Archive for the ‘Utah Legislature’ Tag

Red Alert: Stop UT Bill 164 Against Parental Rights: Hearing Tomorrow   5 comments

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HB164 is the bill that takes out the protective word “not” from the sentence that previously said that nationalized (Common Core/SAGE/AIR) test scores “may NOT be considered in determining” student advancement to the next grade, or student grade in the course. (line 80-81)

This means that if you exercise your conscience and opt out of the tests to protect your child, your child can fail the class and the grade– if HB 164 passes.

HB 164 will have a hearing tomorrow.  If you can possibly rearrange your schedule, please come (and bring your kids) to the Capitol tomorrow.  Location: HOUSE BUILDING ROOM 30.

When nobody shows up to hearing, the promoters of bills give out smooth talking points and nobody really gets to the heart of what the intended or unintended consequences are, if the bills become laws.

POWELK

I wrote to the co-author of HB164.  I asked him to explain why he was doing this.  (He used to be my rep, and sort of a family friend, when I lived in Heber.)  Representative Powell did not respond.   Here’s a picture of the other author, Ann Millner, in case you see her when you’re there and want to ask her, too, why the state should be more powerful than the parent, in this state once famous for being so family-friendly.

 

MILLNA

 

Wendy Hart, a member of Utah’s largest school district’s school board, (Alpine District) has put out an alarm, asking all parents who get the message to show up at the hearing.

(Please think about this, if you love Common Core and SAGE testing– it’s your prerogative to participate in it, but please agree to respect the rights of those who don’t want to participate, because the next law might be the one where you wish you had help maintaining parental rights to decide what is best for a child.  We need to keep the right to opt children out  –without penalty for parent or student.)

Wendy Hart is asking people to “pack the House Education Committee meeting on TUESDAY Feb 16th to show our OPPOSITION to HB164!!! We must stand up for students and protect our right to opt out!”  She continued:

“If we can stop this bill in committee, we can kill the bill! Why is this bill so bad?
*It allows SAGE Summative test scores to determine student grades and student grade advancement (lines 80-83).

*It removes parents’ right to opt out of SAGE Interim & SAGE Formative (because they are not “end-of-grade-level” tests), and any other software programs provided by the State (line 169-170) (the law will no longer protect our ability to opt out of any current or future formative testing).

*It allows for incentives/rewards to be given to students who take the test, which means students whose parents have opted them out will be excluded. How will children feel when their peers are receiving treats and they are not? Who will be the “bad guy” in this situation? The parents. (lines 180-181)

If you can rearrange your schedule to come to the Captiol at 1:30 PM (to allow for parking, etc.) we need all the people there we can get! They need to see our faces so they know how much we care about this. (Meeting will be held in the House Building Room 30)

Please write the committee members if you are not able to attend the meeting (see below for e-mail addresses). When writing, please be brief and most importantly be respectful.”

Link to the bill: http://le.utah.gov/~2016/bills/static/HB0164.html

Link to the committee meeting info: http://le.utah.gov/asp/interim/Commit.asp…

If you can’t come, write:

Committee member e-mail addresses:
blast@le.utah.gov; vlsnow@le.utah.gov; lavarchristensen@le.utah.gov; kimcoleman@le.utah.gov; brucecutler@le.utah.gov; seliason@le.utah.gov; justinfawson@le.utah.gov; fgibson@le.utah.gov; ehutchings@le.utah.gov; dlifferth@le.utah.gov; dmccay@le.utah.gov; csmoss@le.utah.gov; mnoel@kanab.net; mariepoulson@le.utah.gov;

 

The official web site for the Utah State Legislature.
le.utah.gov
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village raising my children

State Office of Education Operating Database to Track Individuals Without Authority   2 comments

baby

The following letter is reposted with permission from Libertas Institute, a Utah-based conservative think-tank.  It was given to members of the Utah legislature two weeks ago.

It concerns the State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS) which was implemented in Utah –and in every state, thanks to federal bribery– just a few years ago.

Each SLDS runs according to federal specs and is interoperable.  Thus, the fifty SLDS systems function together as a “de facto” federal stalking system on children, college students, and the members of the U.S. workforce.  Every state’s “voluntary” SLDS feeds its data about citizens to the federal EdFacts data exchange.

Libertas Institute points out that SLDS was created and is being used without voter approval or representation; there was no legislative knowledge or debate, and there has been no effort to promote parental knowledge or to acquire parental/student consent for this massive, lifelong data mining project.

Action step:  after you read this letter, please contact your legislators (here is contact info for Utah legislators, the governor and  D.C. legislators)   to put them on the task of creating, at the very least, an immediate, definite, parental-opt-out bill.

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September 28, 2015

To: Members of the Administrative Rules Review Committee

 

Senators and Representatives,

 

The Utah State Office of Education (USOE) will be in your meeting tomorrow, among other

things, to explain the Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS)—a large database that

stores a lengthy list of data points on each child in Utah’s public schools. We are concerned

with how this database was set up and how it’s being used; as we are unable to attend the

meeting, we wish to briefly outline key concerns for your consideration.

 

We allege that USOE created, and now operates, this database without any legislative

authorization or oversight. Further, the federal funding USOE has obtained in order to build

and operate the database has required them to make certain policy commitments, as you’ll

see below, that exceed their authority and circumvented any public discussion on the matter.

 

This letter outlines three actions of which you should be aware:

1. The “Four Assurances” promised by Governor Huntsman

2. A grant received by USOE to build the federally compliant SLDS

3. The 2015 grant announced just last week to further develop and utilize the SLDS

 

The “Four Assurances” promised by Governor Huntsman

 

On April 15, 2009, Governor Jon Huntsman signed an Application for Initial Funding under

the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund Program, submitted to the U.S. Department of Education.

The purpose of this application was to obtain federal “stimulus” dollars; here is the

explanation from the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE):

 

The State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) program is a new one-time appropriation of $53.6 billion under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Of the amount appropriated, the U. S. Department of Education will award governors approximately $48.6 billion by formula under the SFSF program in exchange for a commitment to advance essential education reforms…

 

Without legislative authorization or guarantee, the Governor made four assurances to the

USDOE—a required step in order to receive any many. Those assurances were as follows:

 

 

1. The State of Utah will take actions to “improve teacher effectiveness” and “address

inequities in the distribution of highly qualified teachers between high- and low-poverty

schools”

2. The State of Utah will “establish a longitudinal data system”

3. The State will –

 

1. Enhance the quality of the academic assessments it administers…

2. Comply with the requirements… related to the inclusion of children with

disabilities and limited English proficient students in State assessments, the

development of valid and reliable assessments for those students, and the

provision of accommodations that enable their participation in State assessments;

(Inclusion Assurance) and

3. Take steps to improve State academic content standards and student academic

achievement standards consistent with section 6401(e)(1)(A)(ii) of the America

COMPETES Act. (Improving Standards Assurance)

4. The State will ensure compliance with the requirements of section 1116(b)(7)(C)(iv) and

section 1116(b)(8)(B) of the ESEA with respect to schools identified under these sections.

(Supporting Struggling Schools Assurance)

 

Thus, without any legislation to back it up, the federal government was promised significant

policy reforms in the state: common education standards (“Common Core”), new

assessments, teacher evaluations, school grading, and a comprehensive data collection system.

 

All of this was done in pursuit of money; less than a year later, U.S. Secretary of Education

Arne Duncan announced that Utah had been showered with $741,979,396 through the

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Utah lawmakers—and thus the public at large—were left out of the loop.

 

A grant received by USOE to build the federally compliant SLDS

 

Under the same Recovery (“stimulus”) Act, USOE was given a grant of $9.6 million to create

the Utah Data Alliance—a longitudinal database that was fully compliant with USDOE

requirements. While data systems had obviously existed previous to this grant, this one was

geared, as USOE wrote, primarily towards satisfying questions and requirements “asked by

the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Institute of Educational Sciences

(IES), SLDS grants program; the ARRA, Race to the Top (RttT); and the State Fiscal

Stabilization Fund (SFSF) assurances”—all federal mandates tied to funding USOE desired.

 

The Utah legislature did not authorize the creation of the SLDS, to our knowledge. The only

statutory references we have been able to identify refer to the already-existing database. For

example, Senate Bill 82 in 2013 (which passed and was signed into law) had this language:

(e) “Utah Student Record Store” means a repository of student data collected

from LEAs as part of the state’s longitudinal data system that is:

(i) managed by the Utah State Office of Education;

(ii) cloud-based; and

(iii) accessible via a web browser to authorized LEA users.

(2) (a) The State Board of Education shall use the robust, comprehensive data

collection system maintained by the Utah State O*ce of Education…

According to USOE, a statewide longitudinal database—mostly complaint with federal

standards—had been in operation since 2005.

 

The 2015 grant announced just last week to further develop and utilize the SLDS

 

On September 17, 2015, the Institute of Education Sciences—a project housed within the U.S.

Department of Education—announced that Utah was awarded a grant under the Statewide

Longitudinal Data System Grant Program in the amount of _____AMOUNT______, along

with potential continuation grants to provide more funding in the years ahead.

USOE’s application for this grant , obtained through an open records request, sheds light on

the alarming nature of this project. In order to suggest legislative authorization for the SLDS

and Utah Data Alliance, USOE argues that “The Utah State Legislature awarded UDA

partners [individual state agencies] ongoing appropriations to support sustainability of the

original infrastructure (e.g., database, researchers, technicians, project director, and technical

contracts), which demonstrates the state’s commitment to the work and

mission of the UDA data warehouse.” In other words, narrow appropriations for data projects

in state agencies is being interpreted as blanket authority for, and support of, the overall

SLDS project. We feel this a misguided and unreasonable inference.

Further, USDOE’s Request for Applications document specifies that “a successful data system

rests upon a governance structure involving both State and local stakeholders in the system’s

design and implementation.” However, USOE’s application admits that only “A memorandum

of understanding governs the partnership. A governance plan documents the policies of the

partnership and is continuously updated and refined to address emerging governance issues.”

An MOU, which can continuously evolve free from vetted processes and public input, is

insufficient to govern the requirements of such a large database—one that has significant

privacy and security implications.

 

There are many disconcerting statements and policy priorities outlined in USOE’s

application, but our main concern here is that the real “stakeholders” have been completely

left out of the loop. From information we have gathered, the State Board of Education was

unaware of this grant application. No vote was taken on the issue. No legislative

authorization was given to compile this information on every child, make the information

available to state government agencies (including “individual-level data in the UDA data

warehouse”), or provide data to third parties. Most importantly, the true stakeholders are

almost totally unaware that this database even exists; Utah law recognizes that “the state’s

role is secondary and supportive to the primary role of a parent.”

 

You may be aware that Libertas Institute organized a lawsuit late last year against the State

Board of Education over its rushed adoption of Common Core, done in an e*ort to obtain

federal money under the Race to the Top grant. (A hearing is scheduled in a few weeks.) We

feel that a pattern exists within USOE, whereby education policy is dictated not with input

from parents and teachers, or even legislators or the State Board of Education, but by USOE’s

seemingly insatiable appetite for federal grants, which inevitably come with significant

strings.

 

If “strings” are to exist, then they must be openly discussed, debated, and authorized—not

agreed upon behind closed doors with the unscrutinized stroke of a pen.

You as legislators have been circumvented and deemed largely irrelevant on this issue.

Significant education policies are being adopted and implemented without public input. We

encourage you to take an active interest in this issue and bring transparency and scrutiny to

USOE grant applications and the policies that necessarily follow.

 

Sincerely,

 

Connor Boyack

President, Libertas Institute

785 E. 200 S., Suite 2, Lehi, UT 84043

801.901.0310

LibertasUtah.org

 

DOCUMENT SOURCES

1  Application for Initial Funding under the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund Program, http://

www2.ed.gov/programs/statestabilization/stateapps/ut-sub.pdf

“State Fiscal Stabilization Fund,” U.S. Department of Education, March 7, 2009, http://

2  www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/leg/recovery/factsheet/stabilization-fund.html

“UTAH STUDENT RECORDS EXCHANGE,” https://nces.ed.gov/programs/slds/pdf/

3  Utahabstract.pdf

“INFORMATION RELATED TO FY15 GRANTS,” http://nces.ed.gov/programs/slds/

4  grant_information.asp

“Enhancing Utah Data Alliance College and Career and Evaluation and Research Capabilities

5  through Web Technology,” http://libertasutah.org/drop/slds_2015.pdf

 

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2015 Update: US Congressman Schaffer on Marc Tucker’s “Dear Hillary” Letter   14 comments

bob s

The following is authored by former US Congressman Bob Schaffer and is posted with his permission.  In light of the fact that Marc Tucker has been invited to advise the Utah legislature on education at this week’s two day education conference, it seemed important to remember the history behind the changes that are culminating now, which Tucker and Hillary Clinton detailed in motion in the 1990s.  Thanks to Bob Schaffer for his timely update.

_________________________________________________________

Thanks Christel: 

 

I am grateful for your inquiry and certainly wish you well in your patriotic efforts in Utah.  Incidentally, your readers can find PDF files of each page of Marc Tucker’s “Dear Hillary” letter in the 1998 Congressional Record through these links: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7

 

The “Dear Hillary” letter is as relevant today as it was in 1992.  Though I doubt anyone in the halls of government much remembers the letter itself, it is the concise, clear, and intentional nature of the letter that is instructive to those of us who still find value in the idea of a constitutional republic self-governed by free and intelligent citizens.  Tucker’s sweeping 1992 blueprint for nationalizing the American public-education system is especially pertinent now because, at least since the day it was penned, it has been brilliantly executed with virtually no deviation.

 

It is instructive to note Tucker’s blueprint does not stop at nationalizing primary public education.  It entails merging nationalized primary-education goals with a nationalized higher-education system and a nationalized labor-administrative function.  Think of the 1990s doublespeak “School-to-Work” and you get an accurate picture.  School-to-Work, as you know, was the apt title of the Clinton-era initiative setting the Tucker letter into actual national public policy.  More practically, think of the “Prussian-German, education-labor model” because it is the same thing.  Tucker actually says so in the letter itself:  “We propose that (President-elect) Bill take a leaf out of the German book.”

 

Truly, Tucker’s ideas are not new.  They were formalized by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, refined by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, embedded by Hegel in the German university structure, then exported throughout the world including to virtually every “teachers college” in America.   Specific to the perpetual, anti-intellectual quest to undermine the traditions of “classical” education, Rousseau’s “social-contract” ideas (wherein individuals are understood as subordinate to state interests and royal continuity) were perfected for European classrooms by heralded social engineers such as Heinrich Pestalozzi and Friedrich Froebel.  These ideas were most powerfully applied to American classrooms by John Dewey.  Despite being deeply embedded in the curriculum of modern American teacher’s colleges, these collectivist ideals and progressive-romantic philosophies have been held in marginal abeyance by the brilliant American design of decentralized, independent, sovereign states each in charge of its own public-education system. 

 

Accordingly, this is where Tucker’s “Dear Hillary” letter earns its notorious repute.  An acolyte of the worn Rousseau-Dewey, progressive-romantic line of thinking, Tucker eloquently maps in his 1992 letter to the new First Lady a sharp and detailed political plan for mutating American primary education, secondary education, and labor policy in ways that can breach the pesky firewalls of the Tenth Amendment if not the core revolutionary ideal of federalism itself.  Hegel would have been elated.  Dewey’s, Pestalozzi’s, and Froebel’s names are already painted on the ceiling of the Library of Congress – main floor, at that.

 

Though eight years of the Clinton administration have come and gone (maybe), the tactics of the “Dear Hillary” letter roll onward.  Not a single manifestation of “Dear Hillary” policies was curtailed during the Bush presidency.  In fact, many were accelerated through “No Child Left Behind.” The Obama administration has effectuated “Dear Hillary” objectives to nearly complete fruition. 

 

As to your curiosity about why I petitioned the House of Representatives in 1998 to allow me to preserve the Tucker letter as I did, my best explanation follows.

 

After discovering, studying and digesting the transformational implications of the “Dear Hillary” letter, and concluding it carried credible political heft, I thought it important to enshrine the missive via The Congressional Record perhaps as a self-explanatory and incontrovertible marker as to whom, when, where and how the United States of America finally and completely disconnected itself from the proven ideals of classical education – the kind of education the country’s Founders received.  As a youngish, backbench first-term Member of Congress in 1998, I thought someday maybe someone working on a Master’s thesis would like to pinpoint the moment our former republic opted instead for the amply disproven, constrained and anti-intellectual objectives of formalized “training.”  Maybe my Congressional-Record entry would be of good use to an aspiring scholar or two.

 

Indeed, history is replete with examples of classical education leading to strong, powerful individuals; and formalized training leading to a strong, powerful state.  I regarded this letter as a signal of an epic American turning point.  I actually did imagine the letter would one day be regarded as an important historic document worthy of being singled out and remembered.  I maintain that belief even now, and am delighted you are among those who recognize its significance.

 

It seemed to me at the time, the “Dear Hillary” letter was the most concise, honest and transparent political document of its kind.  It reminded me of the moment Gen. George McClelland at Sharpsburg came into possession of Gen. Robert Lee’s plans for an offensive at Antietam Creek.  Here in these plans, one actually reads a credible battle strategy for overcoming American federalism.  Tucker’s war cannons were fully charged and tightly packed with progressive-romantic canister, aimed directly upon the Founder’s revolutionary idea of republican, self-government and our traditions of states’ rights.  

 

I had anticipated my colleagues in the Congress and various state-education leaders would benefit from knowing, in advance, of Tucker’s offensive strategy especially as his battle plan was specifically addressed to, and received by, the occupants of the White House.  The last thing I ever imagined at the time (and I am heartbroken to realize it now), is how political leaders in the several states have stood indolently for it.  Never did I picture the baleful scene we are witnessing today – state leaders themselves dutifully lowering Tucker’s linstock to the touch hole of statism.

 

At least for the past couple of decades, the vast majority of elected leaders in both political parties have clearly – if not enthusiastically – worked to outdo one another in applying Rousseau-Hegel-Dewey ideas to public education.  They offer little, if any, impressive resistance to policies, laws, rules, and mandates relegating American education to a job-training enterprise despite the prescient warnings of Albert Jay Nock, E.D. Hirsch, Tracy Lee Simmons and others who have underscored the crucial difference between classical education and anti-intellectual training.  As such, Tucker’s letter and goals, though overtly political, cannot be fairly regarded as a partisan.  No, the epic transformation of American culture and national character is being achieved rather quickly due to an overwhelming advantage of spectacular bipartisan cooperation. 

 

Henceforward, when intelligent people scratch their heads and wonder how it was that the citizens of the United State of America inexplicably stood by and unwittingly participated in the systematic demise of their blessed republic, at least they’ll find one comprehensive and compelling explanation, assuming it survives the censors’ notice, in The Congressional Record on September 25, 1998.

 

Thank you for finding me, reaching out to me, and granting me an opportunity to underscore the perilous certainties of the country’s education system.

 

Very truly yours,

Bob Schaffer

 

—————

On a related note, I invite the officials who will be participating in so-called “guided” discussions at this week’s conference to truly arm themselves against the manipulative “delphi technique” that is used to force consensus, as outlined by Jenny Hatch here.

 

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

 

 

 

Effective Sept 2015: Feds Remove State Authority Over Special Needs Students and Redefine Who is Special Needs   16 comments

jakell

Pray that our politicians and superintendents are interested enough, and honest enough, to see through the Department of Ed, and kick to the curb its lies and false reassignments of authority that hurt our children and our Constitutional power.

Jakell Sullivan, a beautiful Utah mom who happens to be one of the most dedicated  researchers on education reform and data privacy breaches that I know, has pointed out that this week, U.S. Secretary of Education Duncan posted a “final rule” on the No Child Left Behind reauthorization.

(Thank you, Jakell.)

The final rule will move us from the “phasing out” phase to the “no more state authority at all” phase of the federalization of state education over “disadvantaged” children, which is defined ever more loosely, and can almost mean “any child”.

Some may dismiss this “final rule” from Secretary Duncan as not affecting them, as only harming those who have a  handicapped or otherwise disadvantaged child.  But think twice.  Because in the new, upside down, 2+2=5 world of Common Core, children who don’t score high on Common Core tests, may now be considered “disadvantaged”. I imagine that in the future, even children who opt out of testing may be labeled as disadvantaged by failing to achieve high scores on these tests.  (To clarify: opting out of testing is still a great choice, and still should be thoughtfully considered by every parent.  Utah State Superintendent Smith recently said: “The most important legal policy…. by constitution, and by what I consider to be natural rights, parents have the right to opt out of anything! They don’t need permission. They don’t need to fill out a form. They don’t need to seek someone else’s response.”)

Because so many children showed awful performance on the rammed-down-our-throats, ready or not, Common Core assessments, many children are labeled as low scorers, or  as “special needs”.  But for those children who actually are “special needs” and did not take the test, because there was an alternate test, those happy days are over.  The Dept. of Ed mandates that now, even handicapped people, take the same test.  No mercy, no wiggle room, no local judgment by caring professionals or parents.  (Except for the option to opt out.)

The final rule summary from Secretary Duncan is found here (and the Dept. invites comments). It says:

The Secretary amends the regulations governing title I… (ESEA) … to no longer authorize a State to define modified academic achievement standards and develop alternate assessments…  effective September 21, 2015.

Less than a year ago, Secretary Duncan told us he was aiming to “phase out state authority” over these special needs assessments.  At that time, we still had time to fight this.  At that time, there was still a chance that Congress would refuse to reauthorize No Child Left Behind (aka ESEA).  Now, children have been taking (and generally bombing) Common Core tests.  Meanwhile, Congress gave Duncan the power he craved when it passed ESEA’s reauthorization –and other education bills that shouldn’t have passed– this summer.

Jakell Sullivan said, “Parents, be warned. Most kids will soon fall into the “disadvantaged” category because it now means not meeting Common Core benchmarks. This is how they’ll make most schools Title 1 schools–federalization complete.”

She explained that this will affect all states (both the states that did and states that didn’t offer alternative assessments for special needs students) because, “The assessments for “disadvantaged” children will now be Common Core assessments… whether it’s the federalized NAEP, or something else the Feds require… and the formative online assessments will also be required to help teachers change their instruction practices to “help” these children.”

Another Utah mom, Morgan Olsen, speaking to the fact that these electronic assessments are a main source of psychological and academic data mining about individual students, said: “I find this particularly concerning because all data collected by schools is legally classified as education data and doesn’t have the same protections as health data collected by a private doctor. And because the USOE discussed using the State Data System to collect and store this type of information in its guidance counselor’s guide a few years back.” (Links added).

To summarize the reason for this “final ruling,” Sullivan said:

“Think about it like this: it sets the framework for all the schools to be turned into Arne’s much-desired community centers. The Feds already have the full-service community center bill in Congress, SB1787. This regulation change helps them force more schools quickly into transformation phase once that [bill S1787] passes (or even if it doesn’t). [Links added.]

She said:

“Think of the federal objectives this way:

“1. Get every child into federalized assessments (no State can determine an alternate path now)

2. Liberalize what it means to be “disadvantaged”,( ie; they’ll make it so anything they want can meet their disadvantaged criteria, and schools will fall for the federal money)

3. Hold teachers and schools accountable to “make” every child college-and-career ready, (ie; “meeting 21st Century Skills”)

4. When teachers and schools fail, require teacher instructional changes and require that the school becomes a full-service community center with wrap-around services for mental health, medical, etc.”

Utah, we need to stop holding hands with the Department of Education and recognize it as an enemy– an enemy  to autonomy, to parental control, to teacher judgment, to the U.S. Constitution’s protections, to individual privacy, and to true education.

Please, if you are reading this, call someone. Write something.  Email or tweet or get an appointment with your Governor or your State Superintendent.  Small ripples can cross large bodies of water.

Sometimes we “Nice” people must shake off our Hobbit-like niceness to detect and expose real and dangerous lies, worrying less about whether we may be perceived as “Nice” and more about how fast the power to direct the lives of our own children is being robbed by the thieves and enemies of Constitutional freedom.

I am standing here, calling the U.S. Department of Education a granddaddy of lies and unconstitutional actions.

That they are lies is indisputable.  Check the links.  Read your U.S. Constitution.

arne

A SHORT LIST OF (RECENT) LIES FROM THE U.S. DEPT OF EDUCATION– BASED ON DUNCAN’S “FINAL RULE” FROM ESEA REAUTHORIZATION AND ON S1787, A BILL NOW SITTING IN CONGRESS:

–That federalizing education (“phasing out the authority of states”)– so that states will lack authority to define who is and who isn’t “special needs” or disadvantaged– is good, and is constitutionally legitimate;

–That states have lost their constitutional authority to give alternative tests to special needs children;

–That Duncan, making a state-and-school-authority-robbing “final rule,” is a constitutionally legitimate act, in harmony with common sense and parental/voter will.

–That S1787’s shifting of the center of a child’s universe away from home/church, toward government school as its center, is a legitimate goal and activity for the federal or state government;

—That forcing physically and mentally handicapped children to conform to the same curriculum and testing is a good plan;

—That even genius children and even mentally handicapped children will benefit when the same curriculum is mandated for all; as when the White House writes: “Including students with disabilities in more accessible general assessments aligned to college- and career-ready standards promotes high expectations for students with disabilities, ensures that they will have access to grade-level content, and supports high-quality instruction designed to enable students with disabilities to be involved in, and make progress in, the general education curriculum—that is, the same curriculum as for nondisabled students.”

These are a few lies.  There are more.

 

Support Utah’s $30M Fund to Flee Federal Purse Strings   Leave a comment

Please contact Utah’s legislators to support the bill that would set aside $30M of Utah’s taxes to allow Utah to say “no” to federal mandates with federal money attached.

http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/cutting-the-federal-ties-step-1/

We have to have money to run our schools. But federal money is weighed down with federal mandates that hurt our teachers, students, and parental rights. We need Utah’s own money to reclaim Utah’s freedom over education.

To make this simple: Think of Utah as a prisoner in a tall tower without a ladder. The act of setting aside $30M is like the prisoner saving pieces of string to build the rope ladder that can make the escape.  The money is the escape ladder.

 

Thank you, Wendell Ashby.

—————————————————————————–

Please write to these legislators immediately: lhillyard@le.utah.gov ; dsanpei@le.utah.gov; jwstevenson@le.utah.gov; bdee@le.utah.gov; jsadams@le.utah.gov; jdabakis@le.utah.gov; gdavis@le.utah.gov; lescamilla@le.utah.gov; pknudson@le.utah.gov; kmayne@le.utah.gov; wniederhauser@le.utah.gov; rokerlund@le.utah.gov; parent@le.utah.gov; jbriscoe@le.utah.gov; rchouck@le.utah.gov; jdunnigan@le.utah.gov; fgibson@le.utah.gov; greghughes@le.utah.gov; briansking@le.utah.gov; bradwilson@le.utah.gov;

Utah Mom: My Goals Are Not the Board of Education’s Goals   4 comments

Good news for education and for freedom:  the Utah Senate today passed SB 39 – a homeschool-friendly bill.  I want to post these words, written by another Utah mom, Rhonda Hair, because her point is an important one:  that her high educational goals for her children are not the same as the goals of the board of education, nor of the new national dictators of education in Washington D.C. (Common Core copyright holders NGA/CCSSO).
This mother’s goals are higher, not lower; but being subjected to state-set or D.C.-set standards and testing could disrupt what she, the educational director (and ultimate authority over her children) has set out to do.

(Write to the senators and thank them for upholding liberty and education in this state, please!)

———————–

My Goals Are Not the Board of Education’s Goals

By Rhonda Hair

“I began homeschooling three of my children this school year. My understanding of what education really means continues to deepen. As of now, I’m convinced that my children will be well-educated if they obtain the following:

-a love of reading and of good books, -the ability to understand and express themselves well through writing, -enough math to manage their own affairs, -an understanding of what their God-given rights are, and what their duties are towards God, family, country, and neighbor, -the ability to discern between truth and error, which requires qualifying for and listening to the Holy Ghost, which requires obedience to God’s commandments, -high appreciation for virtue, good character, and self-control, and to apply these to themselves, -a strong work ethic, -gratitude, -understanding of human nature, -understanding of history- how we got to be where we are, and what great people have learned and written along the way, -an understanding of their unique abilities, gifts, and talents and how to use them for good.

Few of these are taught in the public schools, and particularly not encouraged in Common Core.

If they do the things above, they will naturally learn about the world around them, serve the Lord faithfully, and be a benefit to others in whatever they choose to focus on.

Some people think that homeschooled children should be subject to yearly testing to  be sure they’re ‘on track’.

The problem with this is that my goals are not the Board of Education’s goals.  The testing is to see if I’m on board with their objectives.   I’m not.  My goals far exceed theirs, but each subject taught might not be taught at the same time as they dictate.”

Missouri Legislator Kurt Bahr to Introduce Common Core Withdrawal Bill   1 comment

Kurt Bahr

http://beforeitsnews.com/tea-party/2013/01/indiana-legislation-opposing-common-core-gets-a-hearing-2473980.html

The Before It’s News website states that Missouri Legislator Kurt Bahr is to introduce a withdrawal bill that will free Missouri from Common Core as Senator Scott Schneider has done in Indiana.  Heroes, heroes!

 

Scott Schneider

 

Before It’s News states:

“…The point is that… Missouri [is] no longer in charge of … state education standards. They must now negotiate them with a number of other states. If you as a parent or a school district want something different in your schools you cannot have it.

This is the core issue (if you’ll pardon the pun) that we have with Common Core State Standards. There is zero local control. Teachers may not deviate from or alter the standards in any way. They are trademarked. There is no path for correction, even for obvious mistakes like a simple math error that was identified early on in the draft phases, but was still not corrected three drafts later.

There is no path identified for this because the roll out of these standards has been so fast there has been no time to consider everything that is needed for them to operate. That means that an error on the assessment will be repeated in 45 states and count against teachers in those states whose performance reviews now take into account how their students score on these assessments.

Contrast that to the way Missouri DESE has handled our GLE’s in the past. Yearly, teachers and districts were able to submit complaints or suggestions to DESE for ways to add clarity to our standards or identify errors that needed to be fixed. DESE had been reasonably responsive to this input and made most changes in a timely manner. That process will be completely gone by 2014 when Common Core is supposed to be fully implemented.

The one thing each district, and ultimately tax payer, will be accountable for is the cost of implementing the Common Core standards and assessments. No one really know what this cost is going to be for a number of reasons. Missouri’s DESE was not required to estimate this cost to each district, nor inform them that such costs were coming. If you ask your local shcool board or superintendent what their cost will be to implement Common Core, most of them will not know. More shocking will be the number of them who do not even know what Common Core is or that it is coming.

… There is currently only one approved vendor for textbooks, Pearson. One teacher has looked into buying a replacement ELA book for the new CCSS in her fourth grade class and found the new book to be two and half times as expensive as the one she had been using for the last several years. Districts will have little control over these costs, because they have virtually no control over the standards or assessments.

The assessments are an even larger portion of these costs as they are supposed to be done on line, which not only requires input devices like comptuers or tablets, but also sufficient broadband to accommodate all the students taking them at once. Once you add technology, you must also add a host of support staff to maintain and troubleshoot that technology, adding further cost to a district. In Missouri, we have no room in our state budget for these extra costs. That means local districts will have to find the money because the foundation formula is not going to give it to them.

Representative Kurt Bahr will be introducing legislation again this year to get Missouri out of Common Core.

If Indiana’s experience this week was any indication, he ought to find tremendous support for his bill here in Missouri, not only from public school families, but also from private school and homeschool families. Common Core is reaching in to all these education venues.

As the realities of Common Core, which is being rolled out in various districts right now, come to light, our representatives in Jefferson City should start hearing a lot more from their constituents who want us out of this federally pushed national standards program.”

— — — — — — — — —

What I really want to know is, which Utah legislator will be leading the charge that Senators Schneider and Bahr have led in Indiana and in Missouri?

Free Preschool Would Hurt Utah Families and At-Risk Children   Leave a comment

Dear Utah Leaders,
I am writing to ask you not to promote the government-run preschool bill further.  This preschool issue is keeping me up at night.  Literally.
Why?  I think about the borderline-poor moms –as I have often been– who will say, “Well, preschool is free, so I guess I better put my baby in the preschool and go make money.”  It makes my heart ache.  That is no kindly favor from the government.  That is a temptation that most parents will not choose to resist.
It will push them to leave their children to go to work.
I am praying that you will take the time to listen further to Jonas Himmelstrand http://www.mireja.org/articles.lasso  and to analyze how Sweden went from good, helpful intentions (based on someone’s version of research, as always) –to a point where parents are being disenfranchised from children via the “helpfulness” of the government.
I’ve been reading “A Patriot’s History of the United States.”  Great book.  I read that when the U.S. government decided to give money to single mothers, long ago, to be helpful, guess what happened?  People stopped getting married, of course.  So children went fatherless, literally, because of the “helpfulness” of the government; the temptation for that money was too great for people to resist.  And it mostly impacted black families, who were economically more disadvantaged. It perpetuated the cycle of trouble for black families; fatherlessness led to children growing up troubled and in jail; more single moms, more fatherless kids, more poverty.  No help at all.
I’ve also been in contact with Jonas Himmelstrand.  His writings ring true.  They make sense. They are profoundly different than the studies and reasoning that is bringing Utah legislators to consider adding free government preschool for at-risk children.
I appreciate that the government has good intentions.  But if they are not based on correct principles (limiting the involvement of government, rather than increasing it) the intentions will backfire; it is only a question of how long it takes to backfire.
Putting at-risk babies in government preschools is not a good idea.  Those families need strengthening, but not by being tempted to separate from those with whom they need the strong attachment bonds.
Encourage mothers to stay at home with their children.  Don’t tempt them to go to work and drop off their kids.  Could you use the money to create jobs for moms that they can perform from home, instead?  Could you use the money to pay grandmothers to do the daycare if the moms have to work, at least?  I’m sure there are solutions other than creating Swedish-styled free government preschool.
Christel Swasey
Heber City
–  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –
So, after doing more reading today, I wrote the legislators another letter on the subject:

Dear Legislators,

The following research sharply contradicts the research that has previously been presented in the Legislative Education Interim Committee meeting regarding the wisdom of providing early preschool for at-risk children.

While there is little debate about whether academic performance is enhanced for preschool attendees generally, it is found that behavioral problems, self-control problems, motor skill trouble, aggression, illness, worse parent-child relationships, and other disadvantages arise from early preschool attendance.

We must not assume the proposed Utah preschool bill is good in the short or long term, especially not for at-risk children.

Jonas Himmelstrand of Sweden, who provided me with the research, is an international consultant, speaker and author.  He has consulted for the 2011 EU Child Wellbeing Workshop in Brussels, the 2011 UN World Expert Group Meeting in New York, the Institute of Marriage and Family in Canada, the Hungarian Presidency Conference, the Conferenza Famiglia in Italy, the FamilyPlatform Conference in Lisbon, and the Forum Europeen de Femmes in Brussels.  He is also the chairman of the board of the world’s global home education conference. He suggested that I share this research with you.
In Himmelstrand’s presentation with the UN Expert Group Meeting, arranged by United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs in 2011, he spoke about Assessing Family Policies: Confronting family poverty and social exclusion & Ensuring work family balance.
Himmelstrand finds that Swedish children do not suffer from material poverty but from emotional poverty, attributed to too much separation from parents at too early an age.
His charts on the envisioned outcomes versus the actual outcomes of the Swedish model are astonishing.  The envisioned model planned to increase academic success, to even out social class differences, and to liberate mothers, for example.  The actual model resulted in serious discipline problems in school, national school rating –going from top to average in 30 years– plummeting quality in day care, high rates of sick leave, especially among women; deteriorating psychological health in youth, and deteriorating parental abilities, even in the middle class.
See pages 2 through 4:
He also directed me to the research done by others on this subject:

  Does Prekindergarten Improve School Preparation and Performance?

Katherine A. Magnuson, Christopher J. Ruhm, Jane Waldfogel

NBER Working Paper No. 10452 Issued in April 2004 NBER Program(s):   CHED

Prekindergarten programs are expanding rapidly, but to date, evidence on their effects is quite limited. Using rich data from Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, we estimate the effects of prekindergarten on children’s school readiness. We find that prekindergarten increases reading and mathematics skills at school entry, but also increases behavioral problems and reduces self-control. Furthermore, the effects of prekindergarten on skills largely dissipate by the spring of first grade, although the behavioral effects do not. Finally, effects differ depending on children’s family background and subsequent schooling, with the largest and most lasting academic gains for disadvantaged children and those attending schools with low levels of academic instruction.
http://www.nber.org/papers/w10452  Full text

  Universal Childcare, Maternal Labor Supply, and Family Well-Being

Michael Baker, Jonathan Gruber, Kevin Milligan

NBER Working Paper No. 11832 Issued in December 2005 NBER Program(s):   CHPE

The growing labor force participation of women with small children in both the U.S. and Canada has led to calls for increased public financing for childcare. The optimality of public financing depends on a host of factors, such as the “crowd-out” of existing childcare arrangements, the impact on female labor supply, and the effects on child well-being. The introduction of universal, highly-subsidized childcare in Quebec in the late 1990s provides an opportunity to address these issues. We carefully analyze the impacts of Quebec’s “$5 per day childcare” program on childcare utilization, labor supply, and child (and parent) outcomes in two parent families. We find strong evidence of a shift into new childcare use, although approximately one third of the newly reported use appears to come from women who previously worked and had informal arrangements. The labor supply impact is highly significant, and our measured elasticity of 0.236 is slightly smaller than previous credible estimates. Finally, we uncover striking evidence that children are worse off in a variety of behavioral and health dimensions, ranging from aggression to motor-social skills to illness. Our analysis also suggests that the new childcare program led to more hostile, less consistent parenting, worse parental health, and lower-quality parental relationships.
http://www.nber.org/papers/w11832 – Full text

Finally, Himmelstrand directs us to study the findings of the Canadian Institute of Marriage and Family.

This research includes a psychological explanation of why early formal learning is harmful to children, and offers some public policy advice: http://www.imfcanada.org/issues/nurturing-children-why-early-learning-does-not-help

The Institute says:

There are some elements of public policy being discussed that would help undo the damage of current trends. Family income splitting allows parents to share their income and pay a lower tax burden. More money in parents’ pockets always means more choices. While the federal Conservatives made this a policy plank in the last election, they watered it down by saying they’d only institute family taxation when the books were balanced, possibly in 2015. Ending the preferential treatment of non-parental care by funding families themselves would make a dramatic difference.

For Dr. Neufeld, the capacity for healthy relationships is meant to unfold in the first six years of life. “It’s a very basic agenda,” he says. “By the fifth year of life if everything is continuous and safe then emotional intimacy begins. A child gives his heart to whomever he is attached to and that is an incredibly important part….The first issue is always to establish strong, deep emotional connections with those who are raising you. And that should be our emphasis in society. If we did this, we would send our children to school late, not early.”

 I hope this is helpful to you.
Christel Swasey
Heber City

Should Mothers, or the State, Raise Children?   Leave a comment

I sent this letter today,  because today, in the Utah Legislative Education Committee meeting, they are planning to vote on  “high-quality preschool.”   Hmm.  Does government-provided love turn out better than the parental kind?   My research led me to sign the petition of support for reclaiming educational freedom in Sweden, here.   http://www.rohus.org/eng_petition.html     
 
Dear Senator Osmond,
Yesterday I saw the attached 6-minute video about Swedish families fleeing Sweden.  Swedish government has taken on the role of “real parent,” mandating government schools and forbidding home school under any circumstance, since 2010.
So what?  Why am sending you this link?
  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2YAD49NQ54&feature=player_embedded  (6 min)
Something else in the video caught my attention: the Swedish government wants children as young as 12 months old in day care.

Senator, the idea of paying for all-day preschool here in Utah is a step toward the very same socialism that is destroying Sweden, the country of my mother’s birth. What begins as a good intention shifts into a family-damaging government mandate.  It starts off as “all children deserve” and soon becomes “all children must.”  There goes freedom. There goes parental authority over the child, given to the state.  As the end of the video shows, Swedish mental health and the quality of education on the whole is dropping dramatically, despite so much money being spent on socialized education.

I am asking you not to support the redistribution of wealth in this or any other manner.  It will have the effect of taking children from their mothers.  Government does not have that right.
The first two minutes, especially, of this associated Swedish education-issues video, are also very worthwhile:
http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xpjiqx_jonas-himmelstrand-interview-march-4th-2012-sligo-ireland_news (25 min. interview with Swede Jonas Himmelstrand, whose goal is to make public the knowledge about the powerful potential of close relationships built in early childhood; and having mothers, not the state, raise the children)
Christel Swasey
–   –   –   –
Here are a few more thoughts on why it’s wrong to take taxpayers’ money to pay for government preschools.  (This has happened in Sweden but it’s right now–today— the topic of the Utah legislative education committee’s discussion.)
1.  It’s a socialist idea.  It will have the same future consequences of other socialist agendas– collective, unmanageable costs/debts, family authority put into submission to big government interventions, and the growth of bureaucracy/taxation without long-term compensating results to show for it.

2. Even if it starts off only for poor or disadvantaged children, it is unlikely to remain so.  The bar of “economically disadvantaged” historically keeps moving until, in the name of equality, it’s free for everyone.  Similarly, part-time will quickly shift to full-time, and voluntary to mandatory.  Socialism and its branches aim to serve all with perfect equality.
3.  We waste tax money on programs that don’t work.  The solution might be to get rid of so much bureaucracy rather than adding more layers of it.  Utah could give both the responsibilities and the tax money back to the people it came from, rather than playing Kings and Peasants with the money and the mandates.
4. Regardless of troubling statistics about dropouts and achievement gaps, it’s a false assumption that more government supervision and more money gambled on new theories are the best solution. ( And what right does the state government have to push this?  –This is not a rhetorical question.)
5. High-quality preschools and government do not go together. The government should get out of the business of preschools, period. It is not appropriate for a U.S. state, that believes in free enterprise and individual responsibility, to meddle with that free enterprise and create socialism just like Sweden’s, or other countries’, by putting itself between taxpayers and private/public preschools.
    6. The state is literally going to tempt the middle class to feign poverty or other at-risk problems to get “free” daycare.  The state is also going to tempt mothers to drop children in the preschool to to to work because, as everybody knows, being a stay at home mom is the hardest job on earth.   And  “voluntary” preschool is a meaningless concept when government creates a dependent people by “helping” way too much and discouraging self-reliance and free enterprise.
   When a parent is working full-time because of free preschool, how will he/she “visit” the child and how meaningful will that “visitation” be?  This is really backwards.  The parent visits her child?  Who is then the main caregiver of that tiny soul?  A state caregiver that sees the child as a paycheck?!  What are we actually in effect promoting or denying?  Think, think!
7. Even if the state contracts with private providers, those providers are, in effect, government agents when the government mandates what will be taught and by whom and for whom; their innovations and self-determination are meaningless when they are governmentally contracted (to common core and other government-mandated programs.)
The whole concept of early intervention is opposed to parental authority over the child.  The state intervenes.  The state is so terrified of seeing a single tragic neglect case that it is willing to take away the responsibility and liberty of all the people. It’s not right.
Ezra Taft Benson said asked “Are we part of the problem or are we part of the solution?”  I ask us that same question.
Ezra Taft Benson called socialism “a philosophy incompatible with man’s liberty... Both communism and socialism have the same effect upon the individual—a loss of personal liberty… Socialism cannot work except through an all-powerful state. The state has to be supreme in everything… We have marched a long way down the soul-destroying road of socialism… If we continue to follow the trend in which we are heading today, two things will inevitably result: first, a loss of our personal freedom, and second, financial bankruptcy. This is the price we pay when we turn away from God and the principles which he has taught and turn to government to do everything for us. It is the formula by which nations become enslaved…
                                                               James Madison opposed the proposal to put Congress in the role of promoting the general welfare according to its whims in these words: 
   “If Congress can employ money indefinitely to the general welfare, they may take the care of religion into their own hands; they may appoint teachers in every state, county and parish and pay them out of their public treasure; they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may assume the provision of the poor. . . . Were the power of Congress to be established in the latitude contended for [and it was an issue then], it would subvert the very foundations, and transmute the very nature of the limited Government established by the people of America. (Madison)…Many are now advocating that which has become a general practice since the early 1930s: a redistribution of wealth through the federal tax system. That, by definition, is socialism… compulsory benevolence is not charity. Today’s socialists—who call themselves egalitarians—are using the federal government to redistribute wealth in our society, not as a matter of voluntary charity, but as a so-called matter of right…

“The chief weapon used by the federal government to achieve this “equality” is the system of transfer payments. This means that the federal governments collects from one income group and transfer payments to another by the tax system…

“Edmund Burke, the great British political philosopher, warned of the threat of economic equality. He said,

    A perfect equality will indeed be produced—that is to say, equal wretchedness, equal beggary, and on the part of the petitioners, a woeful, helpless, and desperate disappointment. Such is the event of all compulsory equalizations. They pull down what is above; they never raise what is below; and they depress high and low together beneath the level of what was originally the lowest.

   “Are we part of the problem or part of the solution? …We stand for independence, thrift, and abolition of the dole.… Every individual who accepts [OR LEGISLATES] an unearned government gratuity is just as morally culpable as the individual who takes a handout from taxpayers’ money to pay his heat, electricity, or rent. There is no difference in principle between them. You did not come… to become [OR TO LEGISLATE FOR] a welfare recipient. You came here to be a light to the world, a light to society—to save society and to help to save this nation, the Lord’s base of operations in these latter days, to ameliorate man’s social conditions. You are not here to be [OR TO PROMOTE] a parasite or freeloader. The price you pay for “something for nothing” may be more than you can afford. Do not rationalize your acceptance of government gratuities by saying, “I am a contributing taxpayer too.”

Benson’s full speech here:  http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=85

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

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

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

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

It’s a great drama, but a sad one.

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

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

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

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

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

Sad.

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

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

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

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

Yes!

Yes!

Yes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Testimonies:

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

Jim Stergios:

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

Ted Rebarber:

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

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

Rep. Ken Sumison:

Rep. Christensen:

Rep. Nielsen:

Rep. Moss:

Sen. Osmond:

—and more.

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

John Brandt:

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

Superintendent Larry Shumway

Assistant Superintendent Judy Park

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

–and Utah State School Board Chair Debra Roberts:

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

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

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

Rep. Kraig Powell

who has been studying both sides of Common Core with interest

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Q + A:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sup. Shumway said that the timetables are challenging.

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

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

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

The SLDS and Data Alliance is either–

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

Or it’s:

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

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

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

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

Utah, let’s keep our wits about us.

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