Archive for the ‘boycott high stakes testing’ Tag

Utah Schools to be Alarmingly Test-Centric under HB 118   3 comments

 

Dear Utah Senators,

Please vote no on HB118. The bill contains five big red flags.

1. The first one is a pawn-off, trading real educational experiences and fair grading, for participation in the big standardized test and an easy grade. That’s a shady trade.

See line 13: “allows at teacher to use a student’s score on certain assessments to improve a student’s academic grade”.

2. The second big red flag: equating test-taking for actual student competency toward college in a way that can allow students to never learn certain things (that aren’t on the federally aligned test).

Line 83 says that a teacher may use a student’s score on the high school test to improve the students academic grade OR to “demonstrate a student’s competency within a relevant course.”

Lines 142-145 say: “LEA shall allow a student to earn course credit toward high school graduation without completing a course in school by a) testing out of the course; or b) demonstrating competency in course standards.”

Since only 15 people in the state may view the test, most students, teachers, legislators and parents are blocked from seeing the test. How would academic competency and equality be verified? It won’t be. It’s false to say, without viewing and analyzing the two things being compared, that one thing (the standardized test) matches another (Utah-defined, teacher-defined, academic competency). Moreover, wherever Utah standards and teachers have tried to teach above and beyond Common Core standards, those differences may go away, since they can’t benefit, students taking these tests for their grades.

3. The third big red flag is the twisting of a good principle: parental accomodations for students’ best interests. The bill cites the good Utah code that “a student’s parent or guardian is the primary person responsible for the education of the student, and the state is in a secondary and supportive role… has the right to reasonable academic accommodations”.

But it’s out of context. Test taking pressure has nothing to do with empowering parents. It is not a “reasonable academic accommodation” (regardless of whether it’s a parent’s or a teacher’s idea) to redefine what quality academics are; to trade teacher-created, meaningful and robust coursework for a passing score on a big, nationally standardized test. It simply is not reasonable.

I taught English for many years, in high schools and at Utah Valley University. I can imagine how many students would rather gamble on a big standardized test, than actually read novels, and actually write MLA-formatted essays and reports. This bill has the power to make a joke of legitimate educational expectations of teachers. Talk about dumbing down effects!

 

 

4. Fourth, there is the issue of opting out rights. Pressuring (or tempting) students and parents to quit opting out, incentivizing that temptation with the lure of an easier grade, will surely have the bill’s desired impact of reducing opt outs and will put the state in greater compliance with federal wishes– but the question is, at what cost ? Do we really want Utah to pressure and coerce people into opting in to something they have determined isn’t a valid measure of their child?

5. Fifth, the bill will alter Utah’s education culture, making it more and more test-centric. That move that has been shown in many places, outside the US and inside it, to drive up anxiety, depression, and suicide rates.

 

At what cost are we incentivizing and valuing the SAGE/RISE Common Core tests? How many students will opt in, and lose the opportunity to be held accountable for real academic experiences? How many parents and students will get into a family fight because the student wants the easier grade, but the parent does not feel right about opting in to the test?

How will watching HB 118 pass; seeing Utah bullying its own people into taking this test, then affect the federal confidence level that it can continue to enforce unconstitutional, federally-orginated change in Utah education? How many will suffer anguish due to the increasing high-stakes test pressure? How many suicides will be partially or completely resultant from the change that makes Utah increasingly test-centric in deciding how it values students?

Please vote no on HB 118.

Sincerely,

Christel Swasey

Utah Senators:

Wayne Harper ,
Deidre Henderson ,
kcullimore@le.utah.gov,
lfillmore@le.utah.gov,
Daniel McCay ,
Daniel Thatcher ,
Jacob Anderegg ,
dhemmert@le.utah.gov,
Keith Grover ,
Curt Bramble ,
ssandall@le.utah.gov,
amillner@le.utah.gov,
Allen Christensen ,
gbuxton@le.utah.gov,
Jerry Stevenson ,
Stuart Adams ,
Todd Weiler ,
Ralph Okerlund ,
Lyle Hillyard ,
rwinterton@le.utah.gov,
David Hinkins ,
Evan Vickers ,
dipson@le.utah.gov

 – – – – – – –

This week, KUTV produced a short t.v. article about HB 118.  I happened to be interviewed as a mom in favor of retaining the right to opt out of the high stakes tests.  Here is that link.

https://kutv.com/news/local/90-million-in-federal-money-for-utah-schools-at-risk-from-standardized-test-opt-out-rates

 – – – – – – –

The title of KUTV’s article is false.  There is no risk of a 90 million dollar loss in funding if we don’t pass HB 118.

 

Alisa Ellis, a state school board representative, showed that the notion is false, and that Utah is at no risk of losing federal funding.  She wrote:

 

HB118 is sweeping through the legislative session based on a false premise.

There is a growing misconception that we need to incentivize students to take the end of year tests or we are at risk of losing federal $$. This is completely false.

Please take a moment and watch our board meeting from last October.

https://youtu.be/nSdQ0jkhiqc

It would be well worth your time to watch the entire segment but if you don’t have time here are a couple of places that are critical.

Beginning at 6:25-

As our opt-out rate increases above the 95% participation threshold, the federal government requires that we change our calculation. In our board meeting the Superintendent estimates about 5 schools would be affected in the state.

We would look at the lowest 5% performing schools in the state and then the change in calculation would only occur if any of those schools had more than 5% opt out.

It’s also important to note that we aren’t even required to send the calculations to the Federal government. We simply have to run a report and post it for public consumption.

Beginning at 17:50 –

I asked if our opt out numbers continue to climb if we are at risk for losing federal $$$. The answer was no.

Please reach out to the Senate Education committee and ask them to vote no on HB118.

Senator Henderson – dhenderson@le.utah.gov
Senator Davis – gdavis@le.utah.gov
Senator Fillmore – lfillmore@le.utah.gov
Senator Grover – keithgrover@le.utah.gov
Senator Hillyard – lhillyard@le.utah.gov
Senator Millner – amillner@le.utah.gov
Senator Reibe – kriebe@le.utah.gov
Senator Stevenson – jwstevenson@le.utah.gov

#UTPOL #NOHB118 

Advertisements

Will Utah Quash Families’ Opt-Out Rights?   4 comments

Many tens of thousands of public school students, whose parents regularly opt out of Common Core testing, may lose the right to do so.

When federal ESSA passed in 2015, it claimed veto power for the federal education department– over every state’s educational plan.  Utah humbly asked the feds for a waiver, so that Utah would remain free to opt out of federally promoted tests. (Until this time, Utahns were unquestionably protected by state law that claims primary authority for parents, with schools/state in a supporting role.) The federal department said no to Utah’s waiver request.

So, state school board and legislators are in a pickle:  will they honor state law and protect parental rights, or honor federal ESSA’s unconstitutional veto power, and force all parents to force all children to take Common Core tests?

The state school board is divided on this question.  –That’s interesting, since the Utah board was not even permitted by the state superintendent to vote on our new plan –which the federal government has now vetoed.

 

Michelle Boulter, Utah State School Board

 

Michelle Boulter of the state board says:

“…In short, the public was not given the chance to weigh in on the ESSA plan because those who were elected to represent them were never given the chance to see or to vote on the new plan. Instead, administration and a single board member presented a plan to the federal DOE that puts it in direct conflict with Utah State lawa state law which prohibits the violation of natural parental rights. In the end, after being denied repeatedly, Utah became fully compliant with Federal dictates, setting aside the promise of the state’s ability to forge their own educational path.

And now, thanks to further ESSA provisions, Utah must submit to federal “auditing” – an invasive probe to determine why so many parents are opting out of assessments, and thereby placing non-compliant schools in a status of “failure” or “remediation”, to be put under the purview of federal overseers.

… exactly what is the paltry amount of funding Utah receives from the federal government? Unfortunately, the answer will shock and anger you: a whopping 6% of our entire educational budget for the 2017-2018 school year. Of that, the amount Utah stands to lose if it stops playing this ridiculous game of “Mother May I” is significantly less (around 2% of Utah’s educational budget).

Utah parents, we are literally selling our birthright as the natural guardians of our children for a mess of pottage – and a pathetically meager mess of pottage at that. And why is the amount so small? Because any dollar that is sent to Washington naturally shrinks as it goes through its laundered process of paying the salaries, benefits, and pensions of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats. That dollar shrinks to practically nothing before it ever comes back to the states…

…This isn’t about opting out of a test; this is about where we believe our rights come from. Either our rights come from God or man. It should be unacceptable to all Utah parents that we must ask permission of the federal government concerning our children. I urge parents to contact their state legislators requiring them to come up with that 6% – by spending less somewhere else – so we can take back our children’s education. Please contact your State Board members [ Board@schools.utah.gov  ] and let them know that you expect them to defend your parental rights. This is an election year and we the people hold the power.”

After reading state school board member Michelle Boulter’s letter and local Alpine District board member Wendy Hart’s comments on the subject, I wrote to the state board. Kathleen Riebe wrote back. Here is that exchange.  –And here is the email if you want to write, too: Board@schools.utah.gov

 

 

Letter one: 

Dear Board,
ESSA is pressuring Utah to subvert our state laws and parental rights. Please don’t do it.
I agree with state school board member Michelle Boulter, who wrote:
https://electmichelleboulter.com/2018/08/08/the-state-of-utah-is-negotiating-away-parental-rights
Similarly, ASD school board Wendy Hart said to the state board:
http://wendy4asd.blogspot.com/2018/08/essa-opt-out-denial-from-feds-my.html

Wendy Hart, Alpine District School Board

It’s a terrible idea to pit teachers against parents who opt out of Common core tests.  Caving to federal demands that the state quash testing opt outs does that.
The problem isn’t the parents opting kids out of Common Core testing, nor can we blame teachers/schools who, fearing mislabeling due to low scores resulting from opt outs, might pressure parents to opt in.
The problem is office of education bureaucrats who mindlessly swallow unconstitutional suggestions made by the federal DOE, and who misadvise state school board members, without respect for principles of local control, telling them to nod and sign.
Listen to the wisdom of elected officials who have spoken clearly on the ESSA situation: Michelle Boulter and Wendy Hart. They point out that we can and must protect the state’s liberties as well as relationships between parents and teachers.
As an opting-out parent  of children in public schools, and as a certified Utah teacher, thank you.
Christel Swasey
Pleasant Grove
Response one:

Thank you for your concern.

As a parent, teacher and a taxpayer, I appreciate that my students have an opportunity to display their knowledge and that they were taught the content required. About 90% of our families share my feelings.

Transparency and accountability are major concerns of my constituents.

USBE has worked hard to find a solution with the federal government.  The board will follow the laws and work with the legislature to seek new funding to ensure the best opportunities for all our students.

Kathleen Riebe M.Ed.

State School Board Member

District 10

801-599-5753

Letter two:

Dear Kathleen,
Thank you for responding.
There are over 650,000 enrolled public school students in the state of Utah. If about 90 percent are opting to participate in Common Core testing, that leaves about 65,000 students, and 130,000 parents, who are opting out. That’s no small potatoes.
Does it feel right to you to eliminate the authority and conscience of 195,000  Utahns, especially considering the fact that Utah law places primary authority to parents, with the state/schools in a secondary, supporting role.
They’re opting out for a plethora of very valid, very important reasons. Some kids become anxious and depressed to the point of suicidal behaviors due to high-pressure testing. Some parents don’t approve of the secretive nature of the tests, and of the tests’ never having been tested or validated independently. Some parents oppose psychometric evaluation embedded in academic tests. Some parents recognize that these tests pressure schools and teachers, even against their school charters and their professional judgment, to redefine their curriculum and teaching traditions.
I implore you to support the rights of these people and the Utah law that puts parental / family authority first in education.
Sincerely,
Christel Swasey

Dr. Gary Thompson: On the State Board of Education Meeting   1 comment

Dr Thompson

 

Dr. Gary Thompson is a rock star.

Despite his shy nature, he’s one of the loudest, smartest, funniest and most fearless fighters in the quest to protect children and to expose the widespread education-establishment corruption called Common Core.

He actually fights.  Actually cares.  Is not in it for money.

He’s not one of the politicorporate bad guys who use the pretense of “doing what’s best for the children” as a facade for just the opposite– to gain power, prestige and money at children’s expense.  (I’m talking about:  Pearson Education/Bill Gates/Arne Duncan/A.I.R./Chambers of Commerce/Marc Tucker/ Obama/ CCSSO, etc. etc. –as well as those who sustain the bad guys’ club, promoting Common Core and student data mining and teacher redistribution– yes, yes, the education folk whom we’ve elected or appointed even here in Utah.)

Dr. Thompson is a Utah doctor of clinical psychology and a very vocal advocate for children’s protection –from data mining, from excessive high-stakes testing and from age-inappropriate educational standards.

He’s given me permission to post his notes here, which were directed to the Utah State School board and State Office of Education.  Thanks, Dr. Thompson.

 

———————————————————–

 

 

From July 18, 2014:

 

In a public hearing yesterday Utah State Board members debated the issue of going back to the “old” (“No Child Left Behind”) or pushing forward with the developmentally inappropriate Common Core.

debra roberts   State Board Member Debra Roberts stated –in support of going forward with Common Core and renewing the NCLB waiver– “What counts to me is the immediate impact on individual students who are most vulnerable, and absolutely there would be an immediate impact on those kids.”

The adoption of Common Core for “the most vulnerable” of our kids flies in the face of science and parental common sense. I will leave all the political and money issues to the Board experts, but I will crucify on social and national media any and all Utah State Board members who are insane enough to cite the heart string pulling, manipulative “vulnerable kids” argument in support of Common Core.

That one-size-fits-all recent adoption of special education policies of the U.S. Department of Education is nothing short of developmental and cognitive child abuse.

Yes, Ms. Roberts, I said “Child Abuse“.

Use ANY other justification to support your wish to go forward with the waiver and stay on course with Common Core, but to use “vulnerable children” as any part of that justification is disingenuous, not supported by facts of science and child psychology.

Ms. Robert’s comments are nothing but a shameless manipulation of parents who voted for her to represent the best interests of their children, not the special interest groups of Utah’s teachers union or Bill Gate’s special interest testing groups.

Fellow Board Member Jeff Moss had the wisdom and courage to pull a last second, heroic motion out of his bag of procedural tricks to halt voting on this issue until more facts were gathered. One of these facts is the harm Common Core has on our States “most vulnerable children.”

Regardless of the consequences personally or professionally, I will not silence my voice while any Utah State Board Member uses the “vulnerable children” argument as justification to move forward with the NCLB waiver so that Common Core can continue to cause emotional, developmental, and cognitive harm to the children I dedicated my life to treating and serving…. and raising.

Ms. Roberts: Feel free to “spin” money issues. Spin the Standards debate. Spin anything you want in this debate Ms. Roberts. However, if you use “vulnerable children”…my therapist’s clients…or my own developmentally vulnerable children as part of your spin, I promise I will make you famous this summer.

-Dr. Gary Thompson-
Parent & Stay Home Dad

 

————————————————————–

Dr. Thompson also posted this letter, which is somehow hilarious even though it points out a tragic fact: that our educational leaders are promoting experimental, unvetted, non-peer-reviewed education standards –the Common Core standards– as if they were legitimate.

 

From July 24th:

Dear USOE:

Attached is something called “peer reviewed research”. When treating or testing children, especially those designated as “vulnerable populations,” we gear all our practices to be aligned with this type of research.

It’s best practice. It’s safe for the children. It’s the smart thing to do.

We do not base services provided to kids based on influences of special interest groups or Bill Gates. Nor do we give out propaganda-based information to parents, as such may pertain to children in vulnerable populations.

Peer reviewed research: Try it. You may like it!

exc.sagepub.com

 

-Dr. Gary Thompson

——————————————————————-

The next Utah State School Board meeting is on August 8th.  It’s an open meeting.  The public is wanted–and needed.

Many will be there, showing by our presence that it matters to us what the board does in this vote.  We will wear matching stickers to petition the board NOT to renew the waiver from No Child Left Behind (ESEA).  The board will vote on that day.   The email for the board is board@schools.utah.gov and the phone number is 801-538-7517.  You may have two minutes to speak at that meeting if you call well in advance.

%d bloggers like this: