Archive for the ‘privacy’ Tag
Click link here to see which congressmen have cosigned. http://massie.house.gov/sites/massie.house.gov/files/documents/commoncore.pdf (THANK YOU CONGRESSMAN CHAFFETZ!)
April 20, 2013
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.
_ Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO-03)
Thanks to Alyson Williams and Utahns Against Common Core for providing the following.
Protecting Student Data: Becoming Informed About Personal & Behavioral Data Collection & Sharing
Allow parents to opt out* of testing and certain data tracking on behalf of their children.
Prohibit non-academic data collection, i.e. behavior and require disclosure of student data types tracked in Utah’s Federally funded State Longitudinal Data System.
Prohibit any kind of testing that does not allow parents to see assessment questions upon request
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.
We knew that the Dept. of Education had been sued for violating student privacy by changing FERPA without congressional approval.
But now we learn that the same company, EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) has also sued the FBI for privacy-rights obliteration.
Now, ponder those two lawsuits in the context of the White House’s “data-mashing” goals (those are the words of DOE chief of staff Joanne Weiss.) Recall, too, that the White House hosted a “Datapalooza” conference recently to celebrate the wonders of streamlining all data collection everywhere.
The White House is very openly promoting inter-agency data sharing. They will not easily admit that they are making privacy laws looser and looser and reducing parental say over student data. But it’s clear if you actually take the time to read, read, read.
All the states have a federally paid for, federally interoperable State Longitudinal Database System which tracks citizens throughout their lives.
Please click on the links to verify.
Fox News interviewed Emmett McGroarty of the American Principles Project concerning recent, federal moves that allow federal access to the private information of students nationwide.
Things I am thinking as I watch this video:
The Department of Education is, right now, in the middle of a lawsuit brought by another group, EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center). EPIC has alleged that the FERPA regulations that the Department made without Congressional approval violate student privacy law (by new redefinings of terms and by stretching definitions “past the breaking point” to allow access to data by almost anyone claiming to be an “authorized representative”–without any parental consent requirements by school administrators.) Not pretty.
Read this official statement from the Department of Education:
“Parents can rest assured that their children’s personal information is protected better now than it has ever been.” (This official statement is also read in this video clip.)
Emmett McGroarty responds to that statement:
“It’s important to note that these regulatory changes allow the sharing of data not just from department to department in both the federal government and state governments, but also –also– to private entities. So this is just a radical, radical change. I would beg to differ with the department’s response in that respect. “
So would I.
To see the article that ignited the Fox news discussion: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/how_the_feds_are_tracking_your_kid_xC6wecT8ZidCAzfqegB6hL
Our schools (teachers, adminstrators, and even State Office of Education workers) are being used. –Used to collect private data, both academic and nonacademic, about our children and their families. I choose the word “used” because I do not believe they are maliciously going behind parents’ backs. They are simply expected to comply with whatever the U.S. Dept. of Education asks them to do. And the Dept. of Education is all for the “open data” push.
Unknown to most parents, children’s data is being shared beyond the school district with six agencies inside the Utah Data Alliance and UTREX, according to Utah Technology Director John Brandt. The student data is further being “mashed” with federal databases, according to federal Education Dept. Chief of Staff Joanne Weiss: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/inside-school-research/2012/07/ed_urges_states_to_make_data_s.html While John Brandt assures us that only a handful of people in Utah have access to the personally identifiable data of children, recent alterations to federal FERPA (Famly Education Rights Privacy Act) regulations which were made by the U.S. Dept of Education, have radically redefined terms and widened the window of groups who can access private data without parental consent. For more on that, see the lawsuit against the U.S. Dept of Education on the subject: http://epic.org/apa/ferpa/default.html
But first, an interjection: I want to introduce this article: http://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/your-students-privacy/
I like this article because it exposes the facts plainly, that parents are unaware that their children’s information is being shared without parental permission, beyond the school, beyond the district, and even beyond the state. It is verifiable and true.
What it means: Courses taken, grades earned, every demographic piece of information, including family names and income, is being watched by the U.S. government via schools.
Verify for yourself: The U.S. Dept. of Education’s own explanation is here, showing why SLDS systems exist: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/slds/factsheet.html
There are 12 elements that states had to share or they would not have received ARRA stimulus money. The twelve elements of the SLDS (State longitudinal data system) include enrollment history, demographic characteristics, student’s scores on tests; info on students who are not tested; transcripts, grades earned; whether they enrolled in remedial courses; and the sharing of data from preschool through postsecondary systems.
While all this data gathering could theoretically, somehow, benefit a child, or community, it can definitely hurt a child. Denial of future opportunities, based on ancient academic or behavioral history, comes to mind…
These databases (State Longitudinal Database Systems, SLDS; also, P-20 and state data combinations such as the Utah Data Alliance) are to share data with anybody they define as “authorized,” according to alterations made to FERPA (Family Education Privacy Act) regulations by the Dept. of Education.
These now-authorized groups who will access student data will most likely include the A-list “philanthropists” like Bill Gates, as well as corporate snoops (Microsoft, Pearson, Wireless Generation, and K-12 Inc., Achieve, Inc., SBAC, PARCC, NGA, CCSSO, for examples) as well as federal departments that are far outside of education, such as the military, the workforce agencies, etc.)
Furthermore, even psychometric and biometric data (behavioral qualities, dna, iris and fingerprints) are also acceptable data collection points, to the Dept. of Education (verify: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/pdf/ferparegs.pdf )
This is a nightmare of Big Brother in action, except it’s not a fiction. You can verify it all on the government’s own public sites, such as:
States would not get stimulus money if they didn’t agree to build the SLDS system.
So they all agreed. All.
I happened to ask the Utah State Office of Education myself whether it is even allowed to have a student attend a school without being tracked by the Utah Data Alliance and the federal SLDS.
They finally gave me a straight answer, after I nagged them many a time, finally, and it was simply “No.”
No child, no citizen may escape tracking. We are and will be tracked.
I ask you, dear readers, to turn your feelings about this intrusion toward positive action.
Call your governor.
If you are from Utah, Governor Herbert is here 801 538-1000 and here: http://demo.utah.gov/governor/contact/index.html
Public feeling and individual actions are the only, only chance we have to alter the course we are currently traveling.
Have you seen what’s happening over in Bluffdale? The building is called NSA. National Security Agency. (Or, Never Say Anything)
A new KSL article quotes William Binney, a Washington whistleblower, saying Utah’s new NSA is “a serious threat to civil liberties.”
Binney, who worked for the NSA for 32 years and still lives by the secure headquarters near Baltimore, says the NSA can dice billions of emails, phone calls and Internet records, looking for clues to terrorist plots. –But it also can, and does, snoop on citizens.
When Binney worked for NSA, Binney’s team had smartly built into the software some sophisticated protections so that communications by U.S. citizens would be protected from NSA snooping. But the NSA passed over his citizen-protective system, for an unexplained reason.
Binney retired in anger. According to KSL, Binney said:
“It didn’t take but probably a week or so after 9/11 that they decided to start spying on the U.S. domestically, on all U.S. citizens they could get.”
He now suspects the facility in Bluffdale will be used to store communication data so the NSA can sift through it, whether it’s from foreign terrorists or law-abiding U.S. citizens.
So I think this: the NSA, I’m sure, has legitimate duties, like ferreting out terrorist plots against innocent Americans. But I’m also very sure its doing some inappropriate data snooping. Where are the checks and balances? Who’s watching the watchers?
The NSA is very tight-lipped and secretive.
But there are others who aren’t secretive about their data-gathering goals.
Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, comes to mind. He’s always making speeches about the importance of increasing data-gathering efforts to have “more robust databases” to “increase accountability” to the federal agency.
John Brandt of Utah comes to mind. He directs the Utah Data Alliance’s mashing of data from six Utah agencies using taxpayer money and Utah State School Board approval
. He’s got a powerpoint that explains how he’ll then share this data from schools to USOE and Utah higher ed and then to the federal Department of Ed. He won’t return emails from me or my friends on the subject of data collection. And he works for the NCES (federal research agency) as well as working as Utah Director of Technology. He’s not going to be making speeches about federalism.
Even David Wiley, BYU Professor, comes to mind.
He told me that he feels it’s “totally appropriate” for researchers and governments to conduct research on students without getting parental consent because the importance of the research and the logistical difficulties of getting parental consent trump the rights of parents.
This scares me.
Who’s protecting our civil liberties, our privacy and our parental rights?
The lack of public outcry concerns me. But I think it’s mostly based on people simply not knowing. Or not considering the ramifications of the path we’re moving down.
Some of my own friends who I’ve brought this matter up with, say, “Who cares if they’re tracking us? I have nothing to hide.”
Maybe not from God. –But from theives, stalkers, hackers, or people who are happy about communism? We must keep private things private.
There are reasons we have locks on our doors and walls others can’t see through. There are reasons for books like “1984″ and the other George Orwell and Ayn Rand classics.
Privacy is a sacred freedom. When governments know everything about everyone, people become cattle, prodded and controlled by the all-knowing agencies “who know best”. Hackers and stalkers and thieves can get government jobs and can get access to the private data of citizens, if there aren’t protections in place.
Could Sweden have enforced their anti-homeschooling law if they didn’t have absolute name, number and address tracking on every citizen?
Could China have enforced mandatory abortions under the one-child-only law if they didn’t have absolute knowledge of the medical and family records of every citizen?
Could governments separate children from parents to fulfill the Olympic dreams of that government, if the government was not tracking the physical traits of even tiny children?
There are endless ways people can abuse having access to citizens’ private data.
Surveillance on citizens is a dangerous, slippery slope.
And why won’t even the Utah State Office of Education discuss it? Why is this so under the public radar?
I think I know.
It’s called “spiral of silence” theory.
Elizabeth Noelle-Neumann wrote the ”spiral of silence” communications theory to explain how atrocities come to pass in civilized societies.
Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, the German political scientist, explained how Jews’ status became so widely agreed upon, during World War II under the Nazi control. Hitler dominated the whole society and the minority Jews became silent due to the fear of isolation or separation.
The one view dominated the public scene and others disappeared from the public awareness as it adherents became silent. People feared separation or isolation from those around them, so they kept their attitudes to themselves when they felt they were in the minority. This process is “Spiral of Silence”.
If a teacher doesn’t like the data collection that’s happening on students, or a board member, or even a state-level leader is not satisfied with the decision, the one person does not express the thought publicly. Why?
1. They may feel unsupported by the others on the school, state or federal level. Peer pressure.
2. Fear of isolation or job loss
3. Fear of rejection (adult popularity contests)
4. They may try to save a job by suppressing or avoiding personal statements in public.
Until many of us speak out and speak up, the spiral of silence will grow. The perceived majority belief –that most people somehow agree with all this student and citizen data collection and the new norm of NOT asking for parental consent, and the communist-style common core implementation (without a vote) –will grow if we are quiet. Nobody will stop its implementation, and it will take over as the new norm if we are quiet.
This is why I speak up. This is why I ask you to research for yourself, and then speak up.
I believe more of us are against this (once we understand what it is) than there are those for it. It’s creepy and must be stopped.
The “Restore Oklahoma Public Education” research team has done it again.
Read this tremendously detailed explanation of how the federal government is robbing United States citizens of their privacy, using schools as data collection vehicles and redefining even nonacademic student data collection (blood type, nickname, mental health) a federal entitlement.
Yes, the data collection push is out of control.
Data collection issues and privacy rights were the last thing on my mind, until last April, when I learned what Common Core was (besides educational standards that are communizing America’s education). When I learned that common core tests gather kids’ data that is nonacademic, personally identifiable, and longitudinal –meaning it goes from preschool through adulthood and is tracked by the government and researchers who will not need permission to study it– I was horrified. But the data collection desperation of agencies worldwide, continues. For example:
- Just this morning I got an email from a company that contracts with a company I work with to translate foreign documents. They wanted to purchase –in any language– full blogs, full email accounts, and other writings, for a secret client that they said needs a lot of data to practice a new spellchecker. Nuts! (I’ll post the full “job” email* at the bottom.)
- This week, I learned about a German man, Malte Spitz, now an international data privacy freedom fighter. Here’s part of his story (for full text: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/25/malte-spitzs-ted-talk-_n_1701775.html )
In 2006, the EU issued the Data Retention Directive, Directive 2006/24/EC. This allowed European phone companies to store user data for six months to two years — including phone numbers, addresses, the times emails and data were sent, as well as users’ locations. Since then, several countries have either rejected or declared unconstitutional this legislation. In 2010, Germany’s Federal Constitution Court suspended the directive, calling it “inadmissable.”
The directive does state that the content of users’ text and voice conversations are not to be stored.
Police agencies could request information from mobile phone companies to access user data, but only via the court system. Spitz filed a suit against his phone company Deutsche Telekom in order to receive his own stored data.
After reaching a settlement, Spitz received a CD of his records in the mail. “At first I thought, okay — it’s a huge file,” he said, “But then I realized, this is my life. This is six months of my life […] You can see where I am, when I sleep at night, what I’m doing.”
- Then there’s Joanne Weiss, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Dept. of Education, who openly admits to “data-mashing,” meaning blending the databases from different federal agencies. She also has said she wants to be helpful to states who want to “partner” and share data.
- Then there’s John Brandt, our Utah Technology Director, CCSSO chair, and NCES member (translation: he’s a fed). He openly admist on his powerpoint online, that the Dept. of Education can be one of the recipients of Utah’s inter-agency data mashing.
- Then there’s “Communities that Care,” a nice-sounding euphemism for a federal lure to give up local data via a program that on the surface, is all about preventing teen drug use and crime. But it’s also a way for the federal government to access what we are thinking, both via ongoing youth surveys, and via archived family and individual data kept by the city.
- My own doctor said that he was offered thousands to share data with the government about his patients. He opted not to accept the money because he believes in patient privacy.
Why are governments so desperate to gather so much private data on citizens? So desperate that they’re overriding Congressional FERPA laws, so desperate that they’re cutting out parental consent.
To read more about this topic:
Department of Education Being Sued for Invasion of Privacy: http://epic.org/apa/ferpa/default.html
Oregon Senator’s Website: http://www.merkley.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/?id=457f640a-2995-49c4-b386-27ca44c639a8
Federal Surveillance of data via Common Core tests: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf
TrapWire Surveillance: http://thenewamerican.com/usnews/constitution/item/12473-trapwire-the-federal-govt-is-literally-watching-every-move-you-make http://thenewamerican.com/tech/item/12635-trapwires-alleged-corporate-and-government-connections-grow
SmartMeter Opt-Out: http://thenewamerican.com/tech/energy/item/12344-privacy-and-health-concerns-on-%E2%80%9Csmart-meters%E2%80%9D-growing-globally
Many thanks for your interest in our program and for providing your experience in translation. Unfortunately we are not looking for a translation service at present; however, as mentioned in our advert we are collecting many versions of data on behalf of a client of ours. This data will be used to assist them in the development of their language tools. If this is something which you think you can assist us in, then please review the details below.
Below you will find some frequently asked questions which will provide you with more data on the program. Please read carefully to check if your language is available.
Note: We are only accepting languages which are available on the list at present.
We aim to collect a large amount of data for each language, so we hope we can collect a minimum of 150,000 words from each person participating. If you think you can reach this number, please let us know. If not, then please continue to save your data and contact us again in the near future.
Unfortunately everyone who contacts us may not be able to join this program, however, if you do know of someone that has their language included, please pass our information to them. We encourage all people to review their language / data.
On reading the FAQ, please reply and let us know what type of data / language you can provide to our program. We can then work on the collection process.
Please note, we do allow participants to donate more than one language if available.
We look forward to working with you.
Kind Regards, Lionbridge Data Collection Group
1) What languages are available? In our program we are now looking for the following languages: English UK, English US, Basque, Bulgarian, Croatian, Estonian, Finnish, Galician, Hungarian, Kazakh, Lithuanian, Romanian, Serbian (Latin and Cyrillic), Slovak, Slovenian, Turkish, Ukrainian, Arabic (Standard), Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Czech, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Latvian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese European, Spanish European, Swedish, Indonesian, Latin American Spanish, Danish and Thai.
2) What if my language is not on the list? We are beginning with the languages listed above. However, we may begin collecting for your language in the future. Please begin to save your emails / reports etc. Also, you may know of a friend / colleague who may be able to join now. If so, then pass on our information to them.
3) Who gets my data? We are collecting all data in conjunction with a client who requires a large amount of words to help develop their language tools e.g. spellchecker. No other party will have access to your data
4) What data can I include? a. Email – you can include personal emails which you have written in your own language b. Reports – If you are at college, you can include draft reports which you have written for college (i.e. these are the first writings of your reports, not the final delivered version to your lecturer). If you are a journalist, you can include drafts of articles you have written. Note draft articles should contain both grammar and spelling mistakes i.e. they are not proof read. c. Letters – any letters which you have written in your native language d. Blogs – If you have created a blog and write regular updates, this could be included.
5) If I send email, what happens if I include personal email? Once you send us your email, we will first change all of the email addresses and numbers to firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com> and 000 to remove any personal identification. Your name / signature however will remain on the email if included.
6) Can I use any email account? Yes you can use most email accounts which can be setup either on the internet or at home. Note we are having some issues with exporting from yahoo.
7) How much data to I need to send you? We are looking to collect 600,000 words from each person; however we understand that this is a lot of data for one person. Therefore to assist you we are willing to receive as low as 150,000 words: - On average 2,000 emails. - 200 pages
8) What if I do not have enough data? Don’t worry if you don’t have enough data right now. You can begin to save your data and join our program at a later date. Also, remember, if you have emails and reports, you can join both to reach the required number. We can help you with this.
9) How long do I have to collect the data? We appreciate it can take time to get this detail together and to assist you we will be providing step by step instructions. This program is running until September 30th 2012.
10) Do I get paid for my data? Yes you do! For every 100,000 words you send to us, we will pay you $110.
11) How do I know my data is secure? On acceptance of your data, you will sign a data release form to say that our client can now use your data. No other party will have access to your data.
Democrats, Republicans and others packed the Wasatch Bagel Cafe in Park City to standing room only last night in an effort to learn the pros and cons of Utah’s membership in the Common Core Movement. Common Core is a set of national standards and common tests that was initiated by states, is incentivized and promoted by the federal government, and is backed financially by private interest groups, largely by Bill Gates.
Wasatch Representative Kraig Powell, Senate Education Committee Chair Aaron Osmond, House Committee Chair Francis Gibbons, and Joel Briscoe, also of the Utah Legislature, led the meeting. None of the four vocalized a strong stand for or against the Common Core Initiative. Questions and comments by citizens generally addressed the questions of whether local autonomy and control over educational standards and good education would be available with Common Core.
Doctor and Park City citizen John Zimmerman said, “We don’t need the federal government in education,” and asked why the Common Core educational movement was involved with the federal government. Aaron Osmond responded that the movement did not start out being federally led but the federal government has taken advantage of the movement. Kraig Powell added that it’s as if we were headed down the road in a small car and the federal government came along with a faster car and we got in.
Representative Kraig Powell said that raising educational standards is an important and laudable goal. He said that he trusts people and feels that as long as there is plenty of public discussion, Utah will come up with something we can all live with. He voiced concern about the Department of Education’s use of “shall” language in the No Child Left Behind waivers that push states toward Common Core. He mentioned that there was a larger legislative turnout than he’d ever seen last month when four national educational experts spoke against Common Core at a legislators’ lunch and at another public forum. He emphasized that there must be lots of input and study so people’s voices can be heard. (Currently, few citizens know what Common Core is.) Powell also noted that just as Medicaid has put mandates on Utah which come with funding concerns many Utahns are not comfortable with, there is a concern that the same demoralization of teachers and the same costly requirements may happen with Common Core that were problematic with No Child Left Behind.
Senate Education Committee Chair Aaron Osmond said that the Utah Constitution allows the state school board a lot of power. He voiced a concern that we must preserve state sovereignty and the right to control standards in our state, saying, ”If we lose that, I concur that it’s wrong.”
Newly appointed chair of the Utah House Education Committee, Francis Gibson, said that both the pro and con sides of the Common Core have arguments that make sense. He liked the fact that the standards promised not to dictate curriculum and hoped there was a way to fix the low portion of the math segments of Common Core. He did not mention whether there was a way to amend standards under the common core contractual documents.
Representative Joel Briscoe said that his entire family, including himself, consists of teachers. While the Common Core requires students to read less literature, he felt that fact did not represent any lowering of standards. He addressed the fact that at the high school level, 70% of English language readings are to be informational text with only 30% being allowed to be classic literature readings. He supports the less-literature, more-informational text shift. He did not address Common Core’s shift away from narrative writing. He did not address the non-amendability of the reading and writing standards.
Heber citizen Anissa Wardell asked what the legislators’ stand was on data collection, including personally identifiable student information, to be gathered without parental consent, a concern connected to Common Core reforms. Kraig Powell responded that we have to ask ourselves whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing that the P-20 systems and/or private entities track a child from before kindergarten through college and work. He did not take a stand on the question.
All four legislators said they applauded the effort of the Utah State School Board in attempting to raise educational standards for Utah.