Let’s not call this research! This is a fact-checking adventure.
This adventure begins because of the FAQ statements about Common Core posted at the Provo School District website. (See it on their website or just scroll to the bottom of the page where I’ve pasted it.)
This post is not meant to be accusatory or mean. Provo District and other districts tend to trust and echo what’s spoken and posted by the State Office. Clearly, districts and boards, like anyone, can and do make factual errors; but when the errors are very clearly pointed out, those mistakes should be corrected.
I apologize for the length of this article. I chiseled and chiseled but cannot in good conscience make it any shorter.
Question #1 at the Provo District FAQ states: “The Common Core was a grassroots initiative initiated by state governors and Superintendents in 2007.”
Common Core is far from being “grassroots.” President Obama has been pushing for national standards for many years. In 2007, he was justifying his decision to stop NASA’s Moon and Mars exploration programs to fund “his” new education program. His administration has used different terms to refer to his takeover of local education, but it has also provided a federal, official definition of “college and career ready standards” being “standards that are common to a significant number of states” –which can only be Common Core. He paid for Common Core test development. And Obama’s famous blueprint for reform included four education reforms, one of which was data collection, one of which was common standards and tests, and you can read the rest.
Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, claimed that a federal takeover of education was Obama’s idea. Buried in the second half of a long, glowing official speech about U.S. education reform are these words by Arne Duncan: “The North Star guiding the alignment of our cradle-to-career education agenda is President Obama’s goal” –and he said that even though: “Traditionally, the federal government in the U.S. has had a limited role in education policy,” Obama “has sought to fundamentally shift the federal role, so that the Department is doing much more… America is now in the midst of a “quiet revolution” in school reform.”
Secretary Duncan gloated that many states fell for the financially-baited federal Common Core hook without debating the move, but Duncan always carefully called the Standards a state-led creation, keeping up the ruse. He said that a majority of states “and the District of Columbia have already chosen to adopt the new state-crafted Common Core standards in math and English. Not studying it, not thinking about it, not issuing a white paper—they have actually done it. Over three-fourths of all U.S. public school students now reside in states that have voluntarily adopted higher, common college-ready standards… That is an absolute game-changer.”
Indeed it was a game changer.
To clear up doubt about whether Common Core was or was not grassroots-and-teacher-led, just follow the money trail. Those who paid for and promote this are being paid, or will be handsomely paid as it is implemented, to do so. The SBAC and PARCC Common Core tests are funded by the federal government. The Common Core standards’ writing, marketing and implementation are funded primarily by Microsoft owner, Pearson-Ed partner Bill Gates. This unelected influence continues locally. In Utah, the ways in which Pearson/Gates controls school data collection is formidable.
Most telling is the official partnership of the Department of Education with the Common Core creators. The ongoing support (coercion) of the federal government to have states adopt the private-trade-group held, copyrighted Common Core means that Common Core is neither purely a federal takeover nor is it purely a privatization of public schools, but it is a public-private partnership, a concept that takes voters out of the decision making driver’s seat.
Question #1 also misleads us by saying that Common Core was “initiated by state governors and superintendents.” It is true that the governors’ club, (NGA) and the superintendents’ club, (CCSSO) did create and copyright Common Core. Their “frequently asked questions” officially explains: “the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), led the development of the Common Core State Standards and continue to lead…” But not all governors belong to NGA! Not all superintendents belong to CCSSO! Some, in fact, are vehemently opposed to these private, closed-door, non-transparent, unelected trade organizations that wield falsely assumed power. I say “falsely assumed” because they pretend to Congress-like national representational authority for states, but they are not an elected group. No voter can affect what they do. No reporter can report on what they do.
Questions 2, 3 and 4 take on the question of whether standards and curriculum are independent of one another. This is like saying that a skeleton (standards) does not dictate what a body (curriculum) looks like. It’s a half-truth: sure, they are not the same thing. But I defy anyone to build a curriculum and related tests that truly soar above or are very different looking than the standards they are built upon. Watch the statement in a video by main Common Core funder Bill Gates as he explains to legislators that he’s looking forward to schools being a uniform customer base, and that “we’ll only know if Common Core standards work” when the standards, curriculum and tests align. You might also listen to teachers who testify that standards do drive curriculum and testing, as they narrow the autonomy and innovation of a classroom.
Question 5 asserts that the Common Core standards were internationally benchmarked. This is not true.
Dr. James Milgram, the Stanford emeritus professor of mathematics who served on the Common Core validation committee and who refused to sign off on the standards, said:
“I can tell you that my main objection to Core Standards, and the reason I didn’t sign off on them was that they did not match up to international expectations. They were at least 2 years behind the practices in the high achieving countries by 7th grade, and, as a number of people have observed, only require partial understanding of what would be the content of a normal, solid, course in Algebra I or Geometry. Moreover, they cover very little of the content of Algebra II, and none of any higher level course… They will not help our children match up to the students in the top foreign countries…”
Likewise, Professor Sandra Stotsky, who served on the same committee, who also refused to sign off on the Common Core standards because they were academically inferior, has written:
“…we are regularly told that Common Core’s standards are internationally benchmarked. Joel Klein, former head of the New York City schools, most recently repeated this myth in an interview with Paul Gigot, the Wall Street Journal editor, during the first week in June. Not mentioned at all in the interview or the op-ed he co-authored in the WSJ a week later is Klein’s current position in a company that does a lot of business with Common Core. An Exxon ad, repeated multiple times during a recently televised national tennis match, also suggested that Common Core’s standards were internationally benchmarked. We don’t know who influenced Exxon’s education director. Gigot never asked Klein what countries we were supposedly benchmarked to. Nor did the Exxon ad name a country to which these standards were supposedly benchmarked. Klein wouldn’t have been able to answer, nor could Exxon have named a country because Common Core’s standards are not internationally benchmarked. Neither the methodologically flawed study by William Schmidt of Michigan State University, nor the post-Common Core studies by David Conley of the University of Oregon, all funded by the Gates Foundation, have shown that Common Core’s content is close to, never mind equal to, the level of the academic content of the mathematics and English standards in high-achieving countries.”
In which top-achieving country is Algebra pushed to grade 9 instead of grade 8? In which top-achieving country is classic literature being replaced gradually by informational text? The phrase “internationally benchmarked” is misleading millions of people.
Question 6 states that the federal government has no role in the implementation or development of Common Core. This is a half-truth; as shown above, the federal government partnered with private groups who are developing and implementing the Common Core. The role of the federal government has been to heavy-handedly partner with and to promote the Career and College Readiness /aka Common Core Initiative’s full agenda, with grants, speeches, and threats –while saying that localities retain freedom to choose.
Question 7 asks: Will Utah taxpayers have to pay more money to implement the new Utah Core Standards? The Provo District says that it will not cost any additional money. This cannot possibly be true– even common sense alerts us to this, but so does Pioneer Institute, a rare think tank that is not-Bill-Gates-nor-federally funded. Here is that think tank’s report.
Reason this out. When, in the past, have districts needed to throw out and replace virtually all old text books for totally different math and English standards? Never. When have there been so many wholly transformative (for good or ill) teacher development classes statewide? Never. When has the state tested students so often and so heavily to align with national testing practices? Taxpayers even had to fund the marketing and political blitzing of the Utah State Office of Education as it has aimed to persuade parents that Common Core is a positive change.
Question 8 asks, “How does the local school board fit into the Common Core?” Without saying so directly, it answers its own question: the local school board’s job has seemingly become to nod and agree with all that the state pushes upon it, groupthink style.
Question 9 asks, “Do these standards incorporate both content and skills?” While it is true that both content and skills are partially covered in Common Core, it is an important reality that less knowledge and more of what Dr. Stotsky refers to as “empty skill sets,” with much less content, is being taught under Common Core. Virtually everything has changed, and all without field testing or academic research to base the changes upon. Even vocabulary words are changing to less literary, more technical/industrial words, words that are being called “more relevant” than the rich vocabulary offered in the literary classics. And, while small passages of founding documents and classic literature are to be taught and tested, they are not to be placed in context nor read in whole. This, to me, looks like dumbing down. Professor Thomas Newkirk of the University of New Hampshire explains: “The central message in their guidelines is that the focus should be on “the text itself”… The text should be understood in “its own terms.” While the personal connections and judgments of the readers may enter in later, they should do so only after students demonstrate “a clear understanding of what they read.” So the model of reading seems to have two stages—first a close reading in which the reader withholds judgment or comparison with other texts, focusing solely on what is happening within “the four corners of the text.” And only then are prior knowledge, personal association, and appraisal allowed in. This seems to me an inhuman, even impossible, and certainly unwise prescription.” –Speaking Back to the Common Core
The Provo District claims: “In Mathematics, the Common Core State Standards lay a solid foundation in whole numbers, addition, subtraction…” At which ages are these math concepts being taught? Many foundational concepts have been pushed back. Fluency with fractions/decimals/ratios is pushed to junior high, when it used to be foundational for elementary school levels. Most calculus and other higher math concepts are pushed out of high school completely— not available until college. Dr. James Milgram said that Common Core math standards “only require partial understanding of what would be the content of a normal, solid, course in Algebra I or Geometry. Moreover, they cover very little of the content of Algebra II, and none of any higher level course…” Noted math expert Ze’ev Wurman has noted that Common Core math standards, now set in the concrete of nationalized, high-stakes testing, “mark the cessation of educational standards improvement in the United States.”
Question 10 asks whether these math standards cover all the key math topics in the proper sequence. It claims that the Common Core math standards “are coherent and based on evidence” No link to such evidence is given.
Dr. Milgram has said, “There is no point where the student-constructed algorithms are explicitly replaced by the very efficient standard methods for doing one-digit operations. Why does Common Core adopt this convoluted method of teaching math? The stated reason is that learning the standard algorithm doesn’t give students a “deeper conceptual understanding” of what they’re doing. But the use of student-constructed algorithms is at odds with the practices of high-achieving countries and is not supported by research. Common Core is using our children for a huge and risky experiment.”
Question 11 addresses the ongoing discussion about who has control of the classroom. Provo District states that the Common Core standards “do not dictate how teachers should teach. Teachers will continue to devise lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their classrooms, as well as select instructional materials they feel are most appropriate.”
But teachers are testifying that this is not true. Utah teachers Ann Florence, Stuart Harper, Susan Wilcox, Malin Williams, Diana McKay and many other teachers have spoken out and risked or lost their jobs to tell a very different story. In addition, we have the above-cited testimony of funder Bill Gates who says that the standards, tests and curriculum will align to prove that the standards “work.” It’s like the old Ford Advertisement: “You can Have Any Color As Long as it’s Black.” The state, federal, and corporate ed sales (textbook companies) say the same thing: “You can have any standards as long as they are the exact same as all other states’ standards.” Almost all the curriculum in the nation is aligning, building a new education system on a very sandy foundation. The fact is that there is a Common Core 15% no-adding-to-the-standards rule in contracts and agreements that is common knowledge, both in testing and curriculum. The USOE continues to dismiss the suffocating 15% rule as “not a big deal.”
Question 12 asks what would happen if Utah were to reject Common Core. The Provo District then says that because the Common Core Standards “are not federal” that this would not alter Utah’s relationship with the federal government. This assertion contains two untrue portions: 1) saying that Common Core Standards are not federal implies that they are not federally approved/federally promoted/federally set as conditions for receipt of federal grants and Title I monies. But they are all of those things.
Although the NGA/CCSSO wrote and copyrighted the standards, the federal government has pushed them more than anyone —has disguised the nature and name of it, deceptive language. Federally, the Common Core Standards are called the “College and Career-Ready Standards.” But at the NGA/CCSSO level, it’s called Common Core. The feds officially defined “College and Career Ready Standards” as “standards common to a significant number of states.” See this official re-definition on the federal education website. Although federal insiders know this, they don’t choose to clarify it.
Question 12 goes on to say that because Utah Law now requires computer adaptive testing, the testing would continue with AIR (American Institutes for Research) even if we rejected Common Core itself. This does not make sense; Utah’s AIR (aka SAGE) test is aligned to Common Core. Why would we stick with that after dropping Common Core? Were we to reject Common Core, we would then create an alternative test with a non-Common Core aligned company using better, independent standards.
Question 12 states that the State Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) would still be in place. This is true, and problematic. Since Utah has no proper protections in place over the privacy of student data, and since the federal goverment shredded formerly protective federal FERPA privacy laws, Utah would have to either create proper protections legislatively, or Utah would need to shut down the SLDS and return the $9.6 million that Utah accepted from the federal government to create it, using federally directed interoperability frameworks (see pages 2 and 4 on that grant’s pdf) which created a de facto national data collection system). Since national data collection systems, de facto or not, are illegal, it would be preferable to shut down the SLDS.
Question 12 further states that “Utah would have to go through the expense of writing a new core or adopt the former core–which is not seen as “College and Career Ready” standards… newly purchased materials have to be discarded. If Utah writes unique standards, there will be little or no available materials or textbooks to support their instruction.” This is mostly correct. Utah’s hasty adoption of Common Core has cost her countless millions in newly purchased materials and programs. (See question 7 above, which ironically asserts that the cost of Common Core is not an issue.) There are a limited number of textbook companies that offer curriculum independent from Common Core. Some curriculum companies, such as Saxon Math and Shirley Grammar, still offer editions that have not changed to Common Core to accomodate private schools and home schools. Others, such as the Institute for Excellence in Writing, have re-labeled curriculum, calling it Common Core aligned, but have not made actual changes to it. Remember that all older (classical education) texts are independent of Common Core, since Common Core only began its explosive existence in the past four years.
Question 13 asks what assessments are required by the federal government and answers that ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) aka “No Child Left Behind” requires states to have assessments in math, language arts, and science. This is true. What isn’t explained, and should be, is this: The federal government first of all has no constitutional business requiring states to have assessments. See the U.S. Constitution and G.E.P.A. law (General Educational Provisions Act).
Yet the federal government now corrals its state funding to be used for tests, technologies, professional development, and student computer devices only if and when they are aligned with Common Core (aka College and Career Ready, or CCR). The federal government approves a limited number of testing organizations and consortia. (Utah’s so-called choice, the A.I.R. company, has “developed the only computer adaptive test that is federally approved.“)
Question 15 contends that “Utah teachers will write all of the questions that will be used in the new assessment system” and that “Every teacher in the state has been invited to participate in the item writing.” Every teacher in the state has not been invited. Ask around. It’s not true. Also, in the words of the actual contract that Utah and the A.I.R. testing company have signed –the contract is available from the State Office of Education– a combination of AIR psychometricians, and also Utah teachers, are co-writing the test items. Why let a single psychometrician anywhere near our children’s academic tests?
Question 16 discusses the 15-parent panel which reviews the AIR/SAGE tests to see that they are strictly academic. The panel’s work has not been given the respect it deserved. Nor can we honestly say that the USOE is not collecting behavioral data, inside the SAGE test or by other state-created methods to be discussed below.
Of her experience on the parent panel, mother Alyson Williams, stated (see the comments section) that:
“There were questions that parents flagged as inappropriate, subjective or biased. We were promised that these test items would be reviewed and addressed and that we would get to see how they were addressed… long after this Spring’s pilot, unfortunately… I feel it is a manipulation of my cooperation to characterize it as unreserved approval of these assessments.”
Another member of the panel, Louisa Walker, stated: “Quoted from [Assistant State Superintendent] Judy Park: ‘… Every parent on the panel… agreed that there was nothing in the questions that was inappropriate.’ I served on that 15 parent committee, and I will tell you that is not true … I wasn’t the only one to flag items because of subjective, inappropriate, or misleading content…”
A third member of the parent panel, Jennie Earl, stated that only 2 or 3 parents actually read each of the questions, due to the huge number of questions and small number of parents permitted to read them. She wrote: “… a parent would read a question they had concerns with to gather additional insight from the other parents in the room… because of the nature of the content in the question or bias in the wording…. These items were flagged in addition to other items parents felt needed revision or removal. We don’t know the final outcome thus far on flagged items… I might add… measuring teachers and schools based on a value-added model or growth model is not a valid measurement tool for identifying effective teachers or schools.”
A fourth member of the 15-parent state panel, Kim Kehrer, wrote: “I was also on the parent panel. The questions were reviewed at most by two members of the 15 parent panel. Here are the facts: 43 questions were removed due to various reasons. 160 questions were changed or modified to address the question of concern and 397 questions will be used in the testing and reviewed again next year. I second Jennie Earl’s comment that we are not a validating committee.”
In addition to these concerns, the idea that the tests were strictly academic must be addressed. That cannot be believed by any rational researcher.
1- Do a word search on the AIR contract with Utah; the word “psychometric” comes up 73 times. (Look up that word’s definition and find that psychometrics are psychological and educational measurement using tests.)
2- Look up the AIR company: “AIR’s mission is to conduct and apply the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation”.
3- Look at Utah’s legislation about computer adaptive state testing and learn that 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. test or A.I.R.– test. (There were other, similar laws, years prior to this, as well.) –Are we to believe that although AIR’s purpose is to test behavioral and social indicators, and although Utah law says that the test must test behavioral indicators, the test still won’t?
4- See Utah’s SLDS grant application starting at page 87 and read how non-cognitive behaviors that have nothing to do with academics, will be collected and studied. (This may or may not include information embedded in AIR/SAGE tests) These behaviors will include “social comfort and integration, academic conscientiousness, resiliency, etc.” to be evaluated in part through the psychometric census known as the “Student Strengths Inventory. (SSI)” That inventory –a child’s psychological information– will be integrated into the database (SLDS). The SLDS grant promises to integrate psychological data into the state database.
“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 using… SSI, a measure of noncognitive attitudes and behaviors.” The Student Strengths Inventory (SSI) is a “psychometric census” to be taken by every 11th and 12th grade student in Utah.
The Utah Office of Education openly admits to gathering student psychological data. It has not yet openly admitted that SAGE/AIR tests do this. But with such a policy, openly shown in the USOE’s SLDS grant, why wouldn’t the USOE also, soon if not now, use the SAGE test along with SSI, to gather attitude and belief data on Utah children? The point is that proper legal protections are not in place. Student data and family privacy is vulnerable.
5– The USOE has a history of working in harmony with even the unconstitutional federal initiatives. The U.S. Department of Education issued a report on school gathering of behavioral/belief data. Read its 2013 “Promoting Grit, Tenacity and Perserverance” report. It encourages assessment of student beliefs and personality characteristics, and the keeping of longitudinal records of these traits. The report encourages the use of facial expression cameras, wireless skin conductors, posture analysis seats and other physical devices to measure student attitudes, beliefs and engagement with what is being presented. (see page 44)
Why isn’t the Provo District and the Utah School Board making statements of discontent with the directions in which the federal government is taking education and data collection in light of such federal reports and recommendations?
Question 18, 19 and 20 concern student data privacy. 18 asks what individual student information is given to the federal government from the assessments given in Utah. It says that “districts do not gather personal information from families such as religion affiliation.” It says, “The Federal Government does not have a direct connection with the Utah data base.”
Almost no proper legal protections are in place for student data privacy, while parents are not permitted to opt any public/charter school-attending child out of the state database (SLDS). Also, formerly protective federal FERPA privacy laws have been shredded by the Department of Education. Changes include reducing the requirement (of getting parental consent prior to accessing personally identifiable student information) to an optional “best practice“. At the same time, local privacy laws at least in Utah, are unspecific. Data alliances and data sharing practices among agencies grow and grow, almost unrestrained by privacy laws.
The federal government has long been collecting aggregate (partial, grouped, not easily personally-identifiable) student data. The CCSSO has been collecting national data, too. This is common knowledge.
What is in question is whether these D.C. entities have any access to the fifty State Longitudinal Database Systems, which contain personally identifiable information, databases which are (by federal grant-mandate) inter-operable databases. This question was addressed, ironically, by an insider, a writer named David DeSchryver who aimed to persuade readers to agree that ESEA (No Child Left Behind, a federal law) should be reauthorized. While I disagree with that thesis, I appreciate that the author of the Whiteboard Advisors article revealed what should be common knowledge: the federal government is collecting SLDS-collected student data via the IES and NCES.
He writes: “Most readers are probably not aware that the law [ESEA] authorizes the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), and other research related work. IES provides much of the commonly used and accepted data on US public schools…. the IES is uniquely positioned… It has access to data from every state and school district… This data… bolstered by longitudinal data systems, will benefit the entire field of education. More data, however, requires more organization and IES plays an important role here… It helps to standardize data structure so that new data can connect to prior data sets and research.”
The CCSSO (Council of Chief State School Officers) which copyrighted Common Core and created it, the same CCSSO that created Common Educational Data Standards –has an openly admitted, openly stated mission to disaggregate student data. (See goal #4) The past and current State Superintendents and the Associate State Superintendent of Utah are members of CCSSO. Assistant Superintendent Judy Park is also a writer for CCSSO. This makes me fairly confident that these Utahns are aware of what the CCSSO stands for and what its goals are.
To dis-aggregate means to move toward specificity: identifying which individual person did what. Disaggregation means that academic bundles of students’ information will be separated into groups that are increasingly easy to identify individually. A press release showed that Choice/Pearson partnered with the state of Utah to create the UTREX system that would disaggregate student data.
(Every Utahns should ask our top education leaders and legislators why, on the CCSSO website, it states that one of its main goals is “Continued Commitment to Disaggregation” of student data. Why do we remain supporters of CCSSO?)
Provo district says that ” The Federal Government has no direct access to this [SLDS/UTREX data] system.” But indirectly, it does. From the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) we read: “states must… continue building linkages [from K-12] … across critical agencies such as health, social services and criminal justice…” So if the federal government has access to any DQC-adhering state’s database, it will have access to the other agencies’ information about citizens linked thereby.
Utah is a Data Quality Campaign adherent. The DQC used Utah in its report as a prime example of how its state foster care services data and its school-collected data were combined to find out information about a certain child. Parental rights or student privacy rights were not mentioned as being a relevant part of that equation.
The federal EDFACTS data exchange claims that it’s gathering national data. The student data dis-aggregation club, CCSSO, is officially partnered with the federal government to use CEDS, common data standards in education which make student data more easily disaggregated. Additionally, the federal government paid for all 50 states to have federally-structured State Longitudinal Database Systems to collect personally identifiable information. National Data Collection Models encourage (but do not require) personally identifiable information to be collected and shared between agencies and among states. And at the Arne Duncan-approved Data Quality Campaign, we learn that the answer to” “Are education data just test scores?” is: “No… Data include student and teacher attendance, services students receive, student academic development and growth, teacher preparation information, postsecondary success and remediation rates, and more.”
Previous to widespread scrutiny of the (federal branch) NCES’s National Data Collection Model (NDCM) and prior to the NDCM removing this information, but, as older news articles, videos and blogs testify— it was suggested by the federal model that student nicknames, religious affiliation, birthdate, GPA, allergies, maternal last name, voting status and many more data fields should be filled by schools. (For evidence see screenshots which were saved from NDCM – minute 27:26 on this video by the Restore Oklahoma Public Education group. I, too, saw and wrote about them here.)
Question 21 correctly asserts that Utah state law (code 53A-1-402.6) allows Utah to “exit any agreement, contract, memorandum of understanding, or consortium that cedes control of Utah’s core curriculum standards.” The problem has never been that we can’t exit; it’s that there is not enough understanding of the gravity of the Common Core error, nor enough political will, to choose to exit.
Question 22 says that adequate public feedback opportunities were given prior to adoption of Common Core. Whether on the national or state level, this is untrue. This assertion has been rebutted by the Alpine School District (minutes) and by Alpine Board member Wendy Hart, as well as by the Karl G. Maeser School Board. Maesar’s statement to the Utah School Board says, “there were no opportunities for review of these standards by local school districts or parents.”
If adequate feedback opportunities had been offered, wouldn’t parents at least know the term “Common Core” prior to being told it was already adopted? If adequate public feedback opportunities had been offered, wouldn’t legislatures that are now paying for its implementation have had some discussion in the newspapers? Wouldn’t teachers (like me) have been sent an email, inviting us to research and submit public comment on the subject? The fact that the public debates on the topic and the vast firestorm of anti-Common Core disapproval is happening now, FOUR YEARS AFTER Utah implemented it, is evidence that it was not properly, adequately discussed prior to adoption. For more on this absurd hastiness, listen to the public record audio “minutes” of the state school board in 2010 as they hastily adopted the standards without even a full first reading, due to federal time pressure on a grant application deadline that was Common Core adoption-dependent:
Finally, for your reference, here is the original Q & A:
Provo School District
Common Core FAQ*
* Provo City School District recognizes Seth Sorensen, the Curriculum and Assessment Specialist for Nebo School District for his work in creating the original FAQ document on which this is based.
Q1. Who led the Common Core State Standards Initiative?
A. The Common Core was a grassroots initiative initiated by state governors and Superintendents in 2007. The nation’s governors and education commissioners, through their representative organizations, the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) led the development of the Common Core State Standards and continue to lead the initiative. Teachers, parents, school administrators and experts from across the country together with state leaders have provided input into the development of the standards.
Q2. What are core standards?
A. Core or educational standards help teachers ensure their students have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful by providing clear goals for student learning. Standards are concepts that need to be taught, such as addition of fractions in mathematics, and the grade level where they should be taught.
Q3. What is the difference between standards and curriculum?
A. Standards are the required skills and concepts for the students to achieve. Curriculum include the materials and content that is used to teach the standards.
Q4. Who chooses/adopts state standards and curriculum?
A. The Utah Constitution designates to the Utah State School Board the responsibility to choose state standards. Local school boards and the Utah Legislature do not. Local school boards and schools select the curriculum, which is generally the textbook or program for delivering the standards. Local school teams and individual teachers choose the everyday lesson content. The Federal Government has no say in either standards, curriculum or everyday lesson content. Utah State Code states in 53A-1-402.6. Core curriculum standards: “(1) In establishing minimum standards related to curriculum and instruction requirements under Section 53A-1-402, the State Board of Education shall, in consultation with local school boards, school superintendents, teachers, employers, and parents implement core curriculum standards which will enable students to, among other objectives:
(a) communicate effectively, both verbally and through written communication;
(b) apply mathematics; and
(c) access, analyze, and apply information.”
The Utah Code also spells out local school board control of materials:
“(4) Local school boards shall design their school programs, that are supported by generally accepted scientific standards of evidence, to focus on the core curriculum standards with the expectation that each program will enhance or help achieve mastery of the core curriculum standards.
(5) Except as provided in Section 53A-13-101, each school may select instructional materials and methods of teaching, that are supported by generally accepted scientific standards of evidence, that it considers most appropriate to meet core curriculum standards.” http://le.utah.gov/code/TITLE53A/htm/53A01_040206.htm
Q5. Are the standards internationally benchmarked?
Yes. International benchmarking played a significant role in both sets of standards. In fact, the college and career ready standards include an appendix listing the evidence that was consulted in drafting the standards and the international data used in the benchmarking process.
Q6. Does the federal government play a role in Common Core standards implementation? A. “The Federal Government had no role in the development of the Common Core State Standards and will not have a role in their implementation. The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort that is not part of No Child Left Behind and adoption of the standards is in no way mandatory. “
Q7. Will Utah taxpayers have to pay more money to implement the new Utah Core Standards?
A. The Utah State Board of Education regularly updates the Utah Core Standards. The funding for the implementation of this latest set of standards will not cost Utah taxpayers additional money. The professional development that takes place in the districts will remain at the same level it has for the past decade; the only change will be the content focus. School districts are concerned with their ability to provide the technology and infrastructure necessary to support electronic testing associated with the new SAGE assessment of the Utah Core Standards. The Utah Legislature has not raised taxes to fund this change. Provo City School District supports the advancement of student access to technology and related programs and has been using existing local and state funding to move in this direction.
Q8. How does the local school board fit into the Common core?
A. School Board powers and duties generally, according to State Code 53A-3-402. include:
“ (1) Each local school board shall: (a) implement the core curriculum utilizing instructional materials that best
correlate to the core curriculum and graduation requirements;
(b) administer tests, required by the State Board of Education, which measure the progress of each student, and coordinate with the state superintendent and State Board of Education to assess results and create plans to improve the student’s progress which shall be submitted to the State Office of Education for approval;”
Q9. Do these standards incorporate both content and skills?
A. Yes. “In English Language Arts, the Common Core State Standards require certain critical content for all students, including:
• Classic myths and stories from around the world;
• America’s Founding Documents;
• Foundational American literature: and
The remaining crucial decisions about what content should be taught are left to state and local determination. In addition to content coverage, the Common Core State Standards require that students systematically acquire knowledge in literature and other disciplines through reading, writing, speaking, and listening.
In Mathematics, the Common Core State Standards lay a solid foundation in:
• whole numbers;
• fractions; and
Taken together, these elements support a student’s ability to learn and apply more demanding math concepts and procedures. The middle school and high school standards call on students to practice applying mathematical ways of thinking to real world issues and challenges; they prepare students to think and reason mathematically.”
Q10. Do the math standards cover all the key math topics in the proper sequence?
A. The mathematical progressions presented in the Common Core State Standards are coherent and based on evidence. Part of the problem with having 50 different sets of state standards is that different states cover different topics at different grade levels. Coming to consensus guarantees that from the viewpoint of any given state, topics will move up or down in the grade level sequence. This is unavoidable. What is important to keep in mind is that the progression in the Common Core State Standards is mathematically coherent and leads to college and career readiness at an internationally competitive level.
Q11. What requirements do the Common Core State Standards give to teachers?
A. The Common Core State Standards are merely a clear set of expectations and curriculum standards for the knowledge and skills students need in English/ language arts and mathematics at each grade level to prepare students to graduate college and career ready. The standards establish what students need to learn, but they do not dictate how teachers should teach. Teachers will continue to devise lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their
classrooms, as well as select instructional materials they feel are most appropriate for their students.
Q12. If Utah were to abandon the Utah Core Standards, what would that mean?
A. The relationship with Federal Government would not change, because the Utah Core Standards are not Federal. Utah Law still requires adaptive testing, so the testing will continue with AIR. The Longitudinal Data system would still be in place. Utah would have to go through the expense of writing a new core or adopt the former core–which is not seen as “College and Career Ready” standards. There may be an expense if newly purchased materials have to be discarded. If Utah writes unique standards, there will be little or no available materials or textbooks to support their instruction.
Q13. What assessments are required by the Federal Government?
An ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) was originally passed in 1965 and had major revisions in 1980, 1994, and 2001 (This latest revision called No Child Left Behind). The current requirements of this act require states to have assessments in place in Math, Language Arts, and Science. They leave the decision to the states to determine the assessments and this selection is submitted to the U.S. Department of Education.
Q14. What assessments are required by the Utah State Legislature?
A. The Utah State Legislature requires the following assessments in State Statute:
• Computer Adaptive Assessment in Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and an alternate assessment for students with severe cognitive disabilities. These assessments are given to all students in 3rd-11th Grade (CRTs and UAA).
• Statewide Reading assessment given 3 times per year to every K-3rd grade student (DIBELS).
• Kindergarten-2nd grade end of year assessments, which are developed by school districts. • Direct Writing Assessment given to all 5th and 8th grade students (DWA).
• New College and Career ready Assessments given to all 8th -11th grade students (ACT and companion assessments, Explore and Plan).
• An English Language Learning assessment, which places students at various levels of English proficiency (WIDA).
Q15. Who writes the questions that will be used in the new assessment system?
Utah teachers will write all of the questions that will be used in the new assessment system. Every teacher in the state has been invited to participate in the item writing and all volunteers meet together for weeks with administrators and curriculum specialists from the Utah State Office of Education to develop test items that will accurately measure student learning of standards within the core curriculum.
–Q16. Are all questions on the new assessments reviewed by a parent group?
A. Yes. All questions are reviewed by a group of 15 parents. This parent group will verify that all test questions are strictly academic. See the following link: Utah State contract with AIR: http://www.schools.utah.gov/assessment/Adaptive-Assessment-System/136199-AIR.aspx (See page 7 for the language that requires USOE and Parent review to approve any
test question before they are used by students.)
Q17. Was AIR assessment required by the Federal Government?
A. No. Utah Legislature passed an Adaptive Assessment law after a successful piloting of adaptive testing. (House Bill 15, 2012) Utah issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for an adaptive assessment vendor and AIR was chosen. AIR is a leader in academic testing and had a superior product for end of level tests, formative tests and interim tests.
Q18. What individual student information is given to the Federal Government from the assessments given in Utah?
A. None. The only data provided to the federal government by the State of Utah is aggregate school-level data. No individual student data is provided. The Federal Government does not have a direct connection with the Utah data base. School districts do not gather personal information from families such as religion affiliation
or political party
Q19. What is the Longitudinal Data System in Utah?
A. With 41 school districts and 84 charter schools that use at least 10 different types of student information systems, Utah needed a way to communicate within the education system. The Longitudinal Data system is called UTREx. The first task of UTREx was to assign each student a unique number (SSID), so that two school districts or charter schools could not claim funding from the state for the same student. It is also used to help transfer student transcript information to higher education. A great benefit is the ability to transfer student records for students who move from one district or charter to the next. The UTREx system improves accuracy and efficiency of education. Hundreds of hours of time for school personnel will be saved because of the UTREx system. The Federal Government has no access to this system
Q20. Are we as schools and districts required to collect more student information as a result of Utah Senate Bill 82, known as the “Digital Backpack”, passed in 2013?
A. Yes This Utah bill requires a new system that “collects longitudinal student transcript data from LEAs (districts and charter schools) and the unique student identifiers as described in Section 53A-1-603.5.”
The bill summary states: “This bill:
• defines terms;
• requires the State Board of Education to establish the Utah Student Record Store where an authorized LEA user may access student data in a Student Achievement backpack that is relevant to the user’s LEA or school;
• specifies the data to be included in a Student Achievement Backpack; and requires the State Board of Education to ensure that student data in a Student Achievement Backpack is accessible through an LEA’s student information system by June 30, 2017.”
This bill effectively doubles the amount of data districts are required to send on to the State office of Education. This new data includes things like school attendance, student growth scores, student reading level, student writing sample, student performance by standard and objective, etc…
Text from SB 82: http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/sbillamd/SB0082S01.htm
Q21. Can the State of Utah change their core standards at any time?
A. According to state code 53A-1-402.6. Core curriculum standards.
“(6) The state may exit any agreement, contract, memorandum of understanding, or consortium that cedes control of Utah’s core curriculum standards to any other entity, including a federal agency or consortium, for any reason, including:
(a) the cost of developing or implementing core curriculum standards; (b) the proposed core curriculum standards are inconsistent with community
(c) the agreement, contract, memorandum of understanding, or consortium:
(i) was entered into in violation of Part 9, Implementing Federal Programs Act, or Title 63J, Chapter 5, Federal Funds Procedures Act;
(ii) conflicts with Utah law;
(iii) requires Utah student data to be included in a national or multi-state database;
(iv) requires records of teacher performance to be included in a national or multi-state database; or
(v) imposes curriculum, assessment, or data tracking requirements on home school or private school students.
(7) The State Board of Education shall annually report to the Education Interim Committee on the development and implementation of core curriculum standards.”
Q22. Was any feedback given from the public or any group on the common core prior to adoption by states?
A. Yes. There were a number of opportunities given for the public, as well as other groups such as educators to give feedback on the core standards, as well as the college and career ready standards.
Summary of public feedback on K-12 standards: http://www.corestandards.org/assets/k-12-feedback-summary.pdf
Summary of Public Feedback on College and Career Ready Standards:
–From the Provo School District website