Archive for the ‘Academic Standards’ Category

Ten Reasons to Flee NGSS Common Core Science Standards   6 comments

My hair catches on fire when I hear about more standards being shoved at the states by corporate-federal partners, because I believe that constitutional, local conscience, not federal or corporate intentions, should determine what a child’s standards should be.

To me, it’s a matter of huge consequence:  whether to give away my power of finding and defining truth for a child, to then be determined by a corporate-federal partnership’s board meeting, or whether to retain that power.

But this post is written for people unlike me, those who ask, “what’s wrong with common NGSS science standards; isn’t this just a modern science update?”

I want the public to realize that the NGSS standards are not the standards to which anyone should aspire, not even for those who believe that standardizing education nationally and globally is a good idea.

Here are ten reasons to flee from the Next Generation Science Standards.

 

  1.  NGSS  DODGES  MATH 

NGSS standards were rated a “C” by Fordham Institute.  Fordham suggested states that are seeking science updates should check out Massachusetts’, South Carolina’s, and Washington D.C.’s superior science standards:

“NGSS aren’t the only alternative and, in the judgment of our reviewers, they aren’t nearly as strong as the best that some states developed on their own. A state with shoddy science standards should also consider replacing them with those of another state that’s done this well.”

What was Fordham’s “C” rating of NGSS based upon?  Its review included these reasons:

  • “… Our expert team was disappointed by what they found, and didn’t find, by way of math, especially in relation to physics and chemistry…

  •           “… Far too much essential science content was either missing entirely or merely  implied.”
  • … There is virtually no mathematics, even at the high school level, where it is essential to the learning of physics and chemistry.  Rather, the standards seem to assiduously dodge the mathematical demands inherent in the subjects covered.”

    And then, this surprise:

  • “… Where NGSS expectations require math in order to fully understand the science content, that math goes well beyond what students would have learned in classrooms aligned to the Common Core.

 

2.  NGSS IS COMMON CORE FOR SCIENCE — FROM THE SAME FUNDERS AND DEVELOPERS

The Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core were each birthed and funded by Achieve, Inc., with the Gates Foundation.  It’s no secret: NGSS boasts of being aligned with Common Core.  See Appendix A #7: “The NGSS and Common Core State Standards (English Language Arts and Mathematics) are aligned.”

Achieve, which directed the Common Core of English and math, is the developer and partner of NGSS science standards “on behalf of the lead states and other partners”.  NGSS explains:  “Achieve is leading the effort…  Achieve coordinated the second phase of the NGSS development process”.

 

 

3.  NGSS SCRAMBLES “INTEGRATES” SCIENCE  

A Common Core-shared attribute of NGSS science is the integrating of science subjects.

This means dissolving distinct classes in biology, chemistry, physics, etc., as we know them today, to be replaced by conceptually-based (not math based) integrated science.  At every grade level, children will be taught a watery version of these integrated subjects.  This dilutes the expertise of teachers, too, who must change from teaching the richness of biology or chemistry or physics, to teaching a simplified, mostly mathless, conceptual mix of all the science subjects integrated at all grade levels.

 

4. NGSS THREATENS INQUIRY FOR STUDENTS

NGSS standards for sixth graders include this: “design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment”.

The assumption that minimizing human impact on the environment is always the right thing to do is unscientific.  Think of all the remarkable human decisions that have blessed the earth’s environment.  The assumption that humans should be monitored is, likewise, politically and academically narrow-minded.

How can students learn the scientific method, creating hypotheses and then proving or disproving theories with evidence, reason and intellectual debate– when NGSS holds assumptions and many scientific theories as already settled science?  NGSS sets into concrete certain things that the scientific community has not settled.  Is global warming a theory or a fact?  Is Darwinian evolution one of many theories, or is it a fact?  Is the idea that humans are to be blamed for the globe’s problems  a settled science, or a fact?  Is the theory of intelligent design (God) a scientifically mentionable, debatable question, or a settled fact?

Even though I side with intelligent design (a literal, actual God) I would not force this belief or its opposite into the science curriculum as the only allowable conversation.  Scientific, political and religious freedoms demand open minded discussion and debate.

But NGSS frowns upon this.

Some who believe that NGSS is just “updating” school science say that any opposition to NGSS comes from closed-minded creation believers who want to push their religions into schools.  But both Darwinian evolutionists and in Bible-based creationists should hope for freedom of thought and of scientific inquiry and debate.  Otherwise, there’s no freedom nor true science at all– just dogma.

 

5. BELIEVE IT OR NOT, NGSS ACTUALLY OPPOSES OBJECTIVITY 

In Kansas, Citizens for Objective Public Education (COPE) sued the state for adopting NGSS because of a lack of objectivity. The lawsuite wasn’t based on the idea that NGSS dismisses intelligent design (creation) –although it does– but instead, based on the idea that the NGSS promotes a religion of its own that crushes objective thought about the design and/ or evolution of the earth.  So, NGSS stands accused by COPE of being its own religion (evangelizing the sustainability movement at the expense of scientific discussion)– while NGSS accuses opponents of the same thing.

Science standards should not be about Darwin vs. God.  They should promote open inquiry for truth.  As board member Wendy Hart of Alpine School District in Utah wrote:

I know many believe the opposition to NGSS is purely religious.  For me, it is purely scientific.  Our ACT science scores are better than the NGSS states… The math associated with physics and chemistry is currently taught and applied…. I don’t think science standards should compel or repel belief one way or another.  It is not our role as public educational entities to dictate belief systems for the students in our purview.  True scientific inquiry does no such thing.”    More here:    http://wendy4asd.blogspot.com/2015/05/state-standards-burden-of-proof-rests.html.

6.  NGSS PUTS A CEILING ON SCIENCE:  “ASSESSMENT BOUNDARIES”

Fordham Institute noted that “… Inclusion of assessment boundaries… place an unintended but undesirable ceiling on the curriculum that students would learn at each grade level.”  Why would science standards control or limit assessment boundaries?  I can only guess that the standardization of tests is more important to NGSS than the power of a student to learn science.

7. NGSS OFFERS NO LEGITIMATE UPDATES

The dull, gray flavor and language and goals of the promotion of NGSS is the same as for common core.  For example, “The NGSS are designed to prepare students for college, career and citizenship” and “Science concepts in NGSS build coherently from K-12“.

I think: if NGSS came up with the idea of preparing kids for college, what were classic science standards doing, then?  How did our standards manage to churn out Nobel Laureate scientists and amazing U.S. astronauts, doctors and engineers?  Were previous science standards an incoherent mess of scrambled eggs? Are we helpless without top-down education dictators?  The truth is that this is not an update to science, but a skewing of it, to become a political tool to influence young people.

 

8.   NGSS  DELETES LEARNING  

Fordham noted, as others have, that “Far too much essential science content was either missing entirely or merely implied”.  NGSS literally deletes some scientific subjects, and grossly minimizes others.  This is probably the most egregious, and most grimly ironic, of NGSS’s academic crimes.

What does that deletion of science look like, close up? 

A sixth grade science teacher from Morgan County, Utah, Dana Wilde, wrote:

My biggest concern with the NGSS is that key science concepts are missing… Why is matter and energy repeated throughout 6th-8th grade as almost an overkill of that subject, whereas other key science concepts are completely removed from the new standards? This is very concerning to me as a 6th grade science teacher… Virtually all the science concepts we have been teaching in 6th grade are not part of the new standards, with the exception of heat energy. The new standards are very environmentally heavy and move [away] from talking about microbes, heat, light, sound energy, space and astronomy to mostly global warming and human impact on the environment…  The new proposed standards are not exciting topics for 11 and 12-year-olds, nor are students mature enough at this age to sift through all the information and misinformation that is out there about global warming (one of the performance tasks required in the new drafts). It’s not that I don’t think students should learn about these topics, it’s that I don’t believe it should be in the 6th grade curriculum… I believe the Next Generation Science Standards were not written by anyone who has spent the last 20 years in a room full of 6th graders.”

Another 5th and 6th grade science teacher from Southern Utah, who asked to remain anonymous, wrote this letter to Utah’s superintendent:

“I am doing this anonymously because of the tensions… I don’t have faith that those of us that have a different opinion will be allowed to voice our opinions without repercussions…. I love helping young people discover their potential, but these standards are stifling my ability to do just that. I will never sabotage my students’ learning for a political agenda…”

The teacher’s letter listed three examples of political sabotage in the new science standards:

“6.2.4 Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century, 6.4.1: Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment,  and 6.4.3: Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems.  These are very odd requirements to put in a 6th grade science standards. These belong in a college level environmental debate class, not in a 6th grade classroom.  I have seen the other NGSS standards for the lower grades, and they do not allow a teacher to delve deep into each concept. They require a very shallow teaching of the standards. I understand that the theory behind this is that each year will build on the previous year. That is not how younger minds work. Students need an understanding that they can take with them.”

A science and math teacher who has been compelled to teach Common Core math and NGSS science standards at Mar Vista Heights High School, at Imperial Beach, California, wrote:

“At the high school level, NGSS standards require integrated science, just like common core requires integrated math. My school tried integrated math in the 1990’s and abandoned it as a bad idea. Now, I am teaching integrated math III.

“However, science is different than math. Most math teachers have enough background in algebra, geometry and statistics to teach any level of integrated math. It is the rare science teacher who has expertise in all science domains: earth science, biology, chemistry and physics.

“NGSS writers posited that chemistry and physics principles like Newton’s laws, the gas laws, and atomic structure would be so thoroughly apprehended by 8th grade, that it would not be necessary to teach them in high school. In high school, student are to create reports and videos that explain the energy transformations behind global warming and how Darwin’s laws of evolution correctly explain the development of life.There are almost no high school chemistry or physics standards in NGSS.

“I personally believe that the existence of global warming caused by human activity (burning fossil fuels) is settled science. I also think Darwin was a gifted scientific observer, whose theory of evolution is well-founded. On the other hand, why overweight the standards with these two controversial topics? I am not saying ignore them, but they are central to these new science standards and they do not need to be.

NGSS was never pilot tested and was rushed into existence before people had a chance to vet it. Therefore, NGSS is full of errors and horribly misaligned.NGSS is another of those dreams held by a rich powerful man that has been ramrodded into existence. Luis Gerstner, the former CEO of IBM, started campaigning for these standards in 1995. In 1996, he talked the National Governors Association into making him chairman of a new non-profit named Achieve Incorporated. Achieve was charged with making his standards dream a reality…  Like Gates’s Common Core, Gerstner’s NGSS is terrible education policy that came about because America’s democratic process and the principal of local control of education were sundered.”

Julie King, A PTA mom who serves on the Community Council in Utah’s Alpine School District, wrote:

“…There are holes in the NGSS.  There is a lack of computer science as well as chemistry, and the lack of any human anatomy is what raises a red flag for me.  Why would we completely eliminate human anatomy?

“… There is obvious bias in the standards…. Part of true science is being willing to question things and doubt.  We need to look at what our focus is.  When there are over 50 mentions of climate change and only one reference to electric circuits, we are overemphasizing one idea and excluding others.  Am I ok with my kids learning about climate change?  Absolutely!  But I am not OK with my kindergartener being asked to solve global warming.  The following is a kindergarten standard: Communicate solutions that will reduce the impact of humans on the land, water, air, and/or other living things in the local environment.

“…Do you know what kindergarten science should be?  The five senses, weather, and the life cycle of a butterfly and ladybug.  Maybe planting seeds and learning about how plants grow… With less than 3 hours a day, kindergarten should largely be about reading and learning to follow rules… not about rationing paper so that less trees are cut down.”

9. DISHONESTY:  ALSO, WHAT NGSS SHOULD REALLY ADMIT

Visit NGSS’s hogwashy, vague and frankly boring website.  Even just for a minute.  Doesn’t it sound scienc-y and savvy?  How can a math-slaying, science-erasing set of science standards look so slick?

Now visit a state office of education’s website for evidence that NGSS is being used.  It’s hard to find.  States know that the public is against common standards as a movement.  In my state, the officials pretend we’ve no intentions of using NGSS.  But it’s not really so.

In fact, for some grade levels, Utah’s been secretively using NGSS for years.

Here is what I wish NGSS and Utah’s State Superintendent would flat-out admit –and publish:

The NGSS are designed to standardize U.S. students’ science learning and testing, for the convenience of unelected bureaucrats and for the financial gain of NGSS partners, also meeting the social and political goals of NGSS funders and UNESCO. 

NGSS will curtail scientific debate in schools and will dismiss academic freedom of teachers, to promote the controversial, U.N.-based initiative of sustainable development, which seeks to bring about forced, global redistribution of resources by stirring up earned and unearned guilt in human beings. 

NGSS is promoted under the banner of  “updating science” but NGSS will mimimize the teaching of science subjects:  electricity, astronomy, anatomy, chemistry, math, etc., in favor of finding enough room to focus on sustainable development programming. 

To silence its critics, NGSS will call critics unfashionable, or religious, or stupid.

If you haven’t already, please watch the video that documents the promises Utah’s superintendents made to citizens that we’d never adopt common science standards.

10.  NGSS REMOVES LOCAL CONTROL

Like the math and English Common Core standards, the NGSS science standards are  locked up by the people who made them and are double bolted by the tests and curriculum to which they are aligned.  A local, nobel prize-winning scientist or a state superintendent or a dad will have absolutely no say in what students will learn as truth when we’re all shackled to NGSS.

NGSS-based tests may label your child or your school as incompetent if he or she has freedom of thought that goes beyond NGSS “scientific” assumptions and standards.

For certain, NGSS is no friend of local control.

Maybe because of the standardization of education data standards, maybe because of the standardization of federal, unconstitutional mandates and the conditional money they come with, maybe because of the standardization of federally approved school testing, now maybe our state office of education believes that saying “no” to common science standards is too much like swimming upstream.

Maybe we don’t believe we have power anymore.  Maybe we believe other people are better off deciding for us what’s best for us. But if so, we are wrong.

The U.S. Constitution is still the supreme law of this land.  That means people, not bureaucrats, are to  have the power over their own lives –and it means that education is to be a local, not a federal, authority.

Stand up and make your voice heard.

Just because the corporate greed and political goals of Microsoft and Pearson and the United Nations match the standardization movements of the NGSS (and of CCSS and CSE and common library standards and common art standards) it does not mean that we don’t  have the power to say no to these partnerships whose gaze is on our tax dollars.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know of the extreme dishonesty that’s been going on at the state office of education concerning science standards.  Why the state office chooses to hide its headlong dive into using the common NGSS science standards is a mystery.  Why the teachers and parents don’t rise up in absolute rebellion against NGSS is another.

We can say no.  If we don’t, we might be as unthinking as NGSS wants us to believe that all its opposers are.

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Open Letter to Utah Leadership: On Informed Consent in Science Education   5 comments

Screenshot_2017-12-30-11-26-28

Dear Superintendent Dickson, State School Board, Diana Suddreth, Rich Nye, Governor Herbert, Tami Pyfer, and Legislators,

To what degree does Utah maintain constitutional control over science education?

I’m writing to clarify whether Utah has or has not adopted controversial, common science standards (NGSS) and whether we are using those non-approved standards in current or future tests for K-12 children, without proper vetting and fully informed public consent.

I’m trying to reconcile promises –made by multiple superintendents to the public and to the legislature, that common science standards would never happen because of political and “philosophical differences”– with the attached PDF from the board’s website. It says that a science MOU in common with other states is set to be approved this Wednesday.

Utah’s voting taxpayers strongly oppose common, nationalized standards; some because of content, and some because  nationalized programs work against intellectual freedom and local control.

Anti-Common standards sentiment was powerfully illustrated in Utah’s last gubernatorial election, when Governor Herbert was booed at conventions for his promotion of Common Core, and was beaten when GOP delegates voted. He very narrowly won the final vote after changing his speeches with sudden, fervent promises to repeal the Common Core.

Those promises lacked integrity and evaporated after the election, but the illustration makes clear that Utahans want the common standards gone.

It can be alarming when superintendents make promises that common science standards will never take over here, when no vote to approve common NGSS standards has happened, and yet the public can see that someone is furtively, gradually, replacing Utah’s traditional science standards with controversial NGSS standards.

On the Board’s PDF, we see that Utah is set to approve use of a common test bank for students’ science tests. Since tests are based on standards, and since Utah’s official policy is that we have our own science standards, not the common NGSS standards, how can Utah share a test bank with many other states?  Without using the common science standards that they use, or without making those states use our science standards, it doesn’t make sense.

Please clarify.

What makes sense, but won’t likely be admitted, is that the current Superintendent and her co-workers personally buy into the philosophies of the ed tech elite, inspired by the Pearson- Microsoft-Gates cartel. They admire Gates and NGSS.  Unlike many of their fellow Utahns, they love the common standards, so they are using their positions of power to guide the state in the direction to which they personally subscribe, against the will and without the knowledge of the people.

Shouldn’t these moves be transparent to the public?  It seems our top education officers give lip service to local control, but in actions, create the very opposite.

Students and taxpayers who value liberty and classic education standards deserve informed consent and open debate, prior to Utah’s use of any kind of additional common standards.

“Consent of the governed” is a crucial founding concept, one of the best phrases ever penned, one I hope this group will ponder before moving further away from local control.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Christel Swasey
Pleasant Grove

#StopCommonCore Mom Sheri Few Runs for U.S. Congress for South Carolina   3 comments

It isn’t every day that one of the original #StopCommonCore moms runs for U.S. Congress.

America, please support this mom; if every one who read this donated even five or ten dollars, that would buy many thousands of signs or mailings for Sheri Few’s important, but financially limited campaign.

The article below is a guest post by Sheri Few.

 

I want to thank Christel for the opportunity to explain why I am running for Congress and why my election is so important for those of us concerned about education in America today.

All my children attended public schools and I could see firsthand the problems in education, from proposed standards for sexuality education to anti-American and pro-Communist propaganda in geography and history books.  I decided to get active and fight for change.

I formed South Carolina Parents Involved in Education (SCPIE) in 2000 and began a newsletter informing parents and taxpayers about public education instruction problems, from teaching children they evolved from apes to teaching young children to put condoms on bananas, to anti-Christian/anti-American rhetoric.

Like many of you, I’ve been attending Donna Hearne’s Educational Policy Conference in St. Louis for many years, where I’ve learned so much more about the intentional agenda in public schools to transform our country’s government through the minds of our children – hearing all along about Common Core forerunners: Goals 2000, Outcome-based Education, School-to-Work, and No Child Left Behind.

Around the same time, I became politically active; joined my local Republican Party and was soon the Chairman and member of the State GOP Executive Committee.  This provided a platform for the changes I saw necessary in public education.  The work of SCPIE writing newsletters turned to educating lawmakers and advocating for and against education policy. I also became active in the Tea Party movement.

Although I knew what was being taught, I mistakenly left my children in public schools, thinking I would no longer have a voice if I withdrew them to homeschool.  Now, to my chagrin, my oldest son has rejected his Christian faith because of what he learned in public schools. He also believes the climate change hoax and has adopted many other liberal philosophies.  I now never recommend that anyone put their children in public schools.

Six years ago, Jane Robbins from the American Principles Project approached me to help expose the Common Core Standards in South Carolina.

I created a PowerPoint and began traveling my state, making presentations to audiences in nearly every county about the problems with Common Core and the data-mining tests.

Three years of work resulted in the bi-partisan, unanimous passage of a legislation rescinding our agreement with the Smarter Balanced Testing Consortium and a requirement for the State Department of Education to rewrite the English and Math standards.

In 2014, I ran in the Republican Primary for State Superintendent of Education in a field of nine candidates. narrowly missing the runoff by less than 2 points (in South Carolina, if one candidate does not receive 50 percent plus one, the top two vote-getters enter a runoff election).

The new Superintendent was charged with rewriting the English and Math standards, but to no one’s surprise, my state ended up with Common Core rebranded as South Carolina College and Career Ready Standards.

Even our state’s Education Oversight Committee did a comparison and found the standards to be 91 percent aligned to Common Core and they would have been more like 98 percent aligned if there hadn’t been a separate law passed the year prior mandating the return to memorization of Math facts and cursive writing.

SCPIE expanded in 2015 into a national organization adding a Leadership Team of colleagues from around the country who led the fight against Common Core in their state.

We had conference calls twice a month, and as we shared our very similar experiences with Common Core, we agreed that the problems originated with and are perpetuated by the federal government, so we set our goal to end the U.S. Department of Education and all federal education mandates.

Our movement grew quickly and thirty state chapters have been created, coupled with an exemplary Advisory Board of national leaders.

United States Parents Involved in Education (USPIE) still has twice-a-month calls with PIE state presidents and is very engaged in implementing strategies to obtain our goal.

President Trump’s decision to name my Congressman, Mick Mulvaney, to lead the Office of Management and Budget, created a vacancy for his seat.   I prayed about running, talked about it with my husband, made several calls to people in the District who supported my run for State Superintendent of Education, and talked to national Common Core leaders about a possible run.

Everyone I spoke with agreed that there is no one in the U.S. Congress that fully understands the problems in public education.  I also analyzed the returns from my 2014 Superintendent’s race and found that I had finished FIRST in the Fifth District, winning by more than 3,000 votes over my eight competitors.

I announced my candidacy in the Republican Primary for South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District in mid-January, and as of this writing, there are seven other Republicans who have filed with the Federal Election Commission.

This is where I stand out from my opponents in this very conservative district that President Trump won by nearly twenty points.  Most are “establishment” Republicans who have raised taxes, supported Common Core or sat silent on issues of political correctness.

And none of the others in this race have a clue about education policy and the ongoing problems with Common Core and the data-mining tests that are used to enforce the standards.

I am writing my story to urge you to help me win this election and be our voice in Congress.

I am determined to win and am working 24/7 to do all I can to make that happen, but I need to raise a lot of cash to get my message out to this sprawling district.  Several of my opponents are wealthy and can self-fund their campaign, but I am just a mom activist who has volunteered and spent personal resources most of my adult life to fight for the children of this country and to maintain our free Constitutional Republic.

I took a trip to D.C. recently to meet with political action committees, hoping to gain endorsements and financial support.  Many of them said they will see how much money I can raise on my own first, and they will be looking at the financial disclosures due the end of this month to gauge who they might support.

I talked to them about the importance of our issue and explained that what is being taught in public schools is fundamental to many of the problems our country faces politically.  I explained the intentional agenda to change our form of government through the liberal indoctrination of our country’s children and pointed to the evidence of the fact that most young Americans wanted the self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders for their President.  We must stop allowing our tax dollars to fund this agenda.

Please help this mom activist go to Washington D.C. to be our voice.  Seize the moment with me while we have a Republican-led Congress, and a bold president who does what he said he would do.  Time is of the essence if we are to preserve our Constitutional Republic.  I need your help.

Please donate any amount to my campaign, but please give a lot of thought to contributing $250 or more right away, so I can list your name on my FEC report as one of my strongest supporters.  Alternatively, would you consider a weekly pledge of $10, $20, $50 or $100 for the remaining nine weeks of the campaign?

Many of you have never contributed to a candidate before.  I hope you will consider making your first contribution to help me win this seat.

This election is too important to lose, because with President Trump’s election and Republican majorities in the House and Senate, it’s time to seize the moment and work as aggressively as possible to move our conservative agenda as fast and as far as we can.

I’m planning to run an aggressive campaign, and I have no fear of calling out my opponents for enabling those who are taking away our freedoms.  Too many conservatives lose elections because they are afraid to stand up when the left attacks.  I welcome it.

I am working twelve to sixteen hours a day, making calls to raise money, speaking at events and issuing press statements, because I know I can win this race.  I need your help and support from others across America who are concerned about our nation’s future.  Please do what you can today.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, for considering my candidacy, and for all the work you do to take back our schools.

Sheri Few

https://www.sherifewforcongress.com/

 

 

Dr. Stotsky Exposes MA Supreme Court’s Stopping of Voters From Opportunity to Repeal Common Core   1 comment

Guest post by Dr. Sandra Stotsky, published with permission from the author;

article was originally published July 8, 2016 at New Boston Post.

Dr. Sandra Stotsky

       Dr. Sandra Stotsky

 

Last week, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts stopped voters from weighing in on a citizen-backed initiative to repeal Common Core.

In her opinion, Chief Justice Margot Botsford blocked on a technicality the petition to let voters decide whether to keep Common Core or revert to the state’s own educational standards. Her reasoning? The measure, she wrote, was unconstitutional because the portion of the ballot question that required the state to release used test items is unrelated to the transparency of state tests.

Got that? Justice Botsford thinks that release of used test items is unrelated to the transparency of state tests and standards as a matter of coherent public policy.

It was an oddly-reasoned decision since any classroom teacher in Massachusetts could have told her that the annual release of all used MCAS test items in the Bay State, from 1998 to 2007, was clearly related to the transparency of the state tests and very useful to classroom teachers. Among other things, the information allowed teachers to find out exactly what students in their classes did or did not do well and to improve their teaching skills for the next year’s cohort of students.

Botsford could have asked test experts as well. Any test expert would also have told her that the transparency of an assessment begins with an examination of the test items on it, followed up first by the names and positions of the experts who vetted the items on all tests at each grade level, and then by information on how the pass/fail scores for each performance level were determined, and the names and positions of those who determined them.

Botsford could also have found out from the testimony of those involved with the state’s tests from 1998 to 2007 that the cost of replacing released test items is negligible. It is not clear if her unsupported belief that there is a high cost for replacing released test items was what led her to conclude that the petition addressed matters that were unrelated to each other. As Botsford indicated in her ruling, “the goal of the petition…

… comes with a significant price tag: as the Attorney General agreed in oral argument before this court, implementing section 4 will require the development and creation of a completely new comprehensive diagnostic test every year, which means a substantial increase in annual expense for the board — an expense to be borne by taxpayers and to be weighed by voters in determining whether increased transparency is worth the cost.

In 2015, Attorney General Maura Healey certified the petition for placement on the November 2016 election ballot. But the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE) was not content to let the democratic process play out, so they brought a lawsuit — seemingly paid for by grants to the MBAE from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — to stop the matter from ever reaching the voters.

Both Botsford’s decision that the petition was unconstitutional and the unanimous agreement by the other justices as part of a “full court” session are puzzling, given the thorough review the petition had received from the Attorney General’s office. Here is how one of the pro bono lawyers who wrote the petition for the organization collecting signatures to place it on the November 2016 ballot described the vetting process to me (in a personal e-mail):

The process for an initiative petition has a series of check points. The initial draft is reviewed by the staff in the Government Bureau in the Attorney General’s Office (AGO). They look at the proposal to identify whether the proposal meets the threshold of the Constitutional requirements. The Government Bureau is made up of the best attorneys in state government. This review raised no flags.

After the collection of the signatures and submission to the AGO, the language is published and offered for public comment. It was at this point (in 2015) that the MBAE weighed in and opposed the petition (in a Memorandum of Opposition), using arguments that were dismissed by the AGO but that were later used in 2016 with the Supreme Judicial Court (as part of the MBAE’s lawsuit). In 2015, the review includes the staff attorney who oversees the petitions, the chief of the Government Bureau, the chief of the Executive Office (the policy-making administrative part of the AGO) and the Attorney General herself. This is a strictly legal discussion on the merits. … In my opinion, she decided it on the legal issues alone. And she and her staff decided that the petition passed the Constitutional requirements.

Now there can be legitimate differences on legal issues. But we structured the petition with the advice of a former U.S. attorney and his staff at his law firm. We passed several reviews at the Attorney General’s Office, including a contested review. The AGO’s brief on behalf of the petition was strong.

We had a petition that was complete, parrying threats that would have undermined the repeal of Common Core. The Attorney General understood that and supported our desire to bring it before the public.

To date, the parent organization that collected about 100,000 signatures for the petition has received no explanation from the lawyers who wrote the petition for them about why there was a unanimous decision by the Supreme Judicial Court that the petition was unconstitutional (on the grounds that there was a lack of connection among its sections, even though all the sections were in the original statute passed by the state legislature in 1993—a statute that was never criticized as incoherent). Nor has there been any word from the Attorney General’s office.

By preventing the voters from having their say, the Massachusetts court did a disservice not only to our public schools – which were better off under Massachusetts’ own rigorous academic standards — but even more to the institution of democracy itself.

 

Sandra Stotsky, former Senior Associate Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Education, is Professor of Education emerita at the University of Arkansas. Read her past columns here.

Can Parents Combat the Media’s Tolerance of Institutional Manipulation?   Leave a comment

Guest post by Dr. Sandra Stotsky

This week, the New Boston Post published this article by Dr. Sandra Stotsky, which is republished here with the author’s permission.

Dr. Sandra Stotsky

Dr. Sandra Stotsky

The efforts by the Gates Foundation to manipulate our major institutions lie at a very deep level in order to remain difficult to detect. Its efforts have been made much easier because our media don’t seem to care if the manipulation is done by a “generous philanthropist,” someone with an extraordinary amount of money and ostensibly the best of intentions for other people’s children. At least, this is how they seem to rationalize their tolerance of political manipulation by moneyed and self-described do-gooders—and their unwillingness to dig into the details.

As one example, we can surmise that Gates gave the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE) the funds it would need to pay a very pricey Boston law firm (Foley Hoag) for its 2015 Memorandum of Opposition to the citizen petition asking for a ballot question on Common Core and for the MBAE’s 2016 lawsuit against the Attorney General. We can assume the connection because Gates gave the MBAE large funds in recent years under the guise of “operating” costs. Until Judge Margot Botsford sings, we will not know her reason for using the flawed argument that had been worked out by Foley Hoag for the MBAE 2015 Memorandum of Opposition and that had already been rejected by the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) when it declared the citizen petition constitutional in September 2015. The flawed argument, to remind readers, was that the release of used test items is NOT related to the transparency of a test—an illogical statement that most Bay State teachers would recognize as reflecting more the thinking of the Red Queen or Duchess in Wonderland than that of a rational judge. Moreover, the flawed argument was supported unanimously by Judge Botsford’s colleagues on the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC). Not a murmur of dissent is on record.

Why Foley Hoag repeated the flawed argument it first offered in the 2015 MBAE Memo of Opposition in the 2016 MBAE lawsuit is something only the well-paid lawyers at Foley Hoag can explain. Why Judge Botsford and her colleagues on the SJC so readily used an already rejected and poorly reasoned argument for a “full court” opinion in July 2016 is what only she (and they) can explain. The end result of this fiasco is a corrupted judiciary and legal process. But how many reporters have spent time looking into this matter?

The Boston Globe published a long article the very day Judge Botsford’s decision was released (an amazing feat in itself) that revealed no inquiry by the reporter, Eric Moskowitz, into some of the interesting details of the ultimately successful effort by the MBAE and Gates to prevent voters from having an opportunity to vote on Common Core’s standards. Recall that these were the standards that had been hastily adopted by the state board of education in July 2010 to prevent deliberation on them by parents, state legislators, teachers, local school committee members, and higher education teaching faculty in the Bay State in mathematics and English.

As another example, we know from 1099 filings that the Gates Foundation gave over $7 million in 2014 to Teach Plus, a Boston-area teacher training organization, to testify for tests based on Common Core standards at Governor Baker-requested public hearings in 2015. These hearings were led by the chair of the state board of education and attended by the governor’s secretary of education. Teach Plus members earned their Gates money testifying at these hearings. (See the spreadsheet for the amounts) For links to all the testimony at these hearings, see Appendix B here. Has any reporter remarked on what many see as an unethical practice?

As yet another example, it is widely rumored that the Gates Foundation also paid for the writing of the 1000-page rewrite of No Child Left Behind known as Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). It is public knowledge that Senators Lamar Alexander (TN-R) and Patty Murray ((WA-D) co-sponsored the bill, but the two senators have been remarkably quiet about ESSA’s authorship. No reporter has commented on the matter, or reported asking the senators who wrote the bill and who paid for the bill.

In addition, the accountability regulations for ESSA now available for public comment were not written by the USED-selected committees (who failed to come to consensus on any major issue), but by bureaucrats in the USED. Who gave the USED permission to write the accountability regulations it wanted, and who wrote them? No reporter has expressed any interest in finding out who these faceless bureaucrats are. Why?

 

Sandra Stotsky, former Senior Associate Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Education, is Professor of Education emerita at the University of Arkansas. 

Video: Lisa Cummins’ Speech at Rally – Elevating Education: Common No More   Leave a comment

Lisa Cummins (see her campaign site here) is running for District 11 (Herriman area) for Utah’s State School Board.  Her speech below was given at the June 11, 2016 rally at the State Capitol, where citizens gathered to focus on “Elevating Education:  Common No More”.

 

Video: Alisa Ellis for State School Board – Speech at State Capitol Rally   Leave a comment

Alisa Ellis spoke at the “Elevating Education:  Common No More” rally on Saturday at the State Capitol.  She’s running against Dixie Allen and Jim Moss in the huge Heber-Duschesne-Lindon area known as Utah’s District 12.

Her speech was introduced by radio host Rod Arquette, who said:

“Alisa is one of the moms who gained national attention in their fight against Common Core… I look out and I see Christel and I see Renee and up on the stage, I see Alisa.  One of my favorite movies is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; I absolutely love that movie… it’s a movie about two scoundrels running across the Western U.S., being chased by a group of guys who don’t like them robbing trains and banks.  Paul Newman, who plays Butch Cassidy in the movie, keeps on asking himself as he looks at those guys coming after him, ‘Who are those guys?’ Well, I think when they heard about the Utah moms against common core around the country, people were asking, ‘Who are those guys?’  Well, they gained national attention and they were one of the early pioneers in the fight against Common Core.”

Alisa’s full speech is posted below the video.  My favorite part of her oratory was this:

“As the Utah Constitution states, it is my primary responsibility to educate my children.  The state’s role is secondary. Too often this responsibility is seen as the state’s job.  We even have presidential candidate Hillary Clinton who said that parents have “no role” in education! …When it came to discussing meaningful education policy with my superintendent, I was told that ‘we have no local control’. He even went so far as to tell Renee and I that our local school board no longer represented us.  He told me that he was tired, that he’d been fighting the fight for local control for a long time.  I told him that day that if he wasn’t willing to do it, that I would pick up the fight to restore local control in education.”

 

 

Elect Alisa Ellis to represent District 12 in the Utah State School Board!

Alisa’s got a four-year track record which her opponents cannot touch.

As the mother of seven children  –some of whom are home schooled and some of whom are public-schooled– Alisa effectively lobbied the legislature for the past four years, and has spoken across the state and outside the state, in cottage meetings and on radio shows, calling for increased parental control, student data privacy, real science standards, and for the hearing of the voices of teachers and localities in the fight against Big Ed (Fed Ed and Corporate Ed) –which is the fight against Common Core and nationalization of education.

Her opponents, including the incumbent, cannot hold a candle to her track record of effective, courageous action.

Her campaign site is here: https://m.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1343457342383929

Full rally speech:

“Some may ask what qualifies me to run for state school board. I don’t have a fancy resume. I don’t lots of letters behind my name but I do have 7 children that no one but God knows and loves better than me. No one knows how to reach them quite like I do. No one knows their fears, insecurities, strengths and numerous other accolades quite like I do. It is my responsibility to see that they receive the best education possible. As the UT constitution states it is my primary responsibility to educate my children. The state’s role is secondary. Too often this responsibility is seen as the state’s job. We even have Presidential candidate Hilary Clinton saying parents have no place in education. This is wrong.

It’s time to put the lead of education back into the hands of parents as the founders originally intended and as our state’s constitution says.

I’m running for state school board because when it came to discussing meaningful education policy concerns with my Superintendent I was told WE HAVE NO local CONTROL. We have to do what the state tells us to do. He even went so far as to say the local school board did not represent me. He told me he was tired of the fight and that he’d been fighting a long time. I promised him that I would take up the fight for local control.

So what is local control? The local control I envision, involves much more than merely stating teachers have the freedom to choose textbooks. The local control I envision means that as a parent I have freedom to find a classroom in the public school that can teach the type of math, English, Science, History, Art etc. that I deem valuable not what a conglomerate of states finds valuable. I’m not trying to take away your right to have your children taught with ‘common standard’ but don’t take away my right either.

Imagine a system where parents can choose the type of education they value. Even with all the choices out there today there is still a centralization of control and power that is strangling the free market in education.
Imagine a system where teachers are given the freedom to truly teach.

There are too many regulations placed on the backs of teachers; too many mandates to meet; too many test to oversee and not enough time to teach. We need to allow teachers the courtesy we give other professionals and let them use their professional judgment to decide what methods work best in their classroom. In turn, we need to give parents the power to find the methods that best match their children’s needs. One size doesn’t fit all and one teaching method doesn’t teach all.

It is often stated that we have full control over our education. This is true. We do. But we aren’t exercising that right. We are continually, voluntarily following the carrot dangled before us either out of fear of falling behind, gaining or losing money or many other unknowns. Historically, this pattern has given us things like the unconstitutional Federal Department of Ed which in turn has given us a tongue twister of acronyms to manage: NCLB, ESEA, SLDS, SFSF, FERPA, AYP, ESSA, CCSS, RTT, RTTA, RTTD, GRIT, and countless other programs. I’ve spent the last 5 years in in depth study of these acronyms and the freedoms they take away from this district.
Recently, we had the opportunity to push back against ALL federal intrusion in to education but instead we codified into law President Obama’s blueprint of education reform in a grandiose bipartisan effort [ESSA] that will give the Department of Ed full Veto power over our state’s education plan and call for Family Engagement Plans. This is NOT local control.

We have come to a cross roads. It is no longer acceptable to go along to get along. We need leaders that are willing to stand up to the bullying that is coming from the federal Department of Ed. It seems that every candidate says they’re against Common Core but it has become an empty promise by most and I am here to tell you that it is not an empty promise with me. If elected I will do everything in my power to stop this trend toward nationalizing and corporatizing education.

Hugh B. Brown said,’One of the most important things in the world is freedom of the mind; from this all other freedoms spring. Such freedom is necessarily dangerous, for one cannot think right without running the risk of thinking wrong… We live in an age when freedom of the mind is suppressed over much of the world. We must preserve this freedom…and resist all efforts of earnest men to suppress it, for when it is suppressed, we might lose the liberties vouchsafed in the Constitution of the United States.’

I pledge to push back on the micromanaging come down from the Feds and state to the local districts. I would love to see local districts have more autonomy. I would love to see teachers be able to teach without having to jump through hoops. I’m tired of bad policy being blamed on poor implementation.

It’s time to bring meaningful decision making power back as close to the family and the community as we can.  I’m Alisa Ellis and I ask for your support.
Thank You.”

 

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