Archive for the ‘rebuttal’ Tag

Responding to the Attorney General’s Report on Common Core   4 comments

utahns against Common Core

The Utah Attorney General (AG) recently issued a report about Common Core.  I’m grateful that Common Core concerns are receiving much-needed attention, rather than being dismissed as unfounded. I thank the Attorney General for his time spent on this issue.  But the report is egregiously errant.

I’m just a full-time mom, not a lawyer.  Though I have many years of experience teaching in public schools, plus years spent researching ed reforms, I never aimed to rebut a state attorney general’s education report.  But truth is truth and error should not be accepted as fact.

Please study this out for yourself. I’m here to point out and to back up with documentation, the errors and omissions of the A.G.’s  Common Core report.  It’s for you to draw your own conclusions.  It’s for our children to live with what we adults see as truth.

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Before I get to the errors and omissions, I will point with gratitude to three key issues that the report correctly clarified:

1)  The report’s first paragraph correctly clarified the fact that the “Utah Core” for K-12 math and English is, in fact, the exact same thing as “Common Core.”  Many have been confused about this fact and some in leadership allow that confusion to continue because they know Common Core has become a toxic term.  But no one need be confused.  The A.G. is correct:  Utah does (unfortunately and voluntarily) adhere to centralized, standardized Common Core standards and tests.

2) The report also  correctly stated that the US Dept. of Education ( by imposing waiver conditions and pushing states to adopt federally approved standards) “has infringed upon local and state authority over public education” and that Utah and other states “consented to this infringement through federal coercion...” (emphasis added).

3) The report correctly said that “Utah has the legal ability to repeal” Common Core.  Most people already knew that Utah CAN withdraw from Common Core; our point has always been that we REQUEST that our state will indeed withdraw from Common Core.

 

The Attorney General’s report wrongly concludes three main things, which I will afterward explain in detail:

1) That adoption of Common Core followed the rule of law; that the parent-teacher lawsuit –brought against the state’s decision to adopt Common Core without proper vetting– holds no water and that the board’s adoption of Common Core was legal;  that Common Core standards do not qualify as rules –so the UARA’s rulemaking process did not need to be followed;

2) That Utah has not ceded authority nor lost local control over its education system via the Common Core Initiative; and that there are no groups that now hold direct or indirect control over Utah’s education system;

3) That Common Core does not impact curriculum.

 

1.   The report incorrectly states that the board’s adoption of Common Core followed the rule of law, using “a very public process” and that it was not illegal in any way.  That question will soon be determined in a Utah court.  The lawsuit to which the report referred –in which parents and teachers are suing the board over its method of adopting Common Core– is still a live, active lawsuit.

Connor Boyack of Libertas Institute (the institution supporting the lawsuit) was correctly quoted by the Deseret News, saying, “Specific behavior was required of the board that was not done. That is the basis of our lawsuit, and that was not responded to by the attorney general.  Our allegations still stand and we’re confident that a judge will determine that the board, in fact, did not comply with the law.”

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The A.G. came to a different conclusion not only from that of Libertas Institute but also from U.S. Department of Education secretary Arne Duncan, who noted that Utah’s state school board and many other states very quickly, quietly adopted Common Core “without studying it, without writing a white paper on it,” without consulting with the teachers, administrators and others whose careers would forever be altered by it.

This clearly goes against our state’s law.

As a public school teacher whose credential has never lapsed out of date, I can attest that when Common Core came to Utah, neither I nor any teacher, to my knowledge, received so much as a letter or an email consulting with or discussing or debating or communicating the fact that a decision was in process, nor announcing any potential positive or negative consequences of the decision.  Local school boards can and have attested that they were likewise left out of the decision.   Millions of public school parents can testify that there was no “very public process”.  Although parents often get  letters, robocalls and emails about school pajama day, the fall carnival, community council elections and many other issues, it was only long after the state had agreed to Common Core (and its associated data, testing and evaluation reforms) that parents and teachers became aware of what it was and how it would change our lives forever.  Teachers and the general public would have had to have been actively scouring the state office of education website weekly basis (–and why would they?)  –to have come across any invitation for public discussion or feedback on this huge, transformative issue.

The report also falsely states that prior to adoption of Common Core, Utah was an active participant in the creation of Common Core standards.  This claim is not backed up with evidence of any kind. Listening to the minutes of the state school board meetings surrounding adoption of Common Core reveals that the claim is far from true.

Last, there’s the reference to Utah’s  UARA  which defines rules and rulemaking.  The A.G.’s report correctly states that a plausible case can be made that  because Utah is now ruled by Common Core’s rules, the rulemaking process should have been followed, and was not. UARA defines a rule as a statement by an agency (in our case, the USOE/school board) which implicitly or explicitly requires some class of people or agencies (in our case, school system employees)  to obey it; a statement that implements or interprets law (in this case both state and federal law, even though the federal government does not have constitutional authority to make education laws– since it has done so and it uses money to control states’ obedience to these unauthorized laws and policies, and now Common Core-implementing state laws are congruent with Common Core education reforms as well).

Common Core standards must be considered rules since the state school board and USOE mandate statewide adherence to its benchmarks and tests, and the legislature specifically mandates  teacher and school evaluation using Common Core computer adaptive testing.

But the A.G.’s report oddly states that because Utah law does not define the meaning of the term “standard,”  the standards aren’t really rules so the rulemaking process was correctly skipped over. That defies common sense, and research.  Teachers and administrators rely on USOE/USSB statements on Common Core to interpret and implement education law and policy.  Common Core is mandated by the legislature’s Common Core CAT testing laws, and adherence to Common Core was partial payment for receipt of federal waivers, monies and technologies; it was parceled with federal No Child Left Behind waivers, ARRA grant obligations, SBAC (Utah’s former) testing grants, and the federal SLDS grant, each of which helped bind Utah schools, teachers and students to Common Core and common data standards.

2.  The report incorrectly states that Utah has NOT ceded authority over standards and curriculum.  Utah ceded her authority by adopting Common Core, in several ways:

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Way one:  Utah has no vote or voice in the revisions to “its own” common core standards.  Utah did not write Common Core.  Neither did any other state. Common Core was never, despite its marketing claims, a state-led process.  The creator-copyrighters of Common Core were two unelected, nonpublic groups— unaccountable-to-voters groups, cannot-be-influenced-by-voters groups; closed-door, private D.C. groups, that go by the misleadingly governmental-sounding titles of “National Governors’ Association” (NGA) and “Council of Chief State School Officers” (CCSSO).  NGA and CCSSO are private clubs–  they are nongovernmental, and not all governors nor all superintendents choose to belong to NGA/CCSSO; in fact, some U.S. governors and state superintendents avoid the NGA and CSSSO like the plague.

The power of the NGA and CCSSO over standards and education policy in many states is the prime example of education without representation.

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Way two:  Utah cannot vote for those who have authority to revise or change Common Core.  And we know that Common Core IS going to change.

Utah’s Common Core standards are under copyright by NGA/CCSSO.  Utah can’t influence who gets hired by NGA/CCSSO or what policies get created in those closed-door meetings.  Utah can’t participate in any amendment meetings when Common Core “living work” standards get altered and revised, which the copyright holders  have promised to do.   The standards state:  “The Standards are intended to be a living work. As new and better evidence emerges, the Standards will be revised accordingly.”

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Way three:  The CCSSO –significantly– has also created the Common Educational Data Standards (CEDS), in partnership with the federal department of education, to match up with the Common Core standards technologically as well as academically.  Utah promised the federal government to adhere to CEDS tracking technologies in such documents as   Utah schools’ 2009 ARRA federal grant application,  which is fully explained and linked here.  Because our federally paid-for State Longitudinal Database System is also (per federal grant requirement) interoperable with federal systems, and because our Common education standards and Common data standards match the CCSSO’s CEDS requirements, student privacy and state autonomy over data systems are also no longer in our control.  Truly, control over student data privacy is threatened via the interdependence of Common Core standards and federal Common data standards.

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Way four:  Utah’s statewide SAGE/AIR Common Core tests enforce the Common Core being taught in Utah schools and the Common data standards (CEDS) being used in Utah schools.  SAGE/AIR are Common Core-led, computer adaptive tests which are not only end-of-year but year-round formative tests, controlled and created by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) with token help from a handful of appointed Utah teachers.  AIR is officially partnered with both the federal government and the SBAC (federally-funded testing consortium).  This means that the micromanagement of tests and the sharing of student level data –to which the SBAC is subject by contract– also binds AIR-partnered Utah.  Utah students must be tested on Common Core standards using SAGE/AIR tests, which are secretive in nature, written by psychometricians with a mission statement that focuses on applying behavioral and social science research, and which follow the Common Core copyrighters’ philosophies.  Test cannot be seen (because of secrecy rules) by those governed and tested and evaluated by them.

All of these controls do fetter Utah citizens to federal dictates, and each rests on the Common Core standards.

3.  The report incorrectly states that Common Core impacts only standards and not curriculum.  Because the state Common Core tests (aka SAGE tests) are not only year-end but formative (year-round) tests, they impact curriculum very much– much more than any previous statewide testing did.  Because state and federal reforms have now attached teacher evaluations and school evaluations directly to student scores on these Common Core tests, teachers must choose from an ever-narrowing spectrum of curriculum that teaches to the test more than ever before.  The SBAC testing group, which is partnered with Utah’s AIR testing group, and Microsoft (Bill Gates’ company) which is partnered with Pearson (the world’s largest education sales products company) each offer Common Core test-matched curriculum, and Utah schools and technologies are purchasing them over other products, because the board mandated that Common Core would be Utah’s Core.

Lead Common Core funder Bill Gates revealed in a speech, “Identifying common standards is just the starting point.  We’ll only know if this effort has succeeded when the curriculum and tests are aligned to these standards… When the tests are aligned to the common standards, the curriculum will line up as well. And it will unleash a powerful market of people providing services…  For the first time there will be a large, uniform base of customers looking at using products…”

The A.G.’s report also omits key concerns, including:

I. Copyright and control of Common Core-  The report ought to have clarified who truly controls and holds copyright over the Common Core standards and its related data standards, and who has authority to revise them.  Neither voters, nor elected representatives,  nor local teachers, nor Utah’s State school Board, but only the nonpublic D.C. group, NGA/CCSSO, controls them.)  As has been stated, there is no amendment process for our state to revise the “living work” of Common Core, by which we are now governed, although these standards will be revised by its copyrighters.

II.  The State Duty to Educate Locally – While the report is correct in saying that the federal government coerced states into adopting its definition of college and career ready standards with the hope of getting federal money, the report does not stand up and say that Utah is under a constitutional obligation to stand up for the right to educate via local dictates.  The A.G.’s report does not recommend that Utah cease being controlled by and unreasonably swayed by federal money.  It apparently accepts Utah’s seeming submissiveness to the federal (unconstitutional) posture of authority over education.  If the A.G.’s office has not itself adopted the submissive mindset under the federal posture of (unauthorized) authority, then the report should have recommended that Utah fight for a reclaiming of state power over all aspects of education.  If Utah’s A.G. believes in the constitutional separation of powers and in the importance of maintaining local control of the constitutionally state-held right and responsibility over state education — then the report should have focused on that point rather than sidelining it as an historical, water-under-the-bridge detail.  Nor did the report recommend standing in solidarity with Oklahoma, a state which recently repealed Common Core and has faced federal power grabbing struggles as a result.

The report said, “Will we lose federal monies if we modify Common Core standards? No.”

That is a half-truth.  Utah didn’t lose federal monies by adding cursive to Utah’s English standards in addition to Common Core, true.  But if we make more than minimal additions (there’s a 15% cap on adding to Common Core) or if we aim to repeal the whole enchilada we end up with severe federal pushback as has been demonstrated in the case of Washington state and Oklahoma.  We should, of course, still hold the line of state authority and ignore the pretended authority of Secretary Duncan.

III.  The State Board’s Constitutional Duty to Not Cede Its Authority – The report correctly states that the school board has the authority to set standards, and that the board “is the appropriate constitutional body” to withdraw from Common Core, based on the Utah Constitution‘s words:  “The general control and supervision of the public school system shall be vested in a state board of education consisting of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and such other persons as the legislature may provide.”  True.

But nowhere in Utah’s Constitution does it say that the board, superintendent and other persons may give away or delegate  that “general control and supervision of the public school system”.

Conclusion:

The Attorney General’s report receives an “F” in my gradebook.  It simply veers so far from the truth that it cannot be taken as correct.

I don’t expect to hear from the Attorney General’s office, apologizing for the errors.  I don’t expect the state school board members nor those education staffers at the Governor’s office who openly call me and other teachers and parents “crazy” to suddenly fact-check, turn around and be enlightened.  I simply wrote this piece for other people like me– people who care about the truth, people who aren’t financially rewarded by and tied to the claim that Common Core is the One True Path, people who value this knowledge, to better protect and educate their children and to possibly have a chance at saving some of the local control that is our Constitutional inheritance.

 

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Fact-Checking Associate UT Superintendent Judy Park on Nonacademic Data Collection   10 comments

Once again it seems necessary, unfortunately, to provide a fact-checking rebuttal to statements made by Utah’s Associate Superintendent Judy Park about student data privacy.

In a letter given out to parents of children attending a St. George charter school recently, Judy Park was quoted at length.  Park, the Associate Superintendent of Utah, made the following statements that will be scrutinized here with links to opposing evidence.

In that letter, Ms. Park  wrote:

“The advocates of anti-common core are falsely accusing USOE and schools and districts of collecting and storing data that is “behavioral data and non-academic personal information”.  They have no real evidence or examples to support this claim…” 

Here’s evidence to the contrary, Ms. Park.

1.  First, there are Utah laws about standardized tests requiring the testing of behavioral indicators.  One law, HB15, created in 2012, that requires the collection of behavior indicators calls for ” the use of student behavior indicators in assessing student performance” as part of the testing.   This is Utah’s S.A.G.E. –aka Common Core or A.I.R.– test.  But another law  (HB177) has been requiring, from the 2002-03 school year on, “the use of student behavior indicators in assessing student performance.” Since 2002!

2. Utah has paid at least $39 million to the AIR company to write its Common Core-aligned standardized tests:  American Institutes for Research”s  mission:  “AIR’s mission is to conduct and apply the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation…

Are we to believe that although AIR’s purpose is to test behavioral and social indicators, and although Utah laws say that the test must note behavioral indicators, the AIR test still won’t?

3. Utah’s SLDS grant application talks about authorizing de-identification of data for research and says that individuals will be authorized to access personal student information in the various Utah agencies that belong to UDA. (Who are these individuals?  Why does the UDA trust them with information that parents weren’t even told was being gathered on our children?)

Starting at page 87 on that same SLDS federal application, we read how non-cognitive behaviors that have nothing to do with academics, will be collected and studied by school systems.  These include “social comfort and integration, academic conscientiousness, resiliency, etc.” to be evaluated through the psychometric census known as the “Student Strengths Inventory. (SSI)”  That SSI inventory –my child’s psychological information– will be integrated into the system (SLDS).  Nonacademic demographic and other personal information is also captured while administering the test. SSI data will be given to whomever it is assumed, by the so-called leadership, that needs to see it.  (This should be a parental decision but has become a state decision.)

The SLDS grant promises to integrate psychological data into the state database.   “Utah’s Comprehensive Counseling and Guidance programs have substantial Student Education Occupation Plan, (SEOP) data, but they are not well integrated with other student data. With the introduction of UtahFutures and the Student Strengths Inventory (SSI) and its focus on noncognitive data, combining such data with other longitudinal student level data to the USOE Data Warehouse the UDA.”  It also says:

“… psychosocial or noncognitive factors… include, but are not limited to educational commitment, academic engagement and conscientiousness, social comfort and social integration, academic self-efficacy, resiliency…  Until recently, institutions had to rely on standardized cognitive measures to identify student needs. … We propose to census test all current student in grades 11 and 12 and then test students in grade 11 in subsequent years using the Student Strengths Inventory (SSI) – a measure of noncognitive attitudes and behaviors.”  So the Student Strengths Inventory (SSI) is a “psychometric census” to be taken by every 11th and 12th grade student in Utah.  That’s one way they’re gathering the psychological data.

4.  Ms. Park herself is a key player and even a writer for the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) –the organization that co-created and co-copyrighted Common Core.  This makes me fairly confident that you are aware of what the CCSSO stands for and what its goals are.  On the CCSSO website, it states that one of its main goals is “Continued Commitment to Disaggregation” of student data.  Disaggregation means that academic bundles of students’ information will be separated into groups that are increasingly easy to identify individually.

5.   “Utah’s Model for Comprehensive Counseling and Guidance.” (UMCCG)   is an official document from the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) that actively endorses the collection of behavioral and non-academic data.   It says, for instance, that perception data must be assessed.

-From page 172: “Perception data: Perception data answer the question, “What do people think they know, believe or can do?” These data measure  what students and others observe or perceive, knowledge gained, attitudes and beliefs held and competencies achieved. These data are often collected through pre- and post-surveys, tests or  skill demonstration opportunities such as presentations or role play,  data, competency achievement, surveys or evaluation forms.” (pgs. 58-59)

-From page 66: Examples of attitudes or belief data  include: “74 percent of students believe fighting is wrong.”

This list of Student Outcomes (which will be tracked by computers, according to the document) is full of non-academic outcomes.

-From page 136: 
MG:A1 Demonstrate a deep regard for self and others
MG:A2 Demonstrate a personal commitment to basic democratic principles
MG:A3 Demonstrate a civil and considerate spirit while participating in society”
(Some people may object to MG:A2, for example, since “basic democratic principles” aren’t the same thing as “basic republican principles” and FYI, the Constitution specifically guarantees individuals a republican form of government.  (Article 4, Section 4, U.S. Constitution.)  So what if my child’s been taught about Article 4, Section 4, at home, and he/she doesn’t test “correctly” on MG:A2?  These outcomes may sound innocuous to many, but here’s the REAL point:  if the government/school system/USOE claims the right to test our children for one set of beliefs, be they good or bad, they can test our children for other sets of beliefs.  They don’t have the right to do this, in my opinion,  without parental consent or at least an opt-out-of-the-SLDS-database option for parents who do object.)

These 5 points together prove, at least to me, that the educational government of Utah is collecting behavioral and non-academic data on our children without our consent.

But lastly, there is this issue:  Ms. Park also wrote, “The only data that is collected and maintained is the specific data required by state and federal law.”

This is a big problem since the state and the federal privacy protection requirements do not match anymore.  Ms. Park does not seem to be aware of this.  But today, the state is much more protective of students’ rights.  Federal FERPA regulations have been altered –not by Congress but by the sneaky  Department of Education (DOE).  The DOE changed the definitions of terms.  They reduced from a requirement to only a “best practice” the previously protective rule that parental consent had to be obtained (prior to sharing private student data).  They redefined personally identifiable information.  So, no more parental consent needed and whatever they can con states into sharing, will be shared.  Is this the kind of federal rule that Ms. Park is content to have us obey?

Because Utah agreed in that same SLDS federal grant applicaton to use PESC standards and SIF interoperability frameworks, Utah’s children’s private data can be accessed by other states and federal agencies very easily as long as current Utah policy permits it.

Unless people stand up– unless bills like Jake Anderegg’s current HB169 student data privacy bill  and others like it will pass, we have very few protections and a wide open policy of quite promiscious data sharing here in Utah.

Sad but true.

Another Unbearably Long Email Discussion With UT Board Member Dave Thomas   2 comments

For anyone who can stand to plow through it, here’s another letter I wrote in response to Mr. Thomas’s response to my response to his response to my questions posted in the Deseret News op-ed last month.
____________________________________________________________

Dear Mr. Dave Thomas,

Please remember that I am not your enemy. I am a fellow Utahn, a mother, and a teacher. I hope for great schools and happy kids and teachers. I hope for the maintenance of local control of education. That is the goal here. Just to clarify.

On Evidence: You said: I actually gave more than Fordham’s opinion (although I might add that the Fordham study is the most extensive that has been done). I included the source material that backs up the Common Core standards in math and English language arts. You claim that the standards are not research based, but every time you are given the research your response is simply to ignore them. Common Core uses the “best practices” in both the United States as well as internationally. My research shows the Common Core standards not to be experimental, but an increase in quality and rigor over Utah’s prior standards. Math and ELA experts at our Utah colleges and universities agree with me.

I say: Even your fellow board member, Dixie Allen, admits that there is no evidence to support claims that Common Core will improve education; so she bases her approval of Common Core on trust –that those who wrote the standards had the best interests of students at heart. This is like buying a car, trusting that it won’t break down, trusting that its claims to improve gas mileage are correct— but never having test-driven it –or never even reading about someone who had actually test driven it. Since Common Core has never been piloted, it cannot be more than an experiment. You say that professors agree with you, but I, too, quote names of professors at BYU, UVU, Stanford University, Seton Hall University, University of New Hampshire, University of Colorado, etc., who do not agree that Common Core will “increase quality and rigor” in math.

On the Reduction of literature: You said:

Your response is to simply brush off the actual language of the standards and assert that “its common knowledge” that informational texts will be the main type of reading in English classes. Actually, that’s not common knowledge, because it is inconsistent with the actual standards. Both informational texts and classic literature will be taught in English classes. As I noted, the 70-30% ratio that is being touted as being exclusive to English classes is actually across the entire curriculum. Hence math, science and social studies teachers will not be teaching literature, but will be teaching the vast majority of the informational texts. Again, there is nothing in the Common Core ELA which states that the main teaching in English classes will be informational texts at the expense of literature. If you have some precise standards which state this, then I would like to see them because I can’t find them. As for textbooks, there are plenty of textbooks that have come out asserting that they are common core aligned. Most are not. Teachers and school districts will need to be vigilant in selecting textbooks and other instructional materials that truly align to the Utah core standards.

I say: Common Core increases informational text and reduces classic literature. For proof, in addition to actually reading the standards themselves, in addition to looking at Common Core curriculum sales companies’ interpretations of the standards, in addition to reading debate on the subject in the New York Times and Washington Post, in addition to listening to testimonies of Professor Stotsky and others, you can simply watch ELA chief architect David Coleman’s video speeches to teachers. Remember that he is not only the ELA architect, but now President of the College Board, aligning his radical ideas to the SAT. Watch his contempt for narrative writing and his preference for informational text. Watch his sterile view of reading. Is this what you, or most teachers, or most Utahns, believe in and hope for, for our children? I have never seen a believable or clear explanation of how that 70%/30% split would be accomplished across all subjects. Are there trainings for math, science, and P.E. teachers on how to teach English Language Arts in the Common Core Academies of Utah?

On Math Problems: You said:

Actually, the majority of math professionals are trending in the direction of an integrated model, as the National Math Panel suggests….

Dr. Milgram certainly dissented from the Validation Committee, but he was not the only mathematician on the Committee – there were a total of 5. In fact, there were 18 math professors on the Math Work Group and another 9 on the Feedback Group. I point to Dr. Wu because he was another one of the authors of the California Math Standards. The reality is that the vast majority of math educators support the Common Core math standards, including our most prominent Utah math professors. I find it interesting that you find it offensive that experts from outside Utah were involved in creating the Common Core State Standards, but you rely upon Dr. Milgram and other outside experts. Notwithstanding, I also rely upon our inside Utah experts who overwhelmingly approve of the Common Core Math Standards. Why don’t they have as much influence on you as Dr. Milgram?

I have found it interesting that Dr. Milgram does not seem to endorse any math standards that he, himself, has not personally written. He didn’t like our 2007 Utah math standards either….

As for the majority of Utahns never being able to weigh in? There were a total of three 30 day comment periods before the Utah Board adopted the standards.

I am not a math expert, although I have taught elementary school level math. Yet, this much I know: there is no universally endorsed math belief. There are math wars raging. So it is not true that “most” math professionals are believing in or trending toward any single math style. This math war issue needs to be vetted by the Utah public and by Utah teachers, not by a tiny group of mostly non-educators who make up our school board.

As for the majority of Utahns being able to weigh in on the math or English? My teaching credential has never lapsed, yet I never even received a letter or an email of any kind, letting me know that my entire future career would be drastically different because Common Core had come to town. It is absurd to think that Utah teachers or other citizens would surf onto the USOE website frequently enough to have been aware of Common Core’s adoption or of the public comment period.

To the claim that there were 5 “mathematicians” on the Validation Committee: Not everyone who has the word “mathematics” in his title is a math expert. As Dr. Milgram explains: “each of the others mentioned as ‘mathematicians’ on the validation committee actually has his or her advanced degree (if any) in mathematics education, not mathematics. I suppose that there is a general confusion about this distinction since both subjects have the word mathematics in their description. But there is actually a vast difference. The mathematical knowledge of virtually all U.S. citizens who call themselves mathematics educators stops with ratios and rates, not even algebra or calculus. Most of them are assumed to have had calculus in college, but typically it didn’t stick, and when I or my colleagues talk with such people we have to be very careful, as their knowledge of the actual subject is spotty.”

So Dr. Milgram was, in fact, the only mathematician, by this definition, on the Validation Committee, and the only one who really understood what preparation is required for higher-level university mathematics.

But as math-standards-drafter Jason Zimba has admitted, Common Core is not designed to prepare students for such courses – only for math at nonselective community colleges.

Even Common Core proponents admit that the math standards were not drafted by “70 math experts” but rather by three men: Jason Zimba, Phil Daro, and William McCallum (only McCallum had any previous experience writing standards). The other members of the two groups established as the “development team” (especially the large Feedback Group) frequently saw their contributions ignored, without comment. Because the drafters worked in secret, without open-meetings scrutiny or public comment, it’s impossible to know any of the thought processes that went into creating the standards. The only thing we know for certain is Zimba’s admission (see above) about the low level of the Standards, and McCallum’s comment that the math standards would not be “too high,” especially compared with the high-achieving Asian countries.

Sources:

http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2013/06/07/five-people-wrote-state-led-common-core

http://boston.com/community/blogs/rock_the_schoolhouse/2011/11/myths_about_national_standards.html

http://www.nga.org/cms/home/news-room/news-releases/page_2009/col2-content/main-content-list/title_common-core-state-standards-initiative-validation-committee-announced.html

http://www.uaedreform.org/wp-content/uploads/2000/01/Stotsky-Invited-Testimony-for-Georgia.pdf

On Amendability: You said:

With respect to Utah, there is no 15% cap. Such was certainly discussed by the NGA and CCSSO, but the 15% cap rule did not make it into the actual public license. The public license allows free use of the standards without any 15% cap. I have read the Utah NCLB Flexibility Waiver, and there is no 15% cap in that either. I admit that I have not researched the Race to the Top requirements because Utah did not receive a grant and is not bound by such. The Utah State Board of Education has never asked for permission from anyone to modify our Utah core standards and as long as I am on the Board never will.

There is a 15% cap. You are right that the copyrighters didn’t place it; but the federal government and its associates did. The same language is repeated in many places, including in the Race to the Top grant application, Race to the Top for Assessments, in the documents of SBAC, PARCC, and Achieve, Inc., and it was also previously in the ESEA, but has been removed. For example, see http://www.achieve.org/files/FINAL-CCSSImplementationGuide.pdf

You said that the board never asked permission to alter Utah’s standards, yet on the Utah Core Standards document online, to which the link is currently broken, it said “Modified by Permission.”

On Data Collection: You say:

While admitting that the Common Core State Standards do not require data collection, you assert that the “Common Core agenda” does. I am not aware of such an agenda. Certainly the President has such an agenda, but the President is not part of the Common Core Initiative, although I admit that he wants to be. He certainly would like to use the Consortiums to collect data, but we are not members of SBAC.

You assume that AIR will violate our agreement and Utah law, and share Utah private student data with SBAC. We have received written assurances from AIR that they will not be sharing such data. Hence, you assume wrongdoing where there is no evidence of such.

Your answer, however, did not address my concerns – which are with NAEP. The National Education Data Model is not being used by Utah and will not be used by Utah. NAEP, however, is a different story. I have tremendous concerns over NAEP.

I say: It doesn’t matter whether the corporate groups (Bill Gates/Pearson/Achieve/AIR) or the federal groups (Obama/Duncan/Linda Darling-Hammond) first pushed national, Common Core standards and the data collection agenda, which moves hand in hand with the common tests and standards. Both groups are shamelessly power-grabbing. The two groups are equally unwelcome to monopolize Utah education standards and tests.

It matters who here in Utah will put a stop to it.

The corporate – public collusion creates a loss of local voices and local control in multiple ways. Those at the top benefit financially and control-wise, when they can persuade all of us to believe in their collectivist ideology.

You may not have read the report by the President’s Equity and Excellence Commission entitled “For Each And Every Child.” In it, we learn that redistribution of resources is the whole point of the “education reform” agenda, Common Core or whatever you want to call it. Redistribution– of money and of teachers and principals. A total loss of local control. This top-down redistribution can not be accomplished if those governmental bodies and corporate bodies at the top do not have access to personally identifiable information about teachers, as well as of students.

We cannot separate data collection issues from Common Core reforms. They work hand in hand.

To protect Utah citizens from groups gaining improper access to student data, we need more than assurances. (I am not interested in evidence of wrongdoing; we need impenetrable knowledge that such improper access is impossible) I mean that we need to end Utah’s use of the federally promoted and funded and nationally interoperable State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS). We should at the very least make parents aware that personally identifiable information on their student is being collected, and make an opt-out form available widely.

On Testing: You said:

Unlike SBAC, we control our own CAT. AIR is our contractor who works for us, not for SBAC. So I see a big difference between SBAC and AIR. The tests given and the questions asked are approved by the State Board, not AIR. We have a 15 member parent committee who also reviews all of the questions. With respect to “behavorial indicators,” AIR is not free to ask any questions about Utah students. Behavioral indicators has been interpreted by the State Board to mean only graduation data, grades, school discipline and attendance – nothing more. AIR has no ability to collect the data which you fear them collecting. While AIR does behavioral research, that is not what they are tasked with in our contractual arrangement. AIR is one of the premiere computer adaptive testing providers – that is what we contracted with them to do.

I say: AIR is partnered with SBAC and is philosophically aligned (and contractually connected) with George Soros, the Clintons, Microsoft/Gates, and the U.S. Department of Education, to name a few.

What evidence do we have that Utah, not AIR and its partners, has full control over the AIR common core-aligned test? How can we ever go beyond the 15% Common Core alignment rule for common core aligned tests? What are the actual writers’ names and qualifications for AIR tests for Utah? What qualifies the State Board to approve questions while Utah teachers and principals cannot? Why can’t all parents– not just fifteen– see the questions? Have you read what Utah psychologist Dr. Gary Thompson has advised us on this subject?

On Constitutionality: You said:

The State Board completely controls the standards and testing as it pertains to the Utah core standards. Of this I have first-hand knowledge.

I say: The State Board has zero say in what will be written on the NGA/CCSSO produced Common Core standards, nor can they affect its future changes which will be handed down, top-down, to all the states who adopted Common Core. The State Board has no evidence that is can write AIR/SAGE tests to any standard that it desires, beyond the 15% rule for Common Core aligned tests.

On Spiral of Silence: You say:

Once again, I see no evidence of such. Provide to me a name and contact information of a teacher whose job was threatened by speaking out against the Utah Core standards.

I say: No, I will not provide to you the names of the Utah teachers and other staff who I have personally spoken with, who feel that their jobs are threatened if they who dare speak out about Common Core. I have already provided you with the names of those who have retired who are speaking out. And I can promise you that there are many who currently teach, who wish they dared.

On Not Being State-Led: You say:

This assumes that the Common Core Initiative is a federal led effort. There is no evidence of such. Simply because President Obama wants to claim credit for something he didn’t do, does not make it so. I believe he also got a Noble Peace Prize for not doing anything either. These trade organizations are state led – the elected governors and state superintendents control them. 48 state boards of education joined them in the Initiative. The federal government was expressly excluded and no federal funds were used. The states often act through their trade associations as a collective group. The National Governors Association does that on a regular basis. It was in my capacity as a member of the National Association of State Boards of Education and member of the Utah State Board that I confronted the US Department of Education. You assume that the elected governors, state superintendents and state school boards do not control their own associations. I can tell you that in my experience that is not the case.

I say: Is the NGA or CCSSO accountable to the public? No. Do they have open door meetings or financial transparency? No. Were they elected to determine my local school district’s policies in educational matters? No. Do they have a right to assume governance and influence over my child or over me as a teacher, when I have not elected them nor can I un-elect them? No. These groups are not representative of the states. Not even all superintendents belong to CCSSO. Not even all governors belong to NGA. It’s all outside the framework of our founding.

State-led implies that Congressmen and Representatives led and vetted it, in the American way, which is by voter representation. This was never the case. It is not honorable to continue to call this “state-led” because it implies something that it never was– a movement with actual representation.

On Cost: You say:

Tell me who those teachers are so I can confirm this. I find this hard to believe because none of our textbooks have ever been aligned to our core standards. We have intentionally put forth a 5 year implementation of the Utah core standards so that textbooks are bought on the same current cycle. Line items on the costs of teacher development and textbooks are available through the Office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst as well as from the Utah State Office of Education. Those budgets do not show any measureable increase in the amount spent on either teacher development or textbooks. In fact, you find that over time, the teacher development monies have significantly decreased.

I say: No, I will not provide to you the names of the Utah teachers and other staff who I have personally spoken with.

Governor Herbert agreed in a face to face meeting that a cost analysis should have been done, and was not. He agreed to have one done. He has not. All we have is your word for it. Nothing is on paper. This is not fiscally responsible, especially considering that the largest chunk of Utah tax monies go toward education, and in this case, toward implementation and marketing of Common Core in Utah.

On NAEP: You say:

…the horse you’re riding, the 2001 Massachusetts standards, are the dressed up federal NAEP standards. Dr. Stotsky sits on the NAEP Steering Committee for the Reading Framework. Dr. Driscoll, the Commissioner of Education of Mass, has stated that they aligned their standards and curriculum to NAEP. You will find that I am not a believer in NAEP.

I say: Honestly, I have not studied NAEP very much. So I asked friends in Massachusetts. They told me this, which I will not right now take time to verify, but you and I should both study it further, obviously.

“NAEP only has assessment standards–for its tests. It has no curriculum standards. Stotsky helped to develop curriculum standards in MA. They were approved by the teachers in the state. Stotsky is not on any NAEP committee. To get $250,000 in Race to the Top money, MA adopted Common Core. Gates funded evaluations that were intended to show Common Core standards were better than MA own standards.”

In closing, Mr. Thomas, I am sure you and I would both have a better summer if we actually met face to face rather than spending so much time writing unbearably long emails back and forth.

Please let me know if this is a possibility.

Christel Swasey

Professor Tienken, Ze’ev Wurman, Barry Garelick Take on Utah State Office of Education: On Common Core Math   3 comments

First, I received yet another “makes-no-sense” common core math explanation from the Utah State Office of Education, via Ms. Diana Suddreth.

Next, I asked nationally recognized experts to help me digest Suddreth’s words.  This included curricular expert Dr. Christopher Tienken of Seton Hall University, New Jersey, former Dept of Ed advisor and Hoover Institute (Stanford University visiting scholar) Ze’ev Wurman of California; and U.S. Coalition for World Class Math founder Barry Garelick.

This is what they wrote.  (Ms. Suddreth’s writing is also posted below.)

From Dr. Christopher H. Tienken:

Christel,

The UTAH bureaucrat is referencing this book – see below. Look at chpts 7 and 11 for where I think she is gathering support.

http://books.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=9822

Her answer still does not make curricular sense in that she explains that fluency with moving between fractions and decimals is assumed in some ways. With all due respect, the curriculum document is a legally binding agreement of what will be taught. Teachers are bound by law to follow it (of course many don’t but that is going to change with this new testing system). Therefore, if it is not explicitly in the document, it might not get taught.

There are a lot of assumptions made in the Core. Just look at the Kindergarten math sequence. It assumes a lot of prior knowledge on the part of kids. That might be fine for some towns, but certainly not for others.

Perhaps the bureaucrat can point to specific standards that call for students to demonstrate fluency in converting fractions to decimals etc.

However, I think the bigger issue is that parents now don’t have a say in terms of whether and how much emphasis is placed on those skills. Local control is one mechanism for parents to lobby for emphasis of content. Not all content is equally important to each community. The negotiation of “emphasis” is a local issue, but that has now been decided for parents by a distal force.

Christopher H. Tienken, Ed.D.

Editor, AASA Journal of Scholarship & Practice

Editor, Kappa Delta Pi Record

Seton Hall University

College of Education and Human Services

Department of Education Leadership, Management, and Policy

South Orange, NJ

Visit me @: http://www.christienken.com

——————————————————————————–

 

 

Dear Members of the Board,

Ms. Swasey forwarded to me an email that you have received recently, discussing how Utah Core supposedly handles the conversion between fraction forms. I would like to pass you my comments on that email.

First, let me briefly introduce myself. I am a visiting scholar at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. I was a member of the California Academic Content Standards Commission in 2010, which reviewed the Common Core standards before their adoption by the state of California. Prior to that I served as a senior policy adviser at the U.S. Department of Education.

Response to Diana Suddreth’s note, passed to Utah’s Board of Education on April 23, regarding the question of conversion among fractional forms
(Original in italics)

The question that was originally asked was about converting fractions to decimals; therefore, the response pointed to the specific standard where that skill is to be mastered. A close reading of the Utah Core will reveal that the development of a conceptual understanding of fractions that leads to procedural skills begins in grade 3 and is developed through 7th grade. The new core does not list every specific procedure that students will engage in; however, explaining equivalence of fractions (3rd & 4th grade), ordering fractions (4th grade), understanding decimal notation for fractions (4th grade), and performing operations with fractions (4th, 5th, and 6th grade) all suggest and even require certain procedures to support understanding and problem solving.
Unfortunately, Ms. Suddreth does not address above the question at hand—whether, or how, does the Utah Core expect students to develop fluency and understanding with conversion among fractional representations of fractions, decimals and percent—and instead offers general description of how Utah Core treats fractions. This is fine as it goes, but it does not add anything to the discussion.

In 5th grade, fractions are understood as division problems where the numerator is divided by the denominator. (In fact, the new core does a better job of this than the old where fractions were more often treated as parts of a whole, without also relating them to division.)

The above is incorrect. In grade 5, as in previous grades, the Common Core (or Utah Core, if you will) frequently treats fractions as “parts of the whole.” There is no other way to interpret grade 5 standards such as “Solve word problems involving addition and subtraction of fractions referring to the same whole … e.g., by using visual fraction models …” (5.NF.2) or “Interpret the product (a/b) × q as a parts of a partition of q into b equal parts;” (5.NF.4a). All this, however, has little to do with the question at hand.

As for percents, students learn that percent is a rate per 100 (a fraction), a concept that is fully developed with a focus on problem solving in 5th and 6th grade.

Yet again Ms. Suddreth is clearly wrong. Percent are not even introduced by the Common (Utah) Core before grade 6.

The new core promotes a strong development of the understanding of fractions as rational numbers, including representations in decimal, fraction, or percent form. Mathematics is far too rich a field to be reduced to a series of procedures without looking at the underlying connections and various representations. There is nothing in the new core to suggest that students will not develop the kinds of procedural skills that support this depth of understanding.

Here, like in her first paragraph, Ms. Suddereth, avoids responding to the question and hopes that writing about unrelated issues will cover this void. The argument was never that the Common Core does not develop understanding of fractions as rational numbers, as decimals, and as percents. The argument was that such understanding is developed in isolation for each form, and that fluent conversion between forms is barely developed in a single standard that touches only peripherally on the conversion and does it at much later (grade 7) than it ought to. Fluency with conversion among fractional representations was identified as a key skill by the National Research Council, the NCTM, and the presidential National Math Advisory Panel. It is not some marginal aspect of elementary mathematics that should be “inferred” and “understood” from other standards. The Common Core is already full of painstakingly detailed standards dealing with fractions and arguing that such cardinal area as fluency with conversion (“perhaps the deepest translation problem in pre-K to grade 8 mathematics” in NRC’s opinion) should not be addressed explicitly is disingenuous.

The new core is, in fact, supported by the Curriculum Focal Points from NCTM, which do not conflict with anything in the new core, but rather provide detailed illustrations of how a teacher might focus on the development of mathematics with their students. The new core is based on the research in Adding It Up. Some of the researchers on that project were also involved in the development of the Common Core, which forms the basis for the Utah Core.

Curriculum Focal Points explicitly requires fluency with conversion between fractional forms by grade 7, which is absent in the Common Core. It also, for example, expects fluency with dividing integers and with addition and subtraction of decimals by grade 5, which the Common Core expects only by grade 6. One wonders what else it would take to make Ms. Suddreth label them as in conflict. One also wonders how much is the Common Core really “based on the research in Adding It Up” if it essentially forgot even to address what Adding It Up considers “perhaps the deepest translation problem in pre-K to grade 8 mathematics”—the conversion among fractions, decimals, and percent.

In summary, Ms. Suddereth’s note passed to you by Ms. Pyfer contains both misleading and incorrect claims and is bound to confuse rather than illuminate.

Ze’ev Wurman
zeev@ieee.org
Palo Alto, Calif.
650-384-5291

—————–

From Barry Garelick of the U.S. Coalition for World Class Math:
Feel free to send them links to my article (which is a three part article).  There’s a very good comment that someone left [on part one] which once they read might make them realize they better tread a bit more carefully.  http://www.educationnews.org/k-12-schools/standards-for-mathematical-practice-cheshire-cats-grin-part-three/
BG

——————

 

From: Tami Pyfer <tami.pyfer@usu.edu>

Date: Tue, Apr 23, 2013 at 8:22 PM

Subject: Follow-up on Question about math standard

To: Board of Education <Board@schools.utah.gov>, “Hales, Brenda (Brenda.Hales@schools.utah.gov)” <Brenda.Hales@schools.utah.gov>

Cc: “Christel S (212christel@gmail.com)” <212christel@gmail.com>, “Diana Suddreth (Diana.Suddreth@schools.utah.gov)” <Diana.Suddreth@schools.utah.gov>

Dear Board members-

The note below from Diana Suddreth is additional information that I hope will be helpful for you in understanding the questions you may have gotten regarding the claim that the new math core doesn’t require students to know how to convert fractions to decimals, or addresses the skill inadequately. Diana has just returned from a math conference and I appreciate her expertise in this area and the additional clarification.

Please feel free to share this with others who may be contacting you with questions.

Hope this helps!

Tami

The question that was originally asked was about converting fractions to decimals; therefore, the response pointed to the specific standard where that skill is to be mastered. A close reading of the Utah Core will reveal that the development of a conceptual understanding of fractions that leads to procedural skills begins in grade 3 and is developed through 7th grade. The new core does not list every specific procedure that students will engage in; however, explaining equivalence of fractions (3rd & 4th grade), ordering fractions (4th grade), understanding decimal notation for fractions (4th grade), and performing operations with fractions (4th, 5th, and 6th grade) all suggest and even require certain procedures to support understanding and problem solving. In 5th grade, fractions are understood as division problems where the numerator is divided by the denominator. (In fact, the new core does a better job of this than the old where fractions were more often treated as parts of a whole, without also relating them to division.) As for percents, students learn that percent is a rate per 100 (a fraction), a concept that is fully developed with a focus on problem solving in 5th and 6th grade.

The new core promotes a strong development of the understanding of fractions as rational numbers, including representations in decimal, fraction, or percent form. Mathematics is far too rich a field to be reduced to a series of procedures without looking at the underlying connections and various representations. There is nothing in the new core to suggest that students will not develop the kinds of procedural skills that support this depth of understanding.

The new core is, in fact, supported by the Curriculum Focal Points from NCTM, which do not conflict with anything in the new core, but rather provide detailed illustrations of how a teacher might focus on the development of mathematics with their students. The new core is based on the research in Adding It Up. Some of the researchers on that project were also involved in the development of the Common Core, which forms the basis for the Utah Core.

Diana Suddreth, STEM Coordinator

Utah State Office of Education

Salt Lake City, UT

———————————–

 

From: Christel S [212christel@gmail.com]

Sent: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 10:42 PM

Subject: Follow-up on Question about math standard

My math and curriculum friends, I don’t know how to argue with these people. Can you assist? Here we have countless parents hating the common core math, and reviewers telling us it puts us light years behind legitimate college readiness, but the USOE continues the charade.

Please help– point me to facts and documentation that will make sense to the average person. Thank you.

Marc Tucker vs. Marion Brady: Common Core Mediocre, Lockstep Education vs. Innovation and Time-Tested Pedagogy   Leave a comment

The 9th problem with the Common Core standards

-by Marion Brady

From The Washington Post.  Full text: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/the-9th-problem-with-the-common-core-standards/2012/09/16/723d240e-0071-11e2-b260-32f4a8db9b7e_blog.html?wprss=rss_answer-sheet

It’s an incredibly important argument between a smart, veteran eduator, Marion Brady, versus an extremist left-wing educrat, Marc Tucker (whose socialized-U.S -education plot with Hilary Clinton has been known and Congressionally recorded for decades.)  http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/anti-liberty-plot-for-american-education-full-text-of-the-letter-from-marc-tucker-to-hillary-clinton-2/

Marion Brady’s main point, against Tucker and his Common Core:

  • Common Core centralizes control of education
  • micromanages classrooms (by non-educators)
  • blocks all innovation that’s not tied to the core
  • relies on destructive, simplistic tests that fail to take account of the fundamental nature of knowledge and of human complexity.

- And you can read Marc Tucker’s side of the argument here:  http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/2012/09/8_problems_with_the_common_core_state_standards_i_dont_think_so.html

My first thought, upon seeing Marc Tucker’s name as author, in print, was, “What!? Marc Tucker can still get published? After his (and Hilary Clinton’s) socialist plot to take over education was made public, published as part of the Congressional records?! Help!”  –But read on.

Marc Tucker:

v. Marion Brady:

 )

From Brady:

“…Marc Tucker, long-time major player in the current test-based education reform effort, in an Education Week “Top Performers” blog, took me to task with a piece called  “8 Problems With the Common Core State Standards? I Don’t Think So.”

My Washington Post piece was a little over 1,000 words. Mr. Tucker’s response was twice that. If I were to respond point by point to his objections to my eight criticisms of the standards— which I’d really like to do — it would almost certainly double that word count. Few readers would stick with me for 4,000 words, even if editors were willing to publish them.

I’ll stand by my criticisms, but try to move the dialogue along by adding a ninth. I’d have included it before, but couldn’t squeeze it into a paragraph.

Mr. Tucker buys the conventional wisdom, that the subjects that make up the core — math, science, language arts, and social studies — “cover” the important stuff that kids need to know, from which it follows that anything that nails down more precisely what actually gets covered is a good thing. Ergo: the Common Core Standards.

He says, “…the core academic disciplines (the core subjects in the school curriculum) provide the conceptual underpinning for deep understanding of virtually everything we want our students to know.”

Most people agree, including most teachers, especially younger ones. That’s what they’ve been taught, and experience hasn’t yet caused them to question orthodoxy.

I disagree, not about the standards providing conceptual underpinning for the core subjects (which I’ve never questioned). I take issue with the contention that the standards provide “deep understanding of virtually everything we want students to know…”

I’m not alone. Buckminster Fuller, Kurt Vonnegut, Alfred North Whitehead, Felix Frankfurter, Harlan Cleveland, Neil Postman… and dozens of other nationally and internationally known and respected people are on my side of the issue.

But we have a problem. The idea we’re trying to get across isn’t part of the current education reform dialogue. That means that in a few hundred words, I have to try to introduce a new (and very abstract) idea, explain why it’s of fundamental importance but at odds with the standards, and offer an alternative.

Here’s that idea, as articulated by Peter M. Senge, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In his book, “The Fifth Discipline,” he says:

From a very early age, we are taught to break apart problems, to fragment the world. This apparently makes complex tasks and subjects more manageable, but we pay a hidden, enormous price. We can no longer see the consequences of our actions; we lose our intrinsic sense of connection to a larger whole.

That “larger whole” is reality. We want kids to make better sense of it. To that end, we send them off to study school subjects that explain various parts of it. We don’t, however, show them how those parts fit together, relate, interact, elaborate, and reinforce each other. When the bell rings, off they go to study a different subject that, as far as they can tell, is little or not at all related to the one they just left.

As this brief slideshow illustrates, this is a first-order problem, and the Common Core Standards ignore it. Locking the core subjects in place tells the world that America thinks a curriculum patched together in 1892 by 10 college administrators, a curriculum that reflects the industrial policy of the era, a curriculum that fails to acknowledge the fundamental, integrated nature of reality, is the best way to organize knowledge.

It’s not. Systems theory as it developed during World War II is far better. Period. It doesn’t replace the core subjects (which I’ve never advocated), just makes them working parts of a single, simpler, more efficient “master” mental organizer.

This is absolutely central to learning. Knowledge grows as we connect bits of it — as we discover relationships between, say, street width and sense of community, between birth order and certain personality traits, between capital investment decisions and political stability.

Compartmentalizing knowledge gets directly in the way of the basic process that makes kids (and the rest of us) smarter.

That systems thinking integrates knowledge isn’t an original idea. I’m just passing it along and offering a way to operationalize it.

A little story: Years ago I realized that what educators like John Goodlad, Neil Postman, Alfred North Whitehead, Ernest Boyer and others were saying in books, articles, and speeches wasn’t making any difference in what was actually happening in classrooms. Knowing it isn’t always easy to translate theory into practice, I wrote a course of study for adolescents that showed how systems theory could help them see the connected nature of all knowledge and the minute-by-minute way they were experiencing it.

I chose to write for middle schoolers because they hadn’t yet been thoroughly programmed by traditional instruction to compartmentalize what they knew, and because an earlier project I’d undertaken for Prentice-Hall, Inc. had led to friendships with several middle school principals around the country.

I contacted them. Would they be willing to pilot my course of study and give me feedback so I could refine it?

Nobody turned me down. Everything was in place for the fall of the year, then No Child Left Behind became law, and that was the end of that. I got letters and phone calls from the principals apologizing for having to back out of their commitment. It was clear to them that raising test scores, not improving kids’ ability to make better sense of experience, was now the name of the education game.

And so it remains. Over the years, with my brother’s help, I’ve continued to play with the course of study, thinking some rebel school system somewhere might pilot and help improve it, but the money and power behind the “standards and accountability” juggernaut probably make it unstoppable. The standards have been swallowed by just about everybody, and as soon as they’ve been digested, Pearson, McGraw-Hill, Educational Testing Service, and other manufacturers of standardized tests will be ready with contracts in hand for computerized tests in numbers sufficient to crash web servers.

The tests, of course, will build in a failure rate set by some faceless decision-maker — an easily operated spigot for meeting stockholder expectations. Open it — boost the failure rate — and up go sales of tests, test prep tools, instructional materials. And, of course, profits.

Even if I’m wrong about the eight other problems with the Common Core Standards (and I’m not), I don’t see any wiggle room on this one. If I’m right, the current reform effort’s centralizing of control of education, its micromanaging of classrooms by non-educators, its blocking of all innovation not tied to the core, and its reliance on destructive, simplistic tests that fail to take account of the fundamental nature of knowledge, and of human complexity and variability, will, in Senge’s words, exact an “enormous price.”

That price will be the inability of our children and our children’s children to cope with a future shaping up to be more challenging than anything humans have thus far faced.”

Thank you, Marion Brady.

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