Utah School Board Member Asks To Be Taken Off Teacher’s Mailing List   Leave a comment

Dear Tami Pyfer,  

I know you are busy and probably inundated with mail, but unfortunately, I cannot take you off the list of school board members with whom I am communicating as long as you are a valid member of this board.


The Utah Constitution, Article X, Section 3 vests “general control and supervision of public education in the Board, Section 52-4-1 and directs that the actions of the Board be taken openly and that its deliberations be conducted openly and by Section 53A-1-401(3) which allows the Board to adopt rules in accordance with its responsibilities.

B. The purpose of this rule is to describe procedures to be followed by the Board in its conduct of the public’s business in order to hear from those who desire to be heard on public education matters in the state…”

Additionally,  “63G-3-201(4). B. Public Petition

(1) Any person may petition the Board to make, amend, or repeal a rule. The petition shall contain the name and address of the person submitting the rule, a written copy of the proposal, a statement concerning the Board’s legal authority to act, and the reasons for the proposal. The petition is submitted to the Superintendent.

(2) The Superintendent reviews petitions prior to consideration by the Board. Within 30 days after receiving a petition, the Superintendent does one of the following:

(a) Notifies the petitioner that the petition has been denied and gives reasons for the denial; or

(b) Notifies the petitioner that the petition has been accepted.”

I have petitioned this board and am still patiently waiting for the board to:

a) respond to my petition for evidence that the Common Core flier is in fact true, and

b) repeal Common Core in the state of Utah, on the grounds that it is educationally mediocre at best, and on the grounds that it has robbed this state of  freedom of education.

Thus, I cannot honor your request to not hear from me anymore.  I apologize for any inconvenience this may be causing you.


Christel Swasey

Utah Teacher


 On Wed, May 23, 2012 at 10:06 AM, Tami Pyfer wrote:


Please remove my name from your email list. I’ve forwarded your recent email to our Board Chair, Debra Roberts, and asked that either she or our board secretary be the point of contact in this ongoing debate. Any new or relevant information that you send in future emails will be forwarded to me, as needed, by our board chair.

Thank you.

Tami Pyfer, District 1



From: Christel

Subject: Second Request for References


Dear School Board and Superintendent,

Some of you know me.  I’m a Utah parent, teacher and adjunct professor.  For many years, I’ve taught high school English, elementary school, and college at Utah Valley University, in the English and Basic Composition departments.


I’m writing to make a second request that this board provide the public with links to references, to back up the claims about Common Core State Standards, including the claims that they are truly rigorous, that they have been internationally benchmarked, that they promote authentic college readiness and raise our educational standards; also, that there are no federal strings attached, and that we, the people, are able to amend or discard the CCSS standards upon which our children will be tested.

I have learned that there is no escape clause nor amendment clause on these standards; I previously believed that the standards were in the public domain. I since learned that they are copyrighted by the trade group called NGA, and the CCSSO. That makes them even less free or amendable by Utahns. Such issues –of liberty lost and of low educational promise, trouble my soul.

The fact that the standards were never piloted and are not –despite claims– “internationally benchmarked,” troubles me. The fact that the public, teachers and legislators were so left out of this huge, transformative (for good or ill) decision, troubles me.

I have scoured the CCSS standards, legally binding agreements, letters from Arne Duncan, grant applications, the U.S.O.E. website and other district websites. I’ve attended local and state school board meetings and the statewide forum. I have read news articles and white pages by reporters and think tanks on both sides of this debate. I have communicated with WestEd, the company writing the nationalized assessments. I have talked with students, parents, legislators and teachers –all concerned about different aspects of the Common Core. I have read the legal analysis of retired Utah Judge Norman Jackson, about Common Core’s destructive effect on Utah’s educational sovereignty.

Based on all of this research, I testify that the Governor, Superintendent and State School Board should halt further implementation of the Common Core to protect the quality and autonomy of our educational system.

I have seen the failure of the math standards in my own ninth grade daughter’s experience.  This is the year that Common Core was implemented at Wasatch High. This is the year she would, according to the promises of Common Core, have gotten a better education than ever before. But the old standards introduced Algebra I to eighth graders, and the Common Core doesn’t introduce Algebra I until ninth grade, so she learned nothing new this school year. What a terrible fact.

Senator Mike Fair of South Carolina wrote: “We have sold our educational birthright without even getting the mess of pottage.”  I concur.

How did this happen?  I cannot address all the issues, but I feel qualified to speak about Common Core’s marginalization of classic literature, because literature is something I have spent much of my life learning and teaching.

I hold two degrees, one focusing on literature and one focusing on info-texts:  I hold a BYU BA degree in English, and a BYU MA degree Communications.  I wrote a 382-page thesis on Ethnographic Literary Journalism, which is the study of informational text.  I was invited, and did present this research, at the International Association of Literary Journalism Studies at the Medill School of Journalism in Illinois in 2009.

I understand and highly value informational text.  You can see my exhaustive research on that subject in my Master’s thesis “Ethnographic Literary Journalism” athttp://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/ETD/id/1888  ).

— Still, I view the literature-limitation mandate of Common Core as having the same effect on student learning as a book burning would. Nothing can replace precious time spent on classic literature, in terms of what it does to students as human beings. This is a terrible flaw in the English Language Arts standards, one that we now have no power to amend –except by cutting ties with Common Core.

Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Endowed Chair in Teacher Quality at University of Arkansas, served on the national Common Core Standards Validation Committee http://www.uark.edu/ua/der/People/stotsky.html.

Dr. Stotsky refused to sign off on the standards as being authentic college preparation in English.

She wrote a letter to the National Governors’ Association and to the CCSSO which she also sent to Education Commissioners nationwide, explaining why she refused validate the standards as being rigorous or adequate.


Her reasons concern me deeply, (as do Professor James Milgram’s, the math professor who also served on that validation committee, who was another professor unwilling to sign off that the standards were valid or adequate).

Milgram’s, Stotsky’s, and other professors’ concerns that the standards are inadequate, are documented in exhibits A and B and in the introduction to this white paper:     http://pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120510_ControllingEducation.pdf  as well as at the Stanford University College Success site: http://collegepuzzle.stanford.edu/?p=466

In the English Language Arts standards, I see one big red flag above anything else: a mandate to slash literature to 50% or less, to make room for informational text.  Probably nothing bothers me more about this Initiative than the fact that under Common Core, literature is marginalized –in English classes, where literature belongs!

Unrelated to literature, but included in my top ten reasons that I oppose Common Core and its many repercussions, is FERPA de-regulation by federal –and some local agencies.  FERPA changes are connected with Common Core via the “Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Dept of Education and the SBAC” as well as via the Race to the Top Application’s rule that states must “identify and address barriers in state law”.  Even if Utah cut ties to the Common Core Initiative, the technologies and laws are now put in place to destroy parental authority over children’s data and family privacy, both academic and nonacademic.

Few people know what has been happening to parental authority over children and their data.

As you know, in January, without Congressional approval, federal regulations of FERPA (The Family Education Right Privacy Act) were altered to loosen parental consent rules, providing “more flexibility” for outside entities to get student data. See http://www.jdsupra.com/post/documentViewer.aspx?fid=5aa4af34-8e67-4f42-8e6b-fe801c512c7a ).

Last month, our local Wasatch school board coincidentally created similar flexibility for external agencies to get local data, where families had had protections before.

The data-seeking network is growing: our state built a longitudinal database with federal stimulus money; the Utah Educator Network then partnered with the Data Alliance and Choice Solutions to build  “seamless” sharing of data, both statewide and for entities outside Utah.  http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/2/prweb9201404.htm.  Meanwhile, the federal government started asking for previously state-analyzed, aggregated academic data: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf .

The federal government is also setting up the technological and legal ability to get dis-aggregated academic data, plus truckloads of far-from–academic data, about individuals and their families: living arrangements, biometric information, medical information, mental health, family income, bus stop times, nicknames, everything. See http://nces.ed.gov/forum/datamodel/information/aboutThe.aspx

Utah meets all elements of the federal data campaign in its longitudinal database, and Utah permits a P-20W workforce to track children (from preschool to age 20) making data available for any group calling itself a “stakeholder” of children: http://www.dataqualitycampaign.org/files/Who-Benefits-P20-Data.pdf

Family privacy laws should never have been changed to accomodate parentally un-authorized “stakeholders” who want data without having to ask parents.  What steps are the state and local school board taking to make sure locals understand these state and federal issues with great clarity so that they can inform and protect parents and students?

Thank you for taking your time to read and respond to my concerns and to give solid references to back up the important claims about Common Core that were made by the USOE on its website and flier, claims that have now been republished in equally unreferenced form by school district websites, statewide.

Christel Swasey

Heber City


Comments are welcome here.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: