Archive for the ‘defending local control’ Tag

Not Too Late to Stop Reauthorization of No Child Left Behind: Open Letter to Congress   3 comments

Here’s the powerful open letter, signed by individuals and organizations from all over the country including several Utah grassroots organizations, asking Congress to stop the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind.

http://www.flstopcccoalition.org/files/340E4386-4C72-4839-A8DC-2F671AF25561–0B810B12-A6E9-4D7F-9414-7DC79D4D7940/congressional-esea-letter-final.pdf#sthash.YLc0t0ki.dpuf

For more information, see these links:  here’s what’s wrong with the bills, in bullet-point form, from American Principles Project:

http://www.americanprinciplesinaction.org/action/take-action-reasons-to-oppose-hr-5-the-reauthorization-of-nclb/

http://www.americanprinciplesinaction.org/apia-education/every-child-achieves-act-a-wolf-in-sheeps-clothing/ (the only point that’s changed, and is no longer valid, is #14, which was taken care of by amendment on the Senate floor)

 

Here are analyses of the amendments to both bills:

http://www.flstopcccoalition.org/blog/analysis-amendments-votes-hr-student-success-act.htm

http://www.flstopcccoalition.org/blog/analysis-amendments-votes-us-senate-every-child-achieves-act.htm

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With Common Core States Face Critical Problem: Which Tests?   1 comment

By Sandra Stotsky

 

The burning education issue facing most states at the moment is which tests should they give their K-12 students next year to satisfy the conditions of their waivers from the United States Department of Education (USED) or the commitments they made in their Race to the Top (RttT) applications, whether or not they received an RttT grant or other funds from the USED or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

The two testing consortia funded by the USED – Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) – for the purpose of developing common tests based on Common Core’s standards have experienced dwindling state commitments. SBAC is down to less than 20, and PARCC is down to possibly 9. Both consortia have been piloting test items across the states this past academic year to acquire the pool of items needed for computer-adaptive testing (by SBAC) and for gauging difficulty levels at all the grade levels participating in the assessments (K-11).

A new twist is the question of whether state boards, commissioners, and/or departments of education committed their states (i.e., the taxpayers) to particular testing companies and future technology costs without going through statute-mandated bidding procedures and cost-benefit analyses. New Mexico and Louisiana seem to be tied up in constitutional issues on contractual matters, while Arizona is trying to ensure it follows its own statutory bidding procedures.

What hasn’t been getting much attention from mainstream media, possibly because most reporters have no children in Common Core-based classrooms and don’t talk to parents of school-age children on a regular basis, are the problems students and teachers are encountering with the tests themselves and the similarities in the problems reported for PARCC and SBAC pilot tests.

The information on PARCC’s pilot tests comes from school administrators in the Bridgewater-Raynham Regional School District in Massachusetts, as reported on June 18 in Wickedlocal.com. The article was based chiefly on what took place at a school board meeting in June, during which the School Committee voted unanimously to stay with MCAS, the state test, for the next academic year. At the meeting, the school administrators explained why they wanted to stay with MCAS, based on the experiences teachers and students had with the PARCC pilot tests the school district gave in the spring of 2014. 

“It’s like telling our teachers, ‘We’ll teach you how to drive.’ But then the test says you won’t be driving cars. You’ll be driving boats,” said Bridgewater-Raynham school Superintendent Jacqueline Forbes of the PARCC exam. “It’s not aligning with our curriculum or instruction.”

angryteacher

Based on pilot testing, school officials said PARCC did not match up with Bridgewater-Raynham’s teaching methods and also contained numerous technological flaws.

“The one word I’d use to sum up our experience is ‘frustration,’” said Brian Lynch, an elementary school principal. “First, there were a lot of problems administering the test, which is taken on a computer – and the snags weren’t on the district’s end.”

“Second, the test requires students to be familiar with software programs the district does not teach,” Lynch continued. “The district uses a lot of technology, but students still take basic math tests on topics such as number lines and graphing using a paper and pencil.”

“Are we testing math or are we testing a child’s ability to drag and type?” asked Forbes. “We don’t teach typing in third grade. It’s not developmentally appropriate.”

According to high school Principal Angela Watson, the district piloted the PARCC Algebra I test to randomly selected ninth graders.

“Unfortunately, what we found is our written, taught and assessed curriculum doesn’t match up exactly with the PARCC exam. … It puts kids in unfamiliar territory,” Watsonsaid. “It would take time and resources to make the switch to a curriculum that matches up with PARCC.”  

Forbes, however, said that effort might turn out to be misdirected because other districts have articulated similar concerns about the PARCC test.

Regarding SBAC’s pilot tests, a recent letter by Fairgrounds Middle School Principal John Nelson to Nashua Superintendent Mark Conrad provided a disturbing picture, wrote theNashua Telegraph in late January.

New Hampshire teachers had been asked by their local superintendent of schools to take an early version of SBAC in December 2013. According to the article, the teachers said the “new computerized test is confusing, doesn’t work well, and leads to frustration.”

In his letter to members of the Nashua Board of Education, Nelson said, “Teachers shared frustrations they had when they were taking the test and disappointment in test format and the difficulties they had trying to use their computer to take this test.”

His teachers agreed the test should not be used on Nashua students.

Nelson wrote:

The FMS staff collectively believe that the Smarter Balance Test is inappropriate for our students at this time and that the results from this test will not measure the academic achievement of our students; but will be a test of computer skills and students’ abilities to endure through a cumbersome task.

Despite the teachers’ plea and support from Nashua’s teacher union, Conrad, the state board, and Department of Education refused to back down, leaving Nashua’s students with a test their own teachers think is meaningless.

As in Nashua and Bridgewater-Raynham, local reporters all over the country are likely reporting what is happening in their local schools as they pilot Common Core-based tests. But Congress, state legislators, governors, and other policymakers at the state and national levels are not getting an accurate picture of what is happening to the curriculum in our public schools or to the children in them. 

Sandra Stotsky, Ed.D. is Professor Emerita at the University of Arkansas.  This article is posted with her permission and was first published at Breitbart.com

Outsmarting the Language of the Common Core Cuttlefish   4 comments

A smiling school board member, tired of me and unwilling to fight the Common Core monster, advised me to do what she does: focus on the positive parts of Common Core.  Be an optimist, she said.

“The positive parts?  –You mean the lies?” I thought, because I’ve not seen positive parts unless you count the positivesounding parts.

There are lots of those– the Common Core advertisements, the school board’s website promotions and newspaper quotes.

To the non-researcher, the Common Core sounds completely positive– but this “initiative” turns out to be very bad when the naked facts are revealed, about how it’s controlled,  whom it pays off and what it robs.

Because the smiling board member knew many of these unsavory facts that she wished not to know, her advice reminded me of the part in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde when Dr. Jekyll tells Utterton not to worry about Mr. Hyde.  How illogical, dangerous and self-defeating.  But to some, it seems that being an optimist requires putting ourselves at the mercy of bullies and pretending to agree to things that are clearly not so.

This conversation exposed the wide gap between the pretty surface language versus the ugly facts under the belly of Common Core.

 

orwell one

 

In response to that conversation, I’m promoting George Orwell’s brilliant 1946 “catalogue of swindles and perversions” entitled  Politics and the English Language.

Orwell’s great at explaining how to cut through verbal jungles of lies.  (Please read his whole essay here; I’m just borrowing highlights.)

My favorite image from the essay tops Orwell’s explanation of how manipulators make a bad situation sound grand by using language to cloud truth:  as a cuttlefish clouds his intentions by squirting a lot of ink.

cuttlefish and ink

When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns… to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink” … the great enemy of clear language is insincerity,” he wrote. 

Orwell’s essay does more than reveal how political language deceived listeners in 1946; it also foretells 2014 ed reform lingo.  It could have been titled “Interesting Ways That People Cook Up Lies to Appear Not Only True, But Delicious.”

 

Many people have never considered Orwell’s main point:  that official language is not only used to express thought; language can be and is also used “for concealing or preventing thought.”  Orwell said that political language can “make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”.

The politicorporate cuttlefish do this!

They can’t risk alerting Americans to the real direction in which ed reforms have taken our liberties.  Speaking plainly would reveal everything, so they use language to conceal and cloud the sources of the power grab, banking on the fact that most people accept wordiness as if it were smartness and lawfulness.

As a cuttlefish squirts out ink to mask the direction in which he’s really swimming, so do DuncanObamaGates, ColemanBarberTucker, writers of grants, reports and publications try to cloud our minds to lull us, as school boards, governors, parents and taxpayers, to nod and hand over our keys– because we can’t see where the cuttlefish is going and the ink’s kind of pretty.

This is how they do it.

1.  BORROWED WORDS OR PRIVATE DEFINITIONS

Those who are either lazy or liars continually borrow phrases and metaphors “tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house,” as Orwell called it, rather than to actually work to think of an original phrase, metaphor or image.

Keeping that henhouse in mind, watch for the repetitive phrases tacked together in education reformers’ speeches.   The repeated handful of vague, positive terms include:

These terms have defined, mostly private second meanings.  For one example, “world class education” does not mean the best in the world, as we might think –instead, it means noncompetitive, as in: the same as all the world –which is supremely ironic given the fact that the phrase “international competitiveness”  is another prefabricated ed reform hen house phrase.

Orwell said that people use words of this kind “in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different.”  The trendy, pre-fab terms are re-echoed by the federal government, the NGA, CCSSO, Achieve Inc., the Chamber of Commerce, and top university leaders.  Some high up officials do not even know that there are private definitions, and they parrot what they’ve heard from people who they may not even recognize as being liars;  real, actual, ongoing, habitual, caught-in-the-act liars.

The prime example, of course, of an overused, overborrowed term with a private definition is President Obama’s “call for success in college and careers” also known as “college and career ready standards.”  It sounds unobjectionable.  But it’s not just a nice, vague term to Obama.  It’s narrowly defined on the federal website as standards “common to a significant number of states.”  That’s no definition at all except common, the same.   Excellence doesn’t come into it.  And the phrase is repeated seven times just in one short white house press release.  It’s that important and weighty.  Now I can’t hear the term “college and career ready” without groaning and rolling my eyes.  The ed reformers stole its innocent meaning.

Another pet deceit among ed reformers is to misuse the word “back” by equating any attempt anyone makes (to restore freedoms previously held) to moving backward, or making unintelligent decisions.  Bill Gates said that controversy around Common Core “comes from people who want to stop the standards, which would send us back to what we had before.”   He did not define “what we had before” as freedom.  He left that intentionally vague.  But ponder it:  would restoring text and test diversity really be a step backward?  Would restoring student privacy by getting rid of common data standards (CEDS) and the common databases (SLDS) be a step backward or forward for lovers of freedom?  Is all change positive change?

Of course, some changes are good and some are bad.  But top ed reformers, including education sales giant Pearson, relentlessly push the idea that deletion of traditional education is good.  Pearson CEA Sir Michael Barber said,  “governments need to rethink their regulatory regimes for an era when university systems are global rather than national… standing still is not an option.”

Do you buy the idea that governments should give up their national constitutions and local systems and that holding fast to time-tested traditions in education is stupidly “standing still”?  Me neither.  But this gives us insight into the private definition of “globally competent”.

orwell two

2. VERBAL FALSE LIMBS

Overuse of the quantity words, especially of overused and educratically vogue words,  is usually deliberate snowing.  Ed reformers cover up the sharp truths so people don’t recognize what they’re doing, nor fight back.  But George Orwell pointed out that adding extra, unneeded words is as obvious and cumbersome –if you pay attention– as adding an extra limb to the body.  Watch for phrases lacking usefulness but still commanding space and posing as credibile.

The excessive limbs game was used, for example, when the Federal Register attempted to hide its removal of parental consent over student data-sharing in FERPA policy, by using so many words that only a committee of lawyers could uncover it.

Remember: the motive is to conceal, not to reveal, truth.  Orwell said that these excess words “fall upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outlines and covering up all the details… ”

Indeed they try.  But there are red flags that they themselves created, phrases that can signal to us that lies are afoot.  One especially irksome phrase is “informed by” –such a trendy, snooty false limb.  Its academic tone may intimidate some readers, but the phrase is often used as a spout near missing evidence.  For example, the Common Core official website states that “Common Core is informed by  the highest, most effective standards from states across the United States and countries around the world.”  Not true!

Promoters used to claim, often and loudly, that Common Core was internationally benchmarked, but after critics pointed out that not a single country had math and English standards that matched Common Core, promoters changed to the term “informed by” which is so vague that it’s harder to prove it’s a lie.

Still, it’s a lie:  top state standards-holders prior to Common Core were Massachusetts, Indiana and California, and they dropped their high standards and came down to common core. Common Core didn’t reach up at all.  There’s nothing “internationally informed” about them.  Just ask validation committee member Dr. James Milgram, who said that the reason he didn’t sign off on the standards was that “they did not match up to international expectations. They were at least two years behind practices in high achieving countries by seventh grade”.

A very wordy example of verbal false limbs running amok is seen in a federal Common Core grant called the “Cooperative Agreement.” It connects the federal government and the Common Core tester, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).  The lengthy agreement applies to PARCC, too. And since SBAC partnered with Utah’s and Florida’s current testing group, A.I.R., this document still matters to me despite Utah’s dropping out of SBAC.  Buried in its snowbanks of wordiness is a micromanaging federal bully.  States must:

“Actively participate in any meetings and telephone conferences with ED staff… Be responsive to requests from ED for information about the status of the project… providing such information in writingComply with… ED staff … make student-level data that results from the assessment system available on an ongoing basis…  [R]espective Project Directors [this means the testing arms] will collaborate to coordinate appropriate tasks and timelines to foster synchronized development of assessment systems… The Program Officer for the RTTA grantees [this means the Feds] will work with the Project Directors for both RTTA grantees [this means the testing arms] to coordinate and facilitate coordination across consortia.”

In other words, conform.  But that sharp message is buried behind pleasant phrases earlier in the document, such as “the purpose of this agreement is to support the consortium recipient.”  Support?  The way that a jail supports those jailed inside it?  This brings us to the next tool: pretentious diction.

orwell four

3.  PRETENTIOUS DICTION

Orwell said that pretentious diction tries to “dignify sordid processes” and to “give an air of scientific impartiality to biased judgments.”

Example:  Read the pretentious, one-sided judgments underlying the highly controversial Obama-Duncan “Preschool For All Initiative”.  For those who don’t know, this move puts four year old toddlers in federal preschools –based on supposedly settled scientific research that concludes that this will benefit little ones.

Yet, highly respected researchers oppose  what Obama-Duncan tout; they say that it is best to keep young children free of institutionalization (not to mention keeping them free of data tracking and high stakes testing).  Still, President Obama speaks about the federal Preschool For All, using “research” that serves his idea that government should rear children from the cradle.

Watch how he does it.  He imposes the intimate, tiny yet very pretentious term “we” on listeners, and implies that “we” can simultaneously –and fairly– serve the child, the business interests, and the educational-political interests:

“Research  shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education.”

Notice that the president omits any mention of governmental mandate.  Elsewhere, we learn that Preschool For All  is to be mandatory.   In an April 29, 2014 speech, Duncan called for mandatory preschool, saying, “The third major priority in the 2015 request is to continue the President’s commitment to expanding educational opportunity for millions of children through a $75 billion mandatory Preschool for All program…”

Pretentious diction overflows,  like the polluted froth on a sick river,  over and through the current math and English Common Core standards.  It  lives in the speeches of education sales giant Pearson CEA Sir Michael Barber as he explains reasons for making environmental education a centerpiece of every school in every subject in every nation (see Pearson’s CEA Sir Michael Barber‘s speeches.)  It’s in the term “misinformed” that proponents loves to call all Common Core’s opponents.  Pretention is everywhere ed reformers speak and write.  They depend on pretense because they lack actual authority.

A clue to detecting the lies that are hidden behind pretentious diction is to search for links to research that supports the claims being made.  Usually, there are no references, no links; listeners are expected to be trusting and dumb enough to assume what is being said is truthful.  On those rare occasions that links to evidence are provided, find out if the cited think tank/university/publisher is financially partnered with the politicorporate cuttlefish of Common Core.  Invariably, they are.

We are left to realize that in Common Core ed reform, money now has a stronger voice than voters, teachers, parents, students or taxpayers in determining what will be policy.  And that money is deeply committed to making more of itself.  Case in point:

Gates’ company, Microsoft, wrote:  “At Microsoft, we are deeply committed to working with governments… [blah blah blah] … learning for all.”

Deeply committed” sounds good.  It sounds noble.  But why is Gates’ company so deeply committed to “learning for all”?  Because they’re making money while altering political and educational policy.  Making money is a good thing; I’m all for capitalism.  The problem is that nobody elected Microsoft or Pearson;  they have no authority other than the dollars they use as bait.  We can’t un-elect them now or ever, and we’ve swallowed their baited hooks right and left in countless “partnerships” with our governments.

Deeply committed.

 

 4. MEANINGLESS WORDS

Orwell pointed out that much of what passes for writing is “strictly meaningless, in the sense that they not only do not point to any discoverable object, but are hardly even expected to do so by the reader.”  Orwell despised “long passages almost completely lacking in meaning.”  He would not enjoy the 26-transcript-paged speech by David Coleman, current president of the College Board, because it is a black hole that says nothing except for the part when Coleman admitted he’s unqualified for his office.  That part would be funny if the education of children were some kind of laughing matter.

Here’s more meaninglessness:  Bill Gates said:  “common standards could transform U.S. education.”  It’s meaningless because nobody would argue it; it’s like saying rain could make your hair wet.  Common standards could and ARE transforming education.  But is it a disasterous or a delightful transformation?  He left out that part so nobody could argue with him or criticize his sound byte.  Except that I am criticizing it for its desperate spineless meaninglessness.

Sometimes Gates speaks so vaguely that he covers both ends of opposing concepts.  He said that Common Core would “enable American students to better compete globally.”  He didn’t explain how (considering the fact that the standards are only preparing students for nonselective colleges).  But since it’s an established, defined fact that “world-class education” now means “noncompetitive education,” Gates’ statement passes neither the logic nor the meaningfulness test.

Why does the second richest man in the world, who probably has dozens of speech writers and image makers, deliberately choose to speak and write meaninglessly, vaguely?  Because Common Core is a power grab and the truth would upset people.  He can’t say so.

Neither can Arne Duncan or President Obama.  So the cuttlefish use words that mean “we control; you submit” but that don’t sound that way.  Look at the beige terms they use such as:

  • turning around schools
  • fostering rigor
  • supporting states
  • flexibility for states
  • federal accountability
  • sustainable reform
  • education pipeline
  •  stakeholder

These terms support the top-down edu-politicorporate control system that boils down to “we are the boss of you.”

Orwell warned readers against such ready-made phrases, not only because they often veil corrupt power moves, but also because “every such phrase anaesthetizes a portion of one’s brain.”

Not to mention that they smell like lies from miles away.

For Utah School Districts: A Common Core Fact-Checking Adventure   3 comments

Rainforest-Hiker-2-NYT-1200x550

Let’s not call this research!   This is a fact-checking adventure.

This adventure begins because of the FAQ statements about Common Core posted at the Provo  School District website.  (See it on their  website or just scroll to the bottom of the page where I’ve pasted it.)

This post is not meant to be accusatory or mean.  Provo District and other districts tend to trust and echo  what’s spoken and posted by the State Office.   Clearly, districts and boards, like anyone, can and do make factual errors; but when the errors are very clearly pointed out, those mistakes should be corrected.

I apologize for the length of this article.  I chiseled and chiseled but cannot in good conscience make it any shorter. 

——————————

Question #1 at the Provo District FAQ states: “The Common Core was a grassroots initiative initiated by state governors and Superintendents in 2007.”

Common Core is far from being “grassroots.”  President Obama has been pushing for national standards for many years.  In 2007, he was justifying his decision to stop NASA’s Moon and Mars exploration programs to fund “his” new education program.  His administration has used different terms to refer to his takeover of local education, but it has also provided a federal, official definition   of “college and career ready standards” being “standards that are common to a significant number of states” –which can only be Common Core.  He paid for Common Core test development.  And Obama’s famous blueprint for reform included four education reforms, one of which was data collection, one of which was common standards and tests, and you can read the rest.

Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, claimed that a federal takeover of education was Obama’s idea.  Buried in the second half of a long, glowing official speech about U.S. education reform are  these words by Arne Duncan: “The North Star guiding the alignment of our cradle-to-career education agenda is President Obama’s goal” –and he said that even though: “Traditionally, the federal government in the U.S. has had a limited role in education policy,” Obama “has sought to fundamentally shift the federal role, so that the Department is doing much more…  America is now in the midst of a “quiet revolution” in school reform.”

Secretary Duncan  gloated that many states fell for the financially-baited federal Common Core hook without debating the move, but Duncan always carefully called the Standards a state-led creation, keeping up the ruse.  He said that a majority of states “and the District of Columbia have already chosen to adopt the new state-crafted Common Core standards in math and English. Not studying it, not thinking about it, not issuing a white paper—they have actually done it. Over three-fourths of all U.S. public school students now reside in states that have voluntarily adopted higher, common college-ready standards… That is an absolute game-changer.”

Indeed it was a game changer.

To clear up doubt about whether Common Core was or was not grassroots-and-teacher-led, just follow the money trail. Those who paid for and promote this are being paid, or will be handsomely paid as it is implemented, to do so. The SBAC and PARCC Common Core tests are funded by the federal government. The Common Core standards’ writing, marketing and implementation are funded primarily by Microsoft owner, Pearson-Ed partner Bill Gates.   This unelected influence continues locally.  In Utah, the ways in which Pearson/Gates controls school data collection  is formidable.

Most telling is the official partnership of the Department of Education with the Common Core creators.  The ongoing support (coercion) of the federal government to have states adopt the private-trade-group held, copyrighted Common Core means that Common Core is neither purely a federal takeover nor is it purely a privatization of public schools, but it is a public-private partnership, a concept that takes voters out of the decision making driver’s seat.

Question #1 also misleads us by saying that Common Core was “initiated by state governors and superintendents.”   It is true that the governors’ club, (NGA) and the superintendents’ club, (CCSSO) did create and copyright Common Core.  Their “frequently asked questions” officially explains:  “the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), led the development of the Common Core State Standards and continue to lead…”  But not all governors belong to NGA!  Not all superintendents belong to CCSSO!  Some, in fact, are vehemently opposed to these private, closed-door, non-transparent, unelected trade organizations that wield falsely assumed power.  I say “falsely assumed” because they pretend to Congress-like national representational authority for states, but they are not an elected group.  No voter can affect what they do.  No reporter can report on what they do.

Questions 2, 3 and 4 take on the question of whether standards and curriculum are independent of one another.  This is like saying that a skeleton (standards) does not dictate what a body (curriculum) looks like.  It’s a half-truth: sure, they are not the same thing.  But I defy anyone to build a curriculum and related tests that truly soar above or are very different looking than the standards they are built upon.  Watch the statement in a video by main Common Core funder Bill Gates as he explains to legislators that he’s looking forward to schools being a uniform customer base, and that “we’ll only know if Common Core standards work” when the standards, curriculum and tests align.  You might also listen to teachers who testify that standards do drive curriculum and testing, as they narrow the autonomy and innovation of a classroom.

Question 5 asserts that the Common Core standards were internationally benchmarked.  This is not true.

Dr. James Milgram, the Stanford emeritus professor of mathematics who served on the Common Core validation committee and who refused to sign off on the standards, 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…”

Likewise, Professor Sandra Stotsky, who served on the same committee, who also refused to sign off on the Common Core standards because they were academically inferior,  has written:

“…we are regularly told that Common Core’s standards are internationally benchmarked. Joel Klein, former head of the New York City schools, most recently repeated this myth in an interview with Paul Gigot, the Wall Street Journal editor, during the first week in June. Not mentioned at all in the interview or the op-ed he co-authored in the WSJ a week later is Klein’s current position in a company that does a lot of business with Common Core. An Exxon ad, repeated multiple times during a recently televised national tennis match, also suggested that Common Core’s standards were internationally benchmarked. We don’t know who influenced Exxon’s education director. Gigot never asked Klein what countries we were supposedly benchmarked to. Nor did the Exxon ad name a country to which these standards were supposedly benchmarked. Klein wouldn’t have been able to answer, nor could Exxon have named a country because Common Core’s standards are not internationally benchmarked. Neither the methodologically flawed study by William Schmidt of Michigan State University, nor the post-Common Core studies by David Conley of the University of Oregon, all funded by the Gates Foundation, have shown that Common Core’s content is close to, never mind equal to, the level of the academic content of the mathematics and English standards in high-achieving countries.”

In which top-achieving country is Algebra pushed to grade 9 instead of grade 8?  In which top-achieving country is classic literature being replaced gradually by informational text?  The phrase “internationally benchmarked” is misleading millions of people.

Question 6 states that the federal government has no role in the implementation or development of Common Core.  This is a half-truth; as shown above, the federal government partnered with private groups who are developing and implementing the Common Core.  The role of the federal government has been to heavy-handedly partner with and to promote the Career and College Readiness /aka Common Core Initiative’s full agenda, with grants, speeches, and threats –while saying that localities retain freedom to choose.

Question 7 asks:  Will Utah taxpayers have to pay more money to implement the new Utah Core Standards?  The Provo District says that it will not cost any additional money.  This cannot possibly be true– even common sense alerts us to this, but so does Pioneer Institute, a rare think tank that is not-Bill-Gates-nor-federally funded. Here is that think tank’s report.

Reason this out. When, in the past, have districts needed to throw out and replace virtually all old text books for totally different math and English standards?  Never.  When have there been so many wholly transformative (for good or ill) teacher development classes statewide? Never.  When has the state tested students so often and so heavily to align with national  testing practices?  Taxpayers even had to fund the marketing and political blitzing of the Utah State Office of Education as it has aimed to persuade parents that Common Core is a positive change.

Question 8 asks, “How does the local school board fit into the Common Core?”  Without saying so directly, it answers its own question:  the local school board’s job has seemingly become to nod and agree with all that the state pushes upon it, groupthink style.

Question  9 asks, “Do these standards incorporate both content and skills?”  While it is true that both content and skills are partially covered in Common Core, it is an important reality that less knowledge and more of what Dr. Stotsky refers to as “empty skill sets,” with much less content, is being taught under Common Core.   Virtually everything has changed, and all without field testing or academic research to base the changes upon.  Even  vocabulary words are changing to less literary, more technical/industrial words, words that are being called “more relevant” than the rich vocabulary offered in the literary classics.   And, while small passages of founding documents and classic literature are to be taught and tested, they are not to be placed in context nor read in whole.   This, to me, looks like dumbing down.  Professor Thomas Newkirk of the University of New Hampshire explains:  “The central message in their guidelines is that the focus should be on “the text itself”… The text should be understood in “its own terms.” While the personal connections and judgments of the readers may enter in later, they should do so only after students demonstrate “a clear understanding of what they read.” So the model of reading seems to have two stages—first a close reading in which the reader withholds judgment or comparison with other texts, focusing solely on what is happening within “the four corners of the text.” And only then are prior knowledge, personal association, and appraisal allowed in.  This seems to me an inhuman, even impossible, and certainly unwise prescription.”  –Speaking Back to the Common Core

The Provo District claims:  “In Mathematics, the Common Core State Standards lay a solid foundation in whole numbers, addition, subtraction…”  At which ages are these math concepts being taught?  Many foundational concepts have been pushed back.  Fluency with fractions/decimals/ratios is pushed to junior high, when it used to be foundational for elementary school levels.  Most calculus and  other higher math concepts are pushed out of high school completely— not available until college.   Dr. James Milgram said that Common Core math standards “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…”  Noted math expert Ze’ev Wurman has noted that Common Core math standards, now set in the concrete of nationalized, high-stakes testing, “mark the cessation of educational standards improvement in the United States.”

Question 10 asks whether these math standards cover all the key math topics in the proper sequence.  It claims that the Common Core math standards “are coherent and based on evidence”  No link to such evidence is given.

We need such evidence.  Academics nationwide are pointing out that because no evidence exists, the standards are an experiment.  They were never field tested prior to the nationwide rollout.

Dr. Milgram has said, “There is no point where the student-constructed algorithms are explicitly replaced by the very efficient standard methods for doing one-digit operations. Why does Common Core adopt this convoluted method of teaching math? The stated reason is that learning the standard algorithm doesn’t give students a “deeper conceptual understanding” of what they’re doing. But the use of student-constructed algorithms is at odds with the practices of high-achieving countries and is not supported by research. Common Core is using our children for a huge and risky experiment.”

Question 11  addresses the ongoing discussion about who has control of the classroom.  Provo District states that the Common Core standards “do not dictate how teachers should teach. Teachers will continue to devise lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their classrooms, as well as select instructional materials they feel are most appropriate.”

But teachers are testifying that this is not true.  Utah teachers Ann Florence, Stuart Harper, Susan Wilcox, Malin Williams, Diana McKay and many other teachers have spoken out and risked or lost their jobs to tell a very different story.   In addition, we have the above-cited testimony of funder Bill Gates  who says that the standards, tests and curriculum will align to prove that the standards “work.”  It’s like the old Ford Advertisement: “You can Have Any Color As Long as it’s Black.”  The state, federal, and corporate ed sales (textbook companies) say the same thing: “You can have any standards as long as they are the exact same as all other states’ standards.”  Almost all the curriculum in the nation is aligning, building a new education system on a very sandy foundation.  The fact is that there is a Common Core  15% no-adding-to-the-standards rule in contracts and agreements that is common knowledge, both in testing and curriculum.  The USOE continues to dismiss the suffocating 15% rule as “not a big deal.”

Question 12 asks what would happen if Utah were to reject Common Core.  The Provo District then says that because the Common Core Standards “are not federal” that this would not alter Utah’s relationship with the federal government.  This assertion contains two untrue portions: 1) saying that Common Core Standards are not federal implies that they are not federally approved/federally promoted/federally set as conditions for receipt of federal grants and Title I monies.  But they are all of those things.

Although the NGA/CCSSO wrote and copyrighted the standards, the federal government has pushed  them more than anyone —has disguised the nature  and name of it, deceptive language. Federally, the Common Core Standards are called the “College and Career-Ready Standards.”  But at the NGA/CCSSO level, it’s called Common Core.  The feds officially defined “College and Career Ready Standards” as “standards common to a significant number of states.”  See this official re-definition on the federal education website.  Although federal insiders know this, they don’t choose to clarify it.

Question 12 goes on to say that because Utah Law now requires computer adaptive testing, the  testing would continue with AIR (American Institutes for Research) even if we rejected Common Core itself.  This does not make sense; Utah’s AIR (aka SAGE)  test is aligned to Common Core.   Why would we stick with that after dropping Common Core?  Were we to reject Common Core, we would then create an alternative test with a non-Common Core aligned company using better, independent standards.

Question 12 states that the State Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) would still be in  place. This is true, and problematic.  Since Utah has no proper protections in place over the privacy of student data, and since the federal goverment shredded formerly protective federal FERPA privacy laws, Utah would have to either create proper protections legislatively, or Utah would need to shut down the SLDS and return the $9.6 million that Utah accepted from the federal government to create it, using federally directed interoperability frameworks  (see pages 2 and 4 on that grant’s pdf) which created a de facto national data collection system).   Since national data collection systems, de facto or not, are illegal, it would be preferable to shut down the SLDS.

Question 12 further states that “Utah would have to go through the expense of writing a new core or adopt  the former core–which is not seen as “College and Career Ready” standards… newly purchased materials have to be discarded. If Utah  writes unique standards, there will be little or no available materials or textbooks to  support their instruction.”  This is mostly correct.  Utah’s hasty adoption of Common Core has cost her countless millions in newly purchased materials and programs.  (See question 7 above, which ironically asserts that the cost of Common Core is not an issue.)  There are  a limited number of textbook companies that offer curriculum independent from Common Core.  Some curriculum companies, such as Saxon Math and Shirley Grammar, still offer editions that have not changed to Common Core to accomodate private schools and home schools.  Others, such as the Institute for Excellence in Writing, have re-labeled curriculum, calling it Common Core aligned,  but have not made actual changes to it.  Remember that all older (classical education) texts are independent of Common Core, since Common Core only began its explosive  existence in the past four years.

Question 13 asks what assessments are required by the federal government and answers that ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) aka “No  Child Left Behind” requires states to have  assessments in math, language arts, and science. This is true. What isn’t explained, and should be, is this:  The federal government first of all has no constitutional business requiring states to have assessments.  See the U.S. Constitution and G.E.P.A. law (General Educational Provisions Act).

Yet the federal government now corrals its state funding  to be used for tests, technologies, professional development, and student computer devices only if and when they are aligned with Common Core (aka College and Career Ready, or CCR).  The federal government approves a limited number of testing organizations and consortia.  (Utah’s so-called choice, the A.I.R. company, has “developed the only computer adaptive test that is federally approved.“)

Question 15 contends that “Utah teachers will write all of the questions that will be used in the new assessment  system”  and that “Every teacher in the state has been invited to participate in the item writing.”   Every teacher in the state has not been invited.  Ask around.  It’s not true.  Also, in the words of the actual contract that Utah and the A.I.R. testing company have signed –the contract is available from the State Office of Education–  a combination of AIR psychometricians, and also Utah teachers, are co-writing the test items.  Why let a single psychometrician anywhere near our children’s academic tests?

 

Question 16  discusses the 15-parent panel which reviews the AIR/SAGE tests to see that they are strictly academic.  The panel’s work has not been given the respect it deserved.  Nor can we honestly say that the USOE is not collecting behavioral data, inside the SAGE test or by other state-created methods to be discussed below.

Of her experience on the parent panel, mother Alyson Williams, stated (see the comments section) that:

“There were questions that parents flagged as inappropriate, subjective or biased. We were promised that these test items would be reviewed and addressed and that we would get to see how they were addressed… long after this Spring’s pilot, unfortunately… I feel it is a manipulation of my cooperation to characterize it as unreserved approval of these assessments.”

Another member of the panel, Louisa Walker, stated: “Quoted from [Assistant State Superintendent] Judy Park: ‘… Every parent on the panel… agreed that there was nothing in the questions that was inappropriate.’ I served on that 15 parent committee, and I will tell you that is not trueI wasn’t the only one to flag items because of subjective, inappropriate, or misleading content…”

A third member of the parent panel, Jennie Earl, stated that only 2 or 3 parents actually read each of the questions, due to the huge number of questions and small number of parents permitted to read them.  She wrote:   “… a parent would read a question they had concerns with to gather additional insight from the other parents in the room… because of the nature of the content in the question or bias in the wording…. These items were flagged in addition to other items parents felt needed revision or removal. We don’t know the final outcome thus far on flagged items…  I might add… measuring teachers and schools based on a value-added model or growth model is not a valid measurement tool for identifying effective teachers or schools.”

A fourth member of the 15-parent state panel, Kim Kehrer, wrote: “I was also on the parent panel. The questions were reviewed at most by two members of the 15 parent panel. Here are the facts: 43 questions were removed due to various reasons. 160 questions were changed or modified to address the question of concern and 397 questions will be used in the testing and reviewed again next year. I second Jennie Earl’s comment that we are not a validating committee.”

In addition to these concerns, the idea that the tests were strictly academic must be addressed.  That cannot be believed by any rational researcher.

Here’s why:

1-  Do a word search on the AIR contract with Utah; the word “psychometric” comes up 73 times. (Look up that word’s definition and find that psychometrics are psychological and educational measurement using tests.)

2-  Look up the AIR company:  “AIR’s mission is to conduct and apply the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation”.

3-  Look at Utah’s legislation about computer adaptive state testing and learn that HB15, created in 2012, requires the collection of  behavior indicators. It calls for “ the use of student behavior indicators in assessing student performance” as part of the testing. This is Utah’s S.A.G.E. test or A.I.R.– test. (There were other, similar laws, years prior to this, as well.) –Are we to believe that although AIR’s purpose is to test behavioral and social indicators, and although Utah law says that the test must test behavioral indicators, the test still won’t?

4- See Utah’s SLDS grant application starting at page 87  and read how non-cognitive behaviors that have nothing to do with academics, will be collected and studied. (This may or may not include information embedded in AIR/SAGE tests)  These behaviors will include “social comfort and integration, academic conscientiousness, resiliency, etc.” to be evaluated in part through the psychometric census known as the “Student Strengths Inventory. (SSI)” That inventory –a child’s psychological information– will be integrated into the database (SLDS).  The SLDS grant promises to integrate psychological data into the state database.

“With the introduction of UtahFutures and the Student Strengths Inventory (SSI) and its focus on noncognitive data, combining such data with other longitudinal student level data to the USOE Data Warehouse the UDA.”  It also says: “… psychosocial or noncognitive factors… include, but are not limited to educational commitment, academic engagement and conscientiousness, social comfort and social integration, academic self-efficacy, resiliency…  Until recently, institutions had to rely on standardized cognitive measures to identify student needs. … We propose to census test all current student in grades 11 and 12 using… SSI,  a measure of noncognitive attitudes and behaviors.” The Student Strengths Inventory (SSI) is a “psychometric census” to be taken by every 11th and 12th grade student in Utah.

The Utah Office of Education openly admits to gathering student psychological data.  It has not yet openly admitted that SAGE/AIR tests do this.  But with such a policy, openly shown in the USOE’s SLDS grant, why wouldn’t the USOE also, soon if not now, use the SAGE test along with SSI, to gather attitude and belief data on Utah children?  The point is that proper legal protections are not in place.  Student data and family privacy is vulnerable.

5– The USOE has a history of working in harmony with even the unconstitutional federal initiatives.  The U.S. Department of Education  issued a report on school gathering of behavioral/belief data.  Read its 2013 “Promoting Grit, Tenacity and Perserverance” report.  It encourages assessment of student beliefs and personality characteristics, and the keeping of longitudinal records of these traits.  The report encourages the use of facial expression cameras, wireless skin conductors, posture analysis seats and other physical devices to measure student attitudes, beliefs and engagement with what is being presented. (see page 44)

Why isn’t the Provo District and the Utah School Board making statements of discontent with the directions in which the federal government is taking education and data collection in light of such federal reports and recommendations?

Question 18, 19 and 20 concern student data privacy.  18 asks what individual student information is given to the federal government  from the assessments given in Utah. It says that “districts do not gather personal information from families such as religion affiliation.”  It says, “The Federal  Government does not have a direct connection with the Utah data base.”

Almost no proper legal protections are in place for student data privacy, while parents are not permitted to opt any public/charter school-attending child out of the state database (SLDS).  Also, formerly protective federal FERPA privacy laws have been shredded by the Department of Education.  Changes include reducing the requirement (of getting parental consent prior to accessing personally identifiable student information) to an optional “best practice“.   At the same time, local privacy laws at least in Utah, are unspecific. Data alliances and data sharing practices among agencies grow and grow, almost unrestrained by privacy laws.

The federal government has long been collecting aggregate (partial, grouped, not easily personally-identifiable) student data.  The CCSSO has been collecting national data, too.  This is common knowledge.

What is in question is whether these D.C. entities have any access to the fifty State Longitudinal Database Systems, which contain personally identifiable information, databases which are (by federal grant-mandate) inter-operable databases.  This question was addressed, ironically, by an insider, a writer named David DeSchryver who aimed to persuade readers to agree that ESEA (No Child Left Behind, a federal law) should be reauthorized.   While I disagree with that thesis, I appreciate that the author of the Whiteboard Advisors article revealed what should be common knowledge: the federal government is collecting SLDS-collected student data via the IES and NCES.

He writes: “Most readers are probably not aware that the law [ESEA] authorizes the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), and other research related work. IES provides much of the commonly used and accepted data on US public schools…. the IES is uniquely positioned…  It has access to data from every state and school district…  This data…  bolstered by longitudinal data systems, will benefit the entire field of education. More data, however, requires more organization and IES plays an important role here… It helps to standardize data structure so that new data can connect to prior data sets and research.”

The CCSSO (Council of Chief State School Officers) which  copyrighted Common Core and created it, the same CCSSO that created Common Educational Data Standards –has an openly admitted, openly stated mission to disaggregate student data.  (See goal #4) The past and current State Superintendents and the Associate State Superintendent of Utah are members of CCSSO.  Assistant Superintendent Judy Park is also a writer for CCSSO.  This makes me fairly confident that these Utahns are aware of what the CCSSO stands for and what its goals are.

To dis-aggregate means to move toward specificity:  identifying which individual person did what. Disaggregation means that academic bundles of students’ information will be separated into groups that are increasingly easy to identify individually.  A press release showed that Choice/Pearson partnered with the state of Utah to create the UTREX system that would disaggregate student data.

(Every Utahns should ask our top education leaders and legislators why, on the CCSSO website, it states that one of its main goals is “Continued Commitment to Disaggregation” of student data.  Why do we remain supporters of CCSSO?)

Provo district says that ” The Federal Government has no direct access to this [SLDS/UTREX data] system.”  But indirectly, it does.  From the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) we read: “states must… continue building linkages [from K-12] … across critical agencies such as health, social services and criminal justice…” So if the federal government has access to any DQC-adhering state’s database, it will have access to the other agencies’ information about citizens linked thereby.

Utah is a Data Quality Campaign adherent.   The DQC used Utah in its report as a prime example of how its state foster care services data and its school-collected data were combined to find out information about a certain child.  Parental rights or student privacy rights were not mentioned as being a relevant part of that equation.

The federal EDFACTS data exchange claims that it’s gathering national data.  The student data dis-aggregation club, CCSSO, is officially partnered with the federal government to use CEDS, common data standards in education which make student data more easily disaggregated.   Additionally, the federal government paid for all 50 states to have federally-structured State Longitudinal Database Systems to collect personally identifiable information.  National Data Collection Models encourage (but do not require) personally identifiable information to be collected and shared between agencies and among states.  And at the Arne Duncan-approveData Quality Campaign, we learn that  the answer to” “Are education data just test scores?” is: “No… Data include student and teacher attendance, services students receive, student academic development and growth, teacher preparation information, postsecondary success and remediation rates, and more.”

Previous to widespread scrutiny of the (federal branch) NCES’s National Data Collection Model (NDCM) and prior to the NDCM removing this information, but, as older  news articlesvideos and blogs testify—  it was suggested by the federal model that student nicknames, religious affiliation, birthdate, GPA, allergies, maternal last name, voting status and many more data fields should be filled by schools.   (For evidence see screenshots which were saved from NDCM – minute 27:26 on this video by the Restore Oklahoma Public Education group.  I, too, saw and wrote about them here.)

Question 21 correctly asserts that Utah state law (code 53A-1-402.6) allows Utah to “exit any agreement, contract, memorandum of understanding, or consortium that cedes control of Utah’s core curriculum standards.”  The problem has never been that we can’t exit; it’s that there is not enough understanding of the gravity of the Common Core error, nor enough political will, to choose to exit.

Question 22 says that adequate public feedback opportunities were given prior to adoption of Common Core.  Whether on the national or state level, this is untrue.  This assertion has been rebutted by the Alpine School District (minutes) and by Alpine Board member Wendy Hart,  as well as by the Karl G. Maeser School Board.  Maesar’s statement to the Utah School Board says, “there were no opportunities for review of these standards by local school districts or parents.”

If adequate feedback opportunities had been offered, wouldn’t parents at least know the term “Common Core” prior to being told it was already adopted?  If adequate public feedback opportunities had been offered, wouldn’t legislatures that are now paying for its implementation have had some discussion in the newspapers?  Wouldn’t teachers (like me) have been sent an email, inviting us to research and submit public comment on the subject?  The fact that the public debates on the topic and the vast firestorm of anti-Common Core disapproval is happening now, FOUR YEARS AFTER Utah implemented it, is evidence that it was not properly, adequately discussed prior to adoption.  For more on this absurd hastiness, listen to the public record audio “minutes” of the state school board in 2010 as they hastily adopted the standards without even a full first reading, due to federal time pressure on a grant application deadline that was Common Core adoption-dependent:

May 1, 2009 Utah School Board Meeting, Agenda Item: National Common Standards
http://www.schools.utah.gov/board/Meetings/Audiocast/2009.aspx
June 17, 2009 Legislative Interim Education Committee Meeting
Quoted audio starts about 27:30
http://utahlegislature.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=17&clip_id=5624
July 18, 2011 Alpine School Board Training, select the first audio file, quoted starts about 27:14
http://sbs.alpinedistrict.org/cgi-bin/WebObjects/eAgenda.woa/wa/displayMeeting?meetingID=850

 

 

Finally, for your reference, here is the original Q & A:

_________________________________

 

Provo School District

Common Core FAQ*

* Provo City School District recognizes Seth Sorensen, the Curriculum and Assessment Specialist for Nebo School District for his work in creating the original FAQ document on which this is based.

Q1. Who led the Common Core State Standards Initiative?

A. The Common Core was a grassroots initiative initiated by state governors and  Superintendents in 2007. The nation’s governors and education commissioners,  through their representative organizations, the National Governors Association  (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) led the development of  the Common Core State Standards and continue to lead the initiative. Teachers,  parents, school administrators and experts from across the country together with  state leaders have provided input into the development of the standards.

Q2. What are core standards?

A. Core or educational standards help teachers ensure their students have the skills  and knowledge they need to be successful by providing clear goals for student learning. Standards are concepts that need to be taught, such as addition of fractions in  mathematics, and the grade level where they should be taught.

Q3. What is the difference between standards and curriculum?
A. Standards are the required skills and concepts for the students to achieve. Curriculum include the materials and content that is used to teach the standards.

Q4. Who chooses/adopts state standards and curriculum?
A. The Utah Constitution designates to the Utah State School Board the  responsibility to choose state standards. Local school boards and the Utah  Legislature do not. Local school boards and schools select the curriculum, which is  generally the textbook or program for delivering the standards. Local school teams  and individual teachers choose the everyday lesson content. The Federal  Government has no say in either standards, curriculum or everyday lesson content.  Utah State Code states in 53A-1-402.6. Core curriculum standards: “(1)  In establishing minimum standards related to curriculum and instruction  requirements under Section 53A-1-402, the State Board of Education shall,  in consultation with local school boards, school superintendents, teachers,  employers, and parents implement core curriculum standards which will  enable students to, among other objectives:
(a) communicate effectively, both verbally and through written communication;
(b) apply mathematics; and
(c) access, analyze, and apply information.”

The Utah Code also spells out local school board control of materials:

“(4) Local school boards shall design their school programs, that are supported by  generally accepted scientific standards of evidence, to focus on the core  curriculum standards with the expectation that each program will enhance  or help achieve mastery of the core curriculum standards.
(5) Except as provided in Section 53A-13-101, each school may select  instructional materials and methods of teaching, that are supported by  generally accepted scientific standards of evidence, that it considers most  appropriate to meet core curriculum standards.”  http://le.utah.gov/code/TITLE53A/htm/53A01_040206.htm

Q5. Are the standards internationally benchmarked?
Yes. International benchmarking played a significant role in both sets of standards.  In fact, the college and career ready standards include an appendix listing the  evidence that was consulted in drafting the standards and the international data  used in the benchmarking process.

 Q6. Does the federal government play a role in Common Core standards  implementation? A. “The Federal Government had no role in the development of the Common Core  State Standards and will not have a role in their implementation. The Common Core  State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort that is not part of No Child Left Behind  and adoption of the standards is in no way mandatory. “
http://www.corestandards.org/resources/frequently-asked-questions

Q7. Will Utah taxpayers have to pay more money to implement the new Utah  Core Standards?
A. The Utah State Board of Education regularly updates the Utah Core Standards.  The funding for the implementation of this latest set of standards will not cost Utah  taxpayers additional money. The professional development that takes place in the  districts will remain at the same level it has for the past decade; the only change will be the content focus. School districts are concerned with their ability to provide the  technology and infrastructure necessary to support electronic testing associated  with the new SAGE assessment of the Utah Core Standards. The Utah Legislature  has not raised taxes to fund this change. Provo City School District supports the  advancement of student access to technology and related programs and has been  using existing local and state funding to move in this direction.

Q8. How does the local school board fit into the Common core?
A. School Board powers and duties generally, according to State Code 53A-3-402.  include:
“ (1) Each local school board shall: (a) implement the core curriculum utilizing instructional materials that best
correlate to the core curriculum and graduation requirements;
(b) administer tests, required by the State Board of Education, which measure  the progress of each student, and coordinate with the state superintendent and  State Board of Education to assess results and create plans to improve the student’s  progress which shall be submitted to the State Office of Education for approval;”
http://le.utah.gov/code/TITLE53A/htm/53A03_040200.htm

Q9. Do these standards incorporate both content and skills?
A. Yes. “In English Language Arts, the Common Core State Standards require  certain critical content for all students, including:
• Classic myths and stories from around the world;
• America’s Founding Documents;
• Foundational American literature: and
• Shakespeare.
The remaining crucial decisions about what content should be taught are left to  state and local determination. In addition to content coverage, the Common Core  State Standards require that students systematically acquire knowledge in literature  and other disciplines through reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

In Mathematics, the Common Core State Standards lay a solid foundation in:
whole numbers;
addition;
subtraction;
multiplication;
division:
fractions; and
decimals.
Taken together, these elements support a student’s ability to learn and apply more  demanding math concepts and procedures. The middle school and high school  standards call on students to practice applying mathematical ways of thinking to  real world issues and challenges; they prepare students to think and reason  mathematically.”

Q10. Do the math standards cover all the key math topics in the proper sequence?
A. The mathematical progressions presented in the Common Core State Standards  are coherent and based on evidence. Part of the problem with having 50 different  sets of state standards is that different states cover different topics at different  grade levels. Coming to consensus guarantees that from the viewpoint of any given  state, topics will move up or down in the grade level sequence. This is unavoidable.  What is important to keep in mind is that the progression in the Common Core State Standards is mathematically coherent and leads to college and career readiness at  an internationally competitive level.
Q11. What requirements do the Common Core State Standards give to  teachers?

A. The Common Core State Standards are merely a clear set of expectations and  curriculum standards for the knowledge and skills students need in English/  language arts and mathematics at each grade level to prepare students to graduate  college and career ready. The standards establish what students need to learn, but  they do not dictate how teachers should teach. Teachers will continue to devise  lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their
classrooms, as well as select instructional materials they feel are most appropriate  for their students.

Q12. If Utah were to abandon the Utah Core Standards, what would that  mean?
A. The relationship with Federal Government would not change, because the Utah  Core Standards are not Federal. Utah Law still requires adaptive testing, so the  testing will continue with AIR. The Longitudinal Data system would still be in  place. Utah would have to go through the expense of writing a new core or adopt  the former core–which is not seen as “College and Career Ready” standards. There  may be an expense if newly purchased materials have to be discarded. If Utah  writes unique standards, there will be little or no available materials or textbooks to  support their instruction.

Q13. What assessments are required by the Federal Government?
An ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) was originally passed in 1965  and had major revisions in 1980, 1994, and 2001 (This latest revision called No  Child Left Behind). The current requirements of this act require states to have  assessments in place in Math, Language Arts, and Science. They leave the decision  to the states to determine the assessments and this selection is submitted to the U.S.  Department of Education.

Q14. What assessments are required by the Utah State Legislature?
A. The Utah State Legislature requires the following assessments in State Statute:
• Computer Adaptive Assessment in Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and an alternate assessment for students with severe cognitive disabilities. These assessments are given to all students in 3rd-11th Grade (CRTs and UAA).
• Statewide Reading assessment given 3 times per year to every K-3rd grade student (DIBELS).
• Kindergarten-2nd grade end of year assessments, which are developed by school districts. • Direct Writing Assessment given to all 5th and 8th grade students (DWA).
• New College and Career ready Assessments given to all 8th -11th grade students (ACT and companion assessments, Explore and Plan).
• An English Language Learning assessment, which places students at various levels of English proficiency (WIDA).

Q15. Who writes the questions that will be used in the new assessment  system?
Utah teachers will write all of the questions that will be used in the new assessment  system. Every teacher in the state has been invited to participate in the item writing  and all volunteers meet together for weeks with administrators and curriculum  specialists from the Utah State Office of Education to develop test items that will  accurately measure student learning of standards within the core curriculum.

–Q16. Are all questions on the new assessments reviewed by a parent group?
A. Yes. All questions are reviewed by a group of 15 parents. This parent group will  verify that all test questions are strictly academic. See the following link: Utah State  contract with AIR: http://www.schools.utah.gov/assessment/Adaptive-Assessment-System/136199-AIR.aspx   (See page 7 for the language that requires USOE and Parent review to approve any
test question before they are used by students.)

Q17. Was AIR assessment required by the Federal Government?
A. No. Utah Legislature passed an Adaptive Assessment law after a successful piloting of adaptive testing. (House Bill 15, 2012) Utah issued a Request for  Proposals (RFP) for an adaptive assessment vendor and AIR was chosen. AIR is a  leader in academic testing and had a superior product for end of level tests,  formative tests and interim tests.

Q18. What individual student information is given to the Federal Government  from the assessments given in Utah?

A. None. The only data provided to the federal government by the State of Utah is  aggregate school-level data. No individual student data is provided. The Federal  Government does not have a direct connection with the Utah data base. School  districts do not gather personal information from families such as religion affiliation
or political party

Q19. What is the Longitudinal Data System in Utah?
A. With 41 school districts and 84 charter schools that use at least 10 different  types of student information systems, Utah needed a way to communicate within  the education system. The Longitudinal Data system is called UTREx. The first task  of UTREx was to assign each student a unique number (SSID), so that two school  districts or charter schools could not claim funding from the state for the same  student. It is also used to help transfer student transcript information to higher  education. A great benefit is the ability to transfer student records for students who  move from one district or charter to the next. The UTREx system improves accuracy  and efficiency of education. Hundreds of hours of time for school personnel will be  saved because of the UTREx system. The Federal Government has no access to this  system

Q20. Are we as schools and districts required to collect more student  information as a result of Utah Senate Bill 82, known as the “Digital Backpack”,  passed in 2013?
A. Yes This Utah bill requires a new system that “collects longitudinal student  transcript data from LEAs (districts and charter schools) and the unique student  identifiers as described in Section 53A-1-603.5.”
The bill summary states:  “This bill:
defines terms;
requires the State Board of Education to establish the Utah Student  Record Store where an authorized LEA user may access student data in a  Student Achievement backpack that is relevant to the user’s LEA or school;

specifies the data to be included in a Student Achievement Backpack;  and  requires the State Board of Education to ensure that student data in a  Student Achievement Backpack is accessible through an LEA’s student  information system by June 30, 2017.”
This bill effectively doubles the amount of data districts are required to send on to  the State office of Education. This new data includes things like school attendance,  student growth scores, student reading level, student writing sample, student  performance by standard and objective, etc…
Text from SB 82: http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/sbillamd/SB0082S01.htm

Q21. Can the State of Utah change their core standards at any time?
A. According to state code 53A-1-402.6. Core curriculum standards.
“(6) The state may exit any agreement, contract, memorandum of understanding, or  consortium that cedes control of Utah’s core curriculum standards to any other  entity, including a federal agency or consortium, for any reason, including:
(a) the cost of developing or implementing core curriculum standards; (b) the proposed core curriculum standards are inconsistent with community
values; or
(c) the agreement, contract, memorandum of understanding, or consortium:
(i) was entered into in violation of Part 9, Implementing Federal Programs  Act, or Title 63J, Chapter 5, Federal Funds Procedures Act;
(ii) conflicts with Utah law;
(iii) requires Utah student data to be included in a national or multi-state  database;
(iv) requires records of teacher performance to be included in a national or  multi-state database; or
(v) imposes curriculum, assessment, or data tracking requirements on home  school or private school students.
(7) The State Board of Education shall annually report to the Education Interim  Committee on the development and implementation of core curriculum standards.”
http://le.utah.gov/code/TITLE53A/htm/53A01_040206.htm

Q22. Was any feedback given from the public or any group on the common core prior to adoption by states?

A. Yes. There were a number of opportunities given for the public, as well as other  groups such as educators to give feedback on the core standards, as well as the  college and career ready standards.

Summary of public feedback on K-12 standards: http://www.corestandards.org/assets/k-12-feedback-summary.pdf
Summary of Public Feedback on College and Career Ready Standards:
http://www.corestandards.org/assets/CorePublicFeedback.pdf

–From the Provo School District website

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Faltering Coleman and Turnabout Huckabee: Is the Stop Common Core Movement Succeeding?   11 comments

The Stop Common Core movement is gaining tremendous momentum and the proponents of Common Core seem to be slowing down. Some of the leading characters have been so slowed that they have been stopped in their tracks.

A recent broadcast by proponent Mike Huckabee said he’s suddenly turned around and is now NOT not a proponent of Common Core.

A recent public letter from David Coleman said he’s decided he must delay the Common Core version of the SAT until 2016.

—David Coleman! The noneducator-businessman-leading architect of the Common Core, the one who dismissed the value of narrative writing and espoused letting informational text edge out classic literature in English classrooms— THIS David Coleman who is now president of the College Board, who is aligning college entrance exams to his Common Core– this is the man who is admitting he cannot push his Common Core agenda up the hill fast anymore, because of so much pushback.

But that’s not all. Look at what is happening all over the nation!

We’ve seen handfuls of states drop out of the SBAC and PARCC Common Core testing consortia.

We’ve seen the Manchester, NH school district outright reject Common Core.

We’ve seen New York superintendent Joseph Rella hold a district-wide rally in a football stadium to create awareness about the damages of Common Core

We’ve read the testimonies of the official members of the Common Core validation committee who refused to sign off on the standards.

We’ve read parents’ own executive order against Common Core.

We’ve seen lawsuits and demonstrations.

We’ve even seen teenagers speaking out to legislatures in Arkansas and Tennessee, pleading with them to stop Common Core.

Top leaders in both the Democratic and the Republican parties are standing up and speaking out against Common Core.

There are countless grassroots groups in almost every state that are fighting Common Core, each going strong with thousands of Facebook and Twitter shares.

Every day we see more and more major news articles and radio programs and even debates and op-eds about the Stop Common Core movement.

There’s now a much-shared movie trailer for a Common Core documentary that comes out in February 2014. (It was posted on YouTube four days ago.)

We’ve seen anti-Common Core statements by many outstanding university professors; also, a letter from 132 Catholic scholars to Catholic Bishops, opposing Common Core.

There have been Stop Common Core resolutions passed in Bergen County, NJ; at Tammany Parish, Louisiana; at the Utah GOP convention, at the Alabama Republican Women’s Convention, and the national GOP convention, and elsewhere.

Many governors and other legislators are writing anti-Common Core documents and executive orders.

These happenings are simply amazing.

But listening to David Coleman and Mike Huckabee it becomes clear that the proponents have no intention of veering from their end goal: to hold complete local control in D.C. using the partnershipping of corporations and federal entities (neither of which have any authority over constitutionally state-held educational decisions).

Huckabee said, “Common Core is dead, but common sense shouldn’t be.”

Say what?

What part of stealing local control away from those who have a constitutional right to it, makes sense to Huckabee? What part of constitutionally, locally-set education standards aligns with the top-down “let’s raise standards nationwide” movement that pretends to serve while it robs? Huckabee even said that it was once a state-led movement that was hijacked by others. Really? Show me the convention at which my state representative helped write Common Core. I’ve talked to Sen. Lee and Sen. Chaffetz and they were not invited. Neither did anyone from my state school board come to such an event. There was none. It was businessmen and elite D.C. clubs that pushed this thing from day one, with the full support of the Obama Administration.

Sadly, it is clear that Huckabee in no way has abandoned the Common Core philosophy; he just wants to rebrand it.

Isn’t it AMAZING though, that Common Core has become an offensive word to many –even to Huckabee?

Isn’t it amazing that Huckabee wants to get away from the word, and that the U.S. Secretary of Education never uses it (instead using the term “college and career ready standards”. This could be seen as evidence that honest people with persistent voices can succeed against the mainstream, evidence that heaven has helped us.

But Common Core, by any other name, is still the unconstitutional partnershipping of corporations and federal entities to steal power from us.

Don’t be fooled. Obama’s Blueprint for Education is still with us although it never uses the term “Common Core,” either. But it’s all there: the federally-pushed standards, the standardization of student data, the teacher controls, etc. etc. etc. A rose by any other name…

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