Archive for August 2018

USBA Joins USDOE in Trying to Take Away Families’ Freedom to #OPTOUT: Common Core RISE same as Common Core SAGE   3 comments

Educational freedom needs defending.  Children need defending.  Parental rights need defending.

As its new legislative priority, the USBA lobby has set this bullying doozy:  forcing all students to take the Common Core tests and getting rid of the parental legal power to opt a child out of taking the tests, for any reason.

The Lehi Free Press reported that USBA passed a motion: “…every student that receives the benefit of state-funded education should participate in state created end-of-year assessments…”  While students are taught not to bully others,  the state may set the example of bullying both students and parents with this new priority.

Meanwhile, the state is also trying to convince parents and teachers that the much-hated Common Core SAGE tests are gone, so we should have no reason to opt out; trust the new Common Core RISE tests, they say.

This USOE video promoting Utah’s new, Common Core RISE test, which will replace Utah’s Common Core SAGE test for most grades, can do nothing to appease unhappy parents and teachers, because RISE is so similar to SAGE.  The film praises the things it shared in common with the SAGE test.  And that is like praising the rearranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Watching the promo film, I felt sad as lovely teachers, with beautiful things to say, each avoided speaking directly about the dark issues of the Common Core tests. The  issues with SAGE testing that caused about 10% of all Utah parents to opt their children out of the tests, are STILL THERE in the test called RISE.

If you watch the film to the end and are still wondering, “What specifically are these interviewees praising?  And what’s improved with RISE over SAGE?!” — just go to the Utah State Office of Education’s “Frequently Asked Questions” link.  It confirms that there’s no real difference, despite what the film implies.

Wendy Hart of Utah’s largest school district, Alpine District, has said of RISE, “It’s like saying that the city got a new library– because they replaced the catalog software.  But the building, the books and the patrons are the same.”

State Board members, local board members, and Utah teachers who oppose RISE (as they opposed SAGE) were of course not invited to participate in the filming of this taxpayer funded, RISE-promo film.

The facts are that as with SAGE, with RISE:  parents are still not in the loop, the tests are still secretive, the tests are still not local, are not coming from teachers of these students; the tests are still founded on controversial Common Core standards, not local charter standards or Utah-built standards, and the tests are still collecting academic and nonacademic data to share with corporate, federal and state entities (not just with the  teachers, as the film implies).   https://www.schools.utah.gov/file/04be9c35-71ea-41e2-8a78-2dc39195ad6f

The initiative to try to get Utahns to embrace RISE illustrates the new bullying hierarchy: the federal government is strong-arming the state government via ESSA, and so the state now has decided to strong-arm parents, asking them to strong-arm the students.

The RISE test promo-film is step one toward forcing the kids.  But the story really began with federal ESSA.  For backstory, read Utah State School Board member Michelle Boulter’s article at her campaign website, and Autumn Cook’s article published by The Federalist.  The Federalist article by Autumn Cook details the federal mandating drive for tests, that may soon quash Utah’s rights to opt children out of tests for any reason.  She raises many interesting questions, including this one: “Utah’s hightest opt-out rates occur among economically advantaged, non-minority student populations with highly involved parents… so will this agreement direct Title 1 money away from schools with higher financial needs and toward well-to-do schools with high opt out rates?  And what form with federal remediation of non-compliant local schools take?”

At stake are the following freedoms:  academic freedom within Utah schools; the freedom for a parent to opt a student out of testing– for any reason; freedom for a school to follow its own, foundational education charter (rather than veering toward new, test-centric curriculum– to avoid being labeled a failing school) the freedom for a school not to pressure students and parents to take Common Core tests, the freedom for schools to actually be different from one another; the freedom for parents or elected representatives, not the federal government, to determine which schools “need” remediation.

Please write or call your school boards, state board members (at Board@schools.utah.gov) and legislators:  https://le.utah.gov  

Tell them that you expect them to protect children from bullying at any level, and that you expect them to defend academic freedom, school freedom, parental rights, and student’s rights.

 

 

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Will Utah Quash Families’ Opt-Out Rights?   4 comments

Many tens of thousands of public school students, whose parents regularly opt out of Common Core testing, may lose the right to do so.

When federal ESSA passed in 2015, it claimed veto power for the federal education department– over every state’s educational plan.  Utah humbly asked the feds for a waiver, so that Utah would remain free to opt out of federally promoted tests. (Until this time, Utahns were unquestionably protected by state law that claims primary authority for parents, with schools/state in a supporting role.) The federal department said no to Utah’s waiver request.

So, state school board and legislators are in a pickle:  will they honor state law and protect parental rights, or honor federal ESSA’s unconstitutional veto power, and force all parents to force all children to take Common Core tests?

The state school board is divided on this question.  –That’s interesting, since the Utah board was not even permitted by the state superintendent to vote on our new plan –which the federal government has now vetoed.

 

Michelle Boulter, Utah State School Board

 

Michelle Boulter of the state board says:

“…In short, the public was not given the chance to weigh in on the ESSA plan because those who were elected to represent them were never given the chance to see or to vote on the new plan. Instead, administration and a single board member presented a plan to the federal DOE that puts it in direct conflict with Utah State lawa state law which prohibits the violation of natural parental rights. In the end, after being denied repeatedly, Utah became fully compliant with Federal dictates, setting aside the promise of the state’s ability to forge their own educational path.

And now, thanks to further ESSA provisions, Utah must submit to federal “auditing” – an invasive probe to determine why so many parents are opting out of assessments, and thereby placing non-compliant schools in a status of “failure” or “remediation”, to be put under the purview of federal overseers.

… exactly what is the paltry amount of funding Utah receives from the federal government? Unfortunately, the answer will shock and anger you: a whopping 6% of our entire educational budget for the 2017-2018 school year. Of that, the amount Utah stands to lose if it stops playing this ridiculous game of “Mother May I” is significantly less (around 2% of Utah’s educational budget).

Utah parents, we are literally selling our birthright as the natural guardians of our children for a mess of pottage – and a pathetically meager mess of pottage at that. And why is the amount so small? Because any dollar that is sent to Washington naturally shrinks as it goes through its laundered process of paying the salaries, benefits, and pensions of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats. That dollar shrinks to practically nothing before it ever comes back to the states…

…This isn’t about opting out of a test; this is about where we believe our rights come from. Either our rights come from God or man. It should be unacceptable to all Utah parents that we must ask permission of the federal government concerning our children. I urge parents to contact their state legislators requiring them to come up with that 6% – by spending less somewhere else – so we can take back our children’s education. Please contact your State Board members [ Board@schools.utah.gov  ] and let them know that you expect them to defend your parental rights. This is an election year and we the people hold the power.”

After reading state school board member Michelle Boulter’s letter and local Alpine District board member Wendy Hart’s comments on the subject, I wrote to the state board. Kathleen Riebe wrote back. Here is that exchange.  –And here is the email if you want to write, too: Board@schools.utah.gov

 

 

Letter one: 

Dear Board,
ESSA is pressuring Utah to subvert our state laws and parental rights. Please don’t do it.
I agree with state school board member Michelle Boulter, who wrote:
https://electmichelleboulter.com/2018/08/08/the-state-of-utah-is-negotiating-away-parental-rights
Similarly, ASD school board Wendy Hart said to the state board:
http://wendy4asd.blogspot.com/2018/08/essa-opt-out-denial-from-feds-my.html

Wendy Hart, Alpine District School Board

It’s a terrible idea to pit teachers against parents who opt out of Common core tests.  Caving to federal demands that the state quash testing opt outs does that.
The problem isn’t the parents opting kids out of Common Core testing, nor can we blame teachers/schools who, fearing mislabeling due to low scores resulting from opt outs, might pressure parents to opt in.
The problem is office of education bureaucrats who mindlessly swallow unconstitutional suggestions made by the federal DOE, and who misadvise state school board members, without respect for principles of local control, telling them to nod and sign.
Listen to the wisdom of elected officials who have spoken clearly on the ESSA situation: Michelle Boulter and Wendy Hart. They point out that we can and must protect the state’s liberties as well as relationships between parents and teachers.
As an opting-out parent  of children in public schools, and as a certified Utah teacher, thank you.
Christel Swasey
Pleasant Grove
Response one:

Thank you for your concern.

As a parent, teacher and a taxpayer, I appreciate that my students have an opportunity to display their knowledge and that they were taught the content required. About 90% of our families share my feelings.

Transparency and accountability are major concerns of my constituents.

USBE has worked hard to find a solution with the federal government.  The board will follow the laws and work with the legislature to seek new funding to ensure the best opportunities for all our students.

Kathleen Riebe M.Ed.

State School Board Member

District 10

801-599-5753

Letter two:

Dear Kathleen,
Thank you for responding.
There are over 650,000 enrolled public school students in the state of Utah. If about 90 percent are opting to participate in Common Core testing, that leaves about 65,000 students, and 130,000 parents, who are opting out. That’s no small potatoes.
Does it feel right to you to eliminate the authority and conscience of 195,000  Utahns, especially considering the fact that Utah law places primary authority to parents, with the state/schools in a secondary, supporting role.
They’re opting out for a plethora of very valid, very important reasons. Some kids become anxious and depressed to the point of suicidal behaviors due to high-pressure testing. Some parents don’t approve of the secretive nature of the tests, and of the tests’ never having been tested or validated independently. Some parents oppose psychometric evaluation embedded in academic tests. Some parents recognize that these tests pressure schools and teachers, even against their school charters and their professional judgment, to redefine their curriculum and teaching traditions.
I implore you to support the rights of these people and the Utah law that puts parental / family authority first in education.
Sincerely,
Christel Swasey
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