Alyson Williams, who worked in data management for the publishing industry, a mother who has written and spoken much about education and data reforms over the past several years, has just given a speech at the Agency Based Education Conference.
It’s worth your time.
Alyson raises and expands upon many of the issues that are also being raised by other data privacy experts, including American Principles Project, Elana Zeide, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Education Liberty Watch, Return to Parental Rights, the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
She asks us to consider how current trends toward consent-less gathering and use of student data are to be affected by frameworks already in place (such as SLDS databases) and by new movements, such as the federal Commission on Evidence-based Policymaking (CEP) and the Competency-based Education reforms now arising in many legislatures (including Utah’s) today. She points out that a key cheerleader for Competency-based Education is Marc Tucker, the avowed enemy to local control of education who is, nonetheless, a mistakenly respected advisor to the Utah legislature. How might Marc Tucker’s CBE Baby affect my children and yours?
Please watch and share with your legislators.
Ed. Note: … State delegates have received no less than five communications in the past week from Governor Herbert related to Common Core … Just today we received a robocall from the Lt. Governor, in which he states Governor Herbert has “fought against federal control of education including Common Core”…
What follows below is a rebuttal by Alyson Williams about the letter delegates received from Governor Herbert.
Don’t miss the other UACC article exposing the history of how involved Governor Herbert has been in promoting Common Core.
In a letter to State delegates dated April 7, 2016, Governor Herbert listed seven points, concluding with a personal note, to clarify his position on Common Core in Utah. A fact check against other sources follows each excerpted point below:
1) I have called for the elimination of the federal Department of Education.
TRUE (but don’t miss the fine print): While the topic didn’t come up in his remarks to Congress, he did say there should not be a federal Department of Education on his Facebook page:
Now for the fine print, here are his remarks to Congress:http://blog.governor.utah.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Written-Testimony-of-Governor-Gary-Herbert-UT-Sen-HELP-02-23-16-FINAL-1.pdf
In short, the Governor outlines how instead of the Federal Department of Education controlling nationwide policies for education, Governors should collude to set nationwide policy for education. Calling for the elimination of the Department of Ed while advocating for an extragovernmental process to accomplish a different centralization of power is not a principle of constitutional federalism. It is a Constitution work around.
2) I signed into law SB287 – a bill that makes it illegal for the federal government to have any control.
FALSE: No law in our state makes it “illegal” for the federal government to have “any control.” 2012 SB287 (http://le.utah.gov/~2012/bills/static/SB0287.html) began as a list of conditions under which Utah “shall exit” any federal education agreement. However, by the time it reached the Governor’s pen, it said, “may exit.” The degree to which Utah avoids federal parameters over local education policy is dependent on the people we elect to various positions of authority and whether they will take action not because they “shall” but because they “may” do so. Governor Herbert has taken great pains to emphasize Utah’s legal authority to take an alternative path to Common Core and yet he has not advocated doing it. As the chair of the National Governor’s Association, a key stakeholder in the Common Core State Standards Initiative, he accepted a nationally prominent role in promoting these reforms.
3) I called for Attorney General Sean Reyes to conduct an exhaustive investigation to determine whether or not the state of Utah had ceded authority over our education system to the federal government on Common Core or any other standards. He concluded that Utah has not. We control our standards, our curriculum, our textbooks and our testing.
FALSE: Herbert did ask AG Sean Reyes to conduct an investigation but within carefully selected parameters, not an “exhaustive” one. The report provided legal justification for whether Utah could join or exit Common Core while avoiding a conversation Utahans can’t seem to have with this Governor about whether Utah should have joined or would exit Common Core.
As far as ceding authority to the federal government, the AG report acknowledges “the USDOE, by imposing those waiver conditions, has infringed upon state and local authority over public education. States have consented to the infringement, through federal coercion…”
A full response to this report by a Utah teacher can be found here: https://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/responding-to-the-attorney-generals-report-on-common-core/
Download the AG report here: http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/files/attorney-general-legal-analysis-100714.pdf
4) I commissioned Utah Valley University President Matt Holland and a group of experts to review our education standards. With over 7,000 public comments, this committee recommended improvements to standards and the state board has implemented many of these proposed changes.
UNDISCLOSED BIAS: Throughout his campaign, Governor Herbert has referred to his Common Core review commission using only Matt Holland’s recognizable name, leaving out that the original chair, Rich Kendell (eventual co-chair with Holland), was an advisor for Prosperity 2020 and Education First. Prosperity 2020 Chair Allan Hall was also on the commission as was Rob Brems, a member of the Utah Data Alliance Executive Board. (Common standards are an invaluable asset for data collection.) All are highly qualified people, who, it must be noted, publicly favored these reforms before this commission was assembled. There was just one k12 teacher on the commission, from a private school, and she did not concur with the report but her reasons for dissent are not specifically listed.
In another example of this one-sided approach, the report references two experts who came to Utah to testify about the quality of the Standards but does not disclose their previous connection to the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Timothy Shanahan from the University of Chicago was on the writing committee for the standards, and David Pearson from UC Berkeley was on the Common Core Standards validation committee. Both have published works and give seminars to help teachers implement Common Core around the country. The concerns of the dissenting members of the Common Core validation committee who have also submitted testimony in Utah were never mentioned.
LIMITATIONS ON PUBLIC COMMENT: Public comment was limited to making suggestions standard by standard and not on the overall scope and sequence of the framework, or on things that are absent from the standards.
NO MEANINGFUL REVISIONS: As far as proposed changes coming from the report, there is a list of changes to the standards, but they are all corrections of typographical errors or clarifications of the wording. (p. 33) Other less specific recommendations are scattered throughout, but are seemingly limited to organizational considerations like better cross-referencing between the standards and supporting materials with no substantive revisions.
Perhaps the most illuminating aspect of the report is this statement that is repeated several times regarding the natural limitation to making meaningful changes to standards that are intended, as a priority, to be common across the U.S.:
“The Utah Core Standards can be revised and improved over time in accordance with Utah students’ needs and based on sound research, while staying similar enough to other states to assist transferability at grade level.”
RISKS FOR REMEDIATION UNCHANGED: Another conclusion of note was whether Common Core would reduce college remediation (starts pg 27): “Students who master Secondary Math I, II, and III standards will be very well prepared for postsecondary education and training programs.” In other words, in this report that ironically emphasizes the need to teach more “critical thinking,” we see an example of circular reasoning: students who master the content (or, who do not need remediation) will not need remediation… just like students who mastered content in previous math programs in Utah.
UNKNOWN OUTCOMES: This is immediately followed by the observation that we won’t truly know how college readiness will be impacted until we see how the kids who have been through Common Core get to college – underlining one of the biggest concerns of parents, that this is a statewide (nationwide) experiment on a scale that will reduce alternatives and inhibit the innovation driven by competing ideas. This experiment will affect an entire generation of Utah students but we can only hypothesize about the outcome: “Research on students who complete all of the grade levels of the mathematics standards will be required to verify that the standards (and their effective implementation) make a difference.” (p.28)
A link to the report: http://www.utah.gov/governor/docs/utahcorestandards/Standards_Review_Panel_Report_to_the_Governor.FINAL.2.5.15.pdf
5) I, and others, successfully lobbied Congress to repeal the No Child Left Behind Act and return education authority to the states. This policy change was heralded by the Wall Street Journal as the “largest devolution of federal control to the states in a quarter-century.”
FALSE: ESSA didn’t repeal “No Child Left Behind,” it reauthorized it. NCLB is just a nickname for one of the previous reauthorizations of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that has been due for reauthorization since 2007. This reauthorization was dubbed the “Every Student Succeeds Act.” It was revised to eliminate one of the most unpopular aspects of NCLB, the penalties for not meeting targets for AYP, but put nearly everything that had been pushed in the federal grants and waivers under Obama’s Department of Education into federal statute. Obama’s Secretary of Education said everything his administration had “promoted and proposed forever” is embedded in ESSA: http://truthinamericaneducation.com/elementary-and-secondary-education-act/arne-duncan-essa-embodies-the-core-of-our-agenda/
Here’s a letter sent to Utah’s Congressional delegation from a group of local parents highlighting a few of their concerns with ESSA:https://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2015/12/02/letter-to-congress-and-compiled-notes-from-alyson-williams-and-50-citizen-readers-on-esea-every-student-succeeds-act/
Every member of Utah’s Congressional delegation, with the exception of Senator Hatch, voted against ESSA.
6) Assessing the progress of our students is important, but we want to maximize the time they spend learning, not the time they spend taking tests. This session, I worked with the Legislature and signed two bills into law that reduce high-stakes testing in our schools (SAGE testing).
TRUE-ish: Governor Herbert did sign the bill removing the high stakes for SAGE assessments from teacher evaluations and another bill that makes the SAGE test optional for 11th graders (who would likely be taking a different standardized test for college application purposes.) It is not clear how either of those reduce testing unless, in the first case, it is assumed that teachers will require less test practice if their evaluation isn’t directly impacted. In the second case, it’s likely just making room for a different high-stakes test.
7) Every budgetary proposal and policy decision I make is to give more authority and discretion to local school districts and local schools. I have continually advocated for increases to funding that gets to the classroom and can be tailored for local needs.
FALSE: Not every policy proposal. Much of the Governor’s Excellence in Education plan dating back to 2010 and the associated calls for additional funding have been in the context of his Education 2020 plan to expand state educational policy to include early childhood education (preschool, all day kindergarten), workforce alignment initiatives, data collection, and school and teacher accountability which is money for bureaucracy and additional programs, not an increase for the average classroom. He did call for additional $ to go into the WPU in his 2017 budget.
On a personal note, I have eleven grandchildren in Utah public schools. I’ve seen the frustration they and their parents have had over math assignments they didn’t understand and teachers struggled to teach. I have expressed my dissatisfaction with the flawed implementation of new standards, especially in math…
NOTE: It seems too common that when a top-down program fails it is blamed on the “implementation.” This is a key reason for true local control and for programs to be initiated at the level where the expertise, resources and student needs are best understood. Teachers should not be scapegoats for programs chosen by politicians.
Thank you to all who have been reading. I still have a lot of compiling to do and your feedback is still coming in. I’ve promised to publish and share it when it is done, but this timeline for the House vote is just not possible even with all of our combined sacrifices. We have more time before the Senate vote and I will keep working on it. Here is what I summed up in a rushed letter to our representatives today:
Over the past day and a half, 50 local parents and a number of our friends from other state have pulled themselves away from all our daily responsibilities to divide up and read every page of this monstrosity of a bill, ESSA, that will be voted on today. There isn’t a person alive who can read and fairly understand that much legal language with all the cross-references in such a short period of time and we are very upset about it. This represents the worst of the corruption we’ve come to expect from Congress and are especially disappointed that it is coming at the hands of a conservative leadership and a newly appointed Speaker of the House who spoke so eloquently against this very thing just weeks ago. This is not what self-government looks like.
As a justification for the outrageous timeline, I’ve been reminded that the language in this bill has been available for months in the form of the House and Senate versions that went into the conference, except that it is missing some of the very amendments that were used as justification of your vote back then. I think this is like saying that I saw the recipe book, so I should be happy to eat whatever ends up or doesn’t end up on my plate in some unrecognizable blob.
A yes vote also can’t be justified with arguments about the urgency to incrementally improve the status quo. No Child Left Behind has sat, technically expired since 2007. Why the rush now, less than a year before we have a chance to elect a more conservative President? I know it is because there are many things in this bill that don’t match up with the marketing being used to sell it, and that it cannot stand up to scrutiny.
I have been compiling the notes and concerns of all the parents who have been reading sections of the bill, and the feedback is still coming in. In spite of all this effort, we are out of time, so allow me to summarize just a few of the concerns here.
First, we are being told that this bill gives the Secretary of Education “unprecedented” restrictions and yet every version of ESEA has contained the restriction against the very things specified in this version. Here’s just one example:
“Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school’s curriculum, program of instruction, or allocation of State and local resources, or mandate a State or any subdivision thereof to spend any funds or incur any costs not paid for under this Act.”
Am I to believe that just because this specifically uses the title of Secretary, instead of “officer or employee of the Federal Government” that this is unprecedented? The truth is, the restrictions have always been there, but have not been enforced. This bill repeats a few of these same kinds of historically unenforced restrictions using new language, but then goes on with pages and pages of allowing the Secretary great discretion to use funding to approve or deny State programs to his satisfaction. The power of the purse, is just that, powerful. That is why it was vested in Congress and not in the Executive branch.
Most of the parents who’ve worked together this week met each other in our activism to oppose Common Core. We’ve been told that this bill pushes back against Common Core. But that claim is also misleading. Starting on page 7, line 18 of the current version for example, we see the termination of “certain” waivers. This section is very specific and blocks or phases out very specific programs for which all the damage has already been done. But, it’s worse than that. Who needs grant competitions to motivate reform when you can put the same reforms you were trying to incentivize into the law itself?
For example, one of the reasons parents oppose Common Core and its linked reforms is because it accelerates the transformation of public education into a workforce planning pipeline complete with government managed data profiles. This bill codifies that, and it extends this pipeline down to toddlers in preschool.
Historically, the purpose of American education was to nurture the development of self-governing citizens, with work being incidental to that development. Our Founding Fathers and other great thinkers were who they were because they studied the great works, not work itself. This nation has uniquely thrived according to the principle that a free market with good people works better than attempts at planned markets with efficiently trained workers. The latter is a socialist concept.
This bill includes one of the latest profiteering scams for well-connected cronies as well, called a social impact bond, in the Pay for Success Initiative on page 797. I did a lot of research on this a few years ago when they were trying to get a new state funded preschool program started in Utah using this. The legislators liked it because of the promise that they would only pay for results, but the specific terms were defined privately, outside the legislation (a benefit to public private partnerships to those who profit from them) as impossible to fail and then be paid the cost of the program, plus interest. It misdiagnosed a problem (equivocation of socioeconomic status with special ed services) created a new government entitlement to supposedly fix it, expanded the collection of data and subjected tiny kids to more assessments in order to justify “results.” It was basically a way to grease the passage of and divert funding to a program that may not exist in the first place if it had to be justified and paid for up front. Buy now, pay later. Goldman seems to have discovered that legislatively guaranteed percentage returns on the backs of the taxpayer are more reliable than the stock market. http://www.nytimes.com/…/d…/did-goldman-make-the-grade.html…
We’ve been told that this bill returns authority to the states over teacher accountability, but it requires that States set accountability with certain characteristics, like teacher pay tied to assessments. This is not a true shift of control but a shift of enforcement and masks the Federal government’s continuing and expanding role. I’ve read the talking points being handed out to the teachers from their unions and believe they are, once again, being misled on how this will affect their careers.
The truth is as parents we want to support our children’s teachers. We hated the Common Core assessments (I was one of the 15 parents on the Utah parent panel that got to see the actual assessment items) and we worked to get a new law passed in Utah to protect the teachers and schools from the State level impact when we exercised our parental right to refuse these poorly designed tests. We could not affect the federal requirements in the same way and we do want to see that addressed. This bill, however fails as an effective remedy. It does mention on page 76 that these state laws on opting out will be honored, but the bill still requires a 95% participation rate with consequences for Title 1 funding. This puts the teachers in an impossible position between honoring the parent’s stewardship and the pressure to test the kids for accountability and funding purposes. In other words, the bill says that USED honors parents’ and states’ rights, then enables them to hold the teacher and school funding hostage to get the conformity they need.
We are concerned about the school based health centers and services, especially the vague language that provides funding for and grants access to our children in school to “community health centers” and “non-profit health care agencies.” We’re concerned about language encouraging all kinds of assessments that go beyond academic measures. The vague language seems to grant access to groups like Planned Parenthood or mental health assessments and interventions without parental consent or the same ethical restrictions enforced for private medical practice: http://insider.foxnews.com/…/11-year-old-girls-can-get-iuds… and http://truthinamericaneducation.com/…/a-mental-health-prof…/
We are concerned about all the data being collected by government about our kids, data collection practices that are expanded and encouraged in this bill. It’s not very reassuring to read about how student privacy will be protected under a section heading “Sense of Congress” (page 859), which I learned after looking it up, means it’s like a nonbinding resolution or suggestion. In light of the recent information security review of the Department of Education, in which Representative Chaffetz participated, it is knowingly irresponsible in this environment to fund, encourage, or expand student data collection practices:
I think Representative Chaffetz can understand from his own experience why parents might not be thrilled with the idea of state or federal government amassing life-long data profiles of all the successes and failures, aptitudes and weaknesses of the academic, health, socioeconomic and subjective behavioral assessments of our children. http://www.washingtontimes.com/…/jason-chaffetzs-file-lea…/…
We can’t see these profiles or verify their accuracy. We can’t limit their use or the information being shared with a seemingly endless list of stakeholders, and we can’t opt out. When did this become a government of the data, by the data and for the data?
There’s so much more I would like to say if I had the time. (Can you imagine how fun it is to miss sleep and appointments to try to make sense of something that will impact your child’s life so seriously and while digging through hundreds of pages come across stuff like a posthumous pardon of a wronged boxer (page 914)? What a joke! I literally laughed at that through tears of frustration.
The bottom line is this is not an improvement over the last terrible version of the bill. One mom summed it like this, “incredible federal overreach; hands-on, in the classroom micromanagement; hazy definitions of terms; blatantly contradictory policies; and lots of ambiguities. It is the perfect recipe for a complete removal of local (teacher/parent) control.”
Please vote NO.
Utahns Against Common Core
This should be very interesting.
Mount Logan Middle School is providing the facility for a Common Core issues debate on January 6th, 2014, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at 875 N. 200 E. Logan, Utah.
Alpine school board member Wendy Hart and mother Alyson Williams will debate two state school board members: Dave Thomas and Tami Pyfer.
The event is open to the public and will be moderated by radio personality Jason Williams of KVNU’s “For the People.”
Please come and bring friends.
The public is invited to submit questions for the debaters to: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
This informative video, “Utah Bites Into Common Core” features Wendy Hart, one of the debaters, who is both an elected member of the Alpine School Board, and an active member of Utahns Against Common Core.
All over the internet, all over Facebook, and not just in America we see problems with Common Core –confusing math, twisted worksheets, stressful high-stakes tests. They’re troubling. But what about the blatant unconstitutionality of the system itself?
This week’s striking op-ed by Michael Lotfi at BenSwann.com and Alyson Williams’ recent speech at a debate in Utah (posted here) each make the point that commentary about Common Core should end when we realize it is unconstitutional!
“We cannot oppose Common Core because it does not align with our values. We must oppose it because it violates this country’s principles. The pundits, journalists, etc. who report and commentate on Common Core only serve to further the disease. The commentary should end at Common Core being unconstitutional because it is not an explicit power delegated to Congress and therefore the Tenth Amendment is remedy.
Say Common Core was struck down because of the values it teaches, but was kept in place with neutral, or conservative values. Again, many would applaud this as victory. However, you’ve only picked off the flower of the weed, which has roots growing ever deeper through the soil. This is no victory. For it is only a matter of time until someone strikes at the values again and replaces them with their own, thus growing the flower back.”
“My opposition to the way we’ve adopted Common Core (and the rest of the education reforms introduced in the Stimulus) is not just about the education of my children, it is about the type of government I hope my children will inherit when they have children of their own. I believe we can set high standards for math and English without circumventing, stretching, or ignoring the high standards for self government that have made our nation unique in all the history of the world. This is the Constitution of the United States of America.”
How is Common Core unconstitutional?
1. IT LACKS A REPRESENTATIVE AMENDMENT PROCESS. If the Common Core Initiative was in harmony with the Constitution, it would be amendable by those governed by it. You and I would have a voice. But it’s only amendable by the NGA/CCSSO, according to their own words and website. They claim: “The Standards are intended to be a living work: as new and
better evidence emerges, the Standards will be revised.” Revised by whom? Again, from the official Common Core site: (their caps, not mine) “ANY USE OF THE COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS OTHER THAN AS AUTHORIZED UNDER THIS LICENSE OR COPYRIGHT LAW IS PROHIBITED. ANY PERSON WHO EXERCISES ANY RIGHTS TO THE COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS THEREBY ACCEPTS AND AGREES TO BE BOUND BY THE TERMS… NGA Center/CCSSO shall be acknowledged as the sole owners and developers of the Common Core State Standards, and no claims to the contrary shall be made.”
2. IT LACKS CHECKS AND BALANCES. The use of checks and balances was designed to make it difficult for a minority of people to control the government and to restrain the government itself. If the Common Core Initiative– a nationalized system of standards, aligned tests, data collection and teacher accountability measures promoted federally— if this initiative were in harmony with the Constitution, it would not be held in the power of a minority of the people (of the NGA/CCSSO and of the Dept. of Ed which is partnered with CCSSO). It would have been vetted prior to implementation by the proper means outlined in the Constitution– but it wasn’t. As Alyson Williams points out, “There is no such thing in the U.S. Constitution as a council of governors… Governors working together to jointly address issues and create rules that affect the whole nation is not a legitimate alternative to Congress, our national representative body.”
3. IT LACKS AUTHORITY. If the Common Core Initiative was in harmony with the Constitution, it would have been born legitimately: but its only “authority” is the unprecedented assigning of money to the discretion of the Education Secretary without proper congressional oversight. From that Stimulus money came the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund and the Race to the Top grant programs that enabled the Department of Ed to get away with setting up their own, experimental rules for us to follow in exchange for the money – rules that normally would be determined by the States alone.
4. IT ALTERS THE LIMITS OF FEDERAL POWER. If the Common Core Initiative was in harmony with the Constitution, it would not be admitted even by its most notorious proponent, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, to alter the traditionally limited role of the federal government.
Duncan said, in his 2010 “Vision of Education Reform” speech: “Our vision of reform takes account of the fact that, in several respects, the governance of education in the United States is unusual. Traditionally, the federal government in the U.S. has had a limited role in education policy… The Obama administration has sought to fundamentally shift the federal role, so that the Department is doing much more… the Recovery Act created additional competitive funding like the high-visibility $4.35 billion Race to the Top program and the $650 million Investing in Innovation Fund… America is now in the midst of a “quiet revolution” in school reform… In March of 2009, President Obama called on the nation’s governors and state school chiefs to develop standards and assessments… Virtually everyone thought the president was dreaming. But today, 37 states and the District of Columbia have already chosen to adopt the new state-crafted Common Core standards in math and English. Not studying it, not thinking about it, not issuing a white paper—they have actually done it.”
Common Core governance is a slap in the face to the work of the Founding Fathers.
Yes, we should rightly be shuddering at the math disasters and the high-stakes tests, should be gasping at the lack of any cost analysis to taxpayers, and at the privacy-robbing aspects of the Common Core agenda. But these arguments are secondary to the hairiest of the reform devils, the destruction of individual liberty.
“I don’t know how you feel, my brethren and sisters, but I’d rather be dead than to lose my liberty…” – Ezra Taft Benson, 1952.
Utah Mom Alyson Williams’ razor-sharp wit and use of unarguable facts makes the speech she gave at a Common Core debate (with State School Board member Dixie Allen and two professors) a powerful tool in the national Stop Common Core arsenal. Below are her prepared remarks. The event was filmed and will be posted soon.
6 few smashing highlights from the speech –words I’d like to slap up on websites and billboards and bumpers all over the country:
1 “There is no such thing in the U.S. Constitution as a council of governors… Allowing rules for education to be set by those with no authority to do so is not a high enough standard for me or my children.”
2 “The Department of Ed … set rules for education, in exchange for the money – rules that normally would be determined by the States themselves under the 10th Amendment.”
3 “The Utah Constitution … does not say that [the board] can outsource a role we entrusted to them to a non-governmental trade organization who outsourced it to another group of hand-picked experts. This is called “delegation” and it has been established in legal precedent to be unconstitutional.”
4 “Unelected officials gutting laws that were established by Congress to protect my family’s privacy is not a high enough standard for me and my children.”
5 “No meaningful public input on changes that affect all of our community schools is not a high enough standard for me and my children.”
6 “We can set high standards for math and English without circumventing, stretching, or ignoring the high standards for self government that have made our nation unique in all the history of the world.”
THE COMMON CORE STANDARDS THAT WE AREN’T TALKING ABOUT
Guest post by Alyson Williams, Utah mom
We’ve heard that with Common Core we’re just setting higher standards for learning, right? Why would a mom who wants the very best for her children be against that?
We are a community with high standards for all kinds of things, not just education. Standards can be examples, expectations, models, patterns, or precedents to follow or measure oneself against.
Keeping those synonyms in mind I’d like to talk about the standards we’ve set for our children in the course of adopting the Common Core. You may be surprised to learn that we have set new standards not only for math and english, but also for how public education is governed.
At the beginning of Obama’s first term our Congress passed the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, also known as “the Stimulus” which included $100 Billion dollars for education. At the time major newspapers buzzed about the unprecedented power of assigning this much money to the discretion of the Education Secretary with virtually no congressional oversight. From the Stimulus came the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund and the Race to the Top grant programs that enabled the Department of Ed to set rules for education, in exchange for the money – rules that normally would be determined by the States themselves under the 10th Ammendment.
This 36 page document, “The Road to a National Curriculum” was written by two former top lawyers for the US Department of Education. In it they offer an analysis of how these reforms violate three Federal laws. They conclude, “The Department has simply paid others to do that which it is forbidden to do.” (p.18)
Using taxpayer money from the stimulus to implement reforms that weaken the State’s autonomy over education is not a high enough standard for me and my children.
Proponents of these reforms like to point out that adopting these reforms was a legitimate exercise of state’s rights because the development of the standards was led by the Governors at the National Governors Association. The problem is, the Utah State Constitution does not grant authority over education to our Governor. Furthermore, there is no such thing in the U.S. Constitution as a council of governors. Comparing best practices is one thing, but Governors working together to jointly address issues and create rules that affect the whole nation is not a legitimate alternative to Congress, our national representative body. The organizations that introduced Common Core to our nation, state-by-state, had no constitutional commission to do what they did.
Allowing rules for education to be set by those with no authority to do so is not a high enough standard for me or my children.
The Governor didn’t decide on his own that Utah would adopt these reforms. The agreements were also signed by the State Superintendent acting in behalf of the State School Board. The Utah Constitution does give authority to the State School Board to set academic standards. It does not say that they can outsource a role we entrusted to them to a non-governmental trade organization who outsourced it to another group of hand-picked experts. This is called “delegation” and it has been established in legal precedent to be unconstitutional.
Elected officials delegating a job we entrusted to them to a body outside the jurisdiction of state oversight is not a high enough standard for me and my children.
The official USOE pamphlet on the Common Core adoption says that the State School Board “monitored this process.” But Dane Linn who was the education director for the NGA at the time the standards were being written stated, “All of the standards writing and discussions were sealed by confidentiality agreements, and held in private.” http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2013/06/07/five-people-wrote-state-led-common-core
There were no meeting minutes, no public records, no obligation by the lead writers to even respond to the input of anyone who submitted it, including any input from our school board. As a parent and a taxpayer, this process cuts me out completely.
As citizens of a self-governing Republic, this non-representative process is not a high enough standard for me and my children.
While this process was different than the way standards have been vetted in the past, the State School Board insists their involvement and review was adequate and that there was time for public input. The USOE published this timeline for adoption of the standards. Here it says that the summer of 2010 was the public comment period. However, the final draft was not available until June 2, and the Board took their first of two votes to adopt them two days later on June 4. The second and final vote was made a month later, but the first formally announced public comment period I could find was in April of 2012 – 22 months after the Board officially adopted the standards.
No meaningful public input on changes that affect all of our community schools is not a high enough standard for me and my children.
When the Department of Education ran out of grant money to get states to implement their reforms, they offered the states waivers from unpopular requirements of No Child Left Behind that many Utah schools were not anticipated to meet. While the No Child Left Behind law did grant limited authority to the Department of Education to waive certain conditions, it did not grant them authority to require new conditions in exchange.
This increasingly common habit of the executive branch to waive laws and replace them with their own rules, as if they held the lawmaking authority assigned to Congress, is not an acceptable standard for me and my children.
This is not the only example of the Department of Education overstepping their authority. In order for States to collect the individual student data required by these reforms, the US Department of Ed altered the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) weakening the protection of parental control over sharing student data. Both the Electronic Privacy Information Center and Fordham University’s Center for Law and Information Policy have written briefs charging that the Education Department acted illegally.
Unelected officials gutting laws that were established by Congress to protect my family’s privacy is not a high enough standard for me and my children.
Ever since we started down the road of adopting Common Core, in fact, I’ve noticed a much greater influence over education by unelected special interests. In an article published in the Washington Post in May (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/05/12/gates-gives-150-million-in-grants-for-common-core-standards/), for example, it was estimated that the Gates Foundation has spent at least $150 million dollars to fund and promote Common Core.
A July 2010 BusinessWeek Coverstory on Bill Gates quotes Jack Jennings, director of the Center on Education Policy saying, “As a private entity that doesn’t answer to voters, Gates can back initiatives that are politically dicey for the Obama Administration, such as uniform standards … In the past, states’ rights advocates have blocked federal efforts for a national curriculum. Gates ‘was able to do something the federal government couldn’t do.” http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/10_30/b4188058281758.htm#p4
When one very rich man has a greater influence over the direction of public education than parents, teachers and local communities that sets an unacceptable standard for “we the people,” for me, and for my children.
What is the justification for pushing these reforms through, bypassing the checks and balances of our established legal framework? We have to do it we are told so that our children will be “career and college ready.”
The Govenor, on his webpage for education, says we need to implement these reforms to “align educational training to meet the workforce demands of the marketplace.” http://www.utah.gov/governor/priorities/education.html
To me, all of these workforce goals seem to imply that the highest aim of education is work. Historically, the purpose of American education was to nurture the development of self-governing citizens, with work being incidental to that development. This nation has uniquely thrived according to the principle that a free market with good people pursuing their own dreams works better than attempts at centrally regulated markets with efficiently trained workers.
Being an efficient employee in a job that matches a data profile collected by the state from cradle to career is not a high enough standard for education, not for my children.
Thomas Jefferson was an early proponent of publicly funded education. He saw literate citizens educated in history and principles of good government as a necessary condition of maintaining liberty. He said, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”
How tragically ironic if, in the very name of public education, we end up eroding those very safeguards of liberty that he championed.
My opposition to the way we’ve adopted Common Core (and the rest of the education reforms introduced in the Stimulus) is not just about the education of my children, it is about the type of government I hope my children will inherit when they have children of their own. I believe we can set high standards for math and English without circumventing, stretching, or ignoring the high standards for self government that have made our nation unique in all the history of the world. This is the Constitution of the United States of America. These standards ARE high enough for me, and my children.
Brilliant. Thank you, Alyson Williams.