Last year, on behalf of Early Life Child Psychology and Education Center, Dr. Gary Thompson offered $100,000.00 to the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) for validity reports for Utah’s SAGE Common Core test.
He made the offer after Associate Superintendent Judy Park made a public statement regarding the validity of SAGE which Dr. Thompson knew to be false. He knew that test makers such as American Institutes for Research (AIR) or Pearson routinely provide validity reports to psychologists in the private sector, because by law and ethics, they know the tests can’t be used otherwise.
Dr. Thompson gave the USOE a 24-hour deadline to forward to his clinic some certified copies of industry-standard validity reports prepared by AIR. Such reports would show the test’s construct validity, criterion validity, content validity, concurrent validity, and predictive validity.
In exchange for copies of the reports, Early Life Corp would donate $50,000.00 to a public school of USOE’s choice, plus an additional $50,000.00 to the 2014-15 Utah Public School Teacher of the Year. He sent the offer directly to Dr. Judy Park and to some of the Utah State School Board members; he also posted the offer on his personal Facebook page, the clinic’s Facebook page, and on the Utahns Against Common Core Facebook page.
The offer was quickly big news among those who follow the Common Core Initiative’s unfolding saga nationwide. Six clinicians and partners of Early Life, including the CEO who happens to be Dr. Thompson’s wife, were not happy about the offer. That night was a sleepless one for them and Dr. Thompson was consigned to the couch for the night by the CEO. Still, Dr. Thompson slept like a baby. Why?
Here’s a little bit of history:
Right after his appearance on the Glenn Beck TV show, where Dr. Thompson had exposed the Common Core/SAGE test’s assault on student privacy and its unanswered validity questions, Dr. Thompson had been summoned to the offices of then-Superintendent Dr. Martell Menlove and Associate Superintendent Brenda Hales. He accepted the invitation, bringing along his clinic’s lawyer and his best friend, Edward D. Flint.
During the two and a half hour meeting, Dr. Thompson and Ed Flint first sat and listened to “Brenda Hales’ hour-long lecture about ‘the Standards'”. Dr. Thompson finally explained, when she was finished speaking, that academic standards were not Thompson/Flint’s area of expertise and that the subject was of no interest to them on any level.
Next, Menlove/Hales listened to Thompson/Flint. The doctor and the lawyer explained the fundamentals of test validity issues and data gathering, and expressed their concerns about privacy and testing issues, laying out a careful analysis of how easily potential violations could occur under Common Core’s tests.
Menlove/Hales dismissed their concerns as “conspiracy theories” and requested that Thompson/Flint “stop bringing fear into our community via social media”. Thompson and Flint promised to cease speaking of their concerns if Menlove and Hales would agree to contact AIR to provide documentation that the concerns were unwarranted.
Dr. Menlove agreed.
Weeks later, still having seen no validity reports, Dr. Thompson finally received a phone call –from a parent, who had noticed an AIR letter posted on the USOE webpage. The letter was directed to Dr. Menlove from AIR Vice President Jon Cohen; it purported to address the concerns of Mr. Flint and Dr. Thompson, using their names.
AIR Vice President Jon Cohen failed to actually respond to the pointed, specific concerns that had been submitted in writing to Dr. Menlove. (Read those here.)
What he did do is attempt to give AIR a pat on the back by sharing a link to what was meant to go to a national nonprofit disabilities organization, one that would vouch for the test verbally (not with any validity studies or reports). Yet –incredibly– when one click’s on the AIR Vice President’s link, one is linked to a vacation spot on Catalina Island.
It’s been two years since AIR’s defense of validity letter was posted on the USOE website, and still no correction has been made.
Why haven’t the newspapers reported that the validity of Utah’s SAGE test is proved with a link to a Catalina Island website? This singular error (I’m assuming, hoping it was an error) and it’s now two-year uncorrected status speaks tragic volumes about the lack of professionalism of the SAGE, the USOE and the AIR Corporation. (AIR has received at least $39 million so far for its testing service, from Utah taxpayers.)
Dr. Thompson was not amused by AIR’s error. He shared this story in multiple, filmed presentations in four different states. Audiences and parents were stunned.
This is news. Why is it not in the papers? When AIR had the perfect opportunity to silence “misinformed” critics by putting the issue to rest with actual validity tests, the company produced no reports of any tests, just a short letter that said nothing.
Multiple calls to Dr. Menlove’s office and to his personal cell phone were never returned. Months later both Dr. Menlove and Brenda Hales abruptly resigned with no explanations given.
It had become clear to Dr. Thompson that the SAGE test was designed to assess both academic and psychological constructs. Dr. Thompson knew from his direct doctoral residency experience and from his academic training in assessment that no test of this kind had ever been devised in the history of clinical psychology. With knowledge of the extreme experimental nature of the test it was his logical assumption that AIR’s efforts were devoted to the construction of the test and could not have concurrently designed an entirely new method of measuring validity; providing validity reports is a time-consuming and extremely expensive task. (He notes that AIR and other Common Core test makers must have been thrilled to oblige when “client” Secretary Arne Duncan gave them the opportunity to devise a huge test without requiring the normally expensive and very time-consuming validity tests.)
It’s common knowledge, thanks to the USOE, that AIR was the only company that was federally approved; thus, the only company Utah could have chosen once it dumped its SBAC membership. The USOE has explained, “AIR is currently the only vendor who produces a summative adaptive assessment that has received federal approval.”
No one really knows– outside of the few AIR psychometricians and V.P. Jon Cohen– exactly what the Utah SAGE test (which is now also used outside Utah) measures. After two years of studying the issue, Dr. Thompson surmises that AIR has devised one of the most complex, accurate measures of personality characteristics ever made. Dr. Thompson believes that behavioral testing was AIR’s contractual goal and that SAGE reached that goal.
Support for Dr. Thompson’s conclusion is easy to find. As one example, scan the federal report entitled “Promoting Grit, Tenacity and Perserverance“. It openly promotes schools’ collection of students’ psychological and belief-based data via behavioral assessment. (See page 44 to view biometric data collection device photos: student mood meters, posture analysis seats, wireless skin conductance sensors, etc.) Utah’s own documents, such as the grant application for the State Longitudinal Database System, reveal that noncognitive assessment, including psychometric census-taking of Utah students, were part of the state’s agreement with the federal government even before the Common Core Initiative had come to our state.
As for the SAGE test’s academics, Dr. Thompson points out that barring independent, peer-reviewed documentation, it is not possible to honestly claim that SAGE measures what it claims to measure– academics– in a valid manner. Dr. Thompson puts it this way: “There is no way in hell that the AIR-produced SAGE/Common Core test measures academic achievement in a valid manner, and quite probably, does not measure academics at all.”
Dr. Gary Thompson and his family
Postscript: For more opt-out-of-SAGE-tests motivation please read the testimonies of parents who served on Utah’s SAGE “validation committee”. They read the SAGE questions last year and are now speaking out.
Whatever is suggested on the education pages of Whitehouse.gov, by its federal education branches or by its corporate partners, ends up in Utah as a law, presented to the masses as if it were Utah’s idea.
Tonight: guess what?
The Salt Lake Tribune reported that tonight, Utah lawmakers passed a bill that “will assign rewards and consequences to Utah schools based on the state’s controversial school grading system. Schools who improve their grades will get funding and salary bonuses, while struggling schools will have the option of getting mentoring from school turnaround experts.”
Am I the only one reading this as: Utah adopted Obama’s School Turnaround model?
There is in fact an Obama-led, federal school turnaround model. There’s the federal “Office of School Turnaround” where states are assigned program officers. There’s a blue team and a green team.
Utah’s been assigned to the green team on that federal office of school turnaround chart. (I don’t remember voting on this.)
In the chart where Utah’s listed for turnaround (see below) the Utah program officer is not yet named. It says, “To Be Determined.” The feds hadn’t assigned us a program officer before today.
They surely will now.
There’s also a federal Center on School Turnaround (CST) that’s so much more than an office in D.C. It’s a whole ” federal network of 22 Comprehensive Centers” that boasts ” 15 Regional Comprehensive Centers… and 7 national Content Centers.” The federal CST condescends to report that states are allowed to play a role in their own school turnaround. But not the leading role; that’s for the feds and the Comprehensive Centers. In a report titled “The State Role in School Turnaround” we learn that some of CST’s goals are to change states’ laws and to micromanage turnaround efforts. In their words:
“The Center on School Turnaround’s four objectives:
Friends! Here’s our wakeup fact of the decade: our state holds a Constitutional duty and right to keep the federal government out of education. We are failing in this duty. Utahns are collectively– even lawmakers– either asleep, too busy or perhaps paid off by corporate lobbyists partnered with the machine, that we cannot notice a swift transfer of fed ed’s aims into local ed’s reality.
The passage of SB 235 is just one example of this ongoing series of terrible mistakes that cement our actions in line with the federal will.
The new Utah law calls for “turnaround experts” to improve low labeled schools using one driving method: tests. Schools will be labeled by student performance on Common Core/SAGE tests as low- or high-performing. Then some will be assigned a “turnaround expert” to raise Common Core test scores.
How will Utah, in practice, select the turnaround experts? Will the experts be chosen from Obama’s personal list of school turnaround experts, which you may view, with colorful photos of each person, at Whitehouse.gov? Will these experts be taken from Bill Gates’ personal turnaround recommendation list? Will they be recommended by the Federal Center for School Turnaround (CST)? –Or by bigtime school turnaround advocates at the Über-progressive Center for American Progress (CAP)?
That famous turnaround group, the Center for American Progress, brazenly “disagrees that school improvement should be left entirely to states” and the Center has written that: “the United States will have to largely abandon the beloved emblem of American education: local control… new authority will have to come at the expense of local control… local control is the source of many of the nation’s problems related to education.”
I am not screaming out loud because I’m saving my screams until this next paragraph:
This week, the Tribune reported that longtime Utah State School Board member Leslie Castle “expressed frustration with the political rhetoric that pits states’ rights against the federal government. She… urged her colleagues to refrain from statements critical of federal overreach.
‘I am not going to be voting in favor of anything that plays to this nonsense that somehow our relationship with the federal government is crazy and something we’re trying to get out of,’ she said.” -Read the rest here.
In the Utah turnaround law, the phrase “credible track record” is used to establish the person who will “fix” Utah’s low-labeled schools. “Credible track record” is an odd choice of words because in the post-2010 altered education world of Common Core, there has been no track record required of education reformers. There were exactly zero validity studies and no empirical evidence to accompany the Common Core standards and tests. If you didn’t know that validity and piloting were missing, read what academics and scientists have been shouting from the rooftops about the nonvalid, utterly empty track record of Common Core tests and standards: Dr. Christopher Tienken‘s and Dr. Sandra Stotsky’s and Dr. Gary Thompson‘s and Dr. Yong Zhao’s writings are good places to start.
Utah’s new law on school turnaround says that the experts who will turn around low-labeled schools must be: “experts identified by the board under Section 53A-1-1206“. They must “have a credible track record of improving student academic achievement… as measured by statewide assessments; (b) have experience designing, implementing, and evaluating data-driven instructional systems… have experience coaching public school administrators and teachers on designing data-driven school improvement plans…”
Translation: the expert solves problems by defining problems as test-centric. The expert is solely devoted to test-focused, test-and-data-centric methods and will likely be devotees of Sir Michael Barber’s “Deliverology” method. (“Deliverology,” written for American education reformers by a Brit, the CEA of Pearson, Inc., (the world’s largest education sales company) is a book/philosophy that emphasizes results to the point that it’s called “merciless… imposing arbitrary targets and damaging morale” in its “top down method by which you undermine achievement of purpose and demoralize people.”) Deliverology is popular because it works– but only when ruthlessly applied.
But I have veered off topic. And Utah’s legislative session is past.
Better luck next year.
Utahns Against Common Core is asking Utahns to sign a transparency in voting petition immediately. It will be seen on Capitol Hill tomorrow morning.
The issue is one of power. Should the Governor hold the power over who gets to sit on the state school board, or should Utah’s voters get to decide? This is such a foundational measure. If the people themselves cannot possibly get decision makers elected who think differently from the powerful elites who marry corporate and federal aims and remove local control, then we have no hope of ever getting free of things like Common Core or the forced use on children of the State Longitudinal Database System.
There are competing bills right now that push for more or less voter control of decision making; either the Governor gets even more power than he already has, in appointing the board; or else, voters get increased power because voting will be totally transparent, partisan, and run just like the elections for other elected representatives in our state.
Please sign the petition now. The opposition is circulating a petition to bring to the Capitol tomorrow as well.
It is so a no-brainer to those of us who believe in representative government and the voice of the people. But it’s not a sure thing at all.
Although it seems almost unthinkable that there are so many people in our supposedly conservative state who want the Governor to be able to appoint people rather than to have open, transparent, partisan elections, that is what is happening.
Even if you happen to like the current governor’s line of thinking, what happens years from now when you don’t?
Decision making power over our schools and our children’s lives should not be concentrated in one man. It’s unAmerican, dangerous, and stupid to allow the centralization of power. We have a greater likelihood of not corrupting our state when we allow the people to choose, and to debate, and to vote transparently.
For those who didn’t know– our current process for getting new state school board members is not okay. It is centralized and corrupt, already. But the opposition wants to make it more easily controlled by the elites.
This is how it currently works: a governor-appointed committee interviews candidates for state school board, giving them, among other things, a questionnaire that is biased to the governor’s aims. (It asks, among other things, if the candidate supports the Utah Core/Common Core). So people who think independently will never even make it to the interview. Then the committee interviews a narrowed group, further narrows it to three people; the governor chooses two of them, and passes those two names on to voters. Utah voters never get any transparency, and only get choice a or b. (This reminds me of the old Ford ads: You can have any color, as long as it’s black.)
Petition language – from Utahns Against Common Core:
We, the undersigned, support SB 104, Education Elections and Reporting Amendments, which uses partisan elections to vet candidates and allow locally elected delegates to narrow the voting field of candidates who appear on the ballot. Partisan elections are used with great success in all other major elections in Utah and it makes perfect sense to allow the same process to function in large scale elections for school board members. The Salt Lake Tribune editorial of 10-30-2014 stated that there is no reason to come up with a new method of electing school board members. They stated:
“Actually, they don’t need to invent a thing. All they have to do use the same system we use to choose other state office holders. The process that is good enough to elect governors, attorneys general and members of the Legislature… People who want to be on the state school board should go through the same process as people who want to serve in the Legislature… It’s good enough for legislators. It should be good enough for school board members.”
The current system is broken. It guarantees that a single political party comprised of the UEA, USBA, and other educator organizations, dominate the election of the people on school boards.
I further request that no bill be passed that involves empowering the governor to appoint board members. The 15 state school board members have control of half of the state’s budget. Empowering them to be appointed by the governor instead of through the caucus system that has produced the “best managed state” in the union would be folly and give too much power to one individual.