Archive for the ‘legitimate education’ Tag

Utah Public School Rejects Common Core: Maeser Prep’s Open Letter to State School Board   2 comments

maeser

Karl G. Maeser Preparatory Academy,  in Lindon, Utah, is the first public school in Utah to issue a letter to the State School Board that asks the board to reject Common Core and return to time-tested, legitimate education.

The letter is posted here.  The board of directors of this public charter school writes that the Common Core Standards compromise Maesar’s educational mission and purpose.  They say that Common Core Standards were adopted without an opportunity for the local school districts or parents to review them first.   And they urge the state school board, Governor Herbert, and the Utah legislature to replace the Common Core with locally vetted standards.

Amen, Karl G. Maeser Academy.

 

Save the Date: Feb 18th @ Salt Lake Capitol at 6:30 p.m.   7 comments

capitol with alyson

Last July, the last time Utahns got together at the State Capitol to discuss Common Core with legislators listening, there was standing room only. Television stations and newspaper reporters were there.   So many people wanted to stand and speak that hundreds and hundreds were turned away due to time running out.

Capitol common core meeting

This time it will be a bit different, and better.  This time, along with listening, some Utah legislators will be speaking out about the problems of the Common Core Initiative.  We hope to fill the capitol —not only to standing-room-only– but to overflowing: past the doors and into the parking lots.

capitol roof

This time –February 18th, 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.,  the speaker lineup includes State Senator Margaret Dayton, Representative Dana Layton, radio host Rod Arquette, Representative Brian Greene, Left-Right Alliance Spokeswoman Autumn Cook, and others that I can’t yet announce (yet to be confirmed).  Please save the date and come.  Show by your presence that you are awake and aware, that you claim authority over your own children’s learning and testing and data privacy — and that you are not going away.   Let’s give the local media something of importance to take pictures of, to write about; please, come if you can.

 

 

Capitol alisa common core meetingMom Alisa Ellis speaks with Rep. Curt Oda about Common Core (at the 2013 State Capitol event)

New York: Parents Launch Common Core Math Homework At Governor – @NYGovCuomo   19 comments

math ny 5

New York parents  are launching their children’s Common Core math homework  — AT Governor Cuomo.

Mark Ferreris, a leader in Stop Common Core in New York State, came up with the idea of sending the children’s homework to the Governor. Tired of seeing their children “suffer each night with abusive, age-inappropriate homework that destroys both their self-esteem and their freedom to truly learn,” Ferreris and other organizers planned the campaign and created a public Facebook event page at Stop Common in New York State, set for February 28, 2014: https://www.facebook.com/events/1433445366892441/

New York parents will simply send their child’s homework via email or regular mail to Governor Cuomo. They plan to title each email or tweet: “CAN YOU DO THIS? –Because Our Children Can’t.”

“Let him get a taste of the suffocating, mind-numbing curriculum that he’s helped shove down our children’s throats which will enslave their impressionable minds….. It’s simple, it’s quick and it’s for YOUR CHILDREN…. Flood him with emails daily or send weekly updates to him,” said organizers.

If you are in New York, here is the contact information for your governor:

Email:   Gov.Cuomo@chamber.state.ny.us

MAIL:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo – Office of the Governor – NYS State Capital Building – Albany, NY 12224

Tweet: @NYGovCuomo

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Wondering what the homework actually looks like? Here are a few samples.

EngageNY/Common Core Math Homework

This one is from a first grade class:

Math HW EngageNY CC Grade 1 for Inclusion Class

Governor Cuomo, can you do it?

The next one is from a kindergarten class.  (Where are the plus, minus, or equals signs? What is a “number bond”?)

math NY 2

This next one is for second graders.  It could as well be for college students; it makes no sense.

math ny 4

Here’s one for third graders that avoids simplicity and clarity, deliberately:

math ny 3

Here’s a video created by Stop Common Core in New York State: “Governor Cuomo, Can You Hear Us: 20,000?”

Missouri Representative Kurt Bahr Runs Bill to Stop Common Core   1 comment

Missouri Representative Kurt Bahr and Representative Bryan Spencer are running a bill to put a stop to the Common Core.

missouri kurt bahr bill 1490

Kurt Bahr Missouri

Representative Bahr

MO bryan spencer

Representative Spencer

Read it here.

If you are in Missouri, here is the directory of all MO representatives. If you see your rep’s name as a co-sponsor, give him or her a call and let him or her know how grateful you are. If not, shoot your rep and email and ask him or her to sponsor this bill.

http://house.mo.gov/member.aspx

Students Opting Out of Common Core Math to Learn at Home   4 comments

apple books

A friend called last week to say that she’s decided to home school her child. She wanted to know what curriculum I use. She said that ever since Common Core came to town, her child hates school –and sadly, he especially hates math. I told her that I use pre-Common Core Saxon, but that there are many good non-Common Core math programs she can find. The point is to steer clear of Common Core aligned education products. Classical math works. It’s worked for a long, long, long, long time.

Story time: When I began to home school my son just fourteen months ago, his main complaint was being bored in school. He was then just an average student. But he wasn’t given any extra attention, nor extra challenges, as a middle of the road student at that school. He spent a lot of time being finished with his math, just reading at his desk while the teacher helped the slower children, and while the gifted children were in another classroom.

This wasn’t a good use of my son’s time. That was in his first month of fourth grade; and I said, “enough”.

Now, as a fifth grader, he loves math. He’s good at it and proud of it. He wouldn’t admit this. But I know he is. He’s already on the seventh grade math level.

He’s not being forced. He is experiencing the LOVE of learning math, alongside the love of actual autonomy. Liberty.

We slow down or speed up as we need to; our little kitchen/living room/park bench/front yard/ anyplace-we-want-to-go home school is customized to his abilities. We skip along past what he doesn’t need to over-review. We slow down and do extra on the parts he does need to work on.

And we take recess any old time we feel like it. We work hard and we take education seriously, but JOYFULLY. We don’t stress him out. We play at math, we work at math, the way we also play at basketball and at engineering and we still bake cookies and blow up home made kitchen volcanoes and wrestle the three-year-old and visit museums and play the piano or paint or play with the microscope or do deep research on some question he came up with –any time we want to.

We can take naps. We can write books. We can compose music. We can talk as long as we want to about what we learn in history, geography, languages. We are in charge of us.

And he’s sprinted ahead, two years ahead of his grade level in math.

Why do I tell you this? Am I just bragging? No. I am rejoicing. There is freedom in this country to homeschool –or to private school or to public school. (One can not legally home school in MANY places– even in Germany or Sweden, where I spent much of my early life– these supposedly “free” countries. I thank God for this freedom in America.

My high schooler attends public school. Sadly, she and I both realize that she has lost the love of learning. She does the bare minimum to get a decent grade. She doesn’t like math. She doesn’t like science. She doesn’t even like English anymore. It’s dreary now. She puts up with it and then she reads what she actually enjoys reading at home.

Is this just my imagination? Is there an actual, national tragedy going on, that schools under Common Core are sapping the love of learning away from students? Is it to be blamed on the “human capital” angle, the factory view of humanity; just processing people to prepare them to be worker bees rather than preparing them to be free, original thinkers, forging their own paths in life?

I think so.

But there’s one more thing. My son’s math success story is not, as some of my friends suppose, because I happen to be a credentialed teacher.

It’s because I’m a mom who loves to learn. I believe in REAL, classical education, where we teach what’s been time-tested for centuries, and teach a love of learning and a love of God. We do not teach toward a test that politicians and businessmen have hung their career hats on (and have then shoved down others’ throats.) That’s increasingly what public school teachers must do, and what they now also must advocate for. Shudder!

The love of home learning explains why I like this news clip so much. The t.v. clip explains that parents in Oregon are pulling their students out of Common Core math classes to teach them real math at home.

I can’t get the clip to embed, so click here to see the Oregon TV News clip or read more about it at The Blaze.

It’s good to know that there are options. There may be people for whom Common Core makes sense and fits. But it’s not for everyone.

One size does not fit all– never has, never will.

Press Release: Pittsburgh Catholics Against Common Core   3 comments

This press release was issued last month by Pittsburgh Catholics Against Common Core, a group of parents dedicated to educating citizens about, and reversing the adoption of, the Common Core in Catholic schools across the country.

(Below the press release, see the video-statement about why Catholic K-12 private schools are moving to Common Core, by Sister Dale McDonald, Director of NCLA Public Policy.)

PRESS RELEASE

Contact: pittsburghcacc@gmail.com
http://www.pghcatholicsagainstcommoncore.com

National Catholic Educational Association promoting controversial Common Core Standards across the country

Pittsburgh, PA – The National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA), the largest private professional education organization in the world (according to their website), had its first national conference on June 30, 2013 in Nashville, TN in support of the very controversial Common Core State Standards. It has hosted a total of three conferences in major cities this summer, called “The Cure for the Common Core Conference” in addition to a convention this past spring that presented everything Common Core and “21st Century” education models.

Common Core is being hotly debated right now. Citizens and legislators in cities and states nationwide have sounded the alarm about Common Core and have decried its content and inferior standards. And yet – the NCEA is forging ahead in building and promoting a vast network of resources for Catholic schools centered on Common Core
instruction and content. Sadly, over 100 Diocese across the country have succumbed to the secular influence of the Common Core proponents.

The NCEA is actively promoting and marketing these nationalized one-size fits all standards by providing teaching materials to Catholic Educators all over the country. They have helped create a Catholic version of Common Core, called the Common Core Catholic Identity Initiative (CCCII) that is stated to 1) empower Catholic schools and dioceses to design and direct the implementation of the Common Core standards within the culture and context of a Catholic school curriculum and 2) infuse the Common Core standards with the faith/principles/values/social justice themes inherent in the mission and Catholic identity of the school.

We are hearing from some Dioceses that they are using the Common Core Standards as a “minimum” benchmark for students, because Catholic standards are already so high. One wonders why they are needed if Catholic schools already have such a strong tradition and history of success with their existing standards. It is confounding to think that a minimum is even required when student performance can be, and always has been, measured
against the higher standard. The Common Core proponents tell us that the Common Core standards are more rigorous and require higher order thinking skills. With this, why would they be considered “minimum” standards by Catholic school leaders? This makes no sense.

We are also hearing from our sources in several cities that parents simply cannot get answers from their Diocesan school leaders about how it will be implemented. What parts of Common Core have been approved? What tests will be used? How will technology be used? Is the Diocese using CCCII? Parents are being left in the dark about these major shifts in how their children will be taught and how they will be expected to learn.

This has led us to believe that Diocesan leaders are either very uninformed on this significant shift in Catholic education and are merely reiterating what they were sold, or they are purposefully being elusive.

Under the direction of Dr. Lorraine Ozar, from Loyola University Chicago, and Sr. Dale McDonald, Director of Public Policy for the NCEA, the CCCII has created a massive amount of materials and detailed teaching guidelines, even showing the controversial behavioral psychology methods and philosophies that it is based on (Bloom’s taxonomy, Understanding by Design, Backward Design, Outcome Based Education, digital learning), weeks of unit content by grade and theme – including book lists for 1st grade that contain books referencing same-sex marriage, website links and books promoting social activism, questioning of parental authority and secular ideas such as building a Facebook page to make friends.

The NCEA has declared in a statement on their website that it does not “endorse” the Common Core State Standards. Yet it has fully embraced them; they were a “Launch supporter” of CCCII, according to the CCCII website. Its conferences allowed them to aggressively market this “Catholic” version of Common Core.

According to Dr. Lorraine Ozar in a July 2012 presentation, “Catholic schools need to pay attention to the fact that the common core standards are here and it is important to get on board”. And Sr. Dale McDonald said in an April 2012 video, “even though these are called ‘secular’ standards, there are ways in which we can make them personal to the Catholic School”.

Why do Catholic schools “need to get on board”? Are they worried about accreditation? Will they lose funding from the government in some way? Are they fearful of losing their alliances with Public-private organizations and partnerships?

Why are they embracing such an insidious agenda that is so diametrically opposed to the Catholic
faith?

Dioceses are being pushed and swooned in this direction and then guided by the NCEA, when really they should be seizing this opportunity to proclaim the accolades of a traditional Catholic classical education. We could see a true renaissance in Catholic education if school leaders chose to lead and purposefully distinguish themselves from public schools. But if Common Core is implemented in Catholic Schools, will it be worth the sacrifice that families are making to send their children to them? There are so many questions that have gone unanswered.

And we keep asking – why?

Catholic schools surely do not “need to get on board”. There is always a choice. And as this moves forward, many more Catholic parents will be asking the same questions and wanting to take their Catholic schools back.

Pittsburgh Catholics Against Common Core is a group of Catholic parents who are dedicated to educating citizens on the dangers of Common Core in Catholic schools and reversing the adoption of these standards in Catholic schools across the country.
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Video: Dr. Christopher Tienken Speaks Out in New York   1 comment

Dr. Christopher Tienken spoke at a conference on Common Core held in New York this month. His hard-hitting speech, posted below, includes the powerful, shattering truth that there’s no evidence to support the claims of Common Core proponents. The emperor is wearing no clothes.

“Major policies that we impose on children and parents should have evidence to support their effectiveness.”Dr. Christopher Tienken, Seton Hall University

After you watch the speech, read Dr. Tienken’s scholarship, book chapter excerpts and previously released video about Common Core at his website.

Video: New Hampshire State Rep Interrogates NH State School Board with These Questions   4 comments

This video shows New Hampshire State Rep Emily Sandblade peppering the New Hampshire State School Board with questions about Common Core’s legitimacy.

The list of questions below is from at a parent-run site called “Math Wizards: Dedicated to Preserving and Promoting Mathematics in Education in New Hampshire.”

“List of Questions:

1) Are there plans on adding/changing the Common Core Standards in an effort to improve them? IF so, will the administration offer a detailed document so the public can see this? If not, why not?

2) What were the specific problems with the old NH standards (GLE’s)?

3) Are there other standards that are superior to Common Core and if so, why not focus on aligning w/those Standards?
If not, why not?

4) Are these standards internationally benchmarked? If so, which countries would you point to for a comparison?

5) Does the Administration believe the academic standards used in the district should be the best?

6) Will the teacher’s evaluation be tied to the standardized assessment? IF so by what percentage?

7) What evidence exists that Common Core will lead to better results?

8) Has anyone looked at or evaluated the new Smarter Balanced Assessment sample questions? If so, do they believe the Smarter Balanced Assessment is a good measurement tool for student proficiency in English and Mathematics?

9) What is the total estimated cost to the School District to implement Common Core?

10) Have they done any kind of cost/benefit analysis?

11) Are there any identified flaws with the English/Math Common Core Standards? If so, what is being done to correct those flaws? If not, has anyone in the district reached out to the two content experts on the Validation Committee to listen to their expert analysis and why they refused to sign off on the Math and English Standards?

12) Will the Administration commit to releasing the assessment questions to the public after students complete the testing?

13) What non-academic questions will be asked of the students on the new assessment?

14) Will parents be able to opt their children out of the new assessment?

15) Will parents be able to see the non-academic questions prior to their children taking the assessment?

16) Will Administrators support a policy that protects the privacy of the student and suggest a new policy to the Board?

17) How does the Administration plan on involving parents in the selection of textbooks/materials, etc?

18) Is the School District “technology” ready to implement CCSS and the new assessments? IF not, how long will that take and how much money will that cost local taxpayers?

19) What is the bandwidth capability of each school and have they run any tests to check the capacity?

20) If the bandwidth has not been tested, why not?

21) What specific actions has been taken to protect the teachers and set them up for success?

22) Does the school district have the IT staff to handle technological demands?

23) What specific adaptations and accommodations are being made for the special needs students?

24) How are the teachers aligning their curriculum to CCSS?

25) Are there additional costs to adding the Broadband for the district? IF so, what is the cost?

26) What is the timeframe for adding Broadband across all of the schools?

27) Schools began implementing CCSS 2012-2013, are there any findings that can be shared?
28) Are the CCSS definition of “college readiness” consistent with the requirements needed to enter a four-year university in the University of New Hampshire system? If not, what will the district do to alleviate that problem?

29) Do you agree that if a student graduates from a school that follows the “College and Career” readiness standards, that student will not be in need of remedial classes upon entering college?

30) Will the district evaluate graduates to see if they were in need of remedial classes? If so, will that information be made available to parents?

31) If students are graduating in need of remedial classes, what then is the course of action? Will district then need to fund new textbooks/curriculum, etc. to alleviate this problem?

32) Will Administrators commit to holding a public hearing on how Common Core will be implemented in the district? If so, will they commit to presenting all information, including info that is critical of Common Core so information is transparent to parents and residents?

Common Core is sold as a way to get your children to “think critically”. (Although the Common Core validation experts would argue that will not happen under Common Core Standards) If they really want to teach kids to “think critically,” why not present all of the critical information on Common Core to the parents too?

Why is the New Hampshire DOE running around town “selling” Common Core but refusing to offer ANY critical information or analysis on Common Core?”

ABC Channel 4 and Deseret News: On Praying for Freedom from Common Core   4 comments

praying family

Reporters from both the Deseret News and ABC Channel 4 t.v. surprised me last week by asking for interviews –on the subject of prayer, which I’d written about a few days earlier. I was really, really surprised to learn that praying is perceived as news. Or, at least, asking people to pray is perceived as news.

There is so much that is extremely damaging, and therefore extremely newsworthy about the Common Core Initiative– so much that is anti-intellectual, anti-parent, anti-teacher, anti-local-control. The reporters didn’t ask about any of that. They wanted to talk about the prayers my friends and blogpost-readers are praying to escape the Common Core by a miracle. That praying was their news. All I can say is that many of us are grateful to Ben Woods and Brian Carlson, the reporters, for shedding light on the subject, and I do consider the fact that they reported on this, part of the answer to many fervent prayers.

Because many people do care and do pray, others are becoming more aware every day that Common Core hurts: it hurts academics, hurts students and teachers, hurts privacy rights, hurts parental rights, hurts local control, hurts state sovereignty, hurts freedom. Even Fox news is helping; big surprise! I saw a poll today on Fox, asking millions of readers whether they are for or against Common Core. At the time that I voted in the poll, 57% said they were against Common Core. I hope you take that poll. It’s another blessing, right there.

So, here are the links to what the Deseret News and ABC 4 had to say about the fact that we are praying.

Links:

The Deseret News article is here.

The ABC Channel 4 news report (text version) is here.

The ABC Channel 4 (t.v. version) of that same report is here, but you have to first watch the video of the school grading report (which is very important also) and then after that report and an ad, then comes the report on the request for prayers.

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… I just can’t help but wonder when the media will report about the enormously newsworthy things –terrible things that folks don’t know, but should know.

I hope to see many news reports about:

SLDS — The fact that parents have no rights over, and no ability to opt their children out of, the current school-originated, federally paid for, federally interoperable, citizen surveillance program known as States’ Longitudinal Database Systems (SLDS) that follows people from the time they’re tiny children until at least adulthood without their consent –or even their knowledge. That’s huge, considering all the scandals on the federal stage right now: (Ed Snowden exposing the unconstitutional activities of the federal government spying on the innocent; the IRS using data to favor and disfavor certain people and organizations without the right to do so; the FBI being sued by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC); the Department of Education also being sued by EPIC for similar violations to human privacy; etc. etc.) But people don’t know it’s real. And they can’t protect their kids if they don’t know what’s going on.

EXPERIMENT ON KIDS — The fact that Common Core standards are an experiment on our children. They lack any empirical studies or proof that they can do anything they claim/hope to do. They have been condemned by the main English Language Arts validation member, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, and have been condemned by the main mathematician on the Common Core validation committee, Dr. James Milgram. They are an academic step down for many states.

EDUCATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION — The fact that Common Core ends local control. The standards are under private copyright by two unaccountable, unelected private groups that are a national superintendents’ club (CCSSO) and a national governors’ club (NGA). Not all superintendents or governors belong. No voter can affect what they do. The federal government put a shackle over that copyright when it mandated that no state may add more than 15% to the common standards.

CORPORATE MONOPOLY ON THOUGHT — The fact that Bill Gates, Pearson and other corporate interests are circumventing the American voter in educational decision making and privacy controls, decisions that negatively affect children. The fact that corporate “alignment” of new technologies, curricula, books and educational products to the very same standards that Gates bankrolled, is conflict of interest and creates a monopoly on anything having to do with education, and limits innovative thought nationwide.

PARENTS HAVE NO VOICE — Example: Common Core recommends that its students read literature of pedophilia (The Bluest Eye) it will be on high school reading lists (Lehi High School) and will be read by Utah students, even if the state school board has not technically recommended it. Why? Because the board adopted Common Core. And teachers are under pressure to have their students perform well on high stakes tests that are aligned to Common Core. Governance is confused; D.C. groups end up calling the shots for Utah students, under Common Core. Parents are totally left out of the discussion of what children should read.

CONSTITUTIONALITY — The fact that G.E.P.A. law and the U.S. Constitution have been broken by the Department of Education’s foray into state educational business. Also, federal privacy law (FERPA) has been shredded by the Department of Education. Although the Department of Education has rightly been sued, they’ll most likely get away with it because WHO IS CHECKING UP ON THEM? Not congress. Not state departments of education. Not the media. Just parents like you and me. We The People.

NO DISSENT ALLOWED — The Common Core tests can’t be seen by parents. Also, the Utah State School Board appointing/electing process includes taking a questionnaire that asks (First question) Do you support the Utah Core? (Remember, Utah Core = Common Core for all English and Math classes, K-12) So nobody who dissents can run for the incredibly powerful and important office of state school board member.

I hope many of you will write letters to the editor, opinion editorials, or email your legislators and school board representatives to make your voices heard. This is still America. And we are the people. We, the voters and taxpayers –and yes, the pray-ers– are the real bosses of this great country. Make your voice count.

Rally Tomorrow: School Grading Bill is Interconnected with Common Core Tests   1 comment

Tomorrow, Sept. 3rd, at 10:30 a.m. there will be a rally. It’s not directly about Common Core. But it’s about an issue very, very closely related: school grading. And what makes this one interesting is that it’s not parents, but the Utah School Boards Association (USBA) that’s heading the rally. The USBA may even be surprised to see that many Utahns Against Common Core members will be there to support their rally. (I can’t go; I will be teaching at that time, but I’m there in spirit.)

Wendy Hart, a school board member in Alpine school district, has written an article that explains how school grading and common core are intertwined and must be opposed. I highly recommend it. She says, “School Grading is touted as a way for parents to find out how well their school is doing. Obviously, we pay lip-service to parents being primarily responsible for their child’s education, but we have higher levels of masters who take that power away from parents. If the teachers, schools, and student are graded based on how well the student does on a test, then everything is dependent on that test. I believe all those involved in setting standards, assessments, and school grading in this state are intending to have the best outcomes available for children. However, it is important to stop and look at the principles behind these issues and what the end results most likely will be. Who is the master we will serve?” (Read the rest.)

I think people get stuck on the misused word “accountability” which is often used as if it is always a good thing. But accountability’s obviously dependent on who is accountable to whom. People who don’t have authority to ask for an accounting, shouldn’t be given any accounting. It’s wrong. And it leads to abuse of power.

Should teachers and principals be accountable to the parents of the children they serve? Yes.

But should they be accountable to the long list of so-called “stakeholders” who have no authority over them under the Constitution, GEPA law, or common sense? No.

Should they be accountable to Common Core’s creators or testing agents, including the nonelected clubs of superintendents (CCSSO) and governors (NGA) and the AIR testing group, groups which now hold power over what will be on Utah’s standardized, nationally common test, to be nationally used as an accountability measuring stick? No!

And that’s why I oppose these Utah bills touting school grading. It’s accountability to the wrong groups, groups who are far removed from those who actually care.

Details of this Stop School Grading rally: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at 10:30 a.m. at the Utah School Boards Association (USBA) office at 860 E. 9085 South (East on 90th South, just east of 700 East and the Canyons School District ATC buildings).

Parents and others from Utahns Against Common Core have been encouraged to bring signs saying “No School Grading tied to Common Core Tests.”

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Wendy Hart has given her permission to repost her entire article here. Thanks, Wendy.

Friday, August 30, 2013

No Man Can Serve Two Masters: School Grading/Accountability

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. (Matthew 6:24)

School Grading is touted as a way for parents to find out how well their school is doing. Obviously, we pay lip-service to parents being primarily responsible for their child’s education, but we have higher levels of masters who take that power away from parents. If the teachers, schools, and student are graded based on how well the student does on a test, then everything is dependent on that test. I believe all those involved in setting standards, assessments, and school grading in this state are intending to have the best outcomes available for children. However, it is important to stop and look at the principles behind these issues and what the end results most likely will be. Who is the master we will serve?

A prime case in point is the presentation we received as a Board on Aug. 13 about the new school grading and teacher evaluation programs. (A great overview can by found online, courtesy of the Alpine Parent Society.) These programs have been put into law by the legislature, but are also requirements of the Federal Waiver from No Child Left Behind. I could go into the mathematical flaws in the system, the necessary faith in the test creators, and the fact that testing drives what is taught in the classroom. However, the biggest issue I have is who will truly have the power to determine what our children learn. If you realize teacher evaluations, school grades and student grades are all tied to the Common Core tests, you realize whoever writes and grades those tests affects every aspect of education in this state. Say what you will about standards, the practical application of it will be in the tests.

Here’s an example. Some people have heard recently of the Toni Morrison book, The Bluest Eye. I have never read it, but the excerpts I’ve read put it, in my opinion, in the category of pornography. (You may disagree, but bear with me for the sake of the argument.) I have an acquaintance back East whose children have read this repeatedly in her private, Catholic school, not because the teachers and administrators agree with the book, but because selections from the book appear on the AP English test. In this case, the AP test determines what is taught in the classroom, even if it is completely contrary to the values and mission of a particular school.

Additionally, the federally-funded Common Core tests (SBAC and PARCC) are testing “process and communication skills over content knowledge”, according to one reviewer. Since our test-developer (AIR) is also developing the SBAC test, one wonders if our state tests will follow suit. If so, anyone who fails to teach the proper methodology, not just the facts, puts their students, their career, and their school in jeopardy. (An example of this from another state can be found here.) Testing is the way standards, curricula and teaching methods are enforced.

Joseph Stalin is supposed to have said, “It doesn’t matter who votes. It matters who counts the votes.” Similarly, “He who makes the tests, controls the education.”

Parents can want certain things taught. Our laws and constitution can say how parents are primarily involved in their child’s education. We can speak till we’re blue in the face about how parents and local control of education is so important. But as soon as we tie everything to the grade on a test–a test parents have ABSOLUTELY NO CONTROL over–we realize we have a different master. Instead, we must have complete faith in the test developers. Have they created a fair, accurate system of measuring what we, as parents, want? And if they do not, there is nothing we can do at a local level to change it.

We think an end-of-year test will be testing fact, knowledge, and information. However, the emphasis of Common Core and its testing is to test “higher-order thinking” over fact. Most parents want their kids to learn higher-order thinking. But what does higher-order thinking mean to the test developer? Benjamin Bloom, author of the well-respected Bloom’s Taxonomy (used extensively in education) defines it this way,”…a student attains ‘higher-order thinking’ when he no longer believes in right or wrong.” (Major Categories in the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, p. 185) This is completely inconsistent with my motto on education: Truth vanquishes darkness. You cannot serve two masters. Education cannot serve the parents if they don’t control the test. Higher-order thinking cannot lead to the discovery of truth if it also means no right or wrong. In the end, who is the master of education in Utah? The state tests, brought to you by American Institutes for Research. It’s not you, and it’s not me.

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About 50% of the time, I agree with the Utah School Boards Association (USBA) on legislation. This is one of those times. We may not agree for all the same reasons, but we agree on the end result. Last session, the legislature passed SB271 on school grading. This is an update of a school grading bill from 2011. In response to the 2011 law, the State Office of Ed developed a process for grading schools, called UCAS. UCAS is mathematically flawed and, like every accountability measure emanating from the state, will take local control away. SB271 is opposed by the USBA because, while they must have some sort of school grading to get the No Child Left Behind waiver, they prefer the UCAS grading system. I think we need to get rid of it all. However, I will be at the press conference/rally the USBA is holding in opposition to the current version of school grading, SB271, on Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at 10:30 a.m. at the Utah School Boards Association (USBA) office at 860 E. 9085 South (East on 90th South, just east of 700 East and the Canyons School District ATC buildings). I’d invite everyone who is opposed to the enforcement Common Core via testing, or to centralized control over education to attend.

Just remember, we can’t serve two masters. Until we reassert our rightful position, as masters of our children’s education, education in Utah will continue to be subject to a master set up by those who are willing to fill the void we have left.

–Wendy Hart, member, Alpine School Board

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OTHER STOP COMMON CORE EVENTS THIS WEEK:

Layton, Utah
Wednesday night, September 4th 7:00 pm
Common Core Informational Meeting
Speakers – Peter Cannon (Davis School District Board Member) and Pamela Smith (Eagle Forum)
Layton City Library – September 4, 2013
155 Wasatch Dr.

Cedar City, Utah
Saturday, September 7th, 7 pm
Speaker – Alisa Ellis – of Utahns Against Common Core
Crystal Inn (1575 W. 200 N. Cedar City, Utah)

Roy, Utah
Thursday September 12, 2013 @ 7:00 pm
Roy Library, Eagle Forum presentation on Common Core

Ogden, Utah
Tuesday September 24, 2013 @ 6:30pm
North Ogden Library
(475 E. 2600 N. North Ogden, Utah 84414)
Eagle Forum presentation on Common Core

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