Archive for the ‘Utah State School Board’ Tag
State School Board candidate Dr. Gary Thompson’s tooth-and-nail fight against the Utah State Office of Education, a fight for ethical student testing and protection of student data –a years-long, ongoing fight– was completely omitted in the Salt Lake Tribune’s report yesterday about Dr. Thompson.
The Tribune stated that school board candidate Dr. Gary Thompson refused to participate in this week’s debate because “the one-minute-or-less response time… lent itself more to sound bites than productive dialogue”. The Tribune failed to note that Dr. Thompson has fiercely, publicly debated education ethics for years: look here for video of his recent campaign speech which called out incumbent Crandall; here for his campaign site, here for his blog, here for his famous offer to give $10,000 for evidence of actual validity for Utah’s Common Core SAGE/AIR test; here for his television appearance on The Blaze.
Last week, Dr. Thompson was infuriated when state assessment director Jo Ellen Schaeffer told legislators that UCLA had validated Utah’s SAGE testing, at the June 14th interim education session, stating that this showed SAGE to be a valid test.
While it is true that CRESST has an office on a UCLA campus, CRESST is not UCLA. CRESST is not a university; it’s a government-funded “research” group partnered with AIR (remember: AIR is Utah’s SAGE testmaking contractor). That’s a far cry from independent validity testing; it’s more like asking the the chef’s business partners to write his restaurant’s review.
That blurring by Schaeffer is no small thing. It seems impossible that Schaeffer would not know what independent validity testing is, as state assessment director. Thus, she must be unconcerned with the ethics of saying that a test was independently validated, when it never was.
Representative Snow followed up, asking for evidence of validity testing. The USOE returned a memo, not a validity report. The memo stated that Achieve, Inc., Education Next, UCLA and Florida had given evidence of the validity of SAGE. But it wasn’t true.
Dr. Thompson pointed out that alignment with NAEP testing is not independent validity testing on the SAGE test; the SAGE has never been validated.
He said: “Both the Utah State Board of Education and the Utah State Office of Education have a long, well documented history of providing lawmakers and parents in Utah with responses to inquiries laced with ‘lies of omission’. This deceptive practice places public school children in Utah at high risk for continued psychometric experimentation, and profit-motivated exploitation via the hands of SAGE test designer, AIR, Inc.”
Most people read whatever the USOE posts online about “validity” (without validity report links or any footnotes, of course) and just swallow it as truth. But Dr. Thompson and others are holding the USOE’s feet to the fire, saying that children deserve better than to be experimentation subjects for profit-motivated corporations and the power-tripping federal government.
Will enough people wake up and vote differently, or at least call or email the state school board, to make a difference? Phone: 801-538-7500 Address: 250 East 500 South PO Box 144200 SLC UT Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Thompson’s response to the USOE’s response is here:
Dear Ms. Sullivan [Parent who contacted Representative Snow],
I have read the Utah State Board of Education’s memo in response to Representative Lowry Snow’s inquiry, on your behalf, about his concerns regarding the validity of the Utah SAGE test. Here is a partial summary statement from the Board’s response informing Representative Snow, that the SAGE is indeed a valid test:
“The validity of Utah’s Student Assessments of Growth and Excellence (SAGE) has been confirmed through a number of independent sources. The most recent studies include: (1) The National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing, UCLA (CRESST), (2) Education Next, (3) Achieve.org, (4) Independent Verification of the Psychometric Validity for the Florida Standards Assessment. Each study substantiates both the high rigor of Utah’s standards and the validity and reliability of the assessments that measures those standards.”
As cited evidence of SAGE validity, the Board references “Education Next”, and “Achieve”. org”. Per the Board’s own memo, this cited evidence discusses “high standards and state proficiency levels” when compared to the NAEP test. This is not related to specific inquires regarding the validity of the Utah SAGE test. As such, a response from me will not be forth coming.
I also will not respond to the Board’s reference to the State of Florida’s Validity study. Several months ago, the Board used this same document to substantiate Utah’s SAGE test validity. I sent a written response to the Board, and the general public, factually rebutting this dangerously irresponsible, and inaccurate claim.
As you and thousands of Utah parents are aware, I am still waiting for a response. The letter sent to Board Vice Chairman, Dave Thomas, in response to his spurious claims, was referenced and published by Utahan’s Against Common Core’s Christel Swasey. Here is the link: http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/sage-validity-part-2-dr-thompson-responds/
Thus, the only item left to rebut from the Utah State Board of Education memo, is its unexplainable reliance on a yet to be published AIR-SAGE validity study, produced by the federally funded, quasi governmental, UCLA campus-based research group, CRESST.
I am going to keep this short and sweet:
Here are five (5) questions that you, Representative Snow, the media, and voters in Utah may wish to ask Board of Education Chairman Dave Crandall during his “debate” appearance this Wednesday, June 22 at Summit Academy:
1. Why did the State Board rely on the research group “CRESST” as the primary source of proof of SAGE validity, without letting parents and lawmakers know that CRESST is “funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI)”? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Center_for_Research_on_Evaluation,_Standards,_and_Student_Testing)
2. Utah paid $40,000,000 to AIR, Inc. (American Institute of Research) to design the SAGE test. Were you aware that the research group CRESST, which produced the “validity study”, is supported financially by, and lists AIR as “Partners” on its own website? (http://cresst.org/partners/) Does the Board leadership consider this to be an “independent”, and unbiased relationship?
3. Since 2012, were the Board and the State Office of Education aware that the current Director of CRESST, Li Cai, received multiple millions of dollars of personal research grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, U.S. Department of Education, and (you can’t make this stuff up) Utah’s SAGE test designer, AIR? (http://cresst.org/wp-content/uploads/LiAbridge.pdf ) How can a Director of a research organization produce an objective and unbiased validity study on the very group that has given him substantial amounts of money for independent research?
4. Why did the State Board of Education fail to inform parents that their children were taking a yet to be validated test for the past three years? Is not such omission a complete and blatant violation of trust?
5. Are you aware that Board placed hundreds’ of thousands of Utah children at risk of harm, and exploitation, at the hands of a behavioral research corporation (AIR), by allowing them to experiment on children without the informed, written consent of their parents? Are you aware that this unethical practice is also against Utah law? (https://le.utah.gov/xcode/Title53A/Chapter13/53A-13-S302.html) “Activities prohibited without prior written consent”
When the Utah State Board of Education and State Office of Education produce an independent validity study, I would be delighted to devote professional time to review it at your request.
In the meantime, the current memo submitted to Representative Snow in support of SAGE “validity” is clearly a deliberate attempt to deceive an esteemed member of the Utah Interim Education Committee, and only serves to highlight the unethical, unconstitutional, incestuous relationship between the State of Utah, and the U.S. Federal Government.
Both the Utah State Board of Education and the Utah State Office of Education have a long, well documented history of providing lawmakers and parents in Utah with responses to inquiries laced with “lies of omission.” This deceptive practice places public school children in Utah at high risk for continued psychometric experimentation, and profit- motivated exploitation via the hands of SAGE test designer, AIR, Inc. I have no desire to debate current Board Chairman Dave Crandall in a public setting, until this serious matter of continued experimentation and exploitation of our children is answered in a clear, ethical, fact based manner.
In summary, given the clear and present danger this poses to 650,000 vulnerable Utah children, it is my professional opinion that you consider asking Representative Snow to seek an independent inquiry regarding this matter via Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. It is my strong, evidence based, professional opinion that Utah’s education leaders at the Board of Education and State Office of Education, are more committed to adhering to the educational political “flavors of the day”, as opposed to providing Utah’s children with objective, science based solutions to serious education problems in our State.
Please let me know if I can be of more assistance to you in the future. Feel free to distribute this response to the general public as you deem to be appropriate under the circumstances.
Gary Thompson, Psy.D.
District 10 Candidate For Utah State Board of Education
Geologist Frank Strickland is running for State School Board; he’s definitely my pick for district 7. See his campaign site here. If you live in Park City or Salt Lake City, please vote for Frank.
On Saturday, he gave the following speech at the “Elevating Education: Common No More” rally at the state capitol building. Enjoy and share!
Utah’s State Office of Education appears to be, once again, quite secretively rubber-stamping controversial and politically loaded national standards and calling them Utah’s own standards– this time, for science.
The English and math deception happened a few years ago when the USOE did the same thing with the adoption of Common Core’s math and English national standards, calling them “Utah Core Standards”.
This week, when the Utah State School Board meets, it will discuss statewide changes to science standards. They do not openly admit that in fact the Utah draft mirrors the controversial NGSS standards. In fact, the official statement from the State Office of Education states nothing about Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) but the new “Utah” science standards drafts have now been exposed as the very same as the NGSS Standards– by multiple parents who serve on the Utah parent committee for science standards.
Vincent Newmeyer, one of the parents who serves on the parent committee, has given permission to share his response to the revised standards. He says that he is alarmed at the errors and unfitness of these standards for Utah students as well as the deceptiveness of the rewriting committee.
He explains that the Utah rewriting committee appears to be attempting to hide, by renumbering or rearranging, the truth that the new Utah standards are just NGSS standards. He notes:
“Utah’s science standards rewriting committee has removed all but the performance expectations [from national NGSS] and renumbered them. A few performance expectation sequences have been rearranged and one new NGSS standard was inserted. The Performance Expectations are essentially identical to what they were in the previous draft. Again, in the introductory material it is still claimed to be Utah grown standards, perhaps because Brett Moulding from Utah is the chair of the NGSS writing committee. These performance expectations as prepared are only one word different from the published NGSS Performance Expectations –yet again there is no attribution to NGSS.”
He points to the NGSS national science standards guidelines which state: “States… that have adopted or are in the process of adopting the NGSS in whole shall be exempt from this Attribution and Copyright notice provision of this license.” Newmeyer points out that Utah is either in the process of adopting national science standards in whole, or are infringing on copyright. –So, which is it?
Newmeyer goes on: “Though we are just looking at grades 6-8, it is inconceivable that our state would adopt 6-8 (even if slightly modified) and then settle on a totally different standard for other grades, especially when you consider the desire to have a cohesive and progressively building program. So in fact we are not just looking at grades 6-8. We are laying a precedent for the adoption of NGSS for all grades with additional material not even considered.”
Why must we as parents, teachers and scientists, oppose it?
1. Control. Our state loses local control of teaching students what we accept as scientifically important and true, when we adopt NGSS standards rather than using standards we have researched and studied and compiled on our own. We further lose control when we then test students using these national science standards that are aligned to the philosophies (and data mining structures) of the federal agenda.
2. Content. Vincent Newmeyer explains that some of the standards are based on recognized fallacies, and others on controversial assumptions. Failing to properly research and vet these standards publically is unethical and unscientific.
For example, Newmeyer asks us to look at “the newly renumbered but present all along standard number 7.2.2 : “Analyze displays of pictorial data to compare patterns of similarities in the embryological development across multiple species to identify relationships not evident in the fully formed anatomy.” This leads students to favor the Darwinian Evolutionary view –which has solid counterpoints arguing precisely the opposite view. Newmeyer explains that although it is true that we can find similarities in embryos, still “if studied in detail we find differences that completely undermine the whole premise of why they inserted this performance expectation. In the standard they are not looking at the differences.”
Even those who actively defend the Darwinian view of common ancestry who have looked at the data see the weakness of the argument, says Newmeyer. He questions why we want to teach it in Utah as if it were settled science. There are also standards that promote the controversial global warming paradigm, and there are other content problems in the NGSS standards.
Utah’s already using the standardized test developed by American Institutes for Research (SAGE) which includes science, English and math standards aligned to the nationally pushed agenda. So the USOE is not going to want to go in another direction. But it must. If enough parents, teachers and scientists pelter the Utah State School Board and Utah State Office of Education and legislature with firm “NO to NGSS” emails, phone calls and personal visits, they can’t get away with this like they did with Common Core.
A few months ago, a concerned Utah State School Board member contacted every single one of the science teachers who were in her constituency district, asking them how they felt about NGSS. She reported that every single one of them said that they wanted to keep Utah’s current science standards and they rejected NGSS. Every last teacher.
South Carolina rejected the national science standards. So did Wyoming. Kansas is fighting a law suit about it. Are we going to do nothing in Utah to defend scientific objectivity and neutrality, not to mention defending the power and right to local control?
There will be a 90-day comment period. You can also attend and speak up (2 min max) at the state school board meetings if you request time in advance. Please participate.
Also, please share your passion with your legislators. Find your representatives here or click here for the state school board’s email address and all of the Utah senators and representatives.
Sharing my letter, send out today.
Dear [State School] Board,
I am gravely concerned about the “emergency vote” that was taken by the board last month, which decreased the amount of student data privacy protections that were previously in place, in order to cater to corporate education vendors, and in order to align with unlawful federal regulatory changes to federal FERPA– which harmed parental rights and student privacy, giving third party vendors unwarranted trust and access to student data. Where were the student advocates and parent testifiers, when the corporate testifiers had their day to speak and to influence this board?
I request that the “emergency vote” be immediately dismissed as unethical and unlawful, because it aligns exactly with the unethical and unlawful alterations that the Dept. of Education has made to family privacy rights without Congressional approval. I request that a deep and probing study be taken on this weighty issue prior to a vote. Allowing vendors this easy data-access aligns with the abuses of the Department of Education, and are not in harmony with vital principles of individual rights, family rights, and freedom from essentially handing oversight of education and student records to unelected vendors.
(I’ll keep you posted.)
Utah Rep. Jake Anderegg
Why I wrote the letter?
I compared the student privacy protection bill that Utah Representative Jake Anderegg is running right now, with the summary of a recent public hearing –in which corporate education vendors pushed for decreased student privacy and for increased student data sharing. I realized that the fight is truly going on right now in Utah. Most people don’t know the fight is on; it doesn’t make news headlines, though it should. So few people speaking up. And the board assumes it’s okay with all of us to keep loosening and loosening student data protections.
Should students and families maintain individual rights over student data privacy or not?
Which side are you on?
Have we as an informed electorate, as neighbors, and families and friends, discussed what happens when students and families do –or do not– have data privacy protection? These are weighty matters with long term consequences.
The board’s having had a seemingly quick and one-sided “hearing” followed by an “emergency vote” seems hasty and even dangerous.
Let’s think and talk and debate thoroughly before we automatically align with corporate agendas. Let’s ask ourselves how these alignments and their possible unintended consequences may affect our children in the long term.
Both the bill and the summary report are wordy and un-reader-friendly, true. But we can’t know what side to support if we don’t study it out. So here are the links and abbreviated screenshots –of the two sides– to get started.
Anderegg’s privacy protection bill calls for increased privacy protections, particularly in reference to third party vendors:
The corporate education vendors call for decreased privacy protections. They say that the former provision that a school/district was to be the only entity authorized to collect and store school records is “overly restrictive and does not allow Third Party Ventors to collect and access records…. the rule does not reflect the actual practice”.
(If it does not reflect the actual practice, that is because federal agents have been unethically altering what Congress held the sole right to alter: Federal FERPA privacy law. Do we in Utah want to align with federal abuses, in order to cater to education vendors? Sure, the vendors testify that it’s a great idea. It makes their businesses run better. But the board ought to place the needs and rights of students and their families above corporate education vendors. Who is advocating for individual privacy rights for children at the corporate level? Nobody. The businesses want that data, and they don’t want to be inconvenienced by parental or student rights.)
Here’s the link to that report (and the first two pages, screenshots).
Here’s my “explain it to a fourth grader” summary of the situation: “When the government lets business people run the schools, the business people want to store records of what students do, so the government says OK. It is not good because the voters lose power over their rights. Voters can change the laws of government and can un-elect those we’ve elected to govern schools, but we cannot influence what business people do nor who gets to run businesses, by our vote. We have no control over them. That gives them control over us and over our records/privacy rights. We need to keep control of ourselves, our children, and our privacy rights. We should not give business people power over our schools, no matter how nice they are. “
Representative Dana Layton
I sent a an email letter to my representatives, asking them to vote yes on Represenative Dana Layton’s bill HB0342.
The bill would return local control to Utah’s educational system. Utah needs this bill. I hope every Utahn writes to his or her legislators and begs them to pass this bill.
For those who don’t know, Rep. Layton’s bill “specifies procedures for the development and adoption of core curriculum standards for English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies, including: the establishment of a standards development committee consisting of parents, teachers, and representatives of school districts, business, and higher education to assist the board in developing standards; and public review and comment of draft core curriculum standards; equires the State Board of Education to establish a standards review committee consisting of 15 parents of Utah public education students to review proposed core curriculum standards for English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies; requires the State Board of Education to maintain control of, and the power to modify, core curriculum standards for English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies; and requires the State Board of Education, on or before July 1, 2016, to adopt revised core curriculum standards for English language arts and mathematics that are developed specifically for Utah.”
All day, I keep asking myself, why would the state school board NOT want this, not want a return to local control of education?
Anyway, I copied my letter (email number one, below) to legislators also to the school board.
Dixie Allen, my state school board representative, wrote back to me and to the same legislators, saying that what I had written was untrue. It’s not every day that I get called a liar, and I dislike it, for some reason. I doubt the school board enjoys it, either. So rather than rebut the lies, I simply wrote again, asking the legislators to fact-check for themselves. The truth can stand up under close inspection. Empty claims cannot.
Then Dave Thomas, another state school board member, sent the legislators and me the Utah State School Board’s link to a wordy, undocumented, verbiose posting –which is without any footnotes, without links or proof of truthfulness –and he said it “explains its position, inclusive of documentary evidence.”
Sigh. I try to keep giving the board the benefit of the doubt; they were rushed into Common Core adoption; they wanted that Race to the Top grant application turned in so fast; they made trusting assumptions about what the quality of the standards would be once they actually had the opportunity to study them; they asumed the standards had been pilot tested; whatever.
But now, now in 2014, when it’s been made so clear and obvious that the standards are not what they claimed to be, now that it’s so clear and obvious that we’ve traded local control for a substandard mess of pottage– now can’t we just ‘fess up and agree that Utah made a big mistake, a mistake anyone in the shoes of the state board could have made and would likely have made– and just turn around now and walk away from the mistake? Why hold on to this judgment error with such doggedness? It is not too late for us to change our course. In fact, the longer we stay in Common Core, the more money we waste and the more entrenched our curriculums are becoming in this substandard and centrally controlled monster.
So, here are all those emails in case anyone is interested.
EMAIL NUMBER ONE: (It was very long so I am not copying the whole thing; it’s just the Common Core 101 research that I cut and pasted from the front page of my blog.)
From me to the legislators and school board:
Please Pass HB 342. This is why:
EMAIL NUMBER TWO:
From Dixie Allen of the state school board:
Since many of you are my constituents or my respected representatives at the State Level, I feel like you need to understand that most of what Christel has alluded to is untrue.
First, the standards were written under the control and supervision of the nation’s Governor’s Association and the Chief State School Officers, by experts in the field, including our own experts from USOE and several of our college professors.
We did not receive any money for adopting the standards, but did save money because we did not need to go through the traditional method of upgrading our standards by bringing in experts in the field for days and weeks to help write and rewrite the upgraded standards for Math and English/Language Arts.
We continually at the State Office and State Board level, try to explain that we upgrade Standards in all areas of the curriculum about every 5 years. We have been working on Social Studies for the past two years. We have and will tweak and upgrade the Common Core Standards as we move forward. We have already added back in Cursive Writing into the Language Arts Standards and have asked teachers not to use some recommended readings, as they do not seem to be suitable for the age of students we are addressing. We will continue to upgrade and revise all our standards to insure they are the best standards for the expectations of our students as they move into college and careers.
I have often told my constituents that as a teacher and principal and curriculum director in the public schools for over 26 years, I see such great promise for especially the mathematics standards, as they make it possible for all students to become competent in the higher levels of mathematics, which before was a “stair step approach”, which many were not able to make it through in the 4 years of high school. Now we introduce some of the advanced mathematics concepts in late elementary and middle school, thus providing the opportunity for all students to receive the proper amount of mathematics instruction to enter STEM Fields and almost any college or career program they wish to pursue.
The same advantage is true of the English/Language Arts curriculum as it helps students identify and understand complicated texts, written to explain history, mathematics, etc. All of which is needed at the College and Career level.
Finally, if the legislature or any other group suggests or insists that we throw out the Common Core Curriculum, which has been in place for three plus years in our schools, it will cost millions of dollars to replicate standards that are as effective, and the school system will have to throw out years of work on creating curriculum and assessments to meet these standards.
Please allow the educators in the field, with help from USOE and our professors of higher learning work to upgrade these standards as we move forward, knowing that there has been and will always be invitations to parents and constituents to give input into any upgrades — as was the case with the Common Core. At the State Board and Utah State Office of Education level, we are always frustrated that the invitation to become involved in reviewing standards or test items is overlooked or possibly not shared with all that wish to be involved — however, in the case of the Common Core, I believe that most of those speaking out against the Core are not talking about the Standards or the Curriculum, but the intrusion of the Federal Government. I wish all could see that this set of standards was a coalition of Governors and State School Officers who knew we needed better standards and enough of our Nation using such standards to receive quality textbooks and computer programs to help teachers teach it in our schools.
I do hope that you will look at this issue realistically in relationship to insuring that our students can and will compete for quality higher education and careers, both within our state and throughout the nation and world.
Thank you for your service and continued support of our educational system!!
Dixie Allen, Region 12
Chair, Standards and Assessment
Utah State Board of Education
EMAIL NUMBER THREE
From me again:
It is time for the truth to stand up to fact-checking. I have given documented links
to all of my statements about Common Core, while you and the state school board continues to give none.
Let the legislators and the people do the fact-checking and look at documentation rather than words and claims.
Dixie, I am an honest and truthful reseacher and I will gladly alter anything if you can show me I have written anything false. Will you do the same?
EMAIL NUMBER FOUR:
From Dave Thomas of the state school board:
The State Board has had a website for a long time that explains its position, inclusive of documentary evidence. If you would like to read the State Board’s position it is at http://www.utahpublicschools.org/index.html.
David L. Thomas
Utah State Board of Education
1st Vice Chair
EMAIL NUMBER FIVE:
From Dixie Allen again:
As Dave Thomas suggests, we have done that!!
EMAIL NUMBER SIX:
Dixie, you have not.
Your claims are never linked to documentation. And you don’t acknowledge ours.
The USOE’s claims about Common Core are wordy and empty. Why not show me where Utah has a voice over amending the shared core? Show me how a teacher can have a voice in what will be tested. Show me where these experimental standards were tried in a classroom anywhere successfully prior to being foisted on all the states. Show me proof that deleting classics will improve literacy!
This is a giant academic fraud no matter how many people say it’s improving standards.
It is false to rob students of classical literature to 70% by senior year. It’s wrong to diminish the teaching of the personal narrative essay.
It is a crime to steal calculus and other higher level math from high school students.
It is absurd to make little children do the type of math they are being forced to do.
Almost weekly I get letters from people who are pulling their children out of math or all of public education. They want to know what they can do. I tell them to ask you. Your board has destroyed good education in this state and we are angry and we are not about to back down until you make it right.
Utah Mom Alyson Williams’ razor-sharp wit and use of unarguable facts makes the speech she gave at a Common Core debate (with State School Board member Dixie Allen and two professors) a powerful tool in the national Stop Common Core arsenal. Below are her prepared remarks. The event was filmed and will be posted soon.
6 few smashing highlights from the speech –words I’d like to slap up on websites and billboards and bumpers all over the country:
1 “There is no such thing in the U.S. Constitution as a council of governors… Allowing rules for education to be set by those with no authority to do so is not a high enough standard for me or my children.”
2 “The Department of Ed … set rules for education, in exchange for the money – rules that normally would be determined by the States themselves under the 10th Amendment.”
3 “The Utah Constitution … does not say that [the board] can outsource a role we entrusted to them to a non-governmental trade organization who outsourced it to another group of hand-picked experts. This is called “delegation” and it has been established in legal precedent to be unconstitutional.”
4 “Unelected officials gutting laws that were established by Congress to protect my family’s privacy is not a high enough standard for me and my children.”
5 “No meaningful public input on changes that affect all of our community schools is not a high enough standard for me and my children.”
6 “We can set high standards for math and English without circumventing, stretching, or ignoring the high standards for self government that have made our nation unique in all the history of the world.”
THE COMMON CORE STANDARDS THAT WE AREN’T TALKING ABOUT
Guest post by Alyson Williams, Utah mom
We’ve heard that with Common Core we’re just setting higher standards for learning, right? Why would a mom who wants the very best for her children be against that?
We are a community with high standards for all kinds of things, not just education. Standards can be examples, expectations, models, patterns, or precedents to follow or measure oneself against.
Keeping those synonyms in mind I’d like to talk about the standards we’ve set for our children in the course of adopting the Common Core. You may be surprised to learn that we have set new standards not only for math and english, but also for how public education is governed.
At the beginning of Obama’s first term our Congress passed the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, also known as “the Stimulus” which included $100 Billion dollars for education. At the time major newspapers buzzed about the unprecedented power of assigning this much money to the discretion of the Education Secretary with virtually no congressional oversight. From the Stimulus came the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund and the Race to the Top grant programs that enabled the Department of Ed to set rules for education, in exchange for the money – rules that normally would be determined by the States themselves under the 10th Ammendment.
This 36 page document, “The Road to a National Curriculum” was written by two former top lawyers for the US Department of Education. In it they offer an analysis of how these reforms violate three Federal laws. They conclude, “The Department has simply paid others to do that which it is forbidden to do.” (p.18)
Using taxpayer money from the stimulus to implement reforms that weaken the State’s autonomy over education is not a high enough standard for me and my children.
Proponents of these reforms like to point out that adopting these reforms was a legitimate exercise of state’s rights because the development of the standards was led by the Governors at the National Governors Association. The problem is, the Utah State Constitution does not grant authority over education to our Governor. Furthermore, there is no such thing in the U.S. Constitution as a council of governors. Comparing best practices is one thing, but Governors working together to jointly address issues and create rules that affect the whole nation is not a legitimate alternative to Congress, our national representative body. The organizations that introduced Common Core to our nation, state-by-state, had no constitutional commission to do what they did.
Allowing rules for education to be set by those with no authority to do so is not a high enough standard for me or my children.
The Governor didn’t decide on his own that Utah would adopt these reforms. The agreements were also signed by the State Superintendent acting in behalf of the State School Board. The Utah Constitution does give authority to the State School Board to set academic standards. It does not say that they can outsource a role we entrusted to them to a non-governmental trade organization who outsourced it to another group of hand-picked experts. This is called “delegation” and it has been established in legal precedent to be unconstitutional.
Elected officials delegating a job we entrusted to them to a body outside the jurisdiction of state oversight is not a high enough standard for me and my children.
The official USOE pamphlet on the Common Core adoption says that the State School Board “monitored this process.” But Dane Linn who was the education director for the NGA at the time the standards were being written stated, “All of the standards writing and discussions were sealed by confidentiality agreements, and held in private.” http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2013/06/07/five-people-wrote-state-led-common-core
There were no meeting minutes, no public records, no obligation by the lead writers to even respond to the input of anyone who submitted it, including any input from our school board. As a parent and a taxpayer, this process cuts me out completely.
As citizens of a self-governing Republic, this non-representative process is not a high enough standard for me and my children.
While this process was different than the way standards have been vetted in the past, the State School Board insists their involvement and review was adequate and that there was time for public input. The USOE published this timeline for adoption of the standards. Here it says that the summer of 2010 was the public comment period. However, the final draft was not available until June 2, and the Board took their first of two votes to adopt them two days later on June 4. The second and final vote was made a month later, but the first formally announced public comment period I could find was in April of 2012 – 22 months after the Board officially adopted the standards.
No meaningful public input on changes that affect all of our community schools is not a high enough standard for me and my children.
When the Department of Education ran out of grant money to get states to implement their reforms, they offered the states waivers from unpopular requirements of No Child Left Behind that many Utah schools were not anticipated to meet. While the No Child Left Behind law did grant limited authority to the Department of Education to waive certain conditions, it did not grant them authority to require new conditions in exchange.
This increasingly common habit of the executive branch to waive laws and replace them with their own rules, as if they held the lawmaking authority assigned to Congress, is not an acceptable standard for me and my children.
This is not the only example of the Department of Education overstepping their authority. In order for States to collect the individual student data required by these reforms, the US Department of Ed altered the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) weakening the protection of parental control over sharing student data. Both the Electronic Privacy Information Center and Fordham University’s Center for Law and Information Policy have written briefs charging that the Education Department acted illegally.
Unelected officials gutting laws that were established by Congress to protect my family’s privacy is not a high enough standard for me and my children.
Ever since we started down the road of adopting Common Core, in fact, I’ve noticed a much greater influence over education by unelected special interests. In an article published in the Washington Post in May (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/05/12/gates-gives-150-million-in-grants-for-common-core-standards/), for example, it was estimated that the Gates Foundation has spent at least $150 million dollars to fund and promote Common Core.
A July 2010 BusinessWeek Coverstory on Bill Gates quotes Jack Jennings, director of the Center on Education Policy saying, “As a private entity that doesn’t answer to voters, Gates can back initiatives that are politically dicey for the Obama Administration, such as uniform standards … In the past, states’ rights advocates have blocked federal efforts for a national curriculum. Gates ‘was able to do something the federal government couldn’t do.” http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/10_30/b4188058281758.htm#p4
When one very rich man has a greater influence over the direction of public education than parents, teachers and local communities that sets an unacceptable standard for “we the people,” for me, and for my children.
What is the justification for pushing these reforms through, bypassing the checks and balances of our established legal framework? We have to do it we are told so that our children will be “career and college ready.”
The Govenor, on his webpage for education, says we need to implement these reforms to “align educational training to meet the workforce demands of the marketplace.” http://www.utah.gov/governor/priorities/education.html
To me, all of these workforce goals seem to imply that the highest aim of education is work. Historically, the purpose of American education was to nurture the development of self-governing citizens, with work being incidental to that development. This nation has uniquely thrived according to the principle that a free market with good people pursuing their own dreams works better than attempts at centrally regulated markets with efficiently trained workers.
Being an efficient employee in a job that matches a data profile collected by the state from cradle to career is not a high enough standard for education, not for my children.
Thomas Jefferson was an early proponent of publicly funded education. He saw literate citizens educated in history and principles of good government as a necessary condition of maintaining liberty. He said, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”
How tragically ironic if, in the very name of public education, we end up eroding those very safeguards of liberty that he championed.
My opposition to the way we’ve adopted Common Core (and the rest of the education reforms introduced in the Stimulus) is not just about the education of my children, it is about the type of government I hope my children will inherit when they have children of their own. I believe we can set high standards for math and English without circumventing, stretching, or ignoring the high standards for self government that have made our nation unique in all the history of the world. This is the Constitution of the United States of America. These standards ARE high enough for me, and my children.
Brilliant. Thank you, Alyson Williams.