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

Please Show Up to Push Back on Science Standards at Statewide USOE Meetings Starting TOMORROW   1 comment

creation_hands_xlarge

 

The Utah State School Board —despite last year’s pushback, despite serious concerns of some of the state school board members–  is now moving to adopt national, common standards for science.

You are invited to the USOE’s public meetings on the subject, to be held statewide for a few weeks, starting TOMORROW.

Be forewarned: the USOE won’t admit that Utah is adopting NGSS.   To know this bit of information, you have to be in touch with those parents who served on the science study committee.  Utah indeed is (out of sight of the public) pushing for adoption of NGSS but the USOE claims that it’s only revising its old standards, and that the revision is limited to middle school science standards for now, so it’s not whole NGSS adoption, they say.  But do your research.  They’ve been caught fibbing more than once.  And they are fibbing now.

So, what are the “Next Generation Science Standards” (NGSS)  and why should we take time fight them?

NGSS are common Science Standards created by businessmen and politicians at Achieve, Inc., aimed to make all students use (and be tested on) the same set of science-related standards nationwide.  Achieve, Inc., is the same group that pushed Common Core math and English into being.  (So if you didn’t love Common Core, heads up.)

As with Common Core math and English standards, states lose control when they adopt NGSS.  Achieve Inc., is private, so it’s not subject to sunshine laws– no transparency.  So right or wrong, good or bad, we’ll have no way to even know which scientific theories are being accepted or rejected, or what kind of lobbying monies are determining priorities for learning.  We will not be able to affect in any appeal to local boards, what our children will be taught or tested.  That power will have gone to the standards copyright holders and corporate test creators.  We have no method of un-electing those controllers, no way for our scientists to affect any amendments made in the ever-changing and politically charged future of science.

It is also tragically true that Fordham Institute rated NGSS as inferior to many states’ science standards.  Still, many states, including Utah, are adopting NGSS anyway– a sad reminder of recent history, when certain states with prior standards higher than Common Core dropped their standards  to be in Common Core.  It’s also a sad proof that the claim that “the standards are higher and better for all” was nothing more than a marketing lie, then for English and math, and now for science.

There are important reasons  that South Carolina officially rejected NGSS.

And so did Wyoming.

Kansas parents sued the state school board over it.

West Virginia is fighting about it.

It’s a hot topic in many other  states.

But do Utahns even know it’s going on here?  (How would they know unless they were personal friends of the parent review committee?)  The USOE won’t even admit that Utah is aiming to adopt NGSS!  To do Utah-specific homework on this, read this article.  And this one. 

Then come to the meeting.  The USOE is calling the new standards “a revision” rather than a wholesale adoption of NGSS standards, in what appears to be an attempt to deceive the people. Parent committee members opposed to the change, including scientist Vincent Newberger, have pointed out that one word– one– was altered from NGSS standards in Utah’s “revision of its own standards” and some NGSS standards were only renumbered, so that the proponents could feel truthful about calling these standards a “revision” of Utah’s prior science standards rather than an adoption of national standards.  The USOE’s open meetings are not, supposedly, to promote NGSS but are to promote what USOE calls a “revision of middle school science standards” only.

Parents need to take control of this conversation.

Ask yourself:  1)  Is this revision actually an adoption of NGSS?  2)  Do I want national science standards in Utah?

Answer one:  If you read what parent committee members are testifying, you will conclude that this revision IS an adoption of NGSS.

Answer two:  As with Common Core, we must push back against national science standards for two reasons:  control of standards (liberty) and content of standards (academics).

CONTROL

Although parent committee members on Utah’s “revision” team testify that the content is global warming-centric, and electricity-dismissive, and testify that the standards present as facts, controversial theories only accepted by certain groups; to me, the enduring issue is control, local power.

If we adopt standards written by an unrepresentative, nonelected, central committee– standards that don’t come with an amendment process for future alterations as scientific theories and studies grow– we give away our personal power.

Even if these standards were unbiased and excellent, we should never, even for one second, consider adopting national/federally promoted standards– because science is ever-changing and ever politically charged.  We are foolish to hand away our right to judge, to debate, to control, what we will be teaching our children, and to let unelected, unknown others decide which science topics will be marginalized while others are highlighted in the centrally controlled standards.   Would we allow a nontransparent, unelected, distant group to rewrite the U.S. Constitution?  Never.  Then, why is representation and power concerning laws and policies affecting our children’s knowledge, beliefs and skills any less important?

Representation is nonexistent in NGSS standards adoption, despite the token cherrypicked teacher or professor who gets to contribute ideas to the new standards.  Unless there is a written constitution for altering our standards so that we retain true control of what is taught, no federal or national standards should ever, ever be accepted.  Adopting centralized standards is giving away the key to the local castle.

Are these just harmless, minimal standards without any teeth or enforcer?  Hardly; the enforcement of the science standards is embedded in the nationally aligned tests, tests which carry such intense pressure for schools and students (school grading/shutdown; teacher evaluation/firing) that they have become the bullies of the educational system.

CONTENT

Know this:  NGSS are neither neutral nor objective.   This explains why pushback against NGSS is so strong in some states, even to the point of lawsuits against state school boards over NGSS.  NGSS standards are slanted.

It may come as a surprise that religious freedom is a key complaint against these standards.  This was pointed out by plaintiffs in the Kansas lawsuit, which alleged that implementation “will cause the state to infringe on the religious rights of parents, students and taxpayers under the Establishment, Free Exercise, Speech and Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution.”

The legal complaint stated that “the principal tool of indoctrination is the concealed use of an Orthodoxy known as methodological naturalism or scientific materialism. It holds that explanations of the cause and nature of natural phenomena may only use natural, material or mechanistic causes, and must assume that supernatural and teleological or design conceptions of nature are invalid. The Orthodoxy is an atheistic faith-based doctrine that has been candidly explained by Richard Lewontin, a prominent geneticist and evolutionary biologist, as follows:

“Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, thatwe are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.” [Richard Lewontin, Billions and Billions of Demons, 44 N.Y. Rev. of Books 31 (Jan. 9, 1997) (emphasis added)]

 

So, under NGSS, you can’t teach, as some scientists do, that evolution can exist alongside creationism.  Under scientific materialism/methodological naturalism, any “design conception” is invalid.

Other complaints against NGSS science standards are that they pit environmental activism against activists who want freedom to use natural local resources;  that they ask students to see themselves as either global warming believers or global warming deniers, to the exclusion of scientific inquiry; that they pit advocates of scientific open debate against advocates for scientific and political consensus-seeking; that they push the orthodox religion of atheism rather than allowing students to decide for themselves whether or not to include Creation in their personal scientific study.

Below is a list of the upcoming science meetings in Utah, where any citizen may come and ask questions and make comments.

Friends, we need to show up and bring neighbors.  If too few Utahns find out and push back, the NGSS standards will slide right in like Common Core for math and English did.  Please cancel your other plans.  Bring your video cameras if you come.  It’s an open, public meeting so recording seems proper and fair.  Recording USOE official replies to questions from parents can only encourage accountability from the USOE to the citizens.  If you can’t attend one of the meetings in the next weeks, please comment (and ask others to comment) on the USOE’s  90 day public comment survey link.

Before I list the meeting times and dates and cities, I want to share portions of an email sent out from a Washington County, Utah citizen to other citizens of Washington county.  I don’t know who wrote this email:

 

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Washington County Email:

“Washington County was settled by wise men and women who worked hard to make our red desert bloom.  They have passed down a wonderful heritage of hard work and love for the land to all who have followed them.  We are now reaping the fruits of the careful planning and preservation that has become a way of life to all who make Washington County their home.  We desire to pass this heritage along to our children so that the generations to come will continue to be wise stewards of this land that we love.

 

It is hard to understand why anyone from Washington County would allow their children to be taught a science curriculum that does not align with our value system.  Imagine how powerful it would be to teach our children the science behind why our soil is red, how ancient volcanos came to pepper our back yards with basalt rock, what made our sand dunes petrify, why dinosaur footprints can be found in farm land and what makes our sunsets so spectacular.  As our children learn the unique science of the environment around them, they will have greater knowledge and appreciation of the diverse environments around the world.  They will also come to appreciate the importance of being wise stewards wherever their paths may lead them.

 

We now have an opportunity to protect our right to teach our children.   The Federal Government has incentivized groups to develop the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and those groups have worked tirelessly to get them implemented in Utah, and all states.  Please come and learn more about the NGSS from Vincent Newmeyer, a member of the NGSS review committee.  We will be meeting on Thursday, April 23rd at 6:00 P.M. at the St. George Downtown Library (88 W. 100 S. St. George).  Mr. Newmeyer is one of the review committee members who have great concerns about the NGSS.  These members are generously giving their time to visit communities to warn them about these new federal standards.

 

Directly following the meeting with Mr. Newmeyer, there will be a public meeting with the State and Local School Boards to discuss these federal standards tied to high-stakes testing onThursday, April 23rd at 7:00 P.M. at the Washington School District Office Board Room at 121 Tabernacle Street in St. George.”  

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USOE Public Feedback Meetings

All Meetings are 7 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Thursday, April 23
Washington School District Office
Location: Board Room
121 Tabernacle Street
St George, Utah 84770
Note: The main doors will be locked.  Access through the front side doors.

Tuesday, April 28
Uintah School District Office
Location: Board Room (Upstairs)
635 West 200 South
Vernal, Utah 84078

Wednesday, May 6
Provo School District Office
Location: Professional Development Center
280 West 940 North
Provo, Utah 84604

Wednesday, May 13
Cache County School District Office
Location: Professional Development Center
2063 North 1200 East
North Logan, Utah 84341

Tuesday, May 19
Salt Lake Center for Science Education (SLCSE)
Location: The Media Center
1400 Goodwin Avenue
Salt Lake City, Utah 84116

 

 

Ten Reasons To Opt Out of Common Core/SAGE Testing   5 comments

opt out 2015

 

 

1.  THE TESTS HAVE NEVER BEEN VALIDATED.  It is out of the norm for tests to be given to children that never have been validated in a formal, scientific, peer-reviewed way.  Professor Tienken of Seton Hall University calls this “dataless decision making“.  What does it mean to a mom or dad to hear that no validity report has ever been issued for the SAGE/Common Core tests?  It means that the test is as likely to harm as to help any child.

We would not give our children unpiloted, experimental medicine; why would we give them unpiloted, experimental education?  –And, did you know that Florida bought/rented the SAGE test from Utah, and now Florida points to Utah students as its guinea pigs?  Where was Utah’s parental consent? Is it okay that the youngest, most helpless citizens are compulsory research subjects without the knowledge or consent of their parents?

2.  THE STANDARDS (upon which the test is based) HAVE NEVER BEEN VALIDATED.   Building a test on the sandy foundation of unvalidated standards –hoping but not having actual evidence on which to base that hope– that the standards are unquestionably legitimate, means that not only the test but the teaching that leads up to it, is experimental, not time-tested.  The SAGE evaluates teachers and even grades schools (and will close them) based on test scores from this flawed-upon-flawed (not to mention unrepresentative/unconstitutional) system.   Dr. Tienken reminds us that that making policy decisions in this baseless way is “educational malpractice.”

3. THE TESTS UNFAIRLY REDEFINE WHAT IT MEANS TO BE EDUCATED.  The tests assume improper authority to enforce the common core and they thus cement this new definition of what education is.  The redefining was not done by educators, but by businessmenfalse philanthropists and politicians. The copyright on the standards for this test ensure that nobody gets any influence in what the standards will look like years from now, except those who hold copyright.  Teachers are pressured, even against their professional judgment, to conform to test-centric standards and curriculum.  Schools can get shut down, teachers can get rewarded, punished or fired, all based on the high stakes test.

4. THE TESTS ARE SECRETIVE.  Parents and teachers may not see test questions, not even years after the test is over.  Last year’s leaked screen shots of the test, taken by a student with her cell phone to show her mother, revealed an unpleasing agenda that asked students to question the value of reading (versus playing video games).  The student who took the photos was told that she was a cheater, was threatened with expulsion; and the teacher who didn’t notice (or stop) the cell phone photography was threatened with job loss.  Members of Utah’s 15-parent SAGE review committee have expressed grave concerns about the quality and content of SAGE, citing “grammar, typos, content, wrong answers, glitches, etc.,” but were never shown whether corrections were made to SAGE, prior to its hasty rollout.

5.  TEST ITEM CREATION IS QUESTIONABLE.  SAGE questions were written by two groups: a few hand picked Utah educators, and the psychometricians at the testing company, American Institutes for Research (AIR) which is not an academic organization but a behavioral research group.  We don’t know why psychometricians were entrusted to write math and English questions.  And we don’t know what the percentages are– how many SAGE questions come from educators, and how many from AIR’s psychometricians?

6.  THE TEST DISREGARDS ETHICS CODES FOR BEHAVIORAL RESEARCH TESTING.  As Dr. Gary Thompson has pointed out, behavioral tests are normally governed by strict codes of ethics and test-giving psychologists lose their licenses to practice if they veer from the codes of ethics.

The Utah State Office of Education claims tests do not collect psychological information, but it seems unreasonable to believe the claim.

Consider:

  • Behavioral Indicators” is a phrase that’s been in Utah laws concerning student testing for years.  It’s old news.  Happily, last month, Sen. Aaron Osmond wrote a bill to remove that language.  (Thank you,  Senator Osmond.)  Time will tell if the new law is respected or enforced.
  • Psychometric census” of Utah students was part of the agreement Utah made with the federal government when it applied for and received a grant to build a longitudinal database to federal specifications, (including federal and international interoperability specifications.)  Utah promised in that grant contract to use its Student Strengths Inventory to collect noncognitive data.
  • The test company, AIR, is a behavioral research company that creates behavioral assessments as its primary mission and focus.
  • U.S. Dept of Education reports such as “Promoting Grit, Tenacity and Perserverance” promote collection of students’ psychological and belief-based data via tests, encouraging schools to use biometric data collection devices.  I have not seen any of these devices being used in Utah schools, but neither have I seen any evidence that the legislature or our State School Board stand opposed to the Dept. of Education’s report or the advice it gives.
  • The NCES, a federal agency, has a National Data Collection Model which it invites states to follow.  Since Utah has no proper legal privacy protections in place, there is nothing stopping us from accepting the invitation to comply with the Model’s suggestions, which include hundreds of data points including intimate and even belief-based points: religious affiliation, nickname, voting status, bus stop times,  birthdate, nonschool activities, etc.

7.  UTAH’S NEW SCHOOL TURNAROUND LAW WILL SHUT DOWN SCHOOLS OR TAKE THEM OVER –USING SAGE AS JUSTIFICATION.  The bell curve of school-grading uses SAGE as its school-measuring stick; when a certain number of schools (regardless of quality) are inevitably labeled “failing” because of their position on that bell curve, they will be turned over to the state, turned into a charter school, or closed.  These events will alter lives, because of Utah’s belief in and reliance on the illegitimate SAGE test scores.

8.  SAGE TESTS ARE GIVEN ALL YEAR LONG.  These are not just end-of-year tests anymore.  SAGE tests are summative, formative, interim, and practice (assignment based) tests.  The summative (ending) test is given so early in the year that content has not been taught yet.  But it gets tested anyway, and teachers/students/schools get negatively judged, anyway.

9.  OPTING OUT IS ONE WAY TO PROTEST DATA MINING AND TO MINIMIZE IT.  The State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS) collects daily data on every school child without ever asking for parental consent.   SLDS collects much more than test-gathered data.  The government of Utah will not allow an SLDS opt out.  And since SLDS does not have an opt out provision (while SAGE does) it makes sense to minimize the amount of data mining that’s being done on your child by not taking these tests.

10.  OPTING OUT OF SAGE FIGHTS EDUCATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION.  The lack of transparency, of fairness, of any shared amendment process or true representation under Common Core and its testing system defies “consent of the governed,” a principle we learned in the Declaration of Independence.  “It is the right [and responsibility] of the people to alter or abolish” governments [or educational programs] destructive of life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness –or those that govern without the knowledge of, or consent of, the governed.

I believe that parents now have the right and responsibility to abolish SAGE testing, by refusing to participate.

Beware of Stealth Assessment as SAGE replacement

Please beware, however:  The testing opt out movement has grown so huge (outside Utah) that some Utah legislators have decided to hop on the anti-testing bandwagon with an eye toward replacing SAGE with something  from which public school parents can never, ever opt out (unless they home school or use private school).  That’s called embedded testing, or stealth assessment.

Rep. Marie Poulson’s resolution to create a task force to study getting rid of SAGE and to replace it with embedded, or stealth assessments, passed in the Utah legislature this year.  That means that it will most likely become law next year.

Opt out of SAGE this year; fight Stealth Assessment next year.

 

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 National News Update on Test Opt-Out Movement

provided by Fairtest.org 

We’ve pulled together this special edition of our usually-weekly newsclips because of three huge stories that broke in the past several days.

–  In New York, more than 173,000 students opted out of the first wave of state testing, at least tripling last year’s boycott level.

–  In five states (Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada and North Dakota) computerized Common Core testing systems collapsed in a replay of the widespread technical problems which plagued Florida exams earlier this spring.

Both major developments further undermine the credibility of judgements about students, teachers and schools made on the basis of standardized exam results.

—  And, in Washington DC, the U.S. Senate education committee responded to grassroots pressure for assessment reform by endorsing an overhaul of “No Child Left Behind,” which eliminates most federal sanctions for test scores.  The bill does not go far enough to reversing test misuse and overuse, but it is a step in the right direction

Remember that these updates are posted online at: http://fairtest.org/news/other for your reference and for use in Facebook posts, Tweets, weblinks, etc.


U.S. Senate Committee Votes to Kill “No Child Left Behind,” But High-Stakes Testing Era is Far From Over
http://www.thenation.com/blog/204593/senate-committee-votes-kill-no-child-left-behind-high-stakes-testing-era-isnt-over#
NCLB Reauthorization: A Chance to Right a Wrong That is Hurting Low-Income Children
http://blogs.rollcall.com/beltway-insiders/esea-reauthorization-chance-right-wrong-commentary/

California Large Urban School District Leadership Rebukes Standardized Testing Fixation
http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2015/apr/15/san-diego-schools-rebuke-testing/

Colorado Computerized Testing Shut Down Statewide by “Technical Difficulties”
http://gazette.com/technical-difficulties-cause-statewide-shutdown-of-standardized-testing-in-colorado/article/1549677

Florida
Governor Signs Modest Testing Reductions into Law; Parents and Teachers Promise Escalating Pressure
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/education/article18529547.html
Florida’s New Student Testing Law Should Have Gone Further
http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/editorials/editorial-new-student-testing-law-should-have-gone-further/2225493

Georgia Judge Sentences Educators to Up to Seven Years in Prison for Test Cheating
https://celebrity.yahoo.com/news/pleas-mulled-former-atlanta-educators-test-cheating-scandal-120733406.html

Indiana
Legislators Have Competing Views About Future of State Testing
http://in.chalkbeat.org/2015/04/15/no-clarity-yet-on-competing-vision-for-indiana-state-testing/#.VTDyTkZLUZw

Michigan
Opt-Out Movement is Starting to Gain Steam
http://www.tctimes.com/news/local_news/opting-out/article_231a679c-e377-11e4-9a4a-53b0b97da9c8.html

Minnesota
Student Assessments Snarled by Computer Crash
http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_27914106/minnesota-student-assessments-snarled-by-computer-crash

Montana
Cancels Smarter Balanced Testing Mandate After Computer Administration Woes
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/state_edwatch/2015/04/montana_lets_schools_cancel_smarter_balanced_testing_after_technical_woes.html

Nevada
Common Core Testing Disrupted for Two Days by Computer Problems
http://www.8newsnow.com/story/28811425/nevadas-common-core-testing-halted-for-second-day

New Jersey
More than 15% of 11th Graders Skipped Standardized Test
http://www.thedailyjournal.com/story/news/local/new-jersey/2015/04/15/new-jersey-nearly-th-graders-skipped-standardized-test/25850117/

New York
Fed-up Parents Revolt Against Testing in Historic Fashion
http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/fed-up-parents-revolt-state-standardized-tests-article-1.2185433
Tens of Thousands Boycott New York State Exams, Raising Questions About Test-Based Evaluations
http://www.ksl.com/index.php?nid=157&sid=34264074&title=thousands-skip-ny-tests-raising-questions-about-evaluations
Track District-by-District Data Here:
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/t2_8Bg3h8mqx6Ax8rwGG5Mw/htmlview?pli=1

North Dakota Testing Plagued by More Computer Glitches
http://bismarcktribune.com/news/local/education/more-glitches-plague-standardized-tests/article_a5de5054-375e-5a8e-97ad-448efbf4cc39.html

Ohio Panelists Blast Testing at League of Women Voters Forum
http://www.ohio.com/news/local/panelists-relay-school-testing-concerns-at-league-of-women-voters-forum-1.583799

Oklahoma
Schools Struggling to Meet State Requirements for Test Monitors
http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/education/help-wanted-schools-struggling-to-meet-state-requirements-for-test/article_ce65ce4c-28ce-577d-9815-66ee2f0a1631.html

Oregon
House Passes Bill Making it Easier to Opt Out of Tests
http://registerguard.com/rg/news/local/32990672-75/oregon-house-oks-bill-making-it-easier-for-parents-to-opt-out-of-common-core-standardized-tests.html.csp
Oregon District Considers Suspending Common Core Test
http://registerguard.com/rg/news/local/32980118-75/springfield-board-considers-moratorium-on-smarter-balanced-standardized-tests.html.csp

Pennsylvania Sees More Students Opting Out of Standardized Tests, Especially in Philadelphia
http://bismarcktribune.com/news/local/education/more-glitches-plague-standardized-tests/article_a5de5054-375e-5a8e-97ad-448efbf4cc39.html
Lehigh Valley Opt-Outs on the Rise
http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/breaking-news/index.ssf/2015/04/lehigh_valley_pssa_opt_outs_on.html

Texas Parents Speak Out Against STAAR Exams
http://www.connectamarillo.com/news/story.aspx?id=1192443
Texas Principal’s Firing May Stem From Testing Criticism
http://www.dallasnews.com/news/20150416-popular-dallas-isd-principal-at-rosemont-elementary-to-lose-her-job.ece

Vermont
School Board Chair Explains Why State Voted to Suspend Use of Smarter Balanced Scores
http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/opinion/my-turn/2015/04/16/opinion-vermont-dropped-sbac-testing/25901041/

Washington
State Students Are Right to Fight Testing Requirements
http://www.queenannenews.com/Content/News/Breaking-News/Article/EDITORIAL-Students-right-to-fight-testing-requirements/26/539/37377
Washington Board of Ed Wants to End Biology Exam That Blocks 2,000 From Graduating
http://www.seattletimes.com/education-lab/scrap-biology-test-or-2000-students-wont-graduate-state-board-of-education-tells-lawmakers/

West Virginia Common Core Testing Off to Rocky Start, “The Logistical Issues Are Terrible
http://wvmetronews.com/2015/04/17/common-core-woes-continue-in-wv/

Wisconsin Opt-Out Movement Gains Ground
http://host.madison.com/ct/news/local/writers/pat_schneider/opt-out-movement-gaining-ground-for-testing-in-madison-schools/article_83c01e97-b2d8-5fbc-b595-ce437251d1b5.html

Computerized Tests Face Major Technical Barriers
http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/techtank/posts/2015/04/15-next-generation-assessment-glitches
FairTest Chronology of High-Stakes Computer Test Failures
http://www.fairtest.org/computerized-testing-problems-2013-2015

No School Turnaround: Unanimous Board Veto Request from Utah’s Largest School District – to Gov Herbert   1 comment

alpine page one veto

alpine page two veto

For  documented articles about why school turnaround is far from an innocuous concept, please read this and this.

Dr. Gary Thompson’s $100,000 Reward For SAGE Common Core Test Validity Reports   7 comments

 

 

100k2

 

 

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.”

 

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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.

Utah Legislature Adopts Obama’s Model for “Turnaround Schools”   11 comments

I feel as if Secretary Duncan and President Obama run education in Utah without any legislative or USOE opposition at all, ever.

Whatever is suggested on the education pages of Whitehouse.gov, by its federal education branches or by its corporate partnersends 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.

 

green team

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:

  1. Create a Pro-Turnaround Statutory and Regulatory Environment
  2. Administer and Manage Turnaround Efforts Effectively”

HowStupid.  Or.   Blind.  AreWe. Really!   –And how apathetic to our rights.

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.

 

235

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.

FYI, our U.S. Secretary of Education has long touted Barber’s books and robotic methods.

But I have veered off topic.  And Utah’s legislative session is past.

Better luck next year.

 

 

closed

 

 

Source-Focused Analysis of Common Core Starts Here: An Updated Syllabus   7 comments

Original source documents arm honest people who want to know the truth about Common Core to take back the reins of control.

This is important because proponents are increasing false advertisements about Common Core.  They’re also hiding the Common Core Inititative under different names, such as “Utah Core” or  “Indiana Core“.  Unfortunately, well intentioned people whom we trust to tell us the truth often simply don’t know the whole story.  It is up to us to find out for ourselves.

Please go go directly to source documents to fact-check claims being made by proponents of Common Core.

(This slightly updated syllabus was shared in a previous  post.  It is republished today because Alisa, Renee and I are speaking in Vernal tonight and we want to point our Vernal friends to solid information.  If anyone wants to come to the meeting tonight, you are welcome.  There is, of course, no charge and the event begins at 7:00.)

Link to tonight’s Vernal, Utah, meeting:   204 E 100 N, Vernal, UT 84078  (435) 789-0091

 

 

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 A Source-Focused Analysis of the Common Core Initiative

  1. The General Educational Provisions Act – This law prohibits the federal government from directing or supervising education:  “No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system…” The Dept. of Education, by forming multiple  official partnerships with corporate America, has gotten away with breaking this law.
  2. U.S. Constitution – Amendment 10 – “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” The disregard by the Dept. of Education for the authority and diversity of individual states’ educational pathways must be stopped.
  3. Utah’s Race to the Top Grant Application– Utah got points from the federal government for having a SLDS database system. (This tracks children without parental consent or knowledge.  There’s no legal opt-out for SLDS child inventorying.  Corporations, in partnership with state SLDS systems, collect millions of data points on children, without parental consent. ) Also in the Race to the Top Grant Application document, see that Utah got more points for having adopted Common Core. This was how we got in. Despite not winning the grant money, we remained in these systems.
  4. The No Child Left Behind Waiver– This shows the 15% cap the federal government put on top of the copyrighted, unamendable (by states) common standards.  So states are allowed to add frosting and sprinkles to state standards, but they have no say in what goes into the cake itself.
  5. The State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS) Grant– All states have one. This is a federally paid-for database that every state in the US now has. It tracks students within the state. Aggregated data ion students is sent from this system to the federal EdFacts Exchange. Parents can not opt their children out. (They can and probably should opt out of Common Core tests, however.)
  6. The lawsuit against the Department of Education– The Electronic Privacy Information Center has sued the DOE for destroying the previously data-privacy protective federal FERPA. The lawsuit explains that parental consent is a best practice, not a mandate, prior to data sharing; it shows that terms were redefined, that personally identifiable information, including biometrics, can be shared, and that agencies have legal access to private data of students.
  7. The copyright on Common Core held by CCSSO/NGA – The fact that there are “terms of use” and a copyright shows that we have no real control over the standards which are written behind closed doors in D.C. Notice that no one outside CCSSO/NGA may claim to have helped write the standards.
  8. The report entitled “For Each And Every Child” from the Equity and Excellence Commission – This report was commissioned by Obama. It reveals that forced redistribution of wealth is a main reason for the national education system.
  9. The Cooperative Agreement between the Dept. of Education and the testing consortia – Even though Utah escaped the SBAC and is not bound by the Cooperative Agreement directly, Utah’s current testing group, A.I.R., is partnered with SBAC. This document shows clearly the mandates for synchronizing tests and sharing student data to mesh testing companies with federal aims and agents.  Its only claim to binding authority is money.
  10. The speeches of Secretary Arne Duncan on education – He states that Common Standards were Obama’s idea and that the federal government is moving to play a larger role in education.  Also, the speeches of President Obama on education – Obama’s top 4 education goals: control data, common standards, teachers, and to take over low-performing schools.
  1. The speeches of the CEA of Pearson Ed, Sir Michael Barber – Barber wants every school on the globe to have the exact same academic standards and to underpin every standard with environmental propaganda. He also pushes for global data and stresses the term “sustainable reform” which he calls “irreversible reform”.
  2. The speeches and actions of the main funder of Common Core, Bill Gates – He’s funded Common Core almost completely on his own; he’s partnered with Pearson; he says “we won’t know it works until all the tests and curriculum aligns with the standards” and he’s writing curriculum for his “uniform customer base” –all children and all schools.
  3. The speeches of David Coleman, a noneducator, the architect of the Common Core ELA standards and now promoted to College Board President -He mocks narrative writing, he’s diminished the percentage of classic literature that’s allowable in the standards. He’s not been elected, he’s never taught school, yet he’s almost singlehandedly altered the quality and liberty of classrooms. As he’s now the College Board President, he’s aligning the SAT to his version of standards.
  4. The Dept. of Ed report: Promoting Grit, Tenacity and Perserverance– behavioral indicators are sought by the federal government. They may include monitoring children using cameras, posture chairs, and bracelets. (see graphic, mid-report.)
  5. Federal data collection websites such as the EdFacts Exchange, the Common Education Data Standards, the National Data Collection Model, and the Data Quality Campaign, sites because three of these four ask us to give personally identifiable information on students, from our state database. -The first link shows what we already give to the federal government; the others show what the federal government is requesting that we share, which includes intimate, personally identifiable information. See Common Core creators’ data management branch, EIMAC of CCSSO, with its stated mission to disaggregate student data.  The EIMAC/CCSSO link also shows the official partnership of the federal government with corporate Common Core.
  1. The Official Common Core Standards – English and Math standards. Here you will see Common Core calling itself a “living work” meaning that what Common Core is today, will not remain. There is no amendment process for states to have a voice in altering the commonly held standards because they’re under private copyright. See a recommended reading list in Appendix B that includes “The Bluest Eye,” a pornographic novel.
  2. See academic testimonies of the official Common Core validation committee members who refused to sign off on the legitimacy of the standards; other professors have also testified that Common Core hurts legitimate college readiness.  See in contrast the motive of Common Core promoters such as Marc Tucker of the Center for American Progress who report that “the United States will have to largely abandon the beloved emblem of American education: local control.  …[N]ew authority will have to come at the expense of local control.”
  3. Federal Definition of College and Career Ready Standards – the federal government hides the phrase “common core” from public view by using the term “college and career ready standards” in its documents.  Know that they are the same thing.
  4. Common Educational Data Standards – The same private groups (NGA/CCSSO) that created Common Core have also created Common Educational Data Standards, so that student data mining and citizen tracking is interoperable and easy.  Coupled with the breakdown of family privacy law (federal FERPA, altered by the Dept. of Education) we see that children’s data lacks proper protections, and that students are being used as compulsory, unpaid  research objects.
  5. Follow the money trails – Study what advocacy and development of common standards Bill Gates has paid for; see how his unelected philanthropy affects education and its governance, and see how his partnerships with Pearson, with the United Nations and others monopolize the U.S. and global education markets, excluding voters as public-private partnerships make decisions, instead of voters or elected representatives such as school boards or legislators making decisions.

american mom

Federal HR5 Down: Ten Things to Watch for in New ESEA Reauthorization Bill and SETRA   1 comment

american mom

 

Last week bipartisan grassroots Americans saw a miracle.

That wolf in sheep’s clothing, the (supposed) shoo-in bill called federal HR5 or The Student Success Act, which was to reauthorize No Child Left Behind/ESEA, was thrown aside  by Congress instead of becoming law.  Thanks to a bipartisan effort by grassroots citizens and vigilant Congressmen who studied the language inside the bill’s 600+ pages –not just buying Speaker Boehner’s gilded talking points— the dangers of HR5 surfaced into Congressional consciousness.

A whirlwind of amendment-writing began on both sides of the aisle.  By the time Congress gave up on trying to pass HR5 last week, there were so many amendments from both Democratic and Republican members of Congress that everybody seemed to dislike the bill and Obama was threatening to veto.

That was a very unexpected turn of events.  –But proper!  Emmett McGroarty of American Principles in Action summarized the problems of NCLB and HR5: “HR5 demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of the Constitution and our constitutional structure. Although it relieves the states from some NCLB burdens, it then adds others and overall sets the stage for an expanded federal footprint in our lives.

Additionally, a powerful open letter from a bipartisan group of over 2,000 educational researchers (See letter here) last month informed Congress that  “testing should not be driving reform.

The 2000 educational researchers who signed  last month’s letter saw as harmful the federal aim “to use students’ test scores as a lever to drive educational improvement.” They explained: “This use of testing is ill-advised because… it has demonstrably failed to achieve its intended goal and has potent negative, unintended consequences.”  Under No Child Left Behind/ESEA, they said, the federal government had trusted “an unproven but ambitious belief that if we test children and hold educators responsible for improving test scores we would have almost everyone scoring as “proficient” by 2014.”  The researchers said: “there is no evidence that any test score increases represent the broader learning increases…  While testing advocates proclaim that testing drives student learning, they resist evidence-based explanations for why, after two decades of test-driven accountability, these reforms have yielded such unimpressive results.”

For many, the bottom line problem with both ESEA and HR5 was the ongoing, evidence-less promotion of student high-stakes testing as the solution for education problems.  For others, the bottom line problem (in HR5) was language implying conditionality of parental rights, possible waiving of states’ rights, and federal/state intrusion into private schools, particularly into private schools’ free exercise of religious freedom.  

With so many heavy, bipartisan issues rolled into ESEA, we can expect that the upcoming bipartisan version of the bill will be plagued with the same struggles we saw in last week’s HR5.  These must be identified and fought:

 

 

#1 Clarity problems: deliberately lengthy language that scatters definitions across hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pages and convoluted language that confuses most readers;

#2 A continued push for testing and data mining that pushes away from local (school or district) accountability toward centralized power; multi-state alignment (de facto national) high stakes testing and data collection that enriches corporations partnered with or funded by Bill Gates/Microsoft and Pearson.

#3  A push for centralization of power –with the elites comprised of corporate and governmental partnerships to exclude voters, teachers, parents and duly elected representatives;

#4 No privacy protections beyond the lame and wilted FERPA for our children; instead, increased data collecting powers to corporate-governmental partnerships;

#5  A continued push for more unelected boards to have increased control of greater numbers of schools via charter school expansions;

#6 A continued push for federal-corporate intrusion into private schools;

#7 A continued bartering for parental and states’ rights in trade for federal money;

#8 An assumption of federal-corporate “research” authority –devoid of parental consent and devoid of evidence-based, peer-reviewed validity;

#9  Expansion of centralized authority over specified groups, such as “migratory students” or “Alaskan Natives”; in sum:

#10 A continued disregard for Constitutional rights.

 

Please watch not only the ESEA/NCLB reauthorization, but also the S.227 SETRA bill.  They go hand in hand.

Federal SETRA  hurts student data privacy, allows emotional testing in increased student data mining, and reassigns grant-making (funding) control to REL regions, not states.  Read SETRA bill text here.

It appeared to me that HR5 got away with its marketing (saying it was restoring local control) because it transmitted federally-desired, test-driven reforms and other expansions to state authority and to state enforcement, perhaps to appease local control activists.  But this was just passing the abuse baton.  I imagine the corporate-regional power grabbers singing the “Na-nee-na-nee-boo-boo” song:  “You don’t get the steering wheel.  Constitution Constasmooshen. Who’s got your taxes?”

(Important note: in the coming SETRA bill, fund-approving power is siphoned past the states to REL regional authorities, making Constitutional state-rights less and less relevant.)

These power-reassignments are not appealing to those who want true local control.

Pray that our Congressmen find time, energy and wisdom to see through it all and that they will have the courage to protect children’s rights, teacher’s rights, voters’ rights, and parent’s rights.

 

american mom field

 

 

 

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