Archive for the ‘It’s Not Too Late To Reclaim Educational Sovereignty For Utah’ Category

Testify Now.   3 comments


The purpose of this post is to ask you to testify this week to the newly created White House Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (CEP)– either online or in person— against CEP’s idea of studying to remove protective barriers on unit-level data for federal access and policymaking.

Here’s why.



Apparently chafing against constitutional and tech barriers against unrestrained access to student-level data, the federal government, this year, invited 15 people to help remove those barriers.

It’s a motley crew: a British behavioral scientist, an American data crime lawyer, a White House Medicaid bureaucrat, and piles of professors who formerly worked for the feds.

They named the group The Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (CEP) and passed a law (led by Dem. Senator Murray, Speaker Ryan and President Obama) that gives the semblance of authority to the commission and allows them to post on the White House website.

The law passed in March.

The CEP’s stated purpose is to increase “use of data in order to build evidence about government programs“.

How would this be done?  CEP doesn’t say on its website, but the trend in data mining is to push for unit record data sharing.

Individual students are, in computer jargon, “unit record data“.  CEP promises to focus on “existing barriers” that are standing in the government’s way of accessing data [unit record data included] or, in their words, “data already being collected” [by states, in SLDS systems]. That data is none of the federal government’s business. In my opinion, it’s none of the state’s business. My data belongs to me. My child’s data should not be harvested without my written consent. The state never asked before it began to longitudinally study my child. And now, the feds want full access to disaggregated data to “build evidence” of all kinds.

CEP’s website claims that “…while protecting privacy and confidentiality” the Commission will “study how data, research, and evaluation are currently used to build evidence, and how to strengthen the government’s evidence-building efforts.

In the context of the decade-long Congressional debate for and against unrestrained federal study of individuals,  how can CEP simultaneously persuade Congress that it will protect student privacy while pushing Congress to increase its evidence-building efforts?

I suppose if they gain unlimited access to data but deny access to at least one person, they can call this “protecting privacy”.

They used the phrase “protecting privacy” while they:

  1. Installed fifty interoperable, federally designed-and-funded “State Longitudinal Database Systems” (SLDS)  to track the nation’s schoolchildren. There was no vote, no request for parental consent– it was part of the “government evidence-building effort”.
  2. Stripped privacy protections that used to  be in federal FERPA law, which earlier had  mandated parental consent (or adult consent) –for the all important “government evidence-building effort”.

They made scary, transformative changes effortlessly, as unelected bureaucrats dangled money (our taxes) in front of other unelected bureaucrats.  No representation.

When CEP begins its planned study of “practices for monitoring and assessing outcomes of government programs,” and other “studies,” you can just insert your child or grandchild’s name wherever you see the term “government programs”.

It’s all about unit-record data: the kids.

And it’s not a new idea!

In 1998, Hillary Clinton and Marc Tucker conspired to create a system they envisioned as “seamless”; a “cradle-to-grave system that is the same for everyone” to “remold the entire American system” using “large scale data management systems”.  It was exposed, but not abandoned.

In 2013, Senators Warner, Rubio and Wyden called for a federal “unit record” database to track students from school through the workforce.  That was shot down; Congress didn’t want to end the protective ban on unit record collection. In 2008, reauthorization of the Higher Education Act expressly forbade creation of a federal unit record data system.

In 2013 reported:

A unit record database has long been the holy grail for many policy makers, who argue that collecting data at the federal level is the only way to get an accurate view of postsecondary education…

…[V]oices calling for a unit record system have only intensified; there is now a near-consensus that a unit record system would be a boon… An increasing number of groups, including some federal panels, have called for a federal unit record system since 2006: the Education Department’s advisory panel on accreditation, last year; the Committee on Measures of Student Success, in 2011; and nearly every advocacy group and think tank that wrote white papers earlier this year for a project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation…

… through linkage with Social Security or other databases, it could track graduates’ wages… The Obama administration — unable to create a federal unit record database — has offered states money to construct longitudinal databases of their own…”

It is time to stand up.

We missed the public meeting and the public hearing last month, but we can still speak at next week’s public testimony at the Rayburn Office Building.

If you can be in D.C. next Thursday, and want to offer public comment to offset the Gates-funded organizations that will be speaking in favor of sharing unit-record data, please send an email to  Ask for time to speak on the 21st of October.  They ask for your name, professional affiliation, a two sentence statement, and a longer, written statement.

If you can’t make it to D.C. on Thursday, you can catch them in a few months at similar meetings in California and in the Midwest.

At the very least, you can send your opinion online to the CEP at:


My submission to the CEP is below.  Feel free to use it as a template.


Dear Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking,

I love the American concept of voter-based, Constitution-based, elected representative-based, policymaking.  It’s why I live in America.

In contrast to voter-based policymaking there is evidence-based policymaking, which I don’t love because it implies that one entity’s “evidence” trumps individuals’ evidence, or trumps individuals’ consent to policy changes.

Former Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson said something about education that also applies to educational data and policymaking:

“The best way to prevent a political faction or any small group of people from capturing control of the nation’s educational system is to keep it decentralized into small local units, each with its own board of education and superintendent. This may not be as efficient as one giant super educational system (although bigness is not necessarily efficient, either) but it is far more safe. There are other factors, too, in favor of local and independent school systems. First, they are more responsive to the needs and wishes of the parents and the community. The door to the school superintendent’s office is usually open to any parent who wishes to make his views known. But the average citizen would be hard pressed to obtain more than a form letter reply from the national Commissioner of Education in Washington, D.C.”

Local control, and consent of the governed, are two foundational principles in our great nation.

Because the CEP is not an elected body, it does not actually hold representative authority to collect, or to recommend collection, of student-level evidence, or of any evidence, without written consent; and, for the same reasons, neither does the Department of Education.

Because the fifty, federally-designed, evidence-collecting, State Longitudinal Database Systems never received any consent from the governed in any state to collect data on individuals (as the systems were put into place not by authority, but by grant money) it follows that the idea of having CEP study the possible removal of barriers to federal access of those databases, is an egregious overstep that even exceeds the overstep of the State Longitudinal Database Systems.

Because federal FERPA regulations altered the original protective intent of FERPA, and removed the mandate that governments must get parental (or adult student) consent for any use of student level data, it seems that the idea of having CEP study and possible influence removal of additional “barriers” to federal use of data, is another egregious overstep.

As a licensed teacher in the State of Utah; as co-founder of Utahns Against Common Core (UACC); as a mother of children who currently attend public, private and home schools; as acting president of the Utah Chapter of United States Parents Involved in Education (USPIE); as a patriot who believes in “consent of the governed” and in the principles of the U.S. Constitution; and, as a current tenth grade English teacher, I feel that my letter represents the will of many who stand opposed to the  “study” of the protective barriers on student-level data, which the CEP’s website has outlined it will do.

I urge this commission to use its power to strengthen local control of data, meaning parental and teacher stewardship over student data, instead of aiming to broaden the numbers of people with access to personally identifiable student information to include government agencies and/or educational sales/research corporations such as Pearson, Microsoft, or the American Institutes for Research.


To remove barriers to federal access of student-level data only makes sense to a socialist who agrees with the Marc Tucker/Hillary Clinton 1998 vision of a cradle-to-grave nanny state with “large scale data management systems” that dismiss privacy as a relic in subservience to modern government.  It does not make sense to those who cherish local control.

It is clear that there is a strong debate about local control and about consent of the governed, concerning data and concerning education in general. NCEE Chair Mark Tucker articulated one side of the debate when he said:  “the United States will have to largely abandon the beloved emblem of American education: local control. If the goal is to greatly increase the capacity and authority of the state education agencies, much of the new authority will have to come at the expense of local control.”

Does that statement match the philosophical stand of this commission?  I hope not.  Local control means individual control of one’s own life.  How would an individual control his or her own destiny if “large scale data management systems” in a cradle-to-grave system, like the one that Tucker and Clinton envisioned, override the right to personal privacy and local control?  It is not possible.

I urge this commission to use any influence that it has to promote safekeeping of unit-record data at the parental and teacher level, where that authority rightly belongs.


Christel Swasey





Common Core’s Role in Hot State School Board Race   4 comments


Senate President Niederhauser and House Speaker Hughes

The State School Board race has never drawn much attention before. But this year, the Salt Lake Tribune reported, businesses and even top-tier elected officials are personally campaigning and fundraising for and against certain candidates.

Yesterday’s headline was: “Niederhauser and Hughes ask Business Leaders to Help Defeat UEA-Backed School Board Candidates“.  Yesterday, too, business organizations such as the Utah Technology Council and the School Improvement Association joined Niederhauser and Hughes in a fundraising webinar that promoted a slate of pro-Common Core candidates who happen to be not favored by or funded by national teacher’s unions.

I understand why someone with a conscience would campaign against out-of-state big UEA-NEA money buying Utah’s state board election.  So they should.

But I don’t understand why these groups have chosen to campaign against both the anti-Common Core candidates (in blue) as well as against the UEA-backed candidates (in red) as they showed in this slide at yesterday’s insider fundraising webinar:



Nor do I understand why our House Speaker and Senate President don’t see the hypocrisy in speaking against big money buying votes (NEA) while both of them are personally funded by big business money (Education First).

But my bigger questions are: how do the Speaker and the Senate President dare to campaign for Common Core candidates, thus going directly against Governor Herbert’s call to end Common Core alignment in Utah?

How do they dare campaign against the resolution of their own Utah Republican Party that called for the repeal of the Common Core Initiative?

Have they forgotten the reasons that their party is strongly opposed to all that the Common Core Initiative entails?

Have they forgotten Governor Herbert’s letter that called for an end to Common Core and SAGE testing just four months ago? (See letter here.)  For all the talk about wanting to move toward local control and to move against the status quo, this seems odd.

Next to the governorship, there aren’t more powerful offices in the state than those held by House Speaker Hughes and Senate President Niederhauser. So what does this powerful endorsement of a certain slate of candidates signify?

First, it signifies what is probably a sincere concern for (partial) local control: In the fundraising webinar held yesterday (by Hughes, Niederhauser, the School Improvement Network and the Utah Technology Council) the following slide was displayed:  Out of $308,512 raised for the political action of the Utah UEA (teacher’s union) $300,000 of it came from out of state.  Hughes and Niederhauser are right in being alarmed at that money’s probable effect on local control.



(What they didn’t highlight is this: all of the anti-Common Core candidates’ funding, combined, doesn’t come close to what even one of the UEA-funded candidates are spending because none of them are backed by corporate or political powers.)

Secondly, it signifies Utah leadership’s alignment with Obama’s vision for education, which among other things mandates sidelining certain subjects in favor of others. Niederhauser told the Tribune that he didn’t want any board member’s vision to “dominate the board” which, to  him, meant to “supplant business and technology representatives.”  So he wants to make sure that business and technology is at least as dominant as any other interest.   The School Improvement Network is of the same opinion.

We could ask why. Why, specifically, would legislators be endorsing the fields of business and technology over the fields of languages, medicine, history, social work, the arts or any other thing?  And where’s the idealogical division between what NEA wants and what Niederhauser-Hughes want?  Is it fair to speculate that NEA corporate funders are in competition against the Education First corporate funders, and all of this is just an economic struggle pretending to be a struggle for the children’s best interests?  Utah tax dollars are, after all, the passionate pursuit of multiple players in the now $2 Billion per year ed tech sales industry.

Many people know that both Hughes and Niederhauser’s political campaigns are heavily funded by Education First, a Utah political action committee for Prosperity 2020 that puts businesses first.

Not voters first.  Not education –broadly– first; this is education as defined by the ed-tech sales industry and by Obama’s 2020 vision. Read it in their own words.  In an Tribune op-ed taking credit for passing legislation that Education First had lobbied for, you’ll see little focus on funding for paper and pens, school basketballs, violins, gluesticks, old-fashioned books, or heaven forbid, large teachers’ salaries– no, ed funding to Education First means to fund the priorities that precisely (coincidentally?) match Obama’s 2020 vision:  early childhood education (which competes with free enterprise/private preschools), workforce development (China-styled central planning) “community schools” (Obama’s vision to integrate healthcare with academics and with socio-political movements “using government schools as a hub”) and standardized personalized learning (an oxymoron that cements Common Core academics and its data tags).

Don’t mistake this as a fight between tech lovers and tech haters.  None of the candidates for state school board are anti-technology, though the smart ones are pushing for improved laws governing student privacy in this modern age.

So what are Hughes and Niederhauser really saying when they say they’re for the pro-tech candidates?  What does that really mean?  That Utahns should sit back and let the ed tech sales industry, or businesses, sit in the driver’s seat for educational decision-making?  That’s the stated aim of Education First (in Utah) and of Obama’s 2020 (nationally) and, according to his Tribune quote above, it’s also the aim of President Niederhauser.

Education First doggedly, directly, lobbies citizens, governments, and school districts, to strong-arm their narrow vision, that businesses should “help” direct education.  They refer to my child and yours as the economy’s.  They call children “human capital” on their website.  This is, when ripe, the 1992 Hillary-Tucker dream coming true, with the collective economy dictating to the individual on the assembly line.

Education First wants a high “concentration of science and engineering occupations” in Utah, which you may or may not agree with; what I hope you do agree with is that this new, business – public ed partnershipping governance system, with business being handed power to influence schooling, when taken to the extreme, is fascism.  In fascism, there’s no distinction between government and business.  And the voter has no say.

Do we want to walk down that slippery slope?  Do we want the Education First business community to be given power in schools?

Whether promoting science and engineering at the expense of other subject and careers is the will of the people, or not, really doesn’t come in to the discussion. Prosperity 2020 has said that businesses will “provide a business oriented plan to improve results” for schools.

If Hughes or Niederhauser would respond to my emails to them, I would ask them this:  how is it any more helpful toward Constitutional local control–  if that is what you really want– to let businesses take over the driver’s seat for educators, as your financial backers aim to do, than for out of state (NEA) funding to call the same shots?  Either way, students and schools and voters lose personal freedoms to self-appointed experts who think they know best.

So when Niederhauser worries that “big money groups effectively buy the election,” he is right.  The hundreds of thousands of dollars pouring in to NEA-UEA approved candidates’ purses should raise eyebrows.  But shouldn’t the same eyebrows rise too, seeing in-state big money groups like Education First and Prosperity 2020 now, as in the past, funding the pro-Common Core candidates –and funding Hughes and Niederhauser themselves– effectively buying the election in the very same way?

Meanwhile, none of the liberty-first, anti-Common Core candidates,  Alisa Ellis, Lisa Cummins, Michelle Boulter or Dr. Gary Thompson, are richly funded.   All they really have to stand on is true principles of liberty –and word of mouth.

Many voters know that Common Core is anti-local control.  The Governor almost lost in the primary to anti-Common Core challenger Jonathan Johnson because of this.  The Governor was repeatedly booed at political conventions this year because he had been such a promoter of the Common Core, prior to his turnaround.  What will the governor say about Niederhauser’s and Hughes’ current effort?  More importantly, what will voters say?

Dr. Gary Thompson, a district 10 candidate for state school board, said today:

“I was pleased the that the Speaker of the House and Senator Neiderhauser identified who the “anti common core” education candidates are in this election. I was pleased to be labeled as one of them. This provides a clear choice for members in the community to chose from as they please.  Comments made by the Speaker in regards to the UEA did not receive a prior endorsement by this campaign.  I look forward to having a professional, cordial discussion with my UEA endorsed opponent on September 28th regarding education issues that will affect our children in District 10″

For anyone wanting to watch the debates between state school board candidates, please check that schedule here. 


Pictured below are the candidates for state school board that I endorse, whom the UEA, NEA, UTC, SIN, Senate President and House Speaker do not:

For true local control of education:

Alisa Ellis, Michelle Boulter, Lisa Cummins, Dr. Gary Thompson.

alisa vote


lisa cummins

dr t

Join Us: U.S.P.I.E. to #ReinInTheKing Tonight – Sign Petition to Congress   Leave a comment



It is one of the ironies of life that Secretary King’s name matches his actions as throne-sitter at the unconstitutional U.S. Department of Educsation.  As Secretary of Education, he has followed in the outrageous, extreme, fully socialist footsteps of his predecessor, Secretary Arne Duncan.

Tonight, U.S.P.I.E. (U.S. Parents Involved in Education) is pushing back, hosting a nationwide #StopFedEd twitter rally to raise awareness.

Join us.

Tweet about the outrageous encroachments of the Department of Education.  Tweet about our current Secretary, John King, also known as “The King of Common Core.”  You can learn more about Secretary King by reading posts  and articles that many have written, for years, about his education shenanigans.  (#ReinInTheKing)


Please join the rally at PJNET; click here.

Make some noise across the twittersphere.

Let the U.S. Department of Education know that millions of voters, teachers, parents and legislators aim to stop its monstrous agenda that wants to eliminate local control of schooling.  Let them know we are not blind to the unwanted  data gathering agenda, the teacher-stifling agenda, the collectivist agenda, nor the encroachments that abound in the new federal ESSA.  Let them know that we will not put our heads in the sand while Secretary King and his unconstitutional department has its heavy-fisted, unkind, unconstitutional way with our tax dollars and our children.

This is America; we, the people, standing on the U.S. Constitution, claim our rights and reject this King!  Tweet it, Facebook it, LinkedIn it, Pin it; share your voice.  We demand educational local control and liberty and true, high quality education.

Use the hashtags #ReinInTheKing and #StopFedEd, please.  If you want to find out more about USPIE, click here.   To join the twitter rally click here, or just tweet #ReinInTheKing and #StopFedEd, with whatever message you wish to send @ federal and state leadership

(Here’s one link to the twitter handles of the U.S. Congress, to get you started.)


For additional context:

Below is a letter to be delivered this week to the U.S. Congress.  It is written by U.S.P.I.E. and has been signed by pages and pages of names of leaders of U.S. organizations and individual teachers and parents and voters.  That official list of signers will be available soon, as the deadline is tonight.  If you want to be a signer, email Ms. Few at:

Here is the letter:

United States Parents Involved in Education (USPIE), a nationwide, nonpartisan coalition of state leaders with thirty state chapters focused on restoring local control of education, do hereby submit opposition to the proposed regulations of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) accountability and state plan rule-making. USPIE is joined in our dissent by many other local and national organizations with shared goals as cosigners to this letter.

As part of our opposition, we point to Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Lamar Alexander’s comments concerning ESSA, “…it prohibits Washington from deciding which schools and teachers are succeeding or failing.” As well, Senator Alexander states, “…the new law explicitly prohibits Washington from mandating or even incentivizing Common Core or any other specific academics standards.” These two quotes point directly to our opposition. As Senator Alexander explains, ESSA “prohibits Washington” from being entrenched in education. As detailed below, we find this to be untrue.


In a thorough review and analysis of the proposed regulations against the Act, written into law in January of 2016, we found five main areas where the requirements of the regulations supersede States’ rights as defined in the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The five areas include: The Power of the Secretary of Education, accountability through data reporting, accountability through assessments, state plan requirements, and identification for targeted support and improvement. Below are bulleted concerns where we believe federal overreach impedes states’ rights. These beliefs correspond with specific sections of the proposed regulations.




  • Proposed 299.13 allows the Secretary to control how States are to submit their education plans and the deadline by which they are to submit.
  • Proposed 299.13 states the Secretary is authorized to establish consolidated State Plan Programs, information about these programs, the materials needed for these programs, and to set all assurances for the programs for adherence.
  • The proposed regulations allow the Secretary to amend requirements for implementing Title I programs including requirements for States when submitting their State Education Plans.
  • Proposed 299.13 say if States make any changes to State Education Plans, the Secretary must approve.
  • 46 of ESSA: The Secretary can withhold funds if States fail to meet any of the State Plan requirements.


**Recommendation: The Secretary should not be allowed to amend requirements. Title I should be implemented as the law states, not how the Secretary thinks it should be carried out. States should not be bribed into complying with regulations issued from any government agency.



  • Proposed 200.20 gives States “flexibility” to average data across years or combine data across grades because averaging data across school years or across grades in a school can increase the data available as a part of determining accountability.
  • Proposed 200.20 will also require States who combine data across grades or years to also report data individually for each grade/year, use the same uniform procedure, and explain the procedure in the State plan and specify its use in the State report card.
  • ESSA is supposed to give flexibility and more control to States by decreasing the burden of reporting requirements. Proposed regulations 299.13 and 299.19 will expand data reporting for “States and LEAs in order to provide parents, practitioners, policy makers, and public officials at the Federal, State, and local levels with actionable data,” which will entail additional costs for States. These reports must include accountability indicators to show how the State is aligned with a College and Career Readiness Standard (Common Core).
  • Proposed regulations 200.30 and 200.31 will implement requirements in the ESSA that expand reporting requirements for States and LEAs “in order to provide parents, practitioners, policy makers, and public officials at the Federal, State, and local levels with actionable data,” and information on key aspects of our education.
  • Proposed 200.17 clarifies data disaggregation requirements. It states that the n-size used to measure test scores and graduation rates of any subgroup for state accountability purposes should not exceed 30 students.
  • Proposed 200.21 through 200.24 require LEA’s to include evidence-based interventions in order to receive improvement funds. Such interventions include the safe and healthy school environments and the community and family engagement plans.  These plans include the heavy use of surveys—student surveys and home surveys.


**Recommendation: We recommend removing these regulations, letting States decide subgroup size as ESSA states

**Recommendation: We recommend not expanding data collection. Along these lines, we recommend the federal government not collect data on children at all.


(These regulations heavily incentivize keeping Common Core as State standards)


  • Proposed 200.12 will require a State’s accountability system to be based on the challenging State academic standards (Common Core) and academic assessments.
  • Proposed 200.13 will require States to establish ambitious long-term goals and measurements of interim progress for academic achievement that are based on challenging State academic standards (Common Core) and the State’s academic assessments.
  • Proposed 200.14 states assessments provide information about whether all students are on track to graduate “college-and-career-ready” (Common Core).
  • Proposed 200.15 will require States who miss the 95% participation requirement to: a) be assigned a lower rating (200.18); b) be assigned the lowest performance level under State Academic Achievement (200.14); c) be identified for target support and improvement (200.19); and d) have another equally rigorous State-determined action, as described in its State plan, which the Secretary has to approve.
  • States who miss the 95% would be required to develop and implement improvement plans that address the law participation rate and include interventions.
  • Proposed 200.15 will require States to explain in its report card how it will factor the 95% participation rate requirement into its accountability system. (This is not flexibility; this is the government telling States what to do.)
  • Proposed regulations will ensure that States who fail to meet the 95% rate have rigorous actions taken (lower rating, identified for targeted support/improvement), providing incentive for schools to ensure all students take the annual State assessments.
  • Proposed 200.18 requires each school to receive a single “summative” grade or rating, derived from combining at least 3 of the 4 indicators used to measure its performance. Further, the regulation “forbids” states from boosting school’s rating if it has made substantial improvement in the 4th non-academic category.
  • Proposed 200.15 requires states to intervene and/or fail schools who do not meet the 95% participation rate on the state test.


**Recommendation: We recommend letting states determine their own rating system and choose other indicators of school performance.

**Recommendation: We recommend taking emphasis off Common Core aligned assessments and giving teachers the freedom to teach.

**Recommendation: We recommend removing these regulations as it violates the provision of the ESSA to recognize state and local law that allow parents to opt-out their child from participating in the state academic assessments.



  • Proposed 299.13 will establish procedures and timelines for State plan submission and revision and the Secretary is authorized to approve revisions.
  • Proposed 299.14 to 299.19 will establish requirements for the content of consolidated State plans.
  • Proposed 299.16 will require States to demonstrate that their academic standards and assessments meet federal requirements.
  • Proposed 299.19 will require states to describe how they are using federal funds to provide all students equitable access to high-quality education and would include program-specific requirements necessary to ensure access.
  • Proposed 299.13 outlines requirements for an SEA to submit in order to receive a grant. The state must submit to the Secretary assurances in their plan including “modifying or eliminating State fiscal and accounting barriers so that schools can easily consolidate funds from other Federal, State, and local sources to improve educational opportunities and reduce unnecessary fiscal and accounting requirements”.


**Recommendation: We recommend removing these regulations and allowing States to establish State plan procedures and timelines.



  • Proposed 200.15 will require subgroups (homeless, military, foster, etc.) to adhere to the 95% participation rate along with their peers.
  • Proposed 200.19 will provide parameters for how States must define “consistently underperforming.”
  • Proposed 200.24 grants States additional funds for low performing LEAs but instructs how States must use these funds.
  • Proposed 299.17 will include State plan requirements related to statewide school support and improvement activities.
  • Proposed 200.24 says if schools do not show improvement by a set time, SEAs may take additional improvement actions including: a) replacing school leadership; b) converting to a charter school; c) changing school governance; d) implementing new instructional model; or c) closing the school. This is called, “whole school reform.”
  • Proposed 200.19 and 200.23 also talk about the use of whole school reform.


**Recommendation: We recommend giving States the power to define schools which “consistently underperform” and allowing States to decide appropriate improvement activities.

We, the undersigned, agree to these points and respectively ask Congress to reconsider the regulations as written. Our suggestion is the regulations are retracted and either rewritten so they closer align with the law or they are completely discarded and States are left to interpret the law as they see fit.


Lastly, USPIE leadership is more than willing to meet and discuss these points, our recommendations, and solutions with any Congressional member at a time and place convenient to them. Like you, we would like to see education brought to a level where all children, teachers, schools, and communities succeed.


With utmost respect and regards,


Sheri Few, President

United States Parents Involved in Education


Tracie Happel, President

South Carolina Parents Involved in Education


Lynne Taylor, President

North Carolina Parents Involved in Education


Ida Frueh, President

North Dakota Parents Involved in Education




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”.


Miracles Do Happen: Governor and Chair of Common Core Organization (NGA) Rejects Common Core   7 comments


Governor Herbert surprised a lot of people this week, including me.

After spending the past six years promoting,  marketing, and providing workforce alignment strategies to serve Common Core, and after rising to the throne of Common Core’s organization, National Governors Association, to become its chair, and after going out of his way to have the Utah Attorney General provide “proof” that Common Core supposedly represented local control– after all of this,  Herbert has now turned his back on the Common Core and has written a letter to the State School Board, asking it to move away from Common Core.

The media in Utah say that they are “puzzled” and confused.  Not me.  I’m doing the happy dance!


happy dance dog

Regardless of the Governor’s motives in this election year, regardless of the possibility that Utah might just endure a wasteful rebranding effort that could redeliver Common Core under a new name (as many other states, have done and done and done) –I still see this letter from Governor Herbert as a home run for the freedom team.

Read it.  The letter admits that Common Core is not an example of local control, that it is the federal will, and that it damages local control –of testing, data collection, curriculum and instruction.

The letter asks the board to keep these principles in mind while it moves away from Common Core: 1) maintain high academic standards; 2) keep the federal government out of educational decisions in Utah; and 3) preserve local control of curriculum, testing, data collection and instruction.

It also says, “Just as important as the actual educational standards is the process by which we arrive at those standards.  This should be a Utah process with public comment and discourse.”  It continues, “…[W]e all understand the shortcomings of a one-size-fits-all approach. It is imperative that any new standards are flexible enough to allow a wide variety of curricular decisions by individual school districts …I believe that our teachers need more freedom to be creative in the classroom.

Well, those words are a surprise, and a miracle, to me.

Some people are suspicious because the governor’s in the middle of his re-election campaign, while his challenger, has been extremely successful with voting delegates because of his staunchly anti-Common Core stand.  I was there when the governor got booed by a crowd over well over 1,000 delegates at the Utah County GOP Convention last month, when he spoke about Common Core; I know he is under campaign pressure, but he didn’t have to do this!   He knew it would make him look like a fair-weather politician. He knew that most of those who are already voting for the more-conservative Johnson won’t change their minds and that those who already support Herbert won’t likely change their minds.  So why did he really do it?

Maybe a key to why the governor wrote this letter is in its closing paragraph.  His own children and grandchildren do not like the Common Core. The letter says, “I have eleven grandchildren in Utah public schools. I have seen firsthand the frustration they and their parents have had…”

What grandfather can stand up to his own grandchildren’s lobbying efforts against the Common Core?  So he caved, in a good way.  He’s publically admitted that Common Core is academically miserable and politically for socialists.

I cannot see this letter as anything but great news.

So what’s next?  What will the Utah State School Board do?

I don’t think it can get away with yet another meaningless rebranding job. The now-somewhat-savvy Utah public won’t stand for that, knowing what so recently happened to Utah’s previously-good science standards, or knowing what happened when Oklahoma, Arizona, New Jersey, Tennessee, Indiana, and other states passed Common Core repeal laws that resulted in nothing better, but common core 2.0 (under new names).  To the dismay of those who actually wanted freedom and autonomy beyond the federal 15% no-change alignment “suggestion”, better standards didn’t actually mean, better standards.  But we have the advantage of other states’ errors to learn from today.

The letter didn’t spell out every problem with education reform.  For example, it didn’t say, “Let’s finally permit parents to opt children out of the federal/state data data monitoring system SLDS“.

But I don’t see the federal SLDS (Utah’s federally-provided student data mining system, which came to Utah alongside Common Core) very much longer reading “long life and happiness” in its fortune cookie.  Why?  Too many Utahns are aware that common data standards and common academic standards were a package deal from day one.  Utah legislators recently passed bills that  took protective action on student data privacy– taking a stand against the opposition’s  national data-mining-and-monitoring movement.  The governor will not be able to sidestep SLDS, even if he wants to.   SLDS didn’t need to be in the letter because it’s on everyone’s mind.

freedom of speech


One of my happiest thoughts, after seeing this letter,  has been thinking about the countless Utah teachers and administrators who have previously not felt free to speak their minds about Common Core.  The governor’s letter, in many ways (and unintentionally, perhaps) helps to reclaim freedom of speech to Utah educators.  While educators opposed to Common Core have mostly remained quiet or anonymous, some of those who have not, have been bypassed, mistreated or branded as “insubordinate” for speaking out– for refusing to pretend to like Common Core –either academically or politically.  Some have even been pushed to resign.

But now, if even the reigning governor is saying he’s not happy about the Common Core –academically nor in terms of lost local control– then finally,  perhaps, any teacher or principal can pipe up, too.

So, this letter is very good news.

Thanks, Governor Herbert.



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