Archive for the ‘Alisa Ellis’ Tag
USA Today has published an op-ed by Emmett McGroarty. The author quotes Alisa Ellis of Utah and Anne Gassel of Missouri, parents who typify the Mama and Papa bears in opposing Common Core.
From Alisa Ellis: “Administrators want parents like me to step back and be quiet, but we will not. These are my children, and my voice will be heard.”
From Anne Gassel: “Parents and their legislators were cut out of the loop. Even now we can’t get straight answers.”
McGroarty also writes that “Although Common Core is regularly described as “state-led,” its authors are private entities, which are not subject to sunshine laws, open meetings or other marks of a state-led effort.”
The author also points out that the federal government gave states the incentive to adopt the Common Core and to use aligned, federally funded standardized tests which, “with teacher evaluations geared to them, will act as an enforcement mechanism.”
McGroarty points out that Bill Gates has told the National Conference of State Legislatures that this is more than minimal standards: “When the tests are aligned to the common standards, the curriculum will line up as well — and that will unleash powerful market forces in the service of better teaching.”
Lastly, McGroarty points out that while Common Core developers claim the standards are “research and evidence based,” “rigorous” and “internationally bench-marked,” that’s not true:
He quotes Professor Sandra Stotsky, a member of the official Common Core validation committee, who wrote that the English standards of Common Core actually “weaken the basis of literary and cultural knowledge needed for authentic college coursework.” He also quotes Stanford professor James Milgram who concluded that the math standards “are actually two or more years behind international expectations by eighth grade, and only fall further behind as they talk about grades eight to 12,” and who also wrote that Common Core math doesn’t even fully cover the material in a solid geometry or second-year algebra course.
Read the rest of the article here: http://m.usatoday.com/article/news/2413553
Thank you, Emmett McGroarty, for pointing out the awful, hidden truth about Common Core, and for supporting parents in our quest to reclaim authority over what our own children will learn in our local schools.
Today, Utah Stories magazine interviewed Alisa, Renee and me. Here’s the clip.
Last night, the Rod Arquette radio show discussed Common Core again with Alisa Ellis speaking. Here’s the podcast.
Remember Inigo Montoya’s quote in The Princess Bride? ”You keep using that word; I do not think it means what you think it means.”
The way that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and the writers of the education chapters of the United Nations’ Agenda 21, use words, remind me of that quote –continually.
They keep using these words. I do not think they mean what we think they mean.
Examples of words that mean the exact opposite of how they sound:
- “social justice” – it really means stealing, the “redistribution of weath”
- “college and career readiness” – it really means Common Core, having the exact same standards as virtually everyone else on earth (See Ed.gov definitions: http://www.ed.gov/race-top/district-competition/definitions
- “accountability” – it really means top-down control, not mutual accountability
- “world class education” – it really means having the same –which is mediocre at best– the same education as every other country in the world
- “globally competent” – it really means acting out the “sustainable development” agenda which seeks to erase individual sovereignty.
- “teacher improvement” – it really means getting rid of the teachers –and teachings– that do not agree with the fanatical “sustainable development” agenda, as agreed upon by the United Nations and the U.S. Department of Education.
Alisa Ellis made this last point, about “teacher improvement” in her talk. –Among many, many other important things.
If you live in Utah, please come to this informational meeting about Common Core at the Provo Library next week.
Keeping Kids Safe is Bill Wardell’s radio show. He invited Alisa Ellis, Renee Braddy and I on his show today to discuss data privacy issues, Common Core national education, and what most parents do not know about Common Core.
(This one’s Jenni White, of Oklahoma’s Restore Oklahoma Public Education)
(This one is today’s GooglePlus Hangout –about Sir Michael Barber, Pearson and Common Core– with Alisa Ellis, Renee Braddy, and me (Christel)
(This one is the video Renee Braddy and Alisa Ellis made before I’d even met them; in fact, watching this video brought me into the anti-Common Core fight.)
(This one is Red Meat Radio’s Utah interview with Boston’s Jamie Gass of Pioneer Institute)
(This one is a radio show interviewing Heather Crossin of Indiana)
(This one Impact, a Heber, Utah radio show, with Bob Wren and Paul Royall interviewing Renee Braddy and me (Christel).
(This one’s Professor John Seddon, speaking to California State University faculty on why they will ruin education if they use Sir Michael Barber’s “Deliverology” methodology, which harmed the UK.)
This one’s Sir Michael Barber, speaking at the August 2012 Education Summit about how education reform is a global, not a local, control issue; and that every child in every country should learn exactly the same thing, and that all learning in every land should be underpinned by one “ethic,” that of environmental sustainability. See 2:55- 5:30 at least.
(This one’s me speaking to the Heber City Council about “Communities That Care” as a federally controlled, top-down, agenda-laden program we don’t want in Heber.
(This one is Jenni White of Oklahoma’s ROPE (Restore Oklahoma Public Education) being interviewed by the three moms about P-20 councils, data collection via schools, and common core.)
(This one’s Jenni White’s presentation about Common Core to Oklahoma legislature)
What’s going on with so many Utahns joining the fight for educational freedom, the fight against a federal “Common Core”?
When we signed the petition –along with over two thousand, so far, who have signed the petition at Utahns Against Common Core– what were we asking for?
In short: higher, more constitutionally based (state-not-federally-controlled) educational standards.
- We have asked the Governor, State Board of Education, and State Superintendent to take the steps necessary to rescind Common Core adoption, the Race to the Top application, the No Child Left Behind waiver, the use of SBAC/PARCC federally monitored testing and data collection, and all other requirements upon the state that are related to these, and return Utah to higher, independent, non-federal education standards.
- We have requested the Utah Attorney General in conjunction with the Federalism Subcommittee of the Constitutional Defense Council, to review all documentation related to such applications and contracts as mentioned above to ensure our state sovereignty is held inviolate. We further requested that this review of programs, documents, and applications, include an examination to ensure no private or personal information about students is transmitted outside of local schools and districts, despite the U.S. Dept. of Education’s and Utah Data Alliance’s efforts to the contrary.
- Because the Utah State Board of Education adopted Common Core State Standards before they were even finalized, failed to perform a cost analysis related to statewide adoption, and failed to hold public meetings where citizens could review the actual standards prior to adoption, we have asked that a liberty-minded, academically solid educational committee (not the USOE or USSB) be authorized to rewrite Utah’s current standards through a well-developed and transparent process that includes numerous public hearings and input from committees that utilizes knowledge-based, academic, clearly worded, grade-level specific, measurable standards from other states (such as liberty-minded Texas, Virginia and the impressive pre-common core Massachusetts) as models.
- We want to give individual schools and districts full local control with the ability to adopt their own high standards, assessments, and research-based curriculum to encourage and allow for greater parental participation in the education system.
- We aim for legislators and citizens to develop a 5-year plan to get Utah off all federal funding of education, and if the federal government threatens to pull non-education related funding away from the state as we pursue this course, that this knowledge should be made public and fought with the assistance of the state Attorney General.
- We have asked legislators to craft laws that will strengthen privacy rights and parental consent rules, and make sharing of personal student data with any state or federal entity a crime both for the one disseminating and the recipient who requested personal information.
If you agree, you can:
Please sign the petition at http://utahnsagainstcommoncore.com .
Please write and/or call our Governor, Lt. Governor, Legislators, the USOE, UEN, and local and State School Board (Board@schools.utah.gov )
Christel Swasey, Renee Braddy, Alisa Ellis:
Three Heber City Moms
Great editorial from Heartland in Chicago, reposted:
Common Core Rollout Draws Parental Opposition Nationwide
By Robert Holland
As schools open this fall, battle lines are forming over the rollout of Common Core (CC) national standards, the specifics of which have only recently started coming to public attention.
On paper, the fight would appear to be a mismatch.
You have on the pro-CC side:
- The Obama-led U.S. Department of Education, the agency with the fastest-growing discretionary spending in the federal government (now approaching $70 billion) and a matching itch to dictate.
- Achieve, the corporate-led outfit that started marshaling big-business clout behind national standards in 1996, during the Clinton years.
- Inside-the-Beltway organizations such as the Best Practices Center of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, which sponsored the handpicked Common Core writers.
- Not least, Microsoft magnate Bill Gates, whose foundation has pumped tens of millions of dollars over the past decade into educationist organizations, including the teachers unions, that back the Common Core agenda. Gates has gone even further by subsidizing think tanks on both sides of the education-reform divide in clear hopes of winning favor for the Common Core, which is to be linked with national tests administered online.
And on the anti-CC side of the battle, you have:
There are some dads, too, but moms are leading the anti-Common Core charge in a growing number of states. And by no means are they all conservatives.
Never underestimate the power of moms. Common Core opponents recently celebrated a possible harbinger of victories to come when the Utah Board of Education voted 12-3 to back out of the state’s membership in a federally funded consortium that is drafting a national test that will be linked with the Common Core.
In a similar reversal, Indiana schools Superintendent Tony Bennett, who had previously crowed about the state’s being in step with Washington on Common Core, reversed course and unleashed strong criticism of the Obama administration at a recent Tea Party gathering. “This administration,” said Bennett, “has an insatiable appetite for federal overreach. The federal government’s involvement in these standards is wrong.”
Interviews with activist moms in Utah, Indiana, and Georgia–just three of several hotbeds of opposition–indicated they all abhor the federal power grab, and they have other concerns in common. These include: the way parents have been kept in the dark about radical changes in their kids’ instruction, the heavy involvement of special-interest groups that are unaccountable to the public, and the mediocre quality of the national English and math standards.
Some subject-matter specialists have pegged the reading level of CC high-school English at the 7th grade, with a drastic de-emphasis of classic literature in favor of workforce-oriented material. And they say the definition of “college-readiness” in CC math corresponds with a nonselective community college, not a university.
In Indiana, Heather Crossin and Erin Tuttle are among the Hoosier parents who got an early warning last fall when their children brought home math worksheets and books they recognized as being of the “fuzzy” genre. Parental complaints resulted in a salesman for the text (Pearson’s enVision Math) coming to inform the parents “how lucky they were” to be getting one of the nation’s first Common Core-aligned textbooks.
Fired up, the two moms did their research and eventually began speaking to dozens of grassroots groups.
“We have found that most Hoosiers, including most legislators, have never heard of the Common Core until just recently,” Crossin said. “The majority of the teachers we have spoken to are just now being asked to transition to the Common Core, and they say they don’t like it. They cite the lack of clarity and quality.”
In Utah, Alisa Ellis is actively involved in the public schools six of her seven children attend. She says she “did not hear about this new direction until a year after we had adopted the standards.” As more parents learn for the first time what’s happening, “Our numbers keep growing. We have over 2,000 signatures on a petition, plus a dozen or so organizations that have signed.”
A parent-activist in Georgia, Sherena Arrington, is not optimistic the battle will be won soon, given that “taxpayers have yet to understand that their rights to representation in the educational policies of this state are being stolen from them.”
In many respects, the current moms-versus-monolith battle resembles that of the 1990s, when forces aligned with the federal Goals 2000 movement sought to force a national School-to-Work curriculum on all schools. Moms slowed down the juggernaut then. Don’t bet against them stopping it this time.
Robert Holland (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior fellow for education policy at The Heartland Institute, and author of Not With My Child, You Don’t (1995), a book about the parents’ revolt against nationalized K-12 education.
There is still plenty o’confusion in the state of Utah. Lawmakers are realizing that due to the Utah Constitution’s giving authority to the Board to determine educational issues, they are almost powerless (except to defund Common Core). The board seems skittish and embarrassed now that so many of us know the new standards are inferior and that our freedoms have been traded for what started out as a way to increase Utah’s chance at a federal education grant during an economic low. And some on the USOE and state school board ship seem to be steering toward the possibility of purchasing SBAC tests despite the fact that Utah just voted to cut membership ties with SBAC.
The board now admits it’s a federal program. Lawmakers are not fully aware yet of all aspects of Common Core, while the Board is digging in their heels about giving any references for their claims of increased rigor or local control.
It’s a great drama, but a sad one.
Illustration: After the meeting, Alisa Ellis and I asked School Board Chair Debra Roberts if we might get a chance to sit down and talk with her about all of this. She said, “We’ve already wasted $10,000 in Board time as this group has been sitting down with us so much.”
Really? We asked who they have actually been talking/sitting with. (I’ve never had the opportunity, but would like it. I have had the majority of my many emails ignored and was told “no” to a sit-down conference with USOE lawyer Carol Lear.)
Chair Roberts said, “Well, we’ve sat with Christel many times.” Hmm. I said, “I am Christel. And that is not true.”
She insisted it was. So, I asked who said that they had sat and talked with me. She didn’t say. I said that somebody has misinformed you or somebody needs to take a lie detector test.
She hurried away, refusing to even discuss sitting down with us. So did Superintendent Shumway. Strange. The board now seems afraid of the truth that might come out during a legitimate discussion with an educated citizen, and they simply will not give references for their claims nor will they sit down and talk like gentlemen. Or gentlewomen.
Both the Tribune and the Deseret News covered the historic meeting of the House and Senate Education Committee on Common Core at the State Capitol yesterday. But they failed to report on some of the more fascinating moments.
Like what? Well, they skipped the Data Alliance’s data-mashing discussion and skipped the probing questions legislators directed toward both the pro-Common Core, such as Utah Superintendent Larry Shumway (and his staff) and to the visiting experts who testified at the meeting, the heroes of Utah’s day:
Jim Stergios of the Boston-based Pioneer Institute and Ted Rebarber of the D.C. -based AccountabilityWorks
The papers also totally blew the hilarious part, where Rep. Moss’ rhetorical questions got “Yes!”es –called out by several audience members including me, after Rep. Moss asked, “Have these people even read the standards? Are they English teachers? Do they have Master’s Degrees?”
So, here are links to the local newspapers’ coverage of the event:
And here’s my version. Photos first, details follow.
Senator Howard Stephenson: he said if he were “the king of Utah,” he would follow the recommendation of the visiting education experts.
Representative Francis Gibson: he asked Stergios and Rebarber to clarify whether it was true that Massachusetts had had the highest educational standards in the nation [and had tested as an independent country, ranking in the top six internationally] before they dropped their standards to adopt Common Core. You could have heard a pin drop. Stergios answered: it was the very reason a Massachusetts scholar traveled to Utah to testify against Common Core.
Rebarber and Stergios: Why not brand Utah as the great state with courage to be independent of federal manipulation via Common Core?
Jim Stergios and Ted Rebarber have agreed to share written copies of their ten minute testimonies to the Utah legislature, but until I get a copy, here are a just few bullet points:
- The quality of the Common Core standards is mediocre. Cutting classic literature to make room for informational texts has been said by Dr. Sandra Stotsky to be weakening college prep, taking away from the richer and broader vocabulary of classic literature.
- The math standards are less rigorous; for example, they place Alg. I in high school rather than in middle school. Math lacks a coherent grade by grade progression. The Common Core experimental approach to teaching geometry has never been successfully piloted in the world.
- Stergios quoted Jason Zimba, math architect for Common Core, who said that passing the Common Core test in math will only show a student is prepared to enter a nonselective community college.
- Stergios said that CCSSO administrator Gene Wilhoit’s recent statement to the Utah School Board that “there’s no Common Core police,” is misleading. Stergios said that gentlemen’s agreements quickly become mandates, as the pattern of the Dept. of Education’s recent history shows. It is best to rely on what is in writing.
- Stergios mentioned the Race to the Top for DISTRICTS, which is brand new. This shows zero respect for state authority over education. There is a steady pattern of encroachment by the federal government on education.
- Common Core did not have adequate deliberation; after a 2 day approval and no public input, Utah adopted Common Core. Even Fordham Institute, a pro-common core think tank, rated Utah math standards higher prior to adoption of Common Core.
- Stergios said Utah should brand itself as independent, thus attracting more talent and economic growth by reversing the adoption of Common Core.
- Legislators hold the purse. There’s a separation of powers between the legislature and the State School Board, which holds the authority over determining standards. There’s also the Constitutional principle of checks and balances. The ESEA waiver shows the federal arm is tying funds to adoption of Common Core –or to a college program that the Dept. of Ed must approve. If legislators don’t approve of either the experimental, inferior aspect, or the federally-promoted aspect of the standards, they can withhold all Common Core funding. The school board will have to create independent standards.
- NAPE tests provide national results; SAT and ACT do not. They are only used by certain states, not all.
- SBAC’s passing scores are non-negotiable; the purpose is to define what proficient means. Utah can’t affect SBAC.
- Federal Dept of Education has herded states into a set of standards. The benefits for collaboration are over when all have the same standards, whether you call them Utah Core or Common Core. It is the same.
- Texas’ Robert Scott has said he would love to do collaborative work with other states, creating an item bank rather than exact common tests. There are other approaches and ways that don’t require everyone to be the very same.
- The legislature has a duty to protect the right of Utah citizens not to give up education to federal control. Protecting state sovereignty is a legitimate concern.
Of the nearly packed to capacity room, who spoke up or asked questions? Several lawmakers:
Rep. Ken Sumison:
Who spoke up from the Utah Data Alliance and NCES? One man:
And who spoke at lennnnggggth from the Utah State School Board?
Superintendent Larry Shumway
Assistant Superintendent Judy Park
(who used the word “thrilled” multiple times in the same sentence as “sharing with the Department of Education”)
–and Utah State School Board Chair Debra Roberts:
Chair Roberts said: “I don’t care what the federal government has to say…I will listen to Utah educators.” (But she refuses to speak for even five minutes to educators like me, who oppose Common Core. )
Others in the audience (non-speaking roles) included:
The Honorable Judge Norman Jackson: (who has thoroughly reviewed the legal aspects of Common Core and based on his assessment, recommended Utah reject Common Core)
Rep. Kraig Powell
who has been studying both sides of Common Core with interest
And the pro-freedom in education activist, Alisa Ellis, with many more citizens against Common Core restraints:
So, with the exception Aaron Osmond –who says he’s to the point of nausea because of how much he’s had to face Common Core controversy –most legislators and citizens and teachers still don’t understand what Common Core is. I make this judgement from having heard very important, basic questions asked by legislators.
Sen. Stephenson, Rep. Gibson, Rep. Nielsen, Rep. Moss, Rep. Christianson, Rep. Sumison and others asked good, probing questions and made clear, excellent points, such as Rep. Sumison’s “Whoever pays, makes the rules.” (He wasn’t referring to the fact that the legislators hold the Utah public purse, but to the fact that the federal government has financially incentivized Common Core.)
–I’ll get to the rest of the legislators in a minute.
First, all in the audience had to trudge through almost two hours of the Pro-Common Core Show led by Superintendent Larry Shumway and Judy Park.
Park reported on the No Child Left Behind waiver. Dr. Park bubbled and gushed about what she called her “thrill of sharing Utah’s work with the Department of ED” in applying for No Child Left Behind. She used the word “sharing” and “thrilled” multiple times. Superintendent Shumway said that he was “offended” that people “in this room” have implied that he gets something out of sitting on boards outside Utah other than providing a helpful service. He said he receives no pay for sitting on the board of CCSSO (The Council of Chief State School Officers). He did not mention another board he sits on, WestEd, which is the test writer for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).
John Brandt and his staffer said the Utah Data Alliance is no threat to citizen privacy, although, he chuckled, ”there are no guarantees,” and he admitted that ”about 10 people will have clearance to access personally identifiable” citizen information.
The Q + A:
So: What did the legislators want to know? What did the pro and con answerers say?
When Rep. Moss asked her rhetorical questions and got “Yes!”es shouted out in response, Superintendent Shumway answered her, too: “Standards set a base line. Standards don’t set a cap.” (I thought: Really? What does the 15% speed limit on learning set by the Dept of Education, and copyrighted by NGA/CCSSO, do– if it does not cap our rights to educate as we see fit? Please.)
When Rep. Stephenson pointed to the academic reviews of Common Core that are unfavorable to the school board’s claims that the standards will increase rigor and strengthen legitimate college prep, Superintendent Shumway deflected the question. Waving aside official reviews by actual members of the only official national Common Core Validation Committee, professors who refused to sign off on the Common Core standards as being adequate, Superintendent Shumway said: “there’s no dearth of documents.” (The referenced reviews of Dr. Sandra Stotsky on English and by Dr. James Milgam on math are available in Exhibit A and B here: http://pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120510_ControllingEducation.pdf and in many other places.
Rep. Christensen said he wants Utah to be independent and said, “Education is a local matter.” He was troubled by the”implicit recognition of federal supremacy,” illustrated by the majority of states having asked the federal government for waivers from No Child Left Behind. He added, “We’re going down a road” he is not happy about, illustrated by the fact he cited: a school board member said Utah had paid a $90,000 fine for noncompliance with No Child Left Behind.
In response, Superintendent Shumway said that there were various disclaimers in the No Child Left Behind application.
Rep. Nielsen asked if it was true that by 7th grade, under Common Core math, students would be two years behind world class standards. Jim Stergios responded that indeed, Common Core was a step backward for Utah, but it would be closer to one year behind. For other states, Common Core brings math standards back two years.
Rep. Nielsen stated concerns about local control, saying that the U.S. Dept of Education uses terms like “allows” this and “allows” that. Sup. Shumway responded that “We are navigating through compliated waters.”
Sen. Osmond and Sen. Stephenson asked cost-related questions: hadn’t Utah already borne the brunt of the online costs for technology to match Common Core? Ted Rebarber answered that the state should do a cost analysis as other states have done. Common Core requires transformative realignment to the national standards. Rebarber asked, “Why do it?” –Since the cost/benefit analysis shows Utah is giving away state authority while adding costs, for inferior standards or at best, very similar to previously held, state standards.
Sen. Stephenson asked about the “legitimate concerns about abandoning what districts are doing” concerning assessments. Sup. Shumway said, “We haven’t preselected any vendor [for testing]. We were careful not to create requirements that would exclude anyone.” Shumway invited any Utahn to go to schools.utah.gov and click on “popular links” and submit input on specific standards that Utahns find problematic. He said these must be academically central comments, not comments about state sovereignty over education.
Several legislators questioned the timing of simultaneously asking the public for feedback to change the standards when the test Request for Proposals (RFP) has already been written and the SBAC has long been in the test writing process. How could Utah’s changed standards match? (I would add, how do you think we’re going to get away with changing more than 15% of our standards when it’s copyrighted and the Dept. of Ed. is aiming for seamless commonality between states?)
Sup. Shumway said that the timetables are challenging.
Both Rep. Nielsen and Rep. Christensen were concerned with the costs of Common Core and the state longitudinal data system (SLDS), costs which have not been studied by Utah. The SLDS grant will run out in 2013.
Utah Technology Director John Brandt responded that he hoped the legislature would continue to fund SLDS, ”this valuable tool.”
Valuable tool for whom? Children? Parents? Freedom lovers? –Excuse me while I run screaming from the room and cross-stitch and frame in gold the 4th Amendment to the Constitution.
The SLDS and Data Alliance is either–
- What John Brandt and his team said it is, yesterday: a state network of data (never to be shared with federal agencies) –a way to share preschool-to-workforce data about Utahns, among six state agencies (Dept. of Workforce Services, Utah State Office of Education, and more). Brandt assured legislators that personally identifiable portions of this data would be only accessed by about ten people in the state, but countless people can access the nonidentifiable portions of the data.
This makes more sense since Brandt belongs to the Dept. of Education’s research arm, the NCES, and he also belongs to -and chairs– the group that developed and copyrighted the Common Core standards, the CCSSO or Council of Chief State School Officers. NCES has a long-standing “National Data Collection Model” you can view here: http://nces.ed.gov/forum/datamodel/Information/howToUse.aspx
So Brandt is a fed, along with being the Technology Director for the state of Utah.
Relevantly, the Dept. of Education’s Chief of Staff, Joanne Weiss, has recently said that she’s combining or “mashing” data systems of federal agencies and is “helping” states (Oh, thank you!) by writing reports to assist them in developing research partnerships. She has said, ”Politicians often warn of the law of unintended consequences—as if all unintended consequences are negative ones—but in the world of data, we should also be aware of the law of welcome surprises.” (Weiss at the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) annual conference. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/inside-school-research/2012/07/ed_urges_states_to_make_data_s.html Thanks, Ms. Weiss. That makes me feel better.
I will keep this in mind while I continue to study exemplary progressive collectivism such as China’s Ministry of Public Security, as I recall the “data sharing” on citizens in Germany’s 1940s, or as I enjoy George Orwell’s immortal “1984″.
Utah, let’s keep our wits about us.
Utah Parents Object to Common Core
Parents and citizens have formed activist groups to oppose Utah’s adoption of Common Core education standards, though state officials including the governor and education department spokesmen say these objections are groundless.
Approximately 300 packed a Salt Lake City auditorium for lectures on the standards, which describe what children should know in each grade for math and English. Forty-five states adopted the Core under Obama administration pressure.
Christel Swasey, a mom from Heber City, Utah, said she hadn’t even heard the term “Common Core” until April 2012—nearly two years after the state adopted it.
“I think most parents in Utah still don’t know what the term means,” Swasey said. “Utah adopted the Core before the standards had been published—like getting married without dating.”
Parent activist Alisa Ellis didn’t know about the Common Core until a teacher handed her a brochure, unable to explain the Core more than simply telling her it was “great,” Ellis said.
“For a year I couldn’t find any answers,” she said.
These Utah moms are not alone. Sixty percent of U.S. voters polled in May they have seen, read, or heard “nothing at all” about the standards. To rectify this in their state, these moms and dozens of other parents founded Utahns Against Common Core. Other groups have composed brochures and begun approaching state representatives.
Cutting Classic Literature
The Common Core replaces literature with informational reading in large portions of many states’ curriculums.
“When I found out they are slashing classic literature I was really bothered,” Swasey said. “That’s like book burning. If you don’t allow the child access to the literature it is the same thing as saying the literature doesn’t exist.”
The Core also requires students take algebra in ninth instead of eighth grade.
“My sixth grader is adept at math,” Ellis said. “It really bothers me that with the Common Core the only way for him to advance as his older siblings did is to skip a grade. I see value in him staying with his peers.”
Shifting the Curriculum
Aside from these practical issues, the Core is legally dubious, said Jim Stergios, executive director of the Pioneer Institute.
The federal government is paying for two state coalitions to develop tests aligned with the Core. It is illegal for the federal government to develop curriculum.
“The people who develop these tests cannot develop tests without developing specific curriculum and instructing teachers how they should teach,” Stergios said.
The Pioneer Institute asked two former U.S. Education Department lawyers to analyze the laws that might enable the federal government’s involvement. They concluded its involvement with the Core was illegal, Stergios said.
“These two groups, funded by the federal government, specifically state they will develop curriculum,” he said.
Swasey said she was also concerned about the testing system.
“It’s not a national curriculum, but it is a nationally controlled testing program and controlled standards. If you do that, you don’t need to control the curriculum,” she said.
–Abigail Wood writes from Hillsdale, Michigan.
The Common Core Initiative: What’s hidden between the lines?
by Christel Swasey
Ever since I saw Alisa Ellis and Renee Braddy’s “2 Moms Against Common Core,” I’ve barely slept. My laundry is backed up. I’m losing weight. All I do is research the Common Core Initiative (CCI).
I talk to teachers. I read think tanks and pester the U.S.O.E. I compare the Education Secretary’s public letters to his dense grants and legal agreements.
On Wednesday I joined Alisa and Renee to petition the Governor to study Utah’s loss of control of education under CCI.
We noted that all academic elements of Common Core are in public domain; if we like them, we can keep them. But CCI membership comes with federal intrusion that robs Utah of sovereign rights, commits Utah to foot the bill, and silences educational freedom. A collection of evidence is posted at whatiscommoncore.blogspot.com.
How did Utah’s educational freedom get hijacked without a peep out of Utah? How did CCI slide under the radar of legislators and taxpayers? Can we turn around this loss of state control over education? YES– if people view CCI as more than an academic change. It’s up to us to act.
The State Superintendent won’t act. He sits as board member of three pro-Common Core groups. Two promoted and developed CCI’s federal standards; the other is the test maker.
The State School Board won’t act. That board is so collectively pro-CCI that they’ve devised a way to make sure nobody can get elected who isn’t pro-CCI: a survey for candidates for School Board asks, (first question): “Are You For Common Core?”
The Governor might act. His lawyers are studying statements from Arne Duncan versus compliance rules written by Duncan which do conflict.
The burden of proving CCI is an asset rather than a liability to Utah, rests on Utah leaders and lawyers who refuse public debate, dodge phone calls and won’t answer questions such as:
1. Why haven’t teachers been told that everything about CC was already available under public domain law? CCI membership doesn’t give us anything but does dilute freedom.
2. Why has no cost analysis or legal analysis been done? A think-tank estimates CCI will cost each state hundreds of millions over the first seven years and will make states’ unique standards irrelevant. CCI violates laws against federal intrusion on states’ educational sovereignty. Why allow it?
3. If CCI is state-led and voluntary as it claims, why did Secretary Duncan rage when South Carolina withdrew? Why has Duncan required that testing arms must coordinate reporting to him and “across consortia”? Why can’t a state withdraw from SBAC without federal permission?
3. Why was no public or legislative input taken? Utah didn’t seek out CCI; we joined as an afterthought, as a condition for candidacy to win a grant which we didn’t win.
4. Why did Utah agree to standards and assessments that hadn’t even been written in 2009 when we joined?
5. Why stay in? We have wiggle room now to get out; it’s the beginning of implementation. Later, we’ll be too financially and technologically invested.
6. Why are there two different sets of standards? The Utah Common Core (UCC) is being taught, while the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) will be the basis for the SBAC tests in 2014.
7. Why did Utah take the CCI’s word for the idea that the standards were high enough? CCSS won’t ready students for average colleges like University of California, said Mathematician Ze’ev Wurman. Stanford Professor Michael Kirst and Validation Committee Member Professor Sandra Stotsky called CCSS standards low.
8. Why did Utah join, when free-thinking states like and Texas and Virginia refused? CCI was cost prohibitive, lowered some standards, and deleted sovereignty, they said.
9. Why did the National PTA accept a two million dollar “donation” to one-sidedly promote CCI?
10. Why is there no amendment process for the federal standards upon which kids will be tested?
11. Why has no one noticed that the SBAC test is as much a nationalized personal data collection vehicle as it is an academic test?
12. Why is there no transparency? Educators are in a spiral of silence that prevents them from voicing concerns.
Who will stand up and respond with real evidence to these questions?
The lawyer at the Utah State Office of Education asked me to not engage in public debate. She deflected questions rather than answering them. Isn’t it my right and responsibility to ask questions? As a lawyer for the Utah State Office of Education, doesn’t she have a duty to answer?