Dear Senator Lee,
I’m writing to give evidence from the Race to the Top application, (under which Utah agreed to adopt Common Core standards) and evidence from the No Child Left Behind waiver that Utah just received from the Dept. of Education, to show states are being essentially forced to choose either NCLB or Common Core as the new federal education program. This was the subject Renee Braddy and I spoke to you about when you were in Heber recently.
I want to give some context first:
On Nationalized Math:
My 9th grader learned nothing this year in math (and Common Core was implemented at her school this year) so I did a little research and found out that Algebra I was taught to her twice; first in 8th grade in the “old style” math, and again this year it was retaught, repeated, in 9th grade “Common Core” math. My district knows it was a wasted math school year; I have spoken with the district face to face and was told that this repetition was due to “a Common Core Math Bubble” that causes 6th and 9th graders to learn very little, as they repeat the math from the previous year under Common Core nationalized math.
I appreciated my district’s honesty with me. But when I asked the state school board about this, they unfairly blamed the district for this problem. The State School Board does not want to admit that Common Core is dumbing many of our kids down and restricting their college readiness; they still claim “rigor” and “college readiness” are the reasons Utah adopted Common Core. But we agreed to adopt Common Core in 2009, before the standards had even been written in 2010, for a hoop-jumping event to improve our changes of winning a grant which we never got, in the Race To The Top application. Utah did not even know what these standards were before we married ourselves to them. We sold our educational birthright without even getting the mess of pottage, as S.C. Senator Mike Fair puts it.
This Common Core dumbing down math phenomenon was explained by Dr. James Milgram, who served on the Common Core validation committee, reviewed the math standards and refused to sign off on them. (See pg. 4, 14 and 26 in http://pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120510_ControllingEducation.pdf) I want you to be aware of these facts.
On Nationalized English:
Not surprisingly, another Common Core validation committee member refused to sign off on the adequacy of the English Language Arts standards. Dr. Sandra Stotsky said the standards “weaken the basis of literary and cultural knowledge needed for authentic college coursework,” because they de-emphasize the study of classic literature in deference to informational texts, “In fact, the Standards dictate that well over half the reading curriculum, at least in grades 6 through 12, should consist of informational texts rather than classic literature.. it is likely to diminish the communications skills students need” (page 12: http://pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120510_ControllingEducation.pdf )
If this dumbing down that Common Core most surely will turn out to be, were no more than a state-led error, easily amended by our Governor and State School Board, I would not be writing to my Senator. But the fact is, Utah needs genuine congressional relief from Common Core. We can’t do it without Congress. Why?
The ESEA Flexibility releases “waiver winning” states from No Child Left Behind law, only on conditions of implementing Common Core. On page 8 of the ESEA Flexibility document (updated June 7, 2012) found at http://www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility, we read: “A State’s college- and career-ready standards mustbe either (1) standards that are common to a significant number of States; or (2) standardsthat are approved by a State network ofinstitutions of higher education”.
Thus, since Utah chose option one, we are stuck in Common Core by choosing to accept the NCLB waiver. On page 9 of the same document, we read:
“ ‘Standardsthat are common to a significant number of States’ means standards that aresubstantially identical across all States in a consortium that includes asignificant number of States. A State may supplement such standards withadditional standards, provided that the additional standards do not exceed 15percent of the State’s total standards for a content area. ”
Thus, we not only have to stick with the Common Core State Standards by having accepted NCLB; we also are restricted from adding to the standards. We can no longer soar since we can add no more than 15% to the standards (and can subtract nothing.) The Governor does not seem to comprehend this fact yet. He and others have said that we are still free, that Common Core is just a minimum set of standards which we can soar beyond.
This restriction is a fact, but is not common knowledge. Even by a member of the State School Board, I was told that my district should add whatever was necessary to make sure the kids weren’t suffering in the “repetition bubble” of 6th and 9th grade math. But if my district were to add a whole year’s worth of curriculum and standards, that would go far beyond the allowable 15%. So my district can’t actually do that.
Almost worse is this –if it is possible to think of anything worse than having given away our educational sovereignty– is the way that the Dept. of Education has been gnawing away at what is considered sacred FERPA law, to accomodate Common Core’s testing and data-gathering goals. http://www.jdsupra.com/post/documentViewer.aspx?fid=5aa4af34-8e67-4f42-8e6b-fe801c512c7a
This January, without Congressional approval, FERPA regulations were changed by the Arne Duncan gang to loosen privacy law and override parental consent policies, to give easier access to children’s data, to governmental (and nongovernmental) agencies. http://epic.org/apa/ferpa/default.html
A law suit is going on right now; EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) has sued the Department of Education. I spoke with the lawyer at EPIC, Khalia Barnes. She told me that it’s not widely known that the new regulations (if not overturned by the lawsuit) will not only affect children and college students, but also anyone who ever went to a semester of college at any institution that keeps records (of colleges and schools that receive federal funding). So, old people will also have their data open to perusal by many governmental and nongovernmental agencies, without their knowledge or consent. The federal FERPA regulations redefined words like “educational program” and “authorized representative” that stretches them past the breaking point to include almost everyone and anyone having access to private data without parental or student consent. The types of information that the Department will collect includes so much more than academic information: it includes biometric information (DNA, fingerprints, iris patterns) and parental income, nicknames, medical information, extracurricular information, and much more. (See page 4 http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/pdf/ferparegs.pdf and see http://nces.sifinfo.org/datamodel/eiebrowser/techview.aspx?instance=studentPostsecondary )
Why did the Dept. of Education alter FERPA laws? It has an obvious control agenda and an information-gathering scheme designed under the guise of education reform.
In the Cooperative Agreement between the U.S. Dept. of Education and the SBAC (Utah’s consortium) we clearly see this information-gathering and educational nationalization-scheme of the Dept. of Education. This Cooperative Agreement, of course, breaks G.E.P.A. law and the 9th and 10th Amendments to the Constitution. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/20/1232a
The Cooperative Agreement calls for meetings, telephone conferences with ED staff, dissemination of products and lessons learned, sharing information, periodic expert reviews, collaboration with the other RTTA recipient [PARCC Consortium], frequent communication, synchronized development of assessment systems, and giving the U.S. Dept. of Ed access to data “on an ongoing basis.” http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf
Also, this “voluntary” and “state-led” program shows strangely mandatory language like “compliance reviews” and “enforcement” in its agreement. By demanding synchronization of tests “across consortia” and by demanding access to the tests and the data collected thereby, the U.S. Dept. of Education has triangulated itself into the supposedly “state-led” Common Core movement, and has designed a U.S. nationalized education system that bypasses voters and legislators and takes the reins of education.
Senator Lee, please, put Arne Duncan in his place and help us reclaim Utah’s educational sovereignty and privacy rights.