All posts by Oak Norton

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), (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:

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)”?  (,_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? (   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? ( )  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? ( “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


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:

To see state legislator rankings and how incumbents have voted in the past, please click here:

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:

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.

Dr. Duke Pesta: From Farce to Fiction

Dr. Duke Pesta has given hundreds of presentations around the country on Common Core. Below is a link to one of his very best. It shows the origin of Common Core and those involved with it talking about exactly how it came about and how we won’t know for a decade if it works. To the contrary, we are already seeing evidence that it does not work as math and reading scores are declining nationwide.

Dr. Pesta’s video will not allow for embedding so you will have to click this link to watch it.

Michigan just took the best action possible. It dumped Common Core and has adopted the pre-Common Core Massachusetts standards which Fordham said are superior to Common Core.

Time to Admit the Obvious: Common Core Has Failed Spectacularly

The lie that Phil Daro (one of the original drafters of the math standards) declared the creation of Common Core was for social justice to level the playing field, but in reality it is only being played out in that our best and brightest are being held back.  Unfortunately the learning gap between the rich and poor has actually widened under Common Core (as predicted). Here’s a report from Stanford on 200 million student’s scores and what they show. Make no mistake, this is 100% on Common Core even though this article doesn’t mention it. Common Core has been around for six years now with full implementation for at least four.

Local education inequities across U.S. revealed in new Stanford data set

It is unfortunate that when I tried to introduce the elementary math parent review committee to the incredible success California was having with low-socioeconomic students and minorities, increasing their proficiency in algebra one by a 6x factor over 10 years, I was shut down by Diana Suddreth at the USOE. They had no intention of letting Utah switch off Common Core. California’s success didn’t meet the agenda of doing this nationwide experiment on our children.

The Anonymous Attack Site “Get Cored”

You know Common Core is in trouble when it’s defenders put up a website to defend it and then make it anonymous, refuse to identify themselves, and their first post contains not a single positive thing about Common Core but an ad hominem attack on me personally. Hilarious. :)

Evidently I’m some tremendous threat to the establishment since the governor lost at convention to Jonathan Johnson and they know Common Core played a big role in it.

This is the site:

Check out the banner to their website.


For several months now I have felt an odd transformation happening in my soul. Now I finally know what it is. I have finally completed my ascendancy to become myth and legend. Mortals beware… ;)

The authors of the site start off by mocking a presentation I made in Draper a couple years ago called “Pulling Back the Wizard’s Curtain.” Thank you for helping distribute my message of truth to a wider audience. I fully encourage everyone to watch it to see the culture war we are in.

The anonymous author(s) go on to say:

Oak is the leader of a rag-tag group of radical extremists called the “Utahns Against Common Core,” a group hell-bent on fighting the Common Core and its devastating influence on helping children learn math and reading.”

Typical attack. Exaggerate and make stuff up to demonize me.

Here’s another straw man argument which isn’t even a shred true. Make up that I called basic math requirements “evil” and show a few basic requirements like multiply and add numbers, and pretend you’ve discredited me. Pathetic. Particularly after how I fought to get the state to raise its math standards which it finally did in 2007.

“Needless to say I was confused by the sentiments in Oak’s video regarding the “evil” behind these basic math requirements. Wasn’t this addition and subtraction we were talking about? How did we get from an educational standard to a conspiracy to indoctrinate our children with dystopian values?”

In fact, the page is so over-the-top, I just have to repost the last half here. I would ask for permission, but the author(s) have chosen to put up their own wizard’s curtain and make the site anonymous. The majestic defenders of Common Core have arrived! (But they’re too embarrassed to identify themselves)  Now lets look at their facts against the anti-Common Core movement…

“In the corresponding blog post to this video, Oak gives us the answer to that exact question.


That’s right folks. It’s not about the standards. It’s about one man’s quest to expose the ancient, unholy agenda of the federal government to destroy God and the family, one multiplication problem at a time.

You may laugh. I know I did. But as I read the comments on his videos and on his website, it became less and less amusing. These people weren’t laughing with me. These people were embracing Oak-soaking up his anti-government rhetoric and lauding him as a crusader. Whole masses of terrified parents were flocking to worship at the altar of Oak and receive his rambling instructions. His message of fear had slowly permeated through an unwitting audience, and without resistance had diffused into the hive consciousness. A following had been born.

This wasn’t the first time I had encountered these individuals, however. I had seen them spew their paranoid gospel on social media, and even spoken to some in person. Each shared common traits such as an inability to reason, and a complete disregard for fact. Each interaction I had with them usually ended in a similar fashion: an angry reaction to the realization that the truth they clung so dearly to was fiction, and that their paradigm was one not fixed in reality. But overall, this seemed like a small and innocuous sector of the general population, and I was just as pleased to discontinue the conversation as they were.

But recently, it was my paradigm that was shattered. Last Saturday at the Republican State Convention, for the first time, I witnessed the true nature and scale of the Cult of Oak. Over 2000 of his disciples filed into the crowded Salt Palace to fulfill their destiny. No longer exiled to fringes, these zealots had covertly infiltrated one of the most crucial political gatherings in the State of Utah and they would not be satisfied until a complete victory had been obtained.

This was no longer the rag-tag band of internet trolls I had largely ignored for so long. These people now had power. And although Oak Norton had seemingly brought his followers to the promised land, they now had found a Savior.


Promising to “get Utah out of the Common CoreJonathon Johnson, this election’s “Libertarian” gubernatorial challenger, pounded his fists on the podium to the deafening adulation of the crowd. Worshipers stood and cheered as he swore to eliminate the evils of higher math and reading standards. As the votes were counted, and the dust settled, it became clear that the madness had reached a tipping point. Fear had won, and what started as one man’s misguided and nonsensical journey to have his way had quickly become a revolution.

And that is why we have decided to fight back. To “pull back the wizard’s curtain” if you will. For too long, this sore has been left to fester in the heart of Utah, and has become infectious; endangering the future of Utah’s schools. To be clear, the education of our children is a non partisan venture; one whose outcomes should not be decided by an elite few who hate public education as much as they do the thought of vaccinating their kids. It’s time to get fringe politics out of our education. It’s time to let math and reading be just that. It’s time to stand up for the Utah Core.”

State Senator Todd Weiler posted this next comment on a Facebook group for GOP state delegates along with a link to the site, making it sound all official and mysterious in an effort to get people to read it. Dang, I hope they do. “Taking on Common Core by seeking to destroy Oak Norton.” Wow, that’s going to overwhelm the public with facts. Coincidentally, Todd shared this anonymous website as breaking news similar to the way he published a document to Facebook from an anonymous source attacking Jonathan Johnson. Some might just call that a pattern of behavior rather than a coincidence.

“Have you seen this? Somebody is taking on the common core conspiracy …” – Todd Weiler

Ha ha ha. Next time try putting bullets in the gun Todd & Co. If that’s the level of attack coming our way, I just have one thing to say.

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Someone posted a comment on the article asking who the author was since they are hiding behind their anonymity. The response reveals a lot about the arrogance of these semi-anonymous attackers.


Wow, and they call *me* off kilter…

Now here’s where it gets interesting. Mary Shumway, wife of former state superintendent Larry Shumway, confronted me at the UACC booth at the GOP convention last week. I address her in the article previous to this one on the blog. In it I show three screenshots of things she posted to a Facebook group. This is the third. Read the bottom half of this post carefully.

Mary Shumway's Post

So Mary is going to work with Tami Pyfer, the governor’s education advisor very closely on some things she can do that others can’t because she is retired.

Who were among the first few followers on the site’s Twitter account? Syd Dickson, acting Superintendent of the State of Utah. Diana Suddreth, director of teaching and learning at USOE. Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh, president of the UEA. Laney Benedict, Utah PTA. Kara Sherman, Utah and National PTA. Several at USOE, and others who equally despise me. A few names on the list surprised me though as I had thought they were above such things.

(Updated 5/4/16: I originally put Syd as one of the very first tweets but it was Diana, which to me suggests likely insider participation. Syd was one of the first five to follow the account on Twitter though and emailed me asking for a retraction that she tweeted this out and stated “I didn’t retweet the article as I wasn’t comfortable with it.” I asked her if she was really uncomfortable with it, why would she follow the account on Twitter when that was the only post on the site? Her reply back was: “I unfollowed GetCored. If by following you feel I agreed with the approach, I am sending the wrong message. I was truly just keeping my eyes on what they (?) have to say. Just wanted you to know. ” Tami Pyfer has also now denied any involvement. Diana Suddreth has also now denied any involvement with the site. Here’s Diana’s tweet.)


Also, Alyson Williams posted this on Facebook which may implicate Ricky Scott at the USOE:

“Here’s what we know about this anonymous blog. The person set up a matching Twitter account just weeks prior. The first real person to tweet about this blog was Utah State Office of education employee Ricky Scott (science coordinator.) There was also another fake Twitter account set up that day “notGovernorHerbert” that also retweeted A post from Ricky Scott as one of its first real person interactions. Pretty unusual coincidence. Most of the first people to follow the “getcored” Twitter feed (exception Senator Todd Weiler) were USOE employees and people in closely related jobs/roles. For example, the first district teacher to follow the feed was a science coordinator (assumed liaison to Ricky) in Alpine. I worked briefly for a social media analytics startup. The good news for privacy is that Twitter protects individual privacy, even that of bullies using fake identities. The bad news for those wishing to remain truly anonymous is that there’s kind of a web built by the connections as a message spreads and it looks like the USOE, or an employee, is at the center of this one. If they’re not creating this slander, they’re actively promoting it…”

So this “anonymous” involvement may go from the Governor’s cabinet, possibly to the State Superintendent, to the USOE, to the UEA, to the PTA… By golly, that looks like a genuine conspiracy!

For the record, I stand by everything I have ever published. Certainly, over 11 years of time and perhaps a thousand posts online, you should be able to find something I’ve posted that you can contradict and try to prove wrong. Some of the things I posted many years ago I might not even believe anymore because I’m always learning and adjusting to new evidence. I feel blessed having a mind capable of change. For example, at one time I wrote that I favored national standards. Then I saw what that picture looked like as Common Core and the agenda behind it was rolled out and I did a 180 on that point. Perhaps next time the opposition will actually attack an issue instead of a person. But then again, that’s hard when the facts are on our side.

Every single thing I post online I use my name on because I don’t ever want to feel like I’m free to hide behind a wall of anonymity and say something inappropriate to another person. There is so much rudeness in online forums, particularly the newspaper websites. Fake names promote bullying and aggression. I think the fact that their site hides behind a “wizard’s curtain,” while criticizing a talk I gave of that title, speaks volumes about the character of the people behind the website. They must feel pretty threatened from the number of parents who have woken up to the agenda playing out before us.

If the authors of the site actually want to engage in debate they should list some facts and have the discussion. Unlike their website, I allow opposing voices to have their say on this site so we can discuss things. And they do post! And we have discussions! So far these anonymous defenders of Common Core have blocked numerous posts that they are embarrassed about. I would be too if I’d published an article like that and claimed I was defending something by attacking someone. I’d probably lose the respect of everyone that follows this blog. The things I post online are factual, sourced, and not mocking of others. If you want to criticize me, there’s certainly plenty of content they can choose from. My most recent post on Governor Herbert’s involvement with Common Core lists several things they could start with.

Since I know how much these people hate when I involve something religious in my posts, I guess I’ll just close by quoting an LDS Apostle most of them are probably familiar with..

Don’t Wear Masks. Act in Accordance with Your Beliefs – by Quentin L. Cook

“It is common today to hide one’s identity when writing hateful, vitriolic, bigoted communications anonymously online.

Any use of the Internet to bully, destroy a reputation, or place a person in a bad light is reprehensible. What we are seeing in society is that when people wear the mask of anonymity, they are more likely to engage in this kind of conduct, which is so destructive of civil discourse. It also violates the basic principles the Savior taught.”

Amen Elder Cook. Amen.

OK, I didn’t know if I would post this or not at first, but I think in light of what’s going on, I will. Consider this bonus material…

The Sunday before the state GOP convention, Jonathan Johnson’s campaign emailed out an endorsement I gave of the Johnson campaign which included several bullet points from the Herbert article on this website. It was totally fact based with links to source documents.

A couple hours later, still on Sunday, Brian Maxwell, a former campaign director for Governor Herbert, sent out this email to state delegates.

Dear Mr. Johnson,

Please stop emailing delegates like myself on Sunday. Additionally, spreading such nonsense on the Sabbath is doubly frustrating. I felt compelled to take some time from my family to respond to this email. That’s something I would rather not do again.

In the future, try using a more reliable source than Oak Norton. Mr. Norton has been on a multi-year batlle to prove that BYU has been promoting a “socialist crusade” in the Alpine School District.

Candidates for Governor really ought to have more sense than providing a platform for such nonsense. Look through Mr. Orton’s blog here in you don’t believe me.

Jonathan, you need to be better than that. I think I speak for the other members of my precinct when I say that we don’t want our governor wearing a tin-foil hat, or giving an enlarged voice for those who do find them fashionable. As delegates, we deserve an better. An apology is in order.

For those interested in the Utah Core curriculum and the historical background, the State School Board has addressed this extensively. See that information here.


Brian Maxwell

State Delegate

Brian received quite a number of emails calling him a hypocrite, self-righteous, etc…, pointing out that nobody forced him to check his email on the Sabbath, or take time away from his family, and how ironic it was that he would send his email to delegates on the Sabbath as well, disrupting their day. :)

I waited a few days and then sent out this reply to delegates.

Dear Delegates,

Sunday you saw what happens when a Herbert supporter can’t defend the governor against the facts and instead tries to discredit the messenger. I encourage you all to read this article and decide for yourself whether it has any merit and see why Brian Maxwell and the Herbert campaign are so upset. The article links to official government documents and shares the statements of government and other officials which don’t quite paint the picture of local control of education that the Governor has been espousing. It’s hard to discredit source documents. :)

You’ve also probably received a letter or two from the Governor on how he “will not stop fighting against the federal government trying to intervene in Utah classrooms.” At least he admits it’s happening now. Unfortunately, the above article shows his record on this doesn’t match his campaign slogans. Here’s a rebuttal to his full letter by Alyson Williams, point by point, if you’re interested.

I also strongly encourage you all to read the links Brian Maxwell sent out about my efforts (with others) to get BYU’s Education Department and Alpine School District to drop a 25 year association with John Goodlad. Thank you Brian for pointing this out to everyone. Everyone should be aware of what’s happening in our schools. You should take great interest in what your children’s teachers teach them.

What Brian didn’t send out was this link which shows WHY we were battling John Goodlad. BYU was lending their good name to this man’s education network, even hosting his conference one year and sending speakers to his conference on a regular basis. What is the Goodlad agenda? He was pushing to get teachers to use school rooms to create activism toward social justice and the gay agenda. You can see a screenshot of his website advertising this on this post which Brian inadvertently failed to send out (because that might have subverted his intention to dismiss me).

FYI, as a result of our efforts, BYU’s Education Department DID DROP the association. Mission accomplished.

If you have never seen what social justice curriculum looks like, check out this elementary reading and writing curriculum video I posted two years ago with Jared Carman. It’s eye opening what some children are being exposed to.


Oak Norton

Responding to Mary Shumway’s Concerns

At last Saturday’s state GOP convention, we saw Jonathan Johnson beat out Governor Herbert, 55-45 among delegates. Not enough to hit the 60% threshold and prevent a primary election, but then again the Governor collected signatures to be on the primary ballot regardless of the outcome of the convention/caucus system. These nearly 4,000 individuals from around the state spent many hours over a course of a few weeks vetting these and other candidates to understand their policies and records. In my estimation, there were three main reasons that delegates chose to #HireJJ.

  1. Common Core. Governor Herbert’s campaign literature claimed he opposed Common Core, which is an outrageous claim disproven on this page.
  2. Governor Herbert made claims about cutting taxes 34 times which amounted to $200 million for taxpayers. What he neglected to mention was the 15 tax increases he signed which increased taxes by $800 million, and two weeks before the convention he refused to take a “no new taxes” pledge during his debate with Jonathan Johnson.
  3. Governor Herbert signed SB 54 into law, effectively seeking to overthrow the caucus system.

Well, plus the governor has 26 years in politics as a career politician. That’s long enough for anyone to lose touch…

While working the UACC booth during the convention, I was approached by a lady who began to challenge some of the things we were stating about the Governor’s involvement in Common Core. She soon identified herself as Mary Shumway, the wife of former state superintendent Larry Shumway, and as she says below, a former USOE employee. When she was done arguing a few points, she said she had my email address and would send me some information to enlighten me about where we are wrong.

A couple days after the convention ended, someone sent me a few screenshots from a Facebook group where Mary had posted these comments.

Mary Shumway's Post Mary Shumway's Post Mary Shumway's Post

I would like to help Mary with her efforts on fact checking as well as offer this advice.

PTA is a great avenue for you to push this message, particularly since Bill Gates gave national PTA a million dollars to push Common Core around the country. Pocket change in exchange for the blind support of their organization. Actually, national PTA’s support for big government solutions isn’t blind, it’s fully complicit.

For Mary’s benefit, I have now checked with Jonathan Johnson and his campaign manager. Neither one of them have ever heard of Larry or Mary Shumway so they are completely baffled how their “machine” is attacking them. I can’t speak for Mary and what she claims to have heard, but it doesn’t appear to be coming from #HireJJ’s campaign.

Mary also said people are saying she can’t be trusted, they lie, and not to talk to them. At the convention Mary seemed to blame me for this, not Jonathan Johnson’s campaign. She said there are people at her church that don’t talk to her.

If any of the readers of this article have been less than kind to someone who believes with all their heart that Common Core is the silver bullet Utah needs, just stop. You can point out facts and disagree, but we don’t have to be mean-spirited about it. Leave that for the the other side who despises that we are growing.

So lets get started on some facts…

On Saturday, Mary appeared highly offended that we had published a flier showing four documents where Governor Herbert signed us onto the federal reforms we call Common Core.  Her main point seemed to be that the documents he signed didn’t actually obligate us, because we didn’t actually receive Race to the Top money. When I asked if we had implemented each point of the agenda, she agreed that we did fully implement Common Core, the assessments, the data collection, redistribution of teachers, turnaround experts, etc…  The point is that we jumped into the Common Core because of the chance that Utah might receive some of the millions of dollars the Race to the Top promised.  After Utah realized it hadn’t won that money, it could have pulled out of Common Core, but it did not.  If you listen to the State School Board Audio minutes, there was literally joking going on that this was really a “race to the money”.  Federal money, not proven education reform, was the motivation from day one, regardless of whether Utah got financially rewarded for joining Common Core.

Touchdown for the feds getting states to spend billions of dollars to implement something they weren’t “obligated” to do. How many normal people would purchase a truck at a car dealership if the salesman said, “hey, if you buy this truck right now, you’ll be entered into a drawing to get it for free!“? That is essentially what Utah did.

Utah did get $9.6 million from the feds to set up the SLDS (Statewide Longitudinal Database System, known as P20W) through the 2009 State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) application . Then, on Utah’s Race to the Top documents, we kept filing “assurances” with the feds that we were fully implementing Common Core (standards, assessments, interoperable database, redistribution of teachers, turnaround experts, etc…). It was a great way for them to keep us advancing the agenda without having received any money. Even our ESEA waiver continued the pattern. How much money has the federal government given Utah through ARRA, and other fiscal stimulus packages? $741 million per Arne Duncan’s announcement in 2010, including money tied to the SFSF where we made assurances to the feds.

Another of Mary’s major points was that Utah had full control over the standards and that we made changes to them when we adopted them. I told her this was false when we adopted Common Core and that we had submitted documents to the federal government acknowledging that we would adopt the standards “as written.” She told me that was absolutely wrong.

For those interested in the facts, here’s what Utah included on page 87 of our application to join the SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortia) which shows the August 10, 2010 State School Board meeting minutes and contains this paragraph. That was the school board meeting when we finalized adoption of Common Core. Looks to me like we adopted the standards “as written.”


Pg. 91 from the same application:


Further, when Governor Herbert was telling everyone we didn’t have Common Core, we had Utah Core, I confirmed with Superintendent Menlove that in fact we did have Common Core for math and ELA.

Mary stated that we made changes to the standards when we adopted them, but that is incorrect. The board was correct above in stating we were adopting them “as written.”

If you click the link to the Menlove article and go down to the comments, you will find one from Randall Lund that states he wanted to compare Common Core and the Utah core standards for ELA and math to know for himself if they were identical. He did a line by line comparison and he stated:

1. The standards in the two documents are exactly word for word identical, right down to the footnotes. Nothing was added, deleted, or modified.

There is more to Randall’s comment there if you wish to read it.

This only makes sense. It was well known nationally that to participate in SBAC a state had to be on the Common Core standards “as written,” otherwise how could a common assessment be created for all the states in the consortium? When we succeeded in getting Utah out of SBAC, I got an email from Ze’ev Wurman, former Bush education advisor, where he stated:

“Congratulations to Utah!!! The first domino to fall from the Common Core bandwagon! Not only will Utah be able to offer extra 15%, but it can shift content across grades. It can even — perish the thought — offer authentic algebra in eighth grade!”

At this point it was possible for Utah to make changes to the standards and recently the state has modified some number of standards, but not when we adopted them.

Too bad Utah doesn’t offer authentic algebra in eighth grade by default. Under our current “integrated method” of Common Core adoption, most kids don’t complete algebra till 9th grade, while California children were having massive success getting students proficient in algebra by 8th grade. So naturally like any government bureaucracy, CA switched to Common Core from something that was working well in an effort to try and get Race to the Top funds…

I would invite Mary and others to watch this excellent presentation by Dr. Duke Pesta. It will help dispel the notion that Common Core was state led. He plays actual video segments of David Coleman talking about the creation of Common Core, how Bill Gates funded it and said we won’t know for a decade if Common Core even works and how aligning the standards and assessments mean curriculum will also align bringing the whole system into convergence. Stop taking my word for it and listen to the creators say it themselves.

Dr. Duke Pesta - Common Core from Farce to Fiction

Oh, also check out this Washington Post article by Lindsey Layton on the Gates/Coleman/Wilhoit collaboration to create Common Core. It’s got lots of facts as well.

Governor Herbert’s Outrageous Claim

Governor Herbert's Outrageous ClaimIt’s an election year and I think that’s about all the explanation we need to understand a recent political flier from Governor Herbert. The Governor has to be a little worried about his political race this year. His challenger strongly opposes Common Core and its associated agenda, and Governor Herbert has been one of the strongest advocates for Common Core in the country. It therefore takes special nerve to put out a large color mailer where the very first claim on it is:

Gov Herbert common core

Lets look at some of Governor Herbert’s past love affair with Common Core.

1) In November 2010, Governor Herbert published an article entitled “Governor’s Education Excellence Commission to Consider Action Items for Strategic Plan.” In this document he stated “Our next step is to put the meat on the bones of our plan and outline the clear steps that will allow us to reach our goal.”  Items three and four of his eight point plan was:

“3) Implementing the Common Core Standards.

4. Expanding computer-adaptive, formative assessments based on the Common Core and implementing college- and career- ready assessments such as the ACT cadre of tests.”

2) In February 2014, Governor Herbert was asked by The Blaze about Common Core and stated:

“Common Core was designed initially by the states,” Herbert told TheBlaze. “It’s really just a common goal. It predates my time. Governors were upset about the progress of education. We’re falling behind. So states simply said, ‘Why don’t we have a common goal on language arts and math, and whoever you are in this country, when it comes to getting a high school diploma, you have some kind of minimal proficiency?’ That aspect of it was good.”

“We certainly don’t want to have the government overreaching and dictating to the states, certainly not to Utah, about our methodology, how we’re going to do it, what our textbooks are, what our testing is going to be,” Herbert said.

“In fact in Utah, we’ve passed a law to say that can’t happen. We have a law that says if any of this federal overreach somehow gets into our system, we are mandated to get out of it. I think our education, our state school board, our education leaders, we’ve always controlled our own curriculum, we’ve always controlled our own textbooks and testing. We’ll continue to do that in Utah.”

Once you became governor, it was YOUR pen that sealed the deal by signing us onto the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium which agreed to fully implement Common Core and other federal education agenda items. YOUR signature Governor that “[certified] that as a Governing State [we are] fully committed to the application and will support its implementation.”


Then in 2011, YOU signed the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund Application which obligated Utah’s support for four major federal reforms. This is the heart of Common Core. It’s never been just about standards although you and the state office of education have tried to make it that. It’s a much wider net.

State Fiscal Stabilization Fund Application

The four reforms you signed us onto in this document include redistribution of teachers, setting up massive database tracking on students, adopting Common Core standards and assessments, and putting “turnaround” experts in schools so in time, every school will be reshaped by “experts” instead of teachers and parents.

Governor Herbert also signed the Race to the Top Application Assurances for both phase 1 and 2, promising to implement the four federal reforms listed above. Phase 2 was just to tweak our application and increase our chances at getting money from this federal lottery. RTTT phase 1 RTTT phase 2

Frankly, I’m surprised anyone believes Common Core was state led anymore. Except for the constant parroting of that lie by the education establishment and those who fail to actually do their homework, Common Core would have died already.

Here’s just a couple of pieces of the pie.  David Coleman was one of the chief architects of Common Core itself. In 2008, he helped convince Bill Gates to bankroll this effort, and then began the major effort to convince the governors that they should sign on. Listen to David say it himself, and how Common Core was created by a few people in a room on a napkin.

Our own Utah State Office of Education didn’t even know who was on the drafting committee of the original standards when they were being drafted back in 2009-10!

The standards weren’t state-led, they were Gates-led. Bill Gates’ Foundation gave tens of millions of dollars to the NGA and CCSSO to get them to come together on common standards and then a secretive committee wrote the standards. Why was Bill interested in this? He’s openly stated it. Big business opportunities exist when you standardize. It was never about standards. It always included assessments, and yes, curriculum would be forthcoming as Bill Gates stated in 2009, otherwise we would never know if the standards would work.

Then this would unleash huge market forces (translation: big players like Pearson, McGraw-Hill, Houghton Mifflin, would demolish and put the small players out of business leaving them to rake in billions of dollars as those with monopoly power always do). Watch Bill state it himself back in 2009. Local control of curriculum? Not so much when the now small group of publishers align their texts to the standards and assessments (and now the college entrance exams, CLEP, AP, and GED).

Finally, even the feds have now admitted they coerced the states into adoption.

3) On April 6, 2014, Governor Herbert appeared on Red Meat Radio and made this statement:

“Now I recognize that there’s a lot of misunderstanding out there, and some of that’s in part because people think we’re involved in the Common Core, and the difference between that and the Utah core, and we think there’s some kind of a federal overreach here, and that’s an exaggeration.”

So in a classic move under pressure, the Governor sought to play a name game. Lets not call it Common Core anymore because that’s a hot potato that the state superintendent already admitted included federal pressure… Lets call it Utah Core and pretend they’re different.

Just a few months earlier in February 2014, I had an email exchange with State Superintendent Martell Menlove. This was his response to this name game. (underlining mine)

Mr. Norton,

The Utah State Board of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards as Utah Core Standards in Math and English/Language Arts.  I do not believe I have said anything contrary to this.  If I have, I apologize.

Thanks for seeking this clarification.

As noted previously, I continue to be willing to meet with you at your convenience to hear your concerns.


Martell Menlove

Utah adopted the national Common Core standards two days after they were made public, exactly as written.

4) Now to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which Governor Herbert crows about how wonderful it is for releasing us from the restrictive No Child Left Behind. This is the bill that Obama’s Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said:

“I’m stunned. at how much better it ended up than either [House or Senate] bill going into conference. I had a Democratic congressman say to me that it’s a miracle — he’s literally never seen anything like it…

…if you look at the substance of what is there . . . embedded in the law are the values that we’ve promoted and proposed forever. The core of our agenda from Day One, that’s all in there – early childhood, high standards [i.e.,Common Core], not turning a blind eye when things are bad. For the first time in our nation’s history, that’s the letter of the law.”

He also said:

“We were intentionally quiet on the bill — they asked us specifically not to praise it — and to let it get through,” he explained. “And so we went into radio silence and then talked about it after the fact…. Our goal was to get this bill passed — intentionally silent on the many, many good aspects of the bill…. We were very strategically quiet on good stuff.”…

So Arne Duncan and the Obama administration got everything they ever wanted, by staying quiet as Republicans played themselves into their hands. Deft Arne. This should actually be of great concern to people since Arne also wants to “phase out the authority of the states,” in dealing with the disadvantaged, and is a big fan of increasing the length of the school day and week.

In fact, after ESSA passed, the Whitehouse released a document stating: “Not only does ESSA cement progress already made, it embraces much of the vision the Administration has outlined for education policy since 2009.”

ESSA’s text was released just a couple days before the vote, naturally. You wouldn’t want people reading something that size before voting on it. After a massive effort by Alyson Williams and a few dozen parents to dissect it in a day, they got that information to our congressional delegation and all four House members and Senator Mike Lee voted against this bill. Yet Governor Herbert said this about ESSA:

“This is a significant step in the right direction in our work to ensure state control of education policy. This bill reinforces that accountability and responsibility for K-12 education rests with the states. It is a clear example of cooperative federalism, which is a core tenant of this association. It emphasizes that states and localities have the freedom to provide students the world-class education they deserve.”

So what is this significant step in the right direction the governor sees?

Click on this link to go to a text comparison of some federal requirements under NCLB and ESSA. They are essentially the same.

We got rid of Annual Yearly Progress under NCLB, but what else happened? The federal secretary of education now has the ability to VETO our state education plans (The [federal] secretary shall ‘‘(vi) have the authority to disapprove a State plan”). Testing actually increases under ESSA.

We also got these very troubling additions in ESSA.

Private Schools

(B) OMBUDSMAN.—To help ensure such equity for such private school children, teachers, and other educational personnel, the State educational agency involved shall designate an ombudsman to monitor and enforce the requirements of this part.’’ (pg. 71)

What? Private schools now get government monitors?!?! Yes.

Family plans

ESSA allows states to use funds to “support programs that reach parents and family members at home [and] in the community.”(pg. 69) The Federal Department of HHS and Education have put together a draft implementation document to show how they recommend this be implemented. Here’s one blogger’s analysis of this plan and below are quotes.

“Implement[s] a vision for family engagement that begins prenatally and continues across settings and throughout a child’s developmental and educational experiences” (Page 5)
See “parenting interventions” (pg. 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16)
ESSA allows states to use funds to “support programs that reach parents and family members at home [and] in the community.” (, Pg. 69)
States shall “become active participants in the development, implementation, and review of school-parent compacts, family engagement in education policies, and school planning and improvement;” (IBID, pg. 218)
Provides grants to turn elementary and secondary schools into “Full-Service Community Schools”  with “Pipeline Services” that provide “a continuum of coordinated supports, services, and opportunities for children from birth through… career attainment”, including family health services. (IBID pg. 222, 223, 229)”

What? Family engagement plans with parenting interventions?!?! Yes!
The state is an active participant in a new school-parent compact?!?! Yes!
PRENATAL development tracking through career attainment?!?!?! Yes!
Reducing parents from primarily responsible for their children’s education to a stakeholder in partnership with the state and educators?!?!?!?! Yes!

Governor, which part of this is that “significant step in the right direction” you mentioned above?

Oh thank you, thank you, thank you, Governor Herbert, Senator Hatch, and the other politicians asleep at the wheel who don’t read bills before you pass or evangelize them. Wait… or DID you actually read it??? Maybe you have so fully embraced federal education policies that you value these new interventions???

5) I can’t leave this article without correcting something else. As I’ve been at some of the meet the candidate events, the Governor and his crew are still touting how the state attorney general issued a report on Common Core that says implementation didn’t cede state authority. For a more complete analysis of that report, read Christel Swasey’s write up here.

Three things came out of this report which the Governor and staff fail to ever bring up. The report states that:

  1. Utah’s math and ELA core, were in fact Common Core, something the Governor kept denying. (see point 3 above)
  2. The US Dept. of Education (by imposing waiver conditions and pushing states to adopt federally approved standards) “has infringed upon local and state authority over public education” and that Utah and other states “consented to this infringement through federal coercion.” (emphasis mine)
  3. The report correctly said that “Utah has the legal ability to repeal” Common Core.

Mr. Governor, may I bring your attention to point 2 again?

As for point 3, the governor is exactly right that we didn’t cede state authority. We just don’t exercise the necessary leadership to get us out of this mess because Governor Herbert is the current president of the National Governor’s Association (NGA) which created Common Core with Bill Gate’s money and withdrawing could prove embarrassing and start a bigger chain reaction among states. Governor, you also promised that math and ELA would be the only Common Core subjects Utah would adopt, but now we’ve adopted the Common Core science standards as well.

I encourage you all to read Christel’s full write-up because there are several things the report got wrong. Also realize that it was the Governor’s office that chose the questions the Attorney General was to answer. There are a host of other questions we wanted to have addressed that weren’t.

6) I just received Governor Herbert’s “Open Letter” on Common Core so I have to add a comment about one of the Governor’s claims here. He says:

“I signed into law SB 287 – a bill that makes it illegal for the federal government to have any control.”

No it doesn’t. No law in our state makes it “illegal” for the federal government to have “any control.” They get all the control we cede to them, and we most certainly have. They dictate flexibility requirements, and as noted above there are numerous controls they possess including veto power over our education plans.

Governor Herbert, at Senator Dayton’s request, I drafted that bill (2012 SB 287) you’re referring to. It was to be our *get out of jail free card,* and it’s largely worthless as you signed it. It doesn’t do what you’re suggesting. Oh it sort of did when I drafted it, where I listed off a bunch of triggers that said if any of these things happen, Utah “shall exit” that federal agreement. Unfortunately by the time it reached your pen, it said, “may exit.” Toothless and spineless thanks to interference from some who were nervous we might actually stand up to the federal government. If it did what you actually suggest, why haven’t you utilized it and showed the feds you mean business since some of those triggers have been pulled?

7) Someone just reminded me about this one. In 2013, 65.5% of state delegates voted for a resolution calling on the Governor, legislature, and state board to get us out of the Common Core agenda. The Governor has just ignored this completely.

In conclusion, any talk of the Common Core standards being “just standards” or “state-led” is an abominable lie. These standards were masterminded by a small secretive group with an agenda. For more information on that agenda, Please read the following articles.

This article constitutes an attempt to set the record straight. I agree with many of the things the Governor has done the past several years and applaud his efforts in blocking funding to Planned Parenthood, signing the parental rights and opt-out bill that Senator Osmond ran, and many other things. This is not meant to be a personal attack on the Governor himself, but he invites a rebuttal when he infers certain things in his advertising and openly states partial facts. His campaign statements do not reflect a reality of events that are well known nationwide, and even in his own Common Core history.

For what it’s worth I have had a number of conversations with Jonathan Johnson, currently running for Governor against Gary Herbert. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to have a real conversation about education issues with Jonathan, send him further information, and have him actually read it and get back to me and others with specific thoughts on what we sent him. We might not always agree 100% of the time, but he’s actually put in the time and effort to understand a different point of view. In the past we have tried to discuss issues with Governor Herbert but his reply was always, “talk to my education advisor,” (who also happens to support Common Core in a huge way).  As a result of my experience and communications with Jonathan Johnson, I personally endorse him in his bid to become governor. Here are some other important reasons why I support hiring JJ.