developed by noneducators: David Coleman, the NGA and the CCSSO. We know it was most heavily funded and promoted by noneducators. We know it has been politically hijacked by the Dept. of Education and that Obama and Sec. Duncan claim to have given it to states (further crushing the claim that it was state-led). We have endless references for these things. Yet this board and office continually fails to provide a shred of evidence for its Common Core promoting claims.
I find this to be a terrible example to the rest of the educators and students of this state.
If I were teaching an English class today, would I say to my students, “Oh– you didn’t provide references in your research paper? Well, no big deal. Neither does the Utah State Office of Education or the State School Board” ?
Where is the proof that Utah still has control of her education system? There’s a solid copyright on the Common Core. There’s a 15% no-alteration rule. Ridiculous. That is the opposite of local control.
If Utah wants to teach sky-high, way past the mediocre Common Core, 15% does not cut it. If Utah wants to prevent corporate researchers, hackers or the federal government from accessing private student data collected in the State Longitudinal Database System (which we all know is interoperable with the federal database, and was paid for by the federal government and is modeled after their desires, not ours) — we cannot protect our kids’ privacy. Because the Common Core tests will collect all the information and will track the kids in the P-20 and SLDS. This is common knowledge today. By remaining in Common Core, you tie parents’ hands behind their backs. No parents can opt their children out of the SLDS tracking. This is unacceptable!
Common Core Standards, tests and data collecting tentacles are a tragic, horrific joke and as you know, the people who will suffer most are the children and the teachers.
For what is far from the first, and likely far from the last time, I implore you to please answer these issues with references.
If you can’t, then your duty to the people of Utah is to get us out of Common Core.
I’m posting an update for Utah parents who can and should attend the public meetings in their areas to pose questions about Common Core to the presenters from the Utah State Office of Education. http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/event-calendar/ This link will show addresses, dates and times if you click on the name of the district. This week will feature Logan, Weber, Juab, Nebo and Bountiful district meetings. Next week: Davis, Uintah, North Ogden, Payson. Then it’s South Utah County. Coming Up:
April 16, 2013 @ 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm – LOGAN DISTRICT - Logan District Office, Board Room 101 West Center Street Logan, UT USA
April 16, 2013 @ 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm – WEBER DISTRICT - District Office, Board Room 5320 Adams Avenue Parkway Ogden,UT 84405
Don’t tweet? Don’t fret. Watch coverage of the #stopcommoncore Twitter Rally via On Point Broadcasting- complete with a pre- and post- show. Log in to watch at 11am EST today. http://www.onpointbroadcasting.com\onpointtv
Call ExxonMobil at 972-444-1000 and leave a message to protest the Common Core TV Ads. We know Common Core is a cash cow for many companies, but it’s at legitimate education’s expense. Please protest. Here’s the ad: http://youtu.be/FM_G4Y7SX3g