Archive for the ‘State Capitol’ Tag

Utah Teen Takes a Stand Against Common Core at State Capitol   1 comment

Kenny Bradley, a Utah teenager, gave the following speech at the State Capitol last week, which was heard by a crowd of 500-600 people that included dozens of legislators, and teachers, parents and school board members. Bradley, a recent high school graduate, Valedictorian, Math Sterling Scholar Winner in the Southwestern Utah Region, and former math teacher’s aide, aiding in Common Core math classes, has given permission to share this speech.

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I would like to start my speech with Aesop’s Fable of The Flies and the Honey-Pot.

“A number of flies were attracted to a jar of honey which had been overturned in a housekeeper’s room, and placing their feet in it, ate greedily. Their feet, however, became so smeared with the honey that they could not use their wings, nor release themselves, and were suffocated. Just as they were expiring, they exclaimed, ’O foolish creatures that we are, for the sake of a little pleasure we have destroyed ourselves.’”

I oppose Common Core because it is like the honey that trapped and suffocated the flies, because although it appears to be wonderful, it is dangerous. It is untested, unalterable by the people and teachers in local communities, and we cannot realistically “opt out” after it is fully implemented.

First, as a recent high school graduate, Valedictorian, Math Sterling Scholar Winner in the Southwestern Utah Region, and a former math teacher’s aide, I experienced firsthand the common core math standards being implemented at my high school. I saw students struggle with the common core curriculum in the math class where I was a teacher’s aide. Not because it was advanced or difficult, but because of the rapid pace at which new concepts were introduced and the lack of necessary explanations. Many lessons jumped from one concept to another and often combined them after five problems or so, before they have fully learned or even understood the original concepts. Most importantly, they never learned “why” these concepts function, work together, or even exist. They simply learned “what” they are called and, if they are lucky, they learned “how” to do them.

Despite these issues with the math section of common core, our school is being forced to adopt Common Core fully this next school year –if something is not done by the legislature soon.

Second, Common Core is taking our children’s education away from us locally and placing them into the hands of an ever expanding government. Almost every case of this in history has led to a tyrannical government fueled by the rising generation that has been indoctrinated with specific political and social views, such as the example of youth being taught to believe in anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany.

Thankfully, our Founding Fathers included the Tenth Amendment in our Constitution to protect States’ rights protecting our children’s education from any federal program. The General Educational Provisions Act (GEPA) also explicitly protects the education system from federal control. We must enforce these protections.

Third, once Common Core is fully implemented in the next school year, with so much invested money and training, we will not be able to easily “opt out.” This is especially alarming because State
Education Boards signed into Common Core before the standards were ever written!!! Common Core’s federal control does not stop with public schools. Students in charter and private schools, as well as homeschoolers, will also eventually have no choice but to learn what the federal government wants to teach them. Why? Because of the National Standards that will naturally follow Common Core in the States that it is implemented in. The ACT and SAT, necessary tests for college placement, will be aligned to Common Core standards, which may prevent homeschooled children from attending college if they do not study Common Core material.

Therefore, I oppose Common Core because it is untested, unalterable except by getting permission from outside Utah, and we are unable to “opt out.” May our children and our education system not become stuck and suffocate in Common Core like the flies trapped in honey from Aesop’s fable.

Thank you.

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You can imagine that, despite the no-applause-please request of the meeting’s moderator, there was thunderous applause following this speech. Thank you, Kenny Bradley.

Calling All Utahns Today: Historic Day at the Capitol   2 comments

Today is a historic day in Utah.

Dozens of Utah senators and representatives have RSVP’d to come tonight, to hear hundreds of teachers, parents, local school board members and even students speak out against Common Core.

Each person may speak for up to three minutes. We are asking legislators to defund and halt Common Core testing, teacher retrainings, educational product purchasing, and other forms of implementation, just as Michigan, Indiana, Pennyslvania and other states are doing (pending a serious public vetting of this foundationless whole-system transformation.)

Individuals are the reason.

Children and teachers deserve non-experimental, piloted education standards, tests and curriculum; they deserve the freedom to opt out of the SLDS data tracking system which amounts to surveillance of all they do throughout their school careers; they deserve not to be over-tested like lab rats nor to be viewed as human capital, pipelined into the workforce according to the needs of the government, rather than planning according to their own desires, personal dreams and faith.

They deserve a system that is representative, as America is supposed to be. The Common Core system is simply education without representation; Utah can only alter “her own” standards by getting permission from the D.C. groups that copyrighted it and can’t add more than 15% according to federal dictates; also, Utah’s Common Core A.I.R. standardized tests are aligned to the shared standards that Utah has no voice in amending; and the curriculum aligned with Common Core is monopolizing the educational sales market, drowning alternative voices and ending the publishing of future school texts containing innovative, individual lines of thought.

The only way to hold on to the reins of local control is to take a stand: we, the people. Not paid lobbyists. Not obligated politicians. Moms. Dads. Students. Teachers. Grandparents. Please come tonight. If you are shy, just come to watch. Show up. Show that it matters.

5:30 at the State Capitol, Hall of Governors. See you there.

UTAHNS AGAINST COMMON CORE AT THE CAPITOL JULY 17   Leave a comment

You are invited to a public and legislators’ meeting to express concerns about Common Core.

The meeting will be held Wednesday, July 17, at 5:30 p.m. until 8:00 p.m., in the Hall of Governors, on the first floor of the Utah State Capitol.

Each person attending will be given 3 minutes (max) to testify before the legislators in attendance. Answer this question: why do you oppose Common Core?

Please bring your spouse, friends, and neighbors. They can come to listen or they many choose to testify.

The day before, Tuesday, July 16th, the Utah State School Board is having their own meeting with legislators to tell them why they believe Common Core is the answer for Utah students.

It is important for the legislators to hear that there are thousands of us who disagree with these Board members –and why.

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Here’s a list of questions that the board has remained silent on, which you may want to ask out loud:

Where is a shred of evidence to support the claim that Common Core improves education?

Where are any studies showing that the reduction of literary study improves college readiness?

Where is some evidence that slowing the age at which students learn math algorithms improves college readiness?

Where is any amendment process for Common Core math and English standards, under the copyrighted Common Core?

How can one opt out of the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) tracking and the Common Core tests?

Where is the legal — constitutional — authority for people outside our state to set our local standards and to create and monitor our tests?

Why does Utah stand by while Obama announces that he will redesign schools and tax all Americans to pay for it, without Utah putting up a fight?

Why is there a spiral of silence culture now, that demands everyone pretend to agree; where is freedom of expression and freedom of speech in the common agenda, now that teachers and principals don’t speak out for fear of losing their jobs?

How on earth can anyone call Common Core “state-led” when unelected boards that operate behind closed doors, that are not accountable to the public, developed and copyrighted the standards, bypassing voters and the vast majority of teachers and legislators?

Where is the line-item cost analysis of taxpayers’ money being spent on Common Core technologies, teacher training and texts?

When will state leadership address Common Core’s specific damages with the people who elected these leaders to serve us, rather than bowing to every federal whim?

Will the board and governor ever stand up to the Department of Education’s tsunami of assaults on liberties?

Will the board continue to fight against local teachers and citizens who rightfully demand local liberty and who rightfully ask for proven, non-experimental, amendable standards — following the example set by the national and world-leading education system in Massachusetts, prior to Common Core?

Hope to see you there on July 17.

If possible, please RSVP if you can attend by clicking the Utahns Against Common Core survey link and confirm how many will attend from your group (even if it’s just you). We need an idea of how many chairs to ask them to set up. But feel free to come and stand in the back if you decide to come at the last minute. http://survey.oaknorton.com/index.php/survey/index

Q+A on Common Core: Historic 3-hour Utah Legislative Committee Meeting   3 comments

There is still plenty o’confusion in the state of Utah.  Lawmakers are realizing that due to the Utah Constitution’s giving authority to the Board to determine educational issues, they are almost powerless (except to defund Common Core).  The board seems skittish and  embarrassed now that so many of us know the new standards are inferior and that our freedoms have been traded for what started out as a way to increase Utah’s chance at a federal education grant during an economic low.  And some on the USOE and state school board ship seem to be steering toward the possibility of purchasing SBAC tests despite the fact that Utah just voted to cut membership ties with SBAC.

The board now admits it’s a federal program.  Lawmakers are not fully aware yet of all aspects of Common Core, while the Board is digging in their heels about giving any references for their claims of increased rigor or local control.

It’s a great drama, but a sad one.

Illustration:  After the meeting, Alisa Ellis and I asked School Board Chair Debra Roberts if we might get a chance to sit down and talk with her about all of this.  She said, “We’ve already wasted $10,000 in Board time as this group has been sitting down with us so much.”

Really?   We asked who they have actually been talking/sitting with.  (I’ve never had the opportunity, but would like it.  I have had the majority of my many emails ignored and was told “no” to a sit-down conference with USOE lawyer Carol Lear.)

Chair Roberts said, “Well, we’ve sat with Christel many times.”  Hmm.  I said, “I am Christel.  And that is not true.”

She insisted it was.  So, I asked who said that they had sat and talked with me.  She didn’t say.  I said that somebody has misinformed you or somebody needs to take a lie detector test.

She hurried away, refusing to even discuss sitting down with us.  So did Superintendent Shumway.  Strange.  The board now seems afraid of the truth that might come out during a legitimate discussion with an educated citizen, and they simply will not give references for their claims nor will they sit down and talk like gentlemen.  Or gentlewomen.

Sad.

Both the Tribune and the Deseret News covered the historic meeting of the House and Senate Education Committee on Common Core at the State Capitol yesterday.  But they  failed to report on some of the more fascinating moments.

Like what?  Well, they skipped the Data Alliance’s data-mashing discussion and skipped the probing questions legislators directed toward both the pro-Common Core, such as Utah Superintendent Larry Shumway (and his staff) and to the visiting experts who testified at the meeting, the heroes of Utah’s day:

Jim Stergios of the Boston-based Pioneer Institute and Ted Rebarber of the D.C. -based AccountabilityWorks

  The papers also totally blew the hilarious part, where Rep. Moss’ rhetorical questions got “Yes!”es –called out by several audience members including me, after Rep. Moss asked, “Have these people even read the standards?  Are they English teachers?  Do they have Master’s Degrees?”

Yes!

Yes!

Yes!

So, here are links to the local newspapers’ coverage of the event:

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/54705461-78/core-speakers-state-standards.html.csp

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865560776/Lawmakers-educators-growing-weary-of-Common-Core-debate.html

And here’s my version.  Photos first, details follow.

Photo: Senator Howard Stephenson: "If I were the king of Utah, I would follow the recommendations [of the visiting experts.]" Jim Stergios and Ted Rebarber testified that Utah would be better served by abandoning the Common Core and writing a higher set of education standards.

Senator Howard Stephenson:  he said if he were “the king of Utah,” he would follow the recommendation of the visiting education experts.

Representative Francis Gibson:  he asked Stergios and Rebarber to clarify whether it was true that Massachusetts had had the highest educational standards in the nation [and had tested as an independent country, ranking in the top six internationally] before they dropped their standards to adopt Common Core.  You could have heard a pin drop.  Stergios answered: it was the very reason a Massachusetts scholar traveled to Utah to testify against Common Core.

Rebarber and Stergios:  Why not brand Utah as the great state with courage to be independent of federal manipulation via Common Core?

The Testimonies:

Jim Stergios and Ted Rebarber have agreed to share written copies of their ten minute testimonies to the Utah legislature, but until I get a copy, here are a just few bullet points:

Jim Stergios:

  • The quality of the Common Core standards is mediocre. Cutting classic literature to make room for informational texts has been said by Dr. Sandra Stotsky to be weakening college prep, taking away from the richer and broader vocabulary of classic literature.
  • The math standards are less rigorous; for example, they place Alg. I in high school rather than in middle school.   Math lacks a coherent grade by grade progression.  The Common Core experimental approach to teaching geometry has never been successfully piloted in the world.
  • Stergios quoted Jason Zimba, math architect for Common Core, who said that passing the Common Core test in math will only show a student is prepared to enter a nonselective community college.
  • Stergios said that CCSSO administrator Gene Wilhoit’s recent statement to the Utah School Board that “there’s no Common Core police,” is misleading.  Stergios said that gentlemen’s agreements quickly become mandates, as the pattern of the Dept. of Education’s recent history shows.  It is best to rely on what is in writing.
  • Stergios mentioned the Race to the Top for DISTRICTS, which is brand new.  This shows zero respect for state authority over education. There is a steady pattern of encroachment by the federal government on education.
  • Common Core did not have adequate deliberation; after a 2 day approval and no public input, Utah adopted Common Core.  Even Fordham Institute, a pro-common core think tank, rated Utah math standards higher prior to adoption of Common Core.
  • Stergios said Utah should brand itself as independent, thus attracting more talent and economic growth by reversing the adoption of Common Core.

Ted Rebarber:

  • Legislators hold the purse.  There’s a separation of powers between the legislature and the State School Board, which holds the authority over determining standards.  There’s also the Constitutional principle of checks and balances.  The ESEA waiver shows the federal arm is tying funds to adoption of Common Core –or to a college program that the Dept. of Ed must approve. If legislators don’t approve of either the experimental, inferior aspect, or the federally-promoted aspect of the standards, they can withhold all Common Core funding.  The school board will have to create independent standards.
  • NAPE tests provide national results; SAT and ACT do not.  They are only used by certain states, not all.
  • SBAC’s passing scores are non-negotiable; the purpose is to define what proficient means.  Utah can’t affect SBAC.
  • Federal Dept of Education has herded states into a set of standards.  The benefits for collaboration are over when all have the same standards, whether you call them Utah Core or Common Core.  It is the same.
  • Texas’ Robert Scott has said he would love to do collaborative work with other states, creating an item bank rather than exact common tests.  There are other approaches and ways that don’t require everyone to be the very same.
  • The legislature has a duty to protect the right of Utah citizens not to give up education to federal control. Protecting state sovereignty is a legitimate concern.

Of the nearly packed to capacity room, who spoke up or asked questions?  Several lawmakers:

Rep. Ken Sumison:

Rep. Christensen:

Rep. Nielsen:

Rep. Moss:

Sen. Osmond:

—and more.

Who spoke up from the Utah Data Alliance and NCES?  One man:

John Brandt:

And who spoke at lennnnggggth from the Utah State School Board?

Superintendent Larry Shumway

Assistant Superintendent Judy Park

(who used the word “thrilled” multiple times in the same sentence as “sharing with the Department of Education”)

–and Utah State School Board Chair Debra Roberts:

Chair Roberts said: “I don’t care what the federal government has to say…I will listen to Utah educators.”  (But she refuses to speak for even five minutes to educators like me, who oppose Common Core. )

Others in the audience  (non-speaking roles) included:

The Honorable Judge Norman Jackson: (who has thoroughly reviewed the legal aspects of Common Core and based on his assessment, recommended Utah reject Common Core)

Rep. Kraig Powell

who has been studying both sides of Common Core with interest

 

And the pro-freedom in education activist, Alisa Ellis, with many more citizens against Common Core restraints:

So, with the exception Aaron Osmond –who says he’s to the point of nausea because of how much he’s had to face Common Core controversy –most legislators and citizens and teachers still don’t understand what Common Core is.  I make this judgement from having heard very important, basic questions asked by legislators.

Sen. Stephenson, Rep. Gibson, Rep. Nielsen, Rep. Moss, Rep. Christianson, Rep. Sumison and others  asked good, probing questions and made clear, excellent points, such as Rep. Sumison’s “Whoever pays, makes the rules.”  (He wasn’t referring to the fact that the legislators hold the Utah public purse, but to the fact that the federal government has financially incentivized Common Core.)

–I’ll get to the rest of the legislators in a minute.

First, all in the audience had to trudge through almost two hours of the Pro-Common Core Show led by Superintendent Larry Shumway and Judy Park.

Park reported on the No Child Left Behind waiver.  Dr. Park bubbled and gushed about what she called her “thrill of sharing Utah’s work with the Department of ED” in applying for No Child Left Behind.  She used the word “sharing” and “thrilled” multiple times.  Superintendent Shumway said that he was “offended” that people “in this room” have implied that he gets something out of sitting on boards outside Utah other than providing a helpful service.  He said he receives no pay for sitting on the board of CCSSO (The Council of Chief State School Officers).  He did not mention another board he sits on, WestEd, which is the test writer for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).

John Brandt and his staffer said the Utah Data Alliance  is no threat to citizen privacy, although, he chuckled, “there are no guarantees,” and he admitted that “about 10 people will have clearance to access personally identifiable” citizen information.

The Q + A:

So:  What did the legislators want to know?  What did the pro and con answerers say?

When Rep. Moss asked her rhetorical questions and got “Yes!”es shouted out in response, Superintendent Shumway answered her, too: “Standards set a base line. Standards don’t set a cap.”  (I thought: Really?  What does the 15% speed limit on learning set by the Dept of Education, and copyrighted by NGA/CCSSO, do– if it does not cap our rights to educate as we see fit? Please.)

When Rep. Stephenson pointed to the academic reviews of Common Core that are unfavorable to the school board’s claims that the standards will increase rigor and strengthen legitimate college prep, Superintendent Shumway deflected the question.  Waving aside official reviews by actual members of the only official national Common Core Validation Committee, professors who refused to sign off on the Common Core standards as being adequate, Superintendent Shumway said:  “there’s no dearth of documents.” (The referenced reviews of Dr. Sandra Stotsky on English and by Dr. James Milgam on math are available in Exhibit A and B here:  http://pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120510_ControllingEducation.pdf and in many other places.

Rep. Christensen said he wants Utah to be independent and said, “Education is a local matter.” He was troubled by the”implicit recognition of federal supremacy,” illustrated by the majority of states having asked the federal government for waivers from No Child Left Behind. He added, “We’re going down a road” he is not happy about, illustrated by the fact he cited: a school board member said Utah had paid a $90,000 fine for noncompliance with No Child Left Behind.

In response, Superintendent Shumway said that there were various disclaimers in the No Child Left Behind application.

Rep. Nielsen asked if it was true that by 7th grade, under Common Core math, students would be two years behind world class standards.  Jim Stergios responded that indeed, Common Core was a step backward for Utah, but it would be closer to one year behind.  For other states, Common Core brings math standards back two years.

Rep. Nielsen stated concerns about local control, saying that the U.S. Dept of Education uses terms like “allows” this and “allows” that.  Sup. Shumway responded that “We are navigating through compliated waters.”

Sen. Osmond and Sen. Stephenson asked cost-related questions: hadn’t Utah already borne the brunt of the online costs for technology to match Common Core?  Ted Rebarber answered that the state should do a cost analysis as other states have done.  Common Core requires transformative realignment to the national standards.  Rebarber asked, “Why do it?” –Since the cost/benefit analysis shows Utah is giving away state authority while adding costs, for inferior standards or at best, very similar to previously held, state standards.

Sen. Stephenson asked about the “legitimate concerns about abandoning what districts are doing” concerning assessments.  Sup. Shumway said, “We haven’t preselected any vendor [for testing]. We were careful not to create requirements that would exclude anyone.”  Shumway invited any Utahn to go to schools.utah.gov and click on “popular links” and submit input on specific standards that Utahns find problematic.  He said these must be academically central comments, not comments about state sovereignty over education.

Several legislators questioned the timing of simultaneously asking the public for feedback to change the standards when the test Request for Proposals (RFP) has already been written and the SBAC has long been in the test writing process.  How could Utah’s changed standards match?  (I would add, how do you think we’re going to get away with changing more than 15% of our standards when it’s copyrighted and the Dept. of Ed. is aiming for seamless commonality between states?)

Sup. Shumway said that the timetables are challenging.

Both Rep. Nielsen and Rep. Christensen were concerned with the costs of Common Core and the state longitudinal data system (SLDS), costs which have not been studied by Utah.  The SLDS grant will run out in 2013.

Utah Technology Director John Brandt responded that he hoped the legislature would continue to fund SLDS, “this valuable tool.”

Valuable tool for whom?  Children?  Parents?  Freedom lovers?  –Excuse me while I run screaming from the room and cross-stitch and frame in gold the 4th Amendment to the Constitution.

The SLDS and Data Alliance is either–

  • What John Brandt and his team said it is, yesterday:  a state network of data (never to be shared with federal agencies) –a way to share preschool-to-workforce data about Utahns, among six state agencies (Dept. of Workforce Services, Utah State Office of Education, and more).  Brandt assured legislators that personally identifiable portions of this data would be only accessed by about ten people in the state, but countless people can access the nonidentifiable portions of the data.

Or it’s:

This makes more sense since Brandt belongs to the Dept. of Education’s research arm, the NCES, and he also belongs to -and chairs– the group that developed and copyrighted the Common Core standards, the CCSSO or Council of Chief State School Officers.  NCES has a long-standing “National Data Collection Model” you can view here: http://nces.ed.gov/forum/datamodel/Information/howToUse.aspx

So Brandt is a fed, along with being the Technology Director for the state of Utah.

  Relevantly, the Dept. of Education’s Chief of Staff, Joanne Weiss, has recently said that she’s combining or “mashing” data systems of federal agencies and is “helping” states (Oh, thank you!) by writing reports to assist them in developing research partnerships. She has said, “Politicians often warn of the law of unintended consequences—as if all unintended consequences are negative ones—but in the world of data, we should also be aware of the law of welcome surprises.” (Weiss at the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) annual conference.   http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/inside-school-research/2012/07/ed_urges_states_to_make_data_s.html   Thanks, Ms. Weiss.  That makes me feel better.

I will keep this in mind while I continue to study exemplary progressive collectivism such as China’s Ministry of Public Security, as I recall the “data sharing” on citizens in Germany’s 1940s, or as I enjoy George Orwell’s immortal “1984”.

Utah, let’s keep our wits about us.

You Are Invited: Utah Senate Education Committee Meeting Aug. 15th @ 2:00   Leave a comment

There’s a meeting, open to the public, to be held in room 30 in the House Building at the State Capitol in Salt Lake City. This meeting will be important, as heavy hitters will be speaking about Common Core issues:

  Dr. Larry Shumway, Utah Superintendent of Schools, John Brandt, Technology Director, and Dr. Judy Park, Associate Superintendent, will be speaking.

 Dr. Sandra Stotsky, University of Arkansas, member of Common Core Validation Committee  http://www.uark.edu/ua/der/People/stotsky.html

   –and Texas Commissioner of Education Robert Scott, will be speaking.

A G E N D A

Education Interim Committee – Utah Legislature

Wednesday, August 15, 2012 • 2:00 p.m. • Room 30 House Building

 1.   Committee Business

2.   Flexibility Waiver

Utah is among the 32 states granted a flexibility waiver to replace the federal accountability system created under No Child Left Behind with its own state accountability system. Beginning with the 2011-12 school year, schools will be evaluated based on a new state accountability system, and school performance reports will be issued this fall showing each school’s results under the new state accountability system. Committee members will receive a briefing on the flexibility waiver and the new state accountability system.

3.   Utah Data Alliance and the State Longitudinal Data System

As a collaborative, multi-organizational partnership, the Utah Data Alliance seeks to enhance the quality of educational research and analysis in Utah regarding policies, practices, and programs by utilizing an integrated statewide longitudinal data system of individual, de-identified information. The Utah Data Alliance provides policy and decision makers research findings with the goal of improving education and workforce policy and practice. Committee members will receive a briefing on the Utah Data Alliance and the state longitudinal data system.

4.   Report on Utah’s Core Standards and Participation in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium

Dr. Shumway will report on a process for the State Board of Education to receive and consider proposed changes to Utah’s core standards for English language arts and mathematics. He will also report on State Board of Education action regarding Utah’s participation in the Smarter Balanced Assessment consortium.

5.   Common Core

Dr. Stotsky, a member of the National Validation Committee for the Common Core State Standards Initiative, will testify on the common core standards. Mr. Robert Scott, Commission of Education of Texas, a state that has not adopted the common core, will express his concerns with the common core.

•    Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Department of Education Reform, University of Arkansas

•    Robert Scott, Commissioner of Education of Texas

6.   Other Items/Adjourn

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