Archive for the ‘Utah teacher’ Tag

Utah Teacher: Gag Order on Teachers Hurts Students, Keeps Parents in the Dark about Tests   1 comment

Wake up, Utah parents.

Diane Ravitch recently posted a letter from a Utah teacher who tried to let parents know that they ought to opt children out of the Common Core AIR/SAGE standardized tests.  The teacher said that she was stopped, and was told she was not allowed to tell parents that they have a legal right to opt out.  The state would take disciplinary measures against the teacher’s license, she was told, if she continued to tell parents the truth.

The teacher wrote, “So how do parents even know what is being done to their children?”  They don’t.

Read the teacher’s letter here: Utah: AIR’s Absurdly Long Common Core Tests.

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Ann Florence: Utah English Teacher Stands Up for Real Teaching and is Shut Down by Administrators   15 comments

ann f
“I am required to teach key reading comprehension strategies,  the writing process,  information-gathering skills, grammar, vocabulary, etc., etc.  But I also hope to awaken a love of reading and literature, ignite curiosity about our complex world….  “All children are gifted—some just open their presents earlier than others.” I know that every one of my students understands something I don’t and has something to tell the world that no one else ever has. I am a “treasure seeker” and “talent scout,” hoping to help young people discover the gold within themselves and each other.”

This quote is excerpted from the disclosure statement of Utah English teacher Ann Florence who has been placed on forced leave, pending probable termination.  How awful.  This beautiful quote reveals that Florence is a treasure, not some problem teacher to be forced out.   But she has been pushed out, for her act of standing up for the right to teach and the right to be judged on her actual teaching rather than endless government mandated tests.

Administrators have labeled her insubordinate.  Read the news.  See  what has happened. 

It seems to me that Ann Florence doesn’t buy the notion that teachers must give up their rights to free speech, nor give up their rights to participation in the political process, just because they are employed by the government.  She certainly doesn’t believe that teachers should give up the art of real teaching to bow to government enforced, excessive high-stakes tests that narrowly judge not only students, but teachers as well.

A year ago, Florence  wrote an op-ed voicing her concerns.  She explained (excerpt):

“Managing teachers through intimidation is not working… teachers are looking for work elsewhere. Teachers who have loved their jobs are discouraging their own children from pursuing careers in education…. we feel exhausted and demoralized by the avalanche of mandates from the state and district… While legislators constantly raise expectations and think they can motivate us by publicly posting test scores, our time for teaching has shrunk….I now administer 19 days of standardized tests, costing me an entire month of instruction. This doesn’t include the days the testing site is down or the system crashes, eating up even more days…. I am held accountable for nine months of curriculum without enough time to teach it… Granite District has required teachers to learn the new Common Core, use a new grades program (which crashes regularly), design a new honors curriculum, use a new online system requiring the scanning and posting of all assignments and a daily summary of class activities, and learn to analyze complex data … No test score reflects the number of students who return to thank a teacher, the number who fall in love with reading again, gain new confidence to speak up in class, find solace in a teacher’s support, decide to try one more time just when they want to quit…  We are tired of having our dedication reduced to a number.”

Now, the Salt Lake Tribune reports that after Florence criticized new “standardized tests as a waste of time and irrelevant to what students are being taught” she was “placed on administrative leave and may be fired.”

Her students’ response?

“Oh captain, my captain, you have taught me so much this year. The value of honesty, imagination, and freedom to express myself. I cannot thank you enough for that. You are the best teacher Wasatch could ever ask for.”

Along with the emailed poetry, students launched a petition drive, urging that Florence not be terminated.

The Tribune reported that Granite District spokesman “Ben Horsley said personnel decisions of this gravity take time to make the right choice. He said Florence has been unreasonably aggressive in demanding an answer.”

“Unreasonably aggressive” seems a more appropriate label for the policymakers at the district, state and federal levels who are intimidating and degrading the professionalism of top notch teachers while trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the public.  Shame on them.

Bravo,  Ann Florence.

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Update:  The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Ann Florence has been fired.   I sent a letter today and encourage others to write as well.  Every voice counts. Here’s mine, and contact info if you want to write too, down after the letter:

Dear Granite School District, State Board, and State Office of Education:

Granite District made news this week by firing Ann Florence, an honors English teacher who stood on principle and did what she (and I) saw as the right thing to do. I am writing to voice my support for Ann Florence’s actions and to ask the District and State Board to take action to right this wrong.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported, “Florence refused to grade the writing portion of the districtwide Acuity Test. She said the exam was a waste of students’ and teachers’ time, did not further any education agenda and that it was unethical to have teachers grade their own students on a standardized test that then would be used to judge the teacher. In a letter to her students, she said she loved her career but had to stand up for principle.”

The Acuity Test (McGraw Hill) was offering financial compensation to schools for having students take this test.

Did Granite District actually fire Ann Florence for refusing to enable the District to make money –by using children for unpaid research guinea pigs? What does “professional compliance” and “teacher ethics” really mean to the district?

Ann Florence’s opinion editorial of one year ago in the Salt Lake Tribune deserves careful re-reading. Her concerns included the non-validity of high-stakes testing because of the testing conditions provided at the school, about the push for Common Core and data analysis, and about the non-validity of reducing the whole time and dedication of a teacher to one student-test-based number, a number over which that teacher has relatively little actual control.

The Tribune also reported that this teacher was punished for speaking about her concerns with the high-stakes tests vocally, including speaking out in front of students.  Does a teacher lose her Constitutional right to freedom of speech just because she is employed by the government? Are teachers to pretend to political neutrality or should they instead be shining exemplars as vibrant participants in the American process of open debate –and sometimes also in honorable disagreement?

Furthermore, basing the heaviest “accountability measures” of state tests on the federal-corporate collusion known as Common Core State Standards, in my opinion, is not only an error but a form of academic malpractice.

Thus, any teacher who refuses to push the SAGE test on students, or refuses to give or grade the Acuity Test, or to promote other high-stakes tests that do not honestly benefit students nor teachers –tests that exist to benefit powermonering politicians and moneygrubbing corporate aims, is, in my opinion, the teacher who is ethically and morally defensible.

The Granite District has marred its honor by firing Ann Florence. The State Board and Office, by doing nothing in this teacher’s defense, are complicit in the wrong.

Christel Swasey

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Granite District Superintendent Martin Bates: mwbates@graniteschools.org

State Superintendent Dr. Martell Menlove: Martell.Menlove@schools.utah.gov

Wasatch Jr High Principal Christine Judd: crydalch@graniteschools.org

Wasatch Jr High Asst. Principal John Anderson: jcanderson@graniteschools.org

State School Board:

kbuswell@wadman.com; jensen1brit@earthlink.net; dthomas@summitcounty.org; krb84010@aol.com; dgriffiths@tannerco.com; lesliebrookscastle@gmail.com; jj@jenniferajohnson.com; heather.groom@gmail.com; crandall@xmission.com; jeffersonRmoss@gmail.com; dixieleeallen@gmail.com; markopenshaw@gmail.com; debrar@netutah.com; barbara.corry@schools.utah.gov; teresatheurer1@gmail.com; jensenmk@ldschurch.org; freddiecooper1@comcast.net; jamesvolsen@gmail.com; kelinkowski@msn.com; dbrowley@q.com;

Granite School Board:

ggandy@graniteschools.org; thbawden@graniteschools.org; clanderson@graniteschools.org; ccburgess@graniteschools.org; jmjolley@graniteschools.org; dlofgren@cowboy.us; srmeier@graniteschools.org;

Governor Herbert: http://governor.utah.gov/goca/form_comment.html (copy/paste your email into this form to send it to the Governor)

Utah legislators: http://le.utah.gov (look up by address here)

 

UT High School Physics Teacher Resigns Over Common Core   7 comments

Utahns Against Common Core published the resignation letter of Utah high school physics teacher Stuart Harper today.  The letter is powerful.  These are the words of a noble man, and his resignation is a tragic loss to Utah’s school system.

When will our state leaders acknowledge the train wreck of Common Core and turn our state around?  When will they read and heed teachers like Stuart Harper?

Read the full letter here. 

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“… After much research I know that the Common Core (CC), the way it has been implemented, and the reforms which have accompanied it are wrong. They are unsound, of poor quality, take power from local government, and further empower federal agencies and policy makers. Most importantly, their enactment was unconstitutional, both in Utah and in the nation. However wrong CC may be, my reasons for resigning are only tangent to this constitutional breech. I was aware of the core before signing on, and though I did not approve of it I gave my word in contract to teach whatever curriculum I was given.

In the summer of 2013 a personal letter I had written,  stating my concerns with Common Core, was posted on the Utahns Against Common Core website. It was an opinion piece, not a scholarly review. I saw no problem with stating my opinion, it is my right as a citizen, at least so I thought.

A few months later, I was informed that the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) had learned of my published letter and was not happy with my opinions or concerns. Local school authorities were instructed to meet with me and put me back in line. During this meeting with the district representatives I was told that I was shallow, ignorant and emotional in the way I wrote my concerns and that by writing things like this I would create rebellion and insubordination across the district. I was told I can have an opinion with other state’s educational systems but as a teacher in the state of Utah I cannot be concerned with my own state’s educational affairs.

I reminded them that my intent was not to promote rebellion, but to simply encourage personal research on the subject and exercise freedom of speech on my off time, as a citizen and father. I was told “Those freedom of speech rights you are probably referring to do not apply.”

I was shocked, but I stood my ground. I made it clear that if I continued to be intimidated into silence that I would resign same day. I told them that I have given my word to teach what they want me to in the classroom and would continue, but I would also continue to use my rights as an American citizen to effect political change. They said I could share my research if I get my facts straight, but even then my job is on the line. When I told them that I would continue to research information from original sources as well as writings from those for and against Common Core they were confused. They discouraged me from seeking information from anywhere other than the USOE, and accept only their interpretations of the facts. I refused, reminding them that true education comes from educating yourself on all sides.

I was threatened on three separate occasions with professional action all because I stated my opinion. I did not resign at any of the instances where I found myself threatened because I realized that I had given my word that I would teach for the year, and I will not break my word. However I refuse to remain in an environment that clearly has no respect for the Constitutional right of free speech. I refuse to be a part of the problem.

Over the years the school system has fallen far below what it should be. The public school system is just that – public. It should represent those served by it – We the People. Each level of the system (classroom, school, district and state) fails to remember that its duty is to the people, not to the establishment. We should be representing what is in our students’ and our community’s best interest. Our current system expects acceptance and conformity to its decisions and policies by all of its teachers and administrators. Further, it expects this without questioning or voicing concerns and even goes as far as intimidating and threatening those who have differing opinions. Any society or organization that silences and discourages freedom of speech removes the possibility to express ideas, and without competing ideas we close the door on true education and open the door to tyranny.

… We have lost control of the classroom and continue to hand more and more power over to the government. Our current system no longer promotes learning, but rather focuses on training. It teaches what to think, not how to think. It is now a system of hoops for students, teachers, and administrators, and with further national control and regulations of education, these hoops have been set on fire.

I believe that until we can get education to become self-sufficient where it no longer relies on the funding and intimidation from federal and even state levels, until we can bring education back to learning how to think and not being trained for a test, and until we can bring freedom back to the individual teachers, students, and schools, our public system will continue to decay. I hope the system and its people can exercise the self discipline to do this, but where I cannot foresee this happening, my greatest hope for education now resides in home-schools, home-school groups, and in private education.

My hands are tied within this system. But I now know that I can be more productive on the outside. I will continue to promote true and correct educational principles, awareness of civic affairs, and our duty to be involved. I am going to be a part of the solution. Asking questions is the essence of education. All I encourage of others is to ask questions, seek truth and not be afraid to share that truth with other Americans who are willing to listen.

Sincerely,

Mr. Stuart Harper

Teacher, Citizen, and Father”

Yet Another Teacher Speaks Out: a Letter to Utah Legislature   4 comments

“There is much more involved here, than just a list of standardsif all the facts were known,

it would be more than obvious that the legislature would make the move to abandon Common Core.”

– Recently retired Utah Teacher Margaret Wilkin

Margaret Wilkin has given permission to post her letter to the Utah legislature.  She retired last year from Canyons District.

 

May 4, 2013

Senator Aaron Osmond

South Jordan, Utah 84095

 

Dear Aaron,

 

… On March 21, 2013, I was asked to return to the elementary school from which I retired last June, to give a presentation at their Literacy Night.  Some of the parents and students I taught in the past came down to the room where I was to say hello. In the course of the conversation, a mother of one of the smartest and most conscientious students I have ever had, said that her daughter was struggling in math.

I was surprised, but told her mother that teachers are required to teach to a rigid schedule and must move on to the next unit of study, even if the students don’t understand it.

Sticking to the schedule is more important than spending the time making sure everyone understands.

I knew as a teacher what I didn’t like about Common Core, as well as what had taken place leading up to it, but I didn’t have any concrete facts; therefore, I couldn’t give the parents any verifiable information other than my own story. I have spent the last five weeks researching and learning about Common Core. There are so many facets to Common Core, and I still don’t know everything, but I know much more than I did five weeks ago and enough to know that even without my own experience, I could not support it.

This morning I saw the e-mail from Diana Suddreth, the STEM Coordinator at the USOE, asking the Curriculum Director in each school district in Utah to solicit “success stories” from teachers using Common Core standards. She has further stated in her e-mail that she has seen marvelous and exciting things happening in classrooms since the implementation of Common Core. She stated that these “success stories” are needed to counteract the “vicious attacks” by those opposed to Common Core.

Aaron, are you aware that you and Senator Weiler are named by Diana Suddreth as the only two legislators to contact with the Common Core “success stories”? Am I to understand that you and Senator Weiler are therefore supportive of the Common Core Standards for the State of Utah?  If you are, I find this confusing since you have spoken so often of the important principle of local and State control of education. Common Core takes away local and State control, and puts the control into the hands of the Federal Government.

My response to Diana Suddreth is:

1. Utah has always had standards which teachers were required to follow.  2. It is not a matter of “voila” Common Core is here and at long last, wonderful things are happening in classrooms!  Exciting and wonderful things happen in classrooms because of the teacher’s own hard work and creativity along with the freedom to decide how to best teach the standards that make for success in the classroom, NOT because a list of Federally mandated Common Core standards.  3. Tax payers asking legitimate questions of elected officials and those employed at the USOE, and having the expectation of them to have studied the issues more carefully than the people asking the questions “is not too much to ask”.  Asking questions is not a “vicious attack”.  This is the future of our children’s education at stake as well as millions of taxpayer dollars.

Here is my unsolicited “success” story about Common Core:

Please note that I am speaking only to what is happening in the Canyons School District and at the elementary level. And I am speaking out because I am retired. Those teachers in the school system are afraid of losing their jobs if they speak out against Common Core and against the policies of the District.

The teachers have been given a rigid schedule which MUST be followed. In the morning, there is to be three hours of reading and language arts followed in the afternoon by two hours of math. P.E. and computer time has been shortened from 45 minutes to 30 minutes once a week.  That leaves 15 minutes of time each day for one of the following: music, art, science and social studies.

The teachers are monitored regularly by the principal, reading specialist and district personnel to make sure they are following the schedule.

Last year, when I was still teaching, the math portion of Common Core was put into place with the District’s purchase of the Pearson-Scott Foresman math series. As of last year, the “curriculum map” or math schedule did not match the organization of the book.  So every night, I had to hunt, using many sources, for what I was to teach the next day in order to follow the curriculum map. This is still the case as of this year.

We were to teach certain concepts during specified blocks of time and sometimes these concepts had no relationship to each other. After the specified blocks of time are completed, the students are tested in the computer lab, mainly so that the district can make sure the teachers are following the schedule. Even if the students do not understand the concepts being taught, the teacher must move on to the next block in order to follow the mandated schedule.

This removes the teacher’s ability to teach according to the needs of her/his particular class. One of the basic tenants of teaching is: monitor and then adjust to the needs of your students. The schedule as required by the District makes this very difficult to do.

We skim over the surface of many concepts. If you have seen any of the ridiculous examples of teaching two-digit multiplication and addition that people have posted on Facebook, yes, I have taught this because it is on the test.

I was in the classroom through the time leading up to the implementation of Common Core, as math was being “dumbed down” and during the time when we were told not to teach multiplication facts, two and three digit multiplication and long division to fourth graders. How could any respectable teacher not teach this?  This is not the case at the present time (times tables and long division and two and three digit multiplication are again being taught); however, the time allotted to teach these concepts is not long enough for many kids to grasp the idea.

My ability to be an effective math teacher was GREATLY diminished by having to follow the Common Core standards.

For this current school year, Canyons District purchased the Pearson reading series, “Reading Street” to match up with Common Core. (A perfectly good reading series which was not worn out was discarded. Why couldn’t this discarded series just have been supplemented with additional materials instead of wasting taxpayer money on new books?)

Reading and language arts, as in math, requires strict adherence to the schedule with regular monitoring by the principal, reading specialist and district personnel.

The students have 8 math and 6 reading computerized tests as well as three oral reading tests administered by the district. The upper grades have an additional test called MAZE. This does not count the end of the year testing in the computer lab. After the results are back the teacher is called into the principal’s office, along with the reading specialist, to account for the scores.

These tests are in addition to the regular weekly spelling, reading and math tests from the book publisher and teacher for the report card grades.

Speaking of report cards, we were told last year that the District was going to have workshops for parents so that they could understand the new report card which was going to be aligned with the Common Core standards. Wouldn’t the necessity of needing a workshop to teach parents how to interpret an elementary school report card, tell the District that this was a bad idea?

The lower performing students have just plain given up with this constant testing and will not even try any more. Teachers report that some of their students’ scores are actually getting worse. And again, teachers are called into the principal’s office to be grilled about what the teacher is going to do to bring up the scores, so that EVERY student is meeting the required benchmarks, when they are already doing everything they can to teach the material. Apparently, a child’s developmental readiness or ability is not taken in to consideration.

Is the child’s or teacher’s value only a test score?

The pressure on the teachers from the administration is INTENSE and many teachers say all they can do is teach to the test.

A second grade teacher recounted that she didn’t even dare have her class color a shamrock on St. Patrick’s Day because of the constant micromanaging by the administration and coloring a shamrock is not on the schedule.

Many teachers are saying they just can’t do this anymore. The joy and creativity of teaching in elementary school has been taken away by Common Core and the excessive testing. Kids and teachers both are burning out. Is this really what we want for our children?

Because of Common Core our freedom is being lost even down to the lowest level: the classroom.

There are MANY reasons to oppose Common Core. Here are just a few:

1. Data and assessment driven.  2. Adopted by the State School Board by accepting stimulus money and agreeing to the Common core standards before they had even been written.  3. Family rights to privacy, as spelled out in FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), have been essentially amended making computer testing a major tool in gathering information about students that should remain private. This is known as Data Mining.  4. Adopting these standards takes decision making out of State and local school boards and districts, but, even more importantly, out of the hands of teachers and parents. 5. The State Legislature was bypassed by not being included in the decision of whether or not to adopt Common Core.

There are so many layers to Common Core. There is much more involved here, than just a list of standards. My experience is just one part, but an important part. Frankly, it seems to me that if all the facts were known, it would be more than obvious that the legislature would make the move to abandon Common Core.

I am not against Common Core because I have been around for SO long that I don’t want change, but because I can see the harm it is doing to my profession and to students. The freedom of the parents, teachers, school districts and states to choose what is best for them has been taken away and will be controlled by the Federal government.

May I recommend to you a video presentation explaining Common Core that has been posted on You Tube. It is one of the best presentations I have seen. If you type in Google “You Tube Subversive Threat to Education”, you should be able to find it. It is a current talk given to a group in Tennessee.

Thank you again for all the hours of service you give to our community and State.

Sincerely,

Margaret Wilkin

Dear Superintendent Larry Shumway   1 comment

I wrote this letter to our State Superintendent today.  Do you think he’ll respond this time?  He never has before.  But hope springs eternal.

Dear Superintendent Shumway,

Although I have asked for a meeting with Carol Lear, with Judy Park, and with Brenda Hales, my requests have been turned down.

As you may know, I’m a Utah teacher with an up to date level II credential and a former English professor at UVU, and am concerned about Common Core nationalized education both for academic and liberty-based reasons.

I have tried to meet with your staff to discuss this in person. I would deeply appreciate a meeting to talk about these things, or a referenced, thorough email response to the following:

1.  What proof can you offer teachers and parents that Common Core standards are not equalizing education within such narrow limits that they actually dumb down the expectations for 4-year college readiness to cater to career readiness and 2-year nonselective college readiness? People as diverse as Stanford’s Michael Kirst and Jason Zimba, Common Core architect, have addressed this issue but Utah has not done so on the USOE website or elsewhere.

2. Why is the board citing the retiring CCSSO leader Gene Wilhoit’s verbal assurances that “there’s no common core police” rather than believing what our state has committed to in writing, which is the federal government’s 15% speed limit on adding to the non-amendable standards, being copyrighted (by NGA/CCSSO) ?

Fact: We need to be able to add more than 15%.  More than a year’s worth of math is missing for most grades, according to Dr. James Milgram, the only math professor on the Common Core Validation Committee.  Speed limit on learning is set in stone at 15% in writing.  Why is that okay with the Utah school board?  Please explain.

3. It has been claimed that many teachers actually had input into the writing of the standards; yet no one I know, including myself, was ever asked to help write the national standards.  And the copyright on the standards (held by NGA/CCSSO) states: NGA/CCSSO are the “sole developers” and sole owners, and “no claims to the contrary shall be made.”  http://www.corestandards.org/public-license

4.  Why was Common Core never piloted nor ever discussed in the public eye, with parents or teachers or legislators, before this transformative, experimental program was implemented across America?

5. How can Common Core avoid lowering standards for top-achieving students when “college and career readiness” means the exact same thing for 4-year college, 2-year college, and vocational school prep?

6. Why does Common Core diminish classic literature? What research supports this drastic change? What percentage of English Language Arts teachers and professors actually approve of this, or believe in the idea that this is increasing rigor and improving college prep?  Do you know?

7. Common Core claims to improve international competitiveness. Why then is Algebra I introduced in 9th grade under Common Core, but it was previously introduced in 8th grade in most states and is introduced in 8th grade in the amazing Asian countries?  Fact:  Massachusetts had the highest standards in the nation but dropped them to adopt mediocre Common Core.  Massachusetts even tested independently as an independent country, and ranked extremely high –but before Common Core.

8.  If it is true, as has been claimed, that Common Core is a state-led program, then why is the federal government incentivizing its adoption via grants (Race to the Top and Race to the Top for Assessments)?

9. Why is the federal government further incentivizing its adoption via No Child Left Behind waivers if there are no federal strings attached?

10. How can states afford Common Core in this economy?  Utah, like most states, hasn’t done a cost analysis.  Texas and Virginia did a cost analysis and both states rejected the offer to join Common Core.  (Texas estimated a $3 billion dollar implementation).

11.  Why can’t we have an open, referenced, well-publicized public hearing on common core with experts from both sides being heard in a non-confrontational, non-argumentative way?

The Granite District meeting was dominated by Ms. Roberts’ long speech, with only 2 minutes then given for hundreds of members of the public; and no experts were given time there from the opposition to common core side.

12. Why hasn’t the Longitudinal Database System and the P-20 student tracking system been made transparent to the public, so that parents who would prefer not to have their child and family tracked by the government, could choose to send their children to private school or homeschool?

Let’s talk openly about these issues, for the good of the students, the teachers, the taxpayers, the general public, and the cause of liberty as it applies to education under the U.S. Constitution.

Christel Swasey

Heber City

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