Wow– State v. Local School Boards’ Perceptions of Common Core   4 comments

Before you read the emails below, here are some questions they have raised:

1. If they are so flexible, then why were the Common Core standards adopted –and why are they under copyright?

2. What is the purpose of the State Board of Education –if the responsibility to educate is each district’s?

3.  Why did Utah bother to accept Common Core –and why weren’t districts asked to vote on it?

4. How do you measure “adding to a math standard by 15%” ?

5.  Did you know that a State School Board Member homeschooled her grandchildren because of Common Core math?

Here is a string of emails on the math issues for Wasatch School District and the State School Board, on Common Core:

On 7/6/2012 11:53 AM, Christel S wrote:

Dear Mr. Kelly and Math teachers at WHS:

I realize that Common Core is a movement with many aspects  not having been clear at the time our state adopted them; I  do not hold you personally accountable for its failings, but  I’m writing to encourage you to continue to work around them  and to keep parents alerted about these things.

A new paper by mathematician Ze’ev Wurman says that the  math standards are decent for younger grades, but rob our  high school students.   The only math professor who served on the Common Core  Validation Committee said that he couldn’t sign off on their   adequacy for similar reasons. We need to be aware of the  facts so that we can take control of our children’s math education locally.

Even though I feel angry that my daughter was robbed of  math this year, due to Common Core’s “bubble” that causes  9th and 6th graders to repeat the previous year’s learning   without adding to it– I have forgiven it, because I must.

What I am asking you to do is be communicative   and forthright with me and other parents about   the repetitive “math bubble,” as Mr. Judd has been, and  about other upcoming issues surrounding the testing,  standards, and data collection issues that come with Common Core.  This empowers parents to seek out alternatives,   tutoring or extra enrollments for our kids as needed for   authentic college preparation. I do appreciate your help  with this.

Please do all you can to make your staff aware and to put  fortifications in place for local educational freedom  and student data privacy. (The Electronic Privacy  Information Center’s lawsuit (EPIC) against the federal  Dept. of Education shows an implication of not halting the federal push toward nationalizing tests and standards: the  lawyer at EPIC told me that even old people will have their  data freely perused, if they ever attended a  high     school or university that archives records.)

Because the standards are under  copyright and there has not been any amendment process  outlined for states, we cannot change them.

Both Joel Coleman and Dixie Allen of the State School  Board have assured me that the power lies with us as a    district, not with them, to add as much as we   need to add, to the common standards.  (Their  letters are below.)


On Thu, Jul 5, 2012 at 5:58 PM,  State School Board Member  Dixie Allen  wrote:


I concur with Joel and really can’t add any more  than my support for his answers and my belief that we are in control and will have a quality set of  standards and computer adaptive assessment to help  support student movement through those skills.


On Tue, Jul 3, 2012  State School Board Member Joel J Coleman  wrote:


1.  Parents are responsible to hold   their locally elected officials  accountable for the public education of  their children if they choose public  education. The LEA is the education  “provider,” so to speak.   The state sets  MINIMUM standards for achievement but does  not enforce  for individual students,  there is no mechanism for that. This is  the reason we have a republic with elected   offices in America, so the elected   officials can be held accountable in their    respective duties, and the LEA (district) is where the rubber meets the road with  individual families and students.

2.  RTTT is irrelevant because we have  no legally binding agreement there, our application was denied. And no, we aren’t    bound to RTTT vicariously through our  involvement with SBAC, nor did Utah   receive RTTT funds as you assert.   Even  if we were, our relationship with SBAC is short lived. Although you believe we are  bound to RTTT requirements, my review of  the information (including your arguments)  leads me to believe your claim is  incorrect.

3. Your concern about what can be added   to Common Core standards seems overblown because  Utah is developing its own tests and    will not be bound to a consortium, the  State Board will remain independent in  determining its standards. The Common Core was adopted not by coercion but  because Utah’s duly elected education leaders chose those standards as the  Utah core for math and English.

Like any constituent, you are  welcome to disagree and engage in  rigorous debate on the wisdom of the board’s decisions, so I guess the  standards are always up for debate. But  our control of our standards isn’t, at least for now. I personally believe  there is always a concern that the federal government will use their  financial control to dictate whatever  they want in our “sovereign” state…



On Jul 2, 2012, at 10:45 PM, Christel  wrote:

Dear Joel and Dixie,

I do appreciate you both writing back to me.  Thank you.   Please help me with these three  concepts:

1.  It’s not clear who is in  charge of making sure parents of  6th and 9th graders (and all students) know how to ensure  the students receive a   sufficiently rigorous math program  to prepare them for a good 4-year  university.  Is it the responsibility of the local  district or the state board, or of  the NGA/national common standards writers to inform parents? Also,  what do you base the answer upon?  Common Core governing documents? Utah  laws? (The district doesn’t  necessarily see it the way you seem to, which is why I ask for a reference.)

2.  Why don’t you see the  conditions of RTTT applying to   Utah?  As long the state is bound  to the requirements of the RTTT  grant that the SBAC did receive on  Utah’s behalf,  I believe Race to the Top does apply to us.  We are    currently affiliated with SBAC.  SBAC’s grant paid for Utah’s and       other states’ common test    creation, so we are also still    affiliated with RTTT via our SBAC   membership. Right? (I get this notion from reading the SBAC’s   “Cooperative Agreement” which is  between Washington State, Utah’s   fiscal agent/lead state in SBAC,  and the Dept. of Education, and     that document cites    our consortia’s acceptance of that  RTTT grant money as the authority  for its mandatory language and  enforcement on page one, sentence  one.   Please explain if that is  irrelevant to us.

3.  I am concerned that by the  time my one year old is in Common   Core high school math, schools will be so worried about the common test and competitiveness   with other states, that there will   be no time spent teaching the 15%   –or 95% if that is actually legal  under Common Core.  Right now,   there is some question about  which amount is allowed to be  added to the Common Core for my  current 9th grader.  But later,  will that be unclear?  I got a    letter from the test creator, WestEd, that told me, in effect,  that Utah is wasting time teaching  our kids anything other than precisely what is in the CCSS  national standards because it will  never be tested.  To be competitive, then, Utah teachers will teach to the common   test, which will test only the   CCSS national standards.  If a    district caters to people who want   more, the extra work will never be  reflected in the test that didn’t  incorporate the extra work of  districts or states.  Where’s the  motive to teach it?

Thanks for your input on these  three items.  I do appreciate your  time.



It is true that if we    alter our standards they   will no longer be consistent with the common core, and I don’t dispute  they have set that number   at 15%.  But Utah has no  intention of changing   these standards that were  adopted shortly before I   was elected to the board.   So again, that’s not the  issue when it comes to    students accelerating. There   were other core  standards before the common standards were  adopted and those didn’t     prohibit students moving  ahead, either.

Local districts and  schools are clearly responsible for   accommodating individual  students during the  transition period over  these three or four years.      I don’t understand what  else you think I can “look into,” since your district    is an independent  governmental entity   governed by duly elected   representatives who are   responsible for meeting  the needs of the students enrolled in its schools.   For individual student and    family policy matters the buck stops there, closer    to the people, where it  should, not with the state  board of education. Despite state core standards (including the    common core standards in math and English), LEAs  can always customize  education for a child.

Incidentally, if we do  alter our math and english   standards more than 15% in the future, we just can’t  say they are common core –  but contrary to your assertions, nothing   precludes us from doing  so.  Of course it could  also affect our waiver  status, but that also will be our choice at that  time.  Citing Race To The  Top is irrelevant for our  discussion purposes since  we are not part of that   program, for which I am  grateful.

I will also copy this  email to Dixie because I noticed she responded to you earlier.

Happy Independence Day!


From State School Board Member Dixie Allen:


I understand your frustration.  I home schooled my 8th grade grandson and 9th grade granddaughter this year since our school district had decided to adopt the Common Core for every grade rather than what was proposed by the state.  It was proposed that we only adopt for the 6th and 9th grade and provide alternative programs for those students who already had the skills being taught to all through the Common Core.  I believe strongly that the Common Core Standards will upgrade the level of education for all students, however, if we do not work to address students in regard to their level of instruction (which does not always align with their grade level or age), we will continue to create boredom for those students who already have the skills and frustration for those who don’t have the preliminary skills on which to build the new skills.  Either scenario will force a loss in learning time for students and possibly enough frustration that we loose the student completely.

However, this is not a symptom of The Common Core, but is based on our inability or unwillingness to place students in classrooms according to their ability. We are working at the State Board level now to try and help provide more Competency Based verification of student’s performance, so they can receive credit for classes which they already have the competency and move into a class that better fits their level of ability.

Although I know this is not a new problem and not created by the adoption of the Common Core, it is a problem that we must as schools, districts and the state try to solve, so that we are getting the maximum instruction of all students and attempting in a more productive way to meet their needs.

Regardless, if we continue to work with individual students, I strongly believe the Common Core will raise the standards of instruction in reading, language arts and math for all students.  We just need to work to be sure we are meeting individual student needs.  I strongly suggest you talk with your district to see about what they can do to solve this problem.  You have a great superintendent and high school principal that want to do their very best to provide a quality education for each and every child, so I am sure they will work to help you if they possibly can find the funding and programs for your child.

Needless to say. as a mother, grandmother, teacher, administrator and State School Board member, I clearly believe the education of my children and grandchildren are my ultimate responsibility.  I hope you feel the same.

Best Wishes,


Dear Dixie,

You are right; it is the parent’s responsibility to make sure their students are learning.  However, this is impossible to do as long as our kids are enrolled in public school, without having communication and transparency at the district and state level about what is really being taught or not taught, under Common Core.

How was any parent supposed to know ahead of time that a child was not going to be learning anything new in 9th grade math, before we experienced it?  You said you took your grandkids out and homeschooled them over this.  That was possible because you were on the inside track as a state school board member, and you were aware, as very few Utahns could have been, that Common Core was going to dumb down the 9th and 6th graders.

What would you have done if you were me to have avoided this problem?  How is any parent even now to know? What steps are the state and local school board taking to make sure parents are aware of this problem so they can work around it?

Why is the state blaming the district?  The state signed Utah up for Common Core without asking anyone to vote on whether it was a smart idea or not.  Congress does need to get involved because Arne Duncan is forcing us to choose Common Core or No Child Left Behind, which is illegal for Arne Duncan to do.

Now, parents, districts and the state board need to work together to solve these immediate math problems –without blaming each other— by putting our heads together to make it right and to make sure all parents are aware of these problems so we can make our kids’ education work, right here and right now.

Please help this to happen.


On Fri, Jun 29, 2012 at 9:02 AM, Christel S <> wrote:

Dear Board,

This is the second time I am writing to you about Common Core math and my daughter’s having learned nothing this year.  I hope this time some brave soul will respond.

My daughter was introduced to Common Core math at Wasatch High School this year.  She learned nothing in this 9th grade year because Common Core introduces Algebra I to ninth graders, but the old Utah math introduced Algebra I to 8th graders.  It was a robbery of my daughter’s mathematics education, a robbery of me as a taxpayer, a robbery of all Utah parents and children –especially, now, the 6th and 9th graders.

Some of you have tried to blame this on the Wasatch District or its math teachers.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Our district works hard to get around the serious defects of Common Core, by continuing to offer college-concurrent enrollment math classes which will partially make up for Common Core’s dumbing down of our kids.  A district leader told me this week that the “bubble” of repetition for 9th and 6th graders is an unavoidable consequence of implementing Common Core math. Why can’t this board be as transparent as he?

Many of us heard or read your promises– that Common Core would “increase rigor” and “increase global competitiveness” and “college readiness.”  What a bitter joke Common Core is to me now, and how little respect I feel for the “fact v. fiction” flier that is still on your website, which is a torrent of lies.  That flier includes the claims that Common Core has “no federal strings attached” and “most thoughtful people line up on the side of Common Core.” Worse, the flier lacks any references.  You may recall that I wrote a rebuttal to that flier, with references.  I asked you to respond to that, also, but nobody did.

Common Core’s Titanic educational, financial, and privacy calamity will become increasingly apparent to greater numbers of Utahns as the months and years tick past.

I urge you to stop this train.  Get us out of Common Core.  At the very least, be honest, forthright and transparent on your website and with parents and districts statewide, about the repetition of math for 9th and 6th graders, as my school district has been with me.

Christel Swasey

Heber, Utah

From Wasatch School Board President:


I am sorry to hear your student learned nothing. I have never had that experience in this district with my own children. I would urge you to meet with you students teachers and administrators when feeling this way. I have always had teachers who were willing to extend and enrich my students who excel beyond the current curriculum or to assist them when struggling. I find they do much better at meeting the needs of my student when I meet with them through out the year and address my concerns as they come to my attention and I bring them to their attention. You are ultimately your student’s best advocate. We encourage involvement of parents with teachers to address individual needs of students. I hope you see with the math program we are testing into the accelerated classes and are willing to re-evaluate students when parents and teachers find someone is not being challenged.

Ann Horner

Wasatch School District Board President

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