Archive for the ‘arne duncan’ Tag

Executive Order on Education: Why DeVos Is Saying There’s No Such Thing as Common Core, and Why There’s Still Hope   4 comments

 

Yesterday, President Trump signed an executive order to reclaim local control of education, and then handed his pen to a school teacher who was watching the event.  Watch her at minute 10:00.  She is tearful.  This executive order meant something to her. Teachers are weary of being micromanaged, standards-whipped, undermined and data-mined.  They want peace.

But it isn’t the federal government alone that has stunted teachers’ and students’ freedoms, and this executive order alone does not have the power to fix what’s broken in American education.  What local control advocates are fighting is the mighty, wealthy partnership of government to corporate ed-tech.   It’s the marriage of enforceable power to greed.

Possibly, an executive order might get the feds out of teacher’s laps, but guess what?  Business interests will still be sitting there.  Most of them think that there’s  nothing wrong with businesses influencing policy– but there is. We can’t un-elect a corporation.  We can’t attend their private meetings.  We can’t vote for what will be put into the educational computer programs that our children are to be fed.  We can’t get rid of the influence of businesses if we do not like what they’re doing; that’s why the business industry must be kept out of public education.  The voice of the voter and of the mom and dad and teacher and student must never be quashed under the brute strength that industry plus government can become.

The federal government is neither the main nor the sole entity undermining local control –nor is this a left/right argument. On both the left and the right, at both federal and state levels, watch the monied partnerships combining.  The huge combinations are what we’re fighting, and their huge influence are why we’re losing.

The U.S. Dept. of Education is partnered with CCSSO.  Microsoft is partnered with Pearson.  States are partnered with the feds in student database building and reporting. And the federal CEP is trying to centrally house all the data for everyone.

All of these combinations rely on common data standards.  They must have standardization –or out of their hands slips the golden goose.

 

What most people don’t know, and what DeVos won’t say, is that the Common Core movement was never just a set of academic standards; it was a set of data standards from day one.

Global data-standardization of all things in education, from tests to curriculum to teacher evaluations to student pathway setting to school grading, is much more controlling than a little old set of math and English standards could ever be!

Know this:  a private group partnered with the U.S. Department of Education to create Common Educational Data Standards (CEDS).

That private group was called the CCSSO.  The very same CCSSO partnered with the National Governors’ Association to create the Common Core academic standards. 

Both CEDS and CCSS form the heart of the Common Core movement.  Neither are gone.

Those data standards and education standards are embedded into the vast ed-tech reform market and school systems.  Few people outside the tech elite know this.  So we fall for the rebranding efforts of lobbyists, legislatures, and even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, over and over again.

States rename their academic standards (as Utah did with Utah Core Standards) but the truth is that we still use the common core academic tests and common data standards.  These are not locally controlled.

Because the federal government is only a co-creator of the monster known as the Common Educational Data Standards (CEDS), I don’t see how reducing federal overreach into local academic decision making will help us all that much; the other co-creator, CCSSO/NGA, promoting a centrally planned standardization movement itself –which feeds on investors and has trillions to play with— will thrive on.

(For those who think centrally planned standardization of education data is faulty conspiracy theory, I repeat:  check the CCSSO’s official statement: “Common Education Data Standards Initiative is a joint effort by CCSSO and the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) in partnership with the United States Department of Education.”)

This is something that Trump’s executive order does not mention.  Neither does DeVos.

I can’t trust DeVos to obey the spirit of this executive order.  Sweet as she may come across, DeVos embodies the problem that arises when half-truths become acceptable to society.  Listen to the Michigan Moms against Common Core.  They have history, losing Devos when she fought against parental empowerment and against the repeal of Common Core in Michigan.  DeVos’ interests were better served by Common Core’s continuation.

 

It seems impossible that DeVos is unaware of the inaccuracy of her statement this week: “there really isn’t any Common Core anymore.”  (See video clip, minute 3:00)   https://video.foxnews.com/v/5409228473001/?#sp=show-clips

Ask anyone who works in education, or in the education publishing or tech industries, if Common Core is gone.  They live it every day.

How can DeVos say that?

DeVos leans on the latest version of No Child Left Behind/ESEA, called ESSA, as evidence that Common Core is gone, saying that states are in the driver’s seat.  She’s wrong.

ESSA does not use the term “common core” as a requirement, sure; but it requires states to demonstrate to the feds that they’ve adopted standards aligned to the same definition that the feds have promoted (common core).

Under ESSA, the feds can withhold funding and can veto  states’ educational decision making agendas!  (“You can have any color as long as it’s black.”)

ESSA pushes everything Obama wanted:  the tsunami of nonconsensual data mining requirements; federally set moral/social values in schools (social emotional learning, or SEL); federally defined preschools and social services; and “college and career ready standards” which is code for Common Core.

For more on how ESSA/ESEA does not end Common Core nor create local control, read more:  here  and here and  here. 

Short on time?  Skip straight to this quote from Obama’s Secretary Duncan, who gloated when Congress passed ESSA: “I’m stunned at how much better it ended up than either [House or Senate] bill going into conference. I had a Democratic congressman say to me that it’s a miracle — he’s literally never seen anything like it… if you look at the substance of what is there . . . embedded in [ESSA] are the values that we’ve promoted and proposed forever. The core of our agenda from Day One, that’s all in there – early childhood, high standards…”

If ESSA was such a win for local control, why was Duncan calling it a miracle for his agenda?  More to the point, can anyone honestly say that DeVos’ push for ESSA isn’t promoting the Obama agenda?

Trump’s executive order aims to be a local control enforcement mechanism, but because it relies on ESSA, it can never really achieve its stated purpose, “to ensure strict compliance with statutes that prohibit Federal interference with State and local control over education“.

The order aims “to protect and preserve State and local control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, and personnel of educational institutions, schools, and school systems” which is wonderful, but the next few phrases are where I get stuck.  They add: “…consistent with applicable law, including ESEA, as amended by ESSA, and ESEA’s restrictions related to the Common Core State Standards developed under the Common Core State Standards Initiative.”

This seems self-contradicting.

I will admit that I have been doing some laughing this week.  I  laughed hardest (probably inappropriately) when I saw DeVos say on Fox News, while standing stylishly in front of the White House, that there’s no such thing as Common Core anymore.

Realize that Secretary DeVos has been directed to examine the overreaching actions of her department, while she’s in complete denial that Common Core is a problem and in denial about any partnership between her own department and the creators of Common Core/Common Data Standards, even existing.  She’s also promoting the same agenda that GSV and Obama promoted (see below).

Isn’t this like asking the arsonist to serve as fire chief?

 

 

A few weeks ago I wrote that this year’s host for the mega education tech conference was Salt Lake City, and that the conference’s co-sponsors, Global Silicon Valley and Arizona State University, had posted a white paper describing their vision and agenda.  I was pretty mad that they were taking $2,795 per person to attend this ed tech conference.  I was even madder that their real agenda, found in their white paper, was full of pro-Common Core and anti-local control plotting.

But now I’m madder.

The 300-plus page, foundational white paper has been deleted from the internet.

If you go to the GSV website, or to the conference website, or to my own blog’s links to that document, vamoosh!  Gone.

This, just a few days before the conference is to begin?  Why doesn’t GSV want its agenda widely known anymore?  Why not?

I thought I’d post a screen shot of that document’s key page:  page 302.

 

 

This “Strategic Battle Plan” of Global Silicon Valley and Arizona State University (and Bill Gates and everyone, pawns or knaves, on the ed-tech bandwagon) began with Common Core.

It continued with universal preschool vouchers and No Child Left Behind 2.0 (which is ESSA.)  It goes on to school choice, knowledge as currency, tax credits for employee training, and the elimination of locally elected school boards.

The elimination of locally elected school boards.

This is not something that we should take lightly.

Republicans are just as guilty as Democrats in actively destroying local control by worshiping ed tech.  Pay attention to this battle plan.

UPDATE 4-28-17:  A friend found an online copy of that deleted document.  Here is the link to the full document:  http://www.educationindustry.org/assets/documents/KnowledgeCenterDocs/2012%20american_revolution%202.0%20gsv%20advisors.pdf

 

ON SCHOOL CHOICE:

One of the steps on that page 302 agenda (above) is school choice.

I know that many good people have been taken in by the “school choice” idea, so I want to address that briefly.

School choice is no long-term choice!  The words sound good, and of course in a free country we need choices– but what do these words mean to ed reformers, and in context of government dollars?

Tax dollars will flow  from government coffers to private schools, instead of parents’ dollars flowing to private schools.  With government money comes government accountability; in 2017, accountability is spelled D-A-T-A.  If you value student data privacy, if you value a private school being allowed to set its own academic, religious, social and moral values, then don’t be sucked in to the school choice movement.  In the long run, this movement is taking away what autonomy means, or meant, to a school.

 

 

Lastly.  And yes, this is related.

Do you know that there is a federal Commission on Evidence-based Policy (CEP) that exists to argue about how and where to house citizens’ personally identifiable data centrally?  No one’s suing.  They should be.

Data that has been nonconsensually gathered by federally designed school systems called “State Longitudinal Database Systems” (SLDS) plus data that has been gathered by a multitude of other state and federal agencies and organizations is now to be housed either in one federal repository or in a few consortia of repositories, if the CEP gets its way.

The arguments of the CEP members remind me of that line in The Princess Bride:  “You’re trying to kidnap what I’ve rightfully stolen!”

Laughter is not always my response to the crazy, crazy stuff that is going on in education reform.  But for today, it is.

 

I’m still an optimist.

Angels greatly outnumber devils.  I see greatness in individuals who are doing their best, still thinking outside the box as much as they are able–  teachers, principals, parents, grandparents, and yes, even legislators.  I see individuals doing what they can, wherever they stand and they are making a difference. The incredible liveliness and buoyant spirit in children is not going to be permanently crushed, not even by the robotic idiocy of tech worship that is plaguing education systems today.

I absolutely believe that the oppression of standardization is less than a fleck of dust in God’s huge wind.

 

 

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How Feds Are Getting Away With Controlling Public School Curriculum, Competency and Credentialing   4 comments

obama ed

Feds Will Control Curriculum, Competency and Credentialing

Reblogged with permission from Return to Parental Rights on 09/21/15

by Jakell Sullivan

The federal government has absolutely no constitutional right to control curriculum, but they’re doing it anyway. In a 2011 video for the Whitehouse’s Learning Registry, Steve Midgley, the Deputy Director of Education Technology for the US Department of Education, says that the Learning Registry “makes federal learning resources easier to find, easier to access and easier to integrate into learning environments wherever they are stored.” He also admits that the Federal Communications Commission changed broadband internet regulations to get federally-sanctioned curriculum items into every child’s classroom.

Say what? Yes. You heard it right. The Whitehouse is picking winners and losers in curriculum providers. They have created an effective oligarchy over online learning and testing resources in order to make sure that the curriculum coming through your child’s school-issued iPad or computer contains the right worldview.

They funded the creation of Common Education Data Standards (CEDS), gave states federal grants to expand their state longitudinal data system (see Utah’s here and here), got 300 (and counting) online learning and testing groups to create interoperable curriculum and computer-adaptive tests, and created a one-stop-shop called the Learning Registry where every child’s learning data will be tracked. This is information control, folks. And, it’s not just for K-12.

dunc

George Washington University, among many other institutions of higher ed, has jumped on the Learning Registry’s bandwagon. They are helping the federal administration (perhaps unwittingly) succeed at redefining student competencies around student behaviors, as opposed to academics.

When Utahns think of competency-based education, we think of a student mastering something factual and proving competency. That’s not what the federal Learning Registry seeks.  It defines competencies around values, attitudes and beliefs.

In other words, the more a student can think in moral relativist terms, the more “skilled” they are. Students who think “all truth is relative” will be easily malleable workers for a globally managed economy—widgets for crony business leaders.

So, how will the Whitehouse’s Learning Registry work? It will:

  1. Filter the curriculum content that reaches teachers and students
  2. Collect data on how a child thinks and what they believe
  3. Use that data to personalize online learning curriculum and adaptive testing systems (compare this to political campaigns changing the way voters vote by collecting data to create personalized marketing)
  4. Viola! A child will see America in terms of race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality—and advocate for big government solutions.

When John Marini talked about the famous movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington written by Frank Capra, he said, “Frank Capra did not see America as many Americans do today, in terms of personal categories of identity…he understood America in terms of its political principles.”

If we want our children to be champions of liberty, including religious liberty, we need to engage our local education leaders in a discussion about who is defining “competency.” And, we cannot be naïve in thinking that we will implement competency-based education differently than the federal administration desires. If we put our plug (technology systems) into their electrical outlet (Learning Registry), we will be giving them all-power over what our children learn—and, we’ve already started plugging in. As one tech-savvy mom recently noted, “Parents need to understand that a unique student ID# will act like a social security number on steroids.”

George Washington University says that they are helping the Whitehouse “create a beta version of a credentialing registry on the existing Learning Registry.” This means that the Feds are positioned, not only to control curriculum, but how colleges rate student credentials—also called “digital badges.” If this sounds like German-style education, that’s because it is.

 

We can’t allow the federal administration to use personally identifiable data to “personalize” learning resources for our children. It’s time for Congressional hearings into the Whitehouse’s Learning Registry—and it’s international data standards-setting partners, IMS Global and the SIF Association.

It’s also time for our local boards of education to take back what it means to have locally controlled education. Local boards should stand with parents by making sure that their district’s online curriculum and test items do not conform to federally-funded data standards.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

For more information on how the federal administration is aligning state and district policies to internationalist goals for competency-based education, see:

obama ed
• Race To The Top for Districts (RTT-D) gave priority funding to districts that would embrace personalized learning and competency-based ed. See: http://www.ed.gov/race-top/district-competition
• Feds Give Nudge to Competency-Based Education https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/03/19/feds-give-nudge-competency-based-education
• Bill Gates’ KnowledgeWorks has published two Policy Briefs with the most extensive information about how the federal administration used Race To The Top to push state and district policies towards implementing personalized-learning and towards the competency-based education that Utah is now embracing.

bill united nations

A Weighty List of Grievances: Will Congress Ever Hold a Hearing Against the Department of Education?   1 comment

const

 

Even though I don’t like bumper stickers, I proudly slapped a U.S. Senator Mike Lee bumper sticker on my car because he’s that rare legislator who honors in actions as well as in talk, that priceless treasure, our freedom-friendly U.S. Constitution.  And this week, I waited on the phone for a long time to ask him a question during his virtual town hall meeting this week.

I never got my chance, and that’s understandable because  I heard the announcer say that 15,000 Utahns were attending, so…  I’ll ask it now.

 

How weighty does the list of grievances need to be for Congress to convene a hearing on the Department of Education? duncan

It seems like any one of the grievances that I’ll list next, would deserve action.  Taken together, these assaults on Constitutional rights of individuals is almost unbelievable.

What are your thoughts on this list:  as a legislator, as a parent, as a teacher (especially if you are a special ed teacher) as a student, as a taxpayer, as a citizen with Constitutionally protected rights?  When should Congress hold the Department of Education accountable for:

 

  1. TAKING AWAY SPECIAL ED  –  The Department of Education has, unbelievably, removed state authority over special education, effective this week.  It used fake research to assume its new position of forcing federally aligned testing –without modifications– on special education students. That fake scholarship was exposed by special education scholar and Doctor of Clinical Psychology, Gary Thompson. The No Child Left Behind “final rule” has supposedly authorized the federal government to “no longer allow” states to call the shots on special education.
  2. ADMITTING IT FORCED STATE ALIGNMENT TO COMMON CORE – Department of Education official Joanne Weiss has just now not only confessed, but boasted, that the federal government deliberately “forced alignment” and “deployed tools” to push states into Race to the Top/Common Core, in this recent report. ( See the Pulse2016 article.)    Important note:   Weiss’ confession starkly contrasts with countless claims  in the past three years from the Department, that Common Core was “state-led” and that any other view was “nonsense”. Duncan then said:

“… a new set of standards—rigorous, high-quality learning standards, developed and led by a group of governors and state education chiefs—are under attack as a federal takeover of the schools. And your role in sorting out truth from nonsense is really important.” – 2013 speech by Sec. Duncan.

 

3.   STALKING CITIZEN DATA – The Department of Education –stunningly–  succeeded in bribing states to build what is essentially each state’s own stalking system, 50  federal/state database systems, called SLDS, that were built to federal specs, with federal interoperability, and with federally aligned data tags, essentially putting 50 state databases on a federal gridwithout a vote and without asking for parental or taxpayer consent to collect personal, behavioral, and academic data about citizens, longitudinally, for life, using schools as a government stalking mechanism.

4.  DELETING PRIVACY LAWS –  The Department of Education altered previously protective federal FERPA laws, altering policy that changed the definition of what IS personally identifiable information (PII). PII can now include biological and behavioral data (biometric data) about children or about any citizen who once was in a publically funded school. The Department also reduced to just a “best practice” –a.k.a. “optional”–  the previously protective FERPA  rule that parental consent had to be received prior to any sharing of student PII. The Department was sued by the Electronic Privacy Information Center for doing this. Read details at that site.

5.  STANDARDIZING  THE P-20 DATA MINE –  The Department of Education partnered with a private, closed-door group called CCSSO (the co-creators, by the way, of Common Core) to co-produce common data standards, called CEDS, which further standardizes the data mining ability of the federal government over American citizens from early childhood through the workforce, in an initiative known as P-20 (or P-20W).

6.   TEACHING AND IMPLEMENTING SOCIALISM, ALMOST AS A NATIONAL RELIGION – The Department of Education’s official blog, as well as Secretary Duncan’s speeches themselves, have unilaterally redefined education– as the teaching of socialism, aka social justice.  Who passed a law that social justice would be the foundation  for student learning? Who was authorized to take the entire population of U.S. school children down that path?  In “Education is Social Justice” and other official articles and speeches, we learn that no longer will our education dollars teach our children to cherish Constitutional ideals like individual rights, property rights, separation of powers, or religious; instead schools will teach social justice, which is, unfortunately, not justice.  It is theft.  It allows the Department of Education (or others) to steal teachers, money, or data from one group to redistribute to another, without consent.  Duncan can’t seem to give a single speech without spreading “social justice” and his Equity and Education Commission‘s publications reveal that the Department is promoting not just the teaching, but the implementation of socialism and forced redistribution, nationally.  Shouldn’t there at least have been a vote?

7.  SUBMITTING TO GATES – The Department of Education worked closely with, and accepted money from, the worlds’ second richest man and implemented nationwide policies based not on voter intent but on Gates’ intent.  As Diane Ravitch wrote: “The idea that the richest man in America can purchase and — working closely with the U.S. Department of Education — impose new and untested academic standards on the nation’s public schools is a national scandal. A congressional investigation is warranted.”

 

dunc

 

In conclusion:

“When the story of the Common Core is finally told, it’s going to be ugly. It’s going to show how the sponsors of the Common Core made a mockery of the Constitution and the democratic process. It’s going to show how the Obama administration pressed a completely untested reform on the states, evading public debate at both the federal and state levels. It’s going to show how a deliberative process that ought to have taken years was compressed into a matter of months. It’s going to show how legitimate philanthropic funding for an experimental education reform morphed into a gross abuse of democracy. It’s going to show how the Obama Education Department intentionally obscured the full extent of its pressure on the states, even as it effectively federalized the nation’s education system. It’s going to show how Common Core is turning the choice of private — especially Catholic — education into no choice at all.”

That quote comes from Stanley Kurtz’s article  for “The Ethics and Policy Center”entitled “Time for Congressional Hearings on Common Core”.

So maybe it’s good that I didn’t get to ask this question on the phone with my senator this week.  I can mail it to him now.  Maybe others will, too.

uuu

Congress, Please Investigate Gates’ Takeover of US Education; Congress, Stop NCLB rewrite – Every Child Achieves Act 2.0   4 comments

emmett            ravitch

 

Two of my favorite ed reform analysts, Diane Ravitch and Emmett McGroarty come from opposite sides of the political aisle, yet each has called on America to sit up, take notice, and take action against the Common Core movement.

Is Congress too busy, or too conflicted, to pay attention?

Diane Ravitch has long been calling for a Congressional investigation into “Bill Gates’ swift and silent takeover of American education.”  She rightly called Gates’ unelected, leviathan influence an unauthorized coup worthy of Congressional investigation  and wrote, “the idea that the richest man in America can purchase and — working closely with the U.S. Department of Education — impose new and untested academic standards on the nation’s public schools is a national scandal.”  

Bloomberg via Getty Images

Ravitch’s congressional investigation needs to happen fast, though, because– once again, we and our children are under the gun.

Emmett McGroarty, pointed out this week, at Townhall.com that the “No Child Left Behind” horror is being refried and re-offered to American school children as a worse, sweatier mess of Gates-inspired, CEDS  and Datapalooza -aligned Common Core cement, now being called “The Every Child Achieves Act” (ECAA).

Think of the new ECAA bill as the 2.0 –but not from No Child Left Behind only;  also from an earlier version of itself just two months ago.  Remember that this “Every Child Achieves Act” bill went down in flames —  thanks to actual grassroots moms and dads and teachers screaming NO earlier this year.  But it’s risen from the ashes, more sly this time, like a recurring nightmare.

McGroarty writes that the ECAA targets the [parental freedom to say no to high stakes testing] Opt-Out movement. He and co-author Lisa Hudson explain:

It [ECAA] keeps the testing requirements. A state must still have an “accountability system” that includes as a “substantial” factor student performance on standardized tests. It does try to lessen the teach-to-the-test pressures by allowing the state to determine “the weight” of the tests…  But this will not alleviate such pressures. It’s like saying, ‘We’re going to beat you with a wooden bat, not a metal one.’  … each state must demonstrate that it will measure ‘annual progress of not less than 95 percent of all students’  …Now is the time for all the senators and representatives who support local control of education and all those who support federalism to stand up and get rid of the federal dictates on how often and in what subjects our children are tested.”

So, if Congress is debating passage of ECAA, and if many in Congress are pushing the bill, will Congress simultaneously investigate Common Core, and its own governmental and business allies?

Keep in mind Diane Ravitch’s call for congressional investigation of Gates and his federal allies:

“The close involvement of Arne Duncan raises questions about whether the law was broken” knowing that Gates, “one very rich man bought the enthusiastic support of interest groups on the left and right to campaign for the Common Core…”

Ravitch’s call needs to be echoed and re-echoed throughout our nation.  She asks:

“Who knew that American education was for sale? Who knew that federalism could so easily be dismissed as a relic of history? Who knew that Gates and Duncan, working as partners, could dismantle and destroy state and local control of education?

The revelation that education policy was shaped by one unelected man, underwriting dozens of groups. and allied with the Secretary of Education, whose staff was laced with Gates’ allies, is ample reason for Congressional hearings.

“…I could not support the Common Core standards because they were developed and imposed without regard to democratic process. The writers of the standards included no early childhood educators, no educators of children with disabilities, no experienced classroom teachers; indeed, the largest contingent of the drafting committee were representatives of the testing industry.

“No attempt was made to have pilot testing of the standards in real classrooms with real teachers and students. The standards do not permit any means to challenge, correct, or revise them.

…The high-handed manner in which these standards were written and imposed in record time makes them unacceptable. These standards not only undermine state and local control of education, but the manner in which they were written and adopted was authoritarian. No one knows how they will work, yet dozens of groups have been paid millions of dollars by the Gates Foundation to claim that they are absolutely vital for our economic future, based on no evidence whatever…. Local boards are best equipped to handle local problems. States set state policy, in keeping with the concept that states are “laboratories of democracy,” where new ideas can evolve and prove themselves… Do we need to compare the academic performance of students in different states? We already have the means to do so with the federally funded National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)… Will national standards improve test scores? There is no reason to believe so. Brookings scholar Tom Loveless predicted two years ago that the Common Core standards would make little or no difference. The biggest test-score gaps, he wrote, are within the same state, not between states… the most reliable predictors of test scores are family income and family education.

“… at a time when many schools have fiscal problems and are laying off teachers, nurses, and counselors, and eliminating arts programs, the nation’s schools will be forced to spend billions of dollars on Common Core materials, testing, hardware, and software.

“Microsoft, Pearson, and other entrepreneurs will reap the rewards of this new marketplace. Our nation’s children will not.

“Who decided to monetize the public schools?  Who determined that the federal government should promote privatization and neglect public education? … Who decided that schools should invest in Common Core instead of smaller classes and school nurses?

“These are questions that should be asked at Congressional hearings.”

 

Please, please share these thoughts with your Congressional representatives.  Stop the current Every Child Achieves Act.  Don’t let Congressmen tell you that they can’t get involved because education is a states’ issue.  It is!  But because it is a constitutionally designated states’ issue, Congress must get involved and get the feds and the privateers out of our schools.

Utah Legislature Adopts Obama’s Model for “Turnaround Schools”   13 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.

 

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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.

 

 

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Federal Secretary of Education: “To Phase Out the Authority of States”   40 comments

Have you seen the new regulations that just came out of the White House?

Americans who see these must run screaming to legislators for protection against the Department of Education.

The new regulations declare that Secretary Arne Duncan will amend ESEA to “phase out the authority of States to define modified academic achievement standards and develop alternate assessments based on those modified academic achievement standards in order to satisfy ESEA accountability requirements. These amendments will permit, as a transitional measure, States that meet certain criteria to continue to administer alternate assessments… for a limited period of time.”

http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?pubId=201410&RIN=1810-AB16

“Phasing out the authority of the states” has been precisely the point for every last one of Duncan’s promoted education reforms, from Common Core to Common Data Standards to State Longitudinal Database Systems to P-20 programs to Common Core Assessments to teacher and school evaluations.

It’s been the shared vision of non-governmental education reformers as well, from Marc Tucker to Michael Barber to Linda Darling Hammond to the Center for American Progress.

Utahns Against Common Core have been pointing out this phase-out of local authority for over two years. Others have been saying it for decades.

But fat cats (Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, School Improvement Network, Prosperity 2020, Education First, Pearson Inc., Microsoft) –each of whom wants to sell fat educational products to the fat, “uniform customer base of Common Core” (as Gates put it) will not listen, and will mock and scorn critics because they want to get fatter and fatter on the taxpayer’s dime.

Why does such a supposedly conservative state allow the educational authority of the state to be “phased out” –because of businesses’ greed and lack of care for our children?  Where are our children’s educational defenders when we need them?  Where is the action behind all the flag-waving speeches that we’ve heard, now, Governor Herbert, Education Advisor Pyfer, Senator Stephenson, Representative Powell?

Why doesn’t our Governor, our legislature, our state school board, lift a finger to fight for our Constitutional right to educational self governance?

I cannot understand the apathy and the complacency and the tolerance– even at the legislative level– of all reforms aligned to the Common Core.

Is it not tragically crazy that we, as a state, willingly allow liberties –guaranteed under the supreme law of the land– to slip so easily out of our lives?  We allow ourselves to be lied to by our leaders, who cradle these education reform lies in positive, appealing language, and only for one reason:  cash flow.   Not for our children, at all.

When will Utah, when will America, wake up to this devastation of liberty and education?

 

To Phase Out the Authority of States Screenshot

Responding to the Attorney General’s Report on Common Core   9 comments

utahns against Common Core

The Utah Attorney General (AG) recently issued a report about Common Core.  I’m grateful that Common Core concerns are receiving much-needed attention, rather than being dismissed as unfounded. I thank the Attorney General for his time spent on this issue.  But the report is egregiously errant.

I’m just a full-time mom, not a lawyer.  Though I have many years of experience teaching in public schools, plus years spent researching ed reforms, I never aimed to rebut a state attorney general’s education report.  But truth is truth and error should not be accepted as fact.

Please study this out for yourself. I’m here to point out and to back up with documentation, the errors and omissions of the A.G.’s  Common Core report.  It’s for you to draw your own conclusions.  It’s for our children to live with what we adults see as truth.

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Before I get to the errors and omissions, I will point with gratitude to three key issues that the report correctly clarified:

1)  The report’s first paragraph correctly clarified the fact that the “Utah Core” for K-12 math and English is, in fact, the exact same thing as “Common Core.”  Many have been confused about this fact and some in leadership allow that confusion to continue because they know Common Core has become a toxic term.  But no one need be confused.  The A.G. is correct:  Utah does (unfortunately and voluntarily) adhere to centralized, standardized Common Core standards and tests.

2) The report also  correctly stated that the US Dept. of Education ( by imposing waiver conditions and pushing states to adopt federally approved standards) “has infringed upon local and state authority over public education” and that Utah and other states “consented to this infringement through federal coercion...” (emphasis added).

3) The report correctly said that “Utah has the legal ability to repeal” Common Core.  Most people already knew that Utah CAN withdraw from Common Core; our point has always been that we REQUEST that our state will indeed withdraw from Common Core.

 

The Attorney General’s report wrongly concludes three main things, which I will afterward explain in detail:

1) That adoption of Common Core followed the rule of law; that the parent-teacher lawsuit –brought against the state’s decision to adopt Common Core without proper vetting– holds no water and that the board’s adoption of Common Core was legal;  that Common Core standards do not qualify as rules –so the UARA’s rulemaking process did not need to be followed;

2) That Utah has not ceded authority nor lost local control over its education system via the Common Core Initiative; and that there are no groups that now hold direct or indirect control over Utah’s education system;

3) That Common Core does not impact curriculum.

 

1.   The report incorrectly states that the board’s adoption of Common Core followed the rule of law, using “a very public process” and that it was not illegal in any way.  That question will soon be determined in a Utah court.  The lawsuit to which the report referred –in which parents and teachers are suing the board over its method of adopting Common Core– is still a live, active lawsuit.

Connor Boyack of Libertas Institute (the institution supporting the lawsuit) was correctly quoted by the Deseret News, saying, “Specific behavior was required of the board that was not done. That is the basis of our lawsuit, and that was not responded to by the attorney general.  Our allegations still stand and we’re confident that a judge will determine that the board, in fact, did not comply with the law.”

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The A.G. came to a different conclusion not only from that of Libertas Institute but also from U.S. Department of Education secretary Arne Duncan, who noted that Utah’s state school board and many other states very quickly, quietly adopted Common Core “without studying it, without writing a white paper on it,” without consulting with the teachers, administrators and others whose careers would forever be altered by it.

This clearly goes against our state’s law.

As a public school teacher whose credential has never lapsed out of date, I can attest that when Common Core came to Utah, neither I nor any teacher, to my knowledge, received so much as a letter or an email consulting with or discussing or debating or communicating the fact that a decision was in process, nor announcing any potential positive or negative consequences of the decision.  Local school boards can and have attested that they were likewise left out of the decision.   Millions of public school parents can testify that there was no “very public process”.  Although parents often get  letters, robocalls and emails about school pajama day, the fall carnival, community council elections and many other issues, it was only long after the state had agreed to Common Core (and its associated data, testing and evaluation reforms) that parents and teachers became aware of what it was and how it would change our lives forever.  Teachers and the general public would have had to have been actively scouring the state office of education website weekly basis (–and why would they?)  –to have come across any invitation for public discussion or feedback on this huge, transformative issue.

The report also falsely states that prior to adoption of Common Core, Utah was an active participant in the creation of Common Core standards.  This claim is not backed up with evidence of any kind. Listening to the minutes of the state school board meetings surrounding adoption of Common Core reveals that the claim is far from true.

Last, there’s the reference to Utah’s  UARA  which defines rules and rulemaking.  The A.G.’s report correctly states that a plausible case can be made that  because Utah is now ruled by Common Core’s rules, the rulemaking process should have been followed, and was not. UARA defines a rule as a statement by an agency (in our case, the USOE/school board) which implicitly or explicitly requires some class of people or agencies (in our case, school system employees)  to obey it; a statement that implements or interprets law (in this case both state and federal law, even though the federal government does not have constitutional authority to make education laws– since it has done so and it uses money to control states’ obedience to these unauthorized laws and policies, and now Common Core-implementing state laws are congruent with Common Core education reforms as well).

Common Core standards must be considered rules since the state school board and USOE mandate statewide adherence to its benchmarks and tests, and the legislature specifically mandates  teacher and school evaluation using Common Core computer adaptive testing.

But the A.G.’s report oddly states that because Utah law does not define the meaning of the term “standard,”  the standards aren’t really rules so the rulemaking process was correctly skipped over. That defies common sense, and research.  Teachers and administrators rely on USOE/USSB statements on Common Core to interpret and implement education law and policy.  Common Core is mandated by the legislature’s Common Core CAT testing laws, and adherence to Common Core was partial payment for receipt of federal waivers, monies and technologies; it was parceled with federal No Child Left Behind waivers, ARRA grant obligations, SBAC (Utah’s former) testing grants, and the federal SLDS grant, each of which helped bind Utah schools, teachers and students to Common Core and common data standards.

2.  The report incorrectly states that Utah has NOT ceded authority over standards and curriculum.  Utah ceded her authority by adopting Common Core, in several ways:

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Way one:  Utah has no vote or voice in the revisions to “its own” common core standards.  Utah did not write Common Core.  Neither did any other state. Common Core was never, despite its marketing claims, a state-led process.  The creator-copyrighters of Common Core were two unelected, nonpublic groups— unaccountable-to-voters groups, cannot-be-influenced-by-voters groups; closed-door, private D.C. groups, that go by the misleadingly governmental-sounding titles of “National Governors’ Association” (NGA) and “Council of Chief State School Officers” (CCSSO).  NGA and CCSSO are private clubs–  they are nongovernmental, and not all governors nor all superintendents choose to belong to NGA/CCSSO; in fact, some U.S. governors and state superintendents avoid the NGA and CSSSO like the plague.

The power of the NGA and CCSSO over standards and education policy in many states is the prime example of education without representation.

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Way two:  Utah cannot vote for those who have authority to revise or change Common Core.  And we know that Common Core IS going to change.

Utah’s Common Core standards are under copyright by NGA/CCSSO.  Utah can’t influence who gets hired by NGA/CCSSO or what policies get created in those closed-door meetings.  Utah can’t participate in any amendment meetings when Common Core “living work” standards get altered and revised, which the copyright holders  have promised to do.   The standards state:  “The Standards are intended to be a living work. As new and better evidence emerges, the Standards will be revised accordingly.”

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Way three:  The CCSSO –significantly– has also created the Common Educational Data Standards (CEDS), in partnership with the federal department of education, to match up with the Common Core standards technologically as well as academically.  Utah promised the federal government to adhere to CEDS tracking technologies in such documents as   Utah schools’ 2009 ARRA federal grant application,  which is fully explained and linked here.  Because our federally paid-for State Longitudinal Database System is also (per federal grant requirement) interoperable with federal systems, and because our Common education standards and Common data standards match the CCSSO’s CEDS requirements, student privacy and state autonomy over data systems are also no longer in our control.  Truly, control over student data privacy is threatened via the interdependence of Common Core standards and federal Common data standards.

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Way four:  Utah’s statewide SAGE/AIR Common Core tests enforce the Common Core being taught in Utah schools and the Common data standards (CEDS) being used in Utah schools.  SAGE/AIR are Common Core-led, computer adaptive tests which are not only end-of-year but year-round formative tests, controlled and created by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) with token help from a handful of appointed Utah teachers.  AIR is officially partnered with both the federal government and the SBAC (federally-funded testing consortium).  This means that the micromanagement of tests and the sharing of student level data –to which the SBAC is subject by contract— also binds AIR-partnered Utah.  Utah students must be tested on Common Core standards using SAGE/AIR tests, which are secretive in nature, written by psychometricians with a mission statement that focuses on applying behavioral and social science research, and which follow the Common Core copyrighters’ philosophies.  Test cannot be seen (because of secrecy rules) by those governed and tested and evaluated by them.

All of these controls do fetter Utah citizens to federal dictates, and each rests on the Common Core standards.

3.  The report incorrectly states that Common Core impacts only standards and not curriculum.  Because the state Common Core tests (aka SAGE tests) are not only year-end but formative (year-round) tests, they impact curriculum very much– much more than any previous statewide testing did.  Because state and federal reforms have now attached teacher evaluations and school evaluations directly to student scores on these Common Core tests, teachers must choose from an ever-narrowing spectrum of curriculum that teaches to the test more than ever before.  The SBAC testing group, which is partnered with Utah’s AIR testing group, and Microsoft (Bill Gates’ company) which is partnered with Pearson (the world’s largest education sales products company) each offer Common Core test-matched curriculum, and Utah schools and technologies are purchasing them over other products, because the board mandated that Common Core would be Utah’s Core.

Lead Common Core funder Bill Gates revealed in a speech, “Identifying common standards is just the starting point.  We’ll only know if this effort has succeeded when the curriculum and tests are aligned to these standards… When the tests are aligned to the common standards, the curriculum will line up as well. And it will unleash a powerful market of people providing services…  For the first time there will be a large, uniform base of customers looking at using products…”

The A.G.’s report also omits key concerns, including:

I. Copyright and control of Common Core–  The report ought to have clarified who truly controls and holds copyright over the Common Core standards and its related data standards, and who has authority to revise them.  Neither voters, nor elected representatives,  nor local teachers, nor Utah’s State school Board, but only the nonpublic D.C. group, NGA/CCSSO, controls them.)  As has been stated, there is no amendment process for our state to revise the “living work” of Common Core, by which we are now governed, although these standards will be revised by its copyrighters.

II.  The State Duty to Educate Locally – While the report is correct in saying that the federal government coerced states into adopting its definition of college and career ready standards with the hope of getting federal money, the report does not stand up and say that Utah is under a constitutional obligation to stand up for the right to educate via local dictates.  The A.G.’s report does not recommend that Utah cease being controlled by and unreasonably swayed by federal money.  It apparently accepts Utah’s seeming submissiveness to the federal (unconstitutional) posture of authority over education.  If the A.G.’s office has not itself adopted the submissive mindset under the federal posture of (unauthorized) authority, then the report should have recommended that Utah fight for a reclaiming of state power over all aspects of education.  If Utah’s A.G. believes in the constitutional separation of powers and in the importance of maintaining local control of the constitutionally state-held right and responsibility over state education — then the report should have focused on that point rather than sidelining it as an historical, water-under-the-bridge detail.  Nor did the report recommend standing in solidarity with Oklahoma, a state which recently repealed Common Core and has faced federal power grabbing struggles as a result.

The report said, “Will we lose federal monies if we modify Common Core standards? No.”

That is a half-truth.  Utah didn’t lose federal monies by adding cursive to Utah’s English standards in addition to Common Core, true.  But if we make more than minimal additions (there’s a 15% cap on adding to Common Core) or if we aim to repeal the whole enchilada we end up with severe federal pushback as has been demonstrated in the case of Washington state and Oklahoma.  We should, of course, still hold the line of state authority and ignore the pretended authority of Secretary Duncan.

III.  The State Board’s Constitutional Duty to Not Cede Its Authority – The report correctly states that the school board has the authority to set standards, and that the board “is the appropriate constitutional body” to withdraw from Common Core, based on the Utah Constitution‘s words:  “The general control and supervision of the public school system shall be vested in a state board of education consisting of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and such other persons as the legislature may provide.”  True.

But nowhere in Utah’s Constitution does it say that the board, superintendent and other persons may give away or delegate  that “general control and supervision of the public school system”.

Conclusion:

The Attorney General’s report receives an “F” in my gradebook.  It simply veers so far from the truth that it cannot be taken as correct.

I don’t expect to hear from the Attorney General’s office, apologizing for the errors.  I don’t expect the state school board members nor those education staffers at the Governor’s office who openly call me and other teachers and parents “crazy” to suddenly fact-check, turn around and be enlightened.  I simply wrote this piece for other people like me– people who care about the truth, people who aren’t financially rewarded by and tied to the claim that Common Core is the One True Path, people who value this knowledge, to better protect and educate their children and to possibly have a chance at saving some of the local control that is our Constitutional inheritance.

 

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