Archive for March 2014

FULL COMMON CORE DOCUMENTARY MOVIE NOW ONLINE   13 comments

Breaking News:  The HSLDA has just released its Common Core documentary movie on its website.

It is free to watch and can be viewed in full here:  http://commoncoremovie.com/

–Or here:

Please watch and share!

 

 

UT High School Physics Teacher Resigns Over Common Core   7 comments

Utahns Against Common Core published the resignation letter of Utah high school physics teacher Stuart Harper today.  The letter is powerful.  These are the words of a noble man, and his resignation is a tragic loss to Utah’s school system.

When will our state leaders acknowledge the train wreck of Common Core and turn our state around?  When will they read and heed teachers like Stuart Harper?

Read the full letter here. 

——-

“… After much research I know that the Common Core (CC), the way it has been implemented, and the reforms which have accompanied it are wrong. They are unsound, of poor quality, take power from local government, and further empower federal agencies and policy makers. Most importantly, their enactment was unconstitutional, both in Utah and in the nation. However wrong CC may be, my reasons for resigning are only tangent to this constitutional breech. I was aware of the core before signing on, and though I did not approve of it I gave my word in contract to teach whatever curriculum I was given.

In the summer of 2013 a personal letter I had written,  stating my concerns with Common Core, was posted on the Utahns Against Common Core website. It was an opinion piece, not a scholarly review. I saw no problem with stating my opinion, it is my right as a citizen, at least so I thought.

A few months later, I was informed that the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) had learned of my published letter and was not happy with my opinions or concerns. Local school authorities were instructed to meet with me and put me back in line. During this meeting with the district representatives I was told that I was shallow, ignorant and emotional in the way I wrote my concerns and that by writing things like this I would create rebellion and insubordination across the district. I was told I can have an opinion with other state’s educational systems but as a teacher in the state of Utah I cannot be concerned with my own state’s educational affairs.

I reminded them that my intent was not to promote rebellion, but to simply encourage personal research on the subject and exercise freedom of speech on my off time, as a citizen and father. I was told “Those freedom of speech rights you are probably referring to do not apply.”

I was shocked, but I stood my ground. I made it clear that if I continued to be intimidated into silence that I would resign same day. I told them that I have given my word to teach what they want me to in the classroom and would continue, but I would also continue to use my rights as an American citizen to effect political change. They said I could share my research if I get my facts straight, but even then my job is on the line. When I told them that I would continue to research information from original sources as well as writings from those for and against Common Core they were confused. They discouraged me from seeking information from anywhere other than the USOE, and accept only their interpretations of the facts. I refused, reminding them that true education comes from educating yourself on all sides.

I was threatened on three separate occasions with professional action all because I stated my opinion. I did not resign at any of the instances where I found myself threatened because I realized that I had given my word that I would teach for the year, and I will not break my word. However I refuse to remain in an environment that clearly has no respect for the Constitutional right of free speech. I refuse to be a part of the problem.

Over the years the school system has fallen far below what it should be. The public school system is just that – public. It should represent those served by it – We the People. Each level of the system (classroom, school, district and state) fails to remember that its duty is to the people, not to the establishment. We should be representing what is in our students’ and our community’s best interest. Our current system expects acceptance and conformity to its decisions and policies by all of its teachers and administrators. Further, it expects this without questioning or voicing concerns and even goes as far as intimidating and threatening those who have differing opinions. Any society or organization that silences and discourages freedom of speech removes the possibility to express ideas, and without competing ideas we close the door on true education and open the door to tyranny.

… We have lost control of the classroom and continue to hand more and more power over to the government. Our current system no longer promotes learning, but rather focuses on training. It teaches what to think, not how to think. It is now a system of hoops for students, teachers, and administrators, and with further national control and regulations of education, these hoops have been set on fire.

I believe that until we can get education to become self-sufficient where it no longer relies on the funding and intimidation from federal and even state levels, until we can bring education back to learning how to think and not being trained for a test, and until we can bring freedom back to the individual teachers, students, and schools, our public system will continue to decay. I hope the system and its people can exercise the self discipline to do this, but where I cannot foresee this happening, my greatest hope for education now resides in home-schools, home-school groups, and in private education.

My hands are tied within this system. But I now know that I can be more productive on the outside. I will continue to promote true and correct educational principles, awareness of civic affairs, and our duty to be involved. I am going to be a part of the solution. Asking questions is the essence of education. All I encourage of others is to ask questions, seek truth and not be afraid to share that truth with other Americans who are willing to listen.

Sincerely,

Mr. Stuart Harper

Teacher, Citizen, and Father”

Reader Responses to Utah High School Student’s Screen Shots   14 comments

The Utah teenager and her mother who decided to take a stand last week by taking screen shots and sharing them with the public  –photos of the SAGE/Common Core writing test,  hit some raw nerves.  Over a hundred comments were added here, with more posted on Facebook, and almost a hundred thousand views of those screen shots were logged in a few days.

Why? Reasons ranged and tempers flared:   Was the act of sharing screen shots heroic– or was it cheating? Was the test itself fair –or manipulative?  Should the student be failed and the teacher who didn’t see or stop her be fired?  Was the blog posting itself fair or manipulative?  Is this all evidence of an improved education system that creates deep-thinking students, or the very opposite?

A few of the responders words are worth repeating and are posted below.

———

Former teacher Laureen Simper wrote:

“Author Ray Bradbury could have used a SAGE test with a prompt like this, in his book “Farenheit 451”. As another commenter mentioned, Bradbury wrote:  ‘There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running around with lit matches.’

“I have questioned the motives of central educational planners for years, ever since I had school-aged children. That was when I learned about John Dewey, when “Common Core” was going by the name du jour: “Outcome-Based Education“. That was when I read the original Humanist Manifesto.    John Dewey was one of the original drafters/signers of what I recognized as an anti-God constitution.  I learned that secular humanism and progressivism were the idealogies driving education “reform”.

“Progressive central planners continually repackage education reform when “the ignorant masses” figure out what the true motive is: to manage the lives of those ignorant masses, because they’re seen as too ignorant to manage their  lives for themselves. Sadly, as long as a shell game can continually be played with shifting appellations, all the sleepy little frogs go back to sleep, as our nice warm bath continues to heat up.

“The agenda to shift public thinking away from self-government started at least as early as the early 20th century. The Intercollegiate Socialist Society was founded in 1905. Its original members believed that 60 college campuses were enough leavening to turn social thinking towards government dependence.

“Originally, the movement focused on higher education. Woodrow Wilson, former president of Princeton, said that the goal of higher education should be for a young man to come out of university as unlike his father as possible.

“But the plan was not limited to changing graduates of higher education. John Dewey, a few decades later, said that the influences of the home and family are properly challenged (by “steadying” ) in the government schools. This came from the “father” of modern education.

“Those who have not connected the same dots will disagree.  But I’ve read what I’ve read and heard what I’ve heard – straight from the mouths of the arrogant progressive central planners.

“Their motives are not pure. They plan to manage our lives of the ignorant masses, because they think that people are  too stupid or too lazy to govern themselves.  And the education reformers’ answer is not Jefferson’s answer:   ‘…If we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. ‘ –Thomas Jefferson, 1820

“Education reformers today, from Dewey to Coleman, seem to feel that the best answer is to wrest that self-government from the people.

“It is a big deal that a 16-year-old kid risked photographing test questions, knowing what kind of retribution could be brought to bear if she were caught.

“It is a big deal that a mother, equally aware of that retribution, would get those photos into the hands of a group of warriors who have connected the same dots I have connected – putting these test prompts into a completely different, stark, sobering context.

“Those who are screaming that anti-Common Core crusaders are taking these test questions out of context need to ask themselves if it is not they, themselves, who are taking them out of context.”    –Laureen Simper

——————

Another commenter, Michelle, wrote:

“And this is how they test “critical thinking skills”: “Your argument must be based on ideas, concepts, and information that can be determined through analysis of the four passages.” Students must base their argument on four passages alone. No room for their own ideas. No place for the inclusion of information outside of those four passages. No opportunity to question the ideas and information given in the passages.

“One of the selections is a blog post. Yes, a blog post. “Why playing videogames better than reading books.” (That wasn’t a typo; that is the title of the post as written on the actual blog site.)  I wonder if they don’t refer to Wikipedia articles as well in other test questions.

“The other selection is from Steven Johnson’s book, “Everything Bad is Good for You” which, according to a review by The Guardian, asserts that TV, film, and video games make us smarter, yet the assertion fails miserably to back up those claims with actual science.

“So apparently, when Common Core proponents speak of “critical thinking skills” they don’t actually mean teaching children to think for themselves or to critically analyze arguments presented in selections of informational text or even to carefully select reliable and credible sources on which to gather information to form arguments. Instead, they mean teaching children to write argumentative essays by cutting and pasting information and ideas from blog posts and pseudo-science.

Our poor children.”

—————

A dad named Jared wrote:

“I review hundreds of ELA books & tests every year.  I am seeing these kinds of two-sided “opinion” reading/writing assignments all the time now. Here’s how to recognize it:
– ‘Two sides’ of a controversial/political/social/environmental/values-oriented subject are presented.
– The material is billed as “balanced” because “two sides” of an issue are presented.
– The student reads both sides, then writes an essay promoting one side.

“… these kinds of “opinion” writing assignments are subject to bias by nature, because the author/publisher controls the entire argument.  In the examples I have seen, the author typically gives a reasonable-sounding Opinion A, and an unreasonable (straw man) Opinion B. The child naturally gravitates toward the more reasonable-sounding argument, and thinks she logically came to her own conclusion.

“If test question writers wanted to test a child’s writing ability, while avoiding straw men and indoctrination (intended or otherwise), they could simply avoid controversial subjects for their material.  Why don’t they?”

AP History Changes Lean Toward a Negative American Perspective   4 comments

Just sharing Wyoming teacher Christy Hooley’s article.

Negative changes have been made to AP History, which analysts are calling “a curricular coup that sets a number of dangerous precedents…”

Read it here:

AP History Changes Lean Towards a Negative American Perspective.

Utah High School Student Captures Screen Shots of the Anti-Book Common Core Test   169 comments

A Utah High School student took the Common Core (SAGE) test this week.  Seeing objectionable issues in that test, she thought her mother should know.  The student took screen shots using her cell phone and sent them to her mother.  Her mother passed them along to us.

The question given in this test asks whether book literacy is inferior to the playing of video games.  Read it.  Most of the passages that students must refer to, claim that literature is inferior, that it forces passivity or discriminates, while video games teach students how to be leaders.

Long live grunts and smoke signals.

The articles student must refer to in taking this test make the following devilish assertions: “books understimulate the senses” and “books are downright discriminatory” and books are “choreographed by another person [while video games are not]“.

These are mean pushes toward valuing video gaming instead of books –and they precisely match the pushy philosophy of Common Core creator-turned College Board President David Coleman.  They also match the philosophy of Microsoft Owner/ Common Core funder Bill Gates. So it is no surprise. It’s still sickening.

In this “writing test” there is no mention (at least in these screen shots that we have) of any of the countless positive values of reading books: no value seen in the joy of receiving a story; no value in exposure to expressive vocabulary and imagination; no value to learning traditional spelling, composition or grammar competencies which hinge on book reading. There’s no mention of the value of learning humanity’s patterns by reading complex character studies in literature. There’s no mention of poetry, of the beauty of words, of the importance of cherishing our shared cultural history. There’s no mention of the truth that voracious readers become voracious learners and expressive writers.

Nope. It’s just down with books.  If this philosophy isn’t an example of the erosion of students’ exposure to traditional knowledge, and of the dumbing down and impoverishment of school children, I don’t know what is.

What would the future would look like if students actually swallowed and lived by such a philosophy? Speaking, writing, spelling, and reading would utterly devolve.  So this high school student’s choice to capture the test’s philosophies and expose them was an important act of civil disobedience.

Thoreau’s classic book, Civil Disobedience, says that individuals should prioritize conscience when conscience collides with law.  Benjamin Franklin put it this way: Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.  Parents, teachers and students are dealing with the tyranny of the Common Core’s wrong-headed philosophies and with the tyranny of a now-national education system that’s oppressing individual conscience.

Think it through.  Utah’s  law affirms the authority of a parent to have the final say over what a student will learn.  But education policies have become tangled to the point that today, only a 15-member parent panel has been allowed to look at the test questions, and these 15 are sworn to confidentiality.  Even after the test, no one gets to see what was tested.  Ever. Remember, too, that no parent or teacher –or even a legislator– was ever consulted prior to adoption of the standards upon which the test is based. The state school board alone mandated Utah’s adoption of the standards.  The test and its standards are experimental, but no parent was asked whether any of this was okay.

Confidentiality surrounding high stakes tests makes sense in that it prevents future test-takers from knowing what the questions are so that they can not have an advantage over students who took the test without knowing these questions ahead of time.  But there’s a problem when, at NO time, even months after the test, a parent may ever see what was shown to the child or asked of the child on that test.

This is an especially big problem in 2014, when much of what passes for education is blatant political or social indoctrination.

Case in point: the following screen shots.

 

sage screenshot 7 sage screenshot 6 sage screenshot 4 sage screenshot 3 sage screenshot 2 sage screenshot 1

sage screenshot 8

Update:  Utahns Against Common Core has published  screen shots of school worksheets submitted by a third grade teacher.  These worksheets feature the same promotion of video games seen in the SAGE test, but with a parents-don’t-know-what’s-up tone.

With Bill Gates, the Common Core promoter and funder  and Microsoft owner,  pushing for video gaming in schools, one must wonder whether these worksheets and test items’ focus on video gaming being so important in schools, is a coincidence or is profit-driven.

video games screen shot 3rd grade

video games screen shot also

Video: Susan Kimball, Kindergarten Teacher: Too Much Assessing and Not Enough Teaching Under Common Core   3 comments

 

Susan Kimball, an elementary school teacher, testified to the legislature that:

In a professional development meeting inservice in November and at a faculty meeting in January, we were told in my building, and I quote: ‘Be careful about what you post on Facebook or talk about in public regarding Common Core.  Don’t say anything negative. It could affect your job.’

“So even though many teachers were hating the Common Core curriculum, they would not voice their opinon to anyone. So I began speaking out –trying to educate and inform anyone who was willing to listen.  When I turned in a personal day request to come to support the rally for House Bill 1490, I was asked by my principal, ‘Do you really want that in your personnel file?’ 

“And then I was bullied and ostracized by my administration, a few other teachers, and the president of the school board, and that continues today.

” I was denied the use of a personal day to appear here today, so I will lose my much-needed pay for the day.  I need my job and I love my kids.  But I feel it is that important to get Common Core out of our state…

“We teachers had no say in the Common Core standards being adopted in our school districts… “

“…The lessons are developmentally inappropriate and are not research-based or written by teachers. It has been heart wrenching to watch my students’ frustration… especially when I know better from all of my years of teaching, that this is not appropriate, but I am powerless to do anything.”

The teacher also testified that even her gifted, extremely high-I.Q. student could not possibly do what was being expected of her as a kindergartener in the Common Core curriculum, and neither –of course– could her kindergarten peers.

“We are doing way too much assessing and not enough teaching, especially in the lower grades… I can tell you which of my kids fall where without looking at the data.  I don’t need the tests to know what my kids need to know.  And the frustration of Common Core for me, is it has taken away all the fun out of learning.  The lessons are very boring to a young child.  We aren’t able to do what is interesting to our kids…. it’s very frustrating to the teachers and the students.”

“I don’t know what I’m going to face when I go home.  That’s why I’m so nervous and it’s so hard for me to speak, because you have no idea what I have been through over the past six weeks of my stand.  And the reason I took this stand is because it was right for my kids. They’re my main priority –and I thought it was every teacher’s priority.”

Brilliant Teachers Expose Federal-Corporate Connivance   3 comments

school

First, here’s a list.

It’s a smattering of teachers’ names with links to what they have said or spoken.  Their experience and research make a powerful, nearly unarguable case for stopping corporate-federal Common Core.  They are current teachers, retired teachers, and teachers-turned-professors-or-administrators.

Malin Williams, Mercedes Schneider, Christy HooleyPeter Greene, Susan Kimball, Paul BogushLaurie Rogers,  Paul Horton, Gerald Conti, Alan Singer, Kris Nielsen, Margaret Wilkin, Renee Braddy, Sandra Stotsky, J. R. Wilson  Amy Mullins, Susan Wilcox, Diane Ravitch, Susan Sluyter, Joseph Rella, Christopher Tienken, Jenni White,  David Cox, Peg Luksik,  Sinhue Noriega, Susan Ohanian, Pat Austin, Cami Isle, Terrence Moore, Carol Burris, Stan Hartzler, Orlean Koehle, Nakonia HayesBarry Garelick, Heidi Sampson; also, here’s a young, un-named teacher who testified in this filmed testimony, and  an unnamed California teacher/blogger.

Notice that these teachers come from all sides of the  political spectrum.   It turns out that neither Democrats nor Republicans relish having their rights and voices trampled.

And alongside those individual voices are teacher groups. To name a handful:  the Left-Right Alliance,   132 Catholic Professors Against Common Core,  the United Opt Out teachers, the BadAss Teachers, Utah Teachers Against Common Core,  Conservative Teachers of America,  and over 1,100   New York professors. 

These teachers have really, really done their homework.

I’m going to share the homework of one brilliant teacher, a Pennsylvania teacher/blogger named Peter Greene who wrote  about what he called his “light bulb moment” with how the Common Core Standards exist to serve data mining.

Speaking of the millions of data points being collected “per day per student,” he explained:

“They can do that because these are students who are plugged into Pearson, and Pearson has tagged every damn thing. And it was this point at which I had my first light bulb moment. All that aligning we’ve been doing, all that work to mark our units and assignments and, in some places, every single work sheet and assignment so that we can show at a glance that these five sentences are tied to specific standards— all those PD [professional development] afternoons we spent marking Worksheet #3 as Standard LA.12.B.3.17– that’s not, as some of us have assumed, just the government’s hamfisted way of making sure we’ve toed the line.  It’s to generate data.  Worksheet #3 is tagged LA.12.B.3.17, so that when Pat does the sheet his score goes into the Big Data Cloud as part of the data picture of pat’s work. (If you’d already figured this out, forgive me– I was never the fastest kid in class).”

Peter Greene further explained why the common standards won’t be decoupled from the data collection.  His words explain why proponents cling so doggedly to the false claim that these Common Core standards are better academically (despite the lack of research-based evidence to support that claim and the mounting, on-the-job evidence to the contrary.)

He wrote:

Don’t think of them as standards. Think of them as tags.

“Think of them as the pedagogical equivalent of people’s names on facebook, the tags you attach to each and every photo that you upload.

“We know from our friends at Knewton what the Grand Design is– a system in which student progress is mapped down to the atomic level. Atomic level (a term that Knewton lervs deeply) means test by test, assignment by assignment, sentence by sentence, item by item. We want to enter every single thing a student does into the Big Data Bank.

“But that will only work if we’re all using the same set of tags.

“We’ve been saying that CCSS [Common Core Standards] are limited because the standards were written around what can be tested. That’s not exactly correct. The standards have been written around what can be tracked.

“The standards aren’t just about defining what should be taught. They’re about cataloging what students have done.

“Remember when Facebook introduced emoticons. This was not a public service. Facebook wanted to up its data gathering capabilities by tracking the emotional states of users. But if users just defined their own emotions, the data would be too noisy, too hard to crunch. But if the user had to pick from the facebook standard set of user emotions– then facebook would have manageable data.

“Ditto for CCSS. If we all just taught to our own local standards, the data noise would be too great. The Data Overlords need us all to be standardized, to be using the same set of tags. That is also why no deviation can be allowed. Okay, we’ll let you have 15% over and above the standards. The system can probably tolerate that much noise. But under no circumstances can you change the standards– because that would be changing the national student data tagging system, and THAT we can’t tolerate.

“This is why the “aligning” process inevitably involves all that marking of standards onto everything we do. It’s not instructional. It’s not even about accountability. It’s about having us sit and tag every instructional thing we do so that student results can be entered and tracked in the Big Data Bank.

“And that is why CCSS [Common Core] can never, ever be decoupled from anything. Why would facebook keep a face tagging system and then forbid users to upload photos?

“The Test does not exist to prove that we’re following the standards. The standards exist to let us tag the results from the Test.

“… Because the pedagogical fantasy delineated by the CCSS does not match the teacher reality in a classroom, the tags are applied in inexact and not-really-true ways. In effect, we’ve been given color tags that only cover one side of the color wheel, but we’ve been told to tag everything, so we end up tagging purple green. When a tagging system doesn’t represent the full range of reality, and it isn’t flexible enough to adapt, you end up with crappy tagging. And that’s the CCSS…   Decoupling? Not going to happen. You can’t have a data system without tagging, and you can’t have a tagging system with nothing to tag. Education and teaching are just collateral damage in all this, and not really the main thing at all.”

Read more here.

——————-

I’ll add more two points in support of Peter Greene’s words:

1-  First, the creators of Common Core and its copyright have openly stated that they work toward both academic standards’ commonality and data standards’ commonality –I suppose for the very reasons Greene outlined.  Check out the Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) –a Department of Education/private CCSSO partnered enterprise,  here.

2– Second, the federal grants that the states all swallowed, the data mining capability-hooks embedded in the juicy worm of funding, called “State Longitudinal Database System” grants, did specify that states MUST use interoperable data standards (search for SIF Framework, PESC model, CEDS standards, NDCM model) to track educational progress.

In other words, the 50 individual states’ database systems were designed so that they can, if states are foolish enough to do so, fully pool student and workforce data for governments or corporations– on an national or international level.

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions About Opting a Child Out of Common Core (SAGE) Tests   Leave a comment

Reblogged from Wendy Hart’s blog.

applebook - Copy

(Wendy Hart is a current member of the Alpine School Board, Alpine, Utah.  She is running for re-election.  Please, if you live in ASD District, vote for her, as she is one of the few truly courageous, truly principled, outspoken and extremely knowledgable school board members in the entire state of Utah.)

 

SAGE State Tests

FAQ

Can I opt out of testing?  I was told that it was required that my student take the SAGE test. The schools are legally required to administer the test (http://le.utah.gov/code/TITLE53A/htm/53A01_061100.htm).  The parents are not legally required to have their kids take the test.  You may also cite matters of conscience, if you so choose, in opting your child out.
If I opt out, will my student receive a non-proficient score?
Yes and no.  Yes, the state will provide the districts with a score of a 1 for all opt outs on SAGE.  The districts can remove this information before inputting it into their computer system.  Alpine School District will remove the non-proficient score.  For more information on this question, click here. In short, the non-proficient score will not be used in any way by the district that could negatively affect your kid.
Will schools become failing schools?  What does the 95% participation rate mean?
Students who formally opt out and aren’t just absent for 6 weeks, will NOT affect the 95% participation rate required under the federal No Child Left Behind law.  Students who are absent will affect the participation rate.  If a school doesn’t obtain a 95% participation rate, they are considered failing under No Child Left Behind.  (So opt out.  Don’t just keep them home for 6 weeks.)
Does opting out punish teachers or schools?
Unfortunately, yes.  However, the State Office of Education has indicated they will adjust their grading system if enough kids are opted out that it negatively impacts teachers and schools.  So, if your student opts out and would normally pass the test, instead of getting whatever score they normally would receive, the State Board has indicated a 1 (non-proficient) will be used in place of a non-score for purposes of teacher and school grades.  This is unfair, wrong, and completely inaccurate.  If you opt your kid out, contact the State Board and ask them to change their grading system.  Reassure your teacher that you are doing this, and ask him/her to contact the State Board as well.
Will my school lose funding if I opt out?
Schools do not have any funding tied to the tests.  There are No Child Left Behind consequences should a school fall below the 95% participation rate (see above).  But opting out doesn’t affect that rate.  While state law requires school and teacher grading, there is no funding WHATSOEVER tied to those grades. How do I opt out? Communicate with your teacher(s) and your principal(s) about your wishes, in writing.  Ask the teacher(s) how they would like to handle it.  In one instance, a teacher provided a paper and pencil final exam to my kid.  In another instance, I was provided the testing schedule and asked to check my student out.  Be willing to do whatever the teacher requests, as he/she is working to fulfill your desires in your child’s best interest.  Alpine School District has provided an opt out form on the website (https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B4LZ8teFSo0fcVBfei1tSGgwcDVjUWpKZTFQV0hXd1JxRjZz/edit)
Will the teacher lose his/her job?
No. Any district or charter school that would incorrectly assign blame to a teacher for the actions of the parents exercising their natural rights to direct the education of their child in this matter has a board and an administration who need to be replaced. The State Office of Education (see above) has indicated they will change the rules on school grading (something the State Board of Education could do at any time) should it negatively impact schools and teachers.
Why won’t the State Board change their grading system now?  Why are they waiting?
There is no formal reasoning that I’m aware of.  This is the way it’s always been done.  Ask them why they won’t.  If they won’t do it, my only possible conclusion is they want to force parents to comply with taking the tests, and are using the teachers and schools as leverage against parents. It also creates a bad system where they are, unfortunately, creating adversaries of the two entities, parents and teachers, who should be working together for a child’s education.  Explain this to your child’s teacher.  Please write the State Board and ask them to change the grading system.
With all these hoops and pressure, why do some parents want to opt out?  Why not just go along?
There are many reasons why parents would want to opt out.  Some of them are:

  • Data privacy isn’t guaranteed.
  • Opposition to high-stakes testing.
  • Opposition to teacher/school grading, based on a single test
  • Inability to view test questions
  • Discomfort with the mission and contract of our test provider, American Institutes for Research
  • Concern of the possible use of behavioral indicators (not prohibited by state law or by the contract)
  • Concern that a teacher’s professional judgement and interaction over 180 days in a classroom will be reduced to a single set of scores on a test that parents don’t control
  • Reducing classroom instruction to teaching to the test, or ONLY to the standards.
  • Individual concerns: student IEP’s, test anxiety, etc

Just because a parents doesn’t want their student to take the test doesn’t mean that we, as a society, must agree with  and approve of that parent’s reasons.  State Code says: ” Under both the United States Constitution and the constitution of this state, aparent possesses a fundamental liberty interest in the care, custody, and management of the parent’s children.” It is your right and your responsibility to properly care for your child.  In a free country, that means you shouldn’t need the State’s permission to decide your child won’t take a test.

References: March 11, 2014 Alpine School Board Study Session: http://board.alpineschools.org/march-11-2014-board-meeting/ (Additional Media, Study Session, bottom of page) Sept. 10, 2013 Alpine School Board Study Session: http://board.alpineschools.org/september-10-2013-board-meeting/ (Additional Media, Study Session, bottom of page) State Office of Education Guidelines on Student Test Participation http://www.schools.utah.gov/assessment/Adaptive-Assessment-System/StudentTestParticipationPolicy.aspx
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Thank you, Wendy Hart.

Top Ten Scariest People in Education Reform # 3: Marc Tucker   9 comments

Top Ten Scariest People in Education Reform:

#3

Marc Tucker, President of National Center on Education and the Economy

tucker

Countdown # 3

This is the seventh in a countdown series of introductions, a list of the top ten scariest people leading education in America.  For number 4, number 5, number 6, number 7,  number 8number 9 and number 10,  click here.

Just like like the others on this Top Ten list, Marc Tucker comes across as a nice guy; he carries no pitchfork, wears no horns, debates politely.

Yet Marc Tucker has openly worked for decades to  “strengthen the role of the state education agencies in  education governance at the expense of “local control”  and insists that “the United States will have to largely abandon the beloved emblem of American education: local control.” (See links below.)  He wants to alter the actual quality of U.S. education, also.  For example, he hopes to remove “the policy of requiring a passing score on an Algebra II exam for high school graduation” because he feels that overeducating the masses is a waste of collective tax money.

These goals and others are published by Tucker at the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) and  the Center for American Progress.    The NCEE, the organization over which he presides, is paid millions  to promote these damaging ideas by Common Core main-funder Bill Gates.

Tucker’s ideas have garnered widespread acceptance.  He speaks at countless education conferences; for example, he’s spoken at the Annenberg Institute,  the Public Education and Business Coalition, at Kentucky’s Conference on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, the Aspen Institute, at numerous colleges  and universities and has testified to state legislatures about education.

And these ideas are nothing new.  In Tucker’s infamous 1992 letter to Hillary Clinton, now part of the Congressional Record, he outlined his vision of a communist-styled pipeline of education and workforce that would control individuals from early childhood through workforce.  He and Hillary shared the vision: “to remold the entire American system for human resources development…  This is interwoven with a new approach to governing… What is essential is that we create a seamless web…  from cradle to grave and is the same system for everyone — young and old, poor and rich, worker and full-time student. It needs to be a system… guided by clear standards… regulated on the basis of outcomes…” 

Can anyone distinguish between that Tucker quote and actual, literal  Communism for me? I see no difference.

That was in 1992.  It seemed conspiratorial at that time.  But it’s openly pursued today by Tucker and by his associates on the Top Ten Scariest list).

Fast forward to 2007.

In a report entitled “Tough Choices for Tough Times” Tucker’s NCEE implied that America had the constitutional authority, and suggested that America should: develop national standards, tests and curriculum;  create “personal competitiveness accounts,”should “create regional competitveness authorities,” should provide “universal early childhood education,” should tie teacher evaluation to teacher pay, and more.  Remember, Common Core national standards weren’t adopted by the majority of states (or even offered via the Race to the Top grant) until 2009-2010.  But Tucker had this going on long ago.

Fast forward to 2013.

The Center for American Progress published this report in which Tucker asserted, among other things, that “the United States will have to largely abandon the beloved emblem of American education: local control.”

Here’s a little taste of what his report proposed:

If Americans are  going to decide which level of government we want to run our education systems,  the only realistic choice is the state. No one wants a national education system  run by the federal government, and the districts cannot play that  role.    [Why wouldn’t local school districts serve in that controlling role? –Too “we the people” for Mr. Tucker, perhaps?]

…Each state needs to consolidate in its state department of  education the policymaking and implementation authority that now resides in a  welter of state-level commissions, agencies, and other independent  bodies.  And the United States will have to largely  abandon the beloved emblem of American education: local control. If the goal is  to greatly increase the capacity and authority of the state education agencies,  much of the new authority will have to come at the expense of local  control.

….I  propose to greatly strengthen the role of the state education agencies in  education governance, at the expense of “local control…”   The line of political accountability would run to mayors and  governors through their appointees…  governance of the  schools, higher education, early child- hood education and youth services would  all be closely coordinated through the governance system… I propose that a new  National Governing Council on Education be established, composed of  representatives of the states and of the federal government, to create the  appropriate bodies…”

Did Tucker really think that “we, the people” would roll over and give in to his constitution-slaughtering dream to end local control and to permit governmental tyranny over education?

Don’t go refill your soda yet.  There’s more.

In 2013, Marc Tucker also put out this document at the National Center on Education and the Economy, that says out loud that it’s not important under Common Core to have high educational standards in high school; that it’s silly to waste time educating all high school graduates as high as the level of Algebra II.

Tucker thus pushed for an emphasis on the lowest common denominator, while also marketing Common Core as a push for “rigorous” academics.

Read for yourself:

“Mastery of Algebra II is widely thought to be a prerequisite for success in college and careers. Our research shows that that is not so… Based on our data, one cannot make the case that high school graduates must be proficient in Algebra II to be ready for college and careers. The high school mathematics curriculum is now centered on the teaching of a sequence of courses leading to calculus that includes Geometry, Algebra II, Pre-Calculus and Calculus. However, fewer than five percent of American workers and an even smaller percentage of community college students will ever need to master the courses in this sequence in their college or in the workplace… they should not be required courses in our high schools. To require these courses in high school is to deny to many students the opportunity to graduate high school because they have not mastered a sequence of mathematics courses they will never need. In the face of these findings, the policy of requiring a passing score on an Algebra II exam for high school graduation simply cannot be justified.”

So, Tucker’s NCEE report goes on to say that traditional high school English classes, with their emphasis on classic literature and personal, narrative writing, is useless. The report says that Common Core will save students from the worthless classics with its emphasis on technical subjects and social studies via the dominance of informational text in the Common Core classroom:

The Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts (CCSSE) address reading in history/social studies as well as science and technical subjects, and in so doing may increase the relevance of high school instruction.”

Did you catch that?  Tucker and the NCEE  just trashed English literature, calling it irrelevant. And, in calling classic literature and personal writing irrelevant, he underscores the socialist mentality: that only job prep matters, only the collective economy, not the mind and soul of the individual.

In 2014, Marc Tucker wrote an article entitled “On Writing” in which he suggested the country should “hold our teachers accountable for the quality of student writing” –saying that incentivizing teachers would increase college level literacy.  (To Tucker, teachers and students seem to be lab rats.  Hand out larger government chunks of cheese and the rats will do whatever you like.)

Teacher Mercedes Schneider shredded Tucker’s “On Writing” arguments hereSandra Stotsky,  Cherilyn Eagar Diane Ravitch, Paul Horton and  Susan Ohanian have written important points about Marc Tucker as well.

Lastly, for those who follow the money trail:  Marc Tucker and his NCEE have accepted many millions from Common Core-builder/funder Bill Gates. So has the Tucker-publishing, CommonCore – friendly Center for American Progress.

Run Baby Run (Baking Cookies Isn’t Saving The Nation Fast Enough)   2 comments

  1.  
    ezra
    Did you know that even if you are lazy,  sick or out of town and won’t attend your local Caucus meeting –It’s THURSDAY FOR UTAH’S GOP– still, you can vote and you can even still RUN for an office!?  Just pre-file to vote or to run, here:   http://www.utgop.org
    vote
    (If you don’t attend that night, you will need to print out a ballot the night before the Caucus, or the day of, and have your neighbor bring it for you, along with a photocopy of your drivers’ license or other I.D.)
    vote 2
    The fact that there are so many unopposed county delegate, state delegate, and local school board seats open in Utah County, Wasatch County –and probably in every county– utterly unopposed– is completely sad.
    cookies
    We serve in our homes and in our churches and we justify that service as being enough.  It is wonderful, but it is not enough.  Not in 2014. Our country is falling apart because in each locality, the best people are too shy or too busy or too embarrassed to run and to serve in public offices.   We just bake more and more cookies.  They are delicious, but I am pretty sure that they do not save our nation as quickly as running for and serving in public offices can.
    usa
    A friend who lives in Utah County and who chooses to be anonymous, wrote this:   “For every person who thinks they can’t run, I’m here to beg you to do it anyway…  Facebook it.   The  biggest, best, and most effective way for anyone to impact education, even with the centralization that we have, would be to ‘en masse’ get different school board members in, locally. We have seen the legislature will never act without backing from the local boards. The State Board has no motivation (and the reality is it is too far away from the people to be accountable with the amount of power it possesses) to change. But even if no one wins. Even if the people reject the message of local control, it does move the needle. It shows that every person needs to be involved and responsible. At the very least, local school board elections provide a ready-made platform for issues (debate, newspapers, direct mail pieces, websites). It allows the rest of the people to hear a different perspective other than who loves the kids most. It allows for an opportunity to speak truth to power, and, if successful, actually change the direction of this state, more than legislation or replacing state school board members. The rightful power over education lies in the local school boards truly representing the parents of their communities. Until the people actually want the power back, it will continue to be centralized, concentrated and taken away from parents and local communities. This is the line in the sand.gandalf“This is, as Gandalf says, where “You shall not pass.” This is the opportunity to speak the truth that PARENTS must be in charge of their kids’ education. They we can’t abdicate this responsibility to the ‘experts’. People don’t believe it anymore. They think their kids must get the education the experts demand. They may feel uncomfortable with some things and not knowing what’s going on, but we have been conditioned to believe that it isn’t our responsibility.”There is no single issue that is more important in the next 4 days, than finding, preferably in all 41 districts, people to run. There should be no seat that doesn’t have opposition. I apologize again, because when I asked and cajoled about this 6 months ago, I didn’t follow up. I didn’t feel that it was my responsibility. But I realize that we are all in the same boat: we don’t believe it’s our job. We hope someone will step up to the plate.”Once upon a time, in this country, public service was seen the way our culture and our religion value religious callings. You didn’t say no, and you felt it should be shared. Somehow, we think that running for office is something other people should do; that it takes a particular mindset or temperament; that it shouldn’t be a sacrifice. It is service. It’s supposed to be a sacrifice! To quote Thomas Paine, “it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.” We who choose to live in liberty must bear the pains of supporting it.”There are 11 school board seats up in Utah County alone. Of those 11, 2 in Provo don’t even have a candidate yet. All but 2, are currently unopposed. With all due respect, I can’t believe there are only 3 people in Utah County that feel the need to stand up for something other than the status quo. We, the people, don’t deserve local control because we don’t show by our actions that we really want it.“We have greater potential right now, in the next 96 hours, than we’ve had in the last 2 years, of returning control of education back to the people. If you know anyone in one of these areas, call them and ask them to run. Don’t take no for an answer.”

    Amen to my friend’s words.

    Here are words from another wise soul:

    “God intended men to be free…  No nation which has kept the commandments of God has ever perished, but I say to you that once freedom is lost, only blood – human blood – will win it back.”  – Ezra T. Benson – October 26, 1979 )

    Running for political office is not a show of vanity and ambition –or shouldn’t be– but it’s a willingness to help bear the burden to uphold our freedoms with simple, good decision making. There are small, easy, local positions that take very little time. There are larger positions, too, for which you do not need to have an advanced degree or experience. You should have a love of liberty, of constitutional local control, and a sense of wisdom and morality. That’s it.

    Run, baby, run.

    PLEASE SHARE.

Gates is Funding U.S. Department of Education Directly   3 comments

Here’s a must-read.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is accepting the “philanthopy” of Bill Gates, putting our nation and its children directly in Gates’ deep pocket.

Not okay.  Wake up, America.   Our rights and voice are being buried under truckload after truckload of government-embraced corporate “philanthopy.”

And thank you, Mercedes Schneider. (I want to point out that Ms. Schneider, the author of this research, is a teacher.)

Read her research on the subject here:

Gates Is Funding U.S. Department of Education Conferences and “Innovations”.

UT Associate Superintendent Park Responds to Open Letter on Student Data Privacy   4 comments

judy park

Yesterday, UT Associate Superintendent Judy Park responded to an open letter  (posted below) that I sent a week ago.  I had sent the letter to support St. George parents who want to opt children out of the standardized testing.

Ms. Park’s response was a one-sentence email message that included a link to a graphic, also posted below, under the open letter.

She did not respond to the vital issues brought up in the letter, nor did her graphic reveal, despite its little red lock-icons (labeled “secure“) –any actual laws or proper policy protections that exist to make our students’ data secure from inter-agency and vendor sharing.  No such laws, that I am aware of, yet exist in Utah.

——————————-

Here’s my letter:

Dear Associate Superintendent Judy Park,

Recently, you wrote (and were quoted in a letter sent out by a St. George charter school to the parents –a letter that aimed to prevent parents from opting children out of the Common Core testing– the following:

“The advocates of anti-common core are falsely accusing USOE and schools and districts of collecting and storing data that is “behavioral data and non-academic personal information”. They have no real evidence or examples to support this claim. The only data that is collected and maintained is the specific data required by state and federal law.”

Here’s unfortunate evidence to the contrary, Ms. Park.  First there is a Utah law about Common Core standardized tests. This law, HB15, created in 2012, requires the collection of behavior indicators. It calls for “ the use of student behavior indicators in assessing student performance” as part of the testing. This is Utah’s S.A.G.E. –aka Common Core or A.I.R.– test.

But another law  (HB177) has been requiring, from the 2002-03 school year on, “the use of student behavior indicators in assessing student performance.” Since 2002!

2. Utah has paid at least $39 million to the AIR company to write its Common Core-aligned standardized tests:  American Institutes for Research”s  mission:  “AIR’s mission is to conduct and apply the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation…

Are we to believe that although AIR’s purpose is to test behavioral and social indicators, and although Utah laws say that the test must note behavioral indicators, the AIR test still won’t?

3. Utah’s SLDS grant application talks about authorizing de-identification of data for research and says that individuals will be authorized to access personal student information in the various Utah agencies that belong to UDA. (Who are these individuals?  Why does the UDA trust them with information that parents weren’t even told was being gathered on our children?)

Starting at page 87 on that same SLDS federal application, we read how non-cognitive behaviors that have nothing to do with academicswill be collected and studied by school systems.  These include “social comfort and integration, academic conscientiousness, resiliency, etc.” to be evaluated through the psychometric census known as the “Student Strengths Inventory. (SSI)”  That SSI inventory –my child’s psychological information– will be integrated into the system (SLDS).  Nonacademic demographic and other personal information is also captured while administering the test. SSI data will be given to whomever it is assumed, by the so-called leadership, that needs to see it.  (This should be a parental decision but has become a state decision.)

The SLDS grant promises to integrate psychological data into the state database.   “Utah’s Comprehensive Counseling and Guidance programs have substantial Student Education Occupation Plan, (SEOP) data, but they are not well integrated with other student data. With the introduction of UtahFutures and the Student Strengths Inventory (SSI) and its focus on noncognitive data, combining such data with other longitudinal student level data to the USOE Data Warehouse the UDA.”  It also says:

“… psychosocial or noncognitive factors… include, but are not limited to educational commitment, academic engagement and conscientiousness, social comfort and social integration, academic self-efficacy, resiliency…  Until recently, institutions had to rely on standardized cognitive measures to identify student needs. … We propose to census test all current student in grades 11 and 12 and then test students in grade 11 in subsequent years using the Student Strengths Inventory (SSI) – a measure of noncognitive attitudes and behaviors.”  So the Student Strengths Inventory (SSI) is a “psychometric census” to be taken by every 11th and 12th grade student in Utah.  That’s one way they’re gathering the psychological data.

4.  Ms. Park, you are a key player and even a writer for the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) –the organization that co-created and co-copyrighted Common Core.  This makes me fairly confident that you are aware of what the CCSSO stands for and what its goals are.  On the CCSSO website, it states that one of its main goals is “Continued Commitment to Disaggregation” of student data.  Disaggregation means that academic bundles of students’ information will be separated into groups that are increasingly easy to identify individually.

5.   “Utah’s Model for Comprehensive Counseling and Guidance.” (UMCCG)   is an official document from the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) that actively endorses the collection of behavioral and non-academic data.   It says, for instance, that perception data must be assessed.

-From page 172: “Perception data: Perception data answer the question, “What do people think they know, believe or can do?” These data measure  what students and others observe or perceive, knowledge gained, attitudes and beliefs held and competencies achieved. These data are often collected through pre- and post-surveys, tests or  skill demonstration opportunities such as presentations or role play,  data, competency achievement, surveys or evaluation forms.” (pgs. 58-59)

-From page 66: Examples of attitudes or belief data  include: “74 percent of students believe fighting is wrong.”

This list of Student Outcomes (which will be tracked by computers, according to the document) is full of non-academic outcomes.

-From page 136: 
MG:A1 Demonstrate a deep regard for self and others
MG:A2 Demonstrate a personal commitment to basic democratic principles
MG:A3 Demonstrate a civil and considerate spirit while participating in society”
(Some people may object to MG:A2, for example, since “basic democratic principles” aren’t the same thing as “basic republican principles” and FYI, the Constitution specifically guarantees individuals a republican form of government.  (Article 4, Section 4, U.S. Constitution.)  So what if my child’s been taught about Article 4, Section 4, at home, and he/she doesn’t test “correctly” on MG:A2?  These outcomes may sound innocuous to many, but here’s the REAL point:  if the government/school system/USOE claims the right to test our children for one set of beliefs, be they good or bad, they can test our children for other sets of beliefs.  They don’t have the right to assess this, in my opinion,  without parental consent or at least an opt-out-of-the-SLDS-database option for parents who do object.)

These 5 points together prove, at least to me, that the educational government of Utah is collecting behavioral and non-academic data on our children without our consent.

But lastly, there is this issue:  Ms. Park also wrote, “The only data that is collected and maintained is the specific data required by state and federal law.”

This is a big problem since the state and the federal privacy protection requirements do not match anymore.  Ms. Park does not seem to be aware of this.  But today, the state is much more protective of students’ rights.  Federal FERPA regulations have been altered –not by Congress but by the sneaky  Department of Education (DOE).  The DOE changed the definitions of terms.  They reduced from a requirement to only a “best practice” the previously protective rule that parental consent had to be obtained (prior to sharing private student data).  They redefined personally identifiable information.  So, no more parental consent needed and whatever they can con states into sharing, will be shared.  Is this the kind of federal rule that Ms. Park is content to have us obey?

Because Utah agreed in that same SLDS federal grant applicaton to use PESC standards and SIF interoperability frameworks, Utah’s children’s private data can be accessed by other states and federal agencies very easily as long as current Utah policy permits it. Unless bills like Rep. Anderegg’s HB169 student data privacy bill and others like it are taken seriously, we have no proper legal protections and a wide open policy of quite promiscuous data sharing here in Utah.

Sad but true.

Christel Swasey

Heber City

—————————-

From: Park, Judy <Judy.Park@schools.utah.gov>
Date: Thu, Mar 13, 2014 at 4:09 PM
Subject: RE: Open Letter to Judy Park on Student Data Privacy Facts
To: Christel S <212christel@gmail.com>
Cc: “Allen, Dixie” <dixieleeallen@gmail.com>, “Menlove, Martell” <Martell.Menlove@schools.utah.gov>, Board of Education <Board@schools.utah.gov>, Constituent Services <govgoca@utah.gov>

A data document is available on the website.

http://schools.utah.gov/assessment/Testing-Director-Resources/StateLong-DataSys-5.aspx

——————-

Yep.  That one sentence is all the response that she had.

Below is what Ms. Park’s link brings up.   Click here to see it for yourself at the USOE site.

Alisa Judy 1

alisa judy 2

——————–

Notice the continued insistence that no behavioral or belief related data is collected despite the links I provided above.   Notice that the USOE states its purpose for the SLDS database is to serve schools and districts on this graphic; but in federal grant applications, federal sites and federal/corporate partnered websites, it’s stated that the SLDS exists to serve federal and “stakeholder” decision-making. Always it’s a two-step, two-faced dance.

Please know, Utahns, that while probably Ms. Judy Park is a lovely person in many ways,  she is very unfortunately and very definitely not a friend to local control.   She’s an active member of the CCSSO, which created national Common Core, and she was an Executive Committee co-chair of SBAC, the federally funded testing group which, by federal contract, mandated that states aligned with SBAC must allow federal management of testing and data.  FYI– Utah since then dropped its SBAC membership and is currently partnered with AIR, but AIR is fully partnered with federally mandated and funded SBAC.

I can also testify that if a teacher or parent asks Ms. Park a question in person, which I have, she’ll put her hand on her hip, beam an uncomfortably long-lasting smile; not answer the question, and lightly dismiss the legitimate issue of concern with: “You certainly are passionate about what you believe.  I need to move on to the next person.”

This oft-demonstrated attitude, pervasive at the USOE and USSB, is truly hurting some of the most important and best people –the students and teachers– in our beautiful state of Utah.

Kentucky University Student Speaks Up About Common Core   3 comments

shannon of kentucky

Guest Post by Shannon Crouch

Hello, my name is Shannon Crouch. I am a 20-year-old college student studying Mathematics and Statistics at Eastern Kentucky University.

I attended high school at Morgan County High School in West Liberty, Kentucky. I was a part of the graduating class in 2011 and though I did not receive this method of schooling I have seen it enacted in my brother’s high school career as he began Sophomore year in 2011-2012.  I also dealt with its repercussions as a Developmental Lab Instructor at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) for the Department of Mathematics & Statistics.

My brother’s story

To begin, I will share a brief description of the classes my brother has undertaken these last three years. At the beginning of each school year, all students are given a pre-test to determine the student’s understanding of the oncoming class content. As the semester continues, all homework assignments are handouts that relate to a ‘weekly’ mini-subject (ex. for math: solving for zeros, logarithms, solving rational functions, etc.) that make up the course outline. I will use the term ‘week’ loosely to relay the expected time frame schools believe each mini-subject should be taught. Students are pre-tested and post-tested at the beginning and ends of each ‘week’ and they move into the next ‘week’ mini-subject if a defined majority of the class passes. If that majority does not pass, then the class must repeat the subject content until either the majority has passed –or it has been taught three ‘weeks’ in a row.

To convey the detriment of such a process on student learning in full needs more than just typed words, but nonetheless I will try.

In simple terms, this modular system of teaching causes the average student to be the only student to excel. To break that sentence down further and define the difference from ‘average’ students to others, we have to look at the system being used. Given a student who makes good grades in a class and passes these pre- and post-tests each time, the process of having to repeat the class hinders his or her development in the progression of studies, but also thinking of a student who is not passing the pre- and post-tests, he/she is being dragged along by the system, unable to understand basic subjects, but often passing the class because he or she has been able to copy off peers. Some would ask what difference this last case has to older developmental systems. In return to that question, I would like to point out the handouts. These handouts are created based on the subjects to be taught for each class and are the only required work for the class. Students are no longer required to put in individualized effort into using textbooks, writing out questions, or even using critical thinking.  These handouts are the perfect tools for a student to cheat with given that everything is outlined the same way.

My experience as a university math tutor

Taking a step away from its implementation, however, let’s look at the results some colleges and universities are seeing now. I will use Eastern Kentucky University as my example: According to statistics presented to us at orientation, when I enrolled in Fall 2011, approximately 48% of the incoming freshmen were required to take developmental math or Reading/English courses. This was before the implementation of Common Core –and you are correct in thinking that is a pretty high number.

The scarier thought, however, is information they shared in my job training as a developmental instructor and a tutor for the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. In the 2013-2014 academic year, approximately 60% of our incoming freshmen were required to take developmental Math or Reading/English classes. That means in a span of two years with Common Core Standards implemented in High Schools, college preparedness dropped by an extra 12% for students that enrolled to Eastern Kentucky University.

The effect seen at EKU frightens me as a student today and even as a future parent. This influx of developmental students tells me that our students are being pushed through high school without the literacy skills and basic math skills required to function in the world today. Students are being trained to pass the test rather than retain what they learn and so when it comes to their college readiness exams like the ACT, COMPASS, and KYOTE they fail to have the knowledge required to think through the questions they come across.

——————-

As an update to this story:  Shannon’s relative lives in Utah. She sent a copy of the above article to a member of her Wasatch County School Board.  This is what she received:

from: DEBBIE.JONES@wasatch.edu>

Subject: Re: Kentucky and Common Core
Date: March 13, 2014 at 8:33:22 AM MDT
It makes me sad that implementation of the standards isn’t going well for some districts, like the one in this story. I’m so grateful we have amazing teachers who are doing great things for students in our district.
Take care,
Deb
———————-
Shannon then wrote back:
———————-

Ms. Jones,

I was interested to learn that you believe the effects of common core in Morgan County are a result of poor teachers, but I feel that I must correct your assumption on this.
Morgan County has many amazing teachers, especially for their core curriculum in Math, Science, and English. One such teacher, Stacey Perry is a mathematics teacher. She is qualified to teach not only the required mathematics programs for high school but extends her knowledge to AP curriculum for Calculus I and Calculus II, with one of the highest AP Exam passing percentiles for AP Calculus in Eastern Kentucky.
I want to mention this in detail so that I can relay to you that it is not the desire of beautifully brilliant teachers such as Mrs. Perry to implement common core so poorly, but rather it has been forced on them via the agreements of common core with all states.
Please do not consider your district and state as having immunity because if you do then you will see your students declining in individuality, scholastic achievement, and critical thinking. If you have any concern for you future generations, take the matter seriously and question all that you are being told by Common Core representatives.

Shannon Crouch

Massachusetts Dad to Department of Education: My Child Will Not Be Your Guinea Pig   5 comments

 Video update here:  http://www.masslive.com/news/worcester/index.ssf/2014/03/video_common_core_protesters_v.html

mass mike watson
Protesting Common Core and PARCC testing during Arne Duncan’s visit to Worcester today:  Mike Watson and son

“We met a lot of great folks at the protest but I spent most of my time with my favorite little activist! It was fitting this little man in the Spider Man hat was with us, as Common Core, PARCC and the policies of Arne Duncan and Mitchell Chester will directly impact his education and his future along with the rest of his generation….unless we stop them!

As a parent who cares deeply about my children (and others across my state and our country) I have a message for Arne, Mitchell Chester, Bill Gates, the big testing and data collection companies and my elected representatives on Beacon Hill who either support Common Core and PARCC or who are not willing to speak out in an effort to tow the party line……

NOT MY KIDS!You will have to arrest me and drag me through the courts along with all the media attention that will bring before I allow you to force my children to take a field test for a private company in our public schools! Our children our NOT your guinea pigs or state property to be used to test your experimental education reforms!Massachusetts is currently leading the country in education standards and positive student outcomes with our standards that were in place before Common Core. Standards that were publicly vetted, involved local educators and decision makers and have now been proven to produce positive outcomes.

Why throw all of that hard work and progress away for yet another untested education reform experiment? The little boy holding the sign in the picture will have to pay the price if your experiment fails as will children across the great state of Massachusetts. I refuse to let you throw away a generation of children without a fight and the army of parents, educators and citizens from across our state and our country have my back!

Mike Watson
Massachusetts

No….. NOT OUR KIDS!

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Yes, Mr. Watson.  The rest of us have your back. 
For more on today’s Massachusetts protest at Arne Duncan’s town hall:   http://www.masslive.com/news/worcester/index.ssf/2014/03/common_core_protesters_picket.html
Video update here:  http://www.masslive.com/news/worcester/index.ssf/2014/03/video_common_core_protesters_v.html

Utah Mom: My Goals Are Not the Board of Education’s Goals   4 comments

Good news for education and for freedom:  the Utah Senate today passed SB 39 – a homeschool-friendly bill.  I want to post these words, written by another Utah mom, Rhonda Hair, because her point is an important one:  that her high educational goals for her children are not the same as the goals of the board of education, nor of the new national dictators of education in Washington D.C. (Common Core copyright holders NGA/CCSSO).
This mother’s goals are higher, not lower; but being subjected to state-set or D.C.-set standards and testing could disrupt what she, the educational director (and ultimate authority over her children) has set out to do.

(Write to the senators and thank them for upholding liberty and education in this state, please!)

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My Goals Are Not the Board of Education’s Goals

By Rhonda Hair

“I began homeschooling three of my children this school year. My understanding of what education really means continues to deepen. As of now, I’m convinced that my children will be well-educated if they obtain the following:

-a love of reading and of good books, -the ability to understand and express themselves well through writing, -enough math to manage their own affairs, -an understanding of what their God-given rights are, and what their duties are towards God, family, country, and neighbor, -the ability to discern between truth and error, which requires qualifying for and listening to the Holy Ghost, which requires obedience to God’s commandments, -high appreciation for virtue, good character, and self-control, and to apply these to themselves, -a strong work ethic, -gratitude, -understanding of human nature, -understanding of history- how we got to be where we are, and what great people have learned and written along the way, -an understanding of their unique abilities, gifts, and talents and how to use them for good.

Few of these are taught in the public schools, and particularly not encouraged in Common Core.

If they do the things above, they will naturally learn about the world around them, serve the Lord faithfully, and be a benefit to others in whatever they choose to focus on.

Some people think that homeschooled children should be subject to yearly testing to  be sure they’re ‘on track’.

The problem with this is that my goals are not the Board of Education’s goals.  The testing is to see if I’m on board with their objectives.   I’m not.  My goals far exceed theirs, but each subject taught might not be taught at the same time as they dictate.”

National News Update on Common Core Initiative   10 comments

occupy-photo-final-schedule1

How quickly Common Core has gone from being almost a secret, a truly under-the-news-radar movement, to being a sharp bone of contention and a scorchingly hot topic across the nation as right and left, legislators, parents, teachers and yes,  students— join to fight the erosion of local control of education, and the erosion of high quality education.

Here’s just a smattering of the pushback happening across this nation.  Please feel free to leave additional related Common Core pushback news links in the comments section!

* Alabama – “Bill In Works That Would Allow Common Core Opt-Out For Schools

* Arizona – “Senate backtracks on Common Core

* Connecticut – “Stamford Rep. Molgano Calls For Public Hearing On Common Core

* Florida –  FLA Ed Commissioner’s Arrogant Letter Angers Mother of Recently Deceased Disabled Child http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/04/ethan-rediske-act_n_4899010.html

Florida –  Testing Fixation Drives Florida School Board Member to Quit, Fight on Larger Battleground http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/03/06/the-drive-to-test-test-and-re-test-leads-famous-school-board-member-to-quit/

* Georgia – “Common Core bill debated in Georgia House

* Maryland – Dressed in Clown Suits, Maryland Teachers Protest Excessive Testing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sn_xJ9P1I2k

* Maryland – Super Tells Parents State Test is Useless http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/District_Dossier/2014/03/joshua_starr_to_parents_upcomi.html

* Mississippi – “Common Core comes back up at State Capitol

* Missouri – “Mo. lawmakers debate retreating from Common Core

* Illinois –  Educators Boycotting Chicago Exam – Spend Day Teaching Not Testing http://www.wbez.org/news/saucedo-teachers-spend-day-1-isat-teaching-concerns-raised-about-intimidation-109815

Illinois –   National Leaders Support Chicago Test Boycott http://dianeravitch.net/2014/03/09/leading-educators-support-chicago-test-boycott/

Illinois- Resources for Supporting Chicago Parents and Teachers Protesting  the ISAT http://morethanascorechicago.org/2014/03/03/isat-opt-out-support-kit/

*Indiana –  http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2014/03/11/indianas-attempt-replace-common-core-under-fire

* New York – bill S6604 pending: http://stopccssinnys.com/uploads/SCCINYS_PR_S6604.pdf  – Bill to place a three-year suspension on items such as the Common Core

State Standards and the associated age-inappropriate curriculum; it also addresses excessive testing.

New York – “Assembly Passes Bill Halting Common Core

New York Protests Intensify as Common Core Tests Loom http://www.longislandpress.com/2014/03/10/common-core-tests-loom-intensifying-debate-in-ny/       Rochester, NY, Teachers Association Brings Suit Against “Value      Added” Evaluations http://www.rochestercitynewspaper.com/rochester/teachers-union-sues-over-evaluations/Content?oid=2346958

*  Massachusetts –  Protesters at Secretary Arne Duncan’s town hall meeting:  http://www.masslive.com/news/worcester/index.ssf/2014/03/groups_organized_to_picket_us.html

http://worcestermag.com/2014/03/09/picket-planned-us-education-secretary-duncans-visit-worcester-tech/21602

Worcester Mass. School Committee Will Allow Students to Opt Out of  Common Core Pilot Exam http://www.telegram.com/article/20140307/NEWS/303079875/1116

More Massachusetts Education Leaders Criticize Double-Testing http://www.patriotledger.com/article/20140310/NEWS/140319857

* Connecticut – Connecticut Educators Want to Reexamine Test-Based Teacher  Evaluation Model http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/teacher_union_wants_to_revisit_teacher_evaluation_method     Connecticut Parents Seek to Opt Children Out of Common Core Tests http://www.ctnow.com/news/hc-parents-opting-out-20140228,0,1363518.story       The Brave New World of “College and Career Readiness” Testing http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/the_brave_new_world_of_being_college_and_career_ready

*North Carolina –    North Carolina Families Opt Out of Standardized Tests http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/03/09/3682922/opting-out-of-standardized-testing.html
Penn. Parents Join Forces to Opt Kids Out of Standardized Tests http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/parents-join-forces-to-opt-kids-out-of-standardized-tests/article_88aff918-a643-11e3-aa64-0017a43b2370.html

*Arkansas –   Arkansas Professor Urges 11th Graders to Opt Out of Literacy Test http://www.arktimes.com/ArkansasBlog/archives/2014/03/10/ua-prof-calls-for-students-to-opt-out-of-11th-grade-literacy-test

*Tennessee –  Tennessee Teacher Sue Claiming “Value-Added” Assessment is      Arbitrary and Unconstitutional http://tnedreport.com/?p=753
Virginia Lawmakers Seek to Reduce Number of Standardized Tests http://www.newsplex.com/home/headlines/Va-Lawmakers-Aim-to-Reduce-Number-of-Standardized-Tests-249339961.html

*New Hampshire – Nashua, New Hampshire Board Backs Delay of New Test http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/news/1030167-469/majority-of-nashua-school-board-members-back.html

*Nebraska – Testimony regarding Common Core Academic Error: http://truthinamericaneducation.com/common-core-state-standards/testimony-regarding-proposed-nebraska-english-standards/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TruthInAmericanEducation+%28Truth+in+American+Education%29

* Washington, D.C. – http://unitedoptout.com/helpful-readings-and-resources/the-official-schedule-for-occupy-doe-2-0-the-battle-for-public-schools/

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NEWS/ARTICLES

ON NATIONAL COLLEGE ENTRANCE EXAMS (SAT – ACT)

  ALIGNING TO ERRANT COMMON CORE:

David Coleman, 2016 SAT:  A Sow’s Ear http://www.educationviews.org/david-coleman-2016-sat-sows-ear/

FAIR TEST:  http://fairtest.org/node/2964

Critics Give SAT Revisions a Failing Grade http://www.mintpressnews.com/critics-give-new-sat-reforms-failing-score/185941/

The Real Reason the SAT is Changing: Competition from ACT http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/03/05/why-the-sat-is-really-changing-its-facing-tough-competition-from-the-act/

College President: SAT is Part Hoax and Part Fraud http://time.com/15199/college-president-sat-is-part-hoax-and-part-fraud/

NEA Pushes Bill to Reduce Federal Testing Mandates http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2014/03/nea_pushes_legislation_to_redu.html

When Education is Nothing But a Test Score http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/03/05/23mcgill.h33.html

13 Ways High-Stakes Exams Hurt Students http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/03/10/13-ways-high-stakes-standardized-tests-hurt-students/

Believing We Can Improve Schooling with More Tests is Like Believing You Can Make Yourself Grow Taller by Measuring Your Height http://pbs.twimg.com/media/BiKnOqrIQAAVIEg.jpg
Accountability and Motivation — Test-Driven Policies Get it Wrong http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/2014/03/accountability_and_motivation.html?cmp=SOC-SHR-TW

Common Core Testing Further Undermines Educational Equity http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/03/10/the-myth-of-common-core-equity/

I Opted My Kids Out of Standardized Tests, Then Learned a Thing or  Two http://www.slate.com/articles/life/family/2014/03/standardized_testing_i_opted_my_kids_out_the_schools_freaked_out_now_i_know.html

Testing Diverted The War on Poverty  — By FairTest Board member  Deborah Meier http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/03/05/23meier.h33.html

Parent to Pres. Obama: Why Don’t Private Schools Adopt Test-Driven  “Reforms”? http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/03/05/parent-to-obama-why-dont-private-schools-adopt-your-test-based-school-reforms/

What the U.S. Can Learn From Finland http://www.npr.org/2014/03/08/287255411/what-the-u-s-can-learn-from-finland-where-school-starts-at-age-7

Activists Call for Congressional Hearings on Standardized Test  Misuse http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/03/04/activist-calls-for-congressional-hearings-on-standardized-testing-gets-unexpected-support/
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Thanks to Donna Garner,  Mike Antonucci,  Dr. Bill Evers,  Pioneer Institute, and Bob Schaeffer for assistance with this compilation.

Interview: Stanford University Scholar Bill Evers of Hoover Institute on Common Core – KFI Radio   2 comments

bill evers

https://soundcloud.com/#terry-anzur/commoncore030214

Click to hear this week’s KFI radio interview with Dr. Bill Evers on Common Core, on KFI AM, Los Angeles.  Dr. Evers is a scholar at the Hoover Institute of Stanford University.  He has been an outspoken critic of the Common Core initiative from the beginning of the movement.

In addition to this radio Q & A with Dr. Evers, you’ll get to hear some VERY lively clips of parents, including a terrible one I hadn’t heard before about “daddy-baby biology”. (It is an example of the kinds of negative “curricular” value shifting that’s trickling into school rooms now, as more and more local control goes away under the Common Core power shift.)

In this interview, Dr. Evers also reminds listeners that they can legally opt their children out of any test for any reason at any time.

Enjoy!

The SAT “Upgrade” Is A Big Mistake: By Peter Wood   3 comments

This article was originally posted at MindingTheCampus.Com.  It is reposted with permission.    The author is president of the National Association of Scholars.

 

peter wood

The SAT “Upgrade” Is A Big Mistake

Guest post by Peter Wood

 

The College Board is reformulating the SAT.  Again.

The new changes, like others that have been instituted since the mid 1990s, are driven by politics. David Coleman, head of the College Board, is also the chief architect of the Common Core K-12 State Standards, which are now mired in controversy across the country.  Coleman’s initiative in revising the SAT should be seen first of all as a rescue mission.  As the Common Core flounders, he is throwing it an SAT life preserver. I’ll explain, but first let’s get the essentials of how the SAT is about to change.

Changes

The essay is now optional, ending a decade-long experiment in awarding points for sloppy writing graded by mindless formulae.

The parts of the test that explored the range and richness of a student’s vocabulary have been etiolated. The test now will look for evidence that students are familiar with academic buzzwords and jargon.  The College Board calls this “Relevant Words in Context.”  Test-takers won’t have to “memorize obscure words” but instead “will be asked to interpret the meaning of words based on the context of the passage in which they appear.”

The deductions for guessing wrong are gone.  Literally, there will be no harm in guessing.

Math will narrow to linear equations, functions, and proportions.

The scale on which scores are recorded will revert to the old 800 each on two sections, from the current 2,400 on three sections.  (Goodbye essay points.)

The old verbal section will be replaced by “evidence-based reading and writing.”

All the tests will include snippets from America’s Founding Documents.

What They Mean

The College Board’s announcement of these changes came under the headline “Delivering Opportunity: Redesigning the SAT Is Just One Step.”  The “delivering opportunity” theme is divided into three parts:

Ensure that students are propelled forward.

Provide free test preparation for the world.

Promote excellent classroom work and support students who are behind.

There is a thicket of explanation behind each of these headings, some of it beyond silly.  We learn, for example, that the College Board, “cannot stand by while students’ futures remain unclaimed.”  Unclaimed?  Like lottery prizes?  Like coats left in a checkroom?

If you work your way through this folderol, it appears that the College Board is launching a whole battery of new diversity programs.   “Access to Opportunity (“A2O”) pushes (“propels”) low-income, first-generation, underrepresented students to college.  The “All In Campaign” aims “to ensure to ensure that every African American, Latino, and Native American student who is ready for rigorous work takes an AP course or another advanced course.”  Another program offers college application fee waivers.

Those initiatives bear on the redesigned SAT mainly as evidence of the College Board’s preoccupation with its ideas about social justice.  The announcement of the changes in the SAT itself is succinct–and friendly, with helpful icons to get across ideas like “documents”–

The redesigned SAT will focus on the knowledge and skills that current research shows are most essential for college and career readiness and success. The exam will reflect the best of classroom work:

  • Relevant words in context
  • Command of evidence
  • Essay analyzing a source
  • Math focused on three key areas
  • Problems grounded in real-world contexts
  • Analysis in science and social studies
  • Founding documents and great global conversation
  • No penalty for wrong answers

The student who comes across the College Board’s explanation–and maybe even the journalist who reads it–might miss the full weight of that key phrase “college and career readiness.”  That’s the smoking gun that what is really happening in the College Board’s revision of the SAT is that the test is being wrenched into alignment with the Common Core.  That phrase, “college and career readiness,” is the Common Core mantra.  The Common Core was vigorously promoted to the states and to the public as something that would “raise standards” in the schools by creating a nationwide framework that would lead students to “college readiness.”

But alas, as the Common Core Standards emerged, it became apparent that they set a ceiling on the academic preparation of most students.  Students who go through schools that follow the Common Core Standards will be ill-prepared for the rigors of college.  That is, unless something can be done on the other end to ensure that colleges lower their standards. Then everything will be well.

The Bind

None of this might matter if the Common Core were just a baseline and students and schools could easily move above it if they wished to.  The trouble is that the Common Core has been designed to be a sticky baseline. It is hard for schools to rise above it.  There are two reasons for that.

First, it uses up most of the time in a K-12 curriculum, leaving little room for anything else.

Second, the states that were leveraged into it via Obama’s “Race to the Top” agreed that students who graduate from high school with a Common Core education and are admitted to public colleges and universities will automatically be entered into “credit-bearing courses.”  This is tricky.  Essentially what it means is that public colleges will have to adjust their curricula down to the level of knowledge and skill that the Common Core mandates.  And that in turn means that most schools will have little reason to offer anything beyond the Common Core, even if they can.

In this way, the Common Core floor becomes very much a ceiling too.  The changes in the SAT are meant to expedite this transition.

The Common Core Connection

The life-preserver that the College Board is throwing to the Common Core is a redefinition of what it means to be “college ready.” The SAT after all is a test aimed at determining who is ready for college. An SAT refurbished to match what the Common Core actually teaches instead of what colleges expect freshmen to know will go far to quiet worries that the Common Core is selling students short.  If the SAT says a student is “college ready,” who is to say that he is not?

The new changes in the SAT are meant first to skate around the looming problem that students educated within the framework of the Common Core would almost certainly see their performance on the old SAT plummet compared to students educated in pre-Common Core curricula.

The subject can get complicated, so it is best to consider an example.

Pre-pre-calculus

Perhaps the most vivid example of how the Common Core lowers standards and creates a situation which invites mischief with the SATs is the decision of the Common Core architects to defer teaching algebra to 9thgrade.  That move, along with several other pieces of the Common Core’s Mathematics Standards, generally means that students in high school will not reach the level of “pre-calculus.”  And that in turn means that as college freshmen, they will be at least a year behind where college freshmen used to be.  Instead of starting in with a freshman calculus course, they will have to start with complex numbers, trigonometric functions, conic sections, parametric equations, and the like.

Of course, lots of students who go to college today never take a calculus course and are in no way hindered if their high school math preparation stopped with binomial equations.  The trouble comes with students who wish to pursue science, technology, or engineering–the “STEM” fields. College curricula generally assume that students who set out to study these fields have already reached the level of calculus.

One might think that students who have aptitudes and interests in these areas could simply leapfrog the Common Core by taking accelerated math courses in high school.  Some indeed will be able to do just that.  They will be students who attend prosperous schools that have the resources to work around the Common Core.  Or they will be students whose parents pay for tutors or courses outside school.

We can be confident that Americans will be ingenious in finding ways to circumnavigate this new roadblock. And we can count on the emergence of entrepreneurs who will serve the market for extra-curricular math instruction.  There is no reason to think that MIT and Caltech will go begging for suitably prepared students.

But there is reason to worry that a large percentage of bright and capable students in ordinary American schools are going to be shortchanged in math.

And while I have chosen math as the example, the Common Core is up to similar mischief in English, and the SAT is being similarly altered to match the diminished K-12 curriculum there too. Those who have followed the debate on the Common Core will have some idea of how this works out.  The Common Core prizes “informational texts” above literature, and it prizes teaching students how to treat documents as “evidence” above teaching students how to search out the deeper meaning in what they read.  The Common Core approaches reading and writing in a utilitarian spirit. Clearly this has some power. It fosters certain kinds of analytic skills–those that might be called forensic.  But it scants the cultivation of other aspects of reading and writing, especially those that depend on analogy, implication, and aesthetic sense.

That’s why the Common Core has such limited use for imaginative literature and why it so readily turns to out-of-context excerpts and uprooted fragments.  Information is information; it does not much depend on a sense of the whole; nor does it depend on gathering in the unsaid background.  The now infamous example of the Common Core’s deracinated approach to writing is a reading of the Gettysburg Address shorn of any explanation that it was a speech commemorating a battlefield, let alone the battlefield of the decisive battle in the Civil War.

Presumably the Common Core folks will repair this particular mistake, but it is telling that it happened in the first place.  And it is telling that the College Board has adopted all the same conceptual devices in the new SAT:  relevant words in context, command of evidence, analyzing sources, and using fragments and excerpts of historical documents.  None of these by itself should raise concern.  Each is a legitimate line for testing.  But note that they come unaccompanied by anything that would balance the focus on “evidence-based” inquiry with examination of other skills.

A Puzzle

Why should a grandly announced effort to raise school standards end up lowering them instead?  The answer lies in the convergence of several political forces.  Politicians see a can’t-lose proposition in the conceit that everyone should have the opportunity to go to college.  School standards that really separated the wheat from the chaff would be unpopular.  Americans today like the pretense that the only thing that holds us back is external circumstance, not natural limitation.  And the academic “achievement gap” between Asians and whites on one hand and blacks and Hispanics on the other has made forthright discussion of standards extremely difficult.

For all these reasons, we Americans were in the market for a new brand of educational snake oil and the Common Core provided it.  Politicians on both sides of the aisle lined up to buy franchises: Obama on the left, Jeb Bush on the right, and many more.

Now that the charm has worn off, the politicians have become hotly defensive about their support for Common Core. This isn’t the place to delve into their excuses and recriminations, but it is important to remember that that rancor is the backdrop to the College Board’s decision to change the SAT. Again.

test

SAT Down

My account of what lies behind the changes differs quite a bit from whatThe New York Times reported. The Times story emphasized Coleman’s heroic decision to take on the test preparation industry, which profits by exploiting the anxieties of students over how they will perform on the SAT.  Test preparation can be expensive and thus wealthier families have an edge. According to the Times, Coleman declared, “It is time for the College Board to say in a clearer voice that the culture and practice of costly test preparation that has arisen around admissions exams drives the perception of inequality and injustice in our country.”

How exactly the changes in the SAT will combat that “culture and practice” is unclear.  The test preparation industry itself seemed to shrug at Coleman’s oration.  The Timesquotes a vice president for Kaplan Test Prep saying that “Test changes always spur demand.”

Coleman is far from the first to rejigger the SAT to advance a notion of equality and justice.  The SAT was invented in 1926 to open the doors to college for students who were natively smart but came from unpromising backgrounds.  Over the decades it became a primary tool for college admissions officers to match potential students with the level off rigor embodied in a college’s curriculum. The goal was to find students who in all likelihood would succeed.

That began to change with the push for racial preferences in college admissions in the 1970s and 1980s. As colleges and universities more and more foregrounded the goal of “diversity” in admissions, the SAT began to look like an embarrassing artifact of an earlier time.  It stood for established standards and evidence of intellectual reach at a time when it had become much more useful to emphasize “evolving” definitions of excellence and achievement.  The new approaches emphasized cultural variety in how people think and what they think about, and the greater relevance to college work of “personal perspective” and viewpoint over mere knowledge.  Likewise “experience” began to seem as valuable in a college applicant as intellectual skill.

The first real fruit of these new concerns was the “recentering” of the SAT’s scoring system in the 1990s, which ballooned the scores of mediocre students and erased the differences among students at the higher end of the scale.  Then, among other changes, came the elimination in 2002 of the verbal analogies portion of the tests, which jettisoned a section for the explicit reason that black students on average performed less well on it than they did on other sections.  That same year the College Board removed the “asterisk” that indicated that a student had taken the test with special accommodations such as extra time.

So the attempt to use the SAT as an instrument to advance “social justice” is, in a sense, more of the same.  We can expect most colleges and universities to welcome Coleman’s changes in that spirit. But there are always costs, and sooner or later we will pay them.  We are embarking on a great expansion of the left’s long-term project of trading off our best chances to foster individual excellence for broadly-distributed access to mediocre education.

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Thank you, Peter Wood.

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Fact-Checking Associate UT Superintendent Judy Park on Nonacademic Data Collection   13 comments

Once again it seems necessary, unfortunately, to provide a fact-checking rebuttal to statements made by Utah’s Associate Superintendent Judy Park about student data privacy.

In a letter given out to parents of children attending a St. George charter school recently, Judy Park was quoted at length.  Park, the Associate Superintendent of Utah, made the following statements that will be scrutinized here with links to opposing evidence.

In that letter, Ms. Park  wrote:

“The advocates of anti-common core are falsely accusing USOE and schools and districts of collecting and storing data that is “behavioral data and non-academic personal information”.  They have no real evidence or examples to support this claim…” 

Here’s evidence to the contrary, Ms. Park.

1.  First, there are Utah laws about standardized tests requiring the testing of behavioral indicators.  One law, HB15, created in 2012, that requires the collection of behavior indicators calls for ” the use of student behavior indicators in assessing student performance” as part of the testing.   This is Utah’s S.A.G.E. –aka Common Core or A.I.R.– test.  But another law  (HB177) has been requiring, from the 2002-03 school year on, “the use of student behavior indicators in assessing student performance.” Since 2002!

2. Utah has paid at least $39 million to the AIR company to write its Common Core-aligned standardized tests:  American Institutes for Research”s  mission:  “AIR’s mission is to conduct and apply the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation…

Are we to believe that although AIR’s purpose is to test behavioral and social indicators, and although Utah laws say that the test must note behavioral indicators, the AIR test still won’t?

3. Utah’s SLDS grant application talks about authorizing de-identification of data for research and says that individuals will be authorized to access personal student information in the various Utah agencies that belong to UDA. (Who are these individuals?  Why does the UDA trust them with information that parents weren’t even told was being gathered on our children?)

Starting at page 87 on that same SLDS federal application, we read how non-cognitive behaviors that have nothing to do with academics, will be collected and studied by school systems.  These include “social comfort and integration, academic conscientiousness, resiliency, etc.” to be evaluated through the psychometric census known as the “Student Strengths Inventory. (SSI)”  That SSI inventory –my child’s psychological information– will be integrated into the system (SLDS).  Nonacademic demographic and other personal information is also captured while administering the test. SSI data will be given to whomever it is assumed, by the so-called leadership, that needs to see it.  (This should be a parental decision but has become a state decision.)

The SLDS grant promises to integrate psychological data into the state database.   “Utah’s Comprehensive Counseling and Guidance programs have substantial Student Education Occupation Plan, (SEOP) data, but they are not well integrated with other student data. With the introduction of UtahFutures and the Student Strengths Inventory (SSI) and its focus on noncognitive data, combining such data with other longitudinal student level data to the USOE Data Warehouse the UDA.”  It also says:

“… psychosocial or noncognitive factors… include, but are not limited to educational commitment, academic engagement and conscientiousness, social comfort and social integration, academic self-efficacy, resiliency…  Until recently, institutions had to rely on standardized cognitive measures to identify student needs. … We propose to census test all current student in grades 11 and 12 and then test students in grade 11 in subsequent years using the Student Strengths Inventory (SSI) – a measure of noncognitive attitudes and behaviors.”  So the Student Strengths Inventory (SSI) is a “psychometric census” to be taken by every 11th and 12th grade student in Utah.  That’s one way they’re gathering the psychological data.

4.  Ms. Park herself is a key player and even a writer for the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) –the organization that co-created and co-copyrighted Common Core.  This makes me fairly confident that you are aware of what the CCSSO stands for and what its goals are.  On the CCSSO website, it states that one of its main goals is “Continued Commitment to Disaggregation” of student data.  Disaggregation means that academic bundles of students’ information will be separated into groups that are increasingly easy to identify individually.

5.   “Utah’s Model for Comprehensive Counseling and Guidance.” (UMCCG)   is an official document from the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) that actively endorses the collection of behavioral and non-academic data.   It says, for instance, that perception data must be assessed.

-From page 172: “Perception data: Perception data answer the question, “What do people think they know, believe or can do?” These data measure  what students and others observe or perceive, knowledge gained, attitudes and beliefs held and competencies achieved. These data are often collected through pre- and post-surveys, tests or  skill demonstration opportunities such as presentations or role play,  data, competency achievement, surveys or evaluation forms.” (pgs. 58-59)

-From page 66: Examples of attitudes or belief data  include: “74 percent of students believe fighting is wrong.”

This list of Student Outcomes (which will be tracked by computers, according to the document) is full of non-academic outcomes.

-From page 136: 
MG:A1 Demonstrate a deep regard for self and others
MG:A2 Demonstrate a personal commitment to basic democratic principles
MG:A3 Demonstrate a civil and considerate spirit while participating in society”
(Some people may object to MG:A2, for example, since “basic democratic principles” aren’t the same thing as “basic republican principles” and FYI, the Constitution specifically guarantees individuals a republican form of government.  (Article 4, Section 4, U.S. Constitution.)  So what if my child’s been taught about Article 4, Section 4, at home, and he/she doesn’t test “correctly” on MG:A2?  These outcomes may sound innocuous to many, but here’s the REAL point:  if the government/school system/USOE claims the right to test our children for one set of beliefs, be they good or bad, they can test our children for other sets of beliefs.  They don’t have the right to do this, in my opinion,  without parental consent or at least an opt-out-of-the-SLDS-database option for parents who do object.)

These 5 points together prove, at least to me, that the educational government of Utah is collecting behavioral and non-academic data on our children without our consent.

But lastly, there is this issue:  Ms. Park also wrote, “The only data that is collected and maintained is the specific data required by state and federal law.”

This is a big problem since the state and the federal privacy protection requirements do not match anymore.  Ms. Park does not seem to be aware of this.  But today, the state is much more protective of students’ rights.  Federal FERPA regulations have been altered –not by Congress but by the sneaky  Department of Education (DOE).  The DOE changed the definitions of terms.  They reduced from a requirement to only a “best practice” the previously protective rule that parental consent had to be obtained (prior to sharing private student data).  They redefined personally identifiable information.  So, no more parental consent needed and whatever they can con states into sharing, will be shared.  Is this the kind of federal rule that Ms. Park is content to have us obey?

Because Utah agreed in that same SLDS federal grant applicaton to use PESC standards and SIF interoperability frameworks, Utah’s children’s private data can be accessed by other states and federal agencies very easily as long as current Utah policy permits it.

Unless people stand up– unless bills like Jake Anderegg’s current HB169 student data privacy bill  and others like it will pass, we have very few protections and a wide open policy of quite promiscious data sharing here in Utah.

Sad but true.

Conspiracy Fact: Obama Budget to Cement Common Core   4 comments

Conspiracy theory: not.  This is conspiracy fact.

It’s become impossible to ignore the Constitutionally illegal federal takeover of education that uses federal grants, corporate partnerships with federal agencies, and now, the federal budget, to wrench power away from “we the people.”  They are successfully moving the levers of control from us to these non-transparent, unaccountable-to-voters, closed-door organizations which are officially partnered with the federal government.) The voter and her representatives are forgotten in the process.

I didn’t know, until I read Neal McClusky’s blog at Cato Institute this week, though, that Obama had planned to cement Common Core via his latest budget proposal.  But now I’ve seen it for myself.

obama

If Obama succeeds unimpeded by Congress, how will states still claim the option of withdrawing from the Common Core –and all the tests and data collection that Common Core entails?  How I hope Congress is watching –and will act.  This is where we need those checks and balances –ACTING.

President Obama, McClusky explained, “wants to make the Core permanent by attaching annual federal funding to its use, and to performance on related tests. Just as the administration called for in its 2010 NCLB reauthorization proposal, [the President] wants to employ more than a one-time program, or temporary waivers, to impose “college and career-ready standards,” which–thanks to RTTT and waivers–is essentially synonymous with Common Core. In fact, President Obama proposes changing Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – of which NCLB is just the most recent reauthorization – to a program called “College- and Career-Ready Students,” with an annual appropriation of over $14 billion.

This was utterly predictable … RTTT was the foot in the door, and once most states were using the same standards and tests, there was little question what Washington would eventually say: “Since everyone’s using the same tests and standards anyway, might as well make federal policy based on that.”

Perhaps given the scorching heat the Common Core has been taking lately, most people didn’t expect the administration to make the move so soon, but rational people knew it would eventually come. Indeed, the “tripod” of standards, tests, and accountability that many Core-ites believe is needed to make “standards-based reform” function, logically demands federal control… the end game is almost certainly complete federal control by connecting national standards and tests to annual federal funding.  And that, it is now quite clear, is no conspiracy theory.” 

So much for  the Utah State Office of Education’s oft-published claim that Common  Core is federal-strings-free.  Maybe now they’ll remove those lies from the USOE website.  Maybe now our State School Board will stop dismissing people’s concerns by assaulting them with the label “conspiracy theorists.”  Maybe.

But I’m finding no relief in the thought  that the state school board can’t keep calling us names anymore.  (It really never bothered me that much, to tell you the truth.  I just took it as a sign of their confusion.)

But I wish– oh, how I wish– that Utah had never given away the right to keep control.  We had a Constitutional RIGHT to locally control that “tripod” — standards, tests, and local accountability.  We did not fight for it.   Too few made a peep.

If Obama’s budget succeeds,  we appear to be toast.

Call your Congressmen.

 

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P.S.  If you live in Utah, be the 10,000th petition signer at http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com

Fighting Manipulation in Education Reform Bills   1 comment

brian greene pg

Rep. Brian Greene of Pleasant Grove –

His fair and transparent state school board elections bill passed the House vote and may pass into law if the Senate votes yes this week

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We are fighting manipulation in education reform. Utah legislators have written multiple bills this year that take important steps to curb it.  Before I give links to these very important bills –which we need to beg the senators and representatives to vote YES on– let’s talk briefly about the question of how  manipulation happens under the guise of education reform.

This six minute video featuring Dr. Peg Luksik, starting at 1:15, explains a lot.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aY4iMwlarNA

This speech was given a few weeks ago, when education expert Dr. Peg Luksik spoke about the manipulation that happens in computer adaptive, standardized tests.

Luksik explains:

The problem isn’t that it’s self-paced; the problem is that the test is open to manipulation.” (minute 1:15-1:20)  Test creators can adapt the test to make it appear to the average taxpayer, parent or policy maker to have been more difficult or easier.  It’s an internal mechanism, not a valid assessment.  A child has to agree or comply with questions along the way, or he/she cannot move on to take the rest of the test.

Dr. Luksik gives examples of this compliance.  In the 1990’s she saw internal documents of these tests that explained that the test was not to assess objective knowledge at all; it was to test –and score for– the child’s threshhold for behavior change without protest.

A sample question wanted a child to answer whether a child would join a vandalism group. There was no way a child could answer that he/she would not ever join a vandalism group; he or she could only indicate whether he/she would join if a best friend was in the group or if mother would not find out or other similar options.  Another example asked whether a child would cry, be upset, argue, when the family was moving to another country.  There was no option that was not outc0me based.  This prevents individual thought.

(FYI:  In Utah, these tests are called S.A.G.E. and are co-created by the federally funded Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and a company called American Institutes for Research which has taken at least $39 million Utah tax dollars to deliver Utah’s children a computer adaptive, Common Core aligned test.)

Dr. Luksik also explains that test questions that are supposed to be testing reading, are aiming to test other things, such as this example: a child’s level of honesty was tested in what was supposedly a reading test:  If he/she found a wallet with money in it what would he/she do?  No option was: return it.

Now, these tests were 1990’s Outcome Based Education (OBE) tests.  But the embedding principle is the same in today’s Common Core tests; just much easier for test creators to hide, since they’re not pencil and paper  tests anymore.

A child will simply answer questions on a test,  Dr. Luksik points out: “No child would think to say, ‘Is this a reading question?’ because they’re kids; they just take the test.'”  But how can teachers or parents protect them?

Three Bills:

Now, in Utah, we have the opportunity to take small steps in a better direction–  small but important steps.

mike kennedy

Right now, Rep. Mike Kennedy has a bill that  expands a committee of parents or guardians of Utah public education students to review computer adaptive test questions.  The bill also requires the State Board of Education to prepare and publish on its website a report containing information about test questions identified by the committee as problematic.  http://le.utah.gov/~2014/bills/static/HB0081.html

It has passed the House vote.   Hope and pray that it also passes the Senate.  And write to your senators and reps!

brian greene pg

Another great education bill in Utah that passed the house and may, possibly, pass the Senate and become a rare, good new law is Rep. Brian Greene’s bill for fair and transparent, partisan state school board elections. (Our system is horrible and MUST change: it begins with a closed-off, exclusionary, and Common Core-promoting questionnaire, followed by a small, biased committee making recommendations to the governor and then the governor appointing two preselected candidates from which the voters can choose.  And voters are not allowed to know whether these two are each or both Democrats, Republicans, Independents, or of any other party.)  http://le.utah.gov/~2014/bills/static/HB0228.html  We need this bill.

anderegg

There’s also Rep. Jake Anderegg’s important house bill 169 which aims to restrain the sharing of student data without parental or adult student consent.   http://le.utah.gov/~2014/bills/static/HB0169.html

These  bills are wonderful.  I’m so grateful for them.  But they’re far from silver bullets.

They do not stop Common Core standards.  They don’t stop Common Core testing.  They don’t stop the stalking being done by the un-opt-out-able State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS).  They don’t take away the 15% rule (meaning that Utah can’t add to its math and English standards because of the Common Core copyright and the federal 15% ceiling over the standards.)  The bills don’t change the fact that Common Core standards are still dumbing down the top level high school students by removing almost all of the calculus and trigonometry requirements that Utah had prior to Common Core; nor do they restore to high school students the missing 70% classic literature that’s been robbed.

But–

They are important steps in the right direction, in the direction of restoring parental (and voter/taxpayer) control over what’s going on in education today.  They work around the manipulation and put individuals in better control of what has felt like an almost overwhelmingly unfair education system.

Thank you, Rep. Kennedy, Rep. Greene, and Rep. Anderegg.

Thank you.  Thank you. Thank you!

USOE Curriculum Director Opposes Increased Parental Power in Curricular Decisions   Leave a comment

Utah parents, please take note:

Diana Suddreth, a curriculum director at Utah’s State Office of Education, sent out this email today:

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From: Suddreth, Diana <Diana.Suddreth@schools.utah.gov>

Date: Mon, Mar 3, 2014 at 9:06 AM Subject: HB342

Curriculum Friends,

Just a heads up that today in the House Education Standing Committee HB342 (Powers and Duties of the State Board of Education by Rep. Layton) will be heard.

This bill essentially gives more power to parents over curriculum standards, would prohibit us from adopting any national standards, and would require a revision of our current math and ELA standards.

Go to www.le.utah.gov  to read the bill and find additional information should you want to take any action.  Rep. Layton has promised a substitute that will be softer but as of yet, the original bill is still on the agenda.

Sydnee Dickson, Ed. D.

Director, Teaching and Learning

Utah State Office of Education

801-538-7788

Please note Utah has a very broad public records law.  Most written communication to or from our state employees regarding state business are public records availiable to the public and media upon request. Your email communication may be subject to public disclosure.

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