All posts by Oak Norton

Rigged Assessments

Until this morning, I had never heard it summarized this well. Privacy is the foundation of freedom. On its face, the article below is not about privacy or freedom, but it is inherently part of the issue of rigged assessments. Why? Because those who have built our education system for the last century have been more interested in education as a tool for social engineering than a tool of knowledge transmission. To accomplish that goal, you must gather information about people, their behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs. There must be a loss of privacy to accomplish these goals.

SAGE exams are created by a behavioral testing company. The next alarming trend that MUST BE STOPPED, is that of embedded assessments where students don’t even know they’re being assessed. This is also a violation of privacy and another erosion of freedom. The digital age is unlocking vast potential for good and evil. Stop the evil. Read Wendy’s article and understand what’s happening. Then read this article on the Huff Po entitled “I can’t answer these Texas standardized test questions about my own poem” to see how ridiculous Common Core testing for ELA is.

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Article by Wendy Hart, Reprinted from: http://iaheaction.net/rigged-assessments/

We all know that polls can be skewed and that ‘what everybody knows’ may not be so. Similarly, assessments and assessment data can be gathered, used, and presented in various ways to feed an agenda.  Just because a child is said to be proficient on a state assessment doesn’t mean he or she actually is ‘proficient’ in the way parents want him or her to be.

When I was in school, my teachers would give us tests to help figure out how much of what they were teaching we had actually learned.  Then, the state stepped in and started giving assessments to make sure teachers were teaching what the state wanted them to teach.  And now?  We’re told the assessments are great, but we are just supposed to trust.  We can’t see the assessment questions.  The algorithms (mathematical formulas) determining which questions come next or whether you have a higher or a lower score are kept secret. The State Boards of Education or the assessment vendors, themselves, can move and change the ‘proficiency’ levels at will.

We take it on faith when a student passes a math assessment it means the student is proficient.  Is it possible to rig an assessment?  Not only is it possible, but it’s also being done all the time.  I have four examples of how the assessments are and have been manipulated to provide different results than most people expect.  This is being done without oversight, without insight into what is occurring, and certainly without permission from parents.

The first example is assessing not just what a student is supposed to know but making them do the problem in a particular way. Ask yourself, does this create a disadvantage for a child who knows the math facts but hasn’t been shown a particular way of doing things?

This problem is an example of a Common Core Math Standard from First Grade:

Add and subtract within 20, demonstrating fluency for addition and subtraction within 10. Use strategies such as counting on; making ten (e.g., 8 + 6 = 8 + 2 + 4 = 10 + 4 = 14); decomposing a number leading to a ten (e.g., 13 – 4 = 13 – 3 – 1 = 10 – 1 = 9); using the relationship between addition and subtraction (e.g., knowing that 8 + 4 = 12, one knows 12 – 8 = 4); and creating equivalent but easier or known sums (e.g., adding 6 + 7 by creating the known equivalent 6 + 6 + 1 = 12 + 1 = 13).   

This question doesn’t just assess whether a student knows how to do an addition word problem, but it assesses whether a student has been trained on the Making Ten Strategy as outlined in the standard.  Could a student solve 8+6 without knowing the Making Ten Strategy?  Yes, of course.  Does using the Making Ten Strategy indicate critical thinking?  Or does it simply indicate a student has been instructed in this strategy?  Would you be able to succeed as a mathematician without learning this Making Ten Strategy in First Grade? Have you successfully used addition in your life without thinking about the Making Ten Strategy?

Many parent complaints about Common Core Math come from having to show the various methods for getting the answer or having to explain why an answer is correct.

Parent:“When I was in school, we did it this way.”

Child: “I have to do it this other way or it will be marked wrong.”

One mother asked her child’s teacher if he could simply do the standard algorithm on all his math homework because the multiple strategies were causing him stress.  The teacher said if he didn’t learn the strategies, he wouldn’t do well on the state assessment.  Once the mother indicated her child would not be taking the assessment, the teacher readily agreed to give credit for just the standard algorithms.  The reason for the multiple methods?  To do well on the assessment.

A review written in 2011 by Dr. Stephen Wilson of Johns Hopkins University states the following about the Common Core SBAC test (then under development).  He says, “It appears that the assessments will focus on communication skills and Mathematical Practices over content knowledge.”

Furthermore, “Mathematical Practices, or what was usually called ‘process’ standards in most states, do little more than describe how someone pretty good at mathematics seems to approach mathematics problems. As stand-alone standards, they are neither teachable nor testable. Mathematics is about solving problems, and anyone who can solve a complex multi-step problem using mathematics automatically demonstrates their skill with the Mathematical Practices, (whether they can communicate well or not).”

In short, we see Dr. Wilson’s concerns demonstrated in the above example: the process of getting the answer is of greater importance than the actual mathematical abilities most people think the assessment should be assessing.

A second example comes from Utah’s SAGE (end-of-year) sample assessment for Third Grade. This question is supposed to assess a deeper understanding of division than simply asking if a child knows the answer to 12 ÷ 4. Unfortunately, in creating a more convoluted problem, the assessment question can be solved without knowing anything more than how to count and how to write a division problem. Division facts, themselves, are not necessary.

 

SAGE Math Test QuestionThere are lots of kids who can divide things equally by putting them in different boxes without knowing 12 ÷ 4 = 3.  Supposedly, by dragging the stars and dragging the numbers, you are assessing higher-order thinking.  But what you are really assessing is the child’s familiarity with the software interface, the format of the problem, and whether they can count and relate counting to division.  But they don’t have to know 12 ÷ 4 = 3.

Would a child who knows her division facts be able to do this problem anyway?  Most likely.  However, it is also true this question doesn’t distinguish the child who does know her math facts from the one who does not.

A third example has to do with reading comprehension.  It dates back to the 1980’s but illustrates that what is on an assessment and how it is asked can be used to manipulate and ‘direct’ a student’s thought processes.  I quote Dr. Peg Luksik who worked for Pennsylvania’s Department of Education.  From her video :

‘A sample question said: “There’s a group called the Midnight Marauders and they went out at night and did vandalism. I (the child) would join the group IF…”

“…my best friend was in the group.”

“…my mother wouldn’t find out.”

There was no place to say they would not join the group. They had to say they would join the group.’

Dr. Luksik states that while this was listed as a citizenship assessment, the internal documents stated, “We’re not testing objective knowledge. We are testing and scoring for the child’s threshold for behavior change without protest.”

Additionally, Dr. Luksik discusses another state’s Reading Assessment question: “If you found a wallet with money in it, would you take it?”

She asked, ‘Do you read better if you say “yes”? Or do you read better if you say “no”? Or were they assessing a child’s honesty on a state assessment with their name on it…?’

Clearly, these are examples of assessment questions that were not assessing either citizenship or reading as you and I would define them.

And finally, before a single Utah student took the state’s SAGE assessment in 2014, the head of state assessments warned local school board members that student test scores were going to drop by 10 or 20 points.  He also stated there was no way to correlate the previous test results with the SAGE results.  So, how did he know this?  The point was they knew what the target proficiency rate was.  Utah was looking for a proficiency rate in the 40’s.  And as they went through the process of setting those proficiency scores, they did so after the first round of testing. Then they modified the scoring to make sure the result fell within that 40% range*.  So, in one year, did Utah kids lose 20 points of knowledge?  Or does it simply mean the Powers That Be decided only 40% of the kids got to be labeled ‘proficient’ regardless of what they actually knew?

The only sure way of knowing an assessment is truly measuring academic content and grading it appropriately requires transparency with the assessment questions, the assessment methodology, and independent verification procedures.

Instead of wondering how kids are doing on state assessments and whether a school is “good” based on the assessment scores, we need to be asking what are these assessments supposed to be measuring and how do we know they really are measuring what they claim?

*Alpine School Board Study Session Audio September 23, 2014, Additional Media->Study Session @ 45 minutes. http://board.alpineschools.org/2014/09/18/september-23-2014-board-meeting/

 

Wendy Hart is the mother of three children.  She and her husband Scott have lived in Highland, UT for 17 years.  She was raised in Cupertino, CA, and moved to Utah to pursue her B.S. in Mathematics from Brigham Young University.  She has worked as a programmer and manager in several hi-tech companies in Utah, and owns her own database migration company.  Wendy is honored to serve the citizens of Highland, Alpine, and Cedar Hills, UT as a member of the Alpine School District Board of Education.

 

Comprehensive Sexuality Education

Something we should all be concerned about is the level of sexual information dispensed by the education system without parental consent or knowledge.

A few years back, we learned that the Obama administration was giving $75 million a year to Planned Parenthood to deliver comprehensive sexuality education. What are they teaching? Basically that no kind of sex is wrong, and the only “unsafe” sex is becoming pregnant. From their teaching guide:

‘Abstinence, means choosing not to do any sexual activity that carries a risk for pregnancy or STD/HIV,

We know that employees of Planned Parenthood worked on the Common Core National Sexuality Standards which moves their “education” agenda into elementary school to Kindergarten ages. Utah hasn’t adopted these yet to my knowledge, but no doubt there are those who want it implemented.

JaKell Sullivan recently received a copy of Salt Lake Magazine in which an article appeared, written by Susan Lacke, entitled, “Sex (Mis)Education.” JaKell posted this comment and quote from the article.

Our legislators will get hit hard this legislative session with the argument that we must implement Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE = Common Core-aligned global/national standards and curriculum teaching a perverted view of human sexuality) in order to fight the pornography epidemic. See this from Salt Lake magazine’s 6-Page article promoting CSE, and make sure your legislators are aware of this tactic.

“It’s hard to fight a public health crisis when we’re not sure exactly what it is. Besides, how would we fight it? Even Gov. Herbert admits the public health crisis declaration is symbolic: Herbert says it’s a step to let “our young people know that there’s a particularly psychological and physiological detriment that comes from addiction to pornography.”

…”There is little legal recourse to actually limit access to sexual imagery–the Internet will always be available on phones or laptops. Victoria’s Secret catalogues will always be in the mail. Reality TV will always have hookups and breakups and one-night stands. Dirty pictures will always be on Twitter.

Republican Sen. Todd Weiler, who sponsored the declaration, emphatically declared “no boy or girl needs to see those images to learn how families are created.” But they’re seeing them anyway. What’s more, boys and girls are actually seeking out those very images, despite being told not to. What other choice does a curious kid have?

Due to lack of proper sex education in homes and schools, many of the youth are turning to adult films and other means of media, which do no always depict healthy sexuality,” says Utah board-certified sex therapist Shannon Hickman. When parents and school are not properly educating children and young adults about sex, it can lead youth to porn for answers.”….

One reply to her post by Rhonda Hair is what triggered my desire to create this post. It’s a quote from C.S. Lewis. Always brilliant, Lewis tears this old argument to shreds.

Rhonda’s comment:

Here is good food for thought – turns out that C.S. Lewis addressed this very claim in “Mere Christianity”, chapter 5. Hopefully here’s enough to leave you wanting to study the whole chapter:

“Everyone knows that the sexual appetite, like our other appetites, grows by indulgence. Starving men may think much about food, but so do gluttons; the gorged, as well as the famished, like titillations.

“You find very few people who want to eat things that really are not food or to do other things with food instead of eating it. In other words, perversions of the food appetite are rare. But perversions of the sex instinct are numerous, hard to cure, and frightful. I am sorry to have to go into all these details, but I must. The reason why I must is that you and I, for the last twenty years, have been fed all day long on good solid lies about sex. We have been told, till one is sick of hearing it, that sexual desire is in the same state as any of our other natural desires and that if only we abandon the silly old Victorian idea of hushing it up, everything in the garden will be lovely. It is not true. The moment you look at the facts, and away from the propaganda, you see that it is not.
They tell you sex has become a mess because it was hushed up. But for the last twenty years it has not been hushed up. It has been chattered about all day long. Yet it is still in a mess. If hushing up had been the cause of the trouble, ventilation would have set it right. But it has not. I think it is the other way round. I think the human race originally hushed it up because it had become such a mess. Modern people are always saying, “Sex is nothing to be ashamed of.” They may mean two things. They may mean “There is nothing to be ashamed of in the fact that the human race reproduces itself in a certain way, nor in the fact that it gives pleasure.” If they mean that, they are right. Christianity says the same. It is not the thing, nor the pleasure, that is the trouble. The old Christian teachers said that if man had never fallen, sexual pleasure, instead of being less than it is now, would actually have been greater. I know some muddle-headed Christians have talked as if Christianity thought that sex, or the body, or pleasure, were bad in themselves. But they were wrong. Christianity is almost the only one of the great religions which thoroughly approves of the body-which believes that matter is good, that God Himself once took on a human body, that some kind of body is going to be given to us even in Heaven and is going to be an essential part of our happiness, our beauty, and our energy. Christianity has glorified marriage more than any other religion: and nearly all the greatest love poetry in the world has been produced by Christians. If anyone says that sex, in itself, is bad, Christianity contradicts him at once. But, of course, when people say, “Sex is nothing to be ashamed of,” they may mean “the state into which the sexual instinct has now got is nothing to be ashamed of.”
If they mean that, I think they are wrong. I think it is everything to be ashamed of. There is nothing to be ashamed of in enjoying your food: there would be everything to be ashamed of if half the world made food the main interest of their lives and spent their time looking at pictures of food and dribbling and smacking their lips.

“…In the first place our warped natures, the devils who tempt us, and all the contemporary propaganda for lust, combine to make us feel that the desires we are resisting are so “natural,” so “healthy,” and so reasonable, that it is almost perverse and abnormal to resist them. Poster after poster, film after film, novel after novel, associate the idea of sexual indulgence with the ideas of health, normality, youth, frankness, and good humour. Now this association is a lie. Like all powerful lies, it is based on a truth-the truth, acknowledged above, that sex in itself (apart from the excesses and obsessions that have grown round it) is “normal” and “healthy,” and all the rest of it. The lie consists in the suggestion that any sexual act to which you are tempted at the moment is also healthy and normal. Now this, on any conceivable view, and quite apart from Christianity, must be nonsense. Surrender to all our desires obviously leads to impotence, disease, jealousies, lies, concealment, and everything that is the reverse of health, good humour, and frankness. For any happiness, even in this world, quite a lot of restraint is going to be necessary; so the claim made by every desire, when it is strong, to be healthy and reasonable, counts for nothing. Every sane and civilised man must have some set of principles by which he chooses to reject some of his desires and to permit others.”

For more information watch this video by Family Watch International which explains the comprehensive sexuality education plan.

2016 School Board Candidates

Candidates for School Board that oppose Common Core.

District 10: DR. GARY THOMPSON – (Eastern Salt Lake County from I-215 to Draper including parts of Cottonwood Heights & Midvale, Sandy, Draper)
District 11: LISA CUMMINS – (Southwest Salt Lake County including South Jordan, Riverton, Herriman, Bluffdale and Northwest Utah County including Cedar Fort & Fairfield)
District 12: ALISA ELLIS – (Orem, Lindon and Summit, Wasatch, Duchesne, Daggett, Uintah Counties)
District 13: SCOTT NEILSON – (Provo, Spanish Fork)
District 15: MICHELLE BOULTER – (Washington & Iron Counties)

ALPINE SCHOOL DISTRICT, please vote for Rachel Thacker in seat 4, and Miriam Ellis in seat 6, Sara Hacken in seat 7

DAVIS SCHOOL DISTRICT, please vote for Larry Smith

Schools Ditch Academics For Emotional Manipulation

The following article by is reprinted with permission from http://thefederalist.com/2016/10/19/schools-ditch-academics-for-emotional-manipulation/.


This summer the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) announced it had chosen eight states to collaborate on creating K-12 “social emotional learning” (SEL) standards. All students, from kindergartners through high-school seniors, would be measured on five “non-cognitive” factors: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

Under such a system teachers become essentially therapists, and students become essentially patients. Supposedly this will clear away the psychological deadwood that obstructs a student’s path to academic achievement.

But less than two months later, two of the CASEL states (Tennessee and Georgia) have withdrawn from the initiative. Parents have begun to realize the dangers of SEL and to challenge their schools’ lemming-like march toward psychological manipulation of children.

Federal Government Probes Students’ Psyches

We’ve written about the push by the U.S. Department of Education (USED) and the rest of the progressive education establishment to transform education from academic content instruction to molding and assessing children’s attitudes, mindsets, and behaviors. The infamous “outcome-based education” (OBE) in the 1990s began the trend, and Head Start and the Common Core national standards advance the same foundational principles.

The new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) ramps up the trend in several ways. ESSA requires rating schools based partly on “nonacademic” factors, which may include measures of SEL. It also pours money into SEL programs, “which may include engaging or supporting families at school or at home” (i.e., home visits by bureaucrats).

Other provisions include training school personnel on “when and how to refer . . . children with, or at risk of, mental illness,” and implementing programs for children who are deemed “at-risk” of academic or social problems, without ever defining “at-risk.” Similar ESSA language urges school officials to cast a wide net for special education in school-wide “intervention” and “support” programs, allowing schools to sidestep parental consent requirements for formal evaluations.

Beyond ESSA, at least three other federal initiatives aim to monitor children’s attitudes and beliefs. One is the planned revision of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the test referred to as “the nation’s report card,” to assess mindsets and school climate. This revision has been challenged not only on constitutional and privacy grounds, but as a violation of federal law. Of course, law is merely an inconvenience to the Obama administration.

The second effort would fund federally controlled and funded “social emotional research” in the proposed Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA)—a bill supported by individuals and corporations that will profit handsomely from all this sensitive data to help them mold worker bees for the global economy.

A third federal initiative is USED’s bribery of states to promote SEL standards and data-gathering on preschool children via the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grants. These grants, along with the preschool grants in ESSA and Head Start, promote “Baby Common Core”-style SEL standards and data-collection and preserving this in states’ student-data systems. So now every child’s permanent dossier can include how well he played with others when he was four.

Should Government Track Students’ Thoughts, Feelings?

The problems with SEL are both philosophical and operational. Parents rightly object that the school (which means the government) has no business analyzing and trying to change a child’s psychological makeup. It’s one thing to enforce discipline in a classroom and encourage individual students to do their best; good teachers have done that from time immemorial. It’s quite another to assess students on their compliance with highly subjective behavioral standards that may measure personality and individual or family beliefs more than objective shortcomings in performance. The school exists to assist parents in educating their children, not to replace them in that role.

Writing in trade publication Education Week, a SEL consultant touts a new assessment “to generate data about such character strengths as responsibility, resilience, teamwork, curiosity, and leadership.” This violation of both privacy and freedom of conscience is also an alarming effort to standardize children, who normally develop at very different rates and in very different ways, to fit government-determined norms. The government has no right to collect data on any child’s “character strengths,” which are the most personal aspects of a child’s psyche. Period.

The operational problems are also daunting. Who will be assessing a child using these subjective criteria? Psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors undergo years of training to delve into this murky area. But even these experts admit there are no firm criteria for mental-health diagnoses, especially in children. The World Health Organization, hardly a bastion of conservative medical or political thought, warned: “Childhood and adolescence being developmental phases, it is difficult to draw clear boundaries between phenomena that are part of normal development and others that are abnormal.”

Through SEL, however, the government wants to have teachers making such evaluations. Psychologist Dr. Gary Thompson has emphasized that placing this type of responsibility in the hands of untrained even if well-meaning people can be dangerous for the children who may be improperly labeled. These dangers can include even forced treatment with medications that have harmful side effects, or threatened or actual removal of children from their homes if parents refuse the treatment.

Student self-reporting such as surveys, another common means of compiling SEL data, is similarly unreliable. Prominent SEL proponents Dr. Angela Duckworth and David Yeager have pointed out that students may interpret survey questions differently from how the creators intended, and that the questions are unlikely to detect incremental changes. As parents of teenaged boys can attest, many children will treat such surveys as a joke and gladly take the opportunity to respond in the most outrageous manner possible.

Because “perfectly unbiased, unfakeable, and error-free [SEL] measures are an ideal, not a reality,” Duckworth and Yeager argue, such measures should not be used to evaluate schools or teachers. Duckworth was so concerned about using these highly subjective criteria in federally mandated accountability schemes that she withdrew from a California project to do just that. But this is exactly what USED is pushing through ESSA, and CASEL through its K-12 standards.

Dangerous Data in the Permanent Record

Despite the objections even from SEL proponents, the movement advances to assess, record, and analyze personal characteristics of children. What happens to all that data? Incentivized by USED, states are building massive statewide longitudinal data systems to track every aspect of every student from cradle to, or through, their career. Thus, unreliable data collected from making guesses about students’ emotional states will presumably be entered into the database, to live in eternity.

Who might want to get their hands on that data? Would a college or employer be interested in whether a particular applicant shows curiosity or “grit”? Would a prosecutor like to know if a young suspect lacked “relationship skills” in high school? Or perhaps that prosecutor would want to know if that child had violated the school’s zero-tolerance policy in kindergarten, even if only with a “bubble gun.” Because USED has gutted federal student-privacy law to allow sharing personally identifiable information on students with almost anyone the government wants, it’s very possible such entities could access that data—without parental consent.

If such psychological data resided in a psychologist’s office, it would be protected by HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Would it be similarly protected if located in a school’s database? No. It would probably be considered merely an “education record” subject to (not protected by) federal student-privacy law.

Opening Doors for Indoctrination

So as parents are beginning to recognize, this entire SEL scheme is objectionable on many levels. Particularly troubling are indications that CASEL and other SEL proponents advance political and cultural viewpoints that conflict with those of many families. Parents will be assured the goal is merely to instill more positive mindsets to increase academic achievement, but the evidence suggests another motivation is in play.

It’s revealing to examine the connections CASEL has to far-left individuals and organizations that push particular agendas. One CASEL board member is Linda Darling-Hammond, the radical education professor who was Bill Ayers’s choice to be President Obama’s secretary of Education.

Darling-Hammond also leads the liberal Aspen Institute’s new National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development. In a video made to promote this commission, Darling-Hammond makes it clear that SEL will be used to instill attitudes that will ultimately help solve perceived global problems: “If you look at the state of the world, with conflict and inadequate resources for many people . . . it is our social and emotional intelligence that is going to pull us through to the world that we want.” Parents might wonder if the world they want and the world Darling-Hammond wants are the same thing.

CASEL’s partnerships and funding also show a distinct political tilt. CASEL is funded partly by the federal government’s Institute for Education Sciences (the same agency that wants to assess mindsets in NAEP and to have social emotional research become a federal mandate) and partly by a range of liberal foundations. Among these are the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which promotes socialized health care and bemoans the effect of climate change on “health and equity”; and the 1440 Foundation, which pushes Buddhist “mindfulness” techniques and raises alarms about climate change.

Another major funder of CASEL is the NoVo Foundation, which seeks to use SEL to “play a significant role in shifting our culture of systemic inequality and violence toward a new ethos that values and prioritizes collaboration and partnership.” NoVo’s founders make funding decisions to change “systems [that are] based on domination, competition, and exploitation.” Presumably they think CASEL and SEL will help them overturn these exploitative systems.

One area of particular concern to NoVo is LGBT issues. In December 2015, NoVo partnered with the Arcus Foundation to kick off a five-year philanthropic initiative focused on “improving the lives of transgender people worldwide.”

So CASEL partners with organizations that openly seek to change the world (or “systems”) in areas such as health care, climate regulation, and sexual politics. How would SEL help accomplish that? Well, if schools are measuring students’ “social awareness,” might that encompass opinions of supposedly critical global problems such as climate change? And might a student’s “relationship skills” be deemed deficient if, in keeping with the influence of his family and faith, he rejects the LGBT agenda such as same-sex marriage and normalization of gender dysphoria?

Lest we be accused of alarmism, consider the many sample lessons offered by a CASEL partner called Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility. One teaches students the perils of climate change and fracking in North Dakota; another encourages students to “take action toward transgender equity.” This fits well with the type of surveys and assessments being collected on children in a Florida middle-school Spanish class:

florida school surveyRegardless of one’s opinions on a given issue, it is parents’ right and authority to discuss these issues with their children, not the government’s to set standardized norms about thoughts, emotions, attitudes, and beliefs. When government begins manipulating the mindsets of still developing and impressionable children, the dangers are legion. Imagine what Vladimir Lenin could have done with these types of standards, curricula, and linkable databases accessible at the touch of a button.

Samuel Adams said in 1776, “Driven from every other corner of the earth, freedom of thought and the right of private judgment in matters of conscience direct [new Americans] . . . to this happy country as their last asylum.” Unless parents and other citizens stand against this kind of tyranny of the mind, our country will warp into one Adams wouldn’t recognize, and our children will be sacrificed to achieve the transformation.

Jane Robbins is an attorney and a senior fellow with the American Principles Project in Washington DC. Dr. Karen Effrem is a pediatrician and president of Education Liberty Watch.

Utah Lt. Governor’s Bombshell on Common Core

Spencer CoxRecently given to me by someone who shall remain anonymous, the below emails by Utah Lt. Governor Spencer Cox, while not completely accurate on all points, shows that he recognized problems and tried to get the Governor on board with changing Common Core two years ago. Then he shared his old email again this year during the heat of the campaign. I think the Governor even used some lines from this speech when he spoke to the State Board this summer asking them to replace Common Core and help his campaign which was getting hammered over his strong support for Common Core.

Utah Speaker of the House Greg Hughes recently endorsed Dr. Gary Thompson stating “Dr. Gary Thompson is a conservative champion who will support common sense policies for students and protect local control. He is a man of integrity who will be a welcome addition to a new and improved state board of education.”

The Utah Technology council recently put out this slate of candidates they recommend voting for (but don’t directly “endorse”). I agree with all of them but district 13 which I have changed to the school teacher running for office that the UEA didn’t endorse (showing they do NOT represent teachers, they represent their own agenda). He’s opposed to federal intrusion and Common Core. Check out his website below.

District 10: DR. GARY THOMPSON – (Eastern Salt Lake County from I-215 to Draper including parts of Cottonwood Heights & Midvale, Sandy, Draper): (www.vote4drgary.com)
District 11: LISA CUMMINS – (Southwest Salt Lake County including South Jordan, Riverton, Herriman, Bluffdale and Northwest Utah County including Cedar Fort & Fairfield) (www.lisacummins.us)
District 12: ALISA ELLIS – (Orem, Lindon and Summit, Wasatch, Duchesne, Daggett, Uintah Counties) (www.alisa4district12.com).
District 13: SCOTT NEILSON – (Provo, Spanish Fork) (www.ScottforBoard.com)
District 15: MICHELLE BOULTER – (Washington & Iron Counties): (www.electmichelleboulter.com)

It looks to me like there is some strong support for these candidates!!!

Also, in Alpine School District, please vote for Rachel Thacker in seat 4, and Miriam Ellis in seat 6.

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From: “Spencer J. Cox”
Date: April 8, 2016 at 8:10:33 AM MDT
Subject: Fwd: Common Core Thoughts

I don’t mean for this to be an “I told you [him] so,” and it’s probably too late to do anything now. However, I found this email from 2 years ago that I wrote as a proposed statement for the Governor to solve the Common Core dilemma. I’m guessing anything we do now will just look too politically motivated. But if we happen to get reelected, we might consider actually doing something about the growing frustration.

Begin forwarded message:

From: Spencer Cox
Date: May 6, 2014 at 10:17:04 AM MDT
To: “Spencer J. Cox”
Subject: Common Core Thoughts

Let me state at the outset, that I firmly believe in the importance of high academic standards in all subject areas for Utah students. We have a proud history of academic standards in Utah that pre-date the common core. Over the past year, I have listened intently to the growing chorus of concern with regards to the adoption of Common Core standards. While there is clearly a great deal of misinformation being disseminated on both sides of this issue, there are legitimate concerns that I share with those opposed to the Common Core. As I have listened, and researched, it has become clear to me that, although well-intentioned, the conflict, discord and divisiveness associated with these standards is doing more harm than good. Unfortunately, we have lost the focus on what matters most–our students and making sure our teachers have the resources and tools necessary to provide a world-class education. As such, today I announce that I am withdrawing my support for Common Core.

In doing so, I wish to reiterate the three main principals that should guide our actions in Utah when it comes to academic standards for our public schools. These principals are:
1) maintaining high academic standards in all subject areas for all our students
2) keeping the federal government out of education decisions in Utah
3) preserving local control of curriculum, materials and instructional practices

In light of this decision, I am proposing a special session of the legislature for a few distinct reasons. First, to give the legislature an opportunity to weigh in on this debate. While the actual decision on Common Core rests with the State Board of Education, I believe that, as elected representatives of the people, we have a duty to weigh in on this critical debate. As such, I would like to give the legislature an opportunity to make their voices heard.

Next, just as important as the actual educational standards is the PROCESS at which we arrive at those standards. This should be a Utah process and this should be a transparent process. During the last session, the Legislature passed HB342, sponsored by Rep. Layton, which I signed into law. This bill requires the establishment of a standards review committee made up of 7 subject experts including teachers, higher ed faculty, business representatives, along with 10 parents of students currently in public schools. While I believe this is the right concept, today I am proposing legislation to expand of this committee to include….[….] The legislation would further provide direction for this independent to allow for public comment and discourse. If you have a problem with a specific standard, your voice will be heard.

This committee will begin a review of all academic standards, beginning with our math standards, and will make recommendations for improvement in the standards.  Some standards might be removed, some standards might be made more rigorous, and many standards might not be changed at all. I will ask this team to assure that we have rigorous academic standards which will prepare Utah students for entrance into our universities, applied technology colleges, or other specialized training programs without the need for remediation. I will also ask them to report on how the standards are preparing advanced students for placement in accelerated programs in and out of the state. I am inviting parents, teachers, and other members of the general public to submit alternative standards or written suggestions for improvement on the current math and English language arts standards to this team of experts, who will evaluate all suggestions.

Furthermore, the proposed legislation will give the committee the ability to make recommendations regarding implementation of new standards. One of the biggest faults with Common Core has been the unfortunately rushed sometimes shaky implementation in many districts. Too often the problems with implementation have resulted from a lack of available curriculum and a lack of necessary training for our teachers. Because of a significant reduction in professional development days for teachers, it is more difficult than ever for our teachers to understand, prepare for and implement the new standards. I promise to work with the legislature next year to push for an increase in funding for professional development days. We must listen to the concerns and complaints of teachers and administrators who truly understand the needs and difficulties of these critical changes in their classrooms.

I also want to reiterate that, in Utah we take the issue of local control a step further, by requiring that locally-elected school boards and charter schools choose the curriculum, materials, and instructional methods to be used in their schools. As the Governor I will continue to support this local control and will work to shore up state resources for curriculum development at the local level. The State Board of Education is drafting a rule that would require all charter schools and school boards to establish a process for local review and response to curriculum, increasing transparency in this process. This will provide yet another process to ensure that we keep education local.

Two years ago I worked with Sen Margaret Dayton on SB287, which requires Utah to “exit any agreement, contract, memorandum of understanding, or consortium that cedes control of Utah’s core curriculum to any other entity for any reason.” We are currently in complete compliance with this state law, and under my watch we will continue to keep the federal government out of education decisions in Utah. I understand that the State Board of Education is re-evaluating their waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind mandate to confirm that it is also in compliance with this law and look forward to their report. I call upon our congressional delegation to fix and reauthorize No Child Left Behind so that Utah and isn’t forced into the position of having to request a waiver.

In addition to concerns about Common Core, I have also listened to complaints regarding testing in our schools. It is important to note that the new SAGE adaptive testing is NOT tied directly to the Common Core. This testing was first recommended […..] This is a distinctly Utah test, developed in Utah and reviewed in Utah by Utah educators, administrators and parents. I also support the idea of using technology, and computer adaptation, to better assess the knowledge of our students. However, while I believe in the importance of testing and accountability, I share three distinct concerns with testing.

First, the amount of testing. There is rising concern that we have gone from not enough testing to too much testing. Although there is disagreement among experts on this issue, I worry that we might be spending too much of our time testing, and that testing is weighted too heavily in when it comes to evaluating our students and teachers. As such, I will also propose that our independent standards committee also be empowered to evaluate the amount and significance of testing.

Second, I am deeply concerned about the secrecy surrounding this new testing. While I do NOT believe that there are any conspiracies or hidden agendas in the SAGE testing, openness will always be best way to engender trust. If we truly have nothing to hide, then we should stop hiding. While I do not support the wide-release of off all test-questions prior to a test (for obvious reasons), I absolutely believe that students, parents and teachers should have the opportunity to review the questions missed by the student. I call on the State Board to make whatever policy changes are necessary to allow for the release of this information.

Third, I worry about the type of data being collected, the purposes and uses of that data and, critically, the security of that data. While I understand and support the importance of collecting data to improve our education system generally and to respond to the individual education needs of our students, we must be extremely careful in the way we use and store this data. To this end, I have asked Dr. Eric Denna to lead a review of student data collection and protection practices in Utah and issue a report on how we are protecting student privacy and whether or not additional measures need to be taken. Dr. Denna is the director of information technology information services at the University of Utah and previous managed very large information services, such as the worldwide information systems for the LDS church as well as several other large corporations.

Let me conclude by stating that I understand education is a very passionate issue–and it should be. The future of our state and nation depends in a very real way on the education of our children. More than ever, we are competing in a global marketplace and must raise the level of education. We should not be afraid of high standards or hard tests. We can and should expect more of our students, more of our teachers, more of our parents, more of our legislature and more of our governor. I know these changes will not silence all of the critics, but I do hope that we can now take these divisive issues off the table and move forward, together, on the things that really matter.

Why the CLT Exam should replace the SAGE/ACT/SAT exams

KSL recently reported that Utah lawmakers are considering replacing the SAGE exam with the ACT test for 11th graders. While I am all in favor of getting rid of the SAGE exam, the ACT is only modestly better. ACT and SAT have both been aligned to Common Core. They are no longer college entrance exams, but at their core, they are now high school graduation exams. They won’t test college preparedness, but if a student has achieved high ability with Common Core prescribed skills.

If teachers teach to the test, which they do, and schools want to showcase their students’ abilities, which they do, then the best thing Utah and other states could do would be to switch to a test that is more representative of college level work.

CLT ExamThe Classic Learning Test (CLT) is such a test and it has grown rapidly being adopted by over 20 colleges this year as a valid exam for college entrance.

If the CLT becomes the premier college entrance exam, it will trickle down through the schools so the material becomes richer in classics and philosophy because schools will want to perform better on the exam and prepare their students for a true college level entrance exam.

Watch this video about the test. Then go to the CLT Practice Exam and try it out. There are three sections of about 40 questions each for reading, writing, and math.

Here’s a couple additional articles about the exam if you are interested.

www.theepochtimes.com/n3/2128748-educator-jeremy-tate-the-classics-can-help-us-build-a-better-future/

http://www.popecenter.org/2016/09/sat-act-fall-short-now-theres-better-alternative/

 

Common Core Math: Is Mom > or < Dad?

An alert parent in Alpine School District sent me this assignment for her junior high school child, obviously from the collection of “real-life problems” students should work on related to mathematical inequalities. I’m sure glad to see items 4-6 below are subjective because that’s what math is really all about. What do you feel good about? Then lets get children picking sides between their parents. What could possibly go wrong? Thank you Utah school board for adopting us into this nonsense! Time for a change of board members!

Mom vs. Dad

Students asked religious beliefs

Last week I was sent an email by an alert parent who had taught her child well. The child was in a Careers class and given an assignment that was to be graded, asking students to rate how strongly they agreed or disagreed with statements. About 10% of the test involved religious questions such as these:

  • I will take my children to religious services often.
  • I have taught a religious class or been active in my religion.
  • I believe in a god who answers prayers.
  • I give time or money to my religion.
  • I pray about my problems.
  • I believe that grace should be said before meals.
  • I believe there is life after death.
  • I read religious writings often.
  • I believe that people were created to look like the creator.
  • If I ask, my sins will be forgiven.

The student took out a cell phone and snapped shots of the exam. Here’s one page.

careerstest

The student in this situation actually had the knowledge to cross out all the religious questions and not answer them. This was someone who had been well trained by informed parents.

On it’s face, it seemed like this was a violation of FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) law.  In the end, this assessment was only personal for the students to reflect on what they believe, and not graded except for participation. The teacher has informed the parent that this wasn’t transmitted or uploaded anywhere.

He explained that State and District Standard 1.A. requires him to help students identify their values, interests, and personalities and how they affect their career choices but he agreed to investigate another survey to cover this subject in the future. He also spoke to the students and made it clear that if they ever felt uncomfortable with any personal questions, they wouldn’t be forced to answer those questions. Kudos to the teacher for taking that step and agreeing to look for another assessment.

If you are unaware of yours and your children’s rights, this is a link to the Utah FERPA law section that discusses what has to have parental permission to be covered in school.

https://le.utah.gov/xcode/Title53A/Chapter13/53A-13-S302.html

Here is a part of the section which is relevant. I encourage you to discuss the specific points with your children so they aren’t caught off guard at school or forced to do something they know they shouldn’t be made to do. This situation above was a great situation to allow this child to assert their rights and will give confidence for the next time a situation arises.

Effective 5/10/2016
53A-13-302. Activities prohibited without prior written consent — Validity of consent — Qualifications — Training on implementation.

(1) Except as provided in Subsection (7), Section 53A-11a-203, and Section 53A-15-1301, policies adopted by a school district or charter school under Section 53A-13-301 shall include prohibitions on the administration to a student of any psychological or psychiatric examination, test, or treatment, or any survey, analysis, or evaluation without the prior written consent of the student’s parent or legal guardian, in which the purpose or evident intended effect is to cause the student to reveal information, whether the information is personally identifiable or not, concerning the student’s or any family member’s:
(a) political affiliations or, except as provided under Section 53A-13-101.1 or rules of the State Board of Education, political philosophies;
(b) mental or psychological problems;
(c) sexual behavior, orientation, or attitudes;
(d) illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, or demeaning behavior;
(e) critical appraisals of individuals with whom the student or family member has close family relationships;
(f) religious affiliations or beliefs;
(g) legally recognized privileged and analogous relationships, such as those with lawyers, medical personnel, or ministers; and
(h) income, except as required by law.

(2) Prior written consent under Subsection (1) is required in all grades, kindergarten through grade 12.

(3) Except as provided in Subsection (7), Section 53A-11a-203, and Section 53A-15-1301, the prohibitions under Subsection (1) shall also apply within the curriculum and other school activities unless prior written consent of the student’s parent or legal guardian has been obtained.

(4)
(a) Written parental consent is valid only if a parent or legal guardian has been first given written notice, including notice that a copy of the educational or student survey questions to be asked of the student in obtaining the desired information is made available at the school, and a reasonable opportunity to obtain written information concerning:
(i) records or information, including information about relationships, that may be examined or requested;
(ii) the means by which the records or information shall be examined or reviewed;
(iii) the means by which the information is to be obtained;
(iv) the purposes for which the records or information are needed;
(v) the entities or persons, regardless of affiliation, who will have access to the personally identifiable information; and
(vi) a method by which a parent of a student can grant permission to access or examine the personally identifiable information.
(b) For a survey described in Subsection (1), written notice described in Subsection (4)(a) shall include an Internet address where a parent or legal guardian can view the exact survey to be administered to the parent or legal guardian’s student.

Students Assigned to Report on Parents’ Drug Use

ferpa violationI received the below letter from a parent of a student at Tooele Junior High School where this took place. The parent has asked to remain anonymous.

UPDATE (7/14/16): Another parent has come forward whose child attends Clarke Johnson Jr High in Tooele who also received this same assignment. Two different schools and teachers in the same district.

I believe these schools have violated state FERPA law 53A-13-302 entitled “Activities prohibited without prior written consent — Validity of consent — Qualifications — Training on implementation.”

Specifically section 1(e) which forbids “(e) critical appraisals of individuals with whom the student or family member has close family relationships;” without the prior written consent of the parents…among other sections. How a teacher thought this was OK is beyond me.

The local school district is supposed to provide training on this and the board is supposed to provide disciplinary action, per the last two statements in this code section.

In the “opt-out law” (line 158) that Senator Aaron Osmond got passed a few years ago, under state law parents are supposed to be notified each year of their rights. I don’t believe that’s happening at any school and it seems like parents need to be notified of their FERPA rights as well.

And now, the letter.

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

“In 2014 my 8th grader brought home an assignment for his health or science class, I don’t recall which subject. The students were learning about drugs and alcohol and were given a worksheet titled “Parent Interview”.  The students were instructed to interview their parents, write their parents’ answers down and return the worksheet to their teacher. This was a graded assignment.

The worksheet asked questions like “Have you ever used drugs?”, “What age were when you first used a drug or alcohol?”, “What did it make you feel like?”, “How often or how many times did you do drugs?”, and questions of that nature.

I was uncomfortable with the worksheet because I did not think it was any of the school’s business.  My husband and I had already talked to our kids, and continue talking to our kids about drugs and what we expect.  I did not see why the school felt the need to force this discussion and/or get a record of our discussion.  I answered the worksheet so my son will get credit, but I did not answer honestly on all questions.  My son did not like to have to interview me on this topic and turn it in to his teacher.

In the 2015/2016 school year my younger son received the same assignment in 8th grade.  I filled it out again and was not honest with my answers.  Again I felt it was none of the school’s business.   A lot of parents I know in the community were given this same assignment.  Some of them talked about how they just wrote “no” on all the answers and turned it in, or they wrote that they will not fill it out.

I don’t think the school should be putting parents and students in this position, nor should they know or have that kind of information.”