All posts by Oak Norton

School Board Member Recommends Opting Out of SAGE

Brian Halladay, a school board member in Alpine School District and one of the only people in the state to really dig into AIR and their SAGE test, shared the following with me and gave permission to post it.

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The SAGE Test is an unreliable, unverified test that our children from 3rd-11th grade are taking not just once, but up to three times a year. These tests aren’t scored by their teachers, but rather by the American Institutes for Research (AIR). This company is the one of the world’s largest social and behavioral research organizations. Your child’s proficiency is being scored by a bunch of behavioral researchers. No teacher is scoring, or has the ability to score, an individual child’s SAGE test.

Your child is taking a test for 8 hours (4 hours for math and 4 hours for English) that their teacher can’t see the questions to. This test is designed to have your child fail. Gone are the days when a student could feel a sense of achievement for getting 100% on a test. This test is touted to be “rigorous.” If your child gets a correct answer the test will continue to ask harder and harder questions until they get it wrong (who knows if what is tested was actually taught in the classroom?) Put simply this means your child likely will come home grumpy, anxious, or depressed after they take this test. With over 50% non-proficiency this will affect more than half the students that take it.

The teacher is almost as much of a test victim as the child. Having no idea of the test questions, they are starting to be evaluated on a test they can’t see. I believe we’re starting to see this leading to more experienced teachers leaving, and an increase in teachers with little to no experience not knowing the pre-SAGE environment.

Points to consider:

  1. When did we allow testing to become more important than education?
  1. Your child’s data is subject to being shared with people and organizations without your consent. There is nothing that prohibits AIR or any its multiple organizations from accessing your child’s data. As long as AIR doesn’t make a profit from the data without the USOE’s consent, they can use it for anything they want.
  1. This test has no contractual provisions that prevent it from collecting BEHAVIORAL data. AIR has a long history of collecting behavioral data, and seeing they’re a behavioral research organization, don’t you think they will? (Just look up Project Talent).

Last year, two fellow board members and I wrote a letter to our State Superintendent asking him to address our concerns, of which we’ve had no response.

If your parental instinct is kicking in, I would ask that you at least consider opting your child out of taking this test. State law allows any parent to opt their child out. Even if you don’t decide to opt out, talk with your teacher, know when your child is taking this test, and make sure your decision is in the their best interest.

What’s Competency Based Education?

This week a large group of Utah legislators will be attending a conference at Southern Utah University (click link for agenda to attend events) on something called competency-based education (CBE). The conference was set up by Senator Howard Stephenson, a legislator I’ve worked with for about 10 years on education issues. This is a topic where I think there are benefits to the concept, but the way it’s being introduced troubles me and unless a number of significant issues are dealt with, I think Utah should steer clear of CBE. I will explain why and share two letters I’ve received on the subject.

First, the idea behind CBE isn’t necessarily a bad idea. At it’s core it espouses the notion that when a student has learned a set of skills, demonstrated by assessment mastery, they can move on to the next level of learning. This is a natural progression and common sense. This would also mean that homeschoolers returning to school could potentially just test out of classes and get credit for them (if they wanted to earn the credit) rather than sit through a class logging time being bored with something they already know. It would also mean parents would probably see exactly where their students were at and be able to know where they need help in a given area.  This has the potential to eliminate the current grading system and let mastery of a subject be the determining factor of advancement at each student’s pace. On-demand assessments could let a student who has prepared, take a test and move on. An article outlining the benefits of CBE can be found at this next link. It is written by someone who favors Common Core.

http://educationnext.org/could-competency-based-learning-save-the-common-core/

If CBE could be done in a context of true local control of education, I would have few worries about it and would support it for the reasons above. However, some of the major players in the move toward CBE completely oppose local control of education and actively state it should be done away with. They are central planners who desire to move us toward a national education system where children are tracked from birth into school and the workforce, with specific training along the way to meet national economic goals.

Alyson Williams said it well on a Facebook thread when she wrote:

“Competency based education at the true meaning of words means if someone can prove competency in something, say Algebra, they shouldn’t have to take a class in Algebra, but should be able to move on. Competency Based Education (Outcome Based Education, Standards Based Education, School to Work, Goals 2000, NCLB, Common Core, Career and College Ready) as a reform movement is more central planning of the workforce/society through education (enforced by assessment/data profile/certification monopolies) where an individual must prove certain “competencies” in order to fit well in the workforce/society.”

When you examine who Senator Stephenson has invited to the conference, there are several people who are directly tied into these national goals. The list includes Marc Tucker, a proponent of CBE, and I believe someone Utahns should not be listening to or giving voice to. In 1992 Tucker wrote Hillary Clinton a now infamous letter congratulating her on Bill’s election victory and seeking to have her work to implement a national education system that would track children from birth to death and implement a school to work training program. In 1998, Rep. Bob Schaffer fought and succeeded in having this letter entered into the Congressional Record because it was viewed as dangerous to America’s education system.

Yong Zhao, one who favors personalizing education to meet the strengths and passions of students and opposes personalized digital learning driven by big data, and is very concerned with Marc Tucker’s view of education. He points out here that Tucker’s view of national testing is actually a lot higher than we already have, and Tucker admits to this charge.

http://zhaolearning.com/2014/10/07/time-to-give-up-a-response-to-marc-tuckers-proposal-for-fixing-our-national-accountability-system/

Diane Ravitch agrees.

http://dianeravitch.net/2014/09/21/yong-zhao-why-marc-tuckeris-wrong-the-case-against-high-stakes-testing/

Here are some of my concerns with CBE, which not only outnumber the pros I can find, but in my view, they represent an exponentially more troubling scenario.

  • Who is setting the competency/mastery levels?
  • Who is developing the assessments?
  • Who is grading them? A person? A computer?
  • This heavily relies on data collection from students.
  • What else is counted in “competency?” Values, attitudes, and beliefs repeatedly get mentioned.
  • Competency doesn’t necessarily equal literacy in the subject
  • You can’t opt out of CBE assessments like you can with SAGE so if they are geared toward one political viewpoint or one way of thinking your child can’t avoid being influenced or graded in accordance with someone else’s agenda.
  • Further diminishes local control by putting the feds and states in charge of academics. This is also specifically part of Marc Tucker’s goal as you’ll see below.
  • Epitomizes workforce training instead of education by its focus on skills, dispositions, and attitudes, over literacy.
  • CBE makes a child “human capital” for the state instead of educating a child to the best of their ability in accordance with agency and freedom principles.
  • Where does art & music fit into a CBE world?

Here’s a good article expounding some of these things.

http://www.girardatlarge.com/2015/03/whats-wrong-with-hb323-and-why-its-dangerous-for-nh-parents/

The other day I received two excellent letters from Christel Swasey and JaKell Sullivan to legislators. I am including them below to help further explain why I believe CBE can only exist in a locally controlled education setting, and even then it’s not what I’d call an ideal education plan. We cannot allow national interests to destroy local control of education. The end result will be the cradle-to-grave, school-to-work training program that will destroy the creative freedom loving spirit that made this nation great.

JaKell Sullivan’s letter

http://www.returntoparentalrights.com/Blog.html?entry=competency-based-education-fulfilling-the

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Re: Competency-Based Education – Fulfilling the Fundamental Transformation of America By Changing Student’s Core Values

Dear Utah Legislators, State Office of Education Leaders and State Board members,

As many of you prepare to attend the education conference at Southern Utah University (SUU) next week to learn about national competency-based education reforms, I ask you to consider that federal competency-based education reforms have the potential to forever change America’s political structure. This is a difficult concept, but one need only look at the effects of ObamaCare to see how a major policy shift can dismantle local governance. The Obama administration is selling competency-based education reforms and personalized learning as a way to achieve college “affordability.” This is a deception, just as “affordability” was the deception to get ObamaCare implemented.

Competency-based education in the context of locally controlled standards, assessments and accountability is a wonderful thing in certain subjects and for certain objectives. But, under an education system that has been restructured—by President Obama’s Race To The Top reforms—big-data and federalized assessment systems now have the opportunity to use competency-based credentialing (known as digital badging) of teachers and students to move education control out of the hands of our local leaders. The Obama administration funded open coding specs for America’s learning and computer-adaptive assessment platforms in order to set the stage for competency-based education—a global education system managed by labor boards using direct assessments.” This is the antithesis of why our country was founded.

The term “competency-based ed” is deceptive because competency in individual skills sounds appealing, and even personalized for every individual. But, as authority for personalization moves away from local leaders, global values can be inserted into learning and testing in ways that are more about conditioning than learning. This will not happen overnight (just like a single-payer healthcare system won’t happen overnight), but it will happen. Colleges are already taking the federal bait. The State School Board should consider what they really control anymore.

The Obama administration funded the creation of the Gordon Commission in 2011 to help state policy makers move states away from high-stakes assessment (at least in public perception) and toward the use of stealth, formative assessments in learning platforms as the means to implement competency-based education reforms. Utah legislators passed a resolution last year to facilitate this. The Commission issued a report in 2013 and stated, “The Common Core Standards, and the rethinking of assessments that they are fostering, provide an opportunity to challenge [the] deeply held belief in local control.”

The Gates Foundation’s KnowledgeWorks published two policy briefs in 2013 (see: here and here) that detail how Obama’s Race To The Top’s end-goal was to bring states’ pre K-12, higher ed and workforce systems under the competency-based umbrella. Last year, I had the pleasure of meeting a father who works as an engineer for Microsoft. He said that when his 3rd-grade daughter talked about the computer adaptive assessment she took at school, the hairs on the back of his neck stood up because he understood that these types of assessments are powerful tools that can assess attitudes, values and beliefs—and change a child’s worldview.

You will be hearing from Marc Tucker at the SUU conference, along with reformers from Jeb Bush’s camp and Google—all folks who are working to implement Obama’s Race To The Top objectives. Marc Tucker’s writings are widely published and his purposes are well-known. It is critical that Utah legislators understand his objectives. He believes that education should be controlled by workforce labor boards—the antithesis of rugged individualism, autonomy and the freedom to become whatever one chooses. He proposed his reforms to Hillary Clinton in 1992 in a letter stating that, with Bill in office, they could “remold the entire American system” into “a seamless web that literally extends from cradle to grave and is the same system for everyone,” coordinated by “a system of labor market boards at the local, state and federal levels” where curriculum and “job matching” will be handled by counselors “accessing the integrated computer-based program.” Hillary and Marc Tucker have been collaborating with global education reformers ever since to get this system implemented. It wasn’t until President Obama was in office, and was willing to bypass our Constitutional structure to implement the necessary technological reforms, that Tucker’s vision could be fully realized.

Three groups are helping to fulfill Tucker’s vision: the state superintendents’ club called the Council of Chief State School Officers, Bill Gates’ EdSteps and the Asia Society. They admit to using Common Core to shift America’s education system toward assessing competencies. These groups are partnered with the Utah State Office of Education and other state offices of ed.

In this MUST-WATCH 51-second video they show that they’ve designed competency-based education to change children’s core values. They state, “Global Competence is rooted in our changing reality and is constantly evolving with the world. At its core, global competence is the disposition and capacity to understand and act on issues of global significance.” Their definition shows that they want children, and students of all ages, to believe there are no absolute truths, only perspectives. And that education is about “taking action” for social justice, as opposed to becoming a learned person. They will assess students “dispositions” and “capacities” for becoming global change agents who are focused on the societal issues deemed important by global elites.

Hillsdale College recently published, “Frank Capra’s America and Ours.” In it, John Marini talked about the famous movie Mr. Smith written by Frank Capra. He said that “Frank Capra did not see America as many Americans do today, in terms of personal categories of identity such as race, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality. He understood America in terms of its political principles.”

I urge you to consider the implications for our children’s worldview as we implement a global assessment system being funded by the Obama administration—with “competencies” being defined by international elites. If we bestow upon our children an education system with assessments that demote American exceptionalism, then we are choosing to give them an America without freedom.

John Marini continued, “Capra located the corruption of society in the political sphere—it was politicians who had usurped the institutions of government on behalf of their own interests and the special interests.” Marc Tucker represents the “special interests” of the Obama administration to “fundamentally transform America.”

I welcome an opportunity to discuss this information further with any who are interested. It would be prudent for legislators to offer up another conference where the ideas of liberty in education could be espoused. We stand at a crossroads. Will we choose locally controlled assessment systems where parents can rightly remain the stewards over what their children learn with the help of local teachers? Or, will we choose to align our children’s education with the Obama/Marc Tucker global assessment system that changes children’s values and dismantles our political structures?

Kind regards,

JaKell Sullivan

 

Christel Swasey’s letter

https://whatiscommoncore.wordpress.com/2015/08/28/tucker-a-top-ten-scariest-ed-reformer-to-lecture-at-legislator-usoe-conference/

Tucker, a Top Ten Scariest Ed Reformer, to Lecture at Legislator-USOE Conference

I’m surely sprouting new gray hairs at 80 miles per hour.

If there was doubt about whether something was truly rotten in the state of education governance here in sweet, naiive Utah, this news should end that doubt: of all the possible gurus, this is who our legislators, USOE and state school board have invited as the out-of-town centerpiece for a joint education conference taking place this Wednesday and Thursday.

tucker

Marc Tucker.

You may recall that he’s on the Top Ten List of Scariest People in Education Reform.

He’s the espouser of no more Algebra II in our high schools, the dismisser of classic literature as not so relevant, a disciple of federal power, a conspirator with Hillary Clinton for cradle-to-grave student-citizen micromanagement, and the top crusader against what he calls “the beloved American emblem: local control” –he’s the one.

The  conference is for Utah’s State Board of Education, State Office of Education, and legislators, but it’s open to the public and will be streamed.

If you can attend, it’s  on September 2 and 3, at Gilbert Great Hall, R. Haze Hunter Conference Center, Southern Utah University, Cedar City, Utah.

banner-hunterconferencecenter

If you don’t know who Marc Tucker is, learn a little bit more.

Marc Tucker is– unbelievable as it may seem– an open advocate for the complete deletion of local control.   You read it right. This is a direct quote  from Tucker:

 The United States will have to largely  abandon the beloved emblem of American education: local control. If the goal is  to greatly increase the capacity and authority of the state education agencies,  much of the new authority will have to come at the expense of local  control.

Marc Tucker also despises what is –or was– real education, in favor of the robotic efficiency  of cradle-to-grave federal micromanagement of systems.  He wrote the unbelievable NCEE report that advocates for the removal of Algebra II –and any math beyond it from high schools, that also labeled classic literature and student personal writing “less relevant” and dismissable.  If this sounds like impossible, deliberate dumbing down, you have not read Tucker’s reasoning, which envisions a socialist’s factory view of school: a place to create economy-centered worker bees, to generate a collective; not a place to “waste” resources for soaring and free thinkers.  He’s all about efficiency at the expense of individual freedom.

Marc Tucker’s BFF relationship with the creepiest lady in D.C., Hillary Clinton,  is notable.  It is a decades-long collaboration that, back in the 90s, envisioned US education with all federal control rather than any local control. That collaboration was recorded in the Congressional public record.  Tucker and Clinton outlined the entire Common Core/Common Data movement, but used different terminology.  Read that in full sometime.

Marc Tucker’s shameful, anti-freedom philosophies have been repeatedly, successfully put to pasture by great thinkers and scholars– for example, very clearly, by Dr. Yong Zhao.  Dr. Zhao should have been invited to advise Utah this week, not Tucker!

If you want to know more, I’ve written many articles about Marc Tucker.  He’s bad news.  Read my archive on Tucker at this link.

I really can’t believe he’s coming.

What are your thoughts?  Is this okay?

haze

–If he were invited to the university for a two-sided debate, fine!

–If his visit was a University lecture, some attempt by the dean to expose students to radical ideas from extreme ends of a spectrum, fine!

But this is not a university lecture.

It’s a joint legislative – school board – USOE meeting, which just happens to be taking place at SUU.  It could have been at any venue.

No one is slated to debate him.

Marc “end-local-control” Tucker is the only out of town speaker coming to this conference to address the Utah legislature and the Utah State Office and School Board.  He was hand selected for the at-taxpayer-expense conference –as someone to look to for advice.

That decision says more about the state of education politics in Utah than anything more I could write tonight.

tuc

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For a good perspective on outcome vs. process, check out Yong Zhao’s article here:

http://zhaolearning.com/2015/07/20/outcome-versus-process-different-incarnations-of-personalization/

 

 

What can you do with a database?

Think behavioral tracking in computer adaptive tests is no big deal? What can the government do with large amounts of data on citizens anyway? You don’t have to wonder anymore.

More of the government’s play for data is coming to light. We know from a video of Rep. Maxine Waters back in 2013 that the government had a database on every citizen that will do what has never been done. (1 minute)

Now we are getting a better picture of how this will be used for purposes of social justice.

http://nypost.com/2015/07/18/obama-has-been-collecting-personal-data-for-a-secret-race-database/

Unbeknown to most Americans, Obama’s racial bean counters are furiously mining data on their health, home loans, credit cards, places of work, neighborhoods, even how their kids are disciplined in school — all to document “inequalities” between minorities and whites.

This Orwellian-style stockpile of statistics includes a vast and permanent network of discrimination databases, which Obama already is using to make “disparate impact” cases against: banks that don’t make enough prime loans to minorities; schools that suspend too many blacks; cities that don’t offer enough Section 8 and other low-income housing for minorities; and employers who turn down African-Americans for jobs due to criminal backgrounds.

Big Brother Barack wants the databases operational before he leaves office, and much of the data in them will be posted online.

So civil-rights attorneys and urban activist groups will be able to exploit them to show patterns of “racial disparities” and “segregation,” even if no other evidence of discrimination exists.

Imagine what can be done when AIR (the SAGE test creator who tracks behavioral data) puts their propeller-heads to work with the government to understand the hundreds of data point categories the government wants from state longitudinal database systems. (http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/u-s-o-e-informational-meetings-on-common-core-tests-clueless-on-the-big-issues/, http://nces.ed.gov/forum/datamodel/information/aboutThe.aspx)

Oh but “that’s just conspiracy theory” say the powers that be. “Our children aren’t being tracked in any inappropriate ways” (like how the federal framework asks for religious preference, dental records, blood type, etc…)  “Nobody is tracking everything on our children,” they say.

What kind of information could be gathered if every keystroke were recorded as our children use 1 to 1 devices to do schoolwork? Oh wait! That’s actually happening if you’re in one of the lucky schools that uses the Knewton software.

http://www.marketplace.org/topics/education/learningcurve/day-life-data-mined-kid

“One of the biggest players is the field is Knewton. It analyzes student data that it collects by keeping track of nearly every click and keystroke your child makes during digital lessons.

Knewton claims to gather millions of data points on millions of children each day. Ferreira calls education ‘the world’s most data-mineable industry by far.’

‘We have five orders of magnitude more data about you than Google has,’ he says in the video. ‘We literally have more data about our students than any company has about anybody else about anything, and it’s not even close.’”

Don’t let your imagination run too wild. Facebook is tracking your posts too… :)

It’s all for the good of society though. The social justice agenda is critical and you just need to understand that you don’t own your children. Central planners need those data points to move your child along from birth to death…

Letters from Science Teachers to Sup. Smith

Brad Smith, state superintendent
Brad Smith, state superintendent

Here are a couple of letters science teachers have sent to State Superintendent Brad Smith regarding the Common Core (NGSS) Science Standards.

 


 

Dear Supt. Smith:

It has come to my attention that you are under the impression that science teachers unanimously believe the Next Generation Science Standards are what Utah needs. I would like to go on the record as a Utah 6th Grade Science teacher that does not believe we should adopt the NGSS for Utah. I would like to share with you some thoughts I have about the proposed standards and I hope you will take the time to read this. I appreciate you doing so!

I have personally written letters to every state school board member, my principal, and my superintendent whom I gave permission to forward my letters to other individuals with interest in this subject including the Governor’s office. I have also attended a public meeting put on by the USOE and voiced my concerns publicly in that meeting. All of the middle school science teachers in my school (6th through 8th Grade) have also met with a local school board member, and our state school board representative, Terryl Warner, where our concerns were shared and documented. I have spent nearly 20 years in a 6th grade classroom. Five of those years in an elementary setting, the rest in a middle school. I currently teach science exclusively with the exception of one period a day when I teach reading. I have a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction and was part of the committee at the Utah State Office of Education in 2013-2014 to write the 6th Grade Science OER (Open Educational Resource) Book. I share that with you only to show that my experience with 6th grade science is extensive.

I first previewed the drafts of the proposed new standards in September 2014 at a conference at Weber State University. At that time, we were told that the changes to the standards were made by a large group of teachers and experts in Utah. We were not given copies of the drafts and it wasn’t until they became public that I was then able to do a google search on the actual verbiage of the new standards to find that they are in fact word for word exact copies of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) with different numbering. It is disturbing to me that the USOE presented these new standards to a group of current Utah science teachers as being written by Utah teachers when clearly they were not. Since that time the state office has admitted that the drafts are indeed word for word copies of the NGSS and teachers only helped in choosing root questions for them and which standards would go with which grade levels.

I am not opposed to making changes to the current standards. With that being said, I was surprised by the fact that virtually all the science concepts we have been teaching in 6th grade are not part of the new standards with the exception of heat energy. The new standards are very environmentally heavy and move from talking about microbes, heat, light, sound energy, space and astronomy to mostly global warming and human impact on the environment. My concern about this move in 6th grade is two-fold. First, the concepts currently being taught in 6th grade are exciting to the students. They are engaged in the many hands on labs that naturally fit with the current standards. This piques an interest in the sciences that is healthy and strong for students moving into secondary education. In my opinion the new proposed standards are not exciting topics for 11 and 12 year-olds, nor are the students mature enough at this age to sift through all the information and misinformation that is out there about global warming (One of the performance tasks required in the new drafts). It’s not that I don’t think students should learn about these topics, it’s that I don’t believe it should be in the 6th grade curriculum. I think it’s important to note this because I believe the Next Generation Science Standards were not written by anyone who has spent the last 20 years in a room full of 6th graders. If we are trying to prepare students for future science and engineering jobs, adding performance tasks and engineering objectives to the current content would seem much more appropriate to me. This could easily be done if the new standards were truly written by a team of Utah teachers, Utah college professors, and Utah scientists with input from Utah parents. Second, changing the content so drastically puts a huge financial strain on Utah 6th grade teachers. Elementary level teachers are not given a budget for science, (even if they teach in a middle school setting). ALL 6th grade teachers in the state of Utah will have to start over buying science lab materials using money from their own pockets.

Lastly, my biggest concern with the NGSS is that key science concepts are missing that will leave gaps in learning. Why is matter and energy repeated throughout 6th-8th grade as almost an overkill of that subject whereas other key science concepts are completely removed from the new standards. This is very concerning to me as a 6th grade science teacher. Please talk to more science teachers around the state about their opinions of the proposed drafts. I am sure there are more than you think that believe adopting the NGSS is not the direction we should be going.

Thank you for your time to read and consider my thoughts,

Dana Wilde

Morgan Middle School 6th Grade Science Teacher

Morgan County School District


 

Dear Mr. Norton

My name is _____ I am an elementary teacher in southern Utah. In the past I have taught 5th/6th grade science. I am only a part time teacher so you can understand that I would be concerned with the State superintendent knowing my name so I would appreciate it if you removed my name when you passed this on to him.

Dear Superintendent Smith,

I have taught 6th grade science for the past two years, the new science standards that Utah is trying to adopt are not a good fit for Utah. I and at least one other 6th grade teacher that I know of, did the survey and expressed our concern for the new standards. So your understanding that most science teachers like the new science standards which come from the NGSS is incorrect.

I have several problems with the NGSS that are listed below.

1) They are a one size fits all set of standards, they do not take in consideration Utah’s unique geology, agricultural economy, & its people.

2) They have severl political standards such as “6.2.4: Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century”, “6.4.1: Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment” and “6.4.3: Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems”. These are very odd requirements to put in a 6th grade science standards. These belongs in a college level environmental debate class not in a 6th grade classroom.

3) I have seen the other NGSS standards for the lower grades and they do not allow a teacher to delve deep into each concept. They require a very shallow teaching of the standards. I understand that the theory behind this is that each year will build on the previous year. That is not how younger minds work. Students need an understanding that they can take with them to high school. They need to be exposed to the basics of many different sciences. If we did a scope & sequence that would work better then this.

4) The man who brought us this, Brett Moulding, is the same man who brought us the last set of standards that everyone complains about. If the last set of standards were not acceptable why would we take his word that these ones would be any better.

5) I know that many people are circumspect about the Fordham Institute report on the NGSS Standards but isn’t it worth a second look. This report for 2013 states that Utah’s current science standards are superior to the NGSS that the USOE is considering. Why can’t there be an open debate between representatives on both sides? Instead of just shoving one opinion to the side. That goes against scientific inquiry. All sides must be heard before an assessment can be made. Here is the link to that report http://edex.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/publication/pdfs/20130612-NGSS-Final-Review_7.pdf

These 5 reasons are just scratching the surface about what I feel is wrong with the new Utah science standards, but i know that you are a busy man so I thought these would be worth thinking about. I am doing this anonymously because of the tensions that are surrounding this and other common core standards. I don’t have faith that those of us that have a different opinion will be allowed to voice our opinions without repercussions. I love teaching, I love helping young people discover their potential but these standards are stiffing my ability to do just that. I will never sabotage my students learning for a political agenda but I think that we all want the same thing. We want what is best for our students so we need to come together and figure that out. It would be hard, long, & arduous but worth it in the end. Thank you for your time.

Southern Utah 6th grade teacher

Special Education Student Tragedy in Utah (and probably elsewhere)

I engaged in the following shocking email exchange with a Utah teacher this past week. Underlined text is my emphasis.

We are rapidly losing any semblance of local control of our schools thanks to the national reform movement led by people like Bill Gates and Jeb Bush.


“Oak,

You have opened my eyes today to the UN.  I did a little research–and it was not much before I came across this statement in the Preamble to The Korean UN World Education Conference 2015 for goals 2030: “No education target should be considered met unless met by all. We therefore commit to making the necessary changes in education policies and focusing our efforts on the most disadvantaged, especially those with disabilities, to ensure that –no one is left behind.”  Sound familiar?  We have been in the process of dismantling special education resource classes as they have been traditionally taught and are being assimilated into regular education as tutors teaching CC standards.  The transformation is almost complete and nobody is the wiser.  It defies the existence that a disability even exists.  Unbelievable!

Special Ed teachers are told just to service (foretold) classified students in the regular classroom on the common core and not the remedial curriculum adapted specifically for students with disabilities.  The district will begin to monitor that we do.  A great deal of classified students have focus issues so it will be a real challenge.  Nothing special about special ed. anymore.  Regular ed. teachers don’t know what to think and are shell shocked by all the changes–a lot of going along out of fear and behind-the-scenes resentment and verbal defiance.  We lost a lot of really good veteran teachers in May because they differ with new administration who are very black and white and switching things up a lot–and we are the (figure removed) highest academic school in the state, historically.”

**

Oak: I asked for clarification at this point about how this was taking place and if SE students were being forced into regular classrooms, and if all the teachers were upset and this teacher replied with this:

**

“No, our students remain classified, but we don’t pull classified students into small SE groups or use specialized curriculum targeted at the disability any more.  We now go out into the regular classrooms and work under the direction of regular ed teachers to target learning of classified students–or perhaps sometimes regular ed. students, who need to access the common core.  It is now all about the CC.  Big paradigm shift.

Yes about everyone being upset.  We hear it is all based on some government research back east in Virginia and everyone needs to just do it.  They bring in an outside expert, Mike Mattos, to indoctrinate staff a couple of times a year and talk as if every school is the same and needs to do the same thing.  I have worked at a Title 1 school and my current demographic high income school.  They are totally different worlds in my opinion and do NOT have the same needs.  Mattos talks a lot about what corporations will need and that, “the business of schools is to supply those needs.”

Mike is linked to the Annenberg Institute for school reform.  Just found this:

The College Readiness Indicator System network, also referred to as CRIS, is a joint effort of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform (AISR) and the John W. Gardner Center (JGC) at Stanford University, and is generously funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Here’s an article by Mike.

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/apr13/vol70/num07/How-Do-Principals-Really-Improve-Schools%C2%A2.aspx

I have seen a huge reduction in recent years in SE district wide training and collaboration between schools in district so it is hard to know what others outside one’s school think.  District trainers just come to your individual school now to give top down training and don’t ask for input.  When I first joined the district in ____ all schools were “site based managed” and everyone said so.  That has all disappeared.

To be honest, socialist corporate/national collusion I have suspected over the past decade, and am now experiencing at work is frightening and angering me at the same time.  I never thought I would have this kind of fear about my own country–I am very upset!  I struggle to sing the national anthem and say the pledge each morning with my students with what I now know.  I often think about informing the principal that I can no longer do it and not to be surprised.  I feel citizens and children are manipulated, duped and it isn’t even hidden anymore.  I feel educators have been stripped as professionals, used, lied to, and controlled.  I have loved my career for over 30 years but now feel like a pawn forced to indoctrinate innocents with humanistic thinking and ideas I don’t believe in to benefit the wealthy who I loath and resent.  Technology, greed and the drumbeat of feigned equality have blindly robbed liberty and that saddens me.  This all reminds me the “The Children’s Story, But Not Just for Children” by James Clavell.

http://utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/the-childrens-story-by-james-clavell/

Use what you want from my emails but I wish to remain anon.”


 

***

Oak again: Hearing things like this makes one wonder what the real agenda is behind the Gates Foundation sponsoring eugenics conferences…

http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2012/06/melinda_gates_talks_eugenics.html

UACC Symposium Videos

Did you miss out on the recent UACC symposium, “Empowering Parents”? Here’s some of the videos from it.

Your financial contributions help us continue to sponsor important events and provide this content to you. Please make a donation today.

 

Big Ocean Women on Data Collection

 

Jenny Baker on Common Core 101

 

Vince Newmeyer on Science Standards

 

Rod Arquette, KNRS talk show host

 

Joy Pullmann from the Federalist

 

Josh Daniels from Libertas Institute

 

Utah teacher speaks out on charged curriculum

The below email was sent to me by a Utah public school teacher with permission to share.

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

We were mandated to use a specific remedial literacy curriculum/software about 4 years ago grades 3-6.  After only one year, the district replaced all of the materials and software at some considerable expense with the NG or “New Generation” version. We were told to turn back in any previous materials and discontinue use.  We as teachers had no idea what that NG meant.  I started to notice “College to Career” statements everywhere in the lesson plans –not openly discussed with the educators so it had little meaning to me.  Sounded nice.

What I noticed on my own, and before the whole Common Core thing came up as an issue, was that the topics were very socially and scientifically biased.  Topics that covered a month of activities each, covered racial, immigration, earth resources use, animal humane/exploitation issues, etc…  There were no differing views, but a railroaded view and conclusion with student answers actually formatted so they had to orally or in written form answer in a certain way with pre-scripted emotionally-charged dialogue sentence starters (“It was hard for Carlita when her mother couldn’t stay and had to return to Mexico for awhile, and Carlita felt that…”).

The topics seemed to be age inappropriate and more adult oriented and politically controversial.  Issues that I never would have approached before.  Needless to say, I was and am uncomfortable teaching material that I do not personally agree with (and likely most of the parents) and do not wish to indoctrinate with topics and discussions that can be disturbing to younger children.

 

Provo USOE Meeting Report

Here’s a quick rundown on the Provo USOE meeting this past week. Syd Dickson was running the meeting and got up and started asking people for concerns they had with the standards. Frankly, I was stunned at the length and breadth of concerns people expressed. A very short list: the process of adoption; government control leads to a decrease in achievement; what makes us think this will work; who will be held accountable when they fail; who was involved in writing the standards; in adopting 6-9 grade standards which are integrated we are heading toward adopting k-5 and 9-12 without even seeing them; limits curriculum options because of the standards; what are the costs of adoption; people can’t trust USOE; why is the public just now aware of NGSS being what was copied to the Utah SEED standards; lied to about not adopting common core in science; concern over what else are we adopting from national standards like sex ed; inappropriate topics for 6-8 graders like politically charged items; and passing out 6-8 grade standards that didn’t even show all the content that teachers would be given so we could properly evaluate the standards.

The list went on and on. They filled roughly 10 easel size pages with concerns.

Three state school board members were in attendance, Joel Wright, Mark Openshaw, and Brittney Cummins. I haven’t had time to speak with any of them but Joel Wright did tweet one of my comments that this was a rubber stamp process.

After listing many of the concerns and chewing up about 20-30 minutes with that, we moved to public comments. Syd Dickson started out by announcing she felt cyberbullied this week over the video that was posted showing her and Dr. Martell Menlove stating Utah would never adopt Common Core science or social studies standards. She made a few comments which I can’t recall precisely now but I felt she was trying to split hairs saying NGSS isn’t really Common Core because it was created by Achieve and not the CCSSO/NGA so they’ve been honest saying we wouldn’t adopt Common Core science. This is completely wrong. During public comment I was the first to get up and explain the following.

In early 2012, during the same time frame and same state school board members, an employee of the USOE contacted me and told me that the USOE was internally planning on adopting the Common Core science and social studies standards. Outwardly they were telling people (and publishing online) that they had no intention of adopting CC science and it was a fallacy that adopting math and ELA were a slippery slope to science standards adoption. I said I was not surprised in the least that the USOE had brought NGSS/CC science to the state board as the standards they wanted to adopt. The state board didn’t create these standards or request them but the USOE and their supporters want to claim that the state board supports these standards because they voted to put them out for public comment. This is a major fallacy as the state board members had nothing to do with this and just voted to get public input on what the USOE had “created” for Utah.

(to watch the video and see other facts about the adoption lies go to this page: http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/utahs-deceptive-science-standards-adoption/)

Near the end of the meeting, Steve Whitehouse, a charter school board member, corroborated my story and said that he too had correspondence with USOE employees in this early time frame that they were telling him the USOE had full intentions of adopting these other national standards while denying it publicly.

It is also insane for the USOE to claim that Next Generation Science Standards aren’t Common Core because Achieve Inc. receives its funding from the Gates Foundation as did the CCSSO & NGA. Gates money funded all sets of national Common Core standards (science by Achieve, and math and ELA by CCSSO/NGA). Pappa Gates funds everything in the Common Core village.

Further, NGSS itself says this on its FAQ page:

http://nextgenscience.org/frequently-asked-questions

Will the new standards be the Common Core State Standards for Science?

In the end, the decision to adopt the standards and make them consistent between states lies in the hands of the states themselves. The goal was to create robust, forward-looking K–12 science standards that all states can use to guide teaching and learning in science for the next decade. Thus, the National Academies, Achieve, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) collaborated with states and other stakeholders to ensure the standards are of high quality—internationally benchmarked, rigorous, research-based and aligned with expectations for college and careers.

How will states use these standards documents?

To reap the benefits of the science standards, states should adopt them in whole without alteration. States can use the NGSS, as they are using the CCSS in English language arts and mathematics, to align curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional preparation and development.

NGSS standards were always intended to be the national science standards to compliment and be implemented with Common Core ELA and math. The USOE lied to the parent review panel telling them these standards were Utah created and written when they’ve been planning this adoption for years.

Also of great concern is an issue Vince Newmeyer raised. A state that does not give attribution to NGSS is either in violation of the copyright or it is a tacit admission the state is in the process of “adopting the NGSS in whole.” So a state doesn’t have to declare the attribution if they are planning to adopt them in whole if they only start with a part.

Now, what’s wrong with the standards themselves? They are integrated so instead of discrete years of studying separate topics and subjects, things are clumped together in a “crosscutting” fashion to address a topic from multiple scientific angles. This obviously has some benefits, but I would have greatly preferred the USOE pull in teachers from around Utah, come up with our own crosscutting plan that matches our already good standards, examined standards from other states that are highly rated, put together a plan in a transparent way, and then implemented it starting in K-4 and add a year at a time. Starting in 6-8 guarantees that things children were taught in one year will be retaught to them in the next year or two again causing boredom. Mid-stream implementations are problematic as we saw with the CC math implementation when children repeated an entire year of math because CC math slows down the curriculum by a full year (algebra 1 is completed in 9th grade instead of 8th unless you are in the honors track by 7th grade).

For a few specific examples of what’s wrong…

One public school teacher got up and said how much he loved what these standards were trying to accomplish but then apologized several times and stated how some were so poorly written he couldn’t even understand what he was meant to accomplish. Syd Dickson told him he had nothing to apologize for, but I took it as a sign of the fear teachers have in speaking out against things that come from the state office. I believe the standard he brought up was 6.4.2 which says:

“6.4.2 Develop a model to generate date for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.”

Huh? Where is the clarity?

Here’s a couple of the 6th grade standards:

“6.2.4 Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.”

“6.4.3 Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems.”

This is meant for 6th grade discussion and it’s clearly already headed down a controversial path. Global warming is not fact. There are all kinds of issues with it and it is totally inappropriate to introduce such a thing to 6th graders. Same with the potential for discussions on overpopulation. These types of issues are best left for later high school or college, where they are presented clearly with the best arguments on both sides of the issue. It’s way too easy to indoctrinate students by presenting things early in life as factual which are actually under much scrutiny. Students place way too much trust in teachers as the authority figures and if the standards and curriculum lay down a certain path, those students are going to believe it forever.

In 7th grade we get more controversy.

“7.2.4 Apply scientific ideas to construct an explanation for the anatomical similarities and differences among modern organisms and between modern and fossil organisms to infer evolutionary relationships.

Wow is that ever one sided. It’s no longer the theory of evolution in these standards, it’s factual and you need to explain it and make inferences to explain how one life form evolved into others. There are massive holes in the theory of evolution. This does not address any of them.

There are still two science meetings left. Be sure to attend the one closest to you (click for details: Logan and Salt Lake). The USOE has no doubt invited their pro-supporters out (even though they started off with these public meetings by just posting an announcement online and not inviting school districts at all).

To me, the only solution I see at present is for personnel change at the USOE. It must have its budget cut. They provide no classroom benefit, they are all about putting us on national standards, and the state board is so far letting them take us down that road and relinquishing their own power (although I just heard positive news they have sent back the Fine Arts standards the USOE proposed because they are the national standards version as well).

Here’s press coverage of the Provo meeting:

http://www.sltrib.com/news/2485453-155/religion-nationalization-fuel-debate-over-new

http://fox13now.com/2015/05/06/parents-talk-climate-change-evolution-as-board-of-education-seeks-feedback-on-new-science-standards/

Here’s a video recording of the meeting.

Utah’s Deceptive Science Standards Adoption

The Utah State Office of Education is pushing to have Utah adopt the national “Next Generation Science Standards” which is Common Core for science (and happens to be rated much lower than our current science standards). To do this, they have been deceptive with the public and the parent review committee telling everyone these standards were written by Utahns when in reality they are national standards. We have been promised that Utah would not adopt these science standards (or for social studies or health), but the current people at the USOE are forging ahead, handing the public a stripped down version of the standards to avoid “overwhelming” them, but planning to give teachers the full set of standards once approved. It’s Deja Vu all over again… Listen to them in their own words on this video.

Please write your school board member and legislators and tell them the USOE is violating their promise by trying to push national science standards on Utahns.

http://schoolboard.utah.gov

http://le.utah.gov

 

Here is where the USOE posted on their website that the math and ELA adoption would not be a slippery slope to adopting the science, social studies, and other Common Core standards.
http://www.utahpublicschools.org/

(click to enlarge)
ccss1
ccss2
Check out Alisa Ellis’ side-by-side comparison of the science standards here. You can see how the USOE merely renumbered them to tell people they are Utah standards, but used the NGSS/Common Core science standards verbatim.
UT vs NGSS 6th

**********

Audio and video for the video above was pulled from these sources (and special thanks to those of you who go to these meetings and listen to them online to bring these things to light. Thank you for being involved.)

Alpine School District Training (first file, 38 m 45 s)

http://sbs.alpinedistrict.org/cgi-bin/WebObjects/eAgenda.woa/wa/displayMeeting?meetingID=850

Education interim meeting (2 h 7 m)

http://utahlegislature.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=7992&meta_id=230368

Vernal USOE meeting

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPXdr4TQVXY&w=560&h=315

Letter from Diana Suddreth and Sydnee Dickson about national standards

http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/usoe-wants-national-standards-limits-to-parental-powers/

Is your school violating the law?

Has your school notified you of your parental rights?

If you have not been notified by your local school of your rights detailed below, ask the school why they are violating the law and ask your school board member to ensure all schools in your district are following the law. This statement is from SB 122 passed in 2014. It is state law.

http://le.utah.gov/~2014/bills/static/sb0122.html

47          53A-15-1502. Annual notice of parental rights.
48          An LEA shall annually notify a parent or guardian of a student enrolled in the LEA of
49      the parent’s or guardian’s rights as specified in this part.

What is specified in this part? OPTING OUT OF SAGE TESTS! (Among other things)

86      (9) (a) Upon the written request of a student’s parent or guardian, an LEA shall excuse
87      the student from taking a test that is administered statewide or the National Assessment of
88      Educational Progress.

If your school has not notified parents of this right, bring it to your principal’s and school board members’ attention.

Further, new state law passed this year 2015 (http://le.utah.gov/~2015/bills/static/SB0204.html, line 92), and signed by the governor mandates that teachers may not incentivize/reward (line 238) or punish SAGE test participation or withdrawal through opting out, and may not use it in grading students (lines 90-93).

On April 10 “The Utah State Board of Education approved amendments to Rule R277-404 Requirement for Assessment of Student Achievement aimed at clarifying the rules and procedures for parents or guardians who wish to opt their public school students out of state tests. Parents or guardians will be asked to fill out an opt-out form at least one day before the test is to be administered.” (http://www.schools.utah.gov/board/Meetings/Summary.aspx#Opt-out)

NEW STATE SCHOOL BOARD POLICY (http://www.schools.utah.gov/board/Meetings/Summary/materials/R277-404-April2015.aspx)

“Parents may further exercise their inherent rights to exempt their children from a state administered assessment without further consequence by an LEA.” (pg 7)

“Upon exercising the right to exempt a child from a state administered assessment under this provision, an LEA may not impose an adverse consequence on a child as a result of the exercise of rights under this provision.” (pg 7)

UPDATE 4-28-15: 2014’s parental rights bill allows for opting out of SAGE. However, Senator Osmond has indicated that 2015’s bill doesn’t take technical effect until July which is after the school year ends. Therefore, teachers have a right to use SAGE in their end of year grading. However, for those who opt out, it appears there is nothing in the law that allows teachers to use an alternate test in your child’s grades. My previous line here about students taking an alternative test was triggered based on Judy Park’s statement at the bottom, but no alternative test is provided for in Utah law, and next year teachers cannot use this test in grades at all. So opting out should not impact your child, or cause your child to have to take an alternative test. See Wendy Hart’s comment below.

Senator Osmond wrote this email to someone explaining the situation.

“The law itself becomes effective on May 12 (or 60 days from the adjournment of the Legislature), but its implementation was always intended to begin in the next school year. Again, that was the intent. So, technically this is the reason for the confusion.

The bottom line is that the both the Legislature and the Utah Board of Education are communicating that the law is to be effective beginning the next school year. This means that teaches may tie SAGE results to grades for this year. But after this school year it will be against the law to do so.”

Wendy Hart, a board member in Alpine School District, posted this to Facebook:

There is no legal requirement from a state level for your child to take an alternative test. I have not heard of a ‘replacement’ test that one ‘orders’. So, this is a local school thing. If it is a local school thing, then there must be a board policy that was adopted in an open, public meeting that REQUIRES students to take this alternative and specifies where/how this is to take place. Otherwise, this is just an administrative-level decision and it does not hold any legal weight. If the teacher was willing to write his own test, then again, this is an administrative thing. Even though this is a charter school, their board meetings are still subject to Utah Open Meetings Laws. All agendas should be publicly available, all policies, all audio of all meetings. They would need to show me chapter and verse as to their authorization for this action. But that chapter and verse cannot, in any way, conflict with existing state law.”

Dr. Gary Thompson posted this on Facebook and I agree.

“Unless your kid is in grade 9-12, the effects of “grades” are not worth stressing over.

I mean really? So a 6th grade kid goes from a B to a C…or even a D because he does not take a test?

So what.

I’m sure Harvard won’t give a damn, and neither should you…especially when they are using it as a bullying tactic.

Call their bluff.

Pull your child.

Ask me how many times someone has asked me about even my GRADUATE school grades in the last 7 years since graduation.

Tell them you would be more than thrilled to have your child take the test..any test.. when they can produce validity reports for them.

Otherwise, let them know that you refuse to allow your child to be used as experimental fodder for a private testing company.

P.S. If they hand you something and say its a validity report, feel free to scan it and send it to me directly.

Several parents have sent me administration produced “validity” reports on the SAGE. Each and every one of them were AIR and/or USOE produced public relations essays.”

The truly aggravating thing is that we are asking 3rd graders and on up to sit for 2.5-3 hours at a time taking a year end test that will do NOTHING for learning. It’s grueling. I’m one of those accountants who took the CPA and CMA exam, both 16 hour exams, and each section was an endurance test along with the knowledge, and this was for someone in their 20’s, not 8 years old.

As per instructions from State Associate Superintendent Judy Park on 9-23-14 to all schools:

“3. When a … 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…
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…

This instruction should prevent teachers from giving unfair alternative assessments to students.