Archive for the ‘state school board’ Tag

Dear Governor Herbert   4 comments

 

 

The Utah Education Association sent out an email yesterday.  I’m posting it at the bottom (scroll down.)

It’s sad evidence of the loss of open debate and the loss of freedom of conscience that the UEA pretends all educators agree with its pro-Common Core agenda.

I’m a Utah credentialed teacher and I sure don’t agree.

Please help counteract their mass email request by writing to Governor Herbert (and cc it to legislators, newspapers and school boards). If you want to share, feel free to post your letter here in the comments section as well.

 

Governor Herbert is surely tired of people like you and me by now.  We’ve been speaking with him and writing to him for well over two years, pleading with him to free us from the Common Core agenda and to restore local control of education and of student data privacy.

Still, he needs to hear from us again.  The UEA’s action bulletin is recruiting pro-Common Core emails to hang on to Common Core in Utah.  The UEA asked readers to forward the email to those who care about public education.  — Hey, that is you and me!

Below is the letter that I sent.  If you write, please use this instead of the non-functioning email address the UEA gave out:  http://governor.utah.gov/goca/form_governor.html.  You may also send a copy to all members of the state school board at board@schools.utah.gov

 

 

Dear Governor Herbert,

Please restore local control of education in our state by rejecting Common Core aligned testing and standards in Utah.  We deserve to maintain the reins of control here, and this cannot happen when we are attached like Siamese twins to the will of the D.C. groups that control the tests, data collection network, and education standards: Achieve Inc., CCSSO, NGA and the federal Department of Education.
Utah needs her own, not-D.C.-copyright-protected, education standards so that we can ensure that we will always be teaching our students according to the values of the conscience of Utah parents and teachers, unencumbered by influences or pressures from the D.C. groups that control the Common Core agenda.
The Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) that align with the Common Core standards further control our citizenry by reducing the privacy of Utah students and families.  This is an issue connected to the repeal of Common Core Standards that must not be ignored.  Our federally paid for State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS) will continue to inform federal agencies about our local schools unless we put an end to CEDS involvement, or scrap the SLDS system completely.  At the very least, parents in Utah ought to have the right to opt out of having a child tracked from preschool through workforce by the SLDS system.
Please, Governor, pay attention to these things.  It is difficult to imagine any other issue being a more important use of your time.  Utahns are watching what you will do, as we see governors in other states such as Oklahoma and South Carolina taking steps to restore liberty in education. Please follow their lead.
Thank you.
Christel Swasey
Utah Credentialed Teacher
Heber City
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uea
Here is a condensed version of the UEA email that was sent out yesterday statewide:
DEAR UEA MEMBER:…There is overwhelming consensus among educators that the Core Standards will ultimately be good for students and education, if implemented properly. There are significant challenges associated with implementing the Core, but the possibilities are immense.Utah has invested years of work and millions of dollars into creating its standards. There is concern that reversing course on Utah’s Core Standards now would mean starting the process all over again.• See more about the Utah Core Standards

What you can do:
Contact the Governor and your legislators NOW and share your opinion about the Utah Core Standards.

• Call or email your legislator* (House / Senate)
Look up your legislators
• Call or email Governor Gary Herbert:
o Tel: 800-705-2464
o Email: governor@utah.gov
 *NOTE: Do not use school computers or email addresses

…Sincerely,

Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh, UEA President

For more information about the Core Standards:
• myUEA.org/core
• schools.utah.gov/core
• nea.org/home/commoncore
• achievethecore.org
• corestandards.org

P.S. Please forward this message to co-workers, friends, family and anyone who supports Utah public education.

875 E Pontiac Dr.   Murray, UT 84107-5299   Phone: 801-266-4461
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It is ironic that the UEA warns its members: “Do not use school computers or email addresses.”  The UEA knows that it is wrong to use school resources and tax dollars to influence political decisions, yet its email does that very thing.
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Ann Florence: Utah English Teacher Stands Up for Real Teaching and is Shut Down by Administrators   15 comments

ann f
“I am required to teach key reading comprehension strategies,  the writing process,  information-gathering skills, grammar, vocabulary, etc., etc.  But I also hope to awaken a love of reading and literature, ignite curiosity about our complex world….  “All children are gifted—some just open their presents earlier than others.” I know that every one of my students understands something I don’t and has something to tell the world that no one else ever has. I am a “treasure seeker” and “talent scout,” hoping to help young people discover the gold within themselves and each other.”

This quote is excerpted from the disclosure statement of Utah English teacher Ann Florence who has been placed on forced leave, pending probable termination.  How awful.  This beautiful quote reveals that Florence is a treasure, not some problem teacher to be forced out.   But she has been pushed out, for her act of standing up for the right to teach and the right to be judged on her actual teaching rather than endless government mandated tests.

Administrators have labeled her insubordinate.  Read the news.  See  what has happened. 

It seems to me that Ann Florence doesn’t buy the notion that teachers must give up their rights to free speech, nor give up their rights to participation in the political process, just because they are employed by the government.  She certainly doesn’t believe that teachers should give up the art of real teaching to bow to government enforced, excessive high-stakes tests that narrowly judge not only students, but teachers as well.

A year ago, Florence  wrote an op-ed voicing her concerns.  She explained (excerpt):

“Managing teachers through intimidation is not working… teachers are looking for work elsewhere. Teachers who have loved their jobs are discouraging their own children from pursuing careers in education…. we feel exhausted and demoralized by the avalanche of mandates from the state and district… While legislators constantly raise expectations and think they can motivate us by publicly posting test scores, our time for teaching has shrunk….I now administer 19 days of standardized tests, costing me an entire month of instruction. This doesn’t include the days the testing site is down or the system crashes, eating up even more days…. I am held accountable for nine months of curriculum without enough time to teach it… Granite District has required teachers to learn the new Common Core, use a new grades program (which crashes regularly), design a new honors curriculum, use a new online system requiring the scanning and posting of all assignments and a daily summary of class activities, and learn to analyze complex data … No test score reflects the number of students who return to thank a teacher, the number who fall in love with reading again, gain new confidence to speak up in class, find solace in a teacher’s support, decide to try one more time just when they want to quit…  We are tired of having our dedication reduced to a number.”

Now, the Salt Lake Tribune reports that after Florence criticized new “standardized tests as a waste of time and irrelevant to what students are being taught” she was “placed on administrative leave and may be fired.”

Her students’ response?

“Oh captain, my captain, you have taught me so much this year. The value of honesty, imagination, and freedom to express myself. I cannot thank you enough for that. You are the best teacher Wasatch could ever ask for.”

Along with the emailed poetry, students launched a petition drive, urging that Florence not be terminated.

The Tribune reported that Granite District spokesman “Ben Horsley said personnel decisions of this gravity take time to make the right choice. He said Florence has been unreasonably aggressive in demanding an answer.”

“Unreasonably aggressive” seems a more appropriate label for the policymakers at the district, state and federal levels who are intimidating and degrading the professionalism of top notch teachers while trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the public.  Shame on them.

Bravo,  Ann Florence.

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Update:  The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Ann Florence has been fired.   I sent a letter today and encourage others to write as well.  Every voice counts. Here’s mine, and contact info if you want to write too, down after the letter:

Dear Granite School District, State Board, and State Office of Education:

Granite District made news this week by firing Ann Florence, an honors English teacher who stood on principle and did what she (and I) saw as the right thing to do. I am writing to voice my support for Ann Florence’s actions and to ask the District and State Board to take action to right this wrong.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported, “Florence refused to grade the writing portion of the districtwide Acuity Test. She said the exam was a waste of students’ and teachers’ time, did not further any education agenda and that it was unethical to have teachers grade their own students on a standardized test that then would be used to judge the teacher. In a letter to her students, she said she loved her career but had to stand up for principle.”

The Acuity Test (McGraw Hill) was offering financial compensation to schools for having students take this test.

Did Granite District actually fire Ann Florence for refusing to enable the District to make money –by using children for unpaid research guinea pigs? What does “professional compliance” and “teacher ethics” really mean to the district?

Ann Florence’s opinion editorial of one year ago in the Salt Lake Tribune deserves careful re-reading. Her concerns included the non-validity of high-stakes testing because of the testing conditions provided at the school, about the push for Common Core and data analysis, and about the non-validity of reducing the whole time and dedication of a teacher to one student-test-based number, a number over which that teacher has relatively little actual control.

The Tribune also reported that this teacher was punished for speaking about her concerns with the high-stakes tests vocally, including speaking out in front of students.  Does a teacher lose her Constitutional right to freedom of speech just because she is employed by the government? Are teachers to pretend to political neutrality or should they instead be shining exemplars as vibrant participants in the American process of open debate –and sometimes also in honorable disagreement?

Furthermore, basing the heaviest “accountability measures” of state tests on the federal-corporate collusion known as Common Core State Standards, in my opinion, is not only an error but a form of academic malpractice.

Thus, any teacher who refuses to push the SAGE test on students, or refuses to give or grade the Acuity Test, or to promote other high-stakes tests that do not honestly benefit students nor teachers –tests that exist to benefit powermonering politicians and moneygrubbing corporate aims, is, in my opinion, the teacher who is ethically and morally defensible.

The Granite District has marred its honor by firing Ann Florence. The State Board and Office, by doing nothing in this teacher’s defense, are complicit in the wrong.

Christel Swasey

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Granite District Superintendent Martin Bates: mwbates@graniteschools.org

State Superintendent Dr. Martell Menlove: Martell.Menlove@schools.utah.gov

Wasatch Jr High Principal Christine Judd: crydalch@graniteschools.org

Wasatch Jr High Asst. Principal John Anderson: jcanderson@graniteschools.org

State School Board:

kbuswell@wadman.com; jensen1brit@earthlink.net; dthomas@summitcounty.org; krb84010@aol.com; dgriffiths@tannerco.com; lesliebrookscastle@gmail.com; jj@jenniferajohnson.com; heather.groom@gmail.com; crandall@xmission.com; jeffersonRmoss@gmail.com; dixieleeallen@gmail.com; markopenshaw@gmail.com; debrar@netutah.com; barbara.corry@schools.utah.gov; teresatheurer1@gmail.com; jensenmk@ldschurch.org; freddiecooper1@comcast.net; jamesvolsen@gmail.com; kelinkowski@msn.com; dbrowley@q.com;

Granite School Board:

ggandy@graniteschools.org; thbawden@graniteschools.org; clanderson@graniteschools.org; ccburgess@graniteschools.org; jmjolley@graniteschools.org; dlofgren@cowboy.us; srmeier@graniteschools.org;

Governor Herbert: http://governor.utah.gov/goca/form_comment.html (copy/paste your email into this form to send it to the Governor)

Utah legislators: http://le.utah.gov (look up by address here)

 

40 Questions for Common Core Debaters   8 comments

state school board picture photo utah

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Utah radio personality Jason Williams of KVNU’s “For the People” has asked the public to submit questions for next week’s Common Core debate, which will take place at Mount Logan Middle School on January 6th, 2014, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. in Logan, Utah, at 875 N. 200 E.

Submit questions to: jasonthe@gmail.com or kvnuftp@gmail.com.

Legislators have already committed to attend the debate. I hope thousands of teachers, parents, grandparents, students and reporters show up.

The debaters will be Alpine School Board member Wendy Hart and mother Alyson Williams (against Common Core) versus state school board members Dave Thomas and Tami Pyfer (for Common Core). The event will be moderated by radio personality Jason Williams.

I sat down to write a few questions and ended up with 40. Some are borrowed from Professors Yong Zhao, Professor Christopher Tienken, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Dr. Daniel Coupland and others. I hope Mr. Williams has time to ask them all.

40 COMMON CORE DEBATE QUESTIONS

1. Is Common Core constitutional? Why or why not?

2. How important is the defense of local autonomy and local control of schools, to you personally –and does Common Core affect local control in any way? Yes or no?

3. The Common Core itself calls itself a “living work” and it admits that the document will change. Does the Utah State School Board have authority over the copyrighted Common Core “document” to change the document itself? ( To clarify: this is not a question of adding 15% as the Common Core governance allows a state to add in-state, but we are asking about changing the national standards themselves.) Yes or No?

4. Can Utah voters remove from positions of power the people who hold copyright over Utah’s Common Core standards (Board of Directors of CCSSO/NGA) if we do not approve of the direction of Common Core? Yes or No?

5. Are those who hold copyright over Common Core subject to transparency (“sunshine” laws) –so that the Utah State School Board can supervise the decisions which affect and govern Utahns? Yes or No?

6. Where can I read for myself how the states-led (inter-state) amendment process will work when we want to change something in the Common Core standards, if a process exists?

7. Where can I see for myself the evidence that Common Core standards have been field tested prior to implementation, so they were proven to be of superior academic quality, if testing evidence exists?

8. Professor Christopher Tienken of Seton Hall University has called Common Core “educational malpractice.” Regardless of how you feel about Common Core, how would you recognize educational malpractice if you saw it; what would be its hallmarks?

9. Would widespread mandating of experimental, untested standards constitute educational malpractice?

10. Where can I see for myself the specific countries and specific standards to which the Common Core standards are “internationally benchmarked” if such benchmarking exists?

11. Where is the American process of representation of individuals in the Common Core education and assessments system, if it exists?

12. Where can I see for myself empirical, researched evidence (not opinion) that Common Core’s increasing informational text and decreasing classic literature will benefit children, if it exists?

13. Where can I see for myself empirical, researched evidence that Common Core’s move away from traditional math toward constructivist math will benefit our children, if it exists?

14. Many mathematicians and math experts, even including Common Core architect and advocate Jason Zimba, have pointed out that students who want to take Calculus in college will need to take more math than Common Core math courses in high school. What should the Utah State School Board do to make sure Utah students are truly prepared for STEM careers despite Common Core’s low math standards?

15. A mathematician is one who has an advanced degree in advanced mathematics; a math educator is one who has an advanced degree in educating students on any level of math. How do you feel about the fact that there was only one actual mathematician on the Common Core validation committee, Dr. James Milgram, and that he refused to sign off because he said the standards were not legitimate math for college preparation?

16. Several official documents show that there is a 15% cap on a state adding to the Core; we also from Common Core architect Jason Zimba and validation committee member James Milgram that Common Core math does not prepare students for STEM math careers; then how are Utahns to prepare for STEM careers?

17. If local Utahns break through the common core academic ceiling and add more than the allowable 15% to their local standards, how will that 15% be taught using common core aligned math and English tests and texts?

18. Although we have been told that Common Core was state-led, no citizen in this state received an invitation to discuss this, before math and English standards were decided. To make sure this does not happen again, please explain the vetting process for Utah teachers and parents, before we add upcoming national science, national social studies, and national sex ed standards.

19. Which element played a larger role in Utah’s decision to adopt Common Core: the chance to win Race to the Top grant money, or a thorough review of the Common Core academically? Please give evidence for your answer.

20. Where can I read our state’s cost analysis for implementing Common Core standards, tests and professional development costs?

21. Does the Common Core essentially discriminate against talents and interests that are not consistent with their prescribed knowledge and skills?

22. What roles does the Utah State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS)play in reporting to the federal Edfacts Exchange and to the national E.I.M.A.C./CCSSO data collection machines?

23. How do you respond to the question asked by Christopher Tienken of Seton Hall University? He said:
“This is not data-driven decision making… Yet this nation will base the future of its entire public education system, and its children, upon this lack of evidence. Where is the evidence to support the rhetoric surrounding the Common Core standards?”
24. Do you see Common Core’s emphasis on testing as potentially harming American creativity and entrepreneurial fields in which U.S. graduate have historically led the world– or do you see this emphasis on standardization and testing as simply creating more individuals who are very good at taking tests– like students in some Asian countries– without any harm being done to creativity or love of learning?

25. The Constitution assigns education to the states, not to the federal government. Also, the federal General Educational Provisons Act (GEPA) states: “No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system …“ In light of this, please explain why our state has partnered with those who agree to micromanagement by the federal department of education such as the CCSSO.

26. Which portions of local autonomy have been traded for federally-lauded Common Core standards and tests?
27. What types of legal protections does student data have in writing that can protect us from the federal government and vendors and researchers– in light of recent changes to FERPA privacy regulations, and in light of the federally funded and federally-reporting State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS) that is partnered with the CCSSO (and PESC) under Utah’s SLDS grant agreement?

28. Why has the Utah State School Board not stood up against federally-partnered and SBAC-partnered Common Core tests to defend local control?

29. For students in the United States to be globally competitive, they must offer something different, that is, something that cannot be obtained at a lower cost in developing countries. High test scores in a few subjects can be achieved in most developing countries, so how could Common Core increase global competitiveness for U.S. students?

30. How can any test predict global competiveness or economic growth?

31. What empirical evidence do you have that high Common Core test scores could result in higher levels of innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship?

32. If countries like Estonia, Hungary, Slovenia, Vietnam, Latvia, and Poland routinely outscore the U.S. on standardized tests such as PISA, why isn’t their per capita gross domestic product or other personal economic indicators equal to those in the U.S. (World Bank, 2013)? In other words, what evidence do we have that pressuring students to focus on standardized testing will improve the U.S. economy?

33. Are you aware, that when you disaggregate the data by percentages of poverty in a school, the U.S. scores at the top of all the international PISA tests? (see Riddle, 2009) In other words, why are we pushing Common Core when our previous system of local control and freedom worked better academically than other countries’ governmentally standardized systems?

34. Companies like Boeing and GE are allowed to give their technology, utility patents, and know-how to the Chinese in return for being able to sell their products in China (Prestowitz, 2012). Can U.S. emphasis on standardized test scores create global competitiveness, really, or is it more likely that we should change the policy of allowing U.S. multinationals to give away our technological advantages, to increase our global competitiveness?

35. Are you aware that 81% of U.S. engineers are qualified to work in multinational corporations – the highest percentage in the world (Kiwana, 2012) while only 10% of Chinese engineering graduates and 25% of Indian engineers are prepared to work in multinational corporations or corporations outside of China or India (Gereffi, et al., 2006; Kiwana, 2012)?

36. Are you aware that the U.S. produces the largest numbers of utility patents (innovation patents) per year and has produced over 100,000 a year for at least the last 45 years? No other country comes close (USPTO, 2012).

37. Are you aware that adults in the U.S. rank at the top of the world in creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship –and that those adults were educated during a time of NO state or national standards (Tienken, 2013)?

38. To what extent do you agree with this statement? “Common Core is a standardized education philosophy that transmits prescribed content via nationally aligned standards, aligned tests and aligned texts; the previous system was less organized, more loosely monitored, less unified, but spent more time on creativity, individual exploration and innovation.”

39. How do you feel about the funding of the Common Core: one unelected businessman– Bill Gates— funded the Common Core initiative, paid the PTA and the pro-Common Core think tanks (Fordham Institute, Manhattan Institute, Foundation for Educational Excellence) that advocate for it, he partnered with Pearson, the largest educational text sales company in the world to market it, that he publically calls American schools his “uniform customer base”, and that he has said that his goal is for Common Core tests, curriculum and standards to align? See Gates’ public speech here.

40. How do you feel about Secretary Arne Duncan’s stated goals for national Common Core Educational Standards and Common Data Standards? To summarize, a few of Duncan’s stated goals are:

–1) to have the federal government take more control over American schools than ever before,
–2) to make schools (not families) be the community centers, open 6-7 days a week, 12 months a year, 14 hours per day; and
–3) to partner the federal department of education with the copyrighters of the Common Core (CCSSO) for both education standards AND for data collection standards.

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THE CONTINUAL WEARYING a.k.a. THE SQUEAKY WHEEL

(More thoughts on the ongoing Common Core debate:)

If you aren’t going to attend the debate, please use these questions or your own to create more strong pushback from the Common Core disaster.

This is America! We are the people with the power to make things right when we see that they are wrong. This is not a land of centralized power, dictatorship, socialism. This is a land of liberty, where the local people self-govern. We have to wake people up to see that freedom matters– and that Common Core surely takes it away from our children.

We can use the beautiful American processes of debate, of real representation, and of constitutional balances of powers that are supposed to defend freedom and local autonomy.

If everyone who cared deeply about the damages of Common Core were to weary the school boards and governors with questions —repeatedly, weekly, persistently, patiently, unceasinglyCommon Core could not stand.

Common Core has no legs –except expensive marketing legs and lies– to stand on.

It has no academic pilot testing, no written amendment process for states to retain local control, no privacy protections for its tests’ data collection processes, no wisdom, no international benchmarking, no chance of improving “global competitiveness,” no heart, no state-led history, no commitment to local control; no hope to develop any real love of learning; no common sense.

What it does have is millions upon millions of dollars gambled on this takeover of American schools as a “uniform customer base” and many more millions spent on marketing its unsupportable talking points.

But it lacks the important stuff.

Parents (and teachers) can win back local control. We care more deeply about our children and about legitimate education than the proponents care about our children or Common Core.

We just have to be the squeaky wheel.

unrighteous judge parable

Remember the parable of Jesus from Luke 18:

“There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:

And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.

And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;

Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.”

Weary them, weary them.

We can write or call newspapers and t.v. stations.

We can politely and persistently pester our governor: 801-538-1000 or 800-705-2464 (Utah’s Governor Herbert’s number).

We can politely and persistently pester the principal and others in the school districts and especially make sure to pester state and local school board members, who are supposed to REPRESENT US, not Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, or Sir Michael Barber.

Here is the Utah State School Board’s address: board@schools.utah.gov

Here is the state superintendent’s address: martell.menlove@schools.utah.gov

Here is the governor’s education counselor’s address: ckearl@utah.gov

If you want to get 2 minutes to testify about these things at the monthly state school board meeting, contact secretary Lorraine at: Lorrain.Austin@schools.utah.gov

DEBATE in Logan Jan. 6th   3 comments

This should be very interesting.

Mount Logan Middle School is providing the facility for a Common Core issues debate on January 6th, 2014, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at 875 N. 200 E. Logan, Utah.

Alpine school board member Wendy Hart and mother Alyson Williams will debate two state school board members: Dave Thomas and Tami Pyfer.

The event is open to the public and will be moderated by radio personality Jason Williams of KVNU’s “For the People.”

Please come and bring friends.

The public is invited to submit questions for the debaters to: jasonthe@gmail.com or kvnuftp@gmail.com.

This informative video, “Utah Bites Into Common Core” features Wendy Hart, one of the debaters, who is both an elected member of the Alpine School Board, and an active member of Utahns Against Common Core.

Common Core Eerily Like Challenger Launch   2 comments

In January 1986 I was a high school student in Orlando, watching out the window as the Challenger Space Shuttle launched about fifty miles away. Christa MacAuliffe, the first teacher in space, was being launched with a seven member crew.

shuttle challenger

Then we all saw the explosion in the sky.

The plumes represented total failure and the deaths of seven people. Christa MacAuliffe perished along with every one of the seven members of the Challenger crew– a horrible, history-scarring launch. But.

What wasn’t widely known until years later was that the Challenger disaster had been avoidable.

Avoidable!

Top engineers had alterted NASA not to launch. Memos had been circulated. Calls had been made but ignored. Groupthink had taken over.

help memo challenger

NASA chose to ignore legitimate concerns –under financial and cultural pressures. That decision to ignore proved disasterous to the entire country.

Today, launch-executives of Common Core (including School Boards/PTA/NGA/CCSSO/Bill Gates’-funded thinktanks) are choosing to ignore concerns because of financial pressure. This will prove disasterous to the children and teachers now being launched into Common Core.

The morning of the Challenger’s launch, Florida temperatures were very cold.

ice and challenger launch pad

As NASA has documented:

NASA remembered that the builder of the shuttle, Morton-Thiokol, had been concerned about low temperature launches and made a call to the Utah headquarters.

“A manager came by my room and asked me if I was concerned about an 18 degree launch,” recalled Morton Thiokol engineer Bob Ebeling. “I said ‘What?’ – because we’re only qualified to 40 degrees. I said, ‘What business does anyone even have thinking about 18 degrees, we’re in no man’s land.'”

The O-rings had never been tested below freezing.

The Senior Representative for Morton Thiokol, at the Kennedy Space Center, Alan McDonald, refused to sign off that the project was ready and safe; he said temperatures were too cold to safely use the booster motors Morton Thiokol had built.

But his supervisors in Utah OVERRULED HIM and faxed a signature to NASA indicating that the company approved the launch anyway. (Doesn’t this remind you of the way the state school boards are overruling concerned, local superintendents, teachers, parents and administrators?)

It wasn’t just the temperatures on that day that were a problem. It wasn’t just the fact that they hadn’t tested the O-rings at these temperatures. Problems had been percolating all along. Months earlier, in October 1985, engineer Bob Ebeling had sent out a memo with the subject heading, “HELP!”

The purpose of Ebeling’s memo was to draw attention to dangerous structural errors in engineering. Roger Boijoly, yet another Morton Thiokol Engineer, validated Ebeling and McDonald, saying that the management’s style, the atmosphere at Morton Thiokol, dis-allowed dissent. (Doesn’t this description remind you of the atmosphere of the State Office of Education which treats dissenting voices on Common Core as “misinformed” and insubordinate?)

Boijoly testified that “Many opportunities were available to structure the work force for corrective action, but the Morton Thiokol management style would not let anything compete or interfere with the production and shipping of boosters. The result was a program which gave the appearance of being controlled while actually collapsing from within due to excessive technical and manufacturing problems as time increased.”

Why were these whistleblowers ignored? This question lingers. Many university courses use the Challenger disaster as a case study in the dangers of groupthink and the importance of listening to dissenting voices –even when listening means risking great financial and cultural pressures.

(See samples of university case studies of the Challenger ethics/groupthink disaster here and here.)

Today, the Florida Department of Education uses this image on its website, calling it “Countdown to Common Core.” It is eerie but it’s real.

Eerie logo or not, most states in the US are launching these un-vetted, un-tested, un-piloted, un-constitutionally governed Common Core standards. And whistleblowers who testify that this launch must be stopped, are being marginalized and scorned, rather than being heard.

florida countdown common core launch logo

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Here are five parallels between the launch of Common Core and the launch of the 1986 Challenger.

1. In both cases, teachers were placed in harm’s way yet they nobly and confidently took on the high-risk role.

2. In both cases, there was a lack of pilot testing and a lack of proper study of the structure of the thing that was to be launched.

See Professor Christopher Tienken’s condemnation of the launching of Common Core without pilot testing in his research paper, here. See the side-by-side studies of pre and post Common Core academic standards, commissioned by Senator William Ligon of Georgia, here. See Pioneer Institute’s white paper on the rapid, unvetted implementation of Common Core across the nation, here.

3. In both cases, leading experts risked reputation and careers to be whistleblowers, to stop the doomed launches.</strong>

See expert educators’ testimonies here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.

4. In both cases, whistleblowers were marginalized and leadership forged ahead, heedlessly.

See how the U.S. Secretary of Education and his corporate allies and pseudo-governmental allies deride the increasing number of dissenting voices.

5. <strong>In both cases, there was no escape hatch provided for those who chose to be onboard.

In the case of the Challenger shuttle, evidence suggests that some if not all of the people on board were alive during part or all of the descent of the cabin after it detached from the rest of the shuttle. It took over 2 minutes for the cabin to crash into the Atlantic. Might lives have been saved if there had been an escape system?

Launch escape systems had been considered several times during shuttle development, but NASA’s conclusion was that the shuttle’s expected high reliability would PRECLUDE THE NEED for one.

In the case of the Common Core launch, again, high expectations for reliability have apparently precluded the need for an escape hatch. While states may technically drop out of the Common Core initiative at any time, it becomes about as realistic to do so as it was for Hansel and Gretel being able to find their trail of crumbs in the woods that might have led them to freedom; with each passing day, that likelihood diminishes.

States are investing hundreds of millions upon hundreds of millions nationwide to create technological infrastructures, teacher trainings, textbook repurchasings, and public advocacy programs to implement Common Core. They are not likely to pull out.

States staying in do try to make these standards feel locally owned, by changing the name from “Common Core” to “Utah Core” or “California Core,” or by adding some of the federally permitted 15% to the Common Core.

But the nationally aligned tests will never take any 15% into account. (How could they? Differing would mean states’ standards were no longer “common.” And then comparisons from state to state would not be useful to the data hungry corporations and governmental “stakeholders” who crave that student testing data)

And if states were to try to get together and actually significantly alter and improve the commonly held standards, GOOD LUCK.

The Common Core State Standards are under private copyright and there’s no amendment process offered outside of that private club which claims to be the “sole developers and owners” of the standards.

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Anybody see see an actual, functioning escape hatch for Common Core?

What happens if we decide, down the line, that we don’t like how things are going? How can we regain that control, that copyright, that states-owned amendability of state standards, and that privacy (pre-S.L.D.S?)

I don’t see proper testing or vetting in the history of these standards. Do you?

I don’t see proper discussion of whistleblowers’ concerns. Do you?

I don’t see proponents caring at all for the well-being of the children and teachers being launched without their consent on this thing. Proponents are driven by money and by indebtedness to funders and by the desire for greater power over our children and over all people.

It is time to stop the Common Core launch.

And if we can’t stop this launch– if our leaders choose to ignore all reason and ignore the voices of those who not only have elected them, but who are the first authorities over the children– then it is time to take action and pull our children off the machine.

shuttle challenger

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?”

The Federal Fist: No Formula Funding if States Reject Common Core   6 comments

First, the federal government forces Americans to choose between giving our hard-earned educational tax dollars to them –or going to jail. Next, they promise to give back some of that money –so we can stretch it tightly across our educational budgets– after the feds pay themselves most of it.

So far, so bad.

Then, the feds threaten that they will withhold even that little bit of our money if we don’t merrily skip to the illegitimate tune of Common Core.

Do the fact check.

The Department of Education in the Department’s Blueprint for Reform uses these sweet sounding words: “The goal for America’s educational system is clear: Every student should graduate from high school ready for college and a career…” Nice. (Note to self: whenever the government says something deafeningly obvious, to which nobody could raise any argument, beware: watch what the other hand is doing.)

And meanwhile– the Department slyly alters and sets in stone the new definition of what it will mean in their documents and funding formulas to be “ready for college and career.”

See their official definition:

College- and career-ready standards: Content standards for kindergarten through 12th grade that build towards college- and career-ready graduation requirements (as defined in this document) by the time of high school graduation. A State’s college- and career-ready standards must be either (1) standards that are common to a significant number of States; or (2) standards that are approved by a State network of institutions of higher education, which must certify that students who meet the standards will not need remedial course work at the postsecondary level.

(As far as I know, there is no state that has chosen to use option #2– which is using higher ed to certify that state standards are college and career ready.)

So, college and career ready standards MUST BE COMMON to a significant number of states?

Why? On whose authority? Since when is “everybody’s doing it” a legitimate reason to jump off a cliff?

What if every state in the USA had lousy standards and yours alone had good ones? (Hello, Massachusetts!)

What if your state defined college and career readiness in a completely different way than “a significant number of states” defined it? Why the choke-collar? Why the peer pressure? If Common Core is so great, why the need for federal bullying?

Is bullying too strong a word? Read on.

Back in 2011, the Department of Education was already promising to punish those who push back against Common Core, saying:

“Beginning in 2015, formula funds will be available only to states that are implementing assessments based on college- and career-ready standards that are common to a significant number of states.”

So if your state refused to administer a common core aligned test, you’d lose federal dollars.

Is this why the Utah State School Board refuses to hear us when we point out endless evidence that we must reject Common Core? We point out endlessly that these standards are sub-par, that they’re an experiment on children, that they set up a data surveillance web on citizens without their consent; that the standards rob students of most of the classic literature their parents read in high school, that they put students at least two years behind international competitors by seventh grade in math (according to Dr. James Milgram, official member of the Common Core validation committee, who refused to sign off on the legitimacy of the standards) –and more.

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Other Thoughts On Funding Schools

— I am done with my post. But I have more to say.

Even if money is the reason the USSB/USOE won’t say no to federal mandates, it still doesn’t make sense to me.

By far, the largest piece of the school funding pie is paid by LOCAL property taxes. The next largest piece is paid by STATE funds. The puniest piece of our school funding pie is paid using federal money.

Why are our state leaders not standing up to the federal demands with a clear “N” “O” when these federal demands clearly go against our best interests? Why do we let the federal govermment dictate education locally, when they hold neither the constitutional nor the actual funding authority over us? Why?

When I ask questions of our state superintendent, state school board, and the Utah State Office of Education, I feel like I’m yelling into a dark and endless pit where only my own voice echoes back to me. Is anybody at the wheel? Is anybody at the Utah State Office of Education or the State School Board doing any kind of homework on this subject?

How do parents and taxpayers feel about the fact that so much of our educational spending is diverted away from students and teachers, back to the ever-growing State Office of Education, the State School Board, and countless administrators and their support staff– rather than being spent purchasing actual school supplies and activities for students or for salaries for much-needed teachers and aides? (Needed school aides and other staff have been let go or not rehired locally –because of tough budgetary concerns. Why is the budget so tight? Hint: it’s not the legislature’s fault.)

Statewide, we have administrators and superintendents pulling in very fat paychecks. Administrative departments, paid advisory boards, paid research committees, and other wastes of money within the Federal, State and Local Offices of Education grow and grow, using our tax dollars, misapplied tax dollars.

And still, teachers and parents are ground to financial shreds.

Teachers have to purchase virtually everything for the classroom –except the textbooks and desks– out of their own paychecks. I know; I’ve done it for years.

Parents are told that they must purchase virtually everything for their students –despite having previously paid via property taxes for the privilege of attending public school (there are now locker rental fees, textbook rental fees despite having virtually no textbooks, class membership fees, planner fees, sporting fees, and on and on and on; I’m taking this list from my high school students’s actual fee paperwork from Wasatch High School, a fee list which totals almost $400 this year. That doesn’t even begin to count the fact that I have to purchase sport uniforms, musical instruments, and other participation fees and supplies. Nor does it count the fact that my child has to go door to door, selling things to neighbors to make more money for sport participation– or get dropped from the team.) This would be okay if it was a private school. But it’s a supposedly tax-funded public school.

Something isn’t as wrong with not having enough educational funding; something’s definitely wrong with how that funding is being mis-applied both locally and on the state and federal levels.

Is anybody fighting for proper use of taxpayer monies in educational decision-making?

Governor Herbert promised us in a face to face meeting that he’d do an independent cost analysis of Common Core. That was 1.5 years ago. He has not kept his word.

And what would ever motivate the USSB or USOE to analyze its spending? Not gonna happen. They’ll cry to the legislature that they’re underfunded, but they won’t assess how they’re spending what they already have.

Educational government spending has become a self-serving, messy, messy, messy mess.

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