All posts by Oak Norton

Students Assigned to Report on Parents’ Drug Use

ferpa violationI received the below letter from a parent of a student at Tooele Junior High School where this took place. The parent has asked to remain anonymous.

UPDATE (7/14/16): Another parent has come forward whose child attends Clarke Johnson Jr High in Tooele who also received this same assignment. Two different schools and teachers in the same district.

I believe these schools have violated state FERPA law 53A-13-302 entitled “Activities prohibited without prior written consent — Validity of consent — Qualifications — Training on implementation.”

Specifically section 1(e) which forbids “(e) critical appraisals of individuals with whom the student or family member has close family relationships;” without the prior written consent of the parents…among other sections. How a teacher thought this was OK is beyond me.

The local school district is supposed to provide training on this and the board is supposed to provide disciplinary action, per the last two statements in this code section.

In the “opt-out law” (line 158) that Senator Aaron Osmond got passed a few years ago, under state law parents are supposed to be notified each year of their rights. I don’t believe that’s happening at any school and it seems like parents need to be notified of their FERPA rights as well.

And now, the letter.

*****************

“In 2014 my 8th grader brought home an assignment for his health or science class, I don’t recall which subject. The students were learning about drugs and alcohol and were given a worksheet titled “Parent Interview”.  The students were instructed to interview their parents, write their parents’ answers down and return the worksheet to their teacher. This was a graded assignment.

The worksheet asked questions like “Have you ever used drugs?”, “What age were when you first used a drug or alcohol?”, “What did it make you feel like?”, “How often or how many times did you do drugs?”, and questions of that nature.

I was uncomfortable with the worksheet because I did not think it was any of the school’s business.  My husband and I had already talked to our kids, and continue talking to our kids about drugs and what we expect.  I did not see why the school felt the need to force this discussion and/or get a record of our discussion.  I answered the worksheet so my son will get credit, but I did not answer honestly on all questions.  My son did not like to have to interview me on this topic and turn it in to his teacher.

In the 2015/2016 school year my younger son received the same assignment in 8th grade.  I filled it out again and was not honest with my answers.  Again I felt it was none of the school’s business.   A lot of parents I know in the community were given this same assignment.  Some of them talked about how they just wrote “no” on all the answers and turned it in, or they wrote that they will not fill it out.

I don’t think the school should be putting parents and students in this position, nor should they know or have that kind of information.”

Substitute Teacher Exposes Common Core Math Nonsense

The following letter was sent to me by a Utah substitute teacher who wishes to remain anonymous.


One of the first experiences I had with the new methods used to teach Common Core math was when I co-taught  a math class as a substitute teacher in junior high school.  My job was to assist students with the assignment led by the math teacher.   The teacher was illustrating equations, for example, 34 x 3.  She was using the white board and instructed the students to draw out 30 boxes to represent the number 30.  She drew on the white board 3 boxes (each representing 10), but told the students that they could not draw 3 boxes, they must draw 30 boxes.   It was difficult to keep the students on task.  Many students stopped drawing and were shaking and massaging their hands because they hurt from writing.  Many became distracted.  A good portion of the 50 minute class period consisted of drawing out boxes to represent different numbers all grouped by 10.

As I was leaving the classroom I told the teacher that substitutes need training on how to teach the curriculum using the new Common Core  methods.    She stated that teachers need the course as well. I left the class feeling inadequate, like it was a waste of the students’ time and mine, and feeling bad because I had to encourage the students to do something I am not even following.  Before the standards were implemented I had substituted for this particular math teacher many times and I always found her lesson plans well organized and easy to follow.   Since Common Core I do not sign up for her math classes.

I had a similar experience co-teaching the “new math” with another substitute teacher.  We were both trying our best to learn the lesson plan before the students arrived but were unable to understand the new teaching methods.  When we presented the lesson to the students they seemed just as confused as we were and we were unable to answer their questions.  The students got distracted and we were unable to teach the lesson.

When I’ve substituted in elementary schools since the implementation of Common Core I often find that the worksheets are confusing, incorrect, and there is not enough information to solve word problems.   One such example was on a test for fourth or fifth graders, I don’t recall which, in which Juanita’s sticker problem (below) appeared. I found the image below online after seeing it on our students’ test.  The students were confused and asked me what to do.  I instructed them to write that there is not enough information provided to answer this question.

Our students deserve a MUCH better curriculum.

Common Core Math Juanita

Maine State Board of Education member speaks out against CBE

Reprinted with permission from: http://nhfamiliesforeducation.org/content/maine-state-board-education-member-speaks-out-against-competency-based-education

My name is Heidi Sampson, I am a member of the State Board of Education in Maine. I am in no way speaking for the Maine SBE, but as a concerned citizen who has a vested interest in NH.  I wanted to share information with the New Hampshire Legislators on the Competency Based Education model now being implemented in the New Hampshire Schools.  Maine has been engaged in the same transformation although in Maine it’s called Proficiency Based Education.  The name is different but the problems will be the same because both models are based on the old and failed Outcome Based Education model which is part of the national redesign in public education.

As you move forward with legislation on Competency Based Learning and Assessments (HB323) it’s important to have this foundation of knowledge and history to carefully analyze whether you or your constituents really want this model in their local public schools.  Ask yourself, when did any of your parents demand your local public schools transform to the old, failed Outcome Based Model?  Chances are they did not.  The driving force behind this educational transformation is the Nellie Mae Foundation.  They heavily funded Non Profits in Maine to carry their water.  Great School Partnership got its start with Nellie Mae grants for their first 2 years.  Contracts have indicated a sizable fee with no deliverables identified. Currently the legislature is considering a bill to repeal the mandate to implement Proficiency Based Diplomas.

In Maine we began the process in earnest toward Proficiency Based Education that is identical to Competency Based Education. It was introduced on a large scale with the pilot program, Reinventing Schools Coalition (RISC). RISC was initiated in Alaska and implemented in California and Colorado.  Their results have been nothing stellar, no evidence of academic improvement was apparent. In fact, many, many, three year comparisons showed downward trends in Math, ELA and Science at all grade levels.  I have included a chart below from the pilot schools as well as some forerunners in Maine.

RISC has morphed into MCL (Mass Customized Learning) prior to the states adoption of the Proficiency Based Diploma mandate LD 1422 which passed in 2012. All these approaches have the same philosophy in common.  This is nothing new and has been around for generations being soundly rejected as a failure every time.

Outcome Based Education decades ago was the last big push to change the nature and outcomes of our public education.  It destroys traditional education, its methods, curriculum, and its means of assessment, time frames and goals. The Competency-Based model will only teach students what to think, not how to think. It will necessarily lower the bar in an attempt to equalize outcomes… and that never works.

Competency/Proficiency are such a palatable words.  Of course we want children to be competent or have competency or be proficient.

The average citizen understands what these words mean; a high aptitude, to have expertise, knack or know how, to be highly skilled, talented and very capable.

BUT what do the proponents of this effort really mean by competence/proficient?

First, it is critical to understand an important distinction:

•  Competency relates to attitudes, responses, behaviors or actions easily scored on a machine.

•  Education involves much more, requiring well trained, experienced human beings to assess and score.

These are not the same, yet we are led to conclude they are synonymous?

The word selection is deliberately designed to neutralize the unsuspecting public and even legislators, so it will be embraced.

So, what about where it has been tried? After billions of dollars and tremendous upheaval to school systems both large and small, the reformers have failed to deliver what they claimed. In fact, the failures were so complete that the systems were dismantled. This has happened in individual schools, districts, cities and states across this country. It happened in other countries.

It’s a challenge to keep up with all the changes in Maine education since our own Reform Act of 1984 and all of the ramifications of the federal programs; America 2000, Goals 2000, No Child Left Behind and now the infamous Race-to-the-Top. The consistent federal interference has not helped our state.

There is no middle ground with the move away from a time and [Carnegie] unit based system.  Schools have been moving away from teaching academics toward skills training – for workforce labor. Workforce development has nothing to do with self-selecting career choices and building a resume to that end.  Workforce labor development is a pre-selected path based on external information, not driven by a student’s dreams, desires or determination. This teaching model is a departure from Classical Approach for Education to BF Skinner’s Behavior Modification model of education.

If an expectation is not met, a child must repeat the drill again and again until they meet the predetermined outcome.  No need to prepare and no need to strive to do better; just do enough to get by and move on to the next standard. Subject matter will be broken down and compartmentalized.  A set of pre-determined expectations are the gate keeper to moving to the next compartmentalized subject matter.  No need to prepare; they just need to know how to properly respond by hitting the correct button.  This will enforce compliance.

Does this sound like the development of creative, innovative and independent thinkers? Or does this sound more like training pigeons?

Does this sound like we are creating competitive opportunities for them? Please consider this:

•  Independent, creative students will become the job creators.

•  Students who can manage the pressure of competition will succeed and thrive with the future challenges they will face.

The highest achievers and lowest achievers are either disheartened or disenfranchised, respectively.

The incessant, constant testing of each tiny, segregated standard has disemboweled every subject matter.

•  Learning is not linear!

•  The whole picture is lost to them.

•  Truth and knowledge are irrelevant.

•  Students will be sorted and ranked using psychometric (behavioral) data collected.

•  A child’s behavior, attitude, belief system and attributes will determine a child’s ‘value’  as human capital for the global labor market.

A premium is set for a student to know how to respond to a series of questions not what is of value and substance. The former is a subjective (opinion based) assessment; the latter is the only quantifiable (factual) assessment.

Like a rat navigating a maze in a lab, children are expected to navigate the useless information with a mouse to complete their test on time.

Behavior modification has nothing to do with true education, that of acquiring knowledge, using logic, or assessing truth. But this is the focus in education now, especially with competency based education.

There are indications students are learning less.  I’ve included two sample High School Physics Exams.  At one school (a forerunner for PBE), this year’s Honors Physics seniors took a 2007 pre Proficiency Based Education basic-level Physics exam and most were unable to pass what the lower level class was able to complete 8 years ago.  (See attached example of physics exams)

Physics Accel Exam2007- (Pre MCL)

Physics Honor Exam2015 (MCL 6 years)

MAINE STUDY

Maine’s Education and Cultural Affair Committee commissioned a 2 year study to be conducted on this issue.  David Silvernail and the USM Center for Education Policy, Applied Research, and Evaluation posted their work April 30, 2014 titled Implementation of a Proficiency-Based Diploma System: Early Experiences in Maine. Although this work was funded by the Nellie Mae Foundation, which strongly advocated for proficiency based education this report is not a glowing report. There evidence of success is lacking:  “After an extensive review of the literature, it became evident that, while there are many conceptual pieces describing what a standards-based or proficiency-based education system should look like, there are few existing conceptual models that envelop all of the requisite elements for successful implementation. Furthermore, there is limited empirical evidence of the effectiveness of these systems, which has resulted in school districts having little historical information and no clear evidence to guide them in developing the new diploma systems.” (pgs. 16-17).

A related study sited within the same USM study stated: “In addition, this study’s statistical comparison of a proficiency-based intervention programs to nonintervention programs revealed that the intervention group demonstrated lower academic performance.” (Lewis et al., 2013, p. 3-4).

From a strictly objective scientific evidence piece of research, it would be necessary to have a separate study conducted that is not funded by Nellie Mae, the Gates Foundation or Educate Maine.  All these organizations are self-propagating and the public is not receiving evidence that is unbiased or will help to further the cause of the funding organizations. If this system was highly ineffective, with the current studies, we would not discover this until it is far too late.

In Maine over 100 districts are not prepared to properly implement the mandated Proficiency Based Diploma system and have therefore filed and received extensions. It seems a logical conclusion to assume the legislature was misled during the passage of LD 1422.  This is not a surprise as they were only allowed to receive one perspective; only the potential of an unproven system.

Now that we have been able to evaluate the policy closer and have had time to speak with stake holders; teachers, parents, students, college admissions personnel and special education professionals, we now have a much clearer picture of what a Proficiency Based Diploma system brings.

“Our data suggest that an additional issue with local translation of external standards and state-level legislation was evident in the lack of consistency in the definition of key features necessary in developing and implementing proficiency-based diploma systems”. (pg. 49)

The fact that curricula would have to change is another area that should be examined. School Boards are to a great extend completely unaware of what this is all about.  In many Maine districts, the School Boards have approved “A Concept” which has given the administration; cart-blanche approval to bring in anything and everything without any accountability.

If you want a system where teachers can teach and students can learn, imposing a learning culture and curricula based on an unproven ideology further clouded with problems of interpretation and implementation only complicates the goals.

Conclusion

We have now invested years in this experiment, with years to go; years of continued interruption and false hope for the parents and students. There will be more talks, presentations, demonstrations, slide shows and testimonials aimed at convincing us that we are on a path to improvement. But in the end, after the money is spent and changes have been made, after school boards and legislatures have changed, we’ll discover what so many others did.  Our Proficiency-Based model will collapse under its own weight. We can wait for that inevitability or we can do the right thing now.

ScoresScores Source: http://www.greatschools.org/

Graduate Writes about High School Waste of Time

Last month I had occasion to chat with a youth in my town who recently graduated from high school. The youth commented to me what a waste of time high school had been (graduated from Lone Peak for the curious) and I asked him to explain what he meant. I was surprised at his response and asked him to email me and elaborate on why he felt like it was a waste of time. He desires to remain anonymous but gave permission for me to post his email to me. Here it is.


About my experience with the American School system:

The thing about the school system that most bothered me in retrospective means was that in the first grade I wrote my 4’s exactly the way that the computer shows them with most standard font’s. I was forced to write 4’s with the box at the top instead of the triangle. This bothers me, I was forced to uphold a societal standard or I had assignments marked incorrectly. This is a horrible practice. That was my first true experience with societal standards. My next experience that made me dislike the school system was that throughout all my science classes through elementary evolution was explained and explained again and shoved into your skull. Evolution should not be AT ALL the focus in classes in elementary. The fact that evolution was a huge focus throughout elementary leads to a couple simple assumptions about the thought process of the designers of this system:

1: A child must understand the theory and end result of scientific discovery.

2: The child understanding how we reached these conclusions is secondary.

3: Children are not smart enough to think for themselves so these conclusions must be supported as indisputable facts.

These assumptions were created from these facts about my experience with elementary:

1: Every lesson about evolution never asked us to look at data and reach our own conclusions.

2: Every lesson about evolution in which we had to reach a conclusion ended up strengthening the belief in evolution as a whole.

3: Dinosaurs existed 500 – 100 million years ago throughout 4 or 5 distinct eras, there was no other idea or theory presented to the child with evidence and then asked to reach a conclusion.

4: Lessons involving geology often talked about the “layers” in the earths crust, no other possible explanation of how these layers came to be was presented except for the cookie cutter one (It took millions of years).

Why was the fact that rushing water speeds up the process of petrification, the fact that rushing water can separate sediments into layers and other information that could potentially lead to a different conclusion about the earth explained at all? (IE: A worldwide flood created the layers and caused the petrification of many of the living at the time plants and animals is one such conclusion, this is supported with another piece of evidence: There are petrified trees that exist between layers in the crust, something that would be almost impossible with the cookie cutter millions of years theory, and this one actually makes sense following my religious beliefs.)

My formulated reasoning is simple:
If you want a child to believe something, never tell them the alternative.

(Pictures of rock layers for fun)

CL1

CL2

 

 

 

 

 

IE: The school system is set up to be manipulative, to teach children what the state and the federal government believe is supposed to be upheld, and does not leave room for the child to practice critical thinking and for children to learn how we reached the conclusions we did and other potential conclusions that could be gained from the same evidence.

Why was I never taught about the first 5 presidents of the United States? I know the name of George Washington and that he won us a war but I know nothing of James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, or any of the other key players. Why was I taught about Paul Revere but never anything about the other guy (Whose name I forget) who went triple as far in the same night? Why was I taught more about the history of the blacks in America then how the federal government became the way it is? Why is there a higher precedence placed on racial issues than the creation of the most powerful country on earth? Why did I learn nothing of the war of 1812, why did I not learn about Lincoln’s reasoning to turn the Civil wars focus on upholding the union to freeing the slaves? Why was I not taught every single right in the bill of rights and taught why they were put in there, and what they mean?  And why was I not taught reasons why those should be protected? Why was I taught about racial issues and evolution as a focus instead of the history of my country?

Here I am going to try to list the first ten amendments in order without using Google to see if I know them:

1: This is the freedom of speech, religion, press, petition

2: Right to bear arms (Citizens to have guns), Right to have a state militia (To protect from government)

3: Right to not be forced to quarter soldiers (Protect from government)

4:

5: Right to be allowed to not speak if faced with criminal/civil charges. (IE: Pleading the fifth)

6:

7:

8: Cruel and unusual punishment

9:

10:

That’s all I can think of, this is a sign that the system as built does not care about citizens understanding how the government works and why the amendments were set up the way they were. Also I learned more about the amendments in my law enforcement class then my actual government class.

I might write more later and iterate more on my experiences in High School, but think about this: All of the information I now believe, my personal beliefs about government and the school system. I learned NONE of it in school, none. So imagine how many people who didn’t learn what I did who are essentially mentally enslaved to the beliefs set out for them, this is a problem and not one I take lightly and not one any parent who actually cares about their children should take lightly, most of my knowledge about the revolutionary war comes from my Dad talking to us about actual history and why Washington made the decisions he did and how the environment itself played a huge role in them winning if one of many different factors were different on many different battles the British would have won. My favorite quote is by I believe a British general: “As soon as we are about to destroy the rebels the weather sets in, or we lose them…” (This quote is remembered extremely incorrectly but simply serves to iterate my point, we were not taught any information that could lead to any conclusions contrary to what the state wants, if stuff like that quote was taught the idea that the founding fathers had divine guidance and protection would be one that a child could think of and figure out, but that idea is not wanted so they don’t teach it.)

(This is a combining of many different quotes, but I like it so here you go.)

There can never be a master who obeyed his slaves.
And the master cannot have a slave who understands what a slave is.
For once the slave understands what he is he wonders:
Why are you the master, and why am I a slave.
And thus we see that the only thing stopping a slave from being the master is one simple thing.
Knowledge. And once a slave has knowledge. He will never be content with being a slave.
But a slave who has no knowledge or does not seek knowledge, he cannot be anything more than a slave.

What we teach our children and our children’s children and how we teach ourselves is the most important defining characteristic of a generation, and if the government controls the education, we are all slaves.

********************

Addendum: 7/9/16

This student just provided the quotes he was referencing above:

“Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave.”
“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”
“It is easier to build strong men, than to repair broken ones.”

-Frederick Douglass

I cannot live without books.”
“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

-Thomas Jefferson

“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

-George Washington

Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives”

-James Madison

Dr. Thompson slams USOE misrepresentations about SAGE

Dr. Gary ThompsonAt a recent legislative interim meeting, Jo Ellen Schaeffer from the USOE stated to legislators that SAGE testing was validated by UCLA. This was quite the revelation since for years we’ve been stating that SAGE was an invalid test, and the testing that was done in Florida on Utah’s test proved it (Link1, Link 2).

With this news that UCLA had apparently done a validation study, Jakell Sullivan reached out to Dr. Gary Thompson to get his take on things since legislators were being told with authority, that SAGE was a valid test. Dr. Thompson’s quick response points out numerous problems with the USOE’s statements. With permission I post his letter here.


Dear Ms. Sullivan

I have read the Utah State Board of Education’s memo in response to Representative Lowery Snow’s inquiry, on your behalf, about his concerns regarding the validity of the Utah SAGE test.  Here is a partial summary statement from the Board’s response informing Representative Snow, that the SAGE is indeed a valid test:

“The validity of Utah’s Student Assessments of Growth and Excellence (SAGE) has been confirmed through a number of independent sources. The most recent studies include: (1) The National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing, UCLA (CRESST), (2) Education Next, (3) Achieve.org, (4) Independent Verification of the Psychometric Validity for the Florida Standards Assessment. Each study substantiates both the high rigor of Utah’s standards and the validity and reliability of the assessments that measures those standards.”

As cited evidence of SAGE validity, the Board references “Education Next”, and “Achieve”. org”. Per the Board’s own memo, this cited evidence discusses  “high standards and state proficiency levels” when compared to the NAEP test.   This is not related to specific inquires regarding the validity of the Utah SAGE test.  As such, a response from me will not be forth coming.

I also will not respond to the Board’s reference to the State of Florida’s Validity study.   Several months ago, the Board used this same document to substantiate Utah’s SAGE test validity.   I sent a written response to the Board, and the general public, factually rebutting this dangerously irresponsible, and inaccurate claim.

As you and thousands of Utah parents are aware, I am still waiting for a response.   The letter sent to Board Vice Chairman, Dave Thomas, in response to his spurious claims, was referenced and published by Utahan’s Against Common Core’s, Chrystal Swasey. Here is the link: http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/sage-validity-part-2-dr-thompson-responds/

Thus, the only item left to rebut from the Utah State Board of Education memo, is its unexplainable reliance on a yet to be published AIR-SAGE validity study, produced by the federally funded, quasi governmental, UCLA campus-based research group, CRESST.

I am going to keep this short and sweet:

Here are five (5) questions that you, Representative Snow, the media, and voters in Utah may wish to ask Board of Education Chairman Dave Crandall during his “debate” appearance this Wednesday, June 22 at Summit Academy:

1. Why did the State Board rely on the research group “CRESST” as the primary source of proof of SAGE validity, without letting parents and lawmakers know that CRESST is “funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI)”?  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Center_for_Research_on_Evaluation,_Standards,_and_Student_Testing)

2.  Utah paid $40,000,000 to AIR, Inc. (American Institute of Research) to design the SAGE test.  Were you aware that the research group CRESST, which produced the “validity study”, is supported financially by, and lists AIR as “Partners” on its own website? (http://cresst.org/partners/)   Does the Board leadership consider this to be an “independent”, and unbiased relationship?

3.  Since 2012, were the Board and the State Office of Education aware that the current Director of CRESST, Li Cai, received multiple millions of dollars of personal research grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, U.S. Department of Education, and (you can’t make this stuff up) Utah’s SAGE test designer, AIR? (http://cresst.org/wp-content/uploads/LiAbridge.pdf )  How can a Director of a research organization produce an objective and unbiased validity study on the very group that has given him substantial amounts of money for independent research?

4. Why did the State Board of Education fail to inform parents that their children were taking a yet to be validated test for the past three years?  Is not such omission a complete and blatant violation of trust?

5. Are you aware that Board placed hundreds’ of thousands of Utah children at risk of harm, and exploitation, at the hands of a behavioral research corporation (AIR), by allowing them to experiment on children without the informed, written consent of their parents?  Are you aware that this unethical practice is also against Utah law? (https://le.utah.gov/xcode/Title53A/Chapter13/53A-13-S302.html) “Activities prohibited without prior written consent”

When the Utah State Board of Education and State Office of Education produce an independent validity study, I would be delighted to devote professional time to review it at your request.   In the meantime, the current memo submitted to Representative Snow in support of SAGE “validity” is clearly a deliberate attempt to deceive an esteemed member of the Utah Interim Education Committee, and only serves to highlight the unethical, unconstitutional, incestuous relationship between the State of Utah, and the U.S. Federal Government.   

Both the Utah State Board of Education and the Utah State Office of Education have a long, well documented history of providing lawmakers and parents in Utah with responses to inquiries laced with “lies of omission.”   This deceptive practice places public school children in Utah at high risk for continued psychometric experimentation, and profit motivated exploitation via the hands of SAGE test designer, AIR, Inc.   I have no desire to debate current Board Chairman Dave Crandall in a public setting, until this serious matter of continued experimentation and exploitation of our children is answered in a clear, ethical, fact based manner.

In summary, given the clear and present danger this poses to 650,000 vulnerable Utah children, it is my professional opinion that you consider asking Representative Snow to seek an independent inquiry regarding this matter via Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes.  It is my strong, evidence based, professional opinion that Utah’s education leaders at the Board of Education and State Office of Education, are more committed to adhering to the educational political “flavors of the day”, as opposed to providing Utah’s children with objective, science based solutions to serious education problems in our State.

Please let me know if I can be of more assistance to you in the future.  Feel free to distribute this response to the general public as you deem to be appropriate under the circumstances.

Best regards;

Gary Thompson, Psy.D.

District 10 Candidate For Utah State Board of Education

www.vote4drgary.com

 

2016 Candidates for Election

VoteThere are a number of very important races up for grabs in this primary. I would strongly urge you to vote for the following individuals who have committed to positions of parental rights, protecting the state from federal power, and shifting more control to local schools and districts over their education systems.

Governor: Jonathan Johnson

State School Board candidate list

District 4 – Brent Strate (Appears to be the best of the available candidates)
District 7 Frank Strickland
District 8 David Sharette
District 10 Dr. Gary Thompson
District 11 Lisa Cummins
District 12 Alisa Ellis
District 13 No primary since only 2 candidates
District 15 Michelle Klaas Boulter

For other races I encourage you to examine our candidate survey here: http://bit.ly/1Ucajzh

To see state legislator rankings and how incumbents have voted in the past, please click here: http://bit.ly/21AHQBR

For Alpine School District where I live, I would encourage votes for the following people:

Seat 4: Rachel Thacker
Seat 6: Miriam Ellis
Seat 7: Kirby Glad

If you live in other districts and know who the anti-Common Core, pro-local control candidates are, post them in the comments below.

I would also strongly urge that you not vote for any candidate that accepted money for their campaign from the Count My Vote PAC, or Education First.

I completely agree with this statement by Rep. Brian Greene.

“CMV continues to throw around the term “Party Insiders” without ever identifying a single such person. The fact is there are no party insiders. The entire ranks of the party structure is turned over every two years. The sad truth is that the only “insiders” involved in this process are those trying to pin that label on others. Mike Leavitt/ LaVar Webb, and that sort, sit in their ivory towers like “union bosses” under the illusion that their status and wealth entitle them to control elections and policy. They had no problem with the party’s caucus/convention process when they controlled it, but with the rise of the grass-roots conservative movement since 2008, their influence has been minimized and their instinctive response has been to change the law to regain the advantage that they believe their status and wealth entitles them to. If the CMV model is successful, Utah policy and government will be changed forever.”

If you want the money out of politics, the caucus/convention system is the very best system. If you eliminate it and go with Count My Vote, you get big donors paying for signatures and candidates running very broad public campaigns instead of focusing on a group of people that WE elect locally to go spend hours vetting the candidates. What percentage of voters who sit at home do hours of research on candidates? An extraordinarily small number.

Tell your legislators NO to CBE

Now that the governor and state board seem to be interested in replacing Common Core with Utah standards (and that’s not the solution we’re looking for, but local control of standards, assessments, and curriculum at the district/school level), and SAGE tests are staggering from multiple body blows, what’s the “next thing” reformers want to impose on our children? Competency-based education (CBE).

Just say NO.

What is CBE? Let me point you to a fine resource that will help you understand the issues. The mastery of the parts does not equal the mastery of the whole. CBE is just the rename of “Outcome-based education” that was shot down decades ago, and now CBE must be shot down again. Just because we have digital tools now doesn’t mean it’s any more right for students today than it was back then .

Start here:

http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2016/03/whats-so-bad-about-competency-based.html?m=1

To the proponents of CBE, I would suggest that instead of personalized learning, we need personal learning. That’s not saying we need a greater teacher to student ratio, but we need to allow children to turn into self-learning adults. One major purpose of education should be to create life-long learners. I haven’t been in school for 25 years yet I continue to study and learn things because I enjoy it. Students need the same ability (and passion) of being interested in a subject without being told what to learn, when to learn it, and what’s on a test.

As students age through the system they need to be given more freedom of time to pursue their own interests. This can be a class period or more. Self-study should be required. Let them choose their own subject and present to the teacher a plan for their own mastery of the content at the level they want to master it. When they’ve done that let them present a plan for the next topic they want to dive into, whether it’s shallow or deep. When students pursue what they are curious about, they will learn it faster and better and the teacher can be there to guide the student in their own true journey. Completion of a unit would be writing a paper or doing a presentation for the class reflecting their mastery of that topic. That’s lifelong learning! Students could even review each others’ plans and challenge each other to perform.

Teachers in this class role could help students to obtain their own personal mastery, not some checklist of predefined mastery units or state standards. It is a grave disservice we do to students to tell them they have graduated when all they have done is learned to master what they have been told to do. If learning is truly self-learning, we need to reintroduce true self-learning to the school system.

Please read the above article and then contact your legislators and tell them you do not want Competency-Based Education in Utah. You want personal learning and local control.

Freedom and Education presentation

Here is my presentation I gave Friday night (June 3, 2016). In it I cover a range of topics including the beasts in Revelation (oh yeah, critics have at it).  I also discuss freedom and religious freedom and a little known tidbit about Jefferson’s “wall of separation” letter to the Danbury Baptists. I cover educational options and share a link to this page on the Agency Based Education website which has three excellent presentations on homeschooling. If you have never considered homeschooling, watch this video and then those and you may just be convinced to try it.

Abortion Test Question

A student attending Stansbury High School was taking his biology exam in an online format and got this very personal question about handling an abortion. Thankfully he had his cell phone to take a picture of the test question he received. Click to enlarge it.

The student said this question had come up earlier in the year when taking a different test. This is a very disturbing question that appears to violate Utah law asking about potential religious and sexual beliefs. This is not a SAGE test, but some other provider openly seeking behavioral data on students.

Abortion Test Question

 

Governor Herbert calls on State Board to End CC and SAGE

Jonathan Johnson This morning Jonathan Johnson called on Utah to end SAGE testing. Tonight Governor Herbert called on the state board to get Utah out of Common Core standards and SAGE testing. Dang I love election years!Governor Herbert

With Jonathan Johnson defeating Governor Herbert at the GOP convention 55%-45%, largely influenced by Common Core issues, the Governor no doubt had an awakening. I have never doubted the Governor’s intentions to provide a quality education to Utah children, but I still find this move politically opportunistic to try and salvage his chances of being re-elected. Of course, the Governor can make this call knowing he has no authority to actually carry it out. That belongs to the state board…

Having had several discussions with Jonathan Johnson, I know he is fully committed to principles of local control that I’m not sure the governor is committed to at the same level based on his letter. His letter brings out some positives for sure, but I believe it’s time LEA’s (Local Education Agency) had much greater control over their financing, standards, assessments, data collection and privacy, and the state shrunk back in it’s role interfering with local education (and of course the feds are cut out of the picture completely).

In essence, here is what the Governor said:

-Common Core had a poor implementation (Oak: this is the go-to excuse for all failure programs like Investigations math)

-Naturally, he said there is misinformation on the subject, but added for what I think is the first time, that there are legitimate concerns.

-He asks the state board to change out the standards and keep these three principles in mind:
–Maintain high standards in all subject areas
–Keep the feds out of education decisions
–Preserve local control of curriculum, testing, data collection, and instructional practices.

-Make the process public (not something that happened the first time)

-There are shortcomings to the one-size-fits-all approach. We need standards that are flexible to allow a wide variety of curricular decisions by individual school districts.

-Eliminate the SAGE mandate for high school (and evaluate the effectiveness of it in other grade levels)

-“I have eleven grandchildren in Utah public schools. I have seen firsthand the frustration they and their parents have had over an assignment they did not understand and that teachers struggled to teach.”

End of summary.

No doubt this will be nationwide news that Utah’s Governor who has been one of the biggest proponents of Common Core, now wants out. That’s helpful for the entire movement across the country and for that, I’m grateful.

To download a copy of Governor Herbert’s letter, click here.

To see the near immediate response of the state board (ie. at least some of the knew this was happening and prepared this response), click here.