Archive for the ‘brenda hales’ Tag

For Those Who Missed the Meeting: Woes at UT Senate Education Committee   1 comment

Did you miss the last Senate Education Committee Meeting for the state of Utah?

Anyone can subscribe, free, to a report of the meeting’s minutes. I do.

—After I rant and rave about what the heck they’re doing at the Utah State Capitol I’ll paste the official meeting minutes, below.

First:

1. Senator Aaron Osmond disclosed that he now works for Certiport/Pearson.  If any of you know anything about Common Core and Pearson, or the CEA of Pearson, Sir Michael Barber, your spidey senses could be ringing.  (For more, see https://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/10/04/sir-michael-barber-leads-common-cores-deliverology-via-edi-and-pearson/ )

This Pearson sales employment could appear to be potential conflict for Senator Osmond; he is the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, while he is also a salesman for the company that has already set up major contracts with the Utah State Office of Education. But Osmond stated that he has recused himself from negotiating or influencing contracts in Utah and has recused himself from any interim committee votes or decisions relating to the Common Core or any topic that would benefit his employer. Osmond’s employer provides software to test and certify students in software applications.

Pearson Publishing develops curriculum and training for Common Core.  For Utahns like me who hope and pray for a statewide repeal of Common Core, this is not pretty.

Pearson has a dramatically pro-Common Core marketing angle; so, this sales position of the Chair of the Senate Education Committee calls into question whether Osmond can be fair and detached in the heated pro- and anti- Common Core arguments that are happening in Utah.  What do you think?

–  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –

2. Next issue: it was announced that the “Utah State Office of Education has instructional materials that may be used for parent education on health and human sexuality.

Say what?

Has anyone else detected a “de-parenting” attitude coming from the state (and federal) leaders?  It really bothers me.

Perfect example of that here: Utah bureaucrats feel the need to educate parents about sex and how to explain sex to their children?  Why? Parents can’t be trusted? They depend on the Utah State Office of Education? And in the nick of time, USOE swoops in to save the day from bumbling fools? Left to our own devices, we parents would not teach our own children where babies come from? What is the USOE  thinking?  

It reminds me of Reagan’s line:  “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’ “

–  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –

 U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan

3. Next issue:

Brenda Hales and Ms. Shumway discussed how to fund Career and Technical Education (CTE).  I don’t like CTE, Career Academies, SLDS systems, P-20 tracking, or any of the pushy ways in which government tells kids who to be –and who they’ll never be.

President Obama and Arne Duncan have huge plans to make CTE take center stage in an effort to control individual choices as early as possible in each citizen’s life.  And Brenda Hales and Ms. Shumway, apparently, couldn’t agree more. (To see Sec. Duncan’s white house speech and what CTE and Career Academies are about, see: https://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/11/01/obamas-career-tracking-and-education-reforms-so-much-more-than-common-core/ )

–  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –

4.  Next point:  Brenda Hales also discussed Civic and Character Education.  Double sigh.

If you’ve ever see her leading a state school board breakout meeting, you’ll hear the chattiest, bubbliest, won’t-let-others-get-a-word-in, but least sinister-seeming person, of the entire USOE.  She’s nice, okay?  Brenda comes across as very, very nice.

But “nice” is not enough.  We need “valiant”.

Brenda said that she is “the most apolitical creature you will ever meet.”

a·po·lit·i·cal
(p-lt-kl) adj.

1. Having no interest in or association with politics.
2. Having no political relevance or importance

I don’t know if Ms. Hales meant to categorize herself in the first or the second definition of “apolitical.” If she meant she has no interest in politics, that’s not good;  we need politically valiant people leading our educational system not naiive leaders who swallow whatever the propaganda ministers (Secretary Duncan) cook up.

But if Brenda Hales meant the second definition, “having no political relevance or importance,” then she is a stranger to the truth.  Nice or not!

Her own published, written assertions about Common Core are extremely political. http://utahpubliceducation.org/2012/07/10/utahs-core-standards-assessments-and-privacy-regulations/,  She agrees with Obama about the supposedly improved quality of Common Core standards/curriculum and makes assertions I don’t believe, that student private data are being protected (study Utah’s IT director John Brandt, SLDS, P-20 to see why it’s not believable) and –she still says Common Core’s  not under federal control and that Utah’s autonomy under Common Core is unharmed.  If her claims were true, I could sleep better at night.  But they aren’t correct, and part of the proof of that pudding is the fact that even though I (and others) have asked her to provide references for her claims, she never responds to that vital request.  Why?  If her claims are true, why won’t she reference them?

Here’s my rebuttal and her unreferenced assertion which she never did respond to, even though I asked her to, SO many times:   http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/christel-swasey-responds-to-brenda-hales/

But I see now that again, I  got way off topic.

Brenda Hales. Civic and Character Education.  Sounds good?

According to Stanford University’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the difference between character education and character indoctrination is:

“Indoctrination is a form of socializing persons… to hold the“right” values. Education, on the other hand, implies some critical distance from the topics so that persons can reflect on different aspects of and on alternatives to what’s presented.”

Which will our students be receiving?  The type that allows freedom to determine what is right individually, or the one that shoves an agenda down the student’s throat?

The good or bad effect of “civic and character education” depends on who gets to call the shots.  Who gets to determine what will be taught?  Parents? Doubtful.

If the philosophies of President Obama and Secretary Duncan lead the charge, as they have been in Utah educational circles, you know what we’ll see.

Students will be molded to hold the “right” values as defined by those “progressing” society toward collectivism and socialism, far away from the Constitution and far away from Judeo-Christian tradition.

How I wish the schools would quit going out on socialist limbs and would just teach.  Teach time-tested, old-fashioned math, teach writing, teach classic literature– yes, actual academics!  Leave the indoctrination to the churches and the families.  (And while you’re at it, since you’ll have more time once you quit taking over the responsibilities of parents and churches, why not shorten the school day?!  I miss my high school student.  I want more time to teach her values and skills I know and believe in, and I don’t believe it takes thirty-five hours a week, twelve years consecutively, to prepare a human being for college.)

–  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –

 I’m finished with my commentary; below are the official minutes.

Enjoy:

MINUTES OF THE

EDUCATION INTERIM COMMITTEE

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 – 2:00 p.m. – Room 30 House Building

Members Present:

Sen. Howard A. Stephenson, Senate Chair

Rep. Francis D. Gibson, House Chair

Sen. Lyle W. Hillyard

Sen. Karen W. Morgan

Sen. Wayne L. Niederhauser

Sen. Aaron Osmond

Sen. Jerry W. Stevenson

Sen. Daniel W. Thatcher

Rep. Johnny Anderson

Rep. Patrice M. Arent

Rep. LaVar Christensen

Rep. Steven Eliason

Rep. Gregory H. Hughes

Rep. John G. Mathis

Rep. Kay L. McIff

Rep. Carol Spackman Moss

Rep. Merlynn T. Newbold

Rep. Jim Nielson

Rep. Val L. Peterson

Rep. Marie H. Poulson

Rep. Kenneth W. Sumsion

Members Absent:

Rep. Bill Wright

Staff Present:

Ms. Allison M. Nicholson, Policy Analyst

Ms. Constance C. Steffen, Policy Analyst

Ms. Angela Oakes Stallings, Associate General Counsel

Ms. Debra Hale, Legislative Secretary

Note: A list of others present, a copy of related materials, and an audio recording of the meeting can be found at www.le.utah.gov.

1.   Committee Business

Chair Gibson called the meeting to order at 2:26 p.m.

Sen. Osmond took a point of personal privilege and stated that, because of his role as Chair of the Senate Education Committee and to ensure complete transparency in his public service, he would like to verbally disclose potential conflicts due to a recent job change. He described his recent job change as Vice President of Sales for Certiport, Inc., a company that provides software to test and certify students in popular software applications. He stated that he has recused himself from negotiating or influencing contracts in Utah. He noted that Certiport was acquired in May 2012 by Pearson Publishing, which owns Pearson Education, a company that is developing curriculum for the Common Core standards.

Sen. Osmond noted that he has reviewed these potential conflicts with Senate leadership, who concluded that no change in committee assignment is necessary at this time. Sen. Osmond stated that he has also recused himself from any interim committee votes or decisions relating to the Common Core or any topic that would benefit his employer or its related companies.

MOTION: Sen. Hillyard moved to approve the minutes of the September 19, 2012, meeting. The motion passed unanimously. Sen. Stevenson, Rep. Hughes, Rep. Newbold, Rep. Peterson, and Rep. Sumsion were absent for the vote.

2.   Consider Draft Legislation “Parental Responsibility for Sex Education Training”

                         

Sen. Stuart

Reid discussed draft legislation “Parental Responsibility for Sex Education Training” (2013FL-0007/010), which requires the Utah State Board of Education to offer training and instructional resources to parents to assist them in providing instruction in health and human sexuality to their children.

Dr. Martell Menlove, Deputy Superintendent, Utah State Office of Education (USOE), noted that the USOE has instructional materials that may be used for parent education on health and human sexuality.

3.   Consider Draft Legislation “Voted and Board Levy Program Amendments”

                         

Ms. Steffen distributed the most recent version of draft legislation “Voted and Board Levy Program Amendments” (2013FL-0315/006).

Rep. Stephen Handy discussed draft legislation “Voted and Board Levy Program Amendments,” which requires the full amount of the state contribution appropriated for the Voted and Board Levy Programs to be distributed each year. He distributed a handout, “Voted & Board Leeway Program Amendments,” which contains a chart and a table that show the effect of fully distributing the state contribution appropriated for the Voted and Board Levy Programs. Rep. Handy stated that, in FY 2012, the value of the state guarantee for the Voted and Board Levy Programs would have increased by $1.78 per weighted pupil unit, and three more school districts would have qualified for the state guarantee.

Mr. Bruce Williams, Associate Superintendent, Utah State Office of Education, noted there may be a timing problem with one aspect of the bill. School district tax collections are not finalized until May, so the information needed to adjust the state guarantee for the next fiscal year would not be available for the 2013 General Session.

Dr. Menlove stated that the bill is supported by several districts.

Chair Gibson turned the chair to Sen. Stephenson.

4.   School Performance Report

                         

Dr. Menlove and Dr. Judy Park, Associate Superintendent, Utah State Office of Education, discussed plans for complying with statutory requirements pertaining to school performance reports. Dr. Park distributed a chart, “School Performance Report Data Reported for the 2010-11 School Year,” which indicates data that will be reported in 2012 school performance reports and data that is not available. She also distributed a chart, “School Performance Report – Components – Annual Filing,” which addresses the process for creating and delivering school performance reports, as well as a document containing suggested amendments to Utah Code Section 53A-3-602.5. Dr. Park also showed an example of a school performance report on the USOE website.

Chair Stephenson invited members of the committee to work with the USOE and committee staff in drafting legislation pertaining to school performance reports for consideration at the committee’s November meeting.

MOTION: Sen. Osmond moved to open a committee bill file regarding school performance reports. The motion passed unanimously.

5.   Elimination or Modification of Reports Required by Local Education Agencies

Dr. Menlove reviewed “USOE Report on H.B. 500 – Education Reporting Efficiency Amendments,” distributed in the mailing packet, which describes reports school districts and charter schools are required to make. He noted that most reports are required by federal law or state statute and asserted that many of the reports are burdensome for smaller districts and charter schools.

In responding to committee comments and questions, Dr. Menlove assured committee members that they will be invited to join him on visits to Utah schools.

6.   Career and Technology Education Funding Model

                         

Ms. Brenda Hales, Associate Superintendent, Utah State Office of Education, assisted Ms. Mary Shumway, Director, Career, Technical, and Adult Education, Utah State Office of Education, as they distributed and reviewed a report, “Student and Course Based Funding for Career and Technical Education” (CTE), which included funding formulas for CTE. They discussed a method of funding CTE courses based on a weighting of job demand, wages, and skill level. Ms. Shumway noted that other factors may be appropriate and requested feedback from the Legislature.

7.   Reports

A.Civic and Character Education

Rep. Christensen, Mr. Robert Austin, Education Specialist, Utah State Office of Education, and Ms. Hales reviewed the requirements of Utah Code Section 53A-13-109, which provides for civic and character education. Ms. Hales discussed some of the projects in which schools are engaged.

B.Financial and Economic Literacy

Ms. Hales reviewed Utah Code Sections 53A-13-103 and 53A-13-110, which address financial and economic literacy education.

C.New Century and Regents’ Scholarship Programs

Mr. David L. Buhler, Commissioner of Higher Education, due to a time restraint, referred the committee to the “New Century and Regents’ Scholarship Annual Report,” which was included in the mailing packet.

8.   Other Items/Adjourn

Chair Stephenson adjourned the meeting at 5:48 p.m.

A Plea for Higher Educational Standards and Educational Freedom: Letter to Representatives and Senators   1 comment

     

Dear Representatives and Senators:

I’m writing to ask what steps the legislature plans to take to protect our citizens from Common Core’s mediocre standards and non-representation. Here are a few suggestions.

ACCOUNTABILITY

Included in the duties of the state school board to direct education is no authority to give their authority to direct education away, to forces beyond the Utah Constitution’s jurisdiction (forces that include NGA,CCSSO, Dept. of Ed, consortia, etc.) Can the state school board can be held accountable for that sobering overstep of Utah Constitutional authority?

The Utah legislature can add conditions or prohibitions to the funding that are provided to the School Board. An option would be to attach a requirement that funds cannot be used to implement Common Core as it currently stands, requiring a process that involves top scholars nationally to revisit the standards and revise them to ensure that math standards are truly internationally competitive. Similarly, something could added regarding the focus of English standards on classic literature rather than allowing the Common Core mandate of dominance for info-texts over classic literature and narrative writing.

COST ANALYSIS

It is appropriate for the Legislature to require a detailed cost analysis of what it has and will cost to implement Common Core.

INDEPENDENCE

Common Core annulment may loom as an embarrassing and awkward step for a few leaders, but to not end the arrangement is a much more serious mistake.  Right now, when only a handful of Utah schools have already implemented Common Core, it will be the easiest time for Utah to change course.  It may not even be possible, later.  As Jim Stergios of Pioneer Institute has said, “Gentlemen’s agreements quickly turn into mandates.”  We should agree to reject what we now recognize as literature-limiting, math-slowing, cursive-ending, un-Amendable standards.

TRANSPARENCY AND EDUCATOR INPUT

The USOE and State School Board is not listening to educators or citizens who oppose Common Core.  They claim to have spent time with us, but in reality, they flee from any discussion of the standards, especially with a credentialed Utah teacher like me, because I oppose the national standards.  I’ve been told “no” to a face-to-face talk with lawyer Carol Lear, and have had numerous written requests for references and verification of Common Core’s claims of “rigor” totally ignored by Superintendent Larry Shumway and USOE’s Brenda Hales.

SIMPLE FACTS

Disregarding the unanchored claims and promises (of CCSSO’s Gene Wilhoit, Sec. Arne Duncan, and the USSB/USOE) we are left with the legally binding, written facts, the simplicity of which are startling:

1. NGA/CCSSO is in charge of Utah’s standards.

2. NGA/CCSSO holds copyright.

3. US Dept of Ed sets a cap on the copyrighted standards at 15%. No amendment process exists.

4. Limitation of classic literature.

5. Limitation of math.

6. Common Core only prepares kids for nonselective community college, according to Common Core architect Jason Zimba himself.

 

7.  Common tests require giving data directly to the federal government, including nonacademic and family data.

 

8. No voice exists for Utah to change any of it –except to pull out of Common Core.

We do not want to be found siding with those who are trampling on freedom of education and the sacred right to privacy. This is one of the most important fights there could ever be– the educational decisionmaking power that touches our own children’s lives. Giving in to nationalized standards will set a precedent for more and more educational intrusion by forces who have no legitimate stakeholder vote.

I am asking you to be heroes to future generations of students and teachers in leading Utah’s reclamation of educational freedom and citizen privacy.  All of America is watching.

Sincerely,

Christel Swasey

Utah parent and educator

Heber City

Q+A on Common Core: Historic 3-hour Utah Legislative Committee Meeting   3 comments

There is still plenty o’confusion in the state of Utah.  Lawmakers are realizing that due to the Utah Constitution’s giving authority to the Board to determine educational issues, they are almost powerless (except to defund Common Core).  The board seems skittish and  embarrassed now that so many of us know the new standards are inferior and that our freedoms have been traded for what started out as a way to increase Utah’s chance at a federal education grant during an economic low.  And some on the USOE and state school board ship seem to be steering toward the possibility of purchasing SBAC tests despite the fact that Utah just voted to cut membership ties with SBAC.

The board now admits it’s a federal program.  Lawmakers are not fully aware yet of all aspects of Common Core, while the Board is digging in their heels about giving any references for their claims of increased rigor or local control.

It’s a great drama, but a sad one.

Illustration:  After the meeting, Alisa Ellis and I asked School Board Chair Debra Roberts if we might get a chance to sit down and talk with her about all of this.  She said, “We’ve already wasted $10,000 in Board time as this group has been sitting down with us so much.”

Really?   We asked who they have actually been talking/sitting with.  (I’ve never had the opportunity, but would like it.  I have had the majority of my many emails ignored and was told “no” to a sit-down conference with USOE lawyer Carol Lear.)

Chair Roberts said, “Well, we’ve sat with Christel many times.”  Hmm.  I said, “I am Christel.  And that is not true.”

She insisted it was.  So, I asked who said that they had sat and talked with me.  She didn’t say.  I said that somebody has misinformed you or somebody needs to take a lie detector test.

She hurried away, refusing to even discuss sitting down with us.  So did Superintendent Shumway.  Strange.  The board now seems afraid of the truth that might come out during a legitimate discussion with an educated citizen, and they simply will not give references for their claims nor will they sit down and talk like gentlemen.  Or gentlewomen.

Sad.

Both the Tribune and the Deseret News covered the historic meeting of the House and Senate Education Committee on Common Core at the State Capitol yesterday.  But they  failed to report on some of the more fascinating moments.

Like what?  Well, they skipped the Data Alliance’s data-mashing discussion and skipped the probing questions legislators directed toward both the pro-Common Core, such as Utah Superintendent Larry Shumway (and his staff) and to the visiting experts who testified at the meeting, the heroes of Utah’s day:

Jim Stergios of the Boston-based Pioneer Institute and Ted Rebarber of the D.C. -based AccountabilityWorks

  The papers also totally blew the hilarious part, where Rep. Moss’ rhetorical questions got “Yes!”es –called out by several audience members including me, after Rep. Moss asked, “Have these people even read the standards?  Are they English teachers?  Do they have Master’s Degrees?”

Yes!

Yes!

Yes!

So, here are links to the local newspapers’ coverage of the event:

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/54705461-78/core-speakers-state-standards.html.csp

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865560776/Lawmakers-educators-growing-weary-of-Common-Core-debate.html

And here’s my version.  Photos first, details follow.

Photo: Senator Howard Stephenson: "If I were the king of Utah, I would follow the recommendations [of the visiting experts.]" Jim Stergios and Ted Rebarber testified that Utah would be better served by abandoning the Common Core and writing a higher set of education standards.

Senator Howard Stephenson:  he said if he were “the king of Utah,” he would follow the recommendation of the visiting education experts.

Representative Francis Gibson:  he asked Stergios and Rebarber to clarify whether it was true that Massachusetts had had the highest educational standards in the nation [and had tested as an independent country, ranking in the top six internationally] before they dropped their standards to adopt Common Core.  You could have heard a pin drop.  Stergios answered: it was the very reason a Massachusetts scholar traveled to Utah to testify against Common Core.

Rebarber and Stergios:  Why not brand Utah as the great state with courage to be independent of federal manipulation via Common Core?

The Testimonies:

Jim Stergios and Ted Rebarber have agreed to share written copies of their ten minute testimonies to the Utah legislature, but until I get a copy, here are a just few bullet points:

Jim Stergios:

  • The quality of the Common Core standards is mediocre. Cutting classic literature to make room for informational texts has been said by Dr. Sandra Stotsky to be weakening college prep, taking away from the richer and broader vocabulary of classic literature.
  • The math standards are less rigorous; for example, they place Alg. I in high school rather than in middle school.   Math lacks a coherent grade by grade progression.  The Common Core experimental approach to teaching geometry has never been successfully piloted in the world.
  • Stergios quoted Jason Zimba, math architect for Common Core, who said that passing the Common Core test in math will only show a student is prepared to enter a nonselective community college.
  • Stergios said that CCSSO administrator Gene Wilhoit’s recent statement to the Utah School Board that “there’s no Common Core police,” is misleading.  Stergios said that gentlemen’s agreements quickly become mandates, as the pattern of the Dept. of Education’s recent history shows.  It is best to rely on what is in writing.
  • Stergios mentioned the Race to the Top for DISTRICTS, which is brand new.  This shows zero respect for state authority over education. There is a steady pattern of encroachment by the federal government on education.
  • Common Core did not have adequate deliberation; after a 2 day approval and no public input, Utah adopted Common Core.  Even Fordham Institute, a pro-common core think tank, rated Utah math standards higher prior to adoption of Common Core.
  • Stergios said Utah should brand itself as independent, thus attracting more talent and economic growth by reversing the adoption of Common Core.

Ted Rebarber:

  • Legislators hold the purse.  There’s a separation of powers between the legislature and the State School Board, which holds the authority over determining standards.  There’s also the Constitutional principle of checks and balances.  The ESEA waiver shows the federal arm is tying funds to adoption of Common Core –or to a college program that the Dept. of Ed must approve. If legislators don’t approve of either the experimental, inferior aspect, or the federally-promoted aspect of the standards, they can withhold all Common Core funding.  The school board will have to create independent standards.
  • NAPE tests provide national results; SAT and ACT do not.  They are only used by certain states, not all.
  • SBAC’s passing scores are non-negotiable; the purpose is to define what proficient means.  Utah can’t affect SBAC.
  • Federal Dept of Education has herded states into a set of standards.  The benefits for collaboration are over when all have the same standards, whether you call them Utah Core or Common Core.  It is the same.
  • Texas’ Robert Scott has said he would love to do collaborative work with other states, creating an item bank rather than exact common tests.  There are other approaches and ways that don’t require everyone to be the very same.
  • The legislature has a duty to protect the right of Utah citizens not to give up education to federal control. Protecting state sovereignty is a legitimate concern.

Of the nearly packed to capacity room, who spoke up or asked questions?  Several lawmakers:

Rep. Ken Sumison:

Rep. Christensen:

Rep. Nielsen:

Rep. Moss:

Sen. Osmond:

—and more.

Who spoke up from the Utah Data Alliance and NCES?  One man:

John Brandt:

And who spoke at lennnnggggth from the Utah State School Board?

Superintendent Larry Shumway

Assistant Superintendent Judy Park

(who used the word “thrilled” multiple times in the same sentence as “sharing with the Department of Education”)

–and Utah State School Board Chair Debra Roberts:

Chair Roberts said: “I don’t care what the federal government has to say…I will listen to Utah educators.”  (But she refuses to speak for even five minutes to educators like me, who oppose Common Core. )

Others in the audience  (non-speaking roles) included:

The Honorable Judge Norman Jackson: (who has thoroughly reviewed the legal aspects of Common Core and based on his assessment, recommended Utah reject Common Core)

Rep. Kraig Powell

who has been studying both sides of Common Core with interest

 

And the pro-freedom in education activist, Alisa Ellis, with many more citizens against Common Core restraints:

So, with the exception Aaron Osmond –who says he’s to the point of nausea because of how much he’s had to face Common Core controversy –most legislators and citizens and teachers still don’t understand what Common Core is.  I make this judgement from having heard very important, basic questions asked by legislators.

Sen. Stephenson, Rep. Gibson, Rep. Nielsen, Rep. Moss, Rep. Christianson, Rep. Sumison and others  asked good, probing questions and made clear, excellent points, such as Rep. Sumison’s “Whoever pays, makes the rules.”  (He wasn’t referring to the fact that the legislators hold the Utah public purse, but to the fact that the federal government has financially incentivized Common Core.)

–I’ll get to the rest of the legislators in a minute.

First, all in the audience had to trudge through almost two hours of the Pro-Common Core Show led by Superintendent Larry Shumway and Judy Park.

Park reported on the No Child Left Behind waiver.  Dr. Park bubbled and gushed about what she called her “thrill of sharing Utah’s work with the Department of ED” in applying for No Child Left Behind.  She used the word “sharing” and “thrilled” multiple times.  Superintendent Shumway said that he was “offended” that people “in this room” have implied that he gets something out of sitting on boards outside Utah other than providing a helpful service.  He said he receives no pay for sitting on the board of CCSSO (The Council of Chief State School Officers).  He did not mention another board he sits on, WestEd, which is the test writer for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).

John Brandt and his staffer said the Utah Data Alliance  is no threat to citizen privacy, although, he chuckled, “there are no guarantees,” and he admitted that “about 10 people will have clearance to access personally identifiable” citizen information.

The Q + A:

So:  What did the legislators want to know?  What did the pro and con answerers say?

When Rep. Moss asked her rhetorical questions and got “Yes!”es shouted out in response, Superintendent Shumway answered her, too: “Standards set a base line. Standards don’t set a cap.”  (I thought: Really?  What does the 15% speed limit on learning set by the Dept of Education, and copyrighted by NGA/CCSSO, do– if it does not cap our rights to educate as we see fit? Please.)

When Rep. Stephenson pointed to the academic reviews of Common Core that are unfavorable to the school board’s claims that the standards will increase rigor and strengthen legitimate college prep, Superintendent Shumway deflected the question.  Waving aside official reviews by actual members of the only official national Common Core Validation Committee, professors who refused to sign off on the Common Core standards as being adequate, Superintendent Shumway said:  “there’s no dearth of documents.” (The referenced reviews of Dr. Sandra Stotsky on English and by Dr. James Milgam on math are available in Exhibit A and B here:  http://pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120510_ControllingEducation.pdf and in many other places.

Rep. Christensen said he wants Utah to be independent and said, “Education is a local matter.” He was troubled by the”implicit recognition of federal supremacy,” illustrated by the majority of states having asked the federal government for waivers from No Child Left Behind. He added, “We’re going down a road” he is not happy about, illustrated by the fact he cited: a school board member said Utah had paid a $90,000 fine for noncompliance with No Child Left Behind.

In response, Superintendent Shumway said that there were various disclaimers in the No Child Left Behind application.

Rep. Nielsen asked if it was true that by 7th grade, under Common Core math, students would be two years behind world class standards.  Jim Stergios responded that indeed, Common Core was a step backward for Utah, but it would be closer to one year behind.  For other states, Common Core brings math standards back two years.

Rep. Nielsen stated concerns about local control, saying that the U.S. Dept of Education uses terms like “allows” this and “allows” that.  Sup. Shumway responded that “We are navigating through compliated waters.”

Sen. Osmond and Sen. Stephenson asked cost-related questions: hadn’t Utah already borne the brunt of the online costs for technology to match Common Core?  Ted Rebarber answered that the state should do a cost analysis as other states have done.  Common Core requires transformative realignment to the national standards.  Rebarber asked, “Why do it?” –Since the cost/benefit analysis shows Utah is giving away state authority while adding costs, for inferior standards or at best, very similar to previously held, state standards.

Sen. Stephenson asked about the “legitimate concerns about abandoning what districts are doing” concerning assessments.  Sup. Shumway said, “We haven’t preselected any vendor [for testing]. We were careful not to create requirements that would exclude anyone.”  Shumway invited any Utahn to go to schools.utah.gov and click on “popular links” and submit input on specific standards that Utahns find problematic.  He said these must be academically central comments, not comments about state sovereignty over education.

Several legislators questioned the timing of simultaneously asking the public for feedback to change the standards when the test Request for Proposals (RFP) has already been written and the SBAC has long been in the test writing process.  How could Utah’s changed standards match?  (I would add, how do you think we’re going to get away with changing more than 15% of our standards when it’s copyrighted and the Dept. of Ed. is aiming for seamless commonality between states?)

Sup. Shumway said that the timetables are challenging.

Both Rep. Nielsen and Rep. Christensen were concerned with the costs of Common Core and the state longitudinal data system (SLDS), costs which have not been studied by Utah.  The SLDS grant will run out in 2013.

Utah Technology Director John Brandt responded that he hoped the legislature would continue to fund SLDS, “this valuable tool.”

Valuable tool for whom?  Children?  Parents?  Freedom lovers?  –Excuse me while I run screaming from the room and cross-stitch and frame in gold the 4th Amendment to the Constitution.

The SLDS and Data Alliance is either–

  • What John Brandt and his team said it is, yesterday:  a state network of data (never to be shared with federal agencies) –a way to share preschool-to-workforce data about Utahns, among six state agencies (Dept. of Workforce Services, Utah State Office of Education, and more).  Brandt assured legislators that personally identifiable portions of this data would be only accessed by about ten people in the state, but countless people can access the nonidentifiable portions of the data.

Or it’s:

This makes more sense since Brandt belongs to the Dept. of Education’s research arm, the NCES, and he also belongs to -and chairs– the group that developed and copyrighted the Common Core standards, the CCSSO or Council of Chief State School Officers.  NCES has a long-standing “National Data Collection Model” you can view here: http://nces.ed.gov/forum/datamodel/Information/howToUse.aspx

So Brandt is a fed, along with being the Technology Director for the state of Utah.

  Relevantly, the Dept. of Education’s Chief of Staff, Joanne Weiss, has recently said that she’s combining or “mashing” data systems of federal agencies and is “helping” states (Oh, thank you!) by writing reports to assist them in developing research partnerships. She has said, “Politicians often warn of the law of unintended consequences—as if all unintended consequences are negative ones—but in the world of data, we should also be aware of the law of welcome surprises.” (Weiss at the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) annual conference.   http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/inside-school-research/2012/07/ed_urges_states_to_make_data_s.html   Thanks, Ms. Weiss.  That makes me feel better.

I will keep this in mind while I continue to study exemplary progressive collectivism such as China’s Ministry of Public Security, as I recall the “data sharing” on citizens in Germany’s 1940s, or as I enjoy George Orwell’s immortal “1984”.

Utah, let’s keep our wits about us.

BYU Professor David Wiley Defends USOE’s Common Core/FERPA Statement   14 comments

  Rod Arquette hosts national education experts: James Gass of Pioneer Institute, Emmett McGroarty of American Principals Project, Bill Evers of Hoover Institute at Stanford, and Kent Talbert, D.C. lawyer and former counsel to Department of Education. Photo taken the day before the public forum in Salt Lake City.

On July 10th, 2012, a public forum was held where  Jamie Gass, Bill Evers, Kent Talbert and Emmett McGroarty, four national education experts, taught evidenced facts to the public concering Common Core.  A press release about the forum upset Brenda Hales, a USOE administrator, who then posted a statement on the Utah Public Education website giving the official line of the USOE on Common Core.

  Brenda Hales, Utah State Office of Education

I  decided to provide a referenced rebuttal to challenge her statement.  You can read at http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/christel-swasey-responds-to-brenda-hales/ .   (You can read Brenda’s post as well so you can see what’s being said by the USOE.)  The Utahns Against Common Core website posted both the USOE’s statement and my rebuttal.

  Dr. David Wiley, pro-Common Core professor

Next, comments were sent in on one aspect of the Common Core debate, privacy issues, by BYU Professor David Wiley.  The purpose of this blog post is to record his comments and my responses to his responses so readers may determine for themselves what they feel is right.

  • David Wiley says:

    The analysis in point 1, regarding personally-identifiable data, wanders back and forth between data that would allow a person to be identified, and “student-level” data. Student-level data can use randomized, nonsense identifiers like 12s47s8fd9231 instead of personally-identifiable information like a person’s name or social security number. In other words, student level data can be – and typically is – deidentified.

    The above analysis rails against the potential dangers of sharing personally-identifiable data, and then slides smoothly into a discussion of SBAC, saying that ‘states are obligated to share data with the federal government “on an ongoing basis”‘ – leaving the reader to understand that states are obligated to share personally-identifiable data.

    But what does the document you link to actually say? That the grant recipient will “make student-level data that results from the assessment system available on an ongoing basis for research, including for prospective linking, validity, and program improvement studies; subject to applicable privacy laws.”

    Wow! So the recipient is obliged to share student-level data only, not personally-identifiable data, and the data sharing is only for the purpose of research studies, and the data sharing is subject to applicable privacy laws. This is not quite the “sky-is–falling-we’re-required-to share-personally-identifiable-data” problem it was so smoothly made out to be.

    I stopped reading after I noticed this slight-of-hand trick in the analysis. I was frankly disappointed after all the chatter at the top of the document about facts and being able to “verify what is claimed.” This was literally the first link I followed, and you’ve completely mischaracterized what it says. Too bad.

    David Wiley
    •     Christel Swasey says:

      Dear Professor Wiley,

      I appreciate your response and would like to continue an open, respectful conversation on this important topic. I am trying to expose those who really are misrepresenting facts so it is important to me that I come across very clearly and I apologize if I did not do so.

      I may have wandered in my style of writing, but the federal government has not wandered from its goal to take parental rights and to permit –not require, but permit– schools to widely share students’ personally identifiable information (PII).

      I do understand the difference between aggregated and personally identifiable data. BOTH forms of student info are now permitted to be shared without parental consent or knowledge, under the federal regulation changes, made without Congressional approval by the Dept. of Education this year. This fact is huge.

      Did you read the quote above, from the Federal Register on page 51, that it is no longer a necessity for a school to get student’s or parent’s consent before sharing PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION? That direct quote did not even mention aggregated, student-level information; it mentioned personally identifiable information.

      While former FERPA rules did require schools to notify parents –except for in emergency situations– anytime they shared personally identifiable information with anyone, now, the notifying of parents has been reduced to an optional “best practice.” So the fact is that while some agencies will honorably, due to state or local FERPA policy that is stronger than the federal policy, only share aggregated data, others will certainly be sharing personally identifiable data and pointing to their federal permission to do so!

      No school or agency is restrained by federal regulation from sharing student PII, by anything stronger than a “best practice” suggestion. Correct me if I’m wrong.

      You are quite correct in quoting the Cooperative Agreement with SBAC as saying the sharing of data is “subject to applicable privacy law.” Now, ask what the applicable privacy laws actually are.

      Federal FERPA privacy regulations have been radically altered. New FERPA regulations have been loosened in favor of easy access by the feds and other groups, but out of reach of parental consent –conveniently altered by the very same Department of Ed that wrote the Cooperative Agreement with the SBAC. So Secretary Duncan might more transparently have written, “subject to applicable privacy law –which I happen to be changing right now so this requirement for ‘ongoing sharing of data with the Department’ won’t actually be subject to anything at all.”

      It is interesting to study the reasons for the current Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) lawsuit against the Dept. of Education (a suit filed for the Department of Education’s having exceeded statutory authority in making regulatory alterations to FERPA). The lead lawyer is Khalia Barnes. She said that the loosening of federal FERPA is an intrusion that applies not only to children’s data, but to anyone of ANY AGE whose college records are archived in any university or school that ever accepted federal funds or scholarships. So it’s not just kids or college students who will be tracked, federally.

      Barnes also said that the FERPA changes have redefined terms, stretching to the breaking point terms such as “authorized representative” and “educational program” to mean even non-governmental groups, such as medical programs and corporate, educational or governmental agencies; in effect, then, there is virtually no federal privacy regulation governing who can access school-acquired citizen data anymore (from the federal level; there could be protective state or local laws and policies.)

      Also, F.Y.I., the types of information that the Department is permitting (not requiring) schools to share, includes so much more than academic information: it includes biometric information (DNA, fingerprints, iris patterns) parental income, nicknames, medical information, etc. The federal government’s own websites make this clear. Please read the official NCES data collection model’s attributes to be collected: http://nces.sifinfo.org/datamodel/eiebrowser/techview.aspx?instance=studentPostsecondary

      The obligatory language of the Cooperative Agreement between the Department of Education and the SBAC may not alarm you. And there is a possibility Utah will opt out of SBAC membership soon. However, I still urge you to carefully read that document as it reveals Arne Duncan’s test data collecting scheme in a pretty straightforward way. It triangulates the two consortia and requires them to synchronize tests across consortia, to give status updates to the feds, and it places and puts the federal government in the middle of the data collecting program of the two consortia and their data. http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agree ment.pdf

      I don’t know any other way to interpret the evidence, and since Brenda Hales and the USOE are in the habit of never referencing anything, I urge you to go back and read the rest of the links in my rebuttal to Hales’ claims.

      Christel Swasey

  • David Wiley says:

    Christel,

    Thank you for your thoughtful response. I’d like to continue a respectful dialog on this topic as well.

    You state: The Federal Register outlines, on page 51, that it is not a necessity for a school to get student or parental consent any longer before sharing personally identifiable information; that has been reduced to the level of optional. “It is a best practice to keep the public informed when you disclose personally identifiable information from education records.”http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-12-02/pdf/2011-30683.pdf

    This quote is on the 51st page of the PDF document, page 75653 of the FR for those following along.

    FERPA dictates that PII (personally identifying information) from education records cannot be disclosed without consent of the family. The section of the document the above quote is taken from details two important exceptions to the consent requirement: the “studies” exception (when a school wants another entity to conduct some research on its behalf) and the “audit or evaluation” exception, when a state or federal program is being audited or evaluated. In both of these cases, when PII is disclosed without consent, the disclosure MUST be governed by a written agreement between the discloser and disclosee. The requirements and mandatory elements of these written agreements are on the 44th and 45th pages of the PDF, pages 75646-7 as paginated by the FR.

    For example, a school district and a local university might exchange PII without consent in order to do research on whether or not the district is preparing students for success at the local U. This exchange must be governed by a written agreement insuring protections on the privacy of the data as described beginning on 75646. These restrictions and requirements are compulsory. However, it is only a “best practice” – and not a requirement – for the schools to inform the public that they’re performing the research.

    I have absolutely no problem with this whatsoever. If the world worked the other way, and each and every family had to consent for their data to be included in the study, the costs and other logistics involved in carrying out this kind of research would become prohibitive, and we could never understand in any detail how the local schools need to improve to better prepare students for college. So the exception is appropriate and works for the public benefit. I believe this is the primary reason for the recent changes ad clarifications in FERPA. FERPA as spelled out in the FR document you link to provides significant and sufficient privacy protections for individuals and families, while finally making possible the kind of research necessary to move our students’ academic performance forward.

    As for notification, I would think that the local district would want to brag up the fact that they were engaged in research to make their programs better. But I don’t see any reason to require them to do so – I think encouraging it as a best practice is fine.

    The one quote you cite, taken out of context, sounds quite alarming. However, when understood in its proper context the quote is quite reasonable. Without the PII disclosure exceptions FERPA would literally eliminate the possibility of large scale research educational studies, due to both (1) the logistical and coordination costs of acquiring the consent of 100s of 1000s of people, and (2) the possibility that a significant portion of the individuals you did manage to contact would opt out. And without this level of research – the scale of research we’re able to conduct in every other field of human endeavor – educators, school boards, parents, and legislators are literally left in the dark, each with their own “hunch” about what works and no rigorous empirical data to demonstrate their their hunch is anything more than indigestion. This is the current state of dialog about “what works” in public schools – everyone has their pet theory which they believe to be “best” because “it worked for my child” or because it somehow harmonizes with their religious beliefs. Any educational approach which is truly effective can be shown to be effective through rigorous research, and policy decisions should be made on this basis. “In God we trust; all others bring data.”

    The balance of the exceptions to the consent requirement, the mandatory contract language whenever PII is disclosed without consent that protects privacy, and the best practices which are recommended but not required seems appropriate to me.

           –David Wiley
  • Dear Professor Wiley,

    When a school district and a local university exchange information in order to do research on whether or not the district is preparing students for success, why would that information need to be personally identifiable rather than aggregate?

    Your defense of parentally unauthorized collection of personally identifiable information excuses the Department of Education’s misdeed of bypassing Congress and sounds as if you feel groups who use the “authorized” and “educational” language really should get access to citizens’ information without their consent because it’s more convenient for researchers. I disagree.

    Ezra Taft Benson said that one way to judge the goodness of any governmental action is to bring it down to the individual level. “An important test I use in passing judgment upon an act of government is this: If it were up to me as an individual… would it offend my conscience?”

    Using his reasoning, picture this: if I had access via teaching or some other way, to your child, would I give away his/her personal information to my neighbor without your knowledge or consent –including report card, medical and psychological information, address, parental income, mother’s maiden name, child’s fingerprints, etc., if that neighbor smartly persuaded me it didn’t matter if I told you about it?

    Have you ever wondered how communist systems today precisely control their people? It’s via information. The government somehow keeps track of how many babies a woman has, to control population by mandated abortion. And young children, such as gymnasts barely past toddlerhood, are taken away from parents by those governments for those governments’ purposes. The list of abuses made possible easily by privacy rights loss, is endless.

    Would that never happen in America? Is human nature so much nobler here?

    Remember history. Remember the lessons of Orwell’s “1984,” Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron,” or Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451″. –When governments can “legally” wrangle personally identifiable information, these scenarios can and do become real.

    There is more than plenty in the FERPA document that is protective and that doesn’t need to be changed back to how it was. You have quoted those good portions at length.

    –But then, there are all those exceptions and the re-interpreted definitions of terms! These, like small cockroaches swimming in a large sweet sundae, are the details that ruin a good thing. The exceptions and re-definitions are what I’m focusing on. These are where the feds get a toe in the door of privacy and win in their plan to take power with impunity.

    This is what our founding fathers warned us not to let happen when they set up our Constitution and our system of checks and balances. This is where we must fight for our rights –and not defend those who are aiming to take them away from us.

    Public schools sit as a golden grape of opportunity for the data-hungry feds to pluck –mountains of information from a truly captive audience. In the 2009 stimulus bill we find the feds encouraging states to develop data systems. Utah got a nearly $10 million chunk of that ARRA money and built, as directed, a State Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) designed to collect academic and nonacademic information about citizens. This was incentivized financially and by the feds’ clever use of the sheep’s clothing of student testing and data-driven educational decision making.

    But why would the NCES’ National Data Collection Model ask states to collect voting status of parents, health care history, parent maiden names, nicknames, income? If this were purely motivated by children’s own educational needs, why the information on parents? All 50 states now have this system. And an increasing number of states have P-20 councils to make them seamless as they interact with inter-state and intra-state agencies, and yes, with the feds themselves. (See John Brandt’s powerpoint online. He’s the USOE Technology Director as well as a CCSSO chair member –and a NCES fed.)

    The Department of Education felt it could overcome legal obstacles to get this data by simply bypassing Congress, which it did. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) which sued the Dept. of Education –over what you and the Department are calling “appropriate” actions– say that the Department’s final regulations concerning FERPA “exceed the agency’s legal authority” and “expose students to new privacy risks.” They say that changes permit educational institutions to release student records to non-governmental agencies without first obtaining parents’ written consent and that they “broaden the permissible purposes for which third parties can access students records without first notifying parents.” These acts were illegal Constitutionally due to separation of powers. The Department’s FERPA changes, EPIC says, “fail to appropriately safeguard students from the risk of re-identification.”

    I am flabbergasted that this “seems appropriate” to anyone, much less someone with your credentials.

    Still, thank you for taking the time to respond. It is one of the blessings of America that we have freedom of speech and thoughts, and I’m grateful for the privilege to amiably disagree.

    Christel Swasey

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