Monthly Archives: April 2012

Correcting the USOE’s “Facts” – Education without Representation

Addendum: If the USOE would care to respond to any of this information as a rebuttal, I would be happy to post it on this website. Consider this a challenge to debunk our information with documented facts.

The Utah State Office of Education has published a pamphlet to try and tell people that all the concerns being raised about Common Core are just dust in the wind. Here is a link to their flier and an excellent rebuttal by Utah school teacher Christel Swasey.

USOE Flier (PDF)

Education Without Representation

Response to claims of the Utah School Board’s flier

The Utah State Board of Education has a flier which is also posted on the official website. http://www.schools.utah.gov/core/DOCS/coreStandardsPamphlet.aspx

None of the claims of the flier have been backed up with references. This response will be backed up with references to verifiable sources and legally binding documents.

  • The State Board flier states that this is a myth: “Utah adopted nationalized education standards that come with federal strings attached.”

FACT:   Utah’s Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Department of Education (via the SBAC tests; link below) presents so many federal strings, it’s more like federal rope around Utah’s neck.

The Cooperative Agreement mandates synchronization of testing arms and testing, mandates giving status updates and written reports and phone conferences with the federal branch and it demands that “across consortia,” member states provide data “on an ongoing basis” for perusal by the federal government. This federal control is, according to G.E.P.A. laws and the U.S. Constitution, an illegal encroachment by the federal government on our state. http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/sbac-cooperative-agreement.pdf

FACT:  The Federal government paid for the promotion of Common Core. It paid other groups to do what it is constitutionally forbidden to do. Each group that worked to develop the standards and/or the test were federally funded and each remains under compliance regulations of federal grants. For two examples, PARCC (a testing consortium) was funded through a four-year, $185 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Education to delivering a K-12 assessment system. http://www.achieve.org/achieve-names-three-directors. WestED, the other consortium test writer for SBAC, is funded by the executive branch, including the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Justice. http://www.wested.org/cs/we/print/docs/we/fund.htm. There are many more examples of federal funding and federal promotion of this supposedly state-led initative if you just do a little digging.

FACT: To exit the SBAC, a state must get federal approval and the permission of a majority of consortium states.  http://www.oaknorton.com/Utah-rttt.zip  (page 297).

FACT: When South Carolina recently made moves to sever ties with the Common Core Initiative, Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, began to make angry, unsubstatiated attacks, insulting South Carolina.   http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/statement-us-secretary-education-arne-duncan-1   Duncan had similarly insulted Texas educators on national television and had made incorrect statements about Texas education, when that state refused to join Common Core.

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2089503,00.html

  • The State Board flier states that this is a myth: “Utah taxpayers will have to pay more money to implement the new Utah Core Standards.” 

FACT: No cost analysis has been done by Utah. (Ask U.S.O.E. to see one.)

FACT: Other states cited high implementation costs as reasons they rejected the Common Core Initiative. The Texas Education Agency estimated implementing the Common Core standards in the state would result in professional development costs of $60 million for the state and approximately $500 million for local school districts, resulting in a total professional development cost of $560 million. http://www.pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120222_CCSSICost.pdf (p. 15) Also, Virginia’s State School Board cited both educational and financial reasons for rejecting Common Core. http://www.doe.virginia.gov/news/news_releases/2010/jun16.pdf

FACT: California is asking for tax hikes right now to pay for Common Core Implementation. http://www.educationnews.org/education-policy-and-politics/california-wants-a-tax-hike-to-pay-for-common-core/

FACT:  South Carolina’s Governor Haley is right now trying to escape Common Core’s federal and financial entanglements. http://www.educationnews.org/education-policy-and-politics/sc-gov-nikki-haley-backs-bill-to-block-common-core-standards/

  • The State Board flier says that Utah is “free to change the Utah Core Standards at any time,” and calls the following truth a myth: “Adoption of these new Core Standards threatens the ability of parents, teachers and local school districts to control curriculum.”   These half-truths are so misleading.

FACT: It is true that Utah can change the current Utah Core. But Utah is not free to change the common CCSS standards. And very soon, the CCSS standards will be all we’ll teach. The CCSS standards are the only standards the common test is being written to. The CCSS standards are the only standards that are truly common to all Common Core states.  Unique state standards are meaningless in the context of the tests.  This has been verified by WestEd, the test maker.  http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2012/04/06/what-is-wested-and-why-should-you-care/

When teachers realize that merit pay and student performance depend on how well teachers teach the CCSS, and not on how well they teach the Utah Core, they will abandon the state core and focus on teaching to the CCSS-based test. Since there is no possibility for Utah to make changes to CCSS, we have given up our educational system if we take the common test. This is education without representation. Already there are significant differences between the Utah Core and the CCSS (such as, we allow lots of classic literature and CCSS does not; it favors slashing literature in favor of infotexts in English classes). When additional wrongheaded changes come to the CCSS standards, under Common Core, Utah will be unable to do anything about it. CCSS has no amendment process.

FACT:  The CCSS standards amount to education without representation.  They cannot be amended by us, yet they are sure to change over time.  A U.S.O.E. lawyer was asked, “Why is there no amendment process for the CCSS standards?” She did not claim that there was one.  Instead, she replied:  “Why would there need to be? The whole point is to be common.” (Email received April 2012 by C. Swasey from C. Lear)

  • The State Board flier states that “The Utah Core Standards were created, like those in 44 other states, to address the problem of low expectations.”

This is a half-truth. While some dedicated Utahns have been working to address the problem of low expectations for years, the Common Core Initiative was hastily adopted for financial reasons. Utah agreed to join the Common Core and the SBAC long before the common standards had even been written or released, or any cost analysis or legal analysis had taken place. Utah joined Common Core and the SBAC to get more eligibility points in the points-based “Race to the Top” grant application. While Utah didn’t win the grant money, it stayed tied to Common Core and the SBAC testing consortium afterwards. http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/phase1-applications/utah.pdf

  • The State Board flier states that this is a myth:  “Political leaders and education experts oppose the Common Core State Standards.”

FACT:  Stanford Professor Michael Kirst testified, among other things, that it is unrealistic to call four year, two year, and vocational school preparation equal college readiness preparation: http://collegepuzzle.stanford.edu/?p=466

FACT:  Professor Sandra Stotsky who served on the CC Validation Committee refused to sign off on the standards as authentic English preparation for college: http://parentsacrossamerica.org/2011/04/sandra-stotsky-on-the-mediocrity-of-the-common-core-ela-standards/

FACT:  Mathematician Ze’ev Wurman has testified to the South Carolina Legislature that the math standards are insufficient college preparation: http://pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/120216_Testimony_Stergios_SC.pdf and http://truthinamericaneducation.com/tag/zeev-wurman/

  • The State Board flier inaccurately states: “Most thoughtful people on this issue have lined up in favor of the Common Core State Standards.”

FACT:  Governor Herbert is in the middle of a legal, educational and financial review of the standards right now. He affirmed to Heber City teachers and citizens last month that he is willing to review the standards and the political complications of the Common Core Initiative and to meet again with the teachers and citizens together with his legal team.

FACT: The majority of gubernatorial candidates and candidates for senate and house representation at the Republican convention have stated that they are directly opposed to the Common Core Initiative.  This fact is verifiable via the document published for the 2012 Republican convention by Alisa Ellis, on which each candidate was asked to state whether he/she was for, against, or still learning, about the Common Core Initiative.

FACT:  In less than two weeks, more than 1,500 Utah teachers, parents, taxpayers and students have signed the petition at  http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com without any advertising or marketing efforts, just by word of mouth.

FACT:  There is a significant group of Utah educators who have not and will not speak out in this forum, although they do have serious concerns about the Common Core.  There is a perception that to speak against the Common Core Initiative is unacceptable or disloyal. This spiral of silence spins from the fear educators have of losing their jobs if they express what they really see. Some educators quietly and confidentially reveal this to others who boldly oppose to Common Core.

Utah educators might respond well to an anonymously administered survey, so that educators might feel safer in sharing multifaceted, or less rose-colored experiences in this first year of Common Core Implementation, without having to identify themselves.  Educators who have had a good experience with this first year of implementation of Common Core dare speak out.  But Utah educators who do speak out boldly against common core, if you pay close attention, are those who are on maternity leave or who have sources of income other than educating, for financial support, and are thus unafraid of losing jobs.

This final point is obviously difficult to substantiate, but ought to be studied and either verified or proven false, by the Utah State School Board.

Common Core Public Forum Report

First, I want to thank the State Board for allowing the meeting to occur last night. There are many questions that need addressed that citizens have concerns over and a public forum was a good way to get those aired.

For those of you in attendance or listening in to last night’s public meeting the state board held, you already know that there were two lines for people speaking either in favor of Common Core, or raising concerns about it.

The state PTA, UEA, and apparently some from the USOE, sent out urgent pleas to their members asking them to come speak in favor of the standards. In fact, Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh, the president of the UEA (who notably signs her emails “2009 Teacher of the Year”), sent an email to leaders and staff that “the far-right has launched an attack on the Utah Common Core and are misrepresenting the facts surrounding the creation and implementation of the Core Standards. It is critical that we have as many teachers present at this meeting to address the realities related to the Common Core.”

“Realities related to the Common Core” were not presented by those speaking in favor of the core. Among them, no facts concerning the creation and implementation of Common Core were presented at all. It was entirely an effort to praise the USOE and speak about how wonderful these new standards are as if the standards were the sole issue of concern.

Proving that this is not a “far-right” effort, at least one lifetime Democrat stood with those who were against the standards and drew applause after speaking of his concern that we are making all children the same with Common Core and there is no leeway to allow for human variety.

A wide variety of questions were raised by parents speaking against Common Core. Many of these comments referenced actual documents as opposed to the other side where arguments dealt only with subjective experiences in using the Common Core.

In my own remarks, I summarized the math history issue which proves the USOE was never in this to raise math standards in Utah but to attempt to get federal money through the Race to the Top grant.

Shortly after I spoke, Dr. Hugo Rossi from the University of Utah math department publicly contradicted me. I was in the hall when he made the comments and someone told me he contradicted me so I invited him into the hall and asked what he’d taken issue with in my comments. When he told me, I realized he misheard something I said. He thought I was saying the new math standards we got in 2007 were rated a D from the Fordham Foundation. When I told him that was incorrect and I’d said the standards prior to that were a D and the new ones which he helped create got an A-, he apologized and said he would apologize to the audience except that he probably wouldn’t be allowed to speak a second time. It was just a simple mistake on his part but it was unfortunate that it couldn’t be corrected for the group.

It remains to be seen if the State Board or State Office of Education will take the questions and comments seriously and respond to them appropriately, or just ignore them as if this meeting were a simple checklist item to be able to represent that they held a meeting and listened to public input.

Press reports were published last night shortly after the meeting and can be found here:

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865554786/Public-debates-Common-Core-standards-both-sides-remain-entrenched.html

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/54000458-78/standards-core-utah-board.html.csp

SBAC Cooperative Agreement Proves Nationalization

Here’s one comment that has been submitted to the USOE during this week’s comment period.

Click to open: SBAC Cooperative Agreement PDF

I was looking at the cooperative agreement of the SBAC which Washington is the “recipient” and Utah is considered a “sub-recipient” dated January 7th, 2011.  In this contract, ED represents the US Office of Education.  This contract from what I understand, is the agreement we have as a sub recipient with the federal government as we develop the assessments with the SBAC.

Is Common Core truly state led and do we have full control?  The federal government states clearly in this contract what we are required to do.  With this criteria, why did we sign such a contract and say we will have control?

On page 2 it states our responsibilities including we will have to give status updates, report our effort, deliver written reports and student data to the U.S. Dept of Education.

On page 3 it clearly states the “federal responsibilities”.

On page 9 it states: “the Grantee is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of grant and sub-recipient-supported tasks and activities. This includes: 1) The Grantee and its sub-recipients actively participating in all relevant convenings, communities of practice, trainings, or other activities that are organized or sponsored by the State or by ED. ”

On page 10 it states clearly our cooperation with the federal government: “This supplement is awarded to support the consortium and its participating States efforts successfully transition to common standards and assessments. ”  It also states, “The Grantee must provide timely and complete access to any and all data collected at the State level to ED.”

On page 7 it states the failure to comply clause, “Failure to comply with the content of this agreement may result in the Secretary imposing special conditions on the award pursuant to EDGAR §80.12 or taking other enforcement actions, including partly suspending or terminating the award, pursuant to EDGAR §80.43

Question: What are “the other enforcement actions” should we not be able to fulfill our part of the bargain? Will we have to pay back the amount utilized on our behalf to create CC if our efforts are not “good” enough?

Thank you for addressing my concerns.

Why States Should Hop Off the Federal Bandwagon

4/23/12 Article on Heritage Foundation Blog

When “states signed on to common core standards, they did not realize…that they were transferring control of the school curriculum to the federal government,” said Sandra Stotsky, 21st Century Chair in Teacher Quality at the University of Arkansas’s Department of Education Reform, speaking at The Heritage Foundation on Tuesday.

Stotsky and four other education scholars from around the nation met to discuss the Obama Administration’s growing push for Common Core national education standards and why states should resist Washington’s attempt to further centralize education.

Read the rest here:

http://blog.heritage.org/2012/04/23/why-states-should-hop-off-the-national-standards-bandwagon/

Utah State Superintendent Admits to Federal Pressure on CC

State Superintendent Reveals Federal Pressure

On March 6th, talk radio host Rod Arquette interviewed State Superintendent Larry Shumway and Alpine School District Board member Wendy Hart (speaking for herself and not the board) on the subject of Common Core. The interview took place just a few days after Superintendent Shumway had written a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, as well as a letter to the Senate education standing committee near the end of the 2012 Utah legislative session. You can read the Superintendent’s letters by clicking those links. Here are links to download the show portions dealing with Common Core (Shumway, Hart, and a few callers).

Rod Arquette Show (3-6-12) Zip File

Rod Arquette Show (3-6-12) mp3 – listen now (just under 30 minutes)

Here are important clips from the show:

Rod: How about the letter itself, Superintendent.  Why do you think it was important to write?

Larry:  Well, I thought that there were enough people being concerned about the Federal Government’s intrusion into the [Common] Core Standards in Utah that I should make clear where we stood.  I wanted to push back on comments that I’ve heard Secretary [of Education] Duncan make and President Obama make about their participation in the [Common] Core.  These standards are our standards.  We’ve adopted these in our states, and we control them.

Rod: You said you were disappointed.  What did they do to create that disappointment you have?  Are they trying to inch in on this a little bit?

Larry: Well, I’m bothered by things I hear the secretary say in speeches and the President say in speeches where they take credit for these standards.  And I’m bothered by the Department of Education making requirements that are associated with these standards.  They’re not their standards, and so that offends my sensibility and it pushes against our states’ rights of sovereignty in public education.

 

I applaud State Superintendent Larry Shumway for asserting our state rights to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a letter, but the contracts we have entered into supersede any letter than can be written. It is quite obvious to anyone that takes the time to look into the facts that the federal government’s involvement is just getting started. Why is it that educators who hated NCLB and the strings attached, get excited about Common Core and the strings it comes with?

Utah, it’s time to wake up to what’s happening and see the writing on the wall, or as this Washington Times article points out, “states are likely to become little more than administrative agents for a nationalized K-12 program of instruction”.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/mar/5/want-to-withdraw-from-obama-ed/

A Teacher’s Letter

Here is an excellent letter from a teacher who has taken the time to research Common Core and think through the issues. Please share this with your children’s teachers and other educators.

April 14, 2012

Dear Schools and Teachers,

As a teacher, usually I stay neutral on political and educational issues. But the Common Core Initiative affects what millions of children and future educators will be taught and will be able to teach for many years to come, not only in Utah but in a majority of U.S. states.

As a lifelong teacher, I’m concerned about Utah’s involvement in the federally-tied Common Core Initiative, the experimental educational program that comes with few documented benefits to Utah’s educational system, and with many long term liabilities to local freedom and values.

The marketing of Common Core has been so excellent that very few people question it.  I attended last week’s State School Board meeting and realized that even at the administrative and state level, very few people have taken time to read the legally binding documents of Common Core and its accompanying testing and data collection arm.  These documents testify that Utah has given up her freedom over education, yet I feel alone in my sense of urgency to investigate this issue.  (Documents attached – Letter from WestEd, SBAC Cooperative Agreement)

As a high school English teacher, I loved “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut, a short story that begins as if it were introducing 2012 and the Common Core Initiative:

“THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.”

Like the society of “Harrison Bergeron,” Utah has volunteered to be tied down to commonness at the expense of freedom and innovation.  Utah has agreed to a system of nationalized standards and assessments in which Utah has little or no voice. Utah must submit to the consensus of a consortium of states on key educational decisions. There are many ways in which Common Core impacts Utah’s sovereignty over educational decisions.

In my own research, I’ve seen ample proof that Utah has given away her own freedom  over education to federal and consortium control.  There is proof (see “Wested” below) that the current “Utah Common Core” will be irrelevant within three years.  The federal CCSS will rule Utah, bringing with it slashes to the percentage of allowable classic literature (in favor of infotexts) and other undesirable changes. And there is no way for Utah or any state to control what others change, add, or delete to the CCSS.

CCI  is the Common Core Initiative, a movement that claims to be completely free of federal controls, claims to be a “state-led” raising of educational standards, and claims to promote college readiness.  Utah joined CCI in 2009 and implementation will be complete in 2015.

Utah did not seek out CCI.  We joined both CCI and SBAC because joining meant we got more points toward winning a competitive grant called Race to the Top.  We didn’t win that grant but we are still bound to CCI and SBAC.  South Carolina Senator Mike Fair calls this error that South Carolina, Utah and other states made, a selling of our educational birthright without even getting the mess of pottage.

Common Core requires states to accept common standards, to which states may only add 15% more. (That 15% will never be tested by the common test).

The U.S. Dept. of Education funded (and works closely with) each group that played a role in developing the national standards and each group writing the tests. The U.S. DOE closely supervises data collected by the tests. The groups who did this educational work that the federal government was not legally allowed to do, groups which were paid by federal grants, include WestEd, Achieve, Inc., The National Governors’ Association, and the Council of Chief State School Officers.  The U.S. DOE also holds tight control over the tests and has requirements for each group of states to coordinate tests “across consortia,” to give status updates and to provide access to information about the tests to the U.S. DOE on “an ongoing basis.” (See “SBAC Cooperative Agreement.”)

The standards themselves are not unquestionably higher.  Texas opted out of Common Core because it had higher math standards already and didn’t want the 3 billion dollar implementation cost of adding Common Core.  Massachusetts actually lowered state math standards by joining Common Core.  Professor Sandra Stotsky, who served on the Common Core Validation Committee, refused to sign off that the standards were adequate. Stanford Professor Michael Kirst said that “the standards for college and career readiness are essentially the same. This implies the answer is yes to the question of whether the same standards are appropriate for 4 year universities, 2 year colleges, and technical colleges. The burden of proof for this assertion rests with CCSSO/NGA, and the case is not proven”.

Regardless of whether the standards are considered high or low, they are common, one-size-fits-all standards that restrict local innovation. The tests that go with the standards don’t allow local innovating either. Since educational standards and decisions are meaningless without political freedom, there is little sense in analyzing whether the Utah Common Core standards are now better or worse;  Utah can’t control any upcoming changes to them.

There are two sets of standards (Utah Common Core & Common Core State Standards) that Utah will need to choose between and only the first  has an amendment process. See “WestEd” below for an explanation.

SBAC  is the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.  Utah belongs to this group, but the state in charge (and the fiscal agent) is Washington State.  Although Utah received no money from the Race to the Top grant, collectively the SBAC did win a grant to develop a testing system. Utah is bound to obey the terms of the SBAC’s grant which include many freedom-closing mandates and expensive requirements. As a condition of the grant, all member states must adopt the Common Core (CCSS federal standards) No analysis has been done by Utah on CCI/SBAC implementation costs.

USOE  is the Utah State Office of Education, a powerful office with no meaningful accountability to anyone. No objective legal analysis has been done on Common Core by the USOE; Common Core is flatly accepted as true doctrine.  The lawyer there told me she thought that the “Cooperative Agreement” I referred her to didn’t exist or was a hoax.  After I sent her the PDF, she said she disagreed with my interpretation of it.

The same USOE lawyer answered my question, “Why is there no amendment process for the CCSS standards?” saying: “The whole point is to get to a place where there is a ‘common core’ – that would mean the same standards for all the states that adopt it.  If the states had the freedom to ‘disagree’ and ‘change’ them, I guess they would no longer be ‘common’.”

The day after she wrote me that email, a directive went out at the USOE that no one (the legal department included) was allowed to answer further questions from me, but was to direct me to the Public Relations department. So then I wrote to the Utah Attorney General for help and am waiting for his response.

Two friends and I visited with the Governor in his office two weeks ago to plead with him to reject Common Core.  We talked, gave him a binder and a jumpdrive containing evidence that federal control and consortia-control of Common Core jeopardized Utah’s educational freedoms, and asked him to sever ties with CCI and SBAC.  He said we were confusing him and promised to have us back in three weeks with Superintendent Shumway and his lawyer in the room.

WestEd  is the project manager/test writer for the SBAC.  I wrote a letter to WestEd in which I inquired, “Please help me understand how the individual standards of a member state of SBAC will still be relevant in light of the fact that all the SBAC states take the same test. For example, if  Colorado added 15% more calculus to their math standards than the federal standards had, while Utah added 15% more geometry, how will those individual state standards be addressed by the test?  If the WestEd’s test contains neither Colorado’s calculus nor Utah’s geometry, because their standards were actually higher than those of the federal government’s, how will the test benefit the SBAC states?”

WestEd replied, ” If a state chooses to add their state-specific 15% to the Consortium test, then that additional information can be included in their local reporting, but is not considered the Smarter Balanced test.  In order for this system to have a real impact within a state the state will need to adopt the Common Core State Standards (i.e., not have two sets of standards). As a condition of the grant, all member states participating in the assessment must adopt the Common Core.”

Superintendent Larry Shumway sits on the board of WestEd. He also sits on two of the boards that contracted the development of the CCSS standards. He has not provided transparency for Utahns about Common Core’s mandates and costs.

A Spiral of Silence

Marketing of Common Core has been target-specific. The national PTA received a two million dollar donation to actively promote Common Core. CC proponents didn’t promote it outside the school system and it was never up for public vote or legislative input.  It slid under local radar.  Even though it was funded by, and is largely controlled by, the federal government, it was labeled a “state-led initiative.” The federal government paid groups to do what it was not constitutionally permitted to do.  The Congressional Budget Office never did a cost analysis and the taxpaying public was kept in the dark. Remember, the Constitution and G.E.P.A. laws forbid the federal government from controlling or making decisions related to states’ education.

If teachers or administrators don’t like CCI,  they don’t dare speak against it because it’s been handed down as the unassailable doctrine of raising school standards. They fear losing their jobs by speaking out.

For example, there is a survey that must be taken by anyone hoping to apply as a candidate for the Utah State School Board.  The first question is:  “Do you support Common Core?” How can anyone who does not agree with Common Core be elected to the State School Board?

The question comes down to this:  would Utah rather have education in common with a majority of other states, under the control of others, or have sovereignty to make educational decisions?

A great man said: “I say to you with all the fervor of my soul that God intended men to be free. Rebellion against tyranny is a righteous cause. It is an enormous evil for any man to be enslaved to any system contrary to his own will…  once freedom is lost, only blood – human blood – will win it back.”

There is a petition that Utahns are signing to sever ties with CC/SBAC.   Links to documentable evidence are available both  at http://utahnsagainstcommoncore.com and http://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com (my blog) and at http://commoncorefacts.blogspot.com/.

Please consider the long term impacts of Common Core and let your Utah School Board, Superintendent Shumway, and Governor Herbert know how you feel.

Thank you for your time.

Christel Swasey
Teacher

A Recent History of Utah’s Math Standards

I keep hearing accusations that we are against higher standards and thought it would be appropriate to set the record straight since the facts show the USOE certainly isn’t concerned with higher standards.

As one individual who was very involved in the math standards issue the last several years I would like to give you a little background and then a few links you can read in depth on the subject if you’re really interested.

Utah’s math standards prior to 2007 were rated a D by the Fordham Foundation. These standards were quite poor by all accounts and gave Alpine School District (ASD) the leeway to cease teaching children the times tables and long division in schools. For several straight years the times tables were not taught to students causing massive problems as they moved through their K-12 schooling. These math programs were 100% constructivist based and the wise teachers that saw the major problem this would cause had to shut their doors in order to teach children the times tables. There is a long history here which is all found on my website if you’re really interested, but the short of it was this: ASD refused to listen to thousands of parents on two different petitions who requested they drop this program because, to loosely use their language, “we are the professional educators and know what’s best for your children.”

So we took the only action we could and went over their heads to our elected representatives since our elected school board was in the district pocket. We convinced legislators we had a problem. They held hearings and the state was adamantly opposed to raising its standards, especially since they’d just reviewed the standards about 5 years earlier (if I remember the time frame correctly) and weren’t going to do it for a few more years.

They fought back and brought in West Ed who compared our standards to 3-4 other states to show that we were comparable. It was pathetic. They were defending some of the worst standards in the country, tooth and nail by comparing us in a way that said, “see, they do addition, we do addition.” Our side that wanted stronger standards brought in Dr. Jim Milgram, a world renowned math professor at Stanford and someone who had actually written math standards for states and studied international math standards. He tore the Utah math standards apart showing how weak, flawed, and mathematically incorrect they were, and by the time he was done, West Ed had lost all credibility.

The state superintendent at the time was Patti Harrington and the legislature asked her to give Utah world class math standards on par with Singapore and Japan to which she agreed. The USOE had no desire to raise our standards and said ours were sufficient. They never did compare the standards to these other top performing countries, but we did wind up with new standards rated an “A-” by the Fordham Foundation. The USOE was adamantly opposed to just adopting another state’s standards. We wanted to just adopt California’s standards for 2 reasons. One, it meant we’d get some of the very best standards in the country (and Fordham has said CA’s standards and a few other states are better than the new Common Core math standards), and second, there were loads of textbooks written for the CA standards so we’d be ready to jump right into curricula material that was designed and tested.

The USOE wouldn’t have any part of this idea because they said Utah has different values from California so it wouldn’t be right for us to have the same standards. What total hypocrites. Along comes Common Core subjecting Utah to the same standards as a conglomeration of all other states, and subjugating us to be a minority vote to the decisions of other states, and without any debate or griping about changing the standards when we’d just done it a couple years prior, the state board adopted Common Core (also rated an A- by the Fordham Foundation after they received large money from the same special interest groups pushing Common Core nationally).

Our efforts with this website have never been about rigorous standards. We have already proven that we are the ones actively seeking stronger standards before anyone in the USOE ever thought about it. This has never been about standards that indoctrinate. Those are straw man arguments that the USOE has pushed to be able to tell people “here, read the standards and you’ll see there’s nothing indoctrinating in them” and then people believe them even though they’ve lied about our position. We have never said the standards indoctrinate anyone. This has been about the total loss of local control of education and subjecting ourselves to the federal government’s control of all aspects of the education system. There are serious concerns about the assessments and how the feds have funded them, but that’s information you can find elsewhere on this site.

If you are interested in reading some of the actual account from when it happened, you can do so on these pages of my website:

Discussion with state board members on what world-class standards meant.

How the USOE didn’t take their charge seriously and even appear to have intentionally torpedoed the effort to give Utah strong standards.

Testimony that even the 2007 math standards still didn’t even reach the level and clarity of California’s math standards.

Here are a few examples in a table on this page concerning how Common Core is inferior and much less clear than California’s standards and even the Fordham Foundation admits that. (see table 1)

So again I ask, why doesn’t Utah just adopt the California standards without any federal strings attached (or other highly rated states that have better standards than Common Core). CA has textbooks readily available and since they are now plunging down the Common Core path, we could probably buy used textbooks for the price of shipping.

Based on these experiences, it is hard to take the USOE serious when they say they want to raise Utah’s standards. Common Core was never about raising standards, it was pulling a Race to the Top lottery handle in the hopes of hitting a federal jackpot. Too bad we came up losers on the money and are now contractually obligated to have Utah taxpayers expend millions of dollars changing our standards and paying all the expenses associated with that.

Rod Arquette Interview 4-14-2012

On Friday, April 13, I was interviewed on Rod Arquette's KNRS radio show on this petition website and elements of the Common Core program. You can listen to it here. Please share this on Facebook and encourage people to sign this petition.

If you have any problems using the media player above, you can click this link to listen to the audio as well.

http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/RodArquette-4-13-12.mp3

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This petition is the product of collaboration between parents, teachers, legislators, and organizations who are concerned at the lack of attention being given to a serious breach in federal law by our state officials. Please become educated on this vital issue and sign the petition to put the brakes on a federal takeover of our state education system.

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[Common Core's] concept of college readiness is minimal and focuses on non-selective colleges. — Jason Zimba, March 2010, Massachusetts State Board Meeting

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