David Cox submitted this essay for our contest. He is a public school teacher and former state representative and helped educate me in the very early days of my activism in Alpine school district 10 years ago. Here is his essay.
“I have not yet heard one salient reason for moving from what we already have to Common Core Standards, except to be the same as everyone else. How pathetic. There’s no improvement, just a giving up of our freedom and responsibility for our children.
When I was first hired, what one taught was decided by the texts that teachers and the principal decided upon.
So I had a great deal of say. It was school based, though the state had recommendations of what, and at what grade level, but recommendations were all they were.
Some time after Nation at Risk, 1983, it became the vogue thing for districts to write up “standards.” That came about to counter what so many teachers were being taught by constructivist professors (as one of mine at BYU did) that, “If you want to cover the text…(wait for it) use a dish towel.” You were to teach what they, the students, wanted to learn. It was “democratic” learning (student driven). In other words “just teach whatever!” The standards movement came about to stop constructivism, because the Back-to-Basics movement wasn’t able to, since it was directed at teachers and not the professors, who were the source. Alpine SD used teachers, I was one of many, who wrote these and lesson plans to go with them in the old ACE (Alpine Curriculum for Excellence). It actually was very good –and specific.
Then the State Board of Education decided they had to get into the act and State Standards were created through USOE. These were much inferior to the ACE. At first we were able to “align” the standards together, which I worked on using Career Ladder monies. Finally they were shoved down our throats and we had to give up the ACE for these inferior state standards, which were quite non-specific.
Now we are having National Standards crammed down our throats, which will be backed up with tests that will end up dictating even the methods used to teach. Why? (Here’s the irony.) Because they are being created by professors who are as constructivist in philosophy as the original standards movement was created to get rid of! And these “standards” (inferior to many states’ previous standards and heavily influenced by the aforementioned philosophy) are being required in order to get federal dollars and wavers from NCLB. How can any district back out?
And as these become entrenched in a few years the politically correct police from Washington will start telling us EXACTLY what we can and can’t teach (history will be added, think of how that will be slanted) and how, and it will be things we in Utah will disagree with strongly depending on the administration in power. What’s worse, there will be no other choice. Already charter schools are being required next year to teach it, and even private schools will be required to become accredited, of which the first requirement will be to adopt the national curriculum. The next step, as has happened in Sweden this past year, even home schooling will be abolished. Do you see why I’m terrified?
I’ve watched it happen from day one and followed it very closely. I’ve seen all the changes, and it isn’t better. Back then, you couldn’t guarantee perfect teaching, but many teachers did a very good job.
As it is going, teachers will be little more than robots, constricted in everything they do.
This will almost prohibit great teaching.
The real irony is that conservatives tried to forcibly get rid of the faulty constructivist teaching by using government power with the standards and accountability movement. And after getting the force of government in place, liberals turned it around and took control and are in the process of completely implementing their agenda. If they had truly understood human agency and the real conservative philosophy, they would never have tried to use government to “guarantee” correct philosophy, because if you give government enough power to control it, it will end up controlling you.
As a retired teacher, former legislator, and grandparent, I am strongly opposed to the Common Core for three main reasons.
1. I want standards, not standardization. Standardization forces everyone to come down to a common level, the lowest common denominator. Locally adopted or created standards build the intellects and support of and from the local parents and teachers. Nationally imposed “standards” bring avoidance and lack of responsibility along with agendas I oppose, such as #2.
2. The philosophy of those who created Common Core is constructivism. They believe the student must construct their own set of knowledge (discovery learning). This is the philosophy that gave us “Whole Language” instead of reading, English, and spelling. It gave us “Investigations Math” instead of real math. It dumbed-down history and geography into “Social Studies.” The Common Core itself is dumbing-down Algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus into Math 1 and 2, etc.
3. Finally, though the standards themselves were not directly created by the national government, they are being imposed by incentives. The real nationalizing threat comes from the tests that ARE nationally created and which drive the implementation of the standards. I want our schools to listen to the parents, not to Washington politicians and educrats.
The real answer to improvement will only come when we give both freedom and responsibility to the local community. That is the story of America, the story Europeans didn’t (and still don’t) believe, that, given freedom to either succeed or fail, the common man will usually do what is necessary to succeed. Nationally imposed education will not do this, neither will vouchers, which would only, with the funding, pass on the government interference that is hampering the public schools to private schools. To solve this we need to create new, community-sized school districts. Doing this will bring the community together on behalf of their own children. The adults will grow in the process of local decision-making and control of education, and that will then raise the children.
Only by creating new smaller districts will we return liberty and responsibility to the local parents and teachers. Only then will true accountability be accomplished. Only then will true educational quality and efficiency be possible to achieve. It truly takes a community to educate a child. We cannot lift the children without lifting the adults too.
That cannot be accomplished by nationally created and imposed standards.
It takes governing from the local level to lift and build the people. That is what the United States are all about.”
-by David Cox
This resolution will be presented and voted on at the state GOP convention on 4/26/14. It is being attacked by the education establishment who misunderstands the point of partisan elections is to find people of principle by looking closely at candidates who are running for office, not creating a partisan atmosphere of contention. There is a serious problem in this state that people just do not know who is running for school board. Candidates at the state level rarely get to even let their voices be heard as they are drowned out by a governor appointed committee who eliminates candidates who have any issues with Common Core. Candidates at the local level put up yard signs and rarely get any segment of the public vetting them except for the UEA and State Office of Education who pick their candidates and promote them through their channels because they are philosophically in agreement, but don’t want any serious competition or elimination by the best people qualified to make those decisions…delegates elected in neighborhood caucus meetings. What these education establishment people fail to recognize over and over again is that when you take federal money it comes with strings attached that damage local control.
Here is the resolution. Please contact your state delegates and ask them to vote in favor of this resolution.
USBA executive Patti Harrington wrote an urgent letter to educators around the state which I have posted below the resolution.
Resolution to Promote Partisan School Board Elections
WHEREAS, Abraham Lincoln said, “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will become the philosophy of government in the next;” and,
WHEREAS, experience shows that the views of school board members find their way into the classroom; and,
WHEREAS, most citizens do not know how school board members view important issues such as religious freedom, state and family sovereignty, private property, Second Amendment, limited government, and American Exceptionalism; and,
WHEREAS, the Republican Party has an excellent vetting system by which grassroots-elected delegates can identify who among the candidates will best adhere to the principles in our party platform, most notably the principles of fiscal responsibility and local control of education; and,
WHEREAS, approximately 65% of our state budget goes to education; and,
WHEREAS, school district budgets, whose district officers are determined via non-partisan elections, in some cases exceed county budgets, whose county officers are determined via partisan elections; and,
WHEREAS, most school board members seem to welcome federal control of education, and fail to understand that states are (or should be) sovereign with respect to education; and,
WHEREAS, in Texas—where school board elections are partisan—when “Common Core” was presented to the states, Texas rejected it and created their own high-quality standards; and,
WHEREAS, choosing school board members via partisan election is not about partisanship in education, but is about ensuring the selection of candidates whose principles match those found in the party platform.
WHEREAS, state school board nominees are currently selected by an unelected panel—unaccountable to the People.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT, legislators affiliated with the Utah Republican Party are encouraged to enact and support legislation that would make candidates for Utah’s State Board of Education and school districts subject to partisan nomination and election; and,
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT delegates to the Utah Republican Party Convention are encouraged to research and vet state and local school board candidates, in order to identify the candidate(s) who will best support limited government and local control of education; and,
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the Utah Republican Party is encouraged to host debates for state school board candidates and conduct a straw poll among state delegates, wherein state delegates living within a given state school board district may cast a non-binding vote for their choices of state school board members, and that the results of this straw poll be made public on the party web site; and,
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT county parties are encouraged to host debates for school board candidates and conduct straw polls among county delegates, wherein county delegates living within local school board districts may cast a non-binding vote for their choices of local district board members, and that the results of these straw polls be made public on county party web sites.
Respectfully submitted to the Utah Republican Party on March 26, 2014
Oak Norton, HI 07
Kimberly Park, TA 11
Jennifer Orten, HI 06
Tina Okolowitz, Orem 38
Marie Nuccitelli, LE16
Aaron Hymas, MAG004
Joshua Kostial, FA02
Stephanie Stevens, AL04
Darlene Agle, PG10
Heather Williamson, SR07
Carie Valentine, SY05
Eric Eades, SAN 42
Robert Taylor, WJD 13
Robert Lunt, SLC138
Michele Alder, NLG5
Dale Asay, HI07
Whitne Strain, BO18
Kevin Braddy, HI 03
Renee Braddy, HI 03
Rod Terry, HI 01
Russ Skousen, HI 01
Dawn Kenton, RPL26
David Beck, HI 06
Steve Christiansen, HI 01
Lowell Nelson, HI 05
Loni Schneider, CL 02
Malin Williams, EN82
Leslie Probert, Provo 28
Jared Carman, HI 01
Alisa Ellis, HN 24
Nathan Davis, SY05
Michelle Davis, SY05
Amy Burton, HYR 05
Kassandra Mulcahy, SAN042
Keri Witte, PR20
************************** ADDED 4/22/14
That ends the resolution. Utah State Boards Association member Patti Harrington sent out this email in response. All bolding is hers. Text in red is where Patti calls me a liar and then an agitator. The big problem with her statements is they are demonstrably false. Patti and I actually go back several years. When she was State Superintendent a few years ago, we held regular meetings with her, Brenda Hales, Senator Margaret Dayton, and a few others regarding math education in Utah and getting Investigations math, Connected math, and Interactive math, removed from the state’s approved curriculum list. She helped remove the first 2 but never got the third removed. We actually saw eye to eye on these issue and to her credit (perhaps under some duress) she agreed to raise the state math standards in 2006 in front of a legislative education committee. Success! Then I engaged with the state’s history standards and wanted to get the word “republic” put into our history standards so teachers would teach that we are a Republic and not a Democracy. After that success along came Common Core, the nationalization of education, which Patti and everyone at the USOE loved. That’s 3 issues, but in Patti’s letter I’m “regularly agitated.” No, I just don’t retire from an issue easily. Someone is worried and upset…
The USOE loves Common Core’s nationalization so much, two officers sent out a letter during the last legislative session touting how HB 342 on getting new education standards was such a big negative it has to be opposed. They wrote:
“This bill essentially gives more power to parents over curriculum standards, would prohibit us from adopting any national standards, and would require a revision of our current math and ELA standards.”
Oh for shame! More power to parents?!?!?! What on earth are we thinking wanting to get away from Common Core! Prohibited from adopting national standards??? The horrors!
And Patti writes below how I’m a liar and they all want local control…
What these school board members and associations seem to fail to grasp is in their quest for more money in education, they have turned to the federal behemoth who happily hands out our own money with strings attached. “Sure, take these millions of dollars, we just want your children to be tracked, dumbed down, and owned by us.” Oh, but it comes out more like “we’re from the government and we’re here to help. Those were state-led standards we…, err…, the NGA and CCSSO gave you. Yeah, that’s the ticket!”
Here is Patti’s letter.
From: “Patti Harrington” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Apr 18, 2014 8:38 AM
Subject: Please OPPOSE proposed Republican Convention resolution on partisan elections for board members
Good morning Board Members (with copies to Superintendents and Business Administrators) –
There is a new resolution that will be proposed in the 2014 Utah Republican Nominating Convention on April 26, 2014 that you may want to review asap. Your Utah School Boards Association (USBA) leaders are asking that, for those of you who are Republican, to contact your Republican delegates immediately and ensure they vote NO on the Resolution to Promote Partisan School Board Elections. Here is some helpful background:
- The resolution is titled Resolution to Promote Partisan School Board Elections and is at the end of this email and can also be found on the Utah Republican Party website at: http://www.utgop.org/utgop.asp
where you can “click here to view submitted Amendments and Resolutions that will be considered at the convention.” It is the fourth displayed item.
- Astoundingly, the resolution states that “. . . most school board members seem to welcome federal control of education, and fail to understand that states are (or should be) sovereign with respect to education, . . .” and then resolves that “legislators affiliated with the Utah Republican Party are encouraged to enact and support legislation that would make candidates for Utah’s State Board of Education and school districts subject to partisan nomination and election . . . “ Contrary to that blatantly false claim, USBA has always believed in local control and has consistently advocated that the best decisions are made at the local level. In the 2009 Legislative Session, USBA initiated a bill with supportive legislators: HJR11 Joint Resolution Expressing Support For and Recognizing the Value of Locally Elected Officials (M. Brown). The bill resolved “that the Legislature recognizes that the close connection of locally elected officials to their communities creates an atmosphere of high accountability in administering fiscal and other important matters.” The bill passed unanimously in both Utah’s Senate and House. See: http://le.utah.gov/~2009/bills/hbillenr/hjr011.pdf
- The resolution to be considered by the upcoming Republican convention has only 6 sponsors listed in support. The chief sponsor is Oak Norton, a resident of Utah County who remains regularly agitated about public education. He is leading much of the anti-Common Core fight.
- USBA has been vitally involved in resisting federal mandates and has been in this discussion for over the last decade when No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was first enforced from Washington DC to Utah’s classrooms. USBA remains steadfast in support of local control and strongly supportive of public schools being operated by state and local leaders and educators, with policy and regulation by the independent Utah State Board of Education.
- The new Utah Core standards in Language Arts and Math were largely developed from the common standards developed by the National Governor’s Association (NGA), led by a Republican Governor, and by the Chief Council of State School Officers (CCSSO), working in tandem toward greater rigor and career relevance in standard formulation. There were no White House officials or U.S. Dept of Education officials in these meetings or working on the standards. These standards were adopted by the Utah State Board in 2012, following public hearings, and are being implemented across the state. The State Board has amended some of these standards and added to them, as is the full right of a State Board to control all standards. The new SAGE tests were developed to measure a child’s ability in each standard and to give excellent prescriptive information to parents, students and teachers, the key users of any test data. Data are stored and protected according to state and federal law, and by further regulations set forth by the State Board. Student data have been without security breach for over a decade.
- Partisan politics has no place in the State Board and certainly not in our local school boards of education. A bill to support partisan state school board elections in the most recent legislative session was strongly opposed by USBA and it failed. This Republican resolution concerning local school boards clearly does not reflect the view of Utah’s public and the parents whose children attend our neighborhood schools.
In order to oppose this resolution, you will need to contact the Republican delegates and state leaders from your area that are invited to attend the 2014 Utah Republican Nominating (State) Convention on April 26, 2014. Thus, your contact must occur before April 26th. Delegate contact information can be found by calling your county offices and asking for the names of your county Republican delegates. Thank you!
Oak again: please contact your state delegates and ask them to support partisan school board elections and bring new ideas and new leadership to school boards all across Utah.
Sterling Allan submitted this to the Deseret News as an op-ed.
The other night I helped my 10-year-old daughter with her math homework because my wife couldn’t figure it out. After I broke away from my work, when I went to help her, past her bed-time, she was crying, and just drawing her pencil back and forth across the first of four questions, totally frustrated.
I’m a scientist, and the first problem took me 20 minutes to figure out; and I seriously doubt she understood my explanation, because I barely figured it out myself. My daughter said that the next day all the kids were talking about how hard it was.
I’m not yet fully immersed in the question of what is the agenda of the corrupt powers that be in this Common Core curriculum, but I have a few thoughts to share. First, when I say “corrupt powers that be”, briefly, I’m referring to the modern secret combination that seeks to destroy America and the principles of freedom upon which she was founded, to make way for a tyrannical New World Order that turns us all into slaves.
For years, their agenda has been the deliberate dumbing down of America through its education system, among other things, such as fluoridating the water, which is a medication to make people docile.
Now that they’ve accomplished the agenda of dumbing us down, it seems their agenda is to try and make the students feel like losers for being so dumbed down. It’s Satan’s lie: “now, look at what a low-life you’ve become, you’re no good, it’s no use trying any more.”
As parents, we’re seriously considering home schooling our kids again, so they can get a proper education and not be brainwashed with whatever agenda the corrupt powers that be are promoting. Our primary reason for sending the kids back to school has been the excellent programs they have for our special needs daughter. The staff have been phenomenal in our experience with the real human beings who are the teachers trying to make it in the system.
I call upon the state legislature to ban Common Core from Utah. Let’s revolt! And finally stand up like we’re supposed to! Just say NO! to such corruption. Be no part of it.
Otherwise, we’ll probably home school our kids again, and we urg others to do the same. We don’t have to subject our kids to this.
See http://UtahnsAgainstCommonCore.com for more info.
Sterling D. Allan,
(Pure Energy Systems) PES Network, Inc., CEO
Whitne Strain opted her children out of SAGE tests and spoke with the press about it. Afterward, State Superintendent Menlove contacted her and asked why she opted-out. This was her reply.
Dear Dr. Menlove,
Thank you for asking why I chose to opt out my child. I am happy to share.
First, I would like to assure you that my husband and I didn’t come to this decision lightly. I learned about Common Core and all of its related facets a year ago. I have read articles almost daily. I regularly read and listen to posts by Arne Duncan and David Coleman, major players in national education. I read your website. I went to the CAT demonstrations by the board last year. I actually think the testing modality is brilliant to assess the level of knowledge of participants.
My first reason for opting out is the morality of assessment use on children. Twenty years ago, I worked for Pace Membership Warehouses in their human resources department as a behavioral interviewer before it was sold to Sam’s Club. I was responsible for hiring Warehouse Directors, the highest paid position outside of corporate. Assessments such as the CPI and Meyers-Briggs were the rage back then. We collected astoundingly personal information on our candidates based on the way they answered questions. We created profiles on them and made decisions on who to interview based on their answers. Assessments are only appropriate in my opinion for job interviews or possible college entrance. Even then, the potential participants can choose whether they wish to go through the process to gain an interview or search elsewhere for employment; whereas, our children can’t.
Second, I question the morality of evaluating a teacher on results they can’t see. And I lament the loss of academic freedom to expound and create lessons. The pressure of high stakes testing will take its toll. Teachers all have unique gifts which they bring to the table. They come to education because they love children. I fear that the more confined they become in their substance and approach due to the pressure to keep their job based on testing, the more we could lose the best, most creative, most loving teachers.
Lastly, it is an issue of trust. I trust my local community with my child’s information. While I recognize we are still being told that our information is only placed in our state SLDS system, I do not have faith that the Federal Government will not at some future time use its will to access SLDS.. Arne Duncan has made it clear that this is his goal. He wants ALL the data. What contributes to this lack of trust? Daily, I read of Federal Government overreach and violation of the Constitution whether it be data collection by the NSA, a loosely created national police force by DHS, or the most horrific violation of civil rights we’ve seen in a decade, the current circumstances of Justina Pelletier of Massachusetts. Information is power. Information in corrupt hands leads to suffering. I’m a student of history. We have a plethora of examples of abuse of power using information just from the last century. Hence, I am doing everything in my power now to reduce the amount and kind of information collected on my child for his protection in the future. That is why I said what I did about his future in my first request.
We are a well-educated family. My husband I and were both publicly educated and we both have bachelors degrees. I own two businesses and he is a commercial airline pilot.
I hope you wlll find this information helpful in some way. Thank you for helping make it possible for my child to opt-out without local repercussion and for protecting the school and teachers with SB 122. Obviously, our collective hands are tied regarding federal money and federal regulations.. It is my hope that someday as a society, we will stop seeing education as workforce training and job placement and take it back to pure local curriculum and standard creation, pure academics and family primacy in the decision of a child’s career.
A little long winded. Thank you, again, for asking. It is nice to have the opportunity to be heard.
Superintendent Menlove issued the following letter to schools just over a week ago.
Utah State Office of Education
April 7, 2014
OPTING-OUT OF STATE TESTING
There continues to be some confusion about students and/or parents opting-out of end-of level (SAGE and DWA) or other state-wide testing. Please be aware of the following as you have conversations with parents about opting-out of testing and in the development of opt-out forms.
1. Parents have the right to opt their children out of any testing required by or facilitated through the Utah State Board of Education. This includes all SAGE tests, Direct Writing Assessments, ACT (complete battery), ASAVB, NAEP, ACCESS testing for English Language Learners and UAA testing for Students with Disabilities.
2. When a student over 18 years old, or a parent or guardian opts-out of a state-level test, there is no requirement for an optional or alternative test to be given. For example, opting-out of a test taken on a computer does not necessitate that a “paper-pencil” test be offered as a replacement.
3. When a student over 18 years old, or parent or guardian opts-out of a state-level test, no academic penalty shall result for the student. If teachers/schools use any of these tests for grading/promotion decisions, some alternative assessment will need to be provided.
4. Opting-out of end-of-level testing, and participating in end-of-level testing, both result in de-identified and aggregated individual student data being reported to the federal government. The difference in the data shared on all public school students as required by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is that the proficiency level for a student who opts out will not be reported while a tested student’s proficiency level will be reported as the proficiency level (1 – 4) determined by the testing.
5. Any student who is in school and not participating in testing should be engaged in a meaningful educational activity. Students not participating in any testing should not be singled out in any negative way nor should the student or the class be administratively punished in any way because a student opts out of testing. Items #6 and #7 address potential consequences for teachers and schools as a result of opting-out.
6. As per action taken by the Utah State Board of Education on April 4, 2014, a student who opts-out of testing will not receive a proficiency score, and for State purposes will not be counted against participation rates. However, these students will be reported as non-participants on federal reports and accountability and this may impact an LEA’s qualification for and the receiving of certain federal dollars.
7. As per current Utah State Office of Education Policy, a student who has not opted-out and is absent from school, and therefore does not participate in testing, is counted as a non-participant (both State and federal reporting) and may impact the school’s participation score which is included in the calculation for the school’s letter grade. An absent student is not included in calculating proficiency for a class, grade, or school.
Here is an essay contest entry by Michelle Nicholes.
I am writing to express my concerns with the direction that our public schools are heading as a result of the federal government stepping in and more specifically (I am going to say it, but please keep reading!) Common Core. I know that there are a lot of good and bad things being said about Common Core and you are probably more than tired of dealing with it, but I truly believe it is something that still needs to be addressed.
When I first started hearing about Common Core, I was fine with it. (Not that I really had a choice, since it had already been implemented before parents were told about it.) It sounded like a good idea. But the more I started researching and learning, the more it started to confuse and concern me. I’m just beginning to really understand what is happening with the control over education being taken away from the state and the implementation of this new curriculum and standardized testing. And while I still don’t know everything about it, I know enough to be more than just a little concerned.
As a parent, I’ve always been actively involved in the education of my children. Because of this there are many things about Common Core that bother me. Below are just a few:
*It is very concerning to me that as a parent, I might not always have a say in what my child is taught in the public schools.
*I’m very angry that something that hasn’t even been tested or confirmed successful is being implemented. My children ARE NOT guinea pigs.
*I am disturbed that there is data collecting on children that has nothing to do with school. Why??
*I am frustrated that they are attempting to standardize education making it a one size fits all, when no two children are EVER going to be alike. It doesn’t take into consideration the individuality and also the struggles that some children face.
My son started struggling with math two years ago in third grade. He really struggled last year in fourth grade. Nor has it improved this year. I discovered that Common Core math was implemented the year he first started struggling. I was told that because of the new curriculum, they needed to cram a whole bunch of new math ideas into the year to get them on track for the next year. That all sounded wonderful, let’s get our students smarter, faster! But that isn’t exactly how it will work. They are introducing new ideas, new concepts that require children to learn things they are NOT ready for. Their brains are not developed enough to grasp the concepts yet and all it does is frustrate them. I saw that with my second grader last year in math as well. As an adult, the concepts they are teaching kind of make sense, if I look hard at the reasoning behind it. But most children are not ready for this way of thinking and reasoning. They have taken math from simple steps to many complex steps and I don’t understand why or see how it is helping. If you have looked at the Common Core math, then you’ll know what I mean. If you haven’t, I would encourage you to try to solve a few problems- following the new rules, not the way you were taught.
I had to relearn how to do long division last year in order to help my son with math. It confused me as to why it had been changed. After all, haven’t we all succeeded just fine – for many decades, I might add- with the tried and true method of long division? I showed him how I was taught to do it and he told me “I wish I could just do it that way. Your way is tons easier!” All this new curriculum is doing is frustrating the students and affecting their self esteem. Frustrated children give up. Most children that feel stupid or inadequate because they don’t understand something, will just give up! Children are not known for their patience.
I won’t go into everything that concerns me, but there are many more that I could mention. They are concerning enough to me that I will be withdrawing my children from public school next year in order to home school them. My children’s ability to learn and feel successful, instead of feeling stressed and inadequate, is important enough to me to make this big decision. I love our schools and teachers. I have no problems with them. However, I have no love for Common Core and what it will ultimately do to our children.
My hope is that you will continue to research and become aware of all that Common Core really is. Our children’s future is too important to not make a careful, educated decision.
I received this email yesterday from a parent a Mountainville Academy. Due to SAGE testing, the Computer Applications class can’t use the lab for the rest of the school year. Nice. We want our kids up on technology, so lets test them so much on computers that the computer classes can’t have a lab to use.
Sage testing is a computer test that all students throughout the school have to take. Because of this, the computer lab will be used for the testing. Students in my Computer Applications class will not be able to use the computer lab for the remainder of the school year because of testing.
Students will now be required to complete the assignments at home that would normally be completed in class. I will go over the assignment during class. I will have the website updated on a daily basis so that students will know what to complete and what documents are needed to complete the assignment. Assignments will be due the next time class meets. I would prefer that students email me their completed assignments before we meet again, however, I understand that this isn’t always possible. Students may print off their assignments and bring them to class and turn them in the next time we meet for full credit. (Regardless of which method students turn in assignments, they are due the next time we meet for class.) I will also require that they complete the header on each assignment because this will be the proof that they did the assignment and not just attach the solution page that is included within the web page. (The solution page is needed so that students can compare their document with what the document should look like.)
Typing logs. Since students will not be able to complete Microtype in class, it is VERY important that students keyboard at home. They MUST complete a typing log for each week. Starting this week, I’m doubling the points for typing logs since they will be taking the place of Microtype. The same rules and guidelines will apply with typing logs. If they are late, then it is 50% off the grade. They may turn in typing logs in up to two weeks past the due date. Students may use the time they typed for homework for one night only. Students must keyboard for 75 minutes each week to get full credit and they must keyboard at LEAST 2 nights during the week.
I know that this is a lot for students but it is the best we can do with the technology that we have here at school. If you have any questions, please let me know.
[Teacher name removed]
I received this email yesterday from Dr. Jonathan Caldwell regarding something happening at Minersville School in the Beaver County School District. Similar events are occurring around the country with various prizes or treats.
“It was brought to my attention that the children at my son’s school who take the SAGE test are being included in a drawing for an ipad, while those who have opted out, are not being included. I spoke to the principal and it was confirmed. The purpose was originally to try and motivate the kids to do well on the test. They had decided to do this months ago before the thought of ever having parents opt-out and now are scrambling to figure out how to handle this. I am confident that other schools may be doing the same. In fact I saw the article about the kids in New York getting ice cream for taking the test and those not taking it did not get to participate. I am all for incentives and ways to motivate kids to care, however I am deeply disturbed by this level of discrimination and separation. I disagree with punishing the kids for a decision that the parents made just as much as I am against punishing the school or teachers for the same decision that the parents made to opt out. I am disappointed in parents who refuse to educate themselves because they are more concerned with how this will reflect upon the school or the teachers. I DO think my sons school is great. It is consistently one of the top schools in the state. The administrators and teachers are amazing. It is unfortunate that this situation puts them in a position to where their hands are tied behind their back, required to teach a certain way or have their jobs on the line. Teachers become teachers out of a passion and desire to inspire kids but this is truly taking the “Teaching to Inspire” out of school teaching and making them “Teach to Test”. Just thought I’d bring this to your attention. Dr. Caldwell”
In a follow up email, Dr. Caldwell stated:
“You may also be interested in this: Last week I asked my son if he was the only one in his class opting out and he said, ‘No’. I asked him how he knew there were others and he said, ‘Because all of the kids not taking the SAGE test are sitting on the back row.’ Wow!!! Just another way to isolate, single out and draw attention to these students. I think they are trying to do some damage control as one of the other parents approached the principal about it today and was told that they are ‘pulling the other kids out of the drawing whom they have “Caught” not trying on the test’. (wow, that even sounds worse doesn’t it?)”
Didn’t see this one coming… :) From a speech Pope Francis gave over the weekend that dealt with moral and religious issues, comes this report on the Cardinal Newman Society website.
“And in this regard I would like to express my rejection of any kind of educational experimentation with children. We cannot experiment with children and young people,” the Holy Father reportedly said. “The horrors of the manipulation of education that we experienced in the great genocidal dictatorships of the twentieth century have not disappeared; they have retained a current relevance under various guises and proposals and, with the pretense of modernity, push children and young people to walk on the dictatorial path of ‘only one form of thought.”The Holy Father also reportedly warned against the dangers “posed by contemporary culture and widespread mentality propagated by the mass media.”
Dr. Andrew Seeley, executive director of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education and a tutor at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif., warned in “The Common Core vs. the Classical Roots of Catholic Education” that the goals and methods of the Common Core are fundamentally at odds with the discovery of Truth at the heart of an authentically Catholic education.
Seeley stated his belief that “under the guise of mutual understanding, curricular materials are likely to usher in an aggressively secular orthodoxy,” and the Common Core will in fact become a “dictatorship of relativism.”
- See more at: http://www.cardinalnewmansociety.org/CatholicEducationDaily/DetailsPage/tabid/102/ArticleID/3192/Pope-Francis-Defends-Parents%E2%80%99-Right-to-Decide-%E2%80%98Moral-and-Religious%E2%80%99-Education-for-Children.aspx#sthash.r3laNGgX.dpuf
We received this excellent letter from Alma and are publishing it. I have bolded a few sentences in the letter to emphasize them.
My name is Alma Ohene-Opare, an alumnus of BYU and a native of Accra, Ghana. Over the past few months, I have followed with much amusement, the nationwide debate for or against the adoption and implementation of the Common Core standards. The arguments have been fierce and passionate on both sides and seem to stem from a universal desire to raise the quality of education in America. The desire is noble. However, this noble desire will not compensate for or mitigate the empirically documentable effects of the failed policy being proposed.
Common Core may be new to America, but to me and the thousands who have migrated to the United States to seek better educational opportunities, it is in large part the reason we came here. If you are wondering what qualifies me to make the assertions I will make in this article, know this; I am one of the few victims of a standardized national education system in Ghana, who was lucky enough to escape its impact. I am also a member of the Board of Directors of a private K-12 institution in Accra, Ghana. Golden Sunbeam Montessori School was founded by my mother in 1989 and is currently leading the fight to rid our country of an educational system that has led to the systematic degradation and deterioration of our human capital.
Let’s get to the core of my argument; pun intended. What Americans are calling Common Core is eerily similar to my educational experience growing up in Ghana. In Ghana, K-12th grade education was tightly controlled by the Ghana Education Service, an organization similar to the US Department of Education. From curricula to syllabi to standardized testing, the government controlled everything.
In 9th grade, all students, in order to progress to high school are required to take a standardized exam known as the B.E.C.E, which stands for Basic Education Certification Examination. Depending on the results of the test, each student is assigned by a computer program to a public high school without regard to his or her interests, passions or ambitions. Each student is then assigned an area of focus for the next three years. Some of the focus areas are General Science, Business Management, General Arts, Visual Arts, Home Economics, Agriculture, etc.
Although things may have changed slightly since I graduated, most students generally did not have a choice as to which area of focus they were assigned. The only way to get a choice was to ace the standardized exam or to call in a favor either through bribery or some other type of corruption. The students who failed miserably were usually those who attended public schools; many of whom dropped out of school entirely.
The process was then repeated at the end of High School with another standardized exam called the W.A.S.S.S.C.E. This exam tested your readiness for college and ultimately determined which course of study you were assigned by the government in college. I did not ace that exam and did not get admission into the state run college of my choice. Instead, I went to a private university founded by a former Microsoft employee and was found smart enough to be admitted to BYU a year later as a transfer student, to graduate with a Bachelor’s in Information Technology and to be hired right out of college as a Program Manager at Microsoft Corporation.
Although the education system in Ghana is not similar in all aspects to Common Core as it is being proposed today, some of the basic tenets are the same. The curriculum was controlled by an external body without input from or accountability to teachers, individual schools or parents. Some argue that teachers and parents have control in Common Core. It pains me to witness such naivety. That myth has always been an inevitable play by proponents of any centralized system. The goal is to make people think they are in control while nudging them blindly towards a perceived public interest. The truth is simple; the institution that controls the exams, controls the curriculum.
By controlling the standardized exams, each school in Ghana was forced to make passing the exam its primary focus rather than actual teaching and learning. Hence anything that was deemed outside the purview of the test was cast aside and treated as non-important. Extra-curricular activities were cut if not totally eliminated and the school day was lengthened to ensure that students had even more time to prepare for the test.
In my case, school started at 6:00am and ended as late as 6:00pm. We attended school on Saturdays. Even when school was out we still attended school half day. Our lives were consumed with preparation for the standardized test. We all had booklets of past tests going back 15 years. Those who anticipated failing the test registered in advance to retake the test. The value of teachers was measured solely on the performance of their students on the standardized tests. Scammers who purported to know what would appear on the tests duped schools, parents and teachers alike by selling bogus test questions. Schools with political connections always unanimously aced the tests.
You may wonder why nobody ever tried to change the system. The answer was simple. The government made it impossible by requiring all students who wanted to go to High School or College to take the test. Hence, any time spent trying to change the system meant time taken away from preparing for the test. Parents became completely beholden to the system and would threaten to take the kids to other schools if administrators spent any time not preparing their kids for the test.
Now that you have a sense of how an education system can become trapped in the death spiral of standardized tests, let me interest you with the impact of this system on actual student outcomes. In Ghana, we had a phrase to describe how we felt about standardized tests. We called it “chew and pour, pass and forget”. Translated, it means memorize, regurgitate, pass the exam and forget everything.
Unfortunately that has become reality for many graduates of our educational system. As my father put it in a recent petition to the Ghana Education Service, “the education system in Ghana is akin to an assembly line setup by the government to create employees for an economy largely devoid of innovation, entrepreneurship, originality or risk taking”. Because students never learn to solve problems or think critically for themselves and are largely discouraged from challenging their teachers or the status quo, they are inevitably groomed to maintain the failed traditions of the past while believing they are completely powerless to change anything. The result is the fact that even with an abundance of natural resources, the country in general continues to suffer in the doldrums of socio-economic development without any clear path out of it.
Recently my brother left a well-paying job in the US to return to Ghana to take over my parent’s school. He had dreams of changing the system. He imagined students groomed to become innovators and entrepreneurs. He soon learned it was impossible to achieve any of those dreams if the school was to remain subject to the rules, restrictions and common standards the government had set. The only solution was to completely abandon the system, which he fears would cause parents to withdraw their children from the school. He is now stuck in the limbo of a catch 22 but continues to fight to win students, teachers and parents over to a new beginning for the education of their children.
In December 2012, I returned to Ghana with my family and had the opportunity to speak to 10th grade students at the school. I gave what I thought was an inspiring speech. I proposed to start an innovation and entrepreneurship club which will employ students to identify and propose solutions to some of the problems facing the country. I promised to provide the capital and resources necessary to support these kids in this new challenge. I ended by asking the kids who were interested to write their names on a piece of paper and email it to me. It’s been more than 18 months since I returned. I have received nothing and I don’t blame them. Their parents have paid a large sum of money because they believed our school would help their kids pass the standardized exam. I was not about to distract them from that goal. What a tragedy.
I have personally wondered what makes Africa so uniquely challenged in its attempts at economic development especially when all the innovations needed to do so are readily available to us. I came to a personal conclusion which admittedly is not scientific but captures what I believe to be the elusive culprit. It is contentment with mediocrity and a lack of curiosity to change the status quo. The problem is not inherent in the nature of Africans but rather the imposition of an educational system that burned out the light of innovation and made us content to live on the spoils of the countries brave enough to venture into the glory of the unknown. When I came to the US, many people would ask what the difference was between the US and Ghana. I responded that in Ghana, I could dream. In America I can do.
In writing this article, I am by no means endorsing the current state of public education in the United States. The problem with the system today is that the US government, aided by self-interested unions, has spent decades and billions of dollars trying to return to a system of education that America abandoned a long time ago; a system which has proven a failure in many parts of the world. Common Core is just the latest iteration of the failed system. Like a wise man once said, oh that I were an angel and could have the wish of my heart; to stand on the mountain top to warn against the path you are choosing to take. As an outsider looking in, I recognize one thing that most Americans lack. Because America has been free for so long, many have no sense of what tyranny looks like and how quickly physical and intellectual freedom can be lost on the path paved with good intentions.
I plead with all you well-intentioned but definitely misguided administrators, teachers and politicians. Raise your heads out of the dust and realize that America is great because America bucked against the status quo. Thinking a standardized and common core curriculum is innovative is like discovering water in the ocean and patting yourself on the back for it. This system is not new. Its greatest success was to create a conforming working class for the industrial revolution. It is not fit for a dynamic 21st century that needs constant innovation and the confidence to create new solutions to the problems that continue to beset and confound the smartest minds in the world.
America is desperate to find a solution to a problem that you solved decades ago. Return to originality. Put teachers and parents in charge of the education of their children. Encourage critical thinking that rejects conformity for the sake of some perceived societal benefit. Teach children to solve problems and not just to regurgitate the solutions of generations past. I have been silent too long and have now seized this opportunity to stand up for what I believe, which ironically is something I have learned from my experience in America.
America, I urge you to learn from the mistakes of those around because, like the plaque in my former bishop’s office read, “you may not live long enough to make all those mistakes yourself.”
–Alma Ohene-Opare, Salt Lake City, UT