Archive for the ‘Dave Thomas’ Tag

Dana Layton’s Stop Common Core Bill For Utah   3 comments

Dana

Representative Dana Layton

I sent a an email letter to my representatives, asking them to vote yes on Represenative Dana Layton’s bill HB0342.

The bill would return local control to Utah’s educational system.   Utah needs this bill.  I hope every Utahn writes to his or her legislators and begs them to pass this bill.

For those who don’t know, Rep. Layton’s bill  “specifies procedures for the development and adoption of core curriculum standards  for English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies, including:   the establishment of a standards development committee consisting of parents,  teachers, and representatives of school districts, business, and higher education  to assist the board in developing standards; and public review and comment of draft core curriculum standards;   equires the State Board of Education to establish a standards review committee  consisting of 15 parents of Utah public education students to review proposed core  curriculum standards for English language arts, mathematics, science, and social   studies;   requires the State Board of Education to maintain control of, and the power to   modify, core curriculum standards for English language arts, mathematics, science,   and social studies; and  requires the State Board of Education, on or before July 1, 2016, to adopt revised  core curriculum standards for English language arts and mathematics that are developed  specifically for Utah.”

All day, I keep asking myself, why would the state school board NOT want this, not want a return to local control of education?

Anyway, I copied my letter (email number one, below) to legislators also to the school board.

Dixie Allen, my state school board representative, wrote back to me and to the same legislators, saying that what I had written was untrue. It’s not every day that I get called a liar, and I dislike it, for some reason.  I doubt the school board enjoys it, either.  So rather than rebut the lies, I simply wrote again, asking the legislators to fact-check for themselves.  The truth can stand up under close inspection.  Empty claims cannot.

Then Dave Thomas, another state school board member, sent the legislators and me the Utah State School Board’s  link to a wordy, undocumented, verbiose posting –which is without any footnotes, without links or proof of truthfulness –and he said it “explains its position, inclusive of documentary evidence.”

Sigh.  I try to keep giving the board the benefit of the doubt; they were rushed into Common Core adoption; they wanted that Race to the Top grant application turned in so fast; they made trusting assumptions about what the quality of the standards would be once they actually had the opportunity to study them; they asumed the standards had been pilot tested; whatever.

But now, now in 2014, when it’s been made so clear and obvious that the standards are not what they claimed to be, now that it’s so clear and obvious that we’ve traded local control for a substandard mess of pottage– now can’t we just ‘fess up and agree that Utah made a big mistake, a mistake anyone in the shoes of the state board could have made and would likely have made– and just turn around now and walk away from the mistake?  Why hold on to this judgment error with such doggedness? It is not too late for us to change our course.  In fact, the longer we stay in Common Core, the more money we waste and the more entrenched our curriculums are becoming in this substandard and centrally controlled monster.

So, here are all those emails in case anyone is interested.

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EMAIL NUMBER ONE:  (It was very long so I am not copying the whole thing; it’s just the Common Core 101 research that I cut and pasted from the front page of my blog.)

From me to the legislators and school board:
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Please Pass HB 342.    This is why:
                 Common Core: 101
Thank you.
Christel Swasey
Heber City
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EMAIL NUMBER TWO:
From Dixie Allen of the state school board:
Good Morning,
Since many of you are my constituents or my respected representatives at the State Level, I feel like you need to understand that most of what Christel has alluded to is untrue.
First, the standards were written under the control and supervision of the nation’s Governor’s Association and the Chief State School Officers, by experts in the field, including our own experts from USOE and several of our college professors.
We did not receive any money for adopting the standards, but did save money because we did not need to go through the traditional method of upgrading our standards by bringing in experts in the field for days and weeks to help write and rewrite the upgraded standards for Math and English/Language Arts.
We continually at the State Office and State Board level, try to explain that we upgrade Standards in all areas of the curriculum about every 5 years.  We have been working on Social Studies for the past two years.  We have and will tweak and upgrade the Common Core Standards as we move forward.  We have already added back in Cursive Writing into the Language Arts Standards and have asked teachers not to use some recommended readings, as they do not seem to be suitable for the age of students we are addressing.  We will continue to upgrade and revise all our standards to insure they are the best standards for the expectations of our students as they move into college and careers.
I have often told my constituents that as a teacher and principal and curriculum director in the public schools for over 26 years, I see such great promise for especially the mathematics standards, as they make it possible for all students to become competent in the higher levels of mathematics, which before was a “stair step approach”, which many were not able to make it through in the 4 years of high school.  Now we introduce some of the advanced mathematics concepts in late elementary and middle school, thus providing the opportunity for all students to receive the proper amount of mathematics instruction to enter STEM Fields and almost any college or career program they wish to pursue.
The same advantage is true of the English/Language Arts curriculum as it helps students identify and understand complicated texts, written to explain history, mathematics, etc.  All of which is needed at the College and Career level.
Finally, if the legislature or any other group suggests or insists that we throw out the Common Core Curriculum, which has been in place for three plus years in our schools, it will cost millions of dollars to replicate standards that are as effective, and the school system will have to throw out years of work on creating curriculum and assessments to meet these standards.
Please allow the educators in the field, with help from USOE and our professors of higher learning work to upgrade these standards as we move forward, knowing that there has been and will always be invitations to parents and constituents to give input into any upgrades — as was the case with the Common Core.  At the State Board and Utah State Office of Education level, we are always frustrated that the invitation to become involved in reviewing standards or test items is overlooked or possibly not shared with all that wish to be involved — however, in the case of the Common Core, I believe that most of those speaking out against the Core are not talking about the Standards or the Curriculum, but the intrusion of the Federal Government.  I wish all could see that this set of standards was a coalition of Governors and State School Officers who knew we needed better standards and enough of our Nation using such standards to receive quality textbooks and computer programs to help teachers teach it in our schools.
I do hope that you will look at this issue realistically in relationship to insuring that our students can and will compete for quality higher education and careers, both within our state and throughout the nation and world.
Thank you for your service and continued support of our educational system!!
Sincerely,
Dixie Allen, Region 12
Chair, Standards and Assessment
Utah State Board of Education
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EMAIL NUMBER THREE
From me again:
Dixie,
It is time for the truth to stand up to fact-checking.  I have given documented links to all of my statements about Common Core, while you and the state school board continues to give none.
Let the legislators and the people do the fact-checking and look at documentation rather than words and claims.
Dixie, I am an honest and truthful reseacher and I will gladly alter anything if you can show me I have written anything false.  Will you do the same?
Christel
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EMAIL NUMBER FOUR:
From Dave Thomas of the state school board:

The State Board has had a website for a long time that explains its position, inclusive of documentary evidence.  If you would like to read the State Board’s position it is at http://www.utahpublicschools.org/index.html.

David L. Thomas

Utah State Board of Education

1st Vice Chair

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EMAIL NUMBER FIVE:

From Dixie Allen again:

Christel,
As Dave Thomas suggests, we have done that!!
Dixie

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EMAIL NUMBER SIX:

From me:

Dixie, you have not.
Your claims are never linked to documentation.   And you don’t acknowledge ours.
The USOE’s claims about Common Core are wordy and empty.  Why not show me where Utah has a voice over amending the shared core?  Show me how a teacher can have a voice in what will be tested.  Show me where these experimental standards were tried in a classroom anywhere successfully prior to being foisted on all the states.  Show me proof that deleting classics will improve literacy!
This is a giant academic fraud no matter how many people say it’s improving standards.
It is false to rob students of classical literature to 70% by senior year.   It’s wrong to diminish the teaching of the personal narrative essay.
It is a crime to steal calculus and other higher level math from high school students.
It is absurd to make little children do the type of math they are being forced to do.
Almost weekly I get letters from people who are pulling their children out of math or all of public education.  They want to know what they can do.  I tell them to ask you.  Your board has destroyed good education in this state and we are angry and we are not about to back down until you make  it right.
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DEBATE in Logan Jan. 6th   3 comments

This should be very interesting.

Mount Logan Middle School is providing the facility for a Common Core issues debate on January 6th, 2014, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at 875 N. 200 E. Logan, Utah.

Alpine school board member Wendy Hart and mother Alyson Williams will debate two state school board members: Dave Thomas and Tami Pyfer.

The event is open to the public and will be moderated by radio personality Jason Williams of KVNU’s “For the People.”

Please come and bring friends.

The public is invited to submit questions for the debaters to: jasonthe@gmail.com or kvnuftp@gmail.com.

This informative video, “Utah Bites Into Common Core” features Wendy Hart, one of the debaters, who is both an elected member of the Alpine School Board, and an active member of Utahns Against Common Core.

Alyson Williams at Utah State Capitol: “The Fistful of Flowers They’ve Shoved in My Face”   5 comments

Utah parent Alyson Williams gave permission to share the following speech which she gave at last week’s Common Core informational meeting at the Utah State Capitol. Dozens of legislators as well as parents, teachers, students and school board members heard this speech.

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I was reading recently about George Washington as a child. I’d heard the story of the cherry tree and his father, but there was another story with his mother that was new to me.

His mother had a prized peony bush. One day, with the sweetest of intentions, George picked some of the flowers and presented them to his mother. He was surprised when she was angry. Young Washington learned that actions taken with good intentions still have consequences.
I think there are those who brought Common Core to Utah with good intentions. But they seem to not understand that in making decisions that affect my children, they are in my garden, messing with my flowers.

In response to the complaints of Utah parents about the way Common Core came into our State, Board Member Dave Thomas wrote last week that we are “late to the party.”

I think that is like a policeman telling someone who’s house has been robbed that it’s their own fault because they weren’t home at the time of the theft.

The truth is I was home – but while I was watching the front door, the thieves snuck in the back door… and the the policeman is the one who gave them the key.

The Utah constitution gives authority to the State School Board to set academic standards. It does not say that they can outsource a role we entrusted to them to the National Governors Association who outsourced it to another group of so called experts. No meeting minutes, no public records, no obligation to even respond to the input of anyone who submitted it, including any input from our school board. As a parent and a taxpayer, this process cuts me out completely.

And now they’re surprised that I’m not pleased with the fistful of flowers they’ve shoved in my face. They only want to talk about how pretty the standards are.

When George Washington’s father learned about the flowers, he took the opportunity to help his son reflect on how his desire to be helpful didn’t change the fact that he’d done something he had no right to do.

There is no such thing in the Constitution as a council of governors or chief state school officers. Comparing best practices is one thing, but Governors working together to jointly address issues that affect the whole nation is not a legitimate alternative to Congress, our national representative body. If every state, or even most states have the same standards, we have de facto national standards. Those who brought Common Core to our nation, state-by-state, had no constitutional commission to do what they did. It’s a role they assigned themselves, and they did it in a way that circumvented constitutional representative processes.

So why am I talking to you, members of the legislature? I don’t want the legislature to act as a school board, or to set standards, but when the State executive branch or State school board act outside of their enumerated powers or try to delegate those powers to others who have no obligation to Utah voters, I think they should be held accountable. Isn’t that what the checks and balances of our Constitutional Republic are all about?

For me this is not only about my children’s education it’s about preserving the kind of constitutional government I hope they will inherit when they have children of their own.

According to our laws the role of the state is supposed to be secondary to that of parents, but as I’ve sought answers to my concerns in various meetings I’ve been dismissed, told I’m not an expert, been given Utah history lessons, and told that it’s a complicated issue in terms of the law. For me it is really simple: “These are my kids, it’s my garden! If you want to even get near my flowers you’d better come to the front door and ask!”

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What a powerful, important speech. Thank you, Alyson Williams.

Another Unbearably Long Email Discussion With UT Board Member Dave Thomas   3 comments

For anyone who can stand to plow through it, here’s another letter I wrote in response to Mr. Thomas’s response to my response to his response to my questions posted in the Deseret News op-ed last month.
____________________________________________________________

Dear Mr. Dave Thomas,

Please remember that I am not your enemy. I am a fellow Utahn, a mother, and a teacher. I hope for great schools and happy kids and teachers. I hope for the maintenance of local control of education. That is the goal here. Just to clarify.

On Evidence: You said: I actually gave more than Fordham’s opinion (although I might add that the Fordham study is the most extensive that has been done). I included the source material that backs up the Common Core standards in math and English language arts. You claim that the standards are not research based, but every time you are given the research your response is simply to ignore them. Common Core uses the “best practices” in both the United States as well as internationally. My research shows the Common Core standards not to be experimental, but an increase in quality and rigor over Utah’s prior standards. Math and ELA experts at our Utah colleges and universities agree with me.

I say: Even your fellow board member, Dixie Allen, admits that there is no evidence to support claims that Common Core will improve education; so she bases her approval of Common Core on trust –that those who wrote the standards had the best interests of students at heart. This is like buying a car, trusting that it won’t break down, trusting that its claims to improve gas mileage are correct— but never having test-driven it –or never even reading about someone who had actually test driven it. Since Common Core has never been piloted, it cannot be more than an experiment. You say that professors agree with you, but I, too, quote names of professors at BYU, UVU, Stanford University, Seton Hall University, University of New Hampshire, University of Colorado, etc., who do not agree that Common Core will “increase quality and rigor” in math.

On the Reduction of literature: You said:

Your response is to simply brush off the actual language of the standards and assert that “its common knowledge” that informational texts will be the main type of reading in English classes. Actually, that’s not common knowledge, because it is inconsistent with the actual standards. Both informational texts and classic literature will be taught in English classes. As I noted, the 70-30% ratio that is being touted as being exclusive to English classes is actually across the entire curriculum. Hence math, science and social studies teachers will not be teaching literature, but will be teaching the vast majority of the informational texts. Again, there is nothing in the Common Core ELA which states that the main teaching in English classes will be informational texts at the expense of literature. If you have some precise standards which state this, then I would like to see them because I can’t find them. As for textbooks, there are plenty of textbooks that have come out asserting that they are common core aligned. Most are not. Teachers and school districts will need to be vigilant in selecting textbooks and other instructional materials that truly align to the Utah core standards.

I say: Common Core increases informational text and reduces classic literature. For proof, in addition to actually reading the standards themselves, in addition to looking at Common Core curriculum sales companies’ interpretations of the standards, in addition to reading debate on the subject in the New York Times and Washington Post, in addition to listening to testimonies of Professor Stotsky and others, you can simply watch ELA chief architect David Coleman’s video speeches to teachers. Remember that he is not only the ELA architect, but now President of the College Board, aligning his radical ideas to the SAT. Watch his contempt for narrative writing and his preference for informational text. Watch his sterile view of reading. Is this what you, or most teachers, or most Utahns, believe in and hope for, for our children? I have never seen a believable or clear explanation of how that 70%/30% split would be accomplished across all subjects. Are there trainings for math, science, and P.E. teachers on how to teach English Language Arts in the Common Core Academies of Utah?

On Math Problems: You said:

Actually, the majority of math professionals are trending in the direction of an integrated model, as the National Math Panel suggests….

Dr. Milgram certainly dissented from the Validation Committee, but he was not the only mathematician on the Committee – there were a total of 5. In fact, there were 18 math professors on the Math Work Group and another 9 on the Feedback Group. I point to Dr. Wu because he was another one of the authors of the California Math Standards. The reality is that the vast majority of math educators support the Common Core math standards, including our most prominent Utah math professors. I find it interesting that you find it offensive that experts from outside Utah were involved in creating the Common Core State Standards, but you rely upon Dr. Milgram and other outside experts. Notwithstanding, I also rely upon our inside Utah experts who overwhelmingly approve of the Common Core Math Standards. Why don’t they have as much influence on you as Dr. Milgram?

I have found it interesting that Dr. Milgram does not seem to endorse any math standards that he, himself, has not personally written. He didn’t like our 2007 Utah math standards either….

As for the majority of Utahns never being able to weigh in? There were a total of three 30 day comment periods before the Utah Board adopted the standards.

I am not a math expert, although I have taught elementary school level math. Yet, this much I know: there is no universally endorsed math belief. There are math wars raging. So it is not true that “most” math professionals are believing in or trending toward any single math style. This math war issue needs to be vetted by the Utah public and by Utah teachers, not by a tiny group of mostly non-educators who make up our school board.

As for the majority of Utahns being able to weigh in on the math or English? My teaching credential has never lapsed, yet I never even received a letter or an email of any kind, letting me know that my entire future career would be drastically different because Common Core had come to town. It is absurd to think that Utah teachers or other citizens would surf onto the USOE website frequently enough to have been aware of Common Core’s adoption or of the public comment period.

To the claim that there were 5 “mathematicians” on the Validation Committee: Not everyone who has the word “mathematics” in his title is a math expert. As Dr. Milgram explains: “each of the others mentioned as ‘mathematicians’ on the validation committee actually has his or her advanced degree (if any) in mathematics education, not mathematics. I suppose that there is a general confusion about this distinction since both subjects have the word mathematics in their description. But there is actually a vast difference. The mathematical knowledge of virtually all U.S. citizens who call themselves mathematics educators stops with ratios and rates, not even algebra or calculus. Most of them are assumed to have had calculus in college, but typically it didn’t stick, and when I or my colleagues talk with such people we have to be very careful, as their knowledge of the actual subject is spotty.”

So Dr. Milgram was, in fact, the only mathematician, by this definition, on the Validation Committee, and the only one who really understood what preparation is required for higher-level university mathematics.

But as math-standards-drafter Jason Zimba has admitted, Common Core is not designed to prepare students for such courses – only for math at nonselective community colleges.

Even Common Core proponents admit that the math standards were not drafted by “70 math experts” but rather by three men: Jason Zimba, Phil Daro, and William McCallum (only McCallum had any previous experience writing standards). The other members of the two groups established as the “development team” (especially the large Feedback Group) frequently saw their contributions ignored, without comment. Because the drafters worked in secret, without open-meetings scrutiny or public comment, it’s impossible to know any of the thought processes that went into creating the standards. The only thing we know for certain is Zimba’s admission (see above) about the low level of the Standards, and McCallum’s comment that the math standards would not be “too high,” especially compared with the high-achieving Asian countries.

Sources:

http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2013/06/07/five-people-wrote-state-led-common-core

http://boston.com/community/blogs/rock_the_schoolhouse/2011/11/myths_about_national_standards.html

http://www.nga.org/cms/home/news-room/news-releases/page_2009/col2-content/main-content-list/title_common-core-state-standards-initiative-validation-committee-announced.html

http://www.uaedreform.org/wp-content/uploads/2000/01/Stotsky-Invited-Testimony-for-Georgia.pdf

On Amendability: You said:

With respect to Utah, there is no 15% cap. Such was certainly discussed by the NGA and CCSSO, but the 15% cap rule did not make it into the actual public license. The public license allows free use of the standards without any 15% cap. I have read the Utah NCLB Flexibility Waiver, and there is no 15% cap in that either. I admit that I have not researched the Race to the Top requirements because Utah did not receive a grant and is not bound by such. The Utah State Board of Education has never asked for permission from anyone to modify our Utah core standards and as long as I am on the Board never will.

There is a 15% cap. You are right that the copyrighters didn’t place it; but the federal government and its associates did. The same language is repeated in many places, including in the Race to the Top grant application, Race to the Top for Assessments, in the documents of SBAC, PARCC, and Achieve, Inc., and it was also previously in the ESEA, but has been removed. For example, see http://www.achieve.org/files/FINAL-CCSSImplementationGuide.pdf

You said that the board never asked permission to alter Utah’s standards, yet on the Utah Core Standards document online, to which the link is currently broken, it said “Modified by Permission.”

On Data Collection: You say:

While admitting that the Common Core State Standards do not require data collection, you assert that the “Common Core agenda” does. I am not aware of such an agenda. Certainly the President has such an agenda, but the President is not part of the Common Core Initiative, although I admit that he wants to be. He certainly would like to use the Consortiums to collect data, but we are not members of SBAC.

You assume that AIR will violate our agreement and Utah law, and share Utah private student data with SBAC. We have received written assurances from AIR that they will not be sharing such data. Hence, you assume wrongdoing where there is no evidence of such.

Your answer, however, did not address my concerns – which are with NAEP. The National Education Data Model is not being used by Utah and will not be used by Utah. NAEP, however, is a different story. I have tremendous concerns over NAEP.

I say: It doesn’t matter whether the corporate groups (Bill Gates/Pearson/Achieve/AIR) or the federal groups (Obama/Duncan/Linda Darling-Hammond) first pushed national, Common Core standards and the data collection agenda, which moves hand in hand with the common tests and standards. Both groups are shamelessly power-grabbing. The two groups are equally unwelcome to monopolize Utah education standards and tests.

It matters who here in Utah will put a stop to it.

The corporate – public collusion creates a loss of local voices and local control in multiple ways. Those at the top benefit financially and control-wise, when they can persuade all of us to believe in their collectivist ideology.

You may not have read the report by the President’s Equity and Excellence Commission entitled “For Each And Every Child.” In it, we learn that redistribution of resources is the whole point of the “education reform” agenda, Common Core or whatever you want to call it. Redistribution– of money and of teachers and principals. A total loss of local control. This top-down redistribution can not be accomplished if those governmental bodies and corporate bodies at the top do not have access to personally identifiable information about teachers, as well as of students.

We cannot separate data collection issues from Common Core reforms. They work hand in hand.

To protect Utah citizens from groups gaining improper access to student data, we need more than assurances. (I am not interested in evidence of wrongdoing; we need impenetrable knowledge that such improper access is impossible) I mean that we need to end Utah’s use of the federally promoted and funded and nationally interoperable State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS). We should at the very least make parents aware that personally identifiable information on their student is being collected, and make an opt-out form available widely.

On Testing: You said:

Unlike SBAC, we control our own CAT. AIR is our contractor who works for us, not for SBAC. So I see a big difference between SBAC and AIR. The tests given and the questions asked are approved by the State Board, not AIR. We have a 15 member parent committee who also reviews all of the questions. With respect to “behavorial indicators,” AIR is not free to ask any questions about Utah students. Behavioral indicators has been interpreted by the State Board to mean only graduation data, grades, school discipline and attendance – nothing more. AIR has no ability to collect the data which you fear them collecting. While AIR does behavioral research, that is not what they are tasked with in our contractual arrangement. AIR is one of the premiere computer adaptive testing providers – that is what we contracted with them to do.

I say: AIR is partnered with SBAC and is philosophically aligned (and contractually connected) with George Soros, the Clintons, Microsoft/Gates, and the U.S. Department of Education, to name a few.

What evidence do we have that Utah, not AIR and its partners, has full control over the AIR common core-aligned test? How can we ever go beyond the 15% Common Core alignment rule for common core aligned tests? What are the actual writers’ names and qualifications for AIR tests for Utah? What qualifies the State Board to approve questions while Utah teachers and principals cannot? Why can’t all parents– not just fifteen– see the questions? Have you read what Utah psychologist Dr. Gary Thompson has advised us on this subject?

On Constitutionality: You said:

The State Board completely controls the standards and testing as it pertains to the Utah core standards. Of this I have first-hand knowledge.

I say: The State Board has zero say in what will be written on the NGA/CCSSO produced Common Core standards, nor can they affect its future changes which will be handed down, top-down, to all the states who adopted Common Core. The State Board has no evidence that is can write AIR/SAGE tests to any standard that it desires, beyond the 15% rule for Common Core aligned tests.

On Spiral of Silence: You say:

Once again, I see no evidence of such. Provide to me a name and contact information of a teacher whose job was threatened by speaking out against the Utah Core standards.

I say: No, I will not provide to you the names of the Utah teachers and other staff who I have personally spoken with, who feel that their jobs are threatened if they who dare speak out about Common Core. I have already provided you with the names of those who have retired who are speaking out. And I can promise you that there are many who currently teach, who wish they dared.

On Not Being State-Led: You say:

This assumes that the Common Core Initiative is a federal led effort. There is no evidence of such. Simply because President Obama wants to claim credit for something he didn’t do, does not make it so. I believe he also got a Noble Peace Prize for not doing anything either. These trade organizations are state led – the elected governors and state superintendents control them. 48 state boards of education joined them in the Initiative. The federal government was expressly excluded and no federal funds were used. The states often act through their trade associations as a collective group. The National Governors Association does that on a regular basis. It was in my capacity as a member of the National Association of State Boards of Education and member of the Utah State Board that I confronted the US Department of Education. You assume that the elected governors, state superintendents and state school boards do not control their own associations. I can tell you that in my experience that is not the case.

I say: Is the NGA or CCSSO accountable to the public? No. Do they have open door meetings or financial transparency? No. Were they elected to determine my local school district’s policies in educational matters? No. Do they have a right to assume governance and influence over my child or over me as a teacher, when I have not elected them nor can I un-elect them? No. These groups are not representative of the states. Not even all superintendents belong to CCSSO. Not even all governors belong to NGA. It’s all outside the framework of our founding.

State-led implies that Congressmen and Representatives led and vetted it, in the American way, which is by voter representation. This was never the case. It is not honorable to continue to call this “state-led” because it implies something that it never was– a movement with actual representation.

On Cost: You say:

Tell me who those teachers are so I can confirm this. I find this hard to believe because none of our textbooks have ever been aligned to our core standards. We have intentionally put forth a 5 year implementation of the Utah core standards so that textbooks are bought on the same current cycle. Line items on the costs of teacher development and textbooks are available through the Office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst as well as from the Utah State Office of Education. Those budgets do not show any measureable increase in the amount spent on either teacher development or textbooks. In fact, you find that over time, the teacher development monies have significantly decreased.

I say: No, I will not provide to you the names of the Utah teachers and other staff who I have personally spoken with.

Governor Herbert agreed in a face to face meeting that a cost analysis should have been done, and was not. He agreed to have one done. He has not. All we have is your word for it. Nothing is on paper. This is not fiscally responsible, especially considering that the largest chunk of Utah tax monies go toward education, and in this case, toward implementation and marketing of Common Core in Utah.

On NAEP: You say:

…the horse you’re riding, the 2001 Massachusetts standards, are the dressed up federal NAEP standards. Dr. Stotsky sits on the NAEP Steering Committee for the Reading Framework. Dr. Driscoll, the Commissioner of Education of Mass, has stated that they aligned their standards and curriculum to NAEP. You will find that I am not a believer in NAEP.

I say: Honestly, I have not studied NAEP very much. So I asked friends in Massachusetts. They told me this, which I will not right now take time to verify, but you and I should both study it further, obviously.

“NAEP only has assessment standards–for its tests. It has no curriculum standards. Stotsky helped to develop curriculum standards in MA. They were approved by the teachers in the state. Stotsky is not on any NAEP committee. To get $250,000 in Race to the Top money, MA adopted Common Core. Gates funded evaluations that were intended to show Common Core standards were better than MA own standards.”

In closing, Mr. Thomas, I am sure you and I would both have a better summer if we actually met face to face rather than spending so much time writing unbearably long emails back and forth.

Please let me know if this is a possibility.

Christel Swasey

Response to UT School Board Member Dave Thomas on Common Core   1 comment

http://utahpubliceducation.org/2013/07/10/sit-in-my-seat/#comment-97870

When I saw that a Utah State School Board member had taken the time to (sort of) answer my questions about Common Core, I was grateful. When I realized that he had not read previous rebuttals on these same topics, I was discouraged. I don’t think they are studying what we have been asking them to study.

Here’s today’s letter. Here’s the link that it was based on. Here’s the list of questions that his letter was based on.

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Dear Mr. Dave Thomas,

I appreciate you taking the time to answer previously unanswered questions about the Common Core agenda.

Unfortunately, the questions were incompletely and not directly answered.

I hope to someday meet in person, to have an open discussion using source documents; until that meeting is offered, I will try writing point by point.

No evidence to support the experiment

You answered question #1 by giving Fordham’s opinion of Common Core. That’s not empirical data nor is it evidence of field testing. No research has ever been done to prove that Common Core will help our students. It’s theoretical and experimental.

We need to see a long-term pilot study of students trying out Common Core to know that it works better. There is no research to support Common Core’s claims –because it is an experiment.

Reduction of literature

You answered question #2 by saying that ELA does not reduce literature. This is untrue. It is common knowledge that informational text is to be the main type of reading for students in Common Core English classes. Common Core testing companies, curriculum writing companies, and teachers all know it. You can see it in the standards themselves. It is unrealistic to think that math and science teachers will be teaching literature; the split is going to harm the amount of literature kids read in English classes. Saying otherwise does not reconcile with the textbooks coming out right now, that are Common Core aligned. While some people believe it’s better to focus on informational texts (I do not) the point is, where were the dissenting voices? Where was the debate? How did this huge transformation toward informational text happen without obvious, noisy vetting?

Math Problems

If integrated math was universally seen as superior, and was beyond debate, then why is there so much arguing going on about whether its viable as a math system among top educators? Why didn’t the Utahns get to debate whether we’d use integrated math, of which not everyone shares your high opinion?

It is common knowledge that Algebra II is taught at the eighth grade level in top performing Asian countries. James Milgram who was the mathematician who rejected Common Core when he served on its validation committee, said:

“I can tell you that my main objection to Core Standards, and the reason I didn’t sign off on them was that they did not match up to international expectations. They were at least 2 years behind the practices in the high achieving countries by 7th grade, and, as a number of people have observed, only require partial understanding of what would be the content of a normal, solid, course in Algebra I or Geometry. Moreover, they cover very little of the content of Algebra II, and none of any higher level course… They will not help our children match up to the students in the top foreign countries when it comes to being hired to top level jobs.“

You mention Dr. Hung-Hsi Wu. But for every Dr. Hung-Hsi Wu who approves of this type of math, there’s a Yong Zhao and a Ze’ev Wurman and a James Milgram, arguing just the opposite.

The point: The majority of Utahns never got to argue out this vitally important transformation of what we are to teach our kids.

Amendability

On the issue of amendability, you slid right past discussion of the 15% cap that the federal government placed on the standards after they were copyrighted by the CCSSO/NGA. Utah can only amend these standards by 15% and that 15% will not be on the common core nationally-aligned tests. We only amended cursive by asking for permission from the CCSSO/NGA. It says so, right on the USOE website: “By Permission.” Where’s the autonomy in that?

Data Collection

On the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) tracking and the Common Core tests’ data collection issue, you correctly say that the federal government is requiring aggregated student data to be given. However, you do not admit that Utah is collecting increasing amounts of student information, both academic and nonacademic, using schools as data collectors for the SLDS, and that AIR will collect even more when it administers the Common Core aligned tests.

AIR is partnered with SBAC, which you failed to mention. And SBAC is under obligation to share its collected student data with the federal government. What evidence is there that AIR and SBAC don’t share collected data? The National Education Data Model and the Common Educational Data Standards and the Data Quality Campaign– all federal groups– ask for personally identifiable information down to voting status and bus stop times.

You are correct that this is not part of the standards, but it is part of the overall Common Core agenda and it is part of the President’s vision for education, and it confirms what eScholar CEO said at the White House Datapalooza event –that “Common Core is the glue” without which the masses of student data could not be so easily shared.

Testing

You say that “Utah is not part of any of the Common Core testing consortiums,” but the test that we have opted to use (AIR) is partnered with one of the Common Core testing consortiums (SBAC) and it is totally Common Core-aligned. I see no benefit to choosing AIR over SBAC. Do you? In fact, in light of the “behavioral indicators” that HB15 (line 59) mandates that the CAT tests will be collecting, and in light of the fact that AIR is a behavioral testing institution, with a mission to apply behavioral research, I think we are in over our heads as far as attempting to hold any type of student psychological data privacy inviolable –while remaining with AIR.

Constitutionality

It is not true that “No one from outside our state is setting standards, creating tests or monitoring them as part of Common Core.” Private interest groups in D.C. have written the standards we now call “Utah Core,” for math and English. It is unrepresentative to allow our state school board to cede control of standards, testing, or to give access to school-collected data to groups outside Utah.

Pushback on Federal Overreach

I would like thank you and anyone on the state school board who has been “fighting federal intrusion into public education,” but I personally haven’t seen any evidence of it. I see the exact opposite happening; whatever comes from D.C., our state school board seems to applaud and obey as if there were no G.E.P.A. law, as if there were no constitutional prohibition for federal “accountability” from states in educational matters.

It is nice that the NASBE told the USDE to stay out of Common Core; but the USDE clearly laughed at that message. In fact, according to the U.S. Secretary of Education, “in March of 2009, President Obama called on the nation’s governors and state school chiefs to develop standards and assessments.” Secretary Duncan seems to think it was President Obama’s idea to have Common Core. It never was “state-led” in any way.

Spiral of Silence

If you would like to see evidence of a culture of silence, simply ask teachers to fill out an anonymous survey as we have done. Teachers won’t speak out –unless, like me, or Susan Wilcox, or Margaret Wilkin, or David Cox, or Renee Braddy– they are Utah teachers who have retired, semi-retired, or are soon to retire.

Teachers value their jobs and therefore, fear speaking out.

Not State-Led

While you assert that Common Core was state-led and that it “was the brainchild of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers,” according to the U.S. Secretary of Education, Common Core was originally President Obama’s brainchild. He says, “in March of 2009, President Obama called on the nation’s governors and state school chiefs to develop standards and assessments.”

Utahns do not elect our governor to represent us on a federal stage; for that, we have representatives and congressmen. Were they asked to analyze Common Core before our state adopted the agenda? Not even close.
Cost

Do you believe that not having done a state cost analysis of Common Core implementation was wise?

Do you believe that the total transformation of all Utah schools to a different set of standards, tests, teacher trainings, and textbooks, will not require any additional funding? I don’t. I also cannot believe the claim that “there was no more impact to textbooks than there normally is,” when teachers are telling me that they have put excellent, even newly purchased, textbooks into permanent storage, because all new Common Core aligned materials must be bought. If indeed this is somehow true, that there was no increase to schools because of Common Core, let’s see the line-item proof to be transparent with taxpayers.

Imposition of Federal Standards

You implied that those of us who want to return to educational liberty want to “impose the federal NAEP standards on Utah,” but this is false. We want to control education locally.

Christel Swasey

Utah Credentialed Teacher

Heber City

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