Archive for April 2013
The Utah State Office of Education sent out this email to state curriculum directors yesterday, labeling calls by teachers, senators and parents who ask for honest debate on the many constitutional, academic and privacy-related issues of the Common Core agenda, “vicious” attacks. The recipients of the email have been removed to protect privacy. The links have been added to clarify the email.
Sent: Monday, April 29, 2013 3:55 PM
Subject: [Curriculum Directors] Your action is needed
As you are probably aware the Utah Core based on the Common Core is under vicious attack. Opponents of the core cite reasons against the core ranging from fears about data collection to federal government intrusion. They have specifically begun attacking the mathematics core, in some cases because it “holds students back” and in others because “students who were formerly receiving good grades are now struggling”. These complaints have caught the attention of the legislature and some members of the Utah Board of Education.
At the same time, everywhere I go I am hearing stories of student successes that far exceed previous expectations. I am visiting with teachers who tell me about engaged students who are doing real mathematics, not just copying problems out of textbooks. And teachers are empowered by creating units of study for students that go beyond anything their textbooks ever provided. Wonderful things are happening in Utah!
The time is now to contact policymakers and reassure them that the adoption of the Core was the right thing to do and give them specific evidence of how the integrated model is supporting student learning of mathematics. It’s ok to recognize challenges, but it is critical that policymakers understand that the Core has already had a positive impact on student learning and is likely to result in changes that really will close achievement gaps in the future. I cannot stress enough how important it is that policymakers hear directly from teachers regarding what is happening in their classrooms. The teachers do not need to advocate for the core, just give evidence of the results.
Please invite teachers to send their stories to their own legislators and State Board of Education members. Also, letters to Aaron Osmond email@example.com and Todd Weiler firstname.lastname@example.org may have extra pull because of their roles in the Utah Senate. Copies sent to USOE, either to me or to Brenda Hales Brenda.email@example.com are also appreciated. The legislators and other policymakers need real information. If we do not voice our thoughts now, we may not have another chance.
Diana Suddreth, STEM Coordinator
Teaching and Learning
Utah State Office of Education
250 E. 500 South
PO Box 144200
Salt Lake City, UT 84114-4200
So, the USOE is inviting teachers to speak out. I thought that was what I was doing.
“Please invite teachers to send their stories to their own legislators and State Board of Education members.”
Now, I invite teachers to truly do this. Send your stories anonymously if you fear career repercussions for telling the State you don’t like to be micromanaged. Tell them the truth: that whatever’s okay about Common Core, we are free to do without the federal mandates. Whatever’s bad, we should be able to amend. The Constitutional right to self-direct education by states has been violated. SPEAK UP NOW or lose your chance, maybe forever.
Send letters and stories to legislators, the school board (at firstname.lastname@example.org ), newspapers, and send a copy here, in the comment area. I will repost as a guest post.
Also, remember to take the optionally anonymous teacher survey at Utahns Against Common Core.
Neal McClusky of Cato Institute has written an Op-Ed for the IndyStar. Read the whole thing here:
“Indiana has just shot into the spotlight of the education world, with the legislature voting over the weekend to hit the pause button on the Common Core national curriculum standards. But this action is just the loudest strike in a growing backlash against the Core, a revolt set off by the arrival of the federally backed standards in schools across the country. And people are right to be wary, especially since Core supporters have too often ridiculed dissenters instead of engaging in honest debate.
While 45 states have adopted the Common Core, don’t mistake that for enthusiastic, nationwide support. States were essentially coerced into adopting by the President’s Race to the Top program, which tied federal dough to signing on. Even if policymakers in recession-hobbled states would have preferred open debate, there was no time. Blink, and the money would be gone. Which isn’t to say there wasn’t opposition — there certainly was among policy wonks — but most people hadn’t heard of the standards at adoption time, and their effects wouldn’t be felt for several years.
…Indiana is arguably the highest-profile rebel, with its new legislation set to halt implementation of the core so Hoosiers can, at the very least, learn about what they’re getting into. Nationally, the Republican National Committee has officially condemned the standards, while several states are in the process of potentially withdrawing from the core. Finally, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has requested that a Senate subcommittee handling education end federal meddling in standards and assessment.
…Rather than address worries and evidence that the Common Core is empirically ungrounded, moves the country closer to a federal education monopoly and treats unique children like identical cogs, supporters have often smeared opponents and dodged constructive debate.
… Michael Petrilli, executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, complained that the move “will bestow a degree of legitimacy upon the anti-standards coalition.” –As if the people who have been decrying the absence of research support for national standards, potential flaws in its content, or other logic and evidence-based concerns have all somehow been illegitimate.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — a leading Common Core spokesperson — elected to dismiss the RNC as ignorant for resisting the Core. “I don’t really care if the RNC, based on no information, is going to oppose this because of some emotional pitch,” he said. This despite the RNC resolution offering several valid reasons for opposing the Core, including the indisputable fact of federal coercion.
To be sure, there are some specious arguments being made against the Common Core, such as the claim that it requires schools to ditch Emerson in favor of reading EPA regulations. Such assertions should be refuted by people on both sides. But those are hardly the only concerns of Core opponents, and many standards supporters are guilty of no lesser deception when they insist, for instance, that the Common Core is “state-led” and “voluntary.”
…As Common Core continues to be implemented, the chorus of opposition is likely to grow, and it is critical that supporters and opponents alike keep sight of their truly common goal: improving American education. Dodging honest discussion is no way to get there.
McCluskey is associate director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom and author of the report http://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/behind-curtain-assessing-case-national-curriculum-standards.
Guest post by Wendy Hart
One of the things that has been irritating and frustrating me is the comprehension that the end game of all of this is a complete lack of choice when it comes to education. It will only take a few years, because we have jumped on this bandwagon so quickly.
I think, if you get a chance, it is important to note that if Utah had adopted standards in isolation, there wouldn’t be the level of concern. (Of course, that was one of the “selling points”… commonality.) What the State Board says about “being able to change them” is technically true. They could drop Common Core standards at any time.
However, in 5 years, due to market forces, there will be nothing left to go to. Who will develop those standards, and what textbooks and professional development resources will we have? Nada!
When your ACT and SAT match Common Core, when all your textbooks and teaching materials are Common Core aligned, where is the market for anything “outside the box”? It was a brilliant move: 45 states signing on all at the same time. It will make the work of the other 5 irrelevant.
We MUST opt out and get a large group of the other states to opt out PRIOR to the SAT/ACT realignment. Once that’s done, it will be almost impossible to go back. Who or what, at that point, will have the power and desire to change it?
In the end, if I DON’T want my kids “aligned” with Common Core, what are my options? For the short term, I can do private school. But within 4 years, my prediction, just when my oldest is ready for college, the SAT/ACT tests will align, and if I haven’t been “on board”, he will be at a disadvantage. It just makes me ill.
Thank you, Wendy Hart, for this insightful, important statement.
This letter (posted at Utahns Against Common Core) is written by a BYU professor to help Utah legislators know the facts about Common Core math. Other important letters on this subject from other math experts to the State Office oF Education are posted here.
Dear Senators Osmond and Weiler,
I see that Diana Suddreth sent a “Your Action is Needed” email to defend the Utah Math Common Core. She is encouraging letters of support for the Utah Common Core and is concerned that the Common Core is under a “vicious attack.” She is inviting her supporters to send letters to both of you.
As a mathematics professor and someone who is very aware of the details of the Common Core, I would like to comment on what I feel is the awful way the Common Core Math Standards have been implemented by the USOE.
1. The Core was implemented before there were textbooks. In fact, some of those who favor the Utah Core do not even feel that textbooks are important. When I hear Suddreth say, ”And teachers are empowered by creating units of study for students that go beyond anything their textbooks ever provided” I know something is seriously wrong.
2. The Core was implemented before there were assessments in place.
3. The standards do not dictate any particular teaching method, but rather set goals for student understanding. However, the USOE has used the implementation of the new Core to push a particular teaching method; i.e., the “Investigations” type teaching that was so controversial in Alpine School District.
4. Evidence of the type of teaching promoted by USOE comes from the textbook used for the secondary academy, 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions (Margaret S. Smith and Mary Kay Stein) as one of the primary resources. The book is about the kind of group learning envisioned by Investigations and Connected Math (the sequel to Investigations).
5. The Mathematics Vision Project was created in partnership with the USOE. It has developed integrated secondary math material for the Utah Core. They openly admit that their “teaching cycle” is similar to the model of the Connected Mathematics Project. Here is a statement about their teaching method:
As students’ ideas emerge, take form, and are shared, the teacher orchestrates the student discussions and explorations towards a focused mathematical goal. As conjectures are made and explored, they evolve into mathematical concepts that the community of learners begins to embrace as effective strategies for analyzing and solving problems. These strategies eventually solidify into a body of practices that belong to the students because they were developed by the students as an outcome of their own creative and logical thinking. This is how students learn mathematics. They learn by doing mathematics. They learn by needing mathematics. They learn by verbalizing the way they see the mathematical ideas connect and by listening to how their peers perceived the problem. Students then own the mathematics because it is a collective body of knowledge that they have developed over time through guided exploration. This process describes the Learning Cycle and it informs how teaching should be conducted within the classroom.
6. The USOE does hold students back. This is not the intent of the Common Core, but it is Utah’s implementation. I regularly judge the state Sterling Scholar competition. Almost all of the bright kids take AP calculus as a junior or even earlier because they were taking Algebra 1 by seventh grade. Now it will be difficult to get that far ahead. The National Math Panel made it clear that there was no problem with skipping prepared kids ahead. The Common Core has a way for getting eighth graders into Algebra 1 which the USOE has ignored.
7. The USOE chose the “uncommon” core when they picked secondary integrated math. Hardly anyone else is doing this program. So there are no integrated textbooks except the one that the USOE is developing. I have been told that this is the “Asian” model, but I am very familiar with the textbooks in Hong Kong and Singapore. The Mathematics Vision Project Material does not look like Asian material, it looks like Investigations/Connected Math.
8. There is substantial information that Diana Suddreth, Syd Dickson, Brenda Hales, and Michael Rigby of the USOE participated in unethical behavior in the awarding of the Math Materials Improvement Grant. The USOE chose reviewers (including Suddreth and Dickson) who were conflicted. Suddreth helped the University of Utah choose a principal investigator who was her own co-principal investigator on a $125 K grant . According to the USOE internal email messages, the required sample lesson of the winning proposal contained “plagiarized material.” The sample lesson had “no text” instead it contained 79 pages of “sample materials” (some of which was plagiarized) for a teacher study guide including problems for discussion and homework. The adaptive performance assessment program for the winning proposal was non-existent. The principal investigators redefined “adaptive assessment” to be something that was never intended.
David G. Wright
I am a Professor of Math at BYU, but this letter is written as an educator, parent, and concerned citizen and does not represent an official opinion from BYU.
Brigham Young University has a policy of academic freedom that supports the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge and ideas. The university does not endorse assertions made by individual faculty.
— — — — —
Thank you, Dr. Wright, for your courage in speaking out.
The USOE’s Diana Suddreth has called the movement to stop common core a “vicious attack.” The State School Board’s Dixie Allen has said that we (teachers and parents against common core) are “creating turmoil in our state.”
In our defense: 1) we do not wish to disparage personally the USOE or the USSB or Governor Herbert’s staff, despite their endless claims, in the face of truckloads of evidence to the contrary, that Common Core is a benefit to Utahns. We do have much against the fact that as a state, we’ve sold out our kids to common core– to its slashing of local control, slashing teacher autonomy, slashing the right to amend our own education standards, deleting legitimate and proven academic standards, and ending student privacy.
I would appreciate not being called names, such as special interests, turmoil-makers or vicious attackers –since we have made no personal attacks, and are not making but are losing our personal money in this fight for true principles, our rightful duty to defend; and since we’re the ones trying to clean up the turmoil our leaders created by signing away local rights, privacy and standards, without letting us know it.
Personal pride, personal investment in the common core agenda, personal career investment related to the common core agenda, and social loyalties are not more important than LEGITIMATE education standards, student PRIVACY rights, PARENTAL consent requirements for state systems in testing students and in collecting student data, and most of all, they are not more important than constitutional, LOCAL control.
Common Core must be stopped.
Senator Mike Lee of Utah joined other senators — Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) in signing Iowa Senator Grassely’s letter that points out that the Dept. of Education must be restrained from funding and promoting nationalized standards and must not be allowed to continue the illegal implementation of Common Core with federal tax monies.
The letter said: “”While the Common Core State Standards Initiative was initially billed as a voluntary effort between states, federal incentives have clouded the picture. Current federal law makes clear that the U.S. Department of Education may not be involved in setting specific content standards or determining the content of state assessments. Nevertheless, the selection criteria designed by the U.S. Department of Education for the Race to the Top Program provided that for a state to have any chance to compete for funding, it must commit to adopting a ‘common set of K-12 standards’ matching the description of the Common Core. The U.S. Department of Education also made adoption of ‘college- and career-ready standards’ meeting the description of the Common Core a condition to receive a state waiver under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Race to the Top funds were also used to fund two consortiums to develop assessments aligned to the Common Core and the Department is now in the process of evaluating these assessments.”
Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/eight-senators-join-fight-against-common-core-94876/#DUmSios6cdzc1Orf.99 and http://caffeinatedthoughts.com/2013/04/eight-senators-join-chuck-grassley-fight-to-defund-common-core/
Utah’s D.C. Senator, Mike Lee, also wrote yesterday at his official website:
“The first principle of education, and therefore of education policymaking, is that parents are the primary educators of their children. And because responsibility for children’s education lies primarily with parents, to the greatest extent possible so should decision-making authority over Pre-K to secondary education. The further such decisions are removed from the parents and guardians of children, the further they are removed from those who will promote the best interests of students. Therefore federal influence over pre-K, elementary, and secondary education should be limited. Neither members of Congress nor Department of Education bureaucrats can be expected to promote the interests of individual students – with unique talents, interests, and learning styles – more than those students’ own parents, teachers or principals.
While the Common Core Standard Initiative was initially promoted as an effort to move in this direction, it has become polluted with Federal guidelines and mandates that interfere with the ability of parents, teachers and principals to deliver the education our children deserve.” Read More Here
Thank you, Senators Lee, Grassley, Coburn, Cruz, Fischer, Inhofe, Paul, Roberts, and Sessions.
As a teacher, as a parent, and as a believer in the wisdom of the U.S. Constitution, I can not thank you enough.
The links to all three parts of Barry Garelick’s article on “Standards For Mathematical Practice” are available here:
A favorite highlight of the series includes the explanation of why students should be taught how to solve problems, and not just how to find internet resources to solve problems or invent their way to solutions.
Guest post by a parent who requested that his/her report would be anonymously published
I attended the meeting held by Uintah School District last week.
The meeting appeared to be a training on the new assessments for Common Core that will cost $30 million. The guy turned his back on the room and spoke quietly when he said ‘$30 mil’, so I’m not sure I heard him correctly. He was more than happy to face the room and speak loudly about how great these assessments will be and how very much we need them–in his opinion. (Note-his job is dependent on him holding to that opinion.)
A little more than halfway through the meeting, he finally allowed questions. He would NOT allow questions before that. When question time came, it was very clear that the majority of the people in the room were unhappy parents, not educators there for his training. With a great deal of pressure from parents, it was decided that some common core questions would be answered by Dixie Allen of the state school board.
All individuals interested in common core questions being answered were invited to get up and move to a smaller room to talk with Dixie. By the time everyone had gathered in the smaller room, common core was on a screen at the front of the room and Dixie was prepared to give a presentation. Parents tried to ask questions and Dixie tried to give a presentation.
When it became clear that Dixie’s intent was to deliver a Common Core ‘sale’, one parent specifically requested that questions be answered first and the presentation be given second because people were obviously wanting their questions answered now. Dixie said no, but eventually had to give in because the questions wouldn’t quit coming. We didn’t have to watch or listen to a big presentation from Dixie, but we did have to listen to her state several times that common core standards are higher (to which one parent consistently replied ‘no, they’re not’ every time). She also told the parent in the room who knew the most about Common Core that she (Dixie) didn’t want that mom asking anymore questions because the mom gave comments, informing other parents of the details so Dixie could not shut them down completely. Obviously, Dixie is frightened of the truth getting out.
Dixie also denied being the homeschool teacher for 2 of her grandchildren in her home. (I think the count was 2.) She later backtracked on that one and admitted that she teaches one grandchild who is in 9th grade right now and homeschooled because of bullying. (A difficult to fully believe claim because the junior high principal here is quite strict and everyone else says this principal put an end to bullying in that school when she was first put in as principal, long enough ago that bullying in that school would have ended by the time Dixie’s grandchild would have entered the jr. high.)
Dixie also repeatedly stated that Utah must do Common Core because otherwise we cannot buy curriculum to match our core because we don’t spend enough money on education and therefore the curricula vendors don’t cater to us. No one in the room agreed with her on needing more money, but she made this claim repeatedly. Then when the question “How much will these new curricula materials to match common core cost us?” was asked, the answer was “Nothing, we’re making our own.”
None of the parents in the room said anything, but note that the argument that we need to do common core so we can buy materials to match our core falls when you consider that we’re not buying the materials!
In short, no one in the meeting was convinced that common core was a good idea. Parents talked afterwards, exchanging their contact info and more information on common core. One parent had watched a program on the miserable failure of common core in Michigan and was there with her notes in hand, asking questions and providing details of how bad things are in Michigan. Dixie tried very hard, but unsuccessfully, to refute the points this good mom made throughout the meeting. Another mom mentioned that history has proven how very dangerous a national curriculum can be, but many people in the room are unaware of that and just thought she’s a little paranoid.
I left the meeting thinking that Dixie is either completely ignorant of the facts surrounding common core or she is an outright liar. I spoke with some people who know her personally the next day and they told me that she just truly believes in big government, so she wouldn’t even be able to see the facts. It was interesting to watch her at the meeting. Dixie is an elected representative of the people, but you couldn’t tell. Elected representatives should listen to the people, treat them respectfully, and do as the people want. Dixie did none of that. As an elected representative of the people, she ARGUED with them and spoke condescendingly when they didn’t understand education lingo. It was very sad.
Dixie did state that Utah might not adopt the science part of common core because of pressure from the ‘right wing’ in the state. She also said that Utah might try to vary from common core by more than the 15% allowed, but there will be no attempt to get out of common core.
Sadly, the powers that be cannot admit they’ve made a mistake and are completely disrespectful to the people who gave them power and pay the taxes that support them and their decisions.
– Anonymous attendee at UT State Office of Education Common Core presentation to Uintah School District