Archive for the ‘USA’ Tag

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

american mom

 

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.

 

american mom field

 

 

 

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Just Minimum Standards –or a National Coffle?   2 comments

Some people get hot round the collar when the Common Core Standards Initiative is blamed for the absurd Common Core-aligned horrible worksheets. 

“Common Core is just minimum, state-created, better standards,” they insist.

Few people understand that there’s an intimate connection between Common Core standards, tests and curriculum –because there’s an intimate connection between the corporate edu-sellers and the government, both of whom push for Common Core standardization of education –because it increases their power and money flow.   (Click here to read about the corporate Common Core gold rush;  click here to read about the federal Common Core gold rush.  Click here to read about the official partnership between the federal government and the “state-led” creators of Common Core.)

To me, the horrible worksheets are illustrations of what happens when we let slip the reins of local control of education, which is an abdication of our Constitutional duty and right to determine education quality locally. Whether we give up local control to the federal government, to a consortium of states, or to a monopolistic corporate connivance, the fact remains that we’ve given up local control. Central planning by distant, self-appointed “experts” is the opposite of what made America, her scholars, and her universities, great.

What a lot of people don’t understand is that Obama’s 2010  blueprint for education reform had four main points, only one of which is the national common standards. Look at all four, equally being pushed alongside the Common Core, each part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 : (1) Judging teachers and principals by federally approved standards; (2) Collecting more data about students via more tests and state databases than ever; 3) Using Common Core “college- and career-ready standards” along with tests (“assessments aligned with those standards”); (4) Intervening –or closing down– any (government-determined, government test-determined) “low performing” schools.

Think about those FOUR things, not just the standards; now add this: Bill Gates (partnered with Pearson) has paid for virtually all the development, promotion and implementation of the standards (and the rest of the four-part initiative Obama outlined in his blueprint). He has called schools a uniform customer base.  He has begun to create, together with Pearson, curriculum to match the national standards and tests. He has said that “we’ll only know if the standards work” when the curriculum and tests all align to the standards. Watch him on Youtube speaking to legislators on the subject.

When you look at these things as a whole, you see that we are dealing with an entire coffle, not just minimum standards.  And sure:  coffles are efficient, more efficient than “letting” freedom loving individuals (what governments, including our Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, now refer to as “human capital“) run off in any direction they desire.

But is standardization and efficiency worth the loss of freedom, worth the end of American exceptionalism in education?

 

slave-coffle,-central-africa,-1861-[image]_6a0ca85048

Speaking of coffles and the ugly history of human slavery, here’s a question for you.

Why did U.S. slavery last so long, when people knew it was wrong, when the founding fathers condemned it, when brilliant thinkers decried the practice?  It continued and continued until only bloodshed could end it.

And the reason was simply economic: slavery brought wealth to plantation owners and indirectly to the rest of the nation, even to those who said they opposed it.

So it goes with Common Core.  Standardizing American tests, curriculum, standards and teacher development is a mass market for educrats, one never before seen.

So, although an increasing number of Americans are now awake, and know Common Core is wrong, see that the Common Core Initiative is a step away from local control and liberty and real, legitimate, traditional education– the kind of education our ancestors struggled for– they do nothing but pretend to oppose it.  Even though they see that the tests are data collection vehicles, that that the academics are problematic, that teachers are being de-professionalized with the central planning and test-score-based judgments of teachers and schools, they don’t stop the Common Core machine.

Common Core goes on and on,  full speed ahead, in my state, at least.  Not a hiccup.  Even in states where there have been legislative hiccups, the Common Core wolf gets renamed and reintroduced to the state  wearing the same federal leash and eating the same federal fodder.

Common Core will continue to strangle us –until we say no to the money!  We must say no to federal grants, federal “rewards” and “incentives” and say no to the corporate gold rush.

We can do it!

Most of what supports our schools locally is LOCAL property tax. Another huge chunk is state money. The smallest fraction of what supports our local schools is federal money.

Ideas for how to tighten the belt:  Fire those officials at the Utah State Office of Education who are not friends to liberty and local control, whose fat salaries could fund five or six teachers’ salaries combined.  Justify –or fire– all of the money-sappers at the state and federal offices of education.  Stop buying absurdly expensive testing technologies before making class sizes smaller and teacher salaries better.  Rebudgeting could mean we don’t even need the federal/corporate grants with their absurd Common Core Initiative and data-collecting handcuffs.

We can do this.   But will we?

We may be haunted by Sam Adams’s words,echoing in our ears:

“If ye love wealth better than liberty…. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.” – Samuel Adams

 

Ghanan-American Immigrant Speaks Out Against Common Core   14 comments

ALMA O  Guest Post by Alma Ohene-Opare

Raise your heads out of the dust and realize that America is great because America bucked against the status quo. Thinking a standardized and common core curriculum is innovative is like discovering water in the ocean and patting yourself on the back for it. This system is not new. Its greatest success was to create a conforming working class for the industrial revolution. It is not fit for a dynamic 21st century that needs constant innovation and the confidence to create new solutions to the problems that continue to beset and confound the smartest minds in the world. ”

Alma Ohene-Opare, now a Utahn, is originally from Accra, Ghana.  Alma came to the U.S. at age 19, primarily because of what he called “America’s innovative educational system.”   He said, “I was educated from K-12th grade in a Common-Core-like educational system.  My family (who owns and runs a private K-12 institution) battles daily because of the system.The end result is seemingly educated (on paper) graduates, with no ability to think for themselves, solve problems or innovate in any way. Parents and teachers alike have become conditioned to place the standardized tests at the forefront of education, leading to what we call in Ghana, “Chew and pour, pass and forget.” Here is his story.

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Common Core – A Failed Idea Newly Cloaked in the Robes of Good Intentions

 

My name is Alma Ohene-Opare, an alumnus of BYU and a native of Accra, Ghana. Over the past few months, I have followed with much amusement, the nationwide debate for or against the adoption and implementation of the Common Core standards. The arguments have been fierce and passionate on both sides and seem to stem from a universal desire to raise the quality of education in America. The desire is noble. However, this noble desire will not compensate for or mitigate the empirically documentable effects of the failed policy being proposed.

 

Common Core may be new to America, but to me and the thousands who have migrated to the United States to seek better educational opportunities, it is in large part the reason we came here. If you are wondering what qualifies me to make the assertions I will make in this article, know this; I am one of the few victims of a standardized national education system in Ghana, who was lucky enough to escape its impact. I am also a member of the Board of Directors of a private K-12 institution in Accra, Ghana. Golden Sunbeam Montessori School was founded by my mother in 1989 and is currently leading the fight to rid our country of an educational system that has led to the systematic degradation and deterioration of our human capital.

 

Let’s get to the core of my argument; pun intended. What Americans are calling Common Core is eerily similar to my educational experience growing up in Ghana. In Ghana, K-12th grade education was tightly controlled by the Ghana Education Service, an organization similar to the US Department of Education. From curricula to syllabi to standardized testing, the government controlled everything.

 

In 9th grade, all students, in order to progress to high school are required to take a standardized exam known as the B.E.C.E, which stands for Basic Education Certification Examination. Depending on the results of the test, each student is assigned by a computer program to a public high school without regard to his or her interests, passions or ambitions. Each student is then assigned an area of focus for the next three years. Some of the focus areas are General Science, Business Management, General Arts, Visual Arts, Home Economics, Agriculture, etc.

 

Although things may have changed slightly since I graduated, most students generally did not have a choice as to which area of focus they were assigned. The only way to get a choice was to ace the standardized exam or to call in a favor either through bribery or some other type of corruption. The students who failed miserably were usually those who attended public schools; many of whom dropped out of school entirely.

 

The process was then repeated at the end of High School with another standardized exam called the W.A.S.S.S.C.E. This exam tested your readiness for college and ultimately determined which course of study you were assigned by the government in college. I did not ace that exam and did not get admission into the state run college of my choice. Instead, I went to a private university founded by a former Microsoft employee and was found smart enough to be admitted to BYU a year later as a transfer student, to graduate with a Bachelor’s in Information Technology and to be hired right out of college as a Program Manager at Microsoft Corporation.

 

Although the education system in Ghana is not similar in all aspects to Common Core as it is being proposed today, some of the basic tenets are the same. The curriculum was controlled by an external body without input from or accountability to teachers, individual schools or parents. Some argue that teachers and parents have control in Common Core. It pains me to witness such naivety. That myth has always been an inevitable play by proponents of any centralized system. The goal is to make people think they are in control while nudging them blindly towards a perceived public interest. The truth is simple; the institution that controls the exams, controls the curriculum.

 

By controlling the standardized exams, each school in Ghana was forced to make passing the exam its primary focus rather than actual teaching and learning. Hence anything that was deemed outside the purview of the test was cast aside and treated as non-important. Extra-curricular activities were cut if not totally eliminated and the school day was lengthened to ensure that students had even more time to prepare for the test.

 

In my case, school started at 6:00 am and ended as late as 6:00 pm. We attended school on Saturdays. Even when school was out we still attended school half day. Our lives were consumed with preparation for the standardized test. We all had booklets of past tests going back 15 years. Those who anticipated failing the test registered in advance to retake the test. The value of teachers was measured solely on the performance of their students on the standardized tests. Scammers who purported to know what would appear on the tests duped schools, parents and teachers alike by selling bogus test questions. Schools with political connections always unanimously aced the tests.

 

You may wonder why nobody ever tried to change the system. The answer was simple. The government made it impossible by requiring all students who wanted to go to High School or College to take the test. Hence, any time spent trying to change the system meant time taken away from preparing for the test. Parents became completely beholden to the system and would threaten to take the kids to other schools if administrators spent any time not preparing their kids for the test.

 

Now that you have a sense of how an education system can become trapped in the death spiral of standardized tests, let me interest you with the impact of this system on actual student outcomes. In Ghana, we had a phrase to describe how we felt about standardized tests. We called it “chew and pour, pass and forget”. Translated, it means memorize, regurgitate, pass the exam and forget everything.

 

Unfortunately that has become reality for many graduates of our educational system. As my father put it in a recent petition to the Ghana Education Service, “the education system in Ghana is akin to an assembly line setup by the government to create employees for an economy largely devoid of innovation, entrepreneurship, originality or risk taking”. Because students never learn to solve problems or think critically for themselves and are largely discouraged from challenging their teachers or the status quo, they are inevitably groomed to maintain the failed traditions of the past while believing they are completely powerless to change anything. The result is the fact that even with an abundance of natural resources, the country in general continues to suffer in the doldrums of socio-economic development without any clear path out of it.

 

Recently my brother left a well-paying job in the US to return to Ghana to take over my parent’s school. He had dreams of changing the system. He imagined students groomed to become innovators and entrepreneurs. He soon learned it was impossible to achieve any of those dreams if the school was to remain subject to the rules, restrictions and common standards the government had set. The only solution was to completely abandon the system, which he fears would cause parents to withdraw their children from the school. He is now stuck in the limbo of a catch 22 but continues to fight to win students, teachers and parents over to a new beginning for the education of their children.

 

In December 2012, I returned to Ghana with my family and had the opportunity to speak to 10th grade students at the school. I gave what I thought was an inspiring speech. I proposed to start an innovation and entrepreneurship club which will employ students to identify and propose solutions to some of the problems facing the country. I promised to provide the capital and resources necessary to support these kids in this new challenge. I ended by asking the kids who were interested to write their names on a piece of paper and email it to me. It’s been more than 18 months since I returned. I have received nothing and I don’t blame them. Their parents have paid a large sum of money because they believed our school would help their kids pass the standardized exam. I was not about to distract them from that goal. What a tragedy.

 

I have personally wondered what makes Africa so uniquely challenged in its attempts at economic development especially when all the innovations needed to do so are readily available to us. I came to a personal conclusion which admittedly is not scientific but captures what I believe to be the elusive culprit. It is contentment with mediocrity and a lack of curiosity to change the status quo. The problem is not inherent in the nature of Africans but rather the imposition of an educational system that burned out the light of innovation and made us content to live on the spoils of the countries brave enough to venture into the glory of the unknown.

When I came to the US, many people would ask what the difference was between the US and Ghana. I responded that in Ghana, I could dream. In America I can do.

 

In writing this article, I am by no means endorsing the current state of public education in the United States. The problem with the system today is that the US government, aided by self-interested unions, has spent decades and billions of dollars trying to return to a system of education that America abandoned a long time ago; a system which has proven a failure in many parts of the world. Common Core is just the latest iteration of the failed system. Like a wise man once said, oh that I were an angel and could have the wish of my heart; to stand on the mountain top to warn against the path you are choosing to take. As an outsider looking in, I recognize one thing that most Americans lack. Because America has been free for so long, many have no sense of what tyranny looks like and how quickly physical and intellectual freedom can be lost on the path paved with good intentions.

 

I plead with all you well-intentioned but definitely misguided administrators, teachers and politicians. Raise your heads out of the dust and realize that America is great because America bucked against the status quo. Thinking a standardized and common core curriculum is innovative is like discovering water in the ocean and patting yourself on the back for it. This system is not new. Its greatest success was to create a conforming working class for the industrial revolution. It is not fit for a dynamic 21st century that needs constant innovation and the confidence to create new solutions to the problems that continue to beset and confound the smartest minds in the world.

 

America is desperate to find a solution to a problem that you solved decades ago. Return to originality. Put teachers and parents in charge of the education of their children. Encourage critical thinking that rejects conformity for the sake of some perceived societal benefit. Teach children to solve problems and not just to regurgitate the solutions of generations past. I have been silent too long and have now seized this opportunity to stand up for what I believe, which ironically is something I have learned from my experience in America.

 

America, I urge you to learn from the mistakes of those around because, like the plaque in my former bishop’s office read, “you may not live long enough to make all those mistakes yourself.”

 

–Alma Ohene-Opare, Salt Lake City, UT

 

 

 

Beware of Pearson’s Plan for Education   4 comments

sir michael barber

pearson

I am fascinated with the increasing convergence of honest right-wing thinkers and honest left-wing thinkers in the context of protecting legitimate, locally controlled education and fighting Common Core and its data-mining tentacles. Professor Singer points out in his article not only what Pearson is doing in England and in the U.S., but how these “curious connections” that form alliances between “exceedingly rich men” whether socialists or capitalists, who, together with government boards, are taking over education, literally all over the globe.

People on both sides of the political aisle are feeling similar alarm at the partnershipping of governments and private corporations that is taking away the voice of the voter as it hands over the keys of the American (in this case, also the British) school bus –to that wild and crazy driver known as Sir Michael Barber, CEA of Pearson, self-proclaimed revolutionary.

The article below is reposted with permission from Alan Singer of Hofstra University, and it’s been posted at the Huffington Post. I actually prefer and recommend reading it at the Huffington Post, where helpful links are embedded, so you can fact-check the article for yourself.

For more information about Pearson’s CEA, Sir Michael Barber, and what he stands for, there are several articles I’ve posted previously here and here and here.

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Beware! Pearson’s Plan for Education Is Coming to a Country Near You

By Alan Singer, Hofstra University Social Studies Educator, New York

In the United States school districts are traditionally organized and funded locally. Parents, teachers, and school and district administrators usually only think about state and national issues when they feel pressed from above by state imposed budget cuts or federal demands for curriculum change and new assessments. Much of the opposition to Common Core and Race to the Top arose because parents, teachers, and administrators felt local prerogatives were being undermined by unwarranted pressure from above. But an examination of the Pearson publishing mega-giant’s plan to control public education in Great Britain makes clear, the greatest threat to local initiatives in public education may be from powerful global corporations. Beware! The Pearson Plan for education in the United Kingdom may be coming to a country near you — unless we can stop it now.

In March 2013, The Guardian, one of the leading British daily newspapers, published an opinion piece charging that “unelected oligarchs” and “private sponsors” were taking over the British school system. The academy schools discussed in this article sound very similar to the charter school movement in the United States.

“All over England, schools are being obliged to become academies: supposedly autonomous bodies which are often “sponsored” (the government’s euphemism for controlled) by foundations established by exceedingly rich men. The break-up of the education system in this country, like the dismantling of the National Health Service, reflects no widespread public demand. It is imposed, through threats, bribes and fake consultations, from on high.”

The “academy” alternative was supposed to be reserved for failing schools, but according to the article, the reality in Britain is much different. A Department of Education memo makes clear “it is our ambition that academy status should be the norm for all state schools.” Another memo recommended transferring academies out of the state-run school system into the private sector. To achieve these goals, “academy” sponsors appear to be targeting good schools with temporary problems that they can claim to have turned around.

For example, from 2007-2012 the Roke primary school in the community of Croydon in south London was rated “outstanding” by the British government’s quality control department known as OFSTED (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills). However, after several senior staff retired and a computer failure caused a delay in reporting data to inspectors, the school received a “Notice to Improve.” Although the school subsequently met the required standards, it was notified by the British Department for Education that it would be turned into an academy.

In September 2012, the British Department for Education held a closed meeting with school administrators and reportedly told them that if they did not immediately accept the demand to become an “academy,” they would be fired by the local school authority. They threatened that if local school officials did not carry out the order, it would be replaced by an interim board of governors that would. They also warned school administrators not to inform parents about the meeting or the decision.

School administrators at Roke acquiesced and selected the local secondary school as its partner. However, on the last day of the fall term, the Department of Education rejected the plan and paired the school with the “Harris Foundation,” a group founded by the chairman of a large retail store chain with close ties to the ruling Conservative Party. When parents learned of these events they rebelled and unanimously voted to partner with the secondary school. But the community was overruled by the British schools minister, who happens to be a wealthy businessman, a major donor to the British Conservative Party, and a sponsor of the academies plan.

In many ways the strategy for promoting academies in Great Britain is similar to the strategy for promoting charter schools in the United States. Working class and poor families are told the academies are a solution to educational inequality. The academies are also exempt from following national curriculum and are not answerable to local governments. According to one British commentator who has carefully documented the history of the academies, “When threats don’t work, the department resorts to bribery. Schools receive up to an extra £65,000 or over $100,000 in state funds, if they become academies. As a result, the academies program exceeded its budget by £1 billion ($1.6 billion) from 2010 to 2012.

The Guardian is especially concerned about the influence of Pearson, the educational publishing giant, over the so-called educational reform movement in Great Britain. Pearson, originally based in Great Britain but with most of its current revenue from the United States, is at the center of the academy movement. In partnership with the Royal Society of Arts, Pearson funded a study the Guardian suspects will be used to demonstrate the success of the academies scheme.

In addition, Pearson, through its Edexcel subsidy, is the largest testing company in Great Britain with sales totally over £317 million in 2010. It also has a contract to grade achievement tests for English 11-year-olds. Not surprisingly, Pearson sponsored another study to show how the exam system promotes “high standards.” Other Pearson ventures designed to shape educational policy and maybe also boost Pearson corporate profits include “Pearson Think Tank,” funding Oxford University’s Centre for Educational Assessment, and the “Pearson school model.” The “Pearson school model” includes a computer-based curriculum that can be sold to schools, dubbed “the Always Learning Gateway.”

The “Pearson Think Tank” is an excellent example of the way Pearson’s not-for profit policy and research programs and its for-profit corporate activities intersect. According to its website, “Although the Pearson Think Tank is funded by Pearson, it is independent from its commercial activities. We are conscious of any conflicts of interest and operate accordingly, and final decisions about what and when we publish reside with us.” However, “Where possible we try to draw on Pearson’s networks, knowledge and expertise to gather new evidence about educational quality and access that is of interest to the wider sector.”

But the reality is that the Pearson Think Tank is actively promoting Pearson corporate interests. The think tank is working in partnership with the British Academies Commission to examine the implications of the “mass academisation,” or privatization, of Britain’s state run schools. Between May 2010 and November 2012 the number of academized schools increased from about 200 to almost 2,500. As with other Pearson supported “studies,” it somehow aligns with corporate goals. In this case its goal is “to develop a practical but compelling vision for the future of UK academisation” so that “young people experience the benefits of academisation.” The Commission’s report is titled, “Unleashing greatness: Getting the best from an academised system.”

The Pearson Think Tank has also conducted “research” to support the use of Pearson high-stakes tests in the United Kingdom; to promote the type of “enterprise and entrepreneurship education” provided by the Pearson UK online university; and to support “Pearson’s Teacher Training and Certification Programme.”

In praise of Pearson for-profits high-stakes testing programs, the Pearson Think Tank quoted Michael Gove, Great Britain’s Conservative Party Education Secretary who defended the tests as “tools of social mobility” based on human nature because “humans are hard-wired to seek out challenges”; sources of “satisfaction and contentment” for students on “a job well done”; and the basis to “ensure that a solid base of learning is complete before progressing on to further learning.” The tests are great because they “drive creativity” and “signal that a person is ready to take on greater challenge and responsibility.” Unfortunately, there was no research cited to support these over-the-top claims.

The Guardian article quoted Stephen Ball, a professor of the sociology of education at London University’s Institute of Education and an expert on education business, on Pearson’s “educational” ventures. According to Ball:

“They want to offer products and services in all areas of school practice: assessment, pedagogy, curriculum and management, and they want to create the possibility for that through policy work. They want to have indirect influence in policy to create opportunities for business expansion. It’s a very well thought-out business strategy.”

As we know from recent revelations by the Attorney General of New York State, Pearson operates the same way in the United States blurring the lines between its not-for-profit Foundation and its for-profit company. As a penalty and to avoid prosecution the Pearson Foundation agreed to pay $7.5 million into a fund managed by the Attorney General to support education in high-needs schools. When I posted a Huffington Post “Pearson Caught Cheating, Says Sorry, But Will Pay” on the Pearson Foundation Facebook page, Foundation officials responded:

“Pearson and the Foundation maintain we have always acted with the best intentions and complied with the law. However, we recognize that there were times when the governance of the Foundation and its relationship with Pearson could have been clearer and more transparent. The Foundation has adopted a number of reforms to enhance operations and programs and further its charitable mission.”

In the United States, Pearson donates to the Center for American Progress, a think tank with close ties to the Obama White House. John Podesta, Founder and Chair of the Center for American Progress, was Chief of Staff in the Clinton White House and is an important advisor to President Obama. Reports issued by the Center for American Progress have advocated in favor of the national Common Core Standards, changes in teacher preparation programs including alternative certification routes, and the validity of high stakes student assessments, all areas where Pearson for-profit is marketing products and services. While the Center for American Progress is considered a “liberal” think tank, it has some curious conservative and business connections. For example, Ulrich Boser, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress where he analyzes education issues also serves as research director of Leaders and Laggards, a joint project of the Center for American Progress, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute.

I do not think Pearson’s problems in New York State were related to unclarity at all. What is happening in Great Britain makes it perfectly clear, Pearson’s not for-profit activities serve the global profit making goals of the Pearson company. If parents, teachers and students do not organize to resist corporate incursions into American public education, the Pearson Plan for Education will be coming to a country, state, city, town, and school near you!

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Thank you, Alan Singer.

Open Letters: Common Core is Evil Posing as Good   10 comments

dixie

Dixie Allen, my State School Board Representative

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Sharing a long string of emails between my State School Board representative and me, from this week and last.
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Christel-

I hope that given the time you have spent the last couple of years discussing this issue, that you would understand that Utah has already adopted and put in place the Common Core Standard in Mathematics and English/Language Arts. We have added some standards and will contiue to update the Standards as needed – but we have already adopted and have wonderful teachers working on Curriculum and lesson design to effectively teach the Core.

If you have specific concerns with specific standards – please let me know.

Dixie Allen
Region 12
Utah State Board of Education

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Dear Dixie,

My purpose in sharing the article was to suggest that Utah’s State School Board, like so many boards and legislators nationwide, might consider halting or at least pausing Common Core as many other places are doing (or are seriously considering doing) given the amount of pushback that continues on this subject.

I am fully aware that Utah adopted Common Core!

Common Core is, frankly, evil posing as good. For the state school board to continue to deny this is either evidence of incompetence or it’s endorsement of these evils.

I do not use the word “evil” casually.

Common Core is evil because it is based on political power-grabbing that snuffed the voice of the people, a move that was based on dollar signs and not academic honesty. It was agreed to for a chance at federal cash.

It cannot back up its lies of “being an improvement” academically, since it’s totally experimental and untested. Similarly, it cannot back up its lie of being “internationally benchmarked” because it’s not internationally benchmarked.

It cannot back up its lie of being unattached to the federal government since it is tied like an umbilical cord to the Department of Education; the Dept. of Ed is officially partnered with the very group that created it (CCSSO) both in the standards and in common data technologies. The Department of Ed has contracts that mandate micromanagement of Common Core testing. There is much more –all documented online and you can prove or disprove it if you are honest enough to try.

And why should we– why should you, specifically, fight federal intrusion into education?

I am a teacher. Common Core diminishes teachers’ autonomy –and students’ well-being– through federally supervised testing that drives curriculum (or will, by next year when testing really kicks in) and by the federally funded SLDS data mining that amounts to “unreasonable search and seizure” of private effects.

While there are some harmless or even some good things in the standards themselves at the elementary school level perhaps, the standards do diminish classic literature especially for high schoolers, and they marginalize narrative writing, and dumb down high school math –as has been admitted even by its creators. (Click here to see this very short video link of this out loud admission of the math-dumbing, by Common Core creator Jason Zimba).

Even if this all were not true– if somehow standards did not diminish classic literature, marginalize narrative writing, and dumb down high school math, they are still AN ATROCITY, Dixie, from which you should be protecting the children of Utah. And the teachers of Utah.

Because they suffocate the spirit of liberty and independence.

1. COMMON CORE LACKS A REPRESENTATIVE AMENDMENT PROCESS.

If the Common Core Initiative was in harmony with the Constitution, it would be amendable by those governed by it.

Dixie, if this were legitimate, you and I would have a voice. But we do not.

Neither you as a state school board member, nor I as a Utah credentialed teacher, have diddly squat to say over what gets tested and taught in our math and English classrooms in Utah– because Common Core is only amendable by the NGA/CCSSO, according to their own words on their own creepy website.

Read it, for heaven’s sake! It states: “The Standards are intended to be a living work: as new and
better evidence emerges, the Standards will be revised.” (Revised by whom?)

Not you and not me.

Again, from the official Common Core site: (their caps, not mine) “ANY USE OF THE COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS OTHER THAN AS AUTHORIZED UNDER THIS LICENSE OR COPYRIGHT LAW IS PROHIBITED. ANY PERSON WHO EXERCISES ANY RIGHTS TO THE COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS THEREBY ACCEPTS AND AGREES TO BE BOUND BY THE TERMS… NGA Center/CCSSO shall be acknowledged as the sole owners and developers of the Common Core State Standards, and no claims to the contrary shall be made.”

2. IT LACKS CHECKS AND BALANCES. The use of checks and balances was designed to make it difficult for a minority of people to control the government and to restrain the government itself. If the Common Core Initiative– a nationalized system of standards, aligned tests, data collection and teacher accountability measures promoted federally– if this initiative were in harmony with the Constitution, it would not be held in the power of a minority of the people (of the NGA/CCSSO and of the Dept. of Ed which is partnered with CCSSO). It would have been vetted prior to implementation by the proper means outlined in the Constitution– but it wasn’t. As Alyson Williams pointed out, “There is no such thing in the U.S. Constitution as a council of governors… Governors working together to jointly address issues and create rules that affect the whole nation is not a legitimate alternative to Congress, our national representative body.”

3. IT LACKS AUTHORITY. If the Common Core Initiative was in harmony with the Constitution, it would have been born legitimately: but its only “authority” is the unprecedented assigning of money to the discretion of the Education Secretary without proper congressional oversight. From that Stimulus money came the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund and the Race to the Top grant programs that enabled the Department of Ed to get away with setting up their own, experimental rules for us to follow in exchange for the money – rules that normally would be determined by the States alone.

4. IT ALTERS THE LIMITS OF FEDERAL POWER. If the Common Core Initiative was in harmony with the Constitution, it would not be openly admitted even by its most notorious proponent, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, to alter the traditionally limited role of the federal government. Look:

Duncan said, in his 2010 “Vision of Education Reform” speech

: “Our vision of reform takes account of the fact that, in several respects, the governance of education in the United States is unusual. Traditionally, the federal government in the U.S. has had a limited role in education policy… The Obama administration has sought to fundamentally shift the federal role, so that the Department is doing much more… [THIS IS CLEARLY, CLEARLY UNCONSTITUTIONAL, DIXIE.] …the Recovery Act created additional competitive funding like the high-visibility $4.35 billion Race to the Top program and the $650 million Investing in Innovation Fund… America is now in the midst of a “quiet revolution” in school reform… In March of 2009, President Obama called on the nation’s governors and state school chiefs to develop standards and assessments… Virtually everyone thought the president was dreaming. But today, 37 states and the District of Columbia have already chosen to adopt the new state-crafted Common Core standards in math and English. Not studying it, not thinking about it, not issuing a white paper—they have actually done it.

Do you hear Secretary Duncan gloating over his ability to control us?

Yet the honorable Utah State School Board continues to promote the notion that we are free under Common Core. It’s a lie. The State School Board may be full of very good people like yourself, who donate to Sub-for-Santa and read to their grandchildren; but they are still guilty of passing along huge lies which they have received and believed from the pushers of the Common Core gold rush.

Common Core governance is a slap in the face to the work of the Founding Fathers.

We are rightly shuddering at the math disaster and the high-stakes testing, are rightly gasping at the lack of any cost analysis to taxpayers and at the privacy-robbing aspects of the Common Core agenda. But these arguments are secondary to the hairiest of the reform devils, the destruction of individual liberty and the end of local control of education.

Dixie, my dear representative! Please, please stand up to these people. Stop swallowing the hogwash. Stop allowing your peers on the board to spread the propaganda. It is not based in truth.

Christel Swasey
Utah Teacher

apple books

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Updating with more letters 1-17-14

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Dixie,

To answer your question, I taught public high school English for five years, University level English at UVU for two years, and public school third grade for two years. I have also been a home school teacher of fourth and fifth grade for two years. I began teaching in 1995, am still teaching, and my credential has never expired.

But. I don’t think my resume (nor yours) matters, though, because it is the principle of local and individual liberty that is the issue most harmed by the Common Core Initiative and the “Blueprint for Reform” that Common Core rides upon.

Educational experience and resumes don’t even come into the question; anyone can see through this if they take five minutes to use their brains.

I notice that you are still avoiding the issues I raised, and that you are unruffled by where the Common Core came from, or who gains financially at our expense from them, and who ultimately controls them –and thus who ultimately controls you and me and our grandchildren.

It is unfortunate that you will not confront these uncomfortable realities, very sad for the rest of us whom you are supposed to be elected to represent.

I’m forwarding news links that a Colorado principal forwarded to me today. I hope you become aware of not only the important reasons, but also the speed at which Common Core opposition is growing.

–Christel

Many State Legislatures 2014 Sessions to Debate Common Core Testing Issues
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/01/08/15sessions_ep.h33.html
New York Assembly Speaker Says Case for Common Core Testing Should be Delayed
http://www.newsday.com/long-island/assembly-speaker-common-core-should-be-delayed-1.6752646
New York Teachers to Vote “No Confidence” in State Ed. Head for Ignoring Common Core Testing Moratorium Call
http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2014/01/nysut-will-seek-no-confidence-vote-on-king/
New York Common Core Website Links to Offensive Test-Prep
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/01/11/common-core-chaos-ny-state-website-sends-kids-to-offensive-test-prep/
Florida Lawmakers Question Rush to Implement Common Core Exams
http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/01/08/3859588/lawmakers-question-timeline-for.html
North Carolina State Ed Board May Delay Move to Common Core Tests
http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/01/08/3516802/nc-education-board-wants-to-keep.html
New Testing Standards Stress Connecticut Educators
http://www.nhregister.com/social-affairs/20140108/new-testing-standards-stressing-new-haven-educators
Rushed Common Core Testing Rollout is Like Driving in the Fog
http://www.npr.org/2014/01/02/259082746/education-critics-say-common-core-standards-rollout-is-rushed
How Progressives Opposing Common Core Testing Should Deal with Strange Political Bedfellows
http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2014/01/are_progressive_critics_of_com.html
FairTest Fact Sheet on Why a Common Core Testing Moratorium is Necessary
http://www.fairtest.org/common-core-assessments-factsheet
Educators Explain Alternatives to High-Stakes Exams
http://www.northjersey.com/news/239854621_Educators_air_academic_alternative_to_increased_student_testing.html
See Why and How Performance Assessment Works
http://www.fairtest.org/performance-assessments-succeed-new-york
Opt Out of Tests to Force a Balanced Assessment System
http://childrenaremorethantestscores.blogspot.com/2014/01/we-demand-balanced-assessment-system.html
Virginia Lawmakers Call for Fewer Tests
http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/virginia-lawmakers-call-for-fewer-sol-tests/2014/01/13/a7461654-789a-11e3-8963-b4b654bcc9b2_story.html
North Carolina Teachers Protest Plan to Give Third-Graders 36 Mini-Tests
http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/01/09/3519784/wake-to-give-more-tests-to-third.html
Rhode Island Expands Graduation Test Waivers
http://www.providencejournal.com/breaking-news/content/20140110-r.i.-department-of-education-expands-necap-waiver-for-high-school-graduation.ece
Mass. Teachers Reject Test-Based “Merit” Pay Bonuses
http://dianeravitch.net/2014/01/10/teachers-in-lee-ma-return-merit-pay/
Let’s Teach Students to Think Critically, Not Test Mindlessly
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eric-cooper/lets-teach-students-to-th_b_4556320.html
Weingarten: Teaching and Learning Over Testing
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/randi-weingarten/teaching-and-learning-ove_b_4575705.html
Standardized Testing Has Created Standardized Students with Useless skills
http://www.highlandernews.org/11749/standardized-testing-has-created-standardized-students-with-useless-skills/
Anthem for a High-Stakes Testing Era (with apologies to Country Joe and the Fish)
http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2014/01/anthem-for-high-stakes-testing-era-with.html
“Standardized,” the Movie, Screening Schedule
https://www.facebook.com/STANDARDIZEDtheMOVIE

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Christel,

It is good to know where you have experienced teaching and educational oversight. Thanks for sharing!

However, the concerns you share form the Colorado administrator still are mostly about the assessment programs. I hope that you are aware that we are developing our own assessments with the help of the AIR Company. We are doing everything we can to be in control of our Standards, Assessments and Data and I am convinced we are accomplishing our goals.

Thanks for your input, but would really like to see you look at what Utah is actually doing and not align us to other states, especially without checking out the facts as they apply to our state. It would be so good to have you working to help us improve our school system, rather than identifying what isn’t working across the nation. We still are trying to focus on improving education for the students of Utah and I believe we are making progress each and every year.

Best Wishes,

Dixie

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elephant

Dear Dixie,

It’s not just other states that are unhappy with Common Core tests. Utahns have plenty to say about Common Core tests and their AIR/SAGE $39 million dollar waste– costs to us not only in dollars but costs to student data privacy and costs to liberty from oppressive federal and corporate oversight of Utah’s own educational business.

Have you read Matthew Sanders’ Deseret News “Common Core Testing Fraught With Flaws” op-ed on AIR? Have you read Dr. Gary Thompson’s many writings and heard his testimony? Thompson, a Utah child psychologist, exposed how AIR tests are to embed subjective assessments which are illegal. He sees AIR subjecting all students, but especially more vulnerable populations (including African Americans, gifted students, autistic students, Latino students, Asbergers’ students) to what he names “cognitive child abuse”. Thompson has spoken out here in Utah and across the nation, notably at the Wisconsin Legislature, specifically about the huge problems with AIR and similar tests.

Dr. Thompson said: “AIR’s stated mission is to “to conduct and apply the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation towards improving peoples’ lives, with a special emphasis on the disadvantaged,” and any reasonable minded person, as well as a State Superintendent of Public Schools, should at least reasonably conclude that this billion dollar research corporation (AIR) with some of the brightest minds on the planet can design tests any way that they please, unless per contractual agreement and other applied constraints, they are expressly forbidden from doing so. Utah’s parents have been told in multiple town hall meetings by the USOE that they will never be able to have access to testing questions devised by AIR in order to ensure “test integrity.” Although I am impressed with USOE and various politicians who stated that 15 parents and a few politicians will be allowed to view the tests being designed by AIR, I question their qualifications to perform anything more than a cursory review of the questions being designed. Speaker of the House Becky Lockhart may be able to balance a complex state budget, but I doubt that she has the necessary background in psychometrics to perform a critical analysis of the issues that need to be examined.”

Matt Sanders expressed additional concerns with AIR/SAGE very concisely. I would love to see the state board answer his questions, and Dr. Thompson’s concerns, about privacy of student data under AIR/SAGE.

Sanders’ article, in the April 2013 Deseret News, said:

“A key component of the Utah Common Core implementation is a new online, adaptive testing system called Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence (SAGE). The the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) contracted to pay $39 million to American Institutes of Research, a Washington, D.C., behavior and social science research organization, to build and host the new testing environment.

I applaud innovation in education and believe the pursuit of standards to improve competitiveness a step in the right direction. I also believe adaptive testing shows some promise. Further, I admire the efforts made by USOE personnel to hold town meetings across the state to introduce the proposed new testing approach to educators and parents — at times encountering some hostility from parents concerned about their children being subjected to unproven educational systems.

At the SAGE introduction in Davis County, I observed many concerns raised by parents. While there, I also asked a couple of questions, but the answers left me wanting. Upon further reflection and analysis, I believe the SAGE approach is deeply problematic, and I put forth the following questions:

Where is the evidence?

Public sector projects should carry assurance of maximum societal benefit for optimal cost. For approval, they should present evidence from research and pilot or scaled tests of the proposed reform.

Despite substantial searching, I could find no defensible studies anywhere on the USOE website, and was given no assurance by state officials that any pilot studies underpin the wholesale changes. They have not cited, as would be asked of any high school research paper, any support for their reforms. Thus, the USOE has implemented new standards, new curriculum and has spent scarce state resources on an apparently untested, unproven testing approach.

How will student data be used?

The contract with AIR contains no explicit protections of student data collected in testing by the well-known federally funded researcher. Despite repeated questions to USOE officials, they could provide no reference statutory protection of student data. USOE should provide complete assurance to families and educators that data are protected and not available for personal identification.

One of the key objectives of the Common Core initiative is to provide means for inter-state performance comparisons. However, the USOE FAQ on testing indicates that, “There are currently no national norms for the new common core or Utah Core Standards … they cannot indicate where Utah’s students stand relative the common-core standards.” So no collaborative benefits exist for developing a unique Utah test.

Why not a different approach?

Consistent with its mandate, the USOE is appropriately concerned by the college readiness of Utah students. Rather than wholesale reforms dependent on unproven curricula and tests, why not direct efforts to proven methods with known cost effectiveness?

For instance, the USOE could be redirecting the $39 million to Utah school districts to reduce class size and invest in technology, increasingly necessary to accommodate Utah’s rising student population.

… Utah schools could adopt and adapt the use of ACT benchmark tests beginning in the 8th grade to determine college preparation progress. The ACT and SAT tests have long been considered robust indicators of readiness by educators and college admissions staff alike.

While the Common Core aims are admirably ambitious, the outcomes so far don’t seem to make the grade…” — Matt Sanders msanders@deseretnews.com TWITTER: Sanders_Matt

Another point is my own: It is clear to all Utahns (it’s stated on AIR’s website) that AIR is partnered with SBAC, which is under a stranglehold by the Department of Ed. SBAC is mandated to “share student data”, to “synchronize tests” with other national common core testing groups, and to give constant reports to the feds. By its partnership, thus AIR is entangled in the same stranglehold. That means Utah is entangled, despite what the state board claims and wishes.

I have yet to see any evidence that AIR/SAGE tests are purely math and English assessments. I have yet to see any evidence that the tests are even being developed by Utahns rather than by the psychometricians that the AIR website flaunts as spearheading all the works of AIR.

Again, thanks for talking.

Christel

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Christel,

I am well aware of all your quotes and concerns. Having served on the adoption committee for our new assessment with testing directors, superintendents, teachers and specialists in the field from districts and the state office, I have heard all the concerns and recommendations on our new assessment program. I also was privileged to meet with the parent committee that examined all the test items and helped correct a few minor problems, but heard nothing about any far reaching problems that hadn’t been noted and improved.

I also had the opportunity to oversee several of the pilot districts that used “computer adaptive assessment” which was then the North West Evaluation Association. The pilots were created by the State Board and Governor Huntsman after a year or so of looking at quality assessment programs. These districts had used the assessment to accomplish great growth in student scores for about five years. NWEA was one of the companies that applied to fill the role of our assessment program that had been funded and approved by the legislature. However, NWEA was not willing to write test items that addressed Utah’s specific Core Items. Thus our committee chose AIR because of their willingness to help us (teachers in the field) to help write items that addressed our specific Core Curriculum and they also had great recommendations from other educational entities throughout the nation.

It would be great if we did not have to invest so much in evaluation, but with Grading Schools and other legislation throughout our state and the nation, we must insure we are providing accurate information for the public and our schools. It has also been proven over the past few years that the Computer Adaptive Assessments have been valuable to teacher, parents and students, as it provides a clear understanding of what curricular issues students understand and what needs extra work and support. Testing is now and has always been an instructional support to help teachers, students and parents know how to help our students improve and be successful.

Now, as you suggest, it would be great if our legislature understood how important it is to fund lower class size, preschool education for “At-Risk” students and establishing enough funding to attract the best and brightest teachers to our classrooms. As the lowest per pupil funding in the nation, I really believe that both the State Office of Education and our district partners are doing the very best they can to provide a quality education for our students. Can we do more? SURE!! But the more takes funding and spending less energy and resources to fight battles that reflect on issues that we have already identified and attempted to solve.

Christel, it would be so nice if you would come to our Board Meetings and take in all that has and continues to be done to improve our standards, our curriculum support systems, our assessment and our commitment to quality educators and education for all of our students. Many people are working so hard to insure we are doing the best with what we can afford to provide the children of our state.

Thanks for the opportunity to discuss these issues, but hope you will come see the process in action and join with us to improve our education with a positive attitude and support system.

Thanks again!!

Dixie
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elefant

Dixie,

I guess I should thank you for the invitation to “join with you to improve education with a positive attitude” at school board meetings.

But I noticed at the State School Board Meetings that I went to in 2013 and 2012 that there was an elephant that filled the room; he was so big that people couldn’t even see around him and so loud that people couldn’t talk.

He stood so that people could not move. He silenced visitors who were in his way just by leaning on them, and his glare frightened teachers, parents, and students who had come to participate in the meetings. He had his feet on some children. He wore a huge banner with his name on it, but the school board used different language to name him than what he had named himself, if they spoke of him at all.

Oddly, the Board most often dodged elephant-related questions.

He attended the Wasatch District’s school board meetings too.

For two years now, he’s eaten endlessly at the expense of taxpayers –money which was reserved for the sacred use of school children and their teachers. He ate a lot.

He’s still eating. There is not enough food for him as well as for the children, yet the Board said it would rather feed him, for some reason. So the board asks the legislature to feed the children and the teachers. Because all the board’s money is gone to feeding the elephant.

A positive attitude?

I howl because I can not get the damn elephant off my children without your help.

You have the power. Please remove him.

Christel
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Christel,

Although you don’t name the “elephant in the room” — I surmise you see it as Federal Intrusion. I encourage you to really look at what the Federal Government does to help provide dollars for public education and the actual data that they and our state legislature ask for in policy and then help us find ways to insure that such data doesn’t compromise the individual rights of our students. Some data is absolutely necessary, but if we know specifically what data is problematic, we can look at those issues. From my point of view as an educator, I see that test data pulled together for teachers, schools, districts and the state helps us insure that we are providing a quality education. If we overstep the process in regard to trying to insure a quality educational system — we need to know specifics — not the letters to the editor or posting on facebook, twitter and etc., with no details as to what is the real problem.

We all want to improve and support public education. Hope you will help us, instead of continuing to state there is an “elephant in the room” — but with no definition of what the elephant is and how you see we can solve the problem.

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Dixie,

The elephant is the Common Core Initiative.

The Common Core elephant –its head is the set of experimental, untested, distorted standards which were neither written nor known about by Utahns before they were forced upon us.

I say “forced” because that is exactly what happened. The board never asked legislators, teachers, principals or parents to analyze these standards prior to throwing away classic standards. And if we speak against them now, we are labeled “insubordinate” or “misinformed”.

I say “distorted” because they are inappropriately “rigourous” for the youngest grades and inappropriately low, especially in math, for the high school grades.

The Common Core elephant– its heart is common data standards (via PESC) which Utah agreed to in its acceptance of federal grant money for the federal SLDS system. This is the heart of the data problem. We don’t have a state system; we have a federal system that we call the “state” longitudinal database. But there is nothing protecting private student data from being submitted to the federal Edfacts exchange nor to the federally partnered EIMAC/CCSSO national data collection vehicle.

Individual student data is none of anyone’s business beyond the district. Only the teacher and principal and parents need to know how a student is doing. Period. The end of the data story.

Governments grading schools is a wrong concept and should be fought but until that’s won, let them grade in aggregate form. That’s not what is happening. Even Superintendent Menlove is a member of the CCSSO, whose stated goal is to disaggregate student data.

I do not see any justification for Utah’s FORCED database (SLDS) from which no parent may opt her child out, according to this very board.

The Common Core elephant– its legs are the tests. The tests drive the future curriculum. They label teachers. They force the standards to center stage, stealing from other subjects and activities that the teacher would otherwise focus on, for example, Utah’s added standard of cursive or a teacher’s personal expertise and enthusiasm for things that go above or beyond Common Core.

Utah’s AIR/SAGE test’s alignment with all the other national common core tests are the death of its autonomy. And the federal say in these tests makes them illegitimate under the Constitution and GEPA law, which 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 .

Common Core is the elephant in the room because at the board meeting, nobody talks about it. They call it “Utah core.” They call them “Utah’s standards.”

Common Core sits on top of and drives EVERYTHING in Utah education today. It saps all our funding. It dominates all our teacher preparation. It dictates all new technologies. It defines our data collection. It is the basis for our $39 million dollar test. And alignment to Common Core is the ONLY prerequisite for any textbook to be used in a classroom anymore– content no longer matters; just common core alignment matters. I know this from speaking with the Utah curriculum committee.

One would think that Common Core must be remarkable and wonderful, to have such honored place in Utah, to wield such power. But it’s a joke. A joke on us. It costs us countless millions yet it’s academically distorted, is not even written by educators and has never been field tested!

It’s nothing that it says it is– not “globally competitive,” not “internationally benchmarked,” not “state-led” nor “state created.” It was David “Corporate” Coleman who on a whim decided informational text is better than classic literature, and he is the King of Common Core. Not only did he design the ELA, but now he runs the entire College Board where he aligns college entrance exams to his creation– not the other way around, as has been claimed. This is not college readiness. It’s corporate control of what that term even means anymore. We don’t get a say. The corporate elite, meaning David Coleman/Achieve Inc./Bill Gates/Pearson/CCSSO who are officially in partnership with Arne Duncan, are calling the shots. And why don’t they want us to have legitimate, high, classical college-ready standards? Because it costs too much money. This is clearly explained by Marc Tucker, CEO of the National Center on Education and the Economy .

Dixie, I have told you all of this before. You either don’t believe me or don’t think it matters.

Many people don’t want to call anything evil. But I believe there is no good if there is no evil, and I believe that good and evil do not form alliances. There are people and collaborations with whom we should not shake hands, no matter how pleasingly they present themselves to us. Because they are selfish; they are steal what is good and important away from us. They hurt us while promising us the moon.

Common Core is the excuse and the rallying cry for the robbers of autonomy and our local conscience in educational decision making. These people ride on the back of the elephant and get richer and more powerful all the way. These riders of the elephant include David Coleman and his corporations, the CCSSO, NGA, Pearson, Gates, Arne Duncan, and the corporations that sell Common Core aligned products. None of them care whether they’re selling snake oil or something real. They don’t care. They count on us to be too busy or too stupid to check their claims and their price tags.

Thanks for listening.

Christel
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Christel,

Wow — I really thought you might have a valid point with the intrusion element. However, as a teacher, principal, curriculum director and now a State School Board Member for now over 40 years total, I have to tell you some facts!

First – all of our standards for the State of Utah have been unproven — mostly because they were created by educators in the field and tested over time and revised over time. Over the years we have, as a state, created our own assessments with help of great talent at our State Office — but both standards and testing items are created by our state teachers and specialists and evaluated and revised over time. The Common Core is and will be the same — except there are several specialists at the university level who has helped us look forward to the ramifications of State and Federal Standards and how all students will be equipped for college and universities regardless of what state university or college they choose.

Secondly, as a Principal of elementary, a 5th grade center and a high school, I can attest that with our past “stair step curriculum” – using Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1 and 2, we lost almost a third of our students in being prepared to master the math curriculum for the high school. The standards for both the Mathematics and Language Arts for the Common Core is much more relevant to the investigative and inquiry expectations of both learning and work skills needed by our graduates.

Finally, Utah did not take any money specifically from the Feds for adopting the Common Core. We, along with 47 other states, found the standards higher and more relevant to the expectations of higher education and careers throughout the United States. Also, we had the support of our Governor and the Governor’s Association, the Chief School Officers and our Chief School Officer and almost all university professors and teachers we asked to evaluate the standards.

Bottom line, Christel, the Standards are a higher quality than what we have had previously and they have saved our state thousands of dollars, as we did not have to bring the specialists together by ourselves, but were able to share with the rest of the nation in the creation and evaluation of the standards.

I am sorry you see the Standards as the “Elephant in the Room” — because they are a very effective step forward toward a 21st century curriculum for our state and our teachers and students are rising to the level of the new standards very effectively. Even my elementary grandchildren now know how to substitute letters for numbers and solve for the unknown. Interestingly, as a high school junior I was the only one in my small high school that was taking Algebra — and that was only about 40 years ago. Needless to say our standards need to change over time and working together is much more effective than attempting to do it by ourselves.

Let me know if you want to find answers and work to help us move forward. I would like to have you working with us, instead of buying into the right wing rhetoric that you find on the internet.

Dixie
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Dixie,

Previous standards were not unproven; they were time-tested. Common Core is not time tested. ( Did you look at the article I shared about the “dataless decision making” that is Common Core, the link from Seton Hall University?)

Students have NEVER been deprived of classic literature or basic high school math in past sets of standards. They have never been pushed, for example, to write so many “boring” informational essays to the exclusion of narrative writing. They have not been given insurmountable, unreasonable obstacles to hurdle at first grade levels before. They have not been deprived of calculus in high school math before. This is all new. This is all totally unproven. This is so dangerous as we have no idea what the consequences will be, good or bad. We are putting unfounded, undeserved faith in people like noneducator David Coleman who wrote the ELA standards. We are putting all our eggs in a soggy paper basket.

Math: Thousands of Utahns disagree with your assessment of what good math teaching should look like. You are entitled to your opinion, but I can tell you that my son’s friends’ mothers (of children who remained in public school when I took my son out to home school him two years ago) now tell me their children cry and hate school, and ask their mothers (who are not as willing) to please home school them also. This is tragic. And these mothers always say the children’s cries of discontent center on the bad “new” math– which is Common Core math. These are fifth graders.

Money: We took millions from the feds for their ed reforms– which specifically included Common Core and SLDS. Utah took these many millions in exchange for adoption of four federal education reforms. Part of the money, $9.6 million from the feds, built the student-snooping system they wanted, which we now call the Utah State Longitudinal Database System. As part of that SLDS grant, we agreed to PESC common data standards. This agreement is stated on page 4 of section 1 (page 20 on the PDF) of Utah’s 2009 ARRA Data Grant: “The UDA will adhere to standards such as… the Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council (PESC)…”

“The State Core Model is a common technical reference model for states implementing state longitudinal data systems (SLDS). It was developed by CCSSO as part of the Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) adoption work with funding from the Gates Foundation…The State Core Model will do for State Longitudinal Data Systems what the Common Core is doing for Curriculum Frameworks and the two assessment consortia. The core purpose of an SLDS is to fulfill federal reporting (EDEN/EDFacts)…”

Those are their words, not mine.

Obama gave governors $53.6 billion from the “State Fiscal Stabilization Fund” contained in the federal stimulus. The money, used in exchange for the adoption of four federal ed reforms, was given conditionally: These reforms are detailed on the US Department of Education’s website. They are:

1.Adopt College-and-Career Ready standards [COMMON CORE] and high-quality, valid and reliable assessments [SAGE/AIR].
2.Develop and use pre-K through post-secondary and career data systems [SLDS].
3.Increase teacher effectiveness and ensure equitable distribution of qualified teachers. [FORCED REDISTRIBUTION]
4.Turn around the lowest-performing schools [ACCORDING TO THE FEDS’ DEFINITION, NOT OURS].

How anyone can say with a straight face that the feds aren’t involved with Common Core, is beyond me. They even redefined the term “college and career readiness” as “standards common to a significant number of states” which is only Common Core, on their federal site.

As for right-wing rhetoric or left-wing rhetoric, there’s as much left-wing rhetoric condemning Common Core (tests and standards and student data snooping) as there is right-wing rhetoric, anyway.

Left wing criticism of Common Core/SLDS: Diane Ravitch, Paul Horton, Mass Sen. Ed Markey (D)

Right wing criticism of Common Core/SLDS: Pioneer Institute, Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, The Blaze network, Fox News network.

And there are right wingers who praise it –or refuse to condemn it– (notably Jeb Bush, Rush Limbaugh, Gary Herbert) just as there are left-wingers.

Thanks again for talking and listening.

Christel

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Christel – since you choose to post my responses – I am through trying to help you understand the REAL truth.

So sorry!

Dixie

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Dixie,

I appreciated your openness, which seemed so much more courteous and open-minded than other USOE and USSB representatives have been to the teachers and public who have asked to talk with them about Common Core.

I am sorry that you aren’t comfortable with others reading your responses. I feel people have a right to know what their board representatives really think and what they see as the truth, especially where their children are concerned.

As you know, all state school board correspondence is open to the public via GRAMA legal requests as well.

Christel

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Meme Unconstitutional Common Core Christel Swasey

7 Links to Evidence of Federal Control of Common Core   9 comments

arne barackk

Folks, there can be no question that the federal government is using Common Core to take away our freedoms.

So why do many people still believe that “there’s no federal control of Common Core”? Because trusted education leaders are not being forthright with –or are not in possession of– the truth. Here in Utah, for example, the Utah State Office of Education, has a “fact-versus-fiction” pamphlet which still says that the standards “are not federally controlled.”

The fact is that states that adopted Common Core standards are being co-parented by two groups in partnership, neither of which takes seriously the constitutional rights of the states to govern education locally: these partners are 1) The federal government and 2) Private trade clubs financed by Bill Gates– NGA and CCSSO.

So first, here’s evidence of terrible federal controls: (click to fact check, please)

1. Federal micromanagement in Common Core testing grant conditions and now, Race to the Top grant lures that go directly to districts and ignore state authority over districts.
2.Federal ESEA 15% capped waiver conditions that deny states the right to add more than 15% to our standards;
3. Federal reviews of tests
4. Federal data collection
5. Federal
disfiguration of previously protective FERPA laws that removed parental rights over student data;
6. President Obama’s four assurances for education reform which governors promised to enact in exchange for ARRA stimulus funds;
7.Obama’s withholding of funds from schools that do not adopt Common Core as read in his Blueprint for Reform (aka The Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) which says, “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.”

barack arne

And here’s evidence of unelected, corporate controls of Common Core:

1) Common Core copyrights (and “living work” alteration rights) are held solely by two unelected, private clubs, the superintendents’ club (aka CCSSO) and a governors’ club (aka NGA).
2) These two clubs’ Common Core creation was influenced and funded not by voters/taxpayers, by the politically extreme Bill Gates, who has spent over $5 Billion on his personal, awful version of education reform– and that dollar amount is his own admission.
3) No amendment process exists for states to co-amend the “living work” standards. The “living work” statement means that OUR standards will be changed without representation from US as the states; it will be controlled by the private trade groups CCSSO/NGA.
4) Bill Gates and Pearson are partnered. (Biggest ed sales company partnered with 2nd richest man on earth, all in the effort to force Common Core on everyone.)
5) The speech of corporate sponsor Bill Gates when he explains that “We’ll only know [Common Core] this works when the curriculum and the tests are aligned to these standards.” This explains why he is giving away so much money so that companies can be united in the gold rush of creating Common Core curriculum.
6. Virtually every textbook sales company now loudly advertises being “common core aligned” which creates a national monopoly on textbook-thought. This, despite the fact that the standards are unpiloted, experimental (in the words of Dr. Christopher Tienken, Common Core is education malpractice.)
7. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and many huge corporations (ExxonMobil) are loudly selling Common Core as a way of creating wealth, despite the standards’ untested nature.

The federal partnering with the private groups like CCSSO/NGA, means that mandates and thought-monopolies of Common Core are truly beyond even legislative control. –Because they are privately controlled, they’re beyond voters’ influence.

This is why nothing short of an outright rejection of all things Common Core can restore us to educational freedom.

Why should you care? Why should you fight this, even if you don’t have children in school? Because of the Constitution.

The Constitution sets us apart as the only country on earth that has ever truly had the “freedom experiment” work. This makes us a miraculous exception. Why would we ever shred the Constitution by accepting initiatives that disfigure our representative system?

The G.E.P.A. law states that “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, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other printed or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system…”

So the federal government is prohibited from creating tests or instructional materials– but the private groups NGA and CCSSO, funded by Gates, are not! This is why the federal Department of Education officially partnered with these unelected, private corporate interests –groups which are not accountable to G.E.P.A. laws, to teachers, principals, taxpayers, voters or children. (This may also explain why Arne Duncan goes to such great lengths to distinguish between standards and curriculum. Everybody knows that standards dictate curriculum like a frame dictates the height and width of a house. But GEPA law doesn’t use the word “standards.”)

We are in unrepresented dire straits: In no way do voters or teachers (or states themselves) control what is now set in the Common Core standards.

This is true in spite of the so often-repeated “the standards are state-led” marketing line. Don’t believe the marketing lines! So much money is money being spent on marketing Common Core because of Bill Gates. Gates sees this whole Common Core movement as a way to establish his (and Pearson’s) “uniform customer base.”

Watch Gates say these words in his speech if you haven’t already. This speech needs to be widely known, especially by school boards –so that we can boycott this monopoly on thought and on our precious taxpayer dollars.

Please don’t let people keep getting away with saying that the Common Core is free from federal controls, or that “we can add anything we want to it” and “there are no strings attached.” It simply isn’t true.

(How we wish that it was.)

arne barack

Laurie Rogers: On Taking Over Children, America’s Future   1 comment

I love this educator’s site, entitled Betrayed –by Laurie Rogers.

This most recent article on the Betrayed website is greatly enriched by Laurie Rogers’ use of Animal Farm quotes, like: “He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?” (Animal Farm)

Article reposted in full, with permission from Laurie H. Rogers

Click on link to read the original, with electronic links to referenced items.

Enjoy!

Children are the key to America’s future. The government wants control of that key.

Those who exert the first influence upon the mind, have the greatest power.– Horace Mann, Thoughts

The writing is on the wall. In a June 7, 2013, statement, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said President Obama is planning to “redesign” America’s high schools. This redesigning will take place through “competitive grants” (also known as “bait”). Who will pay for this redesigning? (Taxpayers will, as we always do.) How much will it cost? (The secretary and president haven’t said, as they rarely do.) Does the president have the legal or constitutional authority to “redesign” America’s high schools? (No.) According to 20 USC 3403, Obama and Duncan also lack the authority to direct standards, curriculum and teaching approaches. That isn’t stopping them. They say their interventions are for our own good.

He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be? (Animal Farm)

Please take note of the language in Duncan’s press release. The “redesigned” high schools will entail:

•”Student-centered” learning

•”Project- or-problem-based” learning

•”Real-world experiences” and “real-world challenges”

•”Evidence-based professional development”

•Engaging in “complex projects” and working with others to apply knowledge

•Moving “away from the traditional notion of seat time”Uh, oh.

Math advocates will recognize that language. It typically alerts us to reform math – to fuzzy content, “discovery learning” (or constructivism), excessive group work, teachers who don’t directly teach, and lofty concepts presented before skills. That approach has not worked well for students for the last three decades.

It seems Duncan is a reformer, and why wouldn’t he be? Public education systems, colleges of education, curriculum developers and policy makers all have been bathed in reform philosophy and approaches since the 1980s. The president’s new mandate – excuse me, his new initiative – appears to mandate an instructional model that has completely failed children for 30 years.

Duncan and Obama also push the controversial Common Core initiatives, which are leading many districts to fuzzy math and weak English programs. The CC math standards contain a separate section, called the “Standards for Mathematical Practice.” Many states and districts are emphasizing the SMP, and the SMP supports a constructivist approach. Voila: more reform math.

It’s noteworthy that the publisher of Singapore Math – a series long praised by traditionalists – released a new “discovery” version based on the CC. Other publishers also have done so. They appear to believe the CC embraces constructivism, and they’re going along with it.

And now we have this high-school initiative, announced with the same language used by proponents of reform math. After three decades of grim failure, reform approaches to math are unlikely to suddenly work for students just because the feds throw another trillion taxpayer dollars at them.

In April, Obama also announced plans to “expand” early learning programs for 4-year-olds, rolling them into the K-12 system. Initially, children will be from low-income families, but other families and toddlers are to be rolled in, too. “Preschool for All” is estimated to cost taxpayers $75 billion over 10 years.

This de facto federal takeover of public education is cunning and devious. Many Americans have been persuaded that the Common Core and related initiatives are “state-led” and academically better; that nothing is federally mandated; that our right to privacy is intact; and that the Standards are the key.

Not true.

Proponents say the CC initiatives are voluntary; internationally benchmarked; research-based; rigorous; proved to work; that they’ll save money; they’ll provide commonality and consistency; and that they aren’t “one-size-fits-all.”

Not true.

The CC initiatives were never internationally benchmarked or academically sufficient. They aren’t grounded in scientifically conducted, replicable research. They’re unproved, with no student data behind them. They’re a national experiment on children. They won’t save taxpayers money. A base cost estimate just to get started is $140 billion nationwide (14,000 school districts x $10 million each).

The CC initiatives are voluntary only in a technical sense. States and districts have been threatened with the loss of federal funds, with the loss of money for impoverished students, and (ironically) with punishments under the No Child Left Behind Act if they don’t comply.

This work was strictly voluntary, but any animal who absented himself from it would have his rations reduced by half. (Animal Farm)

The CC initiatives aren’t “state-led.” The feds are pushing them very hard. They were rammed through states before they were completed, with many proponents appearing to have had a financial reason to support them. The Department of Education has yet to fulfill my FOIA request from four years ago on its role in the development of the CC, but even if the initiatives really were “state-led,” why do the organizations in charge claim to not be subject to public-disclosure laws?

The nature of the CC also is expanding rapidly. Initially, this was K-12 standards in mathematics and English/language arts, but now it’s to be a complete nationalized educational program – with standards, tests, curricula and professional development; from cradle through workforce (P-20); in all subjects, all grades and all schools; in daycares, preschools, K-12 systems and colleges.

The CC initiatives also include an intrusive national database on children and their parents and guardians. Data and information are to be collected and shipped around public agencies, corporations and organizations without our knowledge or consent. Certain state and federal laws were altered or ignored in order to allow and facilitate this sharing of private information. Citizens were not informed.

At the foot of the end wall of the big barn, where the Seven Commandments were written, there lay a ladder broken in two pieces. … [N]ear at hand there lay a lantern, a paint-brush, and an overturned pot of white paint. (Animal Farm)

The CC initiatives appear to entail serious violations of the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Code. The overall deceit is so huge, few believe it. Fewer in leadership have questioned it. Legislators on all sides, media, state agencies, governors, districts, money advocates, unions, corporations and foundations have lined up at the Common Core trough, ready for a treat and a pat on the head.

The birds did not understand Snowball’s long words, but they accepted his explanation, and all the humbler animals set to work to learn the new maxim by heart. (Animal Farm)

How long will it be before the feds threaten the loss of taxpayer dollars if states don’t comply with the new high school “grant” initiative or the new early learning initiative? How long before states and districts shrug off questions from parents and taxpayers, saying they had no choice in these matters?

Considering the unproved and dictatorial nature of these federal initiatives, they can’t be about academics. I expect the feds will find it necessary to redesign middle schools to “align” with redesigned high schools. Elementary schools will have to “align” with redesigned middle schools. Preschools will have to “align” with redesigned elementary schools. Colleges are already aligning. It will be one brick at a time, each ripped from the fabric and foundation of the country. This is about control.

With this incredible taxpayer expense – and with academic programs that continue to be as weak as a White House explanation – the children and the country will sink into economic and academic dust. Education policy makers have learned nothing over three decades. Or, perhaps they’ve learned everything. Choose your poison. No doubt, Obama and Duncan will report great improvements.

Somehow it seemed as though the farm had grown richer without making the animals themselves any richer – except, of course, for the pigs and the dogs. Perhaps this was partly because there were so many pigs and so many dogs. (Animal Farm)

The Department of Education is now dictatorial and intrusive, assisted by non-government organizations and corporations working together behind our back. Did you think fascism was just for right-wingers? Read up on “fascism” (but do look beyond Google’s definition). This is educational tyranny.

There are some things you can do, however:

Help your child. Fill in academic gaps. Leave the public system if it isn’t working for your child.•Support Alabama Representative Martha Roby’s effort to rein in the U.S. Department of Education. Ask your representatives to support H.R.5 (the Student Success Act 2013), introduced in Congress on June 6, 2013. This bill won’t undo everything, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Say no to the intrusive data collection that comes with a district’s participation in the CC. Don’t tell them anything about your family that you don’t want Bill Gates, Pearson Education, the ED, the IRS, the Department of Justice, and other government agencies to know. Refuse questionnaires and surveys. Don’t tell them your voting status, political preference or religion.

“In a world of locked rooms, the man with the key is king…” (BBC series Sherlock). Don’t let them have the key.

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Rogers, L. (June 2013). “Children are the key to America’s future. The government wants control of that key.”

Retrieved June 17 2013 from the Betrayed Web site: http://betrayed-whyeducationisfailing.blogspot.com

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