Archive for the ‘Dixie Allen’ 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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Open Letters: Common Core is Evil Posing as Good   10 comments

dixie

Dixie Allen, my State School Board Representative

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Sharing a long string of emails between my State School Board representative and me, from this week and last.
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Christel-

I hope that given the time you have spent the last couple of years discussing this issue, that you would understand that Utah has already adopted and put in place the Common Core Standard in Mathematics and English/Language Arts. We have added some standards and will contiue to update the Standards as needed – but we have already adopted and have wonderful teachers working on Curriculum and lesson design to effectively teach the Core.

If you have specific concerns with specific standards – please let me know.

Dixie Allen
Region 12
Utah State Board of Education

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Dear Dixie,

My purpose in sharing the article was to suggest that Utah’s State School Board, like so many boards and legislators nationwide, might consider halting or at least pausing Common Core as many other places are doing (or are seriously considering doing) given the amount of pushback that continues on this subject.

I am fully aware that Utah adopted Common Core!

Common Core is, frankly, evil posing as good. For the state school board to continue to deny this is either evidence of incompetence or it’s endorsement of these evils.

I do not use the word “evil” casually.

Common Core is evil because it is based on political power-grabbing that snuffed the voice of the people, a move that was based on dollar signs and not academic honesty. It was agreed to for a chance at federal cash.

It cannot back up its lies of “being an improvement” academically, since it’s totally experimental and untested. Similarly, it cannot back up its lie of being “internationally benchmarked” because it’s not internationally benchmarked.

It cannot back up its lie of being unattached to the federal government since it is tied like an umbilical cord to the Department of Education; the Dept. of Ed is officially partnered with the very group that created it (CCSSO) both in the standards and in common data technologies. The Department of Ed has contracts that mandate micromanagement of Common Core testing. There is much more –all documented online and you can prove or disprove it if you are honest enough to try.

And why should we– why should you, specifically, fight federal intrusion into education?

I am a teacher. Common Core diminishes teachers’ autonomy –and students’ well-being– through federally supervised testing that drives curriculum (or will, by next year when testing really kicks in) and by the federally funded SLDS data mining that amounts to “unreasonable search and seizure” of private effects.

While there are some harmless or even some good things in the standards themselves at the elementary school level perhaps, the standards do diminish classic literature especially for high schoolers, and they marginalize narrative writing, and dumb down high school math –as has been admitted even by its creators. (Click here to see this very short video link of this out loud admission of the math-dumbing, by Common Core creator Jason Zimba).

Even if this all were not true– if somehow standards did not diminish classic literature, marginalize narrative writing, and dumb down high school math, they are still AN ATROCITY, Dixie, from which you should be protecting the children of Utah. And the teachers of Utah.

Because they suffocate the spirit of liberty and independence.

1. COMMON CORE LACKS A REPRESENTATIVE AMENDMENT PROCESS.

If the Common Core Initiative was in harmony with the Constitution, it would be amendable by those governed by it.

Dixie, if this were legitimate, you and I would have a voice. But we do not.

Neither you as a state school board member, nor I as a Utah credentialed teacher, have diddly squat to say over what gets tested and taught in our math and English classrooms in Utah– because Common Core is only amendable by the NGA/CCSSO, according to their own words on their own creepy website.

Read it, for heaven’s sake! It states: “The Standards are intended to be a living work: as new and
better evidence emerges, the Standards will be revised.” (Revised by whom?)

Not you and not me.

Again, from the official Common Core site: (their caps, not mine) “ANY USE OF THE COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS OTHER THAN AS AUTHORIZED UNDER THIS LICENSE OR COPYRIGHT LAW IS PROHIBITED. ANY PERSON WHO EXERCISES ANY RIGHTS TO THE COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS THEREBY ACCEPTS AND AGREES TO BE BOUND BY THE TERMS… NGA Center/CCSSO shall be acknowledged as the sole owners and developers of the Common Core State Standards, and no claims to the contrary shall be made.”

2. IT LACKS CHECKS AND BALANCES. The use of checks and balances was designed to make it difficult for a minority of people to control the government and to restrain the government itself. If the Common Core Initiative– a nationalized system of standards, aligned tests, data collection and teacher accountability measures promoted federally– if this initiative were in harmony with the Constitution, it would not be held in the power of a minority of the people (of the NGA/CCSSO and of the Dept. of Ed which is partnered with CCSSO). It would have been vetted prior to implementation by the proper means outlined in the Constitution– but it wasn’t. As Alyson Williams pointed out, “There is no such thing in the U.S. Constitution as a council of governors… Governors working together to jointly address issues and create rules that affect the whole nation is not a legitimate alternative to Congress, our national representative body.”

3. IT LACKS AUTHORITY. If the Common Core Initiative was in harmony with the Constitution, it would have been born legitimately: but its only “authority” is the unprecedented assigning of money to the discretion of the Education Secretary without proper congressional oversight. From that Stimulus money came the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund and the Race to the Top grant programs that enabled the Department of Ed to get away with setting up their own, experimental rules for us to follow in exchange for the money – rules that normally would be determined by the States alone.

4. IT ALTERS THE LIMITS OF FEDERAL POWER. If the Common Core Initiative was in harmony with the Constitution, it would not be openly admitted even by its most notorious proponent, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, to alter the traditionally limited role of the federal government. Look:

Duncan said, in his 2010 “Vision of Education Reform” speech

: “Our vision of reform takes account of the fact that, in several respects, the governance of education in the United States is unusual. Traditionally, the federal government in the U.S. has had a limited role in education policy… The Obama administration has sought to fundamentally shift the federal role, so that the Department is doing much more… [THIS IS CLEARLY, CLEARLY UNCONSTITUTIONAL, DIXIE.] …the Recovery Act created additional competitive funding like the high-visibility $4.35 billion Race to the Top program and the $650 million Investing in Innovation Fund… America is now in the midst of a “quiet revolution” in school reform… In March of 2009, President Obama called on the nation’s governors and state school chiefs to develop standards and assessments… Virtually everyone thought the president was dreaming. But today, 37 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.

Do you hear Secretary Duncan gloating over his ability to control us?

Yet the honorable Utah State School Board continues to promote the notion that we are free under Common Core. It’s a lie. The State School Board may be full of very good people like yourself, who donate to Sub-for-Santa and read to their grandchildren; but they are still guilty of passing along huge lies which they have received and believed from the pushers of the Common Core gold rush.

Common Core governance is a slap in the face to the work of the Founding Fathers.

We are rightly shuddering at the math disaster and the high-stakes testing, are rightly gasping at the lack of any cost analysis to taxpayers and at the privacy-robbing aspects of the Common Core agenda. But these arguments are secondary to the hairiest of the reform devils, the destruction of individual liberty and the end of local control of education.

Dixie, my dear representative! Please, please stand up to these people. Stop swallowing the hogwash. Stop allowing your peers on the board to spread the propaganda. It is not based in truth.

Christel Swasey
Utah Teacher

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Updating with more letters 1-17-14

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Dixie,

To answer your question, I taught public high school English for five years, University level English at UVU for two years, and public school third grade for two years. I have also been a home school teacher of fourth and fifth grade for two years. I began teaching in 1995, am still teaching, and my credential has never expired.

But. I don’t think my resume (nor yours) matters, though, because it is the principle of local and individual liberty that is the issue most harmed by the Common Core Initiative and the “Blueprint for Reform” that Common Core rides upon.

Educational experience and resumes don’t even come into the question; anyone can see through this if they take five minutes to use their brains.

I notice that you are still avoiding the issues I raised, and that you are unruffled by where the Common Core came from, or who gains financially at our expense from them, and who ultimately controls them –and thus who ultimately controls you and me and our grandchildren.

It is unfortunate that you will not confront these uncomfortable realities, very sad for the rest of us whom you are supposed to be elected to represent.

I’m forwarding news links that a Colorado principal forwarded to me today. I hope you become aware of not only the important reasons, but also the speed at which Common Core opposition is growing.

–Christel

Many State Legislatures 2014 Sessions to Debate Common Core Testing Issues
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/01/08/15sessions_ep.h33.html
New York Assembly Speaker Says Case for Common Core Testing Should be Delayed
http://www.newsday.com/long-island/assembly-speaker-common-core-should-be-delayed-1.6752646
New York Teachers to Vote “No Confidence” in State Ed. Head for Ignoring Common Core Testing Moratorium Call
http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2014/01/nysut-will-seek-no-confidence-vote-on-king/
New York Common Core Website Links to Offensive Test-Prep
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/01/11/common-core-chaos-ny-state-website-sends-kids-to-offensive-test-prep/
Florida Lawmakers Question Rush to Implement Common Core Exams
http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/01/08/3859588/lawmakers-question-timeline-for.html
North Carolina State Ed Board May Delay Move to Common Core Tests
http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/01/08/3516802/nc-education-board-wants-to-keep.html
New Testing Standards Stress Connecticut Educators
http://www.nhregister.com/social-affairs/20140108/new-testing-standards-stressing-new-haven-educators
Rushed Common Core Testing Rollout is Like Driving in the Fog
http://www.npr.org/2014/01/02/259082746/education-critics-say-common-core-standards-rollout-is-rushed
How Progressives Opposing Common Core Testing Should Deal with Strange Political Bedfellows
http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2014/01/are_progressive_critics_of_com.html
FairTest Fact Sheet on Why a Common Core Testing Moratorium is Necessary
http://www.fairtest.org/common-core-assessments-factsheet
Educators Explain Alternatives to High-Stakes Exams
http://www.northjersey.com/news/239854621_Educators_air_academic_alternative_to_increased_student_testing.html
See Why and How Performance Assessment Works
http://www.fairtest.org/performance-assessments-succeed-new-york
Opt Out of Tests to Force a Balanced Assessment System
http://childrenaremorethantestscores.blogspot.com/2014/01/we-demand-balanced-assessment-system.html
Virginia Lawmakers Call for Fewer Tests
http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/virginia-lawmakers-call-for-fewer-sol-tests/2014/01/13/a7461654-789a-11e3-8963-b4b654bcc9b2_story.html
North Carolina Teachers Protest Plan to Give Third-Graders 36 Mini-Tests
http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/01/09/3519784/wake-to-give-more-tests-to-third.html
Rhode Island Expands Graduation Test Waivers
http://www.providencejournal.com/breaking-news/content/20140110-r.i.-department-of-education-expands-necap-waiver-for-high-school-graduation.ece
Mass. Teachers Reject Test-Based “Merit” Pay Bonuses
http://dianeravitch.net/2014/01/10/teachers-in-lee-ma-return-merit-pay/
Let’s Teach Students to Think Critically, Not Test Mindlessly
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eric-cooper/lets-teach-students-to-th_b_4556320.html
Weingarten: Teaching and Learning Over Testing
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/randi-weingarten/teaching-and-learning-ove_b_4575705.html
Standardized Testing Has Created Standardized Students with Useless skills
http://www.highlandernews.org/11749/standardized-testing-has-created-standardized-students-with-useless-skills/
Anthem for a High-Stakes Testing Era (with apologies to Country Joe and the Fish)
http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2014/01/anthem-for-high-stakes-testing-era-with.html
“Standardized,” the Movie, Screening Schedule
https://www.facebook.com/STANDARDIZEDtheMOVIE

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Christel,

It is good to know where you have experienced teaching and educational oversight. Thanks for sharing!

However, the concerns you share form the Colorado administrator still are mostly about the assessment programs. I hope that you are aware that we are developing our own assessments with the help of the AIR Company. We are doing everything we can to be in control of our Standards, Assessments and Data and I am convinced we are accomplishing our goals.

Thanks for your input, but would really like to see you look at what Utah is actually doing and not align us to other states, especially without checking out the facts as they apply to our state. It would be so good to have you working to help us improve our school system, rather than identifying what isn’t working across the nation. We still are trying to focus on improving education for the students of Utah and I believe we are making progress each and every year.

Best Wishes,

Dixie

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elephant

Dear Dixie,

It’s not just other states that are unhappy with Common Core tests. Utahns have plenty to say about Common Core tests and their AIR/SAGE $39 million dollar waste– costs to us not only in dollars but costs to student data privacy and costs to liberty from oppressive federal and corporate oversight of Utah’s own educational business.

Have you read Matthew Sanders’ Deseret News “Common Core Testing Fraught With Flaws” op-ed on AIR? Have you read Dr. Gary Thompson’s many writings and heard his testimony? Thompson, a Utah child psychologist, exposed how AIR tests are to embed subjective assessments which are illegal. He sees AIR subjecting all students, but especially more vulnerable populations (including African Americans, gifted students, autistic students, Latino students, Asbergers’ students) to what he names “cognitive child abuse”. Thompson has spoken out here in Utah and across the nation, notably at the Wisconsin Legislature, specifically about the huge problems with AIR and similar tests.

Dr. Thompson said: “AIR’s stated mission is to “to conduct and apply the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation towards improving peoples’ lives, with a special emphasis on the disadvantaged,” and any reasonable minded person, as well as a State Superintendent of Public Schools, should at least reasonably conclude that this billion dollar research corporation (AIR) with some of the brightest minds on the planet can design tests any way that they please, unless per contractual agreement and other applied constraints, they are expressly forbidden from doing so. Utah’s parents have been told in multiple town hall meetings by the USOE that they will never be able to have access to testing questions devised by AIR in order to ensure “test integrity.” Although I am impressed with USOE and various politicians who stated that 15 parents and a few politicians will be allowed to view the tests being designed by AIR, I question their qualifications to perform anything more than a cursory review of the questions being designed. Speaker of the House Becky Lockhart may be able to balance a complex state budget, but I doubt that she has the necessary background in psychometrics to perform a critical analysis of the issues that need to be examined.”

Matt Sanders expressed additional concerns with AIR/SAGE very concisely. I would love to see the state board answer his questions, and Dr. Thompson’s concerns, about privacy of student data under AIR/SAGE.

Sanders’ article, in the April 2013 Deseret News, said:

“A key component of the Utah Common Core implementation is a new online, adaptive testing system called Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence (SAGE). The the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) contracted to pay $39 million to American Institutes of Research, a Washington, D.C., behavior and social science research organization, to build and host the new testing environment.

I applaud innovation in education and believe the pursuit of standards to improve competitiveness a step in the right direction. I also believe adaptive testing shows some promise. Further, I admire the efforts made by USOE personnel to hold town meetings across the state to introduce the proposed new testing approach to educators and parents — at times encountering some hostility from parents concerned about their children being subjected to unproven educational systems.

At the SAGE introduction in Davis County, I observed many concerns raised by parents. While there, I also asked a couple of questions, but the answers left me wanting. Upon further reflection and analysis, I believe the SAGE approach is deeply problematic, and I put forth the following questions:

Where is the evidence?

Public sector projects should carry assurance of maximum societal benefit for optimal cost. For approval, they should present evidence from research and pilot or scaled tests of the proposed reform.

Despite substantial searching, I could find no defensible studies anywhere on the USOE website, and was given no assurance by state officials that any pilot studies underpin the wholesale changes. They have not cited, as would be asked of any high school research paper, any support for their reforms. Thus, the USOE has implemented new standards, new curriculum and has spent scarce state resources on an apparently untested, unproven testing approach.

How will student data be used?

The contract with AIR contains no explicit protections of student data collected in testing by the well-known federally funded researcher. Despite repeated questions to USOE officials, they could provide no reference statutory protection of student data. USOE should provide complete assurance to families and educators that data are protected and not available for personal identification.

One of the key objectives of the Common Core initiative is to provide means for inter-state performance comparisons. However, the USOE FAQ on testing indicates that, “There are currently no national norms for the new common core or Utah Core Standards … they cannot indicate where Utah’s students stand relative the common-core standards.” So no collaborative benefits exist for developing a unique Utah test.

Why not a different approach?

Consistent with its mandate, the USOE is appropriately concerned by the college readiness of Utah students. Rather than wholesale reforms dependent on unproven curricula and tests, why not direct efforts to proven methods with known cost effectiveness?

For instance, the USOE could be redirecting the $39 million to Utah school districts to reduce class size and invest in technology, increasingly necessary to accommodate Utah’s rising student population.

… Utah schools could adopt and adapt the use of ACT benchmark tests beginning in the 8th grade to determine college preparation progress. The ACT and SAT tests have long been considered robust indicators of readiness by educators and college admissions staff alike.

While the Common Core aims are admirably ambitious, the outcomes so far don’t seem to make the grade…” — Matt Sanders msanders@deseretnews.com TWITTER: Sanders_Matt

Another point is my own: It is clear to all Utahns (it’s stated on AIR’s website) that AIR is partnered with SBAC, which is under a stranglehold by the Department of Ed. SBAC is mandated to “share student data”, to “synchronize tests” with other national common core testing groups, and to give constant reports to the feds. By its partnership, thus AIR is entangled in the same stranglehold. That means Utah is entangled, despite what the state board claims and wishes.

I have yet to see any evidence that AIR/SAGE tests are purely math and English assessments. I have yet to see any evidence that the tests are even being developed by Utahns rather than by the psychometricians that the AIR website flaunts as spearheading all the works of AIR.

Again, thanks for talking.

Christel

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Christel,

I am well aware of all your quotes and concerns. Having served on the adoption committee for our new assessment with testing directors, superintendents, teachers and specialists in the field from districts and the state office, I have heard all the concerns and recommendations on our new assessment program. I also was privileged to meet with the parent committee that examined all the test items and helped correct a few minor problems, but heard nothing about any far reaching problems that hadn’t been noted and improved.

I also had the opportunity to oversee several of the pilot districts that used “computer adaptive assessment” which was then the North West Evaluation Association. The pilots were created by the State Board and Governor Huntsman after a year or so of looking at quality assessment programs. These districts had used the assessment to accomplish great growth in student scores for about five years. NWEA was one of the companies that applied to fill the role of our assessment program that had been funded and approved by the legislature. However, NWEA was not willing to write test items that addressed Utah’s specific Core Items. Thus our committee chose AIR because of their willingness to help us (teachers in the field) to help write items that addressed our specific Core Curriculum and they also had great recommendations from other educational entities throughout the nation.

It would be great if we did not have to invest so much in evaluation, but with Grading Schools and other legislation throughout our state and the nation, we must insure we are providing accurate information for the public and our schools. It has also been proven over the past few years that the Computer Adaptive Assessments have been valuable to teacher, parents and students, as it provides a clear understanding of what curricular issues students understand and what needs extra work and support. Testing is now and has always been an instructional support to help teachers, students and parents know how to help our students improve and be successful.

Now, as you suggest, it would be great if our legislature understood how important it is to fund lower class size, preschool education for “At-Risk” students and establishing enough funding to attract the best and brightest teachers to our classrooms. As the lowest per pupil funding in the nation, I really believe that both the State Office of Education and our district partners are doing the very best they can to provide a quality education for our students. Can we do more? SURE!! But the more takes funding and spending less energy and resources to fight battles that reflect on issues that we have already identified and attempted to solve.

Christel, it would be so nice if you would come to our Board Meetings and take in all that has and continues to be done to improve our standards, our curriculum support systems, our assessment and our commitment to quality educators and education for all of our students. Many people are working so hard to insure we are doing the best with what we can afford to provide the children of our state.

Thanks for the opportunity to discuss these issues, but hope you will come see the process in action and join with us to improve our education with a positive attitude and support system.

Thanks again!!

Dixie
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elefant

Dixie,

I guess I should thank you for the invitation to “join with you to improve education with a positive attitude” at school board meetings.

But I noticed at the State School Board Meetings that I went to in 2013 and 2012 that there was an elephant that filled the room; he was so big that people couldn’t even see around him and so loud that people couldn’t talk.

He stood so that people could not move. He silenced visitors who were in his way just by leaning on them, and his glare frightened teachers, parents, and students who had come to participate in the meetings. He had his feet on some children. He wore a huge banner with his name on it, but the school board used different language to name him than what he had named himself, if they spoke of him at all.

Oddly, the Board most often dodged elephant-related questions.

He attended the Wasatch District’s school board meetings too.

For two years now, he’s eaten endlessly at the expense of taxpayers –money which was reserved for the sacred use of school children and their teachers. He ate a lot.

He’s still eating. There is not enough food for him as well as for the children, yet the Board said it would rather feed him, for some reason. So the board asks the legislature to feed the children and the teachers. Because all the board’s money is gone to feeding the elephant.

A positive attitude?

I howl because I can not get the damn elephant off my children without your help.

You have the power. Please remove him.

Christel
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Christel,

Although you don’t name the “elephant in the room” — I surmise you see it as Federal Intrusion. I encourage you to really look at what the Federal Government does to help provide dollars for public education and the actual data that they and our state legislature ask for in policy and then help us find ways to insure that such data doesn’t compromise the individual rights of our students. Some data is absolutely necessary, but if we know specifically what data is problematic, we can look at those issues. From my point of view as an educator, I see that test data pulled together for teachers, schools, districts and the state helps us insure that we are providing a quality education. If we overstep the process in regard to trying to insure a quality educational system — we need to know specifics — not the letters to the editor or posting on facebook, twitter and etc., with no details as to what is the real problem.

We all want to improve and support public education. Hope you will help us, instead of continuing to state there is an “elephant in the room” — but with no definition of what the elephant is and how you see we can solve the problem.

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Dixie,

The elephant is the Common Core Initiative.

The Common Core elephant –its head is the set of experimental, untested, distorted standards which were neither written nor known about by Utahns before they were forced upon us.

I say “forced” because that is exactly what happened. The board never asked legislators, teachers, principals or parents to analyze these standards prior to throwing away classic standards. And if we speak against them now, we are labeled “insubordinate” or “misinformed”.

I say “distorted” because they are inappropriately “rigourous” for the youngest grades and inappropriately low, especially in math, for the high school grades.

The Common Core elephant– its heart is common data standards (via PESC) which Utah agreed to in its acceptance of federal grant money for the federal SLDS system. This is the heart of the data problem. We don’t have a state system; we have a federal system that we call the “state” longitudinal database. But there is nothing protecting private student data from being submitted to the federal Edfacts exchange nor to the federally partnered EIMAC/CCSSO national data collection vehicle.

Individual student data is none of anyone’s business beyond the district. Only the teacher and principal and parents need to know how a student is doing. Period. The end of the data story.

Governments grading schools is a wrong concept and should be fought but until that’s won, let them grade in aggregate form. That’s not what is happening. Even Superintendent Menlove is a member of the CCSSO, whose stated goal is to disaggregate student data.

I do not see any justification for Utah’s FORCED database (SLDS) from which no parent may opt her child out, according to this very board.

The Common Core elephant– its legs are the tests. The tests drive the future curriculum. They label teachers. They force the standards to center stage, stealing from other subjects and activities that the teacher would otherwise focus on, for example, Utah’s added standard of cursive or a teacher’s personal expertise and enthusiasm for things that go above or beyond Common Core.

Utah’s AIR/SAGE test’s alignment with all the other national common core tests are the death of its autonomy. And the federal say in these tests makes them illegitimate under the Constitution and GEPA law, which states: No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system .

Common Core is the elephant in the room because at the board meeting, nobody talks about it. They call it “Utah core.” They call them “Utah’s standards.”

Common Core sits on top of and drives EVERYTHING in Utah education today. It saps all our funding. It dominates all our teacher preparation. It dictates all new technologies. It defines our data collection. It is the basis for our $39 million dollar test. And alignment to Common Core is the ONLY prerequisite for any textbook to be used in a classroom anymore– content no longer matters; just common core alignment matters. I know this from speaking with the Utah curriculum committee.

One would think that Common Core must be remarkable and wonderful, to have such honored place in Utah, to wield such power. But it’s a joke. A joke on us. It costs us countless millions yet it’s academically distorted, is not even written by educators and has never been field tested!

It’s nothing that it says it is– not “globally competitive,” not “internationally benchmarked,” not “state-led” nor “state created.” It was David “Corporate” Coleman who on a whim decided informational text is better than classic literature, and he is the King of Common Core. Not only did he design the ELA, but now he runs the entire College Board where he aligns college entrance exams to his creation– not the other way around, as has been claimed. This is not college readiness. It’s corporate control of what that term even means anymore. We don’t get a say. The corporate elite, meaning David Coleman/Achieve Inc./Bill Gates/Pearson/CCSSO who are officially in partnership with Arne Duncan, are calling the shots. And why don’t they want us to have legitimate, high, classical college-ready standards? Because it costs too much money. This is clearly explained by Marc Tucker, CEO of the National Center on Education and the Economy .

Dixie, I have told you all of this before. You either don’t believe me or don’t think it matters.

Many people don’t want to call anything evil. But I believe there is no good if there is no evil, and I believe that good and evil do not form alliances. There are people and collaborations with whom we should not shake hands, no matter how pleasingly they present themselves to us. Because they are selfish; they are steal what is good and important away from us. They hurt us while promising us the moon.

Common Core is the excuse and the rallying cry for the robbers of autonomy and our local conscience in educational decision making. These people ride on the back of the elephant and get richer and more powerful all the way. These riders of the elephant include David Coleman and his corporations, the CCSSO, NGA, Pearson, Gates, Arne Duncan, and the corporations that sell Common Core aligned products. None of them care whether they’re selling snake oil or something real. They don’t care. They count on us to be too busy or too stupid to check their claims and their price tags.

Thanks for listening.

Christel
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Christel,

Wow — I really thought you might have a valid point with the intrusion element. However, as a teacher, principal, curriculum director and now a State School Board Member for now over 40 years total, I have to tell you some facts!

First – all of our standards for the State of Utah have been unproven — mostly because they were created by educators in the field and tested over time and revised over time. Over the years we have, as a state, created our own assessments with help of great talent at our State Office — but both standards and testing items are created by our state teachers and specialists and evaluated and revised over time. The Common Core is and will be the same — except there are several specialists at the university level who has helped us look forward to the ramifications of State and Federal Standards and how all students will be equipped for college and universities regardless of what state university or college they choose.

Secondly, as a Principal of elementary, a 5th grade center and a high school, I can attest that with our past “stair step curriculum” – using Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1 and 2, we lost almost a third of our students in being prepared to master the math curriculum for the high school. The standards for both the Mathematics and Language Arts for the Common Core is much more relevant to the investigative and inquiry expectations of both learning and work skills needed by our graduates.

Finally, Utah did not take any money specifically from the Feds for adopting the Common Core. We, along with 47 other states, found the standards higher and more relevant to the expectations of higher education and careers throughout the United States. Also, we had the support of our Governor and the Governor’s Association, the Chief School Officers and our Chief School Officer and almost all university professors and teachers we asked to evaluate the standards.

Bottom line, Christel, the Standards are a higher quality than what we have had previously and they have saved our state thousands of dollars, as we did not have to bring the specialists together by ourselves, but were able to share with the rest of the nation in the creation and evaluation of the standards.

I am sorry you see the Standards as the “Elephant in the Room” — because they are a very effective step forward toward a 21st century curriculum for our state and our teachers and students are rising to the level of the new standards very effectively. Even my elementary grandchildren now know how to substitute letters for numbers and solve for the unknown. Interestingly, as a high school junior I was the only one in my small high school that was taking Algebra — and that was only about 40 years ago. Needless to say our standards need to change over time and working together is much more effective than attempting to do it by ourselves.

Let me know if you want to find answers and work to help us move forward. I would like to have you working with us, instead of buying into the right wing rhetoric that you find on the internet.

Dixie
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Dixie,

Previous standards were not unproven; they were time-tested. Common Core is not time tested. ( Did you look at the article I shared about the “dataless decision making” that is Common Core, the link from Seton Hall University?)

Students have NEVER been deprived of classic literature or basic high school math in past sets of standards. They have never been pushed, for example, to write so many “boring” informational essays to the exclusion of narrative writing. They have not been given insurmountable, unreasonable obstacles to hurdle at first grade levels before. They have not been deprived of calculus in high school math before. This is all new. This is all totally unproven. This is so dangerous as we have no idea what the consequences will be, good or bad. We are putting unfounded, undeserved faith in people like noneducator David Coleman who wrote the ELA standards. We are putting all our eggs in a soggy paper basket.

Math: Thousands of Utahns disagree with your assessment of what good math teaching should look like. You are entitled to your opinion, but I can tell you that my son’s friends’ mothers (of children who remained in public school when I took my son out to home school him two years ago) now tell me their children cry and hate school, and ask their mothers (who are not as willing) to please home school them also. This is tragic. And these mothers always say the children’s cries of discontent center on the bad “new” math– which is Common Core math. These are fifth graders.

Money: We took millions from the feds for their ed reforms– which specifically included Common Core and SLDS. Utah took these many millions in exchange for adoption of four federal education reforms. Part of the money, $9.6 million from the feds, built the student-snooping system they wanted, which we now call the Utah State Longitudinal Database System. As part of that SLDS grant, we agreed to PESC common data standards. This agreement is stated on page 4 of section 1 (page 20 on the PDF) of Utah’s 2009 ARRA Data Grant: “The UDA will adhere to standards such as… the Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council (PESC)…”

“The State Core Model is a common technical reference model for states implementing state longitudinal data systems (SLDS). It was developed by CCSSO as part of the Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) adoption work with funding from the Gates Foundation…The State Core Model will do for State Longitudinal Data Systems what the Common Core is doing for Curriculum Frameworks and the two assessment consortia. The core purpose of an SLDS is to fulfill federal reporting (EDEN/EDFacts)…”

Those are their words, not mine.

Obama gave governors $53.6 billion from the “State Fiscal Stabilization Fund” contained in the federal stimulus. The money, used in exchange for the adoption of four federal ed reforms, was given conditionally: These reforms are detailed on the US Department of Education’s website. They are:

1.Adopt College-and-Career Ready standards [COMMON CORE] and high-quality, valid and reliable assessments [SAGE/AIR].
2.Develop and use pre-K through post-secondary and career data systems [SLDS].
3.Increase teacher effectiveness and ensure equitable distribution of qualified teachers. [FORCED REDISTRIBUTION]
4.Turn around the lowest-performing schools [ACCORDING TO THE FEDS’ DEFINITION, NOT OURS].

How anyone can say with a straight face that the feds aren’t involved with Common Core, is beyond me. They even redefined the term “college and career readiness” as “standards common to a significant number of states” which is only Common Core, on their federal site.

As for right-wing rhetoric or left-wing rhetoric, there’s as much left-wing rhetoric condemning Common Core (tests and standards and student data snooping) as there is right-wing rhetoric, anyway.

Left wing criticism of Common Core/SLDS: Diane Ravitch, Paul Horton, Mass Sen. Ed Markey (D)

Right wing criticism of Common Core/SLDS: Pioneer Institute, Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, The Blaze network, Fox News network.

And there are right wingers who praise it –or refuse to condemn it– (notably Jeb Bush, Rush Limbaugh, Gary Herbert) just as there are left-wingers.

Thanks again for talking and listening.

Christel

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Christel – since you choose to post my responses – I am through trying to help you understand the REAL truth.

So sorry!

Dixie

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Dixie,

I appreciated your openness, which seemed so much more courteous and open-minded than other USOE and USSB representatives have been to the teachers and public who have asked to talk with them about Common Core.

I am sorry that you aren’t comfortable with others reading your responses. I feel people have a right to know what their board representatives really think and what they see as the truth, especially where their children are concerned.

As you know, all state school board correspondence is open to the public via GRAMA legal requests as well.

Christel

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Meme Unconstitutional Common Core Christel Swasey

Utah Mom Alyson Williams: The Common Core Standards That We Aren’t Talking About   15 comments

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Utah Mom Alyson Williams’ razor-sharp wit and use of unarguable facts makes the speech she gave at a Common Core debate (with State School Board member Dixie Allen and two professors) a powerful tool in the national Stop Common Core arsenal. Below are her prepared remarks. The event was filmed and will be posted soon.

6 few smashing highlights from the speech –words I’d like to slap up on websites and billboards and bumpers all over the country:

1 “There is no such thing in the U.S. Constitution as a council of governors… Allowing rules for education to be set by those with no authority to do so is not a high enough standard for me or my children.”

2 “The Department of Ed … set rules for education, in exchange for the money – rules that normally would be determined by the States themselves under the 10th Amendment.”

3 “The Utah Constitution … does not say that [the board] can outsource a role we entrusted to them to a non-governmental trade organization who outsourced it to another group of hand-picked experts. This is called “delegation” and it has been established in legal precedent to be unconstitutional.”

4 “Unelected officials gutting laws that were established by Congress to protect my family’s privacy is not a high enough standard for me and my children.”

5 “No meaningful public input on changes that affect all of our community schools is not a high enough standard for me and my children.”

6 “We can set high standards for math and English without circumventing, stretching, or ignoring the high standards for self government that have made our nation unique in all the history of the world.”

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THE COMMON CORE STANDARDS THAT WE AREN’T TALKING ABOUT

Guest post by Alyson Williams, Utah mom

We’ve heard that with Common Core we’re just setting higher standards for learning, right? Why would a mom who wants the very best for her children be against that?

We are a community with high standards for all kinds of things, not just education. Standards can be examples, expectations, models, patterns, or precedents to follow or measure oneself against.

Keeping those synonyms in mind I’d like to talk about the standards we’ve set for our children in the course of adopting the Common Core. You may be surprised to learn that we have set new standards not only for math and english, but also for how public education is governed.

At the beginning of Obama’s first term our Congress passed the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, also known as “the Stimulus” which included $100 Billion dollars for education. At the time major newspapers buzzed about the unprecedented power of assigning this much money to the discretion of the Education Secretary with virtually no congressional oversight. From the Stimulus came the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund and the Race to the Top grant programs that enabled the Department of Ed to set rules for education, in exchange for the money – rules that normally would be determined by the States themselves under the 10th Ammendment.

This 36 page document, “The Road to a National Curriculum” was written by two former top lawyers for the US Department of Education. In it they offer an analysis of how these reforms violate three Federal laws. They conclude, “The Department has simply paid others to do that which it is forbidden to do.” (p.18)

Using taxpayer money from the stimulus to implement reforms that weaken the State’s autonomy over education is not a high enough standard for me and my children.

Proponents of these reforms like to point out that adopting these reforms was a legitimate exercise of state’s rights because the development of the standards was led by the Governors at the National Governors Association. The problem is, the Utah State Constitution does not grant authority over education to our Governor. Furthermore, there is no such thing in the U.S. Constitution as a council of governors. Comparing best practices is one thing, but Governors working together to jointly address issues and create rules that affect the whole nation is not a legitimate alternative to Congress, our national representative body. The organizations that introduced Common Core to our nation, state-by-state, had no constitutional commission to do what they did.

Allowing rules for education to be set by those with no authority to do so is not a high enough standard for me or my children.

The Governor didn’t decide on his own that Utah would adopt these reforms. The agreements were also signed by the State Superintendent acting in behalf of the State School Board. The Utah Constitution does give 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 a non-governmental trade organization who outsourced it to another group of hand-picked experts. This is called “delegation” and it has been established in legal precedent to be unconstitutional.

Elected officials delegating a job we entrusted to them to a body outside the jurisdiction of state oversight is not a high enough standard for me and my children.

The official USOE pamphlet on the Common Core adoption says that the State School Board “monitored this process.” But Dane Linn who was the education director for the NGA at the time the standards were being written stated, “All of the standards writing and discussions were sealed by confidentiality agreements, and held in private.” http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2013/06/07/five-people-wrote-state-led-common-core

There were no meeting minutes, no public records, no obligation by the lead writers 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.

As citizens of a self-governing Republic, this non-representative process is not a high enough standard for me and my children.

While this process was different than the way standards have been vetted in the past, the State School Board insists their involvement and review was adequate and that there was time for public input. The USOE published this timeline for adoption of the standards. Here it says that the summer of 2010 was the public comment period. However, the final draft was not available until June 2, and the Board took their first of two votes to adopt them two days later on June 4. The second and final vote was made a month later, but the first formally announced public comment period I could find was in April of 2012 – 22 months after the Board officially adopted the standards.

No meaningful public input on changes that affect all of our community schools is not a high enough standard for me and my children.

When the Department of Education ran out of grant money to get states to implement their reforms, they offered the states waivers from unpopular requirements of No Child Left Behind that many Utah schools were not anticipated to meet. While the No Child Left Behind law did grant limited authority to the Department of Education to waive certain conditions, it did not grant them authority to require new conditions in exchange.

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This increasingly common habit of the executive branch to waive laws and replace them with their own rules, as if they held the lawmaking authority assigned to Congress, is not an acceptable standard for me and my children.

This is not the only example of the Department of Education overstepping their authority. In order for States to collect the individual student data required by these reforms, the US Department of Ed altered the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) weakening the protection of parental control over sharing student data. Both the Electronic Privacy Information Center and Fordham University’s Center for Law and Information Policy have written briefs charging that the Education Department acted illegally.

Unelected officials gutting laws that were established by Congress to protect my family’s privacy is not a high enough standard for me and my children.

Ever since we started down the road of adopting Common Core, in fact, I’ve noticed a much greater influence over education by unelected special interests. In an article published in the Washington Post in May (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/05/12/gates-gives-150-million-in-grants-for-common-core-standards/), for example, it was estimated that the Gates Foundation has spent at least $150 million dollars to fund and promote Common Core.

A July 2010 BusinessWeek Coverstory on Bill Gates quotes Jack Jennings, director of the Center on Education Policy saying, “As a private entity that doesn’t answer to voters, Gates can back initiatives that are politically dicey for the Obama Administration, such as uniform standards … In the past, states’ rights advocates have blocked federal efforts for a national curriculum. Gates ‘was able to do something the federal government couldn’t do.” http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/10_30/b4188058281758.htm#p4

When one very rich man has a greater influence over the direction of public education than parents, teachers and local communities that sets an unacceptable standard for “we the people,” for me, and for my children.

What is the justification for pushing these reforms through, bypassing the checks and balances of our established legal framework? We have to do it we are told so that our children will be “career and college ready.”

The Govenor, on his webpage for education, says we need to implement these reforms to “align educational training to meet the workforce demands of the marketplace.” http://www.utah.gov/governor/priorities/education.html

To me, all of these workforce goals seem to imply that the highest aim of education is work. Historically, the purpose of American education was to nurture the development of self-governing citizens, with work being incidental to that development. This nation has uniquely thrived according to the principle that a free market with good people pursuing their own dreams works better than attempts at centrally regulated markets with efficiently trained workers.

Being an efficient employee in a job that matches a data profile collected by the state from cradle to career is not a high enough standard for education, not for my children.

Thomas Jefferson was an early proponent of publicly funded education. He saw literate citizens educated in history and principles of good government as a necessary condition of maintaining liberty. He said, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

How tragically ironic if, in the very name of public education, we end up eroding those very safeguards of liberty that he championed.

My opposition to the way we’ve adopted Common Core (and the rest of the education reforms introduced in the Stimulus) is not just about the education of my children, it is about the type of government I hope my children will inherit when they have children of their own. I believe we can set high standards for math and English without circumventing, stretching, or ignoring the high standards for self government that have made our nation unique in all the history of the world. This is the Constitution of the United States of America. These standards ARE high enough for me, and my children.

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Brilliant. Thank you, Alyson Williams.

Dear School Board: Please Stop Deceiving the People About Common Core   5 comments

Dixie,

In the latest publication by the USOE, we read that Common Core is the “new gold standard” for education. Also, this latest publication fails to address the #1 concern of opponents to Common Core: that the privately copyrighted, “living work” standards will change, but states have no representative voice in those national changes.

It would be more honest to call it the “new fool’s gold” of American education both in terms of their academic status and in terms of the lack of legitimate representation at the standards-writing level.

As has been often repeated, the standards haven’t been piloted and have not been empirically validated. This makes our adoption of them a case study in educational malpractice.

The standards lower college readiness standards, as they prepare students only for a 2 year Jr. college. The standards hurt little children in the youngest grades, using absurdly rigorous expectations; this has been explained by an increasing number of child psychologists nationwide.

Worst of all, Common Core is a changeable and changing standard. It calls itself “a living work.” This means that it can and will be altered.

Gold does not change its quality or makeup. These standards do.

And when the standards do change, we all know that there is no written amendment process for the states who hold the standards in common to have a guaranteed voice in those alterations and amendments which are to happen.

This is why we keep on begging the Utah State School Board to abandon these standards, which are not only insufficient as they stand, but will change on a national scale– and we have no voice in those changes.

Please encourage the board to stop using deceptive terms such as “gold standard” when discussing and publishing information about Common Core.

Christel Swasey

Does Opting Out Mean a Student is Labeled Nonproficient? Force-Feeding Students Ed Testing Reforms   6 comments

“A teacher shall consider students’ summative adaptive assessments in determining students’ academic grades for the appropriate courses and students’ advancement to the next grade level… Students not tested due to parent request shall receive a non-proficient score which shall be used in school accountability calculations.” -Proposed amendment to Utah Senate Bill 175

After I read that a Utah student who opts out of common core testing will be labeled “nonproficient” and that his or her school will be punished in accountability scores, I was stunned.

So I wrote to my state school board representative and the state superintendent for clarification. I still don’t know who wrote the amendment or whether it will be law soon. Here is the email string.

Martell or Dixie,

Please explain why USOE documents now say that students who opt out of common core testing will be given a nonproficient score and their school will suffer “accountability” punishments. I have not and will not allow my high school student to take state standardized tests. She takes a pencil and paper alternative so that her school teacher (not the entire state) knows how she’s doing. Up till now this has never affected her straight A record. It has not harmed her schools’ scores.

Am I to understand that new policies will damage her record and her school’s record?

Thanks for taking the time to explain.

Christel Swasey
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Christel,

Unfortunately the State Board of Education and the Utah State Office of Education do not write the legislation that requires our schools, districts and state to provide data on school performance for our students, their teachers, their schools, districts or the state. We are required under several legislative mandates to provide data on student performance in relationship to our schools, teachers and our state. Thus if we have parents and students that refuse to provide such data via the assessment systems provided to evaluate student success, we cannot provide the necessary data to the state or national legislative mandates that require such data. It is not that we wish to punish anyone for “accountability”, but as a state organization, we must live by the rules as well as those we serve.

Christel, I would highly encourage you to read a book I just rediscovered from Gerald W. Bracey called “On the Death of Childhood and the Destruction of Public Schools”. It was written in 2003 based on the fallacy of “No Child Left Behind” calling the Act “The Plan for the Destruction of Public Education: Just Say No”. To me it speaks volumes of how far we have come in regard to this act and how long it has taken parents to recognize the expectations it brought to our school system.

Needless to say, as a teacher, a mother, a grandmother, I believe our State Office of Education and our State Board are doing the best they can to limit the intrusion, while abiding by the legislation that we must enforce. I hope you will take the time to look deeper into this issue and others you rail against.

Dixie
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Dixie,

I do aim to fully study the history of education reform once I don’t feel so threatened by the suffocating power of Common Core.

But thanks, and I will take the book recommendation for later. Right now, I have no time.

Because of this school board’s decision to implement Common Core —without ever sending out a memo to teachers, letting us know that our kids and our teaching careers were going to be forever strangled by the transformations of Common Core-– because of that decision, I have to homeschool my kids and give speeches and write articles to try to knock sense into those who do not study these things– none of which I did before, none of which I want to do, none of which I get paid to do.

My time, my life, has been redefined by this school board’s terrible, terrible decision.

This is why I “rail” against the decision. I “rail” for liberty. I rail for legitimate education that puts kids, not fat bank accounts of educational sales companies, first.

I’m sorry that it bothers you. I am doing what I feel compelled to do. I am trying to save something precious.

Christel
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Martell, do you agree with Dixie on this? Was it the legislature, and not the USOE or USSB who created the language that says that a student who opts out of the common core test will be labeled “nonproficient”? Do you agree with, or disagree with, this language? If you disagree will you join me in writing a letter to our legislature to amend the language so that no student nor school will be punished for excercising their free agency?

——————————————————-

Then I wrote to a few legislators who are concerned with education:

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Dear Legislators,

Please direct me to those who are writing proposed amendments to SB 175. I would like to meet with them to discuss deleting the proposed changes.

The amendments effectively stop a parent’s or student’s ability to opt out of the secretive, nontransparent Common Core tests and the related mandatory behavioral indicators assessments (See HB 15 line 59) and the related SLDS federal surveillance* program.

In SB 175’s new wording,

1. Schools will be punished if students opt out of the Common Core tests.

2. Students will be punished if they opt out of the Common Core tests, not just with a crashing G.P.A. due to the mandated “non-proficient” score to be received for opting out (which is, of course, inaccurate and dishonest labeling for an opt-out) but also because Common Core tests will count on a student’s academic grade and will help determine whether he/she advances to the next grade.

3. Parents will be punished because any good university will decline allowing a student to enter who has a suddenly-crashed G.P.A., due to having opted out of the Common Core test.

“A teacher shall consider students’ summative adaptive assessments in determining students’ academic grades for the appropriate courses and students’ advancement to the next grade level… Students not tested due to parent request shall receive a non-proficient score which shall be used in school accountability calculations.”

Years of straight A’s and hard work will be marginalized whenever the parental right is exercised, to opt out of Common Core testing, a punishment for following the dictates of conscience.

Utah education reforms such as this one are out of control. Please stop this freedom-suffocating trend.

Christel Swasey
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I will publish their responses when I get them.

Utah State Office of Education at Uintah School District: On Common Core Testing   4 comments

Guest post by a parent who requested that his/her report would be anonymously published

I attended the meeting held by Uintah School District last week.

The meeting appeared to be a training on the new assessments for Common Core that will cost $30 million. The guy turned his back on the room and spoke quietly when he said ‘$30 mil’, so I’m not sure I heard him correctly. He was more than happy to face the room and speak loudly about how great these assessments will be and how very much we need them–in his opinion. (Note-his job is dependent on him holding to that opinion.)

A little more than halfway through the meeting, he finally allowed questions. He would NOT allow questions before that. When question time came, it was very clear that the majority of the people in the room were unhappy parents, not educators there for his training. With a great deal of pressure from parents, it was decided that some common core questions would be answered by Dixie Allen of the state school board.

All individuals interested in common core questions being answered were invited to get up and move to a smaller room to talk with Dixie. By the time everyone had gathered in the smaller room, common core was on a screen at the front of the room and Dixie was prepared to give a presentation. Parents tried to ask questions and Dixie tried to give a presentation.

When it became clear that Dixie’s intent was to deliver a Common Core ‘sale’, one parent specifically requested that questions be answered first and the presentation be given second because people were obviously wanting their questions answered now. Dixie said no, but eventually had to give in because the questions wouldn’t quit coming. We didn’t have to watch or listen to a big presentation from Dixie, but we did have to listen to her state several times that common core standards are higher (to which one parent consistently replied ‘no, they’re not’ every time). She also told the parent in the room who knew the most about Common Core that she (Dixie) didn’t want that mom asking anymore questions because the mom gave comments, informing other parents of the details so Dixie could not shut them down completely. Obviously, Dixie is frightened of the truth getting out.

Dixie also denied being the homeschool teacher for 2 of her grandchildren in her home. (I think the count was 2.) She later backtracked on that one and admitted that she teaches one grandchild who is in 9th grade right now and homeschooled because of bullying. (A difficult to fully believe claim because the junior high principal here is quite strict and everyone else says this principal put an end to bullying in that school when she was first put in as principal, long enough ago that bullying in that school would have ended by the time Dixie’s grandchild would have entered the jr. high.)

Dixie also repeatedly stated that Utah must do Common Core because otherwise we cannot buy curriculum to match our core because we don’t spend enough money on education and therefore the curricula vendors don’t cater to us. No one in the room agreed with her on needing more money, but she made this claim repeatedly. Then when the question “How much will these new curricula materials to match common core cost us?” was asked, the answer was “Nothing, we’re making our own.”

None of the parents in the room said anything, but note that the argument that we need to do common core so we can buy materials to match our core falls when you consider that we’re not buying the materials!
In short, no one in the meeting was convinced that common core was a good idea. Parents talked afterwards, exchanging their contact info and more information on common core. One parent had watched a program on the miserable failure of common core in Michigan and was there with her notes in hand, asking questions and providing details of how bad things are in Michigan. Dixie tried very hard, but unsuccessfully, to refute the points this good mom made throughout the meeting. Another mom mentioned that history has proven how very dangerous a national curriculum can be, but many people in the room are unaware of that and just thought she’s a little paranoid.

I left the meeting thinking that Dixie is either completely ignorant of the facts surrounding common core or she is an outright liar. I spoke with some people who know her personally the next day and they told me that she just truly believes in big government, so she wouldn’t even be able to see the facts. It was interesting to watch her at the meeting. Dixie is an elected representative of the people, but you couldn’t tell. Elected representatives should listen to the people, treat them respectfully, and do as the people want. Dixie did none of that. As an elected representative of the people, she ARGUED with them and spoke condescendingly when they didn’t understand education lingo. It was very sad.
Dixie did state that Utah might not adopt the science part of common core because of pressure from the ‘right wing’ in the state. She also said that Utah might try to vary from common core by more than the 15% allowed, but there will be no attempt to get out of common core.
Sadly, the powers that be cannot admit they’ve made a mistake and are completely disrespectful to the people who gave them power and pay the taxes that support them and their decisions.

– Anonymous attendee at UT State Office of Education Common Core presentation to Uintah School District

Utahns Discuss Common Core Math   10 comments

I’m going to share some email strings from Utah school board members who are pro-common core, and me, and two mathematicians who are opposed to common core on academic grounds.

Ze’ev Wurman: 2010 California Common Core math validation committee member and former Dept. of Education advisor; opposes Common Core.

James Milgram: Stanford and NASA mathematician; served on official common core validation committe and refused to sign off on the academic legitimacy of the Common Core.

Dr. Milgram wrote (responding to a request for clarification about math standards) in a very recent email:

  ““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.


Tami Pyfer: Utah school board member, pro-common core


Dixie Allen: Utah school board member, pro-common core

Tami,
I am a little confused — From your email yesterday I thought you said that you, Brenda and others at USOE had decided we shouldn’t answer any questions from the Anti-Core patrons.  Could you please make sure we know what the expectation is for all of us as Board Members.  I had tried to answer anyone that was my constituents and some others, as I felt like it was my job as chair of Curriculum and Standards.  But we probably need to know what the expectation is in regard to these questionable emails, etc.
Thanks,
Dixie

On Fri, Apr 19, 2013 at 9:49 AM, Tami Pyfer <tami.pyfer@usu.edu> wrote:

Christel – Here is the specific standard that requires students to know how to convert fractions to decimals. (Fractions are rational numbers, perhaps that’s how you missed it in your examination of the standards.) See (d) and also the sample assessment task at the very bottom which asks kids to convert 2/3 to a decimal using long division.

Board members – Feel free to forward this chart along to legislators, constituents, and others asking you about the incorrect claim that we are not going to be teaching kids to convert fractions to decimals. It’s taken from our Utah Core Math Standards documents. I’ve already sent it to everyone who has emailed me about it.

Hope this helps!

Tami

Dear Tami,
In seventh grade?
My ten year old fourth grader (home schooled) knows how to convert fractions to decimals and ratios.  Does the Utah Common Core recommend this skill be taught only at the level of seventh grade?  That seems not very “rigorous.”
However, I am happy that it is taught at all.  I am glad you found this for me. Thank you.
Please look at exhibit B which is on page 26 of this document, as you will see that in the math review of Common Core, by 2010 California Common Core validation committee member and math expert Ze’ev Wurman, Wurman states that Common Core fails to teach many key math skills along with the one we are discussing.  I would love to see your review of his complete review to see if these things are taught, and at what grade levels.
Perhaps Ze’ev was reviewing the non-integrated math portion of Common Core, which as I understand it, only Utah and Vermont have adopted.
Christel
Tami,
Minutes ago, I forwarded to James Milgram a copy of your email about Common Core math.  He served on the official common core validation committee, and would not sign off on the academic legitimacy of these standards.  Milgram was also a math professor at Stanford University and a NASA consultant.
Dr. Milgram wrote back:
“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.   – Jim Milgram 
Please, return our state to local control of eduation and to academically legitimate, empirically tested standards.
Christel
Dear Christel,
The 7th grade standard Tami refers to is, indeed, the only   Common Core standard that deals, at least partially, with  converting between representations of fractions:

7. NS. 2.d: Convert a rational number to a decimal using       long division; know that the decimal form of a rational number   terminates in 0s or eventually repeats.

It only obliquely deals with converting a regular fraction to      decimal, with a particular focus on the fact that rational      fractions repeat. It does not deal with conversion between      fractional forms (representations) per se. Further, it doesn’t      deal with conversion of decimals to rational fractions, it does      not deal with conversion between decimal fractions and percents      and vice versa, and it does not deal with conversion of rational      fractions to percent and back. In other words, it deals with only      one out of 6 possible conversions. It also does it — as you      correctly say — too late, and only obliquely at that.
Compare it to the careful work the NCTM Curriculum        Focal Points did on this important issue:

Grade 4: Developing an understanding of          decimals, including the connections between fractions and          decimals Grade 6: Developing an understanding of and fluency          with multiplication and division of fractions and decimals                          … They use the relationship between decimals        and fractions, as well as the relationship between finite        decimals and whole numbers (i.e., a finite decimal multiplied by        an appropriate power of 10 is a whole number), to understand and        explain the procedures for multiplying and dividing decimals. Grade 7: In grade 4, students used equivalent fractions        to determine the decimal representations of fractions that they        could represent with terminating decimals. Students now use        division to express any fraction as a decimal, including        fractions that they must represent with infinite decimals. They        find this method useful when working with proportions,        especially those involving percents

(Curriculum Focal Points are available      from NCTM for a fee, however you can get them for free here)
Here is what the National Research Council had to say      about this issue in it’s Adding It Up influential book:

“Perhaps the deepest translation problem in pre-K to        grade 8 mathematics concerns the translation between fractional        and decimal representations of rational numbers.” (p. 101, Box        3-9)
“An important part of learning about rational numbers is        developing a clear sense of what they are. Children need to        learn that rational numbers are numbers in the same way that        whole numbers are numbers. For children to use rational numbers        to solve problems, they need to learn that the same rational        number may be represented in different ways, as a fraction, a        decimal, or a percent. Fraction concepts and representations        need to be related to those of division, measurement, and ratio.        Decimal and fractional representations need to be            connected and understood. Building these connections takes            extensive experience with rational numbers over a            substantial period of time.” (p. 415, emphasis        added)

(Adding It Up is here.      If you register you can download the book rather than read it      online)
And here is what the National Math Advisory Panel said on      this issue in its final report:

Table 2: Benchmarks for the Critical Foundations        (p. 20)          … Fluency With Fractions         1) By the end of Grade 4, students should be able to identify        and represent fractions and decimals, and compare them on a        number line or with other common representations of fractions        and decimals.         2) By the end of Grade 5, students should be proficient with        comparing fractions and decimals and common percent, and with        the addition and subtraction of fractions and decimals.

The NMAP final report can be found here.
All these important and widely acclaimed documents (by both sides)      are quite clear that conversion between fractional representation      is a critical component of mathematical fluency in K-8, that it      takes time to develop, and that developing it  should seriously      start by grade 4.

Arguing that a single grade 7 standard, which  only tangentially and partially addresses this critical fluency,  is sufficient as “coverage” is disingenuous, to put it mildly.
-Ze’ev Wurman

Thanks, Dixie.

Still wondering about a few basic questions that Judy Park says she will not answer. These are simple! Who will answer them?

1.Where’s the evidence that the standards are legitimized by empirical study– that they have helped, not hurt, kids who’ve been the guinea pigs on Common Core?
2.Where’s the study showing that lessening classic literature helps students?
3.Where’s the study showing that not teaching kids how to convert fractions to decimals helps students?
4.Upon what academic studies are we basing the claims that the common core standards are academically legitimate?
5.What parent or teacher in his/her right mind would approve giving away local control to have standards written in D.C. by the NGA/CCSSO?

–Am I being unreasonable here, or is Judy Park? These are our children. These are our tax dollars. Is it too much to ask to see a legitimate foundation for altering the standards so dramatically?

Christel,

I can’t answer any of your questions with research data — because I don’t have such data — but I can answer your questions as a teacher and administrator in the Public Education System for 26 years and a mother of 4 and a grandmother of 11 (some of which have been in public school and some in private school and some in home school) and a State School Board Member of 11 years.

1. There is no empirical study of the Common Core Standards — rather they have been vetted by college professors in our state and others, specialists at our State Office of Education and others throughout the nation, other specialists outside the educational community, and patrons, parents and teachers around our state who had a voice in the approval of the Core Standards and their recommendations before they were completely adopted by our State Board of Education some 2 1/2 years ago.

2. There is no study that shows we should lessen the study of classic literature, but there are endless recommendations from universities and the job creators of our nation that our students need to learn to read informational text, as well as classic literature. So my hope is that our students are getting a mix of both, but believe that we need to insure that students can read informational text and understand what it says.

3. There is no study that says that converting decimals to fractions and visa versa isn’t an important part of mathematical study. However, there is a great understanding in the educational field that if we don’t start teaching algebraic and geometric understanding early in public education and expect all students to understand these mathematical facts, as well as fractions and decimals, that we will have students who cannot make it through the mathematical courses necessary to graduate from high school and be ready to go to college. As a high school principal, I had 300 students move into Uintah High from 9th grade that had to take remedial mathematics classes, because they had not passed Pre-algebra. All students need to understand basic algebra and geometric calculations.

4. We have based our faith in the Core Standards, based upon the specialists that created them and support their validity in the educational programs for students. I believe after a couple of years of getting these standards to students, that we are seeing improvement in a deeper set of abilities to process information both in mathematics and English/Language Arts. (Of course my proof are my own grandchildren and what teachers share with me.)

5. Local Teachers and parents don’t know everything about what is quality education — and we did not give away the standards to the federal government or Washington, D.C. — we asked experts in the field, at both the national and states levels of instruction to help develop standards that would help all students be Career and College Ready. The world has changed since we were educated and our students need to know different skills to succeed in the new world of technology and world wide companies.

I am so sorry that you feel so strongly about this issue that you have created such turmoil in our state. We are truly trying to do what is best for our students and if you can pinpoint any Core Standard that you feel is problematic or doesn’t help our students be prepared for college or work, please let me know and I will take it to the experts to see what they think and if they agree we will change the standard.

However, I do not plan to throw out the Common Core, as long as I am a State School Board member, because I believe it is a step in the right direction. I will, however, help correct and update any Standard that we feel needs to be revised.

Dixie