Archive for the ‘Utah Governor’ Tag

To Honor, Uphold and Sustain the Law… Even When You Think You Have a Really Good Reason To Do Otherwise   1 comment

Utah Board of Education Chair

Debra Roberts

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

Thanks to Alyson Williams for this explanation of how our state board of education abdicated local autonomy.

————————————————————————————————————————————–

TO HONOR, UPHOLD AND SUSTAIN THE LAW
… even when you think you have a really good reason to do otherwise

by Alyson Williams
February 5, 2013

Board members insist that these standards are better… They also insist that there are benefits to having the same standards across states. They use these assertions as the justification for their acting outside their authority.

The Utah Constitution and related statutes establish the Utah State Board of Education and assign them authority to set standards for Utah students. Members of the State Board of Education are appointed or elected from a narrowed field of candidates to represent the citizens of Utah.

In adopting the Common Core State Standards it appears that the Utah State Board of Education abdicated their control over standards to unelected bodies* outside the jurisdiction of the State or Federal government, and usurped the role of parents or citizens to monitor or give feedback to the process.

This is not how standards have been established in our state before.

The authority to do it this way can’t have been implied or hidden in their legal commission, because this is a newly invented process. This is a creative path to national standards through private brokers who are not constrained by federal laws that would prevent the Federal Government from doing the same thing.

Abdicating authority (whether voluntary or motivated by federal or financial considerations) is not an option established under the constitutional commission given to the State Board of Education. Any right not specifically given to the Board by law is a right that is retained by the people.

The people of Utah did not vote directly, or indirectly through the representative voice of the legislature, to transfer the standards-setting authority to another body.

Board members claim to have retained control by representing the citizens of Utah during the standards writing process. Again, this was not their commission. Furthermore, the Board can point to no specific input or influence they had on the final, copyrighted, standards. In light of the fact that 46 other states were also involved, and they had zero input on who was hired to write the standards, any influence real or imagined would have been highly diluted.

There is broad disagreement on the quality of the standards. The term “scientifically-based” seems to have been re-defined to mean the opinions of few “experts” rather than peer-reviewed research. The wording of certain standards doesn’t just specify what the student should know, but how they should be able to demonstrate that knowledge which in some cases requires or favors specific, controversial methods of teaching.

Still, board members insist that these standards are better than Utah’s previous standards. They also insist that there are benefits to having the same standards across states. They use these assertions as the justification for their acting outside their authority.

Even if they were the best standards ever, or if the arguments for homogeny outweighed the real challenges of aligning demographically and financially diverse states, the end does not justify the means.

Despite a well-documented timeline and recorded statements that would suggest a correlation between the adoption of the standards and federal incentives in the form of Race to the Top grant money and a waiver from No Child Left Behind, the Board insists that Common Core does not represent a Federal overreach in violation of the 10th Ammendment and several other federal laws.

Finally, the Common Core State Standards do not represent the competing opinions of a diverse group of education experts. The writers were a group of like-minded education reformers. The writing, evaluation and promotion of the standards was paid for by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. While the State Board of Education can assert that they themselves were not influenced by the special interests of those funding the process, they cannot claim that the standards themselves were not wholly influenced by the education reform ideals of the funders.

It is a violation of trust that our elected officials would be complicit in a re-organization of the standards setting process that favors well-funded outside interests over the voice of the people.

* Unelected bodies include :

–the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)

— the National Governors’ Association (NGA)

— the Department of Education (USDE)

–the 2 testing consortia: Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and

–Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC)

Dr. Sandra Stotsky to Utah: We Can Write Higher, Better Standards — Free   Leave a comment

Dear School Board, Superintendent Shumway and Governor Herbert,

I am writing to express my gratitude to those who were instrumental in yesterday’s vote to reverse Utah’s membership in the SBAC testing consortium.  It was a heroic moment and America is watching.

Early on, when I read the Cooperative Agreement between the SBAC and the Department of Education, I was horrified to see that it required  SBAC members to expose student data to the federal government “on an ongoing basis, subject to applicable privacy laws,” and I knew that the Dept. of Education had changed privacy FERPA regulations to make that data easy to access.

I had also been horrified by the micromanagement the Dept. of Education planned to do, in demanding that PARCC and SBAC synchronize tests “across consortia,” effectively nationalizing education under the triangulation of those two consortia with the Dept. of Education.  Also, in writing to WestEd, the SBAC’s test writing project manager, I had found out that “In order for this [testing] system to have a real impact within a state, the state will need to adopt the Common Core State Standards (i.e., not have two sets of standards.)” -April 2012 statement from WestEd Assessments and Standards Senior Research Associate Christyan Mitchell, Ph.D.

This meant that the 15% additional content which the Dept. of Education was permitting states to add to their local version of Common Core, would have been meaningless in the context of the tests.  Teachers would not have been motivated to teach that extra 15% of unique Utah content, since there would be such pressure to conform to the high-stakes, competitive tests.  Now they are freed from that pressure and can teach students, not teach for others.

I am extremely relieved to find that we have reclaimed our independence in the realm of testing and in the realm of easy federal access to student data collected via tests.  But I am still concerned that the federally paid-for state longitudinal database system (SLDS) and the P-20 student tracking systems will be available to the federal government and marketers, since our Utah Technology leader, John Brandt, who is a chair member of CCSSO and a member of NCES, the research arm of the Dept. of Education, has published the fact that our data can be shared with state agencies and at the federal level.  Also, Chief of Staff of the Dept. of Education Joanne Weiss made a statement recently that she is mashing data systems on the federal level, and is releasing reports to “help” states to use SLDS systems to mash data as well.  These things trouble me.  I hope you are aware of them and are taking steps to fortify our citizens’ privacy rights against federal intrusion which can easily invade in these other ways –other than the SBAC test data collection method, which we seem to be freed from.

–Or are we?  Attendees at yesterday’s State School Board meeting have informed me that there is school board talk of purchasing SBAC tests anyway, regardless of the conflict of interest issue.  This, even now that we’ve cut membership ties with SBAC.  If our board votes to use SBAC tests, we will hardly be better off than if we had not taken the step of cutting off membership ties.  Our childrens’ data would then still be collected by SBAC, and we know from the Cooperative Agreement that the SBAC will triangulate tests and data collected with the federal government.  We must cut all ties with SBAC, including purchasing or using SBAC or PARCC written tests.

On Sept. 6th, the ESEA flexibility waiver window ends.  I have asked a question but have not received a response:  does that Sept. 6th deadline mean that after Sept. 6th, Utah’s option to write her own standards, ends?

We need legitimately high, not spottily or for just some grades/topics, occasionally high, standards.  We need standards like those Massachusetts had before that state caved to political pressure to lower standards in adopting Common Core.  Massachusetts tested as an independent nation and was among the very top.  Massachusetts’ standards were the highest in the USA.  Then Common Core took them down to the middle of the road.  Does Utah really want that?  If so, why?  Is it Superintendent Shumway’s board membership in CCSSO and SBAC that is driving these decisions?  Or is it what’s really the highest possible standards for our children and teachers?

Political and money-making pressures are pushing Utah to stay aligned with Common Core, while attempting to obscure the truth:  that Common Core is not rigorous enough.  It does not solve our very real educational problems.

First, it blurs excellence and sub-par into a common standard that is mediocre.  Stanford University Professor Michael Kirst assessed the standards and said that “My concern is the assertion in the draft that the standards for college and career readiness are essentially the same. This implies the answer is yes to the question of whether the same standards are appropriate for 4 year universities, 2 year colleges, and technical colleges. The burden of proof for this assertion rests with CCSSO/NGA, and the case is not proven from the evidence presented”.

Dr. Bill Evers, Hoover Institute scholar and professor at Stanford, said that the “Asian Tigers” countries keep Algebra I in 8th grade, as Utah’s prior standards had them; but Common Core retards Algebra I to 9th grade.

Dr. James Milgram, the only math professor on the Common Core Validation Committee, refused to sign off that the standards were adequate.  Dr. Sandra Stotsky, the head English professor on the same committee, also refused to sign off on the standards.  She said they did not represent a coherent, legitimate pre-college program and she opposed slashing classic literature and narrative writing, as 99% of all English teachers –and parents– would surely agree.

Importantly, the NCLB/ESEA waiver allows two ways to fulfull the “college readiness” requirement.  1) States can use Common Core.  Or 2)states can write their own standards, using University approval as a benchmark.  If we choose option 2, by Sept. 6th, 2012, then we can write our own standards, using what’s best out of common core, building up to a better standard set by Massachusetts, led by the very professor who created Massachusetts’ superior standards— for free!

    Dr. Sandra Stotsky has promised Utah that if we pull out of Common Core and want help in developing our own ELA standards (better than what we used to have), she will help write them, for free.   She worked on the excellent, (Common Core-Less) Texas standards in 2007-2008, contracted with StandardsWork.

Dr. Alan Manning, of BYU, who is opposed on academic grounds and on grounds of lost liberty, to Common Core, would be a great resource for writing Utah’s standards, as well.

Please contact Dr. Stotstky and Dr. Manning about the possibilities of creating superior standards for Utah.

Thank you sincerely for your continued work on educational issues in Utah.

Christel Swasey

Heber City

%d bloggers like this: