Archive for the ‘Utah State School Board’ Tag
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.
Utah Mom Alyson Williams’ razor-sharp wit and use of unarguable facts makes the speech she gave at a Common Core debate (with State School Board member Dixie Allen and two professors) a powerful tool in the national Stop Common Core arsenal. Below are her prepared remarks. The event was filmed and will be posted soon.
6 few smashing highlights from the speech –words I’d like to slap up on websites and billboards and bumpers all over the country:
1 “There is no such thing in the U.S. Constitution as a council of governors… Allowing rules for education to be set by those with no authority to do so is not a high enough standard for me or my children.”
2 “The Department of Ed … set rules for education, in exchange for the money – rules that normally would be determined by the States themselves under the 10th Amendment.”
3 “The Utah Constitution … does not say that [the board] can outsource a role we entrusted to them to a non-governmental trade organization who outsourced it to another group of hand-picked experts. This is called “delegation” and it has been established in legal precedent to be unconstitutional.”
4 “Unelected officials gutting laws that were established by Congress to protect my family’s privacy is not a high enough standard for me and my children.”
5 “No meaningful public input on changes that affect all of our community schools is not a high enough standard for me and my children.”
6 “We can set high standards for math and English without circumventing, stretching, or ignoring the high standards for self government that have made our nation unique in all the history of the world.”
THE COMMON CORE STANDARDS THAT WE AREN’T TALKING ABOUT
Guest post by Alyson Williams, Utah mom
We’ve heard that with Common Core we’re just setting higher standards for learning, right? Why would a mom who wants the very best for her children be against that?
We are a community with high standards for all kinds of things, not just education. Standards can be examples, expectations, models, patterns, or precedents to follow or measure oneself against.
Keeping those synonyms in mind I’d like to talk about the standards we’ve set for our children in the course of adopting the Common Core. You may be surprised to learn that we have set new standards not only for math and english, but also for how public education is governed.
At the beginning of Obama’s first term our Congress passed the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, also known as “the Stimulus” which included $100 Billion dollars for education. At the time major newspapers buzzed about the unprecedented power of assigning this much money to the discretion of the Education Secretary with virtually no congressional oversight. From the Stimulus came the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund and the Race to the Top grant programs that enabled the Department of Ed to set rules for education, in exchange for the money – rules that normally would be determined by the States themselves under the 10th Ammendment.
This 36 page document, “The Road to a National Curriculum” was written by two former top lawyers for the US Department of Education. In it they offer an analysis of how these reforms violate three Federal laws. They conclude, “The Department has simply paid others to do that which it is forbidden to do.” (p.18)
Using taxpayer money from the stimulus to implement reforms that weaken the State’s autonomy over education is not a high enough standard for me and my children.
Proponents of these reforms like to point out that adopting these reforms was a legitimate exercise of state’s rights because the development of the standards was led by the Governors at the National Governors Association. The problem is, the Utah State Constitution does not grant authority over education to our Governor. Furthermore, there is no such thing in the U.S. Constitution as a council of governors. Comparing best practices is one thing, but Governors working together to jointly address issues and create rules that affect the whole nation is not a legitimate alternative to Congress, our national representative body. The organizations that introduced Common Core to our nation, state-by-state, had no constitutional commission to do what they did.
Allowing rules for education to be set by those with no authority to do so is not a high enough standard for me or my children.
The Governor didn’t decide on his own that Utah would adopt these reforms. The agreements were also signed by the State Superintendent acting in behalf of the State School Board. The Utah Constitution does give authority to the State School Board to set academic standards. It does not say that they can outsource a role we entrusted to them to a non-governmental trade organization who outsourced it to another group of hand-picked experts. This is called “delegation” and it has been established in legal precedent to be unconstitutional.
Elected officials delegating a job we entrusted to them to a body outside the jurisdiction of state oversight is not a high enough standard for me and my children.
The official USOE pamphlet on the Common Core adoption says that the State School Board “monitored this process.” But Dane Linn who was the education director for the NGA at the time the standards were being written stated, “All of the standards writing and discussions were sealed by confidentiality agreements, and held in private.” http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2013/06/07/five-people-wrote-state-led-common-core
There were no meeting minutes, no public records, no obligation by the lead writers to even respond to the input of anyone who submitted it, including any input from our school board. As a parent and a taxpayer, this process cuts me out completely.
As citizens of a self-governing Republic, this non-representative process is not a high enough standard for me and my children.
While this process was different than the way standards have been vetted in the past, the State School Board insists their involvement and review was adequate and that there was time for public input. The USOE published this timeline for adoption of the standards. Here it says that the summer of 2010 was the public comment period. However, the final draft was not available until June 2, and the Board took their first of two votes to adopt them two days later on June 4. The second and final vote was made a month later, but the first formally announced public comment period I could find was in April of 2012 – 22 months after the Board officially adopted the standards.
No meaningful public input on changes that affect all of our community schools is not a high enough standard for me and my children.
When the Department of Education ran out of grant money to get states to implement their reforms, they offered the states waivers from unpopular requirements of No Child Left Behind that many Utah schools were not anticipated to meet. While the No Child Left Behind law did grant limited authority to the Department of Education to waive certain conditions, it did not grant them authority to require new conditions in exchange.
This increasingly common habit of the executive branch to waive laws and replace them with their own rules, as if they held the lawmaking authority assigned to Congress, is not an acceptable standard for me and my children.
This is not the only example of the Department of Education overstepping their authority. In order for States to collect the individual student data required by these reforms, the US Department of Ed altered the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) weakening the protection of parental control over sharing student data. Both the Electronic Privacy Information Center and Fordham University’s Center for Law and Information Policy have written briefs charging that the Education Department acted illegally.
Unelected officials gutting laws that were established by Congress to protect my family’s privacy is not a high enough standard for me and my children.
Ever since we started down the road of adopting Common Core, in fact, I’ve noticed a much greater influence over education by unelected special interests. In an article published in the Washington Post in May (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/05/12/gates-gives-150-million-in-grants-for-common-core-standards/), for example, it was estimated that the Gates Foundation has spent at least $150 million dollars to fund and promote Common Core.
A July 2010 BusinessWeek Coverstory on Bill Gates quotes Jack Jennings, director of the Center on Education Policy saying, “As a private entity that doesn’t answer to voters, Gates can back initiatives that are politically dicey for the Obama Administration, such as uniform standards … In the past, states’ rights advocates have blocked federal efforts for a national curriculum. Gates ‘was able to do something the federal government couldn’t do.” http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/10_30/b4188058281758.htm#p4
When one very rich man has a greater influence over the direction of public education than parents, teachers and local communities that sets an unacceptable standard for “we the people,” for me, and for my children.
What is the justification for pushing these reforms through, bypassing the checks and balances of our established legal framework? We have to do it we are told so that our children will be “career and college ready.”
The Govenor, on his webpage for education, says we need to implement these reforms to “align educational training to meet the workforce demands of the marketplace.” http://www.utah.gov/governor/priorities/education.html
To me, all of these workforce goals seem to imply that the highest aim of education is work. Historically, the purpose of American education was to nurture the development of self-governing citizens, with work being incidental to that development. This nation has uniquely thrived according to the principle that a free market with good people pursuing their own dreams works better than attempts at centrally regulated markets with efficiently trained workers.
Being an efficient employee in a job that matches a data profile collected by the state from cradle to career is not a high enough standard for education, not for my children.
Thomas Jefferson was an early proponent of publicly funded education. He saw literate citizens educated in history and principles of good government as a necessary condition of maintaining liberty. He said, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”
How tragically ironic if, in the very name of public education, we end up eroding those very safeguards of liberty that he championed.
My opposition to the way we’ve adopted Common Core (and the rest of the education reforms introduced in the Stimulus) is not just about the education of my children, it is about the type of government I hope my children will inherit when they have children of their own. I believe we can set high standards for math and English without circumventing, stretching, or ignoring the high standards for self government that have made our nation unique in all the history of the world. This is the Constitution of the United States of America. These standards ARE high enough for me, and my children.
Brilliant. Thank you, Alyson Williams.
In the latest publication by the USOE, we read that Common Core is the “new gold standard” for education. Also, this latest publication fails to address the #1 concern of opponents to Common Core: that the privately copyrighted, “living work” standards will change, but states have no representative voice in those national changes.
It would be more honest to call it the “new fool’s gold” of American education both in terms of their academic status and in terms of the lack of legitimate representation at the standards-writing level.
As has been often repeated, the standards haven’t been piloted and have not been empirically validated. This makes our adoption of them a case study in educational malpractice.
The standards lower college readiness standards, as they prepare students only for a 2 year Jr. college. The standards hurt little children in the youngest grades, using absurdly rigorous expectations; this has been explained by an increasing number of child psychologists nationwide.
Worst of all, Common Core is a changeable and changing standard. It calls itself “a living work.” This means that it can and will be altered.
Gold does not change its quality or makeup. These standards do.
And when the standards do change, we all know that there is no written amendment process for the states who hold the standards in common to have a guaranteed voice in those alterations and amendments which are to happen.
This is why we keep on begging the Utah State School Board to abandon these standards, which are not only insufficient as they stand, but will change on a national scale– and we have no voice in those changes.
Please encourage the board to stop using deceptive terms such as “gold standard” when discussing and publishing information about Common Core.
Is this the proper role of government?
The Utah State School Board is using your tax dollars and mine to create a huge marketing machine with the aim to persuade all Utahns (utterly without legitimate evidence) that Common Core will not damage, but will improve education, and that Common Core has nothing to do with the federal government.
Is propaganda in the realm of the proper role of government? There are public-private partnerships that gain financially from the promulgation of Common Core. Our tax dollars are thus enriching companies we never voted into office and cannot vote out. It’s not just Pearson and Bill Gates; it’s Utah individuals and companies, too. This is corruption, in my humble opinion. We are not putting the kids and teachers first. We are putting pride, and money, and the illusion of money, first.
Precious, needed education dollars are now officially funding the Utah propaganda machine for Common Core. The machine is devoid of source documents or references, devoid of empirical evidence or pilot studies to support its “talking points” and it’s devoid of voter representation and academic legitimacy.
The machine has a “Communications Committee” including paid PR people specifically assigned to Tweet and Facebook message and email legislators, the governor and business leaders about Common Core. There are people specifically assigned to bend the ears of news editors and reporters to the official (socialist) line: pro-common core. There are people who are supposed to “supply schools” with “talking points” (not evidence, of course) to persuade parents, legislators and teachers how great Common Core will be.
Read pages 232-236 of the State School Board’s published agenda for August, the state board announces how it will “improve attitudes toward Utah’s Core Standards.” (Notice, they never call them Common Core.)
This propaganda machine was approved June 7th, 2013. It’s a done deal. So we taxpayers funded it, and now we get to sit back and watch it, like a gigantic, offensive press, as it spews its narrow, unbalanced, and false claims about Common Core.
The board’s goals include “increasing social media coverage” of Common Core by sending out daily Tweets and weekly Facebook updates about Common Core; making schools participate in “public messaging” to advocate for Common Core; making the public believe that there should be no “worries of federal intrusion.”
Its key audience: “Utah general public, Parents, Business community, licensed educators, administrators, officials; Higher education; Legislators, Governor’s Office, Delegates.”
The school board’s stated strategy is: to “increase USOE web, media and social media influence on the issue” and the measurement will be how many mass media stories they can count, accompanied by public opinion polls.
The board will “seek out opinion leaders within key groups (schools, PTAs, business partners including Prosperity 2020, social media and bloggers, legislators, party leadership, delegates, Governor’s Office personnel, local media personalities, etc.) and ask for…
endorsements through media outlets or personal contacts.”
Endorsements?!! Based on what?! Their charming smiles? Their positions of power? How about voter vetting or teacher analysis of the standards PRIOR to implementation? How about some evidence? How about a pilot study? How about something REAL? Excuse me while I run screaming from the room, pulling out my hair!
They will be using your tax dollars and mine to “contract with DTS in creating/designing a usbe.utah.gov webpage” and to assign a person to “Send out regular Tweets (daily) and Facebook updates (every 7-10 days) highlighting aspects of Utah’s Core Standards.”
They will, of course, “Provide talking points to help schools.” (Can’t educational institutions speak or think without USOE prompters?)
(Please notice that they will provide talking points, but won’t provide evidence or source documents– because no pilot studies or empirical testing has ever been done to legitimize claims that Common Core is academically valid. THE EMPEROR OF COMMON CORE IS WEARING NO CLOTHES. But the state board is hell-bent on persuading us that his clothes are mighty, mighty fine.)
The board also will “make Utah’s Core Standards part of their message during the Legislature’s annual back-to-school event”
They also plan to “initiate an advertising campaign in media to include newspapers, radio, etc. before the winter legislative session.
They will be using your tax dollars and mine to pay for a person to “send regular weekly e-mail updates from Board Chair or Superintendent to legislators and key business partners informing them of progress being made in schools.” Key business partners!? Is this about money? Or is it even a little bit about legitimate education for our children!?
They will be manhandling the PTA. “PTA liaison Templates, websites, etc. for local PTAs to access in order to be proficient with messaging,” and they will “create electronic distribution, handouts on Utah’s Core Standards and computer-adaptive testing (SAGE) for use in fall 2013 back-to-school meetings.”
They will also “seek out the inclusion of [Common Core] Utah’s Core Standards on the agenda of meetings such as P2020, Rotary, Chamber of
Commerce, etc.” I know there is no stupid question, but let me ask it anyway: what expertise exists at the Rotary club, or what research have members of the Chamber of Commerce done, to make them competent analysts and endorsers of one form of educational testing and standards over another?
The board will also work with PR leads in districts, charter, and regional service centers “to help local schools own” the messaging. They can’t “own” it. The D.C. groups who are utterly unaccountable to Utahns, own it. That’s the CCSSO, NGA, Achieve Inc., and Bill Gates grants which funded it, invented it, and own it. You can’t force an unfounded feeling of loyalty, but the state board aims to try.
The board plans to “take advantage of this spring’s last CRT tests, this fall’s first CAT formative tests, and next spring’s CAT summative test
to push mass media stories (newspaper, TV, radio coverage, radio and TV talk shows, etc.), especially stories centered in the classroom.
They will also “hold USBE/USOE news conference at a school with teacher/student participation to discuss the new test” after it’s taken next spring.
Some of us are wide awake. We will hear the radio ads, read the news articles, see the tweets, and laugh. Literally. So will our kids.
But how many people won’t see the humor? How many are still asleep to the monster of Common Core’s “education reform”? How many will hear this propaganda messaging and will swallow it?
How dare the Utah State School Board use my tax money in this illegitimate, one-sided, anti-intellectual way? This is not the proper role of government. I am fully disgusted with our state school board.
Utah’s Republican state delegates sent a clear message to the Governor, Utah legislators, and to the State Office of Education at Saturday’s GOP convention when 65% of the state delegates voted yes to support the resolution written by Utahns Against Common Core.
Utah’s delegates are calling on Governor Herbert and the Utah State School Board to withdraw from Common Core, and are calling on the Utah State Legislature to discontinue funding all programs in association with the Common Core Initiative.
If you missed the GOP convention, here’s what happened.
An ocean of people swarmed in from every corner of Utah to the South Jordan Expo Center Saturday to debate and vote upon the issues of the day. Present were the Governor and his bodyguard; legislators, activists, school board members; candidates for political offices, and 2,584 delegates. The swarm began before 7 a.m. and didn’t end until late in the afternoon.
At the Utahns Against Common Core booth there was a video loop showing the audience current, common core aligned textbooks that are approved for Utah schools. The booth also featured a handful of teachers and parents, answering questions about why they opposed Common Core. (The video that was looped is viewable here. For further analysis of these texts from a Utah mental health therapist’s view – see this video, too.)
There were more delegates clustered around the Utahns Against Common Core (UACC) booth than around any other, by a long shot. Many of the delegates signed the UACC petition, wore Stop Common Core buttons and stickers, and asked questions because of the conflicting (and may I point out, unreferenced) information coming from the State Office about Common Core.
I told delegates near our booth that I dislike the mandates of the common standards and I don’t believe for a minute that they are the solution to our educational problems. (It seems a no-brainer that it’s harmful, not helpful, to lessen the amount of classic literature that a child may read, and to delay the age at which students learn basic math algorithms, etc.)
But academics are not the key issue; academic problems can normally be fixed, but under Common Core there is not even an amendment process. These are copyrighted, D.C.-written, common standards.
Without a written amendment process, it’s a case of education without representation. It’s a case of giving up the ability to even debate what the standards for Utah children ought to be. It’s a case of allowing the federal government, and the philosophies (and money) of Bill Gates-Pearson Co., to micromanage local educational decisions.
Driving home, after four hours, I wondered if the resolution for local control would pass. It did not seem likely even though our resolution closely matched the Republican National Committee’s anti-common core resolution that had passed earlier this year in California.
But in Utah, the GOP committee had given our resolution an “unfavorable” rating, saying that the wording was inflammatory. The Governor was against us, having long been promoting Common Core and a related project, Prosperity 2020, very openly. The State Office of Education was against us and had been passing out pamphlets, fliers and stickers to “support common core” –and had sent mailers to delegates, telling them to support common core. (They used our tax money for this. Since when is tax money used to lobby for one side?)
And the media were generally against us. Both the Tribune and KSL had been covering this issue mostly from a pro-common core point of view.
So I was just thankful that we had gotten the opportunity to educate people at our booth. I hoped for, but didn’t expect, the miracle of the resolution passing.
Four hours later, I was completely stunned with the great news. Alisa, my friend and a state delegate, texted me one word: “PASSED!!!!”
Our resolution passed! It did match the feelings of a majority of Utahns. 65% of the elected state delegates in the State of Utah voted NO to Common Core.
It was a welcome surprise.
Delegate friends filled me in on the details of what I’d missed. I learned that the powers-that-be tried their best to muffle the resolution. They held it to the very end, after multiple speakers and presentations and other votes were held. Some even called for the meeting to adjourn before the resolution could be debated on the stage. There was a vote about whether to adjourn that was soundly defeated by the delegates.
Finally the resolution was debated. There were elecrifying speeches, for and against. Then there was the vote.
Sixty five percent voted for it to pass! That’s well over a thousand people, elected by their neighbors, from caucuses in every corner of Utah, who all said NO to Common Core. This is huge, huge news to teachers, school boards, parents, students, and politicians, regardless of which side of the argument you choose.
But it didn’t make the Tribune. It didn’t make the Deseret News. It didn’t make the Daily Herald or KSL.
Who knows why? Sigh.
Looks like we have to spread this one by social media, folks. There are powerful people who want to muffle the voice of WE, THE PEOPLE.
Let’s not let them get away with it.
Before I post the highlights from the Tribune article, I have to make a comment.
I read the two USOE-created resolutions* cited below. They are written by people who obviously do not understand the recently altered federal FERPA changes which have severely weakened student privacy and parental consent requirements, among other things. One resolution used the word “erroneous” to describe citizens opposing Common Core’s agenda. This, for some reason, makes me laugh. Why?
Because so much of what the Utah State Office of Education does is utterly erroneous, unreferenced, theory-laden and evidence-lacking; it may be nicely based on slick marketing, financial bribes and the consensus of big-government promoters– Bill Gates, Pearson Company, Secretary Arne Duncan, Obama advisor Linda Darling-Hammond, etc but it is nonetheless false. (“State-led”? “Internationally benchmarked”? Improving Education”? “Respecting student data privacy”? “Retaining local control”? —NOT.)
It is downright ridiculous (although sad) that the State Office of Education calls those citizens who ask questions armed with documents, facts, references and truth, the “vicious attackers” and the “erroneous.”
Let’s call their bluff.
Let’s insist that the Utah State School Board engage in honest, open, referenced debate with those they label “erroneous.”
It’ll never happen. They cannot allow that. They know they have no leg to stand on, or they’d already have provided references and studies showing the Common Core path they chose for Utah was a wise and studied choice. We’ve asked repeatedly for such honest face-to-face discussion. We’ve asked them to send someone to debate Common Core.
They have no one to send; sadly, each USOE official and USSB member can only parrot the claims they’ve had parroted to them about Common Core.
Honest study reveals that local control is gone under Common Core, privacy is gone, parental consent is no longer required to track and study a child, and academic standards are FAR from improved.
I pray that level-headed Utah legislators will study this Common Core agenda thoroughly and will act as wisely as those in Indiana have done with their “time-out” bill that halts implementation of Common Core, pending a proper study and vetting of the expensive, multi-pronged academic experiment that uses and tracks children as if they were government guinea pigs.
And now, the Tribune article:
Utah school board denies guv’s Common Core request
Board rejects request to change paperwork critics see as a commitment to use Common Core academic standards.
By Lisa Schencker
| Highlights of article reposted from the Salt Lake Tribune
First Published 2 hours ago
Hoping to ease some Utahns’ fears about Common Core academic standards, the Governor’s Office asked the state school board to change an application it submitted last year for a waiver to federal No Child Left Behind requirements.The state school board, however, voted against that request
Utah education leaders checked the first option, as Utah had joined most other states in adopting the Common Core. Critics have decried that decision, saying it tied Utah to the standards.
Christine Kearl, the governor’s education advisor, told board members Thursday that she believes checking Option B would alleviate those concerns without actually having to drop the standards. She said the Governor’s Office hears daily complaints about the Common Core.
“It’s become very political as I’m sure you’re all aware,” Kearl said. “We’re under attack. We try to get back to people and let them know we support the Common Core and support the decision of the state school board, but this has just become relentless.”
But Assistant Attorney General Kristina Kindl warned board members the change would give the state’s higher education system approval power over K-12 standards.
Some board members also bristled at the idea of changing the application, saying it wouldn’t mean much. Former State Superintendent Larry Shumway had already sent the feds a letter asserting that Utah retains control over its standards.
“It just seems like we are caving to political pressure based on things that are not based in actual fact,” said board member Dave Thomas.
Some also wondered whether switching would allay the concerns of foes, who began arguing that the Core was federally tied before Utah applied for the waiver. State education leaders have long responded that the standards were developed in a states-led initiative and leave curriculum up to teachers and districts
Oak Norton, a Highland parent who helped develop a website for the group Utahns Against Common Core, said he was disappointed by the board’s decision against changing the waiver.
“Then we could have looked at adopting our own standards that were higher than the Common Core,” Norton said.
The board did vote to send a resolution* to the governor, lawmakers and the state’s political parties asking them to work with the state school board to support the Common Core for the good of Utah’s students.
The resolution follows a letter sent by members of Congress, including Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, last week to Senate budget leaders asking them to eliminate “further interference by the U.S. Department of Education with respect to state decisions on academic content standards.”
—- —- —–
The Deseret News is carrying Common Core controversial news as well: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765628026/Utah-Common-Core-testing-fraught-with-flaws.html
I’m going to share some email strings from Utah school board members who are pro-common core, and me, and two mathematicians who are opposed to common core on academic grounds.
Ze’ev Wurman: 2010 California Common Core math validation committee member and former Dept. of Education advisor; opposes Common Core.
James Milgram: Stanford and NASA mathematician; served on official common core validation committe and refused to sign off on the academic legitimacy of the Common Core.
Dr. Milgram wrote (responding to a request for clarification about math standards) in a very recent email:
““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 when it comes to being hired to top level jobs.“
Tami Pyfer: Utah school board member, pro-common core
Dixie Allen: Utah school board member, pro-common core
I am a little confused — From your email yesterday I thought you said that you, Brenda and others at USOE had decided we shouldn’t answer any questions from the Anti-Core patrons. Could you please make sure we know what the expectation is for all of us as Board Members. I had tried to answer anyone that was my constituents and some others, as I felt like it was my job as chair of Curriculum and Standards. But we probably need to know what the expectation is in regard to these questionable emails, etc.
On Fri, Apr 19, 2013 at 9:49 AM, Tami Pyfer <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Christel – Here is the specific standard that requires students to know how to convert fractions to decimals. (Fractions are rational numbers, perhaps that’s how you missed it in your examination of the standards.) See (d) and also the sample assessment task at the very bottom which asks kids to convert 2/3 to a decimal using long division.
Board members – Feel free to forward this chart along to legislators, constituents, and others asking you about the incorrect claim that we are not going to be teaching kids to convert fractions to decimals. It’s taken from our Utah Core Math Standards documents. I’ve already sent it to everyone who has emailed me about it.
Hope this helps!
In seventh grade?
My ten year old fourth grader (home schooled) knows how to convert fractions to decimals and ratios. Does the Utah Common Core recommend this skill be taught only at the level of seventh grade? That seems not very “rigorous.”
However, I am happy that it is taught at all. I am glad you found this for me. Thank you.
Please look at exhibit B which is on page 26 of this
document, as you will see that in the math review of Common Core, by 2010 California Common Core validation committee
member and math expert Ze’ev Wurman, Wurman states that Common Core fails to teach many
key math skills along with the one we are discussing. I would love to see your review of his complete review to see if these things are taught, and at what grade levels.
Perhaps Ze’ev was reviewing the non-integrated math portion of Common Core, which as I understand it, only Utah and Vermont have adopted.
Minutes ago, I forwarded to James Milgram a copy of your email about Common Core math. He served on the official common core validation committee, and would not sign off on the academic legitimacy of these standards. Milgram was also a math professor at Stanford University and a NASA consultant.
Dr. Milgram wrote back:
“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 when it comes to being hired to top level jobs. - Jim Milgram “
Please, return our state to local control of eduation and to academically legitimate, empirically tested standards.
The 7th grade standard Tami refers to is, indeed, the only Common Core standard that deals, at least partially, with converting between representations of fractions:
7. NS. 2.d: Convert a rational number to a decimal using long division; know that the decimal form of a rational number terminates in 0s or eventually repeats.
It only obliquely deals with converting a regular fraction to decimal, with a particular focus on the fact that rational fractions repeat. It does not deal with conversion between fractional forms (representations) per se. Further, it doesn’t deal with conversion of decimals to rational fractions, it does not deal with conversion between decimal fractions and percents and vice versa, and it does not deal with conversion of rational fractions to percent and back. In other words, it deals with only one out of 6 possible conversions. It also does it — as you correctly say — too late, and only obliquely at that.
Compare it to the careful work the NCTM Curriculum Focal Points did on this important issue:
Grade 4: Developing an understanding of decimals, including the connections between fractions and decimals Grade 6: Developing an understanding of and fluency with multiplication and division of fractions and decimals … They use the relationship between decimals and fractions, as well as the relationship between finite decimals and whole numbers (i.e., a finite decimal multiplied by an appropriate power of 10 is a whole number), to understand and explain the procedures for multiplying and dividing decimals. Grade 7: In grade 4, students used equivalent fractions to determine the decimal representations of fractions that they could represent with terminating decimals. Students now use division to express any fraction as a decimal, including fractions that they must represent with infinite decimals. They find this method useful when working with proportions, especially those involving percents
(Curriculum Focal Points are available from NCTM for a fee, however you can get them for free here)
Here is what the National Research Council had to say about this issue in it’s Adding It Up influential book:
“Perhaps the deepest translation problem in pre-K to grade 8 mathematics concerns the translation between fractional and decimal representations of rational numbers.” (p. 101, Box 3-9)
“An important part of learning about rational numbers is developing a clear sense of what they are. Children need to learn that rational numbers are numbers in the same way that whole numbers are numbers. For children to use rational numbers to solve problems, they need to learn that the same rational number may be represented in different ways, as a fraction, a decimal, or a percent. Fraction concepts and representations need to be related to those of division, measurement, and ratio. Decimal and fractional representations need to be connected and understood. Building these connections takes extensive experience with rational numbers over a substantial period of time.” (p. 415, emphasis added)
(Adding It Up is here. If you register you can download the book rather than read it online)
And here is what the National Math Advisory Panel said on this issue in its final report:
Table 2: Benchmarks for the Critical Foundations (p. 20) … Fluency With Fractions 1) By the end of Grade 4, students should be able to identify and represent fractions and decimals, and compare them on a number line or with other common representations of fractions and decimals. 2) By the end of Grade 5, students should be proficient with comparing fractions and decimals and common percent, and with the addition and subtraction of fractions and decimals.
The NMAP final report can be found here.
All these important and widely acclaimed documents (by both sides) are quite clear that conversion between fractional representation is a critical component of mathematical fluency in K-8, that it takes time to develop, and that developing it should seriously start by grade 4.
Arguing that a single grade 7 standard, which only tangentially and partially addresses this critical fluency, is sufficient as “coverage” is disingenuous, to put it mildly.
Still wondering about a few basic questions that Judy Park says she will not answer. These are simple! Who will answer them?
1.Where’s the evidence that the standards are legitimized by empirical study– that they have helped, not hurt, kids who’ve been the guinea pigs on Common Core?
2.Where’s the study showing that lessening classic literature helps students?
3.Where’s the study showing that not teaching kids how to convert fractions to decimals helps students?
4.Upon what academic studies are we basing the claims that the common core standards are academically legitimate?
5.What parent or teacher in his/her right mind would approve giving away local control to have standards written in D.C. by the NGA/CCSSO?
–Am I being unreasonable here, or is Judy Park? These are our children. These are our tax dollars. Is it too much to ask to see a legitimate foundation for altering the standards so dramatically?
I can’t answer any of your questions with research data — because I don’t have such data — but I can answer your questions as a teacher and administrator in the Public Education System for 26 years and a mother of 4 and a grandmother of 11 (some of which have been in public school and some in private school and some in home school) and a State School Board Member of 11 years.
1. There is no empirical study of the Common Core Standards — rather they have been vetted by college professors in our state and others, specialists at our State Office of Education and others throughout the nation, other specialists outside the educational community, and patrons, parents and teachers around our state who had a voice in the approval of the Core Standards and their recommendations before they were completely adopted by our State Board of Education some 2 1/2 years ago.
2. There is no study that shows we should lessen the study of classic literature, but there are endless recommendations from universities and the job creators of our nation that our students need to learn to read informational text, as well as classic literature. So my hope is that our students are getting a mix of both, but believe that we need to insure that students can read informational text and understand what it says.
3. There is no study that says that converting decimals to fractions and visa versa isn’t an important part of mathematical study. However, there is a great understanding in the educational field that if we don’t start teaching algebraic and geometric understanding early in public education and expect all students to understand these mathematical facts, as well as fractions and decimals, that we will have students who cannot make it through the mathematical courses necessary to graduate from high school and be ready to go to college. As a high school principal, I had 300 students move into Uintah High from 9th grade that had to take remedial mathematics classes, because they had not passed Pre-algebra. All students need to understand basic algebra and geometric calculations.
4. We have based our faith in the Core Standards, based upon the specialists that created them and support their validity in the educational programs for students. I believe after a couple of years of getting these standards to students, that we are seeing improvement in a deeper set of abilities to process information both in mathematics and English/Language Arts. (Of course my proof are my own grandchildren and what teachers share with me.)
5. Local Teachers and parents don’t know everything about what is quality education — and we did not give away the standards to the federal government or Washington, D.C. — we asked experts in the field, at both the national and states levels of instruction to help develop standards that would help all students be Career and College Ready. The world has changed since we were educated and our students need to know different skills to succeed in the new world of technology and world wide companies.
I am so sorry that you feel so strongly about this issue that you have created such turmoil in our state. We are truly trying to do what is best for our students and if you can pinpoint any Core Standard that you feel is problematic or doesn’t help our students be prepared for college or work, please let me know and I will take it to the experts to see what they think and if they agree we will change the standard.
However, I do not plan to throw out the Common Core, as long as I am a State School Board member, because I believe it is a step in the right direction. I will, however, help correct and update any Standard that we feel needs to be revised.
Feel free to use this letter if it helps. I sent it today. If others wish to add their voices to mine, the board’s email is : Board@schools.utah.gov.
The Governor needs to hear from us, too.
Dear USOE and State School Board,
Parents and teachers like me are so very tired of reading lies about Common Core, which are stated (and published) repeatedly by the USOE and Utah State School Board, and which are then replicated across school district websites all over Utah. I’m writing to ask you to provide references to prove the claims are honest– or remove the claims. One or the other.
We’re tired of being told, for example, that there is a Utah Core. Most people do know that it’s the Common Core for Math and English. It’s misleading to say “Utah Core” unless you are talking about P.E. or history or other standards.
Some of you have not done much research about Common Core and you have been fed only the claims given you by Common Core proponents –such as Pearson, Wireless Generation, Bill Gates, and others, who stand to make a lot of money implementing Common Core.
You read Gates’ own publication, Education Week. You listen to the groups Gates has paid (bribed) to advocate for the untested experiment of Common Core, including the national PTA, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National Governor’s Association, the Harvard Newsletter, Manhattan Institute, Fordham Foundation and others. Gates admitted in a NY Times interview that he spent $5 Billion– billion– dollars pushing HIS version of education reform. So the marketing has been good. But the product is defective. You of all groups ought to study this thoroughly.
Sometimes people forward their emails from you to me. I am aghast at the unreferenced, untrue responses, such as “Common Core is an improvement” and “We still have local and parental control” and “We aren’t spending money on Common Core that we wouldn’t already be spending on education standards,” and “Common Core is academically rigorous.” These are absurd statements to anyone who has done their homework on Common Core.
Why not provide references for your ongoing claims to increase your trustworthiness in the public eye? If you are telling the truth, please show us. If not, it’s time to ‘fess up.
Parents deserve referenced truth. These are our kids. These are our tax dollars. And you are not telling the truth: that Common Core is an unproven, unwanted experiment –for which you’re using kids as guinea pigs.
The standards are not Utah’s. And they are not academically nor constitutionally legitimate. If I am wrong, please show me.
In education, as in medicine, the motto should be “First Do No Harm.”
Where is the evidence that Common Core standards are not harming our students? Where is the empirical data upon which this transformative alteration to Utah education was based?
More specifically, can you point me to a study that shows that not teaching kids how to convert fractions to decimals is better college prep in the long run? Where is the study that shows that lessening the teaching of classic literature and of narrative writing is going to benefit children as adults? Where is the proven, long term study that shows that informational text is more beneficial than classic literature?
If there is no such research, then why on earth have you foisted this hogwash on our kids– and called it “rigorous”!?!!
It does not even make sense. Rigorous? Running a mile is rigorous to a couch potato but it’s a dumbing down to an athlete. One size fits all can never be accurately described as “rigorous” and I pray you will quit abusing that word across our good state.
The adoption of Common Core is, ironically, dataless decisionmaking. It is decision making based on the wealth and influence of extreme politics, not based on the American principle of voter representation and local public vetting.
Where is the proof to back up the claim that Common Core is state-led? How can it be state-led when nobody in the state even knows about it? No legislator has a clue. No school board except the state school board was ever allowed to vet or vote upon this huge change to education. How can it be state-led when it’s written behind the closed doors of the NGA/CCSSO and there’s no amendment process?
Where is the proof that the Common Core is academically legitimate? We know it was developed by noneducators: David Coleman, the NGA and the CCSSO. We know it was most heavily funded and promoted by noneducators. We know it has been politically hijacked by the Dept. of Education and that Obama and Sec. Duncan claim to have given it to states (further crushing the claim that it was state-led). We have endless references for these things. Yet this board and office continually fails to provide a shred of evidence for its Common Core promoting claims.
I find this to be a terrible example to the rest of the educators and students of this state.
If I were teaching an English class today, would I say to my students, “Oh– you didn’t provide references in your research paper? Well, no big deal. Neither does the Utah State Office of Education or the State School Board” ?
Where is the proof that Utah still has control of her education system? There’s a solid copyright on the Common Core. There’s a 15% no-alteration rule. Ridiculous. That is the opposite of local control.
If Utah wants to teach sky-high, way past the mediocre Common Core, 15% does not cut it. If Utah wants to prevent corporate researchers, hackers or the federal government from accessing private student data collected in the State Longitudinal Database System (which we all know is interoperable with the federal database, and was paid for by the federal government and is modeled after their desires, not ours) — we cannot protect our kids’ privacy. Because the Common Core tests will collect all the information and will track the kids in the P-20 and SLDS. This is common knowledge today. By remaining in Common Core, you tie parents’ hands behind their backs. No parents can opt their children out of the SLDS tracking. This is unacceptable!
Common Core Standards, tests and data collecting tentacles are a tragic, horrific joke and as you know, the people who will suffer most are the children and the teachers.
For what is far from the first, and likely far from the last time, I implore you to please answer these issues with references.
If you can’t, then your duty to the people of Utah is to get us out of Common Core.
Integrity demands it.
Heber City Parent
Credentialed Utah Teacher
Today’s string of interesting emails
(between my State School Board representative, Dixie Allen, and me)
On Sat, Feb 16, 2013 at 7:45 AM, <email@example.com> wrote:
There is some very informative information in this weeks Ed Week – Thought you might gain some valuable insight – if you have time to check it out.
Thanks again for including me in your loop.
Were you aware that Ed Week, like so many organizations that promote Common Core, is a Gates’ product?
I can’t take Ed Week seriously because it is published by Gates’ funding and its articles support his unelected-dictatorial influence over American education policy.
Christel – that saddens me because most of their articles are written by educators and of all the participants involved in education – I trust teachers, students and parents most.
I also believe it is important to keep an open mind.
Openmindedness is great, but sincerity does not trump truth. Teachers and parents have written articles on both sides of the Common Core debate. I hope you listen to all of us, not just those published by Gates. There are some teachers and parents whose side of this story has been published elsewhere, because Gates will never publish the side that hurts his well-intentioned but unrepresentative agenda.
Yes Christel, I do — however, in Utah where we are the lowest funded state in the nation by a long shot for per student expenditure, it would be so costly to throw out the Core curriculum that we have adopted and try to put in place another curriculum — especially the way we have developed curriculum over the past many years I have been in education (over 30 years).
The way we have created core standards over time is to bring teachers and other educators together from all over the state and decide which standards work in specific curricular areas and grade level expectations. By adopting the Common Core we upgraded all the curriculum by grade level for both Language Arts and Mathematics. Up until that time our State ranked about a C in Language Arts curriculum and a B for our Mathematics curriculum. So the issue of rewriting the curriculum is just not economically possible for this state — the best we can do is take standards that we know work and change those that we don’t believe will work.
When a state like Utah funds education at such a low level, there are many parts of the educational process that we must borrow from others who have the funding to develop them. In some cases that has been other states, that allowed us to use some of their identified quality education practices — so you may be right that those with lots of money have influenced this core — however, I know from experience that our State Office and many experts in the fields of educational mathematics and language arts were really the ones who wrote the standards — not the Bill Gates of the world.
Please, in conjunction with your fellow educators who have concerns – share those concerns with us or the State Office of Education and allow us to work on improving what we can with the little funding we do have now and over time. But don’t ask us to throw out the Core, because we cannot afford to do that, either in time or money.
Thanks for your passion.
Thanks for continuing to talk with me.
As you know, Utah districts are funded primarily by local taxpayers, then some by the state, and then a small fraction of funding comes from the federal government. So, the fact that the people who pay the most have the least say, and the people who pay the least have the most say, is absurd. I’m sure you agree.
We can’t afford NOT to toss out the core. Although we have invested tens of millions (at least) in the tests and standards and PD so far, this is a drop in the bucket. California and Mississippi and other states are publishing news articles about the painfulness of having to implement all Common Core’s platforms without having the financial support from those who invited us to join Common Core. It’s a huge burden that will only become heavier with time.
The cost of creating our own Utah standards need not be exorbitant. In fact, I can almost promise you that it could be FREE. Many of the top curriculum and standards writers in our nation are on the stop common core side of this debate. ELA standards have been posted and published for free, for use by us or any state, for example, here: http://www.uaedreform.org/wp-content/uploads/2000/01/Stotsky-Optional_ELA_standards.pdf
Math standards, I am sure would also be available for free if we were to ask, from such giants in the math and curriculum fields as James Milgram, Ze’ev Wurman, Christopher Tienken, William Mathis, Jim Stergios, David Wright, and others who are true friends to education and to Utah.
The CCSSO/NGA have published that they solely developed the standards, so I don’t know how any Utahns can claim to have done it.
The CCSSO meetings are closed-door without transparency for some reason, so there is no way that we will ever be able to find out who really did what. Nor can we influence what they’re doing with social studies and science right now. Nor can we amend the many problems we see, and/or that teachers and parents will be seeing over the next few years. By then it may be way too expensive to pull out.
That’s why I feel the time is now. Thanks for listening.
Children for Sale
By Alyson Williams
No more decisions behind closed doors! Let’s get everyone talking about Common Core.
In the spring of 2011 I received a receipt for the sale of my children. It came in the form of a flyer that simply notified me that my state and thereby my children’s school would comply with the Common Core. No other details of the transaction were included. The transaction was complete, and I had no say. In fact, it was the very first time I’d heard about it.
I know what you’re thinking. That’s outrageous! Common Core has nothing to do with selling things, especially not children!
Okay, so the idea that the State School Board and Governor who’d made this decision could be described as “selling” my children is hyperbole. It is an exaggeration intended to convey an emotion regarding who, in this land of the free, has ultimate authority over decisions that directly affect my children’s intellectual development, privacy, and future opportunities. It is not even an accurate representation of my initial reaction to the flyer. I say it to make a point that I didn’t realize until much, much later… this isn’t just an issue of education, but of money and control. Please allow me to explain.
That first day my husband picked up the flyer and asked me, “What is Common Core?” To be honest, I had no idea. We looked it up online. We read that they were standards for each grade that would be consistent across a number of states. They were described as higher standards, internationally benchmarked, state-led, and inclusive of parent and teacher in-put. It didn’t sound like a bad thing, but why hadn’t we ever heard about it before? Again, did I miss the parent in-put meeting or questionnaire… the vote in our legislature? Who from my state had helped to write the standards? In consideration of the decades of disagreement on education trends that I’ve observed regarding education, how in the world did that many states settle all their differences enough to agree on the same standards? It must have taken years, right? How could I have missed it?
At first it was really difficult to get answers to all my questions. I started by asking the people who were in charge of implementing the standards at the school district office, and later talked with my representative on the local school board. I made phone calls and I went to public meetings. We talked a lot about the standards themselves. No one seemed to know the answers to, or wanted to talk about my questions about how the decision was made, the cost, or how it influenced my ability as a parent to advocate for my children regarding curriculum. I even had the chance to ask the Governor himself at a couple of local political meetings. I was always given a similar response. It usually went something like this:
Question: “How much will this cost?”
Answer: “These are really good standards.”
Question: “I read that the Algebra that was offered in 8th grade, will now not be offered until 9th grade. How is this a higher standard?”
Answer: “These are better standards. They go deeper into concepts.”
Question: “Was there a public meeting that I missed?”
Answer: “You should really read the standards. This is a good thing.”
Question: “Isn’t it against the Constitution and the law of the land to have a national curriculum under the control of the federal government?’
Answer: “Don’t you want your kids to have the best curriculum?”
It got to the point where I felt like I was talking to Jedi masters who, instead of actually answering my questions, would wave their hand in my face and say, “You will like these standards.”
I stopped asking. I started reading.
I read the standards. I read about who wrote the standards. I read about the timeline of how we adopted the standards (before the standards were written.) I read my state’s Race to the Top grant application, in which we said we were going to adopt the standards. I read the rejection of that grant application and why we wouldn’t be given additional funding to pay for this commitment. I read how standardized national test scores are measured and how states are ranked. I read news articles, blogs, technical documents, legislation, speeches given by the US Education Secretary and other principle players, and even a few international resolutions regarding education.
I learned a lot.
I learned that most other parents didn’t know what the Common Core was either.
I learned that the standards were state accepted, but definitely not “state led.”
I learned that the international benchmark claim is a pretty shaky one and doesn’t mean they are better than or even equal to international standards that are considered high.
I learned that there was NO public input before the standards were adopted. State-level decision makers had very little time themselves and had to agree to them in principle as the actual standards were not yet complete.
I learned that the only content experts on the panel to review the standards had refused to sign off on them, and why they thought the standards were flawed.
I learned that much of the specific standards are not supported by research but are considered experimental.
I learned that in addition to national standards we agreed to new national tests that are funded and controlled by the federal government.
I learned that in my state, a portion of teacher pay is dependent on student test performance.
I learned that not only test scores, but additional personal information about my children and our family would be tracked in a state-wide data collection project for the express purpose of making decisions about their educational path and “aligning” them with the workforce.
I learned that there are fields for tracking home-schooled children in this database too.
I learned that the first step toward getting pre-school age children into this data project is currently underway with new legislation that would start a new state preschool program.
I learned that this data project was federally funded with a stipulation that it be compatible with other state’s data projects. Wouldn’t this feature create a de facto national database of children?
I learned that my parental rights to deny the collection of this data or restrict who has access to it have been changed at the federal level through executive regulation, not the legislative process.
I learned that these rights as protected under state law are currently under review and could also be changed.
I learned that the financing, writing, evaluation, and promotion of the standards had all been done by non-governmental special interest groups with a common agenda.
I learned that their agenda was in direct conflict with what I consider to be the best interests of my children, my family, and even my country.
Yes, I had concerns about the standards themselves, but suddenly that issue seemed small in comparison to the legal, financial, constitutional and representative issues hiding behind the standards and any good intentions to improve the educational experience of my children.
If it was really about the best standards, why did we adopt them before they were even written?
If they are so wonderful that all, or even a majority of parents would jump for joy to have them implemented, why wasn’t there any forum for parental input?
What about the part where I said I felt my children had been sold? I learned that the U.S. market for education is one of the most lucrative – bigger than energy or technology by one account – especially in light of these new national standards that not only create economy of scale for education vendors, but require schools to purchase all new materials, tests and related technology. Almost everything the schools had was suddenly outdated.
When I discovered that the vendors with the biggest market share and in the position to profit the most from this new regulation had actually helped write or finance the standards, the mama bear inside me ROARED!
Could it be that the new standards had more to do with profit than what was best for students? Good thing for their shareholders they were able to avoid a messy process involving parents or their legislative representatives.
As I kept note of the vast sums of money exchanging hands in connection with these standards with none of it going to address the critical needs of my local school – I felt cheated.
When I was told that the end would justify the means, that it was for the common good of our children and our society, and to sit back and trust that they had my children’s best interests at heart – they lost my trust.
As I listened to the Governor and education policy makers on a state and national level speak about my children and their education in terms of tracking, alignment, workforce, and human capital – I was offended.
When I was told that this is a done deal, and there was nothing as a parent or citizen that I could do about it – I was motivated.
Finally, I learned one more very important thing. I am not the only one who feels this way. Across the nation parents grandparents and other concerned citizens are educating themselves, sharing what they have learned and coming together. The problem is, it is not happening fast enough. Digging through all the evidence, as I have done, takes a lot of time – far more time than the most people are able to spend. In order to help, I summarized what I thought was some of the most important information into a flowchart so that others could see at a glance what I was talking about.
I am not asking you to take my word for it. I want people to check the references and question the sources. I am not asking for a vote or for money. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. I do believe with all my heart that a decision that affects the children of almost every state in the country should not be made without a much broader discussion, validated research, and much greater input from parents and citizens than it was originally afforded.
If you agree I encourage you to share this information. Post it, pin it, email it, tweet it.
No more decisions behind closed doors! Let’s get everyone talking about Common Core.
Thanks to Alyson Williams for permission to publish her story.
Sources for research: http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/FlowchartSources.pdf
Both Wendy Simmerman and Dixie Allen are running for Utah State School Board, representing my district. I’ve found links that outline what each candidate stands for, which I’ll post here:
I’m voting for Wendy Simmerman.
Wendy Simmerman is running on a platform of parental rights and responsibility coming first. Amen!
She also said that she sees that there are Constitutional issues with the nationalized Common Core Initiative that need further study and attention.
Okay, this is a big one. A dangerous one.
This week, the Utah State School Board will meet to discuss whether or not to change state FERPA policy.
Once Utah changes this policy, it will be next to impossible to get the privacy laws put back in place. And it affects every student and his/her family’s household information.
Please call or write the board and demand that they NOT change our protective state FERPA policy to match the new, questionably legal, federal FERPA regulatory changes.
Why do I say “questionably legal federal changes?”
Congress made the original FERPA law many years ago to protect citizen privacy. But recently, the Department of Education overstepped its authority in making regulatory changes to FERPA. Regulations are not as binding as law. But the regulatory changes are being seen by some as federal mandates.
Federal Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
Meanwhile, the Department of Education’s actions have been so shockingly unacceptable to some (including me) that the Department of Education has been sued. Yes, sued. The lawsuit was brought by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), and it’s in full gear, with an undetermined outcome. If EPIC wins, the Dept. of Education will have to repeal its regulatory changes to federal protective FERPA law.
Why does anyone want to REMOVE parental consent over student privacy?
They want to make the government more powerful than parents for “research-based” reasons, they say.
They want the government to be able to study our data without interference or permission. And they assure us that this power will never be misused. Hmmm.
Last month at the State School Board Meeting the changes relevant to Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s new regulations of FERPA were discussed.
Larry Shumway, Director of State School Board/ Superintendent
The State School Board decided to table the issue until this month as they wanted to review information on it. Our Wasatch Superintendent was at the State School Board testifying about our local FERPA policy. Wasatch local school board had changed our policy so that it had no protection in the spring, but thanks to great participation of emails from many citizens, the policy was changed again and strengthened. Thanks to Renee Braddy for gathering information, teaching citizens and leading this charge.
Since that time, people who have talked directly to the US Department of Ed, verifying the fact that the new FERPA policy does not protect, but in fact loosens, the restrictions so more data can be collected without our knowledge.
If you would like to learn more about it directly from the US Dept. of Ed. You can call this number and ask for Ellen Campbell in their FERPA policy division. 1-800-872-5327
What we need to do now is to write the State School Board Members and ask them to leave our current State FERPA policy in place. We have a good State Policy. PLEASE NOTE – the new federal policy is VOLUNTARY.
You will be told that it is not, but you can verify that for yourself by calling the number above. Superintendent Larry Shumway responded in an email to Renee Braddy that it was truly voluntary. James Judd, Student Service Director, Wasatch County, stated publicy that indeed this policy does loosen the protections.
Be firm but polite. Remember that emails that are too long don’t get read:)
Another interesting point to note is that John Brandt, the technology director for all Utah schools and director of the inter-agency Utah Data Alliance, is a federal government worker and NGO officer via his membership in NCEE and his chair position on the Council of Chief State School Officers. He is a man who feels great about Utah sharing data with the feds. And he doesn’t answer emails on the subject. Ever.
Additional Research about FERPA- put together by Renee Braddy:
FERPA stands for “Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act” (20 U.S.C. 1232g (US Code)
It was originally put into law in 1974 at the federal level to limit the amount of children’s personally identifiable information that could be given without parental consent.
(Legislative History of Major FERPA Provisions)
There are federal and state FERPA laws, as well as district FERPA policies. In 2011, the US Dept. of Education created a new FERPA regulation that went into effect Jan. 3, 2012. Regulations are usually created by non-elected departments and therefore DO NOT pass through congress, but in essence they are observed the same as law.
The US Dept. of Education created this new regulation (34 CFR Part 99) which significantly broadens the definition of “personally identifiable information” as well as the term “authorized representatives”.
According to the regulation, “personally identifiable information” includes:
The term includes, but is not limited to—
(a) The student’s name;
(b) The name of the student’s parent or other family members;
(c) The address of the student or student’s family;
(d) A personal identifier, such as the student’s social security number, student number, or biometric record;
(e) Other indirect identifiers, such as the student’s date of birth, place of birth, and mother’s maiden name;
(f) Other information that, alone or in combination, is linked or linkable to a specific student that would allow a reasonable person in the school community, who does not have personal knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to identify the student with reasonable certainty; or
(g) Information requested by a person who the educational agency or institution reasonably believes knows the identity of the student to whom the education record relates.
Wondering what in the world “biometric record” means and what is includes?
Biometric record,” as used in the definition of “personally identifiable information,” means a record of one or more measurable biological or behavioral characteristics that can be used for automated recognition of an individual. Examples include fingerprints; retina and iris patterns; voiceprints; DNA sequence; facial characteristics; and handwriting.
This allows for a collection of personal health records!
As a parent, I had to ask myself, to whom is this information being given? The answer is found in the regulation with the definition of “Authorized representative”
“Authorized representative” means any entity or individual designated by a State or local educational authority or an agency headed by an official listed in § 99.31(a)(3) to conduct – with respect to Federal- or State-supported education programs – any audit or evaluation, or any compliance or enforcement activity in connection with Federal legal requirements that relate to these programs.
So, our children’s personal information can be given to: Pretty much anyone without parental consent.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: FERPA FINAL REGULATIONS
Specifically, we have modified the definition of and requirements related to ‘‘directory information’’ to clarify (1) that the right to opt out of the disclosure of directory information under FERPA does not include the right to refuse to wear, or otherwise disclose, a student identification (ID) card or badge;
(6)(i) The disclosure is to organizations conducting studies for, or on behalf of, educational agencies or institutions to:
(A) Develop, validate, or administer predictive tests;
(B) Administer student aid programs; or
(C) Improve instruction.
What is predictive testing? Here’s one definition from Wikipedia.
Predictive testing is a form of genetic testing. It is also known as presymptomatic testing. These types of testing are used to detect gene mutations associated with disorders that appear after birth, often later in life. These tests can be helpful to people who have a family member with a genetic disorder, but who have no features of the disorder themselves at the time of testing. Predictive testing can identify mutations that increase a person’s risk of developing disorders with a genetic basis, such as certain types of cancer. For example, an individual with a mutation in BRCA1 has a 65% cumulative risk of breast cancer. Presymptomatic testing can determine whether a person will develop a genetic disorder, such as hemochromatosis (an iron overload disorder), before any signs or symptoms appear. The results of predictive and presymptomatic testing can provide information about a person’s risk of developing a specific disorder and help with making decisions about medical care.
Why would the federal government want to track genetic and medical information coupled with educational information in a cradle to grave longitudinal database? Why is the Gates Foundation funding biometric tracking? Why is the Gates Foundation also co-hosting the London International Eugenics Conference with Planned Parenthood and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) next month? Why would the Department of Health and Human Services under Kathleen Sebelius (responsible for the FERPA changes listed above) be offering $75 million in grants for schools to open health clinics inside their schools away from parental oversight?
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see that the federal government is in the business of control and not pure education. Why aren’t Utah leaders moving to protect Utahn’s from these overreaches of the federal government? Gates Foundation paid nearly $20 million to the National Governor’s Association and Council of Chief State Superintendents Organization to prompt them to create Common Core. Schools will soon be the ultimate laboratories in fulfillment of Marc Tucker’s dream for creating central planning for the American workforce.
–Many people contributed to the writing of this post.
What’s going on with so many Utahns joining the fight for educational freedom, the fight against a federal “Common Core”?
When we signed the petition –along with over two thousand, so far, who have signed the petition at Utahns Against Common Core– what were we asking for?
In short: higher, more constitutionally based (state-not-federally-controlled) educational standards.
- We have asked the Governor, State Board of Education, and State Superintendent to take the steps necessary to rescind Common Core adoption, the Race to the Top application, the No Child Left Behind waiver, the use of SBAC/PARCC federally monitored testing and data collection, and all other requirements upon the state that are related to these, and return Utah to higher, independent, non-federal education standards.
- We have requested the Utah Attorney General in conjunction with the Federalism Subcommittee of the Constitutional Defense Council, to review all documentation related to such applications and contracts as mentioned above to ensure our state sovereignty is held inviolate. We further requested that this review of programs, documents, and applications, include an examination to ensure no private or personal information about students is transmitted outside of local schools and districts, despite the U.S. Dept. of Education’s and Utah Data Alliance’s efforts to the contrary.
- Because the Utah State Board of Education adopted Common Core State Standards before they were even finalized, failed to perform a cost analysis related to statewide adoption, and failed to hold public meetings where citizens could review the actual standards prior to adoption, we have asked that a liberty-minded, academically solid educational committee (not the USOE or USSB) be authorized to rewrite Utah’s current standards through a well-developed and transparent process that includes numerous public hearings and input from committees that utilizes knowledge-based, academic, clearly worded, grade-level specific, measurable standards from other states (such as liberty-minded Texas, Virginia and the impressive pre-common core Massachusetts) as models.
- We want to give individual schools and districts full local control with the ability to adopt their own high standards, assessments, and research-based curriculum to encourage and allow for greater parental participation in the education system.
- We aim for legislators and citizens to develop a 5-year plan to get Utah off all federal funding of education, and if the federal government threatens to pull non-education related funding away from the state as we pursue this course, that this knowledge should be made public and fought with the assistance of the state Attorney General.
- We have asked legislators to craft laws that will strengthen privacy rights and parental consent rules, and make sharing of personal student data with any state or federal entity a crime both for the one disseminating and the recipient who requested personal information.
If you agree, you can:
Please sign the petition at http://utahnsagainstcommoncore.com .
Please write and/or call our Governor, Lt. Governor, Legislators, the USOE, UEN, and local and State School Board (Board@schools.utah.gov )
Christel Swasey, Renee Braddy, Alisa Ellis:
Three Heber City Moms
An attendee from today’s state school board meeting informs us that because Superintendent Shumway is resigning, a selection committee was formed to find a new state superintendent. According to the bylaws, this committee will select a new superintendent for approval by Governor Herbert. The full board will not vote on this. –Utah needs lesiglation that changes the process as well as the process by which board members are elected –because it is not by the people.
The attendee also stated that the “Earth Science Classes” content and changes will be online for public review. The board claimed it hadn’t made any changes to the content but just tweaked a few processes here and there. Interestingly, there was one board member, Leslie Castle, who really did not want the science classes out for public review because of the possible disagreement of the public.
All of the rest of the committee voted for public review of the science classes.
More to come… (about the data privacy issues regarding FERPA regulations)
I am writing to second Renee Braddy’s attached email. As you are aware, a lawsuit is in full gear right now between the Department of Education and the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which alleges that the Department of Education overstepped statutory authority by redefining terms and loosening parental consent law in the federal FERPA regulations; remember, federal FERPA laws have not been altered by Congress. Nor has state FERPA law been altered. These oversteps by the Dept. of Education are illegal under GEPA law and under the U.S. Constitution.
If the Utah board supports this illegality, they will be held accountable under the Utah Constitution as well.
More importantly, the core issue here is that student privacy, a civil right, is being shoved aside to further empower federal and corporate forces in the nonconsensual access to private academic and nonacademic data. Let’s do the right thing.
———- Forwarded message ———- From: Renee Braddy
Dear State School Board Members,
I just reviewed your agenda for today’s meeting and I amvery concerned about the action item regarding data. On line 213 where the document is referring to studentinformation, it reads that it will be released in accordance with the FERPA, 34 CFR 99-31. This is the new regulation that went into effect Jan. 3, 2012 and was written by the US DEPT of ED and DID NOT pass through the US congress. This regulation is currently being challenged by EPIC in a lawsuit. Ithink it would be wise to have our children’s data dispersed in accordance withFederal LAW 20 U.S.C. § 1232g, not the regulation.
There are LOTS of concerns with this new regulation and I believe it would be a BIG mistake to pass this rule change without further study. Please DO NOT vote for this, but rather please table the item for further discussion.
I have extensively study the new FERPA regulation due to anincidence in Wasatch County. This new regulation literally turns the FERPA law on its head and DOES NOT protect our children’s personal information. This is a very serious matter.
It further states online 216 that such responses may (not SHALL) include:
1. de-identified data
2. agreements with recipients of student data where recipients agree not to report or publish students identities (the way I read this is that this is personally identifiable student data– otherwise there wouldn’t have to be an agreement to protect it, right?)
3. release of student data, with appropriate binding agreements, for state or federal accountability or for the purpose of improving instruction to specific student (this would mean that personally identifiable student data is being released with parental knowledge).
6. Board Committee Meetings
ACTION: R277-487 Public School Data Confidentiality and Disclosure Tab 6-L
R277-502-8 EducatorLicensing and Data Retention -
Comprehensive Administration of Credentials for Teachers in Utah
R277-484-9 Data Standards – Disclosure of Data for Research
(Amendment and Continuation for all)
And when I click on the tab for more info. Is this really what I think it is and they are changing the rules to come into compliance with the FERPA Regulation?!?!? Someone, please help me if I’m off on this. If it’s underlined, does that mean it’s being added to the rule?
187 R277-487-6. Public Education Research Data.
188 A. The USOE may provide limited or extensive data sets
189 for research and analysis purposes to qualified researchersor
191 (1) A reasonable method shall be used to qualify
192 researchers or organizations to receive data, such asevidence
193 that a research proposal has been approved by a federally
194 recognized Institutional Review Board (IRB).
195 (2) Aggregate student assessment data are available
196 through the USOE website. Individual student data are
198 (3) The USOE is not obligated to fill every request for
199 data and has procedures to determine which requests will be
6200 filled or to assign priorities to multiple requests. The
201 USOE/Board understands that it will respond in a timelymanner
202 to all requests submitted under Section 63G-2-101 et seq.,
203 Government Records Access and Management Act. Infilling data
204 requests, higher priority may be given to requests that will
205 help improve instruction in Utah’s public schools.
206 (4) A fee may be charged to prepare data or to deliver
207 data, particularly if the preparation requires originalwork.
208 The USOE shall comply with Section 63G-2-203 in assessing
210 (5) The researcher or organization shall provide a copy
211 of the report or publication produced using USOE data to the
212 USOE at least 10 business days prior to the public release.
213 B. Student information: Requests for data thatdisclose
214 student information shall be provided in accordance with the
215 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), 34 CFR
216 99-31(a)(6); such responses may include:
217 (1) individual student data that are de-identified,
218 meaning it is not possible to trace the data to individual
220 (2) agreements with recipients of student data where
221 recipients agree not to report or publishdata in a manner
222 that discloses students’ identities. For example, reporting
223 test scores for a race subgroup that has a count, also known
224 as n-size, of less than 10 could enable someone to identify
225 the actual students and shall not be published;
226 (3) release of student data, with appropriate binding
227 agreements, for state or federal accountability or for the
228 purpose of improving instruction to specific student
Dear School Board, Superintendent Shumway and Governor Herbert,
I am writing to express my gratitude to those who were instrumental in yesterday’s vote to reverse Utah’s membership in the SBAC testing consortium. It was a heroic moment and America is watching.
Early on, when I read the Cooperative Agreement between the SBAC and the Department of Education, I was horrified to see that it required SBAC members to expose student data to the federal government “on an ongoing basis, subject to applicable privacy laws,” and I knew that the Dept. of Education had changed privacy FERPA regulations to make that data easy to access.
I had also been horrified by the micromanagement the Dept. of Education planned to do, in demanding that PARCC and SBAC synchronize tests “across consortia,” effectively nationalizing education under the triangulation of those two consortia with the Dept. of Education. Also, in writing to WestEd, the SBAC’s test writing project manager, I had found out that “In order for this [testing] system to have a real impact within a state, the state will need to adopt the Common Core State Standards (i.e., not have two sets of standards.)” -April 2012 statement from WestEd Assessments and Standards Senior Research Associate Christyan Mitchell, Ph.D.
This meant that the 15% additional content which the Dept. of Education was permitting states to add to their local version of Common Core, would have been meaningless in the context of the tests. Teachers would not have been motivated to teach that extra 15% of unique Utah content, since there would be such pressure to conform to the high-stakes, competitive tests. Now they are freed from that pressure and can teach students, not teach for others.
I am extremely relieved to find that we have reclaimed our independence in the realm of testing and in the realm of easy federal access to student data collected via tests. But I am still concerned that the federally paid-for state longitudinal database system (SLDS) and the P-20 student tracking systems will be available to the federal government and marketers, since our Utah Technology leader, John Brandt, who is a chair member of CCSSO and a member of NCES, the research arm of the Dept. of Education, has published the fact that our data can be shared with state agencies and at the federal level. Also, Chief of Staff of the Dept. of Education Joanne Weiss made a statement recently that she is mashing data systems on the federal level, and is releasing reports to ”help” states to use SLDS systems to mash data as well. These things trouble me. I hope you are aware of them and are taking steps to fortify our citizens’ privacy rights against federal intrusion which can easily invade in these other ways –other than the SBAC test data collection method, which we seem to be freed from.
–Or are we? Attendees at yesterday’s State School Board meeting have informed me that there is school board talk of purchasing SBAC tests anyway, regardless of the conflict of interest issue. This, even now that we’ve cut membership ties with SBAC. If our board votes to use SBAC tests, we will hardly be better off than if we had not taken the step of cutting off membership ties. Our childrens’ data would then still be collected by SBAC, and we know from the Cooperative Agreement that the SBAC will triangulate tests and data collected with the federal government. We must cut all ties with SBAC, including purchasing or using SBAC or PARCC written tests.
On Sept. 6th, the ESEA flexibility waiver window ends. I have asked a question but have not received a response: does that Sept. 6th deadline mean that after Sept. 6th, Utah’s option to write her own standards, ends?
We need legitimately high, not spottily or for just some grades/topics, occasionally high, standards. We need standards like those Massachusetts had before that state caved to political pressure to lower standards in adopting Common Core. Massachusetts tested as an independent nation and was among the very top. Massachusetts’ standards were the highest in the USA. Then Common Core took them down to the middle of the road. Does Utah really want that? If so, why? Is it Superintendent Shumway’s board membership in CCSSO and SBAC that is driving these decisions? Or is it what’s really the highest possible standards for our children and teachers?
Political and money-making pressures are pushing Utah to stay aligned with Common Core, while attempting to obscure the truth: that Common Core is not rigorous enough. It does not solve our very real educational problems.
First, it blurs excellence and sub-par into a common standard that is mediocre. Stanford University Professor Michael Kirst assessed the standards and said that “My concern is the assertion in the draft that the standards for college and career readiness are essentially the same. This implies the answer is yes to the question of whether the same standards are appropriate for 4 year universities, 2 year colleges, and technical colleges. The burden of proof for this assertion rests with CCSSO/NGA, and the case is not proven from the evidence presented”.
Dr. Bill Evers, Hoover Institute scholar and professor at Stanford, said that the “Asian Tigers” countries keep Algebra I in 8th grade, as Utah’s prior standards had them; but Common Core retards Algebra I to 9th grade.
Dr. James Milgram, the only math professor on the Common Core Validation Committee, refused to sign off that the standards were adequate. Dr. Sandra Stotsky, the head English professor on the same committee, also refused to sign off on the standards. She said they did not represent a coherent, legitimate pre-college program and she opposed slashing classic literature and narrative writing, as 99% of all English teachers –and parents– would surely agree.
Importantly, the NCLB/ESEA waiver allows two ways to fulfull the “college readiness” requirement. 1) States can use Common Core. Or 2)states can write their own standards, using University approval as a benchmark. If we choose option 2, by Sept. 6th, 2012, then we can write our own standards, using what’s best out of common core, building up to a better standard set by Massachusetts, led by the very professor who created Massachusetts’ superior standards— for free!
Dr. Sandra Stotsky has promised Utah that if we pull out of Common Core and want help in developing our own ELA standards (better than what we used to have), she will help write them, for free. She worked on the excellent, (Common Core-Less) Texas standards in 2007-2008, contracted with StandardsWork.
Dr. Alan Manning, of BYU, who is opposed on academic grounds and on grounds of lost liberty, to Common Core, would be a great resource for writing Utah’s standards, as well.
Please contact Dr. Stotstky and Dr. Manning about the possibilities of creating superior standards for Utah.
Thank you sincerely for your continued work on educational issues in Utah.
A Heber citizen, Anissa Wardell, contacted the Utah State School board to ask whether Utah can still get out of Common Core (and write our own standards, using University input, an option also known as ESEA option #2) –after the waiver deadline of September 6, 2012.
Rather than answering the question, state school board member Tami Pyfer told her constituent that there was no chance our state would get out of Common Core and then proceeded say that evidence proving that Common Core was free of federal strings had “been presented in a variety of public forums numerous times.” This is simply not true.
1. Most people don’t even know what the term Common Core even means, according to a recent poll by Achieve, Inc. (Do you? Does your neighbor? Do your teachers know– other than knowing there are different standards this year– do they know that the standards are under copyright, can’t be amended, dumb down college readiness to a lowest common denominator that matches vocational/tech schools, and they were never validated by the only math professor and were also rejected by the English professor on the official Common Core validation committee? Nobody knows these things. Why? Because the Dept. of Education doesn’t want them to know. They think that if they say “these standards are good” often enough, they’ll be good.)
2. The one and only public forum put on by the USOE about Common Core was held two years after the state school board signed us up for Common Core. That forum was at the Granite School District last spring. The first 45 minute speech, praising Common Core (without any documentation or evidence) was given by the USOE, followed by 2 minute testimonials from impassioned parents and teachers and politicians from both sides of the issue: hardly fair or thorough or timely. And nope, evidence was not shared there, to prove federal strings were not attached. (Incidentally, Professor David Wiley told this exact same lie, just as publically, when he was debating FERPA regulatory changes done illegally by the Dept. of Education this year.) The bypassing of the public and of legislators in pushing Common Core on us all, is something the proponents of Common Core are willing to lie about. Or do they really not understand? Have they really not seen the documentation of lost autonomy?
3. The statement: “Common Core is federal strings-free” is not true. The Department of Education is micromanaging the common tests, the testing consortia, and forcing consortia to synchronize their efforts and give the Dept of Education access to data collected thereby. Evidence: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf Even if we get out of the SBAC, which we might, tomorrow, if the school board votes that way, we are still federally controlled by Common Core. Look at this definitions page from the Dept. of Education’s website: http://www.ed.gov/race-top/district-competition/definitions . It says: ”A State’s college- and career-ready standards must be either (1) standards that are common to a significant number of States; or (2) standards that are approved by a State network of institutions of higher education, which must certify that students who meet the standards will not need remedial course work at the postsecondary level.” So you either have to do common core, or write your own university approved standards. But the deadline is ending Sept. 6th, so perhaps after that, the only option will be common core. Wish I livd in Virginia or Texas right now. They are the only states with educational freedom. And Utah not only doesn’t have educational freedom anymore, but we collectively don’t even seem to realize it’s gone.
And the Dept. of Education has mandated in the waiver, in the original RTTT application which our Governor and board signed, and in the assessments RTTT that Washington state, our contracted fiscal agent, signed us up for and which we are responsible to obey as long as we are in the SBAC, that we can’t take anything away–nothing– and we can not add anything beyond 15% to the national standards. How can anyone call this federally string free? How? It is an absolute falsehood.
With that introduction, here are the emails:
Dear Governor & Board,
It is my understanding that there is a way for Utah to get out of Common Core so that we are free of any strings attached. The ESEA flexibility request window shuts down Sept. 6, 2012. Does this mean we have to resubmit our waiver request before then, or lose the option of doing loophole option 2 forever?
Is the Board considering this? Now would be the time to decide. Please discuss this at this Friday’s meeting. Please respond to me with more information.
Tami Pyfer [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, August 01, 2012 3:26 PM
Personally, I have no intention of unadopting the new math and ELA common core standards. We are already “string free” and it’s unfortunate that some groups feel otherwise.
If we really are string free, would you kindly show proof of that? I have done a great deal of research on my own, outside of those you refer to and from what I can see, we are not string free. The math standards are horrible! I am going to have to pay hundreds of dollars this year alone for my 6th grader so that she will be ready for Algebra. Utah’s math standards were already better and were more understandable than what we have just adopted.
While I have this audience, I also want the Board (and everyone else on the list) to know that as a parent I want cursive writing to stay in our state curriculum.
Please provide all of us evidence to back up your understanding.
From: Tami Pyfer [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Wednesday, August 01, 2012 5:53 PM
I appreciate your passion, but the “evidence” has been presented in a variety of public forums numerous times. Your disagreement with the facts does not change them. I will continue to respond to my constituents who are truly looking for answers to their questions regarding our core standards.
Well thank you Tami. You have not answered my question, and if there is proof I honestly would like to see it. You incorrectly assume that I do not want true answers. If there is this information and it has been provided many times, please tell me where I can find it.
It is answers like yours that are frustrating for constituents. I will continue to ask for answers. I never said we have to agree, I am searching for answers and because you are a board member and you have been entrusted with the mantle to ensure high quality curriculum standards and instruction, and because you are supposed to represent your constituents, I expect you to live up to that.
Thank you! I appreciate you going to the effort to find the answer to my question. I have a follow-up question.
The Associate Superintendent over data collection said that USOE does not release student level data; could you tell me how long that policy will remain in place and where I can find it in written form? Thank you.
I am concerned with this question because Joanne Weiss, the U.S. Education Department’s chief of staff, said that information from multiple federal data systems is being “mashed together” on the federal level and will be further mashed with state data. The U.S. Department of Education’s research agency is releasing information to “help” move states toward “developing partnerships” to use the student information gathered from state longitudinal data systems. (Source: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/inside-school-research/2012/07/ed_urges_states_to_make_data_s.html?cmp=SOC-SHR-FB
It says, “Statewide longitudinal data systems (SLDS’s) are a single solution to manage, disaggregate, analyze, and leverage education information within a state. In recent years, the scope of these systems has broadened from the K-12 spectrum to now encompass pre-kindergarten through higher education and workforce training (P-20W) ” and that regional and federal groups are linked clients of Choice Solutions, Utah’s data networking partner.
Added to these facts is the fact that recent changes were made by the Department of Education to FERPA (privacy laws/regulations) that remove the necessity for researchers to gather parental or student consent prior to accessing personally identifiable information (PII).
So the only thing standing between our students’ PII and interstate, intrastate and federal persual (including entrepreneurs and both governmental and nongovernmental researchers) is local policy.
That is why I’d like to see what that policy is, and when it’s due to expire.
Thank you very much. I appreciate your time.
On Fri, Jul 27, 2012 at 9:27 AM, Austin, Lorraine <Lorrain.Austin@schools.utah.gov
I have consulted with the Associate Superintendent in the office over data collection, and have received the following answer to your question:
All students who attend public schools have their data submitted to USOE for multiple purposes including accountability and monitoring aggregate student progress. USOE does not release student level data. Current data systems do not allow for individual student data to be withheld from the data submission process. Current state and federal accountability requires that a minimum of 95% of students participate in all assessment programs.
Lorraine Austin, Secretary to the Board
Utah State Board of Education
PO Box 144200
Salt Lake City, UT 84114-4200
From: Christel Sent: Thursday, July 26, 2012 1:07 PM To: Board of Education; Shumway, Larry; Park, Judy; Hales, Brenda Subject: Second Request for a Yes or No
Last week, I asked a simple yes or no question. I received one response, and that board member did not say yes or not, but said he’d forward my question to Judy Park’s secretary. I still have no answer.
The question is simple: Is it possible for a student in Utah to attend public school and not be tracked by the P-20 and SLDS tracking systems?
July 15, 2012
Utah State School Board Members,
My name is Janette Hall and I have five children enrolled in the public school system in Utah. I am also the PTA president of Timpanogos Intermediate School. I have spent many years volunteering in schools and working closely with teachers and administrators. I appreciate the work that is conducted by the USOE for my children and their education, but I feel compelled to write this letter after reading a recent posting on your official blog by Brenda Hales regarding Utah’s Core Standards, Assessments and Privacy Regulations on July 10th, 2012.
It seems that the intent of the statement was to assuage the public instead of seeking to be factual. I was surprised at the definitive tone of Brenda Hale’s statement, when a study of the legal documents would lead one to the opposite conclusion.
As the public becomes more educated, our ability to see through statements like these increases at the cost of your board’s credibility. An organization that can admit that other points of view have credence is to be admired, not looked down upon. We are treading into uncharted territory and no one knows the exact outcome of the board’s actions to adopt the Common Core standards and join the SBAC, not even the USOE.
After reading her official blog I was shocked at the many misleading, and in my opinion, incorrect statements, such as the following:
2. The State Board of Education has control over the standards and assessments for Utah.
3. Utah has not lost its autonomy over standards and assessments.
4. The Utah core standards:
May be changed by the State Board at any time.
Were not developed, funded or mandated by the federal government.
Are not federal or national standards.
Were not obligatory because of Utah’s Race to the Top application.
Are not under the control or manipulation of special interest groups.
Are not obligatory because of Utah’s NCLB flexibility request application.
In a letter dated March 7, 2012, Arne Duncan, the Secretary of the United States Department of Education affirmed that “states have the sole right to set learning standards.” In Utah’s flexibility request we informed the Department of Education that we have chosen to use our Utah core standards. If and when the State Board decides to change or revise Utah’s standards they will do so.
The USOE has never, prior to Common Core, signed legal documents that have bound Utah’s ability to control standards and assessments; because of this we need to proceed carefully to fully understand our legal obligations. I have studied the issues related to Common Core and the SBAC for the past few months. I have also personally talked with Norman Jackson, a retired Judge from Utah, who analyzed the legally binding documents signed by Utah. You can see a copy of his analysis at http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/judge-norman-jackson-the-two-schools-of-thought-of-citizens-versus-the-utah-state-office-of-education/. I have also discussed the topic with three attorneys, one of which was my congressman, that have reviewed the legally binding documents related to the SBAC and No child Left Behind waiver. Their mutual consensus is contrary to Brenda Hale’s statements above. The documents clearly state that Utah cannot take anything away from the standards and can only add up to 15% additional material and the additional material will not be assessed. There is no amendment process associated with the standards. They are copyrighted by a private entity. They are not owned by Utah. The following link to Utah’s NCLB waiver application states that our adoption of the Common Core standards satisfies the requirements of waiver. http://www2.ed.gov/policy/eseaflex/ut.pdf (please see page 18 and 84.)
Bill Evers, a research fellow from Hoover Institute and a member of former Governor Romney’s educational advisory committee, recently informed Governor Herbert on July 9, 2012, in my presence, that he had personally discovered a minor error in the language arts standards, dealing with vowels. He contacted the authors, whom he knew, and they acknowledged that he was correct in his discovery, but informed him that the standards had already been printed and adopted in 35 states so they could not be changed; it was too late. If one person could not change an agreed-upon, blatant error in the standards, do you think Utah will have the ability to make changes to the standards? Mr. Evers’ expert opinion was that we will not have that freedom. Is our educational freedom worth giving up for an experimental common core?
I have seen a copy of the letter written by Arne Duncan. I asked Kent Talbert, an attorney focused on K-12 education, for his expert opinion and his initial thoughts were that it might be a political letter and not a legally binding letter. Have you had the letter reviewed by your attorneys to see if it would hold up in court or has any teeth in it to counter your signatures on legally binding documents? The letter is not a carte blanche for Utah to disregard legal obligations. Please seek legal advice before you make statements to the contrary.
Recently Mr. Evers compared Utah’s previous mathematical standards with Common Core’s and stated that the new common core math standards are lower than our previous standards. Do you have an educational analysis of the standards that you can release? What criteria did the validation committee use to judge the standards? After postings like Brenda Hales’ on your blog, I can no longer accept your word at face value. You are in a position of trust and you cannot throw statements around without documentation. It will ultimately hurt your cause and not strengthen it. I urge you to be cautious on the statements that you choose to release to the public. I hope that the blog represents Ms. Hales’ opinion and not the opinions of the entire USOE.
I listened to the Rod Arquette show last week with Joel Coleman and Craig Coleman. I felt like they were sincere in their desire to help educate our children. But again, they provided no references for their beliefs that Common Core would raise, rather than lower standards in Utah. I was also pleased to hear that the USOE will vote on the possibility of exiting the SBAC in August. I would like to lend my support and encouragement for the USOE to withdraw from the SBAC.
I do not usually write letters of this nature but when I read Ms. Hales’ blog I could no longer sit idly by. I feel that it is important that the USOE know how their words are perceived by the public. Obviously, I have a vested interest in the education of my children. There are few things that will move a parent more than the wellbeing of their children.
Thank you for taking the time to read over this. I have attached below a letter that I gave to Governor Herbert on July 9, 2012.