Archive for the ‘vote’ Tag

Letter From Alpine School Board Member to Teachers on Common Core Opposition   3 comments

images

Reblogged from Wendy Hart’s blog here.

Alpine School Board member Wendy Hart had an interview with the Teachers’ Association to determine if they would be endorsing her re-election.  After that meeting, she wrote this blog post, an open letter to the teachers in her school district.  Here’s a portion:

For Teachers Only

“…As an employee, perhaps you can’t speak out if you find things amiss.  It’s your job; you have to do it.  It’s the same with my job.  Sometimes you just have to put a smile on your face and do what needs to be done whether you agree with it or not.  I completely understand that.  Do I wish it weren’t the case?  Yes. But I acknowledge the reality of it. Elected officials, however, are elected for a reason. We can’t be fired or lose our jobs for speaking out, except at the hands of voters. If anyone is going to stand up for teachers against a program that isn’t good, it must be the elected officials.  And every new change, program or implementation that comes along really should be debated, discussed and vetted all the way along the line, especially at the local level. Let’s take something we probably agree on: teacher evaluations being tied to SAGE testing.  This is wrong.  I’ve said so.  I will continue to say so.  It, too, is state law.  We have to do it.  But it’s horribly wrong.  Placing so much of a teacher’s evaluation and thus, his/her livelihood on a single (pilot) test is absolutely the worst use of a standardized test.  Like the Common Core, should we just go along with it and be supportive?  I know you all will do the best you can, trying not to focus overly much on the test and still teach as professionals, but it’s got to weigh you down.  The direction we are doing is that once all education and all educators are evaluated on a single test, funding will follow.  It’s nice and simple, but still wrong.  I can’t sit by and be supportive.  I have to find a way to scream from the rooftops that this can’t work, and that it gives way too much authority to the test makers over teachers, over local boards, over  HOW standards are taught in the classroom.

Let me give you an example.  Several years ago, my son had a phenomenal teacher.  He LOVED class, loved her lessons, enjoyed nearly every moment.  He learned a lot and enjoyed it.  She even expressed appreciation that he had shushed the rest of the class one time because he wanted to learn what she had to teach.  Do you think I cared what he got on the CRT’s that year?  Nope.  I don’t think I even looked at them.  He had a wonderful year with a wonderful teacher.  That was worth more to me (and to him) than any standardized test score.  And I am afraid that, despite her best efforts, that love and that thrill of teaching will be reduced to making sure she can keep her job by getting higher test scores.  (Note: She was/is his favorite.  But he’s had many, many others who were just as wonderful, just as dedicated, and just as appreciated.)  I don’t choose and evaluate my kids’ teachers by their test scores. So, back to Common Core.  It is top-down, which violates the principle of local control.

A little bit of local control isn’t local control.  And just to be clear, my opposition isn’t just with the standards. The Common Core standards come in a nice little package along with tying test scores to teacher evaluations, courtesy of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Waiver.  The other two parts of that package are 1) a longitudinal database on students and teachers and 2) “improving” low-performing schools (determined by the test scores and “improved” by shutting them down and bringing in private enterprises, and redistributing successful teachers to these “failing” schools).  The entire package is flawed, and it’s flawed on principle.  You, as a teacher, need to be able to have the freedom to connect with your students–the freedom to do what you know is best, regardless of where the student falls on the ‘testing’ rubric.

The Common Core Standards are just one tree in that forest of standardizing everything: tests, schools, teachers, curriculum. Already, there are calls to use the copyright of the Common Core standards to ‘certify’ curriculum.  And, in the end, if your wonderful lesson plan doesn’t deliver the results on the test (even if it delivers the results you, your students, and your students’ parents want), it won’t be around for very much longer.

You got into teaching because you love kids, and you wanted to be able to affect their lives for the better through education. You have natural talents and professional training on how to make that human-to-human connection that makes teachers irreplaceable. We need more of the individual attention you provide. Common Core, with its associated numbers-driven, top-down, accountability to the state, not parents, can only take education in the wrong direction. The Common Core standards, and the rest of the NCLB Waiver package, will reduce teachers to standards-implementers, test-preppers, and data points. I realize this is your job, and you have to make the best of whatever is presented to you.  But that is why we have school boards and a political process.  It is my job to fight against policies that interfere with the parent-child-teacher partnership. I am happy to do this job. I hope you will understand that my opposition to Common Core and its “package” is to support you as the professional you are. Our community must stand strong and eliminate all obstacles that stand in the way of you doing your job and realizing the highest aspirations that originally brought you into education.

You may not be able to do it, but I should.”

Run Baby Run (Baking Cookies Isn’t Saving The Nation Fast Enough)   2 comments

  1.  
    ezra
    Did you know that even if you are lazy,  sick or out of town and won’t attend your local Caucus meeting –It’s THURSDAY FOR UTAH’S GOP– still, you can vote and you can even still RUN for an office!?  Just pre-file to vote or to run, here:   http://www.utgop.org
    vote
    (If you don’t attend that night, you will need to print out a ballot the night before the Caucus, or the day of, and have your neighbor bring it for you, along with a photocopy of your drivers’ license or other I.D.)
    vote 2
    The fact that there are so many unopposed county delegate, state delegate, and local school board seats open in Utah County, Wasatch County –and probably in every county– utterly unopposed– is completely sad.
    cookies
    We serve in our homes and in our churches and we justify that service as being enough.  It is wonderful, but it is not enough.  Not in 2014. Our country is falling apart because in each locality, the best people are too shy or too busy or too embarrassed to run and to serve in public offices.   We just bake more and more cookies.  They are delicious, but I am pretty sure that they do not save our nation as quickly as running for and serving in public offices can.
    usa
    A friend who lives in Utah County and who chooses to be anonymous, wrote this:   “For every person who thinks they can’t run, I’m here to beg you to do it anyway…  Facebook it.   The  biggest, best, and most effective way for anyone to impact education, even with the centralization that we have, would be to ‘en masse’ get different school board members in, locally. We have seen the legislature will never act without backing from the local boards. The State Board has no motivation (and the reality is it is too far away from the people to be accountable with the amount of power it possesses) to change. But even if no one wins. Even if the people reject the message of local control, it does move the needle. It shows that every person needs to be involved and responsible. At the very least, local school board elections provide a ready-made platform for issues (debate, newspapers, direct mail pieces, websites). It allows the rest of the people to hear a different perspective other than who loves the kids most. It allows for an opportunity to speak truth to power, and, if successful, actually change the direction of this state, more than legislation or replacing state school board members. The rightful power over education lies in the local school boards truly representing the parents of their communities. Until the people actually want the power back, it will continue to be centralized, concentrated and taken away from parents and local communities. This is the line in the sand.gandalf“This is, as Gandalf says, where “You shall not pass.” This is the opportunity to speak the truth that PARENTS must be in charge of their kids’ education. They we can’t abdicate this responsibility to the ‘experts’. People don’t believe it anymore. They think their kids must get the education the experts demand. They may feel uncomfortable with some things and not knowing what’s going on, but we have been conditioned to believe that it isn’t our responsibility.”There is no single issue that is more important in the next 4 days, than finding, preferably in all 41 districts, people to run. There should be no seat that doesn’t have opposition. I apologize again, because when I asked and cajoled about this 6 months ago, I didn’t follow up. I didn’t feel that it was my responsibility. But I realize that we are all in the same boat: we don’t believe it’s our job. We hope someone will step up to the plate.”Once upon a time, in this country, public service was seen the way our culture and our religion value religious callings. You didn’t say no, and you felt it should be shared. Somehow, we think that running for office is something other people should do; that it takes a particular mindset or temperament; that it shouldn’t be a sacrifice. It is service. It’s supposed to be a sacrifice! To quote Thomas Paine, “it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.” We who choose to live in liberty must bear the pains of supporting it.”There are 11 school board seats up in Utah County alone. Of those 11, 2 in Provo don’t even have a candidate yet. All but 2, are currently unopposed. With all due respect, I can’t believe there are only 3 people in Utah County that feel the need to stand up for something other than the status quo. We, the people, don’t deserve local control because we don’t show by our actions that we really want it.“We have greater potential right now, in the next 96 hours, than we’ve had in the last 2 years, of returning control of education back to the people. If you know anyone in one of these areas, call them and ask them to run. Don’t take no for an answer.”

    Amen to my friend’s words.

    Here are words from another wise soul:

    “God intended men to be free…  No nation which has kept the commandments of God has ever perished, but I say to you that once freedom is lost, only blood – human blood – will win it back.”  – Ezra T. Benson – October 26, 1979 )

    Running for political office is not a show of vanity and ambition –or shouldn’t be– but it’s a willingness to help bear the burden to uphold our freedoms with simple, good decision making. There are small, easy, local positions that take very little time. There are larger positions, too, for which you do not need to have an advanced degree or experience. You should have a love of liberty, of constitutional local control, and a sense of wisdom and morality. That’s it.

    Run, baby, run.

    PLEASE SHARE.

Bold Alton New Hampshire School Board Votes to Reject Common Core   5 comments

A local New Hampshire school board voted yesterday to drop Common Core.

According to a Laconia Sun report, one woman cited the N.H. state motto, “Live free or die,” and asked, “why would we want to take federal money? Once you let the government in, you can’t get rid of it. It gets bigger and bigger.”

But teacher Richard Kirby observed that despite the vote, students will have to take the Common Core test — the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC) — which is formatted to measure Common Core standards.

The school district is, for now, obligated by the state to test students under the Common Core nationally aligned tests, and on the very Common Core standards just rejected by the local school board.

But that testing obligation could change. Many states have dropped membership in SBAC and PARCC, synchronized testing groups which are federally supervised, federally financed, and federally data-collecting.

Reading the comments of New Hampshire citizens quoted in the Laconia Sun highlights a tragic lack of understanding that exists even among policymakers, about Common Core.

For example, Superintendent William Lander assured citizens that “there is no mining of data,” and said privacy of students is protected. How interesting that the superintendent is still –as most superintendents still are– apparently unaware of his state’s federally funded and federally interoperable State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS) , and unaware of the federal EdFacts Data collection project that the SLDS feeds, and unaware of the national data collection programs that are Common Core dependent, including EIMAC, a division of a national superintendents’ club (Council of Chief State School Officers, the private group that co-developed and co-copyrighted the standards) They simply don’t know what is going on because it’s not part of what Common Core proponents explain when they share their talking points that market Common Core to the nation.

The Laconia Daily Sun reported that NH Rep. Jane Cormier (R-Alton) said officials of the New Hampshire Department of Education could not even answer basic questions about the program. Rep. Cormier said, “they’re making it up as they go along,” and asked, “why should we adopt something when we don’t have all the answers?”

But Stephen Miller, one of the local board members who had voted to remain associated with the Common Core Initiative, claimed, “This is not a political issue. It’s an education issue.” Hmm.

I see it exactly in the opposite way, Mr. Miller. To me, Common Core is not an educational issue; it’s a political control issue. Why? Because these education standards are likely to be changed (by those who own copyright) and are impossible to affect (by those governed by the standards). So we can’t even nail down, long term, what the standards are, or legitimately call them good or bad since they’re set far away are are utterly out of our local control, folks.

Yet. Proponents of Common Core have quite successfully disguised this as an educational issue, as an improvement upon education. They’ve lured us. They’ve (falsely) asserted that Common Core is a time-tested, proven system of top standards that will solve the nation’s educational challenges –without harming local ability to innovate or control education.

Common Core’s marketing has been snake-oil salesmanship from the start. No evidence exists to support those lofty claims. The Common Core has no pilot studies to point to, no long-term empirical evidence that shows that the theories on which it rests will bring about desired results. In fact, its educational theories (which include reducing the amount of classic literature and narrative writing students engage in; slowing the pace at which algorithms are taught, etc.) have been condemned by top members of the Common Core validation committee, who have refused to sign off on the adequacy of the standards.

But even that academic condemnation is irrelevant when you consider the fact that NO educational standards are going to be settled science. Education is always going to be an issue to be debated, innovated upon, argued, and there is no ONE way that works best in every school, for every state. Think about this fact carefully, again and again: that there is no representative amendment process for the commonly held standards. That’s bad!

If New Hampshire, Utah and Florida were to privately agree that they wanted to change things, for example, and they decided that they wanted to have 100% classic literature and zero informational texts in their high school literature classes (rather than sticking with the Common Core mandate of cutting away 70% of the classics) –how would they go about persuading Vermont, New Jersey, Georgia and the others to alter the standards? And then, if somehow all 45 states agreed that more classic literature would truly be more legitimate college prep, well, it would still be too-bad-so-sad-for-us!

Because there is no representation by the states in the copywritten, privately-held standards initiative. The NGA and CCSSO hold copyright over the standards and only these unaccountable groups can alter OUR standards. Adding insult to injury, the federal government put a 15% cap on top of the copyright, so states aren’t allowed to add more than 15% to the commonly held standards.

But still worse, look at the tests. The assessments themselves –anchored in the unalterable (by us) Common standards– actually cement states’ lack of power over their own standards. Because there’s not even a 15% flexibility in the Common Core aligned testing.

What does all of this mean in practical terms?

What does it mean, for example, that teachers say that they like some (or even all) aspects of Common Core, as some verifiably do?

Short term, it’s fine and good.

But long term, it means nothing. It’s utterly meaningless. It’s like discussing the arrangement of sun chairs on the deck of the Titanic. Why spend time talking about something not likely to remain in place, something beyond our control –and all because we chose to jump onboard?

We locals can’t control, influence, or improve on the common standards and tests. It is out of our hands.

Our state school boards and governors most likely did not realize it at the time, yet they sold our state educational birthright when they adopted Common Core. They sold our data privacy birthright when they adopted federally articulated and funded State Longitudinal Database Systems.

We are not now in our Consitutionally correct place of sitting in the driver’s seat. We the People must wake up and stop Common Core.

———————————————————————————–

Read the whole report by the Laconia Sun on Alton’s rejection of Common Core here.

Mark Davis or Wilma Cowley? Shad Sorenson or Jen Kelson? Wasatch School Board   Leave a comment

Wasatch County School Board: Cowley, Kelson in front; Jones, Baird, Horner in back.

I would be happy to sit by them at the Heber rodeo or say hello at the grocery store, but I would not cast a vote for a single one of these nice people.  Sorry.

I’d put up a yard sign for Mark Davis and Shad Sorenson, though.

The old school board might be good people.  But part of that goodness does not include studying what the heck is going on in American education today.

There’s been a national betrayal in public education and they don’t even know about it. Not studying it and not informing the local citizens, teachers and parents of students of both sides of the issue is irresponsible.

They let the state board call the shots without listening to parents or teachers.  The state board defines Common Core for all. But the state board is guided by the Common Core-promoting philosophies of Sir Michael Barber, CEA of Pearson; the SBAC’s socialist Linda Darling-Hammond, bomber-and-education reformer Bill Ayers, federal Education Secretary Arne Duncan and President Obama. Extremists.

These local incumbents don’t seem to perceive how the state board’s tolerance of Common Core is damaging.  Their unwillingness to study these issues deeply and diligently will hurt us.

The district website still sings the praises of the highly controversial Common Core.

Check it out. Compare what they say, below, to what Utah’s Sutherland Institute, Heritage Foundation, Boston’s Pioneer Institute, Bill Evers at Stanford’s Hoover Institute, or thousands of other patriotic, education-loving, anti-Common Core parents, teachers and intellectuals have to say:

Here’s the local board’s side of it: http://www.wasatch.edu/cms/lib/UT01000315/Centricity/Domain/27/Common%20Core%20FACTS%20revised.pdf

vs.

NPR news:  http://stateimpact.npr.org/indiana/2012/09/26/why-common-core-academic-standards-are-dividing-republicans-on-education/

Education Week and Romney’s stand on Common Core: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2012/09/mitt_romney_doesnt_think_the.html

Here’s Sutherland’s several: http://www.sutherlandinstitute.org/article_detail.php?id=3276&type=Press+Releases

http://www.sutherlandinstitute.org/news/2012/07/18/fact-checking-usoe-claims-on-common-core/

Pioneer Institute’s several:  http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/state_edwatch/Controlling-Education-From-the-Top%5B1%5D.pdf

http://www.pioneerinstitute.org/blog/news/handwaving-away-opposition-to-the-national-standards/

Heritage Foundation’s:  http://blog.heritage.org/2012/08/03/indiana-superintendent-obama-administration-nationalized-common-core-standards/ and http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/12/a-national-education-standards-exit-strategy-for-states

Thousands of Utahns who signed the petition: http://utahnsagainstcommoncore.com

 

— and there are so many more who have pointed out that “facts” about Common Core, as they are being presented by our school board on our local district website, are simply not true, or are only half-truths.   It is quite sobering.

So, why do they do it?  Why not show the facts and the national dialogue about Common Core, to be transparent about the pros and cons and real concerns of teachers, students, and parents?  I do not know.  But I have a solution.

Solution: vote them out. Vote for people who will study the issues, and who won’t rubber stamp everything Arne Duncan’s troops and the state board push as “good for” the local people.

Vote for Mark Davis and Shad Sorenson.

Wilma Cowley, nice and grandmotherly though she is, simply does not return emails.  It is not acceptable to ignore the community that voted for you in the first place and to disregard serious concerns.

She refuses to study the pros and cons of Common Core and refuses to explain why.  She never says anything during the school board meetings and just allows others to talk.  Kind, adorable, but not tough and not diligent in researching enough.

It matters.

Her opponent, Mark Davis was willing to meet with concerned citizens and was willing to listen to our concerns about the dramatic changes in the way our state collects student data (via the Utah Data Alliance, the State Longitudinal Database, and the P-20 child tracking systems.)

He was also open to hearing the truth about Common Core.  He was not automatically buying all the drooly praise that Obama and his educational elites offer concerning the Common Core without seeing some references.  He is no wimp.  He stands up for what he believes in, which I know only because he told us some stories that I don’t have permission to share here.

Vote Mark Davis.

Shad Sorenson said, in the “Meet the Candidates” forum, that he was glad Utah had backed out of the SBAC testing consortium.  So he gets it.  He understands that Common Core hurts local control.

I prefer Shad Sorenson to Jen Kelson because Shad has done some homework on Common Core, which Jen has not.  Kelson (like Wilma Cowley) never returns an email.  She talks, talks, talks at board meetings and never listens to concerned teachers and citizens like me.  We don’t even get a return email–nothing.

School board members should study the facts and the scary contracts and academic limitations of Common Core.  Our current board simply doesn’t address anything that the USOE  and Arne Duncan aren’t selling.  I can’t respect that.  I want new people in there.

There are serious issues in American education today, and we need local school board members who know it and who study it so they can be in a position to protect our children and the quality of their education and their data privacy.

Vote Shad Sorenson.

Lastly, I have no comment about whether anyone votes for Blaik Baird or his opponent; they both, at the Meet the Candidates event, seemed to be unconcerned in any way that Common Core might be harming our educational system.  They believe it’s all Arne Duncan and Obama and Larry Shumway have said. Even though it ain’t the truth.

After all this time, they still haven’t cracked the books on it.  So it’s probably not going to matter which one of those two gets elected.

But Sorenson and Davis are better, I think; I hope.

I’d give them my vote anyway.

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

Vote Ken Parkinson. 

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

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

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

Ken Parkinson.

If Obama Gets Elected   Leave a comment

If Obama wins another term as president, you can expect to see the tightening of control over education via Common Core, national tracking of students, and more anti-American ideas being promoted across the country and especially in schools, because of the influence of the Gates Foundation, UNESCO, and others.

Mitt Romney  wants to turn back the trend of socializing, nationalizing education.  If you are able to donate some time to Mitt’s campaign, they need serious amounts of volunteers. There are a few call centers below and you can also make calls from home. Please get involved.

I received this email today and will post the rest for those willing to help Romney get elected.

***********

A Utah friend writes:

“I just talked to a Romney campaign staffer at the Orem call center who said he was very disappointed in the turnout of volunteers for Governor Romney.  In a state where Romney may get 80 percent of the vote, far too many people are apathetic.  They don’t think they can make a difference.  NOT TRUE!! These call centers are targeting voters in swing states such as Nevada, Colorado, and Ohio.  Utah volunteers are desperately needed in a very tight election.”

This election could prove to be a cliff-hanger.  One prognosticator last night suggested that Romney might win the popular vote but lose the Electoral College.  In other words, states like Nevada, Colorado, and Ohio could make all the difference.  And if you imagine that, living in Utah or Idaho or some other safe Romney zone, you can’t have any impact on the races there, you’re absolutely wrong.

Monetary donations, even small ones, can still make a difference.  Unless I’m mistaken, Barack Obama substantially outraised Mitt Romney last month, for the first time in quite a while.  What a pity it will be if, having come this far, we falter at the end and fail by a hair’s breadth.

This is the time for the final push in the race, the final burst of energy that guarantees the victory.  Or the fatal loss of will that turns triumph into failure.

You can also volunteer to make phone calls.  The ground game is everything at this point.  The candidate who gets his voters out will win the vital contested states and take the presidency for the next four years.

Romney Call Centers in Utah, open Monday-Saturday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

If you would prefer to call from home, please click on this link to find out how you can set up your phone and computer.  It will, I think, work from anywhere in the country.  So you non-Utahns shouldn’t feel that you’re off the hook!  You’re needed, too!

Orem Office:

Staff Contact, Colton Miles:  colton@utgop.org

801.835.7239 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting FREE 801.835.7239 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

Address: 1120 S 1350 W

Orem, UT 84058

(It’s just over on the west side of the freeway, not far from the University Parkway exit, more or less opposite UVU.)

Midvale Office:

sensi@utgop.org“>sensi@utgop.org 801.674.4124 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting FREE 801.674.4124 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

47 East 7200 South

Midvale, UT 84047

Logan Office:

Amber@utgop.org

435.374.4704 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting FREE 435.374.4704 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

1451 North 200 East, Ste. 190-B

Logan, UT 84341

St. George Office:

Gary@utgop.org

435.703.9484 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting FREE 435.703.9484 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

134 North 200 East, Ste. 202

St. George, UT 84770

GOP Platform Might Address Elimination of Common Core Federal Standards – VOTE ONLINE.   2 comments

http://www.gopplatform2012.com/education/eliminate-common-core-collective-education

If many people “second” the idea of eliminating Common Core, the Republican party leaders may choose to add this request as part of the national Republical platform.  That’s why I input my input.  Hope many choose to agree.  The quality of education and the future amendability of our local standards depends on getting out of Common Core.  I pasted it from the GOP page as well as it would paste, here.

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COMMON CORE IS NOT ACADEMICALLY SOUND

It is a fact that the only math professor on the official Common Core Validation Committee, Dr. James Milgram, flatly refused to sign off on the standards as being valid.  The math standards lack a coherent sequence and do the opposite of what they claim to do (make USA students more internationally competitive).

The Asian Tigers have Alg. I in 8th grade.  Common Core has it in 9th.

By junior high, Common Core places students one to two years behind what they should be.

In the English department, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, who also served on the Common Core Validation Committee, also refused to sign off on the standards being adequate.  They are not legitimate college prep because they slash narrative writing and classic, time-tested story reading to make room for info-texts.  This is almost like book burning in its refusal to make generous room for literature in American classrooms. Under mandate. Dr. Kirst of Stanford University said his concern was that the standards call 4 year, 2 year, and vocational school preparation the same thing.  Is college prep to be dumbed down? Yes, absolutely. That is how we will make all our students common.  This Harrison Bergeron-esque attempt to make all students equal and common is absurd.

EDUCATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION:

Local educational decision-making capacity is severely reduced by Common Core. Common Core is education without representation: the federal government incentivized its adoption by states but the public did not vote on the initiative, did not know what it was until after state school boards and governors implemented it, and has no means to amend the standards, as they are under NGA/CCSSO copyright.  (Source:   http://www.corestandards.org/terms-of-use )

There is no means provided for voters to recall Common Core standards-setting administrators.  And the Dept. of Ed put a 15% cap on how much states can add. We can do better.

More Info:
http://youtu.be/XTbMLjk-qRc

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

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

Let Freedom Ring In Education!   1 comment

  We have to get rid of the Common Core Initiative  –if we actually care about quality education and freedom over education.

Why?

I’ll start with a little intro– why I care:

I  hold an up-to-date Utah Level II teaching license and I have nine years of experience in classrooms. I’m currently a stay-home-mother.  My most recent teaching position was Adjunct Professor of English at Utah Valley University, where I taught Freshman English and remedial Basic Composition.  Teaching remedial English showed me that the educators’ cry for better prepared students is a real concern, not to be lightly dismissed.

Having studied the Common Core Initiative closely, however, I have come to the conclusion that Common Core is not the answer to the real educational problems we face. The Common Core educational standards present a sobering danger to quality education.  They are unproven, at best.  They are a dumbing down, at worst.

    As an English teacher, my concern is that by mandating the removal of narrative writing and greatly reducing the amount of classic literature that is permitted in Utah English classrooms, we have robbed our students of literary history, culture and the intangible values that cannot be imparted through informational texts and informational writing.  Is the slashing of time allotted for English literature much different from actual book burning, in its effect on students’ thoughts?

Common Core seems to take from, rather than give to students.  Professor Michael Kirst of Stanford University noted that “the standards for college and career readiness are essentially the same. This implies the answer is yes to the question of whether the same standards are appropriate for 4 year universities, 2 year colleges, and technical colleges.”  This is one of the most sobering criticisms of the damage and dumbing down Common Core standards may do.

Regardless of who wins the argument about whether the national standards will be better or worse than Utah’s previous standards, the fact remains that the national educational standards are, to Utah, utterly meaningless:  there is no local political power over them; they can be changed at any time, but not by us.

Reclaiming Educational Freedom:

It seems that reversing the adoption of Common Core is both an educational and a Constitutional imperative.

    Reclaiming educational freedom and educational quality for Utah will meanwe have to : 1) withdraw from the SBAC testing consortium, 2) withdraw from Common Core national standards, 3) resubmit Utah’s ESEA Flexibility waiver request to choose state-unique standards, option 2, “standards that are approved by a State network of institutions of higher education”  and 4) creating legitimate, freed standards.

Toward those ends, this post will give evidence that the Department of Education’s reforms harm local freedom and education, all spearheaded by the Common Core Initiative.  These reforms have reduced Utah’s educational decision-making capacity without public knowledge or a vote;  have reduced, rather than improving, educational quality; and will expose students and families to unprecedented privacy intrusions by state, federal and nongovernmental entities, to be accessed without parental consent.

This post will also look at  efforts other states have made to reclaim local control of education.

 

Unconstitutionality of Common Core

The unconstitutionality of Common Core is clear because the initiative offers education without representation: the public did not vote on the transformative initiative and has no means to amend these national standards, as they are under copyright.  (Source:   http://www.corestandards.org/terms-of-use )

There is no means for voters to recall any Common Core test-creating administrators or standards-setting personnel.  No matter how radiant the claims of Common Core proponents sound, the standards are unproven, untested, and unfunded.  Voters deserve to know about, and vote upon, the board’s unauthorized decision that traded state control of quality education for an unvalidated, un-amendable national educational experiment.

http://truthinamericaneducation.com/common-core-state-standards/three-exit-strategies-from-the-common-core-for-state-leadership/

 Local decision-making capacity reduced

The following documents show that local decision making has been severely reduced:

  1. Race to the      Top (RTTT) Grant Application – on the definitions page, we learn      that states are restricted from adding to standards for local use. The application hooked Utah to Common Core, even      though we didn’t win the grant. It states:       A State may supplement the common standards with      additional standards, provided that theadditional standards do not exceed 15 percent of the State’s total      standards for that content area.” This      speed limit on learning is problematic; one example is the fact that 9th      graders will be repeating most of their 8th grade year (Alg. I moved from      8th to 9th grade for CCSS implementation) and the state will not be able      to add more than 15% to what they would be learning in 9th grade over      again.
  1. Copyright on CCSS National Standards  – Despite the fact that proponents of Common Core claim the initiative was state-led and was written by educators’ input nationwide, the copyright states:  “NGA Center/CCSSO shall be acknowledged as the sole owners and developers of the Common Core State Standards, and no claims to the contrary shall be made.  http://www.corestandards.org/public-license
  1. ESEA      Flexibility Waiver Request – This document, like the RTTT      grant application, shows that Utah is not      able to delete anything from the national standards and can only add a      maximum of 15% to them.  State      and local school boards do not understand or agree upon how this problem      is to be faced.  While the local      district says it is bound by top-down decision making and must adapt to      Common Core, the state school board says that “local districts and schools are clearly responsible for accommodating      individual students.” A Utah State School Board member confessed      that, seeing this math retardation problem ahead of time, she pulled her      grandchildren out of public school and homeschooled them before Common      Core was imposed on them.   https://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/07/07/state-and-local-school-board-perceptions-of-common-core-differ-13-2/
  2. Cooperative      Agreement      – The Department of Education’s cooperative agreement with the SBAC      testing consortium, to which Utah is still bound, states that tests must      be synchronized “across consortia,” that status updates and      phone conferences must be made available to the Dept. of Education      regularly, and that data collected must be shared with the federal      government “on an ongoing basis.”  http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf

This Department of Education arrangement appears to be flatly illegal.  Under the Constitution and under the General Educational Provisions Act, the federal government is restricted from supervising education of states:  “No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other printed or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system…”  http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/20/1232a

  1. Letter From      WestEd      –      “In      order for this system to have a real impact within a statethe state will need to adopt the Common Core      State Standards (i.e., not have two sets of standards).”  This email      response from the SBAC test writers shows that the up-to-15% difference      between Utah Core Standards and Common Core State Standards (CCSS) will be      a 0% difference as soon as      testing begins in 2014-2015. Nothing but the national standards will be      tested.  (Source:  https://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/04/06/what-is-wested-and-why-should-you-care/      ) Also, teacher and principal employment will soon depend upon student      performance on the nationalized tests.       (http://www.nea.org/home/proposed-policy-on-evaluation-and-accountability.html      ) Thus, there will be strong motivation to teach only to the test and skip      unique 15% additions to the local version of the national standards.

Educational quality reduced

The following educational testimonials illustrate that under Common Core, educational quality is reduced:

  1. 6.       The expert opinion of BYU Professor Alan Manning of the Department of Linguistics and English Language:  that Common Core is not a good idea.  “…Core standards just set in concrete approaches to reading/writing that we already know don’t work very well. Having the Core standards set in concrete means that any attempts to innovate and improve reading/writing instruction will certainly be crushed. Actual learning outcomes will stagnate at best… An argument can be made that any improvement in reading/writing instruction should include more rather than less attention the reading/analysis of stories known to effective in terms of structure (i.e. “classic” time-tested stories). An argument can be made that any improvement in reading/writing instruction should include more rather than fewer exercises where students write stories themselves that are modeled on the classics. This creates a more stable foundation on which students can build skills for other kinds of writing. The Core standards would prevent public schools from testing these kinds of approaches.” https://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/07/07/byu-professor-alan-manning-expresses-concerns-about-common-core-slashing-story-writing-and-classic-story-reading/
  1. The expert      opinion of Dr. Sandra Stotsky, who served on the Common Core      Validation Committee and refused to sign off on the adequacy of the      English Language Arts standards: “…Despite claims to the contrary,      they are not internationally benchmarked. States adopting Common Core’s      standards will damage the academic integrity of both their post-secondary      institutions and their high schools precisely because Common Core’s      standards do not strengthen the high school curriculum and cannot reduce      the current amount of post-secondary remedial coursework in a legitimate      way.”      http://parentsacrossamerica.org/2011/04/sandra-stotsky-on-the-mediocrity-of-the-common-core-ela-standards/  and         http://pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120510_ControllingEducation.pdf
  2. The expert      opinion of Dr. James Milgram, who served on the Common Core      Validation Committee and refused to sign off on the adequacy of the math      standards:  that Common Core math puts      students about two years behind other countries, rather than creating a      competitive set of standards.       http://pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120510_ControllingEducation.pdf
  3. The expert      opinion of Ze’ev Wurman, who served on the California      Committee to assess the CCSS math standards:  that Common Core deletes or slows      important elements of math education.       http://pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120510_ControllingEducation.pdf
  4. Testimony      of Wasatch School District and Parents – Common Core was      implemented this year in Wasatch County, Utah.   Parents can testify that James Judd,      Wasatch District Administrator, coined the phrase “math bubble”      to refer to the 6th and 9th grade repetition forced by Common Core      implementation, which district administrators and math teachers are trying      to work around.  Students can      testify that in regular common core math classes this year, they repeated      what they’d learned in 8th grade.  Wasatch      County students are among signers of the Utahns Against Common Core      petition. https://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/working-around-the-fact-that-common-core-math-dumbs-down-our-kids/   and       http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/

Department of Education FERPA alterations hurt privacy rights while empowering ED data collecting

The following documents and links show that a network of intrastate and interstate data collecting has been created, financially incentivized by the federal government’s ARRA stimulus money, and has been illegally empowered by Dept. of Education FERPA regulatory changes, made without Congressional approval.

This data gathering network meshes student data collection locally and then nationally,  including accessibility to personally identifiable information,  and is on track to be federal perused, as well as being available for non-educational, entrepreneurial, and even “school volunteer” perusal– without parental consent.

  1. ARRA Stiumulus Money bought Utah’s $9.6 million State Longitudinal Data System (SLDS):  http://nces.ed.gov/programs/slds/state.asp?stateabbr=UT  to be used for student tracking.
  2. Press Release Shows Utah is P-20 Tracking with UEN/Utah Data Alliance –  “Statewide longitudinal data systems (SLDS’s) are a single solution to manage, disaggregate, analyze, and leverage education information within a state. In recent years, the scope of these systems has broadened from the K-12 spectrum to now encompass pre-kindergarten through higher education and workforce training (P-20W) ” and that regional and federal groups are linked clients of Choice Solutions, Utah’s data networking partner. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/2/prweb9201404.htm
  3. 2012 Statement by  J. Weiss, U.S. Education Department’s Chief of Staff: information from multiple federal data systems is being “mashed together” on the federal level and will be further mashed with state data. The U.S. Department of Education’s research agency is releasing information to “help” move states toward “developing partnerships” to use the student information gathered from state longitudinal data systems. (Source: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/inside-school-research/2012/07/ed_urges_states_to_make_data_s.html?cmp=SOC-SHR-FB )
  4. Schools/states being asked by NCES –federal government– to collect personal information along with academic information, including unique identifiers including names, nicknames, residences, immunization history, family income, extracurricular programs, city of birth, email address, bus stop times, parental marital status and parental educational levels, to name a few. View the National Data Collection Model database attributes (data categories) at http://nces.sifinfo.org/datamodel/eiebrowser/techview.aspx?instance=studentPostsecondary
  5. EPIC lawsuit against Dept. of Education – A lawyer at E.P.I.C., Khalia Barnes, stated that FERPA regulatory loosening will affect anyone who ever attended a university (if that university archives records and received federal scholarships).  Not just children will have their data perused without parental consent– nobody will be asked for consent to be tracked and studied.  The lawsuit is ongoing from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and the Department of Education. It suit is filed under the  under the Administrative Procedure Act against the Department of Education.  EPIC’s lawsuit argues that the agency’s December 2011 regulations amending the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act exceed the agency’s statutory authority, and are contrary to law., including: a)  reducing parental consent requirements over student data to optional, a “best practice,” rather than a mandate and b) manipulating privacy laws by redefining terms and stretching the concepts of “authorized representative” and “educational program” past the breaking point so that even a school volunteer could access personally identifiable information.    http://epic.org/apa/ferpa/default.html
  6. BYU Professor David Wiley partnered financially with USOE in NCLB Waiver Request –  Professor Wiley is financially partnered with USOE and Common Core implementation.  Is he getting rich?  No clue.  But he has been so outspoken in defending the USOE’s adoption of Common Core as well as defending the Department of Education’s FERPA alterations that exclude parents being consented before student data is used for educational research.  (Source for partnership evidence:  Page 25 at:   http://www.schools.utah.gov/data/Educational-Data/Accountability-School-Performance/Utah-ESEA-Flexibility-Request.aspx  )  Source for Wiley pro-Common Core and anti-parental consent debate:

http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/christel-swasey-responds-to-brenda-hales/#comment-1456

  1. Powerpoint by John Brandt, USOE Technology Director, showing federal access to Utah student transcripts and other data;  Brandt is a federal NCES member and a CCSSO (Common Core creator) member.  His online powerpoint states:

Where student records and eTranscripts can be used:

  • LEA   <—->  LEA (local education agency)
  • LEA   <—->  USOE (Utah State Office of Education)
  • LEA     —->  USHE (Utah System of Higher Education, and beyond)
  • USOE  —->  USED (US Department of Education

 

So, What should Utah do?

Rather than choosing the option of using national, common standards, Utah leaders can create Utah’s own standards, using local universities’ expertise.

On page 8 of the ESEA Flexibility document (updated June 7, 2012) found at http://www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility,  it is stated: “A State’s college- and career-ready standards must be either (1) standards that are common to a significant number of States; or (2) standards that are approved by a State network of institutions of higher education”.  This option 2 was recently chosen by Virginia, a state that also wisely rejected Common Core national standards in the first place.

Case Study of Virginia:

Virginia rejected Common Core.  Common Core would be an unwise financial investment, the state said, and the standards would have left teachers stripped of the curricular SOL frameworks Virginia valued.

The Virginia Board of Education said “Virginia’s accountability program is built on a validated assessment system aligned with the Standards of Learning (SOL); validated assessments aligned with the Common Core do not exist.”  The Board also said, “Virginia’s investment in the Standards of Learning since 1995 far exceeds the $250 million Virginia potentially could have received by abandoning the SOL and competing in phase two of Race to the Top,” and the Board “opposes the use of federal rulemaking and the peer review process as leverage to compel word-for-word adoption of the Common Core State Standards.” http://www.doe.virginia.gov/news/news_releases/2010/jun24.shtml

Option 2, using “standards that are approved by a State network of institutions of higher education”was chosen by Virginia, and that state did receive its NCLB waiver this year.  Utah can do the same. http://www.doe.virginia.gov/news/news_releases/2012/jun29.shtml

Case Study of Texas:

Texas rejected Common Core based on an estimated $3 billion implementation cost and the fact that Texas’ educational standards were already better than Common Core.  “I will not commit Texas taxpayers to unfunded federal obligations or to the adoption of unproven, cost-prohibitive national standards and tests,” Gov. Rick Perry wrote in a January 13 letter to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. http://governor.state.tx.us/files/press-office/O-DuncanArne201001130344.pdf

Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott explained: The standards were “originally sold to states as voluntary, [but] states have now been told that participating in national standards and national testing would be required as a condition of receiving federal discretionary grant funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA),” Scott wrote. “Texas has chosen to preserve its sovereign authority to determine what is appropriate for Texas children to learn in its public schools…”   http://www.pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120208_RoadNationalCurriculum.pdf

Texas, along with 11 other states, has not made a NCLB waiver request. The Texas Education Agency explained that it was concerned the federal government might impose a national curriculum and a national system to test students’ abilities and evaluate teacher performance, and prefers state control.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/10/some-states-stay-with-edu_0_n_1267859.html

Case Study of South Carolina

Utah has much in common with South Carolina.  Unlike Virginia and Texas, both Utah and South Carolina did adopt the Common Core standards and both joined testing consortia.  South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and Senator Michael Fair are now working to withdraw the state from the national standards and assessments, against great political pressure to remain bound.

AccountabilityWorks  estimated the costs for South Carolina over the next seven years to be over $75 million for professional development, $42 million for textbooks and 115 million for technology.  To do adequate assessments, South Carolina would need a 4 to 1 ratio of students to computers, totaling 162,500 computers. 62,128 computers were still needed. South Carolina faced an estimated price tag of at least $232 million, over seven years, not including assessments, but just to implement the common core.  The number didn’t include the operational costs the state already paid for.

South Carolina’s Governor Nikki Haley explained in a public letter:

South Carolina’s educational system has at times faced challenges of equity, quality and leadership – challenges that cannot be solved by increasing our dependence on federal dollars and the mandates that come with them. Just as we should not relinquish control of education to the Federal government, neither should we cede it to the consensus of other states. Confirming my commitment to finding South Carolina solutions to South Carolina challenges, I am pleased to support [Senator Fair’s] efforts to reverse the 2010 decision to adopt common core standards…

South Carolina Senator Mike Fair ‘s bill (S.604) simply stated:

The State Board may not adopt and the State Department may not implement the Common Core State Standards developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Any actions taken to adopt or implement the Common Core State Standards as of the effective date of this section are void ab initio.

Senator Fair explained in the Greenville News: 

“…If the federal government didn’t create Common Core, how is this a federal takeover?  Simple– the Department of Education is funding the development of the national tests aligned with Common Core.  Even Common Core proponents admit that whoever controls the test will, for all practical purposes, control what must be taught in the classroom.  And once Common Core is implemented, no one in this state will have the power to change any standard…  The Legislature never had a chance to review Common Core because the feds timed their deadlines for adopting them to fall when the Legislature wasn’t in session. So, to qualify for a shot at Race to the Top money in 2010, the (previous) state superintendent and the (previous) governor had to agree to adopt Common Core– standards that had not even been published yet… By the way, South Carolina wasn’t awarded Race to the Top money, so we sold our education birthright without even getting the mess of pottage.”

Conclusion

The Constitution is still the supreme law of the land.  Education reforms, including Common Core, go completely in the opposite direction of the spirit and letter of the Constitution.

Federal agencies and state consortia are not stakeholders in Utah.  They should not determine our choices.  Truly, the Utah School Board was never authorized to give away authority over local decision making and the state should reverse their decision immediately.

It appears that the way reclaim Utah’s educational freedom and educational quality is to: 1) withdraw from the SBAC testing consortium, 2) withdraw from Common Core national standards,  and 3) resubmit Utah’s ESEA Flexibility waiver request to choose state-unique standards, option 2, “standards that are approved by a State network of institutions of higher education,” and 4) write our own standards and tests to be controlled by Utahns and set privacy policies that abide by protective state, rather than un-protective federal  FERPA policy.

Having reclaimed our freedom, we can then look to legitimate good examples to create new standards for Utah. For example, we can look to (pre-Common Core) Massachusetts.  The state tested as an independent country and was still among the highest ranking educational systems worldwide, up until Common Core. Because Massachusetts had the highest standards in the nation before they discarded their standards and adopted Common Core, we could use those standards as a template for our own.

Utah can regain local control over the quality and type of education, can reclaim Utah’s local ability to vote educational leaders in or out of office, can reclaim Utah’s ability to add to her own standards without restraint; and can take a strong stand against the federal push that aims to expose students and families to unprecedented privacy intrusions.

Let’s do it.

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