Archive for the ‘Stop Common Core’ Tag
Recognizing an American Hero: John Saxon
by Nakonia (Niki) Hayes
This article, found at Education Views, introduces John Saxon, whose math materials are used by one million home schooled students today. Saxon’s textbooks are found in Arizona’s BASIS schools, as well as in private schools and some public schools across the country.
Both this article and the book about John Saxon are written by Niki Hayes, who has given permission to repost the article here.
Seeking recognition for a hero in mathematics education may be a waste of time since so many Americans’ eyes glaze over at the mere mention of the word “math.” Too many claim they don’t like math, can’t do math, or don’t want even to think about math. (This phenomenon is found only in America. Interestingly, such attitudes are not heard in Third World countries that produce strong math students.)
So what’s the point in looking at an American math hero now? Maybe recognizing a math teacher-turned-millionaire-author-and-publisher who took a beating for 15 years from the powerful math education establishment will help refuel the parents and citizens—those special “Davids”—who are stepping up to fight the unified Goliaths of Common Core.
His enemies, who are among today’s Goliaths, will sneer upon hearing his name: John Saxon. They still refuse to accept the results of his “common sense genius” in teaching K-12 mathematics.
Saxon literally popped onto the national math education scene unexpectedly and uninvited in 1981 after self-publishing his first algebra textbook. Reformist authors, who quickly became his opponents, were claiming that making math more fun and “relevant” to girls and minorities was the answer to getting higher scores on international tests. He said his proven book was user-friendly and historically-based and was the answer for all students. They said his ideas worked only for white males and Asians because American girls and minorities couldn’t think analytically or with deductive reasoning. He called them racist and sexist. War was declared on Saxon with all the might of federal, state, and local resources of the math education leadership.
He had no idea that he, in turn, would ultimately choose to be a catalyst for the “math wars” that erupted among parents, school districts, and state textbook committees in the 1990s, and that the results of his promoting parent empowerment for a decade might help set up the battles by parents against Common Core.
Saxon was simply a retired U.S. Air Force officer who had begun teaching algebra to students in night classes at Oscar Rose Junior College in Oklahoma in 1970. Having taught engineering at the U.S. Air Force Academy, he discovered woeful deficiencies in his community college students’ basic math skills. Determining they were capable of learning but that they had not been taught those basic skills, he began creating specially-designed worksheets of problems for his students over the next five years, with step-by-step procedures and a use of creative repetition for continuous practice. By 1975, he had a manuscript that the junior college print shop mimeographed and collated for the students.
Then in 1980, after a year-long pilot study in 20 Oklahoma public schools with amazing results (monitored by the Oklahoma chapter of the American Federation of Teachers), Saxon was ready to publish his book in hardback for any school that taught a first year algebra course. He was rebuffed by six publishers in New York City because he wasn’t “a member of a math education committee.” One other publisher did suggest, however, that he publish the book himself. Borrowing $80,000, Saxon did just that. When he died in 1996, Saxon Publishers in Norman, Oklahoma, had sales of $27 million. When his company was sold in 2004, the reported selling price was $100 million.
For those 15 years as a teacher, author, and publisher, Saxon found himself on the defensive against not only government bureaucrats, but the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), a powerful special interest group with political ties to the U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The followers of NCTM were receiving large federal grants to write reform math materials that promoted equity over excellence as the new American goal in mathematics. They did not want to share their bounty and prestige with an outsider who wasn’t even “trained” as a teacher. Worse, he disagreed with their equity ideology as the new function of math education.
They attacked his traditional content with no pictures as boring and “drill and kill.” He had refused to put color photos in his books, saying that such space and costs should be used for showing examples on how to work the problems rather than promoting social justice. He insisted on incremental development with one lesson per day, his unique creative repetition, and no separate chapters which he called “hunk learning”—i.e., students trying to consume a major concept and moving on to the next hunk even if they hadn’t digested the previous one. He required a test after every five lessons so reteaching, if needed, could be planned immediately. And, unbelievably, students were not allowed to use calculators for daily work or tests until the eighth grade. (That’s still true today with Saxon Math.)
Saxon scoffed when reformists insisted that historically-proven mathematics, which had been developed over 2,000 years by diverse cultures from around the world, was effective only with “white males” in America—and “Asians.” Then, he would explode with anger over what he called disastrous teaching materials and methods being purchased without proof of their results.
The biggest surprise to the leaders was when Saxon bought full-page advertisements in mathematics journals, magazines and major newspapers to respond to the charges laid against him and his work. As a World War II veteran, West Point graduate, Korean War combat pilot awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, and a Vietnam veteran, Saxon was a fully trained and experienced warrior who was now fighting “a good war” for children in American mathematics education. Later described as the “George Patton of math education,” Saxon saw no purpose in losing any battle and was not averse to launching a frontal assault. He often got bloodied, but so did they.
As a man with three degrees in engineering, he also knew about the use of mathematics in the real world, including flying airplanes in life and death situations. He ridiculed the elitists’ feigned “real world” problems in textbooks. Saxon wasn’t about to back down from those he thought were promoting their ideology in textbooks and not proving their programs’ results before launching them into schools. “Results matter,” he kept saying, and he had reams of results to show that his textbooks were working.
He constantly called on parents to step forward and fight the new “fuzzy math” programs. Some parents finally did come out swinging in California and in 1994 led a major change in that state’s curriculum standards. That parental action is being repeated now across America regarding Common Core.
Some of his opponents literally cheered when he died. They still hate him today, 18 years after his death. Schools of education that train teachers dismiss his work even though many of his warnings about their programs have come true:
- Use of calculators too early ruins students’ acquisition of basic skills, many of which must be learned by memorization, such as multiplication facts and mental math.
- Not understanding the importance of algebra—true algebra—at the eighth grade level as the gateway subject for later entry into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) would prevent many students from entering those fields and leave America short-handed for individuals who could help provide growth and development of the country.
- Turning teacher-facilitated, rather than teacher-led, classrooms into discovery fun fests with lots of conversation, written explanations of problem-solving, and a focus on non-competitive, differentiated learning found math classrooms that included the weakest to the gifted student. “White males,” gifted children, and Asians were effectively ignored. Process, not the results, was to be enjoyed. Saxon warned this would cause both girls and boys of all races to be in remedial math classes in college, which would negate many of their career choices. Seventy to ninety percent of community college students are indeed enrolled in remedial math today. Up to forty percent must take it in four-year colleges. Common Core proponents claim they will change that statistic—with their weakened math program that even their leaders admit won’t prepare students for STEM careers.
John Saxon’s Story, a genius of common sense in math education, is the biography of a man who fought for his country in three wars and then, in an unexpected second career, for American children in mathematics education. He became, and still is, a real hero to millions of children:
A class of eighth graders in a Spokane, WA, Catholic school put his algebra book on the church’s altar at Thanksgiving in 1985 because of their appreciation for its impact on their learning. The Window Rock High School Navajo students in Fort Defiance, AZ, chose him as their graduation speaker over the state’s governor in 1992. His materials are used by one million home schooled students today and his textbooks are found in Arizona’s successful BASIS charter schools, as well as in private schools and smaller public schools across the country.
The biography is filled with facts and stories of his successes, as well as an honest portrayal of a colorful, eccentric man “cursed with clarity” who proved to be a born teacher as well as a born warrior. All proceeds from the biography go to West Point’s Department of Mathematical Sciences in honor of LTC (Ret.) John Harold Saxon, Jr. More can be learned about John Saxon and the book at http://saxonmathwarrior.com. (A free 16-page booklet can also be downloaded.)
Dr. Gary Thompson is a rock star.
Despite his shy nature, he’s one of the loudest, smartest, funniest and most fearless fighters in the quest to protect children and to expose the widespread education-establishment corruption called Common Core.
He actually fights. Actually cares. Is not in it for money.
He’s not one of the politicorporate bad guys who use the pretense of “doing what’s best for the children” as a facade for just the opposite– to gain power, prestige and money at children’s expense. (I’m talking about: Pearson Education/Bill Gates/Arne Duncan/A.I.R./Chambers of Commerce/Marc Tucker/ Obama/ CCSSO, etc. etc. –as well as those who sustain the bad guys’ club, promoting Common Core and student data mining and teacher redistribution– yes, yes, the education folk whom we’ve elected or appointed even here in Utah.)
Dr. Thompson is a Utah doctor of clinical psychology and a very vocal advocate for children’s protection –from data mining, from excessive high-stakes testing and from age-inappropriate educational standards.
He’s given me permission to post his notes here, which were directed to the Utah State School board and State Office of Education. Thanks, Dr. Thompson.
From July 18, 2014:
In a public hearing yesterday Utah State Board members debated the issue of going back to the “old” (“No Child Left Behind”) or pushing forward with the developmentally inappropriate Common Core.
State Board Member Debra Roberts stated –in support of going forward with Common Core and renewing the NCLB waiver– “What counts to me is the immediate impact on individual students who are most vulnerable, and absolutely there would be an immediate impact on those kids.”
The adoption of Common Core for “the most vulnerable” of our kids flies in the face of science and parental common sense. I will leave all the political and money issues to the Board experts, but I will crucify on social and national media any and all Utah State Board members who are insane enough to cite the heart string pulling, manipulative “vulnerable kids” argument in support of Common Core.
That one-size-fits-all recent adoption of special education policies of the U.S. Department of Education is nothing short of developmental and cognitive child abuse.
Yes, Ms. Roberts, I said “Child Abuse“.
Use ANY other justification to support your wish to go forward with the waiver and stay on course with Common Core, but to use “vulnerable children” as any part of that justification is disingenuous, not supported by facts of science and child psychology.
Ms. Robert’s comments are nothing but a shameless manipulation of parents who voted for her to represent the best interests of their children, not the special interest groups of Utah’s teachers union or Bill Gate’s special interest testing groups.
Fellow Board Member Jeff Moss had the wisdom and courage to pull a last second, heroic motion out of his bag of procedural tricks to halt voting on this issue until more facts were gathered. One of these facts is the harm Common Core has on our States “most vulnerable children.”
Regardless of the consequences personally or professionally, I will not silence my voice while any Utah State Board Member uses the “vulnerable children” argument as justification to move forward with the NCLB waiver so that Common Core can continue to cause emotional, developmental, and cognitive harm to the children I dedicated my life to treating and serving…. and raising.
Ms. Roberts: Feel free to “spin” money issues. Spin the Standards debate. Spin anything you want in this debate Ms. Roberts. However, if you use “vulnerable children”…my therapist’s clients…or my own developmentally vulnerable children as part of your spin, I promise I will make you famous this summer.
-Dr. Gary Thompson-
Parent & Stay Home Dad
Dr. Thompson also posted this letter, which is somehow hilarious even though it points out a tragic fact: that our educational leaders are promoting experimental, unvetted, non-peer-reviewed education standards –the Common Core standards– as if they were legitimate.
From July 24th:
Attached is something called “peer reviewed research”. When treating or testing children, especially those designated as “vulnerable populations,” we gear all our practices to be aligned with this type of research.
It’s best practice. It’s safe for the children. It’s the smart thing to do.
We do not base services provided to kids based on influences of special interest groups or Bill Gates. Nor do we give out propaganda-based information to parents, as such may pertain to children in vulnerable populations.
Peer reviewed research: Try it. You may like it!
-Dr. Gary Thompson
The next Utah State School Board meeting is on August 8th. It’s an open meeting. The public is wanted–and needed.
Many will be there, showing by our presence that it matters to us what the board does in this vote. We will wear matching stickers to petition the board NOT to renew the waiver from No Child Left Behind (ESEA). The board will vote on that day. The email for the board is firstname.lastname@example.org and the phone number is 801-538-7517. You may have two minutes to speak at that meeting if you call well in advance.
From Jenni White of Oklahoma
After filling the Supreme Court of Oklahoma with so many people the Bailiff had to bring in folding chairs to accommodate everyone, the lawsuit brought by parents, teachers and members of our own Oklahoma state school board was heard yesterday morning. I took copious notes because the entire proceeding was fascinating to me, as I had never seen a case argued before the Supreme Court. I certainly encourage everyone to do so as well! One day I hope to get the notes transcribed to share, but the important thing here, is that in the end, Solicitor General Wyrick did a beautiful job defending the legislature and the people of Oklahoma and the case was decided in favor of the people by a ruling of 8-1.
Though I know of no one who was sure of the outcome, a question asked by Justice Edmondson
probably provided a hint. There were many smiles and even a few muffled laughs, as Justice Edmondson asked Attorney McCampbel, a question similar to, “Didn’t the legislature direct the state school board to adopt Common Core in the first place?”
Thank you to all those who helped us hire our attorneys. With Amicus briefs filed on behalf of ROPE, Tulsa912Project, Professional Oklahoma Educators and Eagle Forum, I do believe it helped. Also, thank you so much to all of you who attended. There was great decorum in the room and I think it was important for the Justices to see that this issue was so important to so many parents and citizens. I hope our three successive wins this year (the passage of HB3399, electing a new superintendent and winning the court case against HB3399) are helping you to understand that citizens/parents can have an impact on OUR government. In fact, my greatest hope is that Oklahoma citizens will begin to realize that We The People can influence our government through our Representatives. Education, combined with a few emails, calls and an appearance once or twice at the Capitol can encourage our representatives in state government to support educational liberty in our state. I‘m attaching a number of articles at the bottom of this email in case you want to read more about the decision.
Thank you so much for your support, I will be releasing another email soon with more information on where we go from here. Please do not think the fight for educational liberty is over in Oklahoma. It is not. Too many laws, rules and identities have been forged to perpetuate the notion of education ‘reform’ and accountability. There is much, much more to do, so continue to stay aware and informed.
If you are interested in attending the Glenn Beck “We Will Not Conform” event which will play live on the big screen at the Provo, Utah Cinemark 16 on 1200 Towne Center Boulevard, today’s a lucky day. I’ve been given four special event passes by a Glenn Beck producer to give away and they need your name on them.
Just send an email to email@example.com with one reason that you would like two free tickets to this show. Give me your mailing address and I’ll send out the four tickets, two tickets per winner, today. If you don’t win the free tickets, you may buy tickets at FathomEvents.com
About the event:
This Tuesday, July 22nd, liberty goes up against the Common Core. A live, interactive event will take place at about 700 local movie theaters across the nation simultaneously. It will be filmed at the Glenn Beck studios in Dallas, Texas, where a handful of Utah friends will join others in Dallas as part of Glenn Beck’s participant panel.
Michelle Malkin, Glenn Beck, Jenni White, David Barton and many other Common Core fighters will interact with the nationwide audience, via social media, in a meeting of the minds to use “the brainpower, experience and passion of thousands of people from around the country…captured in a comprehensive, unified plan of action”.
You don’t want to miss this.
Another, non-interactive repeat showing of the evening will be rebroadcast in theaters on the evening of July 29th.
Renee Braddy, a Utah mother and a former elementary school teacher, has given permission to post this letter which she sent to the Utah Educator’s Association office.
As of this posting, she has still not heard back from the UEA.
Thank you, Renee.
To Whom it Concerns:
I am writing to you first and foremost as a parent and second as a former public school teacher in Utah. I faithfully belonged to and supported the UEA the entire time I taught.. Today, I was sent an email from a friend. [Read it here.] The letter was from the UEA and it was a request for its members to voice their support for the Common Core because of concerns being voiced by a “small vocal minority”.
I would likely fit into that category. It seems this emailwas an attempt to label, marginalize, and thus dismiss those who have voiced concerns or opposition. I feel that my concerns, both as a parent and educator, are valid and are based on legal documents and lengthy research. I am writing in hopes of working together.
My experience has been that the large majority of citizens (including parents, teachers and administrators) are unaware of the big picture that comes with the adoption of the Common Core agenda. It is so much more than a set of standards. So, I would say that my experience has been that a large majority are silent on their like or dislike for Common Core. Silence is not acceptance; it is most likely ignorance.
I believe that as American citizens, we have a responsibility and a right to voice our opinions and to have questions answered and concerns addressed. Unfortunately, this opportunity never happened with Utah’s adoption of common core. Due process didn’t occur and the parents and teachers feel like a trust was violated.
I believe that Utah has some of the finest educators in the nation and my hope is to return educational decisions to the hands of parents, teachers and local administrators. I don’t think the shift began with Common Core, but it is the current reform and parents and teachers aren’t happy now. The issues need to be addressed, not dismissed.
Teachers have been told that “it will not bode well professionally to speak against Common Core.” They have told me that they have been sent a clear message that they should not talk about their concerns –and definitely not while at school. Local school board members are also being told to not speak out, and that they need to support the state board.
I am happy to meet and listen to your concerns and attempt to work together for a solution that is right for our state.
Please let me know when is most convenient.
While we wait patiently together to see if the UEA has the inclination to respond to Renee, I have a few thoughts. I happen to be waiting patiently, too, for a response to my letter to Governor Herbert (see below). But visiting or writing letters to any member of the education establishment results in either: a) silence or: b) a ridiculous pat on the head. Anyone who’s tried, knows.
This happens over and over and over– not only at the Utah state level, but also at the local school board level, and at the federal (unconstitutional) Department of Education level.
It does not stop us from writing, calling, and going to as many of their meetings as we can stomach.
I believe in the squeaky wheel theory, and I believe in Jesus’ parable about the woman and the unrighteous judge from Luke 18. If everyone who wanted Common Core to go away would call, write, and pray repeatedly, weekly, persistently, patiently, unceasingly– Common Core could not stand. No legs.
Why not? Because Common Core has no legs –except expensive marketing networks and lies– to stand on. It has countless millions of dollars gambled on this takeover of American schools as a “uniform customer base” and more millions spent on marketing its unsupportable talking points.
And that is the simple, incredible truth. No legs.
It has no academic pilot testing, no written amendment process for states to retain local control, no privacy protections for its tests’ data collection processes, no actual international benchmarking, no chance of improving “global competitiveness,” no heart, no wisdom, no love for classical education, no state-led history, no hope of developing a real love of learning; no common sense.
Remember the parable of Jesus from Luke 18
: There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:
And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.”
There are people at the State Office of Education and at the State School Board who likewise “fear not God, nor regard man” yet because we trouble them, they may choose to “avenge” our cause, since by our “continual coming” we weary them. And weary them we must because as a state, we are experiencing a huge Spiral of Silence.
Spiral of silence is the name of a well-studied communications theory by Dr. Elizabeth Noelle-Neumann, a phenomenon which happens when people fear separation or isolation (or job loss or even death) but perceiving or believing that they are in the minority, they keep their concerns to themselves.
Spiral of Silence theory arose as an explanation for why so many Germans remained silent while their Jewish neighbors were being persecuted in the 1940s. Parents, teachers and legislators who do not know enough about Common Core and the Common Data Standards, and who are told to “support” them, do not feel comfortable arguing that we should be free of them. The pressure is even more intense for state school board members and the UEA, which explains, in part, the repeated official stonewalling that we experience and the relatively low number of teachers and education officials who fight against the whole suffocating Common Core and Common Data Standards agenda.
But I will admit that I laughed out loud when I saw the “official” silencing response sent to me by a clerk from the governor’s office, in response to my letter last week to our governor. I would have received the same email had I sent the governor my favorite potato salad recipe.
Following my letter to the governor
, I received this from firstname.lastname@example.org
July 9, 2014
Thank you for your email to the Office of the Governor regarding Education (Common Core). I have been asked to respond on behalf of the Governor.
Our office appreciates hearing from constituents and your comments and opinion regarding this issue have been noted.
Thank you for taking time to contact us regarding this matter.
I wrote back.
That was not a response to my letter. Please contact your supervisor.. I feel that an honest and important letter deserves and honest and important response.
Constituent services wrote back:
Thank you for your follow up email. I regret that my response was not satisfactory. We receive hundreds of email, letters, and calls daily and aim to make sure every constituent gets confirmation that their correspondence was received and that their opinion is taken under consideration.
Common Core is a very important issue and the Governor is paying close attention to the feedback, opinions, and concerns he is receiving from constituents all over the state. Having said that, our office is appreciative of the initiative you took to thoughtfully email us with your experience related to Common Core and your concerns for the Common Education Data Standards.
I wrote back.
While I appreciate the fact that you are responding, I still request a substantive response from someone at the Governors’ office. Noting that the Governor “is paying close attention” is not a response to the issues I raised but merely an acknowledgement that I wrote at all.
Please, forward my email, and the other emails you have been receiving, to those in office who are responsible to the people for these decisions. Perhaps the lieutenant governor has more time to answer specifics than the governor?
Constituents deserve real answers, not pats on the head and thank yous for simply writing at all.
I am patiently waiting to see if anyone at the Governor’s office or anyone who I copied the letter to at the office of education has the time to respond with substance.
Meanwhile, I sent a form of the same letter to the Daily Herald
. My state school board representative, Dixie Allen, decided to respond. Dixie Allen’s response at the Daily Herald
did not address my concerns although it was long. It said that she was one those responsible for bringing Common Core to Utah, and she defended that decision. I remain unanswered, by deafening silence by both the Governor’s office and my state school board representative, on these issues:
- 1) Why are parents denied the right to opt children out of the state longitudinal database system (SLDS) which tracks them almost for their entire lives without parental consent?
- 2) Why has there been no freedom of conscience, no open debate among educators when it comes to Common Core?
- 3) How can we maintain the reins of local control of education when we are attached like siamese twins to the will of the D.C. groups that control Common Core?
- 4) Why doesn’t Utah have her own standards, instead of copyrighted standards coming out of unelected D.C. groups?
- 5) Why has Utah agreed to Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) which align our private data with federal data standards?
- 6) Why doesn’t Utah look to the example of South Carolina’s and Oklahoma’s governors, who have decried the Common Education Agenda, and get Utah out of it, as those states have so wisely, so importantly, done?
Please make some time and join me and other teachers and parents this Thursday in Salt Lake City as we simply show up to show that we are aware of what is going on in education today. We will attend the open state school board meeting. Some of us will speak at the 2 minute public comment segment. Most of us won’t say a word. Please, just show up. That day, they are to decide whether or not to renew the federal NCLB waiver which Utah received in part as a reward for agreeing to do Common Core instead of NCLB.
If you can’t be there, please DO SOMETHING ELSE. There is so much we can do. Here is the Utah State School Board’s address: email@example.com. We can write or call the board, the newspapers and t.v. stations. We can politely and persistently pester our governor: 801-538-1000 or 800-705-2464 (Utah’s Governor Herbert’s number). We can politely and persistently pester the principals and state and local school board members, who are supposed to REPRESENT US, not
Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, or Sir Michael Barber of Pearson Ed. (If you want to get 2 minutes to testify about these things any month, at the monthly state school board meeting
, contact secretary Lorraine at: Lorrain.Austin@schools.utah.gov)
These are watershed moments for education in our State.
If you’ve signed the petition at http://utahnsagainstcommoncore.com you received the following update today. If not, here you go.
Common Core Alerts
1. Attend the Utah State Board of Education meetings Thursday, July 17 from – 4:00 PM to 5:45 PM and Friday, August 8 (please save the date) at Utah State Office of Education, Board Room/Conference Rooms, 250 East 500 South, Salt Lake City, Utah. We plan to PACK THE HOUSE.
The state school board will consider “a decision on whether to apply for an extension to its waiver under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)” to be voted on at the August Board meeting (http://schoolboard.utah.gov/news/board-considers-not-applying-for-an-extension-on-utahs-esea-waiver). We hope that they DO NOT renew the waiver from No Child Left Behind. By not renewing the waiver, Utah can send a clear message that we are in charge of our education and would take us one step closer to cutting the many federal ties that are preventing true local control over education. We will not be the first state to make this vital stand. Read more here.
Our strong presence is vital to voice our support so that the board to vote in our favor. This is a critical vote. Please attend; bring your children; we need to fill the room. (This is their work meeting but with brief public input, so we need to be respectful. Signs are welcome to use in the hallways or outside.)
2. Call and write, before the July 17th meeting, to Governor Herbert, the State School Board, USOE representatives and send copies to your legislators, newspapers, and local school boards, asking them NOT to renew the ESEA waiver, to get us out of Common Core, and to return full control of education to Utah.
Governor – http://governor..utah.gov/goca/form_governor.html State Board – firstname.lastname@example.org Your Board Member – http://schoolboard.utah.gov/board-members-2
Find other officials here – http://vote.utah.gov/vote/menu/index
3. WE WILL NOT CONFORM – GLENN BECK EVENT
JULY 22nd we hope to see you as we pack all the available movie theaters throughout our state (and nationwide) for Glenn Beck’s event: “We Will Not Conform: A night to make Common Core history”. It’s in 700 movie theaters! Several Utah parents will be attending the event live in Texas as well. An updated theater list can be found here: http://www.fathomevents.com/event/we-will-not-conform-live/more-info/theater-locations
4. Parent Groups and Candidates Organized to Stop Common Core:
We have updated the local parent group listings for those organizing in their areas.
There is a large SLC group until smaller groups form from it. Here’s an announcement from them.
Salt Lake County Committees – To Organize, Plan, Educate, and Act! Salt Lake County Committees will meet each fourth Thursday, except when it is a Holiday – like July 24. In which case we will meet on the third Wednesday (to help other attend that might not be able to). So we will meet July 16th 7 PM, at 7679 South Main St. (700 West), Midvale, a nicer and more central location. All are needed at these education and organization meetings (but attendance is more vital at State Board meeting on the 17th). Come one, come all and join your efforts to making Utah Education the best. The building is Utah Addition Centers – but is unmarked so look for signs, to enter, on the front and rear doors. Parking is in the rear. Contact Wendell W. Ashby email@example.com, and Administrative Support – Michelle Rodgers firstname.lastname@example.org
If you live in –or know people who live in– Rich County, please contact Bryce Huefner (435-757-0967, email@example.com) to help with his campaign.
The Utah Education Association sent out an email yesterday. I’m posting it at the bottom (scroll down.)
It’s sad evidence of the loss of open debate and the loss of freedom of conscience that the UEA pretends all educators agree with its pro-Common Core agenda.
I’m a Utah credentialed teacher and I sure don’t agree.
Please help counteract their mass email request by writing to Governor Herbert (and cc it to legislators, newspapers and school boards). If you want to share, feel free to post your letter here in the comments section as well.
Governor Herbert is surely tired of people like you and me by now. We’ve been speaking with him and writing to him for well over two years, pleading with him to free us from the Common Core agenda and to restore local control of education and of student data privacy.
Still, he needs to hear from us again. The UEA’s action bulletin is recruiting pro-Common Core emails to hang on to Common Core in Utah. The UEA asked readers to forward the email to those who care about public education. — Hey, that is you and me!
Below is the letter that I sent. If you write, please use this instead of the non-functioning email address the UEA gave out: http://governor.utah.gov/goca/form_governor.html. You may also send a copy to all members of the state school board at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Governor Herbert,
Please restore local control of education in our state by rejecting Common Core aligned testing and standards in Utah. We deserve to maintain the reins of control here, and this cannot happen when we are attached like Siamese twins to the will of the D.C. groups that control the tests, data collection network, and education standards: Achieve Inc., CCSSO, NGA and the federal Department of Education.
Utah needs her own, not-D.C.-copyright-protected, education standards so that we can ensure that we will always be teaching our students according to the values of the conscience of Utah parents and teachers, unencumbered by influences or pressures from the D.C. groups that control the Common Core agenda.
The Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) that align with the Common Core standards further control our citizenry by reducing the privacy of Utah students and families. This is an issue connected to the repeal of Common Core Standards that must not be ignored. Our federally paid for State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS) will continue to inform federal agencies about our local schools unless we put an end to CEDS involvement, or scrap the SLDS system completely. At the very least, parents in Utah ought to have the right to opt out of having a child tracked from preschool through workforce by the SLDS system.
Please, Governor, pay attention to these things. It is difficult to imagine any other issue being a more important use of your time. Utahns are watching what you will do, as we see governors in other states such as Oklahoma
and South Carolina
taking steps to restore liberty in education. Please follow their lead.
Utah Credentialed Teacher
Here is a condensed version of the UEA email that was sent out yesterday statewide:
|DEAR UEA MEMBER:…There is overwhelming consensus among educators that the Core Standards will ultimately be good for students and education, if implemented properly. There are significant challenges associated with implementing the Core, but the possibilities are immense.Utah has invested years of work and millions of dollars into creating its standards. There is concern that reversing course on Utah’s Core Standards now would mean starting the process all over again.• See more about the Utah Core Standards
What you can do:
Contact the Governor and your legislators NOW and share your opinion about the Utah Core Standards.
• Call or email your legislator* (House / Senate)
o Look up your legislators
• Call or email Governor Gary Herbert:
o Tel: 800-705-2464
o Email: email@example.com
*NOTE: Do not use school computers or email addresses
Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh, UEA President
For more information about the Core Standards:
P.S. Please forward this message to co-workers, friends, family and anyone who supports Utah public education.
|875 E Pontiac Dr. Murray, UT 84107-5299 Phone: 801-266-4461
It is ironic that the UEA warns its members: “Do not use school computers or email addresses.” The UEA knows that it is wrong to use school resources and tax dollars to influence political decisions, yet its email does that very thing.
By Sandra Stotsky
The burning education issue facing most states at the moment is which tests should they give their K-12 students next year to satisfy the conditions of their waivers from the United States Department of Education (USED) or the commitments they made in their Race to the Top (RttT) applications, whether or not they received an RttT grant or other funds from the USED or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The two testing consortia funded by the USED – Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) – for the purpose of developing common tests based on Common Core’s standards have experienced dwindling state commitments. SBAC is down to less than 20, and PARCC is down to possibly 9. Both consortia have been piloting test items across the states this past academic year to acquire the pool of items needed for computer-adaptive testing (by SBAC) and for gauging difficulty levels at all the grade levels participating in the assessments (K-11).
A new twist is the question of whether state boards, commissioners, and/or departments of education committed their states (i.e., the taxpayers) to particular testing companies and future technology costs without going through statute-mandated bidding procedures and cost-benefit analyses. New Mexico and Louisiana seem to be tied up in constitutional issues on contractual matters, while Arizona is trying to ensure it follows its own statutory bidding procedures.
What hasn’t been getting much attention from mainstream media, possibly because most reporters have no children in Common Core-based classrooms and don’t talk to parents of school-age children on a regular basis, are the problems students and teachers are encountering with the tests themselves and the similarities in the problems reported for PARCC and SBAC pilot tests.
The information on PARCC’s pilot tests comes from school administrators in the Bridgewater-Raynham Regional School District in Massachusetts, as reported on June 18 in Wickedlocal.com. The article was based chiefly on what took place at a school board meeting in June, during which the School Committee voted unanimously to stay with MCAS, the state test, for the next academic year. At the meeting, the school administrators explained why they wanted to stay with MCAS, based on the experiences teachers and students had with the PARCC pilot tests the school district gave in the spring of 2014.
“It’s like telling our teachers, ‘We’ll teach you how to drive.’ But then the test says you won’t be driving cars. You’ll be driving boats,” said Bridgewater-Raynham school Superintendent Jacqueline Forbes of the PARCC exam. “It’s not aligning with our curriculum or instruction.”
Based on pilot testing, school officials said PARCC did not match up with Bridgewater-Raynham’s teaching methods and also contained numerous technological flaws.
“The one word I’d use to sum up our experience is ‘frustration,’” said Brian Lynch, an elementary school principal. “First, there were a lot of problems administering the test, which is taken on a computer – and the snags weren’t on the district’s end.”
“Second, the test requires students to be familiar with software programs the district does not teach,” Lynch continued. “The district uses a lot of technology, but students still take basic math tests on topics such as number lines and graphing using a paper and pencil.”
“Are we testing math or are we testing a child’s ability to drag and type?” asked Forbes. “We don’t teach typing in third grade. It’s not developmentally appropriate.”
According to high school Principal Angela Watson, the district piloted the PARCC Algebra I test to randomly selected ninth graders.
“Unfortunately, what we found is our written, taught and assessed curriculum doesn’t match up exactly with the PARCC exam. … It puts kids in unfamiliar territory,” Watsonsaid. “It would take time and resources to make the switch to a curriculum that matches up with PARCC.”
Forbes, however, said that effort might turn out to be misdirected because other districts have articulated similar concerns about the PARCC test.
Regarding SBAC’s pilot tests, a recent letter by Fairgrounds Middle School Principal John Nelson to Nashua Superintendent Mark Conrad provided a disturbing picture, wrote theNashua Telegraph in late January.
New Hampshire teachers had been asked by their local superintendent of schools to take an early version of SBAC in December 2013. According to the article, the teachers said the “new computerized test is confusing, doesn’t work well, and leads to frustration.”
In his letter to members of the Nashua Board of Education, Nelson said, “Teachers shared frustrations they had when they were taking the test and disappointment in test format and the difficulties they had trying to use their computer to take this test.”
His teachers agreed the test should not be used on Nashua students.
The FMS staff collectively believe that the Smarter Balance Test is inappropriate for our students at this time and that the results from this test will not measure the academic achievement of our students; but will be a test of computer skills and students’ abilities to endure through a cumbersome task.
Despite the teachers’ plea and support from Nashua’s teacher union, Conrad, the state board, and Department of Education refused to back down, leaving Nashua’s students with a test their own teachers think is meaningless.
As in Nashua and Bridgewater-Raynham, local reporters all over the country are likely reporting what is happening in their local schools as they pilot Common Core-based tests. But Congress, state legislators, governors, and other policymakers at the state and national levels are not getting an accurate picture of what is happening to the curriculum in our public schools or to the children in them.
Sandra Stotsky, Ed.D. is Professor Emerita at the University of Arkansas. This article is posted with her permission and was first published at Breitbart.com
The Domino effect is happening. States are getting free of Common Core.
First was Indiana. South Carolina and Oklahoma officially dropped out next. Now, here are two more immediately dropping dominoes, Louisiana and Mississippi:
Domino one: Mercedes Schneider provided details on Louisiana Governor Jindal’s Common Core and PARCC exit here. Fascinating conflict of powers in Louisiana. (Thank you, Mercedes Schneider!)
Domino two: The Clarion-Ledger reports that Governor Bryant of Mississipi wants to be free of Common Core.
“I think Common Core is a failed program, and the United States is beginning to realize that,” Bryant said. “Governors all across America are realizing states can do it better.”
Hope that Utah’s Governor Herbert is next.
Note to Utahns: Utah children are being tested by AIR, not by Pearson. So why post this article?
It’s no secret that Utah, as well as the federal government, has heavily invested in Pearson/Microsoft‘s philosophy and product. Pearson leads out in all Common Core implementation and student-data gathering products nationwide, including here in Utah (except for the SAGE/AIR test itself).
Alan Singer’s article adds to the growing argument against Pearson, period. My hope is that both Pearson’s products and its “one-global-governance-system” philosophy will be vigorously rejected and that Pearson will not receive one more penny of the countless Utah tax dollars it has already claimed, both via curriculum sales and via its creepy database building for our state’s school system.
Why Pearson Tests Our Kids
by Alan Singer, Hofstra University
(Posted with permission from the author and also published here)
Pearson invited me to breakfast. Well not just me. I received an email inviting Long Island educators to a free “Breakfast Briefing” promoting “Pearson Personalized Learning” that would empower me to “Turn your traditional student learning into Student-Centered learning by delivering the right curriculum to the right student, at the right time.” I checked out Pearson’s personal learning products online and then decided that the free breakfast and the opportunity to annoy them was not worth the trip.
Pearson is promoting GradPoint, “an easy to use web based solution for grades 6-12″ that “includes over 180 rigorous courses (Core, Electives, AP and Foreign Language & CTE).;” iLit, “a tablet-based reading intervention for students in grades 4-10″ which promises “it has everything your class needs to gain two years of reading growth in a single year;” and aimsweb, “the leading assessment and RTI solution in school today-a complete web-based solution for universal screening, progress monitoring, and data management for Grades K-12.”
I thought calling their literacy program iLit was pretty funny, but otherwise I find their promotion scary. “Pearson Personalized Learning” is not about supporting schools; it is about replacing them. And it is about replacing them without any evidence that their products work or any concern for the impact of their products on schools and student learning.
Pearson executives Sir Michael Barber, Saad Rizvi and John Fallon call their global market strategy “The Incomplete Guide To Delivering Learning Outcomes.” Fallon, Pearson CEO, has been with the company for most of his professional career. He is behind the push for “efficacy,” the corporate buzzword, which in practical terms translates into the constant assessing of student performance who are using Pearson products. The testing strategy tied into common core in the United States is neither an accident nor an accessory. Testing is the core of common core.
I find Barber and Rizvi even more interesting than Fallon for understanding Pearson’s marketing strategies. Barber is Pearson’s chief education strategist and leads its three-pronged assault on education around the world through what Pearson calls efficacy, affordable learning, and the Pearson Knowledge and Research Centre. Efficacy is supposed to be about what works in education based on research done at the research centre, but everything is actually organized around the Pearson goal of “finding business models for affordable schools” that they will be selling, especially in “developing areas of the world.”
If you want to know how Pearson plans to operate, you have to look at McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm and advisor to some of the world’s leading businesses, governments, and institutions. Before joining Pearson, Michael Barber had a similar role at McKinsey where he was a partner. Saad Rizvi, who is Pearson’s Senior Vice President for Efficacy and head of its Catalyst for Education team, was a consultant at McKinsey. McKinsey & Company’s clients include 100 of the top 150 companies in the world. It has advised the Bank of England, the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, and the German government.
The main job of McKinsey is to help companies maintain profitability by closing subsidies, selling assets, shifting production, and laying off workers. McKinsey has had its share of mishaps. Former employees include Jeff Skilling, the disgraced chief executive of Enron and Rajat K. Gupta, who was convicted of insider trading. Other disasters include advising Time Warner on its ill-fated merger with AOL, advising General Motors on how to compete with Japanese automakers, and advising AT&T not to be concerned about cellphones. A top McKinsey partner dismissed these failures saying “We are advisers, and it is management’s job to take all the advice they receive and make their own decisions. Not to say that McKinsey told me to do this.”
I think a fair question to ask is, do we want the business model that led to the Eron scam and these other corporate disasters employed in operating American schools and McKinsey’s no-fault attitude toward advising local, state, and federal governments on educational policy?
Pearson’s Affordable Learning division currently focuses on emerging markets in Africa and India, but it is the model for Pearson business worldwide. It includes eAdvance (South Africa), which sponsors a blended learning chain called Spark Schools; Omega, a chain of thirty-eight private schools in Ghana; Bridge International Academies in Kenya; and Zaya, an educational technology and service company contracted to operate twenty-seven schools; Suiksha, a chain of pre-schools; Experifun, which markets science learning products; Avanti, after-school test prep; and Village Capital (Edupreneurs) promoting private education start-up companies, all based in India. The blurb for eAdvance’s Spark Schools give some sense of what Pearson is trying to do in Africa, India and worldwide – under price the market to disrupt existing educational institutions so Pearson companies can move in, take over, and gobble up profits.
“SPARK Schools has bold aspirations to disrupt the South African education system through introducing an innovative learning methodology to the African continent. In the SPARK Schools model, students split their time between digital content that adapts in difficulty to their learning and classroom interaction based on best practice pedagogy. Importantly, the blended model also allows eAdvance to deliver high quality education at an affordable price.” It will “build eight low-cost blended learning schools over the next three years, and more than 60 in the next ten.”
Pearson is also using mergers to expand its markets and influence. In December 2013, Pearson agreed to purchase Grupo Multi, an English-language training company in Brazil, to accelerate growth in Latin America.
Pearson uses the desperation of Third World countries to modernize to get its foot in the door and to act without regulation or oversight. Up until now, about sixty percentof Pearson’s sales were in the United States, however expansion stalled in this country because of lower freshman enrollments in U.S. colleges and a slowdown in textbook markets. Sales also suffered in Great Britain because of curriculum changes and the company spent about $200 million organizing its push into foreign digital markets.
As a result of these issues, Moody’s Investors Service, a ratings agency, lowered its evaluation of Pearson from stable to negative. “We are changing the outlook to negative as Pearson’s debt protection metrics for fiscal year 2013 are likely to weaken considerably,” says According to Gunjan Dixit, a Moody’s Assistant Vice President-Analyst, “This view reflects Pearson’s tough trading conditions, particularly in North America and the UK; the greater-than-originally-anticipated spending on restructuring; and certain start-up costs for new contracts in higher education and increased provisions for returns.” According to Moody’s, key challenges for Pearson in the future include (1) the fiscal health of U.S. states and international government funding bodies, in its schools and higher education businesses; (2) difficult market conditions in the U.S. education market; (3) the vulnerability of its Financial Times group; and (4) the accelerating transition of trade book publishing to electronic formats. Pearson stockholders were so disappointed in the company’s financial performance that in April 2014, shareholders protested against excessive executive bonuses.
In the United States, Pearson faces other problems that may be related to over expansion, the inability to deliver what was promised, and possible under the table agreements on contracts. In Florida, state officials blamed Pearson Education when at least a dozen Florida school districts were forced to suspend online testing this April because students had trouble signing in for the test. for the situation. Other problems included slowness when students tried to download test questions or submit answers and an inexplicable warning message that students should notify their teacher or proctor about a problem that did not exist. “State Education Commissioner Pam Stewart complained to Pearson that the “failure is inexcusable. Florida’s students and teachers work too hard on learning to be distracted by these needless and avoidable technological issues.”
Pearson blamed the test problems on a third-party hosting service provider. However, in recent years Pearson has had similar problems with computerized tests in Florida before as well as in other states. In 2011, Wyoming fined Pearson $5.1 million because of software problems and then switched back to paper tests. In April, Pearson was also forced to acknowledge and apologize for “intermittent disruptions to some of our online testing services.” This time they blamed a different sub-contractor.
In the meantime, the American Institutes for Research is challenging the awarding of a lucrative common core test development contract to Pearson. While the complaint is being brought in New Mexico, it has national ramification. The contract is for developing test-items, test delivery, reporting results, and analysis of student performance for states that are part of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, one of two main consortia designing tests linked to the common-core standards. The plaintiff claims the process for awarding the contract was designed to specifically benefit Pearson, which ended up being the only bidder, and was therefore illegal.
In New York State, parents and teachers are outraged because teachers and building administrators are forced to sign statements promising not to discuss or release questions about new Pearson “Common Core” aligned high-stakes tests. In the past, questions from past state high school “Regents” exams were posted on the State Education website. Now Pearson, which is paid $32 million by New York State to create the tests is demanding a payment of an additional $8 million to permit the state to post the questions.
In New Zealand, a group called Save Our Schools NZ is protesting the misuse of PISA (Programme of International Student Assessment) tests and rankings by national education departments. They charge “Pisa, with its three-year assessment cycle, has caused a shift of attention to short-term fixes designed to help a country quickly climb the rankings, despite research showing that enduring changes in education practice take decades, not a few years, to come to fruition.” Pearson holds the contract to prepare PISA assessments starting in 2015.
For all its claims about efficacy, Pearson is not a very efficient company. For all its claims about valuing education, the only thing Pearson appears to value is profit.
Alan Singer, Director, Secondary Education Social Studies
Department of Teaching, Literacy and Leadership
128 Hagedorn Hall / 119 Hofstra University / Hempstead, NY 11549
In this video, Utah County’s Repubican Chairman Casey Voeks explains why his party’s opposed to Common Core.
Voeks (Utah County GOP Chairman) explains how Common Core violates Republican principles.</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user8069880″>Sound
Image Productions</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>
South Carolina Rejects Common Core
It’s great when you can hardly keep up with the good news! The American Principles Project, Breitbart News , US News and Caffeinated Thoughts have reported that South Carolina’s officially dropped Common Core just like Oklahoma.
South Carolina’s Governor, Nikki Haley, who signed South Carolina’s H3893 bill,
has spoken out in support of educational liberty and against Common Core
for years. The effort has now paid off for South Carolinians, and other states are ready to move: North Carolina and Missouri may soon join Oklahoma and South Carolina in dropping Common Core, according to Caffeinated Thoughts,
which also reported that the North Carolina House of Representatives passed a bill similar to South Carolina’s on a 78-39 vote. Missouri also passed a replacement bill, voting 131 to 12 in the House and 23 to 6 in the Senate.
(Although Indiana was the first state to drop Common Core, it appears the new Indiana standards are simply a rebranding; Oklahoma’s and South Carolina’s new laws have language designed to prevent the drop-retrieve-rebrand trick.)
This is wonderful news for South Carolina and Oklahoma.
God Bless (the rest of) America.
These two excellent letters are written by two Utah dads, Oak Norton and Jared Carman.
If you would like to write to the state board, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org -and if you would like to attend their meeting and speak during a two minute public comment allowance, email the board with your request.
If you would like to share your letter about Utah math and standards that you have sent to the board, please feel free to use the comments section below, so we can all read these letters. I’ll post mine there, too.
Dear State School Board members,
I have reviewed the presentation the USOE has prepared for the math committee members on Thursday night (http://schools.utah.gov/board/Meetings/Agenda/docs/Tab11.aspx). I have a conflict and cannot come to make a public comment so I am emailing you my comments.
I see you are also discussing the search for a new state superintendent. I have honestly appreciated Superintendent Menlove’s outreach, particularly these last few months. He truly made an effort to be a good listener to concerns and also helped resolve them, particularly as families around the state had difficulty opting their children out of SAGE tests. That said, I believe it is time to hire from outside the education circles of Utah. There are people within the power structure that must be fired. It is very difficult for friends to fire friends. Political games are played to ensure their jobs. Hiring from out of state would allow someone to come in and clean house and give the USOE the course correction they need. Someone experienced with a top notch education system elsewhere would be an ideal candidate.
It is obvious from the USOE presentation to you just how biased they are toward maintaining CCSS in Utah. During the last legislative session they succeeded in getting a $2 million fiscal note attached to Rep. Layton’s bill to replace Common Core, so I am happy to see they have dramatically lowered that figure for your presentation. Replacing standards is not nearly as expensive as they want to make it look. In fact, I know they were telling people that adopting Common Core was free, while doing anything else was expensive. Common Core was not free, it was quite expensive, but since Bill Gates funded its multi-million dollar creation and we only had to spend some millions of dollars in Utah to implement it, I guess we can play the game that it was free.
There happen to be free or extremely low cost solutions that are far superior to Common Core.
In math, we could adopt California, Indiana, or Massachusetts’ pre-Common Core math standards which Fordham identified as clearly superior to CCSS. The wonderful thing here is solid textbooks were completely aligned for CA due to its population size, and assessments would most likely be available with a 100% match to those standards.
In English, we have the Massachusetts revision to their excellent ELA standards, which never got implemented due to MA adopting CCSS. We also have another set of “English Success Standards” written by teachers which is free and could be adopted for free. We also have a standing offer from Dr. Sandra Stotsky, one of the MA authors, to come to Utah for the cost of lodging and incidentals, and work with Utah teachers to create our own top of the nation ELA standards.
I was heavily involved in getting Utah the 2007 standards. In 2009, before the 2007 standards had even been fully implemented in the state, the USOE signed onto an agreement to develop CC. This caused a number of districts to slow or stop their roll out of the 2007 standards because they knew something else was coming. By 2010, CCSS was released and adopted so many districts never even fully rolled out the 2007 standards because of the speed with which they were replaced. For the USOE to say that only 44% of students on the 2007 standards would achieve the 66% college goal of the governor is a wild falsehood and a scare tactic. They have no idea. For them to say CCSS will achieve this goal is also a wild stab in the dark since these standards are an experiment that just begun. Fordham actually said our 2007 standards were clearer and stronger than CCSS. Further, the 2007 standards would have been even stronger if the USOE had not wholesale rejected the recommendations of Dr. Wu, the external reviewer from Berkeley, for those standards. Their disgust at having to replace our D rated prior standards showed through the process and we wound up with A- rated standards instead of what would have probably been A rated standards. What we had was superior to Common Core and what we would have gotten would have put us in line with states like CA, IN, and MA.
Further, it is a bald faced lie that CCSS were internationally benchmarked. That has been completely disproven. They are not “world class” standards. The only professional mathematician on the Common Core validation committee, who also writes standards and reviews international standards, refused to sign off on CCSS precisely for this reason –that CCSS leaves us 2 years behind international competitors. CCSS is already damaging our children by pushing them too hard in early grades and too slow in upper, particularly due to the awful implementation of the integrated method by the USOE in order that they could push their constructivist agenda into schools with the awful MVP program. Our 2007 standards were supposed to have been internationally benchmarked against Singapore and Japan. Nicole Paulson at the USOE told the committee this would take place, but to my knowledge she never did it.
Utah must have a complete break from anything tied to the federal government. CCSS, regardless of who you think actually created it, has clearly been hijacked by the federal government in an effort to consolidate the powers of education and control the system. The best decision, I believe, is to grant control of standards to the LEAs and shatter the ability for the feds or even the state to affect truly local control. Lets set up the laboratories within the state. There are no parents in this state who are going to want less than a wonderful education experience for their children. We always talk about increasing parental involvement. This would maximize it from the standards perspective. If you’re not willing to do this, then I would strongly recommend adopting the excellent [pre-common core] standards of California for which there are textbooks and a large test bank that could be accessed.
The USOE slide of supporters contains a practical who’s who of constructivist, Investigations math loving people, as well as others who are financially benefiting from the USOE. Of course they are going to support them in CCSS!
I wish there was time and space to comment on many other slides in their presentation, but it’s obvious they are biased on their perspective, and it’s obvious that there is a strong growing concern about the direction they are taking Utah. Nothing impacts someone like having their child who once loved math now hate it. It only hits home when it affects you, as several legislators have now had happen to them.
Please get Utah off anything close to CCSS and its one-size-fits-all “solution.” LEA’s controlling their own standards can innovate and do things they otherwise couldn’t do.
I have read your June 6 memo to the USBE regarding Mathematics Standards. As a parent and citizen activist, I ask you to please restore control of standards and testing to local districts & charters (LEAs).
This will not be as costly or problematic as the table in the memo suggests. By engaging directly with parents, LEAs can adopt pre-common core standards from other states, and use time-tested, pre-common core textbooks.
‘Children are an heritage of the Lord,’ given to parents, not the state. By restoring LEA control of standards & testing, Utah would take an important step in support of this fundamental truth.
Restoring LEA control would not mean that the state does not have a role to play. In fact the state could help LEAs:
- Build a culture of serving parents/guardians, who are the consumers of educational services on behalf of their children.
- Create smaller districts that are more responsive to parents.
- Work with parent/church groups to help mentor children with less than ideal home circumstances.
Thank you for listening.
A smiling school board member, tired of me and unwilling to fight the Common Core monster, advised me to do what she does: focus on the positive parts of Common Core. Be an optimist, she said.
“The positive parts? –You mean the lies?” I thought, because I’ve not seen positive parts unless you count the positive-sounding parts.
There are lots of those– the Common Core advertisements, the school board’s website promotions and newspaper quotes.
To the non-researcher, the Common Core sounds completely positive– but this “initiative” turns out to be very bad when the naked facts are revealed, about how it’s controlled, whom it pays off and what it robs.
Because the smiling board member knew many of these unsavory facts that she wished not to know, her advice reminded me of the part in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde when Dr. Jekyll tells Utterton not to worry about Mr. Hyde. How illogical, dangerous and self-defeating. But to some, it seems that being an optimist requires putting ourselves at the mercy of bullies and pretending to agree to things that are clearly not so.
This conversation exposed the wide gap between the pretty surface language versus the ugly facts under the belly of Common Core.
In response to that conversation, I’m promoting George Orwell’s brilliant 1946 “catalogue of swindles and perversions” entitled Politics and the English Language.
Orwell’s great at explaining how to cut through verbal jungles of lies. (Please read his whole essay here; I’m just borrowing highlights.)
My favorite image from the essay tops Orwell’s explanation of how manipulators make a bad situation sound grand by using language to cloud truth: as a cuttlefish clouds his intentions by squirting a lot of ink.
“When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns… to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink” … “the great enemy of clear language is insincerity,” he wrote.
Orwell’s essay does more than reveal how political language deceived listeners in 1946; it also foretells 2014 ed reform lingo. It could have been titled “Interesting Ways That People Cook Up Lies to Appear Not Only True, But Delicious.”
Many people have never considered Orwell’s main point: that official language is not only used to express thought; language can be and is also used “for concealing or preventing thought.” Orwell said that political language can “make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”.
The politicorporate cuttlefish do this!
They can’t risk alerting Americans to the real direction in which ed reforms have taken our liberties. Speaking plainly would reveal everything, so they use language to conceal and cloud the sources of the power grab, banking on the fact that most people accept wordiness as if it were smartness and lawfulness.
As a cuttlefish squirts out ink to mask the direction in which he’s really swimming, so do Duncan, Obama, Gates, Coleman, Barber, Tucker, writers of grants, reports and publications try to cloud our minds to lull us, as school boards, governors, parents and taxpayers, to nod and hand over our keys– because we can’t see where the cuttlefish is going and the ink’s kind of pretty.
This is how they do it.
1. BORROWED WORDS OR PRIVATE DEFINITIONS
Those who are either lazy or liars continually borrow phrases and metaphors “tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house,” as Orwell called it, rather than to actually work to think of an original phrase, metaphor or image.
Keeping that henhouse in mind, watch for the repetitive phrases tacked together in education reformers’ speeches. The repeated handful of vague, positive terms include:
These terms have defined, mostly private second meanings. For one example, “world class education” does not mean the best in the world, as we might think –instead, it means noncompetitive, as in: the same as all the world –which is supremely ironic given the fact that the phrase “international competitiveness” is another prefabricated ed reform hen house phrase.
Orwell said that people use words of this kind “in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different.” The trendy, pre-fab terms are re-echoed by the federal government, the NGA, CCSSO, Achieve Inc., the Chamber of Commerce, and top university leaders. Some high up officials do not even know that there are private definitions, and they parrot what they’ve heard from people who they may not even recognize as being liars; real, actual, ongoing, habitual, caught-in-the-act liars.
The prime example, of course, of an overused, overborrowed term with a private definition is President Obama’s “call for success in college and careers” also known as “college and career ready standards.” It sounds unobjectionable. But it’s not just a nice, vague term to Obama. It’s narrowly defined on the federal website as standards “common to a significant number of states.” That’s no definition at all except common, the same. Excellence doesn’t come into it. And the phrase is repeated seven times just in one short white house press release. It’s that important and weighty. Now I can’t hear the term “college and career ready” without groaning and rolling my eyes. The ed reformers stole its innocent meaning.
Another pet deceit among ed reformers is to misuse the word “back” by equating any attempt anyone makes (to restore freedoms previously held) to moving backward, or making unintelligent decisions. Bill Gates said that controversy around Common Core “comes from people who want to stop the standards, which would send us back to what we had before.” He did not define “what we had before” as freedom. He left that intentionally vague. But ponder it: would restoring text and test diversity really be a step backward? Would restoring student privacy by getting rid of common data standards (CEDS) and the common databases (SLDS) be a step backward or forward for lovers of freedom? Is all change positive change?
Of course, some changes are good and some are bad. But top ed reformers, including education sales giant Pearson, relentlessly push the idea that deletion of traditional education is good. Pearson CEA Sir Michael Barber said, “governments need to rethink their regulatory regimes for an era when university systems are global rather than national… standing still is not an option.”
Do you buy the idea that governments should give up their national constitutions and local systems and that holding fast to time-tested traditions in education is stupidly “standing still”? Me neither. But this gives us insight into the private definition of “globally competent”.
2. VERBAL FALSE LIMBS
Overuse of the quantity words, especially of overused and educratically vogue words, is usually deliberate snowing. Ed reformers cover up the sharp truths so people don’t recognize what they’re doing, nor fight back. But George Orwell pointed out that adding extra, unneeded words is as obvious and cumbersome –if you pay attention– as adding an extra limb to the body. Watch for phrases lacking usefulness but still commanding space and posing as credibile.
The excessive limbs game was used, for example, when the Federal Register attempted to hide its removal of parental consent over student data-sharing in FERPA policy, by using so many words that only a committee of lawyers could uncover it.
Remember: the motive is to conceal, not to reveal, truth. Orwell said that these excess words “fall upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outlines and covering up all the details… ”
Indeed they try. But there are red flags that they themselves created, phrases that can signal to us that lies are afoot. One especially irksome phrase is “informed by” –such a trendy, snooty false limb. Its academic tone may intimidate some readers, but the phrase is often used as a spout near missing evidence. For example, the Common Core official website states that “Common Core is informed by the highest, most effective standards from states across the United States and countries around the world.” Not true!
Promoters used to claim, often and loudly, that Common Core was internationally benchmarked, but after critics pointed out that not a single country had math and English standards that matched Common Core, promoters changed to the term “informed by” which is so vague that it’s harder to prove it’s a lie.
Still, it’s a lie: top state standards-holders prior to Common Core were Massachusetts, Indiana and California, and they dropped their high standards and came down to common core. Common Core didn’t reach up at all. There’s nothing “internationally informed” about them. Just ask validation committee member Dr. James Milgram, who said that the reason he didn’t sign off on the standards was that “they did not match up to international expectations. They were at least two years behind practices in high achieving countries by seventh grade”.
A very wordy example of verbal false limbs running amok is seen in a federal Common Core grant called the “Cooperative Agreement.” It connects the federal government and the Common Core tester, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). The lengthy agreement applies to PARCC, too. And since SBAC partnered with Utah’s and Florida’s current testing group, A.I.R., this document still matters to me despite Utah’s dropping out of SBAC. Buried in its snowbanks of wordiness is a micromanaging federal bully. States must:
“Actively participate in any meetings and telephone conferences with ED staff… Be responsive to requests from ED for information about the status of the project… providing such information in writing… Comply with… ED staff … make student-level data that results from the assessment system available on an ongoing basis… [R]espective Project Directors [this means the testing arms] will collaborate to coordinate appropriate tasks and timelines to foster synchronized development of assessment systems… The Program Officer for the RTTA grantees [this means the Feds] will work with the Project Directors for both RTTA grantees [this means the testing arms] to coordinate and facilitate coordination across consortia.”
In other words, conform. But that sharp message is buried behind pleasant phrases earlier in the document, such as “the purpose of this agreement is to support the consortium recipient.” Support? The way that a jail supports those jailed inside it? This brings us to the next tool: pretentious diction.
3. PRETENTIOUS DICTION
Orwell said that pretentious diction tries to “dignify sordid processes” and to “give an air of scientific impartiality to biased judgments.”
Example: Read the pretentious, one-sided judgments underlying the highly controversial Obama-Duncan “Preschool For All Initiative”. For those who don’t know, this move puts four year old toddlers in federal preschools –based on supposedly settled scientific research that concludes that this will benefit little ones.
Yet, highly respected researchers oppose what Obama-Duncan tout; they say that it is best to keep young children free of institutionalization (not to mention keeping them free of data tracking and high stakes testing). Still, President Obama speaks about the federal Preschool For All, using “research” that serves his idea that government should rear children from the cradle.
Watch how he does it. He imposes the intimate, tiny yet very pretentious term “we” on listeners, and implies that “we” can simultaneously –and fairly– serve the child, the business interests, and the educational-political interests:
“Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education.”
Notice that the president omits any mention of governmental mandate. Elsewhere, we learn that Preschool For All is to be mandatory. In an April 29, 2014 speech, Duncan called for mandatory preschool, saying, “The third major priority in the 2015 request is to continue the President’s commitment to expanding educational opportunity for millions of children through a $75 billion mandatory Preschool for All program…”
Pretentious diction overflows, like the polluted froth on a sick river, over and through the current math and English Common Core standards. It lives in the speeches of education sales giant Pearson CEA Sir Michael Barber as he explains reasons for making environmental education a centerpiece of every school in every subject in every nation (see Pearson’s CEA Sir Michael Barber‘s speeches.) It’s in the term “misinformed” that proponents loves to call all Common Core’s opponents. Pretention is everywhere ed reformers speak and write. They depend on pretense because they lack actual authority.
A clue to detecting the lies that are hidden behind pretentious diction is to search for links to research that supports the claims being made. Usually, there are no references, no links; listeners are expected to be trusting and dumb enough to assume what is being said is truthful. On those rare occasions that links to evidence are provided, find out if the cited think tank/university/publisher is financially partnered with the politicorporate cuttlefish of Common Core. Invariably, they are.
We are left to realize that in Common Core ed reform, money now has a stronger voice than voters, teachers, parents, students or taxpayers in determining what will be policy. And that money is deeply committed to making more of itself. Case in point:
Gates’ company, Microsoft, wrote: “At Microsoft, we are deeply committed to working with governments… [blah blah blah] … learning for all.”
“Deeply committed” sounds good. It sounds noble. But why is Gates’ company so deeply committed to “learning for all”? Because they’re making money while altering political and educational policy. Making money is a good thing; I’m all for capitalism. The problem is that nobody elected Microsoft or Pearson; they have no authority other than the dollars they use as bait. We can’t un-elect them now or ever, and we’ve swallowed their baited hooks right and left in countless “partnerships” with our governments.
4. MEANINGLESS WORDS
Orwell pointed out that much of what passes for writing is “strictly meaningless, in the sense that they not only do not point to any discoverable object, but are hardly even expected to do so by the reader.” Orwell despised “long passages almost completely lacking in meaning.” He would not enjoy the 26-transcript-paged speech by David Coleman, current president of the College Board, because it is a black hole that says nothing except for the part when Coleman admitted he’s unqualified for his office. That part would be funny if the education of children were some kind of laughing matter.
Here’s more meaninglessness: Bill Gates said: “common standards could transform U.S. education.” It’s meaningless because nobody would argue it; it’s like saying rain could make your hair wet. Common standards could and ARE transforming education. But is it a disasterous or a delightful transformation? He left out that part so nobody could argue with him or criticize his sound byte. Except that I am criticizing it for its desperate spineless meaninglessness.
Sometimes Gates speaks so vaguely that he covers both ends of opposing concepts. He said that Common Core would “enable American students to better compete globally.” He didn’t explain how (considering the fact that the standards are only preparing students for nonselective colleges). But since it’s an established, defined fact that “world-class education” now means “noncompetitive education,” Gates’ statement passes neither the logic nor the meaningfulness test.
Why does the second richest man in the world, who probably has dozens of speech writers and image makers, deliberately choose to speak and write meaninglessly, vaguely? Because Common Core is a power grab and the truth would upset people. He can’t say so.
Neither can Arne Duncan or President Obama. So the cuttlefish use words that mean “we control; you submit” but that don’t sound that way. Look at the beige terms they use such as:
turning around schools
flexibility for states
These terms support the top-down edu-politicorporate control system that boils down to “we are the boss of you.”
Orwell warned readers against such ready-made phrases, not only because they often veil corrupt power moves, but also because “every such phrase anaesthetizes a portion of one’s brain.”
Not to mention that they smell like lies from miles away.
#CANiSEE ™© SOLUTIONS CONFERENCE – COUNTERING COMMON CORE – JUNE 20 – 21, 2014 – AUSTIN, TEXAS
Because the pro-Common Core National PTA planned to have its convention in Austin, Texas, a group of educators and parents decided to hold a counter event. It is called #CANiSEE ™© Solutions Conference and will be held in Austin on June 20 – 21, 2014 in the downtown area close to the convention center.
The #CANiSEE hashtag means:
#CanISee™© WHAT you are teaching my child?
#CANISEE™© HOW you are teaching my child?
#CANISEE™© WHO is financially benefiting from the curriculum on which my child’s teacher is being evaluated?
For information and to make reservations:
To give a donation: https://secure.piryx.com/donate/zS27Wsi7/WomenOnTheWall-Org/
The Heritage Foundation is one #CANiSEE ™© Solutions Conference sponsor.
Lined up to speak are many of the nation’s best anti-Common Core voices to speak at our #CANiSEE ™© Solutions Conference, to speak at the same time as the National PTA is bringing #FedLedEd Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to town.
Dr. Sandra Stotsky – Professor Emeritus, University of Arkansas
Dr. James Milgram — Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Stanford University
Jane Robbins – Attorney and senior fellow with American Principles Project
Dr. Peg Luksik – Founded on Truth
Alice Linahan – Moderator, Women on the Wall
MerryLynn Gerstenschlager – Texas Eagle Forum
Mary Bowen – Current Texas classroom teacher
Jeanine MacGregor – Writer, researcher, cognitive learning expert
Nakonia (Niki) Hayes – “The Story of John Saxon” – Saxon Math
Henry W. Burke — EducationViews.org Contributor
Jenni White – ROPE – Oklahoma
Anita Moncrief – True the Vote
Lisa Benson — National Security Radio
Karen Schroeder – President of Advocates for Academic Freedom
NOTABLE LEADERS WITH VIDEO MESSAGES TO SHARE WITH AMERICA
Dr. Terrence Moore — Author of “The Story Killers: A Common Sense Case Against the Common Core”
Dr. Chris Tienken – Co-author of “The School Reform Landscape: Fraud, Myth, and Lies”
Dr. Duke Pesta — Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, and the Academic Director of FreedomProject Education
The #CANiSEE ™© Solutions Conference will be highly attended, videotaped, and shared widely across this nation through DVD’s, MP3’s, On Demand, and Pay-Per View.
“Arne Duncan does not own our children; we do; and we are not ready to surrender their hearts and souls to the dumbing down and indoctrination of #FedLedEd. We believe that with the ever-growing backlash all across the country against Common Core that our COUNTER EVENT will draw more interest from grassroots moms, pops, grandparents, and citizens than Arne Duncan can generate. Even people attending the PTA convention across the street may come to our event to find out what is really happening in our nation’s schools,” organizers wrote.
If you wish to volunteer to help at the #CANiSEE ™© Solutions Conference, please contact Rebecca Forest who can arrange for your 2-day admission ticket to be paid: Rebecca@womenonthewall.org.
*Subject to Change
Friday, June 20, 2014
Day 1 — #CANiSEE the Reality on the Ground
|9:00 – 9:05
||Prayer, Pledge, Opening Remarks
||Alice LinahanRebecca Forest
|9:05 – 10:00
||The Battles Fought and Won, The Story Called Common Core Begins (Video Message)
||Dr. Peg LuksikPhyllis Schlafly
|10:10 – 11:10
||Common Core Validation Committee
||Dr. Sandra StotskyDr. James Milgram
|11:20 – 12:00
||Common Core Implementation Costs, Type #1 vs. Type #2 Education
||Henry W. Burke
|12:00 – 1:00
|12:00 – 1:00
||Vendor Booths and Exhibits Open
|1:00 – 1:20
||Dr. Terrence Moore
|1:30 – 2:30
||The Story Behind Saxon Math
|2:40 – 3:50
||Reality on the Ground: Panel of Teachers
Panel of Parents
Panel of Students
|Mary BowenDr. Stan Hartzler
|4:00 – 5:00
||Reality on the Ground – Is Fed Led Ed a National Security Threat?
|5:10 – 6:10
||The Big Picture – From Fed Led Ed to the Reality for Our Children’s Data Collection, Questions and Answers
#CAN I SEE SOLUTIONS CONFERENCE SCHEDULE
Saturday, June 21, 2014
Day 2 — #CANiSEE What Is Your Role?
|9:00 – 9:05
||Prayer, Pledge, Opening Remarks
||Alice LinahanRebecca Forest
|9:05 – 9:40
||Special Audio Messages from Experts
||Dr. Duke PestaDr. Chris Tienken
|9:50 – 10:40
||Questions and Answers with Experts
||Jane RobbinsDr. Sandra Stotsky
Dr. James Milgram
|10:50 – 11:30
||Huge Success in Oklahoma – Repeal of Common Core
|11:40 – 12:30
||Policy Think-Tank Panel
||Jane RobbinsLori Mashburn
|12:30 – 1:30
|12:30 – 1:30
||Vendor Booths and Exhibits Open
|1:30 – 2:30
||Creating Change by Asking Questions
||Mary BowenJeanine MacGregor
|2:40 – 3:40
||Creating a Local Initiative – Building the Ground Troops
||Anita MontcriefAlice Linahan
|3:50 – 4:50
||Taking It Local, Parental Rights LegislationKeys to Testifying at Your State Capital
||Karen SchroederMerryLynn Gerstenschlager
|5:00 – 6:00
||Where Do We Go from Here?How Do We Take It Local?
||Mary BowenNakonia Hayes
Here are several important news/action items for those concerned about stopping the Common Core “reforms” and restoring freedom in education:
1. Michelle Malkin has joined American Principals Project and others on a letter-signing campaign aimed at governors, insisting that they break free of Common Core. Read and sign here.
2. The Utah State Office of Education is permitting people to give public comment on the new common library book standards.
I urge you to comment; the survey takes very, very little time. Also, send a personal letter to the USOE on this issue, to these addresses for the board: email@example.com and Board@schools.utah.gov
Here is one of the library standards: 1.2.4. Maintain a critical stance by questioning the validity and accuracy of all information.
This simple little sentence begins with “maintain a critical stance” –implying having good critical thinking skills, but then it veers into idiocy by “questioning the validity and accuracy of ALL information.”
Are children to doubt the existence of any truth? Yes, according to the state school board’s library standards.
Classical (very pre-common core) education taught children to confidently and logically pursue truth. But “progressive” education teaches children that there is no truth, no morality, no known anything. Thus all information is of equal importance and any library book is of equal worth: reading the rantings of Joe the communist pedophile may be as worthy a way to spend class time as studying what Washington, Einstein and Shakespeare wrote. What a terrible “standard”!
Of course there is truth; and there are facts. Doesn’t our existence on earth depend on the truth that the earth is a certain, precise, indisputable distance from the sun? If it were not so, we’d freeze or burn! That library standard has got to go.
Utah Standards for Library Media are posted; comment please. (The USOE Web site is hosting the public comment –before Aug 17, 2014. Also widen your audience by posting your opinion of the library standards to firstname.lastname@example.org and Board@schools.utah.gov as well as to your local newspapers and radio stations.)
3. Jenni White of Oklahoma’s ROPE has this blog post: If you do nothing, nothing happens!
4. Governor Herbert has approved government preschool in Utah, and President Obama is pushing for federal preschool for all, but is anyone questioning the wisdom of such a move? What are its impacts on the business of private preschools? What are its impacts on little ones who would stay home with their families if not for the big government push to put them in rigorous preschools? Jonas Himmelstrand’s my favorite opponent of this push. This Swede has spoken to countless groups in many countries about the disintegration of families, mental health and academic success when government daycare becomes the norm. He speaks from experience. Himmelstrand’s voice needs to be more widely heard. Please read more here and here.
5. If you haven’t already seen them, see these news links, published by Oak Norton at Utahns Against Common Core today:
Pioneer Institute Study Finds That New Technology, Relaxation of Protections Threaten Student Privacy A must read press release: you can also download the full Pioneer Institute study.
Here’s a relevant clip: “These expansive data structures are intimately connected to the Common Core State Standards Initiative and national testing. Any information from the data initiatives mentioned above that is given to the two federally funded national assessment consortia aligned with the Common Core State Standards will be made available to the USED. The national standards will also create a unified “taxonomy” that facilitates creation of common instructional materials and data-collection technology. Because Common Core focuses not on academic knowledge but rather on “skills” that involve attitudes and dispositions, it paves the way for national assessments and digital platforms that measure such attributes.” http://pioneerinstitute.org/featured/study-new-technology-relaxation-of-protections-threaten-student-privacy/
Massachusetts Teachers Association Elects Anti-Common Core President We’ve already had the NY and Chicago teachers unions take anti-CC stances, but for a strong teachers association to join in is a great step. “The Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA), a union that represents about 110,000 teachers in the Bay State, elected an anti-Common Core president on May 10 in a hotly contested and close election. Barbara Madeloni, a clinical psychologist turned teacher, beat a Brockton teacher by 681 to 584 votes. A proponent of local control, Madeloni opposes high stakes testing and nationalization of educational standards.” http://www.hslda.org/hs/state/ma/201405130.asp
Saber-Rattling on Common Core (Utah) This is why we want legislators who understand Common Core issues. “On Wednesday, education officials climbed Capitol Hill to inform lawmakers of the progress they’re making on implementing the Common Core education system into Utah’s K-12 schools. But the educators were met with an extremely hostile welcome, as Republican lawmakers expressed their animosity towards the Core changes, which have grown increasingly unpopular among conservatives nationwide.”
http://utahpoliticalcapitol.com/2014/05/22/saber-rattling-on-common-core For the audio go here: http://le.utah.gov/asp/interim/Commit.asp?year=2014&com=INTEDU
Conflict: Common Core Testing Company VP Evaluating NCLB Waivers Utah mom Autumn Cook dug this interesting tidbit out showing a Vice-President of AIR (the SAGE test company) was selected to review NCLB waivers. http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/conflict-common-core-testing-company-vp-evaluating-nclb-waivers/
Student-centered or subject-centered education?
This article by Lynn Stoddard in the Standard contains a great story about a mom who noticed what her struggling autistic child was good at, and now, as a 15-year old, the child is being considered for a Nobel prize. For that full story here’s a link (http://themotherlist.com/mother-tore-label-nurtured-sons-hidden-genius/) http://www.standard.net/Opinion/2014/05/08/Student-centered-or-subject-centered-education.html
This letter was sent this week from a Los Angeles teacher to Donna Garner, an education news writer.
It is published here with permission, but without the name of the teacher.
I’ve been following your emails regarding Common Core, and the situation certainly is not pretty. Thanks a million for all you do. Many of my liberal friends are no longer liberals. They’re being screwed, and now they know it. We teachers had a meeting with the man who is basically in charge of all school programming, and it isn’t pretty. He’s leaving since they want him to reapply for a job; but he knows his job is being cut. He will be gone. More on that in a minute –
Hopefully Common Core can be neutered. I heard that 35 states have legislation to either restrict or eliminate Common Core. WOW!
Most of our math teachers are puzzled themselves by what they have seen in CC.
Our dept. chair (who is a vocal liberal and was a proponent of CC) came back from a district-wide meeting. He said the entire CC plan was so illogical that his hands were literally shaking after the meeting was over.
I personally don’t think we have seen the worst of CC as of yet, just a mild prelude. That’s why it needs to be eliminated and right now! Anyway, thanks ever so much for the emails and updates. I share them with my fellow teachers.
I learned today that LAUSD is eliminating the Special Ed. dept. altogether. I have no idea what they are doing, but it sounds crazy.
Our staff was asked to “apply” for a new school daily operations plan, whereby we could hire our own principal and have a say in the day-to-day operations. That has all backfired as of today, and one of the teachers said she would sue if she has the option. They have made it a living hell for teachers.
LAUSD is also getting rid of all Advanced Placement teachers. They have to reapply to get a job – now teachers will be called “Instructional Advisors” instead of teachers. Welcome to the real Common Core. Welcome Facilitators. We are no longer to be considered teachers.
People don’t understand the forethought into Common Core and what the feds want to implement. I’ll work at Home Depot or Wal Mart if it gets me out of here “yesterday.”
I am leaving California and moving to Texas. I would have left this year but because of health problems, I could not afford to leave my insurance. However, I am in the process of trying to get my Texas teaching certificate… At first, the Texas assessments were only given in Texas, but now they are available in San Diego. I’ll try and take them, but…we’ll see. I used to be a salesman, and I can do that again. I will do anything to get out of LAUSD.
Donna, please keep letting people, teachers, and parents know what is going on in the schools here. If parents really knew, they would be utterly shocked. This is where the education is heading. Complete control by the Feds. They are doing it to the teachers right now, yet the unsuspecting public is like the proverbial “frog in boiling water.” It’s over with here!
Anyway, just thought I’d let you know where Common Core is going. We in LAUSD are at the forefront. I’m going to try and document as many of the changes as possible so that I can send it to you. Maybe you can use it to alert the rest of America.
Take care, Donna, and thanks for helping me see some of the CC stuff; the whole picture is clearly coming into view now. I hope Texas is a better place for me to live and teach.
Nothing real supports the outrageous, increasing, ongoing federal overtake of schools. Federal bluffing and federal pretense to education authority continues because it is upheld by the stupored, undefending millions of us who aren’t aware of our right to control education locally –and who do not defend it.
Two federal overtake moves stand out in my mind today as heart-stoppingly wrong. These are things that we should firmly, loudly oppose.
- The first is Secretary Arne Duncan’s mandatory preschool. In his “Statement for the Record” to Congress concerning the new education budget request, Duncan lay aside the former practice of calling federal preschool voluntary. In this recent (April 29, 2014) speech, Duncan called for mandatory preschool: “The third major priority in the 2015 request is to continue the President’s commitment to expanding educational opportunity for millions of children through a $75 billion mandatory Preschool for All program…” he said.
- The other is the Department of Education’s principals’ re-education program, aka “Principal Ambassador Fellowship” (PAF). Do you like the idea of federally-approved-and-groomed, model “Fellowship” principals, teaching your local principal how to “engage with” federal policies? Me neither.
From the Department of Education’s site, learn why the PAF program exists: —“principals should have meaningful opportunities to both contribute to and understand the [federal] policies” —“to implement needed reforms, all stakeholders… must understand the intent of [federal] policy…” —“PAF’s will spend time gaining greater knowledge of the content of key federal programs and policies…” — “Principal Ambassador Fellows (PAF) are hired.. to facilitate cooperation between the Federal Government and the non-Federal entity…”
The Department of Education Secretary said, on the very same page where he announced the PAF program, that “The best ideas in education will never come from me or anyone else in Washington, D.C. They’re always going to come from a local level.” Yet principals are also told to understand and engage with federal policies. Such doublespeak. It is pretty unlikely that principals lack or need “greater knowledge” of the federal agenda. Given the increasing number of examples of defenders, notably schools like Maesar Prep in Utah, superintendents like Joseph Rella in New York, or the example of the state of Washington, which recently refused to tie teacher evaluation to Common Core student testing and got punished by Arne Duncan’s yanking of the state’s NCLB waiver– given these examples, it is more likely that principals are showing signs of resistance to the federal standardizations being shoved down their throats. Good for them.
Mercedes Schneider has written another detailed, rich article exposing the “unprecedented education profiteering” scandal that is Pearson Education’s partnership with the U.S. Department of Education.
Read it: Incompetent Pearson “Wins” PARCC Contract. Big Surprise..
by Whitne Strain and Christel Swasey
Long ago, the horrific invading soldiers of Genghis Khan used children as shields. Seeing innocent children sandwiched between defenders and invaders, few defenders would continue a defense.
That image, from “The Miracle of Freedom: Seven Tipping Points that Saved the World” comes to mind as we watch the U.S. Secretary of Education’s recent war against what he sees as a noncompliant Washington State.
Washington State became a thorn in Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s side when the state refused to comply with the federal agenda that would tie teacher evaluations to students’ Common Core test scores.
Washington State’s leaders had listened to teachers and parents; they then stood up to the unconstitutional federal demands and just said no. They would not comply with the damaging policy of tying teacher evaluation to student scores.
The federal response was a punch in the face: Duncan stripped Washington of its waiver from ESEA (aka No Child Left Behind).
Why is that a punch in Washington State’s face? Losing the waiver means that Washington now will get reburied in the absurd, impossible NCLB mandates –and will lose funding.
Duncan not only punished Washington state; he especially punished the state’s neediest children.
According to the Washington Spokesman-Review, “Washington is the first state to lose control over federal dollars used to help students in the poorest schools. The result: Districts will be forced to set aside the $40 million they had been getting for those student services”.
We wonder: how does Duncan sleep at night?
Read his wordy, meaningless federal explanation letter here. It is so verbiose and devoid of goodness that we won’t quote a single word. But do read teacher Peter Greene’s clever and hilarious teacher’s translation of Duncan’s letter to Washington, it here — spot-on.
Here’s Greene’s conclusion:
“Washington got to ignore its violation of federal NCLB laws if they agreed to install Duncan’s own untried, untested, unproven, unsubstantiated but very specific prescriptions about how to use CCSS [Common Core] tests to evaluate teachers and principals… Duncan doesn’t just believe that CCSS [Common Core] test-based measures of teachers and principals are a good idea. He doesn’t just deny every stone on the mountain made out of evidence that he’s wrong. He has given CCSS test-based measurement the full weight of federal law.
So what will happen to Washington, and who will do it? Or will the legislators freak out and panic, installing Arne’s junk science system at the 11th hour to win back his Kingly affection? You can bet a few other states will be watching… “
Thank you, Mr. Greene. Yes, we are watching.
Let’s not call this research! This is a fact-checking adventure.
This adventure begins because of the FAQ statements about Common Core posted at the Provo School District website. (See it on their website or just scroll to the bottom of the page where I’ve pasted it.)
This post is not meant to be accusatory or mean. Provo District and other districts tend to trust and echo what’s spoken and posted by the State Office. Clearly, districts and boards, like anyone, can and do make factual errors; but when the errors are very clearly pointed out, those mistakes should be corrected.
I apologize for the length of this article. I chiseled and chiseled but cannot in good conscience make it any shorter.
Question #1 at the Provo District FAQ states: “The Common Core was a grassroots initiative initiated by state governors and Superintendents in 2007.”
Common Core is far from being “grassroots.” President Obama has been pushing for national standards for many years. In 2007, he was justifying his decision to stop NASA’s Moon and Mars exploration programs to fund “his” new education program. His administration has used different terms to refer to his takeover of local education, but it has also provided a federal, official definition of “college and career ready standards” being “standards that are common to a significant number of states” –which can only be Common Core. He paid for Common Core test development. And Obama’s famous blueprint for reform included four education reforms, one of which was data collection, one of which was common standards and tests, and you can read the rest.
Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, claimed that a federal takeover of education was Obama’s idea. Buried in the second half of a long, glowing official speech about U.S. education reform are these words by Arne Duncan: “The North Star guiding the alignment of our cradle-to-career education agenda is President Obama’s goal” –and he said that even though: “Traditionally, the federal government in the U.S. has had a limited role in education policy,” Obama “has sought to fundamentally shift the federal role, so that the Department is doing much more… America is now in the midst of a “quiet revolution” in school reform.”
Secretary Duncan gloated that many states fell for the financially-baited federal Common Core hook without debating the move, but Duncan always carefully called the Standards a state-led creation, keeping up the ruse. He said that a majority of states “and the District of Columbia have already chosen to adopt the new state-crafted Common Core standards in math and English. Not studying it, not thinking about it, not issuing a white paper—they have actually done it. Over three-fourths of all U.S. public school students now reside in states that have voluntarily adopted higher, common college-ready standards… That is an absolute game-changer.”
Indeed it was a game changer.
To clear up doubt about whether Common Core was or was not grassroots-and-teacher-led, just follow the money trail. Those who paid for and promote this are being paid, or will be handsomely paid as it is implemented, to do so. The SBAC and PARCC Common Core tests are funded by the federal government. The Common Core standards’ writing, marketing and implementation are funded primarily by Microsoft owner, Pearson-Ed partner Bill Gates. This unelected influence continues locally. In Utah, the ways in which Pearson/Gates controls school data collection is formidable.
Most telling is the official partnership of the Department of Education with the Common Core creators. The ongoing support (coercion) of the federal government to have states adopt the private-trade-group held, copyrighted Common Core means that Common Core is neither purely a federal takeover nor is it purely a privatization of public schools, but it is a public-private partnership, a concept that takes voters out of the decision making driver’s seat.
Question #1 also misleads us by saying that Common Core was “initiated by state governors and superintendents.” It is true that the governors’ club, (NGA) and the superintendents’ club, (CCSSO) did create and copyright Common Core. Their “frequently asked questions” officially explains: “the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), led the development of the Common Core State Standards and continue to lead…” But not all governors belong to NGA! Not all superintendents belong to CCSSO! Some, in fact, are vehemently opposed to these private, closed-door, non-transparent, unelected trade organizations that wield falsely assumed power. I say “falsely assumed” because they pretend to Congress-like national representational authority for states, but they are not an elected group. No voter can affect what they do. No reporter can report on what they do.
Questions 2, 3 and 4 take on the question of whether standards and curriculum are independent of one another. This is like saying that a skeleton (standards) does not dictate what a body (curriculum) looks like. It’s a half-truth: sure, they are not the same thing. But I defy anyone to build a curriculum and related tests that truly soar above or are very different looking than the standards they are built upon. Watch the statement in a video by main Common Core funder Bill Gates as he explains to legislators that he’s looking forward to schools being a uniform customer base, and that “we’ll only know if Common Core standards work” when the standards, curriculum and tests align. You might also listen to teachers who testify that standards do drive curriculum and testing, as they narrow the autonomy and innovation of a classroom.
Question 5 asserts that the Common Core standards were internationally benchmarked. This is not true.
Dr. James Milgram, the Stanford emeritus professor of mathematics who served on the Common Core validation committee and who refused to sign off on the standards, said:
“I can tell you that my main objection to Core Standards, and the reason I didn’t sign off on them was that they did not match up to international expectations. They were at least 2 years behind the practices in the high achieving countries by 7th grade, and, as a number of people have observed, only require partial understanding of what would be the content of a normal, solid, course in Algebra I or Geometry. Moreover, they cover very little of the content of Algebra II, and none of any higher level course… They will not help our children match up to the students in the top foreign countries…”
Likewise, Professor Sandra Stotsky, who served on the same committee, who also refused to sign off on the Common Core standards because they were academically inferior, has written:
“…we are regularly told that Common Core’s standards are internationally benchmarked. Joel Klein, former head of the New York City schools, most recently repeated this myth in an interview with Paul Gigot, the Wall Street Journal editor, during the first week in June. Not mentioned at all in the interview or the op-ed he co-authored in the WSJ a week later is Klein’s current position in a company that does a lot of business with Common Core. An Exxon ad, repeated multiple times during a recently televised national tennis match, also suggested that Common Core’s standards were internationally benchmarked. We don’t know who influenced Exxon’s education director. Gigot never asked Klein what countries we were supposedly benchmarked to. Nor did the Exxon ad name a country to which these standards were supposedly benchmarked. Klein wouldn’t have been able to answer, nor could Exxon have named a country because Common Core’s standards are not internationally benchmarked. Neither the methodologically flawed study by William Schmidt of Michigan State University, nor the post-Common Core studies by David Conley of the University of Oregon, all funded by the Gates Foundation, have shown that Common Core’s content is close to, never mind equal to, the level of the academic content of the mathematics and English standards in high-achieving countries.”
In which top-achieving country is Algebra pushed to grade 9 instead of grade 8? In which top-achieving country is classic literature being replaced gradually by informational text? The phrase “internationally benchmarked” is misleading millions of people.
Question 6 states that the federal government has no role in the implementation or development of Common Core. This is a half-truth; as shown above, the federal government partnered with private groups who are developing and implementing the Common Core. The role of the federal government has been to heavy-handedly partner with and to promote the Career and College Readiness /aka Common Core Initiative’s full agenda, with grants, speeches, and threats –while saying that localities retain freedom to choose.
Question 7 asks: Will Utah taxpayers have to pay more money to implement the new Utah Core Standards? The Provo District says that it will not cost any additional money. This cannot possibly be true– even common sense alerts us to this, but so does Pioneer Institute, a rare think tank that is not-Bill-Gates-nor-federally funded. Here is that think tank’s report.
Reason this out. When, in the past, have districts needed to throw out and replace virtually all old text books for totally different math and English standards? Never. When have there been so many wholly transformative (for good or ill) teacher development classes statewide? Never. When has the state tested students so often and so heavily to align with national testing practices? Taxpayers even had to fund the marketing and political blitzing of the Utah State Office of Education as it has aimed to persuade parents that Common Core is a positive change.
Question 8 asks, “How does the local school board fit into the Common Core?” Without saying so directly, it answers its own question: the local school board’s job has seemingly become to nod and agree with all that the state pushes upon it, groupthink style.
Question 9 asks, “Do these standards incorporate both content and skills?” While it is true that both content and skills are partially covered in Common Core, it is an important reality that less knowledge and more of what Dr. Stotsky refers to as “empty skill sets,” with much less content, is being taught under Common Core. Virtually everything has changed, and all without field testing or academic research to base the changes upon. Even vocabulary words are changing to less literary, more technical/industrial words, words that are being called “more relevant” than the rich vocabulary offered in the literary classics. And, while small passages of founding documents and classic literature are to be taught and tested, they are not to be placed in context nor read in whole. This, to me, looks like dumbing down. Professor Thomas Newkirk of the University of New Hampshire explains: “The central message in their guidelines is that the focus should be on “the text itself”… The text should be understood in “its own terms.” While the personal connections and judgments of the readers may enter in later, they should do so only after students demonstrate “a clear understanding of what they read.” So the model of reading seems to have two stages—first a close reading in which the reader withholds judgment or comparison with other texts, focusing solely on what is happening within “the four corners of the text.” And only then are prior knowledge, personal association, and appraisal allowed in. This seems to me an inhuman, even impossible, and certainly unwise prescription.” -Speaking Back to the Common Core
The Provo District claims: “In Mathematics, the Common Core State Standards lay a solid foundation in whole numbers, addition, subtraction…” At which ages are these math concepts being taught? Many foundational concepts have been pushed back. Fluency with fractions/decimals/ratios is pushed to junior high, when it used to be foundational for elementary school levels. Most calculus and other higher math concepts are pushed out of high school completely– not available until college. Dr. James Milgram said that Common Core math standards “only require partial understanding of what would be the content of a normal, solid, course in Algebra I or Geometry. Moreover, they cover very little of the content of Algebra II, and none of any higher level course…” Noted math expert Ze’ev Wurman has noted that Common Core math standards, now set in the concrete of nationalized, high-stakes testing, “mark the cessation of educational standards improvement in the United States.”
Question 10 asks whether these math standards cover all the key math topics in the proper sequence. It claims that the Common Core math standards “are coherent and based on evidence” No link to such evidence is given.
We need such evidence. Academics nationwide are pointing out that because no evidence exists, the standards are an experiment. They were never field tested prior to the nationwide rollout.
Dr. Milgram has said, “There is no point where the student-constructed algorithms are explicitly replaced by the very efficient standard methods for doing one-digit operations. Why does Common Core adopt this convoluted method of teaching math? The stated reason is that learning the standard algorithm doesn’t give students a “deeper conceptual understanding” of what they’re doing. But the use of student-constructed algorithms is at odds with the practices of high-achieving countries and is not supported by research. Common Core is using our children for a huge and risky experiment.”
Question 11 addresses the ongoing discussion about who has control of the classroom. Provo District states that the Common Core standards “do not dictate how teachers should teach. Teachers will continue to devise lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their classrooms, as well as select instructional materials they feel are most appropriate.”
But teachers are testifying that this is not true. Utah teachers Ann Florence, Stuart Harper, Susan Wilcox, Malin Williams, Diana McKay and many other teachers have spoken out and risked or lost their jobs to tell a very different story. In addition, we have the above-cited testimony of funder Bill Gates who says that the standards, tests and curriculum will align to prove that the standards “work.” It’s like the old Ford Advertisement: “You can Have Any Color As Long as it’s Black.” The state, federal, and corporate ed sales (textbook companies) say the same thing: “You can have any standards as long as they are the exact same as all other states’ standards.” Almost all the curriculum in the nation is aligning, building a new education system on a very sandy foundation. The fact is that there is a Common Core 15% no-adding-to-the-standards rule in contracts and agreements that is common knowledge, both in testing and curriculum. The USOE continues to dismiss the suffocating 15% rule as “not a big deal.”
Question 12 asks what would happen if Utah were to reject Common Core. The Provo District then says that because the Common Core Standards “are not federal” that this would not alter Utah’s relationship with the federal government. This assertion contains two untrue portions: 1) saying that Common Core Standards are not federal implies that they are not federally approved/federally promoted/federally set as conditions for receipt of federal grants and Title I monies. But they are all of those things.
Although the NGA/CCSSO wrote and copyrighted the standards, the federal government has pushed them more than anyone —has disguised the nature and name of it, deceptive language. Federally, the Common Core Standards are called the “College and Career-Ready Standards.” But at the NGA/CCSSO level, it’s called Common Core. The feds officially defined “College and Career Ready Standards” as “standards common to a significant number of states.” See this official re-definition on the federal education website. Although federal insiders know this, they don’t choose to clarify it.
Question 12 goes on to say that because Utah Law now requires computer adaptive testing, the testing would continue with AIR (American Institutes for Research) even if we rejected Common Core itself. This does not make sense; Utah’s AIR (aka SAGE) test is aligned to Common Core. Why would we stick with that after dropping Common Core? Were we to reject Common Core, we would then create an alternative test with a non-Common Core aligned company using better, independent standards.
Question 12 states that the State Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) would still be in place. This is true, and problematic. Since Utah has no proper protections in place over the privacy of student data, and since the federal goverment shredded formerly protective federal FERPA privacy laws, Utah would have to either create proper protections legislatively, or Utah would need to shut down the SLDS and return the $9.6 million that Utah accepted from the federal government to create it, using federally directed interoperability frameworks (see pages 2 and 4 on that grant’s pdf) which created a de facto national data collection system). Since national data collection systems, de facto or not, are illegal, it would be preferable to shut down the SLDS.
Question 12 further states that “Utah would have to go through the expense of writing a new core or adopt the former core–which is not seen as “College and Career Ready” standards… newly purchased materials have to be discarded. If Utah writes unique standards, there will be little or no available materials or textbooks to support their instruction.” This is mostly correct. Utah’s hasty adoption of Common Core has cost her countless millions in newly purchased materials and programs. (See question 7 above, which ironically asserts that the cost of Common Core is not an issue.) There are a limited number of textbook companies that offer curriculum independent from Common Core. Some curriculum companies, such as Saxon Math and Shirley Grammar, still offer editions that have not changed to Common Core to accomodate private schools and home schools. Others, such as the Institute for Excellence in Writing, have re-labeled curriculum, calling it Common Core aligned, but have not made actual changes to it. Remember that all older (classical education) texts are independent of Common Core, since Common Core only began its explosive existence in the past four years.
Question 13 asks what assessments are required by the federal government and answers that ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) aka “No Child Left Behind” requires states to have assessments in math, language arts, and science. This is true. What isn’t explained, and should be, is this: The federal government first of all has no constitutional business requiring states to have assessments. See the U.S. Constitution and G.E.P.A. law (General Educational Provisions Act).
Yet the federal government now corrals its state funding to be used for tests, technologies, professional development, and student computer devices only if and when they are aligned with Common Core (aka College and Career Ready, or CCR). The federal government approves a limited number of testing organizations and consortia. (Utah’s so-called choice, the A.I.R. company, has “developed the only computer adaptive test that is federally approved.“)
Question 15 contends that “Utah teachers will write all of the questions that will be used in the new assessment system” and that “Every teacher in the state has been invited to participate in the item writing.” Every teacher in the state has not been invited. Ask around. It’s not true. Also, in the words of the actual contract that Utah and the A.I.R. testing company have signed –the contract is available from the State Office of Education– a combination of AIR psychometricians, and also Utah teachers, are co-writing the test items. Why let a single psychometrician anywhere near our children’s academic tests?
Question 16 discusses the 15-parent panel which reviews the AIR/SAGE tests to see that they are strictly academic. The panel’s work has not been given the respect it deserved. Nor can we honestly say that the USOE is not collecting behavioral data, inside the SAGE test or by other state-created methods to be discussed below.
Of her experience on the parent panel, mother Alyson Williams, stated (see the comments section) that:
“There were questions that parents flagged as inappropriate, subjective or biased. We were promised that these test items would be reviewed and addressed and that we would get to see how they were addressed… long after this Spring’s pilot, unfortunately… I feel it is a manipulation of my cooperation to characterize it as unreserved approval of these assessments.”
Another member of the panel, Louisa Walker, stated: “Quoted from [Assistant State Superintendent] Judy Park: ‘… Every parent on the panel… agreed that there was nothing in the questions that was inappropriate.’ I served on that 15 parent committee, and I will tell you that is not true … I wasn’t the only one to flag items because of subjective, inappropriate, or misleading content…”
A third member of the parent panel, Jennie Earl, stated that only 2 or 3 parents actually read each of the questions, due to the huge number of questions and small number of parents permitted to read them. She wrote: “… a parent would read a question they had concerns with to gather additional insight from the other parents in the room… because of the nature of the content in the question or bias in the wording…. These items were flagged in addition to other items parents felt needed revision or removal. We don’t know the final outcome thus far on flagged items… I might add… measuring teachers and schools based on a value-added model or growth model is not a valid measurement tool for identifying effective teachers or schools.”
A fourth member of the 15-parent state panel, Kim Kehrer, wrote: “I was also on the parent panel. The questions were reviewed at most by two members of the 15 parent panel. Here are the facts: 43 questions were removed due to various reasons. 160 questions were changed or modified to address the question of concern and 397 questions will be used in the testing and reviewed again next year. I second Jennie Earl’s comment that we are not a validating committee.”
In addition to these concerns, the idea that the tests were strictly academic must be addressed. That cannot be believed by any rational researcher.
1- Do a word search on the AIR contract with Utah; the word “psychometric” comes up 73 times. (Look up that word’s definition and find that psychometrics are psychological and educational measurement using tests.)
2- Look up the AIR company: “AIR’s mission is to conduct and apply the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation”.
3- Look at Utah’s legislation about computer adaptive state testing and learn that HB15, created in 2012, requires the collection of behavior indicators. It 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. test or A.I.R.– test. (There were other, similar laws, years prior to this, as well.) –Are we to believe that although AIR’s purpose is to test behavioral and social indicators, and although Utah law says that the test must test behavioral indicators, the test still won’t?
4- See Utah’s SLDS grant application starting at page 87 and read how non-cognitive behaviors that have nothing to do with academics, will be collected and studied. (This may or may not include information embedded in AIR/SAGE tests) These behaviors will include “social comfort and integration, academic conscientiousness, resiliency, etc.” to be evaluated in part through the psychometric census known as the “Student Strengths Inventory. (SSI)” That inventory –a child’s psychological information– will be integrated into the database (SLDS). The SLDS grant promises to integrate psychological data into the state database.
“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 using… SSI, a measure of noncognitive attitudes and behaviors.” The Student Strengths Inventory (SSI) is a “psychometric census” to be taken by every 11th and 12th grade student in Utah.
The Utah Office of Education openly admits to gathering student psychological data. It has not yet openly admitted that SAGE/AIR tests do this. But with such a policy, openly shown in the USOE’s SLDS grant, why wouldn’t the USOE also, soon if not now, use the SAGE test along with SSI, to gather attitude and belief data on Utah children? The point is that proper legal protections are not in place. Student data and family privacy is vulnerable.
5– The USOE has a history of working in harmony with even the unconstitutional federal initiatives. The U.S. Department of Education issued a report on school gathering of behavioral/belief data. Read its 2013 “Promoting Grit, Tenacity and Perserverance” report. It encourages assessment of student beliefs and personality characteristics, and the keeping of longitudinal records of these traits. The report encourages the use of facial expression cameras, wireless skin conductors, posture analysis seats and other physical devices to measure student attitudes, beliefs and engagement with what is being presented. (see page 44)
Why isn’t the Provo District and the Utah School Board making statements of discontent with the directions in which the federal government is taking education and data collection in light of such federal reports and recommendations?
Question 18, 19 and 20 concern student data privacy. 18 asks what individual student information is given to the federal government from the assessments given in Utah. It says that “districts do not gather personal information from families such as religion affiliation.” It says, “The Federal Government does not have a direct connection with the Utah data base.”
Almost no proper legal protections are in place for student data privacy, while parents are not permitted to opt any public/charter school-attending child out of the state database (SLDS). Also, formerly protective federal FERPA privacy laws have been shredded by the Department of Education. Changes include reducing the requirement (of getting parental consent prior to accessing personally identifiable student information) to an optional “best practice“. At the same time, local privacy laws at least in Utah, are unspecific. Data alliances and data sharing practices among agencies grow and grow, almost unrestrained by privacy laws.
The federal government has long been collecting aggregate (partial, grouped, not easily personally-identifiable) student data. The CCSSO has been collecting national data, too. This is common knowledge.
What is in question is whether these D.C. entities have any access to the fifty State Longitudinal Database Systems, which contain personally identifiable information, databases which are (by federal grant-mandate) inter-operable databases. This question was addressed, ironically, by an insider, a writer named David DeSchryver who aimed to persuade readers to agree that ESEA (No Child Left Behind, a federal law) should be reauthorized. While I disagree with that thesis, I appreciate that the author of the Whiteboard Advisors article revealed what should be common knowledge: the federal government is collecting SLDS-collected student data via the IES and NCES.
He writes: “Most readers are probably not aware that the law [ESEA] authorizes the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), and other research related work. IES provides much of the commonly used and accepted data on US public schools…. the IES is uniquely positioned… It has access to data from every state and school district… This data… bolstered by longitudinal data systems, will benefit the entire field of education. More data, however, requires more organization and IES plays an important role here… It helps to standardize data structure so that new data can connect to prior data sets and research.”
The CCSSO (Council of Chief State School Officers) which copyrighted Common Core and created it, the same CCSSO that created Common Educational Data Standards –has an openly admitted, openly stated mission to disaggregate student data. (See goal #4) The past and current State Superintendents and the Associate State Superintendent of Utah are members of CCSSO. Assistant Superintendent Judy Park is also a writer for CCSSO. This makes me fairly confident that these Utahns are aware of what the CCSSO stands for and what its goals are.
To dis-aggregate means to move toward specificity: identifying which individual person did what. Disaggregation means that academic bundles of students’ information will be separated into groups that are increasingly easy to identify individually. A press release showed that Choice/Pearson partnered with the state of Utah to create the UTREX system that would disaggregate student data.
(Every Utahns should ask our top education leaders and legislators why, on the CCSSO website, it states that one of its main goals is “Continued Commitment to Disaggregation” of student data. Why do we remain supporters of CCSSO?)
Provo district says that ” The Federal Government has no direct access to this [SLDS/UTREX data] system.” But indirectly, it does. From the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) we read: “states must… continue building linkages [from K-12] … across critical agencies such as health, social services and criminal justice…” So if the federal government has access to any DQC-adhering state’s database, it will have access to the other agencies’ information about citizens linked thereby.
Utah is a Data Quality Campaign adherent. The DQC used Utah in its report as a prime example of how its state foster care services data and its school-collected data were combined to find out information about a certain child. Parental rights or student privacy rights were not mentioned as being a relevant part of that equation.
The federal EDFACTS data exchange claims that it’s gathering national data. The student data dis-aggregation club, CCSSO, is officially partnered with the federal government to use CEDS, common data standards in education which make student data more easily disaggregated. Additionally, the federal government paid for all 50 states to have federally-structured State Longitudinal Database Systems to collect personally identifiable information. National Data Collection Models encourage (but do not require) personally identifiable information to be collected and shared between agencies and among states. And at the Arne Duncan-approved Data Quality Campaign, we learn that the answer to” “Are education data just test scores?” is: “No… Data include student and teacher attendance, services students receive, student academic development and growth, teacher preparation information, postsecondary success and remediation rates, and more.”
Previous to widespread scrutiny of the (federal branch) NCES’s National Data Collection Model (NDCM) and prior to the NDCM removing this information, but, as older news articles, videos and blogs testify– it was suggested by the federal model that student nicknames, religious affiliation, birthdate, GPA, allergies, maternal last name, voting status and many more data fields should be filled by schools. (For evidence see screenshots which were saved from NDCM – minute 27:26 on this video by the Restore Oklahoma Public Education group. I, too, saw and wrote about them here.)
Question 21 correctly asserts that Utah state law (code 53A-1-402.6) allows Utah to “exit any agreement, contract, memorandum of understanding, or consortium that cedes control of Utah’s core curriculum standards.” The problem has never been that we can’t exit; it’s that there is not enough understanding of the gravity of the Common Core error, nor enough political will, to choose to exit.
Question 22 says that adequate public feedback opportunities were given prior to adoption of Common Core. Whether on the national or state level, this is untrue. This assertion has been rebutted by the Alpine School District (minutes) and by Alpine Board member Wendy Hart, as well as by the Karl G. Maeser School Board. Maesar’s statement to the Utah School Board says, “there were no opportunities for review of these standards by local school districts or parents.”
If adequate feedback opportunities had been offered, wouldn’t parents at least know the term “Common Core” prior to being told it was already adopted? If adequate public feedback opportunities had been offered, wouldn’t legislatures that are now paying for its implementation have had some discussion in the newspapers? Wouldn’t teachers (like me) have been sent an email, inviting us to research and submit public comment on the subject? The fact that the public debates on the topic and the vast firestorm of anti-Common Core disapproval is happening now, FOUR YEARS AFTER Utah implemented it, is evidence that it was not properly, adequately discussed prior to adoption. For more on this absurd hastiness, listen to the public record audio “minutes” of the state school board in 2010 as they hastily adopted the standards without even a full first reading, due to federal time pressure on a grant application deadline that was Common Core adoption-dependent:
May 1, 2009 Utah School Board Meeting, Agenda Item: National Common Standards
June 17, 2009 Legislative Interim Education Committee Meeting
Quoted audio starts about 27:30
July 18, 2011 Alpine School Board Training, select the first audio file, quoted starts about 27:14
Finally, for your reference, here is the original Q & A:
Provo School District
Common Core FAQ*
* Provo City School District recognizes Seth Sorensen, the Curriculum and Assessment Specialist for Nebo School District for his work in creating the original FAQ document on which this is based.
Q1. Who led the Common Core State Standards Initiative?
A. The Common Core was a grassroots initiative initiated by state governors and Superintendents in 2007. The nation’s governors and education commissioners, through their representative organizations, the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) led the development of the Common Core State Standards and continue to lead the initiative. Teachers, parents, school administrators and experts from across the country together with state leaders have provided input into the development of the standards.
Q2. What are core standards?
A. Core or educational standards help teachers ensure their students have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful by providing clear goals for student learning. Standards are concepts that need to be taught, such as addition of fractions in mathematics, and the grade level where they should be taught.
Q3. What is the difference between standards and curriculum?
A. Standards are the required skills and concepts for the students to achieve. Curriculum include the materials and content that is used to teach the standards.
Q4. Who chooses/adopts state standards and curriculum?
A. The Utah Constitution designates to the Utah State School Board the responsibility to choose state standards. Local school boards and the Utah Legislature do not. Local school boards and schools select the curriculum, which is generally the textbook or program for delivering the standards. Local school teams and individual teachers choose the everyday lesson content. The Federal Government has no say in either standards, curriculum or everyday lesson content. Utah State Code states in 53A-1-402.6. Core curriculum standards: “(1) In establishing minimum standards related to curriculum and instruction requirements under Section 53A-1-402, the State Board of Education shall, in consultation with local school boards, school superintendents, teachers, employers, and parents implement core curriculum standards which will enable students to, among other objectives:
(a) communicate effectively, both verbally and through written communication;
(b) apply mathematics; and
(c) access, analyze, and apply information.”
The Utah Code also spells out local school board control of materials:
“(4) Local school boards shall design their school programs, that are supported by generally accepted scientific standards of evidence, to focus on the core curriculum standards with the expectation that each program will enhance or help achieve mastery of the core curriculum standards.
(5) Except as provided in Section 53A-13-101, each school may select instructional materials and methods of teaching, that are supported by generally accepted scientific standards of evidence, that it considers most appropriate to meet core curriculum standards.” http://le.utah.gov/code/TITLE53A/htm/53A01_040206.htm
Q5. Are the standards internationally benchmarked?
Yes. International benchmarking played a significant role in both sets of standards. In fact, the college and career ready standards include an appendix listing the evidence that was consulted in drafting the standards and the international data used in the benchmarking process.
Q6. Does the federal government play a role in Common Core standards implementation? A. “The Federal Government had no role in the development of the Common Core State Standards and will not have a role in their implementation. The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort that is not part of No Child Left Behind and adoption of the standards is in no way mandatory. “
Q7. Will Utah taxpayers have to pay more money to implement the new Utah Core Standards?
A. The Utah State Board of Education regularly updates the Utah Core Standards. The funding for the implementation of this latest set of standards will not cost Utah taxpayers additional money. The professional development that takes place in the districts will remain at the same level it has for the past decade; the only change will be the content focus. School districts are concerned with their ability to provide the technology and infrastructure necessary to support electronic testing associated with the new SAGE assessment of the Utah Core Standards. The Utah Legislature has not raised taxes to fund this change. Provo City School District supports the advancement of student access to technology and related programs and has been using existing local and state funding to move in this direction.
Q8. How does the local school board fit into the Common core?
A. School Board powers and duties generally, according to State Code 53A-3-402. include:
“ (1) Each local school board shall: (a) implement the core curriculum utilizing instructional materials that best
correlate to the core curriculum and graduation requirements;
(b) administer tests, required by the State Board of Education, which measure the progress of each student, and coordinate with the state superintendent and State Board of Education to assess results and create plans to improve the student’s progress which shall be submitted to the State Office of Education for approval;”
Q9. Do these standards incorporate both content and skills?
A. Yes. “In English Language Arts, the Common Core State Standards require certain critical content for all students, including:
• Classic myths and stories from around the world;
• America’s Founding Documents;
• Foundational American literature: and
The remaining crucial decisions about what content should be taught are left to state and local determination. In addition to content coverage, the Common Core State Standards require that students systematically acquire knowledge in literature and other disciplines through reading, writing, speaking, and listening.
In Mathematics, the Common Core State Standards lay a solid foundation in:
• whole numbers;
• fractions; and
Taken together, these elements support a student’s ability to learn and apply more demanding math concepts and procedures. The middle school and high school standards call on students to practice applying mathematical ways of thinking to real world issues and challenges; they prepare students to think and reason mathematically.”
Q10. Do the math standards cover all the key math topics in the proper sequence?
A. The mathematical progressions presented in the Common Core State Standards are coherent and based on evidence. Part of the problem with having 50 different sets of state standards is that different states cover different topics at different grade levels. Coming to consensus guarantees that from the viewpoint of any given state, topics will move up or down in the grade level sequence. This is unavoidable. What is important to keep in mind is that the progression in the Common Core State Standards is mathematically coherent and leads to college and career readiness at an internationally competitive level.
Q11. What requirements do the Common Core State Standards give to teachers?
A. The Common Core State Standards are merely a clear set of expectations and curriculum standards for the knowledge and skills students need in English/ language arts and mathematics at each grade level to prepare students to graduate college and career ready. The standards establish what students need to learn, but they do not dictate how teachers should teach. Teachers will continue to devise lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their
classrooms, as well as select instructional materials they feel are most appropriate for their students.
Q12. If Utah were to abandon the Utah Core Standards, what would that mean?
A. The relationship with Federal Government would not change, because the Utah Core Standards are not Federal. Utah Law still requires adaptive testing, so the testing will continue with AIR. The Longitudinal Data system would still be in place. Utah would have to go through the expense of writing a new core or adopt the former core–which is not seen as “College and Career Ready” standards. There may be an expense if newly purchased materials have to be discarded. If Utah writes unique standards, there will be little or no available materials or textbooks to support their instruction.
Q13. What assessments are required by the Federal Government?
An ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) was originally passed in 1965 and had major revisions in 1980, 1994, and 2001 (This latest revision called No Child Left Behind). The current requirements of this act require states to have assessments in place in Math, Language Arts, and Science. They leave the decision to the states to determine the assessments and this selection is submitted to the U.S. Department of Education.
Q14. What assessments are required by the Utah State Legislature?
A. The Utah State Legislature requires the following assessments in State Statute:
• Computer Adaptive Assessment in Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and an alternate assessment for students with severe cognitive disabilities. These assessments are given to all students in 3rd-11th Grade (CRTs and UAA).
• Statewide Reading assessment given 3 times per year to every K-3rd grade student (DIBELS).
• Kindergarten-2nd grade end of year assessments, which are developed by school districts. • Direct Writing Assessment given to all 5th and 8th grade students (DWA).
• New College and Career ready Assessments given to all 8th -11th grade students (ACT and companion assessments, Explore and Plan).
• An English Language Learning assessment, which places students at various levels of English proficiency (WIDA).
Q15. Who writes the questions that will be used in the new assessment system?
Utah teachers will write all of the questions that will be used in the new assessment system. Every teacher in the state has been invited to participate in the item writing and all volunteers meet together for weeks with administrators and curriculum specialists from the Utah State Office of Education to develop test items that will accurately measure student learning of standards within the core curriculum.
–Q16. Are all questions on the new assessments reviewed by a parent group?
A. Yes. All questions are reviewed by a group of 15 parents. This parent group will verify that all test questions are strictly academic. See the following link: Utah State contract with AIR: http://www.schools.utah.gov/assessment/Adaptive-Assessment-System/136199-AIR.aspx (See page 7 for the language that requires USOE and Parent review to approve any
test question before they are used by students.)
Q17. Was AIR assessment required by the Federal Government?
A. No. Utah Legislature passed an Adaptive Assessment law after a successful piloting of adaptive testing. (House Bill 15, 2012) Utah issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for an adaptive assessment vendor and AIR was chosen. AIR is a leader in academic testing and had a superior product for end of level tests, formative tests and interim tests.
Q18. What individual student information is given to the Federal Government from the assessments given in Utah?
A. None. The only data provided to the federal government by the State of Utah is aggregate school-level data. No individual student data is provided. The Federal Government does not have a direct connection with the Utah data base. School districts do not gather personal information from families such as religion affiliation
or political party
Q19. What is the Longitudinal Data System in Utah?
A. With 41 school districts and 84 charter schools that use at least 10 different types of student information systems, Utah needed a way to communicate within the education system. The Longitudinal Data system is called UTREx. The first task of UTREx was to assign each student a unique number (SSID), so that two school districts or charter schools could not claim funding from the state for the same student. It is also used to help transfer student transcript information to higher education. A great benefit is the ability to transfer student records for students who move from one district or charter to the next. The UTREx system improves accuracy and efficiency of education. Hundreds of hours of time for school personnel will be saved because of the UTREx system. The Federal Government has no access to this system
Q20. Are we as schools and districts required to collect more student information as a result of Utah Senate Bill 82, known as the “Digital Backpack”, passed in 2013?
A. Yes This Utah bill requires a new system that “collects longitudinal student transcript data from LEAs (districts and charter schools) and the unique student identifiers as described in Section 53A-1-603.5.”
The bill summary states: “This bill:
• defines terms;
• requires the State Board of Education to establish the Utah Student Record Store where an authorized LEA user may access student data in a Student Achievement backpack that is relevant to the user’s LEA or school;
• specifies the data to be included in a Student Achievement Backpack; and requires the State Board of Education to ensure that student data in a Student Achievement Backpack is accessible through an LEA’s student information system by June 30, 2017.”
This bill effectively doubles the amount of data districts are required to send on to the State office of Education. This new data includes things like school attendance, student growth scores, student reading level, student writing sample, student performance by standard and objective, etc…
Text from SB 82: http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/sbillamd/SB0082S01.htm
Q21. Can the State of Utah change their core standards at any time?
A. According to state code 53A-1-402.6. Core curriculum standards.
“(6) The state may exit any agreement, contract, memorandum of understanding, or consortium that cedes control of Utah’s core curriculum standards to any other entity, including a federal agency or consortium, for any reason, including:
(a) the cost of developing or implementing core curriculum standards; (b) the proposed core curriculum standards are inconsistent with community
(c) the agreement, contract, memorandum of understanding, or consortium:
(i) was entered into in violation of Part 9, Implementing Federal Programs Act, or Title 63J, Chapter 5, Federal Funds Procedures Act;
(ii) conflicts with Utah law;
(iii) requires Utah student data to be included in a national or multi-state database;
(iv) requires records of teacher performance to be included in a national or multi-state database; or
(v) imposes curriculum, assessment, or data tracking requirements on home school or private school students.
(7) The State Board of Education shall annually report to the Education Interim Committee on the development and implementation of core curriculum standards.”
Q22. Was any feedback given from the public or any group on the common core prior to adoption by states?
A. Yes. There were a number of opportunities given for the public, as well as other groups such as educators to give feedback on the core standards, as well as the college and career ready standards.
Summary of public feedback on K-12 standards: http://www.corestandards.org/assets/k-12-feedback-summary.pdf
Summary of Public Feedback on College and Career Ready Standards:
–From the Provo School District website
Go to http://www.resistthetest.org to share upcoming events with allies across the nation. Note, also, that some politicians are beginning to change policies in response to constituent pressure.
Guest Post by Alma Ohene-Opare
“Raise your heads out of the dust and realize that America is great because America bucked against the status quo. Thinking a standardized and common core curriculum is innovative is like discovering water in the ocean and patting yourself on the back for it. This system is not new. Its greatest success was to create a conforming working class for the industrial revolution. It is not fit for a dynamic 21st century that needs constant innovation and the confidence to create new solutions to the problems that continue to beset and confound the smartest minds in the world. ”
Alma Ohene-Opare, now a Utahn, is originally from Accra, Ghana. Alma came to the U.S. at age 19, primarily because of what he called “America’s innovative educational system.” He said, “I was educated from K-12th grade in a Common-Core-like educational system. My family (who owns and runs a private K-12 institution) battles daily because of the system.The end result is seemingly educated (on paper) graduates, with no ability to think for themselves, solve problems or innovate in any way. Parents and teachers alike have become conditioned to place the standardized tests at the forefront of education, leading to what we call in Ghana, “Chew and pour, pass and forget.” Here is his story.
Common Core – A Failed Idea Newly Cloaked in the Robes of Good Intentions
My name is Alma Ohene-Opare, an alumnus of BYU and a native of Accra, Ghana. Over the past few months, I have followed with much amusement, the nationwide debate for or against the adoption and implementation of the Common Core standards. The arguments have been fierce and passionate on both sides and seem to stem from a universal desire to raise the quality of education in America. The desire is noble. However, this noble desire will not compensate for or mitigate the empirically documentable effects of the failed policy being proposed.
Common Core may be new to America, but to me and the thousands who have migrated to the United States to seek better educational opportunities, it is in large part the reason we came here. If you are wondering what qualifies me to make the assertions I will make in this article, know this; I am one of the few victims of a standardized national education system in Ghana, who was lucky enough to escape its impact. I am also a member of the Board of Directors of a private K-12 institution in Accra, Ghana. Golden Sunbeam Montessori School was founded by my mother in 1989 and is currently leading the fight to rid our country of an educational system that has led to the systematic degradation and deterioration of our human capital.
Let’s get to the core of my argument; pun intended. What Americans are calling Common Core is eerily similar to my educational experience growing up in Ghana. In Ghana, K-12th grade education was tightly controlled by the Ghana Education Service, an organization similar to the US Department of Education. From curricula to syllabi to standardized testing, the government controlled everything.
In 9th grade, all students, in order to progress to high school are required to take a standardized exam known as the B.E.C.E, which stands for Basic Education Certification Examination. Depending on the results of the test, each student is assigned by a computer program to a public high school without regard to his or her interests, passions or ambitions. Each student is then assigned an area of focus for the next three years. Some of the focus areas are General Science, Business Management, General Arts, Visual Arts, Home Economics, Agriculture, etc.
Although things may have changed slightly since I graduated, most students generally did not have a choice as to which area of focus they were assigned. The only way to get a choice was to ace the standardized exam or to call in a favor either through bribery or some other type of corruption. The students who failed miserably were usually those who attended public schools; many of whom dropped out of school entirely.
The process was then repeated at the end of High School with another standardized exam called the W.A.S.S.S.C.E. This exam tested your readiness for college and ultimately determined which course of study you were assigned by the government in college. I did not ace that exam and did not get admission into the state run college of my choice. Instead, I went to a private university founded by a former Microsoft employee and was found smart enough to be admitted to BYU a year later as a transfer student, to graduate with a Bachelor’s in Information Technology and to be hired right out of college as a Program Manager at Microsoft Corporation.
Although the education system in Ghana is not similar in all aspects to Common Core as it is being proposed today, some of the basic tenets are the same. The curriculum was controlled by an external body without input from or accountability to teachers, individual schools or parents. Some argue that teachers and parents have control in Common Core. It pains me to witness such naivety. That myth has always been an inevitable play by proponents of any centralized system. The goal is to make people think they are in control while nudging them blindly towards a perceived public interest. The truth is simple; the institution that controls the exams, controls the curriculum.
By controlling the standardized exams, each school in Ghana was forced to make passing the exam its primary focus rather than actual teaching and learning. Hence anything that was deemed outside the purview of the test was cast aside and treated as non-important. Extra-curricular activities were cut if not totally eliminated and the school day was lengthened to ensure that students had even more time to prepare for the test.
In my case, school started at 6:00 am and ended as late as 6:00 pm. We attended school on Saturdays. Even when school was out we still attended school half day. Our lives were consumed with preparation for the standardized test. We all had booklets of past tests going back 15 years. Those who anticipated failing the test registered in advance to retake the test. The value of teachers was measured solely on the performance of their students on the standardized tests. Scammers who purported to know what would appear on the tests duped schools, parents and teachers alike by selling bogus test questions. Schools with political connections always unanimously aced the tests.
You may wonder why nobody ever tried to change the system. The answer was simple. The government made it impossible by requiring all students who wanted to go to High School or College to take the test. Hence, any time spent trying to change the system meant time taken away from preparing for the test. Parents became completely beholden to the system and would threaten to take the kids to other schools if administrators spent any time not preparing their kids for the test.
Now that you have a sense of how an education system can become trapped in the death spiral of standardized tests, let me interest you with the impact of this system on actual student outcomes. In Ghana, we had a phrase to describe how we felt about standardized tests. We called it “chew and pour, pass and forget”. Translated, it means memorize, regurgitate, pass the exam and forget everything.
Unfortunately that has become reality for many graduates of our educational system. As my father put it in a recent petition to the Ghana Education Service, “the education system in Ghana is akin to an assembly line setup by the government to create employees for an economy largely devoid of innovation, entrepreneurship, originality or risk taking”. Because students never learn to solve problems or think critically for themselves and are largely discouraged from challenging their teachers or the status quo, they are inevitably groomed to maintain the failed traditions of the past while believing they are completely powerless to change anything. The result is the fact that even with an abundance of natural resources, the country in general continues to suffer in the doldrums of socio-economic development without any clear path out of it.
Recently my brother left a well-paying job in the US to return to Ghana to take over my parent’s school. He had dreams of changing the system. He imagined students groomed to become innovators and entrepreneurs. He soon learned it was impossible to achieve any of those dreams if the school was to remain subject to the rules, restrictions and common standards the government had set. The only solution was to completely abandon the system, which he fears would cause parents to withdraw their children from the school. He is now stuck in the limbo of a catch 22 but continues to fight to win students, teachers and parents over to a new beginning for the education of their children.
In December 2012, I returned to Ghana with my family and had the opportunity to speak to 10th grade students at the school. I gave what I thought was an inspiring speech. I proposed to start an innovation and entrepreneurship club which will employ students to identify and propose solutions to some of the problems facing the country. I promised to provide the capital and resources necessary to support these kids in this new challenge. I ended by asking the kids who were interested to write their names on a piece of paper and email it to me. It’s been more than 18 months since I returned. I have received nothing and I don’t blame them. Their parents have paid a large sum of money because they believed our school would help their kids pass the standardized exam. I was not about to distract them from that goal. What a tragedy.
I have personally wondered what makes Africa so uniquely challenged in its attempts at economic development especially when all the innovations needed to do so are readily available to us. I came to a personal conclusion which admittedly is not scientific but captures what I believe to be the elusive culprit. It is contentment with mediocrity and a lack of curiosity to change the status quo. The problem is not inherent in the nature of Africans but rather the imposition of an educational system that burned out the light of innovation and made us content to live on the spoils of the countries brave enough to venture into the glory of the unknown.
When I came to the US, many people would ask what the difference was between the US and Ghana. I responded that in Ghana, I could dream. In America I can do.
In writing this article, I am by no means endorsing the current state of public education in the United States. The problem with the system today is that the US government, aided by self-interested unions, has spent decades and billions of dollars trying to return to a system of education that America abandoned a long time ago; a system which has proven a failure in many parts of the world. Common Core is just the latest iteration of the failed system. Like a wise man once said, oh that I were an angel and could have the wish of my heart; to stand on the mountain top to warn against the path you are choosing to take. As an outsider looking in, I recognize one thing that most Americans lack. Because America has been free for so long, many have no sense of what tyranny looks like and how quickly physical and intellectual freedom can be lost on the path paved with good intentions.
I plead with all you well-intentioned but definitely misguided administrators, teachers and politicians. Raise your heads out of the dust and realize that America is great because America bucked against the status quo. Thinking a standardized and common core curriculum is innovative is like discovering water in the ocean and patting yourself on the back for it. This system is not new. Its greatest success was to create a conforming working class for the industrial revolution. It is not fit for a dynamic 21st century that needs constant innovation and the confidence to create new solutions to the problems that continue to beset and confound the smartest minds in the world.
America is desperate to find a solution to a problem that you solved decades ago. Return to originality. Put teachers and parents in charge of the education of their children. Encourage critical thinking that rejects conformity for the sake of some perceived societal benefit. Teach children to solve problems and not just to regurgitate the solutions of generations past. I have been silent too long and have now seized this opportunity to stand up for what I believe, which ironically is something I have learned from my experience in America.
America, I urge you to learn from the mistakes of those around because, like the plaque in my former bishop’s office read, “you may not live long enough to make all those mistakes yourself.”
–Alma Ohene-Opare, Salt Lake City, UT
“I am required to teach key reading comprehension strategies, the writing process, information-gathering skills, grammar, vocabulary, etc., etc. But I also hope to awaken a love of reading and literature, ignite curiosity about our complex world…. “All children are gifted—some just open their presents earlier than others.” I know that every one of my students understands something I don’t and has something to tell the world that no one else ever has. I am a “treasure seeker” and “talent scout,” hoping to help young people discover the gold within themselves and each other.”
This quote is excerpted from the disclosure statement of Utah English teacher Ann Florence who has been placed on forced leave, pending probable termination. How awful. This beautiful quote reveals that Florence is a treasure, not some problem teacher to be forced out. But she has been pushed out, for her act of standing up for the right to teach and the right to be judged on her actual teaching rather than endless government mandated tests.
Administrators have labeled her insubordinate. Read the news. See what has happened.
It seems to me that Ann Florence doesn’t buy the notion that teachers must give up their rights to free speech, nor give up their rights to participation in the political process, just because they are employed by the government. She certainly doesn’t believe that teachers should give up the art of real teaching to bow to government enforced, excessive high-stakes tests that narrowly judge not only students, but teachers as well.
A year ago, Florence wrote an op-ed voicing her concerns. She explained (excerpt):
“Managing teachers through intimidation is not working… teachers are looking for work elsewhere. Teachers who have loved their jobs are discouraging their own children from pursuing careers in education…. we feel exhausted and demoralized by the avalanche of mandates from the state and district… While legislators constantly raise expectations and think they can motivate us by publicly posting test scores, our time for teaching has shrunk….I now administer 19 days of standardized tests, costing me an entire month of instruction. This doesn’t include the days the testing site is down or the system crashes, eating up even more days…. I am held accountable for nine months of curriculum without enough time to teach it… Granite District has required teachers to learn the new Common Core, use a new grades program (which crashes regularly), design a new honors curriculum, use a new online system requiring the scanning and posting of all assignments and a daily summary of class activities, and learn to analyze complex data … No test score reflects the number of students who return to thank a teacher, the number who fall in love with reading again, gain new confidence to speak up in class, find solace in a teacher’s support, decide to try one more time just when they want to quit… We are tired of having our dedication reduced to a number.”
Now, the Salt Lake Tribune reports that after Florence criticized new “standardized tests as a waste of time and irrelevant to what students are being taught” she was “placed on administrative leave and may be fired.”
Her students’ response?
“Oh captain, my captain, you have taught me so much this year. The value of honesty, imagination, and freedom to express myself. I cannot thank you enough for that. You are the best teacher Wasatch could ever ask for.”
Along with the emailed poetry, students launched a petition drive, urging that Florence not be terminated.
The Tribune reported that Granite District spokesman “Ben Horsley said personnel decisions of this gravity take time to make the right choice. He said Florence has been unreasonably aggressive in demanding an answer.”
“Unreasonably aggressive” seems a more appropriate label for the policymakers at the district, state and federal levels who are intimidating and degrading the professionalism of top notch teachers while trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the public. Shame on them.
Bravo, Ann Florence.
Update: The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Ann Florence has been fired. I sent a letter today and encourage others to write as well. Every voice counts. Here’s mine, and contact info if you want to write too, down after the letter:
Dear Granite School District, State Board, and State Office of Education:
Granite District made news this week by firing Ann Florence, an honors English teacher who stood on principle and did what she (and I) saw as the right thing to do. I am writing to voice my support for Ann Florence’s actions and to ask the District and State Board to take action to right this wrong.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported
, “Florence refused to grade the writing portion of the districtwide Acuity Test. She said the exam was a waste of students’ and teachers’ time, did not further any education agenda and that it was unethical to have teachers grade their own students on a standardized test that then would be used to judge the teacher. In a letter to her students, she said she loved her career but had to stand up for principle.”
The Acuity Test (McGraw Hill) was offering financial compensation to schools for having students take this test.
Did Granite District actually fire Ann Florence for refusing to enable the District to make money –by using children for unpaid research guinea pigs? What does “professional compliance” and “teacher ethics” really mean to the district?
Ann Florence’s opinion editorial of one year ago in the Salt Lake Tribune deserves careful re-reading. Her concerns included the non-validity of high-stakes testing because of the testing conditions provided at the school, about the push for Common Core and data analysis, and about the non-validity of reducing the whole time and dedication of a teacher to one student-test-based number, a number over which that teacher has relatively little actual control.
The Tribune also reported that this teacher was punished for speaking about her concerns with the high-stakes tests vocally, including speaking out in front of students. Does a teacher lose her Constitutional right to freedom of speech just because she is employed by the government? Are teachers to pretend to political neutrality or should they instead be shining exemplars as vibrant participants in the American process of open debate –and sometimes also in honorable disagreement?
Furthermore, basing the heaviest “accountability measures” of state tests on the federal-corporate collusion known as Common Core State Standards, in my opinion, is not only an error but a form of academic malpractice.
Thus, any teacher who refuses to push the SAGE test on students, or refuses to give or grade the Acuity Test, or to promote other high-stakes tests that do not honestly benefit students nor teachers –tests that exist to benefit powermonering politicians and moneygrubbing corporate aims, is, in my opinion, the teacher who is ethically and morally defensible.
The Granite District has marred its honor by firing Ann Florence. The State Board and Office, by doing nothing in this teacher’s defense, are complicit in the wrong.
Granite District Superintendent Martin Bates: email@example.com
State Superintendent Dr. Martell Menlove: Martell.Menlove@schools.utah.gov
Wasatch Jr High Principal Christine Judd: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wasatch Jr High Asst. Principal John Anderson: email@example.com
State School Board:
firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; jeffersonRmoss@gmail.com; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org;
Granite School Board:
email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com;
Governor Herbert: http://governor.utah.gov/goca/form_comment.html (copy/paste your email into this form to send it to the Governor)
Utah legislators: http://le.utah.gov (look up by address here)
A revealing CCSSO letter, leaked to the public, reveals Common Core investors’ collective panic about Ian Reid’s new film, Building the Machine.
Missouri Education Watchdog and Breitbart News reported that CCSSO deputy executive director Carissa Miller’s letter shows top Common Core moneymaking / grant-receiving businesses are combining to discredit the Common Core documentary. Many businesses need Common Core’s claims to be believed, or they lose this gold rush. So they’re trying to stop it, understandably.
And if the documentary is seen despite their efforts to discredit it, the groups have laid a plan to smother the truth with smooth “positive” talking points and with a soon-to-be-released documentary of their own.
If you watch the film, you’ll know why they’re panicking. Truth is truth.
The documentary solidly wipes out the “higher standards” claims of Common Core’s creators, using filmed speeches by Common Core’s creators and funders, and using interviews with top Stanford professors, Common Core validation committee members and respected members of think tanks, both for and against Common Core. Importantly, it shows that the real issue of education reform is not even about academics, ultimately; it’s about power.
The CCSSO doesn’t want people to know this power struggle exists. But it does exist. In fact, who ends up holding decision-making power is the main conflict inside ed reform, despite all the pleasant words about education standards.
As the backers of the new documentary succinctly put it:
“…This issue is far more than what standards public schools should use. It is about who will decide how and what our children are taught.” -William Estrada, in Breitbart interview.
You can read the leaked letter here. You can watch the movie here.
I want to point out this part of the panic-letter:
“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Fordham [Institute] have put together the attached two documents that can be used to clarify the vast amount of misinformation that will be circulated as a result of the movie. Please note – these are EMBARGOED until Monday, March 31st…. The U.S. Chamber is in the final stages of producing their own Common Core mini-documentary… Below we’ve include some tips for messaging and responding to the critical questions this film may generate in your state. We will send out the Chamber video when it is released.
Why do they just include “tips for messaging and responding” rather than including documentation, facts, links to contracts and legally valid, scientifically valid evidence? Evidence is not wanted. Only marketing, “messaging.”
FYI: Carissa is Carissa Miller, CCSSO deputy executive director.
For newcomers: The CCSSO is a nontransparent group that co-created the Common Core and then partnered with the federal Department of Education to collect data on a national level. It’s the same group that openly admits it has a “commitment to disaggregation of student data.”
I call the CCSSO a “superintendents’ club”. It does not include all state superintendents nor is it an elected body. The CCSSO seems want the public to believe –as does its twin sister, the NGA– that it has voter-designated authority to boss states around. It does not. Neither has authority and neither represents voters like our Congress does. Repeat: CCSSO and NGA have no elected authority. Do not be decieved by their pomp. They are just private groups that combined to create and copyright Common Core, heavily influenced/ funded by philanthopist-turned-takeover-king Bill Gates.
If you care about the traditional American voice of the local voter setting policy, rather than having closed-door private cliques that partner with the feds setting local policy, please oppose these goals of the CCSSO. Make your voice heard. Let your State Superintendent know you want him/her to bow out of membership in this club to focus energy on local control of education.
–While you’re at it, send your superintendent a link to the movie.
I hope every American watches it.
Utahns Against Common Core published the resignation letter of Utah high school physics teacher Stuart Harper today. The letter is powerful. These are the words of a noble man, and his resignation is a tragic loss to Utah’s school system.
When will our state leaders acknowledge the train wreck of Common Core and turn our state around? When will they read and heed teachers like Stuart Harper?
Read the full letter here.
“… After much research I know that the Common Core (CC), the way it has been implemented, and the reforms which have accompanied it are wrong. They are unsound, of poor quality, take power from local government, and further empower federal agencies and policy makers. Most importantly, their enactment was unconstitutional, both in Utah and in the nation. However wrong CC may be, my reasons for resigning are only tangent to this constitutional breech. I was aware of the core before signing on, and though I did not approve of it I gave my word in contract to teach whatever curriculum I was given.
In the summer of 2013 a personal letter I had written, stating my concerns with Common Core, was posted on the Utahns Against Common Core website. It was an opinion piece, not a scholarly review. I saw no problem with stating my opinion, it is my right as a citizen, at least so I thought.
A few months later, I was informed that the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) had learned of my published letter and was not happy with my opinions or concerns. Local school authorities were instructed to meet with me and put me back in line. During this meeting with the district representatives I was told that I was shallow, ignorant and emotional in the way I wrote my concerns and that by writing things like this I would create rebellion and insubordination across the district. I was told I can have an opinion with other state’s educational systems but as a teacher in the state of Utah I cannot be concerned with my own state’s educational affairs.
I reminded them that my intent was not to promote rebellion, but to simply encourage personal research on the subject and exercise freedom of speech on my off time, as a citizen and father. I was told “Those freedom of speech rights you are probably referring to do not apply.”
I was shocked, but I stood my ground. I made it clear that if I continued to be intimidated into silence that I would resign same day. I told them that I have given my word to teach what they want me to in the classroom and would continue, but I would also continue to use my rights as an American citizen to effect political change. They said I could share my research if I get my facts straight, but even then my job is on the line. When I told them that I would continue to research information from original sources as well as writings from those for and against Common Core they were confused. They discouraged me from seeking information from anywhere other than the USOE, and accept only their interpretations of the facts. I refused, reminding them that true education comes from educating yourself on all sides.
I was threatened on three separate occasions with professional action all because I stated my opinion. I did not resign at any of the instances where I found myself threatened because I realized that I had given my word that I would teach for the year, and I will not break my word. However I refuse to remain in an environment that clearly has no respect for the Constitutional right of free speech. I refuse to be a part of the problem.
Over the years the school system has fallen far below what it should be. The public school system is just that – public. It should represent those served by it – We the People. Each level of the system (classroom, school, district and state) fails to remember that its duty is to the people, not to the establishment. We should be representing what is in our students’ and our community’s best interest. Our current system expects acceptance and conformity to its decisions and policies by all of its teachers and administrators. Further, it expects this without questioning or voicing concerns and even goes as far as intimidating and threatening those who have differing opinions. Any society or organization that silences and discourages freedom of speech removes the possibility to express ideas, and without competing ideas we close the door on true education and open the door to tyranny.
… We have lost control of the classroom and continue to hand more and more power over to the government. Our current system no longer promotes learning, but rather focuses on training. It teaches what to think, not how to think. It is now a system of hoops for students, teachers, and administrators, and with further national control and regulations of education, these hoops have been set on fire.
I believe that until we can get education to become self-sufficient where it no longer relies on the funding and intimidation from federal and even state levels, until we can bring education back to learning how to think and not being trained for a test, and until we can bring freedom back to the individual teachers, students, and schools, our public system will continue to decay. I hope the system and its people can exercise the self discipline to do this, but where I cannot foresee this happening, my greatest hope for education now resides in home-schools, home-school groups, and in private education.
My hands are tied within this system. But I now know that I can be more productive on the outside. I will continue to promote true and correct educational principles, awareness of civic affairs, and our duty to be involved. I am going to be a part of the solution. Asking questions is the essence of education. All I encourage of others is to ask questions, seek truth and not be afraid to share that truth with other Americans who are willing to listen.
Mr. Stuart Harper
Teacher, Citizen, and Father”
The Utah teenager and her mother who decided to take a stand last week by taking screen shots and sharing them with the public –photos of the SAGE/Common Core writing test, hit some raw nerves. Over a hundred comments were added here, with more posted on Facebook, and almost a hundred thousand views of those screen shots were logged in a few days.
Why? Reasons ranged and tempers flared: Was the act of sharing screen shots heroic– or was it cheating? Was the test itself fair –or manipulative? Should the student be failed and the teacher who didn’t see or stop her be fired? Was the blog posting itself fair or manipulative? Is this all evidence of an improved education system that creates deep-thinking students, or the very opposite?
A few of the responders words are worth repeating and are posted below.
Former teacher Laureen Simper wrote:
“Author Ray Bradbury could have used a SAGE test with a prompt like this, in his book “Farenheit 451″. As another commenter mentioned, Bradbury wrote: ‘There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running around with lit matches.’
“I have questioned the motives of central educational planners for years, ever since I had school-aged children. That was when I learned about John Dewey, when “Common Core” was going by the name du jour: “Outcome-Based Education“. That was when I read the original Humanist Manifesto. John Dewey was one of the original drafters/signers of what I recognized as an anti-God constitution. I learned that secular humanism and progressivism were the idealogies driving education “reform”.
“Progressive central planners continually repackage education reform when “the ignorant masses” figure out what the true motive is: to manage the lives of those ignorant masses, because they’re seen as too ignorant to manage their lives for themselves. Sadly, as long as a shell game can continually be played with shifting appellations, all the sleepy little frogs go back to sleep, as our nice warm bath continues to heat up.
“The agenda to shift public thinking away from self-government started at least as early as the early 20th century. The Intercollegiate Socialist Society was founded in 1905. Its original members believed that 60 college campuses were enough leavening to turn social thinking towards government dependence.
“Originally, the movement focused on higher education. Woodrow Wilson, former president of Princeton, said that the goal of higher education should be for a young man to come out of university as unlike his father as possible.
“But the plan was not limited to changing graduates of higher education. John Dewey, a few decades later, said that the influences of the home and family are properly challenged (by “steadying” ) in the government schools. This came from the “father” of modern education.
“Those who have not connected the same dots will disagree. But I’ve read what I’ve read and heard what I’ve heard – straight from the mouths of the arrogant progressive central planners.
“Their motives are not pure. They plan to manage our lives of the ignorant masses, because they think that people are too stupid or too lazy to govern themselves. And the education reformers’ answer is not Jefferson’s answer: ‘…If we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. ‘ –Thomas Jefferson, 1820
“Education reformers today, from Dewey to Coleman, seem to feel that the best answer is to wrest that self-government from the people.
“It is a big deal that a 16-year-old kid risked photographing test questions, knowing what kind of retribution could be brought to bear if she were caught.
“It is a big deal that a mother, equally aware of that retribution, would get those photos into the hands of a group of warriors who have connected the same dots I have connected – putting these test prompts into a completely different, stark, sobering context.
“Those who are screaming that anti-Common Core crusaders are taking these test questions out of context need to ask themselves if it is not they, themselves, who are taking them out of context.” –Laureen Simper
Another commenter, Michelle, wrote:
“And this is how they test “critical thinking skills”: “Your argument must be based on ideas, concepts, and information that can be determined through analysis of the four passages.” Students must base their argument on four passages alone. No room for their own ideas. No place for the inclusion of information outside of those four passages. No opportunity to question the ideas and information given in the passages.
“One of the selections is a blog post. Yes, a blog post. “Why playing videogames better than reading books.” (That wasn’t a typo; that is the title of the post as written on the actual blog site.) I wonder if they don’t refer to Wikipedia articles as well in other test questions.
“The other selection is from Steven Johnson’s book, “Everything Bad is Good for You” which, according to a review by The Guardian, asserts that TV, film, and video games make us smarter, yet the assertion fails miserably to back up those claims with actual science.
“So apparently, when Common Core proponents speak of “critical thinking skills” they don’t actually mean teaching children to think for themselves or to critically analyze arguments presented in selections of informational text or even to carefully select reliable and credible sources on which to gather information to form arguments. Instead, they mean teaching children to write argumentative essays by cutting and pasting information and ideas from blog posts and pseudo-science.
Our poor children.”
A dad named Jared wrote:
“I review hundreds of ELA books & tests every year. I am seeing these kinds of two-sided “opinion” reading/writing assignments all the time now. Here’s how to recognize it:
– ‘Two sides’ of a controversial/political/social/environmental/values-oriented subject are presented.
– The material is billed as “balanced” because “two sides” of an issue are presented.
– The student reads both sides, then writes an essay promoting one side.
“… these kinds of “opinion” writing assignments are subject to bias by nature, because the author/publisher controls the entire argument. In the examples I have seen, the author typically gives a reasonable-sounding Opinion A, and an unreasonable (straw man) Opinion B. The child naturally gravitates toward the more reasonable-sounding argument, and thinks she logically came to her own conclusion.
“If test question writers wanted to test a child’s writing ability, while avoiding straw men and indoctrination (intended or otherwise), they could simply avoid controversial subjects for their material. Why don’t they?”
A Utah High School student took the Common Core (SAGE) test this week. Seeing objectionable issues in that test, she thought her mother should know. The student took screen shots using her cell phone and sent them to her mother. Her mother passed them along to us.
The question given in this test asks whether book literacy is inferior to the playing of video games. Read it. Most of the passages that students must refer to, claim that literature is inferior, that it forces passivity or discriminates, while video games teach students how to be leaders.
Long live grunts and smoke signals.
The articles student must refer to in taking this test make the following devilish assertions: “books understimulate the senses” and “books are downright discriminatory” and books are “choreographed by another person [while video games are not]“.
These are mean pushes toward valuing video gaming instead of books –and they precisely match the pushy philosophy of Common Core creator-turned College Board President David Coleman. They also match the philosophy of Microsoft Owner/ Common Core funder Bill Gates. So it is no surprise. It’s still sickening.
In this “writing test” there is no mention (at least in these screen shots that we have) of any of the countless positive values of reading books: no value seen in the joy of receiving a story; no value in exposure to expressive vocabulary and imagination; no value to learning traditional spelling, composition or grammar competencies which hinge on book reading. There’s no mention of the value of learning humanity’s patterns by reading complex character studies in literature. There’s no mention of poetry, of the beauty of words, of the importance of cherishing our shared cultural history. There’s no mention of the truth that voracious readers become voracious learners and expressive writers.
Nope. It’s just down with books. If this philosophy isn’t an example of the erosion of students’ exposure to traditional knowledge, and of the dumbing down and impoverishment of school children, I don’t know what is.
What would the future would look like if students actually swallowed and lived by such a philosophy? Speaking, writing, spelling, and reading would utterly devolve. So this high school student’s choice to capture the test’s philosophies and expose them was an important act of civil disobedience.
Thoreau’s classic book, Civil Disobedience, says that individuals should prioritize conscience when conscience collides with law. Benjamin Franklin put it this way: Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God. Parents, teachers and students are dealing with the tyranny of the Common Core’s wrong-headed philosophies and with the tyranny of a now-national education system that’s oppressing individual conscience.
Think it through. Utah’s law affirms the authority of a parent to have the final say over what a student will learn. But education policies have become tangled to the point that today, only a 15-member parent panel has been allowed to look at the test questions, and these 15 are sworn to confidentiality. Even after the test, no one gets to see what was tested. Ever. Remember, too, that no parent or teacher –or even a legislator– was ever consulted prior to adoption of the standards upon which the test is based. The state school board alone mandated Utah’s adoption of the standards. The test and its standards are experimental, but no parent was asked whether any of this was okay.
Confidentiality surrounding high stakes tests makes sense in that it prevents future test-takers from knowing what the questions are so that they can not have an advantage over students who took the test without knowing these questions ahead of time. But there’s a problem when, at NO time, even months after the test, a parent may ever see what was shown to the child or asked of the child on that test.
This is an especially big problem in 2014, when much of what passes for education is blatant political or social indoctrination.
Case in point: the following screen shots.
Update: Utahns Against Common Core has published screen shots of school worksheets submitted by a third grade teacher. These worksheets feature the same promotion of video games seen in the SAGE test, but with a parents-don’t-know-what’s-up tone.
With Bill Gates, the Common Core promoter and funder and Microsoft owner, pushing for video gaming in schools, one must wonder whether these worksheets and test items’ focus on video gaming being so important in schools, is a coincidence or is profit-driven.
First, here’s a list.
It’s a smattering of teachers’ names with links to what they have said or spoken. Their experience and research make a powerful, nearly unarguable case for stopping corporate-federal Common Core. They are current teachers, retired teachers, and teachers-turned-professors-or-administrators.
Malin Williams, Mercedes Schneider, Christy Hooley, Peter Greene, Susan Kimball, Paul Bogush, Laurie Rogers, Paul Horton, Gerald Conti, Alan Singer, Kris Nielsen, Margaret Wilkin, Renee Braddy, Sandra Stotsky, J. R. Wilson Amy Mullins, Susan Wilcox, Diane Ravitch, Susan Sluyter, Joseph Rella, Christopher Tienken, Jenni White, David Cox, Peg Luksik, Sinhue Noriega, Susan Ohanian, Pat Austin, Cami Isle, Terrence Moore, Carol Burris, Stan Hartzler, Orlean Koehle, Nakonia Hayes, Barry Garelick, Heidi Sampson; also, here’s a young, un-named teacher who testified in this filmed testimony, and an unnamed California teacher/blogger.
Notice that these teachers come from all sides of the political spectrum. It turns out that neither Democrats nor Republicans relish having their rights and voices trampled.
And alongside those individual voices are teacher groups. To name a handful: the Left-Right Alliance, 132 Catholic Professors Against Common Core, the United Opt Out teachers, the BadAss Teachers, Utah Teachers Against Common Core, Conservative Teachers of America, and over 1,100 New York professors.
These teachers have really, really done their homework.
I’m going to share the homework of one brilliant teacher, a Pennsylvania teacher/blogger named Peter Greene who wrote about what he called his “light bulb moment” with how the Common Core Standards exist to serve data mining.
Speaking of the millions of data points being collected “per day per student,” he explained:
“They can do that because these are students who are plugged into Pearson, and Pearson has tagged every damn thing. And it was this point at which I had my first light bulb moment. All that aligning we’ve been doing, all that work to mark our units and assignments and, in some places, every single work sheet and assignment so that we can show at a glance that these five sentences are tied to specific standards– all those PD [professional development] afternoons we spent marking Worksheet #3 as Standard LA.12.B.3.17– that’s not, as some of us have assumed, just the government’s hamfisted way of making sure we’ve toed the line. It’s to generate data. Worksheet #3 is tagged LA.12.B.3.17, so that when Pat does the sheet his score goes into the Big Data Cloud as part of the data picture of pat’s work. (If you’d already figured this out, forgive me– I was never the fastest kid in class).”
Peter Greene further explained why the common standards won’t be decoupled from the data collection. His words explain why proponents cling so doggedly to the false claim that these Common Core standards are better academically (despite the lack of research-based evidence to support that claim and the mounting, on-the-job evidence to the contrary.)
“Don’t think of them as standards. Think of them as tags.
“Think of them as the pedagogical equivalent of people’s names on facebook, the tags you attach to each and every photo that you upload.
“We know from our friends at Knewton what the Grand Design is– a system in which student progress is mapped down to the atomic level. Atomic level (a term that Knewton lervs deeply) means test by test, assignment by assignment, sentence by sentence, item by item. We want to enter every single thing a student does into the Big Data Bank.
“But that will only work if we’re all using the same set of tags.
“We’ve been saying that CCSS [Common Core Standards] are limited because the standards were written around what can be tested. That’s not exactly correct. The standards have been written around what can be tracked.
“The standards aren’t just about defining what should be taught. They’re about cataloging what students have done.
“Remember when Facebook introduced emoticons. This was not a public service. Facebook wanted to up its data gathering capabilities by tracking the emotional states of users. But if users just defined their own emotions, the data would be too noisy, too hard to crunch. But if the user had to pick from the facebook standard set of user emotions– then facebook would have manageable data.
“Ditto for CCSS. If we all just taught to our own local standards, the data noise would be too great. The Data Overlords need us all to be standardized, to be using the same set of tags. That is also why no deviation can be allowed. Okay, we’ll let you have 15% over and above the standards. The system can probably tolerate that much noise. But under no circumstances can you change the standards– because that would be changing the national student data tagging system, and THAT we can’t tolerate.
“This is why the “aligning” process inevitably involves all that marking of standards onto everything we do. It’s not instructional. It’s not even about accountability. It’s about having us sit and tag every instructional thing we do so that student results can be entered and tracked in the Big Data Bank.
“And that is why CCSS [Common Core] can never, ever be decoupled from anything. Why would facebook keep a face tagging system and then forbid users to upload photos?
“The Test does not exist to prove that we’re following the standards. The standards exist to let us tag the results from the Test.
“… Because the pedagogical fantasy delineated by the CCSS does not match the teacher reality in a classroom, the tags are applied in inexact and not-really-true ways. In effect, we’ve been given color tags that only cover one side of the color wheel, but we’ve been told to tag everything, so we end up tagging purple green. When a tagging system doesn’t represent the full range of reality, and it isn’t flexible enough to adapt, you end up with crappy tagging. And that’s the CCSS… Decoupling? Not going to happen. You can’t have a data system without tagging, and you can’t have a tagging system with nothing to tag. Education and teaching are just collateral damage in all this, and not really the main thing at all.”
Read more here.
I’ll add more two points in support of Peter Greene’s words:
1- First, the creators of Common Core and its copyright have openly stated that they work toward both academic standards’ commonality and data standards’ commonality –I suppose for the very reasons Greene outlined. Check out the Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) –a Department of Education/private CCSSO partnered enterprise, here.
2– Second, the federal grants that the states all swallowed, the data mining capability-hooks embedded in the juicy worm of funding, called “State Longitudinal Database System” grants, did specify that states MUST use interoperable data standards (search for SIF Framework, PESC model, CEDS standards, NDCM model) to track educational progress.
In other words, the 50 individual states’ database systems were designed so that they can, if states are foolish enough to do so, fully pool student and workforce data for governments or corporations– on an national or international level.
Top Ten Scariest People in Education Reform:
Marc Tucker, President of National Center on Education and the Economy
Countdown # 3
This is the seventh in a countdown series of introductions, a list of the top ten scariest people leading education in America. For number 4, number 5, number 6, number 7, number 8, number 9 and number 10, click here.
Just like like the others on this Top Ten list, Marc Tucker comes across as a nice guy; he carries no pitchfork, wears no horns, debates politely.
Yet Marc Tucker has openly worked for decades to “strengthen the role of the state education agencies in education governance at the expense of “local control” and insists that “the United States will have to largely abandon the beloved emblem of American education: local control.” (See links below.) He wants to alter the actual quality of U.S. education, also. For example, he hopes to remove “the policy of requiring a passing score on an Algebra II exam for high school graduation” because he feels that overeducating the masses is a waste of collective tax money.
These goals and others are published by Tucker at the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) and the Center for American Progress. The NCEE, the organization over which he presides, is paid millions to promote these damaging ideas by Common Core main-funder Bill Gates.
Tucker’s ideas have garnered widespread acceptance. He speaks at countless education conferences; for example, he’s spoken at the Annenberg Institute, the Public Education and Business Coalition, at Kentucky’s Conference on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, the Aspen Institute, at numerous colleges and universities and has testified to state legislatures about education.
And these ideas are nothing new. In Tucker’s infamous 1992 letter to Hillary Clinton, now part of the Congressional Record, he outlined his vision of a communist-styled pipeline of education and workforce that would control individuals from early childhood through workforce. He and Hillary shared the vision: “to remold the entire American system for human resources development… This is interwoven with a new approach to governing… What is essential is that we create a seamless web… from cradle to grave and is the same system for everyone — young and old, poor and rich, worker and full-time student. It needs to be a system… guided by clear standards… regulated on the basis of outcomes…”
Can anyone distinguish between that Tucker quote and actual, literal Communism for me? I see no difference.
That was in 1992. It seemed conspiratorial at that time. But it’s openly pursued today by Tucker and by his associates on the Top Ten Scariest list).
Fast forward to 2007.
In a report entitled “Tough Choices for Tough Times” Tucker’s NCEE implied that America had the constitutional authority, and suggested that America should: develop national standards, tests and curriculum; create “personal competitiveness accounts,”should “create regional competitveness authorities,” should provide “universal early childhood education,” should tie teacher evaluation to teacher pay, and more. Remember, Common Core national standards weren’t adopted by the majority of states (or even offered via the Race to the Top grant) until 2009-2010. But Tucker had this going on long ago.
Fast forward to 2013.
The Center for American Progress published this report in which Tucker asserted, among other things, that “the United States will have to largely abandon the beloved emblem of American education: local control.”
Here’s a little taste of what his report proposed:
If Americans are going to decide which level of government we want to run our education systems, the only realistic choice is the state. No one wants a national education system run by the federal government, and the districts cannot play that role. [Why wouldn't local school districts serve in that controlling role? --Too "we the people" for Mr. Tucker, perhaps?]
…Each state needs to consolidate in its state department of education the policymaking and implementation authority that now resides in a welter of state-level commissions, agencies, and other independent bodies. And the United States will have to largely abandon the beloved emblem of American education: local control. If the goal is to greatly increase the capacity and authority of the state education agencies, much of the new authority will have to come at the expense of local control.
….I propose to greatly strengthen the role of the state education agencies in education governance, at the expense of “local control…” The line of political accountability would run to mayors and governors through their appointees… governance of the schools, higher education, early child- hood education and youth services would all be closely coordinated through the governance system… I propose that a new National Governing Council on Education be established, composed of representatives of the states and of the federal government, to create the appropriate bodies…”
Did Tucker really think that “we, the people” would roll over and give in to his constitution-slaughtering dream to end local control and to permit governmental tyranny over education?
Don’t go refill your soda yet. There’s more.
In 2013, Marc Tucker also put out this document at the National Center on Education and the Economy, that says out loud that it’s not important under Common Core to have high educational standards in high school; that it’s silly to waste time educating all high school graduates as high as the level of Algebra II.
Tucker thus pushed for an emphasis on the lowest common denominator, while also marketing Common Core as a push for “rigorous” academics.
Read for yourself:
“Mastery of Algebra II is widely thought to be a prerequisite for success in college and careers. Our research shows that that is not so… Based on our data, one cannot make the case that high school graduates must be proficient in Algebra II to be ready for college and careers. The high school mathematics curriculum is now centered on the teaching of a sequence of courses leading to calculus that includes Geometry, Algebra II, Pre-Calculus and Calculus. However, fewer than five percent of American workers and an even smaller percentage of community college students will ever need to master the courses in this sequence in their college or in the workplace… they should not be required courses in our high schools. To require these courses in high school is to deny to many students the opportunity to graduate high school because they have not mastered a sequence of mathematics courses they will never need. In the face of these findings, the policy of requiring a passing score on an Algebra II exam for high school graduation simply cannot be justified.”
So, Tucker’s NCEE report goes on to say that traditional high school English classes, with their emphasis on classic literature and personal, narrative writing, is useless. The report says that Common Core will save students from the worthless classics with its emphasis on technical subjects and social studies via the dominance of informational text in the Common Core classroom:
“The Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts (CCSSE) address reading in history/social studies as well as science and technical subjects, and in so doing may increase the relevance of high school instruction.”
Did you catch that? Tucker and the NCEE just trashed English literature, calling it irrelevant. And, in calling classic literature and personal writing irrelevant, he underscores the socialist mentality: that only job prep matters, only the collective economy, not the mind and soul of the individual.
In 2014, Marc Tucker wrote an article entitled “On Writing” in which he suggested the country should “hold our teachers accountable for the quality of student writing” –saying that incentivizing teachers would increase college level literacy. (To Tucker, teachers and students seem to be lab rats. Hand out larger government chunks of cheese and the rats will do whatever you like.)
Teacher Mercedes Schneider shredded Tucker’s “On Writing” arguments here. Sandra Stotsky, Cherilyn Eagar , Diane Ravitch, Paul Horton and Susan Ohanian have written important points about Marc Tucker as well.
Lastly, for those who follow the money trail: Marc Tucker and his NCEE have accepted many millions from Common Core-builder/funder Bill Gates. So has the Tucker-publishing, CommonCore – friendly Center for American Progress.
Guest Post by Shannon Crouch
Hello, my name is Shannon Crouch. I am a 20-year-old college student studying Mathematics and Statistics at Eastern Kentucky University.
I attended high school at Morgan County High School in West Liberty, Kentucky. I was a part of the graduating class in 2011 and though I did not receive this method of schooling I have seen it enacted in my brother’s high school career as he began Sophomore year in 2011-2012. I also dealt with its repercussions as a Developmental Lab Instructor at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) for the Department of Mathematics & Statistics.
My brother’s story
To begin, I will share a brief description of the classes my brother has undertaken these last three years. At the beginning of each school year, all students are given a pre-test to determine the student’s understanding of the oncoming class content. As the semester continues, all homework assignments are handouts that relate to a ‘weekly’ mini-subject (ex. for math: solving for zeros, logarithms, solving rational functions, etc.) that make up the course outline. I will use the term ‘week’ loosely to relay the expected time frame schools believe each mini-subject should be taught. Students are pre-tested and post-tested at the beginning and ends of each ‘week’ and they move into the next ‘week’ mini-subject if a defined majority of the class passes. If that majority does not pass, then the class must repeat the subject content until either the majority has passed –or it has been taught three ‘weeks’ in a row.
To convey the detriment of such a process on student learning in full needs more than just typed words, but nonetheless I will try.
In simple terms, this modular system of teaching causes the average student to be the only student to excel. To break that sentence down further and define the difference from ‘average’ students to others, we have to look at the system being used. Given a student who makes good grades in a class and passes these pre- and post-tests each time, the process of having to repeat the class hinders his or her development in the progression of studies, but also thinking of a student who is not passing the pre- and post-tests, he/she is being dragged along by the system, unable to understand basic subjects, but often passing the class because he or she has been able to copy off peers. Some would ask what difference this last case has to older developmental systems. In return to that question, I would like to point out the handouts. These handouts are created based on the subjects to be taught for each class and are the only required work for the class. Students are no longer required to put in individualized effort into using textbooks, writing out questions, or even using critical thinking. These handouts are the perfect tools for a student to cheat with given that everything is outlined the same way.
My experience as a university math tutor
Taking a step away from its implementation, however, let’s look at the results some colleges and universities are seeing now. I will use Eastern Kentucky University as my example: According to statistics presented to us at orientation, when I enrolled in Fall 2011, approximately 48% of the incoming freshmen were required to take developmental math or Reading/English courses. This was before the implementation of Common Core –and you are correct in thinking that is a pretty high number.
The scarier thought, however, is information they shared in my job training as a developmental instructor and a tutor for the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. In the 2013-2014 academic year, approximately 60% of our incoming freshmen were required to take developmental Math or Reading/English classes. That means in a span of two years with Common Core Standards implemented in High Schools, college preparedness dropped by an extra 12% for students that enrolled to Eastern Kentucky University.
The effect seen at EKU frightens me as a student today and even as a future parent. This influx of developmental students tells me that our students are being pushed through high school without the literacy skills and basic math skills required to function in the world today. Students are being trained to pass the test rather than retain what they learn and so when it comes to their college readiness exams like the ACT, COMPASS, and KYOTE they fail to have the knowledge required to think through the questions they come across.
As an update to this story: Shannon’s relative lives in Utah. She sent a copy of the above article to a member of her Wasatch County School Board. This is what she received:
Subject: Re: Kentucky and Common Core
Date: March 13, 2014 at 8:33:22 AM MDT
It makes me sad that implementation of the standards isn’t going well for some districts, like the one in this story. I’m so grateful we have amazing teachers who are doing great things for students in our district.
Shannon then wrote back:
I was interested to learn that you believe the effects of common core in Morgan County are a result of poor teachers, but I feel that I must correct your assumption on this.
Morgan County has many amazing teachers, especially for their core curriculum in Math, Science, and English. One such teacher, Stacey Perry is a mathematics teacher. She is qualified to teach not only the required mathematics programs for high school but extends her knowledge to AP curriculum for Calculus I and Calculus II, with one of the highest AP Exam passing percentiles for AP Calculus in Eastern Kentucky.
I want to mention this in detail so that I can relay to you that it is not the desire of beautifully brilliant teachers such as Mrs. Perry to implement common core so poorly, but rather it has been forced on them via the agreements of common core with all states.
Please do not consider your district and state as having immunity because if you do then you will see your students declining in individuality, scholastic achievement, and critical thinking. If you have any concern for you future generations, take the matter seriously and question all that you are being told by Common Core representatives.
How quickly Common Core has gone from being almost a secret, a truly under-the-news-radar movement, to being a sharp bone of contention and a scorchingly hot topic across the nation as right and left, legislators, parents, teachers and yes, students– join to fight the erosion of local control of education, and the erosion of high quality education.
Here’s just a smattering of the pushback happening across this nation. Please feel free to leave additional related Common Core pushback news links in the comments section!
* Alabama – “Bill In Works That Would Allow Common Core Opt-Out For Schools”
* Arizona – “Senate backtracks on Common Core”
* Connecticut – “Stamford Rep. Molgano Calls For Public Hearing On Common Core”
* Florida – FLA Ed Commissioner’s Arrogant Letter Angers Mother of Recently Deceased Disabled Child http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/04/ethan-rediske-act_n_4899010.html
Florida – Testing Fixation Drives Florida School Board Member to Quit, Fight on Larger Battleground http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/03/06/the-drive-to-test-test-and-re-test-leads-famous-school-board-member-to-quit/
* Georgia – “Common Core bill debated in Georgia House”
* Maryland – Dressed in Clown Suits, Maryland Teachers Protest Excessive Testing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sn_xJ9P1I2k
* Maryland – Super Tells Parents State Test is Useless http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/District_Dossier/2014/03/joshua_starr_to_parents_upcomi.html
* Mississippi – “Common Core comes back up at State Capitol”
* Missouri – “Mo. lawmakers debate retreating from Common Core”
* Illinois – Educators Boycotting Chicago Exam – Spend Day Teaching Not Testing http://www.wbez.org/news/saucedo-teachers-spend-day-1-isat-teaching-concerns-raised-about-intimidation-109815
Illinois – National Leaders Support Chicago Test Boycott http://dianeravitch.net/2014/03/09/leading-educators-support-chicago-test-boycott/
Illinois- Resources for Supporting Chicago Parents and Teachers Protesting the ISAT http://morethanascorechicago.org/2014/03/03/isat-opt-out-support-kit/
*Indiana – http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2014/03/11/indianas-attempt-replace-common-core-under-fire
* New York – bill S6604 pending: http://stopccssinnys.com/uploads/SCCINYS_PR_S6604.pdf – Bill to place a three-year suspension on items such as the Common Core
State Standards and the associated age-inappropriate curriculum; it also addresses excessive testing.
New York – “Assembly Passes Bill Halting Common Core”
New York Protests Intensify as Common Core Tests Loom http://www.longislandpress.com/2014/03/10/common-core-tests-loom-intensifying-debate-in-ny/ Rochester, NY, Teachers Association Brings Suit Against “Value Added” Evaluations http://www.rochestercitynewspaper.com/rochester/teachers-union-sues-over-evaluations/Content?oid=2346958
* Massachusetts – Protesters at Secretary Arne Duncan’s town hall meeting: http://www.masslive.com/news/worcester/index.ssf/2014/03/groups_organized_to_picket_us.html
Worcester Mass. School Committee Will Allow Students to Opt Out of Common Core Pilot Exam http://www.telegram.com/article/20140307/NEWS/303079875/1116
More Massachusetts Education Leaders Criticize Double-Testing http://www.patriotledger.com/article/20140310/NEWS/140319857
* Connecticut – Connecticut Educators Want to Reexamine Test-Based Teacher Evaluation Model http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/teacher_union_wants_to_revisit_teacher_evaluation_method Connecticut Parents Seek to Opt Children Out of Common Core Tests http://www.ctnow.com/news/hc-parents-opting-out-20140228,0,1363518.story The Brave New World of “College and Career Readiness” Testing http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/the_brave_new_world_of_being_college_and_career_ready
*North Carolina – North Carolina Families Opt Out of Standardized Tests http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/03/09/3682922/opting-out-of-standardized-testing.html
Penn. Parents Join Forces to Opt Kids Out of Standardized Tests http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/parents-join-forces-to-opt-kids-out-of-standardized-tests/article_88aff918-a643-11e3-aa64-0017a43b2370.html
*Arkansas – Arkansas Professor Urges 11th Graders to Opt Out of Literacy Test http://www.arktimes.com/ArkansasBlog/archives/2014/03/10/ua-prof-calls-for-students-to-opt-out-of-11th-grade-literacy-test
*Tennessee – Tennessee Teacher Sue Claiming “Value-Added” Assessment is Arbitrary and Unconstitutional http://tnedreport.com/?p=753
Virginia Lawmakers Seek to Reduce Number of Standardized Tests http://www.newsplex.com/home/headlines/Va-Lawmakers-Aim-to-Reduce-Number-of-Standardized-Tests-249339961.html
*New Hampshire – Nashua, New Hampshire Board Backs Delay of New Test http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/news/1030167-469/majority-of-nashua-school-board-members-back.html
*Nebraska – Testimony regarding Common Core Academic Error: http://truthinamericaneducation.com/common-core-state-standards/testimony-regarding-proposed-nebraska-english-standards/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TruthInAmericanEducation+%28Truth+in+American+Education%29
* Washington, D.C. – http://unitedoptout.com/helpful-readings-and-resources/the-official-schedule-for-occupy-doe-2-0-the-battle-for-public-schools/
Thanks to Donna Garner, Mike Antonucci, Dr. Bill Evers, Pioneer Institute, and Bob Schaeffer for assistance with this compilation.
Click to hear this week’s KFI radio interview with Dr. Bill Evers on Common Core, on KFI AM, Los Angeles. Dr. Evers is a scholar at the Hoover Institute of Stanford University. He has been an outspoken critic of the Common Core initiative from the beginning of the movement.
In addition to this radio Q & A with Dr. Evers, you’ll get to hear some VERY lively clips of parents, including a terrible one I hadn’t heard before about “daddy-baby biology”. (It is an example of the kinds of negative “curricular” value shifting that’s trickling into school rooms now, as more and more local control goes away under the Common Core power shift.)
In this interview, Dr. Evers also reminds listeners that they can legally opt their children out of any test for any reason at any time.
Utah parents, please take note:
Diana Suddreth, a curriculum director at Utah’s State Office of Education, sent out this email today:
From: Suddreth, Diana <Diana.Suddreth@schools.utah.gov>
Date: Mon, Mar 3, 2014 at 9:06 AM Subject: HB342
Just a heads up that today in the House Education Standing Committee HB342 (Powers and Duties of the State Board of Education by Rep. Layton) will be heard.
This bill essentially gives more power to parents over curriculum standards, would prohibit us from adopting any national standards, and would require a revision of our current math and ELA standards.
Go to www.le.utah.gov to read the bill and find additional information should you want to take any action. Rep. Layton has promised a substitute that will be softer but as of yet, the original bill is still on the agenda.
Sydnee Dickson, Ed. D.
Director, Teaching and Learning
Utah State Office of Education
Please note Utah has a very broad public records law. Most written communication to or from our state employees regarding state business are public records availiable to the public and media upon request. Your email communication may be subject to public disclosure.
Karl G. Maeser Preparatory Academy, in Lindon, Utah, is the first public school in Utah to issue a letter to the State School Board that asks the board to reject Common Core and return to time-tested, legitimate education.
The letter is posted here. The board of directors of this public charter school writes that the Common Core Standards compromise Maesar’s educational mission and purpose. They say that Common Core Standards were adopted without an opportunity for the local school districts or parents to review them first. And they urge the state school board, Governor Herbert, and the Utah legislature to replace the Common Core with locally vetted standards.
Amen, Karl G. Maeser Academy.
Parents and teachers against Common Core in New York are celebrating the fact that both Democratic and Republican legislators are now taking a stand against the Common Core.
Why are the two parties coming together?
Senator George Latimer (D) -Westchester County, wrote an article for the Albany Times last month that explained it well:
“For decades we have heard the rallying cry that American students’ performance is falling behind that of students in other countries and for decades education experts have attempted to come up with ONE solution. This time, under the guise of making students more prepared for a global economy, New York has adopted the “Common Core” standards and is forging ahead at breakneck speed to implement a new top-down education mandate on local school districts. Without dissecting the validity of the “global competition” argument, there are elements of the Common Core’s implementation in New York that must be addressed first.
… There is something wrong with asking our students to perform at a higher level without properly preparing them. There is something wrong with asking someone in Albany or beyond to evaluate a student in Brooklyn the same as one in Bedford or Buffalo.
There are many issues with New York’s implementation of Common Core, and the concerns are not limited to a small contingent, as some have suggested. Real people who have students in schools and are of every ethnic, socioeconomic, gender, age and geographic makeup share reservations about the Common Core. It is also an issue that does not pit Democrats versus Republicans; it is truly about the students.
New York is asking students to take exams based on curricula that are not fully implemented in and certainly not readily embraced by those who are actually in classrooms every day. Yet proponents of Common Core continue to move forward without compromise.
With significant corporate interests behind the shifts toward a “global” education system, I think it is imperative to analyze this in a business-oriented manner.
Many business school students and graduates are surely aware of failure of the “New Coke” initiative in the early ’80s, a product that the top brass of Coca-Cola were convinced would usher in a new generation of an already successful brand. Consumers rejected it, prefering they product they already knew and liked.
Aggregate scores from the entire state have already slipped in the first year of these new tests, and we know our students are not X percent less intelligent than they were the previous year. The scores dropped because the top officials at the Education Department, like those at Coca-Cola in the ’80s, are convinced that they have a new “brand” of education that will usher in a new generation of globally competitive students. The scores dropped because in its haste to implement the new “brand” of education, SED did not do “consumer” research and development before bringing this product to New York’s education “marketplace.”
The critics of elements of the Common Core, myself included, are not against having students who are able to understand the “why behind how things work,” but we are opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach to educating children in a state, nation and world where one size rarely fits all.
… the outcry against specific aspects of the Common Core — the lack of preparation, privacy of student data, and over-reliance on testing — is an opportunity for us to respond to consumer feedback and adjust to the market. … [P]roponents have failed to properly assess the need for a completely new product in their market, and if we don’t evaluate the public opposition to the Common Core as a gauge of the education market, we will make a mistake that will hurt our children.”
Two leaders who make judgments for our schools –two whose judgment I wish we were able to trust, each have made statements: that high-stakes tests and data mining are unrelated to Common Core standards.
This is a fact-checking post.
First, look at their statements:
Our governor’s education advisor, Tami Pyfer, was quoted in the Morgan News: “while not related to the Common Core, data mining and over-testing ‘will not be happening with Utah students.'” The Morgan News also wrote that Pyfer: “is concerned with high stakes testing and test results being used for purposes the tests were not originally designed for. ‘We do not support high stakes testing.‘”
Pyfer also wrote, at a blog called The Blue Hat Movement:
“I’m confused about how/why you are connecting assessment issues, like the one in this video, to the Common Core Standards.“
Meanwhile, Superintendent Martell Menlove has also said in many settings that he has concerns with high stakes testing and data mining –but says that he does not understand the relationship between high stakes testing and the Common Core. In emails to the public he has also written, “I am not aware of any additional data reporting requirements that are associated with Common Core.”
Oh, Dear. Tami and Martell!
Utah’s new school test is inseparable from the Common Core standards.
(FYI, readers, the test goes by many names: Computer Adaptive, AIR/SAGE, Utah Core, Common Core). And neither is the data-mining inseparable from Common Core, with its CEDS (common education data standards) and its SLDS (my nickname: longitudinal student stalking system).
Here are several hard-to-ignore reasons why:
1.) Utah’s 2012 house bill 15 makes Computer Adaptive Testing the law in this state, and it uses specific language that mandates that Common Core standards are used for the Common Core Computer Adaptive Tests for all Utahns.
2.) The four assurances or four key reforms for which the executive branch gave ARRA stimulus dollars (in exchange for Utah’s agreement to obey them) included common college and career-readiness standards, tests, and data collection. It was always a package deal.
“SFSF requires progress on four reforms ….
1.Making progress toward rigorous college- and career-ready standards and high-quality assessments that are valid and reliable for all students, including English language learners and students with disabilities;
2.Establishing pre-K-to college and career data systems that track progress and foster continuous improvement;
3.Making improvements in teacher effectiveness and in the equitable distribution of qualified teachers for all students, particularly students who are most in need;
4.Providing intensive support and effective interventions for the lowest-performing schools.”
3.) The federal government paid for the Common Core tests and mandated in its test grant contract that testing groups align to one another and to Common Data Collection standards and to Common Core Standards. The standards promoters use veiled language and most often refer to Common Core as “college and career ready standards” instead, but they have been specifically defined on the ed.gov official website in a way that can only be interpreted as the Common Core. Utah’s testing group, AIR, is officially partnered with SBAC, which is under mandate to align its tests with Common Core and with the other testing groups.
4. The lead sponsor of Common Core Standards, Bill Gates, spoke at at national Conference for State Legislatures. He said that “We’ll only know if this effort has succeeded when the curriculum and tests are aligned to these standards.” This alignment has been the point all along. (Wouldn’t the man who funded multimillions of dollars toward the creation, development, marketing, implementation, and curriculum development of Common Core know what the goal was to be?)
5. The Council of Chief State School Officers, to which Supt. Menlove belongs, co-created and copyrighted Common Core. The CCSSO officially partnered with the Department of Education toward a common goal to collect “data on the national level” (see below) and to “coordinate assessments” –and to use the Common Core standards which CCSSO co-wrote.
It is difficult for me to understand how Menlove, who belongs to the CCSSO, or how Pyfer, who works so intimately with both the NGA and CCSSO, can mentally separate the Common Core aligned, high-stakes tests from the goals of the Common Core standards creators themselves.
Take a closer look at the CCSSO/EIMAC website:
“Education Data & Information Systems Programs:
Common Education Data Standards (CEDS)
The Common Education Data Standards Initiative is a joint effort by CCSSO and the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) in partnership with the United States Department of Education. Educators and policy makers need clear, consistent data about students and schools in order to draw valid comparisons between key indicators of educational success and identify areas where we can improve classroom instruction and student support from early childhood through K-12 education to post secondary education and the workforce.
Education Information Management Advisory Consortium (EIMAC)
The Education Information Management Advisory Consortium (EIMAC) is CCSSO’s network of state education agency officials tasked with data collection and reporting; information system management and design; and assessment coordination. EIMAC advocates on behalf of states to reduce data collection burden and improve the overall quality of the data collected at the national level.”
In light of these five points, can anybody honestly say that they cannot see a connection between the Common Core test and the Common Core high stakes AIR tests? Are we still to be called “conspiracy theorists” (my school board member Dixie Allen’s latest term of endearment for me) –for declaring that the tests and standards are one, are inseparable, and are equally harmful to our schools and to our liberties?
So, having made this point, now let me share what Principal Bob Schaeffer of Colorado shared with me today: a compilation of how bad the national Common Core high-stakes testing is waxing.
NEWS UPDATE: NATIONAL PROBLEMS WITH HIGH-STAKES TESTS
Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich Blasts “Obsessive Focus on Standardized Tests” http://dianeravitch.net/2014/02/19/robert-reich-on-standardized-testing/
Test Score Pressure May Lead to More ADHD Drug Prescriptions http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304275304579392932032900744
NCLB Waivers Reinforce Flawed Accountability Measures http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/inside-school-research/2014/02/waivers_missed_opportunities.html
Testing Resistance & Reform Spring Alliance Formed to Bring Sanity to Education Policy
Timely Statement by Former U.S. Labor Sec. Robert Reich on Eve of Testing Resistance & Reform Spring Launch
Campaigns Against Test Misuse, Overuse Explode Across Nation
New National Alliance Aims to Unite Grassroots Opposition to Testing Overkill
High School Grades Are Better Predictors of College Performance Than Test Scores Are
New Report: Test-Optional Admissions Promotes Equity and Excellence
The Failure of Test-Based School “Reform” — By the Numbers
Test-Based “Accountability” Does Not Work
No High-Stakes Testing Moratorium, No Common Core
Common Core Testing Costs Strain Rural Schools
Washington State Senate Revolts Against Teaching to the Test
Feds Threaten Washington State With Return to NCLB Testing Rules
Chicago Parents Organize Opt-Out Campaign
Left and Right in Colorado Agree on Testing Cutback
Colorado Students Take a Stand Against One-Size-Fits-All Test-Driven Education
N.Y. Gov. Cuomo Continues to Support Common Core Test-Based Evaluation
Computerizing a Poor Standardized Exam Does Not Magically Make it Better (or Stop Test Score-Misuse)
Common Core Assessments: Myths and Realities
Teacher Apologizes to Third Grades for Being Forced to Label Them with Test Scores
Mom of Severely Disabled Boy Asks Florida School Board to Let All Kids Experiencing “Pain and Suffering” Opt Out of High-Stakes Testing
Washington, D.C. Mayoral Candidate Says Test-Driven Schooling is a Failure
Important New Book: “50 Myths & Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools” by David Berliner, Gene Glass and Associates
Representative Dana Layton
I sent a an email letter to my representatives, asking them to vote yes on Represenative Dana Layton’s bill HB0342.
The bill would return local control to Utah’s educational system. Utah needs this bill. I hope every Utahn writes to his or her legislators and begs them to pass this bill.
For those who don’t know, Rep. Layton’s bill “specifies procedures for the development and adoption of core curriculum standards for English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies, including: the establishment of a standards development committee consisting of parents, teachers, and representatives of school districts, business, and higher education to assist the board in developing standards; and public review and comment of draft core curriculum standards; equires the State Board of Education to establish a standards review committee consisting of 15 parents of Utah public education students to review proposed core curriculum standards for English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies; requires the State Board of Education to maintain control of, and the power to modify, core curriculum standards for English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies; and requires the State Board of Education, on or before July 1, 2016, to adopt revised core curriculum standards for English language arts and mathematics that are developed specifically for Utah.”
All day, I keep asking myself, why would the state school board NOT want this, not want a return to local control of education?
Anyway, I copied my letter (email number one, below) to legislators also to the school board.
Dixie Allen, my state school board representative, wrote back to me and to the same legislators, saying that what I had written was untrue. It’s not every day that I get called a liar, and I dislike it, for some reason. I doubt the school board enjoys it, either. So rather than rebut the lies, I simply wrote again, asking the legislators to fact-check for themselves. The truth can stand up under close inspection. Empty claims cannot.
Then Dave Thomas, another state school board member, sent the legislators and me the Utah State School Board’s link to a wordy, undocumented, verbiose posting –which is without any footnotes, without links or proof of truthfulness –and he said it “explains its position, inclusive of documentary evidence.”
Sigh. I try to keep giving the board the benefit of the doubt; they were rushed into Common Core adoption; they wanted that Race to the Top grant application turned in so fast; they made trusting assumptions about what the quality of the standards would be once they actually had the opportunity to study them; they asumed the standards had been pilot tested; whatever.
But now, now in 2014, when it’s been made so clear and obvious that the standards are not what they claimed to be, now that it’s so clear and obvious that we’ve traded local control for a substandard mess of pottage– now can’t we just ‘fess up and agree that Utah made a big mistake, a mistake anyone in the shoes of the state board could have made and would likely have made– and just turn around now and walk away from the mistake? Why hold on to this judgment error with such doggedness? It is not too late for us to change our course. In fact, the longer we stay in Common Core, the more money we waste and the more entrenched our curriculums are becoming in this substandard and centrally controlled monster.
So, here are all those emails in case anyone is interested.
EMAIL NUMBER ONE: (It was very long so I am not copying the whole thing; it’s just the Common Core 101 research that I cut and pasted from the front page of my blog.)
From me to the legislators and school board:
Please Pass HB 342. This is why:
EMAIL NUMBER TWO:
From Dixie Allen of the state school board:
Since many of you are my constituents or my respected representatives at the State Level, I feel like you need to understand that most of what Christel has alluded to is untrue.
First, the standards were written under the control and supervision of the nation’s Governor’s Association and the Chief State School Officers, by experts in the field, including our own experts from USOE and several of our college professors.
We did not receive any money for adopting the standards, but did save money because we did not need to go through the traditional method of upgrading our standards by bringing in experts in the field for days and weeks to help write and rewrite the upgraded standards for Math and English/Language Arts.
We continually at the State Office and State Board level, try to explain that we upgrade Standards in all areas of the curriculum about every 5 years. We have been working on Social Studies for the past two years. We have and will tweak and upgrade the Common Core Standards as we move forward. We have already added back in Cursive Writing into the Language Arts Standards and have asked teachers not to use some recommended readings, as they do not seem to be suitable for the age of students we are addressing. We will continue to upgrade and revise all our standards to insure they are the best standards for the expectations of our students as they move into college and careers.
I have often told my constituents that as a teacher and principal and curriculum director in the public schools for over 26 years, I see such great promise for especially the mathematics standards, as they make it possible for all students to become competent in the higher levels of mathematics, which before was a “stair step approach”, which many were not able to make it through in the 4 years of high school. Now we introduce some of the advanced mathematics concepts in late elementary and middle school, thus providing the opportunity for all students to receive the proper amount of mathematics instruction to enter STEM Fields and almost any college or career program they wish to pursue.
The same advantage is true of the English/Language Arts curriculum as it helps students identify and understand complicated texts, written to explain history, mathematics, etc. All of which is needed at the College and Career level.
Finally, if the legislature or any other group suggests or insists that we throw out the Common Core Curriculum, which has been in place for three plus years in our schools, it will cost millions of dollars to replicate standards that are as effective, and the school system will have to throw out years of work on creating curriculum and assessments to meet these standards.
Please allow the educators in the field, with help from USOE and our professors of higher learning work to upgrade these standards as we move forward, knowing that there has been and will always be invitations to parents and constituents to give input into any upgrades — as was the case with the Common Core. At the State Board and Utah State Office of Education level, we are always frustrated that the invitation to become involved in reviewing standards or test items is overlooked or possibly not shared with all that wish to be involved — however, in the case of the Common Core, I believe that most of those speaking out against the Core are not talking about the Standards or the Curriculum, but the intrusion of the Federal Government. I wish all could see that this set of standards was a coalition of Governors and State School Officers who knew we needed better standards and enough of our Nation using such standards to receive quality textbooks and computer programs to help teachers teach it in our schools.
I do hope that you will look at this issue realistically in relationship to insuring that our students can and will compete for quality higher education and careers, both within our state and throughout the nation and world.
Thank you for your service and continued support of our educational system!!
Dixie Allen, Region 12
Chair, Standards and Assessment
Utah State Board of Education
EMAIL NUMBER THREE
From me again:
It is time for the truth to stand up to fact-checking. I have given documented links
to all of my statements about Common Core, while you and the state school board continues to give none.
Let the legislators and the people do the fact-checking and look at documentation rather than words and claims.
Dixie, I am an honest and truthful reseacher and I will gladly alter anything if you can show me I have written anything false. Will you do the same?
EMAIL NUMBER FOUR:
From Dave Thomas of the state school board:
The State Board has had a website for a long time that explains its position, inclusive of documentary evidence. If you would like to read the State Board’s position it is at http://www.utahpublicschools.org/index.html.
David L. Thomas
Utah State Board of Education
1st Vice Chair
EMAIL NUMBER FIVE:
From Dixie Allen again:
As Dave Thomas suggests, we have done that!!
EMAIL NUMBER SIX:
Dixie, you have not.
Your claims are never linked to documentation. And you don’t acknowledge ours.
The USOE’s claims about Common Core are wordy and empty. Why not show me where Utah has a voice over amending the shared core? Show me how a teacher can have a voice in what will be tested. Show me where these experimental standards were tried in a classroom anywhere successfully prior to being foisted on all the states. Show me proof that deleting classics will improve literacy!
This is a giant academic fraud no matter how many people say it’s improving standards.
It is false to rob students of classical literature to 70% by senior year. It’s wrong to diminish the teaching of the personal narrative essay.
It is a crime to steal calculus and other higher level math from high school students.
It is absurd to make little children do the type of math they are being forced to do.
Almost weekly I get letters from people who are pulling their children out of math or all of public education. They want to know what they can do. I tell them to ask you. Your board has destroyed good education in this state and we are angry and we are not about to back down until you make it right.
A REPORT ON THIS WEEK’S STOP COMMON CORE RALLIES
This week, and especially Tuesday night, the Common Core Initiative took some tough hits. All on the same night, Florida had a newsmaking Common Core protest while Missouri had its Stop Common Core event, while here in Utah about 600 people gathered at the Capitol; on Wednesday, South Carolina was up to bat. More and more, people are taking a stand for local control: for the end of any involvement with Common Core.
Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune reporters attended the Utah rally; read their reports here and here.
Here’s my shorter version of the events: photos first.
Siri Davidson, a Utah mother who began to home school her children because of Common Core math
Volunteers explained to attendees how to opt out of Common Core tests.
Attendance was strong at Salt Lake City’s rally to Stop Common Core on Tuesday night
Judge Norman Jackson, who gave the prayer, in this photo is on the front row, left.
After a prayer and a song, the rally began with Representative Brian Greene speaking about fairness and transparency in state school board elections. His new bill –if it gets a chance to be heard– creates it: House Bill 228. He asked Utahns to please write to the representatives and ask them to help push that bill out of committee so legislators may vote on it.
Representative Dana Layton spoke about her bill to restore local control of education, House Bill 342. She quoted Diane Ravitch’s words about Common Core from the speech/article “Everything You Need To Know About Common Core.”
State Senator Margaret Dayton spoke about the need for informed citizens and for a return to local control and away from Common Core.
Psychotherapist Joan Landes spoke about the psychological devastation that the age-inappropriate Common Core and its experimental testing wreaks on students.
Three essay winners read their essays and won boxes of Mrs. Cavanaugh’s chocolates: Brian Halladay, a member of the Alpine School Board; Amy Mullins, a teacher; and Cami Isle, a teacher. All the essays that were entered into the contest will be posted at Utahns Against Common Core.
I got to introduce these three writers, and got to explain why we held the essay contest. In the spirit of restoring legitimate learning and the joy of reading and writing, Utahns Against Common Core aimed to model the practice of written human conversation and critical thought –which happens in personal essays.
Common Core doesn’t encourage personal writing. It prefers technical writing and info-texts. In fact, David Coleman, lead architect of Common Core, explained why he ditched personal writing: ““As you grow up in this world you realize that people really don’t give a !% #*^ about what you feel or what you think… it is rare in a working environment that someone says, ‘Johnson I need a market analysis by Friday but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.’ ” Coleman mocks personal writing and slashed it, as he also slashed the allowable amounts of classic literature, starting in elementary grades at just 50% but cutting more and more– until, as high school seniors, students must devote 70% of their readings to informational texts, allowing only 30% to be fictional stories, the stuff that makes us love reading in the first place. (Excuse me while I pull out my hair and scream.) So. Since Coleman mocks the personal essay and works to incrementally delete classical literature, we must work to restore them.
This is why we held the essay contest.
After the essay readings, teacher and author Sinhue Noriega spoke about Common Core being much more than just standards, and also being –despite proponents’ claims to the contrary– a curriculum; and he spoke about the unconstitutionality of the Common Core.
Attorney Ed Flint spoke about the Common Core-related law suit in which he is involved. Details here.
Radio host Rod Arquette spoke passionately, telling the story of how the Seattle Seahawks won the Superbowl this year in part because of the athlete who often asked the team, as his father had often asked him, “Why not you? Why not us?” Arquette turned the question to the audience. Why can’t we change the course of the Common Core? Why not us?
Representatives from the Left-Right Alliance, Libertas Institute, Utahns Against Common Core, FreedomWorks, and several other organizations spoke for just one minute apiece.
Dad Oak Norton and Mom Alisa Ellis closed the meeting with calls to action.
The words that stayed in my mind more than anything else from the evening were the words of retired Judge Norman Jackson’s opening prayer. These deserve to be remembered and pondered.
Judge Jackson prayed:
“Dear God and Father of us all,
We express our Gratitude for the time, means and opportunity to gather this day at the seat of our Government. We acknowledge our firm reliance on Thy Divine protection and guidance in all the affairs of life. And ask Thy forgiveness of our trespasses as we forgive those of others. Enable us to live with charity for all.
We thank Thee for the endowment of unalienable rights – including life, liberty and the education of our children. May our land, schools and homes be places of light, liberty and learning. Bless us and all citizens with the desire to be governed by correct principles. Bless those who govern with that same desire.
Protect parents, children and teachers from the designs of conspiring men and women. And from the pretensions of those who occupy high places. Preserve the sanctity of our homes from the decay of individual responsibility and religion. Stay the hands of those who would harm and offend our children. Grant us and all citizens the strength to be eternally vigilant in this great cause.
Bless the proceedings and participants of this gathering with Thy guiding influence and sustaining care. Bless us and our children with Thy holy light – we humbly pray in the name of Thy Son Jesus Christ. Amen.”