Archive for the ‘education’ Tag

Dr. Gary Thompson: SAGE/Common Core Tests Break Basic Codes of Test Ethics   13 comments

dr-thompson

I sat in the Early Life Child Psychology and Education center this week, watching Dr. Gary Thompson’s presentation about Common Core testing, thinking that Dr. Thompson is the fearless kid in the tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

Dr. Thompson stands armed with honesty, science and evidence, pointing out that the Emperor of SAGE/Common Core tests is stark raving naked.  All around Salt Lake City, meanwhile, people play along with the wealthy emperor, pretending that nothing’s wrong with what the whole world seems to have been paid to agree are such smashing, new  –dare we call them rigorous— clothes.

What does Dr. Thompson see as he analyzes the Common Core SAGE test in its birthday suit?

He points out foremost that there is such a thing as a code of ethics for the psychological testing of children.

“Wait, wait–” says the State Office of Education– “We’re not doing psychological testing on your kids.”  But this does not placate Utahns who fact check for themselves. SAGE/Common Core tests –in addition to being tests of academic subjects– are psychological tests. We know this because:

1) Utah law demands it.  HB15, passed in 2012, required Utah’s public and charter schools to administer computer adaptive tests aligned with Common Core.  It specified “the use of behavior indicators in assessing student performance.”  Behavior indicators are not math, science or language arts data points.  They are psychological data points.

2) The SAGE tests are created by Utah’s test contractor, American Institutes for Research (AIR) which is primarily “one of the world’s largest behavioral and social science  research organizations.”  Its stated mission is “to conduct and apply the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation.”

3) The federal Department of Education –which shouldn’t, but does, call shots for the Utah State Office of Education– openly encourages psychological profiling of students via tests, calling it “data-driven decision making,” “a data quality campaign” and other positive-sounding terms.  See any of its initiativesreports and recommendations  which do depend on/openly promote psychological profiling of children by testing.

Here’s how Dr. Thompson says that SAGE violates the code of ethics for psychological testing:

Standard 9.03 from the Ethical Principles of Psychologists states that “psychologists obtain informed consent for assessments.  SAGE does not do this.  The ethics for informed consent include telling the client (in SAGE’s case, the student and parents) what the nature, purpose and anticipated course of services will be; using clear language; allowing the client  (student and parents) to ask questions; telling them about involvement of any third parties who may have access to the information gathered via the test; disclosing whether experimentation will be used; informing the client whether the test administrator is a trainee or fully qualified to administer psychological testing; obtaining consent in advance of recording or observing; potential risks; potential limitations; and more.

Each of these codes of conduct were broken by the USOE in implementing SAGE tests on Utah schools.

Standard 9.02 states that “Psychologists use assessment instruments whose validity and reliability have been established…when such validity or reliability has not been established, psychologists describe the strengths and limitations of test results and interpretation.”

There have been no independent validity and reliability studies done on SAGE tests, whatsoever, as Dr. Thompson pointed out.  Another enormous principal of all scientific forms of testing– broken.

While it is clear that SAGE tests are psychological in nature, and that the tests do not adhere to the code of ethical conduct for psychological testing, there’s even more at stake.

Dr. Thompson pointed out that the future is very close to already here:  Game-based assessment, also known as Stealth Assessments, are secret tests embedded in video games for schools that are further eclipsing parental rights and knowledge about what data is being collected while children are at school.  Even teachers would not know what exactly is being collected or analyzed when stealth assessments are used in classroom settings.

In a scholarly journal entitled “District Administration” Dr. Thompson read, and shared, that now, in an attempt to lessen student stress, Gates-funded groups are telling us that video games are the education of the future. “District Administration” journal writes that because “complex thinking skills can’t be measured by traditional standardized tests, educators are turning to stealth assessments hidden in video games.” The article continues, “stealth assessments are seamless, so the distinction between learning and assessment is completely blurred.  Kids are playing, they are learning, and they are being assessed all at the same time.”  Further:  “testing companies are working on ways to integrate formative assessments into daily instruction.”  Children will be tested all of the time.  How does a person opt out of that?

 

 

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Dr. Thompson’s presentation also touched on many other issues of great importance.  He spoke about the vulnerable populations that are forced to take Common Core SAGE tests (unless parents opt them out).  These include children with any of a host of learning disabilities, children with depression and anxiety, children with autism and Asberger’s,  children with  historically poor test taking scores due to cultural bias in testing including African-American and Latino children, children with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, children from high-stress poverty homes, children with psychotic disorders, ADHD, and dual exceptional (gifted and learning disordered) to name a few.

He shared from academic journals many ethical considerations associated with Common Core’s pushing of the very young into “rigorous” and age-inappropriate standards.  He shared research he’s collected, too, about the use of children’s data for marketing purposes, (quoting from the academic journal article, “Children as Consumers.”  This is relevant and troubling because the SAGE test creator, AIR, has open partnerships (and data sharing policies) with numerous corporations that have no restraint on accessing SAGE-collected student information.

Thompson further discussed harm to the brain of a child using Common Core testing practices on every type of child, and using Common Core styled math on every type of learner.  He spoke of the brain’s disorganization response to Common Core-styled math pedagogy and to high-stakes tests like SAGE.

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This brain-analyzing portion of the presentation must be explained in detail in a separate post.  Briefly: the neurological (brain-affecting) Common Core issues raised by Dr. Thompson’s research are extremely important in light of the fact that both Bill Gates (Common Core funder) and our federal government are highly focused on studying and applying research about the neurology of children, right now.  The federally approved Fattah Neuroscience Initiative, also known as the White House Neuroscience Initiative, was granted federal funds to invest in brain research and drug development, and not just to prevent Alzheimer’s.  Its stated aims: “optimizing interactions between the environment and the brain across the lifespan,” “applying the brain’s information processing capabilities” and “enhancing communication among federal agencies”.  Congressman Fattah  wrote that he is “a major proponent of brain mapping…  understand…the role of individual neurons in controlling our thoughts, movements…”.  –Recall that Secretary Duncan mocked  the idea that the federal government was involved in this, when it was accused of collecting student data using Common Educational Data Standards. He said, “Let’s not even get into the really wacky stuff: mind control, robots, and biometric brain mapping.” Yet that is exactly what the federal Fattah Neuroscience Initiative aims to do.  Congressman Fattah has made it clear that brain mapping is the aim of the White House Neuroscience Initiative.  Now, let’s use our brains.  Who is the only huge, captive group of guinea pigs they have under their control upon whom they can do brain mapping research (call it education) for hours and hours every single day?  

Dr. Thompson’s full presentation:

 You’ll want to see the whole presentation and discuss it with your local and state representatives on the school boards in detail.  Each of the issues touched on in Dr. Thompson’s presentation deserves a chapter or a book written on it.

But to keep it simple, digestible, and close to home, let’s focus on one thing:  the thing Dr. Thompson focuses on; the SAGE test. You’ll want to opt your children out of every type of SAGE test:  summative (end of year), formative and interim (year round SAGE tests.)

It is the enforcer of Utah’s Common Core and the primary vehicle for massive student data collection right now.  We need to get rid of it, or opt individual children –by the thousands and thousands– out of it, so that its data collectors cannot do what they aim to do, and so that Common Core experimental standards cannot take deep root in our schools, cannot dictate teacher salaries, cannot narrowly define and narrowly present what is “education” to our children.

Somebody will look out for students’ mental health, privacy, and happiness, even in this age of politically motivated high-stakes SAGE testing –and soon, in this age of stealth testing.  Somebody will look out for the parents’ rights to know about and to guide psychological treatment or analysis of children.  Someone  will pound on the door of the USOE, the governor, and the legislators’ offices, demanding the end of SAGE tests in Utah schools, demanding answers to the questions that Dr. Thompson and other child psychologists, such as Joan Landes and Dr. Megan Koschnick (video below) have raised.

That someone is that person in your bathroom mirror or it’s nobody, because everybody’s so busy.

Legislators are busy.  Teachers are busy. Board members are busy. Reporters are busy.  Common Core technological implementers and teacher development conference producers are busy. Everyone is so busy being busy that the busy-ness that matters most of all— our children and our liberty-- have lost precious ground.

It is not too late.

 

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a heavy, disrespectful blow to teachers.

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

How will independent minded teachers survive this new blow?

I don’t know.

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

How untrue that claim has been.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s that letter.

 

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Date: Wed, 12 Nov 2014

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

To: “ALL “

Subject: [Secondary ELA] Clarification – SAGE and SGPs

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

 

 

Dear LEAs,

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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Legislative Meeting: Utah Discussing Adopting Founderless Version of U.S. History   4 comments

Today, right now, the unmaking of history is happening at the Utah State Capitol. I just found out now, via email.

Listen at this link: http://utahlegislature.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&event_id=83651

So the Utah Legislature’s education committee is meeting now, listening to (among other things) the Utah State Office of Education’s reasoning for adopting the David Coleman-pushed, awful, transformed U.S. History standards for A.P. History.  These standards have come under extreme criticism for promoting a negative view of American accomplishments.  They deleted the necessity for teachers to even mention –at all– Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams, Martin Luther King, the Gettysburg Address, Hitler, and much, much more that is crucial to understanding American history.  The noble portions of history and vital facts simply won’t  be on the test.

It seems truly too bad to be true.

I wish some mom, grandpa, teacher, or professor were there, testifying, as this Texas mother did, that the state must absolutely fight, not adopt, these new history standards!

I wish that Sydnee Dickson, Diana Suddreth, and Robert Austin ( USOE officials responsible for promoting the new history standards) were elected officials –so that we could vote them out.  But they are plain state employees, so they stay in, reel in fat taxpayer funded salaries, and they are unstopped by the legislators, parents or administrators who have the power to stop them –if enough would just stand up.

So much is happening, so fast, to transform and deform our educational system now that it feels impossible to keep up with or try to rein in.

We have to try.  We have to educate and activate the necessary numbers of citizens to push our elected representatives to say no.

Please write to your representatives and  school boards.  Let them know that you oppose the transformed AP U.S. History Standards for our schools.

 

Here is the link to find your Representative:   http://www.le.utah.gov/GIS/findDistrict.jsp

Here is the link to find your Senator: http://www.utahsenate.org/#

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USA Today published an opinion editorial– today– by Jane Robbins of American Principles Project on this subject.  I’m reposting:

AP EXAM ERASES U.S. EXCEPTIONALISM

Defenses of the College Board’s revised Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) Curriculum Framework have ranged from “it’s a balanced document” to “teachers will have flexibility” to “what’s wrong with a leftist slant?” None of these defenses should be acceptable.

To the “balanced document” argument, we say: Read it. A Pioneer Institute study by experts, including renowned Madisonian scholar Ralph Ketcham, describes the framework as “a portrait of America as a dystopian society — one riddled with racism, violence, hypocrisy, greed, imperialism and injustice.”

The origins of the framework have been traced to the philosophy that the U. S. is only one nation among many, and not a particularly admirable one at that. Every trace of American exceptionalism has been scrubbed; seminal documents such as the Gettysburg Address have vanished.

What about teachers’ flexibility? Will APUSH teachers still teach the vital content in their state history standards? Although the College Board (under duress) is erasing its warning that none of this state material will be tested, the practical reality remains that teachers won’t waste time on it.

The exam’s structure will encourage students and teachers to stick to the leftist framework. We’ll have a national history curriculum rather than state flexibility and control.

The College Board’s recent release of the previously secret sample exam confirms this conclusion. All sample questions are anchored firmly in the framework, even the pejorative language used to describe President Reagan. The sample exam makes it clear that if teachers want their students to score well on the APUSH exam, they will teach the framework.

So we’re left with the argument that the APUSH course rightly veers off into progressive territory (diminishing content knowledge in favor of “historical skills” and “themes” and embracing identity politics) because accurate history is disfavored in some university programs. If so, parents will want their children to avoid APUSH. The unelected College Board may decide to impose revisionist history, but its customers need not buy it.

Jane Robbins is a senior fellow at the American Principles Project, a conservative advocacy group.

Passed: Utah County Republican Resolution Against Common Core   3 comments

Below is the full text of the resolution that Utah County Republicans voted to pass, in opposition to Common Core this week. 

It will be interesting to see what Governor Herbert does with the mounting evidence that Utahns oppose Common Core.  Despite publically taking a second look at the academics, he has not taken any steps to get a second look at state  and federal data mining done in Utah, nor has he taken a second look at the actual governance structure of Common Core which seems far, far more important than the academic snapshot.  The governor’s still moving full steam on with the Common Core-promoting Prosperity 2020 and SLDS systems in this state, and has not resigned from his Common Core-promoting role in the  National Governors Association (that unelected, private trade group which created and copyrighted the Common Core.) 

Governor, is it time to start listening more closely to voters?

Utah County Republican Resolution

 utahns against Common Core
WHEREAS, The Common Core State Standards Initiative (“Common Core”), adopted as part of the “Utah
Core,” is not a Utah state standards initiative, but rather a set of nationally-based standards and tests
developed through a collaboration between two NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) and
unelected boards and consortia from outside the state of Utah; and,
 
utahns against Common Core
WHEREAS, Common Core binds us to an established copyright over standards, limiting our ability to
create or improve education standards that we deem best for our own children; and,
 
utahns against Common Core
 
WHEREAS, the General Educational Provisions Act prohibits federal authority over curriculum and
testing, yet the U.S. Department of Education’s “Cooperative Agreements” confirm Common Core’s test-
building and data collection is federally managed; and,
 
utahns against Common Core
WHEREAS, “student behavior indicators” – which include testing for mental health, social and cultural
(i.e. religious) habits and attitudes and family status – are now being used for Common Core tests and
assessments; and,
 
utahns against Common Core
WHEREAS, Common Core promotes the storage and sharing of private student and family data without
consent; using a pre-school through post-graduate (P-20) tracking system and a federally-funded State
Longitudinal Database (SLDS), creating substantial opportunities for invasion of privacy; and,
 
utahns against Common Core
WHEREAS, Common Core intrudes on the constitutional authority of the states over education by
pressuring states to adopt the standards with financial incentives tied to President Obama’s ‘Race to the Top’, and if not adopted, penalties include loss of funds and, just as Oklahoma experienced a loss of
their ESEA waiver; and
 utahns against Common Core
WHEREAS, the Republican National Committee and Utah State Republican Convention recently passed a
resolution opposing Common Core State Standards;
utahns against Common Core
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that we call on the Governor and the Utah State School Board to withdraw
from, and we ask the Utah State Legislature to discontinue funding programs in association with, the
Common Core State Standards Initiative/Utah’s Core and any other similar alliance, and;
utahns against Common Core
THEREFORE, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution shall be delivered to the Governor
and the State legislature requesting executive and legislative action.

Civil Disobedience   2 comments

I wrote this essay for the Libertas Institute essay contest. If you like it, please click on “like” at the Libertas link before August 22nd 2014, and share it so that I have a shot at the prize for the most “like”s. Thank you. Also, thanks to Libertas for asking Utah citizens to think and write about this important subject.

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CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE

Queen Esther of the Bible modeled the proper role of civil disobedience when she chose to break the law to free her people from the sentence of death. She did not shrink from personal consequences that her act of agency would bring. She said, “I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.”

Esther illustrated the justification for civil disobedience: we break a law only when lawful appeals cannot overcome threats to life, liberty, property, or free exercise of conscience; when it’s the only honorable course. Esther’s selfless act contrasts with the self-indulgence of others who break laws without being willing to shoulder the consequences.

Martin Luther King wrote about that willingness: “An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.”

Thoreau explained that governments were only able to commit wrongdoings, to “crucify Christ and excommunicate Copernicus and Luther, and pronounce Washington and Franklin rebels,” because individuals upheld bad governments by their failure to exercise agency, who “serve the state…as machines.” He pressed every individual not to “resign his conscience” to a government, and asked, “Why has every man a conscience then?”

Utah’s predominant religion teaches “We believe… in obeying, honoring and sustaining the law” (Article of Faith 12) and warns: “sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected ” (D&C 134). But further study of D&C 134 reveals that “thus protected” means “protected in their inherent and inalienable rights” –defined as “free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.” “Thus protected” is key: we honor government as long as we are protected in our inalienable rights. When laws fail to protect, when foul oppressions are enacted, people of conscience recognize the duty –of lawful pushback when possible, and of civil disobedience when regular appeals fail.

Pondering heroic acts of civil disobedience helps to clarify the difference between noble and ignoble disobedience.

1. 150 B.C. – Abinadi of the Book of Mormon defied the rule against freedom of speech and willingly faced the consequence of death by fire. 2. 1500′s – English protestants by the hundreds were burned at the stake or beheaded for breaking the law in refusing to follow the state religion under Queen Mary I (“Bloody Mary”). 3. 1776 – Many signers of the Declaration of Independence were punished or killed for signing, which was an act of civil disobedience under British law. 4. 1850′s – Harriet Tubman traveled between Northern and Southern states, illegally freeing 300 slaves. 5. 1940′s – Sweden’s diplomat, Raoul Wallenberg, jumped on top of trainloads of Jews on their way to death camps; ignoring governing protocol and soldiers’ warning bullets, Wallenberg gave out illegal passports and ordered captives to exit the trains. He saved thousands and then lost his own life in a Russian prison. 6. 1940′s – Holland’s Caspar Ten Boom illegally hid Jews during World War II. He responded to those who criticized him: “You say we could lose our lives for this child. I would consider that the greatest honor that could come to my family.” 7. 1950′s – Rosa Parks was arrested for breaking segregation laws by deliberately sitting “illegally” on a bus. 8. 1989 – China’s “Tank Man” in Tiananmen Square deliberately walked straight into communist tanks aimed to quell all freedom-seeking demonstrators. He was seized; it’s unknown whether he was executed. 9. 1990′s – Mongolia’s Oyun Altangarel, a state librarian, was fired for seeking freedom of religion and speech, but her organization’s hunger strike moved her country toward freedom.

Oppression is not only found in distant times and countries. It’s happening under our noses in 2014 in Utah –as are corresponding heroes of civil disobedience. Consider three stories.

1. In 2013, the Salt Lake Tribune published teacher Ann Florence’s op-ed, in which Florence wrote about “an avalanche” of counter-productive mandates which did not benefit students and did cause teacher demoralization. She lamented standardized tests and Common Core. She wrote, “We are tired of the threats and disrespect… tired of having our dedication reduced to a number. Educating children is… a life’s work that deserves the highest honor.”

In 2014, when Florence openly criticized computer-adapted standardized tests as “a waste of time and irrelevant,” refused to grade them, and spoke out to news media, the honors English teacher was fired by Granite School District for “a pattern of noncompliance”.

Florence told ABC4 news, “I am challenged constantly to teach my students to consider their own opinions, to examine their opinions …but when I try to employ critical thinking as a teacher and I have the support of hundreds of other teachers, I’m silenced and I’m fired.”

2. When Stuart Harper, St. George High School Physics Teacher, spoke out against the Common Core “reform,” he was threatened with job loss.  Harper had stated that he didn’t like Common Core being “pushed upon us [teachers],” nor could he tolerate the “lack of control we have over its content.” He criticized the “awful quality of its math core,” an “over-emphasis on testing,” “burdens on schools for curriculum changes and data collection” and said that “its focus drives schools deeper into the political realm and further from real education.”

The district told Harper he’d created rebellion and insubordination. They insisted that he accept their claims about Common Core– as if seeking verification was not scientific; as if truth cannot hold up under scrutiny; as if freedom of thought equals insubordination; as if debate equals unethical conduct.

Harper reasoned with officials, saying, “my intent was not to promote rebellion, but to simply encourage personal research on the subject and exercise freedom of speech on my off time, as a citizen and father. I was told, ‘Those freedom of speech rights you are probably referring to do not apply’ … I made it clear that if I continued to be intimidated into silence that I would resign…”

Harper would not be silenced, though he knew that the system “expects acceptance and conformity to its decisions… and even goes as far as intimidating and threatening those who have differing opinions. ” In his resignation letter, he wrote, “Any society or organization that silences and discourages freedom of speech removes the possibility to express ideas…” He revealed that the system hurts not only teachers’ freedom of conscience but also students’ freedom of conscience: it “no longer promotes learning, but rather focuses on training. It teaches what to think, not how to think.”

Harper was pressured to resign and did resign– not just over academically inferior standards, but over “an environment that clearly has no respect for the Constitutional right of free speech.”

3. When Utah high school student Hannah Smith (not her real name) saw, during the state’s Common Core (SAGE) test, that an objectionable test question should be viewed by parents, she captured screen shots of the question with her cell phone. She sent them to her mother, and they were shared, published and viewed nationally.

Smith was threatened by administrators with possible loss of graduation and was told that she was a cheater. The teacher who had been in the room was also threatened with professional action. State education leader Judy Park was quoted by the Salt Lake Tribune, threatening, “Any licensed educator that has been involved, I will report to UPPAC (Utah Professional Practices Advisory Commission of the state Board of Education), because they have now violated the obligation to follow ethics.” Park added, “[A]ll this concern about Common Core and SAGE has led us to the point that parents are encouraging students to break the law.”

Utah’s government uses multiple methods to stifle debate and freedom of thought in education. Utah teachers and school staff report (anonymously) that they must conform to education and data reforms without discussion. They’re told that they may not inform parents nor students of legal rights to opt out of SAGE testing, nor speak out against the Common Core without punishment for insubordination.

Key to the coffle is the state school board’s selection procedure, which narrows the candidate pool before voters get a chance to vote. The selection procedure starts with a survey that asks whether candidates support Utah Core/Common Core. It is further narrowed by insider committees and narrowed again by the governor to two pre-selected candidates. From these, voters may choose one. A rejected candidate recently sued the governor, calling this selection procedure “viewpoint discrimination.”

Why must we reclaim the sacred freedom to disagree and debate? Benjamin Franklin explained: “Grievances cannot be redressed unless they are known; and they cannot be known but through complaints and petitions. if these are deemed affronts, and the messengers punished as offenders, who will henceforth send petitions?”

Speaking against inappropriate education reforms now ranks as civil disobedience for Utah educators. Utah parents who opt children out of SAGE tests are sometimes chided by school administrators as “unsupportive” of schools despite the law upholding the parental right to opt out of the tests.

Utah’s predominant religion says that we “do not believe that human law has a right to…… bind the consciences of men” (D & C 134). It states that the “magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.” The chapter teaches “that the commission of crime should be punished… all men should step forward and use their ability in bringing offenders against good laws to punishment” (D&C 134). I think Thoreau would agree: he called government’s harm to conscience a “sort of bloodshed” and said, “through this wound a man’s real manhood” flows out. He wrote: “we should be men first, and subjects afterward.”

Although Utahans are witnessing the lack of freedom being put into place by the Common Core tests and Common Educational Data Standards (CEDS) –most fail to step forward.

Why?

In part this may be because there is controversy over whether new standards harm or help, but it’s unarguable that the oppressive nature of implementation harms free exercise of parent/teacher conscience and that the tests and data collection systems make students unwitting guinea pigs of D.C.’s experiment. These things should matter; even those who believe Common Core’s claim to improve education may recall that the Declaration of Independence speaks of “consent by the governed” which Common Core can’t claim since it wasn’t vetted by teachers, parents or taxpayers prior to adoption.

Fact: Utah’s government oppresses exercise of conscience by threatening job loss to educators who exercise it. Teachers governed thus are not protected in their inalienable rights. Fact: because the government creates no allowance for parents to opt children out of its federal-state database tracking system (State Longitudinal Database System) it also violates parental “right and control of property”–privacy being personal property. Fact: for at least two years the state school board (collectively) has rejected every plea for relief from parents and teachers on this matter, and the legislature has not succeeded in righting the wrong.

The choice then has become to behave as silent property, as governed as cooped chickens, or to rise to the scary, defining moment of Common Core. Stand-up actions (parents opting students out of testing, administrators claiming the right to say no) may result in ridicule or job loss but may be the only way we can defend the Constitutional right to local control of education, the only way to do the right thing.

Consider Thoreau’s words: “under a government which imprisons unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.”

For the sake of our American liberties and for the sake of our children, it is time for those who share the spirit of Queen Esther to echo her example: “I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.”

Video and Photos: Utah Protesters Outside State School Board Meeting   3 comments

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Yesterday, Utah’s Stop Common Core folks followed the example of Oklahoma and Maine, wearing grass-green T-shirts for a protest held in Salt Lake City outside the offices of the Utah State School Board.

Trucks honked, kids danced, families waved signs. Honestly, it was fun.   A teenage protester (who was dancing with his “My Education is Not Your Experiment” sign) said he thought we were “pretty amateur protesters”.  We are!  Next time, we need soap boxes, megaphones for the cheerleaders, and a lot more people.

Two thousand people had signed the letter asking the board not to renew the federal waiver, in just 24 hours.  But they didn’t all show up in person at the protest.  Neither did the almost 12,000 people who have signed the Utahns Against Common Core petition.

Still, so many green shirts packed the public meeting of the board after the protest  that two hallways outside the meeting were filled with green shirts, as well as the whole board room being filled and encircled by standing green shirts who could not find seats.  The testimonies were incredible.  Anyone without an already hardened heart would have been moved.  I wish I could give you a link to hear what was spoken.

The vote didn’t go our way.   The board signed the federal waiver that further cemented Utah to Common Core and continued the  illusion (a bluff by the federal Dept. of Ed) that there is any authority for D.C. to tell Utah what to do in our schools.

Continuing Utah’s relationship with the federal waiver means that we are two steps away from removing Common Core, rather than just one.  (This is because in order to get the federal waiver, Utah had to promise to do option A (common core) or option B (the also-unacceptable, unconstitutional  delegation  of state board authority to higher ed authorities).

A few board members had tried to sway the vote:  Jeff Moss and Heather Groom, and possibly one or two others.  We appreciate their efforts.  But except for adding some language that affirmed the board’s wish to be sovereign over Utah’s standards, the waiver application got signed and sent to D.C. without hearing the parents and teachers who pleaded and testified against this move.

If you still don’t know who’s right and who’s wrong on this issue, consider the motivations and rewards of those who are asking for renewal of the federal waiver and Common Core, verus those who are asking for cessation of the federal waiver and Common Core.  It’s pretty revealing to note that the letter to the board from Utah’s Chamber of Commerce members, favoring federal waiver renewal, was authored by Rich Kendall (the governor’s appointee to supposedly study whether Common Core is good or not) –who is a Gates grant recipient as an Education First member, and who is also a Common Core advocate as a Prosperity 2020 leading member.  Remember that Gates is THE main financier of the whole Common Core and Common Data agenda.   How can Rich Kendall be both an advocate for, and an impartial judge of Common Core?  How can business people, directly making money from the implementation of Common Core, pretend to be objective in this discussion?  How can the state school board take these people as credible witnesses?

There’s always the chance that D.C. will reject Utah’s waiver application as it did Washington’s.  Then we’ll only be one step away from the possible removal of Common Core.

 

 

 

More articles, videos and photos of yesterday’s protest and the school board’s vote:

SALT LAKE TRIBUNE – http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/58276195-78/utah-waiver-board-state.html.csp

FOX NEWS – http://fox13now.com/2014/08/08/common-core-under-fire-at-utah-state-board-of-education-meeting/

DESERET NEWS – http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865608431/State-School-Board-approves-extension-of-NCLB-waiver.html

Utahns Petition State School Board to Drop Fed Waiver and Common Core   1 comment

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If you have not already done so, please sign the petition letter that’s going to the State Board of Education.  Link here.

 

Tomorrow’s state school board meeting is a big deal.   Please be there and bring people.  Wear a grass green shirt to show opposition to the federal ESEA/NCLB waiver and to Common Core.

At 9:00 a.m., this peaceful outdoor protest by the offices of education will feature YOU and YOUR friends and family, with your signs, taking a stand.

We will take a stand against the stripping away of local control of our schools, the guinea pig-like academic experimentation on our children, and against the replacement of classic, time-tested education with the Common Core snake oil that nobody was consulted about, prior to being billed for.  We will  stand against the unconstitutional power grab of the Department of Education and claim the right as parents and as citizens to reclaim local control.  We are calling the bluff of the Department of Education, which pretends to authority that it does not hold.

If you have not already done so, please sign the petition letter that’s going to the State Board of Education.  Link here.

Another letter and petition has already gone to the State School Board from members of the Utah Chamber of Commerce and others.  It says the opposite message.  Understand:  the national and state Chambers of Commerce have put huge pressure on the state school boards to continue with the ESEA/NCLB waivers for one simple reason:  money.

In their  letter, signed by many Utah business people and local school board members, the governor’s appointee to review Common Core wrote that “as a key stakeholder, surely the perspectives and support of the business community are an important plan of any successful plan for improving education in the state.”  Translation:  “because we’ve invested money in the Common Core-based technologies and are making a mint off this experiment, and because we work for organizations heavily funded by Common Core financier Bill Gates, we want and claim a stake in your child’s education.”

Our letter, which was written yesterday, has already been signed by hundreds and hundreds of people.  It says this  (highlights):

 

To the Members of the Utah state Board of Education:

… To receive a waiver from NCLB, Utah agreed to option A, which required Utah to show proof that we had adopted Common Core.  In other words, the state was coerced into agreeing to a reform package that exerts a far greater control over our state education system than NCLB.

The waiver should not be renewed… The U.S. Constitution gives the federal government no opportunity to be involved in Utah education.  By renewing the waiver, Utah will be obligated to continue with their Common Core commitment to the federal government, which is a violation of both federal and state Constitutions.  

…Utah law states that we can and shall be flexible with our funding to utilize it to meet state goals and objectives over federal goals and objectives.

Concerns that there may be a reduction in federal funds affecting Title I schools should not stop the board from doing the right thing.

 It will be the responsibility of the legislature and the Governor to make sure that Title I schools have necessary funding.

Please do not sign the waiver.

Signed—

 

Please ask friends to  sign  our letter to the board.   Then come to tomorrow’s open board meeting and to the protest.   If you are unable to come, write to the state and local boards of education.

Thank you.

 

 

 

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