Archive for the ‘lack of evidence’ Tag

Fighting With the Utah State Office of Education   4 comments

https://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2013/12/05/common-core-movie-building-the-machine-trailer/

I am impressed by the new Common Core movie trailer (that I shared yesterday) and I do hope it gets a million views.

So, today I sent out an email link to the new Common Core documentary movie to many people I thought would be interested in it, both friends and foes: The state and local school boards, the Governor’s office, my representatives, newspapers, friends, relatives, etc.

One of these email link recipients was Sydnee Dickson, a Utah State Office of Education curriculum bureaucrat. (To see more about her, click on this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1VnpQuJQsY or see this older post or read this to see her earlier attacks on me.)

syd

I think you might find Sydnee Dickson’s response to the trailer today, revealing:

SYDNEE DICKSON: I watched the trailer and noted at the end that it is directed and funded by Michael J. Smith, President of the Home School Legal Defense Association and Michael P. Farris, attorney at parentalrights.org. The message in the trailer focuses on the false assumptions of federal takeover, dumbing down of education, lack of parental control, etc.

ME: False assumptions? I’d like to see evidence that they are false. I think they are true.

SYDNEE DICKSON: I am sure that you do and I respect your perspective… I just don’t share it. I appreciate you keeping us in the loop, however, as things are produced supporting your claims. It helps us know what people are concerned about.
Syd

ME: I would like to know what evidence you are basing your perspective upon. Since you used the term “false assumptions” I want to know how you arrive at that term and perspective. This is, after all, an intellectual, academic debate and evidence is important in order to establish truth. If you are willing, I and many others would be very happy to see it. Thank you.

SYDNEE DICKSON: We have provided plenty of evidence and have exhausted this debate with you. I am not interested in trying to change your mind; but am most interested in supporting students, teachers, and parents in ensuring their students are ready for their future. I know you believe this is important as well. I am happy to talk about how the Utah Core Standards play a part in this.
Syd

ME: Syd, your office has never provided evidence (beyond repeating opinions from Gates-funded organizations) that Common Core can ever help Utah children to succeed –because such evidence does not exist.

Common Core is an experimental, unpiloted program pushed for financial gain alone, at the expense of true college readiness, and you and I both know it.

The way to support students, teachers and parents would have been to build Utah’s future on time-tested standards, not Common Core. The way to support them would be to defend their (our) rights to locally controlled education, curriculum and testing, which the Common Core system is not. You know this as well as I do.

Even the term “Utah Core Standards” is deceptive; you know as well as I do that English and math standards in Utah ARE Common Core standards. I resent the deception.

You say that you simply “disagree” as if there were two equally viable and equally valid sides to the argument. The fact is, either you or I are alarmingly, frighteningly wrong.

We both cannot be correct. I say Common Core will do horrible, uncalculable damage to our future as Utahns; you say it’s nothing but a blessing. We cannot both be right! Is there no truth?

Proponents of Common Core should at least try to prove their system is academically legitimate and in harmony with the Constitution of the United States (separation of powers, decentralization, checks and balances). If not, why be a proponent? For money only?

If you are not even willing to discuss it, dismissing me as simply someone who “sees things differently” than you do, then you imply that the long-term effects do not matter, either.

I would venture to guess that I care a lot more about this than you do. I don’t get paid as you do, to fight about Common Core. The least you can do is stand up for your side of the argument if it is to be believed or discussed honorably.

(Waiting to hear back from her. I have a feeling I will never get any real answer.)

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Update: Two more exchanges:

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On Fri, Dec 6, 2013 at 2:36 PM, Dickson, Sydnee wrote:

Christel,

Our evidence has included letters and public testimonies from those who directed the writing of the standards and actually wrote the standards. You have called my statements from face to face meetings with the architects “not credible” on websites and you have indicated in the past that their testimony isn’t credible because they were funded in part, by the Gates Foundation. We have sent you and posted various documents which you and your peers reject as evidence. I spend most of my time working with teachers, principals, and district leaders on issues of high quality instruction and educator evaluation. I serve on panels, present at meetings, etc. on behalf of people interested in the CORE and am happy to continue to do so. It isn’t worth my time to continue to restate what we have already addressed. I merely included you on the email to the Board as you are the one who initiated the film trailer.

I would like to reiterate a point regarding the naming of the Utah Core. Utah has had CORE standards since 1984. I was a teacher at the time, using the standards. Our standards are continually reviewed and revised. We have never tried to hide the fact that we adopted the Common Core ELA and mathematics standards. We have been very up front about that. However, when they were adopted, they replaced our ELA and mathematics standards and are now Board adopted Utah Core Standards. You will find across the country that states have named them various things, based on the process of review in their particular state. They might be called ___________(state) College and Career Ready Standards, __________(state) Common Core Standards, or ___________(state) Core Standards. It varies. I am linking you to a aggregated website that shows all of the state websites addressing the CCSS https://sites.google.com/site/commoncoreinthecloud/the-other-49. This was developed by a state office employee in North Dakota.

I have never stated that the CCSS is “nothing but a blessing”. I do believe they are a key piece of reform that will help our students be better prepared to meet the demands of today’s economy. The irony is that for the first time in history, states have done exactly what the federal government thinks we can’t do. We’ve come together to create a set of standards to enable us to share resources, help military families be mobile without penalty to their children in schools, create a common set of standards that are more comparable on NAEP and other national reports, and allows for higher levels of collaboration among educators as we speak the same language. We are already getting great data out of a couple of our early adopting districts and exciting things are happening in classrooms all across Utah. We definitely still have work to do but, the potential for our children to achieve higher standards is exciting. I wish nothing but the best for you and your family, Christel, and hope that you have a wonderful holiday season.

Syd

Sydnee,

Letters and opinions supporting Common Core are only as credible as the scientific data behind them. The architects of Common Core were businessmen, not content experts, and they had zero data driving their decision-making. This is common knowledge. They never even meant for Common Core to prepare kids for legitimate university (4 year) study nor for STEM careers. If you click on that link you will see the Common Core creator state that the standards were “not only not for STEM, they are also not for selective colleges.”

They just want everything standardized.

Their being funded by Gates does create a conflict of interest, absolutely. But even without the monetary motivation, these testimonies are not credible because they are not based on empirical evidence. Empirical evidence means testing the theories upon which Common Core rests: like, actually testing (for many years, on many many students) the theory that diminishing narrative writing and reading in favor of increasing technical writing and informational reading is legitimately better in the long run. (The same goes for the theories of Common Core’s weak math theories.) These dramatic transformations ARE UNTESTED.

It doesn’t matter who thinks they’re a good idea or who doesn’t– you cannot testify with validity to what has never been tried, any more than you can come back from a location to which you have never been.

This is why people who are actually experts in curricular content such as Dr. Christopher Tienken, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, and Dr. James Milgram, should be heeded. Dr. Tienken calls this Common Core “educational malpractice” because it’s based on nothing but marketing. Nothing. Else.

But even if the standards were academically legitimate, time-tested, proven, and in actual fact, better than what we had, I would still be opposed to them on Constitutional grounds. Liberty matters to me!

It is not an accurate statement to say that “states have come together to create a set of standards.” There was nobody from Utah who was sent to serve on that Common Core creation board. Brenda Hales who works with you said this in a Heber meeting. Nobody from Utah helped because the creators “didn’t want it to become a Constitutional convention.” And indeed it was not.

The states did not create these standards and that will always be a lie no matter how many times proponents repeat it.

The standards were funded by Gates, and were created by two unelected clubs, CCSSO and NGA, who have no voter accountability whatsoever. CCSSO and NGA are totally un-transparent, private D.C. clubs. Clubs! NGA and CCSSO are not Constitutionally recognized entities that are valid spearheads to speak for and decide for the actual people of Utah, any more than Miss Teen Utah is a politically valid representative for the citizens of our state.

These two clubs have copyrighted OUR standards. Where is the representation for you and me? Where is our voice? Where is Utah’s identity in all of this? Beyond being permitted, like house pets, to add 15% to the D.C.-created standards, there is no voice for Utah anymore.

The state school board gave away our authority– their authority! They had no right to do this. The board did, under the Utah Constitution, have the right to set Utah’s education standards, but they had no right to hand their assigned role over to the clubs of D.C. as they have done, or to delegate that authority out.

We didn’t need Common Core to “enable us to share resources.” We didn’t need Common Core to “help mobile families.” Less than 1% of American students move from state to state. Empirical fact. We didn’t need Common Core to create a one-language standardized system in order to collaborate. America is too diverse to be shacked to one language or one system. And those who control this new “language” do not have our local best interests at heart. The goals of those D.C. clubs and their funders will always be served before the goals of Heber City under the Common Core.

I have no personal reason to fight with you. The reason I fight is that these principles MATTER to me. Freedom and local control matter to me more than any of these talking points of the proponents of the core matter to me. I see them as the foundation for all that is good and right.

I do not agree with the president of the NCEE, Mark Tucker, who in promoting Common Core says that the “United States will have to largely abandon the beloved emblem of American education: local control.”

Maybe you agree with him.

I do appreciate your well wishing and your good holiday cheer and wish you the same happy season as well. If I lived on your street, I’d be baking you cookies and my kids would come caroling to your door. But I predict that your office and the USSB office will receive a lot more grief before this is over, as more and more people wake up to what has happened.

Thanks for the discussion.

Christel

Dr. Gary Thompson on Common Core A.I.R. Testing   5 comments

Dr. Gary Thompson is an African American Doctor of Clinical Psychology from Utah.

He doesn’t mess around.

He recently posted the following letter, which he wrote in response to the Common Core testing company, American Institutes for Research (AIR).  The letter has to be shared. If you don’t have time to read it all, here’s the toothpaste-cap-sized serving of what he’s saying:

1. A.I.R., the testing company to which Utah has written out a check for $39 million to write Common Core tests, will not answer specific, professional, focused questions and lacks the professional qualifications to do what it has set out to do.

2. Dr. Thompson says that “The continued dissemination of non-data supported conclusions of Common Core by leaders in our education community, and specifically AIR, regarding testing and privacy issues, despite receipt of well documented concerns from educational, legal and psychology experts from around the country, is nothing short of malfeasance of duty.”

3. Dr. Thompson calls for the resignation of John Jesse, Director of Assessment for the Utah State Office of Education; Brenda Hale, Associate Superintendent of Public Schools; and Debra Roberts, Chairperson for the Utah State Board of Education.

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Here is the intro.

Public Response Letter to Mr. Jon Cohen – American Institutes for Research

*Note: In light of Dr. Thompson’s recent appointment to the Board of Trustees at the Utah Law & Disability Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, it must be noted for the record that his opinions are independent, and do not represent the official positions of any one Board member or employee of the Center or their affiliates.

Introduction:

In early March of 2013, we as concerned parents of children in public schools in Utah, wrote a detailed letter upon the request of Utah State Superintendent Dr. Martell Menlove regarding our serious trepidations about privacy and testing issues surrounding the implementation of “Common Core.” In it, we expressed strongly that our children would be pulled from Utah public schools unless these concerns were addressed, or in the alternative, at least acknowledge that they were “a work in progress”.

After I accepted a national television appearance, Dr. Menlove was kind enough to invite  both Mr. Flint and I into his office where the conversation started out with him sincerely asking, “What can we do to ensure that your daughter Zoey will be enrolled in a Utah public school Kindergarten?”

We described our concerns verbally, but we were asked to write down our apprehensions, as well as appropriate suggestions for changes for the Utah State Office of Education to consider implementing prior to Common Core arriving at full speed in the State of Utah.

We both spent an entire weekend drafting our 12-page letter to the Superintendent and presented an email copy to him, as well as to the entire Utah State Board of Education. Dr. Menlove was kind enough to call my home three weeks later to let me know that our concerns “were heard”, our clinic was a “wonderful asset” to the community, and he appreciated all of the hard work that we do for the children in the State of Utah.

Apparently he forwarded the letter to AIR, and AIR responded to Dr. Menlove specifically about our concerns. The original AIR letter link in response to our concerns is cited below:

http://www.schools.utah.gov/assessment/Adaptive-Assessment-System/AIR-Letter-to-Superintendent.aspx.  The following is our joint response to the letter:

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Here is the whole letter.

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Dear Mr. Cohen:

The Utah State Office of Education was kind enough to post your rejoinder to our inquiries into possible professional practices regarding AIR on their state webpage. Both Attorney Edward D. Flint and I have reviewed your letter. We would both like to thank you in advancefor the kind tenor of your response. In our state, apparently a titanic issue with parents is whenever many of them have questioned the accuracy or efficacy of issues surrounding Common Core, they are publically branded as “right wing, conspiracy theorists wearing tin foil hats.”

We both wish to thank you for your professional tone by not dragging political or religious ideology into an issue that is purely about science, law, parental choice, and common sense. Clearly, neither Mr. Flint nor myself have ever been accused of, or confused with being “right wing nut bags.”

The vast majority of your response letter dealt with Mr. Flint’s privacy concerns. I will cut and paste Mr. Flint’s direct response in the latter parts of this letter under the section titled “Privacy Issues”.

As for the issues regarding disability and learning disorders, you devoted a grand total of exactly 74 words (compared to my to my 8 pages of written concerns) regarding issues associated with Adaptive Testing and Common Core. Here is the exact quote from your letter regarding disability issues and the Common Core:

“On a final note, Dr. Thompson expresses concern about the tests appropriately serving students with disabilities. AIR has a long history of serving students with disabilities, and we have invested in making our testing platform the most accessible possible. In addition, we always advise our clients to design tests that adhere to the principles of fair testing outlined by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities guidelines for adaptive testing, which can be found at  http://www.c-c-d.org/task_forces/education/CCD_Computer_Adaptive_Testing_final.pdf

Here are my professional thoughts regarding your paragraph:

1. You state that you have a “long history of serving students with disabilities.”

Yet you failed to provide a single reference or smidgen of evidence that you have designed adaptive tests/assessments for children of color, gifted children, or children with specific learning disabilities that are scientifically reliable or useful. Providing data links to pilot studies of successes you have had with these, and other groups of children with “learning quirks” in regards to adaptive testing would have been the appropriate professional response to a interested “shareholder” in your corporation. Whereas my tax money is funding this $39,000,000.00 endeavor, I indeed have the strong attitude that you work for the parents of public school children in the State of Utah. Your responses along these lines lacked intellectual rigor and were disingenuous at best.

2. You stated, “we have invested in making our testing platform the most accessible possible.”

Where is the data from pilot studies that support your claim?  If is only accurate “as much as possible,” then certainly you are aware that certain groups of children will most likely statistically slip through the proverbial cracks with your adaptive testing design. Who are these kids? What have you done to encourage these children from avoiding potential emotional/psychological harm from opting out of this test you are designing? Your response along these lines again lack intellectual rigor and again was professionally affronting to me.

3. You stated in the paragraph, “we always advise our clients to design tests that adhere to the principles of fair testing….”.

Who in UTAH is designing this new adaptive common core test?  What qualifications does this person have? I assume that Mr. John Jesse, Director of Assessment for the Utah State Office of Education, is not this person, whereas he does not have the training or experience to design such a complex, adaptive test for every public school child in the entire State of Utah.

If someone was found in our State to design this test, please tell me why a $39,000,000.00 check was written out to your company to design this test? Your attempt to conceptualize Utah as “design partner” is either a direct lie, or a mistake on your part. For $39,000,000.00, Utah taxpayers and parents expect a certain degree of honesty and/or accuracy from a company that is designing the most important test in the history of our state.

4. Speaking of accuracy, you referred us to link via this sentence:

“In addition, we always advise our clients to design tests that adhere to the principles of fair testing outlined by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities guidelines for adaptive testing,which can be found at  http://www.c-c-d.org/task_forces/education/CCD_Computer_Adaptive_Testing_final.pdf. ”

The link in the letter you drafted and posted to the entire State of Utah to view as evidence of your concern for children with disabilities in Utah was THE CATALINA ISLAND CONSERVANCY.

I simply am speechless.

As far as the Washington D.C. based, non-profit special interestgroup, “Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities” is concerned, the guidelines on their webpage are bereft of any references towards specific practices regarding at risk children and adaptive testing. This may have something to do with the fact that it appears that absolutely none of their Board of Directors has any type of formal, graduate school level education or clinical training experience with children displaying disabilities in assessment settings. I could go on for days regarding my concerns about CCD, but time is a limiting factor.

In addition, you also failed to detail how AIR works specifically with CCD as such might concern the development of the pending $39,000,000.00 Utah adaptive test. How often have your test designers consulted with CDC? What specific advice did the CDC give you concerning our unique population of children? Did the CDC make your aware that Utah has the highest number of children diagnosed with Autism in the entire United States?

If so, what specific professional guidance did the CDC give to AIR in regards to designing test for children with Autism? Would you be so kind to share this information with my fellow parents in the State of Utah?

I will not rehash the vast majority of my concerns to you again. I do believe you have a copy of our last letter. In that letter I provided multiple avenues by which AIR and the Utah State Department of Education can alleviate our “paranoia” by at least considering the implementation of several transparency features into your $39,000,000.00 contract with the citizens and parents of the State of Utah.

Let me refresh your memory with a few nuggets of change to consider from our previous letter:

1. “Anyone who states that AIR does not have the capacity to input selected variables that measure “behavioral characteristics”, along with variables that measure language arts, science or math is sorely misguided. It would be relatively “easy” to design a language adaptive test that has behavioral characteristics embedded into the design of the test.”

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

3. “A truly independent review by three independent, Board Certified, joint Ph.D. level psychometricians and licensed clinical psychologist, of all of the test items developed by AIR to ensure that there are no line item variables that could be reasonable utilized to measure“behavioral characteristics” as such may be defined by the American Psychological Association, or Journals published by this group.”

4. Implying, as was done in the USOE Alpine Town Hall Meeting, that any disability group in the country has approved a test (that has not yet to be designed) for the valid use with these populations, is disingenuous at the very least, or a flat out, deliberate misrepresentation to the parents of Utah (and the rest of the country) at worst.

5. An “opt out option” for children with disabilities until data of validity and efficacy is published and disseminated to the public, which ensures fair and accurate measurement of academic achievement.

Your letter failed to even acknowledge reflection of these common sense suggestions and protections for our $39,000,000.00 investment with AIR.

Per se, as far as your response to our clinic’s concerns that were outlined to Superintendent Menlove, I find it to be nothing but a piece of disingenuous public relations rubbish that is affronting in its lack of clarity and references. In a nutshell, you have asked the entire State of Utah to simply “trust you.”

Perhaps you have not spent any recent time in our great state. It would not be an exaggeration to state that the vast majority of Utah citizens have become a little queasy regarding believing authority figures in politics and business regarding positions of fiduciary and moral trust. Common Core, good or bad, is undisputedly the largest experiment of academic and assessment change in the history of our country. With such a grand experiment, the word “trust” should never be uttered.

I strongly suggest that both AIR and the Utah State Office of Education step up to the plate with some real answers, as opposed to the public relations fluff that we as parents are tired of digesting. Your joint, continued efforts of quasi-deception by proxy might incite this highly intelligent, bi-partisan, independent group of Utah parents to descend 10,000 strong to have their voices heard on the steps of our Capitol. Outsiders may make fun of our dominant culture, may laugh regarding our Utah Jazz, however we draw the line where it comes to the health and safety of our children. Our children will not become your psychological and academic guinea pigs without reasonable pilot-study data, specific to our unique population of children and teenagers.

Privacy Issues:

The vast majority of your letter was in response to attorney Flint’s concerns regarding data mining and related privacy issues. The following is a direct quote from Mr. Flint that I received this morning after he reviewed your letter to Dr. Menlove:

“AIR responds to our concerns about privacy, misuse of data and the protection of the database by re-stating that their contract precludes misuse or dissemination and would violate existing laws. I think we can all agree on that, however, it completely fails to answer the questions posed.

For example, in my letter to Superintendent Menlove, I cited a number of instances where both governmental and private agencies have lost or misplaced data while transferring it via flash drive, and the numerous instances of professional hackers obtaining the most sensitive and private information from medical and other databases.

The government agencies and companies that were “victims,” were also all required by law and contract to not disclose, disseminate or negligently lose the data, and to have sufficient firewall and other protections against hackers. They failed. Miserably.

AIR is in no better position than the dedicated public servants who have utterly failed us on a regular basis. They ignore the new 21st Century realities of data-mining and the veracity of how valuable data is sought after by many organizations for many, including nefarious, purposes. AIR dangerously skips past my concerns for the numerous exemptions to obtaining parental written consent, such as “academic surveys” or the oft-repeated abuses now being reported in other states that have implemented Common Core.

Like the Utah State Office of Education, they simply say “trust us, we’re professionals.” What they really mean is “screw you, we’re in charge here.”

It appears off hand that you failed to impress a trial lawyer with 26 years of litigation experience, as well as a father of a young son with Asperger’s Disorder.

Conclusion:

The repeated refusal of education leaders in positions of trust to responsibly address privacy and testing concerns (as well as other well documented concerns regarding curriculum development) surrounding Common Core may ultimately result in potential academic and emotional harm to a significant portion of Utah’s public school children. The repeated refusal to even responsibly acknowledge the very possibility of potential harm to children in our communities borders on delusional thought processes.

The continued dissemination of non-data supported conclusions of Common Core by leaders in our education community, and specifically AIR, regarding testing and privacy issues, despite receipt of well documented concerns from educational, legal and psychology experts from around the country, is nothing short of malfeasance of duty.

In plain terms, you are experimenting with our children without our consent. Such actions are not acceptable to any parent in the State of Utah, regardless of political or religious affiliations. It’s time for some “new perspectives” to be heard in various education circles.

As such, I would deferentially request that Mr. John Jesse, Director of Assessment for the Utah State Office of Education; Ms. Brenda Hale, Associate Superintendent of Public Schools; and Ms. Debra Roberts, Chairperson for the Utah State Board of Education resign from their respective professional and/or political duties prior to the commencement of the 2013-2014 public school academic year.

(Superintendent Menlove is new to the political jungles associated with Utah, and appears to be making an active effort in trying to wrap his head around the massive changes he inherited from Washington D.C. and his predecessor. In addition, I believe that he is a man of integrity.)

As an alternative to resignations of the above named parties, I would respectfully request that both the Utah State Office of Education, as well as the Utah State School Board, discuss and objectively educate parents via their respective official websites regarding areas of Common Core that have not been vetted in a reasonable and proper manner via pilot studies (e.g.,testing issues), as well as acknowledge that potential exists for the misuse of private “educational” data. This new transparency and intellectual honesty will result in allowing parents to make individual decisions regarding either opting out of Common Core, or making arrangements for alternative educational instruction for their respective children.

Mr. Cohen, your role at AIR will be key to ensuring that USOE honors our request for more in-depth, and objective scientific and legal transparency, as well as building bridges of trust between you and the community of citizens who are paying for your services. I think I speak for and in behalf of tens of thousands of Utah parents who believe that trust must be earned when it comes to the process and execution of educating our children. The days of signing “blank checks of trust” are done in our state…especially when such involves $39,000,000.00 and our children.

This is all very simple: Prove your claims with scientifically reliable pilot data, or in the alternative, acknowledge potential deficits in a clear and concise manner so that parents, who are the true experts of their children, can make decisions regarding their unique kids and their continued involvement (or not) in Common Core.

One size does not fit all.

Best Regards,

Gary Thompson, Psy.D.

Edward D. Flint, Attorney at Law

  • Dr. Thompson can be reached for comment at drgary@earlylifepsych.com.
  • Mr. Flint can be reached for comment at specialedflint@gmail.com.

Dr. Thompson’s appearance on The Blaze t.v. show with Glenn Beck is highlighted below.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NjqOBEc3HU

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