Alisa Ellis sent this great letter to her House Representative and gave permission to post it here.
My state school board rep is a really nice lady but she doesn’t feel accountable to the people. I’ve been working on these education issues for 3 years and in that time she’s emailed me back a handful of times but has NEVER met with me. I’ve asked her to lunch. We’ve invited her to come to meetings in Heber but she’s declined all invitations or else something has come up. This is in large part because of the way the state board is elected. THEY DO NOT FEEL ACCOUNTABLE TO THE PEOPLE.
This is exhausting. When I first started pushing back against the centralization of powers over education, I tried going to my local board and superintendent. They told me this was out of their hands and they had to do what the state told them.
Next I tried the state board. I went up to give a two minute speech and was quickly pulled into a little room where staff members tried to “teach me” about how wrong I was in my analysis. They told me my local school board was implementing this wrong and that I needed to go back to the local board and let them know.
Well, I’d been there and done that so I met the Governor at a candidate night and he agreed to sit down and discuss my concerns. He told me that his office has nothing to do with this and that I needed to go talk to someone else.
I only had one option left — the legislature. The legislature has been the most responsive by far of any other government body but they too throw up their hands and tell me there is nothing they can do and send me on my way. They send me back to the school board. When I go back to the school board…… THEY BLAME THE LEGISLATORS!!
While each branch of government fights about who is in charge it is us, the people, that are left without a voice. This bill isn’t about putting politics in education. It’s about giving the people back their voice and making the state board feel accountable to the people not to the “educrats”. Please help – Say yes to HB228
Another entry in the Essay Contest, this one by Lindsey Ohlin.
by Lindsey Ohlin
There are hundreds of reasons why I oppose the Common Core initiative, but all of them boil down to my support of the United States Constitution and the Natural Rights of Men. Not only is Common Core unconstitutional, but it also goes against my God-given rights as a parent to raise, guide, and educate my own children in the way I see fit.
The 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution established that the power to oversee and control education belonged to the states. Those powers which are not explicitly granted to the Federal Government by the Constitution are reserved to the States and the people. Education is NOT listed as a power granted to the Federal Government, and therefore it is the right of the states and the people to control the educational system at a local level. Not only does the Constitution NOT authorize the federal government to control our education system, but even the law that organized the U.S. Department of Education states that they are not authorized to “exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system […], or over the selection or content of library resources, textbooks, or other instructional materials by any educational institution or school system […].” (Department of Education Organization Act Section 103-b). This information alone is enough to tell me that Common Core overstretches the rights of the federal government and encroaches on our rights as Utahns.
Not only is Common Core unconstitutional and in violation of federal law, but it is also in violation of my beliefs in the Natural Law and the laws of God. As a firm believer in God and a belief that we are all children of our God, I know that I have been entrusted with a sacred stewardship over my children. I am to raise up my children in righteousness and look out for their best interest. In Proverbs, we are commanded as parents to “[t]rain up a child in the way he should go […]”; yet, somehow I missed the part where it commanded the government to take on that responsibility. It is my responsibility as the parent to stand guard over my children and ensure that the things they are being taught are in line with truth and decency. When the control of curriculum is taken away from the local school districts it is also taken away from the parents who have a say in who controls their school districts.
So basically, although I could go on and on about why I oppose the common core agenda, the two all-encompassing components of my reasoning boils down to the fact that without question it is unconstitutional and hinders my responsibility as a parent, entrusted to me by God, to raise and guide my child through this scary world we live in.
I received this email from math teacher and football coach Malin Williams who gave permission to post it with his name.
My name is Malin Williams. I teach math at Enterprise High School in the Washington County School District. This letter is being typed at home on my own computer and on my own time. I did not participate in the essay contest, but have some thoughts that may be useful. If so, use them. These thoughts are my own and in no way am I attempting to speak for any official entity, organization, or individual besides myself.
It is difficult to express myself concerning the common core. There is much “official support” for it. I fear that teachers who oppose the common core may somehow be punished, but my perception is that most teachers do not really want the common core. We want to be allowed to use our professional judgement and serve our students the best way we know how. We welcome professional development which we can use to increase our effectiveness. We chafe at being told “you must” by people who are not in our classrooms and communities.
I have spent a significant amount of time studying the pros and cons of the common core. Many of the math standards are very good. Some are not. (Does a kindergarten student really need to know what a hexagon is…Does he really need to be able to distinguish between whether a shape is two dimensional or three dimensional? Will this cause confusion and frustration unnecessarily?) I am very concerned about Utah losing our ability to control our own educational standards and programs. I am concerned about struggling students being forced from one failing experience to the next. I am equally concerned about our best students being slowed down. I would very much like my own children to be in a school that did not have to worry about federal controls, education standards with inflexible copyrights held by massive cooperatives, data mining, over-emphasizing of coercive testing and compliance, excessive corporate controls, etc.
We are moving ever farther from the small, locally controlled schools that produced our parents, grandparents and great grandparents. Family friendly schools and policies seem to be decreasing. The schools and social forces that produced the greatest nation in the world are disappearing. Will the new experiment work? The farther we get from what made us great, the farther we seem to fall. Hope and individual initiative seem to be decreasing. Can they be successfully replaced by rigid standards and increased bureaucracy? Must our sons and daughters be placed under more distant and more regimented controls? Is federal money so necessary and dear to us? Is parental input so unimportant?
My colleagues can be trusted. We want to feel trusted and empowered. We need to return local control and empowerment to Utah students, parents, and teachers by rejecting the common core. We can do better.
Head Football Coach
Level 4 Math Teacher
Enterprise High School
This essay contest entry by Karen Lee discusses data privacy issues.
I’m finding that people are indifferent to the problem of data privacy, figuring that they think “the Feds” have all of our information already. They feel helpless and afraid to go against “authority” and traditional educational procedures. This is exactly what “the Feds” want people to think. As people opt out of Common Core testing, Utah should focus more on who AIR is and who is controlling the content of the test items as well as having control of the Standards, the “living work” that will evolve and change over time by those in charge, “the Feds”. What has the federal government done that hasn’t turned into huge bureaucracy and a burden to the people, not to mention indoctrinating or pushing a particular agenda down our throats?
Computer Adaptive Testing WILL drive the curriculum! You should have heard Alpine School District data guy talk about how wonderful the SAGE test is going to be, especially with the interim testing (testing 3 times a year). You are kidding yourself if you don’t think the teachers will change and do whatever they can to get their students to perform well on these tests. It will reflect their ability to teach, thus changing curriculum to conform.
I wish we could be more forthright about it all and compare this process of National takeover of education to Germany and the Communists burning books and controlling what information the people learn or hear.
Have you read the book “Exiled?” It is about John Lothrop back in the early 1600′s dealing with the Church of England and the evil Bishop Laud. They threatened, tortured, mutilated, and killed those who didn’t do exactly as the Church of England dictated. There was no freedom of conscience. People were thrown into horrible prisons if they associated with Separatists or Independents, those who didn’t support the Church of England but instead wanted to study prophecies and follow their conscience relating to Christ.
Have you read it? Probably not. You can’t find this book in the libraries or even online. It is a true story about freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, fighting and sacrificing for what you believe in.
I could go on and on, but as a final thought, do you know what your children are being “forced” to read in their classes at school?
This fight against Common Core is a fight for liberty and freedom to choose. It is worth the fight and we need to help people understand that they CAN do something different than what is being asked of them by the schools. These tests are not critical to a student’s base of knowledge. They are simply a way to control the message and gain their numbers and data desired. Good teachers already know if their students are mastering the concepts taught.
by Karen Lee
Saturday, March 1st, Autumn Cook from the Left/Right Alliance was a guest on Weston Clark’s radio show, The Progress Report, which airs on K-Talk 630 am. Immediately after her interview, a teacher from Granite school district who “supports the idea of a common core” shared these interesting thoughts on the amount of testing students are getting now. In fact, he mentioned that it’s so much, teachers no longer have time to do their own tests because there is so much test prep for the Common Core assessments.
Nobody on this site is shocked by this. We’ve see this coming from 2,100 miles away. The Governor, State Board members, and USOE keep denying it because they were deceived and have become defensive over time. Now they are happy in their delusions of reality. The longer we stay on the Common Core agenda (standards, computer adaptive assessments, data collection, etc…), the more beholden Utah will be to comply with federal mandates and curriculum interference. We need Utah off this whole agenda and back on its own high quality state standards. The feds are tightening the noose.
From the CATO institute: http://www.cato.org/blog/budget-proposal-its-not-just-about-core-coercion-anymore
The big story in the proposal is – or, at least, should be – that the president almost certainly wants to make the Core permanent by attaching annual federal funding to its use, and to performance on related tests. Just as the administration called for in its 2010 NCLB reauthorization proposal, POTUS wants to employ more than a one-time program, or temporary waivers, to impose “college and career-ready standards,” which–thanks to RTTT and waivers–is essentially synonymous with Common Core. In fact, President Obama proposes changing Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – of which NCLB is just the most recent reauthorization – to a program called “College- and Career-Ready Students,” with an annual appropriation of over $14 billion.
This was utterly predictable. Core opponents, who are so often smeared as conspiracy mongers, know full well both what the President has proposed in the past, and how government accumulates power over time. RTTT was the foot in the door, and once most states were using the same standards and tests, there was little question what Washington would eventually say: “Since everyone’s using the same tests and standards anyway, might as well make federal policy based on that.”
Under Common Core’s Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT), you will never know what indoctrination your children are being exposed to and neither will your children’s teachers. This video explains exactly why you MUST opt your child out of all computer adaptive tests or start homeschooling.
Hypothetically, what if you’re a teacher who holds a view that those above you don’t like? Maybe you’ve stirred the pot one too many times. What if someone has the power to dial up the difficulty on your students’ exam and make you look bad? What if you’re a student who answers a little too conservatively? Will you have something tied into your record that identifies you as a potential troublemaker in the future?
Superintendent Menlove has said in a House Education Committee meeting that all students may opt out of these tests. Go to this link, click HB 81′s audio under the player, and forward to the 29 minute mark and start listening.
In Utah, we have the SAGE assessments, administered by AIR. AIR does not specialize in academic testing. They are a behavioral testing company. If you are new to this issue, here are a few past articles to bring you up to speed.
Do you think we’re safe just because we live in “family friendly” Utah? Think again. Here’s a letter I got from a parent just a few days ago.
I am passing this on to you because I believe you can reach more people than I can. This morning my son was to take his 8th Grade writing assessment. Knowing that this would most likely be an assignment where he was asked to write about his opinion on something, I went down to the school and talked to the English teacher. She told me that in the past, the topics had been things like whether or not students should be allowed to wear hats at school or what their opinion was on school uniforms. Another asked an opinion about using paper or plastic shopping bags. However, she was not allowed to see the actual prompt before or after the assessment in past years or this year. She was nice, but unconcerned. After visiting a while, she was willing to let me be in the room and look over my son’s shoulder as the prompt appeared after log in. One look and I let her know that my son would not be participating in the assessment. She was polite and said that was fine. While not revealing the actual topic of the assessment, I will share that it very clearly asked for an opinion regarding the role of parents vs. the role of government and other organizations on a topic that I would say should most definitely fall under the parental realm. Heads up to parents of all 8th graders in the state of Utah!
(PhD in Instructional Psychology & Technology with emphasis in Educational Assessment)”
When I inquired further, this parent indicated this was a state-wide 8th grade writing assessment. It was the only question on this assessment. Her son informed her that another boy in his class didn’t participate for the same reason. He stepped out and called his mom to tell her what the prompt was and she told him not to participate.
I pressed this parent further to know the specific question and she responded:
“Should access to media be limited by parents, by the government, or by another organization?”
This is an opinion question given to 13-14 year olds. Most of them aren’t going to know of other organizations that they could write about as a viable option on a writing assignment, so the real choices for this writing assessment are parents or government putting restrictions on their media. This is Utah, and I’d like to believe that most children would write that it’s better for parents to put the restrictions on them, but there’s probably a lot of young teens who resent the restrictions parents put on them and probably a good number are going to write and speculate about how the government should be in charge of such matters. In reality, the only role the government has is ensuring the first amendment is protected.
I recommend you immediately opt your children out of all CAT’s using our opt-out form. Talk with your child about inappropriate questions that may minimize the role of parents. Look up your school district to see if it is opt-out friendly. So far only Nebo school district has displayed animosity toward families in rejecting the opt-out form. Alpine even went so far as to publish their own simple opt-out form for parents to use. A few charter schools have indicated they will also force children to take the test because the school is graded based on this test and charters live and die by enrollments. We need the state to change the way they grade schools so it does not include CAT’s. Look at our opt-0ut form though and you’ll realize you have a fundamental liberty interest in the education of your children so you hold the upper hand. Opt-out.
Last fall, the state allowed 15 parents to review 10,000 test questions. In one week. Hundreds of questions were flagged for concerns. The vast majority of those concerns were ignored. Parents really have no clue what their children are going to see on these tests. Only 15 people caught a very fast glimpse of them and none of them were trained psychologists looking for behavioral indicators.
I strongly encourage you to opt your child out of CAT’s. If you are in a school that requires them, expose your child to someone with a cold a few days prior to the tests. :)
Here is a chart and explanation by one of the 15 parent reviewers.
“All items flagged by the parent review panel, which were not removed will be presented to the parent review panel next summer for further review.”
Listed below is the numeric representation of the process:
|Flagged||Removed||Changed||Review after Field Test|
|English Language Arts||
Addendum by Alpine School District Board Member Wendy Hart
I believe that if you opt out, unless your school has a policy otherwise, it shouldn’t matter whether your kid is there or not on the day of the test.
The short answer is that ‘yes’, your student will be counted in the school and teacher grades as non-proficient. However, this is set by the State Board, and they have said if it affects the school and teacher grades because too many parents opt out, they would change it. It was news to me that it would be on the child’s permanent record, but I confirmed this evening that they are putting it in the computer system in ASD as such, again because of the State Board’s grading system. So, this is new (since my kids have no record of having tested the last two years and they were opted out, formally, both years). It goes to a bullying mentality from the State Board: parents have the right to opt out, but we’ll make it very, very difficult for them. (They can’t legally penalize the student for the parents’ choice, but they can make it seem very, very bad.)
If the parents and teachers were to push back, the State Board would change their policy. (They have already said they would, they just need more incentive from the people to do it prior to the tests.) It is unfair to punish the teachers for kids who don’t take the test. Please write to all the state board members and ask them to change their grading system. If enough people do this (and it might only take a hundred or so), and copy in the legislators, it will get changed. They are hoping to get enough parents to be scared that they won’t do it. After they have this system in place for a year or two, then they will change it to where the student’s grade is dependent on the test, as well.
I’m so sorry, and I completely understand that pressure. I am doing this with my kids because the whole thing enforces what the State Board wants at the expense of local schools and local parents. The only way to change it is for parents to reassert their natural rights. I wish teachers would push back, as well. It is most unfair to them. It wouldn’t take much for a large group of teachers and/or the UEA to stand for fairness in grading. There is no point to counting an opted out student as non-proficient other than to induce teachers to guilt parents into having their kids tested.
Let me know if I can help with anything.
Another essay contest entry, by Alyson Williams
The current approach to education reform in the U.S. reminds me of a well-known scene in Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer. Tom needs to whitewash an entire fence before he can get on with what he’d really like to be doing. Not able to get the job done on his own he comes up with a clever plan and one by one gets the neighborhood boys to take over his work by making the job look really appealing, by convincing them it is something that want to do of their own accord, and by the flattery that only certain people are capable of doing such an important job. After all, Aunt Polly was “awful particular” and didn’t trust Jim, or Sid with the task.
Sound familiar? Federal and private education reformers have been trying to push through policies to centralize power over education for decades but could not force the sovereign states to comply. Who knew all they had to do was convince a few of the “neighborhood boys” that they would make great reformers and call the plan “state-led.”
I find in the dialog between Tom and his first dupe an especially uncanny metaphor for the adoption process of Common Core and the other Stimulus-driven education reforms.
Tom expresses doubt that his friend Ben can be trusted with such the important task at hand saying, “If you was to tackle this fence and anything was to happen to it …”
Ben assures Tom that he’ll be careful and deciding he’d better give something to Tom in trade he offers, “Say – I’ll give you the core of my apple.”And then as he sees Tom hesitate, he adds, “I’ll give you ALL of it.”
So Utah gave away our Core, but who wants just the core of an apple? Do we really think they’ll be satisfied with that?
The story continues saying, “Tom gave up the brush with reluctance in his face, but alacrity in his heart… the retired artist sat on a barrel in the shade close by, dangled his legs, munched his apple, and planned the slaughter of more innocents. There was no lack of material; boys happened along every little while; they came to jeer, but remained to whitewash.”
The narrator says of Tom, “He had a nice, good, idle time all the while – plenty of company – and the fence had three coats of whitewash on it! If he hadn’t run out of whitewash he would have bankrupted every boy in the village.”
The vignette ends with the observation that Tom “had discovered a great law of human action… that Work consists of whatever a body is OBLIGED to do” but that people would happily work at doing something if it was voluntary.
How ironic that this was so similar to the process that led to the adoption of the English Language Arts standards that sacrifice the time once spent feasting on classic stories in favor of the informational-texts of the 21st-century, global workforce. Stories that, like this one, would serve as a cautionary tale to Governors, Superintendents or others racing to support common education standards for our nation when they would likely never had been such enthusiastic participants if the objective had been assigned or decreed. When deftly positioned as a voluntary “state-led” initiative, however, and presented along with the ego-stroking idea of themselves as the only leaders who could be entrusted with such an important task, the Common Core State Standards Initiative swept Governors and Superintendents into bids of what they each might offer (in the form of Race to the Top grant applications and often the entirety of the cost of such commitments when the grant was not awarded) for the honor of participating.
One key reformer, Education Secretary Arne Duncan later bragged to an international audience at UNESCO of the early success of this strategy saying, “… today, 37 states and the District of Columbia have already chosen to adopt the new state-crafted Common Core standards in math and English. Not studying it, not thinking about it, not issuing a white paper—they have actually done it.”
As a result, the fence standing between reformers who would centralize key aspects of public education and their goal of getting on to more mischief with our local schools was whitewashed in record time. The dupes gave up the whole apple and more, and just like Aunt Polly, many an unsuspecting citizen accepted the trickery as a praiseworthy achievement.
In the engaging tale of an American boy, Twain gives all who would read a great insight into what motivates people (think of it as leadership training 101) but also alerts would-be dupes against such schemes as the one currently enabling a concentration of power over the education of the rising generation.
In this example we see the power of a good story to develop both literacy and wisdom regardless of the century or the economy in which the reader lives. It might lead one wonder if we really want students to spend more time dissecting excerpts of everyday informational text (characterized as “critical thinking”) or whether we all would be better off with a little more Tom Sawyer or other classic works that have outlived educational and political fads by masterfully capturing human interactions in language that speaks to our hearts and souls, entices us to learn more, and gifts us timeless ideas and ideals to think critically about.
Teacher Mercedes Schneider spoke on a panel last week at the Network for Public Education Conference. She is from Louisiana and holds a PhD in applied statistics and research methods. Listen to her brief speech as she shreds Common Core. Then read her excellent article on how Gates is funding the Department of Education to hold labor-management conferences to help with implementation of Common Core.
Just as Count My Vote really means Dilute My Voice and protect incumbents, Common Core has been renamed and rebranded in various states. For example, in Utah, state officials quit calling it Common Core and renamed it the Utah Core so folks at the state office can tell people we aren’t on Common Core, we have the Utah core. Well people are catching on and they’re going to need some new names pretty soon. So lets help them out. Please come up with your best and most accurate name for Common Core and share it in the comments.