Archive for the ‘Data Privacy is a Right Schools Must Not Violate’ Category

VIDEO: Why the American People Must #STOPESEA   8 comments

ESEA, a huge bill about data and federal roles in local education, is being rammed through in the dark.  The vote is in a week and there’s no access to the final bill yet.  Senator Lee is right.  This process is wrong.

Don’t let a handful of people decide for the entire elected Congress and the entire population of the US what education, testing, standards, and data privacy should be, without debate, and without reading the bill.  The political careers of those who are ramming through this anti-freedom legislation in the dark without debate are going to be over once America wakes up and figures out what they have done to us.

I sat down and wrote out what I wanted to say this blog-video.  It’s posted here, for those who don’t want to sit through twenty minutes of talking.  Sorry  that I had to read much of it rather than  making eye contact all of the time.  I just needed to get it said right.)


Happy Thanksgiving Week!

My name is Christel Swasey, and I am a teacher and a mother living in Pleasant Grove, Utah.   Today is November 24, 2015.  In less than one week a handful of secretive congressmen are expecting to pass a bill called ESEA, or the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, without our informed consent or the informed consent of our elected representatives.

The final bill has not even been released yet but the vote is in a week.  It won’t be read by turkey-gobbling Congressmen when it is released in a few days.  But they’ll be forced to vote on Tuesday, uninformed or misinformed because all they’ll read is a sheet of talking points put out by the bill’s lobbyists.  This will have a disasterous, long term effect on liberty in America.

I am asking you to help #STOPESEA by calling Congress at 202-224-3121. Tell Congress to vote NO on ESEA based on what’s slated to be in it, and maybe more importantly, based on the corrupt, un-American process of passing it without giving time to read and debate about it.

I’m a big fan of a phrase in the Declaration of Independence: THE CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED”.

The Declaration explains that to secure our God-given rights, we the people instituted government:  “to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

So government has no just powers outside of consent by the governed, and so my life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, and yours, are not secure when government is operating outside the informed consent of the governed.  I am telling you that it is happening right now.

My own Senator, Mike Lee,  has been an inspiration this week as he’s spoken out about this corrupt process and explained how it’s operating.  He said that how the conference process is supposed to work is not how is has been conducted. Quote: “from the surface it will still look like the conference process is happening the way it’s supposed to, but beneath the surface, we know that all of this has already been prearranged, precooked, predetermined by a select few members of Congress working behind closed doors, free from scrutiny. And we know that this vote was scheduled on extremely short notice, so that it would be difficult if not impossible for the rest of us to influence the substance of the conference report through motions to instruct.”  Senator Lee said, “Because process influences policy… the process expedites the passage of policies that we know don’t work—policies to which the American people are strongly opposed.”  Then Senator Lee named a few of those bad policies, such as “the discredited common core approach” and the centrally planned, failed model of federal preschool which the bill will use $250 million to promote.  There are many more terrible policies that ESEA will cement.  I will list more later on in this video.

My own representative, Jason Chaffetz, has also been in the Congressional spotlight this week, shedding light on what the federal government, via the Dept. of Education, is doing to American privacy. I watched him in a video leading a congressional hearing on the improper practices of the Dept of Education in its student data collection and data mining programs.  The hearing revealed that the federal Dept of Education has somewhere between one and two hundred ways that it collects data about your child and mine, but the Department only admits to having three because it contracts out the rest of the systems.  As if that’s better.  The hearing revealed that the Dept of Education received negative scores across every category of data security, and Rep Chaffetz gave the Dept. an “F”—calling it “a monster, an absolute monster”.

This is the same federal Dept of Education that is pushing, through the current ESEA bill, additional methods of mining student data.

But the things that Sen. Lee and Rep. Chaffetz oppose are not the only things that the ESEA bill will foist on us.  I predict that the final version of the ESEA bill will contain many more grants to promote more “voluntary” data mining in addition to the compulsory data collection that’s already taking place;  more federal preschools, more psychological profiling of teachers, students and families inside and outside of public schools under the banner of the kindly nanny state’s data-driven decision making, more career tracking, more longitudinal citizen stalking via college student and graduate reporting, more assessments or more deeply embedded forms of stealth assessments, and a subtle undermining of parental authority, teacher creativity and student autonomy from the community-centric, workforce-focused, data-focused initiatives in this bill. (We’ll see this week, won’t we?)

A group of over two hundred grassroots organizations representing most of the states in the United States signed an open letter to Congress opposing this ESEA bill.  The letter outlines four things that are strong reasons to oppose ESEA.  I’m summarizing.  The first is–

  1. COMMON CORE – the letter calls common core “academically inferior, developmentally inappropriate, psychologically manipulative and privately copyrighted Common Core Standards…” End quote.  Now, in my opinion, the talking points that will be used to promote the bill will likely say that it’s common-core free, or at least, the bill will avoid using the phrases “common core” or “common data standards”.  The bill will rely very deceptively on the fact that most people don’t know that there is an official federal definition of common core.  That other phrase that the bill WILL include, repeatedly, is: “career and college ready standards” or “career and college readiness”.  Do an internet search for the federal definition of “college and career ready”.  You’ll find that the phrase is officially defined by the federal Dept. of Education as “standards common to a significant number of states” which can only be the common core.

The second reason that the grassroots letter asks Congress to oppose ESEA is its push for:

  1. ASSESSMENTS THAT PROFILE CITIZENS – the letter calls an over-reliance on tests never independently validated, high-stakes standardized tests supervised by the federal government , tests that are psychologically profiling our children more than assessing their academic knowledge…a problem. The third reason to oppose ESEA is:
  2. SLDS – State Longitudinal Database Systems (stalking of kids by the government) and the massive increase in state and federal gathering of private family, education and psychological data … without consent. The fourth reason:
  3. CAREER TRACKING – Career tracking, which undermines self-determination by means of unconstitutional profiling…”

Some people don’t understand why it’s a bad thing for the government to centrally manage and guide (or control) citizens into different career tracks; some think that’s helpful for the individual and good for the collective economy.

But I think of a quote from my favorite Disney movie, “Prince of Egypt” where Moses says, “No kingdom should be made on the backs of slaves”. 

Since student self-determination is undermined by the dictates of the government’s workforce needs, even if it is data-driven dictatorship, and since a student’s interests won’t be judged as equally important to a student’s capabilities when the collective workforce or the government is the main determiner of what that student’s career path should be, we are creating a system for our children where they are not free.  Maybe it is an exaggeration to say that education reforms are aiming to build a global kingdom on the backs of children without their consent;  but I think, in the long run, maybe not.

The four points outlined by the grassroots organizations’ letter, in my  opinion boil, down to this:

Either you believe that parents are the God-given authority over a child, or you believe that children’s lives should be managed by the government and its “data driven decision making,” for the building up of the government’s economy– in the style of countries without freedom, like China.

Either you support the continued tracking and nonconsensual stalking of your child and family, using local schools as the data collection pawns in a federal system that tracks children and families for life,  –or you believe in freedom, self-determination and privacy.

Either you believe that individuals should control their own lives despite the risks that freedom allows, or you believe that the government should control the lives of the people, because of the risks that freedom allows.  If you are getting sucked into believing the latter, please remember this:  we the people created government. We own it;  it did not create us and it does not own us.  It cannot boss us without our consent. Anytime government does a thing without the full, informed consent of the governed, it is unjust and it is dangerous.

But government can and does get away with bossing and bullying –when we let go of our own power.  I am asking you to use your power to call and stop ESEA this week.

Because Congress isn’t being given time to read or debate the bill prior to a vote, the bill’s promoters will pass out a sheet of biased talking points for the rest of Congress to read before they vote (this is how they got the Student Success Act passed) –and these talking points will sound so good.  But they will be full of lies.

I know this because I saw the last set of talking points when they passed the house and senate versions of this monster bill.  They had things that successfully deceived almost all of our elected conservatives, such as: “this bill will reduce the federal footprint” and “this bill restores power to the states and localities”—these things weren’t true.

Rather than restoring power to the localities, the bill assigned enforcement of federal priorities to the localities.  Think about that: there’s a big difference between assigning federal priority enforcement and implementation to states, and actually restoring freedom to states.  The new bill will likely use many phrases conservatives love while it also intrudes on basic rights and institutions, for example, on private schools and home schools by offering them attractive grants or services –in exchange for student, teacher and family data.  It’s all about data—it’s all about reducing citizen privacy, because information is power.

And the bill won’t be written in clear language that is accessible to the average person.   You will have to really study it and find out what its words and phrases mean in definitions outside the bill itself, to understand what is being traded.

The bill and its talking points will likely use language to appeal to the compassionate person, but it will force the federal concept — a parent-replacing definition– of government compassion.  It will promote parent-neutralizing, nanny-state enabling concepts and programs, including increased data mining –to identify (quote) ”academic, physical, social, emotional, health, mental health and other needs of students, families, and community residents.”  The last bill promoted “Full Service Community Schools” and “student needs” and “wraparound services” and extended learning time that make school, not family or church, the central hub of a child’s life.

202-224-3121.  Memorize that number or put it in your speed dial.  Ask Congress to vote NO on ESEA.

It is wrong for you and I to sit by while the partnership of federal and corporate forces take away our authority by changing who gets to define and enforce what learning means and what will be learned –taking this authority from the parent and teacher; and reassigning it to the government;

It is wrong for you and I to sit by while the federal government narrows academic freedom by dicating  a communistic, workforce-centered vision of what academic success is for;

It is wrong for you and I to sit by while the federal government cements into federal law the common core standards.

It is wrong for you and I to sit by while the federal government cements processes built on student-stalking common data standards and interoperable state databases that report to the federal edfacts data exchange, tracking children’s academic and psychological data, without consent;

It is wrong for you and I to allow any kind of assessments to be mandated upon us by federal forces, whether in the form of formal, standardized tests or stealthy, embedded tests that are quietly woven into the daily curriculum and assignments of students.  These tests lock us into a federal definition of what academic excellence looks like and will narrow academic creativity in classrooms that are built on one standard and one set of data tags and tests.  They certainly make things more efficient, but at the expense of a teacher’s professional judgment and her curricular liberty.

It is wrong for you and I to sit by while a few members of Congress ram a bill through, mostly in the dark, without allowing any space for analysis or debate.  It is truly a dark and un-American process.

Fight for freedom with your telephone.

These freedoms, once lost, won’t come back easily: the freedom to define with our own conscience and intellect what education should look like; the freedom from invasion of privacy;  the freedom from being centrally managed and tracked without consent.  These are not small things.

I’m asking you to call 202-224-3121 and tell Congress to vote NO on ESEA.



Update:  Additional #STOPESEA videos here:



mike lee

Even if you had time to read the final version of the new ESEA bill  which will get released days from now –which you won’t, because you’ll be eating turkey– and even if you agreed with every word (which I’m betting you won’t, because Senator Alexander’s view of ed reform is sick and wrong) –but even if you liked it– shouldn’t you, on principle, still oppose its passage, based on the devious  process being used, a pushing of  laws into their cemented form without representative debate– very fast, and mostly in the dark?

Senator Mike Lee’s fight against this now-brewing, corrupt, “new” No Child Left Behind, inspires me.  His backbone in standing up to the corruptos in Congress that are pushing ESEA is a rare treasure in politics.  Do you realize that he’s fighting for the actual freedom of our children and grandchildren?  This is real.  Listen to him. 

Senator Lee’s railed against some of the corruption; for example, its $250 million plan to hurt good preschools by pushing loser-federal preschools on all; its cementing of Common Core standards,  etc.  There’s more brewing that he hasn’t taken time to denounce yet, such as  its creepy, parent-ditching “community school” program that puts government ahead of families, churches or anyone else in influencing kids and eating up too much of kids’ time; and its cementing of common, kid-stalking data tags (CEDS) –but you can study all of that.

Lee’s big focus is on something more basic:  the dark, un-American process  by which ESEA/NCLB is about to pass into law.

(I keep calling the other members of the Utah delegation to leave messages asking them to join his fight.  Please do, too.)

This process that Senator Lee speaks of is so corrupt.

It is un-American to make Congress  vote on something so fast that it hasn’t been  vetted or understood by voters.   It is un-American to skip debate and to ditch input.  We all know that this law will weigh heavily on everyone who will be ruled by it afterward.  Shouldn’t voters have a real opportunity to look at the bill from all angles and then take the vote?

Senator Lee has pointed out that the process creates the policy.  This is how ESEA/NCLB is to be rammed down the throat of Congress (and all of us) next week.

Step one: right now, a tiny handful of pro-reauthorization members of Congress, behind closed doors, are cooking up the poison pill.

Step 2:  They’ll speed it to a vote so fast that the rest of Congress has no time to think before swallowing, no chance to offer what they are supposed to be allowed to offer:  “motions to instruct the conferees” (input).

Step 3:   They’ll market it under the banner of good-sounding lies and slanted press releases and news stories that will successfully deceive Americans (including our politicians) into believing that control has been returned to the localities.  It won’t be true.  But we’ll figure it out too late to easily reverse it.  Because nobody’s going to really read the bill before they vote yes.

The draft was released a few day ago.  The bill won’t be released until next week, the same week that the vote will be taken: December 2.

The draft bill itself, still called what Sen. Alexander named it years ago, “The Every Child Ready for College and Career Act of 2015” will pass out of draft form into final form as a concoction, mixing  what the house passed plus what the senate passed, both of which were, to freedom lovers, pure ugly.

Now, superglued together under the supervision of those working in the dark with Senator Alexander, it will surely have even a worse blast radius than its past incarnations.

This hurried method is a sick pattern used by the Obama administration.  We saw Secretary Duncan push states with the monetary lure of “Race to the Top” millions to adopt Common Core and its tests and SLDS systems for a chance in that race.  Before that, there was the ARRA funding that was tied, among other things, to governors agreeing to get federally-approved student data collection systems and standards.

Now, the speed of ESEA will similarly  maim freedom, pushing these  controversial programs into  nation-binding law.

I’m reposting Senator Lee’s entire speech below.

After you read it, please call. This monster will affect all Americans for years to come.

Ask for any senator and representative in D.C. at 202-224-3121.  Say, “VOTE NO ON ESEA.”  Done? Thank you!!  Please call again.  Then call for your neighbor who isn’t taking the time to call.  Skip the gym or the crochet project and call some who aren’t your direct reps, too.  Leave them messages — ask them to call you to account for how they plan to vote on December 2.

Politicians need constituents’ support to get re-elected.  Tell them that this is a make or break issue; you won’t vote for them again if they vote yes on ESEA.  Your voice and vote are  leverage.



At some point today the Senate will vote on the motion to appoint conferees – or what’s often called the motion to go to conference – for a bill that reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or the ESEA, which is the legislation governing our federal K-12 education policy.

Because most Americans have probably never heard of this obscure parliamentary procedure – the motion to appoint conferees – I’d like to take a moment to explain how it works… or at least, how it’s supposed to work.

When the House and the Senate each pass separate, but similar, bills, the two chambers convene what’s called “a conference.”

A conference is essentially a meeting where delegates from each chamber come together to iron out the differences between their respective bills, and put together what’s called “a conference report” – which is a single piece of legislation that reconciles any disparities between the House-passed bill and the Senate-passed bill.

Once the delegates to the conference – the conferees – agree on a conference report, they bring it back to their respective chambers, to the House and to the Senate, for a final vote.

It’s important to note here that, once the conference report is sent to the House and the Senate for a final vote, there’s no opportunity to amend the legislation. It’s an up-or-down vote: each chamber can either approve or reject the conference report in its entirety.

If each chamber votes to approve the conference report, it’s then sent to the president, who can either sign it into law or veto it.

So what we’re doing today is voting on the motion to appoint conferees for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Earlier this year, both the House and the Senate passed their own ESEA reauthorizations. And now, we’re voting to proceed to the conference process and to appoint certain senators to participate in that process as conferees.

Historically, and according to the way the conference process is supposed to work, this vote is not that big of a deal. Voting on the motion to appoint conferees is usually, and mostly, a matter of routine.

But it’s not a vote that should be rushed through on a moment’s notice, because it is the last opportunity for senators and representatives who are not conferees – such as myself – to influence the outcome of the conference process.

We can do that by offering what are called “motions to instruct the conferees.”

For example, let’s say I was not chosen to be a conferee to a particular bill, but there was an issue related to the bill that was important to me and to the people I represent – in that case, I could ask the Senate to vote on a set of instructions that would be sent to the conference to inform their deliberations and influence the substance of the conference report.

Mr. President, this is how the conference process is supposed to work.

But it is not how the conference process has been conducted with respect to this bill, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization.

Sure, we’re still voting to appoint conferees.

And those conferees will still convene a conference.

And that conference will still produce a conference report.

So from the surface, it will still look like the conference process is happening the way it’s supposed to.

But beneath the surface we know that all of this has already been pre-arranged, pre-cooked, pre-determined… by a select few members of Congress, working behind closed doors, free from scrutiny.

And we know that this vote was scheduled on extremely short notice, so that it would be difficult – if not impossible – for the rest of us to influence the substance of the conference report through motions to instruct.

Now, why does this matter?

We know the American people care deeply about K-12 education policy. But why should they care about this obscure parliamentary procedure in the Senate?

They should care – and Mr./Madam President, we know that they do care – because the process influences the policy.

In this case, the process expedites the passage of policies that we know don’t work – policies to which the American people are strongly opposed.

For instance, it’s my understanding that this pre-agreement may authorize $250 million in new spending on federal pre-K programs – what amounts to a down-payment on the kind of universal, federally-run pre-K programs advocated by President Obama.

This would be a disaster not only for American children and families, but for our 21st-century economy that increasingly requires investments in human capital.

We know that a good education starting at a young age is an essential ingredient for upward economic mobility later in life. A mountain of recent social science research proves what experience and intuition have been teaching mankind for millennia: that a child’s first few years of life are critical in their cognitive and emotional development.

Yet we also know that too many of America’s public schools, especially those in low-income and disadvantaged neighborhoods, fail to prepare their students to succeed.

Nowhere has the top-down, centrally planned model of public education failed more emphatically than in our nation’s public pre-K programs. The epitome of federal preschool programs is Head Start, which has consistently failed to improve the lives and educational achievements of the children it ostensibly serves.

According to a 2012 study by President Obama’s own Department of Health and Human Services, whatever benefits children gain from the program disappear by the time they reach the third grade.

But because bureaucracies invariably measure success in terms of inputs, instead of outcomes, Head Start and its $8 billion annual budget is the model for Democrats as they seek to expand federal control over child care programs in communities all across the country.

This bill also doubles down on the discredited common-core approach to elementary and secondary education that the American people have roundly, and consistently, rejected.

Mr. President, parents and teachers across America are frustrated by Washington, D.C.’s heavy-handed, overly prescriptive approach to education policy.

I’ve heard from countless moms and dads in Utah who feel as though anonymous government officials living and working 2,000 miles away have a greater say in the education of their children than they do.

The only way to improve our K-12 education system in America is to empower parents, educators, and local policymakers to meet the unique needs of their communities and serve the low-income families the status quo is leaving behind.

With early childhood education, we could start block granting the Head Start budget to the states.

This would allow those closest to the children and families being served to design their own programs – rather than spending all their time complying with onerous, one-size-fits-all federal mandates – and designate eligible public and private pre-schools to receive grants.

We know this works because many states are already doing it. In my home state of Utah, for instance, United Way of Salt Lake has partnered with two private financial institutions, Goldman Sachs and J.B. Pritzker, to provide first rate early education programs to thousands of Utah children.

They call it a “pay-for-success” loan.

With no upfront cost or risk to the taxpayers, private capital is invested in the Utah High Quality Preschool Program, which is implemented and overseen by United Way.

If, as expected, the preschool program results in increased school readiness and improved academic performance, the state of Utah repays the private investors with the public funds it would have spent on remedial services that the children would have needed between kindergarten and the twelfth grade, had they not participated in the program.

Washington policymakers should not look at Utah’s pay-for-success initiatives – and other local success stories like them – as potential federal programs, but as a testament to the power of local control.

Mr. President, we shouldn’t expand Washington’s control over America’s schools and pre-K programs. Instead, Congress must advance reforms that empower parents – with flexibility and choice – to do what’s in the best interest of their children.

The policies in this bill move in the opposite direction.

Utah Rep Jason Chaffetz on Dept. of Ed Data Mining: “It has become an absolute monster”   3 comments


Parents and Educators Against Common Core Standards posted the following incredibly important video of this week’s “Information Security Review” of the US Department of Education which was led by Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz.

Please watch it.

Chaffetz opens the discussion (minutes 1-9) showing slides of the US Department of Education getting an “F” in protecting student data –with negative scores across every category.  The students’ vulnerability, Rep Chaffetz says, is huge, not only students but for their parents, because of data collected, for example, in the National Student Loan Database which collects data that families fill out and submit together.

(He doesn’t mention this, but each state’s SLDS system gathers and feeds data from your child’s schoolwork to the state to the feds, too; for example, via the EdFacts Data Exchange.)

Next, Chaffetz says that the Dept. of Education is responsible for 4 billion dollars in improper payments (minute 8:30) which will be discussed in the next hearing in detail (not during this one).

After summarizing the mismanagement of funds and data, Chaffetz summarizes the gargantuan harms of the Department of Education: “It has become a monster, an absolute monster.  We don’t know who’s in there; we don’t know what they’re doing.”

Then, the hearing begins.

Listen at minute 43 to minute 47.  Those four minutes blew my mind.  The US Dept. of Education’s representative, Dr. Harris, nervously skirts having to directly answer the question, at first, of how many databases it holds.  It admits to three.  The chairman says that it has at least 123, but if you count all of the data  contractors, there are countless more.  The only way that the Dept. of Education can say it only has three is by pretending that it is not responsible for, or does not subcontract out, the service, the questioner points out.  And those high numbers of organizations collecting data for the US Dept. of Education mean a high probability that data will be compromised.

Meanwhile, most people believe that student data remains with the teacher and principal; those who do know that there’s a state/federal database believe that it’s a good thing; and they tell me  that my opposition to permitting databases to stalk our kids is baseless, that the Utah State Office of Education does not release individual students’ information and that nonconsensual student data mining could never have a down side.


You Shall Not Pass: Utah Senator Mike Lee Isn’t Fooled by No Child Left Behind Reauthorization   Leave a comment

Legendary US Dept of Education whistleblower Charlotte Iserbyt  has  pointed out at her blog, ABCs of Dumbdown, that some members of Congress are deliberately concealing machinations of No Child Left Behind/ESEA  and are planning a rushed vote so that no time is allotted for public scrutiny nor for full Congressional analysis of the huge federal law.  She also points out that others, like Utah Senator Mike Lee, aren’t falling for the ruse.

In the official Congressional Record of two days ago, you can read the entire statement of Utah Senator Mike Lee, who said (see page S8032):

So from the surface it will still look like the conference process is happening, is unfolding in the manner in which it is supposed to, but beneath the surface we know that all of this has already been prearranged, precooked, predetermined by a select few Members of Congress working behind closed doors free from scrutiny, and we know this vote was scheduled on extremely short notice so it would be difficult, if not impossible, for the rest of us to influence the substance of the conference report through motions to instruct.”

Senator Lee also stated that the new ESEA/NCLB aims to spend $250 million on federal preschool, even though:

“Nowhere has the top-down, centrally planned model of public education failed more emphatically than in our nation’s public pre-K programs. The epitome of federal preschool programs is Headstart, which has consistently failed.”

Senator Lee noted that the bill must be stopped because it cements Common Core:

“The bill also doubles down on the discredited common core approach to elementary and secondary education the American people have roundly and consistently rejected. Parents and teachers across America are frustrated by the heavy-handed, overly prescriptive approach to education policy by Washington, D.C.   I have heard from countless moms and dads in Utah who feel as though anonymous government officials living and working 2,000 miles away have a greater say in the education of their own children than they do.”

Please call the US Capital in D.C. to ask your senators and representatives to VOTE NO on ESEA/NCLB reauthorization.  202-224-3121. 

For additional information and details on who is fighting with us and why we must stop the bill, click here.

Please Audit Utah State Office of Education’s Public Comment Survey   3 comments

After everything scientist and patriot Vince Newmeyer has written, after everything that people in other states have said and done (and sued about) concerning the INSANE  error of adopting national, common science standards; after all the parental uproar here in Utah, still, the USOE is still moving ahead with its bullheaded determination to strip Utah of any local control and align everything we do to federal standards. I am convinced that this is simply because of USOE’s passionate devotion to money –not to children, teachers or education– but to continued federal grant eligibilty.  There is no other logical explanation.
Today is the last day that you can make public comment on Utah’s move to “Utah Science Standards” –standards which are, in fact, national common standards also known as NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards.  See the official NGSS link here.
NGSS standards are beloved of the Obama administration (Obama launched a global warming education initiative recently).   NGSS are politicized and controversial, which Utah’s previous standards were not.  NGSS have been called the anti-science science standards because they minimize the scientific habit of actually questioning settled science, while maximizing “climate change” evangelism as presented by the left wing.
If Utah teachers and parents really wanted common NGSS standards, I would have to put a sock in my mouth and go away.  But the Utah Office of Education (USOE) has underhandedly presented these standards, refusing to admit that they are NGSS (by changing one word here or there) and by calling them “Utah Science Standards”.
The public comment site is RIDICULOUS.  I encourage you to go there tonight and spout off, but beware; they’ve made it hard.  They have almost made it impossible.
Click to make public comment here.  (Deadline today)
Hence my letter today, sent to the auditing department, asking them to sock it to USOE for their dishonesty and sellout of our schools and kids and real science.   Here’s the board’s email address if you feel so inclined to take a stand next to me on this issue.    
Dear Audit Department of USOE and State Board,
I am writing to ask you to audit the USOE’s public comment survey about the new NGSS/Utah Science standards.
These “standards” are being called “Utah Science Standards” but they are in reality the same as the NGSS, common national science standards.  This fact has been concealed by USOE in its presentations to the public, unfortunately, but it is true.
Today is the last day that the public is invited to comment.
I am certain that very, very few people have commented.    It severely restricts and frames comments.  The micromanaging nature of the survey, which is a narrow, opinion-managing effort, does not allow for true public comment on the entire scope, process, nature and academic quality of the proposed standards.
It limits commenters to specific strands of specific grades and even limits the space for commenting itself!  What if I was a science teacher who wanted to explain in scientific, pedagogic detail, why it’s so wrong to take out most of what we used to teach kids about electricity, for example?  That has happened.  But there’s no space for it on the survey.
But there is more.
  • Nowhere does the survey allow a member of the public to state opposition to the fact that these standards are IDENTICAL to the NGSS common, national standards.
  • Nowhere does the survey allow a member of the public to state opposition to the fact that these standards are exactly ALIGNED with federally-approved standardized testing.  (This is probably why USOE pushed these narrowed standards so hard; federal cash follows federally-aligned standards for embedded CEDS tags.)
  • Nowhere does the survey allow a member of the public to state opposition to narrowing the science survey to only 6th through 8th grades.
  • Nowhere does the survey allow a member of the public to state opposition to the politically slanted nature of a new, extreme interest in environmentalism, materialism, and “climate change”; the survey pretends that the science standards are only about science.
  • Nowhere does the survey allow space for true freedom of expression.
I could go on.
It feels as if this survey was deliberately written to constrain the public to NOT say what they may want to say; as if the survey-data-tally officers wanted to be able to throw out any comments that did brought up the controversies that the creators didn’t want to discuss.
This is certainly an auditing issue.
Millions of dollars will be spent by USOE and the school system to replace Utah’s previous science curricula.  Millions will go to “trainings” for teachers to alter our traditional, time-tested science pedagogy to make it match the new, NGSS, national-federal standards.
Money will be spent (wasted) not just in an excited, misguided grab for the latest and the best, but in a sickeningly politicized, even anti-God, materialism-belief-based, green-evangelized “science” that the USOE pretends is not NGSS.
The dishonest presentation of the 6th to 8th grade science standards to the public as if they were not NGSS is an issue for an audit.  Does honesty matter, or not?
The money that will be spent bases in part on this very survey, will be taken from taxpayers to put Utah on the federally aligned (unconstitutional) curriculum for politicized science, which is an issue for an audit.
For almost four years, many of us (including teachers, like me) have been carefully, sadly following the  activities of the USOE as it has, time and time again, sold out what’s best for Utah’s children, teachers, and future autonomy, for money.  For grant upon grant upon federal grant.
It is sickening.  NGSS alignment is more of the same.
Please audit this public comment survey and let’s insist that USOE be honest.  Have a public comment survey that actually invites full commentary on all aspects of this transformation of our schools.
Audit this survey, and strike it.  Have an honest look at NGSS and ask the public about  moving to national standards for science.
Ask the public to evaluate NGSS, and call it what it really is.  Audit whether it is even legitimate science.  It redefines the concept by dropping the classic scientific model of questioning, basing itself and its unquestionable “facts” on controversial issues with heavy political underpinnings, not on real, actual, open-minded science.
Christel Swasey

Stanley Kurtz: Drilling Through the Core   2 comments

I can’t wait to read Drilling Through the Core.

I’m sharing this brand new book before reading it myself, because I know these authors and I’ve read their work, making it a must-read for me.

You can check out the book’s review at:  The Corner (National Review) by Stanley Kurtz, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Buy the book  here.


 white Book cover isolated on plain background
Kurtz’ review of Drilling Through the Core says:    “It’s all here, from the most basic explanation of what Common Core is, to the history, the major arguments for and against, and so much more. The controversies over both the English and math standards are explained; the major players in the public battle are identified; the battle over Gates Foundation’s role is anatomized; the roles of the tests and the testing consortia are reviewed; concerns over data-mining and privacy are laid out; the dumbing-down effect on the college curriculum is explained; as is the role of the Obama administration and the teachers unions. I found the sections on “big data” particularly helpful. I confess that despite my considerable interest in Common Core, I hadn’t much followed the data-mining issue. Boy was that a mistake. It strikes me that the potential for abuse of personal data is substantially greater in the case of Common Core than in the matter of national security surveillance. With Common Core we are talking about databases capable of tracking every American individual from kindergarten through adulthood, and tremendous potential for the sharing of data with not only government but private groups…
    Read more at:



USOE Letter Tells State Board All is Well, All is Well in Special Ed   3 comments

Below are two letters.  The first one is my response to the second, so you might want to skim the second one first.  But the second one is written in the style that George Orwell warned us about– “like a cuttlefish squirting out ink… (the great enemy of clear language is sincerity).”
That one, in essence, has the head of the Utah State Office of Education’s Special Education department telling the rest of the bureaucracy that the new No Child Left Behind reauthorization ruling from Secretary of Education Duncan won’t in any way hurt anyone in Utah; in fact, Duncan’s ruling doesn’t even affect Utah students, she says!  It’s her complete handwaving away of the rule itself, as well as an admission that it’s okay with her that our rights as parents and teachers in Utah are going away.  It’ s not keeping her up at night.
My letter says that Duncan’s rule for NCLB and his snipping away of the last vestiges of state authority over special education IS keeping me up at night.
(If you didn’t already read why, that’s here.)
Dear Glenna Gallo and Utah State School Board,
I have read a letter that was sent out to the USOE/USSB concerning Secretary Duncan’s “final rule”  concerning the end of state authority over special education that Duncan plans to take effect nationally September 15th.  [Pasted in full after this letter]
Here is a direct quote from your office:
“The recent regulation changes taking effect in September do not impact Utah students at all.”
I am stunned at this quote. I have read the Department of Education’s directive.  It certainly applies to every state if the unconstitutionally acting Secretary Duncan is to be taken seriously.
Here is the link.
Its summary states that the rule will “no longer authorize a State to define modified academic achievement standards and develop alternate assessments based on those modified academic achievement standards….”
Further down, the page promotes the idea that forcing the same curriculum (Common Core Curriculum aka College and Career Ready) –on all students, without differentiation for special education students, is a good idea:
“Including students with disabilities in more accessible general assessments aligned to college- and career-ready standards [Common Core] promotes high expectations for students with disabilities, ensures that they will have access to grade-level content, and supports high-quality instruction designed to enable students with disabilities to be involved in, and make progress in, the general education curriculum—that is, the same curriculum as for nondisabled students.”
How can the USOE claim that this will not affect Utah students?
There are two major battles to be fought here.  One is the battle for the children themselves, whose best interests are no longer to be determined (for testing nor for curriculum or standards) by their loving parents and teachers, but by the feds.  This is clearly not limited to testing, but to standards and curriculum as well.
The other is the fight for our local right to direct the affairs of our children’s lives as we see fit: the fight to defend the application of the Constitution in our daily lives.
By continuing to hold hands with the Dept. of Education, rather than to stand up against this takeover of our rights, the USOE and School Board and Governor are complicit with Secretary Duncan’s federalization of special education in Utah. 
Utah’s government (USOE/USSB) is freely giving away what is not theirs to give:  the people’s voice, the people’s power, the people’s authority over the lives and programs of their own children.  By not saying no, you have said yes.
I take this very, very seriously.  The power to make decisions for our children’s lives and any programs by which our children are molded –and from which few have any alternative pathways– is a Constitutional, sacred birthright in America.
You who are elected (or paid) to be the guardians of Utah’s public education system have a duty to be a voice  for US, to represent We, the People, We, the teachers, and We, the Students. 
By not saying no, and by sending out letters like this one, you are representing Secretary Duncan to us, rather than us to Secretary Duncan.  That is not right.
I implore you to open your eyes to see the lies of Secretary Duncan.  The title itself is a complete deception: “Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged; Assistance to States for the Education of Children with Disabilities,” –while the text of the rule states, “to no longer authorize a state to determine. Does that title match that text? Assistance equals dictatorship?  Improvement equals dictatorship? 
It is ironic that the ESEA reauthorization was sold to Congress as a reduction in the federal educational footprint.  That was another sheer lie that should be obvious to everyone now.
I cannot stomach the ongoing tolerance of Utah’s educational leadership, that passes along, rather than stops, the bullying that flows from the Department of Education. Why has Utah’s education board and office been so willing to relinquish her own authority in these matters? 
It is time for those who have a conscience to take a stand.  Make a statement even if you cannot alter the course; take the public stand so that we know who is on what side of this fight over our children and our freedoms.
I suggest that you do something more than pass along dictator-like directives from Duncan to Utah’s districts. 
I would start by sending Secretary Duncan a letter of reprimand for attempting to assert such falsely gotten, pretended authority over us and over our children.  Perhaps our D.C. representatives will cosign.
We don’t get a second chance.  Failure to say no to this “final rule” means we lose this autonomy forever. 
Christel Swasey
Utah Teacher and Mother
Pleasant Grove
Here is the letter/email referenced above, that went out today or yesterday from Utah’s Special Education Director at USOE to the State Board and USOE:
Dear USOE Leadership and Utah State Board of Education,
In case you have been receiving concerned emails and phone calls regarding recent USDOE regulation changes taking effect September 15th that impact statewide assessments, here is some additional information, beyond that already provided by Superintendent Smith and Asst. Superintendent Nye (below).
ESEA used to allow states to create an additional state assessment, beyond the regular state assessment (in Utah, the SAGE) and the 1% assessment (in Utah, the DLM for math and ELA and UAA for science).  That additional assessment was referred to as the 2% assessment.  In other words, the SAGE would be used for 97% of students with disabilities, with the students with the most significant disabilities taking the 1% assessment, and 2% of students with significant disabilities (but who do not qualify for the 1% assessment) taking the 2% assessment.  Although the 2% option was removed in 2013 for states applying for an ESEA waiver, this did not impact Utah, as we have never had a 2% assessment, nor were there plans to develop one.  The recent regulation changes taking effect in September do not impact Utah students at all.
There is some misinformation on how students with disabilities participate in the appropriate statewide assessment.  Students with disabilities may participate in the 1% assessment (DLM and UAA) if the IEP team determines that they should not access grade level standards, and require instruction aligned to the Essential Elements (EEs) (alternate core standards).  You can find those EEs at and more information about the DLM and UAA at
Students with disabilities who do not receive instruction in the EEs receive instruction aligned to grade-level state standards, and as such participate in the SAGE, with the provision of appropriate IEP team-determined accommodations and/or modifications.   Special education is in place, and there are no planned changes to remove special education services or accommodations.  However, special education services are intended to supplement grade level general education instruction, not replace it, UNLESS the student is learning under the EE standards (again, students with most significant disabilities).   You can find more information about assessment participation for students with disabilities at
Please let me know if you have any concerns or questions.

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