Yesterday I attended the Alpine School District meeting, where U.S.O.E. representative John Jesse, director of assessments, gave a presentation about the new Common Core testing system created by the American Institutes for Research (AIR). I went with Alisa, Renee, my sister and others whose district is Alpine. I wanted to compare the attitudes of parents and teachers in Alpine to Wasatch District, where the same meeting was held last Monday.
Alpine’s meeting was so different.
The room was packed, with extra chairs being brought in and still, standing room only. I have no idea if the majority of people were teachers, principals, or parents, but obviously, many people were concerned and many more came than had been anticipated by the district.
John Jesse had apparently predetermined that no questions would be taken until after the hour-long presentation. When a parent raised her hand to ask a question, Mr. Jesse said that he would not answer the question until later.
The parent said that it was necessary to answer it now to understand, and other parents shouted out, “Just answer her question,” but Mr. Jesse would not. The shouts of support continued to the point that Mr. Jesse appeared truly unreasonable, yet he would not budge.
Mr. Jesse lost the respect and confidence of his audience by refusing to answer questions as they came up.
Audience members (parents? teachers? administrators?) decided to write their questions on the large white board wall on the side of the meeting room. It was flooded with questions quickly. I wish I would have written them all down to share with you here.
When an audience member asked how long, after a test, parents would be able to see the test items (a week? a month? longer?) Mr. Jesse said that in order to be able to release the tests to the public each year (like ACT, SAT, etc, do), they would need to have a new set of tests created each year.
He said that one set of adaptive test items costs Utah taxpayers $32M. In his words, “It’s so expensive to build these tests, it’s just not possible to make these test items available to parents.” (Money trumps legal, moral parental rights?!)
One parent asked why we are spending so much money on these tests rather than using the money to reduce class size.
Other parents brought up the illegality of not allowing parents to view test questions (referring to the rule that only 15 parents, appointed by the state, would have that privilege.) One parent showed Mr. Jesse a copy of the bill that states that the Common Core Computer Adaptive Tests must collect “behavioral indicators” along with academic indicators.
She also had a copy of the state FERPA (Privacy law) and read portions aloud to Mr. Jesse, showing the violations of Common Core test and data collection.
Alisa and I had to leave early because we were on our way to make a presentation about the Common Core agenda to a group in Murray. I quickly wrote my billion dollar question on a note and asked my sister if she would ask it. (Even though I had been standing up, waving my arm back and forth, Mr. Jesse had not called on me during the Q and A.) I had to leave, I thought, without asking my question.
The exit door was next to the presenter. I decided to ask my question on my way out. So I turned to the audience, the presenter and superintendent. To the best of my recollection (a videotaper –I hope– will post the video of the event soon) this is what I said:
“In medicine, the motto is FIRST DO NOT HARM. The same applies to education. We are here discussing the wonderful technology of the Common Core tests, but the standards on which they are built have not been vetted and there’s not a shred of evidence shown, ever, to prove to us that these standards are not doing harm and that the claims being made about them, claims being replicated across all district websites, are true. There is no evidence. I am a credentialed Utah teacher and testify to you that the Common Core is a detriment to our students. I don’t hold Mr. Jesse or Mr. Menlove personally accountable or blame them, but I say to all of us, as a state, we MUST get OUT of Common Core.”
It seemed as if the entire room jumped to its feet and started cheering and applauding. I felt like Pedro after Napoleon Dynamite finishes the dance. The audience was cheering enthusiastically on and on, and I didn’t know what to do. (Do I take a bow? Do I run out the door?) I stood and blinked at all the people in shock and joy.
I share this because I want to offer hope to the parents, teachers, school board members and administrators who have yet to attend these A.I.R. trainings. Parents don’t want Common Core for the kids once they find out what the whole agenda is about. Parents are standing up. They are speaking out. They are demanding to see evidence of claims. They don’t want their kids being used as guinea pigs and they don’t like the lack of parental control and stifled teacher voices.
I heard that after I left the meeting, parents passed around a signup list to have a rally at the State Capitol. But I also heard, sadly, that after I left the meeting, some parents became overly hostile and that Mr. Jesse was hostile as well.
I was not there then; this is hearsay, but I do hope that all those who stand for educational freedom do so with dignity and respect. We do not wish to humiliate our leaders. We just want them to do the right thing and study this fully and act then act on the knowledge that we are, in fact, being acted upon by an increasingly oppressive Executive Branch at the federal level. This is harming quality, legitimate education. It is harming data privacy rights. It is removing local control. We need our leaders to act. But we do not want to be unkind.
I heard that at the Cedar meeting earlier yesterday, the USOE separated the teachers and the parents because they didn’t want teachers hearing the parental controversy. This is wrong. Do not put up with that. These controversies affect us all. We are in this together.
Here’s the schedule for the rest of the state meetings. Please share with friends. Show up and make sure your voice is heard. These are your children. This is your tax money. These are your rights. I think Republicans, Democrats, teachers, parents and administrators can agree that we want no part of education without representation, and no part of education standards and tests that lack references, pilot testing or legitimate vetting.
IF YOUR DISTRICT IS NOT LISTED, CALL THE UTAH STATE OFFICE OF EDUCATION AND ASK FOR A MEETING ABOUT THE COMMON CORE TESTS.
Jordan District4–6 pmElk Ridge Middle School / Auditorium3659 W 9800 S, South Jordan Wednesday March 20
Granite District4–6 pmDistrict Office / Auditorium A2500 S State Street, Salt Lake City Thursday March 21
Salt Lake District4–6 pmDistrict Office/ Room 116440 E 100 S, Salt Lake City Monday March 25
Washington District4–6 pmDistrict Office / Board Room121 W Tabernacle St., St. George Thursday March 28
Tooele District4–6 pmStansbury High School / Auditorium 5300 N Aberdeen Lane, Stansbury Park TuesdayApril 2
Park City District4–6 pmEcker Hill Middle School2465 W Kilby Rd, Park City WednesdayApril 3
Grand District4–6 pmGrand County High School / Auditorium608 S 400 E, Moab ThursdayApril 4
San Juan District4–6 pmSan Juan High School / Arena Theater311 N 100 E, Blanding MondayApril 8
Wasatch District4–6 pmDistrict Office101 E 200 N, Heber Tuesday April 9
Iron District4–6 pmDistrict Office / Board Room2077 W Royal Hunte Dr., Cedar City Tuesday April 9
Carbon District4–6 pmDistrict Office/ Training Room 1251 W 400 N, Price Wednesday April 10
Sevier District4–6 pmDistrict Office/ Training Room180 W 600 N, Richfield Thursday April 11
Box Elder District4–6 pmDistrict Office/ Board Room960 S Main, Brigham City Thursday April 11
Alpine District4–6 pmDistrict Office575 N 100 E, American Fork TuesdayApril 16
Weber District4–6 pmDistrict Office / Board Room5320 Adams Ave. Parkway, Ogden Tuesday April 16
Logan District4–6 pmDistrict Office/ Board Room101 West Center, Logan Wednesday April 17
Juab District4–6 pmJuab High School / Little Theater802 N 650 E, Nephi Thursday April 18
Nebo District4–6 pmDistrict Office/ Board Room350 S Main, Spanish Fork TuesdayApril 23
Davis4–6 pmDistrict Office / Kendell Bldg (2nd Floor)
70 E 100 N, Farmington Thursday April 25
Uintah District4–6 pm Maeser Training Center1149 N 2500 W, Vernal