Archive for the ‘NCLB’ Tag

You Shall Not Pass: Utah Senator Mike Lee Isn’t Fooled by No Child Left Behind Reauthorization   Leave a comment

Legendary US Dept of Education whistleblower Charlotte Iserbyt  has  pointed out at her blog, ABCs of Dumbdown, that some members of Congress are deliberately concealing machinations of No Child Left Behind/ESEA  and are planning a rushed vote so that no time is allotted for public scrutiny nor for full Congressional analysis of the huge federal law.  She also points out that others, like Utah Senator Mike Lee, aren’t falling for the ruse.

In the official Congressional Record of two days ago, you can read the entire statement of Utah Senator Mike Lee, who said (see page S8032):

So from the surface it will still look like the conference process is happening, is unfolding in the manner in which it is supposed to, but beneath the surface we know that all of this has already been prearranged, precooked, predetermined by a select few Members of Congress working behind closed doors free from scrutiny, and we know this vote was scheduled on extremely short notice so it would be difficult, if not impossible, for the rest of us to influence the substance of the conference report through motions to instruct.”

Senator Lee also stated that the new ESEA/NCLB aims to spend $250 million on federal preschool, even though:

“Nowhere has the top-down, centrally planned model of public education failed more emphatically than in our nation’s public pre-K programs. The epitome of federal preschool programs is Headstart, which has consistently failed.”

Senator Lee noted that the bill must be stopped because it cements Common Core:

“The bill also doubles down on the discredited common core approach to elementary and secondary education the American people have roundly and consistently rejected. Parents and teachers across America are frustrated by the heavy-handed, overly prescriptive approach to education policy by Washington, D.C.   I have heard from countless moms and dads in Utah who feel as though anonymous government officials living and working 2,000 miles away have a greater say in the education of their own children than they do.”

Please call the US Capital in D.C. to ask your senators and representatives to VOTE NO on ESEA/NCLB reauthorization.  202-224-3121. 

For additional information and details on who is fighting with us and why we must stop the bill, click here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Here are analyses of the amendments to both bills:

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

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

Federal HR5 Down: Ten Things to Watch for in New ESEA Reauthorization Bill and SETRA   1 comment

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Last week bipartisan grassroots Americans saw a miracle.

That wolf in sheep’s clothing, the (supposed) shoo-in bill called federal HR5 or The Student Success Act, which was to reauthorize No Child Left Behind/ESEA, was thrown aside  by Congress instead of becoming law.  Thanks to a bipartisan effort by grassroots citizens and vigilant Congressmen who studied the language inside the bill’s 600+ pages –not just buying Speaker Boehner’s gilded talking points— the dangers of HR5 surfaced into Congressional consciousness.

A whirlwind of amendment-writing began on both sides of the aisle.  By the time Congress gave up on trying to pass HR5 last week, there were so many amendments from both Democratic and Republican members of Congress that everybody seemed to dislike the bill and Obama was threatening to veto.

That was a very unexpected turn of events.  –But proper!  Emmett McGroarty of American Principles in Action summarized the problems of NCLB and HR5: “HR5 demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of the Constitution and our constitutional structure. Although it relieves the states from some NCLB burdens, it then adds others and overall sets the stage for an expanded federal footprint in our lives.

Additionally, a powerful open letter from a bipartisan group of over 2,000 educational researchers (See letter here) last month informed Congress that  “testing should not be driving reform.

The 2000 educational researchers who signed  last month’s letter saw as harmful the federal aim “to use students’ test scores as a lever to drive educational improvement.” They explained: “This use of testing is ill-advised because… it has demonstrably failed to achieve its intended goal and has potent negative, unintended consequences.”  Under No Child Left Behind/ESEA, they said, the federal government had trusted “an unproven but ambitious belief that if we test children and hold educators responsible for improving test scores we would have almost everyone scoring as “proficient” by 2014.”  The researchers said: “there is no evidence that any test score increases represent the broader learning increases…  While testing advocates proclaim that testing drives student learning, they resist evidence-based explanations for why, after two decades of test-driven accountability, these reforms have yielded such unimpressive results.”

For many, the bottom line problem with both ESEA and HR5 was the ongoing, evidence-less promotion of student high-stakes testing as the solution for education problems.  For others, the bottom line problem (in HR5) was language implying conditionality of parental rights, possible waiving of states’ rights, and federal/state intrusion into private schools, particularly into private schools’ free exercise of religious freedom.  

With so many heavy, bipartisan issues rolled into ESEA, we can expect that the upcoming bipartisan version of the bill will be plagued with the same struggles we saw in last week’s HR5.  These must be identified and fought:

 

 

#1 Clarity problems: deliberately lengthy language that scatters definitions across hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pages and convoluted language that confuses most readers;

#2 A continued push for testing and data mining that pushes away from local (school or district) accountability toward centralized power; multi-state alignment (de facto national) high stakes testing and data collection that enriches corporations partnered with or funded by Bill Gates/Microsoft and Pearson.

#3  A push for centralization of power –with the elites comprised of corporate and governmental partnerships to exclude voters, teachers, parents and duly elected representatives;

#4 No privacy protections beyond the lame and wilted FERPA for our children; instead, increased data collecting powers to corporate-governmental partnerships;

#5  A continued push for more unelected boards to have increased control of greater numbers of schools via charter school expansions;

#6 A continued push for federal-corporate intrusion into private schools;

#7 A continued bartering for parental and states’ rights in trade for federal money;

#8 An assumption of federal-corporate “research” authority –devoid of parental consent and devoid of evidence-based, peer-reviewed validity;

#9  Expansion of centralized authority over specified groups, such as “migratory students” or “Alaskan Natives”; in sum:

#10 A continued disregard for Constitutional rights.

 

Please watch not only the ESEA/NCLB reauthorization, but also the S.227 SETRA bill.  They go hand in hand.

Federal SETRA  hurts student data privacy, allows emotional testing in increased student data mining, and reassigns grant-making (funding) control to REL regions, not states.  Read SETRA bill text here.

It appeared to me that HR5 got away with its marketing (saying it was restoring local control) because it transmitted federally-desired, test-driven reforms and other expansions to state authority and to state enforcement, perhaps to appease local control activists.  But this was just passing the abuse baton.  I imagine the corporate-regional power grabbers singing the “Na-nee-na-nee-boo-boo” song:  “You don’t get the steering wheel.  Constitution Constasmooshen. Who’s got your taxes?”

(Important note: in the coming SETRA bill, fund-approving power is siphoned past the states to REL regional authorities, making Constitutional state-rights less and less relevant.)

These power-reassignments are not appealing to those who want true local control.

Pray that our Congressmen find time, energy and wisdom to see through it all and that they will have the courage to protect children’s rights, teacher’s rights, voters’ rights, and parent’s rights.

 

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The Blast Radius of Proposed New “No Child Left Behind” Bill   36 comments

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Senator “Let’s-Don’t-Talk-About-Common-Core” LaMar Alexander  has proposed a bill to amend  ESEA (No Child Left Behind Act) in order “to restore freedom”. The bill is called the “Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2015“.

I read the 387-pager after I learned that education experts, slated to testify against the bill, had abruptly been dismissed and were told that the bill had been “fast-tracked,” so there wouldn’t be time for them to speak.  —No time to hear testimony and debate about a historic, child-impacting bill?

I read this bill with these six facts and questions in mind:

Fact 1. There’s a  de facto federal database composed of fifty individual databases with interoperable State Longitudinal Database Systems.   These  feed on the federal school testing/data collecting system, and feed different federal databases and their powerful branches.  This clearly violates “consent of the governed” because nobody can opt out.

QUESTION 1:  Would LaMar’s bill restore “consent of the governed” to education and to student data mining?

Fact 2. There’s a federal testing system comprised of Common Core aligned, synchronized testing partnerships: PARCC, SBAC, and AIR.  This violates Constitutional separation of powers since the federal government has no business in state-directed educational affairs such as testing.

QUESTION 2: Would LaMar’s bill restore separation of powers and deny federal supervision of school tests?

Fact 3. There’s a corporate cartel of educational technology and text sellers  (Pearson Inc, partnered with Gates/Microsoft, etc) advising the federal testing system.  This violates the Constitutional principle of agency; individuals and states are coerced to use certain corporations’ products with federal approval.

QUESTION 3: Would LaMar’s bill restore a diverse exchange of academic ideas to the American textbook and technology market?

Fact 4.  The corporate cartel  finances the private groups that created and copyrighted the common education and the common data tags  programs.  Federal approval of such financing and implementation is clear by the official partnering of the U.S. Dept. of Education with the private creator-copyrighter groups.   That violates consent of the governed, too.

QUESTION 4: Would LaMar’s bill create fairness and freedom for non-Common Core aligned education providers? 

Fact 5.  Because Common Core standards are copyrighted, states (voters, teachers, you and I) don’t get to vote on them.  There’s no amendment process for any state to alter Common Core Standards nor the Common Education Data System (CEDS).  Federal promotion and partnershipping with those who copyrighted nonamendable standards, violates states’ rights and consent of the governed.

QUESTION 5: Would LaMar’s bill move us away from these chokehold national standards and restore individual agency?

Fact 6. Both Republican and Democratic politicians are hacking at the limbs of the Constitution openly, aiming to phase out the authority of the states  and of parents regarding educational authority, privacy and other issues.  Aiming to “phase out the authority of states” is blatantly unconstitutional.

QUESTION 6: Would LaMar’s bill stop the Department of Education’s agenda to “phase out state authority”?

Now, to the bill.

———–

I knew from page one that this was going to be a big, fat two-tongued document because the bill’s purpose statement:  “to restore freedom” conflicts with its own title: “The Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2015“.

This bill by its title and throughout its text cements the Common Core Initiative into federal law without once using the term “Common Core”. How?

Did you know that the phrase College and Career Ready has been repeatedly, federally and corporationally defined in multiple places as only Common Core. (See College and Career Ready definition: the Dept. of Education defines college and career ready standards as “standards common to a significant number of states.”  There is one thing that meets that definition.  Anytime you see “college and career ready,” run; it equals only the Common Core.

Can a bill claim to restore freedom while it promotes the exact, synonymous term that takes freedom in education away?

 

 

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On page three I found red flag #2:   “Close the achievement gap between high and low performing children“.  It’s another way of saying “everyone has to be the same at any cost– even at the price of slowing or dumbing down high achievers.”  Posing as fairness, it’s precisely the opposite, as nonsensical as the Handicapper General in Harrison Bergeron.  ( The funny, tragic short story of Harrison Bergeron is online if you haven’t read it.)

The bill explains how money must be allocated to ensure that the achievement gap-closing happens.  The Harrison Bergeron-ian “fairness” will be enforced with (our) tax dollars in federally set ways.

On page 8 we learn:  States will have to create a peer review board with the purpose of promoting “effective implementation of the challenging State academic standards“.  A mandated review board will promote implementation of Common Core, the very thing so many hope to eradicate.  Note the slickness:  later on the same page, it says:  “with the goal of supporting State- and local-led innovation”.  It’s pleasant sounding, but it’s a lie; one can’t support local innovation while implementing centrally controlled, Common Core standards on a federally mandated review board.

I already don’t want to read the rest of the 379 pages.  I’m only on page 8.

Next is a section called “State Plan Determination, Demonstration and Revision” which makes me wonder: why should states demonstrate to the federal government, when education is not in federal jurisdiction?  (Calling for “accountability” without authority to make that call should always raise eyebrows. I’m envisioning Emperor Arne being fed grapes while the Constitution is being used as bird cage liner.) This gets worse when the bill says that the Secretary of Education can decline to approve a State plan  (pages 8 and 9) and that the Secretary of Education would withhold funds from states who don’t comply. (page 12)   This is clearly out of harmony with the bill’s stated purpose “to restore freedom” as well as being out of harmony with the U.S. Constitution.

Page 13:  The same standards have to be used throughout the entire state.  They have to be aligned with state college standards.  (They can’t be lower, but they can’t be any higher, either, than the worst of any state college.  They can’t align with any unusually high private university standards.) This control freakishness –and this obvious dumbing down, may succeed in closing that achievement gap but only by harming high achievers, it seems to me.

Page 16:  In complete contradiction to pages 8 and 9, this section says that the Secretary has no authority to supervise or direct state standards.

Page 17:  Here we go with the assessments.  Every state must use standardized tests aligned to the college-and-career-ready standards (Common).

Page 20:  Here we go with the data collecting:  tests must “produce individual student interpretive, descriptive, and diagnostic reports… include information regarding achievement on assessments… provided…  in an understandable and uniform format” [meaning, I am sure: Common Educational Data Standards and SIF interoperability formats, which preclude strong privacy protection].

The data collected must be disaggregated, says the bill, by state and by school using these factors:  gender, economic status, race, ethnicity, English proficiency, disability, migratory status, etc., but will not be personally identifiable.  (Hmm.  On page 20 they just said tests must report on “individual interpretive, descriptive and diagnostic reports.” How is that not personally identifiable?)

On page 34 I’m troubled by this:  “achievement gaps between each category of students described“.  So they will divide and label student achievement groups by race, by gender, by ability, by economic status, etc. to further identify groups.

On page 35 the bill identifies schools that must be “turned around”.

On page 37 the state assures the federal government that it will participate in the NAEP test for 4th and 8th graders.

On page 39 the bill mandates uniform state report cards.

On page 54 the “Local Educational Agency Plan” mandates identifying students and identifying achievement gaps.  The plan also funds HeadStart or other government preschools.

Page 66 tells states how they have to spend any unused money.

Page 89 gives priority to low achievers.

Page 92-96 discusses private schools and how Title I funds will follow the low income child.  Where funding goes, strings are attached and mandates (i.e., data mining and government tests) follow.  Title I funds  look like the way Common Core aims to infiltrate charter schools and private schools.

Page 99:  Grants for Common Tests:  The Secretary of Education will give grants to pay for tests and standards, if the states are working in partnership with other states.

Page 101:  Summative, interim and formative tests will be developed or improved.  (More Common Core testing, more frequently, and more in disguise–as practice or as assignments, rather than traditional end of the year summative tests.)

Page 111:  “At risk” students will be indentified, intervened, and reported.

Page 117:  If there is failure to reach consensus, the Secretary of Education is empowered to act on his own with the “alternative process” that “if Secretary determines that a negotiated rulemaking process is unnecessary...” he simply tells Congress (not asks, tells) –and then he does his own thing, allowing for public comment afterward, and then, finally, makes it an official regulation.   I hope people are reading this.

Page 135:  Here the states are told the conditions by which they will make subgrants to schools and to teachers.

Page 145:  This fulfils Arne Duncan’s dream of replacing family with school as the centerpiece of life and community,  “providing programs that…extend the school day, school week, or school year calendar.”   Remember what the Secretary Duncan said in his Charlie Rose interview?  This is his one minute video:

Page 153:  “Secretary may waive” requirements.  So this may be a Congressionally vetted law, but it’s more of a suggestion than a hard and fast law, always subject to the whims of the Secretary.  This is repeated on page 224:  “The Secretary may waive any statutory or regulatory requirement… with respect to charter schools.. if.. Secretary determines that granting such a waiver will promote the purposes...”

Page 163:  Grant recipients must provide data to the federal Secretary of Education.

Page 226:  On Charter Schools:  “support the opening of… replication of… charter schools… expansion of high quality charter schools”.

Page 229:  “A description of how the State will actively monitor and hold authorized public chartering agencies accountable… including… revoking the authority of an authorized chartering agency based on the performance of the charter school… in areas of student achievement… and compliance”.

Page 249:  The Secretary of Education can take money out of the charter school’s reserve account if the grant wasn’t used in “carrying out the purposes” of the Secretary.

[On and on and on the bill rambles about charter school expansion and federal controls on the charter schools.  Endless pages are devoted to charter schools.  Why the increased interest of the federal government in supporting charter schools?  Because charter schools don’t have elected school boards.  The ruling bodies of charter schools are appointed, not elected.  In some places, philanthropists and huge corporations are administering charter schools –with zero accountability to any parent or any voter.  This is education without representation!  This is why the Obama Administration is pushing to identify and “turn around” “low performing” public schools and turn them into voter-untouchable institutions of the cartels and governments who benefit from that kind of power.]  I happen to have one child who attends a charter school and I know from personal experience that the board is under no obligation to listen to any parent, and no parent can vote a board member out.  You’re just lucky if the board happens to be made of people with whom you share values and goals for children.]

Page 268 talks about using magnet schools to desegregate “students of different racial backgrounds”.  I don’t agree with redistribution by government force of anything– not money, not teachers, not not principals, not standards, and not students of different races.   But the Department of education does.

Page 276 “State Innovation and Flexibility“: think about the way that title rations liberty.  What would the founding fathers say about the federal government creating a document with a section heading titled like that?  States are allowed to have some innovation?  Some flexibility?  Those are sub-particles of a rationed freedom, not freedom at all.

Page 297: “Indian, Native Hawaiian, Alaska Native Education” – This part has me confused.  Someone please comment below if you understand it.  Why would the federal government spend pages and pages and pages outlining different rules for these specific minority groups?  Not just a few— a LOT of pages.

Page 369:  “Participation by private school children and teachers” – By definition, private school children and their teachers are to be left completely alone by the government; that’s what private means.    Why is this federal law taking the effort and time to mention them?  If, according to page 92, the Title One funds follow the private school child to his/her school, then the government will be taking reports, data mining, and putting out mandates as well.

The answer to each of my six questions, from the top,  is “no”.

The stated purpose of the bill is “to restore freedom”.  Does this happen? No.

The bill –without even using the term “Common Core” a single time, works to cement Common Core.  It supports more common tests and emboldens the collectors of both academic and nonacademic personal student data (without parental consent), will intrude on private schools; and decreases representative school decision making by replacing a large number of public schools with no-elected-board, no-vote-allowed, charter schools; all under the banner of equitably meeting student needs and “closing an achievement gap.”

Please do something positive:  tell your senators and reps to help push an actual freedom-granting bill in education.

I learned with gratitude today from Utah’s Mia Love  that she is working with Rep. Joe Wilson on a bill “to allow states to opt out of Common Core without being penalized.”  Support Mia Love.  Write to her.  Rep. Wilson, too.  Please call other Congressmen and ask them to work with her and support her.

David Vitters’ bill, too,  sounds a thousand times more honest than Alexander’s ESEA “Every Child College and Career Ready Act of 2015”.

Vitters’ bill (S73) is “A bill to prohibit the Federal Government from mandating, incentivizing, or coercing States to adopt the Common Core State Standards or any other specific academic standards, instructional content, curricula, assessments, or programs of instruction.”  https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/s73 )

—But LaMar Alexander’s ESEA?  No.

Vanderbilt Law Review: Duncan’s Waivers Illegal   1 comment

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Peter Greene, teacher, blogger and Huffington Post writer, has written another funny and fascinating ed reform article.  In this one, he highlights the findings of University of South Carolina law professor Derek W. Black.  Black’s soon-to-be-published findings include the following:

Two of the most significant events in the history of public education occurred over the last year. First, after two centuries of local control and variation, states adopted a national curriculum. Second, states changed the way they would evaluate and retain teachers, significantly altering teachers’ most revered right, tenure. Not all states adopted these changes of their own free will. The changes were the result of the United States Secretary of Education exercising unprecedented agency power in the midst of an educational crisis: the impending failure of almost all of the nation’s schools under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The Secretary invoked the power to impose new conditions on states in exchange for waiving their obligations under NCLB…. As a practical matter, he federalized education in just a few short months.”

Peter Greene divides the law journal article into four simple, easy-to-digest segments, and explains them.  You will laugh as you learn.

For example, under “Part I:  No Changing the Rules” Greene writes:  “When the feds pass a law, they have to lay out all the rules that do and will apply to that law. You can’t pass a law, start folks working under it, and then years later announce, ‘Oh, yeah, and by the way, we’ve changed this law about making cheese sandwiches so that it also covers sloppy joes, and also, if you don’t go along with us on this, we get to take your car.”Also, you can’t suddenly say, ‘We’ve given my brother-in-law the power to judge your sloppy joes.’  Conditions for receiving federal fund must be “unambiguous” and non-coercive.”

Both the funny and easy-to-understand analysis of Duncan’s illegal waiver-waving, and the official law journal publication by Dr. Derek Black, as soon as it becomes available to the public, must be read and shared.

Let’s stop the Department of Education’s lawless disrespect for constitutional local control of education –and protect our children– by learning and then sharing these facts widely.

Video and Photos: Utah Protesters Outside State School Board Meeting   3 comments

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Yesterday, Utah’s Stop Common Core folks followed the example of Oklahoma and Maine, wearing grass-green T-shirts for a protest held in Salt Lake City outside the offices of the Utah State School Board.

Trucks honked, kids danced, families waved signs. Honestly, it was fun.   A teenage protester (who was dancing with his “My Education is Not Your Experiment” sign) said he thought we were “pretty amateur protesters”.  We are!  Next time, we need soap boxes, megaphones for the cheerleaders, and a lot more people.

Two thousand people had signed the letter asking the board not to renew the federal waiver, in just 24 hours.  But they didn’t all show up in person at the protest.  Neither did the almost 12,000 people who have signed the Utahns Against Common Core petition.

Still, so many green shirts packed the public meeting of the board after the protest  that two hallways outside the meeting were filled with green shirts, as well as the whole board room being filled and encircled by standing green shirts who could not find seats.  The testimonies were incredible.  Anyone without an already hardened heart would have been moved.  I wish I could give you a link to hear what was spoken.

The vote didn’t go our way.   The board signed the federal waiver that further cemented Utah to Common Core and continued the  illusion (a bluff by the federal Dept. of Ed) that there is any authority for D.C. to tell Utah what to do in our schools.

Continuing Utah’s relationship with the federal waiver means that we are two steps away from removing Common Core, rather than just one.  (This is because in order to get the federal waiver, Utah had to promise to do option A (common core) or option B (the also-unacceptable, unconstitutional  delegation  of state board authority to higher ed authorities).

A few board members had tried to sway the vote:  Jeff Moss and Heather Groom, and possibly one or two others.  We appreciate their efforts.  But except for adding some language that affirmed the board’s wish to be sovereign over Utah’s standards, the waiver application got signed and sent to D.C. without hearing the parents and teachers who pleaded and testified against this move.

If you still don’t know who’s right and who’s wrong on this issue, consider the motivations and rewards of those who are asking for renewal of the federal waiver and Common Core, verus those who are asking for cessation of the federal waiver and Common Core.  It’s pretty revealing to note that the letter to the board from Utah’s Chamber of Commerce members, favoring federal waiver renewal, was authored by Rich Kendall (the governor’s appointee to supposedly study whether Common Core is good or not) –who is a Gates grant recipient as an Education First member, and who is also a Common Core advocate as a Prosperity 2020 leading member.  Remember that Gates is THE main financier of the whole Common Core and Common Data agenda.   How can Rich Kendall be both an advocate for, and an impartial judge of Common Core?  How can business people, directly making money from the implementation of Common Core, pretend to be objective in this discussion?  How can the state school board take these people as credible witnesses?

There’s always the chance that D.C. will reject Utah’s waiver application as it did Washington’s.  Then we’ll only be one step away from the possible removal of Common Core.

 

 

 

More articles, videos and photos of yesterday’s protest and the school board’s vote:

SALT LAKE TRIBUNE – http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/58276195-78/utah-waiver-board-state.html.csp

FOX NEWS – http://fox13now.com/2014/08/08/common-core-under-fire-at-utah-state-board-of-education-meeting/

DESERET NEWS – http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865608431/State-School-Board-approves-extension-of-NCLB-waiver.html

Letter From Alpine School Board Member to Teachers on Common Core Opposition   3 comments

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Reblogged from Wendy Hart’s blog here.

Alpine School Board member Wendy Hart had an interview with the Teachers’ Association to determine if they would be endorsing her re-election.  After that meeting, she wrote this blog post, an open letter to the teachers in her school district.  Here’s a portion:

For Teachers Only

“…As an employee, perhaps you can’t speak out if you find things amiss.  It’s your job; you have to do it.  It’s the same with my job.  Sometimes you just have to put a smile on your face and do what needs to be done whether you agree with it or not.  I completely understand that.  Do I wish it weren’t the case?  Yes. But I acknowledge the reality of it. Elected officials, however, are elected for a reason. We can’t be fired or lose our jobs for speaking out, except at the hands of voters. If anyone is going to stand up for teachers against a program that isn’t good, it must be the elected officials.  And every new change, program or implementation that comes along really should be debated, discussed and vetted all the way along the line, especially at the local level. Let’s take something we probably agree on: teacher evaluations being tied to SAGE testing.  This is wrong.  I’ve said so.  I will continue to say so.  It, too, is state law.  We have to do it.  But it’s horribly wrong.  Placing so much of a teacher’s evaluation and thus, his/her livelihood on a single (pilot) test is absolutely the worst use of a standardized test.  Like the Common Core, should we just go along with it and be supportive?  I know you all will do the best you can, trying not to focus overly much on the test and still teach as professionals, but it’s got to weigh you down.  The direction we are doing is that once all education and all educators are evaluated on a single test, funding will follow.  It’s nice and simple, but still wrong.  I can’t sit by and be supportive.  I have to find a way to scream from the rooftops that this can’t work, and that it gives way too much authority to the test makers over teachers, over local boards, over  HOW standards are taught in the classroom.

Let me give you an example.  Several years ago, my son had a phenomenal teacher.  He LOVED class, loved her lessons, enjoyed nearly every moment.  He learned a lot and enjoyed it.  She even expressed appreciation that he had shushed the rest of the class one time because he wanted to learn what she had to teach.  Do you think I cared what he got on the CRT’s that year?  Nope.  I don’t think I even looked at them.  He had a wonderful year with a wonderful teacher.  That was worth more to me (and to him) than any standardized test score.  And I am afraid that, despite her best efforts, that love and that thrill of teaching will be reduced to making sure she can keep her job by getting higher test scores.  (Note: She was/is his favorite.  But he’s had many, many others who were just as wonderful, just as dedicated, and just as appreciated.)  I don’t choose and evaluate my kids’ teachers by their test scores. So, back to Common Core.  It is top-down, which violates the principle of local control.

A little bit of local control isn’t local control.  And just to be clear, my opposition isn’t just with the standards. The Common Core standards come in a nice little package along with tying test scores to teacher evaluations, courtesy of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Waiver.  The other two parts of that package are 1) a longitudinal database on students and teachers and 2) “improving” low-performing schools (determined by the test scores and “improved” by shutting them down and bringing in private enterprises, and redistributing successful teachers to these “failing” schools).  The entire package is flawed, and it’s flawed on principle.  You, as a teacher, need to be able to have the freedom to connect with your students–the freedom to do what you know is best, regardless of where the student falls on the ‘testing’ rubric.

The Common Core Standards are just one tree in that forest of standardizing everything: tests, schools, teachers, curriculum. Already, there are calls to use the copyright of the Common Core standards to ‘certify’ curriculum.  And, in the end, if your wonderful lesson plan doesn’t deliver the results on the test (even if it delivers the results you, your students, and your students’ parents want), it won’t be around for very much longer.

You got into teaching because you love kids, and you wanted to be able to affect their lives for the better through education. You have natural talents and professional training on how to make that human-to-human connection that makes teachers irreplaceable. We need more of the individual attention you provide. Common Core, with its associated numbers-driven, top-down, accountability to the state, not parents, can only take education in the wrong direction. The Common Core standards, and the rest of the NCLB Waiver package, will reduce teachers to standards-implementers, test-preppers, and data points. I realize this is your job, and you have to make the best of whatever is presented to you.  But that is why we have school boards and a political process.  It is my job to fight against policies that interfere with the parent-child-teacher partnership. I am happy to do this job. I hope you will understand that my opposition to Common Core and its “package” is to support you as the professional you are. Our community must stand strong and eliminate all obstacles that stand in the way of you doing your job and realizing the highest aspirations that originally brought you into education.

You may not be able to do it, but I should.”

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