Utah Legislature Adopts Obama’s Model for “Turnaround Schools”   14 comments

I feel as if Secretary Duncan and President Obama run education in Utah without any legislative or USOE opposition at all, ever.

Whatever is suggested on the education pages of Whitehouse.gov, by its federal education branches or by its corporate partnersends up in Utah as a law, presented to the masses as if it were Utah’s idea.

Tonight: guess what?

The Salt Lake Tribune reported  that tonight, Utah lawmakers passed a bill that “will assign rewards and consequences to Utah schools based on the state’s controversial school grading system. Schools who improve their grades will get funding and salary bonuses, while struggling schools will have the option of getting mentoring from school turnaround experts.”

Am I the only one reading this as:  Utah adopted Obama’s School Turnaround model?

There is in fact an Obama-led, federal school turnaround model.   There’s the federal “Office of School Turnaround” where states are assigned program officers. There’s a blue team and a green team.

Utah’s been assigned to the green team on that federal office of school turnaround chart.  (I don’t remember voting on this.)

In the chart where Utah’s listed for turnaround (see below) the Utah program officer is not yet named.  It says, “To Be Determined.”  The feds hadn’t assigned us a program officer before today.

They surely will now.


green team

There’s also a federal Center on School Turnaround (CST) that’s so much more than an office in D.C.  It’s a whole ” federal network of 22 Comprehensive Centers”  that boasts ” 15 Regional Comprehensive Centers… and 7 national Content Centers.”  The federal CST condescends to report  that states are allowed to play a role in their own school turnaround.  But not the leading role; that’s for the feds and the Comprehensive Centers.  In a report titled “The State Role in School Turnaround” we learn that some of CST’s goals are to change states’ laws and to micromanage turnaround efforts.  In their words:

“The Center on School Turnaround’s four objectives:

  1. Create a Pro-Turnaround Statutory and Regulatory Environment
  2. Administer and Manage Turnaround Efforts Effectively”

HowStupid.  Or.   Blind.  AreWe. Really!   –And how apathetic to our rights.

Friends!  Here’s our wakeup fact of the decade: our state holds a Constitutional duty and right to keep the federal government out of education.  We are failing in this duty.  Utahns are collectively–  even lawmakers–  either asleep, too busy or perhaps paid off by corporate lobbyists partnered with the machine, that we cannot notice a swift transfer of fed ed’s aims into local ed’s reality.

The passage of SB 235 is just one example of this ongoing series of terrible mistakes that cement our actions in line with the federal will.



The new Utah law calls for “turnaround experts” to improve low labeled schools using one driving method: tests.  Schools will be labeled by student performance on Common Core/SAGE tests as low- or high-performing.  Then some will be assigned a  “turnaround expert” to raise Common Core test scores.

How will Utah, in practice, select the turnaround experts? Will the experts be chosen from Obama’s personal list of school turnaround experts, which you may view, with colorful photos of each person, at  Whitehouse.gov?  Will these experts be taken from Bill Gates’ personal turnaround recommendation list?  Will they be recommended by the Federal Center for School Turnaround (CST)?  –Or by bigtime school turnaround advocates at the Über-progressive Center for American Progress (CAP)?

That famous turnaround group, the Center for American Progress, brazenly “disagrees that school improvement should be left entirely to states” and the Center has written that: “the United States will have to largely abandon the beloved emblem of American education: local control… new authority will have to come at the expense of local control…  local control is the source of many of the nation’s problems related to education.”

I am not screaming out loud because I’m saving my screams until this next paragraph:

This week, the Tribune reported that longtime Utah State School Board member Leslie Castle “expressed frustration with the political rhetoric that pits states’ rights against the federal government. She…  urged her colleagues to refrain from statements critical of federal overreach.

‘I am not going to be voting in favor of anything that plays to this nonsense that somehow our relationship with the federal government is crazy and something we’re trying to get out of,’  she said.”  -Read the rest here.

In the Utah turnaround law, the phrase “credible track record” is used to establish the person who will “fix” Utah’s low-labeled schools.  “Credible track record” is an odd choice of words because in the post-2010 altered education world of Common Core, there has been no track record required of education reformers.  There were exactly  zero validity studies and no empirical evidence to accompany the Common Core standards and tests.  If you didn’t know that validity and piloting were missing, read what academics and scientists have been shouting from the rooftops about the nonvalid, utterly empty track record of Common Core tests and standards: Dr. Christopher Tienken‘s and Dr. Sandra Stotsky’s and  Dr. Gary Thompson‘s and Dr. Yong Zhao’s writings are good places to start.

Utah’s new law on school turnaround says that the experts who will turn around low-labeled schools must be:  “experts identified by the board under Section 53A-1-1206“. They must  “have a credible track record of improving student academic achievement… as measured by statewide assessments; (b) have experience designing, implementing, and evaluating data-driven instructional  systems…  have experience coaching public school administrators and teachers on designing data-driven school improvement plans…”

Translation:  the expert  solves problems by defining problems as test-centric.   The expert is solely devoted to test-focused, test-and-data-centric methods and will likely be devotees of Sir Michael Barber’s “Deliverology” method.  (“Deliverology,” written for American education reformers by a Brit, the CEA of Pearson, Inc., (the world’s largest education sales company) is a book/philosophy that  emphasizes results to the point that it’s called “merciless… imposing arbitrary targets and damaging morale” in its “top down method by which you undermine achievement of purpose and demoralize people.”)   Deliverology is popular because it works– but only when ruthlessly applied.

FYI, our U.S. Secretary of Education has long touted Barber’s books and robotic methods.

But I have veered off topic.  And Utah’s legislative session is past.

Better luck next year.






14 responses to “Utah Legislature Adopts Obama’s Model for “Turnaround Schools”

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  1. Should we just wait for the whole thing to implode?

  2. There’s a growing body of research about the destructiveness of the “turnaround model.” For example, Ogden School District was forced through this model by former superintendent Brad Smith, through which he carried out major cost-cutting and termination of librarians, teachers, tutors, and programs. The results? As he escaped to become state superintendent, the Ogden School District scored last in the state on the SAGE test. True school turnaround means lower class sizes, more resources, more education funding for a state decades behind in investing in the education of our children and young people.

    Dr. Tim Conrad, teacher educator, Weber State University, Ogden, Utah
  3. And during the discussions on the bill, teachers in high risk schools were called lazy and whiny by both legislators and Superintendent Brad Smith. I teach in a high risk school, and we are neither lazy or whiny. This money could be MUCH better used to actually HELP struggling schools, instead of bringing in “turn around specialists” from out of state.

    Threatened out West
  4. Threatened out West
  5. As soon as a school is targeted in Utah for “turnaround,” we need to support the school by questioning why the turnaround program is considered necessary and requesting alternative ways to truly help the school: more tutoring, books, technology, resources, lower class sizes, after school and summer programs, increased encouragement and support of students, parents, and teachers. Transparency should be required for everyone–the school, school district, parents, teachers and the community–not allowing the turnaround plans and goals to be kept secret but revealing how much money will be paid to the outside experts, how many staff and teachers the turnaround experts will demand be terminated, how many school resources will actually be added to support teachers and students, rather than simply replacing people and continuing to underfund a school deemed to be “struggling.”

    Dr. Tim Conrad, teacher educator, Weber State University, Ogden, Utah
  6. The spying gets worse! It’s a Utah company doing the spying. This is scary stuff! http://www.bobbraunsledger.com/testing-spies-admit-they-cast-a-really-broad-and-deep-net/

    Threatened out West
  7. Pingback: Utah Governor: Please Veto SB 235. Please Pass HB 360 | COMMON CORE

  8. High-stakes standardized testing is very unreliable and does not take into account the real teaching and learning taking place all day, every day, for nine months of every school year. That data is simply ignored. The best predictors of post high-school success for college or other careers are attendance and the grades students receive for each of the many classes they take. The billions of dollars nation-wide wasted on standardized testing should be put into smaller class sizes and increased resources of all kinds for students: tutoring, books, new technology, science labs, after-school and summer programs, cutting edge classes and programs, sports & arts clubs, drama, orchestras, and other quality educational investment for our precious children and young people.

    Dr. Tim Conrad, teacher educator, Weber State University, Ogden, Utah
  9. Pingback: No School Turnaround: Unanimous Board Veto Request from Utah’s Largest School District – to Gov Herbert | COMMON CORE

  10. Pingback: Ten Reasons To Opt Out of Common Core/SAGE Testing | COMMON CORE

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  12. There is certainly a lot to find out about this topic. I really like all the points you made.

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