Archive for the ‘John Jesse’ Tag

Renee Braddy: Dear Alpine School District   5 comments

Renee Braddy is a former teacher and concerned parent who gave permission to publish her this letter to her local school board that asks them to exert due diligence in studying all the implications of Common Core and its tests.

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Dear Alpine School District Board Members,

I want to thank you for being willing to listen to the public last night and I appreciate the board even being willing to offer a few answers and some clarifications. I realize that many of you were in a very tough spot and that it isn’t easy to be involved and put yourself out there for possible public ridicule. I appreciate your service and the time you devote.

Like I stated when I spoke last night, I honestly believe that the Alpine School Board consists of leaders who have the ability and wherewithal to push back against the federal government and state’s top-down control over education. I think this will give other districts and states the courage to follow, if you are willing to ask the hard questions and encourage the discussion to happen. The federal top-down control over education isn’t a new thing that is happening with just this administration, this has been happening for decades in America. Honestly, I don’t really care who started it, I just want to know who is willing to be a part of stopping it.

I feel that as Americans we not only have a right to be involved in govt., we have a responsibility. We must protect the blessing of freedom that this nation was founded upon. When we see things happening in government that are not in-step with what we believe is best for ourselves, our families, and our communities, then I believe the public has the responsibility to hold their feet to the fire so they can be accountable. This should be happening at a federal, state, and local level.

It is no small task for people to attend a board meeting, especially with small children and the many obligations that are demanding of our time. I was actually very surprised by the large crowd in attendance last night. I know that they represent a very small percentage of the many, many people who are concerned about the nationalization of education that is happening through the Common Core Agenda. This is education without representation. It has been my experience as I have spoken to people that a very large majority of the people in this valley still don’t have a clue about what is happening in education, nor have they ever even heard the words “Common Core”. Silence is NOT acceptance, it is most likely ignorance.

As elected officials who have the responsibility to represent the concerns of your constituents, I hope you are willing to do your homework and ask the hard questions of the state school board and governor. Study the NCLB Flexibility Waiver and the RTTT application. This is what has helped me realize that the standards are a very tiny piece in a HUGE educational reform agenda. Our president and his administration have been very vocal about wanting a “cradle to career education” reform agenda. I am well aware that UT did not win any money from their RTTT application and we are not bound to any of those obligations that we committed to, but ironically enough, we are still implementing them. Therefore, it is still worth your time to study what UT was willing to do in order to get their share of the ARRA $.

This is serious and I believe that we are writing American History. We need to be very vigilant and realize that this isn’t just the next trend in education that will pass. Nationalizing education creates a centralization of power. This will lessen, if not completely remove, teacher and parental input. This is in direct violation with our US Constitution as well as our Utah Constitution.

When we stray from the principles of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights which were intended to limit the power of government and promote independence and liberty, then we are disregarding the very document that defines us as being an Americans and this will result in our nation ceasing to be America, the “land of the free and the home of the brave”. This whole agenda consisting of: national standards, national tests, data collection, teacher accountability systems, and the turn-around schools model should be rejected by those who value LOCAL CONTROL and PARENTAL INPUT. We do NOT need or want a top-down approach to education where we have to get “approval” from the federal government or any other unelected bureaucrats.

It is concerning to me that we have not already rejected being a part of national experiment at an unknown cost financially and a high cost to freedom. From a teacher’s perspective, I believe that the truth is that we have no idea what curriculum our children will be taught under Common Core because the tests haven’t even been released. Tests dictate curriculum. As John Jesse from the USOE said at the Alpine AIR meeting, “it’s a sad fact, but they do”.

This is the reason why many, many people rallied at the capitol years ago when there was bill that would push for home schoolers to take state-mandated tests. Whoever writes the test will essentially dictate what is going to be taught, especially when teachers merit pay and/or jobs are being based upon student performance on these tests. We have three federal laws prohibiting a national curriculum in the US and yet this is exactly what is happening through the creation of national standards and federally funded national tests with publishers criteria and curriculum models. It is no wonder that the key players including the CCSSO didn’t want to go through the US Congress, they knew they would reject it, the same way they rejected national history standards in 1995.

I could go on and on, but I am requesting that you to please do your due diligence. I would like to know each board members position and thoughts on where you stand currently on this whole educational reform package including the CC standards?

Also, we will be presenting on Thursday evening in Saratoga Springs from 7-9 pm in the clubhouse at Talon’s Cove Golf Course: 2220 South Talons Cove. We would love to have you and anyone else that may interested attend, if possible. Also, if there is someone who would like to speak for Common Core, please let me know and we will add you to the program.

Thanks so much,

Renee’ and Kevin Braddy

Highland, UT

Report on Nebo District’s Public Meeting on Common Core Testing   Leave a comment

The Greatest Assessments in the U.S.A.

(and other such nonsense)

guest post by Alyson Williams

During the first public meeting on anything Common Core related in Nebo School District it probably should not have come as a surprise to the USOE that there might be a number of intensely inquisitive or disenfranchised parents in attendance… or that their questions might extend beyond the bells and whistles of the new testing software that was being introduced.

This is, after all, part of a broader reform that was set in motion when former Governor Huntsman and Superintendent Harrington signed a Memorandum of Agreement to participate in the National Governor Association’s Common Core State Standards Initiative in the spring of 2009.

Mr. John Jesse, the Assessment Director for the USOE must have felt like he’d been fed to the wolves… or more accurately to bears of the mama and papa variety.

Perhaps feeling caught off guard by the unusual and poorly communicated standards adoption process that required this initial agreement of participation before the standards were even written (recently re-framed by the State School Board as an “exploratory” phase minus the ability to explore), parents were understandably critical of Mr. Jesse’s emphatic claim that these tests were the “best in the United States” and that Utah was a shining example to the rest of the country of all things assessment.

“But, you said these particular assessments haven’t even been written yet, or piloted anywhere, right?” one mother clarified in an attempt to point out the glaring credibility gap of showing the timeline of implementation that is just beginning while at the same time making this emphatic claim.

There were so many questions a decision was made to have parents write their questions on a white board, to be answered at the end, in order to allow Mr. Jesse to complete his presentation (or even complete a sentence) with some coherence.

The introduction to the testing company that Utah has contracted with included the disclaimer, or justification, that a company can be involved with a variety of projects or seek certain societal outcomes that one does not agree with, but it is still okay to use their products that are unrelated.

This was likely intended to pacify or pre-empt concerns about the mission of the testing company, American Institutes of Research (AIR), to promote global values as key supporters of the Clinton Global Initiative, or with their work on issues of mental health and sexuality as applied to children.

In other words, as long as the tests themselves meet the need, it shouldn’t matter that Utah tax payers are giving $39 million to a company whose mission they would not otherwise support.

The main advantages of this software, according to Mr. Jesse, are features to accommodate special needs, i.e. hearing or vision impaired, that it is adaptive (questions each student sees are determined in real time based on previous response) and that the results are instantly available.

He also touted the optional, formative assessment capability that is basically the ability to administer both mini-tests and mini-curriculum from an open source curriculum library that has been developed by AIR and comes pre-loaded with the system. After being pressed on the issue, Mr. Jesse confirmed that student activity while using the formative system is tracked.

A number of teachers attended the meeting as well, and one had to wonder what was going through their minds as Mr. Jesse pointed out at least three times that these tests were not high-stakes tests for children but that they were high-stakes tests for teachers and for schools. (A reference to a law passed in 2012 linking teacher pay and school grading to tests.)

What might an experienced teacher’s reaction be to his explanation of how, with the help of precise statistical analysis by a computer, a teacher could really know if a student was struggling or excelling?

Is there research that substantiates the claim that student-teacher interactions are enhanced and not disrupted by certain applications of technology? This would seem an important reference to offer along with this particular assertion. So often in education assumptions that seem sound based on anecdotal observations have unexpected outcomes or unanticipated side effects.

Mr. Jesse did not touch on the aspect of the tests that might be considered the specialty of AIR, the integration of psychometric predictors – a science that requires far more scrutiny when applied to statewide assessments because of its powerful ability, in combination with statistical data mashing enhanced by the existence of interoperable State Longitudinal Data Systems, to profile individuals and assess “dispositions” without it being apparent in the questions or content of the assessment itself.

Utah Child Psychiatrist Dr. Gary T. Thompson has publicly expressed that parents and students deserve a more thorough explanation of how this science will be applied in these assessments. http://www.earlylifepsych.com/common-core-note-to-the-community/

He, along with Edward D. Flint Esq. Special Education Attorney at Law, issued the following assertion as part of a longer article addressing this topic:

“Someone, independent of AIR, MUST have access to every single item on the tests being designed in order to insure that absolutely ZERO behavioral indicators are being measured on tests that parents in Utah believe are only measuring “reading, writing and arithmetic.”

http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/dr-thompsons-letter-to-superintendent-menlove/

As the question portion of the meeting began, Mr. Jesse reiterated his focus on assessments and his inability to answer unrelated questions. He took a head count of parents who expressed concern over the broader reforms related to the Common Core State Standards with the promise to report this to the USOE along with a request that there be another forum in the future for questions to be answered on a broader range of topics.

In response to the concerns related to content and the inaccessibility of the test questions to parents, or regarding the “use of behavioral indicators” (as specified in the section of 2012’s House Bill 115 governing computer adaptive testing) Mr. Jesse said that there would be nothing objectionable in the tests and that the audience should take his word for it, challenging those present to check his references if there were any doubts about his credibility.

This ironically was the straw that, in light of the circumstances already mentioned, broke the proverbial camel’s back in terms of credibility. “Trust me,” is not a phrase that any parent in the state wants to hear from anyone involved in the implementation of any aspect of Common Core right now… nor should it be sufficient regardless of the circumstances when it comes to a parent’s right to vet any program to which their child will be subjected.

As the tone of the meeting further devolved, insults and accusations of misinformation were exchanged leading to an abrupt end to the Q&A.

Mr. Jesse was admittedly put in a tough situation, and the meeting by any account was a disaster.

An informal survey of sentiment afterward garnered reactions that ranged from disappointment over the tone of both presenter and attendees in their remarks, to surprise that the audience had not been even more insistent that answers have some verifiable basis other than the word of the person whose job it is to promote the project.

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