Oak Norton

Who teaches the teachers? Social In-Justice at BYU

Warning for all you non-religious types… I’m about to exercise my first amendment right and share my secular and religious thoughts based on my personal beliefs as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and quote a couple scriptures and LDS church authorities below in support of my beliefs. Naturally all of this article is my own opinion and I’m not speaking for the church. Just in case anyone might get confused about that… ;)

Periodically someone asks me a question like this: “how does this ________ nonsense get into our children’s schools?” Lately I’ve had that blank filled in with social justice. It seems to have gained an unfortunate sympathetic ear among people because they think it’s about helping the poor, when it reality it does just the opposite. There’s a load of articles on the web about how various Common Core players and organizations have come together to promote social justice through the curriculum and assessments they have developed. This article will not focus on those elements, but on the misguided concept of social justice.

A couple weeks ago, someone sent me a link to an article from BYU’s Frontier magazine which is an online magazine for alumni of their college of physical and mathematical sciences.

In the Fall 2014 issue on page 18, you’ll find an article entitled “Solving social injustice one math problem at a time.” The article is about Dr. Kate Johnson in BYU’s Math Education department and her background and experiences which lead her now to entwine social justice into her math teaching.

As if it isn’t hard enough for children to do word problems on new concepts, lets add social justice into the mix so they can feel the plight of the poor and downtrodden and learn about how evil capitalism is.

Now some parents might want this type of class for their child. They might say, yes, I want my college child well rounded by wrestling with these issues in math class instead of laser focusing on the theories and functions of math so that when they go to teach little children, they can help them understand how the rich are evil and the poor are oppressed. Love live the Communist Manifesto!

News flash: This style of teaching isn’t going to improve math education, nor will it fix social injustices. Social justice is the gospel of envy, not Christ’s gospel of love.

It is abundantly true that the scriptures teach us to take care of the poor. However, in each instance, the Lord is commanding people to take care of the poor as a matter of free will, using our agency in an individual charitable endeavor.

Lets get started.

Here are relevant quotes from the Frontier article about Dr. Johnson (emphasis mine):

“Through struggling with how to handle the hard questions her students raised about the world, Johnson realized that math could help them sort through the many differing points of view. The way this is done is through typical math tasks, like a story problem, but the subject of that story problem would be sharing wages in a sweatshop rather than sharing crayons in a classroom.

“The ultimate goal of teaching math for social justice is to help kids better understand the world around them in conjunction with math,” Johnson said. “Students are going to talk about those issues whether or not we give them math as a tool to do so, and so to me, we should be giving them math as a tool to think and talk about those issues so they can see the utility of math and so they can make stronger arguments.”

“I’m interested in teachers’ identities, as it pertains to mathematics teachers, particularly in the context of teaching math for social justice,” Johnson said. “So basically that’s like teaching math in contexts that help bring to light social issues in addition to teaching key math principles. If that’s the way you are going to teach math, then how does your race, gender, class, or awareness of your privilege play a role in the way you teach about those topics? Basically, when you state it broadly, I’m interested in how who we are shapes what we do as teachers.”

I realized that teachers are learners too, in part because I got student teachers and I just started to become interested in the kinds of things they needed to know in order to be productive math teachers,” Johnson said.

I wanted to broaden my impact,” Johnson said. “When I was a high school teacher, I used to say that I was teaching the world one deaf student at a time, and then when I went back to school to be a teacher educator, I said teaching the world a little more than one kid at a time. Because if you impact one teacher, it will impact more children that way, and teaching math through social justice to those teachers will bring about greater social change.

This article in Frontier is all about this particular teacher and I’m not publishing this to get her in trouble because she certainly isn’t by any means the only teacher educator doing this. I just felt compelled to expose what is happening in our schools of education where teachers are taught and ultimately comes to your children’s classrooms. Many of the educators in BYU’s Education and Math Education departments embrace John Goodlad, Bill Ayers, and Linda Darling-Hammond’s left-wing philosophy on social justice. They have attended workshops, joined their organizations, read their books, and even presented at their conferences. I believe the year was 2006 when BYU even hosted Goodlad’s NNER conference. Here’s an ad from just a few years ago for Goodlad’s conference to teach teachers how to implement social justice and the GLBT agenda in your children’s classrooms.

John Goodlad's NNER advertising a teacher training. Also note the GLBT training for teachers.

John Goodlad’s NNER advertising a teacher training. Also note the GLBT training for teachers.

Social Justice 101

So what is social justice? I found this awesome 5 minute video online that explains this concept really well. I particularly loved the statement by the U.N. that if you believe truth and justice are concepts independent of their agenda, you are essentially an enemy of social justice. Truth is so overrated…

I periodically engage in discussions online with people who espouse that it is the government’s responsibility to take care of the poor and that the government is well within its rights to do this. But they fail to remember one core principle of our government which is that it was established by the people, for the people, and of the people. When the people created the government, we delegated to government the ability to do certain things we have a right to do ourselves in order to make those things more efficient. I have a right to defend myself and my property so we created a sheriff and the military to protect those things on a larger scale so I can focus on other things. On the other hand, I don’t have a right to go to my neighbor’s home and take $500 from him and give that money to someone else I know is needy, so I can’t get government to do that for me and keep my hands clean of robbery. Frederick Bastiat called this “legal plunder” in his classic work, “The Law,” when people use government to do things to others that they can’t legally do themselves.

These people further claim that the scriptures and Christ’s teachings justify redistributing the wealth. But what did Jesus teach?

Did Jesus go to the Romans and ask them to exact a tax on the rich to help the poor? No.

Did he go to the Sanhedrin and ask them to do likewise? No.

He told the rich young man to go sell *what HE had* and give it to the poor.

He watched the widow cast in her 2 mites and announced that she had given more than all the rich yet didn’t mention how evil the rich were for not caring for her needs.

Did he organize a redistribution effort among his church? No. He taught compassion, charity, and to put away our jealousy and envy.

The gospel is one of individual responsibility with individual mandates to care for the poor. We have no right to force someone to salvation by making them take care of the poor and in so doing, create just the opposite effect within the breast of those whose compassion we need.

What does our progressive taxation system do? We say if you make X amount of income, you pay 15% taxes. If you make up to Y, then you pay 28%. And so on up the ladder. The more you make the larger the percentage you pay. What does that do to a person who makes more money?

  1. It can destroy their ability to be very charitable.
  2. It makes them feel like they are already giving more for social programs and they don’t need to do more individually.
  3. It destroys the entire holy principle of charity because those with wealth don’t have the opportunity to *give* someone money. It’s taken from them and they never see the needy people it helps, thus causing them to not have their hearts moved with compassion on the plight of the poor. Social justice ROBS the rich of this critical enrichment activity.

What was the Lord’s plan? 10% whether you’re rich or poor? A fascinating contrast, don’t you think?

The very people who want to have the wealthy to have compassion upon the poor have erected a system that prevents it from being possible. They have created a system of hatred where the rich feel taken advantage of. Where did this progressive taxation idea come from? The father of modern-day envy, Karl Marx, a co-author of the Communist Manifesto. This document is the exact opposite of the God-inspired U.S. Constitution. Only in an atmosphere of liberty, can the gospel of Jesus Christ thrive. Personal choices are paramount to the gospel plan. When some seek to overthrow that plan by focusing on social justice instead of God’s justice, and enact man-made systems of charity instead of God’s perfect system of charity, they mingle the philosophies of man with God’s perfect plan of salvation for his children and corrupt society through vanity.

Think about this…some people are born into wealth and some into poverty. It is a social injustice, but it is not injustice on the part of our divine creator who has a perfect plan for each of his children. His plan is to exalt his children and bring them back into his presence. In some instances, that necessitates trials of wealth, and for others trials of poverty. Each individual is born into this world with their own unique challenges to deal with but it is their own personal plan of salvation that God crafted for them. Under no circumstance does the wisdom of man exceed the wisdom of God. We should stop trying to serve the Lord in the devil’s way. Only the gospel of Christ can provide the spiritual salvation God’s children need.

In the April 2010 General Conference of the LDS church, Elder Todd Christofferson said it well.

“In a complete reversal from a century ago, many today would dispute with Alma about the seriousness of immorality. Others would argue that it’s all relative or that God’s love is permissive. If there is a God, they say, He excuses all sins and misdeeds because of His love for us—there is no need for repentance. Or at most, a simple confession will do. They have imagined a Jesus who wants people to work for social justice but who makes no demands upon their personal life and behavior.”

If I may offer an interpretation of what he’s saying… The people had turned to wickedness but they thought that a collective salvation under the gift of God’s incredible mercy for his children would save all of them regardless of their personal choices. They made up a false Christ by imagining a God that makes no demands on our *personal* lives, yet they weren’t forced to comply with heaven’s mandates.

In the April 2013 conference, Elder Christofferson gave another great talk which included much about temporal redemption for the poor. In this talk he pointed out that sometimes when needs are more widespread, larger organizations may need to be involved when needs exceed the ability of individuals to personally take care of the problems.

“Some forms of temporal redemption come by collaborative effort. It is one of the reasons the Savior created a church. Being organized in quorums and auxiliaries and in stakes, wards, and branches, we can not only teach and encourage each other in the gospel, but we can also bring to bear people and resources to deal with the exigencies of life. People acting alone or in ad hoc groups cannot always provide means on a scale needed to address larger challenges. As followers of Jesus Christ we are a community of Saints organized to help redeem the needs of our fellow Saints and as many others as we can reach across the globe.”

Does the church exact a tax on its members to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor? No. The church teaches doctrine and invites people to participate in a gospel plan that helps the rich meet the needs of the poor. He concludes with this powerful statement.

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we ought to do all we can to redeem others from suffering and burdens. Even so, our greatest redemptive service will be to lead them to Christ. Without His Redemption from death and from sin, we have only a gospel of social justice. That may provide some help and reconciliation in the present, but it has no power to draw down from heaven perfect justice and infinite mercy. Ultimate redemption is in Jesus Christ and in Him alone.”

In my own words, we have an individual mandate to help the poor, but if our own personal efforts to help the poor don’t actually bring them to Christ and redemption through his atonement, then the gospel is only a gospel of social justice which may give someone temporary assistance with their temporal needs, but does nothing to provide the ultimate redemption we all need.

In the recent October 2014 General Conference, Elder Jeffrey Holland gave a great talk on taking care of the poor as well. He pointed out that when Mary anointed Jesus’ head with the expensive spikenard and Judas complained that it could have been sold and distributed to the poor, Jesus rebuked him and said, “Why trouble ye her? She hath wrought a good work…She hath done what she could.”

Judas’ envy had got the better of him and he wanted that wealth taken from Mary and given to someone else. Perhaps he was jealous that he hadn’t saved his own money in the way Mary had done. Regardless of Judas’ personal motive, Jesus obviously knew that Mary’s choices were her own and she was choosing to do good in the best way she saw fit. Judas had no right to complain or to force Mary to sell her goods and give to the poor. As mentioned above, Jesus never told the government or the church to take from the members to give to the poor. He invites us individually to participate in the work of temporal and spiritual salvation.

Elder Holland goes on to clearly point out the individual mandate we have:

“Now, lest I be accused of proposing quixotic global social programs or of endorsing panhandling as a growth industry, I reassure you that my reverence for principles of industry, thrift, self-reliance, and ambition is as strong as that of any man or woman alive. We are always expected to help ourselves before we seek help from others. Furthermore, I don’t know exactly how each of you should fulfill your obligation to those who do not or cannot always help themselves. But I know that God knows, and He will help you and guide you in compassionate acts of discipleship if you are conscientiously wanting and praying and looking for ways to keep a commandment He has given us again and again.”

Over and over again we are reminded that helping the poor must come from a personal desire to do so and not from someone elses compassion with other people’s property.

We also have this clear explanation in modern day revelation. From the Doctrine & Covenants, section 104 we read:

15 And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine.

16 But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.

17 For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.

18 Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment.

The plan and the choice are clear. God wants the rich to take care of the poor to exalt the poor and humble the rich. But he wants it done by the use of agency. We don’t have any right to erect a system of force that destroys the agency of man. In so doing, we destroy God’s plan. God has a punishment prepared for the rich who do not turn their hearts to the poor when the Lord presses upon them to be compassionate. When government takes from the rich to provide for the poor, it is in essence proposing to guarantee God’s rewards upon the rich for so giving, yet no godly characteristic is formed in the heart of the rich because they aren’t the ones giving.

What should teachers at BYU be focusing on? In my opinion, they should be focusing on building faith in Christ in their students. When people come to Christ, they live His gospel and keep his commandments. The wealthy do help the poor and the people become of one mind and one heart. You can’t force that, but pure doctrine changes hearts.

If you want poor kids to excel and get better jobs, and overcome their life circumstances, teach them real math and stop distracting them. They need to compete in this world with those who may have had more advantages due to their wealth. If you are under the illusion this isn’t possible, watch “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story.” It’s free on Netflix.

To teach the poor to look upon their situation as a plight may in fact lead them away from Christ as they question why a “fair” God has put them in their challenging circumstances. By gifting them envy instead of encouragement, we indoctrinate them in the doctrines of the devil. Instead we should teach all to have faith in Christ, solely. Social justice is faith in government that they will take enough from the rich to give to you to meet your needs. That is not the gospel.

Professors and teachers, do not suppose that you know better than the parents who have sent their children to you. Do not suppose that because you have those children in your care that you have permission to do anything contrary to grounding them in truth and building faith. Teaching is a sacred duty and where it is not a faith building, joyous experience in embracing truth, it is not of God.

In Doctrine & Covenants 105:5 we read, “And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself”

What is that law? The law of consecration, which is a choice to participate in. You cannot prepare people for life in a celestial realm by forcing them to do good and contribute to the causes you deem just through government intervention.

If an all-powerful God who could easily right the wrongs of society and compel men to provide for others, doesn’t interfere with our choice and agency here on earth because of Celestial laws, what gives anyone else the right to do what God Himself rejects, and impose on mankind compulsory systems of tyranny all in the name of brotherly love? We should probably stop second guessing God and start trying to mimic him.

Data Collection Nightmare Comes True

Michelle Malkin’s latest article exposes what’s happening with data collection on our children. Don’t miss this and then email your legislators and ask them to terminate the Statewide Longitudinal Database System which the federal government paid Utah over $9 million to set up to track our children. No profiling our children. Let local teachers assess our kids and discuss their assessments with parents. Utah may not have this particular extreme tracking yet, but lets make sure it never happens here. Over 42,000 children in Colorado have been subjected to this particular collection system and there are others like it operating in other states.

http://townhall.com/columnists/michellemalkin/2014/10/10/look-whos-data-mining-your-toddlers-n1903149

Here’s a few clips from Michelle’s article:

“Most parents have no idea the scheme is on track for full implementation by the 2015-2016 school year. The company already plans to expand assessments to cover children from birth through third grade.”

“TS Gold’s creators describe the testing vehicle as “an early childhood assessment system” that purportedly measures the “whole child.” What that means is that the tests are not only for “literacy, mathematics, science and technology, social studies and the arts,” but also for “developmental domains including social emotional, physical, language and cognitive development.”

Aligned to the federal Common Core standards, which were designed and copyrighted by a small cadre of Beltway educrats, TS Gold received $30 million in federal Race to the Top subsidies in 2012. The assessors have 38 “objectives” arranged under nine topics of academic learning, psychomotor data and social-emotional development. Students are rated and recorded on their ability to do things like “respond to emotional cues,” “interact cooperatively” and “cooperate and share ideas and materials in socially acceptable ways.””

“Creeped out yet? This is just the tip of the data-mining iceberg. Last spring, parent Lauren Coker discovered that TS Gold assessors in her son’s Aurora, Colo., public preschool had recorded information about his trips to the bathroom, his hand-washing habits and his ability to pull up his pants.

“When I asked if we could opt out of the system,” Coker told me, school officials told her no. She pulled her son out of the school and still doesn’t know whether or how the data can be removed.”

“The ultimate goal is not improved school performance. The real end is massive student data-mining for meddling and profit. The Obama administration sabotaged federal student and family privacy protections through backroom regulation, allowing once-protected student data to be sold to private vendors for the creation of what one Colorado bureaucrat calls “human capital pipelines.”

Edutech firms such as Pearson, Microsoft, Google and Knewton are salivating at the lucrative opportunities to exploit educational Big Data and sell “customized learning” products in the most data-mineable industry in the world. And the politicians who can hook them up are reaping rich rewards in their campaign coffers.”

Solution: Utah should adopt California’s math standards

I heard from someone last week who had someone complain to her that this site is just negative and never offers solutions. Regardless of the fact that we have several posts on this site that clearly outline solutions and alternatives to Common Core, let me explain very clearly why Utah should adopt California’s math standards. Thankfully, a brand new study was released this week that makes this an even better option.

Ze’ev Wurman is the author of this study which was just published by the American Principles Project this week and is called, “Why students need strong standards [and not Common Core]“. Ze’ev is a visiting scholar at the Hoover Institute and a former senior advisor at the U.S. Department of Education. In this paper he explains what’s been happening in California and it’s pretty stunning.

The brief history: California took a nose dive in the 90’s as a result of embracing constructivist fuzzy math and went from one of the very top states to second lowest. In 1997, Gov. Pete Wilson put the brakes on things and got mathematicians involved in writing their state’s standards and they developed what are arguably the very best math standards in the country and CA has been recovering from their fall ever since.

California’s math standards were internationally benchmarked

In a recent email exchange with Dr. Jim Milgram from Stanford, he said the CA standards were written to specifically benchmark California 6 months behind the high achieving nations. They did this intentionally because they didn’t feel that students in CA were ready to make a full leap to the same level as their high achieving peers.

In the high achieving nations, students complete algebra 1 and all or part of geometry by 8th grade. The CA standards were written with this in mind. How have they fared in getting more students through algebra 1 in 8th grade? Pretty amazing. Here’s a page from Ze’ev’s study which shows in a 10 year period the number of students who were proficient in algebra by 8th grade had tripled. Even more amazing is in figure 5 that shows low socioeconomic status students and minorities had increases of up to 6 times their initial rates. STUNNING! What other state can claim this kind of progress?

California's math progress

 

Ze’ev’s study also points out that in 2008, the NGA and CCSSO published the “Benchmarking for Success” document which stated as it’s first recommendation:


 

“Action I: Upgrade state standards by adopting a common core of internationally benchmarked standards in math and language arts for grades K-12 to ensure that students are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to be globally competitive.

This report called, then, for what has since become known as the Common Core State Standards. It went on to declare:

Research has revealed striking similarities among the math and science standards in top-performing nations, along with stark differences between those world class expectations and the standards adopted by most U.S. states.… By the eighth grade, students in top performing nations are studying algebra and geometry, while in the U.S., most eighth-grade math courses focus on arithmetic.

In other words, the rallying cry for the establishment of a common core of content standards in 2008 explicitly acknowledged that for the U.S. to be benchmarked against top-performing countries, we should teach algebra in the 8th grade.

Yet when the Common Core standards were published a little more than a year later, in the early summer of 2010, they firmly placed the first algebra course in … high school!”


 

So Common Core, and particularly as it has been adopted in Utah using the integrated method, places completion of algebra firmly in 9th grade for most students and geometry in 10th. Since we are on the integrated path, unlike any other state except Vermont, students can’t accelerate like I did in high school when I got serious about math and took geometry and algebra 2 in 10th grade so I could take calculus in 12th. You can’t do that with the integrated method.

Fordham Foundation

We all know that the Fordham Foundation was paid a sizable amount of money from the Gates Foundation to grade the Common Core standards and they gave them an A-. The standards are admittedly better than most of the states were using but there were better options that Utah and other states had when we rushed into Common Core without glancing in the rear view mirror.

The Fordham Foundation compared California’s standards (10/10 – A) with Common Core (A-) and had these nice things to say (these are clips. Emphasis mine):

Intro:

California’s standards could well serve as a model for internationally com­petitive national standards. They are explicit, clear, and cover the essential topics for rigorous mathematics instruction. The introduction for the stan­dards is notable for providing excellent and clear guidance on mathematics education. The introduction states simply:

‘An important theme stressed throughout this framework is the need for a balance in emphasis on computational and procedural skills, conceptual understanding, and problem solving. This balance is defined by the standards and is illustrated by problems that focus on these components individually and in combination. All three components are essential.’

California has provided a set of standards that achieves these goals admirably.” …

Content Strengths:

“These standards cover nearly all of the essential content. They explicitly prioritize foundational mathematics and out­line a clear and coherent path for mathematics education.

The essential content of elementary arithmetic is developed well and emphasized throughout.”…

The Bottom Line:

“With some minor differences, Common Core and California both cover the essential content for a rigorous, K-12 math­ematics program. That said, California’s standards are exceptionally clear and well presented, and indeed represent a model for mathematically sound writing. They are further supported by excellent peripheral material, including the Framework that provides clear and detailed guidance on the standards. Taken together, these enhancements make the standards easier to read and follow than Common Core. In addition, the high school content is organized so that the standards about various topics, such as quadratic functions, are grouped together in a mathematically coherent way. The organization of the Common Core is more difficult to navigate, in part because standards on related topics sometimes appear separately rather than together.

Common Core includes some minor high school content—including the vertex form of quadratics and max/min prob­lems—that is missing in California.”

Fordham’s review also notes that California has quite a few standards but they mitigate the problem by using a “green dot” system by identifying a smaller number of critical standards that students must deeply understand in order to progress with the key concepts emphasized. Fordham says “priorities are thus set admirably.”

The Green Dot Standards

What are “green dot” standards? Dr. Milgram did a powerpoint presentation on the California standards some time ago which I just found online and took some images from. In each grade level there are standards that tells teachers what content should be covered during the year for students. Not all standards are equal in importance though, and California put green ovals around the standards that were of primary importance in advancing student understanding so teachers would know where to spend the bulk of their time. They were notified that 85% of state test questions would come from such standards. The first image is of standards from grade 1 as written, and the image below shows standards numbers in a key for each grade level and which get the green dot treatment.

Green Dot Standards

Green Dot Standards

Click here to download the full PDF of California’s Green Dot standards.

Utah Higher Ed Support

In 2006 when Utah was considering what to do for a math standards revision, Dr. David Wright, BYU math professor, distributed a petition to Utah professors of math, sciences, and engineering asking them to support adopting California’s math standards. At that time, the USOE rejected adopting California’s standards because they “didn’t want to be like California.” They claimed that Utah was unique and had unique needs and we needed to have our own standards. Just a few years later those notions went out the window and the USOE embraced Common Core without ever pilot testing it and pushed out our 2007 standards that got most students to algebra by 8th grade. Here is Dr. Wright’s petition:

A Petition Directed to the State of Utah

We ask the state of Utah to adopt and implement the California Mathematics Standards for our public schools. We agree with the Fordham Foundation report on state mathematics standards that gave Utah’s current standards a D rating while giving California an A. We agree with the foundation’s assessment, “California’s standards are excellent in every respect. The language is crystal clear, important topics are given priority, and key connections between different skills and tasks are explicitly addressed. Computational skills, problem-solving, and mathematical reasoning are unambiguously supported and integrated throughout.” We want our Utah children to master the mathematics they need to compete favorably with the best students of other states and nations. Setting good standards is an important step toward achieving that goal. Please adopt and implement the California Mathematics Standards for our public schools.

Over 140 professors from around Utah signed this petition. You can view their names here. http://utahmath.org/signatures.html

One last chance for Common Core

Jason Zimba was one of the 3 writers of the Common Core math standards. After the standards were released, Jason was invited to testify to the Massachusetts school board on March 23, 2010. Dr. Sandra Stotsky was a member of the board at that time and had this exchange with Jason. Note particularly that he says the college readiness level in Common Core is minimal and Common Core was written for the schools most kids go to, not the ones parents aspire for their children to go to. He also notes it’s not for STEM or selective colleges.

Can we legally use California’s math standards?

A parent in Idaho has been engaged with an official in California on the possibility of using their math standards. This official, Dexter Fernandez, replied back that a state would simply need to request a copyright release to obtain permission and then stated, “There are many school systems, primarily overseas, that ask permission to use our standards.  Permission in those cases is routinely given.  I don’t see an issue with other states/school districts.” Utah, we have a green light to go with California’s green dot math standards.

Conclusion

What business does Utah have adopting standards that aren’t the best and then saying they’ll just fix the deficiencies as we go? How many iterations will we have to endure till they are “just right” and actually benchmark us with the high achieving nations of the world. The Common Core reform issues aren’t going to go away. There is just too much baggage and too many concerns on too many levels. I believe the simplest solution is to adopt the best available, tested, internationally benchmarked standards that are proven effective for all students. The added benefit with adopting CA’s standards is that since the state was so large, publishers actually wrote textbooks and curriculum specific to the CA standards. There is no recreating the wheel or piecing together lesson plans from multiple sources. Plenty of publishers produced quality materials that would be easily accessible.

Adopt California’s standards, assessments, and curricula, and a big part of the Common Core controversy goes away because we will have world-class standards, non-federally tracked assessments, proven curricula, and we can step back knowing our children are going to learn math beyond what any of their peers will in the United States. I call that college, career, and life ready standards.

Action Item

Please email a link to this page to your legislators (http://le.utah.gov/GIS/findDistrict.jsp), state board members (http://schoolboard.utah.gov/board-member-bios), and local district or charter school board members. I believe this solution is what Utah needs.

For the solution to what to do for ELA standards, click here and then here. The first link is to Dr. Stotsky’s revision of the pre-Common Core Massachusetts standards which were the best in the country and made stronger by her revision (and nobody is using them), and the second link is to her offer to come to Utah for free and work with teachers to give Utah the best ELA standards in the nation.

The Four Candidates for State Superintendent

Yesterday the state office released the names of the four finalists for Utah state superintendent. It’s a disaster.

You can find more extensive bios on the four finalists here: http://utahpoliticohub.com/state-superintendent-finalists-list-usbe/

Here’s a quick low-down on their ties to Common Core…

John Barge, current Georgia state superintendent

It appears that based on this article, Dr. Barge is not someone we could ever trust. Before the 2010 election he was adamantly opposed to Common Core. After the 2010 election he was very totally pro-Common Core. Total 180.

Rich Crandall, former director of the Wyoming Department of Education

This is a special individual. When the elected Wyoming state superintendent (Cindy Hill) spoke out against Common Core, the governor illegally stripped her over her powers and left her retaining her title, and brought in Rich Crandall to helm the state superintendent powers. Mr. Crandall said, it is “critical” that Wyoming successfully implement the common core state standards in reading and math adopted here in 2012. In my opinion, anyone who would accept an appointed position to unconstitutionally supplant an elected one, should not be near public office. I totally oppose Rich’s nomination.

Brad Smith, current Ogden School District superintendent

Disqualified himself by speaking of Common Core in this way: “They’re a huge step up from where we’ve been,” he said. “A huge step up.”

Martin Bates, current Granite School District superintendent

I can’t find any immediate articles tying Martin’s comments to Common Core, but Granite school district has been one of the most aggressive in implementing policies passed down from the state office of education, particularly carrying the SAGE and other tests to extremes. Teachers have lost days of teaching in order to test their students and from teachers who have contacted me and others, morale is low because of it. They also fired teacher Ann Florence over refusing to grade the writing portion of the district-wide Acuity Test. She said the exam was a waste of students’ and teachers’ time, did not further any education agenda and that it was unethical to have teachers grade their own students on a standardized test that then would be used to judge the teacher. I agree.

Wrap-up

How do the two outsiders above get brought in but Michael Sentance from MA is dropped when he helped build the best education system in the country? He gave a great interview when Dr. Menlove was appointed. No need to answer my question. I know the answer and it’s got putrefaction all over it.

We need partisan elections in Utah and I believe we need to elect our state superintendent publicly in partisan elections just like we do other chief state officers. Wyoming elects their superintendent and got someone opposed to Common Core. We can’t have any confidence in our state school board when they bring forward people like this and reject people who have done great things in education like Mike Sentance.

Action Item

Email your legislators that the state board has failed us by bringing in 4 finalists who are so pro-Common Core they are ensuring there will be no candidate we can support. Tell them we need partisan elections in Utah and we need to publicly elect the state superintendent because the unconstitutionally appointed state school board doesn’t represent Utah values like a partisan elected school board would.

Find your legislator: http://le.utah.gov/GIS/findDistrict.jsp

Email the state board and express your disappointment with their selections.

board@schools.utah.gov

 

Some recent must read articles

Here are a few recent articles that have come out which everyone should read, particularly visitors from the state office of education that visit this site. I have to believe some of you are alert to these issues and I find it completely disingenuous that the public line from USOE is to continue to portray our Common Core issues as “it’s just about the standards.” It’s minimally about the standards, like maybe 10%. Most of the issues are related to the baggage that came with the Common Core reforms and the nationalizing of education under a corporate network.

 

Joy Pullman’s top 10 things parents hate about Common Core

A most excellent summary of the real issues and not one of them is about the standards.

http://thefederalist.com/2014/09/24/top-ten-things-parents-hate-about-common-core/

 

Remarkable Idiocy: “Economically-driven Education”

Mercedes Schneider’s article rings home. This article serves to expose the not-well-understood truth that education has become fascist. It exists to serve big business and is driven and controlled by them.

http://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2014/09/27/remarkable-idiocy-economically-driven-education/

 

Reframing the Common Core discussion: A battle for our freedom

This article by Laurie Rogers is a little similar to the first but also a must read for the differing content.

“If I were to build a list of the worst systemic problems in public education, the Common Core State Standards would not be at the top of the list. The Common Core (CCSS) is a huge problem, to be sure. It’s dictatorial, inadequate, experimental, expensive, developmentally inappropriate, politically infused – it’s nearly everything critics have said it is. But it isn’t the worst problem we face.

That dishonor goes to The Network, a moniker I’ve given to the conglomeration of corporate and government interests (and their allies) that have seized control of America’s classrooms.”

http://betrayed-whyeducationisfailing.blogspot.com/

 

Supporting Alternatives to Common Core

“Nothing short of a radical break from the political educational machine, will bring back valid education.” Vote with your shoes.

http://catholiccr.blogspot.com/2014/09/supporting-alternatives-to-common-core.html

Did George Orwell see the future? 1984 UNESCO Document on Common Core

Yesterday, Dr. Gary Thompson posted this document to Facebook with this comment:

It’s the handbook on how to manipulate teachers worldwide in this crap.

Another “score” for all you right wing nut bags. ;)

The subtle, as well as pronounced manipulations and indoctrination used her are hilariously being copied by USOE towards teachers and the parents in the community.

I find it hilarious (or perhaps ominous) that this document was published in 1984.

Here is just one quote from page 5 of the document:

“This regulatory role of teacher educators and inspectors has already been defined as follows ‘how can the inspector be made an agent of change in the educational system (a dynamic control)? How can the inspector be made an agent involved in controlling the relationship between the educational and the social (community) systems (external control)?’ This is the big question, and it must be admitted that these inspectors are either ill-prepared for their task, or not prepared at all. This is why an examination of the abilities and skills of school inspectors as regulators of the system is probably the most fundamental point that arises, because they work at strategic points in the functioning of the educational system.”

I would offer John Goodlad as a case in point to this. Charlotte Iserbyt in her book “The Deliberated Dumbing Down of America” calls him “America’s premier change agent.” His work at BYU started in 1983 with the “public school partnership” and then brought BYU’s education department into his “National Network for Educational Renewal” as a founding member in 1986. We succeeded in getting BYU’s education department out of the NNER just a couple years ago by throwing light on the subversive side of Goodlad and his social justice instruction in the classroom, but they are still infatuated with him and his worldly philosophies.

Interestingly, there is a major move afoot in this country by the feds to transform schools into community learning centers where they are open longer hours, keep children in schools longer, bring in parents for training in the agenda, and more. This can be searched online as “21st century learning centers” and other such community education center terms. This is nothing more than a play to make schools indoctrination centers (why hello Mr. Orwell).

Here is the UNESCO document. I would lastly point out again that Bill Gates’ Microsoft signed a contract in 2004 with UNESCO to create a global education system. Funded by Gates’ money, just a few years later we have Common Core.

UNESCO 1984 Common Core

Bombshell: Duncan breaks law – NAEP Now High Stakes Test

NEW VENUE AND TIME: Please come to a protest on Thursday at 11:00 – 12:30 at Royal Wood Office Plaza, 230 West 200 South. The parking lot is shared with the US post office. Invite everyone you can, especially those with children with disabilities.

In a nutshell: Secretary Arne Duncan violated federal law seeking to punish state school disability programs, got caught big time, and a federal Dept. of Education official is here in Utah on a “routine” visit. Time for a protest.

What you are about to read should result in congressional hearings and Arne Duncan probably being fired as the US Secretary of Education.

Federal law sets forth certain things that can be done under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). No one may circumvent those laws. Only Congress can change laws, but because of the current Executive Branch’s agenda to bring states under federal control, grant-based regulations and mandates have increasingly been created by Secretary Duncan, in violation of the Constitution.

On June 24, 2014, Secretary Duncan circumvented congress and issued mandates for changes in the way state special education programs are evaluated. (http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/new-accountability-framework-raises-bar-state-special-education-programs)

“To improve the educational outcomes of America’s 6.5 million children and youth with disabilities, the U.S. Department of Education today announced a major shift in the way it oversees the effectiveness of states’ special education programs.”

He then went on to explain what changes he is mandating.

Eight U.S. senators prepared a letter explaining the violations of law involved in Duncan’s action and asked the Secretary a number of very pointed questions. Evidently, Senator Hatch from Utah walked that letter into a meeting, interrupting it, to deliver it to Secretary Duncan. The senators’ letter is embedded at the bottom of this article.

In essence, the mandate changes the way the school funding game is played by suddenly announcing that historical NAEP test score data will be used retroactively to evaluate federal funding on schools that have children with disabilities. As the senators’ letter points out this is a very clear violation of the law.

Duncan calls this new framework, “Results-Driven Accountability.” It’s simply unconstitutional and illegal. The press release states:

“Last year, when the Department considered only compliance data in making annual determinations, 41 states and territories met requirements. This year, however, when the Department includes data on how students are actually performing, only 18 states and territories meet requirements.”

Why are they so eager to tell states they aren’t meeting requirements? So they can enact more requirements. It’s the way things work for those in power. Tell schools they aren’t performing and then punish them with additional requirements.

Utah happens to be coming up short and is on the list of states that “need assistance.” The USDOE continues, “If a state needs assistance for two years in a row, IDEA requires the Department to take actions such as requiring the state to obtain technical assistance or identifying the state as a high-risk grant recipient.”

So Utah is at risk of losing federal funds due to the feds moving the goal post and mandating, against the rules of the game, that teams retroactively enact the new rules. Suddenly the score that was 14-0, is 0-0.

Now I’m no fan of federal funding in any respect and I’d love to see it abolished, but until we are able to accomplish that, this is an egregious violation of the law and should result in Duncan and maybe others being short-timers on the hill for their actions.

NAEP was supposed to be for a common set of data between the states and was mandated to never be used for high stakes testing determination.

So what kind of “technical assistance” does the USDOE have in mind?

“As part of the move to RDA, OSERS [Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services] will fund a new $50 million technical assistance center – the Center on Systemic Improvement – to help states leverage the $11.5 billion in federal special education funds which they currently receive to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. In addition, OSERS will be working with each state to support them in developing comprehensive plans designed to improve results for children with disabilities.”

Because so many states were suddenly deemed to be below threshold (without knowing that’s how they would be evaluated), we’re going to see a new federal “assistance” center because obviously the states aren’t capable of educating children with disabilities. We “need” that federal help…  (Oh, and Common Core isn’t being pushed by the feds either, of course.)

Interestingly, Gregory Corr, the Director of Monitoring and State Improvement Planning at OSEP (Office of Special Education Programs), is coming to Utah *right now* to do some type of investigation. This is beyond normal. Directors don’t go to states on “routine” visits.  I understand he will be at the State Office of Education on Thursday.

Please come to the protest on Thursday at 11:00 – 12:30 at Royal Wood Office Plaza, 230 West 200 South. The parking lot is shared with the US post office. Help tell the the feds to stop violating the law, stop violating Utah’s sovereignty, and stop messing with children with disabilities. It’s OUR education system. Lets give Greg a “warm” welcome. Bring your signs.

 

Secretary Arne Duncan Busted

Three ASD Board Members send letter to Judy Park

If you want to know what *real* school board members do, check this out. There was discussion at the August 12th school board meeting in Alpine regarding AIR, the company Utah contracted with to provide the SAGE exam. You can listen to the audio at this link.
http://board.alpineschools.org/2014/08/07/august-12-2014-board-meeting/
Click at the bottom on Additional media, and go to 52 minutes on the Board Meeting audio.

That discussion prompted Dr. Judy Park at the Utah State Office of Education to write a letter to Superintendent Henshaw in ASD. This letter was sent to Dr. Park by three of the board members in ASD (and it’s shameful that the other 4 don’t understand their role as public watchdogs enough to have signed on as well). Read this and then covet our board members… :)

 

September 18, 2014

Dr. Judy Park

Utah State Office of Education

Dear Dr. Park,

Thank you for taking the time to address some of the issues with AIR and SAGE testing.  We especially appreciate your citations of the contract.  In the interest of openness and transparency, we have a point of clarification, as well as some follow-up questions.

To begin, a point of clarification.  Your letter is directed to Superintendent Henshaw who communicated some of our concerns about SAGE and AIR to you.  In your letter, you indicate that “False, undocumented and baseless allegations need to cease.”  We wish to clarify that the concerns expressed by Dr. Henshaw were not coming from him, and, as such, your directive would not be to him but to those of us on the board and our constituents who are raising questions, based on our reading of the AIR contract with USOE.  Because Dr. Henshaw reports to the Alpine School Board and not the other way around, any directive for Dr. Henshaw to rein in these ‘allegations’ from board members or constituents would be inappropriate.  We can appreciate that you are troubled by this, but we would recommend that more information and more discussion would be a preferable way of resolving concerns, as opposed to suggesting that concerned representatives and their constituents simply remain silent.

So, in that spirit of openness, we have the following clarifications and follow-up questions.

We begin by addressing the sections of the AIR contract cited in your letter of August 14.  It was very much appreciated because these are the same sections of the contract that we have studied.  We were hopeful that there would be additional insight.  Unfortunately, we did not find any assurance in the pages listed.

I-96 – I-98:  This section nicely addresses the physical, network, and software security for the server and test items.  However, the only reference to AIR employees, their ability to access or use any data is left to “Utah’s public records laws, FERPA, and other federal laws.”  FERPA, as many know, has been modified by the US Dept of Education to allow for the sharing of data without parental knowledge or consent as long as it can be justified as an ‘educational program’. Additionally, FERPA only contains penalties for those entities receiving federal funds.  Since Utah is paying directly for SAGE testing, FERPA is a meaningless law in this regard.  Additionally, Utah’s public records laws appear to only address the openness of public records, but are insufficient when it comes to privacy or use of data, including that of a minor.  If there are robust privacy laws in Utah’s public records laws, we would appreciate additional citations.  Please cite the other federal laws that protect the privacy of our students.

I-61:  Addresses the technical protocols for the data transfer, as well as encryption of passwords.  Again, this doesn’t address those who are given access by AIR to the data for whatever purpose.

I-72 – I-73:  Addresses the security of those contractors who will be manually scoring during the pilot testing.  This addresses a particular third-party in a particular role, but not AIR as an entity or its employees, other than this particular instance.

I-85 – I-86:  Addresses the issues of users and roles for the database and USOE updates.  This limits the appropriate access to those of us in Utah, based on whether we are teachers, principals, board members, USOE, etc.  Again, this does not address anything about AIR as an entity or its employees.

While all these security precautions are necessary, and we are grateful they are included, they do nothing to address the particular issues that were raised at the August 12, 2014 Alpine School Board Meeting.  Some of our concerns are as follows:

1)  Prior to the Addendum from March 2014 (for which we are grateful) there was no prohibition on sharing data with a third-party.  As indicated, the changes to FERPA would allow AIR to legally share data with a third-party as long as that sharing was for ‘an educational program’ without parental knowledge or consent.  As such, the addendum now allows for that sharing only with the USOE’s consent.  We are still concerned that parents are not asked to give consent and may not have knowledge of their student’s data being shared.

2) AIR itself is a research firm dedicated to conducting and applying the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation.  As such, they are involved with data collection and evaluation. In the contract and addendum cited, there is nothing that prohibits how AIR or its subsidiary organizations may use, query, analyze or access any or all student data from the SAGE tests in Utah.  They would have access to many data sets from many entities.  They also would have multiple on-going research projects.  There is no prohibition on what inquiries, research or analysis can be done on the data from SAGE testing.  As long as AIR does not profit from the data or share with a third-party without the USOE’s consent, the data is managed by AIR and available for access.  What are the methods in place to prevent AIR from accessing the data for additional research or analysis?  AIR does not need to share the data with a third-party to violate the privacy of a student or a set of students.  However, since they control and manage the database, there is nothing that would prevent this access.

3) There are no prohibitions in the contract regarding behavioral data.  While we realize Mr. Cohen has said the contract does not call for gathering or evaluating behavioral data, and that AIR is not inclined to do so, there are, again, no prohibitions or penalties associated with gathering or evaluating behavioral data.  State law allows for the use of behavioral data in the year-end testing.  So, there are no legal prohibitions on the use or collection of behavioral data.  Since behavioral research is the primary mission of AIR, as indicated by its mission statement, it is a concern for parents.  If AIR has no desire to collect behavioral data as part of the SAGE testing, it should state so explicitly in a legally-binding manner.

4) Many parents have, legally, opted out of SAGE testing for their students.  As such, why is AIR receiving any information on these students?  Parents feel it is a grave violation of their trust by USOE that any data the USOE has received from the schools can be input into the SAGE database, not to mention the State Longitudinal Database System (SLDS).  There must, at a minimum, be a way for parents to opt out of all sharing of their student’s data with AIR and the SLDS.  At what point, if any, will student data be purged from the AIR database?  What is the method for demonstrating the data has been properly purged?

Additionally, we appreciate the response of Mr. Cohen to our concerns.  Based on his response, we have the following questions.

1)  Please list the “express purposes” for which the release, sharing or sale of data is not prohibited, per contract.

2) What third parties are AIR “explicitly permitted by the State of Utah” to provide data to?

3) What research has AIR been requested and directed by the Utah State Office of Education to conduct?

4) What entity (or entities) has AIR been authorized by the State of Utah to release data to?

5) Please list the source of the contract that states that AIR is prohibited from releasing data to the federal government.

6) What entity (or entities) have been designated by the USOE to receive data from AIR?

7) The memo does not address companies owned or operated by AIR, which would not be considered third-parties.  Please state, per contract, where AIR does not share data within related party entities.

Finally, we have the following questions related to the validity and reliability of the SAGE testing.  We understand that this information would not be protected by copyright, and therefore, could be provided to us, as elected officials.

1. Normative Sample Details (who took the test)

2. Coefficient Alpha Reliability

3. Content description Validity

4. Differential Item Function Analysis

5. Criterion Prediction Validity

6. Construct Identification Validity

7. Other types of validity scales/constructs that are applicable only to CAT test designs

We appreciate the opportunity to discuss this more in the future.  As those who are responsible to the parents of this district, we feel it is imperative that our concerns are addressed.  And, when all is said and done, it is most important that parents have the opportunity to protect whatever student information they feel is necessary.  Just because parents decide to educate their children in our public school system does not mean that we, as a state government, are entitled to whatever information about their children we feel in necessary.  Parents are still, by state law, primarily responsible for the education and the upbringing of their children.  As such, their wishes and their need to protect information on their students is paramount.  As members of the Alpine School Board, we must represent the different views and concerns of all the parents in our area.  For those who have no concerns, then you may proceed as usual.  For those who do have concerns, it is incumbent on us to raise these questions and to obtain the most accurate information possible.

Thank you for your time, and we look forward to more information in the future.

Sincerely,

Brian Halladay, ASD4

Wendy Hart, ASD2

Paula Hill, ASD1

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