Archive for the ‘Parents’ Rights’ Category

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

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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

Video: Florida Senators Lee and Hayes: Why They are Done With Common Core Testing   3 comments

florida senator lee florida senator hayes

Florida’s Senators Tom Lee and Alan Hayes

This week in Florida, senators are speaking up against the Common Core testing and “accountability” systems.

In the video below, Florida’s Senator Lee’s states:

“I’m done with the testing program in the state of Florida; I’m done with the “accountability” system.  Whoever those people are out there from whatever foundation they may be from, whatever testing groups they may be supporting:  I’m over you.  You’ve lost my confidence… You’re so married to this system, you don’t have a shred of common sense left…. As this has progressed, it has become a behemoth… We are now complicit in this problem…  I hear the people supporting this system telling me that it’s so important to them that we maintain the bureaucracy that we hold this system up as so sacrosanct and so inflexible…

I just want to send a message… go find somebody else to talk to ’cause I’m done with you.  

And I hope the folks over at the Dept. of Education understand that it takes a good long while to get me fed up, but I’m there.  “

Senator Alan Hayes also stood up and spoke against the ed reform machine that’s hurting children. Senator Hayes’ admission here is that he realizes that he has been part of the problem, and now he regrets the mess that’s been made.  He said that the intentions of ed reforms were honorable but the results are not good.

These short videos should be widely shared.

Little Children and Freedom of Speech   2 comments

A few days ago, fifth grader Aaron Bencomo spoke to the Arizona Senate, explaining in his own words, using his own experience to express how bad the Common Core is.  He quoted the Declaration of Independence.  He talked about the pursuit of happiness.  He described the “one size does not fit all,” boring, wasteful reviews of last year’s math in this year’s math.  He talked about not every child being the same, but being treated as if they were the same, under Common Core. His speech was a beautiful example of how even a little child can be an agent for freedom and truth.  Watch from minute 1:20 to 4:05.

 

Children do have great power.

Aaron is not the first child to speak out powerfully against the Common Core agenda’s destruction of individual freedoms.  Teenager Patrick Richardson of Arkansas spoke out.   Ethan Young of Tennessee spoke out.  Sydney Lane of Connecticut spoke out.   Please watch and share these videos if you haven’t already!

Freedom of speech is, of course, closely tied to freedom of religion; both are versions of free exercise of conscience and of free thought.

Inspired by Dallin Oaks’ article in this month’s Ensign Magazine, I reminded my children this week that they are not government employees living under rules that constrain religious speech in a school setting.  In other words, children may say, write, report, and share their faith in God freely, including in a public school if they want to.

Elder Dallin Oaks reminded us that freedom of religion is not limited to the inside of a church.  He wrote:  “…oppose government officials and public policy advocates who suggest that the free exercise of religion is limited to “freedom of worship.” In the United States, for example, the guarantee of “free exercise” protects the right to come out of our private settings, including churches, synagogues, and mosques, to act upon our beliefs, subject only to the legitimate government powers necessary to protect public health, safety, and welfare. Free exercise surely protects religious citizens in acting upon their beliefs in public policy debates...

I also reminded my children of a well-loved story in the Book of Mormon about the “Army of Helaman.” In the story, adults with histories of evil had made promises not to take up their swords to kill again, but their innocent children were under no such obligation; when attacked by an enemy, the boys took up their swords and defended their own lives and the lives of their families.  God preserved those young men, and helped their families, through them.  (See Alma 56-58)

I tell my children never to assume they are under the same obligation as their public school teachers are.  Children can speak positively about their religion.  Children have great freedom of speech.  If they feel they want to, they should speak and write about their beliefs, including belief in Constitutional liberty, and belief in God, wherever they are.

Hats off to those who are doing so.

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.

Utah Governor: Please Veto SB 235. Please Pass HB 360   1 comment

american mom field

 

The State School Board of Utah meets tomorrow and will discuss SB 235 (bad bill) and HB 360 (great bill).  They apparently want the good one vetoed.  Too much liberty for teachers; too much distance between Utah and Common Core.  It’s an open meeting; come and see.

The board doesn’t like this freedom-saving bill.  But the Utah legislature did like it; HB 360 passed both houses and should be signed into law by the governor next week.    Unless he vetoes, swayed by the school board…

Please email them:  Board@schools.utah.gov

 

Dear State School Board,

I want to give input on two bills that you will be recommending for veto or signing to our governor.

  • HB 360 is a good bill for teachers’ autonomy, parental input and local control.  Please do not ask for a veto.  This is a good, constitutional bill.  Parents and teachers want autonomy and this bill creates space for it.  I see no reason to veto this bill.  If this board does recommend a veto, I would like to know why each board member voted as he/she did on the issue.
  • SB 235, on the other hand, is a terrible bill that punishes schools with unvalid labels of “failing” based on the controversial SAGE tests and on an unfair bell curve, so that some are forced to failregardless; it punishes schools with high parental opt-out rates and falsely labels them “failing” and then it forces these “failing” schools to take an “expert” to create “turnaround” that will likely be based on the Obama/Gates Turnaround Model.
For detailed, annotated research on SB 235, see two articles:
1.  https://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2015/03/13/utah-legislature-adopts-obamas-model-for-turnaround-schools/
2.  http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/sb235-effectively-federalized-utahs-education-system-and-federalization-is-anti-family/
Please consider these important bills very, very carefully before you make recommendations to our Governor.
Christel Swasey

—————————————————————–

Here’s the link for Governor Herbert’s electronic messages to ask for that SB 235 veto:    http://www.utah.gov/governor/contact/

Here are the Utah Representatives.  Ask them to contact the Governor too:  (write more than just your own rep.)

District Representative Party Counties Represented Contact Info
1 Sandall, Scott D. R Box Elder, Cache ssandall@le.utah.gov
435-279-7551
2 Lifferth, David E. R Utah dlifferth@le.utah.gov
801-358-9124
3 Draxler, Jack R. R Cache jdraxler@le.utah.gov
435-752-1488
4 Redd, Edward H. R Cache eredd@le.utah.gov
435-760-3177
5 Webb, R. Curt R Cache curtwebb@le.utah.gov
435-753-0215
6 Anderegg, Jacob L. R Utah janderegg@le.utah.gov
801-901-3580
7 Fawson, Justin L. R Weber justinfawson@le.utah.gov
801-781-0016
8 Froerer, Gage R Weber gfroerer@le.utah.gov
801-391-4233
9 Peterson, Jeremy A. R Weber jeremyapeterson@le.utah.gov
801-390-1480
10 Pitcher, Dixon M. R Weber dpitcher@le.utah.gov
801-710-9150
11 Dee, Brad L. R Davis, Weber bdee@le.utah.gov
801-479-5495
12 Schultz, Mike R Davis, Weber mikeschultz@le.utah.gov
801-859-7713
13 Ray, Paul R Davis pray@le.utah.gov
801-725-2719
14 Oda, Curtis R Davis coda@le.utah.gov
801-725-0277
15 Wilson, Brad R. R Davis bradwilson@le.utah.gov
801-425-1028
16 Handy, Stephen G. R Davis stevehandy@le.utah.gov
801-979-8711
17 Barlow, Stewart R Davis sbarlow@le.utah.gov
801-289-6699
18 Hawkes, Timothy D. R Davis thawkes@le.utah.gov
801-294-4494
19 Ward, Raymond P. R Davis rayward@le.utah.gov
801-440-8765
20 Edwards, Rebecca P. R Davis beckyedwards@le.utah.gov
801-554-1968
21 Sagers, Douglas V. R Tooele dougsagers@le.utah.gov
435-830-3485
22 Duckworth, Susan D Salt Lake sduckworth@le.utah.gov
801-250-0728
23 Hollins, Sandra D Salt Lake shollins@le.utah.gov
801-363-4257
24 Chavez-Houck, Rebecca D Salt Lake rchouck@le.utah.gov
801-891-9292
25 Briscoe, Joel K. D Salt Lake jbriscoe@le.utah.gov
801-946-9791
26 Romero, Angela D Salt Lake angelaromero@le.utah.gov
801-722-4972
27 Kennedy, Michael S. R Utah mikekennedy@le.utah.gov
801-358-2362
28 King, Brian S. D Salt Lake, Summit briansking@le.utah.gov
801-560-0769
29 Perry, Lee B. R Box Elder, Weber leeperry@le.utah.gov
435-225-0430
30 Cox, Fred C. R Salt Lake fredcox@le.utah.gov
801-966-2636
31 DiCaro, Sophia M. R Salt Lake sdicaro@le.utah.gov
32 Christensen, LaVar R Salt Lake lavarchristensen@le.utah.gov
801-808-5105
33 Hall, Craig R Salt Lake chall@le.utah.gov
801-573-1774
34 Anderson, Johnny R Salt Lake janderson34@le.utah.gov
801-898-1168
35 Wheatley, Mark A. D Salt Lake markwheatley@le.utah.gov
801-556-4862
36 Arent, Patrice M. D Salt Lake parent@le.utah.gov
801-889-7849
37 Moss, Carol Spackman D Salt Lake csmoss@le.utah.gov
801-647-8764
38 Hutchings, Eric K. R Salt Lake ehutchings@le.utah.gov
801-963-2639
39 Dunnigan, James A. R Salt Lake jdunnigan@le.utah.gov
801-840-1800
40 Miller, Justin J. D Salt Lake jjmiller@le.utah.gov
801-573-8810
41 McCay, Daniel R Salt Lake dmccay@le.utah.gov
801-810-4110
42 Coleman, Kim R Salt Lake kimcoleman@le.utah.gov
801-865-8970
43 Tanner, Earl D. R Salt Lake earltanner@le.utah.gov
801-792-2156
44 Cutler, Bruce R. R Salt Lake brucecutler@le.utah.gov
801-556-4600
45 Eliason, Steve R Salt Lake seliason@le.utah.gov
801-673-4748
46 Poulson, Marie H. D Salt Lake mariepoulson@le.utah.gov
801-942-5390
47 Ivory, Ken R Salt Lake kivory@le.utah.gov
801-694-8380
48 Stratton, Keven J. R Utah kstratton@le.utah.gov
801-836-6010
49 Spendlove, Robert M. R Salt Lake rspendlove@le.utah.gov
801-560-5394
50 Cunningham, Rich R Salt Lake rcunningham@le.utah.gov
801-722-4942
51 Hughes, Gregory H. R Salt Lake greghughes@le.utah.gov
801-432-0362
52 Knotwell, John R Salt Lake jknotwell@le.utah.gov
801-449-1834
53 Brown, Melvin R. R Daggett, Duchesne, Morgan, Rich, Summit melbrown@le.utah.gov
435-647-6512
54 Powell, Kraig R Summit, Wasatch kraigpowell@le.utah.gov
435-654-0501
55 Chew, Scott H. R Duchesne, Uintah scottchew@le.utah.gov
56 Christofferson, Kay J. R Utah kchristofferson@le.utah.gov
801-592-5709
57 Greene, Brian M. R Utah bgreene@le.utah.gov
801-889-5693
58 Cox, Jon R Juab, Sanpete jcox@le.utah.gov
435-851-4457
59 Peterson, Val L. R Utah vpeterson@le.utah.gov
801-224-4473
60 Daw, Brad M. R Utah bdaw@le.utah.gov
801-850-3608
61 Grover, Keith R Utah keithgrover@le.utah.gov
801-319-0170
62 Stanard, Jon E. R Washington jstanard@le.utah.gov
435-414-4631
63 Sanpei, Dean R Utah dsanpei@le.utah.gov
801-979-5711
64 Thurston, Norman K R Utah normthurston@le.utah.gov
385-399-9658
65 Gibson, Francis D. R Utah fgibson@le.utah.gov
801-491-3763
66 McKell, Mike K. R Utah mmckell@le.utah.gov
801-210-1495
67 Roberts, Marc K. R Utah mroberts@le.utah.gov
801-210-0155
68 Nelson, Merrill F. R Beaver, Juab, Millard, Tooele, Utah mnelson@le.utah.gov
801-971-2172
69 King, Brad D Carbon, Duchesne, Emery, Grand bradking@le.utah.gov
435-637-7955
70 McIff, Kay L. R Emery, Grand, Sanpete, Sevier kaymciff@le.utah.gov
801-608-4331
71 Last, Bradley G. R Iron, Washington blast@le.utah.gov
435-635-7334
72 Westwood, John R. R Iron jwestwood@le.utah.gov
435-586-6961
73 Noel, Michael E. R Beaver, Garfield, Kane, Piute, San Juan, Sevier, Wayne mnoel@kanab.net
435-616-5603
74 Snow, V. Lowry R Washington vlsnow@le.utah.gov
435-703-3688
75 Ipson, Don L. R Washington dipson@le.utah.gov
435-817-5281

 

Here are the Utah Senators (write more than just your own senator):

 

District Name Email County(ies)
1 Escamilla, Luz (D) lescamilla@le.utah.gov Salt Lake
2 Dabakis, Jim (D) jdabakis@le.utah.gov Salt Lake
3 Davis, Gene (D) gdavis@le.utah.gov Salt Lake
4 Iwamoto, Jani (D) jiwamoto@le.utah.gov Salt Lake
5 Mayne, Karen (D) kmayne@le.utah.gov Salt Lake
6 Harper, Wayne A. (R) wharper@le.utah.gov Salt Lake
7 Henderson, Deidre M. (R) dhenderson@le.utah.gov Utah
8 Shiozawa, Brian E. (R) bshiozawa@le.utah.gov Salt Lake
9 Niederhauser, Wayne L. (R) wniederhauser@le.utah.gov Salt Lake
10 Osmond, Aaron (R) aosmond@le.utah.gov Salt Lake
11 Stephenson, Howard A. (R) hstephenson@le.utah.gov Salt Lake, Utah
12 Thatcher, Daniel W. (R) dthatcher@le.utah.gov Salt Lake, Tooele
13 Madsen, Mark B. (R) mmadsen@le.utah.gov Salt Lake, Utah
14 Jackson, Alvin B. (R) abjackson@le.utah.gov Utah
15 Dayton, Margaret (R) mdayton@le.utah.gov Utah
16 Bramble, Curtis S. (R) curt@cbramble.com Utah, Wasatch
17 Knudson, Peter C. (R) pknudson@le.utah.gov Box Elder, Cache, Tooele
18 Millner, Ann (R) amillner@le.utah.gov Davis, Morgan, Weber
19 Christensen, Allen M. (R) achristensen@le.utah.gov Morgan, Summit, Weber
20 Jenkins, Scott K. (R) sjenkins@le.utah.gov Davis, Weber
21 Stevenson, Jerry W. (R) jwstevenson@le.utah.gov Davis
22 Adams, J. Stuart (R) jsadams@le.utah.gov Davis
23 Weiler, Todd (R) tweiler@le.utah.gov Davis, Salt Lake
24 Okerlund, Ralph (R) rokerlund@le.utah.gov Beaver, Garfield, Juab, Kane, Millard, Piute, Sanpete, Sevier, Utah, Wayne
25 Hillyard, Lyle W. (R) lhillyard@le.utah.gov Cache, Rich
26 Van Tassell, Kevin T. (R) kvantassell@le.utah.gov Daggett, Duchesne, Summit, Uintah, Wasatch
27 Hinkins, David P. (R) dhinkins@le.utah.gov Carbon, Emery, Grand, San Juan, Utah, Wasatch
28 Vickers, Evan J. (R) evickers@le.utah.gov Beaver, Iron, Washington
29 Urquhart, Stephen H. (R) surquhart@le.utah.gov Washington

 

Please write or call!  This is still America and not every legislator is bought by lobby money.  Some actually do listen to constituents.We should act –even if we act alone.  If we each act on conscience, rather than failing to act, for fear of failure, we might be winning many more battles.

A war over children’s lives and schooling and privacy rights is being waged, far under the radar of most people’s daily lives– but even those who know it’s going on, often fail to act.  Keep acting, even if it appears there is no hope.  Please join me if you can.

–And by the way, there is real hope!

  • The powerful Utah Educators’ Association (UEA) was also opposed to SB 235.  So were key Utah Democrats.  Some of the conservatives who actually voted for SB 235 now regret it.

Many people have written to the governor on this issue, pleading for a veto.

  • HB 360 already successfully PASSED both legislative houses, so it has the support of our elected reps.  There’s no reason anyone would want it vetoed, that I can see, except if they are being paid (in money or in power) by “the machine”.

 

 

herbert

 

I sometimes think that we would be better off if we had an obvious wolf for a Governor.

If we had an obvious wolf, people would be paying very close attention to what he was doing.  But Governor Herbert uses conservative language while he passes rascally progressive bills and initiatives and blocks conservative ones.

Most of Utah pays no real attention.  Many assume that the conservative-sounding speech they heard him make on the campaign trail matches his actions today.

But this is not the case.  He’s a key member of the Common Core creation team at NGA/CCSSO and he’s a proud promoter of Prosperity 2020, the cradle-to-workforce program that puts the economy first (not children) and puts businesses, not moms, dads and teachers, in positions of power over schools.  He is not about to fight his own machine.  The only thing he might fear is losing re-election.  This is why I have a little bit of  faith that letters asking him to veto SB 235 and asking him to pass HB 360,  might, in great numbers, have influence on him –only for his re-election hopes.  If he does just the opposite of what we are asking, and passes SB 235 and vetoes HB 360, let’s at least not let him do it too quietly and without pushback.  We still have about a week until it’s too late to veto or to pass these bills into law.

 

 

 

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

 

 

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