Archive for the ‘USSB’ Tag

Utah State School Board to Vote on Science: Effects on Local Control, Academic Freedom   3 comments

poli science

In case there were not enough fires to put out for those who value academic freedom and local control of education, this week there’s another situation for Utah patriots to address that’s as important to me as the huge ESEA debacle.

This week, the Utah State School Board will vote to pass or not to pass (but by all indications, they will pass) a disaster akin to the day they adopted the Common Core and the day they accepted the student stalking database known as State Longitudinal Database System.  It’s called an update to Utah’s Science Standards, but it’s truly the same as the Next Generation Science Standards (which are the common core for science because NGSS standards, like Common Core, are federally approved, federal-test aligned, and are controlled by a little elite group far away who will centrally manage its “truth” without representation from us.)  And some “expert” Utahns think they’re dandy.

You are invited to the public meeting.  Here are details: http://www.schools.utah.gov/board/Meetings/Agenda.aspx

Sadly, the Utah State Office of Education created a stifling, manipulative “public comment” survey which many called into question (and asked for an audit) — but that survey’s results have not even been given to the Board, according to one board member.  That survey’s problems (and the attitude of USOE in general) included these:

  • Nowhere did the survey allow a member of the public to state opposition to the fact that these standards are IDENTICAL to the NGSS common, national standards.
  • Nowhere did the survey allow a member of the public to state opposition to the fact that these standards are exactly ALIGNED with federally-approved standardized testing.  (This is probably why USOE pushed these narrowed standards so hard; federal cash follows federally-aligned standards for embedded CEDStags.)
  • Nowhere did the survey allow a member of the public to state opposition to narrowing the science survey to only 6th through 8th grades.
  • Nowhere did the survey allow a member of the public to state opposition to the politically slanted nature of a new, extreme interest in environmentalism, materialism, and “climate change”; the survey pretends that the science standards are only about science.
  • Nowhere did the survey allow space for true freedom of expression.

schoolkids

If you truly want input, you will have to contact the Board members one by one.  (The USOE, too.)

Vince Newmeyer, who has been valiantly opposing Utah’s move toward NGSS, has composed a letter to the board, one that he hoped could serve as a template for others’ letters.  Here it is.

 

October 2015 Science Draft

Letter to the Utah State Board of Education

Dear State School Board Member,

Please reject the “SEEd” standards proposed in October 2015. These standards are obsessively focused on environmental and socialissues 1 and neglect many aspects of important science. These standards also do not explore evolution in light of the latest data available but continue promoting some evolution theories that have been discredited years ago.2 Furthermore, USOE has finally admitted that these standards are based3 on the Next Generation Science Standards, the science complement to the Common Core State Standards 4. In fact, there is only one NGSS standard not represented in this October draft 5. Our April “SEEd” draft of standards was a word-for-word 6copy of the NGSS contrary to the USOE’s repeated but false assertions 7. USOE officials have also made multiple public statements8 thatUtah would not adopt national standards beyond Common Core, yet that is essentially what they are doing.

A report that was presented at the conclusion of the 90 day public review of the April 2015 draft. Though a number of aspects were reported on by the USOE, one part of the public input was conspicuously missing. Emails from the public were not reported on by USOE.9The fact that emails were received was mentioned but no measure was given as to the overall public sentiment. Now at the conclusion of the October draft we see no report at all made available to the public that indicates what the results were on the 30 day public review of the October draft. Where is the USOE accountability to the public in this process?

It is argued by some, even some professors of our Utah campuses, that there is a consensus in science; that Global Warming 10 is primarily man caused and Darwinian Evolution (the concept that you, a fish, and a turnip are all distant cousins, separated only by time and chance chemical reactions) are essentially scientific fact11. As such they claim that man caused Global Warming and Darwinian evolution should be taught in our public schools without considering scientific evidence that speaks against such notions.12 It is alleged that true scientist don’t doubt Darwin but such assertions are not supported by the data.13 Science, they say, is reserved for that which is demonstrated 14 and not for teaching beliefs, yet we find that Utah university and public school science classrooms and are filled with the teachings of belief. These proposed standards invite much more, the turning of the science classroom into a mechanism to manipulate future societal thoughts and behaviors.15

None-the-less, here in Utah we like to think that our Utah science teachers and professors only teach actual science. Unfounded myths or beliefs about, for example, our origins, are reserved for places of faith. But even now, such is not the case.16 Also, studies have shown overwhelming support that “teachers and students should have the academic freedom to discuss both the strengths and weaknesses of evolution as a scientific theory.” According to polls, 80% of likely voters are in support of such education.17

Furthermore, even with the recent “clarifications” added to the October “SEEd” draft18, the clarity is no where near the clarity of the existing standards19. This is abundantly clear to those who have taken the time to read the proposed draft and then compare it to the current standards. Yes, modeling, etc. are useful learning tools and good teachers already to do that, and other teachers can be taught about such skills.

Another point: the slight20 positive adjustments that have been made to these standards from the Utah April 2015 word-for-word copy of the NGSS performance standards, will be essentially lost as school districts and teachers select textbooks, sample lesson plans, etc, from the array of “NGSS compatible materials” bringing our classroom education right in line with the materialistic perspective of the NGSS.

You sit on the Board of Education to represent us, the Parents of Utah, and not the elitist educational thinking that is politically popular today.

Again, please reject these standards.

Sincerely,

Concerned Citizens of Utah
Visit http://www.sciencefreedom.org/articles.html for access to resources and research that will help one understand the details and issues related to these proposed standards.

The survey conducted by the USOE on the October 2015 draft, did not give one an opportunity to express an overall thumbs down to reject the whole of the proposal. What they are saying is that you are going to get this NGSS based set of standards regardless of if you like it or not, although they will allow you to provide input for possible minor modifications.

Action Item: To show our discontent we should now make comments to Board members and the State Superintendent as input to these people should be available as the vote on the standards will not be held until the 5th of December (see below for contact info)

Contacts:

The entire Utah State Board of Education Members may be reached via

board@schools.utah.gov

Individual Board Member and Contact info is here
http://schoolboard.utah.gov/board-member-bios

You can find your specific school board representative
here http://elections.utah.gov/map/district-maps

Brad C. Smith
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Utah State Office of Education
250 East 500 South
P.O. Box 144200
Salt Lake City, UT  84114-4200

Curriculum & Instruction
Phone: (801) 538-7698

Ricky Scott
State Science Specialist
Phone: (801) 538-7808
richard.scott@school.utah.gov

David Smith
Coordinator
Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM), Elementary Math (K-6)
Phone: (801) 538-7766
david.smith@schools.utah.gov

1The largest portion of the 6th grade standards are devoted to environmental issues. See http://www.sciencefreedom.org/Issues-With-Oct-SEEd-Draft.html and also http://www.sciencefreedom.org/Oct-Utah-NGSS-Side-By-Side.html

2See standard discussion of 7.5.4 at http://www.sciencefreedom.org/Issues-With-Oct-SEEd-Draft.html see also Professor Spicer TEDx talk on the theory of recapitulation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zzJP7QKUQ3U

3This admission from USOE was found on page 7 of the front material given to board members to introduce the October draft of the science standards. This is also documented in the footnote on the introductory page of each of the grade levels on the October draft of the standards. See http://www.sciencefreedom.org

4See paper “What? NGSS is Common Core Science???” http://www.sciencefreedom.org/NGSS-is-Common-Core-Science.html

5NGSS standard not represented in the October draft is MS-LS1-8. See http://www.sciencefreedom.org/Oct-Utah-NGSS-Side-By-Side.html for details.

6See http://www.sciencefreedom.org/Utah-NGSS-Side-By-Side.html

7See Utah Science Standards Review Meeting – May 19, 2015 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izVPsNYB6PU#t=3m56s

8See Utah’s Deceptive Science Standards Adoption https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQGN31POb_Y

9See http://sciencefreedom.org/USOE-Report-Reviewed.html

10Anthropomorphic or man caused global warming is questioned. Data and techniques use by researchers are challenged see JohnColeman challenges the science in new global warming study https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aq3LS4BVSA0 see also GLOBAL WARMING TEST http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/GlobWarmTest/start.html

11Example: Professor Tolman in the Science Standards Parent Review Committee stated that “Evolution theory is just as solidly supported by data as gravitational theory or relativity theory.” email in authors position.

12There are far too many resources which powerfully tend to falsify the Darwinian paradigm. Here are a few to start with: The Top Ten Scientific Problems with Biological and Chemical Evolution http://www.discovery.org/a/24041 and Respected Cornell geneticist rejects Darwinism http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/respected-cornell-geneticist-rejects-darwinism-in-his-recent-book/

13Educated Intelligent People Don’t Doubt Darwin Right? http://sciencefreedom.org/educated-intelligent-eople-dont-doubt-darwin.html

14The Faith that is Taught in Our Public Schools and Universities http://sciencefreedom.org/faith-taught-in-our-public-schools.html

15Not only is the unquestioned faith of materialism taught in our public schools, but with these proposed standards, based on the NGSS, there is a wide adoption of politicized content in environmentalism in addition to the evolutionary doctrine. The best examples is NGSS itself. One instance is: http://nextgenscience.org/ms-ess3-5-earth-and-human-activity . Though some will claim that a radical environmentalist temperament has been removed, really it still exist. More to the point, though there has been some minor relief in this area, the FULL NGSS will again be enthroned in our science classrooms as district curriculum specialist and teachers adopt or incorporate sample lesson plans and support material that are NGSS compliant.

16The Faith Taught in our Public Schools http://sciencefreedom.org/faith-taught-in-our-public-schools.html

17Zogby Poll: 80% of likely voters agree that “teachers and students should have the academic freedom to discuss both the strengths and weaknesses of evolution as a scientific theory” http://www.evolutionnews.org/2009/02/poll_shatters_stereotypes_with016931.html

18October “SEEd” draft can be found here for grades 6-8 http://www.schools.utah.gov/CURR/science/Revision/SEEdStandardsDraft.aspx

19Existing standards can be found at http://www.schools.utah.gov/CURR/science/Core/Grade36.aspx and http://www.schools.utah.gov/CURR/science/Core/Grade78.aspx

20List of changes to October draft http://sciencefreedom.org/short-summary-of-changes-april-october-2015-utah-seed.html

——————————————————————————————————————————

Vince Newmeyer suggests viewing the following videos to further understand the NGSS – Utah Science alteration situation.

 

  1. “Do Human Embryos Have Gills and Does it Matter?”

2.   News Report on Global Warming Not Being True Science

3.   Utah Board Minutes on Science Standards Adoption

4.  Public Comment Meeting on the Utah Adopting NGSS-Aligned Standards  (2015)

 

Tucker, a Top Ten Scariest Ed Reformer, to Lecture at Legislator-USOE Conference   11 comments

 

I’m surely sprouting new gray hairs at 80 miles per hour.

If there was doubt about whether something was truly rotten in the state of education governance here in sweet, naiive Utah, this news should end that doubt: of all the possible gurus, this is who our legislators, USOE and state school board have invited as the out-of-town centerpiece for a joint education conference taking place this Wednesday and Thursday.

tucker

 

Marc Tucker.

You may recall that he’s on the Top Ten List of Scariest People in Education Reform.

He’s the espouser of no more Algebra II in our high schools, the dismisser of classic literature as not so relevant, a disciple of federal power, a conspirator with Hillary Clinton for cradle-to-grave student-citizen micromanagement, and the top crusader against what he calls “the beloved American emblem: local control” –he’s the one.

The  conference is for Utah’s State Board of Education, State Office of Education, and legislators, but it’s open to the public and will be streamed.

If you can attend, it’s  on September 2 and 3, at Gilbert Great Hall, R. Haze Hunter Conference Center, Southern Utah University, Cedar City, Utah.

 

banner-hunterconferencecenter

 

If you don’t know who Marc Tucker is, learn a little bit more.

Marc Tucker is– unbelievable as it may seem– an open advocate for the complete deletion of local control.   You read it right. This is a direct quote  from Tucker:

 The United States will have to largely  abandon the beloved emblem of American education: local control. If the goal is  to greatly increase the capacity and authority of the state education agencies,  much of the new authority will have to come at the expense of local  control.

Marc Tucker also despises what is –or was– real education, in favor of the robotic efficiency  of cradle-to-grave federal micromanagement of systems.  He wrote the unbelievable NCEE report that advocates for the removal of Algebra II –and any math beyond it from high schools, that also labeled classic literature and student personal writing “less relevant” and dismissable.  If this sounds like impossible, deliberate dumbing down, you have not read Tucker’s reasoning, which envisions a socialist’s factory view of school: a place to create economy-centered worker bees, to generate a collective; not a place to “waste” resources for soaring and free thinkers.  He’s all about efficiency at the expense of individual freedom.

Marc Tucker’s BFF relationship with the creepiest lady in D.C., Hillary Clinton,  is notable.  It is a decades-long collaboration that, back in the 90s, envisioned US education with all federal control rather than any local control. That collaboration was recorded in the Congressional public record.  Tucker and Clinton outlined the entire Common Core/Common Data movement, but used different terminology.  Read that in full sometime.

Marc Tucker’s shameful, anti-freedom philosophies have been repeatedly, successfully put to pasture by great thinkers and scholars– for example, very clearly, by Dr. Yong Zhao.  Dr. Zhao should have been invited to advise Utah this week, not Tucker!

If you want to know more, I’ve written many articles about Marc Tucker.  He’s bad news.  Read my archive on Tucker at this link.

I really can’t believe he’s coming.

What are your thoughts?  Is this okay?

haze

–If he were invited to the university for a two-sided debate, fine!

–If his visit was a University lecture, some attempt by the dean to expose students to radical ideas from extreme ends of a spectrum, fine!

But this is not a university lecture.

It’s a joint legislative – school board – USOE meeting, which just happens to be taking place at SUU.  It could have been at any venue.

No one is slated to debate him.

Marc “end-local-control” Tucker is the only out of town speaker coming to this conference to address the Utah legislature and the Utah State Office and School Board.  He was hand selected for the at-taxpayer-expense conference –as someone to look to for advice.

That decision says more about the state of education politics in Utah than anything more I could write tonight.

tuc

 

 

 

Reject Biased NGSS Science Standards May 6 in Provo   3 comments

The Vernal and St. George science standards meetings have passed, but you can still attend the Provo, North Logan, and Salt Lake City meetings.  The Utah State Office of Education (USOE) has set them up for parents and teachers to give input or to question the adoption of common, national standards for science for Utah.

Here are the remaining dates and addresses.  Please come!  You don’t have to be a scientist.  You just have to care about defending principles of academic honesty, academic freedom, and preserving our students’ right to debate and discover truth, unfettered to a politically slanted set of science standards.

Wednesday, May 6
Provo School District Office
Location: Professional Development Center
280 West 940 North
Provo, Utah 84604

Wednesday, May 13
Cache County School District Office
Location: Professional Development Center
2063 North 1200 East
North Logan, Utah 84341

Tuesday, May 19
Salt Lake Center for Science Education (SLCSE)
Location: The Media Center
1400 Goodwin Avenue
Salt Lake City, Utah 84116

For a long time, the USOE was pretending that the revisions of Utah’s science standards were not the national, common science standards, (Next-Generation Science Standards or NGSS) and were saying that these new standards were just a revision.  Now USOE admits this is actually NGSS, which is created by the same businessmen (at Achieve, Inc.) that wrote Common Core standards for English and math.  USOE is defending the upcoming adoption, a facade-dropping that might have something to do with the fact that at least two parents who served on the committee to review Utah’s science standards, Alisa Ellis and Vincent Newberg, have spoken out and have exposed Utah’s adoption of NGSS.

This week, Alisa Ellis posted the following chart, showing that Utah’s “new, revised” science core is the exact same thing as the NGSS standards, word for word, but with renumbering.  Vincent has pointed out that the NGSS standards are extremely biased and politically slanted, with “climate change” being presented over fifty times while electricity is mentioned once; with Darwinism presented as if it were settled science while life sciences like in-depth cell structure study, the human respiratory system, and other basic biology concepts being pushed aside in favor of the politicized environmental agenda.

If nobody shows up, speaks up, or posts comments at the USOE’s public comment site (only good for 90 days) then they’ll push forward with this agenda.  Please show up and speak up.

After you leave your comments at the USOE’s survey monkey, please copy and paste your comments into an email for the local and state school boards.   State email:  Board@schools.utah.gov 

ngss 1ngss 2

Alisa  Ellis also gave me permission to post her letter here, which went to the state school board.  I appreciate her insistence that Mr. Scott, the USOE and the State Board cease censoring public comment.  This censorship of the public happened when the public was asked to give comment about the English and math common standards by the Governor last year (two and a half years after Utah had adopted Common Core).

Only standards-specific comments were admitted!  This ridiculous censoring practice pretends there are no problems with national standards outside their content.  But there are two huge prongs to the pitchfork:  content, and control.  Trying to limit public comment to content-only issues just ignores the big problem of loss of local control and academic liberty.

 

Letter from Alisa Ellis:

 

State Board Members,

 

I’m writing to encourage you all to attend one of the 4 remaining science meetings that are being held around the state.  I was very disappointed to hear that not one elected official was at the meeting in St. George last week.  After one mom in attendance wrote to her local school board expressing her disappointment that they weren’t in attendance, a board member told her that they had no idea the meeting was taking place.  This is the same story we’re finding across the state.  

While it is your job to set the standards, the local boards will have to implement them.  Notice should be sent to each local board in the state inviting them to these meetings.  I already covered Uintah, Daggett and Duchesne for you.  

After enduring years of pushback by citizens that are in-part frustrated by the lack of discussion with parents prior to adoption of Common Core, I expected to see these meetings advertised far and wide to get as many people there as possible.  Each district has systems capable of calling or email every parent in the district.  Why aren’t these systems being utilized?  I sit in disbelief that I, a parent, have to ask friends to help me advertise, email local boards, get on the radio, etc to draw attendance to these meetings.  It’s unbelievable.  Please stop doing the bare minimum in advertising these events.  It doesn’t have to cost money to get the word out.

It is also reprehensible the first meeting was only announced 2 days before.  

According to the UT constitution it is the board’s job not the staff of the USOE to set standards.  That means the responsibility lies on your heads.  I’m tired of the the staff being the ones that shield the elected officials from those that elect them.  By not attending these meetings and only listening to Ricky Scott’s report, you will be getting a sanitized/ censored version of public feedback. 

Mr. Scott informed attendees that he would only be taking specific criticism and when given specific feedback he didn’t agree with, the citizens felt ignored.  I understand the desire by the staff to keep the discussion focused on specific problems with the standards, but that is not the only complaint the public has.  As elected officials you don’t get to tell us what we’re allowed to be concerned about.  While important, it leaves no room for philosophical complaints.  For instance, I see many, many problems with the specific standards but I also 100% do not agree with using a national standard, whether federal or private industry; it is not in line with my vision of education.  Children should not be standardized.

 Please take some initiative and stop the censoring of comments, unless they disparage individuals by name, or use foul language, etc.

 Alisa Ellis

 

————————————-

 

Fordham Institute rated Utah’s science standards as being higher than the NGSS.  So why is the USOE pushing so hard to adopt NGSS?

The biggest and ugliest answer may be that although Utah’s SAGE test, written by American Institutes for Research, already aligns to common core math and English, it doesn’t align with common science standards yet.  Since Utah’s  AIR/SAGE test is not (for science) yet aligned to the federally synchronized SBAC and PARCC tests, student scores cannot be understood by the overlords in their federal, common Edfacts Data Exchange lens.   So the feds are most likely pressuring the USOE to align.

The question is, will parents and teachers just be too busy; will they just roll over; will they let someone else worry about it?  Or will they stand up and say no?

Once lost, these freedoms don’t come back.

 

This video documents the deception history of the USOE and its false promises to legislators to NOT adopt nationalized science standards:

 

Alpine School Board Members Speak Out For Student Privacy   5 comments

Alpine-Board-10x8-1024x819

 

Three remarkable Alpine School Board Members: Wendy Hart (front left) Brian Halladay (standing, middle)  and Paula Hill (front, right) have written an open letter on student privacy, citing documented realities (contracts, documents and laws) that boldly stand for student privacy and parental rights, against Common Core SAGE/AIR testing.  The letter stands tall against statements from State Associate Superintendent Judy Park and the Utah State Office of Education that claim all is well with student privacy in Utah schools.

Hats off to Hart, Halladay and Hill for speaking up despite pressure to go along in silence with the decisions or positions held at the state level.

Before I post the letter, here’s a little background:

Before Common Core testing even began, Utah officially dropped out of SBAC (a federally funded Common Core test maker) but then immediately picked up, as a replacement, test maker  AIR  (American Institutes for Research– also  federally approved, but not federally funded; Common Core-aligned; a test maker that specializes in psychometrics and behavioral testing,  prioritizes promoting the LGTB philosophy –and is officially partnered with SBAC!)  Many Utah parents are opting their children out of these tests, and state level officials are desperately trying to persuade the population that there’s no reason to opt out.

Statements promoting and approving AIR and SAGE, by Assistant Superintendent Judy Park, have been rebutted and even publically debated before– but this new letter stands very, very  tall, shedding much more light on the student privacy dangers of SAGE/AIR and highlighting the lack of Utah laws that protect an individuals’ ownership over his/her own data.

 

Here’s the letter:

 

September 18, 2014

 

Dr. Judy Park

Utah State Office of Education

Dear Dr. Park,

 

Thank you for taking the time to address some of the issues with AIR and SAGE testing.  We especially appreciate your citations of the contract.  In the interest of openness and transparency, we have a point of clarification, as well as some follow-up questions.

To begin, a point of clarification.  Your letter is directed to Superintendent Henshaw who communicated some of our concerns about SAGE and AIR to you.  In your letter, you indicate that “False, undocumented and baseless allegations need to cease.”  We wish to clarify that the concerns expressed by Dr. Henshaw were not coming from him, and, as such, your directive would not be to him but to those of us on the board and our constituents who are raising questions, based on our reading of the AIR contract with USOE.  Because Dr. Henshaw reports to the Alpine School Board and not the other way around, any directive for Dr. Henshaw to rein in these ‘allegations’ from board members or constituents would be inappropriate.  We can appreciate that you are troubled by this, but we would recommend that more information and more discussion would be a preferable way of resolving concerns, as opposed to suggesting that concerned representatives and their consitutents simply remain silent.

So, in that spirit of openness, we have the following clarifications and follow-up questions.

We begin by addressing the sections of the AIR contract cited in your letter of August 14.  It was very much appreciated because these are the same sections of the contract that we have studied.  We were hopeful that there would be additional insight.  Unfortunately, we did not find any assurance in the pages listed.

I-96 – I-98:  This section nicely addresses the physical, network, and software security for the server and test items.  However, the only reference to AIR employees, their ability to access or use any data is left to “Utah’s public records laws, FERPA, and other federal laws.”  FERPA, as many know, has been modified by the US Dept of Education to allow for the sharing of data without parental knowledge or consent as long as it can be justified as an ‘educational program’. Additionally, FERPA only contains penalties for those entities receiving federal funds.  Since Utah is paying directly for SAGE testing, FERPA is a meaningless law in this regard.  Additionally, Utah’s public records laws appear to only address the openness of public records, but are insufficient when it comes to privacy or use of data, including that of a minor.  If there are robust privacy laws in Utah’s public records laws, we would appreciate additional citations.  Please cite the other federal laws that protect the privacy of our students.

I-61:  Addresses the technical protocols for the data transfer, as well as encryption of passwords.  Again, this doesn’t address those who are given access by AIR to the data for whatever purpose.

I-72 – I-73:  Addresses the security of those contractors who will be manually scoring during the pilot testing.  This addresses a particular third-party in a particular role, but not AIR as an entity or its employees, other than this particular instance.

I-85 – I-86:  Addresses the issues of users and roles for the database and USOE updates.  This limits the appropriate access to those of us in Utah, based on whether we are teachers, principals, board members, USOE, etc.  Again, this does not address anything about AIR as an entity or its employees.

While all these security precautions are necessary, and we are grateful they are included, they do nothing to address the particular issues that were raised at the August 12, 2014 Alpine School Board Meeting.  Some of our concerns are as follows:

1)  Prior to the Addendum from March 2014 (for which we are grateful) there was no prohibition on sharing data with a third-party.  As indicated, the changes to FERPA would allow AIR to legally share data with a third-party as long as that sharing was for ‘an educational program’ without parental knowledge or consent.  As such, the addendum now allows for that sharing only with the USOE’s consent.  We are still concerned that parents are not asked to give consent and may not have knowledge of their student’s data being shared.

2) AIR itself is a research firm dedicated to conducting and applying the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation.  As such, they are involved with data collection and evaluation. In the contract and addendum cited, there is nothing that prohibits how AIR or its subsidiary organizations may use, query, analyze or access any or all student data from the SAGE tests in Utah.  They would have access to many data sets from many entities.  They also would have multiple on-going research projects.  There is no prohibition on what inquiries, research or analysis can be done on the data from SAGE testing.  As long as AIR does not profit from the data or share with a third-party without the USOE’s consent, the data is managed by AIR and available for access.  What are the methods in place to prevent AIR from accessing the data for additional research or analysis?  AIR does not need to share the data with a third-party to violate the privacy of a student or a set of students.  However, since they control and manage the database, there is nothing that would prevent this access.

3) There are no prohibitions in the contract regarding behavioral data.  While we realize Mr. Cohen has said the contract does not call for gathering or evaluating behavioral data, and that AIR is not inclined to do so, there are, again, no prohibitions or penalties associated with gathering or evaluating behavioral data.  State law allows for the use of behavioral data in the year-end testing.  So, there are no legal prohibitions on the use or collection of behavioral data.  Since behavioral research is the primary mission of AIR, as indicated by its mission statement, it is a concern for parents.  If AIR has no desire to collect behavioral data as part of the SAGE testing, it should state so explicitly in a legally-binding manner.

4) Many parents have, legally, opted out of SAGE testing for their students.  As such, why is AIR receiving any information on these students?  Parents feel it is a grave violation of their trust by USOE that any data the USOE has received from the schools can be input into the SAGE database, not to mention the State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS).  There must, at a minimum, be a way for parents to opt out of all sharing of their student’s dat with AIR and the SLDS.  At what point, if any, will student data be purged from the AIR database?  What is the method for demonstrating the data has been properly purged?

Additionally, we appreciate the response of Mr. Cohen to our concerns.  Based on his response, we have the following questions.

1)  Please list the “express purposes” for which the release, sharing or sale of data is not prohibited, per contract.

2) What third parties are AIR “explicitly permitted by the State of Utah” to provide data to?

3) What research has AIR been requested and directed by the Utah State Office of Education to conduct?

4) What entity (or entities) has AIR been authorized by the State of Utah to release data to?

5) Please list the source of the contract that states that AIR is prohibited from releasing data to the federal government.

6) What entity (or entities) have been designated by the USOE to receive data from AIR?

7) The memo does not address companies owned or operated by AIR, which would not be considered third-parties.  Please state, per contract, where AIR does not share data within related party entities.

Finally, we have the following questions related to the validity and reliability of the SAGe testing.  We understand that this information would not be protected by copyright, and therefore, could be provided to us, as elected officials.

1. Normative Sample Details (who took the test)

2. Coefficient Alpha Reliability

3. Content description Validity

4. Differential Item Function Analysis

5. Criterion Prediction Validity

6. Construct Identification Validity

7. Other types of validity scales/constructs that are applicable only to CAT test designs

We appreciate the opportunity to discuss this more in the future.  As those who are responsible to the parents of this district, we feel it is imperative that our concerns are addressed.  And, when all is said and done, it is most important that parents have the opportunity to protect whatever student information they feel is necessary.  Just because parents decide to educate their children in our public school system does not mean that we, as a state government, are entitled to whatever information about their children we feel in necessary.  Parents are still, by state law, primarily responsible for the education and the upbringing of their children.  As such, their wishes and their need to protect information on their students is paramount.  As members of the Alpine School Board, we must represent the different views and concerns of all the parents in our area.  For those who have no concerns, then you may proceed as usual.  For those who do have concerns, it is incumbent on us to raise these questions and to obtain the most accurate information possible.

Thank you for your time, and we look forward to more information in the future.

 

Sincerely,

 

Brian Halladay

ASD4

Wendy Hart

ASD2

Paula Hill

ASD1

 

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I wish every Utah parent, teacher, student and principal read this letter– and took action!

The time has long passed for blind trust in Dr. Park, in the State Office of Education and in the State School Board. Surely, power holders –in the legislature, in district administrative offices, and in the governor’s office who read this letter– will finally act.

Share this letter!

Utahns Petition State School Board to Drop Fed Waiver and Common Core   1 comment

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If you have not already done so, please sign the petition letter that’s going to the State Board of Education.  Link here.

 

Tomorrow’s state school board meeting is a big deal.   Please be there and bring people.  Wear a grass green shirt to show opposition to the federal ESEA/NCLB waiver and to Common Core.

At 9:00 a.m., this peaceful outdoor protest by the offices of education will feature YOU and YOUR friends and family, with your signs, taking a stand.

We will take a stand against the stripping away of local control of our schools, the guinea pig-like academic experimentation on our children, and against the replacement of classic, time-tested education with the Common Core snake oil that nobody was consulted about, prior to being billed for.  We will  stand against the unconstitutional power grab of the Department of Education and claim the right as parents and as citizens to reclaim local control.  We are calling the bluff of the Department of Education, which pretends to authority that it does not hold.

If you have not already done so, please sign the petition letter that’s going to the State Board of Education.  Link here.

Another letter and petition has already gone to the State School Board from members of the Utah Chamber of Commerce and others.  It says the opposite message.  Understand:  the national and state Chambers of Commerce have put huge pressure on the state school boards to continue with the ESEA/NCLB waivers for one simple reason:  money.

In their  letter, signed by many Utah business people and local school board members, the governor’s appointee to review Common Core wrote that “as a key stakeholder, surely the perspectives and support of the business community are an important plan of any successful plan for improving education in the state.”  Translation:  “because we’ve invested money in the Common Core-based technologies and are making a mint off this experiment, and because we work for organizations heavily funded by Common Core financier Bill Gates, we want and claim a stake in your child’s education.”

Our letter, which was written yesterday, has already been signed by hundreds and hundreds of people.  It says this  (highlights):

 

To the Members of the Utah state Board of Education:

… To receive a waiver from NCLB, Utah agreed to option A, which required Utah to show proof that we had adopted Common Core.  In other words, the state was coerced into agreeing to a reform package that exerts a far greater control over our state education system than NCLB.

The waiver should not be renewed… The U.S. Constitution gives the federal government no opportunity to be involved in Utah education.  By renewing the waiver, Utah will be obligated to continue with their Common Core commitment to the federal government, which is a violation of both federal and state Constitutions.  

…Utah law states that we can and shall be flexible with our funding to utilize it to meet state goals and objectives over federal goals and objectives.

Concerns that there may be a reduction in federal funds affecting Title I schools should not stop the board from doing the right thing.

 It will be the responsibility of the legislature and the Governor to make sure that Title I schools have necessary funding.

Please do not sign the waiver.

Signed—

 

Please ask friends to  sign  our letter to the board.   Then come to tomorrow’s open board meeting and to the protest.   If you are unable to come, write to the state and local boards of education.

Thank you.

 

 

 

Common Core Lawsuit: Teachers and Parents v. Utah State School Board   2 comments

 

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So many Utahns have become so hopping mad* about Common Core in our schools that a few weeks ago, Governor Herbert publically announced that the state Attorney General will now conduct a “thorough legal review” of the rapidly adopted, unvetted education and testing standards.  He’s got a public input website  on the academic aspects of the Common Core.  But his main question is:  do the standards represent “federal entanglement”?

Well, that seems like an easy question  for the Attorney General!  Just read Utah’s Race to the Top application, with its federal points system based, in large part, on a state agreeing to take on the Common Core.  Or check out Obama’s four pillars of education reform.  Or check out Obama’s and Secretary Duncan’s speeches on the subject.  Or read the federal definition of “college and career ready standards.”  Not hard.

But federal entanglement’s not the only question.  A new Libertas Institute lawsuit  asks this key question:  Did the Board violate state law in rushing through Common Core’s adoption without legally required input from parents, teachers, employers, superintendents and school boards?  At least one public school has openly declared that not even slightly were they consulted.  And they’re not happy about it.

The lawsuit asks for a declaratory judgment, saying that the Board failed to consult with local school boards, superintendents, teachers, employers and parents as required by law (53A-1-402.6).  It asks for an order enjoining the Board from further implementing Common Core, from requiring schools to implement Common Core, and from enforcing Common Core.

I am happy to be one of the parents/educators who are the plaintiffs in this case, and grateful to Libertas Institute for footing the bill.

Go, fight, win.

 

libertas

 

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* Remember to attend  if at all possible this month’s public state school board meeting and the big protest THIS WEEK at the State Board of Education offices in downtown Salt Lake City:  August 8th, at 9 a.m.  Many Utahns against Common Core will be protesting with signs outside the building while others will be making public comment later, during the public comment segment around 10:30 inside the building.  See you there.

Alan Singer on Pearson Ed: Why Pearson Tests Our Kids   2 comments

Note to Utahns: Utah children are being tested by AIR, not by Pearson.  So why post this article?

  It’s no secret that Utah, as well as the federal government, has heavily invested in Pearson/Microsoft‘s philosophy and product.  Pearson leads out in all Common Core implementation and student-data gathering products nationwide, including here in Utah (except for the SAGE/AIR test itself).  

Alan Singer’s article adds to the growing argument against Pearson, period.  My hope is that both Pearson’s products and its “one-global-governance-system” philosophy will be vigorously rejected and that Pearson will not  receive one more penny of the countless Utah tax dollars it has already claimed, both via curriculum sales and via its creepy database building for our state’s school system.  

Why Pearson Tests Our Kids

by Alan Singer,  Hofstra University

 (Posted with permission from the author and also published here)

 

Pearson invited me to breakfast. Well not just me. I received an email inviting Long Island educators to a free “Breakfast Briefing” promoting “Pearson Personalized Learning” that would empower me to “Turn your traditional student learning into Student-Centered learning by delivering the right curriculum to the right student, at the right time.” I checked out Pearson’s personal learning products online and then decided that the free breakfast and the opportunity to annoy them was not worth the trip.

 

Pearson is promoting GradPoint, “an easy to use web based solution for grades 6-12” that “includes over 180 rigorous courses (Core, Electives, AP and Foreign Language & CTE).;” iLit, “a tablet-based reading intervention for students in grades 4-10” which promises “it has everything your class needs to gain two years of reading growth in a single year;” and aimsweb, “the leading assessment and RTI solution in school today-a complete web-based solution for universal screening, progress monitoring, and data management for Grades K-12.”

 

I thought calling their literacy program iLit was pretty funny, but otherwise I find their promotion scary. “Pearson Personalized Learning” is not about supporting schools; it is about replacing them. And it is about replacing them without any evidence that their products work or any concern for the impact of their products on schools and student learning.

 

Pearson executives Sir Michael Barber, Saad Rizvi and John Fallon call their global market strategy “The Incomplete Guide To Delivering Learning Outcomes.” Fallon, Pearson CEO, has been with the company for most of his professional career. He is behind the push for “efficacy,” the corporate buzzword, which in practical terms translates into the constant assessing of student performance who are using Pearson products. The testing strategy tied into common core in the United States is neither an accident nor an accessory. Testing is the core of common core.

 

I find Barber and Rizvi even more interesting than Fallon for understanding Pearson’s marketing strategies. Barber is Pearson’s chief education strategist and leads its three-pronged assault on education around the world through what Pearson calls efficacy, affordable learning, and the Pearson Knowledge and Research Centre. Efficacy is supposed to be about what works in education based on research done at the research centre, but everything is actually organized around the Pearson goal of “finding business models for affordable schools” that they will be selling, especially in “developing areas of the world.”

 

If you want to know how Pearson plans to operate, you have to look at McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm and advisor to some of the world’s leading businesses, governments, and institutions. Before joining Pearson, Michael Barber had a similar role at McKinsey where he was a partner. Saad Rizvi, who is Pearson’s Senior Vice President for Efficacy and head of its Catalyst for Education team, was a consultant at McKinsey. McKinsey & Company’s clients include 100 of the top 150 companies in the world. It has advised the Bank of England, the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, and the German government.

 

The main job of McKinsey is to help companies maintain profitability by closing subsidies, selling assets, shifting production, and laying off workers. McKinsey has had its share of mishaps. Former employees include Jeff Skilling, the disgraced chief executive of Enron and Rajat K. Gupta, who was convicted of insider trading. Other disasters include advising Time Warner on its ill-fated merger with AOL, advising General Motors on how to compete with Japanese automakers, and advising AT&T not to be concerned about cellphones. A top McKinsey partner dismissed these failures saying “We are advisers, and it is management’s job to take all the advice they receive and make their own decisions. Not to say that McKinsey told me to do this.”

I think a fair question to ask is, do we want the business model that led to the Eron scam and these other corporate disasters employed in operating American schools and McKinsey’s no-fault attitude toward advising local, state, and federal governments on educational policy?

 

Pearson’s Affordable Learning division currently focuses on emerging markets in Africa and India, but it is the model for Pearson business worldwide. It includes eAdvance (South Africa), which sponsors a blended learning chain called Spark Schools; Omega, a chain of thirty-eight private schools in Ghana; Bridge International Academies in Kenya; and Zaya, an educational technology and service company contracted to operate twenty-seven schools; Suiksha, a chain of pre-schools; Experifun, which markets science learning products; Avanti, after-school test prep; and Village Capital (Edupreneurs) promoting private education start-up companies, all based in India. The blurb for eAdvance’s Spark Schools give some sense of what Pearson is trying to do in Africa, India and worldwide – under price the market to disrupt existing educational institutions so Pearson companies can move in, take over, and gobble up profits.

 

“SPARK Schools has bold aspirations to disrupt the South African education system through introducing an innovative learning methodology to the African continent. In the SPARK Schools model, students split their time between digital content that adapts in difficulty to their learning and classroom interaction based on best practice pedagogy. Importantly, the blended model also allows eAdvance to deliver high quality education at an affordable price.” It will “build eight low-cost blended learning schools over the next three years, and more than 60 in the next ten.”

Pearson is also using mergers to expand its markets and influence. In December 2013, Pearson agreed to purchase Grupo Multi, an English-language training company in Brazil, to accelerate growth in Latin America.

 

Pearson uses the desperation of Third World countries to modernize to get its foot in the door and to act without regulation or oversight. Up until now, about sixty percentof Pearson’s sales were in the United States, however expansion stalled in this country because of lower freshman enrollments in U.S. colleges and a slowdown in textbook markets. Sales also suffered in Great Britain because of curriculum changes and the company spent about $200 million organizing its push into foreign digital markets.

 

As a result of these issues, Moody’s Investors Service, a ratings agency, lowered its evaluation of Pearson from stable to negative. “We are changing the outlook to negative as Pearson’s debt protection metrics for fiscal year 2013 are likely to weaken considerably,” says According to Gunjan Dixit, a Moody’s Assistant Vice President-Analyst, “This view reflects Pearson’s tough trading conditions, particularly in North America and the UK; the greater-than-originally-anticipated spending on restructuring; and certain start-up costs for new contracts in higher education and increased provisions for returns.” According to Moody’s, key challenges for Pearson in the future include (1) the fiscal health of U.S. states and international government funding bodies, in its schools and higher education businesses; (2) difficult market conditions in the U.S. education market; (3) the vulnerability of its Financial Times group; and (4) the accelerating transition of trade book publishing to electronic formats. Pearson stockholders were so disappointed in the company’s financial performance that in April 2014, shareholders protested against excessive executive bonuses.

 

In the United States, Pearson faces other problems that may be related to over expansion, the inability to deliver what was promised, and possible under the table agreements on contracts. In Florida, state officials blamed Pearson Education when at least a dozen Florida school districts were forced to suspend online testing this April because students had trouble signing in for the test. for the situation. Other problems included slowness when students tried to download test questions or submit answers and an inexplicable warning message that students should notify their teacher or proctor about a problem that did not exist. “State Education Commissioner Pam Stewart complained to Pearson that the “failure is inexcusable. Florida’s students and teachers work too hard on learning to be distracted by these needless and avoidable technological issues.”

 

Pearson blamed the test problems on a third-party hosting service provider. However, in recent years Pearson has had similar problems with computerized tests in Florida before as well as in other states. In 2011, Wyoming fined Pearson $5.1 million because of software problems and then switched back to paper tests. In April, Pearson was also forced to acknowledge and apologize for “intermittent disruptions to some of our online testing services.” This time they blamed a different sub-contractor.

 

In the meantime, the American Institutes for Research is challenging the awarding of a lucrative common core test development contract to Pearson. While the complaint is being brought in New Mexico, it has national ramification. The contract is for developing test-items, test delivery, reporting results, and analysis of student performance for states that are part of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, one of two main consortia designing tests linked to the common-core standards. The plaintiff claims the process for awarding the contract was designed to specifically benefit Pearson, which ended up being the only bidder, and was therefore illegal.

 

In New York State, parents and teachers are outraged because teachers and building administrators are forced to sign statements promising not to discuss or release questions about new Pearson “Common Core” aligned high-stakes tests. In the past, questions from past state high school “Regents” exams were posted on the State Education website. Now Pearson, which is paid $32 million by New York State to create the tests is demanding a payment of an additional $8 million to permit the state to post the questions.

 

 

In New Zealand, a group called Save Our Schools NZ is protesting the misuse of PISA (Programme of International Student Assessment) tests and rankings by national education departments. They charge “Pisa, with its three-year assessment cycle, has caused a shift of attention to short-term fixes designed to help a country quickly climb the rankings, despite research showing that enduring changes in education practice take decades, not a few years, to come to fruition.” Pearson holds the contract to prepare PISA assessments starting in 2015.

 

For all its claims about efficacy, Pearson is not a very efficient company. For all its claims about valuing education, the only thing Pearson appears to value is profit.

 

Alan Singer, Director, Secondary Education Social Studies
Department of Teaching, Literacy and Leadership
128 Hagedorn Hall / 119 Hofstra University / Hempstead, NY 11549

For Utah School Districts: A Common Core Fact-Checking Adventure   3 comments

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Let’s not call this research!   This is a fact-checking adventure.

This adventure begins because of the FAQ statements about Common Core posted at the Provo  School District website.  (See it on their  website or just scroll to the bottom of the page where I’ve pasted it.)

This post is not meant to be accusatory or mean.  Provo District and other districts tend to trust and echo  what’s spoken and posted by the State Office.   Clearly, districts and boards, like anyone, can and do make factual errors; but when the errors are very clearly pointed out, those mistakes should be corrected.

I apologize for the length of this article.  I chiseled and chiseled but cannot in good conscience make it any shorter. 

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Question #1 at the Provo District FAQ states: “The Common Core was a grassroots initiative initiated by state governors and Superintendents in 2007.”

Common Core is far from being “grassroots.”  President Obama has been pushing for national standards for many years.  In 2007, he was justifying his decision to stop NASA’s Moon and Mars exploration programs to fund “his” new education program.  His administration has used different terms to refer to his takeover of local education, but it has also provided a federal, official definition   of “college and career ready standards” being “standards that are common to a significant number of states” –which can only be Common Core.  He paid for Common Core test development.  And Obama’s famous blueprint for reform included four education reforms, one of which was data collection, one of which was common standards and tests, and you can read the rest.

Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, claimed that a federal takeover of education was Obama’s idea.  Buried in the second half of a long, glowing official speech about U.S. education reform are  these words by Arne Duncan: “The North Star guiding the alignment of our cradle-to-career education agenda is President Obama’s goal” –and he said that even though: “Traditionally, the federal government in the U.S. has had a limited role in education policy,” Obama “has sought to fundamentally shift the federal role, so that the Department is doing much more…  America is now in the midst of a “quiet revolution” in school reform.”

Secretary Duncan  gloated that many states fell for the financially-baited federal Common Core hook without debating the move, but Duncan always carefully called the Standards a state-led creation, keeping up the ruse.  He said that a majority of 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. Over three-fourths of all U.S. public school students now reside in states that have voluntarily adopted higher, common college-ready standards… That is an absolute game-changer.”

Indeed it was a game changer.

To clear up doubt about whether Common Core was or was not grassroots-and-teacher-led, just follow the money trail. Those who paid for and promote this are being paid, or will be handsomely paid as it is implemented, to do so. The SBAC and PARCC Common Core tests are funded by the federal government. The Common Core standards’ writing, marketing and implementation are funded primarily by Microsoft owner, Pearson-Ed partner Bill Gates.   This unelected influence continues locally.  In Utah, the ways in which Pearson/Gates controls school data collection  is formidable.

Most telling is the official partnership of the Department of Education with the Common Core creators.  The ongoing support (coercion) of the federal government to have states adopt the private-trade-group held, copyrighted Common Core means that Common Core is neither purely a federal takeover nor is it purely a privatization of public schools, but it is a public-private partnership, a concept that takes voters out of the decision making driver’s seat.

Question #1 also misleads us by saying that Common Core was “initiated by state governors and superintendents.”   It is true that the governors’ club, (NGA) and the superintendents’ club, (CCSSO) did create and copyright Common Core.  Their “frequently asked questions” officially explains:  “the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), led the development of the Common Core State Standards and continue to lead…”  But not all governors belong to NGA!  Not all superintendents belong to CCSSO!  Some, in fact, are vehemently opposed to these private, closed-door, non-transparent, unelected trade organizations that wield falsely assumed power.  I say “falsely assumed” because they pretend to Congress-like national representational authority for states, but they are not an elected group.  No voter can affect what they do.  No reporter can report on what they do.

Questions 2, 3 and 4 take on the question of whether standards and curriculum are independent of one another.  This is like saying that a skeleton (standards) does not dictate what a body (curriculum) looks like.  It’s a half-truth: sure, they are not the same thing.  But I defy anyone to build a curriculum and related tests that truly soar above or are very different looking than the standards they are built upon.  Watch the statement in a video by main Common Core funder Bill Gates as he explains to legislators that he’s looking forward to schools being a uniform customer base, and that “we’ll only know if Common Core standards work” when the standards, curriculum and tests align.  You might also listen to teachers who testify that standards do drive curriculum and testing, as they narrow the autonomy and innovation of a classroom.

Question 5 asserts that the Common Core standards were internationally benchmarked.  This is not true.

Dr. James Milgram, the Stanford emeritus professor of mathematics who served on the Common Core validation committee and who refused to sign off on the standards, said:

I can tell you that my main objection to Core Standards, and the reason I didn’t sign off on them was that they did not match up to international expectations. They were at least 2 years behind the practices in the high achieving countries by 7th grade, and, as a number of people have observed, only require partial understanding of what would be the content of a normal, solid, course in Algebra I or Geometry. Moreover, they cover very little of the content of Algebra II, and none of any higher level course… They will not help our children match up to the students in the top foreign countries…”

Likewise, Professor Sandra Stotsky, who served on the same committee, who also refused to sign off on the Common Core standards because they were academically inferior,  has written:

“…we are regularly told that Common Core’s standards are internationally benchmarked. Joel Klein, former head of the New York City schools, most recently repeated this myth in an interview with Paul Gigot, the Wall Street Journal editor, during the first week in June. Not mentioned at all in the interview or the op-ed he co-authored in the WSJ a week later is Klein’s current position in a company that does a lot of business with Common Core. An Exxon ad, repeated multiple times during a recently televised national tennis match, also suggested that Common Core’s standards were internationally benchmarked. We don’t know who influenced Exxon’s education director. Gigot never asked Klein what countries we were supposedly benchmarked to. Nor did the Exxon ad name a country to which these standards were supposedly benchmarked. Klein wouldn’t have been able to answer, nor could Exxon have named a country because Common Core’s standards are not internationally benchmarked. Neither the methodologically flawed study by William Schmidt of Michigan State University, nor the post-Common Core studies by David Conley of the University of Oregon, all funded by the Gates Foundation, have shown that Common Core’s content is close to, never mind equal to, the level of the academic content of the mathematics and English standards in high-achieving countries.”

In which top-achieving country is Algebra pushed to grade 9 instead of grade 8?  In which top-achieving country is classic literature being replaced gradually by informational text?  The phrase “internationally benchmarked” is misleading millions of people.

Question 6 states that the federal government has no role in the implementation or development of Common Core.  This is a half-truth; as shown above, the federal government partnered with private groups who are developing and implementing the Common Core.  The role of the federal government has been to heavy-handedly partner with and to promote the Career and College Readiness /aka Common Core Initiative’s full agenda, with grants, speeches, and threats –while saying that localities retain freedom to choose.

Question 7 asks:  Will Utah taxpayers have to pay more money to implement the new Utah Core Standards?  The Provo District says that it will not cost any additional money.  This cannot possibly be true– even common sense alerts us to this, but so does Pioneer Institute, a rare think tank that is not-Bill-Gates-nor-federally funded. Here is that think tank’s report.

Reason this out. When, in the past, have districts needed to throw out and replace virtually all old text books for totally different math and English standards?  Never.  When have there been so many wholly transformative (for good or ill) teacher development classes statewide? Never.  When has the state tested students so often and so heavily to align with national  testing practices?  Taxpayers even had to fund the marketing and political blitzing of the Utah State Office of Education as it has aimed to persuade parents that Common Core is a positive change.

Question 8 asks, “How does the local school board fit into the Common Core?”  Without saying so directly, it answers its own question:  the local school board’s job has seemingly become to nod and agree with all that the state pushes upon it, groupthink style.

Question  9 asks, “Do these standards incorporate both content and skills?”  While it is true that both content and skills are partially covered in Common Core, it is an important reality that less knowledge and more of what Dr. Stotsky refers to as “empty skill sets,” with much less content, is being taught under Common Core.   Virtually everything has changed, and all without field testing or academic research to base the changes upon.  Even  vocabulary words are changing to less literary, more technical/industrial words, words that are being called “more relevant” than the rich vocabulary offered in the literary classics.   And, while small passages of founding documents and classic literature are to be taught and tested, they are not to be placed in context nor read in whole.   This, to me, looks like dumbing down.  Professor Thomas Newkirk of the University of New Hampshire explains:  “The central message in their guidelines is that the focus should be on “the text itself”… The text should be understood in “its own terms.” While the personal connections and judgments of the readers may enter in later, they should do so only after students demonstrate “a clear understanding of what they read.” So the model of reading seems to have two stages—first a close reading in which the reader withholds judgment or comparison with other texts, focusing solely on what is happening within “the four corners of the text.” And only then are prior knowledge, personal association, and appraisal allowed in.  This seems to me an inhuman, even impossible, and certainly unwise prescription.”  –Speaking Back to the Common Core

The Provo District claims:  “In Mathematics, the Common Core State Standards lay a solid foundation in whole numbers, addition, subtraction…”  At which ages are these math concepts being taught?  Many foundational concepts have been pushed back.  Fluency with fractions/decimals/ratios is pushed to junior high, when it used to be foundational for elementary school levels.  Most calculus and  other higher math concepts are pushed out of high school completely— not available until college.   Dr. James Milgram said that Common Core math standards “only require partial understanding of what would be the content of a normal, solid, course in Algebra I or Geometry. Moreover, they cover very little of the content of Algebra II, and none of any higher level course…”  Noted math expert Ze’ev Wurman has noted that Common Core math standards, now set in the concrete of nationalized, high-stakes testing, “mark the cessation of educational standards improvement in the United States.”

Question 10 asks whether these math standards cover all the key math topics in the proper sequence.  It claims that the Common Core math standards “are coherent and based on evidence”  No link to such evidence is given.

We need such evidence.  Academics nationwide are pointing out that because no evidence exists, the standards are an experiment.  They were never field tested prior to the nationwide rollout.

Dr. Milgram has said, “There is no point where the student-constructed algorithms are explicitly replaced by the very efficient standard methods for doing one-digit operations. Why does Common Core adopt this convoluted method of teaching math? The stated reason is that learning the standard algorithm doesn’t give students a “deeper conceptual understanding” of what they’re doing. But the use of student-constructed algorithms is at odds with the practices of high-achieving countries and is not supported by research. Common Core is using our children for a huge and risky experiment.”

Question 11  addresses the ongoing discussion about who has control of the classroom.  Provo District states that the Common Core standards “do not dictate how teachers should teach. Teachers will continue to devise lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their classrooms, as well as select instructional materials they feel are most appropriate.”

But teachers are testifying that this is not true.  Utah teachers Ann Florence, Stuart Harper, Susan Wilcox, Malin Williams, Diana McKay and many other teachers have spoken out and risked or lost their jobs to tell a very different story.   In addition, we have the above-cited testimony of funder Bill Gates  who says that the standards, tests and curriculum will align to prove that the standards “work.”  It’s like the old Ford Advertisement: “You can Have Any Color As Long as it’s Black.”  The state, federal, and corporate ed sales (textbook companies) say the same thing: “You can have any standards as long as they are the exact same as all other states’ standards.”  Almost all the curriculum in the nation is aligning, building a new education system on a very sandy foundation.  The fact is that there is a Common Core  15% no-adding-to-the-standards rule in contracts and agreements that is common knowledge, both in testing and curriculum.  The USOE continues to dismiss the suffocating 15% rule as “not a big deal.”

Question 12 asks what would happen if Utah were to reject Common Core.  The Provo District then says that because the Common Core Standards “are not federal” that this would not alter Utah’s relationship with the federal government.  This assertion contains two untrue portions: 1) saying that Common Core Standards are not federal implies that they are not federally approved/federally promoted/federally set as conditions for receipt of federal grants and Title I monies.  But they are all of those things.

Although the NGA/CCSSO wrote and copyrighted the standards, the federal government has pushed  them more than anyone —has disguised the nature  and name of it, deceptive language. Federally, the Common Core Standards are called the “College and Career-Ready Standards.”  But at the NGA/CCSSO level, it’s called Common Core.  The feds officially defined “College and Career Ready Standards” as “standards common to a significant number of states.”  See this official re-definition on the federal education website.  Although federal insiders know this, they don’t choose to clarify it.

Question 12 goes on to say that because Utah Law now requires computer adaptive testing, the  testing would continue with AIR (American Institutes for Research) even if we rejected Common Core itself.  This does not make sense; Utah’s AIR (aka SAGE)  test is aligned to Common Core.   Why would we stick with that after dropping Common Core?  Were we to reject Common Core, we would then create an alternative test with a non-Common Core aligned company using better, independent standards.

Question 12 states that the State Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) would still be in  place. This is true, and problematic.  Since Utah has no proper protections in place over the privacy of student data, and since the federal goverment shredded formerly protective federal FERPA privacy laws, Utah would have to either create proper protections legislatively, or Utah would need to shut down the SLDS and return the $9.6 million that Utah accepted from the federal government to create it, using federally directed interoperability frameworks  (see pages 2 and 4 on that grant’s pdf) which created a de facto national data collection system).   Since national data collection systems, de facto or not, are illegal, it would be preferable to shut down the SLDS.

Question 12 further states that “Utah would have to go through the expense of writing a new core or adopt  the former core–which is not seen as “College and Career Ready” standards… newly purchased materials have to be discarded. If Utah  writes unique standards, there will be little or no available materials or textbooks to  support their instruction.”  This is mostly correct.  Utah’s hasty adoption of Common Core has cost her countless millions in newly purchased materials and programs.  (See question 7 above, which ironically asserts that the cost of Common Core is not an issue.)  There are  a limited number of textbook companies that offer curriculum independent from Common Core.  Some curriculum companies, such as Saxon Math and Shirley Grammar, still offer editions that have not changed to Common Core to accomodate private schools and home schools.  Others, such as the Institute for Excellence in Writing, have re-labeled curriculum, calling it Common Core aligned,  but have not made actual changes to it.  Remember that all older (classical education) texts are independent of Common Core, since Common Core only began its explosive  existence in the past four years.

Question 13 asks what assessments are required by the federal government and answers that ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) aka “No  Child Left Behind” requires states to have  assessments in math, language arts, and science. This is true. What isn’t explained, and should be, is this:  The federal government first of all has no constitutional business requiring states to have assessments.  See the U.S. Constitution and G.E.P.A. law (General Educational Provisions Act).

Yet the federal government now corrals its state funding  to be used for tests, technologies, professional development, and student computer devices only if and when they are aligned with Common Core (aka College and Career Ready, or CCR).  The federal government approves a limited number of testing organizations and consortia.  (Utah’s so-called choice, the A.I.R. company, has “developed the only computer adaptive test that is federally approved.“)

Question 15 contends that “Utah teachers will write all of the questions that will be used in the new assessment  system”  and that “Every teacher in the state has been invited to participate in the item writing.”   Every teacher in the state has not been invited.  Ask around.  It’s not true.  Also, in the words of the actual contract that Utah and the A.I.R. testing company have signed –the contract is available from the State Office of Education–  a combination of AIR psychometricians, and also Utah teachers, are co-writing the test items.  Why let a single psychometrician anywhere near our children’s academic tests?

 

Question 16  discusses the 15-parent panel which reviews the AIR/SAGE tests to see that they are strictly academic.  The panel’s work has not been given the respect it deserved.  Nor can we honestly say that the USOE is not collecting behavioral data, inside the SAGE test or by other state-created methods to be discussed below.

Of her experience on the parent panel, mother Alyson Williams, stated (see the comments section) that:

“There were questions that parents flagged as inappropriate, subjective or biased. We were promised that these test items would be reviewed and addressed and that we would get to see how they were addressed… long after this Spring’s pilot, unfortunately… I feel it is a manipulation of my cooperation to characterize it as unreserved approval of these assessments.”

Another member of the panel, Louisa Walker, stated: “Quoted from [Assistant State Superintendent] Judy Park: ‘… Every parent on the panel… agreed that there was nothing in the questions that was inappropriate.’ I served on that 15 parent committee, and I will tell you that is not trueI wasn’t the only one to flag items because of subjective, inappropriate, or misleading content…”

A third member of the parent panel, Jennie Earl, stated that only 2 or 3 parents actually read each of the questions, due to the huge number of questions and small number of parents permitted to read them.  She wrote:   “… a parent would read a question they had concerns with to gather additional insight from the other parents in the room… because of the nature of the content in the question or bias in the wording…. These items were flagged in addition to other items parents felt needed revision or removal. We don’t know the final outcome thus far on flagged items…  I might add… measuring teachers and schools based on a value-added model or growth model is not a valid measurement tool for identifying effective teachers or schools.”

A fourth member of the 15-parent state panel, Kim Kehrer, wrote: “I was also on the parent panel. The questions were reviewed at most by two members of the 15 parent panel. Here are the facts: 43 questions were removed due to various reasons. 160 questions were changed or modified to address the question of concern and 397 questions will be used in the testing and reviewed again next year. I second Jennie Earl’s comment that we are not a validating committee.”

In addition to these concerns, the idea that the tests were strictly academic must be addressed.  That cannot be believed by any rational researcher.

Here’s why:

1-  Do a word search on the AIR contract with Utah; the word “psychometric” comes up 73 times. (Look up that word’s definition and find that psychometrics are psychological and educational measurement using tests.)

2-  Look up the AIR company:  “AIR’s mission is to conduct and apply the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation”.

3-  Look at Utah’s legislation about computer adaptive state testing and learn that HB15, created in 2012, requires the collection of  behavior indicators. It calls for “ the use of student behavior indicators in assessing student performance” as part of the testing. This is Utah’s S.A.G.E. test or A.I.R.– test. (There were other, similar laws, years prior to this, as well.) –Are we to believe that although AIR’s purpose is to test behavioral and social indicators, and although Utah law says that the test must test behavioral indicators, the test still won’t?

4- See Utah’s SLDS grant application starting at page 87  and read how non-cognitive behaviors that have nothing to do with academics, will be collected and studied. (This may or may not include information embedded in AIR/SAGE tests)  These behaviors will include “social comfort and integration, academic conscientiousness, resiliency, etc.” to be evaluated in part through the psychometric census known as the “Student Strengths Inventory. (SSI)” That inventory –a child’s psychological information– will be integrated into the database (SLDS).  The SLDS grant promises to integrate psychological data into the state database.

“With the introduction of UtahFutures and the Student Strengths Inventory (SSI) and its focus on noncognitive data, combining such data with other longitudinal student level data to the USOE Data Warehouse the UDA.”  It also says: “… psychosocial or noncognitive factors… include, but are not limited to educational commitment, academic engagement and conscientiousness, social comfort and social integration, academic self-efficacy, resiliency…  Until recently, institutions had to rely on standardized cognitive measures to identify student needs. … We propose to census test all current student in grades 11 and 12 using… SSI,  a measure of noncognitive attitudes and behaviors.” The Student Strengths Inventory (SSI) is a “psychometric census” to be taken by every 11th and 12th grade student in Utah.

The Utah Office of Education openly admits to gathering student psychological data.  It has not yet openly admitted that SAGE/AIR tests do this.  But with such a policy, openly shown in the USOE’s SLDS grant, why wouldn’t the USOE also, soon if not now, use the SAGE test along with SSI, to gather attitude and belief data on Utah children?  The point is that proper legal protections are not in place.  Student data and family privacy is vulnerable.

5– The USOE has a history of working in harmony with even the unconstitutional federal initiatives.  The U.S. Department of Education  issued a report on school gathering of behavioral/belief data.  Read its 2013 “Promoting Grit, Tenacity and Perserverance” report.  It encourages assessment of student beliefs and personality characteristics, and the keeping of longitudinal records of these traits.  The report encourages the use of facial expression cameras, wireless skin conductors, posture analysis seats and other physical devices to measure student attitudes, beliefs and engagement with what is being presented. (see page 44)

Why isn’t the Provo District and the Utah School Board making statements of discontent with the directions in which the federal government is taking education and data collection in light of such federal reports and recommendations?

Question 18, 19 and 20 concern student data privacy.  18 asks what individual student information is given to the federal government  from the assessments given in Utah. It says that “districts do not gather personal information from families such as religion affiliation.”  It says, “The Federal  Government does not have a direct connection with the Utah data base.”

Almost no proper legal protections are in place for student data privacy, while parents are not permitted to opt any public/charter school-attending child out of the state database (SLDS).  Also, formerly protective federal FERPA privacy laws have been shredded by the Department of Education.  Changes include reducing the requirement (of getting parental consent prior to accessing personally identifiable student information) to an optional “best practice“.   At the same time, local privacy laws at least in Utah, are unspecific. Data alliances and data sharing practices among agencies grow and grow, almost unrestrained by privacy laws.

The federal government has long been collecting aggregate (partial, grouped, not easily personally-identifiable) student data.  The CCSSO has been collecting national data, too.  This is common knowledge.

What is in question is whether these D.C. entities have any access to the fifty State Longitudinal Database Systems, which contain personally identifiable information, databases which are (by federal grant-mandate) inter-operable databases.  This question was addressed, ironically, by an insider, a writer named David DeSchryver who aimed to persuade readers to agree that ESEA (No Child Left Behind, a federal law) should be reauthorized.   While I disagree with that thesis, I appreciate that the author of the Whiteboard Advisors article revealed what should be common knowledge: the federal government is collecting SLDS-collected student data via the IES and NCES.

He writes: “Most readers are probably not aware that the law [ESEA] authorizes the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), and other research related work. IES provides much of the commonly used and accepted data on US public schools…. the IES is uniquely positioned…  It has access to data from every state and school district…  This data…  bolstered by longitudinal data systems, will benefit the entire field of education. More data, however, requires more organization and IES plays an important role here… It helps to standardize data structure so that new data can connect to prior data sets and research.”

The CCSSO (Council of Chief State School Officers) which  copyrighted Common Core and created it, the same CCSSO that created Common Educational Data Standards –has an openly admitted, openly stated mission to disaggregate student data.  (See goal #4) The past and current State Superintendents and the Associate State Superintendent of Utah are members of CCSSO.  Assistant Superintendent Judy Park is also a writer for CCSSO.  This makes me fairly confident that these Utahns are aware of what the CCSSO stands for and what its goals are.

To dis-aggregate means to move toward specificity:  identifying which individual person did what. Disaggregation means that academic bundles of students’ information will be separated into groups that are increasingly easy to identify individually.  A press release showed that Choice/Pearson partnered with the state of Utah to create the UTREX system that would disaggregate student data.

(Every Utahns should ask our top education leaders and legislators why, on the CCSSO website, it states that one of its main goals is “Continued Commitment to Disaggregation” of student data.  Why do we remain supporters of CCSSO?)

Provo district says that ” The Federal Government has no direct access to this [SLDS/UTREX data] system.”  But indirectly, it does.  From the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) we read: “states must… continue building linkages [from K-12] … across critical agencies such as health, social services and criminal justice…” So if the federal government has access to any DQC-adhering state’s database, it will have access to the other agencies’ information about citizens linked thereby.

Utah is a Data Quality Campaign adherent.   The DQC used Utah in its report as a prime example of how its state foster care services data and its school-collected data were combined to find out information about a certain child.  Parental rights or student privacy rights were not mentioned as being a relevant part of that equation.

The federal EDFACTS data exchange claims that it’s gathering national data.  The student data dis-aggregation club, CCSSO, is officially partnered with the federal government to use CEDS, common data standards in education which make student data more easily disaggregated.   Additionally, the federal government paid for all 50 states to have federally-structured State Longitudinal Database Systems to collect personally identifiable information.  National Data Collection Models encourage (but do not require) personally identifiable information to be collected and shared between agencies and among states.  And at the Arne Duncan-approveData Quality Campaign, we learn that  the answer to” “Are education data just test scores?” is: “No… Data include student and teacher attendance, services students receive, student academic development and growth, teacher preparation information, postsecondary success and remediation rates, and more.”

Previous to widespread scrutiny of the (federal branch) NCES’s National Data Collection Model (NDCM) and prior to the NDCM removing this information, but, as older  news articlesvideos and blogs testify—  it was suggested by the federal model that student nicknames, religious affiliation, birthdate, GPA, allergies, maternal last name, voting status and many more data fields should be filled by schools.   (For evidence see screenshots which were saved from NDCM – minute 27:26 on this video by the Restore Oklahoma Public Education group.  I, too, saw and wrote about them here.)

Question 21 correctly asserts that Utah state law (code 53A-1-402.6) allows Utah to “exit any agreement, contract, memorandum of understanding, or consortium that cedes control of Utah’s core curriculum standards.”  The problem has never been that we can’t exit; it’s that there is not enough understanding of the gravity of the Common Core error, nor enough political will, to choose to exit.

Question 22 says that adequate public feedback opportunities were given prior to adoption of Common Core.  Whether on the national or state level, this is untrue.  This assertion has been rebutted by the Alpine School District (minutes) and by Alpine Board member Wendy Hart,  as well as by the Karl G. Maeser School Board.  Maesar’s statement to the Utah School Board says, “there were no opportunities for review of these standards by local school districts or parents.”

If adequate feedback opportunities had been offered, wouldn’t parents at least know the term “Common Core” prior to being told it was already adopted?  If adequate public feedback opportunities had been offered, wouldn’t legislatures that are now paying for its implementation have had some discussion in the newspapers?  Wouldn’t teachers (like me) have been sent an email, inviting us to research and submit public comment on the subject?  The fact that the public debates on the topic and the vast firestorm of anti-Common Core disapproval is happening now, FOUR YEARS AFTER Utah implemented it, is evidence that it was not properly, adequately discussed prior to adoption.  For more on this absurd hastiness, listen to the public record audio “minutes” of the state school board in 2010 as they hastily adopted the standards without even a full first reading, due to federal time pressure on a grant application deadline that was Common Core adoption-dependent:

May 1, 2009 Utah School Board Meeting, Agenda Item: National Common Standards
http://www.schools.utah.gov/board/Meetings/Audiocast/2009.aspx
June 17, 2009 Legislative Interim Education Committee Meeting
Quoted audio starts about 27:30
http://utahlegislature.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=17&clip_id=5624
July 18, 2011 Alpine School Board Training, select the first audio file, quoted starts about 27:14
http://sbs.alpinedistrict.org/cgi-bin/WebObjects/eAgenda.woa/wa/displayMeeting?meetingID=850

 

 

Finally, for your reference, here is the original Q & A:

_________________________________

 

Provo School District

Common Core FAQ*

* Provo City School District recognizes Seth Sorensen, the Curriculum and Assessment Specialist for Nebo School District for his work in creating the original FAQ document on which this is based.

Q1. Who led the Common Core State Standards Initiative?

A. The Common Core was a grassroots initiative initiated by state governors and  Superintendents in 2007. The nation’s governors and education commissioners,  through their representative organizations, the National Governors Association  (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) led the development of  the Common Core State Standards and continue to lead the initiative. Teachers,  parents, school administrators and experts from across the country together with  state leaders have provided input into the development of the standards.

Q2. What are core standards?

A. Core or educational standards help teachers ensure their students have the skills  and knowledge they need to be successful by providing clear goals for student learning. Standards are concepts that need to be taught, such as addition of fractions in  mathematics, and the grade level where they should be taught.

Q3. What is the difference between standards and curriculum?
A. Standards are the required skills and concepts for the students to achieve. Curriculum include the materials and content that is used to teach the standards.

Q4. Who chooses/adopts state standards and curriculum?
A. The Utah Constitution designates to the Utah State School Board the  responsibility to choose state standards. Local school boards and the Utah  Legislature do not. Local school boards and schools select the curriculum, which is  generally the textbook or program for delivering the standards. Local school teams  and individual teachers choose the everyday lesson content. The Federal  Government has no say in either standards, curriculum or everyday lesson content.  Utah State Code states in 53A-1-402.6. Core curriculum standards: “(1)  In establishing minimum standards related to curriculum and instruction  requirements under Section 53A-1-402, the State Board of Education shall,  in consultation with local school boards, school superintendents, teachers,  employers, and parents implement core curriculum standards which will  enable students to, among other objectives:
(a) communicate effectively, both verbally and through written communication;
(b) apply mathematics; and
(c) access, analyze, and apply information.”

The Utah Code also spells out local school board control of materials:

“(4) Local school boards shall design their school programs, that are supported by  generally accepted scientific standards of evidence, to focus on the core  curriculum standards with the expectation that each program will enhance  or help achieve mastery of the core curriculum standards.
(5) Except as provided in Section 53A-13-101, each school may select  instructional materials and methods of teaching, that are supported by  generally accepted scientific standards of evidence, that it considers most  appropriate to meet core curriculum standards.”  http://le.utah.gov/code/TITLE53A/htm/53A01_040206.htm

Q5. Are the standards internationally benchmarked?
Yes. International benchmarking played a significant role in both sets of standards.  In fact, the college and career ready standards include an appendix listing the  evidence that was consulted in drafting the standards and the international data  used in the benchmarking process.

 Q6. Does the federal government play a role in Common Core standards  implementation? A. “The Federal Government had no role in the development of the Common Core  State Standards and will not have a role in their implementation. The Common Core  State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort that is not part of No Child Left Behind  and adoption of the standards is in no way mandatory. “
http://www.corestandards.org/resources/frequently-asked-questions

Q7. Will Utah taxpayers have to pay more money to implement the new Utah  Core Standards?
A. The Utah State Board of Education regularly updates the Utah Core Standards.  The funding for the implementation of this latest set of standards will not cost Utah  taxpayers additional money. The professional development that takes place in the  districts will remain at the same level it has for the past decade; the only change will be the content focus. School districts are concerned with their ability to provide the  technology and infrastructure necessary to support electronic testing associated  with the new SAGE assessment of the Utah Core Standards. The Utah Legislature  has not raised taxes to fund this change. Provo City School District supports the  advancement of student access to technology and related programs and has been  using existing local and state funding to move in this direction.

Q8. How does the local school board fit into the Common core?
A. School Board powers and duties generally, according to State Code 53A-3-402.  include:
“ (1) Each local school board shall: (a) implement the core curriculum utilizing instructional materials that best
correlate to the core curriculum and graduation requirements;
(b) administer tests, required by the State Board of Education, which measure  the progress of each student, and coordinate with the state superintendent and  State Board of Education to assess results and create plans to improve the student’s  progress which shall be submitted to the State Office of Education for approval;”
http://le.utah.gov/code/TITLE53A/htm/53A03_040200.htm

Q9. Do these standards incorporate both content and skills?
A. Yes. “In English Language Arts, the Common Core State Standards require  certain critical content for all students, including:
• Classic myths and stories from around the world;
• America’s Founding Documents;
• Foundational American literature: and
• Shakespeare.
The remaining crucial decisions about what content should be taught are left to  state and local determination. In addition to content coverage, the Common Core  State Standards require that students systematically acquire knowledge in literature  and other disciplines through reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

In Mathematics, the Common Core State Standards lay a solid foundation in:
whole numbers;
addition;
subtraction;
multiplication;
division:
fractions; and
decimals.
Taken together, these elements support a student’s ability to learn and apply more  demanding math concepts and procedures. The middle school and high school  standards call on students to practice applying mathematical ways of thinking to  real world issues and challenges; they prepare students to think and reason  mathematically.”

Q10. Do the math standards cover all the key math topics in the proper sequence?
A. The mathematical progressions presented in the Common Core State Standards  are coherent and based on evidence. Part of the problem with having 50 different  sets of state standards is that different states cover different topics at different  grade levels. Coming to consensus guarantees that from the viewpoint of any given  state, topics will move up or down in the grade level sequence. This is unavoidable.  What is important to keep in mind is that the progression in the Common Core State Standards is mathematically coherent and leads to college and career readiness at  an internationally competitive level.
Q11. What requirements do the Common Core State Standards give to  teachers?

A. The Common Core State Standards are merely a clear set of expectations and  curriculum standards for the knowledge and skills students need in English/  language arts and mathematics at each grade level to prepare students to graduate  college and career ready. The standards establish what students need to learn, but  they do not dictate how teachers should teach. Teachers will continue to devise  lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their
classrooms, as well as select instructional materials they feel are most appropriate  for their students.

Q12. If Utah were to abandon the Utah Core Standards, what would that  mean?
A. The relationship with Federal Government would not change, because the Utah  Core Standards are not Federal. Utah Law still requires adaptive testing, so the  testing will continue with AIR. The Longitudinal Data system would still be in  place. Utah would have to go through the expense of writing a new core or adopt  the former core–which is not seen as “College and Career Ready” standards. There  may be an expense if newly purchased materials have to be discarded. If Utah  writes unique standards, there will be little or no available materials or textbooks to  support their instruction.

Q13. What assessments are required by the Federal Government?
An ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) was originally passed in 1965  and had major revisions in 1980, 1994, and 2001 (This latest revision called No  Child Left Behind). The current requirements of this act require states to have  assessments in place in Math, Language Arts, and Science. They leave the decision  to the states to determine the assessments and this selection is submitted to the U.S.  Department of Education.

Q14. What assessments are required by the Utah State Legislature?
A. The Utah State Legislature requires the following assessments in State Statute:
• Computer Adaptive Assessment in Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and an alternate assessment for students with severe cognitive disabilities. These assessments are given to all students in 3rd-11th Grade (CRTs and UAA).
• Statewide Reading assessment given 3 times per year to every K-3rd grade student (DIBELS).
• Kindergarten-2nd grade end of year assessments, which are developed by school districts. • Direct Writing Assessment given to all 5th and 8th grade students (DWA).
• New College and Career ready Assessments given to all 8th -11th grade students (ACT and companion assessments, Explore and Plan).
• An English Language Learning assessment, which places students at various levels of English proficiency (WIDA).

Q15. Who writes the questions that will be used in the new assessment  system?
Utah teachers will write all of the questions that will be used in the new assessment  system. Every teacher in the state has been invited to participate in the item writing  and all volunteers meet together for weeks with administrators and curriculum  specialists from the Utah State Office of Education to develop test items that will  accurately measure student learning of standards within the core curriculum.

–Q16. Are all questions on the new assessments reviewed by a parent group?
A. Yes. All questions are reviewed by a group of 15 parents. This parent group will  verify that all test questions are strictly academic. See the following link: Utah State  contract with AIR: http://www.schools.utah.gov/assessment/Adaptive-Assessment-System/136199-AIR.aspx   (See page 7 for the language that requires USOE and Parent review to approve any
test question before they are used by students.)

Q17. Was AIR assessment required by the Federal Government?
A. No. Utah Legislature passed an Adaptive Assessment law after a successful piloting of adaptive testing. (House Bill 15, 2012) Utah issued a Request for  Proposals (RFP) for an adaptive assessment vendor and AIR was chosen. AIR is a  leader in academic testing and had a superior product for end of level tests,  formative tests and interim tests.

Q18. What individual student information is given to the Federal Government  from the assessments given in Utah?

A. None. The only data provided to the federal government by the State of Utah is  aggregate school-level data. No individual student data is provided. The Federal  Government does not have a direct connection with the Utah data base. School  districts do not gather personal information from families such as religion affiliation
or political party

Q19. What is the Longitudinal Data System in Utah?
A. With 41 school districts and 84 charter schools that use at least 10 different  types of student information systems, Utah needed a way to communicate within  the education system. The Longitudinal Data system is called UTREx. The first task  of UTREx was to assign each student a unique number (SSID), so that two school  districts or charter schools could not claim funding from the state for the same  student. It is also used to help transfer student transcript information to higher  education. A great benefit is the ability to transfer student records for students who  move from one district or charter to the next. The UTREx system improves accuracy  and efficiency of education. Hundreds of hours of time for school personnel will be  saved because of the UTREx system. The Federal Government has no access to this  system

Q20. Are we as schools and districts required to collect more student  information as a result of Utah Senate Bill 82, known as the “Digital Backpack”,  passed in 2013?
A. Yes This Utah bill requires a new system that “collects longitudinal student  transcript data from LEAs (districts and charter schools) and the unique student  identifiers as described in Section 53A-1-603.5.”
The bill summary states:  “This bill:
defines terms;
requires the State Board of Education to establish the Utah Student  Record Store where an authorized LEA user may access student data in a  Student Achievement backpack that is relevant to the user’s LEA or school;

specifies the data to be included in a Student Achievement Backpack;  and  requires the State Board of Education to ensure that student data in a  Student Achievement Backpack is accessible through an LEA’s student  information system by June 30, 2017.”
This bill effectively doubles the amount of data districts are required to send on to  the State office of Education. This new data includes things like school attendance,  student growth scores, student reading level, student writing sample, student  performance by standard and objective, etc…
Text from SB 82: http://le.utah.gov/~2013/bills/sbillamd/SB0082S01.htm

Q21. Can the State of Utah change their core standards at any time?
A. According to state code 53A-1-402.6. Core curriculum standards.
“(6) The state may exit any agreement, contract, memorandum of understanding, or  consortium that cedes control of Utah’s core curriculum standards to any other  entity, including a federal agency or consortium, for any reason, including:
(a) the cost of developing or implementing core curriculum standards; (b) the proposed core curriculum standards are inconsistent with community
values; or
(c) the agreement, contract, memorandum of understanding, or consortium:
(i) was entered into in violation of Part 9, Implementing Federal Programs  Act, or Title 63J, Chapter 5, Federal Funds Procedures Act;
(ii) conflicts with Utah law;
(iii) requires Utah student data to be included in a national or multi-state  database;
(iv) requires records of teacher performance to be included in a national or  multi-state database; or
(v) imposes curriculum, assessment, or data tracking requirements on home  school or private school students.
(7) The State Board of Education shall annually report to the Education Interim  Committee on the development and implementation of core curriculum standards.”
http://le.utah.gov/code/TITLE53A/htm/53A01_040206.htm

Q22. Was any feedback given from the public or any group on the common core prior to adoption by states?

A. Yes. There were a number of opportunities given for the public, as well as other  groups such as educators to give feedback on the core standards, as well as the  college and career ready standards.

Summary of public feedback on K-12 standards: http://www.corestandards.org/assets/k-12-feedback-summary.pdf
Summary of Public Feedback on College and Career Ready Standards:

Click to access CorePublicFeedback.pdf

–From the Provo School District website

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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

Does Opting Out Mean a Student is Labeled Nonproficient? Force-Feeding Students Ed Testing Reforms   6 comments

“A teacher shall consider students’ summative adaptive assessments in determining students’ academic grades for the appropriate courses and students’ advancement to the next grade level… Students not tested due to parent request shall receive a non-proficient score which shall be used in school accountability calculations.” -Proposed amendment to Utah Senate Bill 175

After I read that a Utah student who opts out of common core testing will be labeled “nonproficient” and that his or her school will be punished in accountability scores, I was stunned.

So I wrote to my state school board representative and the state superintendent for clarification. I still don’t know who wrote the amendment or whether it will be law soon. Here is the email string.

Martell or Dixie,

Please explain why USOE documents now say that students who opt out of common core testing will be given a nonproficient score and their school will suffer “accountability” punishments. I have not and will not allow my high school student to take state standardized tests. She takes a pencil and paper alternative so that her school teacher (not the entire state) knows how she’s doing. Up till now this has never affected her straight A record. It has not harmed her schools’ scores.

Am I to understand that new policies will damage her record and her school’s record?

Thanks for taking the time to explain.

Christel Swasey
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Christel,

Unfortunately the State Board of Education and the Utah State Office of Education do not write the legislation that requires our schools, districts and state to provide data on school performance for our students, their teachers, their schools, districts or the state. We are required under several legislative mandates to provide data on student performance in relationship to our schools, teachers and our state. Thus if we have parents and students that refuse to provide such data via the assessment systems provided to evaluate student success, we cannot provide the necessary data to the state or national legislative mandates that require such data. It is not that we wish to punish anyone for “accountability”, but as a state organization, we must live by the rules as well as those we serve.

Christel, I would highly encourage you to read a book I just rediscovered from Gerald W. Bracey called “On the Death of Childhood and the Destruction of Public Schools”. It was written in 2003 based on the fallacy of “No Child Left Behind” calling the Act “The Plan for the Destruction of Public Education: Just Say No”. To me it speaks volumes of how far we have come in regard to this act and how long it has taken parents to recognize the expectations it brought to our school system.

Needless to say, as a teacher, a mother, a grandmother, I believe our State Office of Education and our State Board are doing the best they can to limit the intrusion, while abiding by the legislation that we must enforce. I hope you will take the time to look deeper into this issue and others you rail against.

Dixie
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Dixie,

I do aim to fully study the history of education reform once I don’t feel so threatened by the suffocating power of Common Core.

But thanks, and I will take the book recommendation for later. Right now, I have no time.

Because of this school board’s decision to implement Common Core —without ever sending out a memo to teachers, letting us know that our kids and our teaching careers were going to be forever strangled by the transformations of Common Core-– because of that decision, I have to homeschool my kids and give speeches and write articles to try to knock sense into those who do not study these things– none of which I did before, none of which I want to do, none of which I get paid to do.

My time, my life, has been redefined by this school board’s terrible, terrible decision.

This is why I “rail” against the decision. I “rail” for liberty. I rail for legitimate education that puts kids, not fat bank accounts of educational sales companies, first.

I’m sorry that it bothers you. I am doing what I feel compelled to do. I am trying to save something precious.

Christel
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Martell, do you agree with Dixie on this? Was it the legislature, and not the USOE or USSB who created the language that says that a student who opts out of the common core test will be labeled “nonproficient”? Do you agree with, or disagree with, this language? If you disagree will you join me in writing a letter to our legislature to amend the language so that no student nor school will be punished for excercising their free agency?

——————————————————-

Then I wrote to a few legislators who are concerned with education:

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Dear Legislators,

Please direct me to those who are writing proposed amendments to SB 175. I would like to meet with them to discuss deleting the proposed changes.

The amendments effectively stop a parent’s or student’s ability to opt out of the secretive, nontransparent Common Core tests and the related mandatory behavioral indicators assessments (See HB 15 line 59) and the related SLDS federal surveillance* program.

In SB 175’s new wording,

1. Schools will be punished if students opt out of the Common Core tests.

2. Students will be punished if they opt out of the Common Core tests, not just with a crashing G.P.A. due to the mandated “non-proficient” score to be received for opting out (which is, of course, inaccurate and dishonest labeling for an opt-out) but also because Common Core tests will count on a student’s academic grade and will help determine whether he/she advances to the next grade.

3. Parents will be punished because any good university will decline allowing a student to enter who has a suddenly-crashed G.P.A., due to having opted out of the Common Core test.

“A teacher shall consider students’ summative adaptive assessments in determining students’ academic grades for the appropriate courses and students’ advancement to the next grade level… Students not tested due to parent request shall receive a non-proficient score which shall be used in school accountability calculations.”

Years of straight A’s and hard work will be marginalized whenever the parental right is exercised, to opt out of Common Core testing, a punishment for following the dictates of conscience.

Utah education reforms such as this one are out of control. Please stop this freedom-suffocating trend.

Christel Swasey
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I will publish their responses when I get them.

Common Core Watch   1 comment

In Utah, lawmakers and the Utah State School Board are hotly debating solutions to the problems created by the adoption of Common Core.

I wanted to share this one, to the Utah School Board from Pleasant Grove’s Representative Brian Greene.

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On Thu, Jul 25, 2013 at 5:30 PM, Brian Greene wrote:

The 15% rule is a “red herring” and entirely inconsequential. The fact that K-12 assessments used by 90% of the states will be aligned to the CC standards, and the SAT & ACT will be aligned to the CC standards, will preclude any deviation from the standards by states that have adopted CC. For any state to deviate even 5% will put their public education system at a comparative disadvantage relative to other states, and will compromise their students’ chances of gaining acceptance to the most competitive universities and colleges.

All the federal Dept. of Education needs to do now is to triumphantly watch and wait as states blindly consolidate their independence and sovereignty into a tidy package that can be swiftly raided. In light of the recent attempts by the federal government to inject itself into this “state-led” process, and the proclamations of success by President Obama and Arne Duncan for encouraging adoption of CC by 46 states, it is naïve to think that the federal government will take a hands-off approach once CC is fully implemented in 90% of the states.

Even if you believe that CC is the best ever advancement in education, it should be rejected on the basis that states are being complicit in creating a structure that significantly increases the risk of and opportunities for a complete federal takeover of all education.

Utah can have assessments that allow its students to be compared with students from other states, or Utah can have its independence—but we are foolish to believe we can have both.

Brian Greene

Utah House of Representatives

Utah County – District 57

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Representative Green hit the nail on the head.

What’s happening outside Utah? Here are some highlights, which Heartland Institute collected this week: (See full article here: http://news.heartland.org/education )

Common Core Watch

• TEST COSTS: One of two Common Core testing groups announces a price hike for the national tests. Georgia immediately withdraws from plans to administer the tests. The price hike puts the national tests above what several states currently pay for state-controlled tests.

• HIGHER TAXES: The FCC commissioners release more details on their proposed Common Core tax through the federal program known as E-Rate. The big news: Instead of calling for an end to the troubled K-12 tech subsidy, this is the first time a Republican commissioner instead suggests ways to revamp and expand it. A few weeks earlier, the federal agency discussed increasing phone taxes by $5 per line per year to subsidize the tech buildup necessary for Common Core tests.

• CLOSED LIPS: A Kansas board of education member wants to know why the people who worked on national science standards had to sign confidentiality agreements. Shouldn’t public affairs be conducted in public? he asks. That same question hangs, unanswered, over the English and math Common Core standards.

• FLORIDA: The state’s top legislators tell Superintendent Tony Bennett to drop national Common Core tests. The federally funded national testing group is still low on details lawmakers want, just one year out from their tests hitting school computers.

• OHIO: A lawmaker plans to introduce a bill to reconsider Common Core. Gov. Kasich indicates he’ll veto it.

To read the rest from Heartland Institute, click here.

Response to UT School Board Member Dave Thomas on Common Core   1 comment

http://utahpubliceducation.org/2013/07/10/sit-in-my-seat/#comment-97870

When I saw that a Utah State School Board member had taken the time to (sort of) answer my questions about Common Core, I was grateful. When I realized that he had not read previous rebuttals on these same topics, I was discouraged. I don’t think they are studying what we have been asking them to study.

Here’s today’s letter. Here’s the link that it was based on. Here’s the list of questions that his letter was based on.

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Dear Mr. Dave Thomas,

I appreciate you taking the time to answer previously unanswered questions about the Common Core agenda.

Unfortunately, the questions were incompletely and not directly answered.

I hope to someday meet in person, to have an open discussion using source documents; until that meeting is offered, I will try writing point by point.

No evidence to support the experiment

You answered question #1 by giving Fordham’s opinion of Common Core. That’s not empirical data nor is it evidence of field testing. No research has ever been done to prove that Common Core will help our students. It’s theoretical and experimental.

We need to see a long-term pilot study of students trying out Common Core to know that it works better. There is no research to support Common Core’s claims –because it is an experiment.

Reduction of literature

You answered question #2 by saying that ELA does not reduce literature. This is untrue. It is common knowledge that informational text is to be the main type of reading for students in Common Core English classes. Common Core testing companies, curriculum writing companies, and teachers all know it. You can see it in the standards themselves. It is unrealistic to think that math and science teachers will be teaching literature; the split is going to harm the amount of literature kids read in English classes. Saying otherwise does not reconcile with the textbooks coming out right now, that are Common Core aligned. While some people believe it’s better to focus on informational texts (I do not) the point is, where were the dissenting voices? Where was the debate? How did this huge transformation toward informational text happen without obvious, noisy vetting?

Math Problems

If integrated math was universally seen as superior, and was beyond debate, then why is there so much arguing going on about whether its viable as a math system among top educators? Why didn’t the Utahns get to debate whether we’d use integrated math, of which not everyone shares your high opinion?

It is common knowledge that Algebra II is taught at the eighth grade level in top performing Asian countries. James Milgram who was the mathematician who rejected Common Core when he served on its validation committee, said:

“I can tell you that my main objection to Core Standards, and the reason I didn’t sign off on them was that they did not match up to international expectations. They were at least 2 years behind the practices in the high achieving countries by 7th grade, and, as a number of people have observed, only require partial understanding of what would be the content of a normal, solid, course in Algebra I or Geometry. Moreover, they cover very little of the content of Algebra II, and none of any higher level course… They will not help our children match up to the students in the top foreign countries when it comes to being hired to top level jobs.“

You mention Dr. Hung-Hsi Wu. But for every Dr. Hung-Hsi Wu who approves of this type of math, there’s a Yong Zhao and a Ze’ev Wurman and a James Milgram, arguing just the opposite.

The point: The majority of Utahns never got to argue out this vitally important transformation of what we are to teach our kids.

Amendability

On the issue of amendability, you slid right past discussion of the 15% cap that the federal government placed on the standards after they were copyrighted by the CCSSO/NGA. Utah can only amend these standards by 15% and that 15% will not be on the common core nationally-aligned tests. We only amended cursive by asking for permission from the CCSSO/NGA. It says so, right on the USOE website: “By Permission.” Where’s the autonomy in that?

Data Collection

On the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) tracking and the Common Core tests’ data collection issue, you correctly say that the federal government is requiring aggregated student data to be given. However, you do not admit that Utah is collecting increasing amounts of student information, both academic and nonacademic, using schools as data collectors for the SLDS, and that AIR will collect even more when it administers the Common Core aligned tests.

AIR is partnered with SBAC, which you failed to mention. And SBAC is under obligation to share its collected student data with the federal government. What evidence is there that AIR and SBAC don’t share collected data? The National Education Data Model and the Common Educational Data Standards and the Data Quality Campaign– all federal groups– ask for personally identifiable information down to voting status and bus stop times.

You are correct that this is not part of the standards, but it is part of the overall Common Core agenda and it is part of the President’s vision for education, and it confirms what eScholar CEO said at the White House Datapalooza event –that “Common Core is the glue” without which the masses of student data could not be so easily shared.

Testing

You say that “Utah is not part of any of the Common Core testing consortiums,” but the test that we have opted to use (AIR) is partnered with one of the Common Core testing consortiums (SBAC) and it is totally Common Core-aligned. I see no benefit to choosing AIR over SBAC. Do you? In fact, in light of the “behavioral indicators” that HB15 (line 59) mandates that the CAT tests will be collecting, and in light of the fact that AIR is a behavioral testing institution, with a mission to apply behavioral research, I think we are in over our heads as far as attempting to hold any type of student psychological data privacy inviolable –while remaining with AIR.

Constitutionality

It is not true that “No one from outside our state is setting standards, creating tests or monitoring them as part of Common Core.” Private interest groups in D.C. have written the standards we now call “Utah Core,” for math and English. It is unrepresentative to allow our state school board to cede control of standards, testing, or to give access to school-collected data to groups outside Utah.

Pushback on Federal Overreach

I would like thank you and anyone on the state school board who has been “fighting federal intrusion into public education,” but I personally haven’t seen any evidence of it. I see the exact opposite happening; whatever comes from D.C., our state school board seems to applaud and obey as if there were no G.E.P.A. law, as if there were no constitutional prohibition for federal “accountability” from states in educational matters.

It is nice that the NASBE told the USDE to stay out of Common Core; but the USDE clearly laughed at that message. In fact, according to the U.S. Secretary of Education, “in March of 2009, President Obama called on the nation’s governors and state school chiefs to develop standards and assessments.” Secretary Duncan seems to think it was President Obama’s idea to have Common Core. It never was “state-led” in any way.

Spiral of Silence

If you would like to see evidence of a culture of silence, simply ask teachers to fill out an anonymous survey as we have done. Teachers won’t speak out –unless, like me, or Susan Wilcox, or Margaret Wilkin, or David Cox, or Renee Braddy– they are Utah teachers who have retired, semi-retired, or are soon to retire.

Teachers value their jobs and therefore, fear speaking out.

Not State-Led

While you assert that Common Core was state-led and that it “was the brainchild of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers,” according to the U.S. Secretary of Education, Common Core was originally President Obama’s brainchild. He says, “in March of 2009, President Obama called on the nation’s governors and state school chiefs to develop standards and assessments.”

Utahns do not elect our governor to represent us on a federal stage; for that, we have representatives and congressmen. Were they asked to analyze Common Core before our state adopted the agenda? Not even close.
Cost

Do you believe that not having done a state cost analysis of Common Core implementation was wise?

Do you believe that the total transformation of all Utah schools to a different set of standards, tests, teacher trainings, and textbooks, will not require any additional funding? I don’t. I also cannot believe the claim that “there was no more impact to textbooks than there normally is,” when teachers are telling me that they have put excellent, even newly purchased, textbooks into permanent storage, because all new Common Core aligned materials must be bought. If indeed this is somehow true, that there was no increase to schools because of Common Core, let’s see the line-item proof to be transparent with taxpayers.

Imposition of Federal Standards

You implied that those of us who want to return to educational liberty want to “impose the federal NAEP standards on Utah,” but this is false. We want to control education locally.

Christel Swasey

Utah Credentialed Teacher

Heber City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope to see you there on July 17.

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

Deseret News Op-Ed: We’re Not Misinformed; We Know What Common Core Is And We Reject It.   4 comments

Hooray, Hooray! Today, the Deseret News published my op-ed. Here’s the link and the text:

Utah state delegates officially disapproved Common Core when they passed the anti-common core resolution this year by a 65 percent vote.

Was that not enough for our state school board and governor?

Gov. Gary Herbert continues to promote the Common Core-dependent Prosperity 2020 initiative. And the state school board continues to label teachers and others who long to reclaim local control and who want legitimate, non-experimental education standards, “the misinformed.”

The fact is, we are not misinformed; we know what Common Core is, and we reject it.

The board won’t even respond to requests for specifics about what we’re so misinformed about.

Now, despite the Utah anti-common core resolution passing; despite the examples of Michigan, Indiana and other states passing time-out bills against Common Core implementation; despite Obama’s recent announcement that he plans to tax Americans to pay for Common Core technologies in his ConnectEd Initiative; still, Utah’s school board has not softened its rigorous-praise-of-Common-Core talking points and is moving it forward as if nothing is wrong.

In fact, the board markets Common Core as being beyond debate; it’s so minimalistic, so consensually adopted, so protective of privacy rights and so academically legitimate (none of which is true) that it is too big to fail and is beyond any future need for amendments (which is indeed fortunate for them, since there is no Common Core amendment process).

Something is truly amiss when experienced Utah teachers with credentials, like me, are perpetually rejected for requests to the state school board to discuss the pros and cons of Common Core. The board doesn’t want a two-sided discussion.

The board is silent on these simple questions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Truth in American Education also published the article. This one’s actually a later draft, and is a bit better, with links to references. http://truthinamericaneducation.com/common-core-state-standards/were-not-misinformed-we-know-what-common-core-is-and-we-reject-it/

Dr. Gary Thompson on Common Core A.I.R. Testing   5 comments

Dr. Gary Thompson is an African American Doctor of Clinical Psychology from Utah.

He doesn’t mess around.

He recently posted the following letter, which he wrote in response to the Common Core testing company, American Institutes for Research (AIR).  The letter has to be shared. If you don’t have time to read it all, here’s the toothpaste-cap-sized serving of what he’s saying:

1. A.I.R., the testing company to which Utah has written out a check for $39 million to write Common Core tests, will not answer specific, professional, focused questions and lacks the professional qualifications to do what it has set out to do.

2. Dr. Thompson says that “The continued dissemination of non-data supported conclusions of Common Core by leaders in our education community, and specifically AIR, regarding testing and privacy issues, despite receipt of well documented concerns from educational, legal and psychology experts from around the country, is nothing short of malfeasance of duty.”

3. Dr. Thompson calls for the resignation of John Jesse, Director of Assessment for the Utah State Office of Education; Brenda Hale, Associate Superintendent of Public Schools; and Debra Roberts, Chairperson for the Utah State Board of Education.

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Here is the intro.

Public Response Letter to Mr. Jon Cohen – American Institutes for Research

*Note: In light of Dr. Thompson’s recent appointment to the Board of Trustees at the Utah Law & Disability Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, it must be noted for the record that his opinions are independent, and do not represent the official positions of any one Board member or employee of the Center or their affiliates.

Introduction:

In early March of 2013, we as concerned parents of children in public schools in Utah, wrote a detailed letter upon the request of Utah State Superintendent Dr. Martell Menlove regarding our serious trepidations about privacy and testing issues surrounding the implementation of “Common Core.” In it, we expressed strongly that our children would be pulled from Utah public schools unless these concerns were addressed, or in the alternative, at least acknowledge that they were “a work in progress”.

After I accepted a national television appearance, Dr. Menlove was kind enough to invite  both Mr. Flint and I into his office where the conversation started out with him sincerely asking, “What can we do to ensure that your daughter Zoey will be enrolled in a Utah public school Kindergarten?”

We described our concerns verbally, but we were asked to write down our apprehensions, as well as appropriate suggestions for changes for the Utah State Office of Education to consider implementing prior to Common Core arriving at full speed in the State of Utah.

We both spent an entire weekend drafting our 12-page letter to the Superintendent and presented an email copy to him, as well as to the entire Utah State Board of Education. Dr. Menlove was kind enough to call my home three weeks later to let me know that our concerns “were heard”, our clinic was a “wonderful asset” to the community, and he appreciated all of the hard work that we do for the children in the State of Utah.

Apparently he forwarded the letter to AIR, and AIR responded to Dr. Menlove specifically about our concerns. The original AIR letter link in response to our concerns is cited below:

http://www.schools.utah.gov/assessment/Adaptive-Assessment-System/AIR-Letter-to-Superintendent.aspx.  The following is our joint response to the letter:

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Here is the whole letter.

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Dear Mr. Cohen:

The Utah State Office of Education was kind enough to post your rejoinder to our inquiries into possible professional practices regarding AIR on their state webpage. Both Attorney Edward D. Flint and I have reviewed your letter. We would both like to thank you in advancefor the kind tenor of your response. In our state, apparently a titanic issue with parents is whenever many of them have questioned the accuracy or efficacy of issues surrounding Common Core, they are publically branded as “right wing, conspiracy theorists wearing tin foil hats.”

We both wish to thank you for your professional tone by not dragging political or religious ideology into an issue that is purely about science, law, parental choice, and common sense. Clearly, neither Mr. Flint nor myself have ever been accused of, or confused with being “right wing nut bags.”

The vast majority of your response letter dealt with Mr. Flint’s privacy concerns. I will cut and paste Mr. Flint’s direct response in the latter parts of this letter under the section titled “Privacy Issues”.

As for the issues regarding disability and learning disorders, you devoted a grand total of exactly 74 words (compared to my to my 8 pages of written concerns) regarding issues associated with Adaptive Testing and Common Core. Here is the exact quote from your letter regarding disability issues and the Common Core:

“On a final note, Dr. Thompson expresses concern about the tests appropriately serving students with disabilities. AIR has a long history of serving students with disabilities, and we have invested in making our testing platform the most accessible possible. In addition, we always advise our clients to design tests that adhere to the principles of fair testing outlined by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities guidelines for adaptive testing, which can be found at  http://www.c-c-d.org/task_forces/education/CCD_Computer_Adaptive_Testing_final.pdf

Here are my professional thoughts regarding your paragraph:

1. You state that you have a “long history of serving students with disabilities.”

Yet you failed to provide a single reference or smidgen of evidence that you have designed adaptive tests/assessments for children of color, gifted children, or children with specific learning disabilities that are scientifically reliable or useful. Providing data links to pilot studies of successes you have had with these, and other groups of children with “learning quirks” in regards to adaptive testing would have been the appropriate professional response to a interested “shareholder” in your corporation. Whereas my tax money is funding this $39,000,000.00 endeavor, I indeed have the strong attitude that you work for the parents of public school children in the State of Utah. Your responses along these lines lacked intellectual rigor and were disingenuous at best.

2. You stated, “we have invested in making our testing platform the most accessible possible.”

Where is the data from pilot studies that support your claim?  If is only accurate “as much as possible,” then certainly you are aware that certain groups of children will most likely statistically slip through the proverbial cracks with your adaptive testing design. Who are these kids? What have you done to encourage these children from avoiding potential emotional/psychological harm from opting out of this test you are designing? Your response along these lines again lack intellectual rigor and again was professionally affronting to me.

3. You stated in the paragraph, “we always advise our clients to design tests that adhere to the principles of fair testing….”.

Who in UTAH is designing this new adaptive common core test?  What qualifications does this person have? I assume that Mr. John Jesse, Director of Assessment for the Utah State Office of Education, is not this person, whereas he does not have the training or experience to design such a complex, adaptive test for every public school child in the entire State of Utah.

If someone was found in our State to design this test, please tell me why a $39,000,000.00 check was written out to your company to design this test? Your attempt to conceptualize Utah as “design partner” is either a direct lie, or a mistake on your part. For $39,000,000.00, Utah taxpayers and parents expect a certain degree of honesty and/or accuracy from a company that is designing the most important test in the history of our state.

4. Speaking of accuracy, you referred us to link via this sentence:

“In addition, we always advise our clients to design tests that adhere to the principles of fair testing outlined by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities guidelines for adaptive testing,which can be found at  http://www.c-c-d.org/task_forces/education/CCD_Computer_Adaptive_Testing_final.pdf. ”

The link in the letter you drafted and posted to the entire State of Utah to view as evidence of your concern for children with disabilities in Utah was THE CATALINA ISLAND CONSERVANCY.

I simply am speechless.

As far as the Washington D.C. based, non-profit special interestgroup, “Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities” is concerned, the guidelines on their webpage are bereft of any references towards specific practices regarding at risk children and adaptive testing. This may have something to do with the fact that it appears that absolutely none of their Board of Directors has any type of formal, graduate school level education or clinical training experience with children displaying disabilities in assessment settings. I could go on for days regarding my concerns about CCD, but time is a limiting factor.

In addition, you also failed to detail how AIR works specifically with CCD as such might concern the development of the pending $39,000,000.00 Utah adaptive test. How often have your test designers consulted with CDC? What specific advice did the CDC give you concerning our unique population of children? Did the CDC make your aware that Utah has the highest number of children diagnosed with Autism in the entire United States?

If so, what specific professional guidance did the CDC give to AIR in regards to designing test for children with Autism? Would you be so kind to share this information with my fellow parents in the State of Utah?

I will not rehash the vast majority of my concerns to you again. I do believe you have a copy of our last letter. In that letter I provided multiple avenues by which AIR and the Utah State Department of Education can alleviate our “paranoia” by at least considering the implementation of several transparency features into your $39,000,000.00 contract with the citizens and parents of the State of Utah.

Let me refresh your memory with a few nuggets of change to consider from our previous letter:

1. “Anyone who states that AIR does not have the capacity to input selected variables that measure “behavioral characteristics”, along with variables that measure language arts, science or math is sorely misguided. It would be relatively “easy” to design a language adaptive test that has behavioral characteristics embedded into the design of the test.”

2. “Someone, independent of AIR, MUST have access to every single item on the tests being designed in order to insure and that absolutely ZERO behavioral indicators are being measured on tests that parents in Utah believe are only measuring “reading, writing and arithmetic”.

3. “A truly independent review by three independent, Board Certified, joint Ph.D. level psychometricians and licensed clinical psychologist, of all of the test items developed by AIR to ensure that there are no line item variables that could be reasonable utilized to measure“behavioral characteristics” as such may be defined by the American Psychological Association, or Journals published by this group.”

4. Implying, as was done in the USOE Alpine Town Hall Meeting, that any disability group in the country has approved a test (that has not yet to be designed) for the valid use with these populations, is disingenuous at the very least, or a flat out, deliberate misrepresentation to the parents of Utah (and the rest of the country) at worst.

5. An “opt out option” for children with disabilities until data of validity and efficacy is published and disseminated to the public, which ensures fair and accurate measurement of academic achievement.

Your letter failed to even acknowledge reflection of these common sense suggestions and protections for our $39,000,000.00 investment with AIR.

Per se, as far as your response to our clinic’s concerns that were outlined to Superintendent Menlove, I find it to be nothing but a piece of disingenuous public relations rubbish that is affronting in its lack of clarity and references. In a nutshell, you have asked the entire State of Utah to simply “trust you.”

Perhaps you have not spent any recent time in our great state. It would not be an exaggeration to state that the vast majority of Utah citizens have become a little queasy regarding believing authority figures in politics and business regarding positions of fiduciary and moral trust. Common Core, good or bad, is undisputedly the largest experiment of academic and assessment change in the history of our country. With such a grand experiment, the word “trust” should never be uttered.

I strongly suggest that both AIR and the Utah State Office of Education step up to the plate with some real answers, as opposed to the public relations fluff that we as parents are tired of digesting. Your joint, continued efforts of quasi-deception by proxy might incite this highly intelligent, bi-partisan, independent group of Utah parents to descend 10,000 strong to have their voices heard on the steps of our Capitol. Outsiders may make fun of our dominant culture, may laugh regarding our Utah Jazz, however we draw the line where it comes to the health and safety of our children. Our children will not become your psychological and academic guinea pigs without reasonable pilot-study data, specific to our unique population of children and teenagers.

Privacy Issues:

The vast majority of your letter was in response to attorney Flint’s concerns regarding data mining and related privacy issues. The following is a direct quote from Mr. Flint that I received this morning after he reviewed your letter to Dr. Menlove:

“AIR responds to our concerns about privacy, misuse of data and the protection of the database by re-stating that their contract precludes misuse or dissemination and would violate existing laws. I think we can all agree on that, however, it completely fails to answer the questions posed.

For example, in my letter to Superintendent Menlove, I cited a number of instances where both governmental and private agencies have lost or misplaced data while transferring it via flash drive, and the numerous instances of professional hackers obtaining the most sensitive and private information from medical and other databases.

The government agencies and companies that were “victims,” were also all required by law and contract to not disclose, disseminate or negligently lose the data, and to have sufficient firewall and other protections against hackers. They failed. Miserably.

AIR is in no better position than the dedicated public servants who have utterly failed us on a regular basis. They ignore the new 21st Century realities of data-mining and the veracity of how valuable data is sought after by many organizations for many, including nefarious, purposes. AIR dangerously skips past my concerns for the numerous exemptions to obtaining parental written consent, such as “academic surveys” or the oft-repeated abuses now being reported in other states that have implemented Common Core.

Like the Utah State Office of Education, they simply say “trust us, we’re professionals.” What they really mean is “screw you, we’re in charge here.”

It appears off hand that you failed to impress a trial lawyer with 26 years of litigation experience, as well as a father of a young son with Asperger’s Disorder.

Conclusion:

The repeated refusal of education leaders in positions of trust to responsibly address privacy and testing concerns (as well as other well documented concerns regarding curriculum development) surrounding Common Core may ultimately result in potential academic and emotional harm to a significant portion of Utah’s public school children. The repeated refusal to even responsibly acknowledge the very possibility of potential harm to children in our communities borders on delusional thought processes.

The continued dissemination of non-data supported conclusions of Common Core by leaders in our education community, and specifically AIR, regarding testing and privacy issues, despite receipt of well documented concerns from educational, legal and psychology experts from around the country, is nothing short of malfeasance of duty.

In plain terms, you are experimenting with our children without our consent. Such actions are not acceptable to any parent in the State of Utah, regardless of political or religious affiliations. It’s time for some “new perspectives” to be heard in various education circles.

As such, I would deferentially request that Mr. John Jesse, Director of Assessment for the Utah State Office of Education; Ms. Brenda Hale, Associate Superintendent of Public Schools; and Ms. Debra Roberts, Chairperson for the Utah State Board of Education resign from their respective professional and/or political duties prior to the commencement of the 2013-2014 public school academic year.

(Superintendent Menlove is new to the political jungles associated with Utah, and appears to be making an active effort in trying to wrap his head around the massive changes he inherited from Washington D.C. and his predecessor. In addition, I believe that he is a man of integrity.)

As an alternative to resignations of the above named parties, I would respectfully request that both the Utah State Office of Education, as well as the Utah State School Board, discuss and objectively educate parents via their respective official websites regarding areas of Common Core that have not been vetted in a reasonable and proper manner via pilot studies (e.g.,testing issues), as well as acknowledge that potential exists for the misuse of private “educational” data. This new transparency and intellectual honesty will result in allowing parents to make individual decisions regarding either opting out of Common Core, or making arrangements for alternative educational instruction for their respective children.

Mr. Cohen, your role at AIR will be key to ensuring that USOE honors our request for more in-depth, and objective scientific and legal transparency, as well as building bridges of trust between you and the community of citizens who are paying for your services. I think I speak for and in behalf of tens of thousands of Utah parents who believe that trust must be earned when it comes to the process and execution of educating our children. The days of signing “blank checks of trust” are done in our state…especially when such involves $39,000,000.00 and our children.

This is all very simple: Prove your claims with scientifically reliable pilot data, or in the alternative, acknowledge potential deficits in a clear and concise manner so that parents, who are the true experts of their children, can make decisions regarding their unique kids and their continued involvement (or not) in Common Core.

One size does not fit all.

Best Regards,

Gary Thompson, Psy.D.

Edward D. Flint, Attorney at Law

  • Dr. Thompson can be reached for comment at drgary@earlylifepsych.com.
  • Mr. Flint can be reached for comment at specialedflint@gmail.com.

Dr. Thompson’s appearance on The Blaze t.v. show with Glenn Beck is highlighted below.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NjqOBEc3HU

Fighting the Adoption of Common Core-aligned Science Standards and Textbooks   1 comment

None of us have enough time to process, comprehend and then fight against all of the intrusions on our time and our God-given rights and liberty.

But some things are more important than others.  And fighting the adoption of Common Core-aligned science standards and textbooks must be high on the To-Do list.

Heartland Institute’s Joy Pullman explains it in a great article found here.  http://heartland.org/policy-documents/research-commentary-common-core-science-standards

She writes: “Individual liberty advocates counter that centralization in education is as foolish and damaging as centralizing the economy. They note the ideological tendencies of science education toward politics as a substitute for actual science, particularly in the area of highly debatable global warming alarmism, which is falsely assumed as reality in these standards. The standards also promote a simplified understanding of science and are still incoherent despite revisions…. They ignore central scientific concepts and push a progressive teaching style that has been proven to erode student learning…”

Yet textbook companies are rewriting science to align to the false assumptions of common core, so even those states who wisely rejected the common core or who aim to do so, will likely end up with common core textbooks anyway.

Here’s a letter I wrote to my local and state school boards and superintendents today.

Dear Superintendent and School Boards,
Our homeschooling group attended the Leonardo Museum in Salt Lake City yesterday. What a wonderful museum.  The Mummy exhibit was fascinating, the hands-on digital learning activities were great, the craft workshop and prosthetics exhibits and art were absolutely engaging for visitors of all ages.
But in the multi-room exhibit entitled “Human Rights Exhibit,” visitors were shown not only ecology art, but vocabulary words in the context of the claim that human behavior is killing plant and animal life –and will likely kill off the human race.  There were paintings of futuristic apartment projects teetering dangerously close to the ocean, on islands and cliffs.  The captions stated that because of the FACT of global warming and oceanic flooding, people will be living like this.
I use this as an example of the unscientific assumptions and lies being taught all around us, which are also loading the common core-aligned science standards and science textbooks coming our way.
Let’s not turn a blind eye to the ongoing politically-based rewrite of actual science.  Let’s stand independent of this.  Let’s actually teach the kids hard science based on settled facts as we did in all the wise years up till now.
For a detailed list of news articles and science reviews of Common Core science standards and textbooks, please read this.
We have Martell Menlove’s word that Utah will never adopt Common Core science and social studies standards.  But with the majority of textbook companies belonging to the monopoly of the insanely unrepresentative system of Common Core, we as a state have to go out of our way to find true science for our kids.  Let’s do it.
Thanks for listening.
Christel Swasey
Utah Teacher
Heber City
——————————————————-
Green Insanity in the Schools Update:
You have to read this woman’s blog.  First, she and her husband protested the Disney-like green propaganda film that was shown to the elementary school children to “teach” them that humans are destroying the earth. Then she was banned from volunteering in the school.  Then she was reinstated.  Sigh.
——

Michelle Rhee v. Constitutional Rights   1 comment

John Merrow’s Investigation of Michelle Rhee.

I’m posting this link to Diane Ravitch’s blog.

Why?

Yesterday, a Utah State School Board Member told me that Michelle Rhee is telling legislators to “reframe the debate” about Common Core– so that instead of it being about local control and the VOICE of the GOVERNED, it’s about being more and more like CHINA.

The school board member seemed to think this was a good idea.

Insane, yes.

Dismissive of the constitutional rights of Americans, yes.

Revealing of the fact that Rhee and her group care only about making money off Common Core, yes.

As you read the post from Diane Ravitch’s blog on the subject of John Merrow’s investigation of Michelle Rhee, please notice that she mentions the RIGHT supporting common core. And we all know Obama supports common core.

This is not a left v. right or a Democrat v. Republican issue.

This is about saving America for every last one of us.

Please pay attention.

Common Core ends local control in MULTIPLE WAYS:

It’s in the financial monopoly over educational materials held by the marriage of Pearson and Gates and the copycat alignment of 99% of all textbooks nationwide.

It’s in the political takeover of unelected boards that do not answer to the voters, groups that have copyrighted the standards and have left no amendment process for states.

It’s in the common core tests, which are federally reviewed and micromanaged and from which student data is given to the federal portal called the Edfacts Exchange for anyone– even researchers and vendors– to peruse.

It’s in the academic standards themselves, which are educational malpractice— unproven, unpiloted, unvetted, and relying on nutty theories like slashing classic literature and delaying the time math algorithms,get taught— standards which were passionately rejected by key members of the core validation committee,  James Milgram and Sandra Stotsky.

It’s in the lack of any state cost analysis, with states throwing out perfectly good, actually vetted, curriculum, and bearing the burden of paying for all this implementation, teacher training, textbook purchasing, technology sales of Common Core aligned structures.

We must get out.

Fast.

How Long Until Utah “Complies” With Federal Requests for Hundreds of Data Points on Individuals?   16 comments

Today I called Jerry Winkler, Utah Information Technology Director to ask questions about the federally paid-for  State Longitudinal Database System
He was very gracious and I appreciated his willingness to answer questions.
I asked him if he could verify the information I’d received from the state school board, that the reason that a Utah student is not able to opt out of the SLDS tracking system, is because of limitations of technology.
( I had received that idea from the state school board:  “Current data systems do not allow for individual student data to be withheld from the data submission process.”
But Jerry Winkler told me that it’s not a technology limitation.
“It’s a policy question,” he said, and directed me to inquire further about the policy from Carol Lear, the top lawyer at the Utah State Office of Education.
I shuddered.  I know more than I want to about  Carol Lear, the top U.S.O.E. lawyer.   Just FYI:  Carol Lear told me last year that since “the whole point is to be common” — it was of no importance that there’s no amendment process to Common Core.   She also told me she believed a cost analysis had been done on Common Core in Utah, when there had not –and still has not.   She displayed zero respect for the 10th Amendment and the  General Educational Provisions Act. and told me that she had never heard of the Cooperative Agreement and she thought it was a hoax.  Finally, she refused to respond to further questions and told me to go talk the the public relations department.  With no sense of valiance in defending states’ rights, would Lear balk at caving in to any request the federal Dept. of Education made of Utah?
Back to today:
I asked Jerry Winkler how compliant our state has been, so far, to the requests from the federal government at the Data Quality Campaign and the National Data Collection Model, those federal websites which request hundreds of non-academic data points about children from schools (including nicknames, family, voting, income, health and psychological information, etc.)
He verfied that Utah does submit information gathered by schools to the federal government, but assured me that right now, Utah is giving only aggregated (grouped) information to the federal government (He verified that this takes place at the portal called the Edfacts Exchange )
Winkler said that right now, Utah is keeping dis-aggregated data (personally identifiable data) inside the state at the SLDS database.
“Who or what would change that?” I asked, “At what point will Utah give in to federal requests to give up disaggregated (personal) data to the federal government, as well? Who makes the call to be more “compliant” with the federal requests?
Carol Lear, he said.  She is the one who would make the call.
Yikes.
Jerry Winkler also told me he believed that students could opt out of being tracked by the State Longitudinal Database System at the local LEA level, but if the data was entered by the LEA, it would automatically be sent to the SLDS and Utah Data Alliance, at which point opting out would end.
I had not heard this.  I will be asking my LEA how to accomplish that.
I asked Jerry Winkler if he had read of the Department of Education’s destructive alterations to federal FERPA (privacy law) and of the lawsuit over the matter, brought by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
He had not heard of it. 

No More Databases Tracking Our Kids Without Our Consent!   4 comments

I want to share this most VITAL point recently articulated on the Utahns Against Common Core website by Utah parent Oak Norton:

“We totally agree [with the State Office of Education] that we should strengthen privacy laws. In fact, the most secure way to secure our children’s personally identifiable information is to NOT STORE IT IN A DATABASE.  It’s pathetic that the USOE and State Board signed us onto this whole mess with grant and wavier applications and now go running to the legislature (whom they constantly criticize for interfering in education), and ask them to protect them from themselves. HELLO??? Who signed the waivers and applications? The Board President, State Superintendent, and the Governor.

The best way to protect this data is to unwind it.”

Utah Asst. Superintendent Dodges the Billion Dollar Question –Again   3 comments

After a whole year of never receiving an email response from Asst. Superintendent Judy Park, today she wrote back!  Wow.
But.  The billion dollar question was dodged again.  It’s been dodged in emails for over a year.  It was dodged twice more at last night’s Common Core (S.A.G.E./A.I.R.) presentation, both during and after the event.   But I wrote an email asking it again.
Here it is, and here’s her answer.

My Question:   Please direct me to documentation of the claim that the common core standards, upon which this test is built, are legitimate and that they have been empirically tested, rather than being the experimental idea of unelected noneducators?

Ms. Park’s Answer:   You have received a great deal of information about the common core from Brenda Hales, Associate Superintendent. I would encourage you to direct your questions about the common core to her.

Another dodge!  Another D O D G E!

Utterly, completely unbelievable!

This dodge is like building a house (a new Utah educational system) on quicksand (illegitimate standards) and insisting that everyone to keep admiring the roof (nifty technology) –and telling the homeowner (teacher/taxpayers/parents) who paid for the whole thing and will live in it for life, to quit asking the pesky questions about those sinking wobbly motions in the foundation, directing that homeowner to ask an irrelevant wallpaper hanger why the home was built in quicksand.

There comes a time when you either keep yelling at the t.v./radio/computer screen/newspaper, or you make a move.
Utah, I am asking you to make a move.  Call.  Write.  Tell our Governor, School Board, legislature and U.S.O.E.  that we deserve answers to these most basic of all questions that affect our children and grandchildren in dramatic ways, for the rest of their lives.  Please act. 
Here’s an email for the state school board: board@schools.utah.gov
This is what I wrote to Assistant Superintendent Judy Park today.
Judy,
Thank you for taking the time to partially respond to some of my questions.
Please– stop dodging the most important question, for me and for all Utahns.
“First, do no harm” applies to education as well as to medicine.  Please show us proof that the USSB/USOE is doing no harm by implementing Common Core; this should be easy.  Brenda Hales, the public relations person is not an academic expert; you are.  By dodging the question to her it appears that you don’t even know whether Common Core is snake oil –or not.
Don’t teachers, parents and legislators deserve to know that hundreds of millions of dollars and hours and children’s minds all pushing toward Common Core implementation is  being spent wisely?!   Do we not deserve to see evidence and references backing up the oft-repeated claim that these standards are helpful?
Where is the study showing that long-term, lives are enhanced when high school seniors are deprived of 70% of their classic literature?  Where is the study showing that long-term, students who are deprived of the knowledge of how to convert fractions into decimals, are blessed by that fact?  Countless examples could be shared.
You serve on the CCSSO, the D.C. group which developed and copyrighted these unproven standards.  You have been doing this longer than our State Superintendent and you stand uniquely qualified to answer questions about the academic  legitimacy of the standards and about the lack of any empirical evidence to back up the U.S.O.E.’s claims– which have been replicated on every district website in this stateand which are false.
The standards are not serving children honorably.  They take away from, rather than raise, Utah’s educational hopes.  Less classic literature.  Less traditional math.  Slowing of the age at which algorithms are introduced.  Less narrative writing.  Less parental consent.  No  district-held control over the sharing of student data.  And worst of all, the standards and connected reforms and mandates have robbed Utah of educational sovereignty, a constitutional right.  We have no voice, no amendment process.  For such a trade, the standards must surely be magnificent.
Yet you cannot even point me to the documentation that these standards are more than a blind experiment on our kids, written by noneducators and adopted at grant-point, rather than after thorough and honorable academic vetting in Utah?
This is an absolute outrage.
In the name of integrity, what are you going to do about it?
Christel Swasey
Utah Teacher
Utah Parent

The 2013 New Year’s Resolution of the Utah State School Board   Leave a comment

Michelle Malkin

Last month I learned that the New Year’s Resolution of famous political analyst Michelle Malkin is to stop Common Core.

See her syndicated column and blog here: http://michellemalkin.com/2013/01/23/rotten-to-the-core-obamas-war-on-academic-standards-part-1/

So I wrote to the Utah State School Board, asking what their New Year’s Resolutions were. I received one response, from Dixie Allen, a stauch common core and Obama supporter.  I ‘ll post Dixie’s response after my query.

(You’ll be interested to see that my board representative is super excited about adopting Common Core rules for additional academic subjects, (Social studies and science) and that she shows no signs of enlightenment or concern that lost Utah freedoms due to Common Core are getting harder,  the further we invest state time and money, to reclaim.)

— —- —

Dear State School Board,

http://michellemalkin.com/ http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/338428/common-core-corrupts-michelle-malkin

This year, Fox News Political Analyst Michelle Malkin’s widely publicized new year’s resolution is to expose Common Core for the disaster it is, to return America to high quality education and to reinstate educational constitutional freedom. So is mine.

I wonder, what is your educational New Year’s resolution?

Christel Swasey
— — —

Christel,

As one of my constituents, I owe you a response to your question. My New Year’s resolution is to work to be sure that our Core Curriculum contains all the objectives necessary to be sure our students are Career and College Ready [Career and College ready is Obama’s code word for Common Core national education standards] as they leave our system of education. That will require our readdressing our Social Studies and Science Curriculum and evaluate if there are any issues with our current Core Curriculum in Math and Language Arts that needs additions or tweaks. This is a constant job of the State Board and our specialists at USOE. However, it is a very worthwhile assignment that truly needs to happen on a continuous basis, as our students change and require different methods of instruction and sometimes different learning objectives to insure they are ready for the 21st Century of higher education and work and are capable of competing on the world’s stage.

Thanks for asking!

Dixie

— — —

Dear Dixie,

Those sound like noble goals.

In order to reach the goals the state board will need to –in writing and on the official Utah website– define “Career and College Ready” higher, and in a more academically sound way than the Dept. of Education has defined it.

The Dept. only defines it as having the same standards as other states. Sameness, as you know, has nothing to do with adequacy. (See the ed.gov website definitions page.)

Since Common Core defines vocational school, 2-year and 4-year college prep as the same thing, it defines college readiness way, way down. It hurts the average and above average student. Please redefine that term for Utahns. Reassure us that we have standards beyond “staying the same as the pack.”

I agree with you that the common core math requires a lot of “tweaking”. It is a very weak math that is far behind impressive nations (and far behind impressive state standards like Massachusetts’ standards were before Common Core. )

To ensure that we retain the power to tweak our math, we will need to make sure that the 15% cap on the standards, that was placed by the Dept of Education, is not recognized as applying to our Utah math standards. The same would apply to their not allowing literature beyond 30% in high school English classrooms, too. We want to give teachers and school districts the freedom to teach as much classic literature as they feel is proper college prep.

Can you get that in writing for us?

Pleas also get in writing from the DOE and from the copyright holders, the NGA/CCSSO, that we will not be limited by the NGA copyright nor by the 15% cap the DOE placed on the copyrighted standards?

We need to proactively assert our own authority over our own Utah standards or we will have no voice very soon.

Thank you for your response.

Christel
—- — —

But she neglected to respond to those questions.  I really wish she would have.  Are they not important enough??

If any of you want to write to the board: Board@schools.utah.gov

Truth in American Education vs. “A Complete Resource Guide for Utah’s Core Standards”   1 comment

http://truthinamericaneducation.com/common-core-state-standards/debunking-misconceptions-the-common-core-is-state-led/

Of all the things that the Truth in American Education site has posted, my favorite thing is that title.

Truth in American Education.  The title itself teaches a fact most Americans still don’t realize: that there are loads of lies parading as education reform improvements that need exposure via verifiable, well researched facts.  It does not matter if good people with good intentions, merely parroting information received from other organizations, tell those lies in all sincerity.  Sincerity does not trump truth.  Facts are still facts and the consequences for all of us are huge for aligning our school systems with such lies.

Our children’s futures are at stake, yet few parents stand up.  Why?  For those of us who are naturally nonconfrontational and trusting, the title, Truth in American Education, is a wakeup call that we should ask questions, verify claims and demand references for promises being spoken by authority figures in education reform today.  We should know our educational rights under the Constitution and know our rights as parents.  Don’t take unreferenced promises as answers.

Speaking of which: today I became aware of a 204-page document put out by the Utah State Office of Misinformation Education.

It’s called “A Complete Resource Guide  On Utah’s Core Standards.”

You can access the 204-pager here:

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B745qngYVLvVWXRFeU9MRUIzRTQ/edit?usp=sharing

Dr. Sandra Stotsky, an education scholar and whistleblower, one who is often quoted at the Truth in American Education website, happens to have read the 204-page Utah document, “A Complete Resource Guide  On Utah’s Core Standards.”

Stotsky previously served on the official Common Core Validation Committee and was among those who refused to sign off that the Common Core standards were, in fact, adequate.

Of “A Complete Resource Guide  On Utah’s Core Standards,” Stotsky states, “lies and unsupported claims” abound in the document.

She also writes:

“the writers didn’t even get the committee I was on right.  I was appointed to the Validation Committee, not the Standards Development Committee, and along with the one mathematician on the Validation Committee (and 3 others) declined to sign off on the final version of Common Core’s standards.

The writers keep repeating ad nauseam that Common Core was a state-led effort.  Everyone knows most of the effort was financed by the Gates Foundation and that Gates chose the standards writers who had no qualifications for writing K-12 standards in either ELA or math (David Coleman and Jason Zimba).

… I frankly can’t spend time on people who can’t document with citations their claims.   What country was used for international benchmarking?  Where’s the evidence?
The document simply repeats the false claims made by CCSSO from the beginning.”
— —– —
Despite not being willing to spend time rebutting a resource guide that fails to document its claims with citations, Dr. Stotsky took the time to bust 5 myths that the document contains:

1. Myth (Lie): Common Core was a state-led initiative.

Truth: Common Core was funded and directed behind-the-scenes by the Gates Foundation at every step. Gates funded NGA and CCSSO to serve as the front organizations, selected key people to be on the standards development committees (mostly from testing agencies), and funded many organizations, including the Fordham Institute and the PTA, to promote its adoption. Fordham was funded in particular to ensure that Common Core’s math and ELA standards (no matter what their condition) were given a high grade in a comparison review so that most states would accept the lie that CC’s standards were fewer, clearer, and more in-depth than whatever they had. Most states were willing to accept this lie because the USDE dangled RttT funds before their eyes. Gates and the USDE worked together on the incentives to states. Gates also funded the writing of many states’ applications for RttT funds by hiring consultants to write the applications for them.

2. Myth (Lie): Common Core’s standards were developed by the states—or by experts.

Truth: CC’s standards were written by people chosen by the Gates Foundation to write the standards: David Coleman and Jason Zimba, in particular. Coleman had no credentials for writing ELA standards, had never taught at any grade level, and was not a literary scholar. (Nor had his associate—Susan Pimentel. She had taught only in Head Start and had no degree in English.) Zimba, too, had never taught in K-12 mathematics, and had no experience in developing or writing math standards.

3. Myth (Lie): Common Core’s standards are internationally benchmarked.

Truth: Common Core’s standards were never internationally benchmarked because they couldn’t be. They are about two grades lower than what most other countries accept as “college readiness”. No countries have ever been mentioned by CCSSO as “benchmarking” countries.

4. Myth (Lie): Common Core’s standards prepare students for college or university.

Truth: Jason Zimba told the Massachusetts Board of Education in March 2010 that college readiness in mathematics means readiness for admission to a non-selective community college. (This is recorded in the minutes of the meeting.)

5. Myth (Lie): Common Core’s ELA standards promote literary study.

Truth: Coleman’s 50/50 mandate requires English teachers to teach to 10 informational reading standards and 9 literary standards each year. His mandate reduces literary study because English teachers must add informational texts to their curriculum. There is no research base showing that an increase in informational reading in the English class leads to greater college readiness. Just the contrary. The evidence, historical and empirical, shows that a focus on reading and discussing complex literature in high school leads to college readiness.

——————
What more can I possibly add to Dr. Stotsky’s clear corrections to the Utah State Office of Education?
–Maybe an acronym translator:
ELA – English Language Arts
NGA – National Governors’ Association (the group that with CCSSO created Common Core)
CCSSO – Council of Chief State School Officers (the group that with NGA created Common Core)
USDE (U.S. Department of Education)
RTTT – Race To The Top (a competitive grant opportunity that the federal government used to incentivize Common Core adoption to the states)
PTA (Parent-Teacher Association, a national group that promoted Common Core because Bill Gates paid them to)

Call to Action   Leave a comment

The Utah Legislative Session begins in two weeks. It is short.

Please call legislators, state school board members and Governor Herbert and ask for the following:

•   UT LEGISLATORS MUST WRITE FREEING LEGISLATION – Utah should reclaim its educational sovereignty by following the lead of states such as Indiana and South Carolina which are attempting to break free of Common Core by writing legislation that halts it.

 

WHY?

•   PRIVACY ISSUES – Common Core testing requires that every student be tracked using personally identifiable information that is sent beyond the local school and district to six Utah agencies (Utah Data Alliance) and uses the federally instated “State Longitudinal Database System” (SLDS) which allows interoperability for all states and federal oversight. The Dept. of Education has been sued because it altered Family Educational Rights Privacy Act (FERPA) regulations without congressional approval to empower common core testing data to be accessed by them and others. These alterations redefine terms such as “authorized representative,” “directory information” and “educational program” to remove the obligation of school systems to keep family information private.

•  NO COST ANALYSIS – It is utterly irresponsible to have no cost analyis on Common Core. One of Texas’ and Virginia’s reasons for rejecting it was financial. Texas estimated $560 million just in CC professional development costs. Utah just spent $39 million just on CC test development alone. Corporations such as Pearson, Microsoft, Wireless Generation, and countless others will become wealthy at students’ learning expense and at taxpayer expense as they implement the mandates of common core in textbooks, teacher development courses and technology and sell them to us.

NO ACADEMIC ANALYSIS – The standards and the preschool- through-workforce system they promote (P-20 system) are not only what amounts to an unfunded mandate; they are academically inferior to what we had before and far inferior to what top states (Massachusetts) had before.  The line about “rigor” is a false claim, especially at the high school level. Members of the official CC validation committee Dr. Sandra Stotsky and Dr. James Milgram refused to sign off that these standards were rigorous or legitimate. We note that CC was written without input from any of the major curriculum research universities and is an unpiloted experiment without any metric to measure intended or unintended consequences. Its harms are less marked for lower grades, yet it slashes classic literature by 70% for high school seniors and dramatically dumbs down high school math.

ILLEGALITY ISSUES – There is a Constitutional ban on federal direction of instruction which is underscored in the 10th amendment and further clarified in a law called the General Educational Provisions Act. Yet the Dept. of Education has gone around the law and congress to promote the copyrighted CC standards (developed by the National Governors’ Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers) and has put a 15% cap on top of it, so that no state may add freely to the supposed “minimum” standards. Additionally, the CC national tests are written specifically to CC standards, to divest the 15% allowance of states’ “wiggle room” of meaning. The Dept. of Education has coerced states into adopting the CC, using the lure of possible grant monies, and this financial incentivization has not put the best academic interests of children first.

Additionally, share a video link:

There are five short videos which explain Common Core very simply and with verifiable references  (point out that the State Office of Education does not provide references for claims in any explanation of what Common Core is.)

There are 5 videos and each is short.  The American Principles Project created them, with Concerned Women of Georgia.

http://stopcommoncore.com/youtube-channel-dvd/

Ken Parkinson or Mark Openshaw for State School Board?   Leave a comment

Vote Ken Parkinson. 

I saw Ken Parkinson’s dedication and selfless service when I worked with him at Freedom Academy in Provo.

Incumbent Mark Openshaw, on the other hand, has never responded to a single email I’ve sent him.  And there have been many.

What kind of leader do you want on our State School Board?

Ken Parkinson.

Voting for Wendy Simmerman or Dixie Allen for Utah State School Board?   Leave a comment

Both Wendy Simmerman and Dixie Allen are running for Utah State School Board, representing my district.  I’ve found links that outline what each candidate stands for, which I’ll post here:

http://vote.utah.gov/on-my-ballot/candidates/state-school-board/wendy-simmerman/

http://utahmomscare.blogspot.com/2012/10/dixie-allen-utah-state-board-of.html

I’m voting for Wendy Simmerman.

Wendy Simmerman is running on a platform of parental rights and responsibility coming first.  Amen!

She also said that she sees that there are Constitutional issues with the nationalized Common Core Initiative that need further study and attention.

I agree.

 

 

Why I Decided to Homeschool My Child   6 comments

     Even though the elementary school my son attended up until this week is one of the friendliest, most parent-involved and teacher-dedicated school I’ve ever seen, I decided to homeschool. 

My decision to homeschool is not a political statement, although I am vehemently opposed to the Common Core Initiative which has taken over our schools. 

It’s not an attempt to shield my son from the pegging that happens with high stakes testing; I had already opted us out of all high stakes, standardized tests at the elementary school.

Although I am a certified teacher with an up to date credential and many years’ experience teaching in schools, I am not basing my decision on that; research I’ve seen by Jonas Himmelstrand, and by others, has shown that even children taught at home by parents with low education levels turn out better educated kids, on the whole, than kids who are taught in public school systems.

My decision was not an attempt to hide from the citizen surveillance program that has recently been implemented via the SLDS and P-20 systems in each state, although I am vehemently opposed to that, too.  (BTW, the fact that kids can’t attend school without being personally tracked was verified in an email to me by Lorraine, the secretary of the Utah State School Board that is posted on this site.)

I’m homeschooling because one-on-one, customized tutoring is more effective than teaching in large groups.  I’m homeschooling because I can eliminate things I don’t feel are important and make more time for things I feel are important.  Example: I have time to teach him things that public schools do not prioritize, such as not only reading and math and social studies, but also geography, cursive, Swedish, diagramming sentences, reading scriptures, analysis of government and liberty.  I’m homeschooling because my son wants me to.  He asked me to.

Friends have been asking me what I am using.

  • Lined paper and a pencil, because I want him to have great handwriting, the ability to write in cursive, and no spellcheck until he’s older.
  • A computer, because he can create powerpoints based on what he’s learned, and practice typing, and find maps and dictionaries, etc.
  • Saxon math, because it’s “real” math, traditional math, and there’s an online placement test before you buy the text book.  I love it. 
  • “What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know” because I used this line of books when I taught elementary school a few years ago and liked it.
  • CK Colorado because it’s a free website with lesson plans that match the “What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know.”
  • Swedish Fairy Tales.
  • The Scriptures.
  • The same grammar books I used for remedial students when I taught English at UVU
  • Mad Libs.
  • The CIA World Factbook and maps on the internet to teach geography.
  • Virtual Field Trips (online: to an apple cider factory, woolen mill, surfboard factory, museums worldwide, Machu Piccu via National Geographic YouTube, etc.)
  • Real Field Trips (there are so many things close by– university art and science museums, farms, airports, libraries, historical sites)   

And, to ensure he’s not socially left out, I also have him in karate three times a week, boy scouts, church, and I encourage neighbor and sibling play time all afternoon, and I’ve joined the Utah County homeschooling association and will probably do things with them as well.

   Ironically, in the October 15, 2012, issue of the National Review, there’s an article called The Last Radicals“The Last Radicals: Homeschoolers Occupy the Curriculum” that came out, ironically, the same week that I decided to homeschool my own fourth grade son.   

The author, Kevin D. Williamson, writes:

<!—->          There is exactly one authentically radical social movement of any real significance in the United States, and it is not Occupy, the Tea Party, or the Ron Paul faction. It is homeschoolers, who, by the simple act of instructing their children at home, pose an intellectual, moral, and political challenge to the government-monopoly schools, which are one of our most fundamental institutions and one of our most dysfunctional. Like all radical movements, homeschoolers drive the establishment bats.

In the public imagination, homeschooling has a distinctly conservative and Evangelical odor about it, but it was not always so. The modern homeschooling movement really has its roots in 1960s countercultural tendencies; along with A Love Supreme, it may represent the only worthwhile cultural product of that era. The movement’s urtext is Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child Rearing, by A. S. Neill, which sold millions of copies in the 1960s and 1970s. Neill was the headmaster of an English school organized (to the extent that it was organized) around neo-Freudian psychotherapeutic notions and Marxian ideas about the nature of power relationships in society. He looked forward to the day when conventional religion would wither away — “Most of our religious practices are a sham,” he declared — and in general had about as little in common with what most people regard as the typical homeschooler as it is possible to have.

“People forget that some of the first homeschoolers were hippies,” says Bob Wiesner, a counselor at the Seton Home Study School, a Catholic educational apostolate reporting to the bishop of Arlington, Va. In one of history’s little ironies, today most of homeschooling’s bitterest enemies are to be found on the left. “We don’t have much of a problem from conservatives,” Wiesner says. “It’s the teachers’ unions, educational bureaucrats, and liberal professors. College professors by and large don’t want students who can think for themselves. They want students they can indoctrinate, but that’s hard to do with homeschoolers — homeschoolers push back.”

Full Article here:  https://www.nationalreview.com/nrd/articles/328699/last-radicals

Today’s Report from State School Board Meeting   Leave a comment

   An attendee from today’s state school board meeting informs us that because Superintendent Shumway is resigning, a selection committee was formed to find a new state superintendent. According to the bylaws, this committee will select a new superintendent for approval by Governor Herbert.  The full board will not vote on this. –Utah needs lesiglation that changes the process as well as the process by which board members are elected –because it is not by the people.

The attendee also stated that the “Earth Science Classes” content and changes will be online for public review.  The board claimed it hadn’t made any changes to the content but just tweaked a few processes here and there.  Interestingly, there was one board member, Leslie Castle, who really did not want the science classes out for public review because of the possible disagreement of the public.

All of the rest of the committee voted for public review of the science classes.

More to come… (about the data privacy issues regarding FERPA regulations)

A Plea for Higher Educational Standards and Educational Freedom: Letter to Representatives and Senators   1 comment

     

Dear Representatives and Senators:

I’m writing to ask what steps the legislature plans to take to protect our citizens from Common Core’s mediocre standards and non-representation. Here are a few suggestions.

ACCOUNTABILITY

Included in the duties of the state school board to direct education is no authority to give their authority to direct education away, to forces beyond the Utah Constitution’s jurisdiction (forces that include NGA,CCSSO, Dept. of Ed, consortia, etc.) Can the state school board can be held accountable for that sobering overstep of Utah Constitutional authority?

The Utah legislature can add conditions or prohibitions to the funding that are provided to the School Board. An option would be to attach a requirement that funds cannot be used to implement Common Core as it currently stands, requiring a process that involves top scholars nationally to revisit the standards and revise them to ensure that math standards are truly internationally competitive. Similarly, something could added regarding the focus of English standards on classic literature rather than allowing the Common Core mandate of dominance for info-texts over classic literature and narrative writing.

COST ANALYSIS

It is appropriate for the Legislature to require a detailed cost analysis of what it has and will cost to implement Common Core.

INDEPENDENCE

Common Core annulment may loom as an embarrassing and awkward step for a few leaders, but to not end the arrangement is a much more serious mistake.  Right now, when only a handful of Utah schools have already implemented Common Core, it will be the easiest time for Utah to change course.  It may not even be possible, later.  As Jim Stergios of Pioneer Institute has said, “Gentlemen’s agreements quickly turn into mandates.”  We should agree to reject what we now recognize as literature-limiting, math-slowing, cursive-ending, un-Amendable standards.

TRANSPARENCY AND EDUCATOR INPUT

The USOE and State School Board is not listening to educators or citizens who oppose Common Core.  They claim to have spent time with us, but in reality, they flee from any discussion of the standards, especially with a credentialed Utah teacher like me, because I oppose the national standards.  I’ve been told “no” to a face-to-face talk with lawyer Carol Lear, and have had numerous written requests for references and verification of Common Core’s claims of “rigor” totally ignored by Superintendent Larry Shumway and USOE’s Brenda Hales.

SIMPLE FACTS

Disregarding the unanchored claims and promises (of CCSSO’s Gene Wilhoit, Sec. Arne Duncan, and the USSB/USOE) we are left with the legally binding, written facts, the simplicity of which are startling:

1. NGA/CCSSO is in charge of Utah’s standards.

2. NGA/CCSSO holds copyright.

3. US Dept of Ed sets a cap on the copyrighted standards at 15%. No amendment process exists.

4. Limitation of classic literature.

5. Limitation of math.

6. Common Core only prepares kids for nonselective community college, according to Common Core architect Jason Zimba himself.

 

7.  Common tests require giving data directly to the federal government, including nonacademic and family data.

 

8. No voice exists for Utah to change any of it –except to pull out of Common Core.

We do not want to be found siding with those who are trampling on freedom of education and the sacred right to privacy. This is one of the most important fights there could ever be– the educational decisionmaking power that touches our own children’s lives. Giving in to nationalized standards will set a precedent for more and more educational intrusion by forces who have no legitimate stakeholder vote.

I am asking you to be heroes to future generations of students and teachers in leading Utah’s reclamation of educational freedom and citizen privacy.  All of America is watching.

Sincerely,

Christel Swasey

Utah parent and educator

Heber City

Teachers Against Common Core: local update   1 comment

  The following essays were written about Common Core by four teachers whose names are being protected.  See http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/teacher-comments-on-common-core/

 

Teacher 1

I just attended the Core Academy for math as an elementary teacher and was told for 4 straight days that the common core does NOT require math facts or the teaching of standard algorithms. I was taught how to teach solely using discovery learning or weird, unusable, at least with larger numbers, fuzzy math algorithms which actually make understanding place value unnecessary to solve problems requiring regrouping. What? I thought the core was supposed to help teachers REMEMBER to teach skills and standard algorithms … I am devastated and do not even know if I can teach in Utah if this is the direction we are going…aligning ourselves with Washington state which is all discovery and has some of the poorest performing math students in the country…where they still believe Terc Investigations is great Curriculum. May the saints preserve us all.

Teacher 2

I teach in the ________ district.  Our district is adopting the core and is very involved in training their teachers.  I will be attending meetings at my school to receive training.  What can I do, if anything to keep my job, but not be chained to teaching the core?  Last year, we implemented the writing portion of the core.  I followed the core.  My students did not accomplish as much with the core, as with the program I had been using.  This year, I am quietly going back to the writing program I used before.  This year we will be implementing the core math curriculum, I think I will quietly take ideas that I like, but keep teaching what I know works.  Any advice?

Teacher 3

Last Tuesday, Rep. Kraig Powell hosted a forum in Heber on Common Core. In attendance at this meeting were a number of teachers and administrators including Wasatch Superintendent Shoemaker. At lunch, a teacher who is involved with trying to get Utah off Common Core, was speaking with Sup. Shoemaker and another long time teacher’s name came up that this teacher had student-taught under. The Superintendent told this teacher how fortunate it was that she student-taught under her because she was a master teacher. She told the Superintendent that this long time teacher told her she wasn’t thrilled with Common Core and the Superintendent replied, “I’m not surprised, a teacher like her wouldn’t be.” The exact note this master teacher had sent her was “too bad districts aren’t questioning [common core] instead of parents. As a teacher, I am having common core shoved down my throat. We’re back to the 70’s. Way to go on your endeavors. ”

Teacher 4

I am a 3rd grade teacher at a Charter School in Utah. I am becoming very frustrated with Common Core, and I am starting to feel helpless, and feel that I am failing my students, which will one day affect me as they grow up and enter the workforce.

I attended the Math CORE Academy this summer and was told that Utah is not going to suggest a math book that will meet the new standards, instead I have to use whatever math book my school is using  to create work for the students. It is incredibly difficult to teach the Common Core using Tasks with the math book we have, and I imagine it is just as difficult with any math book. First of all, it takes 2-3 hours to create a Task using a math book, I had to help create 2 at Core Academy. Secondly, the instructors encouraged us to leave out key pieces of information so that the students could construct their own knowledge. I cannot imagine elementary students doing well in Algebra or Calculus after spending years learning that whatever number they come up with is correct. I am frustrated that students are required to make a guess to solve the problem, and of course, they are correct, because any number they choose would work. They would then see that their classmates all chose different numbers, and yet all of the answers are correct? How confusing for an elementary student! I have decided to send these Tasks home as extra credit so that the parents in my class can see what to expect in the next school year. I am sure I will get many complaints that the problems are unsolvable, because important information has been left out! I believe that math has right and wrong answers, and that teaching students that any answer can be correct is foolish.

I am so upset that cursive has been removed from the Core! I had such a successful year last year teaching cursive. When I ask students during the first week of school what they are excited to learn in 3rd grade, at least 10 students say learning to write in cursive! I already had 2nd graders telling me they were so excited to be in 3rd grade so they could learn cursive. I am then supposed to deny them something they want to learn!? That is absurd! Even before the actual cursive instruction began, I had many students trying cursive on their own and asking if they were doing it correctly. My students became better readers because they learned cursive last year, seeing italics or cursive in books did not confuse them any more. Most of my students handwriting improved considerably once they could write in cursive, especially the boys’ handwriting. If I can’t teach cursive, the students will miss out on developing those fine motor skills- many suggest typing, but my students will only get keyboarding once a week, and yet I have set aside 20 minutes each day for them to learn cursive. I think it is also a way of self expression. I write in cursive all of the time; my signature is part of who I am. So, this generation will not be able to create a signature for themselves? Nor will they be able to read any handwriting other than print. It is so much fun for me and my students when I write on the board in cursive and they can read it! How empowering for them! They are all able to write faster in cursive, and even in third grade they realize this. They are learning to concentrate, and focus their attention- which is very helpful for all other areas of learning. They are learning to slow down, and watch what they are doing. They are learning the you have to work hard to get good at something, and yet they improve quickly enough that they are motivated to stick with it, they can see week by week that they are getting better. They are learning that practicing something over and over will help you get better. These skills are, in my opinion, only found in handwriting. There is nothing else that I can teach them that they can see improvement day by day, and that they can see themselves getting better at. Writing, math, science, social studies- none of these can show the student progression, nor help in motivating a student to keep trying. I am hoping that I can change my administrator’s mind about letting me teach cursive, but if they don’t I will certainly make sure the parents of my students know that I feel it is an important skill and I suggest that they teach their students at home.

If it comes down to being on the principle’s good side or doing what’s best for my 28 students, I’m going to do what’s best for my students. If I get fired, then I’ll look for another job and hope I can find one.

Miracle in Utah: State School Board Voted to Free Utah from SBAC TESTING!   4 comments

Today, 12-3, the state school board voted to get Utah out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). The political climate was cited as a reason for the move. Yes, we do care in this state about freedom from federal control and this is a huge win for educational freedom. The Cooperative Agreement will no longer be binding on Utah as it is on Washington and the many other states in SBAC. The federal government cannot demand access to the data they would have gathered via the high-stakes tests. Arne Duncan now cannot micromanage Utah’s testing choices as he would have if we had stayed in SBAC, synchronized with PARCC. It also means that if Utah elects to add 15% to the common standards, no test will discourage teachers from not using our unique 15%. So, it is a happy day for freedom. Ding dong, the witch is dead –or at least thrown aside, far aside. I’m so grateful that I think I should send a bouquet of flowers to the state school board.

Anissa Wardell and Tami Pyfer’s Email Exchange   1 comment

  A Heber citizen, Anissa Wardell, contacted the Utah State School board to ask whether Utah can still get out of Common Core (and write our own standards, using University input, an option also known as ESEA option #2) –after the waiver deadline of September 6, 2012.

  Rather than answering the question, state school board member Tami Pyfer told her constituent that there was no chance our state would get out of Common Core and then proceeded say that evidence proving that Common Core  was free of federal strings had “been presented in a variety of public forums numerous times.”  This is simply not true.

1.  Most people don’t even know what the term Common Core even means, according to a recent poll by Achieve, Inc.  (Do you?  Does your neighbor?  Do your teachers know– other than knowing there are different standards this year– do they know that the standards are under copyright, can’t be amended, dumb down college readiness to a lowest common denominator that matches vocational/tech schools, and they were never validated by the only math professor and were also rejected by the English professor on the official Common Core validation committee?  Nobody knows these things.  Why? Because the Dept. of Education doesn’t want them to know.  They think that if they say “these standards are good” often enough, they’ll be good.)

2. The one and only public forum put on by the USOE about Common Core was held two years after the state school board signed us up for Common Core.  That forum was at the Granite School District last spring.  The first 45 minute speech, praising Common Core (without any documentation or evidence) was given by the USOE, followed by 2 minute testimonials from impassioned parents and teachers and politicians from both sides of the issue:  hardly fair or thorough or timely.  And nope, evidence was not shared there, to prove federal strings were not attached.  (Incidentally, Professor David Wiley told this exact same lie, just as publically, when he was debating FERPA regulatory changes done illegally by the Dept. of Education this year.)  The bypassing of the public and of legislators in pushing Common Core on us all, is something the proponents of Common Core are willing to lie about. Or do they really not understand?  Have they really not seen the documentation of lost autonomy?

3.  The statement:  “Common Core is federal strings-free” is not true.  The Department of Education is micromanaging the common tests, the testing consortia, and forcing consortia to synchronize their efforts and give the Dept of Education access to data collected thereby.  Evidence:  http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf   Even if we get out of the SBAC, which we might, tomorrow, if the school board votes that way, we are still federally controlled by Common Core.  Look at this definitions page from the Dept. of Education’s website: http://www.ed.gov/race-top/district-competition/definitions .  It says:   “A State’s college- and career-ready standards must be either (1) standards that are common to a significant number of States; or (2) standards that are approved by a State network of institutions of higher education, which must certify that students who meet the standards will not need remedial course work at the postsecondary level.”  So you either have to do common core, or write your own university approved standards.  But the deadline is ending Sept. 6th, so perhaps after that, the only option will be common core.  Wish I livd in Virginia or Texas right now.  They are the only states with educational freedom.  And Utah not only doesn’t have educational freedom anymore, but we collectively don’t even seem to realize it’s gone.

And the Dept. of Education has mandated in the waiver, in the original RTTT application which our Governor and board signed, and in the assessments RTTT that Washington state, our contracted fiscal agent, signed us up for and which we are responsible to obey as long as we are in the SBAC, that we can’t take anything away–nothing– and we can not add anything beyond 15% to the national standards.  How can anyone call this federally string free?  How?  It is an absolute falsehood.

With that introduction, here are the emails:

Dear Governor & Board,

It is my understanding that there is a way for Utah to get out of Common Core  so that we are free of any strings attached. The ESEA flexibility request window shuts down Sept. 6, 2012.  Does this mean we have to resubmit our waiver request before then, or lose the option of doing loophole option 2 forever?

Is the Board considering this? Now would be the time to decide. Please discuss this at this Friday’s meeting. Please respond to me with more information.

Thanks!

Anissa Wardell

Tami Pyfer [mailto:tami.pyfer@usu.edu]

Sent: Wednesday, August 01, 2012 3:26 PM

Personally, I have no intention of unadopting the new math and ELA common core standards. We are already “string free” and it’s unfortunate that some groups feel otherwise.

Tami Pyfer

Tami,

If we really are string free, would you kindly show proof of that? I have done a great deal of research on my own, outside of those you refer to and from what I can see, we are not string free. The math standards are horrible! I am going to have to pay hundreds of dollars this year alone for my 6th grader so that she will be ready for Algebra. Utah’s math standards were already better and were more understandable than what we have just adopted.

While I have this audience, I also want the Board (and everyone else on the list) to know that as a parent I want cursive writing to stay in our state curriculum.

Please provide all of us evidence to back up your understanding.

Thank you,

Anissa

From: Tami Pyfer [mailto:tami.pyfer@usu.edu]

Sent: Wednesday, August 01, 2012 5:53 PM

I appreciate your passion, but the “evidence” has been presented in a variety of public forums numerous times. Your disagreement with the facts does not change them. I will continue to respond to my constituents who are truly looking for answers to their questions regarding our core standards.

Tami Pyfer

Tami,

Well thank you Tami. You have not answered my question, and if there is proof I honestly would like to see it. You incorrectly assume that I do not want true answers. If there is this information and it has been provided many times, please tell me where I can find it.

It is answers like yours that are frustrating for constituents. I will continue to ask for answers. I never said we have to agree, I am searching for answers and because you are a board member and you have been entrusted with the mantle to ensure high quality curriculum standards and instruction, and because you are supposed to represent your constituents, I expect you to live up to that.

Anissa

USOE: The Answer is No. (–Can a Student Attend Public School Without Being P-20/SLDS Tracked?)   52 comments

Dear Utah School Board,

Last week, I asked a simple yes or no question.  I received one response, and that board member did not say yes or not, but said he’d forward my question to Judy Park’s secretary.  I still have no answer.

The question is simple:  Is it possible for a student in Utah to attend public school and not be tracked by the P-20 and SLDS tracking systems?

Thanks.

Christel Swasey

Heber, Utah

——————————-

On Fri, Jul 27, 2012 at 9:27 AM, Austin, Lorraine <Lorrain.Austin@schools.utah.gov> wrote:

Christel,

I have consulted with the Associate Superintendent in the office over data collection, and have received the following answer to your question:

All students who attend public schools have their data submitted to USOE for multiple purposes including accountability and monitoring aggregate student progress.  USOE does not release student level data.  Current data systems do not allow for individual student data to be withheld from the data submission process.  Current state and federal accountability requires that a minimum of 95% of students participate in all assessment programs.

Lorraine Austin, Secretary to the Board

Utah State Board of Education

PO Box 144200

Salt Lake City, UT  84114-4200

(801) 538-7517

——————————-

Dear Lorraine,

Thank you!  I appreciate you going to the effort to find the answer to my question. I have a follow-up question.

The Associate Superintendent over data collection said that USOE does not release student level data; could you tell me how long that policy will remain in place and where I can find it in written form?  Thank you.

I am concerned with this question because Joanne Weiss, the U.S. Education Department’s chief of staff, said that information from multiple federal data systems is being “mashed together” on the federal level and will be further mashed with state data. The U.S. Department of Education’s research agency is releasing information to “help” move states toward “developing partnerships” to use the student information gathered from state longitudinal data systems. (Source: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/inside-school-research/2012/07/ed_urges_states_to_make_data_s.html?cmp=SOC-SHR-FB  )

Another source confirms this trend:  http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/2/prweb9201404.htm

It says, “Statewide longitudinal data systems (SLDS’s) are a single solution to manage, disaggregate, analyze, and leverage education information within a state. In recent years, the scope of these systems has broadened from the K-12 spectrum to now encompass pre-kindergarten through higher education and workforce training (P-20W) ” and that regional and federal groups are linked clients of Choice Solutions, Utah’s data networking partner.

Added to these facts is the fact that recent changes were made by the Department of Education to FERPA (privacy laws/regulations) that remove the necessity for researchers to gather parental or student consent prior to accessing personally identifiable information (PII).

So the only thing standing between our students’ PII and interstate, intrastate and federal persual (including entrepreneurs and both governmental and nongovernmental researchers) is local policy.

That is why I’d like to see what that policy is, and when it’s due to expire.

Thank you very much.  I appreciate your time.

Sincerely,

Christel Swasey

Heber PTA President Janette Hall’s Letter to Utah State School Board   3 comments

July 15, 2012

Utah State School Board Members,

My name is Janette Hall and I have five children enrolled in the public school system in Utah. I am also the PTA president of Timpanogos Intermediate School. I have spent many years volunteering in schools and working closely with teachers and administrators. I appreciate the work that is conducted by the USOE for my children and their education, but I feel compelled to write this letter after reading a recent posting on your official blog by Brenda Hales regarding Utah’s Core Standards, Assessments and Privacy Regulations on July 10th, 2012.

It seems that the intent of the statement was to assuage the public instead of seeking to be factual. I was surprised at the definitive tone of Brenda Hale’s statement, when a study of the legal documents would lead one to the opposite conclusion.

As the public becomes more educated, our ability to see through statements like these increases at the cost of your board’s credibility. An organization that can admit that other points of view have credence is to be admired, not looked down upon. We are treading into uncharted territory and no one knows the exact outcome of the board’s actions to adopt the Common Core standards and join the SBAC, not even the USOE.

After reading her official blog I was shocked at the many misleading, and in my opinion, incorrect statements, such as the following:

2. The State Board of Education has control over the standards and assessments for Utah.

3. Utah has not lost its autonomy over standards and assessments.

4. The Utah core standards:
May be changed by the State Board at any time.
Were not developed, funded or mandated by the federal government.
Are not federal or national standards.
Were not obligatory because of Utah’s Race to the Top application.
Are not under the control or manipulation of special interest groups.
Are not obligatory because of Utah’s NCLB flexibility request application.

In a letter dated March 7, 2012, Arne Duncan, the Secretary of the United States Department of Education affirmed that “states have the sole right to set learning standards.” In Utah’s flexibility request we informed the Department of Education that we have chosen to use our Utah core standards. If and when the State Board decides to change or revise Utah’s standards they will do so.

The USOE has never, prior to Common Core, signed legal documents that have bound Utah’s ability to control standards and assessments; because of this we need to proceed carefully to fully understand our legal obligations. I have studied the issues related to Common Core and the SBAC for the past few months. I have also personally talked with Norman Jackson, a retired Judge from Utah, who analyzed the legally binding documents signed by Utah. You can see a copy of his analysis at https://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/judge-norman-jackson-the-two-schools-of-thought-of-citizens-versus-the-utah-state-office-of-education/. I have also discussed the topic with three attorneys, one of which was my congressman, that have reviewed the legally binding documents related to the SBAC and No child Left Behind waiver. Their mutual consensus is contrary to Brenda Hale’s statements above. The documents clearly state that Utah cannot take anything away from the standards and can only add up to 15% additional material and the additional material will not be assessed. There is no amendment process associated with the standards. They are copyrighted by a private entity. They are not owned by Utah. The following link to Utah’s NCLB waiver application states that our adoption of the Common Core standards satisfies the requirements of waiver. http://www2.ed.gov/policy/eseaflex/ut.pdf (please see page 18 and 84.)

Bill Evers, a research fellow from Hoover Institute and a member of former Governor Romney’s educational advisory committee, recently informed Governor Herbert on July 9, 2012, in my presence, that he had personally discovered a minor error in the language arts standards, dealing with vowels. He contacted the authors, whom he knew, and they acknowledged that he was correct in his discovery, but informed him that the standards had already been printed and adopted in 35 states so they could not be changed; it was too late. If one person could not change an agreed-upon, blatant error in the standards, do you think Utah will have the ability to make changes to the standards? Mr. Evers’ expert opinion was that we will not have that freedom. Is our educational freedom worth giving up for an experimental common core?

I have seen a copy of the letter written by Arne Duncan. I asked Kent Talbert, an attorney focused on K-12 education, for his expert opinion and his initial thoughts were that it might be a political letter and not a legally binding letter. Have you had the letter reviewed by your attorneys to see if it would hold up in court or has any teeth in it to counter your signatures on legally binding documents? The letter is not a carte blanche for Utah to disregard legal obligations. Please seek legal advice before you make statements to the contrary.

Recently Mr. Evers compared Utah’s previous mathematical standards with Common Core’s and stated that the new common core math standards are lower than our previous standards. Do you have an educational analysis of the standards that you can release? What criteria did the validation committee use to judge the standards? After postings like Brenda Hales’ on your blog, I can no longer accept your word at face value. You are in a position of trust and you cannot throw statements around without documentation. It will ultimately hurt your cause and not strengthen it. I urge you to be cautious on the statements that you choose to release to the public. I hope that the blog represents Ms. Hales’ opinion and not the opinions of the entire USOE.

I listened to the Rod Arquette show last week with Joel Coleman and Craig Coleman. I felt like they were sincere in their desire to help educate our children. But again, they provided no references for their beliefs that Common Core would raise, rather than lower standards in Utah. I was also pleased to hear that the USOE will vote on the possibility of exiting the SBAC in August. I would like to lend my support and encouragement for the USOE to withdraw from the SBAC.

I do not usually write letters of this nature but when I read Ms. Hales’ blog I could no longer sit idly by. I feel that it is important that the USOE know how their words are perceived by the public. Obviously, I have a vested interest in the education of my children. There are few things that will move a parent more than the wellbeing of their children.

Thank you for taking the time to read over this. I have attached below a letter that I gave to Governor Herbert on July 9, 2012.

Sincerely ,

Janette Hall

Working Around the Fact that Common Core Math Dumbs Down Our Kids   Leave a comment

I am happy that James Judd is the new director of human resources at Wasatch School District because he is an open-minded man. He took over two hours yesterday, to listen and to discuss the possibility of writing a more parent-friendly, “fed-wary” FERPA policy, and he also discussed the Common Core math sequence with me and four of my mom/teacher friends.

The sad news: he explained why my daughter lwas taught nothing in her 9th grade Common Core math this year.

There is “a bubble” of repetition, he said, for 6th graders and 9th graders.  This is because Algebra I used to be taught to 8th graders before Common Core came, and now it’s taught to 9th graders.  Yes, you read that right.  (See the mathematician’s review that explains this in detail –pg 14 and 26-28)  http://pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120510_ControllingEducation.pdf

The same repeater “bubble” thing happens for the 6th grade kids, with their 6th grade Common Core math.  So Mr. Judd freedly admitted that for these groups of kids, Common Core just repeats a year of math.  That’s the implementation process of Common Core.  It makes me wonder how long it will take before parents start screaming.  Why did we never get to vote whether or not we’d do Common Core?  Why are we all forced to dumb our kids down? And when is the truth going to be publicized by the USOE or the USSB or the Dept. of Education or the CCSSO or the National Governor’s Association?

I wish the State School Board would have been more honest with us.  I wish instead of sending out fliers claiming increased rigor and higher standards, http://www.schools.utah.gov/core/DOCS/coreStandardsPamphlet.aspx

—they would have admitted that for many kids, Common Core math is going to be a step down.  Equality doesn’t always mean a step up.

I’m going to write to the local and state school boards about this.   Board@schools.utah.gov

Will you?

Here’s the email for the Utah state school board again: Board@schools.utah.gov